Monday, May 30, 2005

Been There, Done That?

Kismet tagged me for a meme a while back that I’m just now getting to. I’m supposed to list 10 things I’ve done. In coming up with the list, I realized just how unremarkable my life thus far has been. I’m just not one of those people that falls off the Matterhorn and lives to tell the tale or lifts a five-ton truck to free a child pinned beneath. Anyway, I feel compelled to do something to make the list more interesting for everyone, so I’m making it a contest. I’m slipping in two things that I haven’t actually done, and your job is to guess which two I’m bluffing about.

Just leave your two guesses in the comments section. I’ll send some artisan chocolate from renowned Portland chocolatier Moonstruck* to the first persons to guess each of them. If by chance one person gets both of them, then there will be only one prize. That’s the breaks. And, yes, I am prepared to ship internationally.

Things I May or May Not Have Done

Driven (and crashed) a Checker cab

Gotten kicked out of a guitar store for playing “Stairway to Heaven”

Won a blue ribbon at the Illinois State Fair

Fed my entire family spaghetti made with mushrooms I found in our backyard

Published a book about tarantulas

Refused a marriage proposal

Had a chat with Shelley Winters

Quit a job after I had a dream that told me I should

Deterred would-be assassins from taking a pot shot at a U.S. president

Eaten pig's blood

Ponder carefully! I’m off to the coast for a semi-spontaneous, much-needed, cheapie hiking vacation for a few days, while I wait for Snafu Incorporated to sort themselves out so I can get back to work. I’ll be back on Thursday evening at which time I’ll announce the winners.

*Moonstruck was the official chocolatier to the 77th Annual Academy Awards. Pretty Swank-y. Heh, heh!!!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dog (Tired) Mountain

Wildflowers on Dog Mountain
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Owing to a goof-up on the part of one of my clients, the project I was working on shuddered to a standstill yesterday. Since I could do nothing until the client sorted out the problem, I was presented with an unexpected day off. And what better thing to do than engage in some rather strenuous loafing a la Henry David Thoreau?

It was a gorgeous, sunny day, so I decided to hit the hiking trail and tackle my nemesis--Dog Mountain. Dog Mountain is famous for two things: its magnificent wildflowers (at their peak for only a very narrow window of time between late May and early June) and kicking hiker ass. I can attest that it has/does both. The last time I tried to hike it (2003), I scuttled back to the trailhead after only a quarter of a mile—it kicked my ass so hard and so fast. How embarrassing is that? Especially since I’d gotten to the top the year before. My hiking license could be revoked for that!

So off I went, with B deciding to tag along at the last minute.* Dog Mountain starts with a steep, punishing half-mile grind (where I was so ignominiously weeded out last time) but after that bit is out of the way, the trail becomes marginally easier even though it’s pretty much all uphill. There are great views of the Columbia River Gorge on the way up and several fabulous wildflower meadows, overflowing with golden balsamroot, blue lupines, red paintbrush, meadow death-camas (do not eat!), fringecup (said to improve the night vision of elves), western buttercups, cluster lilies, and spreading phlox. It is just heaven to walk through these meadows, although the wind was gusting to over 40 mph at times, which made photography problematic. (I've always got some excuse to explain why my photos aren't quite up to snuff!)

We made it to the top of Dog Mountain with its view of Mount St. Helens and basked for a while in our achievement—we’d hiked 2,820 vertical feet, roughly twice the height of the Sears Tower.** The trip down was a fun romp along the slightly longer (and more knee-friendly) Augsberger Trail. I’m pleased to report that Dog Mountain did not kick my ass this time, and, thus, I had plenty of energy available for stopping in the one-brewpub town of Stevenson, Washington, for a pint of Walking Man IPA and a burger.

It is true that my ass is a bit sore today, but not because it was kicked—I just made it do some real work for a change.

*B is also self-employed and actually has a much more flexible schedule (sometimes) than I do.

**2,820 feet of elevation gain is really not all that impressive. If I were really hardcore, I would have climbed Mt. Defiance (right across the river) with a gain of 4,800 feet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Epiphany in Progress (Could be pretty boring!)

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about how I should live (the rest of) my life. Obviously, this is something I should have been giving thought to long before now. Better late than never, though, right? At the moment, all I've got are some rather half-baked ideas about what is and isn’t important to me. It awaits further refinement, but at the risk of boring the living daylights out of you here they are:

Not Important
  • Accumulating wealth and possessions
  • Status
  • Working like a maniac
  • Time
  • Moderation and frugality
  • Quality friends
  • Downtime
  • Eating fresh, locally grown high-quality food
  • Reducing my ecological footprint
  • Volunteering for worthwhile causes
  • Compassion for others
  • Communing with nature (don’t mock!)
This is not to say that I am some sort of pillar of perfection—I’m very far from it. I’m doing pretty well with rejecting the stuff that isn’t important, but continual, conscious effort needs to be devoted to achieving and/or maintaining the important stuff. For example, I do have a circle of quality friends that I care very much about, but the activity on the volunteering-for-worthwhile-causes front is practically nil, which is shameful.

