Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Technical Note


For some reason, I'm not getting e-mail about blog comments. I have to go to the website to see them. So if your comment gets published days after you sent it to me, please know that I haven't been ignoring you; I've just forgotten to check the site!

Pressure? What pressure?


Two days ago, my friend Sharon came up with a brilliant solution to a nagging problem in the novel-so-far. This ties up all kinds of loose ends (even though I'm only halfway through the book) and also considerably deepens the characters' emotional turmoil.

As somebody once said, "Your job as a novelist is to find characters you love and torture them for several hundred pages." Yep.

My other two faithful readers, Gary and Jim, thoroughly approve of the change, but it will require a major revision of the first eight chapters, which I've already revised once. I'm going to go ahead and write the remaining seven chapters according to the new schema, and then go back and revise the whole thing.

Today I realized that to make the September 1 deadline for submitting the manuscript, I'll have to write four pages a day. That doesn't include the Alaska cruise, or a chunk of August when I want to take a class in Berkeley, but it's still a scary prospect, especially since I have to start now, in the thick of teaching.

I've been talking to my students about ritual as a way to get into writing space: tonight I devised my own pre-writing ritual, which involves a tape of ocean waves, a candle, a Tibetan singing bowl, a lucky beach rock I found on one of our San Francisco jaunts, and the smell of lavendar. Tonight, at least, it worked. I cranked out my four pages, although I don't know how good they are.

Wish me luck, please. We're talking about months of very consistent work here, a longer stretch than I've managed in the past; it will be an endurance event, and I'll need to keep up my strength, not to mention my faith in the abundance of narrative and my own story-telling ability.

I swam for an hour this afternoon, which I'm sure helped this evening's writing. I hope to walk tomorrow, weather permitting. Today's weather was ghastly, gloomy gray with unremitting snow flurries. But spring's coming, right?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Day of the None Ring


March 25, as all my fellow Tolkien geeks are surely aware, is the date of the destruction of the One Ring and the Fall of Sauron.

Huzzah huzzah! Let us eat chocolate. Sam and Frodo would want it that way!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Escapism


We just booked our flights to Seattle for our Alaska cruise in May. Yay! This is especially exciting because we'll be able to visit friends we haven't seen in years now. One's a very good friend from college: my first college boyfriend, actually. He's now married with two kids, but we've known each other so long that he feels like family. Among other things, he's the only one of my current friends who met and remembers dad's second wife.

The second friend is the only person from grad school I'm still in touch with, a human-rights activist turned therapist who lives two miles from where our ship will be docking. Convenient!

Thinking about Hawai'i got me through the first part of the semester; thinking about Alaska will get me through the second. This is very decadent, I know. I'm enjoying every minute of it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Day Back


Today went fine. I was a bit discombobulated, but so were several of my students (who seemed grateful that I understood), so I had company. I wore one of my Hawai'ian shirts and several pieces of Hawai'ian jewelry, including a lucky turtle pendant, to cheer myself up.

Gary always makes a snack for my graduate seminar. I can't go three-plus hours without eating, so I don't ask my students to, either. Instead, I bring in something for all of us to share. It makes the class more informal -- although this one would be anyway, with only five students! -- and everyone seems to enjoy the food.

Today Gary made potato salad. One student, who's already asked for several of his recipes, said after tasting it, "Your husband's a genius." Yes, he is! Meanwhile, my longtime friend Sharon's also in the seminar, and she showed up with Hawai'ian style potato chips so I wouldn't be too homesick. It was potatoes all the way down!

After dinner I knit a bit for the first time in days, and then practiced the fiddle, which I didn't do enough of in Hawai'i and also hadn't done yesterday. I practiced for an hour as penance. Charlene has me doing what she calls "target practice," where you hold the fiddle in place with your head, drop your left hand, and then bring your hand up, plunk your third finger down on the A string (or whatever), and try to produce the right note, in tune. She points out that if one is, for instance, playing a solo on stage -- as if I ever will! -- one has to be able to hit the right note the first time without feeling around for it.

This is damnably difficult. First of all, getting the note exactly in tune, rather than a hair or more sharp or flat, requires all kinds of minute adjustments. (And I'd never be able to tell if I were in the right place without my electronic tuner.) The goal is to be able to bring your hand up from the dropped position and play the correct note ten times in a row. So far, the best I've been able to manage is three, and I have eight more notes to go after I nail this one!

