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04/25/06 02:08 - ID#21987

obsessions

I have been suffering from obsessions lately, the kind of thing where I start reading and can't stop until it's done. This was always a problem of mine in print-- I was dead to the world until every book in the stack from the library was done, all in one long binge-- but the Internet has made this possibly fatal. I just clicked through every single photo put up on The Daily Oliver -- Oliver being a gorgeous, sleek Wiemariner living in the South of France with his brother Hugo and some dude with a camera. Oh my GOD this dog is cool.

It made me sort of want a dog. That and the fact that my older sister, the mommy of Scout ,just adopted a second Springer-- I think it is Scout's full-blood sister, previously owned by Katy's sister-in-law. Lizzie and Scout are nearly identical, although their markings are different, and OH GOD THE CUTE.

But I digress. I keep getting obsessed by things and sucked into them, and then I forget what I was doing, and I keep doing things like teraing myself away from the computer to make breakfast, and then coming back twenty minutes later to see that I sliced one bagel, set it in the toaster, and then abandoned the other bagel on the cutting board, and never turned the toaster on. Right! Right.

Work is a problem: they are changing all our schedules around. I've been part-time for the last five months because I wanted to take a break and finish a novel, and yet they've been shortstaffed so I've been working full-time, and now I am confronted with a choice: keep up this sham of part-time, or just give up and go back to full? Or quit entirely? I will never finish this novel.

Especially because I cannot keep a thought in my head. See, I opened this window to assure (e:zobar) that the coolest car ever, contrary to what he says in his post which I don't know how to link to except by just going ,would be a VW campervan converted to run on vegetable oil. He likes tiny cars. I like cars you can live in. We already have a foreign subcompact, thanks, and we also have a ridiculously tiny two-wheeled vehicle. If I am going to get a vehicle, it's going to be one I can get laid in.


And oh yes, will be at Century ca. 7 pm for barbecue wings and also AIDS fighting, and if only Doppelcracker is bartending (I hope he will be), I will be drinking something ridiculous, probably Sidecars or Mai Tais. Provided it's not busy. In busy bars I just have a beer.

Oh I should figure out how to post a photo of Scout and Lizzie.
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Permalink: obsessions.html
Words: 487
Location: Buffalo, NY


04/18/06 10:09 - 48ºF - ID#21986

great

Oh wow awesome!
This page just spontaneously refreshed itself and I lost my entire post.

Sweet.
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Permalink: great.html
Words: 16
Location: Buffalo, NY


04/17/06 08:55 - 38ºF - ID#21985

dyngus day

The several real actual Polish, non-Buffalo people of my acquaintance all laugh when I mention that Dyngus Day is a big deal in Buffalo. Also, none of them have ever encountered anything involving pussy willows. Therefore, I think this-all is just kind of a Buffalo thing. But still, it sounds fun. Every ethnicity in Buffalo has its own drinking holiday-- how great is that? This is a great city.
Not that I can ever participate in any of them, but the idea is great nonetheless.

I like my job, sort of, for the most part, but for two things: I am on a "part-time" schedule that has me working six days this week, and I never have holidays off and in fact have especially long days on holidays because all the senior people do have them off.
Also I can never get a Saturday or Sunday off, which means that (e:zobar) and I see one another in spans never longer than a couple of hours. Which, you know, some late-shift workers have it much worse, but, still, others being worse-off doesn't actually alleviate my pain at all. You know?


All right, i changed the colors here and have determined it's not the colors that make me inarticulate. I'm just inarticulate.
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Words: 211
Location: Buffalo, NY


04/16/06 09:46 - 45ºF - ID#21984

eeeeeeeeeeesssssttttteeeeerrrrrrrr

The Easter bunny came! With a big white bag from Parkside Candy! And (e:zobar) and I have both just stuffed ourselves with chocolate! And washed it down with coffee! And I just chased him slowly around the house trying to tickle him. I thought it'd be a great idea to see which of us could make the other barf first.

I have to go to work in a little bit. I am going to stuff myself with chocolate and show up so fucking high on sugar, and see if that gets me through the day.

Man! Z is fun when he's fucked-up.

And this is legal. Is this a great country or what?

I have media to blog with, later, when I am not so lazy (photos, of Z's family doing traditional Latvian egg-dyeing, with onion skins and pocket knives and pantyhose). Meanwhile, I link to this instead:
Eddy from Z's work goes to the Broadway Market, eats the horseradish, manages to get in not one but three phallic jokes, all to a polka soundtrack.

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Permalink: eeeeeeeeeeesssssttttteeeeerrrrrrrr.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: garden

04/13/06 07:39 - 54ºF - ID#21983

lovely evening

Yikes, I just absentmindedly tabbed to the next field and wound up not in this one, but in one of the search fields. I still don't know this place very well!

I was going to talk more about gardens. Not much has happened, in that I haven't done much-- every day I water the seedlings in the front window and under the gro-light. I rotate them too so they grow straight. Nothing exciting, though.
None of the seeds I planted outdoors have come up. Depressing. This is the worst part of gardening, when you think, "Great, i screwed it all up."

I did count up my seedlings. I have fifteen tomato seedlings, eight sweet peppers, eight ancho peppers, five anaheim peppers, and then there are ten peppers I forgot to label. I planted cucumbers and zinneas under the grow-lights, and so I have ten zinnea seedlings and six cucumber seedlings. The peppers are ready to be set outside, though, which is a problem because it's not time yet.

Of the bulbs I planted last fall, I've got a bunch of hyacinths blooming now, which is really nice because they smell good. Daffodils are blooming too. Crocuses are just about done, which is sad-- I love them.

Just went for a walk around the neighborhood, which was nice. (e:zobar) and I both really like to look into people's yards just to see their stuff and how they've got it laid out and how they use their space, which is, I suppose, kinda creepy-- I love looking in windows, too, but I have a policy of not peering overtly, and I won't leave the sidewalk or even deviate from my place in the sidewalk, because that's wrong. But if you can see in, I mean, why not glance in as you go by? People have neat stuff.

But then, I'm a nutjob, so...

Mailed my mom a bunch of easter eggs from the Broadway Market, so she's happy, but I didn't get myself any. Oh well: People who work every Sunday don't get to celebrate Easter, see, so what's the point of getting excited? There is none.

I don't ever have anything really clever to post here. I assure you, I am not this boring. Maybe it's something about the orange and green color scheme... I can't possibly compete with its colorfulness... This is why my livejournal is plain white.
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Permalink: lovely_evening.html
Words: 399
Location: Buffalo, NY


04/11/06 12:26 - ID#21982

blogs are for whining

Bad day. One shouldn't have such a bad day when it is so nice outside.
I have two computers. Both are malfunctioning.
I have a novel that is 136,631 words long. (I just hit the wordcount button in Word, and it's a palindrome! hey neat. [for the curious, that's 236 pages, single-spaced. Printed in paperback-novel form it would approach 500 pages.]) I am nearly done with the first draft. I am tired and want it to be finished. But it is not finished. (I am in the middle of writing a sex scene for the novel, and could not be less in the mood. Which is too bad, as the point-of-view character could not be more in the mood, and I feel I'm letting him down, but I'm sorry, I really just can't make it any hotter. Poor fellow. He thinks I'm about to kill him, too, and the only reason I'm not is because I am also not in the mood for the irony and tragedy that would entail. Not that I don't love him, because I do, but from a writer's standpoint that makes his survival even more tenuous.)

I wish I had some dark chocolate in the house. I was so mad at my computers that I mopped the floors, and then I went for a jog while the floors dried, and now I want to sit and stuff my mouth with something really dark, a little bitter, a little decadent, but all I've got in the house are semi-sweet chocolate chips and some Cadbury Eggs. Neither of which is suiting my mood.

