Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ode to a turkey baster

It is one of the hot, nice last summer days we'll get to enjoy. So I and a friend went to the lake for the afternoon. She has a nine year old daughter, and her daughter brought a friend with her. As we unpacked the car, she took a simple few things out of the trunk for the day's activities: a sketch pad, a chair, a boogie board, two towels, lunch, and a pail.

The pail had inside two tablespoons, a plastic teapot, and a turkey baster. 'A turkey baster?' I laughed. She said: 'Watch, the kids'll be occupied all day.' The kids hit the water, do not pass go, swinging the pail behind them. They splashed, swam, and goofed around with the boogie board for a few minutes. Then they got down to some serious beach renovation by digging trenches, holes, and castles. They dug with the spoons, hauled water with the pail, and endlessly used the turkey baster for a variety of things. Squirt each other. Squirt the seagull flying overhead. Squirt the dug holes. Put dirt on the boogie board and squirt it off.

For four hours they played, and the turkey baster never left their hands. Kids will have fun with the simplest things. If we let them.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I'm getting out just in time

Phew, getting out just in time! The Farmer’s Almanac in Auburn Maine says this winter will be one of the coldest ever recorded.

The Almanac is predicting especially snowy conditions for parts of eastern New England for the upcoming winter. “The 190-years old publication predicts with an accuracy between 80 and 85% how weather will evolve and Americans should worry: OFA says this winter will be one of the coldest ever recorded. The Almanac is predicting especially snowy conditions for parts of eastern New England for the upcoming winter.”

Brrr! My dreams are coming true, I’m going where the weather suits my clothes, I can put on my barefoot shoes, and Hear the night bird cry ... Watch the sunset down ... Well, I hope you understand ... I just had to go back to the island” [Jimmy Buffett]

What makes a reputation, and how do rumors impact a community?

I had a discussion with a commenter who was insistent that all people expressing an opinion have equal validity. I contended that they do not. That got me thinking about ‘social capital,' what it is, why some people have it and others don’t, why some people squander theirs. That led me to a search for deeper meanings of social capital, which led me to the synopsis of sociologist Gary A. Fine’s book. He poses the questions:

What is a reputation and where does it come from? Is there a difference between the social dynamics of a good reputation and a bad one? How does notoriety work?

Those questions are explored in Fine’s book, “Difficult Reputations: Collective Memories of the Evil, Inept, and Controversial,” and in reading his bibliography, I also saw he wrote essays in the book, “Rumor mills: The social impact of rumor and legend.” I bought both, and plan to read them voraciously and post findings on the Monument blog. I ordered next day shipping so the sociology bonanza will start on Wednesday.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


A friend and I went to the new Cinemagic theatre in Westbrook to see Little Miss Sunshine. The theatre has 16 screens, all stadium seating, digital sound, some digital projection systems with plush high back rocking seats throughout and fifty foot screens in the largest auditoriums, according to the releases. We got there while the trailers were going and it was crowded so we sat in the very front row. The rocking chairs came in handy, we leaned way back and watched the most wonderful movie unfold.

If you like black comedies, offbeat humor, and independent films, rich with good acting and intelligent scripts, Little Miss Sunshine is for you. We loved it. It's so nice to get out on a summer evening, drive smoothly to a new theatre with the windows open and the air feeling so good, and the best part is that the movie was a hit with us. A nice night all around.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cars and car names

Suddenly, now that I have time to think about it, I've become acquisitive. I want things. And I want them now. There's no rhyme or reason to the wanting, it just popped up. I want handmade soap. I want a flat screen monitor. I want new shoes. I want goat cheese. I want a laptop. And I want a new car.

Likely, I will be buying a new car in a few months, and I decided on a Scion. I have a friend that bought one a few months ago, and she absolutely loves it. So then her friends bought one last week, and they love it too. I've been reading up on them, and I drove in one, and I like it too. The Scion is like a magic box. It's tiny on the outside but when you get in it's like the magic mirror where objects are larger than they appear. My guy friend bought it because he is as big as an ex-football player and it's the only vehicle he ever really fit into.

But in researching cars, and it's been since 1979 since I have had a new one, something terrible has happened to car names. They used to be solid sounding names, like Corvette, Thunderbird, Mustang, Land Rover, Ram, Viper- things that were powerful. Now, what you get is things that are invisible: Ion. Solstice. Sonata. Prelude.

The best car name I ever heard, was when I went to an antique car show in West Paris, Maine. There, I saw an antique Isotta-Fraschini. Now that's a car. And I love saying the name.

But, my auto destiny lay in the practical, and dare I say, charmingly ugly Scion.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Goodbye cruel solar system

Hesiod on The Daily Kos has posted Pluto's concession speech. You may be aware of the ongoing controversy in whether to demote Pluto as a planet, or keep it on as the whip bringing up the rear. Well, today...

