The Other Side of the Ocean
Monday, January 31, 2005
Good morning, how many?
Table for four please.
Smoking or non?
[This is still an option in Pittsburgh]
I’ll take you'ns (Pittsburgh tries hard not to be outdone by y’all) there now. Coffee?
Yes, thanks. Could I have skim milk on the side?
Skim? We don’t have skim. Just regular 2%.
Okay, 2% then. Can you warm it up a little?
Oh gee, I don’t know. I’ll check. You want it warm. Okay, are you ready to order?
I'll have the oatmeal, please.
Yes. Do you have honey?
Honey? I guess so. I’ll check that for you. Be right back.
(comes back with huge jar of honey)
The oatmeal comes with fresh fruit?
Sure: here’s some melon and pineapple chunks for ya.
[is there a worse combination?] Thanks.
Remaining guests to me: if you make one more difficult request, we’re leaving.
What’s so difficult about oatmeal with honey and fresh fruit (that are not pineapple or melon) and a cup of coffee with warm skim milk? I never even considered asking for a latté.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Looking out the Hampton Inn window, I’m tempted. Forget the highways, the world looks wintry-nice.
I walk thinking how once Pennsylvania had associations for me that were all-Americana: like the picture on the Pennsylvania Dutch cigar box. Like Indian names (Monongahela has to be the coolest word to say out loud). Like cracked bells and Amish buggies. Now it’s more like all-American. Bob Evans for breakfast, Panera for lunch, Chili’s for dinner. The local chains (Eat ‘n Park, King’s, Hoss’) draw the neighborhood crowds (what neighborhood are we in though? A non-neighborhood of hilly suburbs with small brick homes). Increasingly one hears people speaking with the brassy twang of the southern Ohio and West Virginia counties that are not too far away. Pittsburgh, once ethnic, now mixed up, lacking an identity.
I walk and walk, looking for a destination until finally I come across a strip mall and I think I’ve hit rock bottom. The central focus of the little shopping center is a store ("Low Carb Headquarters") where you can buy all Atkins stuff. Gift certificates too. I think back to a blogger’s offense when he was told that Slender Fare might provide some good menu options. Is giving an Atkins gift certificate going to make you popular with anyone?
Saturday, January 29, 2005
For instance, this afternoon, I watched the captains of both my flights (to Chicago and then to Pittsburgh), to see if they would take out a bottle to feed the engines formula. It didn’t happen. Moreover, they both landed the planes safely, without so much as a bounce and a shudder, and so I concluded that my two women pilots were the exception to the Summers rule.
I did note that the first pilot sped our little plane to the gate and I wondered if maybe she missed her calling as a speed car racer. Maybe as a next career.
But that first visit, now almost 30 years ago, was the one that defined the city for me and I haven’t been able to shake it. I can’t think where else I am so unmoved to make adjustments over time. Pittsburgh is now as it was introduced to me then, by members of the family I’d married into.
Today as I pack my bag to catch a flight to this steely city, I’m thinking about that first encounter with it.
I always thought it was like no other American city (I am making no value judgment here). It’s so hilly! And so many rivers, hemming it in, tightly, from all sides.
But it is because I learned about it from people who had lived for several generations in the once-tight ethnic communities, that I see it from the expanse of time. Pittsburgh postcards in my head show steel mills, Kennywood (the amusement park where I was told you took *your girl* on a Saturday evening), the Incline for a panoramic view, and the river boat rides for polka dancing. I know where you once went to get Italian cookies and Jewish breads, where the Croatian clubs were and what took place within. Sure, I visited the Warhol Museum and the Pitt International rooms. But the city is really, for me, the city of postwar times, when young adults were making up their future within its blocks.
Maybe each generation, ours included, has a fascination with the lives of people who entered adulthood just before we were born. Maybe that’s why I’m stuck on examining so minutely the years immediately after the war (just prior to my birth), on both sides of the ocean.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Do the two planes share a runway and pass each other at take off? Should I wave?
Light posting ahead (Saturday through Monday) as I travel to attend to business elsewhere. I will have my computer with me, but be patient: Ocean will be surfacing here and there, as time and circumstances permit.
An Old Man’s Winter Night
All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him—at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off;—and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
So late-arising, to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man—one man—can’t fill a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It’s thus he does it of a winter night.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Why no. It is a commercial for EdwardJones financial consultants. The beautifully articulate Polish speaking gentleman serves as an illustration of someone you DON’T want for a financial wizard: he is the incomprehensible one, the Person To Avoid. Apparently EdwardJones doesn’t have any of THOSE. EdwardJones, you and I are never doing business. Ever.
Today marks the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Vice President Cheney is attending a commemorative ceremony in Poland. As are a number of world leaders. And, please let’s not forget the survivors. And a handful of men who once participated in the liberation of the death camp.
This was the wrong time to make a speech about a commitment to fighting tyranny around the world – a very thinly veiled allusion to a certain inaugural speech of a few days back.
8:00 Wednesday: make my way home, scramble eggs.
8:30 Wednesday : make a whole batch of calls that needed to be made.
(email and post comments on blogs throughout)
10:00 Wednesday: turn on The Daily Show.
10:15 Wednesday: feel guilty, turn off the Daily Show.
10:30 Wednesday: take out lecture notes for next day’s class, start playing with them.
Midnight: decide I need to rewrite some of the conflict of laws and full faith and credit issues – after a brief nap.
2:30 Thursday: brief nap was too long. Oh well. Plow ahead.
5:30 Thursday: sufficiently happy with lecture that I take time to write blog post.
6:30 Thursday: break for granola and laté .
7:00 Thursday: tweak lecture more (I could do this forever).
8:00 Thursday: I tweaked too long. I rush to shower, get ready and fly out the door.
8:25 Thursday: pick up Ann.
8:30 Thursday: pick up Tonya. (Both are ready and waiting – thank you!)
8:35 Thursday: realization floods me: I did not “send” the lecture to my office computer!
8:45 Thursday: drop off Tonya and Ann.
8:46 Thursday: begin breaking speed limits to get home.
9:05 Thursday: press “Send” on my computer and wonder if I am really a sane person.
9:20 Thursday: drive into Grainger garage.
9:27 Thursday: Turn on office computer, print out 9 single-spaced pages of lecture notes, pick up important phone call.
9:30 Thursday: Begin teaching.
11:00 Thursday: collapse.
One of the headlines from yesterday’s press was about the law suit filed against McDonald’s, alleging that through misleading advertising, it lured children to its golden arches and caused them to become fat. I do think that McDonald’s (unfairly) gets the sympathy vote because of these news stories, which indeed make the plaintiffs appear nothing short of ridiculous. I remember when the press paraded the hot-coffee case some years back as an example of our uncontrollable desire to push responsibility onto another. The facts of that case (which were actually extremely sympathetic to the plaintiff) as well as the procedural details were pushed aside. I wonder if this will be a rerun. I myself know nothing about the pleadings or allegations (beyond the scant info relayed in the news) and still I’m ready to say that the suit sounds ridiculous. In fact, I felt sorry for the McDonald's employees who were shown as background for the news clip on the law suit. Hang in there! I wanted to tell them. You’re not making kids fat! Keep flipping those patties! This from a person who absolutely hates McDonald’s. Imagine the sentiments of those who actually buy food there. I wouldn’t be surprised if McDonald’s is actually behind the suits, thinking that spending a few million on settlements is worth the free publicity and sympathy that it generates for the big M. The kiddies are probably sons and daughters of big-time investors in the fast food mega-chain. (One spins fantastic tales of this nature late at night).
Organic brown free range
Still another food thought – this one came to me just moments ago. Is it worth spending more for good quality food products? The answer is that, in the long run, you save. For example, I have been buying organic brown eggs. They are so good that each night this week I have happily cracked them into the frying pan without even considering other food options. Had they been just mediocre, I would have cooked something else, pricier perhaps. I came home very late last night and nothing, nothing could have pleased me more than that simple preparation of scrambled eggs. Add a salad, some Margaret’s Artisan rosemary flatbread*, a glass of white wine – it’s a feast.
Dessert across the ocean brought to you by Ocean
Finally, I got an email buoying my spirits this morning. The crepes and strawberries were tried all the way in Japan with great success and joy. Ocean has provided a service to another. Yesssss!
