Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Inspired by Stuff On My Cat (.com)

They were not amused (??)

I have inadvertently put a box everywhere that I might be in my apartment so that no matter where I am, Anastasia is in a box near me.

And now she had a doggie salt shaker on her, which was donated to me by Emancipet. (Odd that a non-profit donated something to me, but I didn't ask questions. I just went with it.)

Good night.


Monday, August 27, 2012

That's the kind of crazy I am this year

August 27, 2012

Here I am sitting on my patio, drinking coffee and reading. My cats hung around, ate grass, now they're lounging on the concrete under the stairs. It's really nice. I like that I decided to stop spending so much time and money in the corporate coffee shop. I like being home.

Or, do I? I'm sitting on the patio. It's 90º. I'm drinking hot coffee. Yet, I'm outside because that's just the kind of crazy I am this year.

I've always kind of unconsciously avoided being at home. I mean, this dates back to the first time I had an apartment. Odd that I'd pay money every month for a place I didn't want to be. For a while I couldn't sleep on my bed; I could only sleep on my sofa. I don't know. Perhaps I'm claustrophobic. I don't entirely understand it, but it seems to be going away slowly, on its own.


But, here are a couple of pictures of my patio/porch.

Anastasia keeping an eye on things

Sunday, August 26, 2012

BYRC – Appointment with Death

August 26, 2012

I have read all of the Miss Marple books I could find and now I'm working my way through the Hercule Poirot series. It just so happened that the next book on my list was Appointment with Death, which was published in 1938, so it qualified for the Birth Year Reading Challenge. It's kind of cheating because the challenge is supposed to introduce us to books we wouldn't have otherwise read, and clearly I was about to read this one anyway. But, oh well.

The story itself is 178 pages on my Nook, and the Nook is generally comparable to actual books w/r/t the number of pages. The publisher fills up the rest of the 209 pages with a list of Poirot books, snippets about the books and an "essay" by Charles Osborne, which was actually a list of facts about the book and its subsequent appearances on stage and screen. It was taken from a biographical companion to the works of Agatha Christie. I realize that I put far too much of my personal reactions in book reviews that I write, but that was just entirely too dry. (It was a little informative, though.)

In this novel Christie incorporates a dominant matriarch who is actually a "mental sadist". This sort of character is commonplace now, especially in TV, but I don't know how common it was in 1938. I did deep, in-depth research on the subject (I read the Wikipedia article on the book) and I did not find any reference to this aspect one way or another, so I can't report how edgy Christie was in writing about dangerously deranged people. (I'm trying not to be offended that the sadist is American.)

As usual Poirot interviews the suspects, but this time I couldn't help wondering why they agreed to be interviewed. I mean, I wouldn't have answered his questions; I wouldn't even have answered his summons to the interview. He didn't have any authority. A couple of the girls looked at him with pleading eyes, but why would they plead with this person who was not an official detective, when the real detective wasn't even present? Why would they collectively agree to gather together in the end with him so that he could reveal who did it? I don't remember ever feeling this way with the other Poirot novels, so I suspect that Christie didn't do as good a job this time of justifying it.

Not only that, I didn't want him to find the answer. She did a good enough job of creating the dominant, sadistic mother/bitch that I wanted him to keep his Belgian nose and his luxurious moustaches out of the family's business. Even the ending didn't satisfy me in this respect; it did not justify – in my eyes – his interference.

Christie married an archæologist in 1930 and from what I understand her experiences with him led to this novel – its location, anyway. I enjoyed her description of Petra and it seems accepted that it is accurate. In the snippets of her Autobiography that I read she shows acute interest in archeology and a longing for the Middle East whenever she left it.

I also read that she learned to hate Poirot, but was faithful to her readers and kept writing about him as long as they kept enjoying him, which was all of her life. I much prefer Miss Marple, though there are far fewer of her novels than of M. Poirot. I think I'm okay with that. Her Marple novels seem much more involved, especially with regard to character development. Christie wrote her first Poirot novel (indeed her first novel) in 1916. (It was published in 1920.) Published in 1938, Appointment with Death is her 16th Poirot novel, which doesn't even count the 4 novellas and many short stories. I can't help feeling that she's tired of him by now.

I read this Novel basically in one day. I enjoyed it, partly because it was not too taxing while I lay on the sofa drinking coffee. I have no real love for Poirot, but I do have a love for Christie's writing style and the whodunit nature of her books. I enjoyed the scenery she paints, even if I wasn't as fond of these characters that she used to paint it.

Thus concludes my review of the first book I read on my Birth Year Reading Challenge. Next up, I believe, is Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret.

More later,


Monday, August 20, 2012

Birth Year Reading Challenge

August 20, 2012


I stumbled across this (I didn't StumbleUpon™ it, I just stumbled across it in the old fashioned way) on a blog called 'Wednesday Book Club'. It sounds like a good challenge, plus it will point me in a new direction as far as reading goes  – one that I probably would not have gone on my own. You can read the ins and outs about it on the link above.

Birth Year: 1970

There are some wonderful books from this year. I had no idea that some of them were as old as I. The Judy Blume, for instance. Who would have thought that that young adult book was 42 years old? I know I like Ruth Rendell. (I already read Agatha Christie, which applies to the next section as well.) Oliver Sacks is fun anyway. Toni Morrison – I've read Beloved so I think this would be a good book to follow up with. We are allowed to alter the list, so I might do that, especially depending on the availability of some of the titles. For the moment, though, here's my plan:

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret – Judy Blume
Passenger to Frankfurt – Agatha Christie
A Guilty Thing Surprised – Ruth Rendell
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks
If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot


My mother's birth year. (Forgive me for spilling the beans, Mom.) Like I said earlier, I'm already working my way through the Agatha Christies. I haven't read P.G. Wodehouse and this is as good a reason as any.

Mr. Popper's Penguins – Richard Atwater
Appointment with Death – Agatha Christie
The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse

This is 9 books. I believe I can do this in 5 months. As I said I might have to adjust depending on availability, and the actual substance of the books. I'm not in the market right now for a 700 page novel.

But, I'm excited about this game and I look forward to completing my list, even if that means taking days off from work to finish. :-D

I'll keep you posted.


More Dictionary Fun

August 20, 2012

Actually, my favorite segment of Ask the Editor is called Octopi. This is where I really began to enjoy watching these videos. I looked for it on YouTube and it's kind of amazing to see the strong feelings people have about this. I mean, there are people like me who say ♫ ♥♥ I love this Video! ♪ ♥ and then there are some very strong opinions about whether or not Ms. Stamper is correct. She has an advantage in that she is actually an associate editor for Merriam-Webster so her credentials are already kind of established. She also has in her favor the fact that she is entertaining – especially in this video – while most of the other people leaving comments simply sounded bitter. One way or another, though, I suppose it's worth it if this program inspires dialogue about words and language.

I have to admit that Octopus is not my favorite word, but her presentation of the word makes up for it. Who would have thought that a linguist would have so much personality? (Well, I would because I know some, but in general who would have thought?)



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thrift Store Heaven

August 18, 2012

Yesterday I went to meet up with Nameless and Patricia. You may remember them from my experience at The Oasis. Well, my friend, Sarah Fisch, posted on her Facebook that she was eating Pollo Pibil in Los Angeles and that caused me to crave Cochinita Pibil. There is only one restaurant that I know of in Austin that makes this and it's called Azul Tequila; on Lamar and Ben White (next to Target). So, I called Nameless and informed him that we needed to go there to eat soon. He said that Patricia had already expressed interest in getting together for dinner because she was going to be in town. So, things were loosely arranged.

I met up with Patricia at the corporate coffee shop on Anderson Lane near MoPac. We broke out my new netbook, which I am currently writing on, and searched around for galleries and other goings-on. Nameless had suggested going to thrift stores, possibly because every time he calls me on a Sunday I'm at Goodwill browsing.

It turns out, Patricia is the absolute queen of thrift stores. She didn't even need the computer when it came to that topic; she IS the database, complete with ratings – her own and her friends'.

We got a late start, from a thrift-store-shopping point of view. Next-to-New closed at 4 pm. I demanded that since they are in a service industry they should stay open later than that. She told me to take it up with the Episcopalians. So, we slipped over to Savers. It was more or less like a Goodwill, which means that you never know what's going to be there. I found a raku piece and two other pieces of hand-thrown pottery – two small glasses. The two others were by the same artist and he/she seems to be more advanced as a ceramics artist.

