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September 2010

Alternate corners of the interverse

A weekly Monday feature, beginning now.  

Here are some core samples I've collected from exploring the depths of the web. They're not linked to anything. I'm (this week, at least) protecting you from wasting even more time looking at pointless web pages...

Etude 

Indian-rope-trick
 
Howard-gnome
 

I gotta go do something. Probably will add a couple more; I think five sounds about right. 


cool season living room

In warm weather, the furniture is spread out and the space is opened up, though usually the fireplace is partially blocked off. Then in autumn, I bring more furniture toward the back of the room, open the fireplace, and make a small sitting area in the front, which is actually the rear for how we use it. At Christmas, some rearranging is done, but I think this season's set-up will lend itself to a smaller and simpler change. None of it's ever done the same way twice. 

The only remotely "expensive" thing in this room is the Sony box stereo I got from Costco about five years ago. Not expensive for a stereo, but everything else in the room was donated, used, bought at deep discount, or in some other way had for nearly nothing, including the TV, for which I paid seven dollars at Costco about 18 months ago. 

Okay, the PS3 was a little pricey. The boys pooled their little "inheritance" from my dad last year to buy it. 

These are grainy photos. I was lazy about the light settings on the camera. 

I'm hoping to buy another shelving unit like the one containing albums, only three rows across. It'll go in the space to the right of the folding screen/doorway. 

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autumnal musings

The change of seasons always brings reflection...time for a woods walk this weekend. Photos will follow.

cracklings underfoot

 gather sage and tarragon

deepen evening's broth

Do you ever think about whether there really is ancestral memory built into your personal genetic makeup? It comes naturally to me to cook in the style of Italians and Italian-Americans, chunks of each, as far as I can tell. Neither one is all one thing, of course, but there's a foundation there, and here, which seems to just be a part of who I am. 


My dad's side of the family has more of a blended heritage, but staunchly Anglo/Germanic. I don't feel food energy from that, though maybe it's why I easily embrace certain other aspects of natural life; for example, soaking up as much sunlight as possible in summer in order to sustain personal energy through long dark nights, closing in and huddling close in winter, embracing the fireside yet experiencing the joy and glory of a big snowfall...stretching wide with relief as the sun rises higher in the sky each day in springtime...


I am exuberantly American. To be American means so many things, but it really means just one thing; indomitable, independent spirit. People forget that or think it's been lost, but I don't agree. We wax and wane at times, and always operate on a kind of pendulum. But this experiment hasn't failed. It's just not easy to take the long view, forward or backward, in the midst of fitful times. We're about to enter that season where everyone, even though we're no longer farmers, takes the best of the growing season, in some form or manner, and shares it with everyone else. It's like we need things to be dark in order to create our own good light. 


Let's sustain it as long as we possibly can.


It's nearly cookie season. :-)


So, where was I...

I meant to do this and the thing I was preparing for the food blog? Two days ago. But I went into WordPress and tried to get it all together and organized and such, and mostly spent three hours descending into a kind of circular madness so that by the time I lifted myself from it I was sheerly exhausted and couldn't even think of nice things to share. 

We had just such a great 4 day weekend visiting South Jersey, staying in a tiny cabin at Bass River State Forest. See how happy I look?

3JC8
 

We visited Atlantic City; you can see photos here,

We also:

Ate at Hard Rock Cafe in Atlantic City and had positively the worst Dunkin Donuts iced coffee ever,

Stumbled onto a neat Annual Open House at the Rutgers University Marine Research Facility

Visited Tuckerton Seaport,

Ate at Applebee's during a storm, and a seafood restaurant patio on a windy afternoon,

Found tasty yogurt at a very nicely appointed Walmart,

Watched waves rush to shore at Little Egg Harbor,

Attempted to fish in a drought-stricken lake,

Grilled fish from the store over a campfire,

Ate delicious clam chowder with iced coffee at Beach Haven on Long Beach Island,

And had a very relaxing and peaceful time for very little financial outlay. 


weekend harvest

(plus a couple stray peppers from a few days before)

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I have nine bell pepper plants but they're not yielding much this year; they need a lot more water. A few weeks ago, when it rained for a couple days, a number of them appeared, but they're not growing to full size. The other types of peppers are yielding fairly well, but turning ripe color before they're full size. Big enough to pick and use, though. 

