Saturday, February 28, 2009

Plant World Prequel

No Lenten reflection today, just some pictures of Plant World Prequel.  (Thanks to Richard Bonomo for suggesting the title.)  These were taken in June of 2004.

My amaryllis blooming amidst the other plants.  I still have this amaryllis, but currently it is dormant.  

This is the top I cut off a pineapple and planted.  It started to grow, then it sent up some lovely purple flowers with what looked like a little pineapple top above them.  As you can see, it then actually produced a tiny pineapple.  It was only three bites, but it was the best pineapple I'd ever tasted, and it smelled wonderful even while still on the plant.  I still have the baby pineapple top, which hasn't gotten much larger.  The mama plant sent up another, enormous plant and then died, and I still have that pineapple plant as well.  It is at least three feet high and just as wide in diameter, and it looks delightfully tropical, but it has never made any purple flowers or a fruit like its mother did.

Famous Hat

Friday, February 27, 2009

Alms: Not Just Good in Theory

Before getting to my Lenten reflection, I just want to mention the bizarre dream I had last night (mostly for Rich's sake, so he can reply): I dreamed that I was asking Rich if imaginary numbers had any practical application or were they purely theoretical, and could there be negative imaginary numbers, and he gave me a comic book about imaginary numbers. Then I realized that they could be used to solve the most puzzling questions of quantum physics! Wow! In my dream I used negative imaginary numbers to explain the ENTIRE cosmos! But of course I forgot the answer before waking up...

Huh, according to Wikipedia, you CAN use imaginary numbers in quantum physics. Well, maybe YOU can... I know as much about quantum physics as I do about brain surgery, despite my dream of solving The Equation. (Thanks to Douglas Adams, we already know the answer is 42; we just don't know the question.)

Today I am reflecting on almsgiving. As a little girl in Catholic school, I learned that we should always take just what we need and less than we want, so that others can have what they need. For reasons I can't explain, I somehow related this to indoor plumbing and thought I should never finish a glass of water, but instead poured the last third back down the sink so the "people down the line" could also have water. It seems crazy now, but I was seven so it didn't occur to me that I was actually wasting water, nor how incredibly disgusting it would be if people got water down the line from other people. The important thing is that those nuns instilled in me the idea that I should always think of others, and we should always do so, but during Lent we are called to do so in practical ways. One idea I had, which other friends have picked up on, is that if I go out to eat during Lent, I then have to give an equal amount to charity. However you decide to give alms this Lent, make sure it is something concrete, time or money or goods, because while imaginary numbers may have practical applications, theoretical charity is pointless.

Famous Hat

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On the Fast Track

Today's Lenten reflection: fasting gives you a new perspective on things. Yesterday I fasted until after sundown, when I had a small cheese sandwich. And let me tell you, it was the BEST cheese sandwich I had ever eaten! Fasting makes you grateful for what you have and reminds you that others have much less. That is one reason to fast.

Another reason is for the love of God. This analogy may be a bit of a stretch, but imagine for a moment that you are a cartoonist who has created two characters, Pingo and Ooble. Pingo loves to eat cactus flowers and Ooble has a penchant for eggnog-flavored yogurt. You love your little cartoon characters, because you created them. Now imagine that they have free will. How amazing it would be if they freely loved you back!

Of course, Pingo could refuse to acknowledge that you created him and insist that he is a random spill of ink, but for the sake of this analogy let's say both cartoon creatures acknowledge that you created them. Then say that you had to have cataract surgery and couldn't eat your favorite food (say, persimmons) during your recovery. Pingo would say that's sad, but you created him to eat cactus flowers and he saw no reason to stop doing what he loves. Ooble would say she wanted to share in your suffering, so she would not eat eggnog-flavored yogurt until you could eat persimmons again. Wouldn't you feel a special affection for Ooble? You have to stop eating persimmons to save her (because she does not exist if you do not have your eyesight to create her), but she does not HAVE to give up her favorite food to help. She is doing it only to show her support, the way people shave their heads to show their support for a friend who is going through chemotherapy and losing her hair.

