Apples and Visions

I won't say the apple/poetry lesson thingie was sensational, but it didn't flop. I think the kids were more interested in my old (and, alas, steadily cracking) apple slicer, but perhaps there's something to be said for a bunch of 14-year-olds resolving to have one of their own someday. Maybe next week I will show them the garlic press?

The lesson, by the way, was pretty simple. Usually it went like this: read Ode to a/the Lemon (translations vary), hold up a lemon during the fourth stanza for maximum effect of the word "nipple," point out the way you can say yellow without just saying yellow, point out the holy imagery, discuss the purpose/form of an ode, students jot down everything that comes to mind when they think of apples, cut apples with mesmerizing slicer as this happens (and slip in a Grāpple®), distribute apples, students name their apple slices (Honors only - they're cute that way), walk students through each sense (having them write down their observations as they sniff/see/touch apple) ending with taste/sound, point out that eight people have SPECIAL apples and see if anyone has realized that they aren't eating a normal apple at all, and then assign ode of three stanza/two lines each minimum, incorporating each sense.

As I drove in to work, mouth open at all the snow that'd fallen on the southwestern mountains (our mountains!) during the night, I wasn't sure if I'd even bother. I was cross from a bad dream. That's two mornings in a row. ("Mornings" because for the past two days I've been on the "nap at 5 p.m. then nap again at 4 a.m." plan. It's the morning sleep that's throwing up demons.)

Two mornings ago, what I can remember of the dream went like this:

The Sahara was giving me and my parents a special suite of rooms for our visit. On the outside, it looked like a Beverly Hills bungalow (as I imagine them). On the inside, it was amazing. In one corner there was a rollercoaster. We were busy exploring, figuring out who would go where, and I was taking photos of everything, already mentally preparing how to begin gushing to Mike. I rode the rollercoaster a little bit and ended up by a bed and bath that I decided would be mine.

That's when I saw a couple of young children run by. Ah, I thought. That's not unusual, what with this being a dream and all. They ran by again. Okay, not unusual, maybe, but annoying - this is our hotel suite! There can't be hallucinations of children running around!

So, I held out my arms in front of me in a gesture that meant "come grab my hands." I knew it wouldn't work because, hey, it's like when you try to read a book in your dreams - there just isn't that kind of control.

And then they grabbed my hands.

These kids, who were definitely not alive/human, weren't just images, either. They could see me, and they were still running around, laughing, not leaving. I started feeling creeped out.

Around this time, my parents came downstairs, looking unhappy, and I said, "Let me guess, you have 10 black children following you and they won't leave?"

(Yes, all of the kids were black. It seemed like an important detail at the time. Maybe it had something to do with me having prepared to teach "Blackberry Sweet" that day.)

Then we saw the hotel manager who'd inexplicably given us the suite (we weren't even staying at the Sahara), and accused him of not telling us everything. Now it wasn't just kids but also a woman and a man, dressed in clothes possibly from the turn of the (last) century.

I don't remember how it ended, though. I think I just woke up frustrated and puzzled.

Then yesterday morning, that was the bad one. I can't remember much anymore, but the bad part was this:

Comet had a cage-style habitat where he lived alone. (I don't know what happened to Bonnet.) I walked by and noticed that, oh my, there was a tiny chipmunk (or squirrel - I wasn't sure) running in his wheel. How did that squirrel (or chipmunk) get in there?!

So, I went over, camera already on me, but the squirrel was off the wheel. It was about the size of a dwarf ham. I opened the door to get the squirrel out, lest Comet was unhappy.

But when I opened the door, there were all kinds of critters in there. Mostly small. I started pulling them out like it was a clown car and I was the big gloved Monty Python hand. I was really worried about Comet now, and I saw him pressed up against a pole, on his back two legs, like a thief on a ledge, trying to avoid the notice of these other animals.

I put my hand out to him and he got on - it was just in time, because there was also a cat in the cage and a very large bunny. The bunny tried to lunge at Comet, and I had to punch it in the face to keep him back. (Yes, in my dream I punched an adorable plush grey rabbit in the face. I was horrified even as my fist met bunched up bunny-nose, but Comet was in danger.)

And then...

The cat was in front of me, staring hard at Comet. Comet took offense and chittered at the cat. And the cat... grabbed Comet. With its mouth.

I pried open the cat's teeth and was trying to get Comet out, who'd gone in head first. The cat had amazing gulping powers, though. I was yelling and trying to feel around in the cat's throat so I could cradle Comet and pull him out all together (as opposed to a taffy-hammie-pull with the cat). But, did Comet.... did he still have a head? Oh no... I wasn't sure. I kept trying to pry him out, but the cat was bearing down.

And then cat's jaws slammed shut, with all of Comet inside, except for one tiny foot that fell from the toothy guillotine.

And I did not wake up happy.

I staggered up to the alarm and checked on Comet. He was fine - more than fine. He was snuggled with Bonnet in their "corner unit" hideyhole, like they knew it was snowy outside and white weather calls for furry bedfellows. Normally shy/wary Bonnet avoids Comet and his rough play, which is sad for Comet since he really likes to tuck in with Bonnet. (But, he also deserves to be rejected, since Bonnet has no interest in playing silly alpha male games and for a long time Comet wouldn't take the hint.) But there they were, both of them, curled up together like little pom-poms.

The little-feet-go-snap image is still vivid in my mind, but hopefully the sight of Comet blissfully snozzed out with his brother will take over.

And now it's 3:55 a.m. and today's morning nap is about to take over. May I dream of nothing, as Mercutio would've advised.

(Speaking of Shakespeare, looks like the district has blocked Amazon as well. Oh well. Maybe I'll invest in that sixth stapler. Or try Barnes and Noble...)


25 January 2008 |


Heather in Pa

Oooh, that's awful!

May your dreams this evening/morning involve generous amounts of pixie dust and happy ever afters!


i think that mouse was adorible


Heather: I can't remember anything, so that's good, right? :)

La'Resha: Thanks! He's actually a dwarf hamster, but we're mouse-friendly around here, too. :)

Heather in PA

Mouse friendly - our house is TOO mouse friendly. I've 'relocated' probably about 15 of them in the last 2 months. I love rodents. Just not uninvited ones that poop all over the basement and stash Sherman's food in odd places. (we humanely trap them and take them to a park a few miles away. I've threatened to keep them but husband says they could be disease-ridden and generally unsanitary. What do you think?)

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French Postcards: Dinan

Last day of the week before staff development day. I went to the store and spent $30 on produce for tomorrow's (hold breath) poetry lesson, produce that includes eight Grāpples - something Mike and I haven't even gotten to splurge on yet. (He made such a face of happiness before I ended my sentence with "but, they're for the kids, so I've left them in the car.")

If you're tsking at me for buying those literature books (see last post), please consider this receipt for five varieties of apple (plus Grāpple) when weighing my soul.

Speaking of those books, the district's classroom supply card did not work for the one used book. Fair enough - it was more of a "read this when you need a little commiseration then go back into the trenches, a little less isolated" type of classroom supply than a "read this and share directly with the kiddos" supply, like the Asimov. I tried to buy hope instead of white-out and paper clips. That's what happens.

But, this means that the card may not work for the regular Amazon order, either, since I think(?) they process payment when shipping. If so, steel yourselves for some bawling. English teachers need books! We are so much less fussy when spooning our paper pacifiers.

Speaking of books and school, via MF I found out about this post, an exploration of the little-known ruin that is Detroit's school book depository.... which led to me having all kinds of thoughts about my childhood in Michigan and how it primed me for a lifetime fascination with ruins. (I'm from the burbs, but the historical burbs.) My mind needs to reach back sometime and remember some of those childhood expeditions into the burned out homes and factories and zillions of dusty/crusty antique stores. (Let's just say that my father found his lumber in the most interesting of places.) Anyway, check out the post if only to see the tree growing in a slushy pile of ruined, 20-years-abandoned textbooks.

Thanks to that post I also now have the HDR bug. In short, HDR involves taking pictures at three or more exposures and combining/toning for dramatic effect. Photoshop even has an automatic "Merge to HDR" feature - who knew?! (Probably everyone but me.)

So, I was looking at photos like this, drooling, and I just had to run out to the balcony to start experimenting. (Running out to somewhere with actual scenery would've been better, but you can't be choosy at 4 p.m. when bedtime/naptime is minutes away.)

Alas, the mini-tripod wasn't finding purchase, the shutter release cable was throwing fits, and it just wasn't the right time of day to really capture the, er, beauty of the nail salon in the strip mall, which is all I can see now that development blocks most of the mountains.

(Hey, Sunday is the three-year anniversary of my arrival. Below is the balcony view from the first day. Said view has since been replaced with more houses, part of a school, a warehouse of sorts, and a shopping center. And, the road is now three paved lanes in each direction with a median.)

