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.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy first day of summer!

It's been a good day. Very little happened, really, which makes for a very good day. ;) Went into work this morning but it was only for some planning time. So nice, to actually have the luxury to plan and prepare and revise and think - with colleagues and on "company time" to boot.

Decided to do some leisurely shopping afterwards as I was in the area. Just meandered around, no rush. Again, nice to be able to do stuff just to do it, with no time pressure or stress about what all has to get done. Got lunch and headed home to eat out on my patio and read a book. It's comfortable today - somewhere in the 70s with a little light rain here or there. Very nice.

Oh - a butterfly just flitted onto my window screen. Monarch, I think. Nice little thing. Had a bird up in one of my plants hanging outside yesterday - drove the cats bonkers.

Not a bad summer solstice...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


So I'm on hold. I'm bored out of my skull and trying desperately to distract myself from this music in my ear. I like 40s music much of the time, but there's only so many soaring strings and soulful saxophones I can stand, especially when I'm already pre-disposed to irritation. "Tea for Two" was just on, I swear, and that's from 1925 (the link version rocks - I love the Gershwin quote in the middle). My neck hurts from trying to hold onto the phone and do some work at the same time so I don't just sit here like a cud-chewing cow.

I just don't idle well.

Anyway, I've spent the last hour and a half trying to renew the subscription for my anti-virus software. The disembodied Voice From God has just finished informing me, for the third time, that I shouldn't hang up. If I do, I'll lose my place in line.

Really? Imagine that.

My Norton subscription is due up in a couple of weeks. One would think they would make it easy for a person to pay them money, but no. Firstly, I did what an intelligent, 21-st century kind of person does: I went to their website. After wading through their numerous efforts to get me to upgrade and sign up for a mailing list, I tried to purchase a subscription for what I currently have.

Three times.

So I got on the live chat, waited in queue almost 15 minutes, and then spent another 25 trying to get through to Balaji that I had already tried what he was telling me to try, it wasn't working, and that's why I was chatting with him. His solution?

Try again.

Isn't that a definition of insanity, trying something over and over again and expecting different results?

So, after I'd tried a grand total of two more times, he suggested I call customer service. What a guy. Nice enough, but not real creative.

So here I am, in a queue of who-knows-how-long, listening to a combination of muted trumpets and the Golden Strings on Valium, periodically interrupted by the stern instruction to Not Hang Up, Because If You Do the World Will Surely Escape From Orbit and Crash Into the Sun.


15 minutes on hold, 15 minutes alternately talking to Tony and more hold - at least, I think that was his name. Indian accent was pretty strong. Tony gave me another hard sell to upgrade, but finally took my information and said he'd order the upgrade for me. He told me to look for an e-mail.

I just received it.

To be more specific, I just received two e-mails. Some imbecile ordered the thing twice.

I think I may need to go beat on something.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Not much going on the past week, which in many ways is exactly how I like it. Had training for work on Monday and Tuesday, which wasn't as boring as it could have been. We actually got some stuff done the afternoon of the second day, although we were pretty punchy by that time. Thursday was yet another local festival - celebrating potatoes (don't ask). Quite the parade - high school marching band sure has changed since I was in school. Very elaborate routines, more like college bands. But competition is fierce around here, and the kids are stepping up to the plate. Saturday was fun - the annual party out at L4's. My guy friends have still not yet grasped that they aren't 16 anymore, so watching them run around was a good time. I'm sure they paid for it on Sunday. This week holds more meetings for work on Thursday and B coming into town for her brother's wedding on Friday but that's about it. Mmmm... laziness. Gotta love it. Maybe I'll manage to get the house a little clean... nah. ;)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

You know, for as boring as I am, I sure have managed to have adventures lately.

