Wednesday, January 30, 2008

God Wants Me to Have a Red Sequined Dress

I’ve been fretting again about whether I should move back to Michigan or not. I came back from my Thanksgiving visit entirely at peace, and that sense of perfect well-being lingered for weeks: All is as it should be, I am abundantly cared for at every moment, I live in a veritable ocean of love, with friends and family members all over the country.

Besides the ones in this or that city, I have quite an amazing set of online-only or mostly online friends I’ve been in touch with for years.

How I could say I am lacking the slightest thing when it comes to love and friendship?

I hoped this tranquil state of mind would last forever; of course it did not. A couple of weeks or so ago, I found myself feeling terribly depressed. I woke up one Saturday not being able to think of a single reason to get out of bed and wishing it were physically possible to sleep for 48 hours, until Monday morning: TGIM!

I’ve noticed that work can be a powerful way of taking one’s mind off some other gloomy preoccupation, but wanting to sleep until Monday because I couldn’t think of anything to do seemed like a different kind of thing.

Then I had the thought that I’d already waited so long that my childhood home had changed hands (it hasn’t quite, but will one of these days)—did I intend to wait until both parents were gone? And then I was all upset again, and still am.

My parents are no longer spring chickens—heck, since they had me when they were relatively young, 22 and 24, I’m no longer a spring chicken myself—and I really like the idea of being able to see them often and to help out should help be needed. Just sitting together watching a DVD or talking over one of Dad’s dinners is a very pleasant thing.

But, besides the fact that this would be a major move, I question my motives: Is this about trying to claw my way back into the womb because I’m scared to live, or just can’t figure out how to? (I predict that my mother’s brow just furrowed.)

Does it reflect a failure to get a life?

I do seem to have less of a life than I once did, and to feel less connected here in San Francisco. Time was, I had many good friends here, and now I have few. I was down to three in-person local friends, and now, with the departure of David and Lisa, I am down to one, though if you have to have just one friend nearby, Tom would be a good pick.

My friend Lisa M. thinks what this reflects is that it’s harder to maintain a life as you age, particularly if you’re single; couples have at least one companion built in.

On the other hand, don’t lots of people live near their families, because they like to? Didn’t people used to live right near their families their whole lives, sometimes even in the same house? And didn’t those people probably have a strong sense that they belonged somewhere, a feeling I am lacking at the moment? (After Thanksgiving, I had the very nice feeling that I belonged anywhere and everywhere.)

Unfortunately, my decision-making process has long been broken, given that it can churn for years without producing anything resembling a decision, which phenomenon can be observed whether we’re talking about a move across the country or the selection of new socks.

And I’m pretty sure I use the tenets of Buddhism to cripple myself: Just a thought, just a thought, just a thought—ouch! OK, I will pull the nail out of my foot. Not just a thought.

So how do you tell the just-thoughts from the I-really-want-thises? I’ve never been able to figure this out, probably due to overdependence on my brain, which is the part of myself that speaks the loudest. It’s particularly useless for decision-making, once the basic facts have been established, because sooner or later the opposite of the most compelling thought will spring forth, and sound just as compelling.

The Twelve Steps talk about seeking knowledge of your higher power’s will for you. Assuming you have some sort of higher power—it doesn’t literally have to be God; there are many concepts—how do you know what it thinks you should do?

Isn’t a person with a literal and detailed understanding of her higher power’s will what we call schizophrenic? “God said I should buy three socks, one yellow, one blue, one pink. The pink one should be made out of wool …”

I suspect helpful messages are coming all the time, and that I have learned too well to ignore them, out of fear or laziness. There is probably some little voice that says, “I’d like to do this! It sounds fun,” to which I reply, “Just a thought, just a thought.” Or, “Well, I can’t do THAT. Because of this, that and the other reason.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sophie and Julie!

Here is Sophie with Tom's sister-in-law Julie, a smart, kind and multi-talented person you would like very much!

