Bikes aren't all bad, and fixers

I live across the street from a bar that attracts many bikers from all over the city. I don't know if bikers are generally concerned about how they are viewed in the eyes of non-bikers, but the bikers who patronize this particular neighborhood bar do nothing to endear the motorcycle culture to my heart. Mainly because they insist on letting their bikes idle forever, and then rev the engines so loudly that I can *feel* them from the couch!

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have, though, given me insight into the passion people can have for motorcycles. I have a new appreciation -not that I ever want to ride one- after watching the documentaries of their bike trips around the world. In 2004, they rode from London to New York and called the trip The Long Way Round. In 2007, they rode from John O'Groats, Scotland to Cape Town and called the trip The Long Way Down. The documentaries are brilliant - they use cameras on their helmets, handheld cameras and travel with a camera man to record everything - encounters with wild animals, border crossings, meals with people they meet along the way - and while the landscape, faces, houses, beliefs, lifestyles change drastically as they travel east, there are enough commonalities that make the world seem like not that big a place after all.

While there are many things that I love about what they experience (including their work with UNICEF), one thing I noticed in the credits was a long list of 'fixers.' In general, fixers help travelers (including journalists and foodies) navigate border crossings, cultural differences, security concerns, translation needs etc. Charley and Ewan sometimes travel into the countries with their fixer, but most often get the skinny on the condition of roads, learn about places to eat and stay, and must-sees.

Fixers don't handle everything, of course. There are many scenes as the team prepares for the trip of the producers gathering essential documents, visiting embassies and meeting with advisors in London, and trips to the Royal Geographical Society (I love all the maps). In addition to passports and visas for the crew for every country, they needed carnets (customs documents) for the video equipment, and a few other documents.

(Oh, and speaking of documentation, tomorrow is Passport Day in the USA. Seriously, there is a day, week, or month, for everything!)


A renaissance to call my own

I've rediscovered the love of fresh vegetables. Like the proverbial wholesome 'boy next door' that you've known your whole life but never gave much thought to and all of a sudden realize is perfect, vegetables have always had an unassuming presence and over the last few years I've realized that they're perfect.

I was a little lazy about food in my early twenties. I ate out whenever possible, and prepared many a frozen or boxed meal. I went to Farmer's Markets and shopped at The Wedge because it was fashionable, not because I thought the produce was better or because I was excited about cooking with whatever was in season, or because I was truly happy to buy local. Over the last few years a combination of circumstances and events have affected my attitude toward preparing meals.
  • Turning 30, which triggers the realization that your body actually does better when you take care of it;
  • A raised collective awareness of living 'green,' which includes buying local and organic;
  • Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, and his simple premise (Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.) resonated with me as I stared at my 'high-fiber' (read: highly processed) breakfast bars);
  • Discovering the joy of heirloom vegetables, including a mild and sweet heirloom tomato and the most amazing heirloom carrot soup at Farm.
  • Realizing that homemade vegetable stock is actually not difficult to make (the Moosewood recipe is my fave) and tastes better; and
  • I have a decent kitchen, finally.
You'd think I was born in the outer planets of the 'verse and had never had fresh vegetables before, but my parents kept a good-sized vegetable garden, and we ate the veggies year-round thanks to my mother's patience with canning them. And we always had a vegetable at our meals. If I took fresh vegetables as one of the necessary evils in life as a child, I view them as one of the true delights in life as an adult.

I think I first heard about CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms a few years ago from my relatives in California. We've got a few friends who have received boxes of vegetables from their local CSA farm on a weekly basis and have loved it. The DH and I have talked about it for a few years, but this is the year that we're finally going to get on board. Especially since I found a farm that grows a number of heirloom varieties!

I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to cooking with vegetables that I don't normally cook with, and I'm looking forward to (possibly) preserving some of the extras to enjoy at a later date. I hope that this cooking kick I'm on is more than just a kick, and that we'll use this to the fullest.


