Monday, December 29, 2003

Home improvement and holidays do not mix. Count on quadruple the time you think it should take to refinish floors, especially if a nasty virus is involved. Even when using the correct tool for removing base trim, count on damaged walls, split and splintered trim and gauged knuckles. Most importantly don't watch home improvement shows, they lead to grandiose thinking and the need to make changes.

Instead, spend holidays sleeping, watching Firefly and Pirates of the Carribean on DVD, listening to great holiday gift CDs and reading good books.

Off to Erie and Alan's family for the week. New Year's Eve will be spent with Chris and Elad(!) getting down in Youngstown.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Just in case you missed it.

IAF Website

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The 19th annual statewide Homeless Memorial Service will be this Thursday, December 18th. A walk from Project Offstreets/Youthlink, 41 N. 12th St., Minneapolis. will begin at 5:00 pm. Marchers will walk in silence, carrying signs stating the name, age and city of the people who have died. The service will begin at Simpson United Methodist Church at 2740 1st Ave. S. at 6:00 pm. A free community meal will be in the shelter downstairs at 7:30 pm. Last year, 150 people walked in procession down Nicollet Mall before the Holidazzle parade. 500 people attended the service and 250 attended the meal. The service in 2002 remembered 95 people from 13 areas of our state (Plymouth, Prosper, Red Wing, So. St. Paul, Winona, Virginia, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Mankato, Duluth, Apple Valley, Filmore County and Hennepin County). The youngest person we recognized was a 6 week-old girl and the oldest, an 82 year-old man. The National Coalition for the Homeless began inviting States in 1990 to hold services to honor people who had died. This year we'll be remembering over 100 people. Our focus this year is homeless children and unaccompanied youth. Much of the service will include participation from the homeless youth community. With dramatic funding cuts to youth, we remember that while most who died this year were adults (nine youth died in 2002), the second leading indicator of homelessness in adults is the experience of homelessness as a child. The service this year will include guest speaker, Bishop Richard Pates, of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, a candle lighting and reading of names for each person who died and an open time for people to share memories and reflections. Music will be provided by the Progressive Missionary Baptist Youth Choir under the direction of Twin Cities musician Jevetta Steele Dickerson. The holiday season can be a time of great indulgence. May we all gather to recognize the lives of others as we would want our own to be. For further information, contact Monica Nilsson, Shelter Director, Simpson Housing Services at 612.874.8683 x209.

Everyone welcome!

You can reach Project Offstreets from downtown Minneapolis by heading west on 11th Street, crossing over Hennepin/Hawthorne, etc., and past the turn for Salvation Army Harbor Lights/Secure Waiting. You take a left onto 12th Street and you will see Project Offstreets on your right. The march will begin promptly at 5:00 p.m. and will follow a route to Nicollet Avenue and then south to 28th Street. You can join the march anywhere along the route. The service follows at Simpson United Methodist Church (2740 1st Avenue S - on the northeast corner of 28th Street and First Avenue South) at 6:00 p.m. The community meal following the service will be in the basement dining room.

We will have only limited transportation from Simpson to get to Offstreets;
those who can arrange for a carpool will help speed the process in starting
the march. Offstreets offers a warm place to wait inside. We will have a van for a few trips to the beginning of the march and for a few trips back to Offstreets after the community meal, but again, in a somewhat limited fashion.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Will wanted me to post a dream I had last week. I’m not sure why, although I have been compelled to tell it to a few people already. I apologize to those who have been forced to sit through it before. It might be an example of lucid dreaming. You'll have to tell me. Will and Alan tell me I dream differently than they do. I remember a lot of my dreams and they tend to be very detailed. Some of them are fully plotted, material generating, fantastic extravaganzas. I've had some dreams that seemed so vivid and real that I've had to fight to remember afterwards that they were just dreams and not memories of things that have happened.

Thursday night, I started dreaming about being up at my parents' cabin in the woods in northern Wisconsin. I went outside the cabin and there were some big concrete drain pipes resting on the hill and some kind of contractor walking around them.

An aside here: [Ever since the land around our cabin was sold, I’ve been having dreams about the land being developed right next door. They’ve mostly been bad dreams about big tree tearing, earth ripping machines and clear-cutting. We were really spoiled for years and years because the owner of the land lived a few lots down and only sold land to people he liked or only when he needed the money. The lot he sold my parents was the last one that he sold on that end of the property. We had empty woods on our side all the way to the end of the lake, where there were a few hidden cabins. Behind us, the forest was undeveloped all the way back to a small lake. Its mostly deciduous trees (elm, quaking aspen, poplar, oak, and birch) with most of the white pine having been logged out over a hundred years ago. It was enough woods for us to play and explore and not run into anyone else, but not big enough to really ever get lost since you hit water or road eventually – believe me, we tried. When the owner and his wife died, the land passed to her son. A few more lots between us were developed but nothing past us. It went to his children when he died. Now a new big road has been added and the lots are selling and being built. We don’t have anyone within sight of us, yet, but it’s expected to happen sometime soon. It must be causing me a little anxiety if I keep dreaming about it.]

Before I had to do anything about the guy or the pipes, my dad walked around the side of the cabin and I realized I could leave it to him. At this point, a dog ran by me down the path towards the lake. When he stopped about twenty feet away, he changed from being a big black dog to my old dog, Burt, who was put down this past summer. I stopped in the dream at this point and said to myself that I was going to ignore the guy and the pipes and wherever the dream was going and just watch Burt. It was vivid. Burt seemed as real as he ever had been. A minute later, my dad made the same decision and joined me. I was very comfortably hanging from a tree branch with my arms wrapped around it from underneath with my elbows pointing downhill at the dog and my chin resting on my fists. I remember thinking, only in a dream could I make this position work. Burt was only sniffing around and licking himself but we were both enjoying watching him just be himself. After a while, I decided to test the limits of the dream, I guess I wanted more, and got down in a crouch with my arms open wide and called Burt. He came bounding up the hill and started licking me and it felt so real. I don’t remember what happened after that. When I woke the next morning, the dream was, and is still, as fresh as a memory.

I haven't talked to my dad about this, yet. I'm meeting him for lunch tomorrow and I'll let you know if he has anything to add.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Argh! My post just disappeared. This is a sign from heaven. This is a sign that I need to leave work. I am going to attempt to drive home now, but am starting to really crash from the monster cold. Alan, if I'm not home by 8 p.m. come find me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I'm just checking in because of complaints.

I'm battling an ear/sinus thing that makes me feel like I'm perpetually at that point in an airplane flight where your ears feel like they're going to burst and every sound comes through a bubble. Despite some some pretty good, creepy fever dreams, the highlight of my day yesterday was waking up at 3 p.m. with all three cats curled up against me. I'd like to think they just wanted to be near me, but they've gotten much cuddlier since it snowed.

We'll be prepping, sanding, painting this weekend (if my body cooperates) instead of traveling to Kentucky. You all will just have to have a good time for us.

The highlights of the past two weeks:
Highlight and lowlight: saying a very sad good-bye to friend and co-worker Jeronimo and trying to dance salsa with him without stepping on his feet too many times. Why is it that none of non-latino guys were willing to try salsa dancing? Highlight: a matinee of Master and Commander. Swashbuckling! Can't American audiences take having the U.S. as bad guys in a movie? I'm glad I didn't know about the change until after the movie.
Highlight: buying bright, bright colored paint, polyurethane (for refinishing the floors) and other supplies for major house decorating projects. It's only taken us two years to agree on colors for our living room.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

This was just passed to me to share with our shelter dinner groups and post on our website. I thought I'd share it with you since it's a good list and most shelters would probably like to get similar donations for the holidays. (Just a little nudge to think globally and act locally.)

Holiday Wish List for Shelter Guests

Backpacks and duffle bags
Kmart or Target gift cards
Passes to downtown movie theaters
Jogging suits (generally larger sizes)
A holiday card with a $5.00 bill inside
Phone cards for U.S., Central America, or Africa
Food items: beef jerky, gum or mints, oranges and bananas
Bus tokens and cards
Fast food gift certificates
Flannel pajama pants (for men and women)
Heavy duty slippers (for men and women)
Hats, mittens, scarves (for men and women)
Long underwear (for men and women)
The mystery of the missing baby clothes has been solved, not in the way I would have liked to have solved it, with the clothes going to the family with the new male baby for which it was intended, but with the clothes going somewhere tax deductible where they'll be used and appreciated at least. Said gift bag of clothes somehow got put in a large bag of donations for my employer, also given to us at the wedding, and ended up here at work where they were quickly dispersed to a family in our transitional housing program. Having heard the story, some have remarked that entrusting tasks like this to people on their wedding day is like entrusting them to crack addicts. Having known a few crack addicts who would have lived up to their responsibility makes me think this analogy is faulty. (Of course, I have known a few crack addicts who would have tried to sell the clothes just like anything else that found its way to them when they were short on funds and in need.) My apologies to those involved, especially you, Isaiah.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Per a couple requests, I was going to describe some of the highlights of my World Fantasy Convention experience but don't really feel like it now. I found out today that one of the women I've worked with over the years in the shelter died this week. I guess she was sleeping outside with some friends after an evening of drinking and choked to death on her own vommit. My only consolation is that the last time I saw her, I had time to stop and really talk to her. She was an incredibly sweet woman despite frequent abuse and her chemical dependency. When I saw her last, she looked pretty rough, as she had more and more over the past two years, but the photo in the orbituary reminded all of us how beautiful she'd been.

