Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mattress Cleared of Wrongdoing

This past weekend, Tom and I saw the sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser, hilarious as always, at the annual SF Sketchfest, preceded by Elephant Larry, who are from New York.

My favorite moments included Rob playing a CEO who says to his shareholders, “Remember, my door is always open to you—not literally,” and his description of how poodles can sometimes have a holier-than-thou attitude, in which case you might need his company’s Poodle Shaver, to bring them down a notch.

Also great was Dan, in his role as a motivational speaker, describing how he became disillusioned with Judaism and so was having his foreskin reattached. Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist said the one thing you never want to hear your anesthesiologist say: “I gave you the wrong shit, hippie.”

I saw Blood Diamond, which was very upsetting but a fine movie that powerfully illuminates the misery that accompanies African diamond mining. Leonardo DiCaprio was terrific. He’s a wonderful actor, going right back to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Djimon Hounsou was also splendid. Jennifer Connelly seemed to be playing her character, while the other two leads seemed to be their characters.

On Saturday night, Tom and I saw Letters from Iwo Jima, which was good, and then we went to The Red Poppy Art House to see the pickPocket [sic] Ensemble, which plays original music inspired by European café tunes. We enjoyed it. During the show, I looked over and saw Tom swaying gently to the music with a sweet smile on his face. He has such a nice face because he never thinks an unkind thought about anyone. I went to music school with Greg, the pickPocket Ensemble’s bass player. It was lovely to see him.

I was talking to a fellow recently who was describing another fellow as a womanizer. I asked how he knew, and he mimicked Fellow B saying fulsomely to a new female acquaintance, “Just let me know if you need help with anything.” Fellow A added that Fellow B was “trying to get the opening-round punch in.” Not particularly romantic, but a colorful way of describing Fellow B’s eagerness to get into the game.

My back feels much better today, thank goodness. By the end of yesterday, I was having pain-related personality change. Maybe I have unfairly maligned my mattress. Maybe it is a matter of keeping up with my stretching and back-pain-prevention protocol, key elements of which were passed on to me by my father.

My mother periodically reminds me to lift weights, which supposedly makes the difference between being able to get out of bed or not when you’re 90, and so I have a reminder to do this weekly. Over several years, the amount of weight I can lift has increased not at all, probably because I skip doing it nineteen times out of 20, and also because I’m opposed to undue exertion. My mother avers that if your strength is going to increase, you have to try to exceed your known capacity now and then.

I have a nice grid which shows how much (i.e., how little) weight I’m using for a given exercise, and I think part of the reason I avoid the entire thing is having to change the number of plates on my dumbbells several times during the process.

So, per something I read not long ago, I decided to abandon this approach, and just leave the same amount of weight on the dumbbells all the time, so I can do a few basic lifts whenever I happen to think of it, which is nearly every day. It’s probably not the way Arnold likes to see it done, but at least it’s now happening.

Other personal reorganizational measures: I decided three or four movies/other entertainments per weekend is probably excessive and that I’d like to spend more time writing. I have begun meditating soon after I get home from work, because if I leave it until the end of the evening, it is likely to be truncated. It’s the most important thing I do, so I’m trying to treat it as such.

In general, I’m trying to do essential tasks soon after getting home from work and then using any time left over as desired, instead of immediately sitting down with Newsweek magazine and thinking, “There will probably be time later for washing the dishes.” In fact, there probably won’t be, unless I stay up past my bedtime.

Instead of writing routine tasks in my calendar book (“Take fish oil.” “Take more fish oil.” “Do qi gong exercises.” “Do more qi gong exercises.” “Play with Hammett.” “Stretching and back exercises.”), I have made a separate grid so that my calendar shows only actual items of interest and leaves room for same.

Killing a few moments before a meeting the other day, I sat down in a coworker’s guest chair, announcing, “I’ll have a seat in the lounge while I wait.” My coworker turned over a clear plastic thing that is a cross between a lava lamp and an hourglass and said, “Here, you can watch our video presentation.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Undesired Change (Is There Any Other Kind?), Aches, Pains, Untimely Death and Lost Love

My three least favorite physical sensations that don’t technically cause pain are having someone grasp my tongue with a paper towel, having a paper towel rubbed on my teeth, and, in particular, having air blown on my teeth. Two of these highly objectionable experiences occur, of course, at the same place: the dentist’s.

The only time I’ve experienced having paper towel rubbed on my teeth was when I did it myself when I was about four. The thought of it still makes me shudder.

Another thing I did at about that age was to lick a frozen iron railing. It was during winter, on the front porch of our house, which was in Ann Arbor. I can’t remember if I was able to extricate myself or if my mother rushed out and rescued me.

One of my fillings came out several months ago, and again quite recently. When it was fixed the first time, so much air was blown on my poor teeth that I decided I would not undergo another such repair without general anesthesia.

I saw my dentist last week for a regular cleaning and was extremely pleased when he said I could leave the filling unfixed. It’s not really bothering me, unless I accidentally poke it with a toothpick. That was great news, because I wasn’t sure he was going to go for the general anesthesia idea. He’s probably not licensed to administer general anesthesia, though after enough whining, he might have been willing to try to knock me out with a crate of old-fashioned toothbrushes.

I brought him my night guard, the unsightly rubber item that covers my upper teeth when I sleep so my upper and lower teeth don’t get ground into one big pile of jagged rubble. For years, I had a night guard that was hard plastic, which type was later generally abandoned in favor of a material with much more squish to it.

I’ve been using the latter kind for a couple of years, but lately I decided it was causing my two front teeth to go their separate ways. My theory was that biting down on the back parts of this appliance with my molars was causing the front part to bulge forward.

My evidence: Aching front teeth in the morning, at which time of day the gap between my front teeth was at its largest. By nighttime, the gap would have closed up again to some extent, but over time, it got big enough that the inside of my upper lip was actually getting caught in it at times.

I stopped using this night guard, and after four or five days, my teeth were in close companionship once again, the way I like them.

My dentist said he had never heard of such a thing, but didn’t argue. I said, “Does that mean I’ve made dental history? If you write about this, be sure to use my real name.”

As it happens, the cushiony night guard has also become obsolete, replaced by a type which is hard outside but with some give inside. This sounds like the ticket. My dentist did a cast of my teeth pursuant to obtaining one of these.

In other complaints regarding the corporeal self, my back is killing me lately. I think my mattress may be on the fritz. It’s a couple of years old and has lost some of its starch. It seems to me that acquiring a good mattress must be a matter of luck, because there is no way to discern the mattress’s character by lying on it in the showroom, nor is it likely to reveal its true colors during the period when you can return it.

I have to say, during all the years when I slept on a crappy piece of foam through which the floor could easily be felt, my back felt fine. On the other hand, Tom has the same mattress I do (not the exact same one; a sibling) and his back is OK. He recommended sit-ups. He said cyclists use their back muscles more than they do their stomach muscles, and that things can get out of balance.

I misnomered a CD here lately. The Lorraine Hunt Lieberson CD is actually called Neruda Songs. This is a very sad story. In 1997, Lorraine Hunt, the singer, fell in love with Peter Lieberson, the composer. He set five Pablo Neruda love sonnets to music for her, in what is considered to be some of his most accessible work. You still can’t hum along to it, but it’s hauntingly beautiful.

Well into adulthood when they met, they ended up having just nine years together. Peter Lieberson writes, “Sometimes we would cry in each other’s arms out of gratitude that we had finally found one another.” In 2006, at age 52, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died of breast cancer.

Now Peter Lieberson is ill with lymphoma.

In the notes for the CD, he writes that after her death, he reminded himself over and over that, in Neruda’s words, “this love has not ended … it is like a long river, only changing lands and changing lips.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Shocking Murder and Crafty Career Plan

On Sunday night, after I got back from Oakland, Tom and I watched Chris Paine’s documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, which focuses on General Motors, which produced the zippy little EV1 and then pried every last one of them out of the hands of their pleading owners and literally crushed the cars, claiming insufficient demand.