My monitor is flickering. I do not dare go out and do some gardening in the yard because my next-door neighbor is Completely Batty and if she comes over to yell at me about one more thing I'm-a deck her.

Z is taking offense to everything I say lately and I am wondering whether it is the stress of his job, or if I am somehow transforming into a bad person. I feel like I have not done anything fun in a long time and perhaps I am stagnating. I know I have been reduced to less than a half-dozen topics of conversation lately and I"m just not very interesting.

So there you have it: it is a winter of discontent, and yet, it is spring. Surely I should feel better about all of these things?

My first daffodil is blooming, in the front yard. I don't feel better.
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Permalink: blogs_are_for_whining.html
Words: 413
Location: Buffalo, NY


04/06/06 11:30 - 42ºF - ID#21981

A Review Of A Book I Read

I posted a review of this book already on my livejournal and it was mostly squeeing and babbling. As I am soon to be embarking upon a new bit of career as a columnist (I'll spill the beans once there's beans to be spilled), I thought I should try my hand at a serious review.

So, instead of spamming my friendslist there with what amounts to a duplicate post, I thought I'd put it here. It's a bit long-- 920 words-- and I'd cut it down, but I've already spent too long on it and need to go do some Real Work.

Don't Look Down, by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. St. Martin's Press, hardback, MSRP $24.95

Jennifer Crusie, bestselling author of original, witty, post-Chick-Lit fiction, was stuck. Stuck in the middle of an uncooperative manuscript, stuck in the middle of a successful but unmoving career, stuck in the depths of an undiagnosed bout of depression.

Bob Mayer, despite having over two million books in print, producing some of the most tightly-written and authentic military thrillers on the market, was making his living teaching other writers how to get published.

One morning in Maui, Crusie sat next to this grim, taciturn fellow conferencegoer, and he said, "We should collaborate." She thought he was kidding.

But lurking beneath the witty romantic comedies was a neglected PhD thesis on gender difference in fiction, and when Crusie's daughter pointed out that the grim, taciturn fellow might have been serious, Crusie went back to him and said, "You know, we really should."

Two years and endless bickering later, the fruits of their labor have finally seen the light of day. It's high-concept, easy-reading, entertainment-heavy post-Chick-Lit. She wrote the heroine's point of view and all the Yucky Emotional Crap, as Mayer dubbed it, while he wrote the hero's point of view and all the guns and violence. It's a Romantic Adventure, and under the glossy cartoonish Chick Lit-style dustjacket, the hardback has a camoflage cover.

Another thing the pair did right was to start a collaborative blog (www.crusiemayer.com/blog). Previously each had maintained a blog: Crusie wrote about shoes and life and and trying to diet and trying to write, while Mayer wrote one-line deadpan blurbs updating fans on the publication dates of his books. But, combined, they exploded into a dense, wordy cornucopia of serious reflections, whimsical tales, frazzled panics and wry observations all interwoven with inside jokes and heavily tinged with an unfakeable genuine depth of emotion and spirit. This blog has attracted a loyal following of readers and commenters, who have become more than fans: they are supporters. Dubbed "Cherry Bombs" after the crusiemayer logo (a cherry, Crusie's longtime logo, with a fuse instead of a stem, connected to one of those plunge-handle detonators), these supporters have taken it upon themselves to help the pair promote the book.

Ah, the book. Is the book any good?

Fascinatingly enough, the book shares the strengths of the blog: two strong characters and writing that sparkles with wit. Crusie and Mayer have very similar writing voices: apparently he hit upon the idea of the collaboration after noticing that her speech patterns were very similar to his. So there is no jarring contrast between the parts one wrote and the parts the other wrote. But the characters: the characters are strong and distinct, and in a Romance Adventure, that's pretty important.

Crusie wrote the scenes from the heroine's point of view. The heroine is a film director named Lucy Armstrong, who starts off the book on a movie set she's just agreed to take over, realizing that the situation is much more complicated than the quick, easy money she'd thought it to be. Into the mess flies a black helicopter containing the hero, one Captain J.T. Wilder, a Green Beret whose point of view is written by Mayer. Wilder takes even fewer words than Lucy to realize that this situation is far, far more complicated than the quick easy money he'd signed up for as the star's stunt double: he's got it pinned in the first three syllables.

Then the CIA gets involved, and the Russian mob, and a sniper, and a one-eyed alligator, and a five-year-old who is more of a heroine than the heroine herself. So you take a military suspense thriller about the Special Forces, lay it over a Romance plot, shake well, and see what settles out. It's a hectic ride, on a compressed timeline: the romance plot has to move at the pace dictated by the adventure plot, which means that the heroine's Yucky Emotional Crap has to move on fast-forward, and her family issues need to be revealed and resolved in the time allotted before the bullets start flying. And the romance? Well, let's just say it's not a deep and subtle, slow-moving courtship.

It worked a little unevenly for me. Wilder was excellent, consistent and believable and, most importantly, hot. He was Manly and Strong, and also Sarcastic, and yet his more vulnerable, emotional moments came through nicely without being girlified. The only problem I found with his characterization was that he came across as younger and somewhat more innocent than he was meant to.

Lucy was more difficult: she was meant to be a Strong Woman, but had so much emotion piled onto her in such a compressed timeline that it was tough to find any room to let her be stoic.

The secondary characters were skillfully drawn, including a well-written child of five who managed to be a princess without being either annoying or unbelievable. There were a few slightly gimmicky things about the plot, repetitions and hooks and themes, that I am not used to-- but having read the blog, I knew about them already, and it gave me an added sense of being In The Fandom. Any Cherry Bomb worth her Blogger ID will know instantly about the Lasso of Truth, Moot, coin checks, or "taking one for the team", and to read them in the book and finally have them in context-- well, it adds a dimension to the book that would not otherwise be there.

Likewise the sound of Velcro offscreen in the sex scene: if you've read the blog, you know what that's about. It is never explained onscreen. But it is hilarious.

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Permalink: A_Review_Of_A_Book_I_Read.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: gardens

04/05/06 09:10 - 28ºF - ID#21980

pansies

I'm figuring out how to upload things but oops, I think I missed the guideline about file sizes.
image
Anyway. Pansies, from last year.
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Permalink: pansies.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: gardens

04/04/06 10:27 - 31ºF - ID#21979

a novice gardener in buffalo

My brain is pretty well fried-- I had today off, and spent it reading the novel I'm currently trying to finish writing. It's 140,000 words long and I know how it's going to end but I thought I should remind myself how it started and middled first, so, that sort of took the whole day and left me braindead. I've been trying to think what to do with myself this evening-- something that doesn't involve a lot of focused brainpower. Watching TV is right out, as we don't own one. And Z isn't entertaining me.
But then (e:kara) asked about gardening, and I thought: yes! I can always write about plants. :) Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one.

So, I'm going to write The Things I've Learned In My Single Year Of Gardening In Buffalo. Anyone less experienced, I'm glad to share what I know: anyone more experienced, I'd love to hear what you know!

I live in a teeny little house near the border of North Buffalo and Tonawanda. It has a little yard that gets a reasonable amount of sun. Last year Z and I cut the sod and mixed in topsoil for a little garden in the back, and we just planted a few things and had fun. This year we might get more ambitious because it was so much fun. I like flowers, but Z is only interested if it's something he can eat, so if I want help I have to promise to plant food. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but he does love to eat. He really likes snow peas. There are worse addictions...

I append here a disclaimer: my mother is a wonderful gardener, who (when my sisters and I were little) used to grow much of our food at home. (It has been said jokingly for years that I am the weird one of the family because I was born at the end of a long hot summer Mom spent bent over doing gardening work, so I was upside-down the whole time.) She is a master of flowers, vegetables, and even forestry. But me? I was never interested at all in gardening until I'd moved several hundred miles away. So I sort of phone her up a lot, in a kind of panic: "When do I plant daffodils?" "Um, not now, honey."

Z's grandmother was also a great gardener. She was a farmer in Latvia before WWII, and passed on some of her knowledge to her two daughters. Now, Z's mom and aunt were both glad to give us advice when we wanted to start gardening here. But the thing with them is that they always contradict one another. Very politely, naturally, but also very thoroughly. Thing is, neither one is wrong.

And that's an important lesson to learn about gardening: there is almost always more than one way to do something right. And it's not rocket science. It's actually really hard to kill people doing it. It's also really hard to entirely fail at it. (e:imk2) had a good point (eventually:)) in the comments on the last post: it's easy to become convinced that it's more complicated than it is. It isn't. It's just a little bit of hard work now and then, and don't forget to water it sometimes if there's no rain. (*cough*lastfreakingsummer*cough*)

The bits of advice they gave me that have proven useful are as follows:
1) When preparing a new bed where grass has been growing, cut up and completely remove the sod. If you turn it under, it will mean you get a lot of weeds. Get rid of the part that's grass and grass-roots, and you'll have to do a lot less weeding later.
2) North Buffalo at least has soil that is very heavy with clay. Buy some topsoil and work it into the top few inches for best results. Also, don't try to grow carrots or onions in it.
3) NEVER plant MINT in your lawn or garden bed. It will spread like a mofo and is impossible to get rid of. Z's aunt knew a lady who sold her house just to finally get rid of the mint in her lawn. Plant it in a pot, for God's sake. (Chives will also spread, but if you cut the bottom out of a plastic pot, plant them in it, and stick that in your garden, they'll stay put reasonably. Mint, you'd need more drastic measures than that.)

I went a bit stir-crazy this winter and bought myself like $85 worth of seeds from Burpee.com. Burpee is a venerable old seed catalogue, and my mother has had nearly thirty years of good results from their seeds, so she recommended them. I can't really complain so far. Seed starting, however, is not exactly easy or predictable. I had a 99% failure rate for my strawberries and violas, roughly, but then I had a 99% success rate for my tomatoes, and I honestly couldn't tell you the difference except perhaps that the room was warmer for the tomatoes?

But I whiled away many a long dark hour this winter in making a gardening calendar. I wrote down the information for the seeds I'd bought (i.e. "plant after all danger of frost is past"), looked up the important climate dates (i.e. "average date of last frost") in the Farmer's Almanac and online, and worked out when to plant what. Then I took the hokey calendar Z got from the local church (featuring the kind of golden-glowy paintings of Jesus et.,-- this month it's The Empty Tomb), and I wrote what I was going to do each week on it. I think the little drawings of fish reminding me not to eat meat during Fridays in Lent really adds to the effect.

Mostly this was important for the seed starting. I bought a big 4' fluorescent fixture, some Gro-lite flourescent tubes, and a timer, and used the plastic tubs Wegman's sells olives in and poked holes in the bottom because those little black plastic six-packs are annoying. (And the lids make great saucers underneath, and you can see when the seedlings are becoming rootbound because the sides are clear! but it looks cheesy as hell to have a bunch of Mediterranean Olive Bar tubs sitting on your windowsill.)

Most of the dates for starting seeds are past-- tomatoes, for example, should be started like eight weeks before the date of last frost. The average date of last frost here is May 1st. But the guaranteed frost-free date is May 17th. The difference is simple-- while there isn't usually a frost after May 1, there has never been a frost after May 17th. Basically: Do you feel lucky? Do ya, punk?

For those clever enough to bypass the insanity of starting your own seeds, the fun is now just beginning. Head on down to the garden center (I love Sunview on Sheridan Blvd near Anderson's, because the owner is nutz but very sweet) and see what they've got for sale already. We're having an early spring this year, because the lake never froze. So this year, this is my planting schedule. (Note: when I say "plant" I mean "put the seed in the ground", and when I say "set out" I mean put the already-started seedling in the ground. Already-started seedlings perform best if they've been 'hardened off' prior to planting-- what that means is that you set them outside during the day for a couple of days and take them in at night, so they get used to the sun and wind and temperature. But a lot of garden-store seedlings are stored outside, so they're already hardened off. Your mileage may vary.)

