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August 20th, 2013

03:58 pm: old-fashioned manners
I went to see a new medical specialist this morning.

Office Manager: And what's your primary care doctor's name?
Adrian: Doctor [name]. It's spelled [...]
Office Manager: Do you know his first name?
Adrian: Of course. It's Deborah.

The office manager was seriously flustered by her mistake. I'm wondering how, in 2013, she might have made it. It's not like it's UNUSUAL for a family practitioner to be a woman. What surprised me even more was her thinking that I might not have known my doctor's first name.

A long time ago, when I lived in Michigan, my doctor was Dr. Bernstein. He shared an office with Dr. Blum, and I went on seeing Dr. Blum after Dr. Bernstein retired. I think I had some abstract awareness that they must have first names, but I had no idea what they might be.

Is this a difference between the 1970s and now? Or between how children and adults interact with their doctors? Or is it not perfectly routine to know the first name of one's primary doctor?

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/15645.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


August 12th, 2013

12:16 pm: pigeon peas
Yesterday, I had pigeon peas for the first time. Perhaps I should say I ate pigeon peas for the first time. They had been sitting in the cupboard for months, since the time I asked the grocery delivery people to bring me 3 cans of black beans and they brought 2 cans of black beans and 1 of pigeon peas. (Along with a great many other things.) When I called to tell them about it, they didn't charge me for the pigeon peas, but they didn't make an extra trip to exchange cans, either.

So, yesterday. There I was, not really on speaking terms with my hand or shoulder, so it was not a viable option to go to the store. Fortunately, I had the can of pigeon peas, rice, canned tomatoes, half an onion, lazy garlic, soyrizo, cumin, oregano, and green olives. (And a few things not appearing in this production, but really not very many.*)

I found a recipe for arroz con gandules, substituting soyrizo for chorizo, and leaving out the pork and bay leaves. I'm not sure if the back of my mouth was trying to warn me, as it sometimes does: Danger! You've never eaten this before, but it feels like a migraine trigger! Or maybe I just didn't like it much. I ate it anyhow, because I was hungry and didn't want to throw away the resources** that had just gone into making it. And then I ended up with a migraine.

Does anybody know of pigeon peas being a migraine trigger? Everything else in that recipe was something I had eaten before, with no problems. Many migraines do not have food triggers, and this one could have been set up by muscle spasms in the shoulder. It's just that taste (that feeling in my mouth, equal parts taste and smell and fear) that made me think the pigeon peas were problematic.

*Pickled herring, prunes, oatmeal, maple syrup, pickled carrots, eggs, soymilk, frozen squash, and soba. I can make a few more meals out of this before going out of town on Thursday, but it's a bit of a challenge. I may end up going to the store, but with significantly less than my usual 5-pound limit. Meal-planning suggestions are welcome.

**In this case, the scarce resources are "food in the apartment this week" more than "food, generally," or "food I can afford." I can get groceries delivered when I come back from Virginia, but they only deliver large orders so I can't get a little now and a little next week (which would be really useful.)

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/15598.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


July 31st, 2013

07:32 pm: I should know better
I had a surprising amount of energy this afternoon, so I went out to the farmers' market. The Arlington farmers' market has excellent fish. (Not just from fish farms. I don't get it either, though of course I'm not complaining.) There are probably no cherries to be had anywhere, and I didn't waste carrying capacity on peaches. But I got various vegetables with the intent of making something (very) vaguely chowder-like I have made with great success in the past.

Unfortunately, getting the fish home used up my ability to cope. I don't have any left for cooking. And I just spent a significant amount on a piece of fish that I suspect will be noticeably less good tomorrow than it is tonight. And I need to be out of here by 9:30am, which makes it less appealing to cook the fish in the morning.

It's not a complicated fish recipe. It just requires cutting up fish and vegetables and putting them in a pot. And getting the pot out of the cabinet. And opening the can of coconut milk. And maybe opening the jar of curry paste, though I can skip that bit. There's no way to skip cutting things up or getting the pot out of the cabinet. And it's all just daunting.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/15257.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


July 30th, 2013

11:47 am: I have not even visited this dentist's office, and they are already starting to annoy me. They sent me a very polite letter welcoming me to their practice and telling me about their policies for rescheduling and taking insurance payments. And they sent me a form to fill out with my medical history. Not surprisingly, the documents are printed on different kinds of paper. Absurdly, the one I am supposed to write on is on such shiny paper it won't take ink. *eyeroll*

It's always annoying to write on paper where the letters smear off almost as soon as they touch the page. It seems worse to know they had writeable paper right there next to the printer.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/14943.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

July 17th, 2013

01:03 pm: almost
I made something with chard last week that almost worked perfectly. It worked well enough to be worth trying again, but I'm trying to figure out how to get it exactly right. (I mean, other than having all the chard cut up beforehand, rather than trying to chop the leaves while the stems are cooking.)

