Monday, April 28, 2008

In every profession, there are unpleasant and annoying tests and hurdles. 

Today, I surmounted three of them. 

Two have to do with old college transcripts. 
The University of Texas is unkind to the average undergraduate. This undergraduate had taken on 14 hours of schoolwork in the fall of 1986. I only passed 11 of them, with a high grade of C in psychology. I was a top quartile student, most of high school.  After proving myself as a motivated biology student with a deep interest, I studied for and took the Biology AP exam. I scored a 3 out of 5 on this exam. This was not enough for me to skip the basic Bio class. It was the classic "freshman weeder" graded on a tight curve by a grad student with no interest in actually teaching.  The Russian instructor, one Rapaport (subsequently confirmed to me as a jerk by a friend of mine, colleague of his) offered me a D to leave the class. Whatever the reason, I actually liked Russian.. and made an attempt to follow up.. but life was overcome by events, namely my parents' divorce. 

Years of shame about this damned UT transcript. Later misadventures in research for the dishonest and badly managed (at the time) SMI organizational behavior company resulted in financial bars to my obtaining this transcript (I paid for access and copies for the late, dear Professor Blake with my UT ID, and was never reimbursed by the company. After they laid me off suddenly, no chance of reimbursement.) Now, in a more comfortable financial position, I took cg's advice and paid off the bars, and got my freakin' transcript. 

Now that I'm looking at it, I passed 11 hours out of 14, despite not being able to live in the house I grew up in for most of the winter. Despite my life falling completely apart. 

Now, instead of the shame, I'm kind of proud of that stupid orange transcript. I still hate UT and their monolithic, voluntary ignorance about customer service (they don't accept Visa for online payment of fees and transcripts, only Discover and Mastercard- wonder what kind of a kickback THAT took??). I would still advise against anyone going there, for any reason. Go to St Ed's, or Concordia. Don't feed the behemoth. UT just junks up traffic with useless, profitable for them only, not for the community, tax-creating, resource-devouring sports.  

It took being in a comfortable, supported, safe place for me to deal with this chunk of shame. 
It's gone. "I walked through my fear, and when I looked behind me, I saw nothing."

The third obstacle surmounted: cg guided us through nasty Balto traffic to the hidden test location (when the address doesn't match the street signs, and there are no other signs to guide you, it's hidden!) I passed the test, came home through pelting rain and malfunctioning windshield wipers on our borrowed Chevy trucklet.. paused for Thai lunch with my sweetie and some shopping.. and called Austin Community College to find out about my hours AGAIN. I had never gotten a human in all my attempts to call. 

Finally, I got a Person, and found out that I had 50 hours. 

11 hours, plus 50, is 61. I'm over the bar to become a Certified, as opposed to Registered, Massage/Bodyworking Whatever. (more on that snaff later).

One phone call and one login later, two transcripts are on the way to a conscientious but misinformed and misguided (in terms of SI) board of examiners, and I am on my way to a more productive career. 

Finally, 20 freakin' years later, something out of all that PITA. 

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Comments on web forums about our neighborhood being "Mayberryesque" are dead on. 
1 neighbor is a WWII vet. Other is an old shambling Bubba with an incomprehensible accent. They're both sweet as they can be, and in true Southern tradition, I have not yet been introduced to their wives except over the fence. 

Is Maryland North or South? 
It's "Old America" to be sure.. which means that Old Texas rules may well apply. I can deal. 

Does American friendliness, make up for American carelessness? 
Not sure how that equation works out. 
Got my old college transcript last week. UT Austin is a huge waste of time, if you aren't hooked into the political machine. I paid about 70 bucks to clear my old bars and get my crappy old 1.0 GPA transcript. Family problems don't help with college.

I would have been better off, if I had been

It follows you.. for my Maryland certification, I have to turn in lots of paper and lots of MONEY. It cost me about 150 bucks just to apply and take the jurisprudence exam. I qualified for "registered" which means I can't work in a medical office.. I've been referred to by rheumatologists, and worked in a German osteopathic praxis. I need 60 college credits, from a "degree granting institution" to be "certified" which mean I can work in medical offices. 