Monday, January 28, 2008

No Atheists in This Particular Flu-Hole

Last Thursday I woke up with a mostly dry but insistent cough with a little wheeze at the end. I felt otherwise fine and went to work.

The next day, I rode my bike to work in a downpour, and a few hours later, began to feel extremely weak and chilled. I would have lain down on the floor of my cube if I didn’t know how many cookie and potato chip crumbs are ground into the carpet. Well, I don’t know the exact number, but I know it’s a lot.

I finally had to ask my boss if I could go home, which involved another bike ride in the pouring rain.

At home I mopped my bike off with cloth rags, and took a hot bath to try to warm up, only somewhat satisfactory, as my tub isn’t quite large enough for total submersion.

I got in bed at 3 p.m. and stayed there until the next morning, alternately feeling like I was freezing and boiling, plus I was faintly nauseous.

By 7:30 a.m. Saturday, I hadn’t eaten for 20 hours, and a couple of eggs sounded good, but cooking them sounded impossible. Just then, fortunately, I heard Tom walking about overhead and called him up.

“Are you by any chance getting ready to make an omelet?” I asked.

“I could!” he said.

And in half an hour, he appeared at my door with a tasty omelet on a warmed plate, a muffin with butter and jam, and an orange divided into segments and arranged attractively around the curve of the plate.

Isn’t he tremendously kind? That was immensely great of him.

David and Lisa had arrived a day or two earlier for their first visit to San Francisco since moving to Seattle in September, and we had planned to get together Saturday afternoon at four.

I thought I would sleep until two, take a shower, and then see how I felt. But even taking a shower was out of the question, and Tom had to go off without me.

My back was starting to ache from lying in bed so much, so I got up and did some reading (Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma; it's delightful), and in the evening, I watched Sunday Bloody Sunday, about a woman (Glenda Jackson) who is involved with a man who is also involved with another man, an arrangement known to all but not necessarily entirely satisfactory.

This movie features Daniel Day-Lewis’s very first screen performance, as a bratty kid who scratches the side of a car with a piece of glass.

During the evening, Tom called to say the gang was at Chef Jia’s for dinner, and would I like him to bring anything back for me? Just as Sunday Bloody Sunday ended, he knocked on my door with an order of bean curd, bless his heart yet again.

That night I got a stabbing pain in my sinuses, which hung around for a few hours, on top of everything else.

“Lord,” I addressed my Maker. “I apologize for having thought I was an atheist all these years. Please call me home. I’m ready.”

Yesterday I felt considerably better. I was still coughing, but the ton-of-bricks feeling was gone, and it occurred to me that maybe I could still see David and Lisa! Indeed, that worked out; I took some of all the cough medicines in the hall closet (only two, an expectorant and a suppressant, but “all” sounds more exciting than “two”) and Tom and I met them at Caffe Greco on Columbus for a very pleasant interlude of two hours or so.

In the evening, Tom and I watched The Last of the Mohicans. This was the film that established Daniel Day-Lewis as a sex symbol, purportedly, but I think he’s far more attractive now than he was then. I also thought his love scenes with Madeleine Stowe lacked chemistry, and his American accent slipped in moments of stress. From that movie alone, you can’t tell he’s one of the best actors of all time.

I assumed I would go to work today, but it turned out that this hateful little flu had yet another twist up its sleeve, which was that last night, coughing caused something in the vicinity of my rib cage to give way most painfully, and then I spent the rest of the night trying, unsuccessfully, not to cough, and periodically getting up to go online to read about coughs, cough suppression and rib cage pain.

So today I felt worse again and didn’t go to work, after all. I spoke to my doctor’s assistant and she said the pain was probably due to a pulled muscle, and since the cough is not particularly productive, it would be appropriate to use a cough suppressant.

Later I talked to my mother, who said, “I have some advice for your cough. When you feel a cough coming on, put the heel of your hand on your forehead between your eyebrows.”


“Yes—this will help prevent wrinkles from forming.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wily Boss Outsmarts Hapless Worker

We recently did peer reviews at work, assigning numerical ratings to our peers in nearly 20 categories. One of my two lowest ratings was richly deserved, but the other really kind of horrified me, as it was in the area of leadership, described as consisting, in part, of integrity, communication skills, and mentoring.

I consider communication to be one of my strong points; ditto mentoring. But that wasn’t even the worst thing: My peers don’t think I have integrity???

Thus was I launched into the Nineteen or So Stages of Peer Review Acceptance. My boss sent a note to everyone telling us not to freak out about the lower ratings, but of course that had no effect whatsoever.

The first stage was to tell myself that everyone else’s was probably about the same. Direct questioning of at least one coworker shattered that illusion; his numbers were unquestionably better than mine.

Next, I reflected on the different methods people may have followed; I myself didn’t give anyone less than a three on a five-point scale. I would tell my boss this and she would understand that she has nice people (like me!) on her team as well as mean people (like everyone else), and that she certainly shouldn’t give much weight to what the mean people say about the nice person. Obviously, there was a mob mentality at work here (despite the fact that each person assigned his or her ratings in private, without discussion).

Indeed, it is probably true that everyone did have a slightly different idea about how to assign the ratings, which is why usually one person (the boss) rates everyone. Then, at least, the method is presumably consistent across the board. I would tell my boss this and she would understand that the whole peer review thing is fundamentally flawed.

But there was no getting around the fact that at least one of my coworkers had come out with a higher rating than I had—eliminating my input from his scores and his from mine wouldn’t explain the whole thing.

I considered what “leadership” might mean. I thought about my peer who is unquestionably in charge. Would I, like her, ever say, “I will take charge of this project, and if it takes all weekend, I will consider it time excellently spent”? Never would I say that, and if that is the definition of leadership, I must accept that I am squarely in the follower category.

In the end, I concluded that it was fruitless to worry about what other people think, especially since I couldn’t know in detail what that was; even if I happened to know for sure exactly what every person thought, the opinion that means most to me is my own. Measuring against my own criteria, I saw that I could certainly do better, and I vowed that I would. So far, it’s going well and it does feel good, as I finish some projects that had lingered for months and generally hew a bit closer to my own values.

I was remembering that when I was offered this job and was thinking it over—me, an artiste, working for the man? I couldn’t see it—my father said something like, “If you take the job and do your best, I think you will end up with a career that is financially and psychically satisfying.” From time to time, I had reflected that he was wrong, in that I still wouldn’t say the job was psychically satisfying, though it is generally interesting, affords frequent opportunities to stretch my brain and has many positive aspects.

On the other hand, as it has lately dawned on me, I didn’t exactly follow his advice, either: I took the job, but I didn’t do my best. Because, you know, I’m so extremely smart that my medium effort is probably better than everyone else’s best effort.

So it may still turn out that he was quite correct.

It now appears that people can tell when we extremely smart people aren’t doing our best, or perhaps that intelligence per se is overrated. Maybe coworkers care more about diligence, good humor and courteous communication than they do about IQ points.

There are areas where I do find it easy to take a leadership role, alas, not necessarily at work, but, for instance, in tasks that have to do with cycling or the environment. In fact, when it comes to those kinds of projects, I often hear myself say, “If this takes the rest of my life, this is going to happen.”

By the way, I did finally discuss my rating in the leadership category with my boss, and she said that she thinks I am strong in the areas of communication, mentorship and integrity (whew!) and that many people got one of their lower ratings in this category, which did depend on what the rater’s particular idea of leadership is.

But by then, it didn’t really matter, because I’d already concluded that I wanted to do better, had decided what that would mean and had started to do it—which, I suppose, was exactly what my boss had intended all along, that crafty devil.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Flip-Top Frenzy

This past Monday, I talked to Dr. Press and he said that Hammett’s urine is now in the normal range of concentration, though not ideal, and that I should keep doing what I’m doing with the watery food and the glucosamine. He wasn’t worried about the five-ounce weight loss, but said to recheck Hammett’s weight in a month. He doesn’t have to have another urinalysis unless symptoms recur. That was good news, on the whole.

