Thursday, December 20, 2007
My ninth grade daughter's biology teacher told the class that those inflatable lawn snowmen cause infertility. I want to know, what sort of interaction with the snowman is required in order to be rendered infertile by it?
At last. After nearly a year, I finished reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, thus fulfilling last year's New Year's resolution to read at least one book that I'd bought but hadn't yet read. And not a moment too soon. This book was a bestseller, but I bet fewer than half of the people who bought it actually read it. Alexander Hamilton was an extremely active person and prolific writer and his prose has a wordy and florid style that makes for difficult reading. Add to that complex political imbroglios and you have a biography that is a struggle to read.
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson loathed each other. I was raised in New York, where history classes had lessons dedicated to him. Now we live in Jefferson's territory and my kids do not seem to be learning much about Hamilton in history. I distinctly remember my fourth grade teacher telling us that Burr and Hamilton dueled because Hamilton insulted Burr's daughter, an idea she must have gotten from Gore Vidal's novel Burr. In reality, no one knows what, precisely, Hamilton said about Burr to spark their dual other than that it was something “despicable.” Chernow loses his objectivity and insists, somewhat implausibly, that Burr was all but jumping with glee after the duel.
For 2008 I resolve to see the Falsies in concert, because everyone tells me how good they are, to see something--anything-- at the Gravity Lounge, because I've never been there, and try at least two new restaurants.
Monday, December 17, 2007
- People always become cheerful at the prospect of bacon.
- Harris-Teeter shoppers have better manners than Giant shoppers.
- The home dental care kit: more fun than anybody should be allowed to have.
I don't suppose enough people read this site to post outraged comments along the lines of, "I shop at Giant and I adopt homeless kittens!" "I shop at Giant and I donate my kidneys to orphans!"
I shop at Giant too, and the shopping experience there is no fun at all because everyone--shoppers & employees--is in a perpetual funk. I suppose I am too while I'm there. At Harris-Teeter, everyone radiates serenity, prosperity and contentment: "The concierge called in sick, so I thought I'd check out this grocery shopping thing. What fun!"
What else? The Jackson-Via mobile showed up at our house, startling the crap out of me. It is rare to have visitors during the day and Jon answered the door while Mr. McP and I peeked over the banister. "Mom, that looks like Mr. P my gym teacher!" said Mr. McP. Impossible, I said. But no, the car in the driveway had a Jackson-Via sign on the door. The assistant principal and the gym teacher had come over to see why Mr. McP wasn't in school today. He had a dentist appointment and I'd decided to let him skip for the whole day. If there's ever a time for a mental health day, it's when you've just been to the dentist.
Apparently it's school policy to pay a visit when a kid misses school. The reasoning is that many parents don't have cars, and if a child feels ill in the morning, and well again later, the school can pick him up and take him to school. "Better late than never" the ass't principal told Jon.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Jon and I work in the same department, although at different jobs. At last night's party I mused witty observations about work holiday parties in general and mine in particular. Today I think it's better if they are left unwritten. Once again, my boss forced me to dance the electric slide. Jon and I knew the drinks situation would be grim, so we stopped at the newly opened Beer Run and picked up a six pack to smuggle in. Gawd! How juvenile and unprofessional! I felt guilty enough to drink the Turning Leaf chardonnay provided by the bar while Jon & friends drank a hop heavy beer.
Not to sound too much like a helmet-headed suburban mom, but Beer Run's parking lot is a tad tight for the minivan.
Speaking of vehicles, no word on the scooter, although my gut tells me it was given a new paint job--probably at the corner of 6th st and Palatine--and is now being heartily trashed. Oh, and our homeowner's insurance won't pay for the loss because it is a "recreational vehicle." If the thieves had taken our lawnmower, that would be covered, but not a scooter.
The way I see it, we've just payed our ghetto tax, which was long overdue since we haven't been robbed in over 14 years. That was in Kalamazoo, Michigan where we lived in the historic district, in a neighborhood similar to Belmont, with a diverse mix of residents. There were some kids who Jon would sometimes hire to sweep the porch, etc. One day, when Drama Queen was just a few weeks old, they came over and asked to see the baby. I let them in the house, because I didn't want to seem unfriendly, and they stole my wallet out of my bedroom. Actually, that robbery was more psychologically traumatic.
Jon and I have always lived in gentrifying-yet-still-slightly-seedy urban neighborhoods. This is the type of neighborhood we prefer. We bought our house in Belmont a hairsbreadth before the prices here skyrocketed. When I think of the money we've saved in mortgage payments over what we'd have paid if we'd bought in a conventional "safe" neighborhood, compared to the price of the scooter, we're still way ahead.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The thing that has me kicking myself is that one of our dogs gave a few half hearted barks during the night--moany, wimpy, I'm-bored barks--not OMG THERE'S AN INTRUDER barks so I ignored him. Jesus H. Christ, he barks his head off for every little old lady with a poodle who passes by in the park, but someone comes right up onto our front porch and cuts through a cable and all he can do is moan a little?
I'm hoping that either it will be found, or the thieves will abandon it when they realize they can't start it. Otherwise I think our homeowner's insurance will pay for it. We have no garage, but I guess the future scooter will have to live in the basement.
If anyone notices their shady neighbor suddenly acquired a shiny red and black Piaggio Typhoon, send a comment my way. :)
EDIT: It's possible the scooter was painted bright yellow by the thieves. Today, twice, I heard the sound of a scooter engine that sounded just like Jons. Both times I saw a bright yellow scooter going up Avon St. The first time, I immediately dismissed that idea that it was Jon's because of the color. The second time, I noticed the driver was looking at me, really staring, as he drove past. (My house is not on Avon St., but is separated from it by a large vacant lot, and we get a good view of cars going up and down that big hill.) Anyway, I thought it strange that I'd never noticed this yellow scooter before, and today I saw it twice, and its driver seemed very interested in staring at me. I got in my car and tried to catch up to it, but wasn't quick enough. I drove around where Sixth St. and Palatine Ave come together--there are a lot of people roaring around on scooters down there but I did not see Jon's or the bright yellow one.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
My big Cumulative Final Exam is Friday. I should be reviewing electrolyte imbalances and sensory deficits. I should be boning up on the acid-base balance and oxygenation. So why am I writing my second blog entry of the day plus commenting on the serial rapist discussion at Cville news and getting involved in the "cheap beer=Sign of the Redneck" discussion over at Cvillain?
