Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy holidays.

This "holiday vacation" has been kicking my ass. First of all, I woke up with a blocked ear a week ago, and the beginnings of a head cold or some sinus thing that never really got off the ground. The ear's still blocked, though it's not causing as many problems as it did last week: vertigo, nausea. Now it's more generally annoying and when the cat meows, as he does often, it sounds like he's meowing on both sides of my head as well as inside my head. I am anxious for this blockage to dissipate because starting next week I will be teaching voice every day and I need my damn ears.

Then two nights ago I woke up with an actual stomachache, which never happens. It may have been the Chinese takeout from the night before, or it could have been a little bug courtesy of Jude (who barfed all day yesterday), but the upshot is that I had serious GI distress and serious malaise complete with full body aches. I couldn't get off the couch or eat anything and every time I stood up: nausea! I think I slept for about 20 hours and then sent the Brit out for applesauce. Today I'm okay--just kind of wobbly.

In between all of that, this happened. I don't know if you have to know Jude for this to be funny, but I laugh every time I watch it.



This was at my sister's family fondue party on Saturday. Phat beats provided by my brother. I can't really recommend fondue as a convalescent food or a food for optimum health, but it sure is fun.

I'm leaving for my stint in Collegetown in a few measly days. Hopefully I can muster some energy today to do some preparation. But I'm going to go easy on myself because that's obviously the message my beleaguered body is trying to send me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A good poem for Christmas Eve.

The Conceiving

Now
you are in the ark of my blood
in the river of my bones
in the woodland of my muscles
in the ligaments of my hair
in the wit of my hands
in the smear of my shadow
in the armada of my brain
under the stars of my skull
in the arms of my womb
Now you are here
you worker in the gold of flesh

- Penelope Shuttle

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My bad, bad, bad eyes.

I had an eye exam the other day where there was a bit of "most people's eyes stop changing in their mid-20s, but that's not the case for you, ho ho ho!" So I now have new lenses and a few boxes of perfectly good Acuvue2 contacts in a perfectly outdated prescription. Do you wear these? Are your eyes (get ready) -6.50 with an 8.7 base curve? I will send three sealed boxes of contacts to you. I hate to waste them and no one will take them back a year or more after the fact.

As you were.

Popcorn.

Do you know about this?

It is one of the most delicious snacks upon which I have ever snacked. It's ludicrous. Every time I buy it, I have a conversation about it with the cashier, which the cashier invariably starts by saying something about the best popcorn in the world. If you're vegan you won't be tempted, but the rest of yous: it's SMOKED. It's CHEESY. It's FAINTLY SWEET. It's SLIGHTLY HERBAL. There is SALT. And, it turns out, you can order it online for less than it costs in stores. (ETA: the bags are smaller than the ones I get at Whole Paycheck, so I was dead wrong about the value. Still: popcorn in the mail!) So yeah, it's 8 AM and I've already used my credit card.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nettwerk.

So about Facebook. I joined a few years ago because all of my first year college students were talking about it and I wanted to see what was up. And I was immediately creeped out by it because I could see everyone's full profiles and it was all 18 year olds partying etc, things that a (so-called) professor knows about but does not need to be privy to in any detail. So I more or less refused to get on board with it, though I did spend some time wondering how college social life develops differently in the age of online networking. These kids had all met their roommates on the internet before they showed up at school--so there were no weird pre-matriculation phone calls about who brings what to the dorm.

Anyway, fast-forward: it's the end of 2008 and I'm officially late to the party, but Facebook has changed, la la la, it's not just for the kids anymore, and now my parents and your parents are using it. So I joined up and there's been an explosion of online friendship. It's also been the week that my whole family, with the notable exceptions of the Brit and my sister Molly, got on Facebook, and it has been pretty hilarious. It's not like we need a vehicle for keeping in touch, either, but in real life we don't have comment threads about old family photos and our bad outfits.

What I like about the culture that's grown up around Facebook is the way it demystifies contact between old friends and acquaintances. I had the same feeling when long-distance calling became a regular part of cell phone service. I don't know about you, but back when I had to deal with long-distance charges to call someone across the country, catching up via phone was like a huge hairy deal and you didn't do it unless you had some time set aside. Both parties knew it was costing someone money, too.

Subtracting the long-distance charge, for me, had the effect of shortening the distance between me and the people I'd like to chat with. I'm really not a phone person, so this didn't make a massive difference in my life, but I do remember, very clearly, the first time I realized that the lack of virtual distance had made casual contact with long-distance friends much more normal: a friend from a summer program called me just to say hi and we chatted for 5 minutes. It was just like checking in with anyone else who lives in my area code.

And that's really how Facebook seems to me. I'm having quick exchanges with people I haven't talked to since I was a teenager, whereas if I'd previously made the effort to track these folks down and reintroduce myself, even via email, it might have been strange or intrusive or at the very least a momentous reunion. But on Facebook you can just move immediately to banter without "how ARE you? what are you UP to?" Or you can have a totally superficial interaction with the previous queries re: well-being and activities, and not feel compelled to continue the conversation. Contact made; goodwill established. I like that.

But if all the foregoing sounds like a thinly-veiled justification for my addiction to Scramble, the Boggle ripoff on Facebook, well, you're not far off the mark. I know it will pass, but for the moment all letters are rearranging themselves into anagrams and component words and I might be sporting some sort of incipient repetitive stress injury from the frenzied typing and clicking. I have hot plans of attacking a huge pile of mending this weekend (whee, how LHOTP of me, except I should be doing mending on Wednesdays), but I bet you I end up playing Scramble instead.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pride and Prejudice.

Retold Facebook style.

I have more to say about Facebook but I'll save that for a time when I'm not due at a meeting.

On love.

Someone named John Welwood was quoted in my horrorscope today:
Everyone knows perfect love in their heart, for the human heart is a direct channel through which absolute love pours into this world. At the same time, human relationships are imperfect expressions of that love. This creates a painful gap between the perfect love we know in our hearts and the imperfect, incomplete ways it is expressed in our relationships. When we imagine that relative human love should be something it is not -- absolutely unconditional -- we suffer disappointment and wind up distrusting love itself. We also hold grievances against others for not loving us rightly or against ourselves for not having won that love. This gives rise to a universal human wound -- the sense of not feeling loved for who we are.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Alignment.

Last night I looked up on my way home and noticed an extra-beautiful crescent moon with two big, shiny planets lined up next to it. It was noticeable enough that even a non-skywatcher like me could tell that something unusual was happening. Turns out it was an alignment with Venus and Jupiter. The moon, Venus, and Jupiter are the three brightest objects in the sky (Venus, in fact, is so bright that it occasionally drew antiaircraft fire in WWII). They won't line up this way again with this much visibility until November 18, 2052. It pays to look up once in awhile.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh man.

"Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." --Goethe (or whoever--there is faulty attribution all over the place)

On another note, do you remember how you'd make a mix tape and there would be like a scrap of tape left at the end and you didn't ever waste it? What little niblet of a song did you put at the ends of mix tapes? The ones I remembered earlier (why?) while I was ironing are De La Soul's "Delacratic" and They Might Be Giants's "Minimum Wage."

Also, I finally joined Facebook. Everyone I know has a baby and more often two or three. You are busy peoples!

And: once I fell off NaBloPoMo, I decided to stay on the ground, obviously. It was nice down there. Meanwhile, the long weekend was not long enough, the laziness was not lazy enough, but the books were very booky, and the cozy was very cozy, and the togetherness was nearly non-stop. One day I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which was as good as it's made out to be, and the next day I read For Planets and Kings, which is pretty good if you like those "displaced Midwesterner at the exotic East Coast college" kinds of books. I went running for the first time in ages. My back didn't twang afterward, either, so I shall just take it slow and steady and learn how to do it all over again. I didn't post any recipes on my other blog. I am shocked that it's December.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I concede: NaBloPoMo has evaded me this year because Thanksgiving Day was too damn packed full of togetherness for blogginz. Pictures, mostly of Willa, are coming.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kids these days.

So last night we're all sitting around having semi-grownup chatting in the midst of Willa's birthday party, and our friend is telling us about how she's politicized her almost-2 year old niece. "What does a chicken say?" she'll ask, and get a "bawk bawk"; "What does a cow say?" gets a "moo." And then: "What does Barack Obama say?" and the little girl will say "Yes We Can!"

Then my mom jokingly says something about do you ask her what does John McCain say and we're all sort of snickering about that and Jude, without missing a beat, says "Drill baby drill!" and we all die laughing and he is very pleased with himself.

I can't say that I had any awareness of political candidates at age 4.

Later, we exchange more Jude stories. Here's a recent one:

Molly's in her bedroom. Jude says "Hey Mom!"

Molly's thinking, "Hey Mom can I have a juice box, Hey Mom I'm going to go outside." You know. "What?" she says.

He pokes his head in. "You have a really hairy vagina, right?"

"Uhhhh...I guess so."

And that was it. He was just checking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A year ago today.

