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Saturday, August 30, 2008



This morning:
Him: [puts a CD on in the living room, cranks it so he can hear it across several rooms]
Me: I hope you don't mind if I shut myself up in the study, so I can have some peace while working on [deadline art project for review by people in the outside world].
Him: Because music is so terrible.
Minor revelations today: my sabbatical was so outrageously productive because I had about 9 hours daily to work in silence, and to consider what I'd learned/accomplished each day before stopping to make dinner (and not necessarily for myself); my sabbatical was not as productive on weekends.


I am REALLY starting to understand the "art studio separate from where you live" concept.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:23 PM

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Life expands to fill its container.

Alternative title: if I became officially obsessive-compulsive tomorrow, there would be no noticible difference in this blog.

I spent more than an hour this morning drinking green tea and watching heavy clouds blow slowly over our living room window. I had to force myself to do this pleasant thing: my mind was so full of things to do that I was overwhelmed, and adding 'watching clouds for at least one hour' to my virtual list seemed like a wise, moderating thing to do. If I don't have time to watch clouds, I'm living incorrectly; I am thus pretending that by watching the clouds, I have corrected a grave error in my lifestyle.

I've previously described a sort of anxiety that sometimes strikes me on Friday night, when I realize that I will have upwards of 48 hours which I have not sold to an employer, in which I might accomplish some of the many, many goals I have set for myself. I have enjoyed discussing this situation with other motivated people, from a mother of a young child who, upon leaving her distant job to stay home for a few months to manage the baby and deal with contractors repairing her new home, who couldn't believe that she ever had time to ALSO work a full time job, to a retired friend whose life is filled with singing, acting lessons, and volunteer work. These friends are a relief, because I can commiserate with them about the fullness of life in a way that is not possible with a few young friends who spend their weekends watching television, drinking alcohol, and shopping, which they often summarize in one word: "bored." I simply cannot imagine having time to be bored.


For my own amusement, here is the to-do list that was interfering with my relaxation this morning, because of the obvious improbability of completing even a fraction of the items on it today:
wash laundry (towels, bedding) * mop the kitchen floor * dust the bedroom * review (and recycle) the week's non-social mail * print cyanotype photograms of pasta (three new shapes!) * print cyanotypes and develop them in different concentrations of acetic acid for my forthcoming article at * adjust cyanotypes with both acidic and basic chemicals to see how it affects their tonal range * test out sodium carbonate addition to fixer while printing vandykes to see if denser browns can be achieved * work up a shopping list of supplies needed for my photography projects (hypo clear, Polaroid 667, and ?) * figure our where books go in my Google books library once I "add" them, and how to share that library (if possible) * publish a web gallery of pinhole photos * publish a list of reviews of all movies I've rented through a DVD-by-mail service * publish a gallery of the first 48 color contact sheets made during my 2004 sabbatical (because they are pretty, and because they illustrate the concept of 'digital asset management' as something that sucks up my time) * scan orchid photos for my agency * brighten my protea ferrotype gallery so it looks good on the average monitor (and not just my ViewSonic or Steven's Mac monitor) * put a second coat of sandarac varnish on just about every wet collodion print I've made recently * publish new galleries of my most recent wet collodion session * publish a gallery of the images I've taken with the Kodak Duaflex my dad found in my grandfather's attic * publish my camera museum page (or modify Words About Pictures to include the same information) * put away laundry * cook something for dinner * bake two cranberry apple pies * make envelopes using some cool paper I've recently acquired * write letters * catch up on social e-mail * breathe * organize the postcards I've received from my postcard exchange group, and figure out who to send what to * prepare Happy New Year cards for the people on my postcard mailing list who don't know why I've stopped sending them (because the printer can't handle my monochrome work) * clean up my various messes around the house * lounge around * drink even more tea while blogging about tea (two new types!).
The way I usually manage such lists is to take on the five most necessary things, and leave the really fun things for later. But that's not very satisfying. (Happily, I've left off the many things I've already accomplished today. I'm pretending that makes me seem more balanced.)

This list changes all the time, of course, and I work out variations of my current priorities in the paper diaries (which I bind by hand, when I have time) that I fill so rapidly heading to and from work on my long commute.

And to think I wonder why I can't keep up on my reading.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)2:20 PM

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

  Food-related conversations on the Emery-Go-Round. Unable to bike to work from the BART train stations, I have been taking the clean (inside), free Emery-Go-Round shuttle to bridge the two and a half mile gap between the train and the office. Morning and evening, it is a strange, sensory experience: all of the shuttles have those small, tree-shaped air fresheners scenting them strongly (some shuttles have four or so of those little trees hanging from the dashboard!), and each shuttle is usually tuned to the local "lite rock" easy-listening station. The strange 'lite' songs have a way of sticking in my head throughout the day, and become the official soundtrack of my time in E-ville.

"Feels So Good" by Chuck Mangione is probably _the_ song I associate with Emeryville now. Though there are other songs, which I like far less, which appear to be in heavy rotation.


The shuttle is pretty quiet, in that most of the riders chat with the friendly drivers, but not with each other unless they are already acquainted. There are exceptions, and two of those recent exceptions related to food.

One was a conversation in which a young woman was talking about how concerned she is about her parents, who are at least 70 pounds overweight and who eat nothing but meat, white bread, and butter, and do not want tips about healthy eating from their adult daughter. She was conversing with a slightly older woman who had once been 80 pounds overweight, and who lost it all through better choices and portion control: she asked the younger woman to tell of her successes to the wayward parents, to let them know that it IS possible to change as an adult. It was nice to see the woman who had succeeded spreading her enthusiasm for change.

Yesterday, there was an entertaining discussion about the history of meat markets and barbecue joints in Oakland between one of the drivers and a passenger. It was especially entertaining because our driver was so enthused about pork chops, and after speaking on the topic at length, his passenger revealed that she won't have anything to do with pork; there was also extensive discussion about whether or not canned greens (collard, radish, and mixed, all including garlic and ham) could really be taken seriously by the passenger, who insists on fresh, home-cooked greens.

The funny/sad part to me was that our driver revealed that (canned) greens (containing salt and ham) are the only vegetables he eats, and that he finds the vegetarianism of a colleague's child to be implausible, and perhaps dangerous.

Can you imagine a vegetarian diet based entirely on canned greens? I can't. He couldn't. But that's not what vegetarianism is about.

Both conversations to me were about culture's heavy influence on our diets. Why did the first woman's parents insist on an all meat-and-white-bread diet? Why did the bus driver think that canned greens (with ham) are the only veggies out there? Why did one of my ex-roommates always put sour cream on his chili? Why does my mother put butter on white rice? Why do Eastern Europeans eat rye bread instead of wheat or white?

I showed a friend of mine the gorgeous "japonica" rice I'm eating, which is purple, brown, and black. He expressed disinterest right away, explaining that Chinese culture insists that white rice is the rice, and that his tastes are based on what he was taught - he was convinced that other rices must have an unpleasant texture.

This probably isn't news to you, but this is part of the point of my interviews with friends about what they eat: I'm trying to figure out why some people stick to what they had at home, or what was normal in their area, and others don't.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:03 AM

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