Now I am inflated with espresso and can't even consider settling down to study. Here's what I did do: I shopped!
How to make Patience spend as much money as possible in as short a time as possible? Set her lose in New Dominion Books. I found some lovely books for my children there today. For Mad Scientist, the last three books in the Artemis Fowl series. He's a bit old for them, but he enjoyed the earlier books, and I enjoyed reading them as an adult, so age doesn't matter with this funny, superbly written series. For Drama Queen, a gorgeous illustrated hardcover of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I've never read it, but I couldn't resist. For Miss G, Nancy Pearl's Book Crush. Brilliant! The author who brought us Book Lust has written a similar book for children--right up through the teen years. For Mr. McP, The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda. I had no idea the movie Nanny McPhee is based on a book. A cute little movie, by the way. Or maybe I liked it so much because I had really low expectations. Either way, I suspect we will like the book, charmingly illustrated by Edward Ardizzone.
Finally, also for Mr. McP, The Dangerous Book for Boys. This book stirred up some controversy. (Why not the dangerous book for boys and girls? Why do boys get to learn about Latin and history and grammar and do cool stuff and not girls? Why are only boys supposed to be interested in sports and famous battles? ) I don't care, this book is awesome, a fascinating mix of cool activities, stories of famous battles, a little Latin primer, English grammar lessons, sports, geography, science. I'm excited for Mr. McP to read it.
This picture, by the way, is totally inaccurate. And no, I am not referring to the cherubs assisting in the advance of science, but rather to the fact that Franklin looks like he's about 80 years old when he did his famous kite flying experiment. In reality, he was in his early 40s. And was probably quite a looker, by all accounts. As a young man, Franklin was athletic--a powerful swimmer in a time when most people couldn't swim at all--charming and funny. Not to mention brilliant. The impression you get from reading his biography is that he was supremely charismatic. He loved people and people loved him. Women, apparently, found him irresistable, even in his old age.
Franklin was no provincial country bumpkin American. He spent years living in London, corresponded with influential people in Italy, France, Holland and other countries, was considered an authority on a variety of scientific topics, although he himself felt that devotion to public service was more important than furthering scientific knowlege. Franklin was a tinkerer, a figure-outer of things. He invented bifocals, the lightening rod, a new way of rigging ships. It was Franklin who figured out that lead is poisonous, by observing what handling lead type did to himself and other printers, plus observing and talking to painters, plumbers and glaziers (leaded glass). He also noticed that plants died in areas where lead was smelted.
Most of his life, Franklin considered himself an Englishman. He spent years devoted to a goal of a united English Empire in which the American colonies were full members, and not merely colonies. He also worked to move Pennsylvania from the rule of Proprietors, to the rule of a royal governor--thus earning the enmity of the Penn family.
When it became clear that his vision of America and England united in a single powerful empire would never happen, he devoted himself to the cause of American independence. Arguably, he was the only American sophisticated enough to parry with upper-level French government officials and lived in Paris during the American Revolution, gaining money and support from France.
The interesting thing about this book is the transition of Franklin from Englishman to American. We Americans, when studying our Revolution, emphasize the British as "other" when in fact they weren't. It's difficult to grasp the concept now, 200 years later, when we have a clearly established national identity different from the UK's, that the Revolutionary war was really a civil war--Englishmen fighting Englishmen.
I highly recommend this book although I confess I skimmed some of the more convoluted political passages.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
We were not always so prosperous to order our trees from L.L. Bean. Six years ago, we had a somewhat traumatic tree-hunting expedition that typifies the absurd predicaments Jon and I find ourselves in. Our children at the time were 9, 8, 5, & 2.
It started with a budget crisis...
...I remembered that Ashlawn-Highland, the home of former US president James Monroe, was giving out FREE trees. We grabbed the tree saw, and headed down route 53. Jon drove ahead in his truck, and when the kids and I spilled out of the Volvo, we saw a young couple dragging a perfect Christmas tree toward their car. When questioned, they told us that the best trees were in the vicinity of the sheep. I popped into the gift shop to make sure we understood the rules of this venture, and was told we were free to cut down any cedar tree, and that donations to Ashlawn, in any amount, were gratefully accepted. Fair enough, although I kept to myself the fact that I didn't know what a cedar tree looked like.
Our first challenge was climbing the fence into a large field with woods at its edge. There were no suitable trees in sight, and there was a disconcerting lack of sheep. But what these woods lacked in sheep and Christmas trees, they made up in other organic matter, for the area had recently been occupied by a large herd of cows. After a long and dreary walk, we stumbled on a barbed-wire fence. The trees are always more Christmas-y on the other side of the barbed wire. Boosting four small children over the barbed wire fence was considerably more difficult than climbing the first fence, but we managed it, and were deep in a wood of enormous trees of one species that I assumed was cedar. They were all much too tall, and just as we were about to give up, we spotted the sheep and a tree that appeared suitable, or at least, diminutive compared to its neighbors. There was a long stretch of trunk before the branches began, but we were confident that once trimmed down, this tree would be perfect. Jon set to work with the saw, the tree fell with a resounding Whump!, and it became horribly clear that this tree was HUGE, and that we didn't have a chance of even dragging it to the car, let alone fitting it into our living room. What also became clear was that we had committed a crime. Our first impulse was to hide the evidence. Jon quickly began sawing the tree into smaller chunks, much as an axe-murderer chops his victims into pieces that will fit into a briefcase. The kids and I dragged the amputated tree bits to another fence nearby and tossed them over. Even two year old Mr. McP was scurrying to and fro with small branches. We were just in sight of the house and Jon alternated between bellowing at us to hurry up and hissing at us to be quiet. It was at this point that I remarked that our donation had better be in cash. And so we floundered through the muck--for the cows had been here too--frantically disposing of the tree, while ducking and dodging in order to remain invisible. The sheep, curiously, seemed oblivious to the sudden burst of activity in their pasture.
