Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More outside photos

This is what I see when I look out my back door. The photo is actually taken through the screen, which is why it looks a bit funky. On the bottom, you can see part of what is going to be my new garden. We do not own the grass area (or the beautiful drain) or the trees, but I've planted a few things on the hill under the trees anyway. We'll see what happens.

Oh, and the nice green bushes on the right belong to our neighbor.

Just the trees, looking up the hill (also shot through the screen door. It is rainy and cold today, and I wasn't going to go outside at all until I had to!)

This is the corner (shot a few days ago before it started to rain) where we want to extend our deck to put a table and chairs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Living paycheck to paycheck

American society makes this very easy. Here, you get paid every other week, or even once a week in some places. Or if you’re lucky, you get cash in hand as soon as your job is done.

It’s easy to throw it all away – there’s more money soon anyway. I’ll deal with my bills tomorrow. I’ll make more money next week.

In Sweden, you get paid once a month. Financial responsibility, i.e. budgeting, is taught early in schools and implanted in your brain in the cradle by your parents.

You plan to pay your bills, you plan for your groceries and you plan your trip because gas is so ridiculously expensive. Preferably, you take your bike to work or you walk. You don’t create extra waste, and you don’t create more work for others.

Each paycheck is dedicated to certain bills. Then you cook your own food and bring it to work (as mentioned in earlier posts) and you don’t waste your money on useless things.

There are, of course, exceptions. I think they exist in any culture. But for the most part, Europeans are fostered to be responsible.

Here, everything is geared toward bad impulse control. I want it now and I’m going to get it.

Perhaps that’s why I fit in so well.

Things I cannot stand

* People who don't do what they are supposed to do
* People who don't do things WHEN they are supposed to do it
* People who cannot follow directions
* People who lie
* People who are cruel to animals
* People who lie about being cruel to animals

* People who don't take responsibility for their actions

Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting ready for Bush

How do you prepare for a presidential visit to your area?

Bush is expected to visit Henry Kissinger's home in Kent on Friday. It was supposed to be a secret at first, but someone slipped to the press that they had received one $1,000 invitation to the event (It's $10,000 if you want your picture taken with the monkey-faced man).

Connecticut Republicans, of course, are going crazy. Democrats as well, but in a different way. They are planning protests and gatherings in Kent. They are sending out press releases and arguing about the war.

Me? I'll be working 4-5 hours unpacking pottery and then heading to the paper to look at photos of Bush's visit. Perhaps I'll see a glimpse of his Marine 1 helicopter, or a photo of it. More likely, there will just be endless photos of protesters. Whichever, Bush will be long gone from the state before I even start my "real" workday.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gardening season begins

It was too nice today to stay inside. So I forgot all about painting, laundry, cooking and writing. I decided to start ripping up the old bricks in our back yard instead, because they have annoyed me since we moved in. Above is what it turned into.

To the left of the little steps (where a small, slanted, overgrown brick patio once was) there will eventually be a little garden surrounded by rocks. The concrete patio will be covered with a wooden deck, which will hopefully extend into the corner on the left to maximize our space.

While I was out digging in the garden, a lady named Dot came by, walking her cat on a blue leish right through my yard.

"I like what you're doing here," she said, as the black cat started rolling around in the dry dirt on our patio.

I had been waiting for this opportunity, curiously peeking up and down the row of condo yards for any sign of a neighbor.

"I'm not quite sure what we're allowed to do," I said. "We just moved in last fall."

"What do you want to do?" Pat asked. "I am on the board of directors. I might be able to help."

We may be able to extend the deck the width of our condo, Pat said, pending approval of the condo board. We cannot bring the deck out any further into the yard, and we cannot cut any trees on the hill across from us. The grass area has to be kept clear for mowing purposes, and the tree roots are needed to suck up excess water coming down the hill, she said.

My idea of planting lilies of the valley on the hill under the trees, however, met with approval.

"I think that would work just fine," she said.

