Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last year's resolutions

So, of my resolutions, the only one I filled completely was to read at least 100 books in 2008. The year still has some hours left to it, but I am fairly confident I won't finish any books today, so the grand total is (wait for it...) 121. This total is in large part due to the fact that I was not in graduate school for the first time in several years, and I was unemployed or underemployed for almost 9 months of the year. While I will try to match this total in 2009, I seriously doubt I will be able to do so.

I didn't do tai chi every day. I ate too much. The cats drove me close to crazy. But hey, we moved from New York to Arkansas, we both have full-time, professional jobs, we are all (including the cats) fairly healthy (I say fairly because we both have colds right now). Not a bad year over all.

I'll try to address 2009 tomorrow.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Wrap-up

So, Christmas is over for another year. My parents have come and gone; the tree and lights (well, all except one string above the window) have come down; the presents have been unwrapped and assimilated. My big present was a sewing machine - something I have been wanting for a while. I have already bought a pattern and fabric for a skirt that I hope to sew some time this week or next weekend. The cats got a great big climbing tree to keep them occupied. So far, only Oliver is taking advantage of its multiple levels, but hey, if it keeps one cat out of trouble. Benjamin got a new, very spiffy racquetball racquet - I was tempted to get a lesser quality one, so I would have some advantage over him, but I was a good Hopey and didn't do that.

Putting away Christmas wasn't very difficult this year, emotionally or physically. We didn't decorate much, so there wasn't a lot to put away. For some reason, I wasn't particularly into the whole thing this year, so I am not sad to see it go. Not that I didn't enjoy it, I just didn't get very excited. And I am actually a bit relieved that I have to work this week (although I am not going to complain about having Thursday off), because I really don't want to sit at home.

The picture is of the Arkansas Capitol at night. Thank to my Dad for taking it - I kept wanting to, but the lights haven't been on when I've been here. It took the work crew about a month, all of November really, to get the lights up. I wonder how quickly they will come down.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Traveling in December Stinks!

My poor parents! On the way down to Arkansas on Monday, they were delayed in Seattle because of the snow and ice. Today, on their way home, their flight into Dallas was canceled because of a tornado warning, so they had to rent a car and drive to Dallas instead. They have a flight booked out of Dallas for later this evening, but who knows if it will actually go. If they are lucky (and I think events so far prove they are not) they might get on an earlier flight.

Benjamin and I are thinking of swearing off all future December travel. Too bad we live so far away from all our relatives, or it might actually be a vow we could keep.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Merry Christmas! To send you off for the holidays, I am posting some pictures of the Arkansas Capitol, all dressed up for Christmas. (No protests or calls for atheist or Jewish symbols here).

This is the 2nd floor of the rotunda, with its tree and other greenery. School choirs have been singing here for the past couple of weeks. I went with a co-worker to hear her daughter and choir sing - the sound rings gloriously, but gets a bit too muddy. Ah well.

These steps go up to the 2nd floor from the first, and they too are heavily decorated. Take a look at the next picture and see just how big the balls and baubles are. Some of them are bigger than my head!

These snowflakes are great. They are suspended before the decorations on the first floor by a fine net of fishing line. Here is the first floor decorations. One day I went in to use the post office, and there was a school group taking pictures on the bridge. Neat.
That's if from me for a little while. Have a lovely Christmas - I hope you are with family and friends and are warm and safe!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Another day of cats

I used the camera a bunch last week, and I actually had time to get the pictures off the camera. As a Monday morning treat, I give you Oliver and Cleo. These two pictures really show the difference in their natures. Cleo is greedily gobbling down food that is not her own - I think I put it on the table for Oliver. She is the quickest eater of the three, and when we feed them, we have to chaperon them to keep her from forcing Creamsicle and Oliver away from the food. Never mind that Cleo is somewhat afraid of Creamsicle at all other times, never mind that both Oliver and CS have claws and she doesn't, she bullies them away and gobbles their food. Benjamin described her attack as a torpedo, streaking across the kitchen to get to the available food.

Oliver, on the other hand, is a thoughtful kitty. He loves to stare out the window, watching who knows what. When we had a balcony, he would go out at night and just watch bugs for hours. Here, he sits on the table and watches the parking lot. He doesn't really care a lot about food, and just loves having his tummy rubbed.

