Last day

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Last day of work before Christmas! I’ve brought the car so I can duck out early and run an errand or two. It would help if I could get to the post office, but that also includes wrapping — hmm. Not sure that’s possible.

It’s been a pretty relaxed Christmas season. I have a few things left to buy — probably more than a few, actually. But it’s going to be simple — just the three of us, plus the boyfriend. I think we’ll have to teach him how to play hearts.

Other exciting developments — some friends of ours usually have a party on Christmas eve, which I have deeply resented for years because what I want to be doing Christmas eve is lounging about in my pajamas watching movies, wrapping presents, and maybe having fondue. Not going out. It seems they have come to their senses, though, since they seem to have moved their party to the 23rd. (Also, how on earth do they get ready for Christmas after having 100 people in their house?) In addition, since it will just be us, we can do what we want for dinner on Christmas day. I’m excited about this, too. M wants roast beef (I was thinking frozen pizza), but at least it can be pretty simple, meaning no one has to spend the day in the kitchen. I am completely in favor of that.

Okay — here we go!

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Happy holidays

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I’m at work today and tomorrow, and then I’m off for two weeks. My plan is to lie on the couch and read, or possibly watch movies, breaking for the occasional walk in the bracing air. And then, of course, eating.

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We had a party at work yesterday and my awesome colleague made 200 snowflakes . . .

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each one different.

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It was a strangely fun party. Parties at work are not always the most fun thing in the world, but this one actually a lot of fun.

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It was organized somewhat late, and was sort of low key. Plenty of excellent champagne, and a number of little kids running around also helped.

Aren’t they amazing? Another colleague made the festive ball of lights you see there on top of the hat rack . . .

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I think that’s why it was fun — we had fun setting up — it was pretty silly — and it was just fun from there.

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Kind of a miracle, actually.

Getting festive

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Yikes.

This Saturday our neighborhood held its mostly-annual holiday progressive dinner, whereby 60 people have appetizers in one house, soup in another, the main course in a third and then dessert in another. It’s very fun. It’s slightly hectic. It’s really fun to see what the insides of other people’s houses look like, because even if you kind of know your neighbors, with some exceptions you don’t know them well enough to have been in their houses. Interestingly, there is suddenly a whole tribe of kids under ten. That’s nice!

Anyway, this year we were on for desserts. The house was basically clean (due to the recent hiring of a cleaning service, which seems so incredibly decadent but actually makes life ten thousand times better for just this reason). Friday night and Saturday morning I made a cake and 4 batches of cookies, two of which involved rolling out dough and one of those two being gingerbread which makes about 10 dozen cookies — I am not kidding. At some point I abandoned the cookies to drag the holiday boxes from the attic. My neighbor J came over and helped me drape strands of lights around. K came home with drinks, solved the problem of no lights on the porch and put up a little tree out there, and we were good! We made it to the appetizer house. I recognized the air of total frenzy at the main course house (I like the main course people — it seems they are recently back from Seattle). Everyone, by that point well lubricated, eventually converged on our house. The children, like locusts, swarmed over the dessert table and then disappeared (to another neighbor’s house to watch a movie). The adults moved in to the kitchen, all thirty of them, and refused to budge.

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It was actually pretty fun, and — although I still have not put up our tree (under strict instructions to wait for M) — it’s finally starting to look kind of Christmassy around here, (although we will not speak of the horror which is M’s room where I had to stuff all the crap from the holiday boxes which we’ll have to drag downstairs again to do the tree).

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I am taking today off to recover, though. There’s nothing going on at work, I am totally beat, and I think I have to figure out the stuff that has to be mailed today. At the moment, though, I am immobilized by a warm sweater and lying on the couch. Soon, though, I’m going to get up and do lots of stuff.

Also, by some miracle, it is still reasonably cold here! A seasonal miracle just for me.

News flash from library land

Image taken from page 182 of 'Onze aarde. Handboek der natuurkundige aardrijkskunde ... Met 150 platen en 20 kaartjes in afzonderlijken Atlas'

Have you seen the new British Museum collection at Flickr.com? Amazing pictures. They’re all in the public domain. According to Flickr,

The first set Highlights from the Mechanical Curator comes from a British Library Labs project dubbed the Mechanical Curator, which located more than a million images from within the Library’s digitised collection of over 65,000 books from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The images are a random selection that is meant to help you start discovering this amazing collection and help the British Library improve their knowledge of the images.

