30 December 2010


Voiceover in the Barilla pasta ad:  "I believe that wheat is a gift from God."
Me to David: "I don't."*

*Although I do like to describe many, many things by quoting Phyllis_Schlafly's opinion of (no kidding) nuclear weapons:  A wonderful gift from a wise and loving God.

16 December 2010

I don't see why not

My boss asked me about the annual holiday potluck:

My Boss:  What are employees encouraged to bring?

Me:  Very expensive alcohol.

My Boss:  Really.  So just desserts or  ...?

Me:  Desserts or side dishes.

My Boss:  Okay, thanks.  (Heading into his office)

Me:  And jewelry!

16 September 2010

Thanks again, Dad

I got to be teenager-y and blame my parents (specifically, my father, who provided my Irish genes) for my problems when I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease because CD is very common in Ireland and people of Irish descent.*

Well, fate has offered this opportunity again. I was told today that I have Rosacea **and, according to those strangers on Wikipedia, "It primarily affects Caucasians of mainly northwestern European descent and has been nicknamed the 'curse of the Celts' by some in Britain and Ireland.

*So far the only thing I've gotten from my mother's German genes are a somewhat "Achtung" approach to kitchen organization and a fondness for rules.

**And I was told this in the same way that I am told lots of medical information: as though it were something that the doctor has noted in my file long ago and assumed that I knew. What is up with that?

15 September 2010

USA Science & Engineering Festival

I've been asked to play Rachel Carson* at this festival, so I'm pretty excited about it.  Here (slightly edited by me) is the "please come to our festival and bring a future Dr. Sheldon Cooper with you" e-mail that I received today from the organizer via the director who recruited me.

*Actually, I was offered my choice of Rachel Carson; Sally Ride; or Rosalind Franklin. I look more like Dr. Ride than I do Ms. Carson, but, c'mon, Rachel Carson lived in Silver Spring.  It was a foregone conclusion that I would pick Carson.  And it gives me a more pressing reason to read Silent Spring and The Edge of the Sea than "Oh.  I should read those."  

Ever wanted to talk with a Nobel Laureate? Did you know red wine goes well with steak, but also has anti-aging properties? Want to uncover the mysteries of baseball's knuckleball? These and other intriguing questions are answered at the Inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival, the biggest celebration of science the World has ever seen!

Inspired by international science festivals that draw crowds in the hundreds of thousands, the goal is to increase our nation's awareness of science and inspire our nation's youth to consider science-related careers, while uniting our country and showcasing the amazing science and innovation taking place throughout the United States. The Festival descends on Washington, D.C. with events throughout the city for everyone, from the smallest child to the most established scientist; promising to be the ultimate multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-disciplinary celebration of science in the United States.

Check out a video of the San Diego Science Festival (SM) at http://www.scivee.tv/node/12528

(SM) -- San Diego Science Festival is a registered California Service Mark of Science Spark

USA Science & Engineering Festival | c/o ScienceSpark | PO Box 2141 | Olivenhain | CA | 92024

So why have a Science Festival? Society gets what it celebrates! As a culture, we celebrate movie stars, rock stars and athletes and we generate a lot of them, but we don't celebrate science and engineering.

The Festival is analogous to an art, music or literary Festival but it is focused on Science and Engineering and accomplishes its mission via hands-on demonstrations, fun demos, and presentations including art, music, comedy, film and theater.

The Festival kicks off in just three weeks, offering over 150 FREE events for the public - all geared toward sparking an interest in Science.  Over 750 companies, universities, research labs, federal agencies, professional societies, community groups and science outreach organizations will participate.

You can find out all the details at:  http://www.usasciencefestival.org

The grand finale will be a two day EXPO on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  (and surrounding venues) on October 23-24, 2010--- over 1,500 fun, hands-on interactive activities and 75 stage shows for all ages. There will be stuff for the mildly curious to the science professional. You can learn about fun topics like the science of the magic of Harry Potter, the mathematics of jump roping, the physics of superheroes, the chemistry of Thanksgiving Dinner, the engineering of baseball bats and balls, the science behind special effects in movies, trends in Global Warming, renewable energy sources of the future .... (This is a completely non-profit, non-commercial, fun and educational initiative.)

You can operate state-of-the-art robots,  laugh with science comedians, be mesmerized by science magicians and mathemagicians, converse with astronauts, Nobel Laureates, science celebrities like Bill Nye the Science Guy and even scientists of the past, fly a fighter jet simulator, enter a virtual reality environment, be a CSI agent, make a virus out of marshmallows and toothpicks, try your hand at using a surgical robot, discover methods of measuring global warming, learn how to transform your car so it can run off a cuisinart etc.

And --- while having fun --- you can leave with information about science scholarships, internships, mentorship programs, jobs and much more.

Many, many thanks and best regards,
Larry Bock
Executive Director
USA Science & Engineering Festival

10 September 2010


People wanting to see my Boss:  "Is he in a good mood?"
Me:  "Yes."  [Beat] "You're not going to change that, are you?"

06 September 2010

"Hiking Maryland and Delaware"

Mom was an avid hiker and backpacker.  The energy, time, enthusiasm, and love that I put into theater, she put into being on trails, maintaining trails, and promoting enjoying the outdoors.  I've been saying for a while of our two obsessive hobbies, hers was the smarter because it meant that she spent beautiful days outdoors, while I spend them shut up in windowless rooms.

So I was very touched to run across this letter in Mom's first edition of Hiking Maryland and Virginia by David Lillard and Chris Reiter:
August 24, 2000

Ms. Ann Hall

Dear Ann,

Thank you so much for allowing Ed and me to use your library of trail resources in the research for "Hiking Maryland and Delaware." The books were a tremendous help to us. We were able to include in the book a combination of many hikes that had not before appeared in a single source.

