Monday, December 29, 2008

still here

Perhaps it's bad form to write about a medical emergency and then have radio silence for 13 days. Not to worry - I'm alive and well. Almost well. I still can't lift heavy objects, or speed-walk (which I realized going to the bus stop this morning for my first commute to work since surgery).

The real reason for not posting is that I've been with family for the last week for Christmas. For me, time stops when I'm on vacation. My phone is usually off or completely unattended to. I don't check email. Days of the week lose all meaning. This year, my family's Christmas was a wonderful cacophony of hazardous roads, crackling fireplaces, giggling babies, fragile aunts, 6 varieties of cookie, the zoo, sledding, and Rock Band.

I think my favorite part was when Dad announced that we would hold our own Christmas devotional the Sunday before Christmas because our congregation's meeting was canceled due to inclement weather. He taped a list of our assignments, neatly written on a yellow sheet of notepad paper, to the television in the living room. We all followed through, which is probably something our parents could only dream of us doing 15 years ago.

This photo is for all you sissies in SE Michigan who thought last week was cold and snowy. Welcome to Green Bay. We didn't see the sun for 8 days. My sister-in-law Rachel is in the background, cruising the neighborhood. Sarah is conveniently placed to show you how tall the snow piles are. Notice how in the far background, the snow drifts are up to the windowsills of the houses.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

and now for something ... completely different

Last Friday, while I was writing about Bunny Bells, I didn't think I would be spending the evening at the ER. But I suppose most ER visits are unanticipated.

I actually have a "no bodily fluids" rule on my blog, so I will spare you details about what happened in the ER, my overnight stay, and operation the next day. The final diagnosis was an ovarian cyst that basically took care of itself. But it took 3 incisions in my belly for the doctors to figure out that it wasn't anything more harmful. They weren't incompentent - they had good reasons to believe it could have been worse, and we're just thankful it wasn't. The long and short of it is that I have been spending the last few days (and a few days more, I think) recovering from their prodding and prognostications.

When coming out of the sedation from surgery on Saturday, the first thing I remember was looking at the nurses and saying, "I think I need to renew my library books." And then I requested more morphine because everything hurt.

Friday, December 12, 2008

bunny bells

Abe told me about this Flash game that everyone in his department at school is playing during finals week. I think it's their last-ditch effort to maintain sanity. At any given time in the computer lab, a handful of sleepless students fall into a comatose of bunny bell-clicking to a variation on Pachelbel's Cannon.

Play the Bunny Game Now!

Personally, I don't see the appeal. My bunny keeps falling, and I get more frazzled trying to play. I think I need the Junior version, a bunny with a little more float, perhaps.

I prefer the chocolate game we found last May in celebration of National Chocolate Chip Day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Only at the University of Michigan...

...would I, while walking through the main quad of campus, be accosted by 4 girls dressed head to toe as tampons, offering me individually wrapped chocolates.

I was so confused.

In other news, we got our Christmas decorations up. Check out our tree "skirt". Look familiar, Velma?

I also got my first Apple product a few weeks ago.

Me trying to figure out how to get my ipod nano out of its packaging.

The ipod came free when I opened a checking account with my bank. I have charged the ipod, but haven't actually loaded anything onto it. Just biding my time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Remember Thanksgiving?

So most of us have been listening to Christmas music and enjoying tree lights and sugar cookies shaped like stars for almost a week now, but I've still got one foot in turkey-ville. First, I haven't re-lived the day on the blog yet, and second, I re-cooked half of Thanksgiving dinner tonight because I was really craving it (it meaning incredible stuffin' muffins, recipe courtesy of my sister).

(Full disclosure: we did put up our Christmas tree on Thanksgiving night, too.)

So, the tale of our Thanksgiving. I spent the entire morning procrastinating cooking. I began making pies at 1:00pm with a desperate call to my parents, who were just greeting their own guests for a noon-o'clock dinner. Yes, Dad, I think the early meal is sort of an old person tradition. It's okay. My dad makes the best pies in the world. I won't eat anyone's pies but his - or, at least, I won't enjoy them. So I called for some last minute advice, which included his caution that "any departure from Libby's 100% pure pumpkin & recipe is a disaster". Imagine my relief when I glanced down and saw that somehow in my Thanksgiving grocery shopping frenzy I made the judicious choice to spring for Libby's instead of the off-brand. Thanksgiving was saved!

