A Light Narrative about the Last Trip to Disneyland (part three)

It was the day after New Year's, and we slept late again, and we woke excited to be trying another Indian buffet for lunch, "Tandoor" at Katella and Tustin. ($6.99 with coupon.)

As with Gandhi, we looked over the spread first. Still no pappadums. (And I still can't spell it.) But the rest was good, if a bit Westernized (?) compared to the other buffets, with less sauce, less bite to the sauces, and more chicken overall. Unfortunately, the paneer dish was mislabeled and - clutch throat - there was no paneer. NO PANEER. However, the rice was terrific as was the dal, and the nan was brought out fresh in a basket. (We went with garlic this time.) The pakora were down to the dregs, but I still made a tasty plate:

Pakora and Such

In addition to the gulab jamun, there were three other desserts, all good. Here's Mike, sitting by the sunny window, content:

Tandoor Cuisine of India

I will be brief with what happened next. We went to the park through Disney Way, as we like to park at Timon. A sign warned that Disneyland was very busy today. Sure enough, Timon was full. But! We were not sent to the Mickey and Friends garage, which is usually the case. We were sent to Simba. As in, the parking to Downtown Disney. Parking I didn't even know existed until this trip. Simba, in addition to not offering a tram and makiing you walk through all of DD, was also almost full. We sat in the car a bit, in the back of the lot, before reversing and driving away.

Back in the room, I resumed Ender's Game while Mike looked at the brochures. Seal Beach? Maybe it's like Newport Beach, and they have tours to see seals?

This time we took the freeway (22) and were on Seal Beach Boulevard in under 20 minutes. Nice! Parking in the near-empty lot was three dollars. There didn't seem to be an attendant, but we paid it if only because I've always had a crush on selkie lore. Also, because we are honest, of course.

Seal Beach Pier

I don't seem to have put up any photos of the beach on Flickr. Suffice to say it is wide and flat, and it's easy to see why this was where Moses parted the Red Sea in the original DeMille's Ten Commandments. (Not the one with Charlton Heston.) Wait, here you can see it behind this obliging gull:

Seal Beach Gull

We kept to the pier, a tranquil walk that invited long moments of contemplation:

Mike at Seal Beach

Like, "What is that boat? It's coming right at us!"

Nicholas L

The boat pulled up next to a heretofore unseen side ramp and let off a few crew members for lunch. Very nice. At the end of the Seal Beach Pier is a Ruby's Diner. (Just like at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier, the Balboa Pier, and 43 other locations in nine states, including at the airport in Las Vegas.)

We stood silently for some time with the fishermen at the end of the pier. I was disappointed that Disneyland didn't pan out, but Plan B had its own merits.

Sun from the Seal Beach Pier

In the distance, we gazed on Long Beach and considered the Queen Mary (out of frame, to the left) for a future trip.

Paddling Away from Long Beach

By the way, Monica loves Jon.

Monica Plus Jon

As we drove away, we made sure to get the Photo That Must Be Taken (even if it involved pixelated digital zoom):

And Then We'll Take It Higher

Then we drove down the coast on Highway 1, looking for the wildlife reserve. (Turns out that's on protected military land.) Then we kept saying we would head east to the freeway again any moment now. Then we passed through Huntington Beach again. Then we were in Costa Mesa, which was below the bottom of our not-to-scale map. Then, for a good 30 minutes to 30 hours, we remained in Costa Mesa, where we toured many exciting suburban streets that look straight but really twist around, always eventually taking you back to the west where the sun was so recently setting and providing at least some light.

Eventually we found Harbor, and eventually we ended up going in the right direction on Harbor, and eventually we ended back at Disneyland and in the Timon parking lot. Hooray!

A Trip without a Tripod

This time we started in California Adventure, which felt almost vacant. The wait time for California Screamin'? 25 minutes. (Which was probably more like 15.) This was only my second time to be on the roller coaster and Mike's first time, so it was extra fun. It's a smooth and snazzy coaster, that's for sure, and seems to go for ages.

If there's a negative, it's that the "the theme of this part of the park is to have no theme and have it be like a boardwalk/carnival" is too well done. Walking up the railed queue, while authentic, is pretty boring compared to other Disney attractions. It also brings out the pushy-shovey in people, and it was all I could do not to twirl my hair and smack some imaginary gum to fit in. Maybe stick a big comb in my back pocket and French kiss Mike with extra knobby tongue.

Skipping away, we headed for the Maliboomer, the drop tower ride that, again, I'd only been on once and Mike not at all.

Mike Makes the Sad Maliboomer Face

Alas, you can be tall and ride the Maliboomer, and you can be fat and ride the Maliboomer, but it's hard to be tall and fat and ride the Maliboomer - your gut may be too high for the shield to clamp down well. Above you see Mike's Face of Sadness after he had to leave the Maliboomer. (I joined him out of solidarity, which meant the cast members had to go back and release me, too, and of course that was fun. Luckily they had just opened up another tower so there were some delays anyway.)

Eureka Gold and Timber Company

But how happy we were when we saw that Grizzly River Rapids had a two minute wait. Yes, 120 seconds. Yes!

We walked right on (and again, second time for me, first for Mike) and had some lovely travel companions in the form of a mother and a daughter. They had ponchos. We didn't. It was still fun, cowering from the splashes and enjoying how much more variety this attraction seems to have compared to its semi-counterpart in Florida.

But then? At the end? The geyser that shoots up over you? That makes you part of the fountain? That must feel so wonderful on an August day? That's just meanness.

It was in the low 50s/high 40s that night. Hence the two minute wait.

We tried to take shelter in It's Tough to Be a Bug, but A Bug's Land closes early. (Kind of the way Fantasyland closes early. Kind of stupid.) We tried to curl up by the fire at the Grand Californian, but it was hootenany time. After much walking, soaked to the skin, jackets/hair/pants/name it, the chafing setting in, we plopped down at the Farmer's Market. I got comforting cheese sticks and put our jackets across the picnic table to dry, and Mike went back to the pier for Pizza Oom Mow Mow. Which was also closed. And the burger joint was run by McDonald's. Luckily, Disney portions are always generous, so it was cheese sticks for two.

