Thursday, June 29, 2006


What a scatterbrained week. I have several freelance jobs in several very different fields that all want more days a week of my attention. I have about six creative projects of my own in the works on top of it. And, the gallery wants more of my work. My Jane of All Trades boho lifestyle is going a little too well. I’m going to have to screw something up or give something up. I was talking to a fence builder today and it seemed oddly metaphorical. So, clearly I need the kind of perspective that only a few days of skipping town, sleeping outside, and eating a lot of lobster can bring. . . seeya!

Here's your thought for the day, brought to you from the MIT timeline in the Kendall Square subway station in Cambridge:

Monday, June 26, 2006

Boats, and boats, and boats

I was certified to lead trips for my local sea kayaking club last year after a lot of classes, on the water training, and a "scenarios" test. Then the club also did some risk assessment of this whole trip leader training system with outside risk management consultants. Now there is an extra bit of testing we must go through to upgrade to the new recommended system. It's a quite a lot to go through and it's all to volunteer to lead others who can still sue you, and the whole process already involves a decent amount of paperwork. But what's a club to do?

So don't get me wrong, I still lead people and believe in the whole Pass it Forward skills training of this club. And hey, it's a lot of free training I got. Meanwhile, one of the trip leader coordinators randomly is giving pop quiz questions to trip leaders who need to upgrade.I'm not sure if it is to remind me I need other testing or if these little questions are part of the testing!

After I came in to shore with a big group of our lowest level paddlers I had out in Marblehead harbor Saturday to meet up with two other groups for a beachside pot luck... there she was. "Name three of the special hazards kayaks in the NE must look out for?" "That's easy," I said "Boats, rocks, boats, fast changing weather, boats, cold water, and boats."

I sent her an email that night with the following picture of the poor fellow I nearly lost on Saturday (heads up!) with the subject header "boats, boats, and boats!"



Sunday, June 25, 2006

Movie Report

A few films I've seen recently:

X-Men: The Last Stand – I love the X-Men movies. Except why does Storm have to be reminded she has interesting powers she could use? It was exciting, and how about them tattoos? And hey, we get to see how Grover turned out as an adult.

Georgy Girl – I've known the song my whole life so late one night I watched the movie. It was fascinating morally. The dumped on girl gets the silly mod boy, but then he's not really for the getting, but she gets the cold fashion girl's baby, and then she marries the gross lecherous old rich guy who works for her dad? "Bring out all the love you hide, and oh what a change there 'd be," indeed.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – This is a really clever and darkly hysterical movie. I'm surprised it didn't get a wider release or more acclaim. Robert Downey Jr. is brilliant as always and Val Kilmer is fantastic and really funny. They're great together and their dialogue is sharp and runs over each other realistically. It's successfully self-referential and a slick combo of dark humor with film noir and hardboiled detective flicks, studded with Bond and Raymond Chandler references. I recommend this one.

District B13 – What is it that would make this movie so much worse if it was American? It's Paris in the apocalyptic future and the bad section of town has been walled off. Maybe it's coz our US action heroes for this sort of thing are too pumped up and stiff to run and jump like cats.

The Family Stone – I enjoyed this movie quite a lot. It's in the vein of Home for the Holidays. Sarah Jessica Parker is surprisingly good in this. Irreverently heart warming and genuinely funny and moving in turns.

A Sound of Thunder – I have had to ask glenn the title of this movie three times after he reminded me that I saw it, and then I had to ask him what it was about again. Ah yes, the incredibly, painfully bad time wave movie where the past alters the future and the results are incredibly violent ape reptiles rather than apes in SUVs like we got.

The Lake House – Only the dog time jumps in this one. I think. Two comments for those of you who see this: First, don't you think the father actually Did believe in interacting with his environment if he built a house with no bathroom? And second, when the credits rolled I yelled "Bring back Jack!" I have some questions for that dog. This is of course a silly movie to see for a romantic lark with logic left at home.


Boston Parking Reg Loophole

Sometimes going old school solves the problem. . .


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Franconia Ridge

Here is the Cramwell Snacks team that showed up when I suggested we take advantage of the long daylight hours and do a longer hike. It was in the nineties and a fine day to hike ten times longer than we have yet this year. We had dorky hats. We had sunscreen. We had three kinds of what we fondly call CRAM. And we had more bad eighties songs to torture each other with than seem humanly possible.

And so, onward ho. Over the rivers...

