Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Humming in New Mexico

One set of my in-laws live in the mountains in New Mexico. They have four hummingbird feeders hanging on the eaves, and have so many hummers that my FIL has to refill the feeders daily. There are only two birds in this photo but often there were one or two dozen hummingbirds zipping around. These birds are about two-thirds the size of those we have here, meaning they were about the size of my thumb. The birds themselves didn't "tweet" much but the sound of all those wings was like that of a chainsaw down the road a piece.

This photo also does not show the tremendous rain, from the fringes of Hurricane Dolly. It rained over two inches from Friday evening through Saturday. The rain kept the other birds away, but not the hummers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Am...

I like those goofy name generator things, but I can't remember what my other names are without the generator to hand. There are also those "Which ____ are you?" quizzes. There are lots of ways to waste time on the internet!

My Jedi name is Tacsa Kaoak. Unless it's Kahsa Coyoak.

My Viking name is Vodsan The Impatient, though the alternative, Vodsan The Grudge Holder, sounds much more threatening.

I'm George Harrison (repeatedly!).

I'm "All You Need Is Love."

I'm Grace Kelly.

I'm Deanna Troi.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I studied Spanish for five years when I was in school.  When I started at CSH in fourth grade, everyone had to take French; it had been founded by an American French order, after all.  I hated French and often "got a stomach ache" during the 45 minutes that happened to coincide with French class.  When seventh grade started, a teacher who could teach both French and Spanish had been hired, and I figured that Spanish had to be easier than French, so I left the latter for the former.  Then the high school I attended required three years of a foreign language and again the choice was between French or Spanish, so I enrolled in Spanish 2 as a sophomore.

Never let it be said I was a good Spanish student.  Social studies/civics and English were my strongest subjects; Spanish and algebra/geometry/trigonometry were my weakest.  Many a report-card bawling out was due to the Cs I got in Spanish.   This was because I really didn't care about studying and found memorization boring, so my vocabulary was pretty poor though my grammar was all right.  In fact, the year my Spanish was the best was the year during which I was kind of dating a boy from Mexico - we, like a lot of teenagers, spoke Spanglish, a language of Spanish grammar and Spanish-ized vocabulary.

In tenth grade my teacher was Sra. Baumgartner and that year was full of conjugations in all tenses.  I actually got a B on the final because I made myself memorize all the tenses the night before the exam.  That was the highest grade ever I got on a Spanish test.   For eleventh and twelfth grade my Spanish teacher was Sr. Crossley, who was famous for being both the meanest teacher and the hardest grader in school.  He was a hard teacher, but a good one:  When I was in Spanish 4 as a junior he was also teaching Spanish 5 and 6 in the same classroom. There were a lot of students in the class who spoke Spanish at home, and while my assignment might be to write a paragraph about the reading (my introduction to Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges!) they had to write two pages.  He only spoke in Spanish during class and insisted everyone else did too.  I graduated with a C- in Spanish and haven't studied it since.

Now I speak Spanish at work at least once a week.  There aren't very many volunteers who are fluent in Spanish but we have a lot of clients who are fluent in Spanish and not in English.  Because my Spanish, poor as it is, is better than the Food Bank Director's, I usually volunteer to counsel new clients.   I wonder what my Spanish actually sounds like to a fluent speaker; I always start off with "I speak Spanish, but my Spanish isn't very good."  The other day I spent thirty minutes completing a client's intake and describing all of our programs to her.

I'm always proud of myself for being able to communicate with these clients, because of all those Cs I got in school.  But I'm more thankful to Sr. Crossley for being such a tough teacher when I had him in high school; I think it's because of him that I remember as much as I do.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Empty Head, Pretty Flowers

My head has been empty recently, hence the long pause between posts. I have been reading tremendously heavy books instead of doing things in real life. For one reason or another, my mind has just been wandering all over the place and in no one place for very long.

So here is a photo of a couple bushes in the yard of the house next door. Pink and purple - that's pretty.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You say it's your birthday? It's my birthday too, yeah!

Bink, Jujubi, and I are planning a joint birthday party for ourselves in August. Their birthdays are the same week as mine, and as we spent our 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays together, it seemed appropriate to me that we spend our 40th birthdays together as well. We've been talking about this since April, and have finally sent out the invitation this week. It is beyond peculiar to me that I'm about to be 40, as I have felt 27 for years - thirteen! - now. At least I have a couple of friends who are doing it too.

