Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I woke up at 6:35 am, sans alarm. So much for sleeping in—and good old body, knowing that by that time on a Thursday I should be awake! I did my physical therapy exercises (that I am supposed to do a few times a week for the rest of my life, if I want my pelvis to not cause me too much grief), de-cluttered the kitchen counters in preparation for a day of cooking, had a shower, then got started on the first recipe: pumpkin pie! I went with an all whole-wheat flour crust this year, and it turned out almost as good as a white flour crust, so I’ll be sticking with the whole wheat in the future. While the pies were cooking, I started on the brown rice and cranberry dish. I’d done the hard part of cutting 4 cups of cranberries in half, one by one, last Sunday, since I’d had the cranberries out for making the Exploding Cranberry Relish (= cranberry sauce, with the twist of having jalapenos in it) that day. After the salad came the stuffing, and Jesse peeled the potatoes in preparation for what I think is his favorite dish—mashed potatoes. Then we combined our efforts on the “turkey substitute” dish: a vegetarian meatless loaf. That’s right, no tofurkeys or tofurtles this year!

After we got the meatless loaf in the pans and into the fridge, got the kitchen tidied up and yet another load of dishes done, Jesse and I went to a nearby Lake Murray for a pre-meal run. Jesse did his usual ~5.5 mile run and I heaved myself (that’s what it felt like anyway) through just over 4 miles (I’m supposed to be getting back into running slowly, for the sake of my feet and pelvis, so I’m running slower than Jesse these days. Also, he’s picked up the pace of his running dramatically since I was last a regular runner!). We got back to the parking lot and were finishing up our post-run stretches when I noticed a hand protrude from the passenger window of a pickup truck window in the parking lot and a tissue fall to the ground from said hand. I was appalled. Littering is one thing. Littering at “my” lake where I go to enjoy the outdoors/natural environment aspect of it is another thing. Thanksgiving or not, I marched over to the truck, picked up the tissue and threw it into the lap of the female owner of the offending hand saying “I think you dropped this” and starting walking off. I heard her say “I meant to drop it there” and I turned around to find the tissue falling to the ground outside her window again. Well! I marched back, picked it up and said to her with incredulity, “Have you no passion for life? For the environment?” to which she said, “Excuse me!!” impertinently and rolled up her window. She looked shocked that I would be so rude as to address her, and a little scared of me—I think she thought I was a crazy lady. So I chucked the tissue behind a cargo net in the bed of the pickup truck, and picked up a tissue I found behind the truck and tossed that in too. It was at that point that I noticed that the (male) driver of the truck was using binoculars to observe something… maybe birds? He was there to admire the environment with a woman who cared nothing for it! I do hope he enjoyed me rebuking the woman. Maybe he secretly hates the way she litters? I can only hope. I went back to where Jesse was… he didn’t know what had been happening so I told him the story. He was amazed (at her and at me). I have replayed the events over and over in my head, and I now think that she truly didn’t see that there was anything wrong with dropping the tissue where she did… I think maybe when she said “I meant to drop it there” that she was thinking “That silly woman who picked it up… thinking I dropped in by accident. It was nice of her to pick it up for me, but there was no need” So when I started talking about her lack of passion, she probably had no idea WHAT I could be going on about and that’s why she got scared and rolled up her window (at the time, I thought she was just being rude and getting my out of her face by rolling up her window). Who knows. I should have told her that she’s welcome to litter as much as she wants in her own driveway, but that I’d appreciate that she not do it at “my” lake, so that I could get her to see my point of view about the incident a bit better (hindsight, you know). As I initially marched over to the truck, I briefly thought about pointing out that littering was illegal, but decided not to say that because, duh, everyone knows that and I’m not one to believe that just because the government mandates something, it must be the right thing to do (though I am against littering, of course). But overall I’m happy with my handling of the situation. When I saw the tissue drop for the second time, you can bet I had to hold back a swearing and yelling instinct. In my “maturity,” I know that calm and collected is a more effective way to go. Are there really people who, if they actually thought it through, would not think there’s anything wrong with littering so blatantly at a public park? I think maybe I met such a person today.

Hang on, what was I meant to be writing about? Oh yes, Thanksgiving. So I got home, got the meatless loaf and stuffing into the oven and realized I had enough time to prepare another dish—sweet potatoes with apples and walnuts in a buttery-sugary syrup. After I got that into the oven, it was time to cook and marinate the beans, cook the corn and set the table with the Christmas-y placemats I made while stuck indoors during the recent wildfires. Jesse mashed the potatoes, adding garlic to his share (not for me, thank you! I like my potatoes bland). Then, we brought it all together and sat down on the floor (no dining table, only a coffee table) for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, with sparkling cranberry juice to drink. For dessert, it was pumpkin pie with some of the “stiffest” whipped cream I’d ever had… I was quite worried while Jesse was whipping it that it was only seconds away from becoming butter. Then, as you can perhaps imagine, it was time make some creative rearrangements in my fridge to get all the leftovers to fit. While I put food away, Jesse did a hill-high load of dishes. Go Jesse! Now as I write, the dishwasher is finishing the rest of the dishes and everything is almost back to normal in the kitchen. Ahh. But I still haven’t figured out the woman in the truck, and don’t think I ever will.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The day my car fell down

