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Rumilluminations February 2011
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, February 02 2011 - 11:11 pm

February 28, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

Last night we watched the Oscars and I have decided it is a wonderful way to get through February - if you are a movie buff.

We are, we are!

We started talking about the almost-empty theatre in Valparaiso.  Maybe with 12 showing rooms the local (inconveniently located) theatre is making it financially, but it is kind of hard to believe it.

We started playing the game "they should."

They should have a catch-up March Movie Madness showing all the Oscar-nominated films. 

They should use separate theatres for distinctive categories of films.

How about one room that shows only short films?  If you get there too early or cannot be picked up until late after your feature, you can pay a couple of bucks and see a couple of short films.

How about a foreign-films-only venue?  A room for documentaries?

A big-screen way to see older films would also be wonderful.  The royalties on those films should be less, so people could pay less to get in.  In these economically difficult times the theatres might attract a hundred customers who pay three dollars more easily than fifty who have to pay six.

If there were a plethora of desireable movies to see, I for one would be delighted to go to the movies once or twice a week.

Make people pay more attention!  Don't give them two months to lounge over and see a fabulous film!  Force them to come more often to see everything they want to see.  Let your theatre become their habit! 

Hey, don't get me wrong.  I, personally, love to get my pick of the best seat in the house when I go to the movies.  I don't long for chaos and crowds.

I just want to ensure that, wherever I may be, there will always be a theatre in town for my viewing pleasure.

February 27, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

Of course I have to overthink things.  Is the glass half empty or half full?

Silly question if you ask me.  The shape of a glass can make it enormously difficult to judge exactly how full the glass is!

But more to the point - does it have enough to satisfy you?

For me too much liquid is too much.  A half glass of coke is a full glass of coke to me.  A full glass means that either half of it is going to get finished off by someone else or poured down the sink.

The scientist in me comes out when confronted by this question.  How much does the glass hold?  Put half that in and you have half a glass.  But do you?  There's always some left in the bottom!

If you find an odd number of pills in a bottle that is supposed to hold an even number, do you assume that the bottle is one pill short?  Or do you assume that they have an extra pill in there just to play it safe, or in case you drop one on the floor?

Just count them.  Then you'll know.

And if the bottle is one pill short, you'll only need that half glass of water!

February 26, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

A few years ago I met a woman who had a sweater collection, knitted by herself, of 29 heavy winter sweaters.  She had a wall full of cubbies for them, and kept one sweater in each.

I was musing today while I was sweeping the walks of a mere inch of snow that a different sweater for every day of the month might be a fun way to help yourself get through the winter.  At least your clothes wouldn't be boring!

When I mentioned to my partner the idea of getting through the winter with a different sweater for every day, he smiled ironically.

"That's true.  And another way of getting through the winter would be to spend it in Key West!" 

February 25, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

I already saw my first spring flower a week ago.  It was a little yellow violetta in my big planter I didn't even manage to plant last summer.

In other words, a volunteer from two years ago!  How did it manage to survive the winter or sprout this year?

Now, of course, that bloom is probably gone.  Another couple of inches of snow buried it last night, if it was still there at all.

Must be one of the earliest outdoor flowers I have ever seen, though.  Not a snowdrop or a crocus - a pansy.

I think when we call someone a pansy we must be complimenting their courage and hardiness!

February 24, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday we drove to Hammond.  On the way there we took the toll road and it cost sixty cents between here and Portage.

Coming home, we got onto the highway at a different place and right away had to pay $1.20.  We decided to get off at Portage to avoid paying the last sixty cents (and to avoid the toll road altogether!) and dang if we didn't have to pay another sixty cents!

What is that all about?  Different systems, I guess, none better than alternative ways we could have taken without paying a toll at all.  On our first lap to Portage, the automated system kept rejecting our ticket, so I had to push a button to get help.  Thank goodness I could read the English instructing me to do that.

Heaven forbid that they should hire a real human being who could have taken our money in literally one hundredth of the time!  It is such a creaky system it is normally slower than a person, I bet. 

Today we went to the movies and saw Unknown.  The person who sold us our tickets said it would be in Showing Room number three.  But the sign on number twelve said "Unknown" so we sat down there.

Right before the movie was to start, someone came in and asked the half-dozen or so of us who were there if we were there for "Unknown" and told us we should go to number three.

So we did, and lo and behold, the movie advertised there in lights was something entirely different.

The fellow who came at the last minute was quite testy with us for being so dense as to not follow the verbal orders.

But hey, I realized.  Being Americans we tend to choose what we see over what we hear, especially since our original instruction wasn't accompanied by apologies for faulty signs.

Do you believe what you see or what you hear?

Which would you prefer to deal with, automated systems or real people?

I guess I don't really care, as long as I get an accurate message.  Including a little of the big picture and the big Why.

These days, it seems as if we can't count on getting that from any source!

February 22, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

Six more days of February.  Does anyone remember where this month got its name?

Reminds me of feverish and febrile.  Winter's last bru-ha-ha.

March sets us tromping towards Spring.  It is the final arch between February and a better time.

If March is named for Mars that is okay if the war is between Winter and Spring and Spring wins.

Spring wins!

February 21, 2011                                        Valparaiso, IN

Okay, okay yesterday was not exactly crystal-clear.  Maybe I was being a bratworst.

But obscurity is the writer's version of mumbling.  Obfuscation is a writer's mutter.

Hell, maybe poetry, like urban slang, is a way of saying what you want to say without everybody being able to understand.

My parting "When the cat's away the mouse will play" was just nyah nyah nyah.  I didn't really mean it as appying to our, the caregivers', behavior.

Heaven forbid!

If you know of a better way to protest than my scripted indirections, I am very open to suggestion.

But one thing is crystal clear - in some situations you can't have it both ways!

I could go on and on with clear examples, but I'll spare you.

Besides, there is some truth to my old boyfriend's mother's comment:  "His brother says, 'They can't do that!' while they are in the process of - doing just that!"

February 20, 2011                                          Valparaiso, IN

Which is it, mom?

Do you want us to leave, which is the feeling we often get?  So when the cats are away, the mousie can play?  (We do not set ourselves up as authority figures - that is a role seemingly assigned to us by my little mother.)

Or do you feel insecure and lonely and abandoned when we are gone?

Guilt trips laid upon us for being gone and a yet a strong desire for us to be gone so you can binge or otherwise do something that constitutes rebellion in your own mind?

Sorry, you can't have it both ways!

Neither can prisoners who try to control their families from afar!  A person who can't control himself or herself really has no standing to try to control others.  Well, I guess you can try, but it's unreasonable - you can't have it both ways.

Any attempt to control from afar is doomed, unless you are the underground in a state taken over by the enemy.  Actually, exiled leaders aren't really in any position to control, either.  The ones on the ground in situ are the ones who make the decisions.  Maybe you will approve, maybe you won't.

But you can't have distance and safety and freedom and control over a faraway situation at the same time.

When the cat's away the mice will play!

Uh-oh!  I feel another edition of Elderquette coming on. 

February 19, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

So migraines can garble your speech!

When I was in my twenties, I had a scary experience with my vision going bonkers.  Riding my motorcycle on my way to UNM I couldn't tell whether the lights were green or red without tilting my head around.  In class, the teacher disappeared although the blackboard seemed continuous.  People's faces appeared not to have noses, or maybe the nose was in the wrong place.

The physics professor I worked for said it might be a migraine.  Visual distortions can be one of the symptoms.

So, you say, stay home if you have a headache and avoid possible accidents or public embarrassment.

Think again - I suffered no head pain at all.

Luckily I never again experienced such visual distortions.

At least, not as far as I know.  Maybe I don't have a nose!

February 18, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

I'm not responsible for the end of my nose.

Sure, it's no one else's.

But it's not really mine, either.

Isn't it going a little far, to expect me to be responsible for it?

I can't control it, I don't think.  That angioma that has popped up there is not my fault.

And why stop there, at the end of my nose?

If I can't control my nose, how can I be expected to control anything else?  To be responsible for anything else?

The household the city the country the world?

Maybe wars and riots are just big angiomas - big broken blood vessels on the big balding earth.

My nose, as insignificant as it is, is blushing at the idea that I should poke it into anyone else's business.

February 17, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

You hear a lot about people not being able to make a success of their lives in their home towns.  Their old neighbors can't take them seriously.

I think it might have more to do with the nuclear family.  There is so much going on emotionally that even in a functional family there are distractions from the attention necessary to make a real success of any endeavor.

If the family has problems of dysfunction, propinquity magnifies them.  If you are in the same town as the rest of your family even as an adult, you carry all the baggage that your whole family has created.

As my partner puts it, "All too often the product of the nuclear family is nuclear waste."

The solution?  Get the hell out and away.

I've mentioned before a psychologist who calls the parental home "the pernicious family environment."  It is mentally healthy for a young one to eventually get away from his own family.

This also goes for the home town.  You cannot know how much the prevailing mores and opinions of your own town have influenced you (and perhaps imprisoned and stunted you) until you submerse (p.s. um, I guess I meant submerge) yourself in another region or another country.

Go wherever the hell you aren't!  Bring along books about home if you are afraid of homesickness. 

February 16, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

Years ago working under the shadow of a penitentiary, I learned that eating poppy seed on buns and bagels could give you a positive drug test for opiates.

This morning on the Net I saw a mythbuster's episode where they test the truth of it.  I prided myself on knowing the answer already.  I had been told it many times.  "Yes!"

One of the experimenters started eating poppyseed bagels, while the other proceeded to eat a whole poppyseed pound cake, it looked like.  Well, at least it looked like a pound cake.  There were probably all of five poppyseeds in each slice.

While they are chowing down, we get to see a picture of a man in a suit explaining that there are not enough opiates in poppyseeds on a breakfast muffin to get you high or register opiates on a urine test.  "Oh, no!"  I think.  "Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I've been gulled again!"

Back to the diet-busters.  The pound cake guy has added five pounds to his weight (I know that seems unlikely, but it sure seems to happen all the time) and I guess the other guy ate two bagels.

They both reported (showed us one, at least) positive results for opiates.

Just shows how easy it is for a man in a suit to fool you.

I still would like to know if one slice of that poppyseed cake would have given him a positive result for opiates.  It's hard to believe it would.

But if that is a typical commercial poppyseed cake, it is pathetically lame.

I can make a laden poppyseed cake that will guarantee a positive drug test per slice, and maybe even make you high!

February 15, 2011                                      Valparaiso, IN

Melanin and melatonin are not related chemicals, I guess.  I don't know enough about organic chemistry to know.  Melanin is a family of pigments found in the skin (and in plants) and melatonin is a hormone.

They are related linguistically, though, because melan- means dark.  Melanin is dark-colored and melatonin is manufactured by the body at night.

Melancholy is a dark mood.

I don't know exactly how melanoma relates because it is a skin cancer caused by excess sun (come to think of it, the cancer itself is dark-pigmented.)

The day someone is diagnosed with it is a dark day indeed!

February 14, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

A week ago I started taking melatonin, which is supposed to help you sleep.  (It's over the counter, and cheap, so I figured what the hell.)

Today I read on the Internet that it requires a prescription in many other countries.  Hmmm.  So I looked it up in Wikipedia.  Melatonin is very interesting stuff, but one thing I thought particularly arresting is that, unlike Vitamin C, which is reported to sometimes give up free radicals as well as capturing them (!) melatonin does not do this.

Even metabolic products of melatonin, if I understand correctly, are capable of capturing free radicals, what they call a cascading effect.

Melatonin is a wonder anti-oxidant!  It catches the bad guys and doesn't let them go!  That sounds pretty good.

The only trouble is, it is not helping me to sleep any better.  I was told it might take a couple of weeks to kick in, and I also read that smaller doses work (or in my case, don't!) as well as the high 3 mg dose, so I'm going to keep trying with a quarter of a pill at bedtime.

Meanwhile possible unforeseen unfortunate side effects of the drug worry me.

Yesterday I walked into a moving vehicle!  The tip of my boot got run over by one of its rear wheels!  It turned right in front of me unexpectedly (in other words, there was no turn signal flashing).  I saw it, but was looking ahead to suss out the other traffic and walked right into it!  My only defense is that it must have come way too close to me.  It couldn't have been more than a foot away.  I thought it was long gone.

I have never done that before. 

The other night I got out of bed in the middle of the night without turning on any lights.  (When you take the melatonin you are supposed to drink a full glass of water with guess what consequences?)  Anyway, when I came back to bed I turned my back to it, put out my hands behind me and sat down.  My seat did not make contact!  Luckily my hands did, and I (barely) did not fall.

I've never done that before, either.

Can I blame the melatonin for these bizarre behavioral misjudgments? 

Yeah, I think I'll blame the melatonin!

February 13, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

"It's all relative."  True, no?

"You can't have it both ways."  Also true?