* If you haven’t sampled it I highly recommend that you rush to Whole Foods and give it a try. Packages are sold next to the meat section. I’m reading the description now: passionately made using the finest all natural ingredients and 100% olive oil from a personal recipe…
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Where Ocean yet again provides an invaluable service to the community by encouraging readers to take part in scientific experiments
But today I’ve come to appreciate that for many scientists, the difficulties really begin with the collection of data. For instance, over at Mind Hacks (via boingboing), I read about the problems faced by those engaged in developing a neuroscience of sex. Imagine this challenge: how do you study the brain of a male right smack at the “peak” of his sexual climax (to better understand its activity as it relates to an orgasm)? Is it reasonable to expect that a man can perform while irradiated, undergoing a scan, in a room full of neuroscientists, and in an exact 50 second window of time? The article reports that 8 out of 11 men were able to oblige, all thanks to the women who were at their… side (they had multiple practice sessions beforehand).
As Ocean is very much pro-science, I want to note here that the researchers are looking for more potential subjects. True, this particular project seems to be based in Holland, but I’m sure you could call our own research-focused UW Dept. of Neurology and tell them you’d like to volunteer your sexual services for purposes of scientific research. I’m sure you’d get an appointment right away. (The Q is whether they’d release you after you showed up.)
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Still, they were sleeping, we were not. A bloggers’ cursed night? A wicked lunar revenge against our lot? I’ll never know.
1. Lots of airline tickets (in this way I would beef up my frequent flyer miles, because surely $50,000 worth of airline tickets would buy me life-long gold status in Frequence Plus or World Perks or something.)
2. …in the same vein, I could, I suppose, finally decide which coffee house I would commit to and buy 15,000 latés (tipping generously), punching one of those coffee cards each time so I’d get another 1,500 free ones.
3. A crumbling stone hut in Umbria, with the idea that it would grow in value, or if not, I could at least have some shelter on the day I do my “great escape” away from it all. It would have to be within walking distance to an Internet café.
4. ?? (Night is still young, room for more ideas, though one gets kind of nutty as the hours move along toward dawn…)
Monday, January 24, 2005
…and you can have satellite radio, broadcasting clear signals of your favorite station anywhere in the country.
What if I am driving through the desert, will it broadcast in the desert?
Yes, of course, anywhere. It works especially well in the desert.
This car has the built-in system with one of the two brands of satellite radio..
But that brand doesn’t pick up NPR! What if I want NPR in the desert?
(Ann, don’t, please don’t pick a car based on the one hour you may conceivably spend in the desert without NPR.)
…excuse me while I cough again. I’m in the latter stage of a terrible cold.
(I back away)
…I got it from a friend, so yes, it was contagious, but my symptoms are different.
(he describes them. It seems ill-suited in this commercial upper stratum to be talking of your lung deterioration)(coughs again)
(I have to say this:) May I give you some free advice? Get a glass of water.
…I used to drive the Van Galder bus you know. It’s all about distance. And my wife, she had an accident and though she was found at fault, she was not.
(describes what happened, wife’s injuries and current state of her driving)
I’m feeling post-traumatic stress right now… Maybe I should not buy a car.
Ever? Ann, you need a car.
…unfortunately there are no cars with your desired specifications… Color is definitely an issue.
It’s not an issue for me! I’m feeling exhausted. But I need a car. Oh, but I have a pink house! But I’ll take any of the colors (she states one exception: for some reason she does not like the blackish green --If you’re going to make a green car, make it so it looks green!), I'll even take the whacky orange or bright yellow. Ocean blue would be my first choice. (She’s an Ocean fan, I can tell.)
Nina, I am worn out. This is taking forever.
(it does seem like forever, but we are in this astroland of Audis only 3.5 hours; But still, no car…)
Finally, a different, earnest young man finishes the deal.
Will my son hate me for the fact that you can’t sit up straight in the back seat? Will he think I don’t care about him?
Ann, this is about you: you will drive this car 99.9% of its waking hours. Your son will understand. He will be happy for you. We are happy for you. Be happy, you just bought a car!
[Sort of. As soon as they find one that they can get off the boat and roll out to Madison so that it is here by Friday. That's the goal.]
Sunday, January 23, 2005
First though, an update to the post below: what does one do when two good friends are in a car accident thanks to the fact that they are rushing to pick you up, and both are somewhat injured (to say nothing of the destroyed car)? You watch a DVD together afterwards, just as a distraction. What would three women (+ obligingly tolerant son of one) select? SERIAL MOM. What the heck is that? Here’s a one sentence summary:
a wickedly funny--and nasty--comedy starring Kathleen Turner as the ultimate suburbanite: a woman so obsessed with suburban perfection that she kills a neighbor for not separating her recyclables.
BTW, minutes ago I dropped off the passenger in the accident, at her house. The theme of the evening had been that this is a *wake-up call.* We need to drive even more carefully, we said. This could happen to anyone. We need to drive like we were newly-minted, we need to take every precaution. So after these heartening thoughts, I then proceeded to back the van out of the passenger's driveway right into a snow bank. Eventually I shoveled my way out. Eventually.
Now for the food comment: there is no one place that deserves credit for the chocolate crepes with sautéed strawberries. I pulled together several threads from several sources. Chronologically, you should begin with making the crepes because the batter for crepes should always rest in the fridge for a while (one day would b e great) before you use it.
My version of the chocolate crepe is a direct steal from Pierre Hermé – my favorite French pastry chef. The strawberries are from Cucina Italiana – a food publication that I pretty much devour when it hits the stands six times a year.
2/3 c all-purpose flour
3 ½ tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder (Valrhona is best, but not available here so I use Droste)
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2 large eggs (room temp.; hey – this is easy – just put them for a few minutes in a bowl of hot water)
! c whole milk (room temp)
3 tbsp beer (room temp)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Sift flour and cocoa, then whisk in the sugar.
In another bowl whisk eggs and milk, then whisk in the beer, then melted butter.
Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk well.
Pour batter ideally into Pyrex measuring cup, cover and refrigerate – overnight would be great.
Know how to make crepes once you have the batter? You should use a crepe pan. Spray GENEROUSLY with canola or other oil – you have to have the pan well greased or else the damn crepe will stick.
Pour in some batter, swoosh it around the pan and you can actually pour back the excess into the Pyrex cup.
Let it cook for a minute or two – until it looks cooked throughout . Flip. This part is hard, but if you practice with one or two, you’ll definitely get the hang of it: loosen the edges with a knife and then scoop it out with a thin wide blade (use your hands – it’s not hot!!) and turn it over. Cook for another minute – until it feels done.
I like to stack them, with wax paper between crepes. They can be refrigerated or even frozen. Since they are easy enough to throw in the pan, I just use all of them as I make them.
5 pints of strawberries, hulled
olive oil (I use enough so as to not have the berries stick: 2 tbsp is a good guess, but feel free to add some if you find your berries starting to stick)
sugar (the recipe says ¾ c of sugar or vanilla sugar; I think that’s too much: if you use half, you should be fine)
Take the berries and cup them up. Medium berries mean that you should cut them into thirds. I like to preserve the nice pointed tips, so I stop there, but I bet you no one will notice the shape. Just make sure that your pieces are big enough o hold shape and small enough to soften. One strawberry typically turns into maybe 4 pieces.
Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add berries and sugar. Cook over high heat, stirring– this takes maybe two – three minutes or so – no hard rules, taste!
Cool to room temperature.
I think it would have been terrific had I remembered to sprinkle powdered sugar over each served crepe. But then, how you serve the crepe is entirely an individual preference thing. Had I time, I would have also stuck a spoon of chocolate mousse inside each 'pancake.' Or, if I were desparate for time, I would have served the crepe plain, unadorned, perhaps with a drizzle of orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier.
It's 3:30. How dare they! One has seen the movie. It's probably her fault. She's sometimes late. (So am I.)
It's 3:45. This is ridiculous. Did I get the time wrong? (Check email, I did not.)
It's 3:55, the time the movie is starting. No calls, no nothing. Damn it, I'm cold.
I go in, I call. My ride picks up the phone. What the hell is going on, were you in an accident or something?
Yes, she says. I completely totaled the car.
( I drive and spend the rest of the afternoon in the hospital with the other friend. All is basically fine. Read about it here. Is it providential? The driver had been lusting after a new car...)
I have always stood in this shower stall happily admiring what I recognize to be a ballerina in front of me. She seems to take life with a leap and a bounce -- a nice start to any morning.
