Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All I have to do is dream.

I woke up before 6:00 this morning, right out of a lucid dream into the pre-dawn darkness. I'd been walking through the corner store of my childhood, but it was big and empty, painted white, mid-renovation. Someone might have been upstairs, but I walked briskly through the place, straight to the back, through a door into a big red cinder block room, and out the back door. I woke up then, and tried to get back to sleep, and almost succeeded a few times. During one of these interludes my brain cooked up a song, sort of a psychedelic CSN-influenced number by Ween, that had the lyrics "I've got a bluefinger, she's got a redfinger, we've got a greenfinger YELLOWFINGER! Bluefinger. Whitefinger. And just a finger." I wish I could sing it to you, with the harmony and guitar and everything.

When I woke up sick the other day, it was from a dream in which there was a 60s soul kind of song with the lyrics "You're awesome...yeah, you're all right." "Awesome" was long and melismatic and then "you're all right" was just a kind of tag. I wish I could sing that one to you as well, with the horns and the dudes backing me up. I hope my brain keeps churning out the hits like this.

I'm feeling better today, going back to the office and my spreadsheets (I love them all; they are like my children). I fired up my morning with some homemade sour cherry-pear crisp. I would say there was a bit too much crisp on top, which makes it perfect for stirring yogurt into. Then I read this hilarious bit of prose:
Circus Act's level of fetal activity is unprecedented, at least in terms of my own personal womb occupation experiences. If I hadn't seen the correct number of limbs on the ultrasound, the smart money would be on me birthing an octopus.

While I'm quoting and linking, I should also point you to a random discovery I made the other day whilst clicking around my flickr contacts: These Days in French Life, a blog by a woman living a "Slow Year" with her little family in the south of France. It's basically about opting out of consumer culture and generating as little waste as possible. Naturally a lot of life ends up revolving around food: getting it, preparing it, preserving it, etc, and she's issued additional monthly challenges to herself, like no food shopping for a month, or "Meet Your Meat" (i.e. source the meat and visit the farm and the animals), or cook everything on the woodstove for a month. It's interesting to read about what she discovers through this type of discipline, and it all fits neatly into the things I've been thinking about.

I'd guess that most folks would be very dismissive of the so-called slow life because they've got bills to pay, and that's fair enough. But one of the most potent ideas about slow livin', for me, is that most of us work work work so that we can buy Things, and when you opt out of buying Things, you have more time to concentrate on subsistence activities like feeding your family in a conscientious, creative, use-every-scrap kind of way. There's something very appealing to me about that--about how much it calls upon you to do, and how much togetherness it engenders, and how intimately connected it is to the environment in which you live.

The Slow Year blogger also runs a flickr group called A Slow Year, if you want to get in on the action.

I was thinking about taking a bike ride, but now I see that it's only 39 degrees. Woof! Spring schming.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Your cheatin' heart.

Has anyone else been sleeping like shit lately? Dom theorized that it's the weather, which has been all over the place. It's impossible to get comfortable at night. So last week I didn't really sleep and then over the weekend, ta-daaa, I got sick, and was FORCED to sleep, A LOT, because I felt like a bag of smashed ass and my eyes wouldn't stay open. The weather cooperated by being crappy yesterday, so it did not seem amiss to spend the day on the couch under a blanket and a fat dandruffy cat. I had to miss trivia. We've now lost two weeks in a row to a bunch of CHEATERS who use the INTERNET on their PHONES to get ANSWERS. How can you possibly feel good about your breadth of knowledge, cheaters? Without your internets you would fail, cheaters. And if it were a straight-up googling contest we would house your asses nonetheless, cheaters.

Anyway, I've slept a lot, I have today off to finish up my personal journey toward health, and it's sunny outside! So I can't really stay mad at the cheaters. I do, however, have an extensive collection of snotty kleenexes I'd be happy to deposit in their beer pitcher next week, even if that means I have to save the snotrags until then.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dressing you up in my love.

