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Friday, October 29, 2004

"Variable Leave"
Yesterday was fun! No, I didn't post anything except my shortly-after-midnight note not to expect me on time because of extreme sleep deprivation caused by a certain group of ballplayers from Boston. Since John (otherwise known as "Our Hero" and "John Smith, International Terrorist") was in a similarly fatigue-addled state, he took the day off as "variable leave" (don't you just love the way all institutions in the DC area borrow silly terms from the government?).

What did we do? Well, first of all, we slept in until 9:30 AM (John returned to bed after tending to the zoo). We had eggs for breakfast. Then we did the geekiest, dorkiest thing we could think of. We went to IKEA in College Park. Yes, IKEA. Yes, John and I both enjoy going to IKEA. No, neither of us have any current plans to get our heads examined. IKEA on a weekend is crazy-making, true. But IKEA on a random Thursday? Wide, empty aisles. Time to stop and examine an item without simultaneously gridlocking the entire store. No long wait for meatballs and lingonberries. Not one single child having a sensory-overload meltdown in the lighting section. Bliss.

Did we get lots of goofy, inexpensive stuff? Sure. Especially since our frugallest Christmas ever is coming up. But did we enjoy this unexpected day off more than we probably would have if we actually planned it out? Oh, yeah.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Post on Time? You Have to be Kidding.

I'm sleeping. Leave me alone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Daily Rounds
I used to go to this site and click all their little donation buttons every morning as part of my morning routine (no, it's not a scam - the advertisers on the results page pay for each click-through). I got an e-mail yesterday reminding me of their work. At the Breast Cancer Site, every click is doubled in October - clicks will help women in need get mammograms. Please, get clicking!

- Thanks for the reminder, David!

White-Knuckled Fingernails on a Chalkboard
Good grief, but I hope the Sox take it tonight.

Yes, I want them to win - to break the "curse," to end the chapter called "No World Series Wins" at 86 years. I want to see this team go all the way - they are feisty and driven and they have played really well over the last six games. They deserve it.

But most of all, I'm very, very tired. Our Hero and I kept saying, "We'll go to bed after this inning," last night. We kept it up until there were no more innings. We have missed some good stuff this season by being complete cowards and saying, "I can't bear to see them lose this one," and going to bed, only to wake up in the morning and find out they've won. However, late nights of baseball and early mornings are not made for one another.

Friends know that we're not the "I love the night life" types. Call us after nine in the evening during the week, and you're likely to get a sleepy voice pilfering an old Cosby joke ("Oh, I'm sorry - did I wake you?" "Don't worry - I had to get up and answer the phone anyway.") John sleeps poorly at the best of times, and gets up early so he can get to work before traffic gets really hairy. I sleep like a log, but I also need lots of the stuff, and I generally get up about an hour after he does. Last night we staggered to bed at midnight, and John got up at his usual five-or-so in the morning.

So this is a plea to Johnny, Pedro, Manny, Curt, Jason, Mark, Orlando, Pokey, Trot, David and all of the other Red Sox. Please. Take the Series tonight. We need the sleep.


I would like to add that it is very interesting to watch a game with this much riding on it and actually feel sympathy for the other side. Normally, games this big for a Sox fan are against those dreaded Yankees - we've seen the Yanks win often enough that we hardly notice their fans unless they're jeering, booing, or setting up a chant of "Who's your daddy?" As a result, when a Yankee fan is crushed with disappointment, it's hard to feel sorry for them.

But John and I both noted last night that we could really empathize with the Cardinals fans. We recognized those hunched forms, huddling over clasped hands. We know what it feels like to have that empty, hopeless-yet-hanging-in-there longing in the eyes. We sympathize with the rally caps and the restless agitation by the seventh inning. We know. We really know.

The Dumbest Thing
After having several people inexplicably weave and dart from lane to lane around my errand-running route today (not to mention seeing the results of several fender-benders on my purely local journeys du jour), I was reminded of the absolute stupidest thing I ever saw anyone do.

It was after dark, in Somerville, Massachusetts (a poorly-lit, urban, residential area). A man was riding a bicycle in the wrong direction down a one-way street. He wore no helmet and had no light on his bike. He was sitting up, with no hands on the handlebars. The piéce de résistance? Yes. He was on his cell phone.

What is the stupidest thing you have ever seen anyone do?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Putting Her Money Where Her MTV Is
Sarah McLachlan took $150,000 and donated it to various causes, instead of making a $150,000 video. (Last link contains Quicktime with sound.)