I want you to know also how much I appreciate your dedication and service to the hiking community over these many years. I understand that you are not able these days to put in the kind of "sweat equity" that you once offered. I hope you will be heartened to know your kind assistance on this book is itself a wonderful service to hikers. It will help thousands of novice hikers discover the outdoors that you have so lovingly stewarded.

Enclosed is a copy of Hiking Maryland and Delaware, a small token of my appreciation for your help.

With sincere thanks,

/s/ David
David Lillard
AHS President 1994 - 2000

The first edition was dedicated to all of the people who have done trail maintenance and all of the other volunteering that keeps the trails available for anyone who wants to walk them.

It was the dedication in the second edition (2006) that made me cry. I don't cry very often, but this made me get the kind of teary where you can't talk for a couple of minutes, which was inconvenient because I was reading the dedication out loud to Mom, just so that she could hear it again.
For Ann Hall. When her legs failed her, she did her volunteer trail work from her bottom, sitting in the trail to cut brush, clear water bars, and tend the path. How she got herself so far into the woods no one can imagine. That's love.

And it's inscribed: Dear Ann, You have inspired more than you know. With appreciation, David

And David* and I used the second edition today planning our hike at Little Bennett Park.

Need a good book on hiking in Maryland and Delaware? I have one that I can recommend.

*my David, not Lillard

31 August 2010

I think I could give her a run for her money

Mom gets the large print Reader's Digest every month and when she is done with them, she passes them on to me.  One of the highlights of RD, of course, are the little anecdotes that people send in, "Humor in Uniform," "Life in These United States," "Campus Comedy," etc.  Mostly I read them, smile, and move on.  But after all of the time that I have spent in theaters over the past few years, this one really caught my eye:

My young daughter loves to go to performances at the local high school, so when her brother was in a spelling bee, she happily came along.  But halfway through, she lost interest.  Leaning in to me, she whispered, "This is the most boring play I have ever seen."    
Angie Aiken, Alpharetta, Georgia.

I may have to recruit Ms. Aiken's daughter to be a WATCH judge on day.

27 August 2010

Bread and Roses

A few months ago a friend was asked to sign a petition protesting the "sweetheart deal" that a local professional theater/venue had or might have in the future.  She asked me about it and I actually was able to frame a reply that didn't involve sarcastic swipes at the giant, tax-payer funded stadia we have around here:

Sorry that it's taken me so long to reply but I wanted to get past my knee-jerk "don't hurt the arts!" response.

I was actually in that space on Monday night because [Theater}, who uses the space, was doing a season preview.  I chatted for a bit with [their artistic director], and he told me that [Theater] splits their gate with [Venue]. 

Considering [Theater]'s normal show budget, [Venue] is not pulling in lots of dollars from them.  It's kind of win-win because 1) [Theater]gets the use of a nice black-box theater which seats about as many people as they sell tickets for; 2) [Venue] doesn't have to absolutely program there year-round; 3) Silver Spring's profile as an arts destination is raised a bit; 4) people who want to see good shows for cheap can do it in place where there are restaurants and parking.

[Theater]received two Helen Hayes awards (a big deal in local professional theater) for their work in that space and if they are allowed to continue to use it they will continue to bring value to the downtown area.  Theater goers are actually pretty good about spending money around the theater.  They meet for dinner, they go out for drinks after, etc.  The American Association of Community Theaters has something on their website describing the dollar multiplier provided by theaters.  [Real theaters, not movie houses.  :-) ]

And [Theater] isn't the only group that uses that space.  Back in January the Community Theater Festival Association hosted the One-Act Festival there.  I don't know the financial arrangement, but I do know that Association doesn't have much cash, so it may have been a similar split the gate deal.  Folks came in from around the state to perform at the festival, so hotel rooms, dinner tabs, and liquor tabs were run up around the area.  I, personally, stayed in my own home, it being near by, but I had lunch on my tech day at Egg-spectations, coffee on performance day from Panera, lunch at Panera, lunch the next day with a big group at McGinty's, etc.

Contrast that with the situation at [Other] Theater.  They are about $6 million in debt.  [Another] theater is going up for auction on Tuesday due to a $4 million debt.  The economy is bad all around but arts organizations are always hit hard by any penny pinching.  When police are being laid off, it's hard to justify grants for plays.  Theaters cannot pay their bills on ticket sales alone.  If we did, seeing any play would cost close to New York prices.  We depend on donations from audiences and grant money from local, state, and federal agencies. 

But we also provide a benefit, both monetary and artistic to the communities in which we reside.  Theater goers spend money.  Theaters provide the kind of story-telling that is our cultural heritage.  Participating in theater provides the kind of team-work and character development that we ascribe to sports.

I don't know how much of a "sweetheart deal" Montgomery County should give to [Venue]  but I know that Maryland lags behind Virginia in what we give to the arts.  If we want all bread and no roses, helping to put [Venue] out of business would be a step in that direction.

23 August 2010

My corollary*

Attachment isn't.

*Osborn's Law:  Variables won't constants aren't

05 August 2010

My iPod has a sense of humor

A great big storm just blew through this area and to ensure that I got that point that a lot of water was falling out of the sky, the randomly chosen songs that Smudge played during the tempest included "The Flood in Lyons" (Renaissance) and "Walking in the Rain" (the Partridge Family's cover of a Neil Sedaka song).

