Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stinging Workers

This weekend I did a bit of research on yellowjackets and I found the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Is it real? Here is part of it:

2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.

I was stung by a yellowjacket a long time ago and it hurt really bad. I was a fully formed adult at the time and I'm not excessively wimpy about pain and I really wanted to sit down and cry. Even though the sound of wailing children is really annoying, don't you sometimes envy them? Haven't you ever been tired and rundown and nothing is going the way you want it to and wished you could just throw your head back and shriek in the middle of the grocery store? I know I have.

I'm glad adults don't do this because the social boundaries that keep everyday life tolerable are disintegrating fast enough as it is. There was an article in the NYT on Sunday about how liberating young people find it to talk about how much money they make with each other. Good for them. I don't talk about how much money I make with my husband. I think the world is just fine with things people don't talk about. Have you ever had one of those awkward conversations where someone you met 5 minutes ago starts telling you about their cysts?

Hm, I'm getting off track here. Back to the stingy thing: for some reason I thought that honeybee stings were negligible. I guess I've never been stung by one.

I finished another story this weekend which was why I did the yellowjacket research. It's hard to have a meal outside at my folks' house because of the yellowjackets but the university extension had a great tip which involved hanging a fish over a tub of water. I can't wait to try it.

This has nothing to do with my story. The story is one I've worked on and off on for quite some time and it's not a terrible story but I'm not sure it's especially creative or has a point but I'm trying to get in the habit of finishing things. Somewhere I have a quote from Ray Bradbury where he said he'd written at least 600 stories but only published 150 (made up numbers because I don't know where the quote is and besides, it's probably 20 years old and he's probably written another 600 stories since then) and he was still learning. At the rate I'm going, it'll take me 85 years to hit 600 stories.

Monday, April 28, 2008

We Got the Beet

I know this is a photo of carrots and doesn't match my title but I usually never plant carrots and these were so cute that I had to try them.

Yesterday I put a garden in. I'm know I'm going to be gone for six weeks but I can't do nothing. I did decide to skip the tomatoes, mostly because Sunset magazine reminded me that you aren't supposed to plant them in the same place every year. I don't plant them in the exact same spot but always in the same general plot so maybe a year off would be good for everyone.

The other reason I went ahead and planted is I bought a bunch of seeds before I knew I would be gone. Plus I found a stash from last year which included about 5 envelopes of beet seeds. I mixed a ton of beet, turnip, carrot, chard and lettuce green seeds in a little plastic dish and then scattered them over half the garden. Then I went to find a rake. When I came back there was already a cheeky bird, going to town. I raked everything around.

Then I went and found all my peas and lemon cucumbers. The past two or three years these have done nothing for me so I planted them all in the hope something will take. I used the same scatter method. I have cages but there are tons of wasps around the shed and I'm afraid to go in there right now so I haven't set the cages out for the peas, should they decide to grow.

If you've arrived at this post looking for gardening advice, I'd suggest you move on. I don't think you'll find anything to help you here.

I raked the whole plot and shoved a few wayward seeds under with my fingers and went in the house and announced to Bob that just about the time I leave he will have all the turnips and beets he can handle. This is a joke because Bob will eat vegetables but the idea of him harvesting root vegetables from the backyard is ridiculous. At least the bugs will have something to eat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Half Dome

Half Dome

I've been to Yosemite two times. The first time I was very small. How old do I look in this photo? A few months? My Tante Hilla came from Germany and they all did a trip of California-y things. I know they also went to Hearst Castle. Or we, I should say. I've only been to Hearst Castle that one time and remember, well, nothing.

This was in 1964 so make sure to dig the little bit of the cars you can see. As I was preparing this it occurred to me that this was probably Tante Hilla's first visit to California and the occasion was to see me.

Half Dome

We went again when I was in high school. There's no major point I'm making here, just falling back on old photos for today's content.

In other news, I just clued in to the fact that Prince Capsian comes out on May 16. That's less than one month away. I thought I had to wait until December.

To celebrate I did a quick detour to watch the official trailer, fan teaser (first typed fan taser, I think there's a joke in there somewhere), production blog (nice accent, sounds like Narnier), moneybags slap themselves on the back promo, and the dreamy Prince Caspian promo. Didn't the book Prince Caspian have the faintest whiff of wuss? I must remember that wrong.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tulip Bandit Strikes Again

This is what we saw when we got home from the grocery store last night.

I can't believe I thought tulips didn't last very long. These have been going strong for at least a couple of weeks although they're looking a tad straggly at this point. It's hard not to think someone is messing with me.

Here's the before photo again.