The pies actually turned out quite scrumptious. But all of our guests had to say that because I prefaced dessert by telling them that my dad makes the best pies in the world and I was trying to be his protege.

Speaking of guests, we had 4 friends over: Chris & Megan, who brought the yummiest yams, Ruth, and Rong. Ruth is from Taiwan and Rong is from China, so it was fun to introduce them to our Thanksgiving traditions. Except that Ruth actually knew more about the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving than any of us. Go figure.

Well, that's the Hollywood version. It was actually a really lovely dinner with wonderful friends and a whole lot to be thankful for.

btw, no pictures because our camera batteries died.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hounded by abandon

I didn't want it to happen, but a full week has passed since my last post. Tut, tut.

More on Thanksgiving later.

For now another thought from the bus. I've had a lot of these lately. The bus is sometimes the only time I sit down and have a good, hard think. Translation for me = have a good, hard time to zone out and notice whatever is moving out the window.

Which, today, was a hound (or something that looked a lot like Greyhound's logo). I looked out the window just as its owner released it from its leash to the expanse of a snow-driven field. It dashed off and raced across with reckless abandon. The bus moved on before I saw any more. It got me thinking that I'd like a little more of that in my life - reckless abandon.

Maybe I'll post this without proofreading first.

... Hm ... nope. Didn't work. Well, small steps, right?

Monday, November 24, 2008

off my online schedule

Two jobs means two work schedules, and that has been tripping me up lately. Last week I was an hour late into work, causing my co-worker to freeze alone outside waiting for school bus groups to come to the museum, instead of freezing with me. Luckily, the buses were late so we faithfully froze together for another hour or so once I showed up.

Today I got to work on time, but at the wrong job.

I had the feeling that I should check my schedule, but I keep my calendar online with Google calendar. It's a great way to organize my schedule and keep track of everything. If I bother to turn my computer on in the morning.

Which leads to the greater dilemma. I've kept a paper planner, an online planner, and both. I need to keep track of upcoming events, weekly work schedules, daily to-do lists, to-do lists of things that need to get done eventually, but not today, etc.

But there are so many tools and systems out there, I think I may finally have to admit in Seinfield-esque tones that "it's not you, it's me."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Favorite Serial?

I was at the library the other day and noticed a shelf of the complete Nancy Drew series, by Carolyn Keene. I loved these books in elementary school and couldn't help picking up "#5: The Secret of Shadow Ranch" for a quick read.

Other immensely satisfying series books from my childhood:

The Babysitter's Club - Ann M. Martin
The Saddle Club - Bonnie Bryant
Amelia Bedelia - Peggy Parish and Herman Parish
The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
Ramona Quimby - Beverly Cleary
Goosebumps & Fear Street - R. L. Stine

What's on your list?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spring cleaning

Between being stuck in the library stacks filling out staggering speadsheets full of information on area foundations to hit up for museum grant money and interviewing on the senior center's cable TV show as the newest employee, I realized that many things that used to fill up my days have quite suddenly slipped away.

- Writing on my blog, for starters
- Yoga, sadly, though I blame this mostly on my recent cold
- Canning applesauce and raspberry jam (but was I really going to do more of this after doing it once?)
- Updating my reading on GoodReads (though I am still a voracious reader, working on Splendid Solutions, a book about the polio vaccine)
- Keeping a continual list of books and DVDs on my library waitlist
- Clearing out my GoogleReader
- Finding excuses such as random household projects in order to listen to Amelia Peabody mysteries on CD
- Playing the piano (I'm practicing up for my blog performance, as promised)

Well, that's long-winded enough.

The truth is, some of these will have to stay slipped away. I can't pull 8 hours from my day out of no where. But I want to consciously decided which ones slip. In the next 15 miinutes I'll do just that. Wish me luck.

In other news, I have been looking after my neighbor's cats for the last few weeks (they stay in their house, I stay in mine). It has all but guaranteed that my home will never come with household pets, except for the occassional fish.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mr. Allan and Mayor John

Grunt work comes with every job. This week I was tasked with creating a spreadsheet of major employers in 7 nearby counties, along with contact information and corporate social responsibility or community giving policies of each. Curb your anticipation - this fascinating document remains undisclosed at present.