What Did You Get for Question Five?
As I have mentioned before, Our Hero is getting his master's degree. Here at Our Heroine's Job-Hunting Headquarters, we are very proud of him. He got an A on his first paper for one class and has taken his first midterm for another.

All of this going-to-school stuff has reminded me of some of the nightmare scenarios that are inherent in becoming a student again. My least favorite would be the post-exam deconstructionist critique, otherwise known as, "What did you get for question five?"

You know the scene: you've just exited an exam room, visions of blue book pages are still flipping before your eyes like those page-a-day calendar montages in a 1930's film. You either feel:

a.) Elated - you studied all the right things;
b.) Panicked - you studied all the wrong things;
c.) Wary - the professor's seemingly straightforward questions might have actually been trick ones; or
d.) Dazed - it's over, that's all you can say about it. You're one step away from shambling across to the Dean's office and moaning, "Brrraiiinnnnnsssss...." (Need we note that this is the most likely scenario?)

It is at this point when some hyperactive, overachieving, type-AAA-double-plus-ungood fiend comes up to you and says, "What did you get for question five?" During my last academic experience, it seemed that this question invariably came from a certain person who always claimed to be "in the weeds." He regularly reported that he was so far behind he could see himself coming. Ha. He used this tactic to lower expectations, the better to dazzle all when he made law review and graduated cum laude. Why he always chose to ask me what I got for question five, I will never know - just as he will never know how close I was to ripping his arm off and beating him with it whenever he asked me this asinine question.

Let's face it: I could never even remember what question five was. And if I did there was no good to be gained by realizing, ten minutes after I turned it in, that I had written the exam in such a way that my answers not only exposed me for an intellectual fraud, but would be read out loud in the next faculty meeting, the better to convulse the professor's peers in hilarity. The exam is over. The semester is over. What good is it to stand in the foyer and obsess over something you can do nothing about?

With the benefit of hindsight, I would have taken the following approach. Before handing in the exam, I would carefully have taken note of the number of the last question. Then I'd hand in my exam. When I was asked the inevitable question, I would say, "Oh, man - yeah. Question five. But what about question seventeen?"

Question sixteen would have been the last question on the exam.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Stupid... Yet Funny
Defective Yeti is collecting jokes. I especially like the control-freak one.

Once again the weekend goes whooooshhhhh and here's Monday, staring me in my sleepy face as I blink like a turtle and try to re-figure out how the world works. Feeling like the man with no short-term memory in the movie "Memento," I am working backwards through my weekend.

The Sox won Game Two of the World Series. Dang. Wonder how they'll do without a home-field advantage.

Last night was my book club's joyous reconvening. We're a small group - just five of us - and the very premature arrival of one member's son (four months early, if I'm counting correctly) put our usual "how are we ever going to find a free day with all five of us going in different directions?" sort of scheduling into a universe that was beyond the reach of calendars. Little Max, just past his original due date, is now 11 pounds, home and well, and his mom and four "aunties" celebrated his progress along with our reunion.

Yesterday morning, Our Heroine sat at the front of a Yoga studio and thought, "What if I gave a Yoga class and nobody came?" But they did come. And I talked and demonstrated and talked some more (biggest thing I learned? Bring water). I was nervous in an entirely new and different sort of way: I had no butterflies, no freezing feeling in my stomach, but my brain would occasionally go blank, and something would fly out of my mouth that was so colossally stupid that it would jolt my blank-brain back into gear and I would correct myself and move on. By the time I felt like I was hitting my stride and doing well, it was time for final relaxation and over. But I did it! And people said nice things about the class! Second biggest thing I learned? Slow down.

Saturday evening, we didn't see the whole of Game One, as we watched the Sox' lead start to ebb away and figured that sleep was necessary. Who knew the Sox wouldn't find a new and creative way to let that lead go?

Most of Saturday was taken up by a private school fundraising carnival/tag sale sort of deal. It was part bargain-hunt (found a lovely pair of barely-worn trousers for Our Hero), part socializing (spending time with Maria and Pat, the recently-engaged, soon-to-close on their first home pals), and part helping Maria with selling small stuffed panthers (Maria works for the school, the mascot is the panther... so we shilled panther cubs for an hour). By the time Our Hero and I got home from our respective days (he had an all-day class, complete with midterm - yay.), we were already tired.

