Feb. 1st, 2017 07:01 am
northwestmagpie: (Default)

Be brave, everyone. February's upon us.
northwestmagpie: (Default)
So January 20th is the day on which this country will install, as President, more amoral, petty, and dangerous than any we've ever considered for this office, and who shows no signs of improving in future.

On January 21st, I will take part in the Seattle Women's March to protest the ascension of the Orange Shitgibbon. I've got a small bag, in which I'll carry a list of what to expect if I'm arrested, some Maalox (in case we're tear-gassed), and my phone. I plan to dress warmly and keep my face covered. And I plan to join in all the chanting and marching I can that day.

I've called my state Senators and Representatives, and I'm looking forward to a year of making it clear that Trump has got to go.

And maybe I'll get some pics. :D
northwestmagpie: (I'm Not Sure)
The Pacific Northwest has something approaching four seasons. We get winter, which is usually rainy, blustery, and chilly, from . . . well, November through March. Spring starts somewhere around the end of March and lolls around until June. Around the end of June, Summer suddenly rages in, and everything's hot and muggy from July to mid-September, making everyone long for rainstorms once again. And after all that, Fall drops in, cozy and gray as a beloved old blanket.

Only occasionally have we had snow since I moved here.

December 2016 brought a couple of snowfalls, light and lovely - lacy flakes that left maybe a quarter-inch of snow on the streets. January 2017 brought only one snowfall so far. Since New Year's Day, we've mostly been gifted with ice, in the form of frost on the lawns, ice on the roads, and air that felt like having a pincushion shoved pinhead-side up through your face.

When driving on snow, I go slowly and try not to panic when it feels like my tires (which are all-weather, not studded for snow) are about to swing in a direction perpendicular to me. But this morning, there wasn't snow, just rain, plinking down in cold, silent drops. I got into the car, cleared the windshield, buckled up, started the car, drove to the first intersection off my house . . . and felt my back tires slip.

The tires are practically brand new.

It's foggy out and tomorrow's forecast is for rain & snow - "snowshowers." Lovely. I'm so glad that the commute for this job is only 10 minutes long.
northwestmagpie: (Default)
I'm listening to John Pinette talk about going to Italy to get dinner after spending weeks in France for an acting job. Despite the fact that he's told by the waiters that they're going to "feed him" (after he tells them, "Sono affomato," or "I'm starving"), the routine makes me salivate at the thought of a huge, multi-course meal.

Anybody who knows me knows that I love food. Occasionally, I even cook it. And on New Year's Day, I make lentils with sausage, for good luck throughout the year.

Yikes, I really hope the year goes better than this year's batch of lentils.

I got good, green lentils. I got sausage. Carrots, celery, onion - here's where I screwed up. I picked up a large red onion. While red onions taste wonderful on sandwiches or cooked with beef, they are awful when braised with lentils. They turn sharp and bitter, whereas a good white onion (or even a yellow one) adds a mellow savoriness to the stew.

Then I couldn't locate the herbs I wanted, but found a bottle of Herbes de Provence. Oh, God, why did I do that? All I wanted was a little sage, bay leaf, and parsley. Instead, I got a melange of green herbs, including . . . ::facepalms:: rosemary. Rosemary. That upped the bitter content by a factor of 100%.

Not to be outdone, I added garlic, beef stock, and then sangria wine. I wasn't thinking straight, or I would have known that just because it's a red wine I love to drink, it doesn't make it a red wine that should go in lentils. Good grief.

What I ended up with was a pot of lentils and sausage with a bitter bite and sweetness at war with each other in every bite. Oh, yeah, and the sausage braised for so long that the taste of it boarded lifeboats and headed out to sea to be rescued.


At least the spaghetti and meatballs I made turned out better.
northwestmagpie: (Default)
(Note: there is nothing that can directly attribute this speech to Tecumseh, who was chief of the Shawnee Nation. However, as noted by Amy Sturgis, who has written several books about Tecumseh, the sentiments strongly correlate with those he expressed during his lifetime.)

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view,
and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long
and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song
for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing
a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food
and for the joy of living;
if you see no reason for giving thanks,
the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing,
for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear
of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray
for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different
way; sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

- attributed to Tecumseh* (1768?-1813), Shawnee Nation
northwestmagpie: (Default)

Talk about a long wait for a happy ending.

Read more... )
So now for the next step: getting my diabetes back under control . . . and changing my careers, because office work has burned me out, and temping is for the birds. But more on that later.

'Night, all. :)
northwestmagpie: (Default)
I thought I'd provide a little backstory on my thyroid lump, and the trouble it's caused me lately. So here's the repost from the LJ entry I made as [personal profile] xanath, back in October 2006. That's how long I've had this damn lump.

