Saturday, October 30, 2004

Lessons from Dad 

Yesterday was my father's 70th birthday. Paul and I came to Houston for the weekend to celebrate with him. Last night, at a gathering of about 35 family members and close friends, Dad was toasted by quite a few people. He spent a good part of the evening standing up with various people as they spoke about him. And, at the end of each toast, he made a charming, often funny, very personal comment about his relationship with each of the people who had spoken.

While I thought for a long time about what to say to and about my father, and discussed some of it with Paul, I did not write anything down. I generally work better without notes. It was a successful toast: everyone laughed, and my mother (among others, apparently) cried.

What follows is, of course, not exactly what I said last night. All of it is what I feel.

My father wanted to be an architect from the time that he knew what the word meant. His passion for his calling - that's what architecture is for him - has been unwavering for sixty years. His love of architecture has been matched only by his love for and dedication to my mother, my sister and me.

My father began his attempts to lure me and my sister into architecture when we were in elementary school. He would come home from the office with an envelope full of small colored paper squares and rectangles, which he would dump out onto the coffee table. Sitting on the floor with us, he would explain that the red squares were classrooms, blue the library, green the cafeteria, etc. How would we want our school to be arranged? What did we think was important? We had no idea that this was part of the preliminary design process. We were playing with Daddy.

As we grew up, we were included in his love of architecture in other ways. We visited construction sites for his projects on weekends. On vacations, we went to look at buildings. In high school, my sister and I each spent a summer working at his firm.

But Melanie and I did not want to be architects. We had other plans. We went off to college, studied other things. My father assumed that neither of his daughters would be an architect.

I had been out of college for a little over a year when I called my father to tell him I was thinking of going to architecture school. Two weeks later, I received a box of architecture books in the mail. Here is the first lesson of architecture learned from my father: There's no such thing as too many books. A corollary of this: The best books have pictures.

A year after I graduated from architecture school, I spent a month in Europe with a couple of college friends. I realized during that trip that I had learned another lesson of architecture from my father: Buildings and people can coexist in photos, as long as the people are behind the buildings. I took 400 photos. I had to ask my friends for copies of their photos of us, as mine were all of buildings.

However, the most important lesson about architecture that I learned from my father is this: Buildings are for people. No matter how beautiful a building may be, if it does not work for the people who use it, then it's art, not architecture. Buildings serve people, not the other way around. This idea has been at the heart of my father's practice and teaching of architecture. It is the best lesson that he, that anyone, could have ever taught me about being an architect.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Feline Friday #4: Brotherly love 

Sasha and Sergei are brothers. Well, probably half-brothers, but from the same litter. Feline reproduction is funny that way. At any rate, they have always been extremely attached to each other, and have an almost daily napping/ wrestling/ grooming routine. On this particular day, Sasha was doing all of the wrestling and grooming. Sergei just wanted to nap.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Cool cats 

"You're hangin' with the cool kids..." was the message from Paul when he emailed this article from the New York Times to me today. Yes, all the news that's fit to print today included an article on Friday cat blogging. While I have only recently begun the practice (at Philip's urging) of posting photos of the cats (at least) once a week, it has apparently been a trend in the blogosphere for a year and a half or so.
"It brings people together," said Kevin Drum, who began the cat spotlight last year on his own blog, Calpundit. (www.calpundit.com) ...

"I'd just blogged a whole bunch of stuff about what was wrong with the world," Mr. Drum said. "And I turned around and I looked out the window, and there was one of my cats, just plonked out, looking like nothing was wrong with the world at all."

Grabbing his camera, Mr. Drum photographed his cat, Inkblot, and posted the picture (calpundit.com/archives/000597.html). He soon began doing it each Friday, attracting fans who just wanted to see the felines....

As often happens in the blogosphere, other people latched onto the idea and ran with it.

