Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From Chicago

Why are train stations so hot!? Maybe it's because the first class lounge is populated mostly by senior citizens. I am the youngest person here by several decades.

UPDATE: I am basing this assumption on the fact that my grandparents keep the heat in their house set to 80.

UPDATE 2: I just saw an old lady wearing an ochre pillbox hat nearly identical to the one I wore in a speakeasy-themed wedding:

Before that, I saw an elderly woman wearing the same coat as me. I realized that around my neck I am wearing a pocketwatch and a big film camera. Maybe these are my people. I am the oldest 25-year-old ever.

(Yes, I have a laptop, too, but it is so old it is being held together with duct tape. Duct tape and Linux.)

Monday, January 25, 2010


It seems relevant to tell what I ended up doing with the five course meal. I brought the main course and dessert to another friend's house when she and her now-husband invited me over for dinner with his brother. It was fiddlehead quinotto and a dense cake made with teff flour and two sticks of butter. It was basically a butter cookie cake. I think homemade whipped cream was involved. I will now admit that this was over the top.

On Motivation

Disclaimer: I wrote this after staying up all night to pack. It might be rambly and it might make no sense. It is poorly edited; there are places where "blame" should be "responsibility." Or where "jerk" should be "person who bears the responsibility."

    I am too sleep-deprived right now to write about this coherently; on the other hand, it's a topic I've been meaning to write about for more than two months.
    Lately, I've been thinking a lot about motivation. And blame/fault/responsibility. This started just before I moved to Oregon--I'm talking about eight months ago, when I packed all of my stuff into boxes and either put it in storage or put it in my car. I'm distinguishing here because right now it feels like I'm moving to Oregon a second time. Going through the same process of sorting things, getting rid of things, boxing up what needs to be shipped this time and what I will ship/come back for later.
    I think I am too tired to write much more, without plunging headfirst into the realm of incoherent babbling, so I'll just write an example. There are a lot of layers to this. One has to do with typical friend/people relationship; another has to do with...well, I don't know how to categorize it. Here's my example. Let's say you make plans with someone. You invite them over for dinner. You make them an elaborate dinner--you start days in advance in that short window between coming home from work and going to bed, so that the day of you can just come home from work, pop the dinner in the oven to reheat, set the table, put on music, and wait for your guest to arrive.
    Now, two hours in advance, that friend cancels and their excuse is not really a good one. (Such as, "accident on the Parkway, it will take me three hours to get there.") Let's say it's, "I'm tired" or no excuse at all, something like, "I can't make it." Who is to blame here?
    My ingrained belief was that the plan-canceler was a jerk and the one with 100% of the fault. When I was getting ready to move to Oregon, I thought, "I went to all this work when I have all this crap to do to get ready to move! What nerve!" but then I thought, "Wait a minute. Do I carry any of this responsibility? YES I DO." It was my fault for not being realistic; no one expects me to make a five-course meal from scratch on a weeknight. Except maybe idiots. The person was coming to see me, not the food. Except when having over certain people, don't cook that much food on a weeknight.* Just make something simple, or get a pizza. Save the big cooking for a weekend or for special friends who rarely cancel plans (and if they do, reschedule for the same week so that you can reheat the leftovers) and who appreciate from-scratch five-course-meals.
    I realize it sounds like I am talking about a specific incident, and I kind of am. I didn't mean to but I am really tired. So don't pay too much attention to the incident; I am trying to write about the LESSONS here. If you put a lot of effort into something and the other person doesn't show up, it's their fault they didn't show up, but it is NOT their fault that you made them a five-course meal. That's what I'm trying to say. They are responsible for not showing up, but not for the five-course meal part. This is how I felt eight months ago: in such cases, you are responsible 100% for the five-course meal. The responsibility for the ruined dinner party of two is split 50/50. At the moment, I'm leaning more toward where I was when I was younger. The blame is at least 20% on the person who unnecessarily cooked a five-course meal--maybe more than 20%, but definitely less than 50%. If the other party knew it was a five-course meal and not a frozen pizza, then they are even more of a jerk...I mean, responsible.
    The other lesson is don't put tons of effort if the other party does not have a track record of keeping their end of the bargain. Don't make a five-course meal for a chronic canceler or for someone you don't know that well (bc you don't know if they're a chronic canceler or not.) It's a lot of pressure to put on that person, in a way.
    Now here's where we get into motivation. This was the "other" thing I wanted to write about, which I had trouble describing earlier. It extends to more topics than regular friend/people relationships. But this example of friend/people relationships does lead into the other category.
    What is the motivation of the person who cooked the five course meal when a pizza would suffice? Was it solely to feed the friend an elaborate dinner? Was the five-course-meal cooker correctly approximating the other party's needs? Or was this five course meal, in some way, also for the person who cooked it? Did they want an excuse to try new recipes, to use up things in the refrigerator, or to impress the other party?
    That's why I put some of the responsibility on the five-course-meal cook. The motivation wasn't entirely selfless. Especially if the five-course-meal cook wanted to impress everyone with his/her cooking.
    As a result of this lesson, when I'm going to parties where the people do not give a crap about organic, seasonal produce, or don't really like unusual flavor combinations or foreign spices, I don't go crazy cooking my potluck dish. I bring taco dip.
    Anyway, this isn't about shifting the blame off of a plan-canceler. This is about examining one's own motivation and actions, as well as the other person's, and change things to make yourself happier. You are the only person in control of your own happiness; you cannot make someone show up for your five course dinner. You can choose to enjoy making it and eating the leftovers by yourself for a week, or you can choose to order pizza. Keep the ingredients for taco dip** in your pantry.
    Now I'm getting into a longer post, so I'll just write a few quick sentences. How this weird story about dinner parties leads into "motivation" comes from the part about making the five course dinner to impress people, not just to make them happy and provide them with good food.
    Pretend there is a really brilliant connecting sentence here. When I am more alert, I will edit this and write one here.
    On the other side of that connecting sentence is unsolicited advice. So is do-gooder stuff. Here are two short examples: 1) Giving people unsolicited advice on how they should run their life/do everyday things/drive/eat/dress/deal with their loved ones/etc. Why are you doing this? Do you want to help them? Or do you want them to think, "She's right! She gives such good advice?" Or do you want them to do things the way you think things should be done!? Is your motivation in any way selfish?
    This is especially true (in my opinion) when the unsolicited advice deals with making the world a better place--telling someone that they should be buy organic, abstain from Wal-mart, and change all their lightbulbs to CFLs. Do you really think you are saving the planet by nagging people to do this? Or are you trying to make people think, "Changing to an eco-friendly lifestyle has made my life better! That person is SO great for telling me this! They are soooooo great because they really care about the planet! WHAT A GREAT PERSON!"

    In conclusion, I am not saying that everyone who is trying to be nice is really being selfish. In general, in the first case--I think the Five Course Meal Cook is just misled--is trying too hard to please the wrong people and can just take responsibility for her own happiness and stop trying so hard with those people and divert her energies to herself and to people who really deserve it.*** I do, however, mean to criticize Unsolicited Advice Giver (especially the Make the World a Better Place Nagger).****

* This rule applies when working regular hours. Funemployment time is a little different.
** Refried beans, Hormel chili, cheddar cheese and sour cream....I guess those last two would go bad in the pantry!
*** Uh...this TOTALLY was not supposed to end up being All About Me. (Except the part about unsolicited advice--because I used to do that way too much.) I meant this to be something to think about, maybe advice that people can use.
**** I have totally been this person, all right? I'm not saying they're all bad people! I still AM this person more often than I care to admit!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bad, Good, Interesting

Bad: Packing. It is just making me crazy. It is so hard to decide what pieces of my life I am bringing with me or leaving behind. (I know that is dramatic, but that's how I am thinking at the worst moments.)
Good: The Empire Builder has showers!
Interesting: I just applied for several plant biology jobs with the National Parks Service, all in Alaska. Different parks in Alaska.

Friday, January 22, 2010


    Before I start packing, I have to figure out what I am going to wear my last days in NJ and what clothes I will need on the train. So, I just checked the weather, and it's quite a variety. NJ will be warm (for winter) during the day--skirt with tights weather, in my opinion--and cold at night. In Portland, it will be very warm--near 50. But in Chicago, where I will spend a few hours exploring, it's going to be COLD. The high temperature for the day I arrive is about 27. But how cold will it feel with the wind chill? (I'm imagining extreme wind chill; it is, after all, the Windy City.)
In short, I'm bringing a winter coat in my carry-on just for the few hours in Chicago. (And if I feel like stepping off the train for 20 minutes in Minot.)
    I've never been to Chicago before. I'm excited! It's only a few hours, but I plan to leave Union Station and explore a little bit. Do any of my readers know what there is to see in Chicago that is within walking distance of Union Station? I'm looking for a lunch suggestion, too. Should I eat pizza in Chicago!?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Skinny Jean Rescue Surgery: Part Two

    To be brief--IT WORKED! Sewing a waistband on top of the existing waistband of my jeans made them wearable, comfortable, and free of muffin-topping. Franken-waistband doesn't look too bad, either. Regular shirts (not just long shirts) seem to cover it; however, I might re-attach the belt loops and wear tucked-in shirts with two belts, as a strange fashion statement. I wonder how that would look...
Or maybe one long belt wrapped around twice. Or a scarf.
    So, the conclusion is, if you can't comfortably wear low-rise jeans (in my case, because my waist is higher than the jeans' waist and the jean won't stay up worn at their natural mid-hip level) you need to add extra fabric. A solution that wouldn't result in destroying a pair of jeans would be to make a new waistband, but if you're afraid to do that, just cut the waistband off of an existing pair of jeans (in a similar color!) and sew that waistband to the top of the jeans.

Empire Builder

My next adventure is officially going to happen. I just made my reservation for an overnight train from New York to Chicago, and then from Chicago I will go to Portland. I have a few hours in Chicago in which I will not have to worry about my bags, so I get to explore the city a bit. I plan to at least eat lunch in Chicago. I've never been there before and have no idea what I should see! I don't want to stray toooo far from Union Station. Anyone know what's near Union Station in Chicago? (Lunch, shopping, sightseeing.)

Alaskan Obsession

    Has anyone else noticed that whenever I say I'm going to do something crazy, I end up doing it? Lately that is, at least.
    First it was driving across the United States. Okay, did that. Three times in two trips. Then it was driving to Canada. Did that. Then it was moving to Portland. I talked about that, in moments of crazy (when I had no plan, no job, just talked about MOVING) long before I actually did it. I believe it started when I was 16 and got an e-mail from Reed College.
    Then it was taking a train home from NJ, shunning planes. I'm doing that.
    This is why I will occasionally look up from my maps of Alaska, British Columbia, and Yukon, and think, "Oh no." In moments of fantasy, my thoughts run like this: "Hmmmmmm...well that's green, so that's some kind of park and hey! A name! That's a town! It's south of Anchorage and roads go to it! It's less than 2,000 miles away! Maybe I can drive there!" More often than I'd care to admit, I've caught my mind forming the thought, "Look at that! It's so close to/on a road that goes to Whitehorse. If you're that close to Yukon, you may as well GO to Yukon, right?"
    OF COURSE. EVERYONE should go to YUKON. Do I even know what's in Yukon? NO!!!!!!! Snow? All I know about Yukon is Yukon Cornelius (who is a fictional character) and once I listened to an interesting NPR story that took place in Whitehorse, but I don't even remember what it was about.
    There is so much empty space on these maps, and occasionally Google Image searching brings up pictures of snowy mountains. I do love snowy mountains. I find myself lured into the romance of that empty space on the map...just road...and it drowns out my inner sane woman who is crying, "No! What if your CAR breaks down? Even if you get cell phone reception, you will have to pay ROAMING CHARGES because you'll be in CANADA!" Eventually, my inner sane woman gives up and says, "Oh my God, you are actually going to do this someday, aren't you?"
    Maybe not this year, and maybe not even before I turn thirty, but someday.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On giving and tackiness

    I just jokingly (kind of) announced to my family that from now on, I am donating to non-tacky charities. In all honesty, I will give my money to whoever is going to use it well. But I do think the bizarre "thank-you" I just got for a donation I made on Friday night is a little on the tacky side.
    To give some idea of my standards, charities that send me mailing labels and stickers (especially stickers!) and calendars and stationary and all kinds of schwag risk falling into my personal "tacky" zone. I always want to say, "Quit sending me crap! I'm not going to give you money if I think you're using money to print stickers!" I realize that not everyone feels the way I do on this topic.
    Anyway, this "tacky" thank-you was an e-mail with a link to a slideshow of photos from Haiti. At first I thought, cool! Photos showing what's being done with the donations! No, it's photos of the tragedy, to remind you of why you should donate more money. There's a sentence reading, "Thank you for your generous donation." "Your generous donation" is a hyperlink. That hyperlink takes you to the page to donate more money. This e-mail seemed so...insincere. "Thanks, but I don't think you gave that generously!" Tacky-Charity-Which-Will-Go-Unnamed, I am unemployed! I gave you my Obama Check! I'm not saying I won't donate any more money, but don't hit me up two days after my first donation. Give me some space! I don't get another Obama Check until next week!
    I am mostly being silly. I don't care too much if a charity is tacky, if they are doing good work. However, the next time I donate money through the Internet, I think I will give to this classy charity, which has (to my knowledge) never had a scandal, which does not spend excessive amounts of money on advertising (maybe they could spend a little more; I didn't even know they had a text messaging campaign right now!), and has TWO links for people to donate money online, in case the first one is slow. (I experienced this on Friday; charity websites really are freezing and refusing to connect and running very slowly because so many people are donating money.) [I donated with the Internet because I would not put it past Verizon to charge me text messaging fees (which would also be tacky!) and also because I could use my credit card and get more reward points. See, I'm kinda tacky, too.] I've given them money in the past, and they just send me a tasteful letter thanking me for my donation, maybe reminding me where to send money if I want to send some more, but that's it.
    I do not want to poke too much fun at the charity that is not Salvation Army, who sent me a tacky e-mail asking me for more money. I think everyone should donate money wherever they feel comfortable. To end on a positive note, isn't it nice that so many people are reaching out to help strangers that websites are getting overloaded? It makes me happy to be part of this country--really, this world--where people are so generous!
    Even if some people consider (as an afterthought! I swear!) their credit card rewards points.

* I call it that because I got a letter saying, "President Obama" decreed, declared...something'ed...that some people would get this extra check every two weeks. I keep forgetting to factor it into my budget, and since the letter made it seem like Obama himself was sending me the check, I call it my "Obama Money" and put it aside for things like medicine, car repairs, gifts, and charitable donations.

Friday, January 15, 2010


    I found a waistband on another pair of jeans which is 2" wide (the amount by which I wanted to raise my waistband) and almost the same color as my favorite Guess jeans. It's close enough that I think no one will notice the difference if they're not staring at my waist, and chances are whatever shirt I'm wearing will cover it anyway.
    Potential problems are that the belt loops might look silly. I might have to lengthen them or...something. Get rid of them entirely.
    If Franken-waistband succeeds in holding up my pants without looking silly, then my favorite jeans have been saved.
    If Franken-waistband succeeds in holding up my pants but looks ridiculous, I will wear long shirts until I get back to Portland, and then when I do, I will go to Fabric Depot and Mill End, look for denim in the right color, buy half a yard or so, and make a new 4" waistband.

New Project: Jean Rescue Surgery

    Lately, between sewing and buying new clothes that actually fit, I've had to think a lot about how I am built. I've known for awhile that the way I am built is not the way clothing is designed. Here's what I've come up with so far: I am 5'6", which puts me on the border of "tall" and "average" for a lot of clothing. I always have to buy "tall" pants. But I can buy "petite" tops. I am "high-waisted," so I usually buy and make high-waisted skirts and dresses. Most jeans don't fit me because they are "low-rise" and that just falls off my waist (or doesn't reach my waist, because it is "high") and land somewhere in the dreaded underwear-showing muffin-top zone. Oh, I have trouble getting things to fit in the bust, too. Or my shoulders are too wide. What a headache!
    My approach to this problem a few months ago was to buy a sewing machine and start making my own clothes. I've also stopped buying any clothing that doesn't fit in a way that I like it. Even if it means going home with no new clothes. Starting from scratch isn't always practical, so my new fixation is with altering existing garments. (This also means that I can buy clothes that don't fit quite right, if I have an idea of how to fix them.)
    The most frustrating thing is jeans. Especially skinny jeans. I love them. I have a pair from Guess that I wear nearly every day that I don't wear a skirt. They are too low-rise and they fall down, but I still wear them. In the fall, I finally found skinny jeans in the cut I like, but they did not come in "tall" and they just looked too stupid. I thought about buying a pair of the "tall" with the not-skinny leg and just taking in the legs, turning them into skinny jeans.
    But I'm thinking of saving the Guess jeans instead. Especially now that I've noticed that they are getting holes under the belt loop from constantly being pulled up. That's where I got the idea--put extra fabric where the problem is.
    Ever since I've had the idea, it's been impossible to disrupt. I am planning to--no, I am going to raise the waistband on my favorite jeans by two inches. I have a lot of scrap denim, and I plan to remove the waistband of my favorite jeans, sew a two-inch band of fabric to it, and then reattach the waistband. Since I don't plan on messing with the zipper, I'll have to add a subtle button closure or hook-and-eye to the extra band. So basically, it's a second waistband.
    Which is how I got my second idea. Perhaps what I really need to do is, instead of butchering the pants, just add a second waistband above the existing waistband. I am going to make it look as much as possible like it's just a wide waistband, not pieces from two different garments slapped together.

I will provide updates on my progress. Google did not help me, so, if I am successful, I will help other Googling-seamstresses. And if I fail, this blog will serve as a warning to LEAVE YOUR JEANS ALONE.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dish 38: A Malvaceous Disappointment

Just a quick note that tonight I made only one dish from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, the book I wrote about last night. It was Crispy Okra Raita, Dish 38. The malvaceous aspect, the okra, was actually not the disappointment. I just think that made a great adjective for a post title. It sounds dramatic, like "malevolent."
First of all, I have made my share of friewd okra and recipe writers always say not to turn it until it's browned on one side. I mean, ideally, you brown your fried okra and then turn it, so that in your pan you have all evenly browning pieces. How does anyone do this? I can't keep track of all those little slices; furthermore I always end up knocking about the neighbors of the okra piece I actually do mean to turn. I think it is hopeless.
    Anyway, I followed this recipe to the letter--crisping the okra, whisking the yogurt and salt and sugar in a bowl, putting a pile of spices on top of the okra, making the tadka and pouring the hot tadka over the yogurt, and then adding the okra and mixing it all together. It seemed like the flavors were off (definitely too much salt), but there may have just been too much dressing. I've never made raita before so I do not know--is it supposed to be mostly yogurt? When I think "yogurt dressing" I don't think of "vegetable pieces swimming in yogurt."
  &nsbp Perhaps tomorrow will be a Chickpea Curry with Dill kind of day.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Chicken, Cashews, Beets, Ginger, Garlic, Serrano, and Magic Hat

    Tonight I made dinner from my newest cookbook, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate. I got this book as a Christmas present, and have been poring over it ever since, planning what I would make when I had the kitchen to myself. (I am house-sitting.)
    The concept behind this book is that you can make authentic Indian food without buying a bunch of unfamiliar ingredients or spending hours in the kitchen. I think this is brilliant; most people don't make biryani every night, but most ethnic cookbooks are heavy on recipes like that--complicated food you might order at a restaurant. It keeps the ethnic food as unfamiliar; it lets the foreign stay foreign. (I guess it also makes it special.) I like books like this which bridge gaps by showing the reader how to incorporate parts of the "foreign" or "special" into their normal routine.
    Anyway, most of the 50 recipes are not just easy enough to make everyday, but also tasty enough to serve to company.
    The other important thing about this cookbook is that the recipes use no spices other than the following five: cumin, mustard, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. (This does not include fresh, readily available ingredients like garlic and ginger.) So this means it won't tell you what to do with that impulse-bought kalonji or fenugreek, but it also means no special trips to Subzi Mandi for asafoetida or mango powder. There may have been a time when I would have disdained such a cookbook; I used to seek out ethnic cookbooks that were super authentic (although the definition of that is open to debate), involved unusual ingredients, and yielded new challenges for me. Now I like to try new things without messing up the kitchen and spending my life preparing dinner. Anyway, my point is that this book is designed for those inexperienced at making Indian food, and I'm a little past that. But it's nice to take a break from biryani, tamarind shrimp, and sambar. It's nice to begin again with something simple.
    Tonight, I made Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce (Dish 25) over Lentil Rice Pilaf (Dish 45) with Sauteed Beets with Mustard and Lemon Juice (Dish 9) on the side. The headnotes for the chicken state, "This recipe may challenge your perception of Indian food--it's neither spicy nor a curry." That got my attention. Something new!? Also, the sauce's origin was described as "the old princely kitchens of North India." Princely!? I had to try it.
    The one food I am picky about is chicken; when I want to give a brief version I just tell people I don't like it. I usually don't! If a dish has other things that I like, which hide the chicken, then I don't mind it. It's very rare that I like chicken. I realize this is weird. Anyway, Dish 25 is an exception--made with plain Jane chicken breasts, I might add. It's delicious, especially with the pilaf.
    For the most part, I followed these recipes to the letter. The biggest change I made was that instead of boiling the beets for Dish 9, I roasted them. I just prefer roasted beets (and then I can stick them in the oven, forget about them for an hour, and call it "cooking.") These too were great.
    These three dishes lacked the flavors that tend to stand out and make a dish obviously Indian food; what I mean is, these things tasted interesting but also different. I think they might be accepted by people who claim they don't like Indian food. The stronger spices, like cumin, blended into the rest of the dish rather than overpowering the other ingredients.
    I am looking forward to trying more of the 50 recipes (plus the bonus desserts. I am eyeing up a saffron-yogurt-y thing. At the produce market today, I bought cabbage, eggplant, squash, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and dill. On my To Try list I have Chickpea Curry with Dill, Butternut Squash in Coconut Milk Curry and/or a raita that uses squash, Crispy Okra Raita, Eggplant with Peanut Sesame Masala and/or an eggplant raita, Onion and Yogurt Egg Curry, and Cabbage Salad. I doubt I'll make all of this in one week, but I'll write up what I do make (and how it turns out.)


