Cat Helps Write Controversial Weble Post

December 1st, 2009

I am on the email lists of a lot of liberal/progressive groups (shocking, I know), and one heading that irks the hell out of me is the “Animal Helps Do Good Deed” formula. I just got one: “Cat Helps to Convict Child Abuser.”

First of all, no, I doubt that the cat actually helped, as in deliberately committed a particular action with an outcome in mind. I guarantee the cat isn’t aware of what happened as a result of his/her actions and probably wouldn’t give a shit either way. Being the right place at the right time doesn’t count. If I stretch out my arm to check my watch and happen to catch a baby falling off of a balcony, I’m not a hero; I was just in the right place and doing the right thing at the right time.

But I think what bugs me more about these sorts of stories is that they create the impression that we should treat animals humanely because, on occasion, we need them and they do good things to “help” us.  It’s all very instrumental and calculating. And it puts non-human animals on par, in terms of intellect, cognition, and motivation, with humans.

And that’s fallacious and, I think, deeply problematic to the core ideas of the animal welfare movement, which are that we treat all sentient beings with consideration because they possess the same ability to suffer that we do. Arguments invoking the intelligence and usefulness of non-human animals, then, become irrelevant because neither the lower intelligence of non-humans nor their general usefulness to our own lives has any bearing on that central point: To paraphrase Jeremy Bentham, the question is not can they speak or reason but can they suffer?

Which makes promoting the need to treat non-humans humanely contingent on their usefulness to humans a dangerous direction to take. We can all chuckle over the story of the dog who dials 911 when his guardian collapses after a heart attack but promoting the action as some kind of heroism is a dangerous direction to take. Suddenly, that animal is valued for its … use to humans. Welcome back to Square One.

Things I Don’t Understand

November 23rd, 2009

The phones have been all fucked up at work because some of the pipes in the basement were corroded and, whenever someone (usually I) ran the kitchen sink, water would pour out of them and down the wall over the telephone circuits and short out the phone lines. So, sometimes, the phone rings but won’t let me answer it. This has been an interesting experiment in human behavior and in annoying Dawn because it’s interesting to see how many times people will continue to call a phone line that hangs up on them every time.

Today, someone keeps trying to call the 39 line. Only the 39 line isn’t working. (Also, no one ever uses the 39 line, so I suspect it is a wrong number to start and nothing important.) This person has probably tried to call a dozen times in the last ten minutes. The phone rings 1.75 times and then disconnects. They call back. Ring! Rin–! Click.  Call back. And so on.

What’s worse is when my coworkers–who know the phones are acting up–will continue to call a line that is demonstrably not working. I suppose they don’t give any thought to the fact that I have to sit in the office and listen to the phone ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing, knowing that I can’t answer it (because all I hear is a dial tone). I suppose they don’t give much thought to how annoying that is.

 Another thing I don’t understand: there are new guidelines for breast cancer screenings that push the recommended age to start mammograms back from 40 to 50 years of age. This is nothing new. I have seen research and recommendations in the past few years touting this. What I don’t understand is why people are so upset. And I’m not talking about the right-wingnuts who are shrieking over “Rationing! Rationing!” (as though a health insurance company deciding that a patient is too expensive and deciding to cancel the person’s policy isn’t rationing, but I digress). But when I hear,

1. Studies are showing that we can keep you just as healthy with less of *insert uncomfortable medical test here* (pun intended) and

2. Studies show that too much of *insert uncomfortable medical test here* will produce false positives that are more likely to do you harm than not having the test at all,

then my reaction is “Woohoo! Fewer uncomfortable medical tests! What’s not to like??”

So I don’t really get why women are upset that they won’t be recommended to squish their boobs in a machine at age 40 anymore because said squishing tends to do more harm than good.

Maybe they don’t trust medical science. But if they’re having their boobs regularly squished, apparently they trust it enough to tell them when they should go ahead and hack off a body part. But they don’t trust medical science to make recommendations about testing? Hmm. The mind boggles.

Back to School

October 10th, 2009

Well, two important things happened this week. Potter and Andrea were married, and I started back to school. Since I started school on Monday and Potts and Andrea got married on Tuesday, first things first.

(Why do we say “got” married? Like we go to the store and pluck a married off the shelf? Anyway.)