Approached this way, playing the violin well seems well-nigh impossible. I don't know how anyone ever gets exactly the right position.

After that frustrating exercise, I got back to the book for the first time since January. Yay! Gary points out that I have to finish the book and get the second half of the advance for us to have any hope of getting back to Hawai'i next year, and that's a major inducement. I only wrote a page, but I enjoyed it and learned some new stuff about two of my characters, so I feel much encouraged.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One Year


Today's the anniversary of Dad's death. I slept very late today, through church (jet lag didn't help) and woke up feeling very heavy. After a day of getting nothing done, I finally went for a walk around 4:30 just to get my blood moving. Gary came with me.

A little before 7:00, when Dad died, I lit a candle and put on The Lark Ascending, one of Dad's favorite pieces of music, which I listened to every morning for weeks after his death. That quiet tribute felt right.

As for my dreaded spring-equinox curse -- which, at this point, not even super-rational Gary discounts, since he's seen it in action for so many years -- well, we'll see how this next week goes. The week after break is often a bad one at school, where people who still want to be on vacation (including yours truly) are brittle and snappish. If I win through to next weekend with no mishaps, I'll be very happy.

As weird as this sounds, I feel like Dad's protecting me this year. Even if that's my imagination, it's a nice thing to imagine. I know he would if he could, so I choose to believe that he is.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Home


We're back after a smooth, swift journey aided by tail winds. We miss the ocean, but it's lovely to be back home with the cats, all of whom have been super-affectionate. And it's pretty warm here today, so the readjustment isn't as much of a shock as it could be.

I'm going to swim today -- sans turtles! -- to stretch out my back, which was giving me some trouble on Oahu. (The day we went to the Bishop Museum, I lay down on a bench to do some stretching exercises, since my back was on the verge of spasm, and was immediately visited by two concerned guards who wanted to know if I was okay.) Then, alas, I'll need to begin class prep for next week.

Spring Break's been lovely, but it's almost over.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And Another

Palm Trees from the Lanai

This is -- *sniff!* -- our last sunset in Waikiki, at least this year. We had a lovely last snorkel on our local beach this morning; when we returned the rental equipment, I bought my own snorkel. I hope I get to use it before too long!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hawai'ian Shirt to End All Hawai'ian Shirts

We went shopping after dinner, and Gary picked up this little number precisely because it's so garish. Time was when he'd wear nothing but beige; I'm very proud of him!

Oh, and speaking of colors, I should have mentioned that since we swam with green sea turtles today, we properly observed St. Patrick's Day!

Partly Cloudy, with Turtles


Hanauma Bay is, not to put too fine a point on it, a circus. After breakfast, we showed up at the Kuhio Avenue bus stop only to be informed by a guy with a schedule that we'd missed the bus by fifteen minutes, and that it only runs once an hour (this last part I knew, and it's odd, since this is one of the most popular routes on the island). He offered us a $5 van ride, so we took it.

When we got there, we had to wait for half an hour on line to buy tickets. Then we had to wait in another line for ten minutes to watch the mandatory nine-minute orientation video, which reminds everyone not to touch coral or other marine life and also not to feed any of the critters.

Then we finally tramped down to the beach. It's indeed very pretty, but already looked like Coney Island on July 4. Blankets, blankets everywhere. We dumped our stuff off to the side, and then I went to ask a lifeguard where to see turtles.

"Out," he said, waving past the breakwater. "Anywhere out there."

"Is it safe to swim out there?"

He thought about this. "Well, right now there's a strong current that could pull you out. But if you wait a few hours, the tide will be coming in, which means that current will be going in the other direction."

Good enough. We snorkeled a bit; we saw larger fish than we have in Waikiki, but also fewer. Fish were far outnumbered by flailing tourists. (As a flailing tourist myself, I mean this in the nicest possible way.) Also, low tide meant it was shallow, which made not getting scraped by coral a particular challenge. Every time I touched coral I thought guiltily, "I'm committing genocide!" since the video had emphasized that even if coral seems like dead rock, it's alive and fragile.

When Gary and I were both above water, I suggested that we hike up to the snack bar for lunch and then come back down in the afternoon to find turtles. He agreed. But the main snack bar was closed, and the hotdog vendors didn't take plastic, and we'd used up half our cash on the van ride. (Note to self: always carry lots of cash on Oahu.) We had enough money for one measly hotdog each, but it was better than nothing.

