A perfect sea urchin

My Evil Thoughts

Welcome to where I air my evil views, proud, uncowed, unbowed, and absolutely evil, superficial, and ignorant. Get used to it. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

Deferred Maintenance

Those words are a euphemism. Last night I was making escarole bisque. Things went well. The potatoes unstuck themselves when I added the water for the boiling vegetables. The sauteed vegetables were pretty much cooked. The rest of the veggies boiled. Most of the escarole was good. I let the soup cool a bit. It tasted OK. It looked like it had enough liquid. I put the blender on the table. I plugged it in. I ladeled in the soup and liquified half of it.

I lifted out the blender pitcher to pour it into a container to chill and....The pitcher came out, but its bottom stayed in the blender leaving soup all over the cutting board and table cloth. I got out two spoons. The soup was thick enough to scrape up into the container. I was not going to lose it. I used a potato ricer to mash up the veggies in the rest of the soup. This bisque is going to have chunks. Worse things could happen.

Now you know this is not the whole story. I went to clean the blender to try liquifying the rest of the soup and found that the black plastic sleeve that holds the blade and pitcher, and itself together was cracked. That was why it stayed in the blender, and that is the end of the blender. It lasted six months. I saved the cracked sleeve for a souvenir. Since I was able to save most of the soup, I told myself that I could save the soup and clean up this mess, programming in PHP tomorrow would be a piece of cake and I would not complain about any scut work, if not ever again, at least not tomorrow.

Well I thought about losing the blender. Who would not. The blender had been working so well and was so new, I did not think it would go that fast. This was a new experience. I wondered if I was the victim of divine vengance. Taking out a twenty-five dollar blender is pretty piddling. I suppose if you wanted to debase me for pride in my cooking, leaving me with a table covered in escarole bisque might do the job, but having me burn oil or get a pan full of stuck on stuff, or fall asleep while bread was baking as happened with some corn bread a few weeks ago, is really a lot more effective. Mechanical failure doesn't dent my pride.

I think the blender's death is a lesson to teach me to persevere when things go wrong, because face it, things always go wrong. I learned that this morning when I was waiting for the MARTA train. I arrived at Decatur station on time. I saw the train was due in a minute. I felt relieved. I sat on a bench. Then one minute stretched to four and then to eight. There were unintelligible announcements over the loud speaker, but I didn't need the announcements. The train was stuck one or two stations up the line and most likely between stations.

Gratitude is the weak tea of emotions, but that was what I felt at that moment. I may have had to wait in a hot train station, but I was not on a MARTA train sitting sideways on the track, a train that wheezed and bumped ominously before crawling to a stop, maybe its third or fourth, a train with flickering electric lights or faulty air conditioning, or worst of all, a train stuck in a tunnel. It is great NOT to be on a stuck train. I waited twenty minutes for the stuck train this morning. It was crowded. The other passengers were quiet because MARTA passengers in the morning are quiet with a kind of stunned, let's-start-this-day exhaustion. That too was a blessing.

The rest of my commute to work was uneventful. I'd like to swim this afternoon. This may be the days of mourning before Tish B'av but I need a swim, but knowing the way things are going, some poor kid will have crapped or puked in the pool. A closure for contamination is just what I need, isn't it?

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 22, 2011

Holding Joie in the Palm of my Hand

This morning after I gave Joie her shower. I petted her. I don't know if she could feel it in her shell. Her legs and tail was in. Her head was only a little bit out. Shower time is NOT her favorite time of the day, but if she's been eating egg or mackerel, she needs a shower so she goes back in her tank clean and not covered with food particles. Turtles can stink. One site even advises washing off their shells with a toothbrush. I stick to cold showers for Joie.

I stroked Joie's shell-encased back. Then I put her in the tank. She stuck out her head and went all frisky, doing a kind of post-eating happy dance. Joie has learned to beg for food. She can bask. She can hide in her cave. That's not much, but it is something. I used to agonize over whether she would survive. Now I agonize over whether she is happy and whether her sense of taste is the same as mine. I have decided it is not. I think she can feel happiness. I know she can feel fear, and has to because as a baby, she is at the bottom of the food chain, and as a nonsocial creature, nothing and no one has her back.

Despite the expense and work, I feel no remorse about buying Joie. I have experience with small animals and like them. I also could not take on a third cat in good conscience. Joie, however, is an excellent fit. Also, Joie gives my mother and me something positive to talk about. Mom asks me all about her. We talk about her diet, her behavior, how turtles have survived on this earth longer than mammals and how one should admire their strength and the fact that they are probably better made than us. I get all this from my mother who has been a turtle tamer. She ought to become one again.