There's more?

The DH and I started geocaching last summer, but the fall and winter got in the way of our outings. Friends of ours recently got into it, and that renewed our enthusiasm for getting out there and getting more finds under our belt. That, and it's finally spring-like.

As I was updating our profile and logging today's find* at geocaching.com, I started to look through the various types of caches that are available now. Geocaching is high-tech scavenger hunting. With easy (and relatively cheap) access to the multi-billion dollar global positioning system in the form of a GPS device, one uses a set of navigational coordinates to locate hidden canisters, tins, tupperware containers, etc. At least, that's the case with a traditional cache.

There are two (new to me) types of caches that really excite me, and that don't require us to bring along our Dora The Explorer hair ties to trade in for other trinkets. An EarthCache is "a special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geoscience feature or aspect of our Earth." In Minnesota you can find, for example, glacier remains like The Whale's Tale in the northeastern part of the state, or limestone caves in the southeastern part. Some other types of EarthCaches include thermal springs in Idaho, possible meteorite collisions with Wisconsin and many other sites around the globe. What a great way to get to some these sites that may be quite close but that we don't know much about or don't take time to learn about them. WayMarks are "interesting and useful locations around the world," that should be somewhat out of the ordinary. WayMarks are manmade, and include museums, interesting headstones, painted barn quilts, and Carnegie Library buildings to name a few.

Why search for Carnegie library buildings or volcanoes with a set of coordinates and a GPS device, rather than an address and a map? Not having sought these types of caches out (yet), all I can say is that the pleasurable part of geocaching for us is the hunt, the exercise, and the joy of getting off the beaten path and finding hidden away places we might not have otherwise explored. So, if geocaching just happens to be coupled with finding cool mineral deposits or non-coastal boardwalks, I'm game.

I don't think I have to say this, but the lists on Earthcaching.com and Waymarking.com aren't comprehensive lists or subject matter authorities (although the GSA approves EarthCaches). Just a great way to get coordinates from someone else who took the time to mark them.

*When I say today's find, I mean the DH's find. He did the actual digging around for great hiding spots, while I slow-poked along behind him with the GPS and pointed at things. I'm still healing from a recent surgery and was just happy to get outside and walk more than a block and a half.



Now that it's over and I'm healing nicely, I've got a list of the fascinating-to-me aspects of my recent gallbladder surgery.
  1. Thrombo Embolus Deterrent (T.E.D.) stockings are anti-embolism compression stockings that go up to mid-thigh, and are worn to keep circulation going in the legs during surgery. Basically, they're designed to prevent blood clots in the legs. They are quite comfortable, actually, and I would suggest to the tummy tucker industry that they use the same material. I was commenting on how comfortable they are to the nurse who brought me out of the hospital, and she said I could keep them. I declined. But they are available at Walgreens.

  2. I was given some kind of sedation medicine for the ride down to the OR that made everything very fuzzy. The nurse anesthetist commented on how relaxed I was to begin with, but said that they administer it to reduce anxiety and that it has an amnesia effect. I was secretly excited to see the inside of the operating room to compare it to ORs on television, so I made a deliberate effort to stay awake until I got to the operating room. I remember going through the doors, and then looking up to see the huge lights above the operating table.

    My girl Amanda pointed out that it was quite wise of the hospital to make sure that the lights were off! Otherwise my last image would have been the proverbial light.

  3. In laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, the abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide. It goes in through an incision in the belly button, and gives the surgeon room to move around in there, and also keeps things dry.

    Now, gas rises. The carbon dioxide escapes through the shoulders.

    When I woke up in the recovery ward, my shoulders ached like they hadn't ached before. The feeling resembled muscle tension, but it wasn't the same. I was nicely medicated, so the sensation was never more than an ache, but it was about 18 hours before I noticed the shoulders feeling better.

    The helium balloon effect also took hold. My voice was quite raspy for a day!