(Note that some of the mountains are hidden by clouds. It's a layered look!)

So, my first experiments in HDR were so MEH that I permanently deleted the files (and keep in mind that I normally keep and backup everything, even white balance shots), but I'll give it another go when out in open country. (Darnit, does this mean I'm finally going to be like the big kids and start shooting everything in RAW? Does "more memory cards" count as a classroom supply? Are you sure? Because I think they sell them at Office Depot... Meanwhile, here's the main tutorial I'm using, and this overview is also quite useful.)

But we were speaking of Dinan. At least, that's what the title of this post says, and I'd rather work in Dinan here than make a new post. So many clicks...

I was sure we'd already had a postcard of Dinan, because I remember talking about my French penpal from Dinan, back in 1981 or 82. But no, no matches. I hate being (consciously) repetitive, so I won't even mention her again, she whose name I've forgotten. (But, have I ever mentioned how much I like it when other people repeat their stories? It's so reassuring to know I'm not the only one who forgets whose been told what. When I smile and nod at these people telling me the same story for the fourth time, I'm distracted by all the yellowy sunshine in my veins.)


Postmarked 8-8-89, mailed to Fam. Hurstman, Papaverweg 86, 8042 EJ Zwolle, Pays-Bas.

The Basque country! Oooo.

Alas, it looks like more Dutch. Or, Basque. (+!) Or a Czech-Dutch mix - lots of the y's have lines over them, but maybe the Dutch do that? (Hehe. Czech mix.)

"Lieve oneurs,

"Een tweede beu chtje ent Dinan. Wy zyn nog steeds op dezelfde camping. Deze weck ver treh ken we hadr een camping richting Ned. Het weer blytt goed, nog madr twee beuvlhte dagen gehad. Saint. Mabo, lut strand en de angerrng is morr, maar de afstanden groot. By de volgende camping bellen we.

"Tot viens. W.M.B.E."

Babelfish says, "Kind oneurs, Second tired chtje ent Dinan. Wy zyn still on the same camp-site. These can far treh know we hadr a camp-site direction Ned. The blytt well, still madr summon two beuvlhte have. Saint. Mabo, lut range and the angerrng are morr, but the distances large. By ring the next camp-site we. To viens. W.M.B.E."

P.S. This is the first card I've actually quite liked in awhile. "Would buy in real life. A+++!"

24 January 2008 |


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What Are Classroom Supplies?

I have $66.66 (yes, really) left on my district Visa card, and because there are so many ways to spend it, I keep not spending it at all, and now it's about to expire, and as I understand it, the money doesn't go back into a pool - it's just gone.

(I did try to spend some of it last month, on posterboard, but because it's a Visa debit card without a PIN or, it seems, a zip code, everything karked it when I used self-checkout and I ended up pulling out my own plastic rather than re-queue.)

(And I did just try to add it to PayPal, to get some educational game stuff for cheap on eBay, but this year they seem to have blocked PayPal.)

(And I did just try to buy a book for $20 less than Amazon on, but Half wigs out at the "billing address" stage, even though my card is activated for online ordering.)

(At least I didn't try to buy anything at Best Buy, like a pair of speakers so I can show video clips from the local PBS streaming online video site that the district keeps push-push-pushing us to use. I already know that they set up any purchases at Best Buy to be automatically declined.)

Amazon, though, seems to take it (knock nearby microsuede). And I, I think it's perfectly justifiable to spend at least $25 of the card on finally getting my own copy of Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare.

Although there were other temptations.

(I could buy the speakers at Amazon, but now that I'm considering transferring, it doesn't seem like a sound move. The newer schools already have this kind of fancy technology in place.)

You have to keep receipts, which I agree is a good idea, although it keeps me up a little at night that I don't know offhand where I put that $5 receipt for glue sticks last month. Then again, last year I spent $8 on "reward ceremony treats/favors" (we don't say p-a-r-t-y) at Wal-Mart, and then I found out from a fellow teacher that food is totally forbidden and uptown decorated scratch-n-sniff pencils might be a little suspect. Which, I can understand, but where are these things written? It just says "classroom supplies." What, exactly, is a classroom supply?

Well, dry erase markers and sticky notes and paper and pens and scissors and folders and - always - more dry erase markers - all that, yes. But I bought all of that with my own money in August when school was starting and all the great sales were on. The cards did come earlier this year (the day before school started), but if you wait that long, you get a keen understanding of the phrase "while supplies last." I did probably find enough cheap dregs at the time to save $50 on next year's supplies, though. Go me!

Textbooks? Yes, I think the $200 card would cover the purchase of three. I've had six stolen this year, I think, which seems to be about the norm. So, while it's a shame that our kids don't have enough books in the class and can't take books home, it's not a wise use of the money. (Especially when new books will be purchased in a couple of years. With the same stories in them, and the same graffiti within a few weeks.)

Um. Pretty bulletin board decorations? Motivational posters? I already have that. (In fact, I had to take some down to make room for student work which, here as we start the second semester, I have yet to put up. Yes, this does appall me every day, but I think dingy bare prison walls set a hard-working tone, no? No. I do feel bad. Really. I'll try to fix it tomorrow. But that would mean buying more posterboard.)

I think, or hope, that extra information or approaches to information are just as valid as staplers (I have five, counting the three broken ones and the stolen one), loaner pens for students (never returned, never seen again in the child's hand), and anything else that, okay, I should have in my classroom, but it's too depressing to spend money on replacing things that are meant to last awhile, and somehow we get by without paper clips or, lately, tissue.

(I'm waiting for the next $1/box sale. I'm done with trying to explain why it's a problem to take three 2-ply tissues to briefly blow your nose. Even I cringe when I hear those prissy words come out. On the plus side, no tissue in the classroom means no used tissue in the whiteboard gutters, on the floor, or behind the books.)

So, I'm getting the Shakespeare book. That, and a book of Ambrose Bierce short stories that I've wanted for a billion years and would love to integrate into next year's short story unit. (But not "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" because everyone always does that. And that link I just linked, with the video, really has me intrigued, but it's going to have to wait until I can appreciate it, which will be after I finish Pratchett's surprisingly not-cliched Monstrous Regiment in a few minutes. So, if it sucks, I apologize - I haven't really looked at it yet. Also, I have a feeling I've linked to it and said all that before. Double apologies, perhaps.)

I remember one time, a friend of my parents worked for some branch of the local government, and she was laughing, talking about what a fun day they all had, going crazy ordering useless stuff out of catalogs because all the extra money in the budget had to be spent by 5 p.m. or else the budget might be lower for next year. Thin pressed lips on my mother's part ensued.

So, I don't want anyone to think I'm just sitting here spending taxpayer dollars on non-essentials. Better it be spent toward something positive and classroom-related than be lost. But, the system is a little broken - unspent money should return to the district, and we really ought to get our cards in the mail as soon as the sales start. It's hard to pay $10 for a big binder today that I can get for $3 when the time is right.

Book and book, that's $37 spent. I really wanted the Norton Anthology of Poetry, what with us doing poetry all quarter and me only really just discovering P*blo N*ruda so now wanting to bring in apples (can I put those on the card?) and have everyone write odes like this:

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature

Although, honestly, if I'd written that, I'd say the imagery wasn't really that original or compelling and that it reads like pretentious crud that is meant to look meaningful by adding lots of line breaks. Sorry. I know he won a Nobel Prize. I do enjoy it, though. (But mostly because I love onions.)

Anyway, the big 2500-page Norton Anthology is the one I was trying to get on for less. I could go halvsies on it, I suppose, but then I find myself deciding that I may as well just look at the table of contents online and get copies of the poems via Google. It's not the same, there is no joy of annotating, but I don't even know if the gift card understands halvsies. (There are lots of dire warnings about getting approved for purchases when funds aren't there then having to pay overdraft fees.)


Okay, I'm throwing in the aforelinked Elizabeth Gold book. It's a penny (plus shipping). I know I'm taking Scotch tape out of babies' mouths, but please remember that these are the same babies that stole at least a foot of packaged lined paper from supply cabinet. (Doesn't this review sell it all?)

That leaves about $24. There's a new OfficeMax down the street. Folders in assorted colors are 2-for-1, along with tape, pens, and glue sticks. I'll do the right thing and the kick-off coffers ready for next August.

So, next year, when I'm crabbing about not having the card in time to buy thumbtacks at 90% off, you can remind me that someone wanted to be all hoity-toity and inspired instead of laying in the stealables. And maybe I will remember that, its faults and frustrations aside, I'm lucky to still be an idealist. The district, despite its stern letter yesterday saying I'll be fired in June if I don't renew my license (that I renewed over a month ago, thanks), is doing the right thing by helping me invest in that.

