Monday, November 30, 2009

What I hope will be my defining article of clothing.



I have been coveting a Prairie Underground trench hoodie for about two and a half years and haven't been able to deal with the price tag. But I won an ebay auction last night--one with a bidding war and elevated heart rate and everything--and got a very good price on the one you see here, a price only slightly higher than the amount of money sitting in my paypal account.

I'm certain that by the time I'm through with this hoodie, the price per wear will be a fraction of a cent. Because I plan to wear it EVERY DAY.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ever since I brought this home

I would estimate our tea consumption has gone up by 300%, and that's saying something. I actually just started a subscription to it on Amazon: get stuff delivered at regular intervals, and it's cheaper. Yes please.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sandwich party time.

Once again, it's that special time when we all rally around sandwiches, a cause pretty much everyone can get behind.

Sandwich Party.

Here's a funny story, or at least a story. At the last minute and on a whim, I bought a Quorn bogus turkey roast for Thanksgiving, thinking I might just haul it along to my parents' and pop it in ye oven. Normally I'm not fussed about having some fake meat hunk for my holiday dinner, because I've found that ever since I went veg on a Thanksgiving 14 years ago, I enjoy plenty of food without that sluggish feeling that used to hit me post-turkey. But whatever, I like Quorn products, so I bought the roast.

Then the morning of Thanksgiving I got up to start making up a chipotle-glazed sweet potato recipe and working on some highfalutin green bean casserole, neither of which I'd ever made before, and I completely forgot about the damn roast thingy until we were at the gas station and I was wearing a serious pair of crabby pants about the non-functioning gas pump. At that point, we were late driving to the burbs to fetch my grandparents, so I said fuck the Quorn, let's ride. Then we decided to have a nice fight in the car. It was awesome.

But Thanksgiving was good, and I feasted sans Quorn, and I made up with my husboyf, and I baked my roast thingy today and ate it in sandwich form.

Sandwich Party.
What you see here is Quorn roast, sliced, with vegannaise and sambal oelek (a kind of chili paste and a crucial condiment to keep on hand) and avocado on toasted wheat bread from New French. It was good. I drank this with it:

Beverage.
I'd never tried it before. It appears to be fancy hippie soda for assholes, but it's pretty tasty. Nicely carbonated, verrrry lightly sweet which is a plus, but the flavor was sort of like Smarties or Pixie Stix. I'd be down with a more herbal soda. DRY makes a lavender one too, I think, so maybe I'll make another sweet sandwich pairing sometime soon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

There are so very many things that taste as good as being thin feels.

Anyone following along with the stuff in my google reader feed may have noticed that I have lately liked to share articles debunking obesity panic and promoting Health at Every Size (HAES--it has its own abbrev!). You would think that HAES would be the kind of thing that ladymags would embrace when they're telling you how to love the body you have, but strangely enough those "love your body" articles always come with tips for, you know, weight loss and spot-toning and dressing to cover your body's "flaws." And naturally, since Health At Every Size isn't a particularly sexy concept, it never gets the same media coverage as fad diet and workout plans OR obesity studies that upon closer inspection are funded by drug companies. I mean check it out:
Health at Every Size is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.
Right? Refreshingly sensible and healthy, therefore completely outside a mainstream that equates thinness with health and therefore makes thinness an end in and of itself.

I've never been fat, though I was what you might call a chubster during my early teenage years, which was a source of grief, especially because all jeans back then were tapered and impossible to fit. I'm 5'8" and as an adult I've been anywhere from 145 to 170 pounds. I haven't been on a scale in ages, but I'm guessing I'm around 165, which incidentally gently nudges me into "overweight" territory on the useless BMI chart (which health professionals are inexplicably still using). When I weigh 145, on the other hand, I'm veering toward gaunt, with my build. My upper body shrivels and my nice booty disappears. Regardless of my weight, I have always had big old legs--no self hate or body snark here, that's just the plain truth. I've finally accepted that I got what I got, body-wise, and we're in it together for the long haul--but man, I wasted a lot of time as a youngster wishing I had great legs instead of appreciating the ones I have.

Anyway, all this background is to say that I guess you could now call me a fat ally or fat sympathizer, or something. It's a new idea for me, in large part because I've always had the privilege of being able to walk into a store and buy clothes off the rack, and I haven't had to struggle much to be thinner. And I didn't grow up with a bunch of wack messages from family members about how I should look or eat--I can't even imagine what that does to a kid's brain. Not to mention that it's pretty socially acceptable to make a bunch of assumptions about people who are fat, and to blame obesity for all of society's ills. This stuff is so ingrained as to be practically invisible to those of us who aren't fat and don't have to deal with the fat-shaming on a daily basis. I don't see fat as a sign of moral failure, lack of self control, or flat out ill health, and it's clear to me that a lot of what we're told regarding weight, health, and nutrition is straight up bullshit anyway. (For more on these ideas, please read the awesome Kate Harding. The first time I read that post, I bookmarked it, and I keep coming back to it.)

