November 2003 Archives

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We had a great Thanksgiving! We, of course, had the obligatory turkey and etc. dinner on Thursday. Which was fabulous. The only non-traditional element was this amazingly rich chocolate truffle cake. Yum!

My folks and I exchanged Christmas gifts, since we don't see each other over Christmas. Amusingly, we had given each other vases: they gave me a really sophisticated glass vase, and I gave them a coppery raku vase from the Seagrove pottery festival. The raku vase turned out to be a great pick, as they had just bought a rug for the living room which had the exact same green and copper colors as the vase. Thing is, I had never seen the rug and didn't even know they had bought it. I just thought those colors would look nice in their living room. Which, apparently, so did they.

I thought I wasn't going to get to see my Aunt Honey, since she was about to leave for a trip to Vienna (some people have it rough!). But she stopped by just a few minutes after we had gotten there, with her grandson David. Which was great since I hadn't seen David in a couple of years. He's almost 8 now and really growing to be a sharp kid.

My dad and I tried and failed to repair my bubble machine, alas. We determined that it's probably a bad switch, which would have been easy to repair if we could get to it. Unfortunately the guts of it are concealed behind this plastic cover that we absolutely could not remove. I suppose we could have broken it loose but then there'd be nothing protecting the works from the bubble liquid. I confess I'm rather bummed about this. I'm going to order another one, but it took me twelve hours to bead the old one.

Saturday night we made the Julia Child chicken dish, which turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. It tasted better this time than before, I think because last time we messed up the flaming part and had to add more cognac, so it ended up tasting too much of alcohol. We didn't have any long matches but Georg managed to ignite the cognac without burning himself. For dessert my mom had gotten these nifty fruit sorbets that came in fruit shells. Lemon sorbet in a hollowed out lemon and so forth. It was like having dessert in a restaurant!

After dinner on Saturday I went to my sister's apartment where we played with her adorable miniature dachshunds, Nellie and Monkey Girl, and tried on clothes. Laura gave me a few really nice things that she couldn't use anymore, like a beautiful wool sweater that someone had given her but wasn't her style, a cute knit top with a hole in it that I think I can repair, and a couple of skirts that have gotten too big for her. Whee! Free clothes! She keeps her things in really good condition too. Alas, my sister is so small that even clothes too big for her are still sometimes too small for me, so I had to pass up a pair of jeans that I would have really liked if they had fit.

During the trip I also read Time's Witness by Michael Malone, a police novel set in a thinly fictionalized Chapel Hill-Durham (merged into one town). It's the sequal to another book, Uncivil Seasons, about a pair of policemen. The interesting thing is that the first book is from the point of view of one of them, and the second is from the point of view of the other. Nice to get into the heads of both characters like that.

And Georg and I made friends with my folks' lop-eared rabbit, Panda, who lives in the spare room. They keep Panda's cage open, but he never leaves the room and is pretty good about going to the bathroom only inside the cage. On the other hand, he does have a bad habit of eating the carpet. Apparently he needs to chew constantly for his teeth, but the straw he's supposed to chew bothers my dad's allergies. So Panda chews the carpet instead.

Panda always hides under the bed for the first day or so, but after that he doesn't seem to mind us much at all. I tried to pet him once, and he seemed interested at first, but then he lunged at my hand! I was joking about my parents leaving us alone with a bloodthirsty killer rabbit, but we decided that Panda probably thought I had a treat in my hand.

And yes, we did go to Morimoto. It was amazing! Full report later.

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Yesterday was a pretty good "getting things done" day. Had my radio show in the morning -- which was not my best show, I must confess; one of the three CD players was broken, which always makes it a challenge, but more than that I was just distracted by thoughts of everything I needed to get done before the holiday -- then spent the afternoon working and "reloading" the living room, as they say in Trading Spaces, by which I mean cleaning up and putting furniture and decorative things back. I only got one piece of art hung because I ran out of picture hanging hooks. But it is starting to look nice, if I do say so myself.

Next step: window coverings and lighting. I'd really like to add a couple of wall sconces on either side of the mantel, but my friend Marc advised not doing that with plaster walls. He said that you can easily damage the wall, and it's really hard to find someone to repair plaster. I kind of feel like I could repair it myself, with as much work as I've done replastering those walls. But that was all cracks and gouges; I'd have a harder time of it if I lost a big chunk of the plaster, down to the lathe.

After all the gourmet cooking (plus knowing I'd be making the stuffing and pie today for Thanksgiving dinner), I wasn't up to another elaborate meal. So last night we just had sausages sauteed with vegetables. I did use some of the duck fat we saved from the roast duck for the saute, which made everything taste nice and lush. And I must say, I think this is a new high in my experience of home cooking. Having a jar of freshly rendered duck fat in the fridge, that I can just throw into a saute.

I was thinking that it would be nice to make duck confit for Christmas Eve dinner. I had that at the Little Buddha Cafe in Vegas and it was fabulous, easily the best duck I've ever eaten. But I looked up the recipe (not Julia this time, but Tom Colicchio, head chef of Craft in NY) and a recipe that serves four calls for 4 cups of duck fat. Yes, 4 cups. Apparently duck confit is simply duck legs simmered in enough melted duck fat to cover them, for 3 hours. I'm glad I ate it before knowing that, because I would think it incredibly disgusting if I hadn't aready discovered how delicious it is. Anyway, the duck we roasted the other night produced about 1 cup of fat, and I don't know how long it would keep, so I think duck confit is out of my reach for the time being.

Speaking of gourmet food, which I seem to do all the time, I got a book on food photography from Amazon. I've always wanted to learn how to photograph food so that it doesn't look grotesque, and I thought that a trip to Morimoto was a good reason to learn. Unfortunately it's more of an idea book than a tutorial. Instead of saying "make sure the lighting is diffuse, light from this or that angle," etc etc., the book shows a series of food photographs with a diagram of the lighting and description of the shoot from the photographer.

It's inspiring, but I don't know how much it will help me learn how to photograph food in a restaurant where I'll have zero control over the lighting. Or anywhere else, seeing as I don't own any lighting equipment and don't plan to buy any. I guess the book was aimed at professionals. In any case, from the photos it looks like the dining area is softly lit, so I'm going to turn off my flash and hope for the best. I'll be sure to share the results if the photos aren't hideous (and maybe even if they are).

Today's gone pretty well, busier than I had hoped but not as stressful as last year. Took some bills to the post office this morning. The evil credit card companies time their billing cycles so that if I wrote the checks at the beginning of the month with everything else, I'd be late! I think they do that on purpose. They want me to be a few days late so they can jack up my interest rate, but I'm not falling for it. On the other hand, I've heard that some credit card companies make people mail their checks to the opposite coast to increase the chances of late payment. Mine at least don't do that.

Now the cornbread stuffing is made, the pumpkin pie is almost finished, the dogs are at the kennel, and Georg is making dinner. All I have left to do is pack. Oh, and wash my coat, which got a little musty in the closet.

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The weather continues to alternate freakish warmth with dreary chill. Today it got up in the high 70s; tonight it's supposed to drop to the low 30s. I don't know why everyone in the state isn't sick yet.

Today was one of those annoying days where lots of time is wasted and not much is accomplished. I had my weekly meeting with my boss, which was fine but we didn't really have that much to discuss, what with the holidays coming up. Then another meeting that was fast and productive (another independant consultant who likes wasting her time even less than I like wasting mine), then another meeting that was lengthy and totally unproductive. Because the guy didn't show up, but I spent about 45 min. waiting for him. Argh. That was followed up by several hours of running errands that should have taken much less time. I felt like I was wading through molasses at the supermarket. I don't know what was wrong with me today.

I forgot to mention yesterday that on our way home from the pottery festival, we stopped at the Le Creuset outlet store. Most of the stock was no real bargain, but they did have seconds and discontinued products in the back. We ended up buying a spiffy 4.5 quart oval casserole. I've wanted one of these for a long long time, so this was very exciting.