We should've been in crabby moods, all wet and cold and stationary. Some people were - another wet group came by to rant about how Disney should have hot air blowers when you step out. But when they asked if I'd ever ride again, I said definitely, maybe even as soon as I was dry! It's a really fun ride and, hey, as the sign says, "You will get wet. You may get SOAKED!"

(Still, would it kill them to turn off the geyser at night during the winter?)

We tried to go on Tower of Terror, but it was shut for the night. Now it was nine, and despite what the tram operator said, the park didn't close at ten, but at the the same nine that, when I heard the tram operator say ten, I said, "but wait, didn't the guide say nine?" Let this be an lesson in the perils of self-doubt.

Still thinking the park closed at ten and that the ToT bellhops were just jerks, we went to the Snow White display in the animation building. Well, actually we went to see Turtle Talk with Crush, but it was closed, too. (How strange! ahem...) But we enjoyed the displays of the original cels and sketches for Snow White, marveling at the process of hand-drawn animation and layering cels and whatnot.

And then we were kicked out of that, too. In the main gate gift shop we looked to see if there were any dry, fleecy pullovers for under ten dollars, but oddly they were all $58. (Imagine!) We also covertly watched several seconds of the end of the Main Street Electrical Parade, knowing that gawking is only permitted in the established territories. Ha! That will show you to close the park on time!

Then it was back over to Disneyland for some walking around and, of course, a visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room, a.k.a. church. The castle looks beautiful with its winter icicle lighting. (It's in its final hours of display as I type.)

Ice Castle

06 January 2008 |


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A Light Narrative about the Last Trip to Disneyland (part two)

Now, once you hit the ocean at the end of Beach Blvd, it is very important that you take a right and go north, to the fun part of Huntington Beach with the downtown and the pier and everything. If you want to make the most of your Pacific experience, that is.

We, however, were content to slow down the car long enough to nod at the ocean, then make a U-turn back up the road, returning to a curious item we'd passed on the way:

Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery

Being a sucker for such things (although you probably shouldn't ask how my previously blogged big plans for conservation of the local pet cemetery are going at the moment), we of course had to take a look.

Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery is a really great place. Very clean, very looked-after, very festive this time of year, and there were visitors the whole time we were there. I was highly impressed.

Old Sarge

Back Area

There is a special "Cats Only" section, which made me laugh. (It's just such a cat thing to do.) But I was not prepared to have my heart warmed by the section just for "Misc":


We Love You Fred Bunny

Bizzy Boy

Sugar 'Buns' Johnson

Bill and Bonnie Galloway

(I only had the pocket camera, so these aren't the best snaps.) As you can see, a fair number of markers have photos of the pet on them, which is really nice. It's also not just a recent trend, as these markers from 1975 and 1963 show:

Good Little Princess

My Abigail

A surprising number of gravesites had been done up for the holidays. Overall it was sweet, but the waterworks came when I got to this one:

K.C. - Your favorite treat. Merry Christmas.

The card reads, "K.C.  Your favorite treat. Merry Christmas."

Inside the bag was a can of Chicken of the Sea.

(If you think I typed the last two paragraphs without having to take a moment, you're wrong.)

But I was even more touched and amazed when I saw this:

Shadow Hannefield (1952-1966)

Shadow Hannefield passed away in 1966. 1966. Shadow has been gone 42 years, and someone is still putting out a Christmas spread for him or her, right down to the little Milkbone on the marker. If that doesn't cheer your heart, I don't know what will.

St. Francis

Then we left, checked in, went to the parks, rode a bunch of stuff that was practically a walk-on (no wait for Splash Mountain, if that gives you a clue), enjoyed the Christmas transformations of It's a Small World and Haunted Mansion, zipped around on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, drifted through Pirates without a single LCD screen in sight, chose not to wait 45 minutes to ride Finding Nemo (even though it was a "record low wait time" for the week - a decision I even more firmly stand behind after seeing it on YouTube), and rode the monorail "downtown" to watch Enchanted. (Not a highbrow film, no, but still a fun thing to watch when in the heart of Disneyland.)

Oh, and we settled for burgers at Tomorrowland Terrace because all the nicer sit-down places were booked up, some for the rest of the week. I wasn't thrilled with the way the guy at Blue Bayou acted like we should know that - maybe they should put up a sign? - but it didn't matter; Disney makes a rather tasty veggie burger, actually.

After the movie it was after midnight, so we headed back to the room and again stayed up very late, this time watching the Twilight Zone marathon while I dipped in and out of Ender's Game.

06 January 2008 |


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A Light Narrative about the Last Trip to Disneyland (part one)

Maybe it won't be the last trip. Maybe that's just me being dramatic. Let's call it "the last journey across the Mojave Desert that I want to make for the rest of my 30s." I really hate that drive.

Originally, we planned to arrive on Jan 1 and stay until Jan 4. Usually we stay three nights, and the first night we arrive quite late so we'll be "in position" and rested for the first day in the parks, the next day.

However, after pricelining three nights at the Holiday Inn on Manchester (another notch in the new hotel experiences), I realized that the very last time I wanted to drive from Las Vegas to Southern California was on January 1, with all those Californians heading home after their big night of partying. Shudder deluxe.

So, on New Year's Eve, Mike suggested we just leave early. We consulted the Priceline oracle and it delivered a night at the Doubletree Orange. Ta da. We dropped off library books and stool samples (Mike is fine, by the way) and hit the road.

The drive is more pleasant in the dark. You can't as easily see how you're not there yet.

The Doubletree greeted us with the traditional warm cookies and was very pleasant.