  4. Thankfully, I'm healing well. And I'm thankful that my body has good communication skills. Before the surgery I wondered when I will be able to walk any distances, when I will be able to work out again, when I will be able to [fill in the blank]. And each day my body tells me when I'm ready to do something again, and when an activity is too much. The four incisions are small, but I still have to let the abdominal muscles recover.

  5. I was canker sores galore for about five days after the surgery. I had between 6-7 mouth sores on my soft palate and uvula. The nurses said that it was not a common reaction to being intubated, and weren't sure they were directly related to the surgery. It's hard to know if it was a coincidence, but I'm certain there was a connection. It's also hard to know what caused them (was it bacteria from my front tooth? was it stress? was it an allergic reaction to something? was it irritation from the intubation? a combination of the above?) but what finally worked for me (after trying Cloraseptic, salt water, etc.,) was Benadryl tablets. Some other remedies include hydrogen peroxide and a mouth rinse of liquid Benadryl and Milk of Magnesia.


Get Rid of [problem] once and for all

You know how in meetings or new groups the facilitator usually has everyone introduce themselves by sharing a unique or memorable fact? I HATE that. I hate it because I'm usually stumped for an answer. I don't have the wherewithal in the heat of the moment to follow Veronica's lead by quoting lyrics and saying something like "My name is Katherine. I once shot a man, in Reno, just to watch him die." So I end up saying something completely lame.

On my first day of graduate school, the professor had us take something out of our bags and tell our new classmates what that something said about us. Seriously, my choices were a brand new Mead notebook or a pen from Boeing that lit up. I went with the pen, and said that it represented my interest in many things, including illumination and the history of and principles of flight. I think this brief episode sticks out in my memory because I was nervous about starting something new, and was at that moment especially thankful to have set boundaries within which to be creative.

I started this blog for several reasons. I wanted to improve my writing speed. I wanted a creative outlet of some sort. I wanted to participate in Web 2.0 and blogging was an element I could jump into with relative ease. I wanted to record strange or recurring reference transactions.

And I still get these things out of keeping this blog.

Although the topics I post about are quite varied, the scope (things "everyone seems to know but me") is quite specific, and I'm not inspired by that any longer. Plus, my other interests don't fit in. Quilting doesn't fit. Book reviews don't fit. Geocaching doesn't fit. Professional library stuff doesn't fit. Geek stuff doesn't fit.

I like having set parameters. I like thesis statements to support. I like mission statements to adhere to. I like rules to bend. I like having margins, even if I doodle in them. If I know the limits, I can respond to them and be creative within them. If the scope of...anything...remains undefined, I get lost. And flustered.

I follow certain bloggers who are strangers to me because I'm interested in the topics they blog about, and if they get too far off topic I usually stop following. If book bloggers start sharing too many scary neighbor stories, I tend to lose interest. If foodies started blogging about their computer problems, I would unfollow until they got a mac and got back on topic. I follow friends and family because I care about them and what they have to say, but everyone there sticks to their intentions for their blogs too.

So, where does that leave me? (Besides alone. Is anyone still reading?) I see three options. 1) I can start over with a new blog to capture the topics that don't fit Oranges and Peaches. The Katmosphere? Alpha Kat? Kat's Cradle? Nine Lives of Kat? 2) I can create a series of blogs, one for each community I would like to take part in. That would be exhausting, but dashboards on Blogger and Wordpress are handy. Besides, who has six blogs? Moreover, who wants to bookmark six blogs? 3) I could redefine my vision for Oranges and Peaches. After all, I like the name.

I'm going to open curtain number three. Dear Readers (Hi, Mom!), I'm banking on the fact that you aren't attached to the 'common knowledge' angle for this blog, because I intend to include posts about quilting, reading, public librarianship, geocaching, and anything else that catches my eye. At least for awhile.

And, I know I could have just started posting other things without going through this whole rant, but I think I needed to establish this for myself. Or give myself permission to move on to a new description. Or something.