Friday, September 30, 2011


I just got back from a fabulous trip up north, y'all! Lots of people go to Alaska in the summer; it's quite the tourist destination. I didn't realize that but of course there are tons of things to do and the sun never goes down. Me? I went to a junkyard to look at sewer pumps. No lie, look at them! Man, could Shane build some ass kicking stinky robots out of that stuff! Can't you just see them marching ominously through town like vicious zombies, obliterating everything in their path? AWESOME. My job is the BEST! I bet none of you have ever gotten paid to go check out zombie robot sewer pumps, and you are all very jealous of me now, am I right?

It was a whirlwind trip: I flew to Anchorage, flew to Fairbanks, drove through the tundra to the junkyard, then back to Fairbanks, back to Anchorage and home in less than three days. It was absolutely beautiful; look how blue the sky is! I know, the picture sucks, but the color is true. I took it with my phone, and as I may have mentioned, I'm not too clever with that stuff. I'm lucky I ended up with a picture that I sort of intended to take, instead of sending stalker texts to Justin Bieber or signing up for a blood sugar monitoring app or something useless like that.

I had packed for bone-chilling cold and it was sunny and 65 degrees, so I was a little toasty in my black turtleneck. Unfortunately, the sweater must have been last washed before Lloyd fixed the washer, because it reeked like feet. All the sweat from my broiling hot wool-clad neck didn't help, either. Good thing we were in a junkyard looking at ratty old sewer parts, because that way I could blame the stench on something else. It worked fine until we were on the way home, and then it didn't matter because no one would sit next to me anyway. So that worked out well.

The junkyard is in a town called Nenana, outside Fairbanks. It's a cute little town, but it's MILES from anywhere (except for maybe Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn). The place is pretty dinky but well known in certain circles (like the Arctic Circle, yuk, yuk) for the Nenana Ice Classic, which is a contest to predict the date and time the ice breaks up on the Tanana River. That's some high quality entertainment right there, people. They get up a big fat pot of money, too. Funny, though, none of the winners live there anymore. And that's all I have to say about that.

I had dinner one night with my friend Susannah, which was by far the best part of the trip- even better than the zombie robots. I don't want to spill too many secrets about our shared questionable past, but I have always deeply admired and appreciated her brilliant ideas and enthusiasm in bringing them to fruition. Most of all, I am grateful for her continued tight-lipped discretion. And that is DEFINITELY all I have to say about that. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I complain about Facebook a fair amount, like everyone else in the known universe, and with good reason. I don't like the recent changes; the ticker of forced sharing hacks me off pretty good. For all I know, it's keeping track of which profiles I'm stalking and teaching my computer to spy on the websites I visit and report back to it. It might even be watching what I'm writing right now and making a note of my address for the hit squad. You know you've thought about that; just admit it. I hear more major changes are on the way, too. I keep reading what a big freaking deal they are going to be, blah blah blah, boring geek talk, blah blah blah (not a direct quote).

I have been seriously considering defacebooking. I'm reluctant, because I am lucky enough to have friends all over the world, and it IS handy for keeping in touch with them. I guess I should wait and see how much I hate the upcoming revisions before I decide. I bet I despise them, though. Just a guess. Change is bad!

And what else is out there? I'm not sure about that Google thing; is there anything else? I'm not very clever that way, you know, with all the techie stuff. I don't even know how to put contacts in my work phone and the other day I accidentally sent a seriously questionable message to the wrong (VERY wrong) person. Oops. But who will be crying when the pulse destroys all the electronic equipment on the face of the earth? Not me, that's who! Oh, wait. Never mind. SOMEBODY HELP ME.

Anyway, in the meantime, I thought I would experiment to see if I could find a suitable alternative to satisfy my compulsion to share the most banal (that's for you, Leah!) details of my day:

Woman with a Dead Cat had better get out of bed; that coffee isn't going to drink itself!

Woman with a Dead Cat doesn't know if there's enough makeup to cover this thing.