But today I looked cheerily at her and saw, for the first time in 17 years, something else: she is surrounded by angry men! She is trying to bring joy, but it is a struggle! Take a look at my photos below. Is it just me, after a night with too little sleep, being dragged into a macabre circle of fiends, or were they there all along?
Me, I wrote nothing. I was too busy dirtying pots and putting forth plates of food.
The thing is, nothing they post can tell it like it is: these guys are all wonderful and to be around them is like being back in Poland, among friends.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Sometimes I wonder why we all don’t just wait ‘til spring. I mean, the stuff does eventually melt.
Only a few photos from the morning hike. It was too cold and too blizzardy to keep taking the camera out.
Oh, you don’t know where to direct your good will? Ocean will attempt to match you up with an elderly* homeowner.
* Definition of elderly for the purposes of this post: over 50. And no, I am sure they will not feel insulted if, on the day of the next big snow you show up at the crack of dawn and surprise them with a cleared driveway. Time estimate for the commitment? It took me, for example, two and a half hours today to clear my driveway, sidewalk and steps.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Whole Foods has decided to occasionally feature foods from distant places by grouping together (fresh and natural) products, with signs explaining what’s special and unique about them. The first country to be so honored? Poland! Did I notice? No. At one point last week, I wondered why Polish pickles were taking up room in the aisle (by the meat section) given that it wasn’t barbecue season, but that’s all I noticed. Ann wrote me yesterday asking why I haven’t blogged about the Polish display, sending me immediately into a tizzy of remorse. I am making up for it today, giving it more space than it perhaps deserves.
2. It doesn’t lend itself to easy categorization.
Whole Foods says this about it: Polish cuisine is a blend of Slavic and foreign culinary styles (translate: it has no style) and it is distinguished by its use of foods with well-defined flavor profiles (translate: it’s boring, it’s not selling, let’s dress it up some!). They may be sweet, sour, or hot (who did the research on this?), but are always delicious (translate: positive thinking now, you hear??).
3. There’s not enough of it…
At least not enough to fill a display, because there in the middle, I found packets of “Sweet Clementine Organic Sugar Polish.” Ha! Another one of those poor translation jobs – I thought. Polish what? I picked it up, examined it, wondered if they even grew clementines in Poland, and was about to buy a packet to try it out when I noticed that further down it said “exfoliating and moisturizing.” Oh! It’s those hip sales clerks at Whole Foods having themselves a little joke! Add the face polish to the stand of Polish foods! Ha ha ha, thanks a lot. I almost ate the stuff.
4. It’s what’s inside that counts
Polish pilsner is excellent. Really, it is my favorite. I hardly ever drink beer here but in Poland, my sister has me taste a variety of brews and they are outstanding. But the packaging… For example: I was tickled to find EB beer in the display. It was positively providential because I am about to make chocolate crepes tomorrow (with poached strawberries) and believe it or not, my favorite recipe calls for three tablespoons of beer. Normally I would have thought – eh, I have no beer at home, no one will notice the difference. But then, lo and behold, there is EB and there am I and it’s as if we were meant to be together.
The first thing that happened when I unloaded the van in the garage was that the cardboard container holding the six bottles together disintegrated into Polish nothingness.
I need say no more: let me wrap this post up by showing off two photos: one from the Whole Foods display, the other from the unfortunate incident in the garage. Note how close the glass is to the tire that has already been thrice repaired this season. (Btw – if the beer freezes into crushed ice, how long will it retain its over-powering aroma?)
And you don't even have to go to Poland to try some...pickles. And cheese. And beer. (Truly a Wisconsinite put this display together.)
A friend writes that she knew of him several years ago, when he was a college student at Columbia. They say that his mom sometimes helped with the song-writing. So cool. Most moms send care packages to their college kids (I admit to not having done that either). Some fly in when the kid is sick, just to make that bowl of hot soup (another failing of mine – I only sent messages saying “take a vitamin”). Cincotti’s mom went the distance.
Oh but to have a developed talent that can actually prove useful to another!
Thursday, January 20, 2005
But the stuff on the inauguration is everywhere (I’m not seeing as much interest in low-cal thousand island dressing). I am in the kitchen looking listlessly at the eggs I am about to scramble and since that is almost as uninteresting as watching the prep for the thousand island low-cal dressing, which, in turn is almost as uninteresting as an inaugural parade – all this lead me to turn on the TV (and to blogging – I’m all about multitasking) and there I have the Bushes and the bands – all of it, in full attire. (All I need is some low-cal thousand island salad dressing and I'll have a full troika of boringness.)
The Bush speech itself has references to captives being set free and going forward with confidence in the triumph of freedom etc etc. Nothing that would cause me to look up. But hark! Did I hear some words that are cliché–ish images and metaphors for concepts that I am all too familiar with? Here’s one – when the ship of communism sank. Wow. Can you imagine the ship, carrying all that communism sinking... Powerful. Secondly, to take the sentence further – when that ship sank, America apparently went on a sabbatical. Now, I know the term sabbatical doesn’t NECESSARILY have academic connotations, but at least in this house, when one says “sabbatical,” one means a year away doing Very Important Research, say in New York or something.
So, I am pleased that Bush is talking about issues that I nostalgically recall (ships with communism on board), or am currently involved with (people who are on sabbaticals). It’s cool to be in sync with your president.
I dedicate this song to all the people out there who try to make those immediately around them feel good about their lives.
[Each year I take a new CD for my friends in Poland – one that exemplifies a pop-jazz trend on this side of the ocean and is lovely to listen to. This year I took Peter Cincotti’s “On The Moon.” I have loved this for months now. I haven’t read a single review that’s anything but glowing. They all say similar things, like this: “Unlike many talented youngsters, Cincotti is neither rebel nor revivalist. Rather, he combines a bit of the bluesy New Orleans raunch of his mentor Harry Connick, Jr. with a distinctly Big Apple sophistication that's as much Brill Building as it is Blue Note. The result is something at once fresh and accessible, based in classic forms yet quite contemporary.”]
From the terrific batch of them, what one song is best for the tenor of this post (and best from the collection, in my opinion) ? -- "Some kind of Wonderful."
I should qualify: you cannot fuss about the banal lyrics. (For example – your embrace – happy place, touch my hand – understand, alright, alright, how sap sap sappy can it get... But if you take it for its entirety, it works. Really.) And note that piano weaving in and around his voice – they say that Carole King had her hand in these notes, I can hear it.
I tell you, I would not have gotten through the last months without these melodies. And yes, of course, it got me through this dark night of work as well.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
* I will now admit that this afternoon, I not only did the drive-through for a second day in a row, but I was also very tempted to honk my horn punitively at the car in front who forgot to pre-place the order, thereby resulting in about a 90 second delay for me, as they had to do it at the pick-up window.
For example, when someone says “inauguration” I think of that person stepping into an office, position, or association. Merriam-Webster confirms this:
inauguration: a ceremonial induction into office.
Is Bush switching jobs?
I interrupt Ocean’s typically bland and dispassionate posting to bring you this important announcement: my littlest one turns twenty today
Here, these (lucky) four are yours, with names that are wishes for you:
The truth is, I love you more than roses.
Happy birthday, little one.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Did somebody say warming trend?
Discussing optimal class size once, my fellow bloggers agreed that forty is about perfect to teach: large enough for the class to feel crowded and full, small enough to learn names and develop conversations. Family Law tends to hover around that number. Even when it goes up to 45, if you assume that there will be five rotating between flu and “didn’t feel like going to class today,” you still have the happy forty there to work with.
For a reason I cannot explain (is it the fact that family issues were so much at the core of political discourse this election season?), my Family Law class has over 60 students this semester. Unless there is a three-month long flu epidemic, I can expect 60 faces every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Sadly, this means that there will be at least fifteen whom I will not really hear from much, nor will I recognize them several years down the road as they begin to practice law. Oh, I’ll remember the names – I can tell if a student has never sat in a class of mine. But the faces will be harder to spot.
As I paced the room, I thought about this and I hoped more than the usual handful would stick around this semester after class, to chat and ask those secondary questions. I think I look forward to this contact even more than they do.
3. Conversation at Victor’s with a young barista who has a tattered little cup for tips with the sign “counter intelligence” pasted on it:
So do you think it’s inappropriate today to be wearing shorts? (I let my wool coat hang loosely around my shorts and t-shirt...)
