Snorre and I are up late in the living room after our naps. Actually, Snorre is back down for another nap. Hamsters! This is just as well - Snorre is... I don't even want to admit this because I feel like it's payback for all the outraged smirking I used to do at Ritalin (which I'd now LOVE a license to dispense, preferably as a room spray).... but Snorre is one freakin' biteymouth.

I don't know why. We're trying to fix it. Gone are the days of walking around with hamsters on the shoulder (Annie Daffodil) or hamsters running into the hand and gazing up adoringly, mouths closed (almost everyone else). Now it's all, "Ow, Snorre! Here, want a - ow! Ow! OW! STOP. Snorre. Snorre. Ow. I just want to - OW. Snorre! Bad hammie! Fine. Down you go."

Which is weird because he wants to be picked up, he likes being patted, and he's just incredibly soft and irresistable, but... ow.

(Yes, I've checked his teeth. Maybe he simply enjoys the flesh? Maybe we'll take him to Fuddruckers this weekend... and not to Cabo at Red Rock, where I've vowed not to return until I can forget the incredibly mediocre at times actually bad service. I'd elaborate, but then you know I'd get all those comments about how I don't understand how hard waiting tables is and how I shouldn't complain if the waiter does things like spill salsa across the table and walk away or simply hands you a binderless bill then acts surprised that you're paying by credit card.)

Switching topics, perhaps the saddest thing about Kevin DuBrow's death (over on the east/southeast side of town) is remembering that Quiet Riot's one really big hit was a cover. And a cover from a song recorded ten years before. Or maybe the saddest things is that they didn't find the body for six days.

Speaking of death, my cat is old, and we should prepare ourselves for a certain kind of post coming soon. Last week I had a dream that was so vivid and so happy; the former is rare and the latter is almost non-existent. In this dream, Phros was leaving. My mom alerted us to her suffering. After checking on her, I walked into the next room (the living room in real life), where I discovered many of the now-gone hams playing. "So this is where you've been!"

They had huge habitrails and playpens and free range areas. I was holding Barnard as I walked around, watching Minerva burrowing, laughing at Cordelia playing, letting Snug and Snout joyfully run in and out and in and out and in and out of my hand. I looked down (as I held Barnard to my face) and saw Isaac hopping around on his back legs, wanting to be acknowledged. This went on for awhile and I had a great time being with them, and I woke up with a huge grin on my face. By the time it sank in that it was a dream, I was still smiling, just because it had been so much fun, playing and getting to hold them again. It felt (and still feels) as real as any memory. I can cup my hands right now and feel dream-Barnard again, or look over in the corner and see Minerva diving around in all his fluffins.

I told my parents and Mike about the dream as insurance that nothing would happen to Phros. After all, it's always when you don't tell people about your dreams that they come true, right? Then later you're saying, "this is just like my dream!", but feeling foolish and overly dramatic.

But then tonight Dad messaged me to say Phros wasn't well, that Mom came to him and said she thinks Phros is suffering, that she'll go to the vet of course, but Dad's not optimistic. Dad also said, "I guess your dream was true, just off by a few days." For the record, there isn't any thrill in being right sometimes.

However, Euphrosyne is 17-and-a-half, and I did get to just see her (after nearly three years) on our trip to Texas, and after such a good dream with the hamsters, I cannot doubt that whatever her future holds, it will be nothing but happiness for her.

11 December 2007 |


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Our First Christmas Tree

Modest, fiber optic, six feet, peripherally shiny, revolving parts, perfect.

Mike Poses with Pre-Tree

Plush with Christmas Crackers

Our Future Crazy Disc-Swapping Tales

Turn It On

Long Exposures Go White

Staring at the Wall (1)

Staring at the Wall (2)

Lost in the Lights

Like Bubbles

And Thoughts

06 December 2007 |

Previously: Starflash!


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I was looking through a friend's photostream and saw where he had a Kodak Brownie Starflash manual - wow! What a fine-looking camera! Here it is.

Then I wanted to run to eBay, where I could have one in my hands right now (plus shipping time) for under $15, but THEN I discovered that they made a red model with a Coca-Cola decal, so now I have to wait for that to appear. Starflash! Just look at that thing.

What would I use it for? Would I resurrect the darkroom? Haul out the packets of chemicals and sweep the artfully stacked moisturizers under the counter? (Let's face it, no one is using them.) Would I order 127 film from Croatia? Would the thrill wear off in three weeks, me secretly wondering why I didn't just recreate the effects in Photoshop? (And can a person like me even shoot film any more, having to make each click of the shutter count? Remember those days, having to nail your snapshot in one, maybe two, goes?)

Or would I just use it as really cool decor? Some people mount African masks; I hang vintage cameras? Pass the bellows.

And was the Starflash(!) what I wanted? Great name, but what about the Starflex? The Starluxe? The Starmite? The (gasp of pleasure) StarMATIC?

And what about the Art Deco-styled Beau Brownie?

And how long before I became this guy? No, really. This is his daily mail. *flutter*

So I killed some time on the Kodak site, looking at their Brownie centennial tribute from a few years ago, and I learned something interesting: in 1930, when Kodak turned 50, they gave away half-a-million Brownie cameras to 12-year-olds across the country. All you had to do was be born in 1918 and you were eligible. NEAT!

How did that work? Did you just have to trust people not to lie about their age (or their child's age)? You know some 13-year-olds totally scammed this. Likewise, the Kodak site mentions one pharmacist who told a little boy that they'd run out of cameras, when really the druggist was keeping the cameras to sell at a profit later. Jerk.

(Here's the Kodak site.)

So, I'm looking through the family tree database, seeing who was born in 1918. Alas, none of my ancestors, and the siblings/cousins all seem to be off a year or else died young. Was 1918 a low birth year? (Influenza, World War I, etc.?) I like to think that Kodak simply recognized that 12 is just a good age for appreciating a camera and being able to take responsibility for it, but maybe there was more to that decision. (Like, fewer people would be disappointed if they didn't get a camera? Nah, they couldn't have known...)

If you know someone who was born in 1918, ask them now - did they get a free Brownie? What was that like?

05 December 2007 |


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The Breakfast Room as Rear-View Mirror

Yesterday it just hit me: "Oh, let's have a TREE!"

I don't mean like last year's tree, the six-incher from Trader Joe's that, every two months, we stand over and say, "Is it dead?" It's hard to tell with all the sparkle glue. Then I break off a crusty piece and solemnly say, "Look here, I think it might be wick." This is because sometimes I think I'm a Frances Hodgson Burnett character. You should hear me on the sofa, with the "might I have a bit of Dasani?" routine.

Then, we were driving home in the pitch dark, as it is now at six, in the rain that no one's seen for months, and I was making Mike listen to KSNE ("Sunny!") 106.5, which has started its nonstop almost-no-commerical holiday music for the year. Can you believe he's never heard the Bing Crosby / David Bowie duet? (I heard there is a Ben Stiller parody. Link?)

There we were, and I had to temporarily flip to another station because something very diva-ish came on to kill my holiday vibe, and this ad came on. It went on forever about the sales, and more about the sales, and a laundry list of sales, all these holiday items on sale in a shop that seemed to be called "Pada." Neither one of us was very sure, but the announcer said we could check them out at pada-or-whatever-it-is dot com, so I made a note to do that, because a little hello-two-incomes-now splurge on some holiday decor was the logical next note after the "let's have a TREE!"''s opening C.

Well, fast forward past 21 minutes of sitting in the clusterfoofoo that is where 215 and I-15 meet anytime between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. We're home, and I'm looking for that store. I do this for (thinking) no less than two hours. I'm not even exaggerating.

Things I tried:

  • Every possible spelling: pada, padda, poda, podda, padah, paduh, paddah, padduh, padar (Mike with his Commonwealth-Rs convinced me to try this), paddar, podar, poddar, padahr, paduhr, paddahr, padduhr, padha, paddha, podha, poddha, padhah, padhuh, paddhah, paddhuh, padhar, paddhahr, paddhuhr, pauda, paudda, paudah, pauduh, pauddah, paudduh, paudar, pauddar, paudahr, pauduhr, pauddahr, paudduhr, pauddha, paudhah, paudhuh, pauddhah, pauddhuh, paudhar, pauddhahr, pauddhuhr, pata, patta, pota, potta, patah, patuh, pattah, pattuh, patar, pattar, potar, pottar, patahr, patuhr, pauta, pautta, pautah, pautuh, pautar, pauttar, pautahr, pautuhr, pate (I began envisioning a pretentious accent mark that demanded, "schwa me, baby!"), pote, paute, pader, padder, paudder, pauder, poter, potter, bova (we both got a little giddy), and so forth.
  • The member directory of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce (They have a location in Henderson)
  • The member directory of the Summerlin Chamber of Commerce (They have a location in Summerlin)
  • The member directory of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (They've been around since 1958, and I know the radio ad mentioned a third location)
  • The newspaper website
  • The community newspaper websites for all of the Summerlin and Henderson communities
  • Unmentionable variations of Google combinations for the known facts
  • Unmentionable variations of Google combinations for any keyword that might lead to a retailer list for the area or for Christmas decor
  • The entire "P" section of for Las Vegas / Summerlin / Henderson. You heard me.

And then I flailed my arms to and fro and shouted, "I understand everything Michael Stipe was talking about!" Because the Internet was failing me, and if that's not losing your religion in 2007, I don't know what is.

Then there was another hour of listening to the live stream of the radio station I thought the ad might've been on.

Then there was the time-lost-and-never-seen-again of visiting all likely radio station websites and trying to check out their advertisers. (Strangely, few link to their on-air sponsors. Does the Clear Channel suck at programming and marketing now?)

And then there was the dismantling of the closet for The Phonebook. I'll admit I took an unscheduled ten minute break to look at certain sections and wonder if parents in Las Vegas even let their children look up phone numbers. (I was particularly taken with the double-ad for "Mature Escorts." One of them was over 30. Thirty. Does the sickness know no boundaries?)

I did pleasantly discover that a half-inch in the middle of these yellow pages is devoted to printing local restaurant menus. Neat.

Then I looked at every likely category in the book, but I don't even know what kind of store this is. Home decor? Secondhand? Discount? Posh boutique? All I know is that they've been around since 1958 and have stores in Henderson, Summerlin, and somewhere else, and they have a lot of Christmas stuff and a lot of it is on sale, and they have a website, and they think their name is Pada, and they think that's enough information for me to be able to find them.

And then I looked at every P in the white pages. Oh yes I did. Mike thinks there must be an apostrophe or silent-K going on because, I tell you, this store does NOT exist in any online or print advertising. Despite the lengthy prime-time radio spot.

I had to actually ask Mike, "Wait, you did hear this ad, didn't you?" I was no longer sure of anything.

I eventually cheered myself up with thinking of "themes" for this tree that we'll probably not get. (I don't want a plastic one again like I had growing up and as a young adult. I don't know if there are negative environmental implications if you get a real tree. I don't know if I'm still allergic to pine, the reason we switched to fake trees when I was a child. Oh, and Mike thinks it's crazy to put up a tree anytime before, oh, December 22. WHAT IS WRONG WITH AUSTRALIA?)

Theme Ideas So Far:

  • Favourite slot machine mascots/settings ("Invaders from Planet Moolah" - very cute cows in spaceships, "Lucky Meerkats," "Ay, Caramba!", "Village People Party," "Reels O' Dublin", and of course, "Super Happy Fortune Cat, now with Lucky Hamster")
  • World of Warcraft (focusing on ores, gems, cloth, herbs, and enchanting materials)
  • Critters-we-have-loved (duh)
  • Shakespeare (I've told Mike that we are way overdue for another one of our legendary stage performances a deux, in fact it's probably been three years since we produced Macbeth over Skype, and we ought to do something tragic or romantic or historic for Christmas)
  • Controversial Venting (I'm thinking we make a ball ornament for every "weird" name we've ever spotted on a student... it would almost be like lighting candles for the Uneeke's and the DeJamyii's of the world)
  • The Ornaments Disney Ought to Make (Darby O'Gill, Thomasina, the dog who gets wrongfully scolded when the kids run off in Peter Pan)
  • Ancestors (name, dates, places, and something delicately hand-watercoloured to reflect the culture said person brings to the family tree... it's just a pity that neither Mike nor I ever spent a year in the European countryside with an invalid aunt who insisted on paying for china-painting lessons)

Now it's officially December, and it's still raining (like a cloud scrub, and you should've seen the Strat up in the clouds today), and Mike's asleep, and I can't sleep because I get so excited on Friday nights because I can stay up as late as I want, so there. I can read or type or click or read or read or read. Or go to Albertson's for egg nog and to price tree stands and tell myself I can embroider a gorgeous tree skirt while grading essays. Or! I could search for a vintage one on eBay. (I adore shopping products that involve so much research that I don't actually have to buy the item to feel fulfilled.)

Or I could juszzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

01 December 2007 |


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Lest the Negativity Be Abandoned

As mentioned in the last post (if you read the updated version), all the career-related venting of the past few weeks/months has been unpublished. It's a whole new day! (One where I have to get up in two hours and 40 minutes.)

However, I can still complain about other stuff. (I'm still me.)

Like, right now there's this post on Dooce called "Outsourced Caring." As usual, it's an enjoyable thing, and at this point it has over 500 comments. What's the issue? How troublesome the self-checkout machines can be in grocery stores, and how these machines seem to be more about removing positive human interaction (and perhaps attracting negative human interaction) than any actual efficiency. Most comments take this view.

I sympathize, although I seldom have a problem with the machines and I usually really like using them. So many people still avoid them that it's fast, and the only real issue that springs to mind for me is that at one store it won't take my school district Visa gift card because it requires a zip code, and I've yet to find a zip that works. (See, this is where I'm good and don't tell about all the posterboard I then had to buy with my own money and how, once the lesson came to pass, it was So Not Worth It.)

I acknowledge that, since I don't have a toddler and since I've had the time to learn the little oddities of the machines (e.g., "Skip Bagging" can be your best friend, but don't use it more than four times in a row or a human will have to come over), my experience is simply different. I don't think those other people are stupid for having different experiences or feelings. It sounds like they have genuine frustrations.

Meanwhile, I agree with them that stores shouldn't put in 12 lanes but never have more than three open. I agree that self-checkout isn't for all types of customers, and so stores shouldn't try to steer everyone into the self-checkout lanes. I agree that self-checkout can bring out the worst in people, especially whoever is prancing from foot to foot behind you, judging your technique. Oh, and PEOPLE. It is not a mortal sin to form a single line that waits for the next available station. Yes, I know how BADLY you want to form a line for each of the four self-checkouts, but that way leads to madness. There isn't even room for four lines. You may have thought, back in high school, that no one ever uses geometry in real life, but now you see you need those skills to understand why four lines that are this big can't fit into the small rectangle that is that big.

Anyway, it's a good post, enjoyable comments, even if I don't really relate. What I do relate to is bad customer service, though, and heaven knows I don't tolerate it well. That said, employees can be slow, inept, pretty much anything, as long as they're trying to keep the customer happy. One apologetic smile from them and I'm saying, "no, no, don't worry about it" and meaning it. To me, bad customer service is when you're not serving the customer, not even at least thinking you are.

Some commenters say the checkouts themselves represent bad customer service, and some say that, for them, it's the humans running the self-checkout area who are
the problem. A few even discuss how going through any kind of checkout line is just an exercise in unhappiness, a discussion of which evil is lesser follows. Many say how they don't shop at XYZ store anymore just because they've had such a bad self-checkout experience.

With the exception of my local Smith's (where it was Asshat City until recently), I'm pretty satisfied with the retailers on my street. Good job, local Albertsons! Keep up the good work, local Sinclair! Peace to you in this holiday season, national haircut chain whose name I forget but Mike seems to like you!

However, one time, back in Texas, my mom had a bad experience in a chain store. Small city Texas, too, where they brag that these things don't happen. Me, I'd already just about given up on the place and wished my parents didn't even patronize it. Every time I went in the people were unhelpful and rude and seemingly unqualified.

This being a blog and my blog and all that, I ranted about it here. Then I contacted the national headquarters of the store. I shared the link with them, prefaced with a more civil discussion of my frustration. (Not even a form letter back.) I said, in my post, in bold letters, perhaps with some CAPS, that I was unhappy and really didn't want to patronize that particular branch of the chain any longer.

Well, the hate mail. The hate comments. Real hate - as in, really nasty stuff about my mom. (Because she had a brief neurological lapse, a problem we were only beginning to explore with a doctor at that time, and she simply asked the cashier a question, she apparently deserved every bit of poor service she got and probably more, and we - her family - deserved hard time in a small cell with gang members for letting her go into the checkout line by herself.) Nasty stuff about me, too. Lots of personal attacks on how I'm ugly, boring, can't write to save my life, whatever. I deleted things that were just way too off-topic, but I let most of it stay because I thought it reflected poorly on the commenters in ways that my protests and clarifications never could.

Alas, the majority of those who felt moved to comment only saw a bonfire and ran for more wood.

And then eventually the abuse just got ridiculous (someone with a dull axe must have linked to the post, but I never saw where), and I eventually unpublished it for the time being. Why should I put up with insults from people who by their own admission weren't reading "all those boring words"? Insults in what is, essentially, my own home?

Worse than the abuse, though, was the refrain of "if you worked retail, you'd understand why those people deserve to be incompetent and unfriendly."

I could blow off so much of what people say, but this point of view that it's okay to be a jerk when you're having a bad day or doing a job that few people would like to do past high school still makes me mad. It's so unacceptable.

The assumptions that I never worked retail, that I didn't spend years in customer service, that I was just "some student with no real life experience" because I happened to be finishing a degree, that I was just "some teacher with no real business world experience" (as if I was born with a dry erase marker in my hand) - none of that helped, either. That, and people answering my "you apparently didn't read" with "who could read all that garbage" - you just don't want to live in a world where people passionately respond to things they've never read, including attacking the author. (Then again, I join some rather august ranks of writers in suffering through this.)

The real issue was that I thought the cashier acted inappropriately, as had many of her co-workers before, and I wasn't going to shop at that one store anymore. Instead, I was flamed for callously dismissing the plight of the common working stiff and for stupidly abandoning the shopping potential of the thousands of other stores in the chain. And this is why Mike gets mad every time that commercial comes on that starts with, "People are smart."

So, coming back to the self-checkouts. There are literally hundreds of people in that post talking with real angst about the customer service issues they've experienced, with several vowing never to return to the technology/store location/entire company again.

What's my point? Er, I don't know. I think I was just going to smile ruefully.

Maybe I'm just letting people know where to go if they want to attack someone for criticizing, say, the minimum wage employee who, instead of helping customers with machine errors in the self-checkout lanes, is gossiping with a friend. (To pick just one example.)  Let every person who told me that I just didn't GET IT, that these people have to suffer all kinds of idiots and therefore can't be expected to do their job, let those people RUN to this post and unleash the fury of their wisdom.


Maybe I'm making a comment on how blogs reflect a savage aspect of society, where cruel people sniff out the weak (one little personal diary versus the popular powerhouse that is Dooce) and pile-on because they can, using any excuse to do so. (Many of the people who criticized my post were pretty much making stuff up, stuff that I'd never said, because they had their own issues and were apparently desperate to twist my words into whatever fit that marginally-related agenda.)

Not that Dooce doesn't get its hate mail, as many charming posts from the author have shown, but it is surely assuaged by the (deserved) lovefest.

Maybe I'm just pondering the ongoing online confirmation of how unpleasant people can be, and maybe I'm inspired to do that because I have two classes reading To Kill a YouKnowWhat, one class reading not-1984-but-the-other-book, and two classes reading Lord of the Not-the-Rings. So, my day is like this: People are small-minded. (Repeat.) People are hypocrites who enjoy overpowering others. People go savage at the first opportunity. (Repeat.)

Obviously, I shouldn't type when tired (I never meant to bring up that post again, and all of this will probably be deleted after this evening's nap), but I wonder if the thrill of nasty anonymous posting is here for the long haul. At first, people were new to the internet and perhaps not used to living lives where such a variety of experience and point of view had to be considered. Howls at the sacred cow slaughterhouse are to be expected.

