death, nature, poetry, psychology, technology

desktop flight

pictures in/on:
a piano in the woods
the milky way with a silhouette skirt of treeline
a blue satin ribbon holding the skull
of a ruby-throated hummingbird
a lone honeybee painted on a swatch
of Victorian floral wallpaper
vermilion, gold, periwinkle and jet

collected/honored:
two orange and black tail feathers from a Northern Flicker
in a two-inch terracotta pot
three blue and green peacock feathers
in a wooden vase
snowflake obsidian and hematite
a small, coiled shell worn away to iridescent nacre
a pressed, beige, star-shaped flower
a grey stone with white spots shaped like a heart
a turtle carved in amber
a lichen branch
a tuft of dried seaweed

carved/painted/created:
A miniature mahogany Buddha on a mirrored pedestal
a black pebble with a silver-winged dragonfly
signed, HANK on the bottom
gifted in apology for panhandling a dollar

read/related:
a story about a crime lab for animals
legal and illegal global trade in wildlife
they are searching for evidence that will link human suspects
to animal victims
see: corporate farming, your dinner
“I’ve never drawn a chalk line around a butterfly,” he jokes
their paper wings ignite on headlamps
and metal filters
as we fly wingless,
day or night.

 

family, friends, home, nature, poetry, technology, weather

go outside and listen

“I’m sad,” I tell her, looking for analog
in a world of constant digital connection.
“I know,” she said, “you used to write
great letters, too, and you know a lot of people,
but you just need your roots.”

“Go outside and listen,” my mother advises.

Outside, I see all the life looking for hands,
all the living things that need me back,
and I understand what they want
flowers for vases, tomato vines withering
but weighted with so much pendulous red.
It’s all thirsty, even the sunflowers nod and
hang their heads.

The fires are burning still, more now every day
acres of smoke closer still than farther away.

It’s hard to see, so I listen.

Windchimes in a dusty breeze, paper crisp rose edges
and black spotted leaves. A dog barks, children scream
playing near dark, screeching brakes, and the Jade District
festival thick with voices and music, pounding echoes,
firework sparks.

War drums sound, apocalypse theater,
Taiko, large and loud. I reach for shears,
and go to ground.

I pull the small dandelion fluff of lettuce tops
into a silver kitchen bowl, swirl until the seeds release
the temple drums continue, the clouds go grey
the rusty gate opening screech call of a Scrub Jay
pecking black seeds from under the yellow bonnet,
the neighborhood, haunted.

The early dusk, a yellow-green cyclone sky,
wildfires make for softbox sunsets in the summertime,
the dried up lake beds reveal ancient forests,
the grass has all died, save for the clover.
We may need them when this is all over.

“Go outside and listen,” she said.
I don’t see any people,
but I hear them all.

friends, love, photography, poetry, technology

we used to write love letters | Visitant

… our phones used to be bells
our photos used to be paper
our paper used to have words
and we used to spin each other
the way our music moved
in dark and dazzling circular grooves
only a needle could interpret.
we used to mend our clothes with needles.
and we used to pick up the phone
and the pen to mend ourselves
and our friends.

we used to take our time,
try to know each other better.

we used to write love letters.

READ the full poem at the Source: we used to write love letters | Visitant

family, food, friends, health, holidays, humor, love, marriage, pets, politics, relationships, technology, travel, tv, weather, work & employment

Seasonal Love & Minor Miseries

So let me just jump right in here and catch you up on the post-Holiday bliss . . . .

December was a CRAZY month. A car accident followed by a week-long visit from my sister & brother-in-law that involved beer tastings, strippers, lost IDs, credit cards, medication, a “Getting To Know You” session with the TSA, a flurry of found & lost employment, a crippling snow storm and a major abdominal surgery . . .

Not much of a Christmas & New Year’s, but – what can you do? Life intervenes sometimes and puts the smack down on all your sparkly plans.

So yeah, from car to job and health matters – it’s been buckets of suck lately, but thank goodness i have my Joe, for better or worse and all.

The Bunny Goes Bang . . .

Joe and i were in a car accident early in December (my poor VW Rabbit). We were simply dropping off a friend so she could avoid taking the bus. Luckily, it was a slo-mo, non-jarring crash that no one was hurt in. In short, some jackoff signaled to go right, then changed his mind and veered into us, even though his lane had ended. This sent us banging into the large SUV to our left, effectively smashing my left quarter panel, taking out the left headlight cluster and ripping my bumper off in one arc over my hood and into the street behind us.

i was all in my Zen-state, post-yoga and coolly remarked from the passenger seat, “well, there goes the bumper,” as it sailed overhead. I was not pleased to discover the no-fault law here in Oregon. The police didn’t even take a report?!?! But we did have two witnesses who volunteered information without even being asked, so it was clearly NOT our fault. i rode home with the bumper in the backseat curled up on the ends like a big, red-lipped smile while the broken eye of the headlamp cluster sat dark and blinded in the trunk.

Surprisingly, all told, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Even though it was several days before my sister & brother-in-law was scheduled to visit us from Indianapolis and i thought, “great, now what?” The body shop took us VERY early the next morning and gave us a free loaner car, a pimp-ass white ’00 Ford Taurus with the body shop name emblazoned on the doors. The smell of faux strawberry walloped you in the face when you got in, which was better than say, cigarette smoke, though the history of burn marks dotted the seats exposing the fleshy, pale foam below. Then i discovered the source of the scent.

There was a Little Trees air freshener hanging from the steering wheel. This reminded me of an old friend Dave, who became a police officer and used a special sort of profiling. He noticed that a high proportion of criminals in an effort to mask the smell of open intoxicants and / or drugs have an awful lot of the Little Trees air fresheners hanging from air vents and from their rearview mirrors. He referred to these collections as a “felony forest” and a sure sign of unlawful nonsense being perpetrated. So, in all of its red and white, cloyingly fruit-scented glory, i thereby dubbed the pimp car “Strawberry Shortcake Mobile.”

We had the estimate the next day – $5,081.00 worth of damage (we merely paid the $200 deductible). All of this was completed within a week and my car looked factory show room new. Plus – anyone getting $2,000 worth of work done qualifies for their “Detail For Life” plan, which entitles me to come in four times a year and they will clean the inside and polish up the outside of the car for FREE. Even if i sell the car, for the life of the car. The body work also took care of all minor road, gravel, dings scrapes and insults on the first half of the car since i owned it, so THAT was great too!

Jobless but not Hopeless . . .

Joe is happy & successful with his job at PSU and thank goodness he has a good salary and has made good friends & contacts with his workmates. My job search, not so much. Not since October. i started one, then had my driver’s window smashed & my car broken into while working. i could see someone else nearby had the ol’ window trick pulled on them as well. It was next to a dimly lit playground, plenty of places for crazies to crouch. No way i was hanging out there. i drove home sitting on a grocery bag that nite and had the police come to my house to take the report.

To work there, i was spending more money on transportation and parking (unsafely) than i was making and was generally miserable serving happy hour food to VIPs (Visibly Intoxicated Pricks), hotel and rich asshole marina guests. Nice enough people to work for & with, but i am accustomed to a much faster pace and different atmosphere. i quit that job.

i was also interviewed by a winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Erath) one of the oldest in Oregon wine country, until Cigarette giant Altria Group, which owns Marlboro, announced an agreement on Sept. 8 to buy smokeless tobacco firm UST for $10.4 billion. As part of the deal, Altria acquired UST’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. In all that, the position fell through or more or less, evaporated when they began reorganizing.

i also interviewed with a woman who was opening a new wine shop. i suspect her bank backing bottomed out or perhaps she chose someone else, either way – i haven’t heard from her again. i worked one day at another wine shop. a week later, he reneged his offer and sent me a check for my time. no loss, i’m afraid i was a bad fit and didn’t make the cheerleading cuts anyway.

i’m sure everyone’s been saturating themselves in the depressing news about the shitty US economy, banks, mortgage crisis, unemployment rates & the systems supporting it crashing & drained. All bad news about how it affects things both locally and globally and i am here to tell you, it’s no bullshit. Being in the service industry, i am also keenly aware that dining out is one of the first things to be culled, the first belt hole to cinch up from the family budget, making my employment search options even more grim.

