Saturday, December 31, 2005

Puzzle Pimping

Let me take a break from my regularly scheduled blog to tell you all about the thing that's been sucking my time and life away like water for the last couple weeks.

Back in college, I (and nearly every one of my friends) got totally addicted to a puzzle game for the Mac called "The Fool's Errand." It was back in the days of black and white Macs--we were all sportin' SE's or Classics then, running system 6.5--and the game was a series of over 100 puzzles, connected by a plot based on the traditional Rider-Waite tarot deck. The game was authored by Cliff Johnson, and featured crisp silhouette art and a nice level of challenge. In those days of liberal software piracy, we all had a copy, and all worked feverishly on Fool's Errand when we should have been writing papers and studying. It was glorious. Right before we graduated, he came out with "3 in Three," a similar game but mind-blowingly difficult. I'm not sure any of us solved it before graduation.

Fast forward to a month or so ago, when my friend Alex in Chicago casually mentioned that Cliff Johnson is coming out with another puzzle game! Not only that, but there are freeware versions of the two games I played in college, plus another one I'd never seen called "At the Carnival," downloadable on his website. And they'll work on OS 9! Verily I rushed to download them. Fool is still entertaining, 3 is still painfully hard, and Carnival has kept me up til 1 am on multiple nights this week when I should have been doing other things. It's just like college all over again.

So here's the pimp. If you like puzzles, go to Cliff Johnson's Website, and download any or all of these games. They will play on both Windows and Mac machines, with a little work (the later two require 256 colors rather than our current default setting of "buttloads," so you have to do a little workaround. For Windows you need a special extension installed; both of these are also available on the Fool's site.) If you love them, and want to thank Cliff for all those late nights of time-sucking brain-pounding agony, (and have $50 to spare) you should pre-order his new game, "A Fool and His Money." The game won't be out for months and months... but you did just get three fabulous games and hours of entertainment for free.*

* the hint books are also available on the site for free. Not that you'll need them.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The War on Hanukkah

Let me tell you, I've had about enough of this nation's War on Hanukkah.

It seems like I can't walk down a street this year without seeing evergreens and reindeer, hearing carolers grinding out that damn song about the drummer boy, and being wished a generic Happy Holiday by the clerk at Wal-Mart. What gives? Is it too much to expect the great window displays of Judaica from days gone by? The animatronic children in Marshall Fields' windows playing dreidel on the carpet in front of the fire, surrounded by piles of chocolate gelt and stacks of steaming latkes? What happened to Macy's traditional celebration--where all Jewish kids look forward to wending their way through a mock-up of the hills near Jerusalem before finally crawling into the lap of a costumed Judah Maccabee to whisper him their deepest Hanukkah wishes? What's wrong with America?

The holiday flash is what first attracted me to Judaism--as a convert in the making, I enthusiastically anticipated doing my Hanukkah shopping this year. I looked under "Judaica" in the yellow pages of my large midwestern city, and found.... nothing. Under "Religious Articles" I found 8 Christian bookstores, and one Religious Objects merchant. They do carry menorahs, so I called to ask them what their hours were tomorrow. "Sorry, we're closed on Christmas," they said.

I told a friend I'd buy my wrapping paper from her kid's school this year--but every roll in the huge catalog had holly and/or santas on it. I bought a bag of assorted bows, but it contained 6 red, 6 green, 6 gold...and 2 blue, suitable for the chosen colors of the holiday. I went out to rent a holiday video, to see something affirmative about the Hanukkah message of Jewish strength in adversity. The clerk at Blockbuster seemed a little puzzled by my request. "We've got 'Yentl'," he offered.

This war is insidious. You'd almost think people had forgotten what this season is all about. I wished a stranger a Happy Hanukkah, and he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. Even the president has generified his cards to acknowledge the existence of other faiths this season. Come on, George, stand up for Hanukkah, and give us a big SHALOM for the holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Voice of the People

OK, so it appears that the function that would let me just link you to my survey results on the Monkey is a "Pro Subscribers Only" feature. That's not gonna happen; so I will publish here the highlights reel for your enjoyment.

First off, the vast majority of you know me. 2 people googled my real name, which reminds me I need to change the name on my Flickr account. 1 found me via snarky comments, and several came via other friends' sites or clues. The vast majority are nerds (15) with blondes a distant second (7.) 10 are from East, 7 from Indiana, and a scattering elsewhere--I've no idea who you southerners are, btw, nor the furriners except Alex.

I am dismayed to find that nearly all of you want more stories of my personal injuries and embarassments. I fell down the stairs the other day--happy now?? Seriously, any time I do something dumb or clumsy, my first thought is not "where is the nearest hospital?" but "will I be able to type?" You guys are my first priority.

The major trend in the final question was that I should keep the blog funny, with occasional forays into politics and quiz memes. (The president's an idiot, and if I were a lunchmeat I'd be corned beef. That should hold you for a while.) And the dead people question richly rewarded me for any time I've ever made anyone else laugh with this thing; you guys are hilarious. Sick, mind you, but hilarious. Here are everyone's answers to question #5:
1. Dorothy Parker, although I supposed that'd be more drinking than eating. I don't think about this question much, and I suspect I'd want to research eating habits as well as personality, before I made a real choice.
2. Thomas Jefferson, a variety of boring reasons
3. Jimmy Stewart--he's sweet, handsome (well, when he was younger), and entertaining. I bet he would have some amazing stories.
4. Julia Child because she could really cook!
5. Eleanor Roosevelt. We'd bond.
6. I find fictional characters more companionable, so I claim Bertie Wooster, because a) I'd be waited on by Jeeves, and b) Bertie really is quite gallant and charming as long as he stays away from aunts and soppy females.
7. Thomas Jefferson, because I'd ask him to make sure that there were parts of the declaration of independence and constitution that would have prevented G.W. Bush from going to war with Iraq.
8. Albert Einstein, he seems like he would have been both enlightening and entertaining.
9. Lord, I don't know.
10. I would ask Jimmy Hendrix what it was like to asphyxiate on your own vomit?
11. Snide answer: A Mummy. They're unlikely to smell. ... I'm sorry, did you think there was going to be a non-snide answer, too?!
12. I don't want to have dinner with dead famous people. and to comment on #4, I want more stories involving animals as long as they're not animals-in-peril stories. This is why I'm not going to see King Kong.
13. Yuck! What kind of sicko are you? I don't want to eat dinner with some corpse you dug up!
14. Ew... don't they smell kinda bad? :)
15. Marlene Dietrich, because I think she would taste good.
16. Several people to choose from, but because I'm feeling randy just now let's say Marlene Dietrich. I'd want to go to dinner with her in the hopes of a one night stand afterwards. (duh)
17. Warren Zevon, of course. Why? Because I think he'd be a more fun dinner date than H.P. Lovecraft, the only other serious contender.
18. dick cheney, because then he would be dead (does that make me a bad person?)
19. Katherine Hepburn because she's just so cool.
20. Dame Phyllis Frost (google it)
21. You said this would be a quick quiz.
22. Jesus. And I'd totally be buying, to pay him back for all those times I symbolically ate him

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Can't Talk. Grading.

Remember when I said I hadn't begged for the sweet release of death yet? Actually I still haven't, but I came close on Monday night when I was up until 2 grading freshman essays so that we could return them and clear the way for freshman exams. Now I'm grading those; easier than the essays, because it's clearer when the student has no fucking clue what they're talking about. The essays can be more obscure in that respect. (I did read the WORST ESSAY EVER around 11:30 pm on Monday; while I would hesitate to make fun of a student on my website, I will say that they tried to draw an artistic connection between the Venus of Willendorf and a Bon Jovi song.)

23 responses on Survey Monkey so far; it's been so entertaining that I think I may have to do a "survey of the month" from here on out! I'll post choice results later; suffice it to say that most of you know me personally, and nearly all of you are nerds. Oddly, no one reports as being "north of Indiana,"--Joe and Steve, are you dissing on my survey here? And for the person who was worried--"accidents involving animals" refers MY tendency to get bitten, stomped on, or otherwise pratfalled by my pets or the animals I care for at the zoo. The animals themselves always survive unscathed, it would seem. So no fear there! Catch you later, I'm back to grading exams.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Survey Says....

Weird though it seems, I want to ask a favor of you, my 3 or 4 loyal readers. I'm trying to get familiar with a web-based statistics program called SurveyMonkey, so I started a free account and made up a survey. To fully explore the capabilities of the program, I need some people to actually go take the survey. It's 6 questions, all of them kind of silly; it won't take you long, and you'll be helpin' me out bigtime. So go, take The Cautionary Survey! You'll earn my undying gratitude. And maybe valuable prizes! Or not.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I celebrated the arrival of cold weather by caulking around every window in the upstairs of my house this weekend. I discovered a couple of things while doing this. 1) Caulk isn't idiot-proof, and 2)..... well, 2 was even dumber than #1. Let's just say, if you happen to be moving into a new house with recently installed storm windows, and you suspect that the prior owner might have installed them himself despite a vast incompetance in other areas of home repair and modification, do NOT wait til you've shivered through 4 winters there to realize that he had the top sash on the bottom and vice versa. This results in a gap, invisible to the eye from the interior of the house, through which all the heat in your house will escape every time the temperature drops below 30. I always thought the draft around the windows was because they were badly fitted into the slightly skewed frame of my 80 year old house. They are, but that wasn't the only issue; and it never occurred to me that it mattered which sash was on top as long as they were closed. Yeah, like I said. Dumb.