Still, it's tough for even a sensible person like myself to ignore all the messages that are fired at all of us on the daily. As I get older and find that my body actually seems to be happier up at the 165 end of my adult weight range, I vacillate between feeling good and fine and cute, and then thinking I better watch it or even actively work to take some weight off. And while most people I know are not into the self bodysnark, it does occasionally happen among certain groups of my friends. I want to get away from that, and I want to get away from that "better watch it" feeling.

That's why it's so refreshing to read HAES advocates/nutritionists giving very straightforward definitions of normal eating (highly, highly recommended). Normal eating is not going to look the same for every person; people have different needs and desires, and the only rule of nutrition is eat or die. There are still huge problems with access to healthy, whole foods and information about nutrition, so as with any "movement," the movement's no good unless all kinds of people are empowered by it. I suspect that HAES supporters are pretty much middle to upper middle class women right now.

Anyway. If you're still paying attention, you may be wondering what's up with the sugar-eschewing I've been doing lately, and that's a fair question. Bearing in mind that normal eating looks different for everyone, I do know folks who are off sugar completely and permanently not because they are control freaks, but because sugar is such a clear determining factor in their moods and overall sense of well-being. They'd rather not eat foods that cause them to crash and suffer depression and anxiety. So that's sort of where I am, even though I don't know how much sugar really affects my mood and energy level. Mostly I find that once I start eating the sweet stuff, I just keep eating it without necessarily enjoying it, and then afterward, I don't feel physically good at all. So it's easier and better for my brain, I find, just to cut it out. Not entirely, not permanently (you damn right I ate Thanksgiving pie), but mostly. It's pretty weird, actually, to get to a point where I'm trying to buy a baked good to go with my coffee in the morning and instead I walk out of there with Kung Pao tempeh because the muffins don't look good.

So that's what normal eating looks like to me right now. It will probably change, and I'm cool with that.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just getting my happy thanksgiving post in under the wire. I'm so grateful for this long long weekend, and the fact that I have no responsibilities and it's about to be so cozy up in here. Hope you all are snuggled up and contented.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Willabee.

Is 2.















Awesome party pics by Em's boyf.

The last to know.

All right, fine, you already knew about Pandora internet radio, but y'all, Pandora and Roku have teamed up, and do you know what this means? I can create all these crazy music channels and stream them on the teevee, which incidentally is hooked up to the Brit's rad tuner and speakers. Pandora and Roku have totally created this year's Thanksgiving cornucopia.

I'm mavenhaven on Pandora, too, in case you're already over there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Evolving Omnity.

If you have gone to Wikipedia for any reason today, then you already know that it's the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, which is pretty cool. This anniversary has been at the back of my consciousness most of the year, since we happened to be in Cambridge during a great Darwin exhibit at the Fitzwilliam Museum over the summer. (I also sang in a pair of concerts that tipped their hat to Darwin this past weekend, but I won't elaborate on that.) This is all just background information so that you can feel my synchronicity.

I was at the Goodwill Outlet today, rifling through giant piles of crap, and this book appeared right in front of me.

Cover.

The words "evolving omnity" sound so much like something the Brit would say while trying to be ridiculous and/or enjoy syllables that OF COURSE I picked it up. Also, the book looked extremely cool/hippie. Then I opened it and saw this, which actually spreads across two pages:

Two glorious pages of tree.
left side

Two glorious pages of tree.
right side

And then pages and pages of poetry that look like this:

Second page.

I think I paid about 50 cents for it and then asked the internet to tell me some things about this book. First of all, it's not worth much, which is fine. These things are just important to know if you go on Antiques Roadshow. Also, it's not an antique, which I ascertained by looking at the publication date (1981). Wikipedia tells me that Gwen Frostic, the author, lived and worked her whole long life (1906-2001) in Michigan. TomFolio.com gives us this intriguing info, borne out by the book I have in hand:
A Frostic book is instantly recognizable: hardcover, no jacket, every page a different kind of paper, and simple but beautiful illustrations on every spread. Frostic created everything you see in her books, from the myriad papers to the exquisitely printed illustrations to the wisps of free verse that flow across the pages.

If you examine a Frostic book more closely, you’ll find the front board covered in smooth, colored paper and illustrated with a simple but elegant block print depicting some natural object. The spine and rear will likely be bound in a differently colored, differently textured paper. No text will be found on the covers except a subdued title on the front. Almost all Frostic books measure about 6 x 9 inches, although she made some that were closer to 8 x 10.

