Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flowers, a poem, and a fresh start

I am touched and pleased by another kind gesture in response to Hank's recent death: when I got home yesterday, I discovered that Barb had sent flowers! They are now a part of Hank's memorial corner:
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Thank you so much, Barb! They're beautiful.
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Hank was named after the pseudonym used by Charles Bukowski in his novels, Hank Chinaski. Today, Zac e-mailed me a poem I'd forgotten about: Bukowski's "The History of One Tough Motherfucker," about a horribly abused, "cross-eyed, tailless cat" that he had nursed back from the brink of certain death, a cat that had come to represent everything that refuses to lie down and surrender:
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and now sometimes I'm interviewed, they want to hear about
life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,"look, look
at this!"
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but they don't understand, they say something like,"you
say you've been influenced by Celine?"
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"no," I hold the cat up,"by what happens, by
things like this, by this, by this!"
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Read the whole thing here. It's terrific. Zac, thank you for that.
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I'm feeling a little better today. Hank is well-represented by his memorial, and I have satisfied my need to look constantly at pictures of him - at least for now. I dug dozens of pictures out of an old box of photos, and at the same time I found all kinds of fun non-Hank photos as well, which I have been scanning and throwing at people on Facebook today. It was fun. And I'm feeling better.
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Tonight I'll be gathering with some of my favorite people in the world to ring in the new year, and I can't wait.
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See you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In memoriam

Hank used to sleep on a blanket in front of the furnace in the living room. The hardest part of losing him has been looking over there, automatically expecting to see him.

Scott set up a little memorial in Hank's old spot. He is represented by a happily burning candle, a stripy little orange wooden cat that is oddly reminiscent of him, and the card Patsy got for me yesterday. Thank you, Patsy, and thank you to everyone who wrote in it. I appreciate it so much.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Goodbye, little Hank

Today, Scott and I made the difficult but necessary decision to let Hank go. At age 17, he was in a lot of arthritis pain, had lost half his weight, had a painful abscess on his belly, and could barely get around. We knew we had to do it. Today, we did it.

At the vet's office, after they took his weight, he just lay down on the scale. The assistant said, "He can stay there, since he seems so comfortable on there," and we couldn't resist snapping a picture. What a pretty little stripy boy.


Not long afterwards, we were there with him as he slipped painlessly away. Not a dry eye in the room, and that includes the vet and the assistant.

We made absolutely the right decision - really the only decision. That makes it easier. He's not in pain any more, and we have 17 years of happy memories to replay in our minds.

This is his last photo, and I plan on digging through old pictures and posting some of his ridiculous kitten pictures from 1991, when he arrived in our lives as a tiny, mischievous fluff-ball.

We're sad. Really, really sad. We will miss him desperately. But we're relieved. We did it for him, and he's out of pain.

Silly little funny Hank!

I will never forget him.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas tree time

These pictures of my mother, snapped by my dad among the Christmas trees for sale in the Copenhagen streets, are too charming to keep to myself.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Bad car-ma

I spent all morning fretting about whether I should try to get to work, Winter Storm Warning or none. Finally, I decided that if I'm going to sit around fretting about it, I might as well go in for a half day. So, Little Ms. Responsible climbs into the car next to infinitely patient spouse (who shoveled for an hour) and off we go.

We get a few yards down River Street and realize one of the tires is completely flat. We could have realized this is in the calm, quiet zone of our driveway if I hadn't been all gung ho about getting to work. But no! Go, go, go! Oops. Flat tire in the middle of River Street.

So now the day is a mess. Scott's running around in the whirling snow trying to deal with the car emergency... I guess he's going to borrow Barb's car (thanks, Barb, you're a hero, and thank God you were home and snowed in!) to go hork up all kinds of money for a new tire... then install it and hopefully get the car out of the middle of River Street... arrgh!

Is it just me, or is life simply a series of minor crises? Is there anyone out there saying, "Wow, my life has been one pleasant little surprise after another recently. I hardly know how to handle all these delightful little events that keep happening!"

Well, at least I have a blog to vent at. Thank you, long-suffering blog. To the readers of said blog, my apologies: sometimes I just need to complain. More lolcats soon. ;-)

The moral of all this is: Don't attempt to go to work on Winter Storm Warning days. Stay in pajamas, eat cookies, watch "Law and Order," and don't tempt fate.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wake up, Walmart!

I just added a banner over there on the right side of my blog that spells out some pretty nasty truths about Walmart. Very illuminating. Click and learn!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas songs in uncertain times

Scott and I wrote the first two lines of a Christmas song last night:

Said the autoworker to the union man:

Do you fear what I fear…?


Clever, huh? Anyone want to help me finish it?

Or maybe we can’t until we know how the story ends…!

Just as an unrelated addendum to what could be seen as a rather serious post, I’d like to share my most recent favorite lolcat:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Asthma Schmasthma!


Well, I had a second attack Sunday night, so this means asthma, and this means war. No more wait-and-see. We waited and saw! I spent all night Saturday and much of yesterday gasping for breath, and then went to see the doctor, who basically rolled up his sleeves and said let's get this thing.

He prescribed me a thousand different drugs. Okay, five different drugs, but that's a lot. Including two inhalers! I never thought I'd be trucking around with multiple inhalers. And more steroids.

The scariest part of yesterday was going to the CVS pharmacy to fill the prescriptions. By the time I had walked to the back of the store, I was so out of breath I had to sit down, panting and wheezing, for several minutes before I could approach the counter! All I can say is, it's a good thing I don't fill my prescriptions at Meijer!

Anyway, this blog has become quite the bore. It's all about medications and doctor visits at this point. Let's hope this business wraps up soon. My plan is to keep doing all the right things: avoiding smoke and cold, taking it easy, drinking water, etc.! Otherwise, I'm going to just live my life.

This past week, living my life involved helping to decorate Barb's big, fabulous Christmas tree; enjoying the company holiday party at Pizza House, which involved an open bar and lots of happy people; and acquiring and decorating my first artificial tree, which I must say looks charming! I will post a picture as soon as I can find the plug thingy that connects the camera to the computer. Saturday night was Vikki's holiday/engagement party, which was great - thanks, Vikki, and congratulations. It was particularly fun to see four book-club significant others gathered together in one room! That doesn't happen very often!

Okay, time to do something a little weird. I'm going to actually call a taxi to take me to work. Yep, that's weird. But Scott's teaching and my car pool is at home awaiting a handyman to install a bathroom sink... and while normally I would take a bus without a thought, I'm just too wary of setting anything off this morning to do that. It's not the bus part, it's the walking to and from the bus in the freezing cold part. I'll get back to that after a few days of meds. Meanwhile - caution is king!

Once more into the breach, my friends, once more!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Life-changing day from hell

Well, I spent all of Saturday night and all of yesterday literally gasping for breath, and it only got worse. For an entire day I tried every congestion medicine in the book: Primatene worked best, but the effects only lasted about 20 minutes before each breath was a rasping, wheezy croak again. By late evening, I really was at the point where I could barely breathe. I kept holding out, saying, "Maybe this will work... maybe that will work... let's try some more tea... gasp... wheeze..." until finally Scott insisted, "You're going to pass out soon -- you have to go to the hospital!" He was right: I felt lightheaded, and my lips and eyelids were turning slightly purple. Terrifying. So at 10 p.m. or so, we went to the E.R., where they hurried me in, called it "acute bronchospasm," and gave me a couple of tanks of weird vaporous gas to huff on until I could breathe again.

The whole thing was completely terrifying. I have never been so terrified! There's nothing like being unable to breathe!! If you can't get the next breath in, then what? And you can't sleep because you start to choke! Horrible.

The episode originated from the lingering bronchitis, yes, but they didn't want to get into further diagnostic details with me, since their job is merely to stabilize: they want me to make an appointment with my own doctor for anything else. They gave me Prednisone, a steroid to help build up my lungs. My hippie doctor is not going to like the steroid, but you know what? I think maybe I'm done with my hippie doctor anyway. I'll go see him about this because they already faxed him my records, but I will also go see someone else: I have a few suggestions from Suky for good doctors in the area, regular doctors who don't just prescribe nettle tea for every ailment! And if I like the new doctor, I'll switch to him or her instead.

When I got home, it wasn't half a minute between hitting the pillow and being asleep. I was so worn out. And now every normal breath I take is an absolute blessing! I am sitting here just breathing and being grateful for breathing.

No more emergency-room visits for me! I have a whole list of resolutions: clean up the apartment so it's not so dusty; only go to non-smoking places when I go out; be sure I'm bundled up properly outside; follow the doctor's recommendations, whatever they may turn out to be, to the letter. I realize that that may entail (yecch) exercise, but whatever. I will do anything to avoid anything like this again.

This was a life-changer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recent doings that I have neglected to report

- Build-your-own-tacos dinner for nine at Barb's last weekend...

- Pasta-and-amazing-meatballs dinner at Sarah and Andy's the evening before Thanksgiving...

- A long-delayed Moulin-Rouge-and-champagne night last night...

- A visit from the long-elusive Steve...

- And much lounging and relaxing and reading and otherwise doing absolutely nothing.

Yeah. Life's been good.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Let the holidays begin





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Well, Thanksgiving at the Schuers' was yum. We feasted upon succulent turkey and all its traditional accompaniments with great enthusiasm. Plus they already have their tree up and the Christmas music going, so we couldn't help but start to feel Christmas-y!
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The day after Thanksgiving, however, is sometimes a troublesome day. Part of me wants to sit and watch Joan Crawford movies on Turner Classic Movies in my pajamas all day, and part of me is stir crazy and just wants out.
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Thus it was for Scott and me yesterday. We were starting to get cantankerous and testy by the time the sun started to go down, when to my astonishment Scott piled us both into the car and headed off somewhere on impulse.
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We ended up in the magical little nexus of Campus Martius in downtown Detroit, currently scintillating with a massive Christmas tree and a cheerful holiday ice rink, where we joined the skating throng for a while.
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My flashless and blurry cell-phone camera produced the above mementos of the evening, after which we retired to Cheli's Chili for barbeque sandwiches and beer.
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Yay!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snap to it!

video

My mother demonstrates a highly unusual, modern-Danish-design nutcracker.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm officially confused

Okay, I went to the gas station this evening, and I saw this:

$1.66 per gallon.
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One dollar and sixty-six cents.
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How is that possible? The world is crumbling around us and gas is as cheap as a bottle of pop! I realize that global economic woes are actually pushing the price of crude oil lower, yes, I get that, sort of, in a big-picture kind of way... but... $1.66? We had some serious woes a month or two ago, too, and prices were astronomical.
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I bet if you look at the gas station signs in the background of, say, "Beverly Hills Cop," they'd be somewhere around $1.66!
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Amazing.
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Puzzling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A wonderful visit home

Thanks to Dad, there are a few pictures from my trip! (Brilliantly, as I may have mentioned, I forgot my own camera.) Of course, several things did not get recorded, e.g.:
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- a sisterly evening out on the town, most notably at Hviids Vinstue where the gløgg is transcendent, and ending up eventually, as we always do, at Rytmehans until the wee hours...
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- a visit to Stephanie's and Greg's groovy new digs and a delectable and hyggelig dinner of "meatnoodle" (Stephanie says it sounds better in German)...
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- many shopping expeditions at Fields and all up and down Strøget...
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- the Three Royal Tenors singing an uplifting program at Kildevælds Plejehjem to an enthusiastic audience...
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- delicious dinners at various wonderful Copenhagen restaurants...
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- a visit to the Little Mermaid at dusk with my mother...
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- and, on my last night, a stroll in the twinkling nighttime charm of Christmas Tivoli with Silvia.
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Those moments are vivid in my memory, photos or none! But I have picked a few from Dad's collection as well. (There were more, and I love them, and all three of my family members look great in them, but I frankly admit that I didn't include here the ones where I look like the devil incarnate. Sometimes I am decidedly not photogenic!)
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Penny arrives at the airport!

Early Christmas presents...

...are the best!

Stephanie, Greg, and I discover julenisser in Tivoli.

Dinner at Herzegovina, also in Tivoli!

Another dinner with friends, this time delicious Peking Duck at the Chinese Tower.

Penny checks in for departure.

And so, alas, do I. For now!
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It was a wonderful trip, and I am grateful for my terrific family. Can't wait to be reunited in just a few months... this time in that most of exciting of cities... NYC!
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And now I'm home! Back to work tomorrow... but I'm relaxed and happy, so that's okay.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Notes from Copenhagen

Have I only been gone six days? Seems amazing. I've just melted right back into everyday life here at home. Well, if everyday life involved spending too much money on too many things that'll never fit in my suitcase and running around from shop to shop with my high-fashion babe of a sister. (She'll deny that she's high-fashion. Fine. But she can't deny the babe part!)

People congratulate me on our new president wherever I go. But everyone expresses generalized worry about the global economy. There's a window display in the hair salon down the street: that place has always had politically-oriented art installations in the window. This time it's a decrepit clapboard shanty with a sign on it that says "For rent. White House. Term of lease: four to eight years." Oooh boy. That must have been the pre-election display: looks as though they're preparing a new one now. And poor Obama certainly has high expectations heaped on him. I was talking to an old family friend, Kirsten, who remarked: "Well, the U.S. just really needs nationalized health care. But it'll be all right: Barack Obama will be taking care of that, I'm sure." Hope he's got plenty of pixie dust!

Anyway, much running around Copenhagen, and then much lolling about on the couch in the evenings. That's what I've been up to. Which works for me. I'm trying not to think about the work e-mail that's probably piling up... and the training sessions I'm missing... yikes! Yes, definitely trying not to think about that.

And where are the pictures? Nowhere! I forgot my digital camera at home. So I'm taking pictures on a piece of ancient photographic equipment called a Disposable Camera. I keep holding it out in front of me instead of peering through the little hole. And remember the quaint old business of actually winding film forward? Click-click-click! 

Headed for Tivoli tonight. Hurrah! Maybe I'll take a nap first. Nothing like living the life of Riley. Or the life of Larsen. Whatever. Nothing like it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let's hear that again!

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

"It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

"It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

"It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

"I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and hes fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

"I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

"I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nations next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

"To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

"But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

"I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.
It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth.

"This is your victory.

"I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

"There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

"What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people. Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours: We are not enemies, but friends; though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

"And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

"For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

"She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

"And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

"At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

"When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

"When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

"She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

"A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

"America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

"This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.

"Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Who's headed for the Emerald City?

Thanks, Jim... this was too good not to post!

We're headed off to Barb's for Election Night celebration... or Election Night depression, of course. But...? Maybe outright optimism is in order this time...?

Monday, November 3, 2008

And it's lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng gone!


Barack is hitting this one out of the park! I just know it.
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Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Christmas Ornaments Exchange contribution is done!


A while ago, I posted my quest for ideas for what I should submit for the ornament exchange. I ended up making flettede julehjerter, woven paper Christmas hearts that are a Danish Christmas tradition.
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The earliest one anyone has found is from 1871, among the many elegant paper clippings made by the illustrious Hans Christian Andersen, but no one knows whether he came up with the idea or whether people were already making them at the time. All we know is that by the 1880s they had sprouted paper handles and were hanging on Danish Christmas trees everywhere. When I was a kid, I remember struggling at the Christmas crafts tables at kindergarten and at primary school, desperately trying to make them come out right without getting all tangled up in paper or tearing them to shreds!
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This time, after some initial frustration, I managed to get the hang of it and make 28 of them (some more torn or crumpled than others), and I'm handing them over to Patsy in seven little cardboard folders containing four each, along with instructions on how to make them.
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Hurrah! I did it! And almost on time, too!
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Wanna make some? Here's how! (The written instructions are in really bad Danglish, so ignore that and just follow the diagram!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Learning new things perqs me up

I just learned something interesting. I was reading the latest book-club pick, Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, when I came upon this sentence, relating to a stonemason working on building a new cathedral for a priory during the Middle Ages:

His pay was only twenty-four pennies a week, although he got perquisites as well, candles and robes and boots.

Perquisites?

We've all heard the word "perks," as in "That guy makes a boatload of money, plus perks!" or "I don't make much in terms of a salary, but I do get some nice perks." I had always assumed that this was a cute term for something that would "perk" up your base pay. I guess I never really gave it much thought. But is it actually perqs we're talking about, short for perquisites?

I looked it up, and sure enough:

perquisite. Middle English. Property acquired by means other than inheritance. From Anglo-French perquisit, Medieval Latin perquisitum.

So we're going around using a cute, modern abbreviation and spelling for what turns out to be a medieval term!

Maybe everyone already knows this, but I didn't.

As I used to say in sixth grade: Neato.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin time!

Scott and I went somewhere out on Ford Road and found our pumpkin today.


Hurray!
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This is the best time of year there is.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Name trivia

Just looked up my name on Is This Your Name (thanks, Sarah!) and discovered this about my last name:

Origin: (Celtic) From suil, eye, and ban, fair: "the fair-eyed."

I didn't know that! I mean, obviously I knew it was Celtic, but this whole "fair-eyed" business is new to me. Too bad my own "fair eyes" are hidden behind heavy prescription glasses, but what can you do.

The other odd thing it says is this:

According to the US Census Bureau, fewer than 0.001% of US residents have the first name 'Maeve' and 0.0891% have the surname 'Sullivan'. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there is only 1 American who goes by the name Maeve Sullivan.

So... would that be me? The one American who goes by the name Maeve Sullivan?!

Seems unlikely, somehow. When I put my name in on Facebook, there were dozens and dozens of us. Granted, we seem to be mostly in the United Kingdom, but still. Some of us must be stateside.

Also, in the "Related Blog Posts" section, it actually hit a random post from my very own blog!

Anyway, an interesting name trivia site. Try it yourself!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Music for walking

My mother recently e-mailed me to say that she and my dad cycled from their home in Østerbro out to Valby and back. She casually remarked that this is a forty-minute trip. Each way.

This is how fit my parents are. And my sister's a practicing yogi, so she's about as fit as they come, too.

Which is why I have recently started my walking regimen again. I don't want to be lumbering behind my sprightly family, huffing and puffing. I need, at least, to be able to keep up!

Yesterday, I stepped out into the fall morning chill, not really in the mood but determined to put in at least half an hour. Luckily, the magical DJ in my iPod Shuffle gave me the best walking mix I've ever heard!

I hereby share it.

Wimoweh - The Weavers. This is the lyric-free, big-band version from the 40s. No sleeping lions here: just a lot of wide-awake trombones.

Baby Elephant Walk - Henry Mancini Orchestra. Hee hee! Great walking tune. It's just hilarious and goofy.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Murray Head. Okay, so now I'm flying by Prospect Park trying not to burst out singing.

Get the Party Started - Shirley Bassey. "I can go for miles if you knoooow what I mean," she bellows, and so could I! Uh, in terms of walking, I mean.

Lighten Up, Morrissey - Sparks. Oooh! Now we're picking up the pace.

Happy Jack - The Who. A truly stompworthy tune.

Cobrastyle - Robyn. "My style is the bomb-diddy-bomb di-dang di-dang diggy-diggy!" Yeah! That's exactly what my style is!

Treachery - Kirsty MacColl. Some of the funniest lyrics ever written set to an irresistible profusion of brassy Latin exuberance. I had to try not to dance, as a matter of fact. Luckily, I managed to resist. That would have been embarrassing and, worse, would have broken my stride!

Don't Pull Your Love - Hamilton Frank & Reynolds. This came on just as I turned back onto my own street, which is perfect because this was the final cool-down track on the old Jazzercise cassette my mother and I used to work out to when I was a kid.

When I got back to my place, my energy level was sky-high.

At this rate, I'll definitely be ready to keep up with my super-fit family when I get to Denmark.

And I'm soliciting ideas for more walking tunes, if you have any suggestions. I've got to give the magical Shuffle elf more to work with!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy fall!






Scott and I went on a color walk this afternoon. Cider mill, old cemetery, botanical gardens. I'm happy. And I'm going to have some more cider now. And a powdered-sugar donut.
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Happiness!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Sweet It Is!

Scott and I watched the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown (both discs!) and have been listening to classic Motown songs ever since.

Incredibly, songs that have practically become wallpaper through sheer familiarity ("My Girl," "Heat Wave," etc.) sound brand new now that I'm listening behind the vocalists and truly hearing the brilliant band of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers. I can imagine them all in that cramped studio, each doing their thing. I can see guys stamping on plywood boards to get that bam-bam-bam sound on "Baby Love." I can attach names and faces to familiar piano riffs and bongo beats. I have a better understanding of how they're making the Motown sound that was really like no other.

Motown.

It's really got a hold on me right now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book report!

Why haven't I been blogging? Well, for the past week, I have been completely buried in books. I've read four novels in six days. It's mainly due to the arrivals of my Paperback Swap books, which I picked based on two criteria: either they should be books I've always wanted to read, or they should be books I read long ago and now desperately miss.

It feels weird to be living so intensive a double life, though. I do read a lot, but not quite like this. Finish a book, grab one, finish that. Lift head every now and then and say, "Oh! Where am I? Should I be at work right now? It seems to be 2 o'clock: is that a.m. or p.m.? What day is this?"

I have to stop, I know that: fall is happening out there, my favorite time, and I'm completely missing it! I'll go for a walk today, or maybe convince Scott to take me on an early fall color drive.

But anyway, it's been exciting. I haven't done a total book immersion thing in a long time.

So how about a book report. Here are the books I read this week:

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I can't discuss this yet, however. This is the current book-club book, and our book opinions are sworn secrets until the Day of Discussion, which is next Sunday. (Well, not really sworn secrets, but it sounds more exciting that way!) Suffice it to say that it was this book that put me in the reading trance in the first place.

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward. The disappointment. I sent it off via Paperback Swap the minute I finished. Her last book was terrific - I even gave it its own blog entry, and mentioned how I could hardly wait to read her next one. But this was just insulting. You get through a whole story of crisis and struggle in South Africa (that part was what kept me reading) only to be hit over the head with a "woman's place is in the home" billboard. The reporter realizes she doesn't need to be messing around in South Africa trying to change the world when she could go back to Nantucket, marry a nice, rich doctor, and be completely fulfilled by motherhood. Thanks, Amanda Eyre Ward. Goodbye.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Five years ago or so, I was trying to pick a book for the airplane ride home to Denmark, and my then officemate handed me this. I thought, oh, God, now I'll have to read it to be polite, but what do I want with a book about little boys in outer space undergoing military training to defeat insect-like creatures who want to colonize the earth?! I never turned the overhead light off once during the whole night flight. It's not so much the sci fi elements of the book as it is the step-by-step development of the brilliant little boy's military strategy. Who knew I'd be so interested in military strategy, of all things? Anyway, I got the book again this week, plunged in, and was mesmerized all over again. And thanks to Paperback Swap, I got a copy without having to pay for it, thereby very consciously not putting money into its author's coffers. The guy's a great writer, but he's an absolute bigot.

Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban. When I was a small child, I loved the Frances books. You probably did, too. Remember the little pencil drawings of Frances the badger? To this day, the story A Bargain for Frances still informs how I make friends. (Frances wisely says, "Being careful is not as much fun as being friends. Do you want to be careful or do you want to be friends?") When I first met Scott, when I was 20 or 21, I mentioned that book and its importance to my social philosophy, and he seized a book off his shelf and said, "You mean this Russell Hoban?!" Turned out Hoban was a prolific writer of novels and was somewhat of a cult figure. I had no idea. The book Scott showed me was Riddley Walker, his favorite novel, which he proceeded to read out loud to me over the next several evenings. (Which was rather romantic, I might add. The reading-out-loud thing, I mean.) More about the extraordinary Riddley some other day, but I became duly fascinated by Hoban, his Orpheus obsession and his infatuation with the creative mind speaking to itself. Every one of his books is unusual and different from the others, but certain threads bind them together. He's in his eighties now, and he wrote Her Name Was Lola in 2003. He weaves all kinds of references to his former stories and novels in there (even Frances!), explores the interconnected depths of the human unknown, as is his wont, and makes you laugh out loud while doing so. There is no other Russell Hoban.

So... now what?! Saturday morning and no book to read! I've forgotten what to do.

Maybe I'll saunter down to Depot Town.

And pop into the used bookstore.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stupid old iTunes

I love the song "Pure and Easy" by the Who. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up. But I only have it on an ancient cassette, and my new Tape2PC gadget seems to only transfer in mono. Apparently there's a complicated way to reset it (instructions I had to write to the manufacturer to obtain!), but I haven't waded through the process yet.

So. I downloaded "Pure and Easy" from iTunes.

And... it's some totally crap version! Where did iTunes ever find it? Is this the Who?! They sound positively bored. Where's the crazy guitar solo? Why does Daltrey sound as though he's reciting his grocery list? And the worst part is, the part at the end ("There once was a note! Listen!"), which is so forceful and insistent in the real version, just limps to fade-out. They even give "Listen" some sort of disinterested, lite-country harmonization.

Yecch.

I paid a dollar for some weird version of one of my favorite songs! There should have been a warning: 'Wimp version! Do not confuse with amazing version you love!'

Booooo iTunes!

I'm going to go figure out how to set up my Tape2PC to transfer in stereo and dig up the old tape. Now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paperback Swap

I've discovered something called the Paperback Swap. Someone e-mailed me about it after having stumbled upon the "Stump the Bookseller" post on my blog many months ago. (I have a weird feeling you told me about it once, too, Patsy... but I had totally forgotten about it until now!)

What happens is, you put a list of paperbacks up on the site that you're willing to send away, and you can also request books from other members. You get the books sent to you for free. The only thing you pay is the cheap Media Mail postage on whatever books you send out.

I think it's a great idea. I've already requested a couple of books and I'm mailing one out to someone tomorrow.

Whoo hoo! I love the Internet!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sage's mother must be proud

As my bus rolled into Ypsi yesterday, I noticed the marquee at the Deja Vu strip joint. It proclaims:

CONGRATULATIONS SAGE, 2008 QUEEN OF THE COUCHES!

I thought that was beautiful.

It's one thing to be pole queen, or dance queen, or G-string queen... but to be queen of the couch dance... wow! That's royalty!

:-D

Of course, I shouldn't be giggling. For all I know, Sage is working on her second PhD in astrophysics at U.M. right now and funding her research with her majestically obtained couch-dance riches.

But still. Queen of the Couches.

Wow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A weekend in Cleveland

Well, despite my being a veritable fountain of phlegm the entire time, which I'm sure everyone enjoyed, we had a groovy little road trip to Cleveland this weekend.

The highlights:

- Going to the baseball game (see hilarious picture below), where we chowed on traditional baseball fare and had a blast, even though the poor old Tigers were staggering through their death throes at this point,

- Dropping in on an interesting exhibit at the Asterisk Gallery,

- Visiting the Literary, which is what a local oughta be,

- Browsing at the quirky and countercultural Visible Voices bookstore, where I would likely spend a huge amount of time if I lived in Tremont,

- Chatting in Evelyn's yard... until her French bulldog Della got up close and personal with an angry skunk, which led to Della getting a frantic scrubbing in the tub. According to the others, there was a distinct and pungent aroma in the air after that. Luckily, my cold precluded me from smelling a thing. Hurray for colds! (Sort of.), and

- Having a glorious breakfast of Hash Lafayette, a signature brunch dish at the Parkview Niteclub, on the morning of our return home. I am determined to go back and have it again when I can actually taste it!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Struttin' with Some Barbecue

When you have a really bad cold like the one I've had the last two days, you want to sleep a lot, and you want to read a book that is engaging but not too challenging, or at least I do. So between bouts of coughing, sneezing, and sleeping, I've been reading Brian Morton's A Window Across the River, which is a glib little New Yorky novel about dissatisfied artists. I wouldn't fall all over myself recommending it to anyone, but it was what I needed.

What made it worth it, though, is one paragraph. I actually giggled when I read it, and that doesn't happen very often.

So I've decided to share it - the paragraph, and hopefully the giggle, too.

It's nice to believe that each of us has one true love. This is a story we all enjoy. When Ingrid Bergman asks Dooley Wilson - Sam - to play "As Time Goes By," and Humphrey Bogart, hearing the song, turns pale, we know it's because the only woman he's ever loved has just come back into his life. We don't want to think that there might have been three or four other women who could have laid him even lower by strolling in after her and asking Sam to play something else - "Begin the Beguine," say, or "Struttin' with Some Barbecue."

The idea of Bogie clutching his head in his hands over "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," while some fabulous damsel shoots triumphant looks across the bar at a confused Ingrid Bergman, is - well, it's funny. In a glib, New Yorky way, I guess. But I'll take it!

Now more tea, and back to bed. After two days of fog, I can feel my various mental and physical systems slowly coming back online. Hurray!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spondylodiscitisexpialidocious!

My dad wrote an article for the Dansk Pioneer about his recent, scary bout with a rare condition called spondylodiscitis.

Whew! Glad you're feeling better, Dad!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I made my own lolcat!


I found this photo from 2006, when we still had Big Orange... and decided to turn it into a lolcat!
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Now I'm going to have to dig through all my cat pictures!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"She would have been the lipstick"

I have avoided politics so far, but we're officially in an "-ember" month and I'm going to have to throw something out there every now and then. And I just have to comment on this whole muddle of metaphor that's been going on.

Obama dispatched the silly "pig-with-lipstick" business with exemplary cool last night on Letterman, explaining that it is (hello!) simply an expression. "It connotes the idea that if you have a bad idea, in this case I was talking about John McCain’s economic plans, that just calling them change, calling it something different, doesn’t make it better - hence, lipstick on a pig is still a pig."

There. Can we all relax now? But then we all knew all that, didn't we? And yet there have been such exciting fireworks displays of affront and outrage! It was quite the performance. They should have sold tickets.

However, my favorite part was Obama's postscript to the whole thing:

"Keep in mind that, technically, had I meant it that way, she would have been the lipstick, you see? Yeah, the failed policies of John McCain would be the pig. Now, I mean, you know, just following the logic of this illogical situation."

Ha! That's terrific.

I bet my U.M. professor of the first class I took there, "Metaphor and Meaning," is having a field day with this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Back to school!

We recently had a back-to-school event at work, where we were supposed to dress the way we did back in high school.

Thought I'd share.
Sarah and I are all like, Omigod!

Schoolkids of the 70s, 80s, and 90s

That's my original genuwine HyperColor shirt from eleventh grade, by the way. Doesn't work very well any more, but that's probably all for the best.

I also provided this delightful fifth-grade yearbook shot (thanks for finding it, Dad!). I'm told I bear a passing resemblance to Ringo. Who knew?