12 July 2010

How to make my parents laugh

This past weekend David and I stayed with Dad and Audrey while we attended the Contemporary American Theater Festival in nearby Shepherdstown.*

As Dad and I were sitting around catching up, he told me a bit about the skin graft that he had to deal with a wound on his leg. Typical of Dad's sense of humor he told me that he told the nurses that they were ruining his once perfect body, since the graft would leave scars on both the wound site and the donation site.

"Huh." I replied. "So I know this means that we can't show you any more. Can we still breed you?"

And we were greatly amused by each other and proved - again - that while I look just like my Mom, I am still related to my father.

* Highlight for this festival?  Discovering I was sitting next to David Remedios, the sound designer for two of the shows.  And then watching him not even flinch, let alone turn around and kill, the patron who spent the first five minutes of the show we were watching (not one he designed, but even so) slowly and loudly open something wrapped in cellophane.

I am my father's daughter

"I often don't know what I think until I've heard what I have to say."

from a This I Believe essay that Daddy wrote this year.  

05 July 2010

This might not be as easy as I thought

Listing to Power Breakfast on NPR in the morning means that at least once a day I mutter "self-serving jerks" about our elected officials. Probably not what Elizabeth Wynne Johnson has in mind as she broadcasts this daily snippet of what the powerful and corrupted are doing, but that's what I'm always left with.

I have voted in every election in which I was eligible and I don't really want to stop now, but the major parties and their corporate owners don't offer anything better politically than Burger King offer nutritionally, so I don't really want to play with them any more.

It has occurred to me that there is at least one party out there that a) seems to agree with some of things that I find important, and b) has neither the money nor the power to annoy me nearly as much as the behemoths do. Heck, I don't think I've ever heard them even mentioned on "Power Breakfast," which may be a good sign.

So I've decided to start voting for the Green Party. I have voted for their candidates before, but I've decided to make them my default. It's similar to Brett's "vote against the incumbent" policy, possibly, in that it includes a certain "please go away" message to people who have learned that their real job is to get re-elected.  Besides, I've long thought that a viable third (and even fourth) party would be our best chance of maintaining a genuine representative democracy.

However, there is a small difficulty. I went to the website for Maryland's Green Party yesterday in order check out the candidates for 2010 and beyond and I got this message:


If you would like to run for office as a member of the Green Party, please call 443-449-4159.

That's right: the the independent restaurant of politics seem currently to have no candidates.  Or no menu to continue the metaphor.  I hope they have some candidates very soon because I really don't need or want another Double Down.

King: What means this most unmannerly irruption?
Is this your gratitude for boons conferred?

Scaphio: Boons? Bah! A fico for such boons, say we!
These boons have brought Utopia to a standstill!
Our pride and boast--the Army and the Navy--
Have both been reconstructed and remodeled
Upon so irresistible a basis
That all the neighboring nations have disarmed--
And War's impossible! Your County Councillor
Has passed such drastic Sanitary laws
That all doctors dwindle, starve, and die!
The laws, remodeled by Sir Bailey Barre,
Have quite extinguished crime and litigation:
The lawyers starve, and all the jails are let
As model lodgings for the working-classes!
In short--Utopia, swamped by dull Prosperity,
Demands that these detested Flowers of Progress
Be sent about their business, and affairs
Restored to their original complexion!

King: (to Zara) My daughter, this is a very unpleasant state of things. What is to be done?

Zara: I don't know--I don't understand it. We must have omitted something.

King: Omitted something? Yes, that's all very well, but--- (Sir Bailey Barre whispers to Zara.)

Zara: (suddenly) Of course! Now I remember! Why, I had forgotten the most essential element of all!

King: And that is?---

Zara: Government by Party! Introduce that great and glorious element--at once the bulwark and foundation of England's greatness--and all will be well! No political measures will endure, because one Party will assuredly undo all that the other Party has done; and while grouse is to be shot, and foxes worried to death, the legislative action of the country will be at a standstill. Then there will be sickness in plenty, endless lawsuits, crowded jails, interminable confusion in the Army and Navy, and, in short, general and unexampled prosperity!

W. S. Gilbert, "Utopia, Limited"

24 June 2010

Catalog Living

Suddenly I can't wait for David's next Crate and Barrel catalog to arrive.

Catalog Living

Quinn has a similar relationship with the Lily Pulitzer catalog, as I recall.

23 June 2010


It is possible that one of our staffers didn't use this as his model, but as he gives me a Hershey bar whenever I do a favor for him, I have my suspicions ...


22 June 2010

I think I celebrated this wrong

Last night I stopped in a the Forum Theater season preview* and then walked home, stopping on the way at Baskin Robbins for a scoop of Daiquiri Ice sorbet. Yum....

It turns out that I could have honored the soltice better:

Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era) wishes all residents of Latvia a joyful "Ligo!" Midsummer holiday, LETA** was informed by Liga Krapane, the prime minister's press secretary.

The leader of the government wishes each person who celebrates the holiday an unforgettable feeling on Midsummer's Night while waiting around the bonfire singing "Ligo!" songs and waiting for the sunrise.

"The longest day and the shortest night, the bonfire, garlands, floral crowns, songs, cheese and a tankard of beer. This all belongs to the summer solstice, the celebration of which is an ancient and fundamental Latvian tradition. We are proud of this, and generation to generation we preserve it," said Dombrovskis in his festive greeting.

At the same time, he calls for the public to act responsibly towards themselves and those around them during the long holidays, so that this celebration will leave only positive and bright memories without tragedy or unpleasant consequences.

*Note to working actor - I wasn't planning to tear you away from your friends, merely to ask if you are rehearsing anything I should plan to see. But, alas, you couldn't give me a few seconds of your time, so that ticket is going unsold, isn't it?

