Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Crazy as an onion..."

…in hell!” My uncle has a startling way with words sometimes.

Family stories:

Apparently Uncle Dan was a real loon (crazy as an onion, even). I don’t know; my cousin and I both remember that he was fun. He did magic tricks, mostly pulling nickels out of our ears. And he was happy, and seemed to like us, which goes a long way with children.

Grandpa was something else. His life didn’t turn out the way he expected it would, we concluded over dessert Thursday (four pies, a scandalously tiny number for this clan). He got married at the start of the Great Depression, and had six children in a house that resolutely had no room really for even one. He graduated Harvard, class of 1926, same class as Oppenheimer (although Oppenheimer actually graduated in three years, 1925, brilliant beyond imagining even as a very young man). The Harvard degree did not make him rich, and I think he was dumbfounded and kind of pissed about it for the rest of his life.

Mostly he scared the crap out of us. He’d likely poke you with a fork if you sat next to him at the dinner table and displayed poor table manners. It was tough to see it coming because his hands had a mysterious tremor whenever he held anything, so one could never be sure if the wavering fork was headed for the roast beef or your forearm.

It was a whole fascinating spectacle watching him have a cup of tea, which he did at least fourteen times a day, because he took a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, and he’d scatter sugar all over the table as he scooped out first one spoonful, and then another. It occurs to me now that this may have been why Grandma usually had sugar cubes around. We kids would find them in the cupboard and eat them and build things with them. I remember her pewter sugar bowl, and a pewter teapot (I may have stuffed crayons down the spout; I’m not sure).

Hm. Come to think of it, we were a pretty pesky gang of grandkids. I'm pretty sure the crayons were white.

There was a brother of grandpa's grandfather who fought in the Civil War, a member of an Irish regiment from Boston. We had a Revolutionary War soldier, too, which I find funny; the whole "DAR" notion just doesn't seem applicable. I come from an old Boston family, but a scruffy one.

I miss my uncle. He was wry and funny, and brilliant. Also a trustee of a research library where I need to do some research, and I wish I could talk to him about it, because he was a science researcher and a science historian, and I’m researching some primary source history of science stuff, and, well, dang it, he’d be perfect to talk to about contemporary clinical accounts of Phineas Gage. But he’s gone.

This song has been stuck in my head for a day or so - it has a wistful sound that fits my mood. "Are we human?/Or are we dancer?/My sign is vital/My hands are cold/And I'm on my knees, lookin' for the answer..."

My hands were, in fact, cold, so I made some tubes out of yarn with holes for my thumbs.* Yay. If my camera doohickey were talking to my laptop, I'd show you.

Cat update: he's curled up taking a nap right now, and enjoying our renewed delight in his existence.

Peace and warm thoughts, all.

*28 stitches in the round, Noro Silk Garden, one skein, 2x2 rib, straight for 8 inches, then BO 6, CO the same 6 the next round, continue for another 6 rounds, BO. Started them late Friday night, wore them out shopping Saturday.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Redemption is a messy business."

--from "This American Life" on the radio today.

I've been slacking off after the two exams and one paper and a problem set. (Translation: I haven't done any chemistry problems.) Feels downright luxurious. In reverse order: Littlest guy and I played Rock Band, we made some lamb stew, and I poked around Harvard Square for a while - hey! Harvard beat Yale today in The Game's 125th meeting! Whoo hoo! 10 - 0. With a lot of dropping of the ball because of the incredibly cold wind. Poor babies.

I had a couple of beers after my last exam and ended up talking to a former classmate for a while; a good thing. He pointed out that professors *expect* to be asked to write recommendations, that it's not really an imposition, and I should expect to be nagged via email until I get over my damn self and ask. Sigh.

This week, I'm thankful for friends, family, and school. When I've poked at Harvard's vast institutionalness and asked for things, the answer has almost always been yes. It's nice. It remains to be seen whether they'll let me go to grad school there, and I have some working of my ass off to do in the meantime, but ... gee. So I've been feeling fond of the place, and find myself giving a damn that the Crimson won The Game. Go figure.

Wednesday night brought some (more) drama: Oldest couldn't remember seeing Angus (one of our cats) since the previous evening, and we couldn't find him anywhere. This is the very social cat, who meows at us constantly and jumps on us in bed. No Angus in the attic, the basement, any of the closets, and the other cats seemed distressed and were walking around with us as we searched. Oldest searched around the house; I looked around the trash barrels for the possibly frozen corpse of a cat. Finally I started to search the barn, and there he was, huddled in a corner: poor fellow, he'd been out in the freezing cold for a night and a day and most of another evening, and he was cold and scared. And after I picked him up, very happy. He used to be on the tubby side, but appears to have burned through an enormous amount of body fat just keeping warm enough to stay alive. He's spending a lot of time eating, cuddling with us, and lying in front of the radiators.

