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Things that make me feel better

Wouldn't you know, even after a crummy day and getting home really late at night, I feel better. 

The panacea?  Administered in three parts:

1.  Cuddly blanket, pillow, and couch
2.  Rewatching an episode of TrueBlood (season 1) and Kiki's Delivery Service
3.  Treating myself to grilled polenta & cheese, served w/ a strawberry-ginger-lemon fizz.*

*This is actually lemon juice from concentrate, ginger syrup, and strawberries, all muddled together, then mixed with some lemoncello and light rum, and topped off with fizzy water.  My penguin continues to delight me.

When I was watching Kiki's Delivery Service, I was even able to recognize some of the words that I wouldn't have been able to before...  onegai shimasu, ikimasu, kimasu, tadaima...  and so when Allan asked me if I should be studying, I was able to mumble, through a thick layer of blanket, "But I am!"

Another rescue animal

This morning my boss came into work holding what looked like a brightly colored stuffed chew-toy for a dog.  Except, seconds after I made that assessment, the chew toy shook out its feathers...and I realized that it was a bird.  Specifically, this kind of bird:


Except this particular bird did not have a sleek, healthy head of feathers.  This particular bird happened to have wounds covering her head, and also happened to have a sagging posture, labored breathing, and seemed to be in shock. 

My boss left her with me.  (Apparently I'm the animal guru here...?)  I quickly made some calls -- to my sister and father who used to volunteer every weekend at Wild Life Rescue in Palo Alto; to the animal shelter itself; and also to my old boss, Margie, who used to work for a parrot rescue organization and happens to be a complete parrot nut (has tattoos of parrots across her arms).  And while I was working to do all of that, I was also trying to make sure that the bird got some water -- fingering very small amounts of water onto her tongue.

Fortunately I got in touch with Margie....who directed me to an bird hospital in San Francisco (22nd and Taraval).  I arranged to take an early lunch break, and she arranged to pay the vet bills for the initial visit.  And I drove up there and dropped her off.

Best guess is that she was attacked by a cat.  The vet who saw her was able to get her stable and start treating the wounds.... also gave her antibiotics, which, it turns out, are very important since it's very easy to get a terminal infection via cat bite if you happen to be a bird.  And after all of that, I signed her over to the clinic who is working with Mickaboo to find the lovebird a new home.

Wish I'd been able to do a bit more...but that's about as much as I can afford to do.  If any of you happen to be interested in adopting from, donating to or volunteering at Mickaboo, I'm sure they'd be thrilled.  I'm sure our mysterious and soon-to-be-better lovebird would be thrilled too. 

Spell check please?

Every now and then I get one of my coworkers asking me for advice on English grammar or spelling.  Everyone here knows I have a degree in English (I think the part where the emphasis was Creative Writing got lost somewhere in the rumor mill), and, comparatively speaking, I'm the in-house expert.  I don't really mind this sort of thing -- it gives me a chance to practice what editing/grammar skills I do have, and sometimes even lets me tackle tricky grammar or punctuation questions.

About five minutes ago I got a call from one of the guys on our project management team asking me how to spell "hawk a loogie."  Because clearly I must know how to spell it.  I have an English degree after all.

I love my job.  :D

Getting in the Spirit of Things

Pandemic 2, the Game


You can get a better score than swine flu.  I know you can.

This is actually a pretty fun game.  I was playing it some time last year or the year before... I always was a little put out, though, that everyone always freaked out so quickly about my  pandemics which caused dementia and sores.  : \  Where's the love...?

Ironically, on one game review site, someone comments about how unrealistic it is that all the countries in the game start declaring states of emergency and closing down borders for diseases, viruses, etc. which weren't even that fatal.

CDC Warning: Swine Flu

CDC Warning

****DO NOT DO THIS!!!!****

(Thanks to my father for this -- I think this is the only viral internet joke, no pun intended, that he's ever forwarded to me!)

I just reached the end of my stamina. Since Tuesday I've spent every day working full time, then spending another four hours (minimum) doing unpacking, and dishes, and laundry. I've also been helping Allan and my mother move boxes to and from cars. During this time I've been trying to schedule moving days; have been trying to manage to subsist day-to-day with not much money to work with; have dealt with a remarkably high number of personal insults and threats, and have been trying to work towards a resolution via mediation; have been trying to figure out my place in a brand new job, with a brand new job title, during a department-wide re-org; and today I just started my period, again.

This last part was the final straw. I managed to unload one last load of clean dishes -- and was trying to get another load of laundry out of the dryer when I realized that I just can't do any more tonight. I don't even know where my painkillers are, and I'm too tired to go get some from the store. (Not to mention I probably can't afford the extra expense right now.) I am way too full up on physical, emotional, and mental stress.

