Thursday, January 31, 2008

Speaking of Muffin Uptown.

When the clerk at the sewing machine center informed Muffin Uptown that it had taken the service man over two hours to repair her machine, because it was totally frozen up, MU said that the woman looked at her as though she didn't deserve to have a sewing machine of her own.

"Like I'd been out after curfew, racing it for pinks."

photo, Viktor Klimo

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A short note about Muffin Uptown and then I've got a Stephen King book to finish. Wait. Did you hear that?

Muffin Uptown saw the back of Ted Dansen at the Rivermarket on Saturday night a couple weeks ago.

He and Mary have a place downtown, you know. I am acquainted with people who are acquainted with people who have been near there.

MU was happy to report that the back of his head was just as down-to-earth and friendly as you would imagine it would be.

This'll be something she can tell her grandkids about.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Curses. Foiled again.

My mom and dad have taken to unplugging the phone when they're trying to rest. Just lately, Mom says that the phone just rings and rings, every time they try to lie down. She's discovered that their number is only one removed from the neighborhood Starbucks.

I didn’t tell her, but I find this bit of information highly suspect.

Who calls Starbucks? For the life of me, I can’t put together half a dozen people a week who would have any reason to telephone Starbucks. Certainly fewer than have reason to telephone my folks.

I suppose you might telephone Starbucks if you thought you had forgotten your good umbrella there-- although I don’t think I would bother. Surely, it's long gone by now.

You might call Starbucks if you were an employee and woke up all hanged over. Again.

Or maybe you drive one of the coffee bean delivery trucks and they're counting on you for the morning rush, but you took that confusing turn at the corner of Roosevelt and Martin and are now hopelessly and irredeemably lost. I can see where you might want to pick up the phone and call.

But the rest of you--picking up the phone and calling Starbucks for no reason at all? Way to go. Way to mess it up for the rest of us. You want tell me how I'm supposed to call my mom during her nap window if she has her phone turned off?

Really. Thanks a lot.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm parched.

The winter has not been kind to me.

So much so, that I would get married again tomorrow if it meant having someone to smear Jergens on my back.

I am so dry that yesterday, a piece of me dropped off and was crunched underfoot by a passer-by. Even after kneeling painfully down on my cracked and flaking knees to examine the crushed particles, I was not able to determine whence the lost piece originated.

As far as I can tell, though, I'm not missing anything I need.

photo, Irving Rusinow, April 1941.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Take a load off.

I was involuntarily involved in a conversation the other day in which one participant was itemizing all the tests her doctor had ordered after she reported being tired.

I remember almost nothing of what was said after the words "comprehensive metabolic panel." At "erythrocyte sedimentation rate," my eyes rolled into the back of my head and the world went totally and obliviously black. If I hadn't passed out, I'm fairly certain the conversation would still be going on, and you would have been able to swing by and hear all about it for yourself.

Were I to visit my doctor and complain of feeling fatigued, he would just look at me and say, “Well, lay the hell down.”

Which I could do, if I had one of these--Joo Youn Paek's perfect accessory to the come-as you-are, impromptu nap. It's called the pillowig.

I'm still trying to decide what those of you who sleep on your faces should do.

found on swissmiss via bientotdemain.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Perhaps it's the mothership, calling me home.

For well over a year now, the left side of my head has been bombarded with isotonic radioactive alpha-romeo waves. I can't say for certain when it began, but I became aware of it when I first noticed a tiny little beeping noise.

It is the exact same quality of noise you would hear were your Matchbox cement truck to back up, and it is most clearly heard when the listener is seated in my chair, facing the computer. You know which chair I'm talking about, right? The one in my office, where I sit for forty hours a week?

beep. beep. beep. beep. beep.

It is, indeed, a very tiny noise, but it takes up a lot of room in my brain because it never, ever, lets up.

And I am the only one who can hear it.

