Be Kind

A few months ago I added a bumper sticker to the back of my car that says "Be Kind." I have decided that everyone should do this. Since I'm telling other people how to act, I feel like I have to be an example. I am much nicer now about letting people cut in front of me, waving when someone lets me in, etc.


This is genius! Make sure to watch the commercial for a demonstration.

via Boing Boing


Second try

My second try at the opera was better than my first. Last night, a friend and I went to go see Phillip Glass' Waiting for the Barbarians. After Madame Butterfly, which I found unapproachable and kind of boring, I wasn't expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised.

The set, a series of semi-opaque screens that rose and fell in time with the music, was visually stunning. The music was accessible and the story, while not subtle, was interesting. I found it a little off-putting that the score was in English because it is hard to ignore the bizarre phrasing and pay attention to the sound, but after a while I managed to ignore the meaning of the words and just read the subtitles. A little bit of nudity and a rather obvious political message apparently served to make the people sitting in front of us a little huffy. They left after the first act, and then we were blessedly free to put our feet up on their seats, which is not a small thing in the cheap, cramped, upper balcony seats.

Overall, I had a good time. Who would have thought?! Since B was only willing to get one opera's worth of culture, my mother-in-law will be coming in April to see the Barber of Seville with me. I'm hoping for two out of three - it's supposed to be funny, right? I think I've had enough tragedies.


How to wash a cat


Sunrise this morning looked apocalyptic. It made my breakfast experience so much less mundane.


Granny, don't read this one

I was going to post lots of stupid pictures that I took with my new camera, but Blogger is not cooperating. So instead, I will share what is possibly the funniest quote I have come across in a long time from the only celebrity-related website I patronize: Go Fug Yourself

this is in reference to Marilyn Manson's new girlfriend.

"took a twiddle on the skin-flute of Satan's high priest of contact lenses"

The NPR block

Have you ever noticed that your reading falls into groups. I find myself reading books that have something in common, and then they are always grouped together in my mind. For instance, reading a bunch of Today Show book club books all together or a bunch of books written by Indian writers. Lately, I think I'm in an NPR group. Three of the books (Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi) were much discussed on NPR, and both authors were interviewed multiple times. Also, I'm reading Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis, who is always on All Things Considered (talking about sports, I think).

Anyway, I don't feel it is worth talking about Never Let Me Go or Word Freak. However, if you haven't heard about Persepolis and Persepolis 2, you should check them out. Marjane Satrapi grew up in Iran during the revolution. These books are her autobiography in graphic novel form. It's unusual enough to see a woman writing graphic novels, but an Iranian woman? The story is funny and sad, and so are the black and white illustrations.



Yesterday, a coworker was miserable. She had recently found out that she was pregnant, but then she had started spotting on Tuesday night. She went to the emergency room and, after an ultrasound, was told that she had a blighted ovum and would miscarry soon. She set up an appointment for this morning with her obgyn to have a d&c. I tried to comfort her, even while knowing that comfort is impossible after something like that. It brought back memories of what happened to me, and I felt like I was almost physically hurting for her.

Her appointment was for 8:45 this morning. At about 10:00 am, she called me. "It was a mistake!" she yelled. I didn't understand at first, but it appears that the emergency room doctor misread the ultrasound, and her obgyn this morning was able to see a healthy heartbeat. She isn't out of the woods yet, but she will probably have a healthy baby. What a beautiful, fairy-tale ending. I hurt for her yesterday, but today I am feeling her joy.

Poetry Thursday

On a clothesline between two pines

Summer and the cool of early morning,
a faded version of the moon
still in the sky,
then just the driftwood-gray clothespins
and the white of the towel
forgotten on the line,
the night's damp still in it,
and not much else
except that somehow we'd crossed over,
opened our eyes
or splashed our faces at the sink,
that there are stones to touch
and thoughts we couldn't,
and now unfolding chairs:
canvas snapping into place,
wooden legs settling
into sand under us,
that all of this could happen,
that it could stop,
not just dreams, but sleep itself,
rain, mist, evaporation.

