Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Manogue news

Kylie Manogue imitates Kylie Minogue. Feeling reluctant to admit any connection to this lineage... Although raising funds for breast cancer research is a good thing. Maybe if I told him about my heart disease plight he would create a show based on me and raise some funds for WomenHeart. Kylie Manogue imitates Dawn Manogue. Could be interesting. spotted on Ghost of a flea, which I found by happy accident in a search for info on an ancestor. He's a huge Kylie fan

THE Letter

So, that letter. You know, the one from CIS clearing us to adopt an unidentified orphan from another country? The one which required $700 and fingerprint clearance from the FBI? The only which I've been expecting since the 3rd week of July? Still not here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The mind of a 4-year old

This was swiped from Caiterwauling, and I added the resident 4 year-old's answers. She rarely fails to entertain. This little quiz is supposed to test your mental agility/ability. See how you do. 1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way. Lily says: Well, since he is so tall, I'd have to bend his neck before I put him in. And take out the shelves in the fridge. 2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator? Did you say, Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the refrigerator? Wrong answer. Correct answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions. Lily says: Humph. I'd have to squeeze him pretty small to fit with the giraffe. Maybe iron him. Then I could squish him in. 3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend.... except one. Which animal does not attend? Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there. This tests your memory. Okay, even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities. Lily says: Unicorns of course. They are too magical. 4. There is a river your must cross, but it is used by crocodiles, and you do not have a boat. How do you manage it? Correct Answer: You jump into the river and swim across. Have you not been listening? All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes. Lily says: I'd fly over on a pegasus. Or use the crocodile's head as stepping stones. According to Anderson Consulting Worldwide, around 90% of the professionals they tested got all questions wrong, but many preschoolers got several correct answers. According to Lily, "those are silly questions."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Too many choices

Who said Hartford is boring? This weekend there are so many options that interest me, I'm not sure what to do. GothStock: A weekend of peace, love, and darkness... and 40 bands. 30th Anniversary celebration of Curbstone Press. They publish Latino authors, and I've enjoyed following their journey as a small press with a huge impact. I focused on Latin American literature as an undergrad and grad student, so I've read many of the authors. The weekend festival features readings by authors including Martin Espada and Claribel Alegria. Nearby there is the CT Ren Faire, too. Happy weekend!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pizza Joy

I haven't had pizza in years. The other day I found a frozen pizza with a brown rice crust made by Amy's Meals. It. was. so. good. I actually wrote a letter to express my pizza joy. It is a rare thing to find a good tasting convience food for celiacs. Now all I need is a gluten-free beer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Global friends

Click here to see a world map marking the latest visitors to Gaiagal. gVisit offers a free service to track your blog visitors near and far. Found amongst lots of good stuff at La Cueva Blog

Monday, September 19, 2005

Good Mornin'

I suspect that there is no ickier way to start the day than by cleaning up dog puke after she's been snacking in the cat litter box.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


I want to go to this symposium on structural heart disease. I don't qualify to attend as a patient/informed parent. Maybe I could sneak in... It's in D.C., where I understand that Lily and I grace a billboard as well. Maybe that could get me in?


At the grocery store yesterday, Lily bumped into a Halloween display. The witches were her height, wearing sparkly purple robes, and had red glowing eyes. They had sensors and began to move and cackle when someone came by. It terrified Lily. Really put a crimp in my shopping style to avoid the display at the center of the store, close to the checkout. We saw another little kid get scared and cry. Lily said: "Mommy, let's talk to the principal of the store and tell him it's not Halloween yet." We approached the customer service counter and asked to speak with the manager. Lily marched right up to him and declared: "Those prickly witches are scary to the children. You should take them down." Within two minutes, the visible part of the store was prickly-witch-free.

Friday, September 16, 2005

More from Ken

You can read more about Ken's experiences in Syria/Turkey in two updates: 9/13: Maybe Sifty Shoot Mr. Ken 9/14: Back in Damascus

Put the chill on global warming

Here's a little survey and site worth looking into: The 10% Challenge A short survey of your personal energy use habits will give you some suggestions to make a small reduction, which added with the other pledges will result in a big impact on the planet. I'll be looking into new lightbulbs and John's moving forward with the plan to add some solar panels to our home. I would like to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

First day!

