Saturday, November 9, 2013

A hammer and a nail (no ambulance required)

While searching for my Krazy Glue to fix my torn fingernail, I dropped a hammer on my foot.

It started at the Target mothership in Minneapolis a few years ago, where a friend and I enabled each other's purchases to the tune of $350 in merchandise and closed down the store.  One of my purchases was knives: a pretty blue chef's knife and a pretty yellow parer.

Every time I have used that pretty little yellow paring knife I have almost cut myself.  Slicing asparagus the other day, I thought, "I don't need a bigger knife -- and I will pay attention this time."  And I sliced the side of my thumb.

I was so frustrated I finished cutting the asparagus and making dinner while blood soaked paper towel after paper towel.  I called a friend to find out if I had to go to the hospital.  I survived the bleeding, but I had sliced my nail, and I knew it would snag and tear.

My next source was the web.  It turns out that you can repair a torn nail with a teabag and Krazy Glue. Hence the search for the glue, which was in my toolbox, and then the falling hammer.

Lots of pain, instant icing and ibuprofen.  I googled the bones in the foot to identify that it was my fifth metatarsal that was hit and then googled how to know if it was broken.  Someone said she was a doctor and just reset it herself and moved on.  I poked at my painful fifth metatarsal and couldn't figure out through the pain if something was out of line. Once again: Do I go to the hospital?  Maybe I could get my thumb stitched up, too.

Surprisingly, my foot is not broken. The Krazy Glue tube had dried up.  Given that last time I tried to use it I got it all over my hands and everything around me, this could be for the best.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Paranoid about the paranoics

I've been remembering the frustrating conversation I had at a wine tasting a while back.  One thing this annoying person said is that he has a gun in his house to defend himself against the government when they try to take away all his rights.

Even though the Berkeley world in which I am now so immersed does not trust the government, I don't live in an environment where the government is seen as a threat to be armed against.  But I know there are many parts of the country where government is so mistrusted, so hated, that people would like it to go away, and they proudly maintain their guns for the opportunity to return to the natural order of things.

This is the source of the Tea Party movement.  Every morning I wake up and hear on NPR about the (potential for, and now real) government shutdown.  It frustrates me because of the premise embedded in the discussion: that government should not be shut down.  The disconnect between this premise and that of the Tea Party frightens me for the future.

The Tea Party wants radically smaller government.  And they've won.  The sequester: we are still functioning under radically reduced government funding.  The government shutdown: radically reduced government funding.  Support for food programs is vanishing.  NPR presents this as a terrible impact of the shutdown.  The Tea Partiers are cheering: they do not believe in food programs.  Go down the list of what the media presents as an impact of the government shutdown, and you will see a list of the items that the Tea Party does not want funded by the government anyway.  Eight hundred thousand federal workers: that's their win.  Food safety inspection.  National Parks.

Fox News calls it a government slimdown.  The term isn't just a way for them to play down the impact of the shutdown -- it's a way to celebrate that government is getting smaller.  Who doesn't want to slim down?

The Tea Party has been clever to focus on Obamacare as the item they want to negotiate on.  If for some reason the Democrats begin to discuss this law, they win.  If, as the Tea Party knows, this law is a done deal, then they can confidently hide behind the impenetrable shield of the issue and radically reduce the size of the government.  It's win-win for the Tea Partiers.

I am a diehard Democrat, and I have wanted to give the President the benefit of the doubt for his five years in office.  But someone on his team doesn't get it.  It's not just the economy, stupid: it's jobs, stupid.  It's not about programs, because that plays into Tea Party hands.  It's about individuals and their paychecks.  As the countdown to the shutdown began, the President should have had a daily news conference, each day talking about jobs.  In the second person: make it immediate.  On the first day, he could talk to the 800,000.  On the next day, he could pick one ripple effect and warn another segment of the population about their paychecks.  And so on.  If the shutdown occurred, he should keep going.  He could have a different cabinet member speaking each day to a different segment under his or her purview.

He could declare that he would fund the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a critical government function, sending the message that he cares more about tracking the jobs of the citizens than the Tea Partiers.

Instead, the Democrats are gleefully watching the Tea Party tear the Republicans in half, not realizing that they are all in the same sinking canoe.  However, the premise we hear in that is that the Republicans have a problem, but the Tea Partiers have no issue tearing their own party in half, tearing the government to pieces. Their goal is not to become the majority power in the Republican Party.  If Tea Partiers no longer exist because there is no functioning government of the United States, then they win.

