When it rains, it pours. It's rained something like 5 out of the last 6 days, and will continue to rain another 6 out of the next 7. One lady I see often in the gym is starting to complain about it, seeing as how the precipitation is causing her to do all her exercise indoors rather than go for a walk. Personally, I do like walking in light rain; it brings this cool, cool water down right when you're getting a bit too warm. As long as it's not blustery or pouring (and we rarely, if ever, get freezing rain) it's actually nice to go out and splash in the puddles a bit. I guess madame didn't see it that way...nor did she stop to realize that our county board of supervisors just voted to impose mandatory water restrictions. They'll set the percentage next month--they want to see how much rain we get in the next four weeks before they set a number. Dude, I just hope we get enough rain to stave off major restrictions.
There's a neighbor of mine who I'm quite friendly with...he's a great guy who is really fun, intelligent and witty. Someone you like to sit on the frotn porch with and watch the world go by. He's expressed via body language his interest in me, and I've been successfully pushing him away. See, as great a guy as he is, he has a couple of extracurricular activities which the police and, in my case, the federal government don't find to be too legal--a couple of recreational habits that, while they won't completely shorten his life, they will definitely cause a few misdemeanors. I've been trying for the last couple of years to get into the State department as a Foreign Service Officer, which means that those closest to me have to keep their noses clean. Ok, so I can't control what my family does, but I can have some control over who I choose to spark up relations with. I'm going to have to tell him shortly that there's no way for us to get extra friendly...and do it in such a way that I don't come off like he has no chance in hell. I mean, he doesn't, but that doesn't mean that I have to be cruel about it.
When feeling cooped up, I often go to my favorite establishments for a couple of pints and a dinner out. My favorite place is the Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant, a handful of blocks from my apartment. Love the beer, love the food...love the various TVs around which supply an endless quantity of sports. I met this guy there while I was watching a hockey game; he had a fairly involved conversation, which led to us going out for a date a few days later. Early in the date the topic of conversation revolved around work--he's a managing engineer for a major software company in the area, and I told him about my line of employment. Once those three little letters came out of my mouth (p h d), the mood of the night changed. He began using big words in his conversation, and his manner of speaking became more stiff. Then he wouldn't stop fidgetting...really nervous. I asked if there was something wrong, and he himmed and hawed a bit. Finally he admitted that he didn't think the date was going well, and he apologized for it. I took a sip of wine, took a deep breath, and took a look in his eyes. He was intimidated. Funny, I was prepared to continue our bar conversation of how the Sharks were going to dismantle the Eastern Conference during this road trip and finally get very far into the playoffs. Yet another one bites the dust. Suddenly my neighbor doesn't look like a bad option.
This has been a very busy week so far, one of many in the coming 8 weeks. My schedule is in full-throttle: 5 courses, meetings galore, students adding, dropping, needing help. I actually love it--to put it mildly, I don't have time to be bored--but it's ruining my reputation. Normally I'm an evening person...most of my energy comes after 3pm, and it's damned near impossible for me to fall asleep before 11:30 or, really, 12. But having to wake up at 5:30 each weekday morning, well, it puts a damper on that whole night-owl image. Last night I came back home from the night class at 8:30, and was wiped out...I barely stayed awake until 11. This just won't do. An acquaintance hipped me in on fish oil, that it helps with the mental synapses that get overfired when we're up and doing a lot of things for a long period of time. I need to try this.
Regardless, this semester I seem to have a great group of students, no dead weights as a friend calls them. These would be the folks who show up to class when they feel like it, participate when they want, and could give a care less about their grade. I tend to weed most all of them out by the first or second class; I don't teach easy classes, and I don't ever want my students thinking that they can sit and do nothing and still pass. But occasionally there's one or two who figure they can charm their way into making class easier for them--if I smile and compliment the professor, maybe she'll not care that I'm talking in the back of class to my friends and texting my homies at the same time. Um, nah, not gonna happen. They tend to drop about half-way through the class. It leaves me with the workers, those who want to learn and earn their grades, and that's just fine with me. Separating the chaff from the wheat, so to speak.
The weather here has returned to winter: cool and rainy for the next few days. I'm kinda happy about it, if for no other reason than the fact that I can wear my black leather knee-high boots. Yes, I love me some shoes, and despite a fixed income I still manage to get bang for my buck. Ok, my shoes serve many functions--I walk around in them all day so they must be comfortable, yet stylish as I don't ever want to be mistaken for the mousy bookworm who could care less about image. Dude, I stand in front of people all day long...I gotta look good. Not perfect--that's not obtainable for me--but well-put-together. And I hate always wearing pants on rainy days...so while I spent a little more on these boots than normal, I don't really care. I like them, I want them...they're mine!
There are certain sounds that hit when we're helpless to do anything except pray. Among them are the sounds of screeching tires directly behind you. It happened to me twice today. Both times--once going to work, the other coming home--I was stopped in traffic, not able to go anywhere. Both times I had a split second to look up at the rear-view mirror and gasp.
Both times the drivers swerved just in time to avoid me and go into the next lane. Accidents averted.
I thought about this for a while...there wasn't much I could have done, save for brace for impact. I'm sure most all of us have done it...you're driving, the brakelights in front of you instantly shine their warnings to all behind them...and for whatever reason you pick them up a hair late. You slam your foot (maybe even both feet) down onto the break pedal, hoping to be able to stop your vehicle in time. You swerve into the next lane--hopefully it's the emergency lane--and narrowly avoid disaster. You practically give yourself a heart attack...and you probably gave the person in front of you one, too.