Monday, October 27, 2003

A few months ago, Alan posted a sign on his office door (at kitty height) in his almost illegible scrawl, saying "No cats allowed." He'd been having trouble with one of the cats spraying stuff. I gave him a really hard time about the sign. My attitude was that even if cats could read, they wouldn't let a sign stop them from doing anything they wanted. The sign stayed up for quite a while and whenever one of them would attempt to cross the premises in Alan's presence, he'd point at the sign and yell at them to get out. Yesterday, I found the sign down the hall in the bathroom with a big yellow spot of pungent cat pee on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Officemate John just got back from a fabulous trip to Europe (bearing Belgium chocolate - yay, John!) While he was in London they went to Jerry Springer the Opera which he says everyone should see if they get a chance. We talked a lot about Jerry Springer back when I was running the Women's Shelter. We'd banned professional wrestling at one point in the regular shelter because of the language and anti-woman attitude it had at the time. I applied the same ban at the Women's Shelter to be fair and Jerry Springer promptly replaced it as the favorite show after the local news. Although I don't know how you would quantify it, the show did have an affect. A lot of the women started calling each other bitches and 'hos. When I objected (because cursing is banned in the shelter and I just generally wanted an atmosphere or mutual support and respect), they complained that the use was affectionate and in fun and I just didn't understand. Some of this talk was just part of the normal street culture they lived everyday outside the shelter, but I know it's spread since Jerry Springer started airing. The worst part of it is that so many of the women think that whooping ass and threatening to whoop ass is the only way to handle interpersonal conflict now. Well, love it or hate it, Jerry Springer is part of the American popular culture now and it does seem like it would be a great subject for an opera. John said that the second half of the opera involved Jerry's trial to decide if he would go to heaven or hell. If it were up to me...
From my dad's fortune from lunch at our favorite Vietnamese place: "You are an angel. Beware of those who collect feathers."

Monday, October 13, 2003

After an absence of some twenty five years or more from my life, this suddenly reappears twice in one night, once at Jonathan Lethem's reading for Fortress of Solitude and later on T.V. (but darned if I can remember what TV show right now):
"The flood is over - the land is dry - so why do you wear your pants so high?"

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The longer I went without posting the harder it got to post again. I know I promised some details to a few of you that couldn't make it to the wedding. A few people, Barth and Chris, have already posted some things. What do I share about such a life-shaking event as getting married? Well, the last month has been a bit of a blur but I'll try to give some of the highlights. What I remember most clearly are silly little things that probably have no interest to anyone else, but here goes.

Of the two weeks before the wedding, I have few memories although they weren't very stressful just very busy. I know that at one point I found myself curled up in a little ball on the couch bawling my head off while I watched Sean Penn in I am Sam at 2 in the morning. When I read the marriage license for the first time, I was pissed off to find that one of us had to sign it to verify that one of us was a man and one was a woman. I knew it contained something objectionable because of an earlier discussion with Lisa but didn't realize that was it. I felt a little guilty and a huge traitor to the same sex equal rights cause when we both later signed it, but was too chicken not to. I remember dragging Alan's sister and Maid of Honor, Liz all over the place on the day before the wedding running last minute errands, especially looking for stir sticks and drink skewers. I waited with my breath held when Alan finally got to see the inside of the place where we were having the wedding, the Germanic-American Insitute, the day before, too. That was when we hauled half the liquor up two flights of stairs for the ballroom bar and half the liquor downstairs for the dinner/after ceremony bar. A day later, after the wedding, at midnight we were hauling most of it unopened back out to the cars. Talk about over-stocking! I would like to take the time to thank my dad, my brother, Dick, Mike, and the Olson boys for all of their hauling efforts. I think they also helped us lighten the load going home quite a bit with their earlier drinking efforts, too.

One of the highlights of a Friday night get together of family, childhood and newer friends was making boutinieres and bouquets from a variety of mum plants my mom provided. When everyone said I couldn't just put a bunch of different colors together for my bouquet, I panicked. I promptly turned over the job to the multi-talented Kelly who made me the most beautiful bouquet ever. (I'll have our own pictures posted soon but here are some others.) Liz and I went home and to bed fairly early that night while others went out carousing together. I'm one of those crabby/body shutting down types when I'm over tired so I think I made the right decision although I missed some killer drinks and some driving on the sidewalk (by the designated driver).

The weather was beautiful the day of the wedding for both the barbeque and the outdoor ceremony. I don't remember much of the barbeque except for enjoying watching the kids and adults play, shooing away the stupid stinging wasps and Alan hurting his shoulder playing volleyball. I'm thankful to the many people who helped out with it, despite everyone thinking we were crazy for having it on the same day as the wedding, and I am glad so many were able to come. (I will point out however that we were not the first ones to have a day planned like this. We were just copying.) I hope everyone had a good time. I think that I did.

We had a heck of a time getting the dress on me before the ceremony. I'd always had the help of a salesperson or the fitter before, so I thought it was a lot easier than it turned out to be. I had a long moment of clausterphobic hyperventilating in a Darth Vader sort of way when the bodice was stuck over my face and Liz, my mom and Alan's mom struggled to loosen the laces. It did slip on eventually, although at first it was so tight I couldn't bend over to put on my shoes and my mom had to do that. I almost burst into tears as I waited for Alan and Chris to take their places for the ceremony and I looked out over everyone assembled. My dad looked at me in panic when he saw the tears forming, but I was able to hold them back. The excess emotion was able to maintain its manifestation to a perma-grin for the rest of the ceremony. The grin was broken only once when I realized I was holding an extra copy of Alan's vows instead of my own. The very experienced pastor, Audrey, had insisted on getting a copy of both of our vows before the wedding for just such an occassion and so I was saved. At one point, Audrey had us turn to face the crowd while they helped her fill a cup of blessings for us. I don't think I could be happier than at that moment.

The rest of the evening is a big blur. I don't think I sat down for more than fifteen minutes total until the car ride home after midnight. In that fifteen minutes, I did manage to get a few sips of beer and scarf down my chicken. When I was pulled away from the table, I never made it back again. I didn't get any cake that night but Helga and her helpers had saved us two of the bottom rings from one of the cakes and had it wrapped up nicely for our honeymoon. The two cakes hid bottles of Kirsch and Green Chartreuse liqueurs, the cake and Kirsch a tradition from Christmases with my Grandma Price. I didn't get any of that, either, but I was glad to hear that everyone else did. Susan and Karen have forever tainted the macho image my dad's wood-cutting friends had created around Green Chartreuse when the two of them declared it, "heavenly" and "delicate."

Our first dance was supposed to be a waltz (which I've been a sucker for since college) but as Alan doesn't know how to waltz and we didn't make time to practice, we had the wrong song played, and we couldn't hear the music anyway, it was a bit of a disaster. The wonderful thing about photography is that you can't tell that from any of the pictures. After a switch in music, the dancing took off and that's about the rest of the night. My only regret, other than not getting to talk to anyone nearly as much as I should have or wanted to, is that I didn't get any pictures with my grandma, who left early, or with my family, because Dad and Steve were already hard at work unloading the bar after the dance. We chatted a bit in the hotel lobby with people before crashing. I'm glad we didn't wait any longer because the dress was almost as hard to get off as it was to get on with its laces that started at the top instead of the bottom. My hair took another full hour to undo. I carried around almost three pounds of bobby pins and hair spray on my head all day but it stayed up from 8 a.m. until after 2 a.m. so it was probably worth it. Despite my long search for danceable pretty sandals, I'd had to make do with some very low heeled ones which came off after an hour of dancing. I needed to shampoo the itchy hairspray out but was more grossed out by the dirty beer bar smell that rose when the water in the shower hit my feet. All those people trying to dance with their drinks in their hands!

We didn't make it home until nighttime the next day, after the overwhelming experience of opening gifts and saying goodbye to family and friends. I have a vague recollections of Kelly frantically thrusting books into our hands on top of other books they'd already given us for the honeymoon, hugs and kisses with Chris and Jackie by the hotel van, a last coffee at the MOA with Liz and Alan's parents, smiling with my mom and Alan's mom at the sight of the three men passed out on the couch, failing at our attempt to talk Alan's parents into letting us take them to the airport the next day and using the words, "My husband" for the first time.