I justified the expense by thinking how much easier it will make the chicken dish we're going to cook over Thanksgiving weekend, the one that's roasted and flamed in cognac. But in the meantime, I broke in the casserole today by roasting a duck with turnips, a la Julia Child. I thought about making duck l'orange, but decided that the one with turnips sounded heartier. In retrospect it was a very good decision because the duck with orange sauce would have taken a lot longer. And my errands ran so much longer than expected, we would have ended up eating pretty late. Maybe I'll make duck l'orange for Christmas Eve dinner. (Since we're both on the air Christmas night, at different times, we're probably going to have a mid-afternoon restaurant brunch before our shows. So I'd like to make a nice dinner on Christmas Eve instead.)

But the duck with turnips was very very nice. It was roasted with the lid on, so the skin didn't get crispy, but this technique seemed to do really well at cooking off the fat under the skin. And the rich duck meat nicely mellowed the turnips; they weren't bitter at all. Julia says to simply degrease the cooking liquid and use it as a gravy, but I added a bit of stock and a bit of port and boiled it down on the stove, then swirled in a pat of butter to thicken the sauce. After all, that's the whole reason to use Le Creuset: so you can brown the meat on the stove, roast it in the oven, and finish the sauce all in the same pan.

The only negative thing I will say about the duck is that it wasn't plucked as well as I've come to expect from poultry. There were a number of tiny feathers still attached, as well as stubby bases of feather (quills I guess?) all over parts of it. I picked them out as best I could without tweezers (no way was I going to use my good eyebrow tweezers on a raw duck, I mean that's gross both ways) and we didn't really eat the skin anyway. I wouldn't have cared except for the additional prep time, and also the fact that if I'm going to spend $20 on a duck they could at least pluck it for me.

One thing I wrote about in my entry that got lost yesterday was the seemingly endless supply of questionable renovations done by previous owners of this house. For instance, take a look at this photo of the living room right after I moved in. Now stop wondering why I would have bought a house that looked like that, and take a look at the walls. Fake wood paneling, wallpaper, chair rail. Ecch. You can't tell from the photo, but the wallpaper is over the paneling. That's right, they put up fake wood paneling, then added that horrible flower wallpaper to the top half of the wall, and used a chair rail to cover the seam. Note also that they missed a spot with the wallpaper, between the fireplace and the window.

The worst "what were they thinking?" job has got to be the bookshelf. Now, I give them credit for the idea. Built-in floor to ceiling bookshelf? Great thing to have. And if cheap-ass, knotty pine that sucks up paint was all they could afford, OK, paint is cheap. Even the country kitsch scrollwork at the top, no big deal, we can knock it out. But why, oh why, would they install the bookshelf over wall to wall carpet? I'm no home improvement expert, but it seems to me that a permanent fixture should stand on the floor, not on top of a carpet.

The bookshelf was also over the fake wood paneling. When we removed the paneling a rough edge was left along the edges of the shelf. But I find that a bit more understandable: I can see how one might think of fake wood paneling as a permanent element of the room (I mean, gack, but I can imagine that the person who put it up would think that), so the bookshelf would naturally go over it. But carpet? What were they thinking?

After dinner Georg gave the bookshelf another coat of paint. It could probably still use some touching up, but since it's going to be totally full of tall books most of the time, we might be able to get away with it as is. Meanwhile I scraped the excess paint off the window panes, which made a surprisingly big difference. Unfortunately I didn't get much cleanup done tonight because 1. Thirteen is really freaked out by all the furniture moving & I thought she'd had enough stress for one night, and 2. I'm tired. I'll start putting things back tomorrow after my show.

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I'm going to swallow my frustration at losing a lengthy entry and move on. The living room really looks wonderful now that it's painted. It's looked awful for so long, dark and dingy with that glue everywhere, that I wasn't prepared to see it looking like a real room.

It is, however, looking very monochromatic. The walls ended up a much lighter color than I was expecting, almost the same color as the overstuffed couches. The trim is bright white, and the bookshelf is one shade lighter than the walls. The overall effect is one of floating in a sea of ecru. Lisa, Georg and I agreed that more color is needed, post haste. I have this beautiful brown upholstery fabric to make window valences, which will at least add some contrast if not a different color. Lisa suggested red, which suggestion I agree with wholeheartedly. I used to have a red pillow but it turned the back of my shirt red so I got rid of it.

Today Georg and I talked about staying home and finishing up the bookcase, but we decided that we needed to do something fun. At least, I do. I feel like I've done nothing but scrape and spackle and sand and paint for weeks. So we drove out to the Seagrove Pottery Festival. Seagrove is a small town outside Asheboro, about an hour and a half south of here, famous for pottery. The festival featured the traditional potters who've been there forever, notably the Owens family, as well as many others who have moved to Seagrove due to its reputation.

We had a great time walking around the booths looking at the variety of styles. Much of it was a bit, ah, country kitsch for my taste. You know, cookie jars with ducks painted on the side, or those hideous face jugs, that sort of thing. But there were some people doing beautiful, sophisticated work. One thing I'd never seen before was a crystalline glaze which created spectacular patterns, sort of like pressed flowers. There were also a few booths selling raku pottery, which I admire very much.

Another thing Seagrove is known for is bright red pottery. What a coincidence, since we're looking to add some red to our living room. We looked at the famous Owens booths (three generations of the family are working as potters, each with their own business) but ended up buying a pretty red vase from a guy who had run out of business cards, alas, so I don't know who he was. (Judging from his accent, he's pretty clearly not a North Carolina native.) The Owens red pottery was nice and all, but really expensive, and honestly it just didn't ring my bell. Maybe it's the cachet of having that Owens or Jugtown stamp on the bottom. And I guess it will be more valuable in future, being from a famous family and all. But I'd rather have the piece I liked best than spend $50 more to get one with a name attached to it.

After we got home I painted the fireplace and Georg made a wonderful dinner: steaks and white asparagus. Now it's time to watch Space Ghost.

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Okay, well I wrote a huge long entry just now about the events of the past three days. And after I finished writing, I went to upload my photos. And the program crashed, taking my entry with it!

I really don't have it in me to rewrite the whole thing now. So here are the highlights:

1. A room containing seventeen first graders hopped up on ice cream cake is a scary place to be.

2. My bubble machine is broken. I hope it is a loose wire. I hope it can be fixed.

3. People who are supposed to chop up a fallen tree and don't show up suck. People who are supposed to deliver firewood, and don't show up twice, and pretend they called when they really didn't, suck more.

4. Lisa Linn is a painting goddess.

5. We're just about done painting the living room. All that's left is a second coat on the bookshelf, scraping the excess paint off the windowpanes, and putting everything back.

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Well I just flew in from the coast, and boy are my arms tired!

No, wait, that's wrong. What was it again? Oh yeah:

I just finished priming the living room, and boy are my arms tired. As a matter of fact, all of me is pretty tired. It makes a surprisingly big difference in the appearance of the room. Even though the primer isn't totally opaque, the walls still look a thousand times better already. Just think how nice it will look after we paint on Saturday.

Will write a real entry tomorrow. For now, just one more photo, of me kicking back after all my work today.

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After my dryer/cleaning/cooking extavaganza on Monday, yesterday was a day of catching up on work (the theoretically paying kind) and rest. Also we went out to dinner because it was RSVVP day, the day that a bunch of area restaurants donate 10% of sales to hunger-related charities. We went to Vespa, a really nice casual Italian place on Franklin Street. The meal was fabulous from beginning to end (except for the somewhat noisy people at the next table). We shared an appetizer called "Scottata," which consisted of fresh mozzarella wrapped around prosciutto and heated, with little bits of basil and roasted red pepper on top. Then I had a pork loin and green beans in wine sauce, which was excellent, and Georg had spinach gnocchi. I've never been a big fan of gnocchi, they always seem like heavy little dough balls to me, which doesn't seem all that appealing. But I had one of Georg's last night and it was really nice, light and not doughy. For dessert we shared an almond cream tart. The whole meal was yum.

