Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fire ants in my pants

When I was about five or six, I went for an afternoon hike Across the Way, that is, across the road to the neighbor's summer place, in Forest Knolls. We hiked  up the hill, with my grannie and my favorite cousin in the lead. We were standing admiring the view, looking out across the Stone's pasture, and Mt. Barnabe with its long shadows at dusk, when something began pinching me. I screamed and pulled my flannel plaid lined jeans off, my cousin Ricky sniggering away—I was standing on an anthill of angry red fire ants.

added, rev. 2/18

Facebook post about tapdancing in stores

 Facebook thread with Donna Champion:
Mo Hurley Remember when we tap danced in the Sebastopol Safeway and everyone looking around for all that clattering? A flamenco dancer came into the store the other day and danced in front of my cheese booth. It was a scream. Customers joined in, clapping, saying Olé. Do you remember the flamenco guitarist Enrique Sanchez? She is his blind musician friend Augustine's wife. I met them when I was producing the art/poetry events at the InterCultural Center at SSU. Didn't we book them for Garbo's too? RRWG?

Donna Champion Ah, yes, tap dancing in Safeway. I'd almost forgotten that. I think my most obscure tap experience was in a convalescent home. I think they enjoyed the show. One old man yelled out, "Look at the girlies!" I don't remember any flamenco dancers/musicians performing for the Guild, but anything was possible in those days--not too many restrictions on what we called "poetry & prose." 

Mo Hurley Great floor acoustics. Was it the bowling alley? No that was farther down Hwy 116.

Donna Champion Well, it was a DANCE floor! I thought it used to be a bowling alley and they converted it into Garbo's.Yeah, it wasn't a full-sized bowling alley, but it made a pretty good nightclub.

Mo Hurley Ninepins! Donna, did you give me those old school flamenco button-up boots with the hobnail heel taps? I was telling Augustine's wife I needed to be a contortionist to get them buttoned up. Didn't wear them often! I remember those too, Sistha! And the Guamanian slips that I wore as dresses and how your mother was so scandalized.

Donna Champion I think I gave you a pair of sexy black heels with ankle straps and buttons on the sides.I just donated all of my old dance costumes to the local thrift store. I gave my tap shoes to my great-nieces years ago. **sigh** Life goes on....

Mo Hurley But you've ballet dances in the family now. Didn't Galena dance in the SF Nutcracker?

Donna Champion How did this conversation go from ants to tap shoes? They do come in handy for killing ants, I suppose.

Mo Hurley Curiouser and curiouser. You'd think this thread would be under the Rita Moreno post.

Donna Champion Yes, several ballerinas. Galina has hung up her toe shoes and teaches at City Ballet, the studio that she and Kenny own in SF. They're all in Moscow now with several of their students who are doing an internship with the Bolshoi. Connie's with them.

Mo Hurley I remember standing outside the Bolshoi, mid-winter, snow falling in feathers. Valera Stupachenko (remember him) sang there when he was famous. Ah, memory. The man I didn't marry.

When we got off topic with dance and romance, was the best bit of the thread.


Ants! Ants in the bathroom sink.
Ants cirrcling the drain.
Ants clinging to the toilet paper.
Ants scaling the heights of the toilet tank.
Ants storming the toilet seat. Ants!
Are they trying to get in my pants?
Dead ants! DeadantsDeadantsDeadants!
Now I am giggling like zee Inspector Clousou
and seeing pink panthers in my panth. Yeth.  
Peckish little meat ants from the Argentine.
I wondered why they were biting my thighs. 
Should I cover them in chocolate? Dance the tango?
One friend says sprinkle cinnamon on their trail, 
another friend says to use orange oil spray
so that the ants will lose their way.
Another suggests little ant motels with boric acid.