The caulking wasn't so bad except that I think I cut too much off the end of the tube. I thought I wanted a bead about 3/8", and that resulted in a nice clean line of caulk behind the tip as I went--along with a mountainous glob of goo being propelled along in front of the tip, picking up paint chips and tiny, fleeing spiders as it rolled. I'm pretty sure that 96% of the caulk that was originally in the tube ended up gobbed on damp paper towels in my wastebasket, while 3% is protecting me from frozen doom. (1% ended up on the couch, the window, my clothes, and the cat.)

Semester's drawing to a close. All semesters should be like this--only one internship report to write, and 100+ art history papers and exams to grade. I haven't wished for the sweet release of death even once yet!

Monday, November 28, 2005

haiku in comments/a joy to behold on this/holiday weekend

I'd make a real post, but I'm busy this week reading Harry Potter and the Goblins of Fire in hopes that it will clarify the movie for me somewhat. Up til now, it's been pretty easy to grasp what's going on in the films without having first read the books (I've been playing catch-up since the first film) but this one had me stymied in spots. So while I read this phonebook of a novel, you all can read the best of the haiku left in my last comments field:

Thanks so much, Cathy
Happy Thanksgiving

Not having turkey--
Pad Thai and eggrolls instead.
Pass me the sake!

There is snow here too.
I don't expect it to last.
Sunday, it will melt.

From Andy, Whose Poem Made Me Laugh the Hardest
Not eating til three!?
How will I survive til then?
If only I'd known

From M, Who Fought the Good Fight
Ate too much turkey:
Fighting to stay vertical,
Pry eyelids open

Four-day weekend, four-
Day weekend, four-day weekend.
Oh! Four-day weekend.

The benefits of
My dinner is PIE!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Haiku

First snow of the year
the day before Thanksgiving?
The world is ending.

Frozen potatoes,
already mashed? Why not just
shoot me here and now?

Pumpkin pie, staple
of everyone's Thanksgiving
(I like cherry more)

Best china gleams on
tablecloth—one orange paw tugs
and all is laid waste

Cat took my pencil
Maybe HE should be writing
Thanksgiving haiku.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Things My New Cat Has Eaten in Recent Weeks Without My Permission

Oatmeal. Raisin Bran. Tomato Soup. Spaghetti (raw.) Milk. Lemonade. Apple cider. A rubber band. A potato. Solid beef fat from leftover pot roast. A tiny piece of paper. Brown rice with salmon furikake. Brown rice without salmon furikake. Pulled pork. Celery. Powdered sugar. Cherry preserves. Goat cheese. A crouton.

Things My New Cat Has Not Eaten:


Obviously, the only way to protect my food is to live on coffee. This cat is amazing, he's the most politely aggressive eater I've ever met. The reason I say polite is because he purrs like an 8 cylinder engine while gently pushing my hand out of the way so he can stick his head in my soup bowl. I put him on the floor, he jumps back up. I put him down, he gets back up. I take my bowl in hand to hold it out of his reach and he crawls into my lap, purring, and causes me to spill a half a can of tomato soup onto my jeans and the couch/futon beneath them. (A lesson against couch-dining, I know, but the dining room is untenable at the moment, and I was watching "Animal Cops: Detroit" at the time.) In further unfairness, not a drop of soup landed on him during that debacle. When I got back to the couch, pantless, with a wet towel, there he was happpily licking soup off the rug and purring to beat the band. I know this is because he was a stray for most of his young life and survived by eating anything and everything.... but his eclectic tastes in food are over the top. He went out of his way to drag a small boiled potato out of the trash, eat a few bites of it, and then leave it--not on the kitchen floor! oh no--but on the stairs. For me to step on in the morning. A few weeks ago he was on a cleaning-supplies kick; he found the cupboard in the downstairs bathroom where I keep that stuff, and every morning around 4 he'd bounce into my bed holding some random item, then sit there happily chewing on the package until I took it and put it out of reach. Once it was vacuum cleaner bags. Once it was Scotchbrite sponges. I can't imagine what he was trying to tell me by this--and at 4 in the morning, I'm not so open to criticisms of my housekeeping skills by someone who also happens to be a major supplier of cat hair to the cleanliness equation...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The Latin word lavo, lavare means "to wash." So lavaphobia, logically, would be the fear of washing. Washing oneself, washing the dishes, washing the smudges off the woodwork.... all terrifying. I can relate. But that's actually not the type of lavaphobia I'm thinking of today. I'm thinking more, fear of perishing in a wave of molten rock.

When I was about 6 or 7, I saw a PBS special about Pompeii, the Italian city that disappeared in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It would not be exaggerating to say that I was paralyzed with fear from watching this. The fact that the odds of being destroyed by a volcano in central Indiana are....well, below zero.... had no mollifying effect on my terror. I was particuarly moved to tears by the plaster cast of the dog writhing in agony; the sight of animals in peril upsets me more than just about anything I can think of. So I went to bed that night (and every night for about two months) petrified that some heretofore unknown midwestern volcano would snuff out everything I knew in an instant. Perfectly reasonable, in my mind.

I haven't had a nightmare about volcanoes in quite some time. But tomorrow, I'm headed up to Chicago for an alumni function at the Art Institute; my goal for the afternoon is to get to the Field Museum's current exhibit: Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption. I'm really looking forward to it; the lavaphobic kid is now a grownup with degrees in history and art history, and Pompeii is a unique snapshot of life at the height of the Roman Empire. And still, somewhere deep down, it's gonna creep me the hell out. I know it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Three for the Price of One

So the thing about being a bike commuter is, how do you dress for success? It was easy when I was working at the zoo; my fashionable Croc Hunter khakis were going to get dirty and sweaty by the end of the day anyhow. So it didn't matter if I arrived a little breathless and damp--no one noticed anyway, as my first action was to go out and sweep the walkways with a backpack blower, leading to early wrinkling and sweating. (And if it wasn't the blower, it was mowing the wedding garden. Oh, those were the days, cutting the verdant grass in perfectly ordered stripes! Mowing my own lawn is never so satisfying.) But now I'm interning at an art museum, and it's a whole different ball of wax. Thankfully I don't have to wear panty hose; but I do have to wear grown-up clothing, which for me is usually a collared shirt, nice pants, shoes that require occasional polishing, and sometimes a sweater. When it was still warm, I'd wear a t-shirt and carry my "good" shirt in in my backpack, and change clothes on arrival; kind of icky, having a soggy shirt sitting in my backpack during the rest of the day, but it's not like I have a locker in my cubicle. And as the weather gets colder and more clothes are required, the good clothes get all crunched up in the backpack, and I end up looking even doofier than usual even after I change. So how do hard core bike commuters do it? Seriously, do they take a suit to work in their gym bag? Do they have a whole wardrobe of clean business clothes in their cubicles? And what do they do with the sweaty stinky stuff? I had this quandary at school, too, because I was biking down to my TA gig every week before it got rainy, and I'd worry that I was grossing out the impressionable undergrads by either a) continuing to wear the soaked shirt, or b) changing in the bathroom, then having a stinky soaked shirt in my bag with my notebooks and junk. It's a puzzlement.

The trip to the Adirondacks was great! I was going to put my pics on Flickr, but then realized that since most of them contain people who might not necessarily want their pictures up on the internet, and decided against it. I suppose I could ask everyone if they care. At any rate, it was splendiferous, though cold and raining 80% of the time. Leaves were beautiful, house was cozy, and we spent our time (gasp!) playing games. Oh, and eating cheese. Everyone brought some food to share, and everyone's food included cheese--so we had about 10 different kinds of exotic cheeses, and they formed a major part of our diets for all three days. It took some time to recover.

Movie Prom was an event sponsored by a local film company called ANC, as a venue for showing 6 of their short films from the last year or two. They held it in the church where Rev. Jim Jones used to officiate, before he embarked on his one-way trip to nutsville, so it was hard to pass up the event! (It's not a church any more, of course. We weren't milling around the pews and picking up cyannide-laced hymnals or anything.) So we all got dressed up in formalwear, went out to dinner, and headed to prom! And let me tell you it was a vast improvement on my own prom. (This was a general sentiment, actually--does anyone have a good time at prom? No one I've ever talked to about it did. All five people in our gang who went to this had "my prom sucked" stories, if I recall correctly.) Of the 6 shorts, 3 were really good and funny, 2 were kind of dull, and 1 was incomprehensible. Not a bad record, really! We got our pictures taken under a balloon arch--very prommy!--and ate rice crispy treats in prom colors, and then..... A raffle for a part in their next film, won by ****drum roll**** YERS VERY TRULY! Yep, I get to be in a movie! Sometime. In the next year. Maybe. I hope. I'm genuinely excited, I never win stuff like that. So it was a great event, thumbs up to ANC!