We went out to find some food and, it being New Year's Eve and after 10, were not doing very well in that department. (We couldn't go to the parks because December 31st is a blackout day for everyone except the Premium passholders.) Eventually we ended up in a Vons on Chapman whose size hasn't changed since 1955. No one spoke English except the manager, who was running a register, probably because no one wants to work on party night. Our room at the Doubletree had a fridge and a microwave, so we shopped with that in mind.

Back in the room, we watched Vegas Vacation and chatted about who-remembers-what, and I think it was around 1 a.m. that Mike noticed that it was 2008. Oops. Happy new year!

Then we slept obnoxiously late (the Doubletree has an excellent checkout time of noon), got our gear together, and checked out.

The View from the Doubletree Orange

While rolling around, watching TV, and gabbing away the end of 2007, we also looked through the fistfuls of brochures I'd brought up from the lobby. They were the sameold-sameold, but in one guide I noticed ads for two (two!) Indian buffets. MMMMMmm!

This was our wedding anniversary, and my aunt and her family had very nicely and unexpectedly given us a wedding gift in the form and funds to be used on a nice meal. Now here were these two Indian restaurants, priced so we could go to both. And one of them was literally right across the street from Disneyland, in the Ramada on Harbor and Katella. Free and easy parking, too. Fate!

So it was off to Gandhi, which was delicious. Mike is undergoing culinary spiritual ascension here:

At Gandhi's, at the Ramada

They bring the nan fresh to your table, regular or garlic. The spread isn't as big as Tamba on the Strip, and they don't have pappadums (sp), but they had everything else we needed to be giddy. Pakora? Check. Basmati? Check. Kadhi or korma or a similar cream sauce? Check. Dal? Check. Paneer? CHECK!!

Everyone Loves Paneer

Mike and I both love the paneer. Even as I type this, I'm thinking of getting up and eating some cruddy foil packaged ready-made Indian just so I can have that wonderful cheese-in-spicy-sauce experience. Or maybe today I will make some paneer. All you need is milk and lemon juice and a cheesecloth. Or maybe I will write a 40-stanza poem about paneer, all in rhyme royal. All of these things are possible. Mmm. Paneer.

And also, mmm. Gulab jamun for dessert.

Everyone Loves Gulab Jamun, Too

After this wonderful meal (thank you Aunt Donna, Uncle Richard, Emily, and Z.), a meal you should leave Disneyland to go eat if given the chance, we decided that it still wasn't time to go to the parks. Because, if we went to the parks now, then we'd have to leave later to check in to the Holiday Inn. (I can't believe we were going to a HI. My youth! It returns!) But, if we waited two hours, we could check in to the hotel then go to the parks and stay until closing.

So, we drove around. We drove down Katella and saw not only the other Indian buffet but another Indian buffet. That's three! Three! Then we found Tustin and looked for the Cost Plus World Market that we'd looked up in the phone book the night before. There we got the Bundaberg ginger beer from Australia that is so spicy and cane-sugary and gingery that I just want to cry when I drink it because I know it won't last forever.

Still with time to kill, we headed in the other direction and decided to look for the Pacific Ocean without using a highway. After the previous night's drive, not being on a highway for awhile was very important to me. Not being on an L.A.-area highway when, for all I know, it's like Las Vegas and traffic jams start at 1:30 in the afternoon, was especially important.

We drove down (and through) Garden Grove, saw "Koreatown," hooked a left down the promisingly named "Beach Boulevard," passed through Westminster where half (but only half) of the businesses have embraced a Tudor theme, and then there we were, Surf City USA: Huntington Beach.

06 January 2008 |

Previously: Exhausted con Limón


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Exhausted con Limón

Just home from another SoCal romp. Oh, I forgot to tell you: we were going to D'Land and such for a few days. And now we're back. I only didn't tell you before because if someone DID break in and steal all the... the... handcrafted soap? leftover Lindt? clean but sprung out underwear? then I didn't want you to be a suspect.

I took the little camera, so there are some photos. Just not at 4:40 in the morning when we've only been home two hours and I've spent most of that time catching up on feeds and nuddling hamsters. IT'S MY VACATION AND IT'S MY RIGHT TO TOTALLY SCREW OVER MY SLEEP FOR MONDAY sotheresotheresothere.

(Hanging around child culture at its worst at D'land may have awoken my dark side. I think the wheezy yawn of emergence was at its most evident when a stroller ran over my foot... three times... the same stroller each time... and I turned around and said GOD FUCK IT to the thing's driver. Or maybe it was GOD, FUCK IT! Or maybe GODFUCKIT. Or GODFUCK IT? How it was meant to be punctuated is something I thought about on the very quiet ride home. The one where Mike keep leaning over in the dark to tenderly squeeze my leg and carefully ask questions designed to get me to take back the part where I said Disneyland wasn't Disney World and I was never going back. Ever. NEVER.)

(Unless it was free and we flew there and stayed on site and I didn't have to talk to any Cast Member who wasn't trained in Florida.)

Strangely, we had a really good time a lot of the time, so it was still a fun trip. (That I hope I never have to repeat again. Ever. NEVER. Unlessitwasfree and weflewthere and stayedonsite and Ididn'thavetotalktoanyCastMemberwhowasn'ttrainedinFlorida.) I can't wait until next time.

But mostly, this post is just because Comet wants you to know that he is awake. No pressure.


04 January 2008 |


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If You Like Write-Writing

Recently I mentioned a supercool purchase. The present so nice I bought it twice, before the first one even arrived. A little something I saw in the sidebar at The Sneeze, filed under "looking for a kick-ass gift for under $15."

This is it.

My first one was made from a book called Solomon's Search, a book that's just a bit younger than me and just a bit older than Mike:

Bookjournal #1

I picked it because it looked friendly and like "my kind of thing," with the animals all hanging out and yet at the same time possibly involved in a Big Meaningful Quest.

