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Visiting Sue and returning with a lovely calendar of patterns from the Boston Art Gallery.
The burgundy, sage, cream colours remind me of my grandmother.
Gloves and hats, she loved millinery and ikebana,
and travelled China and Japan by herself.

Constructing dinner; rice paper, chicken and pork mince, bean sprouts, mint, coriander, garlic, sweet chilli sauce.
We had an assembly line across the kitchen with the dipping sauce at the end.
I love the embossed texture of the wicker drying racks on the round rice paper.

Painting patterns. Working on improving my line quality and rhythm.

(Happy Decemberween, noderkin: I tossed together a Whitman's Sampler of 20 songs plucked from the albums mentioned below, and you can download it right here. Share & enjoy.)

One of the things my dad sent me for my birthday last week was a double-CD of two Dave Mason LPs: It's Like You Never Left from '74 and his self-titled follow-up album, Dave Mason. These were a couple of my father's top-ten albums from that era, back when his life mirrored mine in a lot of ways. (Like me, my mom & dad left Michigan in their mid-twenties and moved to a laidback Cascadian college town-- Corvallis OR, in their case-- to go back to basics and enjoy a hippie lifestyle. Yes, this is basically where I got the idea.)

It got me thinking about what I'd choose as my top albums of this decade, the 2000s.

Furthermore, if you still haven't heard: I broke up with my girlfriend Jet last Saturday and-- although I'm still content with the decision and hope that Jet & I can still salvage a friendship-- it's thrown a ratchet into my brainpan that's been rattling around all week. For any serious topic, it has made it hard to introspect farther back in time than the last few weeks and months, what I should have said and done differently, etc. So-- in true Rob Fleming fashion-- talking about music seems like a nice diversion.

And thirdly, I enjoy making lists. A lot. To an embarrassing extent.

10 years, 20 albums. Make it so.

preamble 1: My first thought was to rank these as a proper top-twenty and count them down, until I realized that ordering them chronologically amounted to nearly the same result. In other words: Albums that are still in heavy rotation in my headphones after 8 or 9 years are-- not surprisingly-- the ones that I tended to rank the highest. So I'll just arrange the list by year.

preamble 2: I decided to only include albums that were released this decade (i.e. after January 1, 2000), since a list of my 20 most-played albums of the 2000s would top out with the first four Belle & Sebastian albums, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and the entire Beatles catalog. I also went through a period in 2006-2007 where my snowboarding soundtrack was nothing but The Fugees and Lee Scratch Perry on permanent loop. etc. Choosing 20 albums is hard enough without having to sum up the entire history of music here.

2009

* Far, by Regina Spektor

I'd been predicting since mid-June that this would be my top album of 2009, and sure enough.

2008

* 3-WAY TIE: albums by local Bellingham bands that you've never heard of, but yet are better than most anything released on a major label that year =
All of My Friends Are Good People, by Go Slowpoke
Take This and Go, by Jenni Potts
New Ocean Waves, by Your Heart Breaks

These three, plus I Love You Avalanche-- aka Anna Arvan, another B'hamster who plays in a half-dozen groups (including Go Slowpoke) yet shockingly has never released an album-- really grabbed my attention in the summer of 2008 and made me realize that Bellingham has a local music scene worth listening to... and more generally, made me realize that most of the truly good music in the world is made in bars and basements, not music studios.

* 3-WAY TIE: some particularly awesome mix CDs =
Horace Phair 6 by flamingweasel, icicle & ouroboros
Audiovisceral Club 1&2 by dann and indigoe
Indieboy Heartbreaker by chaotic_poet

I debated whether to include mix CDs on this list, but truth is I love love love mixes and I tend to reach for them a lot. So if you mailed or handed me a mix at some point this decade, it's a safe bet that I've listened to it at least as many times as each of the other albums on here.

Special mention needed to go out to three, though, for containing a dangerously pressurized quantity of awesome-sauce and being my first intro to several excellent acts.

(technically Robbie gave me Indieboy Heartbreaker in 2007 but whatev, it fits here better.)

2007

* Faces in the Rocks, by Mariee Sioux
* Romance Conflict Adventure, by Best Friends Forever

2007 was the year I moved from my ski lodge in the Cascades back to Metamora for the summer, then I moved (to stay) in Bellingham that fall. Mariee Sioux is beautiful, mysterious, sublime Native-American-inflected folk music from the Pacific Northwest. Best Friends Forever is happy, happy, happy two-girls-and-some-drums pop music from Minnesota. I'd be hard-pressed to locate a better soundtrack for summer in the Midwest and winter in Cascadia.

The rest of these records are (slightly) less obscure, so I'll slim down the commentary.

2006

* The Body, The Blood, The Machine by The Thermals
* Gulag Orkestar, by Beirut

2005

* The Woman King EP, by Iron & Wine

The only EP on the list, but I'd pick these 6 songs over anything else in the Sam Beam songbook.

