Sunday, December 30

Fa la la la, what?

  • What is the point of putting waterless hand santizing gel in a bathroom with hot and cold running water and all the hand soap you could ask for?

  • Actual quote from actual e-mail to my boss recieved from another assistant re her boss: "X gave me his list of gifts for the clients; please let me know if you would like for me to take care of ordering them for him." WTF? What does she think she's supposed to do with it?

  • I don't eat shellfish so maybe I'm just missing something here. But I saw a sign on a salad bar recently that said "fake crabmeat." If it's not crab, then what is it? And if it's something else why don't they just say so? Although I'll give them points for flat out honesty.

  • I got this great gift from my bosses this year; an iHome clock radio with tons of bells and whistles. I'm still getting it all figured out, and had a few adventures, but I love it. One thing, though. It's got the possibility for 12 radio station presets if you include a.m. Twelve radio stations? Does anyone really have twelve radio stations that they like enough to have preset on their bedside clock radio? I don't think I can name twelve different music genres, even throwing in talk radio, to use them all. Now I can see it for car radios because you can easily drive in and out of station range so lots of presets is handy. But my clock radio, being attached as it is to the power cord, pretty much stays next to the bed. And my house, unlike Dorothy's, also stays where it's put. So ... twelve?

  • I was a good girl this year and Santa paid attention. Two favorite gifts received: (1) down-filled pillow top mattress cover. I could roll myself up in this and sleep on the floor if necessary, it's just that comfortable. (2) "Thrones, Dominations" by Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh, complete and unabridged in CD audiobook. I love love love Lord Peter Wimsey and my excitement at discovering that Ms. Walsh had not only brought him back via story notes left by Ms. Sayers, but she had done such an excellent job of it that, really, I can't tell where Sayers ends and Walsh picks up. I own the hardcopy and it's been reread several times. The audiobook has been much harder to get ahold of. Pretty much a special order from My sister must have been feeling guilty for something when I mentioned how much I wanted it. Did I mention that it's read by the incomparable Ian Carmichael? It doesn't get much better. I am, as I type this, ripping the CDs so that I can listen to the story at my leisure on my iPod.
  • Sunday, December 23

    Oh look! Company!

    Hope you didn't have any trouble finding the place.

    Are ya'll hungry? Thirsty? You have to try this great recipe I found for hot buttered rum. This will warm you right up.
    Oh yes, this one's for you. Gosh I hope you don't already have one.

    And there's some more over this this other pile ... if you wouldn't mind passing them around? Thanks.

    Tuesday, December 18

    Itchy Fingers

    I've been keeping my crochet hook busy. My latest finished project has taken me several months, and is my most ambitious project by far. I've never made a garment before, other than the odd baby sweater. And they don't count because babies don't really care if a sleeve isn't perfect or a seam is a bit off. But I had run out of people to make afghans for and my fingers were itching to start something new so I poked around on-line at various websites devoted to yarns and patterns. Most of the best patterns are for knitters, and someday I'll have to brush up on my needlework and try a few. It's been a lot of years and I never did feel as comfortable with knitting needles as I do a crochet hook. That was then and this is now, as the saying goes, and maybe I'll feel differently now.

    I did find this one pattern for a bolero which looked simple enough. Ha. The stitches themselves were simple, just a lot of double crochets. My problem was two-fold: first, with a garment you must pay attention to gauge (stitches/rows per inch) and you must get it right otherwise the pieces won't match up when it comes time to stitch them together. Second, I used a different kind of yarn for the very first time and until I adjusted it was very tricky to work with.

    I know, this isn't what you think of when you hear the word "yarn." It's really more of a ribbon, and more specifically what they call a "ladder" or "trellis" ribbon. It's a bit like stitching together cobwebs, but is also amazingly strong and has a beautiful drape. I really shouldn't have done my first major project with this, but how could I pass up those colors? And I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Well worth all the tearing out and restitching.

