Something to keep my mind of the SOTU

I was so excited after class tonight that I totally forgot the SOTU was even going to be on. This is my third semester taking the madrigal ensemble. My first semester, we had a very nice lady teaching the class, but she was not such a great conductor, and she had a very poor sense of what music would be appropriate for a small (14 voice or less) ensemble. My second semester, the teacher was a lot better, but she had an odd style of conducting and never really pulled us together as a group.

This semester, we have yet another teacher, and he is already 10 times better than the teacher we had last semester, which makes him roughly 1000 times better than the teacher we had two semesters ago. Here are the top three things I already love about him:

1. He has included as part of the repertoire a song that has a kickass alto solo that I know I am going to get, because I have soul, and I am going to *kill* at my audition.
2. When we got into class, copies of the course outline, grading rubric, copies of all the music, and a CD that includes piano reductions of all the parts were sitting on our sets. The man was prepared.
3. In our first class, we sight-read three songs. Last semester, we would be lucky to get through one song at each class. Two semesters ago, we would do nothing but warm-ups because she didn't have any music.

So I was all giddy and excited, at least until I remembered that Bush was going to be invading the airwaves tonight, and me without any alcohol.


My thoughts on Brokeback

While Shakespeare's Sister and Paul the Spud were out enjoying 24 hours of the worst movies ever, I took Sio and two of her friends to see a good movie, Brokeback Mountain (now Nun Approved(tm)!)

I'm a notorious movie crier. My all-time record for crying at a movie was during In America - I started crying about 3-4 minutes into the movie and I never stopped. I even cried during Groundhog Day, people.

That being the case, I expected to be sobbing buckets during Brokeback Mountain. But I didn't. I did get choked up - when Ennis and Jack parted after their summer on the mountain and Ennis had that horrible, puking sort of cry - it was like an old, unused engine, sputtering into life, his repressed emotions suddenly coming to the fore. But my tears waited until the end of the movie, when Ennis visits Jack's parents. The clear understanding that Jack's parents knew what kind of man Jack was, and the way they felt about it - the spitting contempt from Jack's father, the silent understanding of Jack's mother...and then the scene in the bedroom, where Ennis finds his shirt tucked inside of Jack's. That killed me.

I'm a big fan of gay movies, in general. I have to confess, it's largely because of my prurient interest in gay sex. But Brokeback, while it contains a pretty realistic sex scene, was not titillating - it was very matter of fact, and I think it's absolutely true that the whole gay aspect becomes secondary to just wanting these two human beings who clearly love each other to be together. Because they are unable to be open with their love, they end up hurting other people - their wives and children, as well as hurting themselves.

The vistas presented in the movie were beautiful - wide shots of a huge sky, a slight mist coming up as a truck winds down a road surrounded by green fields - Sio and I both said we wanted to visit Wyoming (although apparently, we really want to visit Alberta, Canada, where it was filmed.)

Performance wise, I agree with the accolades that Heath Ledger is racking up. He was restrained and repressed, and you could feel how strong a wall he had to erect to protect himself from feeling anything. Jake Gyllenhall started to shine as the movie went on, as Jack's dissatisfaction with the few brief moments he got to spend with Ennis each year began to weigh on him. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway were both terrific as the wives of Ennis and Jack.

I had just dried my tears from the scene where Ennis visited Jack's parents when the credits rolled, playing Willie Nelson's "He Was A Friend of Mine". And then the tears started up again. Luckily, the next song to run during the credits was by Rufus Wainwright, so I dried my tears and squeed like a fangirl (which, for Rufus, I totally am).

I have one big criticism for the movie. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Ennis says "I'm only gonna say this once", and then he proceeds to say something I couldn't understand at all. And I didn't understand what Ennis said to Linda Cardellini's character that made her respond "girls don't fall in love with fun!" (paraphrased). So Ennis was a little too mumbly. That is my only criticism.


