Friday, September 30, 2005

Green Grapes and Cheese

I got the most fantastic green grapes at Food Lion yesterday. They aren't too sweet, they are perfectly firm, and they're seedless. And although red grapes are usually prettier and therefore yummier in my book (I probably wouldn't have a clue in a blind taste test), these are as good as any red grapes. Green grapes remind me of my grandma because when I was five and my brother was in the hospital with some leg problem, I spent a lot of time shuttling the two hours between our house and hers, and she liked green grapes in the car. Now that I think about it, I don't really know if she liked green grapes in particular--she probably just felt that they were pretty mess-proof with a five-year-old granddaughter riding along. (She was shocked a couple of years ago when I told her that I associate green grapes with her.)

Anyway, last night the fantastic green grapes were paired with two new cheeses and some genoa salami. On my way home from the class I take on Monday nights, I pass this market that's just little and cute, and last week I decided I would finally pop in and see what was inside. There was a cheese counter inside! And a cool proprieter who really loves cheese and wants to have the world try some. I tried some stilton with mango and ginger there (yummy) and bought some Torta Novara. It is a layered creamy cheese that melts like butter on warm bread with a pesto-ish mixture in between. Right up my alley.

(Once upon a time I actually went to Novara for a very brief part of an afternoon--I saw the church there--it had pictures of skeletons giving birth--kinda way out. Too bad the photos of inside the church did not turn out.)

The second cheese of the evening was 6 month aged manchego cheese from la Mancha. (I am I, Don Quixote!) It was very sharp, and it was actually really very good with the salami.

I am so sad to see the days grow shorter and winter approaching! A dearth of fantastic green grapes is inevitable. At least cheese is year-round.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Warhol Lets Go

Posted by Picasa

This blog needed some color! Thank heavens for the new surrealism show at the Wadsworth Atheneum. It prompted the good folks there to give us, the masses, the opportunity to create our own surrealist canvases. To have some fun of your own, click here.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Science is cool!

Princeton's online art show of images from science. I say wow.

Harp Plucking

Last night I was watching the New York Philharmonic on PBS--a great concert of Chopin and Mahler (even if the special pianist for Chopin felt he had to make creepy faces of staged ecstasy and art into the camera). Anyway, it came time for Mahler, Symphony No. 1 (Titan) and the music was beautiful and I was watching when I saw the harpist and realized that I had never plucked a harp.
I called dad to comment on that one. He told me that he had commented at grandma J's funeral that he figured the second thing she did upon her arrival in heaven was sign up for harp lessons.
So today I bumped into the harp teacher at school and asked her if I could pluck a harp. (I almost didn't--what an idiotic request! Sort of like really wanting to drum the tympani.) She asked jokingly if she could charge me for the lesson. Anyway, we chatted for a while, then she showed me how the red strings are Cs and the black strings are Fs and how the pedals do the sharps and flats (I hadn't even realized that harps have pedals--the four-limb coordination it takes to play one must rival that needed to fly a helicopter), and how to snap my fingers in and hold my elbow up. Then she told me to relax before I strummed a C cord. Ta-daa! So I plucked a harp today. Checkmark in the box.
A note on Mahler--on my 20th birthday I got up early and with a friend lugged my boombox to the top of the fire tower near where I was working--he couldn't believe I had never listened to Mahler. We brought Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) and it was simply brilliant. Since then, I have found that I also very much love Symphony No. 5.
As far as Chopin goes, I love the second movement of piano concerto number 2. The first time I heard it was in a humanities survey class (what a fantastic time! I also fell in love with Brunelleschi's dome that semester--) and it brought me to tears. What a geek I am.
And since I'm writing about classical music I guess I had better go all the way and just say that very little can compare with Smetana's Moldau. I can put that on, lay down, and be at perfect peace with myself and the world. It also imparts the feeling of my soul freeing itself and flying straightway out of my chest to live a very charmed life different from my own. Fantastic.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lost in Translation

note: 20 April 2014:
Apparently the attribution of this poem to Pablo Neruda is false.  According to a 2008 article in la Repubblica, an Italian senator quoted it in session, and this brought the president of Neruda's Italian publisher to make a statement that this poem is not his.  It is apparently by Martha Medeiros, a Brazilian writer.  Due to this fact, I have edited my original post to replace her name where I had mistakenly credited Neruda.  My apologies to all, and my thanks to Dario Sorgato for having described the error.