It’s my first semester working on a graduate-level teaching certification. I have mixed feelings about it. I’ll admit that there was a little bit of despair at the beginning of the week (no surprise there; despair has sort of been my middle name for the past few weeks). The coursework is not something I am passionate about in the same sense as I am literature and writing.  I am depressed by the fact that we have “homework” assignments … yes, homework, like a bunch of middle schoolers. I haven’t had homework in more than ten years. Oh, yes, there are assignments and journals, but never homework.

Then one of my textbooks didn’t come in. Cue more despair. Bobby ordered it … six weeks ago? So he ordered me a second copy with two-day shipping. And, of course, the first copy arrived the next day.

Having now done most of my reading for the week (because I was hampered by the lack of textbook and aforementioned despair), I can say that it’s interesting to see these things put into words and to have terms to discuss the concepts … but it’s all so intuitive. I’ve been doing many of these things for years, from the time I was a trainer at The Piece till now, when I teach my web-design class.

I am trying very, very hard to maintain a positive attitude about this. If nothing else, I am not called “Hermione” without a reason: I can launch into schoolwork whether I like it or not, and the process of working through a list of assignments is itself rewarding to my well-conditioned brain. I am really hoping, though, to get a good amount of value from these classes. I don’t want to just go through the motions but to feel inspired to think and act on what I learn.

*sigh* I was spoiled by being a literature major where just about every class left me wanting to learn more, read more. Which I have tried to do in my break and am a little resentful that I won’t be able to continue doing now.

On a positive note, lifting the despair a bit is the fact that I feel like I’m finally working towards something tangible. Yes, last year I was too, but it didn’t feel as real. I applied for a classroom-observation internship with Carroll County at the start of the week, and then it felt real. Yes, it will take two years, but moving forward one week at a time is far preferable to the feeling of stagnation (and despair–there’s a theme here!) that has plagued me since school let out in March.

So my classes this semester are the introduction to teaching course, educational psychology (which looks like intro to psych from the PoV of a teacher), and secondary teaching strategies. The last is probably the one I look forward to the most because it seems like I might really get something out of it. Educational psych … well, like I said, it’s like PSYC100 for teachers, and I have a degree in psych. So while it will be interesting to see concepts that I learned as pure theory or in a clinical context applied to educational settings, then I expect that most of the major ideas will be a review … a much-needed review, but a review nonetheless.

I’m on the fence about the intro class. Bobby had this his last semester, and for one, the syllabus is rather confusing with a lot of conflicting information (always annoying), and it required a textbook about Microsoft Office, which thankfully Bobby didn’t insult me by buying for me. I suppose it is reflective of the fact that I more or less grew up with computers that I feel like schools and workplaces shouldn’t cater to people who haven’t managed to figure out how to use basic software programs yet. It’s not like Word and Excel are cutting-edge programs anymore. I had coursework in MS Office when I was in the ninth grade. I’m kind of scornful of having to pay for graduate credits to learn MS Excel.

Oh, and two of the classes require groupwork. Groupwork?! I told Bobby in a rather rantastic moment on the way home from work on Monday that teachers/professors who base one’s grades on groupwork have obviously never been one of the smartest kids in the class who inevitably get stuck in a groupwork setting and end up doing all of the work because, otherwise, the project will be shit. So it’s between choosing to break one’s back to get good grades for one’s peers or doing one’s part and accepting the grades for the mediocrity of one’s peers. I can certainly understand cooperative learning (although as a shy kid who got picked on a lot, I am cautious of over-relying on that), but grading a single student based on group efforts is distasteful to me. So I’m seriously, seriously hoping that these group projects don’t fall into that category. Because, based on what Bobby’s told me about the effort most people put into these education classes, I do not want to be stuck again sharing the rewards for my efforts with a lot of deadweights.


To borrow a cliche, I guess the jury’s out at the moment. I am going to try my best to eek whatever value I can from these classes, but I must admit that I wish I was still studying literature right now!

The Secret Stories of Books

October 3rd, 2009

The thought occurred to me the other day that books contain the stories that are printed on their pages, but there are other, secret stories on those pages too. I was reading The World According to Garp at Q’doba, and I turned the page, and there was a perfectly preserved little bug in the pages. It wasn’t even that squished. It was quite dead, however. It made me think of how it got there. Maybe the reader who checked it out before me was reading outside? Or near the compost bowl?

The other day, I was reading the same book at lunch, and the pages kept flopping over, so I pinned them down under the microwavable tray of kofta curry that I was eating. I had my fork nowhere near the book, but a big splat of sauce ended up on the edge of one of the pages. So, now, page 148 has a kofta curry stain in the margin.

Some reader after me will doubtlessly see it and wonder how it got there. Probably, they’ll think I’m an asshole who is careless with my library books; in fact, I feel quite bad about the kofta curry stain on page 148 and am not particularly careless with any of my books. In reality, the kofta curry stain speaks of someone who eats lunch alone each day and so reads while eating for company. That could infer a lot of things about me: that maybe I don’t have any friends (not true) or that I don’t like people (a little bit true, sometimes) or just that I don’t feel much of a connection with the people around me at work (which is closest to the truth) and so get more enjoyment from the company of books. What is said about a woman who eats kofta curry for lunch? That I am Indian? (I’m not.) That I’m vegetarian? (I am.) That I’m one of those rare Americans who would sooner eat something “foreign” and without cheese and gravy? That’s true as well. From those facts, all sorts of inferences can be made about me. I probably voted for Obama. (I did.) I’m probably a regular at the farmer’s market and slightly obsessed with recycling. (Both, true.) I probably drive a hybrid car (I don’t, unfortunately) or ride around a lot on buses (I wish I did, but again, I don’t).

All of these inferences could come from a splotch of kofta curry in the margin of a library book. And so my copy of The World According to Garp now contains a new story. So, I wonder what the dead bug means?

One of my favorite “secret stories” is when I acquire a book at the library and find, in the cover or on the first blank page, a person’s name scribed in neat, italic handwriting. I imagine, then, that the book probably belonged to a person old enough to be of the generation that actually learned to write with neat, italic handwriting. My grandmother had beautiful handwriting. The person is now deceased and her/his (usually her) family just didn’t know what to do with all those books. So they donated them to the public library. It seems a nice way for one’s name to go on: in providing stories and knowledge for others in the future.

Or a passage will be underlined (hopefully in pencil, lightly, though sometimes in ink and deep enough to leave an impression on the next page), and I imagine the high-school student hunching over the book when there is a flutter in the heart that comes from one of those magical passages that beg to be underlined (hopefully in pencil, lightly), even if they prove nothing toward one’s thesis.

My first Silmarillion looks like it might have been leashed on a piece of twine and bounced behind a schoolbus Napoleon Dynamite-style. It has marginalia and underlined passages (in pencil, lightly) that have become smudged from years of turning the pages on which they reside. None are particularly insightful to me anymore; in fact, some are downright banal, but I leave them because these represent my first thoughts kindling on this book and this world that would come to change my life in so many ways, some bad but most good. If someone tried to donate this Silmarillion to a public library, I doubt they’d take it; but oh, what stories it tells!


September 30th, 2009

Bobby caught a nasty cold this weekend past and was pretty much out of commission for the whole weekend. And I knew–just knew–that I would catch it too. By Tuesday. Because Tuesday was the day we were to see U2 in concert.

I don’t listen to many modern mainstream artists these days, and I don’t listen to any modern mainstream artists in profusion … except U2.  I have loved U2, subconsciously at least, since before I even knew who they were, when I knew their songs for an undefinable energy that infused them. As I grew into music, of course, I learned who U2 was, but my musical tastes were so wild in those days and inspired as much by trends and what was being played at the latest high-school dance that I would not have defined myself as a fan, per se, of U2. As I grew older, though, and my tastes refined and then became just plain weird, most every artist that I listened to dropped out of my radar … except U2.

This was to be my second time seeing U2. The first time, Bobby, Potter, and I went to see them at Verizon nee MCI Center in DC. We were just married and very poor. Tickets were close to $100 for the back of the arena, and I’m pretty sure that that concert left us in credit-card debt for a couple of months. Alas. It was U2. The concert was awesome. I wanted to go again.

