Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ramblings about my trip to DC

Went to DC this week for a conference and some meetings about money. The nonprofit organization I work at is funded largely through federal grants and 2 of them have been tricky. After the conference I had meetings with people holding the purse strings for those 2 tricky grants.

The meetings were on Friday. Thursday night I woke up in the middle of the night all in a panic about those meetings. And wondering how much longer I can do this job.

Plenty of people run nonprofit organizations for decades, which is much longer than I have so far. And I'm sure they've had these moments of panic, stress, anxiety, malaise, and general less-than-thrilled-about-the-job feelings. As has everyone throughout history.

The first meeting went pretty much as expected, which is, not too bad. Then I had lunch with some friends and vented. And then went to the meeting I was really dreading, because it was with a federal auditor.

Plus, I got off at the wrong Metro stop, had to walk blocks in the 80 degree weather, still got lost on the way to his office and showed up shiny and sweaty. However, we went to Starbucks, I got hydrated, we sat outside and worked things through. It went much better than expected.

The guy used to live in Atlanta so we chatted about that, and he also visited Taiwan at about the same time when I lived in Taiwan, and we're about the same age, and I tried to be my most charming and competent best, so all in all, my meetings went pretty well.

Still, the malaise and general less-than-thrilled-about-the-job feelings continue.

On the upside, I was staying at Sister's place and it was nice to see her and hang out. Unfortunately, she had to put down one of her cats last week who was old and suffering from some kind of cancer. Today, she picked up the ashes and I put the wooden box of ashed on the shelf next to her Han Solo bobble head doll.

Now I'm home and I see that I've finally gotten the long-promised CD of pictures from the fellowship trip I did 15 months ago. On the last day of the trip, one of the other fellows offered to copy our pics from our digital cameras onto his laptop and then burn all our pictures onto one disc so we could see everyone else's pictures.

And now, 15 months later, the disc is here!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Duran Duran plays Chastain Amphitheater

Went to see Duran Duran Saturday night at Chastain Amphitheater. It was a great show, better than the last time I saw them on their Astronaut tour, when they played at the huge Gwinnett arena.

Chastain is an open air amphitheater where the mellower bands play, like Frankie Valley, or Edwin McCain with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, or Natalie Cole, or Emmylou Harris. Get the picture?

Plus, it's been 25 years since Duran Duran hit the scene and turned me and a zillion other girls into Durannies. I guess I have reached middle age.

Still, it was a great show. They have a new album out, Red Carpet Massacre. I don't have it, so I didn't know any of the songs from that album.

The play list from the show is below. I liked the Electroset, where the 4 of them (Andy's gone) stand behind what look like keyboard stands lined up across the front center of the stage and play a medley of techno-fied electronica versions of their songs. A great way to freshen up some oldies (still coming to terms with the idea that my teenage idols are now considered oldies and I'm middle aged).

And I so totally would run off with John Taylor if he ever asked, even though tall and skinny is not quite my type. He's still looking good. It helps to have good hair. It's because of JT that I got into bassists.

There was an opening Act: Your Vegas.

Set List:




As Husband said, there was a very tight demographic among the audience: middle-aged white women and men. There were maybe 20 Asians (East Asian, South Asian) and a handful of African Americans. Ethnically, it was like back being at the Detroit Hoedown.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another craft reenters my life

Went to Hobby Lobby (I usually avoid it, but it's the closest craft store to my house) to get some stuff and while there, perused the clearance bin. And found this:

Now, wasn't I just thinking about picking up needlepoint again? It includes cotton floss and I would prefer embroidery wool. But hey, it's on clearance and it was the only one left. It was a sign. I had to buy it.

When I got home, in a show of great self-restraint, I did not open it right away. I waited 2 days. The canvas is printed with the design and it also comes with a chart. Very good.

But I really shouldn't start any new products (thought BrooklynTweed's post from May 12, 2008 kind of makes me feel like I have permission. Yes, self-delusion is strong.)

I think I'm just in a rut with the knitting works in progress (2 baby blankets, a shawl, 2 afghans).
Tonight I finished up a scarf:
It's a skein of Suss Twisted. Can't remember the name of the colorway, but it's a strand of navy and a strand of cloud blue together. Knitted on big needles and voila, a quick project done.

The logical thing to do would be to work on any one of the five works in progress. But the needlepoint pillow calls me.

Instead, I went to my cross-stitch/needlepoint drawer of my craft armoire (courtesy of Ikea), and pulled out my existing needlepoint projects. They've been folded up for years.