This is my paranoia.  We are dealing here with something much bigger than a movement within government: we are dealing with a movement that is truly trying to destroy government.  When the debt ceiling is not raised, and the economy tanks, and more people lose their jobs, the people will say, "The government messed this up," not "The Tea Partiers, the Republicans messed this up, so I think I'll vote Democratic."  Having the people turn on the government means that we no longer have government by the people, for the people.  We just have a world where those with the biggest guns win.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My vegan family Seder

Passover is one of my favorite holidays, and I usually spend it with my fabulous crazy vegan cousins.

Even before the Seder itself, it was like an Oscar Wilde comedy.

I arrive at 6:00, as requested.  Jeffrey and Dylan, the boyfriends, are sitting on the couch watching the History Channel's show on engineering disasters, this one on the Deepwater Horizon.  They report that I'd just missed the show on underwear.  It took me a minute to realize this was not something in the engineering disaster series.

Lynne reports that Marty and Carol aren't coming.  She's upset.  Andy tells his daughter, Chloe, that Marty gave him the number of someone who works at an ad agency and that she should call him.  She looks at him like he's crazy.  He says, "Why can't you be normal and call him?" She says, "Because it's not normal to call people you don't know.  You email them."  Andy had neither his email address nor his actual name.

Lynne tells me I'm leading the Seder.  What a treat, although had I known before I would have pulled some material.  She says we're starting as soon as Rochelle arrives.  This is good: I want to start asap because then we won't be rushed through the Seder; everyone else wants to start asap so we can eat soon.

Mickey and Barbara arrive.

Rochelle arrives.  I'm eager to sit down and get started.

Andy gets on the phone to call Marty to ask him for the email address of the ad agency guy.

Lynne remembers that we need a pitcher of water and a bowl for handwashing and digs out a pitcher.

Chloe announces that we are going to Facetime with her sister now.

Lynne asks Chloe to corral everyone into the dining room.  She corrals them into the kitchen.

We discover that there are two extra chairs around the dining room table.  We debate whether or not to remove them.

Andy is not there.

Andy arrives, but Lynne has to get up to get something.

Lynne returns, but I remember that I have a great story on my phone I could read, so I run and get it.

Richard starts talking about the Breslov Haggadah and how it reminds us that we should find our ways out of our own narrow places and that we need to teach future generations about this.  My reaction is that he's just led most of the Seder, and I wish I didn't have to now because he's been so eloquent.  Also that what he said isn't unique to that Haggadah by a long shot.

Mickey says we should share our narrow places with each other.

Chloe's phone rings as she tries unsuccessfully to Facetime with her sister, and she asks her dad why the internet connection keeps cutting out.

All this before the Seder officially begins....

I love my family.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Unless you can't talk.

Ironically, after that last post I had laryngitis for five days.  Relying as much as I do on talking into my phone to send messages, I was very frustrated.

The fun part was when I would gesture and friends would deliberately misinterpret it.  Laughing like that kept me going.

Laryngitis is what got me going on this blog, and I've had it since, too.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A phone is for talking...?

As is well known, an iPhone isn't a great phone.  Its form factor, plus AT&T's irregular service, results in not effectively being able to hear the people you're trying to talk to.

I love my iPhone, and it changed my life and the way I think about information and action.  But I don't like talking on it.  But who needs talk?  Texting, email, Facebook -- I can connect with people through my phone without actually talking.  It's not just an app device -- it is indeed a device for connecting with people, redefining the adverb "telephonically."

Initially, there were also complaints about the iPhone keypad.  Blackberry users felt that a keyboard with actual buttons was much easier to use.  There was this repetitive strain injury called "Blackberry thumb" from people typing so frequently with their thumbs on their RIM devices.

Clearly, we have moved on from the keypad issue.  Those of us who were using T9 on our little flip phones thought that anything that had actual letters was great.  Whatever you think of autocorrect, the iPhone is your partner in typing quickly.

Now, with Siri, with the marvelous Google search app with voice recognition -- in fact, since every keypad that pops up includes a little microphone button -- it's even easier.  More quickly than typing, I can dictate my messages, my emails, my search requests.  Rather than wearing a headset to improve my experience of phone conversations, I now wear one so that my phone can recognize my voice and help me send the clearest email and text messages to people.

Talking on the phone has come full circle.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Peanut M&Ms?

I have a friend who has a stutter.  He manages it well, and I didn't know he had it until he told me.  He says it's situational: it only comes out when he's nervous.