American People Notice Bush is Fucking Everything Up

A USA Today Poll indicates the nation is not entirely pleased with the State of the Union.

A snippet:

• Said the country has gotten off track. By 62%-35%, they were dissatisfied with the way things are going in the USA. That's the most pessimistic view at the start of a year since Bush took office.

• Rated the economy as faltering. Six in 10 said the current economy was only fair or poor, and 54% said economic conditions were getting worse. Views differed by party: 68% of Republicans but just 16% of Democrats called the economy excellent or good.

• Questioned Bush's leadership. By 64%-34%, they said Bush didn't have a clear plan for solving the country's problems. The president received his strongest approval rating, 52%, on fighting terrorism. But on health care - ranked as an issue equal to the economy - congressional Democrats were more trusted, 54%-35%.

One of the poll respondents sums it up pretty well:

"I'm too old to be worrying about much," said Bernice Tabor, 76, of Cleveland. But she frets about casualties in Iraq and layoffs at Ford Motor Co. "We're going backward instead of forward."

I know there are so many things that Bush is fucking up that it's hard to keep track. But even right-wingers aren't happy that they are buying less stuff, but paying the same money (or more). Maybe pocketbook issues - it's the economy, stupid - will ultimately turn the vast middle against Bush.

Letter from my aunt

My Aunt Maureen (after whom, as you might have already guessed, I am named), sent me a letter yesterday. Aunt Maureen was my favorite aunt; indeed, she was the favorite aunt of all of my siblings as well as our 3 maternal cousins. She would come visit and invite all our friends over, and throw Pizza-Potato Chip-Pretzel-Popcorn Pajama Parties. One year, she was visiting on Halloween, and she walked all the neighborhood kids down to the graveyard, where we sat in a circle while she told us ghost stories.

She always had a bunch of jokes, and when she mastered sign language (she went deaf at age 18), her jokes got even better, accompanied by her brilliant, expressive movements.

As usual, her letter included a newspaper clipping and some daily affirmation types of sayings. This time, the newspaper clipping was about creating time for oneself and the daily affirmations were quotes from the Dalai Lama.

She said her job stresses her out, but she loves it anyway because she helps people and makes good money (she's a nurse, but she doesn't keep any of the money, because she's also a Franciscan Missionary Nun who took a vow of poverty. her siblings joke she had to take a vow of poverty because she never would have survived a vow of silence.)

My favorite part of the letter was about Brokeback Mountain. She said she can't stop talking about it, and that everyone should go see it. She said it was a beautiful, but tragic story, and she hoped it would open people's hearts to realize that the message of Jesus was LOVE, and the only kind of love Jesus didn't care for was love of money.

I'm so lucky to have my aunt Maureen.


Oh, that brings me back

Sio just called me from home - school closed early because of a bomb threat. She was in the library when the alarm went off, and all her stuff is still there, because they won't let anyone back in the school. She's pissed, because she was working on her junior thesis, so all her notes are sitting on a table in the library. All because some joker wrote "There's a bomb in the school" on the bathroom sink. They have to take all threats seriously, and I wouldn't argue otherwise, but I will be amazed if they actually find anything close to a bomb.

That does bring me back to my own high school days, though. My senior year, we had bomb threats on a weekly basis, particularly as spring rolled around. We had so many of them that my teachers just started teaching outside - I remember having chorus rehearsal on the lawn. No bombs were ever found, and I don't think they ever caught the person who was making the threats (although there were rumours aplenty.)

Last night, I went to Sio's school for their Midwinter Concert, and it was outstanding. There were performance by the Percussion Ensemble, the Chamber Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, the Roundtable Singers, and my favorite group of the night, the Jazz Combo, a group of 8 gifted students from the Wind and Percussion ensembles plus a piano player and a bass player. I had to leave early, so I missed the Jazz Band, which is always excellent.


Helpful Phrases for our trip to Paris

Où est la salle de bains ?
(Where is the bathroom?)