She wished me luck, tugged on the leish for Copper to keep walking and then slowly wandered off with the black cat in tow. Meanwhile, Sophie and Pip were sitting inside my screen door yowling at their mean mommy who won't let them go outside.

They are, after all, indoor cats. They just don't know it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The papal visit

Instead of watching infomercials or “Judge Judy” when I went to the gym this afternoon, I decided to watch the pope’s visit to New York on CNN.

While I walked on the treadmill for 18 minutes, burning 103 calories, I watched 57,000 Americans sing along to “The Kyrie” and “The Gloria” before Pope Benedict XVI. And that was just part of the endless opening act. The German-born pope then went on with his opening statement, greeting all “ze people of ze United States.”

The venue for Sunday’s Roman Catholic Mass? Yankee Stadium.

I don’t consider myself religious. I believe in something – I just can’t define what it is. Religion is a very private thing in Europe, especially in Scandinavia. We don’t flaunt our believes, and we don’t try to convert anyone.

Watching the Sunday Mass was purely for educational purposes, for the news value. When the pope is in town, all other news stops existing in the United States.

It is said Pope Benedict is a music lover, particularly a fan of Mozart. Music is easy to understand – in any language. Watching and listening to the fenced-in choir at the stadium as the singers belted out harmonies of “Gloria,” I was actually touched.

The choir members must be so honored to be there today, singing in front of the the person they consider to be closest to God. It was apparent that several bishops and priests in the audience were touched as well. I can’t even begin to understand the full meaning of this visit to them.

All of a sudden, a news anchor from CNN cuts in to explain what is going on.
“We are just watching Pope Benedict’s Sunday Mass at Yankee Stadium here in New York. The choir is singing ‘The Gloria’ and the pope is getting ready for his opening remarks. Let’s watch some more.”

The voiceover is finished, the music fades back in. And so it will go on until 6 p.m. today, through the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Holy Communion.

The pope will return to Rome at 8 p.m. tonight, after a five-day visit to the United States. Then the world can go back to normal.

Cinco De Bryan

Bryan Adams has a very special place in my heart.

For my 13th birthday, I got a large, black stereo with a built-in CD player and a record player on top. “Waking Up the Neighbours” was my first CD.

Of course, I didn’t know anything about the “Summer of ‘69” back then. Nor had I heard about “Heaven.”

But from “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” to “Everything I Do, I Do It For You,” Bryan Adams was with me every afternoon after school until Christmas Eve, when I finally got my second CD.

I learned to like “Vanishing” and “House Arrest,” some of the lesser pieces on the disc. I studied the lyrics and asked my aunts questions about the meaning of complicated English words. Then I asked my friends why a girl would steal Bryan Adams’ razors, like he sings about in “Hey Honey, I’m Packin’ You In.”

One of my school projects about Canada included a paragraph or two about this famous Canadian and his young Danish model girlfriend. Was I jealous? Certainly!

I used to spend hours in my room just listening to music and dreaming about being someplace else with someone “hot” and interesting. Of course, this was around the same time I had a huge crush on my homeroom teacher, but that’s a whole other story…

In a couple of weeks, Bryan Adams is going to play at Toad’s Place in New Haven, a small but well-known music venue not too far from where I live. Mostly, larger local bands play there. The place was big in the 70s, I think, and The Doors may have played there during the highlight of their careers (they do reference the streets of New Haven in one of their songs).

At first, I wasn’t sure if the radio announcer said “Bryan” or “Ryan.” Ryan Adams is an alternative country rock singer from North Carolina that I have no interest in seeing (or hearing) perform.

When I got home, I quickly Googled Toad’s Place. The event is called Cinco De Bryan, a play on Cinco de Mayo – May 5. And tickets can only be obtained by winning a radio station-sponsored contest…

According to the official Bryan Adams Web site, he is kicking off a U.S. tour to promote his new CD. "These will be exclusive performances in very intimate and unique venues including small theatres, clubs and even a church," the Web site says.