So - can I take today off to recover from my weekend? No? *Sigh*

Friday, October 22, 2004

Just in Time for Halloween
News Flash: Dressing up for Halloween might offend Wiccans. At least, that's what a Washington school district believes. One wonders if they asked the Wiccans what they thought... While they're at it, why don't they consult the Undead American community to find out if throwing a sheet with two eyeholes over your head is offensive to gho - er, Noncorporeal Americans, and debate the merits of cheesecloth vs. toilet paper when representing the mumm - er, Remarkably Well-Preserved Americans?


- Via Gallimaufrey

Writing Habits
Thanks to Rana, who is an ever-fertile source of topical ideas. She's been writing recently about procrastination and writing habits. I hadn't thought about it before, but my writing habits vary wildly based on what it is I am writing.

Every writing endeavor in school started with the best of intentions - outlines, a thesis, etc. Then things would tend to go horribly wrong. Mostly this occurred when I was dealing with a too-tidy idea and less-than-tidy real life. For example: my Independent Writing Project (basically my law school "thesis" - required for graduation) started with a really nifty, tidy theme. My topic was Federal Civil Forfeiture in the Supreme Court. I knew that the most recent cases mostly dealt with drug dealers and the earliest ones dealt with high-seas piracy. I tried to weave "piracy" as a theme through the paper (thinking that drug dealers are, in some ways, the pirates of the modern age). This idea completely fell apart in the middle. It was too tidy - it did not cover the Civil War era, where the Supremes erratically (though interestingly) juggled the status of forfeiture defendants between enemy soldiers and treasonous citizens (yes, Virginia, history does repeat itself).

The other odd fact about writing that paper was that I wrote the first draft longhand ("Odd?" you say. "Yes, odd." I reply. I am the woman who uses a computer for everything. Ask me to squish an insect, and I will probably reach for my laptop). The problem was, I was working on an old-fashioned Macintosh 9" screen. It was 1994, and I was still using a computer that was outdated when I got it in 1988. For normal papers, the lack of screen real estate was a small problem. For this project, it was a nightmare, as the footnotes window took up about half the screen. Add to that the fact that I was going back and forth between Portland, Maine and Burlington, Vermont every few weeks or so to visit the man who nine years later would become Our Hero, and I needed something with a bit more portability. I would venture to guess that somewhere in my mother's house there is an old notebook, spiral-bound at the top, feverishly filled with the frantic ravings of a third-year law student holding forth on an arcane subject. Footnotes were delineated by a double-slash, right in the middle of the text. It was clumsy, but it worked.

Possibly my most unlovely academic writing phenomena were the occasional hissy-fit tantrums that preceded truly odious writing assignments. I truly hate it when I decide to do something that sounds terribly interesting, only to find out that it is terribly dull. Such was the case with my class in European Community Law. Sounds interesting, eh? You can see the canals of Venice, St. Paul's dome in London, the Tuileries in Paris. Nope. U.S. tax law is more interesting, in my opinion. At any rate, I double-whammied myself by writing the final paper on a topic that I thought would be interesting, but also turned out to be tedious. Artistic expression and censorship - ooh. Sexy. Cultures, knitted together by the EC, only to clash over ideas of artistic merit vs. pornography! I don't remember exactly why I hated writing this paper so much, but I do remember allowing myself to kick my feet and wail, "I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't wanna!" before settling down to write. This occurred in the privacy of my own home, mind you.

Now, every morning is the "oh god - must blog" phenomenon. Occasionally, I will have an idea before I get up in the morning - often, not. But I have set myself this task, and I will fulfill it. Partly it is because I have an obligation to people like Tim, and partly it is because I have an obligation to myself. Mostly it is because I may not be in school any longer, but I am still learning.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Geek Love
Mens Sana in Corpore Sano*
Well, obviously, I'm not going to die of an ulcer. What is this "World Series" you speak of? Don't you know that snatching the Pennant from rabid, slavering Yankee jaws is enough?

I also found out yesterday that my thyroid is still working. Yes, I'm 35. Yes, that's a bit young to start worrying about it for most people. And yes, I have been getting it checked more or less annually since I was 30. You would too, if your family tree's branches were as full of failed thyroids as mine are. Those who ignore their families' failed thyroids are doomed to repeat them, and who am I to mess with heredity?

