Disbelief - I Often Have The Same Expression 
  Originally uploaded by Finiky.

I'm in a puddle of Chinese take-out and feeling like the pasha of comfortably sinking SINKitude, smothered in greasy mushrooms and body butter and imperfect but manageable bills.

How was the first day of school, Shari?

Well, you know me. It's hard not to run around excited to see last year's kids. I don't get the teachers who don't get wrapped up in that. It's hard to do the "don't smile before Thanksgiving" routine when you're looking at the new kids that you're going to be so delighted to see come back next year. But that's about a hundred tests, arguments, discipline referrals, parent/teacher conferences, threats, gripes, and "shut up and colour"s away.

Lots of friendly faces, then?

Oh yes. Our school has initiated some neat new programs to foster the sense of community, but I wish we'd had more visiting time today. Yeah, I know I'm there to teach grammar and literary analysis and plenty of other "power standards", but our student body really benefits from being a sort of family, so I wish we'd had more time, perhaps between classes, to mingle.

Or maybe just know our rosters in advance so we could all trade notes. Last night I got my prelim rosters and couldn't help but email some teachers to gush: "oh, you have so-and-so, they're a great group leader!" and so on. This mostly led to the "wow, you clearly, uh, care" response, so perhaps it's a good thing that I didn't reveal my (aborted) plan to look up this year's students in last year's yearbook so I could learn names even faster.

(I'm not saying the other teachers don't care. They care a lot. Just not enough to excitedly write emails to each other when it could wait until morning in the workroom.)

And then there were so many faces I realized were missing - the ones who graduated, the few who've passed away. (I don't think I ever published the post about my absolutely brilliant/lovely student who overdosed this summer.) I don't think the kids realize how great it is when they come back and say hi, even the ones who barely blipped on the radar when they were there.

Or maybe I'm just a goofball. Quite possible.

How do the new students seem?

Total mixed bag. I'm grateful that my sophomores have all come from rigorous freshman classes. (Despite my wigging out last night over all the failures.) My freshmen are all honors students, so that's a little mercy, classroom management-wise. I'll probably always suck at classroom management. I was talking to a fellow teacher who's from Russia and she misses just being able to teach and not deal with behaviour problems and disrespect (however unintentional).

In regard to my own flawed classroom management style, I think I'll start the year by teaching the kids the concept of "passive aggressive."

Is it true you're going to run an after-school Cr**t*v* Wr*t*ng club?

Looks like it. Ideas? Other than sharing work, watching "inspirational but entertaining" movies, playing some sensory games, doing poetry readings, etc?

Is it true you and two co-workers missed an in-service session because you had a two-hour lunch at Terrible Herbst's casino?

Lies! But I do recommend the chocolate/cinnamon tacos with ice cream and fresh fruit and caramel.

Shouldn't you IM Kristy?

God yes. Sorry, Kristy, if you see this. When are we going to be rich enough to take that cruise?

Good moments foreshadowing a shiny new year?

I developed a cool new lesson plan format and people are going nuts adopting it, thanks to one of my neat-o co-workers who made everyone come check it out when I was finishing it. Some people in another department surprised me by presenting it at the school-wide staff meeting, even.

And then there are the two former students offering to help as unofficial aides - quite a boon since I don't have an aide yet (and probably won't get one). The photocopying alone...

And, much as I loved CW and M*d Literature, it's kind of a relief to return solely to the structure of "traditional" English classes. Now I have textbooks, transparencies, workbooks - plenty to pull from and creatively elaborate upon rather than cook from scratch. Oh, let's face it, it's great knowing that I can just follow the textbook manufacturer's "lesson plan" for the day if I feel stuck/sick/uninspired/of need of a break from bounciness.

Are you going back tomorrow?

That feels weird. I hugged everybody. I warmly welcomed the new kids. I pep talked the freshmen into starting a powerful high school career. Now we have to stop the party to work? Huh?

Well, maybe you'll have a heart attack first and end on this high note.

Nah, not if I hint at concern over nausea, edema, tingling, numbness, aches, etc. in my blog first. That would be too prescient.  And if I mention that I almost detoured on the way home to hit the clinic, that would be pure drama and come of nothing. See, crisis averted.

(But as I sit here smacking the feeling back into my hand, perhaps at least thinking about an appointment wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I've even been thinking about getting my first mammogram! They're free on screening days.)

What's this song you're listening to?

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver. It makes me think of going up and down over backwood Michigan hills in my dad's blue Ramcharger, punching the buttons on the 8-track.

Whatcha reading before conking out tonight?

A dazzling co-worker lent me some modern Egyptian literature (along with a discussion on trends on Egyptian fiction, and no, she's not Egyptian whatsoever, just amazing), but I'm lolling in Stephanie Plum's world for now. (She even has a hamster! Thanks Chris!)

6:30? G'night.

(Typing this reminded me of an ancient Ellen DeGeneres routine. I don't remember exactly how it goes, but she'd ask the audience if they ever, you know, did the whole dance-around-the-house-like-Tom-Cruise thing when they were younger, playing rock star, locking the front door and really belting it out to an amused audience of household pets. As the audience laughed in recognition she'd keep going with describing this, then add, "and then afterwards sitting down for a few hours and pretending to give the Rolling Stone interview, right?" I don't know if it's funnier because she went too far or because maybe she didn't.)

31 August 2006 |

Previously: Freak Early and Often



You miss me! Aww! I miss you too! Maybe I'll stop by sometime. In December when the plays / concerts are in session.

I miss you! *hugs*

Take care of a certin aunt of mine will you?

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Freak Early and Often

Nerve Food
Originally uploaded by Naseemo.
So, our school has this site/app that lets kids/parents track grades online, along with any other course material the teacher wishes to upload. This year we can also not only see our students' schedules, but we can see their transcripts with last year's grades.

I do not have enough chocolate for what I'm looking at.

I've clicked on about 55 transcripts so far. Two Bs, maybe. A strong smattering of Cs. A light dusting of Ds. Lots and lots (and lots) of Fs. And no As at all.

Basically, I'm looking at classroom after classroom of students who failed or nearly failed English last year. Well, at least a class and a half with no sign of the trend slowing down. (Here I clicked ten more. Nope. No As. More Ds and Fs.)

And certain politicians want a world where teachers in my position will be docked/fired/whathaveyou if we don't get these kids passing in a few months? If last year's teachers couldn't inspire more Bs (last year's teachers being amazing folk one and all), shouldn't I be grateful if I can just get some Fs to Ds by Christmas? Or, to be more honest, am I going to spend the whole year writing referrals and chewing people out and throwing out unimaginative worksheets in desperation? Because that's what a classroom of people who failed last year sounds like. You may think it sounds like a chance for Lulu to stand up and sing, but I am just not the black man of poised stature that such a scenario requires.

They say tomorrow never knows, but I leave it to that day to reveal more.

30 August 2006 |


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Did I Order a Froshaccino?

Originally uploaded by xoxomelle.

Alrighty, well, my presentation went fine because I found a more qualified person to deliver it. I did the planning, PowerPoint, and packets, and she talked about a bunch of things that I never would've dreamt of. I was kind of disappointed because the topic was, more or less, teaching the non-English departments how to encourage students to do the kind of writing that gets them passing scores on the exam, and there wasn't really room for me to discuss some "tricks" they could pass on to the students. Maybe it's for the best to play to the solid information. I don't know. I always figure people already know that. Anyway. I was in an edgy place and glad to be pressing the arrow key as needed.

Edgy? Start of school jitters? Pshaw! No, my terse distraction can only be attributed to one thing: finding out at lunch that this year I'm not teaching what I thought I was teaching.

Stop. Rewind. Further. Okay, last year I said, "I'll teach anything, I'll not request my beloved senior British Literature even though it's available, as long as I can have the same class all day. I only want to prepare for one class. Unlike most of our teachers, I don't find that boring. I need to focus on one subject and perfect it." And because we're creating grade-level teams, they put me on the sophomore English team.

Fast forward. We have more freshmen than expected. So, here we are, about 36 hours before the first day of school, and I find out I'm still teaching sophomore English, but now I'm teaching freshman English, too.

(And need I mention that I've never taught freshman English? Not even as a sub?)

Supposedly it's a compliment. Supposedly.

Because our department chair is the greatest, all of my freshmen will be Honors students. Because my department chair remembers how I burned to teach BritLit this year but agreed to our shiny new teaming plan on the condition of teaching only one subject, my room will get an LCD projector as soon as we finish spending department money on books. (If we have money left.)

Oh, and grad school. Good thing I decided not to go this semester. It's actually cheaper for me to re-apply down the road than to officially continue at CSU. $55 re-app fee versus $200 continuation fee. But, in the interest of not being a total loser, I'm taking a grad class through Adams something University through PBS - yes, the TV network. I'm probably being funded by a generous grant from Kraft even as we speak. I do know I'm getting reimbursed for the class by the district, which seemed like Just The Thing, as they say.

And now, please excuse me while I practice looking like I have a clue about little ninth graders - even tinier than tenth graders! Oh well: at least I finally get to teach Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's most beautfully filthy piece. Plagues and pricks of noon! Am I allowed to show them Simon LeBon quoting Mercutio's Queen Mab speech in Waiting for the Nightboat? (warning: links to highly underrated early 80s video)

29 August 2006 |


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Bravely into the Middle Distance

Grosse Fatigue ...
Originally uploaded by SupaDope.
I forgot how being upright all day can really enpuffen the cankles. Laurie Notaro makes this sound funny in her We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive, but I know the damning work of pomegranate frappuccinos when I see it. As I spent part of one staff training session today doing the "I'm not going to pass out; I'm not going to pass out" chant under my breath, perhaps it's that time of the year again when I think about eating healthier and getting more exercise. Or at least not waiting until 12 hours after getting up to have a bite to eat. I've really got to pack darling sack lunches this year.

If you haven't read the comments in the last post, you're missing out on BIG IMPORTANT NEWS. Have I ever mentioned that "Sarah" is one of the best names in the world? Stephen King often gives his particularly angelic/sympathetic characters that name. Fleetwood Mac and Daryl Hall made good songs (albeit in four-letter form) for it. And need we even mention its splendid phonetic form in Hungarian? Congrats to Heather and Heather's Husband of not-Allentown-but-Emmaus-I-think!

My Big Stupid Presentation isn't until Monday, then we'll have one more day of endless trainings until the sucky business of enrollment starts. I don't think Harry "the first day of school sets the tone for the rest of the year - don't blow it! and buy my book!" Wong really gets that my first day of school will be spent writing down names from enrollment cards as quickly as possible before the homeroom-shortened class period is over. Seriously - no introductions, no information, just "give me your pink card and amuse yourself until I call your name and don't! ask! questions!"

Day two would be somewhat better if we could hand out our syllabi and go over the expectations, rules, etc., but syllabi have to be approved by admins before printing, and they don't think we should give that out until all the major schedule changes have been sorted. Last year I sorta, accidentally, what with having my supervisor change twice over the summer, ran off my own copies and gave them out. That won't work this year (although I do have a new boss again). Maybe I'll just host a Q&A instead and see if they guess that the penalty for reapplying eye shadow during class is a slow poking death with a mascara wand. A blue mascara wand. (It balances out my decision to eliminate last year's no-gum policy.)

So, days two and three will be partially devoted to making the revolving door of schedule changing spin more smoothly. Then we'll have a three-day weekend and then maybe I'll start teaching the tiny hormonal people with iPods that we call sophomores. But I'll just say once again that Wong, despite certainly having the right idea, should be a celebrity educator mostly because he manages to get his books shipped from his planet to our own.

And speaking of planets, after being too busy to IM my Dad for awhile, I initiated the follow conversation today (italics mine):

Me: Are you sad about Pluto/

Dad: not sure r u

Me: not sure either
Me: it feels wrong to lose a planet

Dad: what bout the new planets

Me: but they're just dwarf planets
Me: even Ceres, the biggest asteroid, is now a dwarf planet
Me: and the other planets are outside our solar system - not so much "ours"

Dad: (always one for solidarity) i dont like it

Me: I thought Pluto could at least be a gateway planet
Me: because it has more in common with the regular planets than the other Oort Cloud objects do, etc.

Dad: i like pluto...was emotionally attached to it (you should probably picture a semi-coloned emoticon here)

Me: it could be our ambassador to those items
Me: me too, but it wasn't my favourite planet
Me: I am currently facing a tie between Neptune and Uranus

Dad: lol

Me: hehe I'm serious

Dad: ok

Me: (typically, I get overeager) Uranus is interesting because it's on its side and has all the moons named after Shakespearean characters
Me: but Neptune is a richer blue colour, and now it is the last planet in our solar system
Me: Saturn used to be my fave but everyone gets tired of the rings
Me: I've never met anyone who likes Mercury best.

Dad: sat my fav

Me: (also diplomatic)Saturn is still good
Me: It has that nice big moon

Dad: i like merc too

Me: why?

  • (long gap)

    Dad: i dont know

    (I show off some interesting but basic facts about Mercury's atmosphere, composition, and rotation that no one else needs to see me get so excited about)

    Dad: ok i dont like it anymore
    Dad: because of the greek thing

    Me: the greek thing?

    Dad: yes mercury

    Me: Mercury has a Greek thing?

    Dad: yes with the helmet

    Me: ohhh
    Me: Roman

    Dad: oh srry

    Er, and so on, until Dad got up to make fish. Not sure why I shared this, other than I think people at work have this idea that I'm not close to my parents and so there ought to be some record somewhere that clearly we have our own fun. Our own, highly limited, extremely nerdy, fun.

    Obvously I don't talk to them about Mom because everything shareworthy comes out in the past tense, and when I do venture an anecdote, I'm always having to say, "she's still alive and everything" and hurry on the conversation before people make the careful sympathy face and ask if she isn't. (At the expense of me appearing to be flippant and uninvolved.) And I don't talk about Dad because "mostly just waiting for the end since he can't afford heart surgery after a lifetime of paying for health insurance that he almost never used not to mention paid for his employees until near the end, and isn't this an ironic world?" just has that sort of needy-but-unresolvable can-of-worms feel that I personally try to discourage in the 20-odd minute break we all get in the middle of the day.

    (The one where I'm not organized enough to eat but I can concentrate deeply on trying to get around the latest district firewall between me and Gmail. Oh, and this site's been blocked, too, as I discovered when trying to see what Heather wrote that I couldn't see in my email.)

    Ah, can't hold out on sleep anymore. Short version: I'm looking forward to the near school year, but we'll save the upbeat vibe for later. I'm just rambling now. La fa de na na zzz...

    26 August 2006 |

    Previously: Bursting Bubbles


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  • Bursting Bubbles

      Otter with Bubble Wand 
      taken by me

    I go back to work today. The kids don't come until next week, but the season of the alarm clock has begun. And soon the bladder edition of Survivor will follow. Are there many other professions where one is denied toilet privileges for the first five hours of every working day?

    I haven't even played with my exquisite bubble wand, pictured in the paws of the otter at right. (Available online at Blue Hill By Hand.com, but the selection at the Wild Oats Market in Henderson was cheaper. Also, Blue Hill's site seems to be down, but some are features at BubbleBlowers.com - a museum of wands and related paraphenalia - wow.) On the plus side, everything I didn't do this summer is something to look forward to later.

    (Oops, I actually wanted to start this post with an important question: Heather! Baby?)

    Monday I went to Skull Rock at Red Rock Canyon... let's not talk about it. 90ish degrees is still too hot to hike. Also, I should take heed that when the athletic types are being warned by permanent signs that the slope is steep and full of loose gravel, maybe I too will find it challenging.

    It's a queer feeling to be flopped out next to a pile of burro poo, the car 50 feet away, and still having to take a ten minute rest because that steep slope that was so zippy (if slippy) to go down will put blisters on your soul to come back up.

    And once again I found myself vowing not to return to the canyon until it's 30 degrees cooler and I'm 60 pounds lighter, but will such sensibility stick? Who knew there were pine trees in Vegas? There's still so much to explore.

    I Like Clouds

    23 August 2006 |

    Previously: Libran Curse(s)


    Heather in Allentown


    Baby arrived early - just 2 days after husband returned from Vegas, actually. August 8 at 4:16 am. Sarah joined us via c-section (sorry if TMI!) - she was a surprise breech. Nothing quite like forgoing pain meds in labor (to be tough, of course) and hearing your midwife say "Hey! That's not a head!" while checking you to verify that you are indeed ready to push.

    We're all good - just tired and WAYYY behind on our blog reading!

    So, Master's or no ? What's going on?!

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    Libran Curse(s)

    Originally uploaded by Keep Clicking.
    I went to bed with, for the billionth time, the decisive action of saying good-bye to a grad program that doesn't excite me at all. Well, at least not much. Plus Cal State requires a thesis. Bleh. At least UNLV lets you take additional coursework instead. I'd much rather learn more about a variety of things than focus intensely on one subject. Maybe.

    This being a new (biologically clocked) day, my resolve has flip-flopped. I'm going to rename this to the Polarity Blog and install a javascript Pong plugin on the sidebar just to keep things honest.

    Here's what happened: My prof said he's not going to file an Incomplete; he's going to file an A; he has that much confidence in me. If I turn in my paper - again, however unpolished - by the first of October, I can keep the A. If not, I get a B. Which is unspeakably generous, and here's this man trying to do a kind, lovely thing, and all that resolve crumbles.

    Tomorrow's the first day of the new term. Should I just throw another class on the Visa card tonight and start the paperwork for reimbursement from Financial Aid?

    No, probably not. But should I give them $185 to keep me in the program for another semester so I can keep making these savoury waffles? There's the rub.

    21 August 2006 |

    Previously: Ceiling Fans


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    Ceiling Fans

    Ceiling fan
    Originally uploaded by keith721.
    Will I ever bother blogging again without someone's Flickr image to inspire me? It's the new journalism meets the new journaling. Find a Flickr photo to fit your story or fit your story to a find on Flickr!

    (Let's see if that italics tag worked out.)

    I love this CF photo because of those purple walls. They're a matte purple, suitable for Martha Stewart bedding, but bright enough to say, yes, this is really a purple wall. Mauve be gone!

    I don't want a purple wall myself, having once had a bad experience with coloured walls. (I'm the only person who can't paint walls, and I descend from master painters, so I am truly, truly inept. Don't tell me to paint an M or a W on the wall first - that's a miserable, mean LIE.)

    But I love these purple walls all the same. Whoever owns them must be pleased every day.

    Ceiling fans are a mundane topic. I have two: one in the living room, one in the bedroom. They've been running 24/7 for nineteen months. If one breaks, I'll take off work to cry. If both break. I'll move. I cannot live without a constant breeze. I run them on high. No matter how perfect the AC setting, it's all wrong without a ceiling fan.

    How someone feels about ceiling fans could be one of those things you are left wondering after it's too late to find out. I think just about everyone has a ceiling fan story, but could you collect a family's worth of tales from your own memory and put them in a book? No. (And would you? No.)

    Me, I have three ceiling fan stories. I'll be brief.

    1. The time my Aunt Lisa and family friend Susan were waiting in line at Six Flags. We were under a wobbly fan. Susan (jokingly, I'm sure) rearranged us so she would take the hit if it fell. I was incredibly impressed.

    2. The time I was dogsitting at my parents' and - what was that noise? - that was the ceiling fan crashing down, one foot away.

    3. The first time I found out that fans get dusty and how this knowledge sagged my heart a little.

    4. The way the I used to sleep with my feet tucked up and head under a pillow because the ceiling fan over the bed kept swaying dangerously, but I couldn't bear to give up the breeze.

    See, that was actually four - everyone has ceiling fan stories. Nobody talks about them. Mostly because they're boring, but I bet there are some good ones out there. Stories with ceiling fans that changed direction whenever someone got knocked up, or ceiling fans that were turned on and off by high-leaping dogs. If you find yourself at a loss for conversation, consider the ceiling fan.

    21 August 2006 |



    I remember that trip to Six Flags. Was it at the old timey cars?


    I don't know, but I remember everything about the queue layout - oh, the terrors of fans!

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    "Justify My Love" (Madonna 90).

    Playing in the neighbourhood
    Originally uploaded by isolano.
    I'm so flickrfied that I now want to blog other people's photos. Does Flickr really not have a "some random photo" link? Explore is not the same, although its exclusion of camphone photos _is_ nice. (One - sorry, dearest Mike. Two - I should be so cool to have a camera phone. I'm just jealous. Three - I'm using underscores for italics because I'm blogging from Flickr and Typepad is so fussy about parsing remote HTML. Next thing you know I'll make horizontal lines out of ASCII roses.)

    So, being contemplative about the return to school and the almost-dropping-out of grad school thoughts that are swirling in the air, I searched Flickr for "academia." The first three "this fits my mood" photos I liked didn't allow blogging. (Pft) Then there's this hopscotch image. I like it.

    Does hopscotch always have 1-2-3 in a row? Can it vary? I never knew the rules, I just knew how to hop then jump (scotch?) on side-by-side numbers with legs apart then hop again, doing a one-legged pirouette at the end. But when to stop was a mystery. I bet Wikipedia knows, but I spent too much time (several minutes, even) on there last night wikifying Barbara Luddy's entry. (Mike was watching _Lady and the Tramp_ and, well, one thing led to another.)

    Academia. Hopscotch. The mind connects.

    I'm beginning to feel defensive about pushing for abandoning the MA, the way I used to feel when my friends were all getting their bachelor degrees and seemed to be looking down their noses at the rest of the world. I always valued book smarts over street smarts, so this was just too ironic for my little 19-year-old head. And most of said friends seemed more into drinking and driving and sprinkling a crusty wash of genital warts over the experience than holding any kind of literate conversation. Maddening times. Yeah, okay, I was a mostly out-of-work fortune teller charging up store cards so I could look interesting while following my boyfriend's band (note: didn't work), but _still_.

