Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A book tag

Hardback or trade paperback or mass-market paperback? Depends on the book. Some books I like (A Series of Unfortunate Events) come in hardback, so that's how I buy them. Mostly, I prefer trade paper, but if the book is free...

Amazon or brick and mortar? Brick and mortar! My preference is Powell's, where I have spent oodles of hours - and a few bucks - over the past 30 years (yegods). But I'm happy to shark around just about any bookstore, especially second-hand and college shops.

Barnes & Noble or Borders? Well, ya makes do with whats ya got, and we got neither here. I used to like wandering around the B&N in Newington, N.H., but now that Powell's is only 250 miles away, why bother with the chains?

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark! My books have all sorts of unusual bookmarks, including handmade paper ones manufactured by the butterfly lady, 3-D postcards of Jesus Christ, assorted New Yorker cartoons and other oddball slips.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? Alphabetized by city of publication; within each city organized by telephone number of p.r. representative, lowest initial digit first. OK, really by category. All my cookbooks are in the kitchen...

Keep, throw away, or sell? Throw away? What? I prefer to give away or sell books (at Powell's, so I can buy more right away!).

Keep dustjacket or toss it? I'm not sure who these two are directed at; I can't think of any reason to throw away parts of books, never mind the whole thing. That's weird.

Read with dustjacket or remove it? I own so few books with dust jackets this is almost irrelevant, but I read them with the jacket on.

Short story or novel? I'd rather read a novel any day. Short stories just don't do much for me (though there are notable exceptions).

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)? Would you prefer anchovies or oysters on your chocolate ice cream?

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Well, I enjoy both series, but I think I like Lemony Snicket's better. It took a few books for the characters to develop, but by the end, I was pretty fond of them. Maybe I'm just a sucker for clever writing.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? I stop reading when I wake up and realize I've read the same paragraph four or five times and don't have a clue what it said. I guess that's when I reach "tired."

"It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"? Well. I dunno. If Lulu hadn't tipped, I wouldn't have been able to identify the former as the start of a mystery. I'd rather read a story that started "There was nothing else going on at the luncheon." I think I'm going to have to write that one myself, though.

Buy or Borrow? I like to buy, but borrowing is more fun. (I like lending, too!)

New or used? Used, almost certainly. Some books just aren't available new, and if there's a choice, I'd have to say that the cost usually sways me to the older book. I like to buy field guides new, but that's not always possible. Besides, used books are usually sold in places that are more fun to wander around than new books (Powell's has the combination figured out, of course, but lots of places do not).

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse? I'll take any idea I can get. I really like to browse - I could spend hours in bookstores without really noticing the passage of time.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger? I'll take any ending that isn't a cop-out or a bullshit wrapup concocted to hide the fact that the writer really didn't have an ending. "And they all died" is just as dumb as "And they all lived happily ever after." What rubbish.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading? Sounds good, especially if someone could swing by with snacks and coffee/soda/bourbon (depending on the hour).

Standalone or series? Doesn't make me no nevermind. I love books. If they're good, that's what counts. If they're good and there's more of them, super! But some series are only good for the first couple of books...

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard? The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron. Maybe that's too mainstream. The Forgotten Kingdom, by Peter Goullart.

Favorite book(s) read last year: Night Flight, which I've read before, takes the cake. I reread a lot of books last year...

Favorite books of all time? Hmm. Wind, Sand and Stars, The English Patient, the three I just mentioned... I like plays a lot, too, so if they count, Romeo and Juliet.

Tag? Someone who likes books!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mandatory kill

That's wire-service speak for "Oops, that story/photo/graphic was a mistake. Do not run it."

I suggest a mandatory kill on a few words, at least in specific contexts:
  • Artisan - This is a good word when you need a gender-aspecific way to say craftsman, but I'm tired of seeing it applied to cheese, chocolate, wine and any other food that can be made well. Yeah, I get it. Grafton Village cheddar, Moonstruck chocolate and Zerba Cellars 2003 syrah are better than generic mozzarella, Hershey's milk chocolate and Thunderbird. But for Christ's sake, artisan duck breast? Alas, yes. So it is time to strike artisan, no matter how convenient a longhand it has become for "good."
  • Improvised explosive device - It's a homemade bomb. Or maybe even a roadside bomb. This phrase is even more annoying when it is Improvised Explosive Device (unless that's the title of a book).
  • Comprise - Only a minority apparently knows how the fuck to use this word correctly, so fuck it, let's just throw it under the bus.
  • Issue - Are you speaking about an edition of a magazine? A political topic? Cool. A problem? Not cool. You didn't go bankrupt because of financial issues any more than Enron collapsed because of accounting issues. They're problems, damn it, problems!
There are others, of course. Perhaps you can think of a few, too!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In the studio

Here's my/my mother's loom Marigold complete with the warp I put on the other day.