* Illinois, by Sufjan Stevens
* Picaresque, by The Decemberists

2004

* Sanctuary, by Charlie Musselwhite

Given to me by an old co-worker of mine, "Barnacle" Bob Baker, an Alaskan deep-sea fisherman turned I.T. guy that I used to work with at the college. He knew I liked Jack White and Kurt Cobain, so one day he dropped some real blues on me. 2004 was the year I moved into my first apartment, and songs like "Homeless Child" and "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield" packed (and still pack) a lot of wallop.

2003

* Her Majesty, The Decemberists

2002

* (), by Sigur Rós

2001

* White Blood Cells, by The White Stripes
* Space Lullabies and Other Fantasmagore, by Ekova

Ekova is Afro-Parisienne electronic/worldbeat something something something fusion... Probably the first truly strange album I'd ever sought out and purchased (at age 19) and it's left a big impression. This album and another, similar disc (Bothy Culture by Irish musician Martyn Bennett, which I'd discovered via dad) opened up a massive new sonic landscape for me.

2000

* De Stijl, The White Stripes

This album came out literally a week after I graduated high school, although I wasn't cool enough to know it at the time. (Like most everyone else, I'd only found out about the Stripes after White Blood Cells hit Top 40 and Jack & Meg became kind of a big deal.) Of all the albums on this list, De Stijl is the one that I can see myself still raving about 30 years hence. It deserves a spot in the rock-gods' canon, somewhere between Led Zeppelin IV and Electric Ladyland.

Hell, De Stijl would also make my desert island top-five, next to The White Album and Tigermilk, but that list would be another long excursion all together.

Email from the Extroverted Feeler this morning. He sent it on the 26th, two days ago, since he's 13 hours ahead. He and 7 other exchange students decided to try a small amount of alcohol. Expressly forbidden. Later, one of them wouldn't wake up. They tried and then my son went to the chaperone for help. The kid was taken to the hospital. My son apologizes because he drank and expects to be sent home from Thailand early for breaking the rules.

I am deeply proud of him. He chose to care for his friend, knowing he might get sent home. He told them that they broke the rules. I've always made him read the articles in the paper about teens dying because they've had too much to drink, vomiting and aspirated, or crashing carloads of teens. I would rather he didn't drink at 17 but after that, he made the right decision. He said that the not waking up was not from alcohol and the kid is fine. I emailed right away and said how glad I was that he made the decision to get help.

The Introverted Thinker moved in to his old room yesterday. My beau asked her what her brother would think about that. She explained that she cleared moving in to the room with her brother, using his under the bed drawers and all, before he left for Thailand. She has his permission. He left on August 5. I was not a party to any of this. She was wonderful yesterday, systematically moving things in to the room. I asked if I could help and she said, "I'm moving clothes in to the closet. I would like to work on the bed in about 20 minutes, so why don't you help then." At bedtime she said it felt a bit like a cave, but then she climbed into her bed and said, "Ohhhhh, it feels just like my bed." She snuggled down happily.

I start my commute and temp job tomorrow, going for 3 months. I am not looking forward to the commute, but otherwise I AM looking forward to it. I have missed that sort of work. The setting up the business work is different and alien. I keep pooping out by 3 pm and feel guilty, until I remember that I was up at 4:30 working on things, so really I've already put in a pretty full day. Target date for opening is the first week of April.

The hospital has hired another family practice doctor who does obstetrics and cesarean sections. Damn. So they really won't want me in the call schedule. I wonder what will happen to the obstetrics culture. The two previous newest female doctors who do cesarean sections were fighting with the nurses big time. Our little rural hospital had been way hands off and non-interventional for obstetrics, which is how I wanted to be. The two new ladies (!) were much more interventional. The senior one kept hearing about my cases. She would come tell me what to do. Luckily it was always right after I'd talked to the perinatologist at Swedish. She would advise me and I would respond, innocently, "Oh, thank you, that is so helpful. But I just got off the phone with the head of perinatology and HE said to do this other thing so I'm going to do that....." I've been doing obstetrics for 18 years now, 13 of them in rural hospitals. She may have the extra year of training in ob, but I have more experience. And I didn't agree with half of what she advised me to do. I finally called the Swedish perinatologist and described a case that made me uncomfortable. He said, "Where did she train?" I replied. Long silence, then, "They have interesting ideas at -----." Hee, hee. Anyhow, the newest family practice female doctor with the year obstetrics fellowship was trained at Swedish, so they may have imported someone with ideas more like mine than like theirs. This rather makes me gleeful.