    Everyone I work with has or is getting or is leaving to get their master's. (PhDs are rare as it only increases your pay by five hundred bucks per year and requires a leave of absence.) No one is haughty about it; it's just common sense to do it ASAP so you'll get as much money as possible as soon as possible. One thing in this district's favour is that they do make finishing grad school worthwhile. (Some might even say "necessary," if you ever want to buy a shack to call your own.)

    So, I feel stupid not having or working on a MA, too. Well, no, I don't actually feel stupid. I know I'm not stupid, although I deliberately act stupid so often that I'm afraid one day my brain will freeze that way. (Life is just easier when people think you're ditzy.) But it's harder to get away with putting on the stupid persona when you don't have some advanced paper stashed in a drawer, ready to wave like a safeword in a dungeon.

    Technically I'm currently enrolled in two (2! DOS! deux!) graduate programs - the one I've not attended in almost a year at UNLV and the new one at CSU. I've taken an Incomplete this summer in my first CSU class. Why? I don't feel like writing the last paper. That's it. I don't _feel_ like it. I read the works. I understand them. I'd be pleased to discuss them over a plate of grilled peppers. I want to vomit when I open up a document to type about them.

    What's worse is that the prof basically told me that, based on having done such a great job on my other papers (he used exclamation points in his feedback and everything), I could turn in whatever unpolished draft I have now, relax, and we could call it an A for the course. Wow.

    So I think about banging out some keystrokes and can actually feel my brain overriding such a silly idea by conjuring ideas about chocolate and whether I'd rather drive to the store for pudding or pie. Maybe pudding pie? Maybe spend an hour on Epicurious looking for a recipe? And that's when I close the word processor window so it will stop upsetting me, grab the pretzels, and slink back into another episode of _Will and Grace_.

    It could be a control thing. (Here, let me adjust the headrest on this Freudian couch. Ahhh.) Maybe I feel so at the mercy of other people's plans (my parents with their health, my bosses with their ideas, my boyfriend with his imminent graduation, my students who must be sold on every lesson) that screwing around with the one plan that seems to be wholly my own gives me a sense of control to counter whoever else is pulling the strings.

    It could be that, or it could just be that I don't burn to tell you my views on Euripides because I know I wouldn't want anyone telling me _their_ views on Euripides, at least not after the first 500 words. Writing a paper on Euripides for someone else to read almost feels rude, when you think of it like that.

    Maybe there are meds that convince you to write your final paper and at least not burn bridges or money or pride. My brain thinks making a nice banana pudding - with wafers, of course - could be just as therapeutic. Shh, brain.

    Anyway. I'm hoping money, pride, and not slamming the doors to the future completely shut - in that order - will eventually get the last paper done. And then I really think that's it. As in, that _is_ it. Enough with the waffling, here and in my head and my checkbook. I don't want an advanced degree in English Lit. I want to read again. And if I ever win the jackpot (if I ever get around to gambling), I'm going to get a cool degree. Since I no longer think EL is a cool degree, I have no place fiddling around in someone else's spot. And that is why this post is titled as such.

    My parents will be so disappointed. Why can't their smartypants daughter do the _one_ thing (the _only_ thing) that _everyone_ has always agreed she can do - digest information and spit it back out as a highbrow paper? Why can't she put one foot in front of the other and keep her eyes on the prize long enough to get what could be worth 100k by retirement? (All the better to help take care of her parents, of herself?)

    I don't know. I fought against the BA for so long, but I never wanted it. When I resigned myself to getting one, I went nuts after the first A, determined to fly a 4.0 all the way through. The MA, that I wanted. I was the only person to pass the final on my first class. In the second class, the prof publicly singled me out for praise. In this last class, it's been like reading love letters. But the whole degree, at both universities, just feels _wrong_? What does my brain mean by that? I don't know.

    Hopscotch. You draw the boxes. You follow the rules. You deliberately drop things; you make decisions. You hop. There's a clear plan to get straight to one end. They're _your_ lines. You decide how big the boxes are. And then the rain comes and the chalk's a mess and you have to redraw it all.

    21 August 2006 |

    Previously: "New" Inspiron 6400


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    "New" Inspiron 6400

      "New" Inspiron 6400 
      Originally uploaded by Miss Shari.

    According to Dell's website, my "new" computer is still in transit to UPS, but a cranky word in Dell's subcontinental ears resulted in a tracking number that led to the intel that Mike and I would be re-Skyped sometime on Friday.

    Did you know UPS made deliveries at 8:30 pm? Good thing I didn't quite have my heart set on that B-52s concert. On the plus side, last time they made an evening delivery they did the "gates are closed, let's not wait 30 seconds for another car to go in or out, let's just say the resident wasn't home and attempt another delivery on Monday" routine, so by the time it hit eight o'clock I was resigned to spending the final days of summer break without my man, my DVD player, or my Photoshop, and that just seemed too cruel.

    I like the new beast. For a "scratch and dent" item (read: even cheaper than ordinary refurbished), it sure seems sleek and smooth. Maybe one of the labels on the bottom has a bent edge; I don't know. I can't find what's wrong with it. With a three-year "we'll fix it even if you deliberately pour a can of chocolate Coke on the keyboard" warranty in place, I'm not regretting the decision to save a few dollars.

    (Note: I started drinking chocolate Cokes when I needed something to do with the dregs of my too-pricey venti double choc chip fraps. Eventually I just ponied it up and bought a squeeze bottle of syrup. Earlier this summer I was big into the orange Cokes - peel an orange, pour in cola, yum. But now I'm thinking, hey, what about a chocolate orange Coke? YUM? And these are all caffeine-free Cokes, of course, because I'm so health conscious and all that.)

    I'm using Amazon S3 via JungleDisk for backup these days. Ridiculously cheap and moderately easy. I'm sick of CDs. The new computer (nickname: Ambassador) has a DVD burner, but I'm pre-sick of DVD backups, too. I'd like to say that the old laptop and the new laptop, both being on the same wireless network, get along fine, but the old laptop took one look at the new computer and started bawling, so I quickly made the executive decision to just retrieve stuff as needed from S3 and get back to the jollier aspects of (online) life. Once upon a time my ego would not have permitted me to have two non-networked computers. I'm over that now.

    The old laptop is going to lose its fine newish hard drive (sigh) to Mom and Dad, and I'll fix up the rest down the road.

    Should I get Lo-Jack for the new machine or do I need to be the kind of person who washes her car to justify that? (Honestly, I'm just waiting to go to the canyon one more time, I swear.)

    Oh, and I hate the widescreen on this computer, but I'm telling myself it's a necessary evil for the other features I wanted. I hate all this scrolling down (it's that or tiny pictures and tiny type), but I'll get used to it. Why do people even want widescreen laptops? To not see the black bars on DVDs? Wusses.

    In other news, my old boss (I have a new supervisor for this year, but really all the assistant principals are our bosses) has thanked me in advance for volunteering to give a presentation to the staff on one of the inservice days before school starts. Which is to say I've been told that I'm giving a presentation. A presentation on something I know less about than most of the faculty; it just happens that I had a 15-hour training on the topic, but I considered that an orientation, not a certification of expertise.

    I absolutely cannot stand to do public speaking in an area where I'm not confident, especially in front of several people who not only know more about it but know they know more about it, and have been put in a position of having to listen to my presentation instead of doing the 3000 other things one needs to do before school starts but never has time to do. I'm not happy. I'm also not thinking about it. La la la. I have a shiny new compuuuuuter.

    20 August 2006 |


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    Information is the Antidote

    Did you have any idea at all, at all, about the legendary Queen Marcia?

    Somedays I wish I could sneeze ALT-H and see a history of every place my brain has been.

    13 August 2006 |


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    Not Riding the Pony 'Cuz I Got Me a Mule

    The Billy Idol concert is over now, but I wasn't there. Maybe I wasn't sure one man could pull off the Beach, but the real dealbreaker was the heat. It's frickin' hot enough out here without the recent humidity. Last night I got sick just walking across the parking lot at Sunset Station.

    (By the way, I give Talladega Nights a B-. The baby Jesus riff is terrific, but there's an overall flatness to the film. Also by the way, the new "Win a Latte" slot is cute and a refreshing change from all the extremely boring "win 10 free spins" slots, all with the same chunky Ace-King-Queen-Jack-Ten graphics courtesy of some horrid Aussie company that has sucked all the fun out of playing bonus games. Latte is another "win spins" slot, true, but the latte cup fills up with whipped cream while it spins, and the multiplier increases with each spin. I won two dollars. I'm happy.)

    Of course, the superstitious dream vibe didn't help Billy's cause. Instead, it me want to stay home and plan to do housework. Everything keeps breaking lately. The icemaker groans and pops out one defiant cube. The dishwasher is coating everything in white glaze. The temperature throughout the apartment feels inconsistent. Vinegar and baking soda magic didn't quite work on the bathtub drain. The security system keeps thinking one of my windows is open, and the window block in question has weird red crust on the latches, like someone opened them while eating a pizza. Seriously - what the hell is that?

    My trunk was improperly closed when I went out to the car earlier. That one's all my fault, I guess. I must not've applied enough force when taking out my new way-cool linen hamper last night. Does fixing that mean I've appeased the bad dream gremlins? Can I go to the store tonight without worrying the whole time about the car being stolen? There's a "Milky Way Tart" in the new issue of Bon Appetit that someone has to make.

    I need to cook something creative. Well, I actually need to make lesson plans and worksheets, but the computer doesn't like me having lots of windows open, especially word processors and spreadsheets. On the plus side, the dead fan revived itself, but now I have to listen to its equivalent to I THINK I can I THINK I can - vroom! splutterspit! vroom! splutterspit! That's why I bought a new computer today.

    Or, you know, a "new" computer, where "new" refers to not only refurbished but scratched and dented to boot. Another laptop because a desktop wouldn't be more cost efficient, what with then having to buy a desk and a chair and a lamp to go with it. I got the all-powerful three-year warranty, so I'm not really worried. A little bummed that it was still a bunch of money I wasn't planning on spending, and it's not going to be all dainty and shiny, but the current computer is karking it on so many levels.

    Okay, just on two levels - the fan/CPU degeneration coupled with "screen is acting like the last time it was dropped was one time too many." But sometimes two is enough, you know? I have no doubt I could replace the fan, and the screen's fine after bootup, save for being embarrassingly covered with what looks like dried, diluted snot, but right now I'd rather buy a new computer than deal with Dell's bad-scene-from-Bollywood customer service to order the allegedly proprietary parts. The fact that I bought another Dell just underscores how well their secret marketing plan disguised as outsourcing is working.

    Anyway - I saved $400+ over buying new, got exactly what I wanted, and roped in a few bonuses (256mb video memory, extra power adapter) as well. Now I just need the current machine to a) hold on about two weeks until the "new" baby is delivered, and b) not hate me.

    In other news, Mike is traveling to Donnybrook today with the university camera. If you're not sure what Mike looks like but would love to know, you can see him wearing the original El Dia de los Hammies t-shirt here. Also here. And, more goofily, here. No, I don't know what he's done to the collar. It happens to all his collars. I'd blame overwashing or line drying or dryer-drying or Australia or the shirt, but it happened to all the brand new shirts he brought to/in America, too. Strangely, those shirts later got better. I think Mike secretes a neck-enzyme that encourages nudity by ruining his shirts, but that's probably TMI. And/or sweat. Anyway, I do like this photo that he took during class.

    So, I've been getting cheery updates from the road, and that's lifted my spirits a bit. Stupid bad car dreams. Hey, today I got a postcard from the local dealership asking me to trade in my '01 for an '06 - maybe that's what the dream was referring to? Because I really was tempted for a moment, and  I had no idea why - I really like having a paid-for car that seems to run well. Yes, I can see it all now - the dream was warning me against getting my car washed so I could take it to a dealership where a saleswoman who looked like Uma Thurman would've given me a very bad trade. It all makes sense! Whew - glad I averted that crisis! And people wonder why I gave up my career in tarot card reading...

    Now about that Milky Way.

    12 August 2006 |


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    The Other Hand Makes Jelly

    The Tropicana finally got their online booking system together, but I don't think I'll be going to see Foreigner there. I don't believe "Mick Jones" and "booth seating" are phrases that are naturally proximal.

    Elizabeth Joy, painfully shy her whole life, has been quite bold recently. She hops directly into the hand and looks around like she knows what she's doing. For this I gave her a tiny dab of natural peanut butter last night, which she enjoyed. I still had a little under my pinky nail, so I offered this finger to Bode in the adjacent hamitat.

    Well. Bode went loopy for it. Gently but with obvious frustration she worked the other fingers once the pinky went "dry," trying to squeeze another nibble of peanut butter out of the tips. Poor girl.

    I didn't think anything of it when every time I walked past that side of the room this morning she stuck her head out of bed. "Hi Bode!" I'd wave, then go about my business. Finally, feeling guilty, I stopped to give her a pat.

    And there, 12 hours later, hands bathed and washed several times since, she went right back to begging those fingers to just release a little more sweet, sweet peanut butter. I've created a monster!

    I mean "sweet" in the "delicious" sense, not the sugary sense, of course. Or do I? I checked the label again. Second ingredient? SUGAR. Damn you, Whole Foods! I just assumed their freshly ground natural peanut butter would be sugar free. You know, like Laura Scudders or somesuch. Cripes. I don't think I gave Elizabeth Joy or Bode enough to worry about, though. I probably should feel more concerned that the peanut butter is several weeks old - I bought a small dish for a recipe then never got around to using it. (Which is how I never tasted it myself and realized there was sugar - SUGAR! - inside.)

    Anyway, I'll have to get some unsweetened pb and see if that makes Bode just as happy. You can't give hamsters too much peanut butter because it supposedly gums up their pouches, but a thin smear shouldn't be a problem.

    I had this dream that I went to get my car washed and the car was stolen. As I dreamt, I realized this was a continuation of a plot line I'd been experiencing shortly before. When I woke up, I told Mike about it. He said, yes, I'd told him earlier while I was sleeping or half-awake that the car had been stolen. Wow, Taco Bell before bedtime must make me extra chatty.

    So now I'm weirded out that if I go see Billy Idol tonight then the car will be stolen. Car dreams just always seem to be so prophetic! Okay, I base this on two incidents. One, the time I dreamt I got a flat tire, woke up, and got a flat tire. Two, the time I dreamt the car was washed away in a flood. It wasn't, but the town where I was living was severely damaged by an unexpected flood a few days later. But those are the only two car dreams I remember, and now there's this one.

    Can I beat fate? Should I just not get the car washed? In the dream, the car was taken by a troubled teenager that I knew, and in the second dream I couldn't remember the first dream very well other than I knew in the first dream I'd seen that this was coming but I went ahead and let them have the car anyway, since I was counting on the car washing people to keep him or her (I think "her") from driving off with it. Which, in the second dream, they failed to do. I seem to recall that Uma Thurman might've been involved.

    My car is pretty dirty, and of course now I'm being overwhelmed with the urge to wash it. I think I need a gypsy advisor.

    12 August 2006 |


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    To Get.. To You.. To Pass.. The Time.. With You

    I don't know if I'm going to see Billy Idol on Friday, but I better not talk myself out of the B-52s next week. As I sit here listening to "Whammy Kiss," which for some crazy reason usually gets skipped in the playlist (fallout from "Rock Lobster" oversaturation 20 years ago), I remember that this is a great song. It makes me want to put on some Lost in Space DVDs and stop apologizing for what I did to my hair last night. (Note to globe: it's harder to touch up your roots than you'd think. I just seem to be shimmying closer and closer to a hot, dry pink.)

    YouTube doesn't do it justice. I may even prefer this tail-end followed by the cuter-in-fiction "ButterBean." All I know is I could do with a pair of espadrilles, a rope of pearls, and two slugs of prickly pear lemonade in a martini glass right about now.

    By the way, VH1Classic has links to last week's favourite song. Neither video is loading up for me, but perhaps you'll have better luck. It's not like I'm ready to switch back to buttoned boots and cold tea in a stoneware mug, anyway.

    10 August 2006 |


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    The Best Plans are Double-Secret

    Remember when I secretly got my bachelor's degree without telling any family or friends (save Mike) until near the bitter end?

    Well, I have a new secret plan. Secret plans are clearly the way to go. All of this public moping over being unfulfilled by grad school just underscores the point. That's why I'm pulling the plug on my M. A. after this class. Pop! Bye, bye, ass-kicking thesis on who knows what. (Something combining Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson, the devil, and the 14th century would've been nice.)

    That's part of my secret plan, in fact. So, now the plan isn't so secret. That's okay. The rest (like murder) will out. However, unlike sneaking off to school to make a big career switch to a noble vocation, this plan will have some significant detractors. Therefore, there'll be no hanging a big sign on this post saying "VISIT THE SECRET PLAN! NEXT EXIT! PECAN LOGS!"

    Now that I've made the (unintentional) attention-getting ploy of singing "I know something you don't know," I'd like to say that I'm watching Gilmore Girls for the first time and, hey, it really does have fast dialogue with pleasing pop-culture references. But it's still no Desperate Housewives. Or Big Love! Gosh, what's going to happen to Barb and all the Henricksons? Does everyone know they're polygamists now, or will there be damage control? Do you think the Queen of England watches this show? What would Henry II's and Eleanor of Acquitaine's reign have been like if they had DVD box sets?

    I've become addicted to hitting reload on the Dell Factory Outlet advanced search page. I just know a $600 system to all my hardware specs will show up when no one is looking. I love that you can choose not to see any refurbished ones - just cancelled orders and scratch & dents. Alas, all the really good systems are also loaded with stuff like Office, which adds a few hundred bucks. Who needs Word or PowerPoint these days when we have Writer and Impress?

    However, I'm not sure if getting a new computer is part of the Secret Plan®. The current one is making do with one fan... as long as I don't reboot without doing a system restore immediately afterward.

    The prof gave us all an extra week on the final paper - or I can take an Incomplete until October, if I wish. What do you think I'll do? I mean, other than spend tonight nibbling Holly's toes, slurping Yoplait (What's the difference between Tropical Peach and Harvest Peach? Let's find out!), playing with the still-hours-to-paste-before-I-sleep genealogy wiki, and helping Mike (a new Flickr Pro user with his borrowed photojournalism camera) brainstorm for the planetary science presentation? Which is to say, do you think I'll be mad at myself on September 30th?

    10 August 2006 |

    Previously: Sweet Dreamfeet


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    Sweet Dreamfeet

    Can't talk long. Nuking a veggie burger. Quaffing a Whole Foods Cherry Vanilla Creme Soda (made from pure cane sugar without any GMO issues - it is strange to celebrate that I'm drinking down pure sugar - and have you seen the gourmet flavoured sugar bulk bar at WF now? - to die for). Reading 3/4 of the play (not by Aeschylus at all; I'm a dorkins). Wondering if the "very latest" due date for the final paper is really five hours from now, or if it was extended as he mentioned it would be (might be?). Watching the second season of Desperate Housewives as ordered from iTunes (too impatient for BitTorrent). Hoping Susan gets rid of whats-his-face the emotionally crippled and largely illogical plumber once and for all.

    But I just wanted to say that I was just walking past Owl's hamitat where he is fast asleep in his east cottage, which is just down the tunnel from the main estate, before you get the the bend that leads to the wheelworks. He's completely zonked out in a nest of toilet paper, sprawled comfortably on his two-inch back. But what are his little feet doing? Oh, they're running!

    And I just wanted to say, isn't that the best? Whether it's a dog or a hamster or a cat (do budgies flitter their wings while asleep?), watching an animal dream is one of those great things in life. (Assuming they are running with freedom and pleasure and not as part of a desperate escape from animated vacuum cleaner monsters, or somesuch.) How can people think that something that dreams doesn't have a soul?

    Run, run, run, little Owl. I hope it's a good dream. Just to be safe, I'll wait until tonight to vacuum.

    07 August 2006 |







    What's weird? Hamsters running in their sleep? I don't see it often but it's way too cute when it happens.

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    The Ballad of Coalmuffin

    I wanted to go see the new Will Ferrell today, but when I finally got off the sofa to go feed the hungry hungry hammies, I discovered that Coal's door was open.


    How long had it been like that? The days and nights melt together, and other than knowing they were all fed yesterday morning, I couldn't remember when I'd last petted Coal. Yesterday was a slothful day, and I think I may've just offered John Boy-style night-nights from my bed before sleeping instead of doing a patrol around the perimeter.

    I've been a bad mother before. Once, a hundred odd years ago, after petting Erik for awhile I sleepily put him in the hamitat where his father (Isaac), Snout, and Snug lived instead of with his brothers next door. The weird thing was that I woke up, puttered around briefly, then thought to myself, "something seems off... did I put Erik back in the right place?" This was probably 10 hours later, and the thought just came to me out of the blue. Nifty the way the brain works.

    (And there was little Erik, safe and sound, just sitting calmly as if waiting for his morning bus. I've always wished I knew what happened that night. Isaac, Snug, and Snout were all very gentle hammies - well, Isaac got his grumples on a few months later - and Erik was peaceful and non-assuming, so I suppose no one was unduly scared. Maybe they all ran in wheels together while singing ELO tunes. Maybe they completed secret transactions while I was under the hypnotizing spell of their seed kisses. I'll just never know.)

    Looking for Coal was a terrible business, peppered with plenty of "Oh God, not the laundry room!" and "Oh God, not behind the refrigerator!" A little longer and it would've been "The swimming pool, Stephen, the swimming pool!!" - because even in crisis I can be cliche.