But now, now that people have had a while to understand that the world is a big place of many ideas, and everyone can have a pulpit (so no need to crash someone else's and demand a new paint job), I wonder if people will ever rise to more civilized discourse. With the cream that rises, so do the dead fish.

29 November 2007 |

Previously: It's Kind of Shiny.


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It's Kind of Shiny.

In the last post, Reese asked what I think about Project CityCenter, the big casino/condo thingie going up in the space between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio.

I thought I'd already weighed in on this, but then I realized I was probably just snarking on Flickr in my imitable passive-aggressive way. Without checking the link she sent (yet), here is my nutshell view:

1. Condos on the strip = bad/boring. Why? The Strip's appeal is that it is a fantasy playground of exotic/kitschy larger-than-life themery. Condos are sudden off-switches to that. They're locked doors that the carousing public can't access. They're boring gaps between Fun Casino A and Fun Casino B in a space where once upon a time the fun never stopped. Worse, they seldom contribute to the oo-la-la of Vegas architecture. Why not just add a few concrete federal buildings and warehouse distribution centers while you're at it?

(Many of the new casino projects involve adding on condos. Meanwhile, several local condos have gone bellyup before breaking ground, even some on the Strip. We'll see how the demand really goes.)

Granted, CityCenter is not just condos. But, it is a lot of condo-ness. And that lot of condo-ness leads to...

2. My view is being blocked. From several angles. Really, I don't mind change. I don't mind big. I don't mind tacky. I don't mind subtlety. I don't even think that CityCenter, compared to other condos, is without some luminous elegance. It just needs to be scaled down by about a third and to lose some of its "samey" structures. Sure, capitalism is groovy and competition makes for a great Strip, but c'mon, don't bust up the (always changing but heretofore always attractive) skyline with a big glowing clump in the middle. Part of the Strip's charm is being able to see so many interesting juxtapositions of style at once. Speaking of glowing...

3. City Center is kind of shiny, and that's it. When it comes to theme, where is it? I mean, geez, LOOK AT THE NAME: "City Center." Even Detroit had (has?) a more exciting lead-in with the Renaissance Center. (Or the "Ren Cen," as we called it when I was growing up. /derail) Even the Wynn has a theme. ("I am Steve Wynn's Giglamorous Copper-toned Metaphorical Penis.")

You know which significant Las Vegas casino didn't have a theme? Exactly. "City Center" is not fun. It's... municipal.

Having said my unfiltered piece, I'll now check out the link Reese sent.

(Reading, reading...) My reaction? What they said (and they said it better).

As for the one person in their comments who scoffed at the idea of anything somehow being worse than the existing architecture here, well, that person just doesn't get it. Vegas is meant to be the playland you'd imagine up when you were five, powered by Lite-Brites, populated by tiptoed Barbies and giant plush frogs. Nothing's meant to "match." You're five - nothing matches. You wear black patent leather shoes with red plaid polyester pants and an off-white monogrammed sweatshirt. And you are happy. And probably waving a sparkler in each chubby hand. That's Vegas.

And now, a brief sniff over what CityCenter replaced:

Take a Walk on the... Yeah

The Boardwalk was never a looker, let's not pretend it had to be saved, but the theme was fun, the buffet was 24 hours, and the enormous  staring clown head still pays the day school tuition of many a psychiatrist's child.

Bad Clownface

I miss the tram between the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo. Yeah, a new linked transportation system is coming with CityCenter, but all you'll see is glass, glass, glass...

Tram to the Bellagio, Glass that will eventually swallow some magnificent side views of the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and the Monte Carlo.

Project City Center is Eating the Monte Carlo

When I first here, I had to squint my brain really hard and try to remember the first Vegases I saw, 1983 and 1989, times when each neon eyecatcher stood distinct against the rest while blending into a breathtaking cacophany of visual pleasure.

Now I surprise myself by pining for the Vegas of early 2005. More Route-66-style motels, more theme (the Luxor was still Egyptian), more history (Stardust, New Frontier, Westward Ho, Klondike, Boardwalk), and more mild brown landscape to showcase the dazzling lights.

Tram View
photo taken at the Bellagio-Monte Carlo tram station back when it was still in operation, showing where City Center has since started to rise

I really do understand that Vegas is a changing landscape and you can't try to make her stand still and be the same thing forever. That would be wrong. It's not her way. But this? This is just pressing a massive wad of could-be-anywhere modernism gum into her diamond coif.

photo from Wikimedia Commons

Besides, we've already had a "City Center" in this town. Just check the boneyard.

27 November 2007 |


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When I Was Twice My Age

Find Your Own Future You

In addition to the de rigeur tinfoil hat, by 2033 I was in need of glasses and a shave. Otherwise, life was just peace and daisies.

18 November 2007 |


harish joshi

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French Postcards: Corse - Ile d'Amour

NaNoWriMo fingerbarfing continues. Want a better place to go until it's done? Make an Almond Joy Martini. Watch all of the Pixar short films. Wonder whether the analysts are right and there finally are too many Starbucks per intersection. (I can now easily walk to four from home - three of which I can hit without going over two miles.) What do you think they'll become?

Corse - Ile d'Amour

"The long way around to the mountains, isn't it?" Cryn teased the man lying next to her, what the old movie scripts would call a Distinguished Gentleman. His ruddy waves even greyed at the temples, although the small paunch might leave the question of tennis up in the air.

Cryn tried every day not to be breathless and barely-past-30, but this was a bona fide adventure, and since Colin was annoyed when she spent even a few minutes with her travel diary (Away from him? Away from their love?!), she had to talk. She had to point at the statues and notice the shutters and leap around in the wet sea air that whipped around the island.

Colin! Cryn and Colin! Cryncolin! It sounded like an estate already. (Although a double-l would enhance the brand further.) It was like something she dreamed once. Then, two months ago, when they were only four months overdue for Cordes (Was Alice angry? Was Jane angry? Shouldn't everyone be as happy as Cryn-and-Colin?), he held up a yellow legal pad with two drawings on it.


On the left was a sketch of a small brownstone, perhaps in a place in the States. The other drawing was, well, a castle. Circular driveway, trees, grounds. After several months of living in the grimy Corsican street (grimy until their door opened, beyond lay a pristine wealth of hardwood and four-digit thread counts), seclusion from other people's smells had its appeal.

The look that shaded Colin's face was brief and unreadable. Did he take her choice as criticism? Would there be a moment in their lovemaking that night when he'd walk across the room, open the curtains, and wait? Wait with his back to her until she slipped in front of him, naked against the pane, and they resumed? Then the next day there'd be a reason to walk somewhere, slowly, as wives hung their washing and men argued on the steps. For him, an eyebrow, maybe a shake of the head. For her, rude stares, low comments in Corsu.

But that night they only talked, talking until dawn, for Colin did know a little about keeping a woman, even if his confident anecdotes did often trail into boorish territory. Did you really stare down death in the Alps, Colin? Could you tell it again, darling?

Alice called every other night, and always Cryn made wild gestures to put her on the line, let her be the kind of Official Mistress Jane was. But Colin, to acknowledge her presence, only gestured to his cigarettes. Cryn would ignore this and find business in the small bathroom until the call ended. ("Keep well, Alice. Love you.")

Then she'd find him lying across the bed, smoking, reading the newspaper. She hated the newspaper as much as the smoke - the way she wanted to wash her hands after touching the rough newsprint, the way she had to wash her hair again if he made any progress through the pack. He'd lie there, pleasant, sincere, but not passionate. It would be up to her to stir him, to slip her tongue into his oily mouth and try not to think of the one time she'd asked him to rinse his mouth.

And as long as they kept playing this out, she was his, and what was his was hers.

Now, Colin rolled onto his stomach and slipped closer to her, like their life was a slumber party of shared secrets. "It's the longest way to the mountains, my Yankee Rose." She giggled at his whisper, at his hand reaching for her.

"And he just left her there?"

Bramford opened his eyes wide and gave the missus a look he'd learned from his daughter. She called it, "Duh."

"Do you even know anyone in Corsica?"

"It's sorted. Friend of a friend of... well, something. Colin didn't even want to hear it, this time."

"A mess! What about Jane?"

"What about Jane?"

She frowned. She sat down. For the first time in too many years, Bramford remembered his wife when she was just the possibility of a woman, not the force she'd eventually become.

When she spoke, he took a moment just to listen to the clear alto of her voice. She was still music to him. Better suited to a clarinet solo than the cacophonous percussion that played throughout the day, but the song was still there.

"I really wish we'd at least found the book."

Jane waited for Alice to come back into the living room. So he never came to Cordes. Shocker. (She laughed, then measured the laugh for bitterness.)

"Obviously, this has not played out well," Alice had said, her own laugh somewhere between cheery flight attendant and madwoman of the dale. "I'm not dead, true, but you're not rich, either. How... mediocre."

Alice could be a little philosophical; she didn't even know what color Colin's sheets were now, but Jane's mind wouldn't stop coming back to one point: could it have been her? Cryn (What was her last name? Did anyone even know?) was in a sack in the dirt in - pardon the lack of French - freaking Corsica. Colin could've pointed to any ten lackeys to end this with a little diginity, a little marble scratched with a  name and date, but instead - so Mr. Lane told Mrs. Lane told Alice told Jane - it was just burlap and a bribe.

Jane got up and leaned over Alice's laptop. As deep lines tried their way across her forehead, she punched the keys, murmuring, are ee eye dot see oh ehm.

18 November 2007 |


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French Postcards: Challes les Eaux

Below is more NaNoWriMo'ing. Yes, I know I have under 13 days to write 48,000 words, but I keep reminding myself that penning any old crap is not only forgiveable but encouraged. Those who are not so into watching someone take and explore a brain dump should visit a more interesting site for the time being (and probably the time hereafter). My suggestions:

Challes Les Eaux

Jane pitched another wad of yellow legal paper toward where a wastebasket should be. It made her feel more like a hot shot Midwestern executive and less like a deliberately jilted lover, or at least less like a deliberately jilted lover who, despite pages of deliberation on her part, still ended up jilted 15 degrees to the right of where she meant to land.

She meant to land where Alice meant to land, where countless others meant to land, but Colin - like most men - was daft with the telepathy.

Now he was off with another American... Karen? Corinna? The one with the obscenely long shins and big daisy barrettes who, mark Alice's words last night, was just going to take forever to unstick from his bespoke trousers. Flash-eyed Alice, who couldn't walk into the sun now without holding a hand straight out and sucking in her breath.

"Hell on a lolly stick, Jane. Is this 41, is it?"

Jane never saw any of the spots that made Alice bristle like a cornered hedgehog in a sunhat, but she knew about noticing time. Damnit, she'd spent at least eight months on Colin, was yawning in her mouth by the second week, and now she was relieved he was gone, and all of this, she knew, was no way to go about anything.

Jane, born Jennifer and reinvented no later than 19 years later, balled up a fresh wad and failed to bounce it through the ceiling fan. She stared at where it sat on the floor. She could die right now and no one would know what she'd been doing. The paper, like every other one dotted across the rug, was blank.

"If she were here, Alice, she'd tell you herself. It's the very best thing."

Mr. Bramford Lane, until lately of Ipswich, upon hearing the wifely voice in full speech in the kitchen decided to step back into the corridor and perhaps spend several minutes looking meaningfully at the framed photographs instead.

The country home was leased for the rest of April, and it was - the last male Lane of a very long line of very male Lanes would've admitted - completely gorgeous. Monet at his most enviable. Did Monet ever visit the Pyrénées? Didn't matter. The view was worth whatever discussion was taking place in the other room.

He thought of the card he sent to his daughter back in Angleterre this morning. It was one he'd bought from the posh Alps hotel somewhere along their winter journey. Without thinking, he folded his arms deeper into the worn cardigan he'd only just been about to hang over the kitchen chair.

"Saturday 16th

"Back here again in that superb countryside, there's no lift today but the forecast for the week is good. We got up yesterday at 3:45 a.m. and were on the ferry at 6:15 a.m and drove 550 miles towing a glider and got here at 7 p.m. Staying in a hilarious hotel - an ancient and dilapidated chateau that hasn't been painted since 1903! Home next Sunday - Love Dad."

Bramford allowed himself a moment of self-pity. Katherine would tune out when he started mentioning times and distances, and that's what he wanted her to do, just like he wanted her to leave any phone messages down the road at the hotel, where the staff understood the situation. Katherine didn't approve of Colin. She would've Googled the house address and found out it belonged to Colin's property agents here. Katherine did so much internet research on Colin that their just being in Cordes would make her suspicious, but he'd deal with that when they returned. (If they returned.) Bright, their girl, but always looking at the farthest star instead of the sun boiling over her head.

But she hadn't come screaming through the Chunnel so far, and that was a blessing.

"Oh yes, Alice, oh yes - she is an American, and so was Jane. And we both warned you about Jane. Skipping steps is what it is. Oh, stop using that word!"

This is a henhouse, thought Bramford. And I must nest here and pretend to lay eggs.

18 November 2007 |


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Super Happy Fortune Cat... in Moscow!

"What do you want to do?"

"What do you want to do?"

"What do YOU want to do?"

And so it went, all day yesterday, except for the parts where we were napping and realizing that this, the sleeping and not working, was all we wanted to do. Mike, tired from his first week of full-time (outside the home) work in almost a year, and me, just scorched to the soul by freshmen who won't work, needed a little conk-time. But at least now I have a scout, and as Mike subs at different schools and reports back to say the grass really is greener out in the burbs, I'm beginning to believe that it's time to leave the inner city.

Napathons over, it was eventually Saturday evening and time to consult our dining options:

1. Use a coupon for a Station buffet or cafe discount
2. Try something new at full price and justify it as a new adventure

There was also Option 3: before going out, listen to some song on YouTube that Mike loved as a kid. Alas, I wasn't in the mood. You know how it is when people send you links and you're, like, OH MY GOD DO I HAVE TO CLICK NOW WHY IS THERE ALL THIS PRESSURE - or maybe that's not a shared experience? Mike forgave me, though, and if his enjoyment of going out was dimmed by the possibility that we'd get into a car accident and die and I'd never hear this song, he didn't let on.

I mention all of this because it's foreshadowing. The song, I mean. There was no car accident. In fact, at one point while whizzing up Rancho and successfully deflecting many sudden lane changes by other vehicles, Mike said, "You're a great driver. I would've crapped myself by now."

But look - I've given away too much already. Forget that we were on Rancho. Rewind. We're still in the living room, and it occurs to both of us, independently, that if we want something new, we should try a Greek restaurant.

Startled by the synchronous thinking, we brainstorm our plans toward the new restaurant on Rainbow, but THEN, then we remember - hey - what about the Greek Isles casino? We've never been! It could be a restaurant notch and a casino notch! Let's go!

And so we headed to the former Debbie Reynolds casino. But first, we kissed Snorre's goodbye:

Snorre Has Whiskers

Right, right, left, right, left, right, and right again into the Greek Isles parking lot. Heh. Um. We remind each other that this is an adventure as we lock and relock the car a few times. Really locked now? Really? Okay.

Greek Isles Casino Sign

I take several photos. It's dark out, and I'm using the little camera, so they're blurry. Finally, I suck up my pride and use the flash in night-mode:

Somerset Shopping Center and Somerset Motel

I do love these old signs across the street for the shopping center and the motel. This is what new signs should look like. So much better than rectangles and backlit plastic.

I decide to wait to take a photo of the entrance until we leave.

In we go, and the lobby is nice, like we're in a La Quinta in Athens. Directly across from the entrance is a glass door leading to, I think, the pool. And just on the other side of the double-wide door are two cops, arms folded, watching us through the glass.

Okay, er, the small lobby seems deserted, so we pass through an arch on the right into the casino area.

Or, as it turns out, the casino living room. On one side, where maybe your entertainment center and workout machine would be if you were playing The Sims, karaoke is happening. Very, very bad karaoke, with two soccer mom groupies step-touching on the dance square and one unintelligible guy with Elvis jumpsuit and pompadour. Yes, it's so bad it's almost cool, but as we notice another policeman in the doorway with his arms folded, staring at everybody, we decide to keep walking.

Ah, look, it's a little hall and - whew - looks like shops and stuff beyond. "I was afraid that was the whole casino!" I laugh. Mike laughs, too, relieved. "I know!"

We pass in a very short space the wedding chapel (or room with folding chairs) and an open, empty area with some t-shirts in glass cases, and then the restaurant. The restaurant hardly gets a glance; it's dark, and despite being 7:30 on a Saturday night, it doesn't look like it wants to be open. And the special, "Shrimp Diablo," doesn't say "authentic Greek dining adventure" to either of us.

We keep walking, though, encouraged by the sights to see beyond. However, some velvet ropes get in the way.

"Are you folks here to see the show?" (The Greek Isles has a nightly rat pack tribute. As I notice a guy in a Sinatra-style hat, slumped against the slots and watching the crowd, I wonder if the performers are killing time.)

We say we aren't, that we're just looking around, and the usher says, "Oh, there's nothing to see down here. It's just mirrors. This is the end."

We squint. She's right. Wow. So... that... that was it. That bar with 25 slot machines and the karaoke pad is, like, the whole casino?

The people-vibe is just getting creepier, and later Mike will comment that it felt like an old West saloon, and all the piany music stopped when we, two strangers, stepped through the swinging doors. I reckon that, years from now, they'll still be talking about us. "Remember that night when those two  people came in?"

Now we just have to walk around the corner, the unlit corner, where suddenly no cops are, to get to our car. We're just around said corner when two guys follow behind and start to gain on us. "Crap!" I exclaim loudly. "You know what I forgot?" Exasperated at my unspecified stupidity, I turn around and head back to the casino, Mike in tow as the dutiful husband who is used to such featherheadedness.

But then I hear the two guys talking about the wedding that is about to happen inside (see how I didn't even mention the people unpacking yards of taffeta from a car out front while we wondered if they actually saw the place before agreeing to get married here) and I snap my fingers and say never mind, and we go back to the car, pretty sure we're not going to get jumped. (Mike is impressed with my caution and smoothness. At least he says he is, every time I ask for the rest of the night.)

So, we take our one non-blurry photo souvenir of the Greek Isles and head, on a whim, for Santa Fe Station. We have a coupon, and I decide I'm willing to give the buffet a second chance. Plus, Mike has remembered that we have free slot play.

The buffet is every bit as mediocre as I remember it, but it's okay enough for a cheap meal. Unlike Sunset, they still give the slot club member discount in addition to the coupon, which Sunset has recently started claiming is against new corporate policy. So, if you want to save another $2/person and don't mind boring food (except for the spiffy salad bar) in a buffet that's deserted at 8:30 on a Saturday night, well, enjoy.

Santa Fe, however, is very nice. They've been redoing it in the image of Red Rock, plus it has its own nice touches, like the best looking cafe in Las Vegas and a rather grand entrance to its movie theatres.

Our free slot play was a paltry $3, but Mike turned his into $1.65 profit on Wild Goose Chase. Me, I kept looking for the perfect machine.

And then I saw it.

Now with Lucky Hamster!

Now with Lucky Hamster! SOLD!

It's a penny slot with 25 lines, so a 25-cent bet each time if you're like me and can't stand not playing all the lines. (I know it's not logical. A three-cent bet on only eight lines is far more satisfying if you win, but but but... I like to increase my odds of seeing the cute bonus games. Slot machine makers know this, hence the recent trend of 50-line and 100-line slots. Dorks. Even I don't play those. *hair toss*)

After a few spins without any sign of the lucky hamster, this happened:

Super Happy Pay WITH Lucky Hamster

Super Happy Pay! I don't know what happened, but as you can see, by the second free spin we had not only Super Happy Pay! but also Lucky Hamster! dancing to the cutest Hello Kittyish tune you could dream up in your pink anime dreams.

I won $10 or $11 off this spin, and after that the Lucky Hamster was all over the place. I knew these years of rodent stewardship would pay off! Lucky Hamster blesses the seed-bearers and wheel-oilers! Once my 12 spins of free play on Santa Fe's dime was over, we cashed out $20 the richer. Dinner, gas, tip - all free tonight. THANK YOU, LUCKY HAMSTER!

Oh, and it's an Australian slot! Amazing coincidence? No, I'll show you amazing coincidence.