The lucid dreaming project continues. I dreamed this week of a giant snake I allowed to starve to death in its cage. Starving things in cages, starving things in cages—what could it mean?

My book on lucid dreaming advises jotting down dreams each time one wakes up, so I now have a little flashlight, paper, and a mechanical pencil on both sides of my head and hope I won’t lose an eyeball during this endeavor—one is on a night table, but the other is under a pillow.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get myself to do this during the night, though I do wake up now and then.

While you’re awake, you’re supposed to review the latest dream mentally until you have it memorized, and then alternate doing these two things: telling yourself, “Next time I’m dreaming, I want to remember to recognize that I’m dreaming,” and visualizing yourself being back in the dream and realizing that you’re dreaming.

Last night, I saw on DVD Heading South, about three white women who go to a resort in Haiti in the late 1970s to have casual sex with young black men who receive gifts and money in return. One of the women is played by Charlotte Rampling—what an amazing face she has. All of the women appear to be self-deluded to a greater or lesser extent, making more of the relationships than their companions do.

Today I put the finishing touches on a short essay about conspicuous cycling and got my tape deck hooked up again. Doing more would probably have required arising before 12:45 p.m.

In the late afternoon, I took my old PC and monitor via cab down to GreenCitizen at 2nd and Howard for recycling. The monitor, behemoth though it was, was free; the PC cost $10.

I’d gotten this darling little shiny flip-top trash container for my bathroom, and saw that they had one a bit larger at The Container Store, which I thought would be perfect for the kitchen, but when I went back to the store, they were gone.

I looked at the website for the company and didn’t see the item, so I called them and they said they don’t make such a thing. I concluded maybe it had been a different brand, but after visiting the recycling place, I stopped by The Container Store again, and there, in a different spot, were two of them, made by the same company that makes the small one. I snapped one up—another customer saw me with it and asked where they were kept—and brought it home in another cab.

While I was watching the DVD last night, Hammett stuffed himself between the bed and the comfy chair, as he does now and then, but for the first time, I heard the unmistakable sound of fabric being clawed.

This morning I could hear that he was down there again and leaned over to peer into the crack, whereupon a little hand attached to a long skinny arm shot out and took a swing at me. His paw brushed my eyelid. It was funny, but I was also glad he didn’t scratch my eye, which would have been my fault.

I achieved a modest savings milestone this week, which probably doesn’t matter, because I fully expect that for one reason or another, I’ll find myself broke at 65—the stock market will crash and never recuperate, or China will buy the entire country and appropriate all the assets, or something—but I was still pleased and called my parents to ask, “Guess how much money I have?”

Yet another great thing about parents is that they’re the only people on earth you can ask that particular question of. My mother hazarded a guess: “Thirteen.”

When we hung up, she offered this parting piece of advice: “Don’t ride a bicycle.”

I was telling my mother recently that I’d like to put more time into my blog, that I think it could be better. She said, “Your blog is great! After all, it’s all about me.” She is a good sport about being quoted so much.

My father is nearly as quotable, in a different way—he is also very funny—but I noticed that when I considered including something here verbatim that he’d sent in an email, I thought, “I couldn’t do that.” It seemed as if it would be a breach of trust, but I quote my mother all the time. I’m not sure what the difference is. I suppose it's just one more way mothers are treated unfairly.

I'm also extremely hesitant to quote friends, or say too much about their lives; consequently, it may appear that the only people I know are Tom and my mother, which is not exactly the case (though pretty close).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blood, More Blood, and Mark Wahlberg

I and a large number of others attended the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition volunteer night last Wednesday, and on Friday, I went on Critical Manners in a group of just four, including Reama, the ride’s organizer. We rode north on Polk Street to Fisherman’s Wharf—how fresh the air smelled as we neared the water!—and then back along the Embarcadero to Market Street.

