Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rambling: Wheels and Smoke

I have a busy brain. This is not a good thing.

I don't mean busy in the sense that it sensibly and productively runs around getting things done. I mean busy in the sense of thrashing around randomly. Usually worrying about things, sometimes pleasantly planning things, but always busy busy busy.

The times when my brain is at peace are rare. Rare enough that I have, for example, a very clear memory of the time that I was watching a James Bond movie and my brain, inexplicably and uncharacteristically, just shut up and let me watch the thing. It wasn't running alternative plots. It wasn't thinking about the last movie I saw or the next one I was going to see. It wasn't worrying about whether I'd gotten popcorn butter on my shirt. It wasn't thinking about work. I just watched. the. movie.

It was a fascinating experience. It was over a year ago and it hasn't happened since.

That is, the experience of being entirely healthy and intelligent and still having a peaceful brain hasn't happened. I do find that when I'm sick, my brain does seem to quiet down, but then I wouldn't call it peaceful, I would call it stupid. It reaches out little thought tentacles, then collapses with an exhausted, "Oh, never mind." But it never stays collapsed.

It is, all the same, a bit more relaxing. I mention this because I feel as if I'm catching a cold, and my brain is looking around, sleepy-eyed, prodding halfheartedly at things. It's pleasantly restful.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Random thoughts: Chicken and children's books

The local grocery had fried chicken in the lunchtime hot bar. Yay.

I need to read the rest of Rumer Godden's work. She's my favorite author, but I don't think I've read even half of her books, I suspect because the older I get, the more I perceive the sadness in them. Poor Mr. Plantaganet in  The Dolls' House makes me want to cry now.

I was realizing recently that the best children's books often are sad, in  a way that haunts me more than adult books. Where the Wild Things Are. Peter Pan. A Wrinkle in Time. The Light Princess. Stuart Little and the rest of E.B. White's books. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. A Little Princess. The Velveteen Rabbit. Harriet the Spy. Hitty. Ruth M. Arthur's books. And more and more. For some reason, even the ones with happy endings still leave me with a flavor of sad.

I went Googling for a reminder of what titles make me think this, and found an article about Anne Carroll Moore's work in introducing children's books to libraries. Well, and then it goes on to some controversy. It's an interesting article.

I want a copy of Ruth M. Arthur's The Saracen Lamp. It seems to be extra out of print. Not in the sense of being unavailable, just in the sense of expensive.

I used to check out Ruth M. Arthur's books from the library shelf across from Rumer Godden's books and a few feet down. I spent a lot of time in the children's room. My brain has a hard time accepting that those books are no longer on those shelves, waiting for me.

My favorite book on building dollhouses was upstairs in the adult room, down in the second rank of shelves, roughly in the middle. They rearranged and moved it once. I was dismayed. I own a copy of that one, now. With the correct dust jacket. The correct dust jacket is an important part of the experience of that Mine Mine All Mine I've Got My Own Copy Now Ha! experience.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chicken Index: Screen Door, Portland

(The first real post of the Chicken Index, introduced here.)

I mentioned Screen Door yesterday. (Though I added a stray "the" to the name.) I've always been puzzled by brunch restaurants that have lines out the door and down the block, week after week after week. Is it something addictive about the location? Is it a meditative interval in a too-busy life? You show up, enter your name on the list of those who hope to be worthy, and hang around for an hour, perhaps two, chatting absently with friends and strangers, waiting for an opportunity to leap, catlike, at an open waiting-area bench seat, and now and then reading the menu one more time. Dedication is required--if you wander off for an hour of an anticipated two-hour wait, you'll find that roll was called and your name removed.

For some of these restaurants, I can't even praise the food. That's not true of Screen Door; they're worth the trip and the money, though I may have doubts about the wait. (We were, I admit, told that the two-hour wait this Sunday was unusual.) The waitstaff are good, too--sharp and friendly and fast. The wait wrangler is stern, but no sterner than the desperate crowds of would-be brunchers require.

The chicken portion of the event was chicken and waffles. The chicken is a very fine version of the crispy-peppery-batter  boneless-white-meat sort. Unfortunately, that's not my favorite sort, so I can't judge the flavor--me reviewing black-pepper-seasoned fried chicken is rather like me trying to review an aldehyde-focused perfume. I'm similarly handicapped in reviewing chicken and waffles; I don't understand the chicken and waffle phenomenon, despite several childhood years in the South. It's like I'm trying to review a fougere and its compliance with the classic elements--given that I don't even know the classic elements without looking them up.

I can tell you that the chicken was well-cooked and well-textured and moist, and that the batter was a very nice texture, reliably crisp, not the slightest hint of sogginess or detaching. Very good crunch. There was a lot of pepper by my wimpy standards; I needed some side honey to reach an enjoyable balance of flavors.

But I've decided that my dish at The Screen Door is the praline bacon, bacon heaped with nuts and sugar spicy; I forget the menu description. (Image here.) It's hard to see it as bacon; I referred to it, when a nearby table asked about it, as candy that happens to involve pork.

Screen Door: White meat, crisp black-pepper-seasoned batter, deep fried. Offered as chicken and waffles. Every aspect of quality that I can judge is admirable; I can't appreciate substantial pepper, no matter how good the chicken. Recommended, with pepper caution. Side notes: Praline bacon. Get some.

Review Roundup: The Joyful Table and Breakfast in Bridgetown and Yelp and Portland Monthly and Eater PDX (about the lines, not the chicken).

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Random: Weekend Rambling

Well, that daily blogging thing fell down. But it was an extended holiday weekend--I've been off since Wednesday. That's different, right? Right? Sure it is!

We went to Portland. We ate food. We looked nervously at the notices telling us what to do about the boil-water notice. Then we ate more food. Then we cheered at the news that the boil-water notice was over, and the fact that we could now reliably get ice in our beverages. Then we ate more food.

Some of the food, such as the cured salmon at Paragon, was reasonably diet-appropriate. Some of it, such as the doughnuts at Blue Star and the biscuits at the Pine State cart, was (were?) emphatically not. The fried chicken at Screen Door was not appropriate for any normal diet, but since my diet is currently focused on sugar reduction, it was just fine. Except that they brought me honey for it. Which I used. Oh, and except for the cookie that I bought from Waves of Grain while waiting for a table at Screen Door.

Yes. Yes, I did. I walked to another business and purchased a snack to carry me through the wait between signing in at a restaurant, and sitting down. Did you ever see the Portlandia episode about the brunch line? I assume that it was based on the Screen Door. Except that the Screen Door doesn't have a cult leader kidnapping people to punish them for violations of line protocol. I assume.

You need to see their chicken and waffles. See this photo. From this post on The Joyful Table. Yes, it is customarily shared. And everyone leaving the restaurant seems to be carrying a box.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Random: Randomness

Helena is by far my favorite character on Orphan Black.

Perhaps this should worry me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chicken Index: The Chicken Index

So, when I first created this blog, I thought that there would be some chicken involved. That is, fried chicken. But aside from the kinda-recipe in the very first post, there's been very little chicken talk.

I've been thinking for some time that the blog really needs an index of places that serve fried chicken.  Actually, the world needs an index of places that serve fried chicken. Because there's a lot of variation in fried chicken--bone-in or otherwise, skin on or otherwise, battered or dusted or crumbed, flavored or just chicken-flavored, and the classic question of pan-fried or deep-fried. So just knowing if a restaurant is, in general, good or not, doesn't tell you much about the chicken. A very fine restaurant that sells peppery battered chicken is not my chicken place, though it might be someone else's.