    Trying to locate a 2009 list of New Year's Resolutions, I found the following posted on January 3, 2009:

This is how I have been feeling, lately, with a lot of things. I do one challenging thing, and I think, well, what next? I used to be so afraid of the world. I don't feel that way right now. I have nothing to lose, I keep saying. It is the opposite of how I am accustomed to living life.
I'm going to go with this feeling, if that's what January 2009 is going to be about, and see where I end up. And I will write about it.

    When I read this I thought, "That is not how I remember January 2009. I remember being stressed out, unhappy, lachrymose--a big old mess. Oh, let's not forget paranoid."
    Although this negativity eventually yielded to a determination to change the course of my life--a determination to be happy--I have no recollection of feeling so happy and confident on January 3! But then I remembered that it was January 5 when jury duty began, and thus my 2009 took a turn for the Crazy. I wrote that italicized paragraph before the turn, when I had no idea where I was going to end up.

    What I do recall from early January is that I had plans--plans to PLAN. I was going to organize and schedule my whole life! Or at least everyday life. I was going to organize my stuff, my closet, my diet, my finances, and my time. This goal required being home a lot, however, and jury duty (and all that followed) made that impossible.

    Once I realized the year was not going to be stable (geographically or otherwise), I let go of the obsession with planning. To some extent at least. I began to re-prioritize, let go, and accept that my life's accomplishments are not outweighed by the fact that my socks don't match. I realized that my spreadsheets would not be useful to me when I moved to places where they were geographically irrelevant. I relaxed. I may have given up on some of the goals!

    Yesterday, I realized that the things I have been doing--shopping for wardrobe staples, taking my shoes to the cobbler, sorting through every box of every item I've ever owned and recycling or donating the cast-offs--work toward the organizational goals I originally set for 2009. Without planning on it, I am organizing things. I think that this--January 2010--is my second chance at January 2009. Or at least the goals of January 2009.

Friday, January 08, 2010


    This topic is something where my thoughts are like a big tangled ball. Like when thread and yarn and scraps of fabric get stuck together. All the different pieces can be seen and identified, but they are unclear--stuck to and obscured by the other pieces.
    I think the best thing for me to do (part of this writing-to-be-a-better-thinker-and-writer-and-communicator/writing-for-emotional-wellbeing goal) is to start trying to untangle the ball of knots and write, a little at a time, about this subject.
    The symptoms of psychological/verbal abuse is something that keeps popping up in my life lately--in things that I hear of people going through or at least discussing. (Or from all the daytime TV I've been watching.) What's come up is that constant criticism, especially of trivial things (like the way a person cuts onions or folds towels), is not just a warning sign but a form of abuse. The repetition of this behavior wears the victim down; the result is constant nervousness and a preoccupation with upsetting the other party. The next attack is criticizing the victim in bigger ways--such as their life goals or behavior.
    Lately, the following has been on my mind: why do people put up with that crap in the first place? How do otherwise strong-willed, self-confident, self-aware people allow another person to talk to them that way? Because they do! It's not just meek people who don't think they're their own boss.
    I wonder this because I have on more than one occasion found myself dealing with a person who exhibits such behavior, and I wonder, "How the hell did that happen?!" and also, "Why won't you LEARN!?" And more importantly, "How can you PREVENT this in the future?" Maybe "enabler" is the wrong word;it puts responsibility (and blame) on the victim.
    I haven't gotten very far. Here's where my thoughts get to be that tangled-up ball. The following are my conclusions in a succinct form:
* These abusive types can be very magnetic people. They know how to turn on the charm. That's how they suck you in in the first place, and they turn it back on for the "honeymoon phase." The victim wants to please this person, because they can be so likeable.
* Strong emotions are just that. There's a connection between love and hate (with control on the side.) I am now at a loss for coherent words. I once heard a story where Person A met Person B and found them aggravating, just detested them, and then thought, "I am probably going to love Person B." Some people think that if you love someone a lot, you can hate them just as much (and vice versa.) The direction from zero can change, but the magnitude does not. I don't know if I believe that precisely...but I think there's some connection. I think that might explain how someone could feel they loved a person and ignore the fact that this person makes them afraid.