Saturday, M and I decided to celebrate the summer and go out and about. We headed first to Downtown to the big outdoor jazz festival. Oh, the people watching! Nobody does outdoor festivals quite like Midwestern towns in the summer - we have such a short time with good weather we have to make of it what we can. The place was packed solid. Kids and dogs and grown-ups with beer and barbecued ribs. Not too many strollers in the large crowd, which I appreciated, but I did see a very large woman with huge tattoos on her bicep flab with a beer in one hand and a stroller in the other, which held a chihuahua in a baseball T-shirt, slightly too large for him. Then there was the guy with long grey hair in a ponytail, missing front teeth, and a short black skirt. Interesting. Not to put too fine a point on it, but for a jazz festival there sure were a lot of white people. Sad and hopeful all at the same time - great that the music is accepted for the amazing stuff that it is, sad that so many kids in the culture it came from don't know it or appreciate it.

So we were sitting there with our hot dogs and roasted corn when M recognized the guy with a crisp white dress shirt and jeans that cost more than my violin bow headed our way. A reporter from the TV station across the street, trolling for quotes. Amazingly enough, he stopped by us and asked us if he could tape us for the late news. M thought I was nuts, but I said yes. He asked us what we thought of the whole thing, and we said something or other about how we were down there for the fun music and the kickoff to summer. Even more amazingly, we didn't end up on the cutting room floor. I'm kind-of impressed my hair looked as OK as it did, the humidity being what it was. Ten seconds worth of our 15 minutes of fame, checked off the list.

We got ice cream soon after that and headed back up the street to the car and the trip a mile or so across the river to our next adventure of the night. Turns out I knew two guys in two bands that were playing gigs about 4 blocks from each other. We thought, what the heck? We didn't have to be at work the next day. We'll go.

The first was for my cousin's band - a little pop, a little rock, a little punk, and lots of fun. The bar was a real trip. Never been there before and so wasn't prepared. This was a real workingman's establishment. First clue? The old guy with no teeth and scraggly, thinning hair who took our cover charge money. Second? 70's supper club decor that likely hadn't been dusted since it was put in. I was a little afraid to sit in the chairs. Third? Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. That said, I liked the place. The bartender was friendly and knowledgeable, the prices were reasonable, and even though we were obviously Not From Around There, everyone was very nice.

C's band was the second of three, so we sat down to listen to the first and wait. The first band was... earnest... *sigh* The instrumentals were OK but the lead singer wasn't quite in the center of the pitch. OK, he was nowhere near the center of the pitch. The intonation was killing me. But his heart was in it, and that's more than a lot of people can say.

As we sat there waiting, the place got more crowded and the table next to us was taken by three guys. They asked if we could have our spare chair and we of course acquiesced, not realizing that one of them would take that as a sign that we actually wanted to talk to him. So we did the standard light bar chatter, what's your name, what do you do, etc. He informed us that he moved mountains for a living, quite a trick in country scraped flat by the glaciers long ago. Turns out he drives a Bobcat. This is my prejudicial snottiness coming through, I know, but really.

Anyway, not being either stupid or naive, M and I are being friendly but not encouraging, but he's apparently too dumb to know the difference. Mr. Suave starts out by asking us if he can hang out with us the rest of the night as he's not getting along too well with his pals at the next table. Again, as we are neither stupid nor naive, we don't bother beating around the bush and just give him a flat-out no. One would think this would be a clue. But not for Mr. Suave. He continues, asking if he can go home with one of us. What, are you nuts? We just told you that you can't hang around with us for the rest of the night and you think that somehow this means one of us might allow you to come home with us instead? For dumb. We tell him no again. Then things really get entertaining. I'm trying hard not to bust out laughing as it is and then he decides to lay it all out there on the line: he asks us for a threesome.

I mean, really. How dumb can you be?

How I managed not to laugh in his face while telling him no for a third time I really do not know. M tried to let him down a tiny bit gently telling him he can always hope - with someone else - but I'm meaner than she is, generally speaking, and just tell him that no, he probably shouldn't even hope for that.

Then, a miracle occurs. A man from across the room gets up and comes to sit at our table.

