31 Flavors

I turned 31 a few days ago, so here are 31 things about me, in no particular order:

1. I am currently obsessed with Flight of the Conchords.
2. Although it doesn't quite live up to the hype, I do not regret my Furminator purchase.
3. I have traveled to more than thirty-one countries.
4. I dressed as an Ewok for Halloween when I was about five (and living in Kenya), and my costume consisted of strips of brown paper attached to a pair of overalls, long brown socks on my hands, and a sign aroud my neck saying "I am an Ewok." There may have been ears.
5. Over winter break during my senior year of high school, I read everything by Albert Camus that I could find.
6. I almost always have homemade kimchi in my fridge.
7. Also: homemade yogurt.
8. I will happily sing either the boy or girl part of Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for karaoke.
9. I am too old to headbang. Or perhaps simply out of shape for it.
10. When I was little, I used to bring (or make my mom bring) a peanut butter sandwich to restaurants in case they didn't have anything I would like. Now, I'll try just about anything at least once. I like to give things a second chance. But I'm done with oysters.
11. I wish I knew Yiddish.
12. I don't think there is nearly enough dancing in our world today.
13. I am a bit of a beer snob.
14. I often buy wine for the label. Clever goes a long way with me. And cheap.
15. I have probably read Robert Heinlein's "Time Enough For Love" more times than any other book, although not recently.
16. My dog is a masterful frisbee-catcher.
17. I do not believe in God.
18. I often swear in Italian or French.
19. I have shaved my head twice.
20. I write and perform history raps for my students. This is a line from the most recent, about the American Revolution: "Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Tea Act too; Intolerable and hollerable, what're we gonna do?"
21. Power tools, while not necessarily a girl's best friend, make me happy.
22. My favorite bumper sticker says "Read a fucking book," but I won't actually put it on my car.
23. I crocheted a bag using plastic grocery bags as "yarn."
24. I learned how to slaughter and pluck and butcher a chicken.
25. I am growing vegetables for the first time.
26. The best sunrise I have ever seen was atop a Saharan dune, reached by a camel ride and a hike.
27. I quote from "Clerks" on a somewhat regular basis, though it's been years since I've watched it.
28. I knew the Weird Al version of a lot of songs before I ever heard the originals.
29. When I get bored, I dye my hair in bright colors or rearrange my house.
30. I am a stickler for spelling and grammar.
31. I believe in civic engagement, and making the world a better place.


Jellied Clam Juice Ring

Yes, that's more from the Joy of Cooking, but doesn't it sound like some arcane sexual practice? Or object, maybe. Let's not go there, it's can only lead down a bad road.

I don't really have anything else to say, but I've been going around repeating "jellied clam juice ring" for days now, and hoped that putting it out there to the world might help me stop. But you should try it! It gets all kind of interesting responses. It's all I can do to keep it inside when I'm at school. For the most part, the little switch in my brain works beautifully, and I don't spout inappropriate things around 12-year-olds, but as soon as I get home, boy howdy.

This cookbook has become something of an obsession. I suggested that we limit our eating to its recipes for a year, or a month, but I didn't get much enthusiasm - maybe the deep-fried calf brains were a turnoff? I think I will try the bananas wrapped in bacon, though. How could that be anything but delicious? A perfect addition to thanksgiving tradition.


A Whale of a Time

We've been saying for years that we should have an old-school Joy of Cooking dinner party, because of all the fun recipes like "Cheese Carrots," which requires you to shape cheese into carrots! With a sprig of parsley for the green bits. How droll! And delicious! It looks like a carrot, but it's....cheese! Yeah. I don't know. Apparently - even though I recall much laughter at the time - it wasn't fun enough to spur us into actually having that dinner party. But! Now we found something even better. I cannot possibly make it more entertaining than it is, so here is the original recipe, courtesy of Irma S. Rombauer:


If possible, trap possum and feed it on milk and cereals* for 10 days before killing. Clean, but do not skin. Treat as for pig by immersing the unskinned animal in water just below the boiling point. Test frequently by plucking at the hair. When it slips out readily, remove the possum from the water and scrape. While scraping repeatedly, pour cool water over the surface of the animal. Remove small red glands in small of back and under each foreleg between the shoulder and rib. Parboil, page 132, 1 hour. Roast as for pork, page 407. Serve with: Turnip greens."

*Do you think any cereals will do? Cocoa Puffs? Froot Loops?

There's something about a recipe that encourages you to keep your food alive for ten days before you cook it. If possible. If not, well, I suppose it won't be quite as savory, but it will do. And just in case you think that's a fluke, there are pages devoted to these critters - raccoon, peccary (?!), woodchuck, squirrel - there's a delightful line drawing of how to skin a squirrel: apparently once you've cut the skin a bit, you hold it down with your shoe and pull up on the carcass, and it will just peel right off. How many shoppers at Whole Foods know that useful tidbit, do you think?

