A San Mateo Parking Enforcement Worker

zoomed through a stop sign, narrowly missing my dog and me, because he apparently thought we weren't ambling through the crosswalk fast enough. Where are they recruiting from these days?!? Sorry, I just had to vent.

Now thinking happy thoughts, such as playing with Piglet at the dog park a few weeks ago. Behind her is another border collie mix, Tess. Piglet and Tess had the same stance, tracked the ball the same way, and ran the same patterns when running after the balls we threw for them, like shadows of one another.

One of the things I miss about Metz are dinners with Annelise and Arnaud, who gave me cooking lessons in exchange for English conversation. Last week, I decided to continue to learn to cook here at home, and joined a cooking group. I went to my first event with them, a potluck, last weekend.

I was salad. I mixed salad greens with nasturtium petals and blackberries from the garden and crumbled feta cheese over it, then toasted pine nuts, and made a blackberry vinaigrette. When I arrived at the party, I realized I'd forgotten the pine nuts! Luckily, no one noticed there was something missing other than myself.

Since this blog entry has no general theme other than randomness, I'll mention here that I went roller skating for the first time in over 20 years last night to celebrate the birthday of a friend of a friend of a friend. I was never much of a skater and last night was no exception, as I tottered out onto the floor, my feet ready to slip out from under me any second. But the people were fun, the music funky and I only fell once! My back is a little sore today, though. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so all I have is this one grossly underexposed camera phone shot.


Summer Festivals

During the summer months, the churches in my parents' sect of Buddhism (Jodo Shinshu, a form of Mahayana Buddhism) hold fundraising festivals that they also use as an opportunity to share a bit of Buddhist/Shinto and Japanese culture with the local communities. Each weekend, a different church in the area holds its festival. Last weekend, my father and I headed South to Palo Alto for one of these festivals.

The church has its own adult taiko group, primarily women! June (foreground) and my father have been friends since childhood.

Dad and I actually went to the festival to watch his friend (right) play the shakuhachi, a flute made from bamboo. The woman on the left is playing a shamisen, a two-stringed instrument traditionally played by geisha.
Dad's friend played with three koto players. A koto is like a horizontal harp, but each string has a movable bridge, which tunes the string. Any time a key change is made, each string needs to be retuned to the new key... no mid-song key changes for this instrument!

 There were also ikebana (flower arrangements) and suiseki (rocks) displayed. Natural displays in Japanese art are typically abstractions of other natural scenes. In Japanese gardens and ikebana, things that are higher tend to represent the skies (clouds, sun, moon, treetops), while lower elements represent terrestrial elements (animals, minerals). I have no idea what this particular arrangement represents, though!
Suiseki are rocks that can represent a whole scene, a mountain, a tree, anything that it may resemble. What do you think this rock might represent? The person who found it saw a flower, specifically a chrysanthemum (which has relevance in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, although I can't remember exactly what!), but maybe you see something else in it.
In almost all Japanese arts, students may eventually go through what is essentially a certification process in order to be able to teach. When they pass this process, they also receive a "name" that they use in relation to the practice of that art. For many of these arts, the students must still travel to Japan to receive their name.

I had hoped to show stunning photos of the garden by now, but to be perfectly honest, the garden is languishing. Other than the blackberries, the plants just aren't flowering and fruiting as prolifically this year, and I wonder if something changed in my soil or if its the uncharacteristically cool summer we've had, or...


Blogging Awards

Assorted vegetables from my garden
(the water was "dyed" by the bougainvillea)
July 2010
In January, Gelisa gave me a Blogger Appreciation Award, an award  that bloggers pass on to other bloggers. The process allows people to connect to new people, and to find out a little more about their current contacts through their reading interests and a stipulation that the bloggers granting the award tell a few (actually seven) facts about themselves.

By coincidence, I expressed appreciation last week for several blogs I read, and then, Linda also passed on two blogging awards to me.
And with that, I figured I should at the very least make an effort to thank them. You met Linda in my last entry, but not Gelisa.  Gelisa is an accountant, musician, mother, wife whose break with her mother's family sometimes haunts her. While her primary blog is in French, she also keeps a blog in English, which she updates a bit less frequently. Many thanks to both Linda and Gelisa, who not only thought of me, but also took the time to continue the chain.

As for the award, I'm going to take the lazy way out and confer it upon those I mentioned last week, and leave it up to them as to whether they choose to pass it on to others. And seven facts about me...

1. I am my mother's daughter and at my best somewhere between 5 in the evening and 4 in the morning. Needless to say, I hate mornings. I keep a notepad next to my bed, because I will invariably wake up in the middle of the night with a possible solution to some problem or some item I need to add to my list of tasks.

2. I work too much. Maybe it comes from my parents, who practically lived at their pharmacy, maybe it's because I began working for them as soon as I was old enough to wield a dust cloth without breaking anything too precious. I have been known to put in more hours on the job (in the office and at home) than most people and still be focused enough to be highly productive. The downside is that my identity is tied to my job, and now that I'm unemployed, I feel like a non-entity. I am nothing.

3. I'm a loner, and yet constantly lonely, even when with people. Try to figure that one out!

4. I lack self esteem and most of the time, I don't like myself. In spite of having been a high achiever, I have never been happy with what I've done or who I am. I'm incredibly insecure and have been known to push away those I care about the most in fear of being hurt.

5. I am one of the few middle-aged people on this earth who has never been married, never had children and never planned for either. I would love to be able to share my life with someone, but I'm not an easy person to live with, probably due to that self esteem thing, so I will probably spend the rest of my days alone, as well.

6. I dream about improving educational systems in underserved areas, which is a monumental task that I don't think I'm up to. People like to scapegoat the teachers in those schools, but the problem is way beyond a few bad teachers. It is a system set up so that more resources are diverted to compliance issues and administration than to direct student services, and home situations that often discourage scholarship and discipline. How do we combat that?

7. One of my big worries is the constant, gradual stripping away of citizens' rights and increasing  dominance by an elite few. The powers that be use crises, our own prejudices and partisanship, and even our need to be entertained to accomplish that, and we are falling for it hook, line and sinker. In a visually oriented world, we are most fascinated by those who speak passionately, using catch phrases and sound bites that don't add up to a logical conclusion but stir up strong emotional reactions. Somewhere in there, we forgot how to think for ourselves. And "they" are using this to their advantage, as well.

That's me. And that's seven. Please do take a look at my last entry and visit the blogs there.  Actually, take a little time to peruse my reading list. Everyone there is there for a reason.