Saturday, October 24, 2020

What I Do & Things

Warily, because it is wise to be cautious, and somewhat begrudgingly, because I can hold a grudge, I note that Ass't Man (AM) is learning how to work better with people.
Yesterday I watched him not lose his cool when a customer yelled at him for something I personally KNOW he didn't do. The customer went away, and then they came back and yelled at him some more. AM just kept apologizing "for the misunderstanding". Impressive.
That's hard to do when you're being slandered.

This sort of thing happens not infrequently at the store––(and most anywhere you work with the public, in my experience--snotty library patrons have yelled at me, though not to that extent)––so he's getting plenty of practice with WOO-sah (staying calm under stress).

So... CAUTIOUSLY I say that Ass't Man may be heading toward being an asset. Asset Man?
Maybe. I hope.

At any rate, the work relationship between us continues to impprove.
I'm a big believer in the power of little gifts, and the other day AM saved this donated green T-shirt for me, which I hung up on the wall by my desk.
Not only was it nice to get a little gift, it was nice to feel known.
I mean, this sums me up pretty well:

Other things I've garnered from the store for my area, like a magpie:
French leopard hair clip, on beaded owl hanging;
urban wildlife poster; vintage little doll;
postcard of Chet Baker; a couple kids' drawings found in books;
yellow bear stick-pin, and crocheted doilie;
card of Lesotho fashions (from the V&A?);
vintage Christmas snowman decoration;
Captain America, the endearingly square Avenger, looking beautifully sad at the wreckage of civilization;
and, Crow, if you're reading this, note your hand-drawn envelope on Capt. America's shoulder

Around My Neighborhood

 A round-up of photos from around my neighborhood, mostly taken on my bike ride to work.

ABOVE: Women and children putting up on utility poles handmade signs with cheerful slogan (looks like the kids painted them).
The girl on the ladder was using an electric drill to mount a sign reading "Don't Worry Be Happy."

ABOVE: "RE-BUILD" spray-painted on the wall of the post office near me that people burned down after police murdered George Floyd. 

ABOVE: Coffee shops around town have installed to-go windows, where people stand outside to order. This one is at Duck-Duck, near me. The other day I went through a jar of change, collected all the quarters, and stopped and gave them as a gift to the shop, through the window.

I was super happy to bike up to work yesterday (snow on ground!) and see the city has installed a big sharps box by the park next to the thrift store where people hang out and shoot-up.
A coworker said, yeah, it's great--but do you think people will manage to use it?

Well, maybe not. There are trash cans around too, and people don't manage to get all the trash into them.

But it's still a good thing. It signals:
Hey, we acknowledge this is happening, and we in the city care about public health and about you, the person with the needle.

It's connected to the Harm Reduction approach to addiction and public health:

"Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs."

Animal attacks (croissant).

In the parking lot at work a couple weeks ago, before the snow, after a food giveaway...

I've been thinking about animals since Marz has been writing about animals on the goat farm up in the hills of New Mexico.
She asked me to look up what to do if you encounter a bear, cougar, or rattlesnake. Basically, back away slowly. 

Yearly, 1,610 people die from animal-related injuries in the US. 
For comparison--some 80,000 (+/-) people die every year from motor vehicles (
38,659 in 2017, the first year guns outkilled cars) and firearms (39,773).
arm animals and other non-wild animals kill far more humans every year than scary predators or venomous snakes.

You're more likely to be killed by a cow or a bee than a bear or a snake, but far more likely to die via car. 

From Science Daily:

The most common nonvenomous encounter group... is 'other mammals,' which includes cats (!), horses, cows, other hoof stock [are cats "hoof stock"?], pigs, raccoons, and other mammals. ...The majority of deaths associated with "other mammals" occur on farms, and horses and cattle account for 90 percent of farm accidents."

I looked it up and wild/farm cats carry all sorts of diseases. Marz is in more danger from these half-wild farm cats than a rattlesnake.

But the kitten!

I see lots of non-domesticated animals in the city--bald eagles, raccoons, squirrels of course... More, since winters are warmer. A friend reports an opposum lives in the garage next door--they didn't use to come this far north.