Woman with a Dead Cat has to wear a wrinkled shirt to work

Woman with a Dead Cat needs to decide: vest or no vest?

Woman with a Dead Cat is so hungry! Donut or bacon? Better go with the protein, it's healthier.

Woman with a Dead Cat just spilled some coffee on her shirt.

Woman with a Dead Cat just dropped some bacon on her shirt.

Woman with a Dead Cat just dropped some jelly on her shirt.

Woman with a Dead Cat is definitely going to wear the vest.

Woman with a Dead Cat wishes her rude co-workers would stop laughing at her.

Well, that was easy enough. I do love getting the little red notifications and the comments, though. Plus, how will people know to come and read them if I don't tell them on Facebook? Hmmmm, I'm not sure if this is going to work for me. I might need to invent something. Or maybe I just need to build a thermonuclear device in my garage. For the pulse; that will solve all our problems! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Remember how my refrigerator was broken last week? I think maybe my appliances have some kind of virus because now the washer is leaking all over the hall. It's been wet in the hallway for a couple of weeks now, but I have two little boys and a pilot, so that's pretty much business as usual. Tonight, though, the sound of water gushing out of the soap well onto the floor was unmistakable and there was no denying something needed to be done. Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friends. Lloyd got out his utility multi-tool and headed for the laundry room. He's super handy, don't get me wrong, it's just that he scares me a little.

'I'm just going to unscrew this and see what happens,' Lloyd said, right before I took the picture. I was thinking, 'Ten bucks says I know what's going to happen; we're going to be spending the next month at the laundromat.' Turns out we had the soap holder set for powder instead of liquid, and somehow the detergent clogged the tube that funnels water and soap into the... what the hell is that round part where the clothes get all tossed around called? The tumbler? The barrel? Whatever, you know what I mean. Anyway, we started thinking about how strange it was that the clothes had been pretty dry after the wash cycle was complete lately. Say! Maybe it was because the water that was supposed to be washing clothes was instead making a puddle in the hall, you think? We then realized that the clean pile had been a little stinkier than usual, too.

He had the absolute gall to blame my homemade laundry detergent, simply because sometimes it has lumps, while I'm entirely certain his bad laundry habits are at fault. Seriously, you should see him. Oh, it gets done fast, but he cram-jams that thing so full that you can almost hear my crisp white button downs crying for mercy as they get crushed by filthy towels and jeans covered in fish guts. Dry clean only? Gentle cycle with like colors? Dry flat? Might as well be written in cuneiform. I don't complain, though. Not to his face. Because then I'd have to do it myself. NO THANKS. I just toss the things that get ruined and then hit the thrift store for more disposable clothes.

So, what to do? Generally speaking, which one of us is more brilliant is pretty much a toss-up. My ideas were to dump boiling water or vinegar and baking soda or Drano down the clogged line. Lloyd thought we should Shop-vac it or snake a wire down it. Since he was the one wielding the multi-tool, he got to choose, and he hauled the Shop-vac in from the garage. A few minutes later, voila! The washer was running good as new and I was feeling a little sheepish about my lack of faith in his plumbing skills.

Until I grabbed the Shop-vac to suck the water out of the carpet in the hall, that is. To my surprise and dismay, the hose ended abruptly with a ragged edge. The attachment that is supposed to be on the end was laying forlornly a few feet away. As it happens, the attachment wouldn't fit down in the well where the clog was, so he just sliced it off, leaving the ragged stump. 'Oh well', I shrugged, 'at least it worked, right?' 'Yes', he replied, 'but it might have been the boiling water; I poured that down there first.' All's well that ends well, that's what Ma Ingalls always says, and she's right. Lloyd can get right back to ruining my clothes and we can all live happily ever after. As soon as we get the Shop-vac fixed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Dead Cat Legislative Conscription Act

