Monday, April 27, 2009

A short summary

The group hosting this week's planned event in Morelia decided to postpone the meeting until July. So hurrah, I have done all my laundry and somewhat straightened up my place and gotten my packing list in order and yet don't have to actually go through passport control or explain why my Chapstick isn't in a one-quart plastic bag.

On the other hand, aw, just a little bit. This trip sounded fun, before words like gripe porcina and cubrebocas started being bandied about. Let's airdrop in some Tamiflu and get our southern neighbors back on their feet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Practically Twitterable

Dammit. This may put a real crimp in next week's travel agenda.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Slightly frazzled update

To the bullet-points of lazy hastiness!
  • I rode Zeus last night, Lear having been sent off for vacation. Zeus is new to our class, a strange copper-colored animal who looks like a QH from the chest back and a scrawny Morgan otherwise. He's very forward-striding, which makes him good on trail (I'm told) but once at any kind of speed in the ring he does. Not. STOP. When I asked for the canter I got several laps of hand gallop; eventually I had to spiral him into a circle to get him to come back down. More to the point, oh my God he does not bend to the right. At all. EVER. It was like riding a close-paren, and after a few minutes I felt like I'd been cranking a mower from the effort it took to keep him from collapsing in half to the left. The barn assigned him to the class "because he needs dressage," the way stiff office workers need yoga, and truer words et cetera. But riding him is exhausting work, like teaching spelling to a four-year-old who's breakfasted on Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs. This pony needs less grain and a lot more work. And also not to step on my foot argh argh argh ya bastard move argh.
  • C'est fini the mini-med course. The final presentation was on reconstructive plastic surgery after breast cancer, and the presenter was kind of an asshole. First off, he apologized for the "adult" material, which consisted of before-and-after neck-to-hip naked shots of women who got the surgeries. If you're lecturing on breast cancer, trust me, we know. Boobs. Gotcha. We've all seen 'em. Second, he implied that all surgeons should ask small-breasted women whether they've ever thought about implants, because when you're dealing with a disease that attacks a major part of your appearance, what you really want is someone implying that you weren't so hot even before the cancer diagnosis. Finally, he made some snarky remarks about feminists thinking his work isn't important. Started, comma, do not get me. True, the presentation involved some useful intels, like that you should consult a plastic surgeon before going in for general breast surgery, because that'll get you better cosmetic results, but he ruined what could've been an excellent lecture by being condescending and a little creepy.
  • Wanda reported back on the Arizona round-up: dusty, understaffed, and fun, with an all-girl ground team to pin the calves (up to 300-pounders, aka all hands on deck cow) while Alex handled the branding. Aw. She got to ride a barrels horse who by the sound of it could've done the cattle work without a rider: "Coalie would spin on a dime and roar off after a cow that cut off where she shouldn't be, and he was completely unafraid of their horns and their bawling...all I had to do was keep him from running over Cynthia! When the calves were finally done and let go, he put his nose down to move along the little ones; it was sorta cute, no way to have a nice picture of that." Jealousy gnaweth my entrails.
  • I'm trying to get back into C25K. Last year I'd worked up to half an hour's running at a stretch, then let it lapse entirely, so it's back to square one. I find it hard to be disciplined about running programs, but I'm trying to do this (again) because I still have dreams where I find myself running and it's easy, and I think, "Oh. How silly not to have realized," but then I wake up. So I'm trying to bridge the gap. But...
  • Mexico! High altitude! Long scheduled workdays! Oh well. Rockninja and I fly out Tuesday, while those in command arrive on Wednesday. We're all a-flurry with trying to plan things, and I'm channeling my nerves into wardrobe angst and stress about my rusty Spanish. But there is balm in Gilead: One of our partners is coming up from Argentina and called with an important question: "Apart from dulce de leche and alfajores, what should I be bringing you?" Oh man. MAN. I will be worse than Zeus.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Winning the lottery

Genetics are less of a crapshoot when there's evidence suggesting that you were cloned in your mother's basement lab. Long story short, my first-ever cholesterol check (I know, I know, save your nagging) came up super-bueno, despite my marked carnivorous tendencies and slackerly exercise ways. Apparently this is a trait on La Mère's side of the family, and it's true that the women on that half of the tree tend to live long lives while never giving up their steak habits. Maybe the LDL piggybacks onto scotch molecules that are moving toward the liver.