Quelle ligne est-ce que je devrais prendre pour obtenir à XXXXX ?
(Which line should I take to to get to XXXX?)

Combien ?
(How much?)

Svp, pouvez-vous m'aider ?
(Please, can you assist me?)

Quand a-t-il lieu le dernier train ?
(When is the last train?)

Combien de temps prendra-t-il pour y arriver ?
(How long will it take to get there?)

Nous ne soutenons pas le Président Bush. Nous pensons qu'il est un idiot dangereux.
(We do not support President Bush. We think he is a dangerous idiot.)

That should just about cover it, right?



The 2005 Koufax Nominees for Blogs Deserving of Wider Recognition are up, and lo and behold, there I am on a list with some lefty luminaries. I've visited all the blogs that start with numbers or the letter A, and there is some good stuff out there.

I can't vote for myself yet, but I'll let you know whether I do.

Why I'm not blogging about anything important

I have been in news avoidance mode recently, preferring to read my news filtered through the snarky and smart left-wing bloggers these days. Today, I was driving home from work, and I didn't want to listen to the R.E.M. cd that Loki left in the player, so I listened to 3 minutes of NPR. I happened to tune in during Nina Totenberg's report on the Judicial Committee vote today, and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-Shithole) got me so angry that I gave myself an instant headache and probably raised my blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

I just kept flashing back to when Clarence Thomas was approved for his seat on the court. I cried for hours and wore black for a week - I was in mourning. I feel even worse about a possible Justice Alito, because the court will be packed with weasels, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg ain't getting any younger.

Things that inexplicably piss me off

I'm not an anti-technology person. I was an early adopter of the internet, back in the early 90's, when you could actually look at every single homepage that existed. But I find that I seem to be a member of an ever diminishing group of people: people who don't need to constantly be reachable.

Everywhere I go now, I see people: businessmen, teenagers, soccer moms, etc. wearing these godamn earpiece things. I can't fully articulate *why* they piss me off (is it the implied importance of the person - so important that they cannot be out of range? is it because they look so stupid? is it because this isn't really The Matrix and we don't need to have access to phone lines to leap back to reality? Maybe it's all of those reasons.)

I meant to complain about these at Christmas time. I was at my younger sister's house, and we were talking about stupid gifts, and I said "you know what really makes me sick?" and she immediately said "chocolate fountains, and you're so right, they're disgusting", because she's smart and classy.

Overheard at the grocery store

A Muslim woman in hijab in the beverage aisle, as she was talking to a younger woman: "oy vey!"



Tonight I went to the Reader's Theater production at Sio's school. Two years ago, the Reader's Theater did their first production, Orwell's Animal Farm. Last year, they did a tribute to Dr. Seuss, which included both stories and poems penned by Dr. Suess as well as a Suessified version of Romeo & Juliet. Tonight, the theme was "Read Me A Story". They did a David Sedaris story, Shakespearean sonnets (Sio read 2 of them), a Lake Wobegon story, Mark Twain's War Prayer, a chapter of Harry Potter (read by my favorite freshman, K., a young man who is going to be something fantastic and incredible, whatever he does). Sio read Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, and, in my usual style, I got all choked up to see my child be so commanding on stage.

After the show was over, I watched Sio work her way through the crowds. I heard one person tell Sio he didn't even notice anyone else was on stage, she was so luminous. She is so poised, and so beautiful...I just find her amazing. I'm sitting in my folding metal chair, 36 years old and yet feeling as awkweird as I did when I was a freshman in high school, watching my 16 year old schmooze and smile and hug and graciously accept many compliments, and I feel kind of pleased, as a parent, that she is maneuvering her way through her teen years gaining confidence with every step. Then I remember that my main strength as Sio's parent has been to stay out of her way, and just let Sio be Sio.


GOP is corrupt, Deborah Howell can bite me, Bush sucks

Just wanted to remind everyone of my stance on some of the issues of the day.

