Monday, December 29, 2008
I grew up in a house where there were just the two of us kids, and there wasn't much competition between us for toys. We tended to draw out the gift opening as long as possible, with one person opening something at a time while everyone else watched.
So two years ago, this game was new to me. I was disoriented by the speed, the competition, the-- hey, wait a minute! You just TOOK that right outta my lap! But I really wanted to keep it!!
This was a party with my sister-in-law (a truly delightful person who would never steal your gift if it weren't expressly part of the game) and a number of her friends (generally very nice, except perhaps when it comes to gift-stealing). The game began and I soon found myself holding a lovely duvet-style throw with snowflakes all over it. Perfect!
But it was not to be. I sat bewildered as the throw was whisked away and something not nearly as good was dumped in my lap instead. (Oy! Candles!) Getting into the spirit of things, I soon stole it back. It could not last, however, and the snowflake throw went to someone else, someone absurdly deserving who was planning to cuddle her toddler and infant son in it. It would be churlish of me to still want the throw, but I showed all the skill of a toddler myself in hiding my disappointment. (They even teased me about this the next year.)
A few days later, opening gifts at my sister-in-law's, I was surprised to find a package for me from my mother, who wasn't even there. (Our two families get on fine, but live in different states, so we drive a lot around the holidays.) Yes, it was the identical snowflake throw, just for me! It seems my mom remembered my story of the duvet that got away, and had enlisted my sister-in-law as her shopping agent (Mama was the best shopper there ever was), who found another one to give to me.
It's the last Christmas gift my mother got me. Last year she was too ill to shop, and this year she's not here.
Now I play the present-stealing game with magnanimity. I cheerfully accept the ugliest candles-- although I do put up a good fight first, boldly snatching packages from laps. I know that sometimes, if you've been very good, and very lucky, you will get exactly what you want.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
So our final assignment was to write an essay on the theme: Tá cúrsaí eacnamaíochta na tíre ina phraiseach faoi láthair. (The nation's economy is in a mess right now.) I decided it would be fun to write an essay in verse, and somehow it came out in limericks. (If you want to try this yourself, agus má tá Gaeilge agat, uirlis an-úsáideach é an bogearra WinGléacht, especially the wildcard searches to help you find rhymes.)
Abair slán, slán go deo leis an craic
Tá an pobal ag dul ina raic
De bharr baincéirí cliste
Tá na bancanna briste
Agus ní fágfar dúinn ach faic.
I nDetroit tagtar lá an breithiúnais
Tá an Triúr Mór i mbaol chlisiúnais
Níl an Chomhdháil ar tí
Iad a tharrtháil, dar fía
Tar éis blianta fada dhíolúnais.
Éíríonn ardfheidhmeannaigh níos ainfhéile
Agus a gcomhlachtaí ag titeamh as a chéile
Íoctar bónais ollmhóra
Don saghas sin tubaisteora
Ach is orainne atá an deirbhéíle!
Here's an English version in case your Irish is rusty ;^)
It looks like the good times are through.
We're all seeing red, feeling blue.
Those bankers so sly
Have bled the banks dry;
There'll be diddley squat left me and you.
In Detroit it is now Judgment Day
The Big Three may go bankrupt, they say.
They asked Congress for dough,
But they told them, "Hell, no!
You'd just fritter that money away!"
CEOs have no cause to complain
While their companies go down the drain.
Those mischievious jerks
Get commissions and perks,
But we're the ones feeling the pain.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
I don't always keep the first photo from a batch, but here, overlooking the River Lee west of Blarney, was a surprisingly photogenic roadside stop. The look of the fields on the hillside epitomizes Ireland to me (as do many other things!). (I think we were near Inis Loinge (Inishleena).
We passed through Macroom (Maigh Cromtha) on market day. This meant traffic and not much parking, but a good opportunity to crawl through the town and take it in. Saw more Irish on the signs than I expected.
I love the juxtaposition of the wind farm and the classic farm houses.
