Friday, July 31, 2015

Wisconsin II

My class at Epic was about cloning and time travel.  When people are learning to use electronic medical software, they need a whole population of  fake patients to learn on in a training environment.  The problem is, even fake people will age as time passes.  Let's say you need a training patient who is six months pregnant.  You need her to remain six months pregnant, and not age at all.  You don't want your trainees to learn on a patient who is fifty years old and 72 months pregnant. So you create your patient and keep sliding her into the past until you have built up a medical history and six months of prenatal visits.  Then, to preserve her age and details, you transport your patient into the future, where she is hidden and safe from the passage of time.

Tuesday after class, I followed Epic's self-guided tour of the grounds.  Here are a few pictures.

Entrance to Deep Space, the 11,000-seat underground auditorium.
The glass building to the right is Voyager Hall, where I attended my class.





Central part of the grounds



Staff dining room.  (We trainees ate in a different area.)


The Waterfall Conference room
You're free to wander and as long as there isn't a meeting in session, can check out the conference rooms.  It looks like a meeting had recently concluded here.  The waterfall area is my favorite part of the Epic grounds.  While I was admiring the view, an Epic employee told me that it's even more beautiful at sunset, and I resolved to return later to check it out.

Wednesday's bike ride into downtown Madison was brilliant!  I'm so glad I did it.  The bike rental shop was next door to my hotel and although they closed for the day at 6:00 pm, they told me I didn't have to return it before then and could just lock it up in their lot any time.  That was great news because I really wanted to bike back to Epic in the evening for the sunset, which is at about 8:20 pm.

Madison has a fantastic bike infrastructure.  Epic is located in Verona, WI, about eleven miles from downtown Madison.

Most of this route was on commuter bike trails

The network of bike trails is amazing.  My only interaction with cars was at points where the trails crossed roads, at clearly marked crossings, where drivers were courteous about stopping for you. There were overpasses when the trails crossed busy highways. It was such a pleasure not to have to ride defensively.  Seriously, the biggest danger to my safety on this route was the bunnies that jumped out onto the trail.  The weather was perfect for cycling--low eighties, low humidity, and a fresh breeze.  I barely broke a sweat on the one-hour ride in.

Bike trail crossroads

My rental bike.  The yellow tag is a trail pass, which you must have to use the trails.
The bike shop sold me a $4 day pass and I believe the fee is $20/year for locals.


In town, I parked my bike on UW's east campus mall and headed to State St. on foot.  This is Madison's quasi-pedestrian mall.  It differs from Charlottesville's in that there's a defined road and sidewalks, but only bicycles and public transportation vehicles may use the road.  There were so many cyclists!  And why wouldn't there be, when it is so easy to get around by bike in Madison?  It's almost like a European city.

State Capitol building


I checked out the shops on State St and toured the State Capitol building, which is open to the public, and went up to the observation deck at the base of the dome.  It had one of those scary, one-way spiral staircases.

The afternoon rush hour had started when I began the return trip home and I found myself caught up in a stream of bike commuters. In downtown Madison, where the bike paths cross the roads, there are traffic lights specifically for bikes. (The illuminated bits are in the shape of a bicycle.) Once you get out of downtown, the path (I was on the Southwest Commuter Path) goes through pleasant urban neighborhoods with pretty houses and gardens, and periodic exits off the trails to the streets.  Further out, the trail parallels a major highway, but with a wide buffer of grass and plants so you aren't choking on exhaust and dirt.

I got back to my hotel, windblown and disheveled, and went to the Wednesday evening social for the guests.  Almost all the guests are visiting Epic.  I had a glass of white wine and then a Spotted Cow beer from the New Glarus brewery.  It was fun to chat with analysts from other organizations.

At 7:30, I got back on the bike and rode out to Epic for the sunset, where the view was lovely.  I had a bit of difficulty figuring out how to get to the waterfall on a bike and ended up carrying the bike up some stairs.  The Epic employee was right.  The full sunlight flattens the prairie, but at sunset, it gains depth and texture.  Comparison pictures below.

5:00 pm

8:00 pm




There's a window behind the waterfall.