We had short but very relaxing few days at my parent's cabin in Wisconsin. I got to do a little swimming, we took a walk in the woods, enjoyed grilling sweet corn and other stuff and, of course, there was lots of good reading. Our friends have such good taste in books. I'll include some mini-reviews of all the literary booty soon. On our last day, as it was the first time we'd been up there since having Burt the dog put to sleep, we had our little good-bye to our old friend burying his collar and releasing his ashes down on the point by the lake. A song from a honeymoon gift CD, Kamakawiwo Ole' Israel's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was the perfect accompaniment for our goodbyes. If you haven't heard it yet, or only heard the little bit in the car commercial, you need to find it. He blends the old standard with "What a Wonderful World" to such perfection that you think they were made to be performed that way.

We came home to find my computer wiped clean of all of its internet, router and broadband software, probably a virus from before the wedding. It was turned off the whole time we were gone. Alan had already been a few days without e-mail so there was some pressure to get mine going again so he could access the internet, too. I had to reload everything and that combined with work being so computer intense this past two weeks, I haven't had the motivation to work on getting my scanner communicating with my new hard drive and SCSI. I've spent the past few evenings and last weekend sorting through the multitudes of pictures we got from the twenty some disposable cameras we put out and some others friends sent us. Posting the pictures to the internet is going to have to wait until this weekend.

I was also spending considerable time cleaning out and going through old dishes and cookware now replaced by shiny new wedding gift items. Between myself and the inherited kitchens of both grandmas I'd somehow managed to accumulate multiples of many items (Who really needs fourteen muffin pans even if they cover all their assorted incarnations: nonsitck, microwavable, tiny muffins, large muffins, medium muffing, etc.?) and odd utensils with undivinable purposes. I cleaned out a large part of my grandma's kitchen shelves when we first moved in but avoided confronting the ones that were left when our own stuff was put away. We really didn't want to register because we felt we had everything we needed but decided to when people were really disappointed. I like giving wedding gifts myself, so I understand. I always try to give beer mugs and wine glasses if I can get to the registry before they're gone. Everyone who drinks beer should have a few mugs. Beer is just better out of a mug. A chilled mug is even better, of course. We have some now. I have to admit that when I open the cupboard and see all the matching, pretty blue plates and other dishes, I have to smile. I don't think I've had matching dishes since I was a child.

And so, we're married and although it seemed like the world should stop for a while and let us just enjoy the fact, it doesn't stop for anyone. Things have been hectic for both of us since we've been back but somehow I'm writing again for the first time since Burt got sick last spring. A few people have asked me if it feels any different being married. I didn't think it would change very much, but it did. I think we both feel that we have a closer bond now, probably resulting from a combination of all the work that went into the wedding and the actual symbolism of it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Despite headaches and other stress, I was much cheered by urgent message left by feverish dear friend. Just knowing I was thought of in the midst of illness warmed my heart.

And Gwenda, please send a little of your rain this way, please! Tired of droopy dying flowers, much much brownness and crunchy prickly grass.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Someone asked about the hawks. Yes, they are still hanging out in our neighborhood. This morning one was sitting out in the crapple tree tearing away at what was probably a smaller bird. They aren't congregating in the tree as much as they did at first, but their presence is felt. Their constant "kwee" cuts through the air as they call out to each other all day long.

Last night, I heard a burst of laughter coming from the bedroom and opened the door to find Alan reading, of all things, a poetry book. He reads poetry all the time before he goes to bed, but never with laughter. Before letting me read what he was holding, he ran to get an old anthology to show me probably the most well known of William Stafford's poems. Here's the two poems, the second of which made me laugh very hard, too.

Travelling Through the Dark
By William Stafford

Travelling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason-
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside the mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all -my only swerving-
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Traveling through the Yard
(for William Stafford)
by Rae Armantrout

It was lying near my back porch
in the gaudy light of morning--
a dove corpse, oddly featherless,
alive with flies.
I stopped,
dustpan in hand, and heard
them purr over their feast.
To leave that there would make some stink!
So thinking hard for all of us,
I scooped it up, heaved it
across the marriage counselor's fence.
Just emerging from a busy week.

I found out Monday that the headaches I'd been having since June were migraines not sinus heaches like I thought they were. The neurologist I'd been sent to see said that sinus headaches were relatively rare and they shared a lot of symptoms with migraines. I'd been under the impression that migraines left you wearing sunglasses and hidden away from other people after working for someone with chronic migraines for a few years. I guess they're different for everyone, and I'm thinking that "migraine" is another one of those catch-all terms doctors use for things they don't completely understand. After one abortive try at pain relief, we found a prescription that worked and the rest of the week has been much, much better.

Our celebration of Alan's 30th b-day was nice but low-key since he had to teach his last fiction class for the Loft that night and his last poetry class the next. We managed a quick dinner together and I snuck a cake past Alan to share with his class. With last minute advice from Richard, I bought him a good bottle of bourbon, and Alan enjoyed of glass of it before going to bed that night (after a quick internet search for "branch water.")

I spent Thursday at our local amusement park, Valleyfair, with four great teenage girls from our transitional housing program and another staffperson to celebrate the girls almost perfect attendance for last year. We were only there from 10 am - 3 pm, but I was exhausted by the end of the day. We spent the morning on the scary rides and the afternoon on some of the water rides. I got to try their new ride, Steel Venom, which was a blast - right to the edge of too intense but not over it, and finally rode an older, but previously unridden by me due to the lack of adventuresome friends, roller coaster, Wild Thing. Originally, I had been assigned to accompany some 6 and 7 year old boys (we'd already had a few discussions about the height requirements and how great the little kids rides were and how the big kids weren't allowed on them), but the numbers attending changed, allowing me to hit the big kid rides. After the mind blowing Steel Venom, our first ride, I was very glad we'd found a prescription that worked for the heaches. I did get pretty nauseated on a ride I've ridden many times before without problems. A friend said that she can't ride the scary rides anymore because she gets sick, and it seems to be something that happens as you get older. I've heard this from some other people, too, and am praying that it isn't happening to me. My dad always enjoyed riding the scary rides with us when we were little and I'm hoping to keep going for a long time, too. I have noticed that my acrophobia has gotten a little worse, as my mom's has as she's gotten older, but so far, I've been able to keep it from stopping me from enjoying anything.

Finally, congratulations to Barth and Lisa who are finally home with the new addition to their family, Isaiah!

Monday, August 04, 2003


We just got back last night from the Polonia Jam and our visit with Mark and Martha. Friday night, we visited the infamous Keg in Stevens Point and sampled its wonderful microbrews. Alan lost his deep fried cheese curds virginity and we got to see the stage where Mark and Martha perform their wonderful music on a regular basis.

Saturday, we arrived in Polonia around noon laden with accoustic and electric guitars. We spent part of the afternoon dodging rain, but enjoying Point beer and great accoustic music, highlights including Keg Salad and a beautiful rendition of Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee." As evening rolled in, the music changed to electrical and things began to rock a bit more. Highlights of the night time were, Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind complete with Mark, fingers and hair flying, going to town on the guitar, and the revolving Band of Bobs with their famous rendition of "Can't You See?".

After take down, we moseyed back to the campsite, where I collasped while the others ventured further down the road to Jimmy and Sally's place for good food and musical company. In the morning, Jimmy and Sally fed us a wonderful breakfast and we headed back to Stevens Point after breaking camp.

Back Chez Martha and Mark, we were treated to a private, accoustic performance of Mark's sci-fi inspired Captain Future. (I can't wait to hear the electric version!) As we sat in one of the Point coffeeshops having a last coffee before hitting the road, about half of the people who passed by the window were other musicians from the jam.

So, the Polonia Jam is highly recommended, especially since it's free. In fact, even without the music, the Jam was worth the trip just for all the great stories the musicians told. And of course, there's always Mark and Martha, who are also worth the trip. Also recommended is the upcoming M4 CD since, with the new band members, Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind is really onto something. If you want to visit the Jam, just remember to bring something to sit on or you'll end up with some very sore feet like I did.


In addition to excellent Polonia Jam, Polonia is home to a thriving Polish Catholic Church. Some of the buildings remain from the time when Felician nuns arrived in the community from Poland. The grounds are surrounded by a wonderful rock wall made up of small round stones that another website said was built by the orphan boys that lived there.

Just down from the church is the Depot Bar which hosted the Jam and right across the street is Sylvia's Bar. Next to Sylvia's is the Cafe. With a couple more buildings, this is the extent of Polonia's downtown. I didn't enter any of these places but I would like to try the Cafe next time.

Our camp was on a rarely used property just up the hill from the church. The large clearing had an abandoned white house at the end near the driveway entrance. It was so dilapidated that none of us ventured inside. After a brief peak, Martha and I walked to the other end of the clearing where a tarp hung over a picnic table. We turned when we heard a large crash to find Alan and Mark coming towards us a ways away from the house. The crash came from inside the house and no one had touched anything, so we don't know what caused it. Some things are better left alone and this house was one of them. We took a picture of the house and I'll share it once I figure out how to post photos here. Another thing better left alone was the outhouse which was listing to one side and sagging into the ground.

