Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
“Hey girl, you up?”
“Whatchoo got man?”
“Red tops and spider bags.”
“Any blue tops?”
“Nah, man, all out.”
“I be needing them blue tops today. Ya feel me?”
“Just red tops and spider bags.”
“Ah-ight. Gimme one on one.”
While The Corner makes heroin look so fantastic, I’ll actually refrain from trying some. But, if I were a dope addict, where does one get heroin in Pittsburgh? I’ve never gone through a Pittsburgh neighborhood and heard people shouting “WMDs! Yo, I got your WMDs over here!” or have had someone ask me if I’m up. Does Pittsburgh have an open-air drug market? Where? Dave and I think if we drove up to Garfield and asked someone if they had any WMDs, we’d probably just get beat up.
If Pittsburgh doesn’t have any sort of drug marketplace where people line up to buy drugs in the open, do other cities? Or is it just Baltimore? I can’t help but laugh every time I remember Dave and I driving, unknowingly, through the Baltimore projects looking for Edgar Allan Poe’s house and hearing people shout “cracker, go home” at us. I think we were probably driving through a scene straight from The Wire, especially because there is one episode in season three where dealers make fun of middle-aged white folks who were driving by looking for the Poe house, to which the dealer told them: "These be all po' houses!"
PS: This is my last entry about The Corner and The Wire. I promise.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Shut Up, I’m Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government by Gregory Levey
My co-worker loved this book. Description: “New York law student and speechwriter for Ariel Sharon describes his surprising placement at the Israeli Consulate, attendance of U.N. sessions, and insider witness to Middle-Eastern politics and upheavals.
The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
The miniseries is hauntingly depressing but good. I bet the book is better. Description: “A yearlong portrait of everyday lives that intersect at the corner of West Fayette and Monroe streets, a notoriously crime-ridden intersection in Baltimore. Through the lens of one family in an inner-city neighborhood, this incisive piece of investigative journalism has much to say about hope and hopelessness on an individual and group level. The authors are an award-winning novelist and a public schoolteacher who retired from the city police force after 20 years."
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
I know Kate T. loved this book. Description: “An account of a year inside a city homicide unit focuses on three detectives investigating murders in Baltimore--a city torn by racial tensions and plagued by drugs and crime."
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
Description: “After a 10-year hiatus from fiction, bestseller Wally Lamb returns with The Hour I First Believed, a sprawling, emotionally rich novel about two married high-school teachers who work at Columbine High School during the deadly shooting of 1999."
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
I so enjoyed The Old Pantagonian Express and Dark Star Safari and am excited to read this classic in travel writing. Description: “Paul Theroux revolutionized travel writing with his 1975 book The Great Railway Bazaar, a stirring and very personal account of his travels by railway from London to Tokyo and back. Choosing to go by train, alone, and with minimal gear, afforded the intrepid Theroux the opportunity of encountering a fascinating galaxy of fellow travelers (who range from merely colorful to downright eccentric) as he makes his way across the continents of Europe and Asia, and of seeing the ever-changing landscape close-up. Theroux himself is, of course, the main character--sometimes arrogant, often impatient, always bluntly realistic, and ever-curious, eloquent, and very, very funny."
What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Rehn
This local Pittsburgh author is a friend of a friend, who highly recommends this book about a modern day Anna Karenina. Description: “Married unhappily to a prominent member of her tight-knit Russian immigrant community, vivacious Anna K. engages in a reckless affair with an outsider on whom she has pinned fleeting hopes for freedom, while in a neighboring community, Bukharian-Jewish pharmacist Lev harbors a consuming love for Anna`s cousin."
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Anything by Murakami has to be good. Description: “Kafka Tamura lives with his father in Tokyo, but at 15 he takes to the road, hoping to locate his mother and his sister, who left when he was four. Meanwhile, an elderly and possibly retarded man named Nakata, who survived a mysterious (and still unexplained) event many years ago, is able to talk to cats. These two story lines converge in Haruki Murakami`s seventh novel, a winsomely odd tale full of eccentric characters, surreal details, and unexpected subplots. Named one of the 10 Best Books of 2005 by the New York Times."
Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan
I can’t remember how many times I’ve picked this up and then put it back again. If I learned one lesson from all those many, many animal books I read as a child, it’s this: the animals eventually die, and I will cry. This book has tearjerker written all over it. Still, I think I’m going to succumb to the inevitable tears and finally read this. Description: “Marley is a hyperactive, intractable, mischievous, and entirely lovable yellow Lab, acquired by John Grogan and his wife because they thought having a dog would prepare them for parenthood. Not only did Marley take over their lives, but when children did eventually come along, Marley retained his place as firstborn and supremely difficult child. Grogan`s very amusing chronicle of Marley`s life and adventures is a first-rate memoir of a memorable pet."
Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food by Gene Bauer
Speaking of tearjerkers, I’m sure there will be sad scenes a-plenty in this book from the founder of Farm Sanctuary, but I think it’s a must-read for me. Description: “A founder of an organization dedicated to promoting the compassionate treatment of animals and combating factory farming addresses key questions about the ethics of breeding animals for food, exposing inhumane practices utilized by typical food-production companies."
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Christmas was fun this year! Dave was feeling a lot better on Christmas day. After a fantastic dinner at my mom’s of various forms of dough and cabbage (the leftover pierogies, haluski, halupki, and bobotka), we all lingered over a marathon game of Apples to Apples and sampled from the various bottles going around of champagne, wine, sour apple pucker liquor, crown royal, and a partially evaporated bottle of vodka from Russia that looked like it must have been 50 years old.
Dave got me stuff from Modcloth (thanks Dave!), which he found out is based in Pittsburgh! I got him stuff from LLBean. The most amusing gift was the one Dave got from his stepmom: this CD. (If you know Dave, you know why it’s amusing.) My mom got us a beautiful and much-needed new set of stainless steel pots and pans! My sister Kathy got me some sewing patterns and sewing project books. Pretty much all of the projects seem very daunting, but I’m excited to try them nonetheless. The cats liked all the toys they got, but of course they may have enjoyed the boxes and wrapping paper best.
I spent the day after Christmas with my sister Chris who was home from South Bend. She took the train here, and since I live five minutes from the train station, I took her to the train station Friday night, along with my niece Katharine and nephew Harrison who stayed the night. We got back early enough to have dinner and then play Uno and darts before having to take Chris to the station near midnight.
Katharine (who will be 12 next week) and Harrison (10) are polite, well-behaved, and a delight. Katharine is very much like me: she makes lists for everything. Before coming to my house, she made five different lists: 1.) food to take; 2.) games to take; 3.) movies to take; 4.) her own stuff to take; 5.) Harrison’s stuff to take. Harrison is so innocent and good-hearted. He believes fiercely in Santa Claus; when I told him we didn’t have cable, he suggested asking Santa for it. I enjoyed having philosophical discussions with them about why some of the clementines, but not all of them, have seeds and how much a train weighs. I was particularly amused when listening to Harrison imagine several different scenarios in which my sister and brother-in-law died and he’d come to live at my house on the third floor and go to school at the school at the end of my street (as long as schools in Pittsburgh didn’t make them learn the recorder; he plans to snap his recorder in half as soon as he’s not required to play it anymore.) Harrison thinks that I have “a cool house with cool stuff and cool cats.” Both of them were fascinated by all the cats and didn’t leave them alone for a minute. Orla hid the entire time (she only likes me in general, but absolutely hates kids), but Grubble was a champ and valiantly let them manhandle him all night, and Elsie hardly stopped playing with the laser pointers both of them had.
After they finally went to bed, Dave, me, and the cats were exhausted. I’m sure it’s because none of us are used to having kids around, but their frenetic energy just wore us out. I like my house clean and quiet; the house with kids in it is completely opposite that. My sister (their mom) Kathy insists that they are not normally so active, that they’re just excited to be at my house. She’s been saying that for the past 12 years…I keep waiting for them to calm down, but that hasn’t happened yet. So when they went to sleep, Grubble jumped up to lay on me before I even laid down in bed and Orla curled up beside me, which she rarely does. I enjoyed having Katharine and Harrison here and I love them dearly, but when I try to imagine what it would be like to have kids full-time—kids running around the house, being loud, chasing the cats, leaving crumbs and dirty glasses everywhere they go, needing their meals prepared for them—I just can’t do it.
What a beautiful day! Dave and I took full advantage of living where we do by first walking into the Strip to get some stuff for a party that evening. When we got back, it was so nice we decided to take another walk on the river trail to Downtown. Dave showed me his new office, which is so clean, tidy, and designy—I loved it! I especially loved seeing Dave’s desk—with all of his drawings neatly rolled up, his little calendar with appointments jotted on it, and everything so neat and tidy. So cute! We spent Saturday night with Dave’s family, which was fun.