A house in Coolea, where Seán Ó Riada lived.
Taken October 28-29, 2008.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Understand now, I work for the federal government, and I'm proud to. And I know what this conference was about, and I think it's a valid topic.
Until we're known for plain language in government, sights like this conference tote bag will still be funny.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I began working for EPA
Young and able, fit and trim
My head held nary an acronym
I thought I'd be a French professor
Instead I used a word processor
I can remember when email was new
And your boss got the copy you'd highlight blue
Shelter in place and TQM
I've re-org'd with the best of them
Climate change and mutant frogs
And even federal government blogs
Presidents come and presidents go
But I have learned to go with the flow
The passing of another year
Is cause for cheer, or fear, or beer
Whichever of those is in your head
Come have cookies and pumpkin bread
They're on my floor, inside the south door
And when they're gone, there won't be more
Monday, October 06, 2008
Reading twenty-two words today, I was reminded of a favorite irk: the obligatory right turn on red. You know, when you're stopped at a red light, and you're in the lane that lets you go forward or turn right. And the person behind you is agitatedly laying on the horn to make you turn right, dammit, because you don't have to wait for the light to change. Except that you aren't turning right because you intend to go straight, and if they would stop that racket they might be able to think for a moment and realize why you are still blocking their way. Now which of those choice words from Abraham's list is most fitting for the situation?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Although I was ambivalent about these subjects, they did give me one excellent tool that has stood me in good stead ever since: the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA), used for phonetic transcription.
Just as you can use musical notation to record a melody on staff paper, IPA lets you transcribe the exact sounds of any language. Once you have a good command of it, you can accurately record anything you hear on paper. Very low-tech, and very handy.
- IPA chart (PDF, 1pg, 58K) from the International Phonetic Association
- A nice explanation of that chart from Omniglot
The lack of it in my first Irish textbook ((See if you can) Teach Yourself Irish by Myles Dillon and Donncha ó Cróinín, 1961) convinced me that I could not learn the language from a book because I would never be sure how to pronounce anything. (The book did have a pronunciation guide, but it described the symbols it used in terms of sounds in common English words, probably in an Irish English or British English accent, which was useless to me. I come from a place where we actually say our r's, and I make no distinction between the vowels in the pairs tool/tune, do/duty, noon/new, loose/lure. And if you give me weird words, it's as good as no help at all: good/gules(??) Another odd thing about that book: it used IPA in the glossary, but this other odd system throughout the chapters.)
Once you have a way to describe what you are hearing, it improves your ability to hear the fine distinctions, and it's a great help toward actually producing the sounds intentionally yourself. Once you have a target to aim for...
Monday, September 15, 2008
I found a video someone shot from the train yesterday, coming in the opposite direction, and it gives you an excellent idea of the flooding and people's reactions to it. The river peaked in Des Plaines at ten feet.
We set a Chicago area record for rainfall in a calendar day with 6.64 inches on Saturday. Since the rain continued through the weekend, total rainfall for September so far is 12.61 inches. (The 1961 record was 14.17 inches.)
I was in Northwest Indiana over the weekend, and the rain severely affected low-lying areas there. One big consequence was that they closed one of the two east-west interstate highways that cross the area. Here are a couple more photo collections: Selil and releeh.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
As our group was gathering for dinner, I happened to run into a friend I know from a completely unconnected volunteer group. Although Jeanne B. and her husband are a generation or so older than I am, we always find plenty to talk about; we try to sit by them at dinners so we can enjoy the conversation. In my dream, I sat down with them at their table for a bit, while the servers brought the first course.
We were quite surprised to see each other there. In fact, Jeanne had evidently invited me to join them there for a few days as their guest, and were a bit hurt that they hadn't received a response. I was unaware of the invitation; it turned out she had left the invitation on my Facebook site, which I never visit.
As we were digesting this misunderstanding, my Irish teacher came by to bring me back to the table where the class was sitting. To put the icing of awkwardness on this half-baked cake, I politely introduced Jeanne B. as Marjorie D., and couldn't understand why she was now scowling at me.
