Friday, December 31, 2004

About a month ago, I read Art Spiegelman's Maus II. This week, I read his In the Shadow of No Towers, which covers not only life in lower Manhattan in the past 3 years, but also touches on comics history.

I've also been enthralled (plot over writing, though) by Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, by David Wright and David Zoby. As a kid, the Outer Banks seemed very remote. We often went in January to select in person a cottage for the summer, and to do some bird watching (I hated the later until I was, like, 20). Even if they got us early from school, the last bit of the drive in the winter dark, with the occasional lit mainland house made the place seem all the more deserted. In th 70s, Nags Head featured maybe 2 restaurants that operated year round, a grocery store, real estate agents, and that New complex of government buildings between the two roads. Some hulking c.1900 buildings - included lifesaving stations - remained, but I could not imagine their world.

Even now, with a reasonably advanced grip on U.S. history and this new text adding to it, that the Outer Banks was a popular place reached easily and frequently by boat seems bizarre. No, I want to say, it was isolated until the 1980s and 1990s brought hulking PoMo McMansions and a WalMart. The Currituck end of the beach, with the remains of a hunt club (refurbished for Events, now, I believe) was privately owned in the 1970s. Even when we borrowed someone's pass it seemed like no where to me. And now I am reading how big the settlement around Currituck Light and the lifesaving station was and how connected those folks were, by boat.

Boating, fishing, and shipping were very hazardous in the late 19th century, thus these lifesaving stations. After one wreck, the authors write of the station staff and Bankers burying the dozens of dead "in the dunes." What!? Those things shift and change! They are covered in houses, now! Do contractors find bones when they sinking pilings?? Perhaps the book will comment on such things. Perhaps when I can vacation again I will go down there and check out the the historic sites.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Find of the day: EphemeraNow. I haven't gotten beyond the ads page -- it's all so swell. I especially like the one the site owner called White Christmas.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More End of the Year, Cleaning-Generated Reflections
Today I am tossing out a scrap of yellow paper with my grades from about 7th grade, with the following whiny annotations:
gym B don’t like doing activities
English B don’t like ‘cause it’s too easy
Science B like experiments
Home Ec B like eating food / don’t like teacher
math B too hard
History A like people in class

Monday, December 27, 2004

New Year's Cleaning
I usually spend some time at the end of the year thinning my belonginings. It makes it mentally and physically easier to put away gifts. This year's adventures in deaccessioning are accompanied by my folks preparing to sell the house in which we grew up. This afternoon, I brought home a Civic-full of stuff today, less two boxes and the large stuffed dinosaur I won at Kings Dominion (c1978) that I took straight to Goodwill.

Before I go on to anything else, I looked through two boxes of books that I labeled "keep" in 1999. About 8 books made the first cut for keepers. I can see that I kept many of the others for themes that seemed Important, that seemed to say something about what made me who I am today. For example:
  • Magic: The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow; Mr. Moose the Magnificent Magician (a pop-up book)
  • Nature and animals: The Whales Go By, Fred Phelger; The Beaver Pond, Alvin Tresselt; "Fish Head" (about a cat that lives at the docks -- a place completely unknown to my suburban experience)
  • Joke and riddles books
Most of those are going to the Friends book sale. In the Keep pile: Gus Was a Friendly Ghost, Jane Thayer; Stop That Ball, Mike McClintock (an "I Can Read It All By Myself" book).
Christmas Accomplished
My little friend W and The Nephew both got snap-together blocks for Christmas. Alas, neither got genuine Blocko products. Christmas -- my 9 days and counting holiday, in fact -- was been fun and relaxing. Even the marginally-employed can have a good time!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Sweet on Slipek
In this item on a family-owned candy business with roots in Richmond, the delightful Mr. Slipek writes, "In Richmond, confectioneries were antebellum 7-Elevens." I said something much less eloquent in describing the role of Mulberry (later Boulevard) Confectionery -- now the Bamboo Cafe -- to someone the other day.

Capital City weather: clear, mid 50s
At Ukrop's: top clerk (Associate?) Michelle's annual give-away of bead jewelry
Got film / pixels?
Top 10 Tips for Great Pictures

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Another great seasonal link: Boing Boing: Scared of Santa. Thanks to Vickie for helping me keep up with the ol' media scanning!
Useful link: Festivus e-cards.

