Les Semaines

December 9, 2007

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


Addicted and Blah

I am famous amongst my friends for disliking shopping. I always have. When I was a kid and my mom had to take me shopping, I used to beg to wait out in the car.

There was a time when I liked prowling CD and book stores, particularly used stores or those in cities not my own, but that was before I had such huge collections of both and there were more common gaps I was looking to fill. Once it got like looking for a needle in a haystack to find anything I wanted--well, internet shopping showed up. So I learned how to find what I wanted for myself. Ha, saved!

I suffered the slings and arrows of going to places like Costco (and Target before I heard that they were allowing their pharmacists to refuse to dispense some drugs and in spite of all temptations have not entered the store again) but only go to those places with Jim and/or friends. I rarely have reason to enter a department store or shopping mall, and of course I can generally find the obscure things I'm looking by letting my fingers do the walking, through google and bookfinder.com and Deep Discount and half.com and ebay and such.

[Mind you, I still do a lot of book shopping in real stores, especially Open Books (one of two poetry-only bookstores in the U.S. which we are delighted thrives here in Seattle) and the University Bookstore (which, did you know, offers free shipping anywhere in the U.S.? and which I love even more than Elliott Bay Book Company--we are so lucky here in Seattle). I also shop for music frequently at local chain Sonic Boom. But beyond those, it's online for me.]

I still have to grocery shop--it's my job because Jim does the laundry and hates shopping even more than I do.

But then there's the holiday season. I used to stress out SO much about the shopping. Once I'd gotten past all the books at Open Books and the University Bookstore and the music and then DVDs I could buy online, I was stuck. I really like to buy friends crafty, beautiful things. Not so much candles and picture frames (but yes, if they are funky and individual enough) but handmade earrings, pottery, paper products, etc. That all takes a powerful lot of shopping. Seattle used to have a plethora of shops that carried cool stuff, and every year I'd do my rounds. Places like Armadillo, Bizango (oh, how I miss this one!), La Tienda, Fireworks. The only ones of these that still exist are La Tienda, though they only have one store now, and Fireworks. Both of these were the most expensive of this type of shop and there I am always torn between finding the perfect thing for someone and spending too much money.

Enter Etsy. Ah, Etsy, how I love you. Now I can shop online for these wonderful things, too, and mostly the prices are quite good, even with shipping. And the money goes directly to the artists! I've nearly finished my holiday shopping, thanks to Etsy, and so far everything I've bought from them has been at least as attractive as shown. For several items I've been surprised how much lovelier they were in real life.

Thank you Internets! I loves you!

And now, even though I'm done finding the wonderful crafty things for the people I have to shop for who like such things, I can't stop browsing the site.

Oh, evil Internets!

So that is what I've been doing this week. All of it? All of it. While fighting some kind of virus and suffering through an ugly eye infection bad enough that I actually dragged my butt to the doctor. Or actually, Jim drove me because I couldn't see well enough to drive. Holy hand grenade, Batman. It nearly drove me insane. It might have, had the virus not laid me so low that I had no energy to go insane. I stayed home from work two days with the two annoyances, and had to ask a neighbour to help me drive Jim to the airport (he had a 48 hour business trip)--she had just come from a morning's worth of dental work and I couldn't see, but between the two of us we got him safely there and got us safely home.

The weekend wasn't so bad, though. I made it through work most of Thursday and all of Friday, and by then small children didn't run screaming from the sight of my eye. Friday afternoon we even ran an errand (shopping!) and bought paper for our holiday letter. I think we were in the store seven minutes and back to the car within ten. Saturday I still couldn't write (trying to write one-eyed isn't fun) but we did go for a (halting for me--not only was I still virus-tired but half-blind) walk in Carkeek Park in lovely, clear, but cold weather. Had coffee with Tamar. Watched some Pushing Daisies which I loved and Jim was all eh about and then some Tudors, which we both were all right with, enough to keep watching.

Now it's Sunday and I'm feeling well enough to start scrambling to catch up. I haven't written the holiday letter to print on the paper yet. Or started cleaning or organizing, but dammit, my shopping's done.

I wonder what's new on Etsy?

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


In the car I have listening to The Fiery Furnaces Widow City well over fifty times, I swear. Maybe a hundred. And I'm not tired of it yet.