I won’t go into details, but it seems like I’ll be going to the "intimate" show at Toad's Place. I’ll be writing about it for the paper, but I’ll definitely be enjoying it, too.
The only problem? It's the same night as the season finale of "The Bachelor."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I won't throw this out

I heard a rustling under my desk this morning. When I looked down, Sophie had knocked over my almost-empty garbage can and climbed into it.

After shooing her out of it, I put it back in position. A few minutes later, she jumps back in. I lift her out and watch her leave my room. Not even a minute later, I hear the rustling again and say, "what the...?" before I see Pip, my other cat, sitting in the garbage can.

Right away, I knew it was going to be a crazy day.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Working for cheese

I work extra sometimes, here and there, to earn money for living expenses. It’s not a steady side job; it’s more an on-call situation.

“We’ve got a shipment of pottery coming in, can you come help us with the inventory?” one of my contacts might say.

“I need you to send out a batch of postcards to all residents of Goshen by Friday,” another might say.

Last year, I cleaned a house once a week for a family who had put it up for sale because they were leaving the Waterbury area. It turned into twice a week once the house was on the market, and it was great for my personal economy.

Work was slow during the holidays, but now I’m back on track again. And with my recent purchase of a $750 radiator for my car, I enjoy taking a step in the right direction.

When I work, I usually have a pretty good idea of how much money I am going to make. The funny thing is, I always dedicate the money ahead of time. There is always something that needs to be paid. Last Saturday, I earned money for Albie’s birthday presents. The week before it was milk, cat food and my cell phone bill. Before that, it was money for cheese.

Working for cheese might seem crazy to some people – Albie is one of them – but I can explain.

Z., our photographer at work, lives on a farm and has relatives that belong to a food co-op. The co-op sends out Cabot cheese order forms twice a year. This is no ordinary cheese – they offer extra sharp vintageerintage extra sharp cheddar cheese, among other things.connection with a member of a food co-op. the area. cheddar cheese, among other things.

The cheddar gets better the longer it has been aged, so storing it for a while is not a problem. It comes in 2-pound bricks, wrapped in purple wax and then covered in plastic. In the fridge, it can last a couple of years – or more.

A usual cheese order for me consists of one box of vintage cheddar (12 pounds) and perhaps a couple of pounds of Cabot butter and some Muenster cheese (8 pounds). It can run anywhere from $40 to $80, depending on my cheese craving the day the order form is slipped into my hand. Expensive? Well, perhaps. But then I have cheese for six to eight months. And one block of the vintage cheddar can cost up to $15 at the store, while I get it for about $4.

I guess it pays to have connections in the cheese business. It also pays to work random jobs on the side – literally.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Adoption discussion

I received another comment today about my post titled The Pennysaver ad. Someone who posted anonymously wanted to know why I shun adoption and give it a bad reputation.

"This is the kind of post that perpetuates the ignorance of adoption. Advertisements are just one way that women who do not have the resources to care for their loved child can connect with a waiting family who can provide for them. There are many reasons for a woman to make an adoption plan besides unexpected pregnancy. Unless you have gone through it, it is not something you should publicly shun."

When I looked at my site statistics, it turns out the writer came across my site through Google by typing in "pennysaver adoption ad." I don't know where the person is from, but I'm going to assume that the Pennysaver is only published in the United States. Which just gets right to the point of my original blog entry.

Under no circumstances am I against adoption. It is an option available for people who feel that it is necessary. However, a country should provide enough of a support system for its people where someone considering adoption isn't left fending for herself. Doctors and counselors should be available to discuss every possible option, and a person shouldn't have to worry about who is going to pay for it, whether it is legal, or whether your parents will find out what has happened against your will.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The polite press of Sweden

A 42-year-old man was on the run from police in Sweden for eight days, suspected of killing a 10-year-old girl. The girl went missing while out riding her bike.

