Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Lovely Stephen Fry

And, not slight Mr. Fry, here's another bit of Fry and Laurie.

Hugh Laurie - I'm in Love with Steffi Graf

I don't have much to say today. But I thought I'd share this. It had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. Partly the song, but mostly the mannerisms. I flashed back to my twenties, which was full of watching music videos by guys who looked and sounded like this.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Green bowl

I found my way out of the ordering chicken and broccoli rut.

The place I go to now is called The Green Bowl. They have no menu. Yes, really. What they offer instead is an all-you-can eat stir fry that you put together yourself.

When you are seated, you're given a wooden stick with two numbers written on it: the first is your table number, the second is your seat at the table. You take this stick with you up to a largish cold table -- like a salad bar -- where you pick up a bowl and start piling on what you want in your stir fry. There are vegetables, fruit, noodles, tofu, eggs, all kinds of seasonings, oils, and sauces. Once you've built your dinner, you pick up one of the colored plastic sticks at the end of the bar (they denote which meat you want added to your dinner, or whether you'd like it to be done as a soup or a wrap sandwich), put that and your wooden stick in your bowl. You then leave it on the counter and go sit down.

The whole glorious mess gets cooked up on this huge griddle in the middle of the establishment. When it's done, the wooden stick goes back in. This stick is how the wait staff identifies whose dinner belongs to whom when they bring it back to your table, along with rice. You can have white rice or brown, whichever you prefer.

I'm usually stuffed after the first time through, but you can go back as often as you like.

What I like best? I never have the same dinner twice. They rotate ingredients in and out of the cold table (depending upon what's in season, I suppose), and even if I get all the same ingredients as I did the time before, the sauce I used may not be there. Or (and this is more likely) I forget what I did last time, or I don't get the proportions the same.

I suppose if I got nostalgic for chicken and broccoli, I could always put a whole lot of broccoli in a bowl, dump some brown sauce on it, and put in a chicken stick.

And yes, the bowls are green. Originally they used white ones, but they finally bought some green ones a year or so ago. I guess they got tired of people asking them why The Green Bowl didn't have green bowls.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Maggie Mason wrote a book...


Ahem. Anywho, sometime before Christmas 2006, Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl and Mighty Goods put out a book about blogging called Nobody Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. I bought a signed copy straight from her site. Once it got here, I set it aside to read later and promptly got swept up in Christmas preparations. I just found it this past Friday while I was cleaning my desk. I've been reading it ever since. There are a lot of good ideas in there. Looking at my own blog, I see that I'm already doing some of the things she suggests. There are a few others that I'm going to attempt to employ. Like posting more often, for example (she writes, after leaving things silent for four days).

How about this, for instance:
Show some skin.

How did you get those scars? The one on your thumb is from when you were three and you wondered whether scissors could cut skin. The one on your stomach is from your emergency appendectomy. Your boss figured you had to be in the hospital, because it was the only reason you'd ever be late for work without calling.

Your scars indicate what type of life you've lived. Whether you're athletic, fighting for your health, or just occasionally clumsy, let each scar remind you of the story behind it.

When I first read that I thought, "Scars? I don't have any...wait. There's that one. And that one. And the one from...hmm." So here we go, starting with the head:

On the left side of my forehead, a very small thin scar right at my hairline. I got this when I was around ten years old, from Brian, the five-year-old brother of my playmate Janet. Brian used to have some sort of crush on me and this was how he announced he was over it, by smacking me in the head with a small spade. I ran home screaming, more from fear than pain--it bled a frightening amount. Headwounds do, I'm told. After I was cleaned up, Mom showed me how very tiny it was. She said I didn't need stitches, probably just a butterfly bandage. And I didn't need a tetanus shot because I'd had one the previous summer before I went to that horrible Girl Scout camp. Ugh. But that's a story for another post.

At the right eye, following (and mostly hidden by) the brow bone, a scar from an operation I had when I was just a few months old. It was to remove a cyst, a large one. If it hadn't been removed pronto I might be blind in that eye right now. Mom said the doctors didn't tell them that until after the operation was over. Didn't want them to "worry unnecessarily."

On my midsection, a trio of scars: a small one in my bellybutton, another small one on my right side, and one about two inches long on the right side of my belly. They are souvenirs of a laparoscopic surgery to remove my gall bladder. My gall bladder attacked me one spring, during a long-planned visit to my great uncle Bill at the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home down in D.C. It finally got taken out that July.