    Where I didn't think to look, because it was beyond my reasonable panic zone, was at the bottom of the curved staircase of 17 steps, by the front door. And even when I did look, on each and every high carpeted step, and even after I got to the bottom and checked inside all of the shoes then rearranged them to be burrow-unfriendly, and even after I leaned back to look at the staircase as a whole, it wasn't until I thought I imagined the tiniest of wheezes (she isn't call Coal for nothing) that I really looked down, in the corner, at the bottom of the last stair, up against the beigy carpet, and saw my little lump of Coal.


    She seems okay. Subdued. She had a little breakfast and didn't drink too much, but enough for me to know she'd been out for awhile. Did I really leave the door open? Has she found a trick for opening it? (I would've thought that'd require pouching some heavy weights and fashioning a catapult.) Did someone come in during my late night trip to Taco Bell and touch nothing except open her Crittertrail? (What thief could resist giving little Coal a pat? And who would steal anything after basking in the goodness of pets? Nevertheless, I'll be setting the alarm even when I just go around the corner. Not because I actually think someone came in, but because I'm reminded that it's just sensible.)

    Hopefully she's fine. I don't like to think of her going down those 17 high steps - after the first one she must've just kept jumping (or falling) down, looking for a way out, unable to climb back up. And there I was, obliviously asleep. Or obliviously lolling on the sofa. Oh, poor little Coal, out on her unexpected adventures, and having to take shelter behind my stinky taupe clogs. I'm just glad she's safe. Poor thing's pouches were completely empty, too - clearly she lost her luggage.

    So now I'm staying in. I don't do Friday/Saturday afternoons or nights at the movies (the Teenager Factor), and there's a rumour in hammie-town that this never would've happened if I'd just written my final paper already. Superstition, I say, but perhaps Coal would find it soothing if I read my thesis statement to her. (I suppose I better go read the play so I can come up with one.)

    05 August 2006 |

    Previously: Abrupt Caesura


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    Abrupt Caesura

    I always miss blogging when I'm putting it off until I finish some big piece. In this case, the trip report from the last trip to Disneyland last week, with the more interesting detours to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda and the beach at Balboa, California. Just haven't felt like it somehow; I suppose I'll get to it when I get to it.

    The title of this post comes from a quotation in the Wikipedia article on Charles Van Doren. I'm watching Quiz Show now, a movie Mike is planning to see for the first time tomorrow. (Who does not want to eat corn on the cob with the Van Dorens?) This last semester of Mike's is pretty darn exciting since it's almost all electives - planetary science, planet Earth, photojournalism... we both wish harder than ever that we had astrophysics degrees, but we also both have so little experience/confidence in this area. Instead, we play it safe and play to our strengths.

    Although, you know, as I wrangle through CSU's financial aid crud (where they've retracted a tuition-only loan for fall until I can prove that the number I submitted on Worksheet C of my FAFSA is accurate, and apparenly I can't email them my tax return PDF but I can print the same document myself then fax or mail it - argh...) I do wonder if my still-going mental "struggles" with grad school are a sign.

    Like... I've completed 3 of the 4 assignments for my summer class. The last paper is due this weekend and I've yet to read the plays I plan to discuss. I have no intention of reading them today, that's for sure. I don't know my grade on the third paper, but the professor gave nothing but embarrassingly kind words on the other two. You know, the type of response where they say the paper is pretty perfect, yadda yadda, and to please turn in more of the same. Pleasing at the time, but afterwards there is the pressure to repeat this success. (Oh, poor me.)

    But that's not the problem. The problem is that I'm still just robotically stepping through the requirements to get the credit to get the salary hike. I really don't give a damn about Ibsen or Aeschylus. There's no passion. (Oh, poor me, again.)

    No, wait, I do. I do give a damn. I just don't give so much of a damn that I'm willing to give them the time they deserve. Maybe grad school  really is a full-time job for people who choose to be scary-poor and work as TAs. Or maybe I should get a degree in something that I can't (apparently) do in my sleep. But then, if I don't get a degree in my field, no salary raise. And so maybe such a degree (archaeology? physics? art history?) should be filed under "luxuries for someday," like, I don't know, owning a house?

    I think I might be on a bit of a downer. I spent all of yesterday watching Desperate Housewives - the appeal is revealed. Elsewhere, it's hot outside. Stupid sunshiny desert with perfectly fluffy clouds in  egg-blue sky that I can't photograph because, again, it's hot and, furthermore, the computer now sucks. It needs a new fan which makes talking to Mike (or running my usual array of apps) hard. Plus I've felt "off" ever since my excursion - more info on that in the trip report. The nausea and lack of period and dizzyness make me wonder if what they don't say about toilet seats is true after all. And finally, I'm wading in cobalt emotions over the thought of returning to school in less than three weeks. Is it too late to become a rich, skinny, fashionable mother of two on Wisteria Lane?

    But, anyway. What was I going to blog about that started this whole post in the first place? Hm.

    Well, there was the first day of MTV on VH1 Classic. Not on MTV, which wouldn't deign to acknowledge its roots - especially if it meant playing music. Not on VH1. Oh no. But on VH1 Classic, further down the dial. Infidels of the marketing department strike again.

    Alas, very little of the original VJs was shown; instead it was some sort of posture-prioritizing disaster named Lynn who clearly taped her 10 minutes of commentary in advance, and for 24 hours the network played her same sound bites over and over and over and... was anyone else offended when she (without a speck of humour) said that she never really liked Guest VJs and thought VJ'ing should be left to the professionals? Wow. And she's so crap. She should be grateful to have Adam Ant (the first guest VJ, as we were reminded every few hours) pop in to take over.

    Nevertheless, I was strangely thrilled by the following during that rebroadcast:

    • the way some videos were "titled" twice with those lower-lefthand blurbs - once with the info in the original MTV font and once in the current font, sometimes overlapping - clearly someone lost the blurbless master copies
    • discovering "When Things Go Wrong" by Robin Lane and the Chartbusters - where has this song been all my life?
    • all those Split Enz videos
    • the way VH1 Classic stuck to its guns and rebroadcast the whole first day, even when it meant seeing some extremely bad videos over and over by people the world never heard from again.

    But on that last point, I could have done with 92% fewer Pretenders videos. My hatred of Chrissie Hynde's persona is much keener now.

    On the other hand, it was a good day for Rod Stewart. I've had "Passion" on heavy rotation ever since, and what sane thirtysomething woman doesn't mentally revise the loss of her virginity to fit the lyrics of "Tonight's the Night" now and again? I remember the day I figured out that "spread your wings and let me come inside" meant that. Oh, Rodney.

    So I suppose I shouldn't pick on the students' music for being too explicit - is there really much difference between Stewart's lyrics and, say, R. Kelly's " Hey y'all, whassup, whassup /
    Got bounce juice in my cup / Mama makin' ass jump up / Shit she don't get no fuck," which of course is from the same song that features "Put you on the counter (ho!) / By the buttered rolls (ho!) [...] Hands on the table (ho!) / On your tippy toes (ho!)"?

    (The answer is yes, and I feel old and tired now.)

    Now I'd love to see Day 100 of MTV, after all the bands had time to take notice of the phenomena and generate more content. Which brings us to...

    Question: where were we seeing these videos before MTV launched? I know Australia's big music video show started in 1974. But on what show were we watching videos in the U.S. before August 1981? Much of MTV's first day relied on concert clips, true. And a fair few videos came from UK/NZ/AU bands whose countries had shows like Countdown, perhaps explaining the hourly presence Split Enz, a band that strangely never made a blip on the mainstream radio in this country.

    But the first day of MTV also featured concept videos from Americans like Pat Benatar, the aforementioned Boston-based Robin Lane, and... uh... hm. Not many others. Perhaps I've answered my own question. Maybe they were making these videos for the overseas video shows? I just don't remember an outlet in the States before MTV. I guess I need to read this Wikipedia article, but I suspect I'm going to discover that America was late to the music video party.

    Again, anyway. The pictures from my getaway are up on Flickr. That will have to do for content for now. I think I'm going to go buy a new computer. (Paying off one's credit cards every month is so overrated, dahlink.) I could call Dell and order their supposedly proprietary replacement fan and take the laptop completely apart, etc etc, and inject a little more life into its 4.5-year-old circuits. Or I could go get a cruddy cheap laptop from Fry's. Hm. (Buying something "sufficient" off the shelf would keep the price low - when I shop for a new system online I find myself ticking the various upgrade boxes...)

    Or I could go somewhere fun until I get my "teaching research papers to 10th graders is FUN" groove back and stop hiding under the blanket, at last understanding how people use television to escape. (How does Bree get her hair so shiny? Did Gabriela get that body mostly through yoga? Does Brit mean to be such a slut?)

    P.S. Billy Idol plays the beach next weekend. I'm sure I'll be just fine by then.

    04 August 2006 |


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    Mr Jonathan, 2004-2006
    Mr Jonathan's Last Portrait

    Mr Jonathan, a pleasant and well-loved fish, passed away yesterday of old age.

    Mr Jonathan was a late night purchase at Wal-Mart after I strayed a few feet from the hamster supplies. His water was filthy; he was bedraggled; he was so non-responsive I wasn't sure he'd survive the car ride home. I didn't need a fish. Odds were I'd be getting a teaching position Las Vegas in about a month, and how was I supposed to drive a fish cross-country?

    But of course an hour later he and Mr Andrew, the second saddest case on the aisle, were set up in a modest duplex on my nightstand.

    Mr Jonathan kept shedding body parts. Mr Andrew died right away. By now I'd seen enough personality and intelligence in both of them that I hoped Mr Jonathan would fight.

    He did. He got better. His fins were never right, no matter how many cures he took, but he  was a fine little fishie otherwise soon enough.

    And so I brought home Ursula, who was young and impatient, a little slip of gills compared to Mr Jonathan's full-grown self, and who flared and flirted and loved him whether he liked it or not.

    I think he liked it. Mr Jonathan was placid, easygoing, but just when Ursula would stomp off, he'd glide by like, "oh? is that you? how interesting" - and she'd be right back, showing off for him all over again. He built her a lovely bubble nest early on, but afterwards usually let her do the housekeeping. Not because he wasn't manly - Mr Jonathan was all he-fish - but because Ursula liked making nests and Mr Jonathan liked Ursula. He liked to watch her cavort and flip and swish, every once in awhile rewarding her with a little flare to keep her hopes up.

    Together they made the journey to Las Vegas. Oh, neither of them liked it - my little sedan is three bent wheels away from a smooth ride - but Mr Jonathan had plenty of pioneering spirit. He always had trouble eating, even the smallest betta pellets were a challenge, but he'd try anything, especially freeze-dried bloodworms. Yum yum. In Vegas they got their own bowls, side by side on "their" side of the bathroom counter.

    Ursula was upset when Mr Jonathan left. Yesterday she just kept swimming to the side of the bowl to look at his still form on the rocks. Then look at me. Then swim back over. Then look at me. I put up a divider to block her view while I "took care of things," but she just became frustrated trying to see around it. Now she's near me in the living room, perhaps more accepting, certainly subdued. It will be hard to amuse her the way Mr Jonathan did. If she were not an elderly fish herself now, I'd find her a friend, but who could take Mr Jonathan's place? No one.

    I'll miss sitting in the bath and talking to the two of them, seeing them swim over together and waggle their fins at me. I'll miss cheering for Mr Jonathan when he'd manage to chomp down a bite of food without having to wait for it to get mushy. I'll miss those stealthy red fins coming around the corner of the plastic plant, waiting for Ursula to swim back around and get a surprise.

    Mr Jonathan, you were a good fish and you lived well. We were very glad to know you. Swim on, very small friend.

    30 July 2006 |


    heather in emmaus

    Your nuturing, caring spirit is so touching. What a lovely eulogy! Rest in Peace Mr. J!


    Thank you! :) As much as I wish he were still around, I'm more glad that he seemed pretty happy for every day of his (relatively) long life.

    Heather in Emmaus

    Just wanted to let you know that it's offcially hotter HERE in PA than it is in Vegas. Not fair, desert-dweller!

    Also, not fair that my husband is in Vegas for the week and I couldn't go with him b/c I'm due in about 3 weeks. I was hoping I could go and maybe we could meet up and hit some buffets (Paris? Bellagio? Someday, perhaps...) - baby loves carbs!!!

    Stay cool. Viva la air conditioning!

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    Missed with My Best Shot

    I once said I would see any concert at the Beach - Mandalay Bay resort's gorgeous cerulean pool with natural waves, so lovely to stand in and look at the stars and gleaming golden edifices of the surrounding hotels. (Although I will stand by my opinion that the marketing team at Mandalay Bay was dressing the Emperor when they suggested "THEhotel" for the name of the second hotel. I actually get embarrassed when I drive by.)

    But somehow I don't want to go see Pat Benatar tonight. I like her; I really do; I have a greatest hits CD somewhere, and my childhood friend Sue DeGrendel helped me wear out my Crimes of Passion cassette, but I just don't wanna, not even for Sue's sake.

    (Sue was torn apart by a semi when only 18. Alas, we'd had a huge fight in the 8th grade and had gone from mostly best friends to civil neighbours out of respect for our past alliance, but she was pretty much the world's biggest Pat Benatar fan, and one of the last times I saw her - right before I moved after 10th grade - it was, one, to use her as a reason to get out of my crazy house for awhile, and two, to get back my CoP cassette, which she had long since duplicated. I remember Sue  apologized with an unfinished sentence when handing back the tape - the inside jacket was covered in pink nail polish. She'd had to find a way to cover up a bunch of things she'd scribbled back when we had that fight. I think I could still make out "bitch" and of course I was really curious about the rest.)

    However, as great and noble as it would sound to say I was going to honour my old friend's memory, Sue's been gone almost 20 years, and I lost her long before that. (We then evolved into one of those "terrific" situations where I called her after moving, she didn't call me. Once of that was enough, and I was usually the person who would try to maintain ties with everyone. Even back then I didn't get how other people could let geography get in the way of friendship.) Other than her posthumous appearance in the only Ouija board incident that ever left me boggled (a subject for another post), I don't even think about her, let alone mourn her. I just assume she's good, wherever she is, and probably completely sated, Pat Benatar-wise.

    Back to Mrs. Giraldo: you know, I like her music, I like the Beach - I love the Beach! - but I can't imagine enjoying her concert while standing shin-high in a wave pool. I'd be there rocking out to "Treat Me Right," but is it really acceptable to headbang to "Hell is for Children"? It's a song about child abuse, after all. (I remember being 12 and feeling weird while singing "hell" - a cuss word!) And, just when I'd be breathless with the tension of the most-excellent "Promises in the Dark," she'd transition into "We Belong," and I've never forgiven her for that song. Tiny, angry little Patty threw on a bunch of pink and orange feel-good paisley and confused me to no end. (This is not my Pat Benatar.) Okay, it's a catchy tune; but it foreshadowed the horror that was next album: YouTube Exhibit A. Anyway, there's just a vibe of over-processed betrayal with "We Belong" - maybe it's the bright green mesh gloves, which is weird since the one thing that always bothered me about Benatar was that she had that whole tough girl image to which I couldn't relate. Really, there's no pleasing me.

    I'm sure I'll miss a great show, but I'm going to be a geek and stay home tonight to rumple hamsters, bake popovers, scrapbook (again, another post - I have a developing beef with Club Scrap), and work on genealogy. I don't know what it means that I'd rather stay home and periodically belt out "Fire and Iiiiiiiiiice" while hunched over die cuts and stickers than watch la Benatar scowl through it in person - maybe it's because you can't belt out at her show; she's operatically trained! She'd scowl at you!

    23 July 2006 |


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    Let's All Peep Like the Mousies Peep (Peep, Peep-Peep, Peep Peep)

    Once more to Disneyland before the annual pass expires!

    Bidding on Priceline for the room is always the first highlight. $54 for the Hyatt Regency - YEAH! ($68 with taxes.)

    This is the same place I stayed last winter - $46 then, but I tried $46 and couldn't get anything. The best price I could find elsewhere for the Hyatt - which is pretty and convenient (no Candy Cane Inn, but the shuttle for the four block trip is complimentary, and it's cheaper than those places across the street from the main gate where the guests park up on the curbs nose-to-nose for lack of spaces) - wow, the length of this sentence - is $125 for the AAA rate, or $141 after taxes.

    Okay, fine, I probably could've gotten it for $51, but by the time you get bored with working the Priceline system (another post in itself), those extra three dollars look like nothing. (You might even think, "gee, I spent twice that at the corner gas station at 2 a.m. last night, getting a YooHoo and some DingDongs and a Coca Cola Blak - which is terrible, by the way - and it's weird because I haven't had a chocolate craving or even chocolate in so long, and damnit, does this mean I'll be crampy while riding the new Jack Sparrow-ific Pirates of the Caribbean? Dang, I hope the new beignets at the adjacent restaurant will compensate.)

    But anyway, we're still talking more than half off the best rate, so I don't even actually have to go, I'm so happy. (No, I don't know how I haven't found any Jewish ancestors yet. But! Thanks to a nice woman named Marilyn, yesterday I got some new ancestors from Worcestershire [of course I make my students learn how to pronounce this properly] from circa 1800. They're Williamses, so that super-sucks - they may as well all marry Smiths or Joneses - but they're mainly remarkable in that until yesterday my latest immigrants came over in the 1750s... the McCrays of Scotland, the Nezats of France, the Stockmans of Germany, and maybe the Lewises of Ireland, if old Zachariah hadn't been such a jerk and died young and made tracing him a recipe for fast-growing grey hairs, but I digress... Some people try to go back and back in their family tree, but for me there'd be more joy at this point if I could find some links to glamorous other countries sometime in relatively recent memory. People say, "everyone was an immigrant once," like we all had Italian nannas docking at Ellis Island in the tweed knickers era, while I'm sitting on 400 long years of Stateside DNA and feeling cheated. Now you kids get off my lawn!)

    Now to make the big D-Land Action Plan. I don't really feel like I have significant unfinished business there, but I do want to feel like I sucked the maximum value from this pass. First, I suppose, is scouting some audio book titles from the local libraries. (I'm not looking forward to the drive there or back. Not at all. This is a time when it would be good to have more child-free spouse-free friends in the valley. The kinds of friends who would have something else to do once we arrived in Anaheim, because this is not a trip for compromises; it's a "walk around in only-child reverie" followed by "talk to Mike on crappy cell phone every hour" followed by "re-tell him everything when soaking inevitably blistered feet in the hotel room that night" trip. And people wonder how we keep the romance going...)

    As previously discussed, there's only one new pressed penny I need to get, the one with Chip and Dale and their, ahem, "acorns." Should I branch out into pressed quarters, or is that just encouraging an already overpriced system? I don't know. The suspense!

    I still need to go on California Screamin'. That will require locking up the camera first. Camera... hmmm... video or stills? Nifty Canon SLR or chunky but much smaller Olympus? *I* think I have plenty of photos, but I do love to take those snapshots. It gives me extra incentive to stop and check out new things. Hm. Hm. Mike likes the photos, but he'd like to see some more video, especially of the Tiki Room, to which YouTube doesn't do justice. (We won't talk about how I've been accidentally sharing my Disney trip video from last summer on Limewire. If you download something that starts with a sweaty woman in a car drinking from a hot can of Squirt and waving around a broken sandal, please delete.)

    But being camera-free is nice, too, especially since I'm already a purse-free person. I hate leaving electronics in the car. I can't check in to the hotel until afternoon. If I didn't bring *some* kind of camera, I might get twitchy and burst into Mickey-ear hives. I just don't know - again, the suspense!

    I must think... what have I left undone despite three trips to parks people often dismiss as "a day, a day and a half, with naps, tops."

    • Oh! The new(ish) Monsters, Inc. ride! "Kid-friendly," but has Disney ever let us down by being too kid-friendly?
    • The rest of A Bug's Land. (I've got to at least admire Heimlich's Chew Chew Train after Casey Jr. was so surprisingly neat-o - the song!)
    • Maybe the Maliboomer if I can figure out what to do with my shoes.
    • Maybe the vineyard tour, and maybe then I'll get all licquored up on a sample glass of fruity hooch and have to take the complimentary shuttle home.
    • Perhaps a non-pizza, perhaps even elegant, lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria, if I leave commando mode to park hop or can talk myself into not jumping in the car at 10 a.m. the next day to "make good time back." (Ugh. The drive. It's making me crunch up my forehead again. It's just that the car, despite new tires and a clean bill of health, just feels "off" to me. If I go rolling into the Mojave Desert, please point the Hard Copy newscaster to this post as evidence of my psychic powers.)
    • Tarzan's Treehouse (deeded from the Swiss Family Robinson some years ago) - is it time to see all those vinyl leaves, or would it just be huffing and puffing for a glimpse of a loincloth hanging on the line?
    • Tom Sawyer Island? Just to say I did? Just to stand uncertainly on the raft and think of how much fun it was last time to paddle the canoes and get that duck-poo water splashed all over me?
    • The "nautical museum" on the Sailing Ship Columbia? This may be testing my "sense of childlike wonder" limits.
    • but, speaking of water, what about hitting the beach before turning back to desert?

    Now for the "remove every stray speck of mess from home" portion of the excitement - nothing beats coming back to vacuum lines and smooth sheets. (Although I suppose I should wait until done walking and sleeping before getting to that part. Maybe I'll just start with throwing away this nearly full Coca Cola Blech bottle.)

    22 July 2006 |

    Previously: My Work Is Done Here


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    My Work Is Done Here

    Who turned in her Robert Frost paper four hours ago, a week before the offered extended deadline? ME. Who did all the proofreading while listening to tivo'd (I'm lowercase verbing it, accept it) Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List? ME. Who dropped her Boston Cream parfait on the asphalt by the car, at which point the top popped off and all six-second ruleage was voided? IT DOESN'T MATTER.

    So now I'm a free bunny. Other than the last paper. But, gosh, that's - like - two weeks away. Hop! Hop!

