Sunday, May 31, 2009

As promised

Here are some of my wildflowers. These orange ones are now
about waist-high, and seem to have killed all the others in the
wildflower mix from last year. However, some of the same ones
but in pink are growing a bit up into the woods, where I threw
stuff I weeded out earlier in the spring...

Does anyone know...

...what this is?
It's been growing in our yard since before we moved in - shady spot - last year turned out something that looked like a tiny pumpkin.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

About writing, and not writing

It’s strange, really. When you promise yourself that you will write, and you are determined to write, you still end up with nothing. It can be days, months, years... and you want to write so badly, but you can't.

But if you ever get started, really get going, you can't stop.

Why then, you wonder, won’t you do it more often? If it is so pleasant, if it is so easy, how come it is so difficult to get started?

It can take weeks, and sometimes there’s no inspiration at all. Then, when inspiration hits, there’s no time to sit down and write down all the ideas, not even a second. Because you know that a few words will lead to a few sentences, which will lead to a few pages, which will get you sitting there for ages, and there’s no way to stop. So instead, it never happens.

Instead, the paper remains empty, the pens uncapped. A few Post-It notes have ink stains, but that’s it.

My friend Nina has no problems with this - she writes about anything at any time, and she does it so well. I recently came across a book from when she and I had a writing marathon in 2002 - we were supposed to exchange books at the end, but I never finished mine. Reading through it now, I realize most it is garbage, and I start ripping out the pages.

My problem is that I like to organize too much. My half-finished projects get organized into binders and computer folders. There are poems, short stories, travel pieces, blog topics and, of course, the "other" folder for things that don't belong anywhere. I even have categories for my ideas so I can sort them and put them into the computer before I have a chance to ponder over them in chronological order. This, of course, is so I won't forget that one brilliant idea I may one day have.

Then, of course, if I ever do end up writing anything, I have to re-write it again and again until I am satisfied, which means nothing ever gets finished. Sometimes I work on the things I least care about just so I can get them done and out of the way. But this means there's no time left for "the real stuff."

Sometimes I just sit and wonder what it would be like to be able to write. Write more often. Write something good. Or just write something.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Complete collection

...thanks to Albie's mom!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What they’re singing about

I’ve always had a hard time understanding American songs, or any song sung in English. When I was a kid, a popular song by Swedish rocker Jerry Williams called “Did I tell you” to me translated into “delateljo,” which in Swedish, of course, doesn’t mean a thing.

I once bought the sheet music to Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” because a friend insisted there was a line in there that said “a star called Othello.” I claimed something else – perhaps it was “stark, old bordello,” I can’t remember – but it turned out we were both wrong. McLaughlin was singing about a dark, cold hotel room.

“We’re in America, man,” turned out to be Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American band” and the weird song about a woman’s “Hawaiian eyes” turned out to be “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles (and while googling it, I found out this is a very common misconception).

When I was younger (in Sweden) and people referred to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” I always thought the song was actually called “I am the tiger.”

My boyfriend, sorry – husband – now listens very carefully to me singing along to the radio in the car to see if he can get a chuckle out of my interpretation of popular songs.

He got the biggest laugh out of me singing along to “mama’s got the squeeze bugs, daddy never sleeps at night.”
“The what?” he asked, almost pulling the car over.
“The squeezebugs,” I declared. “You know, when people squeeze you really hard. The people who will never stop hugging you.”
Albie laughed even harder now.
“No, that’s not it. They are singing ‘squeezebox.’”
Me: “Well, what the heck is a squeezebox? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s an accordion. She’s playing it… in and out… see?”
Me, now with arms folded across chest: “I like my lyrics better.”
Turns out, of course, that Albie is correct. “Squeezebox” was recorded by The Who in 1975. Apparently, it can also be slang for vagina, and the band at the time was trying to find out what they could get away with in the recording studio.

The other day I was driving home from work and heard a popular song from the 60s that I eagerly sang along to. Then I stopped and said to myself “wait just a minute! Is it supposed to be ‘hang on, stupid, stupid hang on!’ or ‘hang on Snoopy, Snoopy hang on!’?” Again, turns out it was neither. The song by The McCoys released in 1965 actually goes “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.” It was written for singer Dorothy Sloop, who used the nickname “Sloopy” on stage.