We decided to set up our tents under the tarp because it looked rain, which ended up being smart because both came through the later heavy downpours completely dry. The picnic table and tarp, and soon our tents, were covered with jostling, mating and fighting grasshoppers. Martha noticed that many of them were missing a hind leg. I guess being a grasshopper is harder than I ever would have imagined, if I had thought about it, but then insects in general have it pretty rough. We made it through the night with only one grasshopper in the tent with us. I don't think Mark and Martha were so lucky. Alan and I enjoyed our first time camping together and a brief respite from mosquitos. Martha thought it had been too dry for mosquitos this year but I like to think they really don't have any. We've all got to have our dreams of paradise.

Monday, July 28, 2003

A few days ago, Alan told me that he'd come home to find four hawks all sitting in the crabapple tree in front of our front door. They were all staring at the house and didn't really move when Alan came up the steps and passed under the tree to get to the door. One of the cats was sitting in the window watching the hawks. He said that when he had to leave later, he was a little afraid that he'd come home to find the window screen torn and one of the cats missing. Most of my experience has been with red-tailed hawks, and I usually saw them alone except when they were nesting. We've gotten to watch a pair nest and raise young a few times from the deck of my parent's cabin in the woods in Wisconsin. Obviously they had found a food source in the area or they wouldn't be hanging out like that. We speculated that Mr. Bun-Bun, with his normally free run of the yard except for one short scare by visiting Benny the dog, and his freewheeling days were probably numbered. I think they like the crapple tree because it has these wide sweeping branches, good for sitting on, and sparse leaves, good for keeping a watch out for prey. Every summer the its bark peels off and most of the leaves turn brown and fall off, but still every spring it gives us an abundance of blossoms.

I got to see three of the hawks the next day when they decided to hang out in the crapple tree again. One had the remains of a bird that it was eating and guarding from the others. Of the remaining two, one kept trying to grab a bite of the carcass and the other sat up higher in the tree ignoring the others and watching the rest of the neighborhood. Through a phone call to my mom at the cabin with her bird book, we determined they were probably broad winged hawks. The book informed us that they do flock (How many birds constitutes a flock?), they are about full grown at about 13 inches long (smaller than most other local hawks) and they dine on small rodents, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Mr. Bun-Bun was was probably safe although I couldn't rule out a possible gang action against him/her. I was now more worried about Mr. Toad who hangs out on our stairs leading to the front door and whose toad cave is in the garden terraces under the shade of the crapple. I decided to make friends. Despite Alan's shushings, I started talking to the hawks from the window. Occassionally, they'd look at me, but mostly just ignored me. (Hey, ever since Burt passed, I need someone to talk to while I'm gardening. Usually Mr. Toad and Mr. Bun-Bun keep me company, but I'm always open to new friends. The cats are housebound and do too much complaining back to me from the window to be good garden companions.) The hawks only flew away, not very far away, when we pointed them out to the pizza delivery guy and he looked at them as he handed over our pizza. He was suitably impressed.

Sunday, one of the hawks was investigating our little brushpile/compost pile on the other side of the house when I drove off. I don't think I've ever seen hawks spend so much time on the ground. Later that day, our questions about Mr. Bun-Bun were laid to rest when Alan saw a confrontation between one of the hawks and the rabbit. While the other three stayed in the tree, one of them tried to drive Mr. Bun-Bun out from under the crapple, kind of flying at him squawking like crows do to hawks to get them to move on to new territory. Mr. Bun-Bun was a little freaked out since he probably can't differentiate between rabbit-eating hawks and those who can't handle rabbit. The hawk obviously doesn't know a vegetarian when it sees one. While Mr. Bun-Bun ventured out, there was an unsurprising lack of other birds in the area all weekend.

From the picture on the Raptor Center site, they seem to be juveniles since their chest bands are vertical instead of horzontal. I'm hoping that means that they haven't perfected the hunting of small amphibians, yet. I've been down on my knees peering into Mr. Toad's cave a couple times but haven't made contact so far. I fear the worst. So, while we're enjoying their presence immensely, as long as they're hanging out in our yard, I won't be filling any of the bird feeders. Why make things too easy for them?

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Congratulations to Lyda Morehouse and her partner, Shawn, on the safe arrival of Mason Gale Morehouse Rounds!

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Happy Birthday, Chris! (I didn't have internet access yesterday, so I'm not really late.)

I found my appointment/address book last night, so I can call people instead of just posting greetings here. I'm going to make Alan copy all the entries into his book this weekend, so we'll never be without phone numbers again.

We had a very nice visit from Jeanne and Brett yesterday on their way across the country to Seattle. Benny the Dog was along, and it was great to have a dog in the house, even if it was only overnight. At dinner, everyone but me had walleye, which is supposed to be very good where we're at, and we all had a wonderful discussion about writing, St. Paul, Vermont and more writing. It was a treat to hear Brett say, "Flannery O'Connor" again and to meet Jeanne.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Happy Birthday, Gwenda!

Avast ye scurvy dogs! Johnny Depp and accursed pirates, does it get any better than this? Okay, I'm an easy sell when it comes to swashbuckling, but, I ask you, what story isn't better with a good swordfight? And what a hoot to see cadaverous Gareth from The Office with a tan. Last week, we had zombies, and although the story told was nothing new, it seemed to be new all over again. But, John Shirley speaks much better on that subject.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Alan has the featured story this month at One Story. An excerpt of this wonderful story, "The Child Assassin," is up on the website. I read about the magazine when it first debuted a year ago and meant to subscribe to it. It's only available by subscription, so I guess we'll all have to do it now.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Okay, I've decided there've been enough downer posts. I'm looking to start some serious writing as well as some serious landscaping this weekend and that requires good music. I'm looking for suggestions. What have you been listening to that's floating your boat? I'm looking to expand my musical horiozns. Lately, all of my new music has been gifts from Alan. I've been buying books instead of CDs.
It's after 1 a.m. and I'm still wide awake. I have a million things running aorund in my head at once. I'm sure some of it is about the dog and some of it is other things. I came into work this morning and learned one of our current shelter guests shot and killed another former shelter guest yesterday afternoon during a fight. It it was a fight over a woman, who has also stayed with us, and domestic violence. One of the staff called it a love triangle, which sounds so trite. A couple people had serious concerns over safety in the building since he was still at large but most of us weren't as concerned. A police car was positioned right outside the shelter during the time when they opened the shelter last night. I missed it all because of the vet appointment, but the police car would have been enough to allow me to continue like normal. It was extremely unlikely that he'd come back for his belongings anyways. One of the discussions I had today got me thinking. I was trying to explain why I thought some of the concerns were over-reactions and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I've been there nine years. Fights happen in the shelter occassionally, but they are between shelter guests and very rare. The few I witnessed were broken up by other guys as soon as I approached whoever was fighting yelling at them to stop. Everyone knows the penalty for violence or weapons in the shelter is a long time out, usually two years or more. It seems to work as well as our policy of treating everyone with respect and expecting the same in return. People tend to live up to those expectations. Those that fail are usually under the influence of some chemical or unable to because of mental illness. The only time I've ever felt unsafe was several years ago when I was working the door. When I opened it to let someone in, I noticed a couple arguing on the sidewalk a few yards from the door. The next time I opened the door, he was hitting her, so I called out and said we were calling the police and that she should come into the shelter. He must of let her come into the building, because the next thing I remember is standing in the doorway, blocking him from entering. He was over six feet tall and under the influence of crack. He pushed one of our volunteers when he got between the two of us, in some misguided attempt to protect me. I gave way to him at one point when he came in looking for his girlfriend as someone else arrived at the door. I didn't stop talking to him, though, and was able to talk him back outside again. He sat outside the door crying and I stayed talking to him while we waited for the police. I don't think he ever considered hurting me. Another time, we had a drive by shooting happen right in front of the shelter just as we were opening. A car with two young men had stalled across the street and another car drove by and shot both men. The driver of the second car looked at all of the people lined up outside the shelter as the shooting happened. I guess what I was thinking is that my experience has been that most of the threat to our safety has come from outside the building. It used to be a much tougher neighborhood. It's really quiet now and seems to have changed for the better, but it's still much more likely that any danger would be from someone getting into the building that doesn't belong there. It's a big old maze of a building and there's so many places to hide. The way I see it, what happened yesterday should certainly make people be a little more careful when they let people in, but we should always be careful. If we're at risk for this guy who just shot someone sneaking into the building, we're at risk from anyone sneaking in. It probably didn't help my case at all when I said that we've had lots of people staying with us who've killed other people. To be honest, I don't know if "lots" is correct. We have had lots of people with felonies but nowadays it seems like a miracle if someone who is homelessness has made it through drug addiction and poverty without a felony. Of course, the inequities of our criminal justice system and drug laws are a whole 'nother subject.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Okay, we are facing cancer. Poor Burt (the dog) does have a tumor in his bladder. It seems to be in a good place (as far as that goes) for a bladder tumor. The ultrasound guy was amazed that Burt is 14 years old. After checking all the assorted other organs in that region and finding them the proper size and shape, he looked at me and said, "If he were my dog, even at 14 years old, I'd do the surgery. He's in excellent shape otherwise." Our vet just looked kind of uncomfortable because she knows how expensive having surgery at the University of MInnesota can be. The ultrasound doctor went on to tell us that with surgery and chemo, which isn't hard on dogs at all, he could live a long time. He knew a shepherd mix that lived until 20 when they finally had to put him to sleep because of arthritis in his spine. Except for that, he was in great shape, too. So, that left me with going home to discuss whether to proceed with Alan. The next step would be a chest x-ray and then setting something up with the University. I'd told myself that if they found tumor, that would be it. Now, the decision doesn't seem so clear cut again. I decided to have them do the x-ray, it was only another $30, and if there's cancer in other places, the decision will be easy. Poor thing. We've been so hard on him when he hasn't made it to the front door, mostly out of frustration, and here he has a one inch by two inch thing growing inside him and blocking the way.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

I decided to post despite the fact that I'm a little hazy (and maybe slaphappy, too) from working late and my allergy medication. I've been feeling guilty because it seems like having people linking to your blog obligates you to post on a regular basis. Well, I haven't died. I've just been down with first a little post Wiscon cold (the ones who spread their love around know who they are) and then a sinus infection.

