Archive for December, 2006

Naveed checks in, Third Wave people, and assorted miscellany

December 30, 2006

On my blog post about being tagged, I mentioned that my link for Naveed’s blog didn’t work. Afterward I thought, “Oh, he’s probably disabled it because he’s off to India for a couple of months.” But no, he hasn’t, and in fact has responded. You can find his response on his blog, and his blog is worth checking out.

I think the very best thing about the time I spent at Intel was the number of truly interesting people I met. I have a geek collection second to none. But I value most of these folks not just for their geekdom (which I have found very useful at times, being a woman of a certain age who grew up when books and direct coquetry were still in style) but for their peopleness.

I suspect that Alvin Toffler is passe, but I will never forget the huge “Aha!” I had reading Future Shock for the first time. Until I read that book, I really though I was losing my marbles. But Toffler acknowledged that the disconnects I felt were real, the world WAS changing, and I believed again that my brain was OK even if the world was getting weird (or wired).

Then he published The Third Wave. It was an interesting book at the time I read it (we’re talking ’70s here, folks), but now it’s a very useful reference. I am a Third Wave person. I’m married to a first wave person. We are both this way by choice, and according to Toffler, that’s a far more compatible pairing than if I had attempted to live happily ever after with a Second Wave industrialist. Based on experience, I can only say “Amen.”

I don’t love technology for technology’s sake. That may offend some of you. But I do love technology for what it allows me to do and where it allows me to do it from. I made it to Molalla today to pick up a last Christmas gift, and I wish someone would invent the teleporter for real.

Almost a blog entry

December 29, 2006

I got to go to town (Newport) today, and despite my best efforts, I’m going to have to go again tomorrow (Mollala). Leaving here just wrecks the day. But I have one Christmas present to retrieve about 2.5 hours away, so go I must. The tardiness isn’t as bad as it sounds. The people it’s for have been gone for two weeks.

I don’t feel like writing right now, so this is it, except to say thank you to Heath for responding to my request for more information. Maybe I’ll get worked up about something later.

Things abhorrent to nature

December 28, 2006

I read a wondersul piece in The Christian Science Monitor today about H. L. Mencken. And no, I am not a Christian Scientist (I’ve never been much of a joiner), but it’s a very interesting little newspaper.

You probably know the observation “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Mencken went one better with “Nature abhors a moron.”

Among the little known facts in the article: Mencken wrote more than 100,000 letters. “Whew,” Ben said, “I can’t imagine even sending that many e-mails.” I believe him. I’m not sure he’s ever sent more than one, and I coerced him into that one.

At today’s postal rates, 100,000 letters would cost $39,000 in postage alone (Am I doing that math right? I think so). I’d rather retire. Thank God for e-mail.

Speaking of which, now I’ve got to go do some. . .

And to all a good night. . .

December 26, 2006

This post might end up being mostly about food. Or it might go somewhere else totally. Who knows? But even though there are some thoughts I want to offer up on the topic of Christmas, I am determined that this will not become one of those anti-Christmas rants. Instead, I’ll attempt to lead by example.

I have survived another Christmas–not only survived it, but for the most part thrived throughout. My daughter Inger came to visit for a couple of days, accompanied by Ian, her significant something ot other. We mostly talked and cooked and ate.

Last night was one of the best Christmas eves I remember. We bundled up and went to the neighbors’ house across the river, and Charlotte made homemade doughnuts, a tradition in her family. They were light and wonderful. I took over some sliced plum pudding soaked in brandy, and another neighbor brought cheese, crackers, and sausages. Several families from our immediate area were there, and it reminded me of my childhood: the women standing in the kitchen telling raucous jokes and the men sitting in the living room talking very seriously about God knows what. A couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc, just fruity enough to go with the doughnuts, and we headed home.

Ian is a vegetarian, a bit of a challenge in my meat-loving family. But we had some wonderful things to nosh on. I had planned to make scalloped potatoes, and they were slow in cooking, so Inger and I whipped up a batch of olive crostini. Nathan, if you’re reading this, these are those wonderful little hors d’oeuvres (I doubt that I spelled that right, but I’m not going to go look it up–one of you more sophisticated folks can correct me) that we chatted about by e-mail. According to the recipe, these must be made with a food processor, a tool I no longer own. I did flirt with one for a couple of engagements, then gave it away. I have yet to find anything a food processor will do that isn’t done better by very sharp knives and elbow grease without corrupting the quality of the ingredients. As she was chopping parsley, Inger said, “Mom, I’m your food processor. I’m just a little slower than the other one.”

We spread our food out over several hours and just told old stories.

One of the remarkable things about this Christmas is that I didn’t spend a single minute in any mall. I am not naive. I know that the entire U.S. economic structure depends on the “consumer” going out and consistenly spending just a little more than he can afford. But oh, I object to this. Part of it is downsizing for the last couple of years and getting rid of a heck of a lot of stuff I wondered why I had ever thought necessary.

But what a shame that a holiday that has traditionally been characterized by good cheer and social gatherings should have been reduced to a shopping frenzy. So I just don’t participate any more. I gave gifts, but they were either homemade or simply cash toward something special I knew someone wanted/needed.

I see I’m in danger of turning this into a rant after all, and I don’t want to. Besides, my oven bell just went off, so I’ve got to go check the fire in the stove and the stuffed steak that is cooking. (The kids went home today, so I’m treating Ben to beef.)

Merry Christmas to all. Hope yours was as happy as mine.

I’ve been tagged, so I’ll attempt to cooperate

December 25, 2006

Phil tagged me today, and I’m going to try to cooperate. This is a fascinating exercise in social networking. But I’m in a bit of a quandary. Most of my friends have no idea how to spell “b-l-o-g,” let alone having one. So there is a real challenge in finding five others to offer up.

I’ll do what I can.

Five things that readers of my blog probably won’t pick up from reading:

1. At various times in my life, I have been a cowgirl, a policewoman, a lifeguard, a race car driver, a consultant, and a college professor.

2. I still managed to work 28 years for AT&T and retire.

3. I dropped out of school at age 20, having better things to do. But I returned at age 58, and have since earned a B.A. in creative writing and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing.

4. I write pretty decent poetry.

5. I love technology, not for its own sake but for the places it touches people and has an impact on their lives.

Now for the really hard part.

Here’s Annie’s blog, where she writes about anything that tickles her fancy.

Heath finds the extraordinary in the days of his life.

Since my involvement in this started in the UK, it’s fitting that it should go back there. My friend Armin has had a very interesting year.

I’d like to include Naveed, Sandra, and Sunil, but the links I have seem to be broken, so I’ll have to update them later.

I have at least five more things I’ll share with you at a different time, I’m sure.

Entropy, and a few other random thoughts

December 21, 2006

Last night I tried to listen to one of my science lectures at bedtime. The topic was “entropy.” But 5 minutes into the lecture, the batteries on my CD player died. I thought about changing them, then I decided this was really a lesson in entropy and I should just go to sleep.

Here’s what the free dictionary has to day:

en·tro·py Pronunciation (ntr-p)

n. pl. en·tro·pies

1. Symbol S For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.

2. A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.

3. A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.

4. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.

5. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

Now, clearly my CD player and its batteries had “evolved toward a state of inert uniformity.” They were dead, and you can’t get anymore uniform or inert than that. But I didn’t know about all of those other definitions, and the last one plays on a discussion Ben and I had tonight.

We were talking about Iraq, although I’m not sure it started that way. In fact, it didn’t. We started out talking about prejudice and tribalism. We have somewhat different views on the subject. Ben was in Vietnam as a Special Forces guy. I was not. We are both pretty conservative in our outlooks. One of us–you can figure out which one–still thinks George W. is smart.

But I had just read a terrific article in the new issue of The American Scholar: “Not Compassionate, Not Conservative.” The author refers back to an essay written in about 1945, the heart of the McCarthy era, that defines a condition of “pseudo-conservative.” The issue, both the original 1945 essayist and the current writer propose, is fear–fear that by giving up ANYTHING we are conceding whatever advantages we now enjoy and endangering them. It’s a pretty terrific proposal.

Ben and I didn’t come to agreement (that in itself is a little depressing–if the two of us can’t agree, what hope is there for people who don’t know and like each other already?). But we didn’t come to blows either. But I become steadily more intrigued by the obvious signs of the chaotic state in which all of us in the world find ourselves. Where will it all end? I wish I could live long enough to see the resolution, but I doubt that I will.

I apologize for even mentioning politics. I try not to.

