Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Auntie Vi's Italian Olive Oil Rolls

The Orphan Reds have never made bread before. They are fascinated!

We're using my Sicilian auntie's recipe for Italian Oil Rolls.

I've had this, her handwritten recipe, since I was in my twenties:

Italian Oil Rolls
Makes 1 doz.


1 pkg. dry yeast, or 1 cake compressed yeast
1 cup water (warm)
2 T sugar
1 ½ t salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg
3 to 3 ½ cups flour

  In large bowl soften yeast––sprinkle in warm water with sugar.
When yeast is soft, add salt, oil, and egg.

Gradually add flour, just enough to make soft dough.
Knead until smooth and elastic (10 min.)
Place in greased bowl, turning dough to grease surface.
Cover and set in warm spot.
Let rise until double, about 1½ to 1 3/4 hours.

Shape 12 rolls in muffin tins.
Let rise about ½ hr. to 45 min.

Bake in preheated 350º oven. about 20 min.

UPDATE: Success!

It's cold.

Long-term weather forecasts are often wrong, and I was hoping today's would be. It is a tiny bit off, but not in the right direction:
the forecast was -25ºF (-32 C).
This morning it's -28.

And it's windy. The wind chill (what the air feels like) is -50, colder than the South Pole.  At these temps,"exposed human flesh can freeze in 10 minutes", according to weather guy Mark Seeley at the UM.

Ah--here--my friend Julia caught how that looks (the dangerous cold, not the frozen flesh): this is Bde Mka Ska, the lake a couple miles from me, yesterday--from Julia's IG "happify":

Here's an interesting article (1/29/19) from scientist Jennifer Francis who studies Arctic warming, explaining "How Frigid Polar Vortex Blasts Are Connected to Global Warming".

Mz had come over Monday evening and got stranded by the quickly falling temperatures. (She lives a couple miles away, and neither of us has a car.)
Both her workplace (the food co-op) and mine closed yesterday and today for the cold, so she's hanging out here. 

Of course she could take a taxi, but I'm glad of the company.

I didn't have much food in the house, so yesterday I bundled up and went out in the mere -15 temps to get the makings for Thai chicken soup. The Asian grocery Shuang Hur is only two short blocks away.

Penny Cooper watched and waited at the window for me.

My old windows are leaky, and you can see there's frost on the outer windows, even though I put plastic over them this fall.  
This morning, they're iced up. (It's a little scary.)

I returned safely, the soup was terrific.

Thai chicken soup (tom kha gai) is easy to make. 
You make it like classic American chicken soup, you know--boil a chicken with some veg and flavorings.

In the Thai version you use lemongrass, lime leaves, and ginger, and add a can of coconut milk. Here's a recipe for Thai Chicken Soup that gives substitutions.
(I leave out the fish sauce––I don't like it.)

In the evening, I settled on the couch to do some Serious Reading. 
(My hair is not supposed to sweep forward like a Beach Boys 'do, but it tends to...)

The apartment is cold this morning--I have the oven on low for warmth. Since it's on, I might bake bread today--I've been meaning to since Sandy Miller blogged her bread recipe (on her blog Paine Falls).

It's supposed to warm up tomorrow (Thursday)... to -1.

And Saturday is supposed to be +40 F (4ºC), when  "a Pacific breeze returns with a 60-70 degree temperature jump."

Monday, January 28, 2019

My wheatgrass says, Be Still.

You know how sometimes things seem to be telling you something?

(This is a cognitive bias, of course--the universe is not trying to tell me anything. It's not trying to do anything, unless, as Neil deGrasse Tyson says, it's "trying" to kill me, i.e., work its entropy on me and spread my atoms around.) 

But anyway, psychologically it's good to listen up.
 Lately I've strung together a whole bunch of messages, all the same:
Slow down. 

☛Running for the bus and falling flat on my face.

A coworker telling me I'm "too hyper." (I don't like this coworker, who always has a sour expression, but that doesn't mean she's wrong.)

NOT taking breaks at work, even though my hand therapist advised me to.

Yesterday even the wheatgrass I drank the co-op said, BALANCE.*

And last night, Mr Boss posted a line from Exodus (14:14) on FB:

"Love will fight for you; you need only to be still.” **

I like that quote a lot. Sometimes I am approaching work as if it were a fight I need to win. If I'm going to see it that way, I could relax and let Love take it on.

But, how? What would help me do this?

I will patiently keep pondering, practicing, and inviting a bit of stillness.


* At the co-op, the woman eating a breakfast sandwich next to me commented,  “My mind says wheatgrass but my body says bacon.”