Ok, so this wasn't the most insightful or witty post I've written, but it did take care of all my neglected topics from the previous post. My finger's healing fine, so all's right with the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Oops I Did It Again....

I'd actually had 3 posts on the burner for the last week or so; I had one about being a bike commuter, one about my trip to the Adirondacks, and one about Movie Prom. I think all three of them will come to light before too long; but in the meantime, they've all been pre-empted by the latest in a long line of personal injuries. This one involved carrots, a very nice chopping knife, and an unfortunate error of judgement. One moment I'm trying to cut a gi-normous carrot in half, the next I'm yelping for help from my dinner companions, who had been busy watching "Desperate Housewives" on DVD. (There are different kinds of desperation; for a brief moment, mine trumped the housewives'.) The good news is, I missed the tendon that runs along the side of my left index finger, and I didn't hit any nerves. The bad news is, the cut goes right down to the bone, and looks kind of horrible. It didn't hurt all that much last night after we got it bandaged up, but this evening I bumped it--gently--against the doorknob.... and you know the noise a dog makes when you step on its tail? I'm not sure I've ever heard a noise like that come out of my mouth before now, but it did then. Damn, it hurt! Hopefully this doesn't mean it's infected; I changed the bandage again after that and applied a lot of antibacterial ointment. I'll live; in the grand scheme of things, this is pretty minor compared to the Blender Incident. Come to think of it, that also involved my left hand being injured in a misjudgement by my right. I wonder if this is all some kind of plot on the part of my right hand.... A sinister plot! Well, an anti-sinister plot. A dextrous plot? Anyway, I'm going to keep a closer eye on my right hand from now on--never know when it might try to strangle me in my sleep. I saw a movie like that once, so it must happen. Right?

Monday, October 03, 2005

This Post Is Not About Serenity.

Yes, this post is not about the Firefly movie, despite it being much on my mind this weekend. I realize that not everyone is a total dork-faced geek like myself. So if you want to read my spoiler-filled comments on Serenity, you'll have to check my Nerd Blog instead. If you haven't seen it, and you're going to, you might want to hold off reading it.

Instead, I will tell you about something that happened on the way to see Serenity, which is not quite the same thing as writing a post about Serenity. Thanks to a miscommunication, after dinner at the always aptly named Cracker Barrel restaurant our gang found themselves with over an hour to kill before movie time. What do you do in a happenin' town like this when you have an hour to kill? You go to Meijer, apparently. So we wandered around Meijer, and naturally came to rest in the toy section fairly quickly. As you may know, I have an obsession with action figures. I also have an affinity for particular comic book heroes, to the point that I'll buy any action figure of them that I don't already have. (Green Arrow, and Nightcrawler, since you asked.) There was a new Nightcrawler figure in the Marvel Legends Series from Toy Biz in the action figure aisle: $6, and it was mine. As an added bonus feature, all the figures in this series come with a single piece of GALACTUS: DEVOURER OF WORLDS! Yes, if you buy all 7 figures in the Marvel Legends series, you can build your own GALACTUS: DEVOURER OF WORLDS! at no extra cost to you. However, since the other figures in the series are Dr. Strange, Bulleye, Grey Hulk, and a few other totally uncompelling characters, I had no impulse to buy them, and thus have only one seventh of GALACTUS in my posession. Guess which seventh? That's right, kids--I have here, in my home, GALACTUS' butt. No foolin'--it's basically his abs, hips, and skirt. And, to add further value, I would like to point out that it is made of some kind of horrific vinyl-like substance rather than hard plastic, and it smells awful. It hit me in the face as soon as I opened the package to release Nightcrawler. GALACTUS: REEKER OF WORLDS! HIS ASS SMELLS LIKE....ASS! Joy.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Homecoming is Where You Hang Your Hat.

So a week ago Friday, I went to my high school's Homecoming Carnival. I managed to convince Francie to meet me there; she was the class after mine, and doesn't have a horror of the place as so many grads do. I parked in the lot up by the gymnasium (being a rich kid school, we have a gymnasium building all to itself--and it's bigger now than it was when I was there. 3 gyms and what we used to call the Wrestling Room, because the wrestling mats were always down even in the off-season.) The carnival started at 4, and school gets out at 3, so there were plenty of kids milling around of all shapes and sizes. Hanging out under a tree in front of the upper gym doors, I had the odd sensation of having just walked onto the shooting set of an early season "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode. The faces, the dialogue.... Except that I didn't have the vague suspicion that most of these high schoolers were being played by actors nearly my own age. (Did anyone else have this problem with early Buffy? Not so much a problem, just an occasional "whoa!" moment when they'd zoom in on Willow's face and you'd see tiny little lines around her eyes and go "hey! she is SO not 15 years old!" It's the miracle of television. Alyson Hannigan's only 4 years younger than me. I'm not sure why I find this comforting, but I do. How did I live before the IMDB?)

Anyway, so it was a rush of high school endorphins all of a sudden, all these swirls of passing conversations about boys and driver's ed and whose house are we going to and where's your mom's car she's late omigod, and gangly guys shoving each other around, and girls commenting on each other's hair/makeup, and I was really happy when Francie showed up and I had someone to talk to. The Homecoming Carnival, formerly known as the Fall Carnival, formerly formerly known as the Halloween Carnival back in the day, is basically a series of booths set up by each class (it's a K-12 school, so 13 classes) and various clubs; all dumb carnival games, like fish pond and beanbag toss. The 5th Graders always used to run away with the most $$ for the Cake Walk, and in the Upper School it was the juniors with the big bounce room--though the cost of renting that thing offsets the eventual loot take. For some reason, they stopped having the carnival when I was in high school for a few years, and I really missed it even though it's mostly meant for the little kids.... So somehow, this year, when I got a card in the mail about homecoming I had a sudden and powerful urge to go and see if it was what I remembered from 1979. Sure enough, though I'm old enough now to perceive the cheesyness of the games, and the cheapitude of the little plastic prizes and candy, it was exactly what I expected. How many returns to high school can you say that about? We walked around for about 20 minutes, looked at the new gym, said hello to some faculty who remembered us, and then headed for Lilly Orchard to buy some carmel apples and cider. We didn't stay for the football game, despite the urgings of the lady behind the Orchard counter; we'd gotten what we came for, or at least I had.

Then, later in the week, I heard Bowling for Soup's "1985" on the radio for the first time, and it totally made me laugh. For those who haven't heard it, I quote here the chorus:
Bruce Springsteen, Madonna
Way before Nirvana there was
U2, and Blondie
And music still on MTV
Her two kids, in high school
They tell her that she's uncool
Cause she's still preoccupied
With 19....19....1985.

At least I'm not that bad yet. :]

Sunday, September 18, 2005

But Of Course!

I have slightly mixed feelings here--while I always knew I was the D'Artagnan type, I'm a little disturbed at how high I scored on Richelieu... I better watch the movie again.

You scored as D'Artagnan. You are D'Artagnan, the brash Gascon who embodies the high ideals of the Musketeer. You are sometime your own worst enemy, but your motives are pure and your character is unimpeachable. You are destined for great things and passionate (though often ill-fated) love.















Edmund Dantes


Which Dumas character are you?
created with

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Why I Love Karen

Karen is awesome. Last night, she and RatGirl and I went out for food; as she'd already had dinner, she waited til we were done and then ordered carrot cake with caramel sauce for dessert. She ended up with a leftover piece, about twice as high as it was wide, and requested a takeout box for it. She put the remaining cake on its side in the box, then scooped a big glob of the caramel sauce in next to it, in a sort of sticky puddle. Before closing the box, she said delightedly, "Look! It's like my cake fell over and threw up!" And it did, in fact, look just like that.

Karen is also the one who has made a small change purse out of an octopus beanie baby, and wore it on her belt at Gencon; when her husband asked her if she had her housekey with her, she took obvious pleasure in uttering the phrase, "Yes! It's in my squid!"

And to top off yesterday's lovely evening, on the walk back to the car we passed a cardboard sign, left by a homeless fellow who'd been sitting in that spot an hour before, which read "Why Lie? It's For Beer." If he'd still been there, we'd have so given him change.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ray of Sunshine

Unprecedented for me to post twice in 24 hours, I know. But, depressed though I am, I had a few rays of sunshine in my backlog of email this week! So for anyone who was wondering....

