Monday, November 30, 2009

Poem for November: Autumn, by Thomas Nashe


Thomas Nashe

Autumn hath all the summer's fruitful treasure ;
Gone is our sport, fled is poor Croydon's pleasure.
Short days, sharp days, long nights come on apace,—
Ah, who shall hide us from the winter's face?
Cold doth increase, the sickness will not cease,
And here we lie, God knows, with little ease.
From winter, plague, and pestilence, good Lord deliver us!

London doth mourn, Lambeth is quite forlorn ;
Trades cry, Woe worth that ever they were born.
The want of term is town and city's harm ;
Close chambers we do want to keep us warm.
Long banished must we live from our friends ;
This low-built house will bring us to our ends.
From winter, plague, and pestilence, good Lord deliver us!

I'm not so much a fan of winter. I memorized this poem simply so I could declaim the last line in each stanza on particularly nasty days.

This was somewhat challenging to memorize, mostly because I wasn't sure what some of the references were. Because I memorize while walking, I tended to forget to look up "Croydon" (now a commercial center south of London) and "Lambeth" (a district of South London) and see what they were. For difficult lines I tend to associate words with a picture in my mind. This is very hard to do when you don't have any idea what the poet is talking about. And "want of term" what does that mean? Ah! I've just googled it and found a link with a website that tells me. It means "lack of an end" which makes sense now. It also helpfully decodes Croydon and Lambeth. Thanks, Poets Corner!

Books read in November

I only read three books this month! Three! I started a bunch over Thanksgiving, though and so December will have more books. Also, alas, the books I read weren't very good this month.

Little Earthquakes
Jennifer Weiner
This suffers a bit from some of the characters being just a bit too much. The control freak was just a bit too controlling, the mother-in-law from hell was just a bit too hellish, the depressed one was too depressed. It distracted from the story. Though I probably won't remember much about this book in five years, the characterizations of early motherhood were nicely done and I enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout the book.

The Elements of Style
Wendy Wasserstein
Oh, how I detested this book. This was disappointing, as I enjoy Wasserstein's plays, and was hoping that this book would recapture some of that magic. It didn't. Stuffed full of entirely unlikeable, incredibly wealthy Manhattenites, who attempt to navigate their very privileged lives in a post-9/11 world. I could care less about them, their "problems" and their entirely vapid hopes. I only finished reading this novel because it was the only thing in the house and it was slightly more exciting than the back of soup cans. Not recommended.

Revive: How to overcome fatigue naturally
Jill Thomas
I attempt to combat my seemingly unending fatigue by reading this book and another one. This was the far superior version. Not surprisingly, I need to eat more vegetables and fruit as well as up my fiber intake in general and recommit to regular exercise. The inexplicable red font was a bit distracting, but other than that, the quiet helpful and succinct tone of this manual was just what the Naturopath ordered.

Started but did not finish

Honey in the Horn
H.L. Davis
Oh, how I want to be the type of reader who actually reads classic literature. This isn't even very old. My Grandmother was in her 20's when this won the Pulitzer Prize. It's set in frontier Oregon, the narrative is a strong one. I just couldn't force my lazy reading self to keep on keeping on. Alas. If you are made of sterner stuff than me, enjoy.

The Exhaustion Cure: up your energy from low to go in 21 days.
Laura Stack
This did not speak to me as much as Jill Thomas' Revive, though people not familiar with Naturopathy might be more comfortable with it. Includes quizzes, but also a lot of product placement, which I ultimately found distracting.

Lapham Rising: a novel
Roger Rosenblatt
There's good quirky (Wonderboys) and then there is a bit too quirky. This fits into the latter category. The sculpture of the ex-wife sitting at the kitchen table; the bazillionare's mansion being built across the street with a device that air conditions the entire property; the skinny-dipping Realtor; the dog that actually speaks? It was just too much.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--The Sting

The long-setup-for-big-swindle is a favorite movie sub-genre of mine (see: Oceans 11, 12, 13, The Italian Job, etc.). This was fun and engrossing with just the right amount of tension. The stars are easy on the eyes, too.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Lilies of the Field.

