Thursday, January 31, 2008

There's what in my yogurt???

So, as you may know, I have been having a hard time finding yogurt that I like up here in NY. In Austin, we ate a lot of Wallaby, an organic brand that is really good, but here we can only get it at the two natural food stores in Rochester. We don't get there more than once or twice a month, and the yogurt is more expensive. So I was happy when I discovered that Wegman's now has an organic yogurt, er "super yogurt," and we bought a couple to try. Now, I don't really buy the super food label, and as Michael Pollan says to be, I am suspicious of foods carrying health claims. Well, I should have looked a bit closer at this "super" yogurt before I ate it. It has fish in it. Yes, fish. To give it omega 3 fats. It is yogurt. With fish in it. No, I didn't taste any fish, but the fact that it has fish, and beef gelatin in it... Fish, and beef. In yogurt.

Reading habits

My reading habits lately have changed from how I would have described them before. I used to read a lot more fiction of all kinds, and only the occasional non-fiction book. Lately, I have been reading mysteries almost exclusively for my fiction, and have been reading quite a few non-fiction books. Of the 6 fiction books I read this month, 3 of them were mysteries and 2 were "young adult." Only one of them could be considered "serious" fiction. Not that I am judging them or anything by putting those terms in quotations - just using the technical jargon.

This trend may have something to do with the library here in Brockport - there are always good looking non-fiction books on the "new books" shelves, but less interesting fiction - a lot of romances and lighter fiction. I rarely go into the actual stacks (if you can even call them that) to casually browse. So I am picking up a lot more non-fiction at random than I may have done before. And, to be honest, fiction just doesn't seem very interesting right now. Not sure why. I am sure it will change again soon. Unless I am turning into my mother - including her reading tastes!

I managed to read 10 books for January, so I am right on track for reaching my goal of 100 for the year.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blustery day

8 AM: After a mild, almost warm day yesterday, we were awakened around 6 AM this morning by the sounds of a wild, blustery morning. The wind blowing through the canal area sets up quite a roar. For the second time this month, all the garbage cans up and down the street were knocked over - and at least one went sailing by our front window. Unlike the storm earlier this month, I didn't put out the recycling bins, and so don't feel obligated to go chasing trash. And if the wind weren't enough, it also rained, and then the wind brought a temperature crash, and snow, so everything is coated with a thin layer of ice. Brr! At the moment, the snow is light, but blowing horizontally...

10:45 - The house next door lost a tree sometime during the bluster, and the public works guys came by to take it away, as seen below.

And it looks like other areas of town have been hit too - the truck below is carrying the remains of a street corner sign that must have blown over. It is still snowing and blowing, at times fierce enough to be almost a white-out. I think I won't be going out any time soon. A good time to bake cookies.

About that trip to Bermuda...we're still game if anyone wants to pay!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Angst update

For my loyal readers who are waiting with baited breath to hear how the horrible job search went, here is an update. I am a dope. Yup. I got all dressed up in business appropriate clothing, drive all the way in to the University of Rochester, filled out a standard multi-purpose application, and left. Didn't talk to anyone apart from the receptionist. Nothing to worry about. I might hear from them later this week. Huh.

In the meantime, I have discovered two library-related job openings that I am probably qualified for. One is for a library assistant at the downtown branch of the library, working in the history and genealogy center. This one is closest to my areas of work, but they may want someone with more managerial experience. The other job is for a children's library aide at another branch library on the other side of Rochester. It sounds like fun, and I may apply, but I don't know if it would be worth it, money-wise, since I have to make a certain amount just to cover the cost of gas. I bet that it is only 10-15 hours a week, if that...

So the angst continues, at a slightly lower level. At least I am making some sort of attempt, right?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Employment-related existential crisis

I am having a bit of an existential crisis this weekend, something that happens every time I head out to seek work. This particular crisis was precipitated by my decision that I really need to get off my a** (word bleeped in deference to my mother) and get a job.

When we first arrived in Brockport, I revamped my resume and sent it along with cover letters to many of the archives and libraries in the area - the only response coming from the archivist at SUNY Brockport. She wanted to hire me, but didn't have the funds; I have been volunteering with her since October, but since it is a volunteer position, no money is involved. Anyway, after that round of thundering silence, I retreated into self-delusion or denial and somewhat happily stayed at home, enjoying my "freedom."