My body is recovering from the dough, cabbage, and chocolate I’ve been eating for the past few days. I don’t want to see chocolate again for a while! I made it through December with buying only a few things for myself, nothing major. Today I’m headed to the mall to take advantage of all the sales—a perfect ending to the weekend! I hope everyone else had a good weekend!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
My mom and aunts every year have a traditional slovak meal on Christmas Eve with pierogies, bobotka, halushki, and halupki (they now make me a different version with mushrooms instead of ground beef). I miss it because we always have Christmas Eve with Dave's family, but the leftovers are just as good on Christmas day, when we go to my mom's for dinner. Every single year everyone in my family asks me if we're coming up for Christmas Eve, and every single year for the past ten years I remind them that we do Christmas Eve with Dave's family. We could go there this year...but Dave's belly is still not accepting food very well. We wouldn't want to be there very long, but the two-hour round trip always makes a trip to my mom's long.
So...we're going to stay in by ourselves. It's totally fine with me--I haven't had a completely relaxing night in ages. We just got the entire set of David Simon's The Corner miniseries...although the first episode was so heavy it made my heart ache. But my mom is going to freak out when she finds out we're not going anywhere for dinner! And of course she's going to want us to go there. I don't want to lie to her, but I wish I didn't have to tell her our plans got canceled.
Speaking of relaxing, I was able to document what the cats do all day while we're at work: a whole lotta nuthin.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I like this idea, but I seriously doubt it will happen. The appointment of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary is a step in the right direction though.
From Nicholas Kristoff’s article in The New York Times: A Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming. But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers. In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat. Renaming the department would signal that Mr. Obama seeks to move away from a bankrupt structure of factory farming that squanders energy, exacerbates climate change and makes Americans unhealthy — all while costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
From Wayne Pacelle’s (Humane Society of the United States) blog: As columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote last week in The New York Times, the agency should be renamed the Department of Food, and move beyond its traditionally narrow focus as a promoter of agribusiness. It needs to elevate food safety, animal protection, environmental protection, and local, sustainable and organic agriculture, and think about serving 300 million American consumers, rather than just the small number of people involved in corporate agribusiness.
Monday, December 22, 2008
...But while Laissez-faire capitalism has been a monumental failure in practice, and soundly defeated at the polls, the ideology is still alive and kicking....It's time to drive the final nail into the coffin of Laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is.... Communism didn't fail because Soviet leaders didn't execute it well enough. Same with free market fundamentalism. In fact, Bush and his team did a bang-up job executing a defective theory. The problem wasn't just the bathwater; the baby itself is rotten to the core.
Could someone, please, give me just one example in which deregulation has helped anyone other than the big businesses who profit from it?
We decided to try popcorn from The Pittsburgh Popcorn Company, a new business that just opened this summer. YUM! We got the Wisconsin Cheddar and the Reese's Kettle. The cheddar was all buttery and cheesy--real cheesy, not the fake powder cheese. Delicious. And I liked the Reese's Kettle even more. They drizzle delicious peanut butter and chocolate over freshly popped kettle corn. Ah! Heaven, really. I only wish I would have had the Ginger Bread Cookie Corn, which was the flavor of the week, but there's always next time. Even though it's pricey (a large will run you from $7 to $12), it's worth it. Bags of this gourmet goodness would also make nice hostess gifts. Check out their menu.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
In The Wire, the city is the victim of the brutal effects of capitalism, but it’s also true with our country’s healthcare system. America is the only major industrialized country that does not provide healthcare for all its citizens, and today healthcare is a privilege denied to the have-nots so that the wealthy HMOs can become even wealthier. And, of course, it also holds true in factory farming. The unregulated industry has profited big business at the expense of giving even the most basic of humane rights—like having enough room to stand up and move around—to social, emotionally intelligent animals. Fortunately, Proposition 2 passed in California to give animals these basic rights. Back to The Wire, in this talk Simon also has interesting things to say about what America has become, where he sees it going (he’s not optimistic), and why the war on drugs is not only a total failure but is simply punishing the poverty class.
David Simon: The End of the American Empire Part 1
David Simon: The End of the American Empire Part 2
David Simon: The End of the American Empire Part 3
Friday, December 19, 2008
These clever toys are handmade from recycled sweatshirts without glue or chemicals and stuffed with organic catnip. Available on Etsy.com for $10.
Give your dog some kitty poop this holiday from Dog Dreams Baking Company in Portland Oregon. Made with 100% all natural, human grade ingredients. Available on Etsy.com for $7.99.