In late summer, 2005, I attended a work-related conference in New Hampshire, and was away for about a week. The day after I came back to San Diego, I decided to go shopping. I got in my car, put it in reverse, let out the clutch, and slowly starting backing up while turning the wheels slightly to maneuver out of the parking spot. Kerklunk. I heard a noise as if I had just driven over something, and my car shifted perceptively. I got out and went over the the passenger side, since that's where I'd heard the noise from. Instead of the flattened object on the ground I expected to find, I found that the tires on the passenger side of my car had fallen off the bolts that normally hold them on and that my car's body was now resting on the semi-upright rims of my tires. I then noticed that my hubcaps and lugnuts were missing on that side... yep, someone had stolen them! I had just had new tires put on my car ~2 weeks earlier, and I wondered if that's what they had been after. The first photo is a close up of the one tire... it's hard to see what's going on, but do notice that no bolts are protruding through the four holes near the center of the tire. The second photo is from the back (my car is on the right... that's Jesse's old Buick on the left) and you can see the tilt in my car towards the passenger side (the right side, for the South Africans reading this).

I pride myself in being relatively freak-out-proof... I am normally calm in "scary" situations. However, I took it so personally that someone had shown that little interest in my well-being (I mean, what if I hadn't been trying to turn my car while reversing? How far could I have driven before my tires fell off? Could they not have left me a note "hey, look out, I stole your lugnuts so your tires will fall off if you drive"?) that I was instantly upset. I went back to the apartment and woke Jesse up and told him with panic in my voice that I needed help. That woke him up a lot quicker than usual! I felt silly being so worked up about it, but told him the story and asked him what I should do. Most people probably don't know this about me, but I am quite handy at "fix-it" stuff. Being a landlady in graduate school certainly helped. I do plumbing, electrical, painting, woodwork, oil changes etc. So for me to ask Jesse (who has none of the forementioned abilities... sorry Jesse, love you anyway) what I should do was very unusual. Anyway, to keep this from being a runaway story, I'll say that I got him to drive me to an auto parts store so that I could buy replacement lug nuts, then chickened out of jacking my car up on my own (since TWO tires were off, I didn't know where I should put the jack), called a towing company and ended up telling the guy how to do things (he was a bit slow, and he couldn't get his jack in place, so I lent him mine). Later, I went to a dealer and got the OEM lugnuts (since the first ones were generics and didn't fit very well) and a set of rim locks (locking lugnuts--you need a certain "key" socket to get them off. I didn't know what rim locks were before I moved to California, land of car thefts... I had previously had my indicator (turn signal) light bulbs stolen in this same garage, which is gated, as you can see in the second photo). And about a year ago, I bought two replacement hubcaps off of eBay... my car was 11 years old when this happened, by the way, and it was the original, plastic, scratched up hubcaps that were stolen. I got similarly scratched up replacement ones (hopefully not the exact same ones!). So my car is all back in one piece.

Later that day, I called the police to report the theft. The policeman who took down my information panicked slightly when I said that my tires fell off--he was apparently worried that I had made it onto street and picked up some speed when this happened. If only the thief had considered that!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The story behind the picture

I have spent much mental energy trying to think what I am going to use a blog for in general, and also what I'll write about in my first entry. But all that thinking made it start to feel like this was getting far too serious, so I decided to just quickly choose a photo off my computer and write about its background.

This fine specimen of a cactus you see here was purchased at the Madison (Wisconsin) farmer's market by a woman who worked in a laboratory down the hall from me when I was a graduate student. But when she bought it, it looked nothing like this! It was small enough to fit into the lid of a soft drink bottle. This student was worried because her cactus wasn't growing and decided to give it to me to see if I could "rescue" it. I gave it some water, put it on a sunny ledge in my then-lab and it started growing. Instead of just getting bigger and keeping its shape, it put out a little "bud" on top of it that soon looked like a mini version of the main part of the plant (the original plant is the whitish part at the base in the photo). But it kept on growing and eventually outgrew the first part of the plant. As I kept watering it, it kept putting out more and more buds, mostly in a straight line. I transplated it to a bigger pot... and, well, I think the photo (which is a scan of photos I joined together) tells the rest of the story. As you can see, it was so "stringy" that there was no way it could support itself. I have no idea what kind of cactus this is or what shape it normally grows in, but I can't imagine natural selection would let it grow like this out in the wild! I seem to remember some incident when the cactus fell over onto someone and either they tried to catch it or it scratched them or something... my memory fails in the details but you can imagine the possible outcomes of human vs. cactus. I took this photo of it soon before I destroyed it by chopping it into bits and putting the bits in the garbage (I assume I wrapped them up to save a garbage handler from the thorns). It was getting to be too much to care for and worry about. I also didn't find it very attractive!

A follow-up to this story is that a couple of months ago, I purchased some antique botanical prints online from a place called "The Cactus Patch," which also sells cacti plants, including at the Madison farmer's market! I wonder if The Cactus Patch is where the photographed cactus started its life? Small world.