So You Want To Be A Surgery Candidate

Read more... )

And this was just how it started. Tomorrow I'll tell you how it all ended this last week, and how it's taken me this long to realize I've been insane about my job search in Washington.
northwestmagpie: (Default)
Oh, God.

It's still before noon. Why am I awake? . . . oh, wait. Yeah, that was the sound of something toppling on its side. It sounded like something heavy, too. That's why I'm up.

I live in a house with children.

Read more... )


There is a betting pool in place, in case you're wondering, on how long Bob will last. Oh, not whether he's going to die - no fisherman wants to see another one bite the dust; they see too much of it each season. But they know it won't be long before Bob wrecks his boat to the point where it's nothing more than salvage material in his mind - and that'll mean Bob will go home and find a new hobby at which to suck, and locals will salvage and restore a perfectly good, extraordinarily expensive boat. A win-win situation for all is what they have in mind.

I'd like to chuck money into that pot, but I have a feeling the odds aren't all that good.
northwestmagpie: (Default)
It's a holiday - granted, one that I don't celebrate the way I used to, if only because I'm not expected to. (Having to buy food for the barbeque AND prepare it, then trek all over to find a spot to watch fireworks . . . yeah, I'm happy to lounge around indoors and then head out for a nice walk on the beach afterwards.) And last night we had a bunch of teenagers get into a screaming match with a man carrying a gun. It took some time for the Tacoma police to show up, but we had already gone to the porch, swords piled on the couch for easy access, and Jason carrying an oosik. Actually, it was Stefan's oosik he was carrying. As for why it's in the house . . . I'll explain that later.

Right now, all is somewhat peaceful at the Black Rose Bar & Grill, and I'm gonna get more sleep. I had a bad day yesterday; either it was one hell of a 24-hour stomach bug, or stress and humidity combined to knock my digestive system into orbit. Feh.


Jun. 30th, 2013 11:58 pm
northwestmagpie: (Hallelujah)

So July is here. 2013 is half over. Thankfully.

Enjoy the summer.
northwestmagpie: (It's Not Hell But You Can See It From He)
Holy shit, brothers and sisters. It's not that bad outside - about 75 degrees right now - but it's hot as hell inside. I've got the window cracked for fresh, cool air, and I'm definitely buying a fan tomorrow. The house has no A/C, not even a swamp cooler; given my hatred for swamp coolers, though (noisy, moldy-smelling, ineffective POSes that they are), I would sooner have a lady's fan at hand. (In "things your electronics may be trying to tell you," my screensaver shows the pyramids at Giza. No, dammit, it is NOT that hot.)

Phoenix has been having cookie-sheet weather (temperatures last week were at a high of 119 degrees), and I've given thanks that I no longer live there. People can exclaim, "Oh, it's a dry heat!" all they want - yes, I know, I experienced that dry heat for 15 years. What's so fucking wonderful about dry heat? You want to know what else has dry heat? A kiln. A crematory. Wildfires. I'd sooner live where the temperatures drop by 10 - 20 degrees by nightfall and I can actually relax and get some sleep, than in a place that will roast me alive if I try to enjoy the daylight, and continue the job while I'm tossing on sweat-soaked sheets.

June is fired. June is not only fired, it is fired without references; I'm having security guards box up its things, and will probably press charges for drunk and disorderly conduct, destruction of property, and anything else that'll stick. I and several other people lost cats or had our beloved furballs stare death in the face. (I will one day have to draw a picture of a cat staring down Death, with a caption reading, "Go ahead. You've got eight more tries.") One friend, who has been in counseling with her husband to save their 20-year marriage, was informed by said husband that he wanted a divorce . . . and then found the duplicitous asshole had filed papers back when they first started counseling. One thing I'll say: finding out that unpleasant little fact had the effect of galvanizing said friend to set fire to the marriage and wish the asshole the best of luck living with himself. (He's the kind of passive-aggressive narcissist who whines about hurting her but insists this is the best of all possible solutions. In that, he's right - getting rid of him is going to be the best thing for her life, sanity, and overall health.) Another friend is having car issues. If I sat down and made a list of all the things that have gone wrong in June, I'd be tempted to just say the hell with all of it, and stay in bed throughout July.

And the hypercalcemia is taking a toll on me. One of the symptoms is fatigue; I am beat most of the day no matter how long I sleep, whether or not I take a nap in the evening. Writing this has drained me. I ache, and (sorry for the TMI) constipation is making me miserable. I don't take calcium supplements, and my doctor has said that it doesn't matter how much calcium I actually eat; cutting that out would be a drop in the bucket compared to what my spastic little parathyroid glands are shooting into my system daily. Thank God the surgery is on the 25th.

