Thursday, March 25, 2010

Too Many Hours?

Ha ha. Or Nod could get fired and not have to work any hours at all. La catastrophe ferroviaire continue! On with the train wreck! His boss said that he'd never seen anyone try so hard and not get the enrollment numbers they need.

Honestly I am not as upset about this as either he or I expected.We both knew he needed to get out of sales. What kills me is the three years of our lives he wasted on that goose chase. And I am left with the question as to whether he can hold a job for more than six months. But this last position did show that he could get a handle on his stress/depression cycles. He was there, on time, whenever asked. He didn't get insomnia to the point he had to take sick days, etc. So I think he can (hold down a regular job for two years) but I'd love to have empirical evidence.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alter Ego

We watched "No Country For Old Men" last weekend. It reminded me quite a bit of Fargo. I liked our mark who went for the money and I liked the aggressively laconic lawman. (Tommy Lee Jones barely moves his face while speaking during this film. I was glad I had a native Texan on hand to translate.) I could barely watch the old man in the highway gas station get menaced by the Bad Guy. And there was plenty of ultraviolence I could have done without just like in Fargo. I think the Coens make decadent art although I'm still trying to define what I mean by that term. They like cinematography. They like suspense. They like making the audience wince or turn away. They have a talent for creating characters we like and root for. (Poor Llewellyn's wife.) There is no beauty or larger meaning to be drawn from any of it as far as I can tell. And I feel a little bad about being entertained by it. I am not sorry I saw it but I wouldn't choose to watch it again. This surprises me because I loved "Blood Simple" as a young person. It seemed so mysterious and funny in between the shocks. 

I looked for film reviewers who felt the lack I did. Here's Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, "...there remains a nagging sense that the Coens are not so much investing their emotions in a cinematic genre—in this case, the Western revenge drama—as picking it up, inspecting it, and then setting themselves the task of constructing a perfect copy. Acts of monstrosity are coolly perpetrated throughout, but the resulting film strays beyond cool to the verge of the passionless; if Deakins’s camera leans in close to gaze on damaged flesh (we focus on Chigurh’s leg as he swabs and stitches a gunshot wound), that is not because the Coens harbor any tenderness or pity, still less an urge to lament the legacy of violence. They simply retain a juvenile weakness for gore, challenging us to match their sang-froid and saluting Chigurh himself for showing the way."

And a Chicago reviewer named Michael Phillips wrote:  "The Coens may well be interested in the dramatic consequences of the violence. One gets the feeling, though, that they’re more interested in the precise mechanics and capabilities of the stun gun."

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Speaking of violence: three mice down so far. They look like pet mice, grey backs and white bellies. Nod told me he's worried that we'll transport them to the new place. Seems unlikely unless they've nested in the living room furniture or our mattresses. Wait, was that a squeaking noise I heard last night?

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Sunday seems to be the day for the large item moving. Saturday Nod has to work. When I heard this I groaned but honestly his continued employment (by the hard nosed screws who get 55 hours a week out of him) is necessary. I suppose Sunday will be fine. Early Saturday morning I will go to my first pilates class. Ah, that makes me breathe deeper just thinking of it. Then the girls and I will move some things. And take ourselves out to lunch. And when Nod gets done with his work then he can help us move a bunch more and clear paths for the large items to go the next day. I have been making some extensive moving lists here at work. I think I'm going to cut out some newspaper footprints to show the size of our book cases so we can decide what goes where. I'm pretty terrible at mental furniture arrangement otherwise.

We've told the children that we'll be sleeping in the new house by the end of the weekend. I figure their excitement at the new will help us get there.

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A passage from Byatt's The Children's Book that gets something just right:
Dorothy was in that state human beings passed through at the beginning of a love affair, in which they desire to say anything and everything to the beloved, to the alter ego, before they have learned what the real Other can and can't understand, can and can't accept.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stir Fry du Jour

So I can look at this again in the future...