On Saturday Tom and I saw There Will Be Blood. If for some reason you have to see only one of There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men, definitely see the latter, but I’m crazy about Daniel Day-Lewis and he is in nearly every frame of There Will Be Blood, so it seemed highly worthwhile.

That same weekend, I saw on DVD The Prestige, a clever tale about two magicians, one played by Christian Bale, and The Ballad of Jack & Rose, which I had seen before, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis. I had forgotten that Paul Dano was in it, too. He was also in There Will Be Blood and is the perfect foil for Daniel Day-Lewis: where Day-Lewis is sharp, intense and exact, Dano is the opposite.

I saw my dentist this week and griped that my teeth, which are increasingly sensitive, are making me kind of unhappy, and slightly worried, as I was hoping they would remain serviceable for as much as another 40 years. The probable main culprits are two staples in my diet: citrus and tomatoes.

My shopping list often reads, in part:

5 tomatoes
3 cups tomatoes
28-oz can tomatoes
2 tubes tomato paste

Tomatoes are in everything: peanut butter and tomato sandwiches, pasta sauce, many bean dishes. Then there’s the near-nightly arugula-citrus salad, a boldly robust variation reliant on tons of chopped nuts and cheese and a full tablespoon of olive oil.

I’m sure that you, like me, are sick of salads that contain fewer calories than are expended in the effort of eating them—I call mine a salad that gives rather than takes, and pride myself on cramming a thousand calories into each one.

Mark said that if one is going to eat tomatoes and citrus, brushing of the teeth right afterwards is actually not a good idea, because it can drive the eroding material into the teeth, but that it can help to rinse one’s mouth with water.

I’ve been on a dairy jag lately, which has changed my life profoundly for the worse, with near-constant nose-blowing and a violent dry cough, so, what with one thing and another, I’m going to try to cut down on citrus fruits, tomatoes, and dairy. So much for the thousand-calorie tangerine-enhanced salad, though I will do my best.

New bike lights have been obtained: a second blinky for the rear, in orange, a Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash, and a very bright white light for the front, which can be set to blink or not, a CatEye Compact OptiCUBE. Both are LEDs.

The latter makes a reflective street sign flash from nearly half a city block away, which is thrilling. Reama has something extremely similar, but even brighter, which I think is from Performance Bicycle.

I already owned a white headlight for the front, but it’s kind of a hassle to put on. I spend much more time keeping it charged up than I do using it, and was starting to think about switching to a Light & Motion headlight. However, Eric at Freewheel said he thinks my current light is just fine (thus saving me about $400), though when it dies, Light & Motion is what he would recommend.

The latest issue of the League of American Bicyclists’ magazine contained a wonderful article about a super-sized woman, Joan Denizot, who wanted to ride a bike, but discovered that the weight limit for many bicycles is only 200 or 225 pounds, so she started her own company to make sturdier bikes, Super Sized Cycles.

I loved that she emphasized that the main idea is not necessarily for large people to lose weight, but to be able to enjoy the outdoors on a bicycle if they want to. I sent her a note saying how pleased I was to read about her brilliant idea, and got a nice note back.

I’ve taken up, again, a goal I have had forever, of developing the ability to have lucid dreams. I remember my dreams very easily, sometimes six or seven in a night, which is the first step in lucid dreaming, but have had only three or four lucid dreams in my entire life.

I promise not to recount too many dreams here, because hardly anything is more boring, but then, if I can describe my visit to the dentist, I guess it won’t hurt to mention that I dreamed last night that I was serving in a war and that Mark Wahlberg was my fellow soldier and also boyfriend, and that when a man in a suit died in top of me, drenching me with blood, Mark Wahlberg was sweetly solicitous.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Now All I Need Is a Chrome Litter Box

I have finished most of my new-computer tasks; all were easy. I plugged in my hub (which adds several USB ports for plugging other things into) and my new keyboard, did my first backup (so simple!), and formatted my external hard drive for the Mac. Everything that had become painfully laborious on my PC is now fast and easy.