** It actually says "The Lord will fight for you", but I always cringe at that lord, lord language––I picture an unpleasant old guy in a manor, and me a serf.
So I change it to "love"--a valid swap, since 1 John says, "God is love," in the sense that God = Love; therefore Love = God. 

Right? Any logicians out there?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tiny Dancers

Army guys & one cowboy freed of weapons by me (voluntary, on their part, just to be clear);
Disco ball (tea strainer) scene by Mz

They're dancing to "He's the Greatest Dancer" by Sister Sledge.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Everything is fine.

Speaking of clear signs, this one, above, from the NBC show The Good Place is genius. It's what the characters who've just died see when they wake up in a heaven-like place. 

The genius bit is not just the sign's clarity but that it turns out the sign is not exactly entirely true.
Which, if we think about it (part of the whole idea of the show),  invites us to think  about the power of clear, punchy messages. 
"Build a Bear Wall!"

Have you seen the show?
I watched it on Netflix because it was recommended by Cocktail Party Physics––a blog by physicist and Buffy fangirl Jennifer Ouellette––in one of her recent weekly round-ups of recs.
(J.O. also posts real cocktail recipes on the sidebar.) 

The Good Place is pretty good. It's by the creator of Parks & Recreation, and has a similar sweetness.
It's like one long and slow conversation about morality and ethics conducted while eating frozen yogurt and watching something like Cheers

(I haven't actually watched more than a couple episodes of Cheers, but Ted Danson (from Cheers) is the head of the Good Place. Since I've barely seen him before, I was surprised--as you may know, he's really good.)
I recommend The Good Place. The first season lags: even at 22-minutes per episode, it should've beeen 6 episodes, not 12, but keep watching for the far, FAR SUPERIOR second season. 
As philosophy, it's lightweight and full of holes. 
As TV, it's heavy, man!
But also light--I laughed a few times, and actually remembered some of what I laughed at. E.g., Frozen yogurt: an example of humans taking something good and making it a little less good so they can have more of it.

My Big Achievement of the Week

Speaking of signs,
here's my big achievement at work: 
I put up a new sign in the bathroom yesterday. 
I've been meaning to do this for almost a year, even before I was hired. Posting this week about the unclear bathroom sign in the museum got me to finally DO it.

Ever since I started at the thrift store, our bathroom has bugged me--no one takes care of it. An extra challenge is sometimes homeless customers take mini-baths in the sink.
I'm sympathetic--they want to be clean and don't have regular bathing opportunities, BUT, you can imagine, this makes a mess!*
[Please, no comments about how homeless people should take baths in their cars or something! I'm on their side, I just wish we had a real shower for people to use.] 

First thing I did last year was hang a picture of geraniums:
But.... see those scraggly, old paper notices?

It took me 11 months before I replaced them with a notice I printed off the internet and hung in a gold frame yesterday. 
(The sign's wording is cumbersome, but I don't care--in this case I was going for the semblance of cleanliness and care.)
ONLY after I took the photo did I realize the sign's just a tiny bit crooked in the frame. 
Oh well. 
It's going to stay like that until I print another sign . . . probably in another 11 months. There're just so many other things like this that need doing at the store. 
It'll do. 
It's fine!

Everything is fine.


* I emailed my 93-y.o. auntie about the bathroom, and she emailed back:
"I try not to use public restrooms.  Sometimes it’s a necessity. 
Not too long ago I went into Walgreens restroom. A woman was shampooing her very long hair.
At least she was trying to keep clean. She looked at me rather sheepishly.
I commented to her, 'I bet that feels good'.

Friday, January 25, 2019


Fun! Michael at Orange Crate Art accepted my invitation to rewrite for clarity the clunky signs I posted yesterday

More, he wrote a whole post about the signs' language in his How to Improve Writing series "dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose". 

About the YMCA sign, "We serve relentlessly with our community until all can thrive in each stage of life", he points out:
"Eight of the fifteen words in the original sentence form prepositional phrases. That’s why the sentence sounds so ponderous." 
Read his post, "How to improve writing (no. 79)", here:

My rewrites and thoughts are in the comments to his post.

How to Talk to People You Disagree With

I've been intrigued with the way Megan Phelps-Roper left the Westboro Baptist Church (the "God Hates Fags" people) she grew up in, ever since I read her story in the New Yorker,
"Conversion via Twitter":
it was through DIALOGUE ON TWITTER!

Who knew such a thing could happen?

Well, I did, because it's happened to me--rarely, but genuinely, on my blog--a respectful conversation with a person I totally disagreed with. We ended up becoming friends.