The mini-med lecture this week was on cardiac health and tipped me off to the online Framingham calculator. If the math is right, my chance of a stroke or heart attack in the next 10 years is below 1%. Celebratory Squeez-Bacon for all!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cultured individuals

As someone who never really found the joy in cooking, I am always pleasantly surprised when my kitchen endeavors turn out as they're supposed to. This culinary trepidation is related in part to the incredible trauma that ensued when a high school friend and I decided to essay making kulich one year. Kulich is an ambitious multi-stage undertaking that probably shouldn't be entrusted to by kids who are easily distracted by, if memory serves, mocking Kevin Costner's accent in "Robin Hood: Prince of Cheese." Then, too, for reasons largely outside our control, namely that the local firebug set alight the woods behind her house just as we started the first kneading, we got sticky yellow dough all over the place as well as the phone when we dialed up the guys in big red trucks. (Imagine the thrill of said friend's mother, who had overcome her doubts about leaving us alone with this ambitious baking project, on returning home to find the firemen deploying hoses toward her back yard, a thin pall of smoke over the block, and her neighbors standing on the street staring toward her home. Thank God for the person who caught her by the shoulders as she barreled toward us, shook her firmly, and said, "Elaine. ELAINE. It wasn't. Your. Kids. And everyone's okay.")

Anyway, once in a great while I find a recipe that calls out to me in its simplicity and promise of tasty result, and if it involves the lazy chef's friend, the slow cooker, well, sign me up. So finding out that you can make yogurt in a crockpot with a minimum of skill sounded just the ticket. The local farmers market has a new vendor, Clear Spring Creamery, that carries whole unhomogenized milk. It was fate.

The tendency of people to talk to one another at farmers markets, in defiance of the modern rule that we politely ignore one another, is a mixed blessing, but this time I'm grateful for it, because the guy next to me mentioned that his family makes yogurt at home and that you can just put the stuff in the oven with a light on, even if you're not using a gas oven. Hm. That offered a lower potential for disaster than the original instruction to wrap the crockpot in towels, so I tried it.

Half a gallon of milk, some Chobani plain yogurt as a starter, into the oven with the lot, and lo, when I crawled out of bed today, ecce marvolo! A giant crock of tangy-smelling...stuff! I drizzled honey onto some of it for breakfast. Wow. No wonder some people enjoy this cooking business.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I don't write much about my job here, because they're watching I'd rather keep my work and personal lives separate to a largish extent. But I do like my employer; we get to wear metaphorical white hats and enjoy literal bennies. One of the highlights of the latter is a full week dedicated to "we love our employees" activities, wherein there are catered meals, classes on gardening, seated massages, drawings for prizes, and other entertainments. It's dot-commular, except that we're intentionally not-for-profit.

This year I'm entering a couple of shots in the staff photography contest. Il Padre's skill with a camera has not transferred; whatever advice he's given about composition and technique has, quark-like, gone straight through my skull without penetrating. But even a blind pig et cetera, and I quite like the two pictures I'm entering.

This is the back field at my grandmother's, after a storm moved through. The thunder-heavy front rolled across the county as we were driving back from a hamburger supper at the local KoC hall, and had I not had my grandmother and great-aunt in the car I'd've pulled over 20 times to get pictures of the light shifting through buttery yellow into unearthly oranges and grey-blues, with a double rainbow arching huge across the sky. By the time we were home and I could run out to get this picture, the second arc had faded, but it doesn't matter here. The spanish moss in the trees by the watering tank makes them look strange and menacing, although to my knowledge they've never gone walking.

Getting good upward shots with a point-and-shoot in Recoleta Cemetery is a bitch. The lanes are narrow and the tombs poke up inconveniently; back up far enough to get something entirely into frame, and another bit of stonework is almost bound to jut into your field. This is some comfort when I look at all the pictures for which that excuse doesn't work. (Fortunately, certain subjects are so jaw-dropping that a photographer's lack of skillz is immaterial. Click the link and ask yourself about the person who chose that monument.) I'd be happier if this angel's wings weren't clipped a little, but otherwise it's not entirely terrible.

The prize for this contest is bragging rights: The winning entries are printed and framed in the office gallery. But everyone's pictures make it into the permanent slideshow, and keen competitors sharpen their lenses for the next year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Goth goth goth, POSE, aaaand chili half-smoke

Summarizing the weekend has rarely been easier, but it does look a little odd.

I've gotten onto a major gothic kick in the reading department and am midway through both The Castle of Otranto and The Monk, having polished off the somewhat less ridiculous Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard. All I can say about The Monk is that it's either one of the best future-oriented jokes—something Lewis was hoping would cause neverending laughter a hundred years or so along—or a perfectly horrifying ball o' cheese. Not only are there bleeding nun-ghosts who demand marriage and/or laying (heh) of their spectres, unholy fiends who pose as the models for pr0n unusually well-venerated icons, dark rites conducted in moldering crypts, and dirty dirty incest, there's a perverted pet bird who shows up solely to titillate a voyeur. I've lost track of the number of times people have met by coincidence and sat down to tell long involved "so I was walking through the woods and met this [bandit/distressed maiden/bleeding ghost/bandit dressed as a distressed sanguinous ghost-chickie]" stories that purely beggar description. No doubt English classes go right to town on this book, but on its own merits it walks a beautiful line between insultingly intricate and downright hee-larious. What little I've seen in Otranto promises much the same. No wonder people of Jane Austen's era worried about what reading this stuff would do to their kids' minds and morals. Good times!