Apparently, some time prior to my coming to work here, all employees were repeatedly subjected to forced Metallica concert attendance and can therefore no longer hear tones at certain registers. How else to explain that my boss can't hear this noise, my employees can't hear it, and none of my co-workers can hear it? (I did have one technical writer who claimed to hear it, but she later recanted. I hold her testimony altogether suspect, anyway, as I think she was just saying she could hear it in order to get me to stop shouting "Just listen, dammit!")

I've had the maintenance people in, and I've consulted both both branches of the IT department. The Mac guy said to talk to the PC guy; the PC guy told me to get a life. Nobody in the whole world can hear this noise but me, and by now, this noise is all I can hear.

And then yesterday--after I'd been home from work for about an hour--I heard this tiny little noise.

beep. beep. beep. beep. beep.

Does anyone out there know where I can get a Reynolds' Wrap hat? Something with ear flaps, I think.

photo, Dave Gostisha

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My mom will get it.

A warning to my sensitive readers: This post contains one instance of an inexpensive, all-purpose curse word, which I deemed necessary to content. So, please, if you are watching your daily curse word intake, come back tomorrow. I predict that to be an expletive-free post.

Although practically perfect in every way, Muffin Uptown has a very short fuse when it comes to balky mechanical equipment. I warned her about this when she asked for her first sewing machine. As those of us who already own these contraptions could easily have told her, sewing machines exist for the sole purpose of testing one's certitude in a higher, beneficent being. Anyone prone to crisis of conviction would be better served at the mourner's bench than in front of a sewing machine.

And MU's constancy? Well, she loses her shit when a zipper gets stuck.

She's building an ambitious art installation that involves PVC piping and yards and yards of fabric, and had a meeting scheduled with her advisor on Tuesday to evaluate her progress. It's been going well. So of course, the machine inexplicably stopped in the middle of the next-to-the-last, nine-foot-long seam.

She telephoned me at work to test both my diagnostic and prognostication skills. Normally so articulate, she was struck dumb in the face of total mechanical malfunction.

"Mom! My sewing machine is all messed up. The wheel thing won't turn and it doesn't work. Well, it will turn--but it's really, really hard and when it does, the other thing just moves back and forth, instead of up and down and nothing is happening. This is really making me mad. What's wrong with it?"

Click. Click. Clickclickclickclick.

"What is that noise? What are you doing?"

"I'm turning the other wheel thing. But nothing is happening. Why won't it work? This is really making me mad."

"I think you should stop doing that--it isn't supposed to make that noise. Check the needle and make sure it isn't bent. Look for knotted up thread behind the bobbin. Check the presser foot."

"Presser foot? What's that?


Ultimately, she was reduced to finishing her project on my sewing machine--a Singer 301A, circa 1956. There was a lot of inarticulate moaning and groaning about that, too. "Does your machine even work? It's old."

Later, during her project review, she detailed the difficulties she'd had to her professor and complained of having to finish her sewing on a "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sewing machine."

"That sounds cool." her professor said, "I don't think I've ever used one of those before."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I've gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that I'll be able to go to Barnes and Noble on my lunch hour today and pick up a copy of Stephen King's new book.

I don't want to hear from anybody about this. I went to graduate school. I studied James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. And Faulkner. Lots and lots of Faulkner. During that time, I specifically remember vowing that one day I would read anything I wanted, without fear of ridicule. Unless I'm mistaken, it was smack dab in the middle of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

That day is today.

The last time I was so desperate for a King book was in 1987, when the Tommyknockers was released. I got so lost in it that I had to call in sick, just so I could find out what happened.

Just letting you know, so you won't be all surprised and all when you get stolen content tomorrow.

photo, Zsuzsanna Kilián

Monday, January 21, 2008

A long, strange trip. Every day.

For the past two weeks, I've been carpooling to and from work with three other people. After almost three years of commuting, I was starting to feel the loss of those 8 hours each week that served no productive purpose other than getting me from one place to another.