Inside the book, you’ll be amazed by the many and various fancy papers, some smooth, some textured, some embossed, some mottled, some like tissue paper, some translucent. Many pages will have deckle (ragged) edges while others will be neatly trimmed. Earth-toned papers and earth-toned inks will be heavily favored. The text will be gracefully designed and will not appear on every page. Each spread will be individual and unique, a beautiful work of art in itself.
I haven't read the entire book yet--it is dense and has already sent me running to the dictionary for things like "olamic" (ancient, eternal) and "indesinency" (unending continuance, perpetuity) and "diuturnity" (lastingness), not to mention "omnity," which I am certain she made up to mean "the universal everything." PS, when I say "running to the dictionary" I mean the OED online. There are perks to working for a university.

Anyway, this is an awesome thing to have and Frostic sounds like a fascinating person. The poetry is like Walt Whitman with a crazy thesaurus, exulting in nature more than people, with a healthy dose of specifically outlining evolutionary processes in a reverent and mystical yet scientific way, and a few Mary Oliver kind of interludes. Frostic's book actually seems to follow the outline of Genesis, in a way--but as Darwin might have seen it, as though Frostic was writing this to demonstrate the beauty of scientific processes at work in the world to people who quail at the idea that some deity in the sky did not actually put us and everything else here.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's a perfect thing to read on the anniversary of Darwin's book.

Final page.

You can still go visit her shop, Presscraft Papers, which has a pretty terrible website. I'll try to scan more of these pages and put them up on flickr, but maybe I'll just throw some Gwen Frostic quotations at you once a week. For starters: "Random vicissitudes shall forge the futurity of all."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Please tell me: am I the only person who is unreasonably irritated by "smashed potatoes"? Did you really SMASH those unsuspecting potatoes with a flippin' mallet, or something? Or did you perhaps MASH them with a good old fashioned mashing implement, or even put them through a ricer? I would accept "riced potatoes" if that is in fact what you did. But unless you crushed the potatoes with your fist, I don't really want to hear about "smashed potatoes."

I'll probably eat them, though.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This would be a better FB status update than a blog post, but I have to say that it's true what they say about Peppermint Jo-Jos from Trader Joe's: they are the bomb. I speak as someone who broke a 3 week sugar fast to try one (some) in honor of C-Mo's birthday (remember him, my old roommate?). I'll be back to biz as usual tomorrow, but it was definitely worth it.

Weekends: where you go for shit blog posts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday stuff.

The first season of Californication was surprisingly entertaining.

I ironed into shape about 20 pieces of fabric that will be drawstring bags. The cat successfully jumped onto the pile 4 times.

I painted a quarter of the basement ceiling while listening to Radiolab.

Every time I got up from my chair today, the cat took my seat.

The yoga-esque pants I got at a consignment store have now been the bottom half of my "formalwear" for two concerts. Best $14 I've spent recently.

I should have been more hydrated for my concert. Black tea, sadly, doesn't count, and it's the main beverage in this house.

Wheatberries make a hard core breakfast. Your jaw will still be feeling it 14 hours later.

The cat is helping me blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I felt a little conspicuous on the ride home in my sweet new safety vest, but then that is the point, right? And now one of my friends has pointed me to this, so I clearly need to expand my thinking w/r/t visibility gear.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A small piece of news that you don't care about, but I'm documenting anyway.

By the end of the year, my student loan balance is going to be under $10K. For the debt-averse or paid-up this might not sound like a particularly exciting figure, but I think it is kind of magical to go from FIVE digits of indebtedness down to FOUR. I also think it's kind of magical to have paid off almost $5K just this year.

This shizz is going to be paid for, finally, two years from now--unless I get some oddball money lumps before then, in which case it'll be paid for sooner. Booya, I say. Booya.

I can't believe I haven't posted this yet...

...but my brother and his lady got engaged. We love them both, so this is awesome news.

And speaking of my brother and weddings and things I can't believe I never posted, why didn't I ever tell you that the night of my wedding, my siblings all went to see Rascal Flatts and partied with the band and Hootie (sorry, I mean Darius) afterward? It was one of those Nashville connection things, having nothing to do with anyone's actual taste in music. My sister Emily was still wearing her bridesmaid outfit and Heidi braids.

Hobby and Colleen will have to top that for an after-party, but I'm sure they'll have no problem doing so.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In which I launch a letter writing campaign.

Dear lumbering squirrels of autumn,
Why is your death wish so urgent and so grisly these days? I know you're busy trying to eat some nuts and pack on a winter layer, but could you not cast an eye in my direction before you scoot under my bike wheel? If I run one of you over on my bike, o squirrels of autumn, I will never recover.
Sincerely,
Maven

Dear 30th Avenue at the creek,
You are such a lovely stretch, what with your pedestrian footbridge where I once saw a heron standing in the water. Why, then, must you alternately smell like ass, dog ass, and feet?
Love,
Maven

Dear November,
Thank you for all of the beautiful days, which are totally making up for October. If only you had another hour of daylight for me after work.
Warmly,
Maven

Dear student pedestrians of the campus,
Stop texting and stay the fuck out of the bike lane.
Basically I hate you,
Maven

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Womansy.