    My next project should be much simpler, but I'm still pretty excited about it. I have new furniture in solid colors and it needs some jazzing up with pillows. So I found this pattern:

    I liked the way the stripes reverse, and I liked that the pattern calls for different textures of yarn. To me texture is even more important than color in the things I crochet because they are meant to be felt, whether it's an afghan or anything else. It's all about how it feels. In this case it's all done in Homespun (a nubby yarn) and chenille. I'm planning to use a combo of the chenille in a few different jewel tones and some faux suede yarn with just a little Homespun for accent. It should result in a nice, soft pillow. We'll see.

    Friday, December 14


    word·smith –noun
    1. an expert in the use of words.
    2. a person, as a journalist or novelist, whose vocation is writing.
    [Origin: 1895–1900]

    Actually I think the above definition might be too simple. In my opinion a wordsmith is a craftsman in the same way that a potter or cabinetmaker is. Much of the craft might be learned, but they have an innate talent that puts them several levels above the mere dabbler. Anyone can use words; but putting them together in such a way that the product inspires, amuses or intriques others is an artform.

    I was thinking about this last night as I lay in bed unable to sleep. Usually if I can't sleep it is because I can't turn my mind off and a sometimes effective aid is to plug in my iPod and listen to an audiobook. If I can become lost in a story my mind will be sufficiently distracted to let go. It has to be something engaging, though, a story that pulls me into the author's make believe world. In this case it was Terry Pratchett's Going Postal that I turned to. I'm telling you, the man is an artist with words. I've read the hardcopy twice and am on my third listen and it never gets stale. He weaves elements together, puns and wordplays, cultural phenomena and current events, in such a way as to keep the reader in a constant state of anticipation. You just know there's something wonderful waiting around the turn of the page.

    Take this line from Going Postal. In the story our reluctant hero needs help and turns to Miss Dearheart, his romantic interest and the only person who sees him for what he really is. She's a no-nonsense dame and exactly what Moist (yeah, that's the hero's name) needs. Her advice?

    Get yourself a little bit closer to heaven. And then get down on your knees and pray. You know how to pray, don't you? You just put your hands together -- and hope.

    Maybe it's just because I'm an old movie buff - that is, a fan of old movies, not an old fan of movies - but that line just tickles me every time I read it, or hear the narrator read it. Even without backstory and character description, you get an instant picture of Miss Dearheart. You know she's standing there arching an eyebrow and looking the hero straight in the eye as she delivers that line. You know it because the line is iconic. Lauren Bacall said it to Bogey in the 1944 movie To Have and Have Not. Actually what she said was, "You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and...blow." So Pratchett didn't invent the line, but he used it deftly, tailoring it to his character while preserving the flavor. It's just that bit different and yet that much more amusing for its famliarity.

    I have favorite Pratchett books, and this is one of them. But every one that I have read has included a few gems in the way of word pictures and great dialogue. The man's a genius.

    Wednesday, December 5

    The Commute That Wasn't

    We've got elephants. White elephants to be exact. Frankly, these elephants are pretty small potatoes, if you don't mind me mixing my metaphors. The roads are wet and there's some accumulation on grass and so forth, but otherwise the weather is not all that noteworthy. Except that this is our first snowfall of the season and the mildness of it lured a lot of people into a false sense of security driving safety wise. When I left my community this morning I could see that the road to get on the main route I take to the subway station was ridiculously backed up so I went with my alternate route. It is normally much longer as it includes going through a main commercial area, lots of stop lights, etc. But it is an option.

    Well this morning my second choice wasn't moving any better. I was slugging along, slow but at least moving, when suddenly my radio died and my windshield wiper went into slow motion. A quick look at the dash indicated a battery problem. Everything came right back on again, but dare I trust it? I don't think so. I start to moan and then I realize that the traffic snafu might have been a blessing in disguise because this route will take me right past the dealership. So I make my way there eventually and I'm actually in and out, complete with loaner car, in about 10 minutes. Just to get back into traffic again. I eventually make my way to some side streets which will eventually wind around to the vicinity of the subway station, so at least I'm moving but it goes a little out of the way first so quite a bit more time passes before I get to the station. And find NO PARKING PLACES!