This time, U2 was at Fedex Field, i.e. the Deadskins Redskins’ stadium, and they were only $30. Not enough to go into debt for a second time over my passion for one of the few rock bands I actually listen to! Bobby talked up this show, too, for some massive crazy stage that was supposed to rotate and, for all he knew, manifest the Second Coming of Jesus. Or, it was supposed to be cool.

Monday afternoon (U2-1), I was sitting at my desk and got that awful feeling like scarab beetles were trying to crawl up the back of my throat. I was coming down with a cold. A few emphatic sneezes that were not caused by allergies sealed the deal. Fuck. I have a good immune system but, in just over 24 hours, I would be sitting in an outdoor arena, waiting for U2 to come on. No way could I get rid of the cold that fast.

So my best hope was to nurse it into submission, which Bobby and I did: orange juice, rest, and hot tea with whiskey. Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good as I drove to pick Bobby up from work for a quick dinner at Subway and then to brave the Capitol Beltway and. OMG. U2.

We got to the concert about an hour before the opening act was to come on stage. We went through security and got thoroughly frisked. (At which point, I have to pause and ask exactly why concert venues insist on practically stripping down their patrons and donning a rubber lubricated fingerlet? Has there ever, among the thousands of concerts that occur in the U.S. each year, been someone killed by a maniac at a rock show? It just seems so absurd. Surely, the risk is not that great. And, yes, before I’m cut off by a sniveling “But it’s worth it to be so much safer!” then, actually, yes, I would rather take the risk of being whatevered by said rock-concert maniac that to have to be frisked and searched every time I want to listen to a few hours of live music. Truthfully, it’s much more likely that I’m going to die while driving to the show on the Capitol Beltway than endure anything more than a hoarse throat and ringing ears after the show.)

After being frisked, we hiked up the looong ramp to the top of the stadium. About halfway up, an usher called out to us, “Stop here for Club Level!” and we kept hoofing. Club Level? As if! I’m glad that my fingerless gloves and ten-year-old Adidas gave the impression of Club Level, but the only time I’ve been past the tinted glass doors to a Club Level was when the Ravens played the Raiders in the 2001 AFC Championship and M&T Bank nee PSI Net Stadium hosted an (illegal but free) game viewing on the Jumbotrons from the Club Level. I told Bobby that the day we go to a show more prestigious than a Hershey Bears game and don’t have to walk to the topmost level will be the day that we no longer occupy our accustomed identities. Though we were at the topmost level, the seats were actually nearer to the bottom than the top, for once. And, with the round and very weird stage just off-center from midfield, we had a great view. True, Bono and Co. were rendered in miniature form, but it’s a music show. And with televisions now bigger than our house, the entire stadium got to see what Bono looked like without his sunglasses, the one time he took them off. I didn’t need to pay a few hundred dollars for that privilege.

The stage was weird. It looked like an enormous greenish spider with half its legs missing and covered in orange welts. It squatted over a round stage with a round bank of televisions hung like a bizarre ovipositor beneath its body, only instead of shooting out little spiders, it shot out different colored lights in dart and beams and, at the final encore, produced a dangling, glowing microphone-cum-tire-swing for Bono to play with. There was also a concentric ring of stage that was connected to the round stage by two bridges. I didn’t see how anything was going to rotate and the whole thing, frankly, looked bizarre and was mildly disappointing.

There were three people occupying the seats directly in front of us when we arrived. They were clearly Redskins’ fans, although I don’t know when they went to games considering how dramatic they were about how c-c-c-cold it was. (It was in the mid-50s F, a clear night, with a brisk wind. It was chilly, yes, but no c-c-c-cold. Not quite.) They had blankets and gloves and winter coats and sighed over the lack of hot chocolate and coffee at the concession stands and crowed with joy when a young man passing with such a coveted prize directed them where they could purchase some. They were obsessed with the diminutive size of the crowd. U2’s website insisted that the show had been sold out, but there was a smattering of fans on the field and most of the seats empty. I’m not sure if these people had never been to a concert before (eavesdropping on the man’s conversation, he’d seen every rock band under the sun at some point), but they were convinced that U2 was going to come on at precisely 7:30–no mind the opening act–and all these missing people were going to miss the show. I don’t know if they didn’t realize that there was an opening act or what.