Yes, I'm very, very tired (but not because of my thyroid!). But I am up because I have things to do this morning - for instance, get my foot X-rayed. Why? Because the night before I had my marathon Yoga weekend with John Friend, I slammed my foot into the leg of the bed (by accident - this wasn't a rage thing). My two littlest toes curled up on impact and my metatarsals got a right good whacking. And it still hurts. Yes, that was a month ago. And yes, I've been almost-successfully ignoring it since then (and walking on it and doing Yoga on it). But the combined worry of my family on the Indiana wedding weekend and my ever-worrying spouse has driven me to seek medical advice.

So party down with your lead apron, X-ray technician! Our Heroine is coming with her wonky foot!

*Yeah - the mens is not so sana. But hoping for the corpore sano bit...

Update: Metatarsals are intact. It's just taking a while to heal.

Confused? You Don't Have to Be
Those who have known me for many years may be rather bemused by my Soxaholia. After all, I used to find baseball BORING. Basketball was my game to watch, and as I came of age in the Boston area in the late 80's, this is probably not particularly surprising.

Baseball has taken hold over the years, though, and my native loyalty to the home team was always perfectly natural. I'm still a bit of a doofus on the arcana of the game (major and minor) and I have resigned myself to the fact that I will absolutely never be able to remember whether a Minor League A team is closer to or farther away from the Majors as an AAA team, but I can watch a game without asking questions of my ever-patient husband every five seconds.

For those who are as confused by baseball as I formerly was, Teresa Nielsen Hayden has put together a lovely history of the Sox/Yankees, er, issues. She has also posted a user-friendly primer on the game's rules ("There is a Designated Hitter Rule, which is Bad.")

And, for the unwary, Making Light regular Jonathan Vos Post has put together some data on mathematics, physics, and astronomy as they relate to baseball.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hee! Yes.
This definitely applies to other things, too. If architects had to work like web designers.

- Via Electrolite.

Oh, man. The Sox have pushed it to Game Seven.

I may have to go throw up now.

Everybody knows, right? Everybody knows that this up-from-behind, against-all-odds rally stuff is the kind of thing that, historically speaking, the Sox just choke on? Yes, I know, bad Sox fan, ye of little faith and all that. The streak has to end sometime, right? But being a Red Sox fan means you know, from bitter experience, that the "law of averages" is no law. It's not even a bill stuck in committee. It's not even an idea being mulled over by the junior Senator from Nebraska. It doesn't exist and never did. Failure is always possible. Just ask Pedro Martinez, or for that matter, Bill Buckner.

The Sox have shown that they are capable of the win - and I don't buy the argument that "they don't want it enough." Rubbish. However, the feeling I have as a fan - that this is the script and the Fates will insist that it be followed - has got to be felt a hundredfold by those guys in Boston. Superstition starts to set in to offset the action of those implacable Fates, and as I've mentioned before, superstition begets some strange behavior (memo to Johnny Damon - the hair hasn't worked yet. Stop). They've got The Stuff It Takes To Win. It's a matter of using it.

Will I be watching tonight's game? It's far more likely I'll be tucked up in bed, covers over my head, hoping for a better tomorrow.

10/20/04 - Soxies
9:11 PM Okay, Johnny. Whatever else happens, keep the hair. Something is obviously working.

9:15 PM Yes, Dear Reader. I said I would be under the covers, waiting for it to be over. I'm a sneaky bastard that way. Sue me.

9:40 PM Yes, that pitch hit your shirt, Cairo. I have rules about writing for this site, or I'd call you names.

9:52 PM Johnny - holee crap. I said "whatever else happens." Well, 2 homers vs. the Evil Empire = 5 World Series Wins. For me, at least. Let it grow, baby.

10:06 PM Our Heroine: "Nixon..."

Our Hero: "Yes, Nixon's at bat."

Our Heroine: "No, that wasn't a question. It was an admonition."

Our Hero: "You're scary."

Nice to know.

10:48 PM Announcer: "The Yankees haven't touched Lowe all night..."

Our Heroine: "Shut up, shut up, SHUTUP!!!!"

10:50 PM Yes, I'm still here. What's your point?

11:17 PM Yeah - still here -- BELLHORN! God LOVE YA!

11:31 PM Yes. Still hanging in. Anyone want to spot me some ulcer meds?

12:02 AM You expect me to post on time tomorrow? Hooo.... we'll see. Yayyy! Whoooda thunk????

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Halloween is Coming...
...so get your extreme pumpkin ideas going!