These statements seem to contradict each other, don't they?

What makes them both seem so true and valid? 

I think "You can't have it both ways" is applicable to particular circumstances in a certain limited time frame.

"It's all relative" applies to different situations at different times, or the middle of some continuum at a particular time.

So I guess, from the perspective of the person who wants it both ways, it's always all relative!

And this makes about as much sense as most of the stuff you hear on Sunday mornings.

It's all relative.  

February 11, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

I'm trying to convince myself that I can write rationally after dinner.

Sure, I'm not afloat with fabulous ideas integrated for me overnight by my unconscious, but I should be able to come up with something worthwhile.

I refuse to admit that the end of my day brings me to nothing but gibberish.  (Jibberish?)

It makes me too afraid that the end of my life will do the same thing to me.


But if you are in a perfect state of attempted escapism from winter and caregiving an elder (who, in the evening, looks way less demented and more rational than I) what else can you do?  Study politics and foreign languages?  You can, maybe, not I.

I am lucky if I don't descend into incoherent morasses of mutiny.  Mucilaginous thoughts entrap me with their elastic syllables.  Fractious raptures and sucrose lollipop fantasies keep me stuck into irreverent flippant lolligaggling brattinesses like flies in a Venus flytrap.  Sundew awaits!  Pitcher plants, let me drink from thee, er, or is it - Drink me!


February 10, 2011                                    Valparaiso, IN

Meditations at -3 Degrees

Grumplenuck.  Gritchy grimy glook.  Globulous gripes and Gertrudinous glances.  Grumsucking grabstock glooming gloating gross growolves glammer.

Greasy groaning globbercocks gramine gefunct grails of gone gore.  Glower, gloaming grooks!  Grieve, ghostly gerails geretting growth!

Glowth goes.  Graptious grapling graptors givore grunk.  Grim, grim, grim gratitudinous grails gall.



February 9, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

Speaking of bags, I wonder if it is possible to know how many shopping bags are manufactured in the U.S and elsewhere, vs. how many bags are not used because they exist.

How many people buy or give away shopping bags and they are not used?

Several environmental organizations are selling bags and/or and using them as come-ons to get donations.

I wonder if there are enough bags stockpiled to supply the next two generations with shopping bags.

Arty ones, fashionable ones, bags made out of recycled paper and plastics, advertising bags, utilitarian bags.

Useful.  Especially if you shop too much!

February 8, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I saw that if we had renewed our Audubon membership the very same day we got it we could have gotten two absolutely gorgeous free bags.  Dang!  Too bad the junk mail hangs around here for weeks before we get to it.

Not that we need more bags, of course.  We already have three big canvas bags from twenty years ago - one from Whole Foods market and two from Wild Oats.  Years ago my sister gave my mom a smaller canvas bag from the Nature Conservancy, and last year we got one from her rehab center, Whispering Pines.  That makes five.

A couple years ago Mom felt the need to have her own bags (this need came upon her after she found out she would save 5 cents for every bag she used) and bought, for $1 apiece, two green Town and Country bags.  (Yes, they have paid for themselves!)  Total - seven.

Last year we joined the Sierra Club and got four bags - red, blue, green and yellow - that can be mushed into a very small space.  They don't look very strong, but they are.  That brings the total to eleven.

I have bought other bags and received a bag or two as gifts.  I have given them away, hoping that others would find them as useful as we do.

To find them useful, however, it is not enough for me to put them in the car when I go food shopping.  I have to hold them in my lap!  My partner observes that the more forgetful we get, the closer we have to keep things to our bodies to remember them.  He jokes I will have to wear a bag on my head like a hat!

Talk about being a bag lady!

February 7, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

Oh, I have a whole bag of assorted goodies today:

Think a microwave is hard to clean?  Combine sterilizing a medium soppy dishrag in the microwave with wiping your microwave down.  The steam softens the crusty buildup, and in a few days your microwave will be cleaner than ever.  Do it every day and you will never have to sop and wait, sop and wait again!

Pet peeve day - well, only a couple today.  One of my pet peeves are writers who say things like "They were the kind of people who say 'gesundheit' when you sneeze...."  What exactly was Thomas Wolfe in Look Homeward Angel and all his snobbery trying to say?  Kind of people?  Like Germans?  Or like the kind of people who say "God bless you" when you sneeze?  What kind of people are those, tell me?  Trite?  Middle class?  Superstitious?  I'm trying to get educated here.  Just exactly what form of lower behavior am I trying to avoid?  What kind of snobbery am I supposed to be emulating?