On Tuesdays I teach near a great consignment store, source of many of my favorite scores, and I often scoot over there between lessons to browse the racks. So there I was today with a little pile of jeans and skirts, and for the second week in a row something alarming/hysterical happened: the only thing that fit me were borderline mom jeans. Last week it was jeans from Coldwater Creek (please, no hate mail if this is your favorite store; mazel tov). I pulled them off the rack because they were the right style (wide leg) and color (dark), and then I groaned about the tag. Then I stood in the dressing room dying because they were almost perfect on. I didn't buy them because they don't have ass pockets and I personally think jeans without back pockets look ridiculous--that uninterrupted expanse of denim ass. But I think also I didn't buy them because I was like, really? I just turned 35 and now the only jeans that fit are from Coldwater Creek?

Then this week, I picked up jeans by NYJD, which stands for Not Your Daughter's Jeans. If there is another brand that screams "mom jeans" more than NYJD, I don't want to know about it. Also, their tag line is something like "for real women with real curves," which I absolutely hate--you know, that whole conflation of having curves with somehow being REAL, more real than a woman who is skinny or angular.

Whatever, the jeans fit, they had pockets, they were cuter than the last mom jeans I tried, but when I zipped them up all perfectly I seriously had to stifle laughter. Soon the people who work at this store are going to start recognizing me as the still-young woman who comes in every Tuesday and goes into the dressing room with mom jeans and starts laughing. I should mention, too, that this particular store has a shitload of security cameras and they just straight up tell you that they're monitoring the dressing rooms. I need to make a point of shimmying or doing some crazy butt dances when I'm in there, now that I think about it. Anyway, regardless of whether I stifle my laughter or not, they have to know that I'm laughing at myself because I am grimacing and quaking at the mirror.

So, that is the story of womansy me. ("Womansy" is an adjective that Emily made up to describe attire that is obscurely too mature to consider buying/wearing yourself.) I might as well head to Chico's and call it a day. So far I haven't purchased any mom jeans, but if I'm still thinking about the NYJDs in a few days and I can somehow mentally pole vault over the huge obstacle of the brand name, I may be sporting clothes that were designed with women of a certain age in mind.

On a related note, I also find that I'm talking to myself in public way more than I used to, generally when I'm shopping and I see something ridiculous. I wish I could remember what inspired this, but I know that when I was looking for wool knee highs at TJ Maxx last week I actually sang "Ho-leeee SHIIIIIIIIT" about something, in a quiet opera voice. And that was only one of many audible, shall we say, ejaculations on my part.

Speaking of which, does anyone else remember being puzzled as a youngster by the fact that Louisa May Alcott used the word "ejaculated" in place of "exclaimed" or some other less sexual verb? I hoped I was not making this up, but check it out, I just went to Online-Literature and performed the following awesome search:


(please do click to embiggen)

This site finds 8 occurrences of the word in the works of LMA, but I swear I remember more. For example, I remember Jo ejaculating at least once.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I can't stop laughing about this.

Match day for your non-profit donations.

If you're in MN, surely at least 10 of your Facebook friends have been shilling for their favorite NPO recently, encouraging you to make all your donations through GiveMN.org on November 17th (that's tomorrow). The reason for all the shilling? November 17th is Give to the Max Day, a "giving stimulus plan created to increase giving to non profits across Minnesota on November 17, 2009." The goal is to raise as much money as possible for Minnesota charities in 24 hours, and to that end, three major MN foundations have contributed $500,000 to cover all transaction fees and to provide partial matches for every dollar donated (the match amount will depend on the total donations for the day).

Cool idea, right? If you were planning to make donations before the end of the year anyway, do it tomorrow and stretch your dollars further.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Watched.

Wit, which is basically Emma Thompson as a formidable John Donne scholar dealing with advanced ovarian cancer, monologuing into the camera. It was fantastic and very literary, but I imagine would be seriously triggering to anyone who has lost someone to cancer or been at close quarters with someone during her cancer treatment. I don't remember why it ended up in my queue, or why I selected, I should say--maybe because we watched other Mike Nichols movies?--but I'm glad, even though it might not have been the greatest idea to watch something so emotional before today's performance. Speaking of which, I am utterly knackered. Not complaining about having things to do, but definitely in need of some extra sleep. Happy Sunday night, traditionally a time of weekly ennui over here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The world is full of awesome things I'd never heard of before.

Such as this version of "Baby It's You" by Smith:



The video gets a little trippy at the end, but the vocals are awesome throughout.
Books and I have been on a break for awhile, and it's mainly because of sudoku. When we were at the airport waiting to fly home from England this summer, I decided to use up my English coin in this ridiculous vending machine that was selling books and whatnots to make your flight easier. It took forever to purchase because the machine kept rejecting my pound coins, but I finally snagged a sudoku book for 4 pounds. It came in extremely handy on the flight when the pin broke off my headphones and I could no longer watch in-flight movies. I think I did sudoku for like 2 hours.