The ASPCA has been doing animal rescues in and around flooded areas all this week. Here's a quote from their Sept. 7 daily report:
Working on a grid system, the five teams of three rescuers each waded through waist-high, fetid water, pulling boats loaded with equipment and supplies, successfully avoiding injury on fallen tree limbs and downed power lines. This hot, sticky, frustrating day netted 25 cats, 14 dogs, one pet snake and a gentleman who been overlooked by earlier rescuers. (Land and water rescues totaled 140 animals on Tuesday, and they expect to retrieve 200 on Wednesday as more of the water recedes.) Rescue crews were pleasantly surprised to find the animals in relatively good condition, having been left adequate supplies by their fleeing owners.....The famous carriage mules of the French Quarter, along with 65 other horses, have been removed to safety. And the New Orleans mounted police unit safely got out all their equine partners. They are currently stabled at the Franklinton, LA, fairgrounds.
They've also established a massive online database where people displaced by the hurricaine can enter information about missing pets; there are then volunteers who go through the database comparing those reports with photos and descriptions put in by the receiving animal shelters in Texas and Alabama. It's incredible. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be evacuated and told I had to leave my pets behind. I'd go nuts. I'd even worry about the fish... So the fact that thousands of people--some of them refugees themselves--are giving their time to reunite people and pets moves me to tears. Happy tears, that is.

Friday, September 09, 2005

That's Absolutely Fucktastic.

So it wasn't enough that the head of FEMA wasn't fully qualified for this job, it turns out that he didn't even tell the truth on his published resume; he's got NO experience in crisis management whatsoever. I can't even grasp the implications of this--could one man's incompetance have brought us to thousands of deaths rather than hundreds? I think this was a group effort, mind you, and many many mistakes were made.... but if Brown can be prosecuted for lying on his resume--is that perjury?--then he sure as hell should be. My god.

Hmm, well, a few more interesting links on this topic, and we'll move on. Charles has a head-turner from none other than Barbara Bush, everyone's favorite cookie baker--what was she thinking? Via Upyernoz via Atrios, a timeline which makes painfully clear where the priorities were in our government last week. And Giblets declares a Global War on Weather!

Meanwhile, back at the batcave... I'm recovering from the annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church. I go every year, and stuff my face with as many greek delicacies as I can hold. As a result of the fresh feta, the lamb, the tsatziki sauce, and the souvlaki, I am nearing a state of sodium-induced coma. I drank a ton of water (for me--I don't hydrate as well as I should) and still I'm thirsty, I'm sweaty, and the veins on the backs of my hands are standing out in prominent relief form.... Ah well. I brought this doom upon myself. And I'm going again tomorrow! Beware of Greeks, bearing stiffs.

Monday, September 05, 2005

It Liiiiives......

Comments return, at least for the moment. I posted two that saved successfully a little bit ago. Charles, I've posted your Katrina comment.

I haven't been watching the news, or listening to NPR for the last few days. Knowing what's going on in the gulf coast states, and knowing there's not a bit of anything I can do, just makes the whole thing too painful. I read the paper and look at the still photos, then close my eyes and bite my lip and try to breathe deeply. That's about the sum of my parts here. I donated all the extra food in my pantry to a local food drive yesterday. (An airline donated a plane and a pilot to take food from here to a distribution center down south.) One of the items I keep as emergency backup food is a pre-seasoned rice and beans mix from Vigo; it's called "Red Beans and Rice, New Orleans Style." I had to think twice about putting that in--it was just odd, to think of someone whose New Orleans home had been wiped out picking up a package of food and seeing this little jazz guy logo and instructions for making the "Big Easy Special" on the back. Then one of my friends pointed out that this food might end up in Biloxi instead, and that made me feel better so I put the package in the box anyway.

Being who I am, my thoughts on the hurricaine turned almost immediately to animals and the environment, in addition to the devastating toll on people and things. The Audubon Zoo and Aquarium of the Americas survived the levee break with few casualties; but of course many pets and wild animals were affected by this disaster as well, and they're not exactly a number one priority for FEMA. That's as it should be, of course--but the effect on the non-human residents of the gulf isn't inconsiderable. My dad was doing some work with refugees from NO who've ended up at the Salvation Army and Red Cross stations here, and heard a firsthand story from a guy who saw his friend wading through waist high water in his neighborhood in New Orleans get attacked by a shark. A shark. There are sharks, fish, snakes, alligators--not to mention non-aquatic animals--all swimming around in, essentially, sewage, trying to stay alive long enough to get out of this mess. So if you're like me, and this thought upsets you nearly as much as all the other horrible things we've seen this week, you should be aware that there are places taking donations to assist in animal rescue and environmental cleanup. I donated to the ASPCA earlier this week; organizations like the World Wildlife Fund will be instrumental in restoring the native wetlands and marshes along the gulf coast when the emergency is over and the rebuilding begins. Just one more way to give a little of what you've got to help those who have nothing.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Comments Down, We Have Comments Down!

Yep, I know comments aren't working. Sorry. I'm waiting a little to see if it self-corrects, then I'll email enetation and see what's going on. Charles had a nice post about Katrina which he emailed me instead, so you can all look forward to reading it when the comments return!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Well This is an Interesting Development...

A conservative commentator on my friend's political blog seems to have followed me home from the comments fields; he's spent about 45 minutes reading my weblog today. So hi dave! Welcome! I hear you're from this neck of the woods, too--Drinking Liberally's on Thursdays at Union Jack's, if you'd like to come. :]

It's been interesting to me to watch Rubber Hose develop, actually; I was his second reader, I think, and since I lived with "Noz" in college I've engaged in lively debates with him on everything from capital punishment to religion to what we should make for dinner and whether we can watch "Hey Dude" and make tacos at the same time without a decline in quality of either activity. (actually, I don't think we debate that, we just did it. Watching "Hey Dude" with Noz was one of the peaks of hilarity my senior year--that show was just so totally awful it defied description. so of course we watched it every week.) So now I get to see people from all walks of life debating my former housemate, who's now a lawyer and even better at arguing than he was in college--and you really have to have known him to appreciate how good he was at it even then. His blog is always an interesting read, and he's attracted not only a number of regular readers who agree with him, but his own small cadre of people who don't! Right now a raging debate has emerged on the topics of "was it dumb for President Bush to say publically that no one had anticipated the levees at New Orleans might break, even though hurricaine experts have been saying it for years and the entire national media had been saying it since Friday afternoon last week?" and "what has the department of homeland security been doing all this time if not preparing for devastating metropolitan disasters like this one?" Horrifyingly enough, an article in today's paper makes it fairly clear that recent restrucuring at FEMA had a substantial impact on what's now being called a "not acceptable" response plan in New Orleans. They ran a seamless hurricaine simulation drill over a year ago that worked perfectly; now they couldn't even get the National Guard into the city in an efficient manner. This all seems pretty undeniable, whether you blame the Bush administration from the top down, or just the guys at the DHS, things could have been handled better, and people are dying because they weren't.

I still can't quite wrap my brain around the total destruction we've witnessed this week. It's like the tsunami--only I hadn't been to any of the places that were devastated then, so it was an abstract kind of horror. It's like 9/11--only so much worse. And unlike 9/11, there's no one to be angry at, nothing to curse, no one to say "we'll show those bastards!" to. Just water and mud, sewage and corpses. It's beyond imagining.

At any rate--it takes all kinds to make the world go round, so please don't come to my house and rip the Republicans for Kerry sticker off my car, dave. I'm treasuring it as a collector's item... And if you haven't already, everybody, please consider going and donating to the Red Cross relief effort online.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What Fresh Hell Is This?!

Sunday, clutch goes out on car. Wednesday, receive another citation from the town marshal regarding the brush along the street. Thursday, in trying to make it to the class I'm TAing for on time, I am forced to climb over a chain link fence that separates me from the new art building, and I rip a sizable hole in my pants, just beneath the right buttcheek. ("Hi, I'm your TA, and I'll be mooning you this afternoon.") Friday, new cat continues to be sick and requires a trip to the vet. Today, enormous branch falls off silver maple at back of lot and comes to rest, very gently, on a power line. Did I piss God off this week? Or what?

And in this same spirit of irritable bitterness, I present to you a meme, courtesy of Jane and Sarah. "Name three social phenomina that bug the hell out of you." Ahem.
1. People who use the word "impact" as a verb. "The Iraq war has really impacted gas prices." No it hasn't, you goons! It's affected gas prices. "Impact" is a noun, unless you're talking about wisdom teeth.
2. People who pull out in front of you, forcing you to slam on your brakes, when there is a mile of clear road right behind you. Jerks.
3. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I was going to say, the mis-use of apostrophe s on signs in public places, but I already had one grammar one. And Jane already used Neil Young.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Week the Earth Stood Still...

