Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's all about the plot

Yes, that is blood
Dear Khourt-knee,

I'm struggling to write an overview of a book that's actually about my life.  It's hard for me to know what to include and how to make it into a compelling book, because a lot of it is, well just my own dumb life.  I want to make sure there's a narrative arc, but I'm not sure my life has one.  Can't I just be myself?  Please advise.

A reader and struggling writer

Dear Reader,

Thank you for spelling my name that way.  It's all about the knee.  

No, it's actually not all about the knee.  If it were about a joint, my friend, it would be the scapul0costal joint, because it makes us so birdlike, and I mean that in the most grounded way possible.  (Have I mentioned that I always pick invisibility, never flying? And on those occasions that I'm forced to fly I regret it and hate myself for the betrayal of leaving the earth, climbing into a horrible germ-infested aluminum can, and breathing, deep filthy breaths, just to keep myself from screaming the whole way, "WE'RE GONNA DIE!")

Oh, what was the question again?  Plot.  Yeah, I know.  My life, too, is a series of random incidents, some lovely, some not so much, that lack a unifying theme or compelling narrative arc.  But let's just try.  Because that's what we do.  We try, because what's the alternative?  Waiting to die?

There are, as we know, two plots, one for girls, and one for boys, and I've put together a handy guide just for you!   

Try not to be bitter, my friend, because these are just the reverse of the same plot.  And, going on a journey, especially one where you're crammed into an airplane, participating in deep germy breathing isn't all it's cracked up to be. 

Now that you have your plot, just put it together.  Find the key points and the metaphors that make your story really sing.  Be sure to stoke the suspense by metering out the details and pacing things for maximum effect.  Don't add anything extra or you'll drive away your reader, but don't omit important details or your reader will become disheartened.   It's as easy as pie!  Let me know when you've got it wrapped up.

This may turn out to be part one in a series. 

At any rate, it was great to hear from you.

Your always, 
N'3lvra, pronounced Kort-nee, the three is silent

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie

I guess the Internet is where we share minor disappointments.  I have one!  I wanted to do something nice for my fine son​, so I started making hand-held pies from scratch.  Wouldn't it be nice, if you're a hardworking student, to be able tor each into the freezer and grab a chicken pie?

So I located a recipe, boldly, from Martha Stewart.  Because me and Martha.  

And I bought a chicken, and and bought new flour, because mine was stale, and greek yogurt because I had none.  And I made crust from scratch, and chilled it, and made the whole chicken from scratch too.  First, the live chicken probably did it's own scratching. And then me, threw it in a pot.  And I didn't eat the whole damn thing, the way Those Darlin's did.

And I rolled out the pie crust and cut it into circles, and even measured.  With an engineer scale.  And blah blah blah, smooshed them together kind of neatly, and made little "R"s on the top as a vent, and so on.  And it was going swimmingly.

I even started making bone broth with the leftover chicken parts in a cauldron, the way the cool kids are doing these days.

And then they were done cooking, according to the timer, but they didn't look brown on top.  So I put a tiny bit of cheddar cheese on there (yummy idea, right?), and turned it on to broil.
And then, alas, got distracted by going outside for just a minute.  When I returned, Isaw flames, actual flames, leaping out of the oven.  I was happy to have a fire extinguisher.

Sorry Riley.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Microscopes, Horoscopes, and All The Rest

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  Go watch this documentary, Pisces.  (Or, listen to the podcast.) It's about a guy who, after a head injury, creates a whole miniature WWII town in his backyard, and makes complicated stories out of barbies and his alter-ego doll.  It's like Lars and the Real Girl, but sadder, sweeter, more heartbreaking.  At first I was amused because it seems a bit crazy drag barbies around in a toy jeep to scuff up the tires.  But by the end, I felt different, maybe a bit teary.  It was so poignant -- a man creating friends and an engaged life out of plastic barbies to alleviate his loneliness.  I think we all do that a little bit, don't we?  

Aries (3/21 - 4/19):  I've been feeling the need to make miniature fire pits that I can carry with me and give away.  I'm not sure why but I'm fairly obsessed with it at the moment.  