Meow Town Jungle Cat Cave
Your kitty will love hiding in this plush jungle lair. Available from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for $29.99.
I like the no-nonsense classic design of these stainless steel, durable, non-skid bowls. Available from the Humane Society of the United States for $38 for both.
Bunk Bed Playroom
There are so many things cats will love about this—the cushion for napping, the built-in toys, the hideaway space—but my cats would love batting at each other through the holes most. Available from the Humane Society of the United States for $48.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It’s a slow starting book, but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down (including shouting “Go Steelers” on Sunday night in between sentences because I couldn’t bear to stop reading). I don’t think I’d ever read a police investigation from start (how cases are assigned and teams are put together) to finish (not only finding out the murderer but also the motive), so that was interesting. In this case, there were no obvious suspects or leads for months, even after the detectives worked every angle imaginable. The identity of the murderer and the motive was a good surprise, but as with any good whodunit, it was easy to look back and see how all the signs pointed to the murderer throughout the book after you knew who it was. I especially liked the police interrogation scenes and the strategies the detectives used on suspects. The flirtatious relationship between Rob and Cassie played a big role, but didn’t much interest me—and I didn’t like how their relationship culminated.
I don’t like books that wrap every single loose end up into a bow that’s a happy ending; nor do I like books whose endings are depressing. In the Woods wrapped up some loose ends but left others unraveled—enough for a sequel, I bet.
My rating: Three Meows (one being bad, five being good) for a fun read, and also for learning some Irish jargon (I guess they call every meal tea?)
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
When people learn I volunteer at a shelter, they often say “Oh, that must be fun” or “I’m sure that’s gratifying.” What I never say in response is that it’s heartbreaking. It’s very sad to see people abandon their pets for reasons that are often the result of their own poor judgment and planning. So many people get puppies and kittens on a whim without considering the cost, time, and resources involved over the lifetime of the pet. My recent favorite was someone who couldn’t afford boarding her cat while she was traveling for the holidays; I secretly wished her many delays and bad weather. And seeing the effect on the animals of being abandoned and having to be in the stressful shelter environment continually breaks my heart. At the volunteer orientation, I was the only one who was crying outright (when she talked about the reasons they euthanize), and I often leave the shelter in tears.
So why do I do it? Because of success stories like Winston. Winston, a beautiful tabby and white cat, was found as a stray and brought into the shelter. Soon after he was diagnosed with diabetes, which requires testing and insulin shots two times a day. Because he is a young cat, he would be a serious commitment for someone. Winston was in foster care since July. The group of volunteers I’m involved with raised money of our own to pay for advertising for him, and I helped to post his information on free sites like Craig’s List. Seeing all the other ads for designer breeds and healthy kittens always made me depressed: who was going to adopt Winston?
Someone eventually did adopt him….for about 24 hours. Despite instructions to introduce him slowly to the household (something everyone should do), the adopters just let him out immediately, and were upset when they found him sitting on top of their bird cage. They must have put him in a carrier all night long because when they brought him back to his foster home the next day, he had pooped in the carrier (something that a cat would never do unless he had no other choice), and the poop was all over him.
Well, everyone was pretty depressed after that. Again we advertised and did outreach, and I wondered who was going to adopt Winston. Finally, last week, he was adopted into his forever home. The woman had one diabetic cat already and had seen the ad posted many months ago. After considering it for months, she met him, fell in love, and adopted him.
The moral of the story is that there is someone out there for even special needs homeless pets. But it takes persistence and patience to find the right person—which can’t be done without volunteers. I am so happy when an animal gets adopted—and if I’m there when the people are adopting, I just want to run up and hug them—so in the end it really is gratifying and worth all the heartbreak.
If this story moves you and you want to help, volunteers are always greatly needed and appreciated at shelters. Other ways to help are to spay and neuter your pets, think about the right pet for your situation, adopt instead of buying from a breeder, and if you do adopt, make it a lifetime commitment.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
On the wall above the right chair, I have a really good project planned. Dave recently got some stuff from his recently deceased great uncle (I think). The coolest thing was an old ham radio, and a collection of postcards from other amateur radio stations. I guess when another radio station would pick up your signal, they'd send you a postcard from their station confirming they got your signal. The postcards are really cool, each with its own design, and I plan on putting them into some kind of framed collage, and then installing a shelf that the radio can go on. This will be a fun project for next year!