A few thoughts about cowboys and truck drivers

December 19, 2006

In the middle of yesterday’s chaos, my package from Amazon arrived. In it was a new book I’d ordered on the American Transcendentalists and a piece of total whimsy: “C. W. McCall’s Greatist Hits,” an audio CD that contains some mediocre stuff and three or four of the truly best humorous folk tale songs ever written, IMNHO. I had this recording on cassette, and probably still do somewhere, but I never play a cassette player anymore. When I found out it had been released on CD, I bought it. Last night Ben and I listened to it while I was cooking dinner.

I suspect that most of my readers have never heard of C. W. McCall. In the ’70s, when there was such a mania for CB radio in the U.S. (yes, there was time before cell phones, children), this guy seemed to come out of nowhere (Chicago, actually, I think, draw your own conclusions there). He had a monster hit with a song called “Convoy” about a bunch of truckers defying the law. Then he disappeared again.

McCall draws most of his material from the world of the long-haul truck driver. I find this very interesting, because I’ve always been a great admirer of cowboys, expecially outlaws, and I think the driver of the cross-country 18-wheeler may be the closest thing we have in today’s culture. That’s not to call all truckers outlaws. By and large the ones I’ve met are terrific people (both men and women do this, you know). They just experience a different reality than the rest of us.

There are three or four songs on this CD that never fail to leave me rolling on the floor. It was also the most requested tape in my household when my daughter was 6, so that gives you some idea of the level of sophistication employed by my sense of humor. What makes these notable for me (the poet, remember) is the incredible level of specific detail in these stories and the colloquial style. I mean, we’re talking about ’37 Chevy pickup trucks that start with a rusty nail, Conoco gas stations (when was the last time you saw one of those?), CJ5 Jeeps rented by tourists who should never have left the freeway, running battles with the state police, and the incredible story of hauling chickens over Wolf Creek Pass, a story full of “ceegars,” broken shift knobs, too-small tunnels and chickens stacked too high. Of this bunch, “Wolf Creek Pass” and “Classified Advertisement” are my very, very favorites. But the CD ends with a completely different piece, a tone poem, don’t remember the title at the moment, maybe “Aurora Borealis,” about a night in the Rockies. It reminds me so much of summer nights out here, and the loveliness of it just makes me ache.

The adventure continues

December 19, 2006

One of the most frequently asked questions by people who come to visit for the first time is: “What on earth do you find to do out here?” It’s a fair question–no TV, an hour’s drive to a movie or theater or even a video rental place, friends scattered up and down the valley or even further, rarely power except in the evenings, and so on and so on and so on.

But it takes so much involvement just to live that I never seem to run out of things to do. And for me, they’re mostly fun things, although they might not be for everyone. But I think what I’m enjoying most at the moment is a chance to live only in the moment–no or little multi-tasking–to be present, and to appreciate what’s around me and what I’m doing with/in it. That’s why I’ve been enjoying my cooking spree–handling the yeasty dough, feeling the texture change, rolling out the pastry and seeing the layers form, and of course, smelling garlic, onions, and olive oil.

Today, for a couple that lives pretty much off the grid, we had a rather amazing day of dealing mostly with utility companies and other service providers. It started at 8 this morning, when Ben’s logger friend called back and said he was on his way up river. Ben took some coffee and bailed out, and pretty soon I started hearing trees crashing. At 9, the phone company showed up to do Ralph and Brenda’s phone (they just left for a two-week holiday visit with family). At 10, our water went out. I was forced to leave the dishes in the sink. Darn. At 1, phone installed, Ben went up the hill and hooked in the backup spring (I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about water, but our place is peppered with artesian springs and we’ve developed a number of them). Then the power company arrived to see if they could get the valley back in power, and our place was crawling with hi-lifts, vans, trucks, and nice guys in winter wear. And although the spring was reconnected, the inflow was churning up the tank and putting out mostly silt through the pipes. It obviously needed to settle and clear.

At that point I gave up. I’ve been putting off going to town successfully for several days, but I loaded myself up, drove to Toledo and got my leaky tire fixed (at least I hope it’s fixed, I’ll probably know tomorrow), filled the one empty propane tank, and got a bunch of groceries. Tomorrow will be mostly calmer, except we have one utility left to go–tomorrow is garbage day. Yes, friends and observers, we actually signed up for garbage pickup once a week. It’s cheaper than going to the dump. We don’t generate that much garbage (although many, many recyclables) if the truth be told, but I can’t stand to have it sitting forever in the mudroom, and we can’t put it outside because it attracts animals. The once a week pickup is cheaper than driving it to town. So we’re trying it out.