I have conflicting feelings about cutting up books and ripping out (most of the) pages just to rebind with (mostly) blank pages. At first I was all, "Whoa, WHOA. Whoawhoawhoa." I mean, I'm the one with strong feelings against highlighting textbooks.

(See, what's important to me now will just be a distracting yellow glare later, if my few forays with highlighting plus all the used books with the previous owner's markings are any indication. I prefer post-it annotations, or multiple copies of books, each interacted with for a different purpose.)

But then, on the other hand, was I ever going to buy this book? Was anyone? It was just going to be recycled, wasn't it? Lost forever.

Maybe. Then, I gasped aloud when I checked back after placing my order and saw this:

Bookjournal #2

You don't have to know me very well (I'm told) to know I'm a huge Jackson fan. And this book? I've never read it; it keeps bouncing out of print, although it seems to be firmly in the Amazon catalog at the moment.

But imagine getting to have your words nestled between her words? Mmmm. Click. Sold.

Alas, the pages kept in the book (the stray remains are what give these journals their bit of style) were kind of (forgive me) dull and now I think I'll donate the book to some cause... to be determined, probably in the form of any student who likes to draw or write and makes an effort at some future task.

I do really like the pages left behind in Solomon's Search, though. Here are some examples:

Bookjournal #1 - Original Page

Bookjournal #1 - Back Pages

As for what's going in the journal, I had this romantic idea that Mike and I could use it to "pass notes." But, so far, that has not worked, for the same reason that Mike and I did not go to the dollar store and buy each other $10 worth of symbolic crap, then individually wrap each item, then exchange and explain on Christmas day. Which is to say that some people are lazy before they start, unlike me, who likes to build up a frenzy of ideas then meh-away any follow-through.

I wonder, does Mike mind being married to what is essentially a scout leader with only a flurry of hamsters at her command?

(Speaking of Mike, he went to a randomly-chosen doc on Friday and asked me to stay with him in the examining room. Mike only stresses about one thing in life, and that's facing any change in his health. So, I was there to read the Terry Pratchett, which ended up being great, and periodically look up and tell Mike for the billionth time that he really needs to give Pratchett a go, even though I've been trying to get myself to do that for more than the odd book for years. Anyway, this ended up being a great plan because I like this doctor. Can you believe I said that? Not only does he seem to be on the ball, but his manner is AMAZING. Respectful, friendly, always listening, takes his time... As for Mike, he's had lab tests and is on meds and will get to see Dr. Wonderful again next week. Probably nothing, but, you know.)

Back to journals, then we watched (or rather, listened to, being out of Doctor Who and thus ready for more Warcraft) some old TiVo'd episodes of Scrapbooking, including one all about journaling (which is not usually the process of writing in journals, but just what people used to call "writing," until the scrapbooking community decided it means "writing, especially on scrapbook pages, which sometimes are collected into a sort of journal").

This episode was good if only because Mike started swearing that the hostess, Sandi Genovese (sp), could be Diane Keaton's sister. And then what happened? Sandi showed us some of her journaling... journaling she did for her sister... her sister Diane. I can't even measure the level of excited Googling that followed in the next few seconds. (Alas, only a coincidence.)

Then, later in the show, there was this other guy, a nice young man who makes handsome little journals just for people to share back and forth. "What A Neat Idea - Wow, Who Would Have Thought Of Such A Clever Thing," I said pointedly to Mike, with extra capital letters because that's how the golems talk in the Pratchett book, especially one exasperated one named Gladys.

However, any griping over I Told You It Would Have Been Fun that could've followed was lost because, as we watched, everything in the episode took on a they-must-know-how-this-sounds? homosexual subtext. And then, just as with the Diane Keaton let-down, the man mentioned his wife. But THEN, Sandi talked about using the journals to SAVE THE RELATIONSHIP and continued on about how the writing can be NOT STRAIGHT and this is FINE and we shouldn't worry. Oh, the mirth. We are both 12, you know. Hence the diaries.

31 December 2007 |

Previously: Filler Item


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Filler Item

Boy it is late. Or early.

We've been spending our holidays playing a lot of World of Warcraft, except when tickling the rodents (sounds like a euphemism), pointedly ignoring the literal 2' stack of grading and Other Crap until next week. Now and then we leave the cocoon for things like clearance sales and free gifts.

(Station casinos gave away wine this week. Mike doesn't drink, I almost never drink, and neither of us even cooks with wine. And yet we were foolishly pleased to make a special trip to collect it and often admire the dark bottles from across the room. Tunnel of Elms, Merlot, 2005 - retailing for an entire five dollars per bottle, on some websites.)

"Cheese narrative" (as my dad calls it) aside, we haven't been gorging much or even eating much. Mike has stomach trouble (which is what's keeping me up, but that's another story), and I have "I can't believe I'm leveling another blood elf to 20 just to have a chance to get a tiny pet reindeer for my main character, who is totally moderately rich and could just pay 30 gold in the auction house, but that isn't the same."

(Unfortunately, I know how WoW posts sound to non-players. I once was one. Sorry. Really.)

We did get some Mr Kipling's mince pies at Cost Plus World Market, where we occasionally go when we want to think about spending a lot of money on homesickness cures for Mike. This time, though, everything was half-off, so actual credit cards were swiped and everything.

One place we also went, and I can't remember why but I think it involved wanting something cheap for really cheap, was Wal-Mart. Usually we (say we) only go for hamster food, since they're the only ones in town carrying Hartz Original Recipe in bags, but now they seem to have stopped carrying HOR, so will we ever go again?

Well, actually, we went three times. The first time was just before Christmas. We went down the holiday aisle to see what might be on clearance in a few days. I say "holiday" not out of respect to the diversity in our culture, but because that's what it was - two holidays, actually. One side all red for Christmas, and one side all red for Valentine's Day. In fact, the banners overhead were all V-Day stuff.

