Monday, October 31, 2011


The blog bully is displeased with the waning posts, but I would argue that the blog bully was spoiled by an unusual flurry of posts that should not be looked upon as the norm. Ahem.

A thing I like very much about the school where I work is that in a huge costume contest--including miscellaneous pop culture icons and the inevitable cross-dressing boys, ultimately it was the girl dressed as a rosemary bush (brown pants and a green shirt festooned with actual rosemary branches) who won the popular vote.

I was also rooting for the large piece of foam toast who had yellow kitchen-sponge butter pats.

Happy Halloween. However, please don't come to my house hoping for candy. I will be hiding in the kitchen, the light from which is not visible from the street, trying to do my Italian homework. In my defense, the past tense is, in its own way, quite scary.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Relaxing or....?

Dear Lady Outside the Sauna,

If you lie on the floor with your naked limbs all akimbo like that and with that towel over your face, you make the locker room look very much like a crime scene.

I thought you'd want to know.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Breathing normally

I am reading an article in Fast Company magazine about Apple. Well, about Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google and the epic battle among them. This sentence made me laugh, "This passion for the Fab Four of business is reflected in the blogosphere's panting coverage of their every move."

Now, when people say "the blogosphere" they are not referring to me and my thoughts about, say, tea and swimming, and my five readers. Obviously. Nevertheless. It is a blog. So, let me just state for the digital record that I am not breathlessly covering anything's every move and were I, for the sake of having inexhaustible content, take it into my head to do so, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn't choose the "Fab Four of business."

What's more, I'll bet I'm not the only one. As it turns out, the "blogosphere" is a pretty big place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fitness dispatch

To save time, I put my bathing suit on under my clothes before I went to the gym today. The unexpected result was that when whisking off my outer layers in the locker room, I felt like some kind of swimming superhero.

It was a fleeting feeling, alas. I shared a lane with a man who looked to be approximately 83 and who, from my vantage point on the pool deck, seemed to be swimming very slowly indeed. However, I now know that were we in a race, he and I would be quite evenly matched. I might win, but it would be disspiritingly close.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Man Booker

Having recently heard a round up on BBC radio of this year's nominees, I decided that reading 100 Man Booker winners/nominees would be a worthy life list goal.

Here are all the books.

I discovered that I've--somewhat accidentally--got a good start having already read:
The Life of Pi
True History of the Kelly Gang
The Blind Assassin
The God of Small Things
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
The English Patient
Oscar & Lucinda
The Bone People

I also twice tried and failed to read Midnight's Children, which I was meant to love but didn't. Additionally, I have a strong feeling that I've read Hotel du Lac, but since I have no idea what it's about (other than, presumably, a hotel by a lake) I suspect that I am lying to myself.

Guess what? The books I actually did read are good books. Really good books. Word to the wise: those Man Booker people may be on to something.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moral support

A man and a woman are standing outside of Bi-Rite on their break.

Woman: I'm getting emotionally prepared for Thanksgiving. I'm excited about it...

Man [interjecting]: I love that about you!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wrong one

I had a doctor's appointment today because for basically the whole of the fall, I have felt lousy. I continually feel as though I'm coming down with a cold, though I never actually seem to get a cold. Just a festival of sore throat, headaches of varying severity, fatigue. Yesterday, for instance, I felt quite horrible. Turn off all but one light horrible. Head down on the desk at lunchtime horrible. That's what prompted me to call the doctor. Today, of course, I feel completely fine. This is not dissimilar from having spent all of last Friday frustrated to the verge of tears trying to figure out some website thing, only to have it work instantly as soon as the tech guy walked into the room. Sigh.

I went anyway even though I felt silly. I was briefly excited when they told me I was to be seeing Dr. Artie Shaw. I mean, if Artie Shaw can't make you feel better, then who can?

But it turned out to be Dr. Arti Shah. Life is full of these disappointments. And, so it would seem, allergies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First, wake up, then...

Life List
Some of it, anyway.
Here’s hoping life is full of hundreds more delightful things

As discussed, to go to Camp Mighty, I was obliged to make a list of one hundred (or so) things I'd like to do (the "before I die" is silent). Generally, if I were to make a list such as this, it would be in a notebook by my bed and, basically, nobody's bee's wax. It is therefore quite uncharacteristic and sort of scary to put it ON THE INTERNET, but that was part of the deal. it is. Feel free to just ignore the ones about romance and underwear.

Reading this is a very scrolly experience, I know, but I can't seem to find a better way. Mi dispiace.