The problem is that "freedom" for me usually ends in boredom and minor depression. Not to mention some amount of poverty. We aren't exactly on the brink of ruin, but it sure would be nice to have some extra money. So, I have decided to seek temp work in Rochester - just something to add to the family pot, and get me out of the house and away from the cats. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with temp work - I have done it before and made good money and had an interesting education in the workings of the local power company - but I am dreading the process.

This is where the crisis comes in. I absolutely hate the job seeking process. It makes me feel like I have no marketable skills (not true), which makes me feel useless (again, not true, but there is little arguing with my very strong irrational side), which in turn makes me hate the capitalistic system we live in and ends with me wanting to overthrow the entire world economy. So, here I am again - wanting to both keep my freedom that is driving me up a wall, and wanting to have more money so I can enjoy my freedom. I know that all of this is not logical, and in my saner moments I can talk myself into believing that there is nothing wrong with having a job, and that I will not lose all my free time (after all, I HAVE had jobs before, and for the most part, I was able to do all I wanted). I just hope I can get the saner moments to triumph long enough for me to get a job. Once I have one I will be fine, it is just getting there that is difficult.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bye bye Dennis

Much sadness - Dennis Kucinich has dropped out of the race for president. I know, he never had a chance, and he is just kind of weird, but I liked his positions. Now I don't have to think about who I will vote for until October, since I can't vote in the primary here. I will have to wait and see if I feel enthusiastic enough about the candidates to try and elect one of them, or if I should make a symbolic vote for the Green Party (which will have to be write-in, I'm sure). It may ultimately come down to which state we are in by November (and no, we have no idea yet), and whether or not my vote might actually make a difference.

In the meantime, I have re-subscribed us to Mother Jones magazine, in order to get the semi-radical left view of the elections. Whee.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hooray for racquetball

We finally renewed our gym membership at the college gym yesterday, and were able to play racquetball for the first time in over a month. It felt good (and tiring) to run around after the ball for an hour. I won 2 of the 3 games, but barely. It is amazing how out of condition you can get in that short span of time.

It is really hard to get enough aerobic exercise right now, with the weather being what it is (cold, if you haven't been paying attention). Going outside is not particularly attractive. I've been forcing myself to go on my walk every day, but the appeal has really gone out of it, especially when I have to bundle up in three layers, wrap myself up like a mummy in a scarf, and slog against the bitter arctic wind that penetrates the cracks despite the layers and the scarf. I am beginning to understand the appeal of a mid-winter vacation in the Bahamas. Anyone want to fund one for us?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Environmental olio

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things. It's a crossword puzzle word, and I have never seen it used in any other context. There, you have learned something today!

Thumbs up to Whole Foods for banning plastic bags in all of its stores as of April 22. Shoppers will still be able to get paper bags, or buy a reusable tote. As I think I have said before, we take our own canvas bags every time we go to the store. I am not sure if this ban includes the produce bags - I doubt it - but those can be reused and recycled as well. We also have a set of nifty net bags that we bought years ago that work really well for things like apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, etc. Many places in Europe charge a small fee (several cents) for bags, if you don't bring your own. I hope more stores follow Whole Foods' example.

Thumbs down to the FDA for opening the door to cloned meat in the food supply. So it may be safe for consumption, but that really isn't the point. It won't really benefit the average consumer, and it will definitely affect the diversity of species used as food. The health of a species and ecosystem can be determined by the diversity of species - what will it say if all the animals in one system are essentially all the same animal? For further discussion on this topic, here is a short essay by Verlyn Klinkenborg, and a segment of the radio show Living on Earth (the same show I got the water use link from).

As for our environment here in Western New York, it is still cold, and there is a light dusting of snow. I am hoping for a lot more snow this week, but don't think I am going to get it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Save your water!

How much water do you and your family use each day? Don't know? Here ( is a handy web calculator to help you find out. Benjamin and I use about 800 gallons of water a day, each (this includes the amount needed for our car, our food, and the actual water usage). In contrast, the average American uses about 1200 gallons a day. According to the World Health Organization, humans need about 13 gallons of water a day to stay healthy - in some places in Africa, they have less than a gallon a day. We are able to be so low thanks to the low-flow toilet, shower, and dishwasher, among other things. We are in a rental, so we can't change some things, but when we have our own home, we want to put in at least a rain barrel, if not a gray water capture system, and solar panels, and some day we will have a hybrid or electric car.

I don't know how much my parents use, but my mother leaves the water running while she brushes her teeth (Yes Mom, I am publicly shaming you - it is for your own good. Love you!) OK, to be fair, they do have a couple of water barrels that collect water off the roof, which they use in the garden.