If you don't want to deal with the NYT's online registration, but would like to read the article, click below:

- All the cat news ->

You can find new links for cat bloggers (Friday and otherwise) each Sunday at www.carnivalofthecats.com.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On coffee, dating and homework 

Sunday afternoon, Nina and I had a 4C celebration of her birthday month. I supplied the birthday Chocolate and homemade Chutney; Nina used her coffee card from this wonderful place for our Coffee: a heavenly smelling espresso/vanilla/orange/cinnamon concoction for her, and the very best mocha that I have ever tasted for me. The fourth C? Conversation, of the wide-ranging, "what were we talking about before we went off on this tangent?" sort. I love those kind of talks, and Nina and I fall into them easily.

At some point during the conversation, I told Nina that my plans for the rest of the day were a date with Paul for a movie, and then homework.

"A date and homework. That sounds like high school," she laughed.

"Oh, god, not high school! Let's not go back there."

"OK, then college. Undergrad? Or maybe grad school. Sounds like grad school?"

Grad school is more what it feels like. Although, when I was an undergrad, I was dating Paul... which tended to get in the way of my homework more than being married to him does now. (I had lousy study habits, and was a lot more hormone-driven then.)

My homework for tonight's writing class was to write critiques of three 5-15 page pieces written by fellow students. I struggled with this assignment. For most of my professional life, I've been the office copy editor. Coworkers have questions about grammar, sentence structure, word usage, punctuation? I'm the one they see. So my first inclination, when asked to look at someone's writing, is to grab one of my razor-sharp red pencils and have at it. But that's correcting, and that's not the point of these critiques. We were to focus on how the "narrator" (a literary construct created by the author) told the story. Structure, narrative voice, scenic development, characterization, dialogue; these were the topics to be critiqued. I put my red pencil away, pulled out a purple pen, and started making notes in the margins, rather than on the text. This is a completely different skill. It took me longer to do this sort of analysis than it would've taken me to clean up the writing. I finished at lunchtime today.

I have three critiques to write for each of the remaining classes this quarter. I hope I'll get quicker at it with practice. If not, you'll be seeing a lot more pictures of cats and buildings here, and a lot fewer words.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Ghost sign 

Around the beginning of the year, I noticed planning department signs on several buildings on Queen Anne Avenue, the commercial street in our neighborhood. There were plans afoot to demolish about half a block of old two-story commercial and apartment buildings, and build a four-story mixed-use building on the site. One by one, the restaurants and shops in the existing buildings closed their doors. We worried that our local hardware store, officially an Ace Hardware but clearly of an earlier vintage than the modern suburban Ace, would be one of the businesses to go. Fortunately, that was not the case; the building adjacent to it was the last in the row slated for demolition.

A few weeks ago, the demolition equipment arrived on the site. A few men with modern skid steers and booms and bulldozers can demolish in a week what an order of magnitude more laborers worked years to build. In short order, the site was a mountain of rubble. When the last building came down, the side wall of the hardware store was exposed. And on that wall, covered in grime but still remarkably colorful, was this beautiful sign advertising the Queen Anne Radio & Electric Store and Sherwin Williams Paints. (Sherwin Williams' logo, then as now: Cover the Earth.)

I am quite taken with "ghost signs", the faded, peeling remnants of ads painted on the walls of old buildings. While some of these signs advertise products, such as Coca-Cola, that are still available, many are ads for stores or products long gone. This sign, almost too vivid (thanks to long-wearing leaded paint) to be considered a "ghost", was painted on the very store that it advertised.

The local Ace Hardware was once Queen Anne Radio & Electric. And in the large plate glass window at the entrance to the hardware store, along with photos of and artwork by the owner's grandchildren, is the documentation of that. There's a photo of the building, Queen Anne Radio & Electric, taken in the late 1930's, and a framed advertisement from 1947, in which the name has been changed to Queen Anne Hardware & Electric.

The photo was taken as part of the King County Land Use Survey, a project of the Works Project Admini- stration. From 1936 to 1940, Survey workers identified, assessed the condition of and photographed every building in King County. This project employed several hundred people, and cost a little over 2 million dollars. At the time, it provided a long-needed update to the tax records of King County. Now, the photographic record is an invaluable resource for people who are interested in the history of the area, or just in the history of their own old house. We have a copy of the photo taken of our house for the survey; I'll scan it and post it here someday. There's an interesting article on the survey at HistoryLink; the records are now part of the Washington State Archives.