I left this big kid at school this morning. In her unicorn dress.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Playing with the kid was complicated today. We pretended to be characters from Strawberry Shortcake, who were pretending to be faeries. The faeries had a lot of housework to do to get ready for the impending birthday party. A couple of Lilyisms that came out of playtime: "Oh, they didn't even know what the word washing machine meant, those people in the original days. You know, the people who lived in log cabins?" "It would be my pleasure to help you put your kitchen robe on." (apron)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dispatches from Deir Ez-Zor, The River Euphrates

The ongoing adventures of Ken, slightly crazy journalist from CT: Dispatches from Deir Ez-Zor, The River Euphrates My high school Western Civ teacher would have been jealous, I thought, as I strolled the south bank of the Euphrates in Deir Ez-Zor on a busy Friday night. After the bus station incident, the Euphrates proved relaxing. Recorded history pretty much begins with life on the Euphrates, and I felt in awe of humanity itself, watching the parade of veiled women and men in long robes and head scarves, camouflage or western outfits pass. Children, boys and girls, dressed western too, wearing Superman, NBA and psychedelic flowery t-shirts. Under colorful lights and palm trees, my guide Mr. Maher led me through town. Down one street, we found a Syrian government magazine called Black and White, which featured Jordan’s King Hussein on the cover. A prankster, though, had drawn devil’s horns and a mustache on King Hussein, and wrote in Arabic over his forehead "The Son Will Slay You!" The son, of course, refers to Bashar Al-Assad, the president of Syria. We flipped through the magazine, looking at pictures of George Bush I and American soldiers on our way to the pedestrian suspension bridge spanning the river Euphrates. "Mr. Ken," he said. "This bridge is French." We crossed the river, and he pointed down, saying, "Mr. Ken, fish." Sure enough, when I returned at dawn to photograph the town, I saw little boys tossing bread to fish at the irrigation canal across from my hotel. On the Euphrates pedestrian bridge, men fished throwing lures and lines by hand. "Mr. Ken," Mr. Maher called for my attention. He grabbed a steel cable on the bridge and shook it. The bridge trembled. It was sturdy, but I was glad to step back onto land, this time in between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the so-called Cradle of Civilization. Mesopotamia proper was probably deeper into Iraq, but since 120 kilometers downstream, war rages, I settled for that moment. Walking through town, you can see why the first city dwellers built here. The desert stretches from Saudi Arabia to Deir, as the locals call it. Once you hit the canal just north across the street from my hotel, the landscape turns green. The temperature drops approaching the canal, and once at the Euphrates, lush vegetation crowds the banks, and the area feels cooler than the canal. Thousands of Syrians take advantage of this at night by the riverside. Small tour boats ferry people up and down stream. Men and boys on bicycles cruise the sidewalk strip. Men lounge around on plastic lawn furniture, tables and chairs, and smoke tobacco out of hookahs. Further upstream, city officials blocked several kilometers of boulevard by the river and let merchants set up stalls for sidewalk sales: notebooks, books, pens, soaps, clothes, rugs, washing machines, refrigerators, televisions, stereos, Arabic CDs, movies, sweets, falafels, sandals, shoes, cigarettes, lottery tickets, tea, coffee, folk art, etc. The outdoor mall teemed with people in a massive pedestrian traffic jam. I was jealous that Hartford has a river, but nothing like this. City planners in Deir balanced the automobile and the ambulator. Markets like this never happened under the Father, Hafez Al-Assad. The father focused on foreign relations, on building pan-Arabic unity, as the philosophy of the Ba’athist party guided him. And Syria suffered internally for it. Bashar, though, has focused on Syria’s economy since he assumed the presidency in 2000. He’s tried to open markets. Although few of the goods I saw were American, as recent sanctions prevent that (although the elevator in my hotel was Otis). Occasionally, you’ll find a Chevrolet, but mostly, its Chinese, Russian or European cars. The same goes for Coca-Cola or 7-Up. Arab companies have cornered the Syrian bottled beverage market. The availability of consumer goods will hopefully hasten the transition to democracy, Mr. Maher indicated. He is a local figure in the pro-democracy movement, and some research echoes his sentiment. The tipping point that helps secure a developing democracy is a $5,500 annual per capita income, according to Fulbright Scholar Joshua Landis’ website, Syria, at an estimated GDP per capita income of $1,165, is still a stretch from $5,500, but open elections can’t be far behind Internet cafes and Benetton boutiques. Although, only one personal computer exists for every 56 Syrians, according to the U.S. State Department’s web site. Navigating the crowds, Mr. Maher bumped into many friends and neighbors, including a veiled mother and three of her 11 children (4 daughters, 7 sons). One of the daughters was in her late teens, or perhaps early 20s, already a mother and veiled. The children, Kasem, a 12-year-old boy and Hudda, an 11 year old girl, dressed like they could be from Manhattan. They walked with us for 15 minutes, holding Mr. Maher’s arm. Syrian culture might disturb some Americans. Many Syrian men hold hands, or stroll together arm-in-arm. When men greet each other, they kiss on the cheeks, European style. I saw no such show of affection among women. Among this homogenous crowd, I was the only tourist, and certainly the only American. When we reached some riverside tables, Mr. Maher bid us to sit down, and he disappeared to retrieve some beverages. Every time a breeze passed, a nasty garbage stench hit my nostrils. At first, we sat there in silence. I watched Kasem play with a cheap Chinese lighted plastic wristband. Hudda held a plastic bag tight on her lap. I thought that but for a line in the sand, drawn by Winston Churchill on a napkin, these people might be under attack by my government. I have no problem with them. And it occurred to me that if the US invades Syria, Kasem might take up arms against the American army. I felt sad, because I am certain that life in Al-Qaim, the main town on the other side of the Iraqi border, is no different than here in Deir. I broke the silence with the children by trying to teach them new English words, and gleaning the Arabic equivalent in exchange. Hudda could count to 20 in English. Kasem took a minute to catch on that I was pointing at the table and saying "Table." We covered the vocab for chair, cup, teeth, nose, eyes, mouth, ears, eyebrow, and tongue. Mr. Maher returned, and UmmUmm (grandmother) told him I was nice. We had a round of tea, coffee and the children had soda. After our round, those people left, and two more friends of Mr. Maher’s showed up, two 30-something men. They yammered away in Arabic, and I heard "American journalist" bandied about before they turned to me. In English, they quizzed me about the Progressive, and wanted to know if it listed on the Stock Exchange and how big it is. It dawned on me that Mr. Maher suspected I might have been CIA or something other than who I purported to be because he kept asking me for a copy of the magazine, which I lost somewhere between Istanbul and Damascus. Was my name was in the masthead? Was I the editor? Trying to explain freelance writing to a culture unfamiliar with the battle between America’s corporate-owned and independent presses is like me trying to understand Arabic. Wrestling with this got us really nowhere, and Mr. Maher put me in a taxi back to my hotel, to meet at 9 a.m. to go to Abu Kamal, the Iraqi border.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Spell casting