*Not Leta = me, but LETA = the Latvian news agency. But wouldn't that be cool? If the prime minister's press secretary called me up and told me stuff like this?

18 June 2010

Why I blog

For years I have contemplated telling this story, and for years I have put off telling it. While I have delayed, my memory has not improved, and my recollections of the past are more hazy and fragmentary than when it first occurred to me that one day I might write them down.

...although I was at one time conscientious and diligent enough in keeping a diary, I kept it for use at the moment, not for future reference.... It had become a bursting, groaning dust-bin of information, for the most part useless.

About six years ago I moved into a smaller house in London, and I burnt a great many of my earlier diaries as unmovable rubbish. The few passages which I shall quote in this book from those which escaped destruction will prove that my bonfire meant no great loss!

Still, when it was suggested to me in the year of my stage jubilee that I ought to write down my recollections, I longed for those diaries! I longed for anything which would remind me of the past and make it live again for me. I was frightened. Something would be expected of me, since I could not deny that I had had an eventful life packed full of incident, and that by the road I had met many distinguished and interesting men and women. I could not deny that I had been fifty years on the stage, and that this meant enough material for fifty books, if only the details of every year could be faithfully told. But it is not given to all of us to see our lives in relief as we look back. Most of us, I think, see them in perspective, of which our birth is the vanishing point. Seeing, too, is only half the battle. How few people can describe what they see!

...For weeks I had hesitated between Othello's "Nothing extenuate, nor write down aught in malice," and Pilate's "What is truth?" as my guide and my apology. Now I saw that both were too big for my modest endeavor. I was not leaving a human document for the benefit of future psychologists and historians, but telling as much of my story as I could remember to the good, living public which has been considerate and faithful to me for so many years.

From The Story of My Life, Recollections and Reflections by Ellen Terry with thanks to Sam for sharing it as Savoynet discussed how much reliance to have on memoirs written in a subject's later years.

05 May 2010


Back in November, David and I took a trip up to New York to spend Thanksgiving with my cousin. Normally, he and his girlfriend come south to stay at my Dad's but my cousin got a job working sound for a show which was scheduled to open right around the Autumn harvest holiday.

So we had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner in their new apartment and on Friday we saw the show he was working. We took up most of a row and the famous director/choreographer was in attendance the night were there. Very exciting!

Fela! is bright and energetic and got lots of good buzz after we saw it (including an interview on The Daily Show for Bill T. Jones), playing to good houses even in a down economy.

On Saturday David and I went to see The Royal Family, one of my favorite pieces of "antique theater," which was then in revival in a lavish production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater.

It was a wonderful theater weekend and I enjoyed both shows thoroughly. And, it seems, I wasn't the only one: Both have been nominated for multiple Tony Awards in both performance and technical categories and both were nominated for the top honor in their discipline: Best Musical (Fela!) and Best Revival of a Play (The Royal Family).

Like Ko-Ko, I am always very glad to hear my opinion backed by a competent authority.

20 April 2010

Because I relate everything to theater anyway

At Bridget's grandmother's funeral, I told her something that had occurred to me during the mass.  And I don't know what it says about either of us that we both found it both comforting and rather cheering.

"When your grandmother passed away, her show closed. And this is the closing night party where we talk about what a great show it was."

The devil you know

At the read-thru for Stone Soup last night I noticed one of the cast - one of the ones who had worked with me before - looking at my oddly.

"You're remembering what a ding-a-ling I can be, aren't you?" I asked.

His lips said "no, no," but his eyes were definitely saying "yes, yes."

15 April 2010

I'll see you and raise you

Me: I got two paper cuts doing that mailing. I'm going to file for Workers' Comp.
My Boss: Paper cuts, huh? That sounds self-inflicted to me. We'll put you on report.
Me: Fine. I'll see your self-inflicted wound and raise you a hostile work environment.
My boss: Oh, really? Then we can make this a very hostile environment for you.

It's not for nothing that I studied the fine art of Retaliation & Escalation under Brett. But it seems that my Boss may have taken a similar curriculum.

13 April 2010

What he doesn't understand

It's not that David isn't entitled to half of his own bed when I stay over, it's that my half happens to be in the center.

11 April 2010

Jeepers Creepers

At brunch this morning, I kept staring at the guy at the next table. Sure, he was pretty cute, but that wasn't what drew my eye to him over and over.

I whispered to Malinda that the guy at the next table was probably noticing that I was staring, but check out those glasses! As if on cue, he looked directly at me, smiled, and wiggled his glasses at me.

Clearly, I wasn't the first. I doubt I'll be the last.

01 April 2010

In a nutshell

But that was a very, very long time ago and I'd like to tell you that I'm better but all I am is older.

Quinn Cummings

Clearly, I have been abducted by aliens

Or eaten by bears. Or something.

I saw 4 plays in March. 4. I normally see about 10 plays each month.

Yeah, last March I saw 5 plays, but I was in a show that opened on the 20th, so those last two weekends didn't lend themselves to me seeing other plays. We also had rehearsals most Friday nights and every Sunday.

I was so surprised at that 4 that I looked back over the past year.* Between March 2009 and February 2010, I saw 121 plays:

February 2010 - 8
January - 8
December 2009 - 6
November - 16
October - 9
September - 9
August - 12
July - 9
June - 13
May - 13
April - 13
March 5

*Yes. I keep track of what plays I see. Of course I do.

30 March 2010

Passover haiku

It is - in my mind - Andy's haiku because I learned it from him.

Left the door open

So Elijah could come in

Now the cat is gone.