3 pork chops, half thawed and cut in small strips
1 carrot in shavings
1 zucchini in thin strips
5 mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, pressed
1" knob of ginger, microplaned
3 green onions, cut small, whites with aromatics, greens with veggies

Meat tossed with generous squirts of Frank's Red Hot sauce, soy sauce, a little rice vinegar, a little molasses and sugar. Marinated while I finished chopping vegetables and got the pan and oil hot. Added aromatics and stirred until the smell got strong. Stir fried the meat mostly done, removed to a plate. Zucchini for a couple of minutes by itself. Then the rest of the veggies. When veggies were cooked, I put the meat back in for a minute or two. We ate it all. The hot sauce didn't provide any kick in the end. The kids weren't wild about it but were grudgingly willing to eat it. I made brown rice to go with and am feeling very amply supplied with nutrition and consequently a little smug.

KU's men's basketball team just lost to Northern Iowa State and is out of March Madness. Shocking.

We got the four or more inches of snow we were forecast last night. That was shocking too. It's snowed most of the day and we have had us some cabin fever. In between separating the children I have made grand strides through The Children's Book and have been enjoying it a great deal. I was wavering about halfway through after the revelation of a particular mistreatment and wondered if I would be left with a very bad taste in my mouth about it. I have been surprised that the theme that disturbed me has been handled so subtly. It had the potential to outweigh all the other elements but somehow she's woven it in. And offered the victims a plausible healing. Brava.

Yesterday morning it was so mild we didn't need coats. A neighbor's crocus were all open: gold, purple and white. I took Lexi over to the new house to play while I finished vacuuming the upstairs. It's new carpet so I'm getting a square foot of carpet fuzz for each room I finish. Lexi had her paper dolls and announced, "Now I'm going to put on her best dress." A little clap accompanied the word "best". I need to scare up the vacuum attachment that will allow me to vacuum the stairs with slightly more ease. I anticipate hating staircase duty but we'll see. I am vowing to make up housework posters to keep it under control and make me feel like I can delegate.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Moving Jane

Jane Eyre misremembered
I wandered back to the JE text last week because it has been very very quiet at work. I thought I'd give it one more try and see if the childhood persecution was just too much or whether I could get through to Jane's majority unscathed. And I found that her school time was less horrible than I remembered. I was waiting for a particular scene where a semi starved Jane eats a raw egg while tending chickens as part of her school chores. This scene never arrived and so I'm left wondering whether I read it somewhere in Dickens? Or whether my ornery brains came up with it on their own. The semi starvation was there and the worst part was probably that the larger girls bullied the little ones into giving them their food. At the same time I had completely forgotten about the death of Helen Burns which occurs while Jane is curled up sleeping at her side. It's not related as a horrific event but simply sad so that explains why it didn't make my list of Jane's maltreaments. At any rate, Jane is safely launched into the world now and I am relieved to be done with the story of a despised and mistreated child. On to the story of the mistreated madwoman.

Just one room
We moved most of the sunroom contents last weekend. I needed to see some progress and am taking a little encouragement from that particular goal achieved. We went to a quick welcome party on Friday night that was more fun than expected. And the Sunday potluck was jolly too. We are enjoying our new neighbors. Our immediate next door neighbors are two engineers who remind me of people I knew in high school. I am going to have to see how they feel about Boggle. Moving may actually be possible. I'm going to try to take a car load over every day this week.I need to find out whether we can fit the pantry cabinet into our kitchen/eating area. I don't want to do without it. We need a truck reservation. Nod doesn't seem to think this needs to be set up in advance. Sometimes I want to knock briskly on the top of his skull. I've measured windows and am ready to get some coverings. Our new neighbors told us about cheap stick-on paper blinds from Bloodbath and Beyond. So we may start with those until we decide on more permanent steps.

Jane finished
I noticed that Jane's discovered cousins are foils to the unfriendly and unsympathetic cousins (two girls and a boy) she spent early childhood with. The noble godly male cousin vs. the sadistic spoiled male cousin.

Rah Rah patriotism: "for after all, the British peasantry are the best taught, best mannered, most self-respecting of any in Europe" Goes beyond Jane Austen's pride in the English navy. "As she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French defects" Ha!