Police finally arrested a man and tied him to other murders in Sweden. They are now testing his DNA to see if several cold case files in Norway and Denmark can be solved.

While pictures of the girl, her crying parents and her quaint hometown were plastered all over the tabloids for a week, photos of the man the Swedish media refers to as “the 42-year-old” didn’t appear until he recently admitted to the murders.

The newspapers all knew who he was. They had his photo. They knew he was a suspect in several murders and on the run from police.

“He could have been totally innocent,” the publisher of one tabloid says in an interview, after a journalism professor wrote an opinion column about publishing names of criminals.

Media’s role in society is to inform the public while doing minimal harm. In the United States, people’s names are printed in the paper from the day they get arrested – it doesn’t matter if they stole a scarf from a local store or if they are accused of killing someone while driving drunk. The only exception are people under 17, juveniles, who are protected by several state and federal laws unless they commit a heinous crime.

In Sweden, newspapers usually do not publish names until a person has been convicted. Sometimes not even then. Pedophiles, for some reason, never get their names in the paper, even after they are sentenced. Why? Because they need to be protected from society after committing such a horrible crime. And, they may be “cured” from their horrible sickness and should then have the right to return to society to live like normal people.

But what about the victims? What about other possible victims? Wouldn’t you like to know if a man convicted of a sex crime moves in next door to your family? Shouldn’t you have the right to know?

The Swedish professor calls for eased-up rules of publishing names. Publishing a suspect’s name “can make witnesses aware that they have important information they need to share with police,” he says. Withholding the names, he says, can put innocent people in harm’s way because others will start to guess who the “42-year-old” really is. Is it my neighbor? He is 42! Then the neighbor has been made into a suspect, because the real suspect was being protected by the media.

The Swedish attorney general needs to take some classes in how to fight crimes from the U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. For too long, Swedish police, courts and justices have been too lenient. It is time for Swedish officials to step up to protect its people and stop protecting the criminals.

Getting old

There’s a lady in my chorus who makes me terrified of getting old. G. is an excellent alto and can hold her own when all other altos are absent, but she is really losing her mind.

Every time we are starting a new song, G. will say, “what number is that?” followed by “oh, I don’t think I have that one.” She spends a few minutes looking through her binder, then throws her hands in the air in an exasperated gesture. If others try to help, she gets frustrated and snippy. “I know where it is!” she’ll say.

G. doesn’t drive. Even though someone arranges the day before rehearsal to pick her up, she’ll call around an hour before it starts to see who is coming to get her.

She’s really a sweet old lady – thin and soft spoken, with curly gray hair. We spoke for a while after rehearsal Monday night as she sipped her tea and I clung to my cup of coffee.

G.’s husband, Ivar, died last year. A few nights ago, she said, she got up in the middle of the night and started looking for him.
“Ivar, why don’t you come to bed?” she called out.
It took her a little while to realize he wasn’t there, and that he wouldn’t be coming to bed. She went back to bed, alone.
“It’s really hard to be by yourself,” she said, voice trembling.

I can’t write this without crying, and it was really hard to think of what to say while we stood there in the little church hall, face to face, but so many generations apart.
“Where are your kids?” I finally asked. “Do they live nearby?”

I had heard from another chorus member that G.’s children don’t visit her very often; she is frequently alone during holidays. The kids don’t seem to know what is going on with their elderly mother, the chorus friend said.

She slowly dug to the bottom of her pocketbook and pulled out a wallet with photos of her parents, husband, son, daughter and her two grandchildren.
“She’s a dancer,” G. said proudly, pointing to a girl in her early teens.

After she told me the story of how she and Ivar met – he was the brother of her best friend’s husband, and the first time he asked her out she said “no” – I asked her how long they were married.

“55 years and four days,” she said, without hesitation.
They celebrated their last anniversary in the hospital, G. said.
“He was supposed to come home from the hospital that Saturday,” she said. “When I called to find out what time he was coming home… I said ‘I am Mrs. J.’ and the nurse said ‘Well, Ivar J. passed away this morning.’”