So we're back home, sated, watching last week's Simpsons and running online traps, and Mike sweetly asks me to watch that YouTube video again. See, apparently, when Mike was in 7th grade he had a teacher who abused all of the students by making them do square dancing and Cossack dancing. The Cossack dancing was to a song called Moskau by Eurovision winners Dschinghis Khan ("Who?"), a song Mike had stuck in his head for two days and thought I needed to get stuck in mine:

I finally watch and, hey, it's as cute as Super Happy Fortune Cat! Except less like Sanrio and more like a 1979 parade of matching sci-fi glam suits 1979. But, I genuinely enjoy the song ("This is exactly what Britney needs to be doing to get her career back") and quickly favourite it for later. We sagely speculate on why the song was a hit all over the world but, as Wikipedia notes, almost escaped notice in the United States. Cold War sentiment or just not the yank's Sanka?

Mike is happy that I now know the song, a song he hasn't thought of in over 20 years, but once he did, he just had to share. Domestic bliss is as easy as this.

The evening goes on and I look through my RSS reader for some blog I haven't read in awhile. Language Log? Okay. Click.

And what's the most recent post of Language Log? A discussion of a new language-play fad. The fad? Taking foreign language videos, listening to them as if they were being sung in English, then subtitling the videos with the "English" heard.

And what's their very first example?

Now that's an amazing coincidence. And, hilarious.

12 November 2007 |


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Rocky Mountain Bavarian Apple Beer Blues

Oh, I am freakin' tired. But it's sofa duty, as someone keeps coughing. I hear him now, over the thunderstorms, heah-heah-hearm. Also, if I can't sleep diagonally with my arms covering more bedspace than a limber cat, I almost like the sofa better. If we could push two of these reclining sofas together, that'd be damn nice. Unless someone started coughing and just, you know, killed it.

(Mike's a saint.)

Mike subbed high school for this first time today. He likes it fine so far. He has lots of observations that I would repeat here, because they're his. Also, they're mostly unkind. He was surprised that there's this whole culture of pretending not to be smart. Yeah, I said. I remember downplaying good grades when I was a kid, but this whole thing where, as the teacher, I have to be careful not to praise someone who isn't so popular they can get away with such horrible accusations of cleverness? That just sucks. That, and praising someone in the hall, away from the class, while you're waiting for the campus monitor to escort them away for another suspension, but hey, you want them to know that you know they're smart, and you hope they know it, but they're just not at their potentialblahblahblingityboobahness.... oh, that super-sucks.

Alas, Mike was subbing at the "should I transfer? should I? should I?" school from last spring. Should I? Ask me this spring.

We went out on a 2-for-1 whim to Sunset Station tonight, which was lucky because it was mystery gift day and we'd both forgotten. Tree ornament, pop-out cards, holiday bag... I'll take a picture sometime. Then it was a quick stop in at South Point for two gravy boats, two saucers, and two creamers. Looks like this. I'm not sure I can ever again live somewhere where when you go out to eat you don't also collect an armful of what might as well be grudging wedding gifts from distant cousins. Wait 'til you see the IKEA jars from last week. We have eight.

Free Fixx concert this weekend. Maybe go? Maybe no? Thinking of this (for me) two-hit wonder band (no, wait, three - OMG, is that song really about that? - oops, I mean, FOUR) makes me think of this provocative mystery for any aging new wavers on the vine:

What is this song?

It has perplexed many wise people for at least the past 4 years.
Maybe it's meant to be sped up?
I found out about it through a post on Ask MetaFilter.

Otherwise, these are the things I learned today:

  • That guy who plays the complicated schizophrenic Don on Dirt is actually English.
  • (Supposedly) places that don't have ginger ale on hand will serve you soda water and Sprite. (I'm very skeptical despite too many watery ginger ales in this life. Where does the beige come from?)
  • Mike has never read The Boys from Brazil and now wants to change that. (Guess who subbed for a science class today? And watched many hours of educational video about cloning?)
  • Hey, Ira Levin wrote that book. (I told Mike I read the Reader's Digest Condensed Version one summer at my grandparents' when I was 12 or 13 or so. Mike: "Oh, so it's a kids book?" I swatted accordingly. Luckily, Mike doesn't know what RDCVs are, or he'd have every right to swat back.)
  • They're making a new movie version.
  • Apple beer is not as good as ginger beer.
  • I have apparently underused cameos from The Fixx when it comes to reliving c1983 in my mind.
  • Who said the concert was this weekend? The 23rd and 24th, people. Now what am I going to do 39 hours from now? Sleep? With a parting embed in lieu of kiss?

Same as link above; I don't know how I can enjoy such a repetitive song... is it because some things are worth repeating?

08 November 2007 |

Previously: Andy-Pamby


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Mike: "Ew."

Me: ?

Mike: "Look."

Me: "Ew."

Mike: "Can you name all four members of Duran Duran?"

Me: "Four?"

Mike: "Yes."

Me: "The current line-up?"

Mike: "Yes."

Me: "That's not canonical."

Mike: "But can you name them?"

Me: (SIGH)

Mike: "Go on."

Me: "Are you testing me? Because Aunt ***** did that, and look what happened to her." (Note: We must call her Aunt ***** because she's apparently lucid enough to sue. In fact, I'm not even going to explain what Aunt ***** did, other than to say that I once had a ***** aunt who took me and my cousin in for INTELLIGENCE TESTING one summer when I was vacationing at her house - vacationing! - because she wanted to prove that her child, who had unforgivably failed at being the oldest grandchild, was at least smarter than the heir apparent. The results were not in her favour. Meanwhile, I'm just grateful that I have four aunts with five-letter names. My butt is better covered than the shopping mall toilet seats she would sheathe while we bounced from foot to foot.)

Mike: "Yes. Can you name them?"

Me: "Well, there'd still be Simon le Bon. Nick Rhodes. Probably John Taylor. Then it's either Roger or Andy. Hopefully Roger."

Mike: "And which was the one nobody liked?" (I'm sure I blogged about this before, how Back in the Day - which I really doubt is an expression that originated with hip hop, by the way - girls in any Durannie clique would divide the D2 band members amongst themselves, sticking the weakest cliquee with Andy. Why? Maybe because he was married? Or had extra-puffy bangs? Or cared more about American guitar riffs than synthesized berchon moves?)

Me: "Andy."

Mike: "So, he's gone. You're safe."

Me (as I stop typing to face him): "HONEY. I'm a little too alpha to have that concern. Just how unpopular do you think I was in high school?"

Something tells me we shouldn't have spent all those hours looking through photo albums while at my parents'. (Notice the lack of photos in this post. My cover may not be completely blown.)

04 November 2007 |


Jolynn(my moms name is shari)

what was that all about?and im not so sure if i wanted 2 know what happened to ur "aunt"

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French Postcards: Cavalaire

If the writing below seems unusually cruddy or confusing, see this post. I've no idea what I'm doing and I've never claimed to have any skill at fiction, but I do like trying new things...


Cryn was the fourth American to move onto the street, and people were getting nervous.

That her countrymen were among the fearful didn't surprise her. In the world of extreme and sometimes blindingly wrong generalities, the 31-year-old pursemaker believed in two types of American abroad. There were the emotional ones, who were unnaturally glad to hear another accent where every /r/ came out like gunfire, and there were the wary ones, the ones who saw their fellow Americans as aberrations in the foreign landscape to be resented and avoided.

Naturally, Cryn considered herself the rare middle. As she creased last night's handbills and reached for the glue that smelled like stoppered-up shadows, she did wonder, though, if maybe she oughtn't say hello! quite so much. It seemed to make the locals worry that a sequined song-and-dance number was about to follow.

Kicking her striped socks in a step-ball-change, Cryn let a cat's smile overtake her wide face. If she hadn't been so free with her salutations, she might never have met him.

He stood beneath her window now, buying what looked like seven red pears and a length of water-lilies. Not for his wife, those pears. Maybe the lilies, but the pears were surely for his mistress. Well, his American mistress. That is, the one from Chicago. Not the one from Miami, the pinched professor with the authoritative husband. No, the one called Jane Welts who might as well be British. The one who'd done some country matriculation out in Herts but now was here on the French seaside with her UK friends, now including him, and his wife.

The wife not only knew about the liaison but had, Jane coolly relayed to the grocer, suggested it. Jane would never have told Cryn ("another American") any of this, but Cryn had a good ear for the conversation that took place outside her window below. Weaving gum wrappers and other colourful rubbish into jumbo handbags ("kitschy but serviceable!" read the hemp-tied tag) left the mind free to listen to everything from the current negotiated price of long beans to the harrowing exfoiliation stories that came with the company of the postmaster's sister.

Cryn would've told anybody (American or otherwise) that she didn't fancy (trying the verb on) married men or men with more than one partner or men that other people hyped on about. But now, as her fingers folded another Milky Bar wrapper into a slippy pocket of octagons, she sighed, and her grin widened.

His voice floated up over the battered Algerian tangerines and tiny, underripe Mustang grapes. (Cryn was disappointed that no one, not even the Americans, would marvel with her that someone in France was importing grapes. Perhaps it was not spoken of. There were already too many things like that, at least on this street.)

"That's the outgoing mail, then? Thank you."

Cryn placed the strip of wrappers on the floor, counted to thirty, then was across the peeling room and down the interior steps. The burly grocer's outgoing mail pile was a large mess just inside the narrow hall, added to throughout the day (or week, or once even month) by everyone in the street, and mailed when M. Colubriale to chose to amble the six streets over to the nearest box (and the nearest bookmaker). It was a sloppy system of communication, but to use it was to signal your defiance against efficient timeliness. In Cavalaire-sur-Mer, this was a most desirable trait, outranked only by having your wife save you the effort of finding your own lover. The persistent wind off the sea brought the crisp drive of repose into the noses and lungs of every sort, even the Americans.

Cryn betrayed her earnest flirtation with this culture by writing letters daily, multi-page letters that formed their own pink-marbled stack within the lot atop Colubriale's tray. It was her compulsion to check them daily for tampering, always a little frustrated when the ones opened were not the missives where she'd been sharp-witted on some topical issue of the street. Perhaps she should lick those envelopes more sparingly.

In kind, she often flipped over postcards and held thin C4s to the light. This time, though, she snatched his card, pocketed it, and started walking his recent path. It made her think of that maxim that, if you didn't want to hit a bunny in the road, you must drive straight for it. She scanned the back of cheery scenic card as she walked.

"Sunday 18th

"Will contact on return.

"Dear Jane, Thanks for your card and sorry we didn't see each other at R. N. O. H! We left on Sept. 4th and have been to Annecy, which was so beautiful, but turned wet and so cold. Visited here for two days and didn't care for the Riviera! Are now at Cordes near Dordognes. Weather very mixed but enjoying ourselves. Love, Jas."

James? This was his writing - why was Colin writing a tourist card to Jane? Jane, whom his wife sanctioned. Why was he mailing it when he could've slipped it under her door a few steps down?

Now she was walking on instinct, winding toward the square. Cryn could smell simmering tomatoes and whiffs of parsley. Under her feet she passed brick, brick, brick, faster, faster, brickbrickbrick, brick, brickbrick -

A hand shot out of the doorway. A red pear balanced on the palm.

She stopped, reached to touch -

- the hand coiled back and the pear disappeared.

"You can write, but you can't read?" Mocking, yes, but light.

Cryn didn't move, didn't follow the pear around the corner to the source of the voice.

"Cordes isn't perfect, but it's better."


"Near Dordogne."


"Mixed weather, though."

She felt thrilled, delirious. Luxuriously chosen. Decadently, sheepishly, idiotically on her way.

"Mail the card properly now, will you?"

Cryn nodded, as if he could see.

"Annecy was so cold."

She finally sprinted around, but no one was there.

04 November 2007 |


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French Postcards: La Dent Parrachée

Until my last post, I forgot all about NaNoWriMo.

I don't know why - year after year - I can't get into NNWM. I think it's because of some crazy idea that novels should be written with care. But, let's face it, I'm not going to write a novel if I have to think about it. I like blogging, where all kinds of crap can just fly off my unfiltered fingers and, when the fragments and thinkos appear, I just play the Brain Dump card. "It's just a blog, people. It's not supposed to be good. It's not written for you."

Therefore, NaNoWriMo should be perfect for me. The only requirement is that you write 50k words in one month, with the honor system hoping that it has some sort of novelish structure. The theory is that 50,000 words of garbage is better than nothing. You can edit garbage. You can't do anything with sitting on the sofa and wondering if you'll write a novel someday.

So, I'm thinking, "let's temporarily turn the blog to some absolutely unedited poo-poo novel mash." I don't want to sacrifice one of my two "good" ideas (so good they're locked up in glass cases and never let out) for NaNoWriMo, though, so I'm just going to write whatever. Yes, whatever. I was just reading some (overdue at 25 cents a day but if I return it I'll never come back to it) Theodora Goss, and by page three I was thinking about how it's all Kew Gardens-y, where the description is so lush you don't notice the tiny, meaningful actions at first. (Which I love.) Maybe I should try some of that.

This is my plan:

  • Write 50,000 words of something that has a smidge of fictitious narrative
  • DO NOT stop and edit it (which means this will be painful for anyone uninvolved to read - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)
  • No, really, NO PROOFREADING
  • Let the French postcards inspire the content
  • Try to be descriptive
  • Something fairy taleish would be nice
  • Write at least one hour per day
  • (The caps are me shouting at me, not me shouting at you. You? You're lovely. But you should probably either come back in December or avoid all "French postcard" posts this month.)

Watch me do this, like, once, then bugger off until next year when I come up with a different way to not participate in NaNoWriMo. (Should I mention that I can't even remember my password?)

Here goes.

La Dent Parrachée

It was the afternoon before the night before the eve of Sun-turn, and the grit of the ice crystals made Mrs. Haworth's eyes sore. Sore like the space between Alice and Colin. Sore like breakfasts on Eden Way, when the book sat propped against the window like one of those cards they used to show you back at school. "If a stranger approaches you, look for a window with a helping hand poster." Breakfasts where the grapefruit was too sweet, and the problem of not having a problem made her feel like she was waiting for sentencing.

Mrs. Haworth closed her eyes so she could see better. "I must be very asleep right now," she thought, as her mind filled with ideas of the path ahead. The whirrs of frost were too cold to be noticed. Temperature had turned only to a colour: white. In her mind (or perhaps her eyes were open now), she was marching in place in a box of frosted glass. Perhaps this is what the book meant. "Gnaw the winter's tooth in summer . when you're done, you'll have done'er."

With a grim suck at the back of her mouth, she decided she'd never been so aware of her teeth in her life. They were the wood in the cloth now, banging with all the ancient purpose of a toddler's Christmas morning. Her fevered legs kept one rhythm, and her molars countered. The desire to thrust a mirror into her mouth, grind it, and spit the shiny pieces into the snow beat into her mind with the chattering tempo. What was this? Another schmancy ritual or her dying thoughts? Oh, the cold.

But the "winter's tooth," she knew, was not one of her own icy pearls but this sharp mountain underneath her sweat-sodden feet. "When you're done, you'll have done'er." Lovely. Terrific. The Upper Elmers really turned a phrase. Was she meant to be stomping to the top? Was she even moving? She kept her eyes shut and tried to time her hot breaths to the miserable yanks of her running nose.

Alice had written (and Colin had probably watched), "Hope to get here tomorrow (the col not the peak - it's a bit hard) but have been very idle so far." The postcard showed a tall pick stuck in snow fluff next to a sheety rock. Mrs. Haworth thought of Alice sticking the climber's scythe into Colin's gym-muscled shoulder and, well, just ripping the man. How awful. And absurd. As if Alice would bother. Alice had not even made the col. Just more lost fancy for Alice - the book. The col. The climb. Colin. If Alice had shown any sort of talent for combining imagination with a desire to do, Mrs. Haworth wouldn't be here. Mrs. Haworth would be back in Kent, licking hot chocolate dregs from the rim of her fairy mug. (It would still be too warm for chocolate this time of the year, but Mrs. Haworth could not resist fantasizing about a toasty beverage.) Mrs. Haworth would not be giving bull looks to the unfinished business of the book in the window, as she found herself doing just three weeks ago.

"Very hot these last three days but on a beautiful campsite that we have visited before." And that was Colin for you, always with the reminder that something had already been done, even at the expense of his own fresh experiences. "The tooth? My uncle went, you know. Not that he was a believer."

Not that any of them were believers. Mrs. Haworth wanted to believe, but was that the same thing? The scent (and lie) of greenberries cut through her pacing gasps, and she thought of moonpastes and curled onions and little beans tied into a young man's braids. No, she didn't want to believe. She wanted to know.

"Many French now left and it is not now very crowded. On a ledge above Modane in the Arc valley. Nearly dinner time when we have omelettes and white wine."

The thing about Alice is that she did sometimes try to be useful. Truly maddening, because just when you thought she'd be of some help, that she was pulling with the team, she'd wrap up in mossy blanket for the next year reading the Scottish Romantics and drumming her fingers while talking about water filters or whether the cheese would come on special again soon. Not that Alice owed Mrs. Haworth a thing, no, but it was the hope of Alice that could be so frustrating.

So, the French had left, which meant all of the usual August business was over. ("The august August business," she thought, and giggled. Her laugh was swallowed by the white before it could finish.) And omelettes late in the day meant that Colin up nights again. (He would never be so Continental to eat eggs past ten-thirty.) On a ledge? Clue or meaningless sentence fragment? (Mrs. Haworth, who'd once won a small second place ribbon for diagramming sentences, found herself graphing out the prepositions.)

It didn't matter. She was heading for the right place - if the right place even existed. Mrs. Haworth shook off her suede mittens, pressing two dry palms to her hurt eyes before opening them.

Okay, that's an hour. I don't like Alice or Colin, especially their names here, but I'm obeying the postcard. I also don't know if I care a whit about the book, whatever it is. And, I didn't get into any lush descriptions whatsoever, which makes me sad. (It's a big day when I can wedge in a simile, really.) Better luck tomorrow. Oh, it is tomorrow. Well... there you have it.

I better catch the other half of my sleep now; Mike is subbing on this side of town, which means he'll be dropped off way too early and I'll be in later than usual. This feels alien and makes me anxious, this not getting to work at least an hour early (plus the sitting in traffic, worrying over being late), but it's becoming increasingly important to me to find a way to get everything done within contract hours, so maybe it's all for the good.

02 November 2007 |


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French Postcards: Le Racou - Argeles

Up from the nap. Mike understands the split sleep now, and he swears he's going off caffeine for good, but I don't even remind him that I don't drink caffeine - I'm just tired. After a bad incident with a salad a few weeks ago I stopped eating lunch, and that doesn't help. Dry cogs gnash against each other, the machine unoiled and spitting sparks.

Now it's my turn to try to pack a lunch for him and he's saying no, it's not worth the bother, better to eat at home, and now he'll understand why I often turn down the offer of a perfectly good sandwich. I'd rather wait until I can fully enjoy my food - just the opposite of the fatty stereotype of a mindless eater. Mom and Dad used to say if I was really hungry, I'd eat (the spinach, asparagus, broccoli, dry chicken breast, pot roast, chicken-fried steak). I hope that, after 38 years, I've finally won this argument.

Le Racou - Argeles

This beach is just too blue, as if someone let me use the circular polarizer again. People on French beaches don't have to think about how the district has lost its grant for subsidizing alternative licensure, and people on French beaches aren't multiplying $172 by 36 and asking, "does he at least get a master's degree out of this, or is it just certification?" People on French beaches are noticing that the clouds seem to have ears, and they're not having discussions like, "Well, maybe you should just get the minor in English after all - $300 x 15 - and wait another year before getting your own classroom - $300 x 9? 12? - and then you'll be doing what you think you might really want, except if you feel it's hard subbing in resource rooms of 10 students where half are talkative, have you thought about managing a class of 40? Why can't you just sub a lot and write a bestselling novel? It's day one of NaNoWriMo - go go go!"

People on French beaches would squint at you if you said all this, like you're blocking the sunshine of life. There's no telling how long they'd wait before closing their eyes and pretending to be asleep. Worse, actually being asleep. This leaves you to stare at the sea and mentally compose postcards to Mrs. Ruddock of 39 Barrells Down Road, Bishop's Stortford, Herts, who lives around the corner of the cricket pitch. (You wonder if she would like to hear the story of the badass cricket ball that has left your husband's left arm lumpy even years later. You decide no, save it for a YouTube reenactment.)

