Monday, 29 September 2008

Kitchen Terms and Learning

You won't believe me... it makes me think of Chef. He told me that these things are called Amusez la bouche - it translates into "amuse the mouth" and I see the apprentices do it all the time. This is not the best image, but it looks just like any of the little one or two-bite teasers that our kitchen produces for fine dining events. They are really amazing, and I do take images when I can. I'll have to fish around for a better one. This one was on the meme here.

I know I drive the Chef a little nuts... but I love learning, and this is how to do it - by asking. I have to say that when I get him at the right time (as in not during the dinner rush - he seems to enjoy teaching as much as I enjoy learning. I'll never be a cook, but maybe that makes it all the more enjoyable for him - I'm learning just for the sheer joy of it and not for some culinary gain. That has to be appealing.

Shockingly, I can pronounce a lot of the below listed terms:

Kitchen brigade
Chef de cuisine (Kitchen chef) - Responsible for overall management of kitchen. They supervise staff, create menus and new recipes with the assistance of the restaurant manager, make purchases of raw food items, trains apprentices and maintains a sanitary and hygiene environment for the preparation of food.

Sous-chef de cuisine (Deputy kitchen chef) - Receives orders directly from the chef de cuisine for the management of the kitchen and often represents the chef de cuisine when he or she is not present.

Chef de partie (Senior chef) - Responsible for managing a given station in the kitchen where they specialize in preparing particular dishes. Those that work in a lesser station are commonly referred to as a demi-chef.

Cuisinier (Cook) - This position is an independent one where they usually prepare specific dishes in a station. They may also be referred to as a cuisinier de partie.

Commis (Junior cook) - Also works in a specific station, but reports directly to the chef de partie and takes care of the tools for the station.

Apprenti(e) (Apprentice) - Many times they are students gaining theoretical and practical training in school and work experience in the kitchen. They perform preparatory work and/or cleaning work.

Plongeur (Dishwasher) - Cleans dishes and utensils and may be entrusted with basic preparatory job.

Marmiton (Pot and pan washer) - In larger restaurants takes care of all the pots and pans instead of the plongeur.

Saucier (Saucemaker/Sauté cook) - Prepares sauces, warm hors d'oeuvres, completes meat dishes and in smaller restaurants may work on fish dishes and prepares sautéed items. This is one of the most respected positions in the kitchen brigade.

Rôtisseur (Roast cook) - Manages a team of cooks that roasts, broils and deep fries dishes.

Grillardin (Grill cook) - In a larger kitchen this person prepares the grilled foods instead of the rôtisseur.

Friturier (Fry cook) - In larger kitchens this person prepares fried foods instead of the rôtisseur.
Poissonnier (Fish cook) - Prepares fish and seafood dishes.

Entremetier (Entrée preparer) - Prepares soups and other dishes not involving meat or fish, including vegetable dishes and egg dishes.

Potager (soup cook) - In larger kitchens this person reports to the entremetier and prepares the soups.
Legumier (Vegetable cook) - In larger kitchen this person also reports to the entremetier and prepares the vegetable dishes.

Garde manger (Pantry supervisor) - responsible for preparation of cold hors d'oeuvres, prepares salads, organizes large buffet displays and prepares charcuterie items.

Tournant (Spare hand/ roundsman) - Moves throughout kitchen assisting other positions in kitchen
Pâtissier (Pastry cook) - Prepares desserts and other meal end sweets and for location without a boulanger also prepares breads and other baked items. They may also prepare pasta for the restaurant.

Confiseur - Prepares candies and petit fours in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.
Glacier - Prepares frozen and cold desserts in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.

Décorateur - Prepares show pieces and specialty cakes in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.

Boulanger (Baker) - Prepares bread, cakes and breakfast pastries in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.

Boucher (Butcher) - butchers meats, poultry and sometimes fish. May also be in charge of breading meat and fish items.
Aboyeur (Announcer/ expediter) - Takes orders from dining room and distributes them to the various stations. This position may also be performed by the sous-chef de partie.

Communard - Prepares the meal served to the restaurant staff.
Garçon de cuisine - Performs preparatory and auxiliary work for support in larger restaurants.

The only reasons I can pronounce 95% of these terms is thanks to Chef and to watching Ratatoiulle 5,000 times. There is a scene where Remy lists all the people in the small but beautiful copper-filled kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Chef de cuisine, sous-chef de cuisine, saucier, chef de partie, plonguer, fruiturier: those are from watching that scene. I learned garde manger, pâtissier, those I learned from Chef. But he knows all those terms like Amusez le bouche, and I love that. It's really neat. And it helps me to understand things there better.

I've enjoyed every moment talking to him. He's not one to open up and be chatty and I have learned to be better about reading him to know when he might want to talk and when to state my business as fast and succinctly as possible and then leave. I think I have gotten better at it, but there are times when I probably need reminding.
Fortunately, I think that the education streak will also be in our new Executive Sous Chef, who is really a neat person.

Memes/Questionnaires Week Ending 10.05.2008

Curious As a Cat: Week Number 137
1) What is the single most important ingredient for a spiritual life?

Belief. Everything else is gravy.

2) Who is the person you know with the freest spirit?


3) How does it make you feel when you hear people argue?

Well... it depends on the people and the kind of arguing. Some people just do it in a funny way that underneath still has the love. But serious, real arguments make me uncomfortable - I don't need to hear that!

4) What one thing would you give to each of your ex-lovers?

Hope for a good future. Grace for our past, all the good parts.

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.
You won't believe me... it makes me think of Chef. He told me that these things are called Amusez la bouche - it translates into "amuse the mouth" and I see the apprentices do it all the time. This is not the best image, but it looks just like any of the little one or two-bite teasers that our kitchen produces for fine dining events. They are really amazing, and I do take images when I can. I'll have to fish around for a better one. This one was on the meme here.

I know I drive the Chef a little nuts... but I love learning, and this is how to do it - by asking. I have to say that when I get him at the right time (as in not during the dinner rush - he seems to enjoy teaching as much as I enjoy learning. I'll never be a cook, but maybe that makes it all the more enjoyable for him - I'm learning just for the sheer joy of it and not for some culinary gain. That has to be appealing.

Monday's Questionnaire: What's Your Funky Japanese Name?

Your Funky Japanese Name Is

Sheesh. BORING.

Tuesday's Meme:

1. What do you feel is the difference between sexy and erotic?

Sexy is a feeling, erotic is a description.

2. Do you believe there is one right person (i.e. soul mate) for you out there in the world, or that there can be many different potential mates that you could live blissfully with?

Oh, just one, how simple is that? No, I don't believe that there is just one person. It happens that I am with a great person. However, if something happened that left me on my own, there are a lot of other also great men out there. I don't worry about that. I will say, though, that I'm very happy with who and what I have and wish not to have that change.

3. Do you need to hear "I love you" or similar words on a regular basis from your partner?

I don't require it. I know he loves me. He tells me and that works. Sometimes I may need to hear it when I'm going through a lot of intense stress and if I do, great but if not, it's still okay. I used to have a friend that required a kiss every time they got in the vehicle. Weird. And waaaaay too needy.

4. What feeling do you have the most difficulty expressing?

None. They all come flying out.

5. What is worse - physical, mental or cyber cheating?

Well, I hate the word cheating. Human sexuality is very different than people know or want to think about. They don't realise that sleeping with someone other than the one you love/live with is ingrained or coded into our genome. Shocking! Read about it. Women look for the geeky guy to have their homes with (stability) and the big bulky muscular humunculous to have their kids with (good genes are in the muscle men without brains). Guess what that means...

Bonus (as in optional): The Kinsey scale attempts to describe a person's sexual history or episodes of their sexual activity at a given time. It uses a scale from 0, meaning exclusively heterosexual, to 6, meaning exclusively homosexual. Where are you - TODAY - on the scale?

0. Always. I just have no interest in women sexually. Sorry to disappoint.

WW #23 (Wednesday Weirdness)
1.) Have you ever purchased an item of clothing and intentionally worn it with tags on it so that you could return it the next day?

No. What a strange thing. Do people really do that? How perfectly cheesy and wrong. Yikes.

2.) Would you rather be late to the party, or the first person to arrive? Why?

I'm a little OCD about lateness - it is just wrong. So I would rather be (and often are) first to an event.

3.) When do you usually begin your Christmas shopping?

When I have money. Right now, I don't.