At this point, there are about a dozen more acorn squash; I've picked about four, half a dozen butternut squash, picked about four others of those as well, certainly more peppers and still a few more tomatoes that will ripen. I didn't plant any fall crops, being highly uncertain of normal rainfall.    


life, the universe, and every little thing...

Reminiscing today. I suppose September 11 will always be like that for most of us in this area. But what I was doing was sorting through the pre-Vox blogs pages, and came up with a list of old ones to share. Two of them are long, I think the rest are short. I think you'll get a kick out of them. There are bits of New York in a few of them. Until moving to this side of the state three years ago, New York was a comfortable part of my state of mind for seven years. I truly miss it. The train ride isn't any longer, yet it is much farther away in the mindset here.

First this, from September 11, 2006, part of a conversation I was having with a friend:

We were talking about how we still feel funny when planes fly close overhead. For weeks after the attack, we had surveillance aircraft overhead every hour, day and night, sometimes many of them. The skyline north of Sandy Hook and to the east was brown for weeks, New York smelled bad for months. Every time we got on a train, we wondered if those were next. Sometimes we were told they could be.

I'd cross the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge and look down the river to the bay, across which you can see the bridge to Staten Island. And beyond that the buildings of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the air towers at JFK and LaGuardia. Since moving to New Jersey, it had always been exciting to look over and see those tall landmarks on the horizon. So after this happened, I'd look over, to see the brown air where the buildings used to be. And it was startling when I realized that it wasn't brown anymore, sometime in the winter. But for well over a year, it still just felt like there was a hole in the landscape. And after that, I'd realize now and then I was beginning to get used to the changed shape of it, that the Empire State Building was the landmark, that Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia, and it made me mad, so I'd force my eyes to put the shape of the towers back in.

Now some silly posts. I can't guarantee the internal links will all work; most of them will. And I chose mostly ones that didn't have photos, because few of those early ones were saved at Vox, and I never added them back in. 

July 8, 2003 I was a young 38...

September 11, 2003 (longish) the day in history

June 20, 2004 mid-century modern, she cried

October 7, 2004 remember ribbon magnets?

July, 2005 (like, all of July? but I realize I'm not that compelling, so just referring you to the first entry, unless you want to see my bare waist at 40, farther down the page. It's 7/27. You might like the 7/22 entry, as well.)

August 30 2005 is the second entry on this page. And it mightwill seem sort of deranged. But I'd enjoy sharing it, just the same.

January 13, 2006 a holodeck moment

January 15, 2006 Too bad the photo of Paul Lynde is missing

April 23, 2006

August 19, 2006 a longish post: a short bit of fiction



5 (7) Things People Say in TV Forums/Recap Threads That I *Loathe*

Sometimes discussing a TV show with other fans can be very enjoyable, thought-provoking, and even enlightening. But in the midst of those discussions, there are always a few irritating sentiments you can count on seeing. 

  • ...am I the only one who thinks...? 

NO. And every snowflake is not unique, either. At least 1 in 40,000 is a copy. (
I sort of made that up. Call it a metaphor.) On internet forums, that number is at least 1 in 4. Neither your insular view nor your passive-aggressiveness is a good look for you.


  • ...They're turning it into/I hope this doesn't turn into another...
  • ...MOONLIGHTING


GODDANGIT put that reference away, at least until you've studied what actually happened during the production of that show and have taken note of the fact that it was OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO. And then Move On.


Plus, a lot of it was pretty good until Cybill's twins, Die Hard, and the Writer's Guild strike got in the way all at the exact same time.



  • ...ooh, icky, my favorite character kissed someone. Now it's a yuckypoo soap opera
  • ...and if they keep doing this to me I'LL NEVER WATCH THIS SHOW AGAIN!!


WHAT ARE YOU, FOUR YEARS OLD? WERE YOU RAISED BY CARRIE'S MOM?  517045040_e77692e936_o
 They're not actually dirty pillows. 


The show is about adults. Written by adults. Intended to be seen by adults. Wanting to kiss someone and other yucky (really not yucky) junk is what adults do. Good lord, even iCarly and Sam *both* kissed Freddy. OMG!! People like kissing. And when they're a little older than Carly and Sam and Freddy, they start doing a whole lot more than kissing. (yeah, I know about teenagers, not part of this discussion, though.)


