Thursday, January 31, 2002

Fabric heaven

Today's lunchtime diversion was a trip to a mega fabric store stocked with what seemed to be sizable remnants and seconds from clothing manufacturers and who knows where else. Three large rooms were filled with fabric stacked on tables according to type: denim; lace tableclothes and curtains; fleece; wool ($3.99 a yard); upholstery material; decorator's fabric; cotton prints; flannel; velour with Lycra; Christmas prints; felt; and more. Reels of every imaginable kind of lace, bindings, rick-rack, ribbon, tassels, and more, were mounted along the walls almost up to the ceiling. I also found boxes filled with leather scraps, boxes of buttons, boxes of miscellaneous pieces of jewelry, boxes of beads. It made me wish I knew how to sew well. For example, I found a lovely brown plaid piece of wool for trousers.

Let's see if I can reconstruct the link path that led me to this discovery:

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Spelling errors

I found this story in today's Wall Street Journal about Hewlett-Packard's annual report quite humorous (or, as I first learned to spell it, humourous):
...[A]n overzealous spell-checking software program led to some embarrassment for the company.

In the report, H-P noted that its proposed $22.5 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. is opposed by the David and "Lucite" Packard Foundation and "Edwin van Pronghorns."

That would be the David and Lucile Packard Foundation -- H-P's largest shareholder -- and Edwin van Bronkhorst, a former H-P chief financial officer and a Hewlett family trustee.

The document also gave "Limon" as the last name for Hewlett daughter Eleanor Hewlett Gimon. Mary Hewlett Jaffe's last name became "Gaffe."

The culprit apparently was the computer spell-checker used by the outside vendor that printed the report, an H-P spokeswoman said. She said the report would be fixed and refiled.
Misspelling people's names is especially egregious.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Blogger Pro

I, too, decided to upgrade to Blogger Pro. The first I thing I wanted to do was move the Goma post I'd messed up back to its original date (January 18). Now I need to figure out the rest of Blogger Pro's features.
Note to self

When removing the foil cover of a yogurt container, point the opening away from face, so face and hair do not receive a splattering of yogurt drops. This applies to individual serving size containers of salad dressing, too, especially on airplanes.
Picture perfect

The drive to work this morning was stunning. We could have published a calendar with beautiful pictures of the full moon in the early morning light hanging above the mountains and rock formations along the freeway.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Quiet days

The last few days have been rather quiet. I don't remember one thing about Friday. On Saturday I did a little bit of cleaning. Yesterday was a long church day--the annual meeting, a bilingual service, and lunch. Then I made granola and started a three day process of marinating a piece of London Broil. I don't know much about cooking hunks of beef, so I thought I'd try marinating it so it's not so tough. Today I'm going to buckle down and actually study. I'm going out to school this afternoon to a Hebrew reading group. Afterwards, a couple friends and I are getting together for dinner. There aren't many women in my program, so the few of us who are in it try and stick together.

It rained hard most of yesterday and last night, but this morning it is bright and clear.

Oh yes, I remember Friday's highlight. I had lunch with some colleagues and one of our business partners. The business partner is one of those people who has lived an interesting life and is a fascinating storyteller, as well. I could have listened to his stories all afternoon.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Lentil soup

I just ate a yummy lunch—lentil soup I made last night; raw carrots; and whole wheat sour dough bread with butter and jam. Here is my recipe, which is adapted from "Lentils, Monastery Style" in Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé.
1/4 cup (or less) olive oil
1 or 2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and marjoram
3 cups seasoned stock (I use homemade vegetable stock)
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 one-pound can tomatoes
Grated Swiss cheese

Heat oil in large pot and sauté onions, garlic, and carrot for 3 to 5 minutes. Add herbs and sauté 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, half of cilantro and tomatoes and cook, covered, until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. [Pressure cooker: Lock lid and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Use quick release method. Consult your pressure cooker instruction book, etc., etc.]

