Friday, December 31, 2004

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Wow. That was depressing.

Usually when you go out to dinner with friends, you end up feeling better in the end, having had an opportunity to talk and laugh and complain and eat. Last night, though, we all left the table feeling lower than the lowest you can go. We kept trying to pull the conversation back up to some level of cheerfulness, but it seemed to repeatedly devolve--almost willfully--to a point where we were all hovering on tears. Actually, we had a moment where all four of us were indeed crying and had to just have a moment of choking silence while we pulled ourselves together. What kind of happy meal was this? Tired, drained and seriously depressed.

Monday, December 27, 2004

It's too bad that I forgot to take out the digital camera yesterday. Christmas 2004 passed without any photos, and it would have been nice to at least get some of Erika and Henry at dinner last night.

I did a whole lot of cooking yesterday (demonstrating that just because I don't cook, that doesn't mean that I can't cook). I think I managed to do 80% of the cooking in the end, but Catherine did more than 80% of the cleaning. Anyway, I did the onions, the rice salad, and the carrots, and also the finish work for the gratins. Catherine did the bulk of the gratins and the wine. We accidentally managed to cook all of Henry's favorites (although I'm not sure that's all that difficult, as he seems to be willing to eat anything). Erika made bread and a chocolate ganache w/violet syrup, and we all ate until the point of nausea. Then Catherine and I stayed up way too late and watched The Sound of Music.

We had so many Christmas presents even though we really didn't buy that much for each other. We must be cultivating good relationships with people other than ourselves. I managed to make Catherine cry three times yesterday (in the good way) while she was opening presents. Even taking into account the fact that she's menopausal, that's pretty good. My parents went *crazy* with the gift-giving, and my workshop will benefit from it. Catherine's "big" gift to me was a table-top easel. She promises me it was on sale, but I'm not sure she's telling the truth. Still, I love it, and it will be good to trade in my piece of Masonite propped up on an outdated AutoCAD book. I ended up w/some good reading material, too. Catherine got me Oliver Twist and a collection of Poe stories, and the new two-volume set The Complete Peanuts to add to the Charlie Brown section of the bookshelf. And a friend sent me a book that should keep me busy in one way or another for awhile, too.

Today, I lack the Christmas spirit because my boss made me work, and I'm trying not to have a bad attitude about it (and not succeeding). There are so many other things to worry about in the world--jesus fucking christ, that tsunami, for one!--and this job is just a temporary burden, and I need to just let it all go. If I hadn't already have resolved to give up fast food for the New Year, I'd have to make a resolution to not let my boss get to me. Maybe there's room for two resolutions in my life. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Ah. It took us two hours to get our car out this morning, and that was with four of us working on the problem. We'd still be out there if it wasn't for Garry and Amanda, I'm telling you. Garry ran his Jeep up and down our driveway a few times to give us a trail, but the snow was still too deep for our little Toyota. We pretty much had to shovel out the entire driveway, garage to road. You know what? That's a long way.

After we got our car to the patch of clear space by the road (Catherine spent two hours digging out a space yesterday), we went across the street and helped the neighbors there get their car out. It went a little quicker than ours because their Nissan had a slightly higher clearance, and their driveway isn't uphill.

After that, we went to Garett and Diane's to feed their cats, and yes, to shovel their walks. I didn't do what I should have done, which was clear the sidewalk along the entire length of their property. My collar bone is killing me right now, so I'm glad I just did their stairs and a path to the road and called it a day. My sinus infection seems better, my shoulder seems a lot worse. That's about breaking even, I think. Not bad considering all the time I spent in 10 degree weather.

Because of all the snow, it took forever to run four simple errands today: 1) feed the cats; 2) go buy a couple more Christmas presents at the bookstore; 3) buy four ramekins for Christmas dinner; and 4) buy a few groceries for Christmas dinner. We tried to leave our house at 10:00, shoveled snow for two hours instead, and didn't get home until 4:30. And now we must clean.

However, I am absolved from vacuuming due to the egg-sized swell-up on my right shoulder. And I may not scrub the shower, the company won't notice.

