Monday, December 31, 2007

Gone For Good: Music of 2007 in Review.

Just about everyone has his or her or its "Best of" list for music of 2007, and I cannot resist a bandwagon. But to put a personal twist on things, my list is not exclusively music released on 2007, but rather music I discovered in 2007. That means that there are some older things on there--many of which you probably already knew before this year. But so be it: sometimes I am behind the times.

ISIS'S'S'S TOP 12 NEW [to her] SONGS OF 2007
(listed in an order in which she could imagining listening to them)

1. David Byrne, "The Sound of Business," from Music for the Knee Plays (Nonesuch CD release, 2007).
Originally released in 1985, this stuff is finally on CD--and I did not have to resort to high-tech maneuvering to make it so! I remember a lot of the tracks from the cassette that I may still own but that probably no longer plays. The CD comes with a great insert explaining (for those of you who, like I, have long wondered) what a "knee play" is ("the 'joints' that hold together the larger scenes--even Shakespeare used them." Well, shame on my English-PhD ass) and giving schematics of the various acts. But with or without apparatus, "The Sound of Business" is a great track, in its mid-1980s minimalist horn-playing way.

They were driving south on the highway.
Their business was in another town,
Bigger than the town they were driving from.
Business took place during office hours in both towns.
This drive was considered business.
The feeling of passing other cars was also considered business:
The feeling of business being done.
The feeling of drifting slowly through a field of moving vehicles.
This was the real speed.
The speed of business, not the numbers on the spedometer.
I love it that his examples of oldies, "gone for good," includes one of his own songs.

2. Black Devil Disco Club, "The Devil in Us," from 28 After (Lo, 2006).
Your guess is as good as mine--and numerous other people's--as to whether this is the same band as Black Devil from 1978, whether these are new songs on this album, or whether they are some thirty-odd years old. The important thing is that there is something timelessly compelling about the beats, the synth, the groove.

3. LCD Soundsystem, "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," from LCD Soundsystem (2005).
Who would not love the idea of your favorite band playing in your very own house? All the kids wanting to crowd in? Every kid for miles in your house? And the neighbors can't call the police?

4. The Dresden Dolls, "My Alcoholic Friends, from Yes, Virginia. . . (Roadrunner, 2006).
This album has made a significant contribution to getting me through the fear and anger of my Year of the Shoulder. Wow, I can almost remember back to a time when I thought there was no way I could possibly bear to have surgery. Ha! Two surgeries later, the saga continues. I'll be on my best behavior, taking shots for mother nature. . . .

5. Andrew Bird, "Imitosis," from Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum, 2007).
In some ways, this is yet another loneliness song, but what a cool twist--a reminder that a desire for closeness comes from nothing but micro-organisms. Add that to very layered music, featuring what seem to be strings, xylophone, and well, coolness: not too bad. How can gametes be so mean?

6. The Real Tuesday Weld, "The Day Before You Came," from Backspin: A Six Degrees 10 Year Anniversary Project (Six Degrees, 2007).
From a compilation where Six Degrees recording artists cover songs that influenced them, this is easily the most ass-kicking ABBA cover that you could ever imagine. Especially if your imagination leans towards songs of travellers and cabaret's darker underbelly.

7. Taraf de Haïdouks, "Asturias," from Maškaradă (Crammed, 2007).
What a cool concept for the latest album from the mack daddies of Romani gypsy music: performances of music written by such early twentieth-century composers as Béla Bartók, Aram Khachaturian, and Albert Ketèlbey--all of whom borrowed heavily from Roma music. Now the music is "re-gypsified" (isn't that a Police song, "Regypsify Yourself"?). My favorite track is "Asturias," written by Isaac Albéniz. Trust me: however much you liked this piece before (have you heard Christopher Parkening's recording of it?), it rocks so much harder now.

8. Mahala Raï Banda, "L'Homme Qui Boit (The Man Who Drinks)," from their self-titled album (Crammed, 2004).
It turns out that the reason I was rejected as artistic director for the Clemson U. marching band is that I wanted their entire half-time show to be built around the music of the horn section of this band: these guys are all army brass band veterans. Elsewhere on the CD you find some excellent Romanian violins and accordions, but this one is all about the brass. Huppah!

9. Luminescent Orchestrii, "Knockin'," from Too Hot To Sleep (2005).
Probably the most accessible track from this band, who can lay down hot folk fiddle and random electronic play equally comfortably. According to their intro when they performed here back in February, the song is about their neighborhood in Brooklyn: "I was watching your lips while we were walking, you were talking / I wasn't listening but watching your lips. / Down to the corner store and right back up the stairs."

10. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, "The River In Reverse" from The River in Reverse (Verve, 2006).
By now I'm sure everyone knows about the collaboration between Elvis Costello and New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint. Many tracks from Toussaint's catalogue, but I think this one is written by EC. Wake me up with a slap or a kiss indeed.

11. Nick Lowe, "I Trained Her To Love Me," from At My Age (Yep Roc, 2007).
This is one of those strange pop songs, written by someone good at writing pop songs, that seems to take the pop genre apart at the same time it builds it up. It reminds me of Paul Simon's "You're the One" and and Billy Bragg's "Jane Allen," and Bob Dylan's "Summer Days": they are more about age than youth, and their look at love is a little more complicated that pop music usually allows. "Do you see the way she lights up when I walk in the room--that's good. / And a skip in her step when we're both out walking in the neighborhood. / This one's almost done, now to watch her fall apart. / I trained her to love me so I can go ahead and break her heart." Sure, revenge is not a particularly complicated notion, but I love the way the song starts out making you think it is sweet, and then it most certainly is not.

12. Tom Waits, "Young At Heart" from Orphans (Anti, 2006).
What could be better than a sleepy slide steel remake of this standard than a voice so distinctively not young at all? Nothing, that's what.

Because nothing says "Happy New Year" . . .

. . . like new panties!

(Go over to eternally cool if you want to know why.)

Meanwhile, though I wish I were in Rome, I'm not, so from here in the Upstate (where I have some gnocchi alla romana to make for tonight's dinner) I am wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2008.

Me? I'm hoping for a year of healing and getting stronger.

See y'all on the other side!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Family Recipes

On the day that my parents left here to return home, we found a few recipes in the kitchen, forgotten by my mother. I set them aside on my desk, planning to mail them to her once I finished The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, which I had already promised her, having sent her home with The Golden Compass.

When my parents got home (after 8 hours of driving), I received their usual phone call, letting us know they had gotten home safely. But my mother also said, "You have the only copy of the Almond Butter Sticks recipe."

This filled me with fear for two reasons.

First, these are my favorite Christmas cookies.

Second, the recipe looks like this:

The textual scholar in me immediately recognized what a tremendous responsibility I now had, with both a unique manuscript containing the only existing remnant of occult knowledge AND an item that was fading fast!

So, for the sake of posterity, because I believe in free access to knowledge, and for all of you out in TV land who may not have had these amazing treats before, here is a fair transcription:

1 c. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 1/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 1/2 t. almond extract

In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except sugar & almond extract. Blend with mixer until dough forms. Knead on floured surface until smooth.

ADDENDUM: The dough should be refrigerated for 45 minutes at least, before attempting the rolling process.

Roll out dough, half at a time, to 14x8 rectangle. Combine sugar & extract. Sprinkle each rectangle with 3-4 T. of sugar mixture.

For each rectangle fold one end of dough over center. Fold other end over to make 3 layers. Turning dough 1/4 of way around, repeat rolling & folding 2 more times, sprinkling with sugar each time. Roll out again to 14x8. Cut into 3 x 1 1/2" strips. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 mins. Remove from cookie sheet immediately. Cool.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 Knitting Round-Up.

Given that I did not start knitting until mid-February of this year, I have accomplished quite a bit.

I have learned the basic stitches, increasing and decreasing, how to knit simple lace, how to use circular needles and dpns, how to finish sweaters.

I have made:

15 scarves

9 hats

4 sweaters

2 baby afghans

2 pairs of mittens

1 shawl

In case you were wondering, that took a shitload of yarn. That means I have also purchased a lot of yarn (and um, also some yarn for future projects).