Anyway, I still have this book and I've been doing a little bit of a puzzle or occasionally a whole puzzle before bed for ages. The book doesn't even have that many puzzles in it--maybe 150?--so I guess I'm sort of dim-witted, or I just usually fall asleep before I finish one. Regardless, that was clearly 4 pounds well spent, even if it means that bedtime sudoku has supplanted bedtime reading. I'm trying to change this trend with Jane Hamilton's Disobedience and it is not taking AT ALL. I'm about halfway through it and it's kind of boring me. I hope that my willingness to continue slogging means I will get paid at some point, but it's more likely that I'm going to start writing numbers in the blank spaces on the pages.

***

Church gig tomorrow, then a concert, then a rehearsal. In light of all this (unusual) running around and singing, I decided at the last possible second to register for a competition. The deadline was Friday and I worked on it Friday morning and submitted it WELL before 5 PM. That part's not so unusual, but this is one of those singfests where you have to choose and prepare 14 pieces and have all your keys and timings on your application, so I winged all of that stuff instead of agonizing over the choices. It's also unusual for me to be doing something where I'm at the very oldest of the old, eligibility-wise. There are hardly any competitions you can do as a singer once you're past 30. So submitting this app was just another moment that drove home where I am professionally vs. where I once thought I would be or where other people might assume I should be at this point. I've done this competition twice before and the first time didn't make it pass the district level. I was a national finalist the second time. This time, I just want a reason to be focused and working on something.

Of course, the first round isn't until March, so chances are good I'll put off working on any of this until February.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Poop soup.

I thought I had landed on a pretty straightforward formula for a kick-ass soup recently: roasted root vegetables + sauteed aromatics + water (that's right, doesn't even need stock) + immersion blender + chickeny bits (as I call the Quorn "tenders") = pure satisfaction, even for the meatatarians in your life. It turns out this formula doesn't work so well, however, when all the roots you have on hand are big stanky turnips and big stanky black radishes. I was trying to branch out from potatoes, you know. But the result of my cooking experiment was a house that smelled, as the Brit would have it, like "compost and nappies." It was perfectly edible and kind of tasty, if a little hard core. But I've been having to eat the leftovers on the sneak, because just opening the container constitutes an antisocial act. I finally finished the stuff today, so I think it's back to good old potatoes and leeks with some stealthy rutabaga for good measure.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I don't know how many academic types read this here blog, but if you are an academic type you already know about the huge scam that is the adjunct faculty appointment. The basic gist of the deal is that you get paid to teach courses and/or studio lessons (in the case of musicians), but you're not actually a member of the faculty, you can't vote in (or sometimes even attend) faculty meetings, you don't get any benefits, and you have absolutely no job security. Also, the money is utter crap in most cases.

I knew all of this, but the only adjunct position I've ever had paid anomalously well and it was a special situation--I was covering one semester for a teacher who knew me and arranged everything behind the scenes; I wouldn't have been hired if they'd opened a job search. It was a good situation for me. Still, I didn't get paid for weekly studio classes, which were required (and for which non-voice teachers did get paid), I didn't get paid for office hours, or extra lessons, or for helping the students in any way beyond the two hours per week I was required to spend with them.

I bring this up because I got an offer last week that was appalling in its meagerness. It was not the offer that had been discussed or that I was expecting, so naturally the first thing I did was go back and say "this is not in any way acceptable" and we got it sorted out (I wasn't supposed to get an "adjunct" offer in the first place). But it sure did open my eyes to the shoddy way in which adjuncts are generally compensated. I'm talking $425 a week for teaching a class and having a full studio. I'm talking $16 per lesson, with no distinction made between hour lessons and half hour lessons.

To put this in perspective for those of you who don't offer services like teaching, coaching, whatever with an hourly rate: I charge $45 an hour for private students, $25 for a half hour--and I am on the low side of the lesson fee scale. At my music school job I have to charge more, just so I can clear $35 an hour, so those students pay more for lessons. Another thing you need to know is that if you teach voice lessons 40 hours a week you will lose your mind. Most colleges and universities consider 20 hours to be a full teaching load, depending on your classroom teaching responsibilities.

And the sad thing is, as one of my friends pointed out, there are plenty of people who would have accepted the offer I got, no questions asked, just to have more higher ed resume credits, just to teach, just to have a job, even though you can't support yourself very well on that pay. Believe me, I know people get by with less every day, and advanced degrees are less and less frequently an indicator of any kind of economic upward mobility. But let's just say it ain't what I signed up for.