Now things promise to be a bit wacky. My friend Kel has insisted that she'll take me to the hospital and back. (Yeah, so not driving myself to surgery and back. The whole bit about being drugged to the gills before they slip the knife in made me reconsider that idea.) Annika, my housemate, has insisted she's coming along and staying with me. And Charles, our housemate, has also insisted he wants to come and visit. Meanwhile, my surgery is scheduled for 8 in the morning. They're going to all be there . . . my crazy little tribe of Goths and geeks.

I so owe you a post on my home life, because none of you currently have any idea why it is I'm terrified. ;)

And finally, to wrap this up, Stefan says that the salmon season up around False Pass has been fantastic - which heralds a boom season at Port Moller. This likely means he'll get his full set of hours this season, instead of cutbacks; he'll be tired and cranky as hell when he gets home in September, but he won't be scrambling to find part-time work to round out a rattling bank account this year either.

You know . . . I may be tired, but this was actually fun. I think I will tell you guys the story of the Black Rose Bar & Grill sooner rather than later.

Night, darlings. Love you guys.
northwestmagpie: (I'm Not Sure)
It's quiet without Lucky, and lonely, but I'm healing from the shock of losing him. I suspect the pain will be lifelong - of course it will; you never lose someone you love without pain - but the grief is fading as I recall him, and realize that 99% of my memories of him were joyful, happy, or funny ones. Like the time he startled me and I accidentally dumped a glass of tea all over him. Or when he stared down a Jack Russell terrier in Phoenix, and sent the mutt whimpering away with its tail between its legs.

Just so many memories of a beautiful, loving, happy cat who enticed people wherever he went. And I am so glad that I let him go without pain or fear. I am so glad he went in my arms, knowing how much I loved him. Mom died surrounded by her children, two of whom I know loved her unreservedly, so there are two family members I've sent off from this world without a regret.

In the meantime, I've been listening to music to calm my mind. And my mind has responded by jumping up and embracing a couple of ideas for stories. I've been emailed by [profile] wiebke to contribute a story I'd written for Storm Constantine's last anthology to her new upcoming one; I'll see if I can configure that in time for publication. The other story takes place in my Talarian world, and may be a short story or novella - a young boy raised in a matriarchal society loses his mother, and sets out to avenge her death and take back what was stolen from her. How he's going to do it is pretty simple; the implications are the knot I have to untangle.

I am also preparing for surgery on July 25. That's the earliest they can get me in to get rid of this damned node and the parathyroid glands. Oh, joy, hooray . . . the fun of recuperation and the possibility of losing my voice for two weeks. Or a month.

I'm going to stop before I start feeling sorry for myself again.
northwestmagpie: (At Peace)
I have dreaded writing about this since Wednesday.

# # # #

I still don't understand how it started, but on Sunday night, Lucky came into my room and started for his food dish. Then he stopped, hunched up, and vomited two small frothy pools of yellow vomit.

I cleaned it up, wiped his face, and got him some grass from outside. We don't use fertilizers or pesticides on the grass; we mulch it with clippings. I felt safe giving Lucky a small amount, which he ate. After that, I fed him a small amount of hairball remover - the dark, gloopy stuff, which he loathed. He then curled up and went to sleep.

On Monday morning, I woke up and found two more small pools of yellowish vomit on the bedroom floor. Lucky was in my closet, lying in a corner. I touched his nose and checked his mouth; he had no lesions, wasn't drooling, and showed no signs of dehydration or fever. I gave him some fresh water, cleaned up the vomit, and went to work after asking my housemate Annika to keep an eye on him.

Monday evening, I returned home to find Lucky hadn't eaten or drunk all day, but had vomited again on the library floor. With Annika's help, I got a syringe of water down Lucky, smeared corn syrup on his gums, and got him to eat more grass. Then I went out and picked up feline digestive drops to help settle his uneasy stomach. I gave him a dose. An hour later, he threw up again - three larger pools of liquid that smelled like chicken that had gone off. By now I was frightened, and I took him to a local vet. Lucky was x-rayed to see if he had any foreign matter in his stomach, and had his vitals checked. All looked okay - even his temperature was normal - and the vet told me that she believed Lucky had a hairball or bad food on his stomach. She told me to let him fast for 8 hours, and if he was still vomiting, to bring him back in.

Lucky was sleeping again in the morning when I got up. I left instructions for Annika or her husband to call me if that changed at all, and went to work with a heavy heart. When I came home, I saw a pool of water on my floor that wasn't urine - but it also had that raw, acidic smell. I cleaned it up, found Lucky, put him in his carrier, and took him back to the vet.

This time they took blood, palpitated his stomach, and tried to figure out what was wrong, while hydrating him via IV. His stomach hurt him; he didn't cry, but flinched when the vet touched him. Otherwise, he was his usual patient self with the vet, only complaining when his temperature was taken. I held him, rubbed his head and chin, and tried not to cry. All I could think was, Please let this be food poisoning. Please don't let it be kidney failure. Please.

One should be very careful with one's prayers. One should make certain there's no answer worse than the one that's feared.

Tuesday night passed badly for me. I woke up, certain I heard him walking across the floor, drinking from his fountain - which I had unplugged and placed on a shelf out of his reach - or eating from his dish, which rested on my dresser. I would have given anything to open my eyes and see him sprawled on the rug, blinking his eyes in the light and giving me a rippling "Meow?" Why are you up, Mom?

Wednesday morning, I stopped by the hospital to see him. He was awake, a little nervous, but happy to see me; the vet assistant brought him into an exam room, and I gave him a hug and many chin scritchies. He didn't purr, but he blinked his eyes at me, got off the table, and jumped down to the chair so I could kneel at eye level and lean my head against his. The only thing that annoyed him was the IV line attached to his leg, which he glared at with loathing with every step he took. I spent 30 minutes with him instead of 15, and was late to work. All day long I waited for a call from the hospital, half-fearing it would be bad news, yet terrified as the silence stretched on. At 5 p.m., I bolted from the office, tearing off to the hospital as fast as I could.

When I was halfway there, the phone call came.

They thought they'd found a mass somewhere close to his gall bladder, and wanted to do an ultrasound.

I agreed at once. All I could think was, if it's cancer, surely they can do surgery. They can remove it. He'll have many more months with me, if not years. He'll survive this. I'll take care of him. At this point, I'd already spent what savings I'd managed to accumulate on his care; yet I knew that, if I asked, Stefan would help me with the surgery costs. I could pawn things - my laptop, Mom's wedding ring, other belongings. Whatever it took, I'd do it if it would save my tuxedo boy.

When I arrived at the hospital, the receptionist asked me to wait for the doctor. The vet came out, and asked if I'd come into a room with him. When we sat down, he told me what the ultrasound had revealed.

A "linear mass" in his lower intestine, likely a length of string that he'd swallowed, and that from the look of things had perforated the gut. Fluid had filled his abdomen. His gall bladder and spleen were enlarged. The radiologist, who had worked with intestinal perforations for years, had told the vet flat-out that she would not place Lucky's chances with surgery at higher than 50 percent. And the specialist informed us both that if Lucky did survive surgery, he would be likelier to die within days.

This is the part I hate to remember, because a voice in my head insists that I should have demanded a second opinion. I should have insisted on the surgery. I should have tried to lengthen my boy's life.

Instead, I turned to the vet and said, "I won't make him go through this. Not if his chances are this bad."

The vet told me he thought I'd made a fair decision, and he would bring Lucky to me. He did, wrapped in a hospital blanket, and placed him on the table. Lucky stared at him with wide-pupilled eyes; he'd been given painkillers, so he felt nothing, but I was crying and that upset him. So I wiped my eyes, forced myself to smile and calm down, and began saying goodbye to him.

I had an hour in which to pet him, watch him wander and explore the room (all the while scowling at that damn IV), and tell him how sorry I was that I'd failed him. I rubbed his chin and head, and despite the fact that he didn't purr, Lucky turned his head so that his face rested in my palm - his usual way of telling me not to stop petting him. His way of telling me he loved me.

He nuzzled my hair. I choked on sobs.

The vet came back in. I started to put Lucky on the table, and saw that blanket. He'd shown me how much he loathed it, and so I tossed it onto a chair. "He's not dying on that thing," I told the vet. "He hates it." I picked up my bag, which Lucky had lain on twice while we were in the room, and emptied its contents on the floor. I spread it on the table and placed Lucky on it; he promptly lay on his stomach, front paws stretched out before him like a perfect gentleman. I stroked his head and the back of his neck, and he lowered his head so that his face rested on my other hand.

The vet flushed the IV. Lucky growled; I rubbed the back of his neck again, and he quieted.

Then the vet gave him Propofol. At once Lucky went to sleep, his head pillowed on the back of my hand. And then the vet gave him the final shot of a clear purple liquid, one I could see clearly even though the tears spilled down my face. This stopped his little heart.

He went to sleep knowing that I held him. Hopefully, that I loved him as well.

When he was gone, I held him in my arms and cried.

He would have been nine years old in July. I found him in 2004 on a freeway in Los Angeles, a battered little baby with a broken nose, burned pads, and fleas all over. He greeted me with a purr. He left me with not even a sigh.

And my heart is broken. A healthy, happy, loving cat; a strong cat; felled by a piece of string. My baby boy is gone.

I loved you so much, sweetheart. You were well-named, but I was the lucky one in finding you.


Jun. 1st, 2013 07:51 pm
northwestmagpie: (At Peace)

Happy June, everyone. And now for the part where I give you a rundown of what's going on and why I haven't been around.

I don't have healthcare coverage, but I needed to get my metformin refilled anyway. Nearly 18 months without it had to do some damage, and I was feeling a slew of things: tired, achy, brain-foggy, more exhaustion, more aches, and somewhat blurry vision. So I went to Tacoma Family Medicine and had bloodwork done.

Surprise, surprise: my A1C was 8.5 (not 8.1, as I'd first believed), and other than an HDL of 10 points than it should be, everything checked out fine. But at 10 p.m. that night, I got a call from the hospital. My calcium levels were elevated, and my doctor wanted me to check in to the ER right away. I didn't hesitate--and neither did Stefan; we drove to the ER, where I had seven vials of blood drawn, including one for an ionized calcium test. I sat there for six hours, effecting killing any chance I had of being able to go to work the next morning (April 30), because I was just so exhausted. And Stefan was worried sick. At one point he put his arms around me and said, "You don't get to leave me. I just found you."

I should mention we've been a little emotional with each other since January; a mutual friend died after a 3-year battle with cervical cancer in February, and we went to see her when she was placed in hospice care the month before. To see this lovely, vital woman, who literally lit up any place where she was, lying like a baby bird in a nest of thermal blankets in that hospital room, shredded us both. To see the man who loved her at her memorial service sit quietly, looking like one of the walking dead, was gutting. Here we are, in the second year of our relationship; I don't want to have to step into a hospital room and know he'll never leave it.

So I was a little relieved when the doctor who ran the tests exclaimed, "I don't know why you were brought in here." My calcium levels had already dropped slightly, and my EKG was practically perfect - something else that relieved me, as I was terrified they'd diagnose me with heart disease or congestive heart failure like Mom.

Then I got the test results. All that bloodwork? It revealed one thing: I have hyperparathyroidism.

Some of you don't remember that I have a thyroid node, semi-affectionately nicknamed "Get This Thing The Hell Out of Me," or GT3HOOM. I wrote about it under the Xanath LJ account. Well, the node is probably 4.5 cm at this point; it's as large as a jumbo-sized hen egg, and my doctor, Dr. Bedarev (a wonderful man who has the second most adorable Russian accent next to Walter Koenig's Pavel Chekhov), thinks the node may have put enough pressure on the parathyroid glands (four rice-sized glands on either side of your throat) to cause them to overproduce hormone. Here is the Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms for hyperparathyroidism. Here's a quote from that article:

When calcium levels in your blood fall too low, your parathyroid glands secrete enough PTH to restore the balance. PTH raises calcium levels by releasing calcium from your bones and increasing the amount of calcium absorbed from your small intestine. When blood calcium levels are too high, the parathyroid glands produce less PTH. But sometimes one or more of these glands produce too much hormone, leading to abnormally high levels of calcium (hypercalcemia) and low levels of phosphorus in your blood.

So a surgical consultation has been scheduled for June 7th. I'll be going in for an ultrasound so they can locate the parathyroid glands, and inform me what to expect with regards to the surgery. I've been told the risks are uncommon, but as one of them is "damage to the nerves that control the vocal cords," and I love to sing . . . I intend to tell the surgeon, "Hey, listen - while I appreciate you're going after tiny glands there - don't slip."

Stefan is more nervous about this than I am. I am either too worn out or too cynical to really see this as more than a procedure I have to go through. I'm not borrowing trouble before it comes, but neither am I ignoring the possibilities of what could occur.

# # # #

May in Washington is much like May in Chicago, with a couple of stark differences. The first is that May in Washington is still chilly and rainy, whereas the snow tends to be gone in Chicago by then, and the warmth a little greater. The second is that while the flowers run riot in May in Washington, the temperatures do not create unbearable humidity, nor is it a case of one fine day followed by weeks of sucky weather. This is not the case in Chicago. You get, on average, maybe 2 or 3 days of good weather before the blanket of moisture wafting off Lake Michigan wraps around you and smothers you in heat and the odor of dead alewives. Or so I remember it.

And let's not even go into May in Phoenix. It's already in the triple digits there. This is the month when Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project managers rub their hands with glee, because they're the only utilities in town and EVERYBODY is going to crank the AC just to survive.

