Archive for July, 2011


Camp: Week 2

Various observances and overheard conversations:

88˚ and 81% humidity is just too too.

No matter how much you like it, or how many ways they make it, a person can only eat hummus so many days in a row. (The same can not be said about coffee or chocolate.)

Anything cooked over a campfire tastes better. Okay, maybe not a cake, but you know what I mean.

You will only see something like this at camp:


Overheard outside the dance building:

Junior girl 1: “I’m really worried about my hair.”
Junior girl 2: “Your hair’s awesome!
Junior girl 3: “I wouldn’t say awesome, but it looks fine.”

Which girl are you? I’d be 1, wanting validation, and 2, wanting to be encouraging, thinking maybe I should be 3 and not allow 1 to go through life misapprehending her actual appearance.


There is something wrong with boys of a certain age.

For example:

Heard in the piano building, Intermediate camper, boy: “It’s a known fact that everyone is secretly in love with the smell of their own farts.”

Four boys are walking across camp this morning. One bends over, picks up a wood chip and drops it through the hole in the drainage tile. The other three stop to watch. “Heh, heh, heh.”

Three 12-year olds are rehearsing the scherzo movement of Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat. (I know, right?)  The pianist (girl) and violinist (girl) are poised, arms ready for the downbeat. The cellist, (boy), is leaning, elbows on knees, poking a bug caught in a spider web dangling from the piano’s leg. “What IS that?”


What does it mean?


This morning’s conversation:

Forgetting to put peanuts in the Pad Thai –> Forgetting to put the stuffing overflow into the oven for Thanksgiving dinner –> if the point of stuffing is to stuff the turkey why do we make so much and should we be eating less? –> the French Canadians make stuffing with a grain rather than bread and chopped turkey liver –> is it a good idea to eat the organ that is responsible for removing toxins from the body, and wouldn’t it be just like taking the fuel filter out of your car and eating that.

All before the first cup of coffee.



the weirdness of facebook

I posted about this just the other day, but now it’s getting even weirder.

My dentist wants me to “like” him on facebook.

I guess I could look at it as a member of a misunderstood and unappreciated profession trying to redeem himself — “I’m likable, really I am!” — as no one really seems to like to go to the dentist, myself included. And even if I liked him, (which I don’t, really, I barely know him), does that mean I have to “like” him?

(In a barely related story, I actually think dentistry is quite possibly one of the most ingenious scams ever visited upon mankind, as a dentist can tell you, for example, that your child has “suspicious” areas on his or her teeth which really should be tended to, as the dentist points at ambiguous gray spots on your child’s Xrays that look an awful lot like a lot of other spots on other of your child’s teeth on the Xrays, and you nod sagely [the emperor has no clothes] and agree because god forbid you look stupid or be an inadequate parent and cynically refuse to take care of your child’s teeth.

I also think that dental insurance has been the one of the worst things that could happen to the average consumer — have any of you been given a reduced rate for procedures because you don’t have insurance? They try to spin this as aren’t-they-considerate-they-are-giving-you-a-break, but it seems to be more like stores that mark their goods up 25% and then have a 15% off sale. Some insurance companies are countering the possibility that they’re being scammed by limiting what they’re willing to pay for a given procedure, but the last two dentists I’ve dealt with merely passed the excess on to me.)


What I really see it as, (remember what “it” was?), is a perversion of what most of us understand to be facebook’s “mission,”* and a descent into rampant and shameless self-promotion/advertising. You know how most people can’t stand to watch network TV anymore, because for every 19.3 minutes of “entertainment” (and I’m using that term loosely, considering the state of 99.99999% of what’s on television) you have to slog through 11.7 minutes of commercials? Pretty soon we won’t be able to check what our barely-acquaintances are eating for dinner without paging through 3 pages of status updates from our dentists, acupuncturists, internists, and the postman.

Do you think, if I do “like” them on facebook, they’ll at least stop scamming/overcharging me?

*Have any of you actually seen facebook’s mission statement? Maybe I’m missing the point entirely, and it was just to make a boatload of money, in which case it’s not a perversion at all.


Another of LIfe’s Persistent Questions

In the car, Sunday.
Daughter: Mom, who invented the oval?

Does it say somewhere in the How to Be a Child handbook that he or she must ask lots of questions, and it’s important that some of the questions don’t have answers?

Or maybe one of you out there know.

Did someone invent the oval?

Inquiring minds want to know.