Sitting on a Phone Book
Occasionally, while cruising around the old blogosphere, I really feel like a kid who insisted on sitting at the grownups' table and must be involved in all of their conversations. There are so many people out there who have been doing this for a long time. Who am I to think I have anything new to say (often I don't) or anything anyone wants to read (readership numbers mostly trend upwards, but that must be a fluke, right?)?

Then I remember my saying for new Yoga students - nobody was born knowing how to do this. Everybody starts somewhere. And nobody starts by being perfect. It's why we call it a "practice."

Why am I grounding my blogging rationalizations in Yogaspeak? Well, Dear Readers, I am subbing for my Yoga teacher on Sunday. Cue the shrieking violin music from Psycho, because I am more than slightly freaked out. I am also excited. My teacher announced to the class on Sunday that I would be subbing for her, and people actually said they were looking forward to it. Since my greatest fear (aside from someone injuring him or herself under my aegis) is that nobody would show up, that was both gratifying and terrifying.

Therefore, the Yoga/blogging analogy is less strained than usual. It's a horrible thought to have: "What if I put up a website and nobody comes?" But you came, Dear Reader. And you were kind. The Yoga students will come on Sunday, and they will be kind as well.

I hope.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sim Cinema
I had a few lost weekends as a result of The Sims. There's a new version out (which I will not be purchasing, thank you very much), and some enterprising folk are making movies with it.

Some Random Thank-You Notes
Hey hey fireplace, thank you for blasting out those lovely FTUs* whenever we feed your maw with old newspapers and sticks.

Darling Husband, thank you for chopping up all those sticks so the increase in fuel costs this year may be slightly abated. Also, thank you for sending me a one-word e-mail this morning, commanding simply, "knit."

Dearest Dash and Simon, mad props for getting all cuddly in this cold snap. It is very nice of you to share your warm furriness with the less-fortunate, unfurred ones.

Fuzzy-wuzzy dumpling dog, thank you for going four whole days without a prednisone and without chewing your paws (much). It appears that the very expensive trips to the veterinary allergist are working.

Dear Mary Kay and Jordin, thanks for the fun and the laughs yesterday. I hope your wildly-colored, stuffed T. Rex gets home without eating anyone. I still think you should name him "Tucker Carlson."

Dear clueless newlyweds across the cul-de-sac: Thank you for allowing John to witness you throwing your puppy's poop onto your front yard in a fit of bratty rage after the poor, confused dogger had pooped in the house. It's good to know you don't treat your own property any better than the way you treat common property. It also keeps me from carrying out my often-fantasized-about plan of scooping all of said puppy's poop up from the center island in the cul-de-sac and depositing it on your front step, the better for YOU to step in it. I've stepped in it enough.

Love and Kisses,

Our Heroine

*What - have you never heard of a Fireplace Thermal Unit before?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Failure is Impossible...
...at least when you're submitting your poetry to a scam publication that preys upon people's desire to see their work in print. Cynical? Ask Wergle Flomp.

Mirror, Mirror on the &@%#*! Wall
Our friends Maria and Pat are moving into a new home. They are using us as expert consultants on a truly sticky problem, one I like to call "Mirror Abatement."

Why are we experts on this? Because we had the godawfulest mirrors we could imagine when we moved into this house two years ago. In the dining room there is a bay window, dentil molding, and a chair rail with wainscoting. Stretching between the chair rail and the molding on the biggest wall were (according to the realtor's listing) "fashionable beveled mirrors." Fashionable in that ever-popular Federal-meets-Flashdance sort of way, I guess. In the bedroom, there are two generously sized closets. When we bought the house, they came complete with mirrored sliding doors. The little roller mechanisms in sliding doors tend to be poorly designed and prone to failure at the best of times. When they support (or fail to support) the weight of an 8' x 2.5' mirror, moving them becomes a modern labor of Sisyphus.

So, we had the mirrors ripped out and John spent much time and effort smoothing the ragged patches in the drywall in the dining room (well, in every room of the house. The previous owner had a thing about adhesives and walls - best that I don't go into it. My blood pressure may go up). Our bedroom closets are still cloaked in curtains rather than trying to go through the ordeal of getting custom bi-fold millwork done (our first attempt at this is another wretched story - one replete with failure and frustration).

But I can tell you - it's better than the mirrors.

Just Wait for the Smith Family Reunion
Nobody's going anywhere, if the TSA has anything to do with it.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Mine Doesn't Describe Me at All
But hey, this sort of thing can be fun.