So. Spring in Washington has one unusual event, or at least it's unusual to me: in May, the cottonwoods release their fluff. It hasn't been odd to drive down the freeway (in my case, I-5) and see golden-tinted pod fluff descend on the road like fuzzy dehydrated snowflakes.

The joyful thing is that I can watch this stuff twirl and float on the breeze without any ill effects because, as yet, I'm not allergic. (Star jasmine? Yeah, that stuff kills my sinuses. Cottonwood? Nope! Bring it!) But friends here have groused about the trees having tons of arboreal sex. And not just having sex, but indulging in an activity that should be confined to porn sites.

Could be worse, but by the time spring rolls around here, I've had enough of snow and sleet. I've discovered I still love stormy weather and snow, but not a whole frigging year of it.

# # # #

You know, it's been hard getting back into the swing of this. At least now that I understand why I'm so tired, it's been less a matter of, "I'm too beat to write; lemme just fiddle around on the Net," and more, "Look, just take a nap, and when you're rested, write." So last night, when I came home, I went to bed. It was 6:30. I woke up around 11:45 p.m., fiddled around on the computer, and conked back out around 1:00 a.m. I woke up at 11:00 a.m.

I guess I really needed the sleep . . . but, damn it, I hate sleeping my weekend away like that.

This thing can't come out of me soon enough.


May. 1st, 2013 06:02 pm
northwestmagpie: (Default)
Well, it's May 1st - International Worker's Day and Beltane, among other things. (Yes, I know all about Jonathan Coulter.) Have fun, enjoy the day (hopefully, the East Coast and Midwest are all thawed out now, although I hear Colorado is still in a deep freeze), and let's hope none of the idiocy that blighted this past April shows up this month.

I intended to write a lot more than I did, but after the Boston Marathon bombing, I wanted to crawl into a hole. I hate April. Have I mentioned that yet?

So, welcome, May.

Here's hoping it's a damn sight better than last month.
northwestmagpie: (Default)
The Westboro Baptist Church, described as having a "Derp du Soleil" traveling circus.

::crying with laughter::
northwestmagpie: (Default)
The Branch Davidians committed mass suicide in April 1993.

The Alfred Murrah building was bombed in Oklahoma City in April 1995.

The Columbine High School shootings took place in April 1999.

And now the Boston Marathon bombing will join these events as historical April disasters.

# # # #

I have watched very little coverage of the bombing itself. When I found out it happened, I made certain two friends in the area were safe; I then clicked on a news link and saw the photographs of what had happened. The first photographs were the worst in a way: blood lay in swaths on the ground, as if pieces of flesh had been dragged over it, and there were no signs of injured people.

That changed after the first five pictures.

I've seen a lot of horrific events in my life, and I have no taste for the way the media drag these out for public consumption, as if they're offering up teaser trailers for the latest blockbuster--albeit one meant to incite our collective anger and grief. Coverage of the OKC bombing ran for days; Columbine, for nearly a month; 9/11 has, it seems, finally lost steam as the Great National Mourning Glory. Bad enough that I can go to a news site and see the pictures of people with limbs hanging by threads. I've seen Nick Berg beheaded, people leaping from the Twin Towers, coverage of Iraqi civilians with horrific burns and lacerations. At some point yesterday, my brain said, Okay, I'm done. No more. I'm going to go out of my mind if I see anything else.

But what struck me more than the shots of men and women bleeding and in agony were the shots of men and women helping the wounded. Two bombs exploded, one erupting into a fireball present in many of the pictures; yet as people ran from the blast, others turned and ran back toward it. Many, many others. Some were veterans taking part in the Boston Marathon; some were civilians; many first responders also rushed onto the scene. They were living reminders that not all of the human race is composed of bloodthirsty goons and cowards.

One man, Carlos Arredondo, has become famous as "the man in the cowboy hat." The picture shows him running alongside a young man in a wheelchair. The young man's legs have both been severed below the knees from the blast; he is in gray-faced shock. Arredondo was holding the young man's mangled artery, cutting off the blood flow and likely saving his life.

A peace activist, Arredondo had a son, Alexander, a Marine lance corporal who died in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004. He got the news on his 44th birthday. On hearing it, he went into his garage, grabbed a torch and a can of gasoline, climbed inside his van, and set it on fire. He survived. In 2007, he was severely beaten at an anti-war protest. In December 2011, as American troops were withdrawing from Iraq, his other son Brian killed himself. Arredondo says of himself and his wife, "We are broken people." And yet he came to the Boston Marathon to support a group running for fallen veterans--and kept a man from dying.

No one would have blamed this man for running to safety. I certainly wouldn't.