"...the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from its status as a planet in our solar system.

The solar syatem is now comprised of the eight remaining, "classical" Planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus.

Supporters of Pluto were extremely disappointed with the outcome of today's vote.

AP has a transcript of Pluto's concession speech:

Just before coming down to speak with you, I called Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus and congratulated them on their success today. As I see it, in this campaign, we've just finished the first half and the Classical Planet team is ahead, but in the second half, our team -- Team Pluto -- is going to surge forward to victory.

I am, of course, disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged. I am not disappointed because I lost my planetary status, but because the old politics of scholarship and intellectual integrity won today.

I expect my opponents will continue to do in the future what they have done today: Belittle me instead of coming up with ideas to avoid having to rewrite science textbooks.

I will continue to offer the astronomers a different path forward to make my Solar system and orbit a better place to live and work, and that's what I want to do for another six million more years.

I know a lot of people in this system, and not just "classical planets", are angry about the direction in which the Solar system is moving, and so am I.

Tomorrow morning, our campaign will file the necessary petition with the International Astronomical Union so that we can continue this campaign for a new astronomy of unity and purpose. I will always do what is right for my orbit and Solar system regardless of what the political consequences may be.

Tomorrow is a brand new day. Tomorrow we launch a new campaign -- Team Pluto -- Asteroids, non-conforming celestial objects and planets.

Hopefully someone will post a video of Pluto's speech on YouTube.

UPDATE: Dick Cheney has issued a statement: "Pluto's demotion today is a victory for the terra-ists."

Original (and I mean original) post here


Of all the little annoying things that happen during the day, I have to say I've never been surprise impaled by a marlin...

Fisherman impaled by giant fish as it leapt across boat
By Simon de Bruxelles

A fisherman is recovering after being impaled on the bill of a 14ft blue marlin that leapt over his boat during an international angling tournament off Bermuda. The 800lb (360kg) fish hit Ian Card with such force that its 3ft spear went through his chest just below his collarbone and knocked him into the sea.

As the fish dived, forcing Mr Card under water, he was able to push himself off the razor-sharp bill and swim to the surface.

More here...

Okey dokey then...puts things in perspective, huh?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A fancy dinner

I had dinner wtih friends last night. The guy is a helluva cook. Here's our menu:

Veal Piccata, and no stinting on the capers and pignoli nuts
Angel hair pasta tossed with organic butter and adorned with cherry tomatoes picked straight from the garden
Sauvignon Blanc, light and chilled, perfect balance to the veal
Hot fresh fig fritters atop creamy vanilla ice cream

Do they know how to live, or what?!

Thank you, that was wonderful.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Re-regulating the body

There's a lot to consider when you go through sudden retirement. I changed my life before, so I knew what was ahead, but I'm still surprised by the force with which your body takes over if you let it.

My schedule was demanding- up early and I'm one of those people who spring fully alert from bed and within 5 minutes is on the move 110%. So the early morning part was natural to me, but the go-go-go all day, eating a sandwich if I'm lucky or a handful of M&Ms and some coffee if not, does take its toll. Then head to a night meeting, which lasts for a minimum of two hours and once, a record of five. Sometimes, if it's Tuesday, I go back to the office afterwards to write up the meeting. Get up early the next day and start over.

Once I pulled a 21 hour day, a few times, an 18 hour day, but most averaged 12-14. I worked Saturdays and Sundays, too. Saturdays out in the community taking photos at events and Sundays at home pecking away at correspondence or paperwork.

For a while I had a second job at the Post Office, delivering the PO box mail. It was a good paying job, I got about 25 hours a week and that included all day Saturdays, and it got me through my divorce. Know what my job was on Fridays? I delivered the Gray News! Talk about irony. Even though their office is in New Gloucester they have a PO box in Gray. Working at the PO was great, and the folks there are great too.

For four years I drove around the papers myself to all the drops, so that was pretty stressful on my back. Wednesday evenings I'd load 1200 pounds into my car and then unload 600 of it at the PO, and I would deliver the rest myself. It stressed my back, getting in and out of a low car 62 times every Thursday, slinging two or three 10 pound bundles of newspapers into and out of the car. When not delivering, my body would be contorted into an uncomfortable chair at a desk for 12 hours straight. Ouch.

My natural rhythm would be to slow down in the evening and go to bed early, so the long nights staying alert and interested at meetings were especially difficult for me.


Voluntarily leaving the paper and taking this time in between jobs means I give my body time and space to recalibrate. It's a gift I am glad I can afford. The first week I slept a lot. You do work up a sleep debt, which, according to Wikipedia, "is a term to conceptualize the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. A large sleep debt, for example, would suggest that a person is mentally and physically fatigued due to insufficient sleep." I had been sleeping rough, awakening several times a night, and sleeping fitfully in between. Now, I sleep through the night, and for 7 hours. And I wake up refreshed.