"Thank you for giving us good news just before we left!!

"Arrived safely and everyone enjoying life in the caravan. Weather has been mixed but we're hoping to get some hot days too!! See you in Sept.

"Love, Dave and Jenny 'B'"

7 August 1987, mailed from Bishop's Stortford

The good news could be anything, but I think the word "Friday" was involved. Maybe also "Toblerone." Very possibly "three-day conference next month."

02 November 2007 |

Previously: Friday in Fort Worth


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Friday in Fort Worth

I didn't mention it before we left, what with all the loonies out there who might want to break in and steal our... blender? lava lamp? collection of broken hamster wheels?, but last weekend Mike and I flew to DFW to see my family. This trip was thanks to a generous wedding gift from my grandmother, and we had a great time.

After staying up too late on Thursday talking, Friday morning we were roused from bed with the twin lures of breakfast and my parents' cats, the most skittish-of-strangers felines ever to prowl a back porch.

This is "Bubba" and "Bobo" (names always subject to change):

Bubba and Bobo

It's funny, all the little things at a grandmother's house that can be under the radar until you think, "Wait, wasn't this here in 1979? And 1985? And 1997?"


Not that it isn't good to see familiar things.

Picture Wall

Including the mighty Euphrosyne, my venerable old cat.

Mighty Euphrosyne

Euphrosyne, who after half a lifetime of living with my parents, still knows me and leaps her 17-and-a-half-year-old body onto me and loves me with her motor at full roar. Just not exclusively any more.

Phros, with Mom:

Phros and Mom

Oh, my tiny Manx, what white whiskers you have!


On Friday, we went to the old Texas and Pacific Depot, now being restored into lofts (casual photos). My great-grandfather (Dadaw, pictured in oval frame above) was a roadmaster for the T&P line, and his office was in this building. My father, master guide, regales in giving the tour:

Dad, Describing Downtown Fort Worth

Texas and Pacific Lofts

Through the Doors to Your Train (Once)

Me, I was playing with our new circular polarizer. The effects were... interesting. And not completely difficult to take back in Photoshop. I'm learning.

I was enamored of the original cafeteria and its ceiling.

Old Texas and Pacific Depot Cafeteria

Cafeteria Ceiling

And the signs.

Waiting Room Sign

And all the little details.

T and P Door Detail

We didn't go into the lobby, lest the loft sales force descend.

Lobby Glimpse

I liked peering into the mirrored display boxes of the old newsagent's stand.

Looking into the News Agent's Display Case


Downtown Fort Worth is nice, but it's hard to take photos from a moving car.

Worth Center

Blurry, reflective car photos you are spared:

  • My grandmother's high school (Polytechnic)
  • Mike looking at my great-grandparent's house on Avenue G (now a semi-ghetto; also, that link is off by a house or two)
  • other downtown buildings, the other depot (where Dadaw also worked a spell)
  • the movie theatre my parents both frequented as children (and so probably saw each other at least a decade before they knowingly met)
  • the place across the street from my ggp's where my Dad used to get milkshakes (now a Soul Food cafe)
  • my great aunt and uncle's service station and house

We also visited my other grandmother, her ecstatic dog Penny, and her grouchy dog Max.


That night, my Aunt Lisa and Sue came over, which was super-fun. There were stories, more stories, the obligatory impression of Uncle Clyde (a snake of a man), a rather involved discussion of Zimbabwe, a few more hours of stories, and a rousing duet of "Rawhide" that could've made some people YouTube celebrities, if only we hadn't all been sitting there with our jaws dropped and not recording.

And then there was the glorious food. I didn't take photos of any of this, perhaps because our clan values the oral/written tradition above all others. Which is to say, we prefer that any future embellishments aren't hampered by contradictory evidence.

Coming up next, or someday when I feel like it:

  • Eating at "Market Street"
  • Bluebonnet cemetery
  • Dealey Plaza (or how I solve the whole JFK assassination mess)
  • More Phros
  • What to do when your Hi-Fi cabinet won't make sound (1962 version, 2007 version)
  • How to stop screwing up with the circular polarizer and start screwing up with the external flash instead
  • Azle, more tombstones, and freakin' stickers a.k.a. When Not to Wear Sandals
  • Mexican Inn, and the differences between Texas Tex-Mex and Las Vegas Tex-Mex
  • What's wrong with DFW airport
  • How having your mail stolen (along with 30 other apartments) is really irritating because you don't know exactly what was stolen, but you do know that two rebate checks were on their way
  • Why I didn't dress up for Halloween
  • Mike's first day subbing

01 November 2007 |


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The Spring in My Reading Routine

If you somehow aren't into day after day posting about how my teaching career is nothing like what they taught Sabrina, Jill, Kelly, and me at the Academy, I can at least point you to where a few of the good reads are:

The Sneeze. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but a dedicated shout out is deserved by my bandmate Steve. And by "bandmate," I mean, "person I've never met and who probably wouldn't like me or my whiny mouth, but oh crap is he funny, even the skeptical Mike thinks he's funny, especially since he ate the can of silkworm pupas, and that's why he's in the top three for a Blogger's Choice award." I also say "bandmate" because anyone who wants to join his fictional band "The Tree Brains" can (and should, and I did). I even have the t-shirt. (Well, ordered it. And it won't fit when it gets here, but we'll save the fatty-hate for the tearful "Behind the Music" special.) Why "The Tree Brains"? You really need to click here. Then click here. Really.

Then a funny thing happened. Not Sneeze-funny, but "unexpected"-funny. So, not funny at all. I went to check out Steve's competition for best humor blog.

Well, thank goodness I didn't do more than 10 minutes of research before voting for Steve or "Boobs, Injuries, and Dr. Pepper" would've completely paralyzed my decision-making process. (I do want to remind the author that Dr Pepper doesn't take a period after the /Dr/, but she's so wonderful that it would be completely unimaginative of me to suggest that in her world things might not be different.)

I don't know what Crystal's standout "read this blog now and always, amen" post would be, although I thought her honest account of the cliquery at the BlogHer conference (and/or her own worries about being left out) was pretty moving. For the funny-funny, I like what she does to her poor teenager, but this is really a blog where there are so many great posts that I haven't shut down the computer in three days. I cannot risk closing the window where I'm working through her archives and then possibly forgetting to re-open it as soon as I get home. It's that kind of funny.

Finally, a woman who deserves her own post: Bossy. Or, BOSSY. At first I thought "BOSSY" was a spastic fly-on-the-wall of every comment section of every popular mommyblog (such a terrible term - was the great Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons a mommyblog?), with medication to blame for why she talks exclusively in the third person. Then I realized she was super-funny and clever, but she didn't seem to have an RSS feed, so... (You know how a brilliant novel won't be published if you submit it handwritten on a bunch of stapled-together envelopes? That's how I am about blogs without feeds.) Then I checked back and saw the feed, so here I am, regularly entertained and smitten. Her new family tree feature is an idea worth stealing twice.

23 October 2007 |


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French Postcards: Location Unknown

Nothing makes me happier than getting the grading done. Grading I would've had done umpty-ump ages ago if not for my REAL SWELL IDEA to partition the test into several smaller test grades, organized by category. Like, one test grade for vocab, one for lit analysis, one for being able to underline the setting of the story... and this is a great plan, really, but not when it comes out to 11 categories and for some reason, instead of giving a sensible multiple-choice test, you have them answer a bunch of questions about a story, and the questions are all mixed up - Greek roots here, identifying point of view there. Then it's a stupid plan.

But now, thanks to the magic of "let's eyeball that sucker and give 'em a flat-out 50% if they wrote something for half of the questions," all the papers are graded and my hair is washed and I've topped up my tummy, which until now hadn't eaten a bite of groceries since Friday. (Thank you, Station Casinos, for sending us those coupons for two FREE buffets EACH this weekend.)

This, and another trip to the library, plus knowing Mike will be paid for a full day of training tomorrow and will probably be teaching in his own classroom come August, knock every tree in a 30-mile radius including any plastic bonsais, puts me in the mood for a postcard:

France (Location Unknown)

Where is this? It says, except with accents: "EVOCATION CAMPAGNARDE. J'ecouterai la brise et la cri des oiseaux. Qui volent par les champs ou deja ta nuit tombe. Jean MOREAS."

Night tomb? Night tomb? Look at those colours - there is a "La Belle Dame sans Merci"-quality, no? (Did you know that is my favourite-favourite poem? Unless I remember some other poem I like better.) Or there would be, if there were trees. I like to think the photographer is standing in some trees, and since we don't know where this is, no one can say otherwise.

(However, it does seem to say "nightfall," not "night tomb." Still!)

Jean Moreas was a Greek poet who wrote in the French language. (If you care, here's the Wiki link.) Speaking of Greeks straddling cultures, our department is trying to win a costume contest by all very cleverly dressing as authors or characters from literary works, and I'm stumped. Having just had a strong dose of Greek influences in Middlesex, I was tempted to go as a Detroit-born mid-century hermaphrodite. Doesn't seem very school appropriate if done right, though.

Then I was going to go as "The Lottery" - dress in village black with rocks and lottery cards hanging from here and there - but I'm tired of being such a Shirley Jackson fangirl. (Besides, a real fangirl would go as Merricat from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Imagine what you could do with nails and sugar lumps! But then I'm also tired of being a fangirl for "things that are really neat but are not going to be understood without a big explanation, and then everyone will say, 'Oh, cool,' and change the topic.")

So, if you have a brilliant English department-worthy costume idea that can be made cheapily and easily and will either attach to everyday outfits or involve a shapeless muumuu design, please share. (I will even include an MLA-style citation somewhere on the costume to give you credit.) Me, I keep getting sidetracked with thoughts like, "How can I dye my eyes blue so I can go as someone out of Dune?"

Postmark: 30 July 1987
To: Mrs. R. Duke, The Old Manor, Pillerton Hersey, Warwickshire.

Oh my - that is the best address so far. "The Old Manor"? Is it? Or is it a pub? Perhaps a B&B. Just look at it. I must send them a postcard. Put it on my list.

"We have enjoyed the Vendee coast and tomorrow we are off to the Loire Valley. Hoping to meet up with friends at a camp site 8k east of Blois. Joanna has an ear infection so cannot swim for a week which is very bad luck. Hope that Granny D is a little better. Love from us all Alisun."

A little non-eventful for what is currently my preferred card o' the pile. I do think it's good that Joanna can't swim in that water; it's a little too "Lady of Shalott." Wait - maybe that's my favourite poem? Shall I dress a bit waterlogged and bedraggled for Halloween? Or maybe go as all the drowned and pining/crossed-by-love heroines? Lady of Shalott, Ophelia... Who else? (Rebecca? No, too crafty.)

Or! OR! I could make a crown out of spring onions! Tie them to my clothes with bits of mirror and weaving and "bold Sir Lancelot" crush material! (Scallions and shallots are the same thing in some circles.) Maybe some lilies, some barley, scraps of paper reading "tirra lirra".... oh, this is the salve for never being assigned the Defense Against the Dark Arts British Literature class!

22 October 2007 |



Grey choir robe with felt-embroideried scarlet A; Mike goes in black with priest´s collar, take a small student dressed as Pearl. The priest bit may not be puritanically correct, but it worked in the Episcopal boarding school I attended, where we borrowed the collar from the priest.

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Twittering, Chittering, and Clicking

Ever since reading this brilliant thing (update: oops, I mean this brilliant thing - same author), I've been meaning to finally join Twitter. Now I have. Here I am. What about you?

Recent scene in the teacher's lounge (not that we call it that):

Me, changing the topic: "Pumpkin Spice."


Co-worker: "Oh my god. I know."

(later that week)

Me, while someone is talking about something else: "Pumpkin Spice."

Co-worker: "Pumpkin Spice!"

Me: "How do they expect us to sleep?"

Suffice to say, if we'd adopted Snorre a week later, there's a good chance I would've just named him "Pumpkin Spice Frapuccino (with creme base instead of coffee, venti please)." A hell of a name for a little hammie, but it's a hell of a drink.

I think Snorre agrees:

D is for 'Dorable

Snorre seems to be about 2-3 months old; the SPCA didn't know. He's a platinum, which means his "real" fur colour is hidden by white. You can see bits of reddish-brown here and there, especially around his "dust ruffle" and ears. This puts me in mind of our Snowflake, gone almost three years now, but of course he is his own ham.

A very sweet ham, too. At first he had no personality, no clue what to do what the wheel, and completely baffled by seeds being served in a dish. Two weeks (come Monday) later, and he has transformed into an eager sweetie, so impressed with everything he's seen so far (peanut butter on a Milkbone! playpens! CHINCHILLA SAND!) that he comes running when he hears us. What a feller.

If we're sensible, though, we've washed our hands before scooping him up. Snorre feels threatened by the smell of the other male hamsters on our hands and nips accordingly. Well, hand-washing's always a good idea with a new ham, anyway.

Rising, Shining

Mike said I wasn't going to put this picture on Flickr. Apparently his psychic skills were way off. Here he is, having just woken up, and already deep into the "Dumbledore is Gay!" reaction threads:

Mike, Reading the 'Dumbledore is Gay' Reactions

And here he is at the Renaissance fair with a sausage roll, one of the pics I didn't put up before because of that pesky cold:

Mike Puts on 'Excited' Face for Sausage Roll

I also got around to uploading all the photos from our free visit to Madame Tussauds last month. (Once a year they usually let teachers in free. For what it's worth, the Venetian and Tropicana casinos are frequently very kind like this to CCSD employees. Thanks go out to both.)

Unfortunately, I didn't have the external flash then, so most of the photos are either flashy-nasty or dim and blurry. (This was also before the external shutter release, perfect for Miss Shaky Hands here.)

MT in Las Vegas is okay, but the quality of the figures didn't impress me like the one in London. (Then again, I was 16 when I visited the one there.) After some thought, though, I wonder if it isn't because the people being depicted at the Vegas museum are rather fake looking in real life. The better waxworks were of, say, people like Benny Hill. The slideshow is here, and here is one I took of Diana (inexplicably - maybe? - in the "Americana" section) and manipulated a bit:


I do like their Shirley MacLaine mannequin:

Shirley MacLaine

And finally, I think this is what we'd get if Stevie Wonder and Mike went on the "Yamaha" rollercoaster and bought the on-ride photo:

Mike and Stevie Wonder

21 October 2007 |

Previously: It's a BOOGER


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I must be getting better, because now people can look past the red/cracking Jacksonesque syphilis job that is my overblown nose and see that (whisper), "Misssss! You have a.... booger.... right.... there."

I like the ends of colds. Every time you blow your nose, there's a feeling of satisfaction, that the shipment has been delivered in full, no namby-pamby wet that won't wait until the next Coming of the Great White Handkerchief (as Douglas Adams would say). Plus, you can feel reasonably confident that it may be weeks if not months before another cold strikes. (Is that logical? Is it because your immune system is revved up? Or is it a case of your mind willing it so?)

Mike starts his sub training tomorrow (and tomorrow starts right soon). Snorre has a photoshoot this weekend, so his 11-day-and-counting membership in the hamily can finally be announced. Berlin has another free concert at Red Rock on Saturday. Me, I have a pumpkin spice Frapuccino (creme-based, not coffee) sticking to my thighs, but it's worth it. The end of the first quarter is next week, and I may live yet.

19 October 2007 |


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Eric Idle Had It Wrong

I'm feeling better. Another day off, some brand name (read: soft) tissue, unlimited menthol action, a long sleep in the pretend thunderstorm, and tomorrow's warmup being done (we're diagramming dir. obj.) are all positive factors to this end.

Meanwhile, did you know that this site is blocked by the Chinese government? Yes, yes it is. This makes me sad... mostly because I have no idea why it was blocked, and I hate not getting the full poop. Do they have a script that eliminates all blogs by default? Or have I lamented the greasy Asian vegetable offerings at casino buffets one time too many?

Is your site blocked? Test here.

Now to make a PowerPoint about typhus...

16 October 2007 |

Previously: Blue-Eyed Boogers



To Cat Faery Shari: I'd like to purchase the photo of the two donkeys "Friendly Donkeys" - the one of the two donkeys with their heads poked through the barbwire fence. I printed it off the website and have it posted on my office door and just love it! Actually I admire all your photos and wish I had your talent.

My husband and I are retired and started raising donkeys in just the past couple of months. "We love them" is an understatement.

If I can purchase a copy of this photo can I just mail you a check or what?

Nancy Krone
RR2 Box 909
San Augustine, Texas 75972

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Blue-Eyed Boogers

Remember when I said that if I ended up getting a cold then it would be my sucky weekend? Well...

Actually, it still has been a good weekend. On Friday, we ate at Green Valley Ranch for free (and stood in line for an hour with a bunch of other people holding promo cards to do it, but it was good). On Saturday we gassed up, ATM'd up, and hit South Point for 2-for-1 breakfast (not really that good this time, and isn't it a bit slimy that they let people in past 10 but don't tell them that much of the food will be removed at 10:30? And not replaced?).

Then it was off to Mike's first Renaissance fair. I only took a dozen or so pictures and we probably didn't stay even two hours, but that was enough. (It's a small fair, as these things go, and my third visit.) Once again I did not buy a snood or any toasted cinnamon almonds, but that will just my excuse to go next year. Things we did do/see:

  • Watched many people try to hurl an axe (3/$2) at a wooden board. Of course, it was mostly men, and of course, time after time they ignored the advice from the guildies running the show and instead just whammed that sucker towards the board. (And, of course, few ever got it to stuck. People: step forward as your throw, throw slowly, don't bend your arm behind your head like it's a baseball - it will never land straight, and remember that you're throwing the head, not the handle. See, I'm an expert now. I could prove it with a demonstration, but of course I don't feel like it.)

  • A lot of guild people who just sit on the rugs in front of their tents and stare back at you. They're not there for anything but scenery, but the way they just sit and stare as you walk by makes for a disconcerting two-way zoo experience.

  • "Wild Celts" - a band from Dublin that lives in Las Vegas. Their rendition of Foggy Dew is quite good.


  • Sausage rolls! Mike wasn't really hungry, but he got one on principle to take home.


  • Former student. This was a bit weird because her family (all in full garb) kept going on about how they couldn't afford to go last year, complete with giving me the dates the dad got paid and everything. Maybe Mike's right and I really am unusually uptight about what one discusses in public. (I just pass it off as American habits in general, of course.) Anyway, this student was only my student for a few weeks before being moved when they evened out class sizes, but s/he was quiet/bright/a talented writer and I regretted the loss.


  • We didn't see the pirate/parrot show, but I will say the boat is much smaller this year.


  • Some very fake, but very shiny, jousting.


  • The booth for Uffington Horse. We didn't want to hang around another hour for the show, but it firmed my resolve to buy a CD. (Not from the booth, though, because they have a billion-jillion CDs and I need to hear some samples, first. Wait - I only see one CD on their website. Maybe the rest were all for Heather Alexander. Oops. And all the sound clips are in Real Audio. Bah. Well, maybe next year, then.)

    The freshmen were very emphatic on Friday about telling me that "jillion" is not a word. It makes me wonder if there is a term for when you rhyme a word with some nonsense in order to give it emphasis. Kind of like what is done in Cockney rhyming slang, but not really because the original word is not always removed and the rhyming word is not a known word. So, not like Cockney rhyming slang at all, but this is a fine opportunity to say that "nosh" translates to "Becks and Posh" in modern Cockney-speak, which is the title of a very nice food blog.


  • We saw many waterfowl, which Mike had said beforehand was the main reason he wanted to go. (I think  it was still his favourite part.)


  • Lying down in the (merciful) shade and discussing a strange thing in the distant grass was one of the best parts. I thought the strange thing was a peg from one of the nearby wooden displays. Mike thought it was the leg off a Barbie Doll. Mike won.

After all this we went to the Scrapbook/Rubber Stamp Expo at Cashman Center. I'm still wearing the special two-day admission band, but with the amount of snot in my head and papers to grade, that's just not happening, I suppose. Sniffle. It would've been a token effort, anyway. The ongoing make-n-takes were all very childish in design, which is fine if you have children, but even my inner child doesn't have a need for Halloween cards with cartoony "Boo!"s on them. In fact, almost everything seemed kitschy in a non-adorable way.