For much much more on adjunct teaching, try the Chronicle of Higher Ed, starting with these excerpts from a survey of Chicago-area adjuncts:
The hours required to properly prepare, teach, and interact with students outside of the class room make the per-hour wage less than minimum wage.
But you need a postgraduate degree to be able to do it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My plan today was to do some really complicated cat blogging involving video footage of the famous Ace, interminably circling my office chair, begging to be picked up instead of hauling his large ass up onto my lap. But then I watched the footage and I appear to be crazy. Also it needs editing and I don't have time to edit the footage of myself manhandling my cat, and for that we should all be grateful.

Instead, may I direct you to today's episode of The Story, which I listened to whilst sewing up drawstring bags for my shop, relatively unmolested by the cat? It is incredibly good Veteran's Day fare, far better than any Deep Thoughts I might come up with.


That's Deanie Parrish, one of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II. Her story is first on the program.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

But I can also cleanse your palate.

On the ride home yesterday.

On yesterday's ride home. I got your urban, and then I got your nature.
One of the grodiest thing about that whole Stupak-Pitts amendment CF is that 21 of the Democrats who voted against the health care bill ALSO voted in favor of attaching an anti-choice amendment to the bill.

Let that sink in.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment was allegedly necessary to get the bill to pass (even though only one Repub voted in favor of the bill), and yet these 21 who boosted Stupak-Pitts voted against the bill anyway.

Remember when being pro-choice was like a basic tenet of identifying as a Democrat? Or at least, you could be personally pro-life but not anti-choice, working to decrease abortions through comprehensive sex ed and increasing access to contraceptives but not actively taking away women's rights? Who ARE these people and why are they supporting regressive legislation?

Anyway, those 21 have to go. Not to mention the other 43 Dems that voted in favor of Stupak. The whole list, along with some strategerizing, is here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Riding home on Friday.

Friday's ride home from work.

Good to remember on days like today, when heedless texting pedestrians are clogging up the bike lanes and they look at you like you shat on their carpet when you tell them "you're in the bike lane!"

You take the good, you take the bad.

So, as you know by now, the health insurance reform bill passed the House this weekend. Unfortunately, it passed with the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which basically prevents women from getting insurance--paid for with their own money--to cover legal medical procedures. In other words, under the proposed plan, many of us would lose reproductive health coverage that we currently have.

From RH Reality Check, here's what the amendment does:

  • Prohibits individuals who receive the affordability tax credits from purchasing a private insurance plan that covers abortion, despite the fact that a majority of health insurance plans currently cover abortion.
  • Results in a de facto ban on private insurance companies providing abortion coverage in the health insurance exchange, since the vast majority of participants would receive affordability tax credits.
  • Prohibits the public option from providing abortion care, despite the fact that it would be funded through private premium dollars.

As usual, the women with the fewest resources would suffer most.

There's further information here. I've also posted a lot of links to commentary on this in google reader today.

Apparently the amendment can be stripped out by the conference committee, but I'm not holding my breath. Here's what the Washington Post says:
But abortion-rights supporters are vowing to strip the amendment out, as the focus turns to the Senate and the conference committee that would resolve differences between the two bills.

Although House liberals voted for the bill with the amendment to keep the process moving forward, Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) said she has collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats vowing to oppose any final bill that includes the amendment -- enough to block passage.

"There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette said. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. . . . We're not going to let this into law."
Writes Ann of Feministing:
[The amendment] further segregates abortion as something different, off the menu of regular health care. It is a huge backward step in the battle to convey--not just politically, but to women in their everyday lives--that reproductive health care is normal and necessary, and must be there if (or, more accurately, when) you need it.

This also sets apart women's rights from the Democratic/progressive/whatever agenda. As something expendable. But fundamental rights for women are not peripheral. They are core. And not just because of so-called "progressive" values. In a political sense, too: Seeing as how the Democratic party relies on women voters to win elections, you would think they would have come around to this no-brainer by now.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Oh man, this was one of those days where if I were the type to be indiscreet and blog about my professional life, you would be getting an eyeful. An EYEFUL, I tell you.

(PS, I just googled "eyeful" because it was starting to look weird, and this was the result.)

Having said that, it is nice to have a full plate for a change, performance-wise, to have a reason to practice and most especially to assimilate a bunch of new music quickly. That's one of my strong suits as a musician and there's a weird thing that happens when I've got a lot of music to learn: I learn all of it quickly, like my brain is just working better because it's overtaxed. I'm sure there's a valuable lesson in here somewhere about staying busy and creating performance opportunities, but I will spare us the lesson.

I quit the sugar again this week, so I'll let you know how that goes. It happened directly in the wake of Halloween, in case you're wondering. We had like 6 trick or treaters this year, and the last group of little boys seemed anxious to get to some sort of "dance party" in the neighborhood, so maybe that's where they all were. I am all for it, if it keeps kids safe and partaking of the fun, but the fact is that I was left with like a bag and a half of candy. And when I say "I" I do in fact mean "I," because the Brit just does not throw down with candy. Neither do I, typically, but there were Reese's products in the house.

