Sunday, May 31, 2009

short reviews

  • The Reader (film) - shockingly good. Kate Winslet was characteristically brilliant. Do not watch this film if you are not fond of struggling with problems of moral ambiguity and complexity.

  • Twilight (book) - so after seeing the film, I decided to read the book, but there were about a zillion people ahead of me on the wait list at the library and I'm too cheap to buy it so I gave up. Now the wait list has evaporated (I guess vampires aren't cool anymore), it's my turn to read it. I'm really liking it. The writing is sometimes cringe worthy, but the story is fun. Looks like I have my early summer reading list all worked out.

  • The Fabulous Stains (film, starring youngsters Diane Lane and Laura Dern) - what a weird little movie. Almost no attempt was made to construct anything resembling a narrative thread, but I kind of liked it anyway. In some respects it was a dirtier, grittier, not at all kid friendly version of Josie and the Pussycats.

  • So according to my blogger page, this is my 100th post. I find it hard to believe I've written that many times over the past two years. If I'd done a better job of using tags for my posts, I'd put up a pie chart or something showing what portion of my posts were navel gazing, what portion dealt with yoga, what portion contained the phrase "gingerbread outhouse," &c.

    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    pet peeves addenda

    Okay, one more linguistic pet peeve:

  • "Yeah, no." Why has this become such a popular way to begin a response to a yes/no question? These words express two totally different ideas; ideas which are mutually exclusive and exhaustive! Two words into your response, you've already contradicted yourself. Start over. Take a deep breath. (The worst part of it is that I've caught myself answering questions this way too.)

  • Oy... my inner crotchety old man has resurfaced, apparently. Maybe I should pour him some whiskey and hope he doesn't drool all over the upholstery when he falls asleep on the couch.

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    reunion, revelation

    I ran into and old friend of Byron's on Friday. The last I knew, N was living in Ireland, and I didn't expect to see him again, so it was a pleasant shock to find him at the Bakery. He's in town for the summer. When I asked him what he's been doing, he said biking and hiking, so I gave him my number so that we could get together.

    Later on Friday, I discovered that one of my friends grew up right down the road from me (albeit a few years earlier). We had all of the same elementary school teachers and graduated from the same high school. Very, very weird!

    I am glad to have finally made the real world acquaintance of one of my fellow bloggers, Pam, this past weekend, and I am happy to report that she is as interesting and funny in real life as her blog has led me to believe. She was in New Paltz to climb, so we met at Bacchus and I bought her the beer that I promised her almost a year ago. We both wore WFMU tee shirts (totally unplanned) and we talked and laughed about last week's episode of Seven Second Delay. It was a really, really nice way to spend the evening.

    On Sunday morning, I taught two yoga classes at Jai Ma. I got very positive feedback after each, and perhaps more importantly, I felt good about the classes, both while teaching and afterward. I think I may be getting the hang of this. Students keep asking me if there are any classes that I teach on a regular basis (rather than subbing). That seems like a good sign. I'm still losing sleep the night before I teach, but not as much as I used to. I'm freaking out less beforehand too (generally).

    Finally, yesterday after yoga, T and I drove to Long Island to visit with her grandmother. Unfortunately, she isn't doing very well. After a hospital stay, she is now home again receiving hospice care. The first time I met her (about six months ago), I remember thinking about what a sharp and fascinating person she was to talk to. I still see that in her, but she is struggling now, both physically and mentally. And if it's hard for me to see, I know it must be a million times worse for T.

    It's not an easy thing to think or write about, but part of me really hopes that when my own time comes, it will be sudden and offer me little opportunity for reflection. I do not want to have the experience of knowing. Even as I write this, though, I know that I am curious. There are already so many realms of knowledge from which I am permanently barred. (What is it like to be a woman? What is it like to live all of your life in a third world country? What was it like to live in the 1800s?) It feels like I'm cheating myself by saying that there is yet another realm of experience from which I would voluntarily bar myself if I could.

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    bad ideas as a creative exercise

    I went to the Bakery during my lunch break to order a cake for my grandmother's birthday tomorrow (I would have made one from scratch, but I completely forgot about her birthday until yesterday, and I just don't have time). When the girl behind the counter asked me if I wanted anything written on the cake, I really really REALLY wanted to say, "Yes, could you please write 'CONGRATULATIONS! YOUR TEST RESULTS ARE NEGATIVE!' or 'SORRY THE CONDOM BROKE' or 'DON'T WORRY, IT'S JUST A COLD SORE'."

    I often spend my idle time thinking up the worst possible things I could say or do in various situations. I find that I do this much, much more when I'm nervous. I think maybe sometimes I'm just starved for a creative outlet. When my sister asked me what sort of ice cream I was going to make with my new ice cream maker, I told her my first plan was tuna raisin surprise. She actually believed me.

    So what other wildly inappropriate things could I have asked the girl at the bakery to write on the cake? And are there any worse flavours of ice cream than tuna raisin surprise?

    (Afterword: I made a batch of pumpkin ice cream last night. I'm out of cinnamon, so I used allspice instead, and some maple syrup. Amazingly good.)

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Wintergirls - a review

    I read this over the weekend after seeing a review of it in The New York Times. I loved it; it was very well written, engrossing, and dove very deeply into its subject matter, anorexia. The picture it painted was raw, horrifying, utterly convincing, and familiar. It reminded me of people I've known and some of my own experiences. The author, Laurie Halse Anderson, did not pull any punches, and I thought she did a great job of writing a riveting book with a complex and believable protagonist without in any way romanticizing the disorder.