The show is a lot smaller than the first time I went two years ago, at the Stardust. Now, instead of seeing one new technique/product after another, it's booth after booth of the same glittery/embossed yawns or endless, endless, endless overpriced cutesy stickers.

Oh, there were neat things, like these intricate Animal Spirit stamps (ow, $18?), but how many times would you use such a stamp? It's beautiful, but not practical for me. Unless they make a hamster version. (I think I scared off the intense sales guy by going on at length about this idea. Heh.)

Plus the venue is totally depressing. The expo only uses part of this huge, undecorated, utilitarian room, so it's a little like being at a yard sale in the middle of long-abandoned high school cafeteria. Again, I hate to bring up the Stardust, but when it was there, the classes were in separate rooms, there were banners, there was decoration, and the whole space was filled. Oh, and there seemed to be many more people. So, maybe I'm not the only one who is shrugging and thinking I can find more techniques on the DIY channel and cheaper products on eBay.

Anyway. No more of those expos for me. I say this even as I sit here and wish I had the strength to drive back and do some of the slightly-less-lame classes. (All of which have already been on.) Truth is, I like successfully making arts and crafts, even if it's crap. Maybe I should go to more local events. (Except, those are the ones where they try to sell you everything you just tried. I'll just record more Sandy Genovese, I guess.)

Yesterday we both felt fine as we drove around popping Claritin, sucking cough drops, and chugging Airborne every few hours. (Say what you like about Airborne, but my colds with it are so much better than my ones without. Then again, I thought it killed off my cold on Tuesday, but here it is now. Sigh.) But when we came home, we crashed. Then I was pretty okay until about midnight. 24-hour dose, my patootie. At 2 a.m. I caved in to the NyQuil, which was great... until I woke up. Now everything has worn off, and I guess I really ought to take something instead of sitting here being miserable. (So, hold on, please.)

Ah. that's better. Damn but I hate the way it's easier to breathe when not sitting down (but the cold makes you too tired to stand up just to breathe). I'm having Progresso's tomato rotini soup, purchased ($1/can!) just for days like this. (Days I foolishly thought might not come - after all, I made it through seven weeks of school without one - a record!)

Babbleyabble... oh yes. The title of this post comes from having read Neil Gaiman's blog last night, where he recently linked to the 1966 article "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" - which I'd only heard of, never read. The article wasn't that exciting because a) I'm not into Sinatra (as fun as it is to drive down the street named after him here) and b) what was "New Journalism" in the sixties is old hat now. But, it was still interesting to finally see the article.

Soup time. (I was going to post the renfest photos, but... yeah. Sorry.)

15 October 2007 |


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French Postcards: Paris (Cinq-View)

The net comes and goes today. Mike is still in bed with a wrenched neck. (12 hours and counting, except for those 10 minutes he spent trying to get Snorri to eat tofu off my belly. Or maybe it's Snorre. I guess we'll know which whenever he's properly introduced.)

Paris is very, very far away from here, and never more so than when I'm watching Showtime run a 30-second trailer for Sleeping with the Enemy, which will be on ALL month. Yes, the movie with Julia Roberts. From 1991. All month.

Paris (Cinq-View)

To: Ms. D. Goddard, 43 Dale Avenue, Hassocks, West Sussex

Postmark: 28 June 1987 (when your top movie options would've been Beverly Hills Cop II, The Untouchables, and The Witches of Eastwick)

"Had a great time write more in a letter MAYBE. You know how it is with me. Love, Ly."

Does Miss D. know? Probably all too well. Perhaps this card was introduced as Exhibit K on the therapist's couch the next week.

This card would've been a great journal topic for students. (The original purpose of all these cards, right?) Consider the following appearing on the board for tomorrow's bellwork:

  • "How is it with Ly? Where will this lead?"
  • "Is Ly male or female? Explain."
  • "Why does Ly capitalize 'MAYBE'? Is she thinking specifically of how it is with Miss D. when she does that?"
  • "What do you think is the origin of the name 'Hassocks'? Was it originally a hamlet with a population of people who were proud of their footwear?"

The problem with such prompts is manifold, though:

  • A prompt with two questions, are you nuts? Everyone knows the second question is invisible. (See also: "Do we have to do the back, too?")
  • Literal minds abound. "Miss, how should I know if Ly is male or female? How should I know where the town's name came from? I'm not doing this. No, forget it."
  • Any opportunity to go gangsta cannot be passed up. "Ly's a PLAYA! YEAH!" (High fives all around.) "MAYBE he'll write her! MAYBE!" (Jump up and run a lap around the desks.)

Ugh, it's another one of those nights where all I do is grind the same axes. (I stop typing here to watch the "jojoba" scene from Proof and laugh, though. However, I don't know if I can like this movie. I feel like I have to ration my mopey Gwyneths. Sliding Doors? Sylvia? The Royal Tenenbaums? Yes. Duets? Bounce? No.)

For what it's worth, according to our controversial global professor: "its name is believed to derive from the tufts of grass found in the surrounding fields."

Okay. I'm going to go shake this crappy attitude. I need an art project for tomorrow that involves Greek roots. Or, maybe one hell of a long slideshow with many, many pretty and funny photos. Option one means going out, but out is also where the chocolate lives. Option two means making something that will take hours and can only be used once (this year).

Either way, I think the kids just need something new and shiny and also, of course, useful, and I need for them to be... I need a single, one-syllable word for "speechless, bombarded, not overwhelmed, and surprised when the bell rings."

12 October 2007 |


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If This Were a Shopping Blog

If this were a shopping blog, first, I would advise everyone to have a 10-year anniversary. This is the "tin" anniversary, and in honour of the tintype (plus in honour of things we just really want), we celebrated with the purchase of a nice macro lens and (finally!) an external flash.

Both are great; I can photograph the hamsters from a distance and bounce a flash (no more waiting for day time then throwing open all the curtains), and no rodents go blind or are unflatteringly lit.

The photo below of Arthur was a throwaway shot as I tested the new equipment. He's a little blurry, but still cute. (Cute enough to be #182 in the top 500 photos on Flickr for yesterday. That's down from #140, bur still! It's an honour to be in such august company and all that.)

The Return of Artur Seedwing

(Update: He's back up to #149.)

The external flash is the more amazing of the two. Everyone who said it would change my life was right. Ours is only the entry-level model (it can never be a master, only a slave), but it makes such a difference. The lens is great, though. 100mm, 2.8, USM, and heavy as hell. Still, I like it.

We also got a circular polarizer - another "finally!" - but I haven't tried it yet. I always protect the lenses with a UV filter. I know that's controversial ("why are you covering your nice lens with a piece of cheap plastic?!"), but I know me and I know I'd have a smudgy, spotty, and possibly cracked lens by now without it. However, for the new lens, we splurged on the more-respectable-than-10-dollar-Tiffen Canon 58mm UV filter. It is heavier and more intimidating. I like it, too. Heavy is apparently in. (Seriously, the new lens weighs more than the camera.)

But enough about photography! Hold on, no, here is another photo with the new lens/flash (keep in mind I still don't know what I'm doing yet). This one features Edith, and it turns out that, hey, the girls love their flying saucer after all. It just took a few days for them to embrace the freedom of running with an open view. We're getting more, that's for sure. If this were a shopping blog, I'd advise you to do the same.

Edith in the Flying Saucer

Now, an interruption from a Ronco impersonator: "What would YOU pay to have a flag flown over the nation's capitol building in honor of something YOU choose? Wait! What if we said we were throwing in a commemorative certificate? WAIT! What if we said you get to choose the occasion, choose the day, have the flag flown, get the certificate, and GET THE FLAG ITSELF? What would YOU pay for ALL THESE THINGS?!"

In Nevada, if you choose a cotton flag (instead of nylon), and a 3'x5' flag, then the answer is $17.30 (via Senator Harry Reid or Senator John Ensign). Not big enough? The 5'x8' in cotton is $28.05. That's everything: the date, the reason (optional), the certificate, and the actual flag! S/H included! Who knew about this? Everyone but me, I guess, since it seems to be prominent on the website of every senator and rep I checked.

More stuff I didn't know (according to the official Flag Code):

  • If you don't take your flag down at sunset, then you're supposed to illuminate it at night. (The car dealerships around here will need some industrial spotlights.)
  • "Hoist briskly, lower ceremoniously." (I'm not seeing enough brisk, people.)
  • No draping the flag on your boat.
  • "international usage forbids the display of one flag above another in times of peace." (This confuses me, as my sailing friends would fly both the US flag and the Canadian flag as a friendly gesture when on the Detroit River, with the US on top. Were they actually starting a war? Can I now claim that I served on Chris Craft Battleyacht "Kohn-tiki" under the leadership of General Sharon Kohn's Dad?)
  • You may not "festoon" the flag, and any red/white/blue bunting should be displayed as blue/white/red from top to bottom.
  • "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any way whatsoever." Really? That "in any way whatsoever" seems so clear. And yet, a corpus of junk mail disagrees.
  • The Mexican-born students of a fellow teacher last year? The ones who tried to get her to fly a flag of Mexico in addition to the U.S. flag? The ones who cut a big patch out of the classroom flag? They're going to need to give a lot of CPR to lepers before that karmic debt is paid off. (This is more of an inference from the Flag Code than a quote.)

I can't wait to think of a reason to get a flag flown. Oh! I thought of one! Heh heh heh... (More on this later.)

If this were a shopping blog, I'd talk about the "Noble Collection" brochure that came with the Amazon order. As much as I am tempted to have my own Da Vinci Code Cryptex or the Phial of Galadriel, what my heart really yearns for is a Harry Potter-style Time Turner. If I just believed hard enough...

When we signed the new lease, the property manager (the lovely property manager of what I have come to believe is Las Vegas' best apartment company, hence the new lease) surprised us with a $50 Wal-Mart gift card. I think it will all be spent on subbing outfits for Mike (his training is next week, so the journey begins), but it's nice to shop at someone else's expense. Maybe we'll go crazy and get a $2 propane jug-sized jar of pickles, too. (If this were a shopping blog, we could spend two paragraphs on dill vs butter vs gherkin and another paragraph on slices vs long wedges.)

12 October 2007 |


Heather in PA

Dill baby. Kosher Dill all the way.



Both are great! Canon UV 58 mm Filter is a colorless filter, which absorbs ultraviolet radiation without affecting visible light,effective for reducing distant haze in landscape pictures taken on sunny days, especially when using black-and-white film.

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French Postcards: Saint Paul - Côte d'Azur

In the endless splitting of potential worlds, a sphere exists where I am, just this moment, looking at my emptyish classroom walls (a cute arty project has yet to be assigned), pausing between attempts to photocopy something on the one 20something-year-old machine that is still working. "Just one period left," I say.

Or maybe I'm energetically making a dent in the pile of touchy-feely-differentiated tests that are a coup to administer but so time-consuming to grade. Maybe I'm breathing deeply because, hey, today was a good day. It was just one of those good days. How nice to have one again.

But I'm not in that sphere; instead, I decided to check the "Personal Illness" box and stay home. I grabbed an extra four hours of sleep and marveled that, no matter what all the party poopers say, Airborne really seems to work for me. I feel rested and great. I guess the district would prefer that I barf up the proverbial Ferris Bueller lung if I'm going to stay home, but isn't prevention the best medicine? (And if all I've done is delay the cold by a few days, well, that'll be my sucky weekend, won't it?)

Yes, I feel great. I may even rally the mental troops and bring in some construction paper for tomorrow. Grim is as grim does. Maybe some sunshine yellow cut-outs and the wielding of cut-rate glue sticks will turn my whole year around. (Something has to. It's only October and I'm actively researching potential transfer options for April.)

Meanwhile, I have ruined the lower left corner of the "Saint Paul - Côte d'Azur" postcard. Look below to see it in its former glory.

Saint Paul - Côte d'Azur

Do you ever grab a slim straight-edge and cruise it around the keyboard, gathering tufts of dust and hair that compressed air seems to miss? Do you ever find it hard to stop, always sure there's at least one more satisfying grey puff to extract? That's what happened to the corner of this postcard. I feel bad now. Let's see what the back says.

To: Mr. & Mrs. O. E. Stevens, 117C Versaille Circle, Towson, Maryland, 21204. ("117" doesn't map, but the "A" on the map is 119, next door. The "B" is 111.)

Date: 5 May 1987

Americans! Like me, who was a few months out of high school. Now the French collection will enter a stretch of dates where there will be no "oh, and I was doing this fun/poignant/odd thing." Until I move away from home in 10 months, my biggest adventures will be doing daily yoga, giving up refined sugar, and walking to the store everyday to check for new books and magazines, and hoping to have enough change for one or another. (I'll also run up phone bills to friends in Michigan and New Mexico that will wipe out whatever cash I've earned doing data entry for my parents' business.) I'd like to look back and pine for the healthy habits, but what if I had to take the emotional spending back, too? Or even just the phone calls, which I've come to hate? Better to be fat, I'll tell the part of me that lives in black and white.

"Dear Lil and Steve,

"This has been some trip! Much too expensive, but worth it. Since Venice we have driven to Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Bellaggio, Milan, Cannes, Moriago, and Nice. The last two days were spent in the Dordognes (the Boardwalk area). We are on the road now, going toward Paris. We have seen beautiful art, i.e. "David." However, "The Last Supper" was a great disappointment! We have met some lovely people, stayed in some interesting places, and been through traffic you wouldn't believe! N.Y. should be a piece of cake now! :)"

"Love, Vinie and Alan."

Details, Vinie and Alan! Why was "The Last Supper" disappointing? Why?

My guesses:

  • The painting was in the middle of its major and controversial restoration. (I guess Vinie and Alan were there during a time when the painting was still sometimes available for viewing? I'm confused.) The restoration interfered with their enjoyment of the art.
  • The painting still looked like this.
  • The painting now looked more like this.
  • They found the presence of a woman in the painting disconcerting (Da Vinci Code theory).
  • They found the presence of papal rabbits in the painting disconcerting (South Park theory).
  • Because the Da Vinci was under restoration, they had to content themselves with someone else's Last Supper, like maybe Dali's, or Rubens', or (NSFW and anachronistic to our card) "Yo Mama's Last Supper." Eek.

Maybe, with a little microscopic infrared technology, I can restore the corner of this postcard to its original "buy two get one free" revolving stand glory. Just as soon as I coax another split end from behind the space bar.

12 October 2007 |


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The Michigan of Other People

The weekend went too swiftly, thanks to a little codeine. Boring story worth skipping, but today at school (in a few minutes I will mean yesterday) I was only Her Serene Highness because HSH was operating on 90 minutes of sleep. (What you get after 16 hours of sleep the day before. It should balance out, but it doesn't. Ever.) Now I'm freshly up at midnight with nothing to do but watch Mike put together a "just in case" hamitat. And read!

I've been reading Middlesex in every available spare moment because - dang - Jeffrey Eugenides is a great writer. Great. Who knew that a novel about a Greek hermaphrodite living in the Michigan suburbs of the 1950s/60s would be so accessible? But it is! It's... great! I'm not even halfway through it and I'm so upset because this is it - the man only has two novels, and I've already read the other one. Should I just keep rereading these two over and over exclusively for the rest of my life? Maybe.

I'm still working on To Your Scattered Bodies Go. I more or less like it, but it's a little dated in style, perhaps? (But not in content, and you can't say that about most 35-year-old sci-fi that ends in the year 2008.) Also, I'm not a scholar of Richard Burton, so I'm probably not getting a bunch of in-references. (In fact, everything I know about Sir pretty much comes from that movie where his wife Isabelle was played by Aunt Petunia of the Harry Potter movies, or Ms. Novacek, if you prefer.)

For once, all of the nonfiction is being neglected. I did get into Woe is I and Eats, Shoots & Leaves a bit, and liked the wit behind each, but one of them (I forget which) tried to make a case that we shouldn't use "should've," "would've," and "could've" in writing because it sounds like "should of," "would of," and "could of," which leads to other people spelling it that way. I hope I'm not alone when I put down my teacup and say, "Screw other people."

09 October 2007 |


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Saturday in our Saucers

It's a good morning so far in the hamsterdom. We started with a bounce out of bed at 8 a.m. for 2-for-1 Garden Buffet breakfast buffet at South Point. Yes, I've gone grumpy with their dinner buffet (see Wednesday), but their breakfast buffet is fine at regular price and Quite The Deal with a two-fer. (About $6.50 total, plus a $2 tip.)

South Point

The only reason we have this other buffet coupon (plus the two others in the drawer) is because, well, Mike's fearless about touching the mailroom paper trash bin. Yes, he dumpster dives. If we get a "resident" coupon in the mail, he immediately walks the step and a half to this discard pile and picks up a few more. See, you don't even have to gamble to eat in this town.

This is also how we each got $10 in free slot play today. South Point is kind of neat in that you don't have to put any money in to activate your comped slot play (unlike Station Casinos), but on the other hand, you also don't get told when your slot play has run out (unlike Station Casinos). Mike chose to count his spins, but since we were on nine-line penny slots ("Flip Flop"!), I didn't want to keep count to 110. Instead, I counted my winnings, which ended up being $4. Mike won $6, so breakfast was free as was the gas to get there.

Next we went to an estate sale in a senior community with the most manicured mobile homes you've ever seen. Everything was extremely overpriced, even with today being half-off, and seeing a nice antique photo in an oval frame for sale is still bugging me. Did this person have no family? (Mike was just bothered that we were in this dead senior citizen's home, where their clothes still hung in the closet, and their cans of food were displayed on the counter, presumably for sale.) If it's still going tomorrow and the prices get softer, I may get that photo. $10 was just too rich for me - I'd rather pay that to save a hamster (q.v. below).

This glass was nice:

Estate Sale Glass

This looks retro; alas, it was two feet away from a recently used (but not flushed) toilet that people were simply walking past from one bathroom doorway to another:

Clairol Kindness Instant Hairsetter

This I think I liked, but I couldn't think of any purpose for it:

Seerite Top-Loading Projector

You can see just a tiny part of all the wood craft stuff at this house. In fact, there was all kinds of craft stuff, including several huge boxes of nothing but craft books and instructions, the kind that people buy for $10 at Michael's. However, they weren't marked, and I just didn't feel like going through them then having to ask, then probably being told they were $5 each, given the markup on almost everything else.

After not buying anything (and arguing with Mike over whether a cute old Remington was worth $4 or $10 to us, but certainly not $30 in its current state - mind you, as my father's business for a long time involved selling and servicing typewriters, I stand in a strange state between high standards of repair and suckerdom for nostalgia), we went to the library to pick up a couple of books that'd come in for me.

Mike doesn't like the Spring Valley branch (it's no Green Valley or Sahara West, true), but he wanted to read Richard Dawkins and see what the fuss is about. (So, as I type this, he's in the bedroom yelling out thoughts and questions as he reads. "Who's Oral Roberts?" "Who's Gore Vidal?" The answers are, of course, "oh, this whackjob" and "oh, that writer-guy.") Me, I got the following:

  • Middlesex
  • Woe is I (wanted for a long time, and the wonderful Grammarphobia blog has been the final nudge)
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves (so people will stop telling me to read it and perhaps so I can become one of those people who goes around telling everyone to read it)
  • The Reincarnationist (I saw an ad somewhere)
  • No Uncertain Terms (Even though I've really come to hate Safire, thanks to the more thoughtful, better researched, and less egotistic writing at LanguageHat and LanguageLog)

A little meandering took us to PETCO, where I was temporarily dazzled by this,  but we wanted to give them another "motion" option as one of their wheels has been acting up.

When I saw this, I was sold. I remember five years ago when people were talking on Usenet about how much their hamsters liked running in the "flying saucer," but such saucers were hard to find. Indeed, today is the first time I saw one in person. Of course, our hamhams must be kitted out. Swipe goes the buy-some-love card. (I think the official logo reads "VISA.")

Now I wanted to check in with the SPCA, but Mike was tired, split-sleeper as he is. However, I'm the bossy shrew in this relationship, and the only one legally permitted to drive in Nevada, so we started moseying in that general direction, with the deal being that we'd hit some yard sales instead, if we saw any. Driving on Hacienda toward the Luxor was fun, though.

Driving toward the Luxor

Unfortunately, we didn't see anything worth slowing down for, and so we pulled into the very busy SPCA lot and headed toward critter country...

... and came out without a single hamster, isn't that amazing? Actually, there was (and perhaps still is) a danger that we'd get this older platinum (argente?), but for today we were content to find a Milkbone for him, as he had nothing to gnaw. The SPCA is rather low on hams at the moment, but if you're after gerbils, they have plenty. I don't know what will happen with that ham. We can't save them all, right? And we should be glad they have food, water, and a wheel - which is all that many hamsters ever get. But we do have room in both home and heart, so I don't know... We've reached a point again where any new animals have to be weighed against sacrificing future travel and relocation opportunities, and I don't know how much longer we want to keep postponing the idea of long periods of summer gallivanting.

(Sometimes, when Bonnet is rolling in the sand and looking up at me like he's the happiest creature on earth, I wonder why I can't just read more travel-based fiction or something.)

When I started writing this post, I knew was going to include a mention of how much I hate the buzzphrase "best practices." (Except now I can't remember what the context was.) The first time I heard this expression was in a pedagogy class, and I kept looking for an acronym to explain the lack of article before "best." Since then, I've decided that no one ever says this unless they're just making noise with their mouth to hold up their end of the conversation.

Speaking of travel, Arthur Frommer (the man himself) has a rather good blog going at This is how I found out that the new Virgin America airline is offering $88 r/t between Las Vegas and San Francisco. Oh, the indecision! On the one hand, that's a great deal. On the other hand, I've been to San Francisco. Wouldn't it be better to save the money for a trip to see something new? On the third hand, Mike has never been to San Franscisco. On the fourth hand, Mike isn't burning to go, other than to get some Boudin Bakery lobster bread and see Alcatraz. On the fifth hand, we'd spend the whole time at Fisherman's Wharf, then I'd feel like I had to apologize for that. On the sixth hand, isn't it annoying when people extend the "on the (extra) hand" expression too far?

Now we're back home, and Mike seems to have fallen asleep, as have the girls. Mike finally found a way to fix their old wheel after we bought the saucer, of course, but I still think it's cool and worth having. The girls? They seem to find it unnecessarily toe-tangling. Here is Pepper, unimpressed:

Pepper Warns You Not to Be Fooled

Maybe what they're saying is, "that saucer's for the new hammie - duh!"?

07 October 2007 |



a little nudge toward SFO:

The show opened today & runs through December, I think.

Heather in PA

I loved Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. You must read it. Hee hee!

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No QV on the CV (Keep it QT)

You start with someone wanting to know more about Valkyries, which leads to discovering that The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan is on sale, which leads to trying to try the new recipe for naan (alas, no yogurt), which leads to discovering ick on a blender part (which leads to suds and scrubs), which leads to reloading your Amazon shopping cart for the fifth time in five minutes, but this time you see the IMPORTANT MESSAGE that "the price of Supreme Chinchilla Bathing Sand (64-oz container) has decreased from $7.41 to $5.93 since you placed it in your Shopping Cart," which leads to an urgent ripping open of stockpiled Amazon gift certificates, which - perhaps inexplicably - leads to requesting that Mike be put on the renter's insurance (his trophies must be protected?), which leads to me realizing that I need to create excuses to use "q.v." more. In fact, I think this is the first time I've used it, and that hardly counts.

Last night I was playing with the girls in the playpen while Mike cleaned their hamitat, and they were being so frisky that I had to grab the camera. Of course, it was late, and dark, and right now it's much lighter and they're being even cuter, plus the environment is free of twee pellets, but does that mean I will make a new video, perhaps using the actual camcorder and not just the video function on the pocket camera? No. You get the dark, grainy video without sound, because no one needs to hear my hamtalk.

(Except Edith and Pepper, aka Seedith and Pepperpot. If you notice in the video that there are two darker-than-the-rest-of-the-dark shapes, those are our girls.)

06 October 2007 |


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French Postcards: Les Sables d'Olonne

Postcard therapy.

When last we left, I was making many rushed sentences about a bad day at work, so rushed that I tottered among multiple tenses and unclear pronouns to express my bewilderment about...

And then Mike was out of the shower so the rest of the story (which was only being framed - awkwardly - by the tale of Little Johnny) was left for later. It's like if Chaucer only wrote about everyone sitting down in the pub before the pilgrimage, then he wandered into the pub himself and never returned. And never fixed those cringey errors. How I envy all of you bloggers who bother to fix them. I bet this inindifference tastes minty and refreshing.

As anyone who has ever slept on it understands, I'm far more mum today. Not mum enough to delete, but mum enough to hum quietly. To sip orange-banana juice. To look at postcards.

The events of the past 26ish hours since last we left shall now be coyly revealed as we discuss... LES SABLES d'OLONNE.

Les Sables d'Olonne

This card was sent on the 28th of August, 1986, to Mrs. J. Wood of 2 Burnside Cottages, Wix (Wix?), near Manningtree, in Essex. If a baby had been born that day, then emigrated to America where the legal drinking age is 21, and that baby - whom we will call "Annette" - and I went out for a drink on that day, it would've been after my second day of teaching freshies this year. I would've been far more starry-eyed than I am now. There would be no hint of times to come where admins boggle me two days in a row with behavior that seems both friendly (unlike yesterday) and insulting (like yesterday).

The card starts innocuously enough: WEDNESDAY.

(This means the card was actually written on the 27th. Do you know what I was doing on the 27th of August, 1986? Probably sitting in a quiet, carpeted hallway upstairs at Clements HS in Sugar Land, TX, far away from anyone who might ask why I wasn't at lunch. There I always was, sitting against the wall, reading a book. When the rare teacher did walk by, they just assumed I had permission to be there - what student would sit in the hall and read if they weren't allowed? Maybe, like today, they were just happy that I was reading. Not that this would fly at my school, where I think I'm still happy, although I'm feeling underimpressive.)

"Dear Judith and Lydia, We arrived at our camp site yesterday. It's a splendid site with every possible facility. On the way down we stayed at two Hotels and enjoyed some French cuisine.

"Now going to have some goats cheese, French bread and red wine! See you soon, Love Rosemary and Geoff."

I think it ends with two little Jesus-fish. Maybe it's just an ornamental flourish. Maybe it's both.

Things that are not splendid:

  • South Point's Garden Buffet when they don't have cream of mushroom soup or the pasta station fired up
  • Doing a better "by the book" job than ever this year, with regards to following state/district/school/department standards, calling parents, documenting every step, and providing differentiated learning for 40 people through a variety of activities, five times per day, yet suddenly being smacked with the cold, wet, non-Jesus fish of passive accusations and self-doubt.
  • Students who still question the theory that interacting with the material (by studying it, reading it, listening to it, sculpting it, cooking it, something) is linked to success. See also: Students who tell you that, you don't understand, they need this grade for (sport), and, you still don't understand, they don't have time to study, because do you know how much time sport takes up? (I've heard this four times so far.)
  • Thinking you're being light and encouraging with a student, only to have them say, "Why are you flirting with me, miss?" Oh, forgive my gender-neutral pronoun, I meant, "only to have her say." However quick you are with authoritative bewilderment, it's not quick enough. Even the idea of a teacher flirting with a student... blech. Plus, I'm unhappy because I keep getting this vibe that the kids think I'm a lesbian. (Not that there's... etc.) Normally it would just be amusing, but right now I'm not into being misunderstood or being insulted (according to their values, not mine)

Things that ARE splendid:

  • Rosemary and Geoff's campsite
  • possibly Judith and Lydia
  • a former student who, when hailed from the doorway, quickly ran to the office because you had a pair of hands coming out of your classroom ceiling
  • that the freshmen could also see the hands (total mental snappage remains at bay)
  • when the hands belong to an unexpected construction worker up in a crawlspace, and not to our own Bad Ronald
  • pilsner glasses
  • co-workers who assure you that everyone has trouble with the admins eventually + co-workers who hint that, being in the 4th year now, you were overdue for admin/teacher conflict + co-workers who are equally boggled + co-workers who check on you later
  • seeing Barry Manilow at the Hilton from the 5th row, while twirling a feather boa and waving a glowstick

05 October 2007 |

Previously: 38

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My birthday was the expected non-event, except for the part during one class when all the kids wanted to call my husband and wish him a happy anniversary. This, I suppose, still has nothing to do with turning 38, and everything to do with leaving behind single digits forever. It's fun being a newlywed and having a 10-year anniversary at the same time.

Mike sneakily not only ordered off Amazon for my birthday present, but he ordered off the list, as in, he didn't get anything on the wishlist but went for his own choices instead. So brave! Also, he says he doesn't trust my wishlist anymore. "I just don't think you really want everything you put on there," he says, which really means, "boy, who would want anything you put on there?"

Then, not only did he research which items would be the best to fit his idea, but he somehow picked up the package and hid it from me while I was only a room away. (Thank goodness for the my habit of coming home and lying on the bed, grunting and moaning until the 9th grade day evaporates.) And THEN, he not only went to the corner drugstore and chose wrapping paper that he thought I'd like, but he wrapped the present himself.


I was so excited by this that I didn't even want to open it. I just sort of snuggled the box, cooing over the bulky tell-tale edges, and kicking my feet with happiness over our first celebration of my birthday/our "real" anniversary face-to-face.

Eventually everything was (carefully! carefully!) opened, and I am the pleased owner of books on Indian cooking and crockpot cooking. Mike says there is a value-added option where I can mark what I'd like and he'll make it. I rather think that if his interview with the school district goes well next week, it will be doing the cooking for awhile and him lying on the bed boggling over These Kids Today, but the books are so neat that I'm a-okay with that. We've already decided the Indian book is worth it for the naan recipe alone - it's the only one I've seen so far that uses a skillet, and it practically promises puffy bread, as opposed to the solemn oval wafers I've been making so far.

Mike says holding the camera up and taking a picture of yourself never works, but I decided to grab the moment as we sat in the perpetually dim and rainy bedroom.

Passing Face (at 38)

There are few photos of me because I seldom let go of the whirrbox, and Mike seldom tries to take away my doll. Also, I pose awkwardly. And, everyone says I photograph worse than I actually look. (Great. Sure.) So, when Mike & I both independently decided that a new camera lens would kinda-sorta fit the "tin" aspect of the 10-year anniversary mark, it a) seemed meant to be and b) seemed odd as joint-gift because it's so rarely Mike behind the camera. However, I don't plan to question this mutual budget/fun-fun decision, and I think a 100mm macro lens may be in our future. You'll know when you start seeing the parade of hamster eyeball shots. (Sounds like a drink with ouzo, vodka, and grenadine.)

30 September 2007 |


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None is Nany and None are Nitpicky Now

Okay, I thought I was correct about usually using "none" as a plural all those years, and it turns out... I was. Now to find that paper where my professor changed "None are (whatever)" to "None is (whatever)." Maybe that can go on the list for next summer.

This will be a relatively short entry because it's birthday/10-year-anniversary eve, and we have a lot of Doctor Who to watch while tangling toes on the sofa.

("Tangling toes" is not a euphemism.)

Teaching is... a whole other post. I was going to do my usual thing of saying "whole nother," but I don't want to ruin my fresh "none" credibility with such slang, which I suppose really ought to be written as 'nuther.

And since the current status of freshman ranching is better expressed when daleks and timelords are not a pressing concern, I'm not sure I have anything else to post. Hm. Um. I'm thinking of making homemade mac 'n cheese tonight. I brought home another armful of old yearbooks that my school doesn't have room to store. (The page from 1970 featuring Negro History Week, with a spotlight on the "Negro Queen" and her court, needs a scanjob for the sociologists among us.) Some postcards that were mailed a month ago finally arrived, so we can resume the fun of that. Um. Later!

26 September 2007 |

Previously: Once-Used Words



Hye my name is shari too


hi my name is shari toooooooooooooooo


lol ok well my name is shari this is very weird i am from ireland


lol ok well my name is shari this is very weird i am from ireland


lol ok well my name is shari this is very weird i am from ireland

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Once-Used Words

I'm using some free word frequency/concordance software to see if I really only use (have?) a vocabulary of 4000 words, as some suggest "we" all do. (Compared to Shakespeare's 20-something-k, "they" say.) I exported the last seven-plus years of blogging for study, although I suppose I should also add the Pixie Dust mss, tech columns, academic papers, and the odd spills of never-to-be-finished writings that get buried in subdirectories.

I should, but right away I can see this will be a huge headache, even with just the blog. The software considers "never-to-be-finished" to be its own word, for example. It also counts "abbey" and "abbeys" separately. I can understand the divisions between "admonish," "admonished," and "admonishing," but even that will take more sorting than I like.

So, what with having 6,712 other things to do today (like lie on the bed in the dark and worry about the week to come), I just want to focus for now on those words which surprise me, for I seem to have genuinely used them only once on this blog:

  • prodigal
  • unmindful
  • brazen (really? wow...)
  • amidst (again - really?)
  • gelatin
  • spookily
  • pimiento
  • miniskirt
  • supinate
  • cloak (huh!)
  • hygiene (perhaps this is a good thing)
  • spry
  • bedfellow
  • beeline (these last three disappoint me especially)
  • tenacious
  • sanity (oh surely that's wrong? no...)
  • ethical
  • ornamental
  • earring

Actually (a word I've used a thousand times already), the list goes on for pages and pages, and I stopped cherry-picking for the faves above after page three. (Thus still keeping secret my underuse of "fiery" and "fumbling.")

I don't know if these being one-offs is good or bad, but it is surprising. It just feels like "lustful" "sorority" "wolverine" "foreplay" has occurred more than once, I guess.

Perhaps simply replacing a few of the 1238 uses of "something," the 894 uses of "things," and the 774 uses of "thing" would help. (To say nothing of the 17 "thingies.")

1.1+ million words and no Hamlet yet...

24 September 2007 |


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Delicious Pakora, Cuddly Bunnies, Doctor Who Pinball, and then there was John Waite

In celebration of either my birthday (later this week) or our ten-year anniversary (same as my birthday), we set out to make a day of being about in the cooler autumn weather, which has arrived at last. Thanks to an gushy downpour on Friday night plus the happy-happy that is always late September, we can now travel entire miles from our home without worrying how long we can stay somewhere before the car becomes unbearably hot.

We began with a celebratory trip to Tamba. No, wait, we began with a trip to the bank. Then we came home so I could brush my teeth. Have you ever forgotten to brush your teeth? I admit it - I do not run for the basin and brush immediately upon waking, despite all those filmstrips of the 1970s. I usually enjoy a beverage, arguing that any particles need to loosen, and then I brush.

Unless something (genealogy, in this case) distracts me, and it's not until we're in the car that I say, "hold on."

So, yes, I felt very sheepish to go all the way to the bank with grotty teeth, and now everyone knows there is someone in our country who is not brushing her teeth first things first. I expect CNN coverage on par with the "leave Britney alone" creature. (Have you seen Seth Green's response?)

Once I was dainty, we headed to Tamba. Oooo! Big secret about Tamba: THEY HAVE FREE PARKING RIGHT NEXT DOOR!

All you have to do is get to it. Heh heh heh. Alright, here's the thing with the Strip. You never drive in the northbound right lane between Tropicana (where the MGM/Trop are) and Harmon (Planet Hollywood/Harley Davidson Cafe). NEVER. Unless you want to be there. But why would you want to be there?

That lane is full of people who don't realize that it becomes right turn-only, at which point everyone tries to get out. So, you also don't drive in the second-most right lane between Trop and Harmon. That lane will be full of people trying to escape the RTO one.

Furthermore, all of those people making right turns? Yeah, they get to turn, like, once per twenty minutes, or something crazy like that. Why? Because the tourists never stop walking. Red hand light, white pedestrian light, it doesn't matter. A Humvee could be halfway through the turn and they'll just walk right in front of it. (Rather chilling if you know that some of us brake with no more than a big toe between being stopped and rolling over the family with the M&M World bags.)

I love tourists. Tourists are why I'm able to live here. Tourists make things fun. They just don't let you turn.

However, if you are brave, then the turn for Tamba and the rest of the Hawaiian Marketplace's parking lot is just past Smith and Wollensky. Good luck! It's an incredibly convenient space and absolutely free.

Tamba was generally delicious, although I wish we'd been at a table instead of a booth. (The booths are very curvy and were a little hard on my back.) Instead of happily lingering and having the fried dough/syrup bobbles, we pretty much jumped up when done. Oh well. The food was still great, though. They didn't have kadhi for the pakora, but there was a spicy sauce with some yogurt base that was almost as good. The nan was incredibly soft, and I continue to find it completely depressing that all of the nan I make comes out like crusty white bread.

I love the little camera, but I always miss the proper one when I come home and see what the little one has done. Here's my blurry plate:


Here's Mike's blurry plate:


And here's our view of the restaurant, also blurry:


Afterward, we spent the expected seven to eight hours (it seemed) getting out of the parking lot and back into the nefarious RTO lane, followed a long month of waiting to turn (I admit to using the horn and perhaps entirely ruining the once-in-a-lifetime-vacation of two previously oblivious fratmen from Ohio), and then we were off and around down Paradise.

It was at the corner of Paradise and Tropicana that I stopped making gagging noises long enough to snap a photo of this monstrosity.

Absolut Blech

(If the blur/size makes it hard to see what's going on - the Luxor now has a giant Absolut ad across the front. Because, you know, the Luxor has decided to get on the nearly dead bandwagon of wooing celebutantes to its resort by getting rid of much of  the Egyptian themeing and instead putting in a nightclub named after LA's airport. It's disappointing to see them not have a go at redoing the Egypt look with more flair, and instead to embarrass themselves by trying to be the next Palms or Hard Rock, circa 2004.)

I pulled into the Liberace Museum parking lot, but Mike was "eh" about walking around the museum after a big meal of masala-this and chutney-that. The only thing that saved him from my sighs was the big sign saying locals get in free on the second Sunday of the month. Nice! We'll be back.

Next, on a long-put-off whim, we hit the exotic pet shop at Trop and Maryland. The one famous for Paris Hilton's visits. It didn't have anything incredibly exotic on this trip, but we really enjoyed the bunnies.

Three Black Bunnies

Sneepy Bunny

Freckled Bunny

I'm used to skittish rabbits or rabbits that stare at you from the other side of chicken wire. These bunbuns were completely amenable to being petted at length. Oh, the thoughts Mike and I sent zipping down the telepathy lines! But, until we have a yard or at least a house, rabbit cages just look too depressingly small.

So, we moved on and waved to the bearded dragons and degus:

Bearded Dragon Wants Out


And of course spent quite a bit of time in the hamster area, watching one small ham try to both nurse and mount what is probably a very pregnant female. Ew. (Not easily seen in this photo)


Then it was further east on Trop for a spectacular Uooey (or whatever Mike calls U-turns) for what I pretended was a fill-up on the car, but Mike spotted the Pinball Museum before I even got the card swiped.

The outside is modest:


This inside is also pretty modest, but row after row of fun:

Where You First Come In

Unfortunately, we had some kind of knack for picking machines with gimpy flippers or machines that liked to eat quarters (to mixed results of resolution from the attendant). It was fun, but you had to start out accepting that the game, once it had your money, may or may not work, and that made it hard to cut loose and just enjoy all the great pinnies.

I guess you could stick to the ones that say "NEW FLIPPERS!", but I like the old wooden ones. I ended up being a big fan of Dixieland, mostly because it gives you 7 balls and occasionally locks the flippers, and when you're as bad a player as I am (someone who can watch ball after ball go down the hole without hitting anything), that's important. It did hold my ball for awhile, until Mike gave it a nudge (shhh):

The Ball is Stuck in Dixieland

How can you resist a game with a clarinet score?

Clarinet Score

Or a final score that can't go over four digits?

Final Dixieland Score

Also, the museum stocks Chocolate Soldier!

Chocolate Soldier

I continue to wonder how we went all of those years not knowing Elton John was gay.


It's not just row after row of working or semi-working pinball machines. Most have handwritten cards of lore attached. For example, the person who made (paid for? designed? commissioned? owned? I don't know) the "Royal Guard" pinball didn't like blue on pinball machines, so he went with lots of purple for the fourth colour instead. I think it's from... hmmm... 1968? Early 1969?