That's what made it a surprise for me -- I've seen him meet strangers and immediately start bantering with them.  I can find meeting strangers to be anxiety-provoking.  He says he's good at schmoozing.

Looking at him as someone who generally seems very open and confident, I marvel at how vulnerable he must feel.  It's not just a speech impediment that can be embarrassing when it kicks in -- it also reveals something about his psyche.  When he is nervous, he can't hide it because his speech betrays him.  What is that world like?

I have an exoskeleton.  I feel, and project, confidence and strength.  I am friendly.  Public speaking gets me high.  I can, in fact, protect myself with words.  I express my moods and my worries, but no matter how profoundly I am feeling them I often do so with words and a tone that seem to lighten the tone of my distress and make it less dramatic.  As a result, I am only partially revealing my emotional state and feel less vulnerable. Inside, I can be a chaotic mess, but I have control over to whom I expose that version of reality, and it's not to a lot of people.

My friend has no choice.  He can't choose his words when he is profoundly distressed because words leave him.  With his stuttering generally under control, its onset becomes a tell, a signal of a state of emotional chaos.  He has no choice but to reveal his vulnerability.  His chaos is on the outside.  How absolutely frightening.  He must have an endoskeleton, a kind of inner strength I can't comprehend.

A candy analogy would be better.  With this one, I end up being a bug.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mine's bigger

An observation:

Stanley Cup (hockey)
America's Cup (sailing)
Sprint Cup (NASCAR)
Ryder Cup (golf)
World Cup (futbol)(and a lot of other things)

Rose Bowl
Pro Bowl
Super Bowl.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Growing things

About ten days ago, I took a workshop on how to make challah.  Ever since, I have been trying to make one successfully.

When I was in kindergarten, my little sister went to a Jewish nursery school, and every Friday they made challah.  She would come home with a hard twist of carbs, and, even though my parents laughed at it as not real challah, I thought it tasted good.

I have been living my sister's legacy this past week.

I get everything about the form right.  I braid a gorgeous round challah.  I roll the raisins inside so they don't burn.  I use a glaze of egg, cinnamon, and sugar. If it could be a sculpture, it would be perfect.

My realization yesterday (I am on my fifth and sixth loaves) is that I need to not think that I am making bread but that I am raising yeast.  Like my plants, which I examine carefully, making sure they are getting the right combination of light and, well, no water, I have to think of this as an exercise in growing something.

To grow, yeast apparently requires:

  • Proofing.  I wince as I say that.  What a weird use of that word, but apparently it is something people say.  My recipe didn't have instructions about it, but yesterday I combined yeast, sugar, and water warmed with meat-thermometer accuracy and watched the slurry bubble.
  • No drafts.  There is also something about covering it with plastic wrap.  My immediate thought is that there was no plastic wrap in the shtetl, followed by a thought that if you cover it tightly the yeast will ferment anaerobically, and that can't be good.  Apparently in the shtetl they used a damp cloth ... its purpose, as I'm trying to respect this time around, is to reduce drafts.  Drafts?
  • Patience.  My recipe says to let it rise for an hour or so.  So I set the chicken(-shaped) timer for an hour and take a break.  It's supposed to double in size ... I look at it and think, well, maybe I forgot how small it was beforehand.
  • Warmth.  Everyone I've talked to about my challenges tells me that their grandmothers put the dough in the oven with the oven light on, that that is the perfect temperature for rising.  
Last night: I proofed the yeast, put the dough in a cooling oven, put the light on, was patient, and left it there all night (which apparently also happened in the shtetl, although somehow I think perhaps they didn't have oven lights).

I woke up this morning and finally understood what rising means!  This is an entirely different dough than what I've experienced so far.  I've now grown some great yeast.

However, and perhaps this is the deeper source of my problem and my impatience, the part I really care about is not the growing, not even the eating, but the kneading.

The only time I ever saw a family member knead was when I was very, very little, and I watched my grandmother make kreplach.  When I had my first wonton, it sent me right back to my grandmother's kreplach.  Interestingly, my family laughed at my grandmother's kreplach, too, so that's probably why I only had it that once.

I love kneading.  Delightfully, challah involves two risings and therefore two kneadings.  When I started this process of learning how to make challah, kneading for just a few minutes was hard.  Now I can easily go 10 minutes (and I'm not supposed to go longer, sadly), standing on solid shoes; sometimes literally pounding the dough with my fists after the second rise, breathing rhythmically, kneading with my palms and my fingers.  Turn, fold, breathe, punch.  It's meditative.

The two that rose