I'm in full-bore vacation planning mode, which is why I haven't posted much. After many exhausting hours spent in front of the computer searching for good hotel deals, I decided to go in an entirely different direction and see if we could find a vacation rental. I hit some paydirt there, and now I'm trying to drag an opinion out of Loki about which vacation rental he likes best, and then I'll make the decision. (In fact, I may have already made the decision - I found a 2 BR apartment in the 13th arrondissement - but on the border of the 5th, for $480, which includes internet. 2 BRs is key - many of the places in our price range are studios, and that won't do, because I plan to get lucky while I'm in the City of Lights.)

Monkey is starting a Conversational French class today, which is just a beautiful coincidence - they are offering it for free at her school. I have dusted off my 7th grade quarter of French (Quelle heur est? Parlez vous anglais? Je m'appelle Maureen. Je non parle pas francais. Fermez le bouche!) As usual, my pronuciation est bon, but my comprehension est mal. Thankfully, Loki took French for 4 years and he remembers everything, and Sio speaks and comprehends very well.


5 Weird Things About Me

As seen on Shakespeare's Sister and Some Watery Thoughts:

1. As a child, I was terrified of vacuum cleaners, fireworks, and the car wash. When my mother vacuumed, I would not allow my feet to touch the floor, even if I was in a different room. In the case of the last item, whenever my mother would go through the car wash, I would cower on the floor of the car with my eyes closed.

2. I can't sleep in a bed if any of the blankets or sheets are tucked in.

3. I can't wear watches - every watch I've ever owned has stopped working within 30 days. I think it's some kind of electromagnetic thing.

4. I don't wear any jewelry, not even my wedding ring. I think jewelry is lovely, I love buying it for my sisters, but it drives me nuts when I wear it.

5. I don't get grossed out too easily, but wet paper makes me dry heave. That's why I won't use public restrooms unless I'm absolutely desperate.


This is not right

It's 11:36 p.m. on January 13, 2006, and it's 55 degrees Fahrenheit outside. In New England.

Sio went out with her best friend tonight, and I had to go pick her up. I thought it was raining out, but it was just the snow and ice melting.


Land Grab 2006

The victims of Katrina are going to get screwed again.

At a meeting with the city's rebuilding commission, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta (video), Mayor Ray Nagin sent shockwaves through the Big Easy Wednesday, laying out a plan that gives the hardest hit wards just four months to prove they can survive. Neighborhoods that cannot justify their continued existence will be bought out and demolished.

Four months. My boss had a room added on to her house. It took about 6 months for all the work to be finished. My sister-in-law and her husband renovated their kitchen. Since they both worked, they had to work on weekends. It took the better part of a year for all the work to be complete. Yet they are expecting neighborhoods - the neighborhoods that were hit the worst - to be functioning in four months, even though most residents haven't even returned yet. The article says demographers say that only a quarter of the former residents have returned. But what would they return to?

In New Orleans, many neighborhoods are still abandoned wastelands, with uninhabitable homes, no working street lights and sidewalks piled with moldy garbage. The levee system is as vulnerable as ever.

The land grab is set up. How can people who have been devastated by Katrina manage to do this impossible feat? These are people who have lost everything. They are living in far away states. They still need to feed, house, and clothe themselves, so they are probably working in their new locations. But I'd wager a lot of them would like to come back to their homes.

Oh, the last paragraph of the article sheds some light on who might be the beneficiary of this land grab:

Before returning to Washington Thursday night, the president planned to attend a Republican National Committee fundraiser at the sprawling oceanfront estate of Dwight Schar in Palm Beach, Fla. Schar is CEO of NVR Homes, a major homebuilder and mortgage banking company, and co-owner of the Washington Redskins football team. He raised more than $200,000 for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign.


I've written and called

And now I'm an atheist in a foxhole, who is praying that the Dems on the Senate Judiciary Committee do the right thing, which is to defeat Alito. I have two daughters, and they must not live in a country that does not trust them to make their own choices about their lives.


