Friday, December 7, 2007

Finally, photos

Sorry I've been so out of touch of late. I've had two colds in three weeks, a migraine every weekend and, when I'm not busy with those things, I'm at work or physical therapy (for the reoccurring muscle spasm in my upper back).

The good news is that I qualify for sick days now, so I have been able to stay home and sleep all day once during each cold, which I think helps enormously. Also, my physical therapist is fabulosa. She's a spine specialist and, on my first visit, she found two enormous muscle knots around my rib cage that I didn't even know I had. It was mighty painful when she released them, but as soon as they were gone, I became more flexible than I have known myself to be since I was five years old. (No, Mom, I haven't tried putting my feet on top of my head yet.)

I have unpacked most of my boxes and still not found my camera, so I guess that means it's time to go to Target. I'm sure if I buy a new camera, the old one will show up immediately.

But enough talk. The reason I began this post is that my friend Amy sent me pictures of my floor-finishing shindig. I don't remember how many details I've given here, but I bought reclaimed Douglas fir and long-leaf yellow pine flooring from Madison's Habitat ReStore and paid DeKalb to help me put it in to replace the old carpet in the entire upstairs, excepting the bedroom. (I admit, he did most of the work.) Here's a picture of what it looked like before being finished:

Oops, looks like I forgot to put on a bra.

I threw a floor finishing party to which I invited 80 of my closest friends. Being that I had only given everybody two days' warning, DeKalb, Amy and her husband Bruce were the only ones who showed up. But that turned out to be ideal, because finishing the floor turned out to be a lot easier than I had anticipated. I had decided against polyurethane (hate the smell, get migraines at the drop of a hat in the presence of toxic fumes) in favor of Tried & True Danish oil and varnish oil. They are all natural oils that my friends Matt and Kathy used to finish their floors while Kathy was pregnant with their son Levi -- because the oils are totally nontoxic and, in fact, edible, M & K didn't have to worry about the vapors affecting Levi-to-be.

Oh, yeah, shut up already, Kiapita. Here are pictures:






































Oh, and here's the horrible state in which I slept the entire time the flooring was being done:

















Okay, I usually was not wearing jeans and a jacket to bed, but you get the idea. My bed was on the living room floor and I had to step over it every time I crossed the room. Utter chaos.



As you can see, my dresser and several boxes of clothes were also in the living room. On the bright side, don't you love the way the red and turquoise go together?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One learns the most amazing things in Sunday School

I teach Sunday school to the 10-12 year old set at my church. Our curriculum right now is Old Testament, and you know how it is there -- you can't shake a stick without hitting a prostitute. So, this past Sunday, after a couple of chapters in which my charges read the word "prostitute" at least a dozen times, I thought to ask them if they knew what a prostitute was. (It was kind of crucial to understanding the story.) They took a couple guesses.

"It's a prosty who toots," was the first answer.

"I know, I know," said another, waving her hand vigorously above her head. I called on her, and she became remarkably less confident. "I think I know. I think it's a kind of ... lawyer?" (Some in my position would have told her, "Close," but I am sometimes an aspiring lawyer, so it did not occur to me to do so. Anyhow, I think she was thinking of "Pharisee.")

After that, no one was willing to venture a guess. I explained to them that it was someone who had sex in exchange for money, and they all looked slightly horrified. They are, after all, at an age when the thought of having sex with another person, though titillating, remains horrifying. "They what?" said the originator of "prosty who toots."

"They have sex with people in exchange for money. Usually, people become prostitutes because they don't have a whole lot of other options for making money, and this is the only way they can feed themselves or their families. Back then, if you were a woman there weren't a whole lot of job options, and women who weren't married or didn't have a father or brother who could support them would often have to do this in order to survive."

Although there were eight kids in the class, all were stunned into silence except Mr. "Prosty Who Toots": "So, let me get this straight, they ... they do *what*?"

"So Rahab--" the particular prostitute in question "-- men would pay her to have sex with them."

A lightbulb goes on. "Oh!" said Mr. Prosty Who Toots. "You mean a HOOKER! Why didn't you say that?"

Perhaps this is the whole reason that, while every single one of them could tell me the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho without opening their Bibles, but none of them remembered ever hearing of Rahab. It's fun to tell kids, who like loudness and chaos, about some people who blew horns and shouted so loud that, with the intervention of God, a city's walls fell down. They can reenact it and have a ball. If you just tell them that part, you can avoid the fact that life is complex and, often, quite ugly.

(An aside about avoiding reality in Sunday School: My curriculum, which progressively included mention of Rahab, cuts off the story of the battle at Jericho right as the walls fall down, at Joshua 6:20. Which makes the story look very pacifistic: "Hey, look, the Israelites won the city of Jericho without raising a weapon!" Alas, if you are like my Sunday schoolers, you don't stop reading where the curriculum suggests, and you get to 6:21, in which the Israelites slay almost every single man, woman, child and animal in the city. Oops.)

But back to Rahab. We talked about how God often works through people we have been taught to despise. And I suppose that's a standard, curriculum-approved lesson to get out of this tale. If you can turn every lesson into the tale of the Good Samaritan, then you're doing pretty good as a Sunday School teacher.

But if I'd been totally honest with the kids, and if I'd thought they were at a point in their lives where they could understand, I would have told them this: When it comes down to it, we're all prostitutes. We're all selling off bits of ourselves in exchange for money, security, status. Perhaps our dignity, perhaps our idealism, perhaps our ethics, perhaps our souls. When God chooses to work through a prostitute, it's no more remarkable than when God works through anyone else. Or, to put it another way, when God works through a devout churchgoer, it's just as amazing and unexpected -- perhaps more so -- as when God works through a lowly hooker.

Selling my car

And now for a commercial message:

I'd like to sell my 2005 Toyota Prius. It came with an upgrade that included Smart Key entry, rear and front side curtain airbags (aka "head SABs") in addition to the usual front airbags, and vehicle stability control. It has 13,500 miles on it. I am asking $18,700. Great condition, passed its last state inspection, never been in a collision. The vehicle is in great shape. E-mail me if you want details.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The nature of Clorox

A few years ago I interviewed Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt's Bees natural cosmetics company, for a now-defunct magazine called Hope. (We will not wander off into ruminations about whether Hope's death was a case of situational irony or, rather, exactly what ought to have been expected.)

At the time, Quimby was in the process of selling off the company so she could spend more time advocating for a national park in Maine's North Woods. She was selling to an investment group -- the kind that purchases companies, spruces them up, and then resells them to a bigger player. (Kind of like Flip That House, but on a bigger monetary scale.)

So I was interested today to read that Burt's Bees has been flipped. It's being bought by Clorox. I'd sure love to talk to her again to see what she has to say about that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The key to happiness

While awaiting for my prescription to be filled yesterday at Community Pharmacy, and mourning the $220 upfront cost for nine Imitrex tablets, I went across the street to Heartland Birkenstock (which carries only a few pairs of Birks these days) to see how many pairs of shoes I might buy for the same price. I made a beeline for El Naturalistas, and tried on these high heels:



Even though I was in my bike shorts, they looked fabulous. And I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable three-inch heels could be -- although, their being Naturalistas, I was by no means shocked. Maybe they weren't suited enough for going on long walks downtown -- at least not without some practice (I can always hold out hope) -- but they were comfortable enough.

Then I tried on this pair:



The picture doesn't do them justice.

I know I really ought to branch out beyond red. Maybe into purple or chartreuse -- those are options, too, though they weren't available in the store. But red is so elemental. It matches everything. Just ask the Chinese. I used to watch tons of depressing epic Chinese films in college (I cried for hours after Farewell My Concubine) and, while I can't pretend not to have appreciated the above-par storytelling and acting, it didn't hurt that there was so much red cloth to look at.

It was an "Imagine, don't own" shoe trip so, no, I didn't come home with a new pair. But if I run into some money and decide that art and beauty are more important than powertools (the French Bohemians would have said so), perhaps I will make a return visit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The answer to my dietary needs

On days when I log in a lot of miles on my bike, I long for a calorie source that is as inexpensive as gasoline. A gallon of gasoline can get me 47 miles for $2.81 (or $3.09, depending on the day). To bike 47 miles, I need about 2,000 calories. Where can you get 2,000 calories for three bucks?

It looks like Hardee's is working on a solution to my problem.

Don't let my monetary musings mislead you. Despite the increased food costs, cycling remains cheaper than driving. With cars, you have to tack on the price of the vehicle(usually way more than a bike), insurance, title, registration, maintenance and any accessories you may require to distract yourself from the dullness of driving (satellite radio, hands-free phone set-up, extensive CD collection, hula girl for your dashboard). This comes out to $0.40-$0.50 per mile. For cycling, you just tack on the costs of maintenance and accessories (lights, helmet, cycling clothing if you're into that), and you can subtract savings on gym memberships and healthcare.

Since biking takes about 40 calories a mile, and driving costs about $0.40 a mile, this means I can spend a penny per calorie and be no poorer than if I drove.

Here's a calculator to show you how much you could save or are saving by cycling instead of driving.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sensationalist recycling

An Idaho veterinarian has had a brilliant idea. Deal with the manure from farms by feeding it to maggots, who use half of it to build their own bodies and break the other half down into a clean soil amendment. Then feed the maggots to rainbow trout.

Alas, this article from the Associated Press sensationalizes the process a bit, stating that it would involve feeding manure to trout. That's a bit like saying that humans eat sunlight, since we eat plants that feed off of sunlight.

Never thought you'd see manure compared favorably with sunlight, did you?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cold knees

This morning it was 41 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the expected 35. I therefore decided to forgo the pants I'd been planning to wear over my cycling tights. By the time I got to work, I wished I'd worn knee warmers.

Every other bit of me was warm though. I'd put out my winter windbreaker, but it's definitely too early for that. I had to stop only three miles into the ride to take off my jersey from underneath it. Alas, no one on the path seemed excited by the show. Perhaps black face mask I was wearing ruined the allure.

If you are reading this and are actually interested in how many and what kind of layers I wear -- which I can only imagine being the case if you are hoping for insight in how to suit up for your own commutes, or to compare our cold-weather dress styles so you can see how wimpy I am on my bike in comparison to you -- then you, like me, would probably benefit from a few tips on how to talk to non-cyclists. Do check them out. You won't regret it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Practically glowing warmth

I haven't given up on this blog. It's just that I've given up on doing anything that requires me to stay seated. Except for bicycling.

Some of you may be disappointed not to be getting a regular updates on my mileage counts. My dad mentioned it; perhaps others feel the same. This surprises me. So: I rode 19 miles on Monday and 17 on Tuesday, and today I biked to work and at the third mile or so I thought my index finger was going to freeze and fall off. The wind picked up and I was certain of it; but, surprise surprise, the wind had the opposite effect. Because it required me to pedal harder, I broke a sweat, and so my blood decided that it could share itself with more than the most crucial internal organs. By the time I got to work, my hands were practically glowing with warmth.

Anyway, the total should be about 19 miles again today.

The notable event of the week is that I got ticked off at my best friend this weekend and called him an asshole. My sponsor said this morning, "So, have you made amends to him yet for calling him an asshole?"

I said, "No, but I apologized."

She said, "You didn't say, 'I was wrong to call you an asshole and will change my behavior in the future. What can I do to make it up to you?'"

"No," I said.

"Hmmm," she said.

It was only about 6:20 in the morning when we were having this conversation (via phone), so the little antagonist inside of me was not -- how do they say this? "Fluid with the words?" But if it had been, it probably would have prompted me to say, "I thought we make amends to people we have harmed, and I really don't think I harmed him by calling him an asshole. I think I might have actually done him some good."

But I know what her response would have been, because my little antagonist always fails to antagonize her. She'd just say, "You pray about that for a few days."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I have been delinquent lately

I talked to my parents earlier this week and they chided me for not updating my blog lately. Even their dog barked at me over the fiber-optic lines.

I told them I have nothing to say because I'm putting in the bedroom floors (with paid help from Dekalb) and I have no camera with which to take pictures that I can post. Who wants to hear about how sore your butt gets from sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours while scraping the years of accumulated detritus from the tongues of the rescued pine flooring? The rest of the time I am at work, and I have a policy not to talk about the day-to-day of office life.

Yesterday I went to Home Depot to use my other 10% off coupon and I was there for three-and-a-half hours. As I approached the checkout lane, I realized that my blood sugar was dropping precipitously. I have gastritis right now, so I often can't tell that I'm hungry until I start *acting* hungry -- indecisive, short of temper, anxious and so forth. Alas, because of the gastritis, none of the candy options at the checkout line were acceptable. But it's not like I have diabetes or anything, so it wasn't a medical emergency.

Nonetheless, when I got to Jennifer Street Market (or click here for a picture) a half hour later, I bought blueberry kefir in addition to my usual gallon of non-homogenized milk (which I use for yogurt making). Since I ferment so many of my own foods, I usually view the purchase of pre-fermented foods as extravagant, so you see how hungry I must have been.

After I got through the checkout line, I opened up the quart bottle of kefir and drank about a third of it. Better than ice cream.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Minneapolis, here I am

I can now add Minnesota to the list of states I've been. This is satisfying in some ways, but in others-- Well, I guess I'll miss the incredulous looks on people's faces when I tell them that, although I've lived in the Upper Midwest almost my entire adult life, I've never been to Minnesota. I can no longer call it, "Minnesota, the land of mystery and mystique."

I had breakfast this morning in a restaurant called Hell's Kitchen. The food was pretty good, but they had all the waitstaff dressed in pajamas, which seemed a little forced and precious to me. I did, however, like the dead tree in the corner of the dining room, upon which were several stuffed crows and other sundry birds. I do love crows. I thought, "Perhaps I can make something like that for my living room."

If I were a good blogger, I would show you a picture of it now, but I still haven't found my camera. I have failed you all.

Oh, and I finally believe my friend Chris, who says that Minneapolis is effin cold. I've been walking around with a leather jacket (thanks curb days!) ever since I got here and still this morning I wondered if I should have another layer on. Madison is effin Hawaii in comparison.

(It now occurs to me that I haven't told you why I'm in the big MN. Business trip. Conference. It promises to be scintillating. At some point, one of our keynote speakers will juggle. Or so he promises. I am hoping that fire will be involved, in moderate amounts. Barring that, knives.)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Out of touch with the world

My cell phone died on Monday. Fortunately, I had another, brand new one in my storage unit, and it was one of the last things I put in there, so it was not buried under a million things. Why did I have it? Because AT&T sent it to me accidentally and when I asked them to send me a return postage label so I could send it back to them, they said, "Whatever, we might." And they never did, and they never charged me for the phone. I feel a little conflicted about the new phone, because it's made by LG, and I have reason to believe that the owner of Igneva Ignoble, my former workplace, has a majority stake in LG. It's the same reason I haven't bought a dehumidifier with my 10% off Home Depot coupon -- HD only carries LG models. Hmmm, does Bed Bath & Beyond carry dehumidifiers? I have a 20% off coupon from them.

Back to the phone situation. I had all my phone numbers saved to the now-dead phone's memory, not the SIM chip, so I lost the phone number of just about everybody I know. If you are related to me and moved within the past two years or you live in Pennsylvania, you can be almost positive that I lost your phone number. So if you ever want to hear from me again, send me your phone number, okay? Thanks.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Amost done painting ...

Happy birthday, Matthew. 37 is a prime number -- auspicious, don't you think?

And Gina, if you haven't disappeared yet, would it be gloating to say I was delighted to have my suspicions about Severus Snape confirmed last night? I stayed up past my bedtime, I was so elated.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dreaming of me

I had a dream last night that I was visiting Philadelphia for the day. It looked a lot like Madison -- particularly when one is facing south at the intersection of Washington and Doty -- but with narrower streets, and hybridized with Madrid and Bethlehem or Beit Sahour.

I called my friend Gina, but she had moved to Austin. I called Clare, and she picked up the phone. We decided to get together at a coffeehouse. Phil was at work. And Chris was moonlighting as a DJ at an easy-listening/standards station. I was really impressed by the enthusiasm he conveyed when intro-ing and outro-ing songs. Even I was convinced that he loves Judy Garland-Barbra Streisand duets.

Then I went to visit my sister in New Jersey. It is always amazing how her abode metamorphoses from an apartment to a house and back again in my dreams. She was working in New York once more and decided to show me around. It looked a lot like Philadelphia -- the real one -- maybe with some Chicago and Baltimore thrown in.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Juicy

I closed on the house this morning. The rest of the day was spent doing painting prep, painting (well, actually, Susan did all the actual painting), and ripping up carpet. For dinner, I went to the corner where there is a bagel shop, an ice cream store and a Mexican grocery. Since the bagel shop was closed and the grocery sold food that one would need to prepare -- in a kitchen, on a stove, in a pot that is not stowed away in a box -- I was forced to have a waffle cone with two scoops of Bear Claw for dinner. Chocolate ice cream with fudge and peanut butter cups. Pure torture, I tell you.

So, I would post some pictures of the new pad here, but I apparently put my camera in a box somewhere, and I don't remember which one. It's too bad, because I'm sure a shot of me pulling up carpet with no pants on would have been a treat for all.

I am still rooming at the chicken house on the west side. The male half of the heterosexual couple likes to surf YouTube. Yesterday, he introduced me to Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show, which he and his daughter discovered recently. The Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show music video "Juicy" was an excellent antidote for the sick-in-the-stomach feeling I got after watching Salad Fingers, which the young hipsters say is funny, but is in fact disturbing to such an extent that I will not provide a hyperlink to it here. If you want to get creeped out, you'll have to do the hard work of googling on your own.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Speaking of the war ...

I enjoyed this routine about support-our-troops politics by Yoram Bauman, the Stand-Up Economist. Five minutes well spent.

(If you want an added joke about George Bush and a couple more naughty words -- and don't mind poor video quality -- view this one instead.)

What makes the world run

You can learn some remarkable things reading food industry publications all day. Take this one: According to a survey commissioned by Green Giant, a third of parents think their children are more likely to become President of the United States than to eat enough fruits and vegetables. I find this sad, because it means that these parents think their child can become President without eating fruits and vegetables.

Of course, these parents aren't incorrect in making this assumption -- I'm pretty sure Reagan didn't eat enough of them, and I know that Bush H.W. and Clinton had their own issues with them. But my question is this: Should it be true? Does someone who refuses to eat enough fruits and vegetables really have what it takes to be President?

This is not to say that anyone who eats a varied diet would make a good national leader. But I have my doubts that someone who has not developed an intimate gastronomic relationship with leaves, shoots, fruits, roots and stalks understands what makes the world run -- much less has the ability to help the process along.

And if this seems too esoteric to you -- well, I guess I'll just have to explain more later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Drills and mixers

Haven't written in the past few days because my brain's been a bit foggy. I've had a cold since Saturday. The cold also led to a decrease in my bicycling -- only 23 or 24 miles total since Saturday. But it should come as no surprise; I was running myself a bit ragged, don't you think?

On Sunday, I went to the Gandy Dancer Festival in Madison's Central Park with the female adult of the heterosexual-parent household where I'm staying, along with the kids -- M.R., 6; M.J., 3; and R., 7 months -- and DeKalb. The festival was apparently a fix for bluegrass junkies, but we were there for the double-decker passenger train that left Central Park on the hour for a ride up the tracks to Waunakee and back. (I am told that these double deckers are what they use in Chicagoland for the suburban commuter trains.) I couldn't find my camera, so I took pictures using the household camera. About 23 of them were of M.J. smearing chocolate ice cream all over his face as part of his attempt at eating it.

It is wonderful to hand out with other people's kids -- much better than having your own, I think. On Saturday, when I was attempting to take a desperately needed nap, M.R. and M.J. decided it would be a good idea to start knocking on my door. At first, ear plugs muffled the sound enough, but then they must have resorted to kicking. So I got out of bed, opened the door a crack and said, "Do you want a time out?" Their heads dropped back and they stared at me with their jaws agape. I am usually the fun adult, you see.

Later, after I completed my nap in peace -- and after making a mental note to definitely pursue getting my tubes tied -- I came upstairs to the kitchen, where M.R. and M.J. were making popsicles."You see," M.R. explained, "since you weren't going to play with us, we got bored of sitting outside your room, so we decided to find something fun to do ourselves." She said this in a definite tone of condescension, to drive home the point that my laziness was making me miss out on all the fun.

--------

So, the house closing is scheduled for Monday. If you are wondering what housewarming gift to present me with, might I suggest a Vita-Mix Super 5000 -- new or reconditioned, I'm not picky as long as it includes both wet and dry blades -- or a Dewalt cordless drill?

I know. Charming.
Haven't written in the past few days because my brain's been a bit foggy. I've had a cold since Saturday. The cold also led to a decrease in my bicycling -- only 23 or 24 miles total since Saturday. But it should come as no surprise; I was running myself a bit ragged, don't you think?

On Sunday, I went to the Gandy Dancer Festival in Madison's Central Park with the female adult of the heterosexual-parent household where I'm staying, along with the kids -- M.R., 6; M.J., 3; and R., 7 months -- and DeKalb. The festival was apparently a fix for bluegrass junkies, but we were there for the double-decker passenger train that left Central Park on the hour for a ride up the tracks to Waunakee and back. (I am told that these double deckers are what they use in Chicagoland for the suburban commuter trains.) I couldn't find my camera, so I took pictures using the household camera. About 23 of them were of M.J. smearing chocolate ice cream all over his face as part of his attempt at eating it.

It is wonderful to hang out with other people's kids -- much better than having your own, I think. On Saturday, when I was attempting to take a desperately needed nap, M.R. and M.J. decided it would be a good idea to start knocking on my door. At first, ear plugs muffled the sound enough, but then they must have resorted to kicking. So I got out of bed, opened the door a crack and said, "Do you want a time out?" Their heads dropped back and they stared at me with their jaws agape. I am usually the fun adult, you see.

Later, after I completed my nap in peace -- and after making a mental note to definitely pursue getting my tubes tied -- I came upstairs to the kitchen, where M.R. and M.J. were making popsicles."You see," M.R. explained, "since you weren't going to play with us, we got bored of sitting outside your room, so we decided to find something fun to do ourselves." She said this in a definite tone of condescension, to drive home the point that my laziness was making me miss out on all the fun.

--------

So, the house closing is scheduled for Monday. If you are wondering what housewarming gift to present me with, might I suggest a Vita-Mix Super 5000 or a Dewalt cordless drill?

Friday, August 10, 2007

27.16

Today I was going to take a break from biking, but I needed to go to the east side to move some final furniture out of the truck in which it spent the night and into an actual building -- so I didn't take a break. The furniture was in the truck as a result of a series of miscommunications that I will not describe here, because it's really a rather boring story. Suffice it to say that the whole incident reminded me that I should, perhaps, someday, learn to drive stick shift.

Friends Andrea and Brad became my new heroes by, on very short notice, offering to drive the truck for me this afternoon. So now the furniture is in its destination, and I don't have to move anything for a whole 10 days. What a relief.

My boss let me leave work early for this momentous occasion, which was good -- except that I only keep SPF 15 sunblock at my office, figuring that SPF 30 is overkill for 4:30 or 5 p.m., which is when I usually head out of the office. So my forearms are now slightly sunburnt -- not in the painful way, just in the continuously-itchy-no-matter-how-much-skin-lotion-you-rub-in way.

After all that, I drove (yes, drove!) to Mt. Vernon (not the George Washington one) to watch homeschoolers do Shakespeare. My friend Alison directed them, and they were pretty good. There was a MacBethian witch of whom I was especially fond. Alison used to be in the Young Shakespeare Players, whom I strongly recommend you go see sometime if you are in Madison's vicinity.

I still haven't seen the Harry Potter movie. Alison and I have sworn to see it together, but we've both been hectic lately. We talked about seeing it tonight after the play, but I thought after a week of 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night, I ought to go home and go to bed. Clearly, I am not a dedicated Harry Potter fan.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

29.08

20.5, 10

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Smells like brand spirit












It's been a while since I've posted any pictures to this blog. Here's one my friend Michelle took of me at a pick-up soccer game a few weeks ago. As you can see, I had knocked her to the ground and was laughing heartily at her misfortune.

(Um, do I have to explain here that I am kidding and that she was just lying on the ground in a moment of repose after the game?)

Yesterday I received the most curious bicycling-related injury. I was biking about 20 mph under a canopy of trees and -- whack! -- something tiny got caught in the draft snapped me right between the eyebrows, in just about the only space not covered by my glasses or helmet. At first I thought it was a small beetle, maybe a lightning bug, since I often encounter such creatures on that particular route. But that thought only lasted about a nanosecond, because my skin started to feel aflame. As you might imagine, I yelled some expletive and pulled off. I decided it must have been an acorn and that my forehead was probably turning dark purple, if not bleeding profusely, but when I looked in my mirror, I saw no sign of injury. It was rather disappointing.

Being that I am rather thick, it wasn't until about an hour later -- when I touched the spot and felt a searing sting -- that I figured out a bee had embedded a little hot poker right at the place my eyebrows would join, if I had a monobrow. Poor thing died because I created an updraft. I would not make a very good Jain.

Went to PF Chang's for an office birthday celebration today. I hadn't known before that point that what America has been waiting for all this time was a chain Chinese-ish restaurant where all the dishes cost twice as much as in an actual Chinese restaurant.

But the need for branded Chinese food should not surprise me, especially given this recent study that shows we succumb to brand brainwashing when we are barely off the breast.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Boring bike log

Friday: 15, I think
Saturday: 8.5
Sunday:19
Monday: 28.75

So, I want to know why the Weather Underground says there's 100% chance of rain right now, but it's not raining. Maybe it should claim 99%. Otherwise, it gives the impression of being infested with hubris.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Daily reprieve

Today was extraordinarily difficult.

I had originally intended to say "inexplicably difficult." But then I realized that I've totally been skimming over my morning prayers and meditation has gong completely out the window, so the difficulty is, perhaps, explicable. And perhaps the fact that I only got six hours of sleep last night, and am trying to close on a condo in two weeks, and biked 28-point-something miles just to get to work and a meeting, and ran out of prepared foods and had to cook both breakfast and dinner from scratch even though I really had no time to do so -- perhaps those things had something to do with it.

The good thing is that it started raining tonight on my way home -- or, rather, to the place where I'm housesitting, which is actually 10 miles from the place I was living up until last Wednesday, and 10 miles from the meeting I went to tonight.

There is something reassuring about bicycling in the rain, once you get over the grit that coats your legs and the weird slick feeling your skin gets as sweat mixes with water. (Oh, and the frequent blinking to keep water out of your eyes and/or the incessant wiping down of your glasses.) I think it's the sound of the wheels skimming past puddles, and that drumming of rain against the leaves and the asphalt and my helmet, and the fact that my legs can just keep moving even when I have no real desire to move them -- the rhythm of these things reassures me that God is right alongside me, humming Her little tune.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

My gaydar totally broke when I moved to Wisconsin

Last year, while in Rehoboth Beach (Delaware) for the weekend, I found myself chatting with some women from New Jersey during my afternoon coffee. (This was back in the days before my stomach rebelled against me, and I could enjoy such things.)

When I mentioned I was from Wisconsin, one of the women got very excited. "Wisconsin! I've been to Wisconsin! I used to date a woman from there." I asked her where in Wisconsin she'd been, and I want to say it was Watertown or Delafield or Green Bay, but I really have no recollection at all of her answer, except that it wasn't Madison.

"And let me tell you," she said, "the first time I went-- When I got onto the plane, I thought I had entered lesbian paradise. I whispered to my girlfriend, 'Oh my God, this plane is full of dykes! You never told me there were so many in Wisconsin.' And she said to me, 'What are you talking about?' So I pointed out to her about a dozen different women with, you know, the look. Flannel shirts, hiking boots, no make-up, baseball caps, short hair -- you know, stuff like that."

(Considering that my interlocutor was wearing stretch jeans, a leotard-like black top, lipstick, eyeliner and tastefully selected jewelry, I found her comment ironic, but I digress.)

"And my girlfriend just looked at me and said, 'Oh, honey, they're not dykes. That's just how straight women dress in Wisconsin.'"

--------

When I was in college, I thought I had perfect gaydar. But after I moved to Wisconsin, my gaydar sounded false alarms so often that I decided it had never really worked at all. It was just that, when I was in college, I guessed correctly a lot because there were certain signals that women would give to say, "Hey, I like women," without having to say it. A lot of those signals involved clothing and posture, and I began to assume that any woman who wore certain clothes or held herself a certain way was gay.

But then I moved to Wisconsin and discovered that the straight women here had never received the fashion memo. Many of them looked and acted and dressed like dykes -- some were even downright butch -- and yet they were straight. So I gave up. There's just no way of knowing who's gay or who's straight unless they tell you -- or start making out with you. (And even then ...)

----------

Two years ago, right before I left Madison for Pennsylvania, I shocked my straight friend Tanya in an unwitting display of my pathetic, gaydarless state. Tanya and I had both been working out at the same gym for about a year and we were both obsessed with it. I worked out there four or five times a week. We were a bit intimidated and perhaps fascinated by the people we considered seriously buff, and so we knew the names and amazing athletic accomplishments of dozens of people to whom we had never actually spoken.

I was at a point in my life where I tended to stay away from bars but, that August, a series of events led me to Club 5, a Madison gay bar, one weekend evening. And there, I ran into one of those athletic women from the gym.

I mentioned it later to Tanya. "You know who I ran into at Club 5?" I said. "It kind of surprised me. I saw So-and-So there with a bunch of her friends. You think she might be gay?"

Tanya gasped and giggled simultaneously (an amazing feat, really) -- not at my news, but the fact it was news to me. "Um, you don't really have to run into her at Club 5 to figure that out."

"Really?" I said.

Tanya stared at me and shook her head in a pitying way.

I tried to build a preemptive defense for my ignorance. "Well," I said, "she's got short hair and she looks kind of butch in her gym clothes, but everybody looks kind of butch in their gym clothes."

"It's not that," Tanya said. "She's just gay. It's obvious." Pause. "Don't you have gaydar? Even I have gaydar."

"No," I said. "I used to think I had gaydar, but then I realized it was just wishful thinking."

---------

If one of my editors were reading this, they would ask me what "the hook" for this story is. Why am I telling you this, and why now?

Well, I was at a party last Saturday, and the aforementioned So-and-So showed up with an "I Love Pro-Choice Boys" pin fastened to her hat. "I stopped to sign a petition at the Planned Parenthood table at the farmer's market today, and they'd run out of 'I Love Pro-Choice Girls' buttons. But I still wanted to give them my money and wear pro-choice paraphenelia, so I took this." She removed her hat and spun it around in her hands. "I kind of like it. Totally dykey woman who loves pro-choice boys -- maybe it'll throw people for a loop."

So even So-and-So thinks everyone in the world knows she's a lesbian. Sigh. My gaydar never got the memo.

Friday, August 3, 2007

I am so tired I can hardly believe it

But I'm also really hungry, so I can't go to sleep yet. Thought I'd type while I chow.

So many interesting stories from this week but, being tired, I will just give you a mundane listing of highlights. Moved out of the place I was staying this summer. Was going to put my dresser and bed in a friend's garage, but after three days of calling her, I realized we had failed to communicate about the timing and she was in California. Oops. Nice landlady has let me keep the bed in the house for a few days more.

Now I'm housesitting for some friends, which involves watering their garden every few days and collecting eggs from the chickens. It's Madison. You're allowed to keep chickens as long as they don't bother the neighbors. They passed an ordinance a few years ago explicitly permitting it, after a lot of urban chicken-raising scofflaws and law-abiding would-be urban chicken farmers lobbied the city council for the change. It was a big deal. As soon as the ordinance passed, my then-landlady kept asking me, "When are you going to get your chickens? You seem like the chicken-raising type." But she had a part-pitbull, and I thought better of it.

Oh, I got sidetracked off the list, but that's probably just as well. Must sleep now.

Friday: 16 miles
Sunday: 20 miles
Monday: 20, I think
Tuesday: 20
Thursday: 40
Today: 15

Friday, July 27, 2007

Apparently, I'm stupid

A funny thing happened yesterday as I was biking near UW-Madison's Library Mall. I had just stopped at a stop sign and, just after I started up again and turned onto State Street, this cyclist behind me (he'd been following for about a block, but not super close, which I knew thanks to my mirrors) speeds up and grunts, "Why'd you stop? There's no stop sign!"

He was a white, 40-ish, helmetless male. I thought I recognized him as a customer from my days of working at Mifflin Street Co-op. I said, in what I think was a friendly tone, "Actually, there is one, right there," and I pointed to it.

To which he replied, "That's only for cars. Sheesh." By this time he was next to me.

"Actually," I said, "it's for cyclists, too."

Maybe I sounded too parental and unflustered. He looked disgusted, turned away from me and sped across the street toward a bike rack. "Only for stupid cyclists!" he hollered over his shoulder.

"And cyclists who want to follow the law and not get hit by cars--" and I was about to add "--or injure pedestrians," when I realized I was engaging in a street debate with a guy who thought that his calling me "stupid" might shame me into speeding through stop signs.

Yesterday's total: 17 miles. Wednesday's was around 16.5

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

found

Fran's been found alive and apparently well in northern Wisconsin. That is all I know for now -- it only hit the news an hour ago. By the time you read this, there will probably be more information available through various news outlets, which you can peruse through a Google news search.

I drove to work yesterday and my heart welled with pity for all the people who do that every single working day of their lives.

When I get tired and my mind becomes feeble, I imagine that my brain is turning to cotton. All my senses seem muffled.

That is what driving on the Beltline felt like. It did not seem like I was really present, really THERE, speeding along at 55 mph. I felt cut off from world and sound and Madison's multifarious wildlife -- the squirrels, the rabbits, the idiots reading books while bicycling, the Japanese knotweed, the mulberries.

Every morning and every evening I can hear my neighbors hollering at each other. After driving yesterday, I began to understand a little about why there is so much anger in this world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How not to bring someone to God

On Sunday, I heard a knock on the door and started heading down the stairs. Was I distracted by my ponderings on who it might be, or was it the fact that I was wearing shoes that I don't usually wear indoors? Whatever it was, I was about two-thirds of the way down when I lost my footing and went SMACK! down the stairs. I, of course, yelled out, "F***!"

Having reached the bottom of the stairs, I stood up and opened the door. (Yes, Mom, I looked first.) It was a Jehovah's Witness in a burgundy shirt and tie. Often, I am happy to engage in some sort of scriptural conversation with these folks, but not today. "Now's not a good time," I said. "I just fell down the stairs."

"Are you okay?" he said, but he also had that kind of suppressed smile that says, "I can see that you will be alright, so it's probably okay that I found your swearing so amusing." Then he gave me an invitation to the JW's annual regional assembly, which will be held in DeKalb, Illinois, this year. I didn't ask if it will be the same weekend as that town's famous corn festival so I could have a two-fer weekend getaway.

Fran is still missing and sometimes people I meet ask for updates -- like, if anyone knows where she might be. It's become more evident to me than usual that we humans want a narrative for everything, even the inexplicable. If anyone could fully explain Fran's disappearance or deduce her location, we would have found her by now. And yet we keep thinking that, suddenly, somehow, the answer will arise out of nowhere, and it will all be clear.

Thursday: 20 miles
Friday: 16.5 miles
Saturday: 60 miles
Monday: 17 miles

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yesterday was a very weird day

All is copacetic on the homefront. The offer was officially accepted yesterday, and closing is by the end of August. If the inspection goes without a hitch, I hope to move that date up sooner so I have more time to paint and put in new flooring in the bedroom while it's still hot and humid outside. I had dinner with my friends Matt and Kathy last night and they showed me the flooring that Matt had put in upstairs, using recovered boards that they bought at the Habitat ReStore. It looked fabulous, so I told him he could come over and work on my place. Generous of me, I think.

The disturbing part of yesterdy came in the afternoon, when I received an e-mail from the seller (who also happens to be a friend) on a completely different topic: a friend of ours went missing on Tuesday night. No foul play is suspected, but it was unexpected and is upsetting to a lot of people. She has about a bazillion friends. If you live in the Madison area and want more info or want to post flyers in your workplace or elsewhere, call me and I can e-mail you a pdf.

Yesterday's biking total: 16.75 miles

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

soon to be a frazzled homeowner, maybe

It has been a somewhat overwhelming week, looking at condos and finally making an offer on one. It looks like I very well may get it. In the meantime, and what with the wedding and all, I managed to forget many important things, including my nephew's first birthday. But I forgot his brother's first birthday, too, so I guess they can't compain that I have favorites. I had put it in my mind that it was the same week as my dad's birthday, at the end of July.

Thursday: 22.5 miles
Friday: 29.5
Sunday: 20.5
Monday: 18.5
Tuesday: 16.5

If you want to donate $5 or $10 or more to the Boys' and Girls' Club of Dane County, call me by Friday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

oh, yeah, the wedding

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't mentioned the 7/7/07 wedding now that it's over and I've signed the marriage certificate (as the officiant, not as a spouse). The reason is because I was waiting to upload the pictures -- for example, the one in which I look quite chagrined to be the one to have caught the bridal bouquet during the ceremonial see-what-single-woman-will-catch-this-marriage-thing flower toss -- but my computer and my camera have not been in the same place since that event.

So I will continue to bore you with biking tallies:
Sunday, 49.5 miles
Monday, 16 miles
Tuesday, 18 miles
Today, 19.5 miles

Monday, July 9, 2007

Eating for two (days)

I was not as hungry yesterday as one would have expected, given all the riding I did. I suppose it was the heat that kept my appetite down. I made up for it today, back in the air-conditioned office. As I packed my food this morning, I asked myself, “Do you really think you’re going to eat all this, Kathryn,” and I answered myself, “Best be prepared. And if I don’t, I’ll have leftovers for tomorrow.”

Well, I ate pretty much all of it. Two cheese sandwiches, roasted chicken with roasted figs and veggies, green beans Athena (green beans simmered with tomatoes, onions and feta), a box of raisins, a little bag of animal crackers ... I don’t remember what else. Oh, yes, some grazing on chocolate, prunes, and saltines. Not simultaneously.

The bad part about riding a lot is the windburn. Of course, windburn and sunburn feel a lot alike, but when the inside of my nose feels lightly sunburned, I figure it must have gotten irritated by the wind. Any cyclists or convertible drivers out there who’ve faced a similar problem? Do they make windburn balm for the inside of your nose and sinuses?

So, there’s this guy I see on the bike path on my way home from work. He’s usually going at a nice clip, maybe 15 miles an hour. This is not remarkable. The remarkable detail is that he always has an open book in one of his hands and is reading it. So, even though I’m not a law enforcement officer, do you think I could arrest him, anyway? There are pedestrians all over that path, and I’m sure none of them want to be injured as a result of his self-absorption.

Now, my self-absorption, that’s another matter.

Two of my friends are signed up to do the Madison AIDS Network ride in August. One of them only signed up last week, and hadn’t ridden more than two miles at a time yet this year (although she’s done the ride in previous years). The ride is 300+ miles in four days. Her recklessness inspires me. I am tempted to sign up myself. Do you think I can raise $1,200 in seven weeks? I already need to raise another $250 in the next two weeks for the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, and I keep forgetting to hit people up for that.

Well, there is more to my life than cycling. Like laundry. I need to do some tonight.

p.s. Credits to Dekalb for the title.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I am a cycling addict

Friday: 32 miles
Saturday:17 miles
Today: It should be around 49 or 50 by the time I get home

I biked to Windsor to look at a garden for a local magazine. Funny, quirky garden. the woman had put a fake skull and a tequila bottle in the cactus/desert section of the garden. But miles 15-30 (the way back home) sucked. It's in the 90s today and i was going against the wind. I felt like a turtle trying to crawl its way out of a kiln. But then I stopped at home, put my head under the cold water faucet, stuffed my face with chicken and raisins and cheese curds and a coconut popsicle, and I was all energized to bike to church. Of course, all that eating made me run late. i didn't get there until 6:40, halfway through the sermon, and I wondered why I had even bothered. But then the pastor told a story about a man being chased by a lion, falling over a cliff, and catching onto a branch. He looked down and noticed another lion below him. Then he noticed, within arm's reach, some alpine strawberries growing out of a crevice. There was a big ripe one, and he reached for it and plucked it off. He ate it and enjoyed it very much.

And then we sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," which rocks for many reasons, including a series of descending half-steps in one bar of the alto part. The words are good, too. I love it.

actually written on Friday evening, July 6, 2007

The Joy of Cooking says it takes 20 minutes per pound for a chicken to roast, but I’ve never found that to be true. It’s not even a good guideline. After leaving my 3.91 pound chicken in the oven for 80 minutes, I stuck the thermometer in and it only registered 150 Fahrenheit. 150! I tell you, they must have written that section in a drug-induced haze, or perhaps they just slapped it together at the last minute before deadline.

I suppose my ovens could all be crappy, or my habit of throwing copious amounts of vegetables into the roasting pan could slow the cooking time, or the fact that I do not let the chicken sit at room temperature so that its internal temperature reaches 70 degrees before I shove it in the oven could have some cooling effect. Perhaps I ought to use a more up-to-date cookbook in which they do not assume that you are willing to leave raw meat on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours before sticking it in the oven.

But I don’t, and now it’s past my bedtime, and I’m too tired to do housework, so I guess I’ll sit here and write instead while I wait for the chicken to be done.

I have been a little crabby all week, so when I left work today, I decided I would take the scenic route home. I was envisioning a route that would take me 10 or 11 miles instead of my usual eight, but once I turned off the beaten path, I remembered what I love so much about life and I ended up taking a very convoluted route that could barely be described as taking me home, except for the fact that I did end up home, eventually, 22 or so miles later.

Clare will be happy to know that this detour led me to two groundhog sightings. The second sighting was of a pair of them right next to each other, munching the clover. It was the first time I’ve ever seen two groundhogs together, unless I’ve seen two fighting somewhere, which probably wouldn’t have struck me as remarkable, and so I would have forgotten it. But these two were content to be together – as lovers or siblings or friends, I don’t know. But I decided to call them E and G. It seemed appropriate.

They were very happy until I stopped my bike to watch them, at which time they scampered off in slightly different directions, stopping after 10 or so feet to evaluate if I was really serious about standing there. They looked at me as if to say, “That’s a very good patch of clover, and we don’t want to leave it, but if you insist on standing there, we will suspect you of either of two motives: (1) you want to eat us for dinner or (2) you want to observe us and spread rumors about our forbidden love. In either case, we would insist on parting ways with you.” So I put my left foot back on its pedal and began to ride off, and they returned to their clover, peaceably.

Sometimes at lunchtime, a co-worker asks, “Did you ride your bike today?” and then I know that the world really doesn’t revolve around me, because if it did, all my co-workers would have noticed by now that I’ve only driven to work twice, and biked at least 25 times. When I answer, “Yes,” they say, “You’re so good.”

I immediately want to correct them. It’s not that biking doesn’t ameliorate some of my discomfort about living in the most resource-gobbling country on Earth (soon to be surpassed by China, the pundits say, but I imagine it will be another five decades or more until then). And yes, it’s beneficial to my health – except for that one time I broke my teeth. (That was September 12, 2001, and it was almost certainly a stress-induced crash, and so I don’t really think it counts – it would have been worse if I’d been driving a car.)

But I’m not sure my biking makes me “good.” See, they don’t know what goes through my mind when I’m biking to and from work. About half of my thoughts are along the lines of, “That idiot shouldn’t be allowed on the road/bike path/planet” – similar to what my thoughts might be if I were driving a car.

The other half of my thoughts are much more positive, and perhaps I will share them with the next coworker who tells me I am “good” for biking. “I don’t know about being good,” I would say. “I just ride so I can ogle all those other bikers’ fine asses.”

Friday, July 6, 2007

Gina said something really brilliant that I was going to use as a title, but I forgot what it was

The wedding is tomorrow. Whoa.

Not my wedding -- the wedding I'm co-officiating. It promises to be fun. The bride and groom are providing no help with suggestions for what I should wear. "Wear whatever you like," they say. But I like so many things! How to choose?

Sunday total: 18.7
Monday: 16.1
Tuesday: 18.3
Thursday: 16.75

I spent all of the Fourth of July doing housework. Celebrating independence from cherry juice stickying up the kitchen floor. The problem with the 4th being on a work night is that you either have to stay up late to watch the fireworks, but still get up in the morning, or go to bed at the regular time and hear the fireworks. I opted for the latter, and still managed to fall asleep. Earplugs help.

The kids next door to me kept lighting ones out on the street, which I particularly dislike. Not for the noise per se or because of safety reasons or because I hate to see children having fun, but because the first one going off always makes me think I'm under fire in the West Bank.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

To the three people who read this...

You may wonder why all the silence the past few weeks. Well, the internet access that I had completely died, and what with freelance work and cherries to can, I have had no time to bring my computer elsewhere for blogging, or even checking my e-mail. Yes, it is a sad story, I know. You missed hearing how I was inspired to give up caffeine completely for three days before falling back off the wagon. See, I'd heard a woman from AA talk about how she would pretend to herself she wasn't drinking alcohol whenever she spiked her water or orange juice or soda or coffee with vodka because, after all, it was just a splash, and it reminded me how I put just a splash of coffee in my milk and pretend it won't really eat the lining in my gut even though, from much experience, I know that it will. Yes, I know that caffeine addiction and alcoholism aren't comparable in the larger scheme of things, but in this one small detail -- telling yourself that the thing you are imbibing that is destroying your system won't really hurt you if you just pretend that you are not imbibing it -- in this one small detail, they are similar.

Oh, if only I had my father's steel stomach.

And you missed hearing about the 30+ pounds of cherries DeKalb and I picked last Sunday, and all my complaining about how long it takes to pit them by hand. Now did I post a picture of the impressions my dentist took of my teeth for a much-needed nightguard. And I didn't tell you about my new haircut, or about a stupid ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, or the woman who is not allowed to grow vegetables in front of her store on Monroe Street.

And I did not give you a daily blow-by-blow of my search for alternate transportation routes since the city of Madison closed a section of the Missing Link bike path, which I would otherwise use every day on my way to work.

I didn't tell you how sweet the juneberries that grow behind my workplace are, or ho I missed catalpa season for the third year in a row -- they drop their flowers so fast.

Bike log, starting two Sundays ago:
Sun, 19.4 miles
Tue, 16.3
Wed, 18.5
Thurs, 17
Fri, 16.3
Sat, 5
Mon, 16.5
Tue, 16.7
Wed, 16.3
Th, 18.75
Fri, 18
Sat, 15
Today, 1.5, so far

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Heterosexism and such

I have a standing appointment to go the farmer's market with a certain male friend. The drawback to this, we have both decided, is that people assume that we are a couple, and so it makes trolling for hotties much more difficult. The farmers make comments like "Which of you does more of the cooking?" and such. And on Wednesday, we both went to the same "home buyer's seminar" (well, that's what they called it, even though we all know you can buy a house or a condo, but you can't buy a home) and, because we obviously knew each other and were talking before it started, the woman running the seminar asked, "And when are you two looking to buy a home?" I told her we weren't buying together and she said, "Oh," as if someone had pinched her.

Maybe we should get t-shirts that say, "Sometimes boys and girls are just friends."

At the market, I bought much wonder, including strawberries, Tuscan kale, beets and beet greens, scallions, ostrich meat, goat's milk feta and red new potatoes. Oh, I'm hungry. I should go cook.

Bike log:
Wednesday, 23.5 miles
Thursday, 28 miles
Friday, 15.6 miles on the recumbent
Today: 7.5 on pink and recumbent

Speaking of the recumbent, I had forgotten that it uses different muscles than the road bike, so my legs are like jelly today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

“The police were taking witness arias.”

My internet connection has disappeared, so my updates may be spotty for awhile. First, the biking update. (I know you don’t care, but I lost my calendar, and I like to keep track of it somewhere.)

Sunday: 19 miles
Monday: 17 miles
Today: 18 miles

While biking over to my friend’s house this evening to watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More With Feeling,” I discovered just how short my new pair of shorts are. Let’s just say I’m glad I prepared for bathing suit season this weekend. I was slightly relieved when I noticed that the woman biking ahead of me was wearing shorts as skimpy as mine and I couldn’t see her jewel box. Of course, I wasn’t exactly in a position from which I would have been able to see it, had her clothing or lack thereof revealed it. Don’t think I’ll be wearing these shorts much in public from this day forth. Thank G-d they only cost a dollar at St. Vinny’s.

The one good side to the whole shorts thing: wearing them reveals more of my legs. And since my legs are still so pale that they can double as a reflective surface, short shorts make me more visible to automobiles when I’m biking at night.

(Side note to Jim, if you’re reading this: I believe I passed you and your dog near Just Coffee, and I would have stopped to say hello had my shorts been a little longer.)

Here is one of many fabulous snippets from the Buffy musical:

Spike: “You’ve just come here to pump me for information.”
Buffy: “What else would I want to pump you for?” (Disconcerted look.) “I really just said that, didn’t I?”

Many times while I was waiting to leave my job in Pennsylvania, the intro song to the musical – "Going Through the Motions" – would go through my head for days. This whole episode is really a work of genius.

Note to Clare: The shoe entry is on its way, once I find a suitable photographer. I haven't forsaken you!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wait a minute, was I supposed to get married today?

I rode my recumbent yesterday for the first reasonable ride since I got it back from the bike shop. Alas, there was a problem with one of the shifters. This recumbent, a Linear, has a 3-gear internal shifter as well as a 7-gear external (chain ring and derailleur) shifter, resulting in a total of 21 gears. Ideally. But the internal shifter likes to act like a 2-gear shifter, skipping straight from low to high, or high to low, without pausing on the middle gear at all. And it was doing that yesterday. So I took it back to the shop. Guess I will be riding the road bike to church today.

Yesterday's total: only 11 or so miles. Friday's total was 8 on the pink bike and Thursday's was, well, I don't remember. Maybe 6 on the road bike. But it was against the wind, or perpendicular to it, almost the whole time, so I think that counts as at least 12.

On Thursday, violent windstorms swept the Midwest. When I was riding in the morning, it was vigorous -- maybe 15 or 20 miles an hour at times -- but not nausea-inducing. Later in the morning, the Minneapolis airport shut down, and air traffic control grounded flights in Chicago. That afternoon, my friend fiddlefaddle called me every five minutes with nerve-wracking updates from just west of here, the most stomach-churning of which included a kayak that speared a pine trunk. I reneged on my Thursday evening commitment because I did not want to be in transit when the monster hit us. But it never did. We got a spit of rain.

I start paying for COBRA tomorrow, but only for the next 20 days. Insurance with my new employer kicks in on July 1. Perhaps this is why I've gotten fewer marriage proposals lately; the men in my life don't see any reason I would marry them, other than for pragmatic reasons.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

This isn't my wife. This is my girlfriend.

A lot of people treat a trade show like a grown-up version of summer camp. It's their chance to get away from their families and pretend that their lives back home aren't really there. They create alternate relationship webs with people they see once a year, or a few times a year, on the trade show circuit.

For instance: At dinner last night, a man who my boss has known for years through trade shows introduced his companion to her at dinner. My boss smiled and said, "It's so nice to finally meet your wife."

His reply, "This isn't my wife. This is my girlfriend."

My boss gave a somewhat stunned smile.

"Really," he said. "No joke. My wife doesn't know about her."

"Oh, yes," said the companion. "And I have a husband, but he" -- she pointed to the man I've been discussing -- "isn't him."

And then there was the man who was sitting next to me. He was quite flirtatious in his conversation with me, though I at first did not know if this was his way of interacting with the world at large or if he had a specific ulterior motive. As he continued to sip his wine and inch his chair closer to mine, I began to discern the answer. When he began to whisper asides to me and took the liberty of touching my knee under the pretense that it was a somehow acceptable alternative to tapping someone on the shoulder, I knew it.

He was, of course, wearing a wedding band.

He said I was an excellent conversationalist and he would love to spend more time listening to my dry, cynical wit. He wanted to take me dancing in Downtown Disney. I said, "Given your observation of my cynicism, I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I have absolutely no desire to spend the rest of my evening in a place called 'Downtown Disney.' I will not be joining you, but I hope you have a lovely evening."

My father thinks that all men adore me. While he understands that I can't adore them all back, he thinks I am, perhaps, a bit insensitive to the effect that my charms have on them. But I do think, in this case, my father will think my suitor deserved the sting of rejection.

Monday, June 4, 2007

No spinning teacups for me

So it doesn't look like I'll get a chance to go to Disneyland at all while I'm in Anaheim -- not that I expected to. But I am envisioning a future for myself in which I become a frequent business traveler and start buying souvenirs from airports and hotel lobbies for my neglected children, who have been left home to be cared for by my overworked and equally neglected spouse.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Free swag

Unlike fiddlefaddle (whose offline identity I am wondering about -- oh, won't you let me know, fiddlefaddle?), I am unable to take advantage of free swag at this tradeshow, because my employer is running it and thinks that taking swag would be bad form. I am, however, allowed to taste as much food as is offered me and, given that this is a food tradeshow, that's a lot. I think I tasted at least 30 different cheeses today, including several excellent varieties by a Dutch company called Polder. Yes, it's not made in Wisconsin, but it's still good.

Don't worry, I haven't forsaken Wisconsin, even though I really liked a blue cheese from California called Original Blue. The Limburger from Wisconsin -- the only Limburger made in the United States -- was scrumptious.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I guess people get a little punchy at tradeshows

Heard on a United Airlines flight yesterday: Two flight attendants talking amicably with a customer about how Continental has much roomier seats in economy class.

While it is, in fact, true that Continental's row spacing provides more leg room that United's does, I expected United employees to have more fear about losing their jobs than yesterday's discussion proved. Perhaps United's worker-ownership model truly did have a long-lasting empowerment effect.

P.S. My co-worker just decided that her life calling is to obtain a Wienermobile of her own and use it to drive people from cocktail party to cocktail party. I guess people get a little punchy at tradeshows.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lest I forget

I am going to California for a week for my new employer's big trade show. So I may or may not be updating the blog before I get back next Wednesday.

Also, I forgot to give you today's cycling log: 24 miles on a combination of all three bikes. "All three bikes?" you say? That is a story for another time.

Note to my tentative fiances

If this woman's right about health insurance, maybe we don't need to get married, after all.

Preserving our freedom, and eating bratwurst

As you have probably figured out by now, I am a bleeding heart liberal who does not believe that the unfettered economic activities of corporations inevitably result in a freer society. And since I like using the Internet, I would hope that access to it is not controlled by a handful of telecom companies. According to my fellow revolutionaries at Free Press, "The nation's largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all. They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors."

And the Federal Communications Commission is considering a way to make it easier for these companies to have their way. A proposal being considered by the FCC would turn over a large chuck of the public airwaves, which can be used for transmitting data over the Internet, to the big telecoms. Please click here and urge the FCC to reject this proposal.

Okay, now for the long-awaited Brat Fest pictures.

See, I'm not the only person who says that Madison's is the World's Largest Brat Fest.






In case you were thinking I was always irresistably sexy, now you know that sometimes I am just disgusting. But one must act the pig when eating one's Boca brat and kraut. (Yes, Phil, Boca makes vegetarian brats and they serve them at the World's Largest Brat Fest for just $1.50 apiece, so you should bring your whole family to this event next year.)



Here is a picture of me pouting in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. I originally smiled for the camera, but my photographer thought the picture would be better if I pouted. It brings out the child in me. (In case you're trying to read it, the t-shirt says "Homeland Security: Fighting terrorism since 1492.") If you want a picture that actually gives you a good view of the Wienermobile, you'll have to post a comment to that effect.

Anyway, if you live in Madison, you get to see the Wienermobile a lot. In fact, anytime you want to see one, all you have to do is go by a certain parking lot near the Truax campus of Madison Area Technical College and there's a good chance you'll see more than one just sitting there.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hackneyed Pretension

I have a migraine today. Sometimes beer works to dissolve the neck tension that can lead to a migraine, but it didn't work this time. Now I have a full-on migraine (not as a result of the beer -- it was only one beer), and the Imitrex is being a bit of a wuss. Oh, well. I haven't much to complain about. In college, a full-on migraine involved a full night of sleeplessness, tremors and vomiting. These days, it's just intense pain but, as you can see, not so intense that it keeps me from typing.

No Brat Fest pictures today. Having trouble uploading them.

I'm listening to Damien Rice "Accidental Babies" right now. I can't decide if it's one of the world's more beautiful songs, or if its pathos pushes it over that fine edge into hackneyed pretension.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Water Glasses

Remember the little girl from M. Night Shyamalan's Signs that left half-drinken glasses of water around the house? She told her father it was because the water would start to taste funny once she began drinking it. I have been accused by some of my friends of being like that little girl, and not without reason. Yesterday, I found at least four unfinished glasses of water that I had left in various parts of the house. When I was a little girl with untreated OCD, my reasons for abandoning glasses of water were similar to hers. But now, I have no reason. I simply forget where I've put each glass, or that I have any out at all, and I go down to the kitchen and fill up another one, only to return to whichever room I've been in and realize that there's already one or two half-full glasses sitting right there on a table or bookshelf or dresser or, occasionally, inside a box or a laundry basket. Apparently my OCD has been replaced by early senility.

Cycling/walking log, just in case you were wondering:
I rode 27.8 miles today and walked a mile or so to break in my new Earth shoes.
I rode about 7 miles on the pink bike and walked about 3.5 miles yesterday.
On Friday, I rode 15.6 miles.
On Thursday, I rode 18 miles.
Wednesday, 15.8.
Tuesday, 18.
Sunday 5/20, 18.
Saturday 5/19: 6 miles on the pink bike.
Then it gets a little foggy ...
Sunday 5/12, 17.
Saturday 5/11, 6 on the pink.
Thursday 5/9, 27.
Tuesday 5/7, 6 on the pink.

I went to the world's largest bratfest today. For those of you not from the Upper Midwest, that's "brat" as in "German sausage," not "brat" as in "annoying, arrogant or spoiled child." Perhaps I will post pictures tomorrow. Right now, I should go to bed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Stuffed nose?

Check this out.

Wednesday evening

Despite what the date stamp on this entry says, today is Wednesday, and right now it’s 9:20 p.m. Central Time. Which means I should go to bed soon. My Internet connection isn’t working right now – well, not my Internet connection, per se, but rather the one on which I most often rely – and so I must write this off-line and post it later.

The second day at the job went well. My new boss has such confidence in me, it kind of worries me. Not that she shouldn’t have confidence. I am a solid researcher, a decent writer and a persnickety editor. But I am more used to supervisors who compliment me after I’ve completed my work, and then usually in a rushed, “by the way, good job” sort of way, lest their praise be mistaken for soft-heartedness. I guess the experience at my last job makes me prone to thinking that when people are nice to me in the workplace, they are just trying to butter me up so that when they ask me to do something unethical later, I might fall for doing it. Or that they are trying to assuage their guilt over their decision to lay me off. One or the other. But I have a sense that my new boss may, in fact, be a genuinely kind person. Perhaps I really am back in the Midwest.

I rode my bike to work today. It was 7.8 miles both ways, even though I took slightly different routes. The bike ride to work was 40 minutes, only 10 minutes longer than driving to work during rush hour, and much more pleasant. I kept an 80+ rpm pace pretty much the whole way, and I think I was generally going about 15 miles per hour, but those traffic lights slow a person down. There are showers at the office. The bike ride home is a bit shorter because it is more downhill, and comes out to about the same length as the drive home. Sweet, indeed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I've got a job, i've got a job, I've got a real job ...

My stomach troubles returned again yesterday. When I have them, I feel like there is a balloon inflating inside my stomach. It makes eating undesirable. I wonder if this is what it feels like to have a gastric bypass.

There are many things that could have caused it -- the weather, fate, distress over recent Supreme Court decisions - but the most likely culprit is the amount of aspirin I consumed over the weekend. If I were a Christian Scientist, I might even call it an ungodly amount. That, or the large plate of rice noodles with broccoli I scarfed down at my friend David's.

All of this occurred before 6 pm, when I received a call offering employment and a request to report first thing Tuesday morning (yes, today). "That would be wonderful," I said, but my stomach felt no hungrier.

I will have to get used to being in an office again. Three weeks of unemployment have spoiled me -- even if I was complaining of ennui just yesterday morning to my lovely friend Clare. But I think I can get used to it. There are some improvements over my last job, including a window and a door. The salary is not as high as at the last place, and the desk chair needs to be replaced, but there is a lot to say for a window and a door and a wall on which to hang the framed artwork of 3-year-old friends.

Alas, during a meeting with my new boss and a co-worker this afternoon, I kept noticing how full my stomach felt despite my barely having eaten anything all day and, being that I was in my afternoon lull, my mind decided to leap to thoughts of tumors as large as grapefruits. I couldn't decide if I had colon cancer of if one or both of my ovaries, for which I have so little use, had been colonized by fibroids that were growing so large they were pushing against my stomach. (I never entertain thoughts of ulcers or stomach cancer because I had an endoscopy last year that showed naught but an inflamed stomach lining and an irritated esophagus.)

But then by the time I got home, I felt slightly hungry, and I decided to treat myself to my favorite Tuesday afternoon delicacy: Fruited Irish Soda Bread by Nature's Bakery, 1019 Williamson St., Madison, Wisconsin. The fine folks at Nature's produce this bread only for the Tuesday afternoon Eastside Farmer's Market, which is not to be confused with the Dane County Farmer's Market I matronize on Saturdays. The Eastside Farmer's Market is a humble affair with a dozen vendors, more or less, and runs from 4-7 pm by the railroad tracks on Ingersoll and Wilson Streets.

I can usually down a whole loaf in one sitting, but this afternoon, I managed only a third, which is approximately equivalent to eating one scone.

Oh, another good thing about my job: It has a "no personal e-mails" policy. Before my previous job, I might have thought such a policy excessive, but given the number of inappropriately detailed accounts of people's medical conditions I received by way of e-mail "prayer requests" aka "gossip" in my previous job, I will be glad to abide by this policy. (Side note: Usually the person describing the medical condition was not the person suffering the medical condition. These e-mails usually came in the form of, "Please pray for our co-worker ____ who is having a hysterectomy today. I believe it will also include the removal of her ovaries. Pray also that the doctors have wisdom in prescribing her hormone treatments after the surgery.") I guess any co-worker who wants to correspond with me personally will just have to ask for my personal e-mail address. Or vice versa.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Freedom From Religion

The last time I lived in Madison, I found the Freedom From Religion Foundation highly annoying. Name a problem in the world, and they could find a way to blame it on religion. I appreciated it when Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, gave me full access to her files while I was working on an article about government funding of faith-based initiatives. I appreciated the lawsuits that FFRF initiated against various government entities that sought to promote religion. But I wished that FFRF could just leave it at that, and not act so much like what I termed "evangelical atheists" -- folks who want to point out every last problem with religion, not recognize any of its benefits, and convince the whole world to forge a deity-less path.

Now, having spent two or so years immersed in a real Evangeland -- where the cubicles were decorated with cloying prayers, where the surest way to get ahead in the company was to attend one of two local megachurches, where conversations at after-work outings deteriorated into speculations about who in the office was "saved" and who was not, where I was always the last to find out about the office-wide speculations on my relationship and engagement status (since marriage and piety are the same thing in this version of Christianity), where attendance at non-compulsory weekly Bible studies was compulsory if you wanted to be perceived as a "team player" and reduce your risk of lay-offs, where the Catholics were nagged with questions about whether they had a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, where the one Jewish guy became known as "the Jewish guy," where I and my fellow agnostic singles were inundated with invitations to one singles ministry event after another, and where I finally began to understand why so many in the English-speaking world use "Jesus Christ" as an expletive -- I can find no fault with FFRF.

For this morning's devotions, I found "What Can We Do About Medicine?" from FFRF founder Anne Nicol Gaylor's Abortion Is a Blessing particularly edifying.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Farmer's Market Saturday

I was going to write about my trip to the Dane County Farmer's Market yesterday, but my pictures wouldn't upload until today. Here I am on Saturday morning, approaching the Capitol from King Street. This hill is a wonker to pedal up on a one-speed, but I'm getting used to it again.

The Dane County Farmer's Market is the biggest such market in the country. Vendors line the sidewalks on all four side of the Capitol. All the vendors have raised or made the food or flowers their selling themselves. There are no crafts for sale and all the produce is local. It is absolutely amazing and makes all the "farmer's markets" where folks are selling produce from halfway around the world look pretty pathetic.

And here I am at my favorite pit stop on the Square, Cress Spring Bakery. Cress Spring makes real sourdough from naturally occurring yeasts already present in the flour and air -- no baker's yeast added. It is excellent stuff. My usual practice is to buy a four-pound loaf of mixed grain bread called "Big Country" to last me through the week (you can see Big Country loaves in the display case in the foreground), plus a chocolate brioche and a chocolate chip scone (two if I'm going on a long bike ride) for breakfast/mid-morning snack. But this week, I bought a 1.5-lb Expedition loaf and 1.5-lb caraway rye. I'm living on the edge lately.

Ralph Ovadal is a local preacher who likes to go to the nude beach in Mazomanie, a bit west of Madison, to tell the sunbathers that they are going to burn in hell. His followers were at the Square on Saturday morning, passing out this brochure written by Mr. Ovadal himself. I read the brochure and, frankly, it didn't make any sense. All about how human beings think they can control whether or not they get into heaven, but they can't control it at all, because the Heavenly Judge controls everything, but if you pray to the Heavenly Judge to let you into heaven through the Blood of Jesus Christ, then you can go to heaven. And I thought, "Um, Mr. Ovadal, aren't you saying that humans can, after all, determine their post-mortem fate by either choosing or not choosing to say the prescribed prayer? And doesn't that contradict everything you previously stated?"

I used to get really pissed off about this kind of sloppy theology, but now I just shrug my shoulders and think, "Poor fools." I used to get wound up in how people like Ovadal were misleading their followers and separating them from true fellowship with God, but now I think, "Oh, well, these followers obviously long for another person to tell them exactly how to live their lives, and they're going to find it no matter how much I fume." And I used to think a lot about how legalism was just another form of idolatry. But now I proclaim it.

I was thinking maybe I should print up little tracts that say, "Jesus Wants You to Have Non-Procreational Sex," and hand them out at the next Farmer's Market. Of course, I don't believe that it would be true for everyone who received a tract. But it would be no less a lie than the hocus-pocus, mumble-a-few-words-and-follow-a-cultic-Christian-leader-and-go-to-heaven crap that is more frequently distributed on the Farmer's Market's hallowed grounds. And it would occasionally be the truth, which is a lot more than I can say for the brochure I received from Ovadal's followers Saturday morn.

Sunday morning reading

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." -- the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

My dear friends -- radicals, policy wonks, aspiring lawyers and citizens of the United States who aspire to replace our oligarchic government with the republican government we profess to have -- this makes for fun Sunday morning reading:

http://celdf.org/ProgramAreas/CorporationsDemocracy/ModelBrieftoEliminateCorporateRights/tabid/167/Default.aspx

Friday, May 18, 2007

You can now post comments

I changed the blog settings so that people can post comments whether or not they have a gmail account. Please keep in mind that, if you want me to know who you are, you need to sign your comment with your moniker or include some telling clue about your identity in the comment itself.

My Life According to Maury

Last night I was on the phone with one of the guys who proposed marriage to me in March. I had described him once to a friend (who happened to be the second man to propose to me in March, go figure) as the kind of guy who, if called onto a paternity test episode of the Maury Povich show to determine whether he was the father of his girlfriend's child, would agree to raise the kid regardless of the results. "Wow," said second proposer, "he's a great guy. You should marry him."

"Well," I said, "he is, but it could also be that he's really apathetic and never wants the status quo to change. So, if he's already with some woman, he's not going to break up with her just because she's sleeping around. It would mess with the living arrangement."

Back to last night's phone conversation with first proposer. He was telling me about some training he's going through with his job and he said, "Isn't this fascinating? I think you should write about it in your blog." I said I didn't think the topic was quite interesting enough -- certainly not as interesting as the type of outfit I choose to wear to a second interview. He said he was sure he could say something interesting enough to merit entry in my blog. For example, what about that marriage proposal? Wouldn't that have been a good story to post, had I been blogging in March?

So I decided to ask him about the Maury Povich scenario: "If I married you and got knocked up by another guy, would you raise the kid?"

"Yeah, probably," he said.

"With me, or by yourself?"

"Well, I think the idea is that I would continue living with you."

"And would it be because you didn't care that I was sleeping with other people, or because you're a great guy?"

"A little bit of both, I think. I'm a middle child, so I'm naturally helpful. And I'm not in love with you, so I wouldn't feel threatened if you fell in love with someone else or had a fling as long as we stayed living together. But I would hope that, if I were helping you to raise this kid, you would have sex with me every now and then. You know, a fair trade of benefits."

"And is this something you would do just for me, because I'm a stellar person to live with, or would you do it for any woman?"

"Oh," he said, "any woman."

So there you have it. I know him so well.

Coincidence?

Two things I've noticed since returning to Madison:
(1) I've been drinking more beer.
(2) My skin's gotten clearer.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Idolatry

This morning I read an interesting article on a Christian news service about the World Congress of Families, which met this weekend in Poland. The leader of this organization expressed concern over the declining birth rate in developed countries and said,
“A great struggle is going on over competing world views regarding the family and Europe is really one of the battlegrounds for that right now. Militant secular individualism tied to a vision of socialism which sees the state replacing the family that’s one view. I think it’s probably could be said to be the dominant view here. The other view is one which understands and recognizes the natural family grounded in religious faith is in fact the best hope for human kind [sic]."
Are these people reading their New Testaments? What would they make of Jesus "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" of Nazareth?
And then you've got the book of Acts, where the followers of the Way are "all tied to a vision of socialism" in which they share what they have with each other irrespective of marital and biological ties.

Don't forget Paul "It is good for a man not to marry" of Tarsus, who basically founded the church. He made concessions for marriage only because he feared that Christians would devolve into promiscuity without it. People were going to have sex, whether Paul liked it or not. Knowing the human capacity for jealousy, even among the saints, and the economic hardship that would be faced by children whose fathers refused to claim them (or perhaps did not even know that they were fathers), he favored monogamous marriage over sleeping around. Paul certainly did not believe marriage to be an exalted state, much less God's plan for human happiness. And he would have viewed as blasphemy the suggestion that the family is "
the best hope for humankind."

I'm sorry. I thought the best hope for humankind was God's love. Silly me.

I better go out and build me an altar to marriage and family so I can be a real Christian.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Reverend Kiapita

Today I became an ordained clergywoman in the Universal Life Church. This may present some problems later on if I ever want to pursue ordination in the Mennonite Church, but then again, so would my sexual history, so I'm not too concerned. Anyway, I've got more pressing matters to consider, such as the wedding I agreed to officiate in July.


The State of Illinois, where this wedding is to take place, requires the officiant to be a state official or recognized clergy in a religious body, and since I'm not a state official, becoming clergy seemed the way to go.

Now, there is one loophole in the law. If you belong of a faith tradition in which marriages are solemnized without clergy -- say, you're a Baha'i or a Quaker -- you can get married without the intercession of an officiant recognized by the state of Illinois. But if you just belong to the egalitarian humanist hippie league and you want to be legally married, you are required to have an officiant who is recognized by the state of Illinois.

This all reminds me that I don't believe the state should have any involvement in marriage at all. It ought to be a purely personal matter. But as long as there is no universal healthcare, the system of private property and inheritance prevails, and hospitals refuse visitation rights to non-family members, I will reluctantly work within the system I've been handed.

Who knows? Maybe I'll succumb completely and get a state-sanctioned marriage myself one of these days. Shared health benefits are so seductive.