Gosh, people sure are concerned about our military spending these days! Here I thought cutting all that wasteful funding for mental health services was going to do the trick but I guess we're going to have to dig a little deeper. You have probably seen this article from the New York Times that describes military retirement and health benefits 'social welfare'. I despise the Times for all their lying lies and their complete lack of journalism ethics but was unable to ignore the uproar caused by this piece, and a lucky thing, because it gave me perhaps my most brilliant idea so far! You should read it if you haven't already but basically it says that military retirement benefits are super expensive and and outrageously over-generous! Something has to be done! Check out the comments on the article- they are generally clustered around a couple of excellent points:

1. Veterans are treated abominably and it's appalling that our government thinks nothing of cutting benefits to military members to fund tax credits to, say, Exxon. Or Halliburton. Or whatever they are calling themselves these days. I have a name for them too but this is a (mostly) family friendly blog.

2. If we want to maintain an all volunteer force, we have to be willing to shoulder the cost. Otherwise, let's bring back the draft. With no deferments for the children of rich people and legislators. Of course, in many cases these are the same thing.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about a military draft; I'm an expert in pretty much nothing. Scratch that; EXACTLY nothing. But thinking about it inspired me to come up with the Dead Cat Legislative Conscription Act (DCLCA). Catchy, don't you think? Here's how it works: instead of drafting military members, we raise their pay so none of them have to go on food stamps to feed their families, and give them adequate health care. Then, we draft the legislative branch instead! No more campaign lies, no more corruption scandals, no more politicians owned by corporate American. Can you imagine? Two-year terms, no deferments. Everyone has to take their turn in the barrel. You have to pass a mental health screen for a few disorders: no paranoids, no sociopaths and no hallucinators. All the other conditions are fine. In fact, some of them would probably be beneficial. Like the manics; they would do an awesome job and we need a few more. Obviously, no IQ test is necessary. No drug tests, either. I want to get back to 'By the People, for the People'. And let's face it, some of the people are on drugs. Plus I'm pretty some of the lawmakers we have now are on some serious mind-altering substances. A small stipend, chow hall meals and dorm style housing with shared bathrooms would be provided.

As luck would have it, there will be plenty of suitable space available for this initiative as soon as more appropriate accomodations are made for military members requiring medical care. Walter Reed, for example, would make an EXCELLENT compound for our new senators and congressional representatives. It's totally self-contained and could easily be locked down for when they need a time-out or when lobbyists come sniffing around. And, we've seen how cheap it is to operate! As an added bonus, it's location is convenient to the capitol. I'm on the fence about whether we should require PT for the conscriptees; what do you guys think? It seems like it'd be a waste of time during which they could be busting their asses getting rid of those corporate tax credits, but if the debates turn to hand to hand combat, it would be nice if they all started out on equal footing.

So that's the DCLCA in a nutshell. I think it's a surefire winner, don't you? I welcome your comments and suggestions as I refine my proposal. I realize it might be a tough sell, but I'm no quitter. God bless America, my friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Life in Cats, take two

This is me and my sister in 1973. I am on the left, holding Charlie (probably). My sister is holding an unremembered cat.

This, of course, is the fabulous Henry

I've been thinking about cats again. Dead ones, because sadly, all my cats are dead. A long time ago, I wrote a post called 'My Life in Cats' on Stories from Korea. You can read the original post here, if you want. I think I was reminded of my life in cats by a couple of things. Swistle, who writes a blog I really like, recently got a new cat that reminds me of Henry. And, the snappy red purse I wrote about recently reminds me of the dead cat tote I bought to take the mind off the death of my sweet cat Lewis many years ago. They are both bright red and cheerful, only the new red bag cost 1.29 at Goodwill, and the old dead cat tote was a brand new Kenneth Cole that ran me WAY more than a bag of potato chips. You may remember that Henry died in February, and I think I might be almost ready to re-cat. But right now, I'm thinking of cats past:

Charlie- I got Charlie when he or she was a kitten and I was a small child. The mother cat lived in my Aunt Luella and Uncle Butch's barn and I had my choice of kittens. He was black and white and ever so cute. Unfortunately, Charlie and I did not have long together; the cat had some sort of seizure and dropped dead in my arms shortly after. It's a wonder I wasn't scarred for life, don't you think?