Add remaining cilantro and, if you wish, pureé in blender or put through sieve. Grate cheese into bowls and fill with soup.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Picking up pennies

I'm listening to the news about Enron, Afghanistan, and the Israelis and Palestinians at the same time I write this, tired from a long day at work. So I will quote Annie Dillard once more:
I've been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
(Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, p. 16)

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Gardening in January

I stopped by Pic N Save on my way home from work to pick up some gardening tools. I got a shovel, a weeder, a small shovel or transplanter, and a coconut fiber-lined hanging basket (all for under $10). I want to plant my donkey's tail plants (sedum burrito) before the cats totally destroy them. Also I want to plant lettuce. I called the San Gabriel Nursery, and they plan to have flame lily bulbs in a few weeks. I've read that flame lilies can be a bit tricky to grow "in captivity," but it will be fun to try.
All better

Blogger's safe mode is fixed tonight, and so Monday's first post is corrected. For want of a quotation mark....I don't like the feeling of disorder knowing something needs to be fixed.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Blogger problems

I left out a quote mark in an html line, and now I can't edit my post, even in the "safe mode." So I have an incomplete post I can't fix....
Monday morning

It is another brilliantly sunny, moderately warm day. It's a holiday, too! Although, as a grad. student, that usually means I should be studying. OK. I'll do some writing (hopefully) but I also want to get OUT into this beautiful day.

Yesterday's sermon was about not taking small miracles, evidences of grace, for granted just because they are free and we don't work for them or necessarily deserve them. The pastor read a piece from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard where she describes what I call "whirlybirds" or "helicopter" seeds:
I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair. Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents..., but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit which bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down. (p. 275)
The pastor spoke of taking notice of small gifts, graces, like a maple key, even though we don't work for them or buy them, and being thankful.

While I was looking for the maple key passage, I discovered that Chapter 6, "The Present," is about trees, sycamore trees especially, Laura.
I am sitting under a sycamore by Tinker Creek. I am really here, alive on the intricate earth under trees....My mind branches and shoots like a tree.

Friday, January 18, 2002

Disaster, again.

I just heard about the volcano erupting near Goma, DR Congo. How awful. In addition to the human suffering, I wonder if any of the few gorilla groups left in the Virunga mountains were affected. (See a news article from last year about the Virunga gorillas.)

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Marketing genius

Did you know that 65% of Stetson hats are bought by Latinos, many from Mexico? Sunday's Los Angeles Time Magazine carried a great rags-to-riches story about a young man, Victor Cornejo, from Mexico who paid his way through college in the U.S. and got a job at Stetson. His marketing ideas were so on target that within a year Stetson's sales had increased 40%. Unfortunately, the stunning portrait of Cornejo is not included in the online version of the article....

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Just call me website consultant

A couple days ago I got a call from a market research firm asking if I wanted to do some user testing for Earthlink. At $100 for one and a half hours, I said, "Sure." So this morning I went to one of Earthlink's offices nearby. I was asked to group and categorize questions Earthlink customers might have about problems with their Internet connection, email, web browser, etc. It was fun giving my opinion about how various problems might be most intuitively/logically categorized, so customers would be able to go to a webpage and find answers quickly.

The best part, though, was sitting in an Aeron chair. I've seen them advertised in the Levenger Catalog. And, of course, they are/were also the icon of the industry. They are truly comfortable. I especially like the way the chair supports my lower back.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

My library books this week are....

In boarding school we wrote letters home every Sunday. The letters ended up being rather formulaic as a) the school routine was very predictable, and b) we were only allowed to write "happy" news home. One of the weekly topics was to list the library books we checked out. Thus, my library books are:

  • Creating Your Own Greeting Cards & Gift Wrap with Priscilla Hauser
  • Handmade Baby Clothes, by Lisbeth Perrone (for the nephew on the way)
  • Decorating with Fabric: A Design Workbook with More Than 200 Beautiful Projects to Sew for Your Home, by Donna Lang and Lucretia Robertson
  • Time Management for the Creative Person (see yesterday's post)
  • Step-by-Step Calligraphy: A Complete Guide With Creative Projects, by Susan Hufton
I have no hope of ever making the projects in the calligraphy book, but they are inspiring just to look at. I heard a report on the NewsHour about a new illustrated Bible being handwritten and illustrated. Go to the The Saint John's Bible website to see some gorgeous illustrations.