Early Morning
My brain is hard to jump-start this morning. I went to an a capella vocal show last night which was delightful, but ruined the early-to-bed part of Mr. Franklin's formula for health, wealth, and wisdom (no wonder I have none of the three). My husband (John Smith: International Terrorist) is at a conference, so the following farce played out this morning in the Smith matrimonial bedroom:

5:30 AM

MacIntosh: Tentative whine.

Our Heroine: Mac, go to bed.

[Rustling and thump on dog bed]

[Heavy thump of two cats landing on bed. Dash does annoying digging-action on duvet. Simon thumps down between OH's feet.]


6:00 AM

Mac: Vociferous barks at the paper-delivery man.

OH: Mac, go to bed.

[Rustling and thump on dog bed, accompanied by hrrrumph-noises, which roughly translate to, "That bastard. Comes here every day. I'll get him tomorrow."]

[Gentle rustling of cats roaming about bed. Si abandon's his post at OH's feet and walks up and down her back, finally settling his 12-pound body in the exact center of her spine.]


6:30 AM

Mac: HnnnnnrrrrrrOUUUUF!

[Dog nose and two bright brown dog-eyes appear at edge of bed. OH's hand reaches out and every millimeter is thoroughly licked. Si roams up and down the bed, purring loudly at the thought of breakfast, lovely breakfast.]

And so, the day begins.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Invisible Hand Likes Selection
"Long Tail" Economics: when scarcity isn't the controlling factor, Britney's not so popular...

- via Electrolite

Grab Bag
First of all, apologies for yesterday's grammatical gaffes. I blame the Advil Cold 'n' Sinus.

Second of all, woe. I watched through the second inning, but couldn't bear to go on. I knew they could rally (and apparently, they did - too little and too late: isn't that a shocker?), but I was tired and the game just seemed doomed from the start. Bad fan, I know. Blame the Advil again.

Third, I was watching the game in real-time and therefore TiVo was unable to save me from commercials. Aside from marveling at some incredibly crass-looking programming (surprise, it's FOX!) and wishing they didn't play that Dodge bass riff seventeen million times (even during the commentating - product placement gets surreal), I found out that Hugh Laurie is getting his own show in the U.S. As an enthusiast of the "Jeeves and Wooster" TV series, it gives me a strange sort of thrill to see him rumpled, unshaven, sharply sarcastic, and with a Chicago-area accent.

Since the show has a possibility of quality writing and also a cast that includes Omar Epps and Robert Sean Leonard, look for FOX to air the episodes out of order, move it to Friday night from it's projected Tuesday slot, and then promptly kill it because it is underachieving in the ratings. Cynical, me? It's happened before.

Sleeping With the Enemy
It was bound to happen. You marry someone named John Smith, and it turns out they are not who or what they say they are. Apparently, my husband "John" is on the Terrorist Watch List. I should have known there was something fishy about him when the animals refused to have anything to do with him:

...or by the cold and heartless way he treats adorable little children:

...and especially by his humorless rejection of all things shiny, good, and fun:

The man is clearly a menace.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Go Look at Pretty Things
Predictably, I fell in love with Rossetti's paintings when I was in London for a college semester. I can't say many nice things about his life (his behavior was often appalling), but he was a prolific artist and writer whose work I really dig (though I think his sister Christina was a better poet).


Book Report
Hello, Dear Readers. Welcome to the den of plague. Grab a Kleenex - you're going to need one.

Yep, still sick. And the dog barfed last night, which is always fun. Three o'clock in the morning seems to be barf-time in canine land. Who knew?

Enough charming chitchat. On to the real textual basis of today's prose masterpiece! Heh. I would like to announce to the world that I have completed my first reading of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. All 800 pages and a few bazillion footnotes. On my way back from my trip to the nation's heartland, I was seated next to an actor coming to DC to do "The Price" at Center Stage who actually did a double-take at the size of the volume. I'm not sure he believed me when I told him I was finished when we landed. Suffice it to say, it is a tome which could double for a Yoga brick if one really needed it to.