Smoky- My dad found Smoky tied up in some trees in the woods near where we lived, and cut him down and brought him home. He was a beautiful big gray long-haired cat who liked to yowl and car surf. One morning he rode off on my dad's car and never returned. I find myself partial to gray cats to this day. There don't seem to be a whole lot of gray cats, though; I wonder why?

SillyBilly- My dad found SillyBilly, a beautiful calico cat, when she was a kitten. He's always been a little vague about the details of this late night acquisition, but my sister and I were thrilled the next day when we got up and found our new pet under the bed where we kept our scraps of material for sewing. You know, I'm getting a little suspicious of these mysterious cat-finding trips of his, now that I think about it. Anyway, she lived with us for quite a while until she got hit by a car down the street and was returned to us in a cardboard box by one of the neighbors.

Fluffer- Fluffer was the son of SillyBilly and was a fluffy black cat. SillyBilly had three kittens, and my dad made us choose just one to keep. We went to school, and when we came home, Fluffer was an only kitten. He was very mellow and would let us dress him up and push him around the block in a stroller, but I don't remember what happened to him. I think he just disappeared. We lived in sort of a strange neighborhood, and when someone in MY family thinks the neighbors are weird, that's saying something.

Chebosco- Chebosco was a male orange and white cat with a wonderful personality. His middle name was Yumpsa, which means 'jumper' in one of the Scandinavian languages. Probably. I might need to go look that up. Chebosco means 'shower' in Spanish. Possibly. At least, I thought so at seven or eight, so it must be true. I haven't heard it on Dora or Diego, though, so I'm starting to get skeptical. I don't know where he came from or where he went. That's funny, because I really liked him. You know what? I'm getting a little suspicious of these unexplained cat disappearances and might need to have a little chat with my dad.

Katie and Kelly- When I got out of high school, I worked in a pet store for a year or so before I went to college. I should totally write a post about that place because it had everything: flashers, larceny, pathological liars, and mud puppies, which my friend Cammy and I might or might not have liberated in the middle of the night. One day, a kid brought in these two teeny tiny siamese kittens and said his male cat had dragged them home. They were only two or three weeks old, and I took them home and we bottle-fed them until they were strong and healthy enough to eat cat food. Katie, the boy cat, was always glossy and a little wild- he moved around my parents' neighborhood for years until finally they didn't see him anymore. Okay, now I'm definitely going to talk to my dad about this. I just hope he doesn't have some cat-fur quilt hidden in his closet or something. Kelly, the girl cat, was the sweetest cat ever. She had an obsession with pushing her paws into things and was a big licker. She was always sickly, probably because she had to have formula instead of catmilk, and died when she was just a couple of years old. I don't know if my dad has an alibi or not.

Lewis and Clark- After Lloyd and I got married and moved to Pensacola, the first thing we did was adopt Lewis and Clark. Their original names were Tyler and Cassie, and they were not related but had bonded deeply in their foster home. Clark (formerly known as Tyler) was an old male orange and white cat, and Lewis (formerly Cassie) was a sweet, younger, long-haired gray and white female cat. We had a pleasant, but short-lived relationship with both of them. Well, I did anyway. Clark didn't care for Lloyd, and the feeling was mutual. He moved in with the neighbors, much to Lewis' dismay, and soon died of feline leukemia. Lewis liked to follow us on walks through the neighborhood, and one day she followed us down the street, then peeled off to investigate something. When we returned, she was laying dead on the street. I was very traumatized by this and embarked on some immediate retail therapy. One of my purchases was a bright red leather tote bag by Kenneth Cole. I carried it for months and called it my 'dead cat tote'. People looked at me strangely, but that's never bothered me, and it made me feel lots better. After Hurricane Katrina, I donated the dead cat tote, along with my entire work wardrobe, to hurricane victims who were trying to relocate and start new jobs. I hope it helped somebody else as much as it helped me. I got some additional cheer out of it, because it was a splendid tax deduction. Thanks, Lewis!