I gave away my old mouse and keyboard, and now just have cables, the PC itself and the monitor to get rid of. I’d love it if someone came and took the monitor, in particular, so I don’t have to schlep it downtown. I think I can get the PC to the recycling place on my bicycle, strapped to the rack, but the monitor would require a cab.

Hammett had another urinalysis today. I’ll get the results on Monday. As I suspected, he has lost a bit of weight, five ounces in the past month or so. He has been, in effect, on a diet, because there is so much water mixed with his food and because I can’t leave food out all the time because he has to be hungry at pill-taking time, so that he’ll eat some food with it.

However, he seems happy and full of energy. In fact, he’s up to new forms of mischief lately, so maybe this is actually a better weight for him, though he looks awfully little to me.

If his urine concentration is OK, I’ll ask Dr. Press if I can stop giving him the glucosamine, so I can leave food out all the time, or if I can stop putting so much water in his food.

I’ve passed another milestone on the long road to maturity: I’ve acquired a waste receptacle for my bathroom. Why, in no time, I’ll have to decide what I’d like to be when I grow up and what college to go to!

Formerly I had been using a small paper bag, which I balanced on a towel bar so Hammett wouldn’t get into it, but I was finding that my ancient toilet was balking a bit at the clumps of cat litter and pee and realized I would need to put them in the trash instead, and as long as I was doing that, I should put cat poop there, too, since it really shouldn’t go into the water supply. Litter box contents apparently should not go into the compost bin.

A paper bag was not going to suffice for all of that, so I got a beautiful chrome flip-top trash can for about $20 at the hardware store. Rainbow has biodegradable liners that fit nicely inside.

In the kitchen, I’m still using a plastic bag which sits in a wad under the sink when not in receiving mode, but I may get a similar (larger) trash can for the kitchen plus biodegradable liners.

I took my scissors from home, my scissors from work, my old cable knife from when I worked in construction at PG&E, and my beloved Wusthof to Jivano today. It was a beautiful morning, and so nice to see the sun.

The main room of his shop is about 14 by 20 feet, painted a dark yellow. He has several large plants, many of his own artworks on the wall, and hundreds and hundreds of old knives, scissors, church keys, and other handy, mostly pointy, metal things crammed into various containers, including several vintage items.

Jivano said he couldn’t do much with the Wusthof, as he stresses function over form and doesn’t have a buffer, but said he could sharpen everything for $18 if I gave him 10 or 15 minutes. I took a stroll and returned to find all items presumably improved in function, and a couple noticeably altered in form.

Both pairs of scissors had changed shape, one rather dramatically. That’s OK, even if I have had one of those pairs of scissors since I was about five years old. They were part of my first sewing kit, a gift from my mother, the master seamster. I still have the pincushion, too, and—I just checked—some of the spools of thread. They say “S. S. Kresge” on them.

Use of a grinder had wrought new contours entirely, so if you visit Jivano for sharpening and you don’t want that to happen, say so before you leave for your stroll.

The cable knife had an absolutely beautiful edge on it, and so did the Wusthof. A bit of material had been ground off the shoulder, maybe you call it, of the Wusthof, but so be it. As my father pointed out, though he is pleased I like it so much, it’s just a tool and can be replaced.

(I do know there’s an umlaut in Wusthof; I can’t figure out yet how to get the Mac to do this, especially since I’m not using a Mac keyboard.)

I said to Jivano, “It looks like you did more than eighteen dollars’ worth of work. How about twenty-five?”

“Far out,” he replied.

Friday, January 11, 2008


On New Year’s Eve, Tom and I saw Hollywoodland, about George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on TV, who apparently committed suicide. Many didn’t want to believe Superman could kill himself, and the movie features Adrien Brody undertaking an inconclusive murder investigation, with three possible scenarios offered. Ben Affleck does a very nice job of playing Reeves.

