Old Daily Shows--August 2001

Find the archive of past entries at archive.htm. Today's entry is at daily.htm.

Thursday August 30, 2001 Endings

Packing this year seems marked not by frantic work but rather more by quiet melancholy. I'm going to miss home in a way that's kind of new and different. Not sure how to describe it, but it's there in a new way.

And so, I've been putting my life into neat little boxes. Not finished yet, but getting closer.

I went and played at Clarkson's student convocation today. People later reported that the piping was the best part. Yay! The speaker was Anthony Cortese of the Second somethingorother foundation. They're an environmental interest group that's interested in sustainable development, particularly at universities. Interesting speech, but not tailored for his audience, and too long. Convocation speeches should not last an hour and twenty minutes.

But afterwards, I went outside, to meet some people who'd requested a tune. So I played tunes for some Clarkson Schoolies, and some Clarkson students, and we hung out and chatted for a few minutes. It was good. Met a nice girl from Arizona who wanted me to play Amazing Grace--she never did get around to asking again, though, and I had to leave before there was time.

But then I came home, and after dinner, I played a farewell set for my house. Slow airs, our competition medley, some marches, a reel or two, and Amazing Grace, slow like a piobaireachd. For once it seemed right.

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Wednesday August 29, 2001 Finishing up

The Magnum Opus is finished, at least so far as the first edition goes. Twenty-seven pages of single-spaced type that represents my thoughts on certification by the American Association of Suicidology, at whose name I gripe frequently. Something must change, be it the preposition or the "Suicidology". Grar.

Anyway, so I'm done writing that, at least for now. I hope it'll be useful. I'm still sort of frustrated, because I feel like I've been working but not getting anywhere. This is, of course, not entirely true--it's just that most of the work I've been doing doesn't come with immediate tangible rewards. A lot of it's been meetings, discussions, time spent thinking of the problems in things and possible ways to fix them. These are things I'm good at doing. They don't, however, show up on a page at the end of the summer and scream "look what I did this summer!".

But it will all turn out all right in the end, I'm sure of it. I found the tape today at the drugstore, if that's any indication.

Yes, The Tape. 3M Blenderm medical tape, marketed under the name Nexcare Waterproof. It's eminently useful for tuning bagpipe chanters. Chanters are ornery things--their tuning differs entirely based on the reeds you're using. So you tape the holes to flatten individual notes. The tape you use for this needs certain qualities. It must be airtight. It must not gum up the holes. It must be easily moved when you want to move it, but must not go moving on its own. It must _come off_ when you remove it, rather than leaving ungodly schmutz on the chanter.

Brian, our P/M, found the ultimate in tape. Unfortunately, it was only possible to get it in British Columbia, which is a longish drive from eastern Ontario. Legends abound about this tape. And I have found it in a drugstore in Potsdam. It was hidden, of course, inside a big fancy package that called it by another name. I feel certain that it is the same animal, though. In celebration, I removed the tape ball from my chanter when I practiced tonight. For some reason, nearly all of the tape that had been on my chanter at any point this summer had accumulated in a ball on the sole of the chanter. Weird. I didn't want to remove it, because it had become a sentimental thing.

And now it is gone, the piping summer is over, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. But I have more tape.

More yoga this evening, and then Dad made fantastic dinner. Much laundry. Much deleting of email--485+ messages deleted this evening.

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Tuesday August 28, 2001 Last band practice

I dislike goodbyes.

It hit me with a sense of shock to be told that my piping ability is sufficient now that I don't need to continue private lessons to continue playing with the band--I'm "good enough" now to just come to practice.

I will, of course, hope to continue with lessons next summer, but it's sort of frightening to have come this far so quickly. I got my first set of pipes a year and eighteen days ago. Oh well.

Mostly, though, it was good to see people at band practice tonight, and I'll be sad to leave them. We were practicing for a gig they're all playing on Friday night, and so we did Amazing Grace in a circle, the full treatment. I think it's the first time I can remember having enjoyed playing that tune. Who knows, maybe it'll grow on me.

The countdown is going much too fast for me. I'm deliberately avoiding it.

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Monday August 27, 2001 Penne with onions

Much silliness today. Silly doctors charging silly high fees for my nine-minute-long appointment. Oh well.

I got to go to the bookstore, though, and I watched lots of new college freshmen dealing with the impending reality of college. I just sat and watched people for a little while. Fun!

Made a nifty penne with onions and such dish for dinner--if I'm nice to you, I'll get around to writing it down eventually. It was good.

Now, though, I sleep, because I've got a meeting at 10:00 tomorrow morning.

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Sunday August 26, 2001 Almonte, part the longer

Almonte seems like it happened so much longer ago than yesterday. Funny how one's time-sense seems to expand and contract so much.

In a way, I am relieved to have "lost" at Almonte in solo competition. Now my streak is dead and it's not on my mind. I'm disappointed by the way in which it happened, but that's almost incidental.

Soloes are graded on a scale of 100 points. Judges vary widely in how they award points, and that's fine. Our judge this time awarded the first place competitor 65 points. About 8 points separated first and sixth places, and the remaining 13 of us got either 56 or 55. There may have been a 54 or two. Anyway, this bugged us, because it basically said that it wasn't worth his time to differentiate among us. Equally annoying was something that used to happen all the time in speech and debate judging: comments that don't square with the ranking.

My sheet had lots of words like "good" and "very good" on it. (it also criticized my tuning, but that's a different story). Good and very good are simply not words that should be used to describe a mediocre performance, if they're the only terms used.

And then there's the conflict of interest. One or two of the judge's private students competed in this category. They won prizes. I didn't hear them play, but others who did thought they weren't anywhere near as good as some others who didn't place.

This is just a bad situation for everyone. The judge should have recused himself. Politics is perception, they always tell us, and apparent conflict of interest is pretty much the same as actual conflict of interest when it comes to dealing with people. The judge loses respect for judging his students; the people who "lost" feel that they did so not out of lack of skill (not helped by his nondescriptive comments) but out of a sort of nepotism; and the students of the judge feel bad because they don't know whether or not they won by skill or by cheating. It's a bad deal for all, and the judge should have known better.

As I said, I was sort of glad not to win, so I dealt with it better than some. This really hurt some friends of mine, and that was tough to watch. Defeat is hard to swallow; some tolerate the taste better than others.

Oh, but to feel the sun on your face, a little wind off the river making your kilt flap, and to feel locked in to the groove. You strike in your pipes, and you don't so much hear as feel your drones snap into perfect tune. You bring the pressure up so the chanter sounds at the perfect time, and you play without flaw for the four minutes you're out there. For four minutes, there is nothing better anywhere in the world.

It's an experience that fits very well into the fragments of Buddhism that I've tried to understand. Every once in a while, you'll be standing in the circle and playing, and it all works. Your attention is not distracted by the flies biting your legs or the sun burning your lips or the breath that you're struggling to take. If you ever watch pipers in a competition circle, you'll see that they're all staring at the pipe major's fingers--you can often tell pipe major and pipe sergeant by the fact that they aren't necessarily looking at one person's fingers all the time.

Anyway, you concentrate very hard on the P/M's fingers, and you try to lock into what he's playing. Sometimes, you hit it right. It's happened to me a few times, and... how to describe it. It's sort of like my awareness shifts--usually to an aerial perspective, so I'll be looking down at the band from above and behind. The drones are strong, the drums crisp, and the chanters well-tuned and in unison. I don't mean unison in the traditional musical sense of "a bunch of instruments playing the same melody". I mean unison in the sense of there's one chanter playing. When I hit that zone, I'm playing well, because Brian is playing my chanter just like I'm playing his and everyone else's. It's like staring at the white wall and extending ki, or feeling the Force moving through the rocks, the trees, the lake, whatnot. You're on top of your game, and there isn't really a self anymore, just the music. Others have, I think, described a similar experience by saying that "the voice of God moves through you, and you are nothing but the mouthpiece."