From Haikus for Jews

25 March 2010

Veris me facies

"Leta - that's a pretty name. What does it mean?"
"It's Latin for 'joyful'."

And my face is pretty joyful that spring is here.

Veris Leta Facies
from the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff

Veris leta facies
mundo propinatur,
hiemalis acies
victa iam fugatur,
in vestitu vario
Flora principatur,
nemorum dulcisono
que cantu celebratur.

Flore fusus gremio
Phebus novo more
risum dat, hac vario
iam stipate flore.
Zephyrus nectareo
spirans in odore.
Certatim pro bravio
curramus in amore.

Cytharizat cantico
dulcis Philomena,
flore rident vario
prata iam serena,
salit cetus avium
silve per amena,
chorus promit virgin
iam gaudia millena.

The joyful face of spring
turns to the world,
sharp winter
now flees, vanquished;
bedecked in various colours
Flora reigns,
the harmony of the woods
praises her in song.

Lying in Flora's lap
Phoebus once more
smiles, now covered
in multi-coloured flowers,
Zephyr breathes nectar-
scented breezes.
Let us rush to compete
for love's prize.

In harp-like tones sings
the sweet nightingale,
with many flowers
the joyous meadows are laughing,
a flock of birds rises up
through the pleasant forests,
the chorus of maidens
already promises a thousand joys.

How to clean out your e-mail inbox

Sort by subject.

Delete everything with the subject titles Dinner; Lunch; Opps - now attached; Today; and Tonight.

Another target-rich area, of course, is the ones starting with You and Your.

24 March 2010

Boy, that's handy

I bought an iPod Touch from one of my co-workers and being just a little too cheap to buy expensive apps for it, I have only acquired the free ones. As it turns out, one of them has come in very handy lately. I recommend it highly.

It's called Flashlight and it makes the screen a very bright white (or blue or red or green or black* or any custom color). During The Laramie Project there are long stretches when I am sitting quietly, Stage Left, on the lip of the stage. So if anyone is missing from rehearsal, I read in their parts because ... well, I because I love read parts. So I sit there with the script on my lap and as we are at that point in the process where it goes randomly dark while lighting is being tested or adjusted or set, I keep the iPod Touch with me and use Flashlight to read in the missing lines. It's also helpful when someone needs a little assist on the escape stairs. Definitely handy. I'm glad I have it.

And it's also nice that I have Freecell. Which casts a light, too. I'm just sayin' ...

*I have no idea about the black, but I admit that I am intrigued by the idea of a black flashlight.

22 March 2010

Sometimes I do say the right thing

Which contrasts nicely with so much of the rest of my conversation. Although my friends generally seem to agree that my usually kind intentions often cancel out any infelicitous phrasing.

But every now and then I do say the right thing, which pleases me greatly and which is possibly why my friends are still willing to ask me for advice. Or perhaps they just enjoy the Magic 8 Ball experience of "What Will Leta Say This Time?"

I don't remember if I have "documented" these here before, so stop me if these sound familiar ....*

# One
Some years ago Friend #1 was considering proposing to his girlfriend. We had dinner and he told me this but wondered if it was the right thing to do.

"Absolutely. You should ask her to marry you."
"But I don't have any money."**
"Yeah, but you've never had any money."
"No, what I mean is that if money, per se, were important to her, she wouldn't be with you now."
"But I can't afford a ring."
"All she will hear when you propose is that you want to spend your life with her. Really. Give her a cigar band now and buy her a real ring in the future."

They got married and have been living happily ever after. And his sister, when she heard this story from him, promptly went upstairs and got their mother's ring from her jewelry box and gave it to him. So no cigar band was required.

# Two
Friend #2 also had a proposal dilemma. He wanted to propose to his girlfriend but as his field might require relocating a few times until he was sufficiently established and her field didn't have as general a possible practice area, he was concerned that marrying him would have a negative effect on her career. Or that they might have to be a long-distance couple. Or, etc.

"Marry her. If you love each other enough, crossing the country for each other is not too much of a problem. If you don't crossing the street is too much effort."
"Absolutely. Deciding to build a life together is what's important. The rest is just logistics."

And they are married and living happily ever after ... ***

I was standing on the stage at the WATCH awards a week ago and the friend standing next to me was listening to his name get mispronounced. More than once.

"Should I correct it when I get to the mic?" he asked me, sotto very voce.
"Well, [previous MC] mispronounced my name for five years running," I murmured back.
"Okay. I'll let it go."

Yep, sometimes in the midst of the nonsense the Magic 8 Ball gives the right answer.

*My having told them to you in person several times doesn't count.
**We were young and poor back then. We're middle-aged and poor now. Me because I am completely incompetent financially, him because this is a rotten economy.
***As you can see, I think that people in love should get married. "This is true love - you think this happens every day?" says it well. So, more darkly, does "You truly love each other and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say." both from The Princess Bride

02 March 2010

Time in a bottle

"Pamwriter" left this as a comment at the end of a nice essay on downsizing from the Tucson Citizen. It's definitely even more of a challenge to get rid of stuff when the "stuff" has sentimental attachment.

So this is really for the several friends who have lost loved ones recently and will be faced with sorting their possessions into "what to keep, what to throw, and what to give away."

A friend of mine recently said ‘You CAN keep time in a bottle’. She has decided that a small collection of bottles as keep-sakes is better than the tons of keep-sakes themselves. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘we’re keeping the memories.’ So what she’s doing is to write small notes and put them in the bottles that she has categorically labeled – maybe one is ‘mom’ and one is ‘dad’ and one is ‘first husband’ etc. I’m thinking about this as I sift through ‘my stuff’. I also have started to watch the ‘Hoarders’ – I watch then I get up and clean a closet. I’m in touch with the emotional attachment to the stuff and letting go. I’d put the cookie maker* (I had one too) into the pile to go to the hospital shop and let those folks decide which of their piles to put it in.

