Sunday, May 30, 2010

When the Bear and I got married 19 years ago, Uncle John gave us a novelty garter with a musical charm that played the wedding march. There is something about the electronic warbling of that thing that instantly irritates and/or intrigues cats. Every so often when I'm digging in my underwear drawer, I activate it and the cat goes bananas. Bear, I still miss you every single day and have only just made it to not crying every day. Pink's song "Who Knew?" makes me cry because it makes me think of his leaving me. No he didn't leave me on this plane of existence but he's just as gone and three years is rapidly approaching.

I'm reading a fascinating book, Foreign Babes in Beijing by Rachel Dewoskin. Aside from its witty observance of China and her fellow foreign babes, it is a startling view of a person who did something most of would never dream of doing. Admittedly Rachel came from an American family deeply involved in China from her childhood, but you or I would not just take off for Beijing on any job we could wangle just to go live there with our university level Chinese. It would be like me deciding to go to Nairobi because I speak what I know is a smattering of Swahili. To top the whole foreign immersion experience, she signs up to be an actress in a TV soap opera (whose title is the book's) to play a version of herself as seen through Chinese eyes, which is hardly flattering or even accurate. All Westerners smell of milk? I recommend this book highly as a view into China that would be hard to get otherwise. I am fascinated with modern China and Japan, especially how they are incorporating Western idioms into their culture. (My Ph.D. thesis was going to be on how modern technology had been expressed in Swahili) Culture clash is one of the things I find fascinating, even in science fiction. One of the best is the "Foreigner" series by C.J. Cherryh, latest volume just out.

Yes, I do speak a smattering of Swahili. In grad school I specialized in African linguistics and learned Swahili and Hausa, and took classes in Twi and a Bantu language. I actually taught Swahili for a year. It's a relatively simple language to learn, if you can call a language with 9 noun classes and whose verb tenses are expressed by adding a syllable in the middle of the verb. Of course, none of this gets you a job in the real world, hence I fell back on my original (i.e., from junior high) plan and became a librarian. I've been a librarian of sorts since 1976 and it's taken me many places and I've made lots of friends that have changed my life. After all I met X2 in a library, and met the Bear only because my work institution happened to have the creaky frame that was the Internet in 1990.

It is bucketing rain here and I have gotten over the novelty and am glad the reservoirs are filling up, but I'd really like to get in the garden to tidy it up. I know I'm going to have to hire a professional to do the ultimate clean up, but there are weeding and pruning I could do. I dug some potatoes to put in the pot of split pea soup I have on the stove and had to prune back a rose bush to get at them. I also retrieved another pumpkin, this time for use as veg not soup. In the supermarket yesterday I bought "buttermilk scones" hoping for American biscuits and, while the texture is about right, there's something off in the taste. Too sweet too. I was intrigued by frozen sweet potato fries until I read the label and found out they were imported from Canada! How on earth did sweet potatoes from Canada end up in my frozen food aisle? Canada is of course famous for its sweet potatoes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Swans news: yesterday J and I went to Sydney for the day to watch the Swannies play. Before details of the day I will explain how we managed this. When the Swans first sent out membership materials for Canberra members, they told us they were changing the package, due for the most part to the ACT government no longer forking over a share of the money to hold the match at an ACT venue. This had reduced the number of matches being held in the ACT. The Swans instead offered us a package of one match in Canberra (last weekend's match vs the Bulldogs which I missed due to illness), one in Sydney at the SCG and one in Melbourne. Both J and I thought that a decent bargain and paid our membership. When the actual sign-up package arrived, the match in Sydney was at ANZ Stadium, which is the huge arena built for the Olympics. You have to walk miles from public transport or even from the entrance to your seat. I called the membership office and reminded them that they had promised us SCG tickets. After much rustling of papers on their end, they acknowledged that yes, they would honor the SCG promise. So, we signed up. When the final membership package arrived, the materials all said ANZ stadium. I got nowhere with trying to contact the membership office online but J took the matter further, partially because she was already angry at them holding a night match during Earth Hour. Somehow she managed to wangle us 2 member's tickets to a match of our choice at the SCG. I feel sorry for those Canberra members who didn't get this opportunity, but I was very satisfied.

So yesterday we did a one day excursion to Sydney, which started off on the wrong foot when my alarm didn't go off and I had to throw myself together in a hurry. Fortunately, due to some precognition, I had gotten everything ready the night before, down to socks and underwear laid out, so I was only a little late. We stopped in Marulan for game snacks (don't ever buy them at the venue) and discovered that the BP in Marulan was selling Krispy Kremes. Thus fortified, we continued and actually made it to the park & ride site (UNSW carpark) without getting lost. The Bear, who knew Sydney intimately, always drove in Sydney and I never paid much attention to details, and they've built new roads since we used to go to Swans matches. We took our bus to the SCG, went to the members office, retrieved our tickets and discovered we had the option of sitting in the Ladies Pavilion.