So you want to know what Gencon is like for those lucky few of us who work in the professional nerd industry? Here's a handy guide--it's almost like being there.
Dealer Hall opens for setup on Tuesday, but we're busy doing other things Tuesday. Wednesday, we could go in at 8, but some of us aren't up til 11, by which time Des has made some kind of English breakfast bread studded with about 4000 raisins. We eat a lot of raisins and bread. Then we load the car. Arrive at the convention center around 3. We have to be out by 8. We can't set up until boss arrives with new cushy flooring tiles, which require a trip to the hardware store, so wait while he goes. Wait. Look jealously at everyone else setting up faster and better than you. Gloat at card sellers whose product takes hours to deploy and weighs a ton. When boss arrives, set up entire booth and cushy floor in approximately 3 hours. Then go home and pack pre-release miniatures until after midnight.
Arrive 2 hours early to finish setting up. Finish just as doors open at 10. Watch as onrush of thousands (no, really--thousands) of gamers flows into the dealer hall and up the aisles like a demonstration on the capillary system at the science museum. Talk, and stand, constantly from 10 am to 6 pm when hall closes. Answer the same questions hundreds of times. Meet lots of nice people. Marvel at the weirdos. Have dinner with your friend from out of town who you almost never see; get home around midnight.
Much of the same, only less money changes hands and the weirdos get weirder. Manage to leave booth for over an hour on Saturday afternoon. Get called back by boss. Rush to office supply store en route to con center on two different mornings. Never get up after 7 am. Never go to bed before midnight or one. Never sit down for more than 5 minutes at a clip. Participate in one--and only one!--Gencon event for fun, at 1 in the morning when you're rapidly losing coherance. Wake in the morning with vague memories of having had a good time.
Dismantle entire booth, in a relatively organized fashion, in 1.5 hours. Discover that 400 booths trying to break down between 4 and 8 pm means that the line to get into the loading area is 3 blocks long. Go out for dinner. Come back and find that the line is now 5 blocks long. Park illegally, and carry all booth items out the front doors of the convention center, in 85 degree heat. Unload contents of truck and cars at boss' house. Try to go home, and find that transmission has gone out on my 10 year old Saturn. Contemplate suicide. Enlist help of coworker to push car out of driveway, and drive home using a limited number of gears. Go home...and thank god it's over.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bruce Teaches Logical Positivism, and is Also in Charge of the Sheep Dip.

First, let me say that I am a fan of Bruce Campbell. I own the special director's cut of Army of Darkness, I loved him on Xena and Hercules, and I got a lot of pleasure out of Bubba Ho-tep. But this week Bruce tried my loyalty severely, as I paid $8 to see his newest cheesy flick, "Man with the Screaming Brain."

I expected a screwball parody of 1950's horror/monster genre. I expected it to be at least as good as Steve Martin's kind-of-funny, kind-of-terrible "Man with Two Brains." Instead I got the lamest, most awful waste of 90 minutes I've ever experienced in a theatre. I've walked out of bad movies before (most notably "Office Killer," which was so bad I almost threw up right there in the theatre) but I felt a certain duty to stay at "Screaming Brain"--mainly because I'd dragged two friends to see it, and because I wanted to see if Bruce saved it at the end. I'll save the rest of you the trouble of wondering: he didn't.

For anyone who might be considering seeing this movie, let me sum up the plot for you. A gypsy woman who runs a bridal shop keeps getting ditched by men, so she kills 'em. Completely unconnectedly, a mad scientist (Stacy Keach, for god's sake where did they find HIM?) and his assistant (Ted Raimi) are working on brain transplant technology in the same Bulgarian town. And a drug company exec (Campbell) and his wife (some Australian chick trying to sound American) are having marital problems and riding around in a taxi cab driven by an admittedly entertaining Russian guy (some Bulgarian guy.) This is the entire first half of the movie. Then, in rapid succession, the gypsy kills Campbell, his wife, and the taxi driver. Ted Raimi somehow gets their bodies for his boss, and they put half the taxi guy's brain into Bruce Campbell's body, and the wife's brain into a robot with a blonde wig. TaxiBruce then engages in some typically Campbell style physical comedy, which could have been funny if they'd planned it better but instead consists of him slapping himself around at a salad bar and falling down a lot. Robotwife goes on a rampage looking for Gypsy; TaxiBruce realizes that he needs to kill the gypsy also, and then interminable chase scenes followed by poorly choreographed combat ensue. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat. Finally, mercifully, everyone dies except Ted and Stacy.... only because the mad scientist has figured out how to perfect the surgery (apparently being dead doesn't damage brains at all, at least not these idiots' brains) we have a happy ending moment where we see that TaxiBruce and the newly constructed GypsyWife live happily ever after, donating their millions to brain research charities.

This review, right now, is officially funnier than the movie, and it's not that funny. I expected better from Bruce's directorial debut.... Oh well. At least i didn't pay $10 at the sneak preview last week....

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Look Back In Anger...

Note to self: next time you let the Japanese honeysuckle along the canal road get a little out of control, and you find an ordinance citation in your mailbox from the Town Marshal telling you to cut it back, do NOT go out in a fit of irritation (both at yourself and at the marshal for citing you without trying a phone call first, which would have been nicer) and hack at the honeysuckle with your tree loppers at 8pm when it's starting to get dark. First off, you'll do a crummy job of it; second, you won't be able to see the poison ivy mixed in with the honeysuckle until it's too late; and third, when it's 80% humidity and 85° out after sunset, and then you come back in the house dripping with sweat and try to cook dinner over the stove, you're going to be courting death by heat exhaustion. All I'm sayin' is, next time, THINK, stupid.

Living in a wooded idyll as I do, putting up with invasives like Japanese honeysuckle all over my freakin' yard is par for the course. The poison ivy is even par for the course. So are the mosquitos.... and the massive ant colonies... and the mice... The upside, of course, is the canal and its denizens. I regularly see three or four different kinds of turtles in the canal; on my birthday I saw 35 of them (an omen?) between here and the grocery store. A few weeks ago the pumpkinseed sunfish were nesting along the bank; the males collect stones and shells and decorate an area about 8-12" across, and then hang out there, undulating against the current in a "hey baby" sort of way in hopes that a female sunfish will deem their nest worthy of some egg deposition. They guard their own little nests, but they'll put them right next door to each other so three or four males might all be hanging out within a foot or two of each other. "Seen any babes?" "Nope. You?" "Nope." Right after we got the leftovers of Hurricaine Dennis, the canal was clear of all wildlife, except the nesting sunfish who seemed totally unperturbed by our 7" of rain. People eat them, but I don't know why--they're pretty damn small. I also see wood ducks, and great blue herons, and muskrats. I heard a wood thrush the other night, and I sometimes hear owls. A weasel ran in front of my car a few weeks ago; it was dark, but I can't imagine what else it could have been but a weasel. And biking home from the river the other evening, I came face to face with a deer who seemed not at all alarmed by my presence. What I mean is, citations and poison ivy aside, I'm really glad I live where I do. Now I just need to remember where I put the bottle of calamine.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

I'd Like to Thank My Parents, and the Academy....

Well, I'm officially past the midpoint of my thirties as of 7 am this morning. So far, so good.

Back when I started taking Latin in 8th grade, we had a textbook with a tendency towards really ridiculous dialogues using the vocabulary of the week. One of the earliest ones I remember had to do with Rufus and Cornelia going on a "pikus-nicus." To eat on their pikus-nikus, they took Cokam-Colam (tm) and sandwichas. To this day, I can't actually go on a "picnic." It's always a pikus-nikus. I'm going on one now, for my birthday; it's going to be bonam maximam. Salve, all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

But Commenting Is So Much Easier Than Posting....

I feel like I've been posting regularly, but of course this is a fiction encouraged by the unexpectedly popular comments field on the prior post. Every time I think I really should try to make a go of it as a professional writer, I remember that editors usually like to actually get material on a regular basis, when they're expecting it. Keeping a schedule has never been a long suit of mine. A character flaw, I know. But it's MY character flaw, dammit. It beats some of my others, such as cussing like a sailor when I knock my coffee cup over the way I just did, god friggin dammit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

We Interrupt This Broadcast....

....for a very special feature announcement here on Cautionary Tale. No, it's not the news that the White House Press Corps finally regained posession of their nuts, which the Bush administration has been apparently holding in safekeeping for them for several years now. Though that was pretty exciting news, I had a lot of fun reading the transcript of Scott McClellan's briefing yesterday. And el presidente will be here in my little ol' town tomorrow, imagine that! I hope he has fun at Black Expo. But that's not what I came here to talk about. Instead, in honor of the upcoming release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince I present to you my list of:
Now, it's not that I dislike Harry Potter! I find the books pretty charming, and I enjoyed reading the first three (then ran out of steam gazing on the phone book that was Goblet of Fire.) I mean no disrespect to Ms. Rowling or to the tons of people who are even now standing in line to get a copy of HBP. And I'm all for anything that gets kids and parents reading together. It just seems to me that, as a fan of kids' lit, there are a hell of a lot of books that never achieved this kind of stardom, but sure as hell deserved it. Their authors didn't make millions (I assume) but I re-read their books til the covers fell off. I've not had the impulse to re-read any of the Harry Potter books, except maybe the first one; once I knew how they ended, my interest waned. So following are some kids' books that I highly recommend, for both kids and adults. If you didn't read these when you were a child, you might want to think about reading them this summer. I'm going to make a list of them over in the sidebar later, so feel free to make further suggestions for the list in comments or email!
Over Sea, Under Stone, by Susan Cooper. This is the first in a 5 book series about some children who get swept up in an ancient mystery involving magic, King Arthur, and the holy grail. The series is good, but this first book was the one I loved best; in this, the characters are ordinary kids who find themselves plunged straight into a dangerous adventure. I liked these characters, and felt they got short shrift in the following books. But this book stands on its own as a great introduction to fantasy literature.
The Silver Crown, by Robert C. O'Brien. Pretty dark story--a girl named Ellen wakes on her birthday to find a silver crown on her pillow. She quickly discovers the crown is more than a pretty toy when her house is burned down, her family disappears, and she barely escapes being kidnapped by a man wearing a green silk hood. This book doesn't shy away from being scary, but Ellen is a great heroine--it's hard to find a book featuring a 10-year-old girl that isn't downright sappy. It's a gripping read, and there are bits that still creep me out even after having read it multiple times over the years. O'Brien also brought us Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the first book I was ever tempted to steal from the library (I didn't.)
The House with a Clock in its Walls, by John Bellairs. Another creepy one--not too many kids' books explain exactly what a "Hand o' Glory" is! Lewis Barnavelt's parents are killed in an accident, and he goes to live with his Uncle Johnathan who turns out to be a real live wizard. The house has a mysterious clock hidden in the walls--can Lewis find out what it does before it winds down to doomsday? But Bellairs is also damn funny; I remember my mom snorting with laughter while reading this book when I left it out on the couch one night. My edition had Edward Gorey illustrations, too.
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. Raskin has to be one of the cleverest children's book authors it's ever been my pleasure to read. Each of her books is a mystery (hmm, I'm developing a theme) involving word plays, puzzles, and secret identities. In The Westing Game, old Sam Westing has been murdered and 12 people fight to inherit his estate. Each has a piece of a clue to solve his murder, and the first to solve it wins the prize. What gets me, is--the puzzles are freakin' hard! None of this "Mirror of Erised" crap--come on, how difficult was that to figure out? Throw us a curve ball, JK! Make us think! If you can figure out the solution to the Westing Game before the final couple chapters, I'll give you a dollar. I love this book.
Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. This is one of Dahl's lesser known books, standing in the shadow of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I far prefered this one. It's less dark than many of Dahl's works, but far richer in detail and character development in my opinion. Danny lives with his dad in an old Gypsy wagon in the English countryside; together they have a number of adventures, culminating in a mad plan to poach every single pheasant out of the local rich landowner's woods. It's a story of a real friendship between a parent and kid, again something that's not often found in children's lit. Another favorite of mine is the underrated Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the sequel to CatCF. Willy Wonka in Outer Space, fighting the dreaded Vermicious Knids! I love it. Yeah, ok, Dahl might have made millions off his books.... but the others didn't, and you should read them all.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled series of odd photos and mutterings about life in midwestern America....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Real Freaks and Wonders
Originally uploaded by me.
The Real Freaks and Wonders

I'd hoped to have all the rest of my photos up on flikr before posting again, but that meant I didn't post for over a week and they're still not all up anyway. Oh well, there's plenty to look at. The beginning of the Camelot Motel photos is HERE , so you can go through those before reaching Circus World, where you'll find the lovely photo at right, along with many other beautiful pics of circus wagons and oddities. I'm actually glad I didn't bring my camera, because Erin is a much better photographer than I am...

The new cat, officially now the New Cat, is settling in fine in the sense that he's perfectly happy sleeping on my couch and shoveling down bowls of catfood as fast as I fill them. However, the prior cats are less than pleased about his arrival; Hal is adjusting, but Harper spends all her time staring meanly in his direction from under the furniture, and hissing like a tea kettle if he chances to make eye contact. Sigh. She's always been a crabby cat, but lately she's reaching new heights.

I was going to do some sort of patriotic rant on the 4th of July, something about how I love my country but hate my government (and Sandra Day O'Connor is OFF my xmas card list, as of now.) But it was a warm day, and I got the Mustang out for a spin, and then Stephen and Francie had a cookout and I drank a lot liquids and played snooker pool and croquet and swam (well, like I swim, which means I stayed in the shallow end with an inflatable hippo around my waist and said things like "quit splashing me, guys! come on...) and ate masses of salty and sugary food and completely lost my fire of righteous indignation about our foreign and domestic policies. Oh well. I already wrote my best patriotic post ever, anyway. It'd be hard to top that.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Welcome to the Looney Bin
Originally uploaded by me.
Enter, If You Dare...

House on the Rock Photos are up. Just click on the photo of Hobart the Happy Wizard, and it'll take you to my Flikr account. Then you can click "next" to go through the pics in chronological order, if you so desire.

I was going to say something about Wiscon first, but Sarah already did it so well. She conveys nicely the joy of waking up to Jeremy shouting "WAKEY WAKEY!" at 7 am after being up til 2... but I don't really have a problem with this. It's a con, I don't expect to sleep fully or wake refreshed--I can do that when I get home. The con was as I remembered it, many sci-fi fans and/or feminists, milling around and discussing the finer points of literature--or, sometimes, not. Jeremy and Erin and I made a point of attending panels where it sounded like there might be a fight between panellists and audience, and the closest we came was one that followed up on some unfriendliness last year between Republican attendees, and everyone else. The thing is, the minority voices have an excellent point in that Wiscon attendees do make certain assumptions about their fellow Wisconers' social and political beliefs. I've been going there 10 years now, and I've often heard the word "republican" being used as a euphemism for "pond scum" in any panel that's vaguely political. It annoys me, but my fellow republicans annoy me far more, so I'm not really prepared to complain. But there's an assumption that if you like sci-fi with a feminist bent, you must be politically liberal, and that's not necessarily so. (there's also an assumption that if you go to a feminist science fiction convention you must be a feminist, and I'd differ with that as well. If anyone wants a long digression on "why I don't consider myself a feminist" I'll be happy to oblige them elsewhere...) So it's a good point that was made about sci-fi cons being a place where outsiders come to feel part of the group; but the group sometimes includes people who don't share all your beliefs, but like the same books you do. There still wasn't an actual fight at that panel, but there was almost some shouting, which was close! The con suite hot dogs were still awful (but they're free,) the Madison farmer's market was still fabulous, and the Guests of Honor were great to listen to. I got to see Heather and Ted and Jen for the first time in three years (I'd link to all their livejournals, but typing in the Flickr blog box is starting to get to me) and Sarah and Wendy, and of course the redoubtable Jeremy. It was a good time. And then Erin and Jake and I sat down with her laptop and plotted a course for Camelot, by way of hell....

I'd type more, but I'm exhausted. I've semi-adopted a stray cat who's been hanging around, and tonight while I was feeding him on the back patio another cat showed up who was almost his identical twin, and they proceeded to have a chase/fight while I ran after them, trying to figure out which one was "my" cat so I could put him on the porch and let things calm down. It was just like one of those Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk gets duplicated, and Spock doesn't know which one to shoot while they're rolling around on the floor to the combat music: "da-da DAH DAH DAH DAH dada da dah..." I finally got them sorted out, I think. Now I'm just waiting until the other one goes away so I can let "mine" back out; he's getting tamer, but I don't think he wants to spend the night on my porch. At least not without a spare litterbox...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

It's a Wet Heat

Ah, Indiana in the summertime! How I love it. It was 93 degrees yesterday, it'll be 95 today, and the humidity is probably around 80%. Only 80%! (Sometimes it hits 100%.) My house doesn't have air conditioning, as I may have mentioned before, and so weeks like this tend to be just a tad uncomfortable at Casa de Me.

This bothers me less than it would a lot of people. First off, I'm one who tends to get cold before everyone else; if I had my druthers, and infinite cash reserves, I'd keep the house at 75 all winter. I wear jeans until it gets to be about 80 out. Second, I spent the last two summers working outdoors doing physical labor. 95 degree days were the days you took a water break every 20 minutes or so--but you still had to be out in it doing stuff. So the body adjusts. But I still worry a little bit about the cats and the fishtank getting overheated, so today I'm putting in the window A/C unit I use, with Jason's help. (Usually my dad is the one who has the joy of helping me haul this monster up the canal bank and into the house, but he conveniently is on a "Fishing Trip" in "Canada" this week and is unavailable.)

So the photos of the Dells really did crash iPhoto 1.0, and so I had to download 2.1, and now I have the unenviable task of culling the herd and editing the photos down to be of a managable upload size on my dialup. I'm planning to do some of this later today, after I clean the house so that Jason doesn't trip on all my crap while installing my A/C, and after I finish painting the latest from my German Army customer (the entire east front is on my coffee table, it seems) and after I finish posting some of the aforementioned crap on ebay--somebody's bound to want it, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Yeah Yeah, Whatevah

Yes, I've not posted in a week. Yes, I have a CD full of fantabulous photos from the Great and Powerful Erin just waiting to be uploaded for your kitchy viewing pleasure. Yes, global warming is melting our ice caps and the sun is growing cold--yes, yes, I know. But patience. I've been working (yes! working! on a job, with money and stuff! Of course, it's over NOW) and haven't had time to do editing and uploading. Plus the photos were so wonderful that they actually crashed my old version of iPhoto beyond repair when I was trying to edit them, and I had to go find New and Shiny iPhoto to replace it. But fear not! In my absence, there is, as always, FAFBLOG. If you're not into random weird, scroll down to the post titled "AMERICA: BETTER THAN GULAGS." It's brilliant. I love Fafblog. If I could marry Fafblog, I would.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

me with friend

Originally uploaded by erink.
Gives New Meaning to Fossil Fuels

This is my new all-time favorite picture of me! It's taken at a Sinclair gas station on Highway 12, just south of the Dells. Our hotel, the "Camelot", was right across the street. If there is anything better than a gas station with a giant fiberglass dinosaur straddling the entrance to the quickiemart, I don't know what it is.