Apparently fashion forecasters have been suggesting that dresses are dead, which is plain stupid (as is fashion forecasting in general, but I digress). In response to this "news," the NYT has published this barfy article, in which the author bemoans the so-called passing of the dress mostly because he really likes looking at chicks in dresses. He deems trousers a "useful wardrobe default for the woman in business." He slams crow's feet, tight Wranglers, and suede chaps. And there's an attached slideshow of women in dresses called "I enjoy being a girl."

Blech, blech, blech, blech. And feh. I mean New York fucking Times.

Feministing has already done a fine job of pulling out the article's barfier statements and breaking down why they are so barfy. So much for those of us who choose our clothes based on comfort, convenience, and our own aesthetic sensibilities. Unfortunately, ladies, you're subject to the good old male gaze whether you like it or not.

I'm going to spend the summer wearing dresses, but I'll also be perfecting my jumpsuit design.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some recent events.

Ace got a sweet new handmade cat bed from Like Kittysville. He inspected:
Increased resniffing.

And then accepted.
Lording over it.
(Also, we pulled up the carpet.)

Henry turned 6 and we ate cheesecake.
Swirly cheesecake.

The Brit and I gave him a Marshall amp.
The setup.

Henry rocked out in the best way possible.

Emily got pie in the face.
Pieface 4.
(So did Henry and Jude. They all volunteered. Then they went after people who did NOT volunteer.)

Willa took a break from teething and mugged for the camera.

Dom came home.
At least he looks good.
At least HE looks good. But he probably deserves it more than I do.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mad about plaid.

(A phone call on Saturday morning.)

Dad: Hi, did I wake you?
Maven: Nope!
Dad: Well, I'm just calling to tell you I bought a kilt.


As you can see, he also bought kilts for the nephews. And for my brother (he will be getting his later in the week, when my parents go to visit him). The Brit suggested that this is a very American thing to do, and that they should expect to be mocked by Old World Europeans such as himself. If any other Old World Europeans read this blog, please feel free to weigh in, though I defy you to look at Jude up there and suggest that his ancestral pride is misplaced.

Henry wondered when he would be getting his bagpipes, which is exactly the logical leap I would expect him to make.

Here is another conversation that took place yesterday:

Dad: I still want to get a real kilt. [n.b. This is a sort of budget or starter kilt.]
Mom: You know, if you just bought the fabric I could make the kilt for you.
Dad: They use 8 yards of fabric, so it would still be expensive.
Mom: There's no way there's 8 yards of fabric in that.
Dad: Traditional kilts are guaranteed to have 8 yards of fabric.
Mom: I'm telling you that I know yardage and that is not 8 yards.
Maven (helpfully): So maybe this kilt is a little skimpy, since it's a budget kilt.
Em (to Maven): Remember when Mom and Dad didn't have to argue about kilts?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shaking the tree some more.

The other day I got an email message from someone with a new website purporting to offer non-judgmental healing for those affected by abortion, regardless of your political or religious leanings. I'm not going to tell you which website because I don't want to link to them or drive any traffic their way, but suffice it to say that a little digging revealed that the website is an arm of a pro-life ministry and functions a lot like the bogus crisis pregnancy centers that pretend to offer comprehensive reproductive health care services and instead tell women things like "abortion increases your risk of breast cancer" or that it causes "permanent damage." Intimidation, anti-choice propaganda, and misinformation are the name of the game.

Oh, and the email salutation? "Dear blogger." These folks are culling email addresses from those of us who proudly blog for choice or talk about comprehensive reproductive health on our blogs, and they are spamming pro-choice bloggers.

Fortunately, there are places like Pro-Choice Resources that provide real support for women who have had an abortion. Their weekly Emerge support group provides a safe, respectful, and supportive environment for women to gather and share their experiences, free of political or religious agendas. That's just one of the reasons I'm raising funds for the organization.

I'm also raising funds because we are all the beneficiaries of a sexual justice movement that predates many of us. Last night I got a contribution to the Pro-Choice Resources Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser from an older friend who later sent the following email:
I am old enough to have had a friend who had to fly to Mexico in the dead of night - it's hard for young women to imagine how frightening those times were.
I'm grateful for comprehensive sex ed, birth control, condoms, Roe v. Wade, safe and legal abortion, and every person who fought to make these things a reality.