An hour before a concert is ample opportunity for people-watching. One thing I cannot understand is why people go to concerts or sporting events and eat a meal at the stadium. Food is ridiculously overpriced and ridiculously underwhelming. Yet just about everyone who trudged up the steps to the left of us–we were at the end of the row–was carrying a tray of chicken strips or a pizza box or a wrapped sandwich. And a beer. At $8 for a skinny can ($9 for imports!), Bobby and I will buy a case and get drunk at home.

People-watching makes me really irritated with people after a while. I think it’s because I stop seeing individuals and start seeing trends and thinking, “Who the fuck pays all this money for crappy stadium food when there are a half-million restaurants right off the Capitol Beltway?!” I start to notice how they wear their hair the same and dress the same and get irritated at their sameness.

Thankfully, Muse came on and the lights went out and I couldn’t see their annoying sameness anymore. Although this ushered in a whole new wave of annoying people trying to find their seats in the dark and asking, “What row number is this?”

Down the row from us was a group of young women who, I think, weren’t there to see U2 but were there to see Muse. The one woman shrieked–and I do mean shrieked, like concert-maniac-murderer-man who managed to avoid frisking was planting an ice pick between her shoulder blades; I kept looking down the row just to make sure that she was okay–throughout the opening act until the people who owned the seats they were occupying arrived, and the Muse fans and Shrieking Woman went further up top and shrieked elsewhere.

After Muse was done, the roadies teemed like ants onto the spider-stage. Muse wasn’t allowed to use the outer ring of the stage or the bridges; they were, I told Bobby, the big-boy stage, and Muse didn’t have their big-boy panties on that night. I like watching the roadies, particularly when they hoisted four enormous rigs piled with follow-spot operators up underneath the spider’s legs. I would like to sit up there and watch U2 every night, but I suppose a lot of people would say that. Bobby bought us a tray of nachos (but not a meal!) and a soda to share during the break. The sun was set and–despite the fears of the three folks in front of us–the arena was packed. It was no longer so c-c-c-cold.

Then U2 came on.

I’ve written all of this and, yet, it’s hard to describe the show. I’ll try. I’ll begin by saying that U2 is as close as this agnostic comes to a religious experience. I often try to put into words how their music affects me, and it comes down to two metaphors. Some of their songs are like standing on a high tower with a brisk wind in your hair: You feel a connection, however tenuous and swaying, to the earth but, mostly, you feel the wind and the sun and the freedom of the open sky above you. Or, their music makes you look in close at a wood-grained table under your hands, and you see the small swirls and the dirt in the grooves, at once beautiful and sordid. There is a line in The Silmarillion that says what I mean too. (Yes, I am totally about the quote The Silmarillion in a post about U2):

And this habitation might seem a little thing to those who consider only the majesty of the Ainur, and not their terrible sharpness; as who should take the whole field of Arda for the foundation of a pillar and so raise it until the cone of its summit were more bitter than a needle …

Or there is this great uplifting beauty but also this terrible, keen perception. As I said, it’s hard to put into words.

They opened up with a few of their new songs. I don’t know song titles, so I can’t say which, though I could sing along with the words. They did play “Magnificent” (which I have in my head right now). And the spider stage came to life! And did, in fact, turn out to be very, very cool. No, the whole thing did not rotate, but the two bridges would sweep in from either side, and the band would walk out around the outer ring like a big track with fans on both sides. Aside from depositing dollops of light here and there, the television screens under the spider broke into pieces and descended like a cascade; an interesting and beautiful effect. The spider itself–with its absurd greenish skin and orange pox–took on the hue of the spotlights shined onto it, and the stage seemed to completely change in appearance a dozen times during the show.

At times, the crowd was singing so loudly together that they drowned out Bono.

At times, I would just close my eyes and let the music thrum inside of me and let whatever images arose dance across my imagination.

They played “The City of Blinding Light.” This is one of my favorite songs and one that captures, in music, the feeling of awe in looking upon something of unimaginable splendor. My imagination soars to amazing places during this song.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” is another of my favorites, but this one twists my heart in its fists for all the pain that has been done in the world and continues to be done. There is no imagination involved here. This song is one that reveals blight all the more painful for the beauty of the world it mars.