In other news, I won my pattern! On the opening bid too, what a thrill. I was worried because the auction ended in the middle of the night, so I wasn't going to be up to keep an eye on the bidding. But I guess no one else was either.

I finally finished sanding today. Was hoping to get started on priming but it will have to wait until tomorrow. Also I did some laundry, first time with the new washer/dryer configuration. I don't think the washer shakes any more than it did before, but it does look a bit more ominous since it's so much taller now with the dryer on top of it. Also no shorting out or fire or other nastiness from the dryer cable. I did get the fire extinguisher out just in case (I'm paranoid, I admit it). But it seemed like a perfectly normal load of laundry.

Also I tried to install Spam Assassin but I got stuck on the first step -- installing perl modules -- and didn't get any further. It seemed like cpan was finding and downloading the modules, but wasn't able to decompress them. Why, I have no idea. I find the terminal window highly intimidating.

Just got back from Stoneline. They're upset because they paid to be listed on a furniture website which is also listing another manufacturer who seems to be knocking off Stoneline's table design. Of course it's hard to prove something like that, but if this other company's product isn't a knock-off, it's a pretty amazing coincidence. They showed me the other company's page and my first reaction was "look, there's your Axis table!" Of course I'm no expert on furniture design and I don't know anything about the other company. But I have to say, I've been working for Stoneline for what, eight years now? So I know pretty well what their tables look like. And this other table completely fooled me. They've even got the I-beam underneath just like Stoneline.

Now it's time for Angel night. Last week's episode was really really good. Here's hoping they make it two in a row.

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Today was a pretty busy day, Worked in the morning, then the Lowe's guys showed up around noon to install the dryer. They ran into a problem almost immediately: the outlet is on the right of the old dryer, way on the opposite side from the washer. Way too far for the 6' cable they had brought, which is the longest cable made these days. And there's a shelf over that spot so we couldn't just move the washer and dryer stack over there.

The old dryer had this really long, kind of kloodgy-looking cable. I mean it looked like someone made it themselves, there's wads of electrical tape around both ends of the cable. The guy said he didn't think they had ever made them that long, so it probably was handmade. I prevailed on the guy to use that cable instead of the new one, allowing us to stack the washer and dryer, which was the whole point of this purchase, but only by promising that I wouldn't hold him responsible if it shorts out or starts a fire or something.

He also insisted that I have someone take a look at that cable & rewire the ends of it. Which is a good idea, but I have to admit I don't see the urgency of it. I mean, that cable has been hooked up to our old dryer since we moved in, what, six years ago? And he said that the new dryer wasn't going to draw more power than the old one did. (I'm actually thinking maybe less, since the new one is an energy efficient model.) So why is it more dangerous now than it was yesterday, when we didn't even know there was a problem.

That said, I do see his point that a rewired, perfectly safe cable is a better thing to have powering your dryer than a funky cable of unknown safety. It's too bad we didn't find this out a month ago, because Georg's brother is apparently very good with electrical stuff and he was here while we were in Vegas. Though it might have been a bit much, asking Rob to do electrical repairs while housesitting.

Other minor problems: they had to partly remove the screen door to get the old dryer out (that was actually no big deal, they just put it back together when they were done), and they couldn't use the new tubey thing for the vent, because the old tube doesn't connect to anything at the floor, it just goes right through the floor into the crawlspace. The guy wasn't willing to go under the house (who can blame him) and he couldn't connect the new tube to the old one, so he just used the old one. The old one is in pretty bad shape, it tends to crack and split, so Georg is going to try and replace it himself.

But all that aside, the new dryer is in! I've got to say it looks pretty impressive all stacked up like that. We haven't used it yet because we did all our laundry yesterday, in case anything went wrong today. I have some fabric I could wash tomorrow.

As soon as those guys left, I started cleaning the floor and wall where the old dryer used to be. It had been there since we moved in, and right next to the stove, so I think you can imagine how disgusting it was. (If you think I'm just a bad housekeeper, well you got me; I am. But still, if you have a freestanding stove, take a look behind it and see if you're not horrified too. If you clean behind your stove regularly, then I don't want to talk to you.) Took a couple of hours but I managed to get the grime up pretty well if I do say so myself. Did a number on my hands though. They still feel all pinched and dried out from the cleaning products.

Of course, it wouldn't be my house without a disturbing floor discovery. This time it's a large square hole in the hideous linoleum, that reveals more of the equally hideous linoleum from the dining room. I guess both rooms originally had that white stuff and then the red stuff was laid down in the kitchen at some point. The white stuff has gotten waterlogged and can be lifted up, to reveal hardwood in truly horrible shape.

The problem with creating all this free floor space was that, without the washer and dryer to use as countertops, we were left with less than 1'x2' of counter space. (that is not an exaggeration. I measured.) So I went to World Market -- I love that store -- and bought a kitchen cart. Fits pretty well into the space, has a couple of shelves, and seems like it will be a nice workspace. I think filling the shelves will hide the nasty spot in the floor. At least I hope so.

By the time I had gone to the store, bought the cart, wrestled it out of the car and into the house (no mean feat as it weighs 75% of what I do) and put it together, it was 6 pm and I was pretty well exhausted. So what did I do, did I lie on the couch watching TV until Georg brought home takeout? No silly, of course not! I guess I was feeling some kind of nervous energy, because I somehow decided that tonight was the perfect night to cook Julia Child recipes. I ended up making Suprêmes de Volaille à Brun et Épinards à la Mornay, Gratinés. Or in English, Sauteed Chicken and The Most Complicated F***ing Creamed Spinach Ever Invented.

Seriously, that spinach recipe was insane. It took 2 1/2 hours! First blanch the spinach. I started on a note of rebellion by refusing to follow her instructions on how long to do this. I don't care if she is Julia Child, boiling spinach for five minutes is not "blanching until almost tender." That is boiling it into oblivion. I kept it in the water for a minute and even that much was painful.

Next, soak the spinach in cold water, then drain and squeeze it by handfuls to get rid of excess water. At 3 pounds of spinach, this took a long time. While the spinach was draining, I sauteed a half pound of sliced mushrooms in butter and olive oil. Next, chopped the spinach and then cooked it (in the same pan, ha ha, Julia's fiendish plot to cause dishpan hands is foiled!) in a bit of butter until it looked dry. Then, my second diversion from orthodoxy. I was supposed to sprinkle flour into the spinach, then add a cup of stock and let it cook slowly. But I was concerned about the amount of flour in the sauce so I omitted the flour here, and only used a half cup of stock. Cover and simmer for fifteen minutes.

(I should mention that each of these substeps is a separate recipe in the book, and she has you salt and pepper every one. I gave it a light sprinkle of pepper each time, but I'm not crazy about salt, plus the cheese was really salty. So I hardly added any salt.)

While the spinach was simmering I made the mornay. Which is a bechamel with cheese in it. Which is made by melting butter, mixing in flour, letting it cook, then dumping in two cups of boiling milk (uh oh, another pan. The dishpan hands are gaining on me). Well actually, we didn't have milk, so I used a combination of half-and-half and stock. Anyway, dumping in two cups of boiling liquid and then whisk, whisk, whisk while bringing to a boil. I was expecting a horrible clumpy mess but by some miracle, it turned out just right. Mix in grated cheese (should have been swiss, but I used monterey jack and some really nice pecorino romano, which was what I had) and there it is, sauce mornay.

Now, a buttered casserole, some sauce in the bottom, then the spinach and mushrooms, the rest of the sauce on top, sprinkle with more cheese and into the oven for 1/2 hour. That makes about 50 total minutes of cooking the spinach, plus the 5 minutes I was supposed to have boiled it for at the beginning. I'm surprised to say that the spinach did not dissolve into mush. In fact it was really really good. Athough, I must confess, I wondered if it was worth all that work. I mean, it wasn't the redefinition of spinach, after which all other spinach dishes pale in comparison. Just really really good creamed spinach.