Oh! I didn’t notice! Uh… is there a reason? (He looks furtively around, worried, possibly thinking that he is dealing with an extremely dangerous and armed lunatic; you can see him doing the mental calculation: dare I grab the phone and call the police?)
People have been looking oddly at me, I do not know why…
Uh… I don’t know… It’s cold outside? (I swear he’s moving sideways toward the phone… Time to make a hasty retreat…)
Well, so long, thanks for making the laté extra hot!
Yeah, you’re welcome, sure, yeah, okay…
What, I am supposed to put on my teaching clothes after the gym just to go home?
Monday, January 17, 2005
When Gopnik writes, I listen. When his articles appear in the New Yorker, I read them BEFORE I get to the cartoons. If he would come on a book tour to Madison I would be one of those fawning idiots that arrives two hours early just to get a seat. [Of course, in reality he would never come to Madison; he is probably one of those east coast snots that believes Madison to be in Alabama, or at the very least Arkansas. No way would his precious New York – Paris foot step in the “dairy state.” I’m guessing now, I know nothing on this at all, just speculating..]
Okay, so why all this Gopnik adoration now? His article in this week’s New Yorker reviewed two recent books on the life of Leonardo da Vinci. It was a wonderful review (of course; I’m biased, I already admitted it). So much so that the magnetic forces, way beyond my control, drew me to Borders late, late this evening, and I picked out the text on da Vinci that sounded absolutely sublime (the one by Nicholl). I stood waiting for the cashier, thumbing through the beautiful pages, pleased and happy… Until I cracked open the other book that I was holding ( Hornby’s “The Polysyllabic Spree”). Hornby is funny. Hornby can often be downright hilarious. In this particular little volume, Hornby wrote about all the books that he had bought and never read. Camic took Hornby to heart.
I thought of a new rule: if it is likely that within the next week I will not read more than at least 100 pages, I will not buy it. I left Borders richer in cash, poorer in spirit.
Blast these reviews! They are worse than commercials for Miss Debby cupcakes.
If you’re wondering about the paucity of posts today, well let me be frank: I have been in my office putting the finishing touches on a syllabus and a lecture. Tomorrow is, of course, the beginning of the Spring Semester (sounds so refreshingly warm and balmy – Spring Semester!) and here I am, working late in anticipation of the eternal sunshine that comes with each new beginning before the mind gets spotted with the little things that always go wrong (one hopes in small ways only).
I am filled with energy. I huffed and puffed for over an hour at the gym, then I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. True, that last part (the “getting to work”) did not happen until early afternoon, what with plumbing to repair at home (yes! Hire me! I can fix toilets and drains!) and endless email (of a pleasant kind – I am hatching my escapes for the months ahead), but all is done now, the syllabus is typed and duplicated and I can soon go home.
But I have enjoyed enormously the critical reviews of "Blink," the latest at TNR, by Judge Posner (thanks Althouse), and also a brief comment at JFW (added to yesterday's "thin-slicing " of it by Brooks in the Times and last week's "letter" in Slate found here).
I love controversy about authors (a mean streak is hereby acknowledged?) and after a while, I forget that I myself have no opinion (having not read the book under fire) – I get so wildly caught up in the argument. Sometimes I get so engaged in the back-and-forth that I am ready to sit down and write my own review – all on the basis of the observations of others.
One more critical piece on “Blink” and I think I can begin my own sharp retort. I have the outline in my head already.
* An image that was not with me when I read Galdwell's The Tipping Point some years back -- a book not unlike this one: a half dozen social sciences with a peppering of the natural sciences, all in one short, but fun romp.
Highlight for me? Well, you could say Mick Jagger’s award. I had once posted here (don't ask me to find it, it was long ago and I am tired) that I had seen him on stage live, in Poland in 1969 and I had thrown out an invitation (scribbled on a piece of paper and tossed onto the stage) for, um, a private conversation. He never picked up on it, but I feel we have a special history.
Plus, in 1965, I made my first radio appearance – I dialed WABC radio (in NY) and my call was (randomly) the lucky one: I was asked on the air to dedicate a hit song to someone. I said in my high pitched 12-year old voice: "I dedicate “19th Nervous Breakdown” to my best friend, Radhika C.” Radhika is my link to Sri Lanka now. I blogged about her here.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
The iPod Shuffle has simply figured out that unexpected pleasure is at times far more gratifying than planned satisfaction
I remember the days (many decades ago) when they would play my favorite song on the radio and I would be insanely happy… even though I had the 45 rpm at home and could play it anytime. So spontaneously there, springing a surprise. Or, when, on an impulse, someone calls and spins a brilliant plan to eat, to do something, to take a trip around the world. Because they just thought of it and it seemed in that second right. And chances are it was.
The NYT pairing of the story (today, Week in Review) on the iPod and the book "Blink," where the author argues that “our instant decisions can be better than those born of long contemplation,” was clever indeed. True, I could too easily be accused of being a rather impulsive type, but this isn’t a post that seeks to justify past spontaneity on my part. I only want to put in a good word for impulse and randomness and blink decisions and wave a flag of hope that knocks down the last sentence of the Times piece where Bennahum (writer for Wired and Slate) is touted as having said this:
“…your rational process of making sense of things is a model that may be obsolete…’Life is random’ is a really great way of shrugging your shoulders in a Buddhist way of nonattachment.” “It’s kind of grim actually,” Mr. Bennahum added.
No it’s not. Realizing that joy can be born of randomness as well, is hardly a crushing discovery.
For Mr. Naumann, who once worked as a book publisher in New York, America’s most lasting contribution would be to reclaim its status as a wellspring of the arts.Too many Europeans, he said, view American culture as synonymous with raunchy television like the “Sex and the City” series. “What I wish most from the United States is the next novel from Tom Pynchon,” he said.
He has got to be kidding! How many readers were actually able to finish (let alone fully comprehend) “Gravity’s Rainbow?” Maybe it reads better when translated into a language* that doesn’t acknowledge the need for shorter words or sentences.
*In selecting the “words of the year,” the German Language Society also gave a nod to Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgaben- übertragungsgesetz – winner of a special award as the longest German word of the year. I'm told that “the monster word consisted of 63 letters, 20 syllables, and ten individual words—all to express a law having to do with British beef (Rindfleisch) and the so-called mad cow disease" (read about it here).
You celebrate getting through another year at birthday-time, even though you sleep during a good portion of that year, correct?
Congrats to the Tonya Show (TTS) for a magnificent year in the running (with an occasional rest stop)! I remember well the birth of TTS: I was at the author's house a few weeks into January 04 and I was telling her about the first few steps taken by Ocean. Her reaction? Something to the tune of “you blog? how weird!” Within a day, her own blog was born.
…What if you change your name in the middle of the year? Can you still lay claim to kudos for a year of the Tonya Show even though at birth, you were Procrastination Central?
Yes, of course. If, say, the Today Show (another TTS) starts out as Sixty Minutes and then changes its name and hour of appearance, why, it still deserves an anniversary, doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT? I’m going with a “YES!” Cheers to the Tonya Show (also once known as Procrastination Central) – with deep appreciation for the blog, the author, and the indelible sense of humor that radiates from both!
P.S. That was a fantastic Bolognese pasta sauce, Ms. Althouse! And Ms. Tonya Show, I’ll get on your case later today. I know we are hitting your anniversary. You are not the Forgotten One.
One blogger is singing along. Another is attempting to find bloggable material. Me, I am enjoying the contrast. Everyone is awake now. I got my eyes I got my nose I got my mouth… I got life, brother… I got life! (And the staid, rich folk take him to court for it.)
The talk is now of navels that have slipped below the evolutionary line of probability.
Movies about hippies seem dated, but not in the sense that you cannot watch them. They either make a person cringe, or emote rhapsodically. It seems I've managed to place myself in a room with examples of both.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
But wait. What happened? One blogger’s out. Temporarily. The other is out (did I hear a delicate snore?)– more permanently. Is it the movie? Is it the wine? IS IT ME??
I was ever so happy to read that because I do not have an expensive espresso machine (my Italian stove-top costs all of $20) and I am glad I am not missing out on something grand. On the other hand, I really do think that a small latte for $3 is an extravagance and so I do not hit the Ancora-Borders-Victors-Starbucks shops very often. Just occasionally. Like this afternoon.
The warm sun streaming into my living room, a nice cup of take-out latte at my side and an idle moment (one of many today, it seems) led me to the following musings:
What’s wrong with this picture?