There will always be those who want to destroy and maim the world around them. Finding those who will reach out to strangers in dire need, no matter what their own straits may be, may seem like a miracle these days. I'm beginning to wonder if it's really as rare as we think. It would, to paraphrase Tennessee Williams, be pretty to think otherwise, but would it necessarily be untrue?
northwestmagpie: (Default)
Cooking is a joy for me. I grew up eating a rather monotonous diet that revolved around the cheapest stuff we could buy at the store, which tended to be hot dogs, bologna, ground beef, the occasional canned ham, instant potatoes and Kraft macaroni, and cans and cans of green beans, corn, and spinach. When I started learning how to cook, and discovered there was more to food than hamburger and Oscar Mayer, I fell in love with food. I developed an appetite for food quite like a swinger's libido; I wanted to try things at least once. (And some, once tried, never tempted me again. Menudo, longaniza, hominy . . .)

So I live in the Pacific Northwest. You might have heard there's a lot of fish caught here. I had some idea about using local fish to make clam chowder. And I foolishly mentioned this to my beloved, Stefan, who promptly introduced me to the geoduck.

Stefan loves my cooking. Stefan also loves fish. And finally, Stefan's an alumn of Evergreen State College, located in Olympia, WA . . . and this is their mascot.

The geoduck, a hard-to-catch mollusk, is renowned for the fact that it looks like exactly what you think it does. Stefan told me what he thought happened when the trustees of Evergreen had to come up with a mascot for the school. Somebody threw out the idea of the geoduck. "Oh, because it's a native creature?" one trustee replied. "Because it's tasty?" another asked. "No," the first trustee said. "Because it looks like a horse's prick, and because we can."

Yeah, you didn't think I was going to back away from cooking it after hearing that story, did you? Seriously, anything that looks that bad must inversely be insanely delicious.

It turns out that geoduck has a flavor described as resembling that of scallops--firm and sweet. That's if you use the body meat; the siphon meat tends to be firm and chewy, and should be fried. I found out how to clean it and prepare it, located a couple of recipes, and then took Stefan off to the Uwajimaya market in Renton this past Sunday to find geoduck.

That's where we ran into a problem.

Geoducks are notoriously hard to catch. See the shell? It looks blunt, but people have complained of having their hands sliced by those things as they attempted to catch geoducks. (Stefan caught one once, purely by accident. He had no choice but to cook it; he killed it when he stepped on it, and catching geoducks without a license is illegal.) The difficulty in catching them is reflected in the price: $27.99 per pound, and the geoducks Uwajimaya had for sale started at 3-4 pounds.

Dejected, I started to give up on making chowder, when Stefan said, "Hey. Here's an idea: why don't we get some scallops and razor clams, and make that into chowder?" So we got some small bay scallops, some pre-packaged razor clams, and headed for home.

Now we share home with Stefan's adopted little sister Annika, her husband Jason, their two boys Sebastian and Griffin, and a recent addition, Charles. (The house is huge. The housekeeping is disastrous.) We unpacked, and I found an earthernware pot of Annika's, one I thought would make an excellent dish in which to make chowder. We'd used it for a number of dishes before, from goulash to beef stroganoff to lemon chicken with orzo (I'll share that recipe later). So I prepped my ingredients and started cooking. First in was chopped cottage bacon; after the fat rendered, I took out the meat and added chopped shallots . . . and wondered why I could hear the gas flame hiss. But I paid more attention to my shallots, making sure they didn't burn, before I tossed in clam juice, then the bacon, and then cream.

And that was when I heard the gas flame sizzle against the pot. I looked, and to my horror I saw cream beading on the bottom edge of the pot.

I got a metal pot, put it on the stove, got potholders to grab the earthernware pot . . . and as I raised it, it broke loose from the bottom. Cream, bacon, and shallots went everywhere. It was an ungodly mess, and brought the boys, Annika, and Stefan to see what happened when I started cursing. The mess took half an hour to clean, and I wanted to cry the whole night.

Well, fine, I told myself. I'll try again tomorrow night. I've got to cook the damn fish before it spoils, anyway.

Stefan got more cream, bacon, and shallots. I prepared potatoes when I got home from work on Monday, and started my chowder-making all over again. Bacon? Check. Shallots? Check. Leeks? Yep. Cream? Oh, yeah. Razor clams--wait, why the hell are these all in one sheet? Unsliced razor clams look bizarre, and I knew very little about what should go into the pot and what should be tossed. Nevertheless, I set to trimming the clam meat. In short, I took my eye off the pot.

And far too soon for my comfort, I smelled something burning.