I watched this movie with my mother when I was quite small and have had the "A-men" song in my head ever since. Re-viewing it, I was happy to find that it is an amusing movie that is amazingly free of racist content (Breakfast at Tiffany's, I'm talking to you.) It might be a little slow for children today, but would be a good choice for a multi-generational family gathering.

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Since I'm not really making time to write for this blog, you can read this response I wrote to the article "Miserly Manor" by Dylan Rivera, published on 11/27/09

The original article is here (for a time, I would imagine.)

Dear Mr. Rivera,

Two phrases stuck out in your article about the so-called “green” house built by Scott Lewis. The first: “The current house has a dining room and living room separated from the kitchen and family room—extra space that isn’t necessary.” However, earlier in the article the house’s size is given at “nearly 4,000 square feet” which sounds to me like a tremendous amount of extra space not really necessary for a family of five.

The second phrase: “Lewis demolished a small mid century house from the site.” Both of these statements gloss over the troublesome American obsession with destroying (instead of retrofitting, or remodeling) what is already there and putting a much larger home in its place. I would argue that building a house that gives each person in the family 800 square feet (a size that, once upon a time, was not an unusual size for a home for a whole family, not one individual in the family) is not a green practice. Small houses are easier to heat, take fewer resources to furnish and probably strengthen family ties by increasing proximity. Could Lewis have retrofitted the existing house in such a manner? We will never know.

The vast majority of your readers will not have an opportunity to build a 4,000 square foot house, green or no. Scott Lewis felt his previous house was a source of “inner turmoil” because it didn’t use materials that are local or energy efficient. I believe that His uber-expensive, super efficient house is just a super efficient McMansion, and doesn’t really fit his green aesthetic.


Patricia Collins

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mom's House

"You should take a picture of the front of my house so I can enter it in this house redo contest." My mother said when I was over for Thanksgiving preparations. I did. But then I never sent her the pictures. But here they are here.

Thanksgiving Rolls

So I need to confess my "thing" about Thanksgiving Rolls. I love dinner rolls. A nice hot, flaky dinner roll made with white flour and topped with melting butter is one of my favorite food things in the world. I rarely have dinner rolls. The yeast, the rising, the this, the that. They take forever to make and I'm a busy person. But at Thanksgiving, there HAS to be dinner rolls. Not Rhodes Bake-N-Serv rolls. Actual scratch-made dinner rolls. Usually I volunteer to do this. And I make some good rolls. Except that one year I forgot to plan out my baking schedule and it turned out I didn't have time to make rolls. That year we had cornbread biscuits. Those were okay, but not the transcendent dinner roll experience I was looking forward to.

So this year I'm informed that my Mom's friend Linda was coming to Thanksgiving. Yay! We like Linda. Then my mother tells me that Linda will bring the rolls.
"Wait." I said, instantly suspicious, "does she know about the importance of Thanksgiving rolls?"
"Oh, yes." My mother replies.
"But," I continued, not believing her, "does she understand that they have to be from scratch?"
"She said she was bringing rolls. She has the perfect recipe."
"But there are a lot of kinds of rolls. Does she know how to make them from scratch? They aren't going to be Rhodes Rolls, are they?"
"Oh no," my mother assures me, "Linda can cook. She's a good cook. "
I am not convinced.

I arrive at my mothers house Thanksgiving morning to find Linda working on her rolls. At the time, she was heating butter and coloring it pink. When I asked why, she showed me the mold. She was making pink doves out of butter. I tried to integrate pink doves into my flaky, fresh baked from scratch dinner roll concept. It sort of works. A little. I guess.

"So tell me more about the rolls," I say in a casual, no big deal manner.
"Well, it actually was kind of a pain," Linda begins her story. My mother chimes in intermittently. It seems that the store (store!) was out of the kind of rolls (rolls!) the recipe calls for. They had to go to three different stores before they gave up.
"What exactly were you looking for?" I asked. My vision of Thanksgiving rolls--even ones with pink doves of butter melting on them--began to fade. Memory doesn't serve as to the exact answer, but it seems that Pillsbury or some other manufacturer does not make the exact kind of refrigerated (!) rolls specified by the recipe. They eventually gave up and bought another kind of refrigerated rolls.

