Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Monday, July 30, 2007
Dear Internet -
I'll be back shortly.
I don't have wireless access on my laptop - the signal is too weak from across the street - while I am exiled due to floor refinishing at my place. No one on this side of the street seems to have an open network link I can hop on to, and I don't really want to impose on my host for blogging purposes on her computer. Blogging from work is always problematic, and even more so these past two weeks.
I should be allowed back into my house by the end of the week. Consider this a summer vacation.
I must say, I have rather enjoyed the fact that all my friends and neighbors that have invited me to dinners, cookouts, brunch, and the like for the last week or so. Thanks everybody! I told my hostess and benefactor that I would cook dinner for her tomorrow night - using her kitchen.
This time next week - I hope to be back in my own house and reasonably settled. I think this will be a good opportunity to reorganize some things and get rid of some older stuff. Trips to Goodwill, Record Traders, and the Book Place need to be on my to do list.
Am I the only person who missed this? 1,500 Philippino prisoners lock stepping to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". And you gotta love the guy brave enough to portray Ola Ray (balding ponytail and all). I'd love to know the story behind this one.
I know Snay is guest blogging over at Baltimore Crime this week, but I had a very disturbing incident WAY too close to home yesterday, that wasn't reported.
There is a small, Korean family operated, liquor store/mini mart around the corner from my house at Sutton Place on Park Ave. Alex and his family run the place, and I can't imagine a more gentle, nice, wholesome, family, that make it a point to call their customers by name.
Because I'm "homeless" this week, I stopped in this evening to pick up some wine and a frozen dinner. It was only then that I noticed the bandage on Alex's face, and the sad look.
Yesterday. July 25, at about 1:30 PM, three men came in to the store with handguns, and pointed them at customer's heads demanding money, cell phones, credit cards, etc..
Alex was afraid that they were all going to be killed, but a BPD unit happened to be out front a few moments later (they were not alerted - just on rounds), and they captured the assailants.
This is less than two blocks away. I stop in this store at least once a week, and I've come to consider Alex and his family as friends. He saves me the special Korean cookies that he gave me once, and now I am obsessed with them for tea. Alex added them to his inventory just for me, and gives me great boxes of them, with a huge smile on his face.
Today, he looked quiet, scared, sad, and uncertain. Mostly traumatized.
While I am glad Alex and his family were unharmed, and I'm glad the police were so responsive. This needs to stop - now.
So, anyone who reads this blog knows I am off to China this fall to visit my ex next door neighbor. She originally hails from a small village northeast of Dublin on the Irish Sea called Scaries Skerries.
Today, I noted that we had a patient in our clinic, whose address hails from Beijing. We get patients here from all over the world, so that in and of itself is not necessarily that unusual, but a return address from the PRRC usually indicates a Western ex pat. I introduced myself to her and discovered a decidedly non Asian woman perhaps my younger sister's age, and we had a lovely chat. They are here for follow up surgery on their little girl - an adorable 7 year old. Here's where the hairs on the back of your neck start to go up:
1. They flew here via Ireland where they were visiting their family on summer holiday. 2. They are from a small village in Ireland about 10 minutes from Skerries. 3. They only moved to Beijing in January and have been looking for English speaking friends - especially Irish ex pats.
So when I go to Beijing, I am now invited to dinner, and hopefully, as she put it - a "girl's night out", and I will endeavor to get these once Irish neighbors, who are now neighbors in Beijing, introduced to one another other at last.
We had an incident over the weekend in which a recently incarcerated patient showed up looking for pain meds in our clinic and confronted a medical resident.
The resident handled it well, and luckily nothing untoward came of it, but the patient should never have been able to just walk in to a secured area over the weekend and as a result, I have to file a formal report with Security.
We have an online phone directory, and I wasn't entirely sure whom to file the report with, so I typed in "Security" to look at the address list for the department.
It was then that I discovered the extension for the "Escort Hotline". Who knew?
Hard to imagine how an escort to your car after dark could end in a "happy ending", but I think it's nice that we offer the service.