At midnight, we did the same thing Lisa and David did in Seattle, as it turned out: went onto the roof of our building and watched the fireworks. The night was clear and the display, at the Ferry Building, plus a couple of smaller efforts here and there, was impressive.

After that, I saw Stick It, which you will enjoy if you like watching very fit young ladies do gymnastics to the strains of hard rock (as who does not?). I showed Tom the highlights a day later. There’s a captivating scene where a diminutive Asian athlete does an offbeat and saucy routine to a freestyle song (whatever that is; that’s what Amazon says it is) that you’ll have to watch at least twice.

I also saw the last Harry Potter movie (i.e., of the fifth book) and December Boys, about four Australian orphans who take a holiday at the shore—this movie is gorgeous—and meet a couple who may or may not adopt one of them.

The oldest boy is played by Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, who, though it pains me to say it, is not a very good actor. Later I realized, why, that thing that happened to Daniel Radcliffe’s character would be very sad and upsetting, but I didn’t get that from his portrayal, which partly depended on untucking one of his shirttails and otherwise on lurching around as if suddenly demented (like I do at work, but I’m trying to convey that I’m not available for special assignments rather than that young love can end in heartbreak). Ah, what Ryan Gosling could have done with it.

After I finished the final Harry Potter book, I read Wheels, Arthur Hailey’s novel about the Big Three automakers in Detroit. It takes place in the late 1960s, when my father was working in that industry; in fact, the thing my father helped invent (anti-lock brakes) is mentioned on page 67. My father wrote the algorithm that tells the computer what to do.

I found Wheels very engrossing, spinning a good yarn via many different vantage points: assembly plant workers and foremen, managers, top executives, designers, dealers and advertising people, and it takes a hard look at race relations throughout.

Before the end of page two, it mentions an "arch critic" of the auto industry, who is pressing for the development of alternatives to gas-powered vehicles, such as steam-powered and electric cars. This was written more than 35 years ago! To think we’re still stewing about the exact same issues.

After that I read Kate Atkinson’s detective novel One Good Turn, which is excellent. She’s a very good writer.

Last Friday there was a very windy rainstorm here. I thought it would be an adventure to ride my bike to work, and it was. Plus I had the streets nearly to myself, bicycle-wise. Near Fourth and Market, the large plate glass window on the second floor of a store was shattering onto the sidewalk; firepersons had closed the area. At moments, it was so windy I was no longer moving forward, despite my best efforts, and I got concerned that I was going to be blown in front of a moving car, so I got off my bike and walked the rest of the way. At Third and Market, the street was blocked off and the buses had been rerouted for fear that a loose scaffolding was going to crash into the street.

Mark my words: One of the big problems as climate change increases is going to be the wind. What if it was so windy that it was impossible to step outside without being blown over or even carried off? Would airplanes be able to fly? Cars navigate safely? Will the thing known as a “window” become obsolete? Is a window made out of steel useful for checking to see if it’s raining out?

Last year I took BART to work anytime it looked even remotely damp, but this year I haven’t taken BART once, regardless of the weather. I think I have solved the glasses problem! It turns out the issue isn’t so much the water as steamed-up lenses. The way to avoid that is to breathe through my nose instead of my mouth. It’s slightly inconvenient (we’ll get into my sinus issues later), but makes riding in the rain quite doable, though I still avoid doing it at night.

I guess this is a good time to mention LotsaWater, the beautiful screen saver that makes it look as if whatever is on your desktop is underneath undulating crystal-clear water. There is a version for Windows, but when I tried it on Tom’s PC, the result was extremely unsatisfactory. On the iMac, it’s swooningly gorgeous.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Duckter: Seemingly Back from the Grave

Tom and I went to Sacramento for another splendid Christmas at the home of his brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Eva. Others attending were Steve and Julie, Dan, Chris, Sarah and Josh, Ann and Mac, and Dave Clark. We enjoyed each others’ company and ate and drank, and opened the mountain of gifts piled around the Christmas tree.