On my left knee, a faded scar from my falling on the gravel driveway of my grandparents' home in Iowa. I was seven, I think. On my right knee, a much larger, newer scar from the gravel in the parking lot of a local supermarket. They throw down gravel on top of the snow and ice around here in the winter time. It helps with traction. That is, until the ice and snow leaves. Then it's a hazard in its own right, at least to me. I skidded, landed on my right knee and cut it up, ruining my favorite pair of pants in the process. I went into the grocery store, asked for a band-aid at the customer service desk, and told them that the lot was dangerous. They gave me some song and dance about how the parking lot wasn't theirs, it belonged to the landlord. They almost wouldn't give me a band-aid until I asked them if they'd rather I bled on their floor. "Biohazard," it's a magic word.

On my left heel, an almost circular scar from a broken piece of china. I was washing dishes in my bare feet and dropped a bowl. The cat came to investigate (of course) and while I was trying to simultaneously clean up and chase her away, I stepped back onto a very large shard. Took a taxi to the emergency room, sure that I'd need stitches. Nope. They used superglue, and gave me a tetanus shot. This happened a week before Christmas 2005. I had to spend a few weeks in thermal socks and backless shoes, hoping there wouldn't be any more snow. I could just see myself losing a shoe in a snow drift.

And that's it, at least for now. Here's hoping I don't get any more.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Call me Cleo for short

Reading posts from my first month of blogging I came across this:

Juggling Scarves: I'm Not Management Material

Goodness gracious me. Did I really write that? It seems that as late as January 2006 I really enjoyed my job and thought I worked for some good people. Looking at it now, I realize that the third paragraph from the bottom describes my old department.


[Extends hand] How do you do? My name is Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.

Can't get there from here

Anyone from Pennsylvania probably already knows this joke.

Pennsylvania has four seasons: early winter, mid-winter, late winter, and construction.

A large chunk of road running right through the center of campus is going to be under construction all summer. A very large chunk. Of a very important road. It connects one end of campus to the other, and divides one half of campus from the other. And now there is practically no way to get across it.

My library is on one side of that road, and my (temporary) bus stop is on the other. For the past week and a half I have felt like a character in a video game, trying to avoid hazards and blind alleys in an attempt to get from my bus stop to work. I swear, this morning I heard the theme music from "Mission: Impossible," as I stepped off the bus.

You see, it's not just the road that's under construction. They're also redoing the landscape around the road to make it more accessible to people with disabilities, and they're doing a major revamp to the bus stop I normally use. It'll be nice when it's done. Right now, though, it's a nightmare.

Last week wasn't so bad, mainly because they hadn't really started fencing things off. Monday was a little tricky, but I managed to avoid the tree-ripper-outer (me and my high-tech language) and not trip over fleeing rabbits and chipmunks (who apparently had disregarded their eviction notices. Poor bunnies. Poor chippies. I sure hope everyone got out okay). I saw men with hard hats wandering around, pointing, consulting plans, and I knew that Tuesday wasn't going to be nearly as easy.

And I was right. They'd blocked off a section of the road, parked a truck right in the middle of a crosswalk (nice), and pretty much made all foot traffic impossible to the part of campus where I needed to be by 8am. I found a way across by cutting through one of the courtyards of the dormitories and coming out in the parking lot right across from the library.

This morning I found that they had fenced off part of yesterday's route, as well as a large section of the side street that stands between the lot and the library. I don't know why. It doesn't look they're doing any work in that area. Spite, maybe? Some sort of psychological study? I got through anyway by going through the lower courtyard of this same dorm complex and coming out at the other end of the parking lot.

Let's see if someone saw how I did that and fenced it off, too. I'm beginning to think that the only way to get from my bus stop to my place of employment is to get air-lifted and dropped off on the roof. That, or sprout wings.

P.S. : Post #101! Woohoo!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spelling wasp

The Bellefonte Loons hosted a spelling wasp a week ago Saturday evening, in the annex to the Bellefonte court house.

What's a spelling wasp, you ask? It's like a spelling bee, but meaner. The entrants must not only spell words, but be able to spell them backwards, rearrange the letters in alphabetical order, replace vowels with sound effects, pantomime the letters (a la the dance done to "YMCA"), and any other thing we could think of to get them to do.