I started with a bunch of rainbow chard and 5 eggs. I started cooking some lazy garlic in olive oil, like you do, then added the chopped stems of the chard until they softened a bit. Then added handfuls of chopped chard leaves and let them wilt down until they all fit and I could cover the pot. Then more garlic, because I had a LOT of chard. And then I mixed the chard with a handful of raisins and put it in a baking dish, beat the eggs with a little salt, and baked it at 400F.

I liked it, but it needed something. More raisins? Lemon? There was just a little more egg than strictly necessary to hold the chard together, and I think that was right. There weren't any of the hot spices, and I don't think they would have fit...but maybe something like sumac/zatar or ginger?

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/14832.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


July 16th, 2013

03:42 pm: it must be the hat
I was at Readercon for something less than 3 hours. I contributed essentially nothing--no sparkling conversation or deep insight, no organizational help, no money. I talked with a handful of friends, greeted a larger handful of people, and went home Thursday night to sleep for a day and a half.

This morning, a stranger in Somerville asked if I'd been at that book convention in Burlington last weekend? Yes, but only for a little while... And he lit up like people do when talking about a new love. Wasn't it amazing? Yes. Yes it was. No qualifier at all. This afternoon, a different stranger came up to me in Cambridge, and said, "Weren't you at Readercon? Wasn't it great?"

I don't know if everything connected with Readercon, even a tiny bit, is still glowing a little because this year's con was so amazing. Or if people are just overflowing with good will towards the con, and they remember seeing my hat Thursday night. But I want to spread the word that there ARE people so overflowing with good will toward Readercon that they go up to strangers on the street and tell them it was wonderful.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/14526.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

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July 15th, 2013

10:32 pm: apartment to share
I'm looking for somebody to share an enormous apartment on Winter Hill, starting in September. (My housemate is going to move in with her fiance, so we need a subletter to take over the last 6 months of the lease.) The place has a big sunny living room, and an eat-in kitchen with gas stove. We have a washer and dryer (not coin-op) in the basement. When we first moved in, we assured the landlord that neither of us had any interest at all in offstreet parking...we might try to renegotiate that if you have a car. I walk from Davis Square all the time, but for less enthusiastic walkers it's close to the #80, #88, #89, #90, and #101 buses. Only 2-3 minutes walk to the #80 or #89.

The space you'd be subletting is a 10 x 12' bedroom with a standard closet, plus a smaller (9 x 10') room you might use as an office, study, or craft room. The landlord wants this to be a home for 2 people, not 3, so this might be a good place for somebody with a lot of bookcases. Rent is $975 for both, plus half the utilities.

I'm a bookish introvert who spends a fair amount of time at home, not necessarily being sociable. I'm looking for a housemate who doesn't think sitting on the couch reading a book is code for "I'm lonely and would like to have a conversation." (I do like having conversations sometimes, though. If you like that sort of thing.) I need to keep video and many perfumes out of common spaces. The apartment is and needs to remain smoke and alcohol free, pet free, queer-friendly, poly-friendly, and kink-friendly. If it seems like your kind of place, contact me at adrian_turtle@hotmail.com and we can discuss details.

(ETA: There is some flexibility in the rent, if the situation looks great otherwise.)

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/14237.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

Current Location: Somerville, MA
10:05 pm: well, here we go again
For somebody who likes stability so much, my living situation seems to be changing an awful lot this year. As you know, I moved in with Sovay this winter, after searching for an apartment in a frantic hurry. The place is gorgeous and I love Somerville and Sovay is a great housemate...but she wants to move in with her fiance quite soon. Thus I need to find somebody to rent half the apartment for half the term of the lease.

As you were so helpful in finding me a housemate in February, I'm hoping one of you can help me find another. For locals, I live on Winter Hill. For people whose friends or relations might be spending a semester near Boston, I'm walking distance to Tufts and have good bus connections to the Red, Orange, and Green lines (which get you to downtown and most universities.) Please, if you know somebody who you think might be a good fit for this, let us know.

I'll put a detailed description in the next post, for convenient linking. Right now I'm sort of hoping for sympathy and advice, if anybody has some to spare.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/13857.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


June 28th, 2013

01:02 pm: text manners
I had a wonderful conversation last night with a potential customer, with an enormous number of text messages spread over several hours. I'm used to doing business by phone or email, and just using texts for quick reminders and last-minute changes of plans. (Now I feel like some kind of historical relic.) The speed and responsiveness was very convenient, especially that I could answer that yes, I am taking new students this summer, before he went on to describe his son's situation in more detail. But slower than phone...so I could look up schedules and maps between messages. And it was so very nice to not have to strain to hear! No background noise from fans or fireworks or the phone itself. No awkwardness of mismatched accents. We were going back and forth for hours, in a leisurely way.