Looking forward to opening presents tomorrow, we've got a stack of interesting things from each other, but also from friends and relatives. We've been saving them all up to make a better pile under the ficus tree (except for Catherine's parents' present, which we knew ahead of time would be perishable). We might open the ones from my parents this evening, mostly because the stack is getting embarrassingly large.

Christmas menu is set. That is to wit:

Butternut Squash and Leek Gratins

Carrot Coins w/Maple-Balsamic Browned Butter
Cold Rice Salad
Peppery Baked Onions with Sage and Gruyere

Bread (supplied by others)
Mulled Wine
Dessert (supplied by others)

If you're coming to dinner, bring your slippers because our floors are cold, cold, cold.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Okay, okay, I'm up. But don't expect me to be fulfilling any of my social obligations at this point. 1) I've got a fever; and 2) there's two feet of snow on the ground and what do you want me to do about it?

We have to go out to the store tomorrow, and I have to be fine by Saturday at six, because we're having friends over for Christmas dinner. We might be having our neighbors over, too, if they can't go home because of the weather. So today is another day of sick time, and maybe tomorrow I'll get up and talk to you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

That head cold? Now a sinus infection. I'm off to bed w/my antibiotics and my blanket.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Well, I like working closer to home, but I've been putting in a lot of hours. I'm going to see if I can trade some of these hours for comp time instead of money. As much as I want/need the money, I'd also like to have a three day weekend for Christmas. I've worked enough hours for a four+ day weekend, but three days will do me.

Today after work, we made and decorated Christmas cookies for the neighbors next door to us and the ones across the street. On Tuesday I'll do some for my boss. Then my Christmas obligations will be over except for about five Christmas cards.

Bought a cooking magazine today to see if we could do something different for Christmas dinner. Catherine's pretty much set on making a corn pudding, but we couldn't think of anything else. The magazine helped. We've decided on Butternut Squash and Leek Gratins, Carrots w/ Maple-Basalmic butter, and baked onions, either our regular recipe or "Peppery Baked Onions w/Sage and Gruyere." Probably go w/a combination of the two. Dessert probably is a little unnecessary--at least it feels that way after bingeing on Christmas cookies this evening. Might just settle for hot chocolate w/peppermint whipped cream like last year.

We got the coolest gift from Alaska today. We used to just exchange food (Michelle makes awesome fireweed jelly), but for the past few years, we've been trying different things. This year we got some smoked salmon and a fantastic bowl made at a pottery near Michelle's parents' house. But the really cool thing was this salmon Christmas ornament made of...I don't even know what. It's hiding in our ficus right now, watching over our Christmas presents.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I remembered that I also sent an Eid card. That's pretty good, then. In the space of a couple weeks, I managed to touch on all three religions of the Book, plus paganism, agnosticism, and atheism. Happy Holidays.

Earlier this week--and I wish I was making this up, but I'm not--I did a Google search on "what to say in a Christmas card." Unfortunately, I didn't find anything to help me out (although 'Tis the Season did make me laugh). Really, if I'm going to the internet looking for help, maybe it's time to re-examine a few of my relationships.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

An old photo, but I recognized her.
Well, my work situation is a bit weird right now.

How did I get my job? I actually applied to work at a different office. They weren't advertising, but Catherine finally convinced me to send an unsolicited resume, based on the fact that I liked the firm's work, and it was conveniently located (ie., in the same town in which I live). Amazingly, they called me in for an interview, and told me it would be very likely that I would be hired. I'm not sure what happened then, why I wasn't hired. A few weeks later, my current employer called me, said my resume had been forwarded to him, and would I like to come in for an interview? The timing wasn't great because of my shoulder surgery, but I finally had a job.

Fast forward to today. I'm on the verge of being laid off because things are slow. Industry slow down, or poor planning on the part of my boss? I'm not sure. I haven't had any work for about three weeks now, and for the last week, my boss has been hiring me out to the firm that didn't hire me in the first place. It's crazy--I've been picking up work in Bloomington, then driving an hour to Columbus to the office there, then bringing the finished work back to Bloomington with me to drop off here. At least it's work, and I'm guessing my boss is hiring me out at a rate that will make him a profit.

