January 31, 2008

Finding My Edges

I do a lot of yoga. I mean, a LOT OF YOGA. Every day this week, so far, and I'll have a hard time resisting Carissa tomorrow morning, especially since I crunched out two reports last night. And it's not the humming, chanting, relaxing flavor of yoga. I'll sneak in one of those classes now and then, but mostly it's a crunching, strong practice that I emerge from soaking wet and looking for a nice hot espom salt bath. Savasana is deep and welcome. And if Savasana is practice for dying, then what precedes it is my raging against the darkness - a fierce experiencing of life, of working to the places where I feel my muscles and bones, where I feel the breath moving, the blood pulsing, the heart beating, and feel with every sinew that I am truly alive.

But who am I kidding? I'm 46, carry around some extra weight, and I've never spent more than a few hours of my youth engaged in athletic pursuit. My sister stood on her hands throughout her youth. Me, I was draped over my bed, reading. So my yoga practice is, in some ways, an ongoing negotiation with my own mortality. A tweaky back: I know exactly where it hurts, what postures exacerbate it, when it starts to get warm and comforted. I feel my knees, not really sore, but definitely finding limits. Feet that cramp. Wrists that complain. A neck that I am forever tightening up and reminding myself to let go.

I walk into every class, put a blanket down, and pull up into headstand. Because I really like being upside down - and if I get it out of the way first, I can do the rest of my practice without anticipation or disappointment. And handstands are coming, I can feel it.....

Alison, down at the studio, called me a "Type A yogi" a year or so ago. Oxymoron, eh? And that was before I started volunteering down at the studio and getting my crack....er...yoga for free. I see her, and others at the studio, who seem to have found a bit more balance in their practice. Maybe I will get there someday.

But not right now. Right now there is an excitement in having finally connected with this life, this body. There is a desire to take it out for a spin, open up the throttle, see what it can do. Feel the wind in my hair (or the blood rush to my brain).

Somewhere down the road, I suspect, is a speed bump. An injury, if I am unlucky. A realization and acceptance that I've gone as far as I can, if I am smart and lucky. And I think once I hit that point, when I start to deal with limits, with edges, with my own mortality, is when the real practice starts.......

Six Feet Under

We're television refuseniks. Not that that we are militantly anti-television, but we just don't get that involved. We don't have HBO or Showtime..... heck, our ultra-secret basic cable gets nothing but broadcast channels, AMC, and TBS. We switch the boob tube on now and then, find a movie or documentary. We've been charmed by "All Creatures Great and Small" as well as "The Vicar of Dibley" (Zippy has quite the crush on Dawn French). But in terms of modern television - nope. When I travel I'll catch things in hotel rooms. But in terms of a regular, weekly appointment with the television, nah.

The positive part of that is that there is a lot of good television out there that we did not catch the first time around. So as the networks run out of original programming as a result of the writer's strike, we've turned to Netflix. There are a bunch of things I'd be interested in seeing, but Zippy had Six Feet Under recommended by a friend; so I popped that to the top of the Netflix queue. Just as soon find something we can enjoy together......

We're just a few episodes in, but we're both hooked. I'm finding Nate to be a charming and handsome rogue, a wonderful center for the plot. Love interest Brenda is the kind of woman I might be if I actually, yanno, had my stuff together, I love her wisdom. David is like a few gay friends I've had and it will be interesting to watch him coming out (I assume that's down the road). Sister Claire is vibing Claire Danes in My So-Called Life. And Ruth the mother seems not so fleshed out so far but lots of room for that in coming episodes.

Forced to Decide

If you're gonna get your heart broke, you better do it just right.... - Dar Williams, The Blessings

Senator Clinton was in town a few days ago, not too far from where I live. I opted for hot yoga that day (not a bad choice, I know others who went and could not get in to the smallish venue). I fear I am a bit jaded and cynical about celebs - I rarely get books signed, when I cross paths with the famous and near-famous in my production support gigs I try to not gush or get flustered. In many ways my life has a Zelig-like "being on the periphery of celebrity" feel to it. So meeting a Senator / former first lady / potential POTUS - yeah, whatever.

For whatever reason, Connecticut has become a battleground state. Hillary is probably coming back. Senator Obama is slated for a Monday visit. Even Senator McCain is dropping in. The primary is just a few days away. And I have no freaking idea which way I am leaning....

On the issues - coin toss. I remain jaded enough to believe that their official policy statements are highly test-marketed and crafted to hit specific demographics, and that what they actually will get done depends much more on external factors - the economy, the world, the congress. I'm sure I'll get behind whichever candidate emerges.

After spanking Mr. McEnroe for his "Barack's the guy I wanna hang out with" attitude a few days back, I feel a bit embarrassed to admit that I'm keeping an ear tuned to his schedule; and thinking I might try to go see him on Monday. He is charismatic and exciting in a lot of ways. And I don't think thats the only, or best, reason to cast my vote his way. But I have to admit, part of me wants to belief. Part of me wants to put my heart on the line, even if it's gonna get broken......

What to do, what to do? My brain says Senator Clinton. Smart cookie. I like an executive who is whip-smart, calculating even. I like the way she's dug in and won the hearts of the New Yorkers, even the upstate ones who skew a lot more moderate and conservative. And even though being First Lady is not exactly preparation for the presidency, she spent 8 years in the White House, watching, listening. She, of all people, knows what goes on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and is ready to hit the ground running. One the debit side, her nomination will surely energize the right. She has a lot of support but she also has a lot of folks with "anyone but Hillary" attitudes. And she's the old guard - another member of the ruling elite (by dint of marriage), like Kennedy or Gore or Kerry or Bush.

Senator Obama. Yeah he's a smart guy. He's a new breed of Democrat. He is perhaps a break for business as usual, the politics of personal destruction, all that stuff. Yeah, he's young and lacks experience. So it's a bit of a roll of the dice. But for the first time since I cast my presidential vote in 1980 (Anderson, I believe), I feel like a vote for Senator Obama might just be a vote for the future, for something other than business as usual.

So, do I vote with my head, or my heart?

Write something!


A faithful reader dropped an email. One day too many stopping by this little corner of the internet and finding a fine layer of dust on the last post. A finger reaches out and sketches a message onto a dirty rear window.

Being a good codependent and guilt driven recovering catholic, my only option is to accede.

January 29, 2008

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

Snuck over to Real Art Ways this afternoon, to see this film. What a wonderful documentary - a paean to both the beauty of the piano as well as the wonder of hand craftsmanship. A throwback to another era.

To see the concert pianists selecting a piano - for a concert or to purchase - was a wonder. They'd sit, and play a few bars, or maybe just a few notes before moving on to the next one - or smile and linger over an instrument that pleased them. And to meet so many of the factory workers - from many countries, with skills passed down over the years. How many jobs in this country have been outsourced, or replaced by automation?

And finally, the intricacies of the piano itself - the woodwork, the strings, the keyboard, hammers, and felts. So delicate, and yet such a time tested and long lived mechanism. The whole thing certainly makes me appreciate any piano I happen to come across, and want to invest in a handcrafted guitar when I can afford it....

Highly recommended, and I just checked, the film is held over at Real Art Ways for another week.

Hillary in Hartford

I did not go. But if you want a feel for the event, I highly recommend Chion Wolf's flicker page. Ms. Wolf works at WNPR; you can catch her online now and then (she had the mic on Sunday night, I'm always happy to hear her voice as one might a beloved cousin or kid sister) - but I love her photos as well. A multi-talented (she also plays music) and hard-working young woman.

I stumbled upon her Flickr page searching for photos of the Plainville hot air balloon fest, and I keep going back - it's kind of like reading a favorite blog, but with photos. I was even surprised to see an old friend there a few days back, shooting pool and enjoying a night out at a pub. Beautiful pictures.

Back to the Hillary in Hartford event. I've seen video. I've read news articles and blogs. But Chion's photos seem to capture the event - close-up's of the candidate and the audience, wide shots to give you a sense of perspective. Even some shots of the left wing Hillary protesters outside the venue, and the wall of media cameras in the back.

January 28, 2008

Wild Rice

At teacher training last week, the instructor made a huge pot of rice in a pressure cooker. I was so taken by the rice (taste, texture, deliciousness) that I vowed to up my game, rice wise. I inquired as to the magic, and apparently, there were three kinds of rice involved (long grain brown, short grain brown, and sweet rice), as well as a magic substance called Gomasio (Sesame Salt).

En route to pick up MYA for a movie, I got into town early and so I dropped by the Super Natural Market & Deli in Bristol, just to check it out. Nice little shop, kind of funky in the way that Cheese & Stuff used to be, with a bit of Bristol charm (i.e. - there is a more or less conventional deli there where you can get soups and sandwiches, and some ables to sit and eat). I picked up some golden raisans (I'm kind of addicted to them in my morning oatmeal) and I also some some small packages of mixed wild rice from a company called Lundberg Country Wild. I picked up a couple of packages, just to test them out (and to support the store, a small independent natural food store). Long term I will want to get some individual grain types and mix my own, but to play with the rice, I thought the pre-packaged kind were a good start.