I designed this one, based on a sketch I made to carve into a tile, years ago. In the original sketch, a cat is napping where the top of the sofa dips down. Not sure what I'm going to do with it. It's only about 6 inches tall, so it wouldn't make much of a pillow. Plus there's not enough canvas for it.
The original idea for this piece below was to be a long scroll, at least twice as long as it is now, with a sun at the top. A wall piece to hang somewhere narrow. I guess I could scratch the needlepoint itch by adding more of the blue.But I think I'm going to work on this, my first needlepoint piece, and just finish it. I designed it based on a doodle developed over years of grad school. My friends would tease me for doodling and drawing during lectures, even small group lectures. However, I always participated in discussion, so clearly I was paying attention with my ears even as my hands were busy.
I stopped working on this because I ran out of the cream colored yarn for the background. Tomorrow I'll go to Nease's Needleworks or the Needle Nook before lunch. Hopefully, they'll have some yarn that's close in color.
Whether or not I'll be able to resist temptation and buy another needlepoint project (something small, just to take the edge off), is another matter.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Causes for celebration: Mildred Loving and right of LGBT to marry

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians had the fundamental human right to marry.

I am straight, so why should I care? Because I know how wonderful it can be to be married, and to have the union recognized by everyone. And as an interracial couple, we know that if we were born a generation ago, we also would not have the right to be married.

Here is a statement by Mildred Loving that I totally agree with:

Loving for All
By Mildred Loving*
Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn't get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn't allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn't that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the "crime" of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed.

The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared:
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn't have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men," a "basic civil right."

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Food as art

Danger! Danger! New craft I want to try: carving fruit and vegetables.

Great article and pictures here at the New York Times.

It's an old, old tradition in Asia. I remember learning to cut up and carve an apple into a bird, though I don't remember if I learned in the US or in Taiwan.

While I will most probably not start this craft, I can translate it into my pottery. I've been making more rounded jar/pots, which are very much like pumpkins or watermelons. I love carving pottery when it's at the leather-hard stage.

When pottery is first thrown on the wheel, it's very wet and malleable. Then it dries to a leather-hard stage where you can pick it up, cut it up, and carve, like leather. It's not so soft and limp, but it can still bend without breaking. At the bone-dry stage, it's, well, bone-dry, and very fragile. Pick it up wrong and it'll break, even though it looks strong, it's not. Then it's ready for the first firing in the kiln. After the first firing is the glazing, and another firing.

But that leather-hard stage is magic. I've taken my pieces home at that stage and carved curliques, birds, flowers, and other bas-relief type things into the pottery. It's my second most favorite stage of pottery making, the first being the actual throwing on the wheel.

The pictures from this article is definitely giving me ideas....

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Dilemma of the Multi-crafter

The other day, I was looking for a yarn shop in Sandy Springs when I came across a needlepoint shop. Can't remember the name, but it's on Hildebrand street.

A long time ago, I was really into cross-stitch, which led me to needlepoint. I've even gone so far as to design my own pieces, including a piece to commemorate my parents' 30th (or was it 35th?) anniversary. I still have cross stitch and needlepoint UFOs.

Being in that needlepoint shop made we want to pick it up again. But I can't! I have too many other knitting, crocheting, quilting, and collage projects going on. And I have so much yarn! Not to mention the printmaking and painting that I dabble in. And the pottery that I do every Monday night.....

Thus is the dilemma of the multi-crafter.

However -- what if I use some of the harder-wearing yarn, like the Knitpicks Wool of the Andes or Cascade 220 for needlepoint? I already have the canvas, and the cross stitch and needlepoint patterns....

Thus is the solution of the multi-crafter.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

This is a picture of my mother and her mother. I have never seen this picture before but over Chinese New Year she brought it to Brother Two the photographer to see if he could restore it. Other than the dot between the eyes, I think he did a pretty good job.

I do recognize my grandmother. She was always a great beauty. Her wrinkles never stopped us from calling her Pretty Grandma. Until the end, she was thin, her hair curled, and makeup done.

I'd like to say that I'd recognize my mom in that picture, but I don't. So many babies look alike at that age.

On the other hand, my mom does look something like that now: round face, round form. Like many people, she went from fat baby, to thin young woman. But as long as I remember, she was round (having 4 kids will do that to you), outgoing, smart, and witty.

From that picture, my mom grew up to be an amazing woman.

She was oldest, the oldest of 4 girls. But she grew up in the shadow of an older brother who died as a little boy before she was born. She grew up with the responsibility of doing well by her younger sisters, studying to be a dentist because it would be a stable profession, even though she did not enjoy it, nor did she do well at it in dental school. But she did it because someone would have to care for the younger ones in case something happened to her parents.

After dental school, she married a man she loved and moved with him to a country she had never been to before. Now that's love, and a sense of adventure. She was a stay at home mom, raising 4 kids and making my dad's salary stretch. She packed us up and moved from Missouri to Maryland, to Texas and to Taiwan, as my dad's jobs took us around.

I'm sure the resettlement process was difficult, starting over at new schools, making new friends, but I don't have any traumatic memories of it. Maybe it was my mom's ability to make the new place home for us. Or I eventually got used to it. Or it's just me recasting the past to soften any rough parts of life. That's what helps us humans move on from bad things, right?