First Week of Summer Camp

(This was written yesterday, Wednesday, but not posted until today, Thursday, because I don’t have internet access at “home.”)

Left home on Sunday for three weeks of teaching at an arts camp in northern Michigan.

Sunday was a very hot day, and since we were moving all of our stuff up in two small Toyota cars, had to make discretionary decisions regarding what to bring, such as: decent pots and pans, and bedding, or an air conditioner. Being the foodies that we are, and the fact that we don’t really enjoy sleeping on bare mattresses (not that we know this for a fact, as we never have done so, it is not hard to imagine the unpleasantness), we left the air conditioner at home.

I am now seriously questioning that decision, as this week coincides with one of the hottest weeks on record, with today’s temperatures very near 100˚ and humidity around 74%.  I like to say, on days like these, that there’s no air in the air. Luckily I got to spend much of my day in air-conditioned buildings, but I’m still exhausted; every venture outside feels like a kick in the chest. How do people in equatorial climates and without air conditioning actually get anything done?  (Seriously, how? This is not a rhetorical question, I really want to know.)

Yesterday was Day One of camp, a.k.a “Can You Find the Missing Camper? Day” I put a lot of miles on my tired, hot, socked* feet trying to track down poor hapless early adolescents. I was 2 for 3. (Be reassured, the 3rd one was never here, which would have been good to know yesterday, when they were telling us that he was, but nobody knew where. )


A friend and colleague rescued a foreign girl, lost, near tears, and escorted her around with a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Another young girl – 12? 13? carried a bass down the sidewalk that was at least a foot taller than she was. Why would anyone play an instrument bigger than he or she was? Oh, hmmm, right.

We were awakened the other night by an approaching storm, and then laid in bed while we experienced what felt like the apocalypse. I have never seen that much lightning. Apparently there are 1,000 storms over the planet earth at any given moment, but Saturn has only had 6 in recordable history, the last of which was last week, and all of which have encompassed the entire planet. Saturn is at least 9 times the size of the earth. That’s a lot of lightning.

This afternoon I put Only Daughter in the bathtub with water as cool as we could get it from the tap (not that cool, unfortunately), and two trays of ice cubes. I told her I was making a H_________ cocktail; needing only either a maraschino cherry or an olive.

Turned pages for a friend’s performance tonight, and then we snuck backstage to sit behind the curtain, with our backs to the air-conditioning vent, listening to the rest of the concert. The stage lights made a beautiful scalloped shadow of the curtain hem along the floor, and listening to performers we couldn’t see contributed to actually listening, rather than listening while actually mostly watching. There was a premiere of a piece by a composer who teaches here in the summer. One of the few contemporary composers who doesn’t seem to be writing absolute crap, but music with melody, and color, and actual development of musical ideas. It was evocative, lovely.

Then this soprano, this wonderful soprano.

Please allow me to digress, briefly.

One of the requirements of this particular camp, as of many, is that faculty and students wear a uniform. One of the requirements of our uniform is that our shirts be tucked in. I don’t tuck in my shirt. I’d like to lose 10 lbs., maybe 15, and I don’t tuck in my shirt. I don’t tuck in my shirt at home, and I’m not going to tuck it in here. I don’t like my little tummy to show, and that’s that.

This soprano is at least 50 lbs overweight, probably more. She is beautiful, and blond, and can sing like no one I’ve ever heard before, and she stood on stage with her shirt tucked in, surrounded by 8 “violincelli,” and sang beautiful Spanish music in a beautifully Spanish way. (If you don’t know what that means, it means she flirted shamelessly at the appropriate times, and had a helluva good time doing it.)

I want to be her when I grow up.

Including not caring that I have a tummy, caring so little that I tuck in my shirt when I’m supposed to, and flirt shamelessly with 300 people at once, tossing my head and sending my beautiful voice ringing to the rafters. And having a helluva good time doing it.

Yeah, I definitely want to be her when I grow up.

Oh, and it’s so hot that I’ve made yogurt by heating a quart of milk, letting it cool, adding 2 tablespoons of yogurt, and LETTING IT SIT ON MY COUNTER. This is cool as far as science experiments go. Nevertheless, I still haven’t decided if I will actually eat it.

And it’s so hot that Only Daughter and I were recently commenting on the fact that things really seemed to have cooled down, and when I checked the temperature on my iPhone it was 90˚. I’m not kidding; this was cooler. And it was 9:40 p.m.