Cooked up a pot of Lundberg Jubilee blend (Wehani®, Black Japonica™, short and medium grain red rice, short and long grain brown rice and sweet brown rice.) I made a batch of Gomasio (you can find some easy directions, along with a description of Gomasio, here). It was simply delicious.

I've added two new whole grain foods into my diet. A multi-grain cereal with milled flaxseed and soy (made by Hodgson Mill) has replaced instant oatmeal. I spice it up with some raisans, walnuts, and a bit of brown sugar. Advertised to be low fat, all natural, whole grain, high fiber, and high in Omega-3 oils. Now the wild rice.

For yoga teacher training homework, we had to make a whole grain dish, and introduce more whole grains into our diet. I think I'm all set there. We also need to try a couple of new (to us) root vegetables, so that's my next gastronomical exploration.....

January 27, 2008

Shit Happens

The local balloon club gives out a "Shit Happens" award every year. It's a recognition that sometimes, things don't go so right. There are some tacit rules - this is not an award for ignoring safety, or putting lives at risk, or even when there is significant material loss - it's an award for the funny little things that happen in the course of a year in ballooning.

My friend Robert has won it twice - once for getting bounced out of the basket (with his passenger, another balloonist) during the Irish National balloon championships. The balloon and basket ended up flying off unmanned, and got stuck 50 feet up in some trees (the only strand of trees for miles around, and the balloon found 'em). On another occasion, he tried to land in a fellow balloonists backyard launch site on a windy afternoon, came screaming across the field, knocked over a couple of metal sculptures before slamming the basket into the side of the barn and draping the envelope over the roof of the barn. It's one thing to gift wrap a building, yet another when that building belongs to a fellow balloonist who will be sure to tell the story (with appropriate levels of hyperbole and hysterics) at the next club event.

Other's have won the award for landing in Long Island sound (coast guard pulled them out....), for landing in a swamp with no vehicle access, requiring the balloon and basket to be hauled out a 1/2 mile by hand, for not tying down the balloon on the trailer (it fell off, never to be seen again), for gift wrapping a bulldozer. One poor soul forgot to unplug his tank warmers (used to keep the propane warm in the winter) before driving off; two 100 ft. extension cords trailing behind all the way to the launch site.

Carlos won it this year because as he was inflating his balloon, he noticed some twisted lines - not all that uncommon. Standard operating procedure is to deflate the balloon, fix the problem, start over. But it's tempting to try to fix things while the balloon is inflated, which he did - and in the course of it, his balloon slowly settled to the ground around his ears, requiring some effort to untangle and reset. Not a major catastrophe, but funny as heck to watch.

It's an odd award. It's a bit of an embarrassment, of course, but looking at the award last night, Carlos commented "there are a lot of really good pilots' names on this thing". And yeah, the good pilots are the ones who fly a lot. And when you fly a lot, shit happens. It's an annual reminder to everyone to be diligent: equipment condition, maintenance, safe practices, training, and pilot and crew decision making. We've never had a serious balloon incident in CT - and that's saying something. Local pilots are forced to be a bit more highly skilled due to the large swaths of the state that are forested and developed, and the few really good landing spots. Flying in other areas is easier - large farms, wide open space, plenty of places to land a balloon. That's where folks get into trouble - used to such easy flying, when they do need to get into or out of a tight spot, they have no practice.

So yeah, shit happens. A good life lesson. Figure out what went wrong. Learn from it. Take your lumps. Move on. Carlos has the award this year. Next year, someone else will earn it.

23 Years of Service

Back in 1984, I had been in Connecticut one year. I lived for a time in a small apartment in Bristol, back when ESPN was a small single building with a couple of satellite dishes outside. I worked at Superior Electric, a (then) thriving manufacturing plant with 1000 + employees. Today, ESPN is a juggernaut, looking more and more like a planetary defense base. And the former home of Superior Electric has been partitioned into an office park, with Superior moving it's few dozen employees to a more modest space in Farmington. Things change......

In that year of living alone, my social life consisted of drinks after work with coworkers, and racquetball. I've spent time in Bristol the last few years, and it's been interesting to note that the Downtown Cafe and the Brass Pony pub, both former haunts, remain pretty much unchanged. Some things don't change, I guess. It was not a great existence for a young adult, so when my lease ran out, I decided what I needed was to find a social network that did not involve coworkers. So I began to look for a roommate situation, and found a duplex in Southington that was looking for a roommate.

One of my new roommates was named Deb - not sure exactly what happened to her. She had a boyfriend who worked as a forestor in Durham, of all places. All I know is his involved a skidder, and for years I envisioned Durham as the Arkansas of CT, until I actually visited there. He had a large, scary german shephard named Satan, and when he was around they'd lay low in the bedroom with the dog. She moved out a year later; I heard they got married, perhaps they are living in the eastern part of the state. I suspect that got too suburban and they picked up and moved to Montana where he could harvest trees and she could make soap.

The other roommate was a young music teacher named Alison. She had a boyfriend named Robert, who I met during my interview for the place. He had a beat up blue toyota pickup, with a couple of aluminum tanks strapped to the back. I looked at the tanks with interest. "You a welder?" I queried. He laughed. Hot air balloon pilot.

Robert turned out to be huge Springsteen fan - so when I sat down at Alison's piano and banged out the intro to "Jungleland" and confessed to being a fan of the Boss myself, the deal was sealed. I was the new roommate.

In those early years, I got to know Robert slowly. HE was (and is) somewhat larger than life and a rebel marching to his own tune - scary to a then-conformist like myself. He would occasionally fly over the house, so in summer months with the windows open, I'd hear my name called out from above between the booming of the balloon burner, at 6:00 a.m. When I would occasionally have an overnight visitor, he'd call out both of our names, much to our embarrassment. And on a few occasions, I'd go watch him inflate the balloon, or even tag along for the chase. There are some old pictures from that era that would embarrass both Robert and me.....

The years unfolded. Soon thereafter, I met the person I was destined to marry, and within a few years I moved on - to a job in the Danbury area, and an apartment in that city. I got married. Robert and Alison got married. We drifted.

In the early 90's, though, I began to reconnect. My marriage had broken, and I was alone again, in a small cape in Waterbury. Robert and Alison had a few kids, and settled down in Cheshire where he built a barn for his balloon empire. So I started once again to crew for him. I've been crewing pretty regularly ever since. And when they started to have their own marriage problems, I ended up staying more connected to Robert. A lot of bonding gets done before sunrise on a dewy field in the Farmington valley.

Last night, I went to the annual CT Lighter than Air Society winter dinner. We get together after the holidays, during the off season - to reconnect, celebrate, reminisce, and recognize. Mike Bollea won the "Long Jump" award for longest balloon flight within the state borders (57.6 miles, this year). Carlos Kebe won the "Sh*t Happens" award for an amusing (and abortive) inflation at the recent Frozen Buns rally. And I won the Judith Ushchak Crew Award, given in honor of a beloved and departed crew member. Mostly, I suspect I earned the award for hanging around for these 23 years.

My flush speaks to the couple of margarita's I consumed last evening. I did a lot of the behind the scene organization for the dinner: made a slide show for the cocktail hour, kept track of the reservations, put together the agenda and table cards, etc. So I deserved a drink or two, and I'm guessing my award was due partly in thanks for all the work on the banquet.

The white head of hair in the foreground of the picture belongs to Steve Ushchak, husband of the late Judith. When Judy passed away a few years ago, we all warned him: Steve, you have your hair and all your teeth. You own property. You're in good shape (Steve works a hay farm in Cheshire). You're a good catholic who goes to church daily. You are, quite frankly, a catch! He laughed and got embarassed, but a year or so later he shyly told us we were right. There were a lot of women courting him. He's brought the same woman to the dinner last night as he did last year - it's very sweet.

When I pulled the old gender switcheroo back in 2002-2003, it was right around the time that Judy was sick. So Steve was out of the loop for a year or so - we did not see much of him. We crewed together a some months after I had switched names and genders, and by then it was old news - nobody had thought to tell Steve. The chase that day was uneventful. Later, after the passengers had been toasted with champagne and fed fruit, cheese and crackers, and the balloonists had gathered for breakfast, I headed home. On the way back to pick up his car, I found out later, Steve asked Robert and another crew member about me.

"That Judy, she's really nice.....she reminds me a lot of that guy who used to chase for you.....is she his sister? Whatever happened to him anyways?"

He took the news pretty well, for a 70 something devout catholic. He had some concerns at first on moral and religious grounds, and if there was some discomfort for a while, well, he got over it. Or maybe he forgot about ol' what's his name. Being 70-something will do that do you.....

It's an honor to have my name on the crew award given in his wife's honor. It's been over 23 years of balloon chasing fun for me. With any luck, 23 years from now I'll be the white-haired head sitting at the table at the annual dinner.