23 January 2008 |


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French Postcards: Lozère

"Lozère" sounds like a fake French word for "loser." Like "tar-zhay" for Target stores. And why do I still remember the first time I heard "tar-zhay" like that? (Sitting around a conference table, the side closest to the door, first or second day on the job as a canvasser for Texans United, a group that was trying to prevent a utility rate hike, having one of those "great chemistry" conversations with a guy who quit the next day.)

According to Pliny, Lozère cheese is nice. But, despite years of nodding at his cited wisdom, I'm not really sure: who was Pliny?

Apparently, he was

  • "the Elder" (his nephew, a similar person, was "the Younger")
  • Roman
  • a naturalist / natural philosopher (or scientist about flora and fauna and such)
  • one of those ancient guys who wrote volumes of definitive works
  • in his thirties
  • then later, a 160 volume encyclopedia
  • so, someone who makes me feel like a bit like a lozère in comparison


This card, with its rubby lineny surface, was sent to Mr. and Mrs. D. F. O. Danger in The Old Rectory in Cornworthy, Totnes, Devon.

(Hmm. A Hugo Cornworthy is a character in Agatha Christie's The Adventures of the Christmas Pudding. And she was from Devon. Hm.)

Postmarked in France on the 25th of July 1989 and dated the day before, which was a Monday.

"We are here at La Bastile 1024 M in the heart of the Cevennes traveling by car and foot over some of the country where R. L. Stevenson walked in 1878. It is an attractive region and still relatively unspoilt. We move on to the Riviera then back via the Haute Savoie. Love from all 4. Trevor."

But: Why is there a postmark on the front, from Devon, nine days later?

19 January 2008 |


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French Postcards: Saint Gingolph

I've really been looking forward to this one - who is Saint Gingolph?

Saint Gingolph

The city, as you see, has a Sweese side and a Frahnch side. Both were a big deal to the WWII Resistance. As for the name, Wikipedia says it comes from a sainted hermit who lived around here (which is around Lake Geneva) in the 700s. But his name wasn't so much Gingolph as Gangulphus. Sounds like the difference between gingivitis and gangrene.

Items to share as I read about Gangulphus:

  • The only historical proof of the man is from a deed from the court of Pepin the Short.
  • Whenever I hear "Pepin the Short," I think of a scene from that made-for-movie-channel movie Black Magic with Judge Reinhold and Rachel Ward, where two coots sell Judge a witch-busting hammer with a bogus history. It's really a bit of an underrated film. Crap, but guiltily watchable.
  • Pepin the Short is my great(x40)-grandfather. Mom's side.
  • Gangulphus, despite becoming a hermit, was killed by his wife's lover.
  • His wife's lover was a priest.
  • Gangulphus tested his wife's denial of adultery by having her put her hand in a magic fountain. It burned.
  • Basically, he just said, "stay out of our marriage bed, woman, and you, priest, just go away."
  • But, the two couldn't stay away, not even with Gangulphus having gone off to another castle, and the lusty priest went to decapitate him.
  • (He missed and only stabbed G's thigh, but it ended up being fatal anyway.)

This card is postmarked 21 June 1989, and it is addressed to Mrs. M. Trevau, 39 Torland, Hartley, Plymouth, Devon.

Torland is near a street called "St. Pancras," which amused me until I googled a little and discovered it's a pretty common placename for an apparently well-known saint. Now some Saint Pancras items:

  • Roman
  • orphaned
  • lived with his uncle
  • converted
  • refused to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods
  • beheaded
  • or thrown to the circus animals
  • only 14

"At St. Gaugolf with mlle: I shall sleep home the night before you go to Scotland to make sure you are awake. I leave here 26 - home 27th about 4-5 pm.

"Love, M."

So, M is writing to Mrs. also-M while off with m(lle).

"I shall sleep home the night before you go to Scotland to make sure you are awake" is best translated as

a.    I shall be home before you go to Scotland, just because I want to be certain you don't oversleep.
b.    I shall be home the night before you go to Scotland, just to make sure you don't get any sleep. (Said with a wink.)
c.    I shall be home the night before you go to Scotland, just to make sure you don't get any sleep. (Said with a note of threat.)
d.    I shall sleep at home, meaning my parents' place, the night before, because if I come to our home then I'll keep you up with my snoring and you'll not be very wakeful the next day.
e.    none of the above

18 January 2008 |


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But OOO I'm Scared of Cows

The title comes from a delightful song that goes, I wanna be a cowgirl, but ooo I'm scared of cows, oo oo oo how they scare me! I don't remember who sings it. For some reason my mental B-side for this is another song from the yonks ago of my late teens, listening to public radio:

Iiiii... want... to be... the first! dyke! on Dynasty! I want a lavender Mercedes-Benz, so I'll be the envy of all my f*ggot friends!... (several verses including something about having a Joan Collins on the rocks)... and just before she kicks, I'll be the last of Barbara Stanwyck's tricks! First dyke on Dyna-nothingcouldbefiner than to name a fragrance for me!... First dyke on Dyna-I'll kill all my kin off and I'll star in my own spinoff!... First dyke on Dyyyyy naaaa styyyyy!

I'm not sure how we swerved from charming to semi-tasteless so quickly, but let's just say it's a well-worn path.

To again make a Vanna-gesture at Bossy, her link yesterday to "Cows and the Classical Positions of Ballet" is worth the click. Especially if you ever used to spend grim hours practicing fifth position, left hand on back of chair, chin inclined and face composed to reflect the haughty suffering of a Bolshoi hopeful, telling yourself that the stand-in for Flashdance didn't even start dancing until she was 15.

Did I ever tell the story about how in high school my friend Marjan and I were so enthralled with White Nights that we resolved to come to school the next day wearing white sweatshirts and band-aids on our foreheads? (If you've seen the movie, you understand.)

We did, and we spent the day being very pleased with ourselves, not to mention cautiously hopeful for our prospects of getting out of Siberia and not breaking Helen Mirren's heart again. Strong Russian accents were utilized all day with true Brezhnevian passion (it was still a world where Gorbachev was just the latest commie), and I'm sure these accents were very accurate and pleasing to hear.

However, as I recall, our classmates and teachers were mostly concerned with our head injuries. Sigh. People! People who didn't think crocheted bun-snoods would replace jelly wrist bracelets. They Just. Don't. Get It.

P.S. 11 rubles? 45 cents.

17 January 2008 |


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Looking for Jesus in All the Right Cupboards

Thanks to Bossy, whom I call "Awessy" in my head because she's so cool, I've spent too much time reading the forums for an AARP article on how some funeral homes have ripped off people who bought pre-need plans.

I want to be cremated and kept in an urn until Mike feels like scattering my ashes somewhere meaningful. If Mike goes first (and he will, I just know I won't be lucky enough to get to have him every day), then just scatter me at Disney World. But, I told Mike that if/when he does go first, then his urn will probably be put straight in the "scrapbooking box," which sits by my craft table and may as well be called the "someday box." But eventually I'll mix his ashes with embossing powder and make some really cool layouts.

Let's get off this icky topic. Have a LOLcat:

Funny Pictures

When we were in Texas a few months ago, Mike and I stayed up late one night and took many pictures of pictures, which you know also meant Mike had to sit on the sofa and feign interest in all kinds of stories. ("Really? Your second cousin's daughter? And you went to the park that once and never happened to meet up again? And she was too young for you to pay much attention to, so you don't really remember her? I bet it was weird having an extra cousin in the car.) I didn't say any of them were good stories.

OH WAIT. So I've just remembered how we got into my grandmother's stash of snapshots in the first place.

We're in the living room. I don't remember what we're talking about. Religion, I think. And I say to Mike that one thing that really kept me from questioning anything about religion as a kid was the fact that my grandmother had a photograph of Jesus.

Not a picture, a photograph. She showed it to me when I was five or six, probably. Jesus was standing in the clouds, arms raised like he's about to give the world a hug (red and yellow, black and white, everybody), and Mimi said a friend of hers snapped this from an airplane window.

And she didn't just say it, she mentioned it, real off-hand like. And I'm just there spazzing out: Wow! WOW! A photo! Of Jesus! Wow!

I just could never get over how casual she was about it. It made me think that anyone with good timing could get a photo of Jesus, really. You just had to stop reading your inflight magazine and bother to look.

The photo was in a cupboard inside a coffeetable in the living room, which of course is still there. So Mike looks at the coffeetable. And I look at the coffeetable. And sixty seconds later we're covered in old Eckerd photo processing envelopes, having found a slush pile of three decades worth of snapshots.