When we were in college, Phil's birthday was also in that week. He was a year older, but his birthday was the day before mine. Only about a week ago it occurred to me that Phil would be 41 this year, and I realized that I've always thought of him as being 24, as if he were still around he wouldn't have been aging right along with us. And of course he still is 24, because that's how old he was when my most recent interactions with him happened.

Last night The Killer Lady and I met at a taqueria for dinner. For the ten years we've both lived in the Bay Area, we've always had dinner together on July 14 in Phil's memory, and it's become traditional for us to go out for Mexican food. There were several places to choose from, but we chose La Calaca Loca, because the name "The Crazy Skeleton" is a name that Phil would have liked. It's odd how you still know those things about someone years after they've passed out of your life. Plus, the Day of the Dead decorative theme seemed especially right.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Chestnut

I do not remember jokes very well, no matter how recently I've heard them. The exceptions are the jokes we kids told each other over and over, or ones with a visual cue. Otherwise I remember precisely four long jokes, two of which I learned as a kid and two of which Phil and I used to tell together in college (which is weird because "comedy team" is so not how we would have been described). I just learned a friend of mine likes good jokes; this post is for him. I remember telling this joke when I was at Dudley Stone, so at the most I was eight years old.

Sam Clam and Stan Starfish were best buddies their whole lives. Sam was a lot wilder than Stan, and owned a nightclub with loud music, dancing, drinks, and shady characters, while Stan lived a quiet life. When they died, Stan Starfish went above, Sam Clam went below.

After awhile of strumming his harp in Heaven, Stan missed Sam so much that he begged Saint Peter to allow him to go visit Sam in Hell. Finally Saint Peter said he could, but told Stan he had to be back at the stroke of midnight.

When Stan arrived in Hell, he asked around for Sam and was directed to a big nightclub with lights and music you could see and hear from a block away. "That looks like a place Sam would own," he thought, and went in. he found Sam right away and the two had a grand old time talking about their lives before and since dying. Suddenly, as if no time had passed at all, the clock showed it was midnight, and Stan had to dash out and get back up to Heaven.

He arrived just in time, and Saint Peter was sitting at the Pearly Gates looking him over. Stan stood nervously wondering if Saint Peter was going to let him back in. After considering him for a little bit, Saint Peter asked, "Where is your harp, Stan?"

Stan replied, "I left my harp in Sam Clam's Disco."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Hiccup in the First Amendment

Zirpu and I bought a Honda Fit last week. We've been a one-car household for almost two years, and in the last four months that has become increasingly inconvenient. The Fit won't be available as a hybrid for three or four years, but it's a small car with good (conventional) gas mileage and I'm having hatchback envy.

We went down to the dealership in Fremont to purchase it, because the Honda dealer up the street didn't anticipate having any Fits for a couple months. While I was filling out paperwork, the sales manager explained that while we will get the license plates in just a few weeks, the registration will take much longer because of the slow processing speed at the DMV. Then he looked at my last name and mentioned that it may take even longer because of the PATRIOT Act.

My last name is spelled very similarly to a very common Muslim name. The sales manager said that he's noticed that there often seems to be a holdup in paperwork processing for many of his South Asian customers. "A car could be used as a weapon," he said, "So the PATRIOT Act requires that everyone's name be checked against the list" of suspected terrorists.

We bought the car last weekend and I'm still kind of shocked by this.

Friday, July 4, 2008

In order to form a more perfect Union

Isn't it great that the people of the US still, for the most part, are protected by these amendments ratified 132 years ago in reaction to the colonial experience? That there have been no coup or Presidents who have totally shredded this document? I wish it were stronger in some areas, but do not wish it were weaker in others.

* First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

* Second Amendment
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

* Third Amendment
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

* Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

* Fifth Amendment
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

* Sixth Amendment
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

* Seventh Amendment
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

* Eighth Amendment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

* Ninth Amendment
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

* Tenth Amendment
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Different diffierent Same same

I didn't exactly say what I wanted to say in my last post. I got sidetracked into politics and anxiety. What I wanted to say was...

It seems that everyone has a moment or two (or years) of feeling like he or she is "the only one" about something. And then something happens where we hear each other's stories and each one realizes he or she isn't the only one who had that feeling or experienced that thing. Similar is close enough. We're all listening for something to ring the bell of familiarity.

We are so similar in our diversity. To me, that's much more comforting than it sounds.