-Jane O. Wayne


First picture

Inevitably, my first picture was of Monster. Or more specifically, of Monster's nose as he tries to snorgle the camera. In any case, compare it to a similar picture at the bottom taken with my old camera. Neato!

Texas grandma

A funny prank from KGSR.


New toy

I am so in love with my new camera, which the UPS man kindly brought to me last night. It does many tricks, while looking tiny and sexy and shiny. Soon, I will start posting New and Improved pictures here. With all six of my megapixels. And image stabilization! And Color Swaps! I don't even know what those last two mean, but they sounds important!

This was kind of an emergency buy. My old camera has been acting up for awhile, but during the ice storm, it kept getting a funny error message. A quick Google search promised nothing but death and destruction and lines on all my pictures. So I had to buy a new one. I really wanted a fancy SLR camera , but I just can't justify spending more on a camera than I spend for six months of groceries. So I compromised on a price that will have me cursing my credit card bills for months, but at least won't require us to switch to canned dog food.


eeew, gross

Update on Sebastian:

The thing on his nose continued to grow, and we discovered another on his back. A trip to the vet was made last Monday morning before the ice shut everything down. After cleaning and shaving the two spots, you could see tiny, oozing puncture wounds all over the sores. The vet wasn't really sure what happened, but thinks he might have been attacked by some kind of nasty poisonous insect or spider. She gave him two shots of antibiotics and sent me home with two more weeks worth of pills. Two weeks after discovering the first one, both sores are still there. However, they look like they are healing, and I'm glad for that.

The funny part is that he has to wear a radar dish to keep him from licking his back, and a t-shirt to keep Monster from licking his back. Part of me feels really bad because he feels so yucky, but he looks so funny!

A delightful poem

Thanks, J!

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

-Billy Collins


ack, ack, drowning

Quarter close and everything is behind because of the ice. No time for anything but work.


Poetry Thursday

Winter Sunrise

It is early morning within this room: without,
Dark and damp: without and within, stillness
Waiting for day: not a sound but a listening air.

Yellow jasmine, delicate on stiff branches
Stands in a Tuscan pot to delight the eye
In spare December's patient nakedness.

Suddenly, softly, as if at a breath breathed
On the pale wall, a magical apparition,
The shadow of the jasmine, branch and blossom!

It was not there, it is there, in a perfect image;
And all is changed. It is like a memory lost
Returning without a reason into the mind;

And it seems to me that the beauty of the shadow
Is more beautiful than the flower; a strange beauty,
Pencilled and silently deepening to distinctness.

As a memory stealing out of the mind's slumber,
A memory floating up from a dark water,
Can be more beautiful than the thing remembered.

-Laurence Binyon


Ice pictures

We are endlessly fascinated with the ice.


Breaking news

It's real-live, honest to god SNOWING! Here! Right now! I knew this was going to be a great year! However, I think this might be bad news for my emerging daffodils...


Big Event

Two things happened this morning: first, the temperature dropped as low as 30 degrees and second, there has been precipitation. These two events rarely coincide in our great, sweaty metropolis and so the city has been shut down. Literally. Businesses, schools, and MLK Day events have all been cancelled and everyone has been urged to stay indoors. We Texans are unaccustomed to ice that does not arrive in a margarita glass. The people I know that live in the Northern parts of the country, especially those who have never lived in Texas, find it hilarious that we get all het up about about a patchy 1/8 inch of ice, but I would like to see them deal with three weeks straight of 115 degree temperatures. Then we'll talk.

I would find being 'snowed in' a lot more exciting if I didn't have the mixed blessing of a job that allows me to work from home.