"Reader, I married him." is a justly famous line. So active, proud and confiding. Jane Eyre really is a peculiar character. Pleasingly independent to my feminist notions. She values clear-headed decisions and self determination. She manages to keep her own mind even when her cousin throws all the arguments of heaven at her. Though she was almost worn down by the force of his 'God wants you to' approach. I hadn't remembered one single bit about her Rivers cousins. I wonder what year I read this book before.

Lamby Lion
Spring Break week is almost done. The kids have had a good time at their kids club activities. Katy's at the pool today and Lexi's bowling. Tomorrow I'll take off a little early and we'll go meet a friend at a playground. Gotta get outside before Saturday's snow starts. The March weather is going to do a little whipsawing before we're done. But I see the buds on the trees. There will be leaves in days, maybe hours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hope

Repeated in my head Tuesday morning on the walk to the office, "Let the sticks be sticks and the worms be worms." Had to talk sternly to myself and resist the urge to start rescuing worms. That would be my way of going obsessively off my rocker. Either I would spend every rainy day picking up worms or I would refuse to leave my room for fear of seeing too many worms to save. I've decided that when I do go in for large scale worm rescue I should have a very thin plastic spatula to help me lift them up. With all this worm carnage on the sidewalks why aren't there swarms of robins coming in to feast? Or shrews, or raccoons, or whatever eats worms.

We all attended the second grade music program Monday night. They were more proficient than the kindergartners but also more chatty. In between songs those kids sounded like a flock of parrots up on the risers. I heard one real singing voice and wondered if she'd had lessons.

Our school board has announced that it has decided not to close any schools for next year but to make the budget cuts across the board. So class size will go up by one child and there is an early childhood center that is moving but none the cuts/closings that were most protested will happen (for next year at least). I hope some stressed out parents are feeling relief today. I'm quite surprised really. And proud of the Save Our Neighborhood Schools people. I admire their fire in the belly and wonder why I don't have it. But then sometimes I see them as privileged white people, complaining about resource reduction. Stupid flipfloppy brain.

Here's what I want to dream up. Some sort of bait and switch strategy to motivate Afghanis* at large to treat girls and women better. (*I pick the Afghanis because of the Taliban and their particular targeting of girl's education, but this could be any country particularly oppressive to women.) The US/UN demands some sort of action A. By failing to do A the Afghanis get to assert themselves and thumb their noses at the int'l community. But the sweet tricky beauty part is that by refusing to do A they have to do B instead. And B is secretly the thing that helps girls and women even more than A would have. I need some help with this. I'm in Underpants Gnome territory here but surely there are some huge brains in the world that could dream this up. Something that would enable the Afghanis to say look we do things our own way not yours and see, our girls and women are healthy and happy. To take pride in their well being as their own achievement. Know any Macchiavellis who would be good at this strategizing?

Platform beds. A link to this site hooked me last month. Nod mentioned recently that he's ready for a headboard too. I was looking at the marks on our walls showing where our heads loll when we read in bed. Enough of that. I guess in the new austerity I need to acquire a jar to start saving up for this.

Got up early and made brownies for Nod's birthday this morning. He said he enjoyed the brownie and our cards and apologized for any grumpiness as he was feeling grim about having to be this old. I can only roll my eyes. What, it's injust that you keep aging? I get not enjoying the involuntary metamorphosis but to be actually resentful seems histrionic to me.

Fritinancy corrects Robert Redford's reach for a poetical allusion. I was glad to read these lines from Pope. I only knew the three word phrase which comes to mind so often: Hope springs eternal. But here's the quatrain which expresses in such a pleasing way our inability to settle for the present moment:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring critters

Clunk. I hear a motor idling, it seems to be the new weekday pre-dawn routine. Somewhere near our house there is a big engine that starts up and idles around 5:30am. Which is 30 annoying minutes before my alarm is set to go. I blink and try to sort out the sounds. Clunk! Is it Katy doing something on the top bunk? Too quiet. Is it the cat trying to go up or down the bunkbed ladder? (Her new trick. Jimbo, our old cat, would never have learned that.) The noise is definitely  in the kids' room. One more clunk! and I go to see. There's the cat and there is a mousetrap complete with dead mouse. Zing carried it upstairs to play with in the kids' room. Erg. The good news is that the mouse is completely dead. I woke Katy up by turning on the light and fetching a plastic bag to clear away the remains. She stopped complaining about the bright light once I told her what I was doing.