 I don't know what to think. These flowers are right by my front door. My neighbor has a big patch of pretty tulips in her yard right by the street. I checked and no one has been picking any of those. If it was kids, why would they just target these?

I'm not really outraged as much as curious. Did the same person come back for more or did someone else see these and think they needed to take some home? I haven't seen any in this color around. I'm going to dig them up in the fall and put them out back with the pink ones. I'll get some more daffodils for the front.

This morning I did a tons of errands. I put on my work clothes so I could pick up some manure and stuff for the garden that I'm planting even though I'm going to be gone for 6 weeks. I know the weather is supposed to be doodoo all weekend but I figured there would be time to sneak out and do a little work.

Right when I got to the garden store it started pouring rain and everything was covered and I said screw it. Better luck next weekend.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Every night when I get home from work (assuming it's still light out and not raining sideways), I got to my flower bed and admire my flowers. I often go to the backyard, too. Why grow them if you're not going to enjoy them?

Tonight was I was startled to find this:

What? You don't see the problem? Count the flowers.

Now here's my shot from Sunday:

Yes! There is a tulip bandit on the loose in my neighborhood.

What giant turdhead.
I told the writers group I would give them a draft of my story by last night, no matter what, so they'd have enough time to review before our meeting Saturday. I'm not a perfectionist but I don't like to throw something out there if I feel it isn't ready. It was a good lesson in how hard I can push myself when motivated. The story is thin in spots but it has a beginning, a middle and an end and I stuck to my self-imposed deadline.

I very rarely write after work, especially days like yesterday which was very busy and research intensive. I was tired and fuzzy headed but as soon as I got home I went to the computer and hammered away. Later I did my taxes on my dinner break. It's nice when you can surprise yourself.

I often hear writers talk about having a daily word goal. I've even seen widgets on blogs for tracking word counts.

Word counting, in terms of a daily goal, doesn't work for me since I have very little trouble writing words. That can't be a big surprise if you're here. The 13th of this month is my 12 year anniversary of starting my website and for the most part it's all original words.

The discipline for me is sticking with it until the story and characters work and sometimes that means writing in circles for a little while. (Or longer.)

A typical writing cycle for me goes: get new idea, rabid excitement, research and tons of writing, get stuck, dread the writing chair, avoid writing, hate myself for avoiding it, despair, force myself to go back to it, find what interested me in the first place, finish story.

For the record, there's a bale of stuff in my files that's still waiting for the part that comes after "despair."

Some writers talk about outlining first and others talk about just sitting down and writing it and see what comes out. I do both. I write a bunch and then sit back and look at what I'm doing and where I'm going and try to map things out a bit and then jump back in and write some more.

The story I finished this week is one where I knew how I wanted it to end but wasn't sure how I was going to get there and who I was going to take with me. Last Friday I worked all day especially on the protagonist. But later as I was thinking about the story, I realized that this wasn't the right protagonist for this story.

Saturday I scrapped more than half of what I already had and started all over with a new take on my protagonist and worked with that until last night when I got to the end.

The story before this one I had a title I really liked but no idea what was going to happen. At first the story that came out didn't fit the title. Also I had intended to use it for my Clarion West submission so I was trying to fit it into a specific length. In the end, I made it fit the title and keeping it shorter eliminated a stupid side part that wasn't working so I guess the advice is: find what works best for you and trust your instincts.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

 There's A Party in My Paella
I've never made paella before so my strategy was to read as many recipes as I could find and then distill them into the easiest possible procedure. I ended up printing out 4 recipes that looked promising.

I worked on my story all day Sunday and the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was cook something more complicated than frozen pizza but I had all the ingredients and I was hungry so I went for it. None of the recipes was easy and they all seemed to demand that I get a lot of pans dirty and so a lot of processes and I was having none of that. Try to spot my short cuts.

I warmed up my new pan and, in this order, I threw in: chopped onion and red bell pepper, cubed chicken breasts, chopped spicy Italian sausage (no chorizo and I didn't want to go to another store) and then a half bag of Trader Joe's frozen mixed seafood surprise which what they get at the end of a fishing expedition when they clean out the bottom of the boat.

I realized I should have saved the vegetables for later but never fear. When done, I scraped all this stuff into a bowl and set aside in the warm oven and then made the sofrito which is onions, garlic, tomatoes and in my case, the last 3 spoonfuls of salsa in the container because it needed to be finished up. Once that smelled delicious I added my rice and mixed everything together and then added my saffron infused Swanson's chicken broth. I had bought smoked Spanish paprika specifically because I thought I needed it for paella and none of my recipes called for it so I added 1 teaspoon.