I was having a hard time getting out of the house in the morning and away from the office in the afternoon, getting up so early that I was making myself late for work and leaving the office long after the sun had gone down again. Going home late on winter evenings, I can tell you that when the view outside the driver's side window looks for all the world like the inside of a cow, it's easy to miss a turn and end up taking that ride on the wild side, that feels a little too much like the setup for a Stephen King short story.

In three of the four cars, it's a bit of a squeeze. Moosh in four women with purses, lunches, knitting, laptops, and what-have-you, and it's the bus to Cartagena, sans chickens. And although these are people I know only slightly, it turns out that I have no qualms whatsoever with allowing my head to fall over the back of the seat while my uvula flaps noisily about. That's the thing about those come as you are naps--they are no respecters of time, place, or dignity.

Still and all, I'd like to see it through. I'm feeling more rested, I'm getting in to work early enough to make coffee for everyone, and I'm leaving the office right at leaving-the-office-time. Also, though, I think material world girl has started a pool, so that if I quit or am thrown out, somebody will win some big money.

And you know I'll never see a damn dime of it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ode to a vase.

From the artist's description:

If I was a piece of pottery, and this pomegranate vase came walking by, it would be love at first sight. I would marry this pomegranate and we would live happily ever after.

That's what I call loving your work.

I like it, too. I'm not really the marrying kind, but I would definitely put out.

From Whitney Smith Pottery. Via Modish.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Choosing sides.

You might remember me mentioning my many lesbian friends. They are legion--a massive, organized force with which to be reckoned.

The longer I'm single, and the more I bellyache about it, the more my sister friends say to me, "That's why you need to come over to our team."

The pressure is especially bad when they're having a hard time making their monthly quota. Like now, for instance, that it's January and the Christmas rush is over. If switching is something you've been thinking about, now is definitely the time to do it, because you can pretty much write your own ticket. Yesterday, somebody offered me free shipping.

And there are days, I'll admit, when they make a pretty good argument. There are almost always tampons in the house; nobody gets overly excited trying to fix something, just because you need a good cry. You pretty much double your earring wardrobe. And all the literature says that lesbians never sit home alone on Saturday night.

It was all starting to sound pretty reasonable to me until today. Standing alongside a male acquaintance, I laid my hand on his shoulder to make a point. This is my nature; I touch people when I talk with them.

It's been a really long time since I've had a good conversation with a man.

He had--really--the nicest shoulder. Copping a feel all up and down this guy's arm--I've never felt less attractive or more like lecherous Uncle Larry in my life. But if it were up to me, I'd still be there, climbing all over him. I'm a disgrace to would-be lesbians, everywhere.

Oh, hell. I'll pay my own damn shipping.

photo, Penny Mathews

How many words did you eat today?

Scooped again.
My material world friend beat me to the posting punch on the Free Rice vocabulary game. I lost a lot of time Tuesday night because I couldn't stop trying to beat my own best score.

Once I did finally get away from the computer, I kept thinking about rice and a series of photographs I saw on the web last month from the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. (I'd heard about the book when it came out in hardcover; apparently its release in paperback has re-kindled interweb interest.) The authors have photographed families from all over the world, posing with their weekly food allowances.

The Sudanese refugee family pictured above lives on $1.23 worth of food a week, a lot of which seems to be rice.

I gotta go study the dictionary.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Watch it.

Yesterday, at quite literally the eleventh hour, what had for all intents and purposes been simply a typical Monday of moderate challenge grew teeth, reared up on its hind legs, and bit me on my face.

After leaving work, I stopped to fill a prescription and while there, I purchased half a gallon of chocolate ice cream and two pies. I consumed one of the pies with a Miller Lite on Monday night.

I am holding the other pie in reserve for today.

photo, Barun Patro.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Are you of the Frank and Nancy, Sid and Nancy, or Nancy and Elliot generation?

The first of my contemporaries has agreed to become a grandmother.

You can be sure that were she not ready to be called Grandma, it would be the neighbors, instead of her daughter, who would be getting the new baby. Or maybe the city zoo.