Because woman does not live by goth alone, Teal and I made the traffic-clogged drive out to the National Arboretum on Sunday to frolic and take silly pictures, which I will upload soonest [ETA: Flickr link]. Jeans are not conducive to yoga poses, and my Crow is not yet consistent enough that I wanted to try it on the flagstoned verge of a scummy lily pond, but at least we were out in the air and enjoying ourselves. The Arboretum is home to an enormous collection of Glenn Dale azaleas, only a few of which were in bloom; we mostly amused ourselves by peering at their names ("Glenn Dale Bacchante. Presumably you don't let guys stray off the path here, euan oi oi oi oi?" "Glenn Dale Shameless. Goodness!") and trying to figure out what the principles of organization were.

Lest all that healthy trekkin' and triangle-posin' have accidentally conferred any healthful benefits upon us, we went back into downtown and joined several hundred other people who had decided to close out the weekend by standing in line at Ben's Chili Bowl. You can kinda sorta tell that President Obama had visited there, what with the stickers of the Presidential seal featuring his face, the wall-size poster of him with Mayor Fenty, and the ball-point addendum under the "Who Eats Free at Ben's: Bill Cosby and the Obama Family" note that reads, "BUT HE PAID." So did we, for chili-cheese half-smokes, fries, and chocolate shakes. My God, you know you're in for indigestion after a meal at Ben's. But it is so so worth it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I will put the bite on this one

Lear has been so mannerly of late that I have stopped wearing my tacked cheap gloves and switched to a spendier microsuede-and-mesh pair. Too much too soon; Lear nipped my index finger right at the first knuckle last night as I was taking him out, and had it not been for luck I might be typing with a stump (or, more likely, slamming painkillers and whining dictation). They may be vegetarians, but horses have significant dentition.

For this resurgence in nippage, I unfairly blame the influence of Manny, the barn's newest rescue project. He has a JC tat and shows some signs of understanding dressage, but his last owners must've left him in an astroturf paddock; paint him white and he'd be Death's toast-rack of a mount. The barn is working on feeding him up, though it's beyond me why they thought he should be doing any work at all, rather than eating his head off in a decent field for a few months. And someone put the pain on this horse at some point, because never was such a schoolie for biting and kicking. He works fine under saddle and has an adorable muley face, so it's a shock when he tries to knock the crap out of anyone near him on the ground. It takes two people to get him groomed, one wielding the brushes (gently, what with all his ribs right there for everyone to see) and one holding his halter or a crop to distract him. His rider had trouble with him after class, so I left Lear for a few minutes and stood at Manny's head while she went over him with the soft brush and picked out his feet. He didn't try to bite me, and he stopped trying to kick her; maybe in the past he got smacked around by someone who couldn't get away with it in front of other people. Pat is considering spending a few hours just grooming him so that he learns that the brushes don't mean bad things—if he can hang in there, he'll soon find that grooming time in a barn full of city girls is his ticket to fat city.

Lear continues to be my problem child with a work ethic. He managed a few strides of half-pass to the left; going to the right, Pat thinks he twists a hind leg oddly and worries that he's got an undiagnosed conformation hiccup. It might be that, or it might be that he's still not 100% sure of what I'm asking (as is only fair, since I'm still sorting out the signals) and is woggly on trying to keep his balance. We had him back in his old saddle—one of these days I'll get stick for using his standard girth but not his marked saddle—and that seemed to make him calmer. He still frolics a little when asked for the canter, so depart work is in order, but the spooking and stargazing were much reduced.

The most shocking thing about this week's mini-med lecture on emergency departments and the "golden hour" following trauma was not that the segment on ED structure, program, assets, and challenges was the most interesting section, or that there was a minimum of gooooore, or even that the size of a janitorial service can affect an ED's ability to process patients efficiently. No, it was that the presenter, who is in charge of the university's thriving collaboration with MedStar, admitted that he had never seen an episode of "ER." How scandalous! How will he ever know to learn Life Lessons from his patients?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

And in today's edition of "Waaaaant..."

ThinkGeek provides the best camping equipment for anyone bound for snowy climes: a Tauntaun sleeping bag. Y'all, I MUST HAVE THIS.

Yes, I know. April 1.