I rode back into Verona, to the supermarket to stock up on cheese to take home and then returned the bike.  All told, I rode about twenty-five miles with less stress and effort than my six-mile daily ride in Charlottesville.  It was a great day.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hello from Wisconsin

Lucky me, I have been sent back to Epic for training in a different discipline.  So here I am in Wisconsin, where everybody is friendly and looks like they grew up on a farm and has an accent that is simply incapable of being mean or snooty. (I apologize for the generalizations, but honestly, everyone is so sincerely NICE here.)

I arrived Sunday and I leave tomorrow.  Monday was a difficult day.  Since my background is in English followed by nursing, I often feel like I'm faking it, now that I work in IT.  It's hard to be surrounded by smart people who all have genuine computing expertise.  Everyone you meet at Epic appears to be super smart and I got off on the wrong foot in class by sitting at a computer that didn't have the class materials set up for it, and I had already logged into my work email on the wrong computer. (Checking email is another no-no.)  But I got to have lunch with my Epic TS and he took me on a tour of Deep Space, the auditorium that seats 11,000 people and is situated six stories underground, so as not to interfere with the prairie views.  I saw Deep Space when I was here for a conference in 2013, but it wasn't completely finished then.

I am enjoying my temporary sojourn on the prairie.  The mountains of Virginia are beautiful, but sometimes they make me feel claustrophobic and trapped.  I prefer sunny, wide open spaces.  Tuesday was a better day and after class, I followed Epic's suggested self-guided tour of the prairie campus and then walked back to my hotel.  Today I have big plans to bike into downtown Madison after class.  (If I get up the nerve.  I'm a bit scared of getting lost.  It's a long way.)

The blogger app on my tablet is being a bore and froze when I tried to load more pictures, so these are all I have to share for now.  I'd like to post more photos later, because this is an extraordinarily beautiful place.

There's a working farm on the Epic campus which supplies the materials for the amazing food that is served there.


A view of the farm campus as seen from the prairie campus.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gray Linen

Some of you were vociferously opposed to the gray linen that I used for my disastrous dress, but I was determined to make something out of it.  So I made this.

The most boring garment ever


I suck at modeling. Sancho is concerned.

So there it is.  A wearable blouse.  Would I buy this if I tried it on in a store?  No, but I think I could wear it to work without embarrassing myself.  The pattern is Simplicity 1364, and it was really fun to sew.  It zips up the back. You can't see the darts in the sides, but I am quite proud of them.  I would definitely use this pattern again, maybe the sleeved version with a striped knit fabric and an exposed zipper up the back.

What about the dress?  After it failed as a maxi skirt with a drawstring waist, I cut a bit more off the top and sewed a yoke waistband to it.  It's such a dispiriting garment I didn't bother to face the yoke and finish the skirt. (I intended to put in a side zipper.)  At most, I could wear it to walk the dog or scrub the kitchen floor. 

Maybe I'll be Cinderella for Halloween this year





Thursday, July 23, 2015

On the Nightstand

Here's my latest haul from the Alderman library.



Odd Girl Out by Elizabeth Jane Howard. This is my fun read of the bunch.  Everything EJH writes is delightful.

The Life of Samuel Johnson by John Boswell.  For the fifty classics project. (Pictured is volume one of three.)

The Reminiscences of Lady Dorothy Nevill.  I'm reading this because Virginia Woolf mentions it in The Common Reader.  I have quoted part of Woolf's passage below.

Thus she was not an extreme case of aristocracy; she was confined rather to a bird-cage than to an asylum; through the bars she saw people walking at large, and once or twice she made a surprising little flight into the open air. A gayer, brighter, more vivacious specimen of the caged tribe can seldom have existed; so that one is forced at times to ask whether what we call living in a cage is not the fate that wise people, condemned to a single sojourn upon earth, would choose. To be at large is, after all, to be shut out; to waste most of life in accumulating the money to buy and the time to enjoy what the Lady Dorothys find clustering and glowing about their cradles when their eyes first open—as hers opened in the year 1826 at number eleven Berkeley Square. Horace Walpole had lived there. Her father, Lord Orford, gambled it away in one night’s play the year after she was born. But Wolterton Hall, in Norfolk, was full of carving and mantelpieces, and there were rare trees in the garden, and a large and famous lawn. No novelist could wish a more charming and even romantic environment in which to set the story of two little girls, growing up, wild yet secluded, reading Bossuet with their governess, and riding out on their ponies at the head of the tenantry on polling day.

