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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ah Yes - That Oft-Forgotten Artiste, Cletus P. Fishywiggle, III
I would expect that there are more than one or two readers of this site who could get 100% on this film adaptation quiz. I scored a lowly 60%.

Quarterly Viewing
John and I are very, very behind in our movie viewing.

I am not quite sure, but I believe the last movie we saw in a theatre was The Triplets of Belleville. John insists that we've seen one since then, but he can't name it, so that insistence is suspect (well, he's an international terrorist - anything he says is suspect). In general, we see about one movie in a movie theatre per quarter, which is pathetic enough. The fact that we haven't even been able to keep up that reckless pace of movie-viewing is absurd.

Since the TiVo made the Netflix account obsolete, we really haven't seen any movies at all. But the Christmas holiday is coming, John is taking the week off, and we are staying home rather than trekking across Connecticut. This little enterprise, which we did for three years running, entailed three household visits sandwiched into one week, bookended by two all-day drives! And the dog comes too! And we always had a mad scramble to get someone to take care of the cats! Fun!

We have some things tentatively penciled in to our Week of Blissful Repose: a visit or three to the Smithsonian museums of our choice, long treks with the dog out in the fresh air, and vast quantities of good food. However, I am thinking we need to get some movie-viewing in as well. Here are some of the titles I have been mulling over - leave a comment if you have some suggestions.

- Our neighbors have informed us that we must see "What the Bleep do We Know?"

- I have heard way too many good things about "The Incredibles" not to see it. Plus, just the trailer footage with Mr. Incredible trying to buckle his super-suit was enough to make me laugh out loud.

- "Finding Neverland" sounds sappy, but has Johnny Depp. The latter wins out over the former.

- I doubt we'll feel masochistic enough to take in "Vera Drake," but it does sound amazing.

Other recommendations? DVDs of recent films (recent = within the last 2 years) that are good enough to make us brave the idiocy that is Blockbuster? Help us! We're cinematically deficient!

Monday, November 29, 2004

My friend Mel has some of this guy's work. Charming!

False Dichotomy
"Are you a cat person or a dog person?"

Why is it that this sort of question seems to preclude the answers, "both" or "neither"? Possibly because this is one of those questions that is supposed to tell the questioner something more about the questionee than his or her simple preference for furry companionship. It is supposed to be the measure of a person, a clue to their inner psyche, a deep insight presented by a shallow question. There is an implication that cat people are aloof, dog people are friendly. Cat people don't require adoration, dog people demand it. Etcetera. You are supposed to fit into one of a choice of two boxes.

One of my favorite .sig files has a quote from Oscar Wilde, "It is absurd to divide people into good or bad. People are either charming or tedious." Or, as I like to say (I don't know where I got this - perhaps I made it up), "There are two types of people: those who believe the world can be divided into two types of people and those who don't."

It is also interesting to see how people react after they have already got you neatly boxed. I have been classed as a "cat person" or "dog person" just through normal conversation. I mention I have a dog and I get silently categorized by the other person. Then my conversational partner finds out I also have two cats, and the mental gears start clashing. They had had me pegged - I had confessed to dog ownership, and then everything I subsequently said or did confirmed me as a dyed-in-the-wool "dog person." Some people even get peevish - "But you have a dog! You're a dog person!" Conversely, I had two cats long before we got Mac, so many of my acquaintances had me securely in the "cat person" slot for years. Never mind the fact that when you're single and traveling a lot a dog is not a practical or wise choice. Being a dog or cat person is supposed to preclude practical considerations.

Truth to tell, if I could, I would also have a horse, a pair of hedgehogs, and a few chickens. Perhaps from now on I should say, "I'm a farm person." That should blow some minds.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Me: "Why do so many spammers think I want a Rolex?"

Mom: "Why do they think I need a bigger penis?"


Friday, November 26, 2004

After-Holiday Holiday
Dear All:

Many, if not most, have the day after Thanksgiving as an extra day off. Our Heroine is taking this estimable tradition as her model.

See you Monday, hope your Thanksgiving was delicious!

Oh - and by the way, yesterday my aunt said, "You don't like sweet potatoes? Since when?" Whereupon my mother and husband promptly smothered her with stuffing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Never Confuse Brains with a Bull Market"
The title of today's Random Thing was my favorite saying during the late 90's. It is one of the few pithy investment sayings that is not prone to getting itself twisted all out of context and stupid, like the oft-quoted Peter Lynch saying, "Buy what you know." So, I bring you Stupid Investment of the Week.

Housekeeping Notes
Yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. No, I will not be posting. Go! Enjoy your holiday! Eat lots of whatever will put you into a stupor! But please, if you value your life, please do not subject me to The Sweet Potato Script(TM).

What? You don't know about The Sweet Potato Script? Okay, here it goes:

The Sweet Potato Players: me and Someone Else who Normally Knows Better.

The Sweet Potato Scene: a holiday table, laden with dishes of vast variety.

The Script:

[O.H. passes sweet potatoes without taking any]

S.E.N.K.B. Oh, don't you want any sweet potatoes?

O.H. No thank you.

S.E.N.K.B. Are you sure?