Bella - I got Bella as a kitten from someone at work shortly after Lewis died. An email message was going around about kittens available for adoption and one of them was a calico, like SillyBilly. I wanted that one, but it was already taken. I decided to get one anyway, and picked out Bella. Her name is Bella because I wanted something derived from SillyBilly and chose a girlish version of Billy. She is kind of a strange cat, not super friendly, and she hated Lloyd on sight. One day, when she wasn't very old, she didn't come home and we started looking around the neighborhood. We didn't have any luck, but a day or two later she hobbled home. We took her to the vet and found that she had two broken legs. Apparently this is a common cat injury when they get hit by a car. The car strikes them, breaking the leg on the car side, then they get tossed down the street, breaking bones on the other side. After several very expensive surgeries, with pins and everything, Bella was almost good as new. I called her the six million dollar cat, and Lloyd called her that stupid f&*!#@g cat. She had a little more bad luck a year or so later when she got lost during Hurricane Dennis and had to spend a week or so at the pound until we found her. She had a collar on so they would have been able to call us right away, except she wouldn't let them near her to read the tag. You know, maybe I need to have a talk with Lloyd, too. After I get done with my dad. She moved with us from Florida to Louisiana, but when we left Shreveport for Korea, we decided to leave her with some Catholic friends there. They immediately took her to family pet night at their local parish and had her blessed with the special water, and she still lives there happily in holy catrimony.

And this brings us to Henry. I'm not sure what else I can say about Henry, except for he was the best cat ever. In fact, I would probably already have a new cat if he wasn't so great. I just keep thinking that another cat would be a disappointment, but I might be almost ready to embrace a cat that's not Henry. I'll keep you posted.

And that's the last of the cats. For now. Don't worry, when it's cat thirty, I plan to keep a VERY close eye on my dad. And Lloyd.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I think summer might be over, you guys. At least at my house. We had to turn on the heat yesterday, but it doesn't do any good because no one around here knows how to close a door, as far as I can tell. So the net effect is that we're contributing to global warming twice: once when we consume the energy that runs the heater, and then again when the generated heat flows out into the great outdoors. And I'm STILL freezing. This is a serious affront to my love of efficiency, and something needs to be done. I have the perfect solution, too; I just can't decide if I should lock Lloyd and the boys OUTSIDE or INSIDE until next May.

That's not the only blow I'm suffering, either. Lloyd has convinced me to give up my beloved compost pile as we prepare for a possible move sometime in the not super distant future. Of course, we don't know where or when this will be but we DO know that not everyone adores a giant steaming pile of decomposing vegetation as much as I do, and that it's not something we are willing to box up and move. Too bad we no longer have access to those Korean movers; they would pack that stuff up in a jiffy and not even bat an eye. I can not even tell you how much I despise throwing away perfectly good carrot peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds. It offends my very soul, but I'm a practical girl, so what are you going to do, right?

AND, our fancy stainless steel fridge went kaput the other day, freezing everything solid. The motherboard went bad; since when does a refrigerator need a motherboard? It's not like I need it to navigate to Mars or perform laser surgery. My next one is going to be from 1972. Or maybe I'll just use Lloyd's giant white cooler. You know, the one that's big enough to fit my dead body in, if a few things are chopped off first. Or maybe we'll go without! Lots of people do, very successfully. You can read about it here. And here. Tempting, very tempting. As it is, I have to go throw out pounds and pounds of previously perfectly good food. AND I CAN'T EVEN PUT IT IN THE COMPOST! The rats are CURSING MY NAME right now.

In happier news, I am finally getting a good crop of tomatoes- I have been getting Romas for a week or two but now the regular rounds ones are getting ripe also. About time, it's the middle of freaking September for Pete's sake. Oops, I sound a little pinchy again, don't I? I think I should have called this 'The Winter of my Discontent'. But at least I have juicy, delicious tomatoes!