Friday, October 23, 2020

What I'm Reading

I'm still reading Smilla's Sense of Snow---fittingly, since it's snowing here, for real (I shoveled the walk a couple days ago).
I've given up  on the plot--I cheated and read the summary online, so I don't have to wonder what happens--and just as well because it's inconclusive...

I don't care about the characters either.  Also, I can't tell them apart--they all have the same name. (Of course they don't, but it seems like it.)

I continue to read--slowly--for the snippets of interesting history, geography, arresting images––
for instance, that you can locate an arctic rabbit by the steam of its breath––and occasional insight:

"The bad thing about death is not that it changes the future. It's that it leaves us alone with our memories."
Yes. I hate that.

I just started The Great War and Modern Memory about World War I and "some of the literary means by which is has been remembered," by Paul Fussell. The author writes, "If the book had a subtitle, it would be something like 'An Inquiry into the Curious Literariness of Real Life'".

It's been sitting on the shelf at work for a year, and I think it was mentioned in Achilles in Vietnam, so this week I picked it up.
I just started it and it's fascinating. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Halloween Books Display

I started setting aside books for Halloween just a couple weeks ago.
(I don't have much space in my work area to save books for special displays all year long––except Christmas books––so my seasonal displays are always a bit of a mish-mash.)

Below is the book display I put together. 

I chose Purgatory and Hell for their great covers--they are actually Catholic books. Of course All Souls Eve is a Catholic holiday...

Marz left me some of her old masks--they don't have to wear them on the farm because they never see other humans. 
I didn't realize till I took this selfie that this one worn with my blue apron matches the store colors (repainted that bright green with a blue stripe while we were closed).

And... here's Penny Cooper and Pensive Bear at a pumpkin stand yesterday. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Our Correspondents on the Goat Farm

Spike ^ and Marz 

What’s the scoop?

There are bears and lions and dust.

Goats are not interested in non-goat-related things. 

The mailbox is 10 miles down a bumpy dirt road. 

Spike looks like it there.

New Favorite Line Ever

 Michael offered this in a comment on the previous post. 

“For a long time I used to go to bed early.” —Proust

This cracks me up because

1. It reminds me of me, and

2. I think (I think) it’s the wonderfully simple and clear launch of something like thirty? pages of writing about not being able to sleep! 

I admire writers like Proust and Woolf who can write inside a head. I just don’t have the mental stamina to stay with them for more than an essay’s length.

(Mis)Remembered Lines

 I have to dash off to work in fifteen minutes---perfect timing to play this game:
What bits of writing come to mind, without looking them up?

I never get quotes right! Anything quoted on this blog, I've double-checked by looking it up.

So, off the top of my head, here are a few misremembered lines.


Jane Eyre starts with the narrator (Jane), a child at the beginning, saying it's raining and there was no possibility of a walk.
Sounds ho-hum, but it sets the tone--the book is all about natural and social limitations and how Jane overcomes (or doesn't overcome) restrictions.
Later, she does plenty of walking in the rain.


 David Copperfield starts with the narrator (David) wondering if he will be the hero of his life, or if that position will be held by another--"these pages must show".

Ha! That could be the introduction to The Collected Blog Posts of Anybody.
I always like that---the call to be the hero of my own life.
It reminds me of when I realized why I love Captain Kirk: I want to be my own version of him.


"It is better to look for what you may never find than to find what you don't really want."
--"Alberic the Wise", short story for children, by Norton Juster (author of The Phantom Tollbooth)

I read this when I was nine or ten and thought that was a true and good guide, and I've always remembered it.

Along the way, I learned it's not that simple, of course. An attachment to purity can be dangerous. Sometimes it's better to work with "what you don't really want".
Have you seen the yard signs, "Settle for Biden", for instance?
They're actually sold by the Biden campaign!
I agree.

Still, yes, on a personal level, if I can, I want to keep exploring life, not settle for sleeping on half-measures. 


"Like the green fuse drives the flower"

--Dylan Thomas. Not even sure what poem that's from, but I LOVE it. I think of it sometimes, and it gives me energy.