*The item that essay author Lydia Brewer used as her jumping-off to muse about de-accessioning.

18 February 2010

I am so deep

The thoughts that went through my head - in order - when a doctor's office told me that there was a problem with one of my routine tests:

1. I guess David would be willing to take Pekoe if ...

2. Huh. Does this mean I can stop contributing to my 401(k)?

3. Screw that gluten-free diet.

Luckily for David, Pekoe, my 401(k), and the manufacturers of the gluten-free products I buy, the specialist to whom I was referred declared the area in question "extremely normal."

17 February 2010


I heisted this from my adorable pal, Tommy's*, post on Google Buzz.**

Single Serving Pie in a Jar

I'm going to get some gluten-free pie crust from Whole Foods and make myself some pies.

I'm also going to make several to take to my Dad's so that I can have pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas without either throwing out the crust (sad face) or bringing a gluten-free pie from Whole Foods that looks kind of mashed, as they always do, and that everyone else ignores which makes me feel all ghetto-ized about my food (put upon face).

*I would link to his blog but he last updated it over a year ago. Tommy ... dude ...

*Remember when we used to find things out by talking to each other? Yeah, that's so last century.

10 February 2010

Kasha & friends

With all the snow we've had, I've run through most of my usual favorite recipes and I did a fairly limited shop during the last clear day we had (Monday), so I've decided that it's time to go to the perishables at the back of the cabinet for inspiration.

I found a box of Kasha which is - and I am not making this up - buckwheat* groats. Yes! Groats! How cool is that? And even though there were directions on the side of the box, I found a recipe for Kasha in the next-up contestant in the Leta-cooks-her-way-thorugh-all-those-damn-cookbooks reality show.

The recipe is absurdly easy to make, so I gussied it up a bit, for a couple of reasons: 1. It felt more like a one-dish meal post-gussying; and 2. A nice big bowl of plain groats for dinner is too peasanty, even for me.

I still have plenty in the box and will probably make Kasha again soon, but I may have to try it without the egg, just to see what that does to the final product.

Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)
The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook, page 124, published 1955

(I made a half recipe, but this is the full one)

1 cup Kasha, medium or coarse
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water

Mix the kasha, egg, and salt in a saucepan. Place over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until each grain is dry and separate. Add boiling water; cover and cook over low heat 12 to 15 minutes, or until dry and tender.

Serve as a substitute for rice or potatoes, or use as directed in recipe. This recipe makes about 3 1/2 to 4 cups.

The gussying consisted of sautéing some onions and garlic in olive oil and adding them, along with some chopped spinach after about half the water was absorbed into the kasha. Because, really, could it hurt?

*Nope, buckwheat isn't really wheat. It's a whole nuther grain.

08 February 2010

In this bleak midwinter

I have a great fondness for what a friend of mine labled "downer Christmas songs." You know, "Do They Know It's Christmas" and "Carol of the Bells" and the most Downer Christmas Song of them all, "In the Bleak Midwinter."

The only part of it that doesn't work for me is that we sing it (or, more likely, listen to it) in mid-December, which around here is more like "In the Reall Late Autumn."

Our bleak midwinter is actually about now and this midwinter is bleaker than most. We got a big snow on December 18th (24 inches), another on January 30th (about a foot), another on February 2nd (5 inches) and another over this past weekend (another 24 inches).

We are now expecting another 4 to 12 inches before Wednesday evening. The frozen heaps from December haven't yet eroded and we've had more and yet more. I love snow, but we've had enough.

And when someone on the radio described this past week as "snow on snow on snow," I realized that the theme song for me for SnOMG 2010 is the poem written by Christina Rossetti well over a century ago.

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago

06 February 2010

On this one, I think Lucy is right

Up here on the 8th floor, the snow definitely seems to be coming up.

And way up there,
The little stars and planets,
Make the rain,
That falls in showers.
And when it's cold and winter is upon us,
The snow comes up,
Just like the flowers.

Now, Lucy, I know that's wrong. Snow doesn't come up,
it comes down.

After it comes up, the wind blows it around so it
looks like it's coming down but actually it comes up
out of the ground- like grass. It comes up, Charlie Brown,
snow comes up!

Oh, good grief!

"Little Known Facts" from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, lyrics by Clark Gesner, ideas by Lucy, Lucy by Charles Schultz.

05 February 2010

Snowed up

Every time we get a lot of snow (we are currently in the middle of SnOMG 2010 with 5" on the ground so far and another 20 or so expected), this scene runs through my head.
One still morning, Laura came downstairs to find Ma looking surprised and Pa laughing. "Go look out the back door!" he told Laura.
She ran through the lean-to and openend the back door. There was a rough, low tunnel going into shadows in gray-white snow. Its walls and its floor were snow and its snow roof solidly filled the top of the doorway.
"I had to gopher my way to the stable this morning," Pa explained.
"But what did you do with the snow?" Laura asked.
"Oh, I made the tunnel as low as I could get though. I dug the snow out and pushed it back of me and up through a hole that I blocked with the last of it. There's nothing like snow for keeping out wind!" Pa rejoiced. "As long as that snowbank stands, I can do my chores in comfort."
"How deep is the snow?" Ma wanted to know.
"I can't say." It's piled up considerably deeper than the lean-to roof," Pa answered.
"You don't mean to say this house is buried in snow!" Ma exclaimed.
"A good thing if it is," Pa replied. "You notice the kitchen is warmer than it has been this winter?"
Laura ran upstairs. She scratched a peephole on the window and put her eyes to it. She could hardly believe them. Main Street was level with her eyes. Across the glittering snow she could see the blank, square top of Harthorn's false front sticking up like a short piece of solid board fence.