I'm curious about the history of the ghost sign, and this photo tells me a lot. It shows a storefront adjacent to Queen Anne Radio & Electric. (The sign in the window says "Coffee Shop." How… Seattle.) So I know that by 1936 the sign had already been hidden. Directly behind the coffee shop is the second story of a very typical early-20th-century Seattle house. In the 1920's and 1930's, it was fairly common to add this sort of small commercial space onto the front of a house, creating a situation where the family lived behind their store, rather than over it. The house looks older than the Queen Anne Radio building; the storefront is clearly newer. I assume that the 6-block commercial district of Queen Anne Avenue was originally entirely residential. There are still several old houses on the street, all now occupied by businesses.

I think that at some point in the late 1910's or early 1920's, a house was demolished to make way for the Queen Anne Radio building. (You know, I could be completely wrong about this. While the store’s brick façade says 1920's to me, the side wall of the building, on which the sign is painted, is lapped wood siding. The commercial building might be older, with a brick façade that was added later.) Anyway… the sign was painted on the portion of the wall between the street and the front of the adjacent house. (Just think how happy that must've made the neighbors!) Sometime before 1936, the owner of the house built the coffee shop storefront, covering - and therefore protecting - the Queen Anne Radio sign.

So the sign was hidden away for at least 68 years, until last month, when the bulldozers brought it back into view. And it will soon disappear again behind a new, much larger building, one that is likely to outlast the old Queen Anne Radio building. So unlike Brigadoon, which reawakens every hundred years, the Queen Anne Radio & Electric sign is probably taking its curtain call. I'm going to miss it.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Feline Friday III: On your toes 

It doesn't take much to get our cats up on their hind feet paws. A bit of string. A moth. A strand of my wet hair. Or, in this case, a narrow gold ribbon.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Not sixteen any more 

It's Nina's birthday! She has a great post up about her sixteenth birthday party, (which was more recent than mine), complete with birthday kisses. Go wish her a happy day, and give her a virtual kiss while you're there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Twenty-three years. One page. 

Have you ever tried to write, in one page, the story of your relationship with the most important person in your life? That's what I had to (try to) do for my memoir writing class. The assignment for last night was this: write a one-page brief on the subject of the memoir writing that you plan to do for this quarter. This is what I gave my instructors, and the other 21 students in the class. It did fit on one page; never mind that I had to reduce the margins to .9" and the font to 11pt Garamond, which is a fairly "short" font. If you have been reading here for a while, you will already know at least some parts of this story. If you're new here, take a deep breath.


This will be the story of my 23-year relationship with my husband Paul. I met Paul at a college party. It was Valentine’s Day, 1981. It was Providence (Rhode Island). He was dancing with another woman. A week later, we were in love. Maybe I could tell you why I fell; one page would not be enough. Bullet points, in the order observed: lanky long-distance-cyclist’s body; gorgeous blue eyes; well-worn Stetson hat and cowboy boots; dry Yankee wit; flair for storytelling; massive intellect; gentle heart. In sum: just what I wanted.

-

View out my window 

I looked out my office window this morning, and saw the light on the chestnut tree across the street. Grabbed my camera, and went to take a picture through the window. Sergei saw this as an opportunity for petting, and walked across the windowsill just as I took this shot. Luckily, he didn't block the view of fading leaves shining in the low morning light, or the hazy blue-gray sky beyond.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Unwritten rules 

Doesn't everyone have them? You know, the rules that you somehow grew up knowing, even though they were never written anywhere, and perhaps never even spoken? Some of my unwritten rules tend towards the neurotic. A few of them veer way over in that direction. While some unwritten rules are part of my family system, the one I'm going to let you in on now is my very own personal rule. My sister does not share this one (I've asked), nor, I believe, would my parents claim that they had anything to do with it. I have no idea how this one got into my head. This rule, I will confess, made my former therapist laugh out loud. So, after that build-up, here it is:

If you aren't already in your seat at a theater or concert hall by the time they flash the lights, you're late.

