the original kStyle blog.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween

The veil between the worlds, they say, is thinnest tonight.

And there's lots of candy to be had.

My Window to the South

I have a small window open to the South, through which small interactions happen, polite conversations, exchanges. I'd like to open a full door, to let a big Southern breeze in, to try and understand that sweep of warmer states draped with Spanish moss.

My mother lived in Charlotte, NC until age 12. Her parents, natives of Fall River, MA, relocated for her father's job. My mom holds fond memories of Charlotte and, on occasion, wistfully longs for that friendlier place. It's difficult, though, to glean any substantive understanding of the South from her, as her memories are wrapped up with childhood and haunted by harsh Catholic school nuns. My grandpa's take on the South is that everyone voted Republican and He. Was A. Democrat. That and he really loved the work he did there, supervising the textile dye lab, getting his hands wet in the chemistry. He never much enjoyed the dye sales job he had later, up North. Grandma doesn't talk much about the South per se, only that she was afraid of the "colored people" in town (forgive her, she's from another generation), that she could feed the whole family at McDonald's for a quarter, and that she shook JFK's hand when he campaigned in Charlotte. (Grandma likes John Edwards, too: handsome politicians are her thing, apparently.)

We northerners often speak with disdain, disbelief, or dismissiveness about our southern cousins, but we know, deep down, that they hold the key to national politics. This nail-bitingly contentious election has us frozen liberals looking to the land of magnolias and mint juleps with curiosity, trying to understand what goes on inside the southern mind. Public radio's documentary program, "Inside Out", recently produced the much-publicized "A Southern State of Mind" for these reasons.

But what of our personal interaction with the South? Do you have any? I, for one, have very little contact with any real-life residents of Dixie. Perhaps, to heal the red-blue, Mason-Dixon division, we need more real contact, personal contact, across that divisive line. I find that real-life contact with southerners only opens more mysteries. (I'm not counting the relocated southerners, converted to liberalism, who make Massachusetts their homes. These people are invaluable for clearing up the mysteries of the South. They are our true national ambassadors and every northerner should have one such person on her advisory committee.)

As for my interactions with southerners living in the South, there was the smart Georgian author, a nurse, a brilliant scatterbrain, seeping self-consciousness about her southernness through her very pores. The first time I tried to contact her, the phones were out. When she got a hold of me later, she was mortified: the things I must think about the South because her phones were out! (This was silly, of course, as anyone who saw the unpaved northern road I grew up on could testify.) She explained that the slow southern drawl, seen (she thought) by many in the north as a sign of stupidity, was originally a sign of wealth and ease: we have allllll daaaaay to chat. (She also let me in on a secret: many southerners use this soothing accent to lull northerners into complacency. We assume the southerner is stupid, let our guard down, and the southerner can strike. Most useful in negotiations.) She was distressed that the South was pro-Bush ("we've always been Democrats") and even more distressed by the French bashing going on in her town. I began to think that her ideas of northern perceptions of the South reflected her own reservations about her home. (In addition to her trunk of advanced nursing degrees, she wrote the occasional article of feminism and country music. Brilliant, brilliant woman.)

Over the last few weeks I've had to call several companies in the South to request photographs for our books. You know what? Everyone was extra-nice and super-helpful. What's going on here, I wondered. Why is everyone being so nice? So...so hospitable? We're not even paying them for usage! And why are these kind people probably going to vote for an evil president? The cognitive dissonance made my head ring and the world spin. I have to wonder, too, if my contacts hung up perplexed by my cheery good manners despite the clipped consonants and speedy speech of my northernness.

Finally, today, I spoke with the single most cheerful, helpful, customer service representative ever. She had a perky drawl and excellent professionalism. (She works for AT&T Wireless, so give her a call and say hi!) She helped me find a new phone and a new phone plan, she chatted pleasantly with me, and seemed genuinely pleased when I wished her a happy Halloween. And then I remembered all the other customer service reps with Dixie shining in their voices, and I wondered why so many call centers are in the South. It could be partially because the cost of living is lower, and partially because, well, can you imagine the conversation with one of us? We're rude (but at least we vote Democrat and love the French, eh?).