When that happens, you're doing it right. It happened to me for a while on Saturday.

Someone honked drones on the startup in our grade IV competition, and we knew it was all over. Still, we recovered and put in a strong performance. We were sad, because we'd worked hard and it's sad to lose before you've started. Oh well. Keep trucking in the face of rain, shame, and anything else the world can throw at you, that's the Scottish spirit.

We played well in the grade III competition as well. I was sitting outside my head on the way up to the line for this one. I suppose I should explain. Pipe bands play while marching "up to the line", which is a line drawn across the entry to the competition circle. This isn't formally part of the competition, but you want to play well so as to influence the judges to start thinking in your favor. Once there, you stop, and start up your competition medley, march into the space, form a circle, and play. Once you're done with the medley you stop and then march out, either to taps or to a tune.

Anyway, I was sitting outside my head on the way up to the line, which is my current term for the experience of being part of the band and watching from outside. I thought back to Susie's comment about how to walk as a piper. You've got to know that you're cool shit.

We are cool shit. Get your drum corps tuned properly (tuned to the drones, so that there's sound reinforcement), give a roll-off, strike in, and start a tune, and chills run down your spine in a way that they don't when playing solo. Sixteen people move as one, almost inexorably forward. Pipers march slower than regular marching bands, but we take longer strides so it evens out. People move out of the way. I suppose there's a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle bravado here. "We're here, we're loud, there are a lot of us, and we're moving together." Intimidating, I guess, but there's also just the sound. And the swagger, oh, the swagger. You've all heard the psychosomatic thing about how smiling triggers chemical responses that make you happy, right? Try it and see.

Well, you march like a piper when you're in the pipe band because you're the coolest thing on the planet right then, and you know it, but it's also interesting that doing the swagger can put you into the mood. As Kate puts it in The Cutting Edge, "I'm in the mood to kick a little ass."

We were exhausted by the end of the day, but we still had to sit through massed bands. Oh well. We played a tune I didn't know on our way out--the Earl of Mansfield. The classics on the field--Scotland the Brave, Road to the Isles (always funny, because for every 20 pipers on the field, there are maybe 1-3 that know the tune... Crowds love it--maybe that's because they've heard so many different tunes under that name), Amazing Grace, Glendaruel Highlanders, and that ilk. And then the speeches. We dread the speeches. The speakers at Almonte get big points. The prizes guy said "I'll keep this short because the people out on the field are tired and would like to go home. Some of them have been playing since 8:30 this morning." So he went on to announce the solo awards, and started in with grade V bands. Then the grade IVs. He announced third place (there were six bands), and it wasn't us. We all figured that we'd placed fourth or lower, a deep disappointment because we'd been hoping to do well. Second place was announced; again, not us. "First place in grade IV: Spencerville Legion."

Our whole band let out this surprised cheer. We were shocked. We were elated. We highfived each other. We whooped. Brian went up to the table to accept our trophy. They told him to stay there, and announced that we'd taken third place in grade III as well. Woohoo! We beat all the grade IV bands that day, and it turned out that we'd beaten the grade III bands in piping. Go us!

Winning bands get to march off the field. We'd never done it before. It was my dream, what I wanted to come out of the summer having done. So, we formed up, put Megan in front carrying our trophies, and we marched off the field. We swaggered. We'd worked hard, and it paid off.

By long tradition, winning bands go and play in the beer tent after coming off the field. So we did. They loved us. It was great! Go us!

I had the honor of being first piper of the day on Saturday, which pleased me. When we got there in the morning, mine were the first pipes to break the silence from the night. It was good. I got what I wanted from Almonte, and was glad.

Today I went to Shye's for movie night. We watched Ever After, French Kiss, and the last part of Madonna's big live concert on HBO. It was very good. When I got home, Mom and I cooked up the tofu that we'd been marinating, and ate some. Pretty good!

And now I sleep, because I've got a doctor appointment in the morning.

Language annoyance of the day: weather.com has lots of advertisements on its pages, such that it's often difficult to find the information you're hunting. This is the price of a fee-free service, and I'm willing to pay it. However, the ad copy today read Search Orbitz for Most Low Fares! It would be nice if they could remember that English, that helpful language, helpfully provides a word for expressing that thought: lower. It's conceivable that Orbitz really did mean its wording, and that what they were advertising was "there exist lots of low fares. We can help you find most of them." In this sense, it's correct--something tells me that wasn't their intent, though.

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Saturday August 25, 2001 Almonte

Short overview because it's midnight and I've been up since 4:30

Went to Almonte. Played not-so-well. Did not place in the medals. Was disappointed but somewhat relieved. Other people accused the judge of being unfair and also of having a conflict of interest (one of his students competed for him and received a high rank). I did not complain about it. It did not matter, really.

We competed in grade IV bands and then did a challenge up to grade III. To make a long story short (ideally I'll tell you about it tomorrow), we won grade IV and got third in grade III. It was a good day. Went to IKEA afterwards for dinner and a few things. Good.

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Friday August 24, 2001 An early goodbye

Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

For my friend who's found gainful employment in parts north, and will be moving back to New England sooner than I'd like, I have to offer my congratulations, again. Good for you!

I mean it. Good for you. Don't interpret sarcasm here, because it's really not there. We've talked too many times about this for me to be anything but pleased for you. However, it's often hard to find yourself on both sides of an issue, particularly when it involves goodbyes. I'm glad for you, and I regret that I won't get to see you much at all.

Quotations from The Shawshank Redemption sort of get at the heart of things. And so, needing to sleep before getting up at 4:30 tomorrow for the Almonte Highland Games, I'll leave you to read it and take what meaning you will.

I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

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Thursday August 23, 2001 Grump grump grump

Sometimes, there are days that are just meant for living. The entire day calls out to you. You walk the street from parking lot to post office with your blondish hair shining in the sunlight, and you smile at the people you meet. Many of them have known you for twenty years, and a lot of them knew your parents long before that.

So you stride along, contained in yourself, confident, and the world is at your beck and call. People come up to you and ask how you've been, and listen to the response.

Sometimes, there are days when everything you do is touched with something, that makes it just work right. Not to say that you can do no wrong, but rather that making an effort is more likely to yield a happy result. You avoid arguments, solve problems, get work done effortlessly, and everything seems to work out.

This was not one of those days. In fact, this was not one of those weeks.

Someone asked me what my plans are for when I get back to Swarthmore. I intend to get a hug from someone my own age. It hit me today with a physical sense of shock that it's been more than a month since I got a hug from someone closer than 10 years to my own age. Somehow that seems really wrong, too.

In the meantime, I will go to Almonte, compete to the best of whatever my ability has shrunk to by that point, come home, survive the remaining week of work, pack, and go to Swarthmore.

And somewhere in there, Swarthmore's going to stop looking so damn appealing. I hope it will because hell will leave my work life and go bother someone else for a while.

And herein lies the problem. I can't really say anything here. I'm not willing to do lame passworded entries, as I've said before, and really, this paragraph is unoriginal so you can skip it if you've read it before. I don't know who reads this, but I keep having to temper what I write because even here, people read, people comment, and people misinterpret. If you don't think this is a problem, consider some of the (in)frequent readers.