He wasn’t coming home.

So, not only is this a piece about my fear of getting old, it is a piece about my fear of being alone. But I guess it happens to everyone, sooner or later.

Coming clean about 'The Bachelor'

Mostly, I watch crime or mystery shows on television. I frequently watch home improvement shows, and I try to watch the news at least a few times a week.

With the exception of “Super Nanny,” I’m not into reality TV. I hate watching glamorous girls compete to be the “Next Top Model” or the “Next Pussycat Doll,” and I don’t really seeing people “Dancing with the Stars.” The housemates of “Big Brother” just give me the creeps, and the singers on “American Idol” can’t grab my attention for more than a few seconds.

I do, however, watch “The Bachelor” – the cheesiest of all “reality” shows. I don’t usually watch the entire season since I find it hard to keep track of 25 girls. I prefer to start watching during “the hometown dates,” when there are four girls left who each get to bring the bachelor home to their parents. After that, there are only two shows left, and I am not wasting an entire spring watching TV.

This season, young financier Matt Grant came over from England to find the American girl of his dreams to settle down with. I saw the first show by accident while I was at the gym. As 25 flirty girls stepped out of an oversized limousine in their slutty evening gowns to greet the eager and handsome 27-year-old Englishman, I was hooked.

“I can’t believe that show is still on,” my dentist said during a recent visit.

The only reason a guy goes on that show is to see how many of the girls he can sleep with, she said. None of the relationships work out, she said, because as soon as the “chosen one” finds out that the bachelor slept with one, five or all of the other girls during the taping of the show, she dumps him.

I googled the previous bachelors, and it seems my dentist was right. None of the other ones made it. One couple is still together, but have called off the engagement because they “just weren’t ready yet,” according to a celebrity magazine. Oh no, wait, they broke up a few months later.

Last season’s bachelor didn’t even pick a girl at the end. In a first-ever ‘Bachelor’ finale, he sent both finalists home without a ring. I think that was my favorite so far.

It can’t be easy watching yourself on television when the show finally airs – for either one of them.

I think I enjoy the show so much because of the intrigue – so many girls living together and fighting over one guy. It’s also fun when the girls say really stupid things, like, “we’ll make it work, somehow.” Perhaps it is the joy of carefully examining the editing, wondering what was left out at the end of the day…Or perhaps it is just that I happen to have Monday nights off from work and can waste an hour of my evening watching crappy television.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

We live in an art gallery

The in-law approval

Albie’s parents stopped by today to see the progress of our home improvement projects. They were both impressed.

His mom was “oooh-ing” and “aah-ing” at our wall colors, the lamps, the curtains and the white railing. It’s been a while since she was here, and lots have happened. Albie’s dad shared anecdotes of Sheetrock (drywall) installments and light fixture measurements.

The new bedroom configuration met with support, although I still have to win Albie over…

I’ve moved the bed into the center of the room, facing the door, so that it’s more “feng shui.” Before it was in a corner, because Albie claims he has to sleep up against the wall.

The new configuration offers dressing areas on each side of the bed (with mirrors above our dressers, if the bed location is ultimately approved) and a cozy reading corner.

The TV (now in a corner to the right of the bed) will be switched with the short dresser facing the bed, but we didn’t want to move too many things around until the new setup has met final approval. Then we need brown paint, trim paint, and all the paitings need to be moved around... and, of course, we need some fancy light fixtures above the bed for nigthttime reading... oh, and an actual bed, or at least a headboard.

We also discussed possible ideas for the kitchen and wall colors for the hallway. For the kitchen, I suggested mosaik, but Albie thought it might be too colorful. Albie likes a "desert camel" color for the hallway, his mom suggested "wild honey."

The one thing we could all agree on: The green carpet throughout the house has to go – soon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Greek life

What does Greek life mean to you?

To me, it brings back memories of walking dusty streets of Plaka in Athens, drinking creamy chocolate milkshakes and carefully wandering on a rocky beach by the Mediterranean. It also means playing on the swings in the hilly suburb of Daphni and driving around in a convertible Jeep with the top down, smelling the salty air.

To most Americans, especially college students, it means being part of a fraternity or sorority.

At my alma mater Quinnipiac University, there are Alpha Chi Omega, Phi Sigma Sigma and Kappa Alpha Theta for the girls and Sigma Phi Epsilon and Tau Kappa Epsilon (“teek”) for the guys.

Greek chapters are “(f)ounded upon the principles of friendship, community service, scholarship and leadership” and “provides students with an enriching and rewarding experience,” according to Quinnipiac’s Web site. It also forms friendships that “last a lifetime.”

The girls often plan fundraisers and do charity work. The guys have drinking parties. That’s really what it comes down to.

I was never part of a real sorority. Since I was the student newspaper editor, I found it a conflict of interest to engage in student clubs that we would later write about. At Westchester Community College, however, I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa – an honor society for “achieving” students. At the four-year school level, the same group is called Phi Beta Kappa. It’s more prestigious and impossible to get into.

So, while I cannot call myself a “Greek,” I can definitely say I’m a fan of Greek life. The life Greek people live in Greece, that is. Drinking parties and charity work I can live without.

Bedroom curtains

We're not quite ready to move upstairs yet with our home improvement projects, but a few weeks ago I decided that the white curtains I had bought for our bedroom simply wouldn't do.

Since we work nights, Albie and I both sleep late. We're lucky if we get out of bed before 1:30 p.m. By then, the sun is blasting through our southwest-facing window.

The plan for the bedroom is to make it very dark. I picked "chocolate" curtains, but they aren't just any old curtains - they are meant to insulate for hot/cold and also block out light. So far, they are working out great. Once we put our air conditioning unit back in the window, however, we'll have to see.

Of course, the color we've picked for the bedroom walls is "dark chocolate." Which is why I decided to keep the white curtains in the middle so the room will have some contrast. If everything is brown we won't know where the wall begins and ends, or where any of our furniture is.

Now I'm off to continue painting the railing downstairs. Two coats done, at least two more to go...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The land of Bible thumpers

A new poll released this week by Harris Interactive shows the Top 10 most popular books in the United States:

1. The Bible
2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (women)
3. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (men)
4. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
5. The Stand by Stephen King
6. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
8. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The study included 2,513 adults. Read full story here.

Student newspaper independence

A tak force at my alma mater has ruled on an issue very dear to my heart:

Quinnipiac task force says cut Chronicle loose

As a former editor of the student newspaper The Chronicle, and a proponent of free speech, I have been actively involved in trying to change the way the school controls the newspaper. I have written letters to the editor and letters to all top players at Quinnipiac University regarding this matter. I also tried to help by starting a postcard campaign, insipired by a campaign my former journalism teacher inspired us to do in Sweden in 1997.

The current editor of The Chronicle has done nothing wrong; he has been a great journalist, poking in things administrators rather he didn't. I believe this decision is a great step for students, journalists and the entire communications program at Quinnipiac University.

The world of Winsted

Today I decided I didn't want to be locked up in the office all night - I wanted to go out and see the world. Well, Winsted, at least.

Winsted is a small town a little north of The Register Citizen's home in Torrington.

Most people in Winsted are insane. Public meetings often turn into heated debates that lead to emotional discussions. Angry comments lead to good quotes. Sources pop up out of nowhere because everyone wants to get a point across.

I read about it all the time in our paper. Today, I wanted to see for myself.

Albie thought I was crazy this morning. While dressing for work, I announced I would go to a meeting if I got done with all my pages early.
"You don't need to dress up for that," he said. "It's Winsted."

When I got to the office and told Walt, the Winsted beat reporter, that I wanted to go with him, he said, "Why?" - with a big question mark on his face.
"It'll be fun!" I exclaimed. "I hear there's going to be some interesting stuff going on tonight."