But now it smells like Christmas. 
They're pulling out all their little party hats,
inviting the neighbors. It's an ant rave.
So I nuked them with bleach.
Forlorn ants cut off from the mother trail, 
circle the stone hearts on my toilet tank lid. 
Mystery solved. I dumped old food down the loo, 
so the meat ants came marching in two by two.
added, rev. 2/18 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Maybe Even Dance Again

      Elegance is the only beauty that never fades. —Audrey Hepburn

Rita Moreno walked over to say hello to me at my sample booth today. She always makes a point of coming over to say hello and to visit. It's not just about sampling the cheese of the day. It's about the connection. Except today I had finished early and was serving raspberry almond tarts. I said I was the queen of tarts.

Rita laughed. Nibbled on her sweet. Nice to see you, nice to SEE you, she always says in her little Carmen Miranda lilt. And she means it. Putting her hand over her heart. We always gaze deep into each other's eyes for a moment as if to fathom something profound but the words never come. Her kohl-rimmed eyes are cinnamon brown with green flecks. The makeup suits her.

Hard to believe that Rita's 82. She always wears interesting hats. A wisp of chestnut hair streaked with gold framed her face—she'd just come from the hair salon. Marvelous describes her. In a word: she is elegant. She has a beauty that never fades.

The first time I met Rita, she looked like she was at death's door. Her husband had recently passed away. She was frail, barely mobile. Shopping was an effort. But today she walked unaided. Sans walker. Today the red shopping cart was her surrogate walker. But it was banished to the far side of the aisle. She carefully walked over to me unaided.

She said: See, I am off my walker, but I keep it it in the car just in case. She's living dangerously. Wow! The hip replacement surgery was a success.

Rita, the Hollywood goddess of dance, did a halting little two-step and said Look, I can walk again—maybe even dance again! She said, smiling, her arm leading with a slow spin. Now those are immortal words to live by.

She said, But the balance is not so good. With a dismissive wave of the hand, she tottered off pushing the red cart like red Ferrari, but she was a frail hummingbird. My heart in my throat.

My booth is like a village well. The Regulars come to visit me, to share their stories. I tell them I am a stationary object. I am a lighthouse. I stand at this one spot five days a week greeting people, picking up dropped threads of conversation.

New friends tell me old stories. I give them recipes, wine and cheese. It is a civilized outpost where the qualities of terroir are invoked daily.

Blind Augustine's wife, the flamenco dancer took off the neckscarf I was admiring and then danced with it in front of my cheese booth. Customers clapped, said Olé as we twirled our hands like pigeon wings in unison. In that moment, we realized that we knew each other from long ago via Enrique Sánchez, the flamenco guitarist. A gig I produced.

And some (in)famous old friends stop by to say hello: Earl and Maxine Hong Kingston, Al Young, Alastair Johnson—even Jerry Brown. I gave him a standing ovation for all my CAC arts grants. He said Where's the salmon? But Rita, by far, is my favorite Regular.

In my CAC poetry workshop at Mark West School, an exuberant kindergartner once threw his arms open wide and told me: If I were king of the universe, I'd dance for a living. Pure poetry on the hoof.

Today we celebrate a small victory. I give Rita another piece of raspberry tart. We measure the progress of recovery in small, ordinary increments. Today the dancer can walk again. Maybe even dance because dancing is still in her heart.

That sterling moment more than made up for yesterday's sour customer from hell: a 20-something blonde who shrieked at me, Youfuckingbitch! and stomped off, because I said: Please do me a favor, use the serving tray next time instead of my cutting board as it's a health code violation. I never even got to finish my sentence. I was too shocked to respond.

Such displaced rage—a tantrum over what? A piece of cheese? Wow. Not the first time this has happened. Chalk it up to bad parenting. The young woman was too impatient to wait for an older woman to get her sample first. At that moment, the customer becomes my friend, a Regular. She vouches for me, tells the manager what happened, then calls the 20-something A real bitch.

I tell my Regular the story about Rita Moreno. She is thrilled. Says Bless her heart. Bless her heart.

May that tart young woman who cursed me grow old and wrinkled too soon in her fallow heart and may she never find the joylines to dance at the cheese booth in a supermarket when she's old enough to know better. But does it anyway.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saami vs. Norse notes

The Saami tribes have suffered terribly at the hands of the Norse Scandinavians and Finns for centuries because they have no "superior" claim to the land. For the most part, they've been forced off their territory, or Sápmi. If anything, they've been marginalized and forced to adapt to Norse and Finnish culture(s) to the point of losing their own cultural identity.