They did two encores. The first encore opened with “Where the Streets Have No Name,” which may have been the first U2 song that my maturing tastes recognized as possessing something special that other songs lacked. It continues to be one of my favorites, to this day.

The show ended, eventually, and we walked back out into the stadium with the memory of the music still heavy in our ears, then back down the endless ramp to the parking lot. Fedex Field handles parking with the usual ineptitude of any venue in the twenty-mile penumbra of idiocy that encircles DC, and it took an hour to even get out of the parking lot. Yet, as I told Bobby today, we were amazingly un-upset about that fact. It was the magic of U2. It was an amazing concert.

Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

September 24th, 2009

At one time, I had high hopes for my generation. After all, these were the same people who managed to be more liberal than me in college, who voted for Nader (I voted for Gore), and marched around campus with No Blood for Oil! signs. I figured that we would be the generation to buck a lot of the bad habits into which our predecessors had fallen, namely letting our lives be ruled front and back by corporate interests.

Early adulthood was promising. The “Millennials,” as we came to be called, were giving corporate employers a fit, demanding things like four-day work weeks and time to go to the gym and more casual dress codes. Every sneering, snide report I saw disparaging the millennials “lackadaisical” work ethic had me cheering. It seemed, to me, that the other generations were jealous. Why didn’t we think of this? they probably wondered. It is certainly rather silly to protest being treated better by one’s employer. I was proud of my generation for putting our collective foot down and demanding that our work would not rule our lives.

But then I go into Columbia for lunch. And I see these earnest-faced young adults around my age or younger, all done up in their corporate tool get-up with their ID badges blazoned on the fronts of their suit coats and polo shirts like some kind of prize and their belts laden with an arsenal of tech gadgets so that they can be at the beck and call of some corporate master who will work them eighty hours for a measly promotion in a few years and, meanwhile, collect accolades and bonuses fed by their sweat. One always has one of those cell phone ear pieces that seem to announce, “I am a drone. Robots have penetrated and taken over my brain.” And they talk of nothing but work work work while eating their Panera sandwiches and taco salads: clients and sales and meetings and WTF, Generation? Do you ever look in the mirror in the morning and realize what a fucking tool you are?

I suppose I just don’t understand why anyone would want to go work for a corporation that does work one is not interested in, doesn’t believe in, or even outright opposes, working one’s fundament off to make some CEO who doesn’t even know one’s name rich. So that, in a few years, one can be passed over for promotion or laid off or, at best, settle into an unfulfilling life in middle management.

But I suppose it pays better than government.

Do I Look Like I Just Fell off the Applecart?

September 22nd, 2009

We went apple-pickin’ with the fambly on Sunday at Baugher’s. The weather couldn’t have been better: clear, sunny, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. We went via tractor, pulled in a cart while sitting on wooden crates, out to the orchard.

Happiness is walking in the sun beneath endless rows of trees. I wish I had an orchard. When I went further than the rest of the family in search of some low-hanging Matsu apples, I was alone and at peace with that happy feeling of life busy all around me. *happy sigh* It’s the same feeling I get, crouched amid the plants in the garden, only without the sore knees!

I do wonder, though, at people. The day would have been perfect but for the intrusion of people. People who are rude and shake ten apples from the trees to get one and pick a peck and leave the crate when they decide they no longer want them; people who are so busy snapping photos that they fail to notice much less enjoy what’s around them. (I do wonder at this: I love photos, too, for the memories they allow to be so easily preserved, but I also don’t want to miss what I’m experiencing, and these people who go about hunched over with a camera lens pressed to their eyeball and trained at the back of some kid’s head … how are they experiencing anything if they don’t even look up to note the look of the leaves against the sky?

(Oh well. Their loss.

The habit of punctuating multiple parenthetical paragraphs like one punctuates multiple quoted paragraphs I learned from Oscar Wilde. Thanks, Oscar!)

We went to dinner afterwards at O’Lordans, which was excellent as always. Then it was back to the house for dessert: fresh mint ice cream layered with chocolate cream and the apples we’d picked dipped in homemade caramel and peanut butter-caramel sauce. The latter, especially, was very popular. I even wrote down the recipe for Dad. Fancy the day that Dad would ask me for a recipe!

All in all–silly people aside–it was a good day.