4.) What three cancelled tv shows do you wish they’d bring back?

Oooooh, good one. I would bring back Dead Like Me, Men In Trees and Brimstone.

5.) What do you have in your vehicle's glove compartment?

My vehicle document - insurance card. The guide book to the vehicle. That is it.

6.) Have you ever donated blood?

Yes, a lot. Also platelets.

7.) Have you ever kissed or dated someone elses significant other? What happened?

Ummm. I don't think so. At least, not knowingly.

8.) Have you ever mistaken one product for another while in the bathroom and didn't notice until after you used it? (EXAMPLE: Washing your hair with liquid body soap, slathering hand soap on your legs instead of lotion after a shower, et cetera)

Yes, I washed my hair with liquid body soap. Heinous.

9.) Would you/Have you ever dated someone who had a criminal record?

Yes. Probably not one of my finer moments.

3x Thursday: 10/02/y2k+8: Do You Believe?
1. Do you believe we're on this planet for a reason? If so, what is it? If not, what *do* you believe?

We are here because that is how the evolutionary ball bounced. I don't think it is anything more than that.

2. Do you believe we carve our own paths, or is it possible that there's such a thing as 'destiny'? Why/why not?

We carve our own paths. The Fates may interfere now and again, or someone else's movements screw up yours. But you make your own decesions, your own way. Saying something is destiny is taking away that person's responsibility for the outcome of things.

3. Do you believe in magic? Why/why not?

Are we talking about real magic or slight of hand? There is a really big difference, you know.

What Colour Hair Should I Have?

Which of these careers would best suit you?
Business executive

If people don't like you, it's usually because:
They are intimidated by you
They think you are flaky
They think you don't like them

If you had to describe your typical mood, you would say it is:
Light hearted

How would you describe your personal style?
You like to look polished
You like to stand out
You like to look sexy

Your hair is:
Well taken care of
A bit long for your gender
A bit wild

Your Hair Should Be Blonde
You are outgoing, light hearted, and a ton of fun. You don't take life too seriously, and you do your best to charm everyone you meet.

Be that as it may, I'm in reality a truly ugly blonde. My skin is too sallow to pull it off! Me and my burgundy (originally chestnut) hair are all that you said. Without a single blonde strand.

Four For Friday

Q1 - Email: We've all probably done this: Composed what we thought was an innocuous email or instant message, hit the send button and sat back to await a reply. When you finally do hear back, you learn the recipient of your message is upset with you. You thought what you sent was a very clearly worded message that could not possible be misinterpreted, but the recipient completely misunderstood. As a rule, do you read or reread email messages before you send them? Related: When you attach a document or file to an email message, do you open the file after it has been attached (to make sure it is indeed what you want to send)?

I do indeed and way too many a time been completely misunderstood in e-mail missives! And yes, I do open the attachment and check it. It's bad enough that this can happen in a face-to-face conversation; in an e-mail this sort of problem is terribly common. And I am consistently getting myself in trouble because of it. I have been very careful in cutting down my eagerness to be "cute" or funny in this format exactly for that reason. And in business it is even worse.

Q2 - It's a Dogs World: If you were reincarnated as dog, what breed would you like to be and what one person--either dead or alive--would you choose to be your master?

I would have to be a black with brown trim short-hair miniature dachshund. Why? I don't know, I guess since I like them a lot and they are soft and wonderful, they seem like a good kind of dog to be. Who would I choose to be my human companion? Well... that is a tough one. I suppose I would pick my parents - they really, truly love dogs.

Q3 - Debates: According to political pollsters, there are very few instances in which Presidential or Vice Presidential debates had a substantive impact on election outcomes. In other words, most voters choose to vote for a candidate regardless of what takes place during a debate. Has either of this year's debates influenced whom you think you will be voting for in November?

Uh, sadly, no. I can't sit through the lies and bullshit that these guys manage to pump out for the lowest [voting] demoninator. Once again, admitting my total political ignorance.

Q4 - City Ordinance: Beginning this Wednesday, Los Angeles pet owners must comply with a city ordinance that requires most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by the time they are four months old. Dog and cat owners not complying with the law will receive information on subsidized sterilization services. If their pets are not "fixed" within 60 days, they could face a $100 fine or eight hours of community service. A third offense could result in a $500 fine or 40 hours of community service. The ordinance exempts a number of animals, including service dogs and animals that compete in shows or sporting competitions. Do you like this ordinance or do you think the government has no right to legislate whether your cat or dog can have kittens or puppies?

Um, I'd have to say that I am okay with it. Animals will quickly overrun the planet if left to their own devices, especially since they do have litters rather than one or two babies. I still want to see something happen to keep humans from overrunning and destroying the planet!

Are You a Physical Flirt?
Check all that apply to you or that you agree with.
You will touch someone's arm or shoulder to make a point.
You like to sneak up behind people and put your hands over their eyes.
You will rest your head on someone's shoulder and act like you're tired.
You're big on giving hugs.
You like to sit on people's laps (or let them sit on your lap).
You like to wink at people.
You make prolonged eye contact with people.
You love to tickle.
You love to give (and get) back rubs.
You play with your hair or touch your face and mouth a lot

Your Physical Flirt Level: 60%
You are definitely a flirt, but you are more subtle than over the top. As far as physical flirting goes, you know that a little goes a long way. You will touch on occasion, but you're never flagrant or inappropriate. You just use physical stuff as the icing on your flirting cake. This does sound like me!

Saturday 9: Let's Get Ready to Rumble
1. When was the last time you lost your temper with someone?

Friday afternoon. I try to help someone and that party contacted UI, gave them all the wrong information and fucked it up completely, then left a vitriolic phone message for me. I was polite but very firm and made it clear that maligning my abilities, the person's former manager and the company is unacceptable and as I am it for you to come to for anything, a civil tone and conversation is not merely expected, it is a must. AND... no more ten-minute messages on my voicemail. Ever.

2. What was it about?

You know, I give detailed answers. See above.

3. Were you totally right or totally wrong?

You better believe it. Maligning my capabilities while demanding my expedience and help when YOU made the error to begin with makes me 00% correct. And I did not lose-lose my temper or yell or utter the MANY unutterable words flooding my mind.

4. If wrong, how long until you realized it? If right, how long until the other person realized it?

Oh, goodness. Who knows? I knew I was right and handled it the best way for that particular case. Whether or not the recipient of that controlled blast gets it is another story. I certainly got an apology right up front.

5. Did you go a lengthy of time without speaking?

Oh, you misunderstand. It wasn't a personal relationship, it was a professional one. I rarely get angry like that in any case. But people I know don't push my buttons that way.

6. Who made the first move?


7. Do you feel the situation is resolved now?

Again, who knows. We shall see.

8. Do you ever give in, knowing you weren’t wrong, to keep the peace?

Only when my manager requires me to do so. It is not in my nature to back down when I am right.

9. Was there permanent damage even though you’ve made up?

I suppose sometimes that happens. In this case, I am not concerned.

Saturday Six - Episode 234
Tag: Saturday Six — Patrick @ 9:55 am
Okay, so if you stopped by and read this little intro earlier, you probably realized that it had nothing to do with this week’s questions. Yes, what happens is that I copy and paste the previous week’s post and then update the intro and questions. It saves me a lot of time when it comes to the special coding for all of the font formatting involved in these weekly memes.

Unfortunately, if I forget to change the intro, I end up with a lead-in that doesn’t quite set you up properly for the questions. And yes, that’s exactly what happened this week. So with this newly-revised intro, I will tell you that this week’s questions, unlike last week’s, have nothing to do with the economy.


1. When was the last time you ate fast food?

Fast food... wow... I don't know. Been at least three weeks without pizza... I almost never eat burgers and I certainly don't eat fries. Yikes. I had Chinese about two weeks ago. Ah, there it is - two weeks ago!

2. If you get a meal on the run, are you more likely to get something unhealthy, like a burger and fries, or healthy, like a salad?

Oh, no, no, no - no burgers, never fries. Pizza, Chinese food, Thai food, Hindi, Afghani... I don't know if that is honestly fast food, but it is what I like. I get very, very good salads at work, and so never worry about not getting my vegetables (sort of) in the form of salad.

3. Of the meals you’ve cooked at home in the past week, have they been generally more healthy or less healthy than what you would have ordered in a restaurant?