So, who reads the DS? My roommates do occasionally. At least one ex-girlfriend does. My coworkers read it. My coworkers at school read it. The Breakfast Club shows up sometimes, as do the Mawrtyrs and Not-Yets. My grandparents read it occasionally. A girl I met on the train checks in once in a while. Someone found it through searching on Google for "sumo wrestler suit"--there was one entry, probably about Charlie's Angels, that referenced one.

People I haven't met read it sometimes. Someone from New Zealand pops in from time to time. Friends, enemies, neutrals.

So, other bloggers, I have a question for you. What do you do when your need to write something really fights with your understanding of what your readers are capable of handling? Do you keep private journals for yourselves, that we don't see? Is blogging a panacea of sorts, such that if we keep doing it long enough, this sort of day goes away? Help me out here, folks.

Swarthmore's contra dance early this semester might happen. It might not. I'm tired of caring about it right now. I came up with a bunch of possible solutions, and none of them will work, either because of scheduling or because of fucking politics. And I'm tired of politics right now, more than I've been in a long time.

But I guess I'll go back to my reading, and I'll write occasionally like a good little boy, and it will be fine because nobody ever reads this anyway, and I will sink into disillusioned irrelevance. Which is fine, really. I know lots of perfectly okay people who have done the same. Potatoes, not Prozac. They always say it's lonely at the top. They forget that it's lonely in the middle, too, and that ultimately, it's lonely down there at the bottom.

I keep trying to find something happy and reassuring to end this with, but I can't stomach it right now, because I'm just too frustrated. I guess it's a happy thing, in a sick and twisted way, that I'm not the only one who's sitting in this right now. Misery loves company, and all.

On the other hand, there's still good music, even if it sounds sour, and if I keep playing it, eventually I won't need to deal with my own stupidity quite as much.

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Wednesday August 22, 2001 Home fries recipe for Rabi

I will, perhaps, never be given to understand why it is that random people insist on sending me instant messages (I keep trying to make a verb out of that--bad Hollis!) and then not identifying themselves. It seems to be quite the titillating hobby to send me an IM claiming to know me, refuse to tell me anything about who you are, and then reproach me for asking.

Once I figure out a way to get the image into the computer, I may force you all to listen to my lengthy philosophical discussion of the self, the other, and the snake. It has pretty pictures that you may recognize. In lieu of the explanation of how the yin-yang symbol got its spots.

Every once in a while, I am good and put titles on my links, which you ought to read, consider, and reward with laughter. Do it by stickin' yer mouse over tha links. Make me feel that my neurotic waste of time is good!"

There will, apparently, be no Utilikilt, at least not in time for the Pterodactyl Hunt. This is disappointing but perhaps ultimately for the best, since I tend to end up rolling around on the ground a lot (the people fighting me seem to enjoy it, and it's very important that the Black Knight be good theatre) and I don't much like skinned knees.

Rabi likes the recipe features, and made a suggestion I've been working on for quite a while. Well, I haven't got time for a full-blown recipe tonight, but here's a quick one for you.

Home fries

4 potatoes, I guess
1-2 onions
3-6 cloves garlic
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, whole

Chop your potatoes, shred them, make photorealistic dice with appropriately-placed pips on them, carve little figurines of George W. Bush receiving his degree from Yale University with them, build an altar to your navel, or slice them. Let the spirit of the thing reveal itself to you through your potatoes. If you're squeamish and don't like your potatoes turning black, put the cut pieces underwater. After you cut them. Peel the potatoes first, if you're into such things.

Meanwhile, everyone repeat after me, get a pan, put it on the stove, and let it heat up. Once it's hot, put in some olive oil/canola oil/butter/lard/bacon grease/white lithium/teflon spray/other pan lubricant of your choice. Let that heat up, too. While all that's going, take one onion, peel the thing, and then slice it thinly. I want to see even slices, but then, I'm doomed to be unsatisfied. You're making onion rings here, so let your conscience be your guide. Keep 'em thin.

So, you've got your onion rings, your hot pan, and your hot oil. Would you care to venture a guess as to where this is going? Put them in there. Yum! Close your eyes or the onion vapors will make you wince in pain. Cook. You want them hot, because you're going to caramelize them. This means cook them until they're more than brown but less than burnt. You will know it when you get there, or you will mess it up and have to start over, which isn't really a huge deal. Anyway. Cook 'em until they're caramelized, tip them onto a waiting plate, put the sugar on them, and stir them on the plate. They're all happy now. Resist, I say, resist the temptation to eat them all right now. That's not the point of this.

Take your garlic and remaining onion, peel them, and mince them or whatnot. Decide how big you like your chunks, and do that.

Put some more pan lubricant of choice into your pan. Let it heat. Pour in the cumin seeds, and stir them for perhaps 10-15 seconds. Put in the garlic and onion mixture. Cook for five or ten minutes, then put in your potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are happy and browned. When you've done this as many times as I have, you will agree that it is pointless to ascribe a cooking time to such things--some potatoes are virtually instant, while others take forever and a half to cook. Cook 'em until they're done, mix in the caramelized onions, and eat this stuff.

By way of commentary, I will note that this is classically done in the Easter household with the addition of a cheese product of your choice, preferably good Cheddar, mozzarella, or Parmesan. However, this recipe's for Rabi, and I will therefore leave it only as a comment, because otherwise she'll be sad, and that is even less the point than eating all the onions while you're still cooking is.

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Tuesday August 21, 2001 Hypoglycemia

I've left the entry from yesterday up, since it seems to have gotten mangled in transmission. So, for those of you who read such things, there it is.

I went to the St. Lawrence University bookstore on my way to Canada. Bought The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs--2001 for Reachout, since we use it in our training, and also provide information from it; Word Court, by Barbara Walraff, and a CD, Scottish Rant, by the City of Washington Pipe Band, with Bonnie Rideout on fiddle. It's _good_. Finally a pipe band CD whose sound I like! They're in tune! Go COWPB! They're always fun to watch in competition, too--here's hoping they do well at the Worlds this year.

I had a nasty hypoglycemic experience today. I'm not entirely sure _why_ it happened, but suffice it to say that I screwed up and let my blood sugar get really low, and I'd neglected to bring my support net to catch me. This is a bad thing. It got to the point at rehearsal tonight where I was having trouble standing up--needless to say, my piping was atrocious. I almost got cut for band competition this weekend. Only through concentrating as hard as I could was I able to make my fingers move properly long enough to get to stay in the lineup.

It's always scary when your body does things you haven't asked it to do. I remember a while ago at school, a friend of mine had a very severe hypoglycemic (I can't type that word to save my life) attack, and had to be taken to the hospital. It was really scary. I found myself in Canada, with no food or water (the water in the Legion had been shut off for some reason, so I was getting dehydrated too, which probably added to the problem), no open stores, and rapidly decreasing numbers of options. I was scared.

Eventually decided I could make it across the border to a grocery store, so I put the music on really loud in the car and concentrated on making it across. Ugh. Then I was stupid in the store and bought the wrong thing, but my brain was firing on substantially fewer cylinders than normal at that point. It was a long drive home, but I made it.

Still scary, though. I shall figure something out to keep this from happening again.

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Monday August 20, 2001 The Holy Ground

Sigh. I don't have a clue what day it is anymore.

I finished reading The Book of Five Rings today. It's very good.

As has happened so often lately, I've got a lot to say, but it doesn't seem to be coming out. Oh well. I keep trying, and eventually maybe I'll get somewhere.

Mom and I spent a long time talking this evening after I got back from my Reachout shift. Naw, that's a dead end. I shouldn't talk about that.