The Diary of John Evelyn.  Volumes 2, 3, & 4 pictured. Volume 1 was all introduction, written by someone else, so I didn't bother with it. The library didn't have all volumes from the same edition, hence the mismatched covers.  This work was also brought to my attention by Virginia Woolf, in a chapter titled "Rambling Round Evelyn."   From The Common Reader:

Should you wish to make sure that your birthday will be celebrated three hundred years hence, your best course is undoubtedly to keep a diary. Only first be certain that you have the courage to lock your genius in a private book and the humour to gloat over a fame that will be yours only in the grave. For the good diarist writes either for himself alone or for a posterity so distant that it can safely hear every secret and justly weigh every motive. For such an audience there is need neither of affectation nor of restraint. Sincerity is what they ask, detail, and volume; skill with the pen comes in conveniently, but brilliance is not necessary; genius is a hindrance even; and should you know your business and do it manfully, posterity will let you off mixing with great men, reporting famous affairs, or having lain with the first ladies in the land. The diary, for whose sake we are remembering the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Evelyn,5 is a case in point. It is sometimes composed like a memoir, sometimes jotted down like a calendar; but he never used its pages to reveal the secrets of his heart, and all that he wrote might have been read aloud in the evening with a calm conscience to his children. If we wonder, then, why we still trouble to read what we must consider the uninspired work of a good man we have to confess, first that diaries are always diaries, books, that is, that we read in convalescence, on horseback, in the grip of death; second, that this reading, about which so many fine things have been said, is for the most part mere dreaming and idling; lying in a chair with a book; watching the butterflies on the dahlias; a profitless occupation which no critic has taken the trouble to investigate, and on whose behalf only the moralist can find a good word to say. For he will allow it to be an innocent employment; and happiness, he will add, though derived from trivial sources, has probably done more to prevent human beings from changing their religions and killing their kings than either philosophy or the pulpit.

Before Midnight by Rex Stout.  I've been reading through Rex Stout's oeuvre.  Honestly, it's getting to be a bit of a chore, but my reading OCD won't let me give up.  The stories are usually mildly interesting but this is my twenty-third Nero Wolfe novel and his eccentricities are beginning to bore me.  Still, if you like detective stories, these are decent and Stout had an inexhaustible imagination when it came to coming up with creative ways for his victims to be murdered.

Trooper to the Southern Cross by Angela Thirkell.  (Not pictured on the nightstand because it arrived from a used book dealer after I took the photo.)  Angela Thirkell is a writer I'm just starting to get into.  Her Barcetshire novels are the sort of British comfort lit I love the most.  This book, it turns out, was originally written under the pseudonym "Leslie Parker."  It's a departure from her usual themes and is about an Australian troop ship on a long voyage after World War I.

The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian. (Not pictured because it is at work.  It's my read-at-lunch book.)  The Captain Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin British navy during the Napoleonic wars series is truly stellar, but it's depressing that the last few books in the series aren't as good as the earlier ones. I am just not getting into this one.  It seems rambling and plotless.  Or maybe it's just that I'm only reading it for half an hour a day, or during the few stolen minutes that I have while waiting for the shuttle that goes between my office and the medical center.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Life as a bike commuter

The commute to my new office is ten minutes shorter, but so much more effort!  There was definitely an adjustment period when I started commuting on a bicycle, but I think I've got most of the kinks worked out now.  I admit that I was terrified to start biking, even though I'd had previous experience as a bike commuter during my stint as an acute care nurse.  The last few weekends before our office move, I did practice rides to the new office, so I could be sure of the time it would take (twenty minutes) the traffic, and my ability to get up the hills.

Round trip view


There are three "big" hills on the route.  They don't look very impressive on the elevation map (from mapmyrun) but trust me, it's no joke to cycle up them when it's 95 degrees, at the end of a long day. I was in decent shape when I started biking, but my cardiovascular fitness did have room for improvement.  Now, when I get to the top of the hills, my heart is beating fast but it no longer feels like it's going to explode out of my chest.