Obviously, it was time to wake up and save myself from this faux pas de deux, so I did.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
When I was growing up, churches didn't have message signs; Huber's Rent-All did. My favorite dates back to when Burt Reynolds appeared as the centerfold in Playgirl magazine: "Burt Needs Reynolds Wrap."
We like to imagine that there's a newsletter for pastors that feeds them clever bits they can put on their signs. Then again, maybe pastors are wittier than when I was a kid, too.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Asks Mama Drama: What funny trivial fact do you remember that you probably should have forgotten a long time ago?
Well, that's a hard choice; there seem to be so many the older I get!
For a long time, I cherished the knowledge that the original name of short-lived Pope John Paul I was Albino Luciani.
But now that you mentioned President Garfield, I'm thinking of my favorite president story. William Henry Harrison, the only Hoosier to be elected President of the United States, caught cold and died after only a month in office, setting the tone for many future flawed Indiana celebrities. And all because he refused to wear an overcoat during his longest-ever inauguration speech. (According to Wikipedia, the real circumstances of his fatal illness were unrelated, but hey, that spoils the story a bit.)
Looking forward to being enriched by what everyone else turns up. Thanks, Mama Drama!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I came home yesterday and noticed with glee that the huge mulberry tree that's been slowly destroying our garage roof was completely gone. I appreciated the new clearing on the horizon, and the greater light it let in. I thought how little I would miss having to wash purple stains off my feet when I walk barefoot in our yard. I did reflect that the squirrels and birds who perform their morning theater in the solid wall of 20-foot tall trees would have to find a new venue.
But this morning, things keep on changing. A crew of workers are back, with a big chipper and a couple other yellow machines, and they seem to be removing nearly everything along the fence. A lot of it's falling into our yard, so they hop the fence and remove it.
I wonder what the owner has in mind. An airline pilot lives there, and I sometimes glimpse him on his screened-in back porch having a smoke. We've never chatted, so I figure he must like his privacy. I've already figured out he doesn't like winged company (see the sorrowful birdie condemned tenement at right).
Is this a prelude to landscaping? Will he put up a tall wooden fence instead? Is he getting the house ready to sell?
I wonder if we'll be tempted to plant some sort of screen ourselves, such as a row of hedge or arbor vitae. Good fences make good neighbors, and a thick wall of vegetation along the fences doesn't hurt either, methinks.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
My favorite part is the watermark that will appear on anything we print from this system. It will read:
Saturday, July 05, 2008
I got to try all sorts of great stuff, harvest wine grapes, etc. but I could not deny that there were some foods from home that I missed and really could not find in France. Okay, you could probably find them in Paris, but I always consider that a place which is the epitome of France but not like the rest of it at all.
The short list of things a person could crave, even in the gastronomic cornucopia of France:
- Crackers, by which I mean plain old saltines, oyster crackers, Ritz crackers, and animal crackers
- Pecans - these were really hard to find; the common nuts were hazelnuts and walnuts
- Mexican food - France just doesn't have the critical mass of the right group of immigrants to ensure this
- Buffalo wings - the French caution about spicy things (oh, how they warned me about spicy ketchup, which was really mild by my standards) will probably keep this off the food scene for decades yet
- Hershey's chocolate - yes, I know Swiss and French and Belgian chocolate are lovely and silky, but sometimes I just craved a plain, waxy Hershey's bar
- M&Ms - Smarties are just not the same, although the color choices are better
- Peanut butter - You could find cans --cans-- of Dakatine, which featured a homely red-headed boy about to enjoy the product. But it was old-fashioned or natural peanut butter, which is a hard sell even to me. No wonder it never caught on. They never had Skippy or Jif or Peter Pan. On white bread. With grape jelly or marshmallow fluff. Or bananas. Or homemade peanut butter cookies.