Lately, I’ve been reading Henry David Thoreau--one of my mom’s heros. I well remember as a high school student scoffing and rolling my eyes whenever his name passed her lips or she quoted one of his aphorisms, such as “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes,” which was frequently trotted out whenever my mom bought a blouse, hat, or underwear (!) at a garage sale. I was appalled.* At that time in my life, I could often be found skulking around the local mall, dropping most of my paycheck from my job at the movie theatre on new (but poor-quality) clothes at Lerner’s of New York. My mom never tired of pointing out that her garage-sale finds were always from upscale department stores. She was a bit of a snob about that.

Now, of course, I like nothing better than getting clothes for free. I believe I hear Thoreau applauding from the grave. Reading Walden, I find myself in full agreement with just about every sentence he wrote:

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making Earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.

Our life is frittered away by detail.

It is rather surprising how very much like my mom I am becoming. My inner 16-year-old is no doubt throwing a temper tantrum my older and wiser self can no longer hear. I’m now quite convinced that material possessions don’t bring lasting happiness and, in fact, only complicate life. Not that I’m ready to sell the house, don a loincloth, and go live in a yurt on the beach.

Needless to say, I’m not very good at articulating what my “personal philosophy” is and it may well seem like (or, in fact, be) an insane, naive muddle, but is there such a thing as an ascetic hedonist? Or perhaps a frugal hedonist? Can I pursue the things that make me happy without spending a lot of money or wrecking the planet?

*I think I will always be appalled by the notion of buying used underwear.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Upside of Living in a Rainy Clime

Triple Falls
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
OK--so I groused a little about the rain in my last post. I'm over it. Being the keen hiker that I am, I should hardly need reminding that it is copious lashings of rain (and other forms of precipitation) that make for jaw-dropping natural wonders like this photo of Triple Falls, which B and I hiked to on Saturday.

It may sound cliched, but hiking has always had an incredibly restorative and therapeutic and balancing effect on me. I believe I've mentioned before that the primary reason we chose to move to Portland from Chicago was so that we could hike regularly in some of the best wilderness the Lower 48 has to offer. I am very, very happy living here, and I think a lot of my happiness has to do with being able to retreat (relatively easily) to places that are so lushly verdant that they seem enchanted.

I snapped this photo* on a section of trail just past Triple Falls. For my money, it is one of the prettiest and most magical sections of trail in the entire Columbia River Gorge. Very few people hike beyond Triple Falls even though there are another six miles (and ~4,000 feet of elevation gain) to the top of Larch Mountain. I always insist we go about a quarter of a mile down it because I am convinced that one day I will see an elf or a fairy or a wood nymph or--worst-case scenario--a troll among all the overwhelmingly diverse shades of green moss, lichen, and foliage. There is evidence of their existence. Click here to see a miniature Stonehenge that could only have been built by elves (or similiar LOTRish creatures). (Hint: Mouseover the image if you can't locate Stonehenge.) I'm telling you, it's a bit eerie to walk this section of trail--but in a good way. One day, when I'm feeling suitably spry, I will hike it all the way to the top of Larch Mountain.

*Sorry about the blurriness--I am (I promise) going to read the instruction manual for my camera as soon as I post this entry. I know I'm not getting optimal results at the moment.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Roses and Raindrops

Big Pink
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
My poor roses! They are taking such a beating from the raindrops. Even the largest rose bush in all of Portland (pictured here in happier, less rainy, days) is losing its battle to stay upright and ornamental in the face of unprecedented precipitatory might. The only reason its waterlogged, blossom-laden eight-foot tall branches haven't flopped to the ground is because of desperate measures I've taken that involve the ingenious use of monofilament fishing line and tent stakes.

So even though the bush hasn't lain down and died, it is looking pretty shell-shocked. The blossoms are so thoroughly soaked they're rotting and turning brown before they can even open fully. Sad.

I guess after 3.5 years of living here and telling everyone from the Midwest that it wasn't really any rainier out here than it is in the Midwest, I now see what more seasoned Oregonians have been telling me all along: I do indeed live in Puddletown. But that's OK. I like rain. And even though Big Pink looks like H-E-Double-Toothpicks this year, looking at the big picture it means we might not have drought conditions this summer, which means fewer of our forests are likely to burn up-- and I'm very much in favor of forests not burning up.

Since this has got to be one of my most hum-drum posts ever, to enliven it a bit I will direct your attention to the Ting Ting, which you must try if you want to release the body's own natural 'feel-good' chemicals and eliminate headaches on the spot. Or if for some reason that fails to appeal, why not order the Portable Infrared Sauna? Take it anywhere; I'm sure no one will stare.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Eye Know Best

Diana tagged me a while back to do this fantasy-job meme. I am thawing it out tonight so that it can serve as a springboard for a short rant.

Rules: I am to pick five of the following occupations and complete the sentiment, adding an occupation of my choice to the end.


If I could be a scientist...
If I could be a farmer...
If I could be a musician...I would be Yo-Yo Ma.
If I could be a doctor...
If I could be a painter...
If I could be a gardener...
If I could be a missionary...
If I could be a chef...
If I could be an archaeologist...
If I could be an architect...
If I could be a linguist...
If I could be a psychologist...
If I could be a librarian...
If I could be an athlete...
If I could be a lawyer...
If I could be an innkeeper...I’d probably be so busy attending to high-maintainence guests that I’d never get out to enjoy the surrounding countryside.
If I could be a writer...
If I could be a professor...I’d arrange to be on permanent sabbatical.
If I could be a llama-rider...
If I could be a bonnie pirate...I’d take part in all manner of swashbuckling activities.
If I could be a servicemember...
If I could be a business owner...
If I could be an actor...I’d act in BBC costume dramas. Bring on the corsets and the false hair!
If I could be an agent...
If I could be video game designer...
If I could be photographer...
If I could be a circus performer...
If I could be a spy...
If I could be a fashion designer...
If I could be a high school student again...
If I could be a clothing designer for very small dogs... (Diana)
If I could be an optometrist... (Rozanne)

So why would I choose a profession as dull and repetitive and likely to be located in a strip mall as optometry? Because I am currently sitting here wearing my wretched glasses because my new contacts are not the correct prescription. And the reason they are not the correct prescription is because when optometrists ask: “Which is better, 1 or 2? Which is better A or B?” They are not in the habit of allowing more than a nanosecond to elapse before flipping from 1 to 2 or A to B.

Here’s how I’d do it: “Which is better, 1 [one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi] or 2 [one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi]?” The patient’s brain would actually have time to process the difference between the two lenses, thereby increasing the likelihood of accurate prescriptions. This suggested change in practice clearly proves that I have a very high aptitude for optometry, wouldn't you say?

Now I’m going to have to slog back to the strip mall and try to get them to fix my prescription. If I go around noon, I can have lunch at Hooters. Not!

Oh yeah. I’m supposed to tag some new victims. I tag Jilly, the Pieman, and Betsy, since she claimed today to be in desperate need of something to blog about! And Denise, who has resurrected her blog. Yay!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tommy Toes

After the quasi-dismal performance of my heirloom tomatoes last year,* I decided that I am no longer buying into all the hoo-ha about heirlooms being so much better in every respect than hybrids. As far as I’m concerned, heirlooms are the Diana Rosses and Luciano Pavarottis of the tomato world. No amount of coddling and catering was ever enough for them, and they just sat there fuming and refused to put out any worthy tomatoes.

I bought some tomato starts this weekend. In contrast to last year when I spent a couple of hours researching all the heirlooms and their supposed virtues, this year I just showed up determined to get some hybrids--preferably some with the word “beef” in their name. All those beefy-type tomatoes have been around at least since I was a kid, so they must have something going for them. Here’s what I ended up with:

Big Beef. Sounds like a high school linebacker. Big and dumb and will do anything I tell it to do. I don’t expect any guff from this tomato.

Taxi Yellow. It should be Big Yellow Taxi, if you ask me, but no matter. I got this one because I've recently become a yellow tomato convert, and the name reminds me of Joni Mitchell, even though I really can't stand her voice. Not the most logically thought-out purchase perhaps.

Arkansas Traveler. OK this is actually an heirloom. I decided to give heirlooms one last chance. I liked the sound of this one, because I figured if it hails from Arkansas, it should be able to deal with dizzying heat. A quick Web search reveals that Arkansas Traveler is “incredibly delicious” and “much esteemed for its ability to produce flavorful tomatoes under conditions of drought and high heat where many other varieties fail.” The plant shall definitely be put to that drought and high heat test, if past summers are anything to go by.

It may well be that it’s not the heirlooms’ fault at all. The fault may lie with me for being delusional enough to try to grow tomatoes in a climate where May and June are often characterized by temperatures in the 60s and rain mixed with rain showers that alternate with drizzle, followed by two months of drought and temperatures ranging from the 90s to the low 100s. People keep telling me that tomatoes don’t go for that kind of a scenario.

*Click here if you want names of the prima donnas that failed to meet their obligations and here if you want to read an even more damning evaluation (salsa recipe included at no extra charge).

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Lawn Nazi

I am beginning to wonder what sort of opinion my new neighbors have formed of me. I fear they view me as a force to be reckoned with. Although there has been a welcome detente ever since the soundproofing was installed, I have been unable to ignore their lawn, which as of this afternoon was an estimated 10 inches tall and sprouting a host of noxious weeds.

I know it is unforgiveably bourgeois of me to be monitoring the state of my neighbors’ lawn—and I hate myself for it. When did I become this sort of nosy-parker, curtain-twitcher type of person? Answer: When I became a property owner. Suddenly I’m thinking about how the unkempt lawn reflects on our house, possibly bringing the value down by $10,000 or more. And it’s not like we’re even remotely contemplating selling; it’s just me being a complete high-hat.

Anyway, around 10:30 PM, B and I returned home from a party to hear an unfamiliar whining noise emanating from the neighbors' house. It was pitch dark but we could just make out the doughy shape of the shy and retiring drummer pushing an electric lawnmower back and forth like a vacuum cleaner over the lengthy and recalcitrant grass. At 10:30 at night!

“Hey ho!” I cried (OK--I just said “hey,” but I’ve been talking to theatre folk all night and some of their flamboyance has rubbed off on me). “You’re mowing in the dark?” The drummer wearily turned off the mower and explained that they had an old push mower but that the blades were really dull and that the only time they were able to borrow the electric mower was the middle of the night. I commiserated about the dull blades of the push mower. (Been there.) Then I helpfully suggested that he might want to hire the Tulip Decapitator to mow his lawn. (More extremely bourgy behavior on my part.) Had I not been full of home brew and wine, I probably would have realized that this wasn’t the most tactful suggestion.

“Well, we’re really poor,” he said resignedly. OK. Now I feel bad and a little guilty. Why? Not because I’m “richer” than the neighbors are. After all, they do own a more expensive house than we do, but because the real reason I suggested the Tulip Decapitator was to guarantee that their lawn would be regularly and professionally maintained. Shame on me. A few years ago--before I ever owned property--I rejoiced whenever I saw an unruly, overgrown lawn. To me that meant the homeowners were mavericks and iconoclasts (not lazy bastards who didn’t give a fig about their neighbors’ property values). Everything Karl Marx ever said was true.

The drummer went on to mention that on Saturday they are going to have a barbecue, hastening to add that there weren’t going to be any bands or anything and that the only reason they were having the party was that it was his girlfriend's birthday, i.e., a special occasion--not just a random party for no good reason. At first, I actually thought he was inviting us to the party, which just goes to show that I probably have a pretty skewed idea of my rank in the universe. But, in fact, he was just giving us fair warning. So, despite the easing of our relationship, I feel certain that I am still viewed as a capricious goddess who must be appeased. Maybe not a goddess, but some sort of incomprehensible, less-than-desirable entity that may turn on them at any moment.

Something for me to reflect upon.

On a less self-loathing note, I met the delightful Shelley of the Menagerie this afternoon, fresh from her final final ever (!) of Law School. Congrats, Shelley! She stopped by to adopt three rose campions that recently became homeless when I replaced them with some blue marguerites more appropriate to my color scheme. I’m sure the rose campions will enjoy their new home in Shelley's garden!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Need to Get Away

When I started my own business 7.5 years ago, I imagined that I’d be taking at least one major (as in more than two weeks) vacation a year. It hasn’t worked out that way. In all the time I’ve been self-employed, not once have I taken the type of vacation I had envisioned. In fact, I doubt if I’ve taken off much more time than the niggardly two to three weeks per year rationed out to most cubicle drones. Why? Mainly because scheduling a big block of vacation time means turning down at least one lucrative project.

I’ve been feeling rather pessimistic about the state of the planet and have come to the conclusion that it is lunacy to be so focused on making money at the expense of doing what I really enjoy--hiking in the wilderness. There are so many places I'd like to visit and who knows how much longer they will remain pristine? Sure, I can go on day hikes right here in Oregon--and I do appreciate that very much--but what I'm really craving is a rustic (but not too rustic) lodge, set smack dab in the middle of a mountain range where cars are not allowed.

Lately, I have become heartily sick of the sight and sound of cars.* It seems there has been an upswing in my neighborhood of cars that tool around with their stereos cranked up to 11. But it’s not just those thumpy cars that get to me, it’s all cars, from Mini Coopers to Stretch Escalades. I just am tired of seeing them! And the irony is, even though I can temporarily get away from cars by going out for a day hike, I have to get in my car and drive on a freaking huge interstate to get to a trailhead parking lot, which is, of course, full of cars.

OK. I’m PMSing. I know no one would have ever guessed. Clearly, the ideal place for anti-car me to go would be, say, a country like East Timor, which has a GDP per capita of $400. I’ll bet there aren’t too many people there who get in their cars to drive 50 feet to their mailboxes. However, I'm sure the presence of military vehicles and aid organization Land Cruisers--not to mention the abject poverty--would bum me out.

Back to the rustic lodge accessible only to hikers and skiiers and definitely not to cars. The Mount Assiniboine Lodge, located at 7,200 feet, in British Columbia right next to Canada’s “Matterhorn” is such a place. It seems just about perfect to me, in large part owing to the fact that the guy who runs it is this Norwegian gnome-looking guy. (Please do take a moment to click on the link. You won't be dissapointed.) This guy knows what he's doing and is exactly the sort of personage I would expect to see in charge of a rustic lodge way up in the mountains.

A typical day at the lodge goes something like this: Guests get up and eat a hearty bowl of crunchy granola and/or muesli, help pack their own substantial lunches, and leave the lodge for a full day of hiking or skiing led by the gnome or one of his subgnomes. Evenings are spent having a leisurely dinner and chatting in front of a crackling fire. Wine and beer are available. TVs, cell phones, computers, and flush toilets (not so keen on this aspect of it) are not.

Unfortunately, as I further explored the lodge's Web site, I discovered that there is another way to get to the lodge—helicopter. Even though there would be no cars up on the Matterhorn, there would be the serenity-shattering thwack, thwack, thwack of helicopters arriving and departing every few days. This does not please me. Also, even if I hiked the 17 miles in, I would still have to drive 60 frickin' miles from Calgary to a remote helipad (where the trailhead is also located) and park and leave my rental car there for the duration of my stay. How incredibly wasteful.

Also, staying at Mount Assiniboine lodge is no bargain, despite the lack of typical hotel amenities. The "cheapest" option is $200 Canadian/night per person double occupancy. And if I were to go, I’d likely have to opt for a single room at a mind-bending rate of $340 Canadian/night, since B has no interest in such a vacation and the lack of flush toilets would be a deal breaker for the one friend I can think of who would have the money and an interest in an unmitigated hiking vacation. Toting up all the costs, I figure a week’s vacation there would set me back—and these are conservative estimates:

Airfare: $360
Wasteful car rental: $260
Lodging (meals are included): $1632
Tips for gnomes and subgnomes: $50
Tax: $130

For a grand total of $2432 for one paltry week of modified roughing it in the wilderness.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, a thousand times ha!

I guess I won’t be climbing the Canadian Matterhorn or sipping sherry by the fire and communing with gnomes.

So back to square one. All suggestions (except the suggestion that I go backpacking—I don’t do backpacking) are welcome.

*Of course, it’s totally hypocritical of me to feel this way since I own and drive a car. But there you are.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Our Daughter, the Witch

One of my fondest memories of childhood was going to see the annual spring musical at the high school. It ranked right up there with Christmas and my birthday. You see, my mom rationed out passive entertainment such as TV and movies very very parsimoniously, but there was never any question that we would go see the musical each year if for no other reason than to support my dad (the band director), who conducted the pit orchestra each year. We always had primo seats near the pit orchestra so we could watch my dad conduct. I imagined that all the people in the rows behind us were envious of our seats and our "celebrity" status.

As an added bonus, we got to stay up hours and hours past our bedtimes and then walk home in the dark. The musicals were always in May, and I remember always being surprised at how balmy the night air was—signaling the rapid approach of a hot, humid Midwestern summer and the end of the tedious school year.

Granted, my impressions of the musicals were surely colored by my extreme youth and inexperience, but I maintain to this day that our high school put on some terrific performances of Brigadoon, Anything Goes, HMS Pinafore, and, my favorite, Wonderful Town.* It has always seemed to me, too, that our high school must have had more than its share of talented singers and actors. Quite a number of them including this guy have gone on to become professional, working actors. Surely that's pretty unusual for a public school in a far-flung, middle-of-the-road suburb of Chicago?

Anyway, I'll never know for sure just how good or bad those performances were, but I still have a soft spot for high school musicals. For the past three years B and I have been attending the spring musical at the high school in our neighborhood.** This year they are doing Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim or, as B calls him, Stephen Sondrhyme.

So, on Saturday night, we walked over to the high school, purchased our tickets ($10!!!!), and were each issued a square of crumbling Twinkie-like foam padding to place between our aging bums and the wooden auditorium seats. Every time I go to this high school, it is major flashback time for me. The trophy cases in the hall, the multicolored Magic Marker signs congratulating the debate team, the steps worn concave by decades and decades of shuffling teenaged feet. It is exactly like my old high school. Very spooky.

The first time we went to one of the musicals, we felt a bit out of place. Just what were we doing there? Everyone in the audience was related in some way to one of the kids in the musical. We decided that we would pick a kid at random out of the program and pretend that that kid was our son or daughter. Last year they did Les Miserables (School Edition) and we picked the kid who played the good Samaritan who pretends that he gave the candlesticks to Jean Valjean when in fact Jean Valjean stole them. However, despite our son's Tony-caliber performance, we left after the first act because Les Miserables is such a miserable show (I call it Lame Is). We are such bad parents. Not the kids’ fault—they did the best they could. It’s just that the story is impossible to follow and the songs are pointlessly treacherous and unmelodic.

This year, we decided to choose a daughter. As we scanned the program bios of the kids in the show, it became increasingly clear to us how unlikely it would have been that we would have spawned a “‘bombastic’ energetic blonde” or a “hairy Jewish, dancing machine.” Yes. I’m quoting from the self-penned bios. This sort of showboaty theatricality is just not to be found anywhere in our genes, I’m pretty sure. If we really wanted to enter fully into the pretense, we would have selected some meek waif hunkered behind a bassoon in the pit orchestra. But that’s no fun. We finally settled on the girl playing the Witch, a former member of the pit orchestra (cello) and a practitioner of Ashtanga yoga. That’s more like it. It's just possible we could have given birth to such a child.

With someone on whose behalf we could be nervous selected, we sat back to experience the musical. Now I have to say that Into the Woods is not one of Stephen Sondheim’s better efforts. It’s a scrambled-up retelling of a bunch of fairytales (Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Rapunzel), in which characters from the various tales bump into each other in the woods and then burst into song. B’s right about the Sondrhyme moniker. A sample:

“And then see what he'll do
Now it's he and not you
Who is stuck with a shoe
In a stew
In the goo
And you've learned something, too
Something you never knew”

To which I say, “Ew.” Mr. Sondrhyme must have sprained his right frontal lobe coming up with that one.

So. Not a good musical. But the kids did a good job, especially our daughter who, as it turned out, had the role responsible for driving the plot (such as it was) forward. She was also the only person in the cast who got to wear a hideous false chin and hooked putty nose. Like her mother, she's not afraid to look bad. I foresee a brilliant career for her as the star of an American version of Absolutely Fabulous. Or not.

*I’d wish I could say that the reason I liked it so much was that, even as a child, I recognized Leonard Bernstein’s genius, but I suspect that the real reason I enjoyed it was because one of the characters was a disheveled lummox known as “the Wreck.”

**I don’t know why we never went to any high school musicals when we lived in Chicago. Either they weren’t advertised or they’d been axed from the schools’ budgets as a worthless frivolity that does nothing to improve standardized test scores. Hmmm. I wonder which it could be?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Swapfiles, Hacktools, and Kernel Panics

Like some sort of frickin’ bimbo, I just let B deal with all things computer. This is even more pathetic since I use a Mac—a computer that is pretty much plug and play. For the longest time I didn’t even know how to install software, a procedure that involves little more than a double-click.

So imagine the clutch-up that occurred yesterday morning when this message popped up on my screen:

Swapfile1 is infected with Hacktool.Underhand. It could not be repaired but has been quarantined.

Whaaaaa? This is a Mac. Macs don’t get viruses! Could this the first one ever? B was in conference calls all day, so there was no way I could ask him about it. I started Googling like mad—for all I knew my computer was on the brink of imploding.

There wasn’t much, but I found some Mac message boards with freaked-out posts peppered with terms like “kernel panic,” “Trojan Horse,” and “Hard Freeze.” It did not sound good. There were all sorts of differences of opinions about what the problem might be, but the theory I chose to embrace was that this was a “false positive” triggered, in fact, by a recent update to my virus-protection software (Norton Antivirus). The action I took? I just ignored it.

That worked fine all day yesterday.

Today, I was typing merrily away when pow!—a kernel panic! Sounds bad, no? Suddenly my screen looked like it was behind a pane of smoked glass. A message popped up politely telling me (in five different languages!) to restart my computer. I had been vaguely expecting something like this. And it did give me a slight case of the heebie-jeebies, but I prefer the smoky glass and the useful instructions to Apple's previous malfunction signal--a Boris and Natasha-style BOMB that appeared out of nowhere on your screen, ready to explode and take your computer down with it.

I restarted and all seemed well. I had, in fact, earlier found out that Symantec (the company that makes Norton Antivirus) has released new virus definitions and that downloading the new definitions is supposed to fix the problem. Click here if you need to do this for your own computer.

Don’t I sound like an IT geek all of a sudden? Well, I’m not, because an IT geek would have immediately installed the new definitions. I could not do this, however, because B, and B alone, knows the password needed to install the new definitions. How stupid is it that I don’t know the administrative password for the computer I have been using for more than a year? What if B were to get abducted by aliens? I’d be up Shit Creek, since my computer (and all the important files it contains) keeps me in toast and marmalade.

Anyway, after I pulled out all B’s toenails and forced him to tell me my password, I attempted to install the new definitions. The update didn’t download properly for some reason, but I’m fairly confident that I can try again and it will work.

I’m sure that people who use PCs have to deal with stuff like this every day. We Mac users—especially me--live in blissful ignorance of how our computers work. They just do. That’s the great thing about Macs, but it also means that on the rare occasion something does go haywire, it tends to be rather petrifying. I must say, however, that I feel like I’ve made great strides in computer geekiness today.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Photo Tour of the Eagle Creek Trail

One of the main reasons I moved to Oregon was so I could go hiking at the drop of a hat. When the project I was expecting on Monday got delayed, I headed out to Eagle Creek, one of the prettiest hikes in the Columbia River Gorge and only a 45-minute drive from my house. It’s a 12-mile trek through classic Pacific Northwest forest wilderness that meanders past at least six spectacular waterfalls. I try to hike it every spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom.

I’m tempted to expound long-windedly about each of the photos here, but I think they speak for themselves. Lots of moss; lots of trees; lots of mist (it rained for most of the hike); and lots and lots of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal water. I will note that the last photo is of the enormously tall Tunnel Falls. What’s cool is that the trail turns into a tunnel and passes right behind the falls. You get a bit wet doing so, but the power and roar of all that falling water is quite thrilling. The blue dot next to the falls is me, getting ready to go in one end and out the other. (Click on photos if you want to enlarge them.)

Mossy Hummock and Mist

Loowit Falls with Larkspur


Slot Canyon

Tunnel Falls and Me

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Parading Around in Other People’s Underwear

Friday night a couple of friends and I went to a Naked Lady party.* A Naked Lady party might sound like some kind of girls-only version of strip poker, but it isn't. It's a free-for-all clothing exchange.

Our hostess had everyone pile their cast-off clothing under a blanket on her large dining room table. One woman walked in with a lawn and leaf bag that was so full and unwieldy that the first thing she did upon entering was trip over it and fall on her face. After she stopped laughing, she went back out to her car and brought in another bag just as huge. By the time everyone had arrived and added their contributions, the table looked like it was supporting a very obese, misshapen corpse.

We spent some time chatting and filling up on snacks and red wine. Then our hostess gave the go-ahead, and everyone attacked the pile with gusto, snagging choice items and occasionally holding up other items for ridicule, such as the burgundy silk baby-doll dress that had been hanging in my closet since 1992.** The pawing, churning, flinging, flailing, and snatching went on for a good 40 minutes before exhaustion set in. I came away with a pretty good haul: several summer tops, two wool sweaters, a skirt, a pair of trousers, and a pair of stowaway socks that snuck into my bag when I wasn't looking. Just so you know: I won’t be wearing those used socks (eeeww). I do have my standards.

After we’d had a chance to catch our breath and gloat over our loot, the hostess announced that she was looking for some volunteers to participate in a sort of pageant. Volunteers would be charged with concocting the most unflattering outfit for her body type, selecting items of clothing from the rejects left on the table. I was the first to volunteer. I may not know very much about current fashions, but I do know a thing or two about how to look bad in clothes. Rule Number One, which I learned from Jennifer Saunders of Absolutely Fabulous, is: “Go small.” Wearing clothes that are too small creates unsightly bulges where none previously existed and highlights and magnifies all actual flaws.

It didn’t take me long to select my outfit: a strapless, black-lace longline bra (size: 34D) and a pair of black long johns (size: petite) with the legend “Hot Chillies” emblazoned on the elastic waistband in big red letters. (Classless!) I wear a size 36B bra, so the longline bra had the virtue of being both too big and too small. No amount of squooshing and fiddling around with the underwires could get the lacy cup part of the bra to look anything other than crumply and concavely indented. I have to admit I didn’t try very hard to make mountains out of molehills (as it were), since--after all--I was trying to look as unfortunate as possible. The longline part of the bra fit so snuggly that it forced a small billow of fat into existence at the bottom of the bra and the top of the long johns--another very snug fit, which accentuated VPL*** and gave me a bit of a paunch. Nice!

The rest of the contestants were doing rather predictable variations on the frump theme. I was the only one who went for the trampy lumberjack look. I hope this doesn’t sound like boasting, but as soon as all the frumps saw my get-up, they bowed to my superior hideousness. They all suggested that I be the last to parade down the staircase--as the sort of grand finale of ghastly fashion choices. I did get quite a thunderous round of applause and was awarded the pink "Wish You Were Here” underpants as my prize.

OK. So it’s not like I would ever go out in public dressed like that, but I think it’s hilarious when women dress unflatteringly on purpose. Women don’t often do that--the “on purpose” part anyway. I’m not sure why I think it's so funny or why I was so eager to make myself look as awful as possible, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. And hats off to the frumps. They all won prizes, too.

About those pink underpants. They are brand-new, by the way, but you won't see me wearing them. I’m still trying to fathom the popularity of thong underwear, so until I can figure that one out, I’m not going to devote too much thought as to why mock men’s briefs are now being marketed to women. Someone at the party informed me that the pink underpants are “Sarah Jessica Parker underwear.” Knowing this does not endear them to me. Even though I’ve never watched a single episode of “Sex and the City,” I’ve developed an intense dislike for the show, and I think it’s mainly to do with SJP.

Anyway, the obvious thing to do with the pink underpants is to see how much comedic mileage I can get out of them. I hid them in B’s underwear drawer to see if he would notice them in there among all the other more manly colors. He spotted them right away and strolled into the kitchen wearing them on his head. I pointed out to him that the underpants had a functional fly/gusset/flap (whatever you call that thing) and that perhaps he should keep them in his drawer as an emergency back-up in case all his other underwear burned up in the dryer or something. He then informed me that the underwear was not, in fact, at all functional from the male point of view and would require the bending of one’s willy at a right angle to get it through the fly/gusset/flap thing to pee (or whatever). I guess that would be a drawback.

* Click here to read about a Naked Lady party where I scored some really great clothes.
**1992 (or thereabouts) was when my sister (the original owner) decided the dress had long been out of style and gave it to me. Fashion ignoramus that I am, I wore it a few times up until probably about 1995, when I allowed it to go dormant.
***Visible Panty Line.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Few Words and a Whole Bunch of Pictures

Pink Underpants!
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I am planning on writing a blog entry about how some exceptionally juvenile and exhibitionist behavior on my part resulted in my winning these Bazooka-pink underpants,* but I'm a bit pressed for time today, so look for that entry tomorrow.

Of course, I just spent about 45 minutes widgeting around in Photoshop, during which time I could have written the underpants entry. Oh well. Anyway, I am at the moment very jazzed about the garden and have been flitting from plant to plant, taking photos (snap, snap, grin, grin, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more!). I'm very pleased that quite a number of plants that didn't bloom last year are blooming this year (or definitely planning on it anyway). For example, some biennial Canterbury Bells that (as expected) did zippo in the bloom department last year are looking very hardy and promising, as are the foxgloves and some columbines. Growth, in general, is a lot more vigorous. Chalk it up to a very rainy April, more lavish use of compost, the fact that the plants are more mature and have better developed root systems, or all of the above. The other thing I'm feeling very smug about is that I've tricked quite a number of full-sun plants into blooming in what are really partial shade conditions. On to the photos:

Native columbine with a Japanese maple in the background.

Purple columbine. My purple columbines produced nothing but foliage last year. Looks like this guy is trying to make it up to me for last year's lackluster performance.

African Daisies 'Cream Symphony.' I planted these last year, under the impression that they were annuals. They stuck it out through the winter and now look like this. These are some of the full-sun plants I've persuaded into accepting partial shade.

'Velvet Fragrance' rose. Smells just like velvet.

Geum 'Starker's Magnificum.' Yet another plant that is supposed to need full sun. I think they're doing just fine without it.

A closeup of one of the Geums.

Orange wallflowers. There is, perhaps, an overabundance of orange in the garden. I don't quite know how that happened. It's hard to control these things.

And now an admission. I have become poppy-obsessed and broke my no-more-poppies rule. I bought four dwarf Iceland poppies on Friday. The fact that the name of the cultivar is 'Gnome' forced my hand. How could I not buy them? This was perhaps not the smartest thing to do. Since they are "mixed colors," I don't know what I will end up with, but there is a very good chance they will be orange and rendered invisible by the Orange Sea (the geums and the wallflowers). Doh! I do sometimes temporarily take leave of my senses when I'm at a nursery. Also, I've found a way to add Shirley (AKA Flanders Field) poppies to my garden. I was reading up on them and apparently they are easy to grow from seed. Don't you think they would look splendid poking up among my somewhat scrawny blueberry bushes? Hopefully they'd obliterate the ugly vents and drainpipes as well.

*In case you can't make it out, the tag line on the underpants reads: "Wish You Were Here." But more on that later.