Back down to the beach. I found another lifeguard and asked if conditions beyond the breakwater were better now. He said he wouldn't advise it unless we were strong swimmers. I don't think I'd match a lifeguard's estimate of a "strong swimmer," and Gary -- who spends far less time in water than I do -- was even less confident. "Okay," I told Gary. "So we're giving up on the turtles and just looking for fish."

In the meantime, it had been raining on and off.

Somewhat disconsolately, we geared up and headed back into the water. At least the water was deeper now. Just let me see a turtle, I prayed wistfully as I swam towards the coral. If I only see a turtle, this fiasco will be worth it.

As soon as I reached the nearest coral formation, I saw two turtles, contentedly feeding. Gary and I happily hung above them for several minutes, watching them eat. I watched one of them come up to the surface for air. They seemed completely untroubled by our presence; I noticed that at least one of them was tagged, which meant they'd been handled by humans before, but I carefully tried to keep several feet of distance. Then, feeling generous, I popped my head above water and let some nearby snorkelers know that we'd found turtles.

The area was immediately mobbed, and the water became an impenetrable whirl of fins. What had I been thinking? Feeling less generous, I followed Gary as he swam away, but at some point I noticed a third turtle and peeled away to watch it (breaking the "always snorkel with your buddy" rule, since Gary was ahead of me and hadn't seen the latest critter).

A male tourist several feet away from me had seen the turtle too. He started hollering for his wife. "Oy, Ellie, over here! There's a turtle over here!" I understood that: I'd have hollered for Gary, too, if he hadn't already seen turtles.

But when Ellie arrived, she touched the turtle with her fin -- by mistake, I believe -- and it reacted by swimming away quite quickly, with Ellie and spouse in close pursuit. Then I saw the husband reach out and touch the turtle.

Hello! What part of "don't touch the turtles" don't you understand? What part of "endangered species protected by law" don't you understand? What part of "$5,000 fine for harrassing this animal" don't you understand?

I lost it. I stuck my head above the water and screamed at Ellie and Hubby, who were now also above the water, "Don't touch the turtle! That's illegal! Leave that turtle alone! Do not harrass that turtle!"

They didn't turn to face me. I'm sure they thought I was a crazy person. By the hunched set of their shoulders as they paddled away again, they might have been apologetic; more likely, they were just annoyed.

I was furious. I went ashore and vented to a lifeguard, who told me that I'd done all I could do, and then helpfully added that turtles bite when they're mad. Forgive me, Dear Readers, but I confess to hoping that Ellie's Spouse got bitten. Grrrrrr. By their accents, I think they were Aussies: just goes to show that Americans aren't the only ugly tourists in the world.

But my wish was answered: I saw turtles, and Gary did too, for the first time ever. Waiting for the bus back to Waikiki, I asked him what adjectives he'd use to describe them. "Graceful," he said. "Primordial. Eternal."

I told him that I'd add "Serene," and he agreed.

We love turtles. Seeing the turtles definitely made the expedition worth it!

Rainy Season


March is the rainy season in Hawai'i, and sure enough, it's been cloudy and on-and-off rainy the last two days. Yesterday we used our bus passes to go to the Bishop Museum, a natural-history museum with nice science exhibits for kids and a fabulous hall devoted to the history and anthropology of Hawai'i. I was very moved by the description of indigenous Hawai'ian spirituality, in which all things are alive and interconnected. (As usual, it's taken Western folks many moons indeed to begin to develop any of the same ideas.) The exhibits included video clips; there were three of interviews with a Hawai'ian fisherman who described, with stunning eloquence, the spiritual aspect of fishing. He called it "a wonderment of grace," the idea that the living ocean gives pieces of itself to feed the world.

We also went to a planetarium show about how the ancient Polynesians navigated by the stars and waves. Until recently, anthropologists assumed that the people who migrated from Tahiti hit Hawai'i only by accident. In tbe 1970s, though, a group called the Polynesian Voyaging Society built a traditional Hawai'ian canoe from modern materials and, using ancient wayfinding techniques (reading stars by night and wave patterns by day, without compasses or sextants) successfully sailed the vessel from Hawai'i to Tahiti and back. There have been other voyages since then; the website makes fascinating reading, especially in the sections describing daily life on the canoe, where more than a dozen people live and work in 400 square feet of space for weeks at a time.