And another thing: when I make my own home version of a latte, I use organic milk, because in the nonfat version, it has more taste than the watery regular milk. But why does the container have a label on top, boldly demanding that I shake it well before pouring? What kind of residue am I stirring up anyway?
I put the milk next to my old Polish carving of a guy who seems to be contemplating lifes imponderables - like milk containers with odd labels.
Leafing through the catalogue of our politicians at home, I’m tempted to speculate who will be the first here, in the States, to put up a blog? Condoleezza Rice? Not really, unless it’s anonymous. Bush? Never. Cheney? Maybe a group blog with a corporate angle. Bill Clinton, for sure! Don’t you just see him having a daily blog frolic, with posts on everything from the twenty books he is reading to the latest food temptation, or the conversation he had at the gas pump? And he wont use a pseudonym either. He’ll want the world to know.
Still, with forces pulling in all directions, I decided to check out my true nerd status.
The results: it’s low – somewhere around the 25th percentile. But it’s the characterization that bothers me most: I am told that I am a little nerdy, not a whole lot but a little, but that I am also most definitely not hip!
That’s just cruel.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Not surprisingly, I have been anxious about her – not so much because I thought her harmed, since after all, so many more survived, but because I thought it nightmarish to live in the state of chaos and mourning that must describe life in her country now.
Tonight I finally got an email from her and she writes this:
I think we really are under a curse. We were just recovering from a war and now this. The devastation is unimaginable especially in terms of human cost- Everyday I see the face of one of my directors who saw forty members of his family die- it was once a lively face and now there is so much sadness. Another friend was vacationing- she lost her father, mother, husband and children- she saw them swept away while she clung to a tree. She has asked me to come this a week to see her- visitors are regulated. I just feel so frightened for her.
And toward the end of the letter, she adds:
We have all these grand visitors- Colin Powel,. Kofi Annan, Paul Martin- hope we will not miss this opportunity to rebuild a strong and humane society.
Yes, yes, may we all get on with it already? In all corners of the world?
After some deep thought, I've decided to go with my last name.
1. It's fairly unusual. I've never met anyone outside of my own family who has this name, though I always can find one or two in a phone book when I travel about the United States. Especially Pennsylvania.
2. It has the word "house" in it, which makes it seem like a place, and a blog is a sort of place.
3. I think the trend may be more toward using one's own name, but that is just a casual observation.
4. People who know me will eventually find this blog, and it's good to remember that what one writes in public counts against (or for) your reputation.
5. My family is so very small, so why not have a shred of visibility for the old family name--which really does mean "old" (along with "house").
6. I considered This Old House, but that too was taken.
Her predictive talents were average: I haven’t noticed many using their last names for blogs. I also do not think she could have predicted then the thousands that would flock to her House each day to read her musings. What’s truly splendid is that not everyone who visits Althouse on a regular basis agrees with all that she has to say. But they come anyway and they read because hers is a calm, smart and reasoned voice, without the anger and the menacing assertions so often found in blogs that touch on politics and culture.
Ann: congratulations for your year in cyberspace! On Sunday, during a long and delicious car trip, three of us questioned the necessity of space exploration just now, when the world continues to demonstrate such great need for economic resources. Is it that boys need always to be playing with rocket toys? – we asked. But we didn’t mean cyberspace.
I, for one, am happy that Ann explored the blogshpere and stayed. My attention to her blog goes beyond clicking to the top of the alphabet and beyond the fact that she is the most regular purveyor of posts on this planet! May she keep snapping with her little Sony and jotting things in her moleskin book. I’m looking forward to the second year of Althouse.
Temperature at noon, January 14, 2005, Madison, Wisconsin, USA: -2 F.
A sure way to make me feel disconnected from mainstream culture is to place me on the Ticketmaster mailing list
Why not simply remove my address from the email list? For the same reason that I am reluctant to erase myself from any number of lists: WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING IMPORTANT?
The same is true in Prague. BBC reports that the mayor there decided to test the vulnerability of the foreign tourist by disguising himself as an Italian and then hailing a cab:
His masquerade was so successful that he was overcharged by 500% on his first cab-ride.
Not many mayors could pull this off. Imagine our own (I did some crude “Italianizing” of the photo – sorry, my tools are few and my technological acumen is low; luckily the photo, borrowed from daveformadison.com, already had him sporting a pair of goggles):
My answer: I do not know sometimes why I do the things I do, nor what propels me to blog about the things I blog about. The Trump wedding would, indeed, seem like a good post candidate, especially since the Trumps are just about neighbors. [Indeed! As I posted earlier, I have a “second residence” this year in New York which happens to be very proximate to such luminaries as the Trumps. That makes them candidates for friendly, neighborly gestures, such as borrowing a cup of sugar from one another, or shoveling each other’s sidewalk. Or am I too *Wisconsin* in my thinking?]
In fairness, it is reported that Trump has refused the generous services of hairstylists, preferring to mess with his own coiffure. Luminaries have no shame.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Now listen here, googlers, I am a respected member of the community. Yes, I occasionally throw around a word that is thought to belong to the “less than savory” lexicon, but why ever would you think that there is something googlable out there that would combine those two words?? I am so CLEAN (especially at the beginning of a new semester, when I know that more than an average number of prospective students are availing themselves of the google function in their search for any info about their future teachers).
[Yes, there are other Camics out there in this vast land. I doubt VERY MUCH that they are at the root of this search. For one thing, no other Camic on this planet blogs as a Camic. I checked.]
My response to the email? I wrote: At least they weren't googling "camic weird sex..." (The post included my name and a forewarning that the quiz contained questions about kinky stuff.)
1. Michelangelo completed his final frescoes, in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel, at 75.
2. Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal glasses at 78 to help correct his own poor vision.
3. Giuseppe Verdi finished ‘Falstaff,’ his final opera, just eight months shy of his 80th birthday.
4. Georgia O’Keeffe continued painting well into her 90s, despite failing eyesight.
5. Frank Lloyd Wright worked on the Guggenheim Museum until his death at 91.
6. Martha Graham danced until 76, then kept choreographing 20 years longer.
7. Nina Camic began envisioning her magnum opus at the age of 51.
Quite a number of news sources are discussing the new eating guidelines published by the government just this week. And, Newsweek is devoting almost an entire issue to the topic of diet, genes and the Science of Nutrition.
But really, is anyone saying anything new about staying healthy? Oh sure, there are a few tweaks here and there on the advice offered a year ago, or even five years ago. But if we followed the advice of the five-year-old reports we’d all be fine right now. That broccoli may be super beneficial to some and only very beneficial to others – that’s scientifically intriguing, but if you are looking for tips on what will help set your life on a good course, for Pete’s sake, just eat your broccoli. And exercise. [Is anyone going to argue with “Harry and Chris” that “living a sedentary life is not just lazy, it’s lunacy?”]
Rereading articles on virtuous eating habits and an active lifestyle does serve a purpose (must get more of that broccoli!), but it is actually amazing how consistent the message has been for any number of years: more fruits and veggies, more grains, less fat, less sugar, get off of that couch... sounds as familiar as the commercials for Little Debbie cakes and snacks that are now making a comeback.
So why is it that I wasn’t shocked to read the story of the costume? Is it because I think that the British tolerance level for offbeat jokes of this nature is higher than our own? Yesterday, as an addendum to my post on Blair's dwindling hair, a reader sent a link to a photo from the Blair campaign back in 2001, when the Tories attempted to discredit the Labor Party. Would this have been an acceptable campaign ad here, or would it have backfired? [I think the latter.]
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Normally, I take great pleasure in looking outside my office window. Here, take note of the view, while I am still reveling in the neatness of my office desk after the Great Tuesday Clean-up:
Take note: it's so *organized* !! My various little birds on the windowsill can't believe the transformation.
Listen, I’m all for bypassing weather talk. After the horrors of South East Asia and the disastrous flooding in Southern California, I want to do away with this topic. But my eyes keep straying outside to the flash of umbrellas... Yuk.
Do you wonder why a Wisconsinite has to find ways of amusing herself during this bleak and troubling month – with, for example, taking great pains to arrange the top of the shelf next to her desk, just so that the eye can roam to the warm, soft glow of the lamp over the two wooden figures from Poland? A pleasant distraction from the damp gray slush outside.
Office adornments: that's an etching of "Zelazowa Wola" (Chopin's birthplace, considered one of the three must-see places in Poland) in its new frame.