...and through the woods. We took the Falling Waters Trail from the Lafayette Campground parking lot on Rt. 93.

Eventually we made it up on the Franconia Ridge, at the top of Little Haystack Mountain, and things got a little trippy in the heat.

We began the mile-plus ridge hike alongside odd rock formations over to Lincoln. Or at least it kept seeming we were at Lincoln and then we weren't yet. "Only three more false peaks to go!" was a mantra.

We watched beetles, were bitten by other bugs, admired rock sculptures, watched ravens chase a bald eagle, and attempted to force feed another hiker Advil.

We finally made it to Lafayette, and we could see the AMC's Greenleaf hut a mile downhill. Powered by discussions of political outrage and thoughts of possible lemonade at the hut we made it there by about 5pm. Five glasses of lemonade later we limped our way down to the Old Bridle Path.
It was another few miles of mountain to go. By now we were in giggling fits. "Shut your cram hole!" and "You make me think of all the colors of the cramblow," being some of our feeble minded witicisms. We eventually made it down and found an outdoor table in Lincoln and ate back all the calories we'd burned in about two minutes.
It was a good day.


Environmental Poetry

My brother has transformed his yard into this amazingly delightful fantasy world. You can stare at a tree aimlessly while walking and suddenly notice some of its branches are in perfect circles, or get to a path and find it guarded by a creature made of old farm equipment before walking beneath leafy arches into the forest. There are pets and other creatures made of various recycled or living objects around the yard, and the lovely, ghostly screen dress made by Stephanie Chubbuck. For more pictures of Cory's world, see the link on the right.


The Tick

The other night I volunteered at the big donor dinner for the Pan Mass Challenge. That's the big bike ride cancer benefit. The big contributors are invited to a dinner with speeches by the top folk at Dana Farber and a guy from the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I do actually own an Armani dress (that I bought for $99 at Filene's Basement) and I have no nice shoes that fit my non-Armani-type feet, so I wore big black engineer boots and everyone nodded approvingly at the funky chic girl. Maybe I'll have started a trend. It was at the very elegant Four Seasons, and I ate some delicious lobster ravioli, met a lot of interesting people, and had a really nice night.

One of my jobs was to give people their nametag when they arrived. It was simple. If Joe Donor had registered and bought more than one ticket, the other attendees with Joe had blank tags that said in tiny letters: Guest of Joe Donor. We then filled in their name. This was not enough for one woman. She hissed at me when I couldn't find a tag with her name pre-printed. "I'm not a guest. I'm not a guest. I'm not a guest. It must be here somewhere." I told her I'd fill it in for her, and it was no problem. "It is a problem," she spat. "I'm not a guest. I'm a Heavy Hitter. A Really Big One." I did not show her my really big boots. I was super nice. It had no effect.

She became "The Tick" in my head. A Really Big One. She came back and stuck herself to the table. She spoke to two other volunteers and made them search the table so she did not have to have a handwritten badge. "The Tick" is a reference from the day I was working as a ranger and a woman stormed up to the ranger hut and stood in the doorway aggressively leering. "There is a TICK on my blanket," she accused me. She blocked the door. She stared some more. The hut is about the size of a phone booth.

"Well, " I said, unclear as to whether maybe she wanted me to go beat it up or something, "you should be sure to check yourself for ticks later." I said this in a very calm and kind voice. She got red in the face. "Oh I KNOW how to check for ticks. I used to live in Michigan!" She leaned forward, continuing to stare at me aggressively. It was much more amusing than the women that occasionally come up to the hut hand first, waving a dirty diaper inches from my face asking if I had trash in there, but rather disturbing nonetheless.

Friday I picked ten quarts of strawberries and four pints of peas in the hot sun before meeting my brother at his house where I photographed some of his tree art and we hiked around in the woods. I yanked a tick out of my thigh later that night. Despite all my buggy outdoors activities I was certain I got it from that Heavy Hitter.


Ivy League Dumpster Diving

Last week I forgot my trusty camera and missed a really great shot at the Harvard Recycling Surplus Center. This is a pile of furniture and office bits and odd junk collected from offices, dorms, and other corners of the university that gets given away for free. I carried away a portion of wrought iron fencing and a bookshelf. As people cleared away filing cabinets, oak desks, office chairs and more, one lone item was left like an island in the center of the junk. It was a padded gynecologist table, stirrups and all.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Itty Bitty Boneyard

One of my favorite things looks like a turd.