Since my semesters started last Tuesday, I've been waking up during the week at 5:30. Thankfully I'm able to hit the snooze a couple of times, but it's still too damned early to wake up. I really don't like it. But, hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Because of the shock I was now putting my body into every morning, I decided that I'd ease back into my exercise routine, skipping my thrice weekly dates with my gym for a week or two until I knew how much energy I would have after teaching in the morning. Sensible enough, I supposed.
Yesterday was the first day back to the exercise routine. I knew I wouldn't have much time--maybe an hour at most in the cardio room--but at least I'd get some in. I also figured that I'd go on the treadmill for most of my workout, thinking that I'd walk most of my routine, again to ease into the whole moving mine arse thing again. But as I got loosened up on the machine, I got to thinking that I could use with a jog.
This is funny on a few levels. If you put me in water, I instantly grow gills...I can swim for ever and ever. On land, I'm much more suited for walking...I can do that for a while. But running? Erm, well, yeah, not so good. I've never been a good runner; I usually either lose my breath too much, or my knees ache. As I've lost weight it's gotten better, but I still can't jog for more than say 10 or so minutes at a time, and it seems that the treadmill works better for me than out of doors. Also, while I can go on the eliptical for an hour, the thought of running usually isn't a very pleasant one...I admit to laziness when it comes to exercising (is that possible?).
So yesterday I'm on the treadmill, with the thought in my head of jogging for a while, just to see how much I can do. 20 MINUTES AT 4.5 MILES PER HOUR!!!! Quite the record...I can't do much more the 4 MPH normally as it's too fast. I was shocked...and quite winded. I wasn't really able to do much more after that, but I was still impressed! Of course, then I realized that I tend to do this, that when I've had a layoff from exercise, the first day back I seem to be able to do quite a bit. But then...then, the second and third and subsequent times I return to the gym, I won't be able to duplicate the energy and stamina.
So, tomorrow, I'm in the pool. I'm gagging for a swim. My gills are dry.
EOP&S (Extended Opportunity Programs & Services) is a California-run program which helps community college students with the various elements of student life that one glosses over. EOP&S can arrange for students of meager means to get a free bus pass, a laptop, and numerous other resources that honestly we take for granted. Typically there are around 200 spots per campus--this seems like quite a few, but when one realizes that each community college campus can have anywhere from 6,000 to 20,000 students, well, those spots can be precious.
I guess another sign that we are in harsh financial times is that at both of the campuses where I teach, the EOP&S slots are completely taken for the Spring semester (which just started). Unreal...so many people are just barely scraping by, I guess. And since our oh-so-wise Legislature can't get their collective asses in gear, we don't have a budget yet...and will run out of money come Saturday. If you have an income tax refund coming from the state of California, well, you're getting an IOU instead. I'm honestly wondering if I'll get paid next month; I get paid Friday, and I'm cherishing that deposit. I'd love to tell the student loan folks that I can't give them real money this month, but I can give them an IOU from the state...it's just as good as money, or so they say.
And yet...and yet there is quite a bit to be thankful for. It looks like I'm employed for the forseeable future (just wish it was full time...ack...positive thoughts...), my rent isn't going up, and I'm still able to smile and laugh with (and at) the world. It could be worse....
Like, say, the City of Oakland. To ring in 2009, BART (that's the subway system) Police arrested a couple of eejits at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland. And then proceeded to shoot one of the eejits...while he was handcuffed and laying on the ground. This set off protests (agreed) and riots (eh, if you must)...which the Oakland Police botched up royally and didn't even attempt to control except at the very end. One of the major cable companies wanted to shoot a tv show in Oakland, with the main characters being a giggalo and his ho's trying to go straight...the city said that they didn't want to add to their negative reputation, yet in doing so they lost literally millions of dollars per year just from the revinue this show would bring. The Chief of Police has just resigned, saying that the City Council can't be trusted and is thwarting the Force's ability to do its job. And now news comes today that a former intern of the mayor stole the bank account information of two of the mayor's chief administrators, not to mention abused financial information at the law firm where she (until recently) worked. I'd like to say I feel sorry for Mayor Dellums, but I can't. Oakland hasn't gotten the reputation for being nothing but a slum of 1,000,000 people for nothing.
The president of the college made a big but welcomed decision for today. It's the first day of classes for the spring semester, and of course everyone wants to watch the inauguration instead of going to class. So Tom decided that the main theater would broadcast streaming video of the festivities all day long, starting at 8am. I personally thanked him a couple of times; this was truly a community-building event, and he did the right thing. Many 8am classes came in and watched instead of doing classes.
So I sat in the back row of the theater (I had to leave by 9:30 to go to my class, and didn't know when things were going to end), next to some of my colleagues. One of whom, Alicia, is involved in local politics; she had received numerous local and national invitations to go to various festivities, but since she's teaching all day today, well, this would have to do. The theater ended up being packed--I think it holds some 300 people--as we watched history unfold.
My feelings are honestly all over the map. I'm elated to be rid of the previous president; I never voted for him either for governor or president, rarely agreed with his policies, and felt that he took us backwards in so many ways. I'm respectively optimistic; lately I find myself saying a prayer here and there for not just President Obama, but his entire staff, that they are able to make the 'right' (or the 'fair') decisions that are needed. I'm content that a social barrier has been destroyed, but am mindful that there are so, so many more to break.