No, I am not sh*tting you! December 24. 1 a.m. Parents with toddlers/infants/small ones all over the place. Crazy. And a full-on Valentine's Day display neck-and-neck with the Christmas stuff. The things I can imagine Erma Bombeck blogging about.

(Now that I think of it, doesn't every mommyblogger, really, owe a raised glass of iced-tea-and-bourbon to the big E?_

So, there was that trip to W-M. Then we went again a couple of days after Christmas, just to see if there was anything good left. That's when we noted, amid the dinge and the crud of the otherwise just-fine Henderson shopping center - that there was hardly anything good to start with. (And that one good thing? A set of pewter-style glass-like snowglobe ornaments? Gone, snatched up by the people who queue up at sunrise for W-M's return from their one day off.)

Then there was the trip last night, when we went out to get some stuff for Mike' stomach and decided that some walking would be good. Yes, you can walk on the Strip at midnight, but it's cold. And you have to park. Then walk through the smoky casinos. This is not recommended when one has tummy trouble. Wal-Mart it was, but I tell you, these booty calls cannot last. I think we're going to break up. Even in the nicest neighbourhoods here, W-M really is a depressing place. Gangs of fillers in hoodies smoking out front? Just icing. And now that we'll have to look elsewhere for a good hamster chow blend anyway...

But in happier consumer news, a post on Metafilter has pointed me to the super-neato Amazon Filler Item Finder.

If you're like me, you put off buying something because your Amazon shopping cart comes to $23.02 but free shipping starts at $25. So, I could pay, say, at least five dollars for shipping - OR - I could use the  Filler Item Finder and pay just $1.98 for Cosmic Pet Catnip Puff Balls and it all ships for free. Or even spring an extra penny and get some festive cookie cutters.

You know those "End of the Internet" pages? I think we're really there. I don't think there's anything more I'm hoping to see. Who knew the Filler Item Finder would be it? Actually, last week I thought a certain other site would be it, but this passes even that.

(And that is the topic of some future post. You'll know it because it will be full of flaming caps saying DON'T CLICK THIS LINK, and then of course you will click that link, and a cold rift will descend between us where trust used to be. Let future generations see right here that I am telling you not to click that link. But since you will click, just know that these are the pretty days, the days between now and you and your itchy mouse finger and me and my yabbing gob.)

28 December 2007 |


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This Year's Cheeseboard

This is the before shot, so I could always remember what was what:

Served Just Like This

Served with slices of Pugliese, sesame-herb flatbread, and slices of organic navel orange for a faux-pretentious tart contrast (because the non-organic oranges at WF were covered in nasty little bugs - ew):

Flatbreads, Pugliese, Orange, and Jarlsberg

A side view of the finished product (the bird's eye view reflected my poor arrangement of the cheddar, and I'd rather the world never know about that) - pretend that the blurred oranges in the foreground are blurred artfully:

The Other Side - This Year's Cheese


Fromage Comtois Brie
Just a nice, dependable brie. Easier to serve from a wedge than a wheel.

Champignon Bavarian Brie with Garlic

Mike's choice.  Strangely, no mushrooms involved. Subtle with the garlic, but when compared to the brie above there's no mistaking the light difference. (I know, Bavarian brie? Apparently it's the milk.)

Doux de Montagne
Looked harmless. Tasted harmless. Every once in awhile I'd say, "wait, what does that one taste like again?" And I still can't tell you. (The web says it's a French Havarti. Pft.)

Tintern with Shallots and Chives
Peaky, aggressive, but quick to withdraw... by which I mean you're confronted by its pinchy tang, but this is not overbearing. Mike says this is the least favourite of the bunch, but still good. (He said this before trying all of the selection, which may be meaningful.) I think of it as the quirky Welsh cheddar that could.

Australian Cheddar
To me, it simply tastes like a very good cheddar. And that's nice. But, to Mike, it tastes like a whole world.

Amadeus Cheese
This year's surprise! I got it because I liked the look of the Havarti-like texture, and because, you know, AMADEUS. Visions of Falco and Tom Hulce. Mellow but perky. From Austrla. No Wikipedia article. Want to know more.

Maple(-)Smoked Jarlsberg
It's my lifelong belief that you can't go wrong with a smoked cheese, and if it's maple-smoked? It's like someone loves you and they want you to be happy.

26 December 2007 |


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All is Merry and Bright

Happy holidays to everyone from me, Mike, and


Merry Christmas from Stephen


Merry Christmas from Sherman


Merry Christmas from Arthur

Comet (pensive right profiles are going to be very hot in 2008!)

Merry Christmas from Comet


Merry Christmas from Bonnet


Merry Christmas from Edith


Merry Christmas from Pepper (Clever Spoilsport)

and Snorre!

Merry Christmas from Snorre

26 December 2007 |


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The Word to Get What You Came For

This is making my night at the moment:


22 December 2007 |

Previously: By the Face of Lucca!


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By the Face of Lucca!

S:    "Queen Elizabeth's the oldest-ever monarch?"

M:    "No, she's the oldest queen."

S:    "It says she's the oldest U.K. monarch."

M:    "Oh. Longest reign for a queen, then?"

S:    "No, that's still Victoria."

M:    "I thought George was ahead of her in something."

S:    "George? Which George?"

M:    "Her father?"

S:    (scoffing!) "Noooo.... not her father. He wasn't around that long."

M:    "There was some George ahead of her."

S:    "Oh yes, here it is, at the end. She has to pass Henry III and George III before she can take on Victoria."

M:    "Ah."

S:    "Henry III? Henry III? I know Henry I, Henry II, Henry IV, but Henry III?