The only problem was that I'm unfamiliar with doing business this way, so I don't know polite and professional ways to say, "This has been great, but I have to go now." Phone calls have clear endpoints. Email can arrive late at night and be answered in the morning. But after 2 hours of returning texts every 5 minutes, it seems awkward to just disappear. Even, "Ok, great. I will see [son's name] Monday at [time and place]," led to an ongoing trickle of questions.

This is, of course, a stranger who is thinking about hiring me. My usual way of ending an IM session for the night ("I think it's my bedtime, love. *hug*") does not seem appropriate.)

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/13745.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

June 20th, 2013

08:27 am: pro tip
When a round pan has 2 little handles on opposite sides, the pan should go in the oven with the handles to the left and right, not front and back. It's relatively easy to grab a rectangular pan where there is no handle, just taking it by the corner...but that's a much less comfortable option with a round pan.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/13344.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


April 17th, 2013

11:09 pm: Wednesday reading
This week, I finished The Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham. I'm not sure, but I think I was completely finished with Betrayal in Winter before this week, and only read An Autumn War and The Price of Spring this week (immediately going back to reread the beginning of A Shadow in Summer, for the sake of arguing with it, as one does.) The series does so many things right. I like how it shows characters actually maturing--not just growing out of childhood, or even out of fumbling young-adulthood, but through many stages of adulthood. I like how seriously it takes genocide, and how vengeance/forgiveness/moving on are all shown as so very difficult. I hope I'm mistaken in reading a pro-bullying message into the end.

I am also reading Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, which is just stunningly good. The fairy-tale parts are right. And the other parts are right, with parents who mean well and Just Don't Get It. Like making good choices now that you're in 6th grade doesn't mean going off to rescue your best friend from a snow witch. (Really, the responsible choice in that situation is to stop and put boots on, not to just sit there and do homework.)

On audiobook, I'm listening to Lower Corte, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I read it a long time ago, and I'm not sure if I'm perceiving it differently because my feminist standards have changed or because I notice different things at the pace of an audiobook.

On Friday, Sovay was coughing pathetically and expressing unhappiness about the need to go out into the dismal cold rain and deal with tax paperwork. As soon as she was out the door, I went looking for that book by Nevil Shute where the NHS is obviously the villain because England has such bad weather. (As compared to a fundamentally decent place like Australia, where the sun shines all the time, there's lots of poor immigrants providing free labor, there's plenty to eat with no rationing, and nobody who matters has to worry about taxes.) I looked at several, and it's remarkable how Shute draws me in, considering I don't actually like his characters very much.

I realized The Breaking Wave (also known as Requiem for a Wren was not the book I was looking for, about halfway through. (Though it's largely about how Australia is so much better than England, and is set shortly after WW2.) That's the one about the disabled pilot who goes looking for his brother's fiancee, after the brother was killed near D-Day. It's about people who take it for granted that a respectable person simply does not confide in those they love. Such people really annoy me, in fiction as in real life. But what bothered me more was the idea of war as a positive experience for young people. Not: unpleasant necessity. Not even: we remember it fondly because we were young and together, even though it was horrible. Rather: it was so exciting anybody who experienced it once will want more of it.

I have a shelf full of Shute (--now on a shelf, rather than in a box! I finally decided we are staying in this apartment, with all its flaws, and started nesting in earnest.) I went on to read The Far Country (I don't know the other title.) I'm less than halfway through, but the NHS has already been established as a great evil. So has the UK generally, because rain and cold and food shortages and equality. How dare a country tax the rich to provide health care! The little old ladies starving to death because they're too proud to accept charity from the government. (Accepting money from the government because of what one's husband did decades ago occupying India is respectable. Accepting money from the government because the government is offering to help just anybody is NOT.) It would all be very much funnier if the NHS and the underlying idea that it's good for poor people to get medical care and enough to eat were not under active attack.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/13039.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


April 8th, 2013

09:09 pm: broiler difficulties
I learned how to use a broiler when I had an electric stove. I had cooked for decades without any broiling at all, and still don't feel comfortable broiling meat. But I liked using it for toast or eggy things. I especially liked being able to leave the oven door open a little and peek at the top of the food to see how done it was.

This apartment has a gas stove with the broiler in a drawer under the oven. (I don't know if all gas stoves have that kind of broiler arrangement.) Because it's an unfamiliar stove, I expect to do some fumbling around getting used to how long things take. Just like I had to learn this oven's idea of 375 degrees F is a bit hotter than my Arlington oven's. I don't have a problem with that. I'm annoyed that there doesn't seem to be a way to adjust the vertical distance from the heat, but I can be ok with that too.