Then i read this article: Portland’s restaurant scene in trouble. And thought – well hell . . . no wonder i can’t find fuck-all for work! so, i may want to reconsider my line of inquiry and use some of my other “job skills.” this of course being freelance photography or administrative desk slave. i may just start writing that novel i’ve been threatening for years. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Hope & Change guy has in mind and more, what he puts into action.

Briefly, the beer & the boobs . . .

my sister’s visit was mostly, fun. and there are stories i could tell which were hinted at in the opening paragraph, but i will protect the innocent and spare my sister and her husband the embarrassment of me airing a couple kooky escapades that ended in ill consequences . . .

It was during the week of my sister’s visit that i had the surgery consult after an ultrasound revealed several 2mm stones in that useless little bile storing organ, so it slowed things down considerably for us, in a city known for, in addition to its natural beauty, quirky places and fresh local food, its prevalence of brew pubs and strip clubs.

Now – before i get into this last bit, make no mistake, we are eating, and living and loving and surviving just fine. Oregon is wonderful; Portland was not a bad move and my Joe and i are as  happy & close as ever, Just little irritating life issues have been getting in the way, like, my gallbladder, for instance.

but let me back up . . .

You Don’t Have The Gall . . .

i had an episode several weeks back where i was waiting to see Quantum Of Solace on Sunday’s opening weekend when, apropos of nothing, i had extreme abdominal pain and pressure – it was so bad and intense i thought it was a heart attack. or a really bad taco. Joe refunded our tickets and drove me home immediately. I thought for sure i would have to go to the emergency room! Turns out that time and the 5 repeat performances afterward were gallbladder attacks. I had a mean, miserable headache for three days after the first one!

and let me tell you – i don’t wish that pain on anyone!

It was as if my body were hi-jacked, my heart pounded, i would sweat and waves of nausea built up into a high pressure weather system that radiated pain concentrated in the center of my chest, lateral right, and shoulder. then i’d wretch and writhe for anywhere from 30 mins to more than an hour until it passed. no position, being still, Maalox or movement eased the pain. the only thing that seemed to mitigate it somewhat was glugging down a big glass of water as the attack symptoms began and i began to ride it out.

Generally, i just felt sorta weak, dizzy & fatigued and simply tried to make myself comfortable, warm, sleep a lot and took it really easy. i’d have several hours a day where i felt good and tried to do some writing and editing photos or read or catch a flick, just to keep myself occupied.

i had another bout of a lesser attacks on and off over several nites following the first major attack, these while my sister was in town. It was all i could do to try to be remotely fun, a decent host, and not a total drag. Those tail end attacks were mostly just overwhelming nausea, pressure, heart pounding, then sudden drop in blood pressure and dizziness (like fainting), the sudden multiple bowel movements/diarrhea (sorry, TMI all indications of a sick gallbladder), but at least it didn’t include any monstrous pain or vomiting. i had some anti-nausea medication (Phenegran), and i took only 1/2 a Vicodin a few times to stave off any pain.

Eating was scary as you can imagine. everything i put into my mouth i worried about, “what will trigger an attack, this time?” i felt WAY too full after even a small meal (which was mostly, lite protein, soups, the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), juices, mint tea, gingerale, etc.) Despite all that, i sometimes felt like there was a lump in my throat, as if it were food that hadn’t gone down. a sort of creepy indigestion. This really pissed me off, and since i love food, i grew quickly fed up with the baby diet!

i was of course, drinking lots of water & tried to avoid any fatty foods or anything that might trigger an attack & send the gallbladder into secretion or action or whatever it is that it does to try to clear out the multiple stones that are in there. Thus, the suggestion that i hydrate more than usual and at the onset of attack, drink down a big glass to try to i guess, move the bile along.

None of this is fun to read, i imagine, but i suppose it helps me to assess what i experienced and to tune in with my body, recounting what i had to do to nurse myself along until i had that evil little sack of pearls out of there! So – thank you for taking the time . . .

pumpkin in the snow

“Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful” – But The Fire Inside My Gut Isn’t So Great Either . . .

i was supposed to have my surgery on December 22nd, except, my surgery was canceled due to SNOWPOCALYPSE 2008. ( SEE my photographic evidence). Or as the local news kept referring to it “Arctic Blast.” It was reported as the most snow they’ve seen in Portland in 40 years, and in its soft, white fluffy beauty, it went about crippling the city, crushing public transportation, grinding everything to a halt. The more the snow fell, the more my anxiety mounted. i worried that in the case of an extreme emergency, we were clearly going to have a difficult to impossible time even getting out.

We were lucky enough to have already purchased snow chains from a quick jaunt Joe and my brother-in-law, Flounder took out to Bagby Hot Springs the week before the real snow hit. As the mayor, Sam Adams (yeah, like the beer guy with the funny bowl cut) reported on the news, snow chains were required to travel on Portland roads, but were also SOLD OUT locally. How helpful. We got to try them out a few days before and survived our maiden voyage out to get cat food and return & rent new DVDs for the Holiday pre-surgery stretch.

The only trouble we had was getting back into the garage, if you can believe it. It was messiest in our back alley, kind of a dirty slushie. One of the chains twisted up & fell off, we retrieved it, got a little mired on an ice patch, and i pushed Joe into the driveway, but then the garage door opener and track decided NOT to work. It’s probably an easy fix, but nothing wrong with using our hands to pull the door open in the meantime of investigation. Luckily, it warmed up and some of the snow turned to rain and the roads became only slightly less sloppy the following week.

While the white shit was busy falling in heaps and mounds from the sky, it was three days before someone even answered the god damned phone at the surgery center’s office! This did not contribute to my sense of well-being. When i finally did get a human, Rose, the frazzled sistah on the other end, was mumbling some nonsense about the schedule being pushed into February, to which i declared shenanigans, “i am not waiting and feeling like this with pain, nausea and strict diet management,” i calmly explained to her. i knew it was “elective” surgery, but i was voting to have it out ASAP. So she “caught up” with the doctor and i was rescheduled for the following Monday the 29th. Sad that i have to raise hell to advocate for my own health care. but it was my first major abdominal surgery and i wanted it over with!

The F criteria . . . family, flights, fairness – does FUCK this count?

It’s been a frustrating, confusing health journey, seeing as how i am otherwise, the picture of supposed health – good diet, whole, organic foods when possible, yoga & exercise, 119 lbs, low LDL, normal EKG, healthy heart & lungs, liver function healthy and all other bloodwork levels completely within normal ranges, including thyroid. Even my surgeon said i don’t really fit most of the F criteria (Female, 40, Fat, Fertile & Fair) and remarked questioningly “doesn’t seem fair does it?” In my case, estrogen in my oral contraceptives & the environment, and family history (my aunt) might be the only risk indicators.

My mother’s initial flight had also been canceled, not enough snow plows in the city or de-icers for the planes. But she was able to rebook, came out Sunday and stayed for a week while i recovered at home. Sure, the main calming factor is, my mother is a nurse and she was able to help Joe administer my post-surgery care, but really, when i get down to the basic emotional component of what was happening to my body, i wanted my mommy!

Ladies & Gentlemen, Nurses, Anesthesiologists and a Surgeon! The Main Event . . .

