bike commute notes:

  • maple trees continue to be too good for this world. The red!
  • the bike counter on the Tilikum Bridge that’s been offline for months was back on! I was bike/scooter #257 westbound this morning.
  • a longtime camp I pass was bare, caution taped, and big scorch marks up the side of the nearby building (a storage facility). Yikes. I hope everybody’s okay.
  • had the lower-level parking garage all to myself for leisurely hair-combing in the bike cage.

Anyway, pretty view from my office today.

view of buildings, autumn trees, river from 9th floor

more

I came here to post and saw that my last post was complaining about smoke. Well. The smoke left, returned, and has lingered, eating up the last warm sunny days before chilly weather and rains set in, probably this weekend.

A couple of weeks of the best weather, stolen. I ride the bus instead of biking, curtail my walks, and feel like I’m waiting.

Favorite picture I took since last post: behold a mole of sugar versus a mole of salt! A friend took Sang and me to the science museum; it’s child-oriented so it was cool being there with the kids.

two labeled clear plastic bottles: one contains a mole of white sugar, the other contains a mole (much less volume) of table salt.

Still listening to Bjork’s albums and Sonic Symbolism podcast, and liked Biophilia a lot. The instrumentation, the concepts, the rhythms.

Sang and I had a little Gatsby festival last year when it went into public domain– we both reread the original and read Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful, and we watched the Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio movies. A few weeks ago I found what may be my favorite adaptation so far, Anna-Marie McLemore’s YA novel Self-Made Boys. The main characters are aged down, and Daisy and Tom are together but not yet engaged. Nicolás Caraveo is a young trans man newly arrived in West Egg; his cousin Daisy helped him get there, but it’s complicated because she’s passing for white. The plot is just different enough from Fitzgerald’s that I don’t know what will happen. The writing and characterizations are beautiful, fresh yet recognizable: Everyone is partial to their own reasons for despising other people, thinks Nicolás. I’m at about the 80% mark and hoping I love it this much when I’ve finished!

cover of Self-Made Boys: a young Latino man with hand on the chest of a young blond man in a suit. Wisteria and hydrangea blossoms frame the figures.

 

as the smoke clears

a small bowl of green, red, and dark purple grapes

Yesterday was weird, because of the smoke. The sky was yellow, the sun was orange, and outdoors didn’t smell good. Sanguinity and I set up the air purifier and stayed inside all day. Like a snow day, without the going out to play part. This new part of the summer weather patterns is a drag… and yet already it feels routine.

This morning the wind had died down, which made it easier on the eyes to get out and go to the farmers market. (I hope the vendors did okay, working nine to two.) Berry season is over, so we branched out to new tables, for very-ripe-eat-today plums and some miscellaneous tiny backyard-style grapes. And tamales, the real draw week after week.

Other things to make a post:

  • Japanese: In addition to Duolingo and WaniKani, I’m trying a 30-day free trial of Bunpro for grammar. I also started listening to a podcast called Slow Japanese. It lives up to its name and I’m quite excited that I can understand about half of it on the first pass! I had been trying small children’s media but a lot of it was higher-pitched than I wanted to listen to repeatedly.
  • Reading: a Little Free Library find, Vonda McIntyre’s Enterprise: The First Adventure. I took it on vacation with me and read only a few pages, which means I’m now feeling like I’ve been reading it forever. It’s a battered paperback and that’s its own pleasure. It’s episodic, mildly fun, not a lot of overall direction so far.
  • I also read a graphic novel I really liked, Little Monarchs by Jonathan Case. It’s post-apocalyptic but I did not find it depressing. It has a kid working on science! and kayaking. And bats and monarchs.
  • More podcasts: a Song Exploder episode about Björk’s “Stonemilker” led me to Björk’s own podcast, Sonic Symbolism. I think podcasts are better than other media at capturing conversations where the participants are truly listening to each other and thinking as they talk. I like podcasts that do that.

Happy birthday, pagefever (+1) and fourgates!   <3

Holiday

Sunny meadow with gravel road, blue sky, clouds, hills in distance

Since Sang and I didn’t have to go to work today, our morning walk was a few miles at Powell Butte. The best things were

  • thimbleberries, a few of them ripe!
  • hearing a mourning dove. I grew up hearing mourning doves in Colorado and am intensely nostalgic about them. Now I hear the collared doves that came first to my Colorado hometown and eventually to Portland; it’s good to know the mourning doves are still around.

I’m in the early stages of two library books and I don’t know which one will take:

  • The Last Mapmaker, by Christina Soontornvat. I was loving the writing and the short chapters, but got interrupted reading it, and just picked it up again. I also really like the cover (illustration by Christina Chung):

cover of The Last Mapmaker: girl in a wave-tossed boat with the sun behind her like a halo

  • A Second Chance, by Linda Byler, who I understand is one of the only authors of Amish romances who is Amish herself? This one has renewed 49 times at the library and 50 renewals is the limit, so I need to get to it or give it up. So far it’s good and the main character is doing lots of housecleaning, which I love to read about.

I hope your summer lives are sweet.