From The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

03 February 2010

Me, too!

Life & Theater

Driving home from Peppermint Creek's "The Seafarers" last night, I got to thinking about my taste in theater, which admittedly at this point is pretty broad. I was tickled with a metaphor.

My taste in theater is much like what I want out of life:
  • Heavy doses of comedy to fill the days with laughter
  • Plenty of drama to challenge me, make me think, help me grow, and help me form healthier relationships with others
  • Strong dashes of absurdity to keep me on my feet
  • Small bits of the familiar to comfort me
  • A vast majority of new experiences to expand my horizons
  • Relevant stories that give me something to share with those around me
  • Lots of song and dance to celebrate it all

30 January 2010

It runs in the family*

It seems that the cat has a possible theater career ahead of him ...

Some friends and I started a tradition on Facebook called Foto Friday. The rules are pretty simple: take a picture on Friday and post it to your news feed and you're in! No pictures of, or pertaining to, the men's room are acceptable for Foto Friday. Anything else is generally fair game, although our offices do seem to figure in a pretty high percentage of the shots taken.

I wanted to take a non-office Friday Foto and I had a decent idea. I would take a picture of Pekoe and his (by the end of the workday) empty food bowl. So I brought the camera home from work and after the initial writhing through my legs to express his joy at my return, Peek and I headed into the kitchen. I took an establishing shot of the tragically empty bowl:

I then took a nice shot of Pekoe looking mournfully at me while standing next to the tragically empty bowl. The camera told me to change the batteries and shut itself off. Oh, well. Okay. I feed Pekoe and then went to the computer to download the images, but alas! The second shot didn't save because of the low battery.

New batteries were added to the camera and then Pekoe was informed that, as we had lost the original image, we would now need to recreate "Sad Pekoe at the Empty Food Bowl." So, to his obvious confusion, I picked up his food bowl and dumped all but a few crumbs of the contents back into the airtight plastic container that keeps the cat food reasonably fresh and reasonably unavailable to strew all over the kitchen.

I set the bowl down and like a trooper he resumed his previous position and looked up at me on cue.**

Note how he has arranged to show off his lovely green eyes to best effect, to minimize any "devil cat red eye," and yet to very clearly express "What's the with empty bowl? We feed cats here!"

And yet ... the director in me reviewed the shot (if Peek and I had been filming, I would have been "reviewing the dailies" or something like that) and decided that we needed one more take.

Pekoe had already wandered off to sniff and bat at things, two of his major occupations, but when summoned to the set, promptly hit his mark and was ready to go.

As can be clearly noted in the second shot The Artist built on his previous character choices for Starving Cat, adding in layers relating to his previous life as a stray. There is just a hint of the dichotomy between being grateful for being fed every day and fearing dependency on another for his basic needs.

I swear he takes direction better than some far more experienced human actors I've worked with.

All the material we needed was now safely in the can, as it were, so the food was replaced in the bowl and the The Artist was rewarded with a couple of Pounce.***

*Okay, just to clarify, I do not regard myself as Pekoe's "Mom." His staff, maybe, but not his mom. Or any other family member. But the title just seemed more euphonius than "It runs in the human/animal companionate relationship."

**The truly discerning (or truly anal, decide for yourself) will notice that the arragement of food particles lacks continuity from the establishing shot. I was working from memory. I did the best I could.

***Which is about as much as I been paid for theater in the past year, come to think of it.

28 January 2010

Exactly what I would have said

My next theater project is a show called The Laramie Project about the murder of Matthew Shepard. I'll be playing Officer Reggie Fluty, the first responder on the scene. Providence company member Beth is playing Marge Murray, Reggie's mother. Beth is only a few years older than I am,* so last night at a play reading I was chatting with her husband, David**, and we had the following exchange:

Me: So how many times do you think I can call Beth "Mom" before she just slaps me?
David: I dunno. Try it and see.

*This happens in theater (and in the movies) all the time. Sometimes we play the parents of people who are older than we are. It not how old you are - it's how old you can play.
**Yes, of course, he is named David. Of course.

26 January 2010

Dimes and Quarters

They walked up to the bar, uh, and, as you know, paid for a pitcher with dimes and quarters, uh, which is something that I mean you don't forget. You don't forget that. Five-fifty in dimes and quarters. That's a freakin' nightmare.

Now Henderson and McKinney, they didn't seem intoxificated* at all. They came in -- they just ordered a beer, took the pitcher with them back there into the pool room, and kept to themselves. Next thing I knew, probably a half hour later, they were kind of walking around -- no beer. And I remember thinking to myself that I'm not gonna ask them if they want another one, because obviously they just paid for a pitcher with dimes and quarters. I have a real good feeling they don't have any more money.

Matt Galloway in The Laramie Project

*Thanks to Patrick for the correction.

20 January 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Last year I resolved to make one new recipe a month during the year, using the cookbooks that take up an entire baker's rack in my kitchen. Somehow that didn't happen,* although I did make some fresh peas at one point and had to look up how long to boil them.**

But a new year doesn't require new resolutions, just renewed resolve...