- Popcorn - This was before microwave popcorn, so there wasn't even as much of it here in the US at that time. But when they did eat popcorn in France, they sprinkled sugar on it. Eww!
- Corn chips - At home in those days, we could choose between Doritos and Fritos. In France they had neither, as corn was just not a foodstuff for humans. Except for polenta, but that was Swiss.
- Diet Coke - In those days, diet soft drinks had not come to France yet. I did find Coke Light in Germany, though.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
- coffee cake
- Danish pastries
- lemon bars
- bread pudding
- macaroni and cheese
- boston creme pie
Monday, June 30, 2008
I like to ride my bicycle, but every spring I delay later the day when I must fill the bicycle tires.
It doesn't help that our garage is beginning to look like the home for stray two-wheelers. I keep trying to fulfill my Jessica Fletcher fantasy and get a marvelous heavy old sheep dog of a bike (ladies' style, of course) to ride around town. To the train station, or to the farmers' market (same thing in our town). This means I have three sets of hungry tires to feed once the snow melts. One has gone lame (=needs new tires), but the other two are just fine.
We do have two very functional bicycle pumps. But one of them attaches in a funny way, and I always waste ages pumping away while a gentle hissing sound reminds me that none of this effort is actually putting air into the tires. My hands get bruised, my back gets sore, and I get maybe six pounds of pressure registering. (I do have a very nice tire gauge.)
So my preferred solution is to walk the bike to the nearest filling station (Does anyone still call them that? You know, a gas station.) and use the compressed air hose. I'm offended by the ones that expect me to put quarters in a machine to get air, so I seek out places that give away air for free. There's one about half a mile from the house. I trundle my lovely heavy bicycle over there, and that's when I'm forced to admit that I am also no good with a compressed air hose. I press down and, like a baby refusing to nurse, the tire just gets flatter and flatter as I fish for the nozzle sunk deep in the rim. Then I get into a rhythm: aha! it's latched on! here comes the air! whoops, no, now it's just releasing it all again, yes! got it now! no, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, wow that's fast, it'll be really firm, last all summer long... BANG!! Ears ringing, I look around , hoping no one's been watching me. I trudge home with my crippled paleolithic bike and wonder if I could just get solid tires like I had when I was a little kid.
* lyric reference from Blazing Saddles
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Of course, depending on where you live, binoculars can be useful for observing all kinds of things. Like what are they building in their yard down the street? Does she have a new dog? Or tracking someone's lawnmowing progress. A cardinal rule is never to aim at windows; that's just not right.
When we were kids, my brother would get stomach flu and have to be on that miserable restricted diet. The one that starts with plain tea (ugh) and jello, works its way to popsicles and ginger ale (which he cannot abide to this day) and saltines, and culminates in a baked potato and broiled lean meat after about a week. He often had to return to the jello phase, poor guy. But he would sit with my mom and make a list, which she would transcribe verbatim, of all the things he'd eat once he was better. And once or twice there appeared treats of his own imagining on that list. My favorite: chocolate binoculars.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Come to think of it, I also have problems with pareos, sarongs, and saris. I always want a lot of safety pins and wonder how they manage without velcro. A bandana is about my speed.
So it's natural that I recently got a book on knot tying. Soon I will know a sheep's shank from a two-handed bend. I will one day have the most secure wrap sandwiches in town; they won't even need plastic wrap.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
So that's a big reason I haven't written much in my regular blogs (now seeming a little faded?). Also we've been on vacation and had no internet access for most of the time. Kind of a relief in a way. Before I left, I'd agreed to blog for work while on our trip. Although it was a fun idea, I soon realized that even if my posts were really short, sent from a cell phone with modest-quality photos, it meant I had to be thinking about what I'd blog about while I was on vacation. Sort of like having a mild headache that you're trying to ignore while you're at a party. So when we got out of cell phone range (had to go to an island off the coast of Maine, sort of like early on in the first Harry Potter book...), I was a little relieved to be off the hook.