So we have a new dinner party to plan, now. If anyone is feeling extra-ambitious, she recommends allowing 1/2 pound of whale meat per person (see page 362). I'll bring the Cheese Carrots.


Democracy, With a Cherry on Top

It wasn't so long ago that I lamented the lack of excitement in Oregon's efficient vote-by-mail system. I still think it's the way to go, but I'm missing out on more than the "I Voted!" sticker: if I lived in New York, I could have gotten a free mini vibrator from Babeland! Now that's empowering the people.

We've come a long way from the time when vibrators were used by Victorian doctors to relieve a woman of hysteria (you knew that, right?). Nobody would admit it was a sexual thing, but women just kept going back for more...and more...and more... and right there, again, please, doctor....oh! Now you can knowingly drop a Rabbit reference into dinner table conversation - and if they think you're talking about opening a wine bottle, well, maybe it's better that way. (in my head I was going somewhere with this, but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way. Pretend there are some intelligent comments in the mix, leading us to the current Bush-free era - except between our legs - when hopefully we will revive real sex education and generations of sexually aware and empowered young men and women will come of age)

Go Obama!


Dog Days of Summer

The ancient Greeks and Romans may have thought them evil (yes, I just looked up the origin of that phrase, o wondrous internets that you are), but I have been lovin' me those dog days. Delightful, delicious, de-lovely indeed. Floating in the hammock, floating in the river, floating all around. It's the first summer I've actually had off since I started teaching. But. Here they are, almost at an end; I was back at school today getting the room ready... I actually have a bit more time but it's pretty packed - we're headed to Burning Man, and then I have a family trip planned, and then I get back right in time for the bell to ring. Except there are no bells where I teach. Hurrah for that.

And while I do love me some sum-sum-summertime, I think it's kind of a cruel trick we play: for 12 or 16 or more years of our lives, we get oodles of vacation, 3 months off at summer, a couple weeks in the winter, fall and spring, and oh why not take this holiday and that one too... and then bang! You're supposed to grow up and get a job with 2 weeks off? Working 50 weeks? 40-hour or more weeks? What you talkin' bout, Willis? Luckily, even though I didn't go straight into teaching, I never have worked 50 weeks in a row. Oy. Of course, devil's advocate poking his wiry snout up here - all that time off, especially over summer, and the kids have forgotten everything they learned last year. There's a certain amount of 2-steps-forward, 1-step-back involved. But hey, that's the least of what's wrong with our education system, and it's too late and I'm too calm to go into all that.

Point is, I'm coming around to the notion of going back to school, knowing that I've got one last befeathered and be(faux)furred fling ahead of me in the Black Rock Desert. But I don't think I'll be bringing those photos to show and tell.


Little Brother Is Watching

Once again - you rock on with your bad selves, YA authors. And non-YA authors who do a good job of it. This time around it's Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother, a timely tale of government oppression and up-to-date young freedom fighters! Up-to-date meaning they use modern technology to hack the system, harnessing their intimacy with the internet to make things happen.

And let me just take a moment here to wax poetic about the Internet and all its bits and pieces. I am something of a Luddite, preferring my 79 cent mini-spiral notebook to fancy digital versions (I never fail to make myself laugh when I write a reminder on my hand and call it my "palm pilot". I'm usually the only one laughing, but that's ok). My favorite blackberries come off the bush, juicy and dripping, even better when you grab them from a kayak on the river. But! O how I love the internet, O let me count the ways, the joy of google and wikipedia, and the games and the blogs and the time-suck and the power of people being able to put themselves out there and mobilize and connect and engage with the world, even if it's from a lonely, darkened room. So thank you, Al Gore, and thank you, porn, and thank you, all you young folk who know how to work the system. Now if we could just get everyone to use correct grammar and spelling.... (ok, I know that's a losing battle, and I was once a queen of "kewl" and clearly fill my entries and emails with a slightly more ee cummings-esque take on Strunk and White - but could you just not sound so stupid in the process? Cleverly done bad grammar, that's the ticket.)

Anyway. I'm off to press this book onto as many students as I can. This is where I navigate that tricky line of "is it okay to recommend a book with "boner" in it to middle-schoolers?" I find that I don't have very good judgment about what is appropriate; I tend to treat my students as if they're adults, and maybe it's just because I was re-reading some very well-thumbed Jean Auel (you remember - Mammoth Hunters, Clan of the Cave Bear, her womanly mound and all that) in my sordid youth. There's reality, and there's parents, and there's me, wanting to stand firm in my beliefs and also keep my job, so I recognize that 11 and 14 are not the same, and also that each kid and each family has their own line.