Probably more energy consuming than the colds has been our leaky dog, Burt. Burt is an old dog. The vet guessed that he was about three or four when I adopted him from the Minneapolis Animal Control Shelter where I was a volunteer. I've had him over eleven years now, and for a big dog, about 110 pounds, he's a very old man. He's been showing some small symptoms of problems since last fall when one of his liver enzymes was elevated. Because I've lost a couple of 10 and 12 year old dogs to cancer, every time we've brought him into the vet, I've been waiting to hear them say he has it. Alan and I think that part of the reason he's lived so long is we switched him to natural dog food around five years ago. (Gotta look out for butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). If you want to read something really disturbing, look at this .) Since fall, he's been tested for everything from Crohn's to thyroid disease and they haven't found anything. A couple weeks before Wiscon, he started having occasional accidents, especially when he was excited (like when he greeted poor Susan at the door and splashed her feet.) Medication seemed to have it under control but it got really bad the morning we were leaving for Madison. By then it was too late to make other arrangements. Our pet sitter (4 Paws in St. Paul) is a saint and we came home to find that she'd propped up our living room area rug trying to let it dry. The rug is now hanging over our deck and it's not coming back into the house. Does carpet make good mulch? I called the vet to go over the options again and really the only option left was to have an ultrasound or try the very expensive University of Minnesota. We tried the medication again to buy us some time while we decided what to do and it didn't do any good. We also tried diapers and ended up water proofing as much of the house as we could. I finally rigged up a customized doggy diaper that has limited our clean up a bit. All of this would be moot if he wasn't so healthy in every other way. He had a limp from fall to winter after we did an overly ambitious hike in one of the state parks. All of a sudden the limp and stiffness are gone. He isn't running into walls blind. He's always been a little neurotic (he is a rottweiler/shepherd/mutt mix after all) but he really hasn't gotten any worse over the years. So our choices are expensive or putting him to sleep. I know a lot of people would do it at this point, the accidents being enough of a reason. Believe me, if they'd said tumor or cancer, he might already be gone now, but they haven't. So, tomorrow we go in for an ultrasound. God knows what we're going to do if it doesn't find anything. It could still be something curable and that's what we're hoping for. He's had an x-ray so we know it isn't anything large, yet. Oh well, I guess that I feel like after he's been with me through a couple hard break-ups and two houses and an apartment (for a long time he was my only roommate), I'm not ready to let go. The cats and Alan aren't either. For a neutered male, he has been a very good dog to our three cats, and he has helped me wean and socialize six different feral kittens over the years. I just don't want to turn into one of those ladies that keeps a dog alive so much longer than she should out of sentimentality. Usually they have poodles, though, don't they?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

My dad e-mailed this to me. It looked liked it had been forwarded a million times already. But, in honor of all the teasing I got about my accent at Wiscon this past weekend, I thought I'd post it. I'll post more on Wiscon later as I'm still assimilating the wonderful experience.

<Idza HOOT, donchano.

Ven Two Minnesootins Meet Oop Nort On Da Lake Fichen!

"Crieps, cetchenenny?"
"Valleye ennordern."
"Oofda, bittenard?"
"Ya nohowdeyar."
"Vahchaoozin? Dalindyrik?"
"Fichen ondaboddum?"
"Oh, Vachadrinkin?"


Friday, May 16, 2003

Now that it's safely away at the printer's, I can announce that available next week from the Ratbastards is:

Rabid Transit: A Mischief of Rats

Wally's Porn Victoria Elizabeth Garcia
The Headline Trick Douglas Lain
Braiding David J. Hoffman-Dachelet Nick Mamatas
Gramercy Park Haddayr Copley-Woods

Like Chris, I think this year's chapbook stomps all over last year's. We are very happy to have Haddayr's debut story. You should recognize the other writers as new talents within the field.

We will be releasing the chapbook at Wiscon at a party on Friday night that we are hosting with authors Robert Freeman Wexler and Jim Munroe who both have new books. Barth is taking requests for dance music right now. Three of the new Ratbastards will be present as well.
Someone forwarded this funny, yet scary article to me and I had to share it. And here I was thinking Minnesota politics were screwed up...

Homeland Security Department Used to Track Texas Democrats

Monday, May 05, 2003

On Friday, I had a wrestling match with a vine. It threw me against our picket fence with such speed and force that I now have a big purple lump on my arm. All I really wanted was to cut it down a bit so we could restain the fence. Afterwards, it would have had our blessing to grow and multiply. I backed down for the time being because we were heading up to my parents' cabin in Wisconsin for my and my brother's birthdays.

Saturday, my birthday, I spent a good amount of time standing in rubber boots in the lake helping my dad put in the dock. Alan had on hip boots and my dad had full length waders, so I got the good deal, except that every time we found we needed something else, I was the one who had to run up to the cabin basement to get it. Climbing up and down the hill in those too big boots was really good for my rear end, though. Except for the dead squirrel, in good shape considering, floating in the water next to me for a good part of an hour, it was a lovely, warm day. I'm not sure where he went after that, although we did see a baby northern pike hanging out nearby. I get my accident-prone genetics from both my parents, but mostly my dad. We were working for a bare five minutes when my dad sliced his thumb. I think Alan realized then, comparing this with his own experience with me, that a Livdahl project isn't really started until blood is let. Dad was going to wait to put the dock in until my brother made it up, but when the afternoon rolled around and he still hadn't appeared, he gave in and let us help him. I'm shaking my head as I type this thinking, "Did he really think that Steve was that much better than the two of us? Sure, we're science fiction writers, and a little out of shape, but really, we are two people and I'm pretty handy." I believe that we will now be considered as able helpers for the annual dock removal. I'm not sure we set a good precedent, but my pride has been assuaged.

Monday, April 28, 2003

So, if I haven't been updating this, I must've been too busy writing, right? Wrong! I have been busy, though. Here's a little of what I've been doing: soaking paper, shredding pulp, dying pulp, dipping paper, making bookmarks, showing Alan what happens when you put a peep in the microwave, buying a wedding gown, finding new uses for the postal service's bat stamps, replacing fence posts, fixing a dripping faucet, fixing a leaking stop valve, setting up a VPN, watching Farscape and Stargate re-runs, buying and having fun using a reciprocating saw, listening to poetry, watching basketball, watching a little hockey, and reading, reading, reading. Most of it is too boring to talk about, but I did come face to face with my darkest fears while choosing a wedding dress. I'll write about that later.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Wolves! Yay! [yawn] Goodnight.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

This little Onion gem has been circulating through our agency causing chuckles today: Soup-Kitchen Volunteers Hate College-Application-Padding Brat. I hope it isn't just funny in the same way parts of Grosse Pointe Blank were funny to the three of us who were in counseling training together but to no one else in the theatre. That's not to say that the audience didn't laugh during the movie, but that we were laughing (loudly and hysterically) when the rest of the audience was silent.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The subjective use of dictionaries, or conversation while changing the sheets last night:

"... and then we have this cache (kash) of socks hidden at the bottom of the bed."
"It's cachet (kashay)."
"No, it's cache (kash). Cachet (kashay) is different. Like when you say that something has a certain cachet."
"No, it's pronounced kashay. Like in computers, clearing out the cache (kashay)."
"No, it's cache (kash). Here, I'll get the dictionary."
Pause. "See. Cachet pronounced kashay."
"Look up cache."
"See. Kash."
"No, that can't be right. Let me get your dictionary."
"I thought it wasn't a 'real' dictionary."
"Just let me look it up."
Pause. "No." Sound of dictionary shutting. "I hear people pronouncing it kashay all the time. Let me check online."
Pause. "You were right. I guess a lot of people pronounce it the wrong way."