When I was hoping to get match seats in the SCG, sitting in the Ladies Stand was my dream, built in 1896, it epitomizes to me the charm of the old SCG. This was also our first view of the new SCG since construction was competed. The Victor Trumper Stand (named after a legendary cricket player) had completely absorbed the area formerly known as The Hill. which used to be simply grass and where the unwashed masses watched events and where the loudest commentary on any match's proceedings emanated from. It is all very spiffy, which is why I wanted to sit in the old part of the stands. We got 2 of the last remaining seats undercover (the skies were threatening) and settled in.

Somewhere along the line I had overlooked the fact the the Fremantle Dockers were no longer the walkover they used to be. It looked like cocaine was not the only drug of choice among the WA player community, because these guys were seriously large. They dwarfed our lads and won most contests where mere muscle ruled the day. The umpires didn't help either. We also were missing several key players. Craig Bolton is injured. Mumford is on suspension. Keneally left early, and Jude Bolton and LRT were cycled on and off the field. Henry Playfair did well and kicked his first goal. Official match summary here. In the third quarter the heavens opened and it rained almost the entire rest of the match. I have never before had the luxury of under cover seating so I was very glad we had manged to sit in comfort. Got the bus back to the car and drove home, stopping in Marulan for burgers. I was safely home by 9.30.

The outing only confirmed and refreshed in my mind how lovely going to Swans matches at home in the SCG is. And why tickets to ANZ Stadium are to be avoided (except for finals). There was a decent turnout (about 70% capacity I'd guess). The crowd was lively until the downpour (and it really rained). Nobody in our area was drunk or obnoxious. I think next year J and I might opt for a 3 game SCG membership and buy our Canberra tickets because there are times J can't go to matches here and I don't like going by myself.

I spent the beginning of the week sick with some sort of lurgie (bug) that sapped what strength I had and gave me a sore throat instead. I slept a lot, read a lot, made the Imp infinitely satisfied with me being held captive. My best book of the week was Marion Halligans's The Apricot Colonel. She usually writes about Canberra, so it was nice to read with an idea on my mind's eye of where she was. It would be lovely to have Tilly's as your local drop in spot. The Fog Garden was the first novel of hers that caught my attention, and since it was about a woman whose husband had just died, it planted a subconscious thought in my brain. Never assume that life will always proceed in the fashion your are planning.

Work on Thursday really tired me out, so I am not going to push with anything today so work tomorrow will be bearable. I finally got the brush fencing that screens the front entrance to the house repaired. One more step in renovations. Now I can get at the front garden more seriously.. I noticed that the fencing guy had tromped thoroughly on my iris, so I might sacrifice them rather that trying to figure out how to incorporate them into the landscape. If you don't know and love iris, they don't do well and look scruffy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's sort of been back to work altho I miss a day here and there. I get very tired easily and forget about that problem till I hit a wall. I still am not stable enough to do much yard work and winter has arrived in Canberra. We've had several below zero mornings and frost everywhere. The garden really only needs a tidy and put to bed for the winter so I'm not stressed about that.

This link was passed on thru one of the lists I'm on as a way to get rid of your stash. If I didn't already have a washing machine on its last legs, I'd be tempted to try. All that alpaca would make a spectacular rug. I'd have to do some deep thinking to figure out how raw filthy fibre could end up as a flat shape of any design.

I continue to work on getting the house ready to go on the market, which involves everything from painters to new light fixtures. So far I'm not getting very far since we all know tradesmen don't answer their messages or don't actually submit quotes after they have been to see you. I hope to move into a smaller house with minimal garden, but still have room for my crafts, etc. I have a new mantra: I need a skip.

Book report: I finished Neal Asher's The Line of Polity which was a rip-roaring space opera full of androids and space ships and all that stuff. The sci-fi equivalent of popcorn. I'll probably read more of his; I found a box of book I had packed while moving things out of the Bear's room and found another of his. I also found several books I had forgotten I'd bought so saved me buying them twice! I am now reading Sheri Teppers' Raising the Stones. Her novels are frequently about relations between the sexes but set in some far off imagined space, and told with great sublty, like a flower slowly opening. Her best, Grass and The Gate to Women's Country, are, to me at least, classics. My BBBB continues to be Eleanor and Franklin and I gound a biography of FDR in the box of books.