1. Change jobs
2. Be paid regularly for writing (a column? A blog?)
3. Perform out of town
4. Do a reading at Litquake [done! Literary Death Match 2010]
5. Be on The Moth
6. Be in Mortified
7. Take a vacation that involves renting a house with friends
8. Go to Rome [done! And I stayed in a place I loved.]
9. Speak basic Italian [Mezzo fatto. I think maybe I have "go on vacation and don't disgrace yourself" Italian, but I want more.]
10. Travel somewhere that involves sleeping overnight on a ship or a boat
11. Have a beignet in New Orleans
12. Have a sidecar in the Algonquin bar (or perhaps, more fittingly, a Manhattan)
13. Have a green dress made
14. Learn to apply eye makeup befitting fancy nights
15. Attend or host an evening garden party that features paper lanterns
16. Swim naked in some natural body of water
17. Visit les chateaux de la Loire
18. Attend the Cannes film festival (do ordinary people even do this?)
19. Go to Quebec
20. Visit a French-speaking country that is neither in France nor Canada
21. Serve food to a guest or guests once a month
22. Learn some ballroom dances
23. Dance at a ceili
24. Go the Humana Festival
25. Go to the Kentucky Derby
26. Have Jameson in Dublin
27. Have Ruby & Emma over for a sleep-over
28. Learn to make 5 vegetarian dishes that I would actually serve to others [in progress thanks to Mollie Katzen]
29. Make Thanksgiving dinner
30. Have an elegant New Year’s Eve party
31. Have lemonade somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. How about Martha’s Vineyard?
32. Spend a month in Paris
33. Achieve consistent subjunctive-style fluency in French
34. Learn to make bread
35. Go on one of Stephanie’s trips--somewhere I would not otherwise go (Africa? Bulgaria?)
36. Learn to make elaborate paper snowflakes
37. Learn fancy gift-wrapping skills (paper flowers, elaborate bows, etc.)
38. Have wine in Tuscany with an Italian
39. Own something from Carli [Attempted. Far beyond my financial reach. Ah well.]
40. Have at least two grownup sets of lingerie (that fit) at any given time—lovely things that make me want someone to undress me
[Done. Perhaps slightly less romantically than envisioned, but done nonetheless.]
41. Swim a mile [in progress. Slow, slow progress. A mile is 64 lengths; I’m at 20]
42. Learn to sing a jazz standard in tune (I like “It Could Happen to You” and “I Can’t Get Started with You”)
43. Find a perfect vintage suit
44. Stay in a tree house hotel
45. Submit five pieces a year for publication (which would necessitate actually writing them. Ahem)
46. Plant a window box and/or some herbs. If ambitious…tomatoes!
47. Have a pair of shoes made
48. Ride in a paddleboat on stow lake
49. Visit Liz in Canada and go to Castle Fun Park!
50. Visit Kathleen and KC in Switzerland (and pray they don’t make me climb anything)[done! hooray! and there was no scaling anything.]_
51. Visit Copenhagen
52. Read a biography a year
53. See 100 Criterion Collection films [in progress. Must count them.]
54. Read 100 Man Booker Prize winners/nominees
55. Find and acquire the Mary Poppins recordings of my youth
56. Go to Barcelona
57. Learn to make ratatouille
58. Make melon balls [Done! Weirdly, I'd never done it, but thought it looked fun. It was.]
59. Dance at an outdoor bandstand some summer night (do these still exist or did I make this up based on movies?)
60. Learn to read a pattern and sew something simple
61. Be at Ruby & Emma’s high school graduations
62. Befriend a dog
63. Buy a real painting
[Done. Happily own one of Lisa Congdon's lovely birch forests].
64. Make the mantle beautiful
65. Solicit aid in redrafting my resume
66. Have my portrait taken
67. Create a tradition (e.g. peonies and champagne brunch on the first Sunday of May. Something.)
68. Walk in an aspen forest
69. Find a long-term solution to the dumb pain and eliminate that anxiety from my bag of tricks
70. Hear Jean-Luc play his harmonica in Brazil
71. Go inside a windmill
72. Go to the top of a lighthouse
73. Write a book (let’s just sneak this in at #72 so as to reduce instant panic)
74. Have a picnic by a stream
75. Learn to use chopsticks
76. Visit Tim in Hong Kong
77. Go rafting in a non-terrifying way with Mel
78. Learn to carve a chicken
79. Go on a trip (anywhere, anywhere) with Christopher
80. Ride a bike—even for five minutes—on some un-terrifying non-urban lane
81. Make a soufflé
82. Have a local friendship in French
83. Learn to make mojitos
84. See a play in an ancient Greek theatre
85. Have an apartment here and Elsewhere (NY? Paris? London?)
86. Visit 10 extraordinary international libraries
87. Have carnal knowledge of [redacted] (the one who got away)
88. Go to a sandcastle-building contest somewhere balmy (i.e. not in Northern California)
89. Attend one of the “cool kid” conferences/events [Done. Camp Mighty. Nov 2011]
90. Go on a hot-air balloon ride
91. Learn to tie a necktie
92. Kiss someone I’m in love with on the Pont de la Tournelle
93. Buy a beautiful umbrella
94. Record my parents’ stories
95. Donate something to NPR and Planned Parenthood every year (no matter what amount) [Done. Became continuing member of KQED and a monthly contributor to Planned Parenthood. Five bucks a month forever or until I say stop.]
96. Send flowers to a friend at random once a year
97. Travel on a beautiful train à la The Orient Express (sans murder)
98. Learn to make custard
99. Step onto an escalator without pausing
100. Get married (to someone with whom I am madly in love. Not, you know, just "get married")