January 26, 2008

Self Appreciation

I went to a birthday party last night; a friend who was turning 27 (egad! 27!) threw her own party and then sat there and faced the music as a room full of people, one by one, expressed their appreciation and delight at her existence. It was a pretty amazing thing. The catch phrase of the evening became "now you have to stay.....". Each person moved to the couch to talk to the birthday girl, and as they finished up, she kind of whispered that to each of us. Then the next person sat on the other side of her, and the first person kind of played back-up - holding her hand, catching the love and fondness that might have missed it's mark, and in some ways sharing in the appreciation aimed at the birthday girl.

It was a kind of magical thing, turning a simple "let's say something we like about Jen" into a ritual, with each of us in term giving, and sharing in the receiving, or love. I'm working on self-appreciation myself these days; my therapy homework assignment is to get three friend to tell me three things they like or appreciate about me, and sit there and listen (and not, you know, argue with 'em). Just take it in, feel it. In person only, sorry online friends and fans. It's not something I'm looking forward to; what if nobody can come up with anything?

Lots of friends from yoga, enlightenment intensives, and kirtan were there - I was one of the earlier arrivals and I felt my heart spin up a little as each familiar face came through the door. The food was delicious. Not just one, but two cakes (I only sampled one). Did not get out of there until 11:30, which for me is wicked late. Now I'm kind of foggy this morning; getting myself slowly up to speed for a Power II class this morning.....

Self appreciation, yeah. It was delightful to participate in this party, and a good experience for me to witness and share in for my own journey.

January 24, 2008

Emailing Me

scenicrootblog@aol.com will get to me.....

Getting Busy

The travel gods have emerged from hibernation; I have a mess of trips coming up. San Diego the 2nd weekend in February. Las Vegas the last week of February. Rochester NY the first week in March. San Diego (again) the 2nd weekend in March. And a potential Chicago trip hanging out there (so far unplanned)

Nice to be busy. For whatever reason, one cannot gauge the health of the economy or the business cycle by me.....

John Rowland's New Job

Former Governor Rowland has been much in the news of late, being offered (and now accepting) a job with the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, partially funded by the city government, in an economic development coordinator position.

Colin McEnroe, a long time fan of the former Gov's, has been blogging about it, as well as hitting the airwaves (look for the interview with Paul Vance Jr). He seems to be surprised by the apparent mixed support that this move has among the citizenry. WTIC has a front page poll going which is pretty evenly split in terms of supporting this hire.

I was moved to comment over on Colin's blog, but once it gets past 5 paragraphs, it's worth some column inches on my own blog, no?

*************************************************************

Well, maybe we can take some solace - "better the devil you know than the devil you don't"

Mr. Rowland's history and notoriety will certainly keep him under the media microscope, which in Waterbury, is not a bad thing. Offer that position to anyone else, and the media spotlight would move on quickly, leaving the potential for mischief.

And whether one agrees or disagrees with Rowland's philosophies regarding urban development and bringing home the bacon, its pretty clear that he's had a soft spot in his heart for the brass city, pushing projects and funding that way long after he had set down roots in Hartford.

I think it speaks to two realities that perhaps are hard to accept. In Waterbury (and perhaps in other places), backroom deals and quid pro quo are just how things get done. Rowland's crime was not playing dirty, but rather that he got caught. And the support out there for the former gov is a good indication that many citizens don't see all that much wrong in what he did.

And if you are a member of the privileged class in this country - if one is male, white, educated in good schools, come from the right family, a 90-120K job is your birthright, regardless of competency or behavior.

Those are bigger, and more intractable issues, than John Rowland. He's the whipping boy, perhaps for some fairly deep-rooted problems in our society and our government.

*************************************************************

Surfing around for some feel as to how this is playing in the brass city, I find this nugget on the Republican-American site:

"The only worse person they could have put in that position would be Osama bin Laden," said Steve Santovasi, president of Waterbury's white collar union. "On the other hand, bin Laden has a background in civil engineering."

And for the record, I owned a home in the Waterbury (Town Plot) for over 12 years before moving to Hartford. So I have some experience with the Brass City myself.

January 23, 2008

Chick Flick

My Young Apprentice (usually MYA here, my mentee) and I went out tonight for her birthday (she's now 19) - Imperial Buffet in Plainville (they love us there, we're good luck in India, I hear and maybe in all of Asia). Then to Target (she burned part of a gift card on clearance jeans). Then to see 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl. We both decided we wanted to get married (she's got a better shot at it than I do, but it's complicated no matter how you slice it)

I kind of felt bad walking past the theater sign of Oscar nominated films I would like to see, but have not (because, that would involve actually going to a cineplex). We have this sort of negative function thing going with theaters - we go to Real Art Ways cinema a lot. The slightly more mainstream Cinestudio a bit less. Almost commercial Cinema City occasionally. And the Bow Tie cinema's right down the road on New Park maybe twice a year.

But, it was MYA's birthday, so we went to a movie she wanted. It was a nice little movie. If only life worked out in that sort of happily ever after way - she could use a happy ending.

Lumbar Support

After dealing with lower back tweakiness for a year or so, which comes and goes, I finally got smart and procured some lumbar support - a small beanbag pillow for the car, a decorative cushion for the office chair, and an old bolster for my usual sofa spot. See if that helps.....

My Calendar

I was an early PDA acquirer - a client bought himself a PalmPilot back in the day, and bought one for me as a gift. He figured I'd play with it, learn how to make it do backflips, and he could use me as tech support. So I've had a Palm device in my bag ever since. I think I am on my third device now - I've never been a "latest and greatest" kind of girl, so my present version was heading towards obsolesence when I bought it several years ago.

When I consolidated my office and storage space, the charger for my Palm device disappeared. The PDA was getting flaky anyway - the battery has stopped holding a serious charge and I'd have to reset it and change the date / time a bit too often. So it's been time to upgrade / replace. I did not have the bucks to invest, and was not sure what to get, so I simply bought a 2008 paper calendar and have been using that, happily.

But I'm thinking about a new PDA. I'm overdue for a new phone as well, so I was thinking about a smartphone. I'm tired of carrying both a cell phone and a PDA - maybe I can combine these into one device. I really do not want to sign up for data service or get email on the device, just not in my budget. (No Crackberry addict, I) Maybe I should just get a new phone.

So, for those using such devices:

* Am I nuts to want a PDA / Smartphone without data / email, just to have the PDA functions?
* Is the larger size of the PDA / Smartphone a downer as compared to a compact cell phone? (I mostly keep my present phone in my purse or jacket pocket, its not like I need it to be small)
* Any experience with particular devices that you like or dislike?
* Should I just pony up for a low cost PDA (Palm Z22 or something) and get a new phone and be done with it?
* Is there a hybrid phone out there that has basic phone stuff plus a decent address book and calendar, which is really all I ever use on the PDA?

I seem to be in a stripping down / simplifying phase in life, and the paper calendar seems to be an OK option right now. (although I fear losing it with no backup, and I have no address book in there) and I I have a lot of contacts in my Palm database but honestly its been years since I've updated the data; most of the numbers I call are in my phone.

I dunno. I ought to just go down to the AT&T wireless store and mess around.
Anyone got any advice?

Finding My Voice

I've written a whole bunch of paragraphs on this subject this morning. And deleted them all before posting.

This, I think, is meaningful.

I suspect that finding my voice is going to be an important part of both my yoga teacher training and in my life.

January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day

Prompted by Helen Boyd at her (En)gender blog .....This year, NARAL, the organizers of Blog for Choice, have asked us all why we vote pro-Choice.

Like Helen, I was raised Catholic. Not just a Sunday morning catholic - I had 12 years of catholic education. My father was a lay eucharistic minister, as was I. Dad's bridge partner was the Monsignor. I was a folk mass musician (with Birthright stickers on my guitar case). Alter server. CCD teacher. Married by a bishop. You get the idea. I was the kind of kid that the nuns and priests had in their sights on vocation day.

My younger brother is adopted - and is an important part of the family. So the topic of teen pregnancy, adoption, etc. was part of the family dialog from the earliest days. Of course we were an "Adoption, not Abortion" kind of family.

But, as I entered adulthood, I became aware that many of my catholic friends had had abortions. And it became clear to me that the church and pro-lifers were not so much against abortion as they were anti-sex. A truly pro-life movement would promote birth control and sex education. A pro-life movement would provide loving and supportive structures for women who found themselves pregnant, to carry the child to term, to assist with a decision to keep or give up the child, to work to remove the stigma that came with being an unwed mother.

I'm still not a fan of abortion, and would happily work towards the day when such procedures are minimized. But that involves a lot of things that the anti-sex folks (hiding under the pro-life umbrella) resist. When birth control is widely available and promoted, when men are held to the same standards of responsibility for pregnancy, when young mothers are embraced by society and not stigmatized and povertized - well, then I might consider restricting abortion. When the pro-lifers come from a place of loving the unborn child, rather than punishing the pregnant woman, I'll listen. But until that day comes - I'm pro-choice.