Once we'd hidden the evidence of our crime, we began our search anew. We now realized that our sense of perspective was somewhat skewed but when we found a second tree, we were at least able to judge that it was much smaller than the first one. As Jon started sawing, the three youngest children started to cry. "I don't want a Christmas tree!" sobbed Drama Queen. This tree, however, turned out to be easily portable. Even better, we discovered a broad stile over which we surmounted the fence with ease. Jon put the tree into his truck and headed home, while I stopped by the gift shop, gave them $10, and left in a hurry.
When I got home, there stood Jon, holding the tree up against the house. It was several feet taller than the front porch roof. We did, however, cram that whole tree, every bit, into our stairwell, where its top nearly reached the second floor ceiling and its branches bulged through the banisters and almost completely blocked the hall.
Monday, December 03, 2007
By "food" I mean food and not toilet paper or toothpaste or dog food or any of the other things you can buy at the supermarket. "Food" also does not include alcoholic beverages. Food bought in restaurants is a separate line item on my budget. Interestingly, in our month of buying local, we spent far less at restaurants too.
Why was shopping local cheaper even though prices are higher? I think it's because I stayed away from packaged foods, which are expensive anywhere, but are especially pricey at stores like Foods of All Nations.
I am once again rethinking how I buy food in Charlottesville.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I'm thinking of all the incidents in our marriage in which it was just the two of us, trying to get through a difficult situation--sometimes a funny situation, and sometimes not.
There was the time we installed insulation in the ceiling of our addition. Imagine cramming a futon into your joists and stapling it in place and you will know what that was like. There was the time, early in our marriage that we loaded a u-haul with all our possessions for a move to another state, and had to maneuver an entertainment center that weighed about 5,000 pounds down a long, steep narrow staircase all by ourselves. This was the first of several moves.
There was the time our dining room ceiling along with an ocean of water collapsed while we had houseguests. We closed on our first (and only) house the day before central Virginia expected the monster Hurricane Floyd. We didn't even know if we'd still have a house to move into.
There was the time Jon, replacing our toilet, got stuck in the tight space between the old toilet and the wall and I laughed and took pictures of him and then posted them on the internet.
There was the time Jon had his wisdom teeth removed, and the oral surgeon discharged him when he was barely conscious and I had to drag him to the car, and when we got home, still under the influence of the anesthesia, he ran around the house and jumped on the beds and frightened me and our two toddlers before he finally passed out.
There was the time we couldn't agree on what color to paint the living room, so I waited until he was out of town and then painted it my color all by myself.
There was the time we were stranded on the New York State thruway because Jon's car's radiator blew, and had to spend the night at a quaint inn on Lake Erie and then an entire day wandering around Northeast, PA waiting for our car to be repaired. There was the time our newly cut Christmas tree fell off the roof of the car way out in Nelson county.
There was the death of Jon's brother, age 36 of a brain tumor, and the death of my mother, and then the death of his father, plus the deaths of many other loved ones.
There was, of course the births of all our children. Mad Scientist, the oldest--the day he was born Jon followed me around the house with a tape recorder while I threw up and tried to get away from him. Drama Queen, exactly 12 months and six days after Mad Scientist--nearly born in the car, at a railroad crossing in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Miss G, born after we'd moved back from Michigan to Buffalo, and finally Mr. McP, born here in Charlottesville in 1999.
It's these experiences that make a marriage. No matter how much you fight or irritate each other, you look back on all the ordeals you survived together and realize you really have something.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I could have waited for the loaner car to show up, but waiting at Cville Imports for over an hour with nothing to do does not appeal to me. If I'd had my cell phone, I could have called my husband to pick me up on his Vespa, but I didn't have my cell phone. I could have asked to borrow Cville Imports phone, but I am allergic to asking for favors, even small ones. I decided to walk home.
The great thing about Charlottesville is that you can walk just about anywhere, provided you are healthy and reasonably fit, which I am. Still the walk from Cville Imports, on Lewis St, which is off Fontaine Ave, to my house in Belmont is long--2.9 miles, in fact. I was wearing my running clothes, having already been for a run this morning. I could have run home, except that I was carrying the fabulous new bag I just bought at Anthropologie. If I'd run, I'd have looked like a purse snatcher. As it was, I looked decidedly eccentric, walking the city streets dressed in sloppy running clothes, and carrying a Fabulous Bag.
It was OK on JPA, where I blended into the drab line of diverse people headed to UVA, but I stood out more after I turned onto Lane Rd. One woman even clutched her purse close as she passed me. See--I did look like a purse snatcher.
I don't like walking on Cherry Ave, mainly because of the guys who hang out on the benches in front of Tonsler Park. If I'm in a huge hurry to get home from work, I will walk that way, but usually I take Main St. Walking in front of those guys is like running a gauntlet, but I figured that they wouldn't be out so early in the morning. Alas, they were there--one of them even yelled something after I passed, although I'm not sure if he was yelling at me or at a passing car.
At last I attained the top of the Cherry Ave. hill. Walking down the hill, however, a Charlottesville Police officer, waiting in the traffic jam that backs up along Elliott Ave, suddenly turned on his siren, startling me so much I almost bit off my own tongue. There was no emergency. He just wanted to get to the head of the long line of cars. Thanks asshole. How nice that police are exempt from the traffic laws they enforce on everybody else. Maybe I'm just lucky he didn't arrest me on suspicion of purse snatching.
