Thursday, August 04, 2016

summer in dry dock


i got to spend a good chunk of my summer at a shipyard. i know it sounds weird, but i love shipyards. ships on an ordinary day are cool, but in a dry dock, when you can stand underneath and take in the immensity of them, that's the best. in a dry dock those over-dimensioned hunks of steel are somehow just....well....sexy. even when they're cut in half, covered in scaffolding and exuding the acrid scent of welding. even in the rain. even at 4:30 a.m.

you can see what i was working on at the shipyard here and here.  and there's more to come, so why don't you subscribe while you're over there? and watch this video too, it's a really cool time lapse (that was made before my time). we'll have to arrange a new one now that the ship will be 30 meters longer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

nothing to fear but a cheeto with a brillo pad on his head


i find myself thinking about fear. it’s surely the aftermath of last week’s republican national convention, which seemed to be all fear (and hatred) all the time. and then i just listened to the modern love podcast episode “live without me,” which was about how almost being in a plane crash changed the author’s fear of flying (counterintuitively taking it away). and it got me thinking about what i fear.

i can have the odd sleeplessness at 3 a.m., worrying about money or whether they’re painting the ship without us being there to film or reimagining what i should have said in a conversation, but i’m not generally much of a worrier. but i find myself genuinely worried these days about the prospect of that cheeto with a brillo pad on his head becoming president of the land of my birth. about the only thing i can do about that is vote for hillary and do my part, so it’s not actually worth losing sleep over.

in a little over a week, we are sending our child “over there,” into the belly of the gun-toting, school-shooting, cheeto-loving, jesus brigade. and i’ll admit i have my share of fears about that. was it a good idea to send her via an airport we’ve never transited? do we bring her home immediately if the cheeto wins? how soon will it descend into anarchy and chaos and be completely unsafe for an innocent, albeit fashion-conscious, über cool teen? was it wise to buy her a one-way ticket?

all of those giant, quite unfathomable fears aside, i don’t generally fear that much in my daily life. ever since i left russia by myself on a train to the finnish border in 1994, i've been pretty fearless. i used to walk alone at night in my neighbourhood on the south side of chicago, believing that if i walked with purpose, i’d be ok (turned out that was true). i’ve travelled alone on balkan trains, ridden in rickshaws late at night on the streets of mumbai, crowded into the back of a tuk tuk in phuket, driven the road from manila to subic, played in the waves in the south china sea during a typhoon and been beaten up by (supposed) bulgarian police. and yet, i remain a mostly unfearful person.

it’s something my mother taught me to be, by being fearless herself. she drove us to horse shows all over the upper midwest on threadbare tires throughout my childhood. she told me to get back up on the horse when it dumped me off. she made me get out there are work with that horse again when it was being difficult. and that time that skip’s galley lad picked me up by my shoulder blade with his teeth when i was 12, i didn’t tell anyone (until years later), nor did i become afraid of him, because i had a fierce love for him already in place. if anything the fear made me more determined.

but i’ll admit i don’t really know what to do with this fear about the fascist cheeto with the brillo pad on his head. it’s a low grade fear that won’t go away.

Monday, July 18, 2016

where was this when i was picking dark blue?


maybe i need new glasses.
in a variety of colors.
with thanks to bill.
a blog friend in the beginning, and a real life friend today.

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tarkovsky's atmospheric polaroids.

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midlife crisis? why bother?

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people who are late are more optimistic.
or is that just crap?

Monday, July 11, 2016

kittens don't care if they're black or white


like the rest of the world, i have looked on in dumbfounded horror as the reports rolled in last week of two innocent men in louisiana and minnesota who were killed in cold blood by those meant to protect them for no reason other than the color of their skin. then, when a sniper fired on a demonstration in dallas, killing and injuring police, it seemed that the united states was on the verge of meltdown.

during a long drive back from germany, on my phone i read the early accounts of the dallas events, all of which were very careful not to name the color of anyone's skin. some part of me appreciates the caution, as it's somehow borne of politeness and a wish to reserve judgement. but the fact is that these things are happening due to the color of people's skin and to be afraid to talk openly about it only adds to the problem.

the problem seems pretty insurmountable. instead of making things better, having the first black president in american history (who will also undoubtedly go down as one of the best) seems to have made things worse. the toothless mouth breathers are angry and with open carry gun laws in force, they're not afraid to show it.

i don't pretend to have any knowledge of what it must be like to be black in america today. as a white, educated, midwestern female living in europe, i'm surely steeped in about as much white privilege as one can be. living outside my culture, i have my moments feeling Other, but they are no doubt mild compared to daily fears of being stopped and shot by police just for going about my life within my own skin.

all these events seem to be bringing out the worst in people, especially on facebook. i suspect it's not good for us. we isolate ourselves in silos of those who believe as we believe. and we shake our heads at the sharing of treacly videos about how people are not born racist, considering ourselves above such superficial analysis. we don't really engage with the question at all. and it all feels quite hopeless.