The laparoscopic surgery (cholecystectomy) involved four small incisions for light, scope, suction and instruments, and they pulled that sucker out through an incision above my belly button. Weee! It’s same day outpatient (unless they have to convert to an open cholecystectomy), routinely safe, well-practiced and the most commonly performed surgery. So, you know, i made sure i tortured myself on the internet, reading up on all the truly rare complications incurred during or after, until i whipped myself up into hypochondriac frenzy. i don’t recommend this method of education, but i was prepared for the worst, so i came out with just about the best, of course.

i scrubbed up the nite before with special special surgery soap called CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate). It was all wrapped in foil and had a spongy side to wet and release soap and scrubby side to get under nailbeds. It was quite a humbling ritual to remove my wedding bands, my moonstone rings, the small drop earrings i haven’t taken out in more than 6 years, my moonstone necklace & toe rings. And then, the morning of my surgery, absent of all body decoration, i used the second CHG provided me and was instructed – “no shaving, no deodorant, no lotion, no perfume.” No germs. No scent. No signature.

i showed up in comfy clothes, at the Sunnyside Medical Center, had 2-hour prep which included consent forms, a nurse to take my information, a nurse to start my IV, plus an anesthesiologist and his nurse with another battery of questions.

“Do you have anything of value, any jewelry, electronics, medications . . .” the nurse rattled off a big list in rapid fire succession.

“No. No. No No, nope. Nothing. i come to you naked and without frills.” i answered lightheartedly.

She laughed and gave me a big plastic snap bag with the words PATIENT BELONGINGS and a name & info sticker on the front, then told me to take everything off and put on the lavender colored hospital gown that had the words “Bair Paws” and a little foot print of a bear track scrawled across my heart.  Now let me “paws” a moment. Go ahead. Groan. i don’t care. This was one of the best things i’ve ever experienced in medical care. It was a soft, longer, thick gown with the usual bum-showing slit down the back, except that it had a sideways wrap around tie so you could make yourself decent. But the best feature is what the thing actually DID.

Pre-op, surgery and recovery areas are usually kept a little chilly to discourage bacteria growth, so you end up with minor hypothermia, and they merely toss an extra blanket on you to stave off the cold. Not with this thing though . . . the Bair Paws had a port in the side where a warming unit hose attached and a temperature control box with a dial was placed beside me. i suppose if you’re the hot-blooded type, you could choose cool air, but not me . . . crank that sucker up! In moments, it filled with warm air that puffed the gown up a little and filled the little channels inside, flooding warm air over my whole body as i lay there waiting for surgery. Awesome! i wanted to take it home with me when i left!

Speaking of comfort, while i lay there the nurse asked me things beyond the normal health battery that crossed over into personal wellness. “Are you employed?” “How would you say your stress levels are?” “On a scale of 0-10, how much pain are you in right now?” And one of the strangest things the nurse asked me was: “Do you feel safe where you live?” Which one could interpret as, “Is your neighborhood kinda sketchy and do you think you can be a bit incapacitated for a week without the worry of having to fend off an attacker or break-in?” Or perhaps an equally unpleasant implication “Is your spouse / partner / parent / roommate abusive or uncooperative?” But maybe this was just a general assessment of “Do you fear having no help or support during your recovery at home or are you safe in the knowledge that you have a loved one or family & friends to help you recuperate?”

The anesthesiologist asked if i’d like a mild sedative but i felt pretty calm and warm and content. Everyone was so pleasant, calm, kind and assuring. The woman who put in my IV was a pro, it didn’t hurt at all.

“Would you like to see your family now before we take you back? It’s almost time,” the nurse said, her eyes motioning to the clock that was 7 minutes from 8am.

“That would be nice,” i said softly and as she walked away i looked beyond her to see that one of the surgery swing doors had a feminine scrolled, handwritten sign taped to it that read “Door To Narnia.” And this made me laugh.

My mother & Joe came back to pat my hand, rub my feet, kiss my forehead and cheeks and assure me before my passage into the back of the wardrobe and on into snow-laden Narnia.

i was wheeled back past a few operating room doors all looking set for procedures, heads wrapped in institution green caps bobbing in and out of the square fields of glass in the doors and finally, there i was, last door on the right. They bumped my hospital bed / gurney against another set below operating lamps and a nice young man with his mask pulled up halfway told me his name, then a nice woman across the way named Tammy said hello, then from my left the surgeon and another nurse came in.

i mentioned i’d like pictures of my gallbladder, which drew a couple strange looks to which i explained, “Hey, i want to see the thing that’s been causing me so much pain. Can i have some of the stones too?”

“We don’t give them out like candy honey,” the nurse to my left quipped, “they usually get sent off to the lab.”

“Well, it’s just that i spent some time making them, so i want to see them too.”

“i hear some people make bracelets and jewelry out of them,” remarked Right Nurse.” i had already thought of this and in fact had joked about it just days before.

Then the male nurse to my right said, “Ok, scoot over to this bed,” while Left Nurse gently instructed, “Move up just a little so your head is on the pillow, your bed is a little lower.”

While i did this, Left Nurse injected something magical into the midsection of my IV and Right Male Nurse put a mask lightly to my nose and mouth with, “Some oxygen?” which seemed mostly a statement but went up a little at the end to form a question.

“Yes, please,” i half-thought and thought nothing else.

There was no counting back from 10 or 100, there was only sleep, then surgery for 45 minutes to an hour, and then i was suddenly awake. None of this drifting back or blurred cinematic visions of white coats flurrying about or a nimbus of faces hovering near me while lights flashed in my eyes checking for response. It was, “Some oxygen?” then, i was wide awake in a bed somewhere in recovery, back in my Bair Paws and feeling amazing. i don’t know what drugs they gave me, but it was more than relief, more than feeling that some offending organ making me sick had been removed. i felt at peace, warm, well-rested, comfortable, not cloudy, no pain, and an oddly light sense of elation. Truly happy.

A nurse picked up the phone at a desk directly across from me. i smiled at her over the tops of my feet. “Yes, she’s very alert,” she reported to someone on the other end.

i was wheeled back to the room in a line of beds where i was first admitted and my mom & Joe came in to see me. it was less than an hour of recovery where i chewed two cups of shaved ice, gulped down 3 apple juices, had two glasses of water and some graham crackers, proved that i could walk across the hall & urinate and i was free to go. A funny little old man cracked corny jokes and wheeled me down to the car where Joe helped me into the passenger seat, we were home before noon, and i rested for a week.

warm recovery

REAL food . . .

My mother & Joe ordered Hawaiian pizza and hot wings that first nite, and sure, i had my juice and water and all that nonsense, but for weeks, i had been craving fried chicken, so i am happy to report i had a slice of pizza with cheese stuffed crust and three little nubby chicken wings just hours after surgery and was SO happy. Nothing like jumpstarting your system by challenging it. Shortly after that i mostly behaved and ate more mild foods: brothy soups, applesauce, cottage cheese, peaches, saltines, tea, gingerale, and managed to destroy a box of graham crackers.

Then my mom would get to cooking and i found myself eating spaghetti and meat sauce, crock-pot slow-cooked pot roast with carrots, potatoes and buttered biscuits, happy, fluffy clouds of 2 scrambled eggs nestled into Franz white bread with a light spread of mayo and cut into little triangles. She made sure i got my protein and ate “real food” as she called it. None of this “organic” shit we usually eat which as everyone knows, is made of ground-up hippies and probably caused my gallbladder to go rogue in the first place. There may be such a thing as eating TOO healthy and not eating some evil stuff once in awhile.