There is a reason for my discontent, naturally. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of my mother, so that is super sucky. I've really been quite cross and out of sorts, too. Even more than usual, I mean. Mostly I've been laying on the couch, lacking the energy to do anything except scream at whoever left the door open again or get another cookie, but I did attempt a bit of retail therapy. See my snappy red canvas bag? Note the wine bottle for scale. The purse is a sporty little number, and it was acquired for a mere $1.29 at the Goodwill tag sale last week. It's quite lovely and does cheer me a bit to look at it. Or maybe it's the wine bottle that lifts my spirits. Whatever works, I always say. So bottoms up! I also say that a lot, come to think of it. See you on the couch, friends, and have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Vegemattress

Boy, have I had a busy week! What with teaching the new guy how to do all my crappy projects, parsing the news for my friends, and re-netting the trampoline, phew! And OH, YEAH.... I invented something and this time it's actually useful! As an aside, I did not have a category labeled 'brilliant' until today. I regret the oversight.

I'm a little bit of a levee geek, I bet you didn't know that. It's because I hide it well and never, ever wear a plaid shirt. You also may not know that levee vegetation is a very complicated and political issue, and it's especially difficult here in the Pacific Northwest where we have multiple species of salmon on the Endangered Species list. The fish people demand trees and shrubs, because that's better for the fish, and the levee people demand lots of bare rock and grassed slopes, because that makes safer, stronger levees. Trees and shrubs are sub-optimal for levees because the roots can tear them up and falling trees can gouge out big holes. Overgrown vegetation also impedes inspection and encourages colonization by burrowing creatures. Both the fish people and the levee people have excellent points, and the law on their side. This leaves people who need to build or repair flood control structures in a very difficult position, between a rock and a hard fish, you might say. If you are someone who makes bad puns, that is. Which I am. And right now I am one of these unfortunate people who has competing Federal mandates to produce a project with no vegetation in the levee structure AND with plenty of plants to shade the fishies.

Behold, I give you the Dead Cat Vegemattress! It's essentially a mattress of vegetation that's designed to break away in a flood without damaging the levee structure itself. As you can clearly see from my not-to-scale drawing, a layer of non-permeable geotextile fabric, possibly combined with a layer of chain link fencing, protects the levee prism and rock face from the roots of the plantings and burrowing animals. A hefty lift of soil placed on the fabric provides plenty of room for lots of whatever plants the fish people want, and everybody wins!

You probably know I have been frustrated in the past by people stealing my brilliant ideas. The breastmilk factory, the diapers that look like clothes and the clothes that have drinking pockets spring immediately to mind. Not this time, though! You heard it here first: I invented the vegemattress (vegemat for short) today, September 15, 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Is it just me, or is everyone WAY crazier than usual these days? I swear, I am going to stop listening to/reading/watching the "news". Have I said that before? I'm pretty sure that sounds kind of familiar. Anyway, I mean it this time. It's like we're living in some kind of bizarro universe where the three stooges are serious contenders for president, teachers and other public servants are lazy, greedy parasites with outrageously cushy jobs and unreasonable benefits, and Jesus would rightfully withhold healthcare from a sick kid in just retaliation for his parents' poor capitalism skills. Corporations enrich themselves on the backs of the environment and the increasingly marginalized and desperate labor force, then use the cash to lobby the congress and bribe the Supreme Court, all so they can make MORE money and pay less taxes. Our elected representatives battle amongst themselves like toddlers who all want the only Elmo toothbrush and can't even keep the government running and airports open while they wage unsustainable wars. Yet somehow, the guy that issues my passport and makes 40k and the school lunch program are the reasons we're awash in red ink?

I'm terrified that the next news I see will inform me that two plus two now equals 43,873, gay people cause hurricanes, and that the law of gravity has been suspended because the tea party thinks it might be socialist. Oh, I could go on. And on and on and on, but just thinking about it makes my head start to throb like it's about to explode, and then I just get exhausted and want to lay on my couch drinking beer. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I believe in moderation in all things, and too much beer/couch time will cut into my beer/screen time, so I'm on a mission, and I think you guys can help me out. Here's what I need: news that won't make me insane. More insane, I mean. My friend MeLissa has already come through, with this story from King 5 on cooking with the bug chef. Thanks, MeLissa! That's more like it. Put your suggestions in the comments or email me at; my sanity is in your hands!