The Hot Pepper Bandit

September 19th, 2009

We’re rapidly coming to the end of summer, and it’s the time of plenty right now in northern Maryland, when it seems impossible to walk out to the garden without returning with armfuls of fresh veggies. Bobby and I went to the Westminster farmers’ market today and Baugher’s farm and ended up with even more than what we’ve already grown. We’re slowly squirreling away for the winter as part of our continuing endeavor to lessen our negative impact on the world around us by eating locally produced foods as much as possible.

Yesterday, I added to our burgeoning jar of ground cayenne pepper and made three batches of jalapeño hot sauce. (Tangent: Firefox spellcheck recognizes jalapeno as a word but not jalapeño? WTF??) Today, I made a big jar of habañero hot sauce.

Habañeros are wicked, wicked peppers. They are given a heat rating of 10 on our big pepper poster, the only pepper to earn that honor. (Cayennes are second, being rated 9-10.) We didn’t even intend to grow habañeros this year. We planted too many last year and still have bags of them in the freezer downstairs. This year, when buying plants, we found an innocent-looking wee pepper plant called “Caribbean red hots.” Since we’re always looking to experiment with new plants, we bought two of them and planted them. They grew great! Only when they began to produce fruit, I realized that the fruit looked an awful lot like habañeros.

A Google search reveals that they are a super-hot variety of the same. I can’t bear to let fruit rot on the vine, so as they reddened, I reluctantly picked them and stored them in the refrigerator. As they amassed, I realized that I needed something to do with all of these hot peppers. To flavor with them takes only a pinch–and I do mean a pinch–and our habañeros always produce really, really well. That’s a lot of pinches.

I’ve decided to use last year’s frozen crop and this year’s crop to make hot sauce. And then give it away. Bobby and I like spicy foods but really do not need gallons of habañero hot sauce.

But, like I said, habañeros are wicked peppers. Bobby and I have both learned the hard way about working with hot peppers. Now, I not only wear plastic gloves but also cover my mouth and nose with a folded bandana. It looks more like I’m going to rob a train than cook a condiment, but if I breathe in hot pepper fumes otherwise, even from so innocent a source as running a bowl that held pepper scraps under a hot tap, then I am too miserable coughing and choking to get anything done, not to mention that neither coughing nor choking are ideal in the vicinity of food.

Today, I donned my train-robber get up and proceeded to eviscerate close to two dozen “Caribbean red” habañero peppers. All was going well until I rinsed my gloved hands to rid them of seeds. The little bit of mist was enough to set me off choking and sneezing, so I excused myself to go take care of that. After blowing my nose with a tissue, I folded it and dabbed the tears in my eyes. And–gross TMI warning–apparently I had enough capsaicin in my bogies that even touching my eyelid with a folded tissue that had touched my nose was enough that my eye ended up burning, and I had to wash my face in milk.

Habañeros are wicked, wicked peppers.

The good news, at the end of the day, is that we not only ended up with a big jar of hot sauce but also four jars of pickled jalapeños and five jars of spicy salsa. My right hand is burning (from washing dishes used in processing the peppers), but our canning shelf downstairs is filling up fast, so what’s a little pain? It will be worth it.

Hello world!

September 18th, 2009

I was going to delete this post, but then I got all sentimental feeling since “Hello, World!” is the quintessential phrase for Internet debut. So I’ve decided to edit it and leave it up instead.

This is going to be my new journal. I’ll be using my LiveJournal henceforth mostly for stories and stuff. I’ve been kicking around the idea about leaving LJ for a while now. I’m just not comfortable there anymore. It’s wonderful for posting my stories but not so much as a journal, for a variety of reasons that I can’t quite articulate. (Hey. It’s late. I’ve been monkeying with files and codes and software for the past three hours. Suffice to say that LJ ain’t what it used to be to me.)

I considered Dreamwidth because all the cool kids are there but then thought it rather daft that I pay a good amount for this webspace each year and yet would pay still more for a Dreamwidth journal. So here I am, sort of camping out in the backyard rather than paying for the posh hotel.

Eventually, I’m going to have this journal more or less match the rest of the site (I think), but the layout I threw together just a minute ago is being a bastard and I get the sneaking suspicion that I will have to start from scratch, WordPress theming not being my forte. So this is it in the meantime.