And now I am home. If I hadn't walked, I'd still be waiting for Mr. Douchebag to return the loaner car.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Next semester we spend twice as much time at the hospital. Once I'm there, it's not so bad, but I don't like the nervousness beforehand, wondering what my patient will be like, if my nurse will be mean to me, if I'll make a horrible mistake. I've had difficult patients too--personally pleasant, but physically difficult. The last four weeks in a row I had patients who were unable to move at all, and two of those patients were also unable to speak or communicate their needs.
Our clinical group celebrated our last day by finishing early and going out to lunch. Unfortunately, everyone settled on Chili's. (I put in a quiet vote for the Tavern--we needed a place with parking). I'd never eaten there before, and the experience confirmed my aversion to chain restaurants. All I could think was, "If only we were at Aqui es Mexico, I could be eating a $5 plate of deliciousness." Instead I paid $8.99--$8.99!!!!--for a bland turkey sandwich. I didn't even finish my sandwich, it was so disappointing. I wanted to order a margarita--our instructor made a point of saying that alcohol for lunch was appropriate after all we'd been through--but no one else did, and I didn't want to be the lone drunk at Chilis during lunch. The Tuesday group went to Lord Hardwicks and had beer with their lunch.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thanksgiving was fabulous. We live far from family and no one came down to stay with us, and Jon had to work until 7:30pm. I planned to serve our sad, lonely little dinner at 8:00pm so Jon could eat with us, but then he called from work to say he was bringing a few ER people (co-workers, not patients)home to eat with us. We had a party after all. My cooking is mediocre, but there was lots of alcohol.
Mediocre cooking aside, the turkey I bought at Foods of All Nations was perfect. I bought our entire thanksgiving meal at local food shops--the cashier at C'ville Market uttered a little gasp of surprise when my total came to over $100. It was delicious, and a fun experiment, but the only way to keep it up is to sacrifice the kids' college fund, so it's back to Harris-Teeter for me, although I will now always buy our bagels at Bodo's, because as long as you buy a full dozen, they're the same price as Giant's, and so much better.
Tomorrow we both have to work, and it is the UVA/Virginia Tech game, and there is a full moon.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Did Gerard Manley Hopkins say "Glory be to God for dappled things," or did he say, "Glory be to God for nasty, musty, cave-like mosquito infested things"? How lovely to sit in the dappled shade of an arbor, with the sun winking through the clean green leaves. That is what I want next summer, and not a dank green cave with a literal haystack of vines piled on top. Jon thinks differently. He does not see the disadvantage of sitting under last year's rotting grape leaves, slapping mosquitoes, and shielding your eyes from the descending bird trash. If Jon doesn't kill me, I can enjoy my clean, sunny, dappled shade next summer, and if he does, I will never have to wipe shit off anyone's ass ever again. It is a win-win situation, so go ahead and kill me Bad Boy and I will see you in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.
The former owner of our house was a landscape architect, who left behind a garden that has always intimidated me. Just before closing, she took me on a tour, and every region of our tiny 1/10 acre yard had a "concept." I could barely keep alive a pansy in a pot. I was so not ready for a garden with Concepts. She concluded the tour by waving her hand at the grape arbor, "....and, of course, pruning the vines in the fall," she said, as if this were obvious. But of course. I tried my best, and for a the first couple years, the garden looked OK, but then came the summer of the heart murmur, when I could barely get off the couch for three months, and the garden went to hell and has never recovered.
This year I will get it presentable again, and near the top of the list is to tame the grape arbor. I have no school this week, and am spending my time in the garden, getting things cleaned up and cleared away so I will have a fresh playing field next spring.
Monday, November 19, 2007
- Quality. The food is of superior quality in most instances—exceptions noted below.
- Local. Obviously, not all food sold at local stores is locally produced, but at least there is some local food available, and not only produce. Cville Market even sells locally milled flour, Wade's Mill—their white flour makes delicious bread and pretzels, although is perhaps a tad sturdy for my daintier baked goods. I bake a lot-- so much that I use a cannister that holds fifteen pounds of flour. I have no patience for wimpy canisters that can't even hold a full five pound bag.
- Less Waste. I've found that we waste less food because I am mindful of everything that I buy. At the supermarket, it's so easy to mindlessly load up your cart.
- We're eating more whole foods, fewer packaged foods, because of the problem of Cost—see below.
- Cost. Food is much more expensive, particularly packaged food like cold cereal, cookies, etc.
- Time. Although I used to waste a lot of time at the supermarket, I find I'm making more trips to the store because there is no way I can buy enough food to feed a family of six people for a whole week at a small store, mainly because certain stores are good for certain things, and not so good for other things, so there's no one-stop shopping. For example, I prefer to buy eggs at C'ville Market, but don't like their meat selection so much. I have to drive all the way across town to Foods of All Nations for meat, unless I remember the butcher in the Main Street Market, which I usually don't. Produce is good anywhere you go, but I am not happy with the butter at any local store. You have your choice of super-expensive organic butter, or low-end brand inferior butter. Cville Market's butter comes in giant one-pound blocks, which you must cut into quarters yourself. Not that it's difficult to quarter a pound of butter, but then you have the problem of re-wrapping the pieces.
- Variety. There are some things I either can't get at local stores, or won't pay local-store prices for. Splenda, for example. Tuna—they do have tuna at Reid's, and probably Foods of All Nations too, but what is the difference between buying Starkist tuna at a local shop, and buying Starkist tuna at Harris-Teeter? Baking supplies are another issue. I've already mentioned flour and butter, but other baking supplies like chocolate chips, are either ridiculously expensive or unavailable in local stores. Again, why should I pay $4.50 for a bag of chocolate chips, when the same brand is on sale at Food Lion for $2.00? And chocolate chips are a staple in our house. If the kids are whining about having nothing to eat, I can whip up a batch of cookies and everybody is happy.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I remember taking a similar survey when I was in seventh or eighth grade. I also remember lying and claiming to have tried all kinds of drugs I'd never even been in the same room with.