It turned out that GM’s “survey” of potential electric-car owners had emphasized potential drawbacks of the cars, drawbacks that owners, who loved their cars, disputed.

California had passed a zero-emissions vehicles mandate that would have required a certain percentage of cars by a certain year to be emissions-free, but, under pressure from auto manufacturers, the California Air Resources Board repealed the mandate.

CARB, at the time, was headed by Alan Lloyd, who some months before had signed on to head the competing fuel cell initiative, which is to say he had a whopping conflict of interest.

Upset electric-car owners actually staged a vigil, spending 24 hours a day for many days peering forlornly at their little cars behind a fence on a lot. Eventually, the cars were trucked away and destroyed. It does make one want to cry.

I have ordered up a simple AT&T phone that does almost nothing besides make phone calls. I hope I’ll come to love it in time, as I did the one that is now dead on my desk. And, per Lisa’s kind comment, I will also of course be ordering five Hummers soon, since I did go 44 years without even one. Or maybe I will at least buy plastic laundry soap containers with gay abandon, though probably not. I’ll buy them, but I’ll feel vaguely guilty.

Not long ago I mentioned sometimes feeling like jumping off the bridge, perhaps a figure of speech for most, but a genuine possibility for those of us who in fact live near the bridge. I should clarify that I actually never feel like jumping off the bridge. It’s more a matter of suddenly becoming completely unable to function, which I think falls into the depression category, even if I don’t necessarily feel depressed when it’s happening.

For instance, yesterday evening. After I got home from work, I meditated, and then I had intended to clean the bathroom, but suddenly everything was impossible and I got into bed with the latest Harper’s Magazine, and figured I would not: wash the dishes, do my stretching, pump up my bicycle tires or take a shower, and certainly I would not clean the bathroom.

At some point, the chore triage is performed: What must I do? I must give Hammett his medication. (This morning was Hammett’s final dose of Amoxidrops this time around, plus his monthly squirt of Advantage, to kill fleas, which as far as I know he does not have, but our vets at Mission Pet Hospital favor it, just in case.)

Another absolute must-do is tooth-brushing. I might go two days without showering and soon I may build up to more than two days; I might go a week and my embarrassed boss will have to do an intervention, but since I have been old enough to seize a toothbrush, there can’t have been more than one night that I went to bed without brushing my teeth, if that, because going to bed without brushing one’s teeth is disgusting, and will result in all of one’s teeth dropping out, clinking on the floor like Chiclets, and in the use of pesky dentures.

My parents were unable to stop me from smoking cigarettes when I was a youth, not to mention that which probably has something to do with my dreadful memory and complete lack of ambition, but they were extremely persuasive in regard to tooth-brushing.

I appreciate my parents’ efforts in regard to the cigarettes. It must have been frustrating to watch a child insist on doing something so harmful.

Lately I have come to feel a genuine bit of regret over what my teenaged brain endured, moderate though it was by some standards, such as those of my peer who took LSD every day for a year. His name, possibly not bestowed by his parents, was Space.

Last night I knew that at some point I would get up to brush my teeth, and then I wondered, per my practice of taking as many positive actions as possible, what other little constructive thing I might be able to do while I was up, and then I suddenly leaped out of bed and took a shower after all. It comes and goes just that fast.

I received an extremely kind compliment last week, when someone said I should be an NPR announcer and added, “ People must tell you that all the time, right?”

I said, “Actually, no one has ever told me that, but I totally agree that I should be an NPR announcer.”

It would be nice if you could email NPR and say, “I’ve decided I’d like to be an announcer. I’ll be in on Monday; thanks.”

I wonder if you can work your way up to being an NPR announcer if you start as an NPR janitor.