While the épinards were baking I made the chicken. Which was much easier by comparison. Just melt a huge honk of butter in a saute pan (same pan, but I did have to wash it after the spinach. Damn you dishpan hands!). My third break with Julia: I was in no mood for clarifying butter, so I used regular butter. Also, I used white onion instead of shallot. So the chicken was a bit more rustic than in the original recipe. I wonder how you say "rustic" in French. "Rustique" maybe? It's "rustico" in Italian so it must be something like that.

Okay, so we have a huge honk of non-clarified butter in a pan, making that beautiful white foam that clarified butter does not make. Add boneless chicken breasts which have been sprinkled with pepper, but not dredged in flour, because again there was enough flour to go around in the mornay. Cook until done, then remove to a plate. Throw the white onion into the pan with all the butter and stir up all the "chicken gunk" (I don't know what that stuff that sticks to the bottom of the pan is really called, but it's the best part). Then add port and stock, turn the heat up to high and boil until it thickens to a glossy syrup. This might have happened faster if the chicken had been floured. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley, and there you have it. The chicken was nicely cooked and the sauce was divine. Probably too rich to have the chicken and spinach together, but it's not like we eat like this every day. (do you even want to know how much butter I used? A stick and a half. We only ate half the spinach, so I figure we each consumed about a half stick of butter. Ai.)

The recipes weren't hard, just time consuming. I can't imagine how Julia/Julie managed to do this night after night, two or three recipes a night, when she wasn't even getting home from work until 8 sometimes. I started cooking just after 6 and we ate at 8:45. After which I suddenly realized how tired I was and collapsed. Good thing there were idle times during the cooking that I was able to wash most of the dishes, because I'm sure not doing them now.

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To make myself feel better about the hat that got away, I checked out the vintage patterns on Ebay for the first time in, gosh, a couple of months now. And found the pattern of my dreams. A Dior design! In my size! With no bids yet!

It definitely skews towards the cute side of mod, not the ultra-hip space age side. "Marlo Thomas is That Girl!" not metal dresses by Courreges. But I can do cute. Probably better than ultra-hip, if I want to be honest with myself. I've seen this pattern once before on Ebay, but it was too big for me even then (would have been way too big for me now). But this one is just the right size.

So please, don't bid on this pattern. I really want it!

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Last night we met Lisa at David's opening. Which was so crowded we had trouble getting to the art at times. We did manage to say hi to David though. Afterwards we walked over to the Untidy Museum, which just moved from its teeny tiny location across from Lakewood to a nice big storefront on Broad St. As always they have some amazing stuff. Including a pretty green dress with horizontal stripes made of ribbons sewn over sheer fabric. It looked like it would be perfect for me, but when I tried it on it didn't fit right at all. I think it was made for a much taller person. Not only was it too long, but the waist ended up around my hips, making it very much too snug around that area. If I pulled up the waist about 5 inches it fit perfectly. Alas! It does give me ideas though. I think sewing on all those ribbons would be too much work, but I'm going to look for a sheer fabric with opaque stripes and see if I could make something similar.

The other thing they had that sorely tempted me was a very mod black hat. One of those big, nearly spherical hats that makes the head look about 6 inches taller than it really is. Very 1968 Pierre Cardin. Lisa was very encouraging about the hat, and took my picture with her camera phone. (By the way, I really want one of those camera phones.) After we got home I looked through my pattern drawer and found this pattern that would look perfect with the hat. With the center panel and collar in black, and the rest of the dress in white. Oh man that would look good.

Alas, when we went back today to buy the hat, I found out that it's $40. (Price tags at Untidy Museum are sometimes present, more often not. I suspect they want you to get an emotional attachment to the piece before you find out the price.) Which is way too much. I wouldn't spend that much on a sweater or a pair of pants. In fact when I needed a new pair of jeans, I found a perfect pair for $45, but continued to look for weeks until I found another pair that would do for $20. And these are jeans that I wear all the time. So there's no way I can justify it on an accessory I'd only wear once in a while. I tried to haggle in my meek way, suggesting that I had really hoped it would be more like $30. Which met with zero response. I don't know if it's because the girl I was talking to wasn't the owner & didn't have the authority to change a price, or if they're just not into haggling.

So the hat turned out to be a big bummer. At least I'm glad Lisa took my picture, so I have a record of how I looked in it. And on the bright side, now I don't have to rush to make that outfit to wear with the hat.

Anyway, after the Untidy Museum we had dinner at Dale's Indian restaurant, where Lisa's friend Neil met up with us. Neil used to run the Gold Dollar nightclub in Detroit, and now drives around the country living out of a VW deisel camper van. So it was a pretty interesting conversation.

Today we went shopping at the hardware store. Yay! I love spending money at the hardware store! Because it feels more practical, less guilt-inducing, than spending money on clothes (or hats). We bought another tub of patching plaster so I can get that last gouge in the wall that I missed, a sanding block for those strips that have to be hand-sanded, painting supplies and a can of primer, and a dryer. (Every time I buy a large appliance I have this feeling of: whee! I'm a good consumer! I'm contributing to the economic recovery! Or at least, the illusion thereof!)

We had replaced our old washer several years ago, but not the dryer. The old dryer got more and more fussy over the years: first the handle of the lint screen broke off, so you had to pry it out as best you could. Then something in the door broke so it wouldn't open smoothly, just fell all the way open if you weren't careful. The last straw was when the handle that controls the dryer broke off. Without the handle, there was just this piece of metal sticking out that we had to turn with a pair of pliers to turn it on. To make matters worse, suddenly heavy things like wool socks and flannel sheets don't get dry anymore. Maybe because we can't really tell where the knob is pointing, so the dryer often isn't running for a full cycle. Clearly it's time for a new dryer.

We wanted the dryer that matches our washer, because they can be stacked. And space is a serious problem in our kitchen (a problem made worse by the fact that we have no laundry closet, so the washer and dryer are in there). Stacking them would free up enough space for a little kitchen island, which would be a big help.

We went to Home Depot first, where the guy was really helpful. They didn't have the Frigidaire that we bought, but they did have a GE that looked exactly the same. The guy explained that they are identical, Frigidaire also makes the one that GE sells using the same parts and all. The only difference is the buttons look a little different. So he assured us that the GE would stack on top of our Frigidaire just fine.

Next stop was Lowe's, where the guy was much less helpful. He sort of had a tone of "I found you checking out the expensive refrigerators, why are you wasting my time talking about a dinky little dryer." But they did have the Frigidaire that matches ours. And it was $20 cheaper than the one at Home Depot. But on the other hand, they charge $55 for installation, which Home Depot does for free. But on the third hand, Lowe's installers will stack them. Home Depot wouldn't do it; we would have had to lift the dryer up onto the washer ourselves. Ding! Lowe's is the winner. It's well worth $35 to have someone else deal with that.

They're going to deliver the dryer tomorrow. Georg already took down the shelf that used to be over the washer, which obviously has to go to make room for the stacking. We also need to adjust the feet on the washer to try and level it better. The helpful guy at Home Depot (I still feel bad about him not getting the commission, he was so much better than the guy at Lowe's) said that that would cut down on the shaking during the spin cycle. Which we really need to take care of before putting a dryer on top of it.

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A couple of days ago I received an email inquiry about purchasing thefool.com. I've had this domain for almost seven years now, and as you can imagine I have no interest in selling it. Which is what I told the guy. Still, there's a little nagging voice in the back of my head that says I should have tried to get some money for it before the Motley Fool decides that their trademark includes thefool.com, and that they might as well have it, and they legally wrest it from me. Which, I fear, is going to happen one of these days.

I do get email from time to time from people who meant to visit the Motley Fool and ended up at my site instead. It's almost always friendly email -- which makes sense, most peopel who make that mistake will simply move on, the only ones who are moved to write to me would have been moved to stop and read in the first place -- but I did a few weeks ago get a funny email from some guy who said that every time he typed "thefool.com" into his web browser, my page came up. And how could he make that stop happening. Um, stop typing my domain name into your browser?