Perhaps more than anything, I was truly grateful to be part of a moment. My country, which I love in a way that I can't quite explain, is turning a corner. In doing this, our community is healing, is supporting itself, is trying to make a difference. I watched as member after member of the campus--students, staff, faculty, administrators--piled into our theater just to watch a man take his place as one of, if not the, most powerful people in the world. We sat there, coming from various backgrounds, from every socio-economic level, sharing a moment. I can say that I sat with my community when Barak Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States. I never did get wrapped up in the whole 'audacity of hope' that permeated from the campaign, perhaps because I'm a bit of a cynic. But this morning, as I sat in the theater, I truly started to feel hope--and I hope that this continues.
At the very last meeting of my Monday night class last semester, we got talking about food. One student was having issues with lasagna...loved to eat it, hated to make it because she didn't really know what to do. Evidently, she was raised on Stoffer's, not on fresh. I said I often make it when I have people coming over, and she asked for the recipe. I chuckled...my 'recipe' for lasagna is done on the fly, much like my 'recipes' for minestrone, spaghetti sauce, chili, and a few other soups. I know what I want in there...the measurements are 'whatever looks right'. But, she asked, so I figured I'd have to make a pan of lasagna with the intention of writing down the recipe.
(My mother, by the way, HATES this...she wants to know how I do things, and my only response is, "uh, well, you know, when it looks right...when it tastes right." She's a great cook--and a great teacher--but doesn't trust herself to not follow a recipe save for a couple of things. She really could do it, but she wants the comfort of a recipe. Me? Yes, I have plenty of recipes and cookbooks, but a lot of what I do is creative process, most of the time tasting pretty good.)
I've been telling everyone around here for a week: Saturday night I'm making a lasagna, c'mon over. Bring anything you want...I got the entree. Most people said they'd be around, and would come on over. No sweat...people over, brisk winter evening full of comfort food and wine (well, for me).
Sun rises on a gorgeous Saturday morning...and I'm starting to get retractions. "Aw, man, something came up..." "Sorry, dude, I promised...." blah blah blah. Eh, to hell with them. I'm making the lasagna, I'm writing down what I do, and anyone who misses is going to be lacking some damned good food.
(To be fair, my lasagna has the flavor, but it always gets a little watery. But, hey, it's damned tasty. Work in progress, my friends.)
So, tonight, Bella and I enjoyed a night to ourselves...not one soul over here. Ok, Bella didn't get any lasagna (although she was the sweetest begger you ever saw when I was opening cans of tomatoes and tomato paste). And now I have most of a pan of good stuff left over...yikes!
So, uh, anyone want lasagna?
Imagine this: you're a kitty, one who loves to play and spazz out while chasing anything, including your own tail. The first year or so of your life you have a big house in which you can run around, not to mention free reign of the gardens and the wild field behind the house. It's fun! (Well, when you're not being chased by the big bad bruiser Peanut, the older female feline who runs the place.) Life's pretty good. Then your owners decide to move, and they can't take you with them. But there's good news: you get to live with the owner who you love the best, or at least the one who will pay the most attention to you and who will cuddle you. She takes you away to an apartment...not so much room to play in, but at least you can look outside and chatter at the squirrels and birds. Sometimes she lets you go outside, but only if you have a stupid harness on...she's afraid you're going to run away if startled. Ok, she's probably right, but still. Eh, at least you get to go outside...when SHE wants.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present: Bella, my cat.
I felt really bad for her today. It's warm outside--got up to 73'F again today. It's brilliantly sunny, nary a cloud in the sky. The birds were out in full force, fooled into thinking that spring had sprung about 2 months too early. Poor Bella wanted out today in the worst way. She was aching to go out, run around in the backyard, watch the wildlife all around her, sniff the plants outside...she wanted to be free!
The problem? Well, I couldn't go out and play. I had to do laundry in the morning, finish cleaning the apartment, and then was meeting a friend at the museum downtown. Bella wasn't having any of it...she was running around like a total spazz, then pacing around the back door and crying, pleading with me to open the door. She even started pacing around the CD tower where her harness is located. Alas, it did her no good...we still didn't go outside. She was not a happy kitty.
On the other hand, when I came home from the museum, I brought my friend in; Wanda loves cats, and while she had heard stories of Bella, she had never 'met' her. And while Bella is normally a rather skittish cat around new people, she took to Wanda quickly, and even rolled over for a belly rub.
Strange sight of the day
As I was walking the 15 or so blocks from my apartment to the museum, I heard the railroad bells a'ringing...here comes a train. Part of the Southern (or is it Union?) Pacific line runs through downtown San Jose, along my route to the museum. So we all stop to wait...only to see the shortest train I guess one could get. It was just the engine and a tanker car. I couldn't help but chuckle.
Let me tell you, folks, I had plans! First, a great steak dinner (NY Strip steak, medium rare, with sauteed green beans and a great pinot noir), followed by meeting up with neighbors for either one of two ideas: 1) hang out in the backyard bar area and be stupid drunk; or 2) go to the Japantown festivities and be stupid drunk. Either way, I had 2 bottles of Asti chilling, plenty of other potent potables to quench my thirst...to be surrounded by friends (both 'old' and 'new') to celebrate the bithday and upcoming new year. Sounds wonderful, right?
Um, yeah, it was wonderful...but never happened. Well, not for me.