It's not a question of who arrived first in Scandinavia as it's "pretty slippery" to peg the arrival of the ethnic Saami, aka Sami, Suomi, Lappi (FWIW, Lappi a pejorative Norse term), as they didn't have a written (historic) culture, and were marginalized early on by the Norse Scandinavians. However, they do predate the Scandinavian period. Period.

Like the Euskaldunak (Basque), the Caucasians—the Vainakh/Kavkas and Ossetians (Georgian; also the kingdom of Pern—now that's an isolate group!), the Kvens (Sami-Finns, different than Finnish Finns), even the Samoyeds (sounds like Sami, doesn't it?—but they split off the linguistic family tree very early, like the Ainu—Altaic/Uralic); however, they are/were Uralic speakers, not Indo-European. (Uralic = Urals; generally includes many Siberian cultures.)

The western Uralic branch, Finno-Urgic (toss in the Magyarok—the Hungarians) are different peoples—in many cases, they carry different genetic markers—literally—predominance of RH - factor. And revisionist thinking claiming that it's merely an "ethno-linguistic distinction" is not going to change that bloody fact.

An interesting aside, during the Plague/Black Death, many Norse died, the Sea Saami peoples did not—though they were living side by side.

Lost Particles of History

I am utterly enchanted with the intersection of archaeology, anthropology & linguistics. Blame it on my linguistics professor at Berkeley, or the fact that I studied Ancient, Early & Modern Irish (rather badly), as well as Medieval Welsh (also rather badly)—because I could. 

Or because I sat at the feet of the great folklorist-anthropologist, Dr. Alan Dundes. And of course, because, pots don't talk. 

On a more personal note, I am interested in the story of the underdog—not history written at the hands of the victor. Blame it on my well-read grannie who gave me a different, if not slanted, perspective of the world. 

Also, blame my high school biology teacher, Dr. Fatt, a Finnish marvel. And yes, se was also fat. She instilled in me, the quest for obscure biological tidbits. Ask me about stickelback fishes (her PhD thesis), or why Siamese cats have heat sensitive fur (and how to prove it.) Or the propensity of RH- bloodtypes in Finland. 

And why I see red when someone makes sweeping statements. My but-but-but button begins blinking. It's the lost particles of history that make the story go round. As to most favored wave-particle theory, well, I lean toward letting Schrodinger's cat out of the box! 

Indeed, how lovely it is to be (or not be) alive.

Friday, February 15, 2013



It's 12:24 AM. Can't sleep.
Do you know where your asteroid is? 
I want to know: What's its real name? 
and other meteorless questions 
like what famous lubricant did NASA invent?
No, Preparation H is not the right answer. 
Buzzz! Fail. It's WD-40! Yep. 40th time's a charm.
Chris Hadfield's singing on the final frontier again
and the asteroid's real name is 212DA14. 
Got that? Like I'll remember something that cozy.
NASA gave us Velcro and Postets. Not McGuyver.
I'm sure we can ductape something better together. 
Did you know that in space, tears don't fall? Yep.
Time to refund the space race. 
Who remembers Tang? Astronaut OJ.
We used to drink it mixed with Ripple. 
Don't mind me. Post-fever babble.


Watch as 2012 DA14 buzzes by

It's 11:24 AM. Do you know where your asteroid is? (What's its real name? and other less meteor questions like what famous lubricant did NASA invent?) No, Preparation H is not the right answer. Buzzz! Fail. It's WD-40! Yep. And the asteroid's name is 212DA14. I'm sure we can ductape something better together. NASA also brought us Tang, not McGuyver. Who remembers Tang? We used to drink it with Ripple. NASA also brought us Velcro and the stickiness of Postets. Time to refund the space race. Don't mind me. Post-fever babble.

Watch as 2012 DA14 buzzes by (that's not exactly a cuddly name.)

NASA also gave us Teflon and super-absorbant adult diapers.

 Tang - can you even still get that stuff?