I had bought some Brussels sprouts at the local farmers' market which I had recently learned was now year-round. I had needed to pick up a pound of ground bison meat for some chili I would be making for the office chili cook-off and the Brussels sprouts were just a happy surprise. I rinsed them when I got home the day I bought them and popped them into a bowl in the fridge. I ate a few raw now and again (crunchy and yummy!) as I was doing other things, but tonight I decided it was Time to Cook the Brussels Sprouts.

One of the reasons that I love Brussels sprouts is that my Mom made them beautifully. She'd cut the stems off, make little Xs in the bottom, boil them in just enough water to cover, drain them and replace in the pot, add butter, salt, and pepper, and then cover lightly with a wax paper circle for a few minutes. They were the definition of "crisp-tender" and sooo tasty.

I knew the basic premise, but - again - needed specifics.

As I also had some bacon that was also reaching its Use It Today point and figuring that I could accomplish several things at once, I pulled out the cookbook that is upper left in the bakers rack: The James Beard Cookbook (1959. Well, 1967 in paper).*** It had been Mom's and several of the recipes have her mark, i.e., the date of the first time she made the recipe. Mr. Beard eschews both the Xs in the bottoms and the wax paper circle, so his recipe is a trifle simpler than Mom's but I think her Brussels sprouts are still the best. Also, the next time I make this I think I won't boil them as long as Mr. Beard suggests as the sprouts were softer than I prefer. But all in all? Pretty darn tasty.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
The James Beard Cookbook, page 446 & 447

1 quart or 1 pound of Brussels sprouts
Salt & pepper
4 tablespoons of melted butter (not necessary for the bacon variation)

Trim the stems off close to the sprouts and remove any discolored leaves. Put the sprouts to soak for 15 to 20 minutes in water to which you have added 1 teaspoon of salt.

In a kettle put enough water to cover the Brussels sprouts and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring this to a boil and add the vegetable. Do not cover. Cook gently until just tender when pierced with a fork. This should take about 15 minutes.

Drain well and seve with melted butter and salt and pepper to taste (skip for bacon variation)

Some people like a dash of vinegar or some lemon juice added.

With Bacon

Prepare as for Boiled Brussels Sprouts (see above), and while the sprouts are cooking, fry 6 slices of bacon. When crisp, remove and chop fine. Drain off all but 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Return the chopped bacon to the pan and add the cooked and drained sprouts. Season with 1 tablespoon of grated onion.

I added the BSwB to some gluten-free rotini pasta. It was, in all, a lovely dinner that I look forward to making again some time.

Next up? The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook.

*I also resolved to walk to work on days when a) the temperature was above 40 degrees as I was getting dressed and b) if I didn't have to be somewhere immediately after work. That one worked out rather well, so I'm repeating it again this year as well.

**About ten minutes, up to 15 for larger peas.

***All of the books in my home are filed alphabetically by author except for cookbooks which are by size, smallest to largest. If I am able to stick with this project, the one on the bottom shelf right is my Provence the Beautiful Cookbook**** Technically, the cookbook to the absolute left is another James Beard cookbook dealing with Hors d'Oeuvre and Canapes, but that sort of book is usually rather thin on recipes for Brussels Sprouts.

****By which, I assume, was meant a cookbook about Beautiful Provence, rather than a beautiful cookbook, although as it is a coffe-table type book with lots of food-porn illustrations, it's certainly a darn fetching book.

Just a suggestion

I am sorting and mailing out the W-2 forms for 2009 today. The ones for current employees will go to their offices and the ones for former employees will go to their homes.

And quite a few of them will come back to me because some of the former employees have moved and their forwarding orders have expired. I always tell departing staffers to make sure that we have an address for them that will get their W-2s to them, but who really thinks about a former employer or a once-a-year form while going through the whole "do I really like this enough to pack and move it" and "why do I have so much crap and why is it so heavy" process that is moving.

So if you moved during 2009? Make sure your former employer has your current address. Sure speeds up getting that refund.

19 January 2010

A nice compromise

I was a Girl Scout. My elementary school was somewhat haphazard about sponsoring scout troops, so I was involved in scouting about every other year. But I absorbed a fair bit about lanyards and uniforms and campfire songs. And I sold cookies. Back in the old days we went door-to-door because, as my mother put it, "I'm not taking any cookie order forms to work. This is your project and you are responsible for it." So I went door-to-door taking orders and a few weeks later I went door-to-door with my little red wagon (truly) and delivered the goods.

Girl Scouts no longer go door-to-door because it's just not safe. It probably wasn't safe back when I did it, but we didn't know that. Instead the order form appears at the office. And Celiac Disease or no, as a former Girl Scout, I am morally obligated to pay those cookies forward.

Luckily for me, my very good friend, the Gleeful Gecko, believes in the Girl Scouts and their cookies. And has a birthday coming up. In a division of labor that works for both of us, I will buy the cookies and he will consume them.

It's rather a pity that I can't deal with all of my moral obligations as easily.

18 January 2010

Cup of Brown Joy

When I say "As-sam!" you say "Love-ly!" AS-SAM! LOVE-LY!
When I say "her-bal" you say "No thanks!" HER-BAL! NO THANKS!

Thanks to The Linguaphile for the link.

Matching donation

I got this e-mail this morning from our Human Resources Director:
I am sure you all are aware of the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti last week and the growing need for resources needed by the Haitians to recover and rebuild. Many of you have responded by sending aid through your charity of choice, and [the company] will join you in that effort by matching your donations. If you have made a donation towards the Haiti recovery effort, please contact me. I will co-ordinate the Haiti Relief matching fund donation.

One of the many reasons I'm glad I work here. I've texted money to the Red Cross and now and I think I'll send a bit more to Doctors Without Borders for the immediate relief and Engineers Without Borders for the long-term recovery.