As all these little mysteries churn in my mind, one conclusion emerges: we need to understand each other better. We need to stop shouting out own rhetoric and to start listening to each other's reasoning. We need to avoid thinking of each other as "them" and start thinking in terms of "us".

Sunday Bumper Sticker

We're all wearing the blue dress now

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Saturday Bumper Sticker


Friday, October 29, 2004

Unbalanced Expectations

The public is underinformed about Shiatsu. You good people know a bit about it now, and can probably understand why I'm often frustrated by reactions to Shiatsu, which fall into two main categories:

1. You study it for over two years?! What the hell are you learning about?

(Of course, we just pokey-pokey-pokey at some random points, that's all.)

2. You're an intermediate Shiatsu student? Can you fix my brain tumor, please?



Thursday, October 28, 2004

Friday Bumper Sticker

Save the Environment: Plant a Bush in Texas!

Shiatsu Talk: By Popular Demand

What’s it like to give Shiatsu, you ask? What a difficult question to answer.

In Zen Shiatsu we look for a kyo and a jitsu meridian. Kyo means empty or deficient; jitsu means excess or full. (The jitsu meridian is trying to fill a need for a kyo meridian, or substituting for it. It’s important to tonify the kyo meridian and disperse the jitsu one.) We find these two meridians by palpating the hara, or abdomen. Certain hara areas correspond to certain meridians.

A kyo quality in a meridian or diagnostic area is often described as feeling empty or hollow. It can feel too soft, allowing the fingers to sink in too far; shy, cold; flaccid; and occasionally doughy and slightly tough. Sometimes a kyo area will feel like it has a thin layer of ki on top and is hollow below, like a bubble covering a hole. Those can be tricky to spot. Lung is an unusual case in that it sometimes feels very hard when it’s weak, in account of overworking. A good rule of thumb (ha!) is that, when it feels like the receiver wants your hand to stay in an area, it’s kyo. Needy. For an example, place your hand on your lower back around the kidney area. How does it feel?Almost everyone is kyo there.

Jitsu qualities are stuck; hard; pushing back on the giver; sometimes it feels like a big jolt. I’ve noticed that Large Intestine meridian often feels zingy when excess. Jitsu areas tend to be tender. Ticklish areas are usually jitsu. Try this: press the area just below your greater trochanter (hip bone on the side of upper thigh). Tender? Hard? It usually is.

Most meridians, even if overall kyo or jitsu, will have blocked jitsu areas and empty kyo areas. We try not only to balance out the meridians with each other, but also within themselves. Last weekend I practiced on a woman with sinus bloakage. Well no wonder--her meridians were very tight and stopped all around her shoulders, keeping ki stuffed up in her head. (I suspect she thinks too much. She also talks probably too much. She talks...a lot.) The forearms were soft and sinking. I worked down the chosen meridians with intent to bring the ki down to her forearms and hands. The best results came when I held an especially blocked upper arm point with one thumb and an empty forearm point with my other thumb. After a moment or two---sliiiiide went the ki, all nice and smooth. A second after I felt this, her whole arm relaxed, the shoulder point softened, and the forearm point filled up to a healthy level, gaining tone. After the treatment, her sinus headache went away for at least a couple of days. It's probably back now, what with all the thinking, talking, and dairy-eating she does. :)

Properly flowing ki feels like tingling warmth sliding between points, like a river of silver, or maybe like magnetic attraction. Try this: rub your palms together 9 times, pause, 9 times more, pause, and then nine times more. Then hold your hands, palms facing each other, maybe 6” to a foot apart. Feel anything? Play with moving your palms closer and farther apart. Relax your shoulders. I see you holding them up by your ears. Harder to feel ki that way...