It doesn't help that my bike is like Tubby the Tugboat: sturdy and heavy and has only seven gears.  Honestly, bike shops have no business selling seven-speed bikes in a town like Charlottesville. When I bought it, I had only ever cycled in Buffalo, which is relatively flat.  I thought that as long as I had a really low gear to get me up the hills, I'd be fine.  The problem is that when I'm going downhill, seventh gear is too low and I can't start to pedal until I'm well into the ascent of the next hill, so I lose the opportunity to make use of my momentum and it makes getting up the hills more difficult and slows me down.

The downhill bits are fun, but scary because it a car were to pull out in front of me when I'm going that fast it would be bad.  (YES, I wear a helmet.) As an ex-trauma nurse, what scares me the most is the thought of the road rash I'd get if I were to ever fall off my bike. I am very conscious of the vulnerability of my skin. I always wear long pants and real shoes (not flip flops or sandals), but my arms are exposed. Sometimes, on the longest, steepest downhills, cars will ride alongside me and I think they might be clocking my speed.  Jon once clocked me at about twenty miles an hour.

The hot weather started soon after our move and I gave up cycling in office clothes. I ride in relaxed fit trouser-styled pants made of lightweight athletic material and a tee shirt.  I keep tea tree oil shower wipes in my office and pack my office wear in my bag.

I looked at bike panniers, but decided not to buy them.  For one thing, they're expensive, and for another, I didn't want to be tempted to pack tons of stuff and have to lug all that extra weight.  I can fit my food for the day, office clothes, and library book in the bag I used when I walked to work. (I leave my purse at home.)  I strap it to the back of my bike with an elastic net.  I can't go to the gym before work any more because I don't have room for the extra baggage.

On your bike, you're way more vulnerable to the weather than you are when you're walking.  The heat is hotter, the cold is colder (because of your self-generated wind chill) and the rain is wetter.  In hot weather, the breeze keeps you from sweating excessively while you're riding, but as soon as you stop, you're drenched with sweat. The helmet makes me even hotter and destroys my hair every day.

Three times, I've been struck by torrential rainstorms on the way home from work.  The first time was the worst because it was when I was still biking in office clothes.  Cotton chinos weigh about eighty-five pounds when wet.  By the time I got home, I was as wet as if I'd jumped into a swimming pool in all my clothes.  The second time, a thunderstorm was approaching just as I was about to leave work for the day.  I decided I would rather risk being struck by lightening than stay at work late.  I got halfway home before the storm struck.  The third time, I was kept late at a meeting at the medical center and then had to ride back toward work because I was meeting coworkers for margaritas at a bar near our office. I was so wet, I was afraid they wouldn't let me inside.  There's nothing like a margarita (or two) to cheer you up after getting soaked on your bike.

It's one thing to ride home in the rain, but I can't show up for work looking like I crawled out of Davy Jones' locker.  Part of the adjustment was figuring out how to get to work if I can't ride my bike. I have walked the whole way a few times and it takes fifty-five minutes.  I have zero interest in walking all the way home, but there's a trolley stop about ten-minute's walk from my office.  I take it downtown and then it's another fifteen minute walk home. The easy way is to drive part way to a street with free unlimited parking. This is what I do if I feel like I need a treat, but I don't drive often because I want the benefit of the daily exercise.

At first I assumed that biking would provide more exercise but then I started to worry that biking for forty minutes a day burns fewer calories than walking for an hour a day, which is what I was doing before the move.  (According to Myfitnesspal it's a draw.)  That's kind of a bummer.  I was hoping the bike commute would help me lose weight, but it hasn't.

The things that worried me when I did my practice rides turned out not to be problems. Used to the endless stream of cars entering the medical center at 6:45 am, I thought it would be the same at the research park.  In reality, the traffic is still light when I'm arriving, so the left turn at the entrance is not a problem.  I thought that the blind left turn from Shamrock Rd onto Cherry would be difficult and for weeks I rode home by a different, slightly longer route. The day of the thunderstorm I chose to take the most direct route and learned that the left turn isn't so bad. There just isn't a lot of traffic on Cherry Ave, west of the medical center. In my previous life as a cyclist, I mostly rode on W. Main St. and the busier end of Cherry Ave, so I assumed it was that hectic everywhere.