And I vote....

January 20, 2008

Well, I survived....

Weekend #1 of Yoga Teacher Training. 1 down, 4 more to go (along with a bunch of other requirements)

Very draining, in a lot of ways. Three straight days of practice with Barbara, to start with. And today, a new twist - we'd go through postures and sequences talking ourselves through them. YOU try to breath, do core ab work, and do your own directions. Not easy. Shankar came by to tweak my feet and I am *sure* I gave him a "touch me and die!" look. I spend a lot of time disengaging my brain when I practice, so to have to engage it is tough!

On the positive side, Barbara's practice cooked my back tweakiness to silence, by th end. I am sure I need to continue to keep an eye on it, but I was afraid it would really impact my practice today.

A lot of challenges. Knowing that we'll be back in the studio a month hence (and that I will see many of my fellow trainees and teachers throughout the month) makes me think a lot of the "I am gonna make some life changes here" thing will stick in a way that a one weekend seminar or workshop might not.

Ms. Heffernan

Browsing Colin's blog last night, I see a post about Friday Night Lights, and specifically referencing a New York Times magazine article by Virginia Heffernan titled Art in the Age of Franchising.

Now I'm reading I'm Looking Through You by Jennifer Boylan, and right there on page 157, the line "Mrs. Heffernan, the head teller, said she'd seen a thousand-dollar bill one time...."

What an odd name to come across twice in a few hours time. I'm half expecting to come cross the name one more time this weekend, since things come in three's. Or not.

It's By Far the Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

This Yoga Teacher Training, that is. It's just a big freaking mountain; I'm standing here feeling all small and in some ways overwhelmed.

On the physical, practical side, this weekend has been hard. I went into it with a tweaky back and that has not changed much. Not debilitating, but it's there throughout the 2 hour practice that starts the session. Humbling to struggle with seated side bend. Often, a rigorous vinyasa practice, or a strong standing practice, let's me either roast my back into comfort, or work around it. But this far simpler, but strong practice is gridning right in there. Humbling. In some ways, digging into my fears and self-doubts.

In addition, the sessions are long - practice, lectures, exercises. Some nice breaks in there, some practice teaching. But it's been a long time since I've had to FOCUS for this many hours. So that takes a toll. And I have not been sleeping great, between my back and the time shifting: I'm usually a morning yogi; we start at noon or 1:00 p.m. Plus, I've been eating healthy all weekend - so I think I may be detoxing a bit. Aches and this morning even the hint of a headache (I *never* get headaches)

We looked ahead last night; other than the 5 training weekends, a weekend anatomy class, and a handful of workshops, we also need to take a 24 hour teacher training with another instructor, do a national workshop with another instructor. I knew about those, I think those will be fun based on my practice with national teachers who come through town. We need to write up 2 page critiques of the books we're reading. Not a biggie; I love to write, and a critique is not so far from the many book reviews I've written.

But then, we need to actually get out there and teach. 5 volunteer classes. 2 classes for money. 5 classes assisting Barbara and other WHY teachers. Audiotape one of our classes. Audit a bunch of classes with different teachers (and critique these). It all sounds overwhelming.

Yesterday, we sat down and led one of the other students through a simple posture - seated side bend. We were all flustered - mixing up rights and lefts, leaving out instructions, forgetting to integrate breath. Laughing at ourselves, and crying a little, because its so hard. The magnitude of what I want to do is beginning the strike me - putting myself out there, talking to groups of people, trying to get the language right, the rights, the lefts, the ups, the downs. All this stuff that I've taken into my body, to the point where I lose language, lose words, lose linearity - and just follow my body wisdom. Now I'm trying to superimpose language and thought and linearity on top of it all. Difficult.

I am a person who has been handed many things, easily in life - music, schooling, reading, career. Even the big life project to date has been less about bearing down and working, and more about meandering around finding little pieces and parts until I had enough to work with. I simply pretended I did not really want it, and then chipped away at the edges until the whole thing dropped down under its own weight and I stepped lightly to the top. But to face this mountain of challenge, and to say "that's where I am going" without games or misdirection or leaving myself escape routes. Different for me.

Better start climbing.....

Falcon Ridge - Peace Train Doves

This comment (from Mark) came in regarding a Falcon Ridge post from last July, but what the heck, with all the Yoga Teacher Training going on, I'm not blogging much this weekend. So....
Howdy! A friend pointed me to your "Back from Falcon Ridge" blog post. Very nice portrayal of a favorite festival. I thought you might want to learn more about the doves that soared through mainstage during Gandolf's Peace Train. They're puppets from the Mortal Beasts & Deities troupe. For more information check out mortalbeastsanddeities.com

I've noted the male Old Oracle character at Falcon Ridge in the past. And this troupe adds to the magic of Falcon Ridge each year, a random performance that blurs the line between festival and performance, between those on stage and those in the audience.

And, serendipity. Last night at Teacher Training, I realized that I need to come up with some places to do practice / volunteer yoga teaching. I've got some communities and spaces in mind, by last night I thought "gentle yoga to get the camping kinks out at Falcon Ridge". This morning, I wake up to a blog comment tied into the fest. So....yeah!

January 19, 2008

YTT - Day One

Day one is under my belt. Mostly, an introduction kind of day. Hand out binders, housekeeping, introductions.

A strong Barb practice, as expected. My tweaky back made for some fear but no serious concerns. Having a 2nd set of yoga duds is definitely required, since we start with a 2 hour practice and I am soaked through by the end of it. One of the other students commented, as we walked around the room to loosen up a bit mid-practice "Oh good, I'm not the only one sweating!" No friend, with me in the room, there will always be someone sweating.

And we got homework, nothing major but lots of little things to read. 5 pages on WHY power. 5 pages on whole foods. Some asanas. Some yoga theory. Some cooking stuff about grains and complex carbohydrates. And the first chapter on Intutive Healing. I was up early this morning, could not sleep, and so I got my homework out of the way. So I can mess around online, do some chores. I expect to take a shower and maybe a mid-morning nap; the training starts up again at 1:00 p.m.

It was so wonderful to be in that space - with 35 fellow yogis and yoginis, with my teachers and friends in the front of the room. And while I fear the work and the commitment, I am also so proud of myself for being there, and so excited by the challenge.

January 18, 2008

And so, I am off....

It was one year ago, this weekend in fact, when the seeds of becoming a yoga teacher were planted. That weekend, I blogged:
My highlight was a meditation workshop, led by Peter Welch, an artist and Wellness Educator / Counselor from Univserity of New Hampshire, and was gifted with a copy of the UNH Meditation CD. A delightful bubble of calm in the midst of the conference hub-bub and energy.
So, thanks, Peter.

It was back in May when I first ventured over to Samadhi, dipping a toe into the water of their teacher training program, which started in September. Finally, I decided to go with the teacher training program at WHY. I've been getting excited about it since the fall.

And now, it's here. I'm all packed for the evening. Gonna finish up this post, check email, and head out. Into the unknown.....

Cat Walk


Evidence of a visitor this morning; one of the local strays came calling, perhaps seeking shelter in the jungle of brush that sits between our house and the garage next door.....

Darwin Award Nominee

One of the three victims of San Francisco Zoo tiger attack was intoxicated and admitted to yelling and waving at the animal while standing atop the railing of the big cat enclosure, police said in court documents filed Thursday.

Story here

Creative Cocktail Hour

Just a quick "hiya" to my peeps. I popped in for a few minutes (and an iridescent blue cocktail) before heading off to the CLAS meeting.

Struck (again) by the lighting in the Elizabeth Keithline's Lost House project - in some ways the lighting fundamentally changes the nature of the work, and I'm amazed that the lighting was not an integral part of the art. (although I see Ms. Keithline co-curated the show so maybe she was more involved than my brief chat with Wil last month indicated). Looking at it again tonight, I decided it would be interesting to have a more integrated lighting installation, with maybe 3 or 4 lighting looks illuminating the wire pieces and casting shadows in different ways (on the floor, on the walls, and even lit from below) - and have the lighting change every 5 minutes. So each time one wandered in there, the piece would be different.

In fact, in the picture above (from the Hartford Courant) the lighting is totally different from the present installation.

We (OK, I don't know your name, but you are there all the time and we know each other by sight) also got into a discussion about Rubert Nesbitt's Instances in the Field installation. (six pieces shown here, four installed at RAW at the moment)

The video pieces were computer generated, and run on (I presume) DVD loops. All good. But the the vibe of the pieces screamed for interactivity. I wanted little sensors (preferably unobtrusive or invisible) that would permit the piece to sense a viewer, and change the piece in response to this feedback. The pieces are so lifelike that it feels like one is looking out of a window, and I really did want the perspective of the piece, the camera angle so to speak, to shift as I moved side to side, or stoop up on tiptoes. I wanted to see more.

Good art, good show, I really have enjoyed it and have gone back to most of the pieces each time I've been to RAW this past month.

In a more social vein:

* Hi to Abby (and friend whose name has already slipped) nice to see ya!
* Private to CM: Accessories!
* Private to KP: Did the internet stalker, er, I mean guy in the green sweater who was looking for you, find you? (assuming you were there) He seemed to have you pegged for a 40-something minivan driving mom, and who was I to dissuade him.
* To the guy with the weird perspective googles. You remind me of Zippy's brother, Finch. Which is to say, whacked in a wonderful way. Keep it up!

Time Flies

I went to a meeting last night for the CT Lighter than Air Society (CLAS). I go maybe 1-2 times a year; it conflicts with the Creative Cocktail Hour, for one, and it's mostly pilot-stuff, for another. I am an adjunct member, at best.

While there, it came to my attention that my dues were in arrears for several years: 2006 and 2007. I was shocked (shocked, I say!) and I wrote a check right there for $60 to catch me up through 2008. It's not like it's all that expensive.

Later on, while discussing an upcoming safety seminar, the topic of dues and members in arrears came up. Pilots need to attend the seminar to stay current, and members get a discount on the safety seminar, so whether one is or is not current on due is at least on the table. After listening to them kvetch about the state of the membership, I spoke up. Hey guys (mostly). It's me, a member up until recently in arrears.

* Did I get reminders (mail or email) that my dues were past due? (no, maybe once in two years)
* Did I remain on the CLAS email list? (yes)
* Was I able to download the monthly CLAS newsletter? (yes)
* Did anyone remind me I was in arrears at the meeting (no, I actually asked "Am I up to date?")

In short (a) how was I to know I was in arrears, and (b) what incentive was there for me to pony up (czarina)? For the 15 or so "regulars" who go to meetings and are local, remembering to pay their dues is no big issue. But for the rest (the group has members form across the state and some outliers in other Northeast states), I think it behooves the group to be a bit more focused on notifying members about dues, making it easier to pay dues (how about a PayPal button on the website?), and shutting down access to group resources if dues remain unpaid.

Having run groups like this in the past, I know that keeping members up to date can be a pain in the ass - it's a lot of work to track members, collect dues, send out reminders. You have to give members something of value in return. Real Art Ways (of Creative Cocktail Hour) is a good example: they get my annul dues because $5 movies (instead of $9 for non-members) is worth it to me. Getting into the CCH for free (or discounted, I am not sure how the membership thing works) is worth it too. And oh yeah, if I forget to renew, they send out a letter to remind me, and my renewal date is on my laminated membership card. So every year I write a check. Last year I even gave them a bit extra.

Real ID News

From the AP: New Security Rules for Driver's Licenses By DEVLIN BARRETT – Jan 10, 2008

Not a lot to say. I do not share the rage and fear around this issue that a lot of my peers do; on some level I think it might even create a more progressive identification policy for backwards states, dragged kicking and screaming towards some more progressive national standard.

I know it's a few years off, but it is sobering to know that the "over 50 exception" applies to me. Quite honestly the first time I ever felt old.
The over-50 exemption was created to give states more time to get everyone new licenses, and officials say the risk of someone in that age group being a tërrorist, illegal immigrant or con artist is much less. By 2017, even those over 50 must have a REAL ID-compliant card to board a plane.

Also, I feel powerful. I mean, I still feel fully capable of acts of civil (and uncivil) disobedience. So to know that Homeland Security is watching me a little less closely than others feels vaguely comforting.

January 17, 2008

CT Lighter than Air Calendars

I was gifted with a few leftover 2008 CT Lighter than Air Calendars (I'm a good customer, I buy a pile for my clients each year). Any blog readers want one? First 4 emails (with a mailing address) will get one - I'll pay the postage!

Presentation is Everything

That's what an ex of mine taught me. I'm the sort who has been content to just sort of get the content there. A birthday gift to a party. A crock-pot of chili to a pot-luck. Words down on a piece of paper.

But this particular ex was a fanatic about presentation. Gifts were wrapped just so - with attention to the ribbon, creased wrapping paper, and a thoughtful card. A pot luck dish was accompanied by garnish, a nice bowl, serving utensils, and a carefully lettered card with information for the vegetarian-spectrum folks as well as those with allergies or sensitivities. "Presentation is everything" - and indeed, the recipient of such largesse was often delighted at the attention, regardless of the actual value of the content.

While I remain somewhat challenged in that department, I've certainly learned a thing or two. A few years back, I did a poster session for a conference. I could have printed out my material on 8.5" x 11" pages and pinned them to the backdrop (as did most of the presenters). Or bought a piece of foam core and spray-mounted the content (pretty slick, but not quite there, and a hassle to ship to the west coast). As it was, I put the presentation together in PowerPoint. I used custom dimensions, and set them to be huge, 3' x 4'. Then I walked the file down to Kinko's on a CD (I'd use a USB drive today) and had them print it out. Roll it up, stick it in a tube, unroll it at the conference. Cost a few bucks, but it's a deductible business expense.....

Scaled that way, the resolution was excellent, I was able to simply paste all my various graphics onto the poster and make use of the PowerPoint tools for formatting (bullets, shadows, lists, boxes). And pretty much every one of the other presenters came by to drool, and ask how I did it. Even as recently as last year, I presented with 3 employees of one of the world's biggest corporations. (Think big blue meatball) And yet, looking at the production quality of the slides and the preparation that went into the presentations, one would think it was the other way around.

So yeah, I get the need and the desire to do things right - to look sharp, to put one's best face forward. I've been teased (and have been teasing) the yogi's in my life about things not being "shoddy". But yeah - doing things right adds up to a positive experience. There are often a vase of flowers on the desk at the studio, and healthy plants as well. The place is clean, smells good (despite the sweaty bodies), and is tastefully but simply decorated (paint, tapestries, lighting fixtures).

Just thinking about that a bit. We're working on the annual balloon club dinner and I'm focused on little things. Table placecards. A slide show to run during the cocktail hour. Making sure there is a sound system and microphone. Picking out the background music. All sorts of small touches that don't cost a lot, but add up to a positive experience.

My inner interior decorator / event planner is getting a chance to stretch her legs.....

LibraryThing

If you scroll down a bit, you'll notice a small window titled "Books from my Library". It's from a website called LibraryThing, wherein you can add books to your online library. I have not explored the LibraryThing features much, but I did put my recent pile of "books to read" in there, and created a little blog widget. I owe the find to Sandyshoes over at Noted and Blogged, who recently wandered over here (and vice-versa). Now I gotta sweep; those beach people leave sand all over.

Not that I am actually getting around to reading them yet, I've been busy. They sit there like unopened presents.

PowerPoint Princess

After many moons of not cracking this particular application, I have three projects going:

* The balloon slide show juggernaut
* A presentation for the upcoming power quality show (admittedly not started yet, I have until February)
* A set of posters for yoga teacher training (a project showed up via email last night)

I'm gonna dummy up a test poster this morning and then drop by the studio (I'm off the mat today, a tweaky lower back and a day of rest before the three day training starts, which involves at least a few hours of yoga each day, to be sure) - if it passes muster (i.e. - is not shoddy), I have a project for the afternoon.

First Day of School

All of the kids in my family have one: A photo taken as we head off for our first day of school. We are overdressed - uncomfortable shoes, sweaters and ties, dresses, all new and ironed. We each have a look in our eye - fearful, brave, with perhaps a little hope. Our parents were the types to puff up something like school - you'll haev so many friends there! You'll learn so much! There will be snacks, and nap time, and lots of things to play with. So, we headed off with a little optimism and a lot of dubious concern.

And even in later years, heading back to school in September was a big deal. A new lunchbox. New clothes. A trip to Hills department store for notebooks, a new pencil case (do kids still use pencil cases?), book covers for the text books (catholic school teachers were big on book covers, which were sometimes store-bought and sometimes fabricated out of brown paper bags). It was a time of great preparation.

I'm not a parent, so I'm not sure how well I would take sending my 5 or 6 year old off into the big wide world. I'd probably be one of THOSE parents (over-protective, consciously concerned, vaguely neurotic). But no matter. I'm not a parent, so I'll let you all wreck...er.....I mean, guide your kids' lives.

But with yoga teacher training a mere 33 hours away, I feel like I am sending a child off to school. All this preparation. We're supposed to bring 2 sets of yoga clothes to each class. (a good plan for a sweat machine like myself) Over a 3 day weekend, that's 6 yoga outfits! Who has that many? (Er, I do, but I have to make sure they are all clean). I also picked up a zip-up cover for the training. Back to school clothes. We've got a reading list, and are supposed to bring three of the books to the first class. Plus, we're getting a teacher training binder. Plus we need to bring a notebook. (I got that last night at Borders, and I actually spent some time picking one out. I wanted it to be COOL enough to bring out in front of the other kids....er....I mean, yogis. So now I need to find something to serve as a bookbag! (I think we have a large WWUH canvas tote that will serve)

Finally, we've got 8-9 hour training days, with short breaks to eat. So I need to bring a meal. I dug out 3 meal bags to choose from; and need to figure out a plan in terms of what to bring (I suspect that peanut-butter and jelly and a bag of Frito's chips is not gonna cut it, since there is a big emphasis on food ad nutrition in the training!) I'm guessing it will be a grazing sort of thing - raisans, nuts, sesame sticks, yogurt - maybe a sandwich.