Now, classic fried chicken, in my view, is bone in, skin on, dusted/dredged with flour and not too much pepper, and pan fried. But that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of other very fine chicken out there, some of it where you wouldn't expect. For example, who would have thought that the Medford Food4Less would have some pretty good chicken? How could you know, if you're not told, that the crust on the skinless "put a bird on it" chicken at The Original in Portland has some weird magical ingredient that makes it taste rather as if it isn't skinless? And how would you know that their evening fried chicken entree, while quite good, is an altogether different fried chicken?

The public has a right to know.

I've been debating just how to present the information, though. A chart, so you can scan across and check out just the (for example) bone-in entries? Just reviews, like perfume reviews? A cross between the two?

I'm thinking of the cross between the two--an index, and if I get around to writing a full review, I'd link to it. The index would have entries like:

Smithfield's: Chicken pieces, bone in, skin on, light breading, no excess added flavorings, incredibly moist white meat, and you can get chicken as a side! Recommended.

Tot: Wings, bone in, skin on, no breading, medium spicy sauce, juicy meat. If you crave plain fried wings, they can leave off the sauce. Recommended. Use caution if you're a spice wimp like me.

Does that work? What else does a chicken addict want to know?

Hungry now.

Image: By Douglas Paul Perkins. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rambling: Dieting again


No, the image has nothing to do with the post. Sometimes you just need something fuzzy.

So, I'm trying to diet again. As mentioned, no Coke. And I suppressed urgent doughnut and chocolate milk cravings today. And got the duck potstickers and wokked broccoli for lunch, instead of the Fried Chicken Bits. (I don't remember what they're called.)

Actually, the fried chicken wouldn't have been forbidden on the current step of my (self-declared) diet, because it's currently all about reducing sugar, to be followed by reducing simple carbohydrates. Fried meat will come later. Reducing buttered vegetables might never happen, because, really, there's only so much butter that can cling to a piece of cauliflower, unless you carve the vegetable and use it as a spoon. Or increase the butter's clinging potential by beating it into a nice hollandaise. I'm eagerly leaping on the Oops, Maybe Fat Wasn't That Bad After All bandwagon.  Partly because I believe it, and partly because I want to believe it.

I'm anxious. I use food to counter anxiety. Every time I go on a diet, something makes me nervous, and I eat in order to knock down the anxiety in order to deal with the something. I only recently realized that this adds up, in the end, to valuing every single one of those worries over my health.  I'm not young enough to do that any more. It's time to find anxiety management that doesn't involve chocolate milk or doughnuts. Being unemployed, or broke, or looking stupid, or any of the zillion silly things I worry about, are all still better than being dead.

Now,  I can tell myself that the deadness isn't that likely anytime soon, but neither are the other things. And the deadness is going to come someday (barring download of my brain into a Cylon body), and what I do now does presumably have a statistically plausible impact on how far away "someday" is.

But I still really want a chocolate croissant.

Image: By Fir002/flagstafffotos. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rambling: Longing for bubbles and syrup

So my daily posts are demonstrating a distinctly fluffball nature.  Is this because I'm blogging every day? Am I diluting my thoughts to the point that there won't be anything solid? Or is it just that the solid thoughts aren't going to come any more frequently?

We'll find out. I'm going for the second interpretation. Back when I was doing pretty reliable Scent Of The Day posts, some of them were solid and some of them were fluff.

I also wrote most of them while adequately caffeinated.

I want a Coke and I want it now.

OK, I'm stopping at fluffball here.

Rambling: Random Thoughts

Weeeekend! Ha!

The roses are going crazy, weeks early.

I'm thinking of learning iOS programming.

I still haven't fitted the perfect shirt pattern.

I have fitted a perfectly nice pattern that would be great for summer skirts. Why aren't I sewing them?

I haven't had a Coke in a week. This is a resumption of the sugar-cutting.

I want a different pair of walking skirt shoes. I bought a perfectly nice pair of Danskos, but the round toes make me look like I'm a six-year-old dressed for Sunday school.

We seem to have just skipped spring this year. So I'm having spring cleaning thoughts in summer weather.

I want chicken.

If I can't have Coke, I want chicken.