So, just last night, I was happy to see MP-R gave a TED talk in 2017--I'd totally missed it.

Naturally she thinks it's a good idea to discuss things with people you (sometimes vehemently) disagree with.
Here are her four placard-sized tips for doing that. She says, "they're simple, but they're hard."
Lucky me, I can practice these at committee meetings!

This is the full talk:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Wonky Rescue Doll

A doll I rescued from a trash barrel at work.

I think it's very cool. It looks like the arts & crafts I saw people living with dementia making when I was working in Memory Care. (A post about that: "Pieces of a Smashed-Up Life"). 

I like things that show imagination working despite, or even because of, limitations and damage.

wonky: crooked, off-center, askew, unsteady, shaky...
Cognate with Scots wankle (“wonky”), Dutch wankel (“shaky”), German Wankelmut (“fickleness, inconstancy, vacillation”), Danish vanke (“to wander”).  

Signs, Clear and Not Clear

UPDATE: Michael's rewritten signs are here, and mine are in the comments to this post:

1. This old sign, below, hand-painted on a shop window near my bus stop, is easy to understand.

Hm. It's clear to me, that is, but it does use regional language: this part of the USA calls a sweet carbonated drink "pop". (Here's a map of Pop vs. Soda.)
And chips are not French fries.

I love the bullet points.

(Only if I think about it is this ^ list funny: Are these the ingredients of a healthy diet?)

2. I knew at a glance what this sign, below, was trying to say, given the word "syringe" and context: it's mounted in a bathroom stall.
It's at the Mia Art Museum (a few blocks from my house, the other direction from the Groceries store), which explains the language.

An attempt at gentility? 
"The management is sure you are administering medicine, not shooting up."

But if I didn't already know what the sign meant, it'd take a little work to figure out the language.

☛ Anyone want to rewrite this sign (and the one below it) for clarity?

(It would be a good candidate for Michael of Orange Crate Art's  How to Improve Writing series.)

3. This wall sign is at the top of a flight of stairs leading to a new (2018), state-of-the-art YMCA.
Again, I know what they're trying to say (I think...), but in this case, if I didn't already know--say, I was an alien, or simply an Earthling who is not a native English speaker––would I be able to figure this out?

I'm guessing some committee was trying to adapt the cliché "to strive relentlessly" to fit the nonprofit YM's mission and came up with "to serve relentlessly".
I don't think it works very well, and the tense is off, anyway.

I just joined this YMCA, (because my p.t., Captain Doctor, told me to join a gym if I want an active old age), and, signs aside, it's fabulous!

There's a wind-chill advisory today. Right now, at midday, the cold wind makes 4°F feel like -18 (-7ºC). But I'm warm because I just had a swim and a whirlpool, and now I'm sitting in a coffeeshop in the atrium of the building that houses the Y. 

That's the sign for the new YMCA, hanging to the right. 
The walkways above, with white metal railings, are part of the Y itself--you can see people in workout clothes.
Many people are walking around without coats because we're in a hamster trail called the Skyway that connects buildings in central downtown.

So, yeah, the YM is fabulous––friendly, clean (no mildew!), and warm. I'm encouraged to try, try AGAIN to get and stay in better shape. My job has made me stronger, but it also reminds me of a car junkyard: lots of crunching and flattening going on, and no yoga at all. 

But the YM's names and signs! Some are just funny, but others are annoying in their lack of usefulness. Exercise rooms are named for concepts, not location. How do I find the Fitscape, Harmony, Powerhouse "studio spaces" where I can enjoy a "fitness experience"?

Perhaps if I can find the Equity Innovation Center, they could tell me.

P.S. I'm not saying that clearer is always better, 
or that language has gotten worse (or better).
Clarity is not a moral issue, in and of itself.

After all, this sign is elegant and perfectly clear:

Monday, January 21, 2019

Dream On

Plaque at the site of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's assassination--the words spoken by the brothers of Jospeh (of the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat):
"Here cometh the dreamer... Let us slay him,
And we shall see what will become of his dreams."
--Genesis 37: 19-20

What becomes of Joseph's dreams is that the actions of his brothers lead to them coming true.

Today I posted this on the store's FB for MLK Day, and Big Boss commented:

One of the amazing things about Joseph's story was his ability to forgive his brothers and see God's providence in his situation. 
Here are the words Joseph spoke to his brothers:

"You intended to harm me, but God intended (used) it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Genesis 50:20 New International Version (NIV)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Report

A friend who works in a natural health store says,
"Everybody wants more energy, everyone wants better sleep and better sex, but nobody wants to drink more water."