We were just talking about clarity in writing.
I want clarity when I read entertainment to pass the time, or when I'm reading nonfiction--the clearer the writer can explain difficult or new concepts, the better.

Poetry is different, of course.
Or writing qua writing--stuff you have to work at--unclear not because it's poorly written but because it's written differently, well.
Like James Joyce's writing: though I never bothered with Ulysses, I remember Molly Bloom saying Yes I will yes. 

And I liked Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man in high school.

Ah, I thought, you don't have to write in straight lines.

Okay, I don't remember a single thing from Portrait, so I looked this up:

“Her lips touched his brain as they touched his lips, as though they were a vehicle of some vague speech and between them he felt an unknown and timid pressure, darker than the swoon of sin, softer than sound or odor.”
Which reminds me of another misremembered line--
When we are children we drink milk, but when we are grown up, we eat meat.

That's from the Bible--don't know where, but I've found it strengthening to remember: this is hard but it's worthwhile, and YOU ARE CAPABLE (at least of trying).

Sigh. Sometimes I don't want to be the grown up. Won't someone cut up my meat for me?
I think that's a huge impulse when I or other people turn decision-making over to others---others who may not be all that capable, but are willing to do the cutting and chewing!

Hm. This all adds up:

Be the hero of your own life:

Go for a walk in the rain;

Change the fuse when it burns out;
Say yes, I can chew my own food!

Haha, I am such an American. Go west, young one!
I am not really so gung-ho. 

Hm. Or am I? Maybe I am a bit, personally, but I HATE the philosophy behind the saying "Failure is not an option."

Failure is a certainty.

So, let me add favorite lines from Capt. Picard:

"It is possible to do everything right and still fail. That is not weakness, that is life."
Care to share any lines yourself?

And now I must go to work.

Friday, October 16, 2020

A favorite bit of writing

My auntie recently wrote me that she doesn't like descriptive writing-- "scudding clouds" and the like.
I usually don't either.
But the opening lines of Annie Proulx's short story "Brokeback Mountain" (1997) are a fine piece of writing--the wind hitting the trailer has stayed in my mind since I read it years ago.

(I've never seen the movie.)

"Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft. He gets up, scratching the grey wedge of belly and pubic hair, shuffles to the gas burner, pours leftover coffee in a chipped enamel pan; the flame swathes it in blue. He turns on the tap and urinates in the sink, pulls on his shirt and jeans, his worn boots, stamping the heels against the floor to get them full on. The wind booms down the curved length of the trailer and under its roaring passage he can hear the scratching of fine gravel and sand."

Good writing is writing that serves the story. 
Copying the passage out just now, I appreciate it all over again. It's half the story, right there. We are buffeted by forces outside our control.

I wonder how much Proulx futzed with these lines.
I would guess a lot.


P.S. I looked around and yep, probably a lot.

"For Proulx writing is all about 'the making of the object. I look on it as a craftsman would making a table.'"

--Interview in the Guardian

Annie Proulx’s 5 Rules For Good Writing [via]

1. Proceed slowly and take care

2. To ensure that you proceed slowly, write by hand. 

3. Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you. 

4. Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading. 

5. Rewrite and edit until you achieve the most felicitous phrase / sentence / paragraph / page / story / chapter.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Editing a Raspberry Tart

This is my second "How to improve writing"* blog-post today. 

I believe Penny Cooper is blogging today.
She is a proper little girl with the sparkly brain of a librarian who delights in looking things up and thinks you do too.
She frowns at the grammar of "Be Best", but she likes the idea.

I'm reading Smilla's Sense of Snow, by Peter Høeg (translation copyright 1993), some twenty-seven years after everybody else.
I'm not a reader of mysteries, usually. Following their details is a slog. But I am liking this book--I keep dog-earing pages to mark interesting passages.

[Re dog-earing: I am fine with mauling books. In this era of cheap and plentiful paperbacks, books are for use, however the user wants. The acidid paper won't last all that long anyway, however you use it.]