I ought to get Zippy to take a picture of me heading off to my first class, to be funny. What will I look like? Maybe fearful, and brave, with perhaps a little hope.

January 15, 2008

Maybe not so efficient....

...the City of Cleveland, that is. I blogged before about a traffic ticket I got in Cleveland, via an intersection camera. I paid the ticket. The next month, I got my credit card statement and saw that Dollar Rentacar *also* paid the ticket. (plus $60 for something or other, late fees or whatever). I called Dollar about it (I think) or maybe the city of Cleveland, and got a message back saying it was double ticketed or something.

In any case, I assumed they might be taking the charge off the credit card (haven't gotten the current statement yet). But no, today I get a nice letter from Cleveland, with a check for $160. Yeah! One catch, however. Pay to the Order of: The City of Cleveland. Whoops. Civil service at work.....

I'm just gonna fax them tomorrow (I tried to call today and got a recording, so might as well fax a note back so they can see the problem). I assume it will all get sorted out, but I dunno, I'm thinking I might even come out $60 ahead here. Sheesh.

Edit: I came back from lunch today to a message to call the office. I tried, really I did. But I could not figure out how, in three attempts, to get a live person on the line. Harrumph....

Flurry of Activity

...in my life, that is.

Most of the "hanging out there, gonna break any day now" checks from clients came in yesterday and today (with the exception of one client, who is about 75 days out now on the oldest invoice). As a result, I've been busily paying bills, dumping some funds into my 2007 IRA, my 2008 HSA, 4Q 2007 Estimated taxes. Nice to be not so worried about money for the moment.

I'm also working on a paper for the 2008 Power Quality conference, in Las Vegas. It's probably due this week; I spent yesterday scanning 20-30 pictures from the archives (taken in the days before digital cameras, when every site visit would involve a trip down to CVS to get the photos developed, then scan them in for the report). I also dug through 1700 reports from the past 4-5 years for the ones that I am going to use for my paper (not so hard really, I was able to do some searches that narrowed it down to maybe 12 sites that I needed to look at. So, I'm about to sit down to write. Any minute now. Really.

In other news, we're getting ready for our balloon club winter dinner, and I made the tactical error of sending out an email soliciting photos for a "little slide show to run during cocktail hour". One of our members has sent me about 20 emails with 10-20 photos attached per email. When I (finally) sent a note back telling him I think we've got it covered (please stop!), he sent back his own calculations: I sent you 267 photos. Put that on a slide show, 5 sec. per photo. =22 min. 25 sec. I do not have the heart to tell him that I have photos from other club members (plus we are interspersing in trivia and 2007 news items and stuff in there), and might actually leave the slides up there for 10-15 seconds - so I doubt I will use every photo he sent.

Balloonists and Cross-dressers (two tribes I have some experience with) - never saw a photo-op they did not like.

So, not really blogging about much at the moment. Too busy getting things done!

January 14, 2008

Hype

Not sure why, but the promised (threatened?) 8" - 12" of snow just did not materialize. A quick photo outside provides some evidence - Zippy's car has maybe 2" of wet snow; it's barely enough to shovel really.

Dr. Mel is still talking 8" - 12" in Hartford, which I have a hard time believing, but he's also saying the storm is racing off to the east, and the doppler images show no precipitation to the south and west. The street (a side road in Hartford that is rarely plowed early) is clear. The temperature was right around 32F so perhaps we got a few hours of rain before it turned to snow.

I was fearful that a 1:00 pm appointment today in WH Center might be canceled, but I'm pretty sure it will not be affected. Heck, heading in to work this morning is a pretty sure bet, and yoga today will depend on how I feel and not the weather.

Much as I hate to see the state snowbound, you have to feel that this is a let-down.

January 13, 2008

Off to Bed

I'm up way too late tonight, knowing I can sleep in tomorrow and will likely not go into work or yoga due to the snow. Looking outside, there's just the hint of precipitation - no visible snow nor accumulation. The city truck has already rolled through (more than an hour ago) with a pre-emptive application of salt.

Will tomorrow bring the much predicted 12" of snow, or is it all hype? We'll see. Whatever we wake up to, I'm sure to be out there with a shovel at some point.

Saving Our Cities/Saving the Land: New Urbanism Film Festival

Props to Heather at Urban Compass for this one. Springfield's loss (well, she still does a bang-up job on Springfield) is our gain. She's flagged me down to a special film series at the New Haven Museum & Historical Society called Saving Our Cities/Saving the Land: New Urbanism Film Festival

Thursday evenings - 5:30-7:30 pm
January 17, 24, 31 February 7, 21, 28, 2008
No charge for films, Refreshments available for purchase
Pre-registration guarantees a seat
Snow dates are the following Tuesdays

Come in from the cold this winter and explore some of the critical issues facing our communities. For six weeks in January and February we will feature films, commentary and lively discussion as we “travel” across the country in search of answers to the challenge of urban sprawl, community alienation, clogged transportation, the loss of independent commerce and the corresponding threats to precious historical resources. Find communities looking for new ways to come together, define their neighborhoods and fight the Big Box.

Connecticut has been facing the problem of city versus town since colonial days, resulting in 169 governmental entities with great independent spirit but little interconnectedness. How do we come together? How do our communities maintain a sense of identity in an increasingly homogenized world? What about our cities? A century ago they were the engines of the industrial age. But what is their role now and in the future?

The issues facing us here are being addressed by communities across the nation. At each of our evening programs commentators will lead discussions that will bring the challenges home and help us rethink the "American Dream."

Films:

January 17: Connecticut and Its Cities: Three Centuries of Change (Part 1) Our introductory film explores the forces that created Connecticut’s cities and surrounding small towns, how they grew and what happened when industry moved on.

January 24th: Taken For a Ride Public transportation shaped urban communities, offering citizens easy transportation and driving the development of downtown shopping and commercial districts. This changed in the 1930s through a sweeping campaign by GM to buy and dismantle the streetcars across the country.

January 31: Subdivide: Isolation and Community in America What is life like in contemporary suburbia? Follow this personal study of isolation and the struggle to find community in an era of careless development.

February 7: Suburbia: The Good Life in Connecticut? Learn how suburban ideals and myths influence our views on privacy, education, safety and the future of Connecticut’s urban centers.

February 21: Independent America Follow the filmmakers on a transcontinental journey through 32 states in search of “Independent America.” Hear from hardy souls fighting for the right to remain independent in a land smothered by Big Box stores and fast-food chains.

February 28: Save Our Land/Save Our Towns Join us for this voyage of discovery as we see how cities can be rebuilt and countrysides preserved from stripmalls and subdivisions.

Not sure how many of these I can get down to, but I'd love to see them all. Good find!

Television Writer's Strike

I'm surprised GWB does not pull a Reagan and fire all the television writers, a la PATCO in 1981. I'm pretty sure keeping the American public doped with television (along with sex and religion) is high on the list of national security issues. Without television, we might actually start paying attention to what's going on in the world!

Yoga is probably a government sponsored movement to lull us into a state of bliss; a panacea for the masses for the 21st century burned out on organized religion. Hey, government overlords: How about throwing some good sex my way? I can be bribed into sheeplike complacency. Seriously.

Frozen Buns Rally - January 5, 2008

A few images from the annual Frozen Buns Rally - a big success this year due to the sunny skies, (relatively) moderate temperatures, and favorable winds. Sorry for the photo quality - a borrowed, not so modern digital camera with some flaky auto-setting. Ugh.

A few random shots during inflation, from the parking lot of the Aquaturf in Southington. As the saying goes, reserve your wedding date at the Aquaturf first, then go find a groom.....

Normally we try to fly out of fields in Farmington, Southington, or Cheshire, but the Frozen Buns Rally launches from relatively dry and clean parking lot of the Aquaturf, which is easy to launch from when there is snow on the ground.




And finally, a rare photo of this blogger, with intrepid balloonist Robert (in the Elmer Fudd hat), as we landed in Rocky Hill. My nervous grin is par for the course, as I realize I've just been to 5500 feet supported by a homebuilt balloon envelope that Robert built himself, and that has been to Ireland several times. He flies commercial passengers in Firefly Balloons.

Truthfully, riding in the chase vehicle is probably riskier than the actual flight. At least the way I drive, it is.....

Ron Paul Campaign Promise

A hot air balloon in every driveway....


CLAS Winter Dinner

Hanging out in Plainville, killing time as my favorite balloon pilot beats the bushes for commitments to our annual CT Lighter Than Air Society (CLAS) winter dinner. We're up to 44, which is a pretty good number. New location this year (Confetti's in Plainville)

We're also hashing out annual awards, raffle prizes, centerpieces, a slide show - all that stuff.