Finally got around to finishing the sanding today. Except not, because we still have those two little strips that have to be hand-sanded. And while I was cleaning up I noticed a big gouge over one window that I had completely overlooked. Don't know how I missed it; it was not three inches from another area that got well-spackled. On the other hand, considering I ended up covering probably 40% of the total wall surface with spackle (no, that is not an exaggeration) I'm not surprised to have missed a spot.

Georg did the big clean-up -- brushing dust off the walls, tops of windowframes, and so forth -- since those last little hand-sanded bits won't create nearly as much dust. Georg's brother says we could have minimized the dust by using better spackle. Too bad we didn't know that before. We talked about going over the walls again with tack cloth before we prime.


Looks like we're going to have dinner at Morimoto, the Philadelphia restaurant of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, over Thanksgiving holiday. The menu on their website is pretty darned impressive, I must say. Georg has already decided to get the omakase, the chef's choice tasting menu. I ought to as well, but I'm such a wuss about shellfish (not crazy about it in general, forget about raw) that it's probably not a good idea. A full report, including photos I hope, will follow the trip.

I just realized that we have to be somewhere in 20 minutes and I'm not dressed. Eek!

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Värttinä was fantastic. Really great show. The performers had a great time, they clearly enjoy being together and working together. Which adds a lot to the performance I think. Georg recognized a bunch of the songs they played, but I only recognized a couple. Including the one which I played on my show Tuesday. Which song turns out to be "for the bad boys if they are behaving badly!" according to one of the singers. And which featured the singers pretending to crack whips at the musicians, while the musicians mimed ducking for cover. No I am not making this up.

The group is made up of three singers (all female) and six musicians (all male). And I must say, it's nice to see a performance by people who are clearly in it for the music, not some kind of commercial product. For example, they were all dressed like they were going to a hippie wedding: the men in black short sleeved shirts and black pants, and the women in bare feet, long white skirts, and fluffy white sweaters. Also, I hesitate to say this because I don't want to sound like I'm making fun of them, but the singers, all three of them, had panty lines clearly showing beneath their skirts. Which in a way made them seem more like real people. Real people who made the wrong undergarment choice yesterday. I imagined Janet Jackson's stylist screwing up and letting Jackson go on stage with a visible panty line. That stylist would be so fired.

This photo was taken a couple of days ago at a concert in New York; they're wearing the same clothes they wore last night. The woman in the middle is an original member of Värttinä but the other two joined more recently. We decided that the man on the left looks kind of like Henry Rollins. It was amusing to wonder what the heck Rollins was doing in a Finnish folk group. Georg kept waiting for him to do that knee-head-to-mic-stand thing.

The singers spoke pretty good English, not perfect but pretty good. It made their pre-song banter fairly amusing. There's the "bad boys if they are behaving badly" that I mentioned above, and before another song they had a little conversation that went "do you remember what your mother teaching you about boys?" "yes! boys are cute but stupid!" (a lot of their songs seem to be about boys.) Well I can't really criticize, not like I'm ever going to speak Finnish. Which by the way, I hear is an incredibly complex language, quite difficult for native speakers of English to learn.

The only negative thing I have to say about the show is, I don't care what culture it's from, drum solos are a bad thing. Long drum solos are evil. And long drum solos when the cute blonde dancing women are off stage, so there's nothing else to look at, listen to or think about, are a blight on the earth. But aside from that it was a fabulous evening.

It got cold again. Hands hurting, teeth chattering, where-did-I-pack-my-gloves, why-did-I-even-move-to-the-South cold. Wednesday night it was 70° out and I drove home from Lisa's house at 10:30 pm wearing a t-shirt with the car windows rolled down. Last night it got below 30°. I hate these wild swings in temperature, they make people sick and I never know how to dress.

My sister sent me a photo of her two miniature dachshunds, Monkey Girl and Nellie. Aren't they cute? I wonder how the photographer got them to hold still. I could never have made my dogs sit still for a photo when they were a year and a half old. Even now that they're both "geriatric" (according to a chart in the vet's office, I have read every piece of literature in that office twice over), it's hard to get them to hold still for the camera unless they're asleep.

Now I'm tired, so tired. Stayed up late getting some work done last night because I had a conference call and then a meeting this morning. Both of which went well, whew. Then I had hoped to take a nap but too much stuff had come up in the meantime. I'm so glad I can sleep in tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, tomorrow evening is David Terry's opening at Craven Allen Gallery on Broad St., and everyone should go. See you there!

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The vet couldn't figure out what's wrong with Thirteen's leg. Mainly because she stopped limping as soon as we got there. Dr. Lindeke said that's common actually: the animal gets an adrelaline rush which overrides the pain. She said that's a good sign, because it can't be a broken bone or torn ligament or something like that. It might just be her arthritis flaring up, but she said there's no way to tell without more information.

So she gave me another free sample of Rimadyl and sent us on our way. She said Thirteen will probably be worse again this afternoon, because of us having to lift her onto the table and wrestle her onto her side. She did not like that one bit; in fact she almost fell off the table at one point from squirming so hard to get away.

Now I've got a few hours to get some work done, and then we're going to see Värttinä tonight. Should be a great show!

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Sylvia came over after all, just after I had finished writing up yesterday's diary entry. We had a great time admiring and fussing over her new 12" Powerbook. The only failure of the afternoon was trying to install her Airport card. I think we didn't get it seated properly because the computer couldn't tell it was there.

Afterwards I had just enough time to change clothes and head over to Lisa's for what was probably the girliest night of my life. There were cosmopolitans, there was gossip, and there was makeup. Lots and lots of it. We went to the Lancome counter at the Hecht's in Northgate for makeovers. I hadn't intended to buy anything, but when I saw how nice everyone looked I had to at least get the woman to try out a lipstick on me. Which I ended up buying, of course. They have this clever scam where they give you a gift bag of extra stuff if you spend $25. But here's the scam: everything costs $20! The gift bag looked pretty good, so I ended up getting an eyeliner as well to get me over $25. But the gift bag promotion doesn't start until December 2, so my insanely expensive makeup is on hold until then. Locked safely away in their storage area, the saleswoman kept telling me.

Today was just as busy as yesterday, but much less fun. I had a couple of meetings at Denovo in the morning, then had lunch with the guys over there. Got home around 2, which gave me just enough time to exercise (I really should have spent that time working, but I've been really slack about exercise lately and I miss it), shower and change, before heading back out for a hair appointment.

I'm growing my hair out a bit for winter, so he didn't really cut it this time so much as restyle it. (He called it 'texturizing' and only charged me $10.) I like and trust my hairdresser, so I never give him a lot of guidance. I want to see what he'll do if he has a free hand. This time it's very curly.

After the haircut, I mean the texturizing, time for Stoneline. It was a pretty easy night there, not a lot of work for me this week. Which was good because it gave me just enough time to have a quick dinner at Wellspring and then back to Lisa's for Angel night. Which we both agreed was the best episode so far this season.

Now I'm home finally. Got home to discover that Thirteen is now limping too. Aie! It's her left front leg, she can't bend her knee. I gave her a Rimadyl and will call the vet in the morning. Good grief I hope she doesn't also have a torn ligament. Then they could have surgery at the same time. Heck, why don't we all do it. Laproscopic knee surgeries all around!

[Edited to add:] Well I'll be damned. That MT_Blacklist thing really works. I got comment spam earlier today, but the comment isn't showing up on my site. Woo Hoo! Score one for me!

Tuesday, Nov. 11

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Today is one of those days where I pretend like I'm social or something. First I had my show, which was great fun. Here's a photo of the MCR (master control room) taken by our webcam. It's a bit blurry, as cam shots tend to be, but I like the "horizontal hold" effect. We have the Kill Bill soundtrack in new releases. Say what you want about QT, he has good taste in music. I played the "Twisted Nerve Theme," which is the tune Darryl Hannah whistles if you've seen the movie. I was also pleased to see one track by the 5.6.7.8's, the Japanese girl group performing in the restaurant near the end. I hate when there's a band performing in a movie and their song isn't included on the album.