So now we're back home, and so far that vacation feeling still lingers. I'm sitting on the back deck with a cuppa tea and the laptop. It's still early enough to hear quite a few birds. I see the neighbors' Damned Mulberry Tree is laying its branches on our garage roof. Already the ripe berries are showing up in the driveway, and soon there will be colorful bird droppings all over. Yay. Next come the two sizeable cherry trees. I'm not sure if the fruit is nice to eat, but it too winds up on the driveway, and for weeks there's a sound like small firecrackers every time we back the car out. I suppose I could sweep the cherry pits away, but that never seems to happen.
Inside we're undertaking some renovation. Which is another way of saying that we came home to a new window over the kitchen sink (yay!) but an upstairs bathroom devoid of all plumbing fixtures. The toilet is temporarily living in the guest bedroom. We can see down into the living room through holes in the bathroom floor. Am I alone in my secret temptation to drop things from above? (Ask me about France and the omelette.)
But even though it's Saturday, I think these things will have to wait. There's class this morning, and before that study, and before that maybe please the farmer's market, just for the blueberries I promise, and there's a household hazardous waste collection too, and returning the guitar to our friends, but then after class we shall hie oursel's o'er to the Highland Games, which we miss every year. It's promising thunderstorms throughout the day, so we'll see how that works out.
Definitely not a day to mow the lawn. (Maybe it never is.)
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Have you encountered the musical greeting cards that are available now? The recordings are surprisingly high quality, and quite audible. While shopping (late) for Mother's Day cards, I found this (the red one):
Now there's a lovely sentiment, don't you think?
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Uh, sounds great, yeah. I mean, really, it's a good thing to be aware of your impact on the environment. I believe conservation of energy and natural resources.
I also work at a place where Earth Day brings out some of the same feelings as Christmas if you work at a shopping mall. Yes, it's great, and it brings you lots of attention, but it's also crazy busy and you feel a distinct relief when it's over.
I got to write a post about this for our blog at work. I wrote a straight version and a rhyming version, and I'm pleased to say that they published the latter.
I have mixed feelings as we approach Earth Day each year. I wish we started planning further in advance so that it wouldn't feel so flurried. I prefer events that accomplish something tangible to ones where people make speeches. This year was better than most; we had a clear theme of recycling electronics and medications that was easy to embrace. (Actually, recycling is not something our agency regulates, but everyone thinks we do. We encourage the heck out of it, though.)
We organized a number of events and I think it went well. Our booth at Daley Plaza got many visitors and we gave away lots of publications. It really is heartening to see so many people thinking about protecting the environment. I never thought I'd hear the phase "carbon footprint" anywhere outside our office, but now it's in all the mainstream media. (I sometimes wonder what it's like farther away from urban media epicenters like Chicago. Do I just think that people are excited/upset about the environment because our local media are saturated with those themes? What do people in the rest of the country think?)
Our band performed again for one of the events. We call ourselves the Earth Tones and play environmentally themed songs plus my favorite Irish and American fiddle tunes. :^)
Earth Day is also a personal anniversary; my better half and I had our first date on Earth Day. (My friend Al used to suggest celebrating by practicing running in slow motion toward each other across a flowery meadow. It's usually too cold or too damp on April 22nd for that.)
I hope your Earth Day brought something you can use the rest of the year.
P.S. - The Earth Tones are booking for 2009... ;^)
Monday, April 07, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
I'm not sure I should be admitting this, but at some stressful point in my life (grad school, I think) I rented (yes, paid money for) videos of old episodes of The Gumby Show. It was claymation from the 1950s by a fellow named Art Clokey.
I appreciated some of its surreal aspects. I remember Gumby's mother asking Gumby's father to wake him. He stepped into his son's room, and there on the bed lay his boy, but a moment later he morphed into a bat and ball, and then a saxophone, followed by a few more transformations. Father turned to Mother and said, "Aww, I can't wake him now--he's dreaming!"
The theme song has stuck with me, too:
He was just a little green slab of clay... GUMBY!!
But you should see what Gumby can do today... GUMBY!!