    Wow, VH1 is showing a terrible print of the Time Warp "video." (I remember dancing with my mom to this during Night Flight, not long after I graduated from high school but was still living at home, before I'd seen RHPS for real, but after I'd seen how important it was in Fame. Mom would stay up late with me on the weekends, watching whatever I wanted to watch. She mumbled the "pelvic thrust" part, but otherwise performed admirably. Hehe. I wonder if she remembers this.)

    Now REO's "Can't Fight This Feeling" is on. You know, back before Kevin Cronin became a taut blond pixie but almost after his Louis XVI phase. Should I go see them again? Tickets go on sale Saturday... Mike thinks this song is great, which is almost as perplexing as when I found out he loved the Sex Pistols. It's so slow! Mike avoids ballads! This is a power ballad! Me, I'm still allergic to its overplay 20 years ago, but it is a great moment live.

    Mike's got all of his great-grandparents! He completed the set all by himself, too. In his own words (because it's not time for his blog's biannual update), "this is freakin' exciting!" Yeah! Nine years together and now he gets it. He gets it so much, he'd very much like for me to hop in the car tomorrow and drive to Salt Lake City, where perhaps a quick spin through the Gallenweiler (now Heitersheim) microfilm would knock him up to a full set of great-greats, but seven hours each way?

    Besides, Mr. Jonathan the amazing betta fish has been looking sickly despite a run of antibiotics. Maybe we'll compromise by ordering the films to his or my local FHC, but... I don't know. I've got to go somewhere this summer, right?

    You know what's a good show? Namaste Yoga on the FitTV network. I can't do half the moves and I still come out of it feeling I've remembered how to breathe again. At least, that's how I felt the one time I watched it, but I have it all tivo'd (that word again) for "later."

    What else? Mike's sister's engaged. I don't know more because Mike's been sick with a globby cold (it's winter there) and hasn't had time to ask all of the gushy questions. Her fiance is a travel agent, so we keep hoping he'll someday find the $2 fare (non-stop, first class, sleeper sofa beds) from Perth to Las Vegas, although right now I'd settle for Mike winning the green card lottery. It's not August yet, but how can he lose three years in a row? And now is definitely the wrong time to smuggle him in, of course. (Which I'd never do - we couldn't afford to buy the ticket if there was a chance he'd have to leave.) Although, now that he's about to have his degree, it might be slightly easier to get him in on a skilled worker visa, who knows?

    And speaking of little-v visa (we really shouldn't speak at all of big-V, not with fall tuition due), I'm going to spend the next few hours geeking out to my own genealogical research. I hear breakfast buffet calling, but that may just be the parfait rebound. I think I'll make popovers and watch Will and Grace (a show I'm still not sure if I like, but I have 30 episodes randomly tivo'd - again that word!) while planning some sort of genealogy-themed geocache. (And still no one has found my first geocache, which I'm sure is now all rained on and not-as-clever-looking, but damn if I'm going back out there now when the dried blood under my toenail is finally fading. I suck at this game!)

    19 July 2006 |


    Heather in Emmaus


    Don't you HATE it when profs give extensions? Extended deadlines are NO help to procrastinators. In college, I remember professors would give us extensions and then things would all start running together ...so invariably I'd have 3 papers due the same day during finals week. Which would mean no sleep for about 72 hours. Because, hey, why do today what you can put off til tomorrow?!

    Congrats on getting the paper done! Whee!!!

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    Whipping the Llama's Ass

    So. Paper #3 is due. In 44 hours. And while I may not have a clear thesis, I actually have read a dozen relevant journal articles on Robert Frost's life and work from circa 1914, and I have many notes, and I know what I want to say, so why I don't have a thesis is a bit of a mystery, and no wonder I dread teaching research papers. It's not that I don't know how to teach it; it's that I know I disobey everything I hand to them as gospel, and surely some of that lack of conviction fuzzes onto their teen radar.

    That is one thing I'll miss about teaching Creat*ve Wr*t*ng, where - obliging the state standards aside - I got to encourage the students to dazzle us with their impertinence.

    And with my own homework deadline so imminent, I've focused on the other kind of homework, of course. I've vacuumed and dusted and created an environment that is 93% free of hamster pee-pee smell.

    (I'm not allowed to go on a field trip to replace the awesome rain-scented odor-eating candle until I finish the paper, and meanwhile Elizabeth Joy and Sparrow and, really, all 14 of them, continue to drink and tinkle with abandon.)

    I ran nearby errands, picked up my free gift from the apartment clubhouse for Resident Appreciation week (B&BW "kitchen lemon" pump soap), took a vitamin, ate a sensible double veggie burger with mustard, neatened the art area (where I just made my first scrapbook page after amassing over $1000 in supplies over the years, and oh how I wish I were kidding), and basically have run out of excuses to not write this paper, so here I am, blogging. Whee! Hello!

    I have a topic to ponder, though. I've fired up the WinAmp because music seems to be in order, although I'm not sure I'm into song #1652 ("Still Lovin' You" from The Scorpions), but that's another issue. Good ole WinAmp. I've been using it since... well, yonks ago. Zero-point-something beta, I'm sure. It's light, fast, simple, skinnable... it's the angel I know. Media Player has wonky interpretations of ID3 tags, and doesn't iTunes copy all of your music files into its own directory system (thus doubling space used)?

    Mike's converted to iTunes, after ages of refusing to bother to update his WinAmp, but he's asleep so I can't ask, and it's just a shame he seldom blogs because I'd love to see him explain to the world the amount of time he's devoted to star-rating his files.

    I'm sure there's a better way to play my mp3s that could be discovered in under 90 seconds at Source Forge, but really, I'm good with WinAmp. Someday I'll be bored enough to look for something else.

    But, this isn't about WinAmp. No, this is me wondering which software I've used regularly since Windows for Workgroups or even the early days of Win95. WinAmp, yes. mIRC? Yes. Textpad I've had forever. The other day someone (who apparently didn't know me very well) asked if I had genealogy software, and I remembered that somewhere I have a copy of Family Tree Maker 2.0 on three floppies. My current version is a year out of date, but still at least a dozen versions on from where I started. (And, honestly, I don't think I make strong use any feature that's been added between now and then, except for one I suggested - rah rah ME! - but that's another post for self-patting genie-geekery.)

    Paint Shop Pro may have made the list as late as six months ago, but I finally succumbed to Photoshop exclusively. I'd count "the Mozilla family" if not for my brief but constant indiscretion with IE a few years back. I lost my shell access last year, so no more pico. Filezilla replaced CuteFTP. (Who pays for an FTP program, really?)

    And what about DOS, anything since those days? I ditched WordPerfect, with its beautiful "Reveal Codes" feature (still ignored by Microsoft!), when I switched hard drives in December and went for Open Office. (Which I now suggest to all those parents who don't want to buy PowerPoint but feel bad that their kids can't do presentations. OO's "Impress" is indistinguishable and free.) Anyway, once upon a time, WP 5.1 for DOS was co-godding with Eric Clapton.

    Quicken! I first used Quicken for DOS. I did give it up for a little while (what with first not wanting to think about my money then not having enough money to think about), but I've been back on board for several years. I think that counts.

    So, no wonder it's so hard to market new software - I like to play with new stuff and look at how many old programs I hang onto. Then again, loyalty?

    Speaking of which, Mike just woke, is full of The Acid Reflux, and has still listened patiently to the two-minute version of my unwritten paper, so I suppose I will take my procrastination and goofing to the sofa and headset now. And remember - "Winamp really whips the llamas ass!"

    Update: verb change

    18 July 2006 |


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    Marwood Pet Cemetery - Second Visit

    I kept saying I'd go back to Marwood in the wee sunrise hours, when it's cool, but (mysteriously!) I just never seemed to be up that early. Hm! I think it may have to do with it being summer vacation.

    However, I was haunted, so to speak, by The Bone mentioned in the last post. You're not going to make me go find that link again, are you? Whew - good. I mean, was it a real bone? I was 67% sure it was a toy, suitable for adorning a dog's grave, but...

    Well, I just had to know. So, at five p.m. last night I saddled up at the corner store with a full tank of gas, two Grape Powerades (strangely not as disgusting as Gatorade), and a six-pack of cold water to drive the 25 minutes and 29 miles into the desert (admittedly mostly via the well-populated freeway), which is 40 minutes and 29 miles coming back if you're singing a little song in the car and miss your exit.

    I drove right into Marwood this time, right over the always-scary cattle guard that I inched across in my sandals before, and parked about a third of the way in (or so I thought). It felt comfy. I felt relaxed. The bone could wait. What's a little Yorkie femur in the desert? It happens.

    Once again overwhelmed by the size of the place, I pushed aside the paper, pen, and GPS and narrowed my objectives. Objective 1: photograph every marker in the tenatively-titled "Section 2" where a name has a chance of being recorded. Objective 2: Visit the new part of the cemetery and take some relaxed photos there.

    Before reflecting on these photos, and dealing with what has now become THE BONE ISSUE, I'll report that I'm still getting my bearings on how to proceed. I've decided not to tell people about the cemetery (save whoever wanders by here) until I can get it photographed and mapped. There has been some bad vandalism already and I'd rather do the enumeration alone than invite negative attention. I don't know what to do about restoration. Right now I'm thinking... add simple markers for those who've lost (or are losing) theirs ...do something about all the knocked-down wooden picket fences ...pick up trash (alas, beer bottles and Doritos bags have found their way here). So, that's where I'm at now, on to a selection of the photos that I found the most meaningful.

    (To look at all of the new photos since the last visit, about 140, start on this Flickr page. To look at a slideshow of the whole photoset, click here.)

    Angel Remains

    I love the name "Kissy Carrots." But what happened to her stone?

    Kissy Carrots

    Chilli, a dalmation, gone these last 34 years:


    How big was the tree when this stone was set?


    Although we have a policy of not snarking on Marwood, Mike found himself giggling at the number of Christian animals in the cemetery. Yeah, okay, it's the owners, and it gives them comfort, and it's all good, but it's cute to picture some dachshund nosing through the Bible or a lanky Siamese sitting in a pew, giving all the whisperers dirty looks.

    So, I had to smile when encountering a pet of Jewish faith:

    Marcel Jung

    Meanwhile, I worry about Ginger. I worry about Ginger a lot.

    Ginger, and a Problem

    Conversely, mounds can be as worrying as ditches.

    Stay Put, Please

    So, I moved the car to the newer part of the cemetery (so the Powerade would be close by), near the dog house photographed last time, rounded a corner, and never everexpected to see this:


    Any smiles from the above fade a little when coming across Heidi's marker. No I know why there are "no shooting" signs as you enter. Apparently, people have to be told. Alas, hers is not the only one to be defaced.

    Heidi, Shot Up By Jerks


    Okay, what happened with the last bunch of photos is Mike was looking at them and said, hey, is that a bone? And I was all, ew! ew! surely not! And like I said, I really didn't think it was, but... I'll tell you right now that at the end of my second visit, I spent about twenty minutes looking for the marker with the "bone" by it. I had to find the old memory card and flick through the photos and it still took that long - should I mention again how disorganized, sprawling, and packed Marwood is?

    But I found the marker, and sure enough, the "bone" is a toy. I'm still surprised that I didn't see it when I walked by, but the head just swims out there. And I guess when I was editing the photo I was just trying to make out the name.

    And so I thought I was safe.

    So, Mike was looking at the second batch of photos, and he came to this one.

    Kynkles Marie and CHRIST! A SPINE!

    And Mike said, "is that a spine?"

    And, OMG, it is.

    I didn't even see it when I took the photo. I remember deciding to get the whole gravesite in the frame and not just the marker. I remember thinking that "Kynkles Marie" was an unusual name. I remember thinking she had a really big site (more on this later). I never noticed that there is A CHUNK OF SPINAL COLUMN SITTING ON TOP OF HER GRAVE.

    Mike, of course, left for work about two minutes after discovering this, and I sat far away in the middle of the night, alone, just OCD enough to want to drive out right then and Sort That Bone Out, and just miserable enough to never want to go back again. I mean, I'm not sure I could find Kynkles Marie right away, and how could I walk around, knowing that... that... the spine was watching me?

    And what if I get there and it's gone? It could be anywhere. Waiting.

    And what if it's not gone? Where do I bury it? How should it be marked? Spinespinespinespinescaryspinespine.

    And then there are all the other, more logical, questions - where did it come from? Where are the other bits? Who's been messing with the animals? Or is it just the remains of a long-gone desert jackrabbit that the wind only recently scattered?

    I'll think about it after I finish my next paper. It's just... it's a spine. I'd be fine with a tibia, maybe even a pelvis, and certainly (but sadly) a few metatarsels, but a spine? It's a spine. Yech.


    The above reminds us that people are jerks, riding dirt bikes right next to graves and putting Diet Coke cans on top of them.

    But the site of Cheddar, "our beloved bunny," complete with little hoppy rabbit engraving right above his name, did the heart good.


    And Smokey Joe, possibly also a bunny, has a lovely enclosure, even though I worry that in a few decades it will be like the bedraggled wood fences in the older part.

    Smokey Joe and the Flowery Tree

    And most dazzling of all is the site of Chief Loman, who passed away just this year. Those are little ceramic (or plaster) angels circling his cross.


    But, back to the bittersweet, if you look at the R-J article referenced in my last post, you'll see they have a photo of Barney and Holly's markers as they looked in 2000. They even made a note of how Barney's still had his little dog collar around it. (The grave was four years old at the time.) Now look at my photo of the same scene.

    Holly and Barney

    Barney's collar seems to be gone, but worse, this was no blow-over. Look at the original photo and see the distance between the "6" and the ground. Someone pulled Barney's marker up, and now it's broken. Who knows which happened first, I just don't think anything natural happened to get it where it is today. (Chorus: people suck.)

    If you've the time and like this sort of thing, do check out the rest of the photos. Yes, there's more vandalism to bemoan, but there are also sweet markers, like one for two little parakeets, one with a cross made out of two rulers, more bunnies, and a beautiful heart laid out in pink and white rocks for a loved kitty.

    That's about 300 photos down and, by my estimate, about 300 more to go. Maybe less. Maybe more. Just when I thought I hit the end, I saw more in the bush beyond.

    15 July 2006 |


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    I Know Where the Bodies are Buried

    Let me tell you about yesterday. It's important.

    As we all know, I'm a geocacher. I have found three whole geocaches in my life and placed one that no one has found yet. Clearly, I'm l33t.

    Seriously, though, it's the geocaches you don't find that change your life.

    When I set out yesterday afternoon for a little stretch of highway between Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, I already knew I wouldn't find the cache. This cache, the one every Vegas geocacher had classified as a "MUST SEE!", has gone missing, and not for the first time. People were sad because the view was "incredible," "not to be missed," "surprising," etc.

    Intrigued, and eventually coming to believe that the cache wouldn't be replaced, I decided to see the spot for myself. What could it be? Hmmm!

    I didn't have to wonder for long because I looked at the spoiler photos first. Sorry! I don't drive out into the middle of the desert when it's 108 degrees in the shade without a little reassurance. Besides, many people said "the place" was worth visiting more than once, so peeking at a few photos surely couldn't hurt.

    And it didn't, for what I saw were photos of a little pet cemetery. A pet cemetery! Now I wanted to go more than ever. You know I feel for the little critters in this world, the ones who love us so much and only ask for a rub on the head and a friendly voice.

    Off I went, finding the road easily, and parking by the highway, because I'm a dork and wasn't sure about driving onto public land. Besides, I'd seen a couple of crosses by the fenceline a little back - these were probably the burials.

    Well, I'm a total dork. Those crosses were just ("just") the ones placed for people after bad car accidents, and there was no pet cemetery near the highway. A baked and parched half-mile round trip later, I was back at the car, with the little voice in my head thinking about possibly suggesting that we just head on back and stop at Ethel M for some pressed pennies. (I'm getting all the LV pennies now. It's a shame how many casinos have tossed their machines.)

    That's when I looked behind the car, off into the desert. Ah. Yes, definitely something there, if you squint. Squint hard.

    And so I walked a short ways, crossing over a cattle guard (hate those!), and encountered this:

    At First, It's Just a Little Patch

    My goodness. How sweet and sad. Oh, what a world.

    I snapped photos, that's my thing, but as I took a few more steps I noticed something. This was no "little" pet cemetery.

    Keeps Going

    And as I walked even further, I discovered that it's not even a medium pet cemetery. It's a huge pet cemetery. Huge. I'd not blink if you told me there were 500 burials here, and those are just the ones that have managed to keep their wood and stones about them.

    You can't see it all in one trip, let alone photograph it. (And let's not forget the unforgiving Nevada sun singing tick-tock on my bare scalp.) And you think you're looking at a few nice gravesites, but then you look harder - you squint and squint again - and you realize there are little markers all around you, under the brush, in the clutches of tumbleweed vines and sandy drift. You're probably standing on someone's best friend right now.

    The Near Horizon

    And all around you, it's all heart. The majority of graves, at least the ones whose markers you can still read (look closer - squint again - and all those plain little crosses start to reveal the ghosts of names), date from the early 60s. (1965 seems to have been the real heyday.)

    The Best Pal I Ever Had

    I didn't make it all the way to the back of the cemetery, which seems to feature enough (relatively) recent graves that in 2003 someone from the conservation authority noted concern about the cemetery growth and the possible need for a fence to keep burials within an "acceptable" area, but however (again, relatively) popular the place may continue to be, the cemetery is mostly a tableau of dilapidation.

    Ruff Banks

    Marble markers are hardly cheap today; that people in the "simpler" times of 40 years ago were paying for the likes of the above makes me smile, but then to see such markers covered in brush and debris takes that smile back away. Is this what they expected to happen? Surely so much care is a sign that they hoped this would be a clean, pretty little memorial for a long time.

    Our Faithful Dog, Measles

    The Google results on the cemetery are almost non-existent. There's the memo, mentioned above. A "thirty years ago today" blurb, also from 2003, letting us know that in 1973 there was some worry that the cemetery would be dismantled. (See, it was sort of accidentally built in 1953 on federal land that Boulder City meant to annex, but didn't actually get around to doing so until 1998.)

    There was even one odd page saying that the cemetery (the cemetery no one seems to have heard of, let alone had time to start rumours about) is haunted, and that there is a white cat who will appear on the grounds at night and follow you around if it likes you.

    Kemo, Our Loyal White Fluffy Friend

    The best (and possibly final, until I hit "publish") result is this R-J article from 2000, which explains why the cemetery is out in the middle of nowhere (some city councilpeople didn't want it near a people cemetery - losers), whether it was legally established (the best answer being mostly yes but somewhat no), and - most importantly - who was initially reponsible for this caring tribute that has been left in the care of the brash land.

    Per the article above, it turns out to have been one Marwood Doud, who doctored up Boulder City's animals before there was a vet, and who never asked any payment. Alas, Mr. Doud passed away around 1985, and this post in my blog will be only his third blip on Google's radar. (The other two links both go the the article.) I bet he had some wonderful stories, and it makes me shake my head that the last time I could've asked him, I was in the tenth grade and glazed over to Duran Duran and the number of calories in this new thing called frozen yogurt. (Or frogen yozurt, if your mall had a Heidi's.) In other words, I see 1965 on a headstone and think it wasn't that long ago, but it was.

    Dee Dee, for Love and Devotion

    The cemetery doesn't seem to have a name, and since I can't reliably pronounce "Doud", and since "Marwood" just looks neat, and since he's currently my personal hero, I want to call this place the Marwood Pet Cemetery in his honour. {gavel sound} Done.

    I probably haven't done a good job of describing how much this place will touch your heart. Like, there's the grave with three patio stone markers: one to say "Tex 1962-1975," one to say "Rest in Peace," and then a third to say, "A Good Dog." I want to cry as I type that. A good dog. They didn't have to bother with the third stone, but they did, because Tex was a damn good dog, and nobody better forget. You know he started pacing in front of the door, tail wagging, ten minutes before his family came home from work or school. He never got mad when they did the thing where you pretend to throw the ball but really hide it in your hand. He was a good dog, and one of his stones is broken, and I want to cement it back together, because there are few things better in this world, few things more pure and loving, than a good dog.

    Tex, a Good Dog

    I wish I'd taken more photos, but I probably pushed it outdoors longer than I should've as it was. I'll be back, though. I've got to start taking care of this place. Maybe there's some poetry in its disintegration, and maybe the desert conservationists are rightfully worried about the negative effects of expansion and traffic, and maybe Boulder City would rather it be allowed to fade and become a non-issue for future development, but I can't bear to see so much hard work and love slip into ruin. Add new stone edgings, take charcoal rubbings in the hopes of getting those names that sand and wind is determined to scrub out, and at least carefully straighten out what time (or teenagers) have put askew.

    I hope I can find others who will feel the same way. If everyone just prettied up one, maybe two, graves... If we photographed, if we plotted, if we enumerated, if we submitted to Find A Grave,
    and if we ignored the implications of where the little shrubs flourish on the gravesites (blame Mike for pointing that out, not to mention The Bone that actually kept me awake last night), then we'd be doing something for every pet we ever loved. Maybe that's not our cat under the dust and rocks, but if we've lived a good life then we know what a fine cat is, and all these cats with their little iron fences and flowerpots were surely very fine.

    Marwood Cemetery. I hope it sticks. After yesterday, I hope a lot of things. Meanwhile, here's a slideshow of yesterday's photos. And, good news, the cache is being reinstated, so no one will forget just yet.


    12 July 2006 |


    Heather in Emmaus

    Oh, this just breaks my heart. if I were in vegas, I'd be first in line to help keep the place in order.