And so, I will now Google for 90 seconds (or Wiki for 60) and share what I learn about Henry III:

  • He was the weedy (or maligned, if you prefer) King John's son. And I was just thinking, as we sit here watching the Attenborough remake of Miracle on 34th Street, that's it's just that time of the year for The Lion in Winter again. Best. Christmas. Movie. Ever.
  • He became king when was nine years old.
  • He called England's first Parliament.
  • Like his namesake and grandfather, he also married an Eleanor. (And she was also French, but who wasn't?)
  • He made Jews wear a badge of shame.
  • He idolized Edward the Confessor.
  • People became impatient with how many times a day he heard mass, especially when traveling.
  • Due to one thing and another, the monarchy was nearly ended when Simon de Montfort's men got Henry under house arrest.
  • His son was Edward I - "Longshanks" - the king (somewhat) portrayed in Braveheart.
  • Oath: "By the face of Lucca!"

21 December 2007 |

Previously: In a Robinson Tube


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In a Robinson Tube

Apparently a "Robinson tube" is a real scientific device, but what I'm thinking of are those tubes in movies that astronauts get into at the start of a space journey. You know, where they stand upright in storage until the ship reaches its destination. Like with the Robinsons on Lost in Space. Like me, until Winter Break begins after Friday. Insert Smiley of Hope and Goodwill here.

I got the COOLEST thing in the mail today. The COOLEST. And I'm so excited that I ordered another one even before this one arrived, because I know it will be DOUBLE-EXTRA-SPECIAL COOL. And then I will show you both of them, and you will be amazed, whoever you are. (Or possibly a little wary, as I still am despite the glee, but we'll talk about that later.) If I am hit by a bus and killed before I can say anything, be sure to ask Mike. It will be worth interrupting his grieving process to find out.

We didn't do much more than the usual this weekend, other than make a bunch of money on World of Warcraft selling small eggs and ice cold milk to all the people who wanted to make cookies for Greatfather Winter. Ditto runecloth for tarty Santa suits. And you thought the game was all just hacking at monsters and looking hot in plate mail?

We did go to Whole Foods and, after taking out a small business loan (thanks T. for the joke), bought all the stuff for this year's holiday cheeseboard. Which I will show you later, after we get this year's free holiday plates from the casino. (Last year was a snowman theme. This year? Candy canes!)

I still have not cleaned the car, mailed the mail, or submitted the committee paperwork (the last being because my committee is being slow, but whatever). I also haven't renewed my teaching license, and I promise that isn't Freudian self-sabotage. Look at me, right now, taking out my test scores and checkbook and placing it at the head of the stairs. Tomorrow, I'll take care of it. Definitely maybe.

For the sake of future reminiscing, I'd like to briefly note here that last Friday was the day that I didn't go to assembly and instead tutored kids in my room. That happens during many assemblies, actually, but I want my Future Self to remember that this was that assembly, you know? Do you get what I'm saying, Future Self? As for the rest of you, hopefully my Future Self will explain it in a few years. Then you might say, "Jeez, what else doesn't get reported to the media?" Or to the teachers, who you'd think would have a right to know. But you can't be bitter, because I know even Future Self has moved on. Hopefully literally.

It is nice here in my Robinson Tube, with the Christmas lights twinkling and the lemon-lime-and-bitters gurgling. Thank goodness for cryogenics or I'd be waving my arms, daring to grin, yelling, "Friday! Friday! Come in, Friday!"

18 December 2007 |


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Can't. Sleep. As. Usual.

Despite one good night of continuous sleep this week, I have once again blown it by foregoing my nap. It is after midnight and I'm dreadfully tired, but I just can't rest. One reason is that I fear getting too relaxed and not hearing the alarm clock. We need more alarm clocks. So, I won't put on the nature CD in case I don't hear the alarm clock.

Mike was asleep within four minutes of hitting the pillow. It would've been three, but I had to know whether it was Edith or Pepper running in the saucer. (The girls are on his side of the bed.)

Things on my mind:

  • Sleep
  • Do I have nerve damage from wearing a "least of all evils" bra instead of a "properly fitting but not comfortable unless you stand up straight and weigh 100 pounds less" bra? I think the big dead area on my back where I can barely feel fingernails is telling me something.
  • Am I ever going to be awake enough to go to Sunflower Market, where vine-ripe tomatoes are 99 cents/pound this week?
  • Am I going to get my committee paperwork finished, especially now that the district people have decided we all have to do more paperwork? I'm just always so tired and end up using my prep time to make more worksheets and check schoolwide daily attendance over and over to see who's likely to show up for my last period.
  • Am I going to get some materials in the mail that I promised to a textbook company? Again, always too tired.
  • Am I going to mail those photos to my aunt soon? (Hi Aunt Donna. I have your photos, but they can't seem to jump in this envelope by themselves. Weird!)
  • Will I manage to renew my teaching license next week? Like I meant to do last week? The one that expires less than two weeks after break ends?
  • When am I going to get the oil changed?
  • When am I going to clean out the car so I can face the people who vac your car when you get your oil changed?
  • When am I going to shampoo the car so I can drive barefoot without getting "blackheel"?
  • When am I going to shampoo the carpet at home?
  • Does the refrigerator need defrosting? Was that smell really coming from the cheese? What if it comes back?
  • Should I try an expensive new moisturizer so the kids will stop accusing me of being silly/wishfully lying when I say I'm 38?
  • Will I ever use the moisturizer I have... or at least use it more than once a week, and on those days at least follow the instructions correctly?
  • Will we ever get around to decorating the tree?
  • Where does all the stuff come from?
  • Why doesn't the American work ethic value longer holidays?
  • How bad is the new Daisy on the Dead Like Me movie going to be?
  • Is J.K. Rowling a communist?
  • Am I going to be one of those people whose (sometimes) infected wisdom teeth kill them?
  • How are we going to get that one track light bulb replaced without having to mess with maintenance people?
  • Was the one good stapler hidder in my desk really stolen, or is it buried under the debris that I keep saying I'll reorganize tomorrow?
  • Why do the kids steal so much?
  • How sad is it when a student excitedly asks if the class can have voluntary Secret Santa, but five minutes later the project is abandoned because everyone realizes that too many people would cheat and not do it?
  • Do the neighbours boil cabbage every night, or does the stairwell smell like that for other reasons?
  • Do I like that Anne Perry book or is it just easy to read?
  • Where are our new Station Casino offers?
  • How many people have actually tried milk and Pepsi?
  • Why Pepsi instead of Coke?
  • What would Walt do?
  • Who is going to read all of the essays?
  • Why did I assign two topics?
  • Can I wear jeans tomorrow?
  • Have years of sleep/vitamin/moisture deprivation taken a permanent toll on my brain? Will I ever be able to think again?
  • Why can't I find a YouTube commercial of the "My Little Pony" jingle where they hold the note of the last syllable for ages? I think Mike doesn't believe me.
  • Do I have a mild case of lockjaw?
  • Why has that mole been weird for at least 20 years?
  • Did Ten Years After have any other songs?
  • Did I remember to blog about that unsettling Bananarama cover of the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Running"?
  • Did The Doobie Brothers have any other songs?
  • Are the clothes in the dryer dry?
  • Is it worth it to make your own egg nog?
  • Will I ever need a slotted spoon, other than to follow Alton Brown's egg nog recipe?
  • Why did that Christmas card from Emma and her husband just fall off the television, just now, when I've done nothing but sit here?
  • Was the Sybil case mostly fabricated after all?
  • Did the Ouija board really work that one time?
  • Did Queen Isabella lisp or is that an urban legend?
  • What ever happened to Teem soda?
  • Will we ever have a dining room table?
  • Why did I ever have to find out what gang graffiti looks like?
  • Why do I teach students who won't use a pen that's not in their gang colours?
  • Is our children learning?
  • Is the nerve damage causing a hump, or is that just fat?
  • Will I sleep?