He can walk into any book
With his pony pal Pokey, too.
If you have a heart,
Then Gumby's a part
And since that's the song that's stuck in my head, you get to hear about it.
A couple more links for the Gumby-curious:
Sunday, March 23, 2008
So I posed them for a swimsuit shot:
I swear it was an accident.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Well, I didn't win at the Irish Blog Awards on Saturday, but I was pleased as could be to have been nominated. I made the short list for Best Use of Irish Language in a Blog. That honor went to Blag Ghael gan Náire; I intend to start reading. I was also nominated for Best Photo Blog-- see the third photo? That's one of mine.
Conn of An tImeall live streamed the awards show online. I had to reload a number of times, but I was able to follow along and heard my blog's name read aloud, which was satisfying.
This was the 4th year for the Irish Blog Awards. It seems to be well run, and proceeds from the awards ceremony go to charity. And by all accounts, the people attending feel the same kind of delight at finally getting to meet the people behind the words that I've found when I attend conferences for our web community at work.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I'd like to say something profound, and I probably could eventually, but my first impression was that this was the weirdest situation I'd ever been in. Surreal. We each acted according to our nature; I journaled instead of talking. I'm very glad we were there. It is very sad, and I know there will be aching times ahead for all of us. But we're in a bubble in time where we can appreciate her life, talk about her with friends, and be glad on some level that she's at peace.
Monday, January 14, 2008
A Web site that's changed my life.
Well, there's a couple different ways to approach this. Since I'm feeling generous, you get them both.
About ten years ago, my husband sent me a link to this quiz: Porn Star or My Little Pony? My devotion to The Brunching Shuttlecocks was instantaneous, intense, enduring. How can I ever forget The Complete and Utter Idiot's Guide to Making a Baloney Sandwich or The Björk Song? When I need laughs, I need hardcore nonsense, and here I always found my fix. The only thing remotely like it at the time was Dilbert; there was no comparison. Of course, the lads eventually grew up and got real jobs (though Lore is still out there blogging). But my sense of humor was irreversibly perverted: Engrish.com, Internet Bumper Stickers, The Onion.
On the serious side, now.
I took a job with the government sixteen years ago. I worked as a grants project officer at first. This was nothing like what I had studied to do. J'étais censée devenir professeur de français. All those years of studying French and I wasn't a French professor after all? Kinda neat, once you get past the distress.
Well, after a couple of years someone said, "Hey, you don't seem to be afraid of computers. There's this new thing called a Web site-- it's sort of like a Gopher site-- would you like to build one? We'll show you how." I accepted, and I think it was Halloween 1994 when the SEAHOME Web site first went live. (I can't find any screenshots from back then, but the Wayback Machine has a few archived from later years.)
This really did change my life. It headed me in a new direction in my career. Heck, it gave me a career. I've moved on to be the lead web person for our region, and I really enjoy what I do.
Hope this is what you were looking for. Can't wait to read the other posts for Fun Monday.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
When it came time to move to our new desks, we chose based on seniority (length of time since the date we started government service). I've had people shake their heads at how petty that is, but if you think of Office Space or The Office, you'll remember that pettiness defines the modern cubicle farm. There were three window seats, and I was number four in line. Jessica, our move coordinator, offered to go stand in the hotline cubicle and talk to herself while I scoped out the noise bleedover level in the remaining cubicles. Now that's a pal! I chose one that seemed workable, if a bit dim, and began moving my non-essential possessions over the next few days so there wouldn't be so much to do on move day.
A couple days before we were to move, my colleague who was number three in seniority came by and suggested I not move all my stuff to that new cubicle. It looked like she'd be moving to a job in another division, and we'd most likely get to play musical chairs all over again. It came to pass exactly as she predicted, and I now have a splendid seat by the window facing west. It is bright and quiet, and there's a slight white noise effect from the ventilation system that masks most nearby conversations. And I have a view by day and by night:
Sometimes you get lucky. :^)