An unexpected danger is all the dumbasses pulling out of the BP Fastmart on Fontaine.  There's also the scary bit where Fontaine narrows and there is no bike lane.  Some cars buzz around me angrily as if they think I have no business being on the road.  Sorry, but I have just as much right to ride my bike in the road as you do to drive your car.  One driver passed so close to me, I thought I felt his car touch me, but that might have been my imagination.  I saw him check his rear view mirror to see if he'd knocked me down or not.  Asshole.

Biking seems easier than it did when I was working as a nurse. I'm not sure if it's because I've become more confident, or that drivers have become more aware of bikes or both.  The city has made some improvements to the bicycle infrastructure, such as painting large bicycle icons in the car lanes where there isn't room for a bike lane, and the awesome bright green bike lanes where JPA and Emmet St. meet.  They have a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan and it would be awesome if it's ever fully implemented, but they have a long way to go.  I'm traveling to Madison, Wisconsin for work soon and I'm hoping to have the opportunity to rent a bike while I'm there.  It seems like a more enlightened and bike-friendly city than Charlottesville.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blather

We were happy to welcome Seamus home from Germany last Thursday.  He had a great time and besides the opportunity to live with a German family and attend German public school, he was able to visit different attractions, such as the 1936 Olympic stadium in Berlin and the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart, (which houses the Mercedes of Ringo Starr, Emperor Hirohito, and Kaiser Wilhelm).  They also hiked in the Black Forest, went canoeing on the Danube, spent a few days in Switzerland, and in general got the most that they could out of the experience.  He brought us back a HUGE bag of different German chocolates.

The day that Seamus departed for Germany, his host sister sent him a charming text, "Your room is ready for you" with a picture of his bedroom.  They'd put an American flag comforter on the bed as a welcome.  Seamus' host family was very kind and he and his host sister became good friends.  I really appreciate the care they took, and I especially love how Seamus' host mother packed him a big lunch for the trip home.  (They flew Icelandair, which doesn't serve meals on international flights.)  Next year, the German children will visit the United States, although they'll be staying in Culpeper, not Charlottesville.  I hope Seamus will have a chance to see them.

What else is new?  My chigger rash is MUCH better, thank goodness.  I am reading an interesting book, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West.  At 1,100 pages, it's another ambitious reading project.  Definitely not light reading although it doesn't require Ulysses-level effort.

Remember my linen dress disaster?  I lopped off everything above the armpits and sewed a simple drawstring casing, thinking I could turn it into a skirt, but that looked terrible too.  I think that if I can figure out how to draft a fitted waistband and attach the skirt to it, I might end up with something I can actually wear.  I'm also sewing a sleeveless blouse from the leftover scraps.  (Simplicity 1364.)  The construction is coming along OK, but the gray linen makes it look like an orphanage uniform.  Why was I so enamored with that fabric?

I'm doing view B.

What's going on in your world lately?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Patience's Health Emergency

I had been feeling itchy and cross ever since we went to a Fourth of July party at a friend's farm. Monday morning while getting ready for work, I noticed a line of small red itchy bumps on my rib cage.  Nothing to be alarmed about.  A few hours later, I sat in a meeting, barely able to restrain myself from tearing off my shirt and going to town on my ribs with my fingernails.  I couldn't understand what in the world was the matter with me until I escaped the meeting, went to the bathroom, and saw that from my armpits to my knees I was completely covered with itchy red bumps.  I didn't feel sick, so I went back to work and tried to keep my mind off of the itching.  Even Jon was alarmed when I showed him the rash, and he was an ER nurse for over ten years and has seen everything.