Note: Somehow I didn't get the link on when I originally posted. It should be there now.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside!

Made it safely home to Rochester, and boy, is it cold! 11, or -5 with wind chill. Not quite as cold Green Bay, but colder than Moscow and Greenland (according to the Fox NFL sports weather guy). Huh. It was deceptively sunny this afternoon - if you didn't look at the thermometer, you might be fooled into thinking it would be nice to go for a walk. We weren't fooled.

I had a pretty good time last week in Bellevue. Mostly, I just hung around with my dad, fetching tea and soda, knitting baby wash cloths, and watching Bones on DVD. I had a chance to catch up with Annie, which was great - and she gave me handmade socks! Wahoo! For a picture, check out this picture on her blog. She is a much, much better knitter than I am!

Anyway, it is back to normal here. I just started a new batch of sourdough starter - the old batch kind of died. Oops. So I should be able to make some good bread by Friday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

That seems backwards

I am now safely ensconced at my parent's house in Bellevue, after a relatively uneventful trip. What is backwards is the weather - it was supposed to snow Sunday night and Monday in Brockport, but it was merely raining when Benjamin dropped me at the airport. Instead, it started snowing here in Bellevue soon after Mom picked me up from the airport. There was enough snow on the ground, and ice on the roadways, for many of the school districts to have delayed starts. That isn't supposed to happen here!

Back to traveling. What is it about airports and airplanes that brings out the petty toddler in grown adults? Is it being told what to do in circumstances where they have no real choice? Are people really breaking that many laws all over the place, but they are just more noticeable on the plane? I mean, I saw people with three carry-ons instead of two - taking up room from other people in the overhead bins; people who pushed in front of other people in an attempt to beat them to the plane,as if the plane would leave before everyone standing in line were on; and one person who, when told to turn off her laptop, merely put it to sleep, stowed it until the flight attendants were all strapped in for take-off, and took it out again to resume watching her DVD.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Buffalo to Bellevue (Warning: sports content)

We certainly got our money's worth last night - the game was decided in the shoot-out, which means that it was tied at the end of regulation and tied at the end of the 5 minute overtime period. Martin Brodeur was excellent as well, after the first 5 minutes or so of the game. He stopped all the shots in the shoot-out. I was one of the only happy fans leaving the game, since it was the Sabres' 9 loss in a row, several of which were to the Devils. (Is is right for a Presbyterian to cheer for a team called the Devils? Oh well.) Compared to a game in Dallas, where we went to several hockey games, the crowd seemed much more like true hockey fans - more jerseys, team t-shirts, less mindless entertainment going on between periods to keep your interest. The seats were also less cushy, since the arena is primarily a hockey venue, whereas the Dallas arena was also a basketball arena, and basketball fans seem to be more spoiled. The sight lines were good though, even if the seats were a little hard.

Driving to and from the game we listened to the football playoffs on the radio. Poor Seaturkeys, they were just crushed, after starting out so promisingly. Ah well, that is sports in Seattle - apart from the Seattle Storm, the women's basketball team, none of the teams have been able to win big in the post-season. And "isn't he so dreamy" Tom Brady won yet again. Hmph. Maybe he will have to face off against Brett Favre in the Superbowl, and old crafty veteran will show the young whippersnapper who is really the boss. I seem to have a habit of cheering for the old veterans and not the young punks. Strange really. Anyway, I am going to cheer for Peyton Manning for now, and anyone except the Patriots in the end.

Tomorrow morning I fly off to Washington, to stay with my parents for the week while Dad is recovering from knee surgery. To get there, I have to fly through the other Washington. Crazy that is, going east in order to get west. It makes for a long day, but I will have my knitting and my books, so hopefully I will keep busy. That reminds me, I ought to go charge up my Ipod. Anyway, I might update while I am there; if not, I'll talk to you next weekend.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Buffalo, Buffalo

We are heading to Buffalo this evening for a hockey game - Sabres vs. Devils. When we were planning to buy tickets, I had looked forward to a game where I could root for the home team (instead of the visiting team, as always happened in Texas), but this is not to be. I will be rooting for Martin Brodeur and the Devils, while Benjamin cheers for the Sabres. Sigh. Oh well. At least is will be a live hockey game, which is way better than sitting at home.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Branching out

I have finally started branching out from scarves with my knitting. I have several friends who are expecting babies in the next couple of months, and I decided that I would like to knit something for them. After being warned away from baby blankets by Annie, and hearing my mother gripe about how long it is taking to knit the ones she is making for co-workers, I decided that I would start smaller. So, wash cloths it is. They are really easy, which is good for this novice knitter, and pretty quick. And the yarn is 100% cotton and nice to work with, compared to the fun fur and homespun I was using for scarves. I have done two so far - the sailboat above and a lamb, which actually looks kind of like a turtle, but I don't think that is my fault. I intend to do four per person, at this point. If any of you would like to commission me to make some for you to give as gifts, just let me know :) I am sure we could work out some sort of deal.