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  What if you got dolphins, instead of endorphins from exercise.  Right?  Now that, my friends, would eliminate obesity.  Spinning with the dolphins?  Isn't that what we all want, from the very deepest soul of our being?  Do you think the tv show "Flipper" changed us all?  How about Mr. Ed?  I have kind of a giant crush on Mr. Ed, truth be told.

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  There are people who act as reference points in our lives -- the ones we consider before we act, the ones we want to tell stuff to, the ones who's opinions we care about.  In short, the people who matter.  Love those people well, even if you never see them, they die, they disappear from view or your life.

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  Here's an ethics question, Cancer.  If you are tasked with babysitting someone's sourdough starter, and it's been in their family for generations.  Like, maybe it was on the Mayflower, or in the goldrush, and under your jurisdiction it dies.  Maybe it's not your fault.  The starter could have just been in a down phase, like, "what's the point?"  Or maybe there was some malpractice; it's a bit unclear.  Anyway, the question, Cancer, is:  should you go get more starter somewhere and say nothing, the way people do when they pet sit a turtle that dies?  Or, do you fess up?  

Leo (7/23 – 8/22)I listened to a podcast created by a home organizer in Cincinnati, and my immediate thought was "thank god that's not my life."  House organizer, Cincinnati -- the whole thing sounds dismal and makes my life seem pretty damn good because at least it's near mountains and the ocean.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):  I saw this cool underground yellow jacket nest yesterday.  I don't know if it's as amazing on a tiny video, but somehow, there was a big hole in a lawn, and the wasps moved in.  So many questions!  Why underground in a wetland, yellow jackets?  Wouldn't you rather be in a tree?  Virgo, don't go underground, whatever you do.  Stay up here with us!

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  I had a chance to do an invertebrate identification class last week, and it was so fun that I've been longing for a microscope and a light trap.  I just want to study something, anything.  I'm not sure what it is, but I think its an urgency about how quickly the climate and the planet is changing, and I want to document something right now. It might be useful.  

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  Speaking of podcasts that you should listen to, do it!  Ok, but here's the other thing I want to talk to you about, Scorp.  Anyway, when I get rich, which isn't very likely given that I don't work very hard, there will be a round of microscopes for all my loved ones.

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21) I listened to a podcast created by a home organizer in Cincinnati, and my immediate thought was thank god that's not my life.  House organizer, Cincinnati -- the whole thing sounds dismal and makes my life seem pretty damn good because at least it's near mountains and the ocean.  But she's so encouraging, and she doesn't seem to judge.  Just take it one step at a time, she says.  She has no idea what we're dealing with, though.  

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19):  I keep thinking about her, my encouraging, tidy, Cincinnati guide.  I looked up Cincinatti on Google Earth, and wonder which side of the Ohio River she lives on.  Probably the north, because it looks like that's where the people mostly live. Is it flat?  How often does the river flood?  Do they have good wetland regulations there?  (Um, it doesn't look like they have any.  Gulp.)  And so on.  And this, my friends, is why she's a home organizer and I'm not.  I spend my time on random stuff and she has a plan and sticks to it.  Here's the thing, Cap:  I found myself buffing my flat stovetop range with a product that I acquired in 2003, and suddenly felt so vacant and unimportant doing that task that I almost stuck my head right in the oven, the way Sylvia did.  Alas, it's electric, so no worries.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):  But she told me one thing in Step 1 of house organizing, and I did that and it lasted for a second.  Step 1 is to put all the loose papers into a basket.  Every single paper.  I did that, and then more papers came, and then I misplaced the box for a few days.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Thoughts for today: A list

