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