Ha, ha, ha, ha... I never cook! And Luis rarely cooks, unless he gets home too late. I stop eating at six no matter what.

4. Take the quiz: What Does Your Burger Say About You?

I didn't take it, since I am not a fan.

5. What was the last meal you prepared for yourself?

Ooof. I have NO idea. A long, long time...

6. When was the last time you exercised for more than 30 minutes?

I can't recall the last time I worked out for less, either. Well, no. I did some last week. Keep trying to do something with my back.

Sunday Seven - Episode 163

Given my lack of internet service that forces me into Barnes & Noble, where I’m having an over-priced cup of coffee for an excuse to sit in the cafe and use their wifi, poor customer service is definitely on the brain.

Here’s a list of companies that ranked at the bottom of the heap in one poll when it comes to treating their customers the way said customers think they deserve to be treated. You’ll use that list for inspiration for this week’s question, should you need any.

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Name the seven companies that have given you the worst customer service.

Honestly? They all suck. I feel unhappy with all the service companies I deal with for the household things.

Out with Kyle, in With...?

Would you believe Tropical Storm Laura? Oh, the irony. I wonder how far she will go? She's forming way out in the Atlantic Ocean and seems to be far enough north not to be a potential threat to us. I don't think she will come here. But there is a tiny chance. It is a teeny possibility.

Ike certainly did a number on Kentucky. The others have hit other areas, ones more prone to this kind of damage - Houston, Florida, New Orleans. Amazing. I wonder what makes people want to live there - any of those theres, although I get the feeling that Houston is not as bad as New Orleans and almost any part of Florida. Strangely, the Carolinas have not been hit in a long time, and that is good. They are a popular landing site for really terrible hurricanes.

I suppose all locations have their natural Achilles heel, so to speak, but I cannot think why you would pick a location with, say, more than one, or one that happens often enough that your chances are that much more probably of experiencing this phenomena. How badly do you want to feel earthquakes? (I will freely admit that I did want that and thrice it has happened - and not in California, not once. Richter Scale Magnitude 2.2, 2.5 (both under northern New Jersey and 5.5, epicenter in Platsburg, NY) Or have a hurricane descend upon your house? You really don't. I lived through a minor hurricane (1979 0r 1980, Hurricane Gloria, Safford-Simpson scale of Category 2). I don't recommend it. A tornado roared down the road not 500 feet from our house on the other side of Parsippany, sounded like a freight train roaring through (1999, May 31, Fujita Scale F-2).

Do you really want that? Flooding we have as our regular disaster. It happens all the time. The last truly devastating flood was 1999, from Tropical Storm Floyd, who in mid-September dumped a ton of rain on the Meadowlands and other areas and flooded most of mid- and northern New Jersey. It put a lot of people on the streets.

I could see where this is not too bad a place to live. All the things I listed, except for floods, are freak things here, not the norm. We are good for 3 tornadoes a year, but all are weak and not usually fatal. Beats the odds in Olahoma, which averages over 350 a year. We are usually good for one hurricane a decade, but again, on the weak side (a hurricane has to really, really want to come here; late season is manageable, but only if the ocean is warm enough and it doesn't come inland until it gets a lot farther north than is typical). An earthquake... well, we do have a very old and (compared to California or Peru or Argentina) stable fault line system here, and it is constantly active, but earthquakes that are felt by us are few and far between. The two that were 2.0 and 2.5 magnitude were minor indeed and it was freak circumstances that allowed me to know about them. I had access to the observatory on Garrett Mountain, which also has a seismometer and it recorded those. The other one, the 5.5 one out of Plattsburg, NY I felt while sitting at my computer on the morning of 20 April 2002. And it was weird. In a word.

I would not flock to any of the Gulf areas, California along the more southern and active parts of the San Andreas fault, the base of Mount Saint Helen's or Popocatepetl in Mexico City. I would not consider Florida for retirement. India doesn't come high on my list for a multitude of reasons, but tsunamis and bad weather creating severe flooding (not to be confused by tsunamis which are tidal waves with the sole cause of undersea earthquakes). No, thanks.

So why do people flock to some of these places? I guess it is the human condition to have blinders on and have the attitude of this can't happen to me, and also because overpopulation (a favoured pet peeve of mine) has forced us to eke out livings and digs in places less than ideal inhabitable. But still... I have options, and mine is not to live in those places frequented by disasters!

WHO is Anonymous?

I received this comment right after the kitchen image went up:

"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Fun Photo!": I am wondering.. what happened to your real blog?? Whats with all the quizzes, etc?"

I was positive the culprit was Greg. Not that it wasn't a well-made point. I definitely have been getting nuts with the memes and quizzes. Maybe I should combine the memes into a once a week thing... then the quizzes once a week in a different post. I do like them, though. However, the real meat, the more intense cogitating - well, I've missed it, too.

So I wrote to Greg and explained it:

"As if I don't know who left that comment!
It's there but I will be getting back to real blogging, wiriting about ongoing things. Time has not been my friend of late. I should be writing more later. My mother is getting worse but wants to come home. Ray is better but alone and worried about my mother. Harry (my biological father) just lost one of his cats and wants me to come out soon. I'm depressed all the time without any cats.
Isn't life grand?"

And he wrote:

"I did not post anything to your blog, really. I dont have that email with your link. That comment wasn't me."

Ooooooooh, oops. He'd never deny something if it were true, so now I'm left wondering.

This next comment did not clear anything up:

"What a motley looking bunch of miscreants. I should know I'm front and center.fzubksni"

Now I'm completely intrigued. Front and center in that image is Cesar and no matter how much his English has grown (and it has, in leaps and bounds), he will not know the word miscreants - in fact, most people today don't. It is archiac. You might hear it at a Renaissance Faire or in an old movie. But most people don't know that word. So who sent this? I'm completely baffled!
Even if you don't tell me who you are, what the hell is "fzubksni"?!

But I am greatful! The posts are better quality now.

Reading Ingerdients

This probably falls under the heading of "what not to do"...

I read the indgredients of the sherbet that I just ate. (And how pissed am I at Luis? He probably inadvertantly did me a favour by ensuring that I could not stuff myself, but he ate all of the raspberry, most of the lemon and left mostly - like 97% - orange. My least favourite flavour. But he shouldn't have been eating it at all! And the only saving grace to this is that he did not eat it all. Then I'd have to kill him.)

So here is the fun of ingredients: water, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar syrup, whey, cream, raspberry puree, orange puree (concentrated orange juice, citrus pulp, orange oil), lemon puree (concentrated lemon juice, citrus pulp, lemon oil), citric acid, guar gum, xanthan gum, annatto, (colour), locust bean gum and artificial colour (blue #1, red #3, red #40, yellow #5). Contains: Milk.

Uh... and we wonder why so many people end up with Type II Diabetes (adult onset diabetes). Let's look at the second, third and fourth ingredients. When did fruit not have enough natural sugar on its own? Corn syrup is bad. Cane sugar is pretty bad... but not horrendous. However, high fructose corn syrup is heinous. This is the big culprit, the thing that food companies the world over love to use. It gets kids and adults alike hooked on sugar. It is the poison pill that sells fruit juice, ice cream and almost all dessert foods.

Boston Legal did an episode where Edwin Poole returned to the firm thinking he was okay, but got them embroiled in a law suit against some company that sells the telly equivalent of Ring Dings or Twinkies or whatever it was. (Oddly enough, I never eat that stuff.) They won. Yes, that is completely unlikely. Then again, no one ever thought that Big Tobacco would take a hit and they did. As usual, though, no dent was made - truly made - on the smoking industry. I don't see the food companies ever going to court and losing because they poison people as a whole.

They also follow trends more carefully and have made modifications to the different foods - sugar substitutes, caffeine-free items, fat-free items. Of course advertising has stepped in. Jelly Belly proudly displays NO FAT in their jelly beans. Of course there is no fat in the jelly beans. It is candy! Say it has NO SUGAR and then - wow! The taste would not be the same, but at least those who are diabetics could have them - more than two at a time.

One of the people I know has two young daughters. One is maybe five and has been diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. Type I is much more trying to manage and control than Type II, especially with kids. The younger one, maybe three, parades around eating a huge chocolate bar, and in front of her sister. I really felt like strangling the kid. I know their mother was feeling it, too... it was clear she did not like the younger girl's behaviour. She wasn't as obvious looking as I probably was, but it was not hidden, either. She even told me that the younger child had told her that her sister's condition was not her problem. And people think kids aren't mean.