Go ahead, laugh. Everyone else does. Even I do... after years of therapy. And Paul still teases me about this one - sweetly, of course - when we're at a theater. Now you can, too, as long as you remember to be sweet about it.

Update: After a couple of comments, I want to make something clear: I'm not talking about when the lights are dimmed right before the beginning of a performance. Everyone knows that, if you're not in your seat at that point, you are late. You do know that, don't you? As far as I'm concerned, theaters are completely justified in not seating people after that point. What I'm talking about is the flashing of the lights that happens in theaters and concert halls five minutes or so before the lights go down for the performance to start. I do still try to be seated before the lights flash, but I no longer feel bad if I don't make it 'til just after they have.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Growth spurt 

In 1921, a small house, a cabin really, was built near the shore of Lake Washington, several miles north of the city of Seattle. It had a large living room, with a big river rock fireplace and a parquet floor, a bedroom, a little bathroom and a tiny kitchen. I imagine that it was a lovely rustic lake cabin for a family that lived in Seattle. Over the years, Seattle grew, and eventually annexed the area in which the little house stood. The house grew, too, though its kitchen addition was ugly, and cheaply built. Eventually, it was the smallest, most run-down house in its neighborhood.

That's when a couple of my friends came into the picture. They rescue dilapidated old houses, remodel/renovate them, then find a new family for them. They bought the house, and hired me to design the remodel. (The first photo is one that they gave me when I started the work; it shows the northeast corner of the house.) Most of the work that I do is multi-family residential, and new construction. Working on the remodel of a single-family Craftsman cottage was a fun change. While the footprint of the house was to remain pretty much the same, the plan was to raise the existing house by two feet, to create a functional full-height basement, and then to add a second story. The house would almost triple in size, becoming a 2500 s.f., 3 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath house.

Today Paul and I drove out to the house for the first time since construction started. (The second photo is taken looking straight on at the north side of the house.) My first thought on seeing the house was, "Damn, it's big." I hate the modern trend of building poorly designed McMansions on small lots, so this was not necessarily a good thought. The house is definitely not a cottage any more. I tried in the design to keep the most charming existing features, and add new ones that fit the character of the original and its period. How did I do? Well, it's hard to tell right now. The house is in an awkward phase, all plywood and empty window openings. There are none of the details of trim and finish that give scale to a house. It's as if the house has had a growth spurt, and is still uncomfortable with its new height. It needs windows and trim, shingles and paint, before it will really come into its own. Then, we'll see. I'm excited to see how this one looks when it's all grown up.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Feline Friday 2: Flat cats 

As those of you who own live with wait on cats, have friends who live with cats, or have ever seen cats know, cats spend a large amount of time supine, horizontal... in a word, flat. Cats sleep more than half of each day, much of it during the daylight hours. So, the second installation of FF brings you photos of our cats doing what they do, if not best, then certainly most frequently: being flat.
- Show me those flat cats! ->

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Writing class report #2 

The second writing class was even more fun than the first. Laura, our teacher, lectured for a while about narrative voice and structure, and the difference between the author and the narrator in memoir, and blah blah perspective blah... Or maybe I could just type up my class notes. Wouldn't that be fun reading? Anyway, there was some lecture-type talking, and some questions posed and answered, and then we had the Break with Treats. I didn't tell you about treats last week, or breaks either. Well, about halfway through the 3-hour class, we take a 15-minute break. And during the break, we have treats, brought by three folks from the class each week. It's a little time to talk and raise our blood sugar (great for those of us who don't manage dinner before the 6:30 start time).

After the break, each person read his/her first friend/teacher/pet/song piece aloud. While there was a range of writing quality, in terms of style, construction, etc., everyone was fairly good at evoking a particular moment from the past. Some were funny, heartbreaking, tender, or some combination of those. Facility with reading aloud was a highly variable factor. It was very clear that some people aren't used to, or comfortable with, reading aloud, and that some people - and this is amazing to an architect - have trouble reading their own writing.