Before starting the wash cloths I did manage to finish Benjamin's Christmas scarf. As you can see, I learned from my mistake of the all stockinette scarf that curled on the sides, and made a sort of pattern. And because I had to buy another ball of yarn to make it long enough, I had plenty of yarn left over to make tassels. I do want to make him a matching hat, but I don't know if I am up to a hat yet. In any case, I won't be doing anything but wash cloths for a little while yet. I really love that yarn - it is Patons Shetland chunky tweed - and so do the cats! They all want to knead it. I may use the leftovers to make a small blankie for them.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I have been debating with myself about blogging about the NH primary, and the "yes, do it, everyone else is" side has one. So, here goes. I am fed up with the 2008 presidential race. For one thing, it has already been going on for far too long. Why do we need to have candidates trying to get our attention over a year before the actual election? I think we ought to go with the model that some other countries have, where no one can campaign for an election more than 6-8 weeks beforehand. Yes, I do understand that we might have to sacrifice some of our chances to get to "know" the candidates, and our so-called freedom of choice might be affected, but we would also get rid of the years worth of negative ads. Besides, as an unaligned voter, I can't actually vote in the primary anyway. And in Texas, our primary was so late that it didn't have any impact (more on that in a moment).

Also, the waste of money currently spent on ads and campaigns sickens me - in fact, I find it rather immoral. I know that all that money probably wouldn't be spent on the many more worthy causes that it should be, because this is a capitalist country and everyone has a right to spend their money wherever they choose, but still, there is always a chance. This waste of money also contributes to the fact that only the richest or best at fund raising actually have a hope of getting noticed and sticking in the longest. Individually wealthy candidates have so many more options to waste their money, and if one thing doesn't work, they can just do another. With a shorter campaign period, that amount wasted would be drastically reduced, if only because the time is so limited.

And what's with having two rather small, very white states deciding who I can choose as my candidate? I mean, only TWO states have voted so far, it is barely January, and already candidates are dropping like flies, and others are being encouraged to give their chances up as lost. How is this democratic? How is this giving me a voice? I think all the primaries should be held on one day, maybe a week or two into the campaign that is only 8 weeks long. This would never happen, of course, because the early states would have to give up their privileged positions, and the news reporters would all explode, trying to cover all 50 states at once. Of course, that might be a good thing... I was listening to an interview with an undecided voter in Iowa the other day, and she said she was going to wait to make up her mind until she had seen all her top choices in person. Gee. Wouldn't it be nice if we all had that chance? I'm sure we all do, if we have the money to fly where they are speaking, or to pay for $5000 a plate dinner appearances.

Of course, the largest part of the farce is that we the voters actually have a chance to affect anything and select the president. We don't. The electoral college sees to that. The special interests groups help. Why does it have to be an all or nothing system? If 40% of the voters in a state vote one way, and the other 60% votes another, all that state's votes go to the majority side. Again, how is that democratic? How is that direct representation? And while I am griping,Why does the vice-president have to be elected along with the president? Why can't we vote for them separately?


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Don't be fooled, it's still winter...isn't it?

It did get into the 60s yesterday, and according to the weather report on my computer, it is now 66. 66! That is like a Texas winter day. Now that the snow is all gone, I noticed that the yard was looking a bit straggly - leaves I hadn't raked before the first snow, some plants that should have been trimmed - so I took advantage of the nice warm weather and did a bit of yard work. It makes me want to start planning what I want to do in the spring, the true spring that is, but it is sure to snow again soon. The weather report says it is only supposed to be in the 40s tomorrow, and snowing again on the weekend. Besides, I am not sure how much work I want to put into a garden that I will be leaving some time this summer. If it were my own yard, sure, but a rental? Minimal maintenance, but no building of raised beds out back on the berm, or total replanting of the perennials out front.