My impulse was to put this aside. The invitation has frothy lemonade in polka-dot glasses on it and candles and flowers in assorted containers. It’s just not me.
But then I thought: how rigid on my part!
And so I rejected the invitation NOT because it threatened to introduce Southern Themes into my home or office, but because I am done with looking at/procuring adornments. At some point one has to get to the substance of things.
Someone asked me today if I followed the politics of the author (Virginia Postrel) of the book I’d been amusedly blogging about recently. My answer: enough to know that she has taken some *interesting* positions on a number of political issues. That does not detract from, or even speak to her writings on the topic of aesthetics.
Ocean and its author do not discriminate on the basis of which ocean we’re talking about. We here even like an occasional sea once in a while (love that cold splash of the Baltic on the ankles, so long as we're in the middle of a heat wave). And lakes have a considerable amount to offer as well. So peaceful, serene (I'm thinking of little lakes). Not salty enough you say? But how else can you develop your palate if you don’t examine, swim in and savor all bodies of water? [I’m not a fan of excessive chlorine in swimming pools though, just so you know.]
UPDATE: Oh come on, I should NOT have to say this: obviously I avoid cosmetics that use animals for testing and I'm not a fan of sweatshops. And I draw the line at dealing with fascists, racists and many other extremists. So, not too much chlorine and no thank you to any of the above.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
More importantly, I learned something that may help readers undersatnd why some politicians survive and others fade with the last strand of thining hair. [Why is Tony Blair’s popularity waning? It’s his hair. It’s not looking as good as it once did. ] I read the following:
The 2001 British election concentrated even more blatantly on the candidates’ looks. “The underlying topic of the General Election,” wrote a Tory commentator, “was not tax and spend, boom or bust, saving the pound and snatching Britain from the gaping, salivating maw of Europe, but hair, and [Tory candidate William] Hague’s distressing lack of it.” Hague’s looks were universally declared a major political problem, before and after he was troused by Tony Blair. “The general view is that he looks a lot like a fetus in a suit,” said an old friend and ally.The hair is not holding up though. A Tory leader attacked Blair on the hair issue. “He’s losing it pretty rapidly and brushes it like a teased Weetabix.”
Don't know what Weetabix look like? Neither did I. Thank you Google:
The strictest laws are (as of today) to be found in Italy, where fines are imposed both on smokers (first fine was issued at 12:01 a.m. in a Naples restaurant) and on restaurant owners. In addition, secret agents patrol eating spots to catch those who refuse to comply.
Not surprisingly, passions run high on both sides of the issue. Clean air advocates were out last night, spraying with water those who lit up. Smokers, on the other hand, vowed to challenge the imposition of such hefty fines ($2600 for a restaurateur who does not report an offender). Already owners of eateries are reporting that patrons finish meals quickly, bypass the espresso and dash outside to light up.
And can't you just see it, this being Italy, the exaggeration of the issue, the display of tense emotion, the theatrics as you dash to take out your crumpled pack of nicotine and light up? [An Italian writer proclaimed: "I vow to continue to smoke cigars in public or move to Cuba, where you can smoke even in airports!"] This would have been the night to do some serious restaurant-hopping there -- with notebook and camera in hand for a blog report. The IHT story on the first cigarette-free day is way too brief and to the point. I'm counting on bloggers to pick up the slack.
Then they can go up, seek out a colleague, drag her down to show off the freshly polished space, take in the compliments, gloat a little. Finally, they can sit back, listen to a CD maybe and forget about the fact that this is A Place of Work.
If her next activity is to pick up the book that she has been reading on the Substance of Style and flip quickly to the last pages where she reads “we [should] enjoy the age of look and feel, using surfaces to add pleasure and meaning to the substance of our lives,” is that not suggestive that she is searching for some deeper justification for then putting aside the computer and spending the next fifteen minutes or so deciding what she should wear to go to the office, where she intends to spend the better part of the day redecorating the place? [N.b., the book is $13.95 and it is worth every penny. If you ever needed someone to explain to you why dabbling in ornamentation, delighting in purchasing pretty things and finding pleasure in aesthetics in general is an important function of life, this is the text for you.]
Monday, January 10, 2005
...and if you still remain unscathed, I can drop one of these little guys inside your shirt for that nice trickle of cold ice down your back. Instruments of evil all around me.
The link lists organizations who have "fired, threatened, disciplined, fined or not hired people because of their blogs." Still, it is a partial story, as you’re left to imagine the transgression leading to the swift dismissal or disciplinary action. Without a doubt, some companies have taken a hard line with bloggers who publish their work stories on the Net. But is it really a revelation that employers tend to treat less-than-loyal employees harshly and at times unfairly? The more interesting (and pernicious) “discrimination” against bloggers, I think, is the more subtle reaction of co-workers or supervisors who are seeing a potential, yet to be realized threat, as if blogging opens the door for possible future negative rants against the organization, even though none have been posted thus far.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Thanks to the exquisite Althouse and the Tonya Show authors for this extraordinary day in Chicago.
[For the distantly positioned souls who do not understand the rhapsodizing about a trip down to Chicago, I want to explain that Madison is a great place to live in, but like every home base, it’s good to occasionally get the heck away from it, just to remember that the world has a long and varied perimeter.]
Oh, to preempt the questions about “what we did in Chicago” I just want to say that the trip was intense to the last minute. For example, I purchased two stools. One could argue that I did not need two law professors to help me in stool selection, but on the other hand, having their wise counsel made it oh so easy to pick exactly the right piece of wood to rest your derriere on.
I blogged about him a while back, noting that when I saw him last year, he bore a remarkable resemblance to Omar Sharif (I posted a photo of the happy couple at the age of proposal -- Janek was 7, I was 6 -- here).
My ever-attuned-to-these-things sister (who lives in Poland) sent me the web address to his newest venture: an authentic restaurant-pub that he built in the mountains of Poland (there is an apartment for rent as well – rustic, but quite lovely). What makes it especially interesting is that it is very very close to the hauntingly beautiful *Alpine* valley of Rynias, about which I blogged just last month.
Here’s the link to Janek’s Szymkowka (I know, a mouthful for English speaking types) and just one photo from his site. We’re going to get on him to put up an English translation, but if you browse around, and find the photo "galeria," you’ll get a good idea of what it’s like.
To think this could have been my life…
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Oftentimes here at Ocean, you get to read about Poland as it is described to you by a Pole living in the States. How are things for an American living in Poland? Read the absolutely delightful observations of one such person here.
And note that in this post he describes the burning of gingersnaps by his mother-in-law, who seemed unaware of the fact that you can actually quite easily halt the burning process in a microwave once something starts spitting fire and smoke (for example: unplug the darn thing). Given that I have been twice this year alone accused of burning things for guests, I’d like to suggest that it appears to be in my Polish genes to set fire to food (unintentionally, of course).
[Thanks to my sister for the link.]
I went back and searched for the quiz that I remembered finding yesterday and indeed he is right. How many dang blasted philosophers’ magazine morality quizzes are there online anyway? Turns out more than one.
If you have the guts and the stamina, you can find the one with the, errrr, potentially offensive Qs here. It’s Saturday, it’s dreary outside, what, you have something better to do?
Well you’re on your own now. I can’t deal with your perpetual grief music. And no, it did not help to run errands to the strains of Verdi’s Othello. [Yes indeed, I’m in the car, it’s 1 pm, and there it is: “Venga la morte! E mi colga nell’estasi Di quest’amplesso…” Let death come! Let it take me in the ecstasy of this embrace…]
Occasionally, street scenes can stump us though. Yesterday, on the median strip at University Ave and Shorewood Blvd, a man sat down and played in the snow. Oh, he tried to get up, but his shopping bag seemed to get the better of him, so he opted to stay put and toss snow around in the air. Some people slowed their cars down, thinking – he needs help, doesn’t he? But what kind of help? The choices were limited (thankfully?), because there is no place to stop at that particular intersection. That’s okay, we all have cell phones and so we can unburden our conscience and call someone else to provide assistance.
Or, take Basset Street (downtown). Driving there yesterday was a challenge as the street was littered with beer bottles. Maybe someone just missed the garbage can and threw their year’s supply too far to the right. Nonetheless, I have had five flat tires in the last two weeks (no kidding). Clean it up, people!—I thought. Or, should have I pulled over and picked them up myself maybe?
