31.8.08

Worry warting

I have two friends that live in New Orleans. One of them I only have a postal address for, but for the other I have an e-mail address and phone. My hope is that they're both safe, but word from my e-mail friend is that he's doing what he did during Katrina: evacuating to a high-rise hotel. He is confident that things will be ok, at least during the storm iteself. Me (and our mutual friends) don't quite agree.

Until I hear that everything's really ok after the storm passes, I'm gonna worry.

ETA: Terry pointed me to this blog by Marcus, who's Ridin' Out Gustav.

30.8.08

The artwork is hung on the walls with care

Another thing that's gotten done around here is finally hanging the artwork. Some of it is old, brought to this house from Previous Lives. For example, I rescued a great map of Geneva from my parent's attic; the one I have is in sepia tones with buildings lining the streets. Even better, my "hommage to breakfast" series now hangs in the kitchen.

Then there's the new stuff. While in Montreal, I picked up two prints by Allan Manus. I've also purchased two Carol Pepper-Cooper prints and a couple by Stephen N. Meyers.

Ahhhh... home!

26.8.08

Like mother, like sons

Today I had the sad pleasure of attending the burial service for my Aunt Florence ("Florrie" to her children and grandchildren). Florrie was the last of her generation, 92 years young at the time of her death. She was a strong woman, an incredible role model of what women could (and should) be, yet very modest about her accomplishments. In his eulogy, my cousin Norman talked about her sense of humor, her family and her fierce intellect.

My last memory of her was three years ago, at another cousin's wedding. The reception featured a vodka bar, but Aunt Florrie wanted a martini. An appletini, too be exact. She even enticed my father into trying one for the first time in his life, mostly by challenging him to be adventurous (I vaguely remember "you can always throw it out" crossing her lips).

Her sons followed her lead, becoming smart, independent, interesting people in their own right. Her younger son, David, has made his living as an artist of sorts. At one time, he had a silkscreen clothing business in NYC (I still have a thermal shirt he did). Today, he still does his Beanie the Singing Dog art and music.

Norman, the older brother, took a while to find his path, but he's now a respected Rabbi who helped marry my sister and who both married and serves as rabbi to my friend Francey's congregation. I am in awe of his strength, and today he outdid himself. Imagine how difficult it must be to not only plan your parent's funeral but to also conduct the service - to whom do you turn for guidance and counsel and comfort? Add to that the fact that he drove, over 12 hours, from home and funeral to cemetary and burial with his mother's encasketed body in the back of his car. Could you do that? I couldn't, but Aunt Florrie's son certainly could.

I've been blessed with wonderful relatives on both sides of my family. Even though some are no longer physically with us, they're here, in my heart.

God bless them all.

25.8.08

What I've really been doing...

Things here at the house have finally gotten organized. Over the past two weekends, my office went from this


to this


And my basement went from this





to this



This pile is going to 800-Got-Junk



While this is going to Goodwill or eBay:


You have no idea how much freer and lighter my life feels. And now I can enter the 7-Day Declutter Challenge (with many more than 7 items decluttered, but it's the thought that counts, right?)

24.8.08

No flashbacks for me!

I've been reading about this whole Recreate '68 movement (coming soon to a convention near you) and I just shake my head. While I think I understand the goals, does anyone really believe that this is like 1968? That the candidate (presumptively Obama) is the equivalent of Humphrey (or McCarthy)? Or are the organizers so blinded by the Summer of Love propaganda that they forget what actually happened during the convention in Chicago?

My parents were going to bring us to the convention in 1968, joining a number of other faculty members from Case (this was pre-merger with Western Reserve). Luckily, my sister had an earache and we didn't go, but we did watch on tv - in "living" color, no less - and they were glad we'd stayed home.

I don't think anything like those riots will happen this time, although given the WTO riots in Seattle, anything's possible. Still, the call to recreate '68 just sends shivers down my spine.

Welcome to the family!


The Boys are unsure how they feel about their new sister, but she'll be staying here for a couple of weeks before going to live in Brooklyn with Thing One. Name? Greta.

(Here's what I think things will be like while I'm at work next week)

22.8.08

Where I've been (really!)

Blimey! I just climbed out from under my rock and realised I have not updated this since people stopped clapping and Tinkerbell died... You would not believe how heavy that rock really is. Apologies to my regular readers! Even the little blue ones!.

I am lost in a sea of pseudo-olde-english with responding to fanmail, commitments, just generally being a companion to my cats, my day seems to be a litany of stuff and giggles from the second I am woken by murderous Teletubbies to way past dusk. I am convinced that I absolutely deserve this after all my hard work, but this damned rock is heavy.