So, Muffin Uptown and I went to a baby shower on Saturday. I suppose there must be people who don't mind attending showers, but I'm not one of them. We went because we love this woman and her daughter, and because we were afraid not to go.

The expectant mother's best friend was there--a young girl who looked like she'd just gotten her braces off and changed out of her knee-socks especially for the occasion. I think she may have been wearing her first ever, big-girl shoes. Yet there were several older women who kept asking her, "When are we going to be having your shower?"

I didn't really notice the questions, because--let's face it--these are the same women who hounded us into our marriages and subsequent young parenthood. But they sure made an impression on Muffin Uptown. "Gosh Mom, those women! Are you going to wake up one day and be one of them?"


I have sort of a vague recollection of being certain that I would never have gray hair. I'm not sure where this assertion came from, but I would've put money on it right up until the minute I yanked out the first one.

I have that same feeling about turning into one of those women. I think that this certainty, though, comes from an understanding that they are not so much representatives of a certain stage of life as they are a product of their particular generation. Theirs was the generation immediately preceding my mother's, and--for the most part--having a family was their career plan.

Then, along came my mother's people, and all that changed. It's almost as hard for me to imagine my mother or her friends behaving like their mothers as it is to imagine her spending each and every Saturday (like me) wearing the same worn cargo pants and ratty black T-shirt.

When the last of those old women is gone, I don't know what we'll talk about at our baby showers. Really, the only thing left is to compare labor and childbirth stories, so maybe we can just stop having them. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't mind being sent an announcement and asked for a gift. As long as I can just drop it off without having to change out of my Saturday clothes.

photo, Marja Flick-Buijs.

Friday, January 11, 2008

And after that, we took a quick hike 'round the Matterhorn.

Two weeks before Christmas (it seems ages to me now), the experts at work were careful to keep their faces straight when I reported that Muffin Uptown had decided to make a quilt for her boyfriend.

"For Christmas?" they asked.

Then they patiently answered all my questions and gave me some time-saving tips, "just in case time got a little tight."

But all the while, they were looking at me the way they always do, when I ask for copy by the end of the day or announce that I have started knitting a sweater. It's an expression that says, "Look at that. Isn't she cute?"

When MU announced a day later that she had decided on a different gift, they didn't even try to hide their relief. I was feeling pretty lucky myself.

Until three days before Christmas, when MU came to me with the news that she was reverting back to the original make-a-quilt plan. That time, I didn't tell a soul. I couldn't, because I couldn't bring myself to say the words out loud. And what I didn't tell Muffin Uptown, was that there was no way in hell she could finish a quilt in two days.

But apparently, love knows no boundaries. Here are pics of the quilt she slaved over for her boy in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas. Word is, he's as taken with it as they are with each other.

I hope it turns out to be as sturdy as they are.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Abby Normal.

Do you remember that interesting spinning ballerina demo from the week after Christmas?

If the tiny dancer seemed to you to be spinning primarily to the right, congratulations. You are a right brain thinker--you know, one of those creative types.

According to the creators of this quiz, "Being creative or artistic doesn't mean you know how to draw or play an instrument. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world."

Take me for instance. I'm looking at the world 62% through my right-brain. Or I'm looking at 62% of the world in a right-brained way. Or 62% of the world's population (who also happen to be looking at me) believe me to be right-brained. I dunno; I got all confused when I saw numbers.

I don't know how valid it can possibly be, but it's fun. I would love to hear from someone who scored with higher numbers on the left side.

via ReubenMiller.

Post Script: One of the careers suggested to me by the creators of this quiz was beautician. I totally knew that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It seems a little late in the game to be raising this question, but--

How important is the Web? This comes up all the time, in my line of work. But since the world wide wonder takes up so much of my free time, I wonder about it, too.

It's important in that it is useful. Dewey Decimal would still have me on the floor in a headlock, my thesis still unfinished, were it not for online libraries and catalogs. Because of the Web, I don't have to remember where I put the owner's manual for my digital camera, or wonder if it's my new medication or newly-attained middle age that's to blame for a sudden and unprecedented inclination toward gasiness.