14 December 2007 |

Previously: 600 Grains So Far


Heather in PA

hey there.
we didn't have a table for over 5 years. Husband knocked together a 'temporary' table out of plywood and 2x4s when we moved in together... 'just for a month or two' until we had the cash for a table. Then it came with us to the next apartment (a year later) where it was the 'temporary until we buy a house' table because hey, why buy a table that might not fit into our house eventually, right? I think we used that excuse for 6 years. When we bought our house in 06, we decided we had better cough up the dough and buy something already. Feels very grown up, though I do miss the days of screwing another (bigger) sheet of plywood on top of the table for extra room when we had guests. :)

I hope you get some sleep!!!

heather in pa

oh, yeah - and I used to drink milk and coke. We were never a pepsi family. But milk and coke reminded me a little of an ice cream soda after the ice cream had all melted. I guess I just thought it was normal because hey, Laverne liked it.

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600 Grains So Far

From a recent comment over at Neil Gaiman's blog, I invite you to play Free Rice. I've somehow made it through "spillikin" and "ilex" but the pressure is getting too much and I plan to stop. Any minute now. Just one more word. ... ... ...

And "depone" has been my undoing. It doesn't mean "unveil." Damn my assumptions!

I came home from work; we decompressed; we decided not to go to the pie social in the clubhouse (same as last year); we made a brisk run up to Red Rock for 2-fer buffet, and I can highly recommend the pear mousse cake. Also the scalloped potatoes. Extra creamy on both counts.

I then managed to stay up another 30 minutes before conking out around 6:45, a library copy of Realityland thudding to the floor.

I thought Mike fell asleep with me, but then I remember him coming to bed in the middle of the night. "Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's," he said. "Oh no," I replied, "but shhhhhhhh - I have to SLEEP."

My insensitivity was worth it, and I slept until 4 am. Now it's 5 and I'm well rested and ready to bring my A-game to school. Unfortunately, today is one of those unruly catchup days where people will waste a lot of time talking instead of using the extra time to get their academic houses in better order.

(Mike just came out, rough from bed, squinting against the light. We just stared at each other. Me: "You can still sleep. You have another hour." Him: "I thought you just came in and woke me. I guess it was a dream." And now he's back to bed.)

Anyway, terrible about Terry. Intriguing, though, in light of my mom. He discovered in August that he has a rare form of early Alzheimer's, and that it caused a phantom stroke earlier.

What is a phantom stroke? We thought my mom was having strokes, but then apparently she wasn't, but then she did end up with Alzheimer's in her early fifties, but even the current neurologist (so much better than the previous neurologist, omg) says her case is weird and he's not completely convinced it's "classic Alz." (Then there was the day when we all latched on to the hope that it was a folic acid deficiency gone terribly, terribly wrong.) We'll find out more, or we won't, after her appointment today.

In any case, there is too much Alzheimer's in the world. But we knew that. Coincidentally, I just picked up Pratchett's latest a couple of days ago. I always want to give him another shot, but the last three or four times I tried that, the books just stayed in a pile, waiting to accumulate library late fees. It's still puzzling, the way I loved Good Omens but can never quite embrace Pratchett or Gaiman's solo work with such adoration. (Well, it's easy to admire anything those two write, but not as easy to lose myself in the race to read the next page, if that makes sense.)

And Snorre just submitted to a great amount of petting and pecking without a single bite. What is the world coming to?

13 December 2007 |


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Lemon, Lime, and Bitters

As mentioned more than once lately, LL&B is my equivalent to the 1957 clink of highballs. I come home; I loosen my tie (fling off my bra); I peck the wife on the cheek (grunt dramatically in the direction of my husband's computer); I sit down on the sofa and stretch my legs a bit (flop across the end, waving around liberated but smelly feet); and I smile as I gratefully take the cocktail (make a low orcish noise while grabbing at the lemon, lime, and bitters) from my dear spouse.

But sometimes, it is late and Mike is asleep and I must be my own barkeep. You would think the person who HTMLized the original Internet Bartender's Guide, who used to invent drinks based around Twinkies and root beer then give them their own web pages, who co-authored the Mille Bornes drinking game - you would think this person could mix a simple lemon, lime, and bitters.