I will miss doing obstetrics, but I don't want to move. The IT is in 6th grade and I want to stick. And if the hospital runs low on obstetrics providers, they'll be calling me. And then it will cost them a SERIOUS signing bonus, honey, serious. I am not really missing call. It is fun to do other things, though I do mourn the obstetrics. I love catching babies. I'm sad to see the culture change, too. I had a patient coming from an hour away, avoiding her bigger town hospital, because we have such a reputation for being hands off. Hands on when we need to, only. Many of the nurses have worked in both places and have told us that it's an entirely different culture. At least, it WAS a different culture. I don't know, now. Don't miss the pressure and politics and hostility. In my new clinic, the CEO, the office manager and the doctor can fight like cats and dogs and all be wrong: they are, of course, all me.

And wonder how the guy-docs-who-do-obstetrics are doing? They done imported alpha bitches who took over. Daggone, they might be missing me. I felt sorry for the two clinics who have ousted me and replaced me with people who are at least as big a pain in the ass, so I took them big Christmas baskets, with candy AND with real food. And a card that said it was for the front office people, nurses, and only added the "providers" as an afterthought. It was all sealed grocery store stuff so they didn't need to worry about laxatives in the fudge. It must rankle a bit to have me bounce around town looking rested and happy, while they arm wrestle the hospital politics. The hospital keeps trying to "standardize" the doctors. Good luck.

It was so nice to be welcomed with open arms by the formerly hospital employed doctors. We are the ones who attend the Continuing Medical Education lectures piped over from Virginia Mason and University of Washington every Thursday and Friday: the employed doctors are too frigging tired. They almost never show up. Dr. L, who is an employed physician, does show up and it annoys the crap out of him that none of the others do. He said to me that he hopes they are "keeping up". As the senior dude and the buddy of the CEO, he ignores the quota of patients and other rules. And he's at the age where the bylaws say he no longer has to take call. All the younger docs have small children and are chronically tired. Bummer, dudes. I offered the new lady docs a discussion of women-doctors-in-our-local-hospital-culture, but they done chickened out. Also, since they have that extra fellowship year, there's a bit of "we are specialer than you", so whatever I've learned in 10 years here couldn't possibly apply to them, could it? Heh. Well, the young ones just gots to learn on their own. Fun to sit back and watch the trajectory. We've been losing slightly over one primary care doctor per year over 10 years, let's take a bet on who will be next!

I just got back from work today, a retail outlet of a provincial liquor control commission. For Americans not in the loop, the governments of each province in Canada (save two) control *all* alcohol sales; you can only buy from government stores, the government sets the minimum price for all alcohol to prevent abuse (cough), and all profits go directly to government coffers, which strikes me as a facile income-generating plan; but it's the government, what are you going to do about it? This results in a blatant, and in fact government-decreed alcohol monopoly; it also means that most towns of 5000 or less, like the one in which I live, have only one government retail outlet, since competing with yourself is pointless in a pure monopoly.

The lack of free-market alternatives, combined with statutory holidays, leads to some unique issues; Christmas Day and Boxing Day are both government statutory holidays, meaning the liquor store at which I work is closed; in fact, every liquor store is closed. You'd better stock up on Christmas eve, cause if you run up short on Christmas, it's a long drive to Maine. As a result, Christmas Eve is something like D Day at the liquor store, an all-hands-on-deck kind of affair.

It also leads to some other, less savoury consequences. Today was the first day we were open since the 24th; consequently, at least a dozen of my customers in the first two hours were suffering with the DTs. Alcoholics, you see, are not rich; they often have to buy their alcohol in small amounts each day, usually twenty dollars or less, which is not helped by government-mandated minumum pricing. So, especially with the Christmas season, they simply don't have the money to stock up for two days and nights without liquor service. I can only imagine what hell they went through on Boxing Day, needing alcohol so badly and yet having nowhere to get it. Consequently, they lined up at the door before noon today, when we opened, and got what they could; and paid for it with shaking, unsteady hands.

I remember serving one lady, shortly after we opened; she bought a 26er of Russian Prince Vodka, the drink of choice among 40+ alcoholic women. She could barely swipe her debit card, her hands were shaking so badly, so I offered to do it for her. I glanced at her face, smudged makeup. She was probably in the depths of hell this morning, but still wanted to look nice. Afterwards, I looked around the store; immaculate, clean, orderly, dignified, with pictures of happy people along the walls. Not a bottle out of place, nary a word of alcohol's unintended consequences. It's like the government created a store which managed, somehow, to deny the very product they were selling. But the facade crumbles quickly.

I sit, writing about the day, mouse in one hand and beer in the other; one of the three cans I bought today (the European half litre cans, not the wussy North American 473ml cans. Like seriously, would it kill them to keep the extra 27 ml???), even though I had some at home. Because that way, I never run out, and I hate knowing that my home is devoid of alcohol. Right now I rationalize it, saying that I just like to unwind after work with a few beers, what's wrong with that? Because there isn't. I just hope that, serving a man who hands me all the money in his wallet to pay with because his hands are shaking too much to find it himself, is not a vision of my own future.

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