Here's a bit I marked last night.
Smilla is meeting a wealthy, powerful person at an expensive bakery, La Brioche d'Or, in a swank shopping district. She describes the raspberry tart she's eating:

"The raspberry tart has a bottom layer of almond custard. It tastes of fruit, burnt almonds, and heavy cream. Combined with the surroundings, it is for me the quintessence of the middle and upper classes in Western civilization. The union of exquisitely sophisticated crowning achievements and a nervous, senselessly extravagant consumption."

I like this! And, I don't.
I like what the author is going for.

Marz told me that being on the goat farm makes her realize how smart humans are---far, far smarter than goats. Shortly after she told me this, I accidentally ate dinner at an expensive restaurant that serves Spanish tapas.
("Accidentally": I was biking past and saw the restaurant's casual outdoor seating––only set up because of Covid)––and I thought it was a taco place. Forty-four dollars later, I left entirely happy that I'd made that mistake.)

As I ate seared beef tenderloin and oyster mushrooms in a sherry glaze, I thought--This is the quintessence of human intelligence:
Making food taste heavenly. There is no reason for it except pleasure. The pursuit of pleasure is a foundation of civilization.

And the cost of that pleasure is a weakness that could crumble civilization. How much devastation is and has been wrought to get things that taste good--sugar, spice, chocolate... and by the fossil fuels that speed and ease their delivery?

 But some of the details of that paragraph? Um....

Like, burnt almonds? Would those taste good?
This books is translated out of Danish. Should "burnt almonds" be "toasted almonds"? Or, burnt sugar?

Or how 'bout "bitter almonds"--with their association with the scent of cyanide?
Whoops--no. Bitter almonds smell like cyanide because they contain some of that poison. (Article from NPR.)

Article from Epicurious: How to Save (Almost) Burnt Food.
"Have you ever over-toasted nuts til they're crispy and charred?  Unfortunately that burnt flavor permeates like no other. The food is really best tossed in the waste bin."
How to save burnt nuts, if they're savable?
Stick them immediately in the freezer, which arrests the cooking process.

Okay, though, I get the idea of contrast of taste.

But then, "the quintessence of middle and upper classes".
Hm. That's clunky, and, I think, too broad.
I hardly think of the middle classes as "exquisitely sophisticated and senselessly extravagant" on the whole.
Maybe just "upper class" or "classes" (the plural makes it broader)?

And then, nervous + senselessly---does that work?
I like the contrast, but nerves are our sensors.
Maybe "nervous, carelessly extravagant consumption"?
With the echo of Fitzgerald's "
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy".

And is a raspberry tart really an "exquisitely sophisticated crowning achievement"?

Wouldn't "exquisitely sophisticated" be enough? 

Here's the thing:
Does a writer want to raise these questions in a reader's mind?
I don't think so. You want your sentences to go down like a smooth, sweet custard with the pleasant punctuation of a tart fruit.

Let's see. Here's a rewrite:

"The raspberries rest on almond custard. The tart tastes of sharp fruit, burnt sugar almonds, and heavy cream. In these surroundings, it is the quintessence of the upper classes of Western civilization. The union of exquisite sophistication and a nervous, careless, extravagant consumption."

 Is this better?

 Penny Cooper says yes.

    ❧    ❧    ❧

* I take "How to improve writing" from the name of blogger Michael's ongoing series "dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose", which give me lots of pleasure. 

P.S. And now I want a raspberry custard tart!

Editing Wikimedia's Thank-You Letter

Wikipedia means the world to me. I have edited and written a few articles for the online encyclopedia, and I just donated to their foundation, as I do regularly. (Donate here.)

One of the things I love most about Wikipedia is that it's a fandom of knowledge, an experiment in democracy: its users are (or are encouraged to be) its producers.
While it's not perfect, it knows it, and says so: the Wikipedia article "Reliability of Wikipedia" includes links, for instance, to its own "multiple systemic biases".
What would make the encyclopedia better is more participation on the part of its users, which it invites.

Image ^ from Wikimedia: Projects: Improve Knowledge Integrity

So, given that it's all about the importance of participation, I emailed to Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, an edit of the thank-you letter she sent me. 

Here's a clip of Maher's thank-you letter:

"Dear Fresca,

"Thank you for your one-time gift of $ 50.00. Your support of Wikipedia’s mission means everything right now.