Despite feeling my heart beating faster just before my turn, I'm accustomed to performing, both speaking and singing, and once I got the first sentence out, I realized that I had settled into performance mode, and was treating my writing as I would a script. I realized for the first time, in some gut level way, that I really do write in my own voice. Reading my own writing was comfortable; the sentence length and structure matched the way that I speak... at least those times when I speak in carefully composed, grammatically and syntactically correct sentences. I had written about one of the first songs I remember, Frere Jacque. I remember having learned it first in English, and I sang the English words where they occurred in the story. After I read the last line, there was complete silence for a moment, which is just what I want when performing something sweet and quiet.

And my teacher liked my story. She said that the structure blah blah scenic quality blah blah blah voice blah blah very nicely done! Phew! More next week...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Are you sleeping? 

The first assignment for my writing class was a memory exercise. We were to write quick impressions of some firsts: first scent, first pet, first teacher, first car. Then we were to write a scene about one of these things. I chose first song. What follows is not, in fact, one remembered morning from my childhood. It is made up of bits and pieces of many mornings, many memories. However, the emotional quality of the scene is as I remember some mornings, and the song is one of the first two or three that I can remember.


I wake to muffled morning sounds from the kitchen: the pop of the percolator, a sizzling skillet, my parents’ quiet conversation. My sister, in the bed next to mine, rolls over; her kitty falls off the bed. I lie still, listening, waiting, for the soft footsteps that I know will come. My mother opens the door to our room; bringing with her the smells of coffee and bacon. She comes in quietly, singing: Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Brother John? Brother John? As she sings, she opens the curtains, letting in the morning light. Morning bells are ringing. Morning bells are ringing. Ding ding dong, Ding ding dong.

She sits on the edge of my bed, strokes my hair. Now comes the good part: Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Kimberly? Kimberly? I giggle, and wriggle further under the covers, eyes closed tightly. Morning bells are ringing Morning bells are ringing. I feel her leaning over me, her breath brushing my face. Ding ding dong. A kiss on one eyelid. Ding ding dong. A kiss on the other eyelid. I open my eyes; she is smiling at me. I smile back.

She moves to my little sister’s bed, and sings to her. For Melanie, the Ding ding dong involves nuzzling. When Mommy has finished the third verse, we are both sitting up in our beds, sleepy-eyed, dark hair tousled.

"Such pretty girls I have." This is my father’s voice. He is leaning in the doorway. While he is talking about all of his girls, his smile is for my mother. He hugs and kisses Melanie, then pulls me close. He smells of aftershave. Even freshly shaven, he is slightly scratchy. I love the scent; I love the scratch.

Some time later, I will learn to play the song on the piano. My mother will teach me and my sister, all three of us together on the piano bench. We will play it together, then as a round, in three different octaves. She will also teach us the original French words: Frere Jacque, dormez vous? Sonnez les matines. Din dan don. It will be years before I realize that the words translate almost exactly, longer still before I notice, and am amused, that the bells make a slightly different sound in French than in English.

The English words, and the English bells, will always be my favorites.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The chutney canning incident 

Everything was going fine with the chutney-making. Apples of 3 varieties (Jonagold, Liberty and Honycrisp from South 47 Farm) and onions (of the tear-producing variety) had been chopped, combined with organic cider vinegar (complete with veil of the mother), brown sugar, sultana raisins, and brought to a boil. Mustard seed, ginger, chili flakes, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, and coriander had been measured and added to the pot. The pungently fragrant concoction had been allowed to simmer for just over an hour, and I had, in fact, stirred continuously to prevent sticking for the last 10 minutes or so. The chutney was ready for canning.