But hey! If you're reading this, you're old enough to read that. Off you go, then. (note to older "non-tech" types who think this isn't for them - if you have fond memories of a hippie youth, you should like it, and anyway, it's a good picture of where we're headed if we're not paying attention)


Rez Life

It seems like the most powerful books I'm reading these days are meant for young adults...a far cry from The Babysitters' Club (though I freely admit that I read and loved those, and Sweet Valley High, too - and still harbor a little fantasy that I could come up with a series as fruitful - it's like perpetual motion, and they're really all the same, but you just keep reading the next book, and it's fabulous). The one I just read is Sherman Alexie's book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Whether or not you're familiar with life on the rez (and I am only tangentially) this book is worth reading. There's just something so true about his writing, a truth that goes deeper than the stories (his other stuff is good too). I know that isn't very descriptive, but it's the best way I can articulate it. And the cartoons are great. Note to self: start hanging out by the YA shelves at the library...


The Book Thief

If you haven't read The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, stop whatever you're doing and get to it. One of my students recommended it to me this year - he actually wanted our lit class to read it, but I got it from the library and saw that it was too long, so I never got around to reading it until now. It is the best book I have read in a long time. Fair warning: it's also quite heartbreaking. It's about WWII, and though I was into darker stuff when I was younger (Clockwork Orange, etc), I've never done well with the real stuff - I have a hard time watching movies about Vietnam, for instance. And of course, reading about the Holocaust. I just don't understand how people can do what they did. Or maybe I do understand it, and that's why it's so hard. I am always amazed at what people are able to survive, and I know it's going on today, with rape camps in the Congo, and, and, and... It just doesn't seem possible. Anyway. Read this book.


My Dog Ate My Dreams

I've been dipping in and out of the world of women's circles this past year (not a sewing circle, and we don't look at our cervixes, but kind of the same thing). I went to one right around the spring equinox, and we all got little jiffy pots and dirt and nasturtium seeds, which we planted with intention, to symbolize our dreams for ourselves. It was all very sweet. And then I brought my little pot home and watered it, and over the next few days was amazed to watch the plants actually grow. And grow, and grow, and grow! Now, I have never really had a green thumb - this is the first year that I've had more than one houseplant, and it's a big deal that they're all still alive (I even killed cacti in my younger days). So third grade science, or whenever we stuck toothpicks in potatoes - or was it avocado pits? - and put them on the windowsill, that was the last time I've really seen a plant come to life from a seed. It's amazing! It's like magic! How do they do it? And these grew so fast, you really could almost watch it happen. They were tall and beautiful, a shade of green that means life, and I waxed poetic over them, and nurtured them, and moved them into the sun, and then out, and worried about how much water they were getting....and then I let them die. Almost.

The theory was that after they sprouted up, you were supposed to plant them in the ground, pot and all, and they would take root and flourish. And they're great plants to have around - nasturtiums are the pretty flowers you get in salads at shmancy restaurants; they're edible, and a bit spicy. I started looking up recipes for nasturtium vinegars, and envisioned having a whole border of nasturtiums offering up their blossoms for my palate. It was delightful. The thing I didn't do was actually plant them. I meant to, several times, really I did. It made me sad to watch them wither and fall over, no longer able to support themselves. Two of the shoots were sacrificed to keep the other one hanging on to life, a hint of pale green still in its stem. I began to worry - I'm not usually into all that spiritual woo-woo stuff, but if these were supposed to symbolize my dreams and intentions, what was the message? That I am passionate at first, but unable to follow through, letting my dreams wither and die? Not this time! I finally put them in the ground, carefully loosening the roots, lovingly mixing compost into the dirt, gently mulching around the top. Live, little plant, live! I poured my heart on them, along with some plant fertilizer. I felt sure they would recover, and prove that I can follow through on my intentions. My dreams would thrive!

And then my dog ate them.


I Read Somewhere...

I've been noticing how often what I have to say starts with "I read somewhere..." It could be the next hot drinking game. And then we'd all be very drunk. Children: stop reading! It will only end up badly, with cheap tequila and anonymous postcards home, begging for money to support your Sunday Times habit.


I Am American, Hear Me Vote!

I live in Oregon, where voting is all done by mail. It's actually super-efficient, and I think it would be good for other states to do this, but there's a little bit of a letdown, too. You don't get that "Get out the vote!" energy, where you brave the weather and stand in long lines with a whole cross-section of America, feeling like you're part of something bigger, the satisfying push of the button as the green light comes on, or ka-chunk of the lever - popping an envelope in the mail just isn't the same - and perhaps saddest of all, you don't get a sticker. Those "I Voted!" stickers were always my favorite part. Maybe I'll just have to make my own, and wear it around, and hand them out to people. If you wait until the very last day and drop your ballot in the box instead of the mail, there's usually some streamers and a flag, and volunteers congratulating you. But it's not the same, and there's still no sticker.

Nevertheless, it feels good to vote. Granted, the more I learn about our electoral system, the more pissed I get - come on, people, this is democracy? To hell with the founding fathers, we gotta represent! Besides, I believe if they were around today, they'd be all for changing it up. Superdelegates - out the window. Electoral college - what the fuck? We can read now, you konw. Most of us. (that's a whole nother entry right there) Popular vote, man, that's what it's all about. And then we just have to work on educating the masses - I won't go so far as to say we should reinstate some kind of test to be able to vote, but it's pretty depressing when you hear what some people think. From an interview on NPR: (this is a woman talking, in Indiana, I think) "I don't think the world is ready for a woman president; they might think less of the US if we elect Hillary, so that would be bad for our foreign relations. But I'm worried about Obama's past as a Muslim..." Where do these people live? Oh yes, Indiana - and all over, I'm sure. And that's the people on the right side of the force - though I find when I actually talk to Republicans, we have a lot more in common than the media would like us to think.

Ok. I hope you all got out there and made your mark. It's what being American is all about. That, and Dairy Queen. Mmmm....


I'm Only Jew-ish

(thanks and apologies to whoever - whomever? - I heard on the radio for that title!)

I live in a cohousing community, which is not as much naked hippie commune as people think, and no, we don't all live in the same house. But we do have a common house, where no one lives, but there's a kitchen and useful space for gathering. And we have meals together weekly, and tonight we had a mini-passover seder. With chicken curry. (Now you see where the "ish" comes in) And with a passel of small, impatient (is there any other kind?) children eagerly wanting to drink their grape juice, we chose the 2 minute haggadah. Have you seen it? Everything you needed to know, condensed: "We were slaves in Egypt. Now we're not. That's why we do this." (more thanks and apologies to who(m)ever actually wrote it!)

I'm technically not one of the chosen people - my dad is Jewish, my mom Methodist, neither are practicing, and I grew up around Hinduism and Buddhism and a mishmosh of other stuff. But. It was always something we celebrated culturally - I was one of those lucky kids, with all the presents and none of the services. And I've always been vaguely agnostic, though I went through phases - militant atheist, wannabe wiccan, and so on. As I get older (I'm halfway through my golden year - I turned 30 on the 30th!) I'm coming to realize that basically we know nothing, and there's an awful lot of inexplicable shit that happens. So is there something out there? I don't know. It's still no excuse for killing lots of people in the name of. But it is pretty damn amazing, when it comes down to it.

All in all, we had a grand old time, and ate yummy food, and the dog got the have the shankbone (which was really a dog bone). Let's hear it for the Jews!


The Morning After

I somehow feel like this is a big deal, even though it isn't really: I started a blog! Look out world, here I come! Except nobody even knows about it yet. And everyone and their dog seems to have a blog these days - for real, have you seen all the dog blogs? Nevertheless, there is a tiny frisson when I think of it. What will I write about? Will I add pictures? How often will I publish? How long will it last? Is it an auspicious time to do this? Should I have poked around in some entrails before getting started, or checked my horoscope? Will April 19 become a date to celebrate? Will I get a book deal?! (aside: I think we should revive the interrobang, don't you?)(also, we should adopt the Spanish upside-down question mark, although that would look silly in a string of questions...hmm)(and - Esperanto!) Ok, the end for now. Off to the real world. Chances are these first entries won't be that compelling, as they'll just be me being excited about this new toy. But perhaps they will be sheer genius, and we'll all go 'round shouting off the rooftops for everyone to check it out. Heh.


Rejected Blog Titles

I've been coming around to the idea of having a blog for quite a while now...when I finally decided to go for it, the hardest part was figuring out what to call it. This is why I may never write a book. It's a good thing I had help naming my dog. Fittingly enough, it reminds me of the early days of the internet, of the very first time I had to come up with a user name for a bbs - and then later, learning you weren't unique, as various email programs helpfully offered suggestions like "yourname742". Eventually you didn't care what name it was, as long as it didn't already exist. You told yourself you could always change it later, but of course, you couldn't; it became who you were in certain circles. So - the list of alternate identities for this blog:

Dance Backwards
Vivo Ergo Cogito
Naked Mango
Tickle Your Catastrophe
Unbought Stuffed Dogs
A Poem About Everything
Reality Tastes Like Bread
Geographic Memory
Ceci N'est Pas un Blog
Literature and Butterflies
Absolutely Trivial
The Unexamined Life

There were more, too. Some that wandered over from other lists: Cherry Blossom (porn star/psychic/romance novelist names), Panty McSnuffles (things I call my dog), Le Singe est Disparu (things that always make me laugh), Dancing Queen (mix tapes).

But I'm sticking with Imperfect Tense. It's from a line by Nietzsche, which goes something like: "Life is a never-to-be-completed imperfect tense." Now we just get to wait and see what happens!