Easter Eggs

From the earliest days of computer gaming, programmers and designers have been leaving hidden messages or features, for adventurous users to find. These hidden messages, called Easter Eggs, range from dedications, credits, simple buried games, digs at competitors, homages to favorite artists, you name it. Remember the caricaturist Al Hirshfeld? He embedded the word Nina (his daughter) into most of his cartoons, often multiple times. Hitchcock's cameo appearances are another example.

This morning, I found a little easter egg, buried in Colin McEnroe's weekly column: Almonds Of Wrath, And Other Rants. It's kind of sweet. Read the column, it's a good one, about the risks of agricultural monoculture. Something pretty major that we should thinking about. Every so often one of these "we are on the verge of planetary extinction" sticks its head above sea level; Colony Collapse Disorder of commercial bee suppliers is just one of the more recent ones. As Colin points out - none of the political candidates are talking about it.

The easter egg is a sort of a remedy to social monoculture; a reaching out across the void to say "hello". A planting of something different and unexpected in the backyard (or the living room). Like Scout, at the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, surprised to find the mysterious Mr. Radley sitting right there in her house. "Hey Boo!"

There's at least one rooster in my Hartford neighborhood - a few streets of neat single family houses, with a diverse population that has come to this city from many countries. I hear it crowing now and then, while raking leaves or puttering around the yard, and it makes me feel like I might be in rural Vermont instead of the burbs of Hartford. We fret about the rooster being raised for cock-fighting, but really, the rooster's family probably just like having chickens around. Maybe where they come from, you keep a few chickens hanging around, just in case.

Not a bad plan for most of us, I suspect. Not too many roosters, though.

January 12, 2008

One Week Out....

One week from tonight, I'll be in the middle of my first weekend of yoga teacher training. While I've been looking forward to this for many months, now that it's getting close, excitement and anticipation are being tempered with a bit of nervousness. I'm trying to put my finger on the source of this agitation.

It's not the people. I'm intimidated by Barbara (the instructor) in a sort of "I am not worthy to study with you" sort of way, but I practice with her fairly often, and she's been quite friendly, even teasing me good-naturedly this week. And the other students are not the issue either; while some of them might be hardcore yogis who can twist into pretzels, I know a good number of the other students, and I'm right in the middle in terms of experience and aptitude. A quite safe space.

I think my nervousness comes along two or three fronts. First, it's been a long time since I've been to school. 1983, really, and I was hardly a star last year of college. Since then, no formal education. So to have signed on for 200 hours of schooling, this far down the line, is fairly daunting. And really, I've never really undertaken anything but sure bets - things I was naturally good at. It's been a long time since I faced something I actually had the chance of falling short at.

And finally, next weekend is gonna be a long one - 5 hours on Friday, 9 hours on Saturday, 8 hours on Sunday. A lot of yoga. A lot of opening the mind and pouring in information. While I spend many hours on the mat, working on my muscles and connective tissue, my strength and balance and flexibility, I'm not convinced my brain is quite as supple or has the same stamina.

Yoga chitta vritti nirodha. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. ~Maharishi Patanjali, Yoga Sutras~

So for these fluctuations of the mind, this nervousness I'm feeling, one balm. More yoga......

January 10, 2008

Presidential Primaries

OK, I'm gonna fess up here. I'm not all that into the presidential primaries.

Not 100% sure why. I guess I'd be fine with most of the Democratic options - I think both front-runners Clinton and Obama are a bit unseasoned but both smart. I'm a little less apt to vote for Clinton just because of the ruling class aristocracy thing - we just seem to keep electing the same names: sons and brothers and now wives. I'm not too concerned about the concerns that Sen Clinton is not genuine or manipulative; I'm all in favor of a president who knows how to play chess. (I suspect checkers is beyond the skill of our present president; I know some will protest that his education belies his apparent dumbness but I've met too many unintelligent college graduates, mostly fortunate sons, to believe that)

But, I dunno. The huge sums of money that go into the process have to be corrupting; and I think on some level that no matter who survives though November will be a bit sullied as a result. Watching the media seemingly make and break candidates (as they nearly did with Sen Clinton on Tuesday) is sobering. Having schisms develop in the left (as the race vs. gender discussions regarding Clinton and Obama) strike me as playing right into the right's hands.

Maybe it's because I am at a place in life of withdrawal from the world, of introspection, where things like politics and world affairs are best left to sort themselves out. Perhaps I'm thinking that the worst and best of the presidential options are not all that far apart. Perhaps I am jaded in thinking that anyone who desires the presidency, and who has the chops to actually get there, is inherently flawed and suspect. Maybe it's because 8 years of Bush have hardened my political shell, made me immune to hope.

I'll vote, of course. I'll give it all some attention. But if you come here looking for politics.....hm. Better look elsewhere.

January 08, 2008

Spring Day

Well, maybe not. But it felt kind of spring-like today in the low 60's. I took advantage of the weather to play catch-up outdoors - the late fall and early snow left our gutters full of leaves; I got up on the ladder / porch roof today to clean out gutters and sweep off the leaves on the porch roof. Better late than never. We still need to get to the front, but the top gutters require a borrowed ladder (and a ladder holder) so not a solo job.

Felt good to be out in the fresh air, and scooping up the fertile muck that ends up in the gutters. Two big bags of wet leaves - between the back gutters and the porch roof leaves. Now to just get the front done.....

Discs on the Brain


In the serendipitous way the world has been working of late (we've been talking Ultimate and Frisbee Discs over on The Web Town Observer), I get the following from Zippy's brother, Finch.

I was admiring and becoming mesmerized by the sheer uniqueness and visual energy – resulting from the outdoor disc installation.

A local architect, Murray Legge, happened upon a brand new frisbee (ie, “disc” ) design which he was buying for his 10 year old daughter. A small company, Flashflight, based out of Bolder, CO recently designed and launched a unique disc which is identical to the official Ultimate (the sport) disc both in design and weight…BUT has an added element – which is a tiny, colored, LED light, which is funneled to edges of disc via fiber optics – the result is the ability to play at night (it has replaceable batteries, on/off switch, and is waterproof)

Given his firm’s focus on outdoor, environmentally friendly design projects, he quickly realized he had to somehow utilize these discs, into some kind of outdoor installation. After contacting the inventor, proposing and receiving funding, he created this amazing installation which was on display only for 6 hours, on New Years’ Eve, on the banks of Town Lake, in Austin TX.

I not only got to see this piece, but met both the creator, Murray, as well as the inventor of the discs, Jeff. I have been using these discs at night, since they appeared in stores; about 9 months ago.

Enjoy the imagery – absolutely amazing—1000 glowing, pulsating, discs – 500 in a perfect circle on the ground, and another 500 suspended with plastic webbing, about 10 feet off the ground. -afp


More info at Austin360, here

January 07, 2008

Unexpected Linkage

I've been messing around with Linked In, sort of a "Facebook" or "Myspace" for those in the business world, with an emphasis on networking. In theory, I link up with my business contacts - old colleagues, classmates, friends, clients, vendors, peers, etc. They do the same. And so, along the lines of "Six Degrees of Separation", I can find potential business contacts and clients in organizations I may be targeting via my professional network.

So, if I think the XYZ Company would be a good fit for my services, I search for them on Linked In. And whaddya know, the director of service, Martha Vandella, knows my former boss Carlton Doorman. So I can either approach Ms. Vandella on Linked In (via messaging) or perhaps try to get an introduction in the material world via Mr. Doorman. Neat concept, although it really has not borne fruit to date. Mostly, it's been a good tool to get back in touch with people I've lost track of.

But of course, being curious and geeky, I search for odd things, not business related. Hot Air Balloonists. Folk Musicians. Yogis. This morning, searching for "yoga", I came up with over 500 names that I was connected to. Cool. But as I drilled down into the names, it seems that almost all of them are connected to me via my college pal Don, a decidedly un-yoga sort of guy. I know Don, and Don knows someone who knows them. Weird.

Maybe it's just that Don is based in San Diego, a nexus for the new age / yoga world. Maybe it's the fact that Don, with 160+ contacts is just an uber-networked kind of guy. Still, it's kind of goofy.

January 06, 2008

Hey Roommate.....

....a quick shout-out to Dave, a college connection, who just looked me up on classmates.com. We shared living space sophomore year; turns out he's been in CT for the past decade (at least) and is sort of working in my field. Needless to say, my life arc has surprised him. Bwa-ha-ha-ha.....

I think my strongest memories from that period were cooking related - we had lived in dorms our freshman year (cafeteria food) but sophomore year moved to on-campus apartments, so had to do our own cooking. One of our first meals was spaghetti - we had no clue as to how much pasta to cook, so we cooked a lot. And ate a lot. And all fell into carb (and probably alcohol) induced comas. It was also my introduction to electric stoves - my family always had gas, so when I put the steaks on the broiler pan into the little storage area under the stove (where our gas stove's had a boiler) I came in for a ration of abuse.