Dr. Anna Pou, arrested and charged along with four other nurses for murder, after allegedly carrying out mercy killings while stranded by floodwaters in a hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, will not be charged.
It's a crime that she was ever arrested in the first place. If that had been my family member, I would be forever in her debt for acting so herocially under such unbelievable circumstances.
The floor guys told me that they would refinish the living and dining rooms areas first, and then start on the kitchen and front hallway next week.
Great. That meant I could get in my front door for a few more days and retrieve clothes from the bedroom and some papers from the den. I was in kind of a rush when I left on Sunday night, and just grabbed a few days worth of stuff.
So...I get home last night, check on the cats (fine - no more damage), and head home to get the mail and scoop up a few more outfits and shoes, along with some papers I needed for a meeting this evening.
The front door won't budge. They've placed the heavy, teak bookcases from the living room against the front door. I ran around to the back and looked inside. The floors look amazing! They stripped and sanded yesterday. They hadn't yet laid the first coat of varnish, so I could walk on the floor if I needed to, but they had placed the teak TV armoire in front of the stairs. Completely blocked. No way in for now.
I'm really hoping my good black suit and a few extra pairs of pants are at the dry cleaners, and I may have to use this as an excuse to pick up some new duds. My hostess is about a size 6, so borrowing clothes is not an option.
My brown suit is going to get old by this time next week.
Wow - that weekend went quickly! Artscape was terrific, the weather was glorious, the friends were plentiful, and time was short.
My house guests were tremendous in helping me drag the contents of the living room to the basement once we were well and truly "Artscaped out" on Sunday afternoon. Zenchick followed up after they left for the airport, and in an hour or so - we had it all packed away. Rugs, paintings, window treatments, chairs, nicknack's, books, CDs. It's going to take me months to clean everything and put it all back together once the floors are done.
I'm staying in the basement apartment of a neighbor across the street this week. She built it for her elderly mother to live in during the winter, and it's really nice! Bedroom, sitting room sofa, love seats and a lovely kitchenette, and a very nice bathroom. Everything we could possibly need for the week while the fumes clear, and the floors get three coats of fresh polyurethane.
I threw some clothes together for the week, grabbed my laptop and some books and took those over. Cleaned out the fridge of leftovers, milk and some frozen dinners, and grabbed some coffee. The apartment is appointed nicely with everything I could think of, and I actually have the run of the rest of the house as well, since my gracious hostess is out of town on business all week.
I dragged all the cat's stuff across the street, and then devised a plan to kidnap them. Beach towel ambush. One at a time. Drop a large beach towel over the cat, wrap it up tightly, and dash across the street. Peanut was fine. Pumpkin cried like stuck pig and was the biggest fraidy cat of all.
I unpacked while the cats investigated every nook and cranny, and then took a long, cool, shower. I was a sweaty mess. I came out of the bathroom with a towel on my head, just in time to see Peanut the Wonder Cat launch himself off the edge of the couch towards the window, which, being a basement apartment, is near the ceiling. I have no idea what made him think he could fly, but he tried. And failed. He came crashing down onto the side table and took out the reading lamp. The shade is utterly ripped, crushed and ruined. Pumpkin, already freaked out by the kidnapping, ran under the bed, and I didn't see him again until this morning, when he cried like a baby every time I left the apartment.
One hour into the week long exile, and I owe my host a new lamp... Can't wait to see what they've been up to while I'm at work.
Guest rooms and bathrooms have fresh sheets, towels, and flowers.
The deck is swept.
I haven't made a move towards moving things downstairs, but I'm ready for houseguests (again).
The weather is supposed to cooperate spectacularly this weekend. Reminds me of the weekend my parents visited four or five years ago - the weather was amazingly cool for mid July. We saw Ray Charles in one of his last live performances.
Living in Bolton Hill during Artscape is like living just off Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
Gotta go pick people up at the airport and start the weekend!