What bothers me is that it's so painful for me to move the drawer in and out. I can't tell if this is a problem with my body or with the stove. Either way, it makes it extremely difficult to adjust timing. I can't watch the food while it cooks, because the drawer has to slide in to put the food under the heat. I'd like to slide it out frequently to check for doneness, and that's a horrible strain, even when I'm sitting on the floor so I can pull straight out without twisting. (And so I can peek at the food with minimal sliding out.) It's painful enough that I've been choosing not to cook foods that would need broiling.

Is this a solved problem? Is there some kind of lube that makes broiler drawers slide easily, and doesn't catch fire? Or is it just common knowledge that moving a broiler drawer requires a nontrivial amount of arm strength and a few healthy joints, like lifting a full stockpot or putting a turkey in the oven?

ETA: The stove is new to the apartment, but not "new" in the usual sense. (There were a lot of renovations before we moved in.) The drawer rails don't seem to be bent or damaged, but it's hard to know for sure. I slid the broiler drawer out as far as possible without lifting, and the rails weren't obviously distorted.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/12591.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

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12:25 pm: more about the apartment
I still love Somerville. The more I explore this side of Somerville--Magoun Square, Winter Hill, east of the main library--the more I find to like about the place. For more than a week, I was even feeling thrilled with the heroic building inspectors of Somerville, as well as the parks and libraries and interesting little shops.

A few days after we moved into this gorgeous apartment, we discovered the windows didn't quite close. When we called the landlord, he acknowledged there was a problem with 2 windows, and said he was planning to have those fixed in a few weeks. As you may know, Somerville is in New England, where the end of March is still awfully cold. Thus we called the city, and they sent out The Heroic Building Inspector to have a look.

the story of the Heroic Building Inspector, the Mean Landlord, and the Cold ApartmentCollapse )

It wasn't that simple. I'm afraid it's never that simple. The landlord was willing to replace 2 windows because they didn't open properly. Sovay and I considered those a nuisance--with 16 windows in the apartment, it's not that big of a deal to just leave a couple of them closed. But 14 windows that don't close tightly are a serious problem, and the landlord really doesn't want to fix those. I can understand why...it's an expensive project. But sometime expensive repairs are part of owning rental property.

the story of documenting repairs, building permits, and Non-Heroic Building InspectorsCollapse )

I am so very discouraged. The Notice of Violation was written up by the Heroic Building Inspector, and I think that still exists. Technically. But 2 out of 3 building inspectors think there's no violation, so I'm afraid it's going to evaporate any minute now. And thus we will have no excuse for withholding rent, demanding further repairs, or breaking the lease.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/12398.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

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March 17th, 2013

11:47 pm: building code
Sovay and I are going through our apartment. We want to have a list of our concerns before the housing inspector turns up. So the inspector doesn't look at the terrifying windows, then go away without seeing the dubious back door. When we actually sit down with the building code, there turns out to be a LOT of dubious around here.

At least we don't have raccoons. Or squirrels. Or daleks. (We're on the second floor. I suppose we'd be safe from daleks no matter how incompetent the builders were.) It seemed so nice when we signed the lease last month. And even when we moved in, earlier this month. But now winter is coming INSIDE. The newly-installed windows don't close, in part because the window frames are set into the wall with mind-boggling ineptitude.

It's so very frustrating. We never thought about the doorposts of the house (except in thinking about mezuzot, obviously), and now it turns out Sovay can pry some of them loose with her fingers. That's just wrong.

I believe the landlord had the whole apartment gutted after damage from the previous tenants, and rebuilt with a somewhat different floor plan. That's why I have such a big bedroom with a walk-in closet and six windows. And why the kitchen was completely refurbished. We walked through in February while they were laying the new floor, and thought all the renovations would have that level of craftsmanship. The windows don't even meet code! (I called the landlord when I noticed. The installer had told him about the problem with a couple of the windows, and he had planned to replace them in a few weeks. That was when I asked the city how they dealt with building code violations--they're sending an inspector sometime this week.) I'm torn between wanting to keep a good relationship with the landlord and wanting to push him as hard as necessary to make him repair this [obscenity] properly and fast.

Getting the repairs done properly is a big deal. One thing I'm afraid of is that the landlord will say he'll make the repairs, and then just wrap some absurd amount of weatherstripping around the windows, so it looks kind of marginally ok until the next bad storm. I don't know if the landlord was taken advantage of by a wildly incompetent window-installer or an incompetent/dishonest building-inspector. (Do these things even get inspected?) Or if the landlord knew perfectly well what was going on, and did it that way on purpose.

I don't want to move again. I want to live in the apartment I thought we had found, if it can be made to exist. Meanwhile, I'm cold and scared.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/12136.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.