This letter feels very personal this year. I’m writing to you from my home, which has also become my office. Perhaps you can relate. It seems like so much has been upended in one way or another over the past year—pandemic, school closures, economic strain, the list goes on."


Hm. Do you notice something's missing? Something upended in the past year (or, I would say, one of the things that upended the year, not something that "has been upended")--something that shouldn't be shunted to "the list goes on"?

In the spirit of Wikipedia, I wrote a reply suggesting possible edits, ...with sources:



I am happy to support Wikipedia--I just wrote on my social media that it is one of the loves of my life. [1]

I want to suggest an edit to your thank-you letter. To the list of things that have upended our year, I would add "a growing movement for racial justice" or "the killing of George Floyd" (the title of the Wikipedia article)---or some other phrase to acknowledge the global response to the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The lack of an overt mention suggests that these events are not important upenders ("and the list goes on" means "other less important things", right?).
They are important around the world.
For instance, as you know, Merriam-Webster agreed to update its definition of racism after a 22-year-old Black woman requested that it include a definition of systemic oppression. 

From VOA News:
"The worldwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody last month in Minnesota, have resulted in a sea change in public attitudes regarding racial and social injustice.
A Civiqs poll comparing support for Black Lives Matter between April 2017 and June 2020 found a significant increase in support.  In 2017, 37% of registered voters supported BLM, while in 2020, 52% supported the movement."[2]

Thank you for your work!
Wikipedia means the world to me.

[1] What I posted on social media:
"Wikipedia is one of the loves of my life: it's proof that we can cooperate to build a better world.
It shouldn't work--a bunch of strangers writing an encyclopedia?--but it does!
(It's not perfect: Wikipedia itself warns that it's not strictly reliable, but it's a great starting point. It taught me to check my sources--there is no wholly reliable human source of knowledge.)
I've edited and written a few articles, but mostly I support it with $, which I just did.
Also, I love and respect that Wikipedia questions itself and publishes its own self-critique--what a model!

[2]  "How George Floyd's Death Has Impacted American Life", Sandra Lemaire , June 26, 2020, VOA News,

I expect fundraising communication is automated. I'll be curious to see if I get a reply and/or, even better, if the letter is changed.
Here's hoping!

Monday, October 12, 2020

"Free and Generous Eyes"

"With what kind of human beings do we want to surround ourselves for our own flourishing?
If we want to live among equals with strength and candor, among people with, as Euripedes says, 'free and generous eyes,' the understanding of trauma can form a solid basis for a science of human rights."

-- Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, Jonathan Shay (1994)

Reading Achilles in Vietnam reminded me of some of my frustrations at work:
frustrations that come from coworkers' beliefs that "there's nothing we can do" and "it's all rigged against us".
These hamstring the store's ability to make changes, to try to solve problems---even basic efforts to make sure we have enough supplies on hand (and good ones too).

I've thought before that those attitudes and approaches come from being a child in danger--in danger from poverty, violence, treachery, and any of the --isms (sex, race, religion).
You learn to live with lack and helplessness and distrust and fear and ignorance.

A lot of the traumas of the soldier in Vietnam are like the traumas of everyday life too. Often the difference is in intensity, not type of trauma.

Betrayal of trust by power-holders and experience of personal powerlessness leads to --obviously--lack of trust and disinclination to make an effort to change things.
(Like the "learned helplessness" of animals in experiments they cannot escape--they just stop trying.)

Even if the consequence of betrayal seems small (like when I realized my father would make up plausible answers rather than admit he didn't know the answer), that still rocks your world.

Some of my coworkers think everything (especially in government) is rigged--and always against them. Elections, public health (vaccines, COVID), taxes, everything.
And because plenty of things are indeed rigged against poor, powerless people, it's not hard for them to find justification for their beliefs.

They don't trust any of it, and often they don't participate. From voting in elections to holding store meetings--these things are seen as useless.

I related personally to some of the traumas in Achilles in Vietnam too. I grew up with a sometimes suicidally depressed mother. While my family had the security of money and status (my father was a political-science professor), emotionally I was always on shifting sands. In an emotional sense, loving and being attuned to my depressed mother was like walking a trail I knew was booby-trapped with emotional mines and trip-wires.