I took a spoon and stirred the contents of the pot, cringing when the stench of burned potatoes wafted up. In desperation, I added more potatoes. I turned off the burner, set the pot aside, and ran to the computer to see how to fix a pot of burned chowder. Worcestershire sauce and peanut butter were highly recommended. I can now say that 1 to 2 tablespoons of peanut butter added to chowder does not add an awful taste of peanuts to it--but neither did it help. I finally turned to Annika and Stefan and asked for their opinion: how bad was it?

They tasted it. They didn't spit it out.

"It can't be saved," Stefan said.

"I'm sorry, hon," Annika said. "But it smells like burning. There's no salvaging it."

I almost cried. Out it went, down the garbage disposal. I added water and dishwashing liquid to the pot, with its layer of black, crusted potatoes, leeks and bacon. Stefan hugged me and told me, "You can always try again. Next time, keep the heat down." I felt like an idiot, especially considering how much food I'd just tossed down the drain.

Moral of the story: Always watch the pot. Sometimes, you don't want the damn thing to boil.

Stefan washed the pot and told me I'd come up with a new dish: clam chowder carbonara. I'm going to smother him in his sleep.
northwestmagpie: (I Can Work With That)
I've found harpists who tickle me immensely with their ability and interpretation of some of my favorite songs:

Camille and Kennerly have a YouTube channel, websites, and MP3s on Amazon as well as iTunes. I love their versions of "Paint It Black," "With Or Without You," and the featured video "Judas." (Have I mentioned I love the original video by Lady Gaga as well? Trippy as hell, it was, and hugely entertaining.) Stefan found them first, and was entertained and creeped out by their constant swaying. I can see his point: they look like they're either attempting to charm king cobras, or hamming it up for the camera, and I don't care for it myself. Still, the music's pretty. And the harps are lovely. I can't wait to get down to Phoenix to pick up my harp; I want so badly to learn to play at that level.

I've also started reading some of Tanith Lee's early fiction. I love Lee's Flat Earth series, and some of her later stories give me chills; however, her Vis novels were written to compete with the guys writing pulp epic fiction in the '60s and '70s, and The Storm Lord is a prime example of what happens when a lady of great talent and evocative descriptive ability decides to give the typical tropes a spin. You get scenes of palaces, landscapes, and people that cause your spine to want to curl up on itself set beside some of the hoariest, most sexist tropes created. The first rape occurs in the first 3 pages, and the men and women are cardboard figurines--the heroine is literally tabula rasa, except when the hero/love interest comes on the scene. Of course. I'm finishing it so I can say that I've read the worst book Tanith Lee ever wrote and still was able to get through it without hurling it against the wall. Laughing at it, yes. But not hurling it.
northwestmagpie: (At Peace)
Well, I made it. I got out of Phoenix, moved to Washington, fell in love, went through several jobs, settled into a home life with several other people and my beloved, and survived the entire chaotic mess I made of it all. And then I started putting myself back together.

Some people call it therapy. I call it finding the reasons behind my screw-ups, nailing them up on a board, and then beating them to death so I'm not driven to follow them again.

It's always been hard for me to admit when I need help. Some of you are nodding right now; too much pride, too much self-reliance. But when the voice in your head is that dark, dreaded whisper that tells you that asking for help means admitting you're stupid, a failure, incompetent, helpless--well, killing that voice is my new task in life. I plan on stomping it into the lower levels of Hell. It's made my life a misery and a hell of a lot harder than it's needed to be. I'm done with it.

I've had help, though, and I'm grateful for it, because without it I would never have lasted long in Washington. Having a place to stay while finding a lasting job gave me a chance to actually accomplish that. And Stefan has made it clear that he's going to be there for me when I need him. It's humbling. It's . . . gratifying.

So you're all probably wondering why I've changed my account and stayed here on LJ?

In many cultures, it's appropriate to change your name to reflect the ending of one stage in your life, or the beginning of something new. As for the name itself? Those of you who know my love of shiny things know why I'm the Magpie. [personal profile] xanath is done. Gone.

I'd write a longer post, but I recently rewarded myself with a refurbished ASUS all-in-one computer. I've missed having a decent desktop computer; laptops, I've found, are great for portability, but don't offer much in the way of being able to lose oneself in a particular atmosphere--not unless you buy one with a 21-inch screen and all the bells and whistles. The ASUS does have a nice-sized screen (23.6 inches), and it's staying on my desk. Even Lucky can't find a way to get around it (although I suspect he'll try to lie down in front of it). So I'm enjoying toying with the screensavers (yay, Webshots!), setting up my music library, organizing my files . . . gazing at the screen . . . **ahem.** Yeah, I'm playing with my new toy. I heartily recommend Newegg.com, by the way. The price was low enough for me to save up from two weeks' pay.

So, like I said, I'll write a longer post when I'm through squeeing and playing.



northwestmagpie: (Default)

February 2017



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