(I just wiki'd Eckerd Pharmacy, wondering what happened to them. Looks like they became Rite Aid a few months ago. However, around here, Rite Aid has just become Walgreens. Are you nervous, CVS? Are ya?)

At first we couldn't get the cupboard open. Tug-tug-tug. Dad was in the room with us again, watching us go all Nicolas Cage in our hunt for Jesus. Tug-tug-tug. Dad frowns, saying he doesn't think the handles actually do anything. Tug-tug-tug. Whoa. Was this cupboard facade... ornamental? Then how did I...? Whoa.

And then I hopped around to the other side of the table and, ta da, doors swing open. Dad: "All these years - I never knew there was a cupboard in there!" I figure it's like the third (and second and maybe first) Indiana Jones movie, and not just anybody can open it, you know what I'm saying?

Well, we never did find Jesus that night. Lots of memories, though. I didn't want to ask Mimi for the pictures because I think it's probably irritating when you reach a certain age and suddenly everyone wants your stuff because you aren't "using" it. They're just snapshots, not the kind of staged family portraits you'd make professional copies of.

So, I took my own snaps-of-snaps and will share them here, now and again, when not in the mood to read postcards or complain about work or compose odes to buffets.

Let's start with why I had bouts of low self-esteem in the 80s. That is just not 1982 hair. And these were back in the days when I went to the salon every six-to-eight weeks. Perhaps you're thinking it's not too bad. Perhaps you don't realize that I was probably attempting to feather it.

Christmas 1982, at the Piano

Now, with the kindness and affirmation tendencies of my old age, I tell myself I've got a bit of a Tori Amos vibe going. Pale girl, lips together but not quite curved, piano... well, it's more of a forced image than a vibe, but okay.

Speaking of Tori, just the other day I was thinking about the Romanovs again, wondering what was up with the DNA and those two skeletons last summer and whether anyone ever conclusively said whether the missing body was Maria or Anastasia (answer: not yet, new skeletons still being examined). Tori has a great piece called "Yes, Anastasia," see? And I got to remembering how much I used to love Tori Amos. The first album is still a breathtaking marvel. And her version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? Delicious rendering. (Sorry about the anime in that link. Hopefully it's not any of that R-rated Japanese stuff.)

Verdict on the second album? Yes and no, mostly yes.

But then I remember when the third album came out, and I got annoyed with all this stylized heavy breathing going on. (Little did I know about Britney's stylized heavy hiccuping to come.) I never really gave that third album a chance - just heard a radio cut and dismissed it. And then I never happened to listen to anything she wrote again. Really. Pitiful.

I'm just reminding myself that I ought to explore her last four or five or however many albums there have been since then. You can't go from looking forward to the morning commute so you can listen to "Precious Things" or "Mother," then just breaking up. So, put it on the list:

Fan video of "Yes, Anastasia" (unfortunately, the part where the song gets good is when the pictures of Anna Anderson start - how could anyone think they look alike?):

(But why did so many people at the time say that Anastasia escaped? Why not Tatiana? Olga? Marie?)

16 January 2008 |


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Italian Postcards: Assisi - The Bigger Fortress

As you can see by the title, an eye-talian interloper is in our French stack. Probably because 1. it was mailed in France and 2. to the untrained eye, a lot of Europe looks alike. Especially on old postcards.

I was just wondering the other day why Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals. Remember, I just took this photo at the pet cemetery in Long Beach?

St. Francis

Unfortunately, all I've seen so far is about him preaching to the birds and talking down a savage wolf. I guess I was hoping he had a companion Labrador or even a lizard that would join him on walks. Or he was known for spooning a hedgehog at night, maybe. (It beats the traditional hair shirt.) Something more domestic.

Then I remember that I keep meaning to watch Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It's been on my list since I saw it at Blockbuster 20 years ago. I can even googlemap you to where that Blockbuster was, but I can't remember to watch the movie. (Meanwhile, did you know that Zeffirelli recently offered to be the pope's image consultant?)

Assisi - The Bigger Fortress

This card was sent to Miss Kate Smallmen, 24 Vicarage Fields, Warwick. "Vicarage Fields" sounds like something an American would make up, hoping to sound veddy-veddy, not realizing how you can't just throw bits of British nomenclature together and get a likely address. Except, apparently, you can. Next you'll tell me there's a "Treacle Woodshire" or a "Bishopsworth Strand."

(Time out to Google both of these.)

Postmark: 1 June 1989

"Maison Ste. Therese Couderc, B. P. 13, F07520, La Louvesc, France

"Dear Kate,

"We finished the Rome part of the Renewal Program 10 days ago and are now in France until July 7. La Louvesc is a small village so I can't check train schedules here. We leave for Lyon on the 23rd so I will sort it out then. I hope to visit Ollie first and then come north to you and my cousin in Scotland if she is well enough. We are having a wonderful time - full of challenge - but fun too.

"Love, Sheila"

Here is a photo of St. Therese Coudere. (aka Couderc) Guess when her feast day is? (Guessguessguessguessguess?) My birthday!

Other than being the nun who founded the "Cenacle Sisters" in La Louvesc, I don't know why she's a saint. Maybe she had the Labrador.

Oh wait, found this. St. T.C. had the running of a women-only inn in La Louvesc so that female travelers would have an appropriate place to stay at the popular destination. However, the inn became crowded and chaotic, so they decided that it would become a place for visiting women who were willing to pray for several days. A retreat for lay women.

Later, there was much politicking about whether T.C. was a good enough businesswomen to run the retreat. She was sent into exile as a temporary mother superior at two other convents. (Like being a long-term substitute teacher?) Then she was allowed to come back, but was mostly ignored. Then everyone felt bad and pointed fingers and she became a saint.

So, I think Sheila's Renewal Program is something religiousy. Maybe a mini-sabbatical for nuns? And the "challenge" she speaks of is probably trying to get along with people after you've spent a couple of weeks letting the way they leave their hairbrush on your side of the sink, full of waving split ends, start getting to you. I think Sheila is totally planning to ditch everyone and at least three packaged tours and see Ollie, Kate, and - cross fingers - her Scottish cousin instead. Bad Sheila! (Let's hope your plan worked.)

15 January 2008 |


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French Postcards: Saint Tropez

Saint Tropez

When I looked at the photo of this card, taken last summer before I got the external flash (a.k.a. Got Religion, namely the Cult of Indirect Lighting, Reformed Orthodox), I was so sorry for its awful-awful ugliness.

But then I pulled the actual card out to see the back and, OH. It's gold. And shiny. And must have looked so appealing in the stand. An easy way to buy the friendship of the recipient.

So, it is the photo that makes you want to say hi to it in the halls, even though the popular kids will see you. The card itself is only ugly in a glamorous way. Like, hm, Carol Channing.

(I didn't know Carol Channing had a black grandmother or that she went to Bennington College. More fun facts to take the place of remembering to change the air filters tomorrow.)

This card was sent to Miss B. Austin, 55 Grace Ave, Maidstone, Kent. I want to change Miss B's final vowel to an /e/, but I know the world doesn't work like that, and I'm being a big girl about it.

Postmarked 18 May 1989:

"Dear Betty,

"Dot and I are having a lovely restful holiday in South of France. Took the bus into St Tropez today &  going to Monaco next week but otherwise just wandering locally in the sunshine. Not too hot, just comfortable with a nice breeze. Hope you are well.

"Pam & Dot."

I feel rested just reading that. Remind me to read it again in the morning before I lurch into the car for work, where I have stacks of to-dos waiting as today I was home with day 4 of the Monster Cold. Much better now, in a functional-but-gloggy-and-queasy way.

Speaking of food, and someday wanting to eat again, the Suncoast casino on the edge of Summerlin (read: out in the burbs, not on the Strip) does a great breakfast buffet for about six dollars. Fresh, good selection, and particularly tasty fruit. (I recommend the watermelon; Mike says the grapefruit's the winner.) Anyway, the name of the buffet is "St. Tropez," and when one of us is in the mood for it, we start singing, "Do you know the way to St. Tropez." It's very amusing. And catchy.

Some days I almost want to have children, just so there will be someone who will be grateful to have all these tender little memories of us when we're gone.

(But, once again, I'm still the person who doesn't understand why babies can't sleep on floors. I mean, I believe mothers when they tell me it's Not Done, but my cogs jiggle helplessly when I try to figure out why the suggestion is so awful. Obviously I'd put down a towel first, duh.)

15 January 2008 |


Heather in PA

Sleep on the floor? Why not? Ok, yeah, on a blankie or something, but why not? Heck, they'll sleep in car seats with their heads all wonky, the floor is bound to be more comfy than THAT. And no danger of rolling off anything. Of course, there IS the danger of being stepped on, but that can be easily prevented. Right?