But grunt work also comes with unexpected amusements. In putting together this database, I found out that a major government contractor for security services is called "Pinkertons". Just the name I would have picked for a company that "specializes in security, fire, and emergency services". Don't worry, little Johnny, Pinkertons is on the way!

Further research revealed that Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a U.S. security and detective agency established in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton who became famous for spoiling an assassination attempt on then-president-elect Abraham Lincoln (credits, wikipedia). The Pinkertons I found were not the same agency, but were probably inspired by Mr. Allan.

Interesting, hm?

My best grunt work experience was at Take Pride in America, the volunteer arm of the US Department of Interior. I was calling mayors across the nation - the U.S. has a lot of mayors, by the way - to solicit interest in our mayor partnership program to help care for public lands.

I was getting used to cold professional secretaries or endless automated phone options when I placed a call to a mayor in a small New York town.

Woman answering phone: "Hello?"
Erin: "Hi. My name is Erin, I'm calling from Take Pride in America [blah, blah]. May I please speak with Mayor [LastName]?
Woman: "Who?"
Erin: "Um. Mayor [LastName]?
Woman: "Oh. Okay. Hold on." pause, sound of phone being muffled with hand. "John!! JO--HN!!!" pause, phone unmuffled. "Hold on. I think he just went to the bathroom." muffled. "JO-OH-OHN!!" unmuffled. "He'll call you back in a few minutes."

True to her word, I had a delightful conversation with Mayor John after he relieved himself. I don't remember if he took up our partnership offer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

my chad

Warning: in light of the many touching and reflective posts on yesterday's election, I am countering with something totally and completely myopic. (After all, I started this blog because there weren't enough people around to listen to me, me, me.)

Yesterday's voting:

1. I realized an hour before voting that I hadn't studied any candidates except for presidential. I quickly looked through my voting guide and committed to my candidates of choice (Abe, what does your public opinion formation research say about that?)

2. When I got to the polls I realized I left my voting notes from #1 at home. I couldn't remember my candidate names. Hour-before commitment only goes so far.

3. The "system" didn't have my name in it. **scrambling of papers, looking at IDs, checking computers** But the other "system" did, so I got a ballot.

4. In the voting booth, I marked the wrong sherrif. It was one of the only candidates I remembered my decision on, so I wanted to do it right. I mean, this is the sherrif we're talking about. I had to get a replacement for my spoiled ballot. Which caused a new round of people to deal with issue #3 again. Problems 3 & 4 backed up the line by about 20 people.

5. After voting, I mentioned to Abe that I couldn't remember voting for the 2 propositions on the ballot. He asked me if I had turned the ballot over. Hm. Come to think of it, the ballot had seemed short.

6. The only candidates (besides presidential) that I felt strongly about were the school board. When I got home and checked my left-behind voting notes, I realized that I had voted for the wrong people on the board.

This year, I hope that a single vote didn't make a difference.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hanna-Barbera is proud to present ...

The Scooby Doo Gang!

Jinkies! Someone's impersonating the real Velma! And she would have got away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids.

Most popular line when people saw my halloween costume: "You're from Scooby Doo. Not Daphne - the other one."

We didn't mean to do an 80s cartoon theme, but Abe made a mean Inspector Gadget.

Except that his hand kept hitting me in the face every time he moved.

And my teenage mutant ninja turtle didn't turn out so bad, either.

Abe's creations. He was going for the theater mask, but looks more old woman-ish. The candle's nice. You'll notice that we are economical with our pumpkin carving - three in one.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 31, 2008

a non-Halloween post

Yesterday my sleepy self was roused by the complete stillness of a frozen morning. I was walking bleary-eyed but brisk to the bus stop - no running jam this time - when I noticed the grass standing at crisp attention. It, along with branches, leaves, wind, and sky, was immobile in a morning frost not yet broken by the sun.

This was the first frost this season. Not for the grass, I'm sure, but first because I was now part of the whitened morning instead of snug in bed and unaware.

I also got another job this week, working as a program developer for the local senior center. My days from here on out will be 40 hours split in 2. Don't get excited. I am getting paid for the second split, but my annual salary has not increased significantly.