Sometimes you kiss the wrong person, but right in that moment, it feels oh, so good. It's rarely the end of the world; in fact—unless Douglas Adams was right about a few things (DON'T PANIC)—it's never been the end of the world. Sometimes it distracts you from other seemingly more important matters at hand. But if that never happened, it'd be weird. (Seriously, if you're, you know, a bit sheltered? Wash your face, brush your teeth, go out and get some kissing. It's good for you.)


Showing people waltzing or tripping or drinking toward relationships is part of most TV shows, whether or not you thought it should always be this one exact story about one exact character told one exact way. 


Which brings me to


  • ...why aren't they listening to us, the fans?
  • ...see, they're just catering to the [x] fans!


I remember the 1970s, do you? I remember, in particular, Tuesday and Saturday night sitcoms, and Monday and Friday night dramas. And aw, the ABC Sunday night movie. (No, I don't remember Wednesday and Thursday. I was probably holed up in my room reading Trixie Belden books. (Brian then, Jim now.) Holy nightmare, Batman. ) We've been flirting with a new golden era of TV since about 2005, just like the one in the mid-70s, but it's not as good as that one. Don't get me wrong, they still hurled a lot of crap at us in the midst of the good stuff; there was The Carol Burnett Show but also Shields & Yarnell. We had M*A*S*H, but also The Bad News Bears. Mostly, though, there was quality stuff on those four networks every night of the week. And you know what there wasn't? Web forums. Or email. Or even free long distance. You didn't think you even had a say in every single moment of Steve Austin's life just because you were a "loyal fan." That's what the dolls were for. 


There were also, children, no tacky diseuphonious (I probably mean cacophonous) portmanteaux for rabid "shippers" to proclaim as part of their core identity, living for the glorious moment when their one true pairing realized they were meant for each other, or to use as an insult by those who were certain that particular pairing would bring down the civilization of man


There wasn't even Moonlighting yet. And somehow, we all survived.


I can't decide how to end this, so here. Civilization even survived this guy. 




Stuff I've learned over the three-day weekend:

…Thomas Dolby has a pink bathroom with a wooden toilet lid and his cat sits on it

…Now and then I say something I think is perfectly rendered and funny or cool or both, and no one cares.

I've loved James Garner since I could tell the difference between men & women. He's probably the reason I figured it out. 

Okay, okay, I already knew no one cares. But had to try again. You understand. 

Oh, wowowow. Boys' Night Out is on TV at 2. Jim Garner. I have to make sure the living room is in perfect order and that my hair is nicely brushed so I can sit down to watch it. 

[Much much later] Okay, I did that, and was only interrupted about 6 times. That movie is stellar. I hope you know I don't mean, like, worthy of some sort of award or anything, other than the award of my heart. It's just a really cool movie. While I watched the movie I broke out a special occasion Dr Pepper, and ate some Havarti and green olives. 

Back to Stuff I've Learned

…Sometimes, for a smart person, I am stupid. 390 years ago today, the Pilgrims left Plymouth, England via the Mayflower to sail for America. As you know, the rock near where they landed was designated Plymouth Rock. You can see a facsimile of it if you go there. I did, when I was 13. 

Yes, knowing these two facts regarding the name Plymouth, I never made the connection between them until just now

…There was a "lost" Agatha Christie story published in the Daily Mail last year. I'm not sure how I feel about it. 

…At least half the cool household ideas on this list? I did not know before. As a mother of many, I have certainly found a number of "off-label" uses for ziploc bags and other items mentioned, but yet others had not occurred to me. The rubber band suggestions are interesting, but I'm not sure when I last saw one of those.

…If I type option+colon key, I get an ellipse that counts as only one character on Twitter. So I've been using that in front of a reply I want "everyone" to see. And if I accidentally press the apple key instead of the option key in this window here? Those annoying red spelling squiggles show up on non-standard words the browser doesn't have in its dictionary. I did that just now, and there was a red squiggly line under wowowow up there. 

…It seems, however, that I am no longer always a perfect speller. I feel chagrin. 

That pretty much covers it. I hope you feel enlightened and gratified by this sharing of knowledge. 

Here's a picture, in case you don't. I blurred stuff so the man would be most sharp. You can click to see it larger. 

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The Great Christie Read 2010 conclusion

I decided to read At Bertram's Hotel (1965) before A Caribbean Mystery (1964,) so I could read the latter in conjunction with Nemesis (1971.) Nemesis is a sort of follow-up story to A Caribbean Mystery, though in no way a sequel. 