This is what Lenten fasting is. God doesn't say we have to give up chocolate, He created it and knows it is good, but when we give up something we love, we are sharing in His forty days of suffering in the desert. He suffered to save us, so we can show our gratitude by voluntarily suffering a little for his sake, not because He wants us to suffer but because it shows how close we feel to Him that we want to share in both His joy and His pain. That is true love.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Lent!

Happy Lent, everyone! How is your Lent going so far? Me, I can't complain. (Because I gave up complaining for Lent.) Here is my Lenten reflection for the day:

Last night Anna Banana II and I met some other people at an Indian restaurant, where we only had appetizers, and I had dessert while she had a mango lassi. Then we went to the local German restaurant for dinner because hey, on Mardi Gras (literally, "Fat Tuesday"), why not be decadent and eat twice? The German restaurant, oddly enough, has become something of a Mardi Gras mecca, but we did find a parking space fairly quickly. It took a little longer to find a seat, but we ended up sitting next to a raucous table that included MY choir director and some others from the choir who regularly patronize that restaurant. They gave us shots that were vodka and tabasco sauce and were impressed by our stoic responses to them. We got lots of beads and lots of Cajun food, most of which we were too full to eat after our Indian adventure. A Cajun band provided live music, and we had hurricanes in commemorative Bacardi Gras glasses.

And why I am I telling you all this? Because Mardi Gras would be meaningless if it were not followed by Ash Wednesday. In college I had a friend who wanted to find a holiday to celebrate every day, but I argued that if every day is special, then no day is. Mardi Gras is not about meaningless hedonism, but one last celebration before plunging into the deeply spiritual season of Lent. I love Mardi Gras and celebrate it every year, not because shiny plastic beads and silly drinks are so great for their own sake but because it is a sort of "bon voyage" party before I set out on a spiritual journey. And shouldn't every important journey start and end with a party? Of course, the party afterwards, when you have successfully made the journey, is even better. That's called Easter.

If you think giving up things for Lent is silly, try giving up that one indulgence of yours, say word game puzzles or salsa music or ePlush, for forty days. When you get to do it again, it will not feel like an addiction but like a celebration. Remember, if Jesus died for you, you can forego some chocolate for him.

Famous Hat

Monday, February 23, 2009

Calling All Cassowaries

Once a friend of ours asked us what our favorite animal was and the three reasons we liked it best. My other friends said things like horses because they are swift, noble, and beautiful, or dolphins, because they are intelligent, playful, and happy. I said llamas because they are cute, fuzzy, and badass. It turns out that supposedly this is how we see ourselves, and the others all laughed and said mine sounded pretty accurate, since they thought I am cute, fuzzy, and badass.

I do think that, if I were an animal, a llama would be a fitting choice. They are simple creatures who are able to climb mountains that other animals couldn't navigate. I am a simple person but I can do what needs to be done. Llamas are generally peaceful but spit at people when annoyed. That kind of sounds like me too! (I don't literally spit - anymore - but I can be verbally nasty when provoked.) Llamas are not, strictly speaking, beautiful but they are very cute. People say the same thing about me.

The second part of this psychology test is where things got weirder. We were supposed to name our second-favorite animals and three reasons we liked it. My other friends said things like tigers because they are beautiful, powerful, and majestic, but I said the cassowary because it's bizarre, cool, and can disembowel a man with one swift kick. According to this psychology test, that is what I am looking for in a significant other. This may explain my bad luck with men!

I have always thought that, if I were an element, I'd be xenon. Not only would I have a really cool name (so does ytterbium), but I would be happy alone but could be forced to combine with another element under great pressure. However, the result would be short-lived and explosive. That pretty much sums up my past romances. Now I realize, to borrow this other metaphor from nature, that I am a llama looking for a cassowary. No wonder it never worked out!