While half watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and then the incredibly boring Dog Show, I keep an eye on roll preparation going on in the kitchen. The sheets of refrigerated rolls are being cut into strips. Linda is arranging them on a baking sheet. There are green sprinkles appearing?

"What are those for?" I ask, unable to let the green sprinkles go by without comment.
"The rolls." Linda answers. As if green sprinkles are often paired with rolls. Although they do seem to go with pink doves of butter. At this point I'd resigned myself to the Thanksgiving rolls I'm getting, not the ones I want and I amble over to see what Linda has created.
"So what exactly are you making?"
Linda explains. "See, the rolls get shaped into a tree, and then I put the sprinkles on and a little star at the top and then, after I bake them, I put the doves in the tree."

And lo, she did.

"What are these?" Chris asked as they were coming around the table. He'd been over at Aunt Pat's all day, and missed the initial roll preparation. Linda explained all about the rolls.
"Would you like one?" she asked.
"Well, they are interesting..." Chris trailed off, but took one. I think he might have a thing about Thanksgiving rolls too.

I took one. And ate it. And ate another. Not bad.
I enjoy having guests at our holiday tables because they always bring new directions of conversation and new things for us to enjoy. I hope Linda comes again for Thanksgiving. However, next year? I'm bringing the rolls.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--The Simpsons Movie.

Unlike some TV shows with full length feature films *cough* X-Files *cough,* this translated nicely to the movie screen, though I was watching it at home for free, so it wasn't that much different from television. The Simpson's team has honed their game to an art form and there were many delightful moments including Lisa's cute boy interest explaining that though he was from Ireland and his dad is a musician, he wasn't Bono. I laughed out loud several times, which is a rarity for me when watching comedies alone at home.

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It's been several decades since the 70s

However this gentleman has apparently not gotten the message. Those familiar with the cruder--and less generous--side of that decade know that this sticker says, "Grass or Ass. Nobody rides for free."
The best part? The sticker is affixed to an El Camino. It's not a car. It's not a truck. It is possibly the ugliest car every made.

Monday, November 23, 2009

We have a problem with the bus mall, er, I mean "transit mall"

The Portland Transit Mall is the new name for the Bus Mall. Before 2008, the major bus routes ran through downtown North/South along the Bus Mall, which took up SW 5th & SW 6th avenues. The Red, Yellow and Blue lines all ran East/West through the downtown area, so the buses and the trains crossed. The Bus Mall was easy to navigate. The city was divided into four regions, each designated by an icon, and each block had a stop for two regions. This was quite handy in two ways. First of all, you could access all the buses that ran though the bus mall in the length of two-blocks. Secondly, if you lived in an area that was served by more than one bus, as I did when I lived close-in on Barbur Boulevard, you could stand at the bus stop serving your area and grab the first bus that came by.

The transit mall has changed all that. Because the Yellow and Green Max lines now run on the former "bus mall"--as do cars, which I really hate, but that is another post--Trimet has changed the "area" plan. The icons are gone, instead replaced by letters. I can never remember what letter I'm supposed to stand at. The stops are much, much further apart and it is harder now to catch multiple buses that go to one place. But the biggest problem of the new Transit mall? Shelter.

If you have heard of Portland, you might know that it rains a lot here. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, I think of Forrest Gump talking about the many different kinds of rain in Vietnam. It's a bit like that here, just minus the tropical setting. We have beautiful summers (July, August and September) but most of the year it's raining very hard, raining a little, or looking like it is going to rain. So when waiting for our famous public transit, it is very good to be out of the rain.