Worse, it looks like a turd with feathers and fur stuck in it. If I find them on the ground while I'm working as a park ranger, I don't even get to say something educational to the people around because they tend to turn away when they see me picking up what look like turds.

What I like to do next, is to pull them apart with tweezers. These "turds' are owl pellets. Owls can't chew, nor can they dissolve bones with their stomach acids. Their gizzards compact bones and fur and feathers and whatnot into compressed nuggets, then they are conveyed back out to the throat for the owl to expel later. It's like a fur ball, but delivered with less theatrics. The owl just opens it's mouth and drops it out. And the evidence of all the wee rodents and birds an owl ate in a couple hours time is represented in it.

Apparently it is quite common for grade schools to teach kids about owls and their pellets these days, as it is easy to buy pellets rather than find them the old fashioned way. Science companies sell them pre-treated for fur eating moths. and sell 'em. They want your kids to play with turds because it is fun and educational.

Me, I am fascinated by skeletons. I love seeing how the bones fit together. I love the archeological dig feeling of slowly pulling apart a pellet. I'm kind of still a five year old. I had a jewelry idea that requires some tiny bones, so today I spent some time pulling apart some pellets I had in a bag. (What? you don't have a secret owl pellet stash in your house?)

We went to dinner with some friends tonight and I was glad no one asked me what I'd done today.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

How's the Weather up There?

I wrote my first thesis in high school, in a history class. There were only two of us that elected to do this work. I don't remember if it was for extra credit or if it got us out of the final or what. We'd met as kids when we were both ferried out of our different grade schools once a week to attend "gifted and talented" school in grades 4-6. These history papers had an air of competition between us that probably stemmed from back then.

In those weekly gifted classes, Andy was one of the people who knew things to do with the Macintosh computer that sat alone in the corner in case one of us wanted to program something. I desperately wanted to use this machine, and I was aware of its possibilities. However, I was embarrassed to ask where to turn it on and didn't know what the hell to do next. It was like this monolith alone on a desk in the back of the room that taunted me. This was probably around 1980. That may have been one of the only computers in the five grade schools in my town.

So there we were in high school in the same classes again. It was the late eighties and Andy was a nice honors student who was madly into the band YES and programming computer-driven music, and I believe he had his own computer. I was the alterna-punk AP student who was consistently called to the principal's office for "making waves." I knew how to use my dad's Radio Shack computer to buy obscure Stranglers records off of CompuServe and store documents on our cassette drive.

I remember finishing my thesis surrounded by index cards on the floor of my brother's old bedroom, wildly typing away on an IBM electric typewriter while my parents had a dinner party downstairs that my history teacher was attending.

My paper brought to light what I considered lesser-discussed aspects of the war in Nicaragua. I obtained CIA documents that arrived with black magic marker obscuring various parts of them. I remember the coloring book-like pictures detailing how to wreak havoc on a Central American farm that were made for distribution to the illiterate. I remember knowing a lot about the Sandinistas. But I honestly don't remember much of what I knew or exactly what I was writing about at the time.

On the other hand, I remember the gist of what Andy's paper was about. (Of course it's possible he remembers attending the prom with me better than I do, too.)

I couldn't help thinking of it again today while reading about how NASA is cutting funds and delaying projects involving studying our current climate crisis because the Bush administration wants to put man on the moon again.

In high school, I believe Andy detailed just how putting man on the moon years before had delayed technological progress in our country. Take a look at this current issue, because other space technology progress is required for tracking our climate changes, and this includes being able to say whether you're about to be killed by a hurricane. It sounded like progress to go to the moon the first time even when it might have stunted other progress. To me it simply sounds like deadly bad prioritizing today.

It could be that NASA is the wrong place for funding one of these projects. If they are both needed, and one seemingly more urgently than the other, there must be a way to make it both happen. Some scientists are arguing for space research to be funded by private entrepreneurs instead of the government, which is interesting. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon seems to come up a lot.

Currently putting people on the moon seems cool, sure, possibly done by robots, sure, maybe a step toward colonizing other planets we can trash like this planet. I am not a scientist, but I like to know the options. I mean, before we're blinded by the theater lights on this one, shouldn't we see what we could be doing instead or how to prioritize and meet all of our needs well?


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Meet My Staff

By the way, you should be introduced to my tireless assistant. He follows me everywhere. He is the King of the Jungle of Cuteness, but we just call him Moki.