This morning I admired the tiny red and cream markings hidden in Joie's dark green, ridged shell. I often admire the stripes on her neck. I try to decipher her facial expressions. She can sleep. She can go up to a minute between breaths. She is a fast swimmer and sometimes totally imobile in the water. She likes mango and papaya better than greens. She has nibbled carrot and defrosted green peas.

Sometimes we make very good decisions very fast. It's not exactly impulse but if it is impulse it is one toward goodness and doing what is a good fit. That is Joie.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 21, 2011

I Remember the Laughing

Joie is eating. I have seen her taking bites of hard boiled egg yolk, mango, green peas, dill, and dandelion greens. I think she also likes celery root. I have been told to dig bugs and worms for her because that is her natural diet or part of it. Like me, Joie is an omnivore, but unlike me she is not lactose tolerant, and her ancestors did not create the neolithic revolution. That means grain products and dairy don't figure into her world. She also makes her own vitamin C so she does not need to load up on crucifers the way I do. Making turtle mix is an art. Feeding turtles is a fetish especially now that they are no longer a mass market pet.

I have a more secure feeding area for her with deeper water. I keep a pitcher of room tempoerature water near her tank for filling both the feeding area and the main tank. This way she eats in nice warm water. Turtles are both finicky and voracious.

One thing Joie does not do much is bask. The apartment is too warm for me to run her basking light except a little bit at a time. I took a picture of my thermostat with my cell phone and left it for the landlord. I have heard nothing. I don't excpet anything to happen fast. Air conditioners in the South take forever to fix, but an acknowledgement would be lovely.

Today is just a bit cooler. Temperatures are in the high eighties/low ninties Fahrenheit. That is down about eight degrees, and those eight degrees make a difference. Atlanta gets sick and crazy in the heat. I haven't seen the night shoppers but I have seen one woman wait for a bus sitting down. I haven't seen any one sick on the bus either, but I saw a car full of train passengers laughing.

There is a lot of deferred maintenance on MARTA. The last couple of thunder storms have taken a toll. Trains have a way of either stalling out in stations or else, overshooting the mark, or just dying. I was in a train that overshot and stayed put in the station at Avondale Wednesday night. I was grateful it was not stuck in a tunnel. I dread trains stuck in a tunnel. Unlike usual most unhappy MARTA trains, this one had not rattled, wheezed, or given any indication of trouble, but there were half way out of the station with the doors sealed tight.

We waited forever. The operator ran from one end of the train to the other several times. He was a hoot to watch. Besides, getting stuck in a train is scarey. That was why the passengers started laughing. Meanwhile, I made up my mind to get out of the train when the doors opened. I did not know what other mishaps lay in store, and I was not going to find out.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 14, 2011

Just Joie

They always sell all kinds of junk at the fireworks show at Lenox. I find the crappy food and cheap souvenirs easy to pass up. I am glad to take a freebie or two home, but this year was different. There were merchants, mostly African, selling baby turtles. Yes, selling hatchlings is illegal. Yes, I bought one. Say that three times fast.

I knew she needed a better habitat than what she came with. I knew I did not know thing one about caring for her. I said to the person selling them: "Pets are a responsibility."

I am still not sure if Joie will last a week. I read up on what to feed her and how to house her within hours of getting her. After work the next day, I took the bus up to Northlake and bought a suitible tank that should last her a couple of years. I also bought her a basking light. The tank came with a thermometer. The rocks I found in the yard were free.

Because the habitat was huge, I had to call for a cab. I was not sure I had enough money. Thunder storms had been rolling over the mall. It had rained at the fireweorks, and I was worn to a frazzle by violent weather and fear that I was going to kill my new pet. I'm still scaird of that.

Then I had to wait forty-five minutes for the cab. Oh what a wait. The cabbie had been out shopping and bragged of all the bargains he had found at the Burlington Coat Factory. He had bags of clothes on the seat. I was just glad to get home.

I am worried that Joie is not eating. I am worried I am feeding her too much. I am worried that her habitat is too hot or too cold. Joie worried about being prey and swims fast and hides in her cave.

I am glad I do a lot of scratch cooking so I can provide table scraps for Joie, but I still worry, and I worry on an existential level. Joie is not a weanling. She has never known her mother's breast. She is a turtle so of course she has never known that. Her mother laid her egg and walked away. She came into this world alone, no siblings, no social group, no parents. She is hard wired to eat and hide. Most of her siblings will end up prey. The vast majority do not make it. Turtles have a hard and painful life.