Monday, January 15, 2007

An Evil Spell on My Phone and Obscene Rubber Protrusions


One more interesting fact about Hammett: His back legs are so long relative to the rest of him (while his head is on the small side, if the truth must be told) that when he hunkers on the floor, his back legs bunch up behind him, making him look like a grasshopper.

When last seen, he was half on and half off the top corner of the upholstered chair, dangling head downward, clawing at the fleece blanket that covers the chair. He ceased his attack for one moment to give the blanket a comforting lick: “I'm not really mad at you, blanket.”

Barbara L. mailed him a feathered ball, which was very nice of her. When I dangle it above him, he leaps up to grab it, but with his claws politely retracted.

Someone put a hex on my phone yesterday, or at least, it stopped working. It cost me about $16, I’ve had it for approximately eight years, and I love it because it is a simple, nice-looking item that does precisely two things: allow the making and receiving of phone calls.

All right, it also does have a redial button, and you can program in numbers for one-touch dialing, though I don’t use the latter because I have an excellent memory for phone numbers—I can still remember my phone number from 1965—and so I’ve gotten in the habit of dialing from memory, and, due to laziness, prefer to call only people whose numbers I know by heart—if I used one-touch dialing, I would probably start to forget phone numbers.

I feel disheartened about the search for a new telephone already. I did try taking it apart and putting it back together, to no avail, and I did also try banging it on the firm membrane between my apartment and that of the building manager, below mine.

There’s probably no such thing anymore as buying a phone that merely makes phone calls. Like toothbrushes, they probably all look like rocket ships now. I don’t know what I’d do about toothbrushes if my dentist didn’t obtain, in bulk, and kindly keep me well supplied with, toothbrushes that are simple pieces of translucent plastic in pretty colors with bristles sticking out of one end, each being just one color, and without fins or other rubber protrusions in questionable taste.

So I’m unhappy about this phone thing already, but here are some things I am happy about: The Painted Veil, which I saw with my friend Debbie yesterday in Oakland, followed by a tasty spicy tuna and egg sandwich at a tapas place near the theater, and quite a nice lemonade, though if you really want outstanding lemonade, I must again exhort you to lunch at Medicine in the Crocker Galleria.

Dreamgirls, which Tom and Lisa and David and I saw Saturday night, after dinner at Chef Jia’s, was marvelous, which I think was a consensus view. Also, our customary dishes at Chef Jia’s were particularly tasty.

I’m still happy about the Dixie Chicks’ CD Taking the Long Way. I played “Silent House,” which I think is incredibly beautiful, for a friend and was touched when she burst into tears.

I must report that the best song on the Gnarls Barkley CD St. Elsewhere is the one you’ve already heard (“Crazy”), though there are a couple of others I like; ditto with the Lhasa De Sela CD La Llorona. The song that made me want to buy the CD is really lovely, but I could skip the rest, though it is not bad as background music, all in Spanish.

Something I really like: The Guided by Voices CD Human Amusements at Hourly Rates. This was suggested to me by Chris S., whose recommendations I attend to because he gave me the Fugazi CD The Argument, which is very good.

Human Amusements at Hourly Rates is Guided by Voices’ best-of album (no, I had never heard of them, either; they were from Dayton, OH). It has 32 songs on it. I suspect it’s going to grow on me such that I like every song, but at this moment, there are three songs that I love and a few others I admire.

The three songs I love are so tremendous—this band's mastery of gorgeous, surprising chord progressions is absolute—that I have warm feelings about the whole CD. They remind me a bit of Nirvana and a bit of the Beatles.

I have also obtained the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson CD Sings Peter Lieberson: Neruda Songs, but haven’t listened to it yet because I’m listening to Guided By Voices as well the new Pearl Jam, which is also really great.

One last good thing: Ayya Khema’s book Being Nobody, Going Nowhere: Meditations on the Buddhist Path. This is a really fine book on Buddhism and has reinvigorated my meditation practice mightily.

I ordered one of her other books from Stacey’s and, as they had access to only that one, a couple more from Fields Book Store. She wrote about 25 of them, but most are in German.