He has a very funny sister, Luna, but she's usually too busy to help out.


Cabin Fever

My CSA has begun. Oh happy day! I love fresh produce like some people love candy. And the jeweler I work with on Wednesdays has also joined up, so it's extra fun. Tonight I made: sole dipped in some egg/milk/lemon and breaded with panko and dill and fried up in a pan; some spinach sautéed in olive oil, green garlic and crushed hazelnuts; and some mashed white turnips and potatoes with parsley. This took surprisingly little time. I grew the parsley, and the farm provided the turnips, green garlic, and spinach. And it's strawberry season, yum.

We are adding to our impossible amounts of rain here in New England. I'm watching the weather reports for the weekend as I've convinced some of my hiking pals to join me on Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln. I even kept the faith and reserved a camp site.

My friend Ted says it's too much work to find his tent in all the flood management piles in his basement, but his is a Really big tent…. I bet he actually sold it as condos. I'm disappointed. I was hoping to pitch my tent in his foyer if it was raining.

I was out in my kayak again helping out at a skills session last night and a friend reminded me to be extra weather sensitive due to the lack of bail out spots on my intended ridge route this weekend. But hey, if the rain, rain, rain, and more rain predictions hold for the mountains, well then I'll be out in the western part of Massachusetts where it looks to be drier…picking lots and lots of strawberries instead.

Tons of campgrounds these days have online reservations and charge big fees for canceling or changing them. While the White Mountains are popular and I can see why it might seem like a good business idea to do this at popular campgrounds there, it just makes people camp off trail rather than at the campground. Then you can decide on the fly if you're staying. (And so many people do not seem to subscribe to the Leave No Trace concept that this is not necessarily the best result.)

Sometimes when I get cabin fever it has a somewhat literal result. I suddenly make a ton of campground and cabin reservations. I think I have three pending at the moment, including this weekend, so I think I've shown some restraint considering this monsoon season we've had. (By the do own my cabins book, right? You can get it from or in a regular bookstore. I'm happy to give you advice or answer questions if you get it.)

I've got a site reserved up by Katahdin Ironworks in Maine that I'm looking forward to (and has no cancellation fee, thank you KI). It's pretty mellow there; they charge you fees to enter the property at the gate when you arrive, but they'll hold spots for you. I'm hoping to camp there and hike around by Gulf Hagas in late summer, when it will be warm enough to play in the waterfalls.

I've got a cabin on cross country ski trails reserved for the winter already too, though I might trade it for a yurt. So, no matter what, I've clearly got to get some more strawberries to freeze so I can make strawberry pancakes on the woodstove! (I'll say the same thing come blueberry season, raspberry season, apple picking. . . you'll get used to it and just start inviting yourself over for meals, don't worry.)


Monday, June 05, 2006

iPhoto UnPhoto

Has anyone ever heard of iPhoto randomly killing photo albums? BECAUSE IT HAPPENED TO ME. Tech support (glenn) can't figure it out either. We haven't found anything online. iPhoto crashed a couple of times and then a rather annoying bunch of my photo albums are gone, poof. The actual photos seem to still be in the Library, at least the few I checked were. ARGH.


Eat Well, Be Smart, and Play

It's been a busy bunch of days. I was able to catch Ana Sortun doing a reading (with SNACKS!) at the Harvard Bookstore on Friday evening. She stressed that idea of food making you feel good, of knowing what you're eating and buying organic, and debunked the idea that babies like bland food. Her 8-month old won't have any of it. She wants spice.

I have been experimenting with Aleppo chilies after reading bits of her book. I don't eat a lot of hot spicy food, since I'm more genetically built to hole up by a peat fired stove, down a lot of vodka, and snarf some pickled fish. However, Aleppo chilies are like a not quite as hot version of your standard red pepper flakes. And it's a sort of smokier taste. Really nice. I bought mine down the street at Christina's spice market, and did not try the flavor of the day next door at Christina's homemade ice cream for once: White asparagus. I like bean shakes. I like avocado ice cream. But white asparagus. That just wasn't what I was looking for.

Oh and by the way, I went to see An Inconvenient Truth. I don't know if anyone has told you, but this movie is about you. You should probably go see it really soon!

Saturday found me unexpectedly social. A friend I met up at Haystack was in town from Philly doing an airbrush face-painting gig at a bar mitzvah at the Four Seasons. One friend from the North shore brought some friends from art school down from the North Shore as well.