I filled eight clean half-pint jars (ouch, hot!), fitted the caps on, and screwed on the rims. The canner, water almost at a boil, was waiting. I lifted the first jar, lowered it into the water. There was an unfamiliar "pop" sound as I set the jar on the rack. I didn't think much of it, and continued to fill the canner. As I placed the last jar into the canner, I noticed something in the water. It looked like... a piece of apple? And, wait, there was a raisin, too! Yikes! That unfamiliar "pop" was the sound of the first jar breaking. Using the jar lifter (the water was boiling now), I pulled the first jar out. It had no bottom. The chutney was thick enough that most of it had remained in the bottomless jar, which I quickly upended. The remaining seven jars had their full 10 minutes in the boiling water; the popping made by their lids as they cooled and sealed was a good sound.

And here are the end results of yesterday's little adventure in home preserving: seven jars of golden curried apple chutney, and one broken jar. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the break was extremely clean. The jar was brand new. Go figure. There was a little chutney that didn't fit in the jars. It's in the refrigerator, and I can tell you that, even freshly made, this is yummy stuff: sweet, very spicy, a little hot. After a couple months' mellowing in the cellar, it's going to make some nice cheese (or pork, or turkey) very happy.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Feline Friday I: First photos 

I've been posting photos of our furry family only occasionally for fear of appearing like one of those crazy cat ladies. What, writing about them every few days already makes me sound like a crazy cat lady? Fine then, if the damage is done, I'll stop resisting. While cats are much less cooperative than buildings as photographic subjects, I have gotten a few shots that show more than paw or flank or tail.

Lyra, Sasha and Sergei have lived with us for a little over two years. Lyra was about a year old when we adopted her. Two weeks later, we brought two kittens, Sasha and Sergei (who are in fact brothers), home to keep her company. They were half her size at the time; now they weigh almost twice what she does.

These are the first photos that I took of the little herd that we call, in a play on my last name, the McKittens.

When Lyra was still afraid to get very close to either of us, but wanted to be social, she would hang out on the arm of our overstuffed leather chair. She was within hand's reach of the occupant of said chair, and could request and receive ear rubbing, but she was able to quickly and easily get away if she got spooked... which, as the leather on the chair bears witness, happened quite often.

Sasha and Sergei were very attached to each other when they first came to live with us. This yin-yang pose was one of their favorite napping positions. They would knead each other's bellies with their front paws and purr. They were about 8 months old when I took this photo. They still enjoy each other's company, and sometimes wake us by wrestling on top of us.

More cat pics and tidbits next Friday...

The First Day of Class 

Tuesday night was the first meeting of the memoir writing class that I'm taking at UW Extension this quarter. I haven't taken a real class since finishing architecture school 16 years ago. I've gone to continuing education seminars, and the occasional short workshop, but nothing on the scale of this full-quarter, 3-hours-each-Tuesday class. Given that I enjoy school, and learning with other people, it's surprising to me that I've waited so long to do this.

Before I left for class, I was talking with Paul. I was excited and nervous, and he got right to the heart of the matter. "We forgot to get you new pencils! Do you have a new notebook?" I laughed. The first day jitters are still much the same for me as they were when I set off to school with thick pencils, a Big Chief tablet and a box of crayons. I'm clearly out of practice. I had not armed myself with pristine supplies - a new notebook in a favorite color, two or three of my favorite brand of fine-point felt pen. I grabbed a notebook from the stack on my desk; paused to locate a special purple ball point pen, and headed out into the damp Seattle evening.

As I drove to campus, the first-day questions came out of hiding: Will I like my teacher? Will she like me? Will I make friends? Will my writing be good enough? Will I be good enough? I buried them under more mundane concerns: where do I park? where is the building? the classroom? Not wanting to be late, I had given myself more than enough time to get to class. Not wanting to be early, and sit in a quiet room with a bunch of strangers for any longer than necessary, I spent the extra time reading flyers on the bulletin board in the hallway. I walked into class two minutes before its scheduled start time.

