Archive for December, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

December 31, 2009

I always have mixed feelings about New Years.  Convention has it that it must be celebrated at large and raucous parties with an excess of drinking and loud counting down to the hour.  I’ve always been more of a quiet-gathering-of-dear-friends-with-plenty-of-time-for-contemplation-and-maybe-a-little-journaling type.  My predilections are at odds with the ways of the world.   Some years I bow to popular culture and sometimes I eschew the dizzy whorl.  I’d been thinking of going up to the Twin Cities were a bunch of thing are happening tonight but … I’ve changed my mind.

Tonight is a full moon.  It is also a blue moon.  And in some parts of the world (not here) its  lunar eclipse as well.  The sky is clear and I am planning a solitary moonlit snow shoe adventure.  There should be time as well for a bit of celebratory libation and also a few more pages in my journal.  A friend and I read out loud from December 31st 2000 entries earlier today and had quite a laugh at how things change and how they stay the same.  Who knows where I’ll be in 10 years when I look back and read tonight’s words.


After Christmas (From “For the Time Being”)

December 26, 2009

Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.  There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.  Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

W.H. Auden

Heisenberg Uncertainty Christmas

December 24, 2009

Physicists who want to protect traditional Christmas realize that the only way to keep from changing Christmas is not to observe it.

*Happy Holidays … if you care to observe them.


December 22, 2009

We’ve passed the longest night.  Yesterday, the shortest day was notable here in La Crosse for not showing the sun once all day – total overcast gloom.  But in a way its appropriate, if unpleasant.  Today though its snowing and bright.  I don’t even care at the moment that its going to affect my drive home to Madison tonight – its beautiful.  And we’ve passed the tipping point of the year.

There are so many traditions around renewal and starting over around this time.  The New Year its the one most people pay attention to – with resolutions and a re-start of the calendar.  But Christmas itself is the christian hijack of the old Pagan shortest day holiday.  Our lighted trees are a nod to the bonfires of old – the ceremonies meant to coax back the waning daylight, to ensure that the days not shorten into nothingness this year.   Diwali, the hindu festival of lights, happens earlier in the western calendar but seems to speak to the same idea of renewal and rebirth.  The specific date probably doesn’t matter all that much.  Humans all share a need to start fresh with a clean slate on a regular basis, begin again and resolve to do it better this time.  I’ll choose this one.

Recovery and Relief

December 20, 2009

Saturday I knocked off a little home decorating project that’s been in the hopper for over a year.  I recovered my little two seater sofa last november.  The posts about my sofa recovering process are more detailed than this one: here and here.  Around the same time I got some green remnant fabric intended to recover my “classic” little Ikea chair, a POANG, I believe.  I originally bought it with the cheapest cover – slightly off white canvas.  It held up well for four years but it was starting to show wear – if I’d gotten a darker color it would probably have lasted longer.  When I took it off the foam pads I wasn’t intending to copy the pattern of the cover – it is just a simple envelope design with a front side and a back side sewn together with binding tape around the edge – I was hoping for something a bit more tailored.  I’d been planning keep the old cover – for what I don’t know – but it occured to me I could harvest it for notions and padding.  In the end I completely dissassembled it – which was very easy.  I’m not sure if I should complement Ikea on their thrifty design or be shocked at how cheap the thing was but it doesn’t really matter anymore.  I used the cotton batting to pad the top part of my new covers, recycled the zippers on the back and even the velcro strips which attach the padding to the wooden frame.  And I did the whole thing in a day.  It looks pretty snappy I think – and I haven’t even thrown in a new headrest design yet.

Why did it take me a year to get this done when its such a relief to have finished it.