Here's why these surveys are stupid: kids don't tell the truth on them. My daughter Drama Queen, a 9th grader, told me today that her honors English class took the survey together today and every kid in the class lied about his or her race. One classmate claimed to have been using cocaine since the age of ten. Another put down that he had threatened other children with guns, indeed, that he took a gun to school with him every day. My son Mad Scientist recalled preposterous answers that some of his friends had put on their surveys.
It will be amusing to see the screaming headlines a few months hence.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
If there is anywhere a bigger group of killjoys than the anti-Stratfordists, I don't want to know about them. I was first introduced to the idea that Shakespeare may have been a fraud my freshman year in college, when my English professor claimed that Shakespeare was not one person at all, but an umbrella name for a diverse group of playwrights.
It all started with the delightfully mad American scholar Delia Bacon who became convinced that Sir Francis Bacon (no relation) was the real Shakespeare. Her arguments were impressive enough to win the support of worthies the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne. (Hawthorne wrote the preface to her book The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspeare Unfolded and immediately regretted it, saying afterwards, "I will never be kind to anybody again as long as I live." Lesson: always read the book you have agreed to provide a preface for. ) Bacon traveled to England and was so sure that the proof to her notions lay buried with Shakespeare that she actually bribed a guard to leave her alone in the church with Shakespeare's tomb. She had planned to open the tomb, but couldn't bring herself to go through with it. Delia Bacon eventually died in an institution.
She was the first of many who for some reason, could not accept that an ordinary middle class man from Stratford could be the author of so many brilliant plays and sonnets. Other possible Shakespeares were Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke and Christopher Marlowe (who was killed in a barroom brawl long before many of Shakespeare's plays were even written.) The Earl of Oxford also died before Shakespeare. Why the need to tear a person down? Is it that some people are so insecure about their own lack of brilliance that they can't accept brilliance in someone else? I prefer to believe in the possibility of greatness.
*I took that quote from Hawthorne from Shakespeare, the World as Stage by Bill Bryson. The facts about Delia Bacon came from this book and also Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity and Rotten Luck by Paul Collins.
Refreshing this post. It's childish, but I'm getting annoyed that there are a couple blogs linked to Cville blogs that seem to refresh themselves automatically, filling most of the first page and pushing the more interesting entries out of site. Not that I'm presuming that this blog is one that is interesting, but other people's are and I'd rather see their latest entries on the front page and not a repeat of the same posts that were up a week ago and won't go away.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
I also stopped in the library and got a pleasant jolt when I saw, sitting on the new books shelf, a brand-new book by Bill Bryson! I didn't know he'd written anything--it seems like "Thunderbolt Kid" just came out, and I haven't even read that one yet. This latest book is Shakespeare: The World as Stage and I am so excited to read it.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Last night, I nearly cheated. My daughter needed a treat to share with her class. She would not accept homemade cookies, since she's at the age when homemade cookies are embarrassing. Stoney's was closed, and Food Lion, just a quick drive down Avon St. was so tempting. I stayed strong, and we went to Reid's.
Summary so far: avoiding supermarkets means eating more whole foods and having access to more locally produced foods. I bought less packaged food this week, and I'm buying smaller amounts of food at a time because it's very difficult to buy enough to last six people for an entire week at the locally owned shops.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Thank you, everyone for the suggestions. I'm noticing a small shift in my thinking. Bodo's for example. I used to view bagels from Bodo's as a special treat and something to be bought infrequently. The main reason I used to shop at Giant was because their bagels are better than Harris-Teeter's. So why not just buy all our bagels at Bodo's? My kids love them in lunchboxes and they're only $0.10 more per bagel than at Giant.
Still, all food and nothing else makes Patience a dull girl. I survived another clinical day, and got to see a lumbar puncture done--with xray to guide the doctor when he put the needle in. Cool. I've never seen cerebral-spinal fluid before. Three more clinical days to go this semester. I also have an exam Friday, so must get away from the computer and start studying.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I ought to be keeping track of certain variables in my local food stores only project. The most important ones to me are
- variety--does the store carry what I need?
I was disappointed that Integral Yoga didn't have tortillas made with wheat flour and seems to only carry tortillas made with various alternative grains like spelt and brown rice. Yes, I ally myself with the mainstream wheat-eater. I guess I'm fortunate not to be allergic to wheat, but as I considered the package of spelt tortillas, I wondered if I could be allergic to spelt and frankly, brown rice tortillas are not very appealing.
Tonight I mixed the plain yogurt with curry powder, garlic and cumin, marinated the chicken in it, and made a stir fry of the chicken with rice and broccoli and spinach from IY plus frozen peas left over from the evil supermarket chain.
Lunch boxes are also going to be a problem. I have to pack lunches for four children every day. Buying food in the school cafeteria is unthinkable.
Friday, October 26, 2007
This got me thinking: how long could I go without buying any food at a major supermarket chain? Not that I never shop at local stores. I often shop at Cville Market and make periodic IY runs for some bulk items that I can't get anywhere else. I walk past Feast on my way home from work, and sometimes pop in for a few items--but not too many, since I have to carry them all the way home to Belmont.
A project is forming in my mind. Can my household of six people shop only at locally owned food stores? And for how long? A week? A month?
The closest food store to me is Stoney's, on Avon St.--about a two minute walk from my house. Stoney's is like the Room of Requirement (from the Harry Potter books.) No matter what you need, you will find it at Stoney's. I once ran out of molasses in the middle of making something that required molasses. Stoney's had it. Work gloves, respirator masks, almond extract, apples, hairnets (for ballet) Stoney's is the place.
These are my store choices (in order of their distance from my house)
- Stoneys plus other Belmont delis.