    We had to kennel our dog on Sunday - we skipped town for a couple of days and his usual dog sitter (a loving teenager who has bullied her mom into letting our monster invade their home for the odd weekend here and there) couldn't take him. I bawled as I left the place (a very reputable and nice kennel, but a kennel (read: jail) nonetheless. To add insult to injury, we had him shaved down for the summer the day before we left - I think he was embarrassed. Anyway, did I mention how I cried when I left the kennel? Bawled. Sobbed. I'd chalk it up to pregnancy hormones, but .... it was more the look on his face as they took him back to his 'run' (cell)....

    Anyway, I can't stand knowing that Marwood is in ruins. All those critters......


    But I bet your dog is just so pleased to be with you again! :) Dogs are so great that way...

    I don't even know where to begin with the cemetery. I think there needs to be a non-profit org ("Friends of Marwood"?) to, in addition to creating an interested pool of worker bees, perhaps get things like edging bricks at a discount, etc. I'm going back in a few days at a cooler time of day to assess a starting point and take more photos. I really hope there's a way to read the eroded names on the wood markers - we need a team of forensic scientists!

    Heather in Emmaus

    I think your idea of trying rubbings would be a great way to start. And... how about seeing if UNLV has some eager young forensic science students who need a project? Free labor! Educational opportunities! Everyone wins!

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    Bury Yer Acorns (in a Dead Man's Chest)

    First, gracias to Jamie and Heather and the fine hamfans on Flickr and everyone else who feels for the loss of our two little friends, so recently happy and curious, warm and cuddly. Bode is improving. She stopped looking for Milkdrop and is engaging a little more now, but she's still not her happy-go-lucky self. Everyone else seems healthy (or at least as healthy as they were).

    Went to the 9:15 a.m. showing of Pirates. Cap'n Jack Sparra! Okay, so it was a bit sloppy and so on in the structuring and direction here and there, but who cares? It's Pirates. It's all just so much fun. Oh, and stay until after the credits if possible, of course.

    The thing about having just bought two lovely new tires and having the brakes re-adjusted is that it's wonderful that the car is a solid, reliable machine again, but - in the spirit of O. Henry - such purchases cut into the budget of actually taking the car anywhere. Now that my toe is better (which is to say no longer leaving pathetic little drops of blood in its wake but still nodding off - ever have just your toe fall asleep?), I could spend more time at the Canyon geocaching. (No one has found my geocache yet! No one!) This break is just flying by - I've got dark roots showing and everything. I could also take a day trip to the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah. And my Disneyland pass is still good for the rest of this month.

    But, you know, three trips to D'land last year kind of has me set. Should I bother to go to see the new Pirate ride when I can tour the entire attraction with its three-ish enhancements here? What audio book could sway me into eight hours of drivetime?

    And then I saw this: the controversial Chip 'n Dale 2006 pressed penny from Disneyland's Grand Californian resort. I must have one. I must have two.

    I am 100% amused that over half the people commenting on this coin think it should be removed. These people have clearly never seen the family-friendly comic drawings of Murray Ball. Long ago Mike introduced me to Ball's strip, Footrot Flats, a New Zealand-based comic more or less about a border collie's life on a farm. I think of it as a sort of Bloom County Down Under, but less political. I cannot stress the phrase "life on a farm" enough. We may have Mr. Ball to single-handedly thank for the easygoing nature of people from Australiasia, where the strip was hugely popular. My theory is that you cannot grow up on a comic strip that regularly features the swinging naughty bits of sheep and not be laid back. Here in the States we have Ziggy, who never wears pants, but are there ever any little ziggies poking out at the unsuspecting reader? Well, thank God, no, but I'm just saying, we'd probably worry less about the state of Chip's acorns if there were...

    08 July 2006 |

    Previously: Milkdrop



    You're making miss Disneyland so much!

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    Spirit Fingers, Everyone!
    daughter of Maudine and Henry
    with sister Bode (right), in legendary "spirit fingers" pose
    19 April 2005 - 6 July 2006

    Clouds continue to drift over this home. If Milkdrop was more subdued in recent days, it was only a little. This morning I thought it odd that she was sleeping out in the open, and even more odd that Bode was zonked out with her. Then I saw that Milkdrop was bleeding and extremely lethargic. We've seen this in the female hamsters before - it passes quickly, one way or the other. Alas...

    Bode took care of Milkdrop for her remaining few hours here. She gathered bedding and tucked it all around her sister, sniffing every corner into place. She would then slip between the tissues and lie gently over Milkdrop, giving her all her warmth. Every time Milkdrop moved, Bode was up and running diagnostics, re-nesting, and always spooning her sister as soon as she settled back down. Whenever I came near, trying to coax a little water into my poor girl, Bode dizzied herself with making sure I knew where Milkdrop was while also trying to get Milkdrop to stay still.

    After Milkdrop died, Bode kept checking - could our little plop of cream, our only marshmallow in a fist of opals, really be gone? And now Bode keeps running around, looking for her sister, wearing herself out. This is terrible.

    It's a bit of bad deal when you're near the end of the road, facing the statistical likelihoods of so many hammies the same age. But Patricia was young and Milkdrop was posing for photos on Tuesday. Something in the air? The food? The drink? I've turned the past few days inside out. What's odder, and I only just realized this, is that everyone but Snowflake has been going in pairs for the past two years. Maudine and Tumble - a night apart. Glory and Minerva - less than a week apart. Snout and Barnard - a few hours apart. Cordelia and Joule - a weekend apart. And now Patricia and Milkdrop, a day apart. (I hope this means we're set for awhile.)

    Milkdrop is preceded in death by her brother Tumble and mother, Maudine. She is survived by her father, Henry; her brothers Helix, Owl, Almond, Feta, and Toss; and her sisters Bode, Coal, Sparrow, and Elizabeth Joy.

    Goodbye, Milkdrop. You are still ours.

    Babies in the Trundle Bed

    07 July 2006 |

    Previously: Patricia


    Heather in EMMAUS!


    Hope the hammies rest in peace.
    Sorry for the losses....

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    Patricia in the 'Punishment Ball'
    December 2005 - 5 July 2006

    Our high-spirited Patricia-mouse has found her way out once again. We'll have to meet you there, sweet, silly girl.

    06 July 2006 |



    I'm so sorry , Shari!

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    Shells with Ricotta, Basil, and Lemon
    Ricotta, Basil, and Lemon Lunch

    So many inspirational (and cheap! see eBay!) magazine subscriptions - Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Everyday Food - so little memory of what caught my eye by the time I have a chance to make something.

    I'm determined this should change. I won't rip out recipes from magazines (there's always something on the back), photocopying's a chore, handwriting's a bore, and all recipe software seems to look like it came free with Windows for Workgroups 3.1. Except...

    BigOven seems rather promising. RSS feeds? Tagging? The ability to add pretty pictures? Could this be it?

    And so, with hope in my soul (if your mind finishes this sentence in a different direction, then you and I both know a very bad joke about a nun and a bathtub), I've started entering recipes into BigOven as they strike my fancy while thumbing all of the above periodicals, and today I actually took this intellectualizing to the next level and cooked something.

    That something is on page 37 of this month's Vegetarian Times. Shells with Ricotta, Basil, and Lemon. YUM!

    I'd tell you exactly how to make it, but, you know, copyright blah blah. I will say that if you have 16 ounces of shell pasta, a small tub of ricotta, a dozenish basil leaves, a couple of lemons - one for 1t zest and 3T juice, the other for garnish, and a cup of fresh breadcrumbs that you've just toasted in 2T olive oil, and of course s&p to taste, you can throw this whole business together in less than twenty minutes, from ripping open the 72-cent box of pasta to placing the lemon wedges just so. Compile per photo above - deee-lish!

    05 July 2006 |


    Ana Leticia

    Shari! Lovely blog, really lovely!
    The recipe looks fresh and very easy to make, I'll try someday!
    Ana (from flickr.com/photos/analeticiabh"


    Thanks Ana - it was yummy! :) It's important to add salt and pepper, though, or it gets a bit bland...

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    Indentured to the Rhythm

    Oh, the songs I know, thanks to... radio? No. Television? No. Movies? Rarely. File sharing and concert-going and buying CDs after listening to songs online? There we are.

    One year ago, give or take a fortnight, I didn't know any of the songs below. (Well, 125 of them, for sure.) The ones completely in bold have become personal classics, the kinds of songs I expect you all to keep on heavy rotation for the first few weeks after my death. (If only Princess Di had been so considerate - or if only Elton John had kludged up two songs, for a little variety.)

    Linked tunes go to YouTube videos.

    • Adam Ant - Wonderful (but had heard much about it)
    • Angels, The - Take a Long Line
    • Area 7 - Nobody Likes A Bogan
    • Avenue Q Soundtrack - The Internet is for Porn
    • Babys, The - Back on My Feet Again
    • Babys, The - Love Is Just A Mystery
    • Babys, The - Midnight Rendezvous
    • Babys, The - Turn and Walk Away
    • Babys, The - Union Jack
    • Bad English - Forget Me Not
    • Bad English - The Price Of Love
    • Bad English - Straight to Your Heart
    • Bad English - Time Stood Still
    • Blue Öyster Cult - Astronomy
    • Blue Öyster Cult - Flaming Telepaths
    • Blue Öyster Cult - Godzilla
    • Blue Öyster Cult - Harvest Moon
    • Blue Öyster Cult - Joan Crawford
    • Blue Öyster Cult - Then Came The Last Days Of May
    • Colin Hay - Beautiful World
    • Colin Hay - Don't Be Afraid
    • Colin Hay - Looking For Jack
    • Colin Hay - Love Is Innocent
    • Colin Hay - Storm In My Heart
    • Colin Hay - To Have and to Hold
    • Colin Hay - Waiting For My Real Life To Begin
    • Cyrkle, The - Red Rubber Ball (I know, shocking. I had heard of it.)
    • Dragon - April Sun In Cuba
    • Easybeats, The - Friday on My Mind
    • Expression, The - About Tomorrow
    • Expression, The - Glasshouse
    • Expression, The - I'd Walk Miles
    • Expression, The - Missionary Soup
    • Expression, The - More Like a Feeling than a Taste
    • Expression, The - Old Mankind
    • Expression, The - One More Time
    • Expression, The - Round and Round
    • Expression, The - Run the Hill
    • Expression, The - Shake Up
    • Expression, The - Small Brave Land
    • Expression, The - The Light of Day
    • Expression, The - The Story Goes On
    • Expression, The - The Waiting Game
    • Expression, The - Three Four Day
    • Expression, The - You're Still Running
    • Foreigner - Blue Monday, Blue Day ("knew," but hadn't paid attention)
    • Foreigner - Dirty White Boy
    • Foreigner - Heart Turns to Stone
    • Foreigner - Long, Long Time Ago ("knew," but hadn't paid attention)
    • Foreigner - Soul Doctor
    • GANGgajang - Gimme Some Lovin'
    • GANGgajang - House Of Cards
    • Grateful Dead - Box of Rain
    • Grateful Dead - Ripple
    • Greenhornes, The with Holly Golightly - There Is An End
    • Herman's Hermits - No Milk Today
    • Herman's Hermits - Silhouettes
    • Howard Jones - Everlasting Love
    • John Waite - Always Be Your Man
    • John Waite - Don't Lose Any Sleep
    • John Waite - Fly
    • John Waite - Godhead
    • John Waite - Going To The Top
    • John Waite - If Anybody Had a Heart
    • John Waite - Jesus Are You There?
    • John Waite - Just Like Lovers
    • John Waite - Keys to Your Heart
    • John Waite - Make It Happen
    • John Waite - Masterpiece of Loneliness
    • John Waite - Mr. Wonderful
    • John Waite - NYC Girl
    • John Waite - New Thing
    • John Waite - Rock 'N Roll Is
    • John Waite - Special One
    • John Waite - Still In Love With You
    • John Waite - Thinking About You
    • John Waite - Touch
    • John Waite - Be My Valentine
    • John Waite - When You Were Mine
    • John Waite - Whenever You Come Around
    • Little Failures - Song for Stephanie (heard the clip on Garageband circa 2000)
    • Masters Apprentices - Because I Love You
    • Mental as Anything - Too Many Times
    • Mondo Rock - State of the Heart
    • Pat Boone - Stairway to Heaven
    • Paul McCartney - This Never Happened Before
    • Queen - Now I'm Here
    • REO Speedwagon - Back on the Road Again
    • REO Speedwagon - Dangerous Combination (not yet released)
    • REO Speedwagon - Don't Let Him Go
    • REO Speedwagon - Smiling in the End (not yet released)
    • REO Speedwagon - Riding the Storm Out
    • REO Speedwagon - Roll With The Changes
    • REO Speedwagon - Time For Me To Fly
    • Spandau Ballet - Lifeline
    • Split Enz - Bold As Brass
    • Split Enz - Charlie
    • Split Enz - Dirty Creature
    • Split Enz - Give It A Whirl
    • Split Enz - History Never Repeats
    • Split Enz - I Hope I Never
    • Split Enz - I See Red
    • Split Enz - Jamboree
    • Split Enz - Message To My Girl
    • Split Enz - My Mistake (this video demonstrates everything that was good about the Eighties, and in 1977, no less)
    • Split Enz - Nobody Takes Me Seriously
    • Split Enz - One Step Ahead
    • Split Enz - Poor Boy
    • Split Enz - Shark Attack
    • Split Enz - Six Months In A Leaky Boat (!!!)
    • Split Enz - Strait Old Line
    • Split Enz - Stuff And Nonsense
    • Split Enz - Take A Walk
    • Split Enz - The Devil You Know
    • Split Enz - Titus
    • Split Enz - What's The Matter With You
    • Tom Haran - Calling
    • Tom Haran - Blue Dress (somewhere between normal and bold)
    • Tom Haran - Don't Give In
    • Tom Haran - April Morning
    • Tom Haran - Ancestors
    • Tom Haran - Wind That Shook the Barley
    • Tom Haran - Dimentina Drover
    • Tom Haran - Look to Your Valleys
    • Tom Haran - Portland Town
    • Tom Haran - Mercy
    • Tom Haran - Wonderwall

    Clearly, Mike's recent adventures at the Split Enz concert have had their influence. Not being a huge Split Enz fan for all these years - despite owning two pretty-pretty laser-etched True Colours LPs - has apparently been my loss. I'm quite sure more bold-worthy faves will emerge...

    02 July 2006 |

    Previously: This is Planet Hearth



    I never heard of most of these people.. I am a country girl :)

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    This is Planet Hearth

    My fundamental question to you, as I shake off a very pleasant long day's sleep, is as follows:

    "If the "Planet Earth" video were being re-shot today, and they wanted to stay reasonably faithful to the original, would Simon Le Bon still show off that much pit hair?"

    You decide.

    This morning was interesting because I decided that it was time, after waiting 23 years, to go to Circus Circus. It was time to try the buffet that supposedly inspired That One Scene in Vegas Vacation. I'd been saving this one up.

    Except it really wasn't time. Oops. We'll call it a dry run; it didn't count. And when I go back, it will be after 11 am so I can see the performers. (I didn't know that was going to matter.) Also, I will be parking somewhere south of the Wynn and riding the Deuce or walking to Circus Circus; I really don't ever need to park in that garage again. Bad vibes aside, when was the last time you rode an elevator where the doors opened before the elevator reached its destination? Again, I'm thinking it was about 1983 for me. There's vintage and then there's just heebie jeebies.

    But it was good to go to the circus because it meant I could take a jillion photos of the still exposed El Rancho sign! Mike and I have decided that the El Rancho is coming back. You cannot kill this casino. I think Turnberry is feeling the curse and will have no choice but to tear down their high-rise condos. And then every other condo developer on the Strip will obey the same pull of... EL RANCHO! Tra la la la the colours are so pretty in my world.

    They May As Well Rebuild It

    I thought I was all better except the aesthetics, but it turns out that driving causes my sick toe to bleed. Or is it... a stigmata?! No. It's just me without a bandaid.

    Holiday Toe

    Another nice benefit to visiting the pinkest place on Earth was that I finally and unintentionally got a full-frontal view of the Candlelight Wedding Chapel.

    That Chapel

    If you want a better idea of the place in its heyday, just look at the Candlelight Wedding Chapel website, where they are still using this building to promote their services. (They relocated to somewhere downtown, "purposefully" a block away from the Strip, they said. Uh huh.) Note the green hedge! The steeple! Or look at this eBay auction from back when it was brown and the Algiers Motel (and strip mall) were right beside it. (The Algiers sign is still up, by the way.) You can still see where the flower box used to be, over by where the limos would turn in. Sigh.

    I wonder if it is still nice inside. I hate "tagging" - which just looks like the garden variety "things that used to let us know a movie was set in New York" graffiti to me, but whatever. I'm going to place a geocache here and call it "People Suck, Exhibit Infinity." Well, no, but I'll be thinking it. I've already picked out a different location for my Strip cache, one that might be more stable/less suspicious. I still have to see how I did with my first cache (wheeee!), the one where I injured my toe, the one that was just announced on the geocaching newsletter today. Here's a picture of the spot:

    Spot the Cache

    Luckily there aren't any caches on the Strip medians. I was at a stoplight and I couldn't figure out what was "off." Hmmm. HMMmm.

    Something's Wrong - Oh Yes... The Turf is Coming

    Oh yes - the dirt! The coming Astroturf! The Strip medians are being refitted with fake turf that will save us all lots of money and water, especially as Lake Mead is about to hit a 40-year low. This is one thing I like about living in Vegas - decorating with Astroturf seems normal and agreeable here. It makes me think of those people, non-natives even, who complain that "the casinos run this town!" Well, duh. Who would move here and hope to change that? Weenies.

    I was going to go to the Wynn for breakfast. Only four bucks more than Circus Circus and if it's anything like their dinner selection... But I had to clean my toe first, which I tried to do in my car in the Wynn's parking garage, which only led to getting hand sanitizer stains all over my pants. I no longer felt dainty enough to go, so it was off to the Aladdin, home of my second-favourite dinner buffet. (Besides, any excuse to keep visiting it before it becomes the Planet Hollywood Casino. Retch.)

    Quench Pink
    gratuitous neon shot inside the Aladdin's Desert Passage

    Breakfast was completely yummy, with more types of muffin than I've ever seen in one place. I made the prettiest arrangement of pastel yogurts on my plate. I delighted in two kinds of potato (rosemary roasted and O'Brien). I fondly nibbled the scrambled eggs with cheese and chives. And the blintzes! The only pity was that the three kinds of breakfast pizza were all meaty... but if you like meat, there you go.

    It's no Paris (who can beat Paris for cheese selection, crepe station, and overall presentation?), but more interesting than the Bellagio. For blurry plates (it was too early for flash or steady hands), look here, then look here.

    Leaving, I noted what was left the Boardwalk. Not the big clown head, that's for sure.

    Parking Still Available

    And I ended the little trip with drive-by shots of the Glass Pool Inn sign (it was a pool! Made of glass!) and the Klondike Casino, which closed yesterday. And then I went home and goofed off instead of getting my tires or wheels or brakes or anything fixed that will result in me going to Disneyland to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean ride. And tonight I'm going to goof off some more. SUMMER!

    30 June 2006 |


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    If a Body Adopts a Body

    A big head-shake at CNN and every other media outlet that keeps using language like the following:

    "Kidman's sister, Antonia Kidman, right, arrives with Nicole's adopted daughter, Isabella Kidman Cruise, left, and an unidentified flower girl, middle."

    Isabella is simply Kidman's daughter. The "adopted" is unnecessary here. If it must stay, then let's extend this usage to real points of interest such as, "Mary's least-loved daughter" or "Jane's favourite daughter" or "Susan's daughter who looks uncannily like the mailman."

    If an adjective is mandatory, I can't imagine anyone arguing in favour of using "adopted" as the best choice ("teenage" would be more useful - we could all think about how Nicole doesn't look like she's raising a thirteen-year-old), but I suppose someone who wanted to convince us that throwing in "adopted" is a good thing might try the following points:

    • "adopted" raises awareness about the wonders and benefits of adoption
    • "adopted" makes Nicole look like a good person who gave a child a home
    • "adopted" shows that the bad old days when people would whisper the word are over

    But, if we allow that, then surely the cynics could have their say as well:

    • "adopted" reminds delighted gossipmongers that Tom Cruise could be mentally ill or gay, what with his first wife saying they didn't sleep together, and if it was the same with Kidman then of course they had to adopt, etc etc
    • "adopted" reassures men that they may continue to think very private thoughts about Kidman without factoring in stretch marks
    • "adopted" conjures up images of Joan Crawford, who of course was said to have purchased her children for the publicity

    Therefore, it seems to me that wedging in the word "adopted" EVERY DANG TIME a Kidman-Cruise offspring is mentioned, and not just for the still-iffy purpose of contrasting them to Cruise's DNA-sharing child, can't be doing anyone any favours.

    So, it must just be ineptness. And that's my role in life, to call attention to the ineptness of the world. I am the fingerpointer in the rye. I'll be here all summer. Thank you.

    26 June 2006 |


    Freak Magnet

    They do that with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Calling Shiloah Their "first", even though they both adopted the two before her.


    Here here! You're the best!

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    Black as the Queen of Hearts

    Since Colin Powell's parents were from Jamaica, how is he "African-American"? If there are Africans in the family tree, then would he not be "African-Jamaican-American" or something? And are there any Africans, I mean beyond the Africans in us all?

    I always say people can call themselves whatever they like (after all, it's the only way I can get some people to shut up when they insist that I'm pronouncing my own name "wrong"), but in our wonderfully rich society, labels like "African American" are increasingly useless and, worse, illogical and unnecessarily divisive. We do still need a word that says "I come from a culture with roots based in Africa," but applying the "African American" label to every person with a recognizable tinge of what we used to call "black" (or worse) is just silly.  Vanilla foam latte to double espresso shot, we're all just coffee. (Wait 'til you hear about my third trip to Starbucks, by the way.)