I waited until the cooked rice started pushing up in the middle of the pan and then spread the meat mixture plus some peas and shelled edamame because why not? over the pan. Then I moved the pan around on the burners to make sure it was getting thoroughly heated and after a half hour I turned the heat down and covered with foil and let it sit for a bit.

Keep in mind that I had been writing since I woke up so in addition to cooking I was running back and forth folding laundry and scrubbing the bathroom sink and generally enjoying the life of a woman who has it all (except for children, pets and a ski chalet in the Austrian alps).

The end result: delicious! My recipe needs work including being less timid with the saffron and paprika and I think I have some hot paprika somewhere and if I can find it, I'll throw some of that in next time, too.

Meanwhile, I was so tired on Sunday night I read 2 pages of my book and then turned out the light and then tossed and turned ALL NIGHT LONG. It was clinically awful. I thought it was because Bob wasn't home but three people in my office reported terrible sleep the same night so now I think the aliens are wearing us down before they start their invasion.

Last night I saw Marjane Satrapi at Arts and Lectures and she was fabulous. I very highly recommend Persepolis 1 and 2. But that means that I left the house at 6:30a and didn't get home until 9:30p which is close to the world's longest day.

Now it's Tuesday and I'm feeling tired and frazzled but apparently still capable of writing a long rambling blogpost. Is this a marketable skill?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I've never been excited about planting tulips. It's not because I don't like them. It's because they look pretty for about 15 minutes and then the wind blows and there are petals surrounding a green stem.

This year I thought I planted two batches. These little pink ones in back and the red ones (with one lone cream colored one ?) below that are in the front. But there's another bunch coming up in back and I'm not certain where they came from but I'm going to guess that they're purple and from an Easter gift last year.

I had another productive writing day and I would write more about that but I'm too tired so perhaps tomorrow. Other than that I got a couple chores done but the taxes are still waiting and a few other things I wanted to take care of have been ignored.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rain on the Road
Seattle Trip: March 28-30, 2008
I end up in Seattle about every other year and usually for something specific.

I married a man who was all things Bumbershoot when I met him. I think he went for something like 18 consecutive years. We even went there on our honeymoon. (We also went to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, BC. It's not like Bumbershoot was our only destination.) We've gone up for that. We've visited family and friends and gone to soccer games. I'm too lazy to look it all up.

I always love Seattle when I'm there. But when I'm home I think: I don't want to go to Seattle. The biggest reason is that I hate being in the car. At 2am it's probably a 2.5 hour drive. Any other time it's more like 3.25. It was raining giant snowflakey drops on this trip.

We arrived Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel and sat around reading (me) and blogging (him) and then we went to Ballard to meet some friends who took us to a fabulous meal at Cocina Esperanza.

The next morning we slept in and on our way to the Frye Art Museum we discovered the Yesterday Cafe.

Really it was called The Corner Cafe and it looked like your typical espresso/scone breakfast, quick turkey and chips sandwich for lunch kind of place.

It turned out to be much better than that. We sat down as Paul McCartney crooned "Yesterday" for us and we ordered and then we split the paper. The Seattle P.I. is an awesome paper.

We'd been sitting there awhile when I commented, "Wow, this is a long song."

Then again 5 minutes later. "This must be the extended disco remix."

Finally, "Is this song still playing."

"Seven times in a row," my husband said. The song ended and we listened. Silence. "Whew," we sat back in our chairs.

"Yesterday," sang Paul.

Finally a lady got up and stomped over to the counter and complained and Bob and I burst out laughing. We weren't laughing at her, we just thought the repetition of Yesterday was part of the ambiance.

Puget Sound

Bob doesn't like potatoes. I'm just learning this after 100 years of marriage. I like potatoes but it wouldn't hurt my feelings if he said he didn't like them. I'm not sure why he was so vague about it before now. He asked to substitute for a pancake. He said he didn't mind paying extra.

"One dollar?" the woman said. "Perfect," Bob said.

Later she brought out the world's biggest pancake and said, "The cook surprised me with a big pancake. I told him it was for a big man."

Of course we had to take photos and then the cook came out to see what we were doing. Bob was thrilled with his breakfast.

After breakfast we went to the Frye Museum to see the Robert Crumb exhibit.

My Bob captures the mood of the thing pretty well so I'll give you the short version. Stuffy museum, counter-culture hero: weird but good. I loved seeing the drawings up close and seeing how much white-out the artists used. This should be a D'oh! moment but I always think creating things is easier for everyone else.

After the museum we hiked downtown. In case anyone reading this has never been to Seattle, downtown is built on the side of a steeply sloping cliff. If you fall down you'll probably bounce a few times and then fall into the Sound.