Well, they say that. Obviously they know better but won't acknowledge it. I give the mother credit here. She sees it and has no trouble acknowledging it for what it is. She tried to manage the issue by keeping the younger one away from her sister. But it was hard with all that was going on and two kids that age - not to mention the many others kids that were around, and all the prevalent junk food.

More cogitating on our unhealthy society. I'm down on society a lot.

What Kind of Black Cloud... I live under?

It seems that of late I have had too much drama of the bad kind in my life. (I wonder if that is proper English usage... is all drama inherently bad or is it just serious, but can be good? I don't know. Stuff like this prays on my mind.) Anyhoo... too much bad drama. It isn't necessarily my own drama, it is a lot of things:

1. One parent has had a second hip replacement (ultimately a good thing, but still worrying and stressful while in progress)

2. One parent has had multiple strokes and is in the acute-care facility still (and not happy about it)

3. One parent has had to put one of his two cats to sleep and is wrecked by it (keep in mind I've two fathers)

4. I had to put my second cat to sleep exactly three and a half months after putting the first one to sleep

5. I'm a little on the broke side

6. Now I've been sick (I will live; something I've ingested pissed off my stomach enough that I have vomited and the diarrhea has been appalling. I tried not vomiting - I hate it that much - but my body reached a point where it wasn't putting up with my not dealing appropriately with the issue and took matters into its own hands. Yikes)

7. I am still having ongoing back problems. It gets a little better but then laying about all day today has not helped

So my big cosmic question is what else can go wrong? How much have I pissed off the gods to get this in the space of one month? Is Mercury in retrograde? Isn't that the dumbest thing... I never believe that stuff. Mercury doesn't go backwards, it only appears that way. Astronomy is science. Retrograde is a scientific term, an astronomical term. Anyway... off topic now. But it is like asking if Fate (all three aspects, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos) are out to get me; is it Satan (a nod to the stupidity of Catholism's belief in a figure of entropy), or is there really a black cloud that hangs about five feet over my head and is raining, thundering and spitting out little bolts of lightning?

The real-life answer is that there are tons of other things that can go wrong. There absolutely are a million things that could be screwed up, whether by my own hand or others. Unwittingly or unintentionally, things could be worse. But do you want to think that way? Of course not - but it is hard not to, especially with all this stuff dumped on me now. Someone wrote to me and said that she was told that God never gives us more than we can handle... but she wondered if there were times when he sure pushed the limit.

Me being the mostly godless creature that I am, I know that this is a line of bullshit. People say that stuff, but no one thinks about the patients in Greystone, who clearly got way more than they could handle. Some of them, anyway. Some started out nuts. But you get my meaning. I don't think I'm going to permanently lose my marbles. On a temporary basis I might already have lost it. I cry all the time. I'm more brainless and forgetful than normal. I hate feeling this way.

And let's talk about physically. Ye gods. Yesterday - sorry, Saturday - in this moment it is 0144 and therefore Monday. So Saturday was our wetdown. Squad wetdowns are a big deal and a lot of fun... I got to be there for most of it, but by 2115 my back was so bad that my squadmates were telling me to go. I hated leaving it early but I clearly pushed my slowly healing back beyond its capabilities! And no, I did not lift anything. Nothing. I did a lot of things, but nothing physically straining or harmful. It was a combination of standing and sitting on an uncomfortable chair, I think. Maybe just too much anything. I was on my feet since 1130 until 1700 for the most part and then on them for 70% of the time from 1700 to 2115. Wahoo.

So that was not easy. It was worth it, but not easy. This mornin-- sorry, yesterday morning - I awoke around 0600, took more medicine for my back and fell asleep around 0720. I woke up at 1230 (that is terribly late for me) and felt a little off, a little nauseous. It was not a good feeling. I thought maybe I just needed to eat, and had a bowl of cereal. Big mistake... I was nauseous all day. Around 1900 I went to bed but laying flat did not help - it made it worse. At around 2000 I knew what was coming. Well... let me rephrase that... I knew something was coming, and it would be coming up, never a good direction when talking of one's digestive system. Sure enough. Sitting on the toilet with one issue, I grabbed the (fortuitously lined) garbage container and brought up... whatever did not pass. Nothing was recognisable.

I did do one wise thing. I put Vick's Vapo-Rub under my nose before heading into the bathroom. As bad as the whole vomiting experience is (and I loathe and despise vomiting), taking the smell out of the equation made it a lot easier, if you can believe it. I was a little surprised over that. Still, anything that helps...

Those who know me know I love the CSI shows, and will appreciate this... I found myself thinking about the coroners and what they do, and checking stomach contents is one of them. I'm supposed to see an autopsy in November and I'm suddenly thinking that this is one thing I could live without - seeing a dead person's undigested food. Yuck. I will be taking the Vicks with me for that, I assure you. I find taking the unpleasant smell away from any situation makes it considerably easier. I'll go on a full stomach and be fine. But I still couldn't help but think of those scenes where Doc Robbins is holding a glass container with mush and liquids and smelling it and commenting on this or that in the stomach contents. (I doubt that flies in real life; my sumation of the smell of vomit is the same - mostly chemicals and bile that break the food and liquids down are what smell... Granted, if you eat something really vile smelling, however, and bring that back up, it smells worse!)

Too descriptive? Maybe. But real life... it's messy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either not paying attention or lying outright. Like when parents tell you that their kids were all wonderful and never misbehaved. It is unrealistic to say that. Your kids may not have held up convenience stores, did drugs or drove wrecklessly, but they absolutely did all sorts of normal kid-things that make any parent crazy and want to pull their hair out by the roots. So don't tell me that they were perfect angels when they were little.

My life right now is messy. I want it to clean up, but a lot of it is mess that I have little or no control over. That makes it harder since there is really nothing for me to do but ride out the tide and survive it all. I suppose the few things I had control over turned out... as they should. Making the decision to euthanise my kitties was the right thing to do. It was hard as hell but I am not one to torture my animals. I would not torture my family either. I wonder that euthanising people who are suffering is illegal. But doing it for animals isn't. I hated doing it but I did the right thing. My two cats lived really great lives up until the last hours if that long of their time. Eighteen years, too. That made them in their 70s (cats years are 1 = 4; dogs are 1 = 7). Not exactly a raw deal.

We have friends who did all kinds of crazy things to keep their dogs or cats alive and it was terrible. I could not have done it. I could not have lived with myself for doing that. Their lives were prolonged but at what cost? (I don't mean monetary, although for many of us, it is a consideration at some point.)

My stomach - well, lower than that - is making sounds that would be considered rude by any culture. I am drinking water (gingerly, mind you, to make sure it can handle it), but I have no crackers to eat. Luis ate them all. Pig. I shouldn't say that. But he did eat them all. I need to keep a little on hand so that if this happens again there is something gentle around the house to eat. I'll have to wait for tomo-- later this morning to get some. Driving to the Pathmark (the one 24-hour foodstore in Parsippany) to get some is not wise. Not to mention that I haven't the energy to do so anyway.

In this regard, Luis is useless. If he is sick I try to take of him. If I am sick, he wants nothing to do with me. He is unhelpful for the most part. He has his flaws and this is one of them. He won't go out and get things for me. I hate that.

Oooooh. You know what? I have sherbet in the freezer! Yes! Something I can eat! YAHOO! Maybe I will have some of that. It should be okay. If it is not... well, I have a fresh liner in the trash basket from the other bathroom...

Prepared. That's me.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

A Real Post - No Memes, Quetionnaires, Etc.

For the last few months, since around the time that Ariel died, I had also discovered the strange but unique world of Memes and Questionnaires. Both are features that I enjoy, but the real need to blog has always been cogitating on paper (well, so to speak). Lately my head is so overloaded with home issues and my emotions are in such a crazy state, that a real post has not happened in quite some time. I'm certainly well overdue.

A friend of mine, though, was the one who pointed it out. So here is a real post, life as it is right now. The hardest thing for me personally is dealing with the death of Chelsea, my cat. Ariel died in June and that was torturously hard, but there was still Chelsea waiting for me to come home. Now my house is echoingly empty.