Some people, of course, are generally so weak that it’s difficult to find a jitsu (excess), or generally so tense that it’s (literally) hard to find a kyo (deficiency).

And then, different meridians feel different. For example, Liver (LV) and Gallbladder (GB) tend to be somewhat hard regardless of kyo/jitsu status: they are wood, after all. Bladder (BL) and Kidney (KD), in balance, feel like rivers, being water energy. (But they’re seldom in balance because the very act of living depletes the KD ki. When KD runs out of ki, you die. Everyone’s born with an allotment of Source Ki or Jing, which is stored in the kidneys. Proper, moderate living, exercises such as qi gong, breathing well, etc., can add to your ki such that the Jing isn’t tapped. Poor living—poor diet, no exercise, excess exercise, not enough sleep, too much stress—and things like serious illness deplete the Jing.)

I’m starting to pick things up from the meridians, too, like poor sleep or excess caffeinated beverages. It’s cool.

SO…hope that answered your question, Carla. Feel free to ask more and I’ll do the best I can with ‘em.

A Miracle

The Sox won the World Series under the eerie red light of an eclipsed full moon. Boston, at last, can rest.

Go Sox!

Pledge To Vote

Go here to pledge to vote! Please, it's important, get out there and vote Tuesday. This race looks like a near-tie.

This site is cool because it shows a map of everyone who has pledged to vote, connecting you with the network of people you got to the site. Oh yeah, and Kerry's way ahead.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

In the spirit of Halloween, let's get spooky. Tell me a spooky story. Or anything you like that has to do with Halloween, really.

I should add: Feel free to retell a story in your own way.


In sixth grade math class, one of our big projects near the end of the year was to put together a Geometry Dictionary--a compilation of the definitions of the terms and shapes and rules we'd learned in the subject. I did my usual painstaking work, and was surprised when it was handed back with a B+.

I spoke with the teacher: Why the lower grade? I don't see anything I missed or got wrong.

She said, "You didn't include a table of contents."

"A table of contents? Why? Dictionaries don't have tables of contents. They're alphabetical."

"Yes," she said, "but this one was supposed to have one."

"But why?" I repeated. "It's alphabetical. Dictionaries don't have a contents page."

She refused to discuss it further, and the B+ remained.

There are days, and today is one of them, when the whole world seems populated by my sixth grade math teacher.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Monday Questionnaire

1. Fill in the blank: When I'm unhappy, I tend to become more __________ .

2. In your house, what doesn't work as well as it should?

3. Name something other people seem to notice, but you don't.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Cookin' the Books

Some of my favorite cookbooks:

The Joy of Cooking
why: Want to make a struedel? A roast? Peas with those little pearly onions? Babaganoush? German chocolate cake? It's all in there. Anything you could want to make, anything you could dream up (and some things you couldn't) is in this weighty tome, outlined in clear steps.
drawbacks: If you don't already know what you want, this book ain't gonna help. No photos, no delectable descriptions, just black-and-white, all text pages of multiple versions of omelets, souffles, hush puppies, meatloaf, pancakes...

Cooking Light
why: It shows up every month, a glistening magazine collection of new recipes with enticing color photographs. Highlighted ingredients are usually seasonal. Every issue has a whole section of 20-minute recipes. Oh yeah, and everything's flavorful despite being low-cal and low-fat.
drawbacks: The ingredients can get pricey.

Recipes for Self-Healing
why: Clearly and compassionately explains the principles of food energetics and outlines the energetic properties of each Westerner-friendly dish. (Yay, food energetics without the slimy, weird Japanese dishes!) Recipes are delicious and generally easy to make. Written in a warm, often witty, style.
drawbacks: Some ingredients are difficult to find without a well-stocked Whole Foods nearby. Measurements are sometimes strange.

Eat and be well!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

So Freakin Busy

I barely have the energy to sustain real life, let alone reflect on it. Ergo, the bare bones float of late.

Miss me.