1. I have two girl friends flying in from New England this weekend for a visit. Arrive BWI 8:00 PM Friday. 2. My entire family was here two weekends ago and slept in every available space and used every available bathroom. 3. A refinishing company is arriving first thing Monday morning to begin refinishing my hardwood floors and I have to move all the furniture on my first floor to the basement at some point before Monday. 4. My house is Artscape Central this weekend, and people are calling or emailing to meet up, stop by, or use my place as an Artscape hangout (which I have encouraged, and continue to do so - come on down, but I am out of free parking spots).
Today is Thursday - night, and I have to work tomorrow.
I have not:
1. Changed out all the sheets, towels and pillowcases in all the guest beds and bathrooms. They're stripped and laundered - just not changed. 2. Moved even one book to the basement. 3. Gone grocery shopping for guests.
The good news:
1. My cleaning lady came Tuesday, so at least the place is clean and the bathrooms are good. 2. I have lots of liquor leftovers from the family weekend, and probably just need a case or three of beer for the Artscape folks and lots of wine for the girls.
The bad news:
I'm going to be up all night on Sunday moving books and furniture into my basement, packing to leave the house for a week, packing up all the pet supplies, and moving myself, my cats, and my clothes for a week across the street to wait out the floor refinishing.
The BRITISH High Commission in Nigeria,Benin Republic,Ghana and Bokinafaso received a report of scam against you and other British/US citizens and Malaysia,Etc. whom the country of Nigeria/Benin,Bokinafaso And Ghana have recompensed you due to meeting held with Four countries Government and the world high commissions against fraud activities by the Four country Citizens.
Your name was among those scammed as listed by the Nigeria Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU). A recompensation has been issued out in ATM CARD to all the affected victims and has been already in distribution to all the bearers. Your ATM CARD was among those that was reported undelivered as at on Friday and we wish to advise you to see to the instructions of the Commitee to make sure you receives your ATM CARD immediately for your depositing into your account.
NFIU further told us that the use of Nigeria Couriers and the Benin was abolished due to interception activities noticed in the above mentioned courier services in Benin,Nigeria and Ghana and thereby have made a concrete arrangement with the DHL Courier Company for a safe delivery to your door-step once the beneficairy meets up the demand of the conveyancy.
We advise that you do the needful to make sure the NFIU dispatches your recompense on Monday. You are assured of the safety of your draft and availability and be advised that you should stop further contacts with all the fake lawyers and security companies who in collaboration scammed you. Get intouch with my secretary, NAME; Stella Benson EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org As she is responsible for handling and effecting your redression. Call me at: +234 807 5008059 immediately to check if the delivery date suits you.
Well, after the UK bomb plots earlier this month, it looks like the US is following suit and taking no chances when it comes to Indian physicians for the time being.
One of our research fellows was due to arrive here at the end of the month from India, but his J-1 visa was rejected by the US Consulate for "unspecified reasons". He has decided not to reapply, and leaves me with a hole in our research program for the coming year, and leaves him scrambling for a new training program to futher his career (or his evil terrorist plans, guess we'll never know).
Since I had nothing better to do, here are a list of terms inspired by the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse today:
Beaux Arts Renaissance Revival Shabby Historic Ionic Corinthian Doric Greek Revival Greek Key Pattern Marble Terrazzo Brass Intricate scroll work Finials - everywhere, on everything Bad dropped tile ceilings Old Carpet Bad Wiring Bad Lighting Frescoes Friezes High Tech meets turn of the 20th century (I mean - they have Wi-Fi, but no air conditioning??) The Burning of Peggy Stewart Stained Glass Domes -these are pretty effen spectacular, and would be even more so if they were cleaned. Lord Baltimore Commending his People to Wisdom, Mercy, and Justice (this was my favorite - it's really a pretty impressively spectacular piece which dominates the entire wall of one very large courtroom.)
When it opened it doors in 1900, it was an architectural prize with its beautiful murals, stained-glass windows, marble columns and marble courtrooms. The marble is European, the seven-foot-tall columns are the largest monolithic ones in the world and the lovely Sienna marble in the dome of the circular courtroom hails from the Vatican quarry near Rome, a true treasure.