It was a good "girls day." What does that mean? I don't know. There was no secret handshake. We all got to know eachother over Taiwanese food and discussions of sex toy parties (the Tupperware type) and then went shopping. Maybe women are more candid together. One of my friends did after all say, "I didn't know you were that old!" to me and we laughed. My fortune said "Expect something big." (I think it meant my ass. I'm not going back there.)

It was curl-up-and-read rainy weather on Sunday, so of course I spent the day in my kayak. I was doing BCU 3* training. That's British Canoe Union – a canoe being a kayak in the King's English. At least I didn't have sunscreen in my eyes. And at least I was in protected waters. Two people I know who are some of the more experienced paddlers in the Northeast ended up helicopter rescued that day.

Kayaking is a counter-intuitive sport in many ways, and there are a lot of times you have to decide whether you want to do the thing that makes sense for your body or the thing that makes sense for the boat. Luckily for me I grew up screwing around in boats, so some otherwise counter-intuitive things seem natural to me.

I think that some of the best exercises coaches give in kayak training are things we might have done if left to our own devices as kids. You learn a lot about the physics of your boat in the water when as a kid you purposefully dumped it over and tried to paddle it to shore with half a paddle, for instance. If you have kids, make sure they Play if you want them to be smarties. And I don't mean Nintendo (they don't have a kayaking game do they?)


Friday, June 02, 2006


Penumbra, the gallery in Gloucester carrying my work, had its grand opening party last night. My stuff was in the case by all the free wine, so I'm not sure how much people were focused on jewelery. It's a couple feet away from where you can view it, and some of the interesting detail is lost as a result. However, maybe that's what I can take from that – most people don't stand looking at earrings from three inches away.

Meanwhile I was wearing a lovely rubber necklace with a pendant made from a brass Restroom Token set with a sparkling CZ. I think it was registering with people as a gold circle with a diamond. Anytime my brother or I pointed to it and laughed and said "here's what I made today," people nodded earnestly and said "Gorgeous. Just gorgeous."

I think one of my favorite things at the gallery are these lovely shelves reminiscent of suspension bridges that were made by Brian Ferrell.

Penumbra is in Gloucester, MA, out on Rocky Neck by the Rudder restaurant.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Under My Nose

My reading is a little behind lately. I am still working through Vikram Seth's book, Two Lives. It's a study built on research, correspondence, and interviews that attempts to depict his great uncle and aunt's lives. It's an incredibly captivating story – his grandfather's brother Shanti came from India, studied in Germany, and moved to England before WWII started. His dear friend Henny who was engaged to a German, also escaped to England and Shanti and she are later married. Henny's whole world in Germany was exterminated, and Shanti continues his life as a dentist even after losing an arm in the war.

The details of the war are in the context of this story and somehow so much more accessible to my attention span and me than any account of WWII I've encountered before. The description of Henny's sister Lola's last hours of life in Auschwitz were especially straightforward and horrifying. I think I read once that the Holocaust Museum in California has visitors follow the life of an individual through their experience. It seems like a really powerful way to understand history.

My book purchase this week was Ana Sortun's new cookbook, Spice. Ana is the chef at Oleana, a restaurant that is down the street from my house. She is a master of combining spices, rather than fats to control flavor in food, particularly Middle Eastern food. In the introduction she talks about how chefs rarely consider how people will feel After eating their food. She wants us to be in the mood to go dancing. Who doesn't want to be in the mood to dance?

I've only read a bit of it, but the anecdotes throughout the book of her trips to Turkey are fascinating. And like the way I understand history, I understand this book by following her journey to the spices involved. She is reading at the Harvard Book Store Friday night and at Porter Square books next week I think.

I was in Harvard Square last night and was tempted to go buy X-Men comics, having just seen the X-Men movies this weekend. It's way beyond where my reading stopped, so I can't say if they're following the story lines, but I can say it was really enjoyable. I've always felt at home with the mutants though. What is it about the effects in that series of movies that is so satisfying?

Instead I checked out the new home of the Globe Travel Bookstore, one of my favorite stores that had disappeared from its spot over by Club Passim in the last year. It's reappeared in a brand new building that's gone up. And they still have a couple of copies of my book. (I'd say "yay!" but it probably just means they only ever had these two copies and THEY'RE STILL THERE.)

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