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Story time (Part 6)

I was proud of myself for this. My friend Samantha was supposed to do this gig, but couldn't. I was asked on Wednesday if I would tell a story on that Friday. You may recall that I mentioned it here. It was quite scary, and unexpectedly depressing, but I did it. And it went well. No, really! There's proof. I'm introduced at about the 28 minute mark.

The theme was "Not knowing when to say when."

Monday, October 17, 2011


I got an email today with a subject heading Last chance to get paid to write!

And I deleted it.

Now I guess I'm screwed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Point of clarification

Okay. I give up. What is steampunk?

Friday, October 14, 2011

A surfeit of cleverness

I saw this by way of Evany and was instantly delighted. I sent it along to the person I thought would appreciate it the most, but I have been fretting. Because what if you are the person who would appreciate it the second most? And I never sent it to you? And you never saw it? That would be a very sad story.

Let us amend it at once to be a story with a happy ending.


Wasn't that fun? Read all about it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Open apology

Dear refrigerator,
I'm so sorry for all the suspicion I've cast upon you and all the rumors I've spread about you and the fact that I've called you "stupid." You're quite old, but you're not stupid. We have this in common. More importantly, you're not the energy glutton I suspected you of being. Not at all. I called PG&E and while they agree that my bills are mysteriously high, they've cleared you completely. Please accept my sincere apologies.

I look forward to working with you for many years to come in a renewed environment of mutual trust.


P.S. Water heater? We're going to need to have a chat. The PG&E technician is coming next week to act as moderator.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To begin with, Delfina's across the street

In Bi-Rite Creamery, where I was unapologetically having three flavors (honey lavender, balsamic strawberry, and white chocolate raspberry), I overheard the man next to me (a man, it seems worth noting, who was not having any ice cream whatsoever) declaim to his (ice-cream eating) wife, "Bah. There are two good restaurants in San Francisco: Aziza and Chapeau. The rest is barren. I would rather eat at Burger King in Sunnyvale."

Wha...? I am not sure I have ever heard anyone say anything that amazed me more. In fact, I would probably still be sitting there with my mouth agape in mute shock, but my ice cream was melting so I had to pull myself together.

For a fun visual aid, here is a map of restaurant critic Michael Bauer's top 100 San Francisco restaurants. The two restaurants noted by the Burger King enthusiast are those little flags furthest to the left. That means the other NINETY-EIGHT are in the part of San Francisco we call "not the Richmond District."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bright new tomorrow

After yesterday's screed, I thought it was only fair to say that today was rage-free, albeit overflowing with calories. Is there a correlation? Quite possibly.

Today there was strolling and breakfast and a book of Italian verbs and tea and readings in a park and music in a bar. There was kind of a tough moment when I dropped in on an open house I happened to pass and accidentally fell in love with an $800,000 condo. Sigh. These things happen. Mostly, though, a good day. Thanks, San Francisco. I hate it when we fight.

Downside: I did eat a burrito in a sort of freakishly ravenous way and for the past--um, going on four hours now-- I have both looked and felt not unlike a boa constrictor. It ain't pretty, but I can't blame anyone but myself for that. Bright side: living alone means no one has to see your blinding white boa-constrictor burrito belly.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

In which I am angry and complainy and not amusing

A list of things I hated just in the past three hours:
1. A $14 movie ticket

2. Leaving the house to discover that some [insert stream of expletives] dude has opened my (large, latched) front gate in order to piss in my entryway. The fact that I was home when this happened makes it worse somehow.