So the rest of the night is dedicated to curling up in my bed, reading one of the few books that isn't in a box, and then passing out. If I can convince myself that I have enough energy, maybe I'll even take a bath.

A Talk about Hills, in Short

The house below me is yellow as the sun.
The house above me, suspended from the stars.
In Valparaiso,
I spent my mornings in the sky,
cradled in fog.
My feet and heart ache at the thought of

Today we walked to Pablo Neruda's house, which is now a museum, and toured it. From there, we walked through the city -- first cerro Bellavista, then the downtown area, then the colleges. From there we found a cafe and stopped for sandwiches and a quick game of chess. We tried to walk through the cemetery, but were unable to figure out how to get to it -- perched as it was on the top of the hill between us and our inn. Having failed to figure out how to get to the cemetery, we returned to our inn.

All in all, we walked several miles, mostly on stairs. In the absence of stairs, we walked on uneven cobbles, dirt patches, slabs of upended concrete that may have once been stairs.

This morning I read an article that claimed that Valparaiso had 42 hills. ...And to think that I once thought that San Francisco's 14 were intimidating. All the same, part of me wants to watch the city and the ocean from the vista on each of those hills.
Valparaiso, in the morning, she is a city that tosses in her sheets. She raises the covers, fends away the morning light for a little while longer, and lets the sheets rest against her wet lips. Her breath is moist. Her tongue slides against her teeth. She closes her eyelids for just a few more moments.

And while she lays fitfully moving, her citizens are quiet, brisk, efficient. They move to her toes, which she has pushed into the wet silt of the harbor. They get coffee, go to work, move in intersections -- quietly. They do not wake her, and wish themselves back in bed.

The fog lays heavy on the city throughout the morning. Perhaps it's languor, or perhaps depression. Perhaps it's Valparaiso fighting the heavy pounding of a headache after a late night. Perhaps she simply knows that the air is cold, water-heavy, and that she prefers the warmth of her bed. Whatever it is, she waits.

She waits, and the sun pulls itself higher into the sky, and picks up momentum and strength. The heat sizzles against the fog. It thins it. Bakes it. Works against it.

By 1pm, the gray has dissipated and the Valparaiso is ready for the day. Her houses are bright and colorful. Her sky is full of yellow and blue. Dogs, big heavy dogs with thick muscles, run with her in excitement, loping through the streets. The cats are still sprawled in the streets -- even the sun won't get those Jezebels out of bed -- but the kittens totter and fix everything with large wet stares. Another block down, there is a child banging on a pot.

The rusted metal sheets are brighter, the brick more red. The sprawling morning glory are wide-eyed, and the cactus plants stand upright with taut, healthy skin.

When she is awake, she is a sight. That city. Her lips are parted, and her breath is warm.


We arrived today at our hotel room in Valparaiso. It is called the Robinson Crusoe Hotel, and it has a corner on the American market as it is the only hotel that uses Expedia.com. Whatever brilliant hint led it to discover online travel booking, it is not the slick and marble-polished Carlton or Hilton of the Latin world. It is a small affair, tucked in the BellaVista neighborhood, directly across from another hotel and sharing the same side of the street as a hostel.

It's footprint is tiny, and it is squeezed into the neighborhood as if it first held its breath. But what it lacks in footprint, it makes up for in height. A treehouse that has grown past the point of needing a tree, the hotel is all vertical. A tiny waiting area greets visitors, but any visitors wanting to lounge away a few hours (or, as in our case, show up early and wait until rooms are available) can do so at the crown of the structure -- only after ascending the steep staircase, and bypassing the doors of each room.

The entire interior, though, is a delight to climb past -- featuring harnesses, bellows, flowers, porcelain, carved and stained wood, and all sorts of memorabilia. The art in particular is out of place, being interesting and well done; most hotels seem to shun anything that might be worth looking at. This place will fill a room with three pieces, with no similarity besides being delightful.

Once you have achieved the full height of the building, you are greeted with a dizzying view of Valparaiso. You can see the city and all her dwellings -- foundations gripping the mountains and then relaxing and standing tall in the basin of the city. The harbor is cupped in the center of the city, and the skyscrapers are sentinels looking over it.

It was in this observatory that Ted and I waited, my eyes full up with the city whose fog and brightly colored houses reminded me of my home, San Francisco. After a while we were shown to our split room -- and for the first time in days I was able to lay down on a bed that was longer than me. On a bed where the sheets were thick and the comforter was warm and pillowy. And pillows, pillows, and pillows were at the top. I don't think I realized exactly how uncomfortable the bed on the cruise boat was until I came here.