March 8th, 2013

11:05 pm: credit needs
Because I'm moving, I get to fill out a lot of "change of address" forms. Or call companies I do business with and tell them. When I called my credit card company, the automated sysem was unable to change my address without also changing my phone number, so I asked to speak to a person. This person took down my new address (s-o-m-e-r-v-i-l-l-e) and then said, "I see you haven't updated your financial information lately. Can we just do that now?"

I had not been aware of ever updating my credit card company about any financial information other than what purchases I make with the credit card and when I pay my bills. And they don't *ask* me for that information. I asked the citibank employee what she meant by "financial information?" In the same tone that doctors use for "just a little pinch," she said, "just your salary and other income, and debts." When I told her I didn't see how that was their business, she was quick to assure me the whole thing was entirely optional. They just wanted to know so they could better serve my credit needs, but I didn't have to tell them. As it happens, my credit needs are served by banks that respect my privacy and don't sell me stuff unless I ask them to. (Oddly like my needs in other aspects of life.)

There's a bill they sent me before the address change. I'm paying it, and also filling out the space on the back for "changed your mailing address or email? Please give us your new information here." The same form asks me to "Please update your information." In writing, they don't say it's optional. They just ask for my salary, my other income, whether I own or rent my home, and what the monthly payments are. If I were asking them to extend me more credit, they woul be reasonable questions. But I'm not. They just feel like creepy intrusive fishing.

March 6th, 2013

07:53 pm: Patriarchy, WTF?
When Sovay and I were looking at possible apartments, one thing we insisted on was laundry on the premises. It could be a hookup for our own machines, or coin-operated machines in the basement, but "a laundromat is very nearby, just around the corner" just wasn't good enough. I wasn't surprised that some otherwise-nice apartments happened not to have washing machines. Buildings don't have such things unless/until somebody gets around to installing them, and an owner might not bother with a laundromat right around the corner.

I was surprised to learn that some owners object to the whole idea of having washing machines in their rental property. When we asked how much trouble it would be to install a hookup in an otherwise-appealing property, wondering if we could pay for a minor improvement to the place and solve the problem that way, the realtor explained. That landlord owns several buildings and feels strongly about not having washing machines in any of them. One of his tenants once did too much laundry, and ran the water bill up, and he's never letting that happen again. (So there, apparently.) According to the realtor, he's far from the only landlord with that kind of categorical objection to washing machines.

It was a different realtor who found us the Somerville apartment we're moving into now. We looked at the place when the realtor was uncertain about the laundry situation, and said we'd be interested IF there was laundry in the building. So the realtor went off to phone the landlord* and negotiate. According to the realtor, the landlord was reluctant to put in washing machines, because he was concerned that a couple of girls would do too much laundry. (This is the same realtor who had been telling the landlord, minutes earlier, that we were good girls who would be very clean tenants. Go figure.) The realtor assured him we weren't that kind of girls--that we were very responsible, and would share rather than each insisting on washing her own laundry.

I don't know how much of this sexist nonsense came from the landlord's actual concerns, and how much came from the realtor's own ideas. In any case, the landlord agreed to let us have a washing machine in the basement, and we decided to rent the apartment. (And I am about to do vast quantities of laundry, because linens get dirty when you wrap them around fragile stuff for packing.)

Because I thought it was a funny story, I told it to my mother on the phone. "He wants clean tenants, but not TOO clean." And I added, "And he really did call us 'good girls' and 'responsible girls,' even though I'm 44 and overdue to dye my hair." She said, "Back when I was young, some places used to say they didn't want to rent to women because they'd run up the water bill washing their hair. That was silly because so many women have short hair..." That was when I started laughing. I didn't disagree with the point she was trying to make, that landlords should not be allowed to refuse to rent to somebody just because she's female. It's just funny to think the realtor might not have noticed our hair** (neither of us had it pinned up when we were apartment hunting.) It's possible that he just saw enough clues to fit us into his pattern of "respectable girls, not students, not a married couple," and then he stopped seeing us...he just saw his own expectations every time he looked towards us.

I haven't measured, but I suspect washing my hair does use more water than washing my clothes in a modern high-efficiency washing machine. (Though not, of course, than washing my clothes by hand in the sink. I do a lot of that when it's hard for me to get to a washing machine.) If the landlord was really concerned about the water bill, he would have put a coin-operated*** washing machine in the basement rather than trying to have the realtor judge by eye who would do an appropriate amount of washing.

*This is one of many things that annoy me about the modern business of renting apartments. The realtor insists on being a go-between for all communication with the landlord, even where direct communication would be much more helpful.

**Most of you have seen me, and know my hair is moderately long. Sovay's is quite a bit longer.

***Or card reader, so they don't have to send somebody to empty out the coins. When my current landlord raised the cost of the coin-operated washing machines, the coin boxes had to be emptied so much more often I suspect they are not actually making more money.