All I can say now is, thank God for the Internet. Otherwise I would never have known what people are actually singing about.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

What I noticed first about American holidays is that they always fall on a Monday. Memorial Day is one such holiday, which usually falls on the last Monday of May. (This year it's early).

While Memorial Day gives Americans a chance to remember and honor those who served during any of the past and ongoing wars - World War I, Korea, World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq - the holiday is also considered the official start of the summer season. Summer now runs through Labor Day, another Monday holiday that signals the beginning of school and the end of summer fun.

For average people, both holidays are filled with family get-togethers and cookouts. We are going to Albie's parents today, for example, to enjoy a nice meal. Perhaps we'll barbecue on the patio, perhaps we'll hang out inside (it is quite warm out).

But we will eat, laugh, and remember those who are no longer with us.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Awards update

Our newspaper took home a total of 13 awards for stories, photos and a couple of series that we did on crime and domestic violence. I didn't personally win any awards for stories submitted, but as one of the reporters attending the dinner said, "Viktoria, your work is imprinted on all these awards." And considering I was the one in charge of submitting all this stuff, it feels pretty good to know that we were able to bring something home!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Awards dinner

Today I'm not going in to work, for once. I am going to the Society of Professional Journalists Awards Dinner with a few of my co-workers.

We have been nominated for the cop sex scandal from last year, where we found out that one Torrington police officer was having sex with two or three dispatchers while on the job. They also spent countless hours flirting via the police messaging system (all have since left the department).

An editorial our publisher wrote on the topic is also nominated... and my feature story about Ralph Nader (yay!).

Then we had some sketchy things going on in the Torrington school system, where a former superintendent forced a principal to resign without telling anyone on the board of education. In fact, the school chief signed documents on behalf of the board, something they weren't too thrilled about when we found them. (The superintendent has since left the school district).

Oh, and then there was the state representative who allegeldy paid a woman $100,000 to settle a suit where she claimed he had molested her as a child. He resigned shortly after we published the story (I still think the whole thing was fishy... involving secretly dropped off douments and such).

And our photographers, of course, have been nominated for some marvelous news and feature photos that I selected.

So... wish us luck! I should find out if we won anything in about 15 hours!!!

P.S. If you click on any of the links and get to older stories on the Register Citizen web site, you may have to choose "print" to see the beginning of the story. For some reason, when we switched to a new site, things got "lost". The words are still there, though, but they only show up when you pretend you want to print the story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Are you downstairs, mommy?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From tomato bush to plants

Alright, so I separated my huge "tomato bush" into little plants. I am worried that keeping them outside will kill them, however, so I made a back-up one for the kitchen window that I can keep an eye on.

They look so sad, just a few little green sticks by themselves. And they all want to droop over the sides of the pots. Hopefully some sun will straighten them out!

Below that are my marigolds, which I weeded out. Still not sure anything will come of them. And my wildflower garden from last year finally has its first flower! (I'll have to do a close-up later, because I realize now you can't even see it... it's the yellow thing on the left).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Help wanted

My friend Kristen gave me a "grow-your-0wn-tomatoes" kit last fall. About a month ago, I threw the seeds in the provided metal bucket and watched them grow. Now the plants are this big (see above). What do I do?

There's a whole bunch of little plants. Do I need to move them over to some place bigger, and buy more soil? The instructions on the package, as far as I remember, only went up to the point of "...and watch them grow!!!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Midnight snack

I feel very Swedish as I sit here with my toast, marmelade, cheese and a cup of milk. Of course, I've got the cut-up European cucumber and tomatoes so I can pretend that it's OK to have a meal at 2 or 3 a.m. Oh well, anything is better than McDonald's.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Helping mommy folding laundry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Inside The Pentagon

I have a photo of the Pentagon on my desk. I can’t really make myself throw it out.

There’s really nothing special with the photo itself – I certainly didn’t take it. In fact, it’s a press handout photo from the Department of State. It looks old, maybe from the 1980s.

I’ve had it for almost ten years now. It’s been floating around in different folders, albums, binders… you name it.

My friend Julie and I took at tour of Washington, D.C. We walked the length of The Mall, we visited Mr. Lincoln at his memorial and we walked by the White House. On our way to Arlington Cemetery, I saw a stop called “Pentagon.”