One of my coworkers made me a thank-you card last night. I filled in for her when she needed to miss a shift, and she made me a card! It has talking ladybugs on it! It's very awesome! Perhaps if you're really lucky, I'll scan it and show it to you.

I was born on the Holy Ground
A running child in fields of clover
I was living in the grandeur
Of my father's land

By the side of the swirling sea
I spent the days of childish wonder
And the rocks I held in my young hands
I never felt them slip away

Well the sun shone bright upon the waves
And the wind blew high as I was leaving
And I sailed so far away
Looking for adventure

But I would not stay where the city streets
Proclaimed so loudly man's endeavours
Though music is a pretty thing
In fine company

And the wilderness took my breath away
Under a sun that never falters
A man has to find his way
Where no one ever goes

It was in the South that my new home lay
A dark eyed girl and wild horses
With hummingbirds and roses there
In old Mexico

But the winds of change they blew so far
Of liberty and revolution
And it seemed that each man heard in his breast
The drumming of a nation

In the fields where the guns did play
I fell there with many another
Where the sage brush grows and the desert wind
Is blowing free

I was born on the holy ground
A running child in fields of clover
I was living in the grandeur
Of my father's land

-- Gerry O'Beirne, "The Holy Ground"

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Sunday August 19, 2001 Onion soup

I'm up late late late doing the overnight shift at Reachout, so here I am.

"The problem with life is that there are indefinites," said one roommate to the other.

Dad made French onion soup tonight. Fantastic. Mom and I dyed a T-shirt, for the Vacuum Project. I did some feng shui and a little yoga. Practiced flute for a long time, and piano for longer. Learned three Irish polkas (tunes, not dances).

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Saturday August 18, 2001 Six raccoons!

I have a lap desk for school now! Happy fun exciting good! Also a ruler with a finger grip, like the ones in France. Fantastic!

In the side yard of our house, we keep a bird feeder. All sorts of animals come and eat there. I watched a pair of cardinals eating this morning.

They're funny, cardinals. Very skittish. They didn't care about the birds flapping around them, nor did the chipmunk nosing around on the ground upset them. But they took to the trees when I drew a glass of water for myself in the kitchen, and flew away when I closed the tap.

And tonight, my mother came in while I was practicing strathspeys on the piano and told me that some friends were out under the feeder. I went to look, expecting to see one or two of our friends--sometimes a skunk, sometimes raccoons...

There were raccoons. Six of them. A parent and five little ones. They were very cute. One of the smaller ones really looked like a cat that we used to have.

Raccoons, I have discovered, are just one of the many animals (like deer) whose normal noises sound like people with sinus problems. They just sort of sit and snuffle and paw at the ground and vacuum up the seeds. Yum!

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Friday August 17, 2001 De rien

Not too much today. Talked with Susie about the ball program. Went looking for strathspeys.

Practiced my pipes, finally. Got the chanter a little more in tune with itself.

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Thursday August 16, 2001 Indian potato balls

Hollis with bagpipes and pants

Fake Indian Potato Balls And Sauce
also known as the dish with no proper name

For potatoes:
4 potatoes
1/2 onion
1 jalapeno pepper
3 cloves garlic
1/2 inch ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp. whole cumin
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules
1 tsp. salt
bread crumbs

For sauce:
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 inch ginger, peeled
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 tsp. sugar

This recipe just sort of happened. I was sitting at work trying to think of what I could make that would be yummy for dinner. I'd never heard of doing this, but it sounded interesting, so I did it. You win a prize if you can come up with a better name.

Peel the potatoes, slice them, and put them in boiling water. Boil them for 25 minutes to half an hour. For potato connoisseurs, you want mealy potatoes, not waxy ones. Try russets or something. Slicing makes them cook faster.

Peel your onion, garlic, and ginger, and remove the seeds from your pepper. I put them in a food processor because I was lazy; you may do the same, or you can chop them. Anyway, you want them to be nice and small--we want tiny tasty bits, not BIG HONKIN' CHUNKS O' VEGETABLE. Anyway, get them nice and chopped, and then put them in your pan. You have, of course, been heating your pan, right? And then you put some oil of some sort into it and let that heat up too, right?

Anyhoo, get them sautéeing all happily. Cook 'em down, I say! Throw in your cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, coriander, and cinnamon, and stir them in. Cook until it doesn't need to be cooked anymore. You'll know when.

By this time, your potatoes are probably pretty well cooked. Drain them, retaining the water. Don't _bloat_ their water, just retain it. Cooking instructions always have such weird lingo... I guess if you want to chop the chop, you gotta talk the talk.

Anyway, no losing track of the plot. Pay attention! Put some of the water in with the TVP. The TVP will reconstitute itself. Get rid of the excess water somehow. I used a rather tedious process involving a Pyrex measuring cup, a spoon, and a lot of time. Your mileage ought to be better. Learn from my mistakes, people!

Put the potatoes, TVP, spice mix, and salt into a bowl, and mash them together. Mash like you've never mashed before. Mash like an old TV show. Mash mash mash. It takes longer than you think. Once you've got them all mashed up, put a little oil into your pan, and let it heat.

Start forming the potato mixture into little balls, about a tablespoon each, and roll these in the bread crumbs to coat them before putting them in your nice hot pan. Cook them until they're browned to your liking.

Meanwhile! Do the whole choppety thing with the onion, garlic, and ginger that are going into the sauce. Chop chop chop! In a different pan, cook them, adding the coriander and cumin after a bit. Cook, stir, yum. When they're done (the potato balls should be coming along), add the tomatoes and the sugar, stir, cook. Keep stirring and cooking until you can't stand it anymore.

At this point, the potatoes should be nearly done. Put the sauce mixture into the pan with the potatoes, stir (gently, lest you break the potato balls you have labored to create), and turn everything off. Let it all sit for a minute. Serve over rice or something--I did rice with some cumin seed added.

I kept on typing 'potatoe', as in 'start forming the potatoe mixture'. I was deeply disappointed to find the beginnings of J. Danforth Quayle in myself. Ugh.

To my astronomer friend who IMed me this evening: thanks! you made my night!

I received photographs in the mail today, from one Don Cheetham. They're of me, at Pinewoods. Some of them will eventually make it to the page. The one above was taken by my dad.

I smiled at lots of people today. Some of them smiled back. It's a good thing.

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Wednesday August 15, 2001 Bagpipe polishing

Some random person is trying to buy my AIM screen name from me. He doesn't seem interested in hearing that it's not for sale. Oy.

I spent a long time cleaning and polishing the nickel on my bagpipes this evening. They are shiny and beautiful again, and though my hands hurt, I feel pleased that I took the time to care for them. Rewarding, eh?

Yoga was tonight, and it was good. My lower back felt a little better this time, which was happy and good. More will help.

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Tuesday August 14, 2001 Pound Puppies and beaches

I am presented with an ethical dilemma. I have been offered a full scholarship to a dance camp. I very much want to go. A full scholarship would make it easy. However, there's only one, and it's dedicated to people who would be unable to afford the trip otherwise.

Now, here's my issue. Normal people probably wouldn't worry about it. Anyway. I could afford to go without the scholarship. It would be a choice that would mean giving up some other things I want to do, but I could do it, I just would probably choose not to go. So, can I ethically accept a scholarship (taking it away from someone else who might really really need it) when I don't entirely fit? I don't know.