Some tough-guy cop once said "Juris my Prudence".. I can memorize a biscuit recipe, and it's about as damn relevant. 

Maybe they'll EXPEL me too.. 

Expel me.. Please!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Got this in my AKO mail today:

"To Our Soldiers and Families

Today, President Bush announced his decision to return to twelve-month deployments in the CENTCOM theater for active Army units. The President’s decision reflects the improved security situation in Iraq – one made possible by your unwavering commitment and willingness to sacrifice – as well as the recognition of the impact of extended deployments on Army Families and our readiness. Today’s policy change will help reduce that strain as we continue to grow the Army and restore balance.

The Army will reduce “Boots On the Ground” time to no more than twelve months for all active component Soldiers deploying to the CENTCOM area of operations after 1 August 2008. Soldiers deploying prior to 1 August will complete their scheduled deployments.

The return to twelve-month deployments does not change the Army’s dwell time policy. This policy is intended to give units time to properly reset and allow Soldiers, Families, and friends to reconnect.

You have chosen a most noble profession. With your Families standing with you in support, you have borne the increased stress and burden of this war for our Army and our Nation. A grateful Army and Nation thank you.


Kenneth O. Preston George W. Casey, Jr. Pete Geren
Sergeant Major of the Army General, United States Army Secretary of the Army

What do the folks on ground say?
" I am tempted to just quit this war and go home. (Soldier hubby) and I are still waiting to see the next duty assignment. That can't get here fast enough for me. i would really like to plan for a home and education. "

That's from a friend still over in Germany, on their second deployment.

News flash-- turning a noun into a Proper Noun isn't enough, it never was, and it never will be.

Try turning a soldier's reward up to a statesman's -- lifetime health care and stipend to start.
No matter how long or short they've served.
Look up the bennies for your representatives, senators and politicians.
Compare them with what the folks who have to go in when policy fails.
Words ain't enough.
Better math, might be a start.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Status Quo: the existing state of affairs; specifically : the last actual and uncontested state of affairs that preceded a controversy and that is to be preserved by preliminary injunction

Part of my culture shock has always been here. Like many ex-pats, part of attraction to the Other has to do with a profound sense of misplacement in the place of origin.

No, I don't do things like other people. I have owned a home, in fact I helped build it. I insisted that the now-ex take it to the architecture prof neighbor (duh! why waste THAT resource!) and had deep input on the design. I built the gable ends, laid the slate floor, helped pound in the tongue and groove floor, and plastered all the walls. Texturing is FUN. I really enjoyed painting and then dry brushing to bring it out. I've owned five cars. I've had a dog, and two cats. I'm divorced from one cat, as it were, and the other is my stepkitty. I went through a rather amicable divorce, which seems unusual.

This is all so boring and prosaic! Wait! what have I done differently?

I taught myself about money, and have not bought into the Debt Culture.

I do not enjoy children. I did not like children when I was a child. I make occasional exceptions, but they are rare. My husband does not like them either. It's much like the problem with dogs. Dogs are okay, if their owners make them that way. It is the laxity or even over-restriction of the environment, creating awful screaming children, maniacally, monotonously barking dogs, and miserable, confused grownups.

I can't eat like other folks do. Allergies mean that I have to avoid sugar, white wheat flour, and most refined products.

I don't care for fashion. It doesn't care to fit me, or please me, so I have simply ignored it for years. If it's not jeans-based, or something that would look good on Grace Kelly, I'm not interested. I get what I want, that makes me look good.

No Manolo Blahniks. I do like Levis, but there's a brand which has wormed its way into our national iconography.
I fell for a Blackberry, but T-Online is so lax about spam, that 90% of the messages I got on it were, yes, spam. The thing drove me nuts. I'm tempted by an Apple I-phone to go with my MacBook, but didn't buy the membership because I already have this blog, and my own website. Maybe after I buy stock in Apple..