On Saturday Katy told me she thought she saw a mouse run behind the fridge. I attributed that to her vivid imagination. Then I found the cat in the silverware drawer. Shoo! What do you want in there, silly? And then on Sunday, after ignoring both of them, I found the mouse poops in that drawer. So while I cleaned the drawer and contents, Nod fetched a brace of traps. Sadly, Zing's mousehunting skills seem to consist of 1) staring at the corner cabinet under which there might be a mouse and 2) playing with the corpse. Why do we have a springtime mouse? It's finally nice outside, you stupid rodents.

We also saw our resident yard bunny over the weekend. On Saturday we were all outside. There was a brief standoff while Zing looked at the bunny who looked at the assembled company and finally made a break for it. Zing gave swift chase but the bunny outdistanced her. I think the bunny has had more experience running away than Zing has had hunting.

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I'm going to call a local moving company to get an estimate. My husband's plan for getting our large items moved is sketchy and I want to have a counter proposal ready. Am still trying to work out when we can take up full-time residence. Maybe we'll get beds moved at the end of next week. Then we'll have a week to wait for stove, washer and dryer, and big furniture. This act of contemplation makes me think I should be taking over a load right now. What am I doing at work?!

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Not really recommended: Red Garters. A spoof-western musical from 1954 starting Rosemary Clooney (George's aunt) and embodying the line "Dopey show-girls in gooey gowns." At least those showgirls could dance. It includes a white woman in brown face playing a comic squaw and an actor sporting a terrrrrible Mexican accent. It's all very winky winky. Each gunfighter's outfit matches his horse. But it's in glorious technicolor and once I decided that I was watching it for the costumes and choreography and Clooney's voice, I settled in to enjoy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Treasure

I have just this week become aware of the phrase "blood and treasure" which is used to refer to the costs of war by both hawks and doves. I see those words everywhere now. I found a post from someone who's much quicker on the uptake and noticed this phrase four years ago. But I don't buy all his literary and historical sources. Sure, those are no doubt contributors to the trend. But he left out World of Warfare. I really think that gaming has refreshed the concept of 'treasure' in the modern mind. Not sure how to prove that.

I have signed up for a lunch hour exercise class. It is held downtown and I have budgeted ten minutes each way for walking to and fro my office. Today I tried it out and walking very briskly I made it there in 15 min. and back in 18 min. I need to rethink my schedule. But while on the massage table last night (what a good place to cogitate) I had a brainstorm -- maybe I could park downtown and then drive back to campus after my class. If I can find free parking near the building that will work. Further investigation to come.

Child news
Katy announces, "Mom! Good news -- I'm getting more callouses." Just what I was hoping for, how did you know? The milder weather has allowed more playground time so she's working up her palm callouses by swinging from the bars. I remember getting callouses on the backs of my knees from that.

Lexi surveying her paper dolls, "This girl doesn't like to wear a crown. She says it gives her a headache. But all the rest of them like crowns."

Lately Lexi's first job of the day is to ascertain in what order everyone has come downstairs. Usually I'm the first one down but Zing always shoots past my feet to indicate that cat breakfast is an important event. I make it a point not to feed her until after I've eaten but nevertheless she rushes to fly down the stairs before me, giving me a flash of her fluffy pantaloons. Lexi likes to recite, "First was Zing then you, then Daddy, then me and then Katy!" She finds this very satisfying and marvels when the order changes some days.

On Wednesday evening it was mild and there was still sun when I picked the kids up at school. Katy pleaded for more playground time. I said we needed to get dinner and then we could try going back to the schoolyard, but I repeated that there might not be time and it might not happen that evening. After getting some food into the kids Lexi and I were out of steam so I told Katy that no more playground time. She cried for half an hour. I didn't like the tantrum but sympathized with the lust to be outdoors. Yesterday we managed a minimal dinner and then walked back to the playground. The girls shrieked on the slides as the twilight darkened. It was such a worthwhile effort. Hibernation is over!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cleared for landing

Saw two more houses that were much more promising. No mildew smells or leaking ceilings. The first place was on campus, a sweet street I pass on my commute. It was quirky and might have *just* fit us, in a parallel universe wherein we had only one child. I could imagine a bachelor professor having a very charming life there. But it was hard to see how we could squeeze in. In love with the location, I was still doing the mental manipulations, trying to figure how we could pare down to some subset of our current possessions. But then Nod suddenly realized -- no dishwasher! And a tiny kitchenette with no place to put one. So we knew in a moment that there was no way. Thank god. Cooking on that tiny stove might have made me quite mad. I was stunned to realize that I hadn't even noticed the dishwasher lack. Apparently I need a checklist.

Second house was great. Floors refinished and plenty of room. No basement but parking and even a fenced backyard. Nice sized kitchen with decent (full size this time) appliances and good light from windows. But it is in another school district. So we won't take it because we're going to move to the co-housing townhouse.

It is decided and we've signed the papers and attended another potluck and Nod has already moved a couple loads of things we don't need immediately. We were not able to find an acceptable rental house in the current school district. We've done a good search. I can accept this. But I plan to grieve about it for a while. Last week during our parent/teacher conference Katy's 2nd gr teacher suggested we could apply for a transfer. I can't decide that yet. Both kids are testing really high and could use more than just the average curriculum. Lexi's in a second grade reading group and both of them are ready for math beyond their grades. Katy has been in an 'enrichment' group that does more challenging projects in addition to regular coursework. We've verified that there is an 'enrichment coordinator' at the new school. And the school gets good marks otherwise too. But it is the smallest in the county and may be on the chopping block because of the budget shortfall. So maybe we should keep them at a school that is more likely to persist? Pushme Pullyou.

My goal with our move is to have fun with the co housing people. Why not? The girls are excited. There are kids to meet and play with. New toys in the common house. And Lexi's favorite thing is to run back and forth in the empty living room, with occasional leaps.
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Message after logging off LiveJournal: "You've successfully logged out!" Good job, little cupcake. My browser is enjoying the proud satisfaction of a job well done.
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Good news, everyone! Graphic models from last spring showing that reducing CFCs has saved the ozone layer. Next we'll just need a no-impact energy source to be unveiled. Now would be nice, or in the next two or three years. No hurry, just any time within a five year window please.
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I have mentioned before that the remnants of my French language skills allow me to read somewhat fluently -- but I have to move my lips all the while. I find this embarrassing in public but it does allow me the pleasure of the different mouth positions that French uses. From a cooking blog, here is a banal sentence that made me smile and almost purr:  "Après ce passage au four, les bananes deviennent translucides et sont enrobées d’un jus sirupeux bien parfumé." Saying the words "sirupeux bien parfumé" is almost like kissing. Yes, I like my oral fixation just fine, thank you.
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More things to lap up. I am coveting and the next best thing to buying is to share. I'm in like with these shiny earrings. Maybe it's the rising sap of the coming spring that makes me want to adorn the lobes. More things to please the ears: I am surprised by how much I love this dj's folk and blue grass show. He sounds like he should have a grey ponytail to me but the photo says no. He's got a music collection that goes back at least twenty five years and he's generous with the info on artists that are performing in the area. I've promised myself the Karan Casey and John Doyle CD Exile's Return for my birthday. Their rendition of "Madam I'm a Darling" has stormed the flimsy castle of my brain. You can listen to it here. And then in another direction there's Ruthie Foster whose neo gospel "Mama Said" made me laugh and want to hear it again. What do you want to hear again and again?