Monday, January 31, 2005

Forgotten English

Because I was given an abominable cat calendar for Christmas, I was forced to buy myself a calendar more to my liking. I chose a word-a-day calendar featuring words that fell out of use at least 100 years ago. I love it!

Here are some of my favorites from January, complete with definitions and my own annotations. A prize to anyone who can use three or more in one sentence!

swillking: having so much liquor in one’s stomach that it is swillking around.

Rozanne’s remarks: I’d like to see this word resurrected as a noun. “Dean Martin was a swill king among men.” And, no need to be sexist. There could be swill queens as well. I coronate Jenna Bush!

flesh tailor: a surgeon

Rozanne’s remarks: Simultaneously creepy and elegant. Jeremy Irons could play a flesh tailor.

clyster: an enema, such as tepid water or gruel, induced into the rectum to produce evacuation of its contents...[or] for supplying nourishment when the teeth are closed in tetanus.

Rozanne’s remarks: The either/or aspect of the clyster is highly revolting. Surely, no one would use it for the first purpose and then reuse it for the second purpose? There’s sort of that implication in the definition it seems to me.

spatherdab: chatterer, gossip, scandal-monger; a woman who goes from house to house dispensing news.

Rozanne’s remarks: Not an extinct species. I know several of these, and some of them are men.

liversick: sick at heart

Rozanne’s remarks: I hate actual quivering, raw, real liver of all varieties, but for some inexplicable reason I’ve always liked it when characters in old British novels or plays make comments like, “I’m feeling a bit liverish.” or “I’ve got a dreadful chill on my liver!” It's never been clear to me what they are talking about, but I find it charming all the same. And now I can add liversick to my collection of delightful liver-based terms and phrases.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

I'm Not Martha

As I was mixing up a batch of chicken manure, alfalfa pellets, and bone meal this afternoon, it struck me that everything I’d done today was the sort of thing that would be listed on Martha Stewart’s monthly calendar.
  • I pruned the largest rose bushes in all of Portland, which just happen to be on our property.
  • I mixed my own customized blend of organic fertilizer (patent pending) and fertilized the no-longer-largest rose bushes in all of Portland with it.
  • I knitted a couple of afghan squares.*
  • I made a cauldron of ham-bean-kale soup from scratch.
When and how did I become so Martha-esque?

I should say that I really know very little about Martha Stewart. My introduction to Martha occurred as I was driving out to my dad’s house a few years back, and Martha was speaking to the National Press Club on NPR. She was gloating in the most repugnant manner imaginable over how much money her various enterprises had made her. She went on to describe some frivolous craft project that required wasting vast quantities of natural resources. I developed a very powerful dislike for her that day. Fast-forward a few years. B and I came home one night to find our neighbor’s copy of Martha’s magazine on our doorstep. Before handing it over, we feloniously flipped through a few pages. I came across the notorious calendar with all its reminders about truckloads of manure being delivered and so forth. (“Truckloads of manure is right,” I thought to myself.) And, of course, I am aware that Martha’s in jail now for some sort of insider trading hanky panky and that orange isn’t her color. That’s the sum total of my Martha knowledge.

It may be that I’m all wrong about Martha and what she gets up to, but my initial and shocking impression was, as I stood there with a trowel full of chicken shit in hand, that I have become indistinguishable from Martha’s millions of disciples!

This just can’t be true! Let's be rational. Martha did not invent organic gardening, crafting, or cooking, although I’m sure she’d like to claim she did. People have been doing all of these things since the dawn of time. It’s only very, very recently--in the past 50 years or less--that technology and "disposible income" have allowed some people to do away with growing own their gardens, making their own clothes, and cooking meals from scratch.

All Martha and her minions have done is co-opt these basic human skills and put some sort of marketing spin on them to make them seem new and exciting. It’s clear that she’s got a brilliant marketing team and some very creative people on her staff. What’s sad is that a lot of people who feel the need to be creative pick up a copy of Martha’s magazine and carry out one of her projects to the letter, never tapping into their own creativity. That’s tragic.

OK. I only had to think about it for a few minutes to realize I’m not a Martha clone. (Huge sigh of relief.) I learned organic gardening from my mom and from books. My friend PF taught me to knit, and I learned to sew in 4-H (how unMartha can you get?). And no one needs Martha to tell them how to cook. In fact, my impression is that cooking the Martha way means spending more money than you need to, wasting time and fuel driving here there and everywhere for exotic ingredients, and then spending at least double the time on insignificant details that no one will notice or appreciate. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that Martha is doing her best to push middle-class women back to the year 1954, when they stayed home domesticating and wouldn't have dreamed of having a career or thinking (much) for themselves.

Wow. I've really gotten on a very high horse about all this. I didn't know I was that pissed off at Martha. In fact, I don't know that I am. I kind of feel sorry for her now that she's in the pokey. But not sorry enough that I'm going to delete any of the above paragraphs!

*I've finished all the emerald squares (21 of them!) and have moved on to knitting the sapphire squares. Progress!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Eavesdropping at the Library

The Multnomah County Public Library system rocks--for so many reasons.* No matter what I’m looking for, be it the CDs of David Cross’s stand-up routine Shut Up You Fucking Baby or Who’s Who in the Bible,** they’ve got it. And, clearly, there’s no self-proclaimed arbiter of "morality" with an iron rod up his ass deciding what should and should not be on the shelves. Everything should be on the shelves, and it is. And that’s the American way.

Today, I walked down to my local branch library to do some research for work. As usual, the library was swarming with people. I love that about Portland--I believe it has been named the most literate city in the U.S. Although I don’t quite know how that was determined, it just feels like it’s true when I see people lined up outside the library waiting for it to open or when I go to a reading at Powell’s, get there 30 minutes early, and still find that it's standing room only.