I'm wearing a very large and soft piece of dark green fake suede cloth. It's nice and comfy and warm. It's the same type of material as the one my mother and I used to make my pound puppy when I was two. He was (and is) tan, with the big eyes, floppy ears, and hearts on the back that say "pound puppy" so clearly. He's had a lot of names over the years: "Cooler", the leader of the Pound Puppy gang, probably lasted the longest, but over time they've all sloughed off, leaving only "pound puppy". I suppose there's an honor of sorts in that. It's high praise to be considered as the instance of a class of things, to become, in someone's mind, the archetype on which all other instances seem to be patterned.

I helped embroider the hearts on his backside. I slept with him every single night for years and years and years. I think he went into surgery with me when I was five. We traveled together. In time, the suede wore out on the back of him, in a shape that neatly approximates the grip of a small child.

In time, I needed to Grow Up, not at any urging of my parents, but because it was Time. So pound puppy went to sleep farther away from me, first not in my arms, then on the covers, then on the side of the bed, then across the room. He got put away, eventually. Currently he's in my room, sitting on top of old clothes. Oh, did I feel guilty for getting older and leaving him! I was worried that he would "die", that his fur would wear out and break, and I told myself it was okay because of that.

Fundamentally, though, when you leave a friend, even if it's because you've moved on and (in some ways) apart, it doesn't ever feel right, and I don't suppose it ever will. That's one of the reasons Pound Puppy still stays in my room, and hasn't been discarded. There's still love there.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
-- from "
The Velveteen Rabbit", by Margery Williams

If you can have a catch in your fingers like you can have a catch in your throat, I've got one from writing that.

Practice was in Brockville tonight. I got there early, though not so early as I'd planned--traffic was slow everywhere. Parked, got out, stretched, and went walking through the park, beginning the process of saying goodbye for the year. I walked through the small locker room building, around the docks and smelled the fish, watched some young parents pushing their children in the swings, and walked toward the beach.

I won't speculate as to why this happened, but I will say how glad I am that it did. When I got to the beach, I noticed that a few things had changed. The sign I had seen, the one that loudly proclaimed the unsanitary nature of the river and the health risks to those who might swim in it, that sign was no longer there. I saw fresh sand in the place where it had been, and supposed that it had been removed and its hole filled.

There were kids swimming in the water, seagulls walking around, a pair of women on the beach, and a father on the dock watching the kids. I just stood and watched them all for a while (longer than I'd thought; I was a little late for practice), and then I did what I'd wanted to do a while ago. I took off my sandals, and walked in the water.

White sand, warmed by the sun, crunching under my tired feet, heating them and making them happy. I walked into the water, and found it amazingly warm. Ever feel rooted to the ground in a good, contemplative way? That's where I was this afternoon. I watched a pair of kayakers paddle by, looked at some birds out on the seaway, and watched the kids as they played the age-old water games of trying to get away from the other kids. A seagull interrupted my reverie by walking up to me and squawking; I suppose I was ruining its view. I smiled at it and walked a little more.

I walked back onto the beach, and got sand all over my feet, in between my toes, up my ankles. I've always disliked that feeling. I figured there wasn't a chance of my getting the sand off, so I just walked barefoot, keeping an eye out for broken glass, but just walking. It felt very different.

Mostly, I'm just glad that the water's safe again.

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Monday August 13, 2001 Raccoons in the tree

Last night, Mom and I were working on the Prince Charlie project in the dining room. We heard a skittering sound outside, and went to investigate. Turned on the light and looked through the back door, and I saw a very very long raccoon going up the tree.

I was curious, so I got the überFlashLicht out and went to have a look. I couldn't find it! What's going on? Finally I looked much farther up the tree than I thought it could possibly have gone, and was rewarded with a sight of the creature.

Creatures, rather. Three little raccoons, small and very cute, blinking at me as I put the flashlight on them. I like the raccoons--particularly their faces and feet. If you ever get a chance to watch a raccoon up close, watch the feet. They're very dainty, even if they're also very good at "f**king sh** up", as someone put it.

The raccoons decided that the flashlight was bad news, so they shimmied farther up the tree. I was worried that they would try to go too high (silly me) so I turned it off. A while later, when we were back inside working, we heard that little skittering noise again. Now we know what it means--it's a group of small raccoons traversing our trees.

I ordered my kilt today! Ancient Johnstone, pleated to the sett.

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Sunday August 12, 2001 Stories and children

Today was an interesting one. I finished reading Ender's Shadow, which I quite enjoyed. Interesting story, an "equel" of Ender's Game. One issue keeps coming up, and has been lately whenever I read these books.

They're always about these truly extraordinary people. Bean is so intelligent that he's off the charts. Juniper has incredible powers. Devin is really quick, and really smart. Siddhartha is good at everything. I could go on, but you get the point. They're almost always about people who fall way above the bar. Are the books intended to make you identify with them? I keep reading about them and thinking "I can do that", but I'm not the same, now am I? So what's going on? Am I like them? Or is it more insidious than that? Perhaps the authors are taking ordinary virtues, things that normal people have, and then ascribing them to their heroic characters. We know that they're supposed to be heroes, so we associate the characteristics with them.

That's a misformed thought, but somebody out there will probably understand what I'm getting at. Some of it's probably the human desire for self-knowledge... I'm wondering where I really fall in the spectrum. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to know.

I had a Reachout shift today. The volunteer whose shift it was asked for a substitute, since her boyfriend in the armed forces was supposed to call her. Apparently when you're in the military, you can only call certain numbers, and only at certain times. Anyway--I was going to sub for her until she got the call. It ended up never coming, so I was there for the whole five hours, which was fine because I got to read. I sat out on the front porch and read in the sunlight.

Now, across the street from the office lives a family. One of their daughters, Laura, is about 16 and has become quite the conversationalist--she used to be very shy, but now she'll come and talk with us. She has a younger sister, Abby, and it was Abby and her friend who came out to play on the street while I was reading. They sat, eating dinner and playing with the cats that always hang out on their porch, while they sized me up. I was just sitting, reading, having a good time when it wasn't quite so hot.

They started catcalling at me--"Hey! Abby thinks you're cute!"--said the friend, trying to pretend that she wasn't the one talking. I was highly amused, and got more so when they finally decided to come talk to me. Heh. They thought I was 16 or 17, they said. Oops. Ah well. They tried to get me to come play dodgeball with them; leery of missing phone calls, I had to decline.

So, I guess I'm coming up in the world. 14 year olds think I'm cute, or at least claim to. Dad made chicken cacciatore, and kept some warm for me, so I got to eat it when I got home. Let me tell you, it was truly excellent. Fantabulous even. And then we did some Prince Charlie fitting stuff. And then I read some more.

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Saturday August 11, 2001 Syracuse games

Very tired now. Just got home at 1 o'something from the games. tired tired tired.

and i'm losing capital letters, it seems. i have a lot of friends who refuse to type using capital letters. for me it's very difficult to do, just as it's nearly impossible for me to type without fixing any typos i make. oh well. i guess for me losing capital letters tends to mean i'm exhausted or i'm depressed, though not always. so i guess this isn't really a useful tool for analysing the state of my psyche.

games were fun. we got scrod by the rules, but we pulled something out of our collective... umm... soul, yes, that's it, soul ... and took third place. more about that tomorrow when i'm slightly closer to coherent. i bought a sporran. i did not buy a t-shirt that showed bagpipes and said "LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES!", though i wanted to. i couldn't find it.

dan and tyler and i juggled with our kilts on. fun. remind me to tell you the story of the amusing boy in the bookstore at the mall after dinner. sleep now, though, before i hurt myself with the keys.

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Friday August 10, 2001 The Forgotten Day

Hi to all the new folks. Lots of you today--is it a full moon?