In a town of this size, you wouldn't think this would happen, but in the It's A Small World After All category, turns out a colleague of mine is buddies with one of the guys in C's band. He saw me from across the room, came over to say hello, and unintentionally chased Mr. Suave off to another table to hit on another group of women. I have never been so happy to see E before in my life. We told him what had happened, and he didn't believe us. Who would? But I owe him big.

The next time we go out, we really have to remember to prepare fake names and cover stories.

Anyway, C's band started warming up so when Mr. Suave was distracted we headed to the other part of the bar to see them. Loud! Even with my earplugs in I had to cover my ears at times. But they were full of energy and fun. I really enjoyed it.

Being the whole thing was on Bar Time they started playing a good hour after I figured they would so we were late getting to Establishment #3 - an Irish bar just down the block. Yet another colleague of mine plays in an Irish band and I was hoping to get to see them as well. M seemed both surprised and pleased to see us. I guess another colleague of ours had shown up earlier in the night but no one since then. I'm glad we went. They were fun, although not as traditional as I thought they'd be, and they played a couple more songs before hanging it up for the night. The power of music being what it is, the place was empty when we got there - the band was taking a break - and as they played people out on the street heard them and the place was full by the time they were done.

So the upshot of it all is we went to one music festival and two bars, saw two bands, got hit on by an idiot, and didn't end up getting home until 2 a.m. I am prouder of us than I can say.

At this rate, who knows what the summer will bring?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Today, I had an adventure.

Yet another one of my colleagues is retiring, and today was his last day. Besides his job with us, he is a licensed pilot and flight instructor. To celebrate the end of his career, he said he'd take up anyone who wanted to go. Of course, I was in. What fun!

We all met at the airport. Tiny little thing, full of recreational fliers, a helicopter pad, some other stuff that I have no idea about. In spite of growing up around here and driving by any number of times, it was my first time actually on the grounds of this airport. Our Cessna would hold 4 at a time (including the pilot), so we waited our turns in the sunshine and thought about how much better this was than work. All I needed was a hammock.

Then it was my turn. I got to sit in the co-pilot seat up front, so I got a headset. How interesting! I got to listen to the control tower talk to us and give instructions to all the other little airplanes up around us. How they keep everything straight is just amazing, and this is a small airport.

And what there was in front of me! Bells and whistles and dials and knobs and pedals and steering bars. I kept my hands in my lap and feet close to my seat - no need to risk bumping who knows what by accident and bringing down the plane and all of us with it. *grin* Again, how on earth do you keep all of that straight? How the jet pilots do it, especially the international ones, I will never know.

Soon, we were cleared for takeoff. We taxied around to the front of our runway and with a last stop to check to make sure everything was working, we took a run for it and flung ourselves into the air.

We first buzzed our workplace - how little, yet how sprawling all at the same time. We then followed the river to downtown. The railroad yard looked like it contained a Lionel set, while it was fun to see from above how the river snakes through the trees. Downtown looked pretty awesome from up there with the few buildings growing up from the rest, the stadium a clear reference point, albeit an ugly one. One of the most interesting things to me was seeing all the water towers in the communities surrounding us; from our viewpoint just so many blue obelisks rising from the forest floor. We traveled back, naming lakes, seeing the hospital campus, with a few last bumps in the turbulence over the trees at the edge of the airfield.

It's been a good day.

Tomorrow may be more adventures - there's a couple of local bands I want to go see, and a local Italian institution will be closing soon and I'd like to eat there once before they go. In any case, it's almost Saturday. Huzzah!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I believe I may just be the happiest person on Planet Earth.

Today, my colleagues and I decided to play hooky. Well, not really, we only had a half-day today, but it felt like playing hooky.

We went boating. It was a joy.

There we were, out in the sunshine, out on the lake, beer in our hands, and surveying our kingdom. 1 p.m. on a Thursday. It just plain doesn't get any better than that.

We do have to go back to work tomorrow, which doesn't make me the happiest, but we did have one glorious day of peace and tranquility.