In progress, I have another shawl, a baby hat, a to-be-felted bowl, a sweater that is having gauge issues, and my very first ever sock!

Physical Therapy Update.

I have entered a new--active!--phase of physical therapy: strength training.

To warm up at home I still do pendulums, but at my PT's office I use the shoulder bike--a crazy-looking mechanism if ever I saw one, where you pedal with your arms. Most of my effort comes from my right arm. As my PT says, the left arm is "along for the ride."

Do not be fooled: I am still working on regaining mobility. I had quickly regained the first phase of my mobility (0 degrees for external rotation and 90 degrees for forward elevation). Now I am moving past those ranges, and adding other angles as well, to try to bring the joint gradually back to normal. What is even more exciting, I am starting to do these exercises actively. In other words, I use the muscles of my left arm and shoulder to do them, rather than using my right arm to guide, or being guided by my therapist.

But I have also added small stregth-building exercises. For instance, isometric exercises, done against a doorjamb, that will progress towards the regular range of rotator-cuff exercises (external rotation, internal rotation, elbow back, and arm straight out to the side). Also, I am starting to return to cable exercises--again, isometrically, which are performed by holding the arm and shoulder still and inducing stress by stepping with the body.

This all feels like progress.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

An open letter to new Isis-ball owners!

Dear people in Internets Land who have questions about your new Isis ball puzzle:

Merry Christmas.

If you want:

(1) solution tips,
(2) step-by-step instructions,
(3) to know how it works,
(4) an x-ray image of the darned thing,
(5) to know whether it has to face magnetic north,
(6) a list of people who solved it, or
(7) an isis ball that does not hate freedom,

then I am terribly sorry, but you have come to the wrong place.

Keep puzzling away!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas.

Christmas, I suppose, is always a blend of sameness and difference. Just when you think something will always be the same, it changes, and the samenesses sneak up on you until you take them for granted.

It is also a time we feel losses differently than we do on other days, perhaps because of their interruptions of sameness. It is a time that lets us mark growths, compare past with present, remember things calendrically.

My mother went outside in her new shawl and could swear she felt, saw, and heard sleet today, even though temps were in the mid-50s and no one believed her. Jacques Monod had a romp through piles of wrapping paper, viciously maiming anyone who came close. We have made the obligatory phone calls, passing along greetings, finding out about gifts, giving thanks. I have a brand new bottle of Talisker. The PP will not take off his knitted cap, even though temps are in the mid-50s and he is sweating and red in the face. My father is just back from his daily constitutional, having taken a brief break from his new sweater. We have around us tins and tins of big chocolates, almond buttersticks, pecan fingers, peppermint rounds, spice cookies, jam thumbprints, and assortments from the neighbors, too. When I block the PP's sweater, it will be long enough (meanwhile we keep tugging on it...). My family is wrapped in knitted things, save for the cats, who are not as patient as turtlegirl's.

And as for me, I put a sweater on over my head--the first time that has happened since November 20.

Now the sun, if we could see it, is making its way toward and over the yardarm, and soon we will be getting out little plates for cheese and olives and bresaola, and then heading on towards dinner of roast and mashed potatoes and Brunello and maybe some Ridge wine. Life is good.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Indulgling the google search.

You might be interested to know that this blog is presently the #1 hit on google for "how to get low maintenance girls."

I now feel mildly obligated to offer some advice on that topic, but emphasis on "mildly."


I am here to pat myself on the back and proclaim that my Christmas knitting is FINISHED. (With two days to spare--not bad considering I started in July.)

That's four scarves, three hats, two sweaters, one hair wrap, and one shawl.

(And a partridge in a pear tree.)

Pictures will follow after The Big Day, but for now know that I am toasting myself with a glass of Chimay.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Long, long night.

It's the longest night of the year tonight, and here it will feel even longer because of the dreary weather. (But this means we have been getting some rain--a very needed thing.)

Several years ago I went to a soltice celebration where we went round and round a fire carrying pinecones, which we through in the fire to make it even brighter--little evergreen grenades.

Tonight my parents arrive from parts somewhat north and quite a bit east.

Tonight we light every nice little candle and treelight and porchlight and penguin string lights and little sconce lights around the table in hopes of luring the sun back and fending off the darkness without with lightness within.

So for today, instead of a Friday Random 10, A Distinctly Unrandom Solstice Ten:

1. "Bring on the Night," The Police, Regatta de Blanc
2. "Dark Was the Night," Ry Cooder, Paris, Texas
3. "Light Bath," David Byrne, The Catherine Wheel
4. "The Winter Solstice," Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas, Vol. 5
5. Nørgård: "Winter Hymn," Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, dir. Paul Hillier, Baltic Voices 2
6. "Winter Wind," Patty Larkin, Angels Running
7. "Barefoot," k. d. lang, Unplugged Collection
8. "Put Your Lights On," Santana f. Everlast, Supernatural
9. "(Ultraviolet) Light My Way," U2, Achtung Baby
10. "Here Comes the Sun," The Beatles, Abbey Road

So here's wishing you and yours a bright Winter Solstice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thirteen Things I Could Do Without, Thanks.

Forgive me if I have become rather taken of late with the Thursday Thirteen notion. Hey, if I did a WiP Wednesday, Thirteen Thursday, and then Friday Random Ten, my blog could sustain itself!

But seriously:

Thirteen Things That Make Me Count Down to January 9:
1. Can hardly fasten own pants in public restroom.
2. Hooking and unhooking bra a bigger deal than it was in high school.
3. Almost impossible to fix own hair in a manner that would not embarrass own mother.
4. Cannot carry a pot of water from sink to stove.
5. Cannot wrap own Christmas presents.
6. NO SWIMMING (but this doesn't change until April, sigh).
7. Also no running or cycling or dryland. Walk. Walk. Walk.
8. Cannot change sheets on own bed.
9. Driving is a bitch (and possibly illegal).
10. Sleeping on back got old a long time ago.
11. Cannot open fridge and remove milk all in one shot.
12. Having only four wearable shirts (because they button up the front).
13. Wearing watch on dominant hand is awkward.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ocular proof.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a couple of old family heirloom ornaments, made by my parents "back in the day." (M. or Mateen, can you confirm an actual date?)

And here, my patient friends, and courtesy of my father, is shot of them both!

Mighty fine, eh?

I love my job.

Here is a slightly expurgated, but not otherwise manipulated, e-mail alert that I just received from campus news services:

ALERT: [University where I teach] Police receive another report of panther on campus

[University where I teach] police received another report of a panther on campus today (Dec. 16).

Campus police responded to a call from an employee who reported seeing what was believed to be a panther between [the building where my classes are] and [the building where my office is]. Officers searched the area but were unable to find evidence of a large cat.

An earlier sighting on Nov. 23, during [my University's] Thanksgiving break, was reported by a contract security officer who spotted what he thought looked like a panther near the [historic landmark on campus] . Police officers later spotted the animal near [two other buildings on campus].

Police Chief [Name] urged students, faculty and staff to avoid contact with wild animals that may have wandered onto campus.

"For your own safety it's best to stay away from any wild animal that could have rabies or some other disease," [Name] said.

Call police at [phone number] if you spot an unusual animal on campus or one that's not acting normally."

Did you catch that? This is the second reported sighting.

I should note, however, this passage from the original Thanksgiving alert:

Police Chief [Name] said the department contacted a wildlife expert who said it's unlikely the animal is a panther, but that it could be a cougar, a dog or some other animal.

Yes, "a dog." That kind of reminded me of the time my graduate school roommate claimed to have seen a wolverine in the parking lot for our apartment. Turns out it was a woodchuck. And no actual wolverines live in greater metropolitan Ann Arbor.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Not all about shoulders.

"M" (presumably not for "murder") asked, "How many days left for the sling?"

The best case scenario is 26.

Yes, Twenty. Six.

That is because I am supposed to wear it until I see my surgeon again, which happens 4-6 weeks after the post-operative appointment. And because in my carefuly planning around the academic calendar I forgot about the Christian and federal holiday calendars, four weeks would be Christmas, five weeks would be New Year's, and so it is January 9 that I see him.