    Having said that, I don't know if I would unconditionally recommend this book to someone who is currently dealing with an eating disorder. There's some question about whether books about anorexia will trigger or egg on susceptible people. My thought: it's dicey. Some anorexics might read this novel as a dire warning. Others might find in Wintergirls' fictional protagonist a competitor and use her example to drive themselves further into disordered eating. Ultimately, it depends on the reader. We all see the world as a reflection of ourselves.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009


    So... pranayam class didn't go so well. I think I wasn't in the right state of mind to teach; I'd been focusing all day on writing code, and my head was still spinning with data and algorithms. So in the class, I just taught mechanics. Didn't go into benefits of specific pranayams or benefits of breath work in general. I skipped my whole planned spiel about "the first thing you did in this world was inhale, and one of the last things you're going to do is exhale, so if you want an advanced yoga practice you need to work on pranayam."

    A few things I know I could improve on in the future: Teaching five different pranayams in an hour is too much. Four is plenty. Also, I need quiet time to myself before I teach, to get into the right state of mind. There's not much benefit in taking class from a teacher whose head is still reeling from his other job. Also, I need to require pre-registration and pre-payment in the future.

    "If Yoga isn't pushing you outside your comfort zone, it ain't really Yoga." I came across this line late last night on someone else's blog, when I was feeling lousy about giving a mediocre class, and I immediately felt better.

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Grace, Too

    Well, this afternoon after work I hit one of my goals for this year (or got as close as I could, anyway). I biked from the village up to the Mohonk Mountain House. The goal, originally, was to bike up to sky top, but I couldn't find any bikeable trails from the mountain house to the tower. Even getting as far as I did required me to ride on trails I probably shouldn't have been riding on (but they were poorly marked for bicycle use, so I'm not sure). It was about 1100 feet of elevation gain over... I don't know. Maybe eight miles each way? Most of it carriage trails or hiking trails. My thighs are not as sore as I thought they'd be, surprisingly. I'm glad my knees didn't give out. In reference to my earlier post today, I didn't wear a tablecloth skirt or knee high socks. Sorry to disappoint. Maybe next time. No pink clips either. Good thing I didn't know they made pink clips when I bought my new bike, I never would have gone clipless.

    This afternoon's ride opens up other possibilities to me - if I can bike that far into Mohonk and connect with the carriage trail network (it only took me an hour to get to the mountain house), basically the entire Shawangunk ridge is available to me. I could bike out to Minnewaska, swim my laps, then bike home. Wow. Just... wow. I wonder if I will.

    Every now and then, I remember what a lump I used to be; how in my teens and early twenties I never got any exercise or did anything aerobic. Times change, I guess.

    I'm not really sure why, but this is the song that was playing in my head while I was riding. And I did, in fact, exhibit some grace; I didn't fall over on this ride!

    Pic of the day...

    ...which is definitely NOT going to be a regular feature of this blog.

    The tablecloth skirt and the knee socks with bike shoes first caught my eye, but it's the pink clips on the bike that completely win me over. Really? They make those? Awesome!

    (Photographer: Leah Nash, from a recent article on Portland, OR in the New York Times.)

    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Qualified pleasures

    After wanting one for years, I finally bought an ice cream maker last weekend, off of Craig's list. So, so, so not a good idea! I mean, I'm lactose intolerant. What was I thinking? I made a quart of vanilla on Monday, a quart of mocha on Tuesday, and a quart of coconut vanilla this morning (no, I'm not eating it all by myself; I've been sharing the wealth). It's sooo good, but oy, the repercussions.

    A few other things that have made me smile lately: the kids in my condo complex racing down the driveway on their razor scooters (or whatever they're called); one kid standing at the bottom of the hill as a lookout to make sure the others don't become road kill. It reminds me of the sort of thing my brother and my neighbour and I used to do way back when, except we probably would have been lighting something on fire, too. Also, the woman at the ice cream shop (which for reasons made clear by the above paragraph I haven't been frequenting of late) still (since last year) has her Manic Panic pink hair; I think it's the same shade that I dyed my own hair about two years ago. ("Pretty Flamingo" - it glows under ultraviolet light! Stop laughing!) Also, the other yoga teachers I've been taking class with lately have been talking a lot about breath work and prana; this gives me hope that my fellow yogis are ready and eager for the pranayam class I'll be teaching on Wednesday. I'm still nervous about it, but I finished my planning yesterday, so I'm as prepared as I can hope to be.

    Monday, May 4, 2009


    Every spring, New Paltz hosts a peculiar regatta on the Wallkill River. First there's the kayak race (usually, the only competitors here are injection molded boats, though the one time I competed, I raced the skin-and-frame kayak I'd built myself - came in second, which also happened to be last). The kayak race is followed by the canoe race, which in turn is followed by the main event: the home made boat race. Anyone with a creative idea and some drive to bring it to fruition can compete. This year, we had Vikings versus Shop Rite versus pirates versus Tiki bar versus Doctor Seuss versus ninjas versus a big rubber ducky versus the New Paltz Greens versus... I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting. So many classic battles - ninjas versus pirates. Vikings versus Greens. Shop Rite versus... everyone. As usual, the ninjas came in first by a mile. Almost as predictably, Shop Rite came in dead last, after many difficulties getting to the starting line and some apparent confusion regarding which way to paddle.