Hey, remember this?
17
That's Willa, about 30 minutes in to her life on the outside. Now she walks and says RAAAAARRRRRR at animals in a scary guttural voice. More pictures to come, hopefully of cake-destruction.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recession Christmas spirit.

This year we're finally instituting the name-draw method of gift exchange in my family--that is, all the grown-ups are picking a single name and just giving a gift to that person. And in the interest of keeping it really REALLY real, the gift is not supposed to be one extravagant item, but just something to watch or read or listen to. The kids, of course, get the toy treatment as usual. My mom proposed it, and then suggested that we might want to donate any extra money we would have spent on gifts to whatever worthy cause we favor. Everyone got right on board because what's not to like?

I seem to remember this kind of low-key Christmas exchange being proposed and not accepted when we were kids, or maybe there was grudging assent and then it never really happened. But we're all grown folks now and I am definitely ready to chill out on Christmas, though I love to give gifts and getting them is also pretty decent. Seeing as how I have a house full of various supplies, though, I can spend some time making some little doodads for my people and baking things and doing all of that cozy stuff I like to be doing anyway. I had better get busy, though, because damn. It's only a month from now. A week of distracted knitting in front of The Wire has only yielded a single pair of baby legwarmers, and then I stitched them up with the stripes not lining up, like a dumb asshole, and had to rip them apart, and then flang my darning needle somewhere into the couch crevasse, never to be retrieved. The cat, you'll be happy to know, has been doing very stereotypical cat things with the balls of yarn. For some reason I find this inordinately funny.

***

There's a terrific post over at Sweet Juniper about--well, a lot of things, really--but mostly about what the loss of the Detroit auto industry would mean for Detroit, and for the rest of America. I've got this blog on my google reader but don't always click through because the entries are truncated on the feed and I am stupidly annoyed by this. Every time I click through, however, I am glad that I did. The blog is more or less about the writers' family life, but Detroit is also a main character in the blog, and the writers manage to be both tender and realistic about the city, documenting it in words and pictures just as it is, without hand-wringing. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the post:
Some of the people saying let them fail about Detroit's automakers are very the same people who had no problem with the $700 billion bailout of the very "industries" responsible for the sudden evaporation of so many billions of dollars in equity and credit. I would like to show them the state of this city and ask them to think about how much worse it (and hundreds of other cities reliant on the auto industry) will get if any of these three employers were suddenly unable to pay their employees or suppliers. This isn't Manhattan. We're not talking about Goldman Sachs associates suddenly not being able to pay the mortgages on their $350,000 parking spaces in Tribeca for the Ferraris they bought with their 2006 bonuses. We are talking about the lifeblood of a region that has already suffered so deeply, and I can't believe how many people are speaking so flippantly about allowing this great American industry to die.

I'm no apologist for the Big Three or their ridiculous missteps and lapses of judgment. But I do care about the regular people who work for these companies and who played no role in those poor decisions. Where is the compassion?
This has started a commenting firestorm which I have not even begun to look at, and there is a follow-up post today, in case you're interested. Thought-provoking stuff.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Like you, I've been following all of Obama's cabinet appointments with great interest. Here's a good article on Slate about Eric Holder, Obama's pick for attorney general.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snow bunny.

Today was my first official bike ride in snow. It was pretty decent, actually: I only fell once. But y'all crazy mofos who bust through the snow all winter on your bikes? You're going to have to forge ahead without me. I suppose if it's cold and dry I might hop on, but I have this fear of lurking ice and this other fear of really hurting myself.

The unfortunate thing about the potential for getting really jacked up while winter biking is that it feels great to be outside moving around when it's 30 degrees and sunny. It's invigorating, it's tough--the whole reason that people who live in cold climates do winter sports is because it's about the only way to reconcile yourself to the fact that you have months of cold ahead of you. You can either sit inside and moan or you can put on some gear and go deal with it. I've known this for years and years, and it's still hard to get over my much stronger desire to be cozy.

Anyway, I busted my shit within the first two blocks of my ride, and then I rode to the PO and then to this local bakery that I feel certain I've blogged about before, but evidently I haven't because I can't find the post. This place looks a little bit like grandma's attic inside, except with rows and stacks of pastries and bread. And the prices--well, they are not high end Minneapolis bakery prices. They are kind of astonishing. It seems crazy that you can get a beautiful croissant for $1.59, bagged up for you by a monosyllabic teenage boy. I also bought this:

Crucial.

Which looks like this on the inside:
Teacake: the inside.

It's an "American Teacake" and is one of their specialties. Highly recommended. Worth the ride AND the fall.

Also, we are re-joining the gym tonight.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's been days since I posted anything worth a damn, so I'm probably not going to start now. My time would be better spent working on these legwarmers for Willa, a project which is going to use up odd bits of yarn I've been carting around probably since college, when I learned how to knit. That's about 12 years of carting around yarn bits. I am inordinately excited to use them up.

On an unrelated topic, what the hell does it mean if the middle of your sternum is sore when you press on it? I'm inclined to think this is a chakra problem rather than a medical one, so maybe when I'm done with the legwarmers I'll go plant a crystal over my heart chakra or however that works.

And speaking of crystals and chakras, I uttered the phrase "lesbotronic new-age hootenanny" backstage at the recital this evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mishmash.

Oh y'all. This week has already been so long. Tomorrow I have to work, get a massage, work, teach a lesson, work, do a recital, and then crash. (I know you feel really sorry for me about the massage.) I am so jazzed that next week is Thanksgiving + floating holiday from work + Willa's first birthday. There will evidently be walking demonstrations at her birthday party. She has also recently sung one of her Uncle Hobby's songs to me on the phone, which was so cute I almost died.

Anyway, there is lots of celebrating coming up. Which is really good because for the past few days I've been waking up at 4 and then dozing and sleeping fitfully until it's time to get up and having truly weird dreams. In this morning's I was in Milwaukee picking up a friend's baby at the airport (?) and I just, like, absconded with the baby. There was also a cat involved. I gave them both back eventually. It was basically like that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon walks away with the makeup artist's baby.

Also, I need to buy a humidifier filter stat because my nose is all crusty. And I think I need to bring a humidifier to work. And speaking of work, they only gave me half a paycheck yesterday and I don't know why. Probably because we forgot to do something we were supposed to do HR-wise to continue my appointment, but what I like is how no one told us anything. It will get sorted out.

I also need a personal chef. Any volunteers? Okay bye.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Etsy love.

I dig these wee paintings. Real paintings for a mere $40-75.

Polish Prince


Nikandros

And this incredible thing from her website.


I really like her style. Check out the Maron Resur etsy shop.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Late night niblet.

I'm doing okay with NaBloPoMo, but very poorly with remembering to post any time other than immediately before bed, when I've forgotten almost everything interesting that has happened to me or any deep thoughts that have occurred to me during the day. I did finally sort out a very grand entry on the informal economy ledger: I'm trading voice lessons for massages. I teach one lesson a week and get a 90 minute massage every two weeks, starting on Friday. Oh hell yes I am excited about this arrangement. I have this unplumbed interest in bodywork anyway, so it's high time I start getting into it on a regular basis. I also found an acupuncture clinic across the river to try, and my silly, unused flexible spending account at work will reimburse me for those treatments. Wack back, begone. (Actually, back, I love you, baby. You're doing just fine right now.) Next up: new mattress.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm singing some settings of Elizabeth Bishop poems on a friend's recital in a few days, and I get to sing this lyric, which I love:
I'm going to go and take the bus
and find someone monogamous.
I'm just saying. That's a great couplet. Actually, everything I'm singing on this program is full of terrific poetry. This is not always the case with art songs. Here's the last song text in the bunch, another Bishop poem, one she never published (she was raised in Nova Scotia but was living in Brazil when she wrote the poem, in case you like context):
Dear, my compass
Still points north
To wooden houses
And blue eyes,

Fairy-tales where
Flaxen-headed
Younger sons
Bring home the goose,

Love in hay-lofts,
Protestants, and
Heavy drinkers…
Springs are backward,

But crab-apples
Ripen to rubies,
Cranberries
To drops of blood,

And swans can paddle
Icy water,
So hot the blood
In those webbed feet.

—Cold as it is, we’d
go to bed, dear,
early, but never
to keep warm.

In praise of the facemask.

I woke up this morning before I needed to get out of bed and I lay there for awhile trying to muster some gratitude. It wasn't that hard, because I'm pretty fortunate, so I just had a mundane little list going through my head as the light streamed into our pine-paneled traincar of a bedroom and the Brit gently snored away. The boy, the house, the job, the annoying cat, the heat kicking on, the fridge packed full of food after a weekend of grocery shopping and prep.

But I forgot one thing that I am grateful for, something I couldn't have anticipated: MY FACEMASK, oh dudes, my FACE. MASK. It is so clear and sunny today that I decided to get on my bike even though the forecast said something about "feels like 15 degrees" and "gusting winds from the NNW up to 20 mph." I head north for 6 of the 7 miles I ride to get to work, PS.