The last few days I've been attending the Modern Languages Association convention in SF, and noticed on Tuesday that I had a tickle in my thoat. Not really sore, but something there. I purposely went to Trader Joe's and stocked up on orange juice and cherry cider, did mild workouts followed by time in the sauna...really tried to not get sick. Alas, my friends, it was to no avail.
Yesterday afternoon that tickle turned into a mild sore throat. No worries...if I could just hold off until tomorrow with the full-blown whatever-this-is, hey, I could at least enjoy the evening. But by 6pm my head was pounding, my body aching, and I could feel the congestion in my chest start to build. Ok, I still have my appetite, so I cooked the dinner I wanted, but instead of wine I opted for a hot toddy; that should help me feel better, right? Um, nope. By 7:30, I had a 102'F fever, was constantly cold, and felt like utter and complete crap. Yes, folks, I was sick. Even poor Bella knew I was not feeling well; along with cuddling next to me, my little feline nurse kept sniffing and licking my face, trying to get me to feel better. I had to call my neighbor upstairs to tell him to go on and party without me...no way in hell was I going to leave my bed, save to make another toddy or to use the bathroom.
Now here's the interesting part: ginger is a miracle drug.
See, my neighbor upstairs is a professional bassist, and has played for numerous wonderful musicians. He knows of various wonderful remedies which at first might sound hokie, but turn out to work. The one he told me last night was of a ginger infusion (well, that's what it is...he didn't know the infusion part). It really works: it reduces the fever, it calms your body, and you feel better. You don't feel 100%, but at least you can be managable. More importantly, you'll feel much better the next morning.
Now, I know that ginger does have a calming property for the digestion. It's used in parts of Asia as both a palate cleanser and a digestif; if you have stomach ailments, a ginger tea is often brewed. It works much like chamomille in that way. But, hey, why not?
Here's what you do: take at least 2 good sized fingers of ginger, peel and cut into small dice. Put it into a pot of water (about 4 cups), and boil for an hour. Then mash the ginger in the water...you need to extract every ounce that you can; strain and reserve the liquid. Now you have your ginger infusion: make a cup of tea with half of ginger infusion, half regular water (chamomille works really well), a slice of lemon if you wish. Not only does the ginger infusion seem to help your throat (I didn't cough but once or twice while drinking this stuff, unlike before), but it's a restorative elixir. Seriously, within an hour my fever had already reduced by a full degree, and I could feel the fever start to go away the rest of the night.
This morning I woke up (after sleeping 10 hours) with only the congestion in my chest. I'll take that, trust me. Ok, so I'm pretty phegmy today, but I've never been bothered by that. My body doesn't ache, my fever is gone, and for all intents and purposes, I'm almost at 100%. Ginger infusion works!!!
My 34th year is now completed. No, I don't want presents...although if you really wish to send me something, I'm sure as hell not gonna pass it up (that'd be dumb). No, I don't want a party thrown in my honor (unless Neph is conjuring up some wonders and delights!)...I'd rather host my own and let you in on the real reason why we're all here. I'm sneaky like that.
This year I have been blessed, much as in years past. Oh, sure, there were bumps in the road, but what the hell...honestly, life would be dull as watching paint dry without those twists in the road. There were some great adventures this year--some great friends made in the process--and overall I'm pleased with where I'm at. I can do better in some things, and I will, but I've improved in others. After falling off the exercise wagon, I rebounded in a huge way and am back in the losing category...in a good way. I'm working more hours than ever before...making a little more money, but not heaps more. I still live in my little studio, Bella still runs around like an eejit thereby making me guffaw. I can breathe, I can eat, I can sleep, I can use all 5 of my senses fully, I can think and speak whatever damned thing I want, I can be as bloody-minded as I want to be...yep, I've got it all.
My hopes for 2009? Well, I still start off for a weeks'-worth of world peace...maybe if we all tried it for a week, we might actually like it enough to work for it on a continual basis. I still hope for a full-time, tenure-track position, but as the saying goes, you can hope in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first...I have more work that I need to do on that. Mostly, I just hope that everyone I know, and pretty much everone else, too, has a very happy and healthy 2009...that we all remain positive, because things will get better. They always do
I love it when my friends say that California doesn't have winter weather. Of course it does...it's just not as extreme as it is in most places in the world. What they don't understand are the geography, the climate and the population spread in this great Golden State o'mine.
California is long...very long...with at least 3 mountain ranges running along it. In fact, it's so big and long that, according to Wikipedia, if it were a country it'd be the 59th largest country in the world (for what it's worth). Along most of the coastline is the Coastal Range, which has quite a few mountains on it. Well, we call most of them 'hills', but for many they are truly mountains. There is also plenty of flat land, which is partially why most of the population lives on the coast, from the San Francisco Bay Area down to the San Diego/Tiajuana border. The weather is quite mild usually (Mediterranean, as a Spanish friend of mine says), although the further south you go, the warmer it tends to get in the summer...and the further north you go, the wetter and colder it gets. But there are peaks around here which will get a dusting of snow in the winter, when the precipitation comes 'round and the temps get freezing cold--see for example Mt. Hamilton (from the Lick Observatory), Mt. Tamalpais, or Mt. Diablo.
In the middle is (appropriately enough) the Central Valley...the fertile agricultural capital of the world, or so it seems. Also it's where our state capital, Sacramento, is. It gets very rainy there in the winter, and can get quite cool. There is an occasional freeze in the winter, but it doesn't happen often...when it does, the farmers bellyache (and rightly so).