I hope that made sense!

Unemployment is making me fat

    Of course I am (mostly) kidding. I've just noticed that some shirts and dresses don't look as nice now as they did a few weeks ago. It is not an issue of increasing in size so much as increasing in muffin top. I blame sitting around looking for jobs all day and getting things like brie and a box of chocolate as Christmas gifts.
    I'm not going to write too much about this because it is not interesting. However, I've decided that (especially next week, when I have control of the kitchen) I am going to go on the "diet" of eating like I normally do (when I'm not sharing meals with anyone else), which means a lot of lentils, avocadoes, whole milk yogurt, and vegetables. I started out doing so well yesterday, and then ended up eating lunch three times. Oh well!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Anne Shirley would approve of this train

The train is most likely a go. The name of the train that goes from Chicago to Portland (or Seattle) is the Empire Builder. It goes through the Northwest, from what I can tell following the route of I-94 and I-90. The only cons are the potential mind-numbing boredom and that I would get to Portland kind of late. The pros that are making me lean toward the train are things other people might find trivial, such as that I will be able to take my undeveloped film with me* and that the Rocky Mountains, especially up in Montana, will probably look amazing in winter. Also, I can see what North Dakota looks like, I can finish my Christmas knitting on the train AND finish reading the Oregon Drivers Manual. This will make the time I have left in NJ more productive. What also has me sold is the name of the train; isn't Empire Builder such a romantic name?

* This is proof of how I am silly. I have several rolls of film and am paranoid about the airport security X-rays destroying them. However, I can't find anyplace I'd rather develop them than Fred Meyer!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New Travel Plan

I canceled my flight back to Portland to house-sit and finish up a few things in NJ. I have a year to re-book the flight.
Anyway, I think I am going to save that flight for some other point in the year (like fall) and instead of flying back in two weeks, take Amtrak.
It's a 75 hour trip. NJ to DC to Chicago to Portland.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Notes on North Jersey Geography

    I filled out the end of the year meme, in haste, on Thursday, and then took it down because parts of it felt long, rambly, and narcissistic. It needs editing. I will probably edit it and re-post it.
    In other news, while trying to look up--who knows what!, I found this website about roads. This page about US-206 in NJ (a stretch I have driven many times, either coming from New Brunswick to Sparta or from Sparta to Sussex County Jury Duty (aka Newton), is pretty much a good example of what you'll find on the site.
    I find this website to be remarkable. I mean that in all possible ways. Different parts of this website have me alternately exclaiming, "Cool!" and "What a kook!" The truth is, I would love to just drive on roads and explore places all over the continent and the world. OK, that wasn't too weird (nor surprising, for anyone who has known me over the past two years.) The other truth is that my inner nerd would love to catalogue all these roads. I suppose anyone who's been in a car with me navigating wouldn't find this all too confusing. (I do tend to refer to roads by their County Route numbers.)
    For example, on that page I linked to, about halfway down there is a collection of photographs of US-206 signs that are actually the round NJ state highway shield instead of the more elaborate US highway type. I have totally seen those and noted them in my head! That is so dorky!
    And if those old-fashioned signs in Newton were ever replaced by the newer green and white kind, I would probably be pissed off.
    In any case, I will definitely refer to this site when I am planning road trips in unfamiliar areas (and Oregon). Those photographs will be very useful.

    In other news, I went to Hamburg Mountain today, and while trying to locate it on a map I found that a "range" not far from where I live is called "Pimple Hills." I feel like I need to go there.