- Feast (and other shops in the West Main Market)
- Cville Market
- Integral Yoga
- Foods of All Nations--all the way across town, but has the biggest selection, and isn't as expensive as everyone says. They have the cheapest tahini in town, anyway. And the best tea.
Today at Integral Yoga, I bought enough foods to make dinner for several nights (although it irritates me no end that they don't sell eggs there. I know, it's their store, they have the right to sell what they want and I hope I don't get hate comments from people who don't eat eggs, but the lack of eggs is the main reason I eschew IY in favor of Cville Market most of the time.
After IY, I stopped across the street at Reid's. A long time ago, I made disparaging remarks about the atmosphere at Reid's and got blasted in a comment. I don't mean to put down Reid's. It is ugly inside, but they have the cheapest Nutella in town, carry Fair Trade coffee, and don't make you sign up for a stupid bonus card. I do have two words for Reids, though: automatic doors. Please.
Until further notice, I'll only be shopping at the stores listed above. Let the games begin.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Dried lavender in the spaghetti sauce is not a happy combination.
Aileen (AKA Patience)
Jon is proud of his sauce, and rightly so, because it's good. He will often make his sauce for dinner when I am too tired to cook, and I appreciate that. A few weeks ago, I detected a new and troubling flavor in the sauce. It was one of those things that I felt I ought to be able to identify, but couldn't. "I think it might be the tarragon" he said. I didn't think dried tarragon that has sat on the shelves for at least three years would make that much of an impact but I didn't say so. The other night, the strange flavor was still present in the sauce, only this time I saw the bottle of dried lavender out on the counter amongst the other sauce spices.
I'd bought the lavender after seeing a recipe for a lavender cake I wanted to try, but after taking a whiff, I decided I didn't want to make a lavender cake after all. It smelled nothing like I expected it to. Not that you want your food to smell like air fresheners and cleaning products, but still, it was a let-down. So the bottle sat, unused, until fully half of it disappeared into two pots of sauce.
On another note, today is foley catheter day in skills lab.
We've rapidly progressed through the skills, starting with handwashing and bedmaking, then onto vital signs and more. The last couple weeks were hanging IV fluids, changing the tubing and flushing the line (which I did with a real patient on Monday. I was proud of myself. Jon rolled his eyes.) Then came sterile technique. From that I learned that I will never be an OR nurse as I contaminated my sterile field repeatedly. Alas, nurses have to use sterile technique outside of the OR, such as when inserting foleys. I think the only skills left this semester are NG tubes, more with IVs and IM & SQ injections.
Friday, October 12, 2007
I took some other pictures of our messy porch. My porch gives the impression of slovenliness. I was not raised in the type of household where life's detritus tends to collect on the front porch and neither was my husband. And yet, my front porch looks like something that would fit right in on Green Acres. I was raised in a house so immaculate you were afraid to touch anything. My father's whole family is extraordinarily tidy. This summer, at my aunt's house, there was a crisis involving a toad that was headed into the pool's filter. She told me to get a stick, and I couldn't find a single twig, so immaculate was her back yard. Perhaps my porch is a sort of rebellion.
This is the woodburning stove we removed from the living room complete with "Trhyme" game. I still haven't listed it on Craigslist or Freecycle, although I fully intend to do so.
Mad Scientist's socks and satchel.
How many people have a well-thumbed copy of Locke on their porch? (This is Mad Scientist's reading choice, not mine.)
This reminded me of when my sister-in-law fell while running this summer. Her children's first reaction was, "Is the ipod OK?!"
I'm not particularly crafty, but yesterday my kids and I made a Halloween wreath. We wired Jack-be-little pumpkins to a wreath form, and added bittersweet berries, then used a glue gun to apply those black and orange wrapped candies that everybody hates but that you always find tons of in your child's trick-or-treat bag. I'll put up a picture later. I need to buy two more tiny pumpkins, but the wreath is quite fabulous and I am proud of it.
Does anyone like those orange and black candies?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Today I felt like crap--overstuffed sinuses, ears plugged with fluid, deaf (or nearly) and carrying a 300 pound head on my neck. It's my weekend off and I'd looked forward to visiting the Alderman library and stocking up. I got there about 10:30 this morning and discovered the library doesn't open until 1:00pm today, due to fall break.
I did return at 1:00--I really wanted some new books to read--but by that time I felt even sicker. I have a fear of passing out in public places. I never actually have passed out in public (or at all) but I've come close enough to it to be fully sensible of how embarrassing that would be. The only thing worse than passing out in public would be to pass out somewhere in the stacks at the Alderman library on a Sunday, where you could lie for hours, undiscovered.
I didn't pass out, but my fluid-stuffed head made me feel something like a pumpkin tottering around on a dandelion stalk.
I did fully restock my bedside table with the following titles:
Bruce Chatwin by Nicholas Shakespeare
Mollie Peer: or the Underground Adventures of the Moosepath League by Van Reid
The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero by Scott Anderson
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis
The Funeral Makers, Once Upon a Time on the Banks, and The Weight of Winter by Cathie Pelletier
If any of them turn out to be exceptional, I'll write a review.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
We set Mad Scientist to work scrubbing the stucco with a tsp and bleach solution and I took the younger kids to Mint Springs and Jon stayed behind to paint. When I returned from the lake, the entire front of the house was purple. Not gray. The purple paint contrasted oddly with the old trim color-a yellowish cream--making our house look not unlike an Easter egg. A neighbor came out to laugh at my discomfiture and told us the house looked "phat."
Thus began the summer of painting.
Our labors were interrupted when Jon's father died. We spent two and a half weeks in New York, and while we were there Jon broke his 10th rib playing extreme frisbee with his nephews. When we got home, he was unable to paint and I did the rest of the work myself.