First of all, llamas and cassowaries do not even live on the same continent. Then there is the small issue of one being a mammal and the other being a bird. Cassowaries do have traits to commend them, like that the male raises the young, but they tend to be very shy and hide in the forest. And of course, when they are cornered, they can deliver a lethal kick. That does sort of sound like the men I've always been attracted to... Cassowaries are colorful (where they aren't drab) and have deep, resounding voices, which are good traits in men, but they are not so terribly bright. They are, however, quite tasty from what I've read. They are a very ancient type of bird, and with that weird casque on their heads they look a lot like a duckbill dinosaur.

I am wondering if I would have better luck in love looking for a man who is a tiger, or an eagle, or even a dolphin. Intelligent, playful, and happy sounds good to me! But if you are a cassowary and are looking for a llama, drop me a line. I promise to be very cute, fuzzy, and badass as long as you can disembowel a man with one swift kick.

Famous Hat

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Persistence of Memory (or Lack Thereof)

I seriously think Salvador DalĂ­ was onto something: clocks are scary! When I was a child, I ran into two particularly frightening ones. One was in the living room of some friends of my parents; an enormous grandfather clock that was twice my height, it featured a picture of the West Wind personified, which was freaky enough, and it had a slowly swinging pendulum and a window showing some of the action moving around inside, but worst of all it would now and then emit an incredibly loud series of BONGS. I was about four at the time, and I was terrified of that clock.

A couple of years later I was forced to go on "play dates" with the daughter of my mother's friend, and it was bad enough having to contend with this spoiled rotten psuedo-friend, but in her mother's kitchen was a clock featuring a 7 which was clearly an upside-down 2. I was so terrified of that clock that I would not go into the kitchen, so of course that was where my mother and her friend hung out. I could not bring myself to enter a room with something so obviously against the natural order. I also hated clocks with Roman numerals that had IIII instead of IV for 4. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

As an adult I love analog clocks, and paintings of melting clocks. For some reason it is so much easier to understand time as an arc of a circle ("Hm, I have 38 degrees left before I have to leave for work") than the stark message of a digital clock: 7:03. What does that mean, really? And digital numbers have no personality. These days I would much rather see upside-down 2s and IIIIs than the cold little digital blips that make up 7s and 4s on so many clocks. Guess I've forgotten why things that are unexpected used to seem so scary!

Famous Hat

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Crime Lab Club Med

As I may have mentioned once or fifty times before, I am training for a triathlon. So the other night I was at the health club running on the treadmill, and the TV was on. As I have also mentioned, I do not own a TV at home, so the experience of watching it is always shocking for me. This particular night someone had turned it to a crime drama, let's call it "Crime Lab Club Med," which held my attention raptly because it was SO unlike any lab I've ever seen before. For example:

  • Every lab I have ever seen was garishly lit. Granted, these were university labs, but I can't imagine real police labs have much better budgets. On CLCM, the lab had mood lighting!

  • Every lab I have ever seen is crowded with tons of equipment that does not look substantially different from the equipment we had in high school, back in the Cretaceous Era. On CLCM, there is very little equipment, and it is all brand new.

  • Every lab I have ever seen was populated by people in grubby old clothes, and open-toed shoes are not allowed. On CLCM, the people in the labs are incredibly hot women who wear slinky, low-cut outfits more appropriate for a nightclub than a lab where they are getting splashed with disgusting and possibly corrosive chemicals, and they all wear high heels with open toes. And nobody wore safety goggles...

  • Every lab I have ever seen was full of frustrated techs running experiments for the third time, hoping the numbers would match at least once. On CLCM, the techs take a teeny amount of organic substance and put it in a machine that swirls it around for two seconds, and then they get an exact DNA match displaying the name, birthdate, and current home address of the person. Wow! In Club Med County, they must have an extensive DNA bank of all citizens in a thirty-mile radius, and most of the illegal aliens as well. (Perhaps even the space aliens!)
Figure 1: Club Med County Alien in DNA Database

Obviously, with all this high-tech, amazing lab equipment, the photogenic young women in the CLCM can solve any crime that comes their way. So heed my advice, criminals in Club Med County: be sure not to leave even one iota of DNA where they can find it! And certainly don't be like the criminal in the episode I saw, where you think to wipe down the entire crime scene but then leave behind an incriminating piece of evidence like, say, a cell phone you have modified into a nuclear device. Not only does this make it that much easier for the curvaceous young ladies of CLCM to bust you (so to speak), but I would think you would need it yourself, or why take all that time creating it? Other than to advance the plot, I mean?