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Blog Post

Guess what? September 11th is over, hurray! It sucked like usual, maybe even worse, what with all the attention, but now it's over. In an effort to put it behind me in every possible way, I am typing a new blog post, even though I have nothing new, interesting or entertaining to share. This approach is not without precedent; I did it here to bump a poem. Because I hate poetry. Not that you care. Hell, even I don't care, I'm just going for volume here. Also, please note the completely random and irrelevant photo. Nice touch, eh? Also, do you guys think I use too many commas? Please advise.

Since I'm here, I might as well write something. Anything, come on, come on! Let's see. Hmmmmmm..... We are getting some beautiful late summer weather. It's been crisp and fallish in the mornings, and sunny and hot in the afternoons. I'm getting tons of tomatoes now and made some fantastic lime cilantro salsa the other day. I ate it all with a spoon, too; it was that good. The brussels sprouts are starting to get buds; they're kind of weird. If you're not familiar with them, the little round heads that you eat branch out from the stem right above where the leaves attach. You can look at some pictures here. Phew! Eked out another line. I'll admit that brussels sprout photos are a pretty weak effort but I'm a take-what-I-can-get kind of girl.

How about work? I don't write much about work, and with good reason, believe me. If I got going, I might not be able stop myself before I hit 'publish post', and that would be VERY, VERY bad. Or very good; depends on your point of view, I suppose, like so many other things. But things are looking up. We got a new guy that I can give all my crap projects to, because he doesn't know any better. Not that I would do that; geez, people! It's not like me to take advantage of a poor schmoe like that, you should know that by now. The new guy has a name, of course; I just like to call him 'the new guy' because I'm so glad not to be the new girl/flunkie anymore. He's a retired Air Force engineer, some of you guys might even know him. If you do, don't you dare tell him I'm giving him all the tasks no one else wants. Because I'm totally not, and don't you forget it!

In other news, we have some promising new neighbors, way better than the penny thief family that lives up the street. They have two girls, the same ages as Weston and Shane, and the mom is Korean. She met her husband while he was there teaching English, and they are both super nice. I am definitely inviting myself over soon for some bibimbap, because it never comes out right when I make it. Maybe it's the bacon, though most everything can be improved by the addition of bacon, don't you agree?

Woohoo! Four semi-respectable paragraphs! My work here is done. I'm optimistic that my next post will actually be about something, but I'm not promising. Have a good week, and happy September 12th!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


****updated to add this link to a publication that describes the Corps response****

So, ten years. That is a long time, and yet, not long at all. I was thinking about reposting some writing I did way back then, but I decided not to; it's not my best work. That would DEFINITELY be this piece on boogers, which garnered me much acclaim from my many readers. Especially my mother; she LOVED it, and you won't hear her say any different, now will you? I considered reworking my original ground zero essay but decided not to because it was true to me then and I didn't want to monkey with it. Besides, I don't even like reading it; it's a little too melodramatic. It's still there, somewhere, in the archives at Stories from Korea, if you want to see it. Instead, I decided to just start over from scratch and share some pictures.

Ten years ago I was working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle. On that Tuesday morning, I was teaching a class on emergency construction. A few days later, I was standing on the West Side Highway, looking at the reeking, burning pile that used to be the World Trade Center. It was night, and the bright beams from the light plants shone through the rising, curling smoke. I will never, ever forget my first look at it. Surreal.

Gradually, though, the place became home-ish. It was just like you'd imagine a post-apocalypse city, with everything repurposed. The lower Manhattan Brooks Brothers store, for example, was now a morgue, while the Burger King was a medical clinic. The best restaurant in town was called the Green Tarp Restaurant, for the green tarp that covered the entrance, pictured below. Celebrities would come in and serve up the grub, which was catered by the fanciest chefs around. Seriously, it was good stuff. I gained at least fifteen pounds while I was there because of the free food on every corner and the McDonald's people that came around every afternoon with quarter pounders.