As you might surmise, this warp produces garments that have strips of regular cloth with web-like parts in between. For an idea of what I mean when I say "web-like parts in between" take a look at the snazzy items at left.


Here's a sample of what was on my iPod on a busy Saturday (wove three pieces this morning, just finished the taxes, about to replace the molding around the back door - the previous molding having fallen victim to a strange attack of destructiveness by Her Newfsance, the Baroness von Roughenhausen).

Past the Mission - Tori Amos
Worn Out Shoes - Joe Purdy (a new favorite)
Broken Boy Soldier - The Raconteurs (a newish favorite)
Chitown Tonight - Joe Purdy
Otherside - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Northern Star - Hole
Graduation Day - Chris Isaak
Parallel Universe - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Pancho and Lefty - Townes Van Zandt, live at the Old Quarter (the song I want played at my funeral)
Suitcase - Joe Purdy
Casey Jones - Grateful Dead
Lover's Cross - Jim Croce
Scar Tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Welcome To: - Ani DiFranco
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

Friday, January 26, 2007

A note from the pool

I don't usually post swimming stuff here anymore, but hey.

Since last spring, I've had a sketchy shoulder, courtesy of my usual all-or-nothing approach to workouts. I don't know why, but I'm not very good at setting small, easy-to-reach goals. I like the other kind more. Maybe the intercollegiate athlete in me is still lurking somewhere beneath the surface.

So I've been on the massage table, and recently the acupuncture table. Mr. Needles instructed me to "push it a bit" and I did today. I only swam a mile and a half (the half was a warmup), but I did the mile without holding back (aka I swam slowly, but it felt fast to me) and sprinted (aka swam a little less slowly) at the end. No pain, no problems.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An observation on health care

I was reminded this week of a conversation I had over the holidays with a person I could only describe as privileged dude who doesn't give a shit about the less fortunate.

He was griping about how socialized medicine is an awful evil, etc. He also suggested the good ol' U.S. of A is way better because of the wonderful health care we "all" have access to.

I responded that to me, it seems there is a simple marker for whether you are rich (one that doesn't have anything to do with your income, either): Do you have health insurance? If you do, you're rich. If not, you're fucked.

That said, there's another level of this kind of wealth (this one is partly monetary) that I can see now. If you live in our city (population 30,000), you can get pretty good care, but if you are willing/able to drive to Seattle or Portland and also are a proactive patient, you can get much better care.

This isn't an abstraction. Someone I know very well indeed is due for surgery, come hell or high water. If this person had not taken the time to learn about the situation, that surgery would have been done here in town and have been pretty invasive (i.e. the kind that leaves a four-inch scar and takes six weeks to recover from).

Luckily, that person is informed and is a good self-advocate and is able to travel to the larger city, where a less-invasive procedure (in on Friday, back at work Monday, the optimists say) is de rigeur.

So you can only get adequate care if you have this huge stack of factors on your side. And that pretty much blows.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tangled webs

Other people's weekends appear to have been more fun, but mine was at the very least eventful.

The butterfly lady and I did the usual weekend things, buying dog chow (and a water cooler-style water dish for the thirsty piggies), going to a movie ("Babel" - I'm not sure what to say about that one) and having a nice dinner (A dish of my own design and some pinot noir).

I also put on a warp. It is beautiful and will no doubt result in a lot of easily sold garments, but for reasons apparently too arcane to explain, the process was absolutely damned maddening. I did not document with video or stills: You would have seen a lot of pictures of me frowning, or heard angry grumbling. Maybe that would have been funny, though.

Nine fucking hours. For which, I admit, I am paid. Even so, if I was the pull-out-my-hair type, I would have.

Ah yes, art is so soothing.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I don't know how I was when I was a kid, but needles don't trouble me at all these days.

Hepatitis vaccines? No problem. Give blood? Sure. Tetanus shots? Fine.

I added acupuncture to the list today, and it was no big deal. I didn't have a clue what to expect, so I don't know what is typical.

Besides a few needles here and there, I got to participate in resistance tests (to find out what all is catawampus), some adjustments here and there, a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid. Most of what is on the OK list and what's prohibited will not surprise you.

Best of all, I got instructions to push a little bit in the pool, which I've been itching to do.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Thank you, Lulu.

