Monday, August 23, 2004

I got behind in everything over the last few weeks. The clutter on my desk has spilled over and is making a bid to take over and force out my two officemates. I succeeded in not adding anything more to the pile but did nothing today to reduce it. I did make progress on the laundry over the weekend, and after tearing more of the garage ceiling out, have determined that the bathtub is leaking from pipes going into the tub and not out of the tub as previously suspected, or possibly, is leaking from both places. Fixing the leak is going to require removing the faucets and pulling off the tub surround, so... Did I mention that I made good progress on the laundry this weekend?

Anyway, I started getting caught up on blogs and e-mails this weekend, and found Gwenda's links on the Dairy Queen Moolatte controversy. I was dismayed at first and then amused. The interview with the Dairy Queen executive was painful to read. Dairy Queen is based in my hometown, Bloomington, so I can understand why he didn't recognize the critic's sarcasm at first. I've never encountered the word "mulatto" outside of books and film. (In this part of the country, sadly, to most people, if you are black, you are black and that's that, there's no need for further distinctions.) Who knows why he didn't seem to get it after a couple of sentences? I have had at least three conversations with African American and other co-workers on the subject of Moolattes and other iced coffee drinks and none of us ever made the connection. I wonder if it's because like me, in their minds, they stretch out the Moo to be a cow sound and are heavy on the -te. I always felt silly ordering it before on my once every few weeks splurge, now I'll feel a little more guilty, too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Diversicon was a fun, relaxed convention with friendly people and interesting panels. We've decided that this will be an annual event on our calendar and now we hope to draw as many others to it as we can. At about 120 attendees, there's plenty of room and it's easy on the pocketbook. The auction had a lot of great stuff that went cheap. We got a load of books, DVDs and video tapes for only $30. When I was writing out the check, I felt a little guilty, but only a little since we so recently faced one of us being out of work. My favorite item was a video tape of Scaramouche (and also Waterloo) for only $1 (or was it $2?) When Eric announced this pairing, mine was the only bid and my arm (probably the one that sometimes pretends it's accustomed to holding a sword) shot up completely on it's own accord. The auction was followed by a concert by Keg Salad, a band that you need to see, along with its sister band, Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind, if you ever get a chance. In addition, there was scotch, there was beer, there were readings, there were movies, there were books, there was poetry and we were there with 'zines and chapbooks.

Friday, August 13, 2004

A very good end to the day and the week. Alan may no longer be unemployed, I received a promotion, the cats already are starting to get along better thanks to the Feliway, my review copy of the The Anchor Book of New Amercian Short Stories (edited by Ben Marcus) arrived, I received a beautiful box of new managed network cards courtesy of FedEx and 2BuyStore to replace the ones we lost to the lightning strike, and I got the great feeling of accomplishment and closure that comes from solving a nagging tech problem before I had to leave for the day. (I spent the free moments of the day wrangling with one of those nasty browser hijackers on a friends laptop. Stupid little ziphelp.exe file. I'll post details later tonight, since the only full instructions I found on removing it were in German. We love you designers of Hijack This!)

After evening drinks at Kieran's last night to say good-bye to co-worker, former boss and buddy John, I met up with Alan, Mark, Martha and others at Dulonos. We'll be spending the weekend at Diversicon where Mark is the Special Guest. In addition to catching up a little with Mark and Martha, I had a great discussion with Steve and Shari about sleep disorders, met Guest of Honor S.P. Somtow, who is fascinating, and Alan and I signed up for a table at the convention, which will lead to us actually saving money on memberships. Mark and Martha will be playing for us in their Keg Salad incarnation on Saturday, otherwise I have no set plans for the whole weekend. Yay!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

It's been a really nice weekend so far. I've been sitting on the couch with my laptop watching the end of Bringing up Baby and catching up on everyone's blogs in kind of a blissful haze. Despite Alan's being laid off earlier this week, we managed a nice birthday celebration for him on Friday. In the evening, we went to see the Bourne Supremacy (I loved the car chase scenes!) which he bypassed last weekend to see The Village as an indulgence for me. It was dinner time after the movie, but we'd filled up on popcorn so we went and did some writing at a local bookstore/coffee shop. Alan is working on an epic poem - I'm not sure that's the right term for it but I mean epic in the sense that it's really long. While I struggled to find some focus, he was writing away and would look every up once and a while ask something like, "How do you spell chrysanthemum?" and then go back to writing. We found a really good book called, cat vs. cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat. Ever since we lost our dog last summer to cancer, our house has been a war zone with our three cats playing the roles of Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. I've only read two chapters but I've already discovered that the litterboxes were most likely disputed territory with the dominant cat sprawling nearby probably preventing access to them when we thought he was just lounging. The man behind the counter at the bookstore asked me if I had cats. I laughed and said I had too many and explained the situation. He looked kind of sad and longing and said, "I love cats." When I told Alan about it later, he said I should have offered him one of ours. We looked at all three and worked through various scenarios. In all three cases, removal of one of the felines resulted in detente, but then we were faced with which one and, of course, that's an impossible question. (Tonight, the two aggressors are sprawled in their favorite spots looking cute. It's a deceiving cuteness, though, since the terrorized one is conspicuously missing. He disappeared after an incident a little while ago that occurred out of my sight but involved a mad scramble and some hissing.) After the bookstore, we had takeout at home and watched Secret Window on pay per view. It was the only movie on at that time and I had wanted to see it after seeing a preview (and for Johnny Depp), but this one was one I should have waited to see on free cable. Today we headed over to my parent's house to say good-bye to the Asia-dwelling contigent of the family. They're heading back to Beijing to get ready for school. My cousin will be starting college at Wellesley and her brother will be back to highschool. It makes me feel so old to think that I was in college and in Tokyo with them when he was born. We had a few good games of croquet, good conversation (including some strong mixed views on The Village), and a great turkey dinner with lots of leftovers to take home. The spooky kitty just came out of hiding to let me know it's time for their last feeding and it's probably time for me to stop rambling and go to bed. First, I suppose I should weigh in a little on The Village. I never really paid much attention to the M. Night hullabaloo, although I've seen all the movies. A trailer of The Village gave me the chills and provided a couple nights of very creative, creepy nightmares, something that hasn't happened since I was young and watching Mel's Matinee, a show that I found out was also an influence on the Coen Brothers. So, while I watched, there was already a fond spot in my mind for the "movie that could have been" which made me a more generous viewer. Occasionally, the "movie that was" tipped its hat to the "movie that could have been" and once or twice it rose above it. Mostly, it was just a very different movie, one that never bored me, had a lot of suspenseful moments, was beautifully filmed and acted, and ultimately, although in my opinion an enjoyable movie, wasn't as good as it could have been.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Happy Birthday, Alan!
I noticed recently that time lags in my blog directly relate to increases in workplace stress. It has been a stressful month, even with a vacation thrown in the middle. Anyways, this made me angry enough to interrupt work to post.