The planetarium demonstration of wayfinding convinced me that I'd never be able to manage it! Fortunately, the Honolulu bus system is wondrously simple by comparison; we got back to the hotel with no trouble at all, and then -- to our delight -- found a superb Thai restaurant right around the corner. Pricy, but worth it!

Today we took the bus to the Honlulu Academy of Arts, a lovely art museum with a small but impressive collection of art ranging from medieval stained glass to Hawai'ian modernism to the European masters. There's an emphasis on Asian art -- Japanese, Chinese, and Korean -- with a special gallery devoted to several Islamic pieces from the estate of Doris Duke. Gary and I love Islamic art, but we decided that $25/head for a tour of Duke's estate, Shangri La, was a bit much. Maybe next time, since I suspect we'll be saving our pennies, if we have any left, to come back here.

A block from the museum there's a yarn store! In Hawai'i! But alas, my dreams of Hawai'ian made bamboo-and-pineapple yarn were unrealized: there's no yarn made in Hswai'i, and all they had was stuff I can get at home. I'm glad we looked, though.

In the afternoon we trekked down to our local snorkeling beach. Conditions weren't as good as yesterday: it was high tide and overcast, so the water was murkier -- and the currents stronger -- than the first time we were there. We still saw lots of fish, though! Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll go to Hanauma Bay, where I devoutly hope to see turtles.

Tonight after dinner, again at the Thai restaurant, Gary came back to the hotel room to watch bad movies while I embarked on a shopping expedition to pick up various birthday and Christmas gifts. I did fairly well, although I nearly became lost in the maze of the International Marketplace. (When they say, "Get lost on a shopping safari," they aren't kidding!) It's a stressful setting where most of the vendors, almost all very energetic Asian women, expect you to bargain, and where they're always trying to get you to buy yet another item from their cart (where the wares are nearly identical to the next cart). I like what I bought, although I honestly can't say that the stuff isn't plastic instead of the bone or shell it's supposed to be. But I got quite a few gifts and only one item for myself (this trip; I got two things for myself there a few days ago). Gary said, "You're Christmas shopping in March?" But hey, no time like the present, and some of the pressure will be off come December.

So those are the latest updates. Wish us luck tomorrow, good weather and plentiful turtles!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Even More Critters!


Wow. Turns out there's a fabulous snorkeling beach about four blocks from our hotel. We didn't see turtles -- although the lifeguard says she's sometimes seen them there -- but we saw lots and lots of lots of fish: big fish, small fish, pale fish, bright fish, and one absolutely gorgeous yellow and orange and turquoise fish that's about the prettiest thing I've ever seen, but that I can't find on the fish ID card Snorkel Bob's gave us.

Gary said, "This is like swimming in an aquarium." Also, we got there early enough that for the first hour or so, we were the only people in the water. Amazing!

There were a few minor mishaps. I swam out pretty far, to the spot where the lifeguard said she'd seen turtles, and wound up being pulled several beaches down by a strong current. (Respect Mother Ocean!) And both of us got some scrapes and bruises, from coral and rocks, getting back into shore, as careful as we tried to be not to touch or damage anything. But now we know the best entrance and egress point, and also know not to swim out too far, so that's all very useful info.

Gary loves this as much as I do, which is great. He's the hiker in the family, and I'm the swimmer: I can't keep up with him when he hikes, and he finds most swimming venues too cold, and has no interest in swimming laps. But we've finally found a sport we can share. Yay!

We're now thinking of buying our own snorkel equipment -- the snorkels and Gary's mask, anyway; fins are heavy to transport and inexpensive to rent -- and of planning more snorkel vacations in the future. Yay, snorkeling!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Many Critters


Today we went to the zoo, where we saw many monkeys, birds, and turtles, along with giraffes, a rhinoceros, hippos, meerkats, and, most marvelously of all, two gorgeous cheetahs. When Gary saw them, he immediately announced that he wanted to take one home. I believe the airlines would balk at that, however, and I don't think the situation would be very safe for our beloved housecats.

No pix today, alas, because my BlackBerry was in the hotel room recharging while we were at the zoo.

Ogling the cheetahs, we met a young guy who's volunteered at the zoo for years. He has a degree in computer science, but his real love is wildlife conservation. He's working to save two endangered bird species in the Philippines. Very interesting fellow.