Three screen names that you’ve had:
Triton, Mediahound, Losmoros

Three things you like about yourself:
My sense of humor. My smile (One of the top five nicest things anyone has said to me: "you have a kind smile"). My ability to relate to others.

Three things you don’t like about yourself:
I can be impulsive. I apparently mock people sometimes (I must make that more subtle). I tend to be shy.

Three parts of your heritage:
I’m Scottish, which means I like whisky and kilts and bagpipes and bad weather. I’m Ukrainian (but not in the majority, ethnicity-wise), so I'm good at fleeing the country before they come to kill me. I'm Indian (in a very vague, medical missionary sort of way), so I cook fantastic food.

Three things that scare you:
Religious extremism. Climate change. Yellow jackets/hornets.

Three of your everyday essentials:
Coffee. Peanut butter. Kisses & hugs.

Three things you are wearing right now:
A Le Tigre polo shirt. LL Bean military-style khakis. A red, ultra-fine, felt-tipped pen (PMOP, which I think is Paper Mate, a division of Newell Rubbermaid). This would be city editor uniform apparel.

Three of your favorite songs:
Pancho & Lefty ~~ Townes Van Zandt. Shelter from the Storm ~~ Bob Dylan. Why You ~~ Joe Purdy.

Three things you want in a relationship:
Shared values. Humor. Hot sex. (all in large quantities!)

Two truths and a lie:
When I talk in my sleep, I speak German or French. Because of my time in a foreign military. I am allergic to iceberg lettuce.

Three things you can’t live without:
Reading. Good food. Swimming/exercise (as a result of the second, perhaps).

Three places you want to go on vacation:
Algeria, to hike, look for birds in the Atlas Mountains and sit in cafes. Spain, to hike, look for birds in the Pyrenees and sit in cafes. Japan, to hang out in shrines, sightsee, eat, shop and generally have fun with my dad and the butterfly lady.

Three things you just can’t do:
Be an apathetic bystander. Publicly state most of my political opinions (part of my job, alas, is keeping these to myself). Vote for anyone who intends to - or has a track record of - restricting constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.

Three kids names:
Clarice. Mathilde. Ophelia.

Three things you want to do before you die:
Write and publish a novel, too. Go to Scotland for a spell, to hike (Sgurr Alasdair is on my dream list of summits to bag), watch birds, go golfing (I'm not great, but it's Scotland!) and have a glass of whisky... Learn to play a musical instrument.

Three celeb crushes:
Eva Green. Maggie Gyllenhaal. Cate Blanchett.

Three of your favorite musicians:
Townes Van Zandt. Joe Purdy. Tori Amos.

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeal to you:
All the soft and curvy parts. Luscious lips. Pretty eyes.

Three of your favorite hobbies:
Cooking. Bird watching. Playing word and logic games.

Three things you really want to do badly right now:
Get a massage. Cook up a huge Indian feast attended by all the butterfly lady and my friends and fellow conspirators. Have a double espresso magically appear in my hand while I sit at the summit of Mount Lafayette and look down on Franconia Notch (if it is visible through the clouds/fog/snow).

Three careers you’re considering/you’ve considered:
Writer. Hand weaver. Intelligence agent. These are all roughly the same job, by the way.

Three ways that you are stereotypically a boy:
I like to fix things (sinks, ceiling fans, my loom, you name it). I like spiders and snakes and skunks and frogs. I know far too much about weaponry.

Three ways that you are stereotypically a girl:
I don't like to kill things. I have a lot of stuffed animals. I watch my weight (grr.).

Three people that I would like to see post this meme:
The butterfly lady, Daphne and Tenacious S (who claims to be too busy to blog - pah!)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Standardized testing at the pearly gates?

Seen this morning on a church reader board:

Have you read my bestseller. There will be a test.

I wasn't aware that literacy was a prerequisite to eternal life in the company of the Christian god(s).

I'm also curious about whether St. Peter grades on a curve...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Not quite popular

A wire story on popular names for children moved me to check on my own. Alas:

Alasdair is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of birth in the last 150 years.
Please enter another name.

So sayeth the Social Security Administration, anyway. I suppose over the ocean blue things might be different.

