Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vincent A. Sondej, 60, died unexpectedly in his Montpelier home February 1, 2015 of a heart attack.  David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars was open beside him, turned to page 301.

Vince was born in Chicago to Vincent Stanley Sondej and Geraldine (Leggdas) Sondej on July 2, 1954. He had a BA and an MA in English from Northern Illinois University, and a BS in Psychology from Utah State University. In Utah he worked as a writer and editor at Netware Technical Journal and LAN Times. He then went on to work as an engineering documentation manager at Novell. He met his future wife, Helen (Sims) Husher, on an internet list serve for copy editors, and came to Vermont in 1998 to nurture their friendship and to work as a technical writer and editor for IDX, later GE Healthcare. They moved in together in 2001 and married in Montpelier in 2005.

Vince loved playing Irish traditional music on his pennywhistles and hosted weekly music gatherings for many years in his Loomis Street home. He enjoyed taking his 25-foot Rosborough trawler, Clancy’s Jig, out on Lake Champlain, where he poked happily around the inlets and islands of Mallets Bay, Valcour, Essex, and Westport, and sometimes pretended to fish.

Vince loved to read and was in the middle of reorganizing his library at the time of his death. He was also concerned about healthy fisheries and waterways, and he recently began volunteering on water quality monitoring projects along the Winooski River. He was a quiet, focused  man, happiest when alone or with a few trusted friends; he was selective but intensely loyal, playful, intimate, and committed to the people who mattered most to him.

He leaves his wife, his mother Geraldine Sondej of Plainfield, Illinois, sister Denise Sondej of Western Springs, Illinois; sister Michaelene and her husband William Murphy of Boynton Beach, Florida; and his sister Nadine Sondej-Robinson and her husband Jerry Robinson of Pacific Palisades, California. He also leaves Caroline and Eric Husher of Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Nicholas Husher and Sia Vissering of Burlington, Vermont, Anthony Pickman of Lincoln, Massachusetts; Allan Pickman, Alex Pickman, and Robin Downes of Temple, New Hampshire; Daisy Welch of Big Bend, Texas, Jason and Suzanne Welch of Derry, New Hampshire, and Jessica Welch and James Maguire of Boston. He had many nephews and one niece. His father predeceased him.

Cremation is under the care of Guare and Sons Funeral Home in Montpelier, Vermont. A memorial service will be held at the convenience of friends and family, most likely in the spring.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Non-Game Wildlife Fund, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2, Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3702.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

sticking my neck out

It seems like once every year or so something has to be done about the mess I've made of my spinal cord, and the result is long absences from work, play, and yes, the web. But like a turtle, I'm ready to venture forth and stick my neck out again. 

The three weeks away from any demands on my time have been alternately boring and delightful--who can say no to sleeping in every morning? But I'm now working again--only 15 hours a week, but very tiring hours--and I'm getting off the evil pain meds and the fuzziness they bring is almost gone. (I'm always mystified by people who love these drugs and become dependent on them, since they make life sketchy, slow, and hardly worth living.)

One thing I did manage to do was start another multimedia mosaic project. I'm a little ambivalent about the quality of my results, but I do dearly love the feel of the polymer clays, the stamps, paint, beads, glass, and paper. This is so-called hobby that is rapidly turning into a major obsession.

This book got me started but now I've veered off in a truly weird direction. Of course it's not at all like real art--my real art is about writing, but I now remember why I went to Pratt Institute out of high school, truly thinking the visual arts were going to be for me.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fortunes told and untold

Think we're over-regulated in the U.S.? Think again.

The Associated Press reports that about a month ago Romania's witches and fortune-tellers had to start collecting taxes from customers, and now  Parliament is thinking about  going one step further: If the witches's predictions don't come true, they could be fined or put in prison.

"Superstition is taken seriously in Romania," says the AP, "and officials passed the tax bill in a effort to increase revenues. The new bill would also require that witches have permits and provide their customers with receipts." They would also be banned from plying their trade near schools and churches, apparently to protect both  the pious and the innocent.

The witches and fortune-tellers counter-argue that they are not to blame for the failure of their tools: "They can't condemn witches; they should condemn the cards." We all know the truism about the bad workman blaming his tools, but this takes it to a whole new level.

First they mess with the zodiac, and we have this new and unpronounceable Ophiuchus, and now this. Where will it all end? Will poltergeists need social security cards?

In the meantime, Romanian officials are almost certainly laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The tile factory

Our house looks the same as always on the outside, but over the past couple of weeks the inside has been transformed into a modest tile factory. I have no idea what I'm doing--if you know, please contact me right away.

This all began when I decided that a recent kitchen remodel wasn't really complete until I had some fancy-dancey bit of decorative tile as a final (if expensive) touch. We're both modern shoppers, so we turned to the web and, after a lot of surfing and squinting,  we finally found something that we think will work. We bought  it and it's coming, but apparently by slow boat from a workshop in Beirut.