Monday, October 27, 2008

my first day of not-working

I don't think it's good for a person to power-walk a 50 lb laptop to catch the bus while snarfing 2 pieces of toast and jam. It certainly wasn't good for my pants. Somewhere between my front door and the bus stop, red raspberry jam glopped onto the front right leg of my khakis.

Welcome back to the working world, Erin.

Once on the bus, I took a deep breath in to my bodymind (I'm still doing yoga - impressed?) and the sky turned a lovelier shade of gray as I told myself that any stress in the day's museum work could be washed away as soon as I remembered that no one is actually paying me to do any of this to begin with.

(breathe in) ... Ahhhhh ...

Actually, I quite enjoy the pressure I already feel as part of the museum staff. A grant application is due on Friday, and I've got a big-small part in getting it through.

Plus, several coworkers eat lunch together every day while doing the LA Times crossword. I think I'll like it here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

fall flavors

Time for another travel report. We finally convinced my in-laws that they'd enjoy the upper midwest, as long as they avoided November through April. So they came out with Abe's youngest brother for the weekend.

Trying to do all things Michigan, we visited the Ford Factory for a tour of how they make F150s, picked pumpkins off the vine of the Giant Pumpkin Patch, went to a cider mill for donuts, cider, strudel, and cheese, and played in the fall leaves.

Trying to do all things Ann Arbor, we ate Indian one night, German the next, Chinese following, and Middle Eastern to finish. All were delectable.

Halloween Costume Hint #3

She could have been a librarian.

Hint #2
Saturday mornings in the 1970s ... and 1980s ...

Hint #1
Orange and red.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

barely employed

Since graduating in April with a master's degree in Information (I'll leave it to you to decide what capital-Information could possibly mean), I've been looking for a job in one of the worst job markets in the country. I've been very successful - going on 6 months!

I had been in correspondence with a local museum that I really wanted to work for, doing grantwriting and evaluation. They wanted to hire me, and had finally managed to make room in the budget for me, when the economic crisis hit and their budget when on freeze.

So, being the determined and self-sacrificing person that I am, I went in to the museum this week and offered to do the same thing, but for free.

I'll be "working" about 20 hours a week, 5 of which will be paid front desk time, at $7.40/hr. That averages out to $1.80/hr in wages. For comparison's sake, I used data from the 2007 MSI Employment Report to create this graph showing my starting salary along with averages of other graduates across different industries.

Gee. With all this cash flow, I think I'll finally go buy new socks.

Halloween Costume Hint #2

Saturday mornings in the 1970s ... and 1980s ...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Check out what's in my living room


The latest and loveliest addition to our family. Some of you may not know that I played the piano - extensively - throughout high school. Once I went to college that got placed on the back burner. I mean, the way, way, back burner, since I didn't really have ready access to a piano and I had to spend my time on reading lists and term papers.

I have wanted to bring piano back into my life for a long time, but didn't think that would be possible for a few years more, at least. But thank you, thank you, thank you, to my generous mother- and father-in-law, who made it possible for us to get this beautiful Yamaha Clavinova CLP 240 digital piano. It sounds and plays like a dream.

I will try to work my fingers back into shape and record a piece for the blog soon. Soon meaning it will probably take months to get to where I can play decently again. Stay tuned. (haha, like tuning a piano)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

24 going on 82

Last week I commented to Abe that I felt like I was retired. Getting up when I feel like it, going on mid-morning walks to enjoy nature, picking up random hobbies like wreath-making, grocery shopping in the afternoon, reading an entire book in one day.

Well, when I said retired, I didn't mean elderly. Which is how I felt when I opened the mailbox today and found this:

I blacked out the return address to retain some degree of anonymity. What you should be noticing is my attempt to post a letter to Grandma Gong at address Grandma Gong. The stamp says "Returned for Better Address." USPS has such high standards. Anyone have any better addresses I can borrow?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

wreath 2.0

There is a new update available! Indelibleedibles must be restarted in order to install this update. Would you like to restart now and add 20 gigs of cheap fixes to problems you don't know about and shouldn't have to deal with in the first place?

*blush* Oops, this isn't Windows Vista.