But that's not what I came to tell you about.

I came to talk about decorating Christmas trees. (Though I will take this moment to note that you would be surprised to what extent you use two hands hanging Christmas ornaments....)

I am not sure how you store your ornaments, if you store ornaments, but last year anyway, we seemed to organize ours by material. In one box are all the really fragile ornaments, made of glass or porcelain or stonewear, and most of them have their own little boxes and stashes of tissue paper or bubble wrap, or else they are wrapped in disintegrating Kleenex and stored in a plastic baggy. Then there are all the little crocheted ornaments, mostly made for me by the mother of some childhood friends, and along with those are a few cotton-stuffed felt ornaments with zigzagging and sequins and cotton balls affixed to represent ornamentation or lights or Santa's beard. The wooden ones are all in their little group, though I wonder sometimes whethere there is a yearlong feud between the flat ones and the ones with little moving arms and legs (I bet on the latter every time). Also, we have a sizable stash of homemade ornaments that are covered with gemlike beads: these all have their own box.

Ricketiest of all are the baked cookie-like ornaments that we made back in the mid-1970s. I only have a few of those, since most of them live with my parents, but the ones I have are mostly the same: a cut-out shape decorated with special magic markers, then with a paperclip glued to the back as the hanging apparatus. In most cases, the glue or the dough has caused the paperclips to rust, sometimes to the point they have broken apart. The ones my mother decorated still look really nice. The ones I decorated have a sort of abstract expressionist quality, but cut me some slack--I was four or five at the time! And one lesson we cannot seem to get through our heads: do not wrap these ornaments in Kleenex if you do not want Kleenex-adorned ornaments on your tree.

Somewhere, apparently with my parents' stash, is a black Christmas tree, that my father "decorated" during the Vietnam War. And similarly, there is a round one decorated with a peace symbol.

Our more recent acquisitions tend to gesture to people's hobbies and recent experiences. We have several rock-climbing Santas and a climbing shoe, as well as a little skier with the PP's name on it. There is a pair of cats wearing snorkels and diving masks and seeming to be chasing fish, as well as a female swimmer on a diving block. There is a trout commemorating some beautiful meals my Mother made us in France. And yes, there is a Santa decked out all in Spartan green. Thanks, Dad.

Lowest on our tree go the unfragile ornaments. (Have I mentioned that we have two cats?) These were mostly made by me, in school. There is one made of red burlap with a Christmas-card picture of Santa on it, adorned in some glitter. There is a big ball made from circles cut from Christmas cards (can you sense a theme?). There is a wooden snowman.

Because we have had accidents. For instance, about 4 years ago, some cat or another brought the thing down (or could you have sworn that it might have been both?). I do not know if anyone heard it happen, but when people emerged from sleeping, there was the tree, lying diagonally across the living room floor, with numerous glass and pottery shards around it.

Now we wire it to a window frame and a doorjam.

That mostly protects things, though it did nothing for the wooden penguin that took a foot-severing dive early this morning, bringing a felted Santa with it.

Truth be told, that was only one of many penguins. Too many to count, really. This all started some years back, after people came to learn about my fascination with things polar. (Especially narratives about polar exploration and dogsledding!) Then the penguins started appearing. First it was an ornament or two, then a few plush toys, or a book, or even a large light-up porch ornament, or a DVD of March of the Penguins, and then an entire string of lights adorned with penguins! Those were supposed to be Christmas decorations, but we decided to keep them up all year, and here is why:

Some years back I was at the meat market of my profession and I was walking into a hotel with an admittedly surly colleague. If you have spent time in big hotels during the holidays, then you know that they typically have big Christmas-oriented displays in their lobbies. In this particular hotel was a North Pole scene, complete with Santa, elves, polar bears, and penguins. Being the polar expert that I fancied myself to be, I said to my colleague, "Hey! Penguins don't live at the North Pole!" He sort of snorted back at me and said, "Neither does fucking Santa."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thirteen Pet Peeves.

Magpie inspired me to get a few things off my chest. Please congratulate me, because it has taken tremendous restraint to think globally and so not list "My sling" as Number One.

1. People who drive slow in the left lane.
2. People who tailgate in the right lane.
3. People who do not signal when they plan to turn.
4. People who signal even though they do not plan to turn.
5. Late papers.
6. My sling. (OK, sorry: I could not resist. You may rescind your congrats.)
7. People who reply to all when they really have something to say only to the person who sent the e-mail.
8. Ubiquitous Christmas music.
9. People who when walking have no sense of there being other people in the world, let alone in their quadrant of the sidewalk.
10. "Special" displays that clog up the middle of crowded grocery store aisles.
11. Advertisements that use "quotation marks" for "emphasis."
12. Misuse of the word "comprise."
13. Most of the arguments made by letters to the editor in our local paper.

There. I feel better now. I feel better than James Brown. How do you feel?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Because it is Monday,

and because we all love charts and graphs,

and also rap music, go here. (via)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Meanwhile, have a ball.

A word on the Politicians: my poetry is angelic ravings, and has nothing to do with dull materialistic vagaries about who should shoot who. The secrets of individual imagination—which are transconceptual and non-verbal—I mean unconditioned spirit—are not for sale to this consciousness, the music of the spheres. Who denies the music of the spheres denies poetry, denies man, and spits on Blake, Shelley, Christ, and Buddha. Meanwhile, have a ball. The universe is a new flower. America will be discovered. Who wants a war against roses will have it. Fate tells big lies, and the gay creator dances on his own body in eternity.

--Allen Ginsberg, "Notes Written on Finally Recording Howl," 1959

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Now, with pictures!

WARNING: If you are squeamish about photographs of the insides of bodies, if you get grossed out by those scenes on CSI where they show bullets penetrating people's organs, or you are my mother, you may want to skip this post, as it contains arthroscopic photographs from my surgery.

I believe that in an earlier post, I told you that I had a SLAP lesion of the second type, which means that there was a distinct tear in the tissue that is supposed to connect the labrum to the glenoid bone. Sounds clear enough, but here is what it looks like:

(That is my doctor's handwriting on there, from when he was explaining the surgery to the PP immediately after it was finished, before I had returned to the land of the unanesthetized. The blue-gray thing in the upper right is probably a tube for drainage and suction during the surgery--yummy.)

My doctor was also able to see some effects of the infection from last spring. In this photo, the top white area shows how the tissue in question should look, but notice that the tissue in the bottom half looks kind of frayed. Thank you, infection:

The doctor did two things during the surgery. First, he used a couple of anchors (yargh!) to reattach the labrum to the glenoid. The anchors are the sort of sparkly blue things in the upper right:

(Again, that black line is my doctor's writing, showing the contour of the glenoid bone, in order to make clear that there is no longer a tear. Thanks to the anchors (avast!), the tissue can grow back there, making the connection secure.)

Then he shaved down a bone spur, to give my shoulder joint more room to operate and prevent further impingement:

(That one is kind of weird, I think, since it so clear where the bone was filed.)

All in all, it should take care of the problems. Meanwhile, I am gradually weaning myself off the oxycodone (after ill effects from trying to quit cold turkey. . .). And I am already tired of my sling.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How long must I sing this song?

Joe asked, "How long until you can get back in the pool?"

I suppose technically I could get in the pool (not really to swim but to do therapy) after I get my stitches out on Monday, but the word from my PT is that I can go back to swimming in 8-10 weeks, which is mid-January or early February. Then it will be a very slow and gradual start, and I do not expect to be able to compete for quite some time.

But just being on the improving end of all this is a nice thing. Remind me of that when I get impatient.

For now I am doing very minimal PT exercises--pendulums, passive range of motion, external rotation to 0 degrees and forward elevation to 90 degrees. I will continue to do those thing for about 3 weeks, and then move on to full range of motion for external rotation and forward elevations. Then, in week 5, I start on active range of motion exercises. In the sixth week I can move on to seated rows, standing forward punch, shoulder shrugs, bicep curls, and bear hugs. I start weight training in week 78, but with a fairly limited range of motion and with minimal overhead activities.