February 21st, 2013

12:02 pm: purse
My mother is a hopeful woman. She continues to believe that if only I had the right purse, I would carry a purse like respectable women do. (Like respectable women do in her world.) Perhaps not all the time, but when I wanted to be seen as a respectable woman, as I sometimes do. For more than 20 years, every time I go to visit her carrying a backpack, with overstuffed pockets and useful things clipped to my belt making my clothes look all lumpy, she sighs and asks why I'm not carrying one of the nice purses she gave me. Then I try to explain why purses are uncomfortable or inconvenient or otherwise not right for me, and she takes me shopping for the right purse.

Even though I don't visit my mother all that often, I have quite a few purses that are extremely nice and respectable, and surely right for somebody. They're all big enough to hold a paperback, along with wallet/phone/etc, and a few hold a hardcover. Would any of you like one? Come to my apartment and I'd be happy to give it to you. Or send me postage, and I'll mail it.

I just spent the worse part of an hour staring at a small pile of things and trying to figure out how to carry them without using a purse. They would fit in the very nice brown purse (with the little holder for a charlie card) and have lots of room left over, only that hurts my shoulder to carry even when it's empty. They would fit in the very nice navy purse with the adjustable strap with room left over, only that hurts my shoulder to carry even when it's empty. They would fit in the very nice black purse with all the zippered pockets, only that hurts my shoulder to carry even when it's empty. And so on, for a ridiculous number of purses. These things clearly are not good for me.

(I am not, BTW, trying to carry a paperback this afternoon. But graph paper, index cards, and reading glasses are too bulky for pockets when I am also carrying my wallet and phone, and wearing lots of wool.)

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/11952.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

February 14th, 2013

02:44 pm: no means no
The apartment seemed pretty good from the description, so we asked the realtor to show it to us. The location wasn't great, but it was ok--both of us like long walks. The size wasn't great, but it was ok--we could manage with just one couch, and I'm sure we could build shelves all the way to the ceiling. And there was nothing really drastically wrong with it. No impossibly narrow doors. No rotting floorboards. But there was nothing really right about it either. I looked around the place and hoped we could find better.

Sovay drew me aside and murmured, "It's big enough, and the layout isn't horrible, but it smells wrong to me. Not smoke, but..." All right then. Cross that one off the list. She seemed embarrassed about rejecting an apparently-good apartment for such an inexplicable reason, but there's no need to explain "smells wrong" to me. I get it. I'm usually the one waving my hands helplessly and feeling defensive because I can't explain it to other people.

We got back in the realtor's car to drive away from the apartment, and he asked what we thought of the place.
A: "It's very nice, but I think we need to keep looking."
R: "I don't think you're going to find anything bigger in your price range. Not that close to the T."
S: "The size is fine. Really. We just don't think it's quite right for us."
R: "Why don't you want it?
Ok. I guess that's part of his job as a salesman. Finding alternatives when we don't like something.

A: "Do you know how sometimes a space feels comfortable, for reasons you can't explain? This just doesn't feel comfortable to us. If you find us another apartment that size, that close to the T, we'd probably like it."
R: "Well, if you don't tell me what's wrong with it, I can't help you."
That put my back up. I hate having to defend my "no."

S: "I'm sure somebody else would love it. Really. It's a great apartment"
R: "If it's such a great apartment, why don't you want it?"
A: "It just didn't smell right to us."
R: "Smell right? That's ridiculous. We'd have it cleaned."
Of course, it's harder to defend my "no" when my arguments don't make sense to anybody. Well, not to anybody except Sovay and Mrissa.

I think that was when we lost patience with one another, and he told us we'd never find an apartment as big and cheap and close to the T as we want, and thus we will need to settle for a smaller place with no room for bookshelves. After we got out of the car, I wondered if I had said something wrong, somehow...if it might have been possible to keep him on our side with the right kind of diplomatic lie or non-response.

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07:39 am: Reading Wednesday
I usually don't have more than 2 or 3 books going simultaneously, but yesterday was a little unusual.

The Towers of Silence, Paul Scott. This is a reread. I like it a lot, but it's going slowly because of both complexity and small print. (Needs two kinds of focused attention plus especially good light and reading glasses.) It's making more sense because I'm rereading the series and because I'm on a lower dose of the stupid pills.

The Porcupine Year, Louise Erdrich. I don't like this as much as The Birchbark House, though I can tell it's very well done.

What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang. I read this based on a review by http://rachelmanija.livejournal.com/, which did warn that the latter part of the story (focusing on the action-adventure) was weak. She liked the concept of having 2 souls in each body, and the internal narrative by the secondary soul. It made me wonder how the intercision scenes in Golden Compass would look from Pantaleimon's perspective. But the actual narrator in this book bored me.