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French Postcards: Mamers

I'd like to know more about colds Back in the Day. Day = before 1750, perhaps. Did they kill you quickly? Linger all winter? Were people just sturdier and able to keep working despite snot running continuously from their noses and no 2-play Kleenex in sight? I leave blotched-snow mountains of Kleenex in my wake, and I'm one of those thrifty people who can get three to four good blows on a tissue, plus whatever I tear off to stick up my nose.

(Did people walk around with bits of flour sack muslin up their noses?)


Mamers has a tourism website that's very orange and shiny, but I'm not blehgungle to translate. Instead, I'll just flip the card.

(I'm in bed with the computer now. I keep sliding off the pillows. I think I'll email Mike in the next room and ask him to come shore me up with whatever he can find around the house. Towels, rolls of toilet paper, whatever keeps from lying flat on my back and blinking pitifully at the ceiling, silently drowning in mucus.)

This was sent to Mrs. Em Haynes of 6 Harborough Court, Belwell Lane, Four Oaks, West Midlands. Google Maps thinks it's more like "Sutton Coldfield" than "Four Oaks," and I just shake my head. Isn't that just the way. Sutton Coldfield. I bet it is.

(I stopped wiki'ing Sutton Coldfield to order a pizza. One path might've led to a lively archaeological discussion, but our path leads only to the Hutseum. Odd to consider that, for its first 22 years of business, Pizza Hut offered only Thin 'n Crispy crust.)

Turning over the card, postmarked 3 October 1988. (I had just turned 19 and had just started dating my first Serious Boyfriend. I know, I was such a hopeless old maid. Someday I will tell the story of why it's bad to introduce yourself, however jokingly, as "the axe-murderer" to your girlfriends' protective parents. I remember five or ten years ago, I still couldn't mention the poor guy without Dad getting a weird look on his face and changing the subject.)

"01 Oct

"Dear Marian(?), the weather has turned bright and sunny but the nights are cool so we are on one of our rare trips northwards not 100 miles from the Charnel(?) coast. It will probably be the last trip till the Spring since we prepped to stay put over the Winter months.

"Hope you are well and are keeping active.

"Livetbur lisles On"

I think I messed up the last line. I think it's time for Mike to walk over and get the pizza.

13 January 2008 |


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French Postcards: Souvenir de Mimizan-Plages

Souvenir de Mimizan-Plages

"Vakantiegroetjes en len kusje van hanri en mortyn."

I think it's a message from Henry and Martin, sent 1-8-88, which is almost as fun as Friday's 1-11 (or 11-1). (I made Mike hold hands when I noticed it was 11:11 p.m. Then we blew our noses again.) Babelfish is not being helpful.

I'm too snuffly to live right now. Doesn't this make you want to start a dollhouse, though? (Or build a set for a hamster-size cooking show?)

13 January 2008 |


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Strolling through the Kleenex like Peter Lorre

So, Mike missed five days of work, FIVE DAYS, as his cold roared and all the sparkle-sparkle previously discussed turned to the dull glint of used orange juice glasses. He just, as in last Sunday, came off a stint of antibiotics for the lingering mucus issue he picked up from the bad cold he caught in the States seven years ago... and the day the latest stab at antibiotics finishes, he gets another killer cold, perhaps even worse than that one? What?

And then there's me, going on all week about how the reason I only had a sniffle last weekend was because my career has advanced to the point where I've built up The Bigtime Teacher Immunity. Three-point-five years on the job, and I'm just a commemorative postage stamp for White Cell Tyranny. I may as well retire. I'm that awesome.

Until I wake up in the middle of the night because someone left the tap on... the tap on my face where the nostrils should be.

So this is our replacement plan for the weekend, nose tampons and Victorian-style damp washcloths to the forehead. (Do you say "forrid" or "fore - head"?) Perhaps it's not much more exciting than the original plan, which involved thinking about the $15 tickets for Al Stewart at Club Madrid tomorrow.

Or should I say... "Ben" on Lost? What do you think?

12 January 2008 |


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So I Waved Goodbye to That Announcer Guy from the Movies

As much as I love Geico's marketing-slash-online-savvy, and as much as I have come to forgive them for all the hass they've put us through because Mike does not have a U.S. license and will not be driving while he is a U.S. resident, which is apparently VERY confusing to the Geicobots, although I thought it was eventually (after six months of arguing) sorted out last summer, but then just a few days ago they sent a fresh round of "We need his U.S. driver's license info RIGHT AWAY!!!11! Oh, and by the way, his name is not Mike, it's RODNEY!" - well, ... wait, where was I?

Oh yes. Faces made at the ceiling while stamping feet aside, I don't hate Geico at all, but this latest rerun of exasperation combined with an approaching renewal date nudged me to get off the Adequacy Wagon and shop around again for the first time in three years.

Wow. Some things have changed. No one seems to require a SSN anymore in order to deliver a precise quote, for one thing. That certainly makes making quote requests more appealing.

And guess what else? Progressive is really cheap!

My policy with Geico was $523/six months. Many people around here think that's a great deal.

As for specs, I'm an accident-free/violation-free driver of mature and married age living at the same address for three+ years, working full-time, and driving a modest 2001 hatchback with air bags. My commute is 12 miles one way. (However, it took me 70 minutes to get home today because I thought I'd try the freeway again, as the installation of stop-go onramps last year have been making a difference. Heh. Back to surface streets tomorrow.) Also, I have an AAA membership.

I carry the minimum insurance required by Nevada ($15k/30k bodily, ditto uninsured, $10k property, $1k medical) plus $500 deductible for comprehensive/collision and a light rental car policy ($30/day - max 30 days).

As mentioned, all that at Geico was $523. Progressive? $290. (Includes one-time discount of $50 for signing online, but still.) And? I can pay with any credit card, as opposed to having to either pay with Geico's MasterCard or a checking account. (Anything that racks up the Amazon Visa points faster...)

And? If my pet is in an accident with me and something "unfortunate" happens, Progressive will pay up to $500 to replace the pet. However, elsewhere in this blurb they said "dog or cat," so maybe at some point I'll work up the energy to be offended by their speciesism. Just something to keep in mind should I start taking the hammies for rides to Sonic or something.

Geico was still second place, then State Farm was about $10 more, then everyone else (about eight others) was in the $600-$800 range.

I did consider Horace Mann, being an educator, but they don't do instant online quotes. "Instant" and "online" are very important to me. It's why we ended up trying the $5 Pizza Mia special the other night.

(Microreview: Pizza Hut's new "Pizza Mia" tastes like a really good frozen pizza. The sauce has a comparatively disappointing Freschetta taste, and the crust is a little on the sweet side. Still, you can order online and take an easy stroll from the couch to pick it up, so I suspect there will be further indulgences as the cold weather continues.)

Experiences with insurance companies can be so subjective, and of course quotes seem to be all over the place. I hope Progressive isn't horrible, but then I also hope I never have to find out what they're like. If all they ever do is peck a dent into the credit card every six months and we never have to speak to each other, I'll be quite content.

Still, Geico will always get a soft spot for this:

Update: And now I've seen this and my night is made:

11 January 2008 |

Previously: Time Out for Ursula


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Time Out for Ursula

I just want to take a moment to say, perhaps for the umpteenth time, that Ursula is just the most amazing fish and has really been an education in fish ownership.

I know I don't post many photos of her, but that's because they never look as cool as she is.

I swear she knows me. She always seems excited to see me, always swims over. I crouch down and look her in the eye and start talking, and she swims her loop-de-loops and keeps our eye contact going. She doesn't flare like she used to, but then she's not the impertinent miss she was when Mr Jonathan was alive. (Likewise, she doesn't make bubble nests anymore, but that was always weird for a female betta to do.)

I feed her, which is often a pitiful experience since the tiniest baby betta pellet will pop back out of her mouth, but if I keep cheering her on, she'll keep trying to get the pellets. If I get busy brushing my teeth or something, she just swims back to a nice spot and sleeps/rests/whatever. I guess she waits for the food to get soft then gets it off the bottom; I don't know. She's always had trouble eating, but something must be working. That she'll keep trying until she gets it if I sweet-talk her ("C'mon girl, you can do it, here's your kibble, there we go Ursula, such a GOOD FISH!") just stuns me.

If I'd known she was going to live this long (3 years plus two months plus however old she was at Wal-Mart), I definitely would've gotten her a friend for the next-door bowl after Mr Jonathan died. But, I think she's happy. She has us. We love her.

Ursula with Her Little Face

10 January 2008 |


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If I Had a Sewing Machine

Well, with the amount of work Mike has missed due to being super-sick with a cold, I could have recklessly indulged in a sewing machine destined to be used twice then put into display-mode, but I'm not bitter... just grateful that my own cold was brief and mostly on the weekend. (And hopeful that it really was a cold and that the worst is not yet to come.) Still, the realities of subbing show their grim side at these times.