Chelsea, like Ariel, was 18 years old, so I am sure old age had a role. They both lived a really long time and were with me just under half my life. Chelsea was diagnosed four or so years ago as having kidney degeneration, but there was really nothing to do for it. They suggested I feed her special food but she would not eat it. So I fed her regular wet food, as usual. Doctors don't know everything. I think making her eat foods she didn't like was not worth whatever benefits they swore was in it. They both lived just fine on a regular diet of dry food (Iams Senior Cat Food) and a daily feeding of Friskies wet food. (I think those are the right names.) She lived a long time after that and was happy.
On Friday night (I'm beginning to think Fridays are bad - Ariel was put to sleep on 6 June, also a Friday night) I came home and Chelsea came out to meet me but her back legs were not merely arthritic, they were clearly having major weakness and control problems. She did eat, but she wasn't herself. I stayed with her to see what would happen, and the back legs kept getting worse, and then she vomited her dinner up (second night in a row). I took her to the vet. At first, she thought maybe Chels' potassium level was low, in which case, I could mix a potassium paste into her wet food and that would be fine. But best to do a blood panel. I agreed, and we waited.

Her blood levels came back, and the potassium level was too high. Worse, her creatine level, which should have been between 1.0 and 2.2, was 10.6. Way too high. I asked the vet what she would do if Chelsea was her cat. You know the answer. She wasn't suffering and she wasn't in pain - yet. Why wait until she is, which was just around the corner. I made the decision to euthanise her and she went very peacefully.

It was a very different experience with Cheslea, who stayed sitting up on the table in the typical sphynx position, purring deeply. People often have the mistaken impression that purring is strictly a sign of happiness in a cat, but they do purr for other reasons. I kept my ear to her side the whole time, bathing myself in that lovely deep purr for as long as I could. It was misery to hear it stop. I held her for a long time after, sobbing madly. I did that was Ariel, too. Ariel died with her eyes open and I had trouble with that. Chelsea died with hers closed and just gently putting her head down. It looked more... natural, I guess. But Ariel could not sit up at the end, just lay on her side. Chelsea seemed okay, but the bloodwork and what the vet said made the outcome rather clear.

It was after midnight when I came out of the room, paid the bill $510 - practically whiped out my bank account - and went home, finally, to a totally empty house. And this is what still gets me. I'm coming home every night to a completely empty house. No fur at all. Not a single meow and purr. It is a lonely place now. It's just a house.
Janet at work suggested that it happens a lot this way when there are two older animals together, even if they weren't close. Cats, dogs, cat and dog, this happens. I don't know. Chelsea was very old but she seemed completely nonplussed by Ariel's death. Janet might be right.

People have varying reactions to this. Some are terribly understanding and know completely what I am feeling. Some understand that to me, the feeling of loss is very, very strong. They don't understand that loss because of an animal dying, but they understand loss on a personal level. And then there are the great masses of the completely uneducated, who really understand nothing at all. Someone actually said to me, "But this was just a cat." Well. Clearly you understand nothing about having animals in your life. This makes you unqualified to open your mouth at all!

People do surprise me all the time. For me, this is no less profound that one of my children dying. I don't have children and my cats weren't children per se, but they were my little ones, if that makes sense. The one difference is that I knew I'd outlive them. That is it. And this process was made harder in that I was the one that had to make the decision to euthenise them. When it comes to humans (for reasons passing understanding) quality of life doesn't enter the equation and most people are against such an idea. But I love my family, two legged and four legged, too much and while I hate being without them, I feel that euthanising is sometimes the only kindness.

So it is time to turn to the future and right now, Puccini, my cousin's 8-week-old kitten is the future. My future. She will be coming to me soon, maybe the end of October. I need to get the living room carpet replaced, first. I hope to get her soon. And I will be waiting for kitten number 2 to show up as well. Puccini (who will be renamed) will need a companion to keep her happy during the workdays!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Come to the Wetdown!

It will be wet anyway! What is a little more wetness?

What State Should I Live In?

How would you describe your weight?
Somewhat slender
Very slender
A little overweight
Very overweight

Do you like to be around people?
Not really
Yes, definitely

How would you describe your personal politics?
Very conservative
Somewhat conservative
Somewhat liberal
Very liberal

Do you like snow?
You like it sometimes
You love it
You hate it

How often do you go to Starbucks?
A few times a week
Every day
A few times a month
A few times a year

How important is religion in your life?
Very important
Extremely important
Somewhat important
Not important

You Should Live in Michigan
If you don't want to live in Michigan, you might also consider:
New Hampshire (I love New Hampshire! Maybe I will...)

A.W.A.D. - Terms for Earth's Features

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides... they all make news from time to time. Some see them as the payoff for offending their God. That especially applies to some televangelists here in the US, who pronounce such a verdict after each catastrophe. What a vengeful God they must subscribe to!

Others see these events as evidence of nature's wrath, but lawyer and orator Robert Green Ingersoll put it best when he said, "In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences." We may mess with an ecosystem and then we have to face the consequences. What a pity that often those who make a mess stay far behind, in space and time, to face the consequence.

This week we'll see five terms to describe earth's features, many of which you can use metaphorically.

PRONUNCIATION: (ahr-kuh-PEL-uh-go)
MEANING: noun: A large group of islands.

ETYMOLOGY:From Italian arcipelago (the Aegean Sea), from Latin Egeopelagus, from arkhi- (chief) + pelagos (sea). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plak- (to be flat) which is also the source of words such as flake, flaw, placate, plead, please, and plank. Originally the term referred to the Aegean Sea (an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Turkey) that has numerous islands.

MEANING: noun: An isolated hill or mountain that, having resisted erosion, rises above a plain.

ETYMOLOGY: After Mount Monadnock, a peak in New Hampshire, whose name in Algonquian means isolated mountain. Also see peneplain.

PRONUNCIATION: (shol, rhymes with hole)
MEANING: noun:
1. A shallow area in a body of water
2. A sandbank or sandbar in the bed of a body of water, constituting a navigation hazard

ETYMOLOGY: From Middle English shold, from Old English sceald (shallow). The homonym shoal, referring to a school of fish or a crowd, has a different origin, probably from Dutch schole (band or troop).

PRONUNCIATION: (kol, rhymes with doll)
MEANING: noun: A mountain pass

ETYMOLOGY: From French col (neck), from Latin collum (neck). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwel- (to revolve) that is also the source of words such as colony, cult, culture, cycle, cyclone, chakra, and collar.

MEANING: noun: 1. A narrow strip of land with water on each side, joining two larger land masses, for example, the Isthmus of Panama. 2. A narrow strip of tissue joining two large organs or cavities.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin isthmus, from Greek isthmos (a neck of land).

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Fun Photo!

From left to right: Pedro, Gabe, Cesar, Greg, Vladimir, Bill

All the best people!

Are You Normal About Sex?

Check all that apply to you or that you agree with.
You've done it outdoors.
You will openly discuss your fantasies with your partner.
You enjoy sex a lot.
You've had more than one partner.
You think there is too much sex on TV.
You don't think there is anything wrong with sex before marriage.
You'd call your sex life somewhat exciting, but not very exciting.
You are currently sexually involved with someone.
When it comes to sex, you're more likely to say you're traditional than adventurous.
Over time, your sex life has gotten better not worse.
You consider yourself to be good at sex.
You are honest about the number of people you've been with.
You can't remember the first and last name of every person you've been with.
You had sex before you were 18.
You have done it in a car.
You like being bitten.
You use birth control.
You prefer the lights off to the lights on.
Kissing is your top turn on.
You have gotten it on with a co-worker.

You Are 75% Normal About Sex
You're so normal about sex, it's a little scary. Your sexual attitudes and experiences match up with most other people. Like everyone else, you're a little naughty and a little traditional. You enjoy sex, but you're not a total freak about it!

3x Thursday: 09/25/y2k+8: Drinks!

(I decided to go mindless this week...go with it!)

1. What is your favorite non-alcholic drink? Why?

My favourite non-alcoholic drink is hot apple cider. I love it. It's a very autumny drink, too. The other favourite is a mango shake kind of drink that is common in Hindi restaurants. It is incredibly delicious!

2. Do you drink? If so, what's your favorite alcoholic drink?

I don't drink - very infrequently, anyway. I like Fuzzy Navels, but minus the Vodka, so it is just orange juice and peach schnaps. I guess you could say it is watered down.

3. What liquids do you drink most often?

Flavoured water.

What Kind of Bagel Are You?

How do you like your bagel?

Do you try to eat healthy foods?