But all that shopping--not a normal activity for either of us--triggered a sudden, overwhelming desire in your correspondent to make tiles of my very own. For the past two weeks, once my day job is over, I have started rolling, stamping, painting, glazing, and fooling around with polymer clay while I watch the news. This stuff does not require a kiln--you stick it in the oven of 15 minutes and tiles come out almost exactly as planned.

Now I've reached a stage where the tiles have veered a long way away from the square, straightforward norm and pretty much anything goes--I've been adding little bits of costume jewelry, glass beads, and any number of small household items whose usefulness is no longer obvious. 

In case you're wondering, July 16, 2005 is the day Vince and I got married in our back yard by Barney Bloom, a local justice of the peace; Barney is an old friend with a very large beard. Our wedding cost $57, but it seems to have stuck. And maybe by July I'll be able to figure out how to use these tiles productively to celebrate a worthy anniversary.

Friday, January 14, 2011

the joy of packaging

My sister Caroline likes to preface the Christmas season with a warning against greed by saying, "We're all on a budget, so it's no good asking for a pony." Every year I ask for a pony. This is how families operate.

This year she finally came through, and my delight with this object knows almost no bounds. This is, according to the package, an official "Grow Your Own," the "sixteenth in a series."

The instructions on the back (in what looks like four-point Franklin Gothic) say that the pony will reach full size (600 percent!) if you put it in some room-temperature water and leave it there for three days.

Three days is a long time for a toy to become fully operational, and the instructions also concede that when you take the pony out of the water, "it will slowly shrink back to its original size."

But this is not a problem--it's a feature: "Your grow item can be grown again and again!!" I relish the weird sexual subtext and the sheepish guilt implicit in those two exclamation points. Bang! Bang! I have a longwinded screed about the misuse of this blob of punctuation, but we won't go there. Not today.

Still, it's partly true, as the package says in on the front, that "Your new pony is the best pet in the world. He is very easy to care for and will love you very much." The love part is silly, but he's certainly easy for me to care for, since I never intend to take him out of the bubble pack. My only challenge is figuring out where display him until regifting; my sister will appreciate her own joke just as much when it returns to haunt her.

But wait--why is the pony a "he"? Is another one of the sixteen in a series a mare or a filly, or is the Chinese manufacturer restricted to a production line of geldings? That sounds like something I didn't mean, but this creature is definitely not a stallion. No stud worth his salt would consent to living inside a drinking glass for three days.

Other features explained on the package include, "This pony can live in your house," "Grooming is unnecessary," and, somewhat redundantly, "Your growing pony never needs to be fed, only watered." 

Sometimes if you jumble up a platitude it comes out true--small things can come in good packages.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The news from St Kilda

From  Atlas of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky

St Kilda
Uninhabited; evacuated in 1930.
Last case of neonatal tenatnus in 1891.

"There are sixteen cottages, three houses, and one church in the only village on St Kilda. The island's future is written in its graveyard. Its children are all born in good health, but most stop feeding during their fourth, fifth, or sixth night. On the seventh day, their palates tighten and their throats constrict, so it becomes impossible to get them to swallow anything. Their muscles twitch and their jaws hang loose. Their eyes grow staring and they yawn a great deal; their open mouths stretch in mocking grimaces.

"Between the seventh and the ninth day, two-thirds of the newborn babies die, boys outnumbering girls. Some die sooner; some later; one dies on the fourth day, another not until the twenty-first. Some say it is the diet: the fatty meat of the fulmars and their eggs smelling of musk that make the skin silky smooth but the mothers' milk bitter. Or that it is the result of inbreeding. Yet other say that the babies are suffocated by the smoke from the peat fires in the middle of the rooms, or that it is the zinc in the roofs or the pale pink oil that burns in the lamps. The islanders whisper that it is the will of the Almighty. But these are the words of pious men.The women who endure so many pregnancies and bear so few children who survive the eight-day sickness are silent.

"On 22 June 1896, one woman stands on the deck of a ship that is bringing her home. Like all the women of St Kilda she has soft skin, red cheeks, exceptionally clear eyes, and teeth like young ivory. She has just given birth to a child, but not at home. The wind is blowing from the north-east. Long before she can be seen from the shore, she lifts her newborn high in the air."

This book makes me envious and greedy.--HH

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A place among the arts

Vince gave me a book for Christmas, the "Atlas of Remote Islands," by Judith Schlalansky, subtitled "Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will."

According to the colophon, the books was voted the most beautiful German book for 2010, and I believe it; the author not only wrote it, she set the type, drew the maps, and did the book design.

Under the doctrine of fair use, I quote from the entry for Lonely Island:

"Loneliness lies in the center of the Kara Sea in the northern Arctic Ocean. This island is worthy of its name: it is cold and barren, trapped in pack ice all  winter, with  an average annual temperature of -16 degrees; at the height of summer the temperature sometimes rises to just over freezing.

"No one lives there. A former polar observatory has sunk into the snow and abandoned buildings doze in the belly of the bay, facing the narrow spit of land beyond the frozen marsh.

"A prehistoric dragon's skeleton was found here."