O.H. Yes, I am sure. Thank you.

S.E.N.K.B. [In a voice that suggests that refusing sweet potatoes is unthinkable madness] Are you sure?

O.H. Yes, I am sure. I don't like sweet potatoes.

S.E.N.K.B. Oh, but you haven't tried these sweet potatoes!

As if my dislike for sweet potatoes was not about the vegetable itself, but the recipe. It is here that Our Heroine commences her annual battle with gibbering lunacy. Yes! I did try it! I didn't like it! I do not like them with a marshmallow, I do not like them with a walnut, I do not like them in a soufflé, I would not like them in a chair, I do not want them in my hair, I do not LIKE them, Sam-I-Am!

There are other unusual dislikes out there that somehow do not merit this treatment. Our Hero does not like chocolate. At most, this preference on his part elicits a raised eyebrow and a, "More for me!" attitude. Other people don't like tomatoes, or bell peppers, or marzipan. All of these are passed over with the mildest of shrugs. But my dislike of sweet potatoes is somehow tantamount to High Holiday Treason.

Go ahead, shoot me. Just please don't subject me to The Script again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Generation Tech
Well, Mom's coming here instead of me going home, but this is pretty accurate in my world.

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!
Mom's arriving today! Yay!

Ever since we've moved down here, we have had the felicity of not having to do the Thanksgiving Crawl. No long car rides, no struggles with airline security, just a short jaunt down to my aunt and uncle's in Virginia. As such, Mom comes to us, and we get some quality time. It has been a year since she has been here (she usually also comes for my birthday in March), and I am sure plenty of things have changed around here. It will be interesting to see things through her eyes.

At any rate, I am late in posting, I have a list of things to do that are roughly as long as my arm, and I must get to skedaddling.

Mommy's coming! Yay!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Oh Dear - I am SO Stupid.
At least, about geography.

Turkey Week
Happy Overindulgence Week! All over the country, people are either attending extra spinning classes (ugh) or just giving up the fight in preparation for ingestion of massive quantities of carbohydrates and tryptophan.

I subbed this Saturday, getting a small group of determined yogins, one of whom had just come from spinning class because she had an "extra two pounds" (where they were, I couldn't tell you) and had brought her determinedly Western mindset with her. Nope, I'm not peevish and ranty about this - I used to do the same thing, and believe it or not, I have some sympathy for it. What do I mean by a "Western" mindset? I mean a "take everything as an opportunity to work another muscle" mindset. For instance: after restoratives and relaxation poses, Yoga teachers generally give an instruction to roll over onto your right side, rest there for a minute, and then use your hands under your shoulders to push yourself up to sitting. This woman did what I used to do - roll over onto the right, and then pop! Up you sit (any excuse for a sit-up - work those abs!), eyes wide open, alert - nay tense. "What's next?" their posture and attitude say.

I used to think there were two major misconceptions about Yoga - one camp thought it was "just relaxing" and another thought it was "just stretching." Now I have found a third camp, the camp who thinks it's "just toning."

But all of these mindsets miss the point - Yoga is all of these (and more). And to put out the effort without allowing yourself the bliss of relaxation flooding through your body is cheating yourself. Kind of like doing the hard work of making the turkey, the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes and not allowing yourself to eat them.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Tee Shirts One Might Actually Want
Everyone has stacks of tee shirts, right? Giveaways from obscure business functions, gifts from college kids, etc. Most tee shirts look like garbage on me (long-necked people were never meant to wear your average Hanes Beefy-T). Some of these, however, are funny enough that I sort of almost want one (I particularly like the one that reads "I have no idea who this is," as I am sure that 60% of all teenage poseurs who wear Che tee-shirts don't have a clue). They have women's versions, too (yes, the picture shows an eerily androgynous person sitting on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette - eeeeeuuuuu! - but I'm trusting the icon at the top right).

(Mildly NSFW)

Won't You be my Neighbor?
We are getting new neighbors. It is unclear how this will alter life as we know it right now.

Our laconic neighbor Nick moved to Wisconsin almost a year ago, but kept his townhouse in the hope/fear that he might return (he moved for a new job, and wasn't initially sure how it would work out). We like Nick an awful lot, and while we wished him well in his new job, we would have been very happy had he returned. We have had some lovely, convivial evenings with Nick and we have helped each other out whenever we can (yard work, cat-feeding - your classic suburban neighbor stuff). But he decided that Wisconsin was going to work out after all and put his house on the market.

Shortly after that decision, a chain of construction and decorating trades went charging through the house. Minor repairs were made, walls were painted, and new carpeting was laid. During the open house, I spent the day in a herculean round of dog-distraction, as Mac has decided that the lack of activity around Nick's house for the last year means he has to bark at people who pull up in front of Nick's. I like Nick too well to cause a promising buyer to decide against making an offer because of the insane canine next door.

In due course, offers were made and the house went under contract ("in due course" means two to three days in DC). Nick's final move-out is tomorrow, and the house will officially transfer title on Monday.

We hope for the best with our new neighbors, but we will miss Nick.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

55. I will not allow the King's ghost in Hamlet to look like a hairy popsicle.
The [258, at current count] things not to be done with any Shakespeare production.