In other news, I am baking bread this afternoon. On Sunday I made challah, using the bread machine to do the kneading and initial rising - the bread turned out very good, and pretty, just like from a bakery. Today is simple wheat bread. Time to cut back from the holiday excesses and return to nice wholesome bread. Sigh, it's a pity, because I could really use some good cookies...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Another sign of global warming

The temperature today is supposed to get close to 60 - 30 degrees above normal for this time of the year. It is warm enough that I have opened windows (just a little bit) and turned down the heater. All the snow is gone, except where it was piled up in mini-mountains on the sides of driveways. The canal is mostly clear. When we were walking yesterday, we saw a flock of Canada geese trying to walk on the ice that was left, but they kept falling through.

And in Nevada and parts of California they are having snow and ice storms...And people still deny that global warming is real?!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Resolutions and evil Republicans

I am not really big on New Year's resolutions, since I tend to make resolutions fairly regularly, and I don't think making them at this time of year is particularly special. That being said I do have a few that I will publish here in an attempt to make myself stick to them (and to keep up with Annie, who has already put hers up):

Do tai chi and/or nei kung every day. I was getting into a good groove before Thanksgiving, but then my parents came to town, and it was the holidays etc., etc., and I stopped. So, now that things may be returning to normal, I will try to re-discover that groove.

Read 100 books in 2008. I just counted, and I made it to 87 books in 2007, which is better than 2006, but not as much as I wanted. There really wasn't an excuse, since I have been unemployed, with plenty of time on my hands, since September. But I guess I was handicapped by graduate school for the first half of the year. Whatever. I will do better this year!

Not let my cats drive me crazy. Truly, I don't want to be a crazy cat lady, and it is going to take some will power to keep from letting them get to me!There are all the standard ones - eat right, lose weight, exercise more, blah blah blah. But those don't really belong on this list.

As for the Republicans of the post title: Neil, one of our philosopher friends, a political blogger, and a serious Buffy fan has posted this great list comparing the Republican presidential candidates to various Buffy villains. If you always thought there was something creepy about them, now you know why!

Back from the big city

We had a great time in New York. We walked all over, got good at figuring out the subway maps, and saw lots of sights. Our first day, New Year's Eve, we had great weather as we joined tons of other tourists in walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and riding the Staten Island ferry. We also had lunch at Katz's, the oldest still operating deli in NYC, and the one from the infamous deli scene in When Harry Met Sally. Chris and Mulzer had a race to run in Central Park at midnight, but Benjamin and I were too pooped to tag along, so after a great dinner at a little taqueria, we barely made it to midnight before we went to sleep.

New Year's Day we braved the rain to walk around Times Square and Fifth Avenue. The weather was almost the opposite of the day before, and the only people out were the tourists - the natives being far more sensible! The only thing we bought was a box of chocolates, but it was fun to at least see some of the stores I have read about in the NY Times. The rain did eventually let up, and we were able to walk around Central Park - you would not believe how many foreign tourists take pictures of the squirrels... (you could tell they were foreign before hearing them speak by the ubiquitous large camera and cigarette).

On Wednesday, we again joined a flood of tourists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see above picture to get an idea of how many ) to look at Greek vases, medieval armor, and Monets. Again, you would not believe how many tourists were taking pictures of themselves in front of the various pieces of art work. It seemed to be allowed, as long as they didn't use a flash, or touch the art - although we did see one girl try to lean on a statue, set off the alarm, and still take the picture, all without seeming to alert anyone. We spent four hours at the museum and still didn't see everything. My favorites were the Monet paintings, and seeing some 18th century paintings by French women artists. We are just going to have to go back: to see the Cloisters, the Pierpoint Morgan Library, the inside of the NY Public Library (we saw the lions, but since it was New Year's Day, the library itself was closed), Central Park when it isn't freezing cold, Greenwich Village in the daylight, the Natural History Museum (we did see the subway stop beneath it, where the last picture was taken)...All in all, it was a good trip. I have decided that I would like to be able to spend time in big cities occasionally, but as far as daily life goes, I am better suited to a smaller town. I like having a subway system to take me around without a car, but I also like being able to walk around the neighborhood and see trees and flowers and grass, instead of concrete. I like the variety available in restaurants, book stores, and groceries, but I also prefer to be somewhere without quite so many people. I find it hard to think clearly when surrounded by so many other people at all times. But, as I said, getting out of the small town for some time in a city is also good - we are already planning our next trip, when it is warm again.