I feel bad about Joie especially when I contrast her to the cats and myself. We, are all social mammals. The cats by the way, consider Joie my personal food item. She is not an equal or a baby. She does not deserve the undue attention I give her. She is beneath contempt and she'd taste yummy.

I am just aware of all the social equipment my cats and I have at our disposal. In our world mothers raise and teach their offspring. Cats have to learn to deliver the killing bite and how to hunt. Kittens play to learn all their social and skillful games. Kittens have a queen or several queens to protect them as well as older siblings. Neighborhood cats give a juvenile of their species carte blanche. It takes a village to raise a human or feline child.

Even in adulthood, cats and people are social. Someone gets your back. If a marauder or a dog comes into the territory, all the cats will fight him off. If a queen has kittens, other queens who are nursing will help form a communal nest so they can take turns going out to hunt. Males care for kittens because with feline promiscuity, the kittens might be theirs.

Then there are the pleasures of sociability, snuggling, grooming, and sharing smells. Yes, I sniff my cats' fur. It smells of sweet kitty musk. Yes, my cats sniff and wash me. I know when I am giving off the fear smell, which my cats detest or the unhappy smell which makes Hertzel give me a bath.

Joie's world lacks all of these things. I'm not sure what emotions she can feel. I know she can taste sweet, somethign my cats can't do. I think she is deaf. I would suspect she is sentient even if I can't picture what makes her happy. I want her to be happy. If she is happy, she will outlive my cats and maybe me. That is the goal. And I don't consider her food. I'm a grain eating hominid whose social instincts have been hijacked to mother a creature who would not other wise have a mother. Let me hope I don't kill Joie with kindness.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 8, 2011

Letter on my Dresser

I tell myself it's all right. I can start the preliminary steps. They cost nothing. I should have a renewed passport. That's kind of a no brainer, even though I have no plans at present to travel abroad. Well, given your letter on the dresser, that could change.

I tell myself that it would be a great adventure, attending a bar mitzvah for your son, in a disputed settlement on the West Bank. For a few days, I could stop talking politics or keep them too myself. A secured bus leaves Jerusalem at 6pm every evening. Yeah, the bus has to be secure. This must be some adventure, but it probably isn't. I'd really prefer a real adventure to a boring party with people I don't know.

And face it, I was better friends with you than I was with your wife though I liked her. I wasn't great friends with your eleven year old son, with whom I sympathized but could not empathize. Like you he lacked a certain viciousness that would have made me empathize with him. I'm sure he's a good kid by the way. I won't say more.

And face even more of it, I don't know what to wear or bring or how one sends a proper set of regrets, the decent alternative in case I decide this adventure is not for me.

And really face it, you've stopped communicating with me, one little conversation on Facebook and a holiday that was lucky enough to reach me on the number 2 bus on my way to work the Wednesday before one of the holidays. You got rid of your computer when you needed it most. Email is cheap even on an older machine with a crappy connection. You shook me along with the dust of Toco Hills from your heels. There's a price for that. I't my job to set it.

I don't have to tell all of you that EXPLETIVE DELETEDs. First, I could simply decide I want to go to your son's bar mitzvah and wild horses wouldn't drag me away. I can decide that now and let the price of a plane ticket scare me off. I can decide that now and let lack of communication stymie me. I can decide that now and carry through. Yes, this bar mitzvah comes right in one of the busiest parts of the semester. It means probably four to five days of missed work. I have the vacation time, but I am going to let my colleagues carry me. Am I really going to do that?

Am I still angry at you for walking away. I was glad when I saw the letter and apprehensive. Rumors have leaked out in your wake, nothing scandalous, would that they were. It would be better. The rumors are just sad. There's a reason I sympathize with your son. I hoped the letter would be personal, full of information, and I dreaded what that information might be. I opened the letter and found a lovely, extravagantly printed invitation to the bar mitzvah. It was green print and two photo reproductions on cream, textured card stock. It was bilingual, Hebrew and English. Fonts and laser printing can work magic these days, but this one was probably not homemade. I wish I didn't know why I know that, but I do.

I'd ride the ship of misery with you any time again if we had kept up communication. I would be planning a trip to Israel right now if you had kept talking to nme. I'm not angry at you any more. I am only a little angry. I'm much more sad at having to write this piece. Oh well, I can start the ball rolling and then really think it over.

Eileen H. Kramer -- July 4, 2011