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While reading Nemesis, the penultimate Miss Marple story, it struck me more than ever that this should have been her last. The actual final story, Sleeping Murder (1976; it was being prepared for publication when Christie died,) is excellent. But it (along with Hercule Poirot's final story, Curtain,) was written over 30 years before it was published, when Agatha Christie was younger, and the world was not very sure of where it was headed. That made a great difference in the main character's role in the story. 

I love how, in Nemesis, Miss Marple is wistful about the changes she'd encountered during what was to be her final stay at Bertram's Hotel, as she heads toward her more reasonably-priced abode for the night. And I love how the end of that story puts a lovely period on her career, setting her up beautifully for however many remaining days she has left to enjoy. 

Sleeping Murder is a great story. Miss Marple provides a role I think Christie believed would make sense when she wrote it; that of elder counselor. But what's fantastic about Nemesis (though I do not say it is a better book,) is that Miss Marple is the most active she ever got to be, throughout all her stories. I'm always really excited for her as she goes along, not as sure of what's going to happen next as she always was back in St. Mary Mead. And in the end, a real triumph and reward. 

Similarly, I sometimes wonder if Elephants Can Remember, Hercule Poirot's penultimate case, might have made a better final case. I understand why Christie wrote Curtain as she did. Thirty years earlier, she was wondering what could cause Poirot to act out of character in a way that would be shocking but positive. But by the time it was published, shortly before her death, the world had undergone such material change, it might have stood more satisfactorily if Poirot himself had remained unchanged. 

Curtain (1975) isn't as good as Sleeping Murder. It's not necessarily as good as Elephants Can Remember, depending on how you like your murder mysteries. It's not bad, though. When it came out, my mother was very much upset by the ending, insisting Poirot, the Poirot she knew, could never behave in such a manner. For me, the first read as a teenager in the 80s was shocking. Reading it again last week, I had to be more philosophical about it. People can, and do, change in these ways. They can be driven to commit acts no one would think them capable of. Who knew that better than Agatha Christie? Still, throughout Elephants Can Remember, written much later, you get a sense that the entire thing is a metaphor for our nostalgia toward her books, perhaps even a bit of her own, though she was tired of writing them by then. That's illustrated by Ariadne Oliver's role in solving the mystery, and the fact that it, like the initial murders in Sleeping Murder and Postern of Fate, took place many years in the past. 

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Postern of Fate (1974,) the final Tommy and Tuppence book, has a poor reputation. I think that's not quite deserved. It's not a great book. But it's a neat Tommy and Tuppence story. The worst thing about it to me is that they, like Miss Marple and Monsieur Poirot, are not as old as they would have to be after so much passage of time. But in their case, we know how much real time has passed, rather than just sensing the vague eras the others pass through, so it's harder to reconcile. However, it does a beautiful job of portraying nostalgia, bringing the Beresfords back to the time period in which they first met, and tying it all together with Tuppence's (and Christie's) love of old childhood books. Ultimately, I find it a satisfactory conclusion to their story, more so as I grow older myself. 

Now, on to Nero Wolfe. But that's another country, another sensibility, another post. 


esoterica/blather

You, catching up with me. 


(A note for anyone reading who isn't a Vox member. I encourage you to sign up, even though you're tired of signing up for stuff. You don't have to write a blog, but the space is terribly useful as a personal media cloud; you can upload photos, audio, video, etc., or add them from YouTube or Flickr, and share them very easily in other places. And it can be as private or public as you like, in total, or with individual pages/files. Also, you can keep up with my blather and comment on it here. :-) )

I wanted to write so much yesterday but ended up scouring my kitchen after finding moths in the pantry. Then I was so exhausted. This morning I caught up on the neighborhood and deleted a few of those bizarre spam comments I got on Monday; I figure I'll get to many of them over time, but some were added to old posts I might not get back to, at least for a long time. At least no more of them can get through.

It's funny, on the way to mid-90s again today and tomorrow before a bit of Earl air is to cool things off, yet there is still a sense of summer's impending end in the air. Today is the first day of September but I feel I didn't quite capture the essence of August this year as I usually do. And I've been thinking about how both my parents died at summer's end; Dad on August 28, 2009, Mom on September 3, 1989. I'm old enough that this should not affect how I perceive seasonal changes, yet it's difficult to not take some personal meaning from that. 