Today, though, just as I was leaving for work, the Bloomington office called me at home and said I wouldn't be going to Columbus today, they'd already talked to my boss and decided I would work in the Bloomington office. I suppose I should have been ecstatic to have escaped the commute, but instead, I felt a lot like a piece of property. It didn't occur to anyone that I had other plans, did it? And, in fact, I did, but no one asked about them. I'm also going to be in Bloomington tomorrow, but I have to drive to Columbus after work to get my paycheck. I just can't wait until Monday (and besides, I might be in Bloomington again on Monday), I have somewhere between 5-10 dollars in my bank account right now.

So, I'm a little annoyed at this, but on the other hand, it's good to be really busy instead of spending the day just trying to look busy. And it's good to be in another office to see how their standards work, and how they produce construction documents. And it's also good to hear that I'm not the incompetent my boss makes me out to be. I heard the project manager complaining today that I work too quickly, he can't keep up with me. The principal also said she'd heard that I was quick, and I think quickness counts (especially if it's partnered w/accuracty, which it is). I know they can afford to flatter because I'm not part of the design team, but it's still nice to get some positive feedback at a time when I just don't like how I'm feeling about the field.
And speaking of family....

When I'm really stressed, I shiver, and I usually end up quaking when I try to sustain a lengthy phone conversation. Phones really do it to me. Even when talking to friends, I can shudder as if standing in a freezer, and I generally end up under the blankets, as if heat can dissipate the tension in my body.

So, imagine how my poor arthritic shoulders feel after a long political discussion with my father. I never, ever NEVER talk politics with my dad. Not since the first Gulf War, when he stopped talking to me for six months because of our difference of opinion. But what do you do when someone asks you point blank, "What do you think of the war in Iraq?" It's hard to change the subject. I know, because I tried.

By the time we'd finished, I thought my skeleton was going to shake itself free of the ligaments holding it together. It's funny. We generally share the same opinion about the war, but still, I felt like he was arguing with me. At least he didn't seem too angry when he pointed out our votes will always cancel each other out in an election. That's probably not true, but I'm not about to deliberately go deeper into political waters by trying to explain that I'm not a single party or single issue voter.

Ah. I'm shivering again. Time to hang it up for the night.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Christmas tends to be an invisible holiday for us. Christmas isn't a "my family is your family" sort of occasion. No one invites non-relatives to Christmas dinner, not like they do for Thanksgiving, so we spend it alone, since there's no family near. We do mostly what we'd do on any weekend: sleep in, eat junk food, watch movies, read, with the added bonus of a few new toys with which to play. It puts us a little at odds with the rhythms of everyone else's holiday, since everyone else tends to have an intensely social, relative-heavy day. We get a bit wistful at the end of every year, first for Thanksgiving (although the family in Valparaiso substitutes nicely for our own), and then for Christmas. Wouldn't it be great to be home for Christmas?

Except, you know, it wouldn't. I'm too old to make that 12-hour drive over the mountains in the snow between Catherine's parents' and my parents' homes. I'm too fragile to spend time with my family, I haven't even recovered from our visit in August. Not at all, really, making this a record-length period of licking my wounds. It's easy to idealize when you're 2000 miles away, you can imagine all sorts of things. But if you do, and you let yourself believe them, you're only going to be disappointed if you try to make them come true.

At any rate, I just need to box up the presents for my mom and dad, and I can give into this head cold. I've mailed all the rest of the presents, and I'm about 1/2 way through the Christmas/Winter Solstice/New Year's/sorry-I-know-Hanukkah-isn't-a-major-Jewish-holiday-but-I-can't-leave-you-out-of my-holiday-thoughts cards. I'm ahead of last year, anyway.

I hope someone gives me warm socks for Christmas because I really need them.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A few months ago, a friend told me that he preferred the time when I had a regular site that I updated every now and then rather than an online journal. More specifically, he liked the page w/my reading list. If he wants to know what I'm reading now, he has to search through paragraphs of absolutely irrelevant data to find it, if it's there at all. That's the problem, really. I seldom write anything about what I'm reading, so even if he takes the time to search, he's not going to find anything.