I don't work for anyone, thanks to cg's gummint job, I can take my time and be choosy about how I work. Hopefully we can "leapfrog" one another from retirement to retirement, or endeavour to endeavour.

I had a British kindergarten teacher. American spell check is not the colour for me.

Normally, we don't watch television, but we seem to accidentally still have cable, so what the hell.. meanwhile, I am re-cultivating the special glee I take, in screwing up the status quo.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Los Vascos
Sauvignon Blanc
Casablanca Valley, Chile.

They are doing some amazing things there in Chile. This grapefruit-essenced varietal is one of them.
It's clean and beautiful, with this amazing tartness dancing on your tongue.
By the way, I hate grapefruit passionately. Something about my mom being on diets, grapefruit spoons, and too much Fresca.

Wine in this key, however, works!
I first ran across it in Austin at a tasting. I brought a bottle to my mom's folks in Marble Falls.

In other news, why can't I find plastic ice trays any more?
Are we the only people in town with no ice-maker?
In correspondence with our young friend Z (the extemporaneously elegant guest blogger) it occurs to me, that he travelled more, between age 7 and age.. is he 30 yet? I don't think so! than I have, in my entire life.

My travels began after age 30, so I have a strong sense of "home".
Austin, Texas is the unchanging North of my soul compass.

Never mind, that it's further South than most of the world has ever been. Yes, most of Russia and China are north of that parallel.
Yes, that is most of the world.

Not US.

That's where we screw up. We think that, because our media conglomerates are so pervasive, that we are somehow, "the mostest with the mostest".

We "US'ns" are the "fewest with the mostest".

Still astonished at two-times per week trash pickup (we need two-times per week recycling pickup!) and the cavernous depths of our wheeled trash can. I can miss a day and not have that much to deal with.

After no luck at any store nearby in finding a decent compost bin, we tripped over one in a pile of junk to be picked up by the city. We picked it up, dragged it home, and I put it together.
Nothing is better for the soul and the garden, than taking what you didn't eat, and turning it into something you will eat.
This bin had a plastic base, which I left out.
The base keeps out the worms and other microorganisms. Without these, you don't get compost! So I just propped them on the side to help insulate the magical, mysterious process of creating earth.

When you come from a place that is mostly rocks and sand, not humus, as I have.. there is a real joy in participating in creating nutritious, black earth to grow your own food in.

This is why I love to garden. This is how I find "home".
I "go to earth".
We all do, in the end.
Might as well make it part of life.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I know why Americans get so fat.
Well, besides the fact that most trade in their legs for a driver's license, on coming of age.

The food doesn't taste like anything!! more food will not get you more flavor, but our brains don't know that.

Having endured the freakin' SEVEN DOLLAR deck-of-cards size library-paste flavored goat's milk feta from the Giant Eagle, I followed a tip from a fellow suffering cheese section shopper, and headed (via the friendly, safe and speedy bus system) downtown to the Euro Market near Shab Row. I found a half kilo of Bulgarian feta for ten bucks. This plain box of brine contained what we were looking for.

Tangy, lively cheese to grace a Mediterranean shepherd's salad with!
In Greek, it's xoriatiki, in German (via our Aramaic Turk grocer) Hirtensalat. Fresh cukes, super quality tomatoes, tangy feta topped with spicy oregano, basil, fresh mint and parsley. We used the last of some Greek olive oil (carefully smuggled gift) and bits of the herb plants I rescued from the grocery. Finely minced red onion sets the tang off with a sulphury hit.

In Lefkada, Greece, our yearly September pilgrimage to visit my colleague and dear friend Anastasia at her husband's hotel involved deep and thorough perusal of the local cuisine.

We ended up more often than not at Lefteris, a crony of the family.
It was the olive oil.
Okay, it was the olive oil, and David the hysterical Bulgarian waiter. He had been a military surgeon, before things got crazy there. He got shot in the leg and somehow escaped to Greece.

Anyway, the olive oil came from my friend's husband's family olive trees.. over 500 years old, harvested every late fall and processed by the family. I could have bathed in this stuff.. in fact, making the xoriatiki, I would often rub the drips on my hands and face, if they were feeling dry.
In Greece, every trace of a sunburn or chafe could be salved with the fresh, powerful oil.
However, it was a solution that always made me hungry.