I have some new music but haven't had time to really listen to it yet.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Betsy James's YA fantasy novel Listening at the Gate is actually the third in a series, though it worked just fine without have read the previous two volumes. maybe better? In any case, this was one of those books that I started and immediately knew I was going to really like. Something about the world and about the characters. This is about a young woman living in a seaside land in a low technology culture. The land is populated by near-mythic sea people, the people who live on the shore, the strict, repressive farmer/traders and then back on the hills a wilder people, related to the shore people. The main character is the daughter of one of the hill-folk and the traders, and because of that feels like an outsider. One day, she finds a young man, near-dead, on the beach below her restrictive, widowed father's house, and rescues him. She's drawn to him, but uncertain of how she is, and leaves for her mountain family for a few years. The main part of this novel follows her return to the shore--the journey, her shock at how repressive the trader's have become, and her involvement with the rescued young man and his quest and the struggle between the different people and their cultures. Fascinating. This really caught me up in it. Not a perfect novel, but I found myself lost in it.

Cherie Priest's Dreadful Skin is a beautifully written series of connected horror tales about horrific werewolves and the havoc they reck and a nun dedicated to stopping their destructive path across the southern U.S. just post-Civil War. I'm really not a horror fan--her other novels have a greater contemporary fantasy element to them--but liked these to admire stylistically in particular. Impressive.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Got a very, very little bit done on the novel. Almost too little to count as writing. Hard to do with one eye.

However, I did have a poem accepted by Strange Horizons. Hooray!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

June 18, 1994
Orkney: West Mainland Tour

Jim's Journal

Used by permission; See below for Neile's journal of the same day.

Had usual breakfast. Caught 11 a.m. bus for Kirkwall. Stopped into craft fair--I bought a runic sweater. John got same type from Judith Glue. Had lunch at same place as on Thursday. Caught 2:25 p.m. Go-Orkney bus tour of the East Mainland.

Brough of Deerness. Hiked through 1.5 miles of farmer's fields, along dirt, gravelly road out to promontory. Next had to thread our way down rock cliff face with steps, dirt path, down to sea level, then across to Deerness, which was up another cliff face, along chain-link trail guides and then across field at hop. The was was at least 20–30 miles per hour. All that remained there were the three low sides of a church from Medieval times. Around were the remains of Viking houses. We could see house depressions--also the grass-covered walls of large church that surrounded the remaining slate wall. Trudged back to bus through light rain and high winds.

Next stop: Italian church and Churchill barriers. After that Tomb of the Eagles.

Drove along 1st barrier, built during WWII because the sunken German battleships scuttled there weren't protection enough...or they imported Italian workmen (prisoners of war) to make concrete barrier in the entrance to Skapa Sound (Kirk Sound) a large inland sea and one of the more northerly port Britain had. Churchill Barrier. Italian prisoners also built chapel from two quonset huts linked together. Artist Chiochetti designed artwork for chapel.

Went from there along barriers. 4 total. At third we stopped and walked along sand deposits built up after barriers in place 50 years ago. Poked into sunken ships that were now half-buried in sand.

Next Tomb of the Eagles. Mr. & Mrs. Simison, who were the original excavators of the site. Mrs. Simison gave us a talk in the museum on their front porch. Got to hold skull, working tools made of stone, also fingered stone button and rock used to pound grains used to make beer. Mrs. Simison was very good with talk drawing us in, asking us questions. (Skipper, Mr. Simison's god, waited outside.)

Mr. Simison took us out to Middle House, Bronze Age, with center hearth used to cook lamb, etc. with heated stones in a cooking pit. Took 3 hours to get stones and hearth hot enough. Midden heap near house.

Mr. Simison and dog hiked with us out to Tomb of the Eagles. Long passageway into cairn. Room enough to stand up inside. In back area there were some skulls and bones. These were eagle people, bones of animals found with skulls. Most of cairn unexcavated. On way back Skipper ran along cliff face chasing seagulls. Chatted with Mr. Simison about visitor from Idaho and windy, rainy weather.

Neile's Journal

Today we took Go-Orkney tour of the East Mainland and the islands down the Churchill Barricades. The Gloup, the Brough of Deerness, and Tomb of the Eagles. [See my entry from my 1992 East Mainland tour for more details--and some pictures--about what we saw.]

Watching Mrs. Simison [at Tomb of the Eagles] is almost mystical--her sense of connection with the people who lived on her land and Mr. Simison told again how he'd found the stone wall and realized it was man-built an dug around and found the polished hammer (from 20 generations ago).

Later at tea Mr. Lea see how they were doing a genetic study of the bones and the Orcadians and found very little difference over the years. And found there were many Orcadians whose grandparents had all been Orcadians. The time all in a line.

After she talked, I gave Mrs. Simison a copy of the poem I wrote about the tomb that appeared in the League anthology [you can read the poem at the end of the article about me in the University Week.] According to Mr. Lea, she was pleased, which makes me happy. The place has made such an impression on me--especially the Simisons.

Handling the artifacts is so powerful. I can't imagine handling something so old, handled by people so long ago, touching and holding a 5,000-year-old skull and pottery and beads and claws. It goes to the bone and beyond.

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