In non-dharma reading, I’m in the middle of Gimme Danger, Joe Ambrose’s biography of Iggy Pop.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Plastics Glut and the Myth of Recycling

Last night Hammett, most unusually, did not greet me at the door when I got home from work, nor did he appear after I’d been inside for a few moments, long enough that I started to fear he wasn’t there at all. Then I spotted him sitting in the bathtub next to a tub of fine washables, which were soaking in Ecover Laundry Wash.

Fortunately, he was not in the fine washables. For a cat, he is inordinately fond of water.

He emerged reluctantly. When I picked him up, I could feel that the bottoms of his feet were very cold, so he must have been in there for a while. I think something must have scared him. Soon he was back to his customary alert and enthusiastic temperament.

For soaking fine washables, I am very fond of the aforementioned Ecover Laundry Wash, which has a pleasant lavender smell, yet does not cause itching. It’s good for concealing, and perhaps even removing, the olfactory evidence of cycling.

For my regular laundry, I have been using Vaska Herbal Fresh Laundry Liquid, which is quite economical and gets my clothes clean while imparting no scent at all. Tom has switched to it, too.

However, last night (or this morning) I opened a new 64-oz. container of it that, to my admittedly hypersensitive nose, smelled of ammonia, though ammonia is not among the listed ingredients. I called the Vaska lady in Berkeley and she said it should not smell like ammonia and that she would check the current batch, though I probably bought the container in question months ago.

I asked if ammonia will wreck my clothes and she said indeed not; that some people use ammonia on purpose as a brightener. So I told her I will go ahead and use the container that smells funny, and in the future, I will take a wee sniff before purchasing.

They also make a version that is lavender-scented and which is purple. She said it does not make your clothes purple because it is a very mild food-based (I think she said that) coloring which does not attach to clothing fibers. The reason they use the coloring is so people can tell the difference between their two products, but she said that they are soon moving to a non-see-through packaging which should make the difference between the two obvious, and then they’ll stop using the coloring.

I started our conversation by saying, “Last night—or this morning; either last night or this morning … ”

I couldn’t believe I couldn’t remember which it was, considering that it happened so recently, so I concluded I’m going into my final decline and called my parents to give them my end-of-life instructions.

“Oh, goodness, you’re just like your father,” said my mother, adding, “He’s right here, so I can’t say more.”

She said the same thing one day when I said, “Where’s my handkerchief? Where’s my handkerchief? I can’t find my handkerchief. If I could just find my handkerchief, life would be perfect.”

I told her that I wish my life to be prolonged no matter what. Even if I appear to be a complete vegetable, I wish all measures taken to keep my physical processes running.

“Even if it costs us a lot of money?”

“No, employing my own financial assets only. Do not spend any of your own money. Also, if I’m in a hospital bed and I’m completely paralyzed and the doctors say I’m in a coma, probably inside I will be saying, ‘Help! Help! I’m in here,’ so please try all means of establishing contact.”

I continued, “Like, say, ‘Move your eyelid if you can hear me. Wiggle your toe if you can hear me.’”

“The doctors probably know all those things.”

“‘Close and open your belly button if you can hear me.’”


Macworld is currently underway. When I strolled through Yerba Buena Gardens, near the expo, I saw a group of Chinese gathered to protest the nasty crap that ends up in their air and water from our discarded electronics. The idea of electronics meant to be used once and thrown out, like disposable cell phones, is particularly horrifying.

If you want to feel discouraged about recycling, especially of plastics, an amazing amount of which is now in our oceans, read Elizabeth Royte’s Garbage Land. There is also a long article on plastic in the ocean in the latest Harper’s Magazine. A lot of plastic that is marked as recyclable does not end up being reused. The only solution is to buy as little of it as possible in the first place.