Then we went to Top Drawer. I have been seeing this place since I've lived in Austin and I had never been in there. Wow! What a place! I saw a Japanese figurine that I thought my sister would love. He was only $6.  While we were growing up my mother had two little statues that seem to be in the same style, and I thought that Lottie had them now. I sent her an image of him and then called her. She happened to be in the middle of an anxiety attack so I talked to her for a while. Then, when she saw the picture her voice changed and I felt that she genuinely liked him. Guess what. He was half off! $3!! She doesn't have the other two, but she will now have this one. He's missing a hand, but after 8 children all of my mother's things are chipped and missing limbs and digits.

Japanese Figurine from Top Drawer

Nameless found a set of 9 Mikasa cup/saucers. $1 apiece after the markdown. They also had a set of 4 Wedgewood cup and saucers. I was tempted to get them just because, but I wasn't in love with them and $35 is $35. Nameless also found two nice frames made of Birdseye wood (this is according to him and Patricia). They are very nice frames. I told him I'd buy them for him, but he told me to buy them for me. I have them; we'll see what we do with them.

We did end up at Goodwill – the one on Lamar and 2222. It was kind of a let-down after Top Drawer, but Patricia was having more fun. She found a glass bowl for water for her cats. I found a piece of ceramic, which I believe is a Tim Farmer original. It's a pancake bowl; it has a handle and a spout to pour the batter onto a griddle. I don't usually find 4 pieces of hand-thrown ceramics in the same day.

Afterward we went to La Palapa for dinner. (Azul Tequila was very far and they were very hungry.) After dinner we went to Whole Foods in downtown, which is our regular dessert place. We headed straight to the back and Nameless and Patricia got what they always share – a chocolate-lined edible shell with cream in the bottom and mixed berries on top. I got what I always get, a crème brûlée. They put fresh berries on top just because they love me. I think that this is a wonderful tradition. We ate outside under a wooden cover next to what would be a water course, if they had water running through it.

On the way back we stopped at Wheatsville so Patricia could go grocery shopping. I had been there before, but suddenly I saw it with new eyes. That place kind of rocks. I'm definitely going to have to go back and check out their bulk rice selection and their produce. Nameless found some cream that helped the calluses on his hands. He didn't buy it, but he sampled the hell out of it. I'll probably get him some when I'm in there next. It's not cheap, but it's good stuff. Their dishwasher recommended it, and that's a recommendation worth taking when it comes to hand-cream.

I like our little adventures. I love having friends who enjoy doing things like this, and it was Patricia's turn to shine. She knows her way around thrift stores and Wheatsville.

Raku Piece from Savers

Two Ceramic Glasses from Savers

Tim Farmer Pancake Bowl – Goodwill

Frames from the Top Drawer

Details of Frames

I'll write more later. Until then I remain,

Yours truly,


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

American Gods

August 14, 2012

A new kind of book. My Nook recommended a book to me a long time ago and I'm just getting around to reading it. It seemed good, and it still seems like a good book. It's intriguing. However, after I've read for a while I have to get up and wash the testosterone off my hands. The other day at the corporate coffee shop I had to wring it out of my shirt; the book was dripping virile hormone while I read. I guess I've been reading Agatha Christie and chick flick books too long. I'm not used to this. The main character's name is Shadow and the book opens with him getting out of jail. That should give you a good idea.

But, the title of the book indicates something, and the blurbs hint at a supernatural quality. It's interesting in its own way. The version I'm reading is the 10th anniversary edition. Apparently, the author was allowed to put back in some text that had been edited previously. He – Neil Gaiman – wrote an introduction describing the writing of it, and the opportunity to revisit it. That's what caught my attention more than anything.

It's dark; it's brooding. It's humorous in a disturbing and sinister sort of way. So far, it's not an action-packed thriller. That's not what I meant by testosterone. Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World). It's not a light book that I can read on a Saturday afternoon while I neglect laundry. This one engages the mind quite a bit more and holds my attention.

I had to be in the right mood for something like this, but I'm enjoying it. I needed to get away from my rut and experience new literature.

More later,


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mothers are the Necessity of Invention

August 13, 2012

Yesterday morning I went shopping. I suppose that the order in which I go to stores plays a part in my overall shopping experience. I began at Kohls because I have a coupon (30%!) and because I knew more or less what I wanted. On my way home I remembered that I needed 8 beach balls for an event with some guys from church the next morning (this morning) so I decided to go to the HEB Plus, rather than my nice little HEB grocery store around the corner from my apartment because they'd be more likely to have beach balls.

