Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's true

The sun rose to the left of the pine tree behind which it rose yesterday!

Nice bit of montage for solar-holiday fans here

Next year I shall make the low-carb, high-protein biscotti for Dick with more bean flour. The gluten flour made one of the toughest giant cookies I have ever encountered; it was neat to feel the difference cutting those biscotti from cutting the ones I made for me (gluten-free). And think it will be bulletproof.

The pudding recipe from NPR makes more than they say it does. More than I would need for FOUR Christmases. There is no mixing bowl in the world (outside of restaurant supply) big enough for this recipe.I managed to break a nail down to the quick; although it would have made a change from coins, rings, beans, horseshoes, etc, but I did not include it. I used butter instead of suet, and real fruit instead of candied peel, and gluten-free breadcrumbs and flour. And more spice. They are steaming on the stove; the recipe suggests 9 hours. I am suggesting it will be lucky to get a few 2 hour sessions.

I am forcing one of them on Doug and his Florida-based New York Jewish girlfriend; now they have relaxed the airline safety precautions, he should be able to take it on the plane (New Year's at Disney). I'll let you know if it's edible. I'm frightened.

My thumb is no worse. I am almost done with one socks and the other is over half, so my father's feet will not be cold all winter.

Monday, December 19, 2005

IT, only not much

The Christmas knit-frenzy is impeded this year by tendonitis in my left thumb. Maybe a transplant? Actually, knitting only hurts a little, as opposed, apparently, to spinning (damn) and reading a paperback with one hand free (double damn). And washing dishes. Washing dishes is fatal.

So my father has been warned he may one get one and a half socks.

It snowed two Fridays in a row. Doug walked around looking out all the windows in the house and found a turkey sitting about 30 feet up, eating bittersweeet, in a tree.

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It was snowing rather hard. A cardinal came and sat nearby, hoping to make a panorama worthy of Art Wolfe, but it was a pathetic effort.

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pretty much the way it looked

The icicles outside my bathroom window, however, are giving it their All.Image hosted by Sabre-toothed ice tiger teeth

Work is not a bad place. The Council of Churches in NH is one of the more liberal in the US, so I am happy there. Except that my computer needs more memory and an attitude adjustment, of which I suppose the same might be said of me.

Fruitcakes of the world, unite!

I actually like fruitcake. They are an excuse to eat sweetened slightly roasted nuts, and dried fruit infused with bourbon. Mine do not last for months unless they are refrigerated, although they will survive first-class mail, at least they seem to -- my recipients are still alive. Since I am my father and daughter are gluten intolerant (I get offended if you don't tell me to have a WHEAT-FREE holiday... well actually, not, but the "tolerance/intolerance" thing seems like it could be fun.) I make a wheat-free cake, which is nut enchanced. I like it. I wish it would be a little more consistent, since I am _virtually_ certain I performed the recipe exactly the same way last night as I did last week and the batter was runnier.

(Click here for a fine-looking nut-free version.)

To make 2 dozen cupcakes and 4 of those little 3"x6" loaflets:

Do not stint in greasing your pans. You might like to put a sort of rectangular bedsheet in the loaf pans, so you can run a knife along the ends and lift the cakes out by the edges of tinfoil, which of course overlaps the pan edges so there's enough to grab. Cupcake papers are a great invention.
Heat oven to 300 degrees

2 pounds mixed chopped dried fruit: Raisins, currants, dates (yum), dried cherries, apricots, cranberries, figs, APRICOTS (I find I need a little break in the sweetness of it all), crystalized ginger... I hate candied peel, but you may like it.

1 can of concentrated apple juice, plus two or three cans of water (after yesterday, I'd go with 2 and have the third if you need it)

(some bourbon or vodka, to loosen up the spices)

1 or more T cinnamon, and ginger if you haven't used the crystalized form;
1 or more t each cloves, cardamom,some nutmeg, maybe some of that dried grated orange peel

No garlic. Probably onion would be okay.

1/4 c oil, probably not anything strongly flavored.

Put all this in a big bowl and microwave it till the raisins are plump. Or leave to sit overnight.

Meanwhile, whir your Cuisinart through a pound or so of almonds; you want 4 cups of meal, not as fine as cormeal, something like coarse builder's sand.

1 cup of four -- I use a gluten-free mix, and I have to say you can get by with just another cup of almond meal.

1 T baking powder

Salt, perhaps.

Stir up. Let the fruit cool enough that you can add

2 eggs, or maybe three.

Stir everything together. The batter should be goopy, more than say for scones, less than for regular cake. Yet it should flow. And add at least a cup of chopped walnuts or pecans. Spoon into baking containers and top with glacé cherries or more nuts.

Bake about 20 minutes for the cupcakes, until tops are browner, edges pull away from the sides of the loaf pans (another 10 minutes) and things are not too gooey in the middle. Let cool on racks. It's fun to put about a half t of bourbon, or brandy, or whathaveyou (Amaretto or Grand Marnier are good, too) on the cupcakes while they're still in the pan, as it hisses and smells nice.

[Doug and I had a bourbon-tasting last week. Wild Turkey is as rough as Hunter Thompson could have wished, and not a waste on fruitcake (speaking of which, Truman Capote's Christmas Memory is charming, and recommended reading for any fruitcake baker); I like Knob Creek for sipping and Doug preferred the Woodford Reserve. It was a little drier and less orchestrated, more of a chamber music to Knob Creek's lush, but tidy, symphony.]

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sometimes it snows really hard

We got 15.25 inches of light and fluffy here. The driving to work was not good, but the drive from work, when the boss sent me home at 12:30, was the worst I have EVER been scared driving in snow. My wipers got ice all over them, leaving a nice random deposit of opaque icy patches. I could not see even well enough, really, to pull over. The back window misted over. Other people were driving carefully or I would be a smashed statistic.

Fortunately I had not passed beyond the relatively near exit, where I drove into a 2-foot drift. But no one else was headed there, so I could clean off the wipers, chip the other ice off around the windshield and catch my breath. I pulled out of the snow drift with some patience and rocking, and drove around Terra Incognita (I thought that was in Indiana...), NH, with the air conditioner _and_ the defroster _and_ the heater on full blast. I finally found a person to ask the direction for the main roads. Whereupon it stopped snowing completely and I drove home. Paul the contractor,who plows my driveway, was having trouble with his brakes, so I drove up the driveway in his tire tracks (only maybe 10" deep. I love my Subaru). He finished fixing the brakes and the sun came out and I took the picture.

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It was so lovely, with the sun out.

I have spent today knitting and putting off working on fruitcakes. And Christmas cards. I know I bought some....

Laura, chastened and tired and home in one piece

Sometimes it snows really hard

We got 15.25 inches of light and fluffy here. The driving to work was not good, but the drive from work, when the boss sent me home at 12:30, was the worst I have EVER been scared driving in snow. My wipers got ice all over them, leaving a nice random deposit of opaque icy patches. I could not see even well enough, really, to pull over. The back window misted over. Other people were driving carefully or I would be a smashed statistic.

Fortunately I had not passed beyond the relatively near exit, where I drove into a 2-foot drift. But no one else was headed there, so I could clean off the wipers, chip the other ice off around the windshield and catch my breath. I pulled out of the snow drift with some patience and rocking, and drove around Terra Incognita (I thought that was in Indiana...), NH, with the air conditioner _and_ the defroster _and_ the heater on full blast. I finally found a person to ask the direction for the main roads. Whereupon it stopped snowing completely and I drove home. Paul the contractor,who plows my driveway, was having trouble with his brakes, so I drove up the driveway in his tire tracks (only maybe 10" deep. I love my Subaru). He finished fixing the brakes and the sun came out and I took the picture.

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It was so lovely, with the sun out.

I have spent today knitting and putting off working on fruitcakes. And Christmas cards. I know i bought some....

Laura, chastened and tired and home in one piece

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Uneasy times

Matt K. wrecked his car day before yesterday, on I-93. He is fine, which cannot be said of his aging Volvo.

Tanya who works across the hall from Dick lost her mother in a car wreck the same day before yesterday. Her father was badly injured but seems to be stable. Tanya and her husband have a relatively new baby (his first Christmas).

Next summer's field school will be in Colebrook, NH, on the outskirts of town. We will be camping at a state park sort of nearby. The site is mixed Archaic and Paleo; Edna found it in her past life as a contract archaeologist.

Drive carefully.

Be nice to your mothers

A fairly distant connection (colleague and friend of a colleague and friend) and her husband just adopted a baby last summer. Day before yesterday, her mother and father were in a bad car crash; her mother was killed and her father badly hurt. I find I am sad this little baby will not know his grandma, and his mom will have one less helper.

Another friend's mom is getting 'further tests' for a possible mass with extra outlying spots on her brain.

My mom and dad are fine. I checked.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Linda has a belfry OR, Home Is Where You Hang Your Batts

Yesterday, which was a cold day full of amazing limpid sunlight, Doug and I set out to see Linda Diak's new storefront/studio, in Vermont about an hour and a half from here. It was a very pretty ride, except for the drive through Alstead. This was the town that took the worst damage from the October storm. Parts of it are still pretty. Part of it has been bulldozed. There are big patches of freshly trap-rocked ditching and new tarmac. The small, pretty river runs close to the road and dips suddenly into deep, narrow gorges -- unusual for around here -- that probably added to the acceleration of the waters. Other places it flows on the surface and you can see a forty- or fifty-foot wide swath of brush that was overrun, apparently deeply, with good-sized trees either bent over or torn up altogther. And patches of fields with a new litter of bushel-basket sized cobbles. It was sobering.

Saxton's River is not far from Bellows Falls. The area has a lot of nicely preserved older buildings, including a dime store (now housing a Starbucks). Linda's storefront is on the main street near the church (and a crafts coop)and next to a good unpretentious restaurant that does a fine taco.

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and the lovely Julia Rose appeared, as did NH State Rep Claudia Chase, known to her friends also as Mirrix Looms. I hadn't seen Carolyn for years (we compared college-aged kids) and Claudia Chase was the most encouraging political item I have encountered in a long time. Enthusiasm. She was elected by a plurality of four votes a year ago, showing once again that one person's vote can matter.

And she spins.

We also got to see Tom and all three of their sons, who were affable. Now I'll be able to keep them mentally separate from Helen's two sons.

Linda was happy and perhaps a little tired. She and her husband had been setting up the place until far too late for much too long. She figured the contents of this spacious shop had been crammed into a (not yet fully unpacked) room about a third the size. Now she should actually be able to see all of her stash.

I came home with three batts and a spindle. Doug behaved very badly; he has two more spindles and an elegant rack, as well as more batts.

I am never going to get my father's socks finished. Knitting for Christmas is not for the faint of heart. And I keep stopping to spin a rich and lovely purple Diak.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

oh very well

My parents are standing behind us (very, very, very old, they assure me); Sam, 21: Laura, 49 with Asterix, 16; Daveifer, or David-now-Jenny, my ex-husband and former guy person, 52; Ellie, 19.


So we picked me up and took me to the grocery store, and as Ellie had figured out what we were going to have, it was okay.

She and my father and I can't eat wheat. She is vegetarian. My mother does not eat dairy or chicken or turkey or much egg. My son used not to eat dairy, but he got over the asthma attacks, and my ex-husband and Doug both eat everything.

So no turkey (or stuffing... I miss stuffing), but we needed some kind of festive meat. Ellie suggested that I figure that out myself as she was not cooking it. Turkey is a fine American meat, what else is? Alligator! No, not easy to find in local stores (also they say it tastes like chicken, which my mother...). My father suggested raccoon, but I opted for bison, which is quite easy to get (and if I had thought of it in advance I would have been able to get locally-raised, too).

Thanksgiving was the first day Doug has had off in about a month. He rose to the occasion by tidying the daylights out of the living room, which would almost make a person think it needed the work. I washed dishes in the kitchen while Ellie cooked black bean soup and polenta. My parents were bringing salad and mashed potatoes, and my son was bringing pumpkin pie. They and my ex were driving from Boston, leaving Early, Daveifer said, to get up here by 11.

Around noon we finished cleaning and I made a squash gratin (sliced thin with onions like Martha Stewart told Susan Stambourg) and conventional cranberry sauce, and Doug swept the steps again and dug out his car because it was snowing hard. My family called sadly from the tollbooth and said the traffic was horrible. We all changed clothes and took a few breaths. About 1:30 my son called. He and his father had jacknifed the VW in the middle of the road up here, blocking my parents, among others, and borrowing a phone from someone who had a service that works up here as his and his father's and my parents' phones do not work near my house.

We had sort of been expecting them to call from the bottom of the driveway,

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but this was more dramatic. We had about five inches; usually the town plows really well, but this was a holiday. Doug went out with his Subaru and my father got the VW out of the snowdrift and they all went four miles back toward town and parked at the gas station. We got to eat (scheduled for 12), around 3.

This was after Sam had started the fire in the fireplace; the wood stove has been running, but the fireplace is more festive. Doug had thoughtfully laid a one-match fire and I assumed he had opened the damper. He assumed no one would open the damper before they lit the fire, and Sam has never lived with a fireplace and may not know about dampers, so of course he did not check. It is much more fun to open the damper with the fire GOING, and so Sam tried it, and then since the damper is tricky and the living room was filling with smoke I tried it, and then I put out my hair (only an inch or so lost) and Doug tried it (picture increasing billows) and he ended up putting the damper gently in front of the hearth.

Dinner, fortunately, was delicious.

The traditional holiday photos are grisly, but we had a good time.
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After everyone left I finshed the last Harry Potter. I was sad because the person who dies died and I was out of books.
My giant red socks felted beautifully and fit me (women's 9 and a half), which is unfortunate because I made them for my contractor (men's 11 and a half).

It has been a pleasant couple of days and in an hour I will take Ellie back to Northampton (!).

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Like, stress, much?

The day I left for Northampton (well, that trip to Northampton), two formerly sane people on my yahoogroup blew up into a flame war and I had the second actual day at work. This meant that I met the (equally new as I) bookkeeper (she has sheep and llamas and thinks she might like to learn to knit. What....? It usually goes the other way) and the Tech Support Guy. They sat in front of my computer all four hours I was there. I took the insanity on my list much too personally, but there was some stuff going down about people being defensive of the RC church, and people being offensive about the same, and I am more than a little conflicted about being back in the theological saddle again myself (hey, I can be around it without having to inhale, right?). And not conflicted at all about wanting both of those involved to SHUT UP. I was frazzled most of the way to Smith.

Once there, I had a great time and saw a truly inspired awful hat, based on a monster in a comic book, being knitted by the kid down the hall from my daughter. I hope it turns up in Knitty one day. The next day I went to Helen's and had a wonderful time with Deanna and Susanna and Cath and Helen and Teresa! They were (no big surprise) soooo nice.... It was interesting because Deanna and Helen are old-timer Sheep Thrillers (Susanna is someone I hope I see more of; this was I believe her first gathering of fiber people and I think she had fun), and Terri is a newer friend from blogging and it was good to have people from both communities.

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I don't think Helen's cat was very happy about us being there.

There was enough food for perhaps 30 people, so I could not eat the gluten-free cookies Teresa had brought. She made me take them home. They were tasty. I worked on the Experimental Hat, which Susanna had wondered if it might be made of tin foil. But I told her not to be silly, they have worked out all the important standards for making hats to protect your brain from alien thought-transmissions, and I was by no means reinventing that wheel.

Then I went back to Smith and picked up my daughter and knitted giant shrimp (the Experimental hat is modular, an I thought they were going to be turkey feathers but actually, they look more like Jumbo Tiger Shrimp) and a giant red sock all the way to Woburn (where the boyfriend of daugher abides). I forged on from there to Dedham, where I could not find the restaurant where I was to meet my friends, and ate popcorn and sulked until they turned up, perfectly on time, and with movie tickets. This Harry Potter is not a happy story, but the movie is well-done. Considering how much sub-plot they trimmed out, it was amazingly coherent and impressive.

After the movie we went to Chili's for caffeine and I had chicken tacoes. Most places, a taco involves a corn tortilla, right? Not at Chili's. I was not happy. The filling was not bad, however. I got home at twenty to two in the morning.

The flame war had not abated. Rather than go online, I spent Sunday rereading Harry Potter and the ...., well, all of them. Yes.
I read fast.

Work on Monday was much more serene and I actually got to fill an order and read some of the materials left by my predecessor. Tuesday was similar, only I drove to Northampton carrying only the toe of a giant red sock.

As I should have expected, my poor daughter was stuck in Term Paper Hell, probably because I had taken her to visit her boyfriend on Saturday. She worked. I finished the second giant red sock that night about midnight. Suddenly...I had no project.

Granted I was in the same town as WEBS, the place was not open at midnight, nor yet when we left at 7 am ... so I drove. I was home in time to take a shower before going to work (10 to 2 are very, very luxurious work hours, and I realize it). The tranqility of the day was short-lived, as I got a particularly unfair speeding ticket (my second in my LIFE), there was STILL the SAME flame war going on and it was the day before Thanksgiving and my house was a mess and we hadn't been to the grocery store and guess who had PMS? My daughter patted my hand and made me have tea.

More tomorrow, God or other Outmoded Philosophical Concept willing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

a short trip

I am leaving this afternoon to go Northampton for the night; visit Bay Colony Helen; pick up daughter, and go toward Boston to meet friends and see the new Harry Potter Movie. In a perfect world I wiould also see my parents, but I am hoping to get home late Saturday night so I can try to repair the untidiness I have inflicted upon my allegedly tidy house, where we are theoretically having Thanksgiving. That's a whole different panic.

I will be outside my home for perhaps 30 hours. I have with me: an experimental hat which needs not that much more knitting (book to find out how to make modular half triangles); the first thirds of two FairIsle socks; two huge balls of worsted and another book to start a fancy angled scarf; a Dulaan hat; a spindle and roving. And probably at leas tone more project in case I am take n by aliens and need more knitting.

Does anyone else overpack their projects? I have some clothes, too, I htink, but who cares about that?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

not awful for November

So the second day of my new job, I think I was paid to go on a day-retreat with a bunch of generally very intelligent people (theme: Forgiveness) and very, very good lamb for lunch. Despite my having successfully avoided theological situations for several years, quite a lot of my brain snapped to attention (it used to be quite good at that). So far I am surviving.

I suppose it might well be argued that if I was trying to avoid supernatural attention I shouldn't have made a dashboard Mary (Our Lady of Good Parking) for a friend in San Francisco who just bought a small beige Honda.

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I am very happy he likes her, even if he does ask for her intercession under the name of St. Mary Boniface. Others invoke St. Anthony (lost objects), St. Jude (hopeless causes) and St. Deonotus ("to-be-named-later," a popular name for players destined to be traded in the major leagues). I figure Someone answers these calls, which can be pretty darn heartfelt (in this case, also needlefelt-ed).

It was fun to needlefelt again and I only bled a little.

Last weekend, Doug's friend took him away so I had to fill in for him at a rughooking/knitting class. I made a small bag. I do not think the design-color and the background contrast sufficiently (though it has that 'dead leaf' mojo) and the shoulder-strap hasn't felted enough, so I haven't attached it, Photoshopped in some contrast, and put that up -- but I have been doing fiberwork.
One pair of Christmas socks is done, another seriously started, and I avoided spending too much money online in Norma's yarn shop by going to mine and spending more there. Buying yarn and a pattern is the same as working on something, isn't it? I blame Norma, even if it was mostly for a Christmas present and therefore not part of any sensible person's yarn budget.

I ought to be complaining about the weather. It's the Butt-End of the Year, the Old God is dead (till New Year's, who did you think that baby was?) and it's !@#$%^& dark at 4:15pm. It did rain yesterday. Today, however, it was crisp and sunny and altogether bearable. Which is just wrong, but I am sure I will be complaining in January.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

got work!

I appear to be going to be doing 20 hrs/ week administratively
assisting the joined-at-the-hip-since-1959 NH Council of Churches /
NH Bible Society. The two non-profits have entirely different
missions and the office is in a building just outside Concord owned
by the United Church of Christ, which runs a media center in
connection with the Episcopal diocese.

My boss is a liberal Democrat, NPR-listening Catholic with a degree
from Weston, like me (a male person married to a non-denominational
Protestant woman therapist, not like me). I have no idea whether I
will like it or not but it has possibility and it is so refreshing to
meet an interviewer who is delighted that I have an MDiv.

We are going to try it for a couple of months and see how it goes.

Laura, starting Wednesday (10-2pm)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Message to Sandy about twining

Sandy, I would be happy share the cuff with you, only I can't access you through the 'comments' so I would need your address. Mine is lauraejATTtdsDAHTnet.

The twining is labor intensive, until you get used to it (then regular knitting just seems fast). They say you _cannot_ do it left-handed, as is natural for a Continental-style knitter like me, but this does not seem to be true. I woke up the day after learning the twining right-handed/English-style and my left hand had figured it out.

Anyway, the cuff is the result of knitting every other stitch and purling every other _other_ stitch, K1 P1; except that since you are using two strands, one just stays on the outside and one on the inside. This is a pleasant change after the twisting inside. I suppose it makes a two-layered seed stich.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Finished (and unfinished) Objects

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The Koigu "Fanning the Flame" modular mittens. They are pretty bright. They are also a bit too big, because I didn't want go any farther down on the needle size and I knit loose. But Kelly of the Elegant Ewe, who taught the class, assured us that loose mittens were warmer than tight ones.

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There was going to be another set of Finished, but the weather went to mediocre after I was lying on the porch swing telling my mother in Boston (where it was already mediocre) how beautiful it was here today. But any time you can knit outside in New England in November is worth crowing over even if it comes to a cooler, cloudier end before you finish.

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Both these pairs of mittens were nearly done last week at the somewhat dull NHAS meeting (during which our state archaeologist came out in hives. He says it was a reaction to his meds, but I have my doubts). I had four rows and a cast-off to do in the Koigu and I needed the other butterfly of remaining wool. So then I worked on the twined-knitting Dulaan mittens and ran out of yarn, period. If the first one I made had not had a 'reservoir tip,' (but they're not actually ribbed, at least. Since I was making up the pattern as I went along I do not feel as bad about it as I should; at least they are warm) I might have had enough yarn to finish in one color but Norma has given me resolve and the determination to keep my head high. I don't have to undo the last centimeter of cuff on the first mitten and do it in mossy green so they'll match... but I might anyway.

It seem it might all have been much quicker to use a cuff-up twined knitting pattern or just knit it normally, but I like the way the twined-knitting feels, I know it's warmer, and I have not had good luck with the fancy decrease-toward-bind-off I learned (ha) for twined-knit mittens. Corkscrews. Not good. And since I knit my socks toe-up and Anna Zilboorg makes her lovely mittens tip down, I wanted to give it a shot. It seems to be possible. The thumbs are not too elegant, either, but they are on the appropriate sides.

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Taken from ground level, this time. The foliage took a beating during the tail-end of Wilma+Alpha last week.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

They're in

All the bulbs I had, I planted. It's going to be thin on the ground in the Courtyard Garden, but maybe I'll try this restraint thing people tell me of.

Yesterday was the third day of Perfect Weather in a row, probably the best we've had all year. Whimper. Dancing on the grass, sunbathing. It is so good, and so very much borrowed time.

The blessed rage for order has departed, I fear. The house looks like a ransacked warehouse. I have more of my books available and in categories than I have in some years. It is more than a little strange to walk past a bookshelf and have my 14-year-old self from 1970 wave at me, then another shelf - pow, 1991-- then another, 1986... .

I have too many books. Even more than I have too much stash, and I have a lot of stash. I reread the fiction, sometimes much too often: there are several authors (Jennifer Crusie, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMasters Bujold)I can about lip-sync, have to leave them for a few years. If I don't either remember the stories strongly or reread them, they can go to the used bookstore or wherever.

The non-fiction is more difficult. I am not likely to read Howard Carter's three volumes on the Tomb of Tutankhamen again any time soon, but I remember how pleased I was to get it. Ditto James Breasted's history of ancient Egypt, which is probably so outdated it should be in History of Ideas instead of history. But I am reluctant to say goodbye to the person who loved ancient Egypt. The huge trove of left-of-center Roman Catholic theology and pastoral ministry is even worse, has less of a market, and was part of me much more recently. I don't think I am going to get my faith r my interest back enough to work in that field, but... .

I pared down the beading and the quilting and the embroidery books and some of the stash. but how many books on watercolors do I need when I don't ever paint? But I would like to. It's not that I collect books -- I don't collect books, I collect information. I collect options. I think a lot of different kinds of stash are about collecting the chance to be a slightly different person, perhaps a completely different one.

What I am reading:Mapping Mars, by Oliver Morton. A lovely book, the best-written science journalism I have had in a while. It is the history of the exploration of Mars with reflections on the planet's impact in our culture. The writer is British, so he makes silly remarks and discusses Alan Moore's Watchmen comic books and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series with reasoned and affectionate analysis. I want a sequel to bring it up to date.

Windfall by Rachel caine. Meterology and sorcery. This is the fourth in the series (Ill Wind being the first) and while they are not Tolstoy, you probably won't hate yourself for enjoying them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Solar power

If you have not encountered Accuweather Blog 38 Below, you should consider doing so. Here's his description of the weather in Charleston, SC, yesterday:

"Okay, close your eyes. Imagine one of those polaroid pictures. We've all seen them before. Outside is the classic white border. Now inside picture a gray square. Now, next to you is a guy holding a bucket. He seems nice enough. He smiles and waves. Now he throws the water on you that he had in the bucket. He does that four or five times.

"Now you have an idea of what the weather was like this morning. (Open eyes now.) Fortunately this was better than the weather in Orlando, which was similar to the above except that the square in the middle of the polaroid was black, and the fellow with the bucket brought 39 of his closest friends with him."

Now what is amazing is that this is the very description of the weather, _here_, today. Only he forgot that the smiling man periodically throws the bucket at you, too. If God has decided to hate everyone who hoped make an honest dime off leaf-peeping tourists, wouldn't it be more effective to say so first?

I find bright yellow cornbread with apricot jam is helpful, first because of the spiritus magic, and then because sugar and starch are involved (and grease), and finally because I had to turn on the oven. My cats are going insane with boredom.

Posting for the left of center

Monday, October 24, 2005

62 days till when?

I can't hear you, Harlot. I have All The Time In The World. I started my father's size 13, 7.5 stitches to the inch, sock(s) yesterday. Gonna spin that laceweight for my mom's thing too, and say nothing of my children... one time of year having a small family is not a bad thing.

It has been cold and dark here FOREVER. I think we had one nice day after Rhinebeck, when I did indeed plant bulbs. Maybe two, when I planted most of the rest of the bulbs. I still have not nearly enough (like 5 daffodils and some small stuff, scillas and crocus) for the Courtyard Garden (fancy name for area outside the Loom Room, whihc I only began to cultivate in maybe August), but since we're doing dank, dark, and rawr I am beginning to wonder if I'll get those in at all. After today and yesterday's rain, we're supposed to have a nor'easter for 2 days named Wilma. At least the air should be warmer.

I must take my hat off to Stitchy for coming up with a real Rhinebeck spirit-guardian.

So, my great Paroxysm of Cleaning, the one I have been on since Rhinebeck? It looks a little better here, and there is some deep improvement, but we are also looking for shallow, superficial tidiness, the kind that offers you surfaces. We need to look pretty hard still. I am starting to lose enthusiasm, and it is not anywhere near done.

I though what if I FORBADE myself to do any shelving, any unpacking of boxes for a day? What if I did a little dyEing in pursuit of the right color to ply my Black Hills Gold (that's the one I started spinning August 29, yes)? SO I went up to the organized realm of roving and got some pale gray Mary Pratt and remembered why I was in an unpacking frenzy: because I need to unpack boxes to uncover the small gas thing in the glassed-in, uninsulated, leaky-air porch so we can install it in the Loom Room, which though potentially much more heatable now feels like USDA Zone 2. Those boxes look suddenly worth attempting again.

(Although there are 2 oz of roving soaking in a vinegar solution in the kitchen.)

I am murdering enough time by doing the second thumb of my modular mittens while reading blogs. I am finding myself so much less enchanted about doing the thumbs that I fear my fantasized career as a gloveknitter to the stars will come to nothing. At least I may have a Finished Project to show, one of these days. But none of my relatives would want them for Christmas.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I may have seen the last butterfly of the year this afternoon. There was only one frog around yesterday, and one dragonfly. The juncoes have been here since about October 4th (the last hummingbird was September 20). I brought the pepper plant (one of those 'ornamental' ones? Hotter than you'd expect) in; it made it through last winter and seems to have enjoyed having a summer outside.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I was there. It was good.

Juno said it all better than I shall. But despite the driving (which was just long, not harrowing -- I reached Poughkeepsie by 1:30 on Friday, before it got dark or hairy), and the sudden terrible depletion of my checking account, I have to thank Norma and TooMuch wool for making me go. They were, as always, entirely right. Having a brainworm of "Touch Me in the Morning" for over a week was making the wycked speryts come out in their ghostly hosts. All the friendly people, and the colors, and a Mary Pratt fleece from a sheep called Peggy Sue took care of that.

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Nathania and Julia

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Mama Cate, whom I may now actually recognize

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an unfortunate person who photographs badly with a Rhinebeck katsina

I will forget something important, but here are a few of MY highlights: The wonderful pleased delighted welcome I got when Julia and Cassie and Laurie found me;

the lamb chop/kebab/spinach/mesclun plate, perfectly done but not charred;

getting Norma to admit she spindles just fine with the right material (I also taught a perfect stranger, whom I hope finds the article on dog hair in the recent Spin-Off);

the sun coming out;

Image hosted by (oh, yes, that's the Mary Pratt fleece I bought myself, Jazz...oh, yes, I washed it on mean you don't wash your fleeces before you unpack the rest of the car? yes, that's a mini-skein of Peggy Sue there, from the handful I washed in the hotel room on Saturday night, I spun it up Monday night because I had this diz and I needed to use it. Why do you ask me if I am compulsive?) (and two skeins of Socks that Rock and two Linda Diak batts and a sample of the roving I got from Tintagel Farms/Persimmon Tree Farms. I did also get a Diak crochet hook and some Mountain Colors and a skein of heathery purple yarn)

my new little TreeTops niddy-noddy, my new Charis spindle, my new Woodchuck diz and nostepinde;

a very small girl with a toy sheep;

the glow over the Woodchuck's stall, reflecting off his finishes;

a fine room party on Friday and a loud huge take-over-the-lobby that the management didn't object to on Saturday night;

perfect timing with my ride and roomies on Saturday, so they were heading to the car just when I wanted to drop off my fleece, and agin when my feet were dropping off me and I needed a Voice of Reason to tell me to Go Home and Put Them Up.

Saturday I ran into everyone at every turn. Sunday I missed nearly everyone and left about 2, wondering whether walking through one more barn would have turned them up again. But I know I will see youse all again soon.

Since I got home I have been doing things like tidying the fleece loft so I will have room for the new fleece (I am banned from even looking at anymore for as long as it takes to whittle the stash down) washing the fleece; planting 95 daffodils and a motherwort; and actually unpacking and organizing some books, which I had been putting off for the last 15 months. Not that I am wholly unpacked or organized but it is good to feel some motion there.

Thanks for the energies.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

It was good

Rhinebeck was fun. The people were fun to be with. No one I know drank too much, although it must be said that Norma said, stone cold sober, with absolute conviction, that flecks were very important.

She is right, of course.

I did not need to buy anything, but I managed to. The Woodchuck's stall was as seductive as I have always been told. I restrained myself the first day and only bought 2 ounces of Blue-Faced Leicester to spin on a Charis spindle as I walked around. This was supposed to make me buy less. I think opaque contacts lenses would work better.

Mostly I just want to say I got home in four hours, and yes, there were big gusts of wind and I hope Linda and Helen get home okay.

Possibly more when I get a night's sleep.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Moose pictures from dig

If you want to see the moose, you have to go here. Right now I am getting ready to go to Rhinebeck. I didn't know I was going, either, but Norma and Cassie have given me an offer I can't refuse, to say nothing of threatening me with a giant Motherwort.

If you aren't that interested in moose, it's enough to know I had a fine log Columbus Day Weekend, with much less rain than they apparently got here. And that they are getting here. If the weather were going to be good, I might not have given into the evil beckonings toward excess in upstate NY (great title for the next entry? We'll see).

When I got home about 3 on Monday, my impending housemate Doug watched me reel around and took me to dinner, partly because he wanted to go to the same restaurant two nights running with two different women. Worked for me. He saw logs and trees coming down the river on Sunday (though no propane tanks), but it was clear but for whitecaps on Monday. VERY high and approaching the level of the bridge.

So naturally, I am driving Southwest. I hope Route 9 stays open this evening.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Got me right

You scored as Gytha (Nanny) Ogg. You are Nanny Ogg! A talented witch, able to make yourself at home wherever you are, and insist that Greebo is just a big softie. You enjoy drinking, a lot, and singing about a hedgehog. You have a huge family, and get your daughters-in-law to do most of the housework. You are kind and gentle, and help put people at ease.

Which Discworld Character are you like (with pics)
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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Unmistakably autumn

Weather: my compliments to the chef. This is what I would like to live for, only I might not make it through the year. Dry, crisp, sunny, not too cold in the shade.

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I was forced entirely at gunpoint to go up a hundred miles north to Randolph for, essentially, a very small amount of light labor and three hours of knitting (in the car) time, with good conversation. It is always beautiful in the Mt. Washington valley.

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On the way home I had a hankering to see a heron, so I pulled into the boat launch road I have never gone down. I was a little late, but apparently in the right area:

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The water was so still I could hardly tell the reflection from the trees, which was funny when one of them was upside down.

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My knee is 90% all better (except when I flex it backwards. Not good). Here is the shot out the bedroom window, which should become more colorful for a few weeks:

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About that funeral

So I helped pick out funeral readings for Grace's mother, a woman who died at 91 years; the last few of them she was missing a number of brain cells and became kinder and gentler. We should all be so lucky, really. Between the sexual orientation of most of Grace's friends and my increasing desire not to use what faith I have remaining to threaten or bully other people, and the natural desire of Christian (Roman Catholic) lectionary/liturgy pickers to promote their own relatively narrow Way, I found I had trouble finding any choices that suggested that God was not a respecter of labels or a cosmic person of very short temper.

I also haven't been to Mass in about six years because my parish collapsed a year or so before my marriage and the faith thing did not get me through either of them (now I suppose I could be inspired by the infinite sight of ways people can shoot the church they run in the foot, but I think they have run out of feet and are now working on destroying the rest of the body). So I had trouble suggesting any hymns because I have been resolutely shuttering that area of my mind.

The funeral liturgy was not actually as badly done as it might have been. If they read the instructions in the front of the sacramentary, most services would improve beyond recognition, but reading the manual is no more frequent in RC liturgy, at least in New England, than it in any other endeavor. Although the peroration on how living to old age is a sign of the Lord's favor was rather dubious when the length of days had killed off all of her own generation and she was about, with great reluctance by her daughter, to be consigned to the minimum security prison of an old folks home. Oh, don't get me started, I know they have a lot to do, but would it kill a priest to ask a few questions about the deceased before talking about how we (mostly lesbians or liberals) will want to go carry out her ideals and principles (mostly homophobic to an absurd extent, back when she had any)?

But I was still blind-sided when the over-amped (but I gotta say, on-pitch) tenor belted out "Be Not Afraid" and I was shaken with racking sobs. I think it may be because we're all going to die and whether I outlive you or you me, it is going to be tough on someone.

And I am also still sad about parts of my life which are as dead as Marley's ghost, if they were ever any more alive.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lately, the sequel

It seems to have become very seriously No Longer Summer. I closed the wondows that have been open since May the day after the equinox, and today I lit the woodstove. It has been a hard time on a lot of my friends.

Week before last, one friend (Mark) lost his father and younger brother to cancer within three days of each other. The family plot is in my town; I went to the funeral scheduled for Mark's brother. It rained gently but steadily all through both Mark's brother's funeral and his father's, which was on the next hour on the _other_ side of the family plot. There was a 25 minute break between the two services, which allowed us to walk around and chat. nd for them to move the chairs. I guess they were making it clear these were two, separate rituals. Mark's mother seemed to be doing far better than I would have been able to.

The Catholic priest (presiding for Mark's brother) wore clericals and a black baseball cap with "St. Theresa's Parish, Henniker" on it. They have adapted the committal service nicely for ashes. The Congregational minister, for Mark's father though she had never met him, was a shorter perky blond in an alb and a very nice gold stole. She read not only quite a bit of Robert Frost, but also a poem by Edna Dean Proctor, whom I must call a local poetess. The closing benediction managed to merge the Lord's prayer with the Irish Blessing. I was not stirred to join her congregation.

Last week, one older friend in my archaeology outfit lost her last sibling and Sarah my dear ex-housemate lost her second grandmother, about 14 months after the first one.

Today I heard about my friend Grace's mother: I knew she had been becoming less and less compos (though, unusually, much kinder as she became dimmer). Grace was not looking forward to trying to persuade her mother to leave her own apartment, where there was a caregiver several hours a day and a really fine adult daycare in walking distance. Her mother liked to go buy the newspaper herself;the nursing home was nearby but would not have let her go outside. Grace had been helping her stay home by driving to Boston from Northampton (about 100 miles each way) almost every weekend for about the last four years, and took her on vacations and outings. Her mother had had a coronary aneurysm for many years; it gave enough notice that she had two days in hospital, with visitors, consciousness, morphine, enjoyment, before dying last Saturday.

Myself, I spent last Saturday in Woburn seeing how some of the other part of the world lives. An old friend whose husband was getting made Worshipful Master of his Masonic Lodge had invited me and another friend our age, Tommy Lee, who is a Mason despite also being a science fiction fan. Julianne my hostess does not want to be an Eastern Star, and I no longer have living Masonic relatives; the three of us live in some place very different from whatever planet (Kansas?) Masonic lodges are on. The smell of Beef Burgundy and the age of nearly all the men involved popped me back to some undefined period in the early 60's and I nearly made a run for it (my knee is much better, but not actually good enough to get very far). It was, as Tommy said, an interesting anthropological experience. And it was lovely to see Tommy and show him my house. He lives in Virginia and I can rarely tempt him up north.

On Sunday we went to an Antiquarian BookFair, the news of which to Tommy had been like the scent of opium to an addict. We were both reasonably well-behaved; I got a Sierra Club Guide to Southern New England for $8, and Tommy got some organ music. The problem with Antiquarian BookFairs is that there are no treasures to discover and obtain for cheap; if the books weren't already someone's darling, they wouldn't be there.

I did enjoy handling a 1690 Collected Works of Milton ($4K) and Tommy was heartbroken that the Swedish/Virginia-Algonquian Lutheran Catechism from sometime like 1790 was out of his price range at $3K. There was also a volume of The Comic History of Rome, only $150 which was probably cheap at the price. It was originally written in 1847 and I am afraid I still thought it was funny. I was surprised and disappointed not to find anything about knitting or weaving. So I am the more envious of Cassie. I have a very good (if pricey) used bookstore in the village, but it's well-organized and I am not the only one shopping that category. (If you wanted some books on bad things one hand-made in the 70's, however...)

My main fiber Yahoo-list is too full, and because I am a heartless elitist I am tired of reading some of the writers on it. I am considering starting a moderated list for fiber people and their friends. It would be kept to a reasonable number (the old SheepThrills was 200; I should be very surprised if this got that big) You would have to be able to appear kind, polite, mostly literate, and at least sometimes amusing. One would not swear at fellow list-members, and all flames would be conducted off-list. One might make vicious remarks about other list-members' color sense or choice of fibers if one were sure these were not hurtful. One might discuss politics and religion (I mean besides about whether acrylic is a fiber or a conspiracy) as long as one did not preach very often. If this sort of thing appeals to you,try this.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Me knee is doin' better. No peg-leg this time around.

The swelling ("effusion') seems to be diminishing, much sooner than I would have expected, but I am alternating arnica and ibuprofen (it doesn't hurt, but I have Vicoden if I need it) and knitting a lot and read Jonathan Strange and MR. Norrell, which would be a rattling good yarn even not on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

The knitting. I need to take pictures. Suffice it to say that I apparently think the Mongolians are a very LARGE, sturdy people, built like Alex Karras, perhaps. Or that I need to pay more attention to gauge. I have made one (and started another) of the model-beginner mittens in Anna Zilboorg and there is room in it for a big hand. I hope Mongolian guys don't mind purple heather. I hope the Harrisville heathery purple lasts through the second mitten. Anyone got any?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I wasn't drinking and I wasn't doing anything stupid

so this is hardly fair: I spent most of the latter part of the day getting my left knee X-rayed. Nothing broken, and it doesn't really even hurt much, unless it kind of pronates? and then it hurts really a lot and I fall over. I can, however, drive just fine. So after my ankle rolled while I was standing on a stepstool (I swear, I felt the knee go strange, I thought "this could be serious," I hit the floor, I though "That wasn't bad! but what about that knee, eh?") I put it in an Ace bandage and watched a movie and then since it was swelling like a lot, I went to the Concord Hospital Emergency Room. Where I knitted most of a mitten. They eventually told me nothing was broken and gave me crutches and a nifty Velcro immobilizer and said to ice it and stay off it and if it wasn't a LOT better in two or three days I should go Concord Orthopedics.

They also gave me a prescription for Vicodin and told me to take ibuprofen. CVS was closed so I just came home, and I am going to go to bed. If I had had any trouble clutching in (or getting to the car), I would have called people (there are people I could have called).

It could easily have been worse. If I have much more good luck like this I may throw in the towel.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rain damp!! Yay!

The puddle is full. The flowerbed near the entrance to the apartment (which was once the garage, the flowerbed is handy to the driveway)is now Weeded With Extreme Prejudice :landscape plastic does not let water through, despite the little holes. Even if it's, conservative guess, 15 years old. It created a nasty mess and pulling it up was not much fun, although I have become clever at pulling long rhizomes of that kind of crab grass lengthwise, like electric wire, through the soil. Having weeded, which involved a mattock, a rake, and a shovel (glacial cobbles. I can't blame the plastic mulch for that), I was able to plant a bunch of very cheap sad little perennials that had spent all summer at the garden center being unloved, and Thalia Daffodils and Apricot Beauty Tulips. There is a large, shy frog living under the deck-walkway to the apartment door; I have about decided the small shy frogs are pickerel frogs, but this one has escaped my ID. Definitely elegantly blotched, though.

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Here is one of the local woodfrogs, who are slightly calmer.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Anna Quidlen suggests we actually think

Anna Quidlen in this week's Newsweek suggests we actually think ahead. So does Carl Schaad at Accuweather(see the entry from Thursday, "Preparedness"). Neither of them is saying anything particularly new: noticing that resources have limits, and that people need each other on small scales, well below FEMA and national policy (which implies they also need one another on large scales, and the time of rugged individualism had passed by the time Laura Ingalls (Wilder) grew up).

But they are saying these things outside of the Green Fringe of Mother Earth News and the Nature Conservancy and Rodale Press, so I hope these will become mainstream ideas. "Mainstream" in a way that includes more than white people with graduate degrees and overdeveloped senses of irony and exhausted outrage (I am one. Many of my friends are. We are aware of the absence of everyone else).

Does anyone who actually likes MacDonald's or Wal-Mart or lawn chemicals have enough time to listen? Are we all already too busy trying to keep up with (or reach up to) the way things are supposed to be now (Home: Safe, comfortable, luxurious?; car: running, economical, made unnecessary by adequate public transportation?; health care: any, some, preventive, holistic?; schools: safe, clean, actually teaching anyone to read and cipher, nurturing, exciting?; clean air, clean water, food: any, balanced, sustainable, healthy, tatsy, organic, perhaps vegetarian?; clothing: any, clean, attractive, natural fibers, climate-appropriate?; tv, press, live music, single-malt scotch, exercise ...) to do anything about the way things need to change?

I am concerned that we are all involved in a culture where we are each on variously-priced treadmills trying to get the brass ring we think is the reasonable desert of people like us. Thanks to Katrina I know, if I had forgotten, that some people's goals are so modest we should be ashamed as a nation that they cannot attain them. As more of the middle class slips downward I might hope that there would be less blame on the poor for being poor, and more of a sense of solidarity, but I haven't noticed that happening.

I entirely agree with Quidlen that we can't go on consuming like this. But I haven't seen any signs of finding a way to make sure those who aren't in on the over-consumption get their share of the necessaries. "Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir," the charity agents said to Scrooge. It seems a pity that we need to be knocked back to poverty before we consider the poor, and knocked back to pre-industrial times before we reconsider the costs of modern life. And threatened with looting before we make common cause with our neighbors.

SOO profound. And well, let's see, I know one of my neighbors, she commutes four days a week from Boston and has very nice horses. My across-the-street neighbor is well-known for literally miles for being a rude, crazy sorehead, and his wife looks scared all the time. I have quit going to church since my marriage and my parish collapsed (yes, I think they were keeping each other going), and that was back in north-of-Boston. I have thought about going to the local church but the problem with being an adult convert is that when all the things that drew you in collapse, there's no bone- deep urge to go make things right with the Lord. I did move up here partly for the people I know; we drive from 45 minutes to an hour from different directions to get to the archaeology lab in Concord, roughly the same length of time it took my parish's families to go from our suburbs to our absolutely not gritty city parish.

A knitting guild would be nice. So would a productive garden. Going to cultivate it is a cop-out, but I don't know how to solve the other stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

$$$ not even to do with Katrina

Washington Post discusses the deficit.

And a good article about what happened, or failed to, when, about Katrina

I am sorry to go explicitly political, and I hope no one gets so disgusted with me that they can't just skim past. But I have to talk about political things or I am lying like the rugs I washed yesterday.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Almost Katrina-free content

My parents, praise be, are in good health, and their recent move from a row house to an apartment is not a retreat to supervised living. In fact, it's out of a pit into a Pied å Terre; my mom keeps saying it feels like an upscale hotel (although the leak in the bathroom may bring her down to earth). Yet the move after 36 years in one place may send all of us to the asylum.

I mentioned that I was not in the habit of running my battery all the way down? Friday I drove to Northampton, MA, and got my daughter, who drove us to Woburn on Saturday. I continued into Boston, where the traffic is awful, even though I learned to drive in it. My parents and I and my ex, whose birthday it was, went to the house to help pick up a few things. This involved three cars parking in the South End, which is to laugh. I parked a couple blocks away and proceeded to sack my parents' house for everything I could get, as is the wont of offspring. Mostly some very battered Oriental rugs and some paintings done by my grandmother, who was not bad for learning at age 60++. We prepared to meet at my ex's apt some miles away in Jamaica Plain. It was pretty grim as the closing on the house is Friday and they have much stuff still there. The weather was sticky and my parents are understandably in a miasma, what with the moving and the watching CNN all the time and having to stop and rage at the government

I could not find my keys. After several goes through my pockets and bag, I walked to my car, and found them securely locked in. Back to parents' house. I called Triple A, and my ex kept me company. Triple A were prompt and friendly and efficient and my goodness, cars are not very secure. Ex drove away. Triple A drove away, despite my running down the street after him shouting, because my car would not start, because having the key in the ignition had run the battery down. I walked back to my parents', and found my ex loading a plastic compost bin into the Beetle. Ex came back and jumped my battery. We filled up my car and drove to Jamaica Plain, where my mother gave me another bag of blankets (they are sending a bunch to the Gulf area, too), and then my ex's upstairs neighbors were working on the garden so I wondered if they might be dividing their hostas, which they were. Very large hostas. My car was so full it was amazing.

So yesterday I unloaded it and washed blankets and took Murphy's Oil Soap and a soft brush to the rugs, and sooner or later I shall put up some fine pictures of the cypresses near my grandmother's home in Florida in the 70's. And plant hostas, unless they eat the cats and me first, which they could do easily.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

If you aren't outraged, you're not paying attention

Friday, September 09, 2005

Alas, Mouse

Mouse did not make it. I have been too sad to write about it. This is excessive, only maybe Mouse is standing in for a lot of sorrow, not least my feeling that the US was a good country that would manage to do the right thing. Or that bullets will always miss -- I know they won't, but I think a certain level of delusion makes it easier to go on.

Anyway, Sunday, Mouse was practically perky -- slow to rouse and not warm enough, being perhaps too small to metabolize very well, but once warmer, both eyes open, drinking milk and wanting to zoom around. So Mouse spent about an hour in the sun in a flowerbox, falling over a lot but having, as far as I can tell, a great time digging and eating seeds and maybe a bug or two. Then Mouse got tired and slowed down, and never came out of it. Would not take nourishment. Appeared to be paralyzed from the waist down. I held her(?) awhile and she would stir or twitch. I left her in a warm place until she was no longer there, and buried her near the frog tub. Then I was fine, i just cried for no reason and am in fact doing so now. Hate this.

Apart from Mouse, Sunday was a very good day. Since I have all sorts of things i needed to do in the garden, when Doug came over to be exploited we built a bench to have tea on in the part of the garden near the Loom Room. It is made almost entirely out of cedarwood we pulled off the part of the deck I am slowly removing (it used to serve the above-ground pool, which has been taken down to be above someone else's ground--I not a pool person--and that chunk of deck blocks the view from the Loom Room), and screws Doug already had around, so the only thing we needed to pay for was electricity. Because Doug is a good carpenter, it's much more comfortable than I would have hoped. Somehow the reused nature of the wood pleases me a great deal.

Probably part of the tension in my immediate air has been the $2000 bill from the plumber and the lack of response to my cover letters and resumés; the decision of my relatively new washer (all right, Clinton was president, but it was the second term) to become semi-automatic (you have to punch the start button for each rinse); the gas and oil prices; the two times in the last week I ran my car battery down and out, after I don't think doing that in all my past 34 years of driving) you know, everything. The best ex-husband in the world continues to do one's best, but two kids in school is rough and MY parents are more concerned about Daveifer's finances than about mine (which, when you consider who has the career-type job and health insurance, is Signal).

So since I have not succeeded in attracting a stranger to be tenant, I am yielding to Doug's proposal that he move into the apartment, and also rent the rooms formerly known as Sarah's Suite. He seems to have a lot of Stuff. Fiber stuff, mostly, which is in some ways my fault, a couple of looms (only one of which I sold him), a few wheels, you know, a stash or so; and we had already agreed he could set up a workshop in my basement if he would show me some woodwork moves. (Sunday he taught me how to set the depth on the circular saw, which was a GREAT step forward.)

The apartment was once a garage. It has a separate entrance and kitchen and bathroom, and will provide his somewhat insane cat (I know, tautology) with Space of her own, as well as providing Doug with a kitchen of his own (we have different styles of house-keeping. I would rather do anything else). He swears that he will encourage me to seek out and bring home a boyfriend, if such a thing appear on the horizon. Since he was my boyfriend for about 4 years from late 1999 to late 2003, this is relatively magnanimous as well as practical of him. I have already had his girlfriend to tea and will be happy to do so again, if he wants to. (In the time they have been dating she has gone from having once known how to crochet to a) a huge afghan) b) a first project of perfectly fitting knitting socks and c)only a small wheel...)

He also says he will prevent me from exploiting him to excess. He underestimates my laziness and need for yardwork. He has already agreed to sink another, larger, more permanent tub next to the frog puddle.

I like Doug a lot, though not in a romantic way, and I hope I don't end up wanting to kill him. He is more gregarious than I am, and he doesn't spend too many hours reading or surfing the Net, both of which I do and do not take kindly to be being chatted with at the same time. Because I hermit tendencies, all right? and come of a family (and brought forth another) who read and don't always talk, and in fact get weird if we don't have serious downtime. He swears he can give me Space, which may mean I am a somewhat insane cat, but there you are. Everyone I have consulted thinks it's not unreasonable to give it a try. He will be moving here probably the first of November.

The bench is excellent. The mouse had at least one good day.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hummingbirds. They were around quite a lot, in the week after memorial day, and then i say less of them. Until the end of July, when I think the babies fledged. Suddenly there were at least six around at any given time, of whom one was identifiably male, and there was no peace among them. Just being in one another's sight was too much. No matter how much sugar water there was, how could anything drink enough to have that much energy, or that much IRE packed so tight? tiny, TIE-fighter mayhem, zooming past too fast to watch, up high into the sky, stall down together maybe thirty feet before breaking apart and zooming off either in different directions or after one another. How did the eggs ever get fertilized? Both of them must have been drunk.

And then just as we began to find it too scary to sit on the porch (without eye protection, anyway), they calmed down. Last week they suddenly thinned out and now I will see one, once in a while. don't expect to see any after this week, if last year was any indication.

(If you are perverted a Nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw psycho biology fan, you may find this link from Birdwatcher's Digest interesting, but it's not for the faint of stomach.)

Coincidentally, it's no longer too damned hot.

I have returned from taking Ellie to Smith. She got into her room early, with the first-years, so she could get unpacked before she trained for her computer-consultant work-study. It seems pretty heady for a Humanities girl, but cross-specialization is a good thing. A day or so before we were to leave, Wednesday or Thursday, we found Ellie's cat staring fixedly under the couch. So I went to see what helpless creature she was stalking and pulled out a couple of pieces of paper (somehow they not been detected and removed by my cleaning frenzies, I have them ALL the time, really), expecting to see farther under the couch.
Only there was a baby mouse on one of the pieces of paper. Really a baby, furred but its head is only just slightly smaller than its body and its little ears were still flat and I wasn't sure its eyes were open. It could skitter very well, though. So I put it in a Tupperware with a toiletpaper tube to hide in and some provisions. We didn't think it would make it, but it continued to live. I assumed it was eating. I was going to put it back outside but it was too obviously just too vulnerable, we didn't know where it had been caught, even if its mama would have taken it back. Ellie agreed we didn't need to stick it out for something's lunch. Not that I had been looking at too many pictures of refugees or anything.

So I upgraded the MouseGuest to an empty aquarium with some birdseed and some oatmeal and a dish of water, in which it did not drown.It was running around when I left on Friday. I got back last night, tired, fed the cats, and went to bed. This morning I intended to go for a health-giving walk and not read anymore hurricane coverage (I was hitting it too hard Wednesday and Thursday and Friday morning and having trouble not starting an armed insurrection out of anger and sorrow and disappointment and general pique. Even though I do believe the fault may be spread back a couple of presidential administrations; nobody seems to think all that stuff about wetlands really matters except those weirdoes in the Audubon Society, anyway, and aren't jobs more important than birds? Particularly since I have buddies who want to build those bridges, etc....(go read the novels of Carl Hiaasen, he does it much better than I do).

I go to check on the mouse. It is obviously Not In Good Shape. This is unusual; most mice are either fine or dead. But he was moving, somewhat, only weakly, and he was cold. So I dripped milk into its mouth with a knitting needle and it washed its face and I popped it into my bra to get warm, and then I fed it a lot more milk off the edn of a pencil and then it could lick it off a corn chip (I keep hoping it will nibble the corn chip, but not so far). Its left eye is open but not the right, which I suspect may be consequent to the intereaction with Mena. Now Mouseguest can wash and walk around and skitter and drink lots of milk and tickle my neck and nibble the T-shirt. I still want to go for a healthful walk and plant perennials, but I have a mouse asleep on my shoulder.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Link regarding the press corps in Lousisana; Meserve audio

Jeanne Meserve's audio:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Human toll

This is the title of an entry in a blog that is advertised as having to do with Accuweather's redesign. It is more interesting than that. Carl links to a CNN transcript and suggests one scroll down to Jeanne Meserve's part. Since I am (for several reasons, not least a .2 mile driveway) tv-less, I am getting my news from the radio and the Net and and the section of transcription which Carl refers is quite horrifying enough.

I am most of the way through the Knitty Tychus hat, for Dulaan, and wondering if I should start making something to raffle for the Red Cross. Anyone have any ideas, any effort already started?

The "Tychus" pattern, btw will now be high on my list for beginner knitters (or for mindless knitting), only not in acrylic, of course (maybe I should put'fiber snob' into my profile?). I am puzzled as to why she doesn't slip the high end of each row to make it pointier and perhaps more solid, and the simple, simple design will make a fine place to use scraps, I mean play with colors. I mean both, really.

Monday, August 29, 2005

back in the sticky

Hot and horrible today, but at least my roof is still on. I do realize this is something to be thankful for. It's 88F and the humidity has actually dropped somewhat (today's word is dewpoint) and my clothes are sticking to me. We do not air-condition. We ceiling-fan. We want to sleep.

I am getting a terrible case of transference for the plumber. He came by today because the upstairs toilet had ceased to flush. Since the basin next to it had been getting less and less enthusiastic, we thought it might be some pump thing. Turned out no one had changed or cleaned the tap filter in, he figured, at least ten years. The toilet's entrails, ailing since I moved in, were no more. He also fished three small pieces of quartz and a good-sized pebble out of the basin trap (a love letter left by the kitten Abbey). He's going to come back and replace the downstairs bathroom tap, basin, and shower unit, too.
One day I will get everything in this house working. I have to admit I am waiting for the electicity to go, since the heat and the water and the roof have, but in my Catalogue of Improvements, I forgot to mention installing five ceiling fans, and the electrician had a good look at the wiring then and didn't plotz.

At the moment there are three frogs in Doug's sunken Rubbermaid tub (which is about 18" x 12") and four in the frog puddle. It rained yesterday, which was a very good thing. I went to a garden center for a few 20% off perennials (my driveway looked so empty...). The owner remarked that the rain was good for the plants and terrible for business, but at the moment he thought he would prefer the rain. I did, too. We got a little over half an inch.

Rather than exploit Doug digging ditches as I had intended, we actually sat in the Loom Room (or Spinning Parlor) and spun, and watched the rain. It would slack off and we would dump the buckets of water that had poured off the eaves into the frog puddle. Simple pleasures. The frog puddle looks better. This was the first time I have really had to spend spinning (when I didn't argue myself into doing something 'useful,' like playing Collapse) in the new space and I liked it very much. I am spinning 8 oz of Crosspatch Creations 'Black Hills Gold' blend: some black fine wool, some tussah, some bombyx in peach, and some rayon. I think the rayon is the screaming lime, which makes the whole thing come alive.

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I need (ha) a murky varied green to ply with it.

I had been feeling somewhat low since giving up, for the moment, on Birch, and reading my Spin-Off back issues has been a great help. Now I yearn after Bosnian crochet, and lacy socks, and silk bricks. I am not the fastest (nor least distractible) of crafters, so I think Labor Day will begin the great march toward Christmas... I wish my Texas aunt needed anything warm.

A friend from the other day:

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A Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid! Elegant beast.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Blog to live or live to blog...?

Today the men came for the well. Actually, there were only two of them, and they were very nice, at least so I shall think till I get the bill. This house, in the past 13 months has had: a new roof, a new furnace, and new water tank, a LOT of work done on the driveway involving gravel, ditches, and perforated pipe, and a rebuilt room. Now it has a new pump. It also has a number of small cultivated spaces, less iris, much less oregano (still plenty of that),and more hemerocallis. It has about the same amount of gaillardia, but I have moved some of them around. I did not exterminate for wasps, as the previous owner did, and so I suppose it has more wasps (of a generally very pacific disposition, thank St. Entymos*), but there were a lot of nests in the walls of the rebuilt room so I wouldn't be too sure. I believe I have cultivated goldfinches, rose-breasted and evening grosbeaks, and chipping sparows, but they have only cost the price of the sunflower hearts.

Ellie suggests that at least the house is in better shape if I have to sell it, but given all the things the house inspection didn't find, I doubt that the improvements will show up, either.

So the guys put in a new shiny pump, and filled the well up with chlorine, because apparently you do when you meddle with it. This means I cannot fill the frog puddle for a bit. They said to let the water run after a few hours, until the mirk and chlorine smell go away. Only it's not very murkyand it barely smells of chlorine at all, so I am somewhat at a loss. It was very pleasant to have an unpunctuated shower.

During the day, she worked on curtains (with a week to go before returning to college, these little summer projects become poignant) for her room and I made a tea cosy out of duck-inspired batik for the teapot she is taking with her. Neither of us knows how to square off the large pieces of fabric successfully, but we're getting there. And the tea cosy fits just fine.

*no, there isn't one, as far as I know, and I can't seem to find the etymology of entomology, so you will just have to bear with it. I figure some saint answers these calls. There must have been one with miraculous powers over swarms, right?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

more frogs, more of the time

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The frog puddle, which was full to the brim on Sunday.

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but these guys don't seem to be too worried.

If my pump weren't dying I would top the puddle up with the hose.

It rained quite a lot Saturday night, which added much (well, mostly humidity) to the planting efforts on Sunday, and probably to the species count of amphibians: charming American toad, many greenfrogs, a red-backed salamander, a wood frog, and a gray treefrog. Doug and I got everything waiting in my driveway planted (except for the dead: a moment of silence for a red valerian, a pot full of poppies, some thyme...). The Pitch pine and the asters went up on the hillside, the willow and the two irises and the rhododendron into the swamp in the back yard, and the cranesbill, the liatris, three or four daylilies, a clump of ginger, a clump of pink coreopsis... you know, just a few things, into the garden area I am trying to create outside the Loom Room. We were clearing the brush at that side of the house, cautiously, and mourning the disappearance a couple months ago of the frog who lived in a RubberMaid tub full of broken glass. It was a dependable neighbor, but then the kittens came... and there was at least one dead frog the right size. Anyway, as we were discussing these things, the same frog or a very similar one, definitely alive, popped up. So Doug got the tub, thought I drew the line at the broken glass, and we put rocks in and water and the frog moved in less than 48 hours later. Since the kittens have moved away, and are perhaps too old for the doubtful thrill of pursuing frogs anyhow, I hope he will stay and be safe.

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I am trying to find out what issue of Rowan Birch is in, and trying something else in the meantime. More if it actully shapes up.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Another week

It's been a quiet week here... partially, I suppose, the mild yet systemic case of poison ivy that has been popping up small but very itchy places here and there. There, where I sit down. I do not recommend it. The best thing I have found for it is the tea-tree flavored stuff from Aubrey, Everything Balm. But you get tired of itching. Not knowing when it will stop coming out (I think it has) and wondering if the blotches are going to turn out to be serious enough to go find a physician who'll give me prednisone makes it more fun.

(update Aug 24 -- nothing new, and my usage of E-balm has reduced from hourly to daily)

My old dear friend Lisa
blew through on her way from possibly Vermont to Framingham, detouring through Cambridge and giving me four beautiful wine glasses and some of the local knowledge she has picked up living in California. She has become a disciple of St. Pinot Noir.
The glasses are roughly twice the size I am used to, with predictable results. Hic.

She appeared late on Sunday. We had hoped she would be able to celebrate my birthday (it was the 12th, but I was trying to keep people out of the traffic) on Monday, when my parents came up for lunch, but she was zooming somewhere. My daughter made a very good edition of lentils and spinach (extra butter) and a spectacular gluten-free marmelade cake. This was even more remarkable because Ellie doesn't think people should eat marmelade; but by the time she was done with it, even she had a second piece. We felt sick. It was fine.

Lisa left the next day just before my son and his fabulous girlfriend arrived for (as far as I know) the final stage of my birthday. (8-24 --my very decent ex-husband drove them to Annapolis in my parents' van to their spandy-new apartment. This will be the first time they have lived alone with one another. One wishes them luck. One would have misgivingings, but one cannot blame one's son for not wanting to live in a dorm where he was often the only one not hammered out of his skull on weekends, and his girlfriends is really someone we all like. Might as well keep her.) They bore with them my birthday present, the latest Stephanie Plum, which I managed not to start until after they had left. It was not great literature, but it made me laugh more than once, which is about all I can ask.

The wonderful Julia played out the final hours of her internship with honor, learning enough Photoshop to be dangerous. I catalogued things. We looked at tiny pieces of pottery. I mourned the sudden death of U Vermont anthropology professor Jim Petersen, shot by coked-up robbers in a restaurant in Brazil. I did not know him, but I had hoped to; we leaned hard on his studies of New England Woodland pottery the last few weeks. It makes me nervous when archaeologists in their early 50's die, nothing to do with any NH state archaeologist passing out on his kitchen floor and needing his carotid artery reamed out last November, why do you ask?

Someone is writing a book about knitters who take up spinning, and she interviewed me and wanted to know if I had any designs for knitters who have just learned to spin, i.e. for varied, lumpy yarn. All I could offer her was the Woolly Mammoth Tea Cosy, which I made a couple years ago when I was a new spinner and not having enough fun making socks big enough for, well, at least a modern elephant (I felted them and sewed on suede soles). I have no idea if she will use the cosy in her book. But I have been working on producing a coherent pattern, since apparently what I thought was regular double-knitting was not the same as the nice book with the horsie [my WORD, how prices go up!]. This involved finishing the half-finished one from two years ago (and starting another copy) trying to pay attention as I worked. I had no idea how I was increasing. Unreliably. It was quite cheering to felt the thing and have it start looking better.

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A bit porcine, but felting really disguises a number of faults. Though not a kind of Plimsoll line from changing roving in mid-copp.

The last few days the MahJong site I try not to overuse has failed to load. One of the alternate games at the same site is Collapse. I have been irritating the daylights out of my poor daughter playing it too much. You will notice the site is not highlighted, as I don't want anyone to fall into bad habits.

Today I bestirred myself to go to a plant sale at The Fells,

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somewhat north and west of here. The weather was not terribly helpful, although I would rather have a nice cool shower than heat. They had some interesting plants. I was trying to behave myself, so I didn't get the hellebore or the chaemecyparis or ... . I bought a cranesbill, an asarum europaeum, a pitch pine (how often can you get a three-foot tree for $6?) and a smaller, very graceful rosemary-leaved willow to plant in the Swamp. One hopes the rain will hold off long enough to plant them tomorrow, along with doing the other useful things I hope to get done.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cold fog

No, not the inside of my head, definitely the outside.
Maybe not NOT so much as AS WELL. Two glasses of wine and I am still feeling tipsy this morning.

Despite well-founded misgivings about the future, I have been having a good time lately. Still going to the lab and playing with finds (now photographing them for the catalogue), for a few more days while Julia the Splendid Intern completes her internship hours (interring?). Saturday I went to the Dye Day at Julia the Moth Heaven's and got a shot of morale vitamins (and a margarita before noon....bad Claudia) and some color in my retina, some truly delicious white wine (if the Lovely Man were to tell me the variety, I would pursue its acquaintance)(the Lovely Man would be well worth pursuing but I liked him and Julia together, apart from wanting to live... I respect Julia deeply and she could SO take me) and generally really pleasant people some of whom I had met before and all of whom I hope to meet again. My toes have have almost returned to their usual color. I was so pleased that many of these legendary blogwomen were just as much fun in F2F reality. Julia's house and garden
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are lovely, and her son has excellent taste in toys (farms and trains).

I wish I had talked to Claudia about Birch. I cannot get the lace in the second tier to come out alternating with the lace in the first tier, which explains why I have been unable to get farther than the third or fourth line of the second repeat no matter how many times I rip it (Italics indicate my James Earl Jones voice).

It was indeed somewhat warm that day.

It was less warm but more humid on Sunday, when Doug came over and did garden stuff with me. Regardless of the weather. While he waited for me to finish tidying the kitchen (so the excellent daughter would have scope to make me a birthday cake (the birthday was Friday. I am 49. How silly. Ellie gave me earrings, Julia the Intern gave me flowers, and Doug bought me Thai food. Due to the heat I was about as lively as a three-day old potato chip), Doug fixed the kitchen window so it actually opens and shuts now. Then we planted a bunch of things I have been buying because the prices were low and I could not resist: a dawn redwood (less than $20! I really liek the 30% off this time of year), the daylilies whose blooms you have already see in these pages, and several other perennials with enough character to get through crippling heat and neglect. We even managed to get to the lawnish bit outside the loom room where I have been wanting to make a shady garden. almost everywhere I have lived since 1980 has been shade-garden, so I am both weirded out and exhilarated here at Casa South-Facing to the Point of Sunstroke. But it was good to get back to a clime I know and put in some hostas.

It became more, and more, and more! humid and we could hear thunder in the distance until suddenly the wind swirled around and it POURED.

The frog puddle is full once again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Back in this part of town

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The field school is over. Like most digs it is changed, not ended, as there is a load of cataloguing and then, God help someone, analyzing to do. A great deal of the (rather small amount of) scholarly analysis I have read seems the way I thought of geometry: they go to a great deal of trouble to state and defend the obvious. I was terrible at geometry and I don't think I have the temperament to enjoy that kind of scholarship. Also as with geometry, however, they can make some fairly solid and impressive edifices I could never begin to build. But I do enjoy walking through, and we need some kind of rationale for me to catalogue the tiny, tiny chert flakes from Maine or the rhyolite flakes from Massachusetts -- all the little points potentially part of a line that leads somewhere interesting.

I like being a non-com: I get to play with the finds and not have to go to graduate school. Unfortunately that lowers the chances of my being paid to do archaeological things even below that of the many anthro majors now working at the Apple Store, for instance.

But apart from the actual scientific/manual/clerical labor side of digging it's a particular social milieu: people who don't mind getting hot and dirty (and the corollary, people who appreciate cool breezes and warm showers and sitting down), people who are self-selected a little weird (sometimes more), and often have a working vocabulary of over 500 words, none of them directly concerned with reality TV. It's another community like fiberarts people, though farther and fewer and certainly grittier between (I imagine the shepherds come close).

So with the end of the dig I am having social withdrawal from the completely unstressful (ha) but rich human interactions of the dig.

There is an oversupply of change in my life at the moment as Sarah is moving to Canterbury, pretty much this weekend. I feel like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz; I knew (and frequently pointed out) that she would be leaving sooner or later, but this is sooner and I feel just awful.

I don't know if Asterix and Mena (the cats) will miss Sarah's kitties or not. Ellie and I will. Local moles, shrews, and frogs will not. The coyote that finally noticed Sarah's chickens will be miffed, but I don't care much about him.

My daughter will be leaving here for sophomore year at college in about three weeks and my son, living in Massachusetts this summer, will be going back to Maryland in about two weeks.

This house is too big. I need a tenant for the self-contained apartment, possibly a new housemate as well -- but that is a much stickier problem, as I don't want to live with someone I don't know and let them have access to my kitchen, my liquor cabinet, or my stash (fiber, of course)(what did you think?) -- and I need a job for the money and the social.

I also need it to stop being so damned hot and humid, and do some honest raining.

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This person agrees.