some part of me feels as i did during the reagan years with his anti-russian rhetoric. i imagined a young girl in russia who was my age and maybe looked a bit like me and wanted the things i wanted. and i thought, if we could just meet and talk to one another and get to be friends, we wouldn't need all of this. maybe we all need to start making friends with people who are different from ourselves - whether it's skin color, sexual orientation, nationality or something else. maybe it's a place to begin.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

kittens lately














two batches of kittens. three in each. two months old and change.

tidying up


it's been raining all weekend, so i've been stuck inside, on a mission to tidy up and clean. i hadn't done more than the very bare minimum since my back troubles began back in october. but today, all the rugs were taken out (between showers) and shaken. cobwebs vacuumed up, shelves dusted with a damp, soapy cloth and a bit of rearranging of beloved items. the entryway is still where we stack our shoes and hang our coats, but it's much more inviting.


i got on such a roll, that i tackled my desk area, where papers had piled up and dust had accumulated and spiders had built major real estate. i put away most of the lego from my desk area, realizing at long last that having it there made me more sad than happy. i replaced it with things i wanted to look at instead - my favorite scale with the little birds on top, a bobbaloo, my 2016 happiness jar (which i'd also neglected for a few months), a stack of moleskines, some of the pots i made in ceramics class. objects that bring me joy.


and tho' that little adjacent hallway needs a good once-over on the shelves and the stacks of paper all sorted, it was pretty awesome to clear up my desk area. it had a clearing effect on my head as well. funny how the clutter around us clutters our minds. and then it hit me, while i was vacuuming, that i wasn't worried about my back. for the first time in nearly 9 months, i really wasn't worried about my back. i felt strong and capable and, dare i say, normal again. all that yoga is paying off.

but i also credit it to a long and deep conversation i had on tuesday evening with an old friend. it loosened something in me and i was able, after far too long, to let go of both physical and psychological pain and begin to move forward once again. i don't know if we even talked about anything all that deep - there was a lot of laughter and quite a bit of wine - but it somehow shifted something in me. i don't know if i'll be who i was before (are we ever?), but i feel more like myself again. and after wondering whether i ever would again, it's a big relief.

and on that note, i'm off to tidy the kitchen.

to be or not to be (danish)


a friend on facebook shared an interesting article yesterday. it's an interview with a german journalist who has lived in denmark for 15 years, is married to a dane and is raising danish-german children. unfortunately for most of my readers, it's in danish. but, i'll tell you the gist of it. the rhetoric in today's denmark is much like that in the uk, which recently precipitated their brexit vote - anti-immigration, anti-foreigner. when i came to denmark 18 years ago, it was easier, today, you have to put an obscene amount of money in a bank account and pass a high level danish test to achieve permanent residence. in my day, you married a dane, met up once a year at the immigration office for two years and then after three years, you were a permanent resident. in those days, there was talk of integration, not assimilation. that's all changed. the danish justice minister recently said that anyone coming here should "adopt danishness," with the implication that our original cultures should be obliterated and we should just give ourselves over to being danish (he's a bit thin on what exactly that entails, but it has something to do with paying taxes, eating pork and thinking christmas is december 24).

and like marc-christoph wagner, the german in the article, i think "no way!" i am, in many ways, less american than i once was, in the sense of being less loud, outgoing and open to talking to strangers. but where i was raised is imprinted in me in ways that i can never change. i just have to hear a cars song and i am transported to teenage summer nights, driving around with friends, singing along, the radio glowing green in the wide front seat of the car, windows open. talking about everything and nothing. sometimes all it takes is a scent to touch something deep inside me, triggering a flood of memories and a sense of who i was and where i grew up. while i have memories and songs and scents from denmark that do that for me as well after all these years, i can never and never want to, be free of the ones that stem from the culture where i grew up. to want to take that away and replace it with pork rinds and thinking that christmas is the 24th would be to try to erase who i am. not to mention that i don't even think it's possible.

i was thinking the other day, as i biked 16km across copenhagen (the stuff of another blog post), that denmark has changed a lot in the 18 years i've been here. when i came, people were more open, more prone to public nudity (sprawling out in their underwear in the parks and cemeteries at the first rays of sunshine), more rebellious (they had the highest percentage of women smokers in the developed world). it was ok to be proud of what you did for a living, whether you worked in an office or on an assembly line. that's all changed. now it's scandalous to go topless on a beach, men are hardly allowed to work in kindergartens for fear that if they hugged a crying child to comfort them, they would be seen as pedophiles. and everyone wants a career and not just a job. and there's a big rise in nationalist rhetoric and xenophobia. a few months ago, it was perfectly ok to stand on an overpass and spit down on the refugees as they come in, as some danes did down at the border with germany.

i realize it's not just denmark. it seems that the zeitgeist of the moment is right wing extremist madness. those with less education and less money are frightened and pressured all over the world and they are speaking out with their bigoted viewpoints and votes. it's what caused the brexit vote and the rise of a clown like donald trump. and it's why even politicians who once seemed sensible are saying increasingly awful things in the interest of remaining in power.

and as usual, i find myself out in the middle of the atlantic, wanting to feel neither danish nor american.