After spending several hours at the zoo, we hiked what felt like several hours to the nearest Snorkel Bob's. There's a dive shop close to our hotel (we're staying at the Hyatt, for those of you who were wondering), but they didn't have a corrective mask strong enough for Gary. The clerk there very kindly called SB's and learned that they did have strong corrective masks, so she drew us a map and sent us over there. It was quite a trek!

But we got a mask that works for Gary, and because I already have corrective goggles, I only needed a snorkel and flns. We hauled our gear bags back to the hotel, changed out of our sweaty clothing into swimsuits, reapplied thick layers of SPF 50 sunscreen (no tans here, but with any luck, no skin cancer either) and went down to the beach to test the equipment.

The conditions were pretty lousy today -- overcast skies, murky water -- and this section of Waikiki's notoriously poor for snorkling. Even so, we saw fish, as I have the previous two days. The most magical moments were finding ourselves in the middle of huge schools of bait fish, being surrounded by constellations of silvery bodies flashing and turning as one. Even the most ordinary fish make snorkeling an amazing experience. We can't wait to check out better snorkeling beaches, starting tomorrow!

On Monday we'll buy four-day bus pssses and start exploring places we can't get to on foot. Tomorrow we'll snorkel nearby and then walk to the Ala Moana Shopping Center, where we hope fo find more dining options -- we had delicious but expensive sushi tonight -- and where Gary hopes to find a cinema, since he's jonesing for a movie fix.

I'm so glad he likes snorkeling. He's the hiking guy and I'm the water woman (I joked today about how maybe I'm a selkie, since I'm more comfortable in water than on land), so I'm delighted that we've found a water activity he likes as much as I do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Waikiki from Diamond Head

We walked there from the hotel, made it to the top, and walked back to the hotel, stopping once for fresh pineapple and once for sushi: both yummy! Later we went swimming in front of the hotel, and I saw more fish. Gary estimates that we walked at least six miles today, so we got our exercise!

Sunset from the Lanai

Another view from the lanai

Those underwater shadows are the coral reefs where I saw fish yesterday. Yay, fish!

The View Towards Diamond Head

Here's a shot looking the other way from the lanai.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Times Square with Fish. Also, Parrots.


So we're basically in the middle of Times Square transplanted to Oahu: big buildings, traffic, tacky tourist gift shops next to very expensive restaurants, that kind of thing. Kinda fun, except that we both got about three hours of sleep last night and then sat on airplanes forever, and trying to find tasty and affordable food in Times-Square-land definitely isn't a task for the sleep-deprived. We finally settled on a burger place that was fairly good and reasonable, if excessively loud. (We had a lovely lunch at our hotel, but it was also very expensive.)

The great part, though -- aside from the amazing view from our lanai -- is that we're literally right across the street from the beach. Mind you, the beach is mostly populated by extremely young people without stomachs wearing very skimpy swimsuits, but I did find a few people our age and of our general proportions, meaning that they actually have stomachs and other body parts that obey the laws of physics, so that was comforting.

I dashed into the water right away. It was very warm. Gary, who's intensely sensitive to cold, whimpered a little but got all the way in: I was proud of him! There were no waves to speak of, which is probably why this area's very popular for surfing lessons; about twenty people with surfboards were bobbing in the water. None of them ever got to shore that I saw, at least not under wave power.

I'd worn my new corrective goggles into the water, and they've already paid for themselves, because when I swam out to some corl (ugly coral, not pretty coral, but it was still coral), I saw fish!. Yellow fish with black stripes! White fish with black stripes in different widths, kind of like a bar code! Black fish! I didn't even have to rent snorkel gear and go somewhere special to see fish! They're right here!

Also, parrots. The hotel has an African Grey (hi, Inez!) and various other birds in big cages in the lobby. A bellhop told me that they only spend a few hours a day at the hotel; they live somewhere else. But as we were walking along the avenue after dinner, I saw various people with parrots on their shoulders. I don't know if this is some sort of Times-Squarian business ("Visit with a parrot for ten dollars a minute!") or if people in Oahu just wear their pet birds as accessories. I suspect the former.

In any case, I'll try to post more tomorrow. Sleepy now. Must go to bed.

The View from our Hotel Room

This is actually a bad view. Mostly, we just see beach and water and sky, but those pictures didn't have anough contrast to give a sense of scale.

