Blogs

Akron: 13 March 11: What's that bright thing in the sky?

This weekend, we had sunshine.

This is a big deal. It's been grey and hazy pretty much continuously for the last month, but on Saturday and Sunday, we had sunshine. The sky was blue, the sun was bright and warm, and I wandered around Lancaster Central Market with my jacket unzipped.

Yes, we were in Lancaster on Saturday morning, checking out some of the downtown sights. Lancaster Central Market is an indoor farmer's market. It has food stands, delis, produce, and a couple of craft-type places. And, lest I forget, one stall that sells only fresh celery. Nothing else - just celery. Best celery available worldwide, according to its fans, but still... celery? as a viable business plan? I am once again amazed at how much one can specialize in this neck of the woods. There were a variety of small shops - antiques and various specialties - that we visited as well. Didn't buy anything except a couple of packs of Beeman's gum, but I expect to be going back again ere long to purchase some teas that are not available in Manitoba for various family members. (incidentally, there are official Middle Earth/Hobbit teas, and they are products of Lancaster County.)

Yesterday, more sun and a trip to Philadelphia. After we dropped some people off at the airport, we went to see the Liberty Bell, wandered around downtown for a bit, then out to Passyunk Avenue for cheesesteaks. We tried a cheesesteak by the upstart contender for the title of Best Philly Cheesesteak, Geno's Steaks. We're back in Philly this coming weekend, so we'll try out the original then, at Pat's Steaks. Contrary to what you might think, the steak is not a solid chunk of meat - it's shaved and fried, and served in a hoagie bun with onions and cheese. Rather tasty, too, but Pat's and Geno's owe at least some of their popularity - and both of them had twenty or more people in line at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon - to the hype surrounding the rivalry, as well as to the quality of the product. Geno's was unquestionably efficient, though - we waited less than ten minutes, closer to five, to get to the head of the line, and less than a minute from placing the order to getting our food.

But the sunshine - that was the best part of the weekend. On Saturday, we dragged chairs out onto our miniature deck and sat in shirtsleeves, feet bare, basking in the sun and eating crackers, cheese, and olives. It was glorious.

What I'm reading now: 13 March 07

Well, the knitting project is finished as of last night (with the help of an NCIS:LA marathon), and will be brought to work tomorrow to be shown off. After that, it will be carefully packaged and sent by InLaw Express to its proper destination... but everything in good time.

I did, in the meantime, find time to read something: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecc Skloot. A lot of scientific research, particularly in human biology and pathology, relies on studying the reactions of cells grown in petri dishes to various substances and conditions. An overwhelming number of those cells are from what's known as the HeLa line. He La is derived from Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who died of an incredibly aggressive cancer in the 1950's, but whose cells continue to live and multiply. Author Rebecca Skloot has researched not just the start of this line of research - one of the first lines of cells to stay alive in laboratory conditions - but also Henrietta's life, and the lives of the family she left behind - none of whom knew anything about HeLa for twenty years. It's a fascinating story, thoroughly researched, and written with clarity and sympathy toward a woman and a family who continue to feel left out of their own family's history. 

Akron: 13 February 23: Furry Things

For the first few months here, we saw squirrels everywhere. There are a lot of them, mostly fat'n'sassy types who are cautious of humans, but not overly paranoid. For a while, it seemed like every walk between the apartment and the office was punctuated at least once by one of the other of us abruptly pointing and saying "Squirrel!" (Well, to be strictly accurate, it was more like "SQURL!!") They're not as much in evidence right now, which I attribute to the chill in the air, but we'll see what happens when it warms up next month.

There are also rabbits around here. We don't see them as often as we do squirrels, but it's not uncommon to see a rabbit crouching on the lawn as we pass by in the dark. They're short-eared, brown, and very cute - and quite shy.

Cats, on the other hand, we see very seldom. Apparently a local bylaw prohibits allowing your pet cat to roam free - which probably explains the plethora of SQURL!!s and bunnies. It makes seeing a cat all the more welcome when it happens, as it did last night at choir practice, when two of them were crossing the parking lot. Neither was inclined to stay and chat or be admired, but it was lovely to see them. (Can you tell I miss my Tailsome Twosome?)

What I'm reading now: 13 February 14

I had really and truly believed that I was going to be finished the book by now, but no. Book in question is The God-fearer, by Dan Jacobson, and for all that it's a small book (160 pp), it's taking me a rather a long time. (This may have something to do with the fact that it travels with me in my backpack, underneath the current knitting project.) Now that I look at it, I realize I only have another seven pages to go.

Pardon me one moment.

*pages turn*

Right. So.

Picture a man, eighty years old, not entirely clear about the present, but very clear indeed about the past, now suddenly haunted by two child-like apparations. Kobus is baffled, and casting his mind back over the years, finds an incident from his youth that might explain these ghosts. He relives that time and considers again his actions then, weighing the past against the possible alternatives. The writing is deceptively simple and beautiful, and I can understand why it was shortlisted for a Whitbread Prize.