“Let’s get off!” I said quickly, just as the train slowed to a halt. “I want to take some photos!”

We jumped off and the train departed. It was late in the afternoon, and we stood alone on an underground platform. The only way out was through a set of glass doors, leading to a very tall set of escalators.

When we got to the top, we found ourselves actually inside the Pentagon. Had I read Harry Potter at that time, I would have thought of the Ministry of Magic. Of course, I hadn’t. Julie and I instead wandered into a lobby looking lost.

A guard came up to us, asking how he could assist us.
“We want to get to the outside,” I said. “I want to take some photos.”
“Oh, I see,” he said. “I’m afraid there’s no way to get outside at this stop.”

We both put on sad faces. We didn’t know what to do.
“You can take photos over here,” the guard suggested, pointing at a lectern used for press briefings. The Pentagon logo was visible right behind, and I recognized the image from television.

We both got up and took turns taking each other’s photo.
“All set?” the guard asked, politely.
“Well… I was really hoping to get a photo of the outside…” I said.
“Hm… let me see what I can do…”

The man walked away and spoke to a colleague at the other end of the room. A few minutes passed; we waited patiently. Then the man returned with two glossy press photos of the outside of the building.
“Will this do?”

And that’s why I cannot throw it out. At least not today.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The weekend of small projects

It always drives me crazy when I have a whole weekend off and cannot seem to get anything done. But sometimes you just need one of those weekends... sometimes you need to relax, or watch seven episodes of "CSI" or read an entire Harry Potter book.

This weekend, however, I was set on getting SOMETHING done. I settled for a few "little" projects that have been bothering me - projects that were small enough that I could do them without help.

(I enlisted Albie's help with spray painting the candle holders above, since he's the one who was complaining that they were "too dark" and "too similar to the wall color." "Fine," I said. "Paint them white." And he did.)

I finally got around to painting our bedroom mirrors white,
so they will stand out against the chocolate walls. (The second
mirror is just drying right now in the basement... pictures later!)

Our lovely collection of former cats finally made it
back up on the wall after sitting in a pile on a dresser
for about eight months. They used to be in the hallway,
but after we painted we figured they would go
better on the chocolate background.

The curtain pull-backs finally made it up as well -
now we can make the bedroom dark in an instant,
and then pull the curtains right back to get some light in.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Criminal connections

This is what I've been working on a lot in the past week, together with one of our staff reporters. (Just the graphic; she wrote the story). It shows how a bunch of criminals in the Torrington and Winsted area are connected to each other, kind of like a 6 degrees of separation thing.

Click here to see the graphic.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Greencard application filed

I made the ever-so-important trip to the post office today to mail out my greencard application. Sorry, that's the "change of status" application in addition to Albie's "petition for alien relative" application.

It's nice to have it done. Hopefully it is done. And now we wait.

As I made out the cover sheet, I got up to Point 22 on my list of everything that's included. I'm sure at least SOMETHING is missing.

I guess I'll just wait and we'll find out!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Abusing stuffed toys

What happened to Floppy? I asked myself as I got up this morning. The stuffed duck was laying there on the floor, his neck-tie several feet away. Last night, Floppy had been on the couch. Then the prime suspect entered the room, and casually walked across the crime scene...

Straws are exiting

Monday, May 4, 2009

One cup of pasta

Who came up with this portion size for pasta? And whoever that person was, did he or she ever try to eat just a cup of pasta and then feel full???

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Buddha statue saves the day

Sometimes I love my job. This story came in yesterday.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weight-loss supplements

The Food and Drug Administration today came out with a statement that people should stay away from any Hydroxycut weight-loss supplements.

Apparently there's been some liver problems, other diseases and death resulting from people taking them. Now, really, does that come as a shock to anyone? C'mon!

Who really believes you can take a "natural" supplement advertised on late-night television to miraculously drop 20-30 pounds in a couple of weeks? OK, well, maybe some people do. But even if you could, that's extremely dangerous and not healthy at all, so why would you try it? Are people really that desperate?

Personally, I've never felt the need for fake-looking "miracle" products with ads that scream of manipulation and photoshopping. I don't think I look like the blown-up-like-a-balloon person at the beginning of the ad, nor do I want to look like the too-skinny and strange-looking person at the end. Can't we just pretend we all want to be ourselves, just for one day?