Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dutchess County, New York in Early Spring

In late March in this part of New York, the landscape is painted entirely in shades of tan and gray and brown.  The roads still crackle with sand and fallen sticks.  Some lawns have a hint of green, and the limbs of some shrubs are beginning to bud out.  Piles of stale snow, left in out-of-the-way corners here and there, remind the visitor that it is not really warm yet, and it might just storm one more time. 

My oldest son and I took a walk in woods before he had to rush off for class. We saw a pair of old yellow labs out there, enjoying a not-too-cold day outdoors. One dog was still very outgoing, and walked with us for a few yards before his distracted owner interrupted her phone conversation to call her dog back to her.  The other dog was past the point of saying hello to strangers, and was trotting along stiffly and pleasantly, going about his doggy business with both the focus and the fog that is an elderly dog.  Old dogs sometimes seem propelled by a drive to get somewhere very important, and all the while have a completely blank and lost expression.  Being walked has become a reflex. Knowing the destination has become superfluous.

Just over two years ago, on March 7, 2009, our old dog Wheatie had his last day. He was 14. He had been having a hard time getting up and lying down and going up stairs and coming down stairs. He was no longer housebroken. I think a lot of other people would have put him down a long time before that day, but he still enjoyed a lot of things in his life, like walks, treats, and being the boss of Captain. March 6, he had not eaten his breakfast and he fell violently down the stairs and I suddenly knew it was time. Otto and I took him to the vet the next afternoon. Even the vet cried; she had known him his whole life.

He came to us as a puppy, the last to go from his litter, because he was the runt. Wheatie had one eye that maybe did not quite line up when he looked at you. One eye seemed to focus on the side of your head, or maybe something behind you. I did not ever believe he would have saved me heroically from an attacking bear or purse-snatcher, but he was sweet.  When you filled the bathtub with warm water for the kids to take a bath, he would always get it in as if it were for him.  Happy, easy, and not particularly bright or energetic, Wheatie was a very good family dog.

Having pets connects us to the simplest pleasures: a walk, dinner, a drink, a warm spot to nap in, being petted. Losing them reminds us that none of us get to be alive for very long. Each of us, in fact, is marching along, superfluous to the destination.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


There is fresh dog-doo in my front yard.  It is close enough to the sidewalk that it might have been deposited there by a dog on a leash.  Given what I have seen of the white dogs that live two houses down and across the street, I will assume this poo was not deposited by a supervised dog.  This brings me to the subject of the sign across the street.

The sign itself is smaller than a sheet of notebook paper. It is mounted on a stick so that it rises just a few inches above the grass. It is wordless. Wordless signs are excellent for very small children and international travellers, but are no more meaningful for dogs than signs with words. Only the most vivid imagination would lead a person to think a sign could discourage a dog from pooping on that particular grassy spot. Furthermore, the presence of something unusual on this patch of lawn might even increase the odds that a dog linger there and add a few new drops of pee before moving on.

Assuming this is a rational neighbor, we can only guess that he believes the person walking the dog would see the sign and intervene before the dog defecates in that spot. For some dogs, a simple tug might communicate the message “this is not where you should poop.” For other dogs, a simple tug, a furious yank, a loud scream and full body tackle would not interrupt the imminent arrival of dog doo. Sled dogs can actually relieve themselves at a dead run. 

Another set of signs on another street adorn the bushes of the parking strip. On one end is a water-damaged laminated card attached by a wire twist-tie encouraging dog owners to have their dogs pee elsewhere, with, “PLEASE: NO PEE IT KILLS US! THANKS!” At the other end of the bushes is a matching sign, and behind it hangs the weather-faded head of a Dora the Explorer piñata.  Dora’s face has another warning attached: “PLEASE NO PEE! IT KILLS PLANTS.”  

I have met the owner of this home. She claims that she has a dog, although I haven’t seen it. She clearly does not understand that a male dog will urinate on almost everything outdoors that is lower than the height of his pelvis, and that once any dog has dropped even a few drops of urine in that spot, every other dog will similarly leave his calling card there as well. Adding signs may actually only serve to slow down the human holding the leash, encouraging a larger than normal deposit.

In both cases, these homeowners live on desirable streets of beautiful classic older homes. In both cases the homeowners are frustrated by what dogs can do to their plants. In the case of the woman with the piñata head hanging in front of her house, I think she has more problems than an ailing boxwood hedge. In the case of the homeowner across the street from me, I think he can take down his sign and go have a word with the his next-door neighbor.  This neighbor owns a small white dog that is seen regularly out on the block, no leash or human in sight. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Parking Meters and the Window You Shouldn’t Open

The city of Seattle installed its first parking meters downtown in 1942. By the end of 2005, the city was about half-way finished switching from normal, old-fashioned stand-alone meters to high-tech kiosks.  I was quite surprised to see the same kiosks near Venice in Italy when I was there a few years ago.
The new kiosk takes coins or credit cards, which is very convenient when the kiosk actually works. Some seem to suffer from vandalism. Others seem like they don’t get enough sunlight on their solar panels to function properly.  You tell the machine how many minutes you want by hitting the “Add More Time” button or the “Max Time” button, but the machine feels a bit like it’s just not going to work every single time you use one.  Once, the “Add More Time” button was so laggy that I added way too much time and had to cancel and start over.   When a unit is really not working correctly, you get a strange error message like, “Card Unreadable,” or “Bank Unavailable.”  Every step of the process seems to take at least twice as long as it should. Worst of all, I’ve paid and had no sticker come out.  The point of the transaction is to get a sticker, which is printed with the time the parking expires.
Sometimes, when people leave before using up all the minutes they have paid for, they will stick their ticket back onto the kiosk. Once or twice I have driven to another park of the city and been able to use the rest of my time. Drivers are supposed to display the sticker on the inside of the passenger side window. 

I drive a 2002 BMW wagon, with about 130,000 miles on it. I bought it new, and I am responsible for putting essentially all of those miles on the car. Typically, my passengers have been some combination of my three children, all boys, now 20, 17 and 13, and my dogs.  This car is my favorite car ever, and even though I bitch and moan every time it needs another $1100 brake job, I love how it drives.
If you are familiar with Seattle at all, you know that it is a dependably wet and muddy place in all but the months of July, August and September. If you have experienced children, you know that they are mud magnets who climb into the car, touch every surface with their dirtiest appendage, wrestle into place and then swing their feet until arrival, depositing a maximal amount of dirt onto the door, seat-back, seat and carpet. Dogs do all of these things and also touch the windows with their open mouths.  It rains too much in Seattle to keep the outside of a car clean. And it rains too much in Seattle to keep the inside of a car clean. But life is not for keeping one’s car clean, as far as I’m concerned.
If you ever come for a ride in my car, I will not let you open the passenger window. It is not because the window will not open. It is because someone along the way opened the window with a parking sticker still attached. Down went the window with the sticker, and when it came back up, the sticker was stuck inside the door. Now when you close the window, it comes up very, very slowly, as if this time might be the very last time it is able to close. If a brake job for the BMW is $1100, how much do you think it will be to dismantle the door and get that sticker? I don’t want to find out. 

Friday, March 25, 2011


When I was growing up, in suburban St. Louis in the 1970s, my parents took us all skiing in Colorado at least one or two weeks every year.  Typically, we would drive there in our Chevy van, which was royal blue, and had the innovative sliding door on one side, and had two rows of benches and a spacious back area. Whenever possible, I would chose the way-back, because it was here that a small child could sprawl out with her toys and play uninterrupted except for potty breaks for a 900 mile, 15 hour drive. It is a straight shot on I-70, right across the length of Kansas, and many years my father drove the whole way without stopping for more than gas or food.  My father loved to drive.
One winter, we were making our annual trip to Breckenridge, just on the heels of my younger brother recovering from the chickenpox. Chickenpox used to be a pretty common contagious virus, and predictably, one could expect an exposed child to come down with a case 10 to 21 days later. The new patient is pretty contagious for a couple of days before showing any symptoms, which are the itchy red spots all over the body. The older someone gets, the worse their case of chickenpox will be, it is said. It was not unusual in the days before the vaccine for parents to take a child with a brand new case and organize a play-date with children who had not yet caught it, essentially to expose the unexposed and get it over with.
I was allowed to pack all of my new Christmas presents for this trip, which was one of the most memorable things about the trip. Other memorable things I recall are the game of strip poker the parents played (which involved taking a lap around the cabin outside in the snow), how my 16-year-old uncle contracted a whopping case of chickenpox, but missed barely a day of skiing by wearing a knitted face mask on the slopes, and how I never caught them.
When my two older children were small, the chickenpox vaccine was a pretty new thing. Their pediatrician took the time to tell me about it before it was recommended for all children. I mentioned that while I remember being around other children with chickenpox as a child, I don’t remember ever having it. The pediatrician told me to get tested to see if I was immune, because if I wasn’t, I was the perfect person for the vaccine.
As it turned out, I had no immunity to chickenpox, and was given a full course of the vaccine, which is two shots about 4 weeks apart. Months later, one of my boys contracted a case when I was just a few months pregnant. Since I had older children, I did not spend tons of time pouring over the requisite “How-To-Be-Pregnant” books that time around, but I had retained enough from my first pregnancy to remember that chickenpox was one of a long list of things you were not supposed to catch when you were pregnant. Later, I greeted the pediatrician for the hero that she was. She shrugged.
A willingness to sit and have a conversation with me about family history, or sports, or calculus is, to me, a prerequisite for being a good doctor.  Recently, my family practice doctor retired. He wrote prescriptions for things like “TLC,” and took the time to talk about stuff in general, and not just health. He always had a joke for me, and once told me the one about the sad mushroom who walked into a bar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


The very first cafe latte I ever had was in Bolinas, California in 1992. It was prepared for me by my friend Ann, in her kitchen, using her espresso machine.  The first time I was offered a latte in a paper cup with the abomination of a plastic top on it would have been sometime late in 1993, when we moved to Seattle.  The persistence of this ill-fitting plastic horror continues to impress me, for I find that not only does it ruin the smell, flavor and texture of hot drinks, it works poorly as a lid.
This morning I found myself with about fifteen minutes to kill before the pet food store opened, and I was in an unfamiliar neck of the woods. Outside of airports or long road trips, I do not frequent Starbucks, disliking their ambience, pastries, sandwiches, in-a-hurry sales staff, and burnt-tasting coffee, to say nothing of the other customers.   Today, I found there was a Peet’s Coffee, which I recall from my mandatory coffee history classes in business school was founded by the original Starbucks guys as a less commercial and more authentic alternative.
I am sorry to report that the pastries were, to a muffin, exactly what one might find in the Starbucks of the B Terminal of Sea-Tac Airport. I settled for an almond poppy-seed muffin, which does not usually disappoint. My drink, a twelve ounce non-fat latte, which I ordered “for here,” was served in a shapely mug, with no saucer.  The foam was floating on top like a huge marshmallow, having been unceremoniously dumped there in a blob.  
What kind of a coffee snob have I become?  Because I frequent small independent coffee shops in Seattle, like Kaladi on East Pike, I have grown to expect the rosetta on top. It’s pretty. It takes practice to make. It places the milk foam on the surface of the latte in a uniform layer that lasts but does not slide onto your face. I like it.
There were almost as many cantankerous pre-schoolers in the coffee shop as there were adults, which did not improve its ambience. One was unable to sit but silently paced back and forth before his mother’s table like a bear in the zoo. A clutch of loud ones were given sixteen ounce drinks with big green straws jammed in the ill-fitting plastic horrors known as lids; this is a huge drink for anyone. One drink fell, but did not spill. Another was thrown, producing a pond of lukewarm beige sugar-milk, which the adults scurried to clean up with handfuls of flimsy napkins. That, and the faint drift of crumbs already on my dingy table made me upend my latte onto my face, and turn and rise to stagger across the parking lot into an unfamiliar pet food store.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kartchner Caverns, by Design

While in Tucson, we visited the Kartchner Caverns. This Arizona State Park is about an hour from Tucson, and requires a reservation in advance for either of two tours. Everything about Kartchner Caverns is interesting to me. The caves were discovered by a couple of University of Arizona undergraduates out looking for an undiscovered cave.   Because caves can and have been ruined by people poking their noses into them, the discoverers kept their find a secret for many years. Eventually, they found that the caves are on what was then privately-owned land. They contacted the owner, who was receptive and excited to reward them for their discovery. Working with the Nature Conservancy they managed to gain the support of Governor Bruce Babbitt and the folks at the state parks department. But it took an act of the Arizona state legislature to make it possible for the financing of the cave’s visitor center and access. Cracking open the earth to reveal the cave would have killed it, dramatically changing the humidity and temperature of the fragile underground environment.
Today, if you wish to visit this natural wonder, you need to call or make reservations online.  While we were able to reserve a spot only a day in advance, tours often sell out. Waiting for our tour to start, we struck up a conversation with a pair of retired women in our group, one of whom was in a wheelchair. We discussed how we heard about the tour, and how we got our tickets. “Did you buy yours online?” they asked.
I said that we had. “Oh,” one said. “We would have had to go to the library to do that, and we always get so caught up checking our email.”
During our trip to Tucson, my son and I had been taking turns using the 3G-enabled iPad and the Panasonic Toughbook. He found typing on the iPad to be “really annoying,” though I didn’t. We used up a lot of data using the iPad as a navigator, and actually had to buy another 2 GB, but we did a better job of conserving our resources on the second purchase. Apple and AT&T make it very easy to buy more data, having provided a pay-as-you-go model with two tiers of prices. My conclusion from the trip was that I would have been fine with the iPad alone. Of course, I have been a big fan of this form-factor since the Ultra-Mobile PC days, and only recently got rid of my first generation Samsung Q1.  To me, the iPad is an over-grown smartphone, but so much friendlier to middle-aged fingers and middle-aged eyes.  If I had had the iPad with me, I might have given the ladies on the cave tour a demo, just to see what they think. I believe they are not the only people out there who are computer-literate, but lack a PC and an internet connection. That iPad comes with a seamlessly simple user interface, and human face-to-face help at the Genius Bar.
When they were developing the Kartchner Caverns, the head of the Arizona State Parks insisted that the tours be wheel-chair accessible. This stipulation caused a delay of at least a year and a half, and certainly added to the cost of development.  It was obvious to me every step of the tour that the ramps were well-laid out, and certainly better than steps would have been.  Thoughtful design always wins in my book.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tiger, Quartz, Robin, Goose and Magpie

A good friend once had the misfortune to overhear a mutual acquaintance refer to me as “The Tiger.” It could have been worse, like “The Badger.” I hear badgers are fierce when cornered, willing to fight off much bigger predators, but short-legged and heavy-set. Or “She-Bear.” That too would have been pretty bad. At least a tiger has stripes, and is strong and powerful, and eats people. My statistics professor in business school once explained to the class why men have longer limbs than women by saying, “Short men eaten by TIGER!” It’s in my notes; I wrote it down.
I felt bad for my friend who overheard it, because she was really puzzled if she should tell me. I decided that a real tiger does not care what you call it. I bought three different tiger t-shirts, so if asked I could explain that someone gave me a nickname.    No one really ever asked, and I like my tiger shirts.
“Quartz” is something my mother’s father called my older brother--not all the time, but sometimes. I like the sound of "Quartz." We called him “Grandpa,” but referred to him as “Grandpa Nuss” to distinguish him from the other “Grandpa.” “Grandpa Nuss” mostly called me “Maggles” and sometimes “Magpie” and even “My Mugwump,” a favorite.  My older brother always called me “Margaret,” and was for many years the only person who called me “Margaret,” even though it is my given name. He relented when he heard my kids call me “Maggie.” Every once in a while someone will ask me why my children all call me “Maggie” and not “Mom,” “Mother,” or something. This is a hard question for me to answer. The truth, which might be boring, is that my oldest child was very smart and very talkative at an early age and simply called me what he heard others call me. From there, the younger ones do as their brother does. Some people seem to see it as a sign of disrespect, or rebellion, or even anarchy.  If it bothered me, I would have needed to fix it about 19 years ago. If my children calling me by my first name is a sign of the coming end of civilization, I guess I’m sorry about bringing the end of civilization. I didn’t mean to.
I called my mother “Mom.” I still think of her as “Mom.” My mother called her mother “Mother,” and her father “Daddy,” all the way to the end of her life. As a unit, her parents were “Mother and Daddy.” (Yes, I know.) She called her grandparents “Mamo” and “Pam.” I did not realize that “Mamo” and “Pam” were not their real names until I was an adult.
My father’s father called him “Robin,” and I think it suited him. He was busy, and funny. Robins sometimes eat so many honeysuckle berries they become intoxicated. They also eat worms. Dad appreciated a low-fat source of protein, and moderately-priced white wine.
My youngest son is called “Gus,” short for Gustav, which I sometimes still pronounce “Goose.” The neighbors two doors down have a small white dog named Gustavo, and when they call him they say, “Goose,” or even “Goose-Goose.”  The neighbors directly across the street from them also have a small white dog, named Angus. They call him “Gus,” and sometimes “Gus-Gus.” I have opinions about naming a pet with a person’s name, but I will save them for another day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Cat in the Ceiling

The summer that I was getting married, I spent a few weeks at my parents’ house in St. Louis, having my dress fittings, tasting cakes and lying in the sun.  I brought my two cats with me, and they stayed with my parents while we were on our honeymoon.
The house I grew up in was built in 1929. It is brick, with a slate roof, plaster walls, and oak floors. The bathrooms had all the original tile and enameled cast-iron fixtures. The basement had its original asbestos covered heat pipes serving the radiators. Summer in St. Louis means air-conditioning, all day, every day, and our old house had yet to get central air. Growing up, we slept with the windows wide and the attic fan on, wiping down our arms and legs with a wet washcloth to cool off enough to go to sleep. Later, we got window-unit ACs, and I cranked mine to the coldest setting I could get, even if it meant having to sleep in a sweatshirt. Once you adjusted to the noise of it, the AC created a zone of privacy; you kept your door closed and the shades drawn.
I had both of my cats with me, in my room, so they did not disturb Sugar, the cat of the house. It seemed they could not get into any trouble this way. One night, the black and white tuxedo cat found her way into the plumbing access panel in the back of my closet. This panel was perhaps intended to be fastened to the wall, but had been simply propped there for all the years that it was my room. Once inside the wall, the cat ventured further in, ending up about ten or twelve feet away in the floor of my room. In the morning I could hear her calling.  You could also hear her calling from inside the living room ceiling.
I do not actually remember being hysterical about the cat being trapped in the wall. My brother says I was, and I believe him.  My point of conflict centered around the fact that my mother would not commit to ripping up the floorboards.  I threatened to call off the wedding. While I do not recall saying this, I trust my brother’s memory, and agree that it sounds like something I would have said when I was 23.
Mom and her handyman were sure the cat would find its way out. I was sure it would die there, create a stink, and the floor would need to be ripped up anyway. After about 30 hours, the cat appeared, close to dawn, unrecognizably black from head to toe. I gave her a bath, restoring her to white and black, whereupon she was attacked by the other cat; he no longer recognized her smell. My solution was to also bathe the attacking cat, to level the score anyway.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


There is a children’s book called “Six-Dinner Sid” about a black cat that lives in a neighborhood where he convinces every household that he needs to be fed. Soon, there are consequences for Sid, who gets very fat and then gets sick, but thanks to some advocacy and improved communication, all is well in the end.
I am a big fan of children’s books, from picture books to first novels. Up until I became an actual adult I really thought writing children’s books was what I was meant to do with my life. Well, maybe that or be a veterinarian. Regular visitors to this blog will be familiar with “Things I find in my Basement,” and most of that is what is left from ten or so years of unfinished efforts to write stories for children. I am certain that some first drafts should never see the light of day, but a car that travels through space and takes you to a planet run by apples might be something worth revisiting.
I mention Six-Dinner Sid because our Schwartz, who might have modeled for Sid, loves routine as much as any house cat, and got into the routine of asking for kibble from every adult who frequented our house. When the boys were younger, we always employed at least one young woman to help with carpool, dishes and laundry, dog-walking, and homework supervising. Over the years we had excellent luck finding good babysitters, and one thing they all have had in common is a good relationship with our pets.  Schwartz makes the most of any situation, and managed to ask for breakfast from my husband, and then from me, and then from the babysitter, and so on. Each of us was filling his bowl to the top at least once a day. After a number of months of this, we found he weighed 17 pounds.
But Schwartz is a large cat, so we didn’t think much of it, until one day when Schwartz had to go for a long car ride. Like many house cats, Schwartz finds riding in the car traumatic. He howls and screams, and panics violently every few minutes. Even though the vet’s office is only about eight blocks away, he usually poops in the carrier on the way there. Longer trips mean he poops, pees, has diarrhea, and barfs. So after a long car ride, Schwartz needed a bath.
I have had cats since I was 5 or 6. I know how to cut their nails without losing blood, I know how to dose a cat with a pill, and I know how to give a cat a bath. That having been said, I also know that cats really don’t need baths very often, and I would only give a cat a bath that really, really needed one. After a long car ride, Schwartz needs a bath.
Isn’t a wet cat a pitiful thing? Part of a cat’s charm is certainly its fluffiness. Take that away, and add a pissed-off attitude, and you have a wet cat. With its fur clinging to its form, a cat is sleek and angular. I lifted wet Schwartz out of the water to dry him and noticed that his tail still looked fat. I put him back in the water, submerged his tail, and took him out again (mind you, we’re not talking about dunking a doll in water--we’re talking 17 pounds of furious predator). The tail was still fat. I felt it. It was wet.
It was then that the truth really sank in: Schwartz was so fat, his tail was fat. He was so fat his tail looked dry when he was wet. His next bag of kibble was the low-fat, indoor adult type. I also changed the scoop we use to a 1/3 cup measuring cup. Now, Schwartz can have four scoops of food a day, and he can have them one at a time. He maintains 14 to 15 pounds on this regimen, and he still thinks he is getting what he asks for.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The 2011 Ford Fusion

Our rental car was a brand new 2011 Ford Fusion. We waited in line for what seemed like too long, especially since we were “Avis Preferred.”  The fellow ahead of us in line was brokering a deal for an upgrade, and made a grand show of offering the reservationist Whopper coupons.  When I was asked if a Ford Fusion would suit our needs, I reflexively answered, “What else do you have?”
Defensively, Customer-Service-Agent Whopper-Eater said, “But it’s brand new. It’s a nice car.”
We drove the Fusion about 60 miles each day, filling it up twice in ten days. It cornered fine, accelerated adequately for both Tucson surface streets (which have speed limits from 35 to 50 mph) and the I-10 freeway, which has a speed limit of 75 mph outside the city limits. It had a classy leather interior, the air-conditioner blasted us with cold air when necessary, and the seat heaters were prompt. My daily driver is a nine-year old BMW wagon, which I love, but the Ford was reasonably pleasant. It really was brand new, having less than ten miles on the odometer.
It had one significant flaw.
The trunk is opened by depressing a button on the key fob, or a button on the dash. The trunk unlocks, and opens a crack. Nowhere on the trunk lid is there a handle for opening or closing it. There is a strap on the inside of the lid for bringing it down, but if you use it to try to close the lid it will slam it on your arm.  When we took possession of it, we noticed the license plate was bent. We realized after a couple of days of regular use, someone had bent the license plate using it to open the trunk. Someone had bent the license plate within the first ten miles of the car’s life.
Do we think Ford knows? 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tucson, Arizona

My very first blog entry mentions a monstrous suitcase I bought to take to Italy. This monster, along with the even larger red suitcase I bought just before bags were assessed extra fees when they were overweight, were filled with an extraordinary amount of clothing and flown with my youngest son and me to Tucson, Arizona.  
As before, the pets were worried when they saw the suitcases. I don’t know why they worry so much; my husband spoils them all with table scraps whenever he feeds them.
Tucson has been in the news a lot lately. On January 8, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot, and bunch of local people killed during a meet-and-greet in a shopping mall here.  The shooter is in jail, Giffords is in rehab, and President Obama made a moving speech.  There is a lot to talk about: gun-control, how we care for the mentally ill, civil discourse in politics, medical insurance woes of some victims. And then there is Tucson.  Pottery shards found in the area indicate that people have been living here for as long as perhaps twelvethousand years.  Civilizations have come and gone. Before Arizona was a state it was a territory. Before that, it was part of Mexico. Apaches attacked the Spanish Jesuit missions here. Before the Jesuits, the Pimas were settled here, and before the Pimas it was the Hohokam people. My youngest son looks around, seeing the sand and the cacti and the scrubby plants, and asks “Why would anyone want to live here?”

Friday, March 4, 2011

Awkward is the New Cool

Not long ago, a friend expressed a need for a voodoo doll.

As of this writing I am almost done with it. Mr. VooDoo is certainly the ugliest sewing project I have ever completed. It is at least 50% larger than I originally intended, owing to the extreme awkwardness of sewing something very small. The limbs are asymmetrical; the arm and the leg on the left side are both noticeably thinner and also oddly twisted. The face is lumpy and bunchy. The neck has visible, uneven grey stitches around it. The mouth is pale and thin. The hands look like fish fins.

When I pull it out of my sewing bag to work on it, people give me funny looks. I don’t think anything this deliberately dorky-looking should be sneered at, but then, I guess I could avoid the hipsters if I stayed out of the coffee shops. Besides, awkward is the new cool.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thinking about the Weather

I walked the dogs yesterday, and was caught in a hail storm.
One dog found it distressing and wanted to drag us all straight home. The other dog seemed to think it was pretty exciting.
I don't thing Seattle has suffered from as many severe winter storms this year as other parts of the U.S., although I was in Arizona last week and missed that one.  Getting caught in a storm does make me wonder what weather is going to look like five or ten or twenty years from now as the catastrophic effects of greenhouse gas emissions become a permanent part of our seasons. Tornadoes? Tsunamis? Torrential rain storms? Mud slides? Wild fires? Winds that tear our roofs off?
Will our homeowner's insurance need special riders for coverage of specific weather events, or will we have to obtain separate insurance as we do for earthquakes?
After seventeen years in the Pacific Northwest, I have grown accustomed to getting wet and muddy on a regular basis. I have adequate rain gear for most conditions, but I'm wondering if I will start to need to carry a shovel.