Monday, January 14, 2002

"There is no fun in having nothing to do. The fun is [in?] having a lot to do and not doing it." Quote by John Roper used as an epigraph for a section (p. 133) in Time Management for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Strategies for Stopping Procrastination, Getting Control of the Clock & Calendar, and Freeing Up Your Time & Your Life by Lee Silber.

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Well, I had 18 items on my to-do list today and finished almost all of them. I feel quite accomplished. Such energy must be blamed on the weather. It was utterly gorgeous today, in the mid- to upper-70s. I had both my front door and my kitchen door open all day. It even made trying to translate this sentence tolerable:
Die durch Nachahmung der Nehemia-Denkschrift entstandene differenzierende Ähnlichkeit beider Erzählkomplexe ist Stilmittel, das die sachliche Zusammengehörigkeit, die Kohärenz des hier und dort, des hier ähnlich wie dort geschilderten Geschehens zur Darstellung bringen soll.
I never did figure it out completely....

So I went for a walk to clear my brain. Blooming right now are aloes with their orange-red stalks, jade plant with minature pinkish-white flowers, and camelias. Some people still have roses. I saw, or rather, heard first, a woodpecker high in a palm tree.

I washed and hung out to dry all my bedding. So now I will go sleep in a bed that smells like a summer's day.
Today is another glorious So. California morning. Deep blue skies with no hint of smog. Mountains so close. Fruit, vegetables, crusty brown bread, and colorful homemade soaps piled on tables in the bright morning sun. Clean laundry hung out to dry. All this before 9:00 AM (or at least it would have been 9:00 if I hadn't stopped by the magazine racks in the grocery store).

Now I am going to FINISH translating and summarizing a German article, "On the Interpretion of the Books of Ezra-Nehemiah: Together with a Contribution on the Method of Exegesis."

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

I am doomed. I am wide awake with no hope of falling asleep soon, and I have to get up at 5:00 tomorrow morning to go to work.

So, to continue today's theme of words, I post a link to "Roget and his Brilliant, Unrivaled, Malign, and Detestable Thesaurus" by Simon Winchester, which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly May 2001 issue. Winchester, who wrote The Professor and the Madman (which I've not read yet) about the Oxford English Dictionary, excoriates Roget's Thesaurus for the role it has played in the degradation of writing and of the use of the English language in general. "It should be roundly condemned as a crucial part of the engine work that has transported us to our current state of linguistic and intellectual mediocrity." (p. 55)

Why is this so? Winchester explains that
[b]y eschewing definitions altogether, and thus suggesting no choices, [Roget's Thesaurus] fostered poor writing. It offered facile answers to complex linguistic questions. It appealed to a growing desire for snap solutions to tricky verbal situations. It enabled students to appear learned without ever helping to make them so. It encouraged a malaprop society. It made for literary window dressing. It was meretricious.¹ (p. 74)
Winchester writes that, instead, words should come
from within—from memory, experience, conversation, reading, imperfectly recalled strands of knowledge. (p. 75)
¹meretricious 1: of or relating to a prostitute 2 a: tawdrily and falsely attractive b: based on pretense or insincerity: specious. Syn: see Gaudy. (From Webster's.)

I had never owned a thesaurus, not out of any superior intellectual conviction, but because I just never had one. Thus, earlier this year, I thought it was about time I purchased one. I ordered Roget's International Thesaurus through, and, shortly after it arrived, The Atlantic Monthly arrived with Winchester's essay. I promptly returned the thesaurus, citing the essay as my reason for return.
Word of the Day: dudgeon n [origin unknown]: a fit or state of angry indignation usu. provoked by opposition. (From Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 8th edition, given to me on the occasion of my 17th birthday by an aunt and uncle.)

Sentence in which the word is used:
Even so, his mood does appear to have swung into darker regions since the election. "Crashing the Party" is filled with complaints, reaching its highest dudgeon with a chapter eviscerating the Commission on Presidential Debates for excluding him and other candidates who did not fit the two-party mold.
Source: Book review by John Fund in today's WSJ (paid subscription required) of Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President by Ralph Nader. The review is quite positive regarding the role third parties and their candidates play in American politics.