The book itself? Fascinating. The type of exquisite literary tailoring which manages to stitch an entirely fictional world into real history without having the seams show. The bazillion footnotes I mentioned are primarily "historical notes" on the legends and "history" of English magic and its various practitioners, though the notes occasionally also reveal real facts about real historical figures such as the Duke of Wellington and poor, mad George III. Dryly satirical observations made in a period tone in passages like the following one skewer the hubris of early-Empire Britain without ever breaking the "fourth wall" of the book's self-contained world:

"...the sad decay, which buildings, bridges and church all displayed, seemed to charm them even more. They were Englishmen and, to them, the decline of other nations was the most natural thing in the world. They belonged to a race blessed with so sensitive an appreciation of its own talents (and so doubtful an opinion of any body else's) that they would not have been at all surprized to learn that the Venetians themselves had been entirely ignorant of the merits of their own city - until Englishmen had come to tell them it was delightful."

So why do I say this is my "first" reading? I am pretty sure that after a few months have gone by I will want to read it again. When that happens, I am sure to get far more out of it. This first reading simply introduced the book's world to me. After some time I will need to return in order to explore its city streets and country fields more completely.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The One I Have Roaming About My Body is Much Less Cute
Hello, Dearest of Dear Readers. Thank you for bearing with me in my blogless state. Today's entry is rambling and unfocused - kind of like me on this chilly morning.

I'm back. And I come bearing microbes of no great joy. Why, oh why does every cold I get have to turn into a sinus infection, I ask you? Okay, I'm done moaning.

To briefly recap, I went out to Indianapolis for my cousin's wedding. I flew to Chicago on Wednesday and spent 24 lovely hours with my Darling Maria Perez (hostess and tour guide extraordinaire). Then I collected my mother at O'Hare and off we went to my grandmother's house in Indiana. It has been a long time since I have been back to the heartland. I can never really get comfortable in that part of the country - it is just too darn flat. In Chicago, the flatness is obscured by tall buildings and fun things to do. Once outside the city, though, the flatness makes me nervous. There's too much horizon - you can see too much out there. I clearly have an underdeveloped primitive danger-sensing gene, so go ahead - ambush me. Just give me my hills.

Grandma had tasks for us when we got to her house. I like having tasks at Grandma's: it gives me something to do and makes me feel useful, even though she clearly believes me unable to successfully complete any technical task. Her garage-opener light was burnt out and her cordless phone's battery was dying. Since the housing of her garage-opener was rendered almost completely inaccessible by the way it was installed, Mom and I decided that duct tape was a better solution than trying to reinstall it with the screws that were so cleverly obscured by the garage's beams. My grandmother had never heard of duct tape, and the new phone battery needed to be procured, so off to Target we went.

On our way to Target, the "low tire" idiot-light in my grandmother's Buick went on. Visual inspection showed normal-looking tires. Duct tape and phone battery were secured, and off we went to seek out some tire help. My grandmother's normal tire place was at some distance and she was progressing from merely worried to seriously agitated, so when I spotted a local tire store on the main drag, I pulled in. It was your standard, shabby, run-down tire emporium, and three rather suspect-looking gentlemen regarded me when I entered. Skinhead tattoo guy, short weaselly guy, and skinny longhaired guy all looked at me as if I might possibly be an alien recently beamed in from the Planet East Coast (which, in fact, I am - but that's beside the point).

"Hello Gentlemen," I said, "My grandma's car has a low-tire light on and she's pretty worried about it. The tires look fine, but we have to drive to Indy tomorrow for my cousin's wedding..." Miraculously, their suspicious expressions melted away and they all smiled at me. Grandma needs help! To the rescue! Skinhead tattoo guy followed me outside and carefully took the measure of each tire, clearly delighted to help a grandma in need. After putting in a couple of pounds of air per tire and figuring out how to reset the idiot light, STG graciously wished us all a safe journey to the wedding the next day.

When we got back to Grandma's house, there was a broken water-main gushing water into the ditch at the end of her street. It really was that kind of trip.

I'm glad to be home.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Temporary Absence
As I mentioned before, I am going to be at a family wedding and visiting friends for the next few days. If you're truly missing the WoT? please visit some of the fine bloggers I link to in my "Favorite Links" sidebar. I will return on Monday to decant whatever happens to be rolling around in my head by then.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

La Belle Cintra
I used to read Cintra Wilson's column in Salon - glad to know she's still kicking butt.

The Opposite of Serene
If someone were listing adjectives that describe Our Heroine, "serene" would not probably crack the top 1,000. I have always thought serenity seemed to be a lovely quality - cool and soothing, like a quiet pond on a hot summer day. It looks wonderful, but I've never been able to manage it. My brain is too cranky and spiky, my body is too clumsy, and my eyes are too direct.