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Bit of Oz

I'm nowhere near starting Infinite Jest as I'm only halfway through the puny-sized (a mere 538 pages) Tale of Love and Darkness, the autobiography of Amos Oz. [Guardian obit, Dec. 2018]

Oz weaves two stories together--the story of his mismatched parents, which is familiar (his mother committed suicide, like my mother), and the story of the Jewish people who moved to Palestine to found the nation of Israel, whose perspective I'd barely ever considered––and is not what I expected.
 Amos Oz (b. 1939, Jerusalem) with parents Fania and Yehuda Arye Klausner

Reading about the Jewish emigrants reminds me of reading the novel The Sorrow of War, by writer Bao Ninh, who had been a North Vietnamese soldier in the Vietnam War––because I'd never thought about their stories before. And yet, of course, they're human, so they are recognizable...

But I'd simply never considered, for instance, that women––girls––were NVA soldiers too.
Kien looked at her more closely. "How old are you?"

"Nearly twenty. I joined when I was eighteen," she said. "But I'm still not used to it."

"No one gets used to it," he said, grinding his cigarette into the ground.

"The only people we were not too afraid of were the Germans." 

The section of Love & Darkness where Amos Oz's aunt, his dead mother's sister, remembers growing up in eastern Europe in the 1920s has a surprising twist––not just politically, but experientially––church bells that I hear as beautiful and in some ways mine are "those scary bells of theirs". The history  is frighteningly familiar: 
in times of chaos people are attracted to strong leaders who impose order, thinking they will save them--the people sometimes even choose to elect these strongmen (Hitler, Pinochet...).

Oz's aunt tells him:
You who were born here in Israel can never understand how this constant drip-drip [of social humiliation] distorts all your feelings, how it corrodes your human dignity like rust. 
But most of all [we] dreaded the mobs. ..."They're sharpening their knives for us in the dark," people said, and they never said who, because it could be any of them. The mobs. Even here in Israel, it turns out, Jewish mobs can be a bit of a monster.

The only people we were not too afraid of were the Germans.
I can remember in 1934 or 1935––I'd stayed behind to finish my nursing training when the rest of the family had left [to Palestine]––there were quite a few Jews who said if only Hitler would come, at least in Germany there's law and order and everyone knows his place, it doesn't matter so much what Hitler says, what matters is over there in Germany he imposes German order and the mob is terrified of him.
What matters is that in Hitler's Germany there is no rioting in the streets and they don't have anarchy ––we still thought then that anarchy was the worst state.

Our nightmare was that one day the priests would start preaching that the blood of Jesus was flowing again, because of the Jews, and they would start to ring those scary bells of theirs and the peasants would hear and fill their bellies with schnapps and pick up their axes and pitchforks, that's the way it always began.

Nobody imagined what was really in store, but already in the 1920s almost everyone knew deep down that there was no future for the Jews... anywhere in Eastern Europe...

{end quote}
We are often afraid of the wrong things––or, rather (it's all dangerous), we think the wrong things will protect us.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Slowly, slowly, to the panaderia...

I'm leaving in ten minutes for a COMMITTEE MEETING.
My intention is to stay calm & detached. (Wanna bet?)

Yesterday evening, running for the bus, I tripped on a sidewalk crack and the next thing I knew, my eyeglasses were hitting pavement--with my face in them.
Scary! But --whew! nothing broken--just a swollen knee and a sore wrist this morning. I guess when we evolved to walk upright, we also evolved to fall in a way that protects us...?

Again a reminder ---again!---to SLOW DOWN!

This morning, here's a photo collage (from yesterday morning) of my local Mexican bakery (panaderia)--two blocks away.
The treats are dry, and not very sweet, compared to US bakery goods--I like them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Imperfect, impermanent, im___ "

Post-It note on Graham Greene paperback donated to the thrift store:

"Doubt, eros, melancholy
Imperfect, impermanent, im     
Self-same + lucid + autonomous"

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


I'm always mentioning the Hidden Brain podcast--it's about the brain science of human behavior and does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man.
(Actually, that's beer, you know--(no, "malt"! (ale))--but neuroscience does peel back layers of what seems to be ineffable mystery, and says--a-ha! here's the (or, a) mechanism at work.)

This week's episode is maybe my favorite yet--it's on laughter.

To listen, click "play" arrow in blue circle to left on this page:

Laughter: "A pure example of contagious behavior", says Sophie Scott, who studies the neuroscience of laughter at University College London.

Can you to listen to the two BBC broadcasters––starts at 10:20––breaking up on the air and not laugh?
I was gasping.

Elaine May and Mike Nichols:

Worlds at Work

Top row, below: I set up a selection of books with boats at the thrift store.
Sometimes I save books to display, but it's more common that I notice several books (from different donors) have the same theme, like these, and I group them together.

I'm so happy that only one book has a price sticker: the new flat-pricing is already saving me time. Signs read:
Paperbacks 99¢ ea.

Hardbacks $1.99 ea.

But again, I was caught out making an assumption.
(I like when that happens--it's a little trip out of my world-view!)

The cashiers have to recognize paper- and hardbacks, to charge correctly, and the lead cashier, from Eritrea, told me she was confused by the difference.

I was trying to explain it by talking about materials, but that quickly got tricky. Bibles, for instance, may be soft-backed but made of leather....
(How would you explain the difference between a cat and a dog, by looks alone?)

So I took a paperback and bent it back and forth.
"If you can bend it, it's a paperback."

"I'll tell the others," she said. 

Easy. Someone might get a Bible bound in bendy calf for 99 cents, but so what? 

Then I felt I could ask her a question. I try to rein in my interviewing impulses at work--asking questions can be a touchy thing when you don't know the cultural rules.

"What kind of desserts do you have in Eritrea?" I asked.
I was picturing something like baklava.

"Cakes!" she said. "Italian cakes and pastries. So good!"

Eritrea used to be an Italian colony, you know. My coworker's African father was an Italian teacher. When she was growing up, however, the country was desperately poor. Still is.

I found this colonial-era gas station in a Guardian article, "Africa’s ‘Little Rome’, the Eritrean city frozen in time by war and secrecy".
(Reminds me of those wonderful Ed Ruscha prints of gas stations--I'd posted one once.)

"Sitting on the edge of a roundabout in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea and the centre of Italy’s former African empire, the Fiat Tagliero service station is a glorious sight: art deco lettering spells out its name in both Italian and Amharic in a font worthy of a Fellini film poster, while two 30-metre concrete wings soar across the former garage forecourt below, mimicking an aeroplane."

Anyway, I still price special books individually.
Yesterday I was excited to open a worn book, from 1901, about family medicine and find color plates inside. 
Each layer lifts up to reveal the anatomical layer below. What do you call these?

Huh. "Lift-the-flap anatomy illustrations" [links to exhibit]. Very technical, eh?
Posters of such have a fancier name, "anatomical fugitive sheets": see an interactive one at Duke.
Gotta love the internet!

A Bit of Minnesota

Inspired by Steve's daily photos out of London on his blog Shadows & Light, and now that I have an iPhone, I thought I'd try to catch some of my city. I usually take close-up photos of things, so I want to pull back and show the surroundings.

Last night, biking home down the Greenway bike & walk path in the dark (it was a fairly warm 30ºF / -1ºC), I stopped to shoot a kids' hockey game through the chain link fence.
Not very good photos, but I like how the coach calls the kids together for a huddle, and then they fly away, like pigeons. 

What the photos can't capture is the sound of skates on ice--a friendly sound I heard every winter growing up, skating on the lake or at city parks.

This isn't a city park: organized soccer games are held in this field in the summer, sponsored––you can see their signs––by big businesses.
It's fairly rare to see kids playing old-fashioned baseball these days, but winter sports remain the same. 
Hockey's an expensive game though--you need a lot of gear--and this is a well-maintained ice rink. People do play pick-up games on the nearby lakes--the city shovels rinks on the ice--all you need is skates and a stick.

Or, come to think of it, you don't even need those things--people play broomball in their winter boots, with kitchen brooms to guide the ball on the ice. 
They bring their own shovels to clear the lake ice of snow--though you can see by the patches of grass in the top photo, we've had weirdly little snow this year.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Vanilla, BOOM

If I were a novelist writing about the end of the carbon-fueled era, I would open with someone going to buy a bottle of vanilla extract.

"You'll have to break the bank," the clerk says.

This happened to me last week. 

You've maybe seen vanilla prices have skyrocketed? 
Four ounces for $25 (at Penzey's, which isn't the cheapest, but still, that's double the usual price). I only bought it because I had a Christmas gift card.

I looked it up, and the "culprits" are consumers demanding natural flavorings, and... 
surprise, surprise,
climate change, or "extreme climate events" --cyclones hitting Madagascar.

{How did vanilla ever get the reputation as boring, when it's the bean of a tropical orchid? 
How exotic can you get?
I haven't looked this up.
Maybe it's because it doesn't impart color to ice cream, unlike chocolate or strawberry?}

It's hard to stand outside our times, don't you think? and get perspective on historical turning points as they happen. 