Anyway, in Taiwan, she started teaching English to the neighbors at our kitchen table, as a way of earning more, to help pay for tuition. Now she's had her own business for 15+ years and with my dad, put 4 kids not only through college, but grad school too. Except Brother Two, the youngest. He's probably not going to grad school, but that's another story.

All throughout, she wrote essays about us kids and about life. They're bound up in little volumes. I need to improve my Chinese, so I can read them someday. She wrote letters to the editor about social issues. She decorated cakes, practiced Chinese calligraphy, gardened, and many other kinds of arts and crafts.

She probably got it from her parents, who were tailors. Her mother was a great cook, and so is my mom. Her father, despite having only a third grade education, never stopped learning and applied for several mechanical patents. We called him Funny Grandpa and my mom certainly did get the smart and silly genes from him.

She was and is a great mom. And more than a mom. I like to think that I've inherited all those wonderful traits above from her and that I was able to accomplish all that I have because I had a great role model in her.

Except for the hair.

Detroit Hoedown

This weekend, Husband and I were in Detroit. He was there for business during the week and on Friday I flew up to join him. I had not been to Michigan before, so why not?

How's this for a piece of public art? And that's the GM building in the background, with office buildings around it, and our hotel. The whole complex is called the Renaissance Center, which also has restaurants and shops. All for the convenience of the GM company, I'm guessing.
Inside the GM building are all these displays of cars. Here's a picture of Corvettes, Brother Two's favorite car.
I was surprised at how chilly it was. Friday, we went to a baseball game and I'm so glad Husband told me to bring my coat. It was 59 degrees F during the game, but the wind blowing made it feel much colder.

Before the game, we went to a Greek restaurant in Greektown. Here's a picture of part of the mural on the wall behind me.

Here's the view from our seats inside the baseball stadium with the football stadium to the left. Not pictured, the hockey arena that's within walking distance. It felt strange to have Pepsi products instead of Coke.
Husband and I both noticed that Detroit is not very diverse. For me, when I think Detroit, I think Motown, I think African Americans. I did not see very many. As we walked to the stadium, all the fans, except a handful, were white. The only black people I saw were parking garage staff, vendors, or panhandlers. I saw a few Asians and a few Latinos.

This is very, very different from metro Atlanta, which is about 30% black(in the city of Atlanta, it's 60% black), so it's normal to see black faces in every strata of society, as workers, pan handlers, fans, players. And there are a lot more Latinos in Atlanta too, again in every strata, except the panhandlers. They are definitely in the stands as fans. In Detroit, I think I saw a few Latinos in the stands, and of course, there were the players on the field. Strangely, I think I saw as many Asians as Latinos and blacks.

The people next to us in the stands must have been incredibly thirsty. They spent the entire game trying to wave down the beer vendors and then complaining when the vendors didn't climb up the stairs, lugging the heavy beer, to them. Eventually, they must have remembered that they was a row of beer stands right behind them. They also found the margarita stand.

After the game, Husband and I went back to the hotel and heard live music. Turns out that a band called Leighton was playing in the food court of the Renaissance Center. Notice the lead singer with hair like Robert Plant of Led Zepplin. And the sparse attendance.

After all, why go see Leighton, when you could go to the 28th Detroit Hoedown right next door?
We went to bed instead of either option. In our hotel room, we could hear the music from the Hoedown anyway.

Saturday, we slept in (blissful) and then went for a walk along the Detroit River. We could see Windor, Ontario, Canada right across the way. Next to the Ren Center is Asian Village.

It looks pretty from the outside, but we couldn't figure out how to get in. It looks mainly like restaurants and maybe they open during the week to serve the workers, and it's right on the riverfront. But why close on Saturdays? Just a ways down the river, at another little park, there were people enjoying the carousel.... Or maybe we just couldn't figure out how to get in.
So we walked along the riverfront to the Detroit Hoedown. Okay, again, being pretty ignorant of Detroit, I thought more Motown, and now hip hop (Eminem), than country music. But it was free and right next door, so we went.

It was great people watching. We sat in the center, near the food vendors, near the main stage (did not recognize most of the bands listed). Lots of cowboy hats and boots. Lots of black leather bikers. Lots of obnoxious t-shirts (as a woman, am I supposed to consider those messages flattering or make me attracted to the wearer? If so, it has the opposite effect on me.) Lots of too-short skirts and shorts. Lots of tattoos.

I saw this guy with his shirt unbuttoned halfway down, long wavy hair and cowboy hat, jeans, boots. And a big tattoo on his chest extending up to his chin. Didn't get a good look, but there was a skull on his throat. Ow!

Again, the vast majority were white. I saw about a dozen blacks (who were not workers) and Asians. I think I saw 3 Latinos. Interestingly, I saw a family of Middle Eastern Muslims (some of the women wore head scarves and long robes) and a family of black Muslims.

It was fun going someplace new with Husband. Detroit has a beautiful downtown area with some very interesting architecture and a lovely riverfront walk.

Too bad one of my last views of Detroit included a huge 8 (?) story factory building with all the windows busted, the paint gone, revealing the concrete underneath.