But on the plus side, Mike loves subbing and looks forward to work each day, and he's used his better moments of downtime to make our home sparkle. (Which, after holiday sloth then going out of town then coming back to the untouched grading pile, makes me sparkle.)

But if I did have a sewing machine, I'd be making these! I've already emailed to ask if they can do a dwarf hamster.

And then if I did make them, I'd sell them on Etsy, a place that fascinates me if only because there are so many things I almost like there.

And then on Etsy, if you haven't noticed, there are certain, ahem, powerbloggers who sell "vintage finds" that everyone coos over, and I'm, like, seriously? Because I thought you people were all sophisticated with your BlogHer conferences and got out of the house more. I would link, but it would be unkind to otherwise nice people. After all, it's probably just me who doesn't "get" it. Also, Attack of the Rabid Fan Base is not a movie I wish to download at this time.

On the other hand, fear is the enemy. Here.

And then there are the Etsy sellers who get prints of their flashed-out un-white-balanced photos, punch a hole in the end, stick in some yarn, and call it a "bookmark" for five dollars, and then I get Ideas... dangerous, late night Ideas... It's a good thing that work is on an even keel at the moment, or these Ideas might lead to actual Schemes.

After another happy Pratchett adventure with Going Postal, I checked out six more TPs and am currently reading The Truth. I think my fave part of these books is their alternate history of inventions. Like, in The Truth, I get to read (if oversimplifying) a rather fun story of how the newspaper was invented.  Unlike in our world, it involves dwarven technology and gossip about naked men knocking over cakes.

(At least, I don't think our newspapers have these origins. An evil side of me wouldn't mind editing Wikipedia to change that, but only because the "non-notable deletion" and "original research" controversies on Wikipedia prove that this otherwise great resource currently needs a serious clickwedgie. But that's another post.)

10 January 2008 |


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A Not-as-Light Narrative about the Last Trip to Disneyland (final part)

Awake happily late again, but no Indian buffet today. No, it was straight to the park!

No LED warning us that the parks would be busy. Good. But also no LED welcoming us to Disneyland. Hm.

Oh, what's the attendant handing us? A yellow slip? Darn it, that means no more room at Timon. Oh well. On to Mickey and Friends!


Simba again? What?!


I refused. After the previous day, Simba to me represented Disneyland at its worse. ("Oh, there's some room in the park next to a shrub on the back of Tom Sawyer Island? Go ahead and let in 500 more people, then. Just make sure they all have strollers!")

So, we slipped over to Mickey and Friends, uninvited. ("We'll just pretend we had to go back to the room for something. Then, when we came back, we decided to go in through the other entrance. And we'll also pretend our room is somewhere on the stretch of road between here and there. Maybe perched on top of that stoplight.")

It was no problem, except the attendant needed to see our slip from the last attendant, or else we would be charged $11 for parking. "That's why we always tell you to keep your slip."


Actually, we'd never been told to keep our slip. And plenty of times we had left the parks to get something and come right back. And when we are sent to Mickey and Friends, as we usually are, they just re-scan the annual pass and don't ask for the slip. And, by the way, if we pay extra for an annual pass with parking, we expect parking.

Also? Saying that we need the slip because it has my name on it is a little crazy because, er, the pass has my name on it and my picture. As does my driver's license. Just cancel out the old slip (like you always do when you almost always send us to another lot) and wish me a Disney day already. I have a deluxe AP with parking, and I don't want to be sent to the tramless lot beyond the hotels at the end of Downtown Disney where the non-park visitors go just because I chose one entrance over another, okay?

Despite the griping above, I wasn't too fussed about it at the time, even as Mike dug around the side pocket of the car door where he had Just Put the slip Not a Moment Ago, managing to find the slips for the past few days but not securing today's all-important slip. Many seconds passed, and the cast member said, "Okay, I'm going to help these other people now," like she'd had enough of being reasonable and, frankly, it looked to her like we needed to be digging for eleven crisp dollar bills, not the slip that we so clearly sold for cash to someone on the street. The slip that you must present with IDENTIFICATION anyway.

So now, yes, I'm cross, but then I was just happy to not have to park at Simba. Of course Mike found the slip as soon as she turned away, and when she came back she again showed me how my name was on the slip, thus making it so much more powerful than an annual pass. The name that was on the parking slip because they had swiped my annual pass.

(Just tell me from the get-go that I have to keep my slip because of the traffic monitoring and problems with scamming or whatever the deal is. I keep all slips and any other Disney ephemera - not a problem. But don't tell me that I've been told when I haven't. Don't threaten me with having to pay for parking when I'm holding an annual pass with the parking already paid. Don't be exasperated because I put the slip aside like I always do, already knowing where to find the structure and not needing to circle the letter and number printed on the slip to remember where I parked.)

Maybe that's where it all started going wrong. Not on the outside, because we had another great day in the parks, but maybe, when I later said that Disneyland wasn't Disney World and it never would be, and when I said I loved the park and the history but not enough to put up with the cast members, not when Disney's service is supposed to be what sets everything apart, maybe this incident added to the growing weight of dissatisfaction within.

I never wanted to make Disneyland the poor man's Disney World. I tried to enjoy it on its own. But the people... the locals with their spoilers and talking through attractions, the visitors with their double-wide strollers packed extra thick in all directions as they batter-ram their exhausted infants and eight-year-olds around the park at midnight, the cast members with their minds on the McJob, not the Magic(tm)... it's too sad to be so close to Disney and so far at the same time. Better to spare myself the four hour drive and instead go somewhere where the bar is simply low, not lowered.

But anyway. I didn't mean to type all that, and perhaps I'll chop it all out later. It really wasn't a big issue at the time. I wasn't even unhappy, just boggled. But now, as I autopsy the camel to figure out what broke its back...

Here we are, leaving the largest parking garage in the US, excited to be here again:

Mickey and Friends Parking

This time we got to see the Happiest Reindeer on Earth:

Snoozy Reindeer

And also the Clauses, because Disney magic is so powerful that Christmas lasts an extra 12 days:

Santa and Mrs. Claus

I thought we might decorate cookies, but it turned out to be six dollars for a rather generic kit. Some other time. Interesting elf, though.

Mrs. Claus Cookie Kitchen

Why is "Minute Maid" blanked out on this sign? Has Disney had an argument with the Village Haus host? Let's start a rumour that they have. Let's say the huffy fracas is over MM now calling its orange soda Orangeade. Isn't that a generic term for orange soda? Wikipedia has my back here.

Village Haus - Unhosted!

A band from Burlington, Ontario, were in force. I like it when groups dress alike at the park. I turn it into my own private form of trainspotting. ("Oo, over by the tea cups, look, it's a Snodgrass Middle School Jazz Orchestra!)

It's a Small World, Unless You Invite the Band

We made our first visit to Toontown, which is very nicely themed. The only thing disturbing about it is that it's the opposite of what Walt wanted his park to be. He wanted a place where the adults weren't sitting on the bench, bored and eating peanuts, while the kids rode the rides. Toontown, though, has rides that only allow small people.

Toontown Has Now Been Seen

But, devil's advocate aside, I don't really mind Toontown. It looks neat and if it means we can use it as a bargaining chip to someday get Alien Encounter back at WDW (which I think was really too scary for kids), then woot. Also, there is so much for everyone to do at the parks, that it's not like Toontown really violates Walt's dream. I just like to cause trouble by considering it.

Mighty Neptune Commands You!

We looked for the leftover pylon from the near-indestructible Home of the Future without luck. Mighty Neptune laughed.

Lunch was at Rancho del Zocalo, another first for Mike. That's red chili and cheese enchiladas for both of us, and a cake neither of us could finish, but I swear we tried.


Mike at Rancho del Zocalo

Mike looks satisfied here, and hopefully not just because he joined the train of people getting refills at the soda dispenser. I'm 96% sure that's not allowed, and it reminded me of something I said in a newsgroup a long time ago, back when we were planning the first trip to Walt Disney World. The topic may have even been drink refills. (See, the resorts sell these free refill cups and... actually, let me save that story for another time. Suffice to say that it's a flame war topic on rec.arts.disney.parks for the ages.)

I said that I wouldn't cheat Disney, even on something small that everyone else was doing and that the cast members would let slide, because I wouldn't want Disney to cheat me. I had faith in the balance.

