Help wanted

Can anyone tell me about Alain De Botton? I would rather have reviews from people I know, as opposed to random Amazon patrons. Is he worth reading? If so, where should I start?

Poetry Thursday

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom the book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

-Wallace Stevens

I know I've posted this one before, but every time I come across it, I fall in love with it all over again. It's just so exactly describing a particular feeling that it's as if he got it straight from my head.


We are currently having our rotten, ugly, purple siding replaced with shiny, new, subtly colored siding. There have been crews and noise and trucks for a few weeks now. My busybody neighbor across the street, who doesn't like crews, noise, or trucks, called me at work yesterday afternoon and said something funny was going on in my front yard and I had better come home. As it turns out, our foreman and his crew hadn't been doing a good job and were replaced by a new foreman and crew. The old foreman and crew didn't like that, so they got drunk and began throwing all the old siding and trash and beer cans out of their trailer.

When I got home, they were getting ready to drive away. There was an enormous pile of trash on my lawn. I could have taken all that in stride, except that they had thrown siding all over the baby tree. When I saw that, I might have lost my temper just a little bit. Apparently enough to scare five large, drunk men. They got out of the truck and moved all the siding from the tree to the yard next to it, but they still left it on the lawn.

The new foreman was very nice. He apologized several times, even though he had nothing to do with it, and he stayed late to wrap the pile up to keep it from blowing away before the new trailer arrives. According to the owner of the company, the mess should be completely cleaned up by the time I get home from work today.

I meant to take a picture of the lawn this morning, but between the door and my car, I thought I might die of frostbite if I stopped. (No comments from you insane people living in places like Washington and Michigan. I don't do well in the cold.)



1. I did not get any of the three jobs I applied for, presumably because I have neither an MBA, nor any experience whatsoever. To make myself feel better, I took a long lunch yesterday, ambled around in BookPeople, and bought myself a bunch of new books. Coincidentally, this is probably what I would have done to celebrate if I had gotten the job, although maybe on a larger scale.

2. I heard on NPR that all of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of the Yellow Rose of Texas. Wikipedia says this is because most of her poems are written in common metre, but I still think it's neat.

3. Maybe I should take Felix's suggestion and go work for Hallmark, creating treacly photographs for Valentines Day cards.

4. "Treacly" is my word for the day. I'm trying to fit it in as many sentences as possible.

5. Finally, B and I have each bought a TerraPass for our cars in order to alienate our red state relatives as much as possible. Or maybe it was to help save the environment, I can't remember. In any case, if you want to take a step toward being carbon neutral, or you want to shore up your green street cred, buy one.

Poor Sebastian

In our continuing effort to make Sebastian a little less psycho, we have taken the dog whisperer's advice and gone to REI for a dog backpack. The idea is that this will both give him some responsibility (we're going to start charging him rent next) and also make him too tired to bark maniacally at the UPS man. An added bonus is that he can carry water bottles and emergency medical supplies in case we get stranded on the wrong side of a Lost Creek Boulevard.

So whenever we put the backpack on him, he tolerates it silently but gives us his best martyred look and starts out dragging his feet as if he was carrying lead weights, rather than two 20-oz water bottles. However, he usually forgets his torture act as soon as we're in the street and he senses the possibility of the park. Then he starts strutting around with his tail held high and just looks silly.


She eats roses

This is my next submission to SOMC.


I am pleased to report

that my first turkey turned out wonderfully (brined, stuffed with oranges, lemons, onions, and herbs from my garden, slathered in olive oil, and roasted crispy), our big party (15 people) was a huge success, and everyone was thankful and happy and stuffed. Today, I am working, but I am looking forward to being thankful for a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich at lunchtime.

I am a very lucky person.



I love my new shoes. Thank you, Anthropologie, for coming to Austin and parking yourself across the street from me. I only wish I could afford your dresses.

One of my pet peeves

"Quotation mark" abuse



Bella the Devil Cat is on Stuff on my Cat!

Culture and stuff

B and I went to see Madame Butterfly last night. I love getting dressed up and going downtown like a grown-up.