Along the eastern edge of the Great State, two mountain ranges hold their place. The Cascade Range starts in California and goes northward into Oregon and the like. Not much to say about that, except that Mt. Shasta is technically part of this range, and it's quite a site to behold. The main one, though, is the Sierra Nevada...and it's the right monicker, as the mountains in the winter are constantly covered with snow. It's the winter playground for millions--Lake Tahoe and Yosemite are both part of this range, as is Big Bear. Yes, folks, there's quite a bit of winter weather up there, which is why the 1960 Winter Olympics were held at Squaw Valley.
Ok, so most of us on the coast don't have to worry about blizzards every other day, or bitter cold, or even driving rain for months on end. I get it. But, seriously, we do have winter weather here. It's just better
It took 14 weeks...14 weeks of students who were so stubborn and, in some cases, ignorant...who continuously come to class despite being severely under the weather. And in this case, the maladies mostly revolved around strep throat and bad colds.
Yep, 14 weeks of my immune system fighting the tough battles. Of waging war against those horrific germs who were trying to invade my temple.
Finally...I have become collateral damage in that war against the ill-feelings that are typical with the changes in the temperatures.
Ok, that's being overly dramatic, even for me. I really don't get sick. Even my colds are relatively mild; they'll sap some of my energetic zing, leave me congested and with a bit of a sore throat, but really it's not that bad. But it's definitely annoying.
Last night the sore throat started, and was in full force this morning as I woke up. Raw as can be, the pain going from my throat to my soft palate. But no fever, no real aches, and as the day went on a slight sinus headache did arise...but nothing like what I've had in the past. Advil and Riccola...that's the remedy for the day. Lots of tea. A hot Toddie at night (sheer bliss), and a shot of Robitussin before bed. Guaranteed I'll be better in the morning. Well, I won't sound like it; I'll probably be congested, but the throat will be better (gee, might I have to go to the gym tomorrow and sit in the steam room? Shucks...). These things are usually pretty quick with me.
And the best part? Today was the last day of review for one campus...hardly any talking for my part. I don't teach tomorrow, but I have a make-up final exam to give. So a relaxing weekend is coming up, and I dare say I'm ready for it!
...if you wait long enough, the latest installment of your favorite Brit show will be on BBC America. But it might take a while.
That's right, folks, series 11 starts showing here in the States on Monday...except that I'll be teaching, getting home just in time to watch the very very last episode of "Boston Legal," my absolute favorite show on TV right now. 2 hour finale, starts as I get out of class, so I'll be missing the first half hour or so.
Only a couple more weeks, and then I'll have my weeknights to myself, if only for 5 weeks.
Quite honestly, there were two spot-on sitcoms of the 90s which turned the excesses and pretentiousness of the 80s on their ears. One was Seinfeld, the other was Absolutely Fabulous. And I love them both.
Admittedly, I love AbFab, and will continue to watch it on BBC America or Comedy Central whenever it's on. There are various stand-out episodes which seems to rise above the other exemplary episodes of the series. But the one which seems to come on right before my family gets together is when Eddie and Pats go off to France to 'get away from everything'...of course, neither one really looks at a map, neither one speaks French, and Saffie (and Bubble, natch) have to come in and save the day. Perhaps the most hilarious part is when [ur]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6r_JnGUexsw]Eddie and Pats go wine tasting at the chateau[/url]. Not only is the scene typical of Edina Monsoon and Patricia Stone, it's just damned funny.
My family and I have a history with wine, a good one. Mom comes from a long line of bartenders; Dad sold wine (and eventually spirits) for a couple of major distributors. I've imbibed from the fruit of the vine since a babe. Every time we get together the wine flows.
Ok, this time the episode didn't air before Thanksgiving, and I had to look it up on YouTube. On the other hand, my friend and I are about to go wine tasting here in town at an enoteca (I love how people must say a fancy foreign word for a basic concept...it's a wine bar, folks!). Thank God light rail takes me there, and it's a 2 block walk from my house...I have a feeling we're going to be reinacting this scene, albeit with much less expensive wine.
Here in Japantown, there is a cute mix of cuisine. Of course, the predominant theme is Japanese food--some of the best you'll get anywhere, both on the sushi side and the traditional dishes. There's a couple of Chinese places (naturally), some Mexican places (consider San Jos
I love it once mid-November rolls around. People actually start caring about each other and acting upon it. Ok, it should happen all year long, of course, but some is better than none, I guess.
The other day a local news channel did a story about how food and money donations at the local food banks was horrifically low, so low that Thanksgiving turkeys were either in short supply or non-existent; at one major food bank in Oakland they were handing out Thanksgiving chickens. To put it mildly, it didn't sound right.
Now, I personally am not much for the Mission band of Indians; they have a chokehold on the Indian casinos in this state, and have a reputation of touting all the wonders they do with the hard-earned cash of gamblers. Someone I know has said on numerous occasions that they exploit gamblers, and don't give nearly enough of a percentage back to the state, or to the other tribes; indeed, there are various rumors that they don't give up their fair share of earnings to the other various tribes in the state, in accordance with the pact that they negotiated with the state. My cynical mind goes into overdrive with them.
But I have to give them and Costco credit on this one. They saw the newspiece on the food banks, and made a massive donation. 200 turkeys, plus money for another 200 more, to that one Oakland food bank, plus other food banks are receiving donations, too, thanks to the attention paid to their shortage.