    I like this bit from a recent Teen Newsweek article (I was test driving the product for students, okay?) on DNA testing:

    "Wayne Joseph thought his DNA would show he was 'about 70 percent African and 30 percent something else.' Instead, he learned he was 57 percent Indo-European, 39 percent Native American, and 4 percent East Asian. He had no African blood.

    "'I was floored,' he says. The results caused Joseph to reflect on the decisions he'd made based on his identity as a black man: his first marriage, his choice of high school, his interest in African American literature. Before he had his DNA tested, 'I was unequivocally black,' he says. 'Now I'm a metaphor for America.' It seems the more we discover our differences, the more we find connections."

    Emphasis in bold mine. Oh, and by the way, the 1930 census is free for one more day. Go look up some family members; this was one of those (beautiful) census years when everyone said where their parents were born. Maybe you'll discover something new+cool. (Of course, some people lied or said where their parents lived, and sometimes the census taker was lazy... but that's why it's free, so you can get hooked and then pay to see what your people said in 1920... 1910... 1900... Meanwhile, my new and improved personal genealogy wiki is zipping right along. As I'm laid up with a gimpy toe tonight - stay tuned for that post - perhaps I'll even make enough strides to share the URL soon.)

    26 June 2006 |


    Freak Magnet

    There was a big stink because a white student from Africa won a contest for African-Americans. You can't have it both ways, people.

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    El Dia de los Hammies 2006

    Once upon a time there was a shout across the blogosphere. It said, "do something zany this weekend." That it how it came to be, once upon a time directly after, that a small and largely unassuming Russian dwarf hamster named Mazrim Galileo McSnout became the center of a supremely festive birthday party. There were chocolate effigies complete with Basque cream dust ruffles; there were dainty flowers of colourful tissue paper. Later, there was even a t-shirt.

    By the next year (the next week, to be regretfully honest), Mazrim was gone, but El Dia de los Hammies was by then both legend and tradition. El Dia 2005, a hamcake breakfast in honour of Minerva being 2-and-a-half-and-such, was a brilliant success. (Quite the feat for just a little hamster: not only are dwarf hams lucky to hit 18 months, but Minerva was Mazrim's grandfather, to put it all into perspective.) So successful, the t-shirt was even offered in a stylish black.

    And so we came to this year. How would we uphold the values of the holiday? They are, by the way, threefold:

    • to promote new personal adventures in cooking
    • to promote a winsome hamster-based lifestyle
    • to build a sense of community, if only amongst those who tend to use these things as evidence against me

    The hamsters, many of whom, even those who got to meet Minerva near his Methuselaic end, regard the old guard of hammies such as Mazrim as tales from myth, were quick with their theme:


    Once upon a time, the aforementioned upon-a-time, even, the circus came to town. It was grand. Edwin and Brian ran day and night. Snout set up a flying sofa. Mazrim and Snowpea worried Uncle Isaac to pieces. Alas, I seem to've not uploaded any evidence to Flickr. Ah well, there's always this press release from when, inevitably, the circus was torn down.

    To hear today's hamsters talk about it, the circus was the Las Vegas of hamitats. And, in a way, I suppose it was. Take one inflatable kiddie pool, layer (a little too late) a few towels in the bottom, set up a small just-in-case fence around the inside, fill with bedding and toys, and make way for the whole business in the living room, and yes, you have good times. So many wheels! So many tunnels! Water bottle shows every half hour!

    Luckily, the hams of today don't know any of the details, or it'd be nothing but wah-wah-wah until I redecorated in such a way as to guarantee the loss of my security deposit. Very insistent, hamsters are.

    But what they do know is that El Dia is all about food, which is how they talked me into making a three ring circus of cookies.

    It must be cookies, they said, because cookies make us think of animal crackers, which are very circusy.

    There shall be ginger, they cried, for its spicy spirit of fun and Mazrim-like colour.

    And there really ought to be almonds, chorused five of them, because Almond has been ever so sweet and helpful this year. (Cynics will say this was a Butterfield 8 Oscar-moment for our massive white ham because he has a tumour on his leg. Hush.)

    Thus directed, the menu for El Dia de los Hammies 2006: Back to the Big Top was created:

    Oh, the fun we had. I got to buy parchment paper!

    EDdlH Ingredients

    I learned that if you need a few tablespoons of homemade candied orange peel, you don't need three oranges, no matter what the recipe says. One. You need just one. Any more and you're just wanting to spend ten minutes playing Happy Fun Time Sugar Fairy:

    Little Oranges Sleeping in the Snow

    I bought crystallized ginger for the first time. It was fresh, in bulk, and on sale at Wild Oats. It was also really... bendy. I challenge anyone to "finely chop" this stuff. Ha. Ginger barnacles for your knife, I tell you. For all three recipes, I substituted the words "tear into smaller chunks" for "finely chop." I'm an English teacher; I get to do that.

    The Smushing of Ginger

    While it was plenty freakish that I happened to have some almonds in the house, it was super-freakish that I had exactly enough for all three recipes. (3/4c, 3/4c, and 2/3c.) Exactly.

    Perfect Portions

    Mind you, it was less impressive after I burnt some and had no spares.

    The Florentines looked all wrong when being spooned, or dripped, onto the foil:

    Now is the Time on Splotches

    No, I wasn't supposed to chop the almonds, believe it or not. No comment on the orange peel. This is a mix of whipping cream, butter, sugar, and the aforementioned goodies. While it cooked, I got busy with the biscotti batter:

    A Parchment of Batter

    There's that parchment paper in use - a first! However, the recipe called for wax paper. However-however, I was not going to go to the store for a fifth trip to once again pick up "just one ingredient I thought I had." No, that would happen when we got to the wafers and discovered we needed... flour. Some hamsters theorize that this is why El Dia actually lasted three days this year, but most prefer to believe that it was for the extra round of wheel-racing. Which of course it was. Totally.

    I was a vision of multitasking when I put the biscotti batter in and brought the Florentines out.


    If you don't eat praline-type things, you probably don't get these Florentines. (This might also be true if you eat real Florentines made by people who mix their ingredients well and shape the cookies into perfect three-inch rounds as directed.) If so, it is very much your loss. The smell? Gorgeous. The taste? As chewy and buttery and orangey and gingery and almondy as promised.

    And then add chocolate?

    And Chocolatey

    "Dipping" didn't work well, so the above is from when I started coating parts of them with the back of the spoon. I recommend only doing half of the cookie in chocolate, just as the recipe says, because then you can spend a lot of time debating over which half is better. I still haven't decided!

    Mind you, it was all crap compared to this biscotti loaf:

    Biscotti Pleasure Cake

    This is what realtors need to put in the oven before open houses. You'd buy a condo on the Strip for this smell. I was terrified to turn it into proper biscotti - why push it?

    A Biscotti-stick for Each of Us

    Why push it? Because it's El Dia! Push! Push!

    And as you see, I cut a biscotti for each hamster and one for myself. (None for Mike because he was asleep. And in Australia.) What became of the remaining inch of pre-biscotti cake was, I swear, purely for scientific purposes.

    Get closer. Admire the chunks of almond, of ginger. Wonder if I'm being arty with that blur or if I was too lazy to take the 1.8mm lens off the camera.

    Make These Now

    And so they went into the oven for fifteen minutes, and so I turned to begin the wafers, and so I realized that there was (geez louise) no more flour, and so there was a two-day break of feasting and wheeling and merriment. Is it any wonder that I still haven't finished my paper?

    Recently I discussed my non-blondeness. Now you know that the gingery tones added to my mouselocks were really just part of the pre-Dia warmup. Go Circus Hammies!

    Gingered Up

    (Yes, all bathroom mirror poses look dorky. Yes, my hair needed washing. Yes, my shirt is covered in bleach - I had to retire it yesterday after a strategic bleach spot finally wore into a hole that would only upset my UPS man.)

    Finally, finale: the ginger almond wafers. We began with a fine pile of powdered sugar, flour, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. (That was the third trip back to the store, by the way - isn't it a pity you can use baking soda for baking powder but not the other way around?)

    The Finale Begins

    And of course El Dia always supports fresh, organic materials wherever possible.

    For a Good Cause

    Please note how I skillfully used a too-shallow bowl for mixing so, when the beaters came on, flour whirred up in a tizzy and spread across the countertops. Better than fireworks.

    The hamsters began to place their cookies in formation with Almond's slightly denser cookie in the middle.

    Taking Places

    There is a long explanation for what dragonflies have to do with hamsters that you are not going to hear about. (If you can't be bothered to book a flight to Vegas then take a cab to the middle of the suburbanfied desert then hang outside my security gates for all of 20-30 seconds before someone goes in, well, you're just going to have to expect to miss out on a few things.) It doesn't matter; the exciting part is that I used a cookie press for the first time. It's all about adventure!

    Bold as Dragondartflies

    About this time the agouti normals showed up with their own special tribute - cookies shaped like Milkbones. (For our woeful hamsterless friends, Milkbones are a staple of the hamster lifestyle. Otherwise their teeth grow painfully into then out of their innocent little faces, and boy is that a story for another time.) Here you see how Hammond, so thoughtful, gave Almond a special salute:

    Almondine Milkbone Salute

    And the other normals each put a chocolate chip on theirs, a chip for each year of El Dia. Also, we thought it might taste good. We were bold!

    Threes for Charm

    At last there was the powdering of those cookies meant to represent our white hamsters (with a partial dusting for Holly, a mottled).

    Thunder and Blazes

    And then they went in the oven and then they came out and that's the end of the story and another El Dia has come to a jubilant end. HOORAY!

    And for everyday treats, I strongly recommend the Florentines and the biscotti - oh, you must make the biscotti - and I probably recommend the wafers, not that we're talking about them. (Have I ever mentioned my idea for a Cajun cooking show with your hamster host, Antoine de Vroomfoote? He could make these wafers like we did, with the oven set at 375 and not 325. On purpose, though - um, just like we did. That's what we're telling the media.)

    Let every day be a swing-your-held-hands day of circus-worthy childlike wonder and unexpected spectacles. HAPPY EL DIA de los HAMMIES 2006!

    24 June 2006 |

    Previously: Finish It! Finish It!


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    Finish It! Finish It!

    I told you this would happen again. All I have to do is write a 3-page (single-space) paper, which really means all I have to do is figure out how to articulate my thesis without lapsing into examples from online role-playing games. (Sad, considering I'm writing about a Toni Morrison novel) A few examples and good transitions sprinkled in, then I can do any of the following:

    • finish working on my first geocache, which has the best name/theme - you are going to be so ever so impressed
    • go hiking out to a valley on the other side of a mountain on the far side of Red Rock Canyon, where bighorn sheep supposedly stare at you, to place the geocache (as soon as my Amazon GC-funded GPSr arrives): I have street-soled jazz dance shoes for this and everything (proper, sensible, athletic shoes are just so unwieldy and hot)
    • complete the grand finale event for El Dia de los Hammies 2006 - IT IS TIME!
    • send some Postcrossing cards
    • go see Hall and Oates at Lake Las Vegas, this terribly posh place I've yet to visit (I'm not going to Styx unless the people I said I'd go with make suitable bribes - Heather, you made a good point about Dennis DeYoung)
    • continue reading Bill Bryson's entirely hilarious In a Sunburned Country - who is this guy? I need to read everything he's ever scribed.
    • continue fiddling with the fancy-schmancy department-issued Palm that somehow came home with me for the summer - eBooks, GPS stuff, and of course hopping rides on other people's open wireless networks as needed
    • pick up my special edition 30th anniversary slot club card from Station Casinos with the "up to $500 in free slot play" pre-loaded; actually, I have until about 9 p.m. tonight to do this
    • other stuff that I'm no longer thinking about now that I've decided to knock out an outline then hustle down to the casino...

    P.S. I had my first Starbucks last Friday: double chocolate chip icy blended thingie without coffee. Paid cash - no record. Then I had my second Starbucks the next day. Again, cash. I started reading Starbucks-themed blogs. (Vegas has the most Sbux per capita.) Then, on Monday, I went to the movie theatre that has a Starbucks in it (to see The Lake House - not a bad flick), but all they had was coffee stuff and ice cream. Coffee = icky poo poo! I have returned to myself again. Our next episode of Birth of a Yuppie will probably just be a photospread of me lying on a pile of still-unread Saveurs.

    23 June 2006 |


    Freak Magnet

    I started drinking coffee, but only Vanilla Caramel Cream. With lots of sugar. And lots of sugar-based non-dairy creamer.

    The other day, we were out, so I tried another flavor, with milk. It tasted just like normal coffee. It was hideous. I almost spit it out on my desk.

    Freak Magnet

    Oh, and The Lake House was good.


    You know what? I concur on The Lake House. People always roll their eyes and say Keanu can't act, but that bit when he cries? I was convinced. And as for good timing on a kiss - wow. (Or maybe that's just good editing.)

    Of course, I agree with those who find it a little hard to suspend disbelief when she had Google right at her fingertips (c'mon, Sandy, just think of all the magical stuff you did in "The Net"!), but who can resist the dog? Look to the scruffable dog... they always know best.

    I liked the movie so much that I've been listening to the Paul McCartney song from it, and everyone knows Sir Macca and I have been on the outs for years...

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    Day's Not for Dreaming

    Naps = bad. Explain.

    This is getting so reliably annoying that I have to think about it here, and not for the first time, I know, but it's getting worse. I've never been one for happy dreams, but for some time the dreams I've had at night, or whenever the main sleep chunk occurs, have been pretty neutral. Yay. But naps? Naps are where the monsters live.

    For one thing, they're usually marginally lucid, but always with a tinge (or more) of malevolence. On several occasions I've experienced the sensation that someone has come into the room and is standing next to the bed/sofa/whatever. Someone bad. Someone who may go away if I just lie there and pretend to still be sleeping. But again, only during naps.

    Once in a great, great while I have sleep paralysis, which is often associated with feelings of evil. Is napping more likely to stimulate whatever causes those feelings? It says naps and lucid dreaming can be a factor in whether s.p. takes place - does it make sense to have the terror without the paralysis? Again, I've wondered these things before, and increased awareness hasn't helped.

    As you may guess, late this afternoon I took a nap. Why? It's summer break; I'd gone into the sunny bedroom (western exposure) to read somewhere other than the sofa; I was still tired from getting up early for training all week; ZONK.

    Next thing you know I'm convinced something bad is by the bed, then I fall "back" asleep and dream that I've gotten up after I'm sure the bad thing is gone, only to find the hamsters have been set loose to breed and bite, plus a hamster with cute young is in the sink and I keep accidentally drowning her and the fuzzies whenever I run the tap, which I feel compelled to do every time I get them all dried off and resettled and then want to wash my hands. Also, I keep pulling rocks out of the nest that I think are nearly dead baby hamsters, thus wasting time on reviving them instead of the real hams.

    Also, in the dream I can't tell several of the hams apart, so getting everyone back where they should be is completely overwhelming. This sounds like I'm overwhelmed by hamsters in real life, but I swear I'm not. I feel bad sometimes because I know they'd get (even) more individual attention if there weren't so many, but then I consider where they'd be if not here, and I can't feel guilty. The dream was probably just preying upon my natural concerns for their ongoing well-being, or zeroing in on one of the few things I truly love-love, but why does the dream prey on anything?

    Does the universe want me to stop taking naps? Why? Believe me, I swear off them every time I have one, but sometimes you're just that tired, whether you "deserve" to be or not. Back off, astral plane.

    To recover, I'm reading the new Plum Sykes (not the novel I'm writing my paper on, natch) and eating TexMex carryout from down the street instead of something perfectly good and natural and affordable from the last grocery trip. Maybe the universe is just encouraging sloth?

    Okay. Done. Rescind the gargoyles. Thanks.

    18 June 2006 |

    Previously: iBlonde


    Freak Magnet

    I <3 naps. I take entirely too many of them. I can't imagine them being bad. That must definitely be terrifying.

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    Everybody wants to know about my hair. Well, Heather says she does. I'd love to appease Our Lady of Allentown and whatever curiosity her unborn child is sending through the placenta waves, but - Heather - aren't you supposed to be busy with summer school? I assure you that any report on my hair would be too distracting... or, in the right light, blinding.

    Actually, it's not that bad, it's just not complete. Once you open the box of Revlon Colorsilk, you find out that people with long hair "might" need two boxes. For the record, yes, you  need two boxes. I'm very pleased with the light reddish brown colour, but the one place I wanted to dye (around the framing grey streaks up front) may as well be untouched, the way it looks. The rest is pretty nice, if not quite there. So, I'm letting my hair get niiiiice and dirty, and this weekend we'll do phase two - a special application to those underdyed areas, plus some streaking through the rest for the good ole highlights.

    Then, in August, ongoing midlife crisis at age 36 perhaps over, I'll remember what a pain roots are and will go back to something darker, perhaps very dark, for it turns out I have dark brown hair. Did the rest of you know that?! I thought it was medium! But no, if it were medium, I'd be a blonde now. That's what the box says. Yes, it's true, I was trying to go blonde. And I'm not blonde. But I'm happy with this sort of feathery, fetching, ginger spice, which I'll now probably ruin by accidentally going blonde. So there you have it.

    Speaking of ginger, El Dia is coming, and "orangey excitement" is kind of but not really this year's theme. Stay tuned!

    Today I went to Panera Bread for the first time. This week's training is down the road from The District, so I was very fancy and went there with visions of sitting at a sidewalk table, sipping an overpriced iced frothy something and reading Sula, which I'm meant to be writing a paper on and turning in next week - please note the intent to avoid total procrastination!

    Except it was all hot and stuff in this darn desert, so I dove into a hidden booth and ordered a small feast. Excellent split pea and asparagus soup. (And I am so picky about asparagus. Like, if I can taste it, that's a step in the wrong direction.) The accompanying French boutard was reliably chewy and warm. The portabella and mozzarella panini was... too wet. It overwhelmed the rosemary/olive bread and just wasn't a tight taste. I didn't get any basil sensations, either. In fact, the mushrooms had a certain canned look about them. The lemonade was nicely tart but a little too sweet. Overall, a B+, worth another go, and better than a slice of pizza from the casino at the end of the "road," at  only five times the price.

    I was going to order my first iPod this morning, but where did I put my Amazon GCs? (I'm a big believer in putting everything on the Amazon Visa.) I decided I need a little Shuffle so I can work out. That's my excuse this summer: I can't work out at the fitness center without music, and I can't work out in my apartment because the complex has a really nice fitness center and I should get my money's worth, an argument for paying $940/mo that I won't be able to ignore if I hop around in my own living room.

    (My rent just went up again. It's gone up twice since I moved here eighteen months ago for a total of 8% - we have a wee housing problem here in the Valley, you see... On the other hand, my apartment is fabulous. I'm really just becoming a blonde so I can accompany the golden splendor that is my floorplan.)

    I couldn't find the GCs, so I went to training a bit preoccupied as one is when one is aware that one has been dumping clothes and books and handouts and folders and mail and change and complimentary wintergreen Lifesavers in a pile in a corner of the not-quite-a-room
    that-doesn't-have-a-name but-is-perhaps-a-reading-nook-at-the-top-of-the-stairs (that's how fabulous my apartment is) and the reckoning is coming right soon, and its name is FRIDAY. Unfurl the mops and call out the coathanger reserves.

    Not at all coincidentally, Friday is the day Mike goes to see Split Enz. He is quite happy.

    So, I come home and there was some good mail (which reminds me that I'm overdue on writing a certain CD review, so as soon as I'm a little blonder I'll be jumping into some Lester Bangsing on the keyboard, I swear), some irritating mail (yet another company - this time the institution in charge of my student loan - letting me know that my personal data was on a server that was "compromised" on such-and-such date and, gee, I should keep an extra close eye on my credit report for the next 90 days 'cause, you know, it's not like those Social Security numbers and mother's maiden names are going to be useful to thieves any longer than that.), and some curious mail in a package without a return address.


    Last month I did a little survey for American Express, a card I never use and am ditching as soon as they stop screwing up my $85 worth of points that I've been trying to get since October (they keep sending me polite letters saying the GCs have been returned by the post office and the points have been redeposited to my account), which they need to sort out soon because I'm not renewing a $65 membership fee to try to get some gift certificates to Linens-n-Things. Well, at least not again. I appreciate AMEX for helping me attain stellar credit, but it's a pointless card unless you use the extra services, and I don't.

    Anyway, the survey ended with a choice of free gift or even the choice to not take a free gift, because if you can say one thing about American Express, they're rather honest. They know the free gift is crap and understand if you don't want to waste your time opening mysterious envelopes postmarked Farmington, Connecticut.

    That's what was in the envelope - my new FM "scan" radio. "Scan" means "just keep hitting the button until it picks up a radio station - and please to understand that there will be no display of the current call numbers, comrade." Which, I suppose, makes it a little like an "FM Shuffle." (Tee hee.) It is even very small and light and plastic, and because American Express still has pleasant memories of eliteness, they included little black (black!) earbuds and two AAA batteries.

    Batteries included! It's a sign. I don't want it to be a sign, but it is. I've written before about what great radio stations we have here in Vegas, and the reception/volume on the little thing is darn good. Let me get this straight: due to unexpected circumstances I couldn't buy an iPod this morning, and then a fully functioning tiny radio suitable for workouts arrives this afternoon? When half the time you never get the free gift after a survey, and the other half of the time it takes months, and most of the time it doesn't work? A sign.

    Now I'll be using those Amazon GCs on a GPS unit for geocaching instead. Hooray! Three more days of training and I'll be spelling out SUMMER BREAK in iguana droppings around my navel.