I also sewed a little curtain for our pantry, which obviously wasn't nearly as involved as the slipcovers, but I like how it turned out.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Open-Faced Veggie Pita
(or really any veggies you want)
1. Cut up your veggies. Lot 17 had them in big slices, but I cut mine in julienne strips or smaller chunks so they roasted more quickly.
2. Toss with about 1 tsp olive oil in a bowl.
3. Put them in a single layer on a coated baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Bake at 400 F until they're roasted. I had small pieces so only had them in for a little over 10 minutes before they were done.
5. Spread a pita with pesto sauce, add the roasted veggies, and top with shredded asiago cheese. Put them back in the oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese has melted.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The trillions of farm animals around the world generate 18 percent of the emissions that are raising global temperatures, according to United Nations estimates, more even than from cars, buses and airplanes.
“I’m not sure that the system we have for livestock can be sustainable,” said Dr. Pachauri of the United Nations. A sober scientist, he suggests that “the most attractive” near-term solution is for everyone simply to “reduce meat consumption,” a change he says would have more effect than switching to a hybrid car.
As More Eat Meat, a Bid to Cut Emissions, New York Times
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I need this octopus necklace. Desperately.
Love the combination of big buttons, sweet bow tie, and tailored shape. And it’s only $89!
A wallet where the cat’s tail is the fastener! Can’t tell if it’s leather though.
So happy to read this. The trap-neuter-release program has helped me manage my feral colony (from about 20 five years ago to only one left, who is spayed, semi-tame, and living in my basement). It’s a great program, and I’m happy the city’s allocating money to help with it in my neighborhood.
Feral cats may be winning the war, but another ally has joined the struggle to contain them: City Councilwoman Darlene Harris has initiated a trap-neuter-return initiative in her North Side district.
One of several efforts to control their populations, it is the first to be sponsored by the city. In the month the program has been operating, it has trapped 23 cats, starting with a colony in Spring Hill.
City beefs up effort to neuter feral cats, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After three years, I remembered Fotolog and checked to see if any of my pictures were still up. They are! There are pictures from when Grubble was a kitten, Zephyr and Scully (my mom’s dog) were still alive, and the best: Dave with a beard!
I wish I would have kept my Evinrude name. Evinrude was the name of the cat owned by the Clutter family who was slain in Holcomb Kansas in 1959—the subject of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (a classic of non-fiction writing and one of my all-time favorite books).
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
In addition to pointing out the misplaced modifier that opens this article (the opening day wasn’t hoping for a substantial harvest), I say: Good!
Despite hopes for a substantial harvest, the opening day of Pennsylvania's firearms deer season ended as it began yesterday -- with a quiet cold drizzle and not a lot of deer.
Drizzle, lack of snow make for an unsuccessful start to deer season, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Proponents justify hunting as a way to manage deer overpopulation. That concept is flawed. Hunters often go for the largest buck with the biggest rack, though many will shoot the first deer they see. This practice weakens the gene pool by removing the healthiest animals from the population and leaving more female deer to reproduce. Natural predators usually take the youngest, weakest, or sickest animals, keeping the deer population healthy and balanced. So, hunting can actually increase the size of the deer population!
I’ve read a lot about how when we humans interfere with our ecosystem, things get messed up. Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer (the connection between the opening and closing of the book alone makes it a must-read) explores how hunting predators (in her novel, coyotes) upsets the natural balance and causes all sorts of things to go out of whack. Peter Benchley’s Shark Life (which I bought without realizing it was a kids’ book) makes the same argument against hunting sharks and other predators, but explains it so that kids can understand the concept easily.
Even if I ate meat, I would still have a huge problem with killing animals for pleasure, which is, not incidentally, how many serial killers start out their careers. There’s just something not right about it. This is one animal issue on which Dave agrees with me.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Ohhhh, I so love the way this is written. Brutal. Wet. Cold. Dank. End. This may even make up for that rat-bastard move the Patriots did on the Steelers in the play-offs in…2003? Forget the year, but I’ll never forget the injustice: fourth quarter, seconds left, Patriots kicking a field goal which they MISSED so Steelers would have won, when Hines Ward very obviously accidentally ran into the kicker, who faked an injury, giving the Steelers a foul and the Patriots a second chance and the win. Damn them to hell.
Yesterday, their reign over the Steelers also came to a brutal, wet, cold and dank end. It's as if the Steelers took out a decade of frustration on the Patriots, crushing them 33-10 in a steady, hard, wintry New England rain.
Defense reigns as Steelers crush Patriots, 33-10, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette