Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Image I'm excited! Daisy and Jake are coming to visit two weeks from today! Image

Buffet or Burrow

Sometimes life is like a buffet. You see so many tantalizing dishes, and you pile them eagerly onto your plate, and then you realize that you have way to much, and that you don't have room to add on some really good things that you just got to.

There are so many things I'd like to do. Yet I must spend the majority of my time earning a living. And my job leaves me tired, so it's not like I can just leap into some exciting activity every moment that I'm not at work. Moreover, time is needed for the basic chores of life like getting groceries and doing laundry. So I seem to only have time for about 1% of what I want to do. It seems like I just randomly snatch at things, I embark on some interesting activity because I think of it at the time, but then all the other things I'd like to be doing get pushed aside. And I end up filling up my life with so many things that I'm too tired and stressed to enjoy them.

But lately, my life is more like a burrow. I'm in hibernation. I put the brakes on all my activities. When I'm not at work, I'm just puttering about at home. I say I've quit all my activities, but I still am gardening, going to Nia twice a week, and doing my radio show. So maybe I haven't quit as much as it sounds, but I am mostly leading a quiet, solitary life, and I like it that way. I like getting rested, not always pushing myself to do things I'm too tired to do.

And yet, the long list of things I want to do still vibrates in the back of my mind. Somehow, I want to find a way to do so many things, and yet preserve the peacefulness of a less harried lifestyle. Here's what they all are:

  • Intellectual: take courses in databases, web programming, institutional research, education, anthropology, Spanish, etc. Do some sort of educational research, whether for a state government, in an institutional research office, or in a research institute. (They sound the same, but an institutional research office and a research institute are quite different.)
  • Travel/active: build houses for Habitat for Humanity, go on the Zephyr Adventures trips to Idaho and Nantucket/Martha's Vineyard, go hiking, rollerblading, kayaking, sailing, cross country skiing, and downhill skiing, spend time in Maine and Vermont.
  • Dance/movement: ballroom, swing, Latin, jazz, modern, Afro-Caribbean, contra, Nia and yoga.
  • Community: participate in groups of like minded people such as Quakers, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, the Troy Waterfront Farmer's Market, the Capital District Community Gardens.
  • Work on projects at home: compile family history information, write up Taiwan trip, write up Venezuela trip, write up radio show information, write in blogs and e-mails, go through miscellaneous papers, read the many things I have piled up waiting to be read, do miscellaneous chores like put the new registration sticker on my car, change the smoke alarm batteries, etc.
  • Music: do my radio show, volunteer at concerts and festivals, go to Folk Alliance conferences, read about folk music, compile folk music information, go to singalongs, learn to play musical instruments.
  • People: host parties, visit friends and family.
  • Home: I don't think I'm really up to doing all this singlehandedly at this point, but someday it would be nice to get a house, and put in some solar power, decorate it the way I want it to be, and work on home renovation projects and yard work and gardening. In my dreams, there is something like a complex of cottages housing all my friends and relatives, with a common building which has a kitchen, dining room, living room, computer room, library, dance studio, and TV/movie room.
People might tell me I just need to set some goals and priorities, but the problem is the structure of my life is such that the stuff I want to do far exceeds my time and energy, so I will always be in a state of frustration. Or people might tell me to just appreciate the things that I can do, appreciate what time and energy I do have. People are so annoying that way.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


In the laundromat, there are magazines you can read while waiting for your clothes. The one I picked up was Prevention. There was an article that said there was a new gym in Los Angeles that had treadmills, heated pools, and personal trainers. It said this would not be news, except that the clients would be working out on four legs instead of two. It was a gym for pets. The author of the article at first found it absurd for dogs to go on a treadmill when there was a whole world outside. Then the author realized the same applies to humans. The article said the following. The first sentence is a quote from a poet, and then the rest is by the author of the article.

Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness. The reason to move is to reteach our bodies their loveliness. We live most of our lives in our minds, but the fact is that we are spirits clothed in flesh and blood and bones. By not moving our bodies, we are depriving ourselves of connecting to that long-ago child who loved running, dancing, and jumping in the sun and air.

I do like the sentiment, and it reminds me of the kind of thing my Nia teacher talks about: the joy of movement, life as a dance, that in Nia you don't worry about how many calories you are burning and you don't say "no pain, no gain." Instead, Nia is about connecting with your body and having fun.

I think that people affected by illness, injury, or disability may not be able to enjoy "running, dancing, and jumping," but there are other ways of connecting with your body. The passage above says, "We live most of our lives in our minds." Mobility is not required to transfer our focus from mind to body. We can just lie still, enjoying the relaxation of our muscles and the feel of the carpet.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I had pretty much the same hairstyle from high school up until a couple years ago. Each stylist did it a bit differently, so there were variations, but I always told them to do it the same, and it always fell within certain parameters. But I wasn't too happy with it any more and wanted to try something different. I printed a picture of a different style and brought it to a new stylist. I think I went to her twice. But then I didn't like that either.

I went to yet another stylist, this one more upscale than I had been to in the past. I told him that I wanted his opinion as to what would look good on me. He told me to grow out the front, which I had had in bangs for over 20 years. So I agreed to do it. When I was next due for a haircut, I went back to him and told him growing out the front really wasn't working for me and I wanted him to make the front shorter. He said, "How do you want it? You don't want bangs, do you?" I let him cut it how he thought was best. He shortened the front, but didn't give me bangs.

I went to another upscale stylist. I told her I mostly wanted the front and top cut, I wanted to keep the back long, and I wanted layers. She said, "You don't want bangs, do you?" as if bangs would be a horrifying thing. I let her cut it how she thought was best.

I didn't like any of these bangs-free hairstyles, but also wasn't really sure what I wanted. Then on TV I saw someone who had a hairstyle I liked. It had bangs and was within the parameters of the haircuts that I used to always get, though the shape was a little different than some of them. I looked up the name of the actress, searched for pictures of her, and printed some out. I took them to a not so upscale hairstylist and said this is what I want.

So as of today, I have bangs again, and I like it a lot better than the hairstyles I've had the past few years.

One might think the moral of the story is don't listen to so-called experts, but I don't think that's it. I think the moral is try different things. If you don't like it, it's okay because you can try something else next time, and eventually you might come across something you like.

Of course, different things have different risk levels. If you get your hair cut and you don't like it, you can't immediately make it longer, but in time it will grow back. If you try a food and you don't like it, you can just stop eating it. But if you are allergic to peanuts and then you decide to try some to check whether you are still allergic, you could die from it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

This season's best TV shows

This season's best TV shows are the same as last year's: Boston Legal and Veronica Mars.

Boston Legal is good because it's funny and because it raises interesting issues. I must be out of step with the American mainstream because most things they call comedies don't seem funny to me. They just seem stupid. Boston Legal really makes me laugh.

Boston Legal is a lawyer show. Most lawyer shows are about crime, but Boston Legal is about issues. For example, can a company fire someone for smoking on their own time? What about firing someone for their religion, if they talk about their non-mainstream religion in front of clients, thus affecting the company's reputation? Can snack food companies be held responsible for obesity? Should HMO's be allowed to require their patients to get their surgery in India, where it is cheaper?

Another thing that is interesting about Boston Legal but is not what makes it good is the abundance of former Star Trek actors. Kirk and Odo are regular characters. Quark, Seven of Nine, Neelix and Nurse Ogawa have made guest appearances. Other actors of interest include regular characters Candice Bergen and James Spader, and guests Tom Selleck, Parker Posey, Katey Sagal, Heather Locklear, Sharon Lawrence, Al Sharpton, Wes Craven, Howard Hesseman, Monica Potter, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Betty White, Shelley Long, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Robert Wagner, Ed Begley, Jr., Peter MacNicol, Leslie Jordan, Adam Arkin, Corbin Bernsen, and Michael J. Fox. Not as well known is another actor I liked since before she appeared on Boston Legal: Constance Zimmer

Veronica Mars is good because the plots are so rich. Some trivial thing that happens turns out later to mean something. Maybe later in the same episode, or maybe not until later in the season. And even if you know this and try to think about all the things that you would normally overlook because they are trivial, you can't because there are just so many things to think about. I also like the way things from one season don't get totally forgotten in the next season. The death of Veronica's friend and the departure of her mother are in the past now and not constantly on her mind, but they are still part of her history.

Comments on other TV shows

  • It's not often that you see married couples on TV who like each other and don't cheat on each other. When you do, it may be as parents, when the interesting stuff is being done by their teenage children. I liked Mad About You and Medium because they were about married people who liked each other and who still had interesting enough lives to be the focus of the show. Firefly and Star Trek did make an effort, but it was more like there was a token married couple as part of the show, not like marital bliss was mainstream.
  • Sometimes it seems like writers are lazy about character and plot, and just throw in romance, sex, mystery, crime, and violence to hold people's attention. That was how I felt about the romance between Troi and Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I didn't see any basis for them to like each other other than the writers wanted to add a romance to make viewers more interested. The impression I get from 24 and Lost is that the writers make everything very intense in order to attract viewers. Similarly, shows like Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill have a lot of relationship complications to attract viewers. I've watched the new show The Nine twice, and I think it may fall into that category. The way they hint at things that happened in the bank is meant to use mystery to attract people.
  • I also enjoy some shows which focus on characters and relationships: Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, Men in Trees, Six Degrees, and Brothers & Sisters. Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven have been on for a while. I've never taped every episode like I do with Veronica Mars and Boston Legal, but I've caught episodes here and there. I caught a few recent episodes of 7th Heaven in which Lucy was lashing out at everyone because she was feeling the pain of loss. It could seem like she was being too crazy, but it resonanted with me because I've been in the same sort of mood. Maybe I am feeling the strain that I have to keep on behaving properly even when I feel like lashing out, so I get some gratification in watching someone else lash out. Men in Trees, Six Degrees, and Brothers & Sisters are new and I haven't yet decided how good they are. So far, they do seem to have engaging characters. On Men in Trees, I liked how before Annie and Patrick spent the night together, Annie was afraid to tell him she snores, and Patrick was afraid to tell her he wears a retainer at night. In the end, they were there sleeping side by side, with the retainer and the snoring. They looked like real people in a way I don't often see on TV. People on TV are usually more glamorous.
  • After the first episode of Ugly Betty, I thought it had the potential to be good. The idea of a hero who does not meet standards of beauty is not that earth-shattering, and yet Ugly Betty is refreshing for that reason. I mean, characters on shows such as The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Class, and Friends may feel like they aren't glamorous enough to be attractive, but the reality is that they do look more like movie stars than regular people. Betty doesn't. But it wasn't just that. In the first episode, her boss asked her to do things like take the cabbage out of his coleslaw, and she was compliant. Our culture places so much value on assertiveness. It was refreshing to see being agreeable cast in a positive light. But now that I've seen three episodes, the show seems much too simplistic. It's always Betty making some mistake but triumphing in the end. It's always the glamorous people being self-centered and cruel. The characters are not people, they are caricatures. This is particularly true for the bad people: Wilhemina, Marc, and Amanda. What I liked in Deep Space Nine was that there were many factions with different agendas (Federation, Bajorans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Founders), but you could see how people on each side felt they were fighting for what was right. Wilhemina and Amanda are just cruel. I mean, you understand that they want power for themselves, but you just see them as evil, not as humans.
  • There are many crime dramas. They are kind of all the same, even though each one has a certain angle to make it different. When I want to watch TV because I'm too tired to do anything else, the crime dramas do hold my attention, but they aren't in the same league as the good shows, Veronica Mars and Boston Legal. Crime dramas I enjoy include Standoff, Vanished, and Without a Trace.