But on this day, I told Mike he should try if he liked, and he could just plead ignorance and being foreign if caught, and look, there goes the sixth person or so getting a refill since we sat down. He went, and he felt weird about it, and I felt weird about it. I don't like that I cheated Disney. Even if they don't mind (and they have to know it's happening - it's so blatant) or even if it's allowed, the fact that I didn't even want to ask it was okay is bad. Something has changed in the relationship. Disneyland, as it stands today, just doesn't make me feel all "Disney."

Deep navel-gazing aside, we decided to leave the busy (not wall-to-wall busy but busy) park and go back to California Adventure. Before we could leave, though, we accidentally caught the parade at the top of Main Street. Neither of us likes parades enough to stake out a place an hour in advance like so many people, but when a good spot just happens to appear as the parade arrives, why not? Disney does put on a happy parade:

Here Comes the Christmas Parade

Don't these guys look a little like cybermen from Doctor Who?

Nutcracker Cybermen

Snowflakes Prancing

Mike kept asking, "How can they see? How can they see?" Meaning the drivers of the floats. Well, on this one it seems a bit obvious. And you thought only the hills have eyes.

The Tree Has Eyes

I really do mark the highlight of this year's Christmas as being the time we were in the car, listening to the all-carol station, and Mike asked me to explain "Frosty the Snowman" to him. (It's not a popular song in the land of forehead-sweltering Christmases.)

When done, he said, "So, Frosty's a... a snow golem?"

Snow Golems

Happy Couple

Gingerbread Men

Ariel in Holiday Garb


Santa and Reindeer

In California Adventure, we got FastPasses for Tower of Terror and enjoyed the scenery. Like, Kilt Man.

Kilt Man Doesn't Need Good Lighting

Then it was time one of our faves, It's Tough to Be a Bug, which was excellent as always. Put in on your Must See list; it's the best 3D show in any Disney park.

And then there was this brief but bad episode with a cast member when we started to use our FastPasses but then decided that, no, the line was too long even with FP, and we apologetically left. I had planned to bitch about it, but I went on for too long about the parking lot thing, which at least makes some sense (they need to carefully monitor available spaces) even if the sense-making was poorly executed. The ToT cast member was just... and it's not like it was really a huge deal at the time, not if you pretended you were at the DMV and not Disney, but these little things... I don't want to put myself on the Crankyville Express, so I'll stop there.

After, we went to the movies at Downtown Disney, saw National Treasure 2 (neat idea, but could've been tighter), took the monorail back to Tomorrowland (a rather cool ride), walked around Disneyland dodging strollers and hour-plus wait times and cast members yelling at people to move quickly-quickly-quickly while they wave-wave-wave their lightsticks so people have to walk around the whole park just to circumvent the throngs waiting an hour or two for the fireworks, and we kept this up until I realized that Disneyland and I are going to break up and we needed to leave.

Maybe it's a separation. Maybe it's a divorce. I don't know. I love the Disney way, but to me, Disneyland doesn't have it. And, once you've ridden everything and pressed all the pennies and taken all of the photos, you stop overlooking and excusing the non-Disney service. Put me on almost any attraction and my jaw still drops, but the work to get on the attraction? Forget it. The drive's too long, the crowds are too uncertain, and, unlike Disney World, when the parks are busy, there's not tons of stuff to look at. Disneyland is too small to see past the mobs and enjoy the scenery. Sit down on a park bench, and your foot is run over by strollers. Or cast members tell you they need to move the bench two feet to get it back into position after the parade, so you need to leave.

Still, I think Disneyland is a great place. Everyone who wants to play in a fantasy world should go. Many times. If I didn't know better, I'd have our room booked for Spring Break.

But, I do know better. I know Disney World. And now, with the newness of Disneyland gone, and the pictures taken, and (almost) every ride experienced, and (almost) every ride experienced again with Mike, and all the souvenirs collected (right down to the extraordinary Penny Arcade fudge), my shields of tolerance and are down. Frankly? Overall, Disneyland doesn't meet my standards. And if I, a Disney apologist to the point of publishing a 482-page trip report about how great Disney is, am not allowed to criticize Disneyland or expect mostly better-than-average service, then I don't want to be in that Mickey Mouse Club anyway.

Our last Disneyland photo, wearing the It's Tough to Be a Bug glasses, feeling very happy:


06 January 2008 |



I miss you! I miss you! I MISS YOU!

I have like so much to tell you and I've lost your email. Please email me :)

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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 |


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It's Only Six Hours of Face Time, Woman

The only thing slower than Christmas is the end of the last day of work before Christmas Break.

Christmas itself is coming quite fast - I've hardly had the energy to enjoy the season yet, and it's only four days away. This is all wrong. I never got around to cards, presents...

My students will spend the last day before Break finishing essays. Every year I do something stupid like this, assigning essays at some point as a means of shutting people up while, presumably, improving their writing skills. I think it's just super-terrific thinking that I've done this right before Break, knowing there is only a week of the semester left after Break, so everything pending must be graded Really Soon.

Compare to, say, two years ago, watching Elf and tossing chocolates into the crowd. Or letting the Honors class create a picnic based on foods from the novel we were studying.

"Miss! All of our other teachers are letting us have parties."

"Good, then you're set for parties. We'll be the class that works hard and feels satisfied in our academic rigor."

(Please feel free to quote that if you're recommending me for any headmistress positions. I'm looking for something upper mid-Atlantic, circa 1962.)

I envy (fake name omitted), the teacher who is showing On* Fl*w Ov*r th* Cuckoo's N*st to (grade level omitted). The teacher whose TV wasn't swapped for a jackless relic over the summer. The teacher who doesn't (?) know the district policy yet. (All movies must be rated G. No PG, no PG-13, no R, not even with parental consent.) Most ignore this policy, but with my TV gone, I cuddle up to it. I'm sanctimonious on account of rain.

(pause, clock-check, another strand sighs as it fades to grey)

Some Simply Limeade would "go down a treat" right now. That's Mike's expression. It's also because of Mike that I appreciate Asterix or even know who/what it is. And therefore can appreciate this. I love annotated things. A good annotated edition of anything is the thinking person's pop-up video block. I would read The Annotated Henry James, I love those little notes of trivia so much. (This is meaningful if you know how priggish I find James.)

I read The Abstinence Teacher last night. It's a quick read (let's put it this way - I checked it out of the library around six), and enjoyable for what it is, but what I was expecting was literary fiction. This is solid chick lit. Well, wavy chick lit, since most CL doesn't regularly dip into the male point of view. Very nicely written, though. I know the author's a bigwig writing professor so my comment comes off like I'm calling the Empire State Building "pretty big, by the way," but it never hurts to be polite and supportive. Season of joy and all that. It's a beach book... if the beach is where you wait for the bus.

21 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 |

Previously: Let Them Have Books


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Let Them Have Books

A few kids have taken me aside privately just to let me know that, fyi, "this book is pretty good."

I've been trying to stay hands-off and have them come to me or use some classwide Q&A time to discuss questions or hard/odd words. I know this looks a bit dodgy on paper and maybe even in practice, like I'm sending people out into space with a book and just taking their word that they're understanding everything. Like I don't even care that they may not be sure of what's going on. I don't interject much about The Big Message or Noticing Thishere Part unless a natural segue appears (or my instincts says they can handle one) because I think some books just have to breathe.

And if people who don't like to read are reading, then I think I should back the heck off and let them do that. I have 20 worksheets that align impressively with state standards and promote higher thinking, worksheets that allow students to consider the content in new and theoretically engaging lights, but - hey - I'm not going to be the one to say, "Stop reading." We can monkey around with finding passages that allow us to infer more information about Atticus or Piggy or Snowball any time, including when the reading's done. It's not every day that people are nose-deep into pulp. I wouldn't interfere for the world.

04 December 2007 |


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The Breakfast Room as Rear-View Mirror

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

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

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

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

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

Things I tried:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theme Ideas So Far:

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

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

Or I could juszzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

01 December 2007 |

Previously: Happily Disenchanting


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Happily Disenchanting

It's about 5 am as I type this, and for once this is a wonderful sentence, because I just slept for 10 hours then got up and had breakfast. Yes, 10 hours in a ROW. Mmm.

Maybe it has something to do with the admin who yesterday kindly offered a solution to some of the just - when - you - think -it's - better - it - isn't problems with one class.

I left the building with a spring in my step, plus it had been a pretty good day overall. I called THREE parents during my prep to brag on their kids, which I hadn't done in... well, I don't think I've called three people in one day for a positive reason in a long time. But, almost every class (even the problematic period) did a great job in reading and contributing to the discussion. Which is great because, I mean, we're at the start of the novel. I don't want to bog them down in "read these pages then answer these questions" yet. I just want to give them a shot at getting into the book.

(Oh, it's not all sunshine, of course. Each class thinks the other class has a better book. "Why do we have to read this? It's BORING. Why can't we read what they're reading instead?")