Joe's question also made me think about a few other milestones:

Sling off: 4 weeks
Computer work: 4 weeks (though I can type one-handed in the meantime)
Driving: after I quit the big pain meds and get clearance from my doctor (2-3 weeks? depending on pain level)
Reading: once I back off the pain meds enough to concentrate for more than half a paragraph at a time
Teaching: once I am capable of maintaining a non-surreal conversation with more than one person at a time (though my students have assured me that they would like me to come back sooner. . .)

Sometimes I think that the pain meds don't have a real effect, but then I ride in a car, and I find that although the driver is only going 15 mph or so, it feels like we are careening around. Or I try to participate in a conversation with numerous people, only to find that I cannot keep up. Or I go to a yarn store to by yarn for a new sweater for myself, and I look at the label, wondering, "how much yarn is in this skein?" Then I look at it for a little while longer and still have no idea how much yarn is in this skein.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Lying on a slag heap of blankets and magazines.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Luckily for you, I'll keep this brief, because the left arm is only partly armed and operational and I get feeling a bit dizzy if I am sitting up all the way for too long.

But yes, I am home, and the surgery went well. The doc says I had a type-2 SLAP lesion, which means there was "Separation of the superior portion of the glenoid labrum and tendon of the biceps brachii muscle from the glenoid rim." That clears it all up, right?

Essentially "separation" is the key word there, and now I have two little anchors (ahoy, mateys) reattaching the labrum to the glenoid rim. (I have some great photos from the arthroscope, so once I'm a bit more operational I'll post a couple of those.) Also, he sanded down the bone a bit, to take care of some impingement elsewhere in the shoulder. I was pleased that he was able to find such obvious things and then easily fix them.

Also, the whole thing went SO much more easily this time than back in April. I suppose not being really sick from an infection makes a big difference. And this time, since the surgery was planned in advance, I was in an actual orthopedic ward of a brand-new (and nasty germ-free) hospital, so the staff was very knowledgeable about how to deal with what was going on with me. I.e., no begging for pain meds, and they brought me broth after the surgery instead of a full meal--that kind of thing.

Now it is very good to be home, as I have company from the little kitties and such familiar comforts. (I do miss the movable hospital bed, though.) And it is "slingle bells" for me for about a month, and then gradual recovery.

As for all of you, I hope you get everything you want at Alice's Restaurant!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amuse yourselves.

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

Keep yourselves busy for a few days, won't you? Isis has an appointment with some strong pain meds.

Monday, November 19, 2007

For you are not ready for thought.

Driving to Easley today, I saw again what I see every day, that every day, our fall leaves are brighter. Somehow, something about the weather--was it the drought? the high temperatures? the sudden cold nights?--gave us the most glorious autumn that I have seen since I moved to South Carolina. I had pretty much given up on the fall leaves, because here they usually go directly from green to brown. But this year? Golds and reds and brilliant oranges, so that sometimes the combination of it all makes it seem the light is coming from inside the tree.

Thank you, trees. I needed that.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


You might recall that a week or so ago, I was declared an asshat by the Oracle of Starbucks. I told my friend about it, and he wondered about what precisely an asshat is.

Incidentally, this is my same friend who requested the Ducks hat, which I have recently finished. Here it is:

Not wanting to disappoint, I consulted the Urban Dictionary, which defines an asshat (or ass-hat) as "One whose head is so far up their rear end it could pass for a hat." I thought that was that, but as I looked around a bit more, I found that, as is often the case, things are not so simple. These people have had a rather extensive discussion of the origin of the term. Here is an array of photographs dedicated to discovering and displaying examples of parking-lot "asshattery" (be sure to scroll over the photos for commentary). This blog entry is dedicated to the great dilemma of asshattery, "Who's the bigger asshat, the Harley rider or the Hummer driver?" This entire blog is devoted to consciousness-raising.

The question of how best to represent such a thing visually leads directly to this, this, this, and this. Here is a modest request from New Zealand. And a business venture I could get "behind." Some introspection.

Later that same day, I learned that when my friend's elder son consulted the Oracle, he was declared an "assclown." Wondering about the precise distinctions between "asshat" and "assclown," I again consulted the Urban Dictionary and learned that an assclown is "A person who, while under the influence, makes a complete fool of himself while attempting humor. An assclown may wear an asshat."


Now, my question for all of you is: given that I agreed to make my linguistically-inclined friend this hat even though Oregon squashed Michigan AND even though he gave me grief about it, does that make me an asshat?

On second thought, perhaps you should keep your answers to yourself.

Friday, November 16, 2007

An update from the Christmas factory.

Not that I manufacture Christmas, mind you, but rather that today has been one of those days when all I have really been doing is working on Christmas presents.

Mind you, some of my work is already done: I have three scarfs ready for three different people. And then there is one thing that I cannot really name, and it is in progress, too.

But back to my work today, in which I played hooky from schoolwork. For one thing, I took a trip to the LYS to buy the yarn for a hat that a friend of mine requested in the University of Oregon colors. Given that he didn't exactly keep his mouth shut when the Ducks did in the Wolverines earlier in the season, I think it is mighty fine of me to be making him such a hat.

In the last week, I have also made the same hat for the PP in this yarn, and man was a pleasure!

Mostly, though, today has been about weaving in ends and sewing seams on a couple of sweaters.

(Jacques Monod likes weaving in yarn ends but not the flash.)

I will confess, weaving and sewing are my least favorite parts of knitting. I never was much of a seamstress anyway, and this always feels like the burnt out ends and days of knitting. At the same time, though, there is something cool about seeing your raglan sleeves attach as they should to the body of a sweater. I just kind of stared at them for a while.

(Sazha does not care about knitting: she eats plants.)

Am I tempting the Christmas fates if I say that I just might get all my gifts done in time?

Don't answer that.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Little Gidding.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Dry Salvages.

It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence--
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness--not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfilment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination--
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations--not forgetting
Something that is probably quite ineffable:
The backward look behind the assurance
Of recorded history, the backward half-look
Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.
Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony
(Whether, or not, due to misunderstanding,
Having hoped for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,
Is not in question) are likewise permanent
With such permanence as time has. We appreciate this better
In the agony of others, nearly experienced,
Involving ourselves, than in our own.
For our own past is covered by the currents of action,
But the torment of others remains an experience
Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.
People change, and smile: but the agony abides.
Time the destroyer is time the preserver,
Like the river with its cargo of dead negroes, cows and chicken coops,
The bitter apple and the bite in the apple.
And the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

East Coker.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the darkness come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away--
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing--
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Burnt Norton.

Here is a place of disaffectoin
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.

About one week left.

I had my pre-op appointments last week, and they made me nervous, as hearing about familiar-sounding worst case scenarios always does. And questions about living wills. And persistent and judgmental questions about religious affiliation.

(Have you noticed how ubiquitous TVs are in waiting rooms these days? My orthopedist’s office has recently moved to a fancy new facility, and their long waiting room has two sections: on the day I was there, one section had 3 big-screen TVs playing ESPN and the other had 3 big-screen TVs playing morning talk shows. The only area you could sit not in front of a giant TV was a small, had bench between the two sections, but since the sound was on in each zone, you then heard the sound of both. When I was moved into an examination room, I found another TV, though I did ask the nurse to turn that one off.)

But I also feel fairly prepared. I’ve stocked up on clothes that fasten in the front, on magazines for reading when I cannot focus on anything longer, on a couple of light books for when I feel ready. I have found folks to cover a few classes for me. I have some good stuff on the way from Netflix. My final exams are as far finished as they can be at this point. Some friends are supplying us with meals. I have written and submitted millions of letters of recommendation. We have juice, soup, and herbal tea in the house.

Meanwhile, I am reminding myself of several things:

1. I cannot prepare for every eventuality, even when I have sufficient notice.
2. I will let some things slide. People can deal.
3. It is OK to eat too many potato chips from time to time.
4. I have an entire week of work and life between now and the arthroscope.
5. The things that will be painful and inconvenient after the surgery will also get better over time.
6. Number 3 applies to chocolate, too. And sometimes whiskey.
7. There is more swimming on the other side of all this.