Everyone else is talking about knitting (well Mitch and Maggi, anyway). I finished knitting the nephew's sweater last night at about midnight. Thanks to Alex G for suggesting picking up the stitches for the ribbing by working each one instead of stuffing 200-and-some stitches onto the needles. That was way easier. It's a little untidy, nonethelesss, but there ain't no way I am doing it over. Thanks to Molly for sharing leftovers, I have a lime green ribbon scarf for grandma. I made one eyelash scarf for my aunt and want to whip up one for Mom, too. Time to wrap a few gifts before heading to RPL for a few hours of experience / volunteerism.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Fair Warning: many places we enjoy shopping gave whopping amounts of money to the Republican party this year. If you are the kind of person whose instinct will be to change your shopping patterns, just don't look at Buy Blue Current Campaign

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Capital City Weather
About an hour ago, I got up to unplug the light wheel because wind, thunder, and rain pounded outside. About five minutes ago, I got up to get a drink of water, and through the back window saw snow flying! I pulled on some boots and a hat and dashed out into it: a substantial, fluffy, wet southern snow, blowing and sticking everywhere, making the block's lights extra festive. I had no idea snow was in our forecast anymore, and that makes it all the more wonderful.

By the Way
The 50ish-year old clerk at the ABC store carded me when I bought liquor for the party. She raised her eyebrows and said something like, Wow, good for you; I never would have guessed.

Instead of the Washington Post, the out-of-town papers delivery person threw me a New York Times this morning. As a testament to last night's party, I note that I skimmed the front page, sports, and entertainment sections before I noticed. All of that to draw your attention to this Festivus story (you'll need to register if you haven't before). Will you think I am trying to keep up with the cool kids if I tell you I nearly called this year's party a Festivus Party?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Doyle draws to our attention the release of this year's Richmond bands' Christmas music album: Oilville Christmas Dynasty. His family appears on several tracks: "the Music for Viola song "Black Friday" features Ceci, the artist listed as "Xtopher" is our son Chris, "Jimmy-Jamz" is Jimmy, and Country Sunshine is the band I'm in with Lee. The song labeled "Must Be Santa" is actually "Thunder in the Chimney" by our good friend Greg Garner. Harry Gore does a lovely Byrds-ish tune."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I always wanted to be able write one of those breezy shopping columns in the December issues of the New Yorker. The writers, no longer anonymous, imbue their gift guides with the essence of New York and the traditional tone of the magazine.

But my life isn't that of a breezy New York writer. After a harrowing day with 6th graders and interim report cards, I headed back into town on route 5, into the low winter sun. I passed workers shoring up -- well, is it Fulton Hill on that side? Then came Poe's, some closed bars, the open train station. I took a left on 12th, swung around the fountain in search of parking and back onto Cary -- and took possession of a newly vacated spot just in front of Fountain Books. I prefer to shop at locally owned businesses. And it was on the way home. In the narrow, tall-shelved shop, I picked up a well-reviewed book I wanted for a gift, and took a look around. Most of the hot knitting books are in stock, for the DYIers on your list. I liked the looks of All Things Alice. A diverting table of holiday gift books ranged from Nick Wood's 360 degree picture books to (in the under $8 range) The Little Book of Christmas Stress.

At the antiques store one door west, none of the things I liked best had a price tag on it. There's lots of silver, some glass and porcelain. Of the little mid-century in stock a few things are notable. For drinkers in a traditional relationship (or with a fine sense of irony), I suggest the cocktail shaker marked "ours" with it's male silhouette glass marked "mine" and female figure marked "yours." Also making use of the silhouette technique are some of those 1930s-40s pictures that often bear the name of your bank or butcher. A great one with the skiier on the glass was backed by simple snow-covered fir trees in muted 40s colors.

As I got into my car, I thought I heard my name. I glanced around quickly, not because I think Shockoe Slip at 4 p.m. is dangerous, but because I feared responding to someone talking into a cell phone and not to me. P is persistent, though, and eventually got my attention and dragged me across the street to the combined Museums Shop. Here I found a multitude of things to recommend to you. Pretty scarves, handsome serving dishes with landmark Richmond buildings, plush cardinals that sing, and even packets of astronaut ice cream can surely find a place on your gift list. For $10 the julep - er, tea - drinker, in your life gets a small kit for growing and brewing mint tea: seeds, cups, fabric tea bag.

On the Muzak at Ukrop's: Five for Fighting's "100 Years"

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Fine Print
A Washington Post tech columnist gave Microsoft's new blogging program a try and noted that it censors the poster's language. Microsoft folks said that users consent to language and image censoring when signing up. Yes, you do need to skim those things before checking "Agree."

I put up the aluminum tree last night! The last year or two, I looked at the bent branches in their box and said, Well this may be the last year for this old thing. I put on three or four branches, and groan. But when every branch is in place -- wheee! It's shiny and happy. Do come by and visit it.

Capital City weather: 32 degrees at 7:30 a.m. Ick.

Monday, December 13, 2004

New link to A Painting a Day.

At School Today: A thin version of A Christmas Carol, in play format. Such a dramatic little plot, lost on the ear of those unable to sit and listen. I tried pausing at key bits (Tiny Tim in church) and asking, What just happened there.