Like everybody else I know, I go on line all the time--to pinpoint the name of a vaguely familiar-looking actor, look up a recipe, find out a movie time, or mapquest my way to the grocery store. As far as I'm concerned, useful equals important.

I suppose what I'm really trying to ask is whether or not the Web is relevant.

When something takes the interweb by storm--when everybody's doing it--does that make it apropos of anything real? When I and 70 million other bloggers are neglecting our basic hygiene and forgetting to pay our utility bills just so we can have our say about the latest thing, does that make the thing socially significant? Is our having our collective say about that thing socially significant? Maybe that thing and our commenting on that thing is only as culturally meaningful as, say, the latest mega-hit television show. If so, I'm putting an awfully lot of energy into this year's Dallas.

About 15 years ago, in an argument in which I was more fabulously wrong than I will ever be again, I patronizingly explained to a family friend that the World Wide Web everybody was abuzz about would be a total bust, because only the world's richest people would be able to afford access.

I've been trying to figure out what I think about it ever since.

photo, Rodolfo Clix.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Quick. Somebody call a professional.

Normally, I can fix things. A little patience, a little glue, and it's easy enough to set things right again.

But the timer knob broke off the dryer last Thursday and it refuses repair. Nothing I do makes it right again. So since then, I've been adjusting the timer with a pair of vise grips. These work fine for me as long as no one tries to force me to get my dryer set and tumbling in under, say, ten seconds. It's slower, and more awkward than laundry was when I had a functioning timer knob, but there are worse things.

I think I can just purchase a replacement knob, but it's highly likely that I've also broken some sort of cotter pin or such--and that the fix only seems simple to the untrained eye. This happens a lot, I've found, with tiny little parts that are no longer attached to the great big appliances they rode in on.

Obviously, I need to call somebody. It's just that I'm afraid it's going to be as much trouble for me to have the knob fixed as it would be for me to purchase a brand spanking new dryer. I could pick up the phone and have a new, super quiet, energy efficient dryer tossing my wet clothes around by 5 o'clock today, but you know it's going to take 6 weeks to get a new knob flown in from Manila. And then they're going to make me pay to have the guy bring it out and push it on there; no way are they going to trust that kind of operation to an amateur knob-putter-onner.

The last time I had a conversation like this with myself, I ended up with a new car.

Monday, January 7, 2008


On Saturday, I carried my CPU down to Best Buy so they could increase my RAM, which sounds like it should have been more fun than it was. I'd been needing to have this done for quite some time, but had been putting it off because I just didn't want to go to the trouble.

And it really was a lot of trouble: all that crawling around under the desk where we keep the extra cat hair to unplug the computer, putting on my game face and mashing down my hair before I could leave the house, and then having to call Muffin Uptown to get directions back home. All in all, it was more focused activity than I typically like to experience on a Saturday. As you know, I'm mostly just a nap-and-let-nap kind of girl come the weekend.

When I mentioned my plans to spend my afternoon schlepping my hard drive around town, Tawana once again offered to install the additional memory for me. But I hesitated. It's not that I didn't believe she could do it; I just didn't believe that she could do it.

I kept thinking about the day back in junior high school when my best friend Emily asked me to show her how to pluck her eyebrows. "If you'll pluck my brows for me, I'll pierce your ears for you. Come on. It's not big deal--I pierced my brother Tommy's ear."

A couple hours later, Emily had the prerequisite 70's thinly curved brows, and I had a pencil-sized hole bored part way through the lobe of my right ear. It was not even a centered partial bore-hole. While comparing our makeovers, Emily finally admitted that it was Tommy, in fact, who had pierced her ears. She'd never poked a hole in anything more animated than a soon-to-be roasted potato.

It would be easy to say that since that day, I look dubiously on any friend who claims to be able to do something for me that would be better left to the experts. But the truth of it is, I have friends these days who are the experts.