Once I got inside the store I was greeted by their electronics department. Why a grocery store needs an electronics department I'll never know; especially when there's a Best Buy so close with whom they can't hope to compete. But, the racket and lights from that section greeted me as I walked by with my basket. I saw a bin of movies for $6.99 and up, and I glanced through them. Mostly they were sequels of formulaic movies that I wouldn't have cared for in the first place, but it doesn't hurt to look. As I continued along my way I was getting jostled by the people in there. I suppose a huge grocery store on Saturday I should expect to be busy, and I would have actually expected it to be busier.

I started to look for the beach balls first so that I wouldn't forget them. (I am I, after all.) I looked through their seasonal stuff and I saw floating things to go on kids' arms and other air-related items, but I couldn't find beach balls. That was irritating and it was more irritating that I couldn't find anybody to help me.

At the meat market there is a small kitchen and the chef there has a microphone and she was VERY excited about what they were cooking that day. I don't think that I'm just being too sensitive when I say that she was being too pushy;she was definitely too loud. I managed to get around to the ground beef and as I was looking for what I wanted two different people stepped in front of me to pick something out. As I walked through the store looking for the rest of the things on my list I was passing endcaps and bins of marked down movies and toys and a TV set up in the middle of the aisle playing new releases that they had on sale and I just needed a few things like napkins and cream and ground beef, but every time turned around there was some display screaming at me visually and the music and occasional announcements screaming at me literally. Employees were offering samples, which is nice enough, but they rather blocked the flow of people. I began to imagine a sinister Disney-type movie with the staff and products in the store singing and dancing for my attention and everybody wanting me to have a good time with this or that new electronics product, whether I wanted it or not, and I was getting pushed around and clinging to my basket as ear phones danced in front of me, twirling arm-in-arm with video games, all the while taunting me because I'm not cool enough to spend my hard-earned money on the latest gadgets and shiny things. In the cartoon in my mind I kept saying that I just needed a few things on my list, while some insipid product tried to grab my hand. An austere looking older woman with a triangular face said darkly to the man beside her, "Get that list."

I stopped at the deli to get sliced turkey breast and people were pushing past me, walking in front of me without any consideration while talking with each other very loudly over the general noise pollution. Kids were running around, literally running. There were people waiting at the deli for help, but not too many, especially for a Saturday; and people behind the counter were actually very nice – not like Julio at my little HEB who knows what kind of meat I like and how I like it cut and who likes to suggest different types of meat for me to try and who will shake my hand when he sees me on this side of the counter – but they were pleasant enough.

I finally found somebody to help me with the beach balls. It turns out they were where I had originally looked; I just couldn't see them between all of the other recreational floating devises. There weren't lines to speak of at the registers – thank God because I might have had to leave my basket. The cashier asked if I needed anything else and I told her a glass of wine and a Xanax. She gave a small explosive laugh and I was on my way. In the car on my way home the first song I heard was Cough Syrup, by Young the Giant. It seemed strangely appropriate. Go listen to it.

All I could think of on the way home is that they are going to tear down my little HEB and open an HEB Plus in its place and this is all I'm going to have to look forward to. It's a little like one of those ghastly old church songs, They Tore the Old Country Church Down (Built a big new church way uptown...). It seems a little like people have become so accustomed to environments like this, and at the same time people are becoming accustomed to the increasing prevalence of mood-altering prescription medication. It's an American adage that necessity is the mother of invention. Calvin (from the cartoon Calvin and Hobbs) says that mothers are the necessity of invention. This is the kind of turn-around that I feel is happening. Don't try to fight the slow march of progress, and at the same time pharmaceutical companies are creating a market for themselves. I, for one, think that mood-altering medications should only be taken recreationally. I prefer to avoid any true anxiety.

My cat's take on the situation

My response

More later,


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Absence and a Cat

August 8, 2012

My Dear Readers,

I don't know what's happened to me lately. I feel that I don't want to sit in front of a computer for hours after sitting in front of a computer for hours at work. I don't know how this happened. It's certainly not because I have developed a life; I'm not doing anything strikingly interesting. I've cooked a few times. I've folded some laundry, but when is there NOT laundry to fold?

So, here's an interesting picture of a cat that sits close to the driveway of my friend Glo's studio. It is one of her sculptures and it's not glazed; it is in bisque.

Thank you and good night.

Love ever,