Asian American Journalist Association's Statement on Cheney Campaign Background Checks

Thursday, July 15, 2004

It's the tail end of a tough series of days strung together with wonderful little moments like Kelly Everding's release party for her wonderful poetry chapbook (which I'll link to when I find it), a beautiful Sunday in Wisconsin at the cabin with my family, trying Moolattes at different Dairy Queen's (they were all different thicknesses, tastes, all good, but the local Oakdale DQ makes the best) and lots of great reading. I'd gotten spoiled at work with our little patchwork network of donated and cheap components working pretty well lately. We lost remote access from the Women's Shelter a few weeks ago and it took me two weeks to trace it to a malfunctioning network card in the server. TECHY STUFF FOLLOWS The card was pingable right up until the very end when it finally died and had earlier passed the manufacturer's diagnostics. I was mostly focused on the firewall and VPN configuration because I'd installed a software upgrade about the time we lost the connection. I had just fixed the problem and had started getting caught up on other things when we got hit by lightning Sunday morning when the big storm rolled through the Twin Cities. It brought down part of a plaster ceiling in the closet next to my desk and burned out a switch, a hub and most of our network cards, thankfully only appearing as a power spike on our server UPS log. I ran out right away to get a new switch which was the first piece of equipment along the path of destruction, trying not to be too crabby with the snobby sales clerk who said I should have had it plugged into a surge protector. (It was - and they're not a whole lot of protection when it's a direct hit.) Because I've learned to hoard things, I was able to switch out all the burnt out cards with their slower 10 mps siblings. At 8 p.m. that night I pretended to myself that I'd stop and get something from Dairy Queen as a reward for myself when I finished work for the night. At 9:30, I realized that DQ was just a pipe dream and dinner was going to have to wait until I got home. As I moved down the line of PCs, I raided everyone's candy dishes and scarfed down half of the bag of BBQ chips left on the table. Is it just me or do BBQ chips eat the roof of your mouth, too? By midnight, I'd found the burnt out hub and could go no further down the network line until I picked up a new hub the next morning. I had only one NIC card (one which failed to register on 2 different PCs) left when I reached the end of the damage. I think someone up there wanted to remind everyone just how valuable a staff person I am without diverting too many funds away from our services. Does anyone know if I have to switch out all the surge protectors now? END OF TECHY STUFF Last week, one of the women from the shelter was killed when she wandered away from her group of friends and fell asleep by a car in a parking lot and the poor owner of the car drove over her as he was leaving to meet a friend for breakfast. She had been drinking and had recently relapsed after a seventeen year period of sobriety. It hit everyone at the shelter pretty hard, and was made even harder by the fact she was encouraged not to come in that night when she called for a bed because it was obvious she had been drinking and would end up turned away or worse, barred from the shelter. The staff was trying to help her keep her bed, the shelter is sober and she had caused trouble in the past while drinking, but right now it feel to them like they sent her to her death. You do this type of work long enough and it happens to you, too. You can try to convince someone to go to detox or another safe place when they've had too much to drink but they mostly refuse. (It's amazing how fast someone can move if they want to avoid detox!) Over time, you might be able to get them to look at supportive housing or treatment, if they still qualify, but mostly you just hope to be a positive force or a safe haven. Tonight, I was down checking on the volunteer desk computer and chatting with some of the guys. One of them mentioned that Keith, a guest I knew quite well, had died of pneumonia a couple weeks ago. Keith was in his late forties, and had had a very tough life. Depression had hit him hard and I'm not sure he ever sought treatment for it, although I had enoouraged him to and I'm sure others did, too. He was always very sweet to me and would talk often about his lost family and life. I can't help feeling like both of these people were allowed to slip through the cracks.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Friday, July 02, 2004

A co-worker forwarded this link from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a Tour of Poverty. Their Poverty USA site, a great resource for education and advocacy, also has an interesting poverty quiz. One little fact from the quiz, "In fact, the U.S. child poverty rate is two-to-three times higher than other major industrialized nations."

One of the best parts of working for a small nonprofit is the outside our normal duty activities, especially when they involve the kids from our transitional housing program. Wednesday, I spent the day at the Twin Cities' amusement park Valley Fair with a group of kids to celebrate their perfect or almost perfect school attendance. Last year, I accompanied four teenaged girls and we went on all the scary rides (which I love), so I was expecting to be with much smaller kids this time. The girls this time were aged 10-12 and alternated between delightful and frustrating. They were still young enough to want hugs and sometimes reassurance before scary rides, but were also old enough to be stubborn and bicker when the afternoon crabbies hit. Once again, I rode all the scary rides (except the Steel Venom ride kicked my butt last year - I'm looking forward to a rematch) with multiple trips to the water drenching ones and the bumper cars. What ride did the four girls think was the scariest? The ferris wheel - the only ride I remember all four of my grandparents riding when I was a kid. This isn't even a normal two person ferris wheel, it fit all six of us (two adults, four girls.) I have to admit, though, the shrieking made it a lot more exciting. Anyways, how does this relate to the above post about poverty? At $32.95 for anyone over 48", this is one of the things that most low-income families would have to do without. A summer without at least one trip to an amusement park is a sad summer, indeed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

My new favorite make a bad day a good thing: Moolattes at Dairy Queen. Doesn't that just roll off your tongue? Full of ice cream goodness with just the right amount of icy crunchiness and, of course, coffee.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Why I will no longer leave the house with a pony tail and no makeup (except for jogging)

I rolled out of bed this morning, late, and did the typical "I'm going to be cleaning the house and gardening today" hair pulled back in a ponytail, quick face wash. Before buckling down to work, I had to run out to return some library books and do a few errands. While I was backing out of the driveway, I noticed that my bangs were standing straight up in the air. Since my contact with the public was going to be limited, I mushed them down the best I could and continued on my way. At Walgreen's, I was studying the frozen pizza selection when I noticed a young man standing a little further down the refrigerator cases, staring at me out of the corner of his eye. I assumed he was staring at my bangs, so I mushed them down again, grabbed a pizza and smiled. He sidled over to me and asked, "So what high school do you go to?" I almost dropped the pizza. I mean, come on! It's been 20 years since I was in high school, 20 years exactly. He saw my face and said, "Oh, you're in college, aren't you?" I didn't know whether to be flattered, to be offended or to recommend he consult an eye specialist.