But man, my mother packed this house with 12-packs of three different sodas: Vernors, a Michigan hometown gingerale favorite, Dr. Pepper and Fresca. Then there was a deluge of junk food snacks: three different types of chips, 2 dips, ranch dressing, a box of See’s chocolates, a canister of See’s nuts, a HUGE canister of three flavored popcorns (cheese, butter and caramel), a pound of Twizzler’s red licorice, Raisinettes and Resse’s peanut butter cups that were Christmas Tree shaped. That was just what i took immediate stock of, there was plenty more. i have considered hosting a movie nite or a party just to get RID of some of this!

I’d Like to Introduce You To My Girls, Vicki and Pam . . .

Diet was one concern which seemed to go fine but pain management was a deep worry. i thought for sure that i wouldn’t be able to tolerate the Vicodin, but a few experiments of breaking them in half in the weeks before the surgery proved to be promising and when i came home i simply tapered as the days went and remained a little sore sometimes, but pain free. First two days were every 4-5 hours, days three and four every 6-8, by days 5 & 6 i was taking one at noon and one at midnite, plus a little Motrin for the pain and swelling and by the end of the week and the beginning of next, i was taking ½ a Vicodin at nite to sleep through the nite peacefully.

Though infrequent, my usual fall back sleep aid is Tylenol PM, who i call “Pam,” and just one, because the suggested dosage of two guarantees i won’t be attending anything the next day until after, oh, say 3pm. i also nicknamed my Vicodin, “Vicki.” i only need ½ of her. And the girls now, well, i just keep ’em around for laughs and a good time if i need to just knock myself the fuck out of consciousness for the nite.

Here Kitty, Kitty Or, Taming The Beast . . .

i’ve been introducing food slowly and lightly as a one at a time lineup to my digestion, sort of like tossing bananas and tennis balls and roller skates and live goats into a lion’s den with “here you go – what do you think of THIS?” Experimental interaction. And because what i know of food is occupational, i think of my gallbladder in food & restaurant terms as having been “86ed” or as i said to Joe while pawing through the random generators for the words and distractedly typing on the computer the other day, “my gallbladder’s been deleted.”

To follow that theme – i’m sure it will be awhile before my digestive system reboots & comes back online. And i’m certain that i won’t be able to hork down a bacon cheeseburger and waffle fries without incident anytime soon. i don’t want to piss anything off in there . . . i know very well it’s a first class luge ticket for any food that offends my system currently rewiring itself and trying to figure out why the bile salts storage facility closed down. Sorry, love – it’s the economy. Things are tough all over. Soldier on. Now here’s some Indian Food, some wine, some corn chowder, a fried egg sandwich, some potato chips – oh, no sorry, i take that back. Baked potato chips from now on.

All told, if you find out your gallbladder is angry and you are considering just leaving it in and dealing with it, DON’T! You have to EAT to LIVE, and there was no way i was going to compromise my lifestyle & diet in fear of food and future attacks. i already had the basics and took care of my body, now i just have to bounce all the way back. The incisions are barely anything, one inside my belly-button that you can’t see, one barely the length and width of the edge of my pinkie fingernail, one smaller than the circumference of a pencil top eraser, and the largest one is about a centimeter. That one has character too . . . a little red edge, like its smirking at me which will fade and flatten over time, plus a little kitten whisker edge of a clear, dissolving suture, which i may snip if it doesn’t go away soon.

The cost of this whole adventure via the care of Kaiser Permanente? $14. Two office visits at $5 apiece, $4 for four presecriptions. No cost for the EKG, bloodwork or ultrasound. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Joe. Thank you PSU. Thank you State Of Oregon.

Well, that’s enough for now. i’m sure i have left anyone who made it this far with plenty to digest . . . sorry about that – you can see what occupies my mind these days.

And you’ll just have to forgive me, you see – i’m not all there . . .

family, film, food, friends, health, humor, love, marriage, music, nature, pets, photography, technology, travel, weather, work & employment

Portland, Ho! What’d you call me?!?!

mirrorglass

It’s not like you haven’t heard from me . . . but i suppose you haven’t heard all the tales and tidbits. i DID just make a cross-country move with my darling husband. So let’s see what i can tell you about what it is to move from Virginia to Oregon with everything you own, a car dragging behind you, plus a landlubbing Bengal Cat to which any confinement in a moving vehicle is a personal affront to be met with vociferous fury . . .

We’ll begin with the end of days: the weekend of Saturday August 23rd was my last day of work, i waited on Joe’s family, we said goodbyes and he sold them his car. Sunday afternoon we were off to a baby shower for my dear friend Megan in Annapolis and a late-night fevered packing session on Sunday which brings us early into Monday . . .

Monday morning we were supposed to pick up our Budget Rental truck. Penske doesn’t do it that far and U-Haul was NOT an option by poor reputation and my friends’ numerous horror stories and breakdown variations on a theme so Budget had our business, begrudgingly we were to find out. Due to some unknown fuckery at the rental shop, we received a phonecall in the morning, informing us that our honkin’ monster truck (24 ft) would be available closer to noon as the current drop-off hadn’t arrived, but that they would call when it was ready. It was verging .. 2pm by the time Joe actually went there in person to experience – more fuckery. Apparently, Larry, Curly, Moe (and possibly Shemp) were not capable of doing anything by hand (filling out forms, figuring out taxes) and the whole Eastern seaboard Budget computer system was apparently mysteriously “broken.” Once it came back online, (and partway through the manual entry) they insisted Joe stay to put it all in the computer. My poor husband, fuming, but controlled did not arrive until 3:30.  Luckily we had angels waiting for us.

i don’t know what we would’ve done without Jared and Patrick helping us haul things down and load the truck. i don’t know why we thought we could’ve done it by ourselves; we would’ve had to add another whole day to our trip exhausting ourselves getting everything loaded! Of course, the late truck meant later packing, meant later loading meant later cleaning of the apartment, and we really wanted to be out early evening, get somewhere outside of the DC Beltway morning rush hour, hole up in a little motel and rest, and to then start the trek first thing in the am. Well, it wasn’t until after midnight, when we finally packed the vacuum and cleaning supplies. i gave Odin some PetCalm to ease his nerves (but it didn’t, much) while we drove over an hour (an eternity with howling feline) to Hagerstown, Maryland.

A word about the Motel 6 . . .  sketch. Okay, lots of snaky S words. Like, skeevy, scary, bars on the window where the night clerk sits, sketchity spookville. We were only here because they had a pet friendly policy, not to save on any moving expenses as they were covered by Joe’s university job. A quick survey of the area (and the big sign about NO TRUCKS) and it was clear we had to park the moving truck (24 ft + now the extra 10ft or more with my car in a flatbed tow) at the shopping mall lot across the way. We figured it was ok to do since other trucks were parked similarly.

But just to be sure, Joe asked the clerk, “Is it ok to park over there?” motioning to the direction of the trucks.

The clerk offered a nervous, and falsely reassuring answer, “yeah – a security guard patrols there every hour or so. Any room preference?”

“Where we can see the truck,” Joe said plainly.

So, Odin got settled quickly (he can bed down anywhere, he just hates MOVING in a vehicle), chowed down, did some encouraging kitty business in the newly re-located litterbox and perched himself at the highest point in the room, the tv, to survey his new domain. We pulled the scratchy, toilet paper thin bedsheets over us and commenced sleeping into morning one of our cross-country adventure.

The next morning, it was the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s which smelled like greasy, eggy-bacon heaven floating atop pancake clouds; evil and delicious but the type of meal one could not hork down shamelessly every morning without regret or consequence. Our waitress was pleasant, quick and dirty with the coffee cups and water and plodded through the standard “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today.” There wasn’t any fresh fruit, unless you counted all the sugary canned ones for pancake toppings, but there were three types of gravy to include chipped beef and four types of potatoes – all fried.