Amber Wellington, Daredevil, by Linda Glaser. I started paging through this last night, trying to find a particular scene I half-remembered. I ended up reading the whole thing because the scene was not there. Now I can't remember why I've saved it for almost 40 years.

A Betrayal in Winter, Daniel Abraham. I just started this. I know I'm not following all the political complexities connecting it with Shadow in Summer, or even chapter to chapter, but I'm tracking some. And the characters are strong enough that it kinda sorta works episodically.

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February 9th, 2013

11:17 am: old paper
I need to do a lot of things before I move out of this apartment. The big ones, obviously, are finding a suitable* place to move TO, packing everying** into boxes***, and moving it. It won't be feasible to go look at potential apartments, nor to go get empty boxes, until the weather clears. So I am having a quiet day at home, beginning to sort through the everything.

I have 4 boxes of documents I've saved over the years, for a variety of reasons. Is there any reason to keep car insurance or purchase records when I don't own the car anymore? How long do I need to I save tax returns? Health insurance records? (I want to keep the dental insurance records because they're kind of funny.) Bank statements? Documents about my student loan, which was completely paid in 2001? I might be able to shred more than half this stuff, which would clear up a couple of boxes to start packing.

*I'd like to thank those of you who pointed me toward Sovay, who helped me redefine "suitable." We plan to share, and having an ally in the search is making the whole process less terrifying.

**Everything I expect to fit into half a large 2-bedroom apartment. That's quite a bit more than would fit into a studio, but I still need to do some culling.

***The only empty boxes currently in the apartment are shoeboxes.

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February 5th, 2013

12:45 pm: lifestyle changes
It's kind of shocking to realize the ten years in this apartment is more time than I've ever lived in one place. I don't think of myself as moving around all that much. But here I am.

Or not. My landlord is raising the rent in April, and it's really not feasible for me to stay here. (It would have been financially prudent for me to leave last year, but I was afraid to give up the class tokens then.) Now I live in a familiar neighborhood, right next to a supermarket and a drugstore and a library and a reliable* bus. My apartment has thin walls, no A/C, and a dishwasher that doesn't work...but I have privacy. In addition to my books and clothes and desk, I have room for my living room furniture and enough kitchen stuff to have half a dozen people for dinner.

Obviously, I'd like to keep all my stuff. And live near the T. And still have laundry in the building. And not pay more than $1000/month. If you know of such an unlikely place, please do let me know. But I think my plausible options are:

1) A studio apartment near a red line stop. I don't like the idea of giving up so much stuff. It feels like a loss of possibilities, or acknowledging that the possibilities are lost. But it might be the way to get affordable access to groceries, laundry, transit, community...which are more important than furnishings.

2) A smaller 1 bedroom apartment than I have now, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Any advice on what neighborhood is likely to be good? (Medford Square? Malden Center? Union Square?) I want to be near a supermarket and a library. Coffee shops fit my lifestyle better than bars. If I'm not near a subway stop, I want buses that run well into the evening. Beyond that, I'm afraid of being isolated, without the social energy to make new connections in a new neighborhood.

3) Sharing a house or large apartment. With the right person, and the right space, this could work out really well, but I have no idea how to find that right person. It seems like most of my friends are no longer interested in house sharing on this scale, thinking of it as something to do when you're starting out and haven't established a family or career yet. It's scary to consider moving in with a stranger. And even thinking about what I want** in a house-sharing situation makes me feel like an unreasonable fussbudget that nobody would want to live with.

*Every 10 or 20 minutes, depending on time of day. Runs from a little before 5am until a little after 1am. This is painfully different from places where the last bus comes at 6:45pm, even if it comes exactly at 6:45 on schedule.

**I want to actually share the common space, not just take turns walking through it to our bedrooms. I want somebody who is ok with that, and also ok with me taking big chunks of alone-time. I don't want to live with a dog, a cat, a smoker, or a drinker. I don't want tv in common space. I want people who can be careful about when and where they apply perfume and nail polish. In short: aaargh.

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January 13th, 2013

04:00 pm: never dismantle the dolls' house
Last fall, I went looking for Rumer Godden's doll stories. "Little Plum" was once one of my favorite books ever, and the youngest of the little girls I love seemed like she might be close to the age of appreciating it. (The older one didn't want anything to do with dolls.) I might have read one of the other books from the library, but Aunt Pat gave me "Little Plum," and I read it many times. After the paperback died in a tragic housetraining accident, the story lived vividly in my memory.

Or so I thought. After I managed to track down a copy (they're remarkably hard to find these days), I had to read it myself. Maybe it would have to go in the "when she's older" pile. Besides, I wanted to spend some time with Belinda again.