So anyway, I ordered this very thin balaclava (remember the first time you heard that word and thought it was "baklava"? I do) awhile back when I got some exciting super-light wool long underwear and cold-weather tech tops with thumbholes. I am all about thumbholes now and basically think all shirts should have them. But until this morning I hadn't trotted out the balaclava yet, and man am I glad I did. Without it, the ride would have been unbearable. I probably would have turned back. As it was, I found myself half-seriously singing "fuck...fuck...fuck" every time I pedaled through a particularly bad gust of wind. This happened every few minutes.

The crazy thing is that it didn't take any longer to get to work; it was just 4 times as hard and a lot colder than usual. I do feel like a bad ass, though, so mission accomplished.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You watched SNL, didn't you? Did you see Justin Timberlake doing "dance biscuits"? Yesssss.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Action alert!

From Planned Parenthood:
After promising not to issue any new regulations after November 1, the Bush administration is poised to issue a rule that could allow individual health care providers to redefine abortion to include the most common forms of birth control -- and then refuse to provide these basic services.

A woman's ability to manage her own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is fighting back, before the administration implements this rule. The exam room is no place to play political games.

I just signed a message to President Bush urging him to keep his word and withdraw this disastrous proposal. Can you add your voice to this cause?

I don't have high hopes, but I signed the petition. You can too, at the Planned Parenthood Action Center.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just barely.

It's been rather a social week, and so I haven't really been feeling my solitude in the house, which is too bad. I like to have that once in awhile, that rattling around, making messes, no-cooking feeling. But Monday I met up with a friend I hadn't seen in years and years until last week--he's in town for biz and we hung out one more time before he took off on Tuesday. I was a sort of mentor to him when we were in college. I guess that was due in part to my nascent den mother tendencies making themselves known. But he was actually assigned to me formally as a mentee in the writing lab where we both worked. I'm not sure I taught him anything, but he seems to think I did. Then on Tuesday I had a fundraising meeting with the opera folks that turned into a deep discussion about life, and that was great, but then all of a sudden it was after 11 (on a school night!). Then yesterday I was stupid and went to the mall. I have this feeling that I need to try different footwear, and basically reconcile myself to a life of flats, and I went on a recon mission. I should have stayed in and looked at shoes on the internet while putzing around the house. Then I wouldn't have stayed up so late. The mall is sort of social, in a forced way, especially when kiosk people get all up in your grill despite the purposefulness of your stride. My stride is nothing if not purposeful. And the mall, as I may have mentioned, alienates me now in ways that it never used to do. Girl, how you gonna play me like that?

Now here it is almost midnight, and while this evening was eaten up by mere choir practice as it is each Thursday, I did spend my lunch hour today catching up with someone I hadn't seen in 4 years who, in the interim, had a brain injury (attacked on the job! Medical professionals, ensure your workplace has adequate security before taking a position there), which was interesting to hear about, and also fucked up.

The Brit will be back at about 5:30 AM tomorrow, and I still have all the same Netflix I had when he left. But the floor is vacuumed, and there's a ton of fresh bread in the house, so that's something.

Ace and I are going to bed now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shop update.

Oh hai.
I can see my breath.
I have updated my shop. It's just a small-ish update, 7 new items; I still have a pile of treasures from my Wisco thrift adventures to sift through, clean up, measure, and photograph. I'll tell you what, photo-shooting outdoors in this weather is not such a picnic. That is my actual breath you see in the photo above. Soon enough, the outdoor photos won't be feasible and y'all will be subjected to my basement, which I have yet to light adequately. A project for the dark months, to be sure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I am blogging at you from one of my favorite places, the bed pod. It is one of my favorite places despite the fact that I am certain this mattress is sub-optimal for my particular spinal setup, and despite the fact that the cat may decide to get all crazy up in here precisely 1 hour before the alarm goes off. But sometimes he is a perfect gentleman as a bedmate, and he crawls under the covers next to me and nestles in to spoon, all pliant and purring, and this enhances the attractions of bed. Bed is also where I do most of my reading when I'm on my regular workaday schedule, and I am still working my way through All the King's Men, and I'm in the chapter where Jack recounts falling in love with Anne, and it's one of the best pieces of writing I've read maybe ever. I really can't believe this was ever assigned to 14 year olds. What the hell did we understand about this book? It is amazing, though, how many phrases I do specifically remember from back then. Well, I've already blogged about this rereading once, so it would be cheating to do it again. My feline bedfellow has arrived and just took a very uncomfortable detour across my gut, as he is wont to do. He is due for a pedicure, he of the unruly claws. Tomorrow, portly friend. Tonight, it's snowing outside. The Brit jumped off a cliff into the ocean today, which I have to say sounds pretty decent, or maybe wildly superior to the cold gray walk I took across campus for my exercise. Time to burrow down; it's just going to get colder and darker.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Loose ends.

I never followed up here about what we did with our reverse offering from church awhile back, and a few people have asked, so here is the word:

We went with the music scholarship idea. We did a little digging and found out that the music school we were interested in supporting had a scholarship fund set up through a local foundation, that the fund stood at about $10K, and that it would be matched by the foundation once it hit $15K. Then it turned out that there were some little connections between the scholarship founder and various choir members and church members, and the scholarship founder came and told us about her amazing parents, in whose honor the fund was started, and everything kind of came together. In the end, we rustled up over $1500 for music scholarships.

I can tell you firsthand as both an educator and a student that music study can be transformative, at any stage of life. Music study has affected every little corner of my world and has affected the way I think, in exclusively positive ways. Now some more people will be able to get a piece of that bizness.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Oldie/goodie.

A pearl of Native American wisdom you have probably heard before but which I am repeating here because I heard it earlier today:

An old woman was teaching her grandchildren about life. "There are two wolves fighting inside me, a terrible fight," she told them. "One wolf is jealous, vengeful, greedy, and resentful. The other wolf is kind, compassionate, humble, and serene. The same struggle goes on inside every person."

"Grandmother, which wolf will win?" they asked her.

"The one I feed," she told them.

Maybe it's a little facile to post this, like in the last season of the Sopranos when Tony kept repeating "sometimes I go about in pity for myself and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky." You can certainly find the above story, and probably Tony's favorite quote, on skillions of other blogs. But it won't kill us to think about which aspects of ourselves are getting the most time and attention.

I am still far from caught up on sleep and my house is full of leftovers. The Brit called me from the top of a volcano earlier. It's 20 degrees outside. I'm a little afraid to get on my bike tomorrow, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I just rolled back into town and I feel like it's about 2 AM (it is 9:30). Even though it was somewhat ridiculous to schedule this little out-of-town jaunt three days after returning from DC, I am so glad I did it. I reconnected with a friend and fellow teacher, who is also one of the funniest/least appropriate people I know, and I probably confused his reputation as Teh Gay by giggling and eating pizza in his hotel room for a few hours last night. I checked in with all of the colleagues with whom I'll be teaching in January, and I heard some of the students I'll be working with, and I got really excited. There was some incredible singing in the final round today (and a few standouts in the stuff I judged yesterday), and I'll just make this about me by saying that I am still so pleased every time I find myself simply enjoying and feeling excited by a singer's potential, or being moved by her or his performance. When I was younger, I was worried that teaching would be hard because I'd get all sour-grapey about people poised at the beginning of their singing lives, and thankfully that has turned out not to be the case. You worry that you're going to project too much onto kids, which, who knows, I may end up doing when I'm teaching them next term. I'll try not to.

I also handed my card to someone today, which is notable only in that someone asked for it and I actually had some with me, which never happens.

I hit one more thrift store on the way out, so I can now report on the Janesville Salvation Army. It was one of those irritating places where coats are, wait for it, THIRTY DOLLARS. I am sorry but you cannot call yourself a thrift store if you are charging $30 for an old coat. But then on the other hand I picked up a perfect vintage Lacoste dress for a few dollars and a Dale of Norway sweater for $5, so I just threw up my hands and ignored the coats. Why don't these places consult me when they're pricing stuff?

There's one very happy fat cat next to me. My boyfriend, damn his eyes, is in Honolulu waiting for his connecting flight to Maui. Yes he is going there for work. Yes it's a little maddening. Yes I could have bought into the trip for about eleventy billion dollars, so I opted to wait for another opportunity to go to Hawaii. Hopefully that day isn't far off, because there are cars outside that are lightly dusted with snow that does not seem to be melting.

I have got to go to bed. Another smart thing I did, schedule-wise, was "plan" (and I use that word loosely) a clothing swap for tomorrow, after I get up early and do two services. My pre-party to-do list includes a little shopping, a little prepping of snacks, a little cleaning of bathroom, and, um, purging my closet, all by 3:00. Tee hee.