I was on a logistics team (I am MULTI-TALENTED, y'all!), and we worked out of the Corps' DTOS (Deployable Tactical Operations System) units. You can see one in one of the pictures. They are portable offices with satellite communications, and we had them set up on all four corners of the site for us, FEMA and FDNY. We had nice neighbors; there were rows and rows of tents and trailers set up for all kinds of organizations: search and rescue teams from all over the world, NYPD, EPA, FBI, Justice Department, ATF, utility companies, you name it, and they were there.

Anything you can think of that a regular city would have was there, in that tightly enclosed 16 acre site: offices, food, medical services, vets for the search dogs, places to sleep, masseuses, clothes, supplies of every kind, counselors, and all free and available for whomever had a need. It would have been a happy little commune if it hadn't been dreary beyond words, and reminds me of a book I recommended not too long ago, called 'A Paradise Built in Hell', by Rebecca Solnit. Everyone should read it; it will completely change your perspective on disaster response and human behavior.

You may be noticing that I'm not saying anything about loss, grief, terrorism, war, retaliation, or politics. All I can do is reflect on my own little piece of paradise in hell and hope that it never happens again, to anyone, anywhere.

photos courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Monday, September 5, 2011


Holy smokes, people! I have been on such a trip, you would not even believe it. See the helicopter? Oh yes, I got the bird's eye view of the beautiful state of Maryland from a military helicopter. There was a hurricane, you know. Maybe you heard about it. As result, my office sent me on an epic cross-country adventure. I was working in the state EOC (emergency operations center) one day, minding my own beeswax (my beeswax consists primarily of filling out forms and reports on a pre-determined schedule and "coordinating" with a bunch of people that possess varying degrees of charm and competence, and is mostly a better-left-unblogged story for another day) when the boss lady practically wrenched my arm off dragging me out to the landing pad. On the way, she said, "You can go in a helicopter, right?" Ummm, yes? I mean, it's not as if she was wanting me to fly the thing. I was a little concerned when they started asking about my next of kin and making me sign forms so that after I died in a fiery crash they could use my charred corpse for the chow hall, but whatever. I've always been a girl that's happy to take one for the team. So I hopped on, the crew chief slapped a truly terrifying and complicated harness arrangement and some headphones on me, and off we went into the wild blue yonder.

You guys all know how readily I get motion sickness, right? And in the interest of full disclosure, I was also working off one too many glasses of hootch from the night before. It's not as if I was planning on going on a nauseating spin through the Maryland sky, after all. Lucky for me I was wearing my friend Gretchen's coat. I had borrowed it earlier because the EOC was FREEZING and I had dumped coffee all over my own coat. The helicopter was plenty warm, but I definitely felt I needed to be prepared to hurl in something. As it turns out, my seatmate was in a similar condition, so I spread out the sleeves, one for each of us. It was touch and go for a while, but everything stayed inside where it belonged. You're welcome, Gretchen!

On the way home, I took a little extra time to see a couple of my sweet friends that I hadn't seen in much too long. Love you guys! Unfortunately, I have a bunch more just-as-sweet friends that I didn't get to see but I will definitely try to catch everyone else next time. Love you guys, too! This is a picture of Helen's new dog, Sherlock. He is a 5.5 month old lab and he acts EXACTLY as you'd expect from looking at the picture.

On another note, it's Labor Day. I feel strongly about labor, social and consumer issues but I'm also very lazy. It's sort of a bad combination, so to assuage my guilt, I am sharing this post I wrote two years ago for Labor Day. To keep up on all the latest on labor and the shenanigans of corporate America, check out Mother Jones. You won't be sorry! And if you don't know who Mother Jones was, you can read about her here. She is definitely one of my heroes: I'm a great admirer of courage. I hope you are all having a fabulous long weekend!