It was true. I had heard something.

A source in Winsted called me up Friday night, telling me about a Board of Education member who allegedly got kicked out of a subcommittee meeting. I spent all Friday night investigating the issue - including 30 minutes on the phone with the board member. An attorney, who interrupted his evening activities to call me, and a Freedom of Information Commission spokesman, on a flight somewhere to see his daughter, both told me this: The board member had no right to attend the meeting's executive session.

But a lot of other issues came out of my probe. The conclusion: You should be at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting. "Well, I'm not really a reporter..." I said. "We'll see what happens."

Bickering started early at the meeting. "Why do you vote on this when you sit on that board as well?" "Why can't we talk about this now?"

All of a sudden, I felt like a reporter again. I could predict what people would do, who would vote for or against what. I knew the motives behind the questions. And during a break, one of the board members and a man from the public both sought me out to hand me piles of documents for further review - even though there were two other reporters there.

When the Competition's reporter asked me about it, I just tilted my head and smiled. Then I started blabbing about all the interesting duties of being a features editor and how much I miss writing. He walked away knowing nothing.
"Wow, that guy never even talked to me once," the Winsted reporter said. "I bet he is really scared that you got something he didn't."

Unfortunately, the stuff I got couldn't be used tonight. It is way more complicated than that. But the Winsted reporter and I got some stories out of the meeting anyway:

Ex-selectman: Molinelli should resign

Winsted woman claims discrimination

Town manager drops in at school board meeting

And hopefully we can stumble upon something good real soon.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Knapsacks, backpacks and rucksacks

What’s the difference? I have no idea.

Knapsacks sound smaller. A rucksack sounds like a British word. A backpack to me is any type of bag with two straps that you carry on your back.

The English language is very strange. The American language is even stranger. When I first came to the United States, I was amazed at how much more relaxed Americans are with their language than, say, English people.

I once said “iron” with a very pronounced “r” to an Englishman, and he claimed to have no idea what I was talking about. The same man also claimed I pronounced “chair” wrong because I was too soft on the “ch” sound (it almost sounded like Cher, the singer).

Being a copy editor, I spend my nights fixing other people’s spelling, grammar and writing style. I have to say I’m pretty good at it. My main problem with this language is pronunciation (“It’s not called proNOUNciation, Viktoria – it’s proNUNciation,” my Writing for the Ear professor once lectured me).

First of all, I have trouble hearing the difference between certain words.

Invincible, for example, means that nobody can beat you. It sounds just the same to me as invisible, which means that nobody can see you. A 12-year-old boy taught me the difference while playing a game of Nintendo many years back.

And try saying these words to find the difference: Jell-O, cello (“ch”), Yellow, shallow

Then there are the words I flat out refuse to say. Some words may elicit hysterical laughter because it’s so wrong, others I just have trouble shaping with my tongue:

Racoon, Jacuzzi, vulnerable and Holocaust (“Holla-cost”)

Luckily, I rarely have to speak about raccoon holocausts, when they fall into the Jacuzzi and become vulnerable.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The railing

After half a day off from work and a trip to the gym, I decided I had enough of relaxing and I started working on our living room railing.

We finished the hallway a while ago and have stalled a bit with the rest of the stuff that needs to get done. Today seemed like a perfect day to start this impossibly huge project.

As you can see in the photo, I sanded three of the 12 long sticks. Phew! That's enough for now...

Eventually all the brown wood in our condo will be painted white, which requires one coat of primer and about 4 coats of glossy white paint.

Upcoming concerts

Most of my readers aren't in the Connecticut area, but for those of you who are, I want to promote the dates for my spring concerts:

Sunday, April 27, 4 p.m.
Christ Lutheran Church
600 Shepard Ave.
Hamden, CT
Adm. $5, Kaffe med dopp to follow

Friday, May 16, 7 p.m.
Emanuel Lutheran Church
311 Capitol Ave.
Hartford, CT

It'll be the Scandinavian Women's Chorus of Connecticut, the Apollo singers and some random singers from Fairfield, I believe. I will most likely do a solo at both concerts - in Swedish.