We went to Pioneer Square and Bob said good bye to Bud's Jazz Records which is closing and I'd love to find a good link but wikipedia is letting me down. I feel bad for the kids of the future that they'll never know what it's like to hang out at a cool record store and flip through the inventory and chat with people in the store and see in-store shows. I understand the evolution of music, but I have some fabulous memories of hanging out in record stores.

While Bob was at the record store I went to Elliott Bay Books to buy books by all my instructors at Clarion West this summer.

Then I met him at J&M Cafe for lunch. This picture cracks me up because in my head I always think I look so stylish. Then I see a photo like this and think I look like an unmade bed.

J&M Cafe is way yummier than you might guess from the front door. And it was late afternoon so very slow and we got super A+ service. Bob had some plank salmon that was fabulous and I had a roast turkey sandwich and a big salad. And we both had beers.

Then we hiked straight uphill back to our hotel and had a killer nap.

That night it was rain/snowing sideways for our big old people night out. It was completely miserable. We chose our hotel because it was convenient to downtown and to Neumos where we had Bob Mould tickets.

We braved the insanity and found some Vietnamese food that was pretty good. I was still sorta full from lunch. And when we were done, it was way too early for the show because rock and roll doesn't schedule itself for old people. So we took our leftovers back to the hotel (and forgot about them, oh well) and read for another half hour and then went back out into the sideways ice monsoon AGAIN to get to the club.

Upstairs there was a bar and a coat check (yay!) and some tables and an place where you could see the stage below and a sort-of seat-step thing against the wall where you could sit. This is where we parked.

There was an opening band that I forgot the name of. Sorry guys! I liked them. They started at like, 9:30p and finished at 10:20p. Have I ever mentioned that my bedtime is 9pm? So we sat there and I was thinking: This is exactly why I hate going to shows and I was shooting my beloved the stink-eye because this was all his idea.

But I should say that I've been a Bob Mould fan for a long time — I have 3 or 4 artists that I've loved consistently since the 80's and Bob is one of them. My Bob was there because of me.

Mould came on at about 10:45p. And as soon as he started, all was forgiven. We'd chosen a strange place to sit but I could stand on the step and see Bob perfectly and played tons of fabulous songs including tons of Sugar stuff and I Apologize from Husker Du.

Very fun. Glad I went.

We were back in Ballard for breakfast with more friends and then back on the road home dodging the snow.

Posting will be light for the rest of the weekend (I imagine you'd be relieved) so I can do tons of writing.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

City and Nature

Yesterday afternoon I saw a bald eagle from my office window.

I ran to one of the attorney's offices. He has some binoculars that are more often used to look at accidents on the Morrison Bridge. He was talking to someone so I had to elbow my way in and as I dashed to the window he said, "What is it?"

Me: "Bald eagle! Bald eagle!"

I was not even a teeny bit embarrassed about my excitement. And it was contagious because he went down the hall and pretty soon half the people on our side of the office had their faces pressed against the glass. I think that's the 2nd or 3rd time I've seen one downtown.

And I don't know how the fishing works around here but this morning the Columbia River was filled with boats on either side of the bridge. And what a great morning for it. Cold but clear. Mt. Hood is out.

The forecast says it's going to be doodoo all weekend. 50 degrees and rain. I'm going to load up on presto logs and keep the garden tools in deep storage. My sweetheart is going out of town and I'm going to have the most amazing weekend of productivity ever seen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Focus Watch: Day 3

Look at my adorable scrawny little girl arms. This is 1972-ish in Hawaii.

Well, I'm still not focused or productive. I'm going to have to figure out a different approach.

Also, super busy day. I had a new project before I even put my purse down and poured my first cup of tea.

I still haven't organized the Seattle stuff. Big surprise. If you can't stand the suspense you can read my sweetheart's take on the Bob Mould show and his thoughts on the Robert Crumb exhibit at the Frye Museum.

The new season of Battlestar Galactica starts this weekend and Sci Fi Channel ran some pre-show cylon-nerd-porn last weekend that I've been catching up on. One is a show history. If you've never seen the show, you're really lucky because you still have that to look forward to. Don't start in the middle. Go back and start with the mini-series from 03 and then work your way through the seasons. Even if you think space shows are stupid I think there's a 99% possibility you will love this show.

The second pre-show was this complete waste of time nerd group hug of all these unlikely people like Brad Paisley, Scott Ian and Oz talking about how much they love the show. When Joss-is-my-master-now-Whedon appeared on screen my toes curled in geekish delight. I sat there thinking how there was no reason to continue watching, yet I couldn't turn it off.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I just had a meatloaf sandwich that should have its own national holiday.

In honor of its amazingness I've written a poem.

The Lunch of A Lifetime

O! Meatloaf sandwich.
How I savored
Our short time together.