A Tale of Two Christmas Eves

Once upon a time (back in 2001) I lived in Brooklyn. It was Winter Break and I was sick. Not just sick: I had bronchitis. Even worse, Thing One was sick with a cold (fever, cough, etc.). We were pathetic.

If you left our apartment and turned either left of right and walked about a block and a half there was a Chinese take out. One had better ribs and mu shu while the other had better soup and wontons. On this Christmas Eve, we didn’t care who was open, we just wanted soup.

Now, Christmas Day and Jews and Chinese food are a great tradition.  Christmas Eve? Well...

I lost the coin toss and bundled up to find the soup. I went in one direction, got half a block, and realized that the shop was closed. Turned around, walked towards the other... oops. That one was closed as well. Thus began a hunt for an open Chinese take out, a hunt that lasted nearly an hour as one after another of the shops in our neighborhood (there were a lot) failed me.

I did finally find some, rushed home, ate and miserably curled up in bed. The next day, Thing One went out and was back with more soup in less than 15 minutes.

This year, I’m sick with a cold. It’s been waxing and waning since just before Thanksgiving. And Thing One is on day three of a fever. It’s a new city, with far fewer Chinese take out places. So I’m heading out (in a car) in the afternoon to get tonight’s soup.


Ice Cream Therapy

My family's relationship with ice cream goes way back.  My mother's parents started married life as owners of an ice cream shop in Salem (MA), but by the time I came along my grandfather was the comptroller for a chain of department stores founded by his father-in-law, and my grandmother had died 12 years earlier.  Ice cream, when we lived in Boston and later visited, meant Brigham's.  With jimmies.

Mom's favorites back then were rum raisin and butter pecan, but I stuck with "white" ice cream (note: it wasn't vanilla, because there was the pale yellow/cream version that was French vanilla and I just wanted the white version - none of the other colors appealed) Even today, I prefer vanilla but have graduated to allowing mix-ins like chocolate covered almonds, cookies, chocolate chips, etc. And, of course, jimmies,  Imagine how happy I was to move back home to find Brigham's Vanilla with Jimmies!

When we moved to SmallVillage in 1969, my father bought a hand-crank ice cream maker and for years one Thanksgiving tradition was to make homemade ice cream using snow from our background as a cooling agent.  Licking the dasher was a reward for helping.  More recently they've made ice cream at home using the stand mixer given to them as a wedding present. Despite being fervently lo-cal/no-fat, using heavy cream for this was an absolute must.

My uncle, for health reasons, lived in dry places like LA and Addis Ababa, finally moving his family to Jerusalem in the early 1970s.  Israel is not known for its ice cream, and one of his great pleasures when visiting my mother was taste testing various brands and flavors of ice cream.  Towards the last years of his life, on his Anchises blog, wrote about dying, ice cream and what would constitute a lesser quality of life.

Recently, my mother's health has seriously declined.  There's a gasping thing, Meige syndrome (or some other form of oromandibular dystonia) that makes it difficult for her to eat.  One of her doctors thought perhaps cold food would help - so my father brought in ice cream.  Not homemade, but store bought.  In her favorite flavors.  And it's working!  She went from unable to eat to eating 8oz/meal of high fat ice cream. 

Just as well one of their favorite musicals is She Loves Me, which includes this number:

(This was about to be published when the situation changed.  I'm still posting this, but with a heavier heart.)


Culture Vulturing in a void

As with previous schools, MPOW has various endowed funds to bring speakers and artists to campus.  There's one fund for French cultural experiences and this year we were lucky to have Coeur de Pirate perform.

You've never heard of them?  Well, they're huge in la monde francophone:
Nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2009 Juno Awards, Cœur de Pirate was released in France in 2009 in association with Universal Music. It became a big hit there, reaching the Top Ten of the French albums chart for several weeks in summer 2009 and spawning the Top Five hit single "Comme des Enfants." The French version of Cœur de Pirate features a duet with Nouvelle Star season five winner Julien Doré on the song "Pour un Infidèle," whereas the Canadian version features a duet with Jimmy Hunt. The French version of the song topped the singles chart in France... [in 2011] Cœur de Pirate's second album, Blonde, saw release and reached the Top Five in France, Canada, and Belgium. (via)
They've also released two albums with English songs, Trauma (2014) and Roses (2015).

The song Oublie-moi was also released as Carry On in English:

Anyway... I've seen them twice before.  So yes, I was excited.  