There are a million little things that ripple outward from huge events (the HIV/AIDS virus, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina), and a million mini-manifestations of massive but slow changes--manifestations such as the price of vanilla. Which ones are key? Hard to say until after the fact, eh?

Meanwhile, unless we're hit full on, we absorb the aftershocks, which is a good thing for our sanity!

Do worlds end, boom! just like that?

Probably mostly they fall like Rome: it wasn't built in a day, and it didn't fall in a day either.

I was thinking about this, reading Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure, the memoir of Langdon Gilkey of his time (1943–1945) as a young American man imprisoned by the Japanese in a civilian prison camp in northern China.

It's not a horror story of brutal treatment, like Unbroken--mostly the Japanese left the prisoners alone to govern themselves.
"Our problems were created more by our own behavior," Gilkey wrote, "than by our Japanese captors."

So it's really a meditation on human society. Mostly people adjusted pretty quickly to the new "normal," as people do.
That's all very interesting, but I'm mentioning the book here because of something that happens at the end. 

Gilkey and the others––1/3rd Americans, 2/3 British––had no news about what was happening during the war. 
When the war ends, the freed prisoners can't go home right away, so they all stay in camp as the British and US armies prepare to send them on their way. 
But not necessarily back "home."

Gilkey writes (p. 221):
On a chilly gray day in mid-September, some four weeks after our rescue, a British colonel showed up to address the British subjects. His purpose was to tell them with all possible candor ... the reality they now had to face.
"In the three years since you left, [the colonel said] ... your small businesses... have been almost destroyed beyond repair. Everything that has not been shattered, has passed into Chinese hands. There is little or no hope of reparations with which to get started again.

"Above all, I must say to you with all the force and authority at my command, that the days of 'colonial life' in Asia are over.

"Those of you whose roots lie in China alone had best resign yourselves to the loss of the old life. An era has ended, and with it has ended your own past lives.
I'm sorry, but these are the facts."
Gilkey goes on to reflect that while it doesn't usually happen--BOOM--just like that, it's normal in human history that eras and empires and ways of life end.

It's also normal––and my favorite podcast, Hidden Brain, talks about this too––that we humans are programmed to ignore or adjust to shocks. 
Unless, of course, they come too hard and too fast.

Vanilla prices, I can absorb.

But I'm adding to my imaginary future-world, in which I sit around a campfire with other survivors of climate disaster (or whatever) and list things we miss:

Hot running water!


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ten Years Ago

A game is going around Facebook: 
post side-by-side pictures of yourself from 2009 and 2019.
Some call this the Ten Year Challenge, some, the How-Hard-Did-Age-Hit-You? Challenge.

I think this is FB at its worst, as it invites people to silently crow about how they still look the same or (more commonly?) to publicly flagellate themselves for having gained weight or whatever.

I'm not sure why people willingly do this to themselves. Any attention is better than none?

I do love time lapse photography, however, and Before & After shots, and scavenger hunts, and show and tell, so I looked at my January posts ten years ago, here on my blog for a Compare & Contrast.

Among other things, almost exactly ten years ago I'd made a last-minute motivational macro of Captain Kirk for my online 2009 Star Trek calendar:

(The quote is from a version of the King Lear story--"I love you as fresh meat loves salt".
The screencap is from the 1966 episode "Charlie X" (the one with Robert Walker Jr.), from the amazing archive. 
Fans (some) call the light across Shatner's eyes Kirk Light.)

I was blogging a lot (a lot!) about Star Trek: The Original Series in 2009.  I hardly do anymore, but as it happens, yesterday I'd bought 57 Star Trek VHS tapes (for $25) at a thrift store (not mine) with the intention of cutting up the covers, with their soft printed photos, to collage the old fashioned way, with scissors and glue.

After years of smooth digital images, I extra-appreciate the nicks and ridges of handmade collage. 

I made my first one this afternoon:

(William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) is Canadian, you know. 
Pop Quiz: Can anyone name the ST episode?)

I'd saved the cookbook because the fish dishes on the cover, before I cut them out, looked like Wayne Theidbaud's paintings of cake

I did post these Kirks side-by-side on FB: "From Digital Meat to Paper Fish".

I'm happy that I am, in this way Kirky way anyway, the same as I was ten years ago. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Becoming a Book (+ Camels, and Whipped Cream)

I. "When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book." --Amos Oz

I haven't started Infinite Jest yet because I'm caught up in Amos Oz's autobiography, A Tale of Love and Darkness (2003).

I happened to pick the book up in a Little Free Library the other day (because I don't see enough books at work?), not realizing Oz just died at the end of December, 2018.