Many large repairs, like roofs, have been needed for years. This lack of repair led to major leaks, especially in court chambers, that caused extensive water problems and mold, sometimes accompanied by toxins. According to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City Courts Needs Assessment Final Report, issued by RCG-RICCI in November 2002, many of the joints in the exterior stonework are open, exacerbating the leaks. Faulty windows have no insulation, further contributing to leaks and a cacophony of city street noise.
The antiquated electrical system violates building code, presenting significant fire hazards, according to the Needs Assessment. There is a lack of emergency lighting and stand-by lighting in some portions of the courthouse, inadequate fire alarms that also violate code and no sprinklers. Both the electrical and mechanical systems are largely inefficient, obsolete, inadequate and, essentially, simply worn-out.
The Needs Assessment also reports that the air quality, in terms of heating and air conditioning, is poor and uneven throughout the two buildings, there is no public drinking water due to contamination, and power outages occur frequently. Plus, the “elevators are constantly broken, and since parts can no longer be purchased, the workmen must replicate them; miraculously, they do,” states Holland.
Well, THAT was fun!! It was more like Sauna Duty. I bet I lost 5 pounds today just sitting around.
Will someone please tell me why in the year 2007, it is not possible to have central air conditioning in a 100+ year old courthouse? The courtrooms and offices are air conditioned with window units. The jurors staging area and hallways? NOT. Just some ceiling fans and a couple large portable stand fans.
I am going to request that my summons be for the months of October - April from now on.
So...from 8:15 - 4:05 I sat in the increasing swelter with 600+ other people, and had a one hour break for lunch, where I made a dash for the nearest air conditioned cafe and had as much ice tea as my bladder could handle. It was SO uncomfortable in that building! By 2:00 PM, I was praying for them to call my number, just so I could sit in an air conditioned courtroom, but my number was on the high end, and we weren't called till the end of the day. I can't imagine how bad it was last week in the heat wave - although it got up to 92 today.
I was beginning to really worry about the older gentleman sitting near me. His face was beet red, his shirt was soaked through, and he was sucking on his asthma inhaler every 5 minutes. I wonder how the other older folks managed, cause I was feeling it.
When I FINALLY got called to sit in a courtroom at 4:05, we were there for less than 5 minutes, before the punk defendant looked nervously around the room, whispered to his lawyers, and we were given a five minute recess - to traipse back out into the sweltering hallway, while the judge and lawyers conferred.
I was really afraid we would be seated as jurors by 5:00, only to be called back to hear the case the following day.
When we came back, they announced that the case was resolved. Seemed that the 19 year old punk, up on drug possession charges, was facing 4 years in prison if found guilty, and when he saw the room full of jurors, and realized that he'd have to prove himself not guilty beyond reasonable doubt, with a history of previous drug related charges, he decided it was in his best interest to plea bargain, and so he pleaded guilty, upon which, the sentence was reduced to time already served (they didn't say how long that had been).
The Judge let us go at 4:30.
I did manage to make a big dent in a wonderful book I picked up over the weekend, and if you like travel writing and narrative non fiction - this is a winner. "Oracle Bones" by Peter Hessler. A wonderful documentation of his time in Beijing from 1999-2004, with tons of great anecdotes and historical perspective. It's a perfect primer for my trip to China in Sept.
Jury Duty is a lot like making a film. Sit around and wait, and the action is over in a few minutes, before the process starts all over again. I think working as a clerk in that hot room, handing out $15 a day to people, day after day, has to be one of the worst jobs there is.
I'm off to sit in the City Courthouse building with the unwashed masses of Baltimore's mean streets for the day. My annual right of civic duty for the city.
I am juror #723 until 4:30 this afternoon, and they called jurors #1 - 900.
Last year, I dragged the laptop along thinking I could get some work done, and live blog the day's events, but it's more trouble than it's worth, and frankly, not worth blogging about. You have to pay $10 for internet access, and then every 30-40 minutes you have to pack up all your stuff to go stand in a line, move to a new room, etc... and there really isn't any good space to sit and work.