It's a team competition rather than individual, and no one gets eliminated. Instead, teams earn points for correct answers, and these points determine who wins first, second, and third place. The word list was taken from the book "Bee Season," by Myla Goldberg, and it was important that the contestants read the book, because some of the bonus round questions dealt specifically with plot points and characters. One of the bonus rounds consisted of mispelled words from the various spelling bees that take place throughout the book.

The main difference between a spelling wasp and a spelling bee, though, is that a wasp is done as a fund-raiser. There is an entry fee that is paid upon registration. Teams are encouraged to find sponsors -- either straight donations, or people who pledge a sum for every correctly spelled word, every incorrectly spelled word, every time a word begins with a vowel, things like that. And during the event if a contestant misspells a word, they have to opportunity to buy a "do-over," giving them a second chance to spell the word. They can either buy it themselves or solicit donations from the audience.

This whole wasp thing was the brainchild of the Chief Loon. She acted as pronouncer, and got a friend from work and an actual sitting Judge for Centre County to be judges for the event. For the event, the Chief dressed herself up as a caricature of a WASP, in a pink tweed suit, high heels, with her hair done up in a beehive. She looked impressive and more than a little scary. Gave me flashbacks to kindergarten, actually.

She was hoping that this event would make perhaps $200 for the Historical Library in Bellefonte. When the final tally came in, we had $819 to give them. You could have knocked her over with a feather.

Best of all, everyone enjoyed themselves. The contestants were laughing at themselves and each other all night. The audience, though small (it consisted mainly of friends and families of the contestants), was lively and very generous when it came to the buying of do-overs. Judge Brown said he thought the whole thing was quite clever, and gave us all sorts of useful suggestions for next time. We already have the offer of a local opera house-turned-movie theater as next year's venue. It should be perfect. There's a stage, and I think there are even spotlights.

And the fact that we hosted something that raised over $800 for Bellefonte might just make us look legitimate to some of the businesses and societies there who don't quite know what to think of us.

Confessions of a Pioneer Woman

I don't know if you noticed, but I added another blog link under my "Good Reading" links a little while ago. I wanted to point it out and explain a little bit about her, but my old high school chum Amy B. already did a very good job of that in the email she sent me introducing me to the site. Below is our exchange, reprinted with her permission and with names deleted to protect the innocent:

Subject: Okay, I'm weird.

Date: 5/6/2007 1:34:17 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time

I really love this website. It’s a ranch wife’s blog with her photography. I get a kick out of her stories and love her photography, and [Amy B.'s husband] thinks I’m a weirdo stalker because of it.

The only reason I stumbled upon it was someone posted a link to her site on a message board I belong to (Cooks Illustrated, if you care).

When I poked around in her archives and read the story about Tanner, Barbie’s dog, I nearly peed myself and was instantly hooked. If that link doesn’t work, I see it was posted 12/27. Her archives are set up by month as well as subject (Children in this case).

She picked up a camera for the first time and started this site a year ago, and she just had her first gallery showing of her photographs. If you decide to take a look, see the entry for May 5. In there is a link to the gallery photos, just in case this link doesn’t work. My favorite is the horses’ manes, I think, and the one that
looks like rocks on the beach (they’re not) is another.

Why am I up so late? Deadline.

Back to work.

My response:

Subject: Re: Okay, I'm weird.

Date: 5/6/2007 6:52:26 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time

I can see why you like it. I only read the latest entry and decided to bookmark it. Might even link to it from my own blog.

Reading someone's blog doesn't make you a stalker. Reading someone's blog, figuring out where they live, driving cross-country to their home (with or without astronaut diapers) and camping in their front yard -- that makes you a stalker.

What was I doing up so early? Pushy cat who wanted attention, food, and my pillow. In that order.

Her blog really is excellent, and so is her photography. She copyrights her work, so I can't embed an image here, but please to go take a at her photos on Flickr. They are wonderful.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Down the rabbit-hole, and back out again.

Is it the middle of May already? Good grief. The month's gone by on wheels. I guess time flies when you enjoy your job.

The job I just left was the first (only) full-time one I've had. I've been with them for almost 16 years (a year and a half of that was as a part-timer), and the bulk of it was in the position I had until recently. At least 12 of those years were under the same supervisor. Now that I'm out of there, I can look back and see how bad things were.