But not for something, that tastes like nothing.
Salt and fat is necessary, but no substitute for genuine flavor.
Why do you think bacon cheeseburgers are so popular?

Solutions to the American "obesity problem" would include ditching individual transportation, corn syrup beverages (when there is so much good tea and city water is so high quality!) drive-ins (Europe has "standing cafes" and check out Asian street food!) and FLAVOR! bring back the local, the backyard, the ethnic.

Only the seeds of a strawberry, should go "crunch". Don't give me a red, unripe berry. Yuk.

We can do better.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Feeling sorry for myself gets old fast.
We needed to get the stink out of our fur.
So we did!
The bus from the nearby grocery runs downtown every hour. We hopped on, and found a First Weekend celebration going on. They do it every month, with art shows and stores open later.
Downtown Frederick is quirky, artsy, and friendly.
We even found a huge, decent cappuccino!
After perusing, meandering and poking our way through the afternoon, we stopped at an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. The Ethiopian waiter had grown up in Frankfurt, and we got to chat in German for the second time today! The first time was with a young lady in a cute little Western girlie boutique who had spent two years in Hamburg.
I've had such a discomfort with speaking German.
I'm a little puzzled at how much my brain misses the exercise of using it. I never grew to love German itself, but loved speaking with Germans and other Europeans. We hopped on the bus again at the Marc station and were home in less than 10 minutes.
It was a delightful, mild, relaxing day.
Looking forward to more of those.

Friday, April 04, 2008

People keep saying "welcome home".
I wasn't sure, but now my answer is the same as cg's.

I WAS home.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A foodie post, from an email to a foodie friend:

As usual, staying away from the intellectual cruelty of chains is best.

There's a little dive around the corner, Callahan's.
There's the Bonefish Grill.

One's owned by a human.
One's owned by a conglomerate.

Guess which one's better.. yeah. The little guy.

Truly amazing food, genuine service, great wine and beer.
Cheaper, too!

The irony is.. bonefish aren't edible.
That was my first clue.

A storm is blowing in after a balmy day. I'm wearing capris and have been alternately repairing, adjusting and pedaling the landlady's bike around.

American wine is too sweet, too coarse and too expensive.
We did discover the King Reserve Oregon Pinot Gris, as good as some of the best German creations I have tasted.

I had to try the 47-pound Rooster Chardonnay, and found it to be a very good Yellowtail copy, if a bit less harsh.
The goofy label was fun, and it's not bad stuff.

I prefer the Italian and Spanish un-oaked Chards. The bright hay and sunshine flavors of these tart, pure Chard grapes really light me up. I spent plenty of time splitting oak in Texas for firewood, bleeding and bruising for it. I don't need that any more.
I don't mind a little oak, but I don't want to get hit in the head with a cord of it.

Took some pics of our funny little rental love cottage today. Will post a bit in a minute.

America is becoming ugly.
Like a beautiful girl who takes herself for granted, and quits trying.. the jowls and hips have ballooned, teeth are missing, and let's not talk about that complexion.

Here she was in all of her natural beauty.. somehow in the process of giving birth to thousands of big box stores, producing more cars than sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and popping out millions of fast food booths, she's lost it.

Madame Liberty is not aging well.
An abundance of crap food, minivans, and the detachment of feet and legs upon receiving a driver's license and health care behind every other modern Western country, has led to an explosion of hideous unhealthiness.

I think of my beautiful Danish friend who lives in Greece. Bearing and raising four healthy kids, starting her own business and helping her hubby with their hotel has not taken anything from her effortless beauty.

Not everyone can be so amazing, but not everyone needs to turn into Jabba the Hutt after age 35.

We've totally lost track of individual freedoms in favor of becoming media victims, marketing slaves.

No thanks.
I will remain rebellious, resistant, and remonstrative.
No uglification for me.
I'll just become more high-maintenance.