Friday, June 25, 2004

I spent the afternoon in the shelter computer lab playing Big Brother, again. I'd removed the filtering by word part of the internet filtering software because people were complaining about how slow the browsing was. I figured everyone using the lab knew by now that most prohibited (porn, adult, and gambling) sites were blocked (and the list of blocked sites on the software's block list was always growing) so no one would spend much time searching for ways to get around it. I was wrong. I haven't decided whether to enable word filtering again, so, in the meantime, I sent a large number of updates to the blocked list. I also have another, longer list of sites to check because they are in other languages or their content is unclear from their URL. I have to admit that although most of the sites were simply and unsubtly named, some of the URL's were very original and pushed the limits I've seen on character length. All of this is the price I'm paying for working for a nonprofit with no money budgeted for a computer lab. I shouldn't complain too much, though, because 99% of the browsing was completely innocent and I hadn't checked the logs since mid-May.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

My favorite line from Song for Alan De Niro by Tony at Geneva Convention

"Frothy & out of print in the way most best girls are"

For the past couple of days, Alan has been slowly sucking people into playing The Kingdom of Loathing which he was introduced to at the dessert function at Wiscon by Susan.
Back in May the World Wildlife Fund reported on a mother bear and her cubs that were stranded on an artic island when the ice receded before she emerged from her den. The really chilling part of the article was the speculation that this was a sign of global warming. Woo hoo, politicians, Kyoto Protocol?! WWF reported this month that the stranded mother and cubs are doing fine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Too good not to share. Terry Jones on torture via Bill Shunn's newsgroup sff.people.wpshunn. (I would have just linked it but don't know how to do that for newsgroups.)

Monday, June 21, 2004

How can I put this in words? This is one of the stories Alan told me tonight about his day. He came home early to put his foot up and recover from driving rush hour traffic with a sprained right ankle. Tora is our oldest cat. Although he's mellowed over the years, he has no manners and tends to bite. I think this is because he was socialized by a large, neutured male dog - nothing I did ever had any effect on him - and equates biting with showing affection. Anyways, Alan was sitting on the couch with the coffee table just six inches away from the couch. He'd finished his Jimmy John's sandwich and the wrapper was on the coffee table. Tora somehow bridged the gap between the couch and the coffee table, just lying down with his medium sized 9 pound body. Tora was just a couple inches from the sandwich wrapper and was stretching out trying to do his usual snatch and run. Alan, somewhat awestruck at his position, said he looked like a turtle. Then Alan poked him to get him away from the sandwich wrapper and the cat freaked out. He stood on the couch next to Alan for a long time just looking at him and Alan thought he was going to bite his arm off. Alan said it was like the cat was thinking, "You f*ked my perfect position up and now I'm going to kill you."

Sunday, June 20, 2004

This weekend was interesting. We were supposed to be up at my parent's cabin celebrating Father's Day but we ended up spending most of the time stuck at home. Friday night, we discovered half the floor of the basement was wet from a leak in the hot water heater. It could have been a lot worse. The basement isn't finished and most of the stuff we have stored on the wet side was up on tables and chairs. So, little damage but lots of dusty, wet, cobwebby mess and, of course, the expense of replacing the water heater. Saturday afternoon, Alan sprained his ankle playing basketball. He spent a good part of today sitting in urgent care and now is hobbling around as little as possible. I rented a couple of movies and we pretty much stayed put this evening. Anybody have any advice on hot water heaters?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Via Haddayr

How to make a Kristin

1 part mercy

1 part crazyiness

5 parts empathy
Layer ingredientes in a shot glass. Serve with a slice of lovability and a pinch of salt. Yum!

Given a choice, I'd rather have a little more craziness and a little less empathy.
Change is good. I'm not sure about the clashing pictures but, although it was an accident, the contrast between the text background and the blue is kind of nice. Not very Zen, though.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Things that make me happy (tonight)

Driving home tonight from work, I stopped at the light at Franklin and Stevens. In the lane next to me were two bikers. They were real bikers, with tatoo covered bodies and wide handle-barred bikes, not just your evening/weekend yuppie biker types. One of them was helmetless and the other was wearing one of those old fashioned helmets that look a bowl, so I could see their faces. While we waited, a little girl crossed the street with her mom, she was probably about five or six years old, and she stopped for a moment in front of the guys and gave them a wave and the biggest, sweetest smile I'd seen in ages. Their immediate reaction was grins, just as big as hers, and two waves back.

David Sedaris on Fresh Air

The season finale of The Shield. I know that this last one is a little disturbing to list as something that makes me happy, but I've become a fan of the show. Vic is my favorite anti-hero, half the time I'm rooting for him and the other half I'm rooting against him.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Animal and human intelligence and memory have been side interests of mine for a while now. Today's LA Times profiles a German border collie with a remarkable vocabulary.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Monday, May 31, 2004

We're home safe from Wiscon and the drive was pretty good except for a half hour delay due to road repairs. Alan and I found the elusive Twilight Zone Dairy Queen/truck stop that Barth and I stumbled into on the way back from Clarion in 1998. Although its clientele wasn't nearly as strange as that first time and the flies were missing, Alan did immediately say, "I bet this is that Dairy Queen you guys found." It must move into and out of our plane of existence on a four year rotation. For just one small example of the weirdness, there is the fact that you can see the line at the counter while sitting in the womens restroom stall because all the doors don't close properly.

What can I say about Wiscon? Even when I overload myself with volunteering, etc. like I did this time, it's still the highlight of the year. I'll do a short con report tomorrow when I'm not so sleep deprived. We did indeed prove that science fiction readers and writers can and will do karaoke. Now, I need to get back to basketball and then bed.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The cumulative effects of lack of sleep or why Alan found me crying after watching five minutes of White Fang last night

So, I stayed up until 3:30 Monday night putting the finishing touches on the next Rabid Transit. (The task was made so much harder by the fact that QuarkExpress 4.1 does not have imposition capabilities and I'm much too broke right now to lay out $200 for a stupid extension that can do it. Am I wrong or shouldn't it be included in an already expensive software package?) The work itself wasn't too bad, this chapbook is the best one yet, contents-wise, with artwork, a comic and great stories, and I had fun putting it together. That night I didn't go to bed early because of a certain basketball game. The only good thing was that I was so tired by the end of the game that the Timberwolves trade mark end-of-the-last-quarter slip didn't get me nearly as riled up as it normally would. Wednesday, well, Wednesday is a complete blur but I made it through with a couple cans of caffeinated pop, despite the fact I'm officially off caffeine. It was a long day as I've been getting ready for a two week vacation starting this weekend. Thursday, I had to be in early, and then went that night with 18 kids and assorted staff from our transitional housing program to the MOA for a really cool scavenger hunt. By the end of the night, even the kids were tired. Friday was a ten hour day as I scrambled to get things done. I left work around 9:30 in time to catch most of the last half of the basketball game. Which left me at about 10:30 on the couch fighting tears because White Fang's mother had just died right in front of him, and he was all alone in the world. (No, it did not have anything to do with the Wolves' loss - that was just a coincidence.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Okay, while we're ahead by ten points, I need to post about my fabulous, extra, belated birthday present from Alan that arrived yesterday. My Rather Good punk kittens t-shirt. I wanted so much to wear it today to work but I'm in the process of applying to return to upper management again (no direct services purely administration) and I wasn't sure a kitty playing a guitar was proper attire in these circumstances. Alan said he thought about getting me the Viking kitty "I am mighty" t-shirt but thought the punk kitty was more appropriate. We speculated that the "I am mighty" one might actually have been better in these circumstances. Dang, now we're down to a three point lead. I hate this!
Last night one of the guys in the shelter asked our computer lab volunteer for some help applying for unemployment benefits. The unemployment office told him that the benefits are processed fastest with the online application, second fastest with the telephone application and slowest with the regular hand done form. It seems that the online application can only be filled out between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday closed on holidays. The telephone application hours are something like 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Our shelter doesn't open until 6 p.m. and closes at 7 a.m. The computer lab isn't open in the morning. He thought he'd probably need some help using the computer so we arranged for him to come in today during the shelter office hours.

The website tells you that you need the following information: your Social Security Number, your employer's official name and address, and the name of your union, if applicable. Luckily, he had the application and had filled most of it out a head of time so he knew he needed more information than what they had listed. I got him set up at a computer and had to sneak away to meet with someone else. When I came back to check on him, he'd gotten about three pages of the application entered into the computer and was a little hung up because the dates of employment weren't being accepted. He just needed to enter the date 04/04/2004 instead of 04/04/04 before he could move to the next page and the end of the application. He hit the button and with the new page we got a message that read something like the following, "If it has been more than twenty minutes since you started this form, it has timed out and you need to go back to the front page and start again."

Now, the volunteer and I were already wondering about the limited hours for online applications, especially since you'd hope that someone would be busy job hunting during business hours. Whoever heard of an online application with time restrictions? It seemed obvious that they were trying to make it hard to apply for benefits. The difference in application processing times certainly favors people with access to technology. The twenty minute timeout on the application is completely unreasonable considering the amount of detail required on the form (and not listed on the first page.) If I'd just lost my job after working there for ten months and had spent the past couple of hours first completing the written application and then stuggling to complete the online form, only to find that I had to start over again, I would have lost it. Needless to say, he didn't. He took it pretty calmly. One of the shelter staff was going to do the typing for him as he tried it a second time.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I forgot to mention that I've been cruising through Scott Westerfeld's Succession novels, The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds. Yes, the last thing in the world I need after staying up until after midnight watching basketball is to be up another two hours reading, but that's what I've been doing. Calling them space opera doesn't really do them justice, but they're the best of the space faring science fiction books that I've read in a really long time. Scott still shows his masterful extrapolation but these books have a completely different feel to them than his earlier, also excellent novels. I have a link to his website thanks to Justine but it doesn't have anything on it right now. Maybe he's too busy writing. We'll all have to bug him about it at Wiscon.
My sleep schedule has gotten totally thrown off by these late night West Coast basketball games. Tomorrow night's game starts at a saner 8:30 p.m. Central Time. The last two games have allowed me to get a lot of the corrections to the next Rabid Transit edition, Petting Zoo, done, at least before the tense last quarters. Not much else going on in this household this week. It's been nice to be exhausted by something as benign as a close basketball game after the last few weeks.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Alan and I slept in this morning a bit after a late night at the Timberwolves game. Exhausting but awesome game. My poor Howl Towel was almost wrung to pieces. I'm headed over to my parent's house to celebrate the day with Mom but also to brainstorm some non-Mother's Day activities to do with Dad when he gets back from Wisconsin. Today will be pretty hard on him.

Anyways, happy Mother's Day to all the new mothers out there and to all mothers in general. What would we do without you?

Friday, May 07, 2004

I listened to the broadcast of the Senate hearings on Abu Ghraib with considerable interest, especially since hearing an NPR report a few days ago that indicated that private intelligence contractors and CIA intelligence officials were partially responsible for the abuses in the prison. The report speculated that the private contractors were not covered under the law concering U.S. law violations by private contractors overseas because they were contracted by the CIA and exempted from the law. So, I was patiently waiting (through all the posturing, etc.) to hear someone ask about this and was very happy when Senator McCain, a Republican, was the one to do it. I was just coming into work and rushed upstairs to catch the answer but missed it. Luckily, the Washington Post has a transcript of the testimony online. Here's a link to the page with McCain's questions if anyone else missed it and is interested. Of course, Rumsfeld didn't answer the question but with McCain and others asking these questions, I don't think it will disappear. Warprofiteers and Corpwatch both have articles on Titan and CACI, the contractors providing translators and interrogators to the prison, as well as a downloadable copy of the Taguba Report there.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Phone Call of the Day

"Hello, this is Kristin."

"The toilet paper is too hard... The Toilet Paper Is Too Hard... THE TOILET PAPER IS TOO HARD... You need to get softer toilet paper in the shelter."


I've never had any problems with the T.P. myself. We use the same stuff in the office. I don't know why I got the call unless it's because the person knew me from when I was shelter staff or because I'm the point person for in-kind donations. I'll have to add "soft" to the T.P. entry on our needs list.

By the way, if you've somehow managed to elude the effects of all those wonderful reviews and blog posts, you need to run out right now and pick up a copy of Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club. I finished it over two nights - almost as fast as my first Austen, Pride and Prejudice, which I read all in one night and got in trouble with my professor because she was counting on me to help with the discussion and I couldn't participate anymore because I had read ahead. Now I just have to dig them all out and reread them and then go back to Karen's book.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Two weeks went by again in a whirlwind. When I read my last post, it seems like it was a few months ago. We had a lot of ups and downs since then. I really appreciate all the kind thoughts sent our way and instead of writing this out in many separate e-mails, I'll just give a run down here. Grandma passed away Sunday morning, just a few days after the family decided, with the support of the wonderful woman from the hospice program, to let her go. It was a hard decision because she was still conscious and aware at that point and letting her go meant removing a feeding tube and stopping IV fluids. We'd also been given some new hope because they'd put her through a desensitivation process with penicillin because of her severe allergy. Penicillin was the only antibiotic capable of fighting the strep infection. Starting with small doses, they gave her increasing amounts over a half a day up to the full dose. It was amazing, and of course, we hoped she'd get better. She was getting weaker, though, and couldn't swallow even water and the thickened juice they give stroke victims at the end. She was looking at six weeks of antibiotic treatment with a twenty percent failure rate and all the time with the feeding tube. She let us know the day before our meeting with hospice that it was time, struggling against the effects of the strokes to say, "I want to go." After the meeting with the hospice nurse, while she was still receiving full treatment, Grandma lapsed into a coma. She must have felt she had our permission to go and stopped fighting. On Saturday, she came back to us and a large number of the family were able to spend some last time with her. The book we received from the hospice program said that it often happens that just before someone dies they have a period of lucidity.

I had time to do a lot of thinking. I sat with her Friday night and half of Saturday night alone. Friday was the first day she showed any signs of pain and although she was in a coma, she let me know when the morphine was starting to wear off. It was a rough night and yet, I feel privileged to have been able to be with her. I almost wrote "to share it with her" but really dying is something you do alone no matter how many people are around you and so much of it is internal for someone who knows they are dying. I don't know if it is the writer in me or just me, but the whole process was fascinating as well as horrible and exhausting. Where some people would be freaked out by the details of what happens to the body when someone is dying and the signs to watch for that signal the end, I was comforted when the hospice nurse showed them to me. I guess it made the whole thing seem less foreign and more a normal process of life. Her age and her own acceptance (she was deeply religious her whole life and believed that she would be joining my grandfather in heaven) helped, too, although we would have loved to have had her with us longer. Did I mention before that she was a welder building ships in Portland during WWII? She used to say that Rosie the Riveter was nothing compared to the welders who were the really tough ones. Although we don't have any pictures of her welding, I like to picture her that way, short but tough, maybe even scrappy.

Friday, April 16, 2004

All of a sudden it's tax day and I've realized that I've let two weeks of fun activities go by without posting and now I'm deep into the bad stuff. We had a great visit with Barth, Lisa and Iko in their new house, finally used the wedding shower gift certificate from my co-workers for a fabulous dinner at La Belle Vie in Stillwater (so expensive we'd never have done it on our own but sooo good!), lots of writing, movie watching and walks in the warm weather. Easter came and reality hit again. This was the second holiday my grandma missed, which was even sadder since she'd been feeling fine just a couple days before and been outside walking. The list of things wrong this time is way too long. She's fighting a battle against a strep infection in two of her heart valves. They've already caused a series of mini strokes and because she's too old and frail at 87 for surgery, there will probably be more. She was already on an antibiotic for the pneumonia they found on Sunday, but it sounds doubtful that it will have much effect on the strep. My mom's involvement in strep research makes it tough for my family to pretend otherwise. I didn't get to see grandma yesterday because I came when she was off for tests. She's dramatically different already. Although she was alert and responsive, she wasn't able to talk and they've put in a feeding tube. I can't help wondering how much time we'll have with her before she's not aware of us anymore. Seeing her on the hospital bed, all shrunken and with her breathing so labored, I couldn't help remembering my other grandma's death from cancer. Both of my grandfathers went quickly from heart attacks. This is so different. We have a chance to say goodbye and have to figure out how to do it and make our own peace with it and allow her her own dignity in death. All of these things had such a huge impact on me back when I was 11 and going through it with my other grandma. They were such good friends, we were lucky as kids that they were good friends, because each holiday was spent all together. I cried twice during my grandmother's cancer, when my mom told me that her cancer had come back and attacked her brain and it was terminal and later, as we went into the funeral home and I saw my remaining grandma. 87 years is a long life and it was a life filled with a fair amount of pain and struggle but also a lot of love and family and friends. She wasn't allowed to finish high school because her Norwegian born father didn't think a farm girl needed an education. She told me once she'd wanted to be a stewardess but couldn't because they required a high school degree. She and my grandfather worked hard and lived frugally and that allowed her to travel a bit in the later years. She got to see Norway and travelled many times to Beijing, Hong Kong and Japan visiting her son, my uncle, and his family and me. For my college graduation gift, she took me on a visit to the family in Hong Kong, shortly before the turnover, and we took a side trip up into the Pearl River basin of Southern China. She would try any food, impressing our fellow travellers when she popped the mini octopii in barbeque sauce from the buffet into her mouth. She wanted to see the Great Wall and I had to tell her we weren't anywhere near it, but she did see it later with my dad when my uncle moved to Beijing. Except for her snoring, I couldn't have asked for a better travel companion. She did the whole two week trip without complaint, despite the fact her hips badly needed replacement and she'd delayed the surgery until after the trip. You'd think every thing bad in the world could be cured with a good hot bath. Too bad it can't.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Yay! I'm back on my laptop after crashing it with a bad driver or something from a massive install of networking, virus and firewall stuff. The Internet is a fabulous thing. I couldn't get the laptop to boot even in safe mode and the repair CDs that came with the laptop would only wipe the whole hard drive. I was able to download a bootable diskette that allowed me to copy NTFS files to diskette and save the 2200 words I added to a story this weekend (and didn't get a chance to back up.) The only things I lost were a few e-mails since I'd copied my bloated Outlook file from work and it wouldn't fit on a diskette. That's another argument for a writable CD drive, I guess. I really have no excuse since back-ups are a snap with my little USB flash drive.

I met my dad and grandma for lunch today at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. The fortune cookies were from Keefer Court which used to be right across the street from where I worked in the West Bank/Cedar Riverside neighborhood. I loved walking past their parking lot because their exhaust fan would be blowing out the sweet, warm bakery smells. They had huge bags of cookies you could buy and I did that once. (Two many fortune cookies are not a good thing.) My fortune, which is going to be my motto at work for a while, was, "A committee of one gets things done." The restaurant's menu has always contained a few small twists on English, usually things like "shrimps." This version offered "Egg Rolls - hot and scrippy." I didn't figure out what they meant until I looked at the next appetizer, "Spring Rolls - cold and soft."

Monday, March 29, 2004

Good weekend. Saturday, after a very productive afternoon of writing in a coffee shop, we headed to the Turf Club for some live music. Slim Dunlap was the headliner. Slim's probably best known for replacing Bob Stinson in the Replacements and his 1995 album, "Times Like This." They did best on the traditional rock tunes and seemed a little lethargic on the twangy stuff. I really enjoyed the opening band, Milhaus, though.

Sunday, we headed to Stillwater for some more writing and reading. One of the benefits of living on the far east side of the Twin Cities is our proximity to Stillwater, a wonderful old town on the St. Croix River with lots of antique stores (that we avoid), old book stores and coffee shops and restaurants.

I finished Dale Bailey's collection The Resurrection Man's Legacy, which I have to review. His story, "The Census Taker," was in the October/November 2003 double issue in F & SF and was one of my favorite stories of the year. Most of the other stories are from F & SF, too, although you can still read the very good "In Green's Dominion" on Sci Fiction.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I am so embarrassed to be a native Minnesotan today. MPR replayed a portion of the state house debate on the bill to allow a statewide vote to ammend the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage and civil unions. The Republican controlled house passed the bill 88 to 44. During the half hour of testimony I listened to, I was horrified when a Republican representative complained about the activist court and said that we needed more court rulings like the Dred Scott ruling. A little later a different Republican representative quoted from a 19th century study of marriage in many cultures that found that promiscuity led to the decline and end of the society. I'm still not sure what either have to do with ammendment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I was all set to do a more upbeat post and answer all the e-mails I owe people tonight but no more. I spent a great couple of hours with a new dinner group, giving a tour of the shelter, answering questions and having really good discussions on homelessness. Most of the group were Unitarians and, true to my usual experience with Unitarian volunteers, they were an active, interesting, well-informed bunch. I was on my way back to my office and PC when one the shelter staff pulled me aside to tell me that a man I knew who'd stayed in the shelter was killed today. The guys were saying that he was beaten to death. We lose people all the time to cancer and heart disease and sometimes to the long term use of drugs or alcohol, but we've lost way too many people to violence lately. At this point, we don't know who was involved in the murder but beatings from youth and other people outside the homeless community are more and more common. Parents and community leaders set the tone for this sort of thing. If poor people are portrayed as drains on society, their lives aren't going to be valued.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm getting tired of hearing people, particularly the shortsighted, right wing Taxpayer's League, say that the Metro Transit strike isn't causing any problems.

The following are comments from both female and male Simpson shelter guests surveyed March 9th asking if the bus strike has had a negative effect on them.
65% reported that it did and stated that they:

lost a job making taco shells at Harvest Foods in New Brighton
can't get to work in Edina
is missing classes
keep warm on bus
can't look for a job outside of downtown
has a home in St. Paul but due to strike stays at shelter in Mpls so she can walk to her job as a caterer at the Convention Center
can't get their teeth
can't get their services
quit job, ran out of money for other transport
can't get to AA meetings, disabled
can't go anywhere outside of a 4 mile radius
has to walk an hour to get to work
has not been able to go job searching
lost his job
can't get to his job interviews
has to walk a couple of miles to work
part of the reason he is now in shelter
not able to see their kids
it's more expensive to get around now
has not been able to get to work

Monday, March 08, 2004

To all of you that I owe e-mails, my sincere apologies. The last few weeks have been so busy, I've been tempted to roll up the door mat, lock the door, unplug the phone and hide.

To the programmer who mutated the netsky virus so fast on Wednesday that our software maker couldn't keep up, despite updates that were coming in every twenty minutes or so, I wish boils, hives and for your feet to hit every puddle you near for the rest of your life. We only had one computer infected but it sent me and the server over four thousand virus messages each in only thirty minutes.

For Old Man Winter who just has to always remind us that we are living in Minnesota and who decided to play a little prank on those of us who happened to be out and about St. Paul late this morning - oh why do I even bother... Hey, if you can't put twenty years of winter driving experience to good use why even have it? Those of you with snow and ice know the drill: pump those brakes, turn into a skid, turn into a skid, turn into a skid (when the skid turns into a fishtail), repeat "please stop, please stop, please stop" over and over again (try to stop saying this once you have stopped), repeat "please stop, please stop, please stop" over and over again while watching the car behind you, beside you, perpendicular to you slide closer and closer, avoid bridges (right) and be careful on exit and entry ramps and hills. I just wish my hands would stop shaking.
One of my co-workers, shelter director Monica Nilsson, had a great OP piece on the shelter in the Sunday Star Tribune. Read it while it's still free.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I just received a very disturbing e-mail from the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless that I wanted to share. In a time when rents are rising in most cities faster than incomes and local and regional governments are playing games with the definition of low income housing (for example using metro wide income averages instead of much lower city wide averages), this federal program (often called Section 8) needs to be protected for the lowest incomed families in our country. These cuts would be disastrous. (It's never too late to call your representatives on this issue!)

National Housing Voucher Call-in Days: MARCH 1 & 2
Tell Congress the President's voucher proposal is WRONG

On Monday, March 1 and Tuesday, March 2, housing and homelessness advocates from around the country will call Congress to urge Members to protect the voucher program and the 2 million families it currently serves. Please join us in calling!

The President's FY05 budget was released in early February. The changes he proposes to the housing voucher (Section 8) program are the most radical and threatening to residents in the history of the program:

· For FY05, President Bush allocates $1.6 billion too little to fund all housing vouchers currently in use.