I think this is why I feel comfortable at work--despite my many frustrations!––and why I don't feel comfortable with people who think life is good and fair for everyone.

The sweet spot is to see the score--to see how unfair and dangerous life can be, to know how rigged social power is--but NOT to lose your sense of agency.
To see the score but not to dim the freedom and generosity of your eyes.

Hm. I've known a few people who managed to do that. It takes some doing. In real life--in my life--how?

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Spike in the Hills

Marz messaged from her phone this photo of Spike in the hills by the goat farm. She is 8,000 feet high. (Elevation here in Mpls is 800 feet.)

Spike loves it there--her hair matches the plant life.
Marz is doing okay. She had a bit of a rough entry as her first day included the castration of a baby pig... 

She says she's liking the sheep better than the goats. It just so happens that a drop spindle was donated to the store yesterday. I'd stashed it at my desk, thinking it was cool ancient technology.
Does Marz want it? I asked. Or can she send me wool to try to spin?
(I know raw wool is a dirty mess, but it'd be fun to try.)


Meanwhile, here, the cop who killed George Floyd was released yesterday. I biked home from work to the sound of helicopters overhead. It came to me:

We are living through events that will become answers to US History quizzes of the future.

Like how Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion, the Dred Scott Decision, and the Attack on Charles Sumner on the Senate floor are possible answers to "Name three events leading up to the US Civil War".

But what question will "The police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020" answer?

"Name an event that helped precipitate the end of systemic oppression in the United States?"

Or, "What events led to the wretchedness we live in now?"

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Now it's morning

HouseMate's son moved out last month, and the guest room is a sitting room again.

Rose Duquette, Tanya Barry, Golda, and Eeva, looking northeast


Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character is instantly gripping, and terrible. "I haven't really slept for twenty years," a US combat vet says.

A main trauma, shared with Achilles: betrayal by a leader (like Agamemnon), who does not do "what's right".
I've read or heard about that over and over, but never put it together as a war trauma.

But of course betrayal is a terrible wound in civilian life too. I felt it with a once friendly colleague who turned on me when he became a manager.
We get along well now. But I don't fully trust him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

My Evening Plans

 So pleased—this book, Achilles in Vietnam, recommended by Michael of Orange Crate Art came into the thrift store today. A psychiatrist compares Vietnam vets with soldiers in Homer’s Iliad —three things I’m interested in.  

I’ve been wanting to read it—am starting it this minute.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Wild Donkeys Sing a Smiling Song

Look where the Marzipan is! She just texted me this photo of WILD DONKEYS she saw on the way to the goat farm yesterday evening. She says it's great there.

I am so happy and relieved Marz has landed in a good place. It looked good. It sounded good. But until you're on the ground, you just can't know.

I am the donkey in the back singing a song of joy!
We are singing a donkey version of Justin Bieber's "U Smile" (2010--the song starts at 1:10).
I truly love this song: it's perfect bluesy bubble-gum. Also, Marz had a singing toothbrush that played it.

And aren't these colors  ^  gorgeous?!!
They would make a wonderful color scheme for a wool hat. 

Dark velvet brown, dusty grays, hardscrabble greens, ochre (is that juniper?), and a touch of pinky-orange from the setting sun

This looks a bit like Sicily, come to think of it--the land of my father's ancestors. 

Hm. Donkeys and horses are not indigenous to the Americas, you know. I looked it up:
Many donkeys came to the American West during the Gold Rush, and to work in mines (poor donkeys)--including Sicilian donkeys!
So maybe these are relatives...

OMG, I just found this: "U Smile" slowed down 800 percent. It's pretty great.
"Sonic cathedrals"

Short EW interview with the young man who made this, Nick Pittsinger:

"This Justin Bieber song...has a nice melody....
I was pretty sure it would yield a decent [result]. The result was amazing, totally unlike anything I’ve ever heard — and I listen to a lot of stuff. It’s mind-blowing."
(But 35 minutes of it could drive you crazy.)

African Peanut Stew

 I'm making African Peanut Stew (in my favorite pan). 