The Fish are Jumping

December 14, 2009

I know it sounds incongrous but I’m not actually kidding.  The fish are jumping.  And by looking in the same direction I can also see it snowing at a 45 degree angle into traffic down main street.  Well … actually that’s an exaggeration – its not main street it’s fourth.  I’m working at the Root Note today – my favorite coffee shop in La Crosse, or pretty much anywhere for that matter.  Its been a whole streak of snow days lately, only partly due to snow and partly due to other office conditions.  I don’t mind a bit because I love working at the Root Note.  I can have hot cider and wonderful cookies and, if I’m feeling exorbitant, really good pizza for lunch.  And hang out with the fish.

I have a favorite table – well who that knows me thinks that news – where I always sit.  It used to be the first one on the floor by the front window that wasnt in the little raised platform in the window.  But then they rearranged things and although my favorite table is still the same, now there’s a large aquarium in the window instead of another table.  So I keep company with the fish.  They’re particularly active today.  There’s another splash – it sounds like someone’s throwing pebbles.  Maybe they’ve just been fed.  I should get back to work now.  But I think I’ll be particularly enjoying the incongruity of the active fish in the boxed pond and the snow and sleet outside the window all day long.

Fabric Frivoling

December 13, 2009

I was lured into the fabric store by a wonderful sale  – 30 fat quarters for the price of 20.  If you’re not a quilter, a fat quarter is a quarter yard of fabric, but its instead of being a strip just 45 by 9 inches its a more useful 22 by 18.  They’re like crack for me – little bursts of color fun.  They can be turned into quilts or any number of manageable crafty little projects.  A few at a time they’re pretty cheap so you can justify it as a fun little fling rather than a rash waste of money on fabric for projects  only vaguely envisioned.  Read the rest of this entry »

Gingerbread in a Blizzard

December 10, 2009

When I was in junior high and high school I threw a ginger bread house party every year.  I’d help my mom prepare little gingerbread frames, whip up enough royal icing to frost our actual house, denude the grocery store of colorful sugary junk food and then have five or six friends over to spend the afternoon and evening trying to achieve sugar nirvana.  It was a lot of fun and I’ve missed doing it every year since.

Architecture school might have seemed like a particularly appropriate time to try it with a bunch of designers but the timing of final reviews and final exams and then the demands of our families that we all go home afterward prevented it pretty effectively.  This year I determined to try again.  I spent last weekend baking little gingerbread panels and invited a few friends and a few people I’d like to be friends from around the La Crosse area to come over Tuesday after work and play with candy.  Unfortunately, the weather had other plans.  After barely a dusting a snow this year we got our first real dump.  An official blizzard swirled in on Tuesday night.  It was not a good time to be out and about let alone driving 15 miles over windswept ridge tops through empty farm country and so the party had to be curtailed.  In the end Laura came over (she can walk) and Amelia, Roald, Stella and Cameron (my boss and his family) all came on up to get out of the storm and re-group.  So we decorated them anyway.  It was a lot of fun, if not exactly as planned.  Stella (who is three) got her own house to decorate and had a GREAT time doing it.  She really got into the colored frosting and was extremely concerned that I’d decided to play it monochromatic.  She offered me bowls of colored frosting all night “but … do you want some of the lellow frosting?”  Laura created a green sod roof with a reindeer grazing on it from mini marshmallows.  We all had a blast.  And as for new friends … I’ll just have to try again when there aren’t any national weather service alerts out.

Snow Day

December 9, 2009

“Snow Day” doesn’t mean the same thing to me now that it did when I was a child.  Working nine to five at the kitchen table doesn’t quite have the appeal of sleeping in, making snow balls and snow angels and drinking hot cocoa all day.  But still I think its a connotation shared by every graduate of a midwestern elementary school that a blizzard is exciting and a snow day the peak of winter fun.  So I can’t help being excited about the weather drama this morning.  Even the hour I spent shoveling my car out from packed in passage of the plow was pretty fun.  And I was especially proud to have done the whole thing with my tiny emergency shovel (although I may upgrade to a real one if this weather continues).  I have a very adult satisfaction in the knowledge that I’ve moved my car to the other side of the street and parked closer to the curb than the cars in front of and behind me to protect my side mirror from the predations of the plow.