The best comment came from someone in the video picking up his turkey meal...he was close to tears, enormously grateful for the generosity of others. His family would have a reltaively normal Thanksgiving, despite his being out of work. 'Tis the season of giving.
I got paid today (it's the last working day of the month), and did my usual 1 Dec. donations. I have a list of them, including the local food banks. It's a tradition, where I save up after summer expenditures and start my donation season early. Oh, it's never much...a few bucks here and there. I don't have many on my list, but I know that so many of these non-profits need help, and in particular in a year like this.
A student yesterday commented at how many calls and notices she's received from charities--quite a few, more than usual, she says. Her main comment was along the lines of, "why can't these people leave me alone? Don't they know that in this economy no one has money to spare???" I just let that one go.
Among the things this year that I'm thankful for (or, what I'm continually thankful for):
I'm alive, with all parts in working order, living in a society which allows me the freedom to do and say as I pretty much please;
My family and friends are not only alive and well, but all with jobs and all with finances in order;
My colleagues at work who not only find it their duty to inform us of what's going on with budget issues, but give us options and multiple scenarios whenever possible (even if the bleeping legislature doesn't). It seems that everyone is working triple-overtime to make sure that as few people as possible are to be affected by the mandatory budget cuts, as ordered by the state;
My students, who continuously give me the energy and the ganas* to want to work; and
The ability to continue my adventures, and the avenues to continue my lifelong learning journey.
Whether or not you celebrate a "Thanksgiving" holiday, I wish you the best for the future, and hope for nothing but good fortune for you.
*ganas doesn't have a great translation--in Spanish, it more or less means 'gumption', but it's more than that. It's that every fiber of your being wants (or doesn't) something.
I love human language (obviously), and I love human behavior. We are absolutely fascinating creatures. We form tribal units every where we can. Oh, sure, we don't consider them 'tribal units', but really they are. We seek out others who are like us in some way, and even go so far as to give ourselves names, a kind of identity to distinguish ourselves from the other tribal groups. Even though we interact among several of these groups, and we therefore have seemingly multiple allegiances, we still must never be alone. Quite funny, really. We even go so far as to create these tribal units in the Internet world...don't believe me? What do you think we are here?
Anyway, at American community colleges (and often at the 4-year colleges and universities) there are two-types of faculty: full time and part time. Yes, there are other divisions among the full-timers, but on the community college campus, that's really the only division among faculty. Full-timers, naturally, have their time compensated on campus; they're expected to teach a certain amount of course units, serve on a certain number of committees, do some administrative work in and around campus, and continue to educate themselves either through research or professional development.
Part-timers, on the other hand, can only work a maximum number of course hours, and are not compensated for extra committee work they do. Honestly, part-timers do what they do because they love it...and because they can't get a full-time job at a given campus. In fact, they often teach at 2-4 other campuses in a given semester. Some have a preference and/or identity with one campus over the others (I do); others simply employ mercenary-type attitude: I'm a hired hand, give me classes and pay me. Part-time faculty are called a number of titles: adjuncts, instructors, part-time faculty. There are slang and/or jargon terms as well. And I learned a new one today.
I ran into a fellow faculty member as I pulled into the parking lot this morning...I recognized him as being a colleague in my division, but didn't know him personally. In fact, we've been running into each other often lately...kinda funny. At lunch, lo and behold, who do I run into again. This time, I introduce myself, and he does the same. Pleasant enough dude. He then asks: "Are you a frequent flyer?"
Now, I know the term "frequent flyer" to refer to two things: 1) literally, a person who frequently flies; and 2) one who has a fairly long (more than 15 miles) commute to work, usually requiring one to take the freeways. Since I belong to group #2, I replied in the affirmative.
But as the conversation continued, it was clear that he meant something different: frequent flyer = adjunct/part-time faculty. The logic is pretty good: adjuncts frequently work at more than one campus, often requiring them to teach at more than one place in one day. Still, it was a term I hadn't heard before, and found it intriguing.
I was talking with another colleague, and she referred to the term again: "Oh, yeah, she's a frequent flyer, too. I think she's at Foothill along with here...maybe even De Anza." Clearly this term has been around a while, and has gained in popularity.
My question is: do I rack up points for being a frequent flyer? Will these points be good towards some sort of full-time, tenure-track position? Or will they simply languish, never to be redeemed?
(**Warning...venting allert. No advice necessary, just need to pout and mope. All is well, I promise!**)
My dad picked the wrong week to go on vacation. Dammit.
Usually when I have questions on certain subjects, I go to him. One is physiology. Not because he's a doctor or has any medical training whatsoever. Instead, he's someone who has done a ton of reading, has felt pain of pretty much every position on the spectrum, and is a logical person. He's the person who taught me that not everything needs a pill to make it better...in fact, most things don't need a pill. Rest, ice, heat, refraining from certain activities...you know, common sense.
I have pre-arthritic conditions in most of my joints. Translated into English, I've got crappy joints, due to being a tomboy who grew a full foot in 2 years. Pretty much since the age of 11 I've had bad knees in particular, and most of my other joints creak, crack, and the like. While most of the time it's no big deal, when I change my exercise routine, wear my high heels too often, or other such pressures on my joints, I tend to feel it. But I've learned over the years to block the pain mentally, do stretches, and for me the use of glucosamine has helped quite a bit (although it doesn't work for everyone...don't know why, but it doesn't). I'm used to this...in fact, it feels pretty good to crack my ankles, as not doing it leaves them a little stiff. From the start I've had to change activity levels, figure out what I can do and what's off the table...and constantly change it. When I was heavier, I constantly complained about my knees. Funny how losing weight and becoming active aliviates the pain most of the time.