The only copy I could find was actually a collection including all Godden's doll stories, which would certainly make it a more impressive present. As I vaguely remembered, "The Doll's House," wasn't bad but didn't grab me hard. "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower" was wonderful! (Some of you probably remember it from when you were 8.)

The little girl who feels so out of place. The bookstore owner who helps her. The dolls who can't move or speak or do anything, but love her and play with her and make her less lonely. *happy sigh* And the other lonely girl in "Little Plum," who doesn't know how to play, and thus her doll is lonely and neglected. And how they are wished and pulled and quarreled into friendship and community and happy ending.

I still love it. Only now that I'm not 8, I'm not comfortable with some of the details. The little Japanese dolls are fascinating because they are so exotic. Nona making a dollhouse isn't just about making a nice comfortable home for dolls she loves. It's very strongly about making a Japanese dollhouse, so different from the English kind! with everything just so like the books. Making green tea out of paint. Making rice out of snippets of thread. Dolls bowing and thinking of "Honorable so-and-so."

And of course the dolls are silent. Nobody asks them what they want before moving them around. The only power they have is wishing. Where the silent and powerless dolls are so emphatically Japanese dolls, it makes me uncomfortable. Yes, of course they're dolls, and dolls don't talk. (I love how dolls' wishes have power, and how Godden shows the parallel with children who are moved around with nobody asking what they want.) But there's also that stereotype of small, pretty, exotic, doll-like, Asian women with no voices or wills of their own. It makes the whole thing feel vaguely creepy, unlike the small, pretty, voiceless, English or Dutch dolls in Godden's other stories.

Is this a glancing blow from the racism fairy? The colonialism fairy? Am I being hypersensitive about a book that's really sympathetic to all its characters--the disempowered ceramic Japanese ones, as well as the English children (and even the adults in the background.) I didn't recognize "Little Plum" as being even slightly racist, the first dozen times I read it. That might have been because I wasn't 9 yet. Or because it was the 1970s, and I lived in a world where "racism" meant calling people vicious names or beating them up. Not subtle othering.

The child wouldn't notice any hint of racism in the book. She reads very well, but she's only 7. She's only 7...but someday I hope she'll be a strong voice against bigotry, even the subtle kinds of bigotry. I don't want her to think this kind of thing is ok, or that Aunt Adrian thinks this kind of thing is ok. (But she won't notice.) But I do want her to know about Nona. And Mr. Twilfit, because of course miracles come from bookstores. And Gem. And Tom. And Belinda, who does spiteful things and then is sorry and tries so hard to fix them. Ack. Wibble. Thus do I grind to a halt.

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December 16th, 2012

11:34 am: living in fear
She was trying to tell me a story about bad customer service at Amazon. The whole thing started with a mistaken delivery--the package should have gone to some house down the street, but UPS left it on her porch by mistake. There was great confusion and delay as she tried to convince Amazon to come get it, and she was appalled that they would need to take it all the way back to the shipping center before delivering properly to the house only a few hundred yards away.

me: Why didn't you take it to the neighbor's house yourself? Wasn't the right address on the box?

her: I couldn't do that! What if he thought it was a bomb or something?

me: He's probably expecting a package from Amazon.

her: Maybe something from Amazon...but not a stranger coming up his walk! Don't you realize how dangerous it is? People can die!

I'm very glad she doesn't want to own a gun, herself, though she was just telling me she believes her community would be safer if more people were allowed to carry them.

I saw a tweet go by* a couple of weeks ago, to the effect that if you want to live through the collapse of civilization, it works better to make your neighbors prosperous than to stockpile the customary survivalist gear. This can work beautifully, if your neighbors like you. (Not LIKE you, like you. Just like you enough to help you in a crisis.) If you live near people who hate you or fear you, their prosperity doesn't help much.

*I have no idea who wrote it. I think I saw it via Abi Sutherland or Terry Karney.

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Current Music: please won't you be my neighbor

December 8th, 2012

08:05 am: an argument I don't want to have today
The word "opiate" does not mean "something that makes a person behave badly." It does not even mean "something that makes a person behave badly, and is also hard to stop using." Most especially, it does not mean, "something that makes a person agitated and short-tempered, and is hard to avoid because it's so pervasive."

I wish there was not so much stigma around the medicine that lets me be as functional as I am.

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November 20th, 2012

12:51 pm: what's wrong with this label?
From the "ginger people" (they sell stuff made of ginger, and their emblem is a person carved of ginger root), I have a bottle of ginger syrup. Lovely stuff. Among other things, it says:
Store in pantry. Does not require refrigeration.

Redbird and I discussed it, and concluded that maybe it's like honey, with a high enough sugar content to discourage bacteria growth. Being anglophone, we did not read the next line.

Conserver dans le garde-manger. Réfrigérer après ouverture.

I wonder what they were thinking.

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