Lisey's Story by Stephen King - Lisey is the recent widow of a famous author. While the story is a suspenseful ghost story, bordering on sci-fi, it is also a meditation on grief and loss that anyone who has ever lost someone can identify with. I was a little bit slow getting into it, but by the time I was a few chapters in, I couldn't put it down. Just a side note: the physical book is beautiful. Under the plain red cover is a psychedelic tropical scene that fades from black and white to full color. For the week that it was on my desk, I got multiple questions and comments each day.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - a Jane Eyre type gothic novel set in England. The plot is delightfully improbable and the text is full of references to 18th and 19th century British fiction. The plot occasionally loses itself, and the author could have cut the ending down by a few pages, but the author is extremely skillful at keeping up the gothic atmosphere. This is the perfect book to read on a rainy day with a cup of tea.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
by Kim Edwards - Norah Henry gives birth to twins in 1964 in the middle of a snowstorm. Her husband (a doctor) and his nurse are the only other people present. One of the babies is perfectly healthy, but the other is born with Downs syndrome. The husband gives the Downs baby to the nurse to take to an institution, but instead she takes the baby to raise as her own in another city. In the meantime, Norah believes her second child is dead. The story follows both families over the next quarter century. The book is light, fluffy, predictable, and utterly forgettable.

In process:

The End of Faith by Sam Harris - I am reading this on Crystal's recommendation. It's an indictment of religious faith in general, and specifically of religious moderates. I find myself mostly agreeing with the arguments and the general premise of the book, but I wish the author would not harp so much on Islam. His American audience is already familiar with what Islamic extremists can do, and tend to think of Muslims as Other. More of an impact might be made by analysing the effects of Christianity, the largest religion in this country. In any case, when the author begins ranting about Muslims, he starts sounding less than reasonable, and I tend to tune him out.

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife - part of the trend toward micro histories in recent years (see Salt, Stiff, Cod, Pi, etc.), Zero follows the history of a single mathematical concept from prehistory to the present. I have never conceived of numbers outside of a number line with zero in the middle, so it is hard to wrap my mind around the concept of the number zero being a controversy. The history of how mathematics, and specifically numbers, developed in different societies is fascinating. Realizing the giant leap forward that is involved in using zero as a placeholder in numbers (rather than using aggregate numbers, such as Roman numerals), was incredible. I'm only a third of the way through, but I'm already recommending it to anyone who will listen

Up next:

Word Freak
by Stefan Fatsis - A foray into the world of competitive Scrabble. I come from a family of very dedicated Scrabble players, and I love to play myself, so this should be interesting.

Brick Lane
by Monica Ali - a novel about a Bangladeshi woman in an arranged marriage who emigrates to England. I'm not sure where this book came from, but I found it on my bookshelf the other day and it looked interesting.


Poetry Thursday - Part Two

Divinely Superfluous Beauty

The storm-dances of gulls, the barking game of seals,
Over and under the ocean ...
Divinely superfluous beauty
Rules the games, presides over destinies, makes trees grow
And hills tower, waves fall.
The incredible beauty of joy
Stars with fire the joining of lips, O let our loves too
Be joined, there is not a maiden
Burns and thirsts for love
More than my blood for you, by the shore of seals while the wings
Weave like a web in the air
Divinely superfluous beauty.

-Robinson Jeffers

Rolling my eyes

Seen on El Arroyo's billboard on 5th St:

Pigeon - Tastes Like Chicken!

Seen in my inbox twice this morning:

Poetry Thursday

The Song

From somewhere
a calm musical note arrives.
You balance it on your tongue,
a single ripe grape,
till your whole body glistens.
In the space between breaths
you apply it to any wound
and the wound heals.

Soon the nights will lengthen,
you will lean into the year
humming like a saw.
You will fill the lamps with kerosene,
knowing somewhere a line breaks,
a city goes black,
people dig for candles in the bottom drawer.
You will be ready. You will use the song like a match.
It will fill your rooms
opening rooms of its own
so you sing, I did not know
my house was this large.