Here is a picture of the shelters that used to be along the bus mall. Notice the huge, overhanging lip. That's to keep the rain off. This is because the rain rarely falls straight down here, unless there is a downpour. Notice also the wooden bands around the outside and inside of the shelter. Those give someone something to lean on. When it is really rainy and the weather is blowing everywhere, there is also shelter inside. This inside shelter provided a place where you could stand, lean, and watch for your bus all at once. There were also a few seats to sit in, too. There were two of these per block, so everyone waiting for a bus had the option of shelter.
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Here's the block downtown in the new Transit Mall where I wait for my train. Do you see any shelter here? There actually is one, and you will see it a few photos from now, but it is so insubstantial as to not show up in this photo. The Max trains are one city block in length. In November 2009, Max had an average weekday boarding of 117,300 people. That's a large city getting on the Max every day. This stop is one of six northbound stops for the yellow and green lines. It's also right in between the east/west Red and Blue lines. A lot of people stand here waiting for a max train. Some of them are tired after a long day. Where are they supposed to sit? What can they lean against? Notice that gray building on the right? That's Pioneer Courthouse. It is a working federal courthouse.
Here's the sign on the fence around Pioneer Courthouse. The sign tells people not to sit on the historic stone wall. Yet this is also a place to wait for Max with little seating or places to lean. Guess what happens?
Here's a view from halfway down the block. Due to the lack of seating or sheltered leaning space, someone has taken respite on the ground. You can barely see the shelter in the background.
So here's what happens. That shelter--that would be the flat, glassed roofed thing on the left, has two seats and very few places to lean. So people sit on the stone wall.
A close up view of shelter. When the wind blows, where does the rain fly? Right into the "shelter." Because there is only one of these per Max stop, an entire city block worth of people have to take shelter in this tiny space. This is ridiculous, and not workable on a commuting day when it is raining.

In addition, the two (TWO!) seats provided are at an odd height. When I sit in them, my feet don't touch the ground unless I slump over as the woman in this picture is doing.
Many of the shelters have a vertical wall of glass on one side of them. But there is a gap between the top of the glass and the flat top of the roof. The rain and wind fly right in and there is nothing to lean against, except the glass itself. Who designed these? Did they have any knowledge of Portland weather patterns? Did they take into account any commuter preferences?

When the old shelters (one has been preserved and will be turned into a coffee shop) were pulled down to make way for the bus mall there was a lot of talk about the drug dealing that took place inside them. I've spent a lot of time waiting for buses in those shelters. I never once saw a drug deal. You know what I did have? A clear view of the bus, with places to sit and lean and protection from the rain. The current shelters say, "we have to give you something for protection from the weather, but we don't want you to be comfortable. We don't want to spend very much money on it, either."

Thanks Transit Mall. So far I don't like the "improvements" at all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Whip it.

Like the goldfish in the bowl, one thought kept reoccurring as I watched this movie: "Why can't they make more movies like this?" How often do we get to see a smart, articulate young woman work very hard for something she loves who is not a boy? Even Juliette Lewis didn't bug me, and I can't recommend this enough.

Bechdel score: two women: yes. Who talk to each other: yes! About something besides a man: YES!

poster from:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

End of two trees

This tree and another one like it live down the street from me. They are old and clearly planted in a time when people didn't plan for where the power lines would go. So today seems to be their last day. I stood outside the Indian grocery watched the man in the tree remove a few limbs. It was rather hypnotic.

I felt a little sad for the trees, but not knowing anything about the situation, I didn't get too worked up. It must have been an interesting task to cut them down without also taking down the power lines.


A rare sight in my laundry journey. An empty laundry basket. I'm pretty good at doing laundry on a regular basis, so dirty laundry never really builds up. But clean laundry? Often times the laundry basket is holding the clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away as the dirty laundry is piling up in the closet in the space where the laundry basket goes. Interestingly, in the summer, when I can hang out the laundry to dry, I don't have any trouble putting away the clean laundry. I think it is because I can fold it as I am taking it off the line. The other problem I have is that in the winter time, I'm mostly headed for bed when the dryer buzzes. So I've moved past chore mode to rest mode.

Black pants.

Due to secret project that is upcoming, I've been videotaping and seeing myself live and on screen. What I've discovered? I really need new uniform pants. Like a lot. And quickly.

And here we go on the hunt for black pants that fit. I hate everything about this enterprise--the going to the store, the finding the black pants, which are always in six or seven different locations at the store, the dressing room mirrors which are always much too close to me, the having to bring two sizes of every brand because there is not standard sizing, the feelings of dissatisfaction with my body. Other things I hate about the process? Limits on the number of items you can bring in dressing rooms and store personnel who want to assist me. Thanks, I'd rather experience this disappointment and annoyance on my own. I avoid those last two by hitting Macy's first. They leave me alone and don't guard their dressing rooms.

At any rate, I managed to get myself to the store and through all those obstacles. I narrowed it down to two contenders. The Macy's brand which was okay and a pair of Calvin Klein pants that I loved how they felt but the larger size was just a bit too big and the smaller size was just a bit too small. Due to the not-quite right fit and the fact the Calvin Klein's were twice the price of the Macy's brand, I went with the cheaper option. The pants look great, but they are lacking in any pockets which would be a big problem at work if I didn't wear an apron to contain all the items needed for important Administrative Coordinator work.

One big check off for me today!

Some good cookin'

Due to my tardiness in posting, I can't really tell you why I have this picture of one of my meals. But I remember that squash was delicious and the cabbage is from my favorite way to cook salmon and the scrambled eggs are delightful any time, as is a crisp, fall apple.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kid-made signs

A trend in education that has more fully developed since I was a kid myself, is to let the children make signs and posters explaining things. At school we have kid made posters to explain our recycling system and classrooms usually use kid generated posters to explain topics they are studying. So of course, when a class has a fundraiser the students make the signs. This makes for some fabulous signs including this one where the child was suddenly transported back, syntax-wise, to the early 20th century:
Donate money
to Allegra's Class
in need for hobo's
homeless people
and more.

The sign stayed up for about a month and I giggled every time I read it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Where the Wild Things Are.

I wanted to like this movie much more than I did. I think Spike Jones and Dave Eggers did a good job of making a perfect book into a movie, but I couldn't really get absorbed in the story. It was a very visually stunning movie, yet not engaging.

poster from:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Director Park. Eh.

The beautiful Portland Park Blocks are split into two sections: the North Park Blocks and the South Park Blocks. The South Park Blocks start at PSU and run North past a number of churches, the PCPA, and the Schnitz where they run smack in to the Arlington Club. From there, there is a run of blocks of normal commercial development before the park picks up again just North of Burnside. Some people dream of demolishing all of those buildings and connecting the park blocks, which will most likely not happen in my lifetime. The park blocks don't really connect anyway, as the North Park Blocks are one block East of the South Park Blocks.

At any rate, awhile ago there was an open block that was being used as a parking lot and the powers that be got together and suddenly (actually it took a long time and was delayed for seemingly ever) there is a park where there once was a parking lot. So I bring you my review of Simon and Helen Director Park.

It looks better than a parking lot. But I think the scale is weird. The Southwest corner has a large awning type thing that is very very high and I think it makes the rest of the park look small. It looks like it is looming over the tiny people, ready to stomp on them. Interestingly, the picture of the artists rendering in the link above cuts off this structure almost entirely.
I do like the granite color they have chosen. However, I'm still distracted by the large sheet of glass, ready to cause mayhem above me. Aside from the height of the roof, the supporting beams seem too thin and thus out of scale.

Unlike Pioneer Courthouse Square, which really is Portland's Living Room, there also seem to be few places to sit. I think this makes the chances of the park becoming a cold, windswept plaza even more likely.

Here's the Teacher's Fountain in recognition of teachers "selfless and untiring efforts to inspire the hearts and minds of their students." Right now it looks like a granite ball. Yay. A ball. But perhaps that water in the artists rendering has something to do with it.

Here is a closer look at the out of proportion glass cover, with actual human people so you can get a sense of scale. The building on the left will be a restaurant of some sort.

In conclusion, I'm not immediately charmed by Director Park. We shall see if my view changes over time.