I was just translating a poem for Amilynne. It's one that I have had my third year students memorize and it is fantastic-- Chi muore (Ode alla vita) by Pablo Neruda Martha Medeiros. I found this poem online, and the title of this post links to it in Italian. I have found about a zillion variations, but I like this one, and the site seems just as likely to house the right version as any. I have also looked for it in Spanish and in English, but I have been unable to find either, and since I have not found it in Spanish I wonder if it really is originally an Italian poem. Who knows.
Which really puts me in the mood to watch Il Postino.
Anyway, here is my translation to English for your enjoyment:

He who dies (Ode to life)
Pablo Neruda Martha Medeiros

Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit,
repeating the same journey every day,
he who doesn’t change his march, he who doesn’t risk
and change the color of his clothes, he who doesn’t speak to he whom he doesn’t know.

Slowly dies he who makes of the television his guru,
Slowly he who avoids a passion dies, he who prefers
black on white and dots on is rather than a togetherness of emotions
exactly those that make the eyes shine,
those that make the heart beat
before error and feeling.

Slowly dies he who doesn’t overturn the table,
he who is unhappy in his work,

he who doesn’t risk certainty for uncertainty
to follow a dream,
he who doesn’t permit himself at least one time in his life
to flee sensible counsels.

Slowly dies he who doesn’t travel, he who doesn’t read,
he who doesn’t listen to music,

he who doesn’t find grace in himself.
Slowly he who destroys his own love dies,
he who doesn’t allow himself to be helped.
Slowly he who passes his days lamenting
about his own misfortune or the incessant rain dies.

Slowly dies he who abandons a project
before beginning it,
he who doesn’t ask questions about topics he doesn’t know,
he who doesn’t answer when he is asked something that he knows.

Let’s avoid death by small doses,
remembering always that being alive
requires a much larger effort
than the simple act of breathing.

Only burning patience will bring
within reach a splendid happiness.

Basil under attack--One gets away

I was out watering the garden today and found two caterpillars in the basil. This upset me. Rosemary and basil are the two reasons for the garden--the rest is just superfluous and exists to greenify the patio. I immediately put the gloves on and got the scissors, but this time one of the caterpillars figured out that he was headed for the canal and jumped. I got him back on the leaf I was carrying, but as I was walking he fell off and is now in hiding somewhere in the lawn. I looked, but I couldn't find him anywhere. The neighbors must think I am absolutely nuts.
Anyway, the first time it fell, I tried to pick it up with a gloved hand and let me just say that all that fluff makes these critters really hard to catch. It was like trying to pick up silk threads that are magneted to the ground. What a defense. I really would like these little guys if they would just stop eating my plants. But they won't, so I will just continue escorting them to the canal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The tension is back. Season 2 of Lost premiered tonight. So much going on! And I just wanted to scream at about a thousand different moments. So much fun.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Emmy Rant

All right, I know I have done lots of little posts tonight, but here is one more. The Emmys are on, and I just have a couple of things to say:
1. If Lost doesn't win, I will never watch another awards show. Ok, maybe I still will, but Lost had just better win.
2. I hate Kenneth Branagh. He is the world's worst actor. He was nominated for playing FDR. Does anyone really believe he played FDR, or did he just play Kenneth Branagh playing FDR? I wouldn't know, I wouldn't watch him, but I could venture a guess. Ugg. I don't know why anyone would nominate him for anything. He makes my spine shudder and my gag reflexes jump. And now as I'm typing, the show he was in won for best made for TV movie. Uck. Uck. Everything else about it had better have been fantastic, because Branagh is NOT.

Three More Caterpillars.

THREE MORE CATERPILLARS. I can't believe how many the mint attracted. To be honest, I'm glad they're in the mint and not in something else. Actually, now they have joined their friends in the canal. At any rate, I will have to check the plants again tomorrow. I hope I have adequately eradicated them.
On a sad note, Amilynne went with a friend tonight to a free production of Richard III. The whole thing was kind of scary because it was free--would it be good? Richard III is one of the best plays--Amilynne and I have both seen it (different seasons) at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and it is the play we agree was the best. Anyway, I got a call a few minutes ago and the free production tonight was so bad that 3/4 of the audience (including Amilynne and friend) left at intermission. How disappointing.
I would love to make a trip for the Utah Shakespeare Festival! What a fantastic event. And in such a beautiful area. I think I'll daydream about southern Utah for a while now.

Amilynne Weighs In

Amilynne called today to say that her favorite tracks on Odditorium are "Holding Me Up" and "Easy." Must be a good album if everyone has a different favorite.

In other news, gigantic fuzzy wuzzy caterpillars have found my garden. I found one yesterday on the underside of a laurel leaf--it was so fuzzy that at first I thought I had found a super fuzzy mold of some kind. Anyway, I snipped off the leaf and walked down to the canal behind my house and threw it down there. (The canal is dry for the most part.) Today I just came in from throwing four more down there--one from the sage and three from the peppermint. Vicious little creatures, but I hate killing them honestly because they are orange striped fuzzy like the tail of a big orange cat, so I throw them down in the canal, which I will probably regret because they are sure to find the plants growing there and next year I'll have a zillion fuzzy caterpillars in the garden. It's so interesting to watch them walk along the stalks of the leaves I'm carrying them on, though--their feet are like little paddles and they just wrap all around the stem to find the next juicy bit of herb to gnaw on. What a nuisance.