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I am Big Brother II

One of the first lessons I learned when I started working the shelter almost 9 years ago was how to laugh at myself. I was in my mid twenties, looking a lot younger and working in a shelter with mostly adult men. I thought I'd have to be tough to earn people's respect. The first few times I got indignant or angry about something, after blustering on about it a bit, I was met with, at worst, outright laughter and teasing, and at best, puzzlement. I could see people looking at me thinking, "What the hell is she going on about?" My old Executive Director taught me how to take a step back and say, "I was wrong," and the people in the shelter taught me how to get past it. Really the only thing you can do when you're caught taking yourself way too seriously is join in the laughter. It was never unkind laughter because I think everyone knew my heart was in the right place even though I was a little misguided. You really don't want to hear about all the times I've had to do this in the years since then. Sometimes, indignation and anger were justified and many times, they were just me being crabby or misunderstanding or over-reacting. Humor serves many purposes in the shelter, and there is definitely a deep stream of gallows humor on streets, but I am proud to have been the source of a lot of your basic slapstick comedy.

I spent part of yesterday setting up the Internet on a few more computers in the shelter computer lab and checking the Internet browsing logs from the past week. I was irritated to find that someone had been browsing for porn and had been able to load some sites despite the filtering software. I was grumbling to myself about the abuse of privileges (see the indignation keeps rearing it's ugly head) when another staff member came by and pointed out that the surfing had been done in the late afternoon a few hours before the shelter opened. Suspicion quickly moved from shelter guests to the neighborhood kids in for afternoon basketball. I double-checked to make sure all the bad sites were blocked and went home for the night. My drive home was punctuated by many grumblings and shakings of the head. This morning, after a little checking, I realized that the culprit was a little closer to home. I had in fact been that culprit. The logs were from the afternoon I spent testing and trying to evade the filter.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Network for Good has links to humanitarian efforts in Iraq if you'd like to contribute. You can also learn how to support U.S. troops, donate blood and find other volunteer opportunities.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I finally had to admit that the stapler kicked my butt. I spent thirty minutes trying to fix our Stanley Bostitch heavy duty stapler. I thought something had just been thrown out of whack because someone put the wrong staples in the thing. The stapler retails for something between $37 and $60. It's not a huge amount of money but we're short on funds right now, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to try. I can usually fix things if they're just jammed or bent. I took the whole thing apart and I have to admit I was darned pleased with myself when I was able to do it. Most of the time I can find some kind of helpful hints or at least a diagram online for fixing things, but this time the search drew a blank. After a lot of trial and error with a spring and that thin, flat thingy that pushes the staple down out of the stapler, I thought I had it working again. I put it all back together and it worked for exactly one staple. I know what the problem is. The thingy isn't coming back up after it pushes the staple out. There's a groove in the handle where either the spring or the thingy goes (or a piece that's missing). Maybe the spring is supposed to pull the thingy back up? It'll have to wait until tomorrow. It may have kicked my butt tonight, but I'll have another go at fixing it tomorrow. I'm open to suggestions from any of you who are mechanically inclined.
Excuse my rant...

War on poverty not people

As everyone's probably heard by now, Bush has asked for $74.7 billion to pay for the next six months of the war in Iraq. The amount itself is scary. Even scarier is that he still wants a tax cut. Even scarier than that, is that the amount seems so little when I think of the devastation we'll be leaving behind. I shouldn't be surprised. After all, we are the richest nation in the world and we've done such a good job of helping to rebuild Afghanistan.

And then there's our own people. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has similar philospsohy to Bush's. He's made drastic cuts to Health and Human Services and other programs to balance the state budget. He still plans on giving a tax cut to the rich, citing years of government "over-spending." (Taking care of people and investing in our society is over-spending?) His rationale for the cuts to services for the poor and others, such as those with disabilities, is that Minnesota will still be more generous with its benefits than surrounding states. Like Bush, he keeps talking about faith and other community groups stepping up to the plate to provide services that the government shouldn't be providing. We already are and there's not a lot more that we can do. Last week, I was talking to one of the shelter dinner volunteers. She had spoken that day to food shelves in Minneapolis and in Bloomington. They've had huge increases in food requests, over 30% in the suburbs and 40% in the city. I'm hearing the same thing from all sorts of human service agencies. With donations, governement and foundaiton funding all down, many nonprofits are laying off staff and closing down programs. Need for all of our services is increasing, not going away. How Pawlenty expects us to serve more with less money is beyond me. More importantly, cutting assistance to the poor only shifts that costs down to the local level and often increases them. When someone doesn't have money for health insurance anbd access to healthcare, they tend to wait until a condition requires emergency care or they use the emergency room for things an ordinary doctor's visit can cover. Medication and treatment for conditions such as diabetes is a lot cheaper than hospitalization. Pre-natal care is a lot cheaper than the complications caused by the lack of that care. Providing a mat in a shelter is a lot cheaper than a night in medical detox. A night in a shelter is a lot cheaper than hospitalization for exposure or the effects of a mugging (sleeping outside in the summer is often more dangerous than during the winter). All of the programs for children and youth are an investment in making the world a better place for all of our children. I know that everyone who pays taxes would like to take more home, but everyone I've talked to agrees that this is a time to increase taxes once they've learned how deep the cuts are going to be.

You can give balancing the state budget a try on MPR's website: The Budget Balancer

Okay, one more thing, we just found out we'll be paying part of our health insurance premium to help cover a 40% increase in insurance costs that came on top of our other budget shortfalls. Personally, I wouldn't mind paying more for my own health insurance if I thought it was going to help pay for those who can't pay into the system right now because of health problems or for those who can't afford it. It doesn't work that way, though, does it? And with Bush in office, I'm not holding my breath for any useful healthcare reform, either.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Life is already a struggle, why make it more difficult?

I decided that it was not a good thing to let the start of the war pass by without a comment. Yesterday was too depressing for words, but I'll try. After visiting my cousin and her son in the ICU at Children's Hospital where he's been in critical condition for three weeks recovering from surgery and infection, I emerged to radio reports that Bush had started bombing Iraq. I had a difficult time transitioning from the image of this child in a teenager's body (he's autistic and severely mentally disabled) with more tubes going into and out of him than I have ever seen in someone before and his mother who is struggling to keep a roof over both their heads due to his many problems, to the idea of America at war with a distant country filled with people struggling to feed themselves and to get the most basic medical care. Bush's vision of the world seems completely at odds with and at the same time irrelevant to what is really happening.
Conversation this evening:

"...So it translates it into this pigden French."
"Yeah, pigden."
"You mean pidgin."
"No, pigden."
"No, it's pidgin. They used it in my Chinese history books all the time."
"No, you're wrong, it's pronounced pigden."
"You've got the g and d switched around."
"No, you're wrong. Get a dictionary... No, not that crappy dictionary, my dictionary."
"You asked for a dictionary. That's a dictionary."
"I asked for my dictionary."
"You said a dictionary."
"My dictionary."
"What? It's going to have words mispelled? Just look it up."
"There's no pigden."
"Look under pidgin."
Pause. "No, wait...I'll get a real dictionary."
"What? You thinks it's going to be spelled differently?"
"No, but it has more words."

"There's no pigden."
"I told you."
"No, no, you said pigden not pidgin. Pidgen."
"I said pidgin. You said pigden."
"There's a word pigden. There has to be a word pigden."

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I just want to say on behalf of nonprofit techies everywhere, thank you, thank you Microsoft for making my life so much easier by phasing out downloads for the only updated Internet Explorer browser version, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 SP2, that works with Windows 95. You made things even better by not incuding the phase out notice anywhere in the download or Internet Explorer parts of the site. Searches for Internet Explorer 5.5 on your site came up with nothing yesterday. Hello, Netscape 6!

Friday, March 14, 2003

Richard reminded me that my favorite episode of the Twilight Zone, The Hunt, was on cable a few nights ago. It's the one about the coon hunting dog and his master. Poor Burt the dog needed to go out, but I made him wait until they got past hell. It was only a couple of minutes. I'm just a sentimental, dog-loving girl.
I got some fun e-mails from some of my recent posts that I though everyone might like to see, so I took the plunge and added a place for comments courtesy of the Klink Family. Please post something so I don't look like a total loser. (I guess I'm still carrying some high school-like angst.)
The National Priorities Project Database Website has a search you can do on your state to look at Federal Budget Trade-Offs. For instance, taxpayers in Minnesota will pay $110.44 million for ballistic missile defense in FY2003. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 33,998 children with health care. It's especially interesting in light of the devastating cuts Governor Pawlenty is proposing to balance the state budget.
I Am Big Brother

I spent the afternoon yesterday browsing porn and doing internet searches on words like anal, babes and fetish. Actually, I was setting up internet filtering software for the computer lab in our shelter. It's probably the strangest thing I've ever had to do for Simpson. I'd already tried two shareware programs and found they didn't meet our needs. I was looking for something free (or very cheap) since we're facing a $100,000 budget deficit this fiscal year and that would use a filter instead of a site blocker. I also didn't want to wait any longer to hook up the shelter computers to our DSL line. The program I'm using has a built in list of words it screens for, everything from weapons and drugs to adult content and porn. I took about sixty words off the list because I wanted shelter guests to be able to access medical information and information on STDs and drug abuse. All of this effort is mainly to keep computer browsing in compliance with our no porn policy. I thought that there'd be other words on the "bad" pages that would screen those pages out, but I was wrong. When I started doing searches with the removed words, I'd get an eyeful about every other page in a Google search. Take the word incest for instance. Because a number of the women I worked with in the women's shelter (and probably a number of the men, too) were victims of childhood abuse, I wanted them to be able to access online support information for survivors. With incest removed from the filter, about every third page was porn. Drawing on the descriptive information so nicely provided on these pages, I tried expanding the filtered word index with phrases like "father daughter incest"and the ever popular "family incest." In the end, it looks like it's just going to be easier to include incest in the filter and unblock specific support sites. So far, I've had to add about eight of the words back onto the list and I'm only through the "i"s.