I would say that L-Flies is winning over M-bird and A-Farm for reader satisfaction, though, which surprises me. Probably because everyone has skipped ahead to peek at a certain scene on page 136. The one that involves "ass," and I don't mean Piggy's ass-mar.

But now, I'm playing Warcraft for an hour before I have to wake Mike up. Then we're riding together to work - he's subbing down the street from me - and this is fun because we'll turn up Dschinghis Khan extra loud and yell HOO! HAA! in thick German accents all the way up I-15.

("Disenchanting" is something some people, like me, do on Warcraft to make money and pretty things. You take an item of value and you "disenchant" it into magical dusts and such. The dusts and shards are then sold or gathered and use to "enchant" an item. Just know that it's fun and I get to do it for an hour before work, which is going to put me into the best of moods. I may be so pleased that we'll do my favourite extended metaphor lesson plan today instead of the planned reading.)

30 November 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 |


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We Read. We Write. We Think. That's It.

Bought this beloved book for a penny off Amazon and read it tonight after my afternoon/evening "nap," all while sipping a tall glass of lemon-lime and bitters as lovingly fixed up just for me by my darlin' husband. This drink is only one of the many pleasant surprises he has brought to the marriage. This and Indian food alone keeps his account firmly in the black.

That, and he doesn't mind me buying up old paperbacks I enjoyed as a kid, even if they're out-of-print and priced a bit high for being so raggedy.

(The penny-deal was a real find for something in decent condition, and it's a great book: who can forget the owl with love in its eyes?! Nobody who ever read it, if you check out the reviews. And isn't "Wylly Folk St. John" such an interesting name for an author? Male? Female? What became of them? They made a couple of Disney specials in the sixties according to IMDb, but then what?)

Actually, Mike doesn't mind me buying anything. If we're at a store and the tiniest hint of interest comes out in my voice, he swoops in with, "You should get it! Go on, you want it. You should have it."

Contrast to, say, when he first mentioned wanting to get some bitters months ago and I was all, well, you need soda. Is the soda on sale? Should we even have soda? Isn't soda just for those bad days when you need a sizzle in your mouth to distract your brain? And why would we support HFCS? Yet is it justifiable to pay more for sugar-soda? And why should we even have special things like bitters? Bread, water, Disney - this is all anyone needs. Let's not be extravagant.

And then I push the cart to the next aisle and buy all the fresh pasta I want.

Maybe I'm so crabby all the time that he'll grasp at anything to make me smile?

Actually, I'm really not crabby or cranky at home. Just kind of tired and defeated, wasting hours in the middle of the night between "naps," lying on the sofa so I won't wake Mike with my restlessness, thinking about stuff.

(deleting all the paragraphs with the particulars, which started out whiny then veered right toward crabby after all)

(typed a bunch more, removed a bunch more - I am so so so sick of this topic; I know it must be therapeutic to write about it, but mostly I just want to shake it off)

(update: after posting this, went back and unpublished significant portions of previous posts - it's a little Orwellian, but if we can change the present by deleting the past, then maybe 2+2 won't equal 4, and I will go to work tomorrow... er, in a few hours.... without weeks of despair hanging over my head)

I was going to say nice things about stuff I'm reading, watching, maybe share a photo of the lovely mashed and baked cheddar-sage potatoes I made for Thanksgiving. Maybe finally talk about our day in Dallas. Mention how I got my own World of Warcraft account. Ponder the upcoming Station casinos holiday gifts. (Cups with candy cane handles!) Crow over the latest in hamitat architecture.

Make an owl with love in its eyes.

As always, that's another post.

29 November 2007 |

Previously: Because I'm Slow


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Because I'm Slow

Scene: we're in the auditorium this afternoon, finding seats before a special presentation. Every class is supposed to sit together, but it's chaotic and a full house. Our class, like most others, has to send a few students to fill in gaps with other groups.

Huey (not his real name), alas, has lagged behind. Huey and I have a good-natured relationship as he was also my student last year. (The survivors are always easy company.) I keep motioning for him to hurry up, come down front where we are. He eventually gets there.

"Let's see, Huey, where can we put you?" (I look around.)

"I'll just sit in the back, miss."

"No no, we don't want you to feel isolated and unloved by your peers. Hmm, how about here?" I point to a seat just across the aisle.

"Oh miss," he whines with a grin, for this is how we communicate. He grimly accepts sitting with people two years younger and repeating the class, and me, I tut-tut with exaggerated sympathy as we plow ahead. "Why can't I just sit in the back?"

"Because you're slow? Here you go!"

I point to the empty seat with a flourish.

Then I look at the students surrounding it. The severely mentally challenged students.

(When Huey protests again, I quickly agree to a different seat, clucking perhaps a little loudly about people who dawdle behind the class and miss getting a good spot.)

This is just Exhibit Z9 when it comes to why certain co-workers think I have bunny fur for brains.

28 November 2007 |

Previously: It's Kind of Shiny.


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It's Kind of Shiny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, a brief sniff over what CityCenter replaced:

Take a Walk on the... Yeah

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

Bad Clownface

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

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

Project City Center is Eating the Monte Carlo

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

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

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

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

photo from Wikimedia Commons

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

27 November 2007 |

Previously: Yippee!


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NOTE: Due to the excess unhappiness with my career expressed in this post, portions have been removed until the problem is solved.

Anyway, I decided I wasn't going to complain about work here any more. So, this is it. Now I'm done - the needle is worn. Yippee! (Just like the post title.)

22 November 2007 |



Hi Shari – off topic, but what's your take on the Vegas City Center? Another blog I read,, has a column protesting it today. And, if you'll update me on your snail mail address, I'll send you a postcard.

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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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It's not you. It's NOT you.

NOTE: Due to the excess unhappiness with my career expressed in this post, portions have been removed until the problem is solved.

I could become a blackjack dealer. I could move to Utah. I could keep crying here, like I'm 16 and this is LiveJournal and the deep darkness of, you know, life overwhelms me.

I could go tickle Edith and Pepper and blow hamster-size raspberries on their bellies and tell jokes with Mike until we're both so tired we can't sleep. I could keep repeating, "it's not the kids, it's the students." I could offset my negativity with a "today's beautiful new Spanish word" feature. I could just hit SAVE.

17 November 2007 |

Previously: Day 54 of 180


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Day 54 of 180

Today there was a mote of feisty sunbeam in my heart as I drove under the monorail underpass on Desert Inn. Had I abandoned NaNoWriMo, as predicted? No, wait, I had an idea. An actual idea. Oh, the fast (yet plodding) NaNoWriMo process I'd adopted wouldn't do it justice but - whoa - an idea for fiction? That just doesn't happen to me.

(Or to whoever made Good Luck Chuck, half of which I suffered through last night. Wait, I take it back: the idea of it was interesting - but the execution that was unwatchable. Bland characters, and turtle pacing whenever Jessica Alba appeared. If anyone wants to write the "Why We Download" manifesto, start here.)

Despite another bad day at work, I was pleased at the thought of coming here and getting to pound around on this idea. Just writing makes me happy. I hate that I have to periodically reaffirm to myself that any writing here is really just for me and I shouldn't feel like I have to apologize for content/form/style/etc., but seven (nearly eight!) years later and I still do, so there you have it.

But then I came home, felt cold, couldn't get warm, got under five or six blankets (well, laid there while whinnying at Mike to please put another one on, and another), checked my temp (96.5 - what do dropped temps mean?), and napped for a few hours. I seem alright now, except for a weird sore muscle-like pain that started this morning. I'd tell you more, but then everyone would be squicked out. If I wanted to squick you out, I'd point you here (SFW).

The evening passed, some of it good and homey (me playing "pasta station": freshly sauteed mushrooms and onions with three-cheese tortellini and tomato-alfredo sauce), some relaxed (catching up on Curb Your Enthusiasm), and some well-intentioned (trying to read this again - maybe the HTML version is not the way to go).

NOTE: Due to the excess unhappiness with my career expressed in this post, portions have been removed until the problem is solved.

Despite the flash of an idea, I was dull on the way home in a way that a pumpkin spice frap can no longer help. In a way that could not be reversed by turning up the Dschinghis Khan. Not the Moskau song, but this one:

One turtle heard pickled squid is new, indeed.

NOTE: Due to the excess unhappiness with my career expressed in this post, portions have been removed until the problem is solved.

And so, this post has no postcard, no NaNoWriMo, no exploration of the previously pondered Anne of Cleves Society (not its real name)... nothing but the endless hand-wringing and head-banging that has been keeping me from writing anything, lest someone just hand me a gun and offer to prop open my mouth. Anything to still these angsty, repetitive, helpless fingers.

16 November 2007 |


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Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)