Later on, after we had settled in, we went out for dinner. The owner of the hotel recommended to us a place called "The One Eyed Cat." It was two blocks down to the right -- a quick but slightly uneven walk down the broken-down stairs that are on either side of the small, cobbled streets. The streets here are nearly all hill. When we arrived, the restaurant was closed (they say most places are closed because it is Monday?), and we settled for a place next door.

Never have I been so glad to have accidentally found a restaurant. The hostess, waitress, and cook were all the same woman -- the wife of the proprietor. She had beautiful brown hair, and thankfully could speak English fairly well. I had quinoa with avocado -- the avocado at the center of a patted cake of quinoa mixed with a salty, creamy base. The next course was two fillets of mahi-mahi, served with melted cheese and shrimp in the middle of the fillets, over a bed of freshly fried potato slices. Ted had beef, which was cooked in this delicious pepper marinade. Slices of the pepper were served next to the steak and we both had a burning desire to try these. They were good, and our desire was satiated -- especially the burning part. Desert was crepes with a strawberry sauce, caramel, and white chocolate filling -- strawberries littered across the top. And to drink was water -- we could choose between limon or albacca (sp?). Our hostess did not know how to describe the albacca in English (it was a green, leafy herb mixed with sliced limes). A quick sniff of the original herb revealed that albacca is basil. Fresh, delicious basil.

After dinner we walked down to the downtown district, descending twisting side streets and stairs. We passed dogs, and dogs, and dogs. We passed worn down metal sheeting, crumbling concrete, uneven cobbles littered with shit. On our walk, we rounded a corner to two surprised kittens -- not more than seven weeks old, if I am any judge -- walking alertly, and slightly wobbly, up the stairs. One of them approached us and nuzzled our legs, while the other stayed nervously to the side and waited for us to move on. We passed a group of teenagers smoking out. We passed a discotheque styled after Pink Floyd's The Wall. We walked down a busy street -- thick with pedestrians -- for a couple of blocks before ducking back into another side street. After passing by a "grow shop" and a tiny metal-head shop, we took a funicular back up to the BellaVista neighborhood.

There was graffitti all over the city -- some of it beautiful, some of it scrawled. But when we reached the top of the funicular, we saw a sign that read, "BellaVista, Sin Vista?" I wonder what the sign is about... Why no view?

When we reached the hotel, the hotel owner told us that the restaurant that we had found only served traditional Chilean cooking -- he asked if it was okay, but then assured us that the owner and his wife were good people after our affirmation that we liked it.

I'm upstairs now, watching the sun retire. The dogs are serenading me now, or possibly berating the settinng sun. They are topped occasionally by a human shout. The shout doesn't stop them -- they keep barking until the sun has set and the city puts on her evening eyes.

Fun (inculars) in Valparaiso

I am about to disembark the ship. Thirty minutes to go. In the meantime, I have just eaten breakfast perched high above the docks, watching the funiculars slowly edge their way down and up the hill above the docks. This city reminds me of San Francisco in the morning -- gray fog, tucked tight around a patchwork of different color houses stretched across hills. I'm looking forward to exploring.

(It turns out it's the Beagle Canal)

Can anyone tell me where I am? I'm a bit confused. On the one hand, there's Argentina. On the other, there's Chile. And there doesn't seem to be much middle ground between the two. On the other other hand, there may be a bit of middle water. And I'm in it. But I seem to have forgotten the name of the place. It's a canal, I'm pretty sure.

Today I've achieved maximum wooziness throughout the ship. I may be content to wooze in my cabin later, but in my moment of triumphant woozing, I've decided to relax and keep sniffling time with a live jazz band. It's all 4/4, so I even have a decent chance of not blowing it. Literally. (You may blame my current state of punning on the illness.)

I am attending to my health though. I've had plenty of limes (in the form of a Mojito) to make certain that I don't get scurvy on top of anything else I've gotten; and I've had banannas too! (Okay, technically I've had a "dirty bannana", but it did come with vitamins and plenty of cleansing and restorative liquors. They're sterile, for sure.)

Putting the wooze and the booze aside, I really do think that by tomorrow I'll be in better health. Tonight we get to read through the immigration paperwork which will be given to the Chilean authorities, and make sure it's completed correctly. An earlier attempt this morning made it very clear that this was only paperwork to fill out when not exhausted, scatterbrained, or otherwise unable to focus. There was a section that said that we must declare if we brought any of the following items into the country. One of the items listed simply read, "Any reproductive materials, including semen." It took me a couple of very shocked and confused seconds to figure out that this fell under the broader category of animal and farm related materials. So, no, human reproductive materials don't count. Although, technically, they do say that any items brought into the country are only allowed if they're for personal use or a gift. So don't expect to go selling any of your reproductive fluids in Chile. That's right out.