It’s late at night. My house is still a mess because my brain wasn’t together enough to clean it during the time I had this weekend. I am researching the proper categorization for the Chinese language in search of the right things to say about abbreviations.

These sort of up-late, home-alone times, I let my mind wander to what all the people I love might be doing; especially the ones whose homes I have seen. I like to think of them, safe and well, up late like me or in their own beds. I remember the bright silk brocade curtains we picked out together, the little apartment off the garage with the glowing stars over the bed, the van. I think of an attic full of bankets and mattresses, with a small thing breathing quietly nearby. I think of mother-in-law plants and lovers.

I think of my dad in his study at his computer with his lamp and mom downstairs at her big drawn-on desk with her lamp.

And I then I sort of slot my own self into that network of images, all these good wonderful people out there in my life. And I put my arms around my stuff mammoth and I just go to sleep.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-27

In Praise of Plants

I am a great admirer of plants. I love them because they’re beautiful, because they’re interesting, because they’re tenacious and because they’re kind. Plants are good citizens of the biomass. They drink up carbon dioxide and give out oxygen, without which many other organisms – some very familiar – could not survive. They’re the basis of many food chains, and fundamental to almost every ecosystem. They are all around us, doing all sorts of different things.

Plants are basically just really cool.

My favorite plants of all are nonvascular plants, especially mosses. I like the way they push up between bricks, and how soft and strange and ancient they are.

Also old and interesting are ferns and their cousins. They unfurl like violins becoming ostrich feathers, from the center outward in a great fan. They were once the tallest vegetables on the earth.

Plants don’t care very much about our expectations. They grow where they like.

They grow how they like.

Some plants are so tough that they devour their enemies.

These are qualities which I admire, and so I choose to make my home with many plants.

Some of them bear strange blossoms.

Plants are beautiful when they are dying.

Plants are beautiful when they are dead.

Plants are strange and wonderful and utterly fascinating, and what is more, they are delicious.
The very plant-y-est plant for eating that I can think of is the artichoke. Something about how you can see their thistle-ancestry all over, or how you can see all the different parts of it, the leaves and them stem and the heart and the choke, just makes it very clear that this is a real live plant your are consuming.

And they are very, very good. I eat them for dinner with garlic aioli and crusty bread, and forget about protein in my meal. I can get protein some other time.

Plants are where it’s at.

Roasted Baby Artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Aioli


  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Equipment:

  • a roasting pan or baking sheet
  • a large bowl
  • smaller bowl
  • a sharp knife & cutting board
  • microplane or grater
  • a large spoon
  • measuring cups & spoons
  • a large pot
  • aluminum foil (optional)
  • 1) Fill your pot up with water and put it on the stove to boil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Fill the larger bowl with cold water and squeeze the juice of half the of the lemon into it.

    2) Trim each artichoke by cutting the top off about 3/4 of an inch down, and then snapping off the outside leaves until only the lighter green to yellowish, softer leaves are showing. Trim the stem to half an inch or a little longer, and cut the artichoke in half. Then dump the halves into the lemon-water, where the acid will keep them from browning.

    5) When the water is boiling, add several tablespoons of salt. Drain the artichokes and drop in them into the pot. Blanch them for 3 minutes, then drain again and return to them to their original bowl.

    4) Toss the artichokes with few tablespoons of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. If you have some, line the roasting pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the halves cut-side-down onto the tray, put them into the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

    5) While the artichokes are roasting, prepare the aioli. Smash your garlic with the edge of your knife, and chop into a fine mince. Put the mayonnaise in the smaller bowl and add the garlic. With your grater or microplane, grate about a half a teaspoon of the peel of your remaining lemon half into the bowl, being careful to get only the yellow zest and not the bitter white pith. Finally, squeeze a teaspoon of lemon juice in and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Beat until well combined and season with salt and pepper.

    6) When the artichokes are done, take them out and serve them either drizzled with or dipped into the aioli. The recipe makes too much, so be sure to have crusty bread or another vegetable (asparagus?) around to use up the extra.

    Or even some hard-boiled eggs or cut-up grilled chicken, if you really feel the need for some protein.

    But I say screw it. Eat some plants, and enjoy.

    Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-20


    (Lately I am back to wrangling metered poetry. Expect sestinas and the like in the near future. For now, a villanelle)


    My home is full of other peoples’ art
    I put it there so I’d feel less alone.
    I thought it was a decent place to start.

    The postcards and the maps all do their part,
    the hunters in the snow and bits of bone,
    my home is full of other peoples’ art.

    I made this home so I could be apart
    and break the codependence I had known.
    I thought it was a decent place to start.

    Each poster has its own place in my heart,
    a set of memories that I have grown.
    My home is full of other peoples’ art.

    I guess perhaps it isn’t all that smart
    to show off all the talent I’ve been shown.
    I thought it was a decent place to start.

    I have good taste, and with it I can chart
    relationships continued or disowned
    My home is full of other peoples’ art;
    I thought it was a decent place to start.


    My great aunt died today.

    Her heart, I guess, sort of gave out. I didn’t know how old she was; I had heard she lied about her age, but I guess these things come out eventually. My dad told me. She was 91, born just after the end of the first world war. 91 years, and gone.

    The last time I spoke to her she thought she was talking to my sister. My dad warned me I should be careful to tell her it was me, but I just couldn’t somehow. It felt rough, to remind her, to say “So hey, it’s Emma, you know. Not Sasha.” She was cryptic, talked about an idea she had, something she was very in favor of, but thought other people would disapprove of, but thought perhaps my dad could get behind. She lived in Amsterdam and I thought she was talking about smoking pot, but it turned out she was talking about leaving her body to science.

    I was way off on that one.

    She was, in fact, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known.

    She was a concert pianist, and played and played well until just weeks before her death. Her first husband, a virtuoso violinist, succumbed to Parkinson’s a few years ago. The had jointly owned a Stradivarius, referred to in my family only as “The Fiddle,” and I remember for years their talking about selling it. They were always close, when I knew them.

    She finally married her longtime boyfriend, a Dutchman some 20 years her junior, a few years after that. There’s a wonderful photograph taken of them, from the top of a staircase they stood at the bottom of, two happy old people in love. He died before her, of lung cancer I think – he smoked beautifully as long as I knew him.

    I thought that I hoped to be in love with a man like that when I was watching my prime pass. He was the always in his prime.

    The last time I saw her in person was six years ago or so, in Stockholm for the weekend – one of my clever relatives had won one of the big awards they give out there, for a big discovery in Physics he’d made a long time before. Most of the family gathered for a few days to help the Swedes celebrate him and the other laureates, and to be together in a weird and wonderful situation. The Dutchman, still her boyfriend then, was the only one we knew who owned his own tux, being a composer and conductor. It had wonderful ruffles down the front of the shirt. I remember being amazed at how she could talk, unceasingly, constantly. She was never satisfied with anything, and it made her seem so alive. She pulled things apart and criticized and noticed everything and had ideas. She always commented on how beautiful I was. She complained about sitting near one of my cousins and her husband, because they talked too much – which I guess meant talked enough that my aunt couldn’t succeed in saying everything she wanted to say.

    My sister knew her better than I did. She went to Amsterdam after college, when my aunt and her boyfriend still ran their brasserie, and worked there and rode a bicycle around and made international friends. My aunt was never satisfied with anybody else’s help; I guess she couldn’t critique her darling niece quite as well. Plus, my sister is a charmer.

    I have a handful of other memories of her, much more distant – visiting them in Amsterdam, I made a handful of drawings of her. I wanted to capture her, this amazing person. That must have been just a year or so before, when my parents took me on an ill-advised trip to the south of France the summer after high school. I mostly missed my boyfriend and thought about things.

    I remember hanging around and listening to her play, worrying I would get in the way but wanting to hear, looking to the other adults for some guidance, wondering how they could possibly have gotten the beautiful black grand piano up the tiny stairs to the apartment. In pieces? Or through the window, by a crane?

    And visiting her in Amsterdam, some other Europe trip, before that (we always went through Amsterdam, to see her, and because it was the major North West/KLM hub). A special meal in the brasserie, Cafe Rondo, a stew in a quiet, dim room with tile floors. Nobody else was there, just family. I think I remember hot cocoa with whipped cream, and her sharp voice complaining about the Dutch and talking about music and people she had known, playing concerts in the Berkshires decades before I was born. It’s mixed up with Amsterdam, canals and red geraniums and house boats and being a child.

    Once, when I was maybe twelve, just starting to look like a woman more than a girl, the whole family gathered in California. I remember walking around the big fancy hotel and talking with the Dutchman, playing ping pong, watching him smoke, clearly so much younger than her, but still old, still dignified, so European. That was when I thought about falling in love with somebody like him. I don’t remember much of her that trip, except that she was there, and picking my way around a big table to come over and talk to her, and being told, the way relatives tell you, about much I had grown, how much I had changed, how beautiful I was.

    It’s strange to be loved by people you don’t really know, to forget people that remember you, to get to know them as stories and people who are distant, and to love them just the same. It’s strange to know that across the ocean from you somebody who is the last in their generation is living out their last weeks, and it’s too late to get to know them any better, too late to learn more of them except from other peoples’ stories.

    I wonder what she knew about me, before she started to forget things. I wonder what sort of picture she had of me, how much she could pick me apart from my sister, so much more familiar. I wonder how she and I might be similar.

    I’m glad she went when she did. She lived in her own house her whole life, she never had to go to a nursing home, she never had to succumb that much to being old, which I think she didn’t like very much.

    I wish, of course, that during the past several months I had called when my dad urged me to. But it’s so hard, to reach out across an ocean to somebody who you love, who loves you, who might forget you’re not your sister, your cousin, at any moment. Somebody who you know of, know about, but do not know.

    She was amazing. She could talk a blue streak. She held her convictions strongly.

    I can’t say anything more about her because I don’t really know. I’ll learn more, from stories, when people have recouped enough to tell them again.

    And in the way we miss people that is really actually just missing opportunities, I miss her so much right now. And I will probably keep missing her.

    It’s Valentine’s Day, I guess, which is a time when even drugstores put little “massagers” up with their cruddy candy and fabric roses, and everything in this country is about love, real and forced, and about sex and getting lucky. Last Valentine’s Day I held a shouting match in a public place because I couldn’t do what I had promised somebody. This year I thought I had done a little better, a friend kept a not-so-much-a-promise-and-here’s-hoping-nobody-felt-forced to sneak into my acting class and toss a stalk of rhubarb at me, and later we giggled on the phone over how confused everyone had been, and I did not say that I had death sitting in the back of my head.

    Love and passing. People say to tell people, on this stupid Hallmark holiday, that you love them. And ok, it’s always good to say it.

    Edith I love you. I loved you. I wish I had known you.

    Play piano forever and ever. Don’t let death or anything else stop the music.

    Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-13

    • It's Russia. In Russia you don't need photoshop. -@vlad43210 #
    • If there're folks who know me that'll be at #FFF this weekend and want me to stop by and say hey, let me know, else we may miss each other. #
    • Downstairs neighbors is that … Abba? It sure SOUNDS like Abba. Not sure how I feel about that. Probably good. #
    • @LookAtThatPunim Well of course it wasn't being played ironically! Abba is NEVER ironic. Even on native string instruments. in reply to LookAtThatPunim #
    • @writingdirty How are you defining OK Cupid as Dead? in reply to writingdirty #
    • @writingdirty Cool, totally fair – I never made it onto the site, and saw they were bought just as I was going to. Confirming my avoidance. in reply to writingdirty #
    • @this_isbollocks I'm so glad you appreciate my wit and wisdom. And booze. And boobies. in reply to this_isbollocks #
    • @hodgman I follow you because at 12:54 in the morning I enjoy nothing more than finding out about why other people follow you. #
    • that broccoli leaf sure knows how to get me in a tizzy. and now, all be-tizzed, i sleep. #
    • Hey y'all! Any design-types want a tiny smidgeon of work, going from text-based business card to text-based tear off flyer? Ping me!! #
    • hey, @RhiannonSL – DM me if you'd like a wee (very wee) spot of design type stuff. I am in need of a flyer! #
    • @musingvirtual Thanks! Have done! in reply to musingvirtual #
    • @Graydancer What date is the Vancouver GrUe? in reply to Graydancer #
    • If you're in PVD this weekend (and I know a bunch of you will be) you should REALLY consider coming to this: Fascinating stuff! #
    • @MajaMajaMaja I'll send you the long link via the magic of email. Anybody else who wants it, ping me and I'll send it too. Intriguing! in reply to MajaMajaMaja #
    • holy shit the wind is crazy my whole apartment is creaking i am a little afraid for my life #
    • @this_isbollocks Totally dinner. And delicious. in reply to this_isbollocks #
    • @this_isbollocks Drat, they've figured it out… in reply to this_isbollocks #
    • Today, the karma just comes pouring in. Clients & MBA friends advise on biz strategy & taxes, luck grants me amazing graphic designer – #JOY #
    • @LoLoLolaWants parsley tea? in reply to LoLoLolaWants #
    • @writingdirty Which average? in reply to writingdirty #
    • @olunclemax Those two aren't synonyms? Huh…. (cc @tbdt) in reply to olunclemax #
    • @TweetsofOld How is ice involved in cobbler making? That's a new one to me! in reply to TweetsofOld #
    • Maaaaybe it's not Yoga I want after all. Maybe what I'm looking for is Tai Chi? Yoga always seems too stop-and-start, not enough flow. #
    • Two in the morning – do I dare put the Cure's "Strange Attraction" on this mix, or is that a recipe for misery down the line? #
    • "Don't you smile at me like that. That's not even a real smile. Just a bunch of teeth playing with my mind!" – Face of the A Team #
    • You were looking for an orchid – I will always be a dandelion. #
    • @charlieglickman How's this one – "Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney sweepers, come to dust"? Dandelions can go so many ways… #
    • @Siniful @unclebrosef @charlieglickman Y'all know that's a song lyric, right? I am not in fact lamenting myself here. Just, y'know – singin' in reply to Siniful #
    • @Siniful @DDog what picture? I wanna be distracted! in reply to Siniful #
    • Today a day of/Posting, my room is drifted/with missives and love #

    without a doubt

    Without a doubt I do not have the time
    To write right now
    Without a doubt I should be cooking;
    Without a doubt
    I do not want to share the things I want to write down Anyhow

    I’ve got some other things to do, you know
    I’ve got people coming over
    I must woo them and wow them with wonder of my home
    I must take them through my threshold
    And make sure they feel the love

    But without a doubt
    I’m sitting here, doubtless, it is true,
    Writing down these words as rapidly as my fingers can pass them
    As quickly as my brain can spin the sentences
    Quicker, in fact
    I hardly stop for punctuation


    Well, because, you know, it’s true, and also
    And here I sit and earlier there were these plants
    HUGE plants, in big pots and cement troughs, and if you looked you could see koi swimming in a little pond as if to say
    This is not just a research place
    People are thinking about beauty here as well

    And so was I, but mostly, when nobody was looking and
    I thought I could get away with it
    I stuck my nose waaaaaaaay down
    into the pot of some big green thing
    So close that I could see the tiny little individuations on the moss
    Like such impossibly small fresh sweet green leaves

    But I bet they aren’t called leaves
    There’s a better word for that

    My glasses fogged and unfogged and I wandered and returned
    To my own moss, less sweet, less fresh, but more beloved
    And to my own good home with it’s strong threshold and my stove
    And now that I have run right out of time, right through whatever buffer I had left myself

    I shall get up
    And make broccoli soup
    (little arms, you know, little arms)
    And love
    And love
    And love

    Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-06

    On being really, truly, bad at Math

    In recent months I have found myself doing something that I thought I would never, ever do after my freshman year of college. I’ve been thinking about math.

    I’ve been thinking about math because an increasing, even alarming, number of people in my life are involved with it, to greater or lesser extent. Some of them simply make use of it, on their way to discovering bits and bobs of fact in their specific branch of the Sciences. Others like to apply it, to poke it into shapes and forms that will one day be the basis of the machine revolution, when the things we’ve made think faster, better, more beautiful thoughts than we can. One, notably, loves math for its very own sake, pure unadulterated mathematical theory, applications and science be damned.

    How can I love people who love math? How can people who love math, love me?

    In high school I made it through calculus, garnered my A by the skin of my teeth, study-sessions with a boyfriend’s father, and sheer bullheadedness. There was no way a daughter of my parents would fail to take an available advanced track in school, and there was no way that I could come home with the C that I rightly deserved. In fact, occasionally I even enjoyed math. I liked geometry; I adored fractions (maybe because nobody else did?) It was one of those awfully tough subjects that is balanced by striking epiphany. English does not offer the same moments of blinding clarity that math provides. English rarely lets the pieces fall so neatly into place. Every once in a while, I really got a mathematical function, and I felt even prouder of myself because such moments were so rare.

    I fought math through elementary school, did extra math tutoring homework at my father’s insistence, resented and hated every single workbook, and most of all the way that just as I got really good at them and could zoom right through, the teacher changed it up to something painfully slow again. In college I took physics, hoping to get some real hard science under my belt, and I passed with a B- (unthinkably low) due to religious attendance at office hours and the unending kindness of my professor.

    I gather that if you keep on loving math you will pass through numbers and out the other side, to concepts and functions with names like stars and birds – I wish that I could learn more about a Martingale, but I doubt I ever will. I muddle through my days with decent mental arithmetic, a good grasp of the basics of accounting, and the burning shame of remembering just how hard I had to work a year ago to tutor middle school students in remedial algebra. None of these, it seems have much to do with math.

    I wish I understood math. I wish I understood mathematicians. I wish that I too could track the functions of the universe, could build a brain and vision into cold machinery. I wish that I could grasp the thought of tesseracts without picturing an old woman pinching two points of her skirt together so an ant can walk across.

    Every day I get up and I look at myself in the mirror and I wonder what I’ve got that mathematically minded people haven’t. They can write poetry just as well as I can (I kid myself. They write it better – think of Lewis Carol. He loved math before he ever dreamed a Jabberwocky). They can grasp the complex ins-and-outs of politics, better than I, can run a meeting, take a lover, produce an essay beautiful on every level from the paragraph down to the sentence and the word.

    And all that I can say for myself, math-poor, heart-rich, is that I am better at comfort than any mathematician that I know. What I lack in numbers-and-things-beyond-numbers, it is my hope I make up for the parts of humanity logic would deny.

    No, I am not Mr. Spock, nor was meant to be.

    I love you, brilliant humans. I love you numbered and numberless, and when I look at you I will remember the awe with which I first watched “Donald Duck in Mathmagic land” and realized that there was a glory in the subject I most loathed, and I would never get to it.

    I love you, and I will sit patient with you when you wonder why she needs to process so much, how ethics can go beyond facts, and how anybody in the whole world could sit, happily and patiently, and listen for a fifth, six, seventieth time to a story they’ve heard before, about somebody’s mistakes-that-aren’t-really-mistakes, and be happy doing it, and feel no sense of disappointment in the strange neural connections and odd chemical balances that make us human.

    You will understand the songs of the universe, the music and the magic and the rhythms that span from atom to star. And I hope you’ll share them with me.

    In the meantime, somebody, somewhere, will probably want to talk to me about their feelings. And that, at least, I can do. Every day.