If all goes extremely well, I will get to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends. And they have kindly offered to supply us with a Thanksgiving dinner on any other night of our choosing, if we cannot do it Thursday.

Meanwhile, looking at yarn makes me happy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fingerless mitts.

Those of you familiar with the history of knitting will know that some of the oldest remaining knitwear comes from Egypt. Therefore, you won't be surprised that you favorite Egyptian goddess has a knitting achievement to brag about.

When I first moved to Upstate SC, I was coming from Michigan, where there are real winters. I quickly made friends with a person who had moved about the same time from Rochester, New York--ditto the winter. We are both frugal yankees, and both tend to try to wait as long as possible before turning on the heat for the first time. So without really realizing it, we started a sort of contest over who could wait the longest. (But this was not Toronto, for goodness sakes, so the stakes were fairly low.) Inevitably, whoever lost would blame his or her spouse or friends or visiting family or whatever, but we both knew the truth.

Even though my friend has long since moved away, I do still tend to hold out as long as I can before the heat comes on. So sometimes the PP would come home from work to find me in several layers, a hat, a scarf and buried under an afghan on the couch. The one problem, it seemed to me, was my hands, because I could not wear gloves and type.

Ecco the solution! Last weekend when I was in California, I went to this store, where I picked up a copy of this book and some nice yarn and worked out some fingerless mitts that do not require me to be able to knit with double-pointed needles, which I have still not learned to do. The pattern in the book was not exactly what I wanted, because it feature sort of ruffly cuffs, and I wanted my mitts to fitt (sorry) seamlessly under my sweater sleeves. Also, I wanted my mitts to be a bit looser than the ones in the photo seemed to be, so I oculd tuck my fingers into them in moments of duress.

Here is the result:

Here they are:

Don't you like the way the self-striping quality of the yarn means that the two mitts go together but do not really match?

I am pretty happy with the way they turned out, particularly given that I did not do any gauge-swatching or math in determining how many stitches to cast on, etc. Given the chance to do it again, I would knit the ribbed cuffs with a smaller size needle (oops--just totally forgot to do that until it was too late!) so they would be snugger around the wrists.

But here is a sort of half-assed recipe for how I modified the pattern: Cast on 40 stitches. Work 11 rows in a k1p1 rib pattern. Switch to stockinette, working the next row knit and making 6 new stitches in the course of the row. Then continue working in stockinette until desired size is achieved. Finish by binding off purl-wise and leave a 24" tail. Using mattress stitch, start at the top end of the mitt weave down about 1.5" then anchor yarn. To make thumb opening, weave yarn tail along one side of thumb opening (about 1.5" or desired size) and then resume mattress stitching to the bottom of the mitt and weave in tail.

(Caution: This particular yarn is lovely to work with and it makes snuggly, hearty mitts. HOWEVER, if you pull too tightly while working your mattress stitch, it could break.)

But meanwhile I am typing with warm hands! (We have turned the heat on, but we still keep it set pretty low. . . .)

Friday, November 09, 2007


Have you read Ursula Hegi's The Worst Thing I've Done? It is not an easy book, emotionally, but it and its characters are so absorbing.

And it has given me a way of thinking about things that does not seem simplistic, but that can bring a quiet amount of peace:
TIHII. A word her father once wrote with wine on the tabletop and then said aloud. "TIHII." Like the whinnying of a horse. When Annie asked him what it meant, her father touched each letter. "This . . . Is . . . How . . . It . . . Is. And what it means is that I can do nothing about getting laid off. Not make them keep me or pretend that it doesn't matter. This is how it is." When Annie tried out the sound and whinnied, her father laugh, and the lower half of his face widened, while his thick eyebrows curved down, changing the shape of his face. On the table, the letters were drying out. Annie dipper her index finger into his wineglass and ran it across the letters till they glistened again.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Behold: I am an Asshat.

Niobe saved my mood this evening by pointing us to "The Oracle of Starbucks" (and Niobe, being of Greek origin, understands about things like oracles, and we Egyptians do appreciate Greece).

Here is what the all-knowing one told me:

Personality type: Asshat
You carry around philosophy books you haven't read and wear trendy wire-rimmed glasses even though you have perfect vision. You've probably added an accent to your name or changed the pronunciation to seem sophisticated. You hang out in coffee shops because you don't have a job because you got your degree in French Poetry. People who drink grande capuccino are notorious for spouting off angry, liberal opinions about issues they don't understand.

Also drinks: Any drink with a foreign name.

Can also be found at: The other, locally owned coffee shop you claim to like better.

Heh. OK, but back off, Starbucks Bitches! I got my degree in English poetry, thank you very much.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Riding up that hill.

The bike arrived yesterday!

My butt hurts today.

This is a good thing, right?

Here is one thing I can tell you: it makes an enormous difference to ride a bike that fits. I say that because although I love my old bike, a classic steel Pinarello, the top tube was 54 cm, which, according to bike fits I have had done, was several too long. My new bike has "women-specific geometry" (I wish I could have taken that class in high school--essentialism taken to the next level!), which means, in short, that it fits me. Not only does this mean that I do not have to stretch my arms out as far to reach the handlebars, but also the saddle works the way it is supposed to: the pressure of my bodyweight falls on my sitbones instead of, well, my special place.

How did I clock so many miles on the old bike?????

Today the PP and I went out from our house towards Paris Mountain. There is a great course from town that goes over the mountain, and there is also a "bypass," which avoids that big climb by snaking along the humps along the "base" of the mountain. Emphasis on humps, which felt like mountains to my out-of-shape legs (and lungs). There was a marathon going on in town today, too, and on the way out we saw runners at about the 19-mile mark. They were looking pretty tired, and I kept wishing they did not have to go up the hille we had just come down. And by the end of our ride, I was definitely feeling like I looked like those runners had.

(We did not have as many spectators on our ride,
and I am no longer comfortable with this kind of drafting.)

But still: it felt great to be on the bike. (Well, OK, except for during some of the uphills and when we would realize that not only had we lost the course-guiding paint markings on the pavement, but to get back to it we had to go up that descent we had just made.) It felt terrific to be doing an actual sport, even if at a beginner level. And I loved getting out of breath doing something fun.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Waiting Game.

It turns out there is something stranger, or maybe equally strange but in an exciting new way, than having surgery 5 hours after you learn you need it. And that is scheduling surgery and then waiting around for a month for it to happen.

Sure, I can plan ahead. And I mean that sentence two ways, because People, if there is one thing I am good at it is planning ahead! I plan my social calendar so far in advance that I feel like a dork. I plan my classes. I plan my week's workout schedule, and then plan meals around it. I plan out how I will spend each day of my vacation. Plan plan plan.

I tried to stop doing this late in the summer when I realized it was keeping me from living the now. "STOP PLANNING" said a sticky note on my computer monitor. I tried to, for a while.

Now I am a planning fiend again, but especially trying to plan ahead for the surgery.

So why do I still collapse in despair and frustration and anxiety at the end of the day? Cannot seem to plan out how to deal with those feelings, can I?

But Pre-Op Stage One Point Three is including Planning For Not Wearing Clothes That Must Be Put On Over the Head. I have bulked up my supply of cardigans, and my dear mother is lending/sending me some t-shirts that button up the front, after convincing me that installing a zipper into some old t-shirts might not fly. (Thanks, Mom!)

But amidst this flurry of frantic planning (read: denial), I still read blogs, so I came across this, from Magpie. That brought back memories of the weeks immediately after my last surgery, when I had daily appointments with nurses and physical therapists, and more therapy to do away from the appointments, and drugs to infuse, and pain meds and anti-nausea pills to keep track of (I had a lengthy log...), prune juice to drink..... You see what I mean.

So can I be forgiven this time for a bit of this überplanning? after all, for a few weeks in November and December, I may be trying to hold down two full-time jobs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pre-Op, Phase One.