Royal Guard Detail

We did have a good time for awhile, and I took a bunch of photos that didn't come out whatsoever, but in the end it's never money wasted when you can play five balls of Doctor Who, is it? We then we headed to Green Valley Ranch for the free John Waite concert.

View from GVR

That's the Strip from the top of the GVR parking garage.

Yeah, okay, and here's the part where I was going to write a big review about what a bummer the John Waite show was. But I'm tired, and I don't like ragging on someone who has given us so much great music and may have been having an off night. An incredibly off night. A rumoured-to-be "I'm so pissed that GVR didn't market this show that I'm going to take it out on the audience with, at best, a tired stage persona of stoicism and as few rocking numbers as possible" kind of off night.

Maybe it was the empty seats (even in the front rows) for a free show. Maybe it was the new band that, while competent musicians, doesn't have the showmanship in their own right to really turn this into a "full band" show. Maybe it was Waite playing up his new countrified rising star (he's nominated for a CMA award for the remixed "Missing You" with Alison Krauss) that meant every song was required to be performed as a spoken word piece. (Remember when Stevie Nicks used to sing, but then she just sort of starting talking through each song like Bob Dylan? It was Just. Like. That. Except Nicks and Waite should be Nicks and Waite, not Dylan. There's only one Dylan. Everyone else needs to hold the note or embrace a melody or something.)

There I go, saying I'm not going to say anything, then saying stuff. Maybe Waite had stomach flu and was doing the best he could. But if that's the case, he really should've chugged some Pepto while onstage, or given us some sign that he wanted to be less... less... er.... boring.

I can't believe I just called the guy who wrote "Head First" boring. Hey, we all have our boring moments. (God knows I share many of my own here.) But on stage? After 30+ years in the business, you can't at least put on the act? I know the show was free, but a lot of people waited over two hours to get in. (Not realizing that the tiny theatre would never get more than half full.)

I felt bad for Mike, who waited in Australia all those years to see Waite, then finally came here and, bam, John's off his game or playing a new game or who knows what. I asked Mike which shows he's seen since coming here that were worse.

Blue Oyster Cult? Go-Gos? Berlin? Beach Boys? REO Speedwagon? Foreigner? No, even Foreigner, with all the skanky people trying to smoke in the pool at the Beach, and with Mike being a Lou Gramm man who doesn't think the new singer compares, had more pep. Held more notes.

In the end we decided Waite tied with the animatronic bears that Sunset Galleria has out at Christmas time. Which is not a criticism, really, because we really like those bears. Although, "tied" is really just a mercy term. The bears at least look at the audience.

We watched the meet-and-greet next to the slot machines for a few minutes before walking away. He didn't look like he wanted to be there. We couldn't honestly commend him for a great show. Below are the four most charitable video stills, mostly from his version of "All Along the Watchtower" - one of the few songs he seemed to wake up for (but again, he's not Dylan):

John Waite - Video Stills

So, an era ends. I respect a man for doing what he wants to do. That's how it has to be. It doesn't mean I'm going to pay to see it, even for free. John, send up the batsignal again when you can remember all the words to "Midnight Rendezvous" or can move more than your mouth through "Change." Until then, bonne chance in your new career as the sleepy man's Lyle Lovett. Really.

24 September 2007 |


Jay Lee

Excellent photo post!

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Freakplates and just Freaks

If you'd like a bookplate signed by the Freakonomics authors (theoretically to stick inside your copy of Freakonomics), the two gentlemen are generously offering them for free. I like that TypePad knows how to spell Freakonomics.

Did anyone watch Bill Maher last week? Mike actually laughed more than once and didn't go on any diatribes. Usually he thinks Bill Maher is okay, but he remains suspicious that Bill's going to whip out "lefty entitlement crap" at any moment. Me, I always protest that Maher is critical of both major parties, but Mike is used to the frustrating left/right dividing lines in Australia, which strangely do not correspond to the left/right lines here. Here, your gun-hating pro-choice atheists who want health care for all don't tend to vote to the right. There, I guess it's quite different.

Then Bill had to go and put PETA on (actually, that was the week before last), which got Mike's hackles up, and frankly I'm not a fan of them, either. I do see how extremism can be effective in pushing people toward a happy middle (say, one where people still keep eating chicken, but it's healthy, free range chicken), but I'm not sure if effectiveness makes it right. However, the PETA person was actually pretty diplomatic. Hm.

Then we watched Bill O'Reilly because Mike had never seen FOX news, and now I think he understands a little better why he could never just mindlessly vote conservatively here as a matter of habit. (No offense to any BO'R fans, which includes my dad. I just can't get behind a man who doesn't let people finish their sentences, not that this sleazy talk show technique is limited to O'R.) Strangely, Bill O'Reilly also had a person from PETA on, and this person was also quite agreeable and moderate, and O'R was generally decent towards them.

So, maybe I need to reassess PETA. Maybe there is a new regime that is more about sharing information for informed choices than about dismissing anyone who isn't a vegan in soy slippers.

That same episode (because, believe me, I'm not watching O'Reilly more than once in a calendar year) had Dennis Miller on for some blurbing. I know I've mentioned this before, but I've always liked pointing out how much I enjoy both Maher and Miller. It's my way of saying, "Hey, I'll listen to both sides and acknowledge their good points. Check out groovy me."

But this Miller who is on Bill O'Reilly? That's not my Dennis Miller. That's some frothing snidemeister with a jigger of shots so cheap you could get eleven frat boys drunk on them for under a buck. What a disappointment. Sure, comedians tailor their work for their audience, and I understand the No Spin Zone demographics, but the Miller I saw that night was just whoring for the lowest of the rahrah. He wasn't pithy or insightful in a way that makes you admit that he has a point, whether you want to agree or not; he was just piling on. I'd rather have watched more of Bill O'Reilly, honestly, and just typing that makes me sad.

So, the new patch applied to my inner software has changed a few attitude settings: now PETA might be reasonable, and now Bill O'Reilly might be more moderate and watchable than Dennis Miller. I'm still not crazy about any of the presidential candidates.

Anyway, last week Maher had a Princeton professor on as well as Mos Def. You'd think I'd shudder at Mos Def because of his role in the HHGG movie debacle, but I have been careful to blame the writers/director/whatever/even Adams, not the man thrown into the doomed job of playing a chopped up Ford Prefect. But after last week's show... okay, was he, like, high?

Don't get me wrong - Def stayed pleasant, and not everyone would when their September 11/moon landing hoax theories were being questioned. I give him that. But... yeah.

One great bit, the bit I was thinking about when I started writing, the bit that was just going to be one sentence or four, not all of these paragraphs about politics when I could be talking about how excited Mike was to spot the Halloween-style Oreos (it's not really an Aussie holiday), was when Maher was talking about how the Koran basically advocates "killing the infidels," and Def kept saying no, no way (Def is Muslim), and Maher had some fun with that and, at the risk of being culturally insensitive, it was pretty damn funny.

(Mike is definitely not used to left-leaning people who criticize the Koran. I don't mean to be all Mike-this, Mike-that, but it's just been so eye-opening to both of us to see that what's left or right in one Western English-speaking country does not necessarily align with the left/right ideals of another Western English-speaking country.)

Not that I'm in agreement with everything Maher says - now and again he gives me the cringes - but he does let people finish their sentences. I'll listen to anyone who does that.

13 September 2007 |

Previously: In Our Manse


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In Our Manse

When I woke up from Nap #37 this morning (the consequences of too much sun yesterday), the apartment looked different. Weird. Like... a showroom.

Mike was sitting on the sofa, typing away as usual.

"Um, honey... did you..." (I struggled to put my finger on it) "...vacuum?"

"No, I didn't want to wake you, so I picked up every bit of fluff on the carpet by hand."

And that was not sarcasm. He really did. He vacuumed with his fingers. He also sailed through a gamut of other activities that include "cleaning the toilet for the second time this week" and "reorganizing the storage closet to accommodate the things Shari dragged out this summer but never used, like the turntable and several death certificates from the 1950s."

Oh my God - do you reckon he's pregnant?

So, while he's having his nap, I've hung the rest of the curtains, reorganized the bathroom counter where Raisins used to live (including setting out a soap dish that was one of our faux wedding gifts - long story - and filling it with bath bombs), and put away the rest of my summer crap that Mike wanted to put away but didn't know where it was supposed to go. (I didn't either, but that's what Rubbermaid latchables are for.) Oh, and I've put two bottles of ginger beer in the fridge to chill.

The only thing keeping us out of Architectural Digest is that we haven't rearranged the refrigerator magnet poetry in months, and I'm sure some hater in the tabloids has let it leak that the appliance bulb in the lava lamp needs replacing.

10 September 2007 |


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The One and Only Raisins

Our mouse passed away yesterday after a long fight with chronic respiratory illness. He was a genuinely lovely little creature who was happy every day, and then he was brave every day, and back and forth he went until it looked like a decision would have to be made. But then came the last day, when he moved purposefully to the door, climbed into the hand, and settled on my chest for most of his remaining hours.

We will never see the fine likes of him again. Good-bye Raisins, my love, our only ever mouse.

Dutiful Raisins

08 September 2007 |

Previously: Tickle Tickle


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Tickle Tickle

Along with later seasons of South Park, LOLcatz are my secret "what kind of English teacher are you?" vice. I must share this:

06 September 2007 |



Why hello there, I happened to be surfing the internet absentmindedly and figured "what the hell" and decided to type the words "" and this is what came up. just curious, what school do you teach at and what grade do you teach?

heather in pa

my computer crashed. kee-rashed. searching for good data recovery wizard to (fingers crossed) maybe save the 2000+ baby pictures I sorta kinda hadn't backed up to CD yet. I am the worst mommy in the world. In the meantime, cut off from internet, for the most part. Love the lolhams! hee hee. wish me luck!


Oh no - I was expecting you back any day now with a story of sudden hard drive rescue, but now I just saw your post. :( Oh no, oh no...

The loss of the photos is unbearable, but the first time I read it I thought you said Sherman died, and that was like a punch in the face, gut, heart... I hope he's doing better. Update when you can!

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43 Million Jillion Things New in Stock - Act Now

I haven't been to 43 Things in awhile, and I think that's because what I've listed there doesn't excite me in the short term.

Get healthy? Yes, working on it, taking ages, not always great at it, but it does drone under every choice I make. Become the mad postcrosser of Las Vegas? Sure, when I'm in the mood. Take better care of my skin? Well, I did moisturize at least twice last week. Geocache more often? Meh - talk to me when the temp is under 80. Finish grad school? HEH. No. (At least not until I'm ready to enjoy it.)

YAWN. Same old same old same old same old same old nauseum.

As the not-really-all-that-BIG-big 38 approaches, I'd like to make some tiny but fun goals for the next year. Stuff that would make fun blog fodder. (Not done for that reason, but just stuff that would be fun and/or inspiring to write about or photograph, whether I actually record it in that way or not.) Like, the way I'm using all of these used postcards as springboards for thoughts. That could be retroactively tied to a goal to write more just for the sake of it and all the inner good that entails.

I'm not sure where the boundaries are for coming up with ideas, but I'll probably have a better notion in a few weeks. Like, Mike will (hopefully) be in licensing classes by January and I'm signed up for some big professional development stuff this fall and maybe in the spring, so anything requiring weeknights may be a problem. Weekend trips are possible now that Sparrow has moved on, but I'm still paranoid about the car. (I know this is why we have AAA and cell phones, but...) Money will be a big question mark for at least a few more weeks, and the outdoor temperature will be an exclamation mark until closer to the holidays.

I just miss having something to look forward to. Scratch that. Rephrase. Right now I have the best things to look forward to, and life will be sublime if it's just conversations and footsies with Mike, critters to dote on, and a paycheck that doesn't quite kill me, for as long as possible. Big picture-wise? Tick "Extremely Satisfied." I just want to spice up the little things.

For example, on 43 Things I've listed "Make Pickles" as a goal. That's perfect. It's practical (pickles will be eaten) and attainable (all materials at corner grocery store for a reasonable price), even. A keeper. I need more ideas like that, but I don't want to end up with a huge list of cooking and crafts stuff, either. Hrm.

Small, precise stuff. Not "Do Yoga Regularly." Not "Tivo more Namaste Yoga until deleting it, unwatched, to make more room for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Doctor Who." More like, "Practice the Half Lord of the Fishes pose for a few minutes every day." (Or would Cow Face be better? Neither are possible right now, so might as well dream big.)

Anyway, I'm looking for a new list of tiny, happy goals to debut in three weeks. All they have to do is make it past my reluctance filters. Now to look up pickle recipes. (Cucumber pickles, of course, but which kind? Gherkin? Dill? Bread and butter? LIME?)

04 September 2007 |


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Amusing Your Convalescent Self with Photoshoppery

Friday evening I decided to use my downtime to play with some popular Photoshop tricks. (Too bad I hadn't discovered Mr Fry then; I wonder what else is in that hidden row of books behind the row of books you can see? This is what comes of trying to maximize shelf space.)

The first thing I tried was tilt-shifting. This is the tutorial I used. When done properly, the results are amazing, and your photo really does look like a fake model. Even when not done properly, it's fun, which was the end of the experience I discovered. Here is my first attempt, of the now-gone Stardust:

Tiltshifted Stardust

I was not wowed by this, and in fact didn't even put it on Flickr, a place where I'm not ashamed to share thirty poses of the same hamster eating the same seed. A leeeettle frustrated, I tried reversing the suggested curves and going for a darker image. It's not the same effect nor as powerful, but I like it:

Semi-Tilt-Shift Downtown Las Vegas

Next I got on the lomography bandwagon. I tried Dumpr's instant-n-easy method plus a couple of downloadable actions. This action is my favourite and I used it on the good old Golden Gate casino downtown, as show below.

Golden Gate Lomo'd

Finally, I just went prowling for some new actions. One talented man has a free three-pack that's particularly nice for wedding shots and similar occasions where people might want an ethereal, ageless look.  I decided to try it on a photo of the Riviera pool:

Softly at the Riviera Pool

This was nothing more than a "dutifully reporting what the pool looks like" when in colour, but now that it's toned and glowy I'm more aware of the personalities. A bit too soft when viewed small, I suppose, but when I look at the large version I can now pick out five "stories." It's still not all that, but I think it's more interesting than the original.

What Photoshop gimmick shall I embrace next? I don't know - suggestions welcome!

04 September 2007 |

Previously: Labor Day Weekend


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Labor Day Weekend

True story: I did not check my work email until after 3 because I had a nagging concern that we didn't really have the day off, and if this was so, I didn't want to know. Yes, I'm a government employee and, yes, today is a federal holiday, but what with being sick Friday it just feels like this weekend has lasted forever. And it has been beautiful. And I never ever wanted it to end. And tomorrow it will. But we will always have the $1.99 skillet.

(Backing up.) Despite a rocky start (literally - wave to the widdle gallstones!), by Saturday night I was a bit more perky, so we went to Sunset Station to get the last of the gifts for at least another month. (We didn't really play in the last 90 days, so we've finally been dropped from the weekly crapathon again. No matter - Mike dumpster-dived someone else's Calendar of Offers and it was all pretty boring. Good timing for a break.)

The gifts were cute little Post-it sets, and after collecting them we did some play. I fared better than Mike, winning what exactly what he lost, and I got a nice fistful of points. Then we went to Denny's on another 2-for-1 burger coupon, Mike substituting Swiss cheese on the double cheeseburger (he will never accept American slices) and me with my mushroom and Swiss Boca with seasoned fries. Yum yum, and yes, I realize the fries don't really speak to Gallbladder Attack Preventive Practices. However, looking back at this past year, I'm not exactly sure what does. Right now I'm just trying to stay moderate (as always) and more careful than before of things that are visibly oily.

So, that was fun, and - oh - I reached level 60 in WoW on Saturday and got my epic mount. I went with the green skeletal warhorse, and it's very comely with my tarty plate mail. (Whenever I whine about my blood elf being covered in armor, Mike tries to come back with, "It's plate mail! You're a paladin! It's supposed to cover you!" Then I sit around the auction house instead of killing things until I manage to land something more Xenariffic, ideally showing plenty of leg or bosom. Mike just sighs. He won't even watch when I run around Orgrimmar wearing nothing but a tabard and dancing with my pet moth. And you probably thought it was only 14-year-old boys pretending to be female characters who did that.)

Then on Sunday evening, full of the power that comes of not having to go to work the next day and of  living in Las Vegas, we went out to Sunset Station again to do some deliberate play and get more points. I want to be sure we're on the giftwagon for Christmas so we can build on last year's happy tacky snowman goods.

The car felt weird to me (but I've been saying that for almost a year), so we skipped the freeway and took Sunset there, and I forgot how one of the best views of the Strip is traveling east on Sunset just past LV Blvd. Just when I think I'm beyond being dazzled, there it is all over again.

I won't say which machines we played. I think we've worked out the best way to get most points and the most hours of play without having to risk more than $5, and the fact that the number of machines that are conducive to this keeps getting smaller makes me hold my tongue. (Also, it spares me from everyone who will want to write in and explain how there's a better rate of return when putting $100 into a 25-cent machine, or something like that. Yeah yeah, I know, but this is like going to the movies for us and is budgeted accordingly. We're not serious investors.)

After an hour it was midnight (yes, I'm tired and worthless today, but at least I'm home) and we decided to finally try the Cafe's "moonlight special." $1.99 for a three-egg skillet with hash browns and choice of bread or three mini-pancakes. I had this with a biscuit. Mike got sourdough toast and upgraded to the bacon version for an extra buck.

Not just a great meal for $5, but a great meal overall. The eggs (we both had them scrambled) were the perfect combination of dry and moist. The bread was nice and came with whipped butter in a dish plus jam and jelly packets. I could take or leave the hash browns (a little goes a long way with me), but Mike took them all, including mine.

We planned all last spring to try the Cafe specials during summer, but somehow it never happened (ditto with bowling), so it was good to close the summer season this way after all. The deal actually starts at 11 pm, so if you're at Sunset (or another Station with the same menu) around then and hungry, definitely check it out. All of their prices are reasonable (probably less than the Denny's and IHOP across the road), but the skillet specials are an unbeatable deal.

Phase 2 of the gambling was just as fun as Phase 1. We did many laps around the casino looking for pairs of the "right" machines to be available and not too close to smokers. (Saturday night was smelly, crowded, and warm. Sunday was a cool drink of sparkling lemon water.) That counts as exercise, right? Instead of mall walking, casino walking? (Do you lose points if you stop to gape at someone's big win?)

Once again we came out ahead, so dinner was paid for and now we had a mess of points. (In related news, Station Casinos has finally fixed their online records of points after, hrm, eight months? Nine? This is great; no more guessing how close we are to the next plush toy or As Seen on TV product.)

Came home, conked out with a Stephen Fry novel that I bought used right before moving here then completely forgot about until yesterday. This book! It's such a treat to read! (I just started, so I can't even read the Wikipedia article linked above.) Fry's dexterous composition style quickly reveals a confident author with a humorous mind, and anyone who likes that Certain Modern British Vibe (complete with semi-awkward narrator) in their fiction should check it out. I mean, I'm only on page 30 or so, but he had me at "About the Author."

Now it's Monday and, like I said, most of today has been occupied with not processing my work calendar. Oh, and there was the Quechup incident. (Short version: don't join Quechup. I wasn't a victim of their devious "let's check to see if you have other friends already on the site... by sending an email to everyone in your contact list," and thank goodness, since Gmail considers everyone you've ever emailed to be a contact. Others weren't so lucky, including the tech-savvy person who invited me.)

I've done two loads of laundry and conditioned my hair with the coconut Organix that Mike likes. This is about as close as I'm getting to Donna Reed in this lifetime, especially as I ibuprofen down another wave of cramps and wonder if I should wake Mike up from his nap so I don't have to keep getting my own water. (And people wonder why I'm so relaxed about him not working full time yet. I'm telling you, he's in overtime already.)

You know, I think these last three gallbladder attacks might have coincided with my period? And this is a pretty bad period, so... Hm. Not bad like I went through in my 20s - heaven save us - but still rather ouchy. Back then the doc suspected endometriosis. I wonder if there's a connection? Gallstones/bile and hormone levels? Wayward endometrial lining attaching itself to the gallbladder? Scientists, contact me once you've secured the grant money; I'm ready for my Demerol close-up!