I've been busy again...

I happened to do some more writing at work, and some photography. (Also did voice over for a couple of slideshows that will be up on our web site next week - if we can figure out how to get them up there).

City man charged in rape

Two hurt in crash (I also took the photo)

Wild turkey crashes downtown meeting

Truck crashes, hangs on pole support wires (photos too)

It may seem like I enjoy other people's misery... what can I say? There's something really cool about being one of the first people at the scene of an accident, freezing your butt off while trying to figure out what's going on...

Friday, April 4, 2008

My ruined ‘CSI’ night

Today I lived through two fillings at the dentist’s office, a few phone calls for a story and two meticulous pages of events listings with one goal in mind: Getting home in time to watch a new episode of “Crime Scene Investigation.”

Because of a writer’s strike in Hollywood, I’ve been watching CSI reruns since the end of November. The strike finally ended a month or so ago, and the writers have been hard at work creating exciting new storylines for the bug-loving investigator Gil Grissom and his loyal team.

The chips were waiting for me at home. My biggest decision was where to stop and pick up some dinner, since I hadn’t even had any lunch (dentist’s fault).

“Should I get a sandwich at Subway or do I want something hot to eat?” I wondered, cruising down the right lane of Route 8 with more than an hour to spare before the show.

All of a sudden, I hear a strange noise next to me, sort of like gravel bouncing against metal. I hear a slight “thud” and see a graying van swerve into my lane right in front of me. I look to my left and see that my driver’s side mirror is now just hanging on by a thread, dangling against the side of my door.

It took me a couple of seconds to realize that the swerving van now speeding off had scraped up against my car and hit me, almost forcing me over onto the shoulder. I quickly sped up to follow him.

The van moved over to the left lane, but when he realized I was following, moved over two lanes to get off the next exit. I got off the exit too, and I saw the van in the distance speed through an intersection and nearly crash into oncoming traffic. When I reached the four-way intersection, the van was nowhere in sight.

For a second, I thought of launching a search. Then I turned right and pulled over outside a gray two-story home and called 911.

While waiting for the state police to come and take my statement, I got out and checked for paint streaks on my car. There were some streaks of a lighter undetermined color on my broken mirror, but no scratches anywhere else.

A very nice police officer arrived and we chatted for a bit about what happened. He said he would go look for the van in the area, and he would call me if anything came up. Then we realized steam was coming from my engine.

“Eh… I should probably check that, right?” I said.
“Pop the hood and I’ll check it for you,” he said.
I few seconds went by, then he asked me to step outside.
“Take a look at this,” he said, pointing with his flashlight to green liquid spewing out into my engine, slightly to the right of my driver’s side headlight. “You’re radiator is leaking.”

His recommendation: If you’re going to drive, don’t go far and don’t go fast. Consider getting your car towed.

Since I was only about 10 minutes away from my house, I decided the best – and cheapest – thing to do would be to try to make it as close to home as possible. By this time, there was no chance I would make it home for "CSI." I gave my car a half hour to cool down after the trooper left, then filled up my coolant.

I keep extra coolant in my car since it has been leaking coolant for some time – so little I hadn’t had time to worry about it. I guess someone wanted to tell me now is the time to get my car checked out.

I drove all the way to my local service place with my heat blasting, just to buy myself some more time. I’ve read that’s what you’re supposed to do if your car is about to overheat. Not sure if it applied in my situation, but it got me there.

Since Albie was still at work, I walked the 40 minutes it took to get home. I guess that was my punishment for not going to the gym this week. My friend Andrea kept me company on the phone, worried about my latest adventure.

I got home 20 minutes after “CSI” ended. Instead of watching TV, I got to analyze my finances to figure out how and when I will afford a new radiator, and possibly a new side view mirror.