Did I mention the chicken?

Tomorrow I should fry something.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blogging: Books and books

Dang. Missed two days. Oh, well.

I’ve been reading The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, by Linda Przybyszewski. My favorite quote so far is “I may be the only historical to lecture the Supreme Court in a suit that won a blue ribbon at a country fair.” That’s from the author herself, not from any of the historical subjects that she discusses. I'm barely two chapters in, but I'm enjoying it. And I'll leave it at that until I'm further along.

I've also been re-reading Service Included, by Phoebe Damrosch, about her time working at a waiter at Per Se. Well, and about other things. Also enjoyable.

I'm also about a third of the way through American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Also good.

I'm halfway through each of two books about software.

I should really finish something.

That is all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blogging: Um.

So I'm trying to do that daily blogging thing.

So I'm sitting in front of a blank screen.

And no thoughts are coming out.


It's not that I'm not having thoughts. All sorts of thoughts happened today. We were busy and active and did all sorts of things. Ending with eating lots of Chinese food.

It's just that none of them are coming out worth posting.


This would be a great time for a nice cat picture, but that won't work, because I have yet to figure out how to add a picture when blogging on the iPad, and the Mac isn't handy. That's also why the post below has the wrong font.

OK, I'm going to try again tomorrow.

Rambling: A Wrinkle in Time (on paper, on stage, and in my head)

(I wrote this yesterday. Then I got sleepy and forgot to hit Publish. So I'm calling it yesterday's post. Yep.) 

 The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is showing a production of A Wrinkle in Time, adapted for the stage by Tracy Young. You should all go see it. Run along and order your tickets. I'll wait till you get back. I can tell you where to eat in Ashland, too.

But that's not mostly the point of this post. Part of the point of this post is that the play made me cry. That's no big deal, in general: plays often want to do that. But...

OK, digression. Really, this is going to be relevant. My mother has a story about my brother as a baby, eating creamed spinach. I think it was spinach; anyway, it was something he didn't like the taste of. He would willingly open his mouth for a spoonful, experience the taste, and cry. And then he'd open his mouth again. He utterly failed to make the connection between accepting the spoon, and his crying.

I have a similar disconnect with what's making me cry when I see this play. Or think about this play. Or talk about this play. I get a few words in, and off go all those wanna-cry body parts. (Not that I'm saying I don't like the taste of the play. Did I mention that you should go see it?)

But the wanna-cry isn't associated with identifiable thoughts. Or feelings. Or images. Or characters. There's no, "Oh, poor Meg," or Charles Wallace, or Calvin, or any of those. I'm burbling "Yeah, they did a really good job of carrying out the spirit of the book without slavishly sticking to elements that wouldn't work onstage, and the thing they did with the viewfoils...dagnabbit, why am I crying again?!"

I feel as if I'm standing outside myself getting exasperated as I crash, like an unstable computer. But there's no core dump, nothing to analyze.

Well, no feelings to analyze, but that leads to the second part of this post, where I realize that I'm seeing a metaphor in the play that I think was there all along in the book, and wondering how I could possibly have missed it, and wondering if I made it up. But, see, I can talk about that metaphor all day and it doesn't make me cry. So it doesn't solve the puzzle.

Anyway. This is going to be a spoiler. Spoiler. Not the final spoiler in the story, but a spoiler, so stop reading if you want to read (or see--bought those tickets yet?) A Wrinkle In Time without being influenced by my interpretation.

You remember the room, the metaphorical "cloven pine" and Mr. Murray (Meg's father) and Meg with Mrs. Who's glasses? Yes? Mr. Murray's trapped in the room, a prison with transparent walls. He can't see, and no one can get in to help him, or even communicate with him, no matter how loud they shout or how hard they pound on the walls. All they can do is watch him suffer.

But when Meg puts on Mrs. Who's glasses, she can walk through the cold transparent walls. She gives the glasses to her father--puts them on him herself, I think, against his "that won't work" protests--and he can see. He can see, and he can get through the walls, though now she's blind. He scoops her up and walks out of his prison, carrying her.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing? Was this obvious to everyone but me?