As some of you know, at this point in my life, winter temperatures bring on physical pain and breathing difficulties for me. Last year, the heavy snow was a strange reprieve; somehow I could breathe better in it, and I think it actually insulated the house. But the rest of the time, I struggled to move around for weeks, worn out from aching and the effort of inhalation. I tried a daily medicine for this the year before, but it made my heart race. 

So I don't look forward to autumn because I can't look forward to winter and the long, long grey slide toward spring. I always mean to embrace it each year; that hibernation/rest period needed in our part of the world by everything that grows. I make a few plans but mostly attempt to relax and reflect my way through the short grey days and dark evenings, with fires and hot drinks and games with the family. However, though I am partially successful at that, I still feel barely mobile for weeks. I gained back the 15 pounds I lost in 2008, and struggled all this strangely hot summer to create the energy to battle it off again. Right now I'm about 12 pounds over my personal best middle-aged weight. If autumn is mild, I can hopefully will away another 5, so that winter doesn't dawn as heavily as did spring. 

Anyway. Enough of that. I'm going to write about the culmination of the Great Christie Read in another post, then want to tell you how excited I am to be reading through Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series again. 

On the anniversary of my dad's death, we went fishing. We didn't catch anything, but it was a very good way to relax and not think big Thoughts about grave Things. I controlled the XM remote in the car, and we listened to all the sorts of music Dad liked best. So that was nice. Then later that evening, I bought paint and supplies for the living room. Dad was a painting contractor most of his life, and many of my memories of him have to do with painting, or mixing paint, etc. So on Sunday, I cleared everyone out and painted the living room. I listened to my iPod through the stereo speakers, mostly all lounge music, my style as well as his, and I taped and rolled my way through the day just as he might have. By mid-evening I was finished, arranged the furniture, rehung the pictures, and kicked back to Mad Men with a large martini. 

On Monday, I was barely mobile all day, and still felt stiff and sore yesterday, but of course it was worth it. 

Yesterday we found moths in the pantry, which is in a little hallway extension of the kitchen, across from the washer and dryer. So I emptied that out and washed it, threw away many things, and then ended up rearranging some of the kitchen as well. I hung Wet Jazz on a wall in here, and so the room feels freshened up and somehow cleaner. Now if only I could do the same thing to my library. I got quite a bit of that in order a couple of weeks ago, but have never been able to replace my broken bookshelves, so there are stacks of books waiting for a new home. 

August is my time of home renewal. I do this in March or April as well, setting things in order for a new season. But August is special. 

My chest hurts right now. Adult on-set asthma is different than what kids have, it seems. The airways are not completely closed off, they just narrow and create this pressure, making the center of my ribcage hurt and making it hard to breathe deeply in or out. This creates a certain amount of fatigue, and the effort of breathing also makes me ache in my shoulders and back. Then at some point there's some coughing and resulting phlegm. But I've gotten used to this, slowly, over the past eight years since it began. It's just that it can't be willed away. I can work through arthritis pain, and muscle pain, but at some point, this other effort can't be battled through. I hate for my kids to see me so tired and inactive. It's triggered by mold, cat urine, cold, and there must be something more; I've actually always had other kinds of mold sensitivities even before big exposure to it that caused the asthma symptoms to appear, but something else related to all this is bothering me today; maybe another form of ammonia than what the cat offers, I don't know.

I'm marinating a piece of beef (pro-spelling tip: you marinate with marinade,) thinking about offering a dessert later, undecided. The garden is currently yielding various peppers, a few tomatoes are still ripening since they were given a drought reprieve last week, and the acorn and butternut squashes are happily nestled in their vines waiting to be turned into delicious things to eat. And there are still leeks to pull. I was going to plant green beans and lettuces for fall harvest, but I'm inclined not to at this point; next year I'll be better prepared for how it works there, and know just how to begin. 

I have tons of stuff in my head to write; I thought I'd write a story about Jack's childhood, for one thing. I want to write about the rather profound difference in my parents' deaths. I want to write in my cooking blog about soup, and I want to share more old recipe photos. Back here, some wonderful things I discovered while reading the final five Agatha Christie books. And the real joy I take in reading about that old brownstone on W. 35th Street. I feel really tired, but maybe if I pace myself I can get to lots of it. You feed energy by using energy, after all. It's how the universe was created and continues to grow.