My bout of creative energy came quickly. Here is my new and improved wreath. No sagging this time. You could probably even injure someone with a direct blow to the head.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

up next, insider trading, in warm autumn hues

I didn't mean to become a Martha Stewart, I just really wanted to make a fall wreath.

Last Sunday Abe & I collected some beautiful fall leaves. Monday's afternoon project was to ramble in the bushes for stiff grass and pinecones, and then use a little hot glue and wire to create my fall masterpiece.

Ta da!

I think the pinecones are a little weighty for the woven grass, though, because when it hangs on my door it sort of slumps down, like its shoulders are sagging. Once I am imbued with enough creative energy I will roll out version 2.0, which will consist of the more durable stick.

I had some leftover leaves and had happened to find 2 strands of garland at the thrift store for 50 cents a piece. So I whipped up this autumn home warmer.

Well, I'd better be off to make bread, can some raspberry jam, change my hotpads to reflect the new fall decor, and properly tuck in the bed sheet corners.

Friday, October 3, 2008

thank you, elizabeth peters

Behold the fruits of September. We inherited an old coffee table, kitchen table, and 4 chairs from our condo owner. They were all a dull brown, and we've been going for a strikingly rich and seductively simple black-brown in our wood decor. I made it through 2 of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries on CD while sanding, refinishing, and sealing the furniture. That comes out to approximately 30 labor hours.

A few reasons to appreciate the final product, and its creator:

- All labor was done with the strength of me. No power sander.
- I used a Q-tip in some parts.
- Turning wood that isn't stripped down to just the natural wood (no power sander, remember?) from brown to black takes 8 thin coats of finish.
- The first table attempt failed, and had to be redone, from start to finish.
- The table legs detach. After working on just the tabletop, I had to attach the legs. Did I mention the tabletop weighs about 500 pounds? I propped the tabletop onto 4 chairs, then added books on top of each chair to ratchet the table up, 2.5 inches at a time. My forearms, biceps, and shoulder ached for the next week.

Kitchen table and chairs. Really, 500 pounds. It expands with 2 leaves, as well.

The coffee table is our deck table. The chairs don't really work there, but they don't fit anywhere else.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

thus it begins

We went out last night to enjoy a free concert by the university's philharmonic orchestra.

Hello, October! It was about 45 degrees outside. Add to that the upper midwest windchill. We thought about going to a coffee shop afterward for a treat, but beelined for the car as soon as we stepped out.

Sniff. Last Thursday the high was 80 degrees. Yesterday topped out at 56.

Monday, September 29, 2008

debate cake!

In honor of the presidential debates on Friday night.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Breathing into my BodyMind

One benefit of being unemployed is that it gives you time to pursue personal hobbies to your heart's content, bounded, of course, by your ever-decreasing budget. Which is why, when I decided to take up Yoga again, I checked out a few DVDs from the library that I will faithfully renew every week until someone else puts them on hold. (Two years ago, when I was also unemployed and picking up yoga, this technique worked for about 3 months).

I've been on my new routine for about a week and a half now. I could barely bend over to touch my toes on the first day. But today I was thrilled when my nose almost touched my knee while in a seated forward bend. I attribute my success to the gentle reminders from my digital Rodney Yee to breath into my bodymind.

My favorite pose by far is chavasana, or corpse pose. It consists of lying on your back, legs stretched out in front, arms to the side, eyes closed. Oh, and breathing into your bodymind. This pose comes at the end of the workout, and is accompanied by pleasant music and the instructor's voice saying things like "receive into your palms", "imagine your tension as a darkness, and let the light heal that darkness", and "relax your eyeballs to the ground".

Yesterday while in chavasana, I had this sudden vision of a scene from the fantasy book A Wizard of Earthsea: me in a small rowboat, wearing a billowing scarlet-violet cloak, rowing in crystal blue ocean toward the end of the world. (Also, perhaps, reminiscent of the afterlife boat scene in Waking Ned Devine.) The thought that accompanied this mental image was that I should write a novel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Get? ... hmm, grr, ahh, yes, it reveals so much about me...

While becoming a master of information, I learned all sorts of things about information visualization - how the human mind processes information, and what designers can do to display information in a way that helps that process.

For some reason, many students - and professors - in the program were enamored with word clouds as information visualization. Everyone wants a visual of words from some corpus resized according to frequency. Throw a word cloud up as "findings" in your presentation, and the class makes non-committal grunts of deep mental contemplation. But I dare you to infer something meaningful from this information jumble.

Still, it is kind of pretty.

So here is a word cloud of my blog, thus far. I did this using Wordle, and got the idea from Janssen. A note of caution if you try this yourself: if you simply paste the url of your blog into Wordle, the resulting cloud will be strongly biased toward your latest posts. To work around this, I copied the text from my entire blog (easy to do if you use a feed reader), removed some meta-notes (things like "post from edibles by Erin" and "stop starstar this post add" that repeated for every post), and pasted the text into Wordle.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"my little burrito! you are talking!"

Burritos are near the top of my favorite foods list. Perhaps this love of rice, beans, meat, and salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla came from spending my adolescent years in Arizona. My favorite burrito joint there was Adrian's (mentioned in thrift stores). I still have their business card. "Adrian's #2," it reads, "The Real Mexican Food. Especialidad de la Casa Milanesa, Mole Poblano, Barbacoa, Carnitas y toda clase de Mariscos." I don't know what any of those especials are. The menu was in Spanish, too. So I always just got the burrito. And it was great. (1011 W. Main St., Mesa, Arizona, if you're interested and if they're still in business.)

But I would peg my Mexican affinity to earlier years. In 5th grade, my class performed a holiday play, "The Talking Burro". Oh - you haven't heard of it? Well, it is about a talking burro, or donkey. I led as Carla, a little Mexican girl who discovers that her beloved burro talks. I don't remember any of my lines (contrast to when I played the ghost of Christmas present in "A Christmas Carol" the year before: "I am the ghost of present. Look at me! Have you never seen the likes of me before? I have many brothers - more than 1800."). But I do remember having to regularly shake my braids and exclaim with childish delight "My little burrito!" several times throughout the dramatization.

Over the past few months I have been developing my burrito making skills. I am near perfection. And I chose to reveal my secrets here.

Ingredients to the perfect burrito:
- Big tortillas, warmed in the microwave
- Rice with taco seasoning of some kind added
- Black beans, partly drained of juice and then added to rice
- Beef of chicken strips - thin and long, marinated in soy sauce and lime, then pan-cooked on the stove, don't overcook, it should only take a few minutes
- Fresh salsa - cut up tomatoes, onion (don't use a food processor - it makes the onion sour), cilantro (must be fresh!), and garlic (also fresh); mix with salt and lime juice
- sour cream
- avocado (optional, but only barely)

- Lay out a piece of tin foil, about 4 inches bigger than the tortilla
- Lay a warmed tortilla on the tin foil
- Using a spatula, spread sour cream on the whole face of the tortilla. Don't be shy. The sour cream sticks everything together and gives the final burrito a nice texture.
- Slop a big scoop (about 2 cups) of rice and bean mixture on the tortilla, and spread it to make an oval-like lump in the center of the tortilla.
- Spread the cooked meat, salsa, and avocado on top of the rice and beans.

- You will now think the stuff on top of the tortilla is too big to fit inside the tortilla. It's not. Here's how you fold it. All of your stuff should be in the centered on the tortilla, but in an elongated shape. See Figure 1.

Fig. 1

- Fold the short sides in. See Figure 2.

Fig. 2

- Fold one of the long sides over the top of the stuff. Grasp the short side fold and the long fold you just made, packing the stuff tightly, and then rolling the whole thing toward the remaining long side. This figure is too difficult to draw. Think of tightly rolling a sleeping bag. Just squeeze the stuff inside; it'll fit.

- Once your burrito is folded, wrap it in tin foil to keep the shape. Serve immediately or warm up more in the oven.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crickets for a rainy day

My plans for refinishing a table, learning how to sail, and attending an Ultimate tournament have all been foiled by the weather. This is a rainy day post.

A few days ago I was talking on the phone with my sister, Sarah. In the middle of the conversation I heard her say to her three-year-old, "Get it! Get it!" Apparently, recent rainstorms drove the crickets to higher ground - inside their house. They have been battling the infestation for a few days now. Crickets make a formidable enemy, as they blithely hop away from incoming swats and then stay up all night chatting. Sarah was both proud of and sickened by an inadvertent victory when she squashed one of the creatures with her bare feet one evening.