The kids weren't very happy taking the insomnia quizzes I wrote. Apparently I am more wicked mean in the middle of the night than I am during the day. I say a little pain is good for them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another Night of Insomnia

It's approaching 1 a.m., and although I recognize that this is not late for a lot of people, it spells doom for me on a Tuesday night. I'm not even halfway through the school week yet, but here I am, unable to sleep. Someday I'll spend the summer keeping teacher hours so I don't have to train myself to sleep early once the school year arrives (NOT!). This is seriously one of the worst aspects of my job--I am a night owl, so I need a job where I can arrive at 11 or noon and leave around 8 p.m. Teaching high school is not that job.

And so here I am, nightowling it. Writing lesson plans and quizzes and worksheets. Wow I'm creative at night!

On the plus side, I am also listening to the new disc from The Dandy Warhols, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. Such a mellow, smooth groove for the most part. This is one band I don't mind hearing just jam for a while. The album was released today, but it is also available for streaming at I super dig tracks 4, 8, and 11. I talked to Amilynne tonight, and she confirmed that the release made today a very good day. There is one spot, though, that completely freaked me out. Here it is so late at night, and at one point there is a voice just talking--and it sounds very outside of the song, so when it happened I completely jumped because it was like someone was in the house. Yikes! One good thing is that the horns are back in at least one song. It's such a good sound--I'm not usually one for horns, but here they totally work. (They also work in Johnny Cash's verson of Ring of Fire, of course.)
Well, there is more work to do and more music to which to groove. Which is good, but insomnia sucks all the same, if for no other reason than that I will be paying for this tomorrow. Ugg.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Maps are really very cool. I have spent hours looking at them and dreaming of being anywhere but where I am! Map toys, therefore, are also way cool. Like the Google map application that the title of this post links to. It answers the question, "If I were to dig a hole through the middle of the earth, where would I end up?" I'll just say that you'd have to be in Chile to hit the middle of China, and that if you're going to dig from the continental U.S., you'd better take some swimming lessons first.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


I finished two more this week:

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (Gregory Maguire)--fun fun fun, with a twist in the narration at the end. It's Cinderella (of course) set in 16th century Haarlem. Central to the story is the change in painting that occurred there at this time, and a Medici queen is thrown in at the end. That is important, of course, because I was a Medici in my last life.

Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)--If there is one author to whom I really need to pay more attention, it is Vonnegut. Cat's Cradle was a trip! Scientifically founded, with fantastic brain exercises that make absurdity seem perfectly sane. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Need more.

School and a Refugee

I don't know what happened but I just have to say how happy I am with my first year class that is currently assembled. We learned new words today and they all took notes. Without being terribly prodded. I asked for volunteers to do a short dialogue in front of the class and students volunteered. It was fantastic. I asked them what we had learned today and they all knew. I put them into groups to throw little balls around and count and no one tried to attack someone else with a ball. This is great! I am a happy teacher. Not to mention the wonderful students who are doing the advanced classes with me. It's fun to be back.

In other news, Thomas picked his teenage brother up at the bus station yesterday. He's here to attend school for a while. I think it will be fun to have him here--he's a great kid. At the very least, his arrival probably signals the start of some excitement around here. It's so sad, though, to think of how many families are having to send their kids away because of the hurricane. And some would call them the lucky ones because it means that the family still has some reason to stay in the region and that they have a place where they can send their kids.

So a toast to a new year. Cin cin.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Thoughts

In the French Quarter, Labor Day Weekend 2001. Posted by Picasa

I took the picture four years ago when I went with friends to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the Best Roadtrip Ever. We were hooked up with great accommodations, enjoyed the city, went out to the beach, and just had a fabulous time.
Things have definitely changed there this week. It's been a bit anxious, as we've been waiting for news from Thomas's family about the state of things in Mississippi. They evacuated north before the storm, and he just got word today that his parents' and his brothers' houses are still standing. His parents and one brother had water up to the 2nd floor in their houses, but their whole family is alive, and that's the main thing to be thankful for, since people in their area did lose their lives. Apparently the whole area is littered with seaweed and jellyfish too. What an image that brings to mind.
It seems so trivial to even mention that I am sad to see so much destruction in the area. I'm sure my mind isn't really wrapped around the losses at all. All I can do is just hope for a miracle for those who are down there.