For fun, I checked on some other people:
  • Holly: Surfaced in 1936 (981st), still going strong in 2005 (311th). Best showing: 1979 and 1983. (48th)
  • Margot: Showed up in the 1,000 most popular names off and on from 1914 (999th); disappeared in 1966 (992nd). Best showing: 1936 (580th).
  • Eugenie: Showed up from 1880 (first year the SSA has records for, at 694th), gone in 1920 (855th). Best showing: 1887 (413th).
  • Maurice: Showed up in 1880 (146th); still going in 2005 (414th). Best showing: 1914 (94th).
  • Robert: Showed up in 1880 (10th); still going in 2005 (39th). Best showing: 1924-1939 and 1953 (1st, and 2nd from 1940-1952).
  • Daphne: Showed up in 1886 (1011th); still going in 2005 (551st). Best showing: 1962 (266th).
  • Richard: Showed up, you will be shocked to read, in 1880 (23rd); still going in 2005 (93rd). Best showing: 1930 to 1947 (5th).
  • Lauren: Showed up in 1945 (355th); still going in 2005 (21st). Best showing: 1989 (9th).
  • Johnny: Showed up in 1880 (387th); still going in 2005 (243rd). Best showing: 1944 and 1945 (45th).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Not a recent photo

I'm not sure what all I was dressed for. A damp day, for certain, and probably other eventualities, too...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The right call on Mark McGwire

This year anyway, there's no room for Mark McGwire, once the major league record holder for home runs in a single season, in baseball's Hall of Fame.

Most of the talk about whether he belongs has assumed he's otherwise qualified and focuses on whether he used steroids. The question should be moot. With or without steroids, McGwire wasn't good enough for long enough to be in the Hall of Fame.

McGwire hit a lot of home runs (583, seventh-most all time), but in 16 seasons:
  • He had four great seasons. Those years, 25 percent of his career, accounted for 42 percent of his home runs and had 37 percent of his runs batted in.
  • More than 41 percent of his runs batted in were himself (on home runs). Nobody in the 500-home-run club had such a selfish bat.
  • He was in his league's top five for RBI four times.
  • He hit over .300 in a full season once.
  • He had 1,626 career hits (460 fewer than the next closest 500-home-run guy, Harmon Killebrew, who had 573 home runs in an era that favored pitchers).
  • He didn't inspire great fear in pitchers. To wit, he led his league in intentional walks once and had three top-five finishes in that category.
  • He had three top-five finishes in MVP races (Albert Pujols, by comparison, has six in his six-year career).
  • In 42 postseason games, he hit .217 with five home runs.
  • The only category besides home runs in which McGwire is in the top 25 all time is strikeouts.
Many people still believe 500 home runs, like 3,000 hits or 300 wins by a pitcher, should guarantee entrance into the Hall of Fame. I prefer to let voters make that decision, and for now, they say the one-trick pony stays out in the corral.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What's in your spice rack?

Mine is a cabinet, because I want to keep the light away.

Lower shelf
  • Worcestshire sauce
  • Mirin "sweet cooking rice wine"
  • red wine vinegar
  • seasoned rice vinegar (two varieties)
  • one cellophane package of nori
  • olive oil (bought in bulk, stored in a bear for honey)
  • double-action baking powder
  • baking soda
  • corn starch
  • dried chilis (little skinny ones - that's hot!)
  • chili oil
  • molasses
  • rose water (from Tunisia)
  • Spike, regular flavor
  • Spade-L seasoning for beef
  • garlic salt
  • mustard powder (I can't remember the last time I bought prepared mustard)
  • "California style" lemon pepper
  • "Chesapeake Bay style" seafood seasoning
  • Chinese 5-spice
  • demerara sugar, some in a silver sugar bowl and some in a plastic container
  • chicken bouillon cubes (I like chicken bullion, but they don't take it at the store)
  • cocoa powder (whoops, almost typed coca powder, and I don't think I have that)
  • two mortars and pestles
  • Two sets of measuring cups, plain Pyrex for 1 and 2 cups wet and pretty robin's egg blue ceramic for 1, 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 cup dry.
Upper shelf
  • lavender salt
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • saffron (also from Tunisia)
  • harissa, sans olive oil
  • caraway
  • dill seed
  • Dalmatian rubbed sage (I think that should be rubbed Dalmatian sage, but I can see why it isn't)
  • sesame seeds
  • summer savory
  • celery seed
  • dried lemon grass
  • bay leaves
  • white poppy seed
  • paprika
  • ground marjoram
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • turmeric
  • fennel
  • cloves, whole and ground
  • cinammon, sticks and ground
  • ground ginger (I also have a bunch frozen)
  • cardamom, plain and (I think) smoked
  • nutmeg (and snazzy grinder)
  • cayenne powder
  • chili powder
In other storage areas
  • sea salt
  • 2 pounds honey (I think it's a spice, too, in a way)
  • extra nutmeg, turmeric, bay leaves, coriander, molasses
  • vanilla, almond and mint extracts
  • nuoc mam
In the fridge
  • harissa
  • wasabi
  • tapatio
  • sambal oelek
  • ketchup (hey, that's a seasoning!)
'choo got?