I think that instead, there was just something a little too familiar in Tawana's face as she said, "Come on. It's not a big deal--I installed extra memory into Carol's computer."

photo, Joachim Bär.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Two-fer Friday: The story of stuff.

How much did that iPod really cost? I'm betting you don't really know.

Free Range Studios' The Story of Stuff takes you on "a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture... expos[ing] the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues."

You're gonna wanna watch this.

via SwissMiss

Time for a little horn blowing and a brief note to my friend in Austin.

The guy in IT tells me that between YouTube, iTunes, and, the Tattoo Tees podcast has been downloaded 82,986 times.

As you know, I have a hard and fast rule about not bypassing any opportunity for shameless promotion. And while all my daily readers have no doubt already seen the podcast, I offer it here for those of you who may be late coming to the table.

Even my regulars may not be aware, however, that if enough of you were to take that next step and buy yourselves a copy of this little book, I could retire early, since I receive a 35% commission on every copy.

Okay, this isn't really true; I was just checking to see if it sounded good enough to pitch to my boss. Maybe next quarter.

* * *

To KF in Austin who had an unexpected rodent rave in her home while she was out of town: Contrary to what you've heard, this doesn't really happen to that extreme in my part of the country. In fact, the last time a squirrel got into my house, it was only because he bought the drinks and dinner, and even then I only allowed him to stay long enough to slobber on my neck for a minute before showing him the door.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I would have spent my Sharper Image money on something with batteries. And three different speeds.

When I asked Muffin Uptown if she had heard of a RipStik, she blanched, asking, "What, is that some kind of sexual euphemism?"

The RipStik is sort of like a skateboard, but without the rigid safety features of the skateboard. As far as I can tell, it is essentially a noodle on two wheels. Its main purpose, if you are an eleven year old, is to make you look cool without your front teeth.

If you are a 40-something-year-old woman, its main purpose is to land you in long term disability.

For a substantial portion of the day on Wednesday, my friend Tawana practiced balancing atop one of these RipStiks in the garage, holding on to the doorknob of the back door. I expect that sometime today she will steel herself up and let go of the doorknob and try to ride that thing down the driveway. At that precise moment, the balance of power in our relationship will irrevocably change.

Forever after, I get to be the smart one.

image, The Sharper Image Razor RZ525 RipStik Caster Board

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Not much; how about you?

I've been off work for 11 days.

For the first 10 days, I watched television, ate, slept, surfed the net, read, slept, watched television, slept, went out to eat, and slept.

On the 11th day, I did all the crap I'd meant to do the first 10, and that had to be done before I could return to work on the 12th.

It's easy to understand how one might be deceived into believing me to be a lazy and slothful person. If--that is--one were not aware that I was actually conducting a very important and significant sociological experiment.

Here's what I was able to discover during my experimental fallow period:

That if you lie down every time the cat does, you will never be tired again. Although--and this is very important--it is possible to lie down for so long that you become too sore to move.

On a related note--it is also possible, due to lack of stimulus, to become so self-involved and hyper-aware of your own physicality so as to gradually (mistakenly) come to believe that you have lost all feeling in the pad of one toe.

That watching Bridezillas will make you cross and bad-tempered, even with people you have no intention of ever marrying.

That it is just as easy to not get something done because you don't want to do it, as it is to neglect doing something because you just don't have time for it.

On the other hand, all the fun things you love to do but never have time for suddenly lose a lot of their attraction, once you become aware that you can do them any damn time you want.
Which pretty much explains how I managed to do nothing at all for 10 straight days.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year.

To ensure good luck, on New Year's Day eat:

Black-eyed peas and Ham hocks
Greens (collard, mustard, or turnip)

At least, that's how we do it down here.

Hoppin John
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup chopped cooked ham
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3 cups cooked rice
salt to taste
sliced sweet onion

In a large saucepan sauté chopped onion in bacon drippings until tender. Stir in black-eyed peas, ham, and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes; stir in hot cooked rice and salt. Serve hot with sliced onion.

photo, Dan O'Connell