I could go on with these vignettes from my day, but posts need to be short, so I’ll let it go with those two little moments from one short drive downtown.
Now, over at bernalchemist, the author speculates about the implications of the BBC quiz on reasoning and gender from an earlier Ocean post. If you’re having issues with that little test, try the Philosophers’ Magazine quiz on morality here. It’ll take ten minutes and the graphing of the outcomes is a bit odd, but the analysis, especially comparing your score with the average, is provocative.
So much talk of morality these days! Go ahead and answer the questions [warning: if you’re going to be grossed out about matters of weird sex, or dead animals, or both, don’t bother. Oh, I know, that statement merely tantalized 90% of Ocean readers. I’m only providing a disclaimer for the 10% who think this to be a gentle kind of blog.] and let me know what you think. Madisoninans – don’t cheat! There are no “right” answers!
Friday, January 07, 2005
I have gone (as a tag-along) to two or three karaoke events organized by the Sociology gang in Madison. I’ve not gone the last couple of times. I did not think I swore off because of the quality of the singing of *some* of the participants. Still, the following article in the WashPost intrigued me. Maybe I should make an anonymous gift of the described device to the person most in need of a vocal boost? At the very least, let me provide a link (carryatune.com) and maybe chance will have it that someone will read about it, invest in it and we will see a new era in karaoke at the Kid. [Karaoke participants: please send emails expressing gratitude to my above address.]
Early morning mist, cold temperatures, backyard pines. And I don’t even have to leave the bedroom to enjoy it all. What a deal.
A lazy person's early morning walk: throw open the window, take in the view, breathe in the fresh air, and pace back and forth a few times.
One lead story today from the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza *addresses* the issue of undeliverable mail. Not just any mail, but specifically – letters written to God. It appears that such letters all make their way to a postal station that processes undeliverable mail. Here, mail to God is sorted into two piles: “return to sender,” or “place in trash can.” Even where there is an address (typically: “heaven”), the postal service ignores it.
Is this fair? Mr. Nawrocki, the postmaster of this particular station, *believes* that it's not. He notes that letters to Saint Nicholas are forwarded to a place in Finland (have we really established that this is where Santa vegges in the off season?). He is suggesting that perhaps some organization should take on the task of dealing with God’s mail and provide answers to some of the questions posed by the writers.
Now wait a minute. I’m not sure if the NYT Ethicist would pat Mr. Nawrocki on the back for that idea. I mean, if I were to write something to a God, I’d want it to go to a God, and if no such Holy Body claimed my letter, a substitute NGO would not do. Of course, being technologically on top of things, I’d first get the correct address. Googling hasn’t gotten me one thus far, but I haven’t bothered going beyond the first screen. [A preliminary search also revealed that God does not have email, but then, the posting on this is ten years old. Things may have changed.]
I wonder, btw, what the postal rates should be – international overseas? Domestic? Free of charge? These are difficult questions. I am not surprised that the newspaper ran it as one of the lead stories for the day.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
In opening the pages of my date book, I came across this note to self for February 8th:
--> yeah! 03.
I have no idea what this means and I have no recollection of writing it. Is it someone’s birthday? Anniversary? Did I commit to a wedding? A party? It seems festive and spirited, but what is it?? And does it block the week, the day? What's with that arrow? Am I coming home from somewhere? If so, where will I have traveled to? There isn't a departure noted in the days preceding that.
Write and tell me if you know or have any clue as to why February 8th should be in any way significant. You will get such a prize for your efforts! Far better than any old Virtual Kewpie Doll.
Ode to the little one who is leaving all too soon and who went for a hike through the Arboretum with me this morning
...For you, the sun will be shining,
to you, I'll never be cold...
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before,
Only one person on this planet would keep me company when I asked for it, during a two-week midnight marathon of gymming
…and talk to me when I felt like talking (which was often)
…and let me watch the food channel when I felt like watching the food channel (sorry, it was so interesting!)
…and leave when I was ready to leave (you would have stayed)
…and return the next day, and the next, and the next (no matter how late).
Only one – you know who you are. I wont be able to continue this marathon. It would be too lonely now that you’re off and away. I’ll have to take up fencing or skateboarding or something.
But I’ve loved these days…
[Blogger ethics are nothing compared to intricate shoveling ethics: you absolutely are the rudest person if you stop at your property line and do not shovel up to the neighbor’s driveway – like my neighbors to the south who are considered utter pariahs for their selfish property-guided shoveling practices. And, if you have time, you shovel your neighbor’s walk. If you are feeling so generous that your heart is bursting at the seams, you may, every two winter seasons or so, do the walkway up to their door as well. But you are never ever obligated to touch their driveway, unless they are elderly or feeble or incapacitated. Otherwise, shoveling someone’s driveway is an embarrassment of riches – you’re overstepping the boundaries of camaraderie.]
I was too late. The sun had not yet risen, but the shovelers were out there already and so we shoveled en masse, with jocular shouts to each other, in the way guys talk when they are trying to be friendly. Yes, that’s right, guys. For shoveling has remained a task for men. Guys grill and guys shovel. That’s just the way it is in America. [Before I get barraged with emails telling me I am grossly exaggerating, let me just say that I am simply reporting what happens around me: absolutely no woman shovels on our long block if there is a guy in the house. This is true even though in three households we have stay-at-home (or work at home) dads and in most households both the man and woman work.]
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
And would you be wearing shorts shoveling in Crookston?
And is it true that you just shoveled your driveway in similar attire?
…and that you have been going in and out of public places dressed in such fashion?
Do you know that it is currently 17 degrees F in Madison?
How do you explain yourself?
Hearty Polish peasant stock.
For all my complaints about winter gardens, am I not moved by the prettiness outside as the snow falls and promises to accumulate into beautiful pristine drifts of white fluff?
I do love snow. Here is me, in the snow, back in the fifties, in the Old Country:
Mostly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of rain. Highs in the lower 40s.
Mud and puddles, coming your way, followed by a burst of the Wisconsin special: an Arctic chill over a barren, snowless landscape.
Like I said, forget the disguise, the white blanket that hides the truth. Winter gardens = ugly.
So two days ago I ran into a former neighborhood friend whom I haven’t seen for a long long time (she’d moved to another neighborhood). We stood between the grind-your-own- peanut butter and the pick-your-own-dried-herbs sections of Whole Foods and chatted for a long while.
But then, lo and behold, I was waiting at Brocach for my dinner companions to arrive and there she was again – sitting next to the only other free table in the room. Do I go up and awkwardly catch up on the last two days? Do I tell the maitre d’ to please seat me anywhere but close to her? What’s the right and proper thing to do? God, I hate these socially awkward situations!
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Of course, I got distracted by little digressions and eventually I clicked on to this little gem:
Go ahead and take the test (courtesy of the Science Museum in London), but remember that it is a timed test so don't ponder your answers for too long. Then write and tell me if the gender of your brain matches that of your reproductive system.
Gardening experts have said that after the flowers wilt, dry up and eventually shrivel into gray heaps of dead leaves and ghostly seed pods, you can let them alone and admire them in their skeletal form – they will delight you all winter long in their interesting “winter garden” presentation.
Oh, how good we are at talking ourselves into liking what is before us!
I suppose it’s like having your backyard look out on a cemetery. You can tell yourself that you really enjoy all that history, all the crosses and tombstones, right there, so inviting, so unique.
For me, a “winter garden” is more like a tableau of what life would be like after a nuclear explosion: brittle, burnt, lifeless. [Is this what would be referred to as naked art?]
My winter garden exists for two reasons only. First, I haven’t the time nor inclination to take a hatchet to it and clear it completely of debris before the frost comes. Secondly, once snow falls, the dead plants keep the ground temp steady, especially during early spring with all that Wisconsin weather merry-go-round as the days go from cold to warm, to cold again.
In other words, I save my illusions and delusions for other areas of my life, where I imagine that I am seeing continuity and beauty and never-ending potential. My garden, on the other hand, is not beautiful in the winter. I’m with the one honest farmer who tells it like it is: it is an ugly garden. It’s over and done with and will not look good again until next April when the first buds break ground again.
Monday, January 03, 2005
I’m carving figure eights.
(This was the exchange between a little tyke on the ice field at Garner and myself at dusk today. But had he been a few years older, he may have queried further thus:)
Figure eights. Except I’m doing it with my car key for the heck of it.
Carving figure eights with a car key seems like something my little sister would do. She’s five.