Monday night was a torment of itching.  I hardly slept, and in the morning the rash was worse and had spread to my shoulders, lower legs, and feet.  I'd formulated plans the night before to go to work Tuesday and pop over to the employee health clinic, but I realized I couldn't possibly show up for work in the state I was in. I called my boss and told her I'd have to work from home and then I made an appointment at my doctor's.  I haven't been sick enough to warrant calling a doctor since 2001.  My appointment wasn't until 2:30, and I spent the day in agony, worrying about what was wrong with me.  I didn't have a fever, but the rash looked exactly like chicken pox.  It isn't unheard of to get it twice, and my immunity has been doubted because I had the chicken pox as a newborn, before my immune system had matured.  By 11:00 am, I was utterly convinced it was chicken pox. I was actually hoping it was chicken pox, because the alternatives I had started to worry about (some sort of systemic poison ivy) were even worse. By the time I had to leave for the doctor's my imagination had me admitted to the hospital and hooked up to a ventilator.

At the doctor's, the NP took one look and said, "chiggers."  That was unexpected.  Chiggers had not occurred to me.  If you are not familiar with chiggers, take a moment to read this very informative WaPo article which labels them "one of the most feared parasitic bugs in the United States."

During a chigger bite, the chigger’s mouth parts inject saliva into the skin that contains a digestive enzyme which causes skin cells to rupture and turn to liquid.  The skin is partially digested even before it enters the chigger’s body.  The chigger then drinks the dissolved, digested skin tissue.  While a chigger is attached to the skin, it will continue to inject saliva under the skin.
If the chigger’s saliva and associated stylostome penetrates the lower levels of the skin, the resulting welt can be particularly large and itchy.  This is one reason why a chigger welt can last for several weeks.  It takes time for the body to heal a hardened tube in the skin that is filled with chigger saliva and liquified skin.
Scratching helps dislodge the chigger and stops the injection of more saliva into the skin.  If a chigger victim has only a few bites, it’s easy to scratch away the chiggers.  If a victim has several hundred chigger bites, however, it’s more difficult to scratch away all of the chiggers.  It’s not uncommon for an unfortunate victim to be covered by hundreds of chiggers.
These tiny motherfuckers had LIQUIFIED MY SKIN. Chiggers live in patches, and if you are unlucky enough to step into a chigger patch, you will be covered with hundreds of bites, which is what happened to me.  I'm actually very fortunate, other than wanting to claw off all my skin and then set myself on fire.  Chiggers don't carry disease and their bites are harmless, other than putting you at risk for skin infection from scratching.  That said, other than overtly painful experiences like childbirth, I can't think of a time when I have been more uncomfortable. The NP suggested benadryl, and cortisone cream mixed with coconut oil.  I'm afraid of benadryl--would seriously rather be itchy than take it--and the cortisone cream didn't help at all.  The only thing that brought relief was cool baths and cold compresses.  I returned to work on Wednesday, still feeling miserably itchy.  Today, the rash still looks terrible--it takes weeks for the bites to disappear-- but the itch has calmed down considerably.

If you talk to enough of your friends, you’ll probably find someone you know who has stepped into a chigger patch and encountered many chiggers.  It’s an event that they will never forget.


True words, friends.

Monday, July 06, 2015

ULYSSES

I finally finished reading James Joyce's Ulysses.  I feel like I've completed the literary equivalent of an Iron Man, only coming in last place and walking for most of the run.


Even with my shaky comprehension,  I can see why Ulysses is considered one of the great masterpieces of literature, but I'm unable to articulate any more than that.  Ulysses is truly impressive. and James Joyce is the indisputable master of the English language.  That said, I struggled with this book and often longed to be done with it.

My first reaction was dismay at the appearance of Stephen Daedelus, who I thought I'd left safely behind in AP English and The Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man.  What in the world is he doing here? And who are these guys he's with?  Are they young priests? Seminarians?  No, I don't think they're priests.  Better consult Wikepedia.  Ah, they're med students.  And so it went for the entire book. Sometimes I had a dim grasp of what was happening and other times I had no idea what I was reading, although I tried to just experience the words themselves and not worry about what was going on.

Ulysses was famously banned for obsenity, and I can see why.  Not that I'm in favor of book banning, but obviously, the sort of person who thinks sexuality has no place in literature is going to be seriously upset by Ulysses.  Molly Bloom's soliloquy, with it's frank sexuality, is one of the more readable and enjoyable parts of the novel.  The "Circe" chapter, on the other hand, is a bit disturbing. But what would be the point of literature if it were never allowed to disturb us?