You've maybe seen the debates about Marie Kondo, queen of decluttering, advising people to get rid of their book clutter?

I figure if you feel your books are clutter, you might benefit from clearing them out. (I did at one time, and it was liberating, but now I love having lots of books around).
On the store's FB, yesterday I invited people who are KonMariing their books to donate them to us:

[link to the Guardian article

With that in the back of my mind, last night I dog-eared the page where Oz writes about growing up, a Jewish boy born in 1939 in Jerusalem, with books.

Here's the first paragraph of that section (p. 23 of the Harcourt paperback):
"The one thing we had plenty of was books. They were everywhere: from wall to laden wall, in the passage and the kitchen and the entrance and on every windowsill. Thousands of books, in every corner of the apartment.
I had the feeling that people might come and go, be born and die, but books went on for ever.

When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book. Not a writer. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either.
But not books: however systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf life in some corner of an out-of-the-way library somewhere, in Reykjavik, Vallodolid, or Vancouver."
Ib. . . . According to Peanuts:
(And the library lends e-book and audio books too!)

II. Time + Effort

Speaking of books, ta-da! 
A couple days ago, I posted the new, uniform book prices in the thrift store.  >

I let the cashiers know, and then I started putting out books with NO PRICE STICKERS!

It was immediately evident how much time this saves.
A lot.

I still have to clean cobwebs and kitty litter off some of the donated books (and throw out the fuzzy ones, and recycle the bestsellers from the '80s), but others I can just grab and shelve. 

After fifty-some years with books, I can judge them by their covers, quite often.  That's something Big Boss doesn't seem to get, when he pushes for me to train my coworkers to help--that it takes a long time to learn books, and if you don't love them, it'd be tedious work.

Overseeing uninterested workers is pointless, if the goal is both to create a good book store and to save time and effort.

II. Camel Management

Big Boss is always saying to me, "God will provide."

And I'm always replying, "OK, but as the prophet Mohammed said,
Trust in God, but tie up your camel."

[DIGRESSION: I do love Ishtar! I'm with Richard Brody, who wrote, in the article "Elaine May Talks About Ishtar" --New Yorker, 2016, "
There’s a level of invention, a depth of reflection, and a tangle of emotions in “Ishtar” which are reached by few films and few filmmakers."]

So, yesterday I was a little annoyed with this character, God, because it felt like God took Big Boss's side:
I walked in the store, and a young woman came up to me and said, "I'm here to volunteer with you."

I could quickly tell she––I'll call her Akiko––was an answer to Big Boss's prayers, which I'm guessing go something like, 
"Please God, please send someone good to help our book lady, so we stop butting heads."

But, on the other hand, I had tied up my camel.
I asked Akiko how she thought to volunteer. 
She looked a little puzzled and said, "You asked me!"

Ha! Right. 
I remembered then that I'd seen and chatted with her and her boyfriend in the books section a couple times. I'm always telling customers who express interest in the store that they can volunteer. "You get 25% off!"
But, as I told Akiko, no one has yet taken me up on that.

III. The Cat That Got the Cream

Fingers crossed, Akiko really does seem like a wish come true. 

Like me, she has a touch of obsession––she even used that word––about putting media in order. (Once I found myself alphabetizing the Criterion collection of videos in a video store.) 

And, unlike me, she is a music person. She seemed attracted to the mess of our records shelves--a real no-man's land where my coworkers dump LPs and run away.
As media, the records are under my purview, but I never do a thing with them. Neither did my predecessor, nor anyone else.  

I know record collectors, however, have culled anything valuable from our shelves, because I've talked to a couple of them––one when he was standing in the check-out line with a single record--a pristine copy of the Rolling Stone's Sticky Fingers, the one with the Andy Warhol cover with a working crotch zipper.

"Is that a good find?" I asked, figuring it was. 

For 25¢, he said, it was, indeed, a good find.

After I'd taken some time getting to know Akiko, I asked where she'd like to start, and she chose the record shelves.
In a couple hours, she had piles of covers with no LPs inside; LPs with no covers; horribly scratched LPs (a lot); and the rest she had re-shelved by type:
Xmas music, musicals, folk, etc. 

Even I could tell they were mostly the equivalent of the bestselling paperback books I recycle. Olivia Newton John, The Sound of Music, recordings of Jr. High School bands... Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass got practically a whole milk-crate of its own. But no "Whipped Cream", alas. 

Have you noticed the Kirk photoshop bink did in 2009 (ten years ago!), at my request, on my sidebar here? [Not sure if it shows up on all devices.]