A drawback to Idyllicville

Walla Walla is a great place to live, mostly, but the retail situation leaves something to be desired.

And what, you are no doubt asking yourself, do I mean by "something"?

The butterfly lady and I went out Sunday to find three simple items:
  • A spiky collar for Katy (for walks).
  • A rubber tire/rope toy for the above canine.
  • A basic piece of oak transition, the little wood ridge that on the floor between carpeted areas and non-carpeted areas. (non-basic detail - it needs to be 95 inches long).
And what did we find?
  • A flimsy, too-small spiky collar (which we didn't buy)
  • A shrimpy rubber tire with no rope (which we didn't buy)
  • Zero transitions of the correct specs (uh, we didn't buy the wrong ones, either)
Back to the drawing board. We only checked a few places, but there are only a few places to check. In times I like these, I miss the thickly settled East.

Friday, January 05, 2007

An easy soup for chilly days

Some time back, Mama gave me this recipe for taco soup:

One pound ground turkey
One packet taco seasoning (or your own mixture of chili powder, garlic, salt, cayenne, etc.)
One medium to large yellow onion, chopped
One 48-ounce container V8 (low sodium, regular, whatever. Just not V8 splash!)
One 15-ounce can of corn (just the regular variety), drained

In a soup pot over medium heat, brown the turkey, breaking up lumps as you go. When browned, drain the pot of the liquid, if you care. Add the taco seasoning and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the V8 and corn and heat through.

To be all official and stuff, grate some cheese over the top of each bowl and serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, along with chips...

The standard recipe incorporates very little in the way of chilis, so you might like to add some Tapatio, or to use spicy V8.

How much detail?

While drifting through the wires, I found a few stories about a couple of women accused of turning tricks out of their homes in a fancy Atlanta suburb. Nothing surprising, but I did notice a significant difference in how much detail the stories offered on where information comes from.

USA Today's On Deadline blog post linked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Gwinnett Daily Post, among other places to go.

As is typical for most news outlets, the AJC story refers to "a Web site which allows clients to post satisfaction ratings for women they've purportedly paid for sex."

The Daily Post, however, gives a much more detailed account and names names. Want to know where "hobbyists" go to talk about how things went with their Easy Date hookups? Try The Erotic Review, which although I could just put a link to is better to Google. More than one site has a similar name, and they seem to offer similar services for the hobbyist looking to share information.

I wonder why the Daily Post made the unusual move of spilling the details of where they got the information. I'm guessing it is because they broke the story, and were the ones who tipped police about the site's existence, but maybe they have a special policy of giving readers access to primary sources. I shall endeavor to find out!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Observations on death

Having missed (oh darn) the trio of high-profile deaths while I was away on vacation, I also missed out on putting together papers containing the news of the demises of James Brown, Gerald Ford and Saddam Insane. Too bad.

It seems to me that only the Godfather will be remembered for his lasting influence.

Maybe Ford was the guiding force to carry the nation out of the stained Nixon years, but I hadn't heard anyone say so until he died. He just seemed like a dude who was president for a while, then played a lot of golf. Nothing wrong with that, but all the fanfare of his funerals would make an outsider think a king had died.

Saddam? Well, his demise speaks volumes about the new Iraq, and none of what it says is good. A hurried killing and the lack of a truth-and-reconciliation process leave me pessimistic, as though I wasn't already - about the future of that part of Mespotamia. Still, sic semper tyrannis.

But James Brown kicked ass for half a century! You know you're doing something right if you can be an icon and an iconoclast at the same time :)

If only he'd received the ink.

Say what?

Seen on a church reader board this morning:
The teaching of the Bible is a life situation
What? Well, whatever.

On another language note, I see that the name Johannisberg Riesling is among those to be disallowed for new labels on domestic (aka U.S.) wines. This is because los federales have had it with U.S. wine producers tacking place names that don't belong (Champagne, Madeira, etc.) onto their wines.

I think a lot of people might expect that wine is South African and would be pronounced like the "world class African city."

Nein, mein Freund. Es ist "Yohannisberg," and named for the German town, which among other things must be near a hill of some sort. Interesting. I have to admit to having been ignorant, and to having referred to the wine as a Jo...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mama's small person

So, here's my niece, who gave me some smiles, too. Mostly when I sang Iron Butterfly to her, but a couple of other times, too.