Yes, well she and I have this in common.
Whom are you skating with?
Alone. I like to skate alone. I don’t do it very often, but sometimes the urge strikes and so here I am, just me and the ducks and you. Pretty empty out here, isn’t it?Why not skate with someone?Because when you skate alone you can speed! Like, go really fast! And when you get tired, you can stop.
Don’t you fall when you go really fast?
No, I never fall.
What a smug attitude! Even Olympic champions fall.
I am not an Olympic champion. If I fell, it would hurt, so I don’t fall. The day I start falling, I’ll stop skating. It’s like driving on ice: you figure out how fast you can go to stay within the margins of safety so that you do not crash. I try not to crash in cars, nor fall on skates.
Speaking of figures, can you do fancy stuff on the ice?
I can do a mean imitation of an Olympic contestant coming out onto the ice to begin a performance. You know how they lift a foot in sort of a curtsey? Yeah, I can do that well. And I can do a half-leap in an inconsequential way that lands me back on ice but resembles nothing anyone has ever done in a professional skating capacity.
Oh. Was it cold today?
Well, I had these terrific Polish wool mittens, except they were joined together with a string and I could not rip it apart so for a while I skated as if I was praying, like this (imagine the other hand in the mitten -- the one that is out at the moment taking the photo and getting frostbite all for the sake of The Blog):
Then I went to Whole Foods and shopped for dinner. Skating was just an impulsive detour on the way to the store.
"If you fudge or lie on a blog, you are biting the karmic weenie," says Steve Hayden, vice chairman of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather, which creates blogs for clients. "The negative reaction will be so great that, whatever your intention was, it will be overwhelmed and crushed like a bug."Okay, not always. But it is at least slightly amusing that blogs, fabricated at the whim and fancy of people who may or may not themselves speak truthfully have the power to discredit someone else’s phony statements.
True, we are reminded that “these are still the early days of blogging, and the form is still morphing.” But if these are the early days, where will we be two years from now? Technorati claims that 23,000 new blogs are born every day. Fortune predicts that blogs will replace email very quickly:
Says Bill Gates, who claims he'd like to start a blog but doesn't have the time: "As blogging software gets easier to use, the boundaries between, say, writing e-mail and writing a blog will start to blur. This will fundamentally change how we document our lives."It’s hard to believe that email is on its way out even as I sit here bemoaning the lost art of letter-writing. But then, has anyone apart from me noticed how hard it is to actually manually write things down these days? The hand is no longer positioned to hold a pen most of the time. I can see it now – a sort of revolution in our evolution as our hands become permanently curved into menacing shapes with calluses at our finger tips. All because of blogs.
In case you haven’t noticed, the blog that continues to dazzle and chirp with wit and humor (and includes the nicest ever anniversary wishes for Ocean) has awakened from a month’s repose.
But the idea of hibernating in cyberspace has me thinking: should every blog be required to take a mandatory vacation, to invigorate, refresh and inspire anew its author? Is blogging year-round without a day’s break so commendable that I want to brag about it? Look at me! Weeeeee! I never stopped for a minute, EVEN WHEN I HAD NOTHING TO SAY! I continued, I wrote, I posted! And the band played on.
In fact, I am not ready for a blog vacation. I wrote to a friend back in December – stay tuned, I may take a break from blogging after I reach my first anniversary on January 2nd. Here I am on January 3rd, posting about it. And worse, I have to admit that my very favorite blog posting is done when I am ON vacation. My number three* job choice would be to go places and be paid to blog about them.
So, no freeze for me, not for a while anyway. If I could blog through the obstacles placed squarely in Ocean’s lap in the year 2004 (two tense times come to mind: one in Nagano, Japan where I could only post through dial up via a faulty connection to Wisconsin at hundreds of yen per minute and the other in the farmhouse in Todi, Italy where there was not even a phone to hook into, forcing me to walk the streets with my laptop under my arm and beg strangers to let me use their phone lines), I surely would not pause now when I am wired and not even tired (yet) of the entire adventure.
Enough celebrating. Time to get down to the business of grading and visualizing (as a reminder I am acquiescing to the idea that I must see myself as a writer in order to actually come closer to achieving any writing goals). Here is today’s image, fresh from a … well, you can guess:
* Number one job choice: the job I have, of course (Dean, are you reading this?). Number two job choice: leave that one for another blog post in the distant future. It’s nothing racy or original, believe me.
Yep, writing and writing, from early on, until way into the night (am I doing this visualizing thing right, Mr. Optimum Performance? -- because frankly, it's getting rather tedious).
Sunday, January 02, 2005
Warsaw – symbol of freedom and the promised land of free market in books and films of the new generation is changing into a hell of loneliness and unemployment. The city’s icon is no longer the Palace of Culture, but instead, the palace of capitalism.
TALLINN – Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO that monitors freedom and democracy around the world, wrote in its latest annual survey that Estonia ranks among countries that provide maximum political rights and civil liberties to their citizens.Jump ship now while the going’s good. Nina from Estonia. Sounds okay, doesn't it?
I was greatly indulged this morning-afternoon. Of the original A B C & F blogging crowd, only one slipped off the planet into a sickroom and could not make it. My family patiently tolerated the event and we ate and drank -- they all think it was to the birthday of Ocean. But really it was to all our blogs in the New Year. May they shine. May they make us and the world about which we write just a little happier, wiser, saner.
P.S. I burned batch no. 1 of the bacon. I always burn crostini bread for dinners and bacon for brunch. It has become a pattern and Althouse refers to this curiosity in her blog. Let me say this: it will be a sad day when I do not burn the crostini or the bacon. It will mean that the company or I have become so boring that I keep track of baking minutes instead of our conversation.
Why do I mention this? Well of course, it lead me right away to google myself – something that I haven’t remembered to do for a while. Since the better part of my legal career has been in the world of clinical legal education, I need not ever worry that I’ll bring up endless legal references. My down-and-out clients – mostly parents who allegedly abused or neglected their children – would not be writing about me nor I about them.
What I did bring up were obscure references to Ocean as well as notes and comments I made on the blogs of others. Comment, people, google brings up the comments function (occasionally)!
So it’s back to placing the post-it in front of my nose with a slight modification: I must remember not to write impulsive emails and post disgruntled comments on people’s blogs. Both will come back to haunt me.
A year ago today someone tapped me on the shoulder, as I sat reading my first small cache of blogs and said – you should write one… Someone else said sure, other side of the ocean sounds exactly you. Ocean was born.
Why is it that our blogs come to have their own personalities? Aren’t Ocean and NLC one and the same? (Hint: no, not entirely.)
Regardless, I want to say thank you, in a big way, for giving me the honor of your attention (sounds so stiff, but it is meant with such sincerity). And for writing to me. And for linking to me – in good ways and in colorful *other* ways.
I am deliriously happy to have had this chance to blog non-stop for an entire 365 days. It’s been a dream (sometimes a nightmare). Thank you, thank you for indulging me in this wild hobby. And a note toward the future: I’m hoping that with practice, things will grow and prosper (rather than shrink and deteriorate) here at Ocean. Not in the numbers it attracts, but in what it offers to those who do click on. Keep checking, and let me know when things rub you the right or wrong way.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
If it’s because people were nursing hangovers on NYDay and therefore couldn’t be peeled off the living room couch enough to make it to the gym, doesn’t that suggest that they’d already broken with a resolution to maintain healthier habits?
If the gym was empty (oh so empty) because the roads were covered with ripples of ice (pretty, in a grim-reaper sort of way) because of daylong sleet squalls, shouldn’t Borders be equally deserted? [It was not.]
Where is day one of the visualization program I said I’d indulge for 30 days in order to “embrace the new me” (see yesterday’s post on Optimum Performance and my resolution to write more)?
Here, from just this minute. I am at my computer. I am seriously writing. Pages and pages.
Self-portrait (is this going to be a daily thing for 30 days? What a dumb project...), in a Van Gogh (meaning ear-focused) sort of way. What do you expect, I'm holding the camera, I have limited angle options.
And what happens in Madison? Fireworks! Only, they hit the skies two hours before midnight. A true commitment to celebrating along with those who are one time zone away from the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, or a deference to the sleepy eyes of children?
And what did I do to celebrate (in addition to standing in the middle of Pinckney, clicking away in a light little winter dress and a billowing but inadequately-warm scarf)? I ate well. Of course. So predictable.