04 September 2007 |


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French Postcards: Colmar "Haut Rhin"

I just changed my desktop to this, although I'm considering this. It is 104 today, but there was rain last week and sprinkles this week, and after midnight August will be broken. August, you month of Sundays, nothing but weariness of the Monday to come.

For 15 minutes my desktop was this, but is it still safe to think it's cute when chubby toddlers wear too-short dresses? I don't think I can take a day off and have potential fodder for ugly minds as my wallpaper. Also, it doesn't enlarge well.

I'm eating rice with leftover chana marsala from the night before - a chickpea thing I wasn't too fond of then but I'm mostly eating the ricey bits with sauce now. However, now I'm worried that this semi-icky dish is what set everything in motion. The twinges started yesterday afternoon before lunch; the pizza was only the final push, perhaps.

I've put a ginger beer in to cool. On the one hand, is a sugary carbonated bev going to be okay? On the other hand, it is all natural and full of ginger, a miraculous digestive. Maybe I'll just chew some ginger root. Mm. Firegums.

Colmar 'Haut Rhin'

This card is part of the "Alsatian Colours" series and was mailed on 8 September 1986. Why, it's almost 21 years old. If I'd been knocked up in Colmar when I was 16, I might have sent a card like this back home, going on and on about some nice French boy, freaking everyone out, and today I'd have a child who could buy his or her own shots. Boy does that put my suffering in perspective. (Even if you don't care about Colmar, click that link to see a Christmas view of this same scene.)

Will it not be eerie if this card is from a sixteen-year-old American girl who may or may not be knocked up by a nice French boy and who eats fried food like it's going out of style, not realizing that it someday will? Let's look!

To: Miss E. Leicester, Flat 14, Sinclair Court, 39, Park Road, Moseley, Birmingham

(Note recent easy-embedding feature for Google Maps that I would now like to overuse.)

(Note removal of easy-embedding feature for Google Maps that was causing TypePad to flip out and issue warnings during editing. Interesting.)

"Drifting along, eating far too much and working it off in the superb outdoor swimming pool near to where we are staying. Hope all went well with your week. Love, Sarah."

I think I pegged that one pretty accurately, don't you?

01 September 2007 |


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French Postcards: Dolmen de Saint Alban-sous-Sampzon

Dolmen de Saint Alban-sous-Sampzon

This doesn't look "Frenchy" to me; it's so somethinglithic. It does look like where I want to go tomorrow instead of reporting for the first day of school.

Last night I had all kinds of weird dreams, eventually waking at 6 a.m. with a splitting headache. (Mike says it probably comes of sleeping on the diagonal. Heh.) I was going to stay awake so I'd be on the right schedule for tomorrow, but the cool, dark bedroom was just so much more tempting than sitting in sunlight, rubbing my temples.

I wish I'd stayed up, though, because my next dream was the worst. It was the first day of school and second period, and I dreamt I'd forgotten to pass out enrollment cards in homeroom or sign enrollment cards during 1st period. Then when I woke up I was half-convinced that today was Monday and I'd overslept. I actually clenched my teeth and screwed up my face before daring to check the date. Oh, I'll be glad when we're all settled into the routine... of counting down until June.

Mike is determined to send me off with a lunch every day. The problem with this last year was he kept asking me what I wanted, and what I always want at 9 p.m. is to not think about the next day. This year I'm asking him to just surprise me with either a peppery hummus/lettuce/tomato sandwich or rice with kadhi (spicy yogurt) sauce. Oh, and a side salad with olives and croutons and maybe a little grated cheese. I even got one of those salad spritzers, which will probably be stolen by whoever steals from the department fridge, and some plastic forks.

So, I want Mike to pack me a lunch and send me to this French cave where I could blog about postcards from 17,000 years ago, or maybe start a Chauvet nouveau and do all my blogging on the cave walls.

Date: 25 July 1986

To: Madame C. something, something or other in Holland, possibly the same addressee as this person.

Message: Too much Dutch. Or too mutch Duch. The handwriting's not impossible, so perhaps I'll transcribe beyond "hier alles goed" some other time. Some less impatient time. Some "why don't I just go become a casino cashier or phone operator or OMG IS THIS A PIMPLE COMING UP ON MY CHIN" time.

Teaching high school now is an alternative to reincarnation, right?

27 August 2007 |


Heather in PA


...and it begins.

Good luck tomorrow.

Can't wait to see how the folders work out!

Heather in PA

1 down, 187 to go.....

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Reunited: Sparrow and Elizabeth Joy

Sparrow passed away a few hours ago, the last child of Henry and Maudine. She was just over two years and five months old. We usually called her "Dart."

In recent months she had come to live up to her name, looking much like a baby bird, and still keen on sprinting from one point of interest to the next, even if the execution of her desires was a little slow.

She stayed out here in the living room with us, where every time she came out she got a "Hey, Dart," and usually one of us jumped up to give her a very gentle pat and check the big red lid that was her plate. Nearby, her seed dish overflowed with token offerings, but she had come to adore natural crunchy peanut butter instead. I think it was just last night or maybe the night before that she excitedly licked the plate, ready for a fresh ration. She could've taken a fancy to the moon and we would've sliced her off a nibble. There was to be no denying our girl.

She went peacefully, in her sleep, after a week of slowing down for keeps. The last time I petted her was when I came home this afternoon. She tried a small bite of fresh tofu, but she was really too tired. I remember thinking how pretty her eyes looked despite her scrawny body. The next time I saw them, they were peacefully closed. Which is all I wanted for her.

Sparrow is with Elizabeth Joy again, and they are both always with us.


(photos from Christmas Eve, 2006)

26 August 2007 |


Heather in PA


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French Postcards: Souvenir de Nice

I'm typing slowwwwwly and q  u  i  e  t  l  y  because we're watching Miss Potter, and two minutes in and I'm already charmed, but not so charmed I can completely give up multitasking.

I know from Bill Bryson's Notes on a Small Island that the Beatrix Potter cottage is a huge tourist attraction, but I have to admit I have only a dim memory of Potter's work. Flopsy, Mopsy, and... Cottontail? A farmer? Some carrots? Radishes? Wait, it's getting all confused with that "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" song.

We named Peter as such because he'd been called "Rabbit" for three days prior to his adoption, and it just sort of led the way. (Biographers of the hamily will recall that later he styled himself "Pietr," but he was Peter to us.)

WAIT! Another Potter memory! When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher Mrs. Plumb was a professional calligrapher. She taught us at least three hands, and I wish I could remember how much class time we spent on it, because it became a real passion for so many of us. Entry-level calligraphy sets flew off the shelves of the local craft store, and during any downtime or indoor recess we'd all be there, changing nibs, swapping cartridges, practicing our Chancery italic.

One day I somehow volunteered to help in the library. I probably got to miss gym or something beautiful like that. The librarian was making a poster for the Potter books and, knowing I was a student of Mrs. Plumb, she asked if I would write "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" in calligraphy in the lower corner of the posterboard.

"In the lower corner?"

"Yes, just there." She handed me the book so I'd be sure of the spelling. (Heh.)

"The tale of Peter Rabbit, in this corner?"

"Yes," she kindly replied again, probably losing confidence in this "helper" by the second.

Perhaps 20 minutes later she thought to check on me, asking if I was done. Oh dear, I was so apologetic and worried that I wasn't at all bright or good at calligraphy after all, no, I was barely into the third paragraph. So sorry.

Yes, there'd been a huge miscommunication all right. She wanted "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," and I thought she wanted, you know, the whole tale, in the lower corner of the posterboard, in calligraphy, and possibly within one class period.

She was lovely, and whenever I'm reassuring a student who's being way too hard on him or herself, I think that scene flits through the back of my mind. I ended up carefully erasing the paragraphs (we were doing it in pencil first, to be inked in after), and the librarian was telling anyone who would listen how beautiful it was, and what a shame it was to erase it. I felt sheepish but very pleased.

I'd forgotten about that. Meanwhile, all of the above took ages to type because Miss Potter is so far a sweet movie, and our living room resounds with cries of "Bunny!" every few minutes.

Souvenir de Nice

To Mrs. Ginny James, South St., Trumansburg, NY, 14886. (Near Podunk!) Postmarked 25 April 1986.

"Hi -
"We just arrived in Nice in the pouring rain - ugh! I hope it is sunny tomorrow - it is just so beautiful here.

This card is as far from the silk Edwardian waistbands and the tut-tuts of Miss Potter as is possible. I want to thread some connection, but the big conflict has shown itself in the film and, ah, the rainswept scenes, and - OH MY - a KISS! In the steam of the train leaving! Must watch.

21 August 2007 |


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The Bed's Too Small With You

I am awake because SOMEBODY shifted just-so, and now I will get to request backrubs all day. I think I  should change the name of the blog to "Two Big Ole People in a Double Bed," as everything I think about for the first hour of the morning seems to be directly related to whether the Other Party encroached in an unreasonable manner.

Or maybe I could call it "I (Heart) the Other Party," and then everyone would think it was political and oppositional and would bash accordingly.

I can't keep up with the French postcards because I passed the "dead zone" of the late 40s/early 50s on Warcraft and am now on an Outlands-bound rampage. I don't know whether it's good or bad that the game has gotten interesting again so close to school resuming.

I'm almost done migrating my hate for the new curtains to really, really liking them. I even made Mike rub different parts of his body against the featherweight faux suede until he admitted that, yes, we totally should use them for soft summer blankets. That will be another post. I have another set to hang, which is scheduled to take place at the same time that Mike sews up a cushion on his side of the sofa. Remind me never to get another sofa with non-removable cushions, even if it's super comfy.

Bonnet and Comet are the featured living room hamsters this weekend. Dart (Sparrow) is, of course, always out here. She's the oldest-looking hamster I've ever seen. much more threadbare and "damp" looking than Minerva was at 2y5m. She looooves her peanut butter, though, and although there's some flailing and falling involved, she scoots around and into the hand like it's 2005. We're pretty sure she's one of those undead hamsters. No, really - if you saw her sitting still, you'd think "ancient little hammie, about to slip away in her sleep." Then she jumps up and follows you until pats or PB are delivered, maybe pausing to scramble around fruitlessly but eagerly in the wheel. Ancient little spoiled hammie - we love our girl.

20 August 2007 |

Previously: Skype Zips It


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Skype Zips It

Just adding to the blog noise about this since Skype doesn't have it prominent on their page. (I hear it is on their page, but their site keeps dying on me before I can get far.)


It is connecting on and off, but essentially it's down. Globally. Rumour is that it's supposed to be resolved within 12-24 hours. (Ew.)

For me, it connects just long enough to deliver yet another voice mail from my Dad as he tries to call. Yesterday was my grandmother's birthday (so, yes, I am calling today, I know) and then last night I had a weird dream about my parents, so a phone connection would've been very nice today. Darn you, Skype.

(Mostly darn you for not putting this front and center on your website, leading to me doing all kinds of reboot/unplug/etc. crap.)

So, if you've wandered here on the 16th of August because you're madly trying to figure out if it could just possibly be them, not you, yes, have a cheer, it's them. Skype is down.

Update: Okay, I'm a dork, the outage message is front and center. I just needed a big red arrow or something to notice it. (Since my first eleven instincts were that it had to be my end or my ISP, not holy Skype.)

16 August 2007 |


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Spyware Alert:

Just a heads-up: don't visit It's one of those places that will try to install spyware disguised as a spyware cleaner. Even in Firefox - sigh.

I got nostalgic for, discovered it'd gone the way of its fodder, and decided to try its sister site. Bam. Some quick ALT-F4ing seems to have averted the problem, but it did try harder than the average "OMG! Your computer is being invaded! Let me help!" pop-up, and an unwary person could accidentally click the wrong thing.

I'm probably the only person in the world who goes on such nostalgic clicking tours (! What happened?), but I share anyway.

(OMG. Alan Flavell died? Last year? I was just thinking earlier today about how much he did for HTML standards. We even traded some email back when fighting for the ALT attribute felt like the lynchpin for keeping the web wide and not a connection of proprietary playgrounds. Alan is a little-sung hero, and he ought to get a bust in the same corridor as Tim Berners-Lee when the time comes.)

15 August 2007 |


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French Postcards: La Tour Eiffel

Today I finally got around to Photoshopping, uploading, and ordering prints of last year's student photos for this year's classroom. I suppose it's my way of saying, "Buck up! Many do survive! (but not all)"

So, for once my Flickr stream looks so lively, so full of different faces, as if I suddenly embraced the complexities of an off-the-clock F2F social life beyond the current party of two, and other funny stories.

Of course, no one can see this but me.

I keep hoping they've already added my new students to our web interface, but no. It's like they don't want me to sculpt each child's name into a bronze wire mobile with muted birthstone accents. Fine.

La Tour Eiffel

Ways I hope this year's classroom will be like Paris:

  • population under 2.16 million
  • lead rest of the department in gross domestic product output
  • Disneyland tie-ins
  • nickname "City of Light" no longer ironic after custodians replace the three fluorescent panels that have been out since March
  • cholera epidemics increasingly unlikely
  • extreme temperatures unknown
  • more fresh bread
  • preteen poseurism dead in metaphoric extension of events of 3 July 1971
  • vampires either below ground in science wing or restricted to arty activities
  • at least one quirky student named Madeline
  • positive influence of cinema will be appreciated
  • strong buy-in that the Holy Grail is somewhere in the room

To Mr. & Mrs. W. Crawford, (smudge smudge), Princess Risborough, Bucks

Postmarked 18 October 1985

"What a busy city this is - have toured all of the important places today by open top bus - v. hot and sunny - lovely food, so diet has been delayed for another week!!! Just back at the hotel for a short rest before seeing Paris at night which I am led to believe is as busy as Paris in the day. Hope all is well with you both. Much love

"Anne & Mike


Oops! We have experienced a blipplewhizzle in time. The postmark looks like 1985, but the printed date by the card manufacturer (I'm trying not to say "copyright") is 1995, so I guess we've accidentally jumped a decade. If only I could've done that myself in 1985, but that's another story.

So, I've "smudged" out the Crawfords' address. Sorry. Please stay seated and we'll be resting comfortably in the New Wave aftermath again before you know it.

P.S. This post was written six hours ago, but we had to go out to see Neil Gaiman's Stardust. (Plus pick up the free Tupperware then buy clothes, living room curtains, air filters, odorizers, drain cleaner, farmer's cheese, white plastic hangers, compressed air, factory-formatted chocolate, chipotle-style taco seasoning, Jones soda in cans, emergency drinking water, Irish Spring, some cheap "clarifying" shampoo for Mike, razor blades, and whatever I've blocked out because you know we got this all in one place,  which means we are what's wrong with America, and this shame will actually keep me up at night.)

Anyway, although I'm sometimes wary of Gaiman and never got around to reading Stardust, that should change soon as the movie was a genuine delight. Kudos all around, especially to Robert DeNiro and each and every one of the king's sons.

15 August 2007 |


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French Postcards: Crépuscule sur la Côte Normande

I learned the word "crepuscular" while editing the Wikipedia article on Campbell Russian dwarf hamsters. It's just too close to "pustule" to have anything to do with twilight.

Yesterday I learned that, not only does the big W have a policy against "original research," but there is now some fuss because the current policy is that primary sources should be used "rarely." I understand the reasoning behind this, but it seems there are those who are quick to slapdown an article with "NOR! NOR!" simply because they admire the way their name appears in the rollback history. Or something like that.

I haven't been accused of violating NOR yet, but I had to make an edit to the dwarf ham article because there's an edit war over the average lifespan of a dwarf hamster. Unfortunately, all sources are anecdotal. So, I included both statistics (18-24 months or 18-36 months) with a note that sources vary, then in the discussion put in a comment on my own hamster lifespan statistics.

As for other people's dwarf hamsters, I've met two who reached the age of three, and one was a Chinese hamster and the other was a winter white/Campbell mix. So, it's possible, but I doubt it's the  average. Perhaps things are different in a lab environment where there is more culling, but that's just speculation. The only place I've seen the lifespan given as 18-36 months is in Petco/Petsmart, and these are the same places that suggest (sugary) yogurt drops for the diet and call any non-brown dwarf a "Fancy Siberian" and double the price. (They also almost always use unsafe slotted wheels, but let's not get into quibble territory.)

And that is everything that flies around my brain when I see "Crépuscule sur la Côte Normande":

Crépuscule sur la Côte Normande

To: Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Jackson, 13 Woodbury Road, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire. If you click on the map link, you'll see that everybody lives on Woodbury Road. Everybody. Maybe I'll add this to the Stourport Wikipedia article. Wait, no, that would be "original research." Also a little bit wrong.

Postmark: 17 July 1985

"Dear Gran and Grandpa,

"Arrived here safely. The weather so far has been fine. The site we are staying at is very nice. We are having plenty of practice speaking French and dad is just getting used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. The beaches around here are very nice and kept very clean. We will have some photographs to show you when we get back. Hope you had a nice holiday and we'll see you soon.

"Love from The Nottingham Branch (en France)"

This is so sweet. I have nothing to say. Other than I think the sun knows something, and those riders may be enjoying a false sense of security.

"Normande" also reminds me of the Normandie Auto Court aka Normandie Motel, formerly at 708 S. Las Vegas Boulevard. I'm sure I have a postcard of it that could be photo'd right now and add real value to this post, but someone has let the "scrapbooking bucket" get deep. Very deep. Here's someone else's postcard. (Severely overpriced, which is probably why it hasn't ever sold.)

And here is what's left of it, down in the neon boneyard:

Normandie, formerly at 708 S LVB

15 August 2007 |

Previously: Revolution Number 419


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Revolution Number 419

This is how it is when we get up early and simultaneously - no good can come of it.

Mike stayed up too late reading the latest hijinks of various 419 baiters, early candidates for his shortlist of personal heroes. He thinks everyone who hates Nigerian spam should at least read You can also kill some time on the Wikipedia article.

I haven't actually seen Nigerian spam for a few years, what with moving all of my email to gmail then almost never signing up for anything iffy again plus removing my address from the web. By the way, if you use gmail and don't know about the "dot trick," it's kind of neat. In short, you can place a period anywhere in your gmail username and the mail will still come to you. By moving the period around, you can then see who sold you out.

An example would be better. Let's say my email is When I sign up for, say, Martha Stewart's website, I tell her that my email is See the extra dot? Wait, I'll make it bigger:

Then I sign up for, hmm, I give them as my address. And so on. Maybe eventually I'm signing up at, lessee, Classmates (shudder) as It's all the same address. It's all getting to me. You probably knew that, clever and attractive person that you probably are, but I'm sure you appreciate my sharing with the less informed, so let's continue.

Then later you see there's a little spam dropping in your special spam folder. You check to see which address they used. That's Martha Stewart! She sold your good name! And then you sue Martha and everyone's happy, except me, because I still haven't made hedgehog cakes and I need to stay on Madame S's good side. (I'd link to the actual recipe, but it seems to no longer be on her site. Super. See what comes of your litiguous ways?)

I am spreading the good karma of the dot trick, which was hot news, um, three years ago, because Mike's gotten so riled up and inspired that he's over on his end of the sofa crafting his own 419 bait. I don't know if he'll actually do it, though, as it's pretty hard to top this. (Explained here.)

Update: No, this is the one to beat. CLICK! CLICK IT NOW! CLICK IF YOU CARE ANYTHING ABOUT MONTY PYTHON! LOLnigerianscammerz!

Update #2: I can't risk the possibility that a spam-hating MP fan might be too lazy to click through. Here it is:

P.S. I thought this was going to be a totally unoriginal post title, but we'll be the first. Whee!

14 August 2007 |


Heather in PA

oh. oh, oh!!!! I LOVE it! You must have been thrilled that Bert played such a vital role in the scambaiting, though the picture of the poor hammie at gunpoint was a little shocking.

serious giggles over the Dead Parrot sketch. Brilliance. Hey.... this could be a new reality tv show. Teams could compete in the noble sport of scambaiting... hilarity is sure to result! Wanna put a pitch together for the networks? I'll do all the work - just send me a bank acct # so I can deposit your share of the royalties....

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