Obviously, we got here. And we were upgraded to a very nice room!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chemistry Experiments


As of a week ago, I've gone off wheat to see if it will make me feel better (and make it easier for me to lose weight). So far, so good. I have noticeably less joint pain, which is a benefit two other friends have reported; one thought she'd have to have a hip replacement, but when she gave up wheat, the pain disappeared completely. I wouldn't call my improvement that dramatic, but I'll take what I can get!

So far, eating wheat-free has been less of a challenge than I'd have anticipated. We've located corn cereal and corn and rice pasta, and instead of eating my tuna salad on bread, I just eat it with a fork out of a tupperware container. We'll see how I fare in Honolulu -- we're leaving tomorrow! -- but since there's a lot of Asian cuisine there, I should be able to go the rice route without any trouble.

Meanwhile, last week I talked to my psychiatrist about the medication issue, which is, in a nutshell: On meds, I'm more socially comfortable and people seem more comfortable around me. But I don't write as much or as well. Off meds, I write much better, but my social relationships become more difficult. My shrink, who firmly believes I have to be on meds for the rest of my life -- even though I haven't been on them for most of my life -- said, "Okay, so this is what you have to figure out. Do you want to live in the safe box and have more friends, or do you want to be a passionate artist at the price of pushing some people away?"

Gary immediately said, "Passionate artist." Our friends Katharine and Jim immediately said, "Passionate artist." Actually, Jim didn't say that right away, but he asked me if I was on or off meds when I wrote The Necessary Beggar, and when I said I was off, he immediately said, "Then go off."

I made them all promise that they'll either put up with me when I'm difficult, or tell me if I've become too difficult to put up with, so I can go back on. I'm not doing this until after the end of the semester, though, and probably not until after our Alaska cruise.

I've been hearing a lot of "You shouldn't care what anyone else thinks of you," but frankly, I think that's hypocritical b.s. We're social animals: we're designed to care what others think of us, and none of us can function in jobs or families or congregations without paying at least nominal attention to the issue. There's been all kinds of research about how people fear rejection more than death, and about how rejection causes literal biological pain and takes a toll on health.

I vividly -- and painfully -- remember my old therapist in NYC, the one who was always pushing me to express my feelings, then turning around and telling me that I had to learn to be more contained. Hello! Can you say mixed messages?

In many ways, this has been the central conflict of my life. When I express authentic emotion, people tell me I'm inappropriate; when I express appropriate emotion, they tell me I'm inauthentic.

Sigh.

My current plan is to be very selective about whose opinions I buy into. Gary, Jim, Katharine, other close friends, and my sister will be my thermometers. As long as they aren't running screaming, I'll trust that I'm doing okay.

In other news:

We leave for Honolulu tomorrow! Yes, I already said that, but I like saying it.

The new bag arrived and I like it a lot, but the straps are a bit thin, so I've ordered some pads to make them more comfortable. With luck, those will arrive today, so I'll have them for the trip.

The new goggles came and are splendid.

I woke up this morning to find snow outside, although only a little.

Have I mentioned that we leave for Honolulu tomorrow?

Figaro Meets the Easter Bunny

You can see a smidgen of a teddy bear behind him. It's a wilderness around here, I'm telling you.

Harley and his Elephant

Both Harley and Figgy were hanging out on top of the yarn vault this morning, and I got some cute shots. Not gorgeously lit, but cute nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

In Which We're a Tad Less Cranky


The weather's still awful -- gray and cold, with snow expected tonight -- but otherwise, things are looking up. I swam yesterday, which helped my mood a lot, and I got grading done and went to my friend Marin's house and got to cuddle with her adorable terrier pup, and this morning I heard some terrific music at the university (a rehearsal for a masters recital and a lunchtime performance by that same student, and another one).

In the land of "SNAFU -- it's not just for breakfast anymore!", things have improved too. Just as I'd decided that my bag wasn't moving because it was in Pennsylvania and therefore under twenty feet of snow, the FedEx tracking page suddenly showed it in Sacramento, heading towards Reno, which means that I should have it before we leave for Hawaii. The new credit card came and I've succeeded in switching over most of my accounts, although I still have to call two of my monthly charities and give them the new info, since they don't provide a way to do this online. The vision prescription came too, and I've now ordered vision-correcting swim goggles: I even splurged and got a custom pair with a different prescription in each eye, which was surprisingly inexpensive (I hope the low price doesn't bode ill, since the goggles aren't returnable; on the other hand, I'm not out that much if I can't use them). These may not arrive before we leave, but I know I can rent a vision-correcting mask from any snorkle shack in Honolulu, and I can use that for plain swimming if I have to.