I don't know about Tang, but an astronaut at MacExpo gave me frozen ice cream—Neopolitan, mind you. So very Italian. Or is it Spumoni. Who remembers spumoni? Who can even pronounce it? Think I'll have another Tang & Ripple.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

That dread virus

That virus I've been beating back with a flyswatter the past couple of weeks finally got me. The 4-6 week plague that is going around surely is pl-ague-ing me! Whenever I was feeling a bit off color during the past month, I stayed in bed (when I could) for a day—it worked wonders—or it kept the virus more or less at bay. 

It nailed me once on Jan 20th, asserted conjugal visitation rights with an earache on the 30th. But now it's full-fledged headhold replete with nightsweats.
I manage to stave it off for so long—working too hard, no days off, & teaching. I gotta coach kids and emcee the POL event this afternoon.

"My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night"...

Well, I made it through emceeing Poetry out Loud—Lawd know what I said during the filler moments between poems while being under the influence of double Sudafed and lattéd up into an adrenalin lather. I vaguely remember singing Frost's Whose woods these are I think I know (to the tune of Hernando's Hideaway) the audience.
Sneezing so hard, I'm leaving my tonsil on the ceiling. Now if only I had some tonsils. I think I sneezed them out ages ago. Had a rather unfortunate intersection with a sneeze and dinner.

You know you're sick when you fix a piece of salmon (favorite food) and only take two bites and pour the glass of wine back in the bottle. Funny how there's still room for the chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is medicinal.
Fever & sweats all night long. My grannie always said the sweats are good—means the fever's broken. Clammy days are here again. Didn't teach today–good call. Feel pretty run over by a mack truck. I hate to cancel work again, but I want to get over this one and not get a relapse. Wait, this is the relapse.

There are ten million times more viruses than stars in the universe.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet, scene v

Careful, Fortinbrtas is on his way.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I was so looking forward to going to MacExpo 2013. 

But my long day at the Social Media conference at Stanford the day before, wiped me out. It was a 12-hour day from door to door. I left before dawn, with the moon still up, and I arrived home well after sunset. First full moon of the year. 

Too much input. Too much time on the road, though Stanford's only 40 miles away. Commute home was classic. I hid out at Costco in Foster City for an hour.

The next day, I felt like I was run over by a tank—or maybe a Mack truck—so I stayed home thinking that at least I had two more days to attend MacExpo.

I won a coveted iFan pass from MacWorld, for tweeting—which meant I could attend all the MacExpo seminars and panels. I was pretty excited about attending MacExpo. I even took time off work to Make it So. Sore throat didn't help matters either. But hot tea did wonders.

Alas, Friday also had other plans for me. I awoke at 4:30 AM with the beginnings of an earache. Squeeze, twinge. Boom boom. Crackle crackle. It was nearly dawn before I fell back to sleep. So I didn't rush out the door until the crack of noon.

What I learned the hard way, was that when one has a budding earache, going down the 3.6 mile-long transbay BART tube at 135 feet below sea level, is a painful experience.

The lowest place in North America, Badwater, in Death Valley, is 282 feet below sea level. But you don't have the weight of the San Francisco Bay above your head and you're not whizzing along at 70 MPH down the rabbit hole.

The idea of an underwater transbay tube along the bottom of San Francisco Bay was proposed in the 19th century by eccentric, some say he was mad as a hatter—Emperor Norton, the self-proclaimed "Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico." Norton, who abolished, congress, was literature's muse for many writers from Mark Twain, and Robert Louis Stevenson, to Neil Gaiman.

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, aka Joshua A Norton

The first transbay proposal was submitted by the builder of the Panama Canal in 1920—essentially the same plan BART used to build the world's longest and deepest sunken tunnel (in 1965-69, it opened in 1973). The tunnel withstood the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which destroyed the Bay Bridge.

But I digress. Definitely canals were invoked. Perhaps not the palindrome: a man, a plan, a canal—Panama! I had to do careful snorkel snorts both descending to the bottom of the bay floor and ascending to the SF Embarcadero stop. The trick is to know when to pinch your nostrils and how hard to blow—too much pressure and you'll damage your eardrum.

My eustachian tubes were truly plugged so it was touch and go. I was constantly yawning and rotating my lower jaw like a donkey to keep them open.

When you equalize the pressure between the middle ear eustachian tubes and the atmosphere, whether by yawning or blowing your nose, there is an audible pop, or click, which can be heard by others. But then, everything sounds loud—including your own voice—until the canal closes again.

Nothing was as bad as the time I had a head cold in Cuzco and when the bus descended from the Andean pass above Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, I was screaming in pain, and John had to coax the busdriver to stop at the overlook.

I took so many Sudafeds to relieve the pressure, my heart was beating fast as a hummingbird's. I took so many Sudafeds I would've tested positive for drugs. Hell, I wanted drugs, to obliterate the pain.

Of course I was already technically on Andean drugs on account of the high altitude. Coca leaves and rock lime weren't cutting it. But my teeth didn't hurt. I couldn't even feel them or my gums.

My left eardrum blew—there was blood on the pillow the next morning. Things sounded weird for a long time. Sometimes when I get into a noisy space, my eardrum beats its tympanum with every noise.

My right eardrum is scarred from when I was a child and had double earaches on Christmas Eve. It must've been pretty bad because the doctor came all the way from Point Reyes Station on Christmas Day replete with his little black doctor bag. That's the only time my grannie ever called the doctor to make a house call.

Now, the problem is, that I've cleared my passages—that I can hear everything far too well. And I do mean everything. Rustling paper is excruciating. Other people's iPod earbuds are too loud. People thoughtlessly rustling their swag bags during a seminar had me moving seats early and often just to escape the noise.

MacExpo staff gave me a Ricola to suck on—which helped a bit. But the ambient noise in the hall was wearing my reserves down. Then there were all the Mac fans meandering in thundering herds and droves to negotiate around. 

I managed to make two passes around the exhibit floor to see if I had missed anything. I got some great technical advice on SSD hard drives from OWC, my go-to online store. But they didn't have anything for sale.

Aside from the maddening crowds, on the show floor there were a whole lot of guitarists, vague, blurred incarnations of Jimi Hendrix trapped in bowels of a bad Xerox machine, licking their so-called chops at every intersection—ostensibly showing off the latest music app or interface. ERG! 

Certainly the music toys were amazing—the musicians, not so much.

Of course I was looking forward to going to MacExpo on the final day as well, but today I feel so rotten, I think I'll pass. The only things I really wanted were a tiny iPhone speaker, and a bluetooth keyboard—and the prices weren't great. And I'm in no mood to actually listen to mini speaker performance, let alone, make a rational decision. I'm afraid I'd have at it with a flyswatter.

The swag was almost nonexistent. I would've liked getting my New York Times word portrait done but the line was too long yesterday and I'm not one for standing in line. Besides, it's not the same as back in the good old days, when Apple was part of the MacExpo matrix.

What happened to the delicious madness of MacExpo? Those magical Alice in Wonderland moments?

Most of the vendors were selling iPhone or iPad apps. I don't own either one. I played with some iPad drawing styluses, and a painting app. I prefer the real thing—pen, pencil. or pastel on paper. I drew a galaxy of star lilies as onlookers champed at the bit for their turn. Still, there was some amazing iPad and digital art at the art show.

There was very little software or hardware at MacExpo for the traditional Mac user to play with—other than offers from scanner and printer vendors who were touting their iOS compatibility horns. 

Yet the audience was jammed-packed with MacBook users. And no, they weren't just 50+ somethings. There were quite a few even older geezers present too. So much for the snide comment of one twenny-something to another about iOS apps, intended target audience—if you hafta ask—and rampant ageism. 

One young vendor asked why I was even attending the show since I didn't have iPhone or iPad—as if I was a Luddite. Other than the urge to smack him one, I too wondered why I was there. 

I'm not particularly interesting in owning an iPhone, or at least, not the hefty contract. I like my dumbphone's annual T-Mobile pay-as-you-go bill which costs me all of $200 a year. Can you say, hey big spender?