What's the best bagel spread?
Cream cheese
Peanut butter

What goes best with a bagel?
Orange Juice

You Are an Onion Bagel
You are spontaneous, savvy, and multi-talented. You enjoy taking risks, and you're not the kind of person who makes long term plans. Of all the types, you're the most likely to eat something new for kicks. You tend to have something unusual for breakfast... if you even have breakfast at all.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Wednesday Weirdness: #22

1. Would you rather join the Ghostbusters to hunt ghosts or join the Sesame Street bunch? Why?

I would join the Ghostbusters, absolutely. Hunting ghosts sounds like fun and they made it look good! I hate kiddie stuff, so the option of joining Sesame Street isn't one. And the Ghostbusters themselves were fun.

2. What is the most you are willing to do to get out of a police officer giving you a ticket?

I once put my blue light permit in with my auto paperwork when I was pulled over in Connecticut for doing 84 on route 84 (the officer did not appreciate the irony). It worked - I got a $37 failure to wear seatbelt ticket with no points instead of a $400+ ticket with four points attached. I was quite greatful. And just for the record I was wearing my seatbelt.

3. What popular movies do you find to be overrated?

Almost all of them.

4. What is in (and/or on) your bedside table?

A small reading lamp. Usually a book or three. Sometimes my glasses are on it.

5. Have you ever had or fantasized about having sex with a boss before? Have you ever acted on that fantasy?

Yes, and absolutely not. No matter how tempting such a scenario might be, it is wrong in every possible sense.

6. If you had a personal assistant, what would you have them do?

FILING, baby! I hate filing and it piles up at the speed of light.

7. Have you ever faked static, loss of cell phone reception or anything else on the telephone line to get out of a conversation?

No, but I have held the house phone to my ear and completely faked a conversation many a time to avoid talking to the outlaw, who lives downstairs and is between me and my laundry!

~Make sure to comment and let us know you played! Check back every week for new questions! Make sure to link back to here when you play so folks can see where you got the questions and hopefully join in the fun as well. Thanks!~

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

TMI Tuesday: #153

1. What is the strangest thing you have ever inserted or seen inserted (in a sexual manner) in person?

You know, I don't think anyone wants to know. Seriously.

2. Have you ever had sex anyone whose name started with a J?

Um, let me think... I think so, but the brain just isn't working right now.

3. Have you ever been outside completely naked?

Yes. I'd hate to think anyone hasn't.

4. Do you prefer music, tv, or other noise in the background when you have sex?

It depends on the moment. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

5. Have you ever used ice for sexual purposes?

Sure. Who hasn't? It can be interesting...

Bonus: Have you ever been propositioned for group sex?

Come to think of it, I don't think I have. Which is okay; I don't hold strange or unusual sexual habits against others but this is not something I would go for. I just haven't any interest in group sex.

What Your Socks Say About You

You Are:

- Very courageous

- Always alert

- Considered valuable

- A unique person

Monday, 22 September 2008

Curious as A Cat: Week #134

1) What has been the most insincere expression of faith you have ever witnessed?

We had an emergency call about four weeks ago on Saturday evening, in St. Peter's Church on Baldwin Road and Route 46 West. An older patron was complaining of chest pain. We rolled in with the stretcher and equipment and the preacher was going on, full blast, over a sound system. We were working up the patient and still he went on, never giving any indication that we were there or that a paritioner was in distress of any kind. It was amazing.
He was saying something about giving thanks to the lord. I wondered what he was thanking the lord for if he could not find a moment to spare for the paritioner in medical distress. He did not even stop the organist from pulling all the stops on the instrument and playing, which did not help us at all, as we were trying to get a blood pressure. Without some modicum of silence, we can't get one.
So there you have the caring and love that is the Catholic church. I'm told, too, that this is normal. They don't let anything interrupt the services.
Karma, baby. That's all I have to say.
2) If you could paint each room in your house a different color, what colors would you paint them?
Well, the sunroom is already light blue and the eating area and kitchen are a light, happy yellow. The living room would be better with "Thistledown beige" and my office is a pale yellow also. Luis' office should be a pale grey (with a little blue in it) and our bedroom a pale green or maybe a light lavendar colour - a good peaceful sleep colour.
3) What is the biggest myth about sex?
The G spot. What a load of crap that is.
4) Who is the most charming person you’ve ever met?

Hmmmm. Um, a gentleman by the name of Jim Davies. One of the sweetest, most sincere people I've ever met.

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.

It reminds me of the Susquehanna area after the floods in 1973 that devastated the area. Everything was damaged and ravaged by the river waters which had risen quite high. This looks like the buildings that were left there.

Curious As A Cat: Week #136

1) If you had to exchange souls with someone you know for one day, who would you pick?

Wow. What a hell of a question. Hmmm. I have to think about that one.
Someone I'd want to exchange souls with... Hmmm. I just don't know. Maybe someone who is 99 years old - just to experience what they have.

2) When were you happiest to come home?

Anytime I've been to the hospital.

3) What is your favorite part of the yesterday?

If you mean "What was my favourite part of yesterday?" it was seeing all the others from the other squads at the Parsippany Fall Festival.

4) What has been your greatest accomplishment in life so far?

Being happy.

5) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.

It reminds me of an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie got a job writing for the fashion magazine Vogue and the editor, brutally played by Candice Bergman, ripped it to shreds. The other guy (I can't remember who it was or his title with the magazine) wanted to make Carrie feel better, so he took her to the "Closet", where all old fashions went. She was having a ball in there. It was a funny scene.

The Autumn Test

Imagine you're walking down a tree lined street on a fall day. What color leaves stand out to you the most?
The orange leaves
The red leaves
The yellow leaves
The green leaves
The brown leaves

Which fall holiday do you like better?

Do you like it to snow in the fall?
Only a dusting

What's the perfect fall food?
Hot cider
Pumpkin pie
Roasted autumn vegetables
Candied apples
Butternut squash soup

What's your favorite type of autumn weather?
Sunny cool days
Rainy days
Breezy days
Foggy days

What's your favorite time of fall?
The middle
The beginning
The last part

Your Autumn Test Results
You are a dynamic, vibrant person. You aren't afraid to pursue your passions.

When you're happiest, you are outgoing and expressive . You love celebrations, and you enjoy showing off a little.You prefer change to come slowly. You need a long transition period when your life changes.

You find solitude to be the most comforting thing in the world. Being alone with your thoughts feels very peaceful.

Your ideal day is active and full. You like to keep busy with your favorite things, and you appreciate a routine. You tend to live in the moment. You enjoy whatever is going on, and you don't obsess over the past or future.

A.W.A.D. - Nautical Terminology

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." These timeless words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French author and aviator, sum up what it means to lead. How tight a ship do you run? Are you the mainstay for your organization or just a figurehead?

This week we'll feature five words that have their origins in nautical terminology.

MEANING: noun: A chief support or main part.

ETYMOLOGY: On a sailing ship, the mainstay is a strong rope that secures the mainmast. The noun stay (a heavy rope) is from Old English.

PRONUNCIATION: (FIG-yuhr-hed, FIG-uhr-hed)
MEANING: noun: A person who is head of a group in name only, having no authority or responsibility.

ETYMOLOGY: The term is derived from the figurative use of the term figurehead which is an ornamental carving, usually of a human figure, on the bow of a ship. From Latin figure (form, shape) + Old English heafod (top of the body).

MEANING: noun: The part of a ship offered to those traveling at the cheapest rate.

ETYMOLOGY: From the fact that originally this section was located near the rudder of the ship.

MEANING: noun:
1. Any of various low conical-shelled marine mollusks that adhere tightly to rocks
2. One that clings stubbornly

ETYMOLOGY:From Middle English lempet, from Latin lampreda (lamprey).

MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To haul under the keel of a ship
2. To rebuke sharply

ETYMOLOGY: From Dutch kielhalen, from kiel (keel) + halen (to haul). In the olden times this form of punishment was inflicted in the Dutch and British navies. The punished sailor was tied to a rope looped under the ship and thrown in the water. Then he was dragged along the bottom of the ship to the other side. The result was either severe injuries from brushing against the barnacles on the ship's bottom or death from drowning. Thankfully, in modern times keelhauling is performed only metaphorically.