The problem is, the way I read, it's almost impossible to set a book review out in type. I finish 5-6 books a week, on average. I usually have 8-10 going at once, one to three (or more, in the living room) in every room of the house, and a couple in the car. If I finish a book at lunch, and think, "Oh, I should write a review about this," by the time I get to the computer at night, I've already started a new book and read chunks of one or two others, so I can't possibly remember what I wanted to say at lunch time.

The way I read keeps me from drawing firm conclusions about the material. For instance, right now I'm reading three different Alice Munro books. How can I possibly separate one from the other when I'm reading, especially since they're so thick w/regionalism? It can't be done, not by me. And usually what I think about a book is largely dependent on its relationship to another book I've recently read. I finished _Old School_ by Tobias Wolff last week, and my impression of it was certainly colored by the fact that I'd recently read _The Fountainhead_. If I'd just last week re-read _Old Man and the Sea_, I would have focused more intently on the third part of the book (and perhaps if I'd recently re-read _Old Man and the Sea_, I'd understand the odd structure of the book, the "Master" chapter tacked on the end). A couple of weeks ago, I simultaneously read three books about earthquakes, and without a doubt, two of the three suffered in comparison with the one I started first because it was the most technical, presented in a very linear fashion that allowed me to flip forward and backward to easily cross-check information. So, it's difficult for me to evaluate any one book as a work of writing in and of itself, my judgement is too actively and too often clouded by everything else I'm reading.

I've lately been thinking that I need to do something else besides read. I can't empty my mind of what I've been reading quickly enough to get to sleep on time. I'm late everywhere I go, because I always try to get in a few more sentences. Right now I'm listening to a book on tape in the car during my commute, but reading the same book at lunch to hurry the process along so I can move on to something else. It's starting to feel like obsessive behavior, and that's not good. So maybe I should declare a moratorium on reading for a bit, and see what else I can do to keep myself busy during my lunch hour.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Why I hate my job.

I hate my job because I'm so ashamed of the way I'm being treated that I can't even bring myself to write about it for fear someone will read it and think less of me for allowing myself to be treated this way.

That's why I hate my job.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The news today reminds me that I saw a building catch on fire this weekend. Or, more notably, I *didn't* see a building catch on fire this weekend, even though I was standing right next to it. Looking back, I suppose I did smell smoke, but apparently that's not enough to trigger any fight-or-flight instinct I might have. I eventually recognized the air was growing more smoky, but it wasn't until the fire engine roared up that I realized, hey, I can't breathe anymore. By that time, there were flames shooting out the windows, black smoke billowing into the street, fire hoses spraying. God knows what would have happened if I'd been inside the building rather than just standing across the street from it. Maybe I would have recognized the danger signs just a bit more quickly. Maybe not.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Spent mostly a solitary weekend in Manhattan. Catherine's workshop was a success, but that's her story, so I'll let her tell it if she wants to do so. My story is much more straight-forward and involves a lot of silence, since I spent the weekend walking around by myself.

Arrived in midtown Manhattan really late Wednesday night, so late that it was actually Thursday morning. I'm not all about midtown, in case anyone's wondering, because midtown is all about money and shopping. Even if I had money, I wouldn't waste it shopping. But Catherine's class started out at NYU on 42nd, so that's where we were for the weekend, and since there was nowhere I really needed to be, that's as good as place as any from which to start.

Thursday was ours, so we went up to American Museum of Natural History for the day. Catherine made an appointment with one of the entomologists so we could spend some time "behind the scenes" with Alfred Kinsey's gall wasp collection. The collection is kind of amazing simply because it is so extensive, but it's a little difficult to appreciate gall wasp variation w/out a microscope. Still, the curator told us quite a bit about them, and then took us over to look at his specialty, the bees. We learned a lot we didn't know about social, solitary and parasitic bees, and looked at some really neat bees from central and south america.