Famous Hat

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Health-Food Store Hat

Now that the weather has warmed up from frigid to normal winter temperatures, I have traded in my knit cap for my more stylish winter hat. It is sort of a bucket hat, but purple velvet with a fancy band and buckle. (My Famous Hat is for summer use only.) People always comment on my purple velvet bucket hat and they ask where I got it, and I reply, "At the health food store." When they say, "I didn't know they sold hats there!" I say, "They don't! I got it free!" This is how it went down:

One winter evening I worked out and then went to the health food store. At some point I lost my black beret, so I went to the health club but they hadn't seen it. I went to the health food store, and an employee pulled out the Lost and Found box and began pulling random hats out of it. When I saw the purple velvet bucket hat, I said, "What a beautiful hat!" and the employee said, "Do you want it? It's been here for at least a year." The hat had a lining that could be washed, and I figured that after a year nobody was going to come looking for it, so I happily took it. I never did find the black beret, so it seemed to be a karmic trade.

Here is a scan of my hat. It didn't scan as well as some of the other random objects I have scanned, but you can get some idea of its lovely plum color and soft velvety texture.

Famous Hat

Monday, February 16, 2009

In This Valley of Tears

In this month of Our Lady of Lourdes, I should mention my own miraculous healing. Per my post about the leopard movie, quite possibly I brought this on myself, when God said, "To achieve enlightenment in one lifetime would take almost unbearable suffering," and I said, "Bring it on!" At least, that is how I would comfort myself when things were almost unbearable, by thinking it was all part of some grand plan.

It was always clear that something was wrong with me as a child. My parents would take me to experts, saying I seemed to be autistic except that I could talk. A lot. In fact, usually the hard part was getting me to shut up about my favorite topic, zoology. I knew EVERYTHING about animals and had a nearly photographic memory for anything I'd read, although I could barely understand what people said to me. My mother would yell at me constantly for not being able to follow verbal instructions.

I didn't like people and mostly tried to ignore them. The experts diagnosed me with a bewildering array of issues: avoidant personality disorder, hyperkinesis, schizoid disorder of childhood, borderline personality disorder. Finally I had to go see a child shrink who somehow convinced me that it was BAD to live in my own little world and that the highest good was to win the approval of others... but he didn't tell me how to do this. I found people totally bewildering; I took everything they said literally and couldn't pick up on their body language. Heck, I couldn't even recognize them by their faces! People would get so furious because I could remember everything about them and yet couldn't recognize them out of context.

Obviously I found this all a little discouraging. My parents were more concerned with my brother's academic struggles than my social ones, but my mother saw something on TV about Attention Deficit Disorder and decided she had finally figured out my problem. She dragged me to see more experts who said I definitely had ADD and a personality disorder on top of that, but because I did well in school, I didn't need any treatment. So I started seeking my own treatments. I read about the Feingold diet and tried to avoid additives and artificial colors and flavors. I tried different herbal teas and discovered that ginseng and yerba mate helped with my attention problems while ginkgo and rooibos helped me think before speaking. I saw a shrink on my own who prescribed a drug for the ADHD which caused me to have a seizure, but to my amazement it gave me depth perception, which I had never had before. It did something even more incredible, although I didn't realize the significance at the time: it made me feel the emotions of others. One day I watched a muskrat eating clover by the side of a pond, and it was so happy that I felt happy.