And boy howdy it hurt my soul; there were some very unhealthy, ungainly, unhappy people milling around the breakfast bar. People shuffled up with oxygen tanks and walkers, sort of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest revisited meets Dawn Of The Dead, and honestly, forgive me for this description, but between all the medical equipment, the staggering display of obesity, and the general slow-moving malaise owing to an early morning it was not an easy square to maneuver. Conversely, the buffet was patrolled and replenished by a pasty, skinny, pock-marked, shifty-eyed, surlier than Satan, quick-handed, would be mass-murderer type, luckily armed only with a few spatulas. i hesitated to ask for anything that might come off sounding like a snooty, pain in the ass dietary concern, should Jethro James Manson, Jr. decide this was his morning to “waste ’em all.”

The bill didn’t amount to much, as we had a per diem for food in our moving expenses, so Joe left the waitress a $10 tip.

“Whoa, what’s that say?” the cash register jockey drawled, incredulously.

Joe is lovely, but his hand-writing is difficult and deeply codified, plus the pen was a little dry, so i assumed the numbers were hard to make out.

“Joe went back over the numbers in pen and told him “Ten dollars.”

“Wow! That’s a great tip.” This was the lottery to this guy.

As a waitress in fine dining where the average low end tip is a straight $20, this statement made me terribly sad, but i could see the grubby, wrinkled, single bills and piles of change emptied from pockets and cup holders, piled on dirty tables under brown coffee mugs as we walked by, looking more like several police searches than gratuities. We must’ve made, “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today”‘s day.

long and winding road

We wound our way through Appalachia through the first of many many miles of corn on our way to Indianapolis.

What should’ve been an 8-hour drive grew into a 12-hour nitemare of three terrible realizations. One – we had one angry, frightened, inconsolable cat (no matter how much herbal tranquilizer administered) who slept for 20 minutes and howled and climbed windows, dashboard and floorboard the other 40. Two – a mysterious idiot light came on depicting a wrench and an oilcan. This to me meant “You’re fucked, Tin Man.” After one of the first tiffs my sweet husband and i ever had about how to handle this second crap-laden fact, we decided the best course was to pull over and call the Budget help line. After being jockeyed through the phone system of choices, we finally pushed enough numbers and spoke to an informed human service agent who wasn’t reading verbatim from the “How-To Talk To The Pissed And Stranded” manual. She spoke to an actual mechanic who assured us it was simply an early warning oil change interval and that we could tell the delivery place on the other end that it came on and needs the service. They even told us how to disable it, but we never did. And finally, Three – with footnotes a) & b) were realizations we made about the truck. a) it laughed at and evaporated fuel – 5 miles to the gallon. b) uphill grades any steeper than say 4%, with the pedal to the metal resulted in the hazard lights being flicked on and a maximum speed of 35mph.

hateful

After we finally arrived in Indianapolis to my sister’s place, hair matted, mood dampened, cat howling, with furrowed brow, exhausted and hungry as hostages, we came around to the idea that we had to add a day to our ambitious arrival time. This was decided over a fabulous pork dinner and several ears of corn on the cob plus two bottles of wine. We also decided (and thankfully, my sister and her husband agreed) to leave Odin to stay with them for a week for a later flight retrieval operation that my poor Joe volunteered for. It was clear that completing the rest of the trip with kitty in the cab would make for a longer, more difficult, harrowing and stressful journey – for all of us. Let’s just say that Odin is not easily calmed or sedated, by natural, herbal, homeopathic, psychological, or pharmacological means. On the two-leg (no direct flights from Indy) trip home, he even managed to surf above the double dose of chicken flavored kitty Valium and maintained a constant meow from under the seat, save for the last hour. Joe reports that he made lots of friends on the planes. When Odin did finally arrive, he was all hyped up. Apparently, diazepam, instead of having the nice calming effect, can cause a paradoxical reaction and instead make a human (or bad kitty) wildly alert and excitable. So Odin, above the normal exploratory passes that go along with an animal in new surroundings, paced, mewed, jumped from window to window and trotted from room to room with a lack of coordination and on wobbly legs until pretty much the next morning when he was able to settle in and have a good long sleep. And he’s doing fine now . . .

Odin finally naps

sunny chair

But back to the adventures of the Janda’s cross-country excursion . . .

mirror glass II

Getting fuel was always exciting. Finding diesel in Hellhole, Nebraska often required the help of my fancy new Instinct phone’s GPS Navigation, then it was determining whether we could get the moving truck under, around and out of places without jackknifing, tearing off the trailer or bringing down awnings and taking out gas pumps. EVERY stop, which was more frequent with the awesome fuel consumption, required this exercise in mathematical probability and turning radius.

The cities moved on as I downloaded the local weather. Amazing to me that i could find where we were and what was close by to eat or refuel by the help of Jenny (the name i have dubbed my cell phone’s navigational voice, as in: “Jenny Jenny, where do i turn now? 867-530 ni-eeee-ine.” and yes, Iain . . . a tip o’ the hat to you as well on the name.) Lore City, OH – Grass Lake, MI – Normal, IL – Exira, IA, Waverly, NE – Grand Island, NE. Oh, which by the way, appears to be in the center, like a bullseye dart throw at the US map. However, Grand Island is, as far as i can tell, neither “grand” nor an “island” and is not even remotely near water. Or culture. Or . . .

The waitstaff at the local Perkins gave me very confused looks when, upon having my own oolong tea, i simply requested a pot of hot water, a pitcher of milk and a cup.

“So, you want a glass of milk, like orange juice?” Lloyd asked.

“No, i want a small container, for milk instead of cream, like for coffee,” i tried to explain. He brought me a pitcher of milk normally reserved for syrup and a plastic carafe big enough for 8 cups of coffee but filled with hot water and still, sadly, no vessel to put any of my tea in. 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad i supposed. i was finally able to flag down another waitress to ask for a coffee mug since i was certain tea cups were not to be had. forget about latte mugs too in case i wanted to make a BIG cup of tea . . .

Blue Mountains
Douglas, WY – Laramie, WY . . .

In Rock Springs, Wyoming we stayed on Elk Street at the “Outlaw Inn” Best Western, ordered my first breakfast in bed and watched my first episode of “It’s Me Or The Dog.” We had traveled all nite through so much flatland (called the Great Plains for a reason, clearly – they go on plainly forever) and when we woke up, we were surprised that we found ourselves in the desert. Rocky, golden stoned climbs and scrubby green & brown foliage dotted the hillsides and ground like so many funny little clown wigs left out in the sun after the carnival left town and never came back. But here’s what surprised me. Sure, we laughed at first, because the winds picked up and there were some honest to goodness TUMBLEWEEDS moving across the road which to me, signals true desolation and nowhereness. Then the sky grew ominous, black and bruised and instead of being hot and blazing, it rained through most of our trip through the desert and on our way as we dipped barely into Utah north of Salt Lake and on into Idaho.

golden hills
Hefener, UT – Caldwell, ID . . .

And can i just say here, forgive me if you grew up in, lived or currently live in Idaho, because, i know the northern part is beautiful, but damn. Boise proper, from the road and some of the rare farms and outlying suburbs hurt a little to look at. It was hard for me to imagine where you would live, where you would work, how far you had to drive, the manner and means by which you’d survive. Strange domiciles huddled like hungry masses, bumped up against and thrown together in a manner almost suburban, but more like third world dilapidated houses of clap-trap metal sheds and sheets, some barely wooden, functional farmlike lean-tos. Meant for animals. Weathervanes on top seemed an unnecessary after thought. A spritely windchime tinkling and floating off a broken fence made me sad. i hesitate to say soul-crushing, but it did approach that. Once, after a batch of mean road food, we rolled down the windows to umm . . .  get some fresh air, and were assaulted by an even worse smell. and here’s where tasting food and wine and trying to disseminate spices, essences, flavors and smells comes in, though i hope to never come across any food or beverage of the sort. i can only describe the smell in Idaho as a dead squirrel/rodent rolled in mocha and put on a pyre of leaves. It had a pungent, smoky, mocha, sweet, rotting meat, dead, acrid, burnt, dry smell that was enough to make us prefer our own flatulence. damn.