If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium

Well, we bought our tickets, and we're headed to Paris on February 15. This will be the longest vacation we've ever taken, 2/15 through 2/27. We will only have a limited time in Paris, and then we're going to Ireland, where we will be relying on the kindness of strangers, but mostly strangers who are related to me and therefore seem eager to put us up without receiving any compensation.

I don't know if I've mentioned this here before, but Loki can be a difficult travel companion. The last time we traveled abroad, he was reticent during the planning stages and then was irritated when we didn't have time in the schedule to do everything he wanted to do.

This time, he's more engaged in the planning, but he doesn't seem to fully comprehend that as long as this vacation will be, it is still a short time, and we won't be able to do everything he wants. This morning, he was suggesting that we leave Ireland early (on 2/23), go to England, catch a Ryanair flight to the Netherlands, where he has an online buddy, fly back to England, stay with my cousin Eileen overnight, then take the Chunnel back to Paris, explore the city for 12 hours, stay in a hotel near the airport, and then fly home. As much as I'd like to travel the world, I don't want to run the Amazing Race with him.

Loki has never fully grasped how time passes, and he always underestimates how long it takes to get from one place to another, which is why he gets speeding tickets nearly every other month - he's always in a hurry because he's always running late. And he complains about always being in a hurry, but he never acknowledges that he has some power over the situation.

I suggested that we should figure out what we want to do while we're in Ireland, and figure out from there whether we will have the time to do anything else.


Power and Money

I've been reading a lot of blog posts about Abramoff in the past few days. I've read some of the wingers, whose main thrust is "dems did it, too!", and I've been reading a lot of different takes from some of my favorite bloggers (Driftglass had a brilliant take, IMO), and my own opinion is that it doesn't matter how much money the corrupt politicians give back, because it doesn't address the two-headed beast of power and money, which inevitably leads to corruption.


I've been having a bad 24 hours, but not horribly bad, just totally unexceptional but really annoying stuff.

It started last night. I took dinner out of the oven, and began walking toward the kitchen counter, which was the only flat surface available, because I'm a slob and I still have not dealt with my dining room, which is suffering from my Christmas Eve wrapping extravaganza.

Dinner never made it to the counter, though, because I tripped and dropped the pizza (because Thursday is choir night so dinner has to be fast and preferably made by someone else, although this one was made by me) flat on it's face.

Then there was the toilet thing, and Paul, I e-mailed you a description of the problem, thank you for offering your help. And Loki still hasn't gotten his vacation approved, and now he's mentioning all the practical things we could do with $2200.00, and I'm having a hard time countering any of them, although I keep coming back to the fact that sinking $2200 into our house, as he is suggesting, would maybe solve a few minor problems, but would be just a drop in the bucket. The bucket is the probably $30,000 we need to spend to get our house in the kind of shape the appraiser seems to think it is actually in. But $2200 for a trip to Europe would be complete, and we would have all these lovely memories, whereas spending $2200 on the house would probably mean we'd have to do the work, and working with Loki is...excruciatingly frustrating. (I'm fast, he's slow, I'm a just get it done kind of person, he's a perfectionist, I have physical issues with manual labor because of my bad hip, he ends up getting frustrated because he has to pick up my slack.)

Anyway, back to the bad-but-not-too-bad stuff.

When I got home from choir, I remembered that tomorrow was the holiday party at work, and I volunteered to make a chocolate dessert. I had the necessary ingredients available to make a chocolate hazelnut gateau, so I got started. I ground the hazelnuts and put them in the oven to toast. I grabbed the hand mixer so I could cream the butter and sugar together. And the hand mixer is not working. Turns out Sio burnt out the motor making something that was much too dense to be mixed with a hand mixer. So then I'm looking around for an alternative. I end up putting the butter and sugar into a the blender. Sio comes into the kitchen and says "Oh, it smells like popcorn in here!", and I remember, too late, the hazelnuts, which have toasted to a rich chocolatey black color. Into the trash they go. It takes a while to cream butter and sugar in a blender, by the way.