From then on it was as if my emotional development, which had somehow never begun, unfolded in real time. Now that I am in my teens emotionally, I am almost indistinguishable from my peers, since teens are almost as mature as adults. I didn't understand exactly what had happened until getting a job at a clinic that diagnoses children with autism. Some of the children were obviously autistic, but some of them were just like me when I was a child. I was shocked that they were diagnosed with high-functioning autism, or Asperger syndrome. "How can they label these kids when they're just a little different, like I was?" I wondered. Then it occurred to me - did I have Aspergers? Do I still? "Autism" literally refers to someone in his own world, which I definitely was as a child. Now that I can pass as normal but just offbeat, holding down a job and owning my own condo, it doesn't quite seem to apply. But when I talked to my mother about it, she said once upon a time the experts had told her I would most likely need to be institutionalized as an adult. Looks like they were wrong! Maybe it was Our Lady of Lourdes begging her Son to heal me, because to me it seems like a miracle.

Famous Hat

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Ineffable Palm Tree

I have been very bad about blogging lately, so to make up for my negligence I am writing a very long post on Rich's computer Aquinas tonight. I'll start with the title: one night at the OTHER choir practice, I spotted a golden calf in the coat closet and said, "A graven image? I always knew you Lutherans were heathens!" The choir director pulled the golden calf out of the closet and read the lyrics to the upcoming musical it was for, something the youth group is putting on. Last week I noticed several inflatable palm trees in the coat closet, presumably for the same musical, and when I showed them to the choir director and said, "I want one of these for Christmas next year," he said, "An ineffable palm tree?"

This weekend T came up for Rich's birthday party, and we were searching for some chocolate we had previously purchased but I commented that it might be a "quixotic" quest. Since I assumed this word comes from Don Quixote, which is pronounced kee-hoe-tee, I said the quest would be kee-hoe-tic. T said, "What?" She insisted the word was pronounced kwiks-ah-tik, so we agreed to look it up in the dictionary. However, this search also proved to be quixotic, however you pronounce that word, because I own a French dictionary, a German dictionary, a Portuguese dictionary, a Spanish-to-Basque dictionary, and a Swahili dictionary, but no English dictionary. T said, "You don't own an English dictionary???" and I said, "That's not strictly true. I do have an Anglo-Saxon dictionary." Eventually we looked up "quixotic" in the German dictionary, which said it was pronounced "kwiks-ah-tik," but when we looked up the German word it was translated as, it said the English translation was "Airy-fairy." Now I have spoken English for a score and fifteen years, and never have I heard the term "airy-fairy," so I felt the pronunciation guide was also suspect. However, today we looked "quixotic" up in Rich's enormous Oxford dictionary of every English word ever spoken, and it did say it was pronounced "kwiks-ah-tik." So there you go. Rich was as surprised as I was.

T came up with the theme for Rich's birthday this year, which was "Presidents' Day," since he shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln. We decorated in red, white, and blue streamers (and oddly almost every shop in town was out of white), tied a flag balloon to his chair, and made him wear a flag-patterned hat. I dreamed that I made him a birthday cake that looked like a penny, so I did make one! See the results below.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Have You Seen This Movie?

Has anyone out there in the blogosphere seen the following movie?

In the first gray light of an African dawn, a hunter shoots a black panther and throws her body into the back of his jeep. Her soul ignores a powerful force trying to pull her away, and instead she follows the hunter to a cement building in the middle of the jungle, with a wide door on one side that the jeep drives into. The driver of the jeep tosses the panther's body to some waiting young men dressed only in white loinclothes, while the hunter draws aside a velvet drape and steps into a room where a corpulent man wearing a tall hat greets him with disdain. The hunter (who is the only white person involved in this story) and the other man clearly cannot agree on the amount of money the panther is worth; the hunter wants more than for a usual leopard, since black panthers are rarer, but the other man points out that the skin is worth less. The panther's spirit leaves this small, luxurious room and goes back to the large warehouse area full of hides and horns and tusks. She sees her body lying on a table, staring lifelessly at nothing, while her teeth and claws have already been fashioned into a necklace and two bracelets. Finally she allows the force that has been tugging at her to call her to a place where there is no time, and the light is so bright that it seems dark.