An interesting new year's surprise......

How to Cook Your Life

A gentle and loving little film about life and food, at Real Art Ways through Thursday January 10. It's about Zen priest, cook, and author Edward Espe - and talks about his philosophy of cooking and life, in the kitchen, in the temple, and in the world. Mostly I just sat and drank it all in. My upcoming yoga teacher training is gonna be "food heavy" - note the required cooking classes as well as a required reading list that includes three books related to food and eating. It's part of the reason I'm doing this particular training, because I suspect I could have gone to other trainings and *not* had to go down into the cave with the eating monster. Nah....what fun would THAT be?

I was tickled by the scene with the dumpster diving woman, harvesting fruit from her neighbors tree. When she spotted some dates high up in the tree and looks around quizzically for a long pole to pull the branch down, she suddenly breaks through fourth wall as enlists the sound person's microphone boom. From documentary film maker to accessory to a fruit snatching!

Official site here

I'm gonna run out and buy a good cleaver this week. And sharpen some of the knives around here. Just because.

Sickie

I must be sick if I stay off the mat. I got up this morning with a it less conjestion and sniffling, and a bit more weakness and dizziness.

So it's a good day to nest. Steel Magnolias on TBS (never watched it from start to finish). Maybe Real Art Ways this afternoon for "How to Cook Your Life"

But other than that - quiet day.

The Romance of Small and Old Things

Colin McEnroe recently blogged about the goodness of small, independent bookstores. Surprisingly, this post generated a slew of comments, many critical of a particular West Hartford bookstore that Colin specifically mentioned. Descriptors include: useless, aloof, snotty, generally unhelpful, snobbishly unfriendly, and offensive. And these are not the comments of anonymous internet snipers, but those of people who sign their own rather prestigious names.

This issue has been rolling through my head for the last week. Why do we romanticize the small, old-timey (yet often expensive, inefficient, and capricious) institutions even as we vilify the more efficient and cost-effective mega-structures that have evolved? In books, it's Barnes & Noble and Borders, and add amazon.com to the mix - sweeping through the retail reading marketplace, gobbling up customers and business, driving the small independent bookstores out of business. Bad corporate overlords. Good and gentle and wise small business owners.

Yet, go visit Borders any evening - you will find a store filled with people hanging out - chatting, drinking coffee, playing chess, working on computers, or just reading. The store in almost criminal in it's tolerance of loitering. I imagine they write-off 100's of books each year deemed unsalable for having been browsed to death. The staff is young, eclectic, and bookish - on more than one occasion my rather off-beat selections were positively commented upon by the check-out person who suggested another title or author that might also be to my liking. I make a point of visiting the "Staff Recommendations" shelf, just to see what they're reading. Many are tatt'd and pierced with odd haircuts - yet the corporation is cool with that. And a lot of the issues cited with the small independent bookstore in Colin's comment section would not happen, because corporations intent on making money know that the customer is always right.

I know I have a lot more books in my life because there are places like Borders, B&N, and Amazon that have made books accessible. In the same way that Wild Oats (and Whole Foods and Trader Joe's) have opened up an array of food options. I loved Cheese & Stuff, and it's loss was keenly felt by a small neighborhood, but if it was making money, able to evolve, grow, and carve out a niche for itself in light of massing corporate moves into the marketplace, it would have. Instead, the store was probably just eking by, and the owners welcomed the chance to escape with some recompense for their years of effort.

I am also reminded of a recent visit to the bank - with an MIA bank card, I ended up in the teller line. It reminded me of how annoying the bank could be - how dealing with real people is sometimes less of a simple pleasure and more of a pain in the neck. Checking in at the airport is similar - if I happen to catch a star employee on a good day, its nice to hit the counter, but often it's someone who is having a bad day, and is in no hurry to check me in. As I sit there fuming, I contemplate that someone making pretty decent union wages and great benefits (unlike my own self employment minimalist bennies) is treating me (the customer) like crap. Its no wonder I'd just as soon run through the cold but efficient check-in machine at my own rate - and move on to the bathroom, breakfast, or a few minutes down time at the gate.

So, why the nostalgia for the small, independent places?

Hartford recently lost a mini-landmark, La Paloma Sabanera. And it was a good place: great coffee, great people, a commitment to the neighborhood, a central gathering place for many communities. But it was not making money. And as a small business owner, I know that if you do not have income, you can't pay the rent, the heating bills, the cost of goods sold. It's just a matter of time before one runs out of money or energy, and has to close shop. But oh how romantic! How special a place! Would the shop have been any less special had it focused more on it's bottom line and less on the greater good? Perhaps. But it might also have remained open, to fight again.

In my past, I would go to open mics. And I'd gladly cough up a few bucks cover charge, and make a point of buying a couple of cups of coffee, or a sandwich or snack, and leaving something in the tip jar. I valued the place to play, the opportunity to hear live amateur music. Yet I would see fellow folkies nurse a single cup of coffee (free refills!) all night or whine about the cover charge. Yet the places that did not make an effort to generate some revenue from these music events quickly lost interest or closed their doors. You want a nice place to play and hear music? Cough up some bucks!

Not really sure what my point is. Something small and special needs to make money to be sustainable. Something large, efficient, and profitable is not always evil. Making money, being able to cover one's costs and making a profit, is not a bad thing. Change is not always bad. And small businesses need to figure out how to find a customer base and a market niche in light of efficient corporate juggernauts.

January 05, 2008

Praying to the Vent

Thankfully, there are two vents downstairs, otherwise there would be fights. But really, the preferred vent is in the room (living room or dining room) where the people are.


Elo, the Beagle / Aussie Cattle Dog Mix


Calli, the Black-and-Tan Coonhound Mix
(no idea what she is mixed with, but she is smaller than the breed)

Cat Truck


One of the neighborhood stray cats (we have a few) getting what little sun there is atop Zippy's truck....

Frozen Buns Flight Plan

A successful Frozen Buns balloon rally this morning!

The intrepid balloonist flew his small homebuilt balloon (with a friend's small basket), with one passenger plus himself. Being a good guy, he managed to get three of us up in the air, touching down twice to swap passengers.

Leg #1: Aquaturf to Devonshire Drive, Berlin


We had 15-20 balloons on the field at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Winds aloft were predicted to be high (25 @ 3000 ft, one balloonist report 30 knots), mostly calm at the surface. RZ launched with a birthday girl in the basket (50 is nifty!) who was also a balloon virgin. She had a nice flight, over Camp Slopers and into Berlin, just south of Timberlin Park to a landing on Devonshire Drive.

Leg #2: Devonshire Drive, Berlin to Springbrook Drive, Rocky Hill

I jumped in the basket at Devonshire Drive, and we flew a long and high leg over to Rocky Hill, at a farm just south of the Henckel / Loctite Building (West Street area). We got pretty high (5500 feet, over a mile) and despite a bit of haze could easily see Hartford, Hueblien Tower, the Farmington radio towers, Otis Elevator test building, and Meriden Mountain. Nice to see lots of balloons in the air from that height. Did I bring a camera? No I did not - my newer camera has gone missing and my old one was sitting in my office. Doh!

Leg #3: Springbrook Drive, Rocky Hill to the Rocky Hill Meadows

I hopped out at Springbrook Drive, and KB hopped in with an aviation radio, to fly onwards. They were aiming at Brainard Airport, hence the radio, but the winds did not cooperate. As a result, they ended up in the meadows (a pretty common balloon landing zone, wide and flat with pretty decent access, and unlike the spring when that area can be a mud zone, the roads were flat and hard. The chase crew hit the Dunkin Donuts in Rocky Hill (off West Street) for bathroom breaks and coffee, before meeting the balloon team in the meadows - we drove into the meadows from the north entrance (Wethersfield) so had to drive the long way around - so the balloon was on the ground and deflated by the time we got there. I blame myself, I pride myself on being at the landing site before the balloon when I can.

Back to Southington / Cheshire for breakfast - longtime balloon breakfast haunt Gene's Restaurant has closed, soon to be a Slider's sport bar if rumors are true. So we filled up the Milldale Diner - not sure if that will become the new "balloon hangout" (no big long tables where we can all hang out) but the food was good.

Lots of pictures were taken, so if I get some, I'll post 'em!

End of an Era

Driving by the former Caldor store on New Britain Avenue today, I saw that the signature angled front walls were (finally) being demolished. I snapped a few photos, and of course alerted Nick over at The Caldor Rainbow.

January 04, 2008

Frozen Buns

This weekend is the annual Frozen Buns rally. The local hot air balloon club sponsors a January flyout, usually the first weekend after New Years (weather permitting). It's a good chance to get people together, and for the pilots to keep their flight status current (the FAA requires a pilots to fly every few months to keep their active license up to date)

Probably gonna happen Saturday or Sunday, out of the parking of the Aquaturf in Southington. So if you see some balloons in the air this weekend, it's us.....