SCHEDULE:
Last week I planted peas and snowpeas, because they can tolerate light frost (32-27 degrees F) and I'm gambling we won't have any more heavy frosts. I also planted lettuce, radishes, and beets, because they grow best in cool weather and again, I'm gambling it won't dip below 25 again. (If it does, I'll throw a blanket over the garden and hope for the best.)
I'm going to plant pansies as soon as I find some at a garden center, as I think they'll be all right in the light frosts this coming week as well. Maybe next week; my crocuses are pretty and I can wait. (Crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and other bulbs should all be planted in the fall for spring blooms.)
Pansies are cool-weather flowers and do best in part-shade. I have a small bed on the north side of my sunporch that gets a lot of light (reflected from the white house next door) but little direct sun, and the pansies in that bed actually survived the hot dry summer and bloomed until well after the first frost. (Some of them seriously bloomed from April to November.)

May 1st I'm going to plant a second planting of peas (to extend their growing season), a second planting of radishes, and a second planting of lettuce.
May 7th I might set out my tomatoes if I'm feeling lucky. I'll also plant my beans.
May 14th I'll definitely set out my tomatoes. If it's warm, I'll set out my pepper plants (although I might wait another week for those-- they like warm soil). I'll also plant the seeds for my cucumbers. (I was too lazy to start those indoors.)
I also have some dill, parsley, and basil started. If I have time I'll plant those too.
May 21st I'll plant nasturtiums, gazania, zinneas, and morning glories. (They like warm soil so if it's chilly I'll wait a week.)
By May 28th the first planting of radishes will be ready to harvest.
By June 4th the peas might be starting to be ready to harvest.
By June 25th the beets might be ready for harvest.
July 9th might see some cucumbers and perhaps some beans.
July 16th might see some peppers ready to harvest.
And the tomatoes should be ready by August 1st.

But the harvest dates are merely conjecture.
I may also plant more lettuce and radishes toward the end of August, so I can get an early-autumn crop of those cool-weather plants before the first frost.

Exact science? Not so much. And I'm basing those dates entirely on my poor math skills and worse memory. I'm going to try to remember to update here when I actually *do* plant things, just to see how accurate my predictions were-- and maybe next year I'll have a better idea. (Last year I didn't really keep records at all, so I don't remember.)

Maybe this will give me an incentive to figure out how to post photos on this joint. I got pictchers of my pretty flowers already!
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Permalink: a_novice_gardener_in_buffalo.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY


04/04/06 08:25 - 32ºF - ID#21978

snowdrops

I am a transplant to Buffalo, having been born and raised in the eastern part of the state (east of Albany in the hamlet of Melrose in the little town of Schaghticoke, north of Troy in Rensselaer County, just to load you up with hard-to-spell words-- imagine my elementary school days). One thing about Buffalo that few people ever realize is that our lake effect means that we are actually much milder than the rest of the state. We are a USDA climate zone 6a. The rest of New York State ranges within zones 4 and 5.
("Zones" refer to plant hardiness. They're defined by the minimum and maximum temperatures reached in the region, and are used to indicate what plants will survive there and what won't.)

What this means is that I can grow all kinds of neat stuff my mom can't. Her garden, the beautiful culmination of 28 years in the same place (they own 50 acres on a secluded dead-end road overlooking the Hudson River, bordered largely by agricultural properties), is a marvel to behold, but ha! My crocuses have already bloomed and hers are only just opening, and my daffodils are about to bloom while hers haven't even come up.

And I'm totally going to have tomatoes before she does.

We sorta got gypped on winter this year, though.
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Permalink: snowdrops.html
Words: 227
Location: Buffalo, NY


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