The contrast between Akiko's work and the work of coworkers who don't want to be working with books and media (the few times I've asked them for help) was HUGE. It pays off to work on things you love, and with people who love them too, if you can.

I asked Akiko how the shift had gone for her. 

"I'm hooked," she said.

tl;dr: I love books.

Hand Mobility Exercises

The Crow asked: here are the exercises my hand therapist gave me to strengthen my overworked hands. (I don't have carpal tunnel.)
For me, she recommended doing them 10 times each, 3 times a day.

KEY: "They should be done slowly and deliberately," and only to the point where they are comfortable. 
Don't force your fingers into a fist, or force your wrist to bend!

You can see them more clearly here (where I screencapped this):

Friday, January 11, 2019


I went to see the hand therapist yesterday---I've been straining my hands by lifting too many books at once, over and over. 
"Don't do that," the O.T. advised.

She gave me four gentle hand exercises to do, such as simply curling my fingers into a loose fist 10 times, 3 x/day.
Also she told me to stop the "violent" stretches I've been doing, trying to loosen my stiff fingers.

"Forcing your hand traumatizes the tendons," she told me. "The idea is to improve the tendons' ability to glide".  

I've always been a bit of a bruiser.
When I was a toddler, I used to stand up in my crib, hold onto the bars, and hop it across the room, according to my mother.
But at midlife, at this job, pushing hard is a recipe for injury.
 I need to slow down and . . . glide.

You know who's pretty glide-y?

He never forces things---he lets them unfold, and he's there to notice. He's the opposite of Starsky & Hutch, who literally crash into things.

Mz gave me this photo of Columbo kneeling at a crime scene, (below, top right), for Xmas, to take to work to remind me to SLOW DOWN. 
He joins on my work-desk pictures of characters I've found on the job.

From L to R: in yellow frame, a book cover illustration of Spock carrying Kirk; 
postcard of Chet Baker; 
Welsh doctor (in cap) Hugh Owen Thomas, inventor of the Thomas splint, and his nephew--obscuring a poster of Captain America looking sad in the rain (falling rubble);
and, to the right of Columbo, the tip of a Reading Rainbow poster (I've put the whole thing below this photo).

This is the Star Trek:TNG character Geordi LaForge (he's blind and his high-tech visor allows him to see)--his actor, Levar Burton, was the host of Reading Rainbow.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Bear Repair, On the Spot

UPDATE: Here's the bear, refreshed.
Mr Furniture took my photo at work yesterday, on my request--I wanted to show how I got covered in sticky, old, plastic-pellet, stuffed-animal stuffing--can you see the little white spots all over me?
You can see my working conditions too--this is the donations area at work--note the uninsulated rafters.

I was de-stuffing this 1960s bear, which had been donated by its original owner--she was practically weeping when she handed him to me. I asked her if she was sure she wanted to give him away, but she said yes.

I put him out for $1.99, and he didn't sell within a couple weeks--the time during which a desirable item is almost sure to sell. Since he'd been entrusted to me, I couldn't throw him out, so I'll see what I can do.
First thing, get rid of the deteriorated, clumped stuffing that made him not nice to hug.

Yesterday three of my coworkers and I went on a field trip (my idea) to the new incarnation of Steeple People Thrift Store, where I used to volunteer. Its old building had been sold out from under it, and it took the opportunity to re-tool and re-fresh.

The first thing I noticed was CLEAN FLOORS. 
Our store is a pit. I knew that, but seeing the contrast...
 One of our volunteers is a guy who is a flight attendant.  He visits thrift stores everywhere he goes and ours, he told me, is the dirtiest.

My coworkers on the fieldtrip were blown away. One of them went back to the store and immediately redesigned our underwear section.
It had been an unsorted mix of men's and women's underwear, with socks, bras, boxer shorts, panties, even swimming suits all in one huge jumble.

And I went back and made a plea to my boss that we adopt the book-pricing system SP and most thrift stores use:
one price for paperbacks, one for hardbacks, and call it a day.

I said it would free me up to work on other things, like vintage.
As it is, I price each book individually, which is a waste of time.

Big Boss has always said he doesn't like uniform pricing, but for some reason, yesterday he said, OK, let's try it.

Then he repeated a suggestion he's made before--that I train other staff in to help me.
And I said again, I don't see WHO I could train. 

Many people have told me they don't read (including Big Boss), and even that they hate to read, and I suspect some barely can read.
I truly don't see what I could train nonreaders to do that would free up much time. Also, I don't like asking people to do things they have said they don't like.
I think cutting out price tags will free up enough of my time.