2. Looking for a parking place for 20 minutes

3. Homeless dudes standing in vacant parking places waving a white towel so motorists will be able to find said parking spots. This enrages me. Does this make me a terrible person? Perhaps. But I already told you my stance on kittens, so how can you be surprised? Look. I have to park on the street every day. Looking for parking places is the only sport I participate in. I do not need assistance finding an empty METERED space. They are large and readily apparent. Additionally, I do not need to pay a guy for providing a service I did not request and do not require. Another hot tip: as I am usually alone in my car, I do feel great about getting out of it while a strange man waits for me in the dark.

4. Having a guy on a bike with no lights swerve in front of my car and across two lanes of traffic to make a turn with no signal of any kind.

5. The fact that the cyclist was wearing ear stretchers. The fact that anyone outside of the tribe that originated them wears ear stretchers.

6. Getting home and having to get a bucket and broom and set myself to the task of washing someone's piss off my walkway, as I had not had time before leaving--what with the parking situation.

7. The semi truck that uses the bus stop across the street from my house as a rest stop. In fact, he's doing it right now.

8. Having my bedroom smell like pot, which I do not smoke, because people walking down the sidewalk smoke it routinely and lo it does waft into my window.

San Francisco, you are seriously pissing me off tonight.

On the other hand, I do officially have a crush on Ryan Gosling.

Friday, October 07, 2011

People: the bright side

On the most recent "Modern Family" (do you watch "Modern Family?" You probably should. Oh, but it is droll.) Phil and his son Luke are watching a documentary about a tightrope walker. They are both slack-jawed with amazement.

Phil: How awesome are people?
Luke: So awesome.

And that's how all this makes me feel. First of all, Radiolab is unfailingly fascinating and charming and makes you feel curious but never stupid. It is extra heartening that producer Jad Abumrad got a MacArthur Genius Award, which means he'll be able to do even more smart, life affirming things in the future. Ira Glass likes him too.

In a recent episode, there was a segment about whale fall, that is, what happens after a dead whale sinks to the ocean floor. It turns out a lot of things happen. In fact, a dead whale can support a whole host of organisms for 50-75 years. This is something it had never even occurred to me to wonder about. That's the beauty of Radiolab. Those guys are apparently sitting around thinking, "hmmmm. What happens to a dead whale?" and next thing you know you're saying, "Yeah. What does happen to a dead whale?" And then, suddenly, you know.

But wait! There's more!

These women heard that same story and were inspired to illustrate it thusly . It's quite beautiful. I recommend watching the full-screen version.

Whale Fall (after life of a whale) from Sharon Shattuck on Vimeo.

How awesome are people?

So awesome.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hello, kitty

II had a dream that I was moving into a large flat with a woman I'd never met; she'd been assigned to me by the landlord--college dorm style. She proved to be a French-speaking Swiss woman, which was pretty exciting and unexpected. Aside from the fact that the former tenant had left hundreds of lousy books on the built-in shelves, and that I had to part with my beloved dining room table because it looked weird in the living room, things were going really well. That is, until I discovered my roommate's three (three!) kittens behind a chair and freaked out. I told her they could either live outside or exclusively in her room, or I was moving out.

That's right people. Kittens, whether actual or from the depths of my fretful subconscious, are a deal breaker.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Sometimes it takes until 3:15 for coming to work to seem remotely worthwhile.

I have been trying to schedule a playwriting workshop for a gaggle very busy students and I just received an email featuring this delightful sentence: "If Wednesdays are better for the others, I can fence on Tuesdays instead."

Thank you kindly, Douglas Fairbanks of 2011. You are every bit a gentleman.

Monday, October 03, 2011


I have enrolled in Italian Level 2 (si! continuo!) and had my first class last week. It turns out that the two Italian-free weeks between Italian 1 and Italian 2 were sufficient to erase almost all Italian from my brain and I have reverted to answering most Italian questions in French. Triste ma vero.

Meanwhile, we have been joined by a new student who explained that he had never studied Italian, but thought Italian 1 would be too easy for him. Since he explained this to the teacher in seemingly fluent Italian, I think he was probably right. This leads me to ponder whether I might secretly be able to hold extended discourse in Japanese, or any number of other languages I have never studied. I'll seek out various foreigners (they are readily available all over San Francisco) after work and see how it goes.

Edited to note that the Mystery Student dropped after the first class, presumably having realized he already speaks Italian. He's probably in North Beach if you need to find him.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Le concert

I went with friends to see La Nouvelle Vague in concert tonight for the first time.


pause between songs

Lori: Last time I saw them, it wasn't like this. They did more of a mix of upbeat get-you-dancing songs and slow numbers. I'm ready for something dancey.

Me: Well, maybe the next one. Oh...except she's still doing the sultry walk. [pause] And here comes the poet again.

Lori: Uh oh. And the dancer's in bondage. It's not looking good.