I am not intentionally stiffing CS; I just don't have any new pictures of her. She spends most of her time these days on the back of the couch. She loves being petted, but she also likes to bite the hand that pets her, so you have to pay attention and have fast reflexes.

Friday, December 19, 2008

SNOW in Bellevue

Here are a couple of pictures my dad sent from Bellevue. I am jealous. The last time there was this much snow there, we were in New Zealand, and missed it. This time, I am in Arkansas. We had snow like that last year in NY, but I doubt we will ever get any like that here. The hill at the top is my old sledding hill, usually a normal residential street. The bottom is my dad's car, the Donobug, in the snow. He has chains, so he can get around fine, for now. More snow is expected...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cat interlude

On a day that was cold just about everywhere in this country, and icy here, I figure that we could use a picture of kitties being nice to each other. Cleo likes to give Oliver a licking, cleaning his face and ears. She doesn't really like it the other way round though...Despite the look on his face, Oliver really does like being licked and loved on, until she starts biting.

I tried to get to work this morning, because work was on a 2 hour delay but not closed, but after getting a couple miles down the freeway I turned around. There was an accident or something ahead of me, and once I had waited 20 minutes without moving, I decided that I just don't care enough about work to spend another 1 or 2 to get there! So I baked banana bread for our office Christmas, excuse me, Holiday luncheon (yes, political blandness has struck our office), and ginger cookies for a get-together tomorrow. I also finished a book that has been lingering on my bedside table for far too long, and got all the Christmas cards ready to go out, assuming I can make it to work and the post office box tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2008


We are at the beginning of what may turn out to be Icepocalypse 2008. I am borrowing/adapting that phrase from a blogger in Seattle. People here at work are in full panic mode because we have an icy blast bearing down us that may be carrying freezing rain. Oh boy. It is the same in Seattle this week. And in the Northeast. Personally, I don't really care - there is nothing I can do to change the weather - but people at work are worried. They keep assuming that I am not accustomed to bad driving and ice - but I am - I saw it in Texas. The thing is, everyone says that "We are just not used to it here" and then in the next breath, "This happens every year." Well, if it happens every year, maybe they ought to get better prepared! Sigh. Maybe the Governor will close the government early today. That would be nice. And tomorrow. I could use the time to clean the house in preparation for my parents' visit next week...And to bake cookies...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ouachita pictures

Okey-dokey. I finally remembered my memory stick, and I finally got around to putting up some pictures. So, the day after Thanksgiving our tradition is to go for a hike and avoid the malls. This year, we went the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead. Donna and David took us to a part of the Ouchita Trail - a long trail that winds through the state and into Oklahoma. David is trying to hike the whole thing, in segments, and wanted to do a particular section, the Sandslip Mountain section. There was some climbing up to a ridge, and some climbing down to the creek (see below) but otherwise it wasn't too strenuous.

As you can tell from this picture, it was not warm. About 45, which was just about right for hiking (well, I would have liked 55).

This is Irons' Creek - which looks like it would be heavenly on a hot summer afternoon (assuming it has water in it at that time of year). A bit too cold for wading on this day, however.

And on the road to and from the hike was the marvelous little building. The Steve Church of Christ. We speculated about who the Steve was who gets his own church, and whether or not people not named Steve can attend. (The practically non-existent town nearby is named Steve). I thought it was so interesting, I made David stop the car on the way back so I could get this picture.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday, with new socks

OK, I didn't get around to posting last night, and I forgot my pictures again today. Sorry. But let me tell you about the great socks I bought that arrived yesterday. They are knee socks, and stripy. I decided that I want to jazz up my wardrobe a bit, in a grown-up and professional manner - I am tired of looking like a graduate student, and even more tired of getting asked if I am a student. Since I am not as good a knitter as Annie, I cannot make my own socks, so buying them is my only option. Jennifer La Suprema told me about an internet store called Sock Dreams, a dangerous and seductive store...Anyway, they have tons of socks. I bought a pair of tights and a pair of Dreamy Knees in the Metro color pattern. So far, I love them. They are keeping my legs warm on this dreary day. I think I will buy some more, next month, after Christmas is over.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday place holder

I intended to post some pictures of our recent hike, but I forgot to bring them with me to work, so you will just have to wait until I get home this evening.