In conclusion, someone please give me a college teaching job right now and also hire me for some concert work, plus transplant all the schools where I would enjoy teaching to a commutable location.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I'm in Wisconsin judging a competition this weekend and am hitting the thrifteries on my downtime. Here's a brief roundup of Wisconsin thrift stores so far:

Tomah Goodwill: Skip it. Tomah is a vortex anyway. People's cars seem to break down there; I felt like I was tempting fate just getting off the freeway, and then there was jack shit in the Goodwill.
Janesville Goodwill: Okay. Depends on what you're looking for. Not so good for vintage dresses and coats, my main objectives at the moment. In fact, there were hardly any coats at all--hard to believe for WI. Usually you can depend on a crapload of coats in northland thrift stores.
Whitewater Thrift Shoppe: Looks EXACTLY right, the way you want a thrift store to look. In an old Victorian house on Church Street, which is a street lined with, you guessed it, churches. The store itself looks like your grandma's attic multiplied and then blew up. That's a good thing. Plus, listening to the old ladies who work there hold forth and chit-chat was just the best kind of eavesdropping. Local color up the wazoo.
Reflections of the Past in Whitewater: Not a thrift store, but the vintage clothing selection is rather incredible, even though it made me sneeze uncontrollably the minute I started trying on dresses. The place benefits a no-kill cat shelter, so there are also cats in the way back. You can't see them, but their aura is unmistakable.
Fort Atkinson Goodwill: HOLLA. 4 coats, 4 dresses, 1 crazy plaid suit. Coming to an etsy shop near you.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Did you ever know that you're my hero?

Hi. It occurred to me after I noticed that Madness was comment-bombing people who worked in some way on this election that I should really stop and thank you, thank you, thank god for you, the wind beneath my wings. Seriously: to my friends who dropped fliers to help pass the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment in MN, to Madness who worked to pass Prop 2 in California, to Marigoldie for volunteering for Obama, to Kayemess who knocked on doors and opened up her house as a staging zone for Obama volunteers despite being an introvert!! and a Canadian!!!, to my friends who knocked on doors in Minneapolis, and to everyone else who wore a t-shirt or a button or slapped a bumper sticker on your car or bike and all those who I am forgetting to mention, thank you. You are inspiring and important and yes you can.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

YES WE DONE DID IT.

My boss handed this out in a meeting today. It's an old Stephen Colbert quote, but a good one:
Tomorrow you're all going to wake up in a brave new world, a world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones, created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags. Where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard-earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio, and teach evolution to illegal immigrants. Oh, and everybody's high!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A tip from me to you.

There's a Twin Cities Voter Cheat Sheet over here if you haven't been able to find any decent information about the Judge or Soil and Water Conservation candidates, for example. I hate leaving blanks on the ballot just because races aren't partisan and I can't locate information about the candidates.

Monday, November 03, 2008

America: Fuck Yeah.

I started rereading All the King's Men, a book I haven't read in 20 years, over the weekend. The first time I read it I was 14, at a Youth in Government convention at a downtown hotel. I'd forgotten I was supposed to have it read by Monday, and I walked over to the Central Library and checked it out and crammed it, in between "trying a case" in the Appeals Court and electing officials and a bunch of other activities I wasn't totally interested in, though I was ostensibly there to learn citizenship and the political process and it was massive and well-organized. I hardly remember a thing about the book, or the weekend, frankly. I do remember that I had to share a bed with my fellow Appeals Court lawyer and her feet smelled powerful. Every time either of us shifted in the bed, the foot waft almost killed me. The other girls in our room said that after ski practice you could smell her feet before she took off her boots.

This past weekend I read the book in a DC-adjacent hotel, on the Metro, on the airplane. I read slowly and went over paragraphs again. I lugged it down the Mall in the dark on the way to the airport, my rolling bag rattling over the pebbly sidewalks, Washington Monument ahead, Capitol behind, not a soul around. It's easy to use this book to travel back and forth in time: 20 years ago I was getting ready for a dance, the culminating social event of the weekend, that same book on my bedside table, torturing my bangs into the appropriate configuration before descending to the ballroom and not dancing with anyone; this weekend I put on a 5 dollar dress from the 60s and danced my ass off at a wedding reception, even when no one else was dancing and Dom was boycotting "Dancing Queen." Or let's say I danced whenever the DJ complied by not killing the mood with incongruous or plain wack selections. I'd kicked off my platform shoes under the table, trading them for ballet shoes.

Back 20 years to the very beginning of my deliberate education in the humanities and forward to my continuing self-education through books and wandering and keeping my eyes open; back 20 years to the State Capitol and forward to the nation's capital; back 20 years to the subtle thrill of being on my own in a downtown hotel even if it was only a few miles from home and forward to the relaxed and confident affirmation of adulthood that happens every time I work my way through an unfamiliar city, especially this one, 950 miles from home and chock-a-block with evidence of your tax dollars going to work. That's a phrase you hardly ever hear uttered without a trace of irony, but that's how I mean it here.

This weekend worked my tear ducts, y'all, from the moment we circled over the Potomac to land at DCA. Between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening we hit the memorials to Lincoln, WWII, Jefferson, and FDR (my favorite); the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art museum; the Hope Diamond and the infinitely more interesting collection of crazy rocks and minerals from around the world; a Shaw neighborhood vegetarian restaurant; the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. Our dear friend got married and the first time I'd seen her in five years turned out to be the moment she entered the church to walk down the aisle. On the way to the reception, we stumbled upon the Marine Corps Memorial, which was overrun with Japanese schoolgirls. I was in a floor-length gown and Dom in a suit, and they asked to pose for a picture with us. It was surreal. "Oh just a typical Saturday afternoon," we kept tra-la-ing, like for example when we were walking through Whole Foods to get a slice of pizza in the long interval between ceremony and reception. "Just out for a stroll in my gown; just going to get a slice." We got searched at Fort Myer, which was exciting, and then we walked through the "neighborhood" inside, noting the names on the steps of the houses: Major Work (seriously), Champoux. We invented a sitcom in which we'd be the ones to run the community theater group in the fort and have wacky adventures with our military officer roommate. A black cat ran out of the bushes to greet me and when she showed me her belly, it was as licked and denuded as Ace's, in just the same neurotic way. I snapped her picture.

I was expecting something out of this weekend, a kind of keyed-up political fizzing in the air, and what I got instead was a cure for cynicism, or at least a damn good analgesic, or a vitamin shot. Back 20 years to Bush Sr. on his way in; forward and W. is on his way out one way or another.

Obama takes Georgetown.

I walked so much on Sunday, back and forth across the Mall and all over the museum, that sitting on the plane that evening turned out to be an uncomplicated pleasure. I slid over into the window seat and pressed my face against the pane as we lifted off over the illuminated monuments and the glittering city. Then we ascended into a cloud and the city faded as though my breath had fogged the glass. A few minutes later the stars appeared around me and I opened my book.
The entire Republican Party is trippin: they have called me THREE TIMES in the last few days.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

In short.

I'm home, and I have so many things to impart, but I am so tired, and so need to lie down. Suffice it to say that the cultural stuff in DC is basically the USA's gift to itself, and you should go there immediately.

IMG_4039
Dude, Lincoln is the other direction.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaBloPoMo.

I'm just checking in to say happy NaBloPoMo. I'll be posting every day in November, even though tomorrow is going to be kind of a stretch. We're getting up in the morning to hit the Jefferson Memorial and then go cruise around art museums before it's time for me to get back on the plane. I need to come back to DC when I have some tiiiime, man.

There's a pretty funny sequence of pictures of me dancing in the church parking lot to Mary J. Blige's version of "Let No Man Put Asunder," which is the song I think of every. single. time I go to a traditional wedding. Dom bumped it from his car. I'll post it in the morning.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Krumping we can believe in.

Please to watch.



Thanks, Mol.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Now about my chi.

An added value of having the Brit's dad here, besides all of the tea and interesting chit chat, is that he is an acupuncturist with a PhD in, I think, Chinese medicine. So mention that you may have some malady and he will offer to treat you with gold-tipped needles. I have always been at least moderately intrigued by acupuncture, but never tried it prior to yesterday, I guess because there was never an exceptionally qualified acupuncturist staying in my house when I was having issues.

Anyway, I have this thing, let's call it a twang, in my sacroiliac region, on the left side. It's not chronic or regular by any means, but it recurs enough that I imagine I'm off-balance somehow, that the torque of my stride is enough to pop things out of whack periodically. It usually resolves in a couple days, except for that one time in 2004 where I had it for most of the year. (Uncoincidentally, that was not my happiest of times.) This time I got twanged after a regular old 5K jog. It probably would have been okay, except that then a few days later I almost fell down the stairs, twice, and gave myself some sort of body whiplash by righting myself at the last second. The result is that the twang has twanged harder and more persistently than it has in ages. It doesn't matter how much I stretch; I'm all flexible and bendy and I can't get at the twang.

So the Brit's dad offered to treat me and I said BRING IT. My pulse revealed all kinds of interesting things to him (and me) in the initial phase of the treatment, but what I really want to tell you about is what happened after he placed the first two needles. I was flat on my back with a needle in my right wrist and one in my left foot, and every muscle from the base of my spine around my whole bum to my pelvis and lower abdomen and inner thighs started to twitch uncontrollably, the way your teeth do when they chatter. It felt fizzy, or bubbly, or like a bag of wriggling snakes. It was insane, and deep, like each muscle that had for days been trying to prevent me from moving in a way that would cause me pain had finally been accessed. Everything was zinging around and shaking loose. It wasn't particularly emotional, except for being funny a few times, and incredibly interesting the rest of the time. This went on for at least 5 minutes, maybe 10. It released completely once, and then started up again about 30 seconds later.

You could call me a convert if I had been a skeptic before.

When I stood up and went about my business the twang was still there, but the accompanying sciatica-like leg pain and instability were gone. I felt loose, and still do. This thing is working itself out. And I have a follow-up appointment in two days, which is pretty sweet.

All this is to say that I believe my chi requires further investigation.

I'm certain I should be reporting on other matters as well. I got a haircut and look sort of a like a mushroom head. I think this is one of those haircuts that will take a few days or weeks to calm down--like if I got my school picture taken right now, it would be one of those dreaded "freshly cut" portraits. I've been cooking a lot. I found out my oldest friend is pregnant, which is awesome. It got cold as HAY-ull here over the weekend, but the rest of the week looks okay, which is good for my "bike at least through October you wuss" resolution.

Ace is standing next to the keyboard, quacking.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bittersweet symphony (updated).

Is there a conducting game for Wii or some other game system? I was listening to Rick Steves in the car last night on the way home, and he was talking about some computer simulation in Vienna where you conduct the orchestra, and I thought: nerds would like to do this on video game systems. But by "nerd" I mean a very particular kind of nerd, obvs. It would be a niche market. I think it would be rad. Of course, there would be no way to get style points for your left hand gesticulations unless some sensor thingy was rigged up. Still, music students and wannabes everywhere could get down with some beat patterns and there could be a tutorial about how to do it properly.

Okay, maybe I'm the only one who thinks this would be pretty fun. But it probably has educational applications, especially when it's so hard to get an actual orchestra together to practice with. When I had to take conducting as an undergrad, we practiced with whatever instruments happened to be in the class. There was a pianist, a couple violins, maybe a clarinet, like three singers doing the viola part or whatever needed filling in, a cello, a flute, and a percussionist. It was pretty sad (though really, the saddest thing was practicing choral conducting with this same group of people singing). A conducting simulation would let you get down with an entire orchestra.

You may have this idea for free, since it likely won't make you any money.

ETA: Well damn. I just got this email from my sister Em:
My friend David reads your blog...I don't know why he couldn't just post the comment himself but I am forwarding it to you now.

"You should let her know Wii Music just came out this week and does exactly what she is proposing:

http://www.wiimusic.com/launch/index.html"
Maybe if I used a little thing called Google I could have figured that out myself. The game lets you play 60 instruments and conduct, and has ear training games and all sorts of things. Go Nintendo!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crank calling.

A volunteer from McNasty's campaign left a message on my phone last night. That's fine; that's the job the volunteer signed up to do, and I wouldn't have answered the phone in any case because I didn't recognize the number. But I'm just thinking, where did they get the number of my unlisted cell phone? I do give it out occasionally--to the likes of public radio and television, NARAL and other repro-rights groups, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, your basic progressive hit list.

I like the idea of their campaign buying up these sorts of mailing lists and wasting their time calling Liberal Bloggers.

I just made another donation to Obama's campaign in celebration.

Chill.

We have made a household pact not to turn the heat on until November. Right now it's 63 degrees in the house and my nose is cold. I'm working from home today in two wool hoodies and firing up the teapot. Outside, it's gray and drizzly and leaves are falling intermittently, which reminds me of one of my weirdest fever dreams: one leaf, taking an interminable amount of time to make its way from the bare tree to the cold ground.

The Brit's dad is coming for a visit on Friday, so we may have to cave on the heat a week early. On the other hand, English people are used to the cold, the damp, and wonky heating systems. I'll just be sure to bake a lot during his visit.

Other household news includes a slow-draining kitchen sink or perhaps a wack garbage disposal, and a little bit of under-sink drippage, which I can hear as I type. I have tried cleaning out the disposal with ice cubes, a recommended technique, and also baking soda and vinegar (with a chaser of boiling water). The verdict on the latter: delightfully fizzy but ultimately not effective. I don't actually know why it would be, since you put an acid and base together and they should pretty much just neutralize each other and make water and fizz, right? But all the green cleaning tips instruct you to use this combo, so I'm dutifully dumping it in the toilet these days.

Dinner tonight is definitely going to be chili and cornbread. Ace just sidled up to me and is pawing at one of the wool hoodies.

Also, I keep sneezing. That can't be good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More LOLz.

This is killing me softly:

I love everything about it, though maybe Jill Biden should be in the car too. Look at Michelle's face! Look at Joe dancing! The frappuccinos!

I only wish it had a soundtrack.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Etsy shop update.

I added some new stuff to my Etsy shop and marked down a bunch of old stuff.
Update.
I also spent my Friday night making drawstring bags. Why yes, I AM a dork, since you were wondering. The basement has recently been transformed into a functional workspace after a painting/revamping project that dragged on for years, and I now have a sewing pod. I was going through my fabric stash and wondering how I ended up with so much stuff, and decided to use some of it up by whipping up gift bags. This gave me a chance to practice French seams and free-form cutting.

If you order something from my shop, it'll arrive packed in one of these bags. Then instead of buying wrapping paper for birthdays and holidays, you can just reuse the bag and pass it on.

Unfortunately I now want to stay in my sewing pod and we have orchestra tickets tonight. I suppose I should take a shower.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Correspondence.

Here's the full text of the email my boyf sent me a little while ago:
After me being cranky this morning, do you love me:

(a) More than ever

(b) Less than never

(c) Like someone who’s not that into it, really

(d) Yeah, but shut up and go away

(e) Times three to the power of ‘wanker’

(f) With a strong core built upon knowing that underneath I’m a sweet little monkey who loves his Crispin [editor's note: only one of myriad nicknames]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lifehacking.

Here are two new habits I've adopted recently:

1. Washing my lunch dishes at the office. This is so much better than bringing home my crusty Mr. Bento to be dealt with later. In my case "later" usually means "next time I need to pack lunch," at which point: ew.

2. Doing countertop and/or wall push-ups every time I go to the bathroom at work. This is my favorite one because it sounds so ridiculous. But our bathroom is a large one-seater and thanks to a healthy fluid intake, I'm in there frequently. If I do ten or twenty push-ups every time I'm in there, it's going to add up. Hopefully I won't break the counter in the process.

Tell me some of yours.

Also, tell me if you've ever used a soy milk maker. I've had about enough of all these cartons.

LOLz.

From the AP, via Jezebel:
Angelina Jolie was asked if she would vote for Barack Obama because of his international background. She said: "Obama fights for international justice, he wants to militarily intervene in cases of genocide, and close Guantanamo Bay. These are the things that could move me to vote for him, not his roots." Then she tried to adopt him.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Say you have some extra hours to kill while you're in DC for your friend's wedding and you've never been to DC before and you're staying right next to a Metro stop. Where would you go on Friday evening? Sunday afternoon? What about the hours between the afternoon wedding and the evening cocktail hour on Saturday?

ETA: Oh you people are chock full of info. It should be pretty exciting to see all this stuff the weekend before the election.

Yes we can (hold babies).

I love this website.

Yes we can (hold babies).

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fleeting.

Twin Citians, get your pasty asses outside. It's seriously one of the most beautiful days of the year. I just rode to the P.O., then to the bank, then to A Baker's Wife, and then just meandered around the lake and through the parks and neighborhoods for awhile. It is excellent. And now I have a caramel pecan roll to attend to.

Friday, October 03, 2008

So far, I am having one of those obscurely annoying days. It is probably made a bit worse by the fact that I romped all over yesterday and just check check checked things off my to-do list and felt rather invincible. But today, I cannot get started. People at work are sending me irritating emails and calling me in a tizzy about things I don't control. In my musical life, someone who emailed me a question two days ago and hadn't gotten an immediate response called my parents instead of calling me or trying again. Whaaa? And my to-do list, while marked with done-dids, is still quite long. I am glad it's Friday.

I biked again today and I think my face is windburned. It's about 40 degrees when I leave in the morning. At that temperature, the sun really isn't doing you any favors, and the windchill is an important factor. Of course, by the time I leave later today, I could be rolling my jeans up to my knees and wearing a tank top, like I did yesterday. But it's become clear that I need gloves and a neck gaiter. I'll have to dig around in the winter clothes this weekend and see what I've got. It's time to turn the wardrobe over, y'all.

Enough bellyaching. I have a squash-montrachet-veggie kielbasa risotto for lunch. That oughtta be worth something.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Debating games.

I'm pretty relieved that I'm going to be in rehearsal during the debates tomorrow night, but for those of you planning to watch/cringe, these Palin Bingo cards could make things a little bit more entertaining for you.

In other news, we went to see Beck last night. He was rad.

In other other news, we might get up and go jogging before work. This will depend entirely on my ability to get cheerleaderish first thing in the morning. Spare a thought for me.

UPDATE: Fail. The successfully executing a morning run is part of a campaign to convince the Brit that exercising before work will probably change his life. But man I love my burrow at 7 AM. Why is bed so warm and nice in the morning? Why do I enjoy lounging in it even if I am awake? I did bike today though. In a ludicrous outfit.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pass it on.

So here's something interesting: before we convened last night at choir to talk about what we'd like to do with our reverse-offering, some email suggestions went back and forth and I found that my knee-jerk reaction to the suggestions about arts initiatives was "that's not important enough."

I probably don't need to deconstruct all of this for you socialist-leaning hippies, but I was intrigued by my own reaction. I had to have a little talk with myself. I've written before about how I don't think that art is a luxury; I think it's basic to human existence, and there's practically a fossil record supporting this assertion. It's no coincidence that in oppressive regimes, the arts are heavily censored, if not banned outright; the Taliban, for example, beat and jailed people for listening to music and for singing, and destroyed the folk music archives in Kabul. Musicians in Afghanistan risked their lives to bury their instruments for future retrieval rather than destroying them outright.

I've also written about how lucky I have felt that artistic endeavor was always supported in my family, and about how no one has ever really tried to make me feel like music isn't important. But apparently I've still internalized some of those messages about "well, people need to feed their families." By that logic, the only charitable efforts worth supporting are those that produce and distribute food.

The thing is, artists need to feed their families too. The folks driving the WPA realized this, during the Depression: the program included massive arts initiatives designed to keep the arts local and to harness them to support public goals, all the while employing unemployed artistic professionals. I am not kidding you when I say I get a tear in my eye when I read about this.

So then we met up last night and I suggested we fund a scholarship to a local music school, which is in the economically- and culturally-diverse neighborhood of the church, and that spiraled out into other suggestions about underwriting a concert for the school's students, or buying instruments, or what have you. Something, in other words, that would connect us to people around us, support the arts, and possibly have far-reaching implications for the students whose lives are improved by participation in and learning about music. And then I volunteered to head up the effort.

All of this happened about an hour after I had a comic phone commiseration with the Brit about how much I enjoy being passive, and how put-upon I would be at rehearsal that evening because our director was out sick and I wouldn't just be able to sit there and go la la la. I was also moaning, half-joking but maybe not even half, about the fact that my jobby-job is becoming less passive. In some ways I liked things better when I was just entering crap onto a spreadsheet. His job has become exponentially less passive as of late, not that it was ever passive, so he was feeling it too.

However, and this is a pattern with me, even if I don't look forward with pleasure to taking an active role in something--whatever that something may be--once I am doing it I am invariably happier. It's true of teaching, running a rehearsal, standing up to do nebulous training of supervisors, even and maybe especially exercising. I think it's my introvert and extrovert duking it out for dominance. Whenever I do a Myers-Briggs test I always end up right on the line, sometimes leaning more one way, sometimes the other.

In a not-unrelated episode, I had to get to work early yesterday and I spent about 15 minutes trying to decide whether I would bike or drive, bike or drive, bike or drive. All told it would have given me about 15 extra minutes to dink around if I drove, but the longer I hemmed and hawed the closer I got to having a decision made for me by Father Time rather than by my own agency. This is also a pattern, and an annoying one, let me tell you. Finally I got irritated with myself and was like "what is your PROBLEM" and I took off on my metal steed, and of course it was brilliant.

To sum up: I left choir last night feeling weirdly energized, enough that I snorted at myself about my entire day and how easy things can actually be and I said out loud "STEP IT UP."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quick hits.

Tomorrow is the deadline to comment on the proposed Health and Human Services regulation that purports to protect religious freedom of health care providers. In reality, the regulation would effectively allow health care providers and anyone who could potentially come into contact with a patient to refuse to do anything to which they morally object. Reproductive Health Reality Check has much more on this if you haven't been following it, but the really important thing is the first thing I said: tomorrow is the last day to submit your objections to the proposed regulation, which have the potential to block access to basic reproductive health services. The easiest way to do this is to visit the ACLU site set up for the purpose. Tell everyone you know and hit them up before 5 PM on Thursday.

I think there was some other important thing that I was going to link at you, but now I can remember what it was. It may have been that thing about going to Ohio to help register voters, since 2.25 million Ohio residents did not vote in the 2004 election, but I can't put my hands on the link. I'll update tomorrow. Basically, if you have the time and want to volunteer, they can put you up until the election. Early voting starts September 30 and continues right on through election time. (UPDATE: Here it is, at America Votes.)

Also, my sister wrote a fictional "where are they now" based on the idea that the original members of the Baby-sitters Club would now be 35 years old. I was just barely young enough to read Baby-sitters Club books when they first came out; if you were younger still, you will totally appreciate Em's post.

Here is my assistant, assisting me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Money for something.

Yesterday in church as I was fumbling around for my wallet to slap a little money in the collection plate, the minister explained that the plates were actually full of envelopes for us, that each household should take one and open it up and use the money in the envelope to have a discussion about how to use what you have in order to make a difference in your community--how to line up your money with your values. And then she said that we should get creative with the money and let them know what we did with it.

So then they passed plates, amid quite a lot of excited burbling in the congregation, and gave away $10,000 over the course of the three services. There was $20 in each envelope. So now I'm asking you, what should I do with this money? And bear in mind that I have access to a lot of other people who got a twenty on Sunday, and that we could pool our resources to do something more exciting.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On a mountaintop, tootin' on a flizoot.

A dirty little secret is that this, the third week in September, is the first week I have taken the bike to work every day, to two of my jobs, anyway (riding for an hour one way, largely uphill, on Sunday morning and then singing a few services is still a little advanced for me). When I started riding for transportation purposes back in early May, my resolution was to ride my bike to work at least once a week. I ended up riding to work 2-3 times a week most weeks and to my dance class every week. There were also a few weeks when things were bonkers and I had various errands all over town and I didn't bike at all (see for example: the week before vacation. Hurry up and relax!!).

But now we're having that perfect weather week, you see. The one where daytime temperatures are in the 70s but the mornings are crisp, and the sun is out, and the roads are dry, and everyone is in a good mood. You should hear the greetings flying around on the bike trails. There are some headwinds here and there, but people just pull up next to you on their rigs and joke about them. It makes you feel tough, like a member of a club. I've been veering off my well-worn route, just for kicks. And also because one of the main bridges I usually use to get to work has closed its bike lanes for the foreseeable future and requires me to disembark and walk, which is the last thing I want to do when I am rolling rolling rolling. Thanks to my detour, this morning a dude and I got off our bikes to haul some trash bags full of yard waste off the middle of the busy Franklin Ave bridge. "See you later Good Samaritan!" he hollered when our bikes parted ways. A few minutes later, I was singing the praises of my bike basket to the woman locking up her bike next to me (she asked).

Sometimes you gotta drive, but stuff like that doesn't happen when you're in your car.

Also, a few weeks ago, I found the best exercise pants ever at Thrifty Outfitters. They're capri-length pants by Sugoi and they are made of a perfect, futuristic fabric and they have deep pockets in the front and back, yet they manage to be sleek. When I run they go ssskrick ssskrick, like enough to be funny, but they are totally getting the job done for my various activities. They even look good enough to wear for real, though by wearing them you would be telegraphing the idea that you are an active and sporty person who will take off running after work.

I guess what I'm saying is that this has been the week to EAT IT UP, so that's what I'm doing. It's happy hour, bitches.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's another word for pirate treasure?

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, here is a lame-ass joke that is also nerdy:

What's a pirate's favorite noble gas?
Arrrrrr-gon!

I'll be here all week.
I already shared this on my Google Reader thingie over there, but here's a nice little nugget from Shakesville:
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization." And I've always thought the Democrats should use that, should connect, at every opportunity, paying taxes and buying civilization.

Every time some bloviating nitwit conservative goes on about how the government never gave him nuttin', the Democrats should say: "Oh, you've never used roads? Never mailed anything? Never logged on to the internet?"

And every time the Republicans talk about the Democrats wanting to raise taxes, the Dems should retort: "Yes, we want to raise taxes on those who can afford it, because with taxes, we buy civilization. We build schools and bridges and freaking spaceships. You got a problem with that?"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On my list.

I have left you high and dry, have I not, after hinting about a mythical list of things that I want to do in the next year? I had a birthday on Friday and it passed without much fanfare, being a non-milestone year, and I gave you no post about what I have learned and what it's all about. If you're into that sort of thing you might read my sister's post on the topic, since her birthday is the day before mine and she has had eight fewer years to do these types of ruminations, so hers are a little fresher albeit still totally germane to turning 34. And speaking of her birthday, I did no blogular meditation on my sister in honor of her birthday, either. Oh snap.

Here's how our birthday looked, though:
Why so animated, o freakshow?