  1. Why was the radio on in the post office at 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday?  Was someone there, or is there a pet that needed soothing, or a squatter?
  2. What happens at a flag retirement ceremony?  There are posters all over town advertising it, bring your tired old flags and we'll put them to rest appropriately.  I'm so curious about who will go, what it will be like, and so on.  Lullabies?  Deep six? Someone go and tell me, please.
  3. Do Epsom Salts really soothe your aching muscles, and if so, how?  This, I believe, can be answered by the internet, but ugh, climbing all the way up to the internets again.  How many times a day can I do that?
  4. Why do I have so much trouble with froth and brushing my teeth all of the sudden?  It used to be, brush teeth, no big deal.  Now, each time I brush, I later notice a white frothy mustache around my mouth, as if I have rabies.  Is it something with my saliva?  Or my technique?  The toothpaste?  Or, as I suspect, is it
    a new property in the world, like gravity, that no one is talking about, but it's happening to everyone?  Big government, undoubtedly?  Or is this the first sign of my personal end times?
  5.  Will we ever stop gun violence, or is it just a thing we'll continue to endure helplessly, like the weather?
  6. The potato chips that came with my sandwich today expire on Christmas.  Duly noted.
  7.  Why don't I know what vermiculite is?  Again, sheesh, if I felt like it, I could climb back up to the top of the internet and find out, but I'm all out of breath from #8.  But I'm embarrassed to confess that I don't really know what it is.  Is it related to mica?  Is it bad to harvest it as a substrate for a cricket home?
  8. I just converted my genetic testing results into medical results and discovered some interesting things.  One is that I'm less susceptible to the placebo affect than the average person.  The good news is that I have genes that are supposed to make me more empathetic, optimistic, employ sensitive parenting techniques, less likely to have autism, and, best news of all, less likely to get Alzheimer's.  (Which seems to confirm that the toothpaste thing is a government plot?).  The bad news is that I'm going to die.  Eventually.  Probably of cancer.  

That's it. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Horoscopes and Peaches

The great wheel
Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  I listened to a podcast recently about how to increase your level of curiosity.  Lack of curiosity isn't one of my (many) problems, so you may wonder why I was listening.  Isn't that what we do?  Once in a while, listen to something that let's us feel the tiniest bit smug.  You don't see the guy who hasn't been off the couch in 3 years reading Runners Magazine.  But anyway, he said the secret to a great life is being curious (citation needed), and the way to increase curiosity is to go new places, read new things, create more.  Do it, Pisces!

Aries (3/21 - 4/19):  I very much love this book.  If the book were a person, I'd want to hang out with it.  This is the book I wish I'd written, and when I read it I alternately want to crawl back to bed and give up, and get up and try harder.  Sometimes, luckily, trying harder wins.  I especially like that it doesn't have a plot, and it's hilarious in a low key way.  Aries, hang out with people who make you laugh this week.  

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Oh, back to curiosity.  Apparently there are two kinds:  state, and trait.  State is when something piques your interest, and you're in a state of curiousity momentarily.  Trait is when you just wake up curious every day.  You know who you are, Taurus.  Trait is the secret to a long life, they say.  I hope that's true!

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):   A few weeks ago, I went to the Farmer's Market to buy 3 peaches, because yes, T.S., I do dare.  I just wanted enough to put on cereal for a few days.  The peach sales lady, if that's an actual job title, said she didn't want to sell the peaches because although the flavor was good, the texture wasn't.  She said she'd sell me a whole box for $10.  That seemed like a terrific deal, so I bought two boxes.  The boxes were filled with  gigantic peaches, each one the size of a small planet, which seemed so exciting at first, Gemini.  If I could do animations, I could have made a fuzzy solar system in my house, and then made something happen, like a total eclipse of the peach. Oh, Total Eclipse of the Peach.  If I could only animate.  Be animated this week, Gemini.