It's good to be home.

Also: cookie cookie cookie. Hee. See you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cookie swap time!

Okay, so it looks like several of you can come to a second annual (is it really annual if I've only had it at my house once?) Knit-In and Cookie Swap! Friday, December 5. Or whatever the Friday is. At my house. So email me if you don't know where that is, okay? Okay! Let's say 7 pm? And I will have non-cookie food there, in case of cookie overload?

The way it works is you make a bunch of cookies, and everyone else makes a bunch of cookies, and you leave yours and take home a sampler of some of each of everybody else's. We're not a picky crew, honest, so recipe experimentation is fine, having no time at all and buying a bag of chips ahoy is fine, too. Madam Twisted and Warped made marshmallows from scratch last year - extremely yummy.

I may resurrect the weird cookie experiment one of my friends did in college, with Excessively Strange Flavored Cookies, like mustard-grape, tuna-mint, and the strangely appealing (and yet not) Sudafed Chip. Or maybe they'll just be odd but still edible. Butterscotch-Curry sounds appealing, no?

Anyway, hi! This week I've turned in a paper, a chem problem set, taken one exam tonight and will be off to study for another one tomorrow night and then there's another chem test Monday night.

And otherwise I haven't emerged from the Crazed Weasel Pit of Perpetual Studying while. But hello. It's all good. Sudafed-chip-good, sometimes, but pretty darn interesting at least.

How're you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The pendulum swings...

...into a more intensive, more structured, more functional mode. Did well on my chem test (which is, er, surprising)(we got them back tonight - huge curve, but still). Spent a bunch of time today getting problems done, which is the only way to get comfortable with chem problems - doing lots of them.

I also did some more structured homeschooling with littlest dude, who unlike his two older sisters is NOT spending all waking hours working on a novel for NaNoWriMo. We made Irish soda bread, to tie in with learning about the potato famine. Tomorrow, we'll do a traditional lamb stew. For which I have purchased some lamb. Go, me.

I actually got to go to knitting on Sunday at Peddler's Daughter in Nashua (hi, Jen!), for the first time in goodness-only-knows-how-long. It was a nifty place, and a very nice way to spend some time. Oh, yeah! I like knitting! Even more so with other people. Mysteriously now that some progress has taken place on a project, I feel slightly more in control of other stuff, too. Go figure. Perpetually re-learning the same stuff, sometimes; I will pretend that on successive go-rounds, it's a deeper kind of learning. Yeah, right.

I'm now lead director for our production of The Tempest, in a switcheroo necessitated by circumstances. Weirdly, I feel like now that I have both filed for payment on dental insurance claims AND cleared off a section of kitchen counter, I am damn near unstoppable, so Whoo Hoo that we planned ahead sort of and can shift the team o' three to a slightly different configuration. Suck-o-rama, that we had to.

AND....It is now November Two Digits. And I think I should invite you all for a Second Cookie Swap. Especially since I never see most of you. How does early-ish December look for y'all, hm?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Si se puede

Yes, we can.

So Halloween was fun, classes are still going great guns, I went to a faculty-student reception on Oct. 30 and caught up with my advisor and met the (really nice!) organic chemistry professor, my paper-writing skills appear to still be functioning, canvassing in Nashua for Obama was a bit scary at first but really good. I'm an official Biology "field of study" person now, which is sort of like having a major. I stayed up way too late watching election results, then scrambled while sleep-deprived and strung out to get my stem cells assignment written and turned in Wed., prepped for the two brain classes Thursday, oldest had a kitchen accident Thursday night while I was still in lecture & I took her to the emergency room (which fortunately is right at the end of the street where the apartment is, we were there in minutes and she was seen quickly and got her finger stitched up and she's fine), and I went to see a play last night.

The play involved fake chemistry and a bear, but mostly the toppling of Ceaucescu. It was okay.

The election... is still sinking in. I'm tearful, and hopeful, and feeling like the country is waking from a long nightmare into rationality. This administration has brayed for 8 years now that my opinions are un-American and that staggering incompetence is what I should expect from government, and that the voices of millions and millions of my neighbors deserve contempt when we are acknowledged at all. A resounding majority said, well that's enough of that.

The ballot questions that passed, restricting basic rights for my friends, exasperate me. There is a LOT of work to do--on some things, clearly we haven't made much progress. I remember vividly the snarling hostility of black activists toward gay activists at a student summit I was at, over 20 years ago, in preparation for a massive "teach-in." It got pretty ugly in that room, and those divisions haven't moved in all that time, apparently. I hope the poison and hatred and pain can start, now, to dissipate, and that the country can start finding reasons to work across divisions instead of reinforcing them with concrete.

Peace, all.

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