From the last letter Elizabeth Bishop wrote before her death, on the importance of looking up unfamiliar words. It is written to John Frederick Nims on October 6, 1979, regarding adding footnotes to her poems appearing in a textbook.
I'm going to take issue with you—rather violently—about the idea of footnotes. With one or two exceptions...I don't think there should be ANY footnotes. You say the book is for college students, and I think anyone who gets as far as college should be able to use a dictionary. If a poem catches a student's interest at all, he or she should damned well be able to look up an unfamiliar word in the dictionary....

You can see what a nasty teacher I must be—but I do think students get lazier and lazier & expect to have everything done for them.

(From One Art, letters of Elizabeth Bishop, p. 638.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

The cooks have voted. The LA Times best recipes of 2001 have been chosen. The Grilled Halibut With Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Puree sounds delicious!

Joe Morgenstern of the WSJ also published his 10 best movies and runners-up lists for 2001. I am listing them here for my reference when I want to watch a video but can't think of anything I want to see.
  • In the Bedroom
  • Gosford Park
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Shrek
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Ghost World
  • Amélie
  • Amores Perros (I'm not sure I could stomach the dog fighting, though.)
  • In the Mood for Love
  • The Deep End
The runners-up:
  • Memento
  • Lantana
  • Together
  • Divided We Fall
  • No Man's Land
  • Legally Blonde
  • The Dish
  • Startup.Com
  • The Devil's Backbone
  • Fat Girl
  • Our Song
  • With a Friend Like Harry
  • Last Resort
  • The Road Home
  • The Princess and the Warrior
  • The Circle
  • The Taste of Others
  • Happy Accidents

Monday, January 07, 2002

I should have written this post last night when my rampaging mind wouldn't let me sleep. It was my fault because I broke my rule of not drinking coffee after 12 noon, and, because I rarely drink coffee anymore (my bones need all the calcium they can scrounge), the effect was extra potent.

On Saturday I drove by a house/shop I have driven by almost daily for 2 1/2 years, Rose City Stamps, when something clicked in my brain that it was a rubber stamping store. So I drove around the block, parked in front, and went inside. It is a small store chock-full of stamps, paper, and other stamping supplies. I had fun browsing for a while and ended up buying a gingko leaf stamp. (Note: their website is rather hokey and in need of a copy editor, but it is up-to-date.)

Sunday's afternoon browsing took place at my favorite used bookstore, where I found I book I'd seen before, Great Impressions: The Art & Technique of Rubber Stamping by Patricia Garner Berlin. Berlin carves her own stamps, mainly from erasers. I like the simplicity (and cost-effectiveness) of her ideas. I learned I can print a design with my laser printer and transfer the design to an eraser using nail polish remover.

A couple other books I looked through, but didn't buy, were on re-using "found" objects as artwork and house furnishings (about 1980) and on furnishing one- to two-room apartments inexpensively (1949).

Sunday, January 06, 2002

Today is Epiphany. We had a service of lessons, carols, and poems.
A Poem by Madeleine L'Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn--
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn--
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

The pastor used as her sermon a sermon by Martin Luther on the Christmas story. Last week part of the text was, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt." I mentioned to her that one of my relatives talks about Jesus being a refugee and (sadly) how appropriate that image is for so many people in our time. Martin Luther also makes that point in his sermon from the early 1520s (although the word "refugee" doesn't occur in the English translation). Today my pastor poignantly elaborated on that aspect of Luther's sermon as we remembered people forced to flee their homes to find safety.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

Last night I clicked on a site that appeared in the "most recently updated blogs" column at Blogger. The title, "relapsed catholic," hooked me. It is quite a good site for those interested in how the media reports on religion. I don't necessarily agree always with the compiler's opinions, but she has pulled together some interesting articles, including a couple I had already seen and was planning on citing here.

For now, this funny article/column from the Toronto Globe and Mail by Margaret Wente. One of my colleagues at work, who used to live in Toronto and who is Jewish, found it and gave us all a good laugh. (HMV is a music store, similar to Tower Records, etc.)
I found myself recently in a store that sells the kind of clothing you sometimes see worn in ads by models pretending to be upper-crust WASPS frolicking après-ski at Aspen. There, I went into some kind of trance, and now I own a pink woollen sweater with reindeer prancing across the chest.

"What's with those sweaters?" asked my friend Barbara, who is Jewish. She claims that all her Christian friends have one. They are only worn at Christmas, and are remarkably unbecoming.

I explained to her that the sweater represents a sort of magical thinking.

If I own the sweater, then I might become a better and more competent person -- the kind of person who likes to make gingerbread houses and organize jolly carolling parties, instead of the kind of person who approaches Christmas with scarcely veiled hostility and a sincere desire that, like a root canal, it will be over quickly.

Another quote:
The more commercialized that Christmas gets, the more value that sophisticated modern people place on authenticity. The more time that we spend in shopping malls, the more we're supposed to deck the halls with wreaths we made ourselves from pine cones and rose hips. This explains the rise of Martha Stewart. She has packaged the idea of the handmade, the individual and the unique, and sold it back to us. She has commercialized authenticity.

Friday, January 04, 2002

Earlier today, I was feeling like I should have gone to work because I wasn't doing any studying. However, I ended up accomplishing other things, so the day hasn't been wasted. I got some household supplies at Target, banker's boxes at Office Max, groceries at Trader Joe's, and a 2002 calendar for my kitchen at a bookstore.

Last year I had a Los Angeles Times gardening calendar, with beautiful pictures and So. California gardening advice for each month. I didn't like this year's as well even though the photographer was the same. The Huntington usually publishes a calendar but, for some reason, not this year. So I ended up getting The New Herbal Calendar by Theresa Loe. Besides watercolor pictures of herbs, it has recipes and gardening tips.

This afternoon, armed with banker's boxes, I picked up quite a few of the piles on my living room floor. I keep telling myself that if I organize my work space, I will be less distracted from studying. My main issue is keeping it organized. I don't have that much space and, between books and papers, things quickly get out of hand.

Then I mailed some bills and cards, washed a pile of dishes, and made Laura's Macaroni and Cheese, another of the recipes posted at Susie's website. [Edit: I used more macaroni than the recipe calls for.] It is very good! Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes, especially when my mother makes it. She makes a simple stovetop version of white sauce and cheddar cheese. However, it never tastes the same when I make it. She always made it for me for my first meal when I got home from boarding school.

Later this evening I'm meeting some out-of-town friends at McCormick and Schmick's. One of the disadvantages of making friends through grad. school is that those friends usually move away at some point.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

The New Year started out on a bittersweet note. About mid-morning I noticed my little cat staring out the window from her perch on the back of my couch. A large, white dog was hobbling along the sidewalk in front of my house. He wasn't on a leash, and I could see no person around who might be walking him. The dog was very friendly and seemed well cared for, although there was something wrong with his paws. He was wearing a collar but no i.d. tag. I went back into the house, put the cat in the bathroom (the big cat was outside somewhere) and brought the dog inside. He sat down in front of the screen door, and I gave him some water to drink. Then I called the Humane Society. Someone else had seen the dog wandering around, so the Society had already sent a truck out looking for him.

When the driver arrived at my house, he asked me to hold the dog because he had to move another dog he'd already picked up into a smaller cage on the side of the truck so "my" dog could fit in the large cage. The other dog was a pit bull he had rescued from a setup fight. His comment was that the dog was in pretty bad shape. The pit bull seemed friendly enough--he was wagging his tail and not snarling--but the driver took no chance and used a long rod with a leash on the end to move the dog. When the pit bull was removed from the large cage, there were blood marks from where his tail had hit the side of the cage.

The driver led my dog by a leash only and helped him into the truck. Because he looked so well cared for, I'm sure his owners will find him at the Humane Society. But I am sad for the pit bull. I don't think he can be rehabilitated.