Meanwhile, I have a nifty new LED light for my laptop keyboard (plugs into a USB port, provides a surprising amount of light, cost less than $10), and I've been able to practice the fiddle today, and I'm knitting with Katharine tonight. So I'm feeling a bit less frantic than I was yesterday!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

In Which We Are In a Bad Mood


As previously advertised, today's the anniversary of Dad's last trip to the ER. On the evening of March 2 a year ago, I found him bashing his wheelchair into the walls of his room, trying to get to Congress to help them with the energy bill. From there, he wound up in ICU, and then in a nursing home, and then in hospice, and then in the small white cardboard box on my bookshelf.

The anniversary may be why I'm in a rotten mood, or maybe it's because the weather's gloomy again (as it was a year ago), or -- more likely -- it's because my evening antidepressant dosage stuck to the pill dispenser two nights ago, instead of making it into my hand and thence into my mouth along with my vitamins and arthritis meds. Very bad timing. I only discovered this yesterday afternoon; I made sure to get every pill last night, but I may still be operating on a neurotransmitter deficit.

Or maybe it's because I haven't had time to knit in three days.

Or maybe it's all of the above.

Okay, so I'd probably be twitchy anyway, but the outside world isn't helping much. On Saturday, coming home from a lovely wedding reception (congrats again, Amy and Danielle!), Gary and I stopped to get gas. Sunday I got a phone call from my bank: evidently I left my credit card at the gas station, although I still don't know how. My best guess is that when I was putting the card back into my wallet, as I always do, it fell out of the car instead. Luckily, a Good Samaritan found it and, instead of loading up on expensive electronics, called the bank to notify them and offered to destroy the card.

So that account's closed; the new card should arrive today, at which point I'll have to contact everyone with whom I have online accounts or automatic payments to give them the new card number. While this situation turned out much better than it could have -- thank you, Good Samaritan! -- it's still a pain.

Meanwhile, last Thursday I ordered yet another new bag, one that should be perfect for Hawai'i, from a travel company. It shipped on Friday, but according to FedEx, it hasn't been picked up yet. This morning I called FedEx, who told me to call the merchant. I called the merchant, who told me to call FedEx. I explained that I'd already done that, and the phone rep said she'd e-mail the warehouse to find out what's going on and get back to me. She was very nice, but the situation's still infuriating.

Then I called my eye doctor to find out what diopter to order on corrective swim goggles (also for Hawai'i, to see things underwater: I don't like swimming without goggles even when I'm not formally snorkeling, and if I can see, I can spot my towel more easily when I emerge from the water). My old corrective goggles have worn out, and my prescription's changed since I got them, but I assumed the doctor's office would just give me the diopter over the phone, the way they did last time.

But no. They're not allowed to give me my prescription over the phone. That's illegal. They have to mail it to me.

I'll get it tomorrow; no biggie, right? I can't order goggles without the new credit card, anyway. But -- what the hay? Is there a black market in lens prescriptions for really nearsighted, astigmatic people who need bifocals? Could anyone use this information to manufacture weapons or drugs, or to deepen the state deficit? Could someone with my glasses pretend to be me, committing identity theft? I mean, what's the logic here? What are they thinking?

Yes, I know: I'm being very petty, and all of this would roll off my back if I were basically cheerful right now. But it's March, the Month from Hell, and I'm jonesing for Hawai'i, my Escape from Hell (ten more days! ten more days!), and I'm remembering Dad, so I'm not basically cheerful.

Meanwhile, I'm behind on grading, as always, so I'd better get back to it. Thanks for listening to me vent.

Another Fifteen Minutes of Fame


This coming Sunday at 3:00 PM, I'll be giving a reading/lecture about Nevada as a setting for speculative fiction. This is at the UNR library, and it's free! With free parking, even! If you're local, please come by and check it out. If you aren't local, at least check out this snippet of the snazzy poster, which is too large to post in its entirety.

Alternatively, check out the library web page about the lecture series.

I hope to see you there!