The sad truth is that there are still plenty of people who want to penalize women, especially young women, for having sex--by preventing access to information, birth control, or unbiased medical information. This is one of the reasons that places like PCR exist--to make sure that women and youth can get the information and services that they need.

To make a donation, click the big old bowling button at right. I'm really close to my fundraising goal, but I'm not stopping until it's time to go knock the pins down.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Signs and portents.

Another item for my midwestern magical realism novel: I was walking across the hazy, warm, windy campus yesterday to meet up with a long-lost friend for lunch, and I looked up and saw a crow with something in its mouth soar out from under the rooftop of a building and into a bare tree. Seconds later, something flapped and drifted through the air and down next to the path, and when it landed I saw that it was a bat, splayed out inside a bush. The crow was flying around with a bat in its mouth. Someone tell me what it means. It can't be anything bad; lunch was great. We could have chit-chit-chatted for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dear Twin Citians, stand warned: there is a new trivia team in town. It is called Bootie Queen. It is a brain trust. It will trounce the competition by a margin of 14 points, if Monday night is any indication of future trouncings. It knows such answers as Sark, Byzantium, and Pewterschmidt. It houses the literary round in under a minute. It wins $30 and a case of pint glasses.

Today Green Mill; tomorrow the world.

Friday, April 11, 2008

So I've been underground in work-related training all week, in a Soviet-era-looking tech school out in the suburbs, with no access to email or internets during the workday, and free meal tickets that can only buy pale, sad, processed food. It was part informative, part entertaining, part depressing, part mind-numbing, and 100 percent ass-and-back-crippling. The chairs were the worst chairs ever invented, the kind my delicate heinie last encountered in elementary school music class.

But on the plus side, there were free donuts and one instructor (out of the FOUR we encountered) was actually quite excellent, to the point that I got truly interested in what he was presenting, which, for your information, was about hoists and riggings. I now have a certification that is a crack-up even to think about, but it will be useful for my current job. I think.

Also accomplished this week, in conjunction with training activities:
  • I developed a new repertoire of doodles, which is kind of a big deal because I had been stuck in a rut for awhile and I think these new ones will be quite useful when I start using my goddamn Gocco, finally.
  • I ate three donuts.
  • I recorded some malapropisms, neologisms, and just plain old inept speaking by one of our instructors. An example would be the word "fraudule," which you can use to describe the illegitimacy of a lawsuit: a "fraudule claim." Pronounce it to rhyme with "nodule." A "fraudule nodule" would be a benign tumor, I suggested to Anna, who was at the training with me.
  • I drank twice as many green smoothies as usual to help fill the nutritional void left by pizza and "fruit" smoothies.
  • I failed to go to bed early any night this week, despite the fact that my day started 1.5 hours earlier than usual. Today, I am feeling it. As soon as I've shopped for groceries, I'm taking a nap.
The weather is back in Hot Bullshit territory.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Lay it on me.

You may already have gleaned that I work at a university, so now I will tell you that the library system at my workplace will deliver books to your campus office. Given that the libraries are spread out over two cities, this is a big bonus that I am going to be taking advantage of like ALL THE TIME. About two days after launching my request off into the intertubes, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter showed up in my mailbox, adding a tiny charge of excitement to my workday. When I'm done with the book, I just put it back into the special bag in which it arrived and send it on back. Hooray!

Many thanks to all of you who recommended this book, by the way. I love that it is co-authored by an ethicist who examines food choices using sound data and logical thought processes because that is the only way to convince people that food choices are important and not just an arena in which bleeding hearts blubber about our furry and feathered friends. Despite the litany of horrific things happening behind closed doors at factory farms and the fact that farm animal welfare is not regulated until you get to the slaughterhouse, I have to say that THE most depressing part about the book is how market-driven every shitty corporate practice is. Over and over, producers say things like "well, if I don't do this, the farmer up the road will, and I'll be out of business." It's always about increasing productivity and yield, and never ever about doing the right thing: for the animals, for the planet, for the workers, for the people who ultimately eat the food.

Obviously, this is true in other industries as well. If you've been with me for awhile, you know that I've been tweaking my shopping habits on an ongoing basis. My two month experiment with buying nothing new last year, or whenever it was, most definitely changed the way I shop for clothes--permanently, I think. At first, I found that retail stores were generally just depressing me with their excess and sameness, but now I can't go into one of these places without wondering how many types of exploitation produced that $10 shirt and wondering who else is picking up the tab. That's another thing this book does such an excellent job of making clear: the low low prices that we seem to expect as our inalienable right along with life liberty etc are essentially fake, full of costs that are shouldered by people who live next to polluting factories or whatever. Sing it with me: Freedom isn't free, no, there's a hefty fuckin' fee.

On the other hand, some companies and people are trying to do the right thing and the fact that Whole Foods, for example, is hugely profitable and is still one of the 100 best companies to work for (number 16 this year, in fact) shows that there is a giant place for ethical business in a capitalist system. But there still needs to be a cultural shift, not only in the standard American diet (which is as SAD as its acronym suggests), but also in the way we think about food and about everything that happens before it gets to our tables. Well, it's a little bit chicken and eggy, isn't it, the whole question of supply and demand. Businesses and consumers need to be moving toward better choices simultaneously.

It just makes me crazy that for so many people, self-interest and profit can outweigh everything else. It's tiring to think about.

Also, I'm finished with fish, except maybe something that my dad caught.

Oh yeah. I started out this post talking about the library, and what I really wanted to ask for is more book recommendations, about anything. I need to quit rereading stuff so much.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Even my shadow leaves me all alone at night.

Alla youse, I am so glad you're drinking your vegetables too. I can add a few more items for your consideration: first, I have now used two different blenders and I will say that having a bit more power makes a difference. A higher-power blender, even at a low setting, will give you a much creamier texture (especially if you are adding a banana, and why wouldn't you?). Second, chard is a delightful substitute for kale. Third, you can grate fresh ginger and carrot by hand (use the smaller holes in your grater), chuck it into your smoothie, and then experience a whole new taste sensation.

I can also update you on the new Gnarls Barkley: I love it, but why is it so damn short? I felt the same way about the last album, which had the same kind of tension in it. You know: dance beats vs. melancholy, isolation, and periodic self-loathing. It's deep. You should get it.

That's all for now. I've hardly done a thing with my day yet.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Green Smoothie update.

I've now had a solid week of drinking my greens every day. After day two or so, I even got the Brit on board. I make a blender full in the morning, drink a glass while I get ready for my day, and fill a 16 ounce bottle for snacking on throughout the morning. I'm not really kidding about the snacking--that's how it feels, since there are enough greeny and fruity bits to chew on a little.

My anecdotal evidence goes like this: I am feeling better, I am less tired during the afternoon, and I am uninterested in snacking on crappity crap. Drinking coffee in the morning even feels kind of counterproductive (though I am having some anyway, because I love the stuff). And I feel a little silly about this, but last night I told the Brit that I was already excited about this morning's green beverage. Don't mock me; I had a fresh pineapple to cut up and add to the recipe, and fresh mint to go with it. Have you never sprinkled chopped fresh mint over your pineapple chunks? It is the bomb.

I have a horror of becoming an obnoxious evangelist about anything, but I have to admit that I can kind of understand why raw foodists are always going on about their energy levels and using lots of exclamation points. By 11 AM I've had 10+ grams of fiber, all the Vitamin A and C I need for the day and then some, a pantload of potassium, a really nice start on the day's calcium and iron, and a whole bunch of other vitamins that do I know not what. Also, this stuff is delicious. I wouldn't bullshit you.

In other news, I dropped my laptop yesterday and apparently destroyed the connection to the screen. Green smoothies won't keep you from doing stupid stuff.