Mount Hood from the road

Crossing over into Oregon, we stayed in Baker City at the Oregon Trail Motel & Restaurant to prepare for the last leg of our journey into Portland. What a funny, little old, almost stagecoach town. The room was cheap, and included free breakfast the next morning, which was delightful and a good thing, because our first dinner in Oregon, was when we arrived there near closing time to have a most disappointing steak dinner. flavorless, tough, square shaped strip steak (definitely frozen and hauled in), grey-tinged green beans, sad and soggy (definitely canned and not sautéed), and a dusty baked potato (the best part, sadly) which could’ve benefitted from a good wash and less time in foil, so it was easier to strip it out to eat. we probably should’ve had to the fried chicken dinner special that the kooky local ordered when he bellied up to the counter, because he ordered a second plate. but then again, “special” to me in the far restaurant outreaches does not mean “fresh today, on the mind of the chef,” it means, “get this scary shit out of the kitchen before it violates health code.”

Speaking of health code . . . the not so sanitary, no sneeze-guard, precursory salad bar on a small wheeled cart had a threatening sign tacked to it about allowing only one visit with no sharing and one plate per person limit. This plate, by the way, had a 4in diameter, enough to hold a slice of bread with some overhang. and the usual sad green fare of anemic looking iceberg lettuce, limp, shredded carrots, sulfurous purple cabbage, some unidentifiable, unnaturally colored, jiggling gelatinous something, creamy thick dressings, crushed into sawdust croutons, and luckily for me, some watermelon. a rare one-off fruit treat with more crunch, water, and possibly more nutrients than the iceberg lettuce.

i know – i am spoiled. of course, i did not expect to pass through the middle of the heartland, the dairyland, the plains, the land of plenty and to have a diverse and delicate gourmet experience, but being that close to corn, vegetables, grains and cows, i had my standards set high enough that i might actually receive something on a plate that tasted farm raised and had enough color to shine through the blue pallored spectrum of fluorescent lighting that haunts every diner. i realize, i may come off as a food snob, but more i find myself grateful. it occurs to me how fortunate i am to work in an industry and now live in a city and state where culinary excellence, even in the simplest of places, hinges on fresh, whole, organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. you can taste the difference, people. tomatoes that aren’t pale pink, mealy and flavorless. Strawberries that although smaller than the grocery bought flats, stain the fingers and taste sweet and heavenly. i made a soup last week with these huge gnarly carrots, just pulled from the ground, bundled with the tops on and even after boiling were the most amazing flavorful carrots i’ve ever eaten.

So on the tip of food et al, we’ve been hitting the wine bars, the sake bars, the breweries, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, dinner here and there and lots cooking at home. a few weeks back, my friend Tiffany and i went to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden where we had a traditional tea and ate a red bean mooncake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Pond Lily

Joe and i have already met new people and are definitely getting some socializing done. on one such event, i even canned peaches and tomatoes w/ garlic and green peppers for sauces. first months out here out here and were discovering how to compost, rethinking everything i throw away, recycling the hell out of EVERYTHING i touch, and putting food into Ball jars for the winter! holy granola! stop me if i cease wearing deodorant, let my hair dread, get a nose or lip piercing, go on road trips to support jam bands and start practicing hacky sack in my backyard, k?

Columbia Gorge

One of the prettiest parts of the trip – The Columbia Gorge . . .

i’m the impatient type. i’m the girl who wants to feel established and settled the minute i set foot in a new situation. i crave quick learning and acclimation and seem to give myself a bit of hell if i don’t have all my systems, rituals and routines in place. Joe’s sister, Laura reminded us (me, really, who needs the patience and the temperance) that we are setting up a HOME, not just a house or living space, so i should just ease into it without spazzing out too much. but yes, the “house” is mostly setup and the “home” bit is starting to warm in me. we have been sleeping fitfully in a new king-sized bed, (Odin’s all about it too!) the weather has been stellar to mild, with yes, some rain here and there though we’ve apparently entered the rainy season. But Indian Summer came and went in full-swing (it was in the 90’s a few days in the first weeks of arrival and not a drop of rain) and i am certainly enjoying my little garden, deck space, cool mornings, quiet breakfasts and tea in a sunny kitchen, dinners & wine with my Joe and friends. it’s all been quite good. And i know it’s going to be at least a year until all things truly settle, i have a solid base of friends, a job i enjoy and can get all the way around socially and physically without getting lost.

Mount Hood

As for our immediate locale – there’s a little coffee house nearby and as we walk down to it, we get a clear view of Mt. Hood, and off to the left, Mt. St. Helens (which i read are two “active” stratovolcanos, kind of “exciting”). there are pear trees along the walk, overflowing and dropping in the grass – ah, the spoils. In our yard, we have roses lining the wooden fence, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, fennel, ferns, lavender, rosemary, sage, hydrangea and little bursts of wild flowers. In fact, this year i am putting in Spring bulbs and next year, i think i will revive the tomatoes, put in cucumbers and plant squash.

i put out hummingbird feeders and they’ve come and i put out a regular seed feeder and the loudass squawking Scrub and Stellar Jays (plus some sweet Chickadees) have depleted it twice. the squirrels are plentiful – one (or a party of several) gnawed through our Comcast dropline to the house, so we had to have our internets fixed the first few days here. they also chase and skitter across the length of our roof top and you can hear the entire scrabbling pursuit from room to room. This drives Odin wild! Bad little tree rats!

Joe got his haircut at this little local barbershop on the corner by this big brawny tough dude named Justice who had two teensy-weensy grey kittens scurrying about that his friend dumped on him and now he has seemingly been forced to adopt. Their names are Guns & Roses. seriously. And, as recent pictures depict, i also whacked my hair off. it’s a bit curly and untame unless i brush it down some and straighten it, but i like the shortness. Hair clips are my friends.

The fine people i worked with in Virginia bought Joe and i a most original going away gift. A hot air balloon ride over Yamhill wine country which ends in a catered hot, champagne/mimosa brunch! We’re going to try to fit that in while the weather holds . . . but, there is always Spring and Summer next year.

Joe started work on September 15th, and me, after hitting craigslist like a whore, i’ve had a few bites and started a job that’s going to require endurance of some growing pains, but i won’t bore you with those details here. i’m not one to talk shop and air dirty laundry of how i trade time for money; it’s one of those questions i’ve always hated and dislike answering. “So – what do you do?” Of course, i grew a bit bored being a lady of leisure but there are some things i loved about it, like seeing my husband during normal evening hours for dinner in or out and watching or reading things together. Life moves slower here, hours go slower. Life is more leisurely it seems, and it’s not just lack of full-on social or work obligations either, it seems to be an engrained mindset.

On September 23rd, Joe and i celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We had a low key day of salad, pizza and beer, some board games with some rosé champagne, some tv time, some private time, and some blissful sleep. The beer and first bottle of bubbly did us in, so we didn’t get to some really nice champagne gifted to us last year, but there was always lunch the next day . . . and me, i never need a celebratory excuse to crack the bubbly.

Well, two things i am looking forward to out here – Halloween and voting. Both bring a certain level of ghoulish fright and giddy excitement. It’s safe to say that by lawn and houses alone, it appears that Oregon is largely an Obamanation. (heh!) Voter registration was made pretty easy for us: they got me in front of an organic market out here, and Joe at the Saturday Farmer’s market. It was convenient and fast, done by the last four of my SS (since i don’t have an OR license yet) and the voter’s card arrived days later. Apparently, we send all of our ballots in by mail here, which surprised me. i was really hoping to go into a secret squirrel booth for my first voting experience. But hey – no nervousness about machines to manipulate and no hanging chads. i wonder if it’s a scantron?