Oh, and I have poison ivy. On both arms. The rash doesn’t like the heat. I look like I have impetigo. Or leprosy. Or something really disgusting and really contagious. As I was passing chamber music parts around to my two groups today I noticed some of the students recoiling from my arm as it passed in their vicinity. This was not mentioned in the Blood-Borne-Pathogens movie nor in the How to Cough/Sneeze Properly video.  A colleague sat next to me at a faculty meeting yesterday and pretended to scratch his arms. But he played beautifully tonight, so I’ve decided not to steal a spark plug out of his car or replace the water in his ice cube trays with vodka. I am, however, open to less destructive but equally entertaining suggestions which may or may not include planting poison ivy around his cabin. (I wouldn’t do that, he has innocent children to be spared, although his youngest son threw dirt at me at lunch.) And the rash has spread to my left, well, hmmm, ribcage area. This is an awkward place to scratch. And anyone who tells you that poison ivy doesn’t “spread,” that you can only get it from the plants is LYING TO YOUR FACE AND DESERVES TO BE SLAPPED. No poison ivy plants touched my left, umm, ribcage, and yet, there it is.

Crap. I’ve gone over 600 words again. Sorry.

*Socks are part of the uniform requirement. Wearing socks in the summer offends me on every level. And yet.


The joys of contact dermatitits

Do deer get poison ivy?

Just wondering.

(I was going to post pictures of the rash from my Google images search, but they’re disgusting. Don’t do it. And if you do anyway, you have only yourself to blame; don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I do think it’s interesting that the human species has managed to bring about the extinction of thousands of species of plant and animal, yet we can’t quite figure out what to do about poison ivy.


heard in the car, today; a synopsis

Daughter: “Can I go live with Dad? He has a dog.”

Me: “No.”

Daughter: “Can I go to horse camp? It only costs $500.”

Me. “No.”

Daughter: “Can you quit your job and become a doctor? They make more money than you do and then you could afford horse camp.”

Me. “No.”

Daughter: “Can I have a frog? He can live with my fish.”

Me. “No.”



how do you know when the honeymoon’s over?

Last night Husband and I found ourselves home, alone, for the first time in weeks, and we spent the next two hours, yup, you guessed it, unwrapping marvels of modern engineering and setting them up on the counter. There were no passionate embraces, no shedding of garments, no fevered groping amid piles of cardboard detritus and bubble wrap.

Why, you ask? Is this an indication of a loss of passion? Are the flames of love dwindling? Have we grown tired of each other, bored, listless about what was once, not all that long ago, the driving force of our existence?

Well no, not really; at least I don’t think so.

Rather, the phenomenon can be explained by this single act:

Husband just bought a new espresso machine and coffee grinder.








They are very nice, and very pretty, and very intimidating, and I hope I don’t set the darn things on fire or run the boiler dry accidentally or forget to temperature surf before making my next shots of espresso. (Don’t ask.) (Okay, if you must know):

(Who knew?)

ANYWAY, these “marvels of modern engineering” (I was corrected, firmly, a couple days ago after calling them “contraptions”) came via FedEx yesterday. This was a relief, as the monitoring of the check-in points along the shipping route and the logistics of making sure someone would be home at the pivotal moment was taking up most of our free time.

They are, according to Husband, the best machines available at a comparably reasonable price, with 237 grinding options (I’m not making this up) available on the Baratza Vario grinder and solid stainless steel construction plus some other features I don’t understand well enough to list here on the Rancilio Silvia (we will call her Silvia for short) espresso maker.  (Husband actually launched into a long explanation last night, but all I heard was “Wuh wah wah waaah” like when the teacher talks on Charlie Brown.)

Last night, after the lesson on tamping pressure using a glass and the bathroom scale (I still don’t tamp hard enough, as my espresso comes out in under 15 seconds, and we’re aiming for a leisurely 25), and my ignored Dance of the Seven Veils, I fell asleep while Husband read the instruction manual.

He did wake me at 7:15 this morning. . .

with an expertly foamed cappuccino, followed by a lesson on appropriate grinding (!), brewing, and foaming technique.


He is very cute when he’s all professorial, and it was important that I learn how to run the MoME while home without him here as my barista.

I’m now working on my 5th and 6th shots of espresso, this time with milk that I actually foamed (last time it just got really really hot.)

I’m very proud.

I think they send the 2 lbs of coffee for “free” because they know you’ll use up one of them on Day 1 just practicing. Maybe they should include some tranquilizers to counter the effect of AlL tHaT cAfFeInE!!!!

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