A psychologist friend of mine used to prescribe retail therapy for depression and cleaning therapy for anxiety. Not a bad drug, really, that latter one, and it has precious few dangerous side effects to be noted in the fine print or by that reassuring voice on the TV commercials.

(Side note: does anyone know where I can get the results for that study that showed that the Restless-Legs Syndrome drug can lead to strong gambling and sexual urges?)

Anyway, now that I have the surgery scheduled, I am trying to think about other things. But still: having more that 4 hours notice this time means that I can do some planning ahead, so that the whole thing does not catch me with loads of dirty laundry or no clean presentable pajamas or no food in the house. Here is where the cleaning therapy comes in: let's make this house spotless, shall we?

First we reorganize my study. Perhaps "reorganize" is the wrong word, because it suggests that the items in question had some organization in the first place, where in reality mostly they were only participating in the Piles System, which only proves viable in the short term, in my experience. Anyway, now books are sideways on shelves, instead of in stacks, except for those that I am actively reading: Jim Longenbach's Stone Cottage, Brock Clarke's An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England, Courtney Martin's Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, and Dave Eggers's You Shall Know Our Velocity. (This list does not count the books in process that live in my bedroom, but trust me that I am not the sort to be reading only one book at a time. Or only four.)

And I have admitted to myself that the stuff I was writing back in August is on hold again for a while, so all the appropriate xeroxes and library books have been refiled. Sigh.

And some of the books that I rarely conult (such as my Turkish-English dictionary...) are upstairs in another bookcase.

Now my desk contains only the things I still need to do (articles to evaluate for journals, papers for conferences, files to process) and the old dining room table that we are going to sell is free of piles of books and old copies of The Chronicle of Higher Ed and all those things that tend to collect in one's workspace when we are not looking.

Given that I am manic-depressive about my clutter, this is a process that I have to go through from time to time, and by the time I have to do it, I want to do it. But this time was a little different, because I suspect it is also the first phase of my Pre-Op. I am also beginning to think about what I might need to have around for my recovery. Books are covered, as in addition to those in process now, I have an immense collection of books to read, so assuming that I can avoid enough pain meds to focus, I am all set there. More urgently, I am wondering if I might need some reward yarn, and whether to buy it before the surgery or wait until I have made it through (probably the latter, though I'll have to bribe a friend to take me to the yarn store).

Phase Two of the Pre-Op comes next weekend (I hope), because I decided finally to get a new bike. Although I have gotten a lot of mileage out of my old one, it is too big for me (what happens when you buy a used bike from a guy...) and so I rarely want to buy it. The new plan is to try diversifying my athletic pursuits in order to prevent (or at least minimize) further overuse injuries, and because I HATE RUNNING, cycling seems the better choice. So stay tuned for details and photos of the pretty new machine.

I'll have to end this here: I have more laundry and swiffing to do.....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Museums: cemeteries!

The Futurists and vandals among you might be interested in this little stunt.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Is it "Happy Birthday" or "Happy Thanksgiving"?

OK: it's official. In the latest installment of "My Shoulder Sucks: A Melodrama," I have a surgery scheduled for 20 November to fix the damned thing. Happy birthday to me. OR is it Happy Thanksgiving? It will fall smack in between, so why not both?

You might be wondering what exactly is wrong with my shoulder (I am too...). Apparently there is a tear in the labrum, and as I understand it, it is a SLAP lesion. (Read here about shoulder anatomy and labral tears.) This kind of tear will not fix itself; I have been trying to use physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder, in hopes that that might take the pressure off the labrum and get rid of the pain.

But as I have thought more about this, and spoken with my PT, I realize that really it is not so much a question of whether surgery is needed, but when. So now it is scheduled.

I understand that while this is typically an outpatient surgery, I will be kept over one night, on IV antibiotics, to stave off a recurrence of the infection horror.

It is interesting: I can type this post without losing my mind in anxiety. That was not true on 21 September when my doctor first mentioned the prospect of surgery. This itself is progress.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Later that same day...

Wow. It turns out you can spend a lot of time goofing around on Ravelry--I mean, updating your projects, posting photos, etc. If you're on there, swing by and see my groovy stuff! I thought athletes were the most anal users of spreadsheet record keeping, but it turns out they have nothing on the knitters!

And you thought my posting has been scant thus far....

I got this message in my e-mail inbox today: "frecklegirl has invited you to Ravelry!"

Small victories.

On Thursday I was supposed to travel to New York for a meeting. Thanks to some nasty weather in the northeast, and resulting delayed flights, I cancelled my trip and went to swim practice instead.

So there.

And a good decision it turned out to be: we did a set that we have done many times called "Maintain Distance." First we swim for 5:10 and keep track of our distance. Then we rest for about 30 seconds. Then we swim again, this time for 5:05, and we try to swim as far or further than we did the first time. Then, after 30 more seconds of rest, we swim again, this time for 5 minutes, and try again to beat or maintain our previous distance. The main set for the practice is two rounds of this, with about 3 minutes in between.

I probably do not need to tell you that I did all of this kick. The first round I did kicking on my back with big fins, and the second round I did on my stomach with my little cup-shaped fins and snorkel.

As we were swimming the first round, I remembered that we had done this some time before during my all-kick period. When I got home, I looked in my workout journal and found it: 8 February. Apparently I did not blog that practice, but I see from my journal that on that night I did the first round with big fins and the second with no fins (Lord, help me!). My distances then were:

8 Feburary 2007
ROUND 1: 325 / <350>350 = 1025
[75 easy]
ROUND 2: <225>225 / >>225 = 675

11 October 2007
ROUND 1: <350>350 / 375 = 1075
[75 easy]
ROUND 2: 250 / 275 / 300 = 825

The information for round 2 is not really comparable, since I used different apparatus the two different times, but the info for round 1 is, and seeing a little improvement there is heartening, particularly since the first set of data is from before my surgery and period of laid-up-ness.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Yesterday I had a conversation with a student who has missed five out of fourteen classes. You might think that in that conversation I would tell said student that such absenteeism was unacceptable, that she should drop the class, that she should rethink her educational goals and what it takes to achieve them.

You would only be right about the last part, and even there it is not exactly what I said.

In fact, I was surprised when she missed the second day of class, because on the first day it was evident that she was one of the more engaged and adventuresome students I have had, and perhaps one of the most mature in this particular group. I thought it would be great to have her in class, and then when she missed the second day, and then the third day, I figured (and was disappointed) that she had decided to drop but had not gotten to a computer to do so.

But then I heard from her by e-mail. It turns out this student is an athlete, and in the first full week of school she sustained an injury which ended her season and required emergency surgery. (It turns out she has already had similar surgery several times, either on this particular knee or her other.) Then there were complications from the surgery (including, to my personal horror, one of her sutures getting infected) and she missed more days.

Now we get to the part of the term where she has to miss a number of classes because her team is traveling.

We had a long discussion about her options, and it was evident that none of them are really good ones. She said she felt she is "starting to be on the mend," and I thought, right: I thought that many times myself, and boy did I have a long way to go. She said that when she was on the serious drugs she could not even read at all, and man, did I know what that felt like. If she withdraws from the semester (which would allow her to get the other surgery she needs and perhaps actually heal), she will lose her sport scholarship, and that, of course, is how she pays for school. I could see and feel her pain and fear and uncertainty each time her eyes started to well up.

So it is her I was thinking about when I read this article that Magpie mentioned in a comment. I know that knees are not brains, and that bum legs are different from disorientation and headaches and constant dizziness and of course the longer term effects of concussion.

But still.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The thing that bothers me is someone keeps moving my chair.

Magpie got me thinking about They Might Be Giants, which is a happy thing on as beautiful an afternoon as this one.

And since I am now back from today's hour-and-fifteen-minutes of PT, I can really only type well with one arm. (Note to self: there was a little pain in some of the diagonal pullthroughs that I had to do, and also in exercises where I was lying on a table on my stomach and pulling up thumb first at the 9 o'clock position.)

