Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Painting and ongoing efforts

I am really happy with these two little paintings I finished last night. They are hanging in my bathroom over a set of big holes. The dingy walls in my (rented, old) house have so many gashes, and without repainting, spackling can only do so much.

The other project has been cleaning up the back yard; Tyler helped me weed (for 5 hours) and put down weed cover, and Aaron eventually hauled away the wood pile that appeared out of nowhere. Now we need mulch and a few plants, and the backyard will no longer be a rat haven or source of shame/disgust. Expect invitations to events on the backporch.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's only time

Today is my parents' 30th wedding anniversary. In addition obviously to being grateful that I'm around, I'd like to thank them for letting me know it is possible to make something good work for so long. Good job, E&E.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Strained and sprained

Today hasn't been a very good day, and the rain isn't helping. Also, I think I sprained my thumb (it is sore and puffy), but the only cause I can think of is pie-related...which is just ridiculous.

Sort of related: Sonia once left this on my voicemail.

Famous people

  1. On Friday I discovered the Etsy site for Alison Kelly, someone who got an untimely boot on the third season of Project Runway (I yelled at the TV). As of posting, there are a few necklaces left, and I'm not so impressed (a dagger dragonfly necklace? wha?)..
  2. I just got an invitation to the reception on Friday for French prime minister Fran├žois Fillon. I like my events to be alliterative. There will be macaroons. I might even wear heels.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Maybe in Slidell I'll find my joy

Since getting back from vacation in Louisiana I haven't really felt like blogging. I haven't been getting enough sleep for about a month, which, combined with being post-vacances leaves me dragging. Also I want to do a smart writeup on the Angola prison rodeo, the associated craft fair, and other stuff I did and saw, but I am still only -processing- everything associated with the rodeo. (And am reading a book about it.)

A list is what I can muster. Things I did/saw/bought or otherwise consumed (in vague chronological order):
  1. absinthe
  2. aforementioned rodeo
  3. inmate-made yo-yo with a turtle on it
  4. spicy sausage
  5. Avery Island
  6. multiple kinds of Tabasco
  7. victorious game of Scrabble in Breaux Bridge
  8. lots of alligators (including some that found their way into my arms)
  9. multiple towns mentioned by Lucinda Williams
  10. what is left of the 9th ward

Friday, April 18, 2008

Popemobile, picnics, Styx, book club, NOLA

I want to talk about a few things today and don't feel particularly focused.

1. First, the Pope's outta town, which I comment on only because I don't have an excuse to insert the word "popemobile" into sentences any more. I liked this one from the NYT coverage of yesterday's Mass:
At the new Nationals Stadium, with a gorgeous view of the Capitol and Potomac, the outdoor mass combined the spiritual with the spectacular: Some 46,000 people waved Vatican flags and shed tears when Pope Benedict arrived in his transparent popemobile, in a ball-field setting complete with sausage and $20 souvenir pope hats.
(I'm pretty sure the story has an error though: doesn't the new stadium look out on the Anacostia, not the Potomac?)

2. I just had a picnic on a grassy knoll with coworkers, which means I just had a dejeuner sur l'herbe. It's beautiful outside, and I made a dandelion chain necklace for the first time in about 12? years. Oh, to be 10.

3. I like this review of Jason Segel's new movie because it references one of my favorite Freaks and Geeks moments.

4. I finished the new Jhumpa Lahiri book, Unaccustomed Earth, last night. While I can't help but feel that she keeps writing about the same thing (and there's so much cheating!), I thoroughly enjoy reading her stories. It all feels wonderfully alive, and I was sad to be done (the ending itself's also just sad). I could get all English major here, but I don't have the book with me to cite properly, so I'll leave it brief: read it. The book I finished right before it was similarly vibrant, and author Kiran Desai has a knack for finding perfect, inventive adjectives. I am going to keep with the general author theme and read The God of Small Things next.

5. I will not be blogging next Monday and Tuesday because I will be in Louisiana doing stuff like this. It's going to be great.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pearly whites, sparkling clean

I have a weird fascination with this kind of crap (see NYTimes) when I go into the Container Store, basically just because that place always makes me (and I think plenty others) believe I can superimpose some sort of order on the clutter of my life. And then I realize that I'm happy with the mess (not to be confused with dirty/unsanitary conditions, especially in the kitchen). Wonder how many times the 12-year-old me tried to explain to my mother The Secret Order of Disorder.

Also, I realized that NYT toothbrush article is three pages, which is the same amount of space that they devoted to Julia Allison. Why doesn't the toothbrush holder get a video too?? They seem to be equally compelling topics.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Start wearing purple

I'm a sucker for stories about old, especially very old people; maybe it's because 3/4 of my grandparents didn't live to see me turn 13. At any rate it seems that by the time you get to be, oh, 80, 90, or 100, everything that should be softened or sharpened in you gets better.

I especially like hearing stories about old people while they are still alive, and this particular one in the NYT gave me hope. It's funny to imagine, for example, Ms. Smith reading something like The Age of Innocence decades before I ever did...and having lived through that era. Plus, if I live to see an entire century (or even a mere 94 years), I wanna be the kind of lady who takes the subway and teaches classes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nonsense in extensia

No real blog posts today because I am battling The Man. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Again, the cruelest month

If only April heralded simply the arrival of nice weather and reemergence of flora and fauna. Unfortunately, it is, of course, synonymous with taxes. My case is especially shitty because the embassy doesn't take out taxes all year long; rather, it is up to me to squirrel away funds for the deadline. I owe literally thousands of dollars. It hurts. As does the thought/knowledge that my DC tax dollars are going to going to be sorely abused.

While my money vanishes, buds, birds, and bees aren't the only things reappearing. Kickball season has started up again!!! Aaagh. I saw them last Thursday; the field is just around the corner from my house. Last year, the brahs played until mid-November, and it makes me grumpy that they monopolize the field for so long. I have enjoyed many an organized sport in my day, but I'm not into WAKA et al for multiple reasons..Washington D.C.--where you can have a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over pants and a legal defense fund for kickball!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The old bray of my heart

I was going to make a post about random stuff around the city and the Pope's imminent visit, but I just don't have it in me. At the risk of sounding like I'm writing in a Livejournal, I'm feeling pretty excruciatingly awful today. Someone did send me this link, though, which calls to mind the saying about being the "better half."

Will be back next week in better form.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What I am reading at work

It's time for the second installment. Given that the weather's great, I just spent half an hour or so reading Science and The Economist on the embassy patio.

What am I reading about today? Fossilized poo and hermaphrodite frogs. Just take a look at title of The Economist article about the former, or "coprolites, as fossil faeces are termed by polite scientists."

Science is weird! There were plenty of other articles, of course, but the most scientific language makes me go cross-eyed.

Heroines and horses

Last night, in talking to a coworker, Estelle, who likes horses, I remembered a Disney film, Wild Hearts Can't be Broken, that I watched repeatedly when I was 8 or 9 or 10 and in a horse phase. Did any of you see it? The main character, Sonora, was a badass. Then, doing some research today, I realized it was based on a true story and one very real Sonora Webster Carver.

According to her 2003 NYT obituary, "In 1924, she made history when she plummeted 40 feet on horseback into a tank of water." That's what the movie is all about, but holy crap! It takes on a whole new dimension when it's not just the stuff of Disney imagination. Then, despite the jumping making her go blind, she KEPT doing it for years.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

NP + DB ?

Are Natalie Portman and Devendra Banhart dating?

He's someone like Kevin Barnes whom I might think was gay...but then..no. (This is an excerpt I found using my Google stalking skills: "To this day Banhart, when he shaves, gets mistaken for a girl due to the name, falsetto singing voice, and slight build no doubt. 'Not being gay, it gave me this weird comfort confidence I can’t explain,' he says.")

Jezebel
Pitchfork

My ongoing campaign to prove that chronic fatigue isn't BS

Not so long ago, I became convinced that chronic fatigue syndrome was real. I thought/still kind of think I have it. (Hello: my nicknames are basically all variations on "Lump.") I generally feel like I'm half asleep, and I've have napped or almost napped at more than one social gathering. I've tried convincing my mom, an RN, but she thinks it's crock. Basically, she says anyone she has seen who claims to have it has also been suffering from depression, etc.; she thinks of it more as a symptom. She even tested me for anemia and mono (both negative).

Given that my mom's an unusually caring person, being rebuffed about this made me wonder if maybe I was wrong/crazy. I may be sleepy, but I'm also stubborn...so my campaign continues.

Cutting to the chase, I bring all of this up because of an article+study that Jezebel linked to. Apparently, to feel better, I just need more testosterone. Ha!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pittsburgh = Shitsburgh?

As a native of eastern PA, I have always talked smack about Pittsburgh. They say "yinz" and stuff. I mentally group it in with Baltimore as being the kind of city where I'm sure there's cool, artsy stuff going on that I'm not really privy to--and where I end up just seeing the bad end. (Sorry, Spencer. My feelings about Baltimore have yet to be discussed on this blog, but I think most of you have heard about my B'more car theft story.)

Anyway, KW, NR, and I took a trip west this weekend, to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (in rural PA) and the Andy Warhol Museum (P-burgh). And it was fun! As I had remembered from my only previous trip there, the city's pretty moche, but it does have cool architecture and bridges.


Highlights:
1. "Silver clouds" room at museum (shown)
2. Um, all of Fallingwater's great/not getting lost en route
3. Lower level of museum (workshop + photobooth)
4. Free cone in Cumberland, MD

Low point:
1. Almost crossing into Ohio
2. Warhol's taxidermied dog

Friday, April 4, 2008

Obama's sweetie

So Obama toured a textile factory in Allentown, Pa., which is essentially my hometown. (My postal address is Emmaus, but that's only because the post office for my actual neighborhood is literally one very tiny room. I digress about rural Pennsylvania.) Anyway, surprise, he charmed all the ladies working there. Apparently he called someone "sweetie," which to some rings condescending.

As someone who still recounts how two years ago Patrick Ewing, Jr. called me "sweetheart," I think it all depends on the person and the context. In that instance, PEJ was giving me a hand with a book in the library. If I were, say, a secretary on the set of Mad Men, and my boss called me sweetie, it would only hammer in how much I was treated like a piece meat. When I was 10 or 11 and my grandma called me a "little girl," I hated that. Stuff like "little lady" bugs me, but I kind of like it when a significant other calls me "babe." And Obama always at least seems respectful, to me.

Honestly, I think it's mostly when nonfamous strangers call me "hun" or the likes that I really stop to analyze it. It generally doesn't offend me, but it robs terms of endearment of their meaning. Cuz 9 times out of 10, I'm not your honey.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Food feed to feed Food

Apropos to two NYT articles that directly or indirectly discuss food...I am hungry for lunch.

From the one about willpower that reminded me how weakly I guard my money when confronted with pretty things:

In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or those who were excused from eating radishes.
The person who thinks it's truly pioneering that RADISHES are less satisfying and motivating than chocolate chip cookies should monitor the cookie jar in my kitchen. (I'd like to think I am permanently excused from eating radishes.)

As for the microwaving article that Siobhan sent me--what NYT writer microwaves his fork? "Metal fork tines are especially likely to spark," writes Harold McGee. "I learned that when I melted chocolate and left a fork in the glass bowl. The whole batch tasted burned." The article, overall, doesn't add much to what's on Wikpedia. As for his favorite zapping techniques....mmm, "non-erupting polenta."

(The name for this post is from here, btw.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nickeled and Dimed

I got a ride home from work last night, and we stopped at a grocery store to use a Coinstar machine. My friend is moving out of the country, so he needed to get rid of a year's worth of coins. I'd never used one of these machines before, but I knew there'd be a fee. The machine charged 8 9/10 cents for every dollar they counted. Oh well.

The weird thing was that the machine refused most of his nickels. Maybe it was because the weight or size was off, but what gives? It turned down at least $5 in nickels. The machine kept spitting them out at us, which admittedly was fun the first few times because it felt like we were getting money, slot style. (In the end I did make a very marginal profit, because he got fed up and gave me the envelope full of reject nickels.)

Also...since my friend and I had bet on how much money was in each envelope, and I had lost, the experience reminded me that I'm grossly inept at judging quantities. I can never tell you how many people were at an event, for example, and I always lost at those dumb "guess how many jelly beans" contests. My aversion to math is a definite corollary.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fish Day

Today a co-worker reminded me that April Fool's Day in France is a day for "poissons d'avril." According to him, when you're little, you spend all of April 1 sitting at your desk drawing and coloring fish, cutting them out, and sticking them to people's backs to make them look silly. Teachers pretend to not notice the poissons surreptitiously (or not) attached to their backs. Given that I am an inherently bad liar and thus nulle in pulling pranks, I like this version a lot better.

Co-worker also claims every paper puts a "poisson" in its 4/1 edition. Sometimes they're obvious or are labeled as fish, sometimes not.

Up where the air is clear

In my tizzy over those virgin/whore articles yesterday, I forgot to mention that I--along with a zillion other people--went to the Kite Festival on the Mall on Saturday. Mary Poppins puns abound! (Check out the tophatted men in the end of this clip).

For the past four years or so I have meant to go, and I'm glad I finally did. The crowds were something awful, of course, but whatever--you gotta make like the little kids and run with it.

(Photo is my own.)