Thomas Wolfe isn't the only one who has used this phrase, and every time I read it I find it mystifying, annoying, and offensive.  Actually, I think it is lazy, lazy.  Or is it some secret hidden language of pet peeves of snobs?

Could it be that one of my pet peeves is the consequence of somebody else's pet peeves?  Some secret society of Literary Illuminati?  Or should I say Obfuscati?

My other pet peeve is "the kind of" people who make clerical errors and don't read their mail or take care of business or...

Oops!  It looks like I'm one of them!  I just read a note (before hidden on a folded invoice) that I gave my readers a bum steer while trying to tout Ara Eisler's CD Inn Door.  I gave the wrong address (me a former secretary and file clerk!  (among other things, so don't write me off just yet!)), so I will correct the error both here and in my January entry. 

Sorry, Ara, that I didn't rectify this sooner.  For those who want to read my original comments, they were written on January 13th of this year.

Happy second week of February!  The end of winter is finally fathomable.

February 6, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

Curiosity may have killed the cat - but I think it keeps people alive!

February 5, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

I was lying in bed thinking about what I wrote yesterday re walking in another's shoes.

I imagined someone saying, "Oh, Esther, you are so literal-minded!"

"Ha, ha," I thought, "Walk ten miles in my shoes and you'll know why!"

But which shoes would you want to wear?  My hiking boots?  My gym shoes?

There are no high heels!

Those inexpensive but dressy shoes I bought for my son's wedding (and now have worn for two!) I myself wouldn't want to walk a mile in!

How's that for literal-minded?

February 4, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

The old saying about not judging anyone until you've walked a mile in their shoes is inadequate.

Hell, a mile ain't nothin'!

When I was working at Arroyo Chamisa Pediatrics Clinic in Santa Fe, I walked a mile before I got to the door.

At work, a mile would get you a lousy two hours into the day.

Nope, a mile isn't far enough to really get a feel for another person's life.

Of course, that depends on the person, of course.

Maybe for some people walking a mile would take weeks.

Maybe for those people all you would have to do to understand their trials is walk ten steps.

February 3, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday hiking up the road from her home in Santa Fe, one of my daughters encountered a pack of coyotes - at least five of them!  Since it was -2 degrees Fahrenheit out, she knew they were probably hungry and it was a little bit scary.  One of them looked straight at her, and she hoped it was assessing her threat to them and not vice versa!

Here the snow is piled higher than I remember seeing it before.  We may have had as much snowfall in twenty-four hours, but the ground already had bunches of snow before the most recent onslaught of precipitation.

During the big snowfall in New York earlier this year, I was wondering why the substantial number of people in the apartment buildings couldn't take turns with a few shovels and dig their way out.  My listeners looked at me as if I were insane.  (Actually, my partner says they looked as if I had snowshovels growing out of my head!  (I don't think they were hopeful looks, though.))

I meant to write about it, but didn't get around to it.  Then last night, one of the newscasters suggested that Chicago residents might want to give a hand shoveling themselves out of their side streets.  A police officer, evidently, had cleared away 30 yards of snow to get to the plowed "arterial" near him.

Well, that was pretty ambitious!  Too bad some of the other residents didn't want to give him a hand.

I guess most people want to blame the city for not cleaning the roads quickly enough.  At the same time they aren't going to heave snow (somebody else's job) if that takes away their excuse for not going to work.

Okay, maybe I'm being too cynical.  I'll watch the news tonight and see if the people of Chicago rallied around, fighting over the few available shovels, to make their streets passable again.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the fact that our shoveling is done for now. 

February 2, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

In the evening I find I really want to write nonsense.

Flabberdigious fractile fantasies replace complaining, creating, idea sorting and criticizing.

All that snow I've been complaining about, all those piles of snow I've been creating, all the shoveling areas that have to be sorted out and lastly, all the criticizing I have done of other people's failure to do all of the above - have begun to pall.

Colorful clamoring of cosmic stars sounds much more fun!

We've done so much walk cleaning that now the snow we add to the piles is just as white and pristine as the snow just fallen.  Just such a snow must have inspired the artists of white on white paintings.

Maybe that is white linens don't really hold that much attraction for me.  White means cold.

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