I scraped the trim--sometimes scraping through 100 years accumulation of paint. I removed the window sashes, repaired the sash cords, removed and replaced cracked glazing compound. (I broke so many panes, the people at Virginia Glass must think I am either an exceptionally careless person, or have anger management issues.) I painted the sashes and the front door raspberry red to contrast with the purple house and the white trim.
Prior to this summer, I'd had a fear of ladders. The front and back of the house didn't require much ladder work because I could stand on the porches and roofs. When it came time to do the sides I had to overcome this fear. By the end of the summer, I could extend our ladder as far as it would go, climb as high as was safe and paint with confidence. I learned how to balance the ladder on uneven ground. The west side of our house is nearly three stories high. I still need to paint most of the trim on that side, but the rest of the house is finished (other than the porch floor.)
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Mr. McP: Table of contents? I thought that was when you went to a judge.
Mr. McP: you know, when you sue someone, I thought you went to the Table of Contents.
Friday, September 28, 2007
According to the Hook news blog and Cvillenews not only were the owners of Double H farm arrested, Virginia authorities visited a local restaurant that had pork products from Double H farm and "denatured" the products on the spot--rendering them inedible by pouring bleach on them.
Does this not strike you as unnecessarily violent? Shouldn't handcuffs be reserved for people who are dangerous? Did the VDACS really need ten agents plus two additional people to arrest the couple--who are in their 60s? Was it necessary to force them to ride in separate cars after arrest? Can you imagine the scene in the restaurant kitchens where state officials showed up and started pouring bleach on the food?
Would owners of a large business ever be treated in this manner? I remember when Wal-mart was exposed for labeling products made in China as "Made in America." Were Wal-mart executives arrested? Merchandise destroyed?
We can't have state sanctioned thugs using excessive force and violence.
I understand that regulations are put in place to protect consumer health and keep us from getting ripped off. Why are confusing unit pricing labels in grocery stores never under close scrutiny by the VDACS? (Like when different brands of the same type of product have a different unit pricing standard--Brand A will be labeled $X/pound and brand B will be labeled $X per ounce making it difficult to compare prices without a calculator.) I'd love to see stores get disciplined for that. And haven't the latest major outbreaks of foodborne illness had their source from foods produced by large corporations, such as the salmonella contaminated Peter Pan peanut butter or the bagged salads that gave people e-coli.
Forgive this disorganized and possibly badly spelled post. My kids are bugging me for use of the computer.
I'm thinking of writing some letters to the appropriate authorities because no way should a state agricultural department have the authority to act in this way. (And it's not the first time--I remember a relatively recent Hook article about a Virginia farm whose hogs were systematically destroyed with no advance warning to their owners, in what must have been a violent and traumatic scene. )
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Lots of annoyances.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
You can't have a biography of Zelda, without much mention of her famous husband. I've never really liked the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read Tender is the Night last year and had a hard time getting through it. I do like his short stories, particularly "The Ice Palace." This biography has led me to reconsider Fitzgerald as an important American writer. I think I may re-read The Great Gatsby, and read some of his other novels as well.
I feel an affinity with the Jazz Age generation. Isn't it true that children tend to reject the ideals of their parents' generation and identify better with their grandparents? My parents were early wave baby boomers--my mom and Mick Jagger were born the same year. My grandfather, born in 1903 (and my grandmother, born in 1905) were just a few years younger than F. Scott Fitzgerald and his contemporaries. My grandfather told stories of drinking in speakeasies during prohibition and liked to tease my grandmother and call her a flapper, although she always insisted she wasn't any such thing. Flapper grandmother or not, they knew how to live well and did so without any bourgeois hand-wringing about it.
My own generation (unfortunately named "generation X") grew up in the shadow of the baby boomers. They were our baby sitters, our friends' mean older brothers, and in my case, our parents. I felt oppressed on almost a daily basis by the baby boomer nostalgia that became popular as I entered my teens. The Jazz Age generation grew up not under the shadow of another generation, but under that of a powerful cultural influence--Victorianism. Born just as Queen Victoria was dying, they successfully shook off the inhibitions of the Victorian Age. Their frenzied post-war partying was short-lived, since the Depression and World War II soon put an end to it. My own generation, rather than feeling carefree after the end of a major war, felt oppressed by the cold war and all its implications. Why care about anything when someone in power need only "push a button" and destroy the entire world? This led to our reputation for being "slackers"--cynical and selfish-appearing in the eyes of the idealistic baby boomers. And yet I can see a link between our cynicism and the Jazz Age's hedonism.
Or maybe I'm just being ridiculous. Don't forget, I call my site Fatuous Observations for a reason.
Friday, September 21, 2007
One notable change: people write their ads themselves. Back in the day, you dictated your message or wrote it on an index card and mailed it to the paper or whatever. One year I thought it would be hilarious to post a fake "I saw you" ad directed at my husband as an April Fool's joke, and I definitely recall you couldn't just write your message yourself into a an internet text box as apparently, you do now. The difference? The messages are now untouched by the kindly hand of an editor.
If you want to capture Lady Fair, this may not be the right way to go about it: (ditto for Prince Charming.)
Note: all caps are probably not a wise choice.
When using humor, proceed with caution.
Actually, I thought that was funny until, "Hey, that's not right!!!" I'd like to have seen him stick to asking for a loudmouthed tart and see what came along.
Beware of the image you present
I don't think so. If this guy really loved The Notebook, then he is a total weenie. The other alternative is, he picked the movie he thought most appeals to women and claimed he loved it in order to attract them. If this is the case, he's a shameless panderer, and also has a low opinion of women. The Notebook? It must be the worst movie ever made. I've C&P'd a review I once wrote of it at my xanga site:
The Notebook: It's boy meets girl in the South amid the backdrop of inauthentic 1940's fashions. Poor boy. Rich girl. Her snobby parents break them up. “He's trash! Trash!” screams Joan Allen, playing the role of Mother. Joan Allen is Wrong. We know he isn't trash because he reads Poetry and Sam Shepherd is his daddy. The girl, “Allie” is forced to study Latin, but what she really wants to do is Paint. (Naturally.) And so it goes in predictable fashion. Hackneyed story aside, this movie is just careless. In one scene, Allie and Noah are rowing on a river in the midst of a massive flock of white birds. He tells her they usually migrate to some other place and will be gone soon. But here's the thing: some of the birds are geese, and some are swans. Do birds of different species migrate together? I don't know anything about birds, but I can tell a goose from a swan, and if I were a Hollywood screenwriter, I wouldn't feature a great damn flock of migrating birds unless I'd gotten one of my minions to research the habits of such birds. But that's just me.