But the students?  Not quite so much.  They didn't know the music.  They didn't know the group.  And when Coeur de Pirate played, there was polite applause (granted, it got warmer and more excited as the evening went on) but no one got up to dance or any of the other things that usually happen at concerts.  For the band, it must have been so strange to have such a lack of response when the big hits were played.  Imagine if the Beatles, four years into Beatlemania, didn't get a response when they launched into Love Me Do or Help! (or if Taylor Swift didn't get a response to any of her hits).  


Imponderables revisited

Back in 2004, I mentioned that among Merriam-Webster's Words of the year was defenestration.  At the time, I wondered if there'd been an epidemic that led to it beating out many other words.

What a difference 14 years makes.

Last week, The Guardian had a review of a book about language change, Betrumped: The Surprising History of 3,000 Long-Lost, Exotic and Endangered Words (Edward Allhusen).  Apparently Allhusen lists several words that are "endangered" and, well, defenestration is on that list.



You know that thing you sign when you go to the doctor's, the HIPPA Notice? It's to protect your privacy, so that not just anyone can get your medical information.

I won't give doctors (or many others) my cell phone number - especially after the Vinny episode - so I tell them to call me at home or at work.  There is an answering machine at home, and at work my phone goes directly to voice mail, which goes to email as I'm rarely actually at my desk to take a call.  Even with that, often I'm strongly urged to give my cell number.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.

Thanks to my eye "situation" (luckily, since January it's been 98% nuisance and 2% problem, with much of the problem part due to the medications that keep it at nuisance level) I see far too many doctors.  In October, bloodwork showed that I was anemic and as I had to see my primary care doctor anyway, I  called to make the appointment.  More bloodwork and another specialist visit were recommended, so ok, those appointments were made.  Then I needed to schedule a follow-up with the primary care doctor, which I tried to do via the portal.

This was also just as I saw my neuroopthamologist. So you can imagine how I felt when I got a message at home that I needed to call the doctor ASAP.

I called, a little nervous, only to be told that it was to confirm the follow-up the next week.  When I asked why that hadn't been part of the message, the receptionist mumbled something about HIPPA.  Okay.  Maybe.  Because three days later I got a robocall message on the machine also confirming/reminding me about the visit.

I can't find anything in HIPPA that says humans cannot leave those messages,  but robocalls can?  Stay tuned.


Sounds like home

After nearly 50 years, I moved back to the city of my birth.  Because this isn't SmallCity, even though (thanks to family and friends) I've been back many times there are areas I don't know well - and I managed to move into one such area.  Imagine my surprise two years ago when I realized that a very good friend of our family lived maybe 10-15 minutes from where I live now - in previous visits to that house, I'd come from the area my grandfather lived or near to there, so my sense of how close this friend was was based on that, rather than reality.

After 21 years in NYC, I needed grass and quieter living.  Seeing the sky and hearing birds was important.  The house I bought was in a secluded development and wild turkeys lurked in the woods nearby.  "Mr. Bunny" (probably several bunnies) would watch me as I left or returned from work.  The next house overlooked the Farmington River, with no real near neighbors besides the landlady, deer, raccoons and other wildlife - a surprise in the middle of the suburb in which I lived.

Where I live now is withing city limits.  There is a busy road half a block away.  But my road? It's a "private road", with two single family homes and the apartment building on it... then it curves and (apparently) is renamed, and there are two apartment buildings that are senior living spaces.  They overlook a cemetery.  Yes, someone has a sense of humor.  A sick sense of humor.

It's a little noisier than my previous homes since NYC.  People walking on the street talk into their phones far too loudly.  Kids living nearby use their skateboards  because there's little real traffic.  My bedroom is next to the elevator shaft and the people above never got the "don't wear heels indoors if you don't have a rug" memo.

But late at night it's quiet, almost like when I'm home in my SmallTown bedroom. The noise is that of peepers and the occasional owl.  For some reason I woke up around 2am and as I lay in bed trying to get back to sleep I heard a train whistle.  The nearest train tracks are 2 miles in one direction, 2.4 miles in the other.  When I lie in my childhood bedroom, the nearest tracks are one mile away.  And late at night, I can hear a train whistle.

Not only have I returned to the city of my birth, I've managed to bring the sounds of home with me.


The Innergizer Bunny

Did you know that tomorrow is National Innergize Day*?  Nope, me neither.  🎵The more you know🎵, right?

Apparently we're supposed to rest, reflect, retreat.  My Simpler Life has some ideas for how to create a personal retreat. Some of them I can easily do, like the decluttering, natural light, aromatherapy, and - of course - books.  Others, like nature?  Well, I don't like air conditioning so my windows are always open.

But let's dive a little deeper: what does "innergizing" really mean?  Leaving aside the problematic fake word, of course.  If I'm being honest, the start of the school year is always complicated.  Yes, there's all the fun of new clothes, new office supplies, seeing my friends again after the summer off. A fresh start of sorts.  And then there's the Jewish New Year, another opportunity for a fresh start.  This year, because of the timing, classes didn't actually start until after the Jewish New Year, later than we normally start the academic year.  The following week, Yom Kippur created another day off classes.

In other words, in the space of one month (30 days), things went from days of loafing and relaxing to getting ready for the school year to start to getting the library up and running to starting classes.  None of that was entirely smooth in terms of timing: a day off here... and day off there... another day off... Last week we worked Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday.  It felt like two Mondays with an extremely short weekend shoehorned in. I'm exhausted. Next week will be the first five day week of classes.

Spending tomorrow gathering my strength, resting and reflecting on the past month while pruning my life and to-do list for the upcoming month so that things are less stressful and mentally healthier is an excellent idea. 

And now that I know about this day, it's going on my calendar next year.  Of course, the start-of-year schedule will be entirely different, but knowing that there is a day dedicated to pausing and working on the inner stuff is something to look forward to after all the chaos.

* Apparently there's a discrepancy here: the day is the day after the autumnal equinox, which is September 22nd, so you'd think it's the 23rd but the National Day Calendar claims it's the 24th.  Whatevs.  It's the idea more than the actual date IMVHO


Notable Quotes

If I could outlaw one word, the obvious others aside, it would be fucking 'patriotism.' It's nationalism in better clothing.  You know who were patriots?  The Nazis, and those Japanese fucks who bombed Pearl Harbor, and the Serbs who rounded up all those men and boys and put them in holes in the ground outside Srebrenica before going back to rape their women, at least until someone tried bombing sense into them.  Patriots built Auschwitz.  You start believing that 'my-country-wrong-or-right' shit, and it always ends up at the same place: a pit filled with bones.

Moxie, Jennifer Matthieu


Really? I have to pay?

Eight years ago, when I was leaving a school, my closest friends there bought me a Kindle.  Now, I'm not a huge fan of the company behind that device, nor am I a huge fan of ebooks.  However, I find it incredibly useful in two ways: I use Instapaper a lot, saving many longer articles for later reading, and I use Netgalley and Edelweiss to read eARCs.  It is easier to carry it around than a book, allowing me to always have reading material when waiting at the doctors, or at the post office, or where ever a long line or wait might occur.

Over the summer, my old one died and I had to purchase a new.  The new one has features I don't particularly like, including removal of the side panels that made it easy to "flip" pages (it could be held in either hand, allowing for either thumb to do the work; the new one makes you touch the screen, sometimes missing and going back instead of forward, or making it difficult to go more than one or two pages back), or having the controls for font size be so sensitive that a slight brush of the finger in the wrong place can make have you go from this to



While setting mine up, since I don't share my notes or highlights with others nor do I shop for books online, I turned off ads.  Then I found this in my email:

How venial is Bezos?  I have to pay to remove ads and offers from my device?  Because I don't want to continually get junk mail from his company, I have to pay?? 

I know this isn't enough to convince people not to shop there.  But it is proof that this is an evil company not above extorting money so that you can be left alone.


It's still happening

I blogged about this last year, but I'm still puzzled!

It rained here for nearly 24 hours (as I type, it may have ended... or perhaps it's just a pause) so the ground is pretty soaked.  My Big Girl has either learned to count or tell time, because the sprinkler system goes off after midnight, then around 3am, and then just before 5am, which is when she wakes me for breakfast. 

This morning, as she was nudging me to get up and feed The Herd, the sprinklers went off.  As it was pouring rain.  As if the little patch of lawn in front of the building hadn't gotten enough water. 

If the system can be turned off (at the end of the season, or during a drought), surely it can have a sensor that says it's already wet out?


Notable Quotes

We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.
The most we can do is hold out our hands and help each other across the unknown.

Neverworld Wake, Marisha Pessl


Last (academic) year

As promised, here are some of the answers posed by Quo Vadis...

What went well this month year?
It's a small thing, but I finally managed to get off The Drug From Hell and regain something of a normal life. Hiding how horrible things were when I was in Denver was something that went mildly well.  Managing to have a good time in Dublin despite physically feeling like all bed was the only place for me.  No relapses since February (maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that, in case it jinxes things!).

Which goals did you complete this month year? (Congratulate yourself! Celebrate your successes.)
Honestly, none.  I set goals, but things just didn't work out.  The biggest success (which wasn't/isn't a goal) was to be able to keep working... most of the time. 

Which goals still need work? What do you need to do to complete these goals?
  • continue decluttering
  • keep my living space tidy
  • better work/life/illness balance
  • be a better friend (reach out to friends more, by note and email)
What I need is to stop being so hard on myself about not meeting those goals, because the combination of the medications I'm taking frequently leaves me with no strength at the end of the day.

What didn’t go so well this month year?
See the above: continuing to have relapses, then trying to integrate all the different medications (by themselves I'm sure they're fine, but all together... not fun).  

What were some of your roadblocks this month year? What can you do to get around these roadblocks?
Finding the energy to get things going on a regular basis.  Yes, I've not had to go in to work for ten weeks (ok, I did go in but not often and it was on my schedule), so you'd think there'd be energy to spare but not really. Reminding myself to take things slowly and to not stress/blame myself when things don't get done as preferred will be a huge roadblock to get around.

What lessons did you learn this month year? 
That even baby steps count.  And that behind a seeming normal facade can lurk someone dealing with ill health, physical and/or mental.  Being grateful for friends and family.  And that small kindnesses go a very long way.


Notes from Mt. Bookpiles

Not bad for four months of reading... except I'm still way behind my annual goal (maybe I should rethink that?  maybe not?)  And with the school year starting, who knows how much I'll be able to read.  Sigh.  I need to get a job that pays me to do nothing more than read all day.  Anyone?

Children's/Young Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult Non-Fiction
Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too; Christopher Emdin
  • Meeting Wise; Kathryn Parker Boudett
Speculative Fiction


September Restart

After ten weeks, summer vacation has ended. I took most of the time off, reading many books (although I'm still 15 books behind goal for the year) and relaxing.  Many naps were had, some with my Big Girl curled up next to me, some without.  If you haven't discovered Rake on Acorn, do so now before Season 5 debuts.  It's worth binge watching.

Sadly, all good things must end.  And with that comes some reflection on the past and goal setting for the future.  The Quo Vadis blog suggested these as reflection points at the end of each month:
  • What went well this month?
  • Which goals did you complete this month? (Congratulate yourself! Celebrate your successes.)
  • Which goals still need work? What do you need to do to complete these goals? (Write these in the Priorities section below.)
  • What didn’t go so well this month?
  • What were some of your roadblocks this month? What can you do to get around these roadblocks?
  • What lessons did you learn this month?
I asked my staff to reflect on similar points in June.  Now it's time for me to do the same professionally and personally.  I'll post the personal responses as I have them.



For a while now, Philosophy Mom has been posting a Friday Five (which I love reading, but rarely think to do).  Then, earlier this month, Terry posted a Random Facts About Me That May Surprise You and, well... I thought, I can do that (posting, that is; can't guarantee your level of surprise)!  Here goes:

Do you make your bed?  Depends on how you define "making" as my comforter/duvet is usually pulled up but beyond that, it's a mess.  I blame The Herd, particularly the one that burrows under my comforter every morning, making it difficult to do more without disturbing her.  This seems to be a cat thing, as years ago my mother complained that I hadn't made my bed only for me to inform her that bedsheets didn't usually purr (or move away from your hand... although that'd make a great horror short story!).

What's your favorite number? A former colleague used to say that her favorite number was Ε (no, I don't get it either) but I've never met another person who had a favorite number.

What's your dream job? I'd say the one I have now, but there are parts I don't enjoy.  And isn't the idea of a "dream job" supposed to be the one you love absolutely?  Thinking about it, there's no job I'd love absolutely so perhaps I already have it.

If you could, would you go back to school? I work in a school, so... There are things I would love to study, and taking a class or two with people who are as excited about the topic as I am wouldn't be bad.  But going back for a specific degree?  No, thanks. 

Can you parallel-park?  Of course.  It's easier now with the rear-view camera, but I've been parallel-parking for nearly 40 years.

A job you had at which people would be surprised?  Chambermaid at a resort in the Adirondacks or personal maid for an older couple on the Cape.  Both were summer jobs and gave me a great appreciation for the work that chambermaids in hotels do. Tip well, people!

Do you think aliens are real?  It's incredibly unlikely that we are the only planet with life on it, but what that looks like, or how advanced it is, is beyond my imagining. It's also incredibly unlikely that anyone has visited, much less created advanced ancient civilizations or abducted us for medical experimentation.

Can you drive a stick shift?  If this answer surprises anyone who knew me in college or saw my first two cars, well... yes.  Yes, I can.  Don't get me wrong, living in a city it's great having an automatic car but I miss the control.

What's your guilty pleasure?  Despite being raised a Jew, this is one thing I feel no guilt about.  Claiming a guilty pleasure is a little too humblebrag for my tastes.

Tattoos?  No.  I have thought about getting a tramp stamp spine label (the librarian equivalent) but haven't managed to find the time... or courage.

Favorite color?  My wardrobe would suggest grey, black or green but really it's any "jewel" color.

Things people do that drive you crazy?  That's several blog posts!  Right now I'm irritated by people outside, walking down my street, yelling because they can't hear the person on the other end of their phone call.

Phobias?  Heights.  Not a great help if you're 5'4.5", right?  Dying alone (probably not alone in that).  Going blind.

Favorite childhood game? Jacks (does anyone play that any more?), which I perfected at summer camp. 

Do you talk to yourself?  Of course.  Usually when I'm alone, but apparently I also do when I'm at work (mostly when I'm trying to work something out or when I'm shelving books - that QRSTUVW part of the alphabet can be tricky!)

Do you like doing puzzles?  I like American-style crosswords.

Favorite kind of music?  I'm not sure I have one favorite, but I do dislike modern rap/hip-hop.  I won't mention groups/people I don't like (there's one married couple whose music I find rather "meh", much to the dismay of many of the people I know) and I'm not all that fond of those who are better performers than artists (Madonna, I'm looking at you).

What story do you adore?  Huh??? That's an odd question: does it refer to authors, or genres, or a specific book? Or maybe movies? Without a clearer guide, I'll say any story that takes me away from my current world and transports me into a new one (could be a movie, play or book, fiction or non-fiction).

Tea or coffee?  The answer will only surprise those who don't know me.  Tea.

The first thing you remember you wanted to be?  It was always a toss-up between secretary (all those office supplies!) or teacher.

So, go ahead.  Surprise me.


Ending an era

For decades (since before I was born, definitely, but possibly far longer than that) my mother was known for remembering birthdays and anniversaries with cards.  Her handwriting was gorgeous - despite being a lefty, and there's a long story behind that - and getting a card from her was a highlight for friends and family.

Then her memory started to slip.  No problem, my father was there to help.  What she used to remember effortlessly she now needed a list, and armed with that they'd go out each month, buying a fistful of cards appropriate to the occasion.  She'd still do the addressing and the main message, with Dad signing as necessary.

Then her handwriting went, thanks to the arthritis, and her memory got worse.  They'd still go shopping, but now Dad would do the majority of the work with her just signing.

Last summer, with both of them out of commission, things got worse.  But after missing a major birthday, Dad rallied and things seemed normal.

Yesterday, he admitted that things weren't normal.  It was a lot of work, keeping up with all the shopping and dates (conservatively, I'm guessing about 10 cards a month got chosen and sent).  So, with some overt sadness (but secretly, I suspect, very relieved to be done with this duty) he told me that he was just giving up.  He'd use the list to circle the calendar with immediate family dates, but extended family? Not so lucky.

I've always been the "good" daughter in terms of family, always attending funerals and weddings and dinners and keeping up with everyone.  But I'm not going to take this on.  It was my mother's gift to others, and that's how it's going to stay.

It'll be the end of an era, and yet another reason to miss my mom.


That old adage

For decades I've heard older people saying that they have a doctor for every body part (or that the sign of getting old is when you have a doctor for every body part).  So when I hit 50, I took stock: one primary care doctor (who also did my gyn exams) and an endocrinologist.  That was it.  Whew!  Not old.

Here I am, halfway through my 50s, and, well... I still have one primary care doctor and an endocrinologist.  I also have three doctors for my left eye. 

So, tell me: #winning?  or Sad!


The Flesh Failures

Last night a friend posted on Twitter that NBC's next live musical would be.... Hair.


I'm guessing this is some PG version that takes out all the "problematic" scenes and songs?

Another friend on Twitter suggested the cast would be wearing nude bodysuits.  Great?  I suppose.  But the lyrics?  Sigh.  I know no one's going to change the Shakespeare (What a Piece of Work is Man).  Even those who don't really know the musical know a few of the songs: Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine and Let the Sun Shine In,  But there are others that, well, I don't think will be allowed on air.  If Kendrick Lamar can stop a white woman singing certain lyrics, what about a song that is a string of slurs strung together? Will NBC air songs glorifying men because of their color?  Or a song about sexual acts? What about the one about drugs? You can read the titles here (lyrics you can find on your own).

While I applaud the idea of bringing musicals to tv (although couldn't they be done sans commercials? like they do in an actual theatre?) the idea that what's being shown is a dumbed down, more PC version than what you'd see on Broadway or in a touring show horrifies me.  Let HBO show Hair.  NBC could show The Pajama Game.  Or something like that.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

I know - it's been a long time since I did one of these.  Given the amount of adult books I was reading last year for the award committee, it just didn't make sense.  But this year?  Any book that isn't an adult book published in 2016 or 2017 can be reviewed and talked about.  So yay!  My year end totals will be slightly different because of The Books That Cannot Be Named, but for the most part here's what I've read thus far this year:

Children's/Young Adult Fiction

Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Adult Fiction/Literature
 Adult Speculative Fiction






Dinner rants

For years, one of my annual tv watches has been the White House Correspondents Dinner - if I couldn't watch it live or on replay, I'd tape C-SPAN.  So I've seen several of the more controversial "episodes", like Imus and Colbert and Wilmore and now, Sykes.  I've also seen Al Franken and Aretha Franklin and Rich Little (pro tip: if you have to pre-identify who your impression is of, it's probably either not that relevant or not that good).

For the past couple of days, there's been a lot of commentary about this year's guest.  I think that the WHCA knew she'd be controversial, pointed and make headlines.  Was she funny?  That depends on your definition of funny.  Some of the bits could have used a better delivery (I thought she occasionally rushed her lines), but again, funny is in the ears of the listener.

There was one comment that hasn't gotten enough attention, IMVHO:
There's a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we're covering like three topics. Every hour, it's Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don't go home for Thanksgiving.
That's so incredibly true.  There is a lot going on, both here and abroad, and yet on tv it's Trump Trump Trump.  If covering him during the elections hadn't been so amusing, things might have been different.  I'm not talking about Hilary Clinton, I'm talking about the other Republican contenders.  What happened to equal time, equal coverage?  The only time I heard about or saw many of the other candidates was during the debates.  And now?  He's dominating the news, even when there are other things that could and should be covered.  On the other hand, without Trump, no one would watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other chattering heads.  So maybe it's all for the good, keeping relatively unqualified pundits and academics employed.


Notable Quotes

Before Mr. Bennett could answer, the door opened, and there appeared a male nurse in aqua-colored scrubs, carrying the plastic saw with it's round blade at one end; the entire contraption wasn't much larger than an electric toothbrush. "Fred!" the nurse said, though they had never met. "How are we today?"

Reading the nurse's name tag, Mr. Bennett replied with fake enthusiasm, "Bernard!  We're mourning the death of manners and the rise of overly familiar discourse.  How are you?"

 - Curtis Sittenfeld, Eligible


Just had to laugh

The other day, a friend and I went to the Houghton Library (at Harvard) to see the Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration exhibit - I could name a few maps they should have included, but since everything came from their shelves, perhaps they didn't have copies of Nick Bantock's work, or the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or any of the Discworld Mapps?

After, we went to MEM Tea (because tea).  And then, on our way to lunch, we saw this sign.


My favorite shark

When I was a freshman in college I started to make friends with the theatre crowd, first the unofficial group and then the "mainstage" group.  My first show with the latter was The Threepenny Opera (or 3PO as we called it, given that Star Wars was just being released).

This production decided to use the Manheim/Willett translation, which was done for the New York Shakespeare Festival's production with Raul Julia as Macheath.  And it's got my favorite English version of Mack the Knife:

It captures the ugliness that Brecht and Weill wanted from their creation.

Here's the original German, sung by Camille O'Sullivan:

Don't speak German? (I don't) The menace still comes through.

However, most people know the song better in the Blitzstein translation's jazz version:

(not as big a fan of this version or translation, but just look at the original cast at the Theatre du Lys!)

So tonight I'm heading to see the BLO's production, which is using the Michael Feinstein translation.  Reviews of the original production (with Sting?!) say that it's serviceable.  We'll see.


Physician, Treat Thyself

For the past 8 months I have been taking a number of medications designed to keep my CRION at bay.  These drugs (mostly Prednisone and CellCept) have serious side effects, like trembling hands and bloating and headaches and, well, read about them here and here.

When I tell my doctors about this, their response is usually an acknowledgement that they know, they know, but there's nothing they can do or recommend to help.  Gee, thanks.  While they may be helping with one thing - and yes, it's a serious thing - my quality of life is seriously diminished.

What if all drug makers and doctors had to take these drugs themselves?  Just to experience what we, the patient and consumer, experience?  So they can understand exactly how difficult it is to drive when you're shaking... or walk because your knees are too bloated to bend properly... or to feel incredible weakness when you stand up... or any of the other things we tell them about?

At my last school, in Connecticut, the security people were all armed.  There was a rumor that they also carried tasers.  I asked one if that rumor was true, and the response was that in Connecticut, to be licensed to carry a taser you had to agree to be tased first, to see what it felt like so you knew this wasn't a toy or to be used lightly. 

What if we applied that to some of these drugs?  It might not help mitigate the side effects, but at least the doctors would have a personal understanding of them.  And maybe pressure drug manufacturers into figuring out a way to counteract them while keeping the benefits.


Notable Quotes

Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonable floods or carried off by tornadoes... Adulthood brings limitations like gravity and linear space and the idea that bedtime is a real thing, and not an artificially imposed curfew.
Seanan McGuire, Beneath the Sugar Sky  


Weather (or not)

Yes, we just started back at work after our two week Winter Break.  But we teachers are just as excited about the possibility of a snow day as the students are, so any time there's the possibility of one we begin to plan and hope.  I've heard of students wearing their pj's on backwards, which is apparently a sure way to ensure a snow day (no teachers have admitted to doing the same, but then, I'm not asking them!).

The possibility of a snowstorm on Christmas turned into a pretty much "meh" event, but then I saw that the next time a large amount of snow was predicted was for December 30th.  Just for giggles, at 7am and 7pm each day I took screenshots of what my weather app said would happen:

That doesn't mean I'm not hoping (ok, praying) for a snow day. Even if we will have only been back at work for one day.


New Year's Meme - 2018 edition

As mentioned last year, this is stolen from Philosophy Mom

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
A few things that were simply "old things in new spaces", so those don't really count.  Most of my year was spent on work and family and self-care and reading, sadly.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Here's what I said this time last year:
  • Lose weight / get in shape (well, better shape than I am now)
  • Continue to enjoy my work on the Book Award Committee
  • Get better organized (declutter plus time management)
  • Take a fun trip somewhere 
  • Be better about being connected to family and friends
And.... I did four of the five.  B/B+ for Lazygal!

3. Did anyone close to you get married?
Two cousins (second cousins) did, one in New Jersey and the other in Los Angeles.  And Thing One's niece/goddaughter is getting married later this month.

4. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope.  No one close.  But there are a lot of "work babies" around, and a new great arrived last Janurary.

5. Did anyone close to you die?
Not that close this year, only the husband of one of my mother's cousins. 

6. What countries did you visit?
Ireland (Dublin, to be specific) for three days.  Perfect quick getaway!

7. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
Better health.  Thanks to the CRION, and the medicines I'm taking to control it, this has been the year of side effects.  Sigh.  Luckily, they are subsiding thanks to tapering off one really nasty one.  And when that's done, I should just be "maintaining".  More time with friends and family would be great.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
A side-effect of a side-effect was a 10-day period when I was pretty much on speed (not really, but people tell me that is what it's like when you are).  So much got done even I'm impressed.  If only I could have continued in that vein, but perhaps later.

9. What was your biggest failure?
It's not a failure, per se, just an inability to really do more with friends hanks to needing to focus on helping my parents and self-care when I was home.  Not being able to do more for my parents over the summer, or since school has started, could also be perceived as a failure.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Heh.  Beyond my ongoing battle with CRION, there was a lovely cough that set in two weeks before Winter Break.  And is still here, albeit in a very diminished state. 

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new suitcase and travel tote.  Ok, that's two things.  But for one purpose, so I'm saying it counts.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
First of all, let me quote from last year: "Thing One, duh.  He's been a rock throughout the optic nerve adventure.  Plus giving in to my whims.  What's not to celebrate?" And then my sister, who really did an amazing job dealing with the sudden family crisis over the summer.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Again, quoting last year "Several of Thing One's family who truly support the awful (racist, misogynist, xenophobic) side of our President."  Beyond that, my father, who truly did have a health crisis this summer but managed to pull so much focus that my mother's Alzheimer's got immeasurably worse.  He's better now, she's not.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel: to Dublin, to LA, to Louisville, to Chicago and to Atlanta, as well as several minor conferences and family visit events (not in that order!). And wine. 

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Seeing Hamilton in Chicago.  Going to Dublin.  Starting AY2018 with a team that I know well, that works together well and that is moving forward with our plans.  And - best yet - getting to plan a new library!

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
  • happier or sadder?  Neither.  More worried, though.   
  • thinner or fatter?  Well, calling myself "Princess Puffy Pants" should be a clue to the answer (it's all water retention due to one of the drugs and is actually coming off as I taper off).
  • richer or poorer? Same - I've spent more on some things, but less on far more.  

17. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Well, done any of, to be honest: going to Meeting.  Every time I thought thinks were getting to a point when I could go, my eye or family or work "flared up".  Le sigh. 

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying.  About anything.  I mean, compared to some, my life has been pretty blessed, so getting worried (or, as I prefer to call it, fretting) about things is a bit self-indulgent.  On the other hand, I could go blind and my mother could get worse and... and...

19. How did you spend Christmas?
Oh the weather outside was frightful... at times... We woke up, did presents, then went back to nap.  Woke up to a complete whiteout, which ended quickly but made travel difficult.  So, rather than the Traditional Jewish, we just stayed in and relaxed. 

20. How did you bring in the New Year?
Reading.  Sleeping.  Watching a movie (Casablanca).  Eating a great home-cooked meal and enjoying a nice bottle of Warwick Valley Dirty Red.

21. Did you fall in love?

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Holdovers from last year: 19-2.  People of EarthQ & AYou're the Worst. I have been watching less tv than in previous years, although when I can indulge, I'll binge on something like Brokenwood Mysteries or Crownies/Janet King

23. What was the best book you read?
Still can't talk about the adult books, but of the YA, The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Bang and Dreamland Burning are real standouts.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Christine and the Queens

25. What was your favorite film of this year?
I could answer this with something I've seen before, but this year I saw no new movies (or none I want to talk about favorably).

26. What was your favorite live performance?
Dorrance Dance (a former student is in this group). Hamilton.

27. What did you want and get?
Time (albeit not enough) with extended family.  Finally selling my house.

    28. What did you want and not get?
    Good health.

    29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    On my birthday?  Nothing much.  It was a Saturday, so we just hung out at home and then went to tea.  It was Number 54 for me, which means middle age is starting to appear in my rear view mirror. 

    30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    Better health.  Easy.

    31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
    Comfortable clothes in mostly green and grey.  Clothes I can move in easily, yet look polished enough for any meeting I need to attend.

    32. What kept you sane?
    Sheer willpower.  I've been holding it together... barely.  The ongoing issues with my eye, my parents and the stress over selling my house were pretty much the perfect storm.  If anything kept me even partly sane it was reading and playing backgammon on the computer as an escape.

    33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    None.  Is that elitist of me?

    34. What political issue stirred you the most?
    Again, quoting from last year (because this year seems like a continuation of that):  "watching otherwise intelligent people embrace the really awful things that were bring promoted by the winning candidate.  And watching serious fault lines develop among colleagues and students who weren't on the same side of that issue (I really do understand not wanting to vote for Hillary - I didn't! - but The Donald?  His ideas are so vile.  And those who think he's ok are just beyond my comprehension)."  The divisions and rhetoric haven't gotten any better in the past year, and I despair for our future.

    35. Whom did you miss?
    My mother.

    36. Who was the best new person you met?
    I don't think I met too many new people in 2017 that have become part of my life in any significant way this year.  Except, maybe, my new doctor, who really seems to care (perhaps just because my CRION presents such an interesting change from the usual health issues).

    37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
    Friends are incredibly important as you get older.  My parents are so fortunate to have really kind people in their lives, people who care about them enough to come over at 4:00am to watch my mother while my father goes in for an outpatient procedure.

    38. What was your favorite moment of the year?
    Spending time with friends and family.  Any moment I did that was a favorite moment.  Well... except for those moments I was home, at my parents, taking care of them.

    39. What was your least favorite moment of the year?
    Let's just call the entire time between late June and late August my least favorite. 

    40. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2017 and change something, what would it be?
    Honestly, I can't think of one.  Nothing I could do would change anything that happened for the better.

    41. What are your plans for 2017?
    • Work on my health
    • Finally go to Meeting
    • Continue to declutter
    • Spend time with friends and family and be grateful for their presence in my life