So instead, I gift you with this. I was a little disappointing that nowhere in there did they give details about women's builds and sports, but I can guess that as a short squat one, I probably never would have been an Olympic swimmer. But what do you think?

Friday, September 28, 2007

In the spirit of full disclosure.

Well, maybe you know me better than to expect that, but still.

Scott wrote: "Last month when you wrote about swimming things seemed to be getting better. At this point let's just forget about the pool and aim to get the shoulder back to normal use. Perhaps later on you can start thinking about swimming. Best of luck."

Thanks, Scott, and thanks to the others who have left good wishes.

But I think I should tell you all that "swimming" is not really in my life right now. I do not want to stop being in the pool, because I need to do something to keep active (and to keep from tearing my own head off), so as far that's concerned, for the last month or so, Kicking is the new normal.

What would you rather do, than kicking up and down the pool?

Also, there is vertical kicking, on its own, with fins, holding a med ball or a dumbbell. Or hanging on the wall and kicking fast and slow at intervals while wearing little canvas sneakers. That is a load of laughs, especially when the little sneakers tear the skin off your feet!

Anyway, no swimming for me for now, at least not with my left arm. But don't forget the right arm! I am the queen of one-arm drills.

And kicking. I challenge any of you to a vertical-kicking contest.

What? They don't have those?


Thursday, September 27, 2007


I decided yesterday, while I was stretching cords above my head and watching a woman use a rolly chair to scoot circles around a room, that I need to write more. Lucky you!

Last Friday I saw my orthopaedist again. He said we would try physical therapy until November. Then if the shoulder is not better (are you tired of the shoulder stories yet? I am.), we consider (a) surgery or (b) quitting swimming.

So starting this week, I am putting everything I have into physical therapy. And after a month of only kicking, I am beginning in a gradual way to bring arm strokes with my left arm back into the pool.

This is my documentation. You don't have to read it, because frankly I would rather not write it. Heraclitus is telling me, though, that it is something I should do as I come to terms with the fact that The Whole Shoulder Thing is not something that happened, but something that is happening.

This has been my first week of restarted therapy. I saw my PT twice--Monday and Wednesday. On the days I do not work with him, I do the usual rotator-cuff and core exercises at home.

When I work with him, I:

* Try to hold my arm up and still while he pushes on it in different directions. This is to reteach the musculature and nerves how to be stable. (He asked me to imagine my shoulder as a clock. Some people, he said, especially people who have suffered a shoulder dislocation in the past, have instablity at, say, 6 o'clock or 3 o'clock. I have it 24 hours a day.) So far we have done this exercise while I lie flat on my back with my arm up at 90 degrees; with me on my back with my elbow on a pad and my forearm at 90 degrees; with me on my back with my arm at a different angle relative to my body, my elbow on a pad, and my forearm at 90 degrees; with me standing, holding my arm down, my forearm at 90 degrees, and in my hand the handle of an outstretched cable. He says I have very little strength in my shoulder. Our ultimate goal is to do these exercises with my arm raised above my head in a typical freestyle-swimming position.

* Do plank-position core exercises, facing down, and then on each side. These are painfully difficult to do right now, and it makes me realize how much core strength I have lost since I was in shape for nationals.

* Kneel on a pad and throw a weighted ball at a trampoline, and when I catch it, try to hold my core stable. I do this facing the tramp, and then with my side to it (both directions).

* Use stretch cords to make small presses with my hands above my head, at my sides, and then again at my sides but pulling backwards rather than forwards.

* Lie on my face and raise my arms above my head for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. (I do this exercise with my arms in a variety of positions.)

It is strange to be in a PT room with a bunch of other people. We each have our own maladies. One guy is doing strange things with his knees. Another perches on the rolly chair (it is more like a rolly stool) and uses his arms to move himself around the floor. One woman steps on and off a step. One man talks incessantly while he walks on a treadmill. We are all there try to bring our bodies back. Keep us in your thoughts.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bow down before the Master of Love-Hate Relationships.

You Are a Red Crayon

Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.

Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.

(Hmmm. I always thought I was more mellow than this. Thanks to Magpie for the tip.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dear Madeleine L'Engle,

Thank you for writing all those books that I loved like I had never loved books before, and rarely have since.

Thank you for creating imaginary worlds that made me hurt because they were not real.

Thank you for permeating my mind with images that are still there.

Thank you for making me cry.

Thank you for convincing me that sometimes you can get to those worlds after all.

We'll miss you.

[FL]Insert header here.

In case you did not know, there are more interesting things you could do on a Friday afternoon than proofread the line numbers given in a Table of Emendations to the Copy-Text.

But the fact that I now know this may give some small indication of how bad real-life deadlines are kicking me in the ass right now.

So go forth and be grateful that for this week anyway, you are not me and my new collection of purple pencils.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Random 10: It wasn't a rock, it was a rock lobster! Edition

Recent thinking about rock reminds me of this, which always seems a good way to end the week, especially one that has left me as exhausted as this one has.

But I believe that Timothy's question, "Is a definition of 'rock' that sticks us with bands like Bad Company as the exemplars of the form worth having?" points to a limitation in my musical tastes. I suppose that my definition of rock is outdated because after a certain point I started listening to far less rock than other things, hence leaving me unaware of the real developments there.

But today is not for contemplation, but simply for enumeration:

1. "Claire's Theme," Graeme Revell (Until the End of the World)
2. "Untitled," Kinky (Atlas)
3. "Air Giant," Transglobal Underground (Punjabi Lounge, disc 1)
4. "Maybe You'll Be There," Diana Krall (The Look of Love)
5. "Come, Gone" (alternate take), Sonny Rollins (Way Out West)
6. "Slippin' and Slidin'," Billy Preston (Billy's Bag)
7. "Japanese Folk Song [Kojo No Tsuki]," Thelonious Monk (Straight, No Chaser)
8. "Rock Lobster," The B-52s (The B-52s)
9. "Don Loope," Nortec Collective (Nacional Records Sampler 2006)
10. "Dru Me Negrita," Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban (Mambo Sinuendo)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Horton hears The Who.

So last night the PP and I decided to play cards, and whenever we play cards, we also play music, and so I asked him, "What would you like to hear?" And he said, "Bachman Turner Overdrive," and I said, "Hmmm, I am not sure that we have any Bachman Turner Overdrive," so he said, "Oh," so I said, "Does this mean you want Rock?" And he said, "Yes!"

I hustled to the computer and threw together what I thought might be a good Rock playlist and we started playing.

It was not too long, though, before we hit a song where PP said, "You know, this is not really rock. America is not rock." So I made a note about that and we played some more and then we hit some quiet Dire Straits and decided that was not really rock either. And then there was a Santana song that started out really quietly, and although it was getting ready to rock, it was not really rock. Neither was some of the Springsteen stuff from Nebraska (despite the fact that Bruce may be one of the PP's absolute favs.)

We started to think that rock--or at least the rock we wanted last night--was harder to define than we initially thought.

Here are our priliminary observations:

1. We could begin to define rock by using its touchstones: "Sharp Dressed Man," "Barracuda," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Aqualung," "Heartbreaker," "Helter Skelter," "Dancing Days," "Won't Get Fooled Again."

2. Rock does tend to have strong guitars, it is true, but the PP insists that the beat is just as important.

3. A rock song frequently includes some kind of non-verbal or loosely verbal scream in it. (Example: the "YAH!" early in "Hungry Heart")

4. The title of the song might include the word "rock," as in "Rock and Roll All Night" or "We Will Rock You" but this does not include "Rock Around the Clock" as that is apparently a different kind of rock. The jury is still out on "Rock Lobster." Furthermore, although Falco claims that he would like for Amadeus to rock him, he does not really do so in a rock way. Ditto Michael Jackson's claims about rocking, with or without you. Simon and Garfunkel may be a rock, but they do not rock. Rocking the casbah does not equal rocking the boat. Conversely, Joe Walsh may be claiming to make Funk #49, but that is rock, my friends.

5. Mick makes rock. Not all rock must have rock, but you cannot have Mick without rock. Same thing with Link Wray (and his Raymen).