Sunday Seven: Episode #161

I recently joined a brand new bible study group for men at my church, and the second week’s topic inspired this week’s question. I won’t go into the subject matter in detail in this post, but it’s about learning patience. One of the discussion questions asks the reader to consider how successfully he’d be able to remain patient in a given set of scenarios.

Here is the list, which you’ll use to answer this week’s question:
Getting trapped behind a slow driver on the interstate
Waiting in a long line at the bank
Waiting at a store behind another customer who needs a price check
Waiting for your best friend to show up at the surprise party you are throwing for him/her
Building (or purchasing) a home
Waiting for a promised raise or promotion at work
Waiting for test results from a doctor
Waiting for the arrival of a new baby in the family
Teaching a teenager how to drive a car
Waiting for a much-anticipated love interest to call for a second date

Those are the ten situations that you have to work with. But before the question, I ask for one more moment of your patience to recognize last week’s sole player. (Are there no other Hitchcock fans in the blogosphere?!?)

First to play last week: Scarlett of Scarlett’s Society of Quirky. Congratulations!

Here is this week’s “Sunday Seven” question. Either answer in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog…but either way, leave a link to your journal so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your blog in which you answer the questions. A general link to your blog cannot count. Enjoy!

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Name the seven scenarios listed in which you’d have the most difficult time maintaining your patience.

The most stressful and long-term "I-have-no-patience-for-this" experience was purchasing a house. The whole process is one that speeds up the aging process in a super fast manner. First there is the search, then putting a bid, then the bidding war, then the waiting periods for the financial end, the inspections, etc. Finally there is waiting for the closing and of course, you are never on the same schedule as the sellers. The last time we did this we were in both roles: buyers of this house, sellers of the old one. Ugh. It was unbelievable.

However, that has been twice in my lifetime, and I'm 40 - this is not stuff that one does all the time. So there are two answers to this.

The most stressful, oft-occurring stress is getting trapped behind a slow driver on the interstate (Route 80 comes to mind). This happens all too often and it seems to have a direct relationship to how much of a hurry I'm in. If I'm more than on time to arrive somewhere, then I just sigh and live with it. If I'm in a hurry (and I'm only in a hurry if I am potentially late, which is not often), then I stay a good distance and politely turn my lights on and off to tell them to get out of the fast lane.

If that doesn't work and I absolutely have to get around that slow poke, I will pass on the right to get around them. But that is a last-ditch thing. Generally, I turn up the music and just deal with it. What else is there to do? Tailgating and honking is illegal, unsafe and won't usually accomplish anything.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Hiking the Pacific Trail Part VII

Miles hiked this section: 89
Days hiked: 5
Total miles hiked: @ 1,250
Miles still to go: 530

Hi from Eugene, OR! I made it into and out of Canada. There was no one at the border except birds and squirrels. No Mounties or U.S. soldiers patrolling the woods (one rumor passed south by a few hikers). I heard that "illegally" crossing the US/Canada border is technically a felony, but that Canada doesn't enforce any kind of punishment. This was lucky news for at least 50% of the hikers because only a few of them had actually bothered to apply for the recommended "Entry Into Canada" permit letter. I only heard about it possibly needing the permit letter once I was already on the trail, but I figured that as long as I had my passport, they'd have to let me back into my home country -- and I was right. The border guard just looked at our passports, asked us a few generic questions about how we knew each other, what we'd been doing in Canada, how long we'd been there, and waved us on through. She didn't even stamp my passport, dang it!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Stehekin, WA (the last trail town before Canada). I took two rest days, because...well, because I could. And because on the day I was going to go back to the trail, I met 3 hilarious guys who I'd been wanting to hike with ever since I'd met one of them in Skykomish. I think I laughed more in Stehekin with Geoff, Ben and Joeffy than I had on the whole rest of the trail.

Everyone who was passing through the beautiful little lakeside village of Stehekin was talking about finishing the trail, and what they were going to do to celebrate at Monument 78 (the northern terminus of the PCT at the Canadian border). Geoff was going to get naked and have his picture taken on top of the Monument. A few people were going to smoke cigars. Others were packing in flasks of Mexican tequila and Canadian whiskey, and were going to do a shot of each. Lots of people were making mini-movies with their cameras, and of course, everyone writes their final thoughts in the monument's trail register. Everyone was excited/sad to be done. Geoff compared it to the feeling of the last few days of school before summer starts... but at the same time, having it feel like the last few days of summer before school starts. A weird combination of excitement and dread. Most people are exhausted and want it to be done, but they've had such a great time and love the people they've been hiking with -- and they wish that part didn't have to end. Most people seem to have some form of love/hate relationship with the trail on a small scale by the last 100 miles.

I'd made a pact with myself during the horrendous day of blowdowns that if I could make it over all the fallen trees and washouts and STILL make my 22.5 miles for the day, I could eat whatever I wanted to at Stehekin's famous bakery. When I actually got to the place, it was late afternoon and their stock had been pretty much wiped out by other thruhikers, so I had to wait to savor the miraculously huge and gooey sticky buns/cinnamon buns until the morning we took the shuttle back to the trail. Oh yes, I had one of each, thank you very much. I ate a fresh, warm and absolutely enormous cinnamon bun on the shuttle bus back to the PCT. I don't even want to know how many calories were in that thing. It was like rocket fuel. I didn't have to eat again until 3pm. That's notable, because I usually must eat every 3 hours when I hike, or I feel like death. I managed to save the sticky bun for breakfast the next day, and it was even better than the cinnamon bun, possibly because I was consuming it in the woods, far from civilization.

Geoff, Ben, Joeffy and I made it to the road at Rainy Pass the first night, 20 miles north of Stehekin. Early in the day, we met a 77 year old lady hiking with her son. She was from Norway, and talked like a skinny Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She was hilarious -- a real sparkplug. We ended up sitting at her feet for 10 minutes while she told us stories of all the long trails she's hiked SINCE SHE TURNED 70. Definitely inspiring for us. She was carrying a backpack that looked almost as big as ours, and was obviously sleeping on the ground at night. Hard to belive anyone would want to do this at 77.

At the very end of the day, as we approached Rainy Pass, we came upon a hiker cache. A trail angel had left a big Sterilite storage box full of Kettle chips bags, Pringles, cupcakes and chocolate haystacks from Trader Joe's, beer and soda. The thank-you register was blank, so were were the first ones to it, and enjoyed our pick of the goodies. The guys were jubiliant because it was their first time to a food cache that hadn't been picked over by others, so we sat down and had a little buffet of snacks and told funny stories while we celebrated ending our first day back on the trail. We left all the beer untouched, so I'm sure most of the subsequent hikers were perfectly happy. The guys I was with were all non-drinkers. They'd all "found Jesus", as they liked to say. Pretty religious folk, but they hadn't lost their sense of humor (Praise Jesus!). Every morning before we started hiking, they'd read one of the Psalms from the travel-size Bibles they were carrying. The plan had been to read Psalm 1 in San Diego airport at the start of the trip, and read one per day, in numerical order, until they reached Canada, hopefully finishing with the last Psalm, #150. Believe it or not, it actually worked out that way, although they hadn't been trying to keep to any kind of hiking schedule. We read Psalm 150 together at Manning Park, in Canada. I appreciated this routine, and we had lots of extremely interesting conversation about religion while we were hiking together. They were my favorite group to hike with on the trail so far.

A few hundred yards further north, we ran into a few section hikers right at the highway who pointed us toward a campground that was only a few hundred yards away, and then gave us a box of apples and some MRE meals that they weren't going to eat. The boys were psyched, because the food resupply options in the Stehekin general store were so limited that all that was available were Top Ramen, graham crackers, small containers of chocolate cake frosting, and various candy. I was luckier than the others, though. I'd visited the store a little earlier, and been able to buy the last few packages of turkey meat. Plus, a very sweet older couple who were vacationing at the Stehekin hotel had invited me to have dinner with them on their back porch and ended up giving me all this fresh fruit plus an avocado and a tomato. Without their generosity it would have been graham crackers and frosting for me too, I'm afraid! Thankfully, Stehekin was the only place where the food shopping has been such a nightmare. Hiking north out of town, my pack must have been back up around 40 pounds, but the fresh produce was worth it. I couldn't imagine subsisting on candy graham crackers and frosting as I hiked. During this whole last section, the indian summer we'd been blessed with continued to hold steady, and the days were sunny, warm and basically perfect for hiking comfortably. The nights weren't even that cold. The moon was full -- so full in fact that we could barely sleep for a few nights. The last night on the trail, the moonrise was still super-full and that night it was blood red. It was actually kind of creepy, but still cool. We were cowboy camping at night, lined up like pencils in a box. Geoff had brought his iPod, and we were watching episodes of the Office before we went to sleep. We were having campfires every night -- a treat for me, because I'm usually too tired to bother with them. Life was good.