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  As soon as I brought those peaches home, though, I realized my mistake.  It was much like adopting 40 puppies or six infants, because they needed constant attention.  Constant.  I decided to make fruit leather, because texture doesn't matter.  The point of fruit leather is that the texture is, well, like leather.  But you have to cook it forever, and turn it over again and again, day in, day out, during the day and into the night.  And the whole thing is so sticky. Midway through the project, I remembered that I don't even like fruit leather, but I couldn't remember why.  Is it because it bugged me that it's always individually packaged in plastic?  Or that it sticks in your teeth?  Or, and I think this is it:  it's not really food.  It's never more than a snack.  "What's for dinner?" is never answered with "fruit leather."  So, that happened, Cancer.  While you were out.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22): But I totally had a victory with that whole peach business, which is that I froze a bunch of them, and then, rather than hoarding the way I do when I process food in any way, I used some!  And made a peach cobbler from this lovely book.  If I had a blender, I would be making smoothies too.  But Leo, my sincere apologies to make your horoscope about my peach issues and victories.  Your horoscope:  It's okay to sleep in a little.  No need to leap up in the morning.  Sleep is our friend.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):  I am very excited about this app, which makes decisions.  You type in the two options (for example, "Do I dare to eat a peach?" or "Should I take a nap?") The app sends a photon to Geneva (I KNOW!).  After an exciting little thing happens on your phone, it reveals which universe you're in.  Check it out.  I spend most of my time in Universe A, where, unfortunately, I'm not taking a nap.    
Can you see the black cat? Yes, strange doings.
I stopped in the middle of the woods to enjoy the sunset, and a
black cat showed up.  I don't think that's a good sign.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  I heard an ad for a video doorbell he other day, and it seemed like, well, how to put this.  But someone should have told that person that no one needs a video doorbell.  The deal is that you can see who's at your door from wherever you are in the world.  Alas, no one knocks at the door anymore.  Well, the Jehovah's Witness' come once a year on November 13 (They are nothing if not predictable.)  I think the world is going to end before they get to it this year, sadly.  But every other person besides the JW has texted, e-mailed, called, been invited.  Knocking on the door has gone completely out of style, just like skinny jeans.  Phew.  Libra, you should feel free to knock on my door, though.  You would be welcomed.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  I took this quiz; surprise surprise, off the charts.  Ugh.  Quirkyalone is still alone.  The weirdest thing is that they offer a class in how to get quirky.  Who would take that?  I'd like the class in how to leap into the middle of the bell curve.  At the end of it, I wouldn't be that person who spends her days folding paper boats and carving tiny people out of mushrooms for a video that will never happen.  No sirree.  I'd take the "Not at all quirky, not alone" class, and end up dressing like a 12, going to the game, and carefully minding my investments from my tidy little house that doesn't have a porch that's falling off. Ok, I really wouldn't sign up for that either.  But jeez, a class?  Be your wonderful self, Scorpio.  

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21): This guy came into the coffee shop last week and was just the happiest man, beaming and saying hello to everyone.  It turns out he's a collector of lava lamps.  Correlation or causation?   Sag, connect to your inner lava lamp.  And, connect to this book if you have a moment.  It's rather excellent.

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19):  This, from a reliable source: a local logger was hired to bring 20 six-foot long cedar logs to the 17th floor of the Amazon building this week so that the dogs have somewhere to pee.  It seems like we're in a strange part history where that could all come together:  there are still trees and loggers, and they're within driving distance of a dog population that needs a fake forest in a skyscraper because their people are too busy doing whatever it is you do at Amazon to go outside for a walk.  1500 dogs are registered to go to work at Amazon.  This may be occurring in the crack between Universe A and B.  It makes me sad that dogs have to work in cubicles and pee inside too.  It's bad enough for the humans, but at least they get paid. I'm glad I have a job that involves peeing in the actual woods, but I digress. Cap, be thankful for all your gifts this week: intelligence, creativity, friends and family.  Choose joy.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18): Every single thing we say to our children leads them to understand that they're good enough, or they aren't.  Keep that in mind, Aquarius, and let things go as much as possible.  Embrace the messiness of a deeply flawed world.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Dollar Store, and Lifting Up Out of Squalor

I was on my way home from Installment #1 of "Lift Ourselves Out of Squalor" (LOOS), in which I will be helping a friend, who in turn will be helping me, in the project of gaining some semblance of order and lack of squalor in our houses and grounds.  (Doesn't "grounds" sound fancy?)  I'm the sort of person who works around things that normal people would fix.  Like, if a lightbulb goes out, I stop using that area and move toward a different light like a moth.  If a sink starts dripping, I turn it off at the base, and stop using that sink.  And so on.  (The only thing I have going for me is that I'm not very aquisitive; I'm not a hoarder.  Oh, and I don't have a million cats.  That's two things, if we're counting.)  I like to call this being flexible, but it's leading toward squalor, and I'm super excited to have a buddy in lifting ourselves up out of this condition.  But that's not the point.