So there I was in the library carrying out my important research, and I noticed a woman of at least 70 with tangerine-hued hair, a black fake fur coat, and knee-high snow boots flitting about and consulting animatedly with the reference librarian. I can’t help myself from being curious about what books or other media people are checking out, and I was close enough to hear the woman say that she needed books on supermodels and modeling careers. She already had a stack of books on natural face lifts, super nutrients, and anti-aging formulas. I also heard her lament to the librarian that she’d been trying to get down to 110 lb for years. Fascinating. It was so not what I would have guessed she's be interested in, which is in itself interesting (to me at least) because it reminds me how often I tend to jump to conclusions about people based on superficial appearances. I'd like to train myself not to do that.

As I was leaving, I caught sight of her and the librarian in the stacks, and I positioned myself on the opposite side--to eavesdrop--pretending to peruse MCAT test prep books (about the last type of book I’d ever actually be interested in). All I managed to catch before she trundled away again was that she thought that a photo of some sort of natural face masque looked good enough to eat.

Unless society changes very radically and very soon, there’s no modeling career in the offing for this woman. Don’t most modeling agencies consider women over the age of 28 to be over the hill? Sad and wrong. But the great thing about public libraries is that they are so democratic and nonlimiting--anyone can go in them and concoct a dream or pursue a previously concocted one. And for some reason, Portland’s public libraries seem to be outstanding examples of this. Almost every time I go in, I see someone like that woman--someone who is slightly (or perhaps more than slightly) eccentric--but who is very happy and excited about the books (or whatever) he or she has chosen. I feel the same way myself when I take out books or CDs. Maybe it’s because I’m getting them for FREE! Kidding--although I have to admit I felt like I scored a major coup with the David Sedaris Box Set, which has a list price of $79.98! It’s more than that, though, something, I think, to do with a sense of boundless possibility and the potential for change and improvement.***

*A full-blown rhapsody about the Multnomah County Public Library system’s many merits may be be forthcoming on this blog.

**I recommend both, although David Cross has quite the pottymouth, in case that’s not obvious. Who’s Who in the Bible is profanity-free, as far as I can tell.

***What’s with all the footnotes? Am I turning into David Foster Wallace or what?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why I Won’t Camp

Back when I was about 11 years old, my best friend, Vicky, talked me into thinking I wanted to go to summer camp. The lure? I was going to get to eat s’mores every day. That’s all sugar-deprived me needed to know. I pestered and badgered, badgered and pestered until my parents agreed to let me go.

I really had had no clear idea of what went on at camp other than the eating of s’mores, possibly while gathered around a campfire in the woods. Much to my chagrin, I found out that we had to sign up for a bunch of classes. Just like frickin’ school! Crap! I had arrived late on the first day, having spent nearly all day at a swimming pool burning myself to a crisp, so only the classes no one wanted to take were left. I got stuck with “Get In Touch with Nature,” “Archery,” and something called “Deep-End Diving.” Ugh. Two weeks of that.

That first night was agony. For some reason, the counselors thought it was a good idea to give each girl a backrub before bed. I bit my tongue and endured it for about 10 minutes before working up the courage to tell the counselor that I’d had enough. I’m surprised she couldn’t feel the heat radiating off my lobstery red back. Maybe she was just a sadist.

By the next day at breakfast (Snack-Pak cereal that we ate by slicing the box down its belly and pouring in milk to save the kitchen having to wash bowls), there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to get the hell out. It was just too creepy and foreign. As we scraped our Raisin Bran out of our boxes, we had to sing a bunch of songs such as, “A Y Camp Girl is Hard to Beat,” that everyone but me seemed to know and relish. Wasn’t that exactly how Nazi Germany started?

I was stuck there. It wasn’t even possible for me to phone home. I’ve blocked most of what happened except for this: Chestnut, the counselor in charge of my barracks and who taught “Get in Touch with Nature” was out of her mind. Her idea of getting in touch with nature was to blindfold us and make us crawl around on our hands and knees on the forest floor and to make us walk--fully clothed (including shoes and socks)--into a pond up to our necks. She also took us “camping,” which meant we “hiked” about 15 minutes through a sparsely wooded area to a tennis court on the other side of the camp, where we pitched out tents. Ah, wilderness! Chestnut dug some sort of shallow pit toilet for us and set a roll of toilet paper next to it. The next morning we had to listen to Chestnut stomp around and grouse about the person who had “crapped on the toilet paper.” It was probably her. I know that our experience wasn’t even remotely like a real camping or backpacking experience, but it’s left a lasting impression and put me off camping--probably for life.

A couple other memories of the camp experience. We almost never got any sleep for any or all of the following reasons:
  • Chestnut got it into her head that we would all very much want to hear her read Love Story out loud to us. I was 11 years old and I though it was a crashing bore.
  • After each night’s installment of Love Story, she’d crank up the volume on the Top-40 radio station that played in the barracks twenty-fucking-four hours a day. I still cringe when I hear any of the songs that were popular that summer.
  • Once Chestnut was safely away and swilling Annie Green Springs with the rest of the counselors, most of the girls in the barracks played some sort of strip game. I don’t know what the rules were because I never played, but I do know that it involved a lot of cackling and them taking off various pieces of clothing until they got entirely naked. A few times a counselor (no doubt returning to her cabin to get another bottle of Annie) would hear the cackling and dart in, flip on the lights, make a half-hearted show of outrage, and tell them to quit it.
I wrote home every day, telling my parents how much I hated camp, knowing full well it was my own fault I was there since I had practically begged them to let me go. And to add insult to injury--I never, not once, got to make and eat a single s’more.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Smell of Spring

Witch Hazel 'Diana'
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I nipped out to the garden for a few minutes today to find that my witch hazel (pictured here) is blooming, as are a few hellebores and violets. There is a wonderful scent in the air that I definitely associate with spring. It's been in the 50s and 60s for the past week. Winter is on it's way out. For those of you shoveling snow in the Midwest or Northeast let me be clear--I'm not gloating, I'm marveling. I spent 93% of my life in the Midwest, so I know what you're dealing with and please know you have my sympathy.

Weather. Bored yet? If not, perhaps you'd like to hear a progress report on the bathroom and--for good measure--a cat story. Well--surprise, surprise--the bathroom is still torn up. Rusty, however, is immensely pleased because the door is now off its hinges, so the bathroom is no longer off limits to him. He spent the greater part of the weekend standing in front of the closed door attempting to fine-tune the patheticness factor of his meowing--to no avail.

As soon as the workers left this morning, he hopped into the tub and began making himself comfortable on the none-too-clean, balled-up drop cloth wedged between the toilet and the tub. I'm not sure if he was gearing up for a nap next to his new pal, the footloose and fancy-free toilet, or if there was some mesmerizing chemical residue on the drop cloth that he was grooving on. I took photos, so if you'd like to posit your own theory about what he might have been trying to accomplish, click here, here, and here.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Uprooted Toilet

Uprooted Toilet
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
About a week ago, I revealed that B and I aren't too handy and that we really don't know an adz from a hole in the ground. And now look! Our toilet is in the bathtub, a few pages of the Oregonian are stuffed into the toilet socket, three layers of vinyl flooring dating back to the 1940s have been peeled off, and the baseboards have been pried from the wall.

We had nothing to do with creating this unholy mess. We paid someone to do it. You see, about a month ago, we started noticing that the flooring around the toilet was beginning to feel a bit, well, corrugated. In true B and Rozanne fashion, we ignored it for about a week. "Hasn't it always been sort of ripply like that?" B wanted to know. I knew better, but clung to the ridiculous hope that maybe the problem would self-correct. It got worse. Even a couple of home-repair simpletons like ourselves realized that something was leaking and that we needed to get something done about it ASAP.

However, because of the holidays, the general uncertainty of the contractor's schedule, and several flake-out moments on his part, he wasn't able to rip apart the bathroom until Friday. There is some good news:
  • We have another bathroom (with a shower), so we haven't had to resort to sponge baths, buckets, the backyard, or the sad bar around the corner where people drink Bloody Marys and play video poker at 10:00 AM.
  • The asbestos test of the sparkly pink (gack!) circa 1951 flooring a few layers down came back negative for asbestos, which means we don't have to pay an additional $400 to an asbestos-abatement company.
  • The contractor claims that the bathroom will be finished by the end of the day Monday or, at the latest, Tuesday.
  • This is the first thing that's gone wrong with the house since we bought it at the end of 2001. Not too bad a record.
There's a bit of bad(ish) news as well:
  • We will have paid hundreds of dollars to get this problem fixed and the bathroom will look essentially the same--not vastly improved.*
  • The contractor hasn't yet determined the nature of the leak. It may have been the toilet in which case we'll have to go toilet shopping. I don't know anything about toilets (except how to use them), and much as I like the idea of conserving water, I don't want to get one of those feeble-flush toilets that can't choke down more than two squares of toilet paper. What good is a water-conserving toilet if you have to flush it three times? I also don't want one of those weird ovular toilets with a seat the size and shape of a turkey-roasting pan.
  • I'm going to have to paint the new baseboards and, in all likelihood, the whole bathroom. True, it's the smallest room in the house, but I spent almost all of last February painting our spare bedroom--several times--because of a Mr. Bean-like misadventure with faux finishes** and I'm still recovering. Also, I'll have to forego work on the afghan, which does not please me.
By the way, my apologies to all nonhomeowners about these recent posts about upholstery and yanked-out toilets. I was a renter for many years, and I found nothing more tedious than listening to the minutiae of someone's DIY project or decor plans. I now fully understand how people can get obsessed with that stuff. There's a lot to be said for not acquiring a big material possession like a house. It reshuffles your priorities, and perhaps not for the better.

*Actually, I quite like the bathroom. It's just that for all that money, I'd like to see a tangible difference, you know? Also, the bathroom is not nearly as squalid as it looks in the photo. The tile in the shower is not the depressing, orphanage-green color it appears to be, but a more upbeat, period-appropriate seafoamish color.

**Perhaps I'll write an entry about that at some point. At the very least, I should post some photos of how terribly wrong it went. They're quite amusing.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

How to Wreck a Perfectly Good Day Off

I’ve mentioned before that I “suffer” from intermittent furniture anxiety (IFA). It strikes without warning, and it struck today--hard.

As often happens in January, work is slow, and I was looking forward to taking most of today off and all of tomorrow off. Yahoo! One thing I planned to do was trawl some of the antique/thrift/vintage shops on Hawthorne looking for that piece (or pieces) of furniture that would cure me of IFA forever! Maybe I’d even walk from 13th Ave. all the way to 50th and thereby get some exercise, too. It sounded like an excellent plan.

My first stop was a place called the Lounge Lizard that had one whole wall devoted to Sacred Heart Jesus pictures, a lot of those cotton-candy light fixtures, and some terribly sad-looking and overpriced furniture. In other words, nothing for me. I wasn’t more than a few yards out of the shop, when I noticed a 1930s chair that was very much to my liking sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. It was being sold by a dingy, signless shop of uncertain category. Was it a pawn shop? The place was binky small and crammed full of stuff. At least a dozen guitars hung from the ceiling and an old Moog synthesizer blocked me from doing any real exploring. But I didn’t need to. There, just inside the door, was a sofa that matched the 1930s chair. Wow, actual furniture that I actually really liked and that was comfortable and that was, presumably, for sale.

I wasn’t sure how to proceed. There was only about three square feet of clear floor space, and it was occupied by me and a cluster of three or four men of varying degrees of shadiness. I was clearly the only customer. I asked who was in charge and a beefy guy in a child’s cowboy hat said he was. He started talking up the sofa and the chair, which he’d obtained only “20 minutes ago.” The sofa turned out to be a sleeper sofa, and was possibly “one of the earliest ever made.” And guess what? It had never been used! Yeah, right. The velvety upholstery is shot all to hell, with the nap completely worn away in some places from people’s butts and forearms, but no one ever used the mattress part of it. I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t.

But I didn’t care about that, really. I was already busy thinking about how fantastic the pieces would look in our living room, once they were fumigated and reupholstered. The guy wanted $600 for both (wouldn’t sell them separately), but when he knocked the price down to $550 and told me he’d deliver them to the upholsterer of my choice--Deal!

So much for my plan to take a walk. I hopped in the car and stopped off at two upholsterers in my neighborhood only to find that they don’t have space to store stuff and that they have other pieces they are currently working on--that is, they weren't just waiting for me to walk through the door so they'd have something to do. Fancy that! They wouldn’t be able to even start on my stuff for three weeks or so. Gosh. I guess, I didn’t think this through. Now I'd either have to store the pieces (and all the vermin they probably contain) in our basement or rent a storage unit. And, oh yes. It would cost between $1,000 and $1,200 to get the sofa redone and another $500 for the chair. But I really liked them, so it would be worth--gasp--$2,250. I was in denial.

I got home and burst into B’s office to tell him. He was not thrilled. He asked me just how we would be able to fit those pieces into our modestly sized living room. B was extremely doubtful but offered to interrupt his work (the luxury of being self-employed) and go look at the pieces with me and measure them.

We arrived to find the man in the small cowboy hat and a henchman carrying the sofa out to a delivery truck. Oh dear. The thing suddenly seemed massive. We measured it. There was no way. The chair was already in the truck. It was upsidedown, which did not show it to best advantage. The fabric near the bottom was a complete tatter, and there was a spring sproinging out through a full-length diagonal rip in the underside of the chair. At that moment, it looked worse than the stuff people leave outside with FREE signs pinned to them. I unbought the pieces.

I now know this: There is room for only one more piece of sit-down furniture in our living room and that piece will have to be a chair. How could I think we had enough space for two sofas and another chair? Wishful thinking, I guess.

I already knew this, but I ignored it: If you’re going to buy a piece of furniture and have it reupholstered, you should pay $75 for it--tops. Ideally, it should be a piece of free furniture you have salvaged from your grandfather’s retirement home or scavenged from an alley or tree bank.

And here’s the worst of it. When we went back to the shop, I totally felt like the stereotypical impulsive, ding-a-ling woman whose husband has to act as the voice of reason and un-do her silliness. That is so not the impression I want to give out--not even to a man who wears a cowboy hat much too small for him.


Commenting Problems

I think there's something wrong with Blogger's commenting system. I know it was giving Jilly grief. Maybe it's fixed now. Has anyone else had problems leaving a comment recently or in the past? If so, would you mind shooting me a quick e-mail at Or you can leave a comment here if the system's not acting up.

I've been thinking for a while of switching to HaloScan, and I'd like to get a feel for how many people are having problems with the Blogger system and whether it would actually be worth the hassle of switching.

A real entry will be forthcoming later today!


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Rules Are Made to Be Broken

Rules I've Made for Myself
1. Do not ever leave the house wearing sweatpants. According to George Costanza, doing so issues the message to all who might see you that you’ve given up.

2. Muster some kind of a blog entry four to five times a week.

3. Do not blog until the day’s work is done, especially if you have a deadline the next morning.

Excuses, Qualifications, and Rationalizations
1. It would have taken precious moments of time to change into jeans, and I was only walking two blocks to get a giant (and sorely needed) latte. It's not like I showed up at the Starlight Room wearing paint-spattered sweats. Besides, who was going to see me? As it happens, a total of five people saw me: the barista, two customers, and two droopy-drawered teenagers I passed on the sidewalk--the boy had his fingers wrapped around the heel of a stiletto and the girl was carrying the other one. She was barefoot. It’s 55 degrees F. I don’t think they passed judgment on me.

2. Hang on! I haven’t actually broken this rule yet. Plus, the entry I wrote on Monday was of record length (17.5 inches) and should count as two entries, if not three.

3. I’m blogging now (instead of working) to increase the chances that I won’t break Rule #2. (This makes sense to my own hidebound mind.) Also, I’m thinking of adopting a strike-while-the-iron-is-hot approach to blogging, i.e., blog when the impulse hits, rather than at the end of the day when I’m knackered from working. As for the part about the deadline--I work better under pressure. And now that I’ve got this mondo latte, I should be able to rip right through it at warp speed, right?


Monday, January 17, 2005


I’m an Anglophile. Have been ever since I was about 14 and succeeded in wheedling my mom into letting me watch Masterpiece Theatre on the grounds that it was educational. Anglophile isn’t really the right word. If there were a word like British-Isles-o-phile that would be me.

As a teenager trapped in the blandest and most numbingly boring of all bland and numbingly boring Midwestern suburbs, everything British that was markedly different from my own experience was wildly appealing: the accents, the cobbled streets, the red phone boxes, the beans on toast, the uniformed butlers and maids, the bowler hats, the solicitors, the dark satanic mills, the Robin three-wheelers, the black pudding, the Y-fronted men’s underpants, being bombed during World War II.

I was getting exposed to all this mainly through BBC adaptations of classic British novels, and I realized that certain aspects did not reflect contemporary life in the UK, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t get enough of it. I started sneaking out of bed to catch late night reruns of Monty Python, a gold mine for an Anglophiliac like myself. Not only was it set in Britain, it was the funniest TV show I’d ever seen. I loved how it expected viewers to have a certain level of education and intelligence—so unlike American TV, which still assumes viewers have the mental capabilities of planaria. Monty Python made insecure teenaged me feel smart. I also read my way through all of Dickens’ novels (except Bleak House [Blech House]). They made me wish I could travel back in time and live in mid-19th century London. Go figure.

A while back there was a story on This American Life (episode 155) about an American guy who as a teenager really, really wanted to be British. He actually started speaking in a mock British accent and calling the hood of the car "the bonnet" and the trunk "the boot," and so forth. At one point, he opened up his bedroom window and screamed, “I AM BRITISH!” out into the night air. His parents sent him to a headshrinker. Why? What’s so crazy about that? I totally understand it. Had I been less shy and retiring and timid, I would have done the same thing.

I’ve been to the UK five times now and I had a fantastic time on each trip. Everyone is so friendly and incredibly witty. Nor have I lost my old love of the accents (there are so many!) and the liveliness and vigor of British English. I often prefer it to our flat and thinned-down American English (as I was reminded by one of Jilly’s posts.) Scroll through the list below and see if you don’t agree with me.

arse (ass)
bits and bobs (odds and ends)
biffy (outhouse)
bloke (guy)
bog roll (toilet paper)
bum (butt)
cheers (thanks)
chemist (drugstore)
chuffed (pleased)
dodgy (risky)
dust bin (garbage can)
gormless (stupid)
gutted (bitterly disappointed)
interval (intermission)
hoover (vacuum)
knackered (exhausted)
knickers (panties)
nick (steal)
on holiday (on vacation)
plonk (cheap wine)
queue (line)
rubbish (trash)
shite (shit shat out in Scotland)
skint (broke, as in having no money)
sod off (go away)
soft in the head (stupid)
squiffy (tipsy)
stroppy (disgruntled)
trousers (pants)
wanker (idiot; jack off)
wee (small; also "to pee")
whilst (while)
whinge (whine)
wonky (unstable; out of sorts)


Sunday, January 16, 2005

Permission to Putter

Afghan Yarn
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
It has become clear to me that what constitutes "bad weather" to the average Portlander wouldn't even merit comment in the Midwestern frost pocket where I grew up. As a kid, I often woke up on dark winter mornings to find the thermometer hovering at a frigid minus 20 degrees F (and I'm not even taking into account windchill). I wasn't happy about it, but I stoically zipped myself into my snowmobile suit, wiggled my feet into my dorkola moon boots, pulled on my balaclava, loaded 40 newspapers on my bike, and delivered them. If there happened to be two feet of freshly fallen snow--as there quite often was--I pushed the bike and plowed my way up to the doorstep of each house on my paper route. All this before school--before breakfast, actually.

By cracky! Kids these days just have no idea. And neither do most Portlanders. On Friday, the temperature here was about 30 and 15 mph winds howled out of the Gorge. People complained bitterly. On Saturday we had an "ice storm," that is, light rain fell intermittently throughout the day and turned to ice. It made roads and sidewalks slippery and hazardous, but it didn't deserve to be called a storm.

We're just a bunch of wussies here, that's all. I'm no exception. Within a year of moving to the Pacific Northwest, I lost all ability to tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees. And when we got that freak snowstorm last year, I nearly went out of my head with cabin fever. I really don't know how to explain such a rapid decline in coping ability, but there it is.

Actually, I couldn't be happier that we have had an entire weekend of so-called bad weather. It gave me permission to stay inside and putter. All those errands I should have run? Too dangerous to go out--even on foot. Instead, I caught up on some e-mail; did a tiny bit of housecleaning; had a nice chat with my sister on the phone; baked a loaf of bread; watched a DVD of Mike Leigh's Grown Ups (I recommend it highly), and hung out with B and Rusty. And--have no fear--I worked on the huge-ass afghan project, which is now 10/182nds complete.

The photo at the top of the page is a picture of the yarn I'm using. The colors look pretty true on my monitor, but they might not on yours. They're jewel tones more or less: ruby red, sapphire, emerald green, gold, and bronze (which might look kind of brown, but, trust me, it is a cool sort of bronzy patina color). I'm also going to be making some black squares, but the yarn store was out of black. They tell me it is the most popular color and that the yarn company can't dye the wool black fast enough. This sounds spurious to me. Haven't they heard of black sheep? Anyway, just use your powers of imagination to add a black skein into the mix. I photographed the skeins on B's hideous chair--their final destination--so you can see what a huge benefit to humanity it will be to have an afghan tossed over that eyesore.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

If It’s Broke, Don’t Fix It...

Or fix it in a really half-assed way. There’s an antique lamp in our house that I like very much. To turn it on here’s what I have to do. Turn the switch, which has an F embossed on it, so that the F is standing on its head. Then jiggle the switch a few times. If that doesn’t work, then I have to grasp the cord near the plug and move it slowly in a counter-clockwise direction. This is how I've been turning on the lamp for at least 10 years. I do actually know how to rewire a lamp, but until the day when I cannot get it to turn on at all, I will continue to use this method.

As I was performing this delicate operation this evening, it occurred to me that there are quite a few things in our house that would not pass muster if there were any sort of handyman or handywoman living here. For example:
  • When the U-shaped pipe under the bathroom sink sprang a leak, I called up my dad, the Master of Half-Assed Repairs, to get some input. He suggested wrapping it with electrical tape and then, for good measure, slapping some duct tape over the electrical tape. Problem solved.*
  • When the strike plate came loose from our bedroom door, B determined that a product known as Liquid Wood (I think) would fill in the spots where the wood had crumbled away. After waiting an eternity for the Liquid Wood to petrify (or whatever it is supposed to do), he was able to screw the strike plate back on. It’s fallen off once, but he patched it back up with Liquid Wood, and we're now back in business.
  • When the wooden stick that opens our louvered blinds snapped off in my hand, B made a beeline for the crazy glue, which along with an ancient screwdriver are really the only two tools he ever employs when making a repair.
To give B his due, I should say that he is one of these computer wizard types and has pulled my computer from the flames more than once. In fact, I don’t know if I could run my business without his geeky know-how. So, given the choice of a guy with a fully stocked toolbelt or a guy who can resurrect a hard drive after it’s gone kerflooey, I’ll take the latter--if I can’t have both.

*Sure we could have called a plumber, but that’s the kind of repair that, as a responsible homeowner, you are supposed to innately know how to do. It’s embarrassing to call a plumber for that, not to mention spendy. We’re waiting until some other plumbing thing goes wrong and then we’ll call a plumber and say (the gooky tape will have been removed), “Oh, by the way, could you fix this thing under the sink? It just now all of a sudden started leaking.” I think it’s a good plan.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I’m Cleaning My Bathroom Bowl!

Remember that old TV commercial from the ‘70s that featured a series of middle-aged matrons exclaiming, “I’m cleaning my bathroom bowl,” while engaged in some infinitely more worthwhile pursuit such as sitting under the hair dryer at the beauty parlor or pounding back a few Harvey Wallbangers at a cocktail party? The commercial was for Tidy Bowl (I believe), a product that supposedly cleans your toilet by turning the water an ultrasanitary electric blue. And I must say that I was always delighted when I lifted the lid on a neighbor’s toilet and discovered that the “lady of the house” subscribed to the blue water = clean toilet (I mean, bathroom bowl) philosophy--just because it was cool to see what shade of green I’d be able to turn the water.

But enough about porcelain gods and goddesses. What has stuck with me to this day about that commercial is the concept of being able to do two or more tasks simultaneously. As a chronically disorganized person who is perpetually behind with her to-do list and never seems to have enough time to do the stuff she actually wants to do (like knit a huge-ass afghan), such a concept has tremendous appeal. This is why I am so in love with my new MP3/CD player. Instead of having to carve out two separate blocks of free time for reading and knitting. I can do both at once--knit with the right side of my brain and “read” with the left side (or is it the other way around?). What is really great about this is that I’m not just sitting around on my fanny listening to Zeppelin (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I’m sitting around on my fanny improving my mind by listening to recordings of Fresh Air and other edifying material. This makes me happy.

Also high on my Tidy Bowl list is the hands-free phone headset thingy. Tragically, as I found out last night, ours is broken. Now, I rarely spend any time talking to local friends on the phone, but my friends and family in the Midwest who don’t see me often like to engage me in one- to two-hour-long chatfests. That is a huge and precious vein of time to sacrifice. Not that I don’t enjoy talking to these folks, but there are plenty of mindless chores I could be dispatching while talking, e.g., unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the fridge (way way overdue), putting away laundry, cleaning out the cat box, and, of course, there’s always those 182 squares of huge ass to knit. As a result of spending two completely idle hours on the phone last night, today my to-do list is even more menacing than usual. Nevertheless, as soon as I post this I am off to get a replacement headset--that's what a miser I am about my free time.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Too Late

Argh. Almost 11:00 PM. My brain refuses to budge, so I won't be posting anything tonight. Check back late Wednesday afternoon.

And for those of you who are interested, see the comments on yesterday's post for the final word on ersatz mayonnaise.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Slick and Slimy

I’ve been feeling just a trifle tubby and unhealthy of late, which has prompted me to take yet another stab at making healthier meals.

I just whipped up a batch of cole slaw that I am pretty sure I won’t be able to bring myself to eat. Now I love cole slaw, and the only thing wrong with it from an artery’s perspective is the pesky lipid-rich mayo-sour cream dressing that makes it so tasty. It seemed to me, though, like cole slaw would lend itself to healthification, so I purchased a jar of Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Mayo and a carton of Tillamook Fat-free sour cream. Normally, I shun such items, but I figured it was worth a shot.

Worth a snot is more like it. My largest Tupperware is now filled to the brim with shredded cabbage that looks like the Jolly Green Giant sneezed on it. I’m rather irked at myself for falling prey to the zillion-dollar diet industry’s tactics. I do know better. But I just grabbed the mayo and the sour cream off the shelf without looking at anything but the words “Reduced Fat” and “Fat-free”--and thinking to myself of all the heaping servings of cole slaw I would soon be feasting on while effortlessly shedding a couple of unwanted pounds.

The mayo is particularly nasty. It’s eggless. How can mayonnaise not have eggs in it and still be called mayonnaise? I suspect that whatever imitation egg substitute glop they put in it is what is giving the slaw its unappealing mucusoid appearance. The sour kreme looks OK, but it’s got something in it called Propylene Glycol Monoester, which I believe is either the principal ingredient in White Out™ or else the stuff I used in high school to keep my marching band shoes so blindingly white. How frightening.


Sunday, January 09, 2005


Knitting is quickly becoming an all-consuming passion for me. In the past two months, I’ve completed two scarves and a hat. Today, I started work on a project that will require a major time commitment--an afghan.

B calculates that I will finish this afghan in the year 2027. His estimate is based on the fact that his mom started crocheting a baby afghan for a cousin of his a few weeks after she (the cousin) was born; the girl received the afghan as a wedding present some 22 years later.

It’s true that I have a somewhat spotty track record when it comes to follow-through with creative projects. But I feel certain I will complete this afghan, and it is not going to take me 22 years.

Unlike B’s mom, I do not have two pugilistic sons and a Homer Simpson-like husband to distract me from my knitting. In fact, B, the most pugilistic of those sons (now reformed), is actually helping see to it that I stay motivated to knit. B recently bought me an MP3 player and has been downloading all sorts of interesting stuff from the BBC and NPR and has laid in a supply of audiobooks for me to listen to while I knit. Also, I have friends/fellow addicts who are always suggesting that we meet up at a bar or cafe to knit and hang out. So basically it’s possible to let knitting parasitically attach itself to free-time activities (reading, socializing) I would be doing anyway. (If I can figure out a way to knit while hiking or--better yet--knit while working I'll really be set.)

The final and perhaps most important thing that will keep my shoulder to the wheel with this afghan is that it is going to solve an interior decorating problem that has been gnawing at me ever since B and I moved in together (10 years ago). When complete, the afghan will be draped over B’s hideous chair. I (and all those who enter here) won’t ever have to look at that not-quite-white leather upholstery again, which will make me very, very happy. And B can still sit in the chair whenever he wants. Win-win. A shout out to Sharon, by the way, for suggesting this brilliant solution a few months ago.

Yep. I’m going to finish it, and I’m going to finish it in 2005. It is already 3/182ths complete!


Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Aged P. and His Flying Machine

I got an e-mail from the Aged P. yesterday blithely telling me that he just learned to do a barrel roll in his dinky open-cockpit airplane. The Aged P., if you will recall, is my 82-year-old father. Today's feats were to include a few loop-de-loops and “a little sight-seeing,” whatever that means.

You would think that the Aged P., having postponed parenthood until his mid-40s, would have had ample time to get daredevil pursuits like aerobatic airplane flying out of his system. No. Way. The only way he’ll get it out of his system if he goes down one day in a blaze of glory. And, not to be morbid, but I’m pretty sure that would be fine with him. Of course, he may well be immortal.

My dad didn’t start taking flying lessons until he was in his late 70s. He has since told me, however, that he had been kicking himself ever since World War II (yes, he’s that old!) for opting for the Army Air Corps band instead of signing his own death warrant signing up for fighter-pilot training. I’m fairly certain that I’m on the planet today simply because in 1944 my dad was itching to become the next Charlie Parker and not the next Charles Lindbergh.

So there his dream of flying was--on the back burner for more than 50 years. A few years after my mom died, it was back up on the front burner with the flame turned up full blast. There are probably two reasons for this: 1) My mom’s death made him realize that death can come suddenly and unexpectedly--so he’d better get cracking if he ever wanted to earn his wings. 2) My mom was no longer around to curb his enthusiasm for expensive hobbies--and let me tell you, flying lessons (and airplanes) ain’t cheap! (My parents and their crazy relationship with money is a topic for another blog post or, realistically, several posts.)

At age 79, my dad had emergency heart bypass surgery--only a minor setback for a man as determined as he was to pilot a plane. By the time he was 80, he had his license and was regularly flying up to a small airport in Wisconsin to have a hamburger and a chinwag with other codgerish pilots. That got old fairly quickly, and he started talking about how he might fly his midget plane out to Portland to visit me. “All I’d have to do is fly straight down I-80,” he assured me. ("Then why not just drive?" I wanted to ask.) Thankfully, he abandoned that crackpot idea after one of the codgers reminded him that there are mountains--big ones, with their own unpredictable weather systems--between Chicago and Portland. So he "scaled back" his ambitions to aerobatics. My sister is horrified. My oldest brother is amused. And me? I’m just glad that he’s having such a hell of a good time.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Bloody Hell!

If you’re a guy, you may want to turn back now, because this post is going to be all about my “lady time”--a term invented by a friend's father who was too embarrassed to ever utter the word menstruation. If that makes you squirmy or nervous--well, there are blogs about power tools you might like to visit right about now. (Note my sexist assumption that only guys would be turned off by a post about the monthly bill--but I’m going ahead with it because, dammit, I feel crappy and raggedy, and I want everyone to know it!)

Last night I got slammed with the worst menstrual cramps I have experienced in my 20+ years in the business. I wasn’t quite to the point of writhing on the floor, but I was very tempted to let out a few piteous moans--in part to gain sympathy from B, but also because I thought it might do me some good. I refrained because it was, after all, 1:30 AM and B was asleep. Instead I lay in bed in a modified fetal position, heating pad clasped to the offending parts. From time to time, the constant heavy, dull pain would turn sharpish and travel all the way down the backs of my legs and settle into my feet. I was fairly miserable.

Around 2:45 AM, I got the genius idea of taking some Ibuprofen. Doh! Clearly, the pain had blunted my ability to think rationally, or I would have remembered how well this stuff works. Vitamin I--I love you! The cramps slowly dissipated, and I was able to get a few hours of sleep.

I am still feeling quite out of sorts, despite taking six tablets of Ibuprofen in the last 18 hours or so. This is not normal for me--usually I endure a day or two of mild ickiness that, I know, is really quite low on the scale of potential ickiness. (Of course, that has never stopped me from grousing at full tilt every single time I'm flying the red flag!)

I have a few theories about why Aunt Flo is such a bitch this time around. A) The frickin’ thing was three weeks late. Could it be a miscarriage? I really don’t think there is any way I could have been pregnant, but I suppose--no matter how reliable the method of birth control--it’s always possible. B) I have been on a high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar food binge for the past six weeks. Can I really believe that there wouldn't be any repercussions? Really, I haven’t been very nice to my body lately. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is its way of trying to make me see reason. C) Is this the dreaded perimenopause--the transitional phase that precedes menopause during which a woman’s hormones start getting all whacked out in preparation for getting even more whacked out during menopause? I think I’m far too young for that, but I seem to remember some medical professional assuring (not the word I’d use) me that some women go though menopause at the age of 35! (Note to self: Fact check medical professional's "assurance" when feeling better.)

If I had to lay money on my theories, I’d go with B), which is why I’m going to leave the house right this minute and go out and buy myself a healthy stir-fry (too drained and cranky to cook) and replenish my supply of tampons and Advil (both running dangerously low). I will be wearing sweat pants and a scowl.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Poor Forgotten Mount St. Helens

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Mount St. Helens is still chugging away, in case you didn't know. B and I were lucky enough to see a spectacular arcing plume of steam billowing out of it Sunday afternoon. This photo is a screen capture from the Johnston Ridge VolcanoCam. The inset photo was taken in our neighborhood by B on Sunday afternoon. Please click for a larger view.

Is Mount St. Helens officially old news (that won't sell)? I'm not aware of any coverage of the ongoing steam eructations of Mount St. Helens. I do realize that there is a war and a humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions going on, but you'd think that local news teams might take a look out the window from time to time and maybe--just maybe--get an idea for a quick, general-interest filler story. But no, that would require actually going out and doing some reporting instead of just ripping something off of the wire service.

I just checked KATU's Web site, and they last reported on Mount St. Helens on December 2, noting that it had officially become Washington's top polluter. The story came straight from the AP, and they didn't even bother to get a decent photo. Feeble! Sometimes I feel a bit bad citizenish for not watching local TV news, but, gosh, am I missing anything? Perusing the KATU Web site, I noticed that fear-mongering stories about bank robberies and missing persons get top billing--just what I'd expect based on the few times I did tune in to local news broadcasts. I'll continue to stick with NPR and other "alternative" sources--no film at 11:00, but way more principled and in-depth reporting.

If you're in northwest Oregon or southwest Washington, check out Mount St. Helens in the next day or two (while we've got this cold, clear weather). If you're elsewhere, check out the Mount St. Helens VolcanoCam--make sure you visit during daylight hours!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Favorite Movies of 2004

I’ve got a couple of screwdrivers poured in me (courtesy of my friend TO who wanted to compensate me for taking care of his dog while he was out of town), so I’m going to take the easy way out with this blog entry and just list my favorite movies of 2004. At the moment I’m not capable of writing anything more analytical than a list. (Am I ever?)

In No Particular Order:
  • Metallica: Some Kind of Monster Watch Metallica implode: James Hetfield stomps off in disgust—for about a year; Lars Ulrich collects art and drinks; Kirk Hammett dons a cowboy outfit and pretends the band isn’t self-destructing; and Lars’s Danish gnome of a father tells them he thinks they suck. Worth the price of admission just to see Lars’s utter helplessness when, gloating too exuberantly about his wealth, he drunkenly drops a flute of champagne on an art gallery floor.
  • Supersize Me A documentary filmmaker decides to see what will happen if he eats nothing but McDonalds food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a full month. His vegan chef girlfriend watches in horror. (Me too.)
  • Mayor of the Sunset Strip A guy with a weird name--George Hickenlooper--makes a documentary about a guy with an even weirder name--Rodney Bingenheimer. Mild-mannered dweeb extraordinaire Rodney Bingenheimer has been inexplicably at the center of the music scene since the ‘60s--helping propel some of the biggest names in pop music to the top of the charts, but never reaping any of the rewards himself.
  • Incident at Loch Ness Werner Herzog (director of such classics as Aguirre: Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo) decides to film a documentary about the Loch Ness monster. Or does he? A hilarious mockumentary featuring Zak Penn, a guy who should win the Oscar for Most Despicable and Unprincipled Producer.
  • Bright Leaves Independent filmmaker Ross McElwee’s documentary takes a rather unfocused look at North Carolina, the tobacco industry, his great-grandfather (founder of the Bull Durham brand of cigarette), and tries to figure out how it is that his family failed to become heirs to a humongous tobacco fortune.
  • Sideways Alexander Payne’s road trip movie about a depressed middle-aged English teacher and wannabe wine snob and his washed-up TV actor friend who blunder through California Wine Country acting like jerks.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Not as good as Charlie Kaufmann’s earlier efforts, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, but still vastly more original than most of the schlock pumped out by Hollywood.
  • Vanity Fair Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) directs a version of Thackeray’s classic novel, deftly infusing some fun Bollywoody effects into it. Reese Witherspoon does a great job as social climber Becky Sharpe.
  • Fahrenheit 911 Michael Moore’s critique of the Bush administration.
  • The Return A father returns home after many years’ absence and takes his two young sons on a trip to a remote and desolate part of Russia. Can't say more without spoiling it, but, trust me, it's worth renting.
  • Touching the Void Unbelievably gripping documentary/re-creation of a mountaineering disaster in which one climber cuts the rope that connects him to his partner, leaving the badly injured partner hanging helplessly in a crevasse. I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
  • Vera Drake Another depressing, but extremely well-done film by one of my favorite directors, Mike Leigh. This one is about a working class woman who performs abortions for woman who, as she puts it, "can't manage." Set in Britain just after World War II, when abortion was illegal, it seemed to me to authentically capture the post-war exhaustion of Britain's working classes and the mood of the times. Excellent performances by the entire cast.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year’s Eve

I spent New Year’s Eve with a writer, a painter, and a scientist who studies Petri dishes teeming with various strains of bubonic plague--if she tries to take work home with her men with guns appear and politely suggest she reconsider. Her lab is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, you see.

And what did the four of us do? We knitted our little heads off and ate, drank, talked, and laughed--a lot.

In my opinion my New Year’s Eve beat the crap out of any New Year’s Eve I might have spent at a club, standing wedged among anonymous honking boozehounds, screeching my lungs out to be heard over nerve-shredding industrial-mix music, and forking over $30+ for the experience and a bottle of “complimentary” plonky, sweet champagne.

The Evening’s Stats:
  • Amount of alcohol consumed by me: one dainty sip of champagne
  • Amount of alcohol collectively consumed by the others: two bottles of wine and one bottle of champagne (they weren’t driving)
  • Words bandied about: hierophant, martinet, pentimento, Heliobactor pylori
  • Centimeters of scarf knitted: 11
  • Number of times “Oh shit!” was uttered by the painter in regard to her knitting: 16 (approximate)
  • Number of amateurish tarot readings carried out: 6
  • Number of minutes the painter spent on the phone to Puerto Rico: 39
I left the artist’s apartment at 11:45 PM and drove home on an absolutely deserted I-405--congratulating myself on my timing--and pulled into our driveway just as our pyromaniacal neighbors set off their cache of fireworks.