Oh. My. God.

It had never occurred to me that there was any other way to work than to have someone at you all the time, interrupting what you do, giving you projects without complete instructions, changing things when you're halfway done, and then treating you like an idiot for not giving them exactly what they wanted but never articulated. I mean, who am I, Kreskin?

Every single thing I said and did at work was monitored and criticized. I caught crap (privately, after the fact, behind her office door) for speaking up at meetings, for not speaking up at meetings, for taking matters into my own hands without consulting my supervisor, for consulting my supervisor instead of acting independently (favorite quote: "Well, what do you think the answer is?" Can you hear the bomb ticking in the background? I always could. If I gave her the right answer, the next thing she'd ask was, "So why are you asking me?"). We had to tell her everywhere we were going and when we'd be back. She suspected us all of goofing off when she wasn't around. She had (well, has. She's still here) a tone when speaking to us that took me a while to pinpoint, but I have it now. She speaks to one she sees as an inferior as if she were the lady of the house upbraiding a servant who has just broken a plate.

She and her boss (head of the department) have said quite a few times that the rest of the library sees them as "difficult." They're sort of proud of it, really. Now that I'm away from them, I'm seeing the other side of the story. Difficult? No. They are seen as mean and crazy.

This job is wonderful. They give me something to do and then leave me alone to do it, secure in the knowledge that: a) I know what I'm doing, b) if I have questions, I'll ask, and c) when I'm done, I'll ask for more work. I've seen my new supervisor maybe 5 times this month. Twice of those were from a distance and one was in a team meeting. It's a whole new world.

I think I was teetering on the edge of a depression there for a while. I'd stopped doing everything I enjoyed -- jewelry-making, singing, embroidery, dancing...yep, even that, the activity I took up with a mind towards cheering myself up. Couldn't tell you the last book I read. I couldn't even make it through a whole episode of my favorite television show without wanting to turn it off and go to bed.

I did make myself go to that pottery class once a week. I joined, I think, because on some level I could feel myself slipping and wanted to do something about it. Fling myself out there with people, learn a new skill. I didn't really like it (too messy, to much hurry-up-and-wait) and I only kept up with it because I'd paid for it in advance. Even then, I skipped the last class, accidentally on purpose. I didn't remember that I had one more class to go to until I got home from work, and even though I could have probably have made it back to town in time for it, I decided to just skip it.

Blogging was starting to be a chore, even. I'd sit here and look at a blank "create post" window with its little blinking cursor, trying to think of something, anything to say. Usually I just gave up and closed the window.

I'm a whole lot better now. Shortly before moving, I noticed myself looking at things and thinking, "I should blog that." Right before Easter, I started a new embroidery project. I'm also working on a little bracelet made out of black and silver seed beads done in something called a zulu stitch. Bought a copy of Edna Ferber's Giant from the used bookstore downtown last week and devoured it. And last Saturday I attended a workshop for bellydance, where I was taught a choreography to a song by Tarkan (he's Turkey's answer to Justin Timberlake) called Şimarik -- here's a video for the song, put out in the 90s, I think.

Heck, I think I may even get my camera fixed instead of just talking about it. Though I saw another one in Circuit City a week back that I really, really want. It has an optical zoom of 10x, as opposed to the one I have now, which is 6. Mind you, 6 is very good, but 10? I might get a picture of the moon that I won't have to blow up until it's almost pixellated.

And what are the odds that this old one will go kaflooey yet again with the same problem that's already taken it out twice? I think there's a design flaw somewhere.

Yeah, that's it. Design flaw. Need new camera.

Ah, since when did need ever enter into it?

Up next (probably tomorrow): the Spelling Wasp.

Friday, May 11, 2007

That just about sums me up

As I leave work for the evening and head downtown, it starts to rain. Pour. Like someone is on the roof of a nearby building with a firehose. Most of those who don't have umbrellas (and that would be all of us) are shouting and sprinting for cover wherever they can find it.

Not me. I pull up the hood of my sweatshirt, which is pointless. The thing doesn't so much repel the rain as it does collect it. The reason I'm still outside? The sun is peeking out from a cloud directly behind me, and that means there might be a rainbow out here somewhere.

Cold, uncomfortable, sopping wet, with shoes that are going squelch with rainwater all night, and ignoring it all to look for rainbows. Yep. That's me all over.