I have to get up at 6 am tomorrow. How evil is that? 6 am is an hour that does not exist in nature. I know there are people for whom this is not true, but I'm not one of them.

Why, you ask, am I getting up at such a tainted hour? Because I'm going to a Highland Games, that's why. It's in scenic Syracuse (and yes, I still do describe towns as scenic. It's a thing. You know who you are) which is a long drive from here unless you're actually from the North Country, in which case you think Syracuse is pretty darn close, really, I mean, it only takes a couple of hours to get there, so it must be close.

Apple Computer loves us, 'cause up here, we Think Different. We Think so Different, in fact, that sometimes we even correct the grammar of that slogan, like my French teacher, Mr. Ham, did. St Lawrence County is larger in land area than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island, is the largest county east of the Mississippi, boasts a people-to-cattle ratio that's way less than 1/1, and is pretty much the geographic center of nowhere. Canada thinks we're Yanks, and the U.S. thinks (a) there are people there? (b) they're all Canadian, though, right? (c) naw, there aren't really people there, are there?

I spent a lot of this evening trying to choose a tartan for my kilt. I want a blue/green, one that Sally Dee can get, and one that isn't too dark, too stripey, or just plain ugly. My current plan is to get Johnstone Ancient, barring any problems. Another thought is MacKenzie, but it seems a little busy to me. Tell me your opinions, O Readership!

We cancelled today at work. We were all grumpy and off, so we cancelled the day. There's a ritual for this, one we invented a couple of years ago. We get a Post-It note, and get out the big rubber stamp. Change the rubber stamp to CANCELLED, and then the appropriate date. Stamp the Post-It note. Do something appropriate, like putting the Post-It note somewhere or wearing it on your head. After work, everyone goes out to the Cantina for chips, salsa, a drink of his choice, and Just Not Being In The Office. We've cancelled two days that I can remember--12 July 1999 (we think) and today. It's a good ritual.

Pizza tonight, homemade, yay!

Things It Does Not Behoove One To Forget Tomorrow:

  • sunscreen
  • bagpipes
  • kilt
  • stuff to wear over the kilt: belt, buckle, sporran, kilt pin (?)
  • stuff to wear above the kilt: shirt, tie, sunglasses, glengarry
  • stuff to wear beneath the kilt: flashes, hose, wouldn't you like to know (?), shoes
  • water bottle, filled works better
  • backpack
  • moolah. mucho moolah. mullah? sheik? gabardine? anyway.
  • book to read in car
  • PPBSO membership number
  • ticket that lets me get in free because I'm With The Band, or am the band, or something
  • pipe case, replete with extra reeds, music, electrical tape, PTFE teflon tape dope, pocket knife, waxed hemp, beeswax, pieces o' wood, rubber stoppers, ad from Target of guy wearing plaid boxers playing a vacuum cleaner like it's a bagpipe
  • that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you look good
  • blistex
  • bandanna
  • floppy brim hat for keeping the sun off
  • comfortable shoes, perhaps? naah
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    Thursday August 9, 2001 Rabi's meme

    Spent forever talking today. Also coveted flutes a lot, both from Terry and from Philly.

    Practiced my bagpipes this evening, with a dorky reed so as not to mess up my good competition reed. It was out of tune, painfully so, and I didn't want to fix it because I'd just have to unfix it tomorrow. This led to not playing long enough, though, because it was out of tune. Erk.

    I have started becoming a bloggerite, I guess, in that I have this sudden indulgent desire to infest you all with hyperlinks. You'll just have to deal. The ones who are responsible for this know who they are.

    And then, because I can't resist, I'll continue Rabi's meme. Amusing to me is that word. A unit of cultural information, certainly... Etymologically so, one might say--ask someone what the single most important part of Western society is, what defines us more than anything else, and you might hear "me-me". Anyway.

    Three things I see:

  • A green plastic mug, of the kind that I've loved for years and years and years, the ones that just say "home" to me. I love these things!
  • The left (or right) side of my metronome, the one that says "BEAT OFF LIGHT PHONE". It's got a three-position switch and a miniature phono jack.
  • A pink bottle of Water Babies UVA/UVB sunblock lotion, SPF 45, one of the few kinds of sunscreen that doesn't make me violently ill.
  • Three things I hear:

  • Track 7 of the Celtic Twilight cd, which I haven't listened to in months, maybe years, even.
  • The Duracraft oscillating fan from Ames, blowing loudly through my headphones.
  • A copy of the Watertown Daily Times, flapping in the breeze from the fan. On its cover: "Having A Densa Moment--Even Mensa Members Do Dumb Things".
  • Three things I smell:

  • A little bit of buttery smell from popcorn my mother and I ate.
  • Faint mildew from the humidity that's omnipresent.
  • Wood and oil, in my Ralph Sweet F flute. There's no smell that's exactly like "instrument".
  • Three things I feel:

  • Tired. Like I need to be in bed. A little headachy, and there's that annoying catch in my throat that could be from my conversation or could be allergies or could be randomness.
  • My ubiquitous brown polo shirt sticking to my upper back where I've been leaning against the chair back. Yuck. Stupid hot weather.
  • Dynamic tension in my feet, against the low-pile dusty rose carpeting.
  • Three things I taste:

  • Faint aftertastes of dinner. Dad made a new recipe, of chicken with marsala, cream, shallots, etc. Really yummy. I made a risotto pseudo-Milanese to go along with it. Little hints of saffron sometimes come back to me.
  • That sort of weird flavor your mouth takes on when it's been sort of sitting there for a while, being periodically washed by drinking water. It's not dirty, and it's not clean, and it's... I don't know. Lived in? Maybe this doesn't happen to other people.
  • Moisture in the air. Sometimes when I breathe through my nose, a little will come into my mouth and hit my tongue, and it tastes... moist.
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    Wednesday August 8, 2001 Yoga and Wise Child

    Fixed a printer today. Dad's new scanner came, which means I may eventually get around to showing some photographs to you guys. Or not.

    I wrote an email (e-mail? E-mail? Email? eMail? Come on guys, pick a system. I like email because it's simple and easiest to type) to chat and fun asking for comments about my upcoming recital. Haven't received too many yet.

    I wounded a fly this evening, and felt bad about it. I was sitting on the couch talking with my mother, and it landed on my chest. Having spent a portion of the afternoon being tormented by deerflies, I switched into hyper-awareness, identified it in my mind as a house fly, but decided that it had to die anyway. You know, that sort of animal-instinct portion of your brain that just sits there quietly until it takes over and goes RRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!

    Anyway, I felt horrid about it. Found the fly, hoped it would be all right. It started moving around after a while. Perhaps it will turn out okay. Sorry, little house fly.

    Yoga this evening, for the first time! It was most excellent. I felt weak in my first attempts at downward dog stance. Oy.

    Read a lot of Wise Child. Going to read some more. Wishing my sinuses would stop being stupid. Wondering what happened to all that stuff I felt like I wanted to say.

    Ever feel like you're drowning in your correspondence? You spend all your time writing replies to people, and yet you always get further behind? It's horrible. Also not relaxing. Ach weel.

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    Tuesday August 7, 2001 Long driving

    I don't have anything to say, but I'll sit here and say it anyway, at least for a little while.

    The band came in 13th, we think, though the ensemble judge gave us 4th place. In the PPBSO, you have four judges in a pipe band competition. Two of them judge the sound of the pipes. One judges the drums. The last one, the job requiring the most experience and highest certification, is ensemble. How'd the band as a whole sound?