I will try to remember I promised you I will update you with my nefarious activities as soon as I get a chance. Seriously! This is for my ever faithful, devoted public.(þ: Doug)

20.8.08

Enid Blyton is Number One... J.K. Rowling is Number Three

Enid who?? Blyton. An incredibly prolific writer of children's books in England. Just "voted" the Most Cherished Author. (þ: Literary Saloon)

ETA: I actually know (and love) Ms. Blyton. Over the years I've collected her school stories, her Famous Five and Five Find-Outers mysteries and her Nature Books. For some odd reason, she's virtually unknown in the US, and her books are not published here.

18.8.08

Speaking of P.D. James

I just ordered her new mystery, The Private Patient. Of course, I went through Amazon.uk because the US version won't be released for an additional couple of months.

17.8.08

Childhood memories

When I was younger, we used to take long car trips during vacations (my father, currently Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics, was then an actual Professor of Theoretical Physics, so he had pretty much the same vacation schedule as my sister and I). We'd sing songs, nap, and sometimes play car games. One game we played was "oh no".

Oh No was a game my father invented. I think. He'd start with a word and define it wrongly - for example, a house was a creature that lived on cheese and said 'squeek'. I'd say "Oh, No, Daddy, you mean mouse". To which he'd respond, "No, a mouse is what you call a bad boyfriend" (meaning, of course, louse). Etc.. I got to insult his definitions, and learned a great deal of vocabulary. Explains a lot about me, doesn't it?

Recently, over on TRP, I feel that we've been playing a similar game. Meg wrote about horror writer M.R. James, but wanted to call him P.D. James, because she vaguely knew that there was a P.D. James somewhere. I pointed out that P.D. James was a mystery writer, with Adam Dalgliesh as her main detective (there's also Cordelia Gray, but she hardly counts). Surely I meant Hamish Dalgliesh, the Scottish detective? Oh No, that'd be Hamish MacBeth, M.C. Beaton's detective.

Can't wait to see who's next!

Back to school presents?

Last year, almost as a joke, I bought bookworms for my staff. We also have a microbe dispenser for antibacterial soap. I know, weird but cute.

So I was not surprised when I read about viral art over on Elizabeth's blog. Must be akin to having a skeleton model if you're an osteopath, or the Giant Head I saw at the ENTs last week.

15.8.08

Memory failure

When people ask about what I've read this summer, and I mention the Summer Reading Challenge, they blanch. I remind them that the vast majority are larger print, lots of white space and under 200 page books.

The question that usually follows is: How do you remember everything you read?

Short answer: I don't.

Long answer: I do, but not in the way you might think. So much of what I read is, well, less than memorable. I usually have to look at the cover, or the summary, to remember what I thought. When it's genre fiction, it's even more difficult. I mean, really, look at the works of Nero Wolfe: I can remember The Golden Spiders just fine, but the differences between Three at Wolfe's Door, Three Doors to Death, Three for the Chair and Three Men Out? Not so much.

Children's/YA Literature is much the same. There are so many "trends" (the new Harry Potter... the next "Twilight"... abusive family situation... poor but really talented... Time To Learn An Important Message About Tolerance... you get the picture) and they do tend to run together. That's how I judge a good book: does the plot, the writing and the characters transcend the obvious pre-influences and subgenre? If yes, I'll remember the book far better.

As my Challenge winds down (won't get to all of the remaining 29 in the next two weeks, but we'll see how many more I can read!), I'm thinking about those standout books. Look for a post sometime in September touting the best.

11.8.08

Is it news?

In the past few days, the John Edwards mea culpa has been generating a lot of commentary from the "real" media (mainstream newspapers and televisions pundits) and the "new" media (blogs). The NYTimes said that they didn't think that the story was really news, but that the John McCain "tryst" was, so they'd explored that instead. Others have said that because the Enquirer was doing the initial reporting, they'd passed. Still others have claimed that it was a liberal conspiracy to protect their own.

My problem is that this is just not news. Politicians have affairs. Big whoop. Unless this is Eliot Spitzer breaking the law, who cares??? Not I.

I repeat what I said only a few months ago
:
A number of years ago, I watched Woodward and Bernstein give an interview on the lasting effects of Watergate. They basically agreed: the good thing was that people did more investigative journalism, the bad thing was that what had been private no longer was (they used the example of a former President who "everyone" knew had a mistress but no one felt the need to expose because that was private business). I have to say "amen".

There's a line between illegal and immoral, between punishable-by-law and sleazy. Since the Watergate era, we've been exposed to an ever-increasing wave of Too Much Information. I really only need to know about the illegal stuff. The "questionable judgment" stuff? Not so much.
I worry about the current political climate, where it's not enough to have a platform and ideas, you also have to tear down your opponent. Where's the value in that? It doesn't help us, the little people you're supposedly trying to serve.

If I were a bigger "name", if I had more influence than this tiny blog, I'd scream at the candidates: stop the nonsense. Let me know who you are, what you stand for, and how that differs from the other guy. I don't care what you think about the other's personality, lifestyle, childhood or taste in ice cream. And I don't want to hear from anyone about anything that really isn't relevant. Media of both types, and on both sides, stop stirring the pot, report intelligently and let the blabbering bloggers just yell into the void.

It's enough to make me watch endless reruns of Law & Order and the Olympics and bury my head until sometime mid-2009.

10.8.08

Watch out, Samuel L. Jackson

Isaac Hayes, dead at 65. Bernie Mac, dead at 50. They, and Jackson, were to star in Soul Men. And you know about death and threes...

8.8.08

Guilty Guilty Guilty

Stephen's Lighthouse has a great post about why it's never a good idea to Google your own medical condition. I'd expand that to "doing your own medical research"** based on my experience with my father, the Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics. There was a time when he had severe headaches, and being a research guy, he decided to look in one of those "if you have xxxx symptom, you may have yyyy condition" books. I was on the phone with him when he told me that he had a brain tumor(!!), and naturally I was concerned. When I asked about the prognosis, etc., he said that he'd gotten the information from a book and that he was actually seeing the doctor the next day. I suggested that it was probably far less dire than he was anticipating. The next day, dutiful daughter that I am, I called to see what was going on. He mumbled something about a Z-pack being prescribed, and I believe I was bratty enough to point out that it was an amazing day in the field of medicine when simple antibiotics could be prescribed for a tumor. (Give me credit: I didn't say 'I told you so'!)

So, of course, I remembered all this as I've been dealing with the Sinus Problems that Won't Quit. Steroids? Somewhat helpful. Antibiotics? Not at all. I've seen the ENT, gotten a CAT scan (note to my assistant: I now have proof that there's something in there, it is not just an empty cavern!), and still: nada. My current treatment is to use Nasonex (I wish I had a clip of Banderas saying it, but you're just going to have to imagine that) until after the allergy testing that we now think is necessary.

Of course, throughout all this, I've been trying to find out what's wrong on my own. You see, I have the hubris that many librarians have. I know how to avoid the TheMedicalProfessionDoesntWantYouToKnowAboutThisCure.com sites and the WeveBeenSufferingForYears.org sites and the OurProductIsBest.com sites and stick with NIH and WebMD. I can evaluate sites with ease, because that's what I do for a living, right? I know when it's propaganda/serious bias and avoid it.

Yeah, well, not so much with the "right". Even I can't seem to find a site (or information) that's accurate/non-biased about what could cause barometric-pressure-based sinus headaches that don't include packed sinuses. What if no one can solve this?? Will I have to quit my job? Go on disability? Sell my house and give away the cats?

Yes, I've caught my father's tumor. Shame on me!

And yes, I'll be passing along bits of this to my students this year. Just another example of why you can't trust, or find, everything on the Web.

** I did correctly diagnose my gall stones, much to the amazement of the ER staff - they couldn't understand why I'd researched my symptoms rather than taking something for the pain. Thing One's explanation? "She's a school librarian. They do research, not common sense!"

Links Galore

7.8.08

We now interrupt this blog

This year has been an incredible low point in my health. Since January 1:
  • One inner ear infection
  • Two flues
  • Two bouts of laryngitis
And now
  • The THIRD sinus infection
Add on the chronic fatigue/Epstein Barr and the thyroiditis and well, life just isn't what it should be. I mean, I know I'm middle aged and all but really! This is too much.

Aravis isn't feeling well, either. Go wish her a speedy recovery.

Thank you for being a friend

Over on 37 days, there's a contest for people to post how they would spend their last 37 days of life (it's tied into the release of Life is a Verb). I've mulled over how I would spend my last 37 days, and the list basically includes travel to see friends one last time, and then heading to bed to re-read some favorite books and snuggle with The Boys.

One respondent said, among other things:
Say all of the things in my heart that I feel and want people to know. The things that I’m usually too busy to express because I’m reading email, slicing cucumbers, paying bills, folding laundry, watching movies, buying a latte, standing in the magazine aisle at Walgreen’s reading the latest issue of People. Be more present than ever. Not be alone.
I agree. Particularly with the part about telling people the things that are in your heart - how often do we do that? Of course, there are times when what's in our hearts is not "good", it's anger, it's frustration, it's hurt.

In conjunction with that, I've mulled this (can't remember where I first read it):
“I look at my relationships all the time. If a relationship is really negative on an ongoing basis, what am I doing in it? What am I protecting? Am I protecting someone from the hurt and sting of losing me? Because that’s not healthy. It’s not good."
As I've said in the past, I'm pruning my relationships and this is part of the criteria. Sometimes, that's easier to think about than to do: what about work relationships that are negative? what about people that you care about, but are drains on you?

And then there's the online vs. Real Life friend issue. I know that there are many people that do find great friends online. I've made friends online, and grown closer to old friends thanks to "social media". Yet there is a difference between the two. As this post says:
How a friend takes leave of you varies from one relationship to another. Some friends find a new lover, a new job, or move away and lose touch with everyone in their "previous" life. Some are torn from us as a result of politics, disease and/or an untimely death. ... Any way you slice it, true friendship is accompanied by rights and responsibilities. ... How do you compare someone you never met -- but who has posted a link to your online profile -- with someone who has stood by you through thick and thin? How do you compare someone who wants to be on your buddy list (despite never having exchanged a single thought with you) to someone who has held your hand through marriages, divorces, births and funerals? ... I wonder: How do you equate more than 45 years of soul sharing and intellectual intimacy with an IM from a total stranger who asks "R U there?"

To all my real life friends, thank you for being a friend. To all my online friends, thank you, too. And to those friends that have left my life, who have no idea that I'm writing this, thank you for what time we had. Let's hope I never have only 37 days left to say that.

3.8.08

This is the true story of many strangers

chosen (by God) to live in a monastery...

Sorry, I couldn't resist riffing on the Real World's opening "statement", but I recently spent several hours immersed in an undeniably more real world, that of the Carthusian Monks.

Several months (quite probably over a year) ago, my uncle recommended a movie he'd just seen, Into Great Silence. It was shot by a man who lived with the monks for four months, taping their lives. The "rules" stated that he would not use extra lighting, that he would follow their Rule, and that there would be no soundtrack except that of their daily lives.

Wow.

The most striking (besides the nearly 3-hour length) feature is the silence, and yet the noise remains: a light sssss of wind and snow, for example. The gentle turning of a page. Scissors cutting cloth. Bells tolling the hours, and the Hours. And, of course, the chanting. It's a brave world these monks have chosen, to live outside not just society, but outside verbal communication. To allow themselves to be open to ritual, to repetition, to God's word seeping into their daily lives; spending days and years intent on listening to the tiny sounds we take for granted, and for the Voice we rarely seek for long periods of time.

Silence is not our friend - it's even, I would venture, our enemy. We, as a society, seem to shun silence. How many people turn on the tv or radio as "background noise", afraid that our own natural rhythms will not be enough? There's something very powerful about silence, and yet something that makes us not quite comfortable. I've met people for whom the one hour Meeting is too much "time alone".

I find that true silence, allowing your mind to rest as well, can be frightening. Sometimes I'm not comfortable in Meeting, particularly when I've had a difficult week or when there's something I'm internally wrestling with. But I've also learned, and clearly these men have as well, that the discipline of listening quietly and waiting is rewarding in and of itself.

Go see this movie.

2.8.08

Imponderables

Thing One and I saw Dark Knight tonight and, well, exactly when did Chicago become Gotham?

That whole "bridge-and-tunnel" sequence? Laughable. And using what seemed to be Navy Pier to evacuate prisoners from Rikers? Even more so.

(Heath Ledger was incredible as Joker, but honestly? He's no Peter Finch.)

1.8.08

Becoming a Famous Blogger

Bri blogged a while ago about becoming a Famous Blogger (although she seems to have made her peace with that). That was never my intention for this blog, but occasionally I get to musing...

Yesterday at lunch with a colleague/friend, I said something about my personal history that made her laugh. And then she said, "that would make a great title for a blog." It would. As I drove home, I mulled it over - this could be one of those tell-all sex blogs, filled with TMI about the minutae of my life and loves. I could be like Washingtonienne or Abby Lee, with book deals and adulation and a Wide Public.

Then I realized, I'm just too Lazy. Sorry, world, you're just going to have to wait. But maybe, just maybe, for my memoir, I'll use those words as a title phrase. Stay tuned.

Only imagine what Lake Erie could have cured!

Living in Brooklyn for 21 years, I heard often about the Horror that was the Gowanus Canal. And, admittedly, there were times (many, many times) when I'd walk over the canal's Union Street Bridge holding my breath because the aroma was... well... you supply the synonyms for gag-inducing.

Today I learned that this wonder of bad technology and pollution might actually cure diseases.

Still won't get people to gentrify the area surrounding the canal though.