My sister, I hear, is having a genuine snow day.  Classes have been canceled at UW Madison (an epoch making event) and Governor Doyle has ordered all non-essential state employees (which covers her job) to stay home so she’s off the hook.  I’m a touch jealous I admit.

Meanwhile I am comfortably ensconced at my kitchen table (with a mug of hot cocoa) and working away.  I have a picturesque view of snow covered pine boughs and neighbors shoveling the sidewalk.  Not a bad snow day after all, actually.

“And who knows. We might even win”

December 9, 2009

I picked up Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings over Thanksgiving as the perfect vacation reading and oh it was.  Its actually seeming like the perfect post-vacation reading as well because I only got through the first three books (there are five in the Belgariad series) during my actual vacation time.  I had kind of forgotten just how delightful these books are.  I just finished the fifth book last night.  So many laugh out loud moments flow together through the plot that its hard to keep track of them.  But it fits the pattern of a good fantasy epic to a T. Read the rest of this entry »

Cover your ears

December 7, 2009

I’ve had this Jack Handy joke stuck in my head the last few days.  Its one of the “Deep Thoughts” they used to have on Saturday Night Live and now you can find them in collections or (anywhere) on the internet.  Most are pretty short and sweet.  (Ex: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I don’t pretend to even know what the questions are. Hey, where am I?”)  The one I have in mind is a little … convoluted:

Despair is like a cable that is buried just under the surface of the ground. You pull it up and pull it up, but that cable just keeps right on going, clear across a field, until you come to a bunch of guys who are burying the cable. Then just walk up to them and go, “Hey, have you seen Fred?” And they’ll say, “Fred who?” And you say, “Fred of snakes?” Then cover your ears, because big laughs are coming.

Anyway.  I think it has to do with the fact that winter is finally here.  Since yesterday morning we’ve been gettting reports of a big dump of snow on its way.  The had an orange severe weather alert bar across the top of the forecast.  Now its turned to red.  They’re calling it a Winter Storm Warning.  I know that the weather people tend to like exaggerating these things “blizzard” makes such a good buzz word in the commercial teasers they air every five minutes on TV.  But looking at the radar map I think we are actually in for a big one.  I have mixed feelings because I love the words “snow day” as much as the next graduate of elementary school but I was planning on having people over tonight and several of them live out in the country.  Blizzard conditions don’t make one that inclined to traverse country roads in the dark.  I’ll just have to wait and see how my social event turns out.  But it looks like the snow day might be a pretty sure thing.

Anyway, my point is.  Cover you ears, because big snow is coming.


December 3, 2009

Not slowly wrought, nor treasured for their form
In heaven, but by the blind self of storm
Spun off, each driven individual
Perfected in the moment of his fall.

–  Howard Nemerov

This is one of my favorite poems.  I’ve been saving it for today – the first snowfall of the winter (that will stick).  It is so beautiful here today.

Kinda Makes my Holiday Season

December 1, 2009

star wars holiday special

So, recently I came across this, the Star Wars Holiday Special, aired in 1978 and quite possibly some of the worst television I’ve ever seen.  But all the more brilliant because of it.  I am completely shocked that I didn’t know about it already.   Since it came out before I was born and in a time before anything but VCRs I suppose its not that hard to believe.  The existing version (available in segments on youtube) is apparently from some one’s taped copy.

The production is more campy than I would ever have  believed and includes the entire original cast (except Alec Guiness).  I had to remind myself that none of them had very much reputation to protect at that point (immediately after the release of A New Hope) but still – its pretty embarrassing.  I don’t imagine Harrison Ford has it on his CV!  Its a variety show with a tenuous plot thread and was ranked number one in What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, and described as “the worst two hours of television ever” according to wikipedia’s article on the topic.  Looking at it from the point of view of – is it good to laugh at – I think its a big winner, at least in small doses.  See for yourself with the video below and let me know what you think … Happy Lifeday! Read the rest of this entry »