And if you need to go back a few lines, yes . . . that’s right. MY FIRST. in all my 36 years i have never been registered to vote. Never cared for the process, and living near DC never endeared me to the constant conversation, the dogged preoccupation nor the convocation. (Apologies to my friends for whom it is an occupation.) But i am doing it this year. i am fortunate to survive and do well in as they say, “times like these,” and it occurs to me that being politically active when it counts is by extension, a survival tactic to hold onto all the ideals in life that brought Joe and i out here in the first place.

Oregon is already proving itself as some manner of heaven and a lifestyle i can love.

So come visit us! We have a nice guest room in the basement, right next to the wine cellar.

drinking, education, food, friends, love, technology, travel

Happy to me . . . a birthday blog in brief

so . . .

here i am in beautiful San Diego, California with pinky-brown toasty shoulders and a soft band of freckles across my nose.

Joe and i are here primarily for the BIO 2008 Convention and i was able to have floor access through George Mason University . . . what a spectacle! It’s been four days of business card exchange, glad-handing, hob-knobbing, party-hopping and eating all on the dime of the biotech industry (photos and stories to follow when i get home!)

Tonite, we are going to a fancy pants dinner at Bertrand at Mister A’s. Over the next few days sights should include Balboa Park and of course, the San Diego Zoo. i love me some wild animals!

But mostly . . . this message is broadcast to thank everyone for the texts, emails, MySpace messages and phonecalls to wish me a Happy Birthday. it’s been such a warm and beautiful day, and i feel so loved and thought of, even from so far away and on the other coast.

i will be having some great food, fine wine, tropical drinks, and the requisite sprouts and avocado slices that accompany all California fare.

i plan on having my eyes take in more waves and feet touch more sand in the coming days . . . and you should see some Flickr images and a few stories by early next week.

see you all soon!

much love . . .

xoxo

family, humor, nature, pets, photography, psychology, technology, weather, work & employment

These are a few of my favorite things

:::   :::   :::   :::

he’s a body walker…
he’s a toe-stalker…
he’s a loud talker…
he’s a head knocker…

:::   :::   :::   :::

Those four lines above were a little ode written to our cat Odin late last nite. Sung really. Odin was stomping on us, attacking our feet, howling and head-butting us for attention and Joe and i were trading lines, rhyming a little song to calm the irritation Mr. Kitty was bringing us at bedtime as we had just settled in for sleep. i do love my cat, but man is he a bad little bed monster at nite . . .

Spend enough time in my company and you will learn that i sing not only when i am happy, drunk, or both, but also, when i am irritated. Perhaps it’s been the many years in public service, especially my long stint as a “genius waitress” that has cleaved me into a little Kalliope music box, cranking and tinkling out cruel little songs for my own amusement. These little songs are often peppered with profanity – little gems like the “hate you, hate you, hate you” song “later, dicks” and the “please, catch fire” song are in my constant repertoire. Ask my close friends and co-workers. Or piss me off – you can guarantee i will sing a little song tailored specifically to your special brand of ass-hattery. Just as you walk away.

Well – how do you cheer yourself up?

Or if you don’t want to divulge your private little idiosyncrasies, tell me instead – what is the course of websites you visit on a daily basis that keep you grounded, in touch, in step, in laughter and informed?

For me, my immediate bookmark toolbar looks like this below and it’s a flitting pattern I have in my daily net ritual:

  • fire up the email: i often find great, funny, interesting news stories and humor bits from my friends. And i’m not talking about the chain letters or the blinky-glitter variety of “hellos” rife with cute animals. (ok, there are indeed bunnies and kittens and penguins and baby wildlife found on my computer, i admit it, but none of the animated sort.)

besides, i’ve just discovered the ultimate, hands-down uber-cutest (and endangered) creature ever. Allow me to digress . . . it’s called the long-eared jerboa (euchoreutes naso) so rare and “distinct enough that authorities consider it to be the only member of both its genus, Euchoreutes, and subfamily, Euchoreutinae.” It’s a tiny nocturnal mammal that is dwarfed by its enormous ears, found in the deserts of Mongolia and China.

It’s practically marsupial – a little kangaroo with bat ears and a striped skunky tail, short forepaws and long back ones to hop around on. He’s being called the “Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure,” They’re little tiny things, only about 3-6 inches (8-15 cm) long, but with their super-strength legs they jump – more than 6 feet (1.8 m) in a single bound. And boy, can they dig with those legs . . .

But don’t take my word for it – check out this video footage at National Geographic News and the video below here from YouTube:

Oh my GOD I want a whole house full of them so I can smooch their little fuzzy heads!

Ahem – but back to the way I websurf . . . (see how easily I get distracted!) So, after I’m done ogling cute animals, I check out my 3 photo sites and then move on down the line . . .

  • Flickr: I check into my account to see new images from my contacts and read comments on photos I have posted. I often find myself re-visiting this site just to get inspiration.
  • JPG magazine: I have a few things here and i occasionally peruse their call for photographic themes and enter my photos. I am hoping to get published but I go here mainly for inspiration.
  • Deviant Art: i used to be a pretty active, paid member and subscriber. It was where I first started posting my photography, my first experience with social networking, really. But the “cool kids” “fav whores” and lack of constructive criticism and commentary led me away. That and some shakeups in the administrators / ownership arenas. I still visit, but I don’t live there anymore.
  • Yeah, bitch. MySpace. Keeping up with music and family and friends is a full-time endeavor. I love reading what everyone is up to, and all of those people leave me the most colorful, creative comments. That stuff makes my day.
  • I Can Has Cheezburger?: I won’t lie. I’m absolutely addicted to the LOLcat meme and all the hilarity at ICHC?
  • PostSecret: Speaking of ritual. I don’t go to church on Sundays, but I go here every Sunday to see new secrets. And so should you – we’re all quite similar inside really, and “a neurosis is a secret that you don’t know you are keeping.” ~ Kenneth Tynan
  • Weather Underground: yeah, I like to know what it’s going to do out there so I can decide what to wear while it’s doing it. I don’t trust my windows or my thermostat to fully inform me.
  • National Geographic News: This is where I learn all my random cool news, knowledge and amazing discoveries. Beats the hell out of Fox News in terms of truth and cheeriness.
  • lifehacker: Geek gadgetry glorified. Nerdly Nightly News. One of the most informative sites on everything from software & share apps, to ways for better life organization, productivity, cleaning, eating, book and music recommendations. It’s all over the map and it’s all mapped out.
  • emusic: when i’ve got the necessary downtime, I look for the soundtrack of my life to fill it up. I go here and various music blogs scouring for new tunes to download and expand my ever-increasing palate and constant hunger.

Alright, your turn now – what cool nodes on the web do you visit on the regular?

love, pets, photography, technology, writing

the death of mini-me, or, how not to be computer blue

:::   :::   :::   :::

When we emerged steaming from the void,
It was easy to stay warm.
Now we huddle in swarthy clothing
And wait for Summer to remind us
of swimming,
We used to practice acrobatics
in the fluidity of the womb.

I pressed for memory and a new voice came
This new one, she said “yes,
this is the next part,”
But how could you possibly put
a finger on it?
How could you expect to tickle the walls;
to put your hands
through the screen of the red room
and touch the outside
of yourself?