So, today I am happily taking along the latest issue of Vanity Fair, and a good book on the history of China to while away my time.
I've been chosen to sit on a jury two out of the last three times I've gone, so I'm hoping I have a legitimate reason to recuse myself this time.
I'll be back later with the results. Hey, at least I get to wear khakis and sandals instead of a suit and heels.
I have been subsisting on a diet of BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, smoked grilled chicken, cole slaw, and potato salad since our reunion a week ago. As good as it was, I was glad to finish off the last rib at lunch today, and throw the rest of the slaw and potato salad away.
This left me with a handful of leftover ingredients to use up. I have four large heirloom tomatoes at the peak of summer ripeness on my counter, a steak in the freezer, some grilled peppers and onions, and four toasted, but now stale ciabatta rolls leftover from the soft shell crab sandwiches.
The stale rolls and tomatoes present a perfect opportunity to make panzanella, and tossing in the peppers and onions sure won't hurt. I've got plenty of fresh basil, cucumber, red onion and I can even hard boil an egg or two.
I wanted to marinate the steak. It's a London broil, so it needs something. I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit this month, and decided to alter it using leftovers I had - it's gonna rock. It's a more garlicky version of A1 Sauce.
Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Steak Sauce
Place 3/4 cup of dried cranberries in 1 1/2 cups of warm water and let them plump for 30 minutes or so. (the original recipe called for raisins. I didn't have any) Chop two large shallots and soak them in 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar for 30 minutes. Do some laundry Pour everything together in a blender Add a large tomato - cut into wedges Add 3/4 cup roasted garlic cloves Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce (I happened to have exactly this amount left over from a cake my sister made for the reunion.) 1 1/2 TBL of Worcestershire Sauce 3/4 tsp of dry mustard 1 tsp of sea salt 1 tsp, or more of pepper.
Blend it all till smooth. Rock and Roll. This stuff is goooood.
The original recipe also called for adding honey and some red currant jelly, but I didn't want it to be too sweet - and the cranberries already give it a nice sweetness.
I was looking forward to mocking it's presence in such an important and iconic location.
On the other hand, I'm glad people were upset about it enough to do something. I can't believe it took seven years to realize that something so crassly commercial and capitalistic, doesn't belong in such an important historical setting.
Or, more accurately, the problem with the Internet. This is one day's worth of Spam filtering for our organization:
Messages received by your organization in the past 24 hours
Lovely. That's a whopping 5.5% valid email. I'll bet 50% of THAT is useless announcements, forwarded conversations, idle chatter, people sending each other jokes, and other wastes of time. So basically, about 3% of our email volume is actually useful.
What would Upton Sinclair think about genetically engineered foods? How about Cesar Chavez's opinions on immigration policies related to migrant farm workers? What do you think G. Washington Carver's views on free range farming and corporate farms might be?
And finally, would Julia Childs be willing to perform her show in HDTV and make podcasts for your iPhone?
Find out the answers to your questions and more, at the Maryland Humanities Council annual Chataqua for the next four evenings, under the big top tent on the campus of Catonsville Community college. It's free and starts at 7:00 PM. Some foodie friends and I will see you there.
So, I got a little preoccupied by having my entire family in town for the weekend to attend our family reunion. It was fun to see everyone, and the weather cooperated enough on Saturday that the old folks didn't pass out from the heat.
Things got off to a good start first thing Friday morning when I picked up my youngest sibling at BWI at 9:00 AM arriving via Buffalo. We had plans to head to the Walters for the Gees Bend Quilt Exhibit, but alas they didn't open until 11:00, and we had a pretty full agenda.
Instead, we headed to Whole Foods to buy supplies for the evening feast, and then headed to Faidley's for lunch and to pick up some soft shell crabs for the grill - a family favorite treat. We enjoyed a plate of the finest, freshest oysters EVER, and followed them up with one of their famous crabcakes and some sides.