Anyway, for the past couple of weeks my left knee (the more problematic one) has been overly stiff...and there's a swollen area in the back. When I went in for a massage, the masseuse pinpointed the location...typcially, it's the ligaments and tendons which are the problem children, which is the story of my life. Yesterday I went to the gym for a typical workout, and decided to test out the knee more than usual. I purposely did movements and exercises which forced me to push off my left leg, to test the strength...yeesh, not much there. Tried stretching, but that didn't help. I've iced down my knee to the point that it might be permanently blue, but I'm not sure that it's made much of a difference. But the odd part is that there is zero pain in general, and only a twinge when I do certain movements, which is normal...yet I can feel the swollen stiffness. I need to pick my dad's brain...he knows me well, and can help me out.
And where's Dad? With Mom, celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary (which is today), reliving their honeymoon in the same resort in Acapulo, Mexico, that they went to 35 years ago. I have to wait a week for 'an appointment'. Same as a doctor, no less, but less BS in the result.
There are certain smells that just call to us as individuals. Some come from outside--the smell of sweet jasmine in the summer, or of freshly-cut grass. Some come from the inside of an oven, or on top of a stove...perhaps even on a grill. These scents awaken our olfactory system, setting our bodies in motion for a culinary experience which is second to none. Oh, perhaps it revolves around a 5-star feast that would make any gourmand melt into a pile of goo, but more often than not these gastronomic creations come not just from the home, but from the heart. In a phrase, I'm talking comfort food.
I have two dishes which will tug at my stomach strings in ways that nothing else can.
One is a good spaghetti gravy...or, for those of you who are not of the Italian-American persuasion, I'm talking about a tomato rag
What's a girl to do? I've got leftovers of a seasoned long-grain and wild rice mix (which is excellent), and I don't really want a ton to eat. Well, you create new culinary delights!
Ok, that's going overboard...but somehow I got in my head that a Mediterranean Fried Rice was in order.
I've been making fried rice for years...it's actually really easy, but requires regular rice, either white or brown. Wild rice does not make for good fried rice, at all...it's too chewy, and doesn't absorb much more than it already has. Basically, one has to pair this well, and make it so that your 'additions' are ready to sit in the pan for like 5 minutes, tops, or the wild rice will be gross. But I didn't really know what to do with this stuff, and thought, well, why the hell not? What's the worst that happens...I have to toss it because it's revolting?
So...out with the egg omlet, and in with the mushrooms. Out with the ginger and green onions, and in with the leek. Out with the Chinese 5 spice powder, in with the pasta seasoning (which has the fennel and paprika that I needed). Out with the soy sauce, and in with the basalmic vinegar...very sparingly, might I add. Out with the sesame oil as garnish, and in with the kalamata olives.
It's not bad...not bad at all. Actually, as I sit here post-meal, I can taste lingering effects of the sweet balsamico, the briny olives, and the peppery spices. The rice is chewy, but in a good way, and there's a crispy rice bit every once in a while. Overall, a pretty good experiment!
When people bitch and moan about cooking, about how it's time consuming, I point to stuff like this. From prep to sit-down, I was in the kitchen for 15 minutes. That's it! Granted, I have a stocked pantry and fridge--I'm never without mushrooms and leeks once the autumnal equinox rolls around--but a lot of it was thinking about what I wanted this to taste like, and using the skills I have. It's not hard, it's just practice.
Now...there's a bit left in the pan...and I want seconds...'scuse me
For the record: I'm a moderate Independent, one who is completely undecided. I didn't vote for either of these candidates in the primaries; Independents in California only had open access to the Democrat ballot, and not the Republican, so I gave no vote either way.
I really enjoyed listening to this first Presidential debate. Some of the items were to be expected: Obama linking McCain to Dubbya, while McCain consistently saying that Obama was inexperienced. Knowing a bit about McCain's political history, I found him to be subdued; I've always seen him as more of a hawk (although a less aggressive one), and he didn't seem so hawk-ish on the combat issues. To be straight-forward, I thought Obama proved himself to understand the issues clearly, and gave several specific points to make changes; on the other hand, McCain came off as condescending frequently, and often talked of generalities.
Who won? Eh, I think Obama had the edge, but it's slight. But that's just my view.
As of now, my mind is not made up, and I don't think it will be for a while. I'm really pissed off at the selection of Sarah Palin as VP for McCain; it makes me not want to vote for him, and I don't view that as a strong reason for voting for (or against) someone. One would hope that she'd be a reinvention of Dan Quayle--one who exists, but does nothing. Still, she bothers me quite a bit, and it may end up swinging my vote. I'm half curious about the upcoming Veep Debate; I have a feeling I'll be a rubbernecker at that massive accident, around just to watch the carnage.
I'm curious about anyone else's thoughts, both American and otherwise. I can't wait to read the BBC take on it, as well as various other international news outlets. But I'd really like to hear from anyone on here, too.
At 10ish this morning, my phone beeped at me...another news bite from the Associate Press. Thank God I was just walking, and not driving or chopping vegetables when I read this:
Paulson states that the economic crisis is "embarrassing to the United States of America."
The full quote is here (click here for the full article), with the emphasis being mine:
It was an interesting reaction that sprung forth from me as I read that initial news blurb, and then later the article. Fury and laughter at once.