The point is that I went into a Dollar Store yesterday, which is the weirdest idea for a store ever; I was slow to grasp it.  Nothing is labeled with a price, of course, because you don't need that.  So I kept carrying things up to the cashier, asking "How much is this?"  And the answer was the same every time.  "A dollar."  What was kind of sad, now that I think about it, is that she didn't stop to explain:  every single thing is a dollar, you can stop asking, fer crissakes.  She just kept answering until I figured it out on my own.

It is the oddest organizing principle for a store.  It doesn't have a normal theme, like food, building materials, or clothing, but around a price.  Are people sitting at home, thinking, sheesh, I'm all out of things that are a dollar.  Where could I go? Oh, I know!

I was so amazed by the whole thing that I wandered around with a basket and threw stuff in it.  (After verifying the price with the clerk.)  It was almost like that coma I fell into in Target one day 10 years ago.  You know the one I mean.

What I bought:

  • A small square plastic box with 100 toothpicks in it.  I think this is a good deal, if you need toothpicks.  Which I don't, but still.  If I had mini-marshmallows, I could build a model of the periodic table.  
  • Six foil cake pans.  They came in groups of two, for guess how much?  Yes.  I think this is a terrible deal, but I need them to make special stuff for my bees, so money is no object.  I spent $3 on these 6 pans.
  • Two rolls of parchment paper.  I love parchment paper for all the obvious reasons, and would have bought it even if it were $3, because that's how I roll.
I've been thinking about the dollar store ever since I left, and realized I need to go back, because I was so distracted by the price that I didn't really notice who else was shopping there or what they were buying. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Duplicate universes and so on.

Things I don't know about.  In most cases, the internet could explain.

1.  Duplicate bridge.  I could look it up.  But first, let's think about it.  Does everyone, at different tables get the same hand?  I get why that would be an interesting way to compare skills, like playing golf on the same course or something (to throw in something else I know nothing about), but my questions are more practical.  Do you create decks that are in the same order, and then deal?  Or does someone set it all up ahead?  Okay, I'm going in for answers.   

Real field work!  In a pretty place!
The answer:  you deal, and then after the game, hand your intact hand to the next table. Now that's brilliant, and so much easier than my vision of some lady sorting decks of cards to match each other.  Duplicate bridge, it turns out, is a low stakes version of the twins separated at birth experiement.  (The twins turn out the same, I think.  It's mostly nature.  But you knew that.)

2.  How to animate well enough to make a short film of the refugee situation out of chanterelles and paper boats.  Do you ever wake up with a vision of something, and you get super excited, and it takes a while for you to remember that you don't have any of the necessary skills? I hate that.  I just tried to make a paper boat, and even that was challenging.  But I've got all winter...

3.  The Berenstain Bears Conspiracy.  Here's the deal:  Everyone seems to remember that it was called "The Berenstein Bears", but it's really "Berenstain."  This is used as one more piece of evidence that parallel universii exist.  

The symptoms of parallel universes include ghosts, deja vu, dreams, and people waking up one day to find things are just ever-so-slightly off. (Doesn't that happen every day?  Or is that just me again?)  Back in the old universe, where we grew up, it was spelled and pronounced "stein", but in this new world, it's "stain".  When did it change? Or, did something supernatural happen?!! (Insert scary music.)

I have the same concern about the color "chartreuse", which I thought (as did everyone else I knew, come on, fess up) was in the magenta family until about a week ago.  Ok, maybe 10 years ago, but still, well into adulthood.  It's lime green in this universe.  

Do you like the quarter, for scale?  That's a
whole lot of muskox.
Things that are making me happy today:
1.  This poem, sent to me by my daughter.  
2. This book, which is charming stories about insects written by my new obsession, Jean Henri Fabre.  Painter, writer, scientist, he loved  bugs and mushrooms.
3.  A gorgeous pile of qiviat, which is the soft inner hair of a musk-ox that was hand-collected in the
arctic by Ms. Pasta, and given to me this week.  I'm pretty sure it's one of the softest things I've touched, and spinning it is sort of like being on drugs.
4.  that exciting new find in South Africa, Homo naledi.  Oh to be a young, skinny, brilliant, non-claustrophobic paleontologist

And this just in!