The basics are: coconut milk, sweet potatoes, ginger & garlic, and ground peanuts ("butter") (I use fresh ground, from the co-op, because I like to push the button on the grinder and see the stuff extrude)

After that, you can substitute w/ whatever you like in your fridge / garden.

African Peanut Stew 

RECIPE goes something like this

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
A 3-inch piece of ginger, grated
6 garlic cloves
Add to pot:
3 cups stock, or water
1 can coconut milk
A couple few sweet potatoes (I precooked mine in the microwave)
tomatoes, chopped—however many you have
garbanzo beans (or what have you in the way of protein)
bunch o’ greens
Cook 20 minutes or so.

Stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne
salt and black pepper
garnish with chopped cilantro, if you've got it.

I'm eating it on brown rice.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

"Resistance can take many forms."

Some Nice Things. . .

Now I have my laptop back, I will do some catch-up.

First, let me say, I got to the post office yesterday and mailed off all the remaining calendars. Media mail--they should arrive within a week.
Please let me know if you don't get yours--I have the PO tracking numbers.

Marz texted this morning from Colorado--after driving two full days, she's four hours from Albuquerque. The goat farmer will pick her up there, and then it's another four hours to the farm--off the grid in the hills.

I'm eager to get her report on––among other things-–what it's like to live with composting toilets.
One of my personal successes this year is making and using cloth toilet wipes (for pee).
I use them like paper towels too, to wipe up spills.
"Making" them involves cutting up some old T-shirts or other soft cloth. No need to hem them or anything.
 I wash them in the washing machine on hot. Easy.

Speaking of personal favorites--people turned a Metro Bus Stop into a Metro Library at the George Floyd Memorial Site (links to NYT article). It's tended to--I spent a few minutes straightening the shelves.

Many stuffed animals pay their respects:

A couple weeks ago, I biked past this quartet in the park on my way to work, about 10 a.m.:

For Crow: Marz and girlette Tanya Barry with crow sculptures at Big Stone Mini-Golf:

Following Toy Photography on Instagram, I found this great photo--do you recognize the bike (if not, I'll say in the comments)––by an artist of miniatures,
These Dream Pet reindeer (1960s, made in Japan) donated to the thrift store are going to be part of the girlettes' Christmas card this year. We are patiently waiting for it to snow...

"Resistance can take many forms...

The goats always need milking. Things always, always need doing with hands, with bodies, in the physical realm."
--from Elisa Albert's introduction  to The Farm in the Green Mountains, Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer (1949, NYRB classics 2017).
AH-Z and her family were refugees from Nazi Germany--she wrote this memoir of being first-time farmers (in Vermont) after the war.

One of my intentions for this winter's resistance: SEND PAPER MAIL. The mailbox outside DreamHaven Books briefly carried this message last month:

Write to me?

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The mountains are calling...

Marzipan left for the goat farm in New Mexico yesterday. She and her traveling companions, Spike and Tunu (the pink one), decided to drive through Colorado--longer, but more scenic than going through the panhandle of Texas. Mountains!

Besides my excitement for Marz, I felt flattened yesterday after she drove away. I retired to the couch.

I feel better today. I'll miss her terribly, but I'm thrilled for Marz and her new adventure.
My heart lifts up.

I do wish I could have joined Marz for the road trip––and then come back home. But I don't drive, and with Covid, I don't want to take long-distance public transportation. 

(Or even short distance. When I took the city bus last month, one passenger took off his mask to talk on his phone. What he said into the phone was that he was on his way to the doctor.
I got off early.)

As for WWOOFing myself, no thanks. I don't want to work with plants and animals. (Very much don't want to.)
I'm confident that it's entirely meet and right that Marz head out and I stay here.
I'm in the right place, working with people and books.

Life is an adventure, wherever you are!

Now I have my laptop back, I can write more easily again.
Also--if you've ordered a calendar and haven't gotten it yet, it's because I only mailed half of them last week (or you live in Australia, which takes ages). Apologies--I am getting the rest in the mail today.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Frederic Gives Birth

 Frederic—the potato I planted that had sprouted in the thrift store during Stay-at-Home—has given birth to four mini-spuds!