All of this censorship is warring with my freedom of speech tendencies, although I totally understand the shelter staff point of view. We usually have over seventy people in the shelter during dinner including children. The computer lab is in the dining room and very visible. We don't want anyone walking by or sitting nearby to get any unpleasant surprises. Originally, I planned on having people sign an acceptable computer use agreement before they could browse, but with only two or three staff on each evening we don't have anyone to monitor use. You figure out of 46 shelter guests a night and 80-120 on bed lottery nights, someone is going to look for porn or something equally offensive. Right now, I'm glad I'm not a librarian and dealing with this issue in an organization whose mission is to provide access to information for all people.

The filter itself, We Blocker, slows the computer down, often to a stall, when searching on iffy subjects. It doesn't appear to have an effect when you search on anything else. The program also lists all the websites browsed so I can check and make sure nothing's slipping through. Once I've got this computer set up, I'm going to have to copy the settings to five more PCs. So far, my vocabulary hasn't been expanded since the sites tend to be pretty unimaginative in their use of language. I did figure out that all someone needs to do to circumvent the filter is to use foreign language words for their search. I've already asked staff for a list of Spanish words to filter. The horror! The horror!

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Here's a very Minnesota poem by Robert Grenier. (Thanks Alan for showing it to me.)


Magnus massive
Dagny Dagny calling
call me call me

lazy prairie icy
streams, nicely
nicely nicely nicely Norwegians

vell I, well I
vell I, vell I
snowy vell I
vell I don't know

oh vell I, oh well, I
well I don't know
oh, vell, I don't know

Ah yah
ah, yah
a sod hut

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Sheryl Fred has an interesting article, Postwar Profiteers, about who stands to gain by war with Iraq and their ties to the Republican party at Capitol Eye.
I got this from a friend...

Upcoming Twin Cities Anti-War Event and a Joke

A Funeral Service for the Not-Yet-Dead in War. Gather at the St. Paul Cathedral for a brief interfaith service of prayer and a procession to the State Capitol at 2pm, Sunday March 16. Sponsored by Urban clergy and Churches, ISAIAH Church-based organizing clergy, Islamic Center of Minnesota and others. The demonstrators will show concern for all who might be killed, including: U.S. troops and civilians, Iraqi troops and civilians, British troops and civilians, Israelis and Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Africans, Indians, and others who will die of hunger, homelessness, polluted water and air as a result of money spent on this war instead of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and protecting the earth plus...

a little sad but true humor...

The U.N. asks President Bush: "What proof do you have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction?"
Bush replies: "We kept the receipts"

Monday, March 10, 2003

Has anyone not seen the resignation letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell from career diplomat, John Brady Kiesling? If so, here's a link. It's interesting reading.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

We have volunteer dinner groups come in each night to the shelter to prepare and serve dinner. The groups plan and purchase the food themselves. On lottery nights, when we give away the shelter beds in a drawing, they can serve up to 120 people, but most nights it's about 55 people. It saves us over $60,000 every year in food costs. Part of my job is to greet the groups a few nights a week and provide tours for anyone who is new. Most of the groups are from churches, but we also have families, scout troups, businesses and other organizations. Last month I was interested to see that the high school a few blocks from my house had signed up for a meal. When they came, I gave them a short run down on what we do and then a tour. It was a large, enthusiastic group, which makes my job more fun. After I was sure they were all set for the meal. I said good-bye. They'd signed up for a couple more dates, so I knew I'd see them again.

We got a call last week from the teacher who helps set-up the meals. Someone had seen an article in the paper about the death of one of the shelter guests they'd spoken with the night they'd served dinner. She'd been found out under an overpass and had probably died of exposure after drinking with some friends. The woman, Flora, had made a big impression on a few of the kids and they were pretty upset. Since I was going to be meeting the group anyways, I said that I would talk to them a little about death and homelessness. I've always thought it was important to be honest with teenagers about the reality that many of the people we work with face whether it's drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, violence. The life expectancy for someone who is homeless is around 56, if I remember my statistics correctly. Flora was right about that age. So, I talked about all of that and then asked if they wanted to take some time to share some thoughts or maybe have a moment of silence for Flora. We'll be remembering her again at the annual memorial service next December and I invited all of them to that. Two of the girls had written something they wanted to share. The gist of what they said was, "We came here to do a good thing. We thought we'd be making a difference for some of the people staying here. We met Flora, who was a wonderful, interesting person. She took time to share some of her life with us. She had much more of an impact on us than we had on her. Now she's gone but we'll never foget her."
Ms. Bond pointed out that the below phenomenom actually has a name, Street Light Interference, and that there are discussions of it going on all over the 'net. (Check out her 1:29 p.m. March 4th entry for many, many links - is she the queen of blogsters or what?!) So, I'm not alone, but am I one of many bored, paranoid people or is it just part of the squirrel conspiracy?

Monday, March 03, 2003

I've been conducting a study of sorts over the last three months on my effect on streetlights. This fall I noticed that lights were going out frequently just as I passed them or approached them in my car. I think it's always happened, but I just decided to pay attention to it. Since I don't normally get out of work until after 7:30 p.m., I've had a lot of night driving to watch. I've been averaging three to five streetlight shut offs per week, sometimes with more than one in an evening. It's happened on the freeway and on back streets, and in different parts of the Twin Cities. Once in a while, it's the same streetlight but often it's one further down the street or around the corner. Twice it was a stoplight that shut off. I wondered if it could be my car and not me, but then I noticed it happening when I was a passenger in someone else's car. It's even happened a few times when I was out walking the dog. It reminded me of the problems my grandmother has with watches. Any watch that she's worn stops working within a short period of time whether it's a wind up or battery run. The watch just dies. I always thought it must be some sort of magnetic field she's giving off. Do magnetic fields affect streetlights? Could they be hereditary?

Friday, February 21, 2003

Over the past few months, I've been struggling to understand Bush's recent illogical (almost insane) foreign policy. Last night, I got a few answers when I watched a Frontline on PBS about the ten year history of Bush's foreign policy. The show, Chronology: The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine, traced the battle between the evangelical Hawks, epitomized by Paul Wolfowitz, who support pre-emption and the more moderate Republicans, epitomized by Colin Powell, who support containment and international cooperation. The rivalry started at the end of the Gulf War when Saddam Hussein was left in power and, although the U.S. had encouraged rebellion, U.S. forces were told not to intervene when the rebellions were squashed. Partly in response to what they considered failed U.S. policy, the Hawks developed a defense strategy of pre-emption and regime change using American hegemony focusing on countries like Iraq and North Korea. Bush Senior, firmly in the moderates' camp, had the plan re-written focusing on containment and cooperation. The plan resurfaced after September 11th. The disaster seems to have changed Bush into a Hawk. While Colin Powell and the other moderates have been arguing that moving on Iraq at this time will inflame the situation in that area, pull us away from our true target of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and erode international support for the United States, the Hawks have been arguing that Iraq is a major threat, that containment of Saddam Hussein hasn't worked and that regime change is the only solution for bringing stability to the area. One interesting point that Alan made during the show was that Colin Powell and Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, both soliders, supported the moderates and the Hawks at the Dept. of Defense like Wolfowitz didn't have combat experience. While I still don't completely understand where the urgency is coming from and I definitely don't agree with the policy, I feel like I have a little more insight into Bush's decision making. The full show, The War between Closed Doors, should be available on the website starting February 25th.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Alan's science fiction essay, "The Dream of the Unified Field." is up at Fantastic Metropolis. It's already sparked some good discussion elsewhere. While you're there you can check out Robert Wexler's very good bread porn story, "Tales of the Golden Legend."

Just when you thought there wasn't enough speculative fiction attitude on the Internet, Nightshade Books has added a Ratbastards discussion. To celebrate, send a Virtual Squeak Ratcard to your friends and loved ones.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Our Minneapolis F15 protest attracted 10,000 people today. We marched from Uptown to Loring Park, closing half of busy Hennepin Avenue. It was a little cold (a high of 19 today), but we had bright sunshine. At the end of the march, before we turned into the park, the Basilica rose above us with its bells ringing - very beautiful. It was the largest protest I've ever been part of and the most diverse. The war with Iraq doesn't seem as inevitable now with so much oppposition.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Happy Valentine's Day!