This week looks to be fairly calm, after the busy-ness of last week. We had something to do almost every night. But we got to rest yesterday, so I baked bread and we had split pea soup for dinner. I watched an interesting documentary about Iran, The Color of Love and we watched the fun and silly Bride and Prejudice - yes, a semi-Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice. There was singing and dancing that was quite infectious. Not great cinema, but good for a laugh. The Mrs. Bennett character works perfectly as an Indian mother trying to get her daughters married off, and Mr. Darcy as an American works quite well also.

Anyway, I will try to come back this evening with some pictures.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anti-Prop 8 video - hilarious

I first saw this over at Cogitamus, and if you had told me that I would like Jack Black as Jesus, I would have vehemently disagreed with you - but this works, it really works!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We're 43rd, we're 43!

Arkansas is ranked 43rd among the 50 states in terms of the health of its residents. Washington State is 10th. I can totally see that. Here, in the natural state, the majority of people do not seem to go outdoors except to hunt things. OK, OK, that is a gross exaggeration, I am sure. But it is true that on all of the hikes Benjamin and I have gone on so far in this state, we have never encountered more than a handful of people, not even on the overnight hike. That is almost unheard of on many hikes in Washington. And I am sure the legacy of Southern cooking doesn't help either. Hush puppies, biscuits in gravy, sweet tea, fried catfish...I am making myself hungry. There is a surprising (to me anyway) abundance of locally grown food in Arkansas, but it seems that not enough people have access to it, or know about it. When Wal-Mart is the best grocery store in town, something is wrong with your food culture.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I don't exactly see why Arkansas can't move up the ladder a bit more: there are lots of places to get outdoors and exercise, and there are lots of opportunities for good, healthy food. Here in Little Rock there is a good medical school, so we should have enough doctors and nurses. More money for preventative measures (and people willing to be given those measures instead of seeing them as an imposition on their "freedom") would help. But, it takes some effort and will to change a culture, and one lone liberal voice blogging in the wilderness isn't going to cut it.

Addendum: Texas is 46th! Huh. Well, I guess we have a smaller population here in AR, so less infectious disease? Check out the survey for yourself at America's Health Rankings 2008.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An ugly alternate world

When we first decided to move to Arkansas, I knew that we were moving somewhere unlike anywhere we had lived before. Somewhere more conservative, somewhere in the Bible belt, somewhere with a very dark racist past. But I didn't know just how backwards people here could be. The local/state paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ran a story on Friday about a motel owner in the town of Huntsville who is flying a Confederate battle flag in protest of Barack Obama's election victory. He says it is because Obama is a Marxist, and has abandoned the (so-called) Christian values of the founders, not because Obama is black. But the (so-called) Christian founders (TJ for one was not Christian - he was a Deist) enshrined slavery in the Constitution, so their values do include racism. And how in the world can anyone believe that Obama is Marxist? He isn't even that liberal, as far as liberals go. (Well, I'll tell you how - they just don't pay attention to reality.)

As if that were not enough, the paper has had numerous letters-to-the-editor from people who are angry that anyone would criticise the motel owner. Apparently, anyone who does so is anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-Bible, and so on and so forth. Huh? I think Jesus would be highly offended by the use of a racist and hurtful symbol against anyone. I think that people who say otherwise are blinded by their own arrogance and ego. Not to mention just plain stupid.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fabulous Food Frenzy

We had a weekend of good food. It started on Wednesday night, when we had buffalo burgers with homemade buns (courtesy of the bread machine and Benjamin). They weren't anything that special, but they were fresh, didn't have any high fructose corn syrup in them, and were made with love (aww...). Thursday, we had an organic, pastured chicken, raised less than 150 miles from Conway. We even know the farmer. It was very good - moist and tasty - and I bet it could walk around without falling over, unlike factory farmed chickens. We also had a homemade apple crostata, made with locally grown apples. Friday, we went over to Vicki and Clayton's for a post-Thanksgiving feast of bison steaks, cous-cous salad, homemade foccacio, and pumpkin pie made from a sugar pie pumpkin. Saturday we had grilled cheese sandwiches using locally produced raw milk cheddar. All this was capped off on Sunday with green chile tacos - made with locally grown poblanos, the left-0ver chicken from Thursday, and homemade tortillas. Yes, I made corn tortillas from scratch. It was a lot easier than I would have guessed. And I am making stock from the chicken carcass - it smells great. Next weekend, we plan to make chicken tortilla soup.