Yes, my beloved Ecover and Vaska products both come in plastic containers. I checked Rainbow’s bulk section and saw they have at least one or two things I could use, such as hand lotion, so I can keep reusing containers I already own. Frankly, I don’t know that every little bit does help, but it still seems like the right thing to do.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Moribund Among the Amoxidrops

Hammett and I did see Dr. Press last Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Press said first thing that I must be freaked out that my new cat has the same symptoms as my old cat (who died), which was very thoughtful of him, and he also said that young cats often have this kind of thing and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is seriously wrong.

A couple of times lately, I’ve seen Hammett do something that looks a bit like the gulping Thelonious did for two or three years before she died, though it’s much less pronounced in Hammett’s case. It is worrisome, though. I am afraid that he has some chronic ailment that will make him die young.

Dr. Press said if five days of Amoxidrops caused Hammett’s diarrhea to abate for two weeks, ergo more Amoxidrops are needed. But if X days of Amoxidrops makes the diarrhea go away for X times 3 days, does that mean he will have to take Amoxidrops three months out of twelve? And why does whatever it is keep coming back?

The Amoxidrops have to be given via syringe twice a day, and, now that he’s a little bigger, it’s more than twice as big a dose as he was taking last time. (He now weighs eight pounds, ten ounces.) So it is a bit of a project, but he’s very good about it, and will even come over to me when it’s medication time. We are about halfway through Hammett’s 14 days of Amoxidrops.

I saw the lovely Stefano at Vertical Clearance last week for the latest revision of my hairdo; my concept changes every time: “I’m growing it long.” “I’d like it bald on the sides and tall on top so it comes to a point, like an ice-cream cone.” “I want it to look like James Dean’s.” “I’m growing it long.” “It should be smooth here and here and achieve a sprouting effect there and there.”

After my haircut I went to El Toro for my customary tofu burrito with half refried beans and half whole pinto beans, a dab of hot salsa, and double extra avocado. Several workers there now know what I want before I describe it, which makes me feel like Donald Trump arriving at some fancy New York restaurant.

To make sure the last, key, point gets across, I always add “Doble,” which makes the burrito mistress think I speak Spanish; she then addresses me in Spanish, causing me to have no idea what she’s saying.

I walk over to the cash register while burrito construction is underway; the cash register person beams and asks, “Tofu burrito, doble avocado?”

I spent the weekend watching movies, eating junk food and sleeping. By the end of it, I felt quite depressed.

In the theater, I saw Notes on a Scandal (now I want my hair to look exactly like Judi Dench’s in that movie) and The Queen. One odd thing about The Queen is that they went all out to make Helen Mirren very like the real queen in appearance, and then hired some guy to play Prince Charles who doesn’t look the first thing like him.

On DVD, I saw All the King’s Men (which I liked a lot), 40 Shades of Blue, Factotum, and Inside Man.

Thelonious never took the slightest interest in the TV, but Hammett settled down on the back of the chair and watched two movies with me. When there was a sex scene, he rested his paw on my shoulder and in his round green eyes there was an expression of genteel shock: “Oh, my, are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

All my life, there have been periods where I overate and felt awful about it. Now that my official policy is that it’s fine to overeat if I need to, it’s like the ante has been upped and my whole life has to fall apart temporarily to achieve the same effect. Now I overeat plus don’t shower one night or even two nights in a row (I haven’t crossed the three-shower threshold yet) plus let the sink fill with dirty dishes plus skip my weekly cooking plus stop stretching, etc.

Sometimes it feels like narcolepsy, in that I might even want to do some of these things, but I just can’t get out of bed. Once in a while there is a moment where I think I could get up, but if the impulse isn’t strong enough or if I don’t act on it immediately, there is likely to be five more hours of sleeping.

I imagine the whole thing is a manifestation of depression, or else it is me trying to get my own attention about something.

I’ve lost faith in therapy, so my protocol for this syndrome is just to do the best I can—to take as many constructive actions as possible—and to try not to make things worse by thinking dire thoughts.