The spirit has an argument with a being which is one and yet more than one: she does not want to be a human, but the being says she is an old soul and must be human to achieve the next level. (This is not in words, but in pure ideas.) Finally the soul says she will be human on the condition that she does not forget, because she does not want to be destructive like the other humans, and she only wants to be human once so she'd better achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. The other being says she does not realize what she is asking for, but she is granted her conditions and is born a human.

This is the earliest memory I have. A lot of the hunter/fat guy interaction didn't make sense to me until much later, when I pieced it together, since at the time I did not understand words. Richard Bonomo was the one who pointed out to me that the "hunter" was actually a poacher, so I was basing my idea that all humans are destructive on the actions of some people that almost everyone else would agree are deplorable. How ironic that I would hate humans based on some especially hateful humans! Of course, being a good Catholic, Rich does not believe this is an actual memory. Attempting to be a good Catholic, I have no idea what to think. (Another irony: all the Christians I have told this story to found it interesting and the only one who immediately pooh-poohed it is my New Age uncle, who believes in reincarnation... but only between humans.) Rich and Kathbert did laugh about me arguing with God, since it was so, you know, TYPICAL of me. Rich said this must have been a movie I saw as a child, so I am wondering if anyone knows what movie it is.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Would You Like That Burger?

I am the Queen of Analogies, or so it seems. Once when T was bemoaning our single status at our (relatively) advanced age, I told her, "We women are like CDs. Some are the most popular thing right now and everyone wants them, but then after a while nobody listens to them anymore and they either sit on the shelf, un-listened to, or get sold to a used CD shop for a couple of bucks. You and I, we're Baroque music CDs. We sit in a bin in a specialty store, but one day someone will come along, see us, and say, 'That's the CD I've been looking for!' Then he will take us home and listen to us every night and never get tired of us or sell us to the used CD place." T said, "I LOVE that analogy!" and it really cheered her up, although at this writing we are both still sitting in the bin, waiting for our listener to find us...

This weekend when I went to the spaghetti dinner with Rich and A-Fooze, I said, "Most people are like hamburgers. Everyone likes hamburgers pretty well. I'm more like Thai food, sort of an acquired taste. Some people will never like Thai food, but some people would always choose it over a hamburger." They liked that analogy, and A-Fooze said most of her friends were Thai food, and Rich agreed that our group of people were all Thai dishes of some sort. He said he imagined most scientific nerd types were Thai food, but A-Fooze disagreed, saying she was the only Thai food in her lab and everyone else was a hamburger. I listened to this exchange in amazement, seeing how my analogy had taken on a life of its own. I would have been hungry, but I had already eaten an entire plate of spaghetti and was working on an enormous slice of delicious chocolate fudge cake. (Eventually I had to concede defeat and give two-thirds of the cake to someone else.)

So who are the chocolate fudge cakes of the world? And does everyone love them or can they only take so much of them before having to pass them on to someone else? I certainly know people like that. However, if you are reading this blog, you are not one of them!

Famous Hat

Monday, February 9, 2009

Feminism: The Promise, the Delivery

The other day I got on the bus and it occurred to me that back in my grandmother's day, all the young men would have gotten up to offer us ladies their seats. Now, of course, since we are "equal," the thought never crosses their minds. When a foreign gentleman offered me his seat one day, it blew me away. It also got me to thinking about feminism, what it promised and what it delivered. The fact is that men are generally stronger than women, so in that sense we are not equal. If the Titatic were to sink today, the survivors would all be men instead of women.

When my grandmother was a young woman, she would go out on a date with a gentleman caller, and he would pay for dinner. At the end of the date, if it was at least the second one and things had gone well, he might hope to give her a kiss on the cheek. Today if I go out with a man, he expects me to pay my own way... yet he also thinks I will jump in the sack with him on the first date!! How is this a better deal? Could I have one of Grandma's gentlemen callers, please?