Is there a child of disordered parents who has not, at times, wanted nothing on earth more than the ability to make their parents see, and to empower them to escape from the prison of their own making? And also to give up their own self-imposed responsibility and become a child, finally cared for, rescued, by that parent?

Suddenly that's what I get from that scene, in the book or the play. Suddenly IT, and Camazotz, are all metaphor. They're Mr. Murray. The mind imprisoning and controlling him is his own mind. The mind that tried but failed to destroy his children is his own mind. I don't know if Madeline l'Engle meant that, consciously or unconsciously, but there it is all the same.

But I can discuss that, and write it, and nothing wants to cry. So there's got to be something else in there.

Or I just need a clean reinstall.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Writing: Hmmm. And I didn't mean to create a clip show post, but...

I noticed that I have a lot of little scraps of writing that I never posted. I think. If I'm going to blog every day, that seems to be a fine time to use them. Here's one, written a few weeks ago. I think.

In The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner says, "If you are struggling with what you should be writing, look at your scraps. Encoded there are the themes and subjects that you should be grappling with as a writer."

A few weeks or months after I wrote my brief series of StoryADay stories, I noticed patterns in them, and then I saw the same ones, less clearly, in my other fiction scraps.

In Bitter Oranges and The Princess and the Caffeine, predators befriend prey. In Recycling and The Princess and the Caffeine, parents don't care a fig about their children. In Recycling and Tulips and Butter, children fight the pull to fulfill their parents' needs. In Coriolis Effect and Tulips and Butter, parents impose their needs on their children, with the classic "for their own good" excuse. There's betrayal in Caveat Emptor and The Princess and the Caffeine, and the last line of Bitter OrangesRecycling involves finding love (sort of) somewhere new, walking away from where it was sought before. So does The Princess and the Caffeine. So does Caveat Emptor. So does Bitter Oranges.


Allies acting as enemies, enemies acting as allies, finding what you need somewhere else.

Now I want to write a new set of stories, just so several months later I can once again figure out what I was writing about.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blogging: Considering the daily blog again

Long ago, I blogged a daily Scent of the Day post every single day while. I have it in my head that I did was over a hundred days, but I suspect that I made that up. This Sunday (in, yet again, BlogChat) I remembered that and half-resolved to start blogging every day again--not necessarily about perfume, just about stuff. That was three days ago, and I haven't posted yet. So much for resolutions.

But I could still give it a try.

I occasionally theorize that the gotta-add-a-picture factor slows down blogging. The need for a picture seems vaguely silly--it's not as if y'all would come here, see a text-only post, and promptly shriek and run away, right? Right? I mean, a good fuzzy cat picture is a fine thing, but it's not as if it's mandatory

If I skipped the picture, I could even blog from my phone. Maybe. There's some sort of post-by-email thing.

Speaking of writing on my phone, I've been playing with (NAYY) the combination of Daedalus (an iOS app) and Ulysses (a Mac app.)  They're both text editors with bonus features for managing lots of text files, and, since, they're written by the same company, they sync with each other using that cloud thing. So if I have an inspiration for a random ramble while I'm waiting in line at the grocery, I can start to tap it into my phone, and when I get home to my Mac and an actual keyboard, the post fragment is there for me.

Now, the problem with this for general writing purposes is that while I'm perfectly happy to have my blog posts wafting here and there, I'm not as sure about trusting some theoretical future novel to a cloud thing. The very fact that I keep referring to it as a "cloud thing" presumably communicates my uneasiness. There's no logical reason to trust cloud syncing less than I trust email--I should really trust it more--but there it is.


So will I post again tomorrow?

We'll see. Meanwhile, I'm going to tack on a nice cat picture. According to Wikimedia Commons, his name is Noodles.

Image: By Antony Stanley. Wikimedia Commons.