One nice thing is that this is extremely fluid and can turn on a dime. I can be ready to throw myself off the bridge one moment, feel perfectly cheerful an hour later and remain cheerful for weeks. A simple thing like taking a shower can make a big difference, but it’s amazing how hard it can be to do even that sometimes.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Hotel Without a 6

Friday night Tom and I went to a soiree at the showplace home of a friend of mine who lives in one of the residences above a five-star hotel in downtown San Francisco. When I noticed our mouths were hanging open, I said, “Let’s try not to act like we’ve never been in a hotel before.”

“Oh, I’ve been in a hotel before,” Tom said, “but usually it has a ‘6’ on it.”

On Saturday, I was planning to take Golden Gate Transit to Novato to visit my friend Carol Joy. I rose early, got ready, took BART to the Civic Center, and arrived at the bus stop a couple of minutes before the bus was due. While I was standing there patting myself on the back for my perfect scheduling, the bus roared by.

You have to flag these buses down; they don’t stop at every stop. But since I wasn’t expecting it for two more minutes, I wasn’t even looking in the direction from which it approached, alas. Home again I went, where my long-distance service informed me I had three minutes to explain the situation to Carol Joy.

She hopped in her car and came to see me instead, which was great of her. She met Hammett and admired his beauty, and then we had lunch at the Ethiopian place around the block, followed by lemony desserts and coffee at Tartine.

She had to leave about 4 p.m., leaving me plenty of time to go to Rainbow and do my weekly cooking. In the evening, I found myself strangely nauseous—I would blame the Ethiopian place, but apparently food poisoning can take 24 hours to set in, so it’s not fair to finger the last place you ate—and went to bed early.

On Sunday, Bill R. and I went to see Casino Royale, preceded by lunch at a Chinese place on Polk, as Chai-Yo was closed.

Sunday evening, Tom and I had dinner at We Be Sushi and went to Lost Weekend Video to get watchables only to find they had closed early, so we watched one of my two DVDs instead, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was part of my inheritance from my grandmother. (My other DVD is four episodes of I Love Lucy, which I found in my Christmas stocking last year or the year before.) I wasn’t sure Tom would like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but he did.

In order to watch a DVD, I must haul my itsy-bitsy TV out of the closet and hook the DVD player up to it. It’s a lot of work to watch a movie on a very small screen, so I hardly ever do it. In theory, I will get a new PC one of these days with at least as large a monitor and watch DVDs on it, at which point I can give someone else my DVD player.

However, as an environmentalist, I feel obligated to keep my current PC until it dies of its own accord, as many (probably most) discarded computers end up in some other country where poorly paid workers get cancer extracting various materials from them and where lax safety regulations allow poisons to end up in the water we ultimately all share.

Oh, by the way, I am reading Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, by Elizabeth Royte, but I knew that about the Chinese computer recyclers before. One thing I had never thought about was how we mix our own poop with nice fresh water (in our toilets), and then go to tremendous trouble and expense to clean the water again!

One fellow describes his self-designed composting toilet, which is so odor-free that it doubles as a table in his bedroom. His friends come over and set chips and salsa on it and then reach over for refreshments without the faintest idea what the snacks are sitting on.

I have recently finished John Crawford’s The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier’s Account of the War in Iraq, which describes his and his fellow soldiers’ absolute disrespect for both Iraqis and women, from answering friendly remarks with hostility and obscenities, at one end of the spectrum, to murdering unarmed Iraqi children, at the other. Then he hints that the end of his marriage is some kind of inexplicable injustice. Gee, I can’t understand it, either.

I also finished Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill. She is a unique and talented prose stylist, but I realized after I finished it that I hadn’t cared one bit about any character.

I was in bed by about 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, where I slept soundly and concluded the next day that it had been an unusually quiet holiday.

But when I talked to Tom, he said he had been kept up well into the wee hours by the racket and was incredulous I had slept through it. “You didn’t hear the fireworks? The gunshots? The police??”

Maybe I’m not a light sleeper anymore. This bodes well for even more recreational sleeping in the future.

Hammett’s diarrhea is back once again. We will see Dr. Press this afternoon.