Ben was complaining tonight that this was a mistake because it’s far too much work. But you should understand, he’s the one who hauls the cans down to the bridge, I’m the one who drives it to town. Work and effort are in the eye of the person doing them I think, and I’m finding the pickup service rather wonderful.

My good deed for the day: When I left to go to town, the power guys looked so cold and tired that I bought a couple of giant bags of chocolate chip cookies at the grocery store, thinking some sugar would at least provide a little pickmeup. By the time I got back, they had moved over to our cabin, but Ben said, “Go take them over, right now. Their lunches didn’t get delivered today. I gave them some tortilla chips, but I couldn’t figure out what else we had that could be eaten on the fly.” That was a bunch of grateful guys.

Big score today. . .

December 18, 2006

It’s been colder that the proverbial part of the witch’s anatomy today. I don’t think it got above 34 degrees. The frost on the meadow hadn’t thawed as of 2 p.m. At least we didn’t have the two inches of ice I saw at the Robeson’s. . .

But just after lunch, Ben drove down river to try to contact a logger friend. There are three BIG fir trees down at the little cabin across the river, and he was hoping to get the use of a skidder to get some of them out of there. No Fred to be found, and Mike was working on his mother’s roof, and Ben came back. But he went up river first.

“I found a big cherry tree down,” he said. “I brought a few rounds that someone left when they ran out of room, but there’s a lot more.” You probably need to know that cherry wood is the Cadillac, the diamond, of firewood. It burns incredibly hot, so you can use it to jack up the temperature and then put in very small pieces to maintain. In short, a perfect wood for baking.

“Can I help you get some?” I asked. And of course, the answer was yes. We took the little Husquie chainsaw and the truck. The tree was wonderful, and we filled the back with rounds. They’re now down in the meadow awaiting splitting.

Like many things in life, cherry wood’s value is equalled by the effort it takes to make it work. The bark grows around the tree instead of up and down, so if you don’t score it with a chain saw, it’s almost impossible to split. But it’s so fine. My guys know how I feel about it and will go to almost any lengths to ensure that I have cherry wood. All I have to deliver in return is baked goods.

This morning, in a fit of something, I made a wonderful quiche–Virginia-style ham, sauteed onions, and Gruyere cheese. That was even before the cherry wood. Ben had suggestions for improvements he would like to see, equaling real success. He had two servings and wanted more. Proving that despite rumors to the contrary, real men DO eat quiche.

The power company has advised that it may be as much as a week before the power, already out for four days, will be restored. There are about 5 miles of lines down. The substation at Elk City is non-functional. As you may remember, however, we’re not on the grid, so except for the fact that our neighbor’s still need the generator from the laundry room, we’re really not affected. My DSL is working just fine, thank you, because the phone company has wonderful backup generators.

Life on the Big Elk is terrific today. The fog is rising, so I have hopes that we’ll get the preferred of our winter options–we can have warm and wet, or clear and cold. I’m ready for a little more warmth. But I have a great new supply of cherry wood to bake with.


December 16, 2006

Jeff Moriarty’s comment about neighbors on my storm entry brought me up short. So even thought I just posted something, here I am back again.

I’ve lived much of my life in cities, so I know exactly what Jeff means about not really knowing the people who live 10 feet away. And I think that’s really what’s so different about being out here.

We pretty much know everyone for about 20 miles in three directions. And of course, they pretty much know us. That includes people to whom we’ve never been introduced. It has its good and bad points, but it’s necessary, because you never know when you’re going to need someone or they are going to need you. This series of little valleys is more of a community than any place I’ve ever lived.

The first time (in recent years) that Ben moved the meadow (in a successful attempt to get rid of the berries I was complaining about last time), he went to Elk City a few hours later. Bear in mind that Elk City is 11 miles away over gravel road. When he walked into the store, the owner, said, “I hear you mowed your field and it looks real good.” Even Ben was blown away by that one.

I mentioned Kaleb, the teenager who’s a bit of a local hero now. He’s 16, and happened to be out and about on his 4-wheeler when he heard an odd noise by the river. The noise he heard was someone’s car going off the road and into the river, which was flowing pretty hard. The driver was a young woman somewhat the worse for alcohol who managed to struggle out the car window but was rapidly being swept away. She said later she was actually going under when Kaleb simply waded into the river and pulled her out. He’s a rather quiet and modest young man who credited his first aid training in high school with giving him the confidence to attempt it.

But that’s how neighbors behave where I live, and I like it.