This was my first opera, but not my last since I accidentally bought season tickets. Our seats were in the next to last balcony, so high up that it was a little bit scary walking around. I had a strange reaction to the show. On one hand, I've never been much interested in opera music, and an opera tends to be full of opera music. On the other hand, it was fascinating to know what they were actually saying. I never got bored of hearing a dramatic soprano belt out a beautiful Italian phrase, while the captions says something like "you must be hot after walking up that hill." I wish I had rented some opera glasses, both to get a better look at the set and also because then I could have pretended like I was in a movie about upper-crust British people.

Next up is Philip Glass' Waiting for the Barbarians, which appears to be very avant-garde and modern. I don't think I'm culturally competent enough to appreciate it, but it should be fun anyway.

Dame de Coeur

So who hasn't seen a beautiful, fragrant, hybrid tea rose at the nursery and thought "hey, I'm a novice gardener with no skills and no time - I should buy a persnickety plant that has to be coddled and petted."

In this case, at least, it turned out well. This is a Dame de Coeur rose from 1958. The flowers start out bright red and turn violently crimson as they get older. They smell wonderful. This is the first flower that bloomed after I brought it home, so I consider it grown by me.



The only plant Monster shows any interest in eating (aside from grass), is also the only poisonous plant I have.


Laundry day cancelled

Due to Sebastian and Monster's foolish insistence on "dignity," Laundry Day has been cancelled until further notice. Or at least until they forget to hide on Sunday mornings.


Ever feel like you're in a VW commercial...?

Extra super special exclusive Poetry Friday


I'll keep a little tavern
Below the high hill's crest,
Wherein all grey-eyed people
May set them down and rest.

There shall be plates a-plenty,
And mugs to melt the chill
Of all the grey-eyed people
Who happen up the hill.

There sound will sleep the traveller,
And dream his journey's end,
But I will rouse at midnight
The falling fire to tend.

Aye, 'tis a curious fancy –
But all the good I know
Was taught me out of two grey eyes
A long time ago.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

To purchase this poem and many others in kickass, bluesy song form, check out Kris Delmhorst's new album.

Recent reading

Lately, I'm all about Michael Pollan. I read The Omnivore's Dilemma because of the controversy that WFM was involved in, and I loved it. I didn't agree with all of it. In fact, I rolled my eyes at large parts of it. But he made many good points, his arguments were interesting, and his writing is wonderful. Currently, I'm reading Second Nature, a kind of gardening memoir/meditation he wrote about fifteen years ago. Here is a paragraph that gave me something to think about on my way to work this morning. He is writing about a forest of old-growth pine trees that was destroyed by a tornado. Environmentalists wanted the debris to be left alone to let nature take its course, while the town nearby wanted to clear the fallen trees and plant new ones.
But the discovery that time and chance hold sway even in nature can also be liberating. Because contingency is an invitation to participate in history. Human choice is unnatural only if nature is deterministic; human chance is unnatural only if she is changeless in our absence. If the future of Cathedral Pines is up for grabs, if its history will always be the product of myriad chance events, then why shouldn't we also claim our place among all those deciding factors? For aren't we also one of nature's contingencies? And if our cigarette butts and Norway maples and acid rain are going to shape the future of this place, then why not also our hopes and desires?


Poetry Thursday

What Is the Earth

The earth is a homeless person. Or
the earth's home is the atmosphere.
Or the atmosphere is the earth's clothing,
layers of it, the earth wears all of it,
the earth is a homeless person.
Or the atmosphere is the earth's cocoon,
which it spun itself, the earth is a larvum.
Or the atmosphere is the earth's skin-
earth, and atmosphere, one
homeless one. Or its orbit is the earth's
home, or the path of the orbit just
a path, the earth a homeless person.
Or the gutter of the earth's orbit is a circle
of hell, the circle of the homeless. But the earth
has a place, around the fire, the hearth
of our star, the earth is at home, the earth
is home to the homeless. For food, and warmth,
and shelter, and health, they have earth and fire
and air and water, for home they have
the elements they are made of, as if
each homeless one were an earth, made
of milk and grain, like Ceres, and one
could eat oneself - as if the human
were a god, who could eat the earth, a god
of homelessness.

-Sharon Olds



Thanks to the warm, sunny weather, my front garden is having a little bit of a resurgence. I've added pictures to the end of my garden album showing the progress. There is also a closeup of a gall on the baby tree. Apparantly, all the galls are full of baby gall wasps. The nursery told me that this wouldn't hurt the tree, so now I'm just excited about my new bugs. I check every few days to see if anything has changed. So far, they just keep getting bigger.


So my interview was this morning. We do group interviews here at Whole Foods, which can be a little bit harrowing. I'm not sure I did well enough to get the job(s), but I don't think I made a total fool of myself. I'm in the enviable position of being in a no-lose situation. If I get this job, I'll will be very excited and happy, but if I don't, I still have a job I enjoy with a company I love. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Not to long after I went back upstairs to my desk, the building alarm went off and we were told to evacuate. As it turns out, a truck caught on fire in the parking garage. The entire building, including the store, was evacuated around noon. I would be interested to see the lunch sales increase in surrounding restaurants...


I'm a little jealous

Chloe looks a lot better in my new hat than I do...


Holiday hell

As much as I like the holidays, and spending time with family, and cinnamonny goodness, and all that happy crap, I'm starting to think it just isn't worth it anymore. I am so busy with so many things that the thought of taking time off work and house projects and gardening is just overwhelming. Not to mention the financial aspect. Has anyone else noticed that a house somehow costs a lot more than just the mortgage?

Anyway, enough complaining. I am interviewing for three (three! no, I don't know how that happened!) new positions on Wednesday, and I'm still catching up from my week off, and there are lots of new projects that I'm involved in, and this is just a busy time of year and I might be just the tiniest bit frazzled. Just a bit.


Laundry Day - A Fairy Tale

Part one: the beautiful Princess Bella is held captive by the evil, hooded Monster.

Part two: the suave Prince Sebastian comes to her rescue after finding just the right pair of sunglasses.
Part three: Princess Bella is restored to her (somewhat in need of reupholstering) throne



How I wasted my day

We watched five episodes of Star Trek TNG, and then watched Harold and Maude (highly recommended - morbid and wonderful in the way that only 70's cult classics can be). We ate cinnamon toast for breakfast, Panera Bread soup and sandwiches for lunch, and Chipotle burritos for dinner. We laid around on the couch in pajamas and did not do any of the things we said we were going to do this weekend.

Boy, it's been nice.


Poetry Thursday - A short one

Night Watch

The heart I hear in bed tonight
Is mine—it frightens me
To hear my heart so clearly
It could stop at any time

Keep your ear to the ground
I was told without fear
Now I am hollowed for sound
And it is my heart I hear

-Samuel Menashe



I have put all my current garden pictures into Picasa for the approximately three readers who might care.


So Kinky didn't win. Not a surprise by any means, but I thought he would get more than 12%, especially in Austin. Presumably, he has "retire[d] in a petulant snit" as promised and I will never get to see Willie Nelson installed in public office.

Rather than being for any particular party, I tend to vote for gridlock. I distrust anyone who is capable of winning any major political office. How cynical is that? But I voted for Kinky. I even had bumper stickers. Oh well, maybe next time.


A really boring post

I got a new gardening book in the mail yesterday. Until now, I have been buying books by Neil Sperry and Howard Garrett - good, basic gardening guides. Unfortunately, I discovered that those weren't basic enough. So I got a huge, all-in-one compendium of Gardening for Dummies. I swear to god, one of the first chapter headings was "Making plants grow, not die." That's more my speed.

Right after the baby died, I discovered that gardening has incredible healing powers. Just thinking about my flowers and plants makes me happy now. So I have been developing grandiose plans for our yard. Since I can't do a lot during the winter, I am going to study up in the Dummies book (and maybe get around to finishing tiling the kitchen). Then, sometime around February, I am going to rip up a good portion of our front yard, including a section of lawn, some really ugly boxwoods, three mystery bushes, and my accidental parsley garden and then design and plant a large-scale garden. I have other, longer-term plans also, but that project will do for now.

Tomorrow, maybe I will update on my vegetable garden experiment.



I'm back!

Felix has a hilarious description of the farmhouse and goings on in the great metropolis of Quincy, MO (on 11/2/06 - I can't figure out the unique URL because his RSS feed is broken).

We visited many relatives and friends, ate much food, played much scrabble, shook many hands and kissed many babies. I think that about sums it up.

Click below for a photo album full of exciting pictures of things like leaves.


Laundry Day - Bon Jovi edition

Once again, Sebastian went mysteriously missing while I sorted laundry.