So this week we visited the neurologist, naturopath, and endodontist. Hopefully we are not adding to the list of "conditions" in our family. I had the third root canal (on the same tooth), and it became inflamed and infected on Friday. I've spent the last two days in bed, sick with pain, antibiotics, and narcotics. Oh, and that letter-- still not here. And to torture me further...the hot water heater is broken, and even my handy husband can't fix it. He did boil lots of water for me to soak for a bit in the tub tonight, and took great care of me and Lily this weekend. Looking forward to a new week. A pain and infection-free start to Fall, complete with a statement of approval from CIS.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Trouble with Tribbles

The CT Celiac association has a new mascot. Do other diseases have mascots? Well, we have the pink ribbons for breast cancer, red dresses for heart disease...but fictional creatures?


My friend Ken is in Syria to write a piece for The Progressive magazine. He also writes for CT News Junkie. It appears this will be an interesting trip, as he details in his first email:
Our plane landed in Damascus and taxied around the tarmac for 20 minutes. The ants in my pants were already wild because the flight left an hour after its scheduled 11:35 p.m. departure. At 2 a.m., not even 20 minutes waiting in a passport control line could kill the thrill of entering one-third of the Axis of Evil. Would people really want to kill me, or would they welcome me like the guidebooks said? When the soldier waved and grunted for me to step past the red line, I hoped for the best. He read my journalist’s visa, typed my passport info into an IBM, and started quizzing me in Arabic. I couldn’t answer, and he shouted something that materialized a German tourist named Daniel. The officer wanted a copy of the magazine I worked for. My heart skipped a beat when I couldn’t locate my copy of the Progressive, which gave me the assignment to come to Syria, which I packed especially for this occasion. So I handed him a Harper’s. The fat, hairy-chested man in the tan uniform thumbed through the magazine like he read English, then returned it to me. He asked Daniel what I was writing and where I was going. Daniel, 5’8’’, sandy brown hair, wire rimmed glasses, dressed in black like a good European, explained that I planned to write a nice piece about how good Syria was. Thanks, Daniel. With a thud, the soldier stamped my passport, and I was officially welcomed into a state that supports Hezbollah, is hostile with Israel and opposed the Iraq war. For those reasons and more, George W. Bush and his neo-conservative Cabinet want Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad deposed. If the hard liners ever get their wish, the democratic revolution will have a lot of work to do in tearing down the hundreds of pictures of Assad and his father, Hafez Al-Assad, the Alawite strongman who ruled Syria for 30 years, until his death at age 69 in 2000. Portraits of the father and son greeted me when I first stepped into the airport, in stickers on taxicabs, and on billboards coming into the city, mingled with ads for sodas, cell phones, hotels and trade schools. The friendly taxi driver, driving in the middle of the road in the pitch-black desert night, tried to teach me some Arabic, which I promptly forgot. At 3 a.m., downtown Damascus was deserted, except for a few men jamming some Arabic pop music from their car stereos. I felt safe. I was so tired I accidentally left my passport with the hotel manager. It gave me a scare when I woke to the morning prayer call at 7 a.m. and started my day. After retrieving my identity documents and scarfing down a hardboiled egg, a roll and a cup of tea, I took off for the American embassy. Damascus doesn’t open for business until 10 a.m., so my meander to the Embassy took me on streets and sidewalks lightly sprinkled with people. At first, I didn’t don my sunglasses, because I feared sticking out. I bought pants, shoes and a shirt in Turkey so I might blend in. It seemed to work, because when I walked into a mosque and worshippers signaled me to talk to the Imam. I said I was just visiting, and an angry man asked why I was in the mosque if I wasn’t Islamic. I scurried away, hoping I didn’t start a jihad. I wanted to register as a citizen abroad at the U.S. Embassy, after my two kilometer walk, I was thirsty, looking for some hospitality. I found American soil on Syria’s small embassy row. The Dutch and Turkish embassies lay just south of America, and the Italian embassy is just north. I didn’t find home, though. Old Glory flies high above the heavily secured compound, which stretches a residential block. At least 12 foot high concrete walls support 10 feet of wrought iron fence, which is topped by tall, dense coils of barbed razor wire. Waist high steel pillars line the sidewalk, armed guards stand every 30 feet, and cameras hang off the walls. One might get the impression the U.S. is worried someone in Syria doesn’t like it there. Walking into the embassy, I was subjected to the standard airport rigamarole, and when I reached the two-inch thick bullet proof glass to register with my country, I was told to do it online. Oh well. Walking home, I bought a SIM card for my cell phone, and observed as the city slowly woke up, and more people mingled on the street. The Lonely Planet map of Syria is okay, but I wanted more, so I stopped into a bookstore. Dar Dimashq sold me an English map, and during the transaction, I spotted a hardcover Arabic translation of Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life. Using my handy Arabic dictionary, I tried to ask the salesman if it sold well. Yes, he said. Was it more popular than the paperback with Hitler on the cover? After a few minutes of struggling to ask and answer that doozy, he disappeared. While I waited, I noticed a paperback on the shelf featuring George Bush in a cowboy hat on the cover. When the salesman returned with a neighboring merchant who spoke English, I asked about the Arabic script on the Bush book. It was called The Biggest Lies of George Bush – The Lies He Told Us About Iraq. Sales of that expose and a new one about Saddam Hussein’s secret life were blooming now, the seller said. These books had eclipsed last year’s hot tome, Shame of America – From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib. The cover of that paperback featured a mosaic of torture and gore photos, like U.S. Army Pvt. Lyndy Englund and her dog leash, pyramids of Iraqi men, and orange hooded enemy combatants. Yikes. This explains the Embassy’s heavy fortifications. I felt tears welling, ashamed for my country’s bad behavior, so I apologized to the several men who had gathered to watch the interview. The translator thanked me, and told me he and his peers didn’t hold me or other Americans responsible. He said that they understood that we are merely people, and we don’t play the games of kings and wars. We know, he said, that you don’t want war or this to happen any more than we do. Before I left America, I both knew and hoped that this response would greet me, and I felt relief that I encountered such hospitality and understanding on my first morning. My afternoon was just as eventful, but more on that later…