While a certain someone watches Lizzie McGuire, I thought I'd sneak away to update the blog. Don't worry, he's sneaking in periodically (whether I want him to or not) to give me updates. I had a lovely day with very nice gifts from my significant other. They included a couple of CDs and a book about the neuroscience of Love. The book might not seem romantic to most people, but he must know me well because I thought it was sweet. I can't wait to read it.

Yesterday, someone came home with a new writing notebook...
I am the perfect writer's notebook. I am just the right size so you carry me with you always. I am green with snails and beautifully retro. Open me. My pages are the perfect width, so pretty and inviting. Your sentences will flow across me. My spiral binding lets you place me flat, but unlike regular spiral notebooks, my pages never catch. I am peerless. You would pay anything for me, but you don't have to as I'm reasonable priced. Once I'm yours, you are in Heaven. But wait. I am from Spain. You will never be able to find another one of me. Open me again. Look at the first page. Each word you write needs to be worthy of me. Think carefully. There's no space to waste. It is the beginning of the end.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Last Thursday, I finally had to admit that the winter cold had kicked my butt so I went to the doctor for the second time. The antibiotic prescription I got helped with the sinus infection but all the other parts of the virus continue. I'm still congested and I feel like sleeping all day long. I've spent most of the time that I wasn't working, doing just that with little bouts of reading and T.V. in between. Despite a series of sick days, I somehow managed to upgrade the server and several workstations to Windows 2000 at work. I spent so many hours troubleshooting, that I burned myself out and stayed completely away from the computer when I was home. Those are my excuses, and thank you to those of you who e-mailed to say you missed me.

Our cable was installed just in time for the virus induced veg-fest. I'm now completely addicted to The Osbournes (it makes me laugh) and Made (I'm a sucker for an underdog) and Farscape (Yay, for SciFi channel holiday marathons which allowed me to catch up on the series!) which were all new to me. I'm not sure I can go back to pre-cable days when my only addictions were Eastenders, Stargate and Angel. Alan's also got me watching The Shield. Too much TV!

All the veg time was not wasted, though, because as soon as the sinus headache and fever periods passed, I could read. The recommended reads from my sick bed include: The Translator by John Crowley (wonderful), Things That Never Happen by M. John Harrison (The stories are in order chronologically. I found his earlier work a little slow but was wowed by his later work.) and Philip Pullman's Dark Matter series (I'm on the second book and loving it). I also enjoyed the latest book in Cherryh's Foreigner series. It's my one ongoing series addiction other than the Anita Blake books.

Other news: Susan's added a comment section to her blog. There seems to be a lively discussion on speculative fiction going with many, many posts.

Go out and buy the latest Third Alternative. It looks great and includes new stories by John (Johnzo) Aegard and Brian Aldiss. I'm going to read it tonight if I can tear myself away from The Subtle Knife for a little while.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

We got a little snow last night. It seemed almost retaliation for my rant. We'll give you snow, just a little, just enough to remind you how pretty everything can be in winter. It did snow long enough for my retired neighbor to go out and shovel twice. I'm not sure if he got more than an inch of the shovel wet.

The dreaded winter cold remains about the same. I slept a little better last night because I was under the influence of an assortment of over the counter drugs. I spent the daytime hours of the last two days watching T.V., because I'm unable to concentrate or sleep. Most of the time I stared at the wall around the T.V., dreaming of the funky, built-in shelves I want there and the power tools I'll need to build them. I've probably been watching too many of those trading rooms decorating shows and have gotten too ambitious. Yes, I can make anything out of MDF!

Friday, January 24, 2003

To the rest of the country: We scorn your snow. Here, we know that winter isn't snow. Snow usually means balmy days above zero. Nights with clouds are warmer than clear nights. Here, true winter is the bright, sunny two weeks in January when we enter the deep freeze. We measure these days by the wind chill. Without wind, we can convince ourselves it's not so bad. You step outside and your nostrils instantly freeze shut, thus preventing the dry cold from sucking all the moisture out of your body. Gloves and boots that normally keep you toasty warm, barely keep you from frostbite as you wait for your car heater to catch up or as you sprint into the nearest building. You can keep your stupid snow. The winter carnival will go on. (I wouldn't mind the cold so much if we weren't all sick. Cough. Cough.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

We received a very nice memo at work today outlining the measures management was taking to address our fundraising/budget shortfall. One was that full-time staff will have the option of going down to 36 hours per week while keeping full benefits. With a few other cuts, we're hoping that that enough people take advantage of this to make up the shortfall. I would like to do it, but the pay cut is a little scary. Four extra hours a week for writing would be very nice. Anyways, for those of you who are doing well, please don't forget that nonprofits all over the country are facing decreased individual and foundation giving as well cuts in government funding. We need your support more than ever.

In keeping with the budget cut theme, I'm jumping on the list bandwagon and sharing my favorite free utilities for PCs. These programs make working with donated PCs and no technology budget to speak of a lot easier. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Pdf995 You can create .pdf files from MS Office applications with this program. The free version gives you an Internet pop-up ad every time you use it. For $9.95 you can get a license key to turn the advertising off. Since Adobe doesn't provide a nonprofit discount on Acrobat, this is a huge savings.

2. Adobe Acrobat Reader
For most people, this one's been an essential for years. Even if you don't need to create .pdf files, if you use the Internet you're going to need to be able to read them. I'm constantly amazed by the number of I work with who aren't familiar with .pdf files until they need to download and read them.

3. Aladdin Stuffit Expander
This program unzips compressed .zip files and will run on a variety of platforms. If you haven't got a program like Winzip preloaded, this is the free alternative. I'm still running into people who don't know what this is until they receive a zipped file attached to an e-mail. You can purchase the full version, Stuffit, that allows you to zip files starting at $24.99 for the home version.

4. Diskeeper Lite
Windows NT and 2000 need defragmenting just like earlier Windows version even though they say they don't. I noticed an immense difference in speed the first time I ran Diskeeper Lite on a Windows NT machine. You have to register to use it but it's worth it. I dream of someday installing the full version which automates the defragmentation on all the PCs in our network. Diskeeper starts at $29.95 for the home version.

5. Sysinternals PageDefrag
Diskeeper Lite can't touch the paging files and registry hives which also tend to bloat on Windows NT, 200 and XP. Pagedefrag will defragment those files on start-up.

6. Spybot Search & Destroy
I've used a few different spyware detectors/removers but found this one the easiest and fastest. I used it last week to clear up a Xupiter infestation on a workstation. I'm still not sure how it got through our safeguards, but it was gone in minutes with Spybot. Patrick M. Kolla and his PepiMK Software have made this available as freeware but it works so well, I think everyone will want to make a donation to him. He needs it to pay for bandwith, etc.

Okay, this isn't a program, but it's been my most visited website (outside of Compaq and Miscrosoft - ewww!) while working on donated computers. It's never let me down in a search for a device driver I needed, no matter how obscure. You have to sort through some chaff but it's well worth it to search their driver listings before going anywhere else for older PC drivers. You have to register and then sign-in to use it.
I had the kind of weekend you can only have when you know you have Monday off. Hardly accomplished anything. Can I still blame it on the pleurisy? It's still there lurking, a dull ache that will grow as soon as I go off the anti-inflammatories again. I slept a lot. Dreamt of kitties, reconciling with estranged friends, and getting yelled at for walking around in an elegant, old mansion barefoot. In the mansion dream, I lied and said that the sole fell off my sandal and I was waiting for the glue to set. The woman scolding me wasn't buying it for a second.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

I found the Viking kitties doing a search on Led Zeppelin's Immigrant's Song. Alan says, "basically a step up from dancing hamsters," but it made me laugh. If you like the Vikings, you should check out the other kitty bands.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Another good quote that I couldn't resist sharing.
From the editors at Scientific American in their Feburary 2003 issue editorial on the politics of vaccinations, "Critics may gripe about whether the new Homeland Security Act fights terrorism well, but no one can say it doesn't do a great job of protecting drug companies from autistic children."
Minnesota Public Radio played a portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Beyond Vietnam speech from April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York in honor of Monday's remembrance. It was given a month before I was born, over thirty five years ago, but it's as relevant as ever. Here's my favorite quote, "... A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such..." You can listen to archives of the show on MPR.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Rain Taxi has posted Alan DeNiro and Kelly Everding's interview with Jonathon Carroll from World Fantasy last fall. What a treat!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

I spent part of my vacation reading Jack Cady's The Hauntings of Hood Canal (St. Martin's Press - 2001), a damn fine book. I drove Alan crazy by constantly stopping to read him lines of dialogue and excerpts from the novel. I snuggled into bed to read each night with a sense of expectation that I haven't felt in a long time. I was reading good collections by Millhauser and Brockmeier at the same. I enjoyed them, but they didn't pay off in the pure pleasure department like Cady did. I also recommend Cady's short story collection, The Night We Buried Road Dog (DreamHaven) -- one of the highlights of 1998. I'm going to the bookstore tonight to see what else of his I can find.