We spent the rest of the day at the museum. I think the museum is overpriced in a way. You think--well, the collections are huge, it's worth the money, but they really only give you about seven hours of viewing time (if you take 45 minutes at some point in the day to eat and use the bathroom). If it had longer opening hours, I would have been more satisfied. Actually, I guess $13 isn't bad, but if you want to go to the planetarium, that's another $9. Or if you want to see any of the visiting exhibitions, like the frogs, that's an additional $6. Anyway, if I lived in New York, I guess I'd have a season pass and then it would be very economical, but as a tourist, I'm not sure if it was worth it or not, since we only saw about 1/6 of what was there.

Catherine had an evening meeting at the Museum of Sex, anyway, so I guess we couldn't have stayed at the museum even if it had been open until 9 p.m. Then we had dinner at the Japanese restaurant next door to our hotel, which I would recommend if I could remember the name of it. Also, I ate an Eli Zabar solar system (even though it was promoted as a galaxy).

Friday and Saturday I was on my own while Catherine was doing her exhibition design stuff. I started at the New York Public Library, at which I spent about an hour at the Newton exhibit. I almost bought the catalog, but I think I'd rather just buy a good book on Newton. I think you'd probably have to visit three or four times to really "get" the exhibit, but then again, I think it was aimed at people who didn't know much about Newton, so maybe not.

I spent most of the day after that just walking. I walked up the east side of the park, and back part way. Then I just spent a lot of time in midtown Manhattan waiting for Catherine to get back from class. I was really worn out, and I thought I was just out of shape, but I ran it through mapquest this morning and my north-south movement alone covered 9 miles. Obviously, my east-west movement wasn't as extensive, but I think I walked about a half-marathon with a pack full of books on my back, so that's okay.

I should have stopped walking on Friday and gone to the Cooper Hewitt or the Whitney, especially as I found out on Sunday there was a Noguchi show at the Whitney, but I didn't. We thought we might go to MoMA Friday night, but it was free night, so there were thousands of people waiting to get inside. My relationship--intellectual, emotional and otherwise--with MoMA is a bit complex, and I guess I'm not sorry I didn't have the chance to darken their doorway this weekend. I'm all about Modern art and all, but not all about MoMA.

More Japanese food for dinner on Friday.

Saturday I walked up to Central Park (because I obviously didn't walk far enough on Friday) and skated for a couple of hours. It was a pretty decent agility test, like being caught on a huge, moving obstacle course. Lots and lots of children. I probably should have gone to Lasker. One of the skate guards was pretty good looking, though, so that made it worth my time. I thought about asking her where she came by her skate cred, but it would have just been flirting and she was getting enough action from the other skate guards.

Spent most of the afternoon walking and reading at the Coliseum Books cafe. Picked up some spices for Garry and Amanda. Sat in the hotel and read and watched Love Don't Cost a Thing, which I just saw a few weeks ago w/white people, only it was called Can't Buy Me Love. Why would anyone remake such a movie? It boggles. It didn't keep me from reading my book, I can say that.

We ate an early dinner at Porta Rossa, very decent Italian food right around the corner from our hotel. When we got back to the hotel, Catherine watched Love Don't Cost a Thing, which, again, did not take me away from my book.

Mostly I slept on Sunday. We talked about getting up and going to the UN, but decided to just have a leisurely morning instead. A smooth afternoon flight, I didn't lose my car keys despite my stupidity, and the cats were fine when we got home.

To summarize:

I didn't shop.

I didn't see any shows.

I didn't spend much money.

The corollary to that, of course, is: I didn't go to MoMA.

I didn't talk to any strangers.

I did make snap judgements about people around me based on their cell phone and face-to-face conversations.

I did find a place for dogpoet to get another blue cup.

I did avoid every Falun Gong member that tried to approach me.

I did admire the sharp lines of the Salvation Army women.

I didn't do enough to really warrant a journal entry.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

And tomorrow we're off to New York, because of course I can afford to take two days of LWOP during two consecutive weeks. The question now is: do I save a few dollars while I'm there by skating at Lasker Rink instead of Wollman Rink? Safety v. four dollars....hm...tough call.

I just realized that I missed my three-year anniversary of being off Coke (the drink, not the powder).