The teacher walked in right on time, shuffled some papers, called the roll. Right away, she was taking us back into our memories. "Roll call. Just like in second grade. If you have a nickname, tell me what it is. Can you picture your second grade teacher? How many of you can remember her name?" She told us a bit about herself, and her background as a writer and writing teacher. Then came the "why I'm here" portion of the class, during which each of us got to say something about ourselves, and what we're writing, or want to write. I have told Paul's and my story often enough in the past few months that I can talk about it easily; not so for some students in this class. An elegant woman my mother's age spoke about never having written anything personal, then began to cry as she told us that her son had killed himself 18 months ago, and that she hoped to write her way to some peace about his death. Our teacher was across the room within moments, a packet of tissues in her outstretched hand. She was gentle but matter-of-fact in asking for a little more information, then moving on. "I can tell this class is going to get very personal very quickly," were the first words out of the next woman's mouth.

Indeed it will. Starting in a couple of weeks, we will be reading - and writing critiques of - one another's writing. For next week, we are to write one page about one of our early memories: a song, a scent, a pet. We will read these aloud in class. (Reading aloud! More memories from second grade...) And we are each to write a one-page summary/outline/plan for the memoir that we imagine writing... and bring copies for everyone in the class. So, next Tuesday evening, I'll receive 22 of these, from people who will not remain strangers for long.

Class was Tuesday; it's now Friday. I have not yet bought the books for the class (Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior). I have not yet started my assignments for this week. I have thought about them, but this is a writing class, so I'm supposed to, you know, actually write something. Now you have some idea of what I'll be doing this weekend.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

From the cats 

Dear Philip,

Mom says you want to see more pictures of us. She asked us to pose for photos. Posing is boring. Jumping for raffia is fun. Looking away from the camera is fun. Here are some pictures that Mom took of us today. Hope you enjoy them.

Our best to your beasties,
Lyra, Sasha and Sergei McKitten

Monday, October 04, 2004


There's a blog I read occasionally that has a section on the sidebar entitled "Bloggers I have Verified to be Flesh." Before yesterday, had I made such a list, it would have been comprised of my husband Paul (who has been well and truly verified) and our "blog children," the three women who started their own blogs after reading ours for a while.

Yesterday, however, I added someone I met through blogging to the list of those I know to be real, living, breathing human beings... and really nice ones at that. A couple of months ago, in a ramble through the blogosphere, I came across nina turns 40. I enjoyed Nina's poetic writing, great photos and colorful layout. As we exchanged comments and emails, we realized that we live in the same neighborhood, and work within blocks of each other. In fact, Nina walks the Kidlet to school within view of my house.

Yesterday afternoon Nina and I met in person at El Diablo Coffee, the wonderful Latin coffee place on Queen Anne Avenue. As Nina had expected, we recognized each other right away, and we do look as if we could be sisters: two 40-something women with straight shoulder-length salt'n'pepper hair. We got our cafe cubanos (thanks again, Nina), found a nice spot on Diablo's patio... and talked.

For almost three hours we talked, and a fun and interesting conversation it was, too. Because we read each other's blogs, we know these things about each other's lives, but we don't really know each other yet. So the conversation involved a lot of getting background, and filling in gaps, and then went on from there. And then we went next door to Queen Anne Books, my favorite little independent bookstore, for what was, for each of us, very restrained (i.e. one book only) book buying. It was a lovely afternoon.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


ke04.jpgI have plenty to say about politics. So far, I have not chosen to say anything here. I let my husband Paul, savvy political analyst that he is, handle that over at his blog. Every marriage has its distribution of labor; this is one of ours. However, when I saw this button on his blog, I couldn't resist. Of the many things for which I fault the current president, his regular abuse, misuse, nay, mangling of the English language - while perhaps low in importance in the grand scheme of things - makes my brain hurt. It is difficult for me listen to the man speak. And I'm from Texas, so it's not the accent that I find offputting. There are a lot of folks with accents like his who can put together cogent, grammatical, complete sentences... AND deliver... them... without pausing every three or... four words. He's just rarely one of them. Oh, and I can't tell you how much I'm hoping that, come January, I won't ever again have to hear a president of the United States utter the nonsense syllables new-kew-ler.

OK, all done for now.

UPDATE: The "Bring Back Complete Sentences" button is from Catherine Smith at Blog for Democracy. The story of the buttons is here. You can order buttons here, and t-shirts and coffee mugs with the slogan here.