6. Rock does not usually have a heavily produced sound.

7. The PP's definition of Rock may be broader than mine. He puts the B-52's in there, and I think he wants Devo too, though I tend to think they are not rock.

What do you think? And how long can a band take to get ready to rock? (Think here about the beginning of "Detroit Rock City," because it takes about one minute and thirty seconds before the rocking starts, but then it really does rock.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

"See you on the other side."

One time I wrote that as a signature to an e-mail to a colleague who knows I have been editing this. He pointed out that given my present work, it was a rather ambiguous thing to say, and was I implying that he and/or I were heading to the spirit realms? No, I was just trying to think of something other than "Best" or "Ciao" or "Cheers" or "Bite me" to say at the end of a message.

But now I can never write it without thinking about what he said.

I am heading off today for a two-day retreat in the mountains, to get my head realligned before I return to the workaday world on Thursday. Not that I am not looking forward to seeing the shining faces in my classes, it's just all the other crap that I need to figure out how to think about in a more productive way.

So nothing from me for a few days. Enjoy your own selves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't give up on your trees, boy.

So I was just listening to the CD that came with the June/July issue of The Believer and working on the fourth piece of the PP's Christmas sweater, and something occurred to me.

(But first a digression: the fifth track on the CD is "The Painter" by I'm From Barcelona. The liner notes note: "There are twenty-nine people in I'm From Barcelona. They're from Sweden, not Spain. In Sweden, twenty-nine people may sometimes be considered a small town." Anyway, the song starts, "I'm just a painter, I do my crappy art, but I see what's in your eyes and I know what's in your heart." I thought it went "I'm just a painter, I do my crappy yard," and I thought, well, yeah, if you're a painter you don't pay for someone to mow your grass and it probably does look like hell. So then when the refrain came around, I thought it was "Don't give up on your trees, boy" [actual lyrics = replace "trees" with "dreams": I like my version better], and I ultimately think this was a subliminal message to me from I'm From Barcelona, because we have a beautiful old tree in our front yard that is slowly dying, and we are trying to decide whether to spend circa $800 to try to save it or just give up now and spend the $2000 to have it taken down. I think we're leaning toward keeping it around for a few more years, thanks to the "message" from the boys actually from Sweden.)

Anyway, as I was knitting and listening to "Everybody's Down" by No Age, described by the Believer folks as "one of three loud duos on this compilation," I thought to myself, "This is not the music I would have chosen for knitting, and yet I am enjoying myself immensely.

So this brings me (finally) to my point, which is actually a question for you, both of my readers: do you have particular tunes that you think go particularly well with particular activities? And what happens when you diverge from your preferred tendencies?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who are you calling short?

Take the book quiz! (via blogora)

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!

by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic
and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying
to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really
heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I piu' forti semo noi.

Niobe wants to know, "what city would you most like to spend a reasonably extended amount of time in?"

Roma, hands down. No question. Undoubtedly. There is not a close second.

In fact, I have tried my best to spend as much time there as possible, and I keep trying to find ways to spend even more.

And no, Tony, this is not all about Francesco Totti!

Have you ever walked around the Gianicolo park in the evening in the summer time? At the end of a hot day, when there are people milling around, puppet shows going on, ice cream for sale, and some of the most amazing views in the world? There is something about that evening light from that spot that makes that haze of the city go away, and even if you are exhausted from sightseeing or reading or writing or drinking wine, you just want to stand and stare.

How can you resist a city where almost every church you pass has something amazing in it--a pantokrater mosaic or a Caravaggio or a Bernini or spooky relics or a Michelangelo statue or frescoes by Filippino Lippi Raphael or just the overpowering Baroque architecture of the counter-reformation. Everywhere there are little bees or Monte di Paschi or keys or any number of other carved symbols associated with significant families that birthed numerous popes. There are little details like a trompe-l'oeil dome, or a dome made entirely of white carving or tiny swirled columns in cloisters, or Cosmati flooring. Fountains are filled with river gods or smiling suns or turtles or saints or mermen. In almost every piazza is an Egyptian obelisk stolen by the Caesars and then commandeered by some pope or another. Everything gets made, used, used again for something else.

I love riding the Roman busses, too, where you have to get your bus legs under you, in order not to be dumped into someone's lap, or crash into a signora and risk being chastised by all the other people on the bus. Attenzione alla signora! I am hungry to hear permesso spoken on a crowded bus in that wonderful romano accent.

I remember one time during a bus strike on a hot day in Rome. The strike ended at 6 p.m. sharp, so the busses running at that time were packed with people. I was sitting with a friend on a wall near the Fori Imperiali and one of those hilarious little mini-busses pulled up to a stop in front of us--packed, needless to say, which was even more hilarious because the bus was so tiny. "Permesso, permesso, permesso," my friend started saying, and we could not stop from laughing even though I expect if the people on the bus could have heard us, they would have pointed out how unfunny that was.

I love quirky Italianness, and the further south you get, the quirkier and stranger Italy gets, I think. Things in Torino or Milano or Verona or even Venezia just seem so much more logical than in Rome, where the price of stamps depends on which tabacchi you go to, traffic flows and halts according to invisible rhythms, frequently churches are closed for no reason, elevators are always guasto, bus routes frequently change, and no one blinks an eye. My favorite is an excellent restaurant near the Campo dei Fiori where (and I expect this only happens when you ask for the specials in Italian) the owner explained that there were gnocchi on the menu, "because today is Thursday." I suppose there are actual explanations for these things, but when you are there, and just trying to figure things out, it is mysterious.

(Mystery has lessened somewhat with the arrival of the Euro, if only because prices have so many fewer zeroes.)

The summer is insanely hot, and there are so few places that are air conditioned, that sweating, and being hot, and just moving a little slower become an inevitable part of life. Oh, and frequent showers. The library where I spent a lot of time had enormous windows that opened out on a garden. They were angled such that strong breezes would blow through, and they were scented of rosemary and lavendar.

When I worked in my own little studio room, I would almost always spend the morning writing in the dark, with my metal window shade pulled down against the sun, trying to move as little as possible, and wondering whether the industrial-strength hurricane-force ceiling fan was well installed.

And then, after a morning's work, when it is getting too hot to think clearly, I could wander around that city forever, finding remarkable ancient things, strange modern things, surprising advertisements, startling catcalls, not to mention millions of actual cats. Or sit for a while in a cafe and sweat while drinking a dense espresso, or go try another couple of flavors of gelato--or why not all of these, over time?

This is Radio Isis.

Not the most productive writing day today, so how about another mix instead? Unlike the last one, this one came together rather quickly.

What, is it Monday?

The usual place, the usual bunch.

After months of construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction, I have put a new mix up at Art of the Mix. If you would like a copy, let me know in the comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nutritious + delicious.

The PP and I decided we need to be more thoughtful about what we eat. We have these discussions every couple of years or so: mostly we tend to have fairly healthy meals, especially when we eat in, but since we have moved, we have eaten out more, and more frequently at places that can be a bit rich, and sadly we are both getting waistlines to prove it.

The challenge, of course, since neither of us is crazy about cooking all the time, is finding ways to get nutritious meals made quickly--particularly on nights when we have had swim practice, and are ravenous and exhausted. Also, I am constantly searching for better meals to have at lunchtime, because Hot Pockets depress me.

So, half a bag of onions, a head of garlic, 1.33 pounds of ground turkey, a boatload of garam masala, numerous teaspoons of cumin seeds, a head of cabbage, 2 cans of chickpeas, half a bag of frozen peas, 1 cup of Darjeeling tea, 4 cardamom pods, a motherlode of okra, 3 cans of tunafish, 2 bay leaves, one bunch of cilantro and one of green onions, a cinnamon stick, 3 cups of rice, 6 jalapeno peppers, a fair bit of curry powder and turmeric and ground cumin and mustard seeds and sesame seeds and fennel seeds, and the juice of one lemon later, we had a damn fine Indian dinner composed of five dishes: turkey with peas, curried tuna, chickpeas cooked in tea, cabbage with fennel, okra masala + rice.

The best part? Several meals' worth of left-overs!