Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Nothing Special

I'm reading "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki a little at a time. You have to do that with Buddhist teachings or they don't stick. One of the sections is called "Nothing Special." Suzuki says,

"As long as we are alive, we are always doing something. But as long as you think, "I am doing this," or "I have to do this," or "I must attain something special," you are actually not doing anything. When you give up, when you no longer want something, then you do something. When there is no gaining idea in what you do, then you do something." (page 47)

Suzuki continues by saying that if you practice sitting zazen without any thought to reaching enlightenment, eventually you will reach enlightenment and it will be nothing special. "Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you obtain it, it is nothing special." (page 47)

A light bulb went on in my head when I read this. Have you noticed that really talented people seem to shrug off their talent? They have reached the place of "nothing special." When they wanted to acquire that talent, it was as if they wanted to get hold of a precious gem - a most special thing, but once they got it, huh! Big deal! Do you do this with your own talents, those things you know how to do so well you could practically do them in your sleep? (I'm not just speaking of an artistic talent here, but of any sort of talent - cooking, accounting, shopping for bargains, taking care of animals, etc.) Do you think they are "nothing special"? That is good, on the one hand. It means you have done something. And it is good on the other hand (all that is is good in Buddhism) because there are others who admire your talent as something special. Eventually, if they decide to practice whatever that something special is, they will come to a point where it is nothing special.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007


Yard and Patio Revolutionaries

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I like to think I was part of the French Resistance during World War II - sneaking around gumming up the works in order to cripple a hateful regime.

As I mentioned before in my Seed Savers post, according to Terry Glavin's "The Sixth Extinction," ten corporations own about half of all the world's seed stocks. I do believe this is a regime that needs overthrowing, and we might be able to do it in a sneaky way. Do you have a yard? If so, why not allow your lawn to become diverse? Quit killing the plants that you call weeds. That's a start. How about planting a few heirloom varieties in your flower beds and gardens?

Now, here's where you can get subversive. Don't worry if it takes time to accomplish this next step. What you want to do is make your yard an unkempt haven for both plants and critters. This is subversive because there will be local ordinances and picky-icky neighbors who want you to keep your yard neat for their comfort. To go about this without raising hackles, you'll have to pretend that you are doing this in an orderly and purposeful fashion. Plant high-growing shrubs or bushes around the perimeter of your property. That, or build a fence with some pass-through areas for animals. You're trying to build a haven, not a prison. The shrubs or fence are an effort to keep up the appearance of neatness, which should appease the rest of the locals. Once the barrier is established, let most of your lawn go. Plant whatever you like - vegetables, flowers, trees, fruit, etc. If you prefer a controlled look, go ahead and landscape, although you'll want to leave some areas open to spontaneity. Use as many heirloom varieties as you like and try to go organic. Pick stuff that's appropriate to your region and doesn't need a lot of care. We're going for self-sustaining biological diversity. If you like a wild "natural" look, this will be easier. Just plant stuff and let it go. That's our preference and thankfully, most of our yard already has a perimeter of bushes that allow for us to let things go. We still have to mow the lawn periodically (when it rains), but we don't spend time weeding and feeding it. Because of this, all sorts of plant varieties have volunteered to mix it up with the grass.

If you really want to be subversive, see if you can change your local lawn ordinance. Have it allow for natural prairie plantings and other unkempt areas. Use the environment and global warming as your excuse. Point to other cities - like Portland, Oregon - that allow for mixed vegetation in yards.

For those without a yard, you can become a revolutionary by planting heirloom varieties in pots on your patio or in your apartment or on your roof, or wherever. Collect the seeds and plant more, or store the seeds. Put your plants outside, if possible, so they can have some fresh air and access to pollinators.

All we need to do is convince people that the aesthetic of a large expanse of uniform turf is outmoded and not good for the environment, and pretty soon plant diversity will return to the masses. Vive le resistance!

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Saturday, July 28, 2007


Sitting Zazen on a Motorcycle

Hubby and I went for a motorcycle ride today. The ride was a benefit for a nonprofit organization. Benefit rides are quite popular among motorcyclists, with so many being scheduled during pleasant weather that you could go on one every single weekend through the summer if you like. When hubby and I first starting riding motorcycle, I felt so European on the back of the bike. Now that we've been riding for several years, it feels like I'm sitting zazen. When I'm on the back of a bike, I can't get out of the position I've willingly put myself in. I can barely move and my muscles cramp up. I stretch as much as I can, but mostly I have to just live with the discomfort. (Ever get an itchy ear when wearing a full face helmet?) Couple the usual physical discomfort with today's stickety-stinkin' heat and you've got the makings of a great zazen practice.

The mind rolls with the miles . . . look at the cows . . . watch out for the road kill . . . someone piled rocks from their farm field in a long pile by some trees . . . just like in Shawshank Redemption . . . ice cream . . . if I could create a Ben & Jerry's flavor, what would it be . . . Mary, Mary, quite contrary . . . Mary, Mary, Quite Raspberry . . . Crocodile Hunter . . . not the young one, Steve Irwin, the other one, Crocodile Dundee . . . didn't he marry his co-star after the movies . . . oh, we just crossed a river . . . check out the sunflowers . . . what am I going to blog about . . . Ben & Jerry's . . . sitting zazen on a motorcycle . . . God, my shoulders ache . . . .

By the end of the ride, the mind empties and you can't think of anything anymore. The wind just keeps rushing by.

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If You Could . . .

If you could create your own Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor, what would it be?

Mine would be "Mary, Mary, Quite Raspberry." It'd consist of raspberry flavored ice cream or sherbet (if B & J's makes such a thing) and dark chocolate candies shaped like tiny raspberries, with a bonus of raspberry goo inside the chocolate.

Your turn. What would your flavor be? And don't forget to come up with a funky name.

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Friday, July 27, 2007


Good Question

WCCO, one of the major Twin Cities television stations, has a segment with reporter Ben Tracy called "Good Question." Viewers are invited to email their good questions and Ben tries to find the answers, which are broadcast on the ten o'clock news. The kids and I are always thinking of good questions, but thus far hadn't submitted any . . . until today. I was calling someone long distance yesterday and wondered, why do we have to dial a "1" before long distance phone numbers? So, I submitted my question to Ben Tracy. We'll see if I get a response.

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It's a Car Wash, Ladies & Gentlemen!

It was cooler and less humid today, after yesterday's rain. It made for a good day for a car wash, but this didn't happen of my own self-motivated accord. When I returned from dropping my daughter off for a birthday party, I found my Lovin' Spouseful out scrubbing his motorcycle. He had a bucket full of sudsy water and a hose at the ready. The suds were the result of Armor All Car Wash Concentrate. It's an eye irritant, but it smells mighty fine. I didn't experience the eye irritant effects first-hand; it just says so on the bottle, so I'll take their word for it. The washing of the motorcycle looked so fun, I simply had to grab the bucket, brush and hose and have at my Mazda. Oooh! Shiny! And most of the bug guts are now gone off the front. Bonus!

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Thursday, July 26, 2007


Dump, Dump, Dump

We had rain today. Honest to goodness rain. A massive five-to-ten minute deluge. Dump, dump, dump, done. Young Son kindly ran out to the car to close my windows. He came back soaked, but nonetheless pleased with his mission.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Trophic Cascade

Trophic cascade. Such a lovely term for a not-so-lovely phenomenon. A trophic cascade is a domino effect in the natural world, wherein if one part of an ecosystem is taken away, the others around it eventually fail. According to "The Sixth Extinction" by Terry Glavin, deforestation has been a major cause of trophic cascades around the world. Once the trees are gone, the plants and animals dependent upon the trees tend to go extinct if they can't find another area to move into. Trouble is that it's not only the plants and animals that suffer, but human beings, too. Once a trophic cascade really gets going, its eventual outcome is to take human culture with it as well.

Political upheaval can also cause a trophic cascade. Witness Iraq. Did you know that Iraqi farmers are not allowed to save agricultural seeds from year to year? Or that the U.S. government ordered Iraqi seed stocks to be destroyed during the war? Neither did I, until someone mentioned it at my writers group. I looked it up. Unfortunately, 'tis true under Order 81 of The Coalition Provisional Authority. There is a more intelligible discussion of the issue at CorpWatch. While I had no idea this was going on, I've been well aware of the cultural destruction in Iraq, having heard quite a bit about the looting of Iraqi museums.

According to Glavin, the current extinction cycle, the sixth in the earth's history that we're aware of, is by far the most destructive of all the extinction cycles because we have twice the average biological diversity of any other period on earth. The other extinctions were the Ordovician, Devonian, Permian (most destructive before this one), Triassic, and Cretaceous, which took the dinosaurs.

Although the entire subject is incredibly depressing if you're paying attention (and we all should be paying attention, because our necks are on the line), Glavin's book is not depressing, but quite hopeful. Along with pointing out the complex interplay between species and the causes of extinction, he regularly discusses the ways that humans have attempted to stem the bleed of species extinctions, in some cases even reversing extinctions. Bald eagles, which I rarely ever saw in central Minnesota as a child, now often fly over the area where I work. We've even seen flocks of them in area fields. They've made such a comeback that they've been removed from the Endangered Species list. Wild turkeys are also returning in force, as are timber wolves.

Human beings can be a wondrous force for change, if we put our minds to it.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Seed Savers

I have to apologize for yesterday's post. It lacks a certain clarity that I like to convey, almost as though my brain was sitting in a sock while I was writing it. That wasn't the case, really. It was more a matter of thought overwhelm - too many ideas coming out at once and, because I was blogging, not writing an essay, I didn't take the time to properly stitch them all together. Sorry about that.

The RUSS method of artistic resource conservation wasn't even on my mind when I first started blogging. It just popped out, but it's pretty good.

Now, to continue this discussion of getting an ancient hobby. I've been reading "The Sixth Extinction" by Terry Glavin and have finished the chapter "An Apple Is a Kind of Rose," wherein Glavin discusses how ten major corporations have control of around half of the world's seed reservoir. That means that ten corporations control most of our major agricultural crops. They own patents on them and will legally pursue anyone who attempts to create new plants from their inventions. They've modified plants so that when they grow, they won't produce seeds, or it takes the application of the company's herbicides in order to get the plants to grow. This might not be such an issue - companies owning certain plant hybrids - except that "wild" seeds and plants are going extinct at a rapid rate and wild seeds are humanity's hedge against problems with the hybrids.

Glavin mentions that there are a number of people who've been so disturbed by the situation that they've started seed banks. One of these is Kent Wheatly in Decorah, Iowa, with his Seed Savers Exchange, which he began in 1975. (Glavin doesn't mention Diane Ott Wheatly's role in co-founding Seed Savers Exchange.) Seed saving appears to be one of those little underground activities - in some countries it's illegal to do this - like complimentary medicine and organic farming (at least in my neck of the woods). For that reason, it would make a great hobby, one that might be the saving grace of humanity in the future. If each of us chose one or two heirloom varieties of plants to grow in our yards or in pots in our homes, voila! We'd not only have a new pastime, we'd be helping to preserve an essential part of nature. Now, if we could just change the zoning ordinances in our towns so that they'd be more tolerant of wild plantings, rather than perfectly manicured, mostly useless grass, then we'd be onto something.

Coincidence ALERT: Yesterday a writer friend and I were emailing back and forth and she mentioned that she was researching farming and agricultural practices for a novel she's writing. Lo, and behold, she said that she had found information on seed saving and heirloom varieties of plants. We had come across the same topic at about the same time through two different routes.

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Monday, July 23, 2007


Get a Hobby, But Make It Ancient

After Live Earth, I was going to suggest that everyone in the over-developed world get rid of a hobby - just one. Hobbies use resources and most of us start hobbies with good intentions of keeping them up. We purchase all the proper stuff to take part in our chosen hobby, plus a bunch of storage containers to keep everything organized. After a short while, the hobby is forgotten. We're too busy; it was too hard, etc. etc. And the stuff for our hobby sits - wasted resources. Better it sit than go to a landfill, however it's even better that it go to someone who will use it.

The other trouble with hobbies from a resources standpoint is that most of them involve making things - turning one thing, or a variety of things, into another. Behold! CREATION!

Being an artist, I understand the thrill of creation. It's addictive. It's also caused no end of introspection along the lines of: How many wall hangings & paintings & useless knick-knacks does this planet need? I've long been attracted to the idea of the art of utility - making useful things beautiful. I also like small art, which uses fewer resources because of size. Many artists in general are scavengers, turning junk into art and building the concept of recycling into their work. My husband's motorcycle table is a great example. Then, there's slow art - where it might take years to complete one work. Think of all of these suggestions as the RUSS method of artistic resource conservation. R - ecycled art, U - seful art, S - mall art, S - low art.

On a personal level, this use of resources issue has caused me to cut back on my artistic creation and contributed somewhat to my increase in writing. The creativity has to come out somehow and writing, at its most essential (read: without computer), is not more than pen to paper, which results in an infinite number of potential creative outcomes.

Lose a hobby was my suggestion after Live Earth. Better yet, don't start one unless you're darn sure it's one you're going to stick with or you're sure you'll die if you don't have this outlet. (Don't, however, let this stop you from taking a class or several in order to try something out. Just don't spend money on resources you're not going to use.)

After reading Terry Glavin's "The Sixth Extinction," I've changed my mind. Get a hobby, but make it an ancient one. According to Pat Mooney, who is quoted in Glavin's book, "Our generation may be the first in the history of the world to lose more knowledge than we gain." (pg. 222)

Not only are we losing biological diversity in the form of plants and animals, we are also losing cultural diversity, which includes language and ways of life. The only way we're going to keep some of these things alive is to learn what our forebears knew and keep transmitting it to interested youngsters.

Show of hands. How many people tat anymore? How many of you speak Ojibwe? Can you turn flax into linen? Brew a batch of beer? Play a children's game from two generations ago? These are things that were still commonly being done only a very short while ago. Think of all the cultural activities we've already lost that are from before that time.

If you're interested in finding an ancient hobby, check out your local museum. Small museums are a great repository of books and other information that can lead you to what came before. Sometimes, they'll even contain artifacts that relate to that old hobby, so you can see what tools were used. If you decide to adopt an ancient hobby, make sure to share what you learn, either by writing or teaching. We've got information to save.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


Weather Report

It's heating up here in central Minnesota. We woke to thunder and a gray sky this morning, desperately hoping it would rain. It's so dry here that the grass is a crunchy blonde crewcut. Sharp, too. I've been watering three beds - one with basil, one with lilies, and one with a mix of lilies, violets, chives and hostas. We don't bother with the grass. It's gone dormant, so we'd just be wasting water on America's weed of choice. We haven't had to mow in a month, that's how parched it is.

Well, our hopes were dashed. Not a drop of rain. I sort of suspected as much, which is why I watered this morning. The thunder stopped, the clouds cleared, and the sun was relentlessly sunny. The humidity is rising, but it wasn't terribly uncomfortable outside. A light breeze and no insects made for great sitting-out-on-the-porch-reading-and-knitting weather.

For your viewing pleasure, I've included a photo of one of our lilies. They smell heavenly. Oh, to have a scratch-n-sniff computer.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007


Call Me Sneezy

Just call me Sneezy. Okay, I'm not particularly sneezy at the moment, but I was pretty close earlier this afternoon. I cleaned our bedroom, top to bottom, side to side, including under the bed. Eldest Son helped me flip the mattress. We'll be having Happy Clean Sheet Day in a short while, when I remake the bed. Let me tell you, there are two things that don't mix - cat hair and faux velvet. Actually, the trouble is that they mix too well. Why are the backs of some photo frames and the bags for cell phones and MP3 players so often made of black faux velvet? I am not impressed with this material. It does nothing to add to the value of the goods. It just collects dust and cat hair and causes no end of aggravation in cleaning. Down with faux velvet!

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Divine Secrets

Call me late to the party. I just finished reading "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," which was all the rage a number of years back. I see from the copyright page that the hardcover version of this book, which is by Rebecca Wells, came out in 1996. Okay, so I'm over ten years too late, well beyond the major hoopla. So sue me.

For those who are in my same good company, the story is about the strained relationship between a mother, Vivi, and her daughter, Sidda. Vivi has a core group of friends, Caro, Necie, and Teensy (the stripper), all of whom make up a group called the Ya-Yas. The characters are well developed. There's nice suspense concerning the specific problems between Vivi and Sidda. The book opens with Sidda deciding that she can't get married to her fiance because she doesn't know how to love. She traces that inability back to Vivi, who sends her a scrapbook called the "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. " Cute title. The book lagged in a few spots. I sometimes found myself saying, "Get on with it. Get back to the problems between Vivi and Sidda." Other than that, it's worth the read to watch how the characters act and what they say. I have a sudden urge to say "yall" and "dahlin" from the book.

How long do you think it'll be before I get to the seventh Potter book? (Especially seeing as how I haven't read books five and six?)

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Thursday, July 19, 2007


Fruit or Chocolate?

I've discovered that there are two types of people in the world - those who like fruit-flavored candy and those who like chocolate. Given a choice between Skittles, or lemon drops, or orange jelly slices, or Swedish Fish, and a milk chocolate bar, I'll take the fruit-flavored option 8 times out of 10. If you were to offer me a chocolate covered cherry, or a raspberry/chocolate confection, I'm all there, but mostly because of the fruit.

Which are you? A fruit nut or a chocolate nut? (You can hold the nuts if you like.)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007


It's a Hoot!

Young Son Number Two and I went to the library last night. While there I found a book - well, duh! - rather, an unexpected book that's an absolute riot. I was laughing so hard while reading it that I was almost crying, except that I couldn't breathe. I had to walk away periodically so that I could regain my composure and catch my breath. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. I won't keep you in suspense any longer. This knee-slapping guffaw of a book is called "The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious Knits" by Stitchy McYarnpants (a.k.a. Debbie Brisson). Stitchy collects all sorts of old fiber craft patterns, and boy has she found some doozies in her collection. We've all seen them . . . those godawful knitting or crocheting patterns, many in wacky colors and acrylic fibers, that no one would be caught dead wearing. In "The Museum of Kitschy Stitches," photos of a bunch of these loud fashion don'ts are featured with Stitchy's utterly smart and wickedly funny commentary. And the hilarity doesn't end there. Stitchy has a blog!

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Monday, July 16, 2007


Eastern Standard Tribe

Have you heard the song "You Made Me Love You"? The next line goes "I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it." The song has been going through my head in relation to a particular issue, only I'd say that love is too strong a word, here. Like is more like it.

I recently read Cory Doctorow's book "Eastern Standard Tribe" and tried very hard not to like it. Very hard. I was predisposing myself not to like it because of something Doctorow wrote in his BoingBoing blog. He was talking about the National Spy Museum's no-photography policy and said:

"Christ this stuff bugs me, especially from museums. These places are supposed to be about preserving and disseminating human culture -- but no taking any pictures or we might not be able to sell as many picture postcards!"

Having worked in a museum for eleven years, I took umbrage with the statement and wrote to Doctorow to explain exactly why museums have no-photography policies. The short version is that we can't expose our collections to the flash of multiple cameras. Some museums allow for the use of cameras with the flash off, but I can understand a no-photography-period policy, as well. If you give some people an inch, they'll take a mile and if you read the BoingBoing post linked above, you'll see that someone took photos at the National Spy Museum with a camera phone. There's another reason for the no-photo policy. Museums collect items that are still under copyright. By law, we are supposed to uphold that copyright. From Doctorow's response back to me, it's obvious that he sees any explanation of museum restrictions to be nothing more than wimpy excuses. We're to give everything away, by golly, and that's that.

That's the short version of why I was predisposed not to like Doctorow's book. Childish, yes. But, I had wanted to read something of Doctorow's prior to the little tiff and decided it was time to get another view of the man. I checked out "Eastern Standard Tribe" and thought, "Well, mister, just show me what you've got." Despite my best intentions, I liked the book. It's got a great premise. With the digital age, people start grouping up with those of similar interest, no matter where they are, no matter what the time zone. Art, the main character, is from the Eastern Standard Tribe, and it's his job to screw up the inner workings of companies in other time zones. The tale swings around, battering poor Art with treachery. The opening scene is of him stuck on a roof with a pencil in his nose, ready to push it into his brain. The story is a bit choppy at first, but stick with it. It's part of the overall flow and it'll make sense after a while. Once in a while I found myself fogging off after some new tech idea was introduced, thinking how could this be pushed further? That's probably just me, though.

So, then, this was the thing I was waffling about. Liked the book, didn't care for the blog statement. Had to think about how to delicately tie the two together. Now the chips can fall where they may.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007


Observations from Away

I don't know how this works for you, but every time I go to an unfamiliar place, my observational abilities increase. I notice all sorts of things that I would not pay any attention to if I was in that place on a regular basis. I spent three days at a workshop at the Minnesota Historical Society's History Center (MHS) in St. Paul. The workshop was on learning to properly digitize museum collections. Leigh Grinstead, our fearless leader, taught us about Dublin Core and meta-data and best practices and loads of other gobbledygook that I'll spare you from here. Suffice it to say that it was interesting and informative and I now know enough to know I still have a lot to learn.

While at MHS, workshop participants were given a chance to go through the exhibits, which were interesting to me not just from a content perspective, but from a design and construction perspective. I had three favorites. One was the exhibit on our State Capitol. The Capitol can be seen from a large window in the central hall, where the exhibit is located. MHS has kindly provided those tourist viewer glasses/binoculars so that visitors can peek at the details. People always talk about the golden horses and the golden peak on the Capitol, but I was thrilled to find that there are eagles encircling the dome - looking very much like friendly gargoyles. The Capitol was designed by Minnesota architect Cass Gilbert, who not only designed the building, but the furnishings as well.

Another favorite exhibit was Camera Ojibwe, which is a compliment to a new book by historian Bruce White. The book is called "We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People". The exhibit, which was mounted in three months, if I'm remembering correctly, shows photographs of the Ojibwe in posed shots and in every day shots. There are also bandolier bags and other related artifacts on display in the exhibit. It will only be up until early August, so if this interests you, high-tail it to MHS.

The other exhibit I loved, especially from a holy-crap, how'd they do that perspective, was Open House: If These Walls Could Talk, an exhibit that shows the history of one particular St. Paul house and the people who lived there. The exhibit is set up like a house, with a parlor, bedroom, bathroom, den, attic, living room, basement, hallways, and garden. As you walk through, there are all sorts of interactive features that enhance your knowledge about the house. There's a bed that has the words "Sit Here" shining on it. When you sit, the voice of a woman who lived in the house explains how the bed kept breaking - and then the bed breaks. Whomp! While you're on it. The really impressive part of the exhibit was the basement, which can be seen through a small window near the floor. When you look in, you see a staircase with boots and a thermos on the stairs, and below, a record player and suitcases and what looks like a child's scooter/bike. Here's the kicker. If this were truly a basement, the room would be hanging down in the MHS library below. It isn't. Can you guess how they accomplished this room? This exhibit recently won an award from the American Association for State and Local History and I'd like to think that basement had a little something to do with it.

On my last day of the workshop, I decided to walk around the outside of the History Center, which is gorgeous inside, but I'd already seen much of the inside and the day was too beautiful not to enjoy. When I got to John Ireland Boulevard, I saw the Capitol, and then looked over my shoulder and saw St. Paul's Cathedral. The two buildings are ornate and domed and book-end the boulevard most purposefully. I asked Marcia Anderson, Head of Museum Collections of MHS, which building was constructed first. She said that the Capitol was and indicated that the church didn't want to be outdone as far as view and grandeur, so they built the cathedral. Marcia assisted in mounting the Camera Ojibwe exhibit and has been studying Ojibwe bandolier bags and other handcrafts for years. She's very knowledgeable and gracious.

Obviously, there was a lot to observe at MHS, but the observations didn't end there. On the evening of July 11, there was a reception for an art show called Reworks at The Minneapolis Foundation in the IDS Center. My husband's motorcycle table was accepted into this show of art made from recycled stuff. I'm so proud! His table fit right into the scheme of the office, so much so that we caught people setting their glasses on it. The food was to die for and all organic; we were introduced to the music of Ron Cheese; and there were loads of people in attendance. It was fun to be the wife of an artist, rather than to be the artist myself for a change.

And then there was the hotel . . . the Holiday Inn River Centre, which is a few blocks down the hill from MHS, kitty-corner from the Excel Energy Center. Have you ever noticed that you can feel entirely alone in a hotel, not seeing a soul on your floor while coming and going? You can hear 'em, but you can't see 'em. Spooky. Also, there's the issue of bathroom tile. After having tiled our own bathroom and kitchen, I'm forever checking out tile jobs. Hotel bathrooms are notorious for having poorly executed tile jobs, where tiles are cut unevenly, or don't match up quite right at the corners.

On the opposite end of the block from the hotel is Cossetta's restaurant, which serves pizza and Italian food. I ate a chicken penne and asparagus salad the first night, and my husband and I had pizza the second night. Delish! In between the hotel and Cossetta's is this quirky pop culture shop called Maharaja's. Music, smokes, posters, incense, a replica of Han Solo in carbonite (can be yours for only $4999 plus tax!), Buddha statues, KISS dolls, and a black light room filled with fuzzy posters are just a few of the wondrous things that can be found at Maharaja's. While there, I found an old Dave Matthews Band album - real vinyl in the 12" square jacket, folks. I couldn't check the price because it was in a locked cabinet behind a 45 rpm record. When the hubby and I walked back to the hotel from Maharaja's, I looked at the Excel Energy Center and wondered in a half-formed fashion if Dave Matthews Band had ever played there. While online yesterday, playing catch-up, I found a little item on Weekly Dave Speak that was oh so coincidental. Turns out that DMB had played a private concert at the Excel a mere two days before I was ensconced in the River Centre with a lovely view of St. Paul's Cathedral. How's that for weird?

Okay, one more thing and I'll give you a rest. While we (me, the hubby, our children, and hubby's folks and sister) were waiting in the IDS Center for the art show to begin, one of the children had to use the bathroom. There is not a single public restroom in the public areas of the IDS Center. We had to go through the Skyway to the next building to use the restrooms in Barnes and Noble. While I was waiting for the restroom brigade, I found a book on artist trading cards, little hand-made one-of-a-kind cards that artists make and trade with each other. I was taken by the form and now must simply try my hand at it.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007


. . . Must . . . Blog

. . . must . . . blog. Imagine me, crawling across a desert, looking for water. I'm parched. That's how much I missed blogging these past few days. Unfortunately, I can't do a full post today as I am playing catch-up from having been gone for three days. You know, pay the bills, do laundry, clean the house, shop for household sundries, catch up my daily journal, blow a gasket over an over-due notice from the bank for a measly nine cents. That's right, nine cents! Which I had paid, but the teller overlooked on my check. How's that for lousy? And I can't do anything about it until the bank opens Monday. So, that's where I'm at. I'll post more tomorrow.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Gone, Briefly

Heading to a workshop tomorrow. Stop.

Will be gone for three days. Stop.

Away from Filter & Splice. Stop.

Back then. Stop.

Take care of the blogosphere for me. Stop.

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Monday, July 09, 2007



Let the sniping begin. Aside from the fact that sniping is a great word sound-wise, the intent behind it isn't so nice. Petty, petty, petty.

I was coasting around in the blogosphere seeing what people had to say about Live Earth. A couple of people (Sierra Faith & Rick from LiveJournal) reminded the entire world about the dumping of sewage from a Dave Matthews Band tour bus onto a boat full of tourists and into the Chicago River in 2004. They suggested that because of the incident, Dave Matthews Band should not have been allowed to perform at Live Earth. Hmm.

Well, it certainly was a dramatic incident, what with poop and all, and people do love to point fingers and snipe at others, especially when those others are rich and famous. However, neither poster bothered to mentioned the eventual outcome of the investigation. First and foremost, none of the five members of Dave Matthews Band was on the bus at the time, so they didn't do the flushing. Their bus driver did and he was convicted of the act. The band took responsibility for the incident, ponying up at least $100,000 in order to clean up the river. I tried to find the result of the Illinois Attorney General's lawsuit against the band, but couldn't. That $100,000, which was certainly warranted, was given before legal proceedings began. How many giganto polluting corporations can you point to who willingly clean up their waste? So, then, we have an unfortunate incident, made even more unfortunate by the fact that the Dave Matthews Band has a conscience, as is evidenced by their other charitable and environmental works. (Apparently people like to hold that whole conscience thing against them. For shame!) If we leaned on other polluters so mightily, our world would be a much cleaner place.

For their attempt to quickly rectify the Chicago River incident, I think Dave Matthews Band was a perfect choice for Live Earth. Do we have conscience enough to quickly remedy our personal roles in global warming?

For the full story, here are some other links that refer to the Chicago River incident:

The Scout Report

abc7Chicago.com (linked above - sentencing of driver)

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


Waffling & Writing

I'm waffling. Waffling, waffling. There's something I want to blog about, but I'm trying to decide if I want to put up with the potential ramifications. Therefore, I must think on it some more.

How's that for leaving you hanging?

So, here's what I'll talk about instead. I'm reading Sol Stein's "Stein on Writing" book, flipping through and randomly reading chapters. I've read plenty of how-to writing books during my existence on earth, yet no matter how many I read, each one teaches me a new trick or two. Sol's book is no different.

Chapter 7 - a short chapter - is called "The Actors Studio Method for Developing Drama in Plots." In short, when writing, pretend that each of your characters got a different script for the story and have them "act" from the script they've been given. This is actually the way life works. We're all running around with our own mental scripts that have been built from our personalities, life events, and etc., and conflict comes when our script doesn't mesh with someone else's.

In Sol's chapter on writing love scenes (chapter 18), he says, "It's the author's job to keep [lovers] apart as long as possible." (pg. 169) This creates tension in the story for the reader. Don't make the love scene inevitable, or straight-forward, or mechanical. That's boring. Shoot for arousing the head rather than the genitals (especially for your female readers).

An exercise that Sol suggest, which is more lengthy in the book than I'll present here, is the shouting from the rooftop exercise. (pg. 210-211) Pretend you're on a rooftop and you've got enough time to say only one thing to the rest of the world. What would you say? It can only be one sentence. Sol continues the exercise by having writers rework their original statement, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'll tell you what I wrote:

"Do not forget to wonder."

Now it's your turn. What would you say? What would your last words be in shouting from a rooftop?

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Saturday, July 07, 2007



A fortuitous day, numbers-wise, seven being considered so lucky and all, although I'm not quite sure why. I do know that there were lots of weddings planned for today. I figured it was so that couples could easily remember their wedding day. That's the only reason I'd ever plan a wedding for this day anyway.

It was also Live Earth day. We've been half-watching the concert most of the day, really concentrating when someone interesting to us comes on. It doesn't seem to have much of the flavor of other cause concerts, perhaps because they're not raising any money, but I think it goes deeper than that. Maybe people are burned out by all these mass concerts and they just don't have the effect they once had. Not too many fire-and-brimstone preachers among the performers either. In my opinion, the only one who captured the essence of the cause was Melissa Etheridge. When that woman spoke, I really wanted to do something.

Al Gore came on directly after Melissa and quickly ran down the Live Earth pledge. I'm not holding out any hope that Kanye West is going to live up to that pledge. Something about that Gold Digger song might just be affecting my judgment, though.

Madonna performed in London, looking quite matronly in her black dress with all the British school children singing with her dressed in their school uniforms. During her performance of Ray of Light, she played the electric guitar in an uncomfortable fashion. It's obvious that she hasn't had that much practice with the instrument, although her action in the matter is understandable. From what I've heard, she likes to have total control over her performances and is a stickler for perfection. She has a personality that will insist that she try the guitar.

We saw Duran Duran this morning, playing from London. Very good form, that group. They played a couple of oldies - from my day oldies - Planet Earth and Girls on Film. I was surprised to see Simon LeBon chewing gum. In fact, there were a few other singers that were also chewing gum. Does this help keep the mouth moist?

Kelly Clarkson did a great set. She seems so natural and down-to-earth, as did her back-up singers. Solid performance.

Two great little surprises were Blue Man Group, with their funny earth-is-an-airplane-on-a-collision-course video, and Nanatuk, the group of scientists on Antarctica who got together to play specifically for Live Earth. They did a great job, although we wondered if they pre-taped their session. There were no cords leading from their instruments to any power source that we could see. They played outside, so doing a non-plugged-in version is understandable (unless they buried their cords under the snow?).

The band I was waiting for was Dave Matthews Band. They played One Sweet World, Don't Drink the Water (one of my personal favorites) and Too Much. Quite fitting, actually. We were all a little worried about Dave's voice on Don't Drink the Water, at the point where he does this scream-yell. My daughter said, "Get that man a cough drop." That, or a piece of gum. Really, it was that serious. I'm not sure how any of these singers get up night after night to perform without getting permanent laryngitis. I do three school tours in a row at work and I'm frogging up like mad. I have every confidence that the Dave Matthews Band, along with Melissa Etheridge, will live up to the Live Earth pledge, as they are already doing so to a great extent. Dave even said something along the lines of hoping that everyone would walk home from the concert. Nice touch.