Alas, I can't. I always get too much of something and not enough of another and I start feeling sorry for myself, staring at the pathetic off-colour fizz I've placed on the endtable, sad that no one is awake to make me this spectacular drink. That may sound immature, but I think the fact that I don't wake anyone up to mix it properly is a testament to my serene wisdom and patience.

I'd like to show you a picture of a good LL&B, expertly crafted by Mike, but that would mean stopping the sipping in order to take photos. I can't do that. Instead, you get a photo of the empty glass of satisfaction:

Note that Snowman Mickey and Snowman Pooh are decorating the television. It's like Frankenmuth in here!

Here is the recipe:

  • Place 3-4 ice shards in a glass. You know, the crescenty ones.
  • Or don't. This may be where I mess up, come to think of it.
  • Pour yay-much of Rose's Lime Cordial into the glass. Like, an inch? No, a bit more. Or less, if drinking from a pail. (This is Vegas. I can't make assumptions.)
  • Shake in some Angostura bitters a few times. Not too much, but more than you'd think. Make sure they're the Angostura bitters from the House of Angostura, and not the Angostura bitters that have angostura bark in them so knockoffs can get away with using the word "Angostura" on the label.
  • Fill to top with "lemonade," aka what other countries call Sprite, 7Up, Sierra Mist (Mike says this isn't sharp enough), or - ideally - a lemon-lime soda with cane sugar. Don't pour too slowly as you do want a bit of a head, but not too much of a head.
  • Garnish with slices of lime. If you're like me, you always ignore garnishing suggestions, but I'm telling you, these lime slices need to happen. It makes a huge difference.

You should end up with something of a medium rose shade that is sweet and tart but also edgy yet staid and nicely bubbly. Maybe you will serve it nicely in a pilsner glass that was free from South Coast casino, as Mike does. You should not end up with a weak mess thrown together, as I do it:

Important sights to note or squint at in that picture:

  • dusty, misbehaving wireless router
  • Freakonomics from library
  • some MasterCard class action suit notice being used as a bookmark
  • plain walls that would've benefited from white balancing the camera first (true also for first photo)
  • stack of MyCokeRewards codes that I can't get around to entering, and then on Saturday I found out that the ones I entered a few months ago all expired, and now I'm too cross to enter any more codes but too cheap to throw them out... yet.
  • remote that I keep by me to prevent another marathon viewing of the last Split Enz tour on DVD (as much as I genuinely enjoy the band...)
  • the neverending French postcards

I think Mike needs to star in a YouTube series of "Things I Can Do Really Well." It could include:

12 December 2007 |


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The Wrong Thing to Watch

Or maybe the right thing. (a coincidence via dooce)

12 December 2007 |


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The Tenth Good Thing about Euphrosyne

Me and Phros, Fort Worth

~26 May 1990 - 11 December 2007

Her love was fierce and beautiful.

Au revoir, my Phros.

12 December 2007 |

Previously: LOLThings


Jay Lee

...and contained great mirth!

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As mentioned here before... I think... unless it was one of those posts I write mentally in the car on the way home from work... posts that are always erudite and witty and never endless and whiny.... Mike doesn't understand it, but I read "I Can Has Cheezburger" all day. That's not even an exaggeration. To me, they are the Far Sides of 2007, except 98% less clever. (But c'mon, Larson stands alone.)

Note to self: find out where all of the old Far Side day planners and desk calendars have gone. Acquire. Use to decorate classroom. (I've already done this with the FS day planner Mom gave me a few years ago, but I don't want to get into why I want to take those cartoons down. Actually, I did want to get into it, but the "positive attitude only!" mandate kicked in, so I deleted that paragraph.)

Anyway, I'm always wanting to repost the pics here, and this could easily become the blog where people visit because they only want to see a fraction of the ICHC lolcats. Perhaps these people are afraid of cheeseburger icons and therefore can't visit the real thing. I don't know. It's a rather stupid premise but a tempting one.

(Speaking of stupid premises, if I haven't mentioned it already, I know I didn't finish NaNoWriMo. But, I was only 46,000 or so words short! Frankly, knowing me, I'm pleased to have even tried. It's a bad sign when you kill off one of your major characters because you're finding them so boring. Then it's a worse sign when you want to kill off everyone else and are spending a lot of time wondering how to get on with chapter 5 if everyone is gone by the previous chapter. But, I did try, and that is the first step. To something. Perhaps not harboring any illusions of trying again. Meanwhile, the bulk postcards are still stacked up all over our home, including collections from Spain and Austria, so I should get busy on eventually finishing the French lot.)

Here I was going to put some ICHC lolcats but, damnit, the net is being stupid again. For the past few days either the connection or the router has been going south. I suspect the router, but I don't know. I think we need to change the channel.

Wait, here we go:

funny pictures

funny pictures

funny pictures

funny pictures

funny pictures

funny pictures

Okay. Done for now. I do have some sense of restraint. The same sense of restraint that keeps me from playing World of Warcraft all day instead of finishing grading essays while the sun is out. It's a weak sense, okay?

Things I should post about but will possibly never get around to it (like that Dealey Plaza post): our little pony, Mike's haircut, the best and worst from the YA fiction piled by the sofa, why GVR's dinner buffet is not All That (even when freeish, and especially when the Hanukkah menu is in place), Mike's discovery of some "good chocolate," the snow on the mountains (especially the mountains that lead to Utah), how behind I am on sending all kinds of mail (be it interwork or own mailbox) and yet still had to forcibly stay my hand from buying the cutest Christmas cards, this year's neato holiday cookie jars from Station Casinos (who have otherwise really embraced The Chintz), my decision to finally read Anne Perry (despite the lack of scandal under the author bio), and at least a dozen praises for our evening "cocktail."

11 December 2007 |

Previously: Critterwalk


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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 Switchboard.com 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, 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 http://www.frommers.com/blog/. 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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