    I mean, okay, I was getting the GPS anyway, but now I don't have to go through the strategic menu planning of many bean and rice dinners to compensate. (Wouldn't it be interesting if teachers got their raises at the start of summer instead of the end? Illogical, but so interesting.) By the way, Sunflower Market, aka "like a practical, stripped down Whole Foods but cheaper" -or - "like an uncrowded Trader Joe's with more selection." has a lemon Stilton cheese that you ought to try before dying.

    In summary, I'm not blonde; I don't have an iPod; I haven't started cooking for El Dia; I didn't get a good deal on a sandwich for lunch, and there are too many pairs of wrinkled pants on the floor.

    I have nearly-attractive auburn hair; I just received a charming little workout radio; I have all of the ingredients for El Dia ready to go; I enjoyed a tasty bowl of pea soup with a fresh baguette for lunch while making great strides in my homework, and my life is full of capri pants that I don't even have to walk all the way to the closet to put on. It's a good day!

    16 June 2006 |


    Heather in Allentown

    well, next time I comment here I'll be Heather In Emmaus - we're moving this weekend. Remind me to tell you sometime how much I.Hate.Moving. Oh, man, it sucks. And it sucks even worse when 7-ish months pregnant and you have a cold with a hacking cough.

    But I digress - I didn't visit your blog to fill up comments with whining. Sorry! Give Panera another shot - I absolutely LOOOVE the Greek Salad. And the black bean soup is really nice. And the brownies. THere are two in my fridge right now, actually.

    Congrats on the hair color. I harbor a not so secret dream to be a redhead. I've got medium-no-dark brown hair, too. I've always been afraid to dye my hair for fear of ending up with one of those purply red colors that just Aren't Right, you know?

    Ok, must continue packing. 12 hours til we pick up the truck and move. Ugh. Why oh why did we need to buy a house?!?

    Freak Magnet

    I have what most people call black hair, but I use the dark brown dye, and it always comes out black. I'm too chicken to go red and too vain to let the grey show.

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    Feeling Just Like the Virgin Mary

    I've bought something.
    It's kind of unexpected.
    I'm afraid to use it.
    I'm afraid of what the results will be.
    A whole new life.
    New responsibilities.
    And possibly great havoc on a body not exactly in the best shape.

    I'm dreading going into the bathroom to find out, but I'm kind of excited, too.

    (Go 61!)

    13 June 2006 |






    Heather in Allentown


    The results?

    The suspense is killing me!!!!


    You are back...I went to Shari.com a couple of months ago and it was outdated. Ive missed reading you!

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    Ridin' the Tide Out - REO S(p)eedwagon

    Spur of the moment, as the summer gods intended, I went to the Beach (Mandalay Bay) to see REO Speedwagon on Saturday.

    Awesome show. The combination of pants-bleaching wave pool with standing next to previously dignified grown men and women clawing at the water, shining their cell phone lights, trying to find the most recently flung guitar pick while I just enjoyed the tunes was quite cleansing.

    (The latter only makes sense if you read my John Waite concert review, which you can't, because I haven't written it, because I've been busy -and- I now can't write my review without refuting someone else's. I didn't take two set lists before the encore or JW's water bottle for a souvenir, people! Although, if said people were the quaffers to my right, I can see how being rather impaired
    might have led to such assumptions. That, or they missed what was actually happening in the dark and din and made an honest mistake. See, this is why it's all for another time. Suffice to say, after this weekend I have re-established myself as happily aloof.)

    Anyway, I am purified of the nasty events at the Hilton earlier this year. Also, I was full of choc-covered strawberries from the buffet's chocolate fountains. (Every buffet in this town seems to be rushing to install these.)

    I particularly recommend the band's "Dangerous Combination" off the "new" album - no idea when that is out, though. Meanwhile, "Back on the Road Again" - an oldie by bassist Bruce Hall - is my new favourite song. Who knew that one day I'd find out that REO Speedwagon has more than four songs? My life is indeed richer for living in Las Vegas...

    You can't go wrong at the Beach. The crowds are always happy, laid-back, and into it. The waves are lush. The sky is peaceful. It's lovely to dance with water to your shins. I'm supposed to go with some friends to see Styx there later this month, but I don't know - they surely only have four songs, right?

    12 June 2006 |

    Previously: Jupiter Salts


    Heather in Allentown`

    You MUST see Styx - they have WAY more than 4 songs! Let's see...Mr. Roboto, Come Sail Away... BAbe...The Best of Times...uhhh... I have their Greatest Hits album around here somewhere....

    But will they really be the same if Dennis deYoung isn't with the band anymore?

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    Jupiter Salts

    It's hard living without dreams. I like to plan! For awhile my "dreams" have been no more meaningful than "go out to the canyon for the day" or "take enough classes to make more money next year." Shallow, but there are benefits to not thinking too hard.

    That said, I don't know how when or where Point A took place, but Point B (or L, maybe K, to be more realistic) is Jupiter, Romania.

    Mike and I are hot to go to a Black Sea resort. I can't remember how this happened, but it probably started with Wikipedia. What with our current schedules, one of us is usually lying on the sofa while the other one pulls Wiki duty. Sometimes both of us are reclined and out of keyboard grasp, though, and those are the exciting times when we mentally arm-wrestle to see who can successfully be the least curious. "You go." "No, you go." "I went last time." "Well, I can live without knowing. I'm sure we won't forget." (tick... tock.. tick... tock...) - and half the time we both give in and start typing. It's just as well: whoever does the research will soon be sending links of photos until the other one can't stand it and has to roll over and look.

    Right now we can barely negotiate Plan Z^27 in the event of Mike finally winning the Green Card Lottery this year, but we're all up in this Eastern Bloc seaside holiday, filing knowledge for the faraway first available opening in the budget.

    First off, how can you resist a name like "Jupiter, Romania"? In my peripheral visions of Romania I expect things like gruel and castles and gritty Fellini-knockoff seascapes, but this photo shows a more joyous landscape. Near Jupiter is Venus, Saturn, Neptun, and Olimp - who knew? Imagine the postcards!

    Second, there is this, from the Wikipedia article on nearby Mangalia, a town otherwise getting by on its draws of an annual music/culture festival and Scythian tombs:

    The natural cure factors are the water of the Black Sea, which is chlorided, sulphated, sodic, magnesian, hypotonic (mineralization 15.5g), the sulphurous, chlorided, bicarbonated, sodic, calcic, mesothermal (21-28°C) mineral waters of the springs in the northern part of the city, in the area of the beach between Saturn and Venus, the sulphurous peat mud, rich in minerals, which is extracted from the peat bog north of the city (expected to last another 250 years) and the marine climate, rich in saline aerosols and solar radiation that have a bracing effect on the organism.

    Chloride! Sulphur! Sodium! Other Mineral Grits! I just enjoy the word "bracing" too much and am suckered in by the idea of "taking a cure" while asking locals lots of questions so I can hear that accent. (I sort-of have a Romanian friend back in Texas - you could listen to her talk until the wolves howled nearer.)

    However, Jupiter is not unlike (one of) its namesake(s). Just like the planet that is nothing but gas and therefore will only swish about any pennies you throw in, it's hard to find pretty lodging in Jupiter, Romania. Witness this Google result of decidedly Soviet-era highrises.

    That's why we started looking at the Rex Hotel in Mamaia. Five stars and only 115 euros/night in June? HmMm! Jupiter is only a couple of miles away, but Mamaia seems like such a party beach. Mike and I aren't even beach people. In fact, Mike will not get into the ocean, and he lives in a place known for its clear blue waters and clean sand beaches. "You mean we are going all the way to the Black Sea to be healed by mud that costs hundreds of dollars a handful at the spa, and you're not getting in the water?!" "Well, maybe." And that's the best I can expect from him. Nevertheless, he's excited to go. Jupiter's mighty gravitational pull strikes again!

    And maybe we will stay in Jupiter: this page is rather reassuring that it's all good.

    I'm sure this is all a ways off, but I think we should learn Romanian to prepare. It's a Romance language, so I have a prayer, and Mike is long overdue for learning more than pidgin Irish from me.  (It makes me weep that someone with such a talent for accents doesn't care a fig for learning languages, save for fun together-y purposes. And I, with ears of rusty tin...)

    Unfortunately, about thirty minutes before the muses delivered this holiday inspiration (I totally Tivo'd Xanadu last week), Mike and I started learning Hungarian. (It's at times like this that I wonder if I shouldn't be completely happy with our relationship after all, and **** the geography woes.) Mike picked the first word of the day, which was hirii. We were learning Hungarian because I have this Hungarian name and, you know how Catholics get specific saint protection based on their names and birthdays? Actually, I don't want to bother explaining the Point A on that idea, either. My brain is definitely all about destination.

    (However, I never should've tried to explain saint patronage to a veteran MUDder/WOWer/gamer like Mike. "You mean, like, you get special spells?" "Yes, but what I don't know is if your name is Michael and you're also born on St. Michael's day, do you get double protection/interference or are you somewhat cheated?" "Yeah, do you get shield block and heal, or do you get a single more impressive item, like sanctuary?" Sadly, Mike will read this later and correct me on which spells/skills he actually said.)

    09 June 2006 |


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    Is It Always a Fungus?

    You know what bothers me? Never being able to decide whether to Title My Posts in Standard Title Form Where Non-Articles and Non-Prepositions and Non-Conjunctions All Begin with a Capital Letter, or just to write "normally" in sentence case. Whenever I think I've made a decision, I change my mind. God but pondering these things has prepared me well for those long prairie winters of the 19th century, should they ever come up again.

    Re the post title: I have one of those "skin splits" under one of my toes. You know, as if someone started trying to decapitate the little digit. (Or depiggyitate.) Or maybe you don't know if you've never neglected to wear your spa shoes at the gym and therefore had to have a long, long date with a tube of Tinactin. My question: is this kind of thing always a fungus?

    I'm full of DayQuil and feeling better. I had a nap (of course) and dreamt up the most amazingly detailed plans for an elite self-help nightclub. It was so detailed I had to wake myself up - even in the dream I knew I had the sleeptime OCD *Quil thing happening and was working too hard. All I remember is the end bit where people could go in these pods where a psychiatrist would be on the other side of a confessional-style screen, and you'd swipe your credit card to start the service, which ran on a minute-by-minute meter that you (or maybe just management?) could see rolling over, dollar after dollar. I'm sure a good ten minutes of my sleep was spent trying to work out the best pricing scheme, which I've forgotten as well. ($110 for sixty minutes sounds familiar. Clearly, I'm in the wrong profession.)

    Also, I think there was a provision for celebrities to stand in for the psychiatrist, so instead of Dr. Melfi you might get Billy Idol. I don't know if that would make a difference to the kind of person who would use these services. I'm not in therapy - I just have the vague impression that this is how people in New York spend money that other people spend on cars.

    Seemingly a non-sequiter: Did you know there is a secret menu at Jamba Juice? (I hate the Jamba Juice at UNLV. The counter drones tend to make up their own prices then require an argument to acknowledge the posted ones - I went there three times and it happened twice.)

    Nothing but half-days left at school, and me with the world's messiest classroom yet seemingly no time to get in there and fix it up. I just want to trash every extra handout. Sorry trees. Hopefully I'll be more or less over this cold tomorrow and will feel like standing on some chairs. (Which is utterly forbidden, something I didn't think about when we all got on top of the desks to take the Cr*ativ* Wr*t*ng "club" photo for the yearbook. Evidence! Then again, nobody said anything when an admin's assistant walked in on me photographing a student who was - deliberately, with my permission, but still - giving me the finger for the purpose of recreating a Johnny Cash moment. Great photo, though.)

    Dad's upcoming (but still unscheduled) open-heart surgery remains the 600 lb gorilla in my head space. I want to relax and enjoy making summer plans to be shifted as needed, but I'm kept awake by how impossibly deep and desperate my debts will be if things don't go well. Yes, I'm stressed by the possibility of losing someone I love plus the logistics of packing up, transporting, and living with Mom + cat in the event of the worse case scenario, but it's easier to sing NA NA NA NA in my head and focus on the one thing I can control... money... which I'm totally not doing, as every dollar I spend on something non-essential (or, let's face it, completely frivolous) feels like a rebellion against the possibilities.

    And God if defiant carpe diem injections haven't been churning my cogs of late... you should have checked me out with the overpriced, undermixed, sadly unsalted margarita at the Air Supply concert. WHOA.

    It feels good to admit that I'm selfish and shallow and thinking of possible bills while creating actual ones when I should be worrying about the comfort and happiness of others. Who needs Billy Idol when they can blog?

    07 June 2006 |

    Previously: Because I'm High


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    Because I'm High

    I'm not really high - I don't get high; did you know that? - but I am pumped full of Claritin (mistake - allergy formula and this seems to be a cold) and Tylenol (beautiful, luscious Tylenol, saving me from exposed root pain by the alpha wisdom tooth that I don't even want to talk about now) - and I still feel like snuffly, drippy, headachy, hot/cold/sandpaper crap.

    This is the last week of school; I'm supposed to be rolling in the sniffy goodwill of senior bye-byes and running Scantrons, but instead I'm propped up in a chair against the door, head back in 4000-year-old-Incan-mummy pose, and weakly waving at students as they walk down the halls and out of my life.

    I can't even remember what I was going to talk about here. Hm. I'm out of Wheat Thins.

    06 June 2006 |


     Heather in Allentown

    I hope you feel better!!!

    This is a crazy week - saying goodbye to some kids, breaking the news to parents that they should maybe hold off on ordering that graduation cake because their pride and joy blew off their final exams and failed a class or two. Good bye graduation party, helloooo summer school!

    Ugh. Double ugh.

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    A Lovely Garden in Your Very Own Sink

    Are you ever washing up, putting something away, and you get about five seconds past the incident and say, "whoa - did I just put my cable bill in the sock drawer?"

    An extreme example, perhaps. (I don't even wear socks.) But just a few minutes ago I was casually rinsing the bathroom sink, just sort of merrily brushing the back of my tongue as I am wont to not bother to do, and I'm giving the odd swift swish to a stubborn spat of toothpaste here or there, and I notice something a little green just under the drain.

    "A little green?" my back-burner brain says, as it pulls up a little on the seed sprout then flicks it down the drain.

    Seed sprout?

    At least I think that's what just happened. I wasn't really paying attention, what with trying to reduce my chances of goat breath. (A fight that takes some calculating, thanks to a certain pushy wisdom tooth.) When I saw Air Supply last week, the woman next to me, The World's Biggest Air Supply Fan (#2741 in a series), passionately lip synched every song, and every time she expelled puffs of air in tempo with (say) Even the Nights are Better in my direction, I had to actually turn away. Turn away and pretend to scratch my nose to cover it. I am trying not to be that person at the John Waite concert tonight. (Between this and courteously holding in my seat-stealing midriff fat by crossing the arms in such a way that I still look rocking and not hostile, concerts are hard work.) I can't even really complain about that woman, not after watching some live BOC on YouTube where the guy holding the camera sang along. (Imagine the rest from there.)

    Am I growing a wee garden in my bathroom sink? It's possible. Sometimes when a hammie's water bottle drips on a seed stash, a two-inch sprout can appear almost overnight. It's quite cute, really. The last time it happened, I let it stay there. It's just sprouts, right? Why should I buy them at the store for the hamsters when the hamsters can grow their own?

    The farmer marshmallows agreed, for a day or two later all the "good parts" had been nibbled off what had become a very respectable crop. The only reason I bulldozed is because ongoing warm+moist might lead to fungus, and we don't want that.

    I wash all hamster toys in the bathroom sink after, at least I thought, pretty much carefully shaking out any seeds or little poops or what have you. I suppose I was a careless at some point. But what bugs me is... what's holding the seed in place? Shouldn't it be washing down with everything else? Or is it down? Down down?

    Perhaps it's just stuck in some odd trillion-to-one place. Perhaps no seed has sprouted - perhaps that bit of green was something else. Or perhaps there is a small, hopeful sprout growing up through my bathroom sink, and here I am with the unfortunate sort of drain where you can't pull the top off, only raise it a little, and neither of us can win.

    My lease forbids Drano, and I'm too lazy to go buy baking soda or vinegar or whatever the bonnie household types recommend unless actual branches appear. Also, I want to see what happens. It's just a seed! It's not a blooming cockroach dropping or a wedge of homegrown ergot. Or maybe it's a bit of plastic scenery from the fish tanks. Hm. Could be.

    Either way, the quiet dryer signals that my bra is now as dry as my tongue, so off I go for a little crooning.

    03 June 2006 |



    The ONLY music I can remember listening to while I was growin up was Air Supply. And I actually dig their music.

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    Hamster Update: Enterprise Edition

    Such a dearth of public peeping. Let's amend.

    Henry - small, balding, but still the patriarch. Likes it when I visit his children who live away then let him smell the hand. It's like a many-forwarded email. Henry gets underrated, but he's really the source of the good-natured kindness in many of his children (Bode, Helix, Milkdrop, Almond...).

    Almond - still heavy. Gets into the hand, and the hand hits bedding. As a chef, he made up the coolest thing the other day. I'd gone to see Air Supply and had to have an ice cream soda afterward. I don't what kind of crazy ice cream soda has seltzer water (ok), milk (ok), chocolate ice cream (ok), and then root beer to top it off (what?). Not that there's anything wrong with a root beer float, but.

    The ice cream was just a scoop, not blended, so the liquid portion was consumed quickly. I brought home the ice cream portion and, at Almond's wise suggestion, poured Squirt over it. Delicious! Grapefruit soda with essence of chocolate ice cream (since it was still a scoop at the bottom of the cup) - what shall we call it? How about a "Russell Cream"? Or a "Russell Soda." (If you know anything about Air Supply, you get that.)

    Toss - No one ever hears much about Toss, even though this photo is one of the most popular in the Flickr Hamily Album. Toss runs. Sometimes he runs away ("no seeds? bye!"), and sometimes he runs into things (mostly his dad), but mostly he runs in the wheel. I wish I knew him better, but it's hard maintaining the title of best runner, especially at his age, with Patricia and Holly so young and keen. Kudos to you, Toss.

    Feta - isn't drinking from the ducky bottle. He says it's a souvenir bottle and just for show. Meanwhile, I raised his log out of the hidden seed cave-in, and now I can watch him putter away in there like it's his toolshed of millet hammers and sunflower wrenches.

    Sparrow (Dart) - I have accepted that Sparra is going to bite me every day for the rest of my life. "Pick me up!" (nip) "Hold me!" (nip) "Pet my ears!" (nip) She's demanding and bites to say hello or ask after your day or let you know she's out of Milkbones or to be picked up or to be put down or to have her back scratched, but she's still our Dart.

    Elizabeth Joy - EJoy has been getting into the hand more and more lately. She's supposed to be the shy one (except when worrying Sparrow, or before her, Maudine, or before her, Janet), but lately she can't get enough seeds (hoover, hoover, hoover) or enough proximity to the hand. I'm not saying she always wants in the hand, but she likes the hand near. When it's gone, she looks for it. When it's there, she stands near it. When she decides to get in it, she likes to go places.

    Sparrow and Elizabeth Joy still sleep in an inseparable cuddle during all non-waking moments.

    Milkdrop - is funny. Also rather mauled, but mostly recovered. Coal doesn't live there anymore.

    Coal - has been living single for about a month now. She's still a little coal lump, wheezing hard when she gets over-excited. She runs hard in the Crittertrail X wheel that I rigged up to not do laps around the track; hammies seem to prefer this. Then she takes flying leaps from the top of the slide. I know she's a little lonely, but she shouldn't have bitten her sister like that.

    Bode - hasn't let on whether she misses Coal. She has let me know that she loooooves soft pretzels. Twists and jumps for them. She and Milkdrop are in the living room these days, and I like to lie on the sofa and watch Bode sprint out of the nest now and again to eat, drink, or pee, then run right back into their layers of toilet paper luxury.

    Owl - is also on his own, for being a bully. Does he like it? Yes, I think he's more relaxed. He needs more playtime, but we're on opposite schedules. He's still the softest.

    Helix - is adopting Hammond as his near-brother. He runs. He eats. He still loves to jump into the hand and be smooched and petted. I wish we had a small pile of macHelices meeping around.

    Hammond - has rediscovered the sand bath. Being with Helix makes him feel young. With Owl's dominating presence gone, Hammond is back in the wheel and spending less time pouching the seed dish. I even think he's drinking less. He's also looking a bit opal-y, just as Helix is looking kind of normal-y. I know people sometimes look like their pets - do pets ever look like their fellow pets?

    Janet - is still Super Janet, getting things done. For someone who supposedly has problems walking, she sure seems to move a lot of bedding, furniture, and tubes - every day. Plus climbs to the loft. Janet, a warm albeit strict hamster, is like one of those people in a wheelchair who passes you when you're climbing a mountain.

    Peter - our Peter has not taken the taxi much of late, being so enamored of sleeping in tubes and not going up the slide at all. He's getting shaggier and is still big, but these days he always has his curious face on, and you can bother him when he's eating, which is a big step. In fact, he's often more interested in an arm scurry than stuffing his cheeks. The second wheel with the expansion pack of tunnels and little house were just the ticket for making Peter feel like he could settle in and stop worrying about being adopted.

    Holly - is finally socialized. He was never mean; he just didn't interact much or come out for seeds. He seemed to shrug often and worry seldom. Now he looks for me, and meals are a nice time for us to bond. He's still crazy about lying on his back and grooming, though. That's his thing - the indelicate sprawl.

    Patricia - is so excited about El Dia de los Hammies 2006. It falls late this year, in order to avoid competition with Memorial Day and other calendar events. Patricia likes to sleep in her double purple roundabouts and listen for footsteps. She's like that butler in Mr. Deeds. In fact, I'm sure she's in that movie. Next time, look carefully during the "Major Tom" sequence. With the acquisition of Starry Night Pro and the coming break, Patricia is hoping that there will be a robust summer program for the junior hamsternauts. She knows the old space stations are still out of orbit, but something like junior hamsternauts could really mold a still-young zipping machine like herself.