Also comic: the nursing home scene at the end. The old lady is freaking out and the doctor says, “Give me two c.c.s.” Just like that. (I had the subtitles on.) Two c.c.s, without specifying two c.c.s of what, as if a c.c. is a tangible thing in its own right like two aspirins or two smacks in the head.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Learning to be a nurse is like being a newborn baby. The most basic tasks become hideously complicated when you are doing them with a patient who has mobility or cognitive issues (or both).
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Today was ear nose and throat day in my health assessment class. Using the opthamaloscope takes some getting used to, and the only people to practice on are other students. We were warned to approach the eye from an angle and not hit the macula directly with the light, but I think this is what my partner did--and she examined my eyes many, many times. Ever since class I've had a tiny headache. Imagine a pinpoint of pain with a diameter of about 2mm somewhere behind your eye. My own view through the opthamaloscope was pretty cool. I saw my partner's optic disk and was able to identify some blood vessels. You focus in on the pupil, trying to achieve the "red reflex" which is when your patient suddenly turns into an alien with a bright red light where her pupil usually is.
My partner insisted she saw a cobwebby substance on both my retinas, which freaked me out a bit. When I took microbiology, we were taught that white bits on the retina were signs of the sorts of super scary diseases that always get featured on the TV show House. (That show, in fact, seems to take many diseases straight out of my micro textbook.) I requested a second opinion from a different student who assured me the backside of my eyeballs look normal. There's a load off my mind.
Then we looked at a model with slides depicting abnormalities of the ocular fundus behind his eyes. My partner and I decided to take the model into a large dark supply closet, where we thought we'd get a better view. Unfortunately, the slides slipped out of place in the transfer. Looking through an opthamaloscope in a pitch-dark room at a tiny circle which will only reflect the scope's light straight back at you? Like looking at the freaking sun. I stumbled across the darkened closet, clutching my head and moaning about my burned-out retina.
As for the ears and nose portion of the class--frankly, I think I prefer to keep my eardrums private. You really don't want someone who doesn't know what the f** she's doing sticking a probe into your ear. As a woman, the word "speculum" makes me uncomfortable. "Nasal speculum" is just weird and disturbing. Our instructor warned us not to probe too deeply into the nose, but my partner dug around as if she thought she'd left her car keys in there.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I think some of the CNAs resented us. I picked up a vibe. Indeed, the CNA who gave me a patient to take in to lunch seemed to enjoy scaring me as she warned me about my patient's proclivity for hitting people. He didn't hit me, he was, in fact, charming, with a courtly way of speaking that reminded me of my grandfather. And, it turned out "feeding" did in fact mean literally feeding a patient who is unable to feed him or herself.
But All Nursing School and No Play makes Patience a Dull Girl. Here's a conversation I had with my 8 year old, who asks a lot of impossible questions.
Me: How could I possibly know that! Why do you always ask me questions that I can't answer?
Mr. McP: Because you're funny when you're frustrated. And you make a funny face.
And here I thought he was just very curious.
Here's what I've been reading lately: Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity and Rotten Luck by Paul Collins. It's about thirteen people with Big Ideas that didn't pan out, such as John Banvard who was hailed by Queen Victoria as the greatest artist of the age. And yet why haven't we all heard of him? There are also a few interesting tidbits about other more famous historic characters who were influenced by these people. Who knew that Edgar Allan Poe was a great believer in John Symme's theory that the Earth is hollow and also populated with sentient, human-like beings? (And who knew that Poe died of rabies? I always thought he died of drinking too much and sleeping in ditches.) There's also a minor character who has the best name I've ever heard: Cyrus Reed Teed. I like to imagine writing a novel about someone with that name.
I also read Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler about the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, and the history of museums in general. That sounds really boring, but it isn't.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Our uniforms are strictly dictated, right down to the color of our socks (white). I still need to iron my school patch onto the sleeve (it must be the left sleeve) of my scrub top, but other than that, I am ready to report at 7:00am.
Today I did a dry run to make sure I could find the facility. It is the size of a small country--an entire separate community for the elderly, who, depending on their level of independence, live in detached cottages, apartment complexes, or a skilled nursing facility. The whole place is very posh with lush landscaping, immaculate and attractive buildings and a uniformed guard at the entrance.
My clinical instructor left us detailed instructions of breathtaking complexity on how to find the unit where we'll be working. A long paragraph details our route from our cars to the unit and involves numerous landmarks such as a grandfather clock, a "curio cabinet with a Mexican display," a "Rotunda room," (whatever that is) a restaurant, a bank, a hair salon, a pool, a foyer that is "boarded up because it's under construction," (how will we know it's a foyer if it's boarded up?) a grand staircase, and an elevator, which we are not to use.
The letter concludes telling us that the most important thing to remember is that the Starbucks across the street opens at 6:00am. An important fact indeed. I am torn about stopping for a coffee on the way. If I do, I'm at risk of needing to use the bathroom eight times over the course of the morning. OTOH, stopping at Starbucks means I will certainly run into some of my classmates--who will be obvious because of our screaming royal blue scrubs--and then we can all go over to the facility together, thus meaning less of a chance that I will spend an eternity lost in the facility, constantly coming up on the "curio cabinet with a Mexican display" as evidence that I'm going in circles.