The laughter came quicker...emerging from the audacity of such a statement. Seriously...the economic crisis is embarrassing??? Or that Paulson and his boys are embarrassed for having fouled up the entire situation, and they make it seem like it's other people's fault.
To be fair, they didn't personally sign over the loan money to millions of Americans. Nor did they personally extend credit to people who perhaps were not the greatest of candidates. Nor did they personally cut the golden parachutes to the CEOs who bailed out of their floundering companies. No, no they didn't.
But what did they do? They allowed the wheels to go into motion. They allowed such lending practices to be in place and, more importantly, turned a blind eye when the various financial institutions hawked ARMs and other such lending programs to people as if it's nothing but cotton candy and kettle corn. The housing market is just like a carnival...it's fun! Everyone wants to go! You want to have a home, right? So let's get you set up! No money down, or very little anyway! Oh, that small print? Nevermind...here's a toaster.
Like a flash of lightning, the laughter at the ridiculousness of the statement turned into fury. I'm sitting there, reading the article and praying that one of my older students comes into class--this way, I can talk to someone who has seen as much, if not more, of life than I have. All I could think about was how "embarrassing" our current state of affairs is. Embarrassing???
Embarrassing is the fact that many college students can't afford textbooks, and rely on state and federal programs to pay for them...just to be able to study, to earn a degree and complete their dreams.
Embarrassing is the fact that because of both good and bad loans, the average American has payments through the nose, and in many cases are going without.
Embarrassing is the fact that the student council at my campus is putting together a food drive...to help out fellow students who have no money for food.
Embarrassing is the number of Americans who cannot afford health insurance; they make too much to qualify for Cal-Med (or the equivalent of their state), but not enough to afford even the most basic of plans.
Embarrassing is the number of people in my STATE who are losing their homes, their jobs, and their lives simply because the cost of living is rising, they are wallowing in debt, and have no hope or confidence.
That, Secretary Paulson, is embarrassing. And F U for making that statement.
Ok, taking a step aside, I will admit that most of the people I talk to don't really know their credit scores, don't honestly have a clue what a budget looks like, let alone how one works. I get that, really. But the damned financial institutions that allowed so many of these irresponsible loans to go out should have also known this, forseen the chaos that potentially arises from this, and done something about it. Instead, the overzealous wolves went after the yummy sheep--the money--hoping that all would work out. Uh, yeah. A bit too risky, doncha think?
The buck used to stop here, so to speak. Where is it going to stop now?
First, an eye-opener for all you men out there: we women talk a ton of trash. About our significant others (both temporary and permanent). About others. And honestly, I can't tell you who's worse, men or women.
I'm in the changing room of my gym, getting dressed to go home, and I overhear a conversation in the next row of benches. It's two women, both lesbians, talking about their conquests from the previous night, and the hopes for the weekend. On and on for quite a few minutes about these women they slept with the night before, every bit as detailed as a *or* film. Now, personally, I could give a rat's ass which gender you fancy...really. But I've never been one to like conversations of how the latest notch was put in the proverbial bedpost, no matter the gender of the story-teller or of the participant(s). It was just how I was raised...your private life is just that: private.
So, I'm getting dressed, and there's another woman in my row doing the same. I don't know her from Eve. We both overhear the 'nightly activities' of the ladies next door, and look at each other. So this other woman whispered to me, "What is your name?" I told her, and then she uttered the following retort:
"Ya know, Sarah, my husband was so damned horny last night...gawd, we went on and on and on and on. It's amazing, cuz, you know, he's lost all this weight and is in fighting form again. We're humping like rabbits!"
Before I could continue the charade, the lesbians leave the locker room, glaring at us like we just seriously popped their balloon.
The entire area started busting up in laughter. Ann did well!!!
(not to copy Caldrail, but...)
Amazing compliment of the day:
As I leave the gym, I hold the door open for the guy behind me. He's probably late 50s or early 60s, and perhaps looked a little grouchy. When I hold the door open, he genuinely says, "Thanks!" "No problem," I reply, as usual. We get outside, the fog has lifted, and the aquamarine sky was glowing...a drastic difference than what it was like 1 1/2 hours beforehand. I couldn't help myself but to comment.
"Wow, the fog's gone! How gorgeous!"
The guy looks at me. "What a breath of fresh air you are! Everyone's moping around, and you're commenting on a beautiful day! Outstanding!"
Very cool guy...and it's Friday. Ya damned right that I'm going to enjoy the day.
Front page of the San Francisco Chronicle (link to article):
A car-burglary suspect fell to his death early today after he climbed over a wall on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill while trying to flee from police, authorities said. The incident began at 12:30 a.m. when police received reports of a someone breaking into a car on the unit block of Alta Street near Montgomery Street, east of Coit Tower.
Officers set up surveillance in the area and spotted the man getting out of car. Police tried to stop him, but he took off running. At one point, he stumbled, and a screwdriver fell out of his pocket, police said.
The man jumped over a 3-foot wall to the west of Sansome Street near the Filbert Street Steps, apparently not realizing that there was a 200-foot drop, police. He fell and was pronounced dead at the scene.
His name was not immediately released.
I really find it hard to have compassion for such people. First, the dude's trying to steal...big no-no. Second, he's a bit of an eejit...if you know San Francisco decently well, you know that Telegraph Hill in particular has a ton of huge drop-offs. Actually, it's common in many areas of the city. Regardless, I just can't think anything other than, "Darwin strikes again!"