One of my favorite parts of this weekend's trip to Maryland was driving with C through her suburb, listening to Bing Crosby and looking at light displays (moving deer! flamingoes!). Who knew she could sing "Christmas in Killarney" so well?

Friday, December 10, 2004

The title is Goochland Fog, but this painting-a-day work by a Richmonder (link from boingboing) captures the blurriness of the whole metro area this morning. In the middle of the night, we had thunderstorms.

On Wednesday, I went to happy hour at the nearly renovated American Heritage Place building at 10th and Main. Yes, fabulous location and views. Yes, the best apartments were nice, but many details fell short. Perhaps the workers rushed to be ready for tonight, but many details disapointed: a broken window, paint on windows, and sloppy finishing. Also, the odd patching of the floors bothered me. Some of the damaged wood had been left for Character, I am sure, but much of it was so icky, I didn't see the point. For instance, the lake-shaped dark spots under two west-facing windows suggested it had rained in for a while. Here's the building as a bank.

After school today (more civics), I put myself through the annual paces of making spritz cookies. I used 4.5 cups of flour, 3 sticks of butter, and 4 bowls. Baking went quickly, but the mess is intimidating, and I am fast fading.

Tomorrow: Dan's party!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Late this summer, I noticed that a tomato plant sprouted in my compost pile. A few nights ago I ate the first two grape tomatoes off the plant, and today I harvested two more. They are pretty orange, still, but I'm afraid a sudden frost will get them. I know, it was 68 yesterday, but still.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I think I knew this site, before, but a new friend brought it to my attention again: "The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public."

Monday, December 06, 2004


"The Look," is a section in the Sunday Washington Post that uses the man-in-the-street format to highlight a current trend. Generally, the trend featured appears in Richmond at about the same time. This week's feature, though, addresses something the boys at R Middle School (in the east end of the county) have been sporting since at least September: giant, faux diamond earrings.

Here's what the Post (and experts it interviewed) says to those boys, and the dozen or so who haven't got some, yet:

  • "'A big mistake is to adopt a look that does not fit your lifestyle.'"
  • "If you don't work in a creative field, it's best to reserve bigger, flashier earrings for special occasions." Is school a creative field?
  • Wearing diamond studs "with a pendant plus ring plus a bracelet is way too much" Unless I missed the ear studs, Cologne Boy was okay.
  • Wear them with confidence. I would call it "bravado", but, okay, that's a match.

Today at school: I had a favorite former co-worker's daughter! It only took me 1/2 an hour to consider that not many kids have that name, these days, and figure it all out.
Note to self: Even in the name of being a Team Player, don't take a math class again!
Capital City weather: grey, 50s

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I hope this link will stay live for a while: Mom drew National Cookie Day (Dec. 4) to my attention. I baked 2 batches of Christmas cookies this weekend, so I am right on target.

Today, a new aquaintance remarked, "Maryland recently made the calico the state cat"! Excellent. Catly and I may have to move again, after all. (By my count, this is her 7th home in her approximately 15 years, not counting a 3-month stay with Mom.)

On the way to the place where I met the new friend, I passed through Shockoe Bottom, reminding me that I may never have noted here that someone told me that Lovings Produce lost all of its beautiful, candy-colored delivery trucks. Since then, I have seen one or two old ones (they must have been out late that evening), and many shiny, new ones, still candy-colored. A cheerful selection were parked by the market this morning as I wound my way toward Route 5. That trip also afforded me a chance to glance again at the hunks of Richmond's Hills that just slid away during Gaston's rains, and the interesting mid-20th century suburbanish houses in farm territory.

Favorite new float in Christmas Parade
: James River Bus's Shriner-style mini bus

Capital City weather
: bright, low-slanted winter sun, 60 degrees

Friday, December 03, 2004

Advent Calendar 2004: a mixed bag of cool graphics and animation, festive ideas, and seasonal memories.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Seventh Grade
Today I got to analyze "I'm Nobody!" with middle schoolers. That's right: Emily, me, and about 60 twelve-year-olds. We talked about the pros and cons of fame (with "stalkers" coming up ever block as a con: o, sad world), rhyme and rhythm, what "livelong" means, and what the bog symbolizes. I mentioned that Emily and I went to the same college just to see them struggle to figure out when she lived and if I could be that old. . . .

Eternal Question
As you know if you were watching CBS last night, it is that time of year when we ask the persistent question: What is wrong with the doll? (Search for "doll" on that page, and also for "peppermint" for an interesting note about a cut scene.)

The only thing I miss about Main Street Brewery is the fabulous lights they put in the trees on Main. "Uptown"/Candyland is bright with white lights, but Mr. Taylor on Davis has only put up some blue ones so far.

Capital City weather: clear and 50ish