    I drove almost 200 miles today, mostly by accident. I had to run errands for Reachout, which ended up being about 55 miles. Drove to Brockville for lessons only to find out that they were in Spencerville (others made the same mistake I did. I was torqued because I'd been sitting there wondering whether or not it was _really_ in Brockville). Drove to Spencerville. Drove home. End total: about 190 miles. Ugh. My back hurts.

    The answer might be yes. It might be no. A lot of it depends on how you ask me.

    I typed up instructions for a lot of dances tonight. Think I'm going to go read Wise Child while I fall asleep.

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    Monday August 6, 2001 Lang request

    Talked with Susie on the phone and hashed out yet more details of the ball program and the recital. Sent email to Vintage Instruments to ask about flutes. Sent email to myself about something or other. Whined to Nori about something.

    We are, at my suggestion, doing a "Fowl" set for Delaware Ball. It will be cool.

    Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 00:35:21 -0400 (EDT)
    From: Hollis Easter
    To: jalston1@cc, jfreema1@cc
    Cc: jlord1@cc, Susie Petrov
    Subject: Request for Lang Concert Hall

    Hi guys,

    Hollis here, and I hope you're all having a good and relaxing summer. I've spent mine working and playing lots of music.

    That leads me to my request for you. I wasn't sure which of you was the proper recipient, so I hope you'll forgive me if you aren't the right one, and direct me to that person.

    Anyway, I've spent the last year in rigorous study of the traditional
    music of Scotland and Ireland, and my teacher and I would like to put on a recital in the fall. The two of us are playing a concert for a lot of Scottish dancers on the evening of 27 October, along with a friend who's coming down from New York City to play, and we would like to use Lang on the 28th of October.

    I've checked the schedule for the 28th, and the only possible conflict is an Orchestra 2001 concert in LPAC at 7:30 pm. That's fine; we'd be perfectly happy to do our concert at 3 in the afternoon.

    A word on what we'll perform. Among the three of us (Cecily Morrison, Susie Petrov, and me), we play piano, accordion, organ, whistle, Great Highland bagpipes, border or lowland pipes, fiddle, whistles, and flute. We've drawn up our program and begun rehearsing using each of these. To this end, my teacher would like to use the organ in Lang for a couple of pieces--she's a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory and Temple University, so I don't think she would hurt it :)

    The current program of a little less than an hour includes a survey of the different tempi of Scottish and Irish music, so you'll hear marches, jigs, reels, strathspeys, airs, waltzes, and songs with a hornpipe or two mixed in. I'll sing a song, probably from the Quebecois tradition, and Susie and I will play a few sets so that Cecily, who is a competing Highland dancer, can demonstrate some of Scotland's national dances.

    We will speak from the stage about the music we play, so that the audience can come away not only having seen a good show but also having learned something about the culture.

    I look forward to speaking with you, and to showing you some of what I've been working on for the past year.

    Hollis Easter '03

    Susie and I decided on 'Music for the Dance' as a theme for the recital. Lots of good stuff queued up for it; all that remains (rofl) is for them to give approval of the space.

    Well, except choosing a few more tunes, writing out the tunes, sending them to everyone, practicing, rehearsing, setting up sound, getting it recorded, publicizing it, inviting all the right people, getting the dancers in line, keeping everyone mollified, and doing the actual performances.

    I'd like to direct your attention to http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern. It's about postmodern theory.

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    Saturday/Sunday August 4/5, 2001 Glengarry Highland Games


    I like Canada. I've never seen a sign like that in the United States. Slow, Children At Play, etc, sure, but never that kind of sign. Sort of funny--quiet, a little bit amusing, but honest and realistic. You don't see that sort of thing in official signs--signage is the official term, as in "we've got a lot of weather-outmoded signage" or "look at this signage" or "I'm holding one of your signages in my hand, and it is unacceptably terse" or "your signage ran over my dorkage"--in the U.S., but there is was, just outside Dominionville Ontario. It stuck in our heads, and we talked about it quite a bit on the way to the Games.

    The Games, of course, is the Glengarry Highland Games of Maxville Ontario, home of the North American Pipe Band Championships, etc. Lots of fun. I was there competing with my band in the grade IV medley category--would have done solo work but they wouldn't accept my registration--and it was a lot of fun.

    "Our", as in "it stuck in our heads", was mine, my father's, my grandmother's, and my... difficulty with noun, Byron. This is an issue I keep wrestling with--my desire for accuracy wants not to call him my grandfather, because technically he isn't, but then my desire for terminology to reflect reality starts fighting, because in everything but blood he is my grandfather. It's a complicated situation, aggravated by the fact that step-anything carries all sorts of baggage in our Cinderella society. For whatever reason, English hasn't greated a word for "person who's totally blood kin except doesn't have the blood" that will satisfy the neurotic philologues out there.

    It's now gotten so much later that I've stopped and restarted writing several times, and this is now a two-day entry. I was out being a child, or something.

    We made hot cheese soup for lunch, which was fantastic and somewhat spicy. It's funny--I used to be unable to stand the smell of the soup, let alone its flavor. I hated it! And now... I would eat it all the time. So yummy. It's got cheddar and tahini and sunflower seeds and peppers and onions and flour and all sorts of goodness and is terrific. Yum!

    Then for dinner Dad made Indian foods--eggplants stuffed with all sorts of things including peas (mattar, I've concluded, is the word for peas, like paneer is cheese and aloo is potatoes), peach chutney, and a spinach raita. Yummy. And chapatis! He let me make them, which I'd never done before. It's fabulous! You cook them on a dry griddle, and then you put them right on top of an open flame to puff them up. And then you eat them. They're very excellent. And fun! They could pay me to do that job, man--sit there and cook chapatis all day.

    Maxville was fun. We competed, which was my first time in the competition circle with the band. I was pleased that I didn't choke or anything. I sat with my pipe major and instructor afterwards while we watched the big kids play (grade I medley), and we all felt that it had been a better performance than our recent rehearsals had been. Cool! We didn't make the top six, and I don't yet know where we fell, but in a field of 23 at the North American Championships, we probably did okay. We're not terrible.

    I can tell you, from long experience of being on the other side, that it feels bloody amazing to march with the band into the competition circle. Susie was helping me to practice my marching when she was here. Among the lessons of how to transfer your weight, where your hips go, and when to push off with your toes, she told me that "you've got to know that you're really cool". Well, Susie, I marched into that circle, and for five minutes, I was the coolest thing alive. My drones were a little off at strike-in, but they fell into line, and I didn't miss anything after that. Beautiful cut-off, and we never fell apart. I couldn't stop grinning inside--I know that I've got 380 years of musical training and am supposed to be all that, but it was my first time in the circle and it went well and I was pleased. As John Gould put it, "[he] saw that it was sure some old goo-ood, and He was wikid pleased!"

    While I was there, I had some missions. I bought three books--Jim McGillivray's Rhythmic Fingerwork, which I love; Donald MacLeod's Collection book 2, which has Sound of Sleat and Walter Douglas, MBE in it; and the Scots Guards Collection, volume II. I've now got a complete Scots Guards collection, and my library grows. I'm still amazed, though, to look at some of these collections. There are so many people who've written ungodly numbers of really good tunes. Donald MacLeod, Robert Mathieson, Will Ross... where do they get it? I just hope to _play_ this stuff, at least for now.

    Highland attire is so ridiculously overpriced it's not surprising the English won--the Scots were probably spending too much money trying to get dressed.