I got two nifty little LED lights from Paul, who has a knack in the area of gadgets—one of the lights looks like a little spark plug—and Hammett got, from Ann, a very cute duck toy very similar to one Thelonious had that I called “The Duckter.”

Of course, I ate way too much. I always vow to go easy on the appetizers and save room for dinner. This time I did not actually overindulge on appetizers, I think for the first time ever, but the pre-dinner, which comes between the appetizers and the actual dinner, was my downfall. In vain did my stomach shriek up to me, “I’m full, I tell you!”

At dessert time—all was lost by then, so why not?—I said that I would like a large piece of apple pie, a generous amount of ice cream, and a bit of the apple crisp. Josh, Sarah’s boyfriend, followed my excellent example, saying something like, “Same as Linda.”

Tom’s brother Steve was wearing Keen sandals like mine, in a different color. I asked, “Are you copying me?” He answered, flatteringly, “I do a lot of things to be more like you.”

Tom and I spent that night at Steve and Julie’s, and went back to Paul and Eva’s for breakfast and stockings. Santa and all of his helpers were extremely generous, as always.

Then Steve and Julie and Tom and I had a nice afternoon at Ann and Mac’s, including lunch and communion with Sophie. Tom and I took the train home later that day. I got the train time wrong, plus it was running late, so we had a lengthy period on the chilly train platform to reflect on the spirit of the season.

The next evening, Chris came to town and he and Tom and I had dinner at Firecracker, a Chinese restaurant near 21st and Valencia. The food was fine, maybe a tad overpriced. However, the service was bad enough that I probably won’t go back there. After dinner, we saw Walk Hard, the biopic spoof starring John C. Reilly. I got more of a kick out of Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory, which I’ll see again one of these days, courtesy of Netflix. In any event, it’s always great to spend time with Chris.

When I returned to work after Christmas, my father’s gifts were waiting; they had arrived the day before Christmas, when I wasn’t at work. He gave me a citrus squeezer, a nut chopper, and a DMT diamond knife sharpener with a choice of two surfaces. I have been using a DMT diamond steel per my father’s recommendation, and like it a lot.

I had previously received a nut chopper from my father, so I asked him if he liked the new one better. He said he likes the old one because it’s easy to clean, but that he does not, in fact, chop nuts with it; he prefers the newer one for that. He said to ask my mother what she uses the old chopper to chop.

I still haven’t found out, but my mother did agree in regard to the maintenance. She said, “It is uncommonly easy to clean, that vertical chopper. I just leave it on the counter … ” (Meaning that someone else cleans it.)

I tried the new sharpener and it is effective. Unfortunately, in my initial experimentation, I put several light scratches across the flat side of the blade, after which I had a good cry: That knife is my baby! No one but me is allowed to touch it. (Since I live alone, I have to call people who live elsewhere and say, “By the way, you’re not allowed to touch my Wusthof.”) It was also a gift from my father, as are most of my best kitchen tools.

Fortunately, Jivano, the web-proclaimed best knife sharpener in San Francisco is minutes from my front door, so I’m going to take it over to him and see if he can smooth it out. If not, I’ll learn to love it as it is.

You used to have to lurk around Jivano’s tiny shop on 18th St. hoping he might appear, but now you can email him.

Somewhere along in here, Tom and I saw No Country for Old Men, which we both loved. It’s extremely violent, but it’s not gratuitous violence—every bit of it is necessary. It’s also perfectly cast and the dialogue is pleasing. It’s turned me into a Josh Brolin fan. I had seen a review that said most of the violence is off-screen. Hardly.

The Friday right after Christmas, I watched La Vie en Rose on DVD, about French singer Edith Piaf. She was quite the carouser. I enjoyed the film.