-Naomi Shihab Nye


Caution: semi-gory photo

Something happened to Sebastian. We can't even figure out what it is. He just showed up one day with a big black lump on his nose that turned out to be a scab. I did my best to wash it a little bit with very hot water, but he did not appreciate my efforts. I did manage to smear some Neosporin on it (Neosporin cures everything, did you know that?), but then I had to lock him in the guest bedroom for awhile so that Monster wouldn't lick it off (Neosporin is also irresistable to dogs, did you know that?)

Anyway, I'm going crazy trying to figure out what he did to himself. It may not look that bad in the photo, but believe me, it's nasty up close - like something gouged a dime-sized chunk out of his nose. I would blame the devil cat, except that the shape is wrong. Do dogs get leprosy? Because we have armadillos in our garden. I'm wondering if I should take him to a vet. Any theories or advice? Stinkydog?


My mom's duck story

"Not much there... I got the duck as a gift for breaking my arm to make me feel better (my brother Teddy got one also)... the duck's name was Donald Duck, but he turned into a Daisy Duck when he started laying eggs... he was mean... he chased me around the yard when I would carry out the dinner scraps to the pigs...you always keep the pigs away from the house (downwind) so you have to walk quite a ways to feed them. The ducks and the chickens knew I took the dinner scraps out and would chase me... they were vicious... When my parents asked my brother and I if we wanted to get rid of the ducks, Teddy chose to give his away...I didn't...we ate Donald."

When I asked my mom if I could post her story, she replied "I don't mind... just remember he was a vicious duck... chickens are too..."

I should mention that it was many years into my childhood before my mom was okay with eating chicken (and I think she still doesn't like it much). She always told us that they were nasty animals.


I don't really bother with many concrete resolutions for New Years. Rather, I make a point to reflect on what kind of person I want to be and what I want to accomplish and then I try to keep that in mind throughout the year. Then on New Years Eve, I judge how I did and start all over again.

I only made two real resolutions this year: to (1) spend a moment being thankful for all my blessings each morning and to (2) only use two (instead of three) paper towels in the bathroom at work after washing my hands. So far, I have stuck to both resolutions with no deviations.


Me and my monkey

When I was very young, I had two stuffed animals that were very important to me. One was a one-eyed monkey named George (apparently, I was not a very creative child) and the other was a ratty teddy bear named Radar. I'm not sure what happened to Radar, although I suspect he might be somewhere in my Dad's house where I am not invited. George, however, is alive and well.

George is a mute. He cannot talk, although he is a good listener. Radar was the chatty one; Penn to George's Teller. Now that he is gone, George is unable to communicate. Somehow, it feels wrong to have one but not the other. Who were your childhood stuffed animals? Do you still have them? Is it possible that I'm wanting someone to tell me I'm not crazy for still occasionally chatting with my stuffed monkey?

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Nothing makes for a great Monday morning like an abandoned downtown, dead animals, and swarms of creepy guys in hazmat suits. If only they had extended the radius by another block or two, I could be sitting at home working in my pajamas right now.


Best of

I have an email subscription to something called "Campus Watch" that is put out by the University of Texas police department. They just sent their top ten list of 2006, reproduced below. It reminds me daily why I'm glad I'm not in college.

Number 10

Suspicious Activity: Coca-Cola syrup was observed oozing out from under an unplugged coke machine. An unknown caped crusader wrote, "Holy nauseating discharges, Batman! Have unplugged machine." The unknown subject identified himself as The Boy Wonder. Occurred on: 11-26-06, at 4:02 PM.

Number 9

Public Intoxication: A non-UT subject was observed falling down on two occasions while carrying a pizza box. The subject stated he was “body slamming” the pizza box. The subject stated he was not sure how much he had to drink, as he stopped counting after his 4th beer. The subject was found to be under the influence of an alcoholic beverage to the point he was a physical endangerment to himself – not to mention the defenseless pizza box. Occurred on 02-27-06 at 2:24 AM.

Number 8

Public Intoxication: A non-UT subject, who was under the age of 21, was reported as having run through a reserved suite into the suite’s restroom to begin the most expeditious method of removing alcoholic beverages form one’s stomach. The subject was found on the restroom floor hugging her new found porcelain friend. The subject was not aware of her surroundings or the location of her shoes. The subject needed assistance with standing and walking. The subject was found to be under the influence of an alcoholic beverage to the point she was a physical endangerment to herself. Occurred on 03-31-06 at 8:38 PM.

Number 7

Driving While Intoxicated: A UT student was stopped after being observed stopping at four different intersections with flashing yellow lights, speeding and finally running a red light. During an investigation for driving while intoxicated, the student complained her contact lens fell out. The student looked on the ground picked-up a piece of broken auto glass and started to “put it in her eye” as if it were her contact lens. The student was found to be under the influence of an alcoholic beverage to the point she had been driving while intoxicated. Occurred on 03-24-06 at 3:40 AM.

Number 6

Criminal Trespass Warning: A non-UT subject refused to leave the building after getting into an argument with a UT student inside the T.V. lounge. When stopped by the police officer, the subject stated that she hated all Texans and would pray for a flood. In addition to other law enforcement actions taken, the subject was issued a written criminal trespass warning and escorted from the area. Much to her chagrin, Troy Kimmel's weather forecast for today is sunshine and 89 degrees. Occurred on 5-11-06, at 7:26 PM.

Number 5

Burglary: Two UT students and a non-UT subject were observed climbing over the outfield fence carrying 1st, 2nd and 3rd base. Two additional unknown subjects watched as their teammates were thrown out while stealing bases and being detained by the police. The unknown teammates were last seen running home. UTPD wins 3 to 2. Occurred on: 5-21-06, at 4:15 AM.

Number 4

Disorderly Conduct: A UT staff member observed an unknown subject inside a restricted area located on the 4th floor. When the unknown subject saw the staff member he raised a one-finger salute. When asked by the staff member if he was employed or enrolled at UT, the unknown subject said, "No." When the subject was told to leave the area, the unknown subject went into a tirade of verbalization that would send a salty seaman home crying. The unknown subject left the area prior to the arrival of the officer. The subject was described as: white male, 6'-05", thin build, stooped posture, and light brown hair. Subject was last seen wearing a dark colored shirt. Occurred on: 9-07-06, at 9:30 PM.

Number 3

Failure to Identify / Attempted Theft: UT police officers responded to
RLM on a reported suspicious person who had stolen a Dr. Pepper on
9-20-06. At the time of the theft the suspect was described as an Asian
female, wearing a pink shirt and tan pants. When officers arrived, the
owner of the vending cart pointed to an Asian female wearing a pink
shirt and tan pants. The owner stated that the female had attempted to
take a package of "Goldfish" crackers, and got her hand caught in the
cookie jar. During the investigation, the subject stated that she was a
current UT student, but provided a false name and date of birth. The
officers realized that the subject was not forthcoming with her correct
information; she was asked to repeat her telephone number and could not
remember the number that she had just given. The subject admitted that
she had lied about all of her personal information. The subject was
taken into custody for Failure to Identify and transported to Central
Booking. Occurred on: 9-21-06, at 10:10 AM.

Number 2

Assault on a Police Officer / Assault on a Public Servant / Assault / Public Intoxication: UT police officer responded to a second floor dormitory room on a report of a male subject banging on the door and attempting to gain entry into the room. The officers observed the subject standing in the hallway drinking a beer and talking to the on-call RA. The subject began resisting detention and attempted to leave the area. After being assisted to the ground and handcuffed, the officers discovered that the subject had assaulted the RA by groping personal areas. As the investigation continued the subject began having challenges and yelled that he was being tortured and that the officers were hurting his Miranda rights. Due to the subject's incoherent condition Austin EMS was requested to the scene. Austin EMS stated that the subject should be transported to a local area hospital. As the officers were restraining the subject to a backboard the subject attacked an officer by biting her arm. The subject then spat bloody saliva into the face of an EMT. The subject was transported to a local area hospital. Upon release, officers transported the subject to Central Booking. Occurred on: 12-11-06, at 2:26 AM.

Number 1

Public intoxication: A UT student was discovered passed out on the grassy area next to the Animal Resource Center. The subject was wearing a green leotard outfit with his underwear worn on the outside of his leotards. The subject wore red lip stick to simulate an over sized mouth. The subject had a very strong odor of alcohol on his breath. When the officer attempted to wake him up, the subject rolled over and put a finger to his lips and made a "Shhhhhhh" sound, then rolled back over. During the investigation, the subject appeared to be confused as to where he was or who he was. He explained to the officer that he was a crocodile. The officer observed that the subject was having difficulty standing and maintaining his balance, as well as having difficulty answering questions. The subject was taken into custody for Public Intoxication and transported to Central Booking. Occurred on: 9-16-06, at 1:20 AM.


Thank you, B - how did you know that tulips are my favorite...?

Poetry Thursday- one for winter

Blue Grapes

Eating blue grapes
near the window
and looking out
at the snow-covered valley.
For a moment, the deep world
gazing back. Then a blue jay
scatters snow from a bough.
No world, no meeting. Only
tremors, sweetness
on the tongue.

-Tess Gallagher

Now, the good

Rain and fog make incredible winter sunrises through the bare black cherry tree outside my kitchen window.

First, the bad

Rain and fog make my morning commute look like a dystopian fantasy.


Free will?

Here is an interesting article on free will. No matter what it says, I will continue to believe that I am a free agent. I imagine life as a rutted road. It is easy and natural to stay in the predetermined rut, but with extraordinary effort, one can leave the rut. Possibly to fall into a different predetermined rut, possibly to create a new one. Of course if people didn't believe in free will, life would lose some of its meaning, and we would have to forgive people like Hitler, Stalin, and Pat Robertson. So maybe it is predetermined that I will not believe in predetermination.

Any thoughts, J? I'm sorry your old post on the subject isn't around anymore for reference!


Not even Thursday!

The Museum of False Starts

It is incredibly
beautiful but
unfinished -
actually hardly
more than imagined.
There are the beginnings
of a gallery of
ribbon-lovely thoughts
that vanish,
shadowy gardens
briefly visible
at shifting angles,
and, caught
in an ancient ash,
the single spiraling
horn of an otherwise
unfashioned animal.

-Kay Ryan

(extra poems thanks to Felix and his talent for picking out cool presents, like poetry calendars)

I'm so excited! And I just can't hide it!

So most of the things I said I would do on my holiday? Not done. Is anyone suprised? However, we did get started on one big project - painting our bedroom. B was starting to think that it would be tan with yellow sample splotches all over it forever.

But he was wrong! Now it's the color of sunshine! Or a pineapple milkshake, depending on whether you're talking to me or B.

So now all we have to do is repaint all the baseboards, molding, trim, window sills, and doors, replace the windows, get new blinds, replace the ugly ceiling fans, take down the popcorn ceiling and retexture it, and buy a new rug and we're done! And that's only one room! We've got a bunch more! I'm getting a little hysterical just thinking about it!


Happy New Year!

I have been ready for a new year to begin for a long time now. I'm ready to forget the bad things that happened in 2006 and start fresh.

My mom always says that what you do on New Years Day is what you will do for the rest of the year. So today I will do some blogging (check), cook a good meal (beef bourguignon), work in my garden, read a book, call my Mom and my sister, play with my dogs in the greenbelt, organize my bedroom, and kiss B as much as possible.

Oh, and of course I will eat some black eyed peas.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope yours is as full of hope and new beginnings as mine.