It remains to be seen how all this shakes out. But, hey, it's 7/7/07. That's gotta count for something, doesn't it?

Correction (7/8/07): Well, then . . . it seems I've spelled the Antarctic group's name wrong. According to a Reuters article, it's Nunatak. Whoops. Sorry.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007


Whose Destiny Are We Manifesting?

I got a response from Bill on my If You Teach a Man to Fish post that I think warrants a fuller response than I can leave in the comments section. Here's what Bill said:

"Sure........bring the African Contintent into the 21st century meltdown so they can experience that too after we exploit all the continent has to offer. Might get the west another 10-15 years and then we will leave it behind."

I agree with Bill to a certain extent. If every person in the world starts consuming at the rate Americans are, we'll be in serious environmental trouble in no time. It's a sticky wicket, but . . . the deal is that other countries are already exploiting Africa's resources for their own gain. I believe it was Bob Geldof who mentioned one of the "deals" other countries have brokered with one of the countries in Africa concerning the production of pineapple. The deal is set up so that African's aren't allowed to fully process the fruit, so they don't reap the full economic benefit. (If I remember correctly, this tidbit of info came from the Travel Channel's show Bob Geldof in Africa, which I discussed here.

So then, if we take it as a given that no "third-world" country should ever rise up to the standard of living enjoyed by "first-world" countries because it will certainly mean planetary doom, what then is the solution? Let everyone die? Come on, people! That's no solution at all. How about this, then? What if Americans decided to consume less? Sacrifice something to the greater good of everyone? Oh, wait. (Get ready for sarcasm.) We can't possibly do that. Americans believe in Manifest Destiny. We get to manifest our destiny, and, by the way, we'll manifest everyone else's destiny while we're at it.

Some serious number crunching needs to happen. How much money would it take for everyone on earth to enjoy a decent standard of living (i.e. food, clothing, shelter, health care, education) while not sucking the earth's resources dry? I'm not referring to an obscene standard of living here. Twelve houses and a personal jet are not necessities, I don't care who you are. Looking at the state of the world today (and in times past), greed and a hunger for power are at the root of this. Until people decide to curb these appetites, we're in for a long row to hoe.

This is not an easy issue, no matter how you look at it. Bill appears to be anti-consumerism, yet, when I posted before about getting Americans to curb their consumption (also in relation to Africa), I got knocked for being anti-consumerist, myself. (See this link, and this one for the previous discussion.) My little blog certainly isn't going to have much impact on the wider discussion, but it's important to look at our deeper reasons for keeping Africa down. What are you willing to give up so that someone else can live a decent life?

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The Rattletrap

I wish I'd had my camera with tonight when we went out for pizza. Parked a couple of car-lengths ahead of our car was a motorcycle with a trailer and sidecar. I use the terms motorcycle, trailer and sidecar loosely here. Very loosely. The motorcycle was old school in a way that was dinosauric. The whole setup was cobbled together, but just barely.

Now, I'm all for recycling and the creative reuse of things, but this was danger incarnate. If you're an adult and want to risk your life on a rickety cycle that doesn't come anywhere near road safety requirements, fine. It's your life. What was horrific about the contraption was the sidecar - which appeared to be four unfinished pieces of plywood held to a metal frame by no more than chewing gum or bandaids. (I'm exaggerating about the chewing gum and bandaids, but not much.) Inside the sidecar was an infant car seat so old that it was no longer road-worthy. Actually, the sidecar looked like a mini-trailer filled with junk, which is all I'd transport in it. But, no . . . a CHILD got into it. Thankfully, he was wearing a helmet, although I'm not sure how much good that would do if the whole thing gave way. The situation makes me shudder and pray, for the child's sake, that the thing is better constructed than it looked. Honestly, when it comes down to the safety of children, get something street legal.

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If You Teach a Man to Fish . . .

Ever since studying South Africa in college, I've kept an ear half-cocked toward the doings of the country and the wider African continent. I've posted before about most of society's "Poor Africa" mentality, and how there's energy and creativity within the people of the continent who can position it toward a better economy and life circumstances for its citizens. Today, through reddit, I found a very thoughtful post that iterates what I've been thinking about the situation. The post is by Jennifer Brea at American.com and is called "Africans to Bono: 'For God's sake, please stop!"

Sometimes we forget to teach people how to fish . . . .

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Keith Olbermann - A True American Patriot

Keith Olbermann has done it again. He's managed to skewer the President and his administration in a Special Comment that appeared tonight on his MSNBC Countdown show. He called for the President to have the modicum of decency that Nixon had and resign from his position and take Dick Cheney with him. Do it for the good of the country, rather than the good of your party, Sir. This Special Comment follows President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, which, in effect gives him no sentence at all for lying under oath and obstructing justice. You see, that little $250,000 fine Scooter's supposed to pay? The one that Bush feels is punishment enough for poor Scooter? Well, Scooter's got enough financial backing that he won't have to pay that fine. Our daughter said that Scooter's expression always appears to be on the verge of a sneer - very sly, that one. Of course, you, too, would be grinning like a Cheshire cat if you knew that those you were playing patsy for were going to bail you out at the last minute as a condition of keeping mum.

Bravo to Keith for saying what I'm thinking and for saying it with such force and deserved venom toward the intended target that I'm spellbound. This makes Keith a True American Patriot and the Best Person in the World today.

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Monday, July 02, 2007


A Weather Update

There's a misty rain in Minnesota today. We need the rain. We've had unbelievably gorgeous weather the past couple of weeks - sunny, warm, a few humid days, but still tolerable. The grass was getting crunchy, so the rain is good. My mom said that she was told as a kid that when you look up at an oak tree in the summer, you shouldn't be able to see sky through it. This year, lots of sky can be seen through the oaks. We're wondering if it's because we're low on moisture in general, or if there's some other factor causing it.

Rain or not, my big goal for the day was to take the recycling out to the landfill. Our back porch was getting full up. With the help of my daughter and Young Son #2, we got the deed done. Such a simple thing, but such a feeling of accomplishment.

Monday is normally my writing day, and I did get a little writing done, but just a little - a few hundred words. I'm having a little trouble with direction on story nine of my series. I think it needs more thinking. I've got my main characters figured out, which is a quarter of the battle. I've got the thing started, which is another quarter. But, I don't have an idea of the ending, which is a problem because I have to get from here to . . . where? I like to have a sense of my ending, even if I veer from it by the time I'm done, because it's how I get over the hump - and there's always a hump.

Time to moodle.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007


Me and My Yeasts, We Have a Thang

Forgive me. I'm going to kvetch about personal health problems. My Grandpa Jens always used to say he was feeling punk when he wasn't feeling well. I always wanted to ask him if he was having a blue mohawk kind of day. In any case, to borrow Grandpa's expression, I'm feeling punk and I promise that I'll make a larger point here than simply complaining.

I started taking fluconazole Friday night. Fluconazole is an anti-fungal medication. I've been suffering from yeast infections for, good heavens, probably twenty years. I'm sure it started with a few rounds of antibiotics taken in my late teens and early twenties and was compounded by the fact that doctors used to know squat about the effects of too much antibiotic use and how a person on antibiotics should take acidophilus and other good bacteria in order to replace the friendly bacteria wiped out of the body by the antibiotics. This friendly bacteria keeps yeast in check. Well, let me tell you, my yeasts have been having a party. Every once in a while, they flare up and make themselves known in an itchy, annoying sort of way. I will spare you the lurid details, but suffice it to say, I'm pretty sure they've gone systemic.

At my physical last Monday, I talked to my doctor about this because I've decided to evict the little buggers for good. They've been freeloading long enough. My doctor said he could give me an antibiotic for the yeast infection. Read that last sentence again carefully. Yes, he said he could give me an antibiotic for the yeast infection! I said, "What? An antibiotic? Won't that make it worse?" He said the name of the medicine (diflucan) and said that it was an antibiotic for yeast. Thankfully I've done quite a lot of reading on yeast infection treatment and recognized that diflucan is an anti-fungal. The doc was mis-speaking, but gave me the proper prescription.

I read the drug info sheet and noted the side effects of the medication. Well, I'm pretty sure that most of the side effects are not really due to the medication, but are caused by yeast die-off. Toxins from the yeast can cause headaches, bowel problems, joint pain, foggy thinking, and a host of other symptoms. Funny thing is I've had most of these problems over the past twenty years, but intermittently. It's as though my yeasts and I have become sympatico, buddies, if you will. As long as I keep feeding them, they stay under wraps, making an obvious appearance only occasionally.

Since starting the eviction process, I've had a rumbly tummy, I can't think straight, and I had the monster of all headaches yesterday. Light hurt. Moving hurt. Pound, pound, pound. This is your brain on fluconazole. Most of the headache is now gone, but my head is still foggy, my ears feel full and my tongue seems swollen and prickly. I don't think my yeasts want to leave.

And here's the larger point: How many things that make us sick come to rest within our bodies in such a way that they can keep feeding off of us indefinitely? And we unwittingly play into the codependence? (Someone help me here. What's the word for when one animal assists another? Like little sucker fish on whales? My brain really isn't working.) Further, how long does it take for micro-organisms to figure out this little game of living off their hosts without killing them?

Addendum (July 2, 2007): I've got it! Symbiotic relationship! That's the term I was trying to come up with.

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Bridal Registry

We attended my step-sister's wedding yesterday. Lovely outdoor affair at a golf course, very quick service - "Do you? Do you? You may kiss the bride."

Prior to the wedding, we checked out the happy couple's bridal registry at Target. Very convenient to be able to look it up online. The online list that comes up shows which items have been filled, or purchased, and which are left to buy. That cuts down on repeat gifts. The happy couple also has a chance to pick what they want, which means that things will match their decor. "But we wanted lime green, not day-glo pink!" So then, the bridal registry seems like a good thing, however . . . the ability to see the entire list, fulfilled or not, online certainly cuts down on the surprise of the happy couple while opening those gifts.

My lovin' spouseful and I registered for dishes - at the insistence of my family - and that was it. No one in my family bought those dishes; my lovin' spouseful's parents bought us one set, and everyone else surprised us. It was delightful to open our gifts because of the surprise factor. I suppose that historically wedding gifts have not always had a suprise factor, though. Think about dowries. They were used by the bride's family to purchase a husband. In order to figure out whether the bride-to-be was a good deal dowry-wise, the bride's family had to reveal what that dowry was. Fifteen cows, thirty-two sheep, handmade linens, some prime acreage, etc. etc. "Hey, throw in a dozen quart jars of your mother's canned tomatoes, and we've got ourselves a deal."

Still and all, I like the suprise factor, which we were able to conjure for my step-sister's wedding by viewing the registry online yesterday and popping into Target to purchase the gift just a couple of hours before the wedding. The bride and groom certainly were far too busy thinking of other things yesterday to bother with their registry.

Good luck and many wishes for a long and happy marriage to them both.

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