    This is bad. We have 2 parking garages and 3 lots. Normally plenty of parking even if latecomers might have to hike a ways. I check two of the lots, driving past a garage marked "full" and can find no place to park! So I pulled into an illegal space to think about this. Okay, I could work my way around to the other remaining parking lot, but that's on the other side of the station and would add easily 20 minutes (there's no direct way to get there). And no guarantee of a space there either. I could go back to the dealership and get a ride back to the subway, but that's 20 minutes to get there if I'm lucky, a wait for someone to drive me and then we go through the whole traffic thing again, so I don't see that option taking less than 45 minutes. And then I still have a 40 minute subway ride.

    At this point it's after 10:30 and just trying to get to work is going to cost me a half day leave. I didn't have to ponder problem too long. If I'm going to lose 1/2 day's leave, I might as well take a full day and relax at home. So that's where I am. At home, waiting for the dealership to call and say my car is ready. Oh yeah, there is a battery problem and the guy confirmed that there was a good chance my car wouldn't have started tonight, or tomorrow morning, or sometime soon, potentially stranding me somewhere without transp. So God really does work in mysterious ways.

    Now you'll have to excuse me, because my cat is waiting for a cuddle.

    Sunday, December 2

    In Them Thar Hills

    Every so often the subject of my parents' home town in Pennsylvania comes up. People ask me what it's near, because naturally they are trying to get their bearings and place it. It is at this point that it gets complicated because, you see, it isn't near anything. It's not even on the way to someplace. It's up IN the mountains ... not along side, or at the base of, or with a mountain in the distance. God spread some of the Alleghenies apart and plopped the town down right there. Well it's old enough that it could have been done that way. It is a wide spot between mountains, with only 2-lane mountain roads to access it.

    Exhibit 1 ... a 2-lane mountain road. The mountain has actually been carved away some in this spot, otherwise it would likely be a 1-line mountain road. And that would be fine until some fool came around the curve in said mountain road going the wrong way.

    And to your right ... we'll call this Exhibit 2, alongside a 2-lane mountain road. Please forgive me the power lines. Would that I had the PhotoShop skills to get rid of them. It's a picture, isn't it? This is a small slice of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River which eons and millenia ago forged its way between the mountains and likely helped create the wide spot that became the town.

    These two, above, were taken from my aunt's house. Now, this is not the town proper. This is what in more urban areas would be referred to as the 'burbs. See the stone bridge in the left hand picture? It crosses one of many cricks (we don't call them creeks in these parts, that's flatlander talk) that trickle down from the mountains. Up in the hills these little communities are referred to as "runs." This one is known as Brewery Run, and my mother assures me that way back in history there was in fact a brewery somewhere up the road. Back in those same eons and millenia that created the river these various cricks were likely much deeper and wider. Deep and wide enough to carve out enough flat land for a few houses and a road.

    My father grew up in a neighboring community, in fact just up the main road, one creek over from this one, called Drury's Run. I have no idea who Drury was. Dad's community was slightly larger (read wider) and boasted a small general store when I was a kid. It was complete with a front porch and glass fronted counter for storing penny candy. Considering how many kids pressed their hands and noses up against that glass, it amazes me that they were able to keep it clean. It's gone now. Some years back, when I was still a kid, Hurricane Agnes hit these mountains pretty hard, flooding the river and the creekbeds. Some of the houses were high enough or far enough back from the flow to survive. The store - and the owners lived above it - was I think too close to the mountain and, already really old and run down, suffered too much damage to remain livable. But I've still got the memory of creaky old floor boards and lighting just not quite bright enough. And penny candy.

    I took all these pictures on a recent weekend trip when mom and I went up to "visit" family. And it feels, oddly, much like a visit. My uncle, my mom's older brother (that's both of them to your left) kept referring to the lanes between as roads and alleys. As in, "Now so and so is just up this road. Go past here and make a left at this alley."

    Now the whole idea of visiting cemeteries can sound a bit morbid, I admit. But you have to admit that if you have to have a final resting place, you can't beat these views.