Sylvia, aka Santa Salsera, stopped by to talk Mac, as she was thinking about buying a 12" Powerbook. Which thought I happily encouraged, including inviting her over this afternoon to help her get set up, work out file transfer issues and so forth.

While she was there my friend Kevin called to tell me that we were a couple of minutes away from the exact time of the Armistace: 11:11 on 11/11. Luckily a song was ending just at the right time, so I was able to cut in and mention it on the air. However, he didn't say Armistace, just mentioned the time, and being a dope I didn't remember the significance of it, so I just said something goofy about all the elevens.

Between the visit and the phone call I was feeling a little frazzled, it's hard for me to cue things up and talk at the same time. But I think the show managed to turn out okay anyway. After I got home I called Kevin back and we chatted for about a half hour about various things, movies mostly, until he had to go do something for work. It's nice to have a friend that, even though we've only seen each other twice in the past ten years, we can talk on the phone like we last got together a week ago. He had just seen a trailer for an upcoming John Woo movie called Paycheck based on a P.K. Dick novel, that sounds outstanding. Damn those New Yorkers who get movies (and even movie trailers, apparently) way before we do.

Then I talked to Sylvia on her way home from the Apple store. She bought the 12" Powerbook. Yay! She was supposed to come over so I could help her get it set up, but since it's 4:30 now I think she's maybe not coming. Well, maybe she realized that it's so easy to get started she doesn't need my help. No biggie, I did some final spackling, patching up a few cracks I had missed before, until I ran out of spackle. She told me that she bought an external floppy drive (only $40!) so she's probably busy copying all her files from her old PC.

Later tonight I'm going out with Lisa, Christa and Mary for a night of girly-girl fun. I gather it will involve lots of make-up. And dinner at the Peek-a-Boo on Ninth Street. I've never been there but Lisa was practically salivating via email (no mean feat) when the subject came up, so it must be good. All in all, a much more social day than I usually have.

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This is what I see almost every morning when I wake up. Georg gets up first (because his commute involves a car, whereas I can get up a lot later and still be at my desk by 8:30), and as soon as he does Lina makes herself at home. This is how much of a dork I am: I'm probably going to buy a step-stool so she can still get into the bed after her knee surgery. After all, that's when she'll most need to be comfortable. And I don't want to risk her hurting herself by trying to jump onto the bed before she's all healed up.

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Last night we saw Kill Bill again, with Lisa this time. I think I enjoyed it even more this time because I knew when to cover my eyes.

This morning we had lunch at Mountain Valley Cafe, a new place in Erwin Square. I don't think they serve dinner, just breakfast and lunch. We think it must have just opened because they were having serious kitchen problems. For instance, I ordered a sandwich which was supposed to have chicken, caramelized onions, bacon, provolone, and shallot mayonnaise. Sounds yummy, no? What I actually got was chicken, bacon and provolone on plain bread. Dry and bland. To their credit, they were very attentive to fixing the problem once I flagged down the manager: quickly brought out the missing onions and mayonnise, apologized repeatedly, and gave us a discount. The sandwich was great once it included the ingredients that provide flavor. So the moral is, the food there is good but be sure to memorize the menu description of your order, and check the food immediately for missing ingredients. (Georg's omelette was also missing a sauce but he didn't say anything until after we left, and we overheard someone at another table telling the waitress that his crepes were supposed to come with something that they hadn't.)

Today we sanded. Sanding is much less fun than spackling. Messier, hard to breathe, and we can't watch TV or listen to the radio or even talk while working. At least we got it mostly done. All that's left are the big cracks that I patched this morning, the narrow spots where the sander won't go, and a couple of rough spots here and there if I get really ambitious.

The amount of dust in the living room is astonishing. We spent about an hour cleaning and there's still dust everywhere. After we're totally done sanding, I'm going to have to vacuum and mop every surface to get ready to paint.

Here's some photos of our work so far:

This photo was taken on Tuesday when I had finished scraping off the glue and just started spackling. You can see some kind of nasty green under the scrape marks. I think that the walls were green first, then they were painted cream and then (in the late 60s, judging by the rest of the decor) that fake wood paneling was put up.

This was yesterday, after spackling. The walls still look like crap but at least they're closer to monochromatic, so I feel better already.

Here's me sanding. Actually this photo was taken during a break, while we ran the whole house fan to get rid of some of the dust in the air, so that the camera wouldn't get too much dust in/on it.

The drop cloths kept the dust off the furniture pretty well, except that we forgot to put one on the big couch! Oops.

Not only did I end up with dust caked in my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, but I also had a disturbing formation of dust around my nose under the dust mask. Makes me wonder how much of that stuff I inhaled.

Now we're all cleaned up & feeling much better. Georg had the foresight to put a big pot of chili on the stove before we started, so all we have to do is heat up a vegetable and dinner is ready. Whew. I think I'm going to spend the evening curled up on the couch watching TV. Kind of wish I hadn't finished Cryptonomicon last night. I really enjoyed it, not just the book but the act of reading it. I hardly ever read anymore. Mainly it feels too hard to find blocks of uninterrupted time when I can focus on one thing that's purely for pleasure. I always feel guilty, like I should be working, doing housework, sewing, etc etc. TV is different because it's so easy to do something else at the same time like work on the computer, exercise, or spackle.

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The past few days have been mostly occupied by spackle. I like that word. Spackle spackle spackle. It's actually "patching plaster" that I'm putting up, but I'm using a spackling knife, and it looks just like spackle, so I'm calling it spackle.

Spackling walls is easier than scraping off glue, but it takes longer. Took me three days to get the walls entirely spackled. Actually I concede, I'm not entirely done. Because I had intended to ignore a few cracks running the width of the wall between the closet door and the hall, figuring that a crack that long is just going to come back. But I had to get plaster fabric anyway to fill in a big gouge over the door. And the plaster fabric also helps prevent big cracks from reoccurring. And I have a feeling that if Ileave those cracks the way they are, I'm going to be annoyed with myself every time I look at them. So I might at well fix them. Even if they come back two inches lower, at least I tried to do it right.

I have to say, I prefer the look of plaster over drywall, but it's a collossal pain in the butt to deal with repairs. There's a nasty spot in the ceiling where the roof leaked when I first moved in, that I have no idea how to fix. I guess I should knock out all the loose stuff and try to replaster it. It's pretty big though. Maybe I'll just worry about the walls first and then tackle the ceiling.

Yesterday we also got started on the sanding. The first step was a trip to Home Depot to buy an orbital sander. A DeWalt salesman came up and tried to hard sell us on the DeWalt sander. I feel bad because I thought he was just a regular Home Depot guy, so I kept talking to him about the Porter Cable sander which we ended up buying. Not that we had an obligation to buy the DeWalt sander just because that guy was talking it up. But I wouldn't have taken up his time if I'd realized he was a salesman for just one brand of tools rather than the whole store.

So anyway, we have a new orbital sander and it is very nice. When we did the dining room a few years ago, I seem to recall that we borrowed a tiny palm sander from someone, which tiny sander was not really up to the job. We may even have ended up doing much of the sanding by hand (my memory is a little fuzzy on this). This one does really well though.

We will still end up doing some hand sanding, because there are two really narrow strips where there's either a door or window frame right next to a corner. The sander won't fit in there, and the idiots who put that fake wood paneling up in the first place decided that those narrow strips of wall needed to be about 85% covered with glue. So there is a lot of spackle there now, which will need a lot of sanding.

Georg started sanding yesterday while I was finishing up the spackling. It creates a humongous amount of dust, about 20% of which is caught by the little dust bag. (I did not make up that percentage; the salesman at Home Depot told it to me.) I was hoping to get the sanding done while it was still warm, so we could open the windows for ventilaton. Alas, my planning lacked for something, as it got cold again the very day we were ready to sand. We opened the windows anyway, and hung plastic in all the doorways to keep the dust out of the rest of the house.