I must thank S for introducing me to Eat Your Books, a site which has indexed hundreds of cookbooks. You can now have access to all the recipes in your own cookbooks without trying to remember where you saw a recipe, or having a new (or old) ingredient and need a recipe for it. I am waiting for a promised load of a lot of out-of-print books since a lot of my cookbooks date from the '70's and '80's when I cooked a lot more and gave frequent dinner parties. One of the problems I'm having in looking at new houses is my Danish oak dining table which will sit 10 with the leaves out. I haven't given many dinner parties since I got here, but I would like to again so I don't want to sacrifice the table. Besides, I made needlepoint seat covers for the 4 chairs, and have a china cabinet full of bone china and crystal that goes with it.

Tomorrow J and I go to see the Swannies play at Manuka Oval (i.e., in Canberra). The team has already been hit by injuries so our stellar start to the season has stuttered. But we'll be there to cheer them on. Bradshaw has been outstanding and was an inspired trade. In an after-match interview a couple of weeks back, he admitted he hadn't learned all the words to the team song. For you non-Aussies, an AFL team returns to the locker room after a win and gathers in a circle to sing the team song, and all the fans in the stands sing it at the end of a win as well. Strangely, many AFL songs are American in origin with the words changed. Ours is the Notre Dame football song with the words altered.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I truly outdid myself this week in the tired and befuddled stakes. Wed. is a non-work day that I should really take as a rest day. But there are things an adult has to do in their normal life and non-work days are the only times I have for them. So instead of resting, I had two business appointments on Wed. which involved driving all over Canberra. I got up on Thursday morning believing somehow it was Friday. So instead of going to work I went to my GP, which is what I planned to do Friday morning. I was sitting in the waiting room feeling tired to the point of nausea. On the way home I suddenly realized that I had lost track of Thursday. Fortunately my boss is convinced I shouldn't be working 3 days a week to begin with and my job is less than essential. So I went home and slept for 4 hours. If the fibro pain don't get you, the fatigue will.

I also had a minor fall last Saturday, simply due to vertigo induced by too much bending and turning. Getting up with a knee not in action was interesting, especially with somebody knocking on the front door at the same time. I was very stiff the next day and now have a lovely purple bruise on my bum. My new knee is otherwise progressing beautifully and only needs some more time internal healing and losing a bit of swelling and it will be the equal of the left knee. There is little pain and it's so nice to be able to walk and stand. My hip no longer hurts too.

We've been having a lot of rain here. It's so unusual that I keep being mystified by this strange noise on the roof. We used to go for months without rain and now we are sodden. Of course this stage of my garden needs no rain, and my lawn has grown into a prairie again. I'm still not confident about my ability to push a lawn mower so it will have to stay that way. The Weather Pixie is having some system problems and I hope she will re-appear.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

I attempted to return to work last week, and while the work experience wasn't a disaster, I managed to have it all catch up to me when I pretended that I was back to full functionality. You know, like when I forget I'm sick and do way more than I should. I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that I cannot work and simultaneously do any work myself on prepping the house for sale. It's work and let somebody else do it, or not work and do things myself. So for the time being I'm hiring people to do things like paint the exterior, do some garden maintenance, etc. I'll take some time off and work at cleaning out and boxing up things for that scaled down minimalist look that seems to matter for house sales. I also have been having trouble getting to sleep. The little twinges of pain that I can ignore when I'm moving around come out to play at night and I still can't sleep on my side.

Today D and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went out looking at display homes, just out of curiosity and for ideas about decorating (although I don't think I'll take the idea of attaching an entire animal hide to a wall as art). We saw houses that were too small, houses that were too big (and way too expensive), and at least one that was just about right. What I would give for a new kitchen done the modern way. I don't think I'm in danger of redecorating my house so I don't want to leave, because there's a lot of garden that needs to be maintained and I'm just not up to it any more. It did hit home to D today that my downsizing would mean an end to berry jam, but my fans will have to resort to the shops or gourmet food provenders and pay a lot more than they have been paying me.

Swans are currently #2 on the ladder having defeating Brisbane tonight. I did not watch because I also managed to fall today (simple vertigo) and am feeling rather battered. Knowing my body, I'll be sore tomorrow but the bruises will take a few days to appear. I decided instead of raising my blood pressure watching footy I'd coddle myself with British crime dramas.

Book report: Raced through Edge of Evil by J.A. Jance, which was recommended by X2 and it was a ripping read. I'm back at fat sci fi with The Line of Polity by Neal Asher, who is another of the new wave of British space opera producers. I think I have read another of his altho I can't remember which one. I've managed to read 150 pages of this in 2 days so I think that means I like it. This is the second in the Ian Cormac series but I don't think I've read the first. Since he's horribly prolific, I imagine I'll work my way through them. I wish I read quickly enough to get books out of the library, but with the exception of quick shots like the Jance novel, it usually takes me far longer then the library borrowing period to read a book.