Lately, I've gone far past not-serene all the way into the borderlands of gibbering lunacy. Even doing something that seems soothing and slow, my brain goes wocketa-wocketa and my motions endanger fragile objects in my path. I made bread yesterday, and while the results were extremely edible, I was no grounded, Earth-mother. Instead, I felt as if I was all flying elbows and spinning head.

Even in sleep, I can't find serenity. I drop into that still, dark pond of blissful nowhere-ness, and then feel as if I'm spending half the night participating in high-stakes role-playing. These dreams are frenetic - I'm always responsible for something, there is always at least one more issue to cope with, and even the settings are filled with action and motion. My dream-self interviews for a job in a busy office, drives a taxi through labyrinthine streets, and navigates a station where trains seem to thunder through in various directions every second.

At the same time, my body aches for relaxation and my monkey-mind wants to stop swinging frantically from tree to tree. I can find some small, almost automatic relaxation in yoga, but it does not penetrate beyond the surface. My mind reins in a tiny bit, then continues its restless action.

So yes, I'm seeking for something I never had, and trying to find it in the least likely circumstances. Serenity will never come easily to me, but I'm a fool to feel its absence now.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Oh, Wow...
If only all judges were this cranky and straightforward.

Big Crazy
The next two days will be The Big Crazy. On Wednesday, I am winging off to the midwest to spend a bit of time with a friend and attend a family wedding. Fair warning - I will be BAWOL* on Thursday and Friday for sure (if I am really a good blogger, I will write something on Tuesday night and post it before I leave Wednesday morning, but no promises).

As I have mentioned in the past, I used to travel a lot for my work. Almost every week would see me getting on and off a series of aircraft in exotic locales like Springfield, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; and Manchester, New Hampshire. As it stands now, I have not been on an airplane since July. When I did pack for that July trip, my packing skills were rusty. It used to take me about fifteen minutes to pack for a three-day business trip. It now takes me about an hour to pack for a two-day holiday.

Not to mention the fact that it will be -- well, brisk in Indianapolis. I need to spend some time digging out sweaters and figuring out layers, as the weather is going to range between the mid 30's and the mid 70's.

So, off I go to run errands, tidy up, and generally make sure that I'm not Bigger Crazy tomorrow when I pack.

*Blogger Absent WithOut Leave, of course...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Nature Extra

"The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting
Sat at the window and sewed.

She cried, 'Look! who's that HANDSOME man?'
They answered, 'Mr. Toad.'"

-- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Friday, October 01, 2004

A Fundamental Question of Import to Us All.
Who should be the next Bond? Duh. Clive Owen. Next question?

I mean, have you seen Croupier?

-- via Columbina

Early Thanksgiving
I am going to focus on the positive today. It's about time. If I looked back over my daily entries, there's probably a perfect sine wave of gentle, peaceful musings on geraniums and vocabulary, descending slightly through irritation at deer and the process of job-hunting, plunging into a wail of outrage over obliviousness and the vagaries of the mass media, then ascending slightly into bemused wonderment at auctorial insanity and only slightly sarcastic lectures about voting, finally ending up at gentle, peaceful musings on pets and the upcoming movie "Serenity."

And yet, you politely bear with me, Dear Reader. Thank you for that.

One of the tapes I use to support me in my Yoga practice ends by asking you to think of something you are grateful for. Usually, I am simply grateful for my Yoga practice. The balance between focus and general awareness, effort and relaxation seems to take everything else that gets to me and lighten it up a bit. It is still there, mind you, it just doesn't bother me the way it does before I practice.

But there are a couple of other things I am particularly grateful for at the moment (and this is not an exhaustive list). My husband - patient man that he is - has borne through this period of job-hunting and the intense anxiety that led up to it. He is known for his ability to worry and fret, yet he has not expressed any anxiety about this process (except when he worries that I am getting too stressed out). He has been undeniably and unwaveringly supportive through ups, downs, hard decisions, and setbacks. My friends, who are doing huge things like getting engaged, having children, and buying houses - I am grateful for their examples of life moving forward, even as I feel mine is temporarily stagnant. I am even grateful for the opportunity to help Maria and Pat (new home-owners) move - come Halloween weekend, I'll be lifting with my legs (not my back) and looking forward to steaks and beer as my just reward.

In other words, to try to hammer some perspective into my own head: the current lack of employment is not all. Stop and smell the autumn leaves.

What are you grateful for today?