The thing is, in many ways I'm exactly where I was at this time last year, possibly even literally, except that this year I have biking clothes hanging up to dry in my office (a little bit ew, yes, but no one ever comes in here) and many more personal effects cluttering my desk. I'm also picking up a box of farm vegetables on my bike in a few minutes, which I also wouldn't have been doing last year. My net worth vaulted up by about $13K from last September to this one, which is pretty cool. I did my first road race and while I have not signed up for any additional ones since then (I have to admit that the entry fees and totally random causes can be a deterrent), I'm still running. I may in fact have reached a plateau, which isn't that cool, because it means I have to start trying harder in order to improve, which means I will be hating on the running a little bit more.

I also have a contract to go back to Collegetown Wisco for another sabbatical term this year, which I don't think I've mentioned here yet. I was sort of keeping it on the downlow, even though it's been a done deal for awhile. I am excited about the teaching gig for a variety of reasons--not least of which is the boost it will give my sense of purpose--even though it is happening during the winter term, which is the DEEP DARK DEPTHS, people. On the other hand, it's something concrete to eat up all of my time during the deep dark depths which I would be experiencing in Minneapolis in any case, so I got that going for me, which is nice.

Winter is also the time that I plan to start swimming again, both to keep me sane and active when biking and running are bad ideas and to test, gingerly, the notion of doing a triathlon next summer. I might put that on the list of Things to Do This Year if I ever get around to making that list for realsies. Look forward to reading entries about running into my students at the pool. Horrors.

Anyway, the really crazy thing about this teaching gig is that I'm not giving up my day job. It would make no sense to jeopardize my earning power and benefits for the other 40 weeks of the year in order to take this opportunity, so thanks to the largesse and flexibility of my boss, I'm going to be commuting, telecommuting, teaching a full studio of students, and likely losing my mind a little bit from January through March. Say a little prayer for me. At the end of it I'll undoubtedly be wealthier and wiser.

As for the Buy Nothing era that I mentioned a few posts back, it's not going to happen just yet--it's more likely that I'll do it in the new year, which phrase I cannot believe I am already uttering. I was mentally mapping out the next few months and thinking about things like potentially needing cold-weather gear for biking, and I decided to shelve it. I probably won't buy much in the next few months, but I want to take some time to evaluate what I have, jettison some more of what I don't need, and think about supplies I might lay in before I stop being a "consumer" and content myself with being a human being. When I'm ready to do it I'll talk more about the parameters. If you want to read about someone who is REALLY buying nothing, including almost all food, for 9 whole months, please direct yourselves to These Days in French Life.

Soda jerk.

Do you know The Knowledge for Thirst? It's a beverage review blog that is very funny. I liked this bit from today's post:
Posting an opinion of something on the internet is the karmic equivalent of shouting into the ear of your very deaf great grand-aunt at Thanksgiving, who does not remember your name, and who is more likely to accuse you of trying to steal her purse then ever pass the sweet potatoes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zombie feminism.

Another excellent piece of writing from Rebecca Traister at Salon, on "Zombie feminists of the RNC": How did Sarah Palin become a symbol of women's empowerment? And how did I, a die-hard feminist, end up terrified at the idea of a woman in the White House?

Maybe I'm just overtired, but I got teary-eyed at the end of the article, when Traister implicates liberals in the whole Palin debacle:
For while it may chafe to hear Rudy Giuliani and John McCain hold forth on the injustice of gender bias, what really burns is that we never heard a peep or squawk or gurgle of this nature from anyone in the Democratic Party during the entire 100 years Hillary Clinton was running for president, while she was being talked about as a pantsuited, wrinkly old crone and a harpy ex-wife and a sexless fat-thighed monster and an emasculating nag out for Tucker Carlson's balls. Only after she was good and gone did Howard Dean come out of his cave to squeak about the amount of sexist media bias Clinton faced...Which leads us to my greatest nightmare: that because my own party has not cared enough, or was too scared, to lay its rightful claim to the language of women's rights, that Sarah Palin will reach historic heights of power, under the most egregious of auspices, by plying feminine wiles, and conforming to every outdated notion of what it means to be a woman. That she will hit her marks by clambering over the backs, the bodies, the rights of the women on whose behalf she claims to be working, and that she will do it all under the banner of feminism. How can anybody sleep?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Something else to hate about the Republican VP nominee.

When she was mayor of Wasilla, the city charged rape victims for rape kits because they didn't want to burden taxpayers.

What. The. Fuck.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Imagine me singing the theme song of Mad Men and that will be the title of this post.

The blogosphere is full of elegiac posts about the end of summer today. Here, it's as if September 1 flipped a switch and it's crisp and blustery and there are local apples at the co-op. Yesterday, I biked to work in street clothes for the first time since May. There's one brief wooded stretch over the creek on my ride home that smells just like the end of every summer of my childhood, loamy and secret like the overgrown passage next to our neighbor's garage before the leaves started to fall. Like a fort in the forest when you have already had to start back to school and your jeans are too new and your shoes are too stiff.

We went to the State Fair, another harbinger of summer's end for anyone who grew up around here, over the weekend. We wound our way through the animal barns, checking out the frilled and extravagant chickens, the roosters with their alarmingly genital headgear, the velvet-eared goats, the recumbent, redolent swine. We ate french fries. The Brit could only stand about an hour of the talent show--that was the entire pre-teen division--and I can't say I totally blame him, though I would have stayed to the bitter end just to be illuminated by the fireworks. It's hard to watch painted and primped little girls screaming their heads off about love and disillusionment and ambition and shaking their butts in pursuit of a stage career. These kids are my worst nightmare as a voice teacher. You want to encourage kids who are talented and who love to perform, but the training for girls so easily turns them into perma-smiling pageant plastics with sexy outfits and phony ponies in their hair. Fortunately the judges gave the first prize to a kid who wrote and performed his own piano sonata. That gives me hope.

I plundered old alumni rags this weekend for more book recommendations, looking specifically for the submissions by the hilarious, cranky old professor who taught my Milton class. Now every day I feel showered by gifts when campus mail is delivered. I have Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (whose name, incidentally, I love), and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, which is a 1960 paperback edition with a fabulous cover that I will scan directly. I also have The Legend of John Hornby, which was central to another book I just read, Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights on Air. A stack of books feels like back-to-school. It's also part of an item on my List for this year, a non-specific item about using libraries more and reading new books. I have always read a lot but had been in a rut for awhile, not actively seeking different things to read. That's changing now that it's time to get cozy.

An unrelated item: we finally started smoking the crack that is Mad Men and this is making it harder to go out and get some exercise in the evening.

And I'm eating what might be the last good caprese of the year. In autumn, even salad can be melancholy.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aware of all internet traditions.

Probably you have already seen the evidence of yearbookyourself.com floating around on blogs and flickr, and I will admit that I spent like an hour last Saturday making yearbook photos of myself and the Brit.

However, none of them are as funny as the ones Em just did for the kids.

I have been laughing so hard that I am crying, and I had to close the door of my office.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fun home.

I know already told you about this, but I can order library books from the educational institution at which I work and these books will be sent to my office via campus mail, which is magically wonderful. I ordered a load of books on Monday and there they were yesterday, waiting for me after a long day of (potentially useful) training. It is so nice to get a pile of books delivered.

Last night instead of mouldering in front of the TV, I made a crazy veggie Reuben for the Brit and then started in on Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. I would have ripped through this book in one sitting, but I've been up late reading too many nights this week and HAVE TO GET SOME SLEEP. So I picked up the book again this morning and finished it on the bus, and guess what that meant? It meant I had to put my sunglasses on before I got off the bus because I was starting to cry. Not like big ugly snotface crying, just the silent eyespill kind.

I had never read anything by Alison Bechdel before, though I knew about her from various interviews and whatnots over the years--nor had I ever read an entire graphic novel/memoir/etc, which is my bad. I can't say enough good things about this book, which is incredibly literate, elegant, evocative, moving, and beautiful. It's essentially Bechdel's attempt to come to terms with her father, who may or may not have killed himself, and the story moves fluidly back and forth throughout Bechdel's childhood and young adulthood. It's illustrated with scraps of family and national history, excerpts from literature, mythological references; it's part essay, part archive; it's a little bit like watching someone's family movies spliced together with a searingly intellectual and achingly emotional commentary. Highly recommended.

Also, if you want to be my friend on Goodreads, shoot me some email.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The list.

I might do a buy-nothing til 2009 starting with my birthday next month. That's not much of a commitment, but considering it encompasses the holidays and I love giving gifts to people, it's pretty serious. Just throwing it out there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You probably find yourself wondering whether it is hard being an idiot. In one sense it is easy, since when you are being an idiot, stupid things just keep happening to you without much effort on your part, but on the other hand it is hard, because those stupid things might cause you to hurt yourself. The worst is when you are congratulating yourself for being smart, because for example you made a big batch of concentrated tea for iced tea, and then it turns out that you are actually an idiot because you put the lukewarm glass jug of tea in the freezer for a bit last night and then you forgot about it until today when you were hankering for some iced tea.