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Often in childhood we will experience something that seems magical, wondrous, perhaps even too good to be true. Reflecting on it as adults (or even experiencing it again), we see its mundanity, its being nothing particularly special after all. Write about a moment of childhood wonder. What mesmerized you? What do you think of it now?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Monday Questionnaire

1. What famous person would you most like to hang out with?

2. What object have you owned the longest?

3. Besides perhaps your job, into what do you invest the most effort for the least reward?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Friday Fortune Cookie

Register to vote if you haven't.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Write an obituary for your favorite condiment.

For example:

Maple Syrup, 1609-2004.

Condiment, syrup, beverage, friend. The Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to make maple syrup when they reached the Americas in 1620, but syrup production long predated those early settlers.

Drawn from the graceful maple tree, this nectar was delicious and versatile. A beloved breakfast companion, it brought out the best in waffles, pancakes, French toast, and even sausage. In later years imitators made largely from corn syrup often masqueraded as maple syrup, but they did nothing to diminish the greatness of Grade A Amber. In northern states, such as New Hampshire, maple syrup made appearances in many gift shops, molded into leaf-shaped candy.

Maple syrup forever changed the way we eat and the way we think about food. It will be sorely missed.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)

Resquiescat in pace.

Monday Questionnaire

1. Name two or three categories on "Jeopardy!" in which you would excel--and perhaps even defeat Mr. Ken Jennings!

2. You're going on an overnight trip. Besides the obvious, what do you not leave home without?

3. What is your favorite board game?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Friday Fortune Cookie

Stress stops the cold.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A Funny Rant

Courtesy of an anonymous friend.

"People like Bush because he's a man of the people, a regular guy. You know what? I don't want a regular guy as my president. I don't want ME as president of the United States! I want the smartest damn person out there. People say Bush is charming. You know what? Serial killers are also very charming!"

A Letter Away, A World Apart

I give you, the other floatlife.

Election Etiquette

Judith Martin has been devoting a healthy amount of her Miss Manners column to politics of late. She has some interesting and insightful things to say, especially regarding the role of the candidate's wife.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Written by the clever Carla and posted by the grateful kStyle.

Admit it: we all like getting that positive attention. So:

1. What do you do to get it? What are your best features?
2. What do you most hate to see other people doing?
3. Describe some positive attention you received but hadn't mongered or expected.

Bonus from kStyle: Write an interview with your inner pop star.

All you need is a dollar and a delusion

I'm constantly bewildered by people who play the lottery, and I love finding new statistics that prove the unlikelihood of winning it. For example, it is six times less likely that a player win the lottery than that the Earth will be pulled out of its orbit by the gravity of a passing star and sent hurtling into outer space.

But here is my very favorite: Your odds of winning the lottery do not even increase by your buying a ticket to play it. That is, you are just as likely to find the winning ticket on the street as you are to purchase it. The odds don't go down even if you don't bother to play!

All of this merely confirms my suspicion that the lottery is the government's tax on stupid people.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Monday Questionnaire

1. You have an extra $5 to buy yourself a little treat. What do you buy?

2. A genie grants you an extra hour of your day on the condition that you don't waste it doing something you have to, like cleaning the toilet or finishing a report for the boss. What do you do?

3. In the movie based on your life, what song plays whenever you walk into a room?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Tell Me

What is the secret of free time? Some people seem to swim through a sea of free time every day, judging by the tales they tell, and often these people are working and raising kids. I have a hard time believing that raising kids affords one more free time than going to school part-time. Maybe it depends on the age of the children? Maybe some people don't require much down time? Maybe they subsist on convenience foods and never floss?

And it's not as if I don't budget my time well.

See It Again for the First Time

Last night I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again for the first time since I saw it in the theater about 4 years ago. What a spectacular movie; it has it all: the Mythic quality, the romance, the cleverness, the pathos, the special effects, the costumes, the sets, the scenery, the heartfelt emotion. That scene in the trees! That scene in the desert! The flying! Wow.