There's a warning on the tub of patching plaster, that it's bad for the lungs and eyes. So we have to wear goggles and dust masks, and the dogs also have to stay outside the entire time, until we've finished sanding and cleaned up. I've been spoiling them, what with all the illnesses and surgeries, so they're entirely unaccustomed to being outside and not coming back in the minute they ask to. At least the weather's nice for them, cool but sunny.

I read Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon over the past few days. I had actually started it on the plane ride back from Vegas, but then put it aside until this past week. Finally finished it last night. I'd call Stephenson a great writer if not for his tendency to punctuate his great writing with lengthy interludes of Look!How!Clever!I!Am! Usually this comes in the form of two or three insufferably clever people talking to each other about some insufferably clever thing in an unbroken stream of pure dialogue for pages and pages (12 pages at one point in Cryptonomicon). It's not really fair to accuse a writer of being in love with the sound of their own voice. Because after all, if they didn't love their own words, they wouldn't be writers. But still, it applies here. Damn this guy loves the sound of his own voice.

The irritant level of these pure dialogue conversations is made worse by the fact that character voice is a weak point for Stephenson. By which I mean to say, most of his characters sound the same. To the point that it is difficult to tell them apart just by the way they speak. Which is all you have to go on in pure dialogue. For example, an elderly priest from an esoteric offshoot of Catholicism who has lived in the Philippines for decades, should not sound the same as a twenty-something computer geek entrepreneur from Seattle. Yet they speak so similarly that during their endless, boring, clever conversation about cryptology, I kept getting confused as to who was saying what.

Now that I've trashed Stephenson, you might have the impression that I did not enjoy Cryptonomicon. Which is not at all the case. It's a great yarn with exciting, engaging plotlines that are complicated but not difficult to follow. The book is three or four separate stories actually. Which, that in itself isn't all that remarkable, but the interesting thing is that one of the storylines takes place now, and all the rest are set during World War II. What's more, rather than keeping the stories separate until the very end, he ties them together about 1/3 of the way in, with 700 pages to go.

But he still manages to expertly control the flow of the book: revealing information in a fairly organic way in each story as it's needed to illuminate the others, maintaining the pace and level of interest in each. Even though I had put down the book for several weeks in the middle, I never had to flip back and figure out what was going on. And I never felt irritated at the shift from one storyline to another, because I had an equal level of interest in finding out what happened to all the major characters, throughout the book. That is an impressive achievement.

It's kind of funny that the same author can be so fantastic with plot, and so bad with dialogue. Georg feels it's unfair, an easy shot, to assume that you know something about an author based on the books s/he writes. For the most part I agree with him. However, when the majority of Stephenson's characters in the majority of his books sound like the same person, it's hard not to wonder if that person isn't Stephenson himself. Which, if that's true, he must be a really annoying person to hang out with.

I haven't yet read Quicksilver but I'd like to. I heard it's historical, which maybe will help with the characters having distinctive voices. Also, if the book is set in the seventeenth century there's no way (I hope) the characters can blather about Unix. I get enough of that in the real world.

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Only a few quick things to report today:

1. Lina's surgery is scheduled for December 4. They told me on the phone that the cost will be somewhere between $1500 and $2500. Ai.

2. Ah, Wal-mart. Where else can you buy make-up and spackle at the same time.

3. Once again, I am thankful for my policy of avoiding movie reviews like the plague until after I've seen the movie. Matrix Revolutions is getting terrible reviews, but I enjoyed it immensely.

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Today was a busy but relatively unproductive day. Lots of time-wasting phone calls, back-and-forth emails, etc. No major housework undertakings, but I am happy to report that my arms and shoulders are only mildly sore after yesterday. Whew!

I got a nasty letter from my hosting service. It started out "I am curious as to what possessed you to think running a PHP script that allows remote shell access was a good idea." and went from there. Apparently PHPshell_1.7 had been installed in my web space and was being used to run some horrible IRC program, the mere presence of which is grounds for immediate suspension of my account. Eek!

I think this was the old Greymatter comment bug coming back to haunt me. I had turned comments off in Greymatter when this first came up, and switched over to Movable Type, but had never gotten around to turning off the Greymatter version of the blog. Whoops.

I deleted everything in the Greymatter folder, except for the bad directories which I couldn't get to because they had been locked. Wrote back and explained that my account must have been hacked, and would he delete those files. He wrote right back, pleasant as could be, saying sure he'd get rid of them. I guess if your job is to monitor abuse of web hosting accounts, you get used to writing nasty messages & don't think anything of it.

I still have not talked to the vet, but did talk to another vet tech who convinced me to cancel Lina's surgery appt. tomorrow. She said, like the other one, that if they do the surgery at St. Francis, they will have to dislocate Lina's knee. And she will end up in a lot more pain and take a lot longer to heal. Whereas the veterinary college can do laproscopic surgery so she will heal more quickly with less pain. I sure wish Dr. Lindeke had told me this in the first place. (All she said was that the college was state of the art, but they were also able to do the surgery at St. Francis.)

Anyway, I have to call the college tomorrow, and hope that St. Francis called in the referral today because they won't make the appointment without a referral. I hope we can schedule it right away so Lina has time to recover before Thanksgiving. Because otherwise we'll have to wait until December. I don't want her to be in the kennel when she's still on painkillers and so forth.

I took the dogs with me this morning to return the heat gun, and go to the bank and supermarket. It was kind of a long drive for them but Lina's had so many nasty trips to the vet recently. I want her to have as many pleasant car rides as I can manage, to make sure she doesn't get skittish about the car.

Georg and I had dinner tonight at the Southern Season restaurant. We're having one of those freakish warm spells so we took advantage of the opportunity to eat outside, probably for the last time this year. They have a really nice patio outside; it's inside a brick wall so you can't tell there's a mall parking lot on the other side. And they seated us right in front of the fountain, very romantic. Georg had duck, which he sounded a little disappointed with. He said it was good, but not all that. I had tuna with pumpkin ravioli and saffron cream sauce. Which was, in fact, all that. Really outstanding. It had these little crispy threads on top of the tuna, that I think were maybe fried scallion shreds.

Then of course we had to walk around the store and admire the expensive dishes and gourmet food items. It's kind of funny, the stuff in that store is always the same but we never get tired of looking at it. Ooh! Here's the white truffle oil! Oh! There's the imported sheep's milk butter! Ah! Le Creuset has a casserole shaped like an apple!

Georg is rather honked off about the new receiver not working with the turntable. Sounds like he might return it. [later: he found a pre-amp that isn't too expensive, so it looks like he's going to keep the receiver.]

Now I have to finish setting up my friend David's web page for his upcoming gallery show. David is a wonderful artist and everyone should go to his opening on November 15 at Craven Allen gallery in Durham.

He told me on the phone this afternoon that one of the new pieces for the show is dedicated to me. Which is highly flattering, but kind of funny because the reason for it is the figure at the bottom of the image, wearing the pink bra, who reminded him of me. I pointed out to David that she looks nothing like me, and I don't even own a pink bra for that matter. To which he replied that it's not the bra, it's the attitude.

I'm not sure that I see it, but as Georg pointed out, she doesn't have to remind me of me, the point is that she reminds David of me. In any case I'm not going to turn my nose up at having art dedicated to me.

Tomorrow night a bunch of us are going to go see The Matrix. Whee! Should be fun. 8 pm show, Southpoint. See you there!

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Still trying to figure out this Trackback thing. Here's a link to the Willow costume ideas that Lisa and I were kicking around the other night. I think if we actually do this next year, I want to be "softer side of Sears" season 1 Willow.

This morning the vet was busy, but I talked to the vet tech. She made it sound like I should definitely have Lina's surgery done at the veterinary college. Not because of long-term effect, she said that probably wouldn't be an issue, but at a better facility they could do more delicate work so she'd probably recover more quickly and feel less pain. She said that at smaller places they have to remove the knee cap to get at the ligament. Owie! I guess at the college they can do, what is it called, laproscopic surgery?