Besides, I can't even begin to read anything on the iPhone's tiny screen without going cross-eyed. Why would I want to surf on that? What I've noticed is that everyone's playing solitaire on their smartphones and tablets on BART. Wow. Think I'll stick to my Kindle for a while longer.

And I'm waiting for the iPad Retina to become available under Apple Refurbs before taking the plunge. Just because I keep elderly Macs up and running long past their expiration date, and I don't have an iOS gadget, doesn't mean I can't be savvy about the software. I was irritated, to say the least.

Swag levels are next to nil. The John Lennon Bus wasn't there either—they always had serious swag. Besides, they really put on a good show. Most of the vendors have tiny kiosks and stand around like it's a cocktail party. But no booze. No entertaining floor shows, not like in the good old days. 

Roxio wasn't there with their contests and funny prizes. I didn't see one of my favorite software developers, Roger Wagner who created the first graphic paint programs for Apple, and developed HyperStudio, used to run a mean Mac "pretzel bar" booth. The amazing conversations we'd have, and the people we'd meet, while hanging out with Roger as co-pilot.
Roger Wagner didn’t just read the first book on programming the Apple computer - he wrote it. Steve Wozniak
The seminars I had access to were mostly focused around iOS apps. This year's MacExpo star was the iPhone. My other cellphone is a dumbphone. One seminar on iBook (iPad) authorship was geared toward the traditional Mac user—lots of great tips on both platforms. 

The travel panel was good too. The Hollywood director/author who kitted up his iPad with a monopod, a wide-angle lens and a camera light to take videos of the show, was enthusiastically vouching the merits of the iPad and iPhone for big filming projects. 

I attend MacExpo to see the innovation. MacExpo is a bit like a Maker Fair. There were a couple of cool projects in various stages of development. Many solar panels and even a water battery recharger. Myriad iPhone skins and kooky iPad cases—my favorite kickstarter project, from the guy whose booth was a green teardrop trailer‚ was a bungee cord with four clown noses attached to the corners of an iPad. Wavy Gravy on a trampoline came to mind.

I did manage to get to the iFixit seminar, which I liked so much I attended it twice. Few women in the repair panel audience. I got some technical advice on fixing my MacBookPro inverter light. They said, piecaecake! I'd already replaced the hard drive with an Other World Computing SSD Seagate hybrid drive and got fantastic boot times—17 seconds.

MacWorld senior editor Chris Breen was moderator of the second iFixit panel. There was a lot of discussion on keeping older technology alive as it's next to impossible to truly recycle them—whether dumbphone or iPod. 

The trace rare elements used to make smartphones are lost, and the sheer amount of "upstream" elements needed to make our toys and gadgets was enormous. The latest MacBooks and the iPads, with throwaway technology, are not good for recycling—you can't separate the batteries from the frame—they blow up! 

So, we were of a like mind, in keeping our components alive for a s long as possible. The iFixit guys were impressed that I kept my PPC iMac alive for so long, and said the power supply was suspect in those old iMacs. It was replaceable as long as the capacitors weren't bad. 

However, with that said, they all agreed that trying to resurrect my 2005 PPC iMac probably wasn't worth it as I can't upgrade the software past Tiger. Chris Breen said it had a good run. Catch and release.

It was good to catch up with Chris after the panel. I reminded him of how he once beaned me with a little MacWorld office kit—back in the day when MacExpo swag was good. He laughed and said, I was lucky—he broke some other guy's tooth. Maybe Chris wanted to be a baseball pitcher in another lifetime.

I'm not much of a starstruck fan, though I was wearing an iFan pass. I admire Chris's wit and his intellect as a writer. He always writes back when I have a technical question. We had a sweet good old days moment. Dite. Angels dancing on a pinhead.

A spontaneous Steve Jobs shrine appeared last night. Flowers, Weird Mac thingies, candles. Something I would've like to have seen. So at least Steve was invoked.

Today, the MacExpo event is closing with a drumming circle.

Think I'll pass on that one too.


On iClouds & Motherships

Lloyd Reynolds' Calligraphic Legacy