By then the jug is split open all down the sides and you are flummoxed enough by this that you disassemble it in two separate bowls that quickly fill up with ice shards, and you spend five minutes wondering whether you can salvage the solid, jug-shaped block of tea you now have in your hands, and meanwhile your hands are getting frostbite because you've run out of places to set the frozen teablock. You finally get rid of the glass, rinse the tea block thoroughly, and defrost it in the microwave, deciding simultaneously to cook a black bean burger on the stovetop, and you promptly forget about the burger while checking your email. Fortunately it hasn't burnt to a crisp by the time you remember it, but still you end up saying to the cat, "it's hard being an idiot."

In addition, you have a bug bite on your ankle that you have scratched so thoroughly, it is now a bruise. This despite the presence of after-bite treatment in your bathroom.

Running with the night, playing in the shadows.

Does anyone know how to get a coffee stain out of superfine merino wool? I did a dumb-ass maneuver with two cups of coffee and a screen door while we were in MT and managed to scald my bosom and possibly ruin a $55 t-shirt (I only paid $30). At least it was good coffee. While I'm on the subject, let me advocate wool t-shirts for a minute. It seems counter-intuitive, but the stuff is so fine and soft you would never know what the fiber was, and it wicks and dries and keeps you warm or cool depending on your needs. Miraculous.

I don't know how things are going where you are, but here the evenings are noticeably cooler and the days are noticeably shorter. These are the kind of details that cause you to feel desperate and fatalistic about the summer, and to start plotting about things like how exactly you are going to get exercise when the snow flies. Realistically, I know I have 2-3 months of biking left before I have to pack it in or buy a whole bunch of cold weather gear, but still: these are the feelings I have this time of year.

Wendell recently did a sprint triathlon and has reawakened my desire to do one, so it's going to be on my list for next year, which list is incidentally going to be called Things to Do in My 35th Year. I'm not sure what else is going to be on the list yet, but my birthday is only a few weeks away, so I'll have to figure it out soon. With a triathlon is on my list, there will be some corollary list items such as obtain a road bike, brush the hell up on my swimming, run longer distances, and maybe get a more cheerleaderish attitude when I'm working by myself. A funny thing about me is that I can get very WE CAN DO IT YES WE CAN when I'm doing physically challenging stuff with people, but in practice I mostly fly solo. Hm. Maybe I should work with other people more, and put that on my list too.

For today, however, I have a short and boring list that I should start attacking. Seeya.

Friday, August 15, 2008

And now he only eats guitars.

Dom made a new karaoke rule last night: any time there is a musical break in your song, you have to rap. This rule was based on the fact that there is a 46-measure musical break in the last song I sang, Cheryl Lynn's "Got to be Real," and I filled it by dancing around like a tool, singing some "zoohoos," and by doing part of the rap from Blondie's "Rapture" and then part of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air rap. Rapping is really an excellent solution because it's funny, incongruous (assuming you bust a rhyme from a completely different song), and precludes standing there nervously looking around waiting for your next singing cue while the backing track plays. You should try it.

I think I have also gotten past the point where I feel like I need to be two beers in in order to karaokeify, which is a good thing.

Em took lots of pictures. I'll post when I can.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I would advise you against defensiveness on principle. It precludes the best eventualities along with the worst. At the most basic level, it expresses a lack of faith. As I have said, the worst eventualities can have great value as experience. And often enough, when we think we are protecting ourselves, we are struggling against our rescuer.
--Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

In the bastard-hottest part of our drive home on Saturday, my AC failed to start up. Through about an hour of eastern MT, the car blew bastard-hot air every time we tried to turn the thing on. I was driving 75 (the actual speeding limit) with the window partway down, the better to blow bastard-hot air at me from outdoors.

The idea of driving across the entire state of NoDak with no AC was horrible to contemplate. I finally pulled off the freeway and stopped the car to go and ask about a service station, but instead started the car back up on the Brit's suggestion, and the AC was back on track. Cool air, voila, you probably saved my relationship and you definitely saved my road trip. From then on it was just baked hills and fields of sunflowers. Wayward sunflowers spring up on the highway median, too, where seeds have blown across fences.

Much later, we were rolling up to Bismarck in the rain and I asked the Brit what he wanted to do, and he said "let's just keep going," and that is how I ended up spending 15 hours in the car that day. We spent a lot of the day listening to Devil in the White City, an account of the architects of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the serial killer who exploited the Fair for his own ends. It is extremely well-written popular history, very fascinating and likely to lead you down a serious Wikipedia rabbit hole, if you're inclined that way. (I am, which is why I never posted this on Monday when I started writing it.) Once the rain blew over, we saw the entire arc of a rainbow in front of us. I actually can't remember the last time I saw a full rainbow.

Since we got back, I've pulled most of the weeds in the backyard, won trivia (along with Team Bootie Queen) and added to my Jagermeister t-shirt collection as a result, and gotten soaked on my bike thanks to afternoon rainshowers. My shoes actually filled up with water, as did my pants. I am reading Zorro by Isabel Allende. I watched a lot of swimming and gymnastics last night. I have not yet scrubbed the cooler. I am still in vacation mode.

Friday, August 08, 2008

My day in the hills has come to an end: part 3.

Today I found a piece of white quartz as big as my head, in the middle of a pile of scree otherwise flat gray and streaked with rust brown and covered in lichens. For about 20 seconds I did think about putting it in my backpack to carry it home, and then I realized how stupid that would be. Not only would no one else ever have the pleasure of discovering it, but my hike back down the mountain would have been very, very crappy with a 25 pound rock in my backpack.

Quartz.

We followed a trail near the camp to get to this pile of scree, which was not specifically our destination. It was just where we ended up, and we didn't know where the trail would take us. The trailhead is very distinct and well marked, with a significant parking lot and informational signs at the beginning of the trail, but there are also two signs specifically warning you that the trail is not maintained. Lots of people had been dismissive of the trail earlier in the week. "Oh Speculator," they said, "that one just sort of peters out." We figured we'd try it anyway. If nothing else, we knew no one would be on the trail, and that was most certainly true.

Cairns, the only way to find the trail.

As it turns out, the trail is just fine. If you follow the cairns through the meadow, you wind up in the forest and the trail from that point on is perfectly distinct, taking you up up up and over the shoulder of the mountain and down into a valley next to the rushing creek for which the trail is named. There are some excellent views of distant peaks and plenty of impressive boulders along the way.

I am mighty.

There was some deadfall on the trail, but nothing we couldn't just step over or limbo under. Next to the creek, things got a little bit more swampy and the fallen logs were much bigger--in short, the going was rougher and the trail got harder to follow. This was after almost two hours of hiking, though. So the pile of scree became our stopping point. We found a big table of a rock and ate our lunch on it.

Self-portraits.

It's so easy to feel good while you're hiking up a hill.

We missed all the bad weather while we were hiking. Once we got back to camp, though, there were a few lightweight rumbles of thunder and steady showers until dinner, the first real rain of the week. We hung out on the porch with Willa and my sister and brother in law for awhile, and then got under a sleeping bag and snoozed the afternoon away. When the rain let up, after supper, some of the clouds detached themselves and settled right in the valley, drifting down into the trees and billowing up over the river like smoke. The sky opened up and lit the peaks in time for sunset, and we walked up the road to the beachlet and I picked rocks. I found what I think is petrified wood, and then I just filled my pockets with a bunch of other stones. I pick up rocks wherever I go. There's probably still a box of them in my parents' attic.

In camp.

Willa has been off the chain today. She says "hi" very distinctly, and at the appropriate moments. She sings ba ba ba and trills her lips and basically just has her own walking music, except that instead of walking she is doing that exact loopy crawl that Henry had, one leg folded under so as to come easily to a sitting position and the other one loping along straight up like it would rather be walking. I said "getchu" once in casual conversation and she squealed and started hustling away. Today she bit her own foot hard enough to make herself cry. When her dad peeled off her Robeez, there was an imprint on her toe.

Bebe.

The boys, meanwhile, have basically been feral this week. It's nice for them to be able to get up in the morning, go outside, and essentially be safe anywhere they go on the grounds. They've got freedom here that they don't have at home. Tonight after dinner they actually smeared themselves with mud, head to toe. It was the fourth grade girl's idea. She must be enjoying her power.

Last night was the variety show and I belted my way through a song from Carousel, picked out of an aged and crumbling pile of sheet music from the compound up the road. A woman I remember babysitting played the piano for me. My bro in law wrote and read a lovely poem, and Henry told jokes, and Jude did his song (easily the tightest act in the whole show), and the traditional choral stuff got trotted out and there were some other acts. There was nothing *truly* embarrassing in the whole show, which was both a relief and a disappointment. The Brit managed to get through it all right, which is saying something. He even sang with the men's group. My dad emceed in his kilt.

Today was our last full day. Tomorrow is breakfast, then checkout, then the long drive home, never as fun as the drive to your destination, especially when you are driving across the relentless plains. We toyed with going through SoDak for a change of pace, but fear that Sturgis will mean not only wacky traffic but also no open motel rooms along the way. So I think we're pointing Golden Large (my car) toward Bismarck, where I may start, at long last, deploying these belated vacation posts.