Saturday, June 28, 2008

paradigm shift

What if I approached mixing a cocktail just like I approach making a sauce - let's say - or a dish of pasta?

What if I mixed up the ingredients myself, rather than buying a green - or red - or chartreuse-coloured bottle of something?

I think this guy Mark Bittman is on to something. Read about it in the NY Times, here.

Maybe I can mix me a mean margarita without opening one of these bottles. (Which I never want to open because I never end up using it all which means I have to throw it out in a month or so and then buy another bottle for the next time I might want one of these cocktails, but which I won't want to open because I never end up using it all which means. . . . you get the idea.)

It's nice to think I could try, anyway. Like Bittman says: "It's empowering."

All-righty then!

But maybe I'll wait until after noon. . . .

[do I have limes?]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

my hero. . . .

I really like this lady! Go read what Kate DiCamillo has to say about writing.
"God bless you, baby."

photo is of Kate - linked from her website, which I trust is ok. . . . .

time flights

The days have been flying past me. We're moving - supposedly - in something like 6 weeks.

I'm in a serious state of denial.

It all feels like make-believe that we might finally - finally! - be in our own home. The home we can expect to stay in, indefinitely. No more moves.

No more moves?

Ha! No more moves.

At least I don't think so!

I don't know how that will feel. I went to 12 different schools before I graduated high school. I was born overseas. I've never counted up all the states I've been to, but it's been a lot. (The 'missing' ones tend to be in the upper northwest part. . . . The 'missing' countries tend to be the more 'eastern' ones. . . .) Could it really be time for me to settle down?

It does feel like it.

I'm looking forward to planning and planting my garden. To going through all the boxes I've stored in my parents' attic and basement over the years, and finally either using all that 'good stuff', or else heaving it. To working in a kitchen I designed for me to work in. (If only I could find a decent countertop that didn't cost a fortune!) To maybe really getting a piano, and not just thinking: "One day. . . . ."

Other developments: Luther is now about twice the size he was when he arrived, and house-trained. He still is not to be trusted on his own, however. Squirrels have started a nest only 20 feet up in the tree right in front of our rented-house-porch, and the front yard has been transformed into a sort of flying squirrel circus tent. Almost all the plants I bought at the beginning of the planting season never made it into pots and are beginning to die. I have managed to control myself and not start taking plants to our new house - where the final grading could be expected to kill them all, or the workers to trample them to death, no matter where I put them. . . . I figured out that the chatty little gray birds we call "Ardy Doody" birds (they sound like Star Wars' R2D2) are actually Cat Birds - but I don't think they sound like cats atall. I'm reading children's books. Kate DiCamillo's Tale of Despereaux was very entertaining - and beautifully written. Imagine: a book for 9 - 12 year olds that includes the word "perfidy"! Interesting. And, I cut my hair.

I have to start packing soon. But for today, it's vacuum the sofa we're getting rid of, lunch with my mother and a 'churchlady' friend - hope she doesn't start lecturing me on why I should go to church - and resume the quest to find a reasonably-priced kitchen countertop and bathroom tile. Preferably in a natural substance.

Oh: and to stay cool. They're calling for 95 degrees. . . . . I guess I'll have to turn the AC on again. Bummer!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

thought: the heart of crying

Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it.

Albert Richard Smith, author and entertainer (1816-1860)

Friday, June 13, 2008

the "ethics" of lying

In Oceanside, CA, the school district has attempted to scare their students straight by lying to them, telling them that several classmates were killed in an alcohol-related car accident.

I don't know who came up with this - ah - idea, which was embraced by the school board, and carried out by the highway patrol, if you can imagine that. The plan was to get the emotional reaction - shock, grief, loss, etc. - and then clear it all up in an assembly later in the day.

Here's what guidance counselor Lori Tauber was quoted as saying: ""They were traumatized, but we wanted them to be traumatized. That's how they get the message."

Well, they got an emotional reaction, thanks to the lie. Perhaps you can imagine the reaction thereafter, however, when the students found out that it was a hoax?

No one likes to be manipulated. Even in the pursuit of a "greater good."

I think the "adults" mixed up their ends and means, and they weren't even forced to do so. There's an ethical dilemma when the S.S. asks whether you're helping to hide Jews - and you struggle with whether or not it's ok to lie in that instance. That's the Kantian extreme of not lying - no matter WHAT - which so many people reject. This wasn't even close. This is lying for expediency, for effect, to "make a point." This is lying as an acceptable tool in argumentation - so long as it "works".

How will the school officials react when the students lie - and cheat on their next exam, say - for expediency? For effect? To make a point? Surely a good grade - even a passing grade - is worth a little lie. . . in the eyes of a high school student who has just learned that all the school officials, the PTA, and even the State police will lie if the stakes are supposedly high enough. I imagine that this graduating class could also come up with any number of other "good ends" to which lying would ease the path, now that they've seen how this works.

Way to go.

Class dismissed.

seeing lessons

Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.

Louis L'Amour, novelist (1908-1988)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

leaving on a jet plane

We haven't done any music in a while. Here's the original recording of Peter, Paul and Mary's Leaving on a Jet Plane. It's a bit of a cheesey slideshow that goes with it, but the only live version I could find of them doing it (that John Denver wasn't involved in) was one where they are all well into their middle years and Mary seems incapable of just singing the melody line.

She has to "interpret" it.

It's pretty dreadful.

Now this is a song that became a cliche. I got to the point where I couldn't bear to listen to it. Sort of like "Feelings", or "Tie a Yellow Ribbon".

Listening to the words again though, after so many years, I realize that it's come to mean something else, something we need to pay attention to. If you don't believe me, listen to Justin Timberlake's reggae version. He sings the same words, but they have a very different connotation. He's bored with the whole travel and departure thing - it's no big deal except that it momentarily separates him from the one that he thinks he now wants to be with. At the end of the song, he sings that his lover should "dream about the days to come when I won't have to leave alone" - and somehow the implication is that they'll travel together - whereas the implication in Peter, Paul and Mary's version is that the traveling will stop.

They will settle down - "I'll wear your wedding ring."

This brings us right back to what I wrote about a week or two ago in marriage or liberty, looking at the problems that can develop when we try and base so-called rights on freedom, without also taking into account the obligations that go along with it.

Onora O'Neill also speaks about this.

Check out Deneen's Fear of Not Flying. Meanwhile, here are the lyrics to the chorus - written in 1967 by John Denver (news to me):

So kiss me and smile for me,
tell me that you'll wait for me,
hold me like you'll never let me go.

I'm leaving on a jet plane.
I don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh babe, I hate to go.

no time

It's amazing how much trouble a young sight hound can get into, left on his own for just 5 minutes.

We're not even talking potty mishaps here. We're talking shredded pillows, ingested concrete and crashed wine glasses which, a mere minute before, had been filled with a rather nice cabernet.

Luther likes wine.

He likes beer, too.

He hasn't been tested yet with some of our favorite foods, as we've been trying to keep him under the impression that we all eat the same thing here - just at different times - for as long as possible.

I think he suspects a rat.

What all this means is that I haven't had much time to do much of anything that takes much time. Thoughts have to come in snippets. Visits are punctuated by LUTHER - Leave. It. Pens are stolen, as is anything that has come into contact with my body: clothing, shoes, paper, pillows. The one thing he has not attacked is The Book - whatever book I happen to be reading. I think he knows there are limits.That's him - asleep for the moment. If I get up? My coffee cup is history. I don't leave him with my computer for an instant. I know better.

It's been fun, but it's been all-consuming. Life as I knew it has changed. I expect it won't stay like this forever, but it will never be completely the same. Still, I think that's good.

For one thing, I'm meeting a whole lot more people! I finally met the couple that lives at the end of the cul de sac, who never say much of anything to anyone. We've lived here three years. . . . We're also seeing more of our neighbors than we ever have before. Funny how being out with a dog turns into such a social occasion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who knew?

After a lifetime of using Reynolds wrap - and wrestling with the roll that inevitably falls out of the box as you're pulling out a length, I got a very interesting email from my mother, who had also spent a life time wresting with the roll and the box and etc.It turns out that there's a little tab on the ends of the box that you can push in, to prevent just such a happening. Check it out.
Ditto on the plastic wrap. They even have instructions: PRESS TAB TO HOLD ROLL.

NOT so on the wax paper, but this wax paper box is SO OLD (I never use the stuff) that maybe it was PRE-tab days. . . . And just when were those, pray tell? I had no idea they had these little tab-ey thingees. . . . Like I said: Who knew?

Well, now we do.

It's so embarrassing not to see what's right in front of you. I wonder what else I've been missing?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

bad news. . . good news?

Everywhere I look, I see articles about the "destruction" of the American dream, "destruction" of wealth, "evaporation" of wealth, and now articles also about raging tidewaters washing houses away, describing the destruction of large second homes on lakes. "That house had everything," the crying owner was reported as saying. "Now it's all gone."

Besides the "destruction" of wealth, people are beginning to think twice before hopping on a plane, prices being what they are. We won't be able to travel like we used to.

I wonder if this is maybe not such bad news as we may have thought. Maybe we'll start living where we really live, and not endlessly driving around in circles, looking for life.

I remember my official best friend, in the days when we still did things together, had a tendency to want to hit every hot spot, looking for the best scene in town. She spent more time looking than she ever did enjoying. After two or three places, being encouraged to down yet another drink so we could go check out yet another club - "So-and-so said he'd be there, for sure. . . ." I'd finally tell her to go on without me.

In many ways, she's still looking.

Meanwhile, an old friend of mine finds himself getting pushed out of Manhattan. His Brooklyn Heights apartment is going condo and his Manhattan office rental overhead is tripling. He's worried, but I think he's seeing the possibility of reducing his overhead by living where he really wants to live (way out on Long Island) and maybe even working out there. With less overhead, it might just work. For years, he's felt imprisoned by his monthly overhead, which then demanded a certain income. Now, with an overhead that continues to increase well beyond any possible income stream he can generate, he's stepping off the merry-go-round.

I think that's good news. No - wait a minute - great news!

I think we're all about to get off the merry-go-round, one way or another. The sky's the limit, though. I really see this as good news. We couldn't have kept going the way we were going. We were killing ourselves.

Now what, I wonder?

Maybe we'll live where we work and eat what grows in the same area and hang out with our neighbors. Maybe. Is it really necessary to have mangetout* from South Africa in the local Giant foodstore? Probably not. Especially when fresh, sweet, corn is coming into season!

*otherwise known as snow peas. . . .

Sunday, June 8, 2008

failure and imagination

J.K. Rowling gave the commencement speech at Harvard this year. (text available here if you scroll down past the NPR article about how not everyone thought she was "A-List" enough for Harvard) .

Her topic? Failure and imagination.
On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called 'real life', I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

I think she made some good points. Certainly, she is a good and interesting writer/communicator! I think she left the most important thing out, though. She assumed the existence of overarching and archetypical values that ultimately will direct our paths, if only we can get out of the way.

Thus, she extolls the benefits of failure in her own life, because it "cleared the way" for her to focus on what was really important. She recommends imagination, because we might thereby imagine a better life, and - having otherwise 'cleared the way' to focus on what's most important - we might achieve it.

All that is well and good. But the question of good and evil - a question she grapples with certainly through her Harry Potter character - remains. How do we reconcile conflicting notions of what's most important? What if what I imagine as a better life involves my neighbor moving out of town or at least shutting up his incessantly yapping lap dogs and banning the inexorable dribbling of his 8-year old's basketball?

More to come. . . .

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

mental edit

Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.

Madame de Stael, writer (1766-1817)