Two-Hundred Essays
Today is Thursday, November 18, 2004, one week from Thanksgiving. This is my 200th essay.

Let it be said right off the bat that I never expected to write 200 essays under the category of "Unemployment." And while I am not exactly happy about that fact, I am also surprised at how calm I am.

There are definite emotional peaks and valleys to job-hunting, and while the job hunting is the primary task, I have learned that the secondary task is to try to even them out. When things are going well, interviews are moving along, and the job under discussion seems wonderful it is too easy to get giddy or worse - complacent. When that job does not go to you, it is easy to think it was the last one you will ever interview for, you are worthless, and will end your life (shortly) in a muddy ditch in the rain. Note that neither the heights nor the depths are helpful to the process or the person.

The answer to both? Activity. Calling contacts, searching for new leads, even walking the dog or making bread. It isn't a cure-all, but it does help.

So, after 200 essays, is that all I have learned? Not really. But it's certainly the biggest one.

This Should do Interesting Things to the Google Ads....
From Mel, who was apparently sidetracked from work-related patent research and found the following -

It is known indeed that the manufacture of ham presently involves a tedious operating step which calls for much care and labor or workmanship.*

*U.S. Patent No. 3,987,209. Method of preparing flesh-containing products such as roast meat or fowl and pork-butcher's products such as hams and pies

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"Most Unreasonable Request: That I Be an idiot."
Jessa Crispin of Bookslut reviews the Thanksgiving editions of popular cooking magazines.

Exponential Lateness
My Dear Readers already know that Our Hero and I were late adopters (at least by someone's standards) of the TiVo. When we bought the device, we knew it would mean that we would be able to catch up on all those episodes of "Good Eats" that we had missed, not to mention get caught up on shows we can't normally watch due to excessive lateitude (e.g. "The Daily Show." Our Hero and I are almost inevitably in bed before ten. What can I say? He gets up wicked early and I get up only slightly later).

We did not realize at the time that the TiVo would make our Netflix account obsolete. Nor did we realize that we would end up getting addicted (in manner most foul) to even more television. I mentioned that on Halloween we sat around waiting for mostly-nonexistent trick-or-treaters, drinking white wine, and watching "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars." What I did not mention at the time was that this was the first "Farscape" either of us had viewed. It was a little like how I got into watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Somehow, I managed to start watching that series with the 2-part finale of Season 2 (fans of the show will know how nuts this was - Joss Whedon doesn't re-explain stuff for the newbie. You get thrown into the deep end and you're just going to have to figure things out for yourself). I had little idea of what was going on, but I knew I was hooked.

Farscape is not so riveting, but it is the kind of cult TV we like: sarcastic, imaginative, visually appealing, and intelligent. I suppose the only imponderable is why we're finally viewing it so long after it was cancelled. Our neighbors in Massachusetts had been enthusiastic fans, but we never got around to seeing when it was on. Our friend Mel is a quieter fan - and her subdued endorsement ("It's good.") plus the TiVo's superior search-and-capture abilities finally put it on our radar.

The only problem is, now we're stuck at the semi-cliffhanger end of the first episode of a three-parter, with no assurances that the SciFi Channel will air them in order!

Late to TiVo, late to Farscape... what are we going to be late to next?

Driving Me Crazy
From the "A Propos of Nothing" File:

Is anyone else driven nearly batty by the way the translater/voice over artist for the Iron Chef announcer pronounces foie gras? Is it too much to ask that someone who works on a food show be able to pronounce something that basic? "Fwuhgruh," indeed. Feh.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

How the Mighty Have Fallen
I only got 19 right out of 23...

"In a Survival Situation, You Live as Long as Your Feet Do"
The sine wave of national worry seems to be peaking again, and it reminds me of my own inadequacy in the realm of preparedness. As usual, Teresa Nielsen Hayden has put together an interesting and informative post on the subject of "jump bags" (or "go bags") that also has interesting and informative comments (her readership continues to astonish me: intelligent, informed, diverse, and polite. Not things you generally find all together on the internet).

Growing up in New England, a survival bag was all about the warm in the winter. Extra wool socks, old Bean boots, an elderly scarf and hat (chosen for warmth and lack of wearability in a non-survival situation on the grounds of all-around ugliness), perhaps a blanket all lived in the car from November through March. Even in theoretically safe conditions, the cold was nothing to be toyed with: my mother was borderline hypothermic after a 20-minute drive to the commuter rail in an old truck with a broken heater. Luckily, she was a regular on that train and her commuting friends recognized by her strange, incoherent speech that something was very wrong and provided emergency assistance.

These days, emergency preparedness runs the gamut between denial and bunker-building. Jokes about plastic and duct tape aside, I really should review what I have in the car and what is in our depleted pantry and cellar. If nothing else, winter is coming and the DC area can get incapacitated by six inches of snow. Two years ago, we had two feet of snow in 24 hours and John and I were snowed in for three days.

As for the title of today's post? Well, my feet are lousy, and not just because of my irremediable klutziness. So, since I'm obviously toast, I'm going to start rehearsing my speech. It starