Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Body Farm

One thing I'm going to do this weekend is plunge into Death’s Acre. Death’s Acre is a book about the notorious Body Farm, an outdoor forensics lab in Tennessee. The wooded grounds contain hundreds of corpses, laid to rest in conditions that closely mimic the ways murderers "dispose" of their victims. Scientists are then able to study stage by stage how a body that was, say, pitched into the East River wearing a pair of concrete overshoes would rot and decompose.

As the dustjacket blurb points out, the Body Farm bodies are cadavers that were donated to science--they serve as “stand ins” for murder victims so that when a real murder victim is, for example, recovered from a shallow grave in the woods, the trunk of a Plymouth Duster, or the bottom of a river, scientists will have a much better idea of when the murder occurred simply because they’ve studied in minute detail the progression of decay for such corpses.

I heard a story about this book on NPR a while back and just recently a science-y friend of mine recommended it, so I decided to check it out from the library. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those books that, despite its gruesomeness, is hard to put down. Here’s an excerpt in which the author, Dr. Bill Bass AKA "The Mayor of the Body Farm," talks about what can go wrong when some hapless goombah has to relocate an overripe corpse. Please don’t read this if you are eating or if you are repulsed by the very thought of the Body Farm:

“Whoever had moved the body—Fat Sam or his henchmen—had done a pretty sloppy job of it, but that wasn’t surprising. Put yourself in the shoes of a body-mover and you’ll see why: You go out to dig up a body and hide it someplace else. This body, mind you, has been decomposing in a shallow grave for three months now, so it’s going to be really smelly and mighty rotten. You hold your breath, grab an arm, and give a pull...and the arm comes off in your hands. At this point, unless you’re exceptionally conscientious and have an iron stomach, what you’re going to do is scoop up whatever big pieces you can grab between breaths of fresh air—a head, a torso, a couple of legs, most of the arms—and then hightail it out of there as fast as you can. Fortunately for me, most bad guys sent to move a rotten body don’t know or don’t care that teeth can fall out after a few weeks, hands can drop off or get gnawed off, bullets can work free and get left behind.

Since the grave appeared shallow, we excavated with trowels rather than shovels....we’d found a jumble of other things besides the ulna...A fragment of a long bone, possibly from a tibia (shin). Human hair. Empty pupal casings left behind by maggots metamorphosing into adult flies. Tatters of cloth. A bullet.”

It's ghastly to read about hands getting gnawed off, and I'll probably never think kind thoughts upon reading the word maggot, but think about it--those maggot pupal cases are key clues--if maggots have had time to metamorphose, then the body’s been there at least as long as the life cycle of a maggot. Maggots can help pinpoint the time of a crime! Can't you just picture them in miniature deerstalker hats? Apparently, the research done over the years at the Body Farm has proved an invaluable tool in solving murders—so I guess working at the Body Farm is one of those “someone’s gotta do it” kind of jobs.

Tsunami Relief

I’ve been wanting to post something about the tsunamis and all the people who have been left homeless and destitute. But what can I say about one of the worst natural disasters and humanitarian crises in memory? It’s good to know that there has been an incredible outpouring of money and support from individuals around the world, and if you can manage to make a donation to Oxfam or the Red Cross/Red Crescent, please do. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you might also want to urge Congress and President Bush to authorize significantly more aid to the region. The United States has earmarked only $35 million so far. As pointed out in a recent e-mail, that much money gets spent in Iraq every seven hours.

Click here if you would like to send an e-mail to Congress and the president.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Visit to One of Portland's Cottage Industries

This is not a good way to start out the day. You get in the shower, reach into the soap dish, and come up empty handed. This is what happened to me yesterday. Rather than splattertrack out to the hall closet to scavenge some of B's inferior soap, I made do with what I could find within the confines of the shower stall, and thus ended up seriously depleting my supply of molto expensivo face soap.

Soon after I got out of the shower, I took steps to make sure that never happened again. Scented handmade soap is one of the few girly luxuries I indulge in. So I called up one of my favorite local vendors, the Oregon Soap Company, and placed an order. Since I normally buy their soap at the Saturday Market, I had no idea that their secret headquarters were mere blocks from my house! They told me to come on over—just look for the house with two VW buses parked outside it.

Even without the Deadheadmobiles out front, there would have been no way I would have missed Soap Central. I could smell it 500 feet away—and I mean that in a good way. I rang the doorbell and was greeted by two barking dogs and the Soapmaster Royale himself--a friendly guy in Birkenstocks who wears his grey hair in two waist-length braids.

He took me around the side and had me wait next to one of the buses while he got the keys, giving me ample time to confirm that all the bumper stickers I would expect to see on a VW bus were indeed there. I was stoked! I couldn’t wait to enter the nerve center where I fully expected to see burbling cauldrons of hemp oil and lye and to be knocked loopy by megapotent doses of almond, cinnamon, and lavender essential oils. It was not to be. They weren’t making soap that day, so all the nerve center contained were boxes and boxes of finished soap. The Soapmaster handed me my order, then swiped it back again to swap out a bar he deemed imperfect (looked fine to me). He then asked me if I really needed the small shipping box my six bars were in. Of course, I didn’t I agreed. This is Portland—where we don’t squander boxes on soap that is only traveling a few blocks.

Despite the fact that I didn’t get to witness soap being concocted, I have to say that I enjoyed every aspect of the way the transaction was carried out.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ode to Fred Meyer Employees

Now that it’s safe to venture back into stores, I made a very necessary trip to the supermarket. The situation inside our fridge was rather desperate. Supplies had dwindled to a one pound block of sharp cheddar, a few aged heels of bread, a quart of milk, three beers, and about two dozen jars of condiments and salad dressings. And we were almost out of cat food and coffee—the demand for these is extremely inelastic in our household.

I headed over to Fred Meyer on my lunch hour. For those of you who don’t live in Oregon or Washington, Fred Meyer is a grocery store/department store hybrid--think Safeway meets a slightly more upscale Target. Although Freddie’s is owned by corporate ogre Kroger, if the male checker who sometimes wears a skirt, lipstick, and eye shadow is any indicator, the store seems to encourage (or at least tolerate) individuality among its employees. The employees always seem happy to be at work--a far cry from the drones at a place like Walgreen’s or Albertson’s who stand in front of the cash register looking utterly doomed (and who can blame them?).

Since I was trying to get all the shopping done quickly so I could get back to work, I scoped out the checkouts and chose one that had only one person in it—a woman in her late 50s—and a youthful male checker (conventionally attired). The checker immediately struck up a conversation with the woman by asking her if she liked British folk music, specifically, eccentric band-music composer Percy Grainger.

The woman, baffled, replied that she didn’t know much about it and asked him if he was selling Percy Grainger CDs! I found this hilarious. Clearly, it was beyond the woman’s comprehension that a Freddie’s checker could be interested in British folk music for reasons that didn’t involve turning a profit. The checker, slightly miffed, told her that, no, he didn’t have any to sell, but she could find Grainger’s music at any store that sold classical music. He then started reeling off the names of his favorite Grainger works. I could barely wait to jump into the conversation and find out just how this guy came to be such a Percy Grainger evangelist. He just didn’t strike me as having been a high school band nerd—the most likely way to become acquainted with Grainger. I came to loathe Grainger as our band struggled through his very difficult Lincolnshire Posy for Band.

But I was willing to let bygones be bygones and get a fresh perspective on Grainger’s music from this young checker. As he finished up the baffled woman’s order, she took a moment to turn around and broadcast a look to me that very clearly said, “Can you believe this guy? What a wacko!” The checker must have seen her do this, because he didn’t say anything to me--not even the requisite, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” I probably could have had him fired for omitting that--not that I would ever do that. I kept waiting for him to say something Grainger-related, but before I knew it, the last can of cat food was scanned and bagged and it was too late to find out why the man who wrote Room Music Tit-Bits and Kipling Settings so completely captured this young checker's imagination.


Monday, December 27, 2004

Sloth Fiesta

Sloth Fiesta

I had intended to use part of my four-day weekend to nuke some of the stuff on my to-do list that has been hanging over my head for days, weeks, months, and years (OK, not years) such as:
  • File away gargantuan stack of paid bills and invoices
  • Clear off desk and toss/recycle stuff no longer needed
  • Catch up on my shameful backlog of personal e-mail
  • Pay bills
  • Use the Chandler’s Box to write thank-you note for said unnecessary gift
  • Pick up windfall fir branches in backyard
  • Dust
How many of these tasks did I manage to sublimate off my list? Not a one.

My long weekend consisted of approximately equal parts of lounging on the couch in my Homers, while knitting and listening to the entire David Sedaris box set and taking lengthy walks to counter the amount of time I spent on my arse. To make myself seem less hedonistic and irresponsible, perhaps I should list my accomplishments like this:
  • Listened to a full pound of David Sedaris CDs
  • Walked 15 miles
  • Knit 76 centimeters of scarf
There’s no getting around it--“Sloth” should be my middle name.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about the unsatisfactory title of my blog. Thanks to Betsy, who wrote a blog entry about this title and name generator, I was able to come up with several blog titles that I like very much:

Perky Sloth
Sloth Slop
Sloth Fiesta
Officer Sloth

The best thing is that I didn’t have to wring my own brain cells to think up these names. My mind just doesn’t work that way. Even better, should I ever decide to overhaul my blog and change its name, the Typogenerator--despite its misleading name--can generate endless artsy renderings (like the one at the top of this entry) of any title I type into it. Although "Sloth Fiesta" is the front runner for new title, the way this "Perky Sloth" turned out is making it a close second. (Thanks to Librarianguish for the Typogenerator link.)


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Gag! More Cat Crap!

So I opened my mailbox today to find a 2005 Charles Wysocki cat calendar. It was from Jamboney, my little brother. This is the third time he’s given me this exact same calendar! I have the 2004 one sitting right here, still shrink-wrapped, so I can compare the two. They are absolutely identical. January 2004 features Herkymer the Killer with a mouse dangling from his paw and guess what? So does January 2005! February 2004 features Maggie the Messmaker as does February 2005. At the very least you’d think that the publishing company would have mixed the pictures up a bit--say, make Mabel the Stowaway, who was Miss August 2004, be Miss November for 2005. Is that too much to ask? I mean, they’ve even upped the price of the thing. The 2004 calendar was $12.95; the 2005 is $12.99!

The first time the Jamboney gave me this calendar (in 2000), I actually put it up on the wall. I thought it was awful, but at least it was the first time I’d ever seen it. Plus, at that time I lived in Chicago, and it was possible the Jamboney would come to visit. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. The Jamboney has Down Syndrome, and as I happen to think that no one should get me anything for Christmas, I really, really, really think the Jamboney shouldn’t get me anything. He works about 20 hours a week at a special workshop where he gets paid less than minimum wage. So this hideous calendar probably cost him about three hours’ wages!

Now it may be that ever since the Jamboney came to visit us here a couple of years ago, a certain (possibly traumatizing) incident may have caused him to make an insoluble association between me and cats. The Jamboney visited during the reign of the Boss, and almost as soon as the Jamboney walked through our door, the Boss spewed forth a five-foot long pool of watery vomit. The Boss had always been a puker, but I’d never seen anything nearly this impressive issue from him. The Jamboney was horrified, but as soon as he collected himself, he made the following statement: “That is a very sick cat. I think you’d better take him to a shelter right now.” This was said with his arms folded across his chest and in his most authoritative voice. For the rest of the weeklong visit, the Jamboney and the Boss went to great lengths to avoid each other. So perhaps the Jamboney is actually trying to punish me by sending me the same sickeningly syrupy cat calendar year after year.

Nah. The Jamboney doesn't have a vindictive bone in his body. I suspect that my dad had a hand in selecting the calendars, in which case there is even less excuse for it. Surely my dad knows me well enough by now to know that while I like flesh-and-blood cats, I do not care for cat-related crap. He must have noticed that I do not serve tea and cookies to him from a cat-shaped teapot and a cat-shaped cookie jar.* Our refrigerator has no cat magnets on it; our bed has no cat bedspread on it; our windows have no cat curtains hanging from them; and our toilet has no cat toilet seat on it. Deduction: Rozanne does not like cat-related crap.

I know this is a very Scroogerella post, but I think it only underlines the point I made Monday about people feeling so pressured by this stupid, unnecessary Christmas gift-giving that they’ll just buy any old thing to get the obligation out of the way. Getting the calendar was the last straw for me, so I’ve made the decision that I will thank everyone who got me gifts this year but tell them not to do it ever again, and let the chips fall where they may. Harrumph!

*These are both terribly misguided gifts I was given in the past. The teapot was impossible to use because the handle (the cat’s tail) was hollow and when the pot was filled up with hot water, grasping the tail to pour burned my hand. Nice. I sold it at a garage sale. The cookie jar arrived broken, so I just threw it away. This is what I mean about Christmas gifts being such a terrible waste of money, time, and natural resources.

I decided to freecycle the calendar, so a woman whose little girl is "bananas" about cats will be stopping by this afternoon to pick up the calendar for her daughter for Christmas. I hope she enjoys it. As I may have mentioned, my issue with Christmas gifts is that I don't think adults need them.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Did I Leave This Brain Chemical Here?

That’s what B matter-of-factly said to me as I was sitting at the dining-room table yesterday. I’m used to this sort of question from him. He was referring to a bottle of DMAE (which claims to enhance mental concentration) that was on the table. B has had various allergies his whole life. Years of steroid inhalers and allergy shots weren't too effective. He now prides himself on his self-medicating finesse. When GNC introduced its Gold Card Club, he signed up with enthusiasm so he could add to his collection of herbs and supplements. (He even got a card for superhealthy me.)

I had the opportunity yesterday to take a closer look at his collection while trying to locate a bottle of Tylenol, and I discovered these intriguing products on his shelf:
  • Minor Blue Dragon
  • Ginkgo Power from Japan!
  • Pink Bismuth
  • Lacto-Safe
  • Nasafrin
This is but a small fraction of what has accumulated on that shelf (much of which I think he tried a few times and abandoned). While I found the names of these products amusing, I am somewhat disturbed by it all. B is about as straight an arrow as you’re ever likely to find when it comes to illegal drugs--he’s never even smoked weed--but, boy howdy, when it comes to the “legal” stuff, he’s kind of a junky. Most of what he takes is for respiratory issues and a few have to do with food allergies and some (like the DMAE brain booster) I think he just bought on a lark because that Gold Card was burning a hole in his pocket. I just hope all this stuff is safe. I guess it can't be as bad as the steroids.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Don't Get Me Anything

What percentage of adults actually enjoys giving and receiving Christmas gifts? No one in my sphere needs any more stuff and I sure as heck don’t either. I’ve managed to convince most people to strike my name from their Christmas lists, but my old college roommate LT sends me a gift every year. She’s a wonderful person, but she gets me stuff that 9 times out of 10 leaves me dumbfounded.

I just received a Chandler’s Box from her. We all know what that is, correct? You may know it as an Escritoire du Shipchandler or as Die Chandler Box. Still puzzled? It’s a wooden box containing everything an 18th-century scribe would need to write a letter (except foolscap or parchment or whatever they wrote on back then). Here’s what’s in a Chandler’s Box if you need to jog your memory:

  • Six miniature wax-sealed bottles of ink in colors such as Verde and Tobacco (picture the "Drink Me" bottle from Alice in Wonderland)
  • Brass nibs for all occasions
  • A glass stylus
  • Two brass styluses (styli?)
  • A bar of silver sealing wax
  • Sealing wax pellets
  • Three brass seals
  • A brass sealing-wax burner that looks like a lipstick
  • A snuffer (for the wax burner)
I could start a meth lab with all this stuff. Actually, I would have loved this gift when I was 12 years old. But now? I never write letters longhand now that we have this newfangled Internet. What am I to do, seal my electric bill with a blob of wax and with an anchor imprinted into it?

On some level, I can appreciate the Chandler’s Box. It definitely falls into that category of “Something I Would Never Buy for Myself.” However, LT also sent me these “collectible” kitten figurines. Things like this are just so much not me. I cannot have them in my house.

By now you are probably thinking that I’m the most callous ingrate in the universe. It’s the thought that counts, right? I don’t buy that. Too many people dole out Christmas gifts out of a sense of obligation to friends, family, and slight acquaintances. I’ve been listening to people whinge for weeks about Christmas shopping, and I have concluded that all this gift-buying crap does is induce:
  • anxiety
  • competitiveness
  • crankiness
  • debt
  • depression
  • guilt
  • insecurity
  • resentment
  • wastefulness
LT is the last person who should feel obligated to give me a gift. She has a very serious neurological disease that has already robbed her of her veterinary practice and will continue to take a toll on her quality of life. It’s tragic. She has told me that every morning she wakes up with about a dollar’s worth of energy and that just taking a shower uses up about 75 cents of it. And this woman is running around buying me Christmas presents? That is insane and wrong.

And yet...I cannot bring myself to tell her to stop and, worse, I probably perpetuate the cycle (out of guilt) by sending her a box of comestibles every Christmas from the Made in Oregon store. (Hypocritical chest-thumping sidenote: If you have to give a gift, a box of goodies from the Made in Oregon store cannot fail. Who doesn’t like to eat chocolate and cheese and drink wine? Most importantly, because the gift is entirely consumable, it doesn’t clutter up anyone’s house.)

I would very much like to relieve LT of this obligation she feels to me, but I am equally certain that her feelings would be terribly hurt if I told her to stop. She’d think I didn’t like her gifts-- which is true--but, gosh, I just can’t do that to her. It’s so complicated.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Sightings Over the Past Few Days

  • A Winnebago with a horn that played barnyard sounds such as a cow moo-ing and a rooster crowing. This vehicle was part of a slow-moving procession of Christmas-light peepers on Peacock Lane. Every time the Winnebago cut loose with one of the barnyard sounds (i.e., about every ten seconds), the Winnebagoans congratulated each other, as if they’d just done something worthy of the Nobel Prize for Comedy. It was really annoying.
  • A granny “hiking” alone on a very muddy trail dressed in snow-white stockings, a plaid skirt, and loafers. Good for her, but in my opinion, she was playing with fire. At the very least, she must have had a devil of a time getting the spatters of mud out of those white stockings. Worst-case scenario: the slick soles of the loafers failed to provide adequate purchase on the mud, and she slipped and fell on her kilted keister.
  • A Yorkshire terrier (real--not a plush toy) perched on a counter in the Post Office. Portlanders are always trying to extend the boundaries of dog-allowed territory.
  • A middle-aged man, Tour de France-ready, in the Fred Meyer grocery store with his bike--a bike evidently too precious to leave locked up outside, but not so precious that it couldn’t be leaned--unlocked--against the bulk-candy bins while he roamed the booze aisle.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

An Artist I Am Not

I’m not sure why, but today I feel as if my brain has been poached in eggnog, which makes it all the more difficult for me to execute challenging tasks--like drawing.

For the past few weeks I have been required to sketch (I use the term loosely) pictures of various procedures. These pathetic, worse-than-a-first-grader’s drawings are then sent to a professional artist who has to decrypt them and turn them into something realistic.

The thing I most dread drawing is hands. The people in my drawings always end up with crescent wrenches or cumulous clouds or apple dumplings sprouting from the ends of their arms. It's laughable. Sometimes the drawings are so rottisimo I write apologetic notes beneath them.

My clients do understand that I’m not an artist and, in fact, I’m actually just being a good sport when I provide these drawings--it’s not what I’m being paid for. And my clients swear that even the most primitive of stick figures are of infinite help to the real artists. I don't know that I believe that. I tend to envision a stack of my art specs getting passed from desk to desk accompanied by shrieks of laughter and rude comments.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Eight Bucks' Worth of Chips

I went to a Christmas party tonight. Not being organized enough to have actually read the invitation all the way through until half an hour beforehand, I realized that it said to bring your favorite snack and beverage—and being the operative word. Whoops! I had a bottle of wine standing ready, but I had nothing suitably snackish or ungnawed. I couldn’t really show up with one-quarter of a Birdie Num-Nums or leftover coleslaw that has gotten pinker and pinker as the red cabbage has bled into the dressing.

I sat on the bed for a good five minutes trying to decide if I had time to walk to the store, because I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate driving anywhere that is less than a mile away. With 20 minutes to go until the party, I finally got off my duff and walked hurriedly to the store where I snatched up two puny bags of Terra Chips. It cost me $8.00, but I felt that because I hadn't cooked or baked anything, I had to overcompensate somewhat. In retrospect, an economical bag of Rold Gold pretzels would have done just as well.

I got to the party and, unexpectedly, no one was in autoglutton mode. Only about 31 cents of my 8 bucks' worth of chips were eaten and 27 cents of that was my own doing. I ended up carting home $7.69 worth of chips and a 1-pound bag of peanut M&Ms in a festive Tupperware (acquired in the gift exchange). I don’t know when or if I am going to eat this stuff. For someone who claims to care little about holiday activities, this year I have gotten myself quite ensnared. Tonight's party was the third feeding frenzy in so many days and I am going out tomorrow and Thursday as well.

I do love to eat but despite the impression I may give in some of my blog entries, I am not a champion fresser. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I truly am getting weary of eating rich and/or crappy food.


Monday, December 13, 2004


If I were to do it all over again, I would not name my blog “Is There Anything of Interest?” Why on Earth did I make the title a question that tempts readers to answer, “no”?* Clearly, I didn’t quite think that through. Saddled with such a title, I always feel pressured to write something “of interest.” Had I named the blog something like “The Monarch of Slothsylvania,” expectations would be a lot lower, and the pressure would be off.

I’m afraid tonight is one of those times when I am not going to write anything of interest. I’m feeling very green about the gills owing to a plate of nachos and about two-thirds of a pint of hypercarbonated beer, followed by the watching of a mockumentary filmed with ultra-shaky hand-held cameras on a cabin cruiser pitching and rocking on the choppy waters of Loch Ness. I had to leave the theater twice and dash to the “Ladies Parlor” for fear that I might spule onto the velvet theater seats. Not a pleasant prospect. Fortunately, getting away from the spazzy images on the screen helped. No spuling occurred.

Enough. I need to go to bed. Something better tomorrow, I promise.

* There is a story (not an interesting one, I’m afraid) about why I originally thought that “Is There Anything of Interest?” was a clever and compelling name for a blog. It’s not worth going into here, but if you feel you must know how I came up with such a stupid title, e-mail me at rozanne at partlycloudy dot com and I’ll tell you.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Birdie Num-Nums

When the hostess genes were handed out to the children in my family, my sister got them all. Her Labor Day barbecues and New Year’s Eve bashes are legendary. She even catered her own wedding. Thirty minutes after saying “I do,” she was bossing me and my brother (her de facto minions) around, issuing orders about the proper way to circulate through the throngs of guests with the pee-wee creme puffs.

The most that can be expected of me is that I might manage to invite a couple of friends over to dinner half a dozen times a year. Tonight was one of those nights. I am not a gourmet cook. I do enjoy eating schmancy food prepared by professionals (or just about anyone more accomplished than myself), but whenever I see words like “ramekin” and “brunoise” in a recipe, a debilitating fatigue overcomes me. I just can’t bring myself to read any further. It is at that point that I fall back on standby recipes like Birdie Num-Nums.

Lest you think that Birdie Num-Nums is some sort of flavorless millet and sunflower-seed breakfast hash beloved of canaries and cockatiels, let me assure you that it is not. It is a recipe for humans given to me by none other than that most vaunted of hostesses--my sister. She and I share a fondness for the 1960s Peter Sellers movie The Party, in which Sellers plays a Bollywood actor set adrift at an exclusive Hollywood party. Sellers is persona non grata at this party and roams from room to cavernous room until he finds a pet bird and a canister of its food: Birdie Num-Nums. As can only happen in a Blake Edwards-Peter Sellers film, Sellers ends up inadvertently broadcasting the words “Birdie Num-Nums” in his Indian accent over and over again on the household intercom system. You’ll have to take my word for it that it’s hilarious.

So anyway, that sort of (but not really) explains how it is that my sister's recipe for macaroni and cheese with a phony German accent has been dubbed Birdie Num-Nums. I served it up tonight to our friends JD and KK. To their credit they laughed heartily as soon as I told them we were having Birdie Num-Nums, although they had no idea at that point what it might turn out to be. Both had second helpings even though Birdie Num-Nums is neither trendily low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian (certainly not vegan!), kosher, dairy-free, or wheat-free. We are omnivores, if not gourmands.

In case you’re wondering--Birdie Num-Nums consists of the following unapologetically Middle American ingredients: macaroni, kielbasa, red pepper, green pepper, mushrooms, caraway seeds, German mustard, milk, white flour, salt, pepper, and Swiss cheese (1 full pound!).

Low rent, high fat, and nummy!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Drat and Double Drat!

I take an hour-long walk every day, therefore I do not need to belong to a gym.

True or false?

I like to pretend that it’s true, but it isn’t--especially not in winter. However, I continue to use this falsehood as a justification for not joining a gym.

Yesterday, after a four- or five-day spell of zero exercise, B and I decided we’d walk down to Peacock Lane, one of those streets where every single homeowner signs some sort of contract stating that they will put up a big-ass Christmas light display or suffer the consequences (being shot by a firing squad at dawn).

I was very much looking forward to this because B had suggested that we break up (and cancel out) the four-mile walk with a stop about halfway at the Laurelwood Pub’s Happy Hour for a giant plate of nachos and a pint of organic beer.

Well, B didn’t get home until 5:40, so we had to drive or else miss Happy Hour. This did not please me because driving defeated the whole point of the excursion—to get a decent amount of exercise. We drove to the pub and got there too late anyway. Drat! We drove back home, with me on a major guilt trip about the stupidly wasteful car trip.

We came home and ate an unsatisfactory dinner and then B suggested we walk down to Peacock Lane as planned but, of course, without the stop at the pub (wah!!!!). It was a rather balmy evening, so I decided we might as well take advantage of that. We inexplicably walked out of the house without a stitch of foul-weather gear between us. About a half mile from the house, it started to rain. Before long my feet were all sloshy, the bottom eight inches of my jeans were soaked and flapping around my ankles, and my bangs were hanging below my eyes just like Joey Ramone. Bedraggled though we were, we plodded on for the full four miles.

There wasn’t a string of icicles or an inflatable snowman anywhere to be seen! But there was a sign on the corner saying that the Peacock Lane Festival of Lights (or whatever they call it) is to start on December 15. Double drat! Had we used our noggins, we would have checked on that before setting out.

We took the bus home.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

An Advent Memory

When I was a kid someone made one of those gingerbread houses for our family. I don’t know how or why we became the recipients of this house, but it was without a doubt the most magnificent thing to ever cross our threshold during Advent. You see, my mom had very inflexible ideas about not jumping the gun on Christmas. She referred to all Christmas parties as “Advent parties” and refused to attend them. Nor could we ever put up our tree before December 23rd--no matter how much wheedling, griping, and whinging we did to try to wear her down.

There must have been a good reason that my mom didn’t throw a tarp over the gingerbread house and wheel it into a closet until December 23rd, but she took that reason with her to the grave. Most likely she thought there was a slight chance that the gingerbread artisan would drop in unexpectedly and if the gingerbread house was nowhere to be seen, well that would not reflect well on us. Social niceties trumped religious convictions.

Whoever this person was, she was an excellent craftsperson, and she didn’t cheap out with the materials either, making use of Nilla wafers, candy canes, red hots, licorice all sorts, Chuckles, chocolate kisses, starlight mints, and Necco wafers—no expense was spared. The roof was shingled with chocolate nonpareils. That must have cost a bundle! The house also had a little multicolored hedgerow fence made of oversized gumdrops.

My brother and sister and I spent much of our free time inspecting that fabulous gingerbread house. We weren’t supposed to touch it, and it goes without saying that we weren’t supposed to nibble on it. It wasn’t actually meant to be eaten. The “gingerbread” that the walls and roof were made from was hard enough to chip a tooth and about as flavorful as a long-abandoned kitchen sponge. Still, there was all this actual candy on it. Wasn’t that edible?

Well, in fact, yes. Soon it came to my mom’s attention that portions of the gumdrop hedgerow had been “trimmed” rather severely and unflatteringly. Here and there gumdrops had been gnawed down to nubbins. The fence was beginning to look like a jaw that had had a lot of its teeth knocked out. My mom interrogated us, but none of us copped to it. Then one day I walked into the living room to find my dad, mouth open, hovering about an inch above a gumdrop, poised to engulf it!

I raised the alarm and everyone rushed into the living room. (How often do you get to nark on a parent?) Even though he’d been caught dead to rights, my dad still made a feeble denial, mumbling something about how he had just been trying to get a closer look to see if he could tell whose teethmarks were on the other gumdrops. Yeah, right.

Of course, my sister, my brother, and I had all been engulfing gumdrops whenever no one was looking. My mom was a health-food nut and we rarely got to eat sweets, so we can’t be blamed. My dad, however, was not under the jurisdiction of my mom’s antisugar laws and was always going off and buying himself half-gallons of Neapolitan ice cream and these fake chocolate eclair things called Kreme Kurls. Yet, he still found it necessary to horn in on our territory and snarf the gumdrops that, by rights, should have belonged to us kids.

Actually, we all thought the whole episode was hilarious, and after that, it was like a condemned notice had been posted on the gingerbread house. Shingles were pried off in sheets and eaten publicly. After every single candy decoration was consumed, frosting snowdrifts on the window sills were chipped off, sampled, and rejected. We took a hammer to the walls and roof and tried to eat them, which is why I’m such an authority on just how inedible they truly are. Within a few days the whole thing was reduced to rubble. What a bunch of sugar-deprived barbarians we were.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Objects and Conditions in Existence Today That Were Not in Existence When Last I Blogged

Catherine Wheel Snowflake
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
  • A coppery hat knit by my very own self
  • A glut of lactic acid in my glutes
  • An appreciation of The Ramones
  • A dime-sized blister on my right palm
  • A lawn with 86 tulip and daffodil bulbs plugged into it

I'll leave you to infer if there is any sort of cause-and-effect relationship among any of the above.

I am quite proud of that copper hat, I have to say. It is Knovice Knitting Project Number #2 (Knovice Knitting Project Number #1 was a scarf). Given that somewhere in my father's house an embryonic crocheted floppy hat that I started in 7th grade is still waiting to be finished, the copper hat's completion is significant.

My weekend was fairly productive. But today I was a model of inefficiency. I found all sorts of fascinating ways to squander time. Blogs, of course, are always excellent detours, and today, courtesy of Anomalous Noodge, I found not one but two things that were far more fun than attending to paying work. I made the snowflake pictured above by going here. I know it looks like a Catherine Wheel. I had no idea how to control the demonic virtual scissors, and they went ahead and fashioned a replica of a medieval instrument of torture. Not my fault. Once I figured out (sort of) how to use the scissors, I made this more orthodox flake.

I also went to a rather clairvoyant site and was informed that I am "a biased bitch who loves to conquer mufflers." Rather more accurate than not I'd say--Knovice Knitting Project #3, currently under way, is a muffler.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Former Resident of the Sucker State

Until today, I had no idea that I had spent all but the past three years of my life living in "the Sucker State," otherwise known as Illinois. That “fact” comes from a book I have that lists state and city nicknames. Now I may happen to agree that "the Sucker State" is a pretty good nickname for Illinois now that I live in the far superior state of Oregon, but--it must be said--no one to my knowledge has ever called Illinois the Sucker State (I will from now on, though). This book also says that I now live in "the Webfoot State." Huh? Everyone knows that Oregon is the Beaver State.

What is going on here? If this book had been published in 1907 or something, I’d just figure that these were names that had fallen out of current usage, but the book was published in 1995. It digs itself in deeper by claiming that “what the reader will find within these pages is as close to the correct usage of ... American idiom as we could presently determine.” Here’s what the editors “determined” were the “correct” nicknames of a few American cities. I’ve not heard any of these used in my lifetime:
  • Smear City = New York City
  • Yap Town = Cleveland
  • The Big Pretzel = Philadelphia
  • Swabby Town = San Diego
  • Chili Switch = San Antonio, Texas
  • Craw Town = New Orleans
  • Guitar City = Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Shaky City = Los Angeles
  • Old Port = Portland, Oregon (no mention of Rose City, Stumptown, Bridgetown, City of Roses, River City, PDX, or Puddletown)
Note the pseudoscientific syntax of the above claim by the editors. I should mention that they put this book together in their offices on Crib Street, Ware, Hertfordshire, U.K. I think it’s pretty clear that not a single one of them has ever set foot in the United States, or “Yankee Land” as they would have it. I can just see them poring over moldering copies of magazines like The Smart Set (founded 1900), completely caught up in “determining” the American idiom through purely academic means.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Homers

Dinner Time for Homer
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
One of the many awesome things about being self-employed is that I can wear my recently acquired Homer Simpson slippers to work. The Homers were purchased on my ignominious trip to Target last Saturday--the day after Buy Nothing Day.

Perhaps it was a smidgen hypocritical of me to stay home on Buy Nothing Day and then the next day go drop an L-note at Target (and sign up for a charge card!), but there it is. I did really need new slippers. My old pair was falling to bits. There were holes in the heel and toe and shredlets of sole kept turning up all over the house.

And may I say that these are without a doubt the comfiest slippers I have ever owned? Like the real Homer, they are well padded and well insulated, so they keep my feet nice and toasty. I also love the fact that the Left Homer (pictured here) is somewhat wall-eyed. It makes my left foot look like a lunatic! Oh yeah. They were quite the bargain--which always pleases me--only $8.89.

The only problem with these slippers is that I really don't want the general public to see me--an adult--wearing them. FedEx and UPS guys are always delivering packages of work for me, and I get so many packages that I've always wondered if they think that I'm some kind of dotty layabout who wiles away the hours by purchasing collectible dolls like this. Because I don't want to contribute any further to such an inference being made, I've been kicking off the slippers and punting them out of sight before I answer the door.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Embarrassing Childhood Memory (One of Many)

When I was in first grade, this is what I wore to school every day: turtleneck pullover, tights, plaid elastic-waistband skirt. All from Sears. I was quite happy with this wardrobe. Even back then, I had slothful tendencies, so I liked not having to put any real thought into what I would wear. Each day I’d select a turtleneck that was a different color from the previous day’s turtleneck--much like Warren Oates and his cashmere sweaters in Two-Lane Blacktop. Next, I’d put on some tights that I believed matched (whether they actually did will never be known), and pulled on one of the plaid skirts. Then I’d put on my corrective oxfords and clomp off to school. I’m sure I looked a treat.

This fabulously efficient, no-brainer system worked brilliantly until one day in early winter. I arrived at school, went to my locker, and unzipped my coat. There I stood clad only in tights and turtleneck. I had somehow forgotten to put on my skirt! I was petrified with horror. What was I to do? I couldn’t take off my coat. That would be equivalent to standing there naked. I couldn’t walk into class wearing my coat because, well, that just wasn’t done. My only choice was to stand there in front of my locker and wait to die of embarrassment. Good plan! Classes started and I just stood there crying discreetly. Finally, a teacher that happened to be roaming the halls noticed me, and I choked out my predicament to her.

She escorted me to the nurse’s office. (Why there?) The nurse called my mom who arrived about a half hour later bearing one of the plaid skirts from my collection. I don’t recall how the rest of the day went. But I do know this. That was the death knell for the turtleneck-tights-skirt ensemble. From that day forward, I made sure I wore something foolproof—like a jumpsuit.