    That, or having Helix's gummies. Alas, I'm not insane (in the right ways) to brook that thought for too long. (Ah, but to have friendly, fast, mottled opals! And all but H&P are getting old... No. No, no...)

    P. S. The fish seem fine. Ursula still makes a great, un-ladylike, bubble-nest. Mr Jonathan still upsets me by sleeping a little too hard a little too near the surface.

    01 June 2006 |



    Hey Shari!!
    Toss is so cute. Why does he run away though??? i only have one hamster. i also have a friend called shari, thats why i came to this site. Anyone called Shari has to be cool.


    Haha - thanks. Toss doesn't so much run away as run to - as in always running to the wheel unless he has a compelling reason to stay. (Sadly, being rubbed with my thumb is less exciting than galloping across whatever imaginary prairie or steppes he visualizes as he speeds along...)

    Yes, all Sharis are cool, but mostly because we choose the coolest people (and hamsters) to be our friends. ;)


    Hey! Wow I never met anyone else called Shari before! Cool site. Theres some Unusual intersting stuff here. Well good talking.
    By the way im lauras friend shari!And you are so right. we choose the best people to be our friends and thats why i'm friends with laura! shes great! she told me about the site.
    Well i'm off
    catch ya later

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    Starry Flip-Flops: Spica

    Just in time for summer, I've borrowed someone's copy of Starry Night Pro and dug out the free binoculars that came with some casino trip.

    I miss my Redshift 3 College Edition... I mean, it's right here, but it was always so cantankerous. Then again, I was used to it. It took several arguments with SNP to keep it from going into spacecraft mode and flying around the universe.

    There's a strip mall across the street with nothing in it but a brightly lit sign letting all midnight traffic on this lonesome road know that space is for lease. Grrr. Light pollution. Gr.

    I tried looking for satellites without luck. (Stupid mall sign - not only did the building obscure my mountain view but...) So, I found Jupiter (those bright planets are always comforting) then navigated to the blue baby on the right. Spica!

    I haven't forgotten everything I learned in Texas, but it was a lower latitude and I was always looking east, away from the trees and houses in other directions. Now I'm looking west, so all the constellations are flip-flopped. Just imagine when I get to Australia...

    Spica is an important star to know because it's so bright. (Really, it could get into any college. Hyuk hyuk.) Okay, not top 10 bright, but really close. Say, 14th brightest. Maybe 16th.

    Is it the star Hipparchus used to note equinox precession? Maybe. (Am I just going to restate everything I read in Wikipedia? Perhaps.) Do you know what equinox precession is? Most people don't realize that the sun only rises in true east (or sets in true west) twice a year - the rest of the time it's wobbling all over. Oops, wait, wrong data point. Okay, most people don't know that the North Star we have today is not the one we've always had. Sometimes we don't even have a star that comes so close to being true north. Good ole Polaris. Yes, the Earth wobbles like a top, so North Stars change. We're just a very wobbly planet.

    The name "Spica" comes from words meaning "Virgo's ear of grain." (If you're the rare sort of person who can visualize the constellations as the images for which they're named, think of it as a bit of wheat/corn being held in the maiden's hand.)

    Spica is a binary star. Actually, it's probably about four stars. Maybe three. It's also a variable star, which means the amount of light we see coming from it tends to wobble. Do you notice a trend?

    Back in the day, which is to say the medieval period, Spica was considered one of the top magic stars. If you know your Agrippa, this shouldn't be news to you. I don't know my Agrippa at all, but I'd swear there is a line in a movie that goes like that. Anyway, if you want to make a talisman to hold the star's powerful hoohah, be sure to use emeralds and sage in your ritual.

    Spica is a Class B star, making it very blue and pretty and luminous. (The B does not stand for Blue. You don't want to know what the B stands for. It has to do with a sort of outdated system related to classifying hydrogen lines. Do you want to see my H-R diagram again? )

    70 Virginis is Spica's notable neighbour. (Spica is 67 Virginis.) 70 V has a planet. Back in the day, this time meaning ten years ago, there were only nine planets. Remember that? Nine planets. Now we've got all these weird gravity fluctuations we call planets, and our own Pluto is on the outs.

    Spica is also near, so to speak, the Sombrero Galaxy. I ask you - who does not love the Sombrero Galaxy?

    Spica is 262 light years away. You are never going to get to go there. It's not the kind of star that lives long anyway. Maybe it is already dead.

    31 May 2006 |


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    Here I Am, the One that You Love

    So, this is me last night just before leaving to see Air Supply at the Orleans.

    It was a landmark event because I'm pretty sure I haven't worn a sleeveless shirt (without something over it) since puberty. But, I liked the color. Pink! (Or "ashes of roses" if you're a Thornbirds survivor.)

    At Angles

    The concert was good. Graham Russell jumps around more a lot when he isn't speaking mystically of rivers and eternity, and Russell Hitchcock's voice is forceful and clear. And the fans are loony - all holding up cell phones or full SLR rigs and one by one by six by seven running up to G or R to have friends take photos while the guys are playing/singing and moving up the aisles. Both men took flight more than once, with R. actually escaping down a row to get away from a throng of Asians, all with cameras and intentions, lest the song end before he could get back to the stage.

    Not to mention the shoving that takes place during the mandatory "all rise and crowd the stage, yes, even you in the back" part of the sermon. I didn't raise my hand to have it touched, which I think is how I was lucky enough to have Russell's red leather pants pressed to my face for several seconds. That's what I get for being a little oasis where he could stand without having someone yank down his  zipper, which I totally could have done, instead of trying to step back a bit to keep said zipper from doing a Silly Putty press on my forehead. (He's not a tall man.)

    But it's a good, high energy show. I didn't hang around for the rumored meet and greet. There were too many people there who fly in every year just to see Air Supply play Vegas, and standing in line with the same people who chased G & R while they were singing would've affected my personal sense of aloof equality. (Which, I realize, no one else is measuring.)

    One of the reasons I took a picture of myself was because Mike just did the same on Flickr. Here he is:


    In other Flickr news, I finally uploaded some photos from last month. For example, I'm all into the pysanky now...


    Alas, that's someone else's. As are these critters:

    Close Critters

    The food festival was full of nice things that I don't want to eat.

    Radish Details

    Although these guys brew quite the refreshing sangria:


    The day before, I saw a rainbow:

    Rainbow Limit

    That was when I was leaving Red Rock Canyon.

    My Las Vegas

    And on that trip, I finally saw the ancient petroglyphs and pictograms.



    Before that, I was driving around in the imminent rain, capturing bits of Vegas history before they get torn down. There are many better photos of the 50s (or earlier) era motels on Fremont Street with their Googlie neon signs, especially the night shots and close-ups, but I like that I, not having a wheel man and not wanting to walk around the area, took these photos "in context." So maybe the sky was unnaturally gloomy that day, but all the power lines, locked fences, and other decay show why sometimes there isn't more outcry when these places go.

    Black Jack Motel

    You've met Holly before, of course. Good lad.

    This Strange Empty Dish

    And somewhere in all this, I finally located and assembled the right California Closets unit in the right shade, a piece that is just perfect for craft storage. (A few weeks later, CC announced they were opening a store down the street. Argh!)

    Craft Storage

    And crafts are how I'm going to spend this lazy Memorial Day, wth just an hour before Mike gets home and we can talk about Lost. May I actually glue something to something else instead of just moving my beads and fibres and rub-ons around in an admiring way.

    29 May 2006 |

    Previously: I get a prize!



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    I get a prize!

    I forgot to spellcheck it, but I finished the damn paper. Four blissful weeks until we go through this all over again.

    Just came home from GVR where I picked up my complimentary "fondue set." It's powered, I think, by a tea candle. (This is sort of it. Apparently no one is ashamed of votive energy.) Luckily, two tea candles came with the short-lived "tranquility fountain" from a few weeks ago.

    Afterwards I hit Whole Foods across the street and was very, very good and put back several items before leaving, like cheese tortellini with Alfredo and microwaveable veggie won-tons. One not-bad-considering grocery bill later, I'm the proud owner of "seeduction" bread, French batard, jalapeno smoked cheddar cornbread, Garlic naan, smoked gouda, lee-something cheese (Leedhammer?), some sort of recommended cheese that started with an F (not fontina, but I was tempted), portobello burgers, a bottle of cold white tea (everywhere now!), lettuce, tomatoes, smoky tempeh (aka "fakin' bacon"), five ears of corn that I think I just might try grilling poolside along with all the men in their Bermudas accessorized with weekend toddlers...

    ... and twenty-two cents worth of goat's milk zum bar in something green and citrusy and ninety-nine cents worth of beautiful crescent loaf soap in sweetgrass and sage, both of which you chop off the block yourself in the desired quantity, something Barry told me to do a long time ago. ($1.20/oz and .75/oz, respectively.)

    So, now I'm happy. Consumerism! But not as happy as I'll be if get a GPS unit for a fun-filled summer of geocaching, which is what I told myself I could buy if I finished the (damn) paper. But now the paper is done and I'm pleased with seeds and cheese and soap I can squeeze and I wonder if I ought to make that the carrot for the next paper. But can I trust myself if I don't come through now? What if after I do the next paper I try to buy myself off with a pint of carob mint chip rice cream and two ounces of mango suds instead? How will I ever trust myself again? And if I lose that trust, will I even want to take myself geocaching? What about going to the Shakespeare festival? I can see the dust forming around the last four digits of my Visa number now.

    Update: Leerdammer and Parrano. Those are the cheeses; the latter is my new favourite cheese and is currently being showcased in the living room in a toasted tempeh/lettuce/tomato sandwich. Yum.

    28 May 2006 |


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    All Done but the Conclusion

    I'm talking about my Conrad paper, but is it not just the kind of philosophy one expects to see on certain life-affirming posters? "All done but the conclusion." Like, if one were a geeky paper-writing lit type who fashioned a pathetic-pithy-o-mat out of paper plates, that's what you'd spin and get: "All done but the conclusion."

    We all know it's not "all done but." Whenever Mike's writing a story and he says that I just hide. I know. It's never "all done but the four-sentence conclusion" unless "conclusion" is assigned a new value of "forty rewrites plus four sentences that probably would sound better elsewhere and, oops, make that forty-one rewrites."

    I'm watching Only You and being amused by the camphone photos Mike is messaging me from the film shoot. ("What film shoot?! How exciting!!" No. No-no. It's a student film and Mike is doing lights and sound and KFC fetching and it's for some class he regrets taking and the only good thing is that the house where they are filming is owned by fundamentalist Christians with scary mottos painted across their daughter's bedroom wall, and there is a nice dog named Muffin who likes to play fetch.)

    So, I'm finished enough for now. Pass the 5/$1 grilled corn.

    My friend Jay makes a good point about seat belt laws in a recent post, although I will always hold to the Darwinist belief that you can skip the seat belt if you're also willing to forego any financial assistance or priority seating in the operating room (I know, it never works like that), but much more importantly he has a scan of a photo I took with my sad but well-used little Disc camera a very long time ago. Or he has a scan of a photo his dad took with his camera. I don't remember. Pick the one you like the best.

    Actually, even more importantly, the photo shows our nasty car accident from 1988, which Jay discusses as a cautionary tale to those of you who unbuckle for any reason. True, he completely ruins the Twilight Zone nature of the story by implying that he told me to buckle up before we left the gas station (as opposed to my version, where he strangely asked out of the blue if I was buckled up), and he omitted the part where I was supposed to be riding in the (soon to be non-existent) backseat while his friend (who didn't come after all) rode shotgun, but that's why he's a person who tells interesting, to-the-point stories of general interest and I'm a person who picks apart other people's work with boorish commentary that matters only to me. (Which is also why I'm an English teacher. Which is why karma is making me write that paper on stupid Joseph bloody Conrad.)

    Marisa Tomei has just met Robert Downey, Jr. He's touching her feet. Me, I'm sticking stickers all over my feet. They're my stickers - for forty cents, I can stick them wherever I want. I can stick them all over my paper, if I want to. Never mind that it's getting emailed. Stick-stick-stick. All done but the conclusion.

    27 May 2006 |

    Previously: I want things.


    Jay Lee

    Actually, I had forgotten those details. I knew there was something where I had spoken to you about the seatbelt and my memory was that you were getting something from the back seat. Now that you mention it, your version seems to be more correct.

    Had I a better recollection of events I would have included the details as you stated them.

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    I want things.

    I want to eat Cold Stone. I want to pay the rent. I want to look at old Toonces skits from Saturday Night Live on YouTube. I want a slice of pizza the height of my thumb from Red Rock Station. I want to go to the movies. I want to nibble Milkdrop's feet. I want to write postcards. I want to play with my first "pizza box" from Club Scrap (Jr.). I want to upload Food Festival photos to Flickr. I want to clean out the car. I want to have another bath. I want to pep talk myself about all the grading I simply left on my desk. I want to stare at my laptop's power adaptor until it no longer needs to be strategically draped across the sofa to work. I want to fret over getting the new laptop battery - which works for about 30 minutes then takes three hours to "recharge" - replaced. I want to wipe that smudge off the kitchen countertop. I want to talk to the fish. I want to write letters to all of my graduating seniors. I want to bake cupcakes for some of my classes. I want to keep poking my brain to see if it's still sad over some student stealing my plush Eeyore (and supposedly holding it for ransom in return for an easy final, although no further notes have come). I want to rearrange some stuff in the closet. I want to watch the season finale of Lost. I want to go get my mail. I want some more of that banana split pie we had at Marie Callendar's for lunch. I want to know why it's a limited time item. I want to plan all of my lessons for next year. I want to plan a visit to the Pioneer Lodge. I want to plan to write my second paper for CSU.

    I want to finish my first paper for CSU. The one I've had a month to do. The one that's due in two hours but can be turned in until Sunday without penalty. The one that currently needs about three to five more paragraphs and some quotes from scholarly sources wedged in after I finish saying what I want to say.

    Which, of course, is utter crap. I have now written more papers and pieces on Joseph Conrad's work than on any other author, and - as much as I respect him - he's definitely in the high triple-digits on my "top 500 authors I wish to discuss" list. Why must you keep following me, Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski?! I do not love you. Go. Leave me.

    I'm going to go finish this damn thing now. I am. I really am. I AM. After these cookies. Then I'm just going to knock it out. Bam-bam-bam. There it will be. It doesn't have to be brilliant. And now my car brakes definitely can't be ignored any longer. Stupid squeaking. Not that it matters. Because I am finishing this. I am focusing, and I am finishing. The point is to be finished. Once it's finished, it can be proofed and tweaked. Finishing is what is important. If I finish, I can go get my free fondue set from Green Valley Ranch tomorrow. If I finish, I can enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend. If I finish, I can go see Air Supply without a care in the world. Except for those brakes. And Dad's still-unscheduled surgery. Think about finishing. FINISHING. Just finish it! Okay, I still have to reread the story for the first time in five years and check a few short articles for quotes, but it could still all be done tonight. Tonight! In two hours! Plus time for cookies!

    Mustfinishmustfinishmustfinish. Why didn't I write on Joyce instead? Conrad was disciplined. Joyce would have understood about the cookies. If I finish, I can read Joyce while eating cookies. Not that I want to read Joyce. I almost never want to read Joyce. I don't even want a lit masters anymore. I don't even want a bunny named Marlowe anymore. I just want money. I do want to eat cookies. And I want more cookie money. And all I have to do is finish this itty bitty paper. TEENSIE. Five pages, double-spaced. That's nothing. That's this blog entry. That's why it's only a two-credit (but mandatory) course. Except he wants it single-spaced, so two and a half pages. Which looks like crap. My title is all bunched in there. But, then, my title is crap. The whole thing is crap. I quote Stephen King in there, for godsakes! Why can't I write a normal paper like a normal person? Why didn't I get some of that pie to go?

    I'm finishing the paper now. Now. Yes, now. Finishing-finishing-finishing. Finishing. Going now. To finish. It will all be done soon, because I'm clicking "SAVE" and going to finish my paper. Right. Look at me go.

    27 May 2006 |


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    In Praise of the Loaf-o-Matic

    There was once this summer when I was a vegan. I'm trying to remember if that was the same summer I tried to become an alcoholic. (Thinking...) No, I'm pretty sure that was the next summer. (Note: either way, I picked the wrong summer, the summer that Zima came out. The dog days of "flat Sprite" frustration, I tell you.)

    And that vegan summer, which may or may not have been marked by undrunken BBS chatting, I got some second- and third- degree sunburns on my thighs because I was trying to burn off a feast of mosquito- and flea-bite scars on my feet. (This has nothing to do with veganism; I'm just taking a moment. I haven't even gotten to the part where I made "pagan rosaries" by purchasing a different bead a day that perfectly reflected the events of the past 24 hours.)

    That was also the famous summer when I worked out twice or more per day and hit the library for a fresh mixed stack every week, so any ditz-lapses were, I'm sure, just for balance. (Cough.)

    Rightsoanyway, I was thinking of having another vegan summer, the well-adjusted, mature version with extra geocaching/Utah Shakespeare festival/new version of Pirates at Disneyland sauce. I wasn't, admittedly, thinking very hard about this until I saw the cutest little spot on the web called Vegan Lunch Box. I really went just to look at the lunch box (next school year I'm going to bring clever lunches to work, I swear - no more nibbling from the economy-size Ritz cracker stash), but the sheer inventiveness and, again, cuteness has me sticking around.

    One of today's posts was the Magic Loaf Sandwich which, sorry, brings back every bad memory of veganism, and I only have two of those. (The other one involves the search for a soy cheese that would melt.) Still, Jennifer Schmoo's Magical Loaf Studio is heapo fun. Go on, play with it! I conjured something I like to call "Beauty Loaf," a quality blend of black beans, oatmeal, almonds, and cumin.


    Okay, it sounds positively disgusting, but I'm almost curious enough to try it. Almost. Maybe. No. Maybe... as an exfoliant anyway.

    But reading the VLB blog (which really is intriguing, despite the loaf post) reminded me of a cookbook I'd briefly enjoyed then long forgotten: The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. IIRC, the "smoky provolone" was the big repeatable.

    This should go perfectly with another great cookbook I'd pushed out of mind until looking at an old Wayback version of this site - The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. The veggie "ribs" were a-maz-ing. (One of these days I'm going to look at all my Birkenstocks and B'stock-knockoffs and realize there's a reason the kids keep asking me if I'm a hippie.)

    And finally, if you don't want to spin your own meatlessloaf recipe, are these not the coolest Egyptostyle clay boxes? It's like I said when I got my henna tattoo: "I don't know what it is, but I'm pretty sure it opens the Stargate."

    Fresh Henna
    (freshly applied, still drying)

    19 May 2006 |


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    Robot? No! Robotoid! Fact? Yes! Factoid!

    I remember the autumn of aught-four, for that was the time that I learned that a factoid is not, would you believe, a quick snippet of a fact, a wee stat thrown out as an aside, a blurb of truthyness.

    No, a factoid is, in fact, "a piece of unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of frequent repetition." American Heritage dictionary notes the usage problem that tempts us to treat factoid like it represents a cute little baby fact, not the worst of marketing lies.

    Merriam-Webster just offers up the two contradicting definitions without explanation. For shame.

    (And while I did briefly mention the problem here last summer, somehow I've not corrected my own error from 1997.)

    Although it's etymologically inconsistent, I like using "factoid" as if it means "factette" and not "fake fact." The -oid does make it cute. (Why else would the Robinsons have such trouble with Robby the Robot(OID!)? If you get that reference, you are way cool. Meanwhile, did you know that Lost in Space eps are now two-bucks-each in the iTunes store? Bah, I'd still rather have the DVDs.) Besides, the word is only as old as 1973, and Norman Mailer can be overrated, anyway.

    But you should be aware that people may be secretly looking down their noses at you if you use  "factoid" in the up-and-coming way. Just like I did at lunch, when I opened a spec copy of our possible new driver ed textbook and found the sidebars littered with interesting "FACTOID"s. Whoa. I don't mind incorrect usage coming out of my mouth under the "language evolves!" defense, but in a school textbook? No, not ready for that. Even the Wikipedia article isn't ready; it points a blaming finger at CNN for popularizing misuse without any characteristically neutral "this may be a losing fight" softening on the issue.

    Just a little something to think about if you needed that.

    In other news, the incredibly polite service guy got the remains of the spoon out of the disposal in about 90 seconds. No need for shame on my part - he's apparently pulled out worse, specifically, needles. Jeez. This is supposed to be a ritzy complex; no one should be shooting up unless they are within two degrees of Keith Richards.

    (And why wouldn't the disposal eat a needle the way it ate most of my spoon? And poor guy, reaching in and finding a NEEDLE? He should wear gloves. Good grief.)

    I'll tell myself that it happened once to a friend of a friend of the service guy, who was just lying to make conversation. There's a woman at a unit around the corner who sits on the stoop in the evenings in a bunny-pink tracksuit and chain-smokes, and I thought she was the one bringing down the joint. Here I've been making the effort to put on a bra before taking out the trash, and people are putting needles down the drain. I am so no longer wearing shoes when walking to the mailbox.

    Meanwhile, it is hot. HOT. Mid-may and already hitting the 100s. I don't remember it being this hot last year. The average high for May should be 88. The AC is struggling. It was 95 at midnight last night, I swear. It's 88 now, at 11 p.m. HOT. No rain in sight. I want our darn quarter-inch average of rainfall for the month, darnit. Double-darnit. Gahhhh.

    18 May 2006 |

    Previously: It's the Google Map


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