[Not Endorsed by the Constitution of the United States of America]

It’s my body
It’s not Pepsi’s body
It’s not Nancy Reagan’s body
It’s not Congress’s body
It’s not the Supreme Court’s body
It’s not Cosmopolitan’s pink twat body
It’s not George Bush’s ugly-conscience,
never-be-responsible, let-the-world-rot body
It’s not Cardinal O’Connor’s Catholic Church-
homophobic-hate women-hate queers-
oppressive-DEVIL-SATAN-no children body
IT’S NOT YOUR BODY

Karen Finley, “Aunt Mandy,” 1990 in Aperture [pdf, cw: death, medical trauma, misogyny, doom]

I ran across that poem while reshelving periodicals in college, and never forgot it. A woman’s life isn’t worth much often pops into my head as an explanation for this or that.


In “things I was thinking about before the giant news hairball,” I believe we are in a golden age of podcasts. My favorite this week was a Harriet the Spy episode on Not How I Remember It, a podcast whose tagline is “GenX moms revisiting the books of our childhood.” It’s two friends who reread a book that at least one of them remembers (The Pistachio Prescription was the episode that first caught my eye), and talk about it from scratch. From this episode:

  • “I feel like she wasn’t so much spying as judging.”
  • “All the pictures in my copy are a little terrifying.”

I love their east coast (I think) accents and how much fun they have and the way they don’t try to impress anyone or be experts.  And often the book they reread is not the book they remember! The most prominent memory of Harriet the Spy for one of them was the bits about reading under the covers with a flashlight.


I pulled some weeds in the garden and found these secret overachievers. About a year ago, I planted a few fava beans from the fridge that were past their prime. They grew and bloomed but then fell over and I forgot about them. This is about double the volume of beans planted, so I am well pleased.8 fava bean pods, some large, with US quarter for scale

Anxiety usually lies

Sang and I drove up to Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington this week to attend my uncle’s funeral. I poured a lot of emotion and anxiety into this ahead of time for various reasons large and small, nebulous and concrete– or maybe mostly because of my temperament. But it was good. I like my family. I wrote it all up for my immediate family who couldn’t be there. Here I’ll just say in case readers have a worried brain like mine:

When you attend a service at the national cemetery, you are not told a site number and then have to wander around the hopelessly large grounds and winding roads in your dress-up shoes until you find your people and are probably late!

(A parking lot is not involved. You check in just inside the cemetery entrance and line up with the other cars going to the same service you are. A few minutes after the scheduled time someone in a golf cart gets in front and leads you all to where the service will be, an outdoor shelter in our case. The staff there know how to set the tone and can pivot from directing parking, to joking gently with people to get them herded to the shelter and seated, to conducting a solemn service. So skilled.)

52

I decided not to do anything in particular for my birthday, because there have been many family and social events with a few more coming up, and it’s the busy season at work– keeping one day unequivocally clear with nothing on the calendar seemed like a really nice thing to do. Plus it’s still a pandemic, plus unlike much of the rest of the country, my area is spending the weekend under an “atmospheric river” with impressively heavy rains.

(Terms I never heard until a few years ago: Super Moon, Atmospheric River, Heat Dome. Have any faded away? Maybe Pineapple Express?)

Turns out, “What are you doing for your birthday?” is the question that everyone asks! (Because they care, and I appreciate it, I hasten to add.) I should have pinned down a more graceful way to explain– it’s not that I want to do nothing, necessarily, it’s that I want to decide hour by hour, spur of the moment, which necessarily cuts out tickets and plans and travel.

Anyway, I had a good birthday and feel very loved. One of the spur-of-the-moment projects was rearranging the bookshelves so the sheet music is within reach of the piano, instead of high overhead. Not something that would be a birthday plan, but satisfying. There is a large stack of surplus music which will need a supplemental shelf, because sheet music is something that never seems to get weeded or gotten rid of, right? I still have some with my mom’s and aunt’s names on it from when they were kids, stuff like this:

cover of novelty sheet music Chickery Chick, with 1940s style illustration and lettering

In the evening Sanguinity and I watched To All the Boys: Always and Forever, but we conked out early and have about 45 minutes left, and are puzzled about how they will be filled? I mean, Lara Jean’s clearly going to go to [redacted] and it will or won’t work out, but we won’t find out by the end of the movie, so…? There was lengthy and loving coverage of the senior trip to New York City (Lara Jean lives in Portland but you wouldn’t know it, idk maybe it’s Lake Oswego or something). I did get to go to New York in high school for a music thing, but this “senior trip” phenomenon, does that really happen? seems expensive! Then again, costs and financial aid are never discussed in Lara Jean’s college plans.

Also around: hummingbirds, dal from our new hand-me-down Instant Pot, Sang fending off the invasive geranium that’s taking over the yard, listening to audiobooks of Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.

Reading Wednesday

It’s the time of year when I pore over the log of books I’ve read since last January. I will definitely be adding to my cumulative list of favorites:

red cover with gold seal and lettering: The Year of the Dog

The Year of the Dog, an autobiographical novel by Grace Lin (2006), and by extension its sequels The Year of the Rat (2007) and Dumpling Days (2012). The author is within a few years of my age, and it really brought back the feel of a 1970s childhood in a mostly-white town. (With a perspective outside the white-kid one I had.)

One of the lovely things about this series is that the main character and her best friend are based on the author and real-life friend Alvina Ling, now an editor of kids’ books! They are still friends and even have a podcast together where they catch up on each other’s lives and talk about current topics in kidlit. I like to have it on while I’m doing routine work stuff– a very satisfying parasocial relationship.

I also read a couple of Grace Lin’s picture books this year, including one with a Year of the Dog connection that I won’t spoil, but haven’t yet read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and its sequels. I’d like to do that in 2022.