I don't know, reading about food choices is boring, right? We all have our little things, and the last thing I want to do is get into guilting myself out of truly enjoying food. But I seriously do not have the brain thing that enjoys the hell out of one cookie and says "I'm satisfied now." Easier just to remove them from the equation for awhile. Hell, I did it with potato chips. That stupid New Year's resolution, I kept. Making sure all the dishes are washed before I go to bed? Not so much. But flossing! Yes. I have officially become a habitual flosser. So I do have SOME stick-to-it-iveness. Just not the kind about cookies or creating performance opportunities for myself.

Gotta go have one more cup of tea before bed.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

All right, I lied. Today was the best biking day in November. Seriously, no jacket, no hoodie? Just a t-shirt, freaky denim pedal-pushers, striped knee socks and high sport maryjanes. And helmet, of course the helmet. My outfit got a stoplight thumb-up from some dude in the passenger side of an SUV. As I told the Brit, I normally treat a scrub trying to get my attention from inside a vehicle with my best Ice Grill, but this one just made me laugh, especially since I am certain I looked like a clown. It was a Facebook-style thumb-up.

Are you in need of some more TV to watch instantly on Netflix? I have been enjoying Party Down, which I found out about only through someone's passing mention on the Facebook feed. It wasn't even addressed to me, this mention, and yet here I am, halfway through the season. The show's about a crew of various Hollywood hopefuls and has-beens who work for a catering company, with the embarrassingly earnest Ken Marino as their team leader. TV nerds--and I would not count myself among them, but I was a fan of Veronica Mars--will remember lots of the guest stars, a few leads, and one of the show's creators from VM. Also, Paul Rudd is on the creative team. Also also, Fred Savage directed a lot of the eps. So far the show fails the Bechdel test, but almost everything does--and it's frequently damn funny, so I give it a pass.

Early bed. It's another two rehearsal day tomorrow.

Friday, November 06, 2009

I've been staring so long at these pictures of food that I almost believe that they're real.

Breakfast (ate this morning):
Breakfast.
That's Gimme Lean (best worst fake meat product name), spinach, and tomatoes from my garden. I swear they've been in the window trying to ripen for a month.

Lunch (eating now):
Lunch.
That's the green tomato curry I posted earlier, plus green beans with sri racha and walnuts, mashed butternut squash, and cashews (post-bike commute snack). Not pictured: a honeycrisp apple. Sometimes I cut them up to fit in the bento, and sometimes I carry as-is. Why mess with so-called "hand fruit" (insert dirty joke here)?

And what the hell, a dinner I ate last week:
Brussels sprouts and cheddar polenta.
Sauteed brussels sprouts and cheddar polenta.

Today is the most awesome bike weather, 50s and sunny. I didn't even wear a jacket. It would only be better if the trees still looked like this:
On the ride home.
But shoot, I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Signing off.

Unfortunately, the no-count niblet I posted earlier is about it for today. I'm leaving this computer at work, damn it. I started this day with a rehearsal and am going to end it with same, and there's really no time for dicking around on the interwebs this evening. Tell me something good in the comments. Here's my contribution: the city of San Francisco has banned the declawing of kitties. A small counterbalance to the rest of the crap going down today.

Nibbles.

I know this doesn't really count, nablopomo-wise, but I'm just pointing you to my new post on my food blog. I grew tomatoes for the first time this year, and they were sort of crappy, but one of the plants went haywire and produced loads of greenies. So I made a green tomato curry. And it was good, and I'm going to eat some for lunch right now.

As you were.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

You know what they say about what killed the cat.

This is about as close as I get to blabbing about my professional life (such as it is) here.

I occasionally work with someone who encourages performers to "replace judgment with curiosity." Which is a really, really nice idea that I could certainly incorporate into, say, political discussions with people I don't agree with, but in the context of performance, "replace judgment with curiosity" can take on the tang of a Theater Shop platitude that inspires only eye-rolling. And let's face it, sometimes you're presented with such a load of boo-shat dressed up as Art that there's no way to withhold judgment.

But there are ways to get around the platitude. As I learned last night, one colleague suggested dealing with it this way:

JUDGMENT = "who wrote this piece of shit?"
CURIOSITY = "I'm curious, who wrote this piece of shit?"

I love this. It absolves you, right?

Didn't I blow your mind this time?

I was yoga-ing along with a yoga podcast yesterday (n.b. I am not virtuous; this was my first time doing such a thing) and wanted to share something with you, a physiological reality that is counter to every piece of yogic talk about breathing that I've ever heard:

Your spine actually gathers when you inhale and lengthens when you exhale.