Yes, so, the Dells! The Dells were a magical place, a fitting followup to Niagara Falls on Erin's and my eternal KitchQuest. We picked the Camelot from a wide selection of cheesy theme hotels pulled up on Erin's laptop on the last night of Wiscon, and if you haven't already clicked the link above, you really should. The music makes the website--and be sure to mouse over the menu at the top for more entertaining sound effects. The thing to be aware of is that EVERY motel in the Dells is like this to some extent. I saw one pool where kids could climb up inside a killer whale and slide out its mouth, so it looked like the whale was vomiting an endless stream of children in bathing suits. (That's what I imagine the busy season would be like, anyway. Right now, it was just like an occasional child getting urped out.)

Our actual purpose in going to the Dells was to visit the circus museum in Baraboo, since Erin and I have a fascination with circus history; we've been planning this trip, quite literally, for years. Ringling Brothers had its winter quarters in Baraboo Wisconsin in the late 19th and early 20th century, and Circus World uses many of those original buildings as well as maintaining an archive of circus material and a phenominal collection of circus wagons. We spent the better part of a day there and in downtown Baraboo. Rat Girl, whose family hails from these parts, was pretty derisive about the cultural potential of a trip to Baraboo, but I figure that's because she hasn't been to the Al Ringling Theatre. Of course, neither have we--they had one showing of "Madagascar" on Memorial Day, and we missed it. Then they were closed til the following Friday. But the outside was cool! Other highlights of the Wisconsin Dells: the beer sampler and the homemade potato chips at Moose Jaw Brewpub on the Dells highway (both were fantastic, and I had a good sandwich too); breakfast at Mr. Pancake, which is across from Noah's Ark (we discovered that everything in the Dells is defined in relation to Noah's Ark--either across from it, or next to it. If Mt. Ararat were in Wisconsin, its brochure would say "visit beautiful Mt. Ararat, conveniently located below Noah's Ark!"); and piratey good fun at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf! It even had signs with interesting pirate facts near every other hole. The Dells were everything I hoped they would be, and so much more! Hopefully photos to follow. Erin! Send me a disk!!

Friday, June 03, 2005


I'd fully planned for my first post after this weekend to discuss my trip to Wiscon, the sci-fi convention I go to in Madison WI; I'd expected to talk about Robin McKinley, and the joys of Madison in the springtime, and the fun of seeing old friends I've missed in my last two years of non-attendence. All memory of this event, however, was completely erased by my post-Wiscon visit to The House on the Rock.

The House may not look like much on its website. Even if you click the "photos" link, you cannot fully conceive of the horror of actually being there; it was positively Lovecraftian. When HPL described things that were "non-Euclidian," "cyclopean," and "unwholesome," he was describing this house. (Yes, I know he died before it was built. No, I don't care.) Before we'd even paid our admission, when all we'd seen were the lobby and the restrooms, Erin and I had devised a code to simplify communication during our visit:
1 = "What the hell IS that?"
2 = "Holy crap!"
3 = "What in God's name were they thinking?"
4 = "What is it FOR?"
We came up with this code after entering the bathroom and being confronted with a large, glassed-in diorama of dolls in a winter/Christmas venue built into the wall of the ladies' loo. Sound nice? It wasn't. Every doll, every carousel animal, every figurine in this place has a vague aura of "evil toy" surrounding it. They could film a Stephen King movie here and not have to buy set dressing. This effect is enhanced by the fact that the light levels are kept intentionally, spookily dim, and the whole place has the quality of a nightmare landscape. Within the first half hour of being there, Jake said quite matter of factly, "We should keep an eye on the clock. Because we do NOT want to be trapped in this place overnight..." Oh god. The first part, the actual house, is just kind of weird--every surface is either raw stone slabs or shag carpet, and instead of rooms, there are sort of nooks and pits and benches covered in carpet (because everything's better with carpet) and open fireplaces in the middle of the floor, and then occasionally something that actually would look like a normal room if it didn't contain a trundle bed full of animatronic teddy bears. Or something. But THEN comes true horror--the other buildings housing the House's collection of collections. Arms and armor. A case full of spitoons. Circus paraphenalia. Any of this would be fine by itself, but it's all crammed together in this massive sensory overload of junk, and still with the dim lighting and the creepy figurines the whole place works together to create a sense of unease. The band organ rooms were the worst; automated instruments occupying empty chairs in a tableau of roccocco furnishings and red velvet, surrounded by statues of saints and apostles, strings of pearls, and a coach pulled by two of the evilest carousel animals I've ever seen. It was like being trapped inside a hideous Christmas ornament. I reached a point where the only thing I could say was "" And Erin and Jake just nodded in agreement.

I won't even talk about the whale. It's beyond description.

Anyway, after escaping The House, we went on to spend a day in the Wisconsin Dells, and everything we did or saw there was tasteful and understated by comparison. I'll write about that and Wiscon later, and maybe have some of Erin's pictures to illustrate the indescribable horror I've just described. In the meantime, I'll be drinking heavily in an attempt to block it out. If you need me, I'll be under the bed.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Adam, Eve, and their Pet T-Rex....

In observing families in Dinosphere at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, I'd wondered how creationist parents explain dinosaurs to their kids when visiting exhibits like this. Do they just say, "God put the bones there for us to find!" or "Yes, well--look! The snack bar!" or what? Well, wonder no more, as a new museum in Kentucky will explain the issue for god-fearin' folk of all sorts! No longer will dinosaurs be "held hostage" by us evolutionists! Now the dinos will speak for themselves, confirming through the god-given miracle of animatronics that they did, indeed, live simultaneously with man before the Fall. Which was about 4000 years ago, incidentally. Now creationist kids at school, no longer burdened with a need for scientific proofs, can proudly proclaim, "I know dinosaurs lived with people, because a robot at the Creation Museum said so!" Radiocarbon dating be damned!

I was going to spend some further time snappin' on Episode III, but this was a lot funnier. Honestly, I have no problem with a religious take on life, the universe, and everything, (I have one myself!) but biblical literalists just baffle me.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Can't Talk. Watching Star Wars.

Finally saw Ep III today. There was good, and bad--but a lot more good and a lot less bad than the previous two. I don't get it--is George Lucas really just a total dumbass, that he couldn't find a way to make all three movies work at least as well as this one did? I still rate it below the original trilogy (if you're counting, my list of favorites goes IV, V, VI, III, II, I) but it made me want to watch A New Hope again. Which I'm doing, as soon as I finish this post. Letterbox, pre-digital enhancement, Han-Shot-First version. Later I may post a more insightful analysis of the film, but for now I'll just leave you with my friend Jason's brilliant realization from the last 10 minutes of the film: why in the name of god did they not use that shot of Vader's helmet being bolted on as the LAST SHOT OF THE FILM?? It was a perfect final shot. Get all the crap about splitting up the twins out of the way first, then cut to Vader's final assembly on the Frankenstein table....the helmet clamps down.... transformation complete... we hear the first gasping breath.... and the credits roll, Da da DAAAA DAH! We didn't need the dumb "Where's Padme? I killed her? Nooooooo!!!"--that totally didn't work. The helmet bit was so cool, everyone in the audience went "ooo!" and then the film went on for another 10 minutes. Lose 50 cool points, George Lucas.

Friday, May 13, 2005

southpark me

A Slave to Fashion

I realized I'd done the totally wrong hair on the portrait below, so I just relinked it. Butterfly Woman (who needs to find a new handle) did a good one of me last night, and I did pretty entertaining ones of her and Rat Girl. I'll upload them to Flickr in a bit. My bosses are moving across town this weekend, and will be only 5 minutes from my house; to give them (and me!) an officewarming present I'm doing some shopping at I think I'll buy the "Achievement" poster for them, and maybe "Mediocrity" for myself. Ooo, and a "Procrastination" coffee mug!

Monday, May 09, 2005

southpark me
Originally uploaded by me.
Mmm....Lollipop and Beer....

For another, kinder version of me, go here and scroll down to the bottom. This entertaining diversion is available at Planearium.