Our conversation was interspersed with directives to the three-year-old to squish spotted intruders, and with Sarah's own attempt, which left her splattered in projectile goo.

We hung up and I went to the kitchen to eat lunch. After a hearty round of pasta salad I retired to the bathroom to take a shower. I turned on the water and saw, in the folds of the shower curtain, a small, brown cricket.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oooh! Oooh! A List!

As a follow up to my lament on women in film, here is a list of movies that - as a moderate feminist - I can comfortably watch. Two notes of explanation. First, I made up the term "moderate feminist". Feminism is a clumsy term we use for basically anything having to do with women. The weak version is fluffy puffy let's feel good about women without it actually meaning anything. The strong version touts women as absolutely the same as men excepting anatomy, while saying under the breath that we all know women are actually far superior to men in every way.

As a moderate feminist, I believe that women are absolutely equal to men, but men and women hold different roles and responsibilities. The ultimate potential for both man and woman is as a perfect compliment to the other.

Perhaps moderate is a misnomer. My view may be seen as quite radical by some. Maybe it is not a half-way between on the scale I set out, but rather a third point all together...

Regardless, I don't have a better name right now.

The second point of explanation. Because of my definition of moderate feminist, you will notice that some of these films portray woman as wife and mother. Some of the these films portray woman as independent and successful. And some of these films portray women as wife, mother, independent, and successful. I am satisfied with all three.

Movies for the Moderate Feminist

Amazon Queen
A Man for All Seaons
Anne of Green Gables
Driving Miss Daisy
Fiddler on the Roof
Howl's Moving Castle
It's a Wonderful Life
Little Women
Million Dollar Baby
Mona Lisa Smile
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Much Ado About Nothing
October Sky
Pride and Prejudice (1995 version)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Thin Man series
To Kill a Mockingbird
Waking Ned Divine
Whale Rider

What movies would you add?

Monday, September 8, 2008

When Being a Woman Meant Something

I have been at a low boil for some time about the portrayal of women in movies. Blockbuster hits constantly reinforce the women as objects syndrome.

One recent offender is Iron Man. On the near completely male-dominated screen, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) stands out as a level-headed, competent secretary - a protege of the profession, really. Be astounded as she completes the most complicated and arduous tasks by following very detailed, step-by-step directions from a man.

(I will refrain from mentioning reporter Christine (Leslie Bibb), whose sole purpose on the screen is to display her ... well, let's just say it's not her cunning intellect.)

So I was pleasantly surprised when we watched Cranford last week. Cranford is a TV mini-series (made in 2007) based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, written in the 1850s. The series is about the lives and relationships of the residents of a small town in 1840s England. Women get a larger share of the screen time. But that's not as important as what that screen time shows. A variety of vices and virtues - town gossip, loose flirtations, and rigid propriety mixed with sincere compassion, neighborliness, strong wills, compentency in society and intellect - creates women of depth and diversity. Women who are actually like the women I know, and the woman I'm trying to become.

Okay. Okay. I know it's an unfair comparison. The men in Iron Man are nearly (though not quite) as flat and inestimable as the women. Victorian literature arguably pays more attention to character development than Marvel comics. The audience and expectations for each is completely different.

Still. It makes me wonder what ground we have gained in the last 150 years. Or lost.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Okay. On three. 1 ... 2 ... CLICK! hehehe

One of Abe's hobbies is to take random sneak photos of me.

The result:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Last week, we met my parents at Brevort Lake in the UP (upper peninsula of michigan, for those non midwesterners out there) for a few days of camping.

On the drive up, Abe & I saw numerous roadside ads for the "Mystery Spot." We ended up driving right by it, so we decided to see what it was all about.

The plaque at the "Mystery Spot" just said this: "In the early 1950s three surveyors stumbled across an area of land where they surveying equipment didn't seem to work properly. As they continued their research of this land, they noticed a constant feeling of being light headed. Later, realizing that their queasiness and problems with surveying equipment only occurred in an area about 300 feet in diameter they felt they had discovered a 'Mystery Spot'."

For only $7 we could have gone on the guided tour to the spot. We declined.

Abe, Mom, and Dad on the boat out to Mackinac Island.