My neighbor, a grad student in English has read Ulysses many times.  She said that the first time she read it, her speed was twelve pages an hour.  Hah!  I felt like I was speeding along if I managed twelve pages a day.  We went to the Bloomsday celebration at the Tin Whistle, the new Irish pub downtown and drank beer while different local folks read passages from Ulysses, other works by Joyce and other works of Irish literature, and sang Irish songs.  Gorgonzola cheese sandwiches were on the menu for the occasion and it was a really nice evening.

Years ago, in preparation for the GRE subject test in literature, I read about a third of Ulysses--was literally cramming it into my brain while waiting to be admitted to the exam room.  Of course there wasn't a single Ulysses-related question.  I quit reading Ulysses the day of the GRE, but told myself I'd finish it someday and when the fifty classics project came along I included it on the list, but it's the sort of book that must be read multiple times, as intimated by my neighbor. Maybe in twenty years, I'll make another attempt.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rainbows, Travel, Storm Windows

Nice touch, Obamas.

How about that rainbow White House?  Jon and I went out on Friday night and the restaurant (Mas) was giving free champagne to every customer who wanted to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage.  This great news, following on the heels of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, were a happy end to the week.


I love how UVA's Alderman Library created this book rainbow to use as their facebook profile page.


Our house is as silent as the grave lately.  Seamus departed on June 16th for twenty-four days in Germany.  He went with a group from his German class at school and another high school in the area. He's staying with a German host family in the city of Albstadt and attending German public school. Contact with him has been limited to seeing ATM withdrawals from "Volksbank"on my bank statement, and Instagram.  (I send him selfies and he comments on them.)

On the first night after he'd gone, our dog Sancho woke us up in the middle of the night, barking, and wouldn't stop until we made our other dog, Phoebe, get out of Seamus' bed and come back downstairs and sleep next to him.  Phoebe, meanwhile, seems to think we have sent Seamus away for the express purpose of letting her have his bedroom to herself.

Brigid, got a job as a counselor at a summer camp in the Crans-Montana region of Switzerland.  She left on June 20th and will return on August 30th. I didn't feel too much anxiety about sending Seamus off, since his whole trip was organized by his German teacher, who has done this with other groups several times.  Brigid, on the other hand, had to make her own way to the camp.  It's two hours by train from the Geneva airport, and then a twenty minute ascent via funicular. Nothing like sending your child off to a foreign country, knowing she'll have an immediate need to buy a train ticket with nothing but an ATM card that you hope will work. (Switzerland is not on the Euro, and I had difficulty buying Swiss francs in the US, so we just had to depend 100% on electronic banking.) Anyway, Brigid made it to the camp, where she is very busy, but we get occasional messages.  I've taken to stalking the camp's facebook page, and she has appeared in a few of the pictures there.

It's strange to think that two of my kids are so far from home on separate trips, and yet both in the same time zone.  They will not have the opportunity to see each other.  By the time Brigid has her first day off, Seamus will be back in the United States.

At the risk of sounding like an uncaring mother, I'll say that I had high hopes that the absence of two children would allow me to achieve a high standard of cleanliness around the house, but this hasn't happened.  The house was unbelievably chaotic the week before Seamus and Brigid left and I was itching to get a good cleaning on, but I've been more or less propped up in bed with a book or netflix, when I'm not at work, ever since they left.

This week we finally completed another major item on our to-do list for the house: get storm windows installed.  The old part of the house had dreadful aluminum triple-track storm windows, and we recklessly told the painters to get rid of them when we did the courtyard-building/house painting project.  It turns out that when you research storm windows, you're shunted to replacement windows.  I love my house's original windows.  With the exception of two windows, which we did have to replace, the frames are in good condition and the old wavy glass is preserved in some of the panes.  I was seriously considering the possibility of building them ourselves but we finally found someone who could install storm windows that look decent on an old house.  After replacing the circuit breaker box, this was the top item on our list.  Now I think we can focus on getting to the bottom of the issues with the dishwasher's plumbing.