Looks like they are images mechanically extracted from the digitized collection of the Library’s books from the 17-19th centuries. Each image is linked to the book it came from, for this one it’s

Title: “Onze aarde. Handboek der natuurkundige aardrijkskunde … Met 150 platen en 20 kaartjes in afzonderlijken Atlas”

Author: BLINK, Hendrik.

Shelfmark: “British Library HMNTS 10005.dd.8.”

Page: 182

Place of Publishing: Groningen

Date of Publishing: 1885

Issuance: monographic

Identifier: 000376864

but beyond that, there’s not a lot of info attached to the image – the Mechanical Curator doesn’t really know what each image is about. They’re hoping viewers will attach meaningful metadata as they’re viewed. (Such a great library word: metadata. In this case, it means tags, captions, comments, etc.) Very cool!

(Clicking on the picture will take you into the Flick Britisn Museum collection.)

Not from here

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I’m not from here, but several of the people in my gym class are. It was very sweet when one somewhat elderly man was talking about the now-gone fruit orchards near San Jose. His wife’s father grew apricots, and apparently when they were just getting to know each other, they spent some time walking around in the orchards. Ahem. (His wife is one of my favorite people in the class, actually.) Another man, kind of a loud and talkative guy, gave a discourse on which beaches in SF it’s possible to swim at. There are serious riptides at several. When he grew up, it was a well-known fact that China Beach was okay for swimming, but Ocean Beach was not.

So many people are not from here that you tend to forget that anyone ever grew up here. Although, actually, I suppose my own children did. Hmm. Odd.

Seasonal cheer

I’m in a class at the gym called “Strength Training for the Ancient.” I’m ancient enough to qualify for it, and it’s actually a lot of fun. It allows us to use the little weight room twice a week by ourselves, without all those youths about to discourage us and monopolize the weights while they chat each other up. Anyway, after class today we had a little party in the back room of a nearby bookstore. It was surprisingly fun. (One of this interesting things about this class is that a German professor I had 30 years ago is in the class, too. Slower moving, but as cranky as ever.) Anyway, cheered up as I am by endorphins and festive events, I will share with you a number of cheering photos.

This is ice on a local sidewalk! Taken at 7:30 am a few mornings ago:

My seasonally appropriate duvet cover — see, I AM decorating:

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I live near a lot of churches and divinity schools, and a local group of monks seems to live in a nearby apartment building — they put up this display every year:

The bookstore! where the party was held:

A book for sale in the bookstore. I fear there will be no good ending for the giant moose, but I do like this cover. I am sorry he appears to be in the process of being shot, yet I kind of love that stripy hat:

It’s part of a series — perhaps M needs them to further her career as a book illustrator?

That’s all — Happy Thursday!

Seasonal affect disorder

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It’s warming up, which has me very cross. It’s going to be in the 70’s next week, which I find intolerable. I know — there are many people who like warm weather and hate winter, but I like winter. It’s been cold enough for the past week or so that I’ve been able to pretend I live in a wintry clime, but that is coming to an end and I am really sad.

So, I fear that grumpiness has spread, and if you’re not careful it spreads everywhere and then you’re just unhappy about everything, and in the interest of that not happening, I will tell you a funny story about cookies. Two people brought in chocolate chip cookies this morning, one sort of moist and one sort of crispy and it reminded me about my mother’s cookies. My grandmother would always have chocolate chip cookies for us when we visited, and my mother has carried on the tradition, so whenever we visit there are always freshly baked chocolate cookies waiting for us, which is lovely. You need to know two things to understand this story. One, my mother seems to have become ever fonder of the crispy sort, even past the point of crispy moving into rock hard. Once when N was baking the cookies, my mother wanted her to leave them in the oven well past the point of doneness. When my mother would leave the room, N would quickly take them out. Two, my mother often gets other people to bake the cookies, and sometimes it’s Penny, who is the cleaner and general factotum around my mother’s house. One morning some years ago, M and I arrived at my mother’s house. It was a family thing and we were meeting N, who had driven down from Maine the day before. Of course there were cookies, and M was eyeing them somewhat distrustfully. N noticed, and said, “Don’t worry. Penny made them.”

Okay, it’s not very funny, but it’s a little funny. Of today’s cookies, though, I think the crispy were a little better.

All right. I am off to face the post office. Wish me luck.