While we were standing in line, we couldn't help but notice the incredibly good looking guy with the video camera trying to film the little old black ladies making the crab cakes, so we asked him what he was doing. He is a documentary film maker shooting a film on the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay and their disappearing way of life. I believe he's also tying together the story of the Mexican women who pick crabs and are now impacted by the new immigration policies. Anyway, he couldn't have been dreamier, and asked my sis and I if he could film us enjoying our lunch and ask us some questions. We'll end up on the cutting room floor I'm sure, but I'll be keeping an eye out for the finished film. It's called "Hands to Harvest", and should be finished this fall. The guy's name is Adrian Muys, and as soon as we hit the door at home, we ran upstairs and Google stalked him.
My sister and I tried to ignore the fact that he had a hot Indian British model type with him who was carrying all his camera gear and sound equipment. She didn't seem the girlfriend type, but given that he lived in London until recently, couldn't rule it out either.
I thought this was an article from The Onion at first, but it is a dead serious sport.
The U.S. competition, which drew 22 teams and more than 700 students, faculty and alumni to the University of Washington, Seattle, campus, was a real nail-biter, says Steve Cramer, a UW-Madison professor of civil and environmental engineering and the team's advisor. "You can't believe just how difficult it is to win this competition five years in a row," he says.
They're off to Holland to participate in the 30th annual Dutch Concrete Canoe Challenge in September.
I'm not sure why they are paying attention today to a situation that has been part of Indian culture for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is beyond sad that the practice persists today, but it does.
There is a wonderful, wonderful film about the widows of Varanasi called "Water", by the controversial female Indian filmmaker and director, DeepaMehta. The film is set in the time when Ghandi was rising to power. It is stunning visually, and heart wrenching in it's raw depiction of the poverty and loneliness that these women are subject to.
The film was so controversial in India among conservative Hindus, that the sets were burned and filming was delayed for months. When filming resumed, security was very tight, and Mehta received death threats on a regular basis.
The film was nominated for an Oscar and received wide acclaim internationally.
Two thumbs way up. It's a beautiful, haunting portrayal of a human rights atrocity.
So....you get invited to a dinner party, and like any good guest you offer to help clean up the dishes and clear the table for the evening. You helpfully take the leftovers to the basement to put them in the freezer, and discover your host's wife and 12 yr. old stepson are already occupying it.
Apparently, the guests were able to keep their calm, call the authorities, and wait till they arrived, without tipping off the host.
Chilling words, heard by Canon Andrew White in Baghdad. Canon White is a very dear and close friend of my friends, Ambassador Bob, and especially his wife, Allison, while they served in Baghdad.
I have truly enjoyed Canon White's emails and letters that Alison forwarded to me over the last few years, and I cannot imagine, a braver, more committed, more passionate, or more humble man than this.
I've called a half dozen crab houses today to order a bushel of crabs for our family reunion on Saturday, and thanks to two things: (1) the Fourth of July, and (2) the storms in Texas, most places won't take orders or give pricing until at least Thursday, once the Fourth frenzy is over and they see what the shipments this week from the Gulf look like.
Apparently, the Chesapeake isn't up to full speed production yet, although I had no problem ordering some soft shells for Friday night, since those actually are in season now and reasonably plentiful.
Prices were all over the place for #1 Jimmy's. I found some which sound deceptively small for $175 a bushel, up to $245 - $260 a bushel. We shall see.......
I have been stunningly, award winningly, unproductive today.
I blame the weather. It's too nice out to be productive.
It started with a glass of ice tea and a Caprese Salad out on the deck with the NYT crossword puzzle for lunch, and then devolved into stretching out on two patio chairs in the shade and reading a stack of magazines and the rest of a book I've been neglecting.
Laundry? nope Cleaning the house and getting it ready to host my entire family for our family reunion next weekend? not a chance The pile of personal paperwork and correspondence I've been successfully ignoring for nearly a month? not so much Grocery store, dry cleaner? meh I'll toss something together for dinner and recycle something out of the back of my closet tomorrow.
Oh look! The Buick Open Golf Tournament is on TV......