And while I'm plugging entertaining stuff, here's one for my nerdy friends. Charles has been at me to check out his friend Rich's webcomic, a tribute to D&D called Order of the Stick. Naturally, I've been putting it off because I'm not a big fan of D&D and I was afraid it'd be all Knights of the Dinner Table or--god forbid--Nodwick-like. But lo, I am converted. It's gotten an out-loud laugh from me multiple times now and I'm not even halfway through the back episodes. I recommend starting from the beginning, but if you go to this one and read it plus the next two, and then don't like it, I'll give you your money back. (This offer applies for nerds only. Anyone reading this who isn't already an RPG nerd, well, go read Big Top instead. It's equally funny, without the nerd component. And Rob is a talented guy who sells me original art on occasion! His first book is out, BTW, and worth every penny of the $11. Buy it and drive his popularity on Amazon through the roof.)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

So Much For Innocence

Dear 34-year-old Me--

You mean we're not a forest ranger yet?

You stink.

Love, Me. xxoo

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Crowning Achievement

Dear 6-Year-Old Me,
I'm sending this letter back through time to tell you something very important. You know how you avoid brushing your teeth? How you'll go to the trouble of wetting the toothbrush so mom won't know you're being passive aggressively sneaky? Well--knock it off. The vague sense of freedom you have now will backfire on you in a year or so, when you have to have fillings in all of your 6-year molars. But it doesn't stop there, my little friend. Ohhhh, no. Almost three decades hence, what's left of those same molars is going to start breaking away, bit by bit, until all that's left is the base of the tooth and all those fillings. You know what happens then? They make you get a crown. Yeah, the gold kind. No, it's still not cool. And it's not cheap either. So get your ass into the bathroom and start brushing. Oh, and when you get to college, you might want to think about majoring in something that actually leads to a clear career path--it could save us some serious time. But that's up to you.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

You've Got Hail!
Originally uploaded by me.
What Next, Rain of Frogs?

The unexpected 15 minutes of hail here on Friday coincided nicely with the first night of Passover yesterday. We didn't even need Li's Bag O' Plagues to provide versimilitude for Plague # 7.But my favorite of the 10 was the hopping frog, operated by squeezing a rubber bulb; for some reason he kept hopping up against the bottle of kosher Cabernet Sauvignon, as if begging us to pour him a glass. Poor little guy.

Anyway, as always, a lovely seder thrown by Li. And as always, Ed had a new zombie DVD to show me--this one, and I'm seriously debating whether I should watch it or not, involves costumed Mexican wrestlers fighting off the zombie menace. Ed deems it the worst film he's ever seen, which I find hard to grasp considering he also owns "Passion of the Zombie Christ" and "Nudist Colony of the Dead."

On that twisted note, I need to get back to work. Happy Pesach--

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's the Most...Hor-ri-ble Time...of the Year!

Why don't the networks have holiday specials celebrating the final month of the semester in November and April? Everyone could get on the bandwagon. "It's Your GPA, Charlie Brown!" "The Little, Dumber Boy." "Twas the Night Before Finals." And Rankin-Bass could do a special where Frosty the Snowman (voiced by Burl Ives) melts while studying in the library--"All they found was his hat, a book on Latin noun declensions, and a big puddle...." So sad. Did you ever wonder why Frosty didn't just toss Karen into that greenhouse and then go back outside? What the hell was wrong with him? And while we're on the subject of Rankin-Bass holiday specials, did anyone else think that the villain in "The Incredibles" looked just like Heat Miser from "The Year Without a Santa Claus?" (Well, apparently the person I just linked to did. Thank you, google image search!)

See, this is why I never get any work done. I have two huge projects looming over me, one of which I've barely started--or rather, I started it, found out that my subject is utterly unresearchable without a massive travel grant that i don't have, and stopped in a fit of depression. So what am I doing instead? I'm uploading pictures to Flickr. I'm endlessly checking my email. I'm watching all the commentaries on Firefly. I'm watching basketball--Indiana beat Toronto after playing about 40 minutes of just horrible defense, and it was painful to watch yet I didn't turn it off! The heck with Frosty, what the hell's wrong with ME? I'm melting in the greenhouse with Karen, yet I don't have the sense to go outside and close the door!

The great thing about blogging is that I can go back to the last several Novembers and Aprils and realize that I do this to myself every friggin year. I have weeks of horrible guilt and agonizing, followed by one-two passionate weeks of insane work powered by Mountain Dew, followed by a huge sigh of relief and perfectly adequate grades. It would be perfect if I could just leave out the agonizing part and skip straight to the work and the sighing. Apparently the guilt is encoded in my DNA though.... Oh well. It's almost time for the insanity stage anyway.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Originally uploaded by me.
Insert Photos Here

Ok, I really, REALLY need to clean up my living room. It's like a friggin homework bomb went off in here, I've got books and papers on every surface, important sources for my projects comingling with junk mail and phone bills that need paying. Not to mention the 47 Eastern Auxiliary cavalry I painted three weeks ago (I have no idea where #48 went, there should be 4 dozen but one's galloped off apparently) which are sitting on the coffee table waiting for me to put fake grass on them and send them to New Jersey. So no time for blogging! Amuse yourselves, in my absence, with the photos from my trip to Vegas. If you view it as a slideshow you don't get my somewhat verbose captions. You can decide for yourselves if this is a good thing.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Me with Hal
Originally uploaded by me.

OK, so this photo was a little bit staged. As there are usually no witnesses to this phenomenon, I had to take advantage of it when Hal was in a snuggling mood while I had a friend over. But it really was morning, and I hadn't combed my hair yet. Anyway, more proof that I have a great cuddly cat, we sleep like this all the time. On the flip side, this is why I live on over-the-counter allergy drugs.

Those who have met Hal usually deem him one of the dumber cats they've encountered after knowing him for a few minutes. He's huge, he's goofy, and he persists in doing things that aren't good for him. However, he occasionally has shining moments of cat genius, like last night for instance. We got a new type of fish-flavored cat treats a few weeks ago (free in the bin of Tidy Cat.) They have the slightly over-the-top name of "Aquari-Yums," and they come in a plastic screwtop bottle. I figured this was a good thing, as Hal will chew through the plastic/foil packets of our usual treat brand if he can get hold of them. So the other night I opened the Aquari-Yums and gave him and Harper a sample. They went over well, and I screwed the top back on and put the bottle on my bedside table. No worries. Then last night, I'm sitting on the couch and I hear Hal scratching around in the bedroom. I figure he's probably just in the sandbox; he can be pretty industrious, so I didn't think much about it until the scratching and thumping had gone on for several minutes. I was just getting ready to go see what the hell was up when he came bouncing into the living room with a piece of green plastic in his mouth, which he dropped in front of me and then looked up expectantly. It was the screwtop to the treat jar. I went in the bedroom, and he had knocked the bottle off the table and into the trash can, where it landed upright; apparently he'd gotten the lid off, but still couldn't get at the treats because the bottle didn't fall over. So he came out to request my assistance in his crime--"Hey, hi, I got this thing off, but there's something still not right here, could you give me a hand?" It worked, of course, I rewarded his ingenuity before moving the jar (lid restored) to a new undisclosed location. Wow, though. What a cat.

Comments are fixed thanks to John at Enetation! Anyone looking for a comments system for their blog, I highly recommend them; barring this one hiccup related to my switch to Pro, it's been a great service, and they're usually swift to get back to you to fix a problem.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Rites of Spring...

At last the temp here is up above 60ยบ F, the sun is out, and they're laying my new septic line tomorrow morning. I couldn't be happier. Well, ok, maybe I could. ("Wake up, Cathy, it was all a dream, George Bush was defeated in 2004 and everything's Kerrific!") Sigh. Anyway, I'm pretty happy. Went to the butcher to buy some hamburger for the grill tonight, and while there was tempted by a can of Mountain Dew in the refrigerator case. Since I swore off soda a while ago, it's been some time since I indulged in that poison of choice.... but it's spring, and it's nice out, and I wanted to knock back a cold one. So I did; and, perhaps a positive sign, it wasn't quite as good as I expected. Maybe I'm outgrowing my taste for the stuff. Came home, went out in the yard to look at bulbs, and surprised a good-sized rabbit that was hiding in my groundcover. While I'm sorry I startled him, it was nice to see him (or her)--a change from the standard squirrel-based wildlife package that my yard comes equipped with. Once, when I first moved in, I saw a fox trotting calmly down my road. That was excellent; I haven't seen one since then, but i know they're around.

The Croc's website has been down for 2 days due to a server move, and it's kind of scary how much I'm jonesing to read the forums again. This could be because I get an ego kick off of the worshipful way in which fans respond to staff postings (mine included.) Or it could be that someone had just started a thread that I actually >wanted< to talk about, and then the site went down. Dang. It also means I couldn't really do any work today--or rather, I could have done work but it was boring work. So instead I did some work on my research project for Historical Interpretation class, and then came home to the aforementioned hamburger, Dew, and rabbit.

Double Your Fun

By the way, yes I know I now have duplicate comment links. The guys at enetation have not responded to my pleas to switch my old comment files over to the pro server (which I paid for about 6 months ago.) My solution is to have the link for both the old comments and the pro comments in my code; if one disappears maybe the other will stay put. Still no idea what causes this.