Blueberry bushes lined the trail for most of the way to Canada, and its foliage had already started turning various shades of deep purple, red and flourescent pink. It was like someone had rolled out a red carpet for us as we hiked toward toward the monument. After particularly hard sections, we would stop and have a berry burst -- a fanatic berry picking session where we took 15 minutes to graze the bushes.

On the fourth day, we met a thruhiker who'd already finished a week ago, and had returned to the woods with his dad to do some bear hunting. A little further on, we ran into his dad on the trail, and ended up talking to him for almost a half hour about hunting, and the trail. There were SO many hunters out, scouting deer/cougar/bear. It kind of ticked me off that someone would want to kill a cougar, especially since they're so hard to spot. I really don't understand why anyone would think it cool to hang a dead animal's head on his wall. The guy offered me a huge Cadbury milk chocolate bar, which we promptly split and made disappear. (As in, "You hand me that chocolate bar, and I'll show you a really good magic trick...").

Around lunchtime, we reached "Pleasant campsite with a spring", as advertised in our data books. The spring was stagnant, and the site was filled up with hunter's gear and a hotel-sized, poorly pitched and sagging canvas tent that the hunters had mule-trained in to the campsite. They walked back into their camp as we sat by the trail, resting. Kindly, they offered to make us grilled cheese sandwiches since they were about to fry up some for themselves. I love this kind of spontaneous trail magic. It's really the best kind. Like Halloween and Christmas rolled into one. I'm definitely going to drive out to the Appalachian Trail next summer and perform some food-related trail magic for the A.T. class of '09. Maybe barbeque up some hamburgers and keep sodas on ice one night. We'll see. Thruhikers aren't very picky eaters, so I'm sure they'll love whatever I provide.

As the grilled cheeses were being made, one of the hunters showed us the bearmeat they'd brought back from their hunt. Enough to fill one backpack, and that's about it. Surprising, since they estimated that the bear weighed about 300 pounds. It seemed wasteful, really, to kill an animal for a few steaks...but they swore that bear meat was delicious. They'd brought back the head and forepaws, too, and they were sitting on the ground a little ways from camp. I wandered over to look at it, and it looked like they'd buried a live bear in the ground up to its neck and paws. No blood. It was strangely, sadly beautiful, really. I appreciated being able to see the teeth and claws that close-up. The claws were each as long as my curved pinky finger. I wouldn't want to be cuffed by a bear. I think that would hurt a lot more than being bitten, actually. The mouth was no larger than a dog's. Not as impressive as I would have thought. The paws were far scarier.

Ben and Geoff had met on the trail the very first day out of Campo, CA. They ended up hiking together the whole way, and they picked up Joeffy at Crater Rim (in Oregon). Partway through the last section, I watched as they began to deal with the fact that the hike (and their partnership) was going to be ending in a few days. Honestly, I felt honored that they accepted me into their group for these last 5 days, considering that they knew it was going to be an emotional time for them. There were lots of "last moments". Last sunrise, last campfire, last night on the trail, last poop in the woods (oh, did you forget? I was hiking with men). Reaching the monument was an emotional moment for everybody, but tears were deflected by Geoff's naked momument climb. And we were all too busy holding our noses, because he hadn't showered since Skykomish. As we hung out there, we got to watch as more thruhikers poured off the trail, and each celebrated in their own way, then wrote their final entries in the trail register. Everyone whined about having another 8 miles to hike into Canada to get to Manning Park (where the PCT officially ends, and where Greyhound runs a shuttle to ferry people to Vancouver). So there was much good-natured Canada-bashing and singing of "Blame Canada!" (ever see the South Park movie?...) as we hiked toward Manning Park. We decided that no one, not even the Canadians, knew any of the words to the Canadian national anthem past "Oh Canada...". Geoff decided it would make a sassy end to his PCT trail video to interview Canadians in Manning Park and ask them to try to sing their national anthem and watch how far they got with the words (answer: not very far!). It was hilarious.

I'm happy that I still have the 530 miles to hike, but part of me is a little worried that I might feel lonely after enjoying hiking with Geoff, Ben and Joeffy. I'm just grateful that I got to be with them for as long as I did. Down south by Ashland, OR, there probably won't be any thruhikers hiking north. Maybe a few stragglers like me who skipped over the smoky section and are now going back to finish it now that it's clear again, but that's about it. It's going to be a much quieter hike this next month -- a good time to reflect back on all that's happened, I suppose, and write more in my journal. I'll be thinking of you all as I finish up northern California, and I'll be looking forward to coming back home and visiting New York City when I'm done!


Saturday, 20 September 2008

Saturday Six: Episode #232

1. Do you think that capital punishment — as the system now operates — is a deterrent to crime on any level?

No, clearly not. The prisons are full to overflowing with deathrow clients. What part of this seems like a deterent? And in Texas, where they do happily execute the deathrow inmates, there are still too many of them. Doesn't seem to scare them at all.

2. With changes and/or improvements to the justice system designed to better enforce capital punishment, do you think it could be a better deterrent to crime?

That is a tough question. I don't know that such a thing can happen. It is in the human genome to be violent, take what isn't one's own, getting ahead through violence, etc.

3. Should the punishment a man who kills a pregnant woman be worse than the punishment a man who kills a non-pregnant woman faces?

No. Why? Isn't that discriminatory?

4. Take the quiz: What Felony Are You?

In school, you were most likely to get in trouble for:
Making fun of someone
Cheating on a test
Being weird
What kind of people are you drawn to?
Powerful people
Innocent people
People who are a little shady
You aren't into people
Risk taking people
Weak people
What petty crime are you most likely to commit?
Marijuana possession
Public nuisance
Which of these do you feel the most comfortable with?
Physically acting out on your aggression
Being disloyal
Being dishonest
Making someone feel uncomfortable
Ruining someone's reputation
Making someone do something against their will
Who would have been the best cellmate?
Robert Downey Jr.
OJ Simpson
Andy Dick
Mel Gibson
Paris Hilton
Martha Stewart
You Are Stalking
You tend to be very obsessive. Once you focus your attention on something or someone, it's all you think about. You are also very secretive. People don't know much about the life that you lead. You are attracted to weak people. You may want to prey on them, but you also may just want to help them. You need attention, and you can get desperate if you aren't getting attention from the right person. You'll do about anything to get noticed.

5. You stop by a post office to run in and mail a letter, knowing you’ll only be inside the building for 10 seconds. To park close to the door, there are only two options: you can either park in an open handicapped space (and assume you don’t have a handicapped permit) or park illegally in the fire lane. Would you take a handicapped space, park in the fire lane, or park in a legitimate, legal space and walk?

I'd walk. What a question. The sad part is that many, many people, despite possibly not admitting it, do just those things.

6. Should police target people who use marijuana when there is no legitimate medicinal need for it?

I think drugs should be legalised.

Saturday 9: Would You Take Them Back?

1. Think of all your exes. Would you take any of them back?

It's been nineteen years at the very least for all of them. No.

2. What was the first car you drove? What happened to it?

My then-boyfriend burned it to the ground. He swore it just happened but we will never know. It was a black 1977 Chevy Camaro.

3. What’s the longest amount of time you have driven a car non-stop?

Six hours. About two hours too long.

4. Have you ever been stood up on a date? If yes, when?

Sure, but I'll be damned if I can recall when.

5. What TV network do you watch the most?

No idea. Maybe NBC? CBS? Who knows?

6. Pick out a song you like that has special meaning to you. Share with us what song is it, and what’s the meaning to you.

It is a song by U2 called Shadows and Tall Trees. These are the lyrics that get me:

Do you feel in me Anything redeeming Any worthwhile feeling? Is life like a tightrope Hanging 'cross my ceiling?

I cannot explain that to you, or to anyone. But I know it. I know what it means to me and that is all that is needed.

7. Who was your first celebrity crush on?

Adam Ant.

8. What is your favorite romantic comedy movie?

You've Got Mail, Shakespeare In Love

9. It has been said, "First Loves Are Never Over." Is this true for you?