· President Bush's proposal would cut funding even more drastically in years to come. By 2009, funding cuts would reach 40%-a loss of 800,000 vouchers.

· The President would also remove important resident protections. Public housing authorities would no longer be required to serve people with the lowest incomes, and they would not be required to keep rent at 30% of a resident's income. Further, current voucher holders would not be protected under the proposal. Indeed, given that PHAs would be under pressure to serve the same number of families with fewer dollars, families with extremely low incomes will be at risk of losing their vouchers to families with higher incomes.

To help educate Members of Congress, DC-based advocates will hold a briefing on the President's voucher proposal on Friday, March 5. When you speak to your Congressional offices, you can urge the staff person to attend this briefing to learn more.

Please join in! On March 1st or 2nd, call 1-888-818-6641 (toll free) and ask to be transferred to your Representative's office. Ask to speak to the staff person who deals with housing issues.

Give the person you speak with the following message: "President Bush's proposal for the housing voucher program in the FY05 budget is wrong and unacceptable. It would cut funds to the program and remove important resident protections, putting thousands of people at risk of losing their housing. As you work on the budget, it is crucial that you protect the voucher program and the people it serves. (If appropriate, include a story of the importance of housing vouchers in your community.) You can learn more at a briefing on Friday, March 5, from 11 am to noon in room 2220 of the Rayburn Office Building. Will someone from your office commit to attending?"

Repeat with calls to your Senators' offices.

Please report the results of your calls and any RSVPs for the March 5 briefing to or to 202-662-1530 x222. Pass this call to action to others you work with-especially to people who are voucher holders or who are on a waiting list. More information is available at National Low Income Housing Coalition or Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Thank you!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Most of Grandma's furniture is situated in our unpainted, un-refinished floors livingroom. The vacation days I wanted to use for refinishing and writing were pretty much consumed by the move-out-move-in-gotta-be-ready-by-Thursday-for-the-movers frenzy and the subsequent bad colds my dad and I both (probably deservedly) caught - gave each other.

If you ignore the floors and scuffed walls, we now have a beautiful adult living room. It's amazing how different the place feels. The cats are groving on the new comfy chairs and us humans are enjoying having real wood replacing our ugly paint over laminate bookshelves. Our favorite piece is an old trunk that one of my great-great grandparents brought from Norway that now sits in our bedroom. It has a simple rosemale-like design with "Peder" and "1857" painted on it. We are only caretakers of most of the furniture for my dad and uncle's families but it's likely to be a while before anyone in the family wants anything.

These are the home improvement things I've learned over the last two weeks.
1. Don't reuse plastic drop cloths. If you do, don't put the paint covered used side down on your waxed wood floors. Especially if you've been using black spray paint. This may also be true for any other type of floor finish.
2. If you damage wood trim removing it and need to use filler to patch things up, don't reuse the trim unless you are going to paint it. Filler stains very dark and it takes many coats before the color evens out. Luckily, we wanted the color dark. Also, ready to be stained replacement trim is available at your nearest home improvement/lumber center for mere pennies. The old trim can be given to a reuse center for some other poor soul to refinish. Believe me, measuring and cutting new trim is a snap compared to refinishing old trim.
3. When replacing a phone outlet, replace it immediately. If you just leave the wires loose, chance, the cats or other forces will bring two of the wires together and knock out your dial-tone. It is usually best to only replace one outlet at a time so you can tell which one is the one you screwed up.
4. For a temporary solution to ceiling leaks caused by ice dams, or just melting snow on bad flashing, a nylon stocking filled with ice melt to make a long tube and placed over the ice barrier will melt a channel for the pooling/draining water to escape. It also helps evaporate any remaining moisture around the leaky vent/outlet. Of course, there will be a lot more work to do once the warm weather arrives. Can anyone say home equity loan?
5. This tip came from any of five or six different TLC/BBC/HGTV shows but was recently confirmed in two rooms chez Livdahl/DeNiro. Curtains make an attractive and easy alternative to ugly, loud, bi-fold metal closet doors. You can then store the doors in the basement until the time you need to sell the house. Once primed, the metal doors do make a good canvas for those with paint and an artistic bent, though.
6. Although everyone swears you shouldn't mix oil-based and latex finishes, you can get away with putting a coat of matte acrylic polyurethane over a few coats of glossy, oil based, fast drying polyurethane finish that is completely dry. Just don't try to wash the brush off in mineral spirits, since clean up is easy with just warm soapy water. I'd recommend using two different brushes, though.
7. That evil necessity, mineral spirits, is reusable. You just need to pour it into a glass jar with a cover and let it sit so the sediment falls to the bottom over a few weeks. The spirits can be drained off for reuse and the remaining sludge can usually be disposed of in the normal garbage pick up once the mineral spirits have evaporated.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Battling Evil Spirits and the Ghosts of Grandma's Goods

My back is sore, our house is all stinky from citrus stripper, wood stain and mineral spirits, and I'm crabby and tired but I am writing this on my own home computer. Yay! After almost six months of nonworking internet and e-mail, I'm back online. The virus, trojan or whatever nasty struck right before or right after we got married this fall. I came home from our short honey moon to find all my internet related files missing. After repair failed, I did a complete reinstall of Windows, this was back in September, and found my PC still under possession. Whatever it was slipped by my simple, but supposedly strong firewall and my more sophisticated virus software. Once in residence, it evaded all search, scan, blocking and ferreting out attempts (with four different products and the advice of every security newsgroup I could find), proceeding to make my life miserable as it monopolized a wide range of outgoing ports. It was taking a full three minutes just to load Google. Getting past the front page of any other site froze the computer. I got tired of troubleshooting and decided to just let the beastie sit. I shut down my PC and ignored it. I do most first drafts by hand anyway. I had lots of home improvement projects to keep me busy. Most importantly, I had Internet and e-mail access at work. I used to enjoy playing around with my own PC. Well, now that I do it at work everyday, the magic is gone. A week's vacation spent at home forced me to face the evil thing again. This time I defeated it by switching around the boot partitions and formatting the heck out of everything. I was up until 4 a.m. last night reinstalling and updating Windows (I know, I know, I should have switched to Linux but my brain is too full right now) and my security software. I was rewarded with the true speed only a cable modem can provide.