When my grandmother was a young woman, a man had to propose marriage and promise to support her and their children before he saw any action. Now we women have been "liberated" by bizarre chemicals we can inject or ingest, or strange contraptions we can insert inside ourselves, or invasive surgery... for what? Men to have sex without consequences? If things were equal, why isn't there a Pill for men? I can tell you why: because men would not take it. They did some trials on a potential man pill but discontinued the trials when the men complained of discomfort in a sensitive area. I could understand this, but it does stand in STARK contrast to the trials on the female pill, when women were literally dying but they continued with the trials and eventual approval of the pill.

It sounds like things are even worse for girls in college now than back in the Triassic (otherwise known as the 90's) when I was there. I read an article about how they don't even date, they just "hook up," which is a euphemism for casual sex with no strings attached. The girls even said they would go to the guy's place and give him their most precious gift, and then they didn't even feel they could ask him to walk them home because that would make them seem "needy." So then they would walk home alone at night. Makes Grandma's deal sound positively quaint!

Famous Hat

Sunday, February 8, 2009

So Where Have You Been, Famous Hat?

I'm sure all three of my loyal readers have been wondering, What happened to Famous Hat? I am, in fact, still alive and quite well, too. I just haven't been able to update my blog, since during my lunch hour I was either attending conferences or meeting banjo players for lunch, and I still don't have internet connection at home. (Still no TV either. I hear some rumor that later this month TVs won't work anymore if they aren't high definition, but I am blissfully ignorant of all that in my TV-free world of rabbits, guinea pigs, hedgehog, and plants.)

This weekend I had two gigs. The first one was an acoustic one at a coffeehouse in a nearby small town, and it went really well. We were one of several acts, and the last act (a father-daughter duo) were amazing. All we got for our troubles was a free cup of tea; I wanted chai but would have had to pay the difference in price so I settled for a cup of Earl Gray. How do people support themselves making music? It's beyond me!

The second gig was even better! This was with the plugged-in Mideastern band, and it was at a Turkish restaurant. We had an incredible belly dancer who danced to the Arab pop song numbers, and then she got to take a break while everyone else danced to the Hebrew folk songs. I had some trouble with feedback from the amp, but after we tried several amps, and then several cords, we realized it was a grounding problem in the mandolin itself, so I suggested miking it. "You're a genius!" the guitar player told me. However, even my genius has its limits, since the mic was a vocal one and didn't pick up the mandolin too well. Anyway, I am just ornamentation, not the basics like the keyboard, guitar, and drums. During the second half we plugged me back in and it seemed a little better. Otherwise the gig was a huge success, with tons of people flooding the restaurant and actually getting up and dancing during the group numbers. We got free dinner (including wine and dessert), and afterwards someone in the audience bought us all drinks because he thought we were so good. It was a huge party!

So that was my weekend in music. In triathlon news, I power-walked to my health club yesterday to enjoy the beautiful weather (we're enjoying a bit of a thaw after that bitter cold), but once there I was beat. (It's maybe three miles away.) A little coffee shop has opened up in the health club, so I bought a cappuccino and a kiddie-sized berry smoothie to refuel, did some stretches and weightlifting to justify having gone to the health club, and then had to run all the way back home to get ready for the gig. Today was beautiful too, so Richard Bonomo, A-Fooze and I walked to a nearby church (not our own parish) for their fundraising spaghetti dinner. Now I am taking the opportunity to blog on Rich's computer Aquinas. (He also has a little green laptop we call Marvin because it looks like a martian with its little antennae, and another one that goes by the mysterious moniker of "Victor's Computer," though Rich does not know Victor.) Marvin is part of a program where you pay some amount of money and they send you a laptop and then another one just like it to a child in a third-world country, which is a beautiful idea but I can't help thinking that it's more important to feed these children than to make sure they have laptops...

On the bread making front, I made bread yesterday and wondered why it wasn't rising during the Rise Cycle until noticing the package of yeast sitting on the counter... unopened! So I threw it into the dough and restarted the entire cycle, so I now have twice-kned bread. What happens when you knead bread twice? The loaf looked normal enough, and the few bits I tasted seemed normal, but tomorrow will be the true test when I use it for the first time to make a sandwich.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Delicious Bread

Last night I finally experimented with the bread machine.

The first loaf of bread I had made was a recipe Richard Bonomo had given me, and he exhorted me to put the ingredients into the bread machine in precisely the order he listed them. The bread machine then produced a very yellow, crumbly loaf that was more like cake than bread, except that it was not sweet. It tasted very good but made a huge mess.

The second time I made bread, I used the "basic white bread" recipe in the manual Hardingfele had given me with the bread machine. This manual amuses me greatly, partly because it depicts both the bread machine and the loaf it produces as having happy, smily faces, but mostly because it always inserts the adjective "delicious" before bread, so that instead of giving you instructions on how to make bread, it tells you how to make delicious bread. I dutifully followed the recipe for white bread and noted that my machine wants the ingredients in the inverse order that Rich had listed them. The bread turned out fine but was still kind of crumbly.

Last night I thought about making Rich's recipe using my bread machine's preferred ingredient order, but what I actually ended up doing was combining the recipes. And it made DELICIOUS bread!! Bread that doesn't crumble! Bread that is off-white and rich and tasty! So for all my faithful readers, here is the Famous Hat Bread Recipe:

one cup warm milk
6 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin, natch)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons of sugar
1.5 teaspoons of salt
2.5 cups of flour
package of baking yeast

One caveat: it does kind of mushroom up on top and make a mess of the bread machine, not to mention how undercooked the top is. Which is only a problem if you don't like undercooked dough. (Since I LOVE it, I don't consider this a problem!)

Famous Hat

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Dreamin'

The title of this post is not a reference to either Mamas and Papas song; rather, it is about my morning. This morning I woke up, turned off the alarm, turned on the lamp, and somehow fell back asleep. I dreamed I was reading my morning prayers from Magnificat, brushing my teeth, and getting dressed. Then I woke up, realized I'd been dreaming, got up, read my morning prayers from Magnificat, brushed my teeth, and got dressed. Then I REALLY woke up and realized 15 minutes had elapsed while I dreamed about getting ready instead of actually doing it.

In psychology, there is something called a "fugue state" in which a person is disassociated from the real world and has no memory of who they are. What's so fugal about that? I think those stupid dreams we have all had about getting up and doing our morning routine, waking up, doing our morning routine, waking up and doing our morning routine until we finally actually DO wake up are more like a fugue, in the sense of a piece by JS Bach or whoever with a theme that keeps coming back. My conscious mind would rather listen to the Fugue in G Minor by Bach, but my unconscious mind loves those dreams, I suppose because then it can convince me that I am getting ready for work when I am really just continuing to sleep.

This weekend T and I were planning to go snowshoing, but we ended up just walking out on the frozen lake. It was so beautiful! We did meet up with Anna Banana 2 and the snowshoers (Rich, A-Fooze, the B Boys, Cecil Markovitch and a guy from Trinidad) for dinner. A-Fooze thought the guy from Trinidad was the same person as a guy from Ghana I was madly in love with a few years back, and I said, "No, that was..." and then I couldn't think of his name for a whole minute or two. Out of sight, out of mind!

Friday I was at a baby shower, and a group of nurses gave the expectant mother a whole set of safety supplies, including door locks, outlet plugs, a choking hazard measure, and... a GUN LOCK exactly like the one T and I inadvertently tried to smuggle into Canada! Half the people didn't realize what it was, so T felt vindicated when I told her the story. Then she told me a really funny story about how, when she was once given notice of layoff, she spent a weekend shooting guns with her relatives up in the North Woods. One gun had quite a recoil and gave her a black eye, so she had to explain to all her coworkers what had happened. Without thinking about it, she repeated the story to a manager who asked about her shiner, and then he asked nervously, "Why were you shooting guns?" Her coworkers said she should have really played that one up! But she ended up getting another position at the same company, so just as well that they don't all think she's crazy. (After all, it's the quiet ones who totally snap!)

Famous Hat