Monday, September 05, 2005

Many of these are true for me

You Know You're From Wisconsin When...
You can taste a difference in cheese made somewhere else You own at least one tie with a or peice of jewelry with a Green Bay Packer theme You can find and pronounce : Eau Claire, Oconomowoc, Menomonee Falls, Waukesha, and La Crosse, Fond du Lac. You can correctly spell Milwaukee. You know what "bubbler" means. At least one of your family members works / worked in a cheese factory. A holstein cow outside of Wisconsin makes you miss home. You can taste the difference between apples grown up north and the ones that you can buy in the south. When talking about the Green Bay Packers you refer to them as "we". When the weather hits 0 degrees you decide that maybe it's time to get out a jacket instead of a sweatshirt. The family gets together every week for fish fry at the local pub. You know what a brat is, and they're at every outdoor event that your family has ever had. You know how to make a very good sled out of normal household items. Your love you outdoor pool because of how it doubles as an ice skating area during the winter. You can tell the difference between the smell of cow manure and pig manure. You have watched Fargo and not noticed an accent. You drive around with the air conditioning on until it hits 30 degrees, because it just was so darn hot outside. The local paper needs 6 pages to cover the Packers... in July! Your best shirt has a big letter G on it. You've said "Of course they'll win. They're God's team." You think it's nice enough to swim when the temperature hits 50. You family owns a "winter car" while the "good one" sits in the garage from Nov-Apr. Your put ketchup on a charcoal grilled NY strip steak. You live in a house that has no front steps, yet the door is one yard above the ground. You think everyone from south of Madison has an accent. You can identify a Michigan accent. Down South to you means Chicago. Traveling coast to coast means going from Superior to Milwaukee. You can make sense out of the words "upnort" and "Trivers". You have to go to Florida to get a tan in August. You consider Madison exotic. You can visit Luxemburg, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Berlin, New London & Poland all in one afternoon. You can recognize someone from Illinois from their driving. You buy cat litter every winter, but you don't own a cat. At least twice a year, the kitchen doubles as a meat processing plant or cannery. You know what to do with a Blatz. You don't have a coughing fit from one sip of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Bucky the Badger hangs on your Christmas tree even if you didn't go to University of Wisconsinm Madison. You're a member of the Polar Bear Club and proud of it. You can use the word "ya der hey" easily in a sentence You hear someone use the words "uff-dah" and you don't immediately break into uncontrollable laughter. Your whole family wears green and gold to church on Sunday. Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a cow next to your blue spruce. You know how to polka You own a cheesehead You have cow pharaphenilia around your house, including your pajama pants You know what a FIB is and can spot them a mile away. You think of the major four food groups as cheese, beer, brats and Jell-O salad with marshmallows. FFA was the most popular club in high school You have eaten a cow pie at the State Fair. There was at least one kid in your class who had to help milk cows in the morning Country Kitchen is the place to meet after the party You have ever seen or played in a "broom ball" game. You have ever partied at Summerfest, Festa Italiana, German Fest, Irish Fest, Oktoberfest, or all of the above. You or someone you know was a "Dairy Princess" at a county fair. You can't be friends with a Vikings fan Your idea of diversity is having black, white, and brown cows. You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Wisconsin.

Get Your Own "You Know You're From" Meme Here

Country fair time

815 pounds of pumpkin! The weather was perfect, and I had just the right amount of people watching, greasy food, loud bad music, and kiddie rides. Can you believe I let Lily do this?

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I had a conversation yesterday with a longtime friend. We talked about Katrina, of course, as the entire planet continues to discuss it. She said of the people trapped "they are people who have tended to make poor decisions all through their lives". I ended the conversation quickly after trying to do a bit of analytical thinking with her...but it quickly became clear that her meaning was "if those people are stupid enough to live there, and dumb enough not to have the means to escape, they got what they deserve." I'm disappointed with her. I'm disappointed with our government and the mess that continues. The only good thing about the relentless media coverage is that the general public knows what a fiasco the US leaders made of the rescue efforts. Amazing photos of the aftermath found over at Susan's EBC

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Turn off the TV!

A special report on the hurricane from a very angry squirrel. (There's a lot of words coming out of the squirrel that you wouldn't want your little kid to hear.) Found at squirrel central: DRT