    I'm going to get email if I don't explain that I said that with sarcasm. Anyway, I'm trying to set myself up in highland attire for dancing and playing at school when I don't have stuff from my band, and it's shocking me how much it costs. For example, a belt. Leather belt, chrome buckle. I'm thinking somewhere in the $30-$50 Canadian range... No. $130. Sorry. A piece of steel with chrome coating on it doesn't seem worth $75 to me. Oy. Don't even get me going on the kilt pins and sgian dubhs! I bought a pair of kilt hose and kept moving.

    True to form, I saw a lot of people wearing the annoying T-shirts that said IF IT'S NO SCOTTISH, IT'S CRRRRRRRRRRRRAP! all over them. Untrue to form, I did not consume any of the famed Glengarry lemonade. It's great--you pay them to give you some water, some ice, half a lemon, and a truckload of sugar. Fabulous stuff--it's like crack, you've got to have more of it. I resisted somehow, mostly because the lines were longer than anything a bad analogy could possible describe.

    I sat and talked with Ross, who's an old friend, and Amos, a new one, for a long time. Ross and I are going to get together before he goes away to college and talk whistles. He's headed off for his first year; good luck, dude. I sat around with friends in the sun and talked Scottish music with people who knew what I was saying. Pretty girls waved at us. The circle got bigger as more people came and sat with us. It was nice to see them.

    And then there was the music. Massed bands. Massed bands did a presentation from the world of classical music this year--Amazing Grace, by Charles Ives. The drum major wasn't clear about how many pickup beats he was giving, and he wasn't conducting clearly, with the end result that more than a thousand pipers and half as many drummers had no clue where to play, and so there was just this big sea of astounding grace, kind of like when you go to a hockey game and people sing the national anthem at their own tempi. It was great--one wave of the massed bands finished about five seconds after the rest of us. We would have fallen over laughing if we hadn't (paradoxically) cared about good form. Heh.

    Brian has my bagpipes--doing maintenance on them I wasn't quite confident doing myself in the middle of competition season. So right now I'm practicing hard on practice chanter in lieu of big pipes. When I get them back, they should be much better fitted to my body. Yay!

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    Friday August 3, 2001 Haircut and sunglasses

    Watched The Presidio and Get Shorty today. Good films.

    Bought cheapish sunglasses that aren't big enough for me (the lenses are too small, so there's light color clashing and it's bad) but they'll be better than nothing when I'm standing on the field for massed bands. Massed bands is such a trip.

    Got a haircut. Sleep. People are leaving. Others are returning.

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    Thursday August 2, 2001 Recipe and poems

    That last entry was a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing exercise. I tried to just keep my fingers moving, and avoid editing. It's something from Writing Down The Bones, Natalie Goldman's book on life and writing that I heard about from Kendra. Turns out that my mother had two copies, saw me coveting it in a bookstore, and said "I've got that."

    And here's a recipe, for sauce. At the end of this past year, my parents and Susie and I had dinner at a nice restaurant in Wayne, PA--the Ristorante Primavera. Funny--as we pulled in, a van drove into the Japanese restaurant next door. I kept looking at it and thinking "that's totally a Swat van." Naw. What would a Swarthmore van be doing in Wayne, of all places, at the end of the year? Well, it was.

    Anyway, at said green restaurant, I had veal pizzaiola, which was ... umm... dammit. I can't remember the word. I keep thinking 'saltimbocca', which it isn't, because that's with ham and such--so good it jumps into your mouth, apparently--and I also keep thinking 'flageolet', which is really not it, unless you consider your dinner to be a traditional musical instrument of Québec. Ah. Scaloppini, or scallopini, depending on whose orthography you trust. Means breaded and cooked, etc. Anyway, it was in this nifty sauce that reminded me of puttanesca (think saloppe, putain, harlot, lady of the night, woman of ill repute, person who works late in the cold and often needs a spicy dinner to perk her up--take your pick) sauce but wasn't exactly the same. Here's my attempt to recreate it.

    Salsa pizzaiola alla Pasqua

    1-2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium onions
    4 cloves garlic
    1 green chile
    1 tablespoon cumin seeds
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    1/2 cup red wine
    15 kalamata olives
    2 14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes
    1 teaspoon capers
    red pepper flakes

    Chop up your onions, garlic, and chile separately. Put a biggish saucepan on the stove, and turn it to sauté temperature. For me this is medium-high. Let it warm up. Put in the olive oil. Let that heat. Swirl it around the pan. Put in the onions, garlic, chile, cumin, oregano, and basil. Cook them until they're getting nice and well-cooked. Cover the pan somewhere near the end of that phase.

    Put in your red wine, cover, and cook until some of the wine gets absorbed and you're tired of waiting, about 8 minutes. Stir it to keep things from burning.

    While all that's going on, pit and chop your olives. Not too big, not too small, not too Goldilocks, but Just Right®. Put them in there once you get 'em chopped--all that lovely kalamata juice will soak out of them and get all happy with the rest of the sauce.

    When it's done cooking, because you're tired of waiting, stir in your tomatoes, capers, and red pepper flakes. You'll note that I didn't put a quantity on the pepper flakes. How hot do you want it, baby? I wanted it fairly, um, warm, so I put in a couple of teaspoons, probably. Be careful until you know what you're doing. Actually, I don't know what I'm doing either. Taste it frequently, add more in small doses, and don't cry if you add too much. Sweat instead--it oozes much more machismo. Razor Ramon would approve.

    Anyway, cook your sauce until it's done. Keep it covered. If it's boiling too hard, turn it down, fool! Do not, under any circumstances, sample your sauce by dipping Triscuits® into it and then eating them. This is an abhorrent behaviour, one which no real chef would ever commit.

    A Portrait -- Dorothy Parker

    Because my love is quick to come and go--
    A little here, and then a little there--
    What use are any words of mine to swear
    My heart is stubborn, and my spirit slow
    Of weathering the drip and drive of woe?
    What is my oath, when you have but to bare
    My easy, little loves; and I can dare
    Only to shrug, and answer, "They are so"?

    You do not know how heavy a heart it is
    That hangs about my neck--a clumsy stone
    Cut with a birth, a death, a bridal-day.
    Each time I love, I find it still my own,
    Who take it, now to that lad, now to this,
    Seeking to give the wretched thing away.

    Inventory -- Dorothy Parker

    Four be the things I am wiser to know:
    Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.

    Four be the things I'd been better without:
    Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

    Three be the things I shall never attain:
    Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

    Three be the things I shall have till I die:
    Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

    On Cheating the Fiddler -- Dorothy Parker

    "The we will have tonight!" we said.
    "Tomorrow--may we not be dead?"
    The morrow touched our eyes, and found
    Us walking firm above the ground,
    Our pulses quick, our blood alight.
    Tomorrow's gone--we'll have tonight.

    A Dream Lies Dead -- Dorothy Parker

    A dream lies dead here. May you softly go
    Before this place, and turn away your eyes,
    Nor seek to know the look of that which dies
    Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe,
    But, for a little, let your step be slow.
    And, of your mercy, be not sweetly wise
    With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies.
    A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know:

    Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree--
    Though white of bloom as it had been before
    And proudly waitful of fecundity--
    One little loveliness can be no more;
    And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head
    Because a dream has joined the wistful dead!

    Ornithology for Beginners -- Dorothy Parker

    The bird that feeds from off my palm
    Is sleek, affectionate, and calm,
    But double, to me, is worth the thrush
    A-flickering in the elder-bush.

    It's been an interesting day. A friend returns from abroad, another writes in, changed. I write letters out. A discussion of body piercings. I'm the boy wonder, but will I ever figure it out? Don't bet on it. Scampi pulls covers off my bed to make herself a nest on the floor. Planxty George Brabazon, an old friend, resurfaces.

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