While biking around Mackinac Island (no cars allowed), my shoelace got caught in the chain of our tandem bicycle. It's a lot harder to stop for emergencies when 2 people are driving.

Lake Michigan beaches are gorgeous! The lake temperature was a bit too - refreshing - for my taste, but still fun.

We rented a boat to go fishing on Brevort Lake. The worms we used measured longer than our biggest catch.

Yum. Smoked fish jerky fudge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

4 and counting

Last Sunday Abe & I celebrated our 4th anniversary. Actually, we celebrated on Saturday, because Abe is usually in church-related meetings all day on Sunday so we don't see each other.

We went to the park/lake for a picnic and swimming. We took the back roads home and found a yummy shake stop and got a raspberry shake. We probably would have done other fun things but when we got home we both fell asleep in the middle of the living room floor for a few hours.

Because it's our anniversary I will claim the right to make a few sentimental comments about our marriage.

...okay, I just spent a long time trying to write out said sentimental comments, and I'm not doing so hot...

Instead I'll just say that I am very, very happy with Abe. I'm pretty sure he returns the feeling.

Our picnic.

Us, looking happy at 4 years. Isn't Abe's hair awesome?

Celebrating our beach ball victory. We brought a beach ball to play with in the water. Except that there were constant winds of 30 mph. So every time we tried to hit the ball it would fly to the shoreline and we would have to chase it down and bring it back out to the water. The sunbathers looked at us with pity. We finally devised a game where we stood about 3 feet apart, both facing the wind, and sort of tapped the ball back and forth to each other - basically tapping it forward and letting the wind blow it forcefully back to the other person. We had a goal of getting 20 hits without the ball touching the water. An hour later, in a moment of calm winds, we succeeded.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Anyone need some lemongrass?

We had some shrimp in our freezer that needed to be used, so I looked for a new and interesting shrimp recipe online. I found this recipe for Vietnamese Shrimp and Pork Crepes from Epicurious. After all, with this dish I could use up my old shrimp while only having to purchase a few other ingredients, such as coconut milk, mint, lemongrass, pork, fish sauce, Asian rice flour, and mungbean sprouts. Easy!

So it took 2 hours, 3 mixing bowls, 1 cutting board with a very good knife, a blender, 2 frying pans, and a wok, but on Friday night we enjoyed our first ever taste of Vietnamese cuisine. Or at least, an approximation of Vietnamese. It was quite delicious, actually. I would recommend making this recipe if you want a real food experience. It is not for the faint of heart. I don't think anything featuring fish sauce can be.

Getting ready to put together my crepe. Properly hydrating is very important. 75% of injuries from crepes are caused by inadequate hydration.

With my water levels balanced, I commense crepe making. The first step is to tear off a large piece of lettuce.

Next, carefully place the crepe on the torn lettuce leaf.

Sprinkle some fresh mint onto the crepe. Basil and cilantro can also be used. But don't forgo the mint - I think it is essential to the taste. (Although we didn't use basil or cilantro, so how would I know. But the mint really tasted good. And you can use the leftover mint leaves in lemonade. Looks classy and tastes yummy.)

Wrap the lettuce leaf around everything.

Dip in fish and lime sauce (so good! I promise!) and consume before the lettuce wrap completely falls apart.

By the way. Lemongrass comes in packages of, like, 50 stalks, and I only needed one. So if anyone is in the market...

End of Summer Tournament

Last weekend we had an End of Ultimate Summer League Season Tournament. We played three games to 15, from 10am until 4pm. It was a hat tournament, which means that teams are made on the spot, basically from a random draw (although you can request to be grouped with up to 4 others). Our team ended up being pretty stacked with experienced players, so we went 3-0, and were the tournament champions.

Thanks to Leah, here are some photos from the tournament.

I often clear about 2 inches when I jump to catch the disc.

Abe's ups are obviously more impressive.

Abe in perfect execution of the Flying Ninja.

The league had a burrito, watermelon, and beer party after the game. But I only got 1 piece of watermelon, so on the way home I made Abe stop so we could pick up a watermelon of our own. It was so worth it.

My wounded knee from diving in a dirt patch. I always dive in the exact same spot. This knee is constantly regenerating new skin.

Abe with a similar injury.