~ Andrea E. Janda

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A couple days ago, the EPoX ex5 barebones case mini-tower (dubbed “mini-me” not by me but the company), the computer i bought piece by piece in 2003 from processor to video card, memory sticks to media, hard drive all assembled, tweaked, pimped, proxied, overclocked, backed up, maintained and restored meticulously, pruned and flourished like my own digital garden, loved and lavished with all the finest software and crammed with all my art, writing, photos, email – an online lifetime of memories – died.

there i was, happily reading email when a snap, crackle, pop came from the direction of my desktop, the monitor powered down, the speakers snapped out a piercing blip and the cooling fans went silent. i went down the list and thought: ok, don’t panic, what just blew up? heat sink fan on the processor or power source? but all fans were running when i restarted and the power source seemed fine, it turned back on. but it shut itself down again shortly after. upon another reboot, i HEARD XP start but didn’t SEE it on the screen. the monitor? nope, that still works. So i reboot once again and the display on the front of the computer which usually shows a bright blue screen with icons for memory, storage, CPU activity and temperature plus a few other nice diagnostics displayed nothing but a blue screen and a little barrel telling me, “hey sister, i see the hard drive, but that’s about it.” So no monitoring, no icon of any part of the system. Which led me to believe the nervous system was shot – the motherboard.

One more restart, and then from somewhere inside the silver shoebox, the dull, distant siren of some internal alarm that sounded like an ambulance in a soup can. i thought, “maybe any one controller, capacitor, even the BIOS might be toast, but more than likely, the motherboard is zapped so – no nervous system (motherboard) means the brains (the processor) can’t fire up and control the rest of the body and the video card (the optic nerve) can’t give me any graphics, but the saving grace, the heart of the operation where all the memories are stored, the hard drive is healthy and intact. i know this . . . because the little barrel icon was there, and i could hear the healthy spin of the disc inside.

So i did some homework, read reviews, watched videos to look at the guts of the computers, went to retail stores to touch them and see how they were built, looked at some sexy systems ranging from sleek laptops to crazy alienware, i even considered building one again but the testing and tuning, time and energy that goes into getting a system up and running just weren’t in my favor. i decided though i like the portability of laptops, i just prefer a full-size desktop at home base. i enjoy my workspace as a creative altar.

Joe brought me home a very old Dell tower from his work to borrow in the meantime of ordering, and as soon as i had it on the floor, i got out my tools and swapped my HDD in. the transplant was a success! in minutes time and two restarts to load up the new brains and nervous system i was running my tailored desktop again, albeit slow as balls on this old dog of a machine. Pentium III 996 MHz and a mere 256 MB of RAM. euughhh! My HDD is all, “WTF, mate?!?!”

i even looked at the Dell XPS and after configuring several systems from several makers from standard retail HP and Sony and all the geek models & makers in between, after getting several ideas in several outrageous figures and quotes ranging up into $1800+, i settled on a Dell Inspiron 530. i tricked it out the best i could imagine with upgraded processor, memory, audio & graphics cards, media hub and other fancies and kept it at $1400. i even checked the benchmarks and it performs better than some systems priced at $500 more. i won’t nerd out and bore anyone with the specific hard specs, unless you ask. it should run blazing fast around my old mini-me. poor little silver friend.

so tonite i will, after work, spend a good amount of time migrating my music, words, photos, email and settings from my old HDD and backup drives. My only concern? Windows Vista. i’ve read it’s buggy. i’ve read it’s chatty. i’ve read it takes about a months worth of tweaking it to settle down and behave the way you like. but i’m ready to explore and tame it. i don’t negotiate with terrorists. anyone have any horror / success stories or advice for me on that front?

ah, but before i go . . . i should mention the cool thing about having to borrow this old computer. it has a 3.5″ floppy drive and a (wait for it) zip250 on it. and why is that good? well, i have this old pile of floppys and zips that had old pictures and writing on it i had forgotten about. stuff i was sure i might never see again after a previous HDD failure, a few computers back. it was an exciting, revealing, amusing trip down digital memory lane. and i encourage everyone to write and save it, even if you don’t think you have a gift for it. even if you don’t think you’ll be published. even if it’s just observations on your own personal drama du jour. it’s informative and enlightening and imperative to “see” old documented thoughts and mindset for emotional growth. to see how the voice inside has changed. if nothing else, it serves as a marker, sign posts for how far you’ve come, or how much further you must go if you intend on doing something more.

i suppose it’s the time of year, as poring over old memories is reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. and having a husband like Joe to love and take care of me and make new memories with me, our first year as a married couple is my greatest gift. well, that and the new computer he just bought me. he emphatically expressed, “no more things beginning with the letter “C” are allowed to break in this house.” It began with the Cat in January when Odin had a few expensive bouts with the vet. Then my Car in April, prompting a new Volkswagen Rabbit purchase. And now, my Computer, which i believe, completes the three in the “C” cycle. We’ll just stay home for Christmas to be safe. No travel ensures no problems.

but yes – the impending holidays are a mixed Santa’s bag of goodies, a sloppy harvest cornucopia of good and bad memories for most. a collection of the joys (and occasional discomfort) of families. so i will leave you with an old piece of writing of mine. a description of a photograph from my childhood with links to the cultural reference for clarity . . .

“We’re standing in the kitchen of my grandmother’s house. It is a room where I spent many formative hours as a child. Behind us is a circle of dark brown cabinets, swirled with the brushstrokes of the original stain, all of which have knobs with a bright orange flower in the center. The dishwasher with its large rectangular buttons sits unused. It’s broken and the dishes dry behind us in a mustard yellow Rubbermaid rack. The counter is crowded with blenders and coffee makers and other appliances, years before the notion of space saving installation. A terribly sad remnant that passes for a radio sits to the left of the stove top and a neighboring roll-top breadbox. It’s placed here where it gets the best reception it can hope for near all the metal and with the help of a bent up blue coat hanger. Blue grass music and talk radio is usually coming out of this nostalgic contraption.

The oven has a large door, big enough to cook two small children and boasts a window to watch cookies and Shrinky Dinks with the light on. My grandmother had the same cooktop and range from my mother’s youth up until I was nearly 14. The same was true about the refrigerator. For years I imagined my grandmother as the Hungarian witch, able to keep appliances running until they didn’t match the décor. Some of the only things to come out of the refrigerator are endless bologna sandwiches with Plochman’s mustard and a never-ending surplus of milk, applesauce, and popsicles.

Behind my mother is one of my favorite cabinets. It looks small from the outside, but once you open it, a round three-tiered lazy susan spins around with spices and baking ingredients. A deep and endless door to magical cuisine. A Narnia portal with my grandmother as the White Witch. i would spin and spin this until glass bottles clicked and metal tin boxes tapped out code until they all crashed together like unwilling passengers on a tilt-a-whirl and toppled like bowling pins signaling my grandmother to come running with the spatula armed and prepared to swat us with it. it is the largest, most fearsome piece of plastic i know; mightier than the paddle, the switch, the belt strap or the back hand combined. It’s called the “pancake turner” and in a German-Hungarian household, it is gainfully employed in the morning with buttermilk pancakes, potato pancakes in the evening and ass-whupping any time it’s called upon.

My mother and father are standing together in the center of the photo. My sister is waist high and under the arm of my father, his hand pressing her against his hip, and I am on the opposite side, my mother’s hand around the little knob of my shoulder.

My father’s arm is draped over my mother like the back of a big armchair, his hand dangles and points to my head like an accusation. “You’re a smart little college-educated bitch, just like your mother.” Around his wrist is a thick leather strap, like the strongman at the circus, but not black. Instead it is the color of honey, with a large watch face in the center. It is the only picture, not taken professionally and posed uncomfortably at Olan Mills Studio where we are all arranged together. We are all wearing shirts in variations of blue and gray like a November Sky. We are all wearing blue jeans from stone to sky blue.

We are all smiling.”

family at Grandma & Grandpa Paull's
Family Polaroid