I asked Dr. Lindeke to call me back but I guess she didn't have time today. If I don't hear from her tomorrow morning I'll call back. Because Lina's surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, but I need to cancel that and then schedule it at the place in Raleigh.

Well I had an urge this afternoon to do some serious work on the house. I've learned to run with these urges, as you never know when it will happen again. So I stopped at Yarnell Hoffer on my way back from the office, rented a heat gun, and spent the afternoon scraping glue off the living room walls. It was hard work, pretty tiring, but not as hellacious as I remembered. (I wasn't weightlifting when I did the dining room, which may have something to do with it being a bit easier on my arms this time.) The hardest part was up near the ceiling. Because I don't have a ladder, so I had to stand on a chair. And as you may know, I'm quite short. It's not easy to hold up a heat gun with one hand and scrape with the other while you're reaching as high as you can.

But in any case, the job had been started already way back when (when we did the dining room, to be precise), and so I got the entire room almost done in about six hours. There was only one spot left, above the doorway to the dining room, and Georg finished that off after dinner. The dogs were predictably unsettled by all the moving of furniture, standing on chairs, and paint shavings flying everywhere. But I put them outside where they could enjoy the sunshine and pretend nothing untoward was happening inside.

I think the family next door to us have split up. Normally the kids would be out in their yard every afternoon, hassling my dogs. But I haven't seen the kids (or their mother) since early summer. At first I thought the kids were at summer camp or something, but school's been in session for months. This afternoon I saw the dad, so he definitely hasn't moved.

I have to admit I'm not sorry to see them go. Stopping the kids from screaming at my dogs had been a daily ordeal for me, and the mother took an extreme dislike to me without ever speaking to me, who knows why. (Well actually I can hazard a guess that it's either because I seem like a weirdo, with the car and the formerly green hair, or because of my slovenly yard maintenance habits.) But I've talked to the dad, he seems like a really nice guy. So I'm sad for him about it. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that I'm wrong. Maybe they've just been away on a long trip, or maybe their schedule has changed so I just don't see them anymore. Either way, the main impact on my life is I can safely put the dogs in the yard during afternoons now.

Just now Georg set up a new stereo receiver. The old one wasn't working anymore: sound only came out of one speaker (or headphone). The new one is a bit swankier than he had intended, but apparently basic receivers don't come with any place to connect a turntable. He would have had to go even higher end to get one with a jack labeled "phono." What, do only audiophiles have turntables now?

I took a photo of Georg setting up the receiver while Thirteen looked on fearfully. Which is what she does. It's her job in the family. You can tell she's scared because her tail is down, and she's trying to see what Georg is doing without making eye contact. I wish I had gotten one of her in the living room while I was working on it. But the camera scares her too (we don't call her "Dog of Beware" for nothing) and I was concerned that too many scary things at once would really freak her out.

The funky Shag print on the wall behind Georg was my birthday present last year. It's the same one they used for the cover art of Ursula 1000's "Kinda Kinky" album. We're talking about painting the hall bright green to match the print. Living room first, I think.

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I'm probably the eight millionth person to link to this, but the Gender Genie promises to predict your gender based on a writing sample with 70% accuracy.

It reached the rather less impressive 33% accuracy with me -- 2 blog samples identified as overwhelmingly male, 1 email correspondence identified as barely female -- before I got bored with it and gave up.

I was a bit disappointed to learn that it doesn't actually examine writing style in terms of sentence structure and so forth. Just counts words that are likely to be used by men and words that are likely to be used by women. According to its algorithm, pronouns indicate a female author, while the word "the" indicates a male author. Because, like, us girls are afraid of descriptive nouns? We feel safer gossiping and talking about our feelings, you know? And declarative sentences make us uneasy?

Someone needs to invent an emoticon for rolling one's eyes so hard they roll back into one's head. Because that's what I'm doing right now.

(thanks, I think, to Supergee for the link.)

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Last night we and some other folks went over to Lisa's place to watch Nightmare Before Christmas. What fun. Joe declared the moral of the film to be "you can find true love when hell freezes over."

We spent a lot of time talking about Space Ghost Coast to Coast, as it turned out that Georg, Joe, Ray and I were all pretty big fans of the show. Unfortunately Lisa had never seen it, so that particular part of the conversation probably dragged on a bit for her. After we got home Georg and I dug out some old videotapes we had made of Space Ghost, back in the day when it used to be on after our bedtime. As opposed to now, when it's not on at all. But according to Ray there's a DVD coming out sometime this month, with new episodes no less.

I'm still thinking about Lina's surgery. The vet said that the veterinary college would be state of the art and would do a really good job (which opinion has been repeated by several other people). But, would be more expensive. The question in my mind is, would the merely competent surgery she'd get at the vet's office be problematic? Would she be more likely to limp permanently, or have arthritis in that knee? I don't feel the need to take her to the best place just for the sake of it being the best. But if it would have a substantial impact on her future health, then it's worth the extra money. I'm going to call the vet tomorrow morning and ask her about this.

Two things I forgot to mention about Halloween. First, Lisa handed out cute little glow in the dark thumb puppets, which we named Bingo, Pogo, and He Who Must Not be Named. We spent much time wrestling our thumb puppets in between trick or treaters. Second, I never knew what a pain in the ass it is to wear false eyelashes. I kept thinking that I had something in my eye because I could see them on the edge of my vision. Also I don't know if I didn't use enough glue or if I was sweating too much or what, but they came loose on one end. I don't think it was too noticeable, they weren't hanging off my eyes, but it made the "ack there's something huge in my eye oh wait it's those damned eyelashes" feeling worse. They did make a huge difference in my appearance though. I had Georg take a photo of me wearing just one of them. Freaky huh? That's even before I put on the Cleopatra eyeliner. Speaking of which, who knew that liquid eyeliner was so much harder to apply than the pencil kind. I ended up having to make this humongous thick line to cover my unsteadiness. Which probably worked out well for the mod look, now that I think about it.

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Had a fun Halloween. We went over to Lisa's for dinner and handing out candy. (She lives in a neighborhood with trick-or-treaters, unlike us.) When she ran out of candy, we walked down to the block party a couple of streets over and sat with Joe and his neighbors for awhile while they dispensed candy from the "candy cauldron," actually a gorgeous Le Creuset casserole. At some point they put a skull inside the cauldron, stuck candy in its nose and eye sockets, and started making the kids take the candy out of the skull. Most kids didn't have a problem with it, but a few were too scared to take the candy from the skull's eyes. One little boy actually held the lid down on the cauldron to keep us from showing the skull to his younger sister! That was so sweet.

After the block party we drove out to Chapel Hill for a party at Calvin's house in Southern Village. There were some great costumes! My favorite was the woman dressed as an Egyptian queen, with a pleated dress and really nice-look headdress. I think the crowd-pleaser was the "spam filter," who wore a netting wrapped around his body that had pop-up ads hanging all over it.

I wasn't planning on wearing a costume, as I said, but my friend Kevin gave me the idea to go get some false eyelashes and white lipstick. It's amazing what make-up can do to make an outfit I'd wear any weekend look like a go-go dancer costume. Georg went the same route, wearing one of his swanky shirts and carrying a martini glass. Instant lounge lizard! (The funnypart was, someone at Calvin's party thought he was a "lounge wizard." Whatever that is!) Lisa was dressed as a Victorian, with a little half-cape and a very cool torn up old umbrella that may have actually been Victorian. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it. That umbrella would go really well with a "Victorian ghost" costume.

I tried to slick down and straighten my hair, but it eventually sprang up into a sort of finger-wave shape. Maybe next year I'll check out the Vintage Vogue patterns from the 20's and 30's, because that hairstyle would go with that era really well. Of course, only if Lisa's idea doesn't pan out, of getting a whole group together to dress like characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This link is a test of Trackback. Whatever the heck that is.

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