I took a lot of naps, too. When my body wanted to sleep, I let it. That helps- letting your body recalibrate to what it feels natural to do. Now I don't need naps and I stayed up until 10 p.m. last night. Not that fatigued dragged out kind of tired, and falling asleep on the couch, but nicely tired.

Clearing my mind of extra stress and worry helps too. I can think now about other things. I can feel my brain, like silly putty, stretching into new and different corners of my mind.

It'll take about a month to recalibrate and then I will be ready for the next thing. Whatever it is!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What it's like here

For those of you who may be reading this entry from south of the Mason-Dixon's what late August in Southern Maine is like:

The humidity may be back, or it may not, but lately it's been cool. I've thrown an extra blanket on my bed, I'm up to two now. I close my windows at night, and I've been wearing long sleeves for three days.

The first yellow leaves have fallen to the ground, marring an otherwise emerald green summer lawn. Evenings, like watching the Perseids, you wear a sweatshirt.

When you get a hot day, you hold onto it because it might be the last. Once Labor Day hits, the heat is gone for good, days in the 70's are typical with brilliant blue sky because of no haze or humidity. The days are pretty, but there's an underlying heartache because you know fleeting summer is leaking away and it won't be back for 10 more months. The mood around here is best described as wistful.

Swimming in the ocean is never a good idea, the temps are in the 50s at the start of the season and only climb to about 68 in August. On the hottest day you might see a few kids in near-beach surf and adults standing ankle or shin deep. The water really is like ice cubes and each wave feels like a thousand needle pin pricks in your skin. Lake swimming is better because the shallow water heats up faster. Above, we start putting pool covers on at night to hold onto the day's warm water temps. Otherwise, it could lose 10 degrees overnight.

By the end of August you really enjoy the warmth in the car because the air has a bite and the warm inside car air reminds you of bone-warming heat that you got for two weeks in July and complained about then.

You cannot plant any more after Labor Day because first frost could come any night. The mood when you take your plants in is best described as stoic. 'We know what's coming' (winter's onslaught) but we are stoic. "We can take it", you think. "We're tough Yankees."

You can take it right up until you decide you can't take it any more. And then you move south.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I need a consolation prize for my consolation prize

Scene: doing dishes, listening to classic rock, Frank FM on radio. A commercial comes on, it's for The commercial speaker says, 'if you don't find that someone special in 6 months, we'll give you another 6 months free!'

Ok, let's unpack this. If you go through 6 months of bad dates, and you don't find one person worth spending time with, they'll give you MORE of the same? No thanks.

To make it worthwhile, they should say, 'If you don't find someone special in 6 months, we'll send you on a date with George Clooney!' Now that's a consolation prize!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A short history of my life

In between the traveling, I consulted, freelanced, and wrote for Brown University, University of Chicago, The Reading Teacher, and University of Southern Maine.

Me. I always loved the water. Here, I'm 6 and about to go back in the kiddie pool at the Greenwich Club.

I taught in downtown Lewiston, Maine schools. I liked first grade, because I got to teach kids how to read. The photo's not of me. Tom Grimm took it of a Milwaukee 1st grade teacher at story time. I loved storytime.

I took a break from that and went on an Earthwatch dig to Spannocchia, a villa in Tuscany. I discovered a latrine. It was very exciting.

The man who became my husband asked me to sail to the Bahamas with him. I said, "Sure!" Here we are upping anchor in the Carolinas at dawn.

Papallacta, Ecuador, in the Andes. We saw the jungle, the equator, and the Amazon, too. I always liked traveling.

An old VW Westphalia diesel camper van carried me, husband, and Abby The First across the US for three months. The van would go from 0 to 60 in half an hour. Favorite place, West Texas. Rio Grande. Abandoned copper mines. Coyotes. Sierra Madres at sunset.

Publisher, Gray Maine. This is Glenn Close in "The Paper." That was a hard job. Evil Gray news busting is cool, though, and extremely satisfying.

What next? I don't know. I am awaiting instructions from God. Meanwhile, have a margarita.

Thanks to Christie

I really appreciate Christie's help in getting the banner up. Using Blogger is easy, tweaking the settings to one's specs is hard.

This will be my personal blog once I've had enough of The Monument. As of May, I no longer own the paper. As of last week, I no longer work at the paper, and soon I will not have any opinions about it. I'm in transition mode, shifting from one career to another and this portion of the shift is called, "Limbo," "'Tween-times" or just plain overlap from one lifestyle to another.

I've done it before, and I know what's ahead, so no worries there. Meanwhile, I am going to tweak the banner to install a black border around it. If it kills me. Why not? I've got plenty of time.