Lack of sleep has contributed to my tiredness. My back is sore from a lot of other work, the most noteworthy a battle with an ancient queen sized sofa bed that needed to be out at the curb this A.M. It took a few hours, a hammer, a utility knife, a pliers, a screwdriver, a wrench and my winter coat and hat but I won. (Yes friends, the big ugly black couch from the porch is gone!) I left shaky and cold but whole with the sofa torn into five more manageable pieces. The battle to rid our house of Grandma's goods is down one sofa bed. Thursday, we will take a major one on the chin, however, as a newer hide-a-bed, four large antiques and numerous other furnishings will be delivered from Grandma's old apartment, as she continues her move from senior apartment to assisted care apartment to sharing a tiny room in a nursing home. Some of this stuff is "stuff we should keep in the family" and who in the family has room (we're speaking relative terms here considering we don't have access to most of our basement and all of our garage due to other Grandma stuff), who has the dependability that comes with being homeowners (rules out little brother), who can be nudged into it with only implied guilt (mom said a firm "no" to any furniture) and who will be having the mother of all garage sales with most of Grandma's other stuff as soon as it's warm enough? You guessed it. (There is always the hope that we will find Grandma another place with a larger room and she'll take some of it back again.) Never (this is a rule that you should never, ever forget), never buy a house that isn't empty, even if you are going to be the one who has to clean it out.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Emily Short, the diva of Interactive Fiction, has added Alan's 2001 IF game(?) The Isolato Incident to her recommended playing list under the Player Character "Unusual Narrator" category. If you enjoy his fiction (don't we all?) you should try the game.
According to the Cost of War website: Over 1,0040,000 additional housing units could have been built with the money the U.S. has spent on the war in Iraq.
A December U.S. Conference of Mayors hunger and homelessness report shows that despite the President's claim of recovery, hunger and homelessness continued to rise in major American cities over the last year.

From the report: "As the overall economy remained weak, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 17 percent over the past year, and requests for emergency shelter assistance increased by an average of 13 percent in the 25 cities surveyed.


"This survey underscores the impact the economy has had on everyday Americans," said Conference of Mayors President and Hempstead (NY) Mayor James A. Garner. "The face of homelessness has changed and now reflects who we least suspect.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Looks like my comments are off again. Oh well. E-mail me if you'd like to continue the 5 question thing.
5 questions from Gwenda Bond

1. What is the weirdest and/or most disgusting foodstuff you've ever encountered?

Natto - fermented soy beans made with a bacteria, Bacillus subtilis, and sometimes known in the west as soy cheese.

I was going to say it was toss up between natto and both raw and cooked sea urchin (even when presented beautifully in its prickly shell) but while sea urchin is merely yucky, natto is completely disgusting. Right after I arrived in Japan for the first time, my pregnant aunt took me out for sushi. She offered me a bite of natto saying it was full of protein and very good for you. I took a bite and couldn’t even swallow it, it ended up in a napkin. It was like eating what you find at the bottom of a trash dumpster on a hot summer’s day. A few years later, I saw my now elementary school aged cousin eating it out of these little plastic cups that you can buy in the grocery store. Not only does it taste horrible, it looks horrible being an oily, sticky brown with a little white stuff like egg yoke thrown in that you have to stir together before you eat it. I’ve always prided myself on my adventurous eating habits, but my uncle, my cousin’s American born sister and a good portion of Japan hate it, too, so I don’t feel so bad about it. Ugh.

2. What surprised you most about Alan once you started going out?

The difficulty of this question is how to answer without pissing him off. I knew Alan pretty well in a lot of ways by the fifth week of Clarion when we started dating. We went to get beer together for a video night the second night in Lansing and from then on we were together, with a few other people, almost constantly. I guess I didn’t know how shy he really was because he always has so much more confidence when he’s in a literary environment. One thing I've always admired about him was that he went straight into grad school for poetry after college. He was the youngest in the program and an MFA in poetry isn’t the most practical training for making a living but he knew what he wanted to do and did it.

3. If you could rule from the beautiful Ice Palace, what would be your first decree?

Ooh, does this mean that I get to be the Snow Queen? My first decree would be that all brave and true hearted girls get to travel with their own Snow Queen.

If I only had control over winter, I’d make sure there was enough snow to snowshoe, sled and ski, but not too much snow, and that it was cold enough, but not too cold, for the ice sculptures in Rice Park to last a little longer.

If my authority was limited to just St. Paul, I would order Governor Pawlenty to kiss my toe and roll back all of his nasty cuts to state programs for poor and low-income people.

4. Which kind of dragon is the best kind?

I’ve always been partial to the wise, non fire breathing Chinese dragon, although I probably prefer the fire breathing type in movies.

5. What's the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for you?

One snowy, cold Thanksgiving, in the pre-cell phone days, I was on the my way in to open the shelter for the evening and I got a flat tire on the freeway. I was the only staff person signed up for duty that night and I needed to get there to let in the volunteer dinner group and later the guys. I’d changed many tires in my life before then, but I couldn’t even get the nuts off the stupid thing they were so tight. I had only been struggling with them a few minutes, though, when a guy pulled in behind me to help. He got them loose with a hammer and changed the tire for me. He then followed me all the way to the shelter because he was worried I’d be stranded without a spare if I had another flat.


1. Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I will respond; I’ll ask you five questions.
3. You’ll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4. You’ll include this explanation.
5. You’ll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

Friday, January 09, 2004

We left Erie in a whiteout and came back to Minnesota in time to weather a couple of really cold days. Now that the temperature has reached the upper teens, it feels almost balmy.

The visit with the DeNiro clan was great as always. We celebrated New Year's for the second time in a row with Chris in Youngstown and Elad, who was also visiting, made four of us. The crappy-okey was fun but daunting. College aged kids were lined up to get up on stage and belt out 80s classics such as Bon Jovi's Blaze of Glory (personally I think Wanted Dead or Alive would have been a better pick), a-ha's Take On Me, Def Leppard's Photograph, and Men without Hats's Safety Dance. Yes, I admit it. I was there for all that music the first time around, and I was at that age where music vibrates through your emotions and into your soul. So, I knew every word to every song. Some of them were favorites, tied to important teenaged memories and episodes. (Pyromania always will be linked to a summer spent at a cabin on a northern Minnesota lake flirting with boys and water-skiing. I'm smiling just thinking of it.) It was unsettling to say the least to have them so boisterously and affectionately mocked by kids.