This might not be mind-blowing to you, but it's kind of revolutionary when you think about how many mat-based exercises ask you to elongate as you inhale, when your body is doing exactly the opposite. I only learned this little fact last year in reading about body mapping and singing, and it rocked me. Unsurprisingly, an accurate understanding of the mechanisms of breathing is fundamental to healthy, free singing, and most of us poor voice teachers perpetuate a lot of well-meaning misinformation about how breathing works. For example, when we tell people to feel taller on the inhale, it usually results in muscular tension somewhere--I would guess in the mid-back for most people.

Here's a helpful blurb about what your spine's doing when you breathe:
One of the most profound sources of buoyancy in our bodies is the gathering and lengthening of the spine that happens during breathing. The gathering occurs all along the spine as we inhale. It is partially due to rib movement. As the ribs move closer together when we inhale, they bring the thoracic vertebrae closer together. Another source of the gathering is the general deepening of the curves of the spine as the body deepens on inhalation.

When the vertebrae gather together, the springy discs of cartilage between them are slightly compressed. As soon as the work of inhalation is released, the discs of cartilage spring back to their full height. In other words, the spine lengthens as we exhale.
What Every Singer Needs to Know About the Body (Malde, Allen, Zeller)
If you bring your awareness to this gathering and lengthening and allow--rather than force--it to happen, the net effect is one of freedom of motion and elongation, which it would seem is what the yogis are after anyway. And the sense of release on the exhale that allows you to twist more deeply into whatever posture you're working owes much to the natural lengthening of your spine.

I'm just saying.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

This is going to be another mavenish post because I want other people to buy eyeglasses online with me. EyeBuyDirect.com is having a buy one, get one free sale for another 5 days or so. I've never done this before, but it's pretty dang cheap, especially if you have a minor correction and can use the lenses that are included in the price of the frames (seriously! this means glasses for like $25). I, alas, cannot, for my eyesight is very very bad, and I must pay extra for thin lenses.

The glasses I have now are a few prescriptions old, so I only wear them for pottering around the house--but historically, even with an up to date prescription, I haven't worn glasses because they don't correct my vision as well as contacts do. (If I crashed on a desert island wearing my contacts, I'd be completely screwed.) But I'm generally a good contact lens wearer, all day every day, so I don't mess with glasses.

I'll tell you what, though--the onset of the heating season is really kicking the ass of my eyes this year. I've never had to use eyedrops before, and now--at work, at least--I'm gloobing rewetting solution in my eyes a few times a day. So I think my eyes need a break. I have idly shopped for frames at various points this year and haven't found a thing that I like in stores. That might not seem like a great reason to buy glasses online, but if I'm getting 2 pairs for $150, it doesn't seem like such a ridiculous risk to buy glasses I've never seen before.

Plus! There is technology involved! You can upload a little photo of yourself and try glasses on it on the website, which is hilarious, because your photo will inevitably be a little off kilter and you can't adjust the positioning of the glasses. See:



You need your prescription and pupillary distance to use this site. Have at it. I'll let you know how it goes over here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Highly informative earphone post.

As you may remember, I had some ear troubles earlier this year that resulted in getting some sweet custom made earplugs. These have been a boon in numerous situations (e.g. vacuuming, mowing the lawn), though I can't say I've used them for anything involving music (they are "musician's earplugs").

The earplugs are especially good on an airplane. The ambient noise on a plane is not messing around. Have you ever noticed how high you have to turn up your headphones in order to surmount the plane noise? Yeah, that's bad for your ears. Mark my words, there is going to be an epidemic of hearing loss in like 20 years thanks to crappy earbuds and the explosion of personal music/multimedia devices.

So what is the paranoid ear freak to do when there are in-flight movies to be watched? Acquire some sound-canceling headphones OR in-ear earphones and outfit them with Comply foam tips! I bought these Altec Lansing UHP336 earphones for cheap at Amazon before our summer Eurotrip. I'm not an audiophile--I mean, I like sound but I'm not a nerd about it--and didn't do much research, but these were a good deal and had tons of helpful reviews. As recommended by the nerdy, helpful reviews, I replaced the included earphone tips with the ones by Comply--they're memory foam. They conform to your ear canal and isolate the sounds you want to hear while blocking out the sounds you don't. Pros: the volume setting on your pod/whatever will be minimal and you'll be amazed. Even Ira Glass's mumbling at infuriatingly inconsistent sound levels will be clear and intelligible. Cons: the foam tips need to be replaced regularly, because your ear canal ain't pristine. Also, you won't want to wear these when it's important that you be able to hear what's going on around you, e.g. when you're walking alone down a dark alley.

Every time I take the phones out, I'm amazed by how much outside noise I've not been hearing. Really! Riding the bus is a much more pleasant experience this way.

Now if I can just find some non-nerdy safety gear to wear while biking in the dark, I'll be all set. There's totally a market for this, right? I keep thinking that would be a good Etsy shop idea, if only I could sew properly.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

It's on.

NaBloPoMo, bitches.