I also had to hand beat three egg whites into soft peaks, so I feel like I have new muscles in my right arm today.

I get everything mixed together and into the pan, and pop it into the oven for 25 minutes. When the buzzer goes off, I check it, and the cake is still wet in the middle. I leave it in for 7 minutes, and when I check it again, it's overcooked. Oh well, I like my co-workers, but not that much, so overcooked cake it will be.

At work today, my boss told me that she wanted me to mail something out to the 62 members of a particular council, and I was halfway through collating the copies when she popped her head in and said "Oh, you could have just e-mailed it."

By the time I e-mailed everything, I was the only person left in the office; the person I intended to ride to the party with left while I was making copies. So I called Loki, and he said he would come, but it took him an hour and a half to get there because he sat down on the couch and took a nap first. And I felt so forgotten and unwanted that I had a good cry at my desk.

Loki eventually showed up (a pattern of behavior of his, eventually showing up - my sister said she would either divorce him or kill him if she had to live with him, as much as she adores him), and we went to the party and actually had a good time. I got booze in the Yankee swap, and we left the party, picked up Monkey, and went home, where Loki fell asleep on the couch and I fell asleep on the loveseat while Monkey practiced doing cartwheels and splits in the living room.

Of course, I slept too long, and now I'm awake.

added to blogroll

Jill Soloway wrote some of my favorite episodes of Six Feet Under. And she has a blog!


See, this is why I need a vacation

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

These are the states that I've visited. Pretty paltry, eh?

Found at Two Glasses


Loki still hasn't heard from his boss about his vacation request, and tonight, one of our toilets was behaving in a disagreeable manner, so we may have to scale back our vacation so we can give money to a plumber. Crap, crap, crap.


Paris to Ireland

Well, that's what we're aiming for, anyway. Loki and I both have a ton of vacation built up, so now we're waiting to see if we can take a big chunk of it in February.

Thus far, if everything works the way it should, this trip will cost us about $2200.00 (which is a bargain, considering that the trip is 11 days for 4 people - of course, this is primarily due to the fact we won't be staying in hotels while in Ireland), which is money that we could certainly spend in more practical ways, but probably wouldn't. Loki is working overtime over the next couple of weeks, and we were frugal at Christmas, so we have the cash to pay for it up front.

Fingers crossed that we both get the vacation time we requested.

UPDATE: I'm good to go! Maybe I'll just buy tickets for me and the girls, and let Loki buy his when he gets the okay from his job. If they give him a hard time, I'm going to be pissed as hell, because the man has taken 5 vacation days in the total of 10 years he's worked there.


I wonder....

I wonder how many fans of Larry the Cable Guy and his now annoyingly popular saying "Git R Done" are also proponents of making English the official language of the U.S.?

I need a vacation

I'm dreaming of sandy beaches and foreign lands. I'm feeling anxious and upset these days, and I don't really have a reason (other than the usual) for it, so I am going to assume it's because I need a vacation.

Clan Maurinsky was actually thinking about heading to the Grand Canyon for February vacation this year, but it's not going to work - we can afford to either go there or have a place to stay there, but not both at the same time. We are also contemplating heading overseas, which actually costs less airfare-wise, but I'd rather have more time to plan a vacation like that, so we may push it off until next year (I'm thinking Ireland/England/Paris, 14 day trip. We'd only have to pay for accommodations in Paris, since I've got lovely family in Ireland and England. Wouldn't that be a hell of a graduation present for Sio?*)

So my second idea, which I haven't floated by the vacation committee yet, is a trip to the Kennedy Space Center, which would definitely get a thumbs up from Loki, but goes against my stand against spending money in a state governed by a Bush.

Then again, maybe I'll just stay put. My town is pretty damn awesome.