Oh - and we saw loons. A momma, a daddy, and two babies. One baby was riding on his mommy's back. SO cute!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Life is a funny thing.

It twists and turns, bends and leaps, loops and whirls, winds around, skips steps, and doubles back upon itself. It's both a Möbius strip and a freeway in Nebraska. Funny stuff, life.

I just got back from a party. A retirement party, to be exact. It was a fun night, a fun celebration.

Now what you have to remember is that I'm pretty new in my job, finishing up my first year. So everything is new. Expect when it's exactly the same.

Turns out I just spent the evening with an odd combination of people. There were colleagues I just met this year and people who've known me for a good 20 years, since I was a kid. Twists and turns and loops and doubling back.

I was born in a medium-sized Midwestern city, grew up, moved out, and moved on. Went to college in another medium-sized Midwestern town, worked for ten years in a third. And now I'm back where it all began, about 15 years after I last lived here full time. My mentors are now my colleagues. Déjà vu all over again.

Whoever it was that said that the more things change, the more they stay the same, really knew what the hell they were talking about.

Do you ever, as an adult, feel like you're really still pretending at this grown-up thing, playing dress-up, as it were? I know I do, all the time. There's no way I can be this old when I swear I feel the same way I did at 16.

But I really don't feel the same as I did at 16, and I know I don't. My perspectives have changed so much. The same tendencies are there, but I've... sharpened, I guess. Focused. I've grown, and changed, and thank God for it. But a lot of things feel the same.

There were quite a few people in the room tonight who had known me as a kid, and remembered me from then. They, plus the others who didn't make it tonight, have been so helpful, so gracious to the former brat they knew. They've spoken highly of me both in front of my face and behind my back. I've gotten handshakes, smiles of welcome, offers of help, hugs.

The fact that so many have remembered me from way back when, even when they were not directly associated with me at the time, shocks me still. It makes me wonder about what reputation I had that I didn't know about then, how that's affecting me now, and how smart of a move this really was, coming home.

So here I am as a theoretical adult, trying to carve my way in this new job, in this new - yet old - community, to find my place. I want to appear intelligent, to not be a burden, to darn well see to it that my name is associated with quality and competence and knowledge and creativity. I want to earn respect.

Can I really live up to this? Or am I just a mediocre thinker with a mediocre life, doing my best to fake proficiency and not get found out?

What am I trying to say with all this? Darned if I know. This whole new job, while I'm pretty sure I like it and I'm pretty sure it was truly the right move for me at the right time, has been pretty surreal.

I guess it's just the same old wish to leave the world better than I found it, to be what I'm destined to be. I just have to sometimes take a minute to wonder where on earth I am and if I'm going the right way.

Life should be a verb. It should also be a rumination.

Today's song: How to Save a Life by The Fray. That's my job, right there in a nutshell.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It's a beautiful day.

I'm sitting here in front of the computer - obviously - but what I suppose is not so obvious is the fact that I deliberately set the desk up facing the window. There's a woman out in the courtyard, just sitting on the grass in the sun with her baby. She's throwing grass and leaves up for the little girl to watch.

There's a lot to be said for Saturdays.

No rain, although it was supposed to be rainy. I can't even see any clouds, at least from this vantage point. It's finally starting to look like summer is arriving here in the Midwest, and I can't wait. No real plans for the summer, although I intend to at least get out of the house. It will be interesting for me to be spending much of the summer in the same state in which I live, now that I've moved back to where I grew up.

What's this blog going to be about? Probably nothing but complete and utter randomness, that is, when I remember to post. Today I'm just happy. It's nice outside, I have a party to go to later today with some colleagues who may well become good friends, I didn't have to go to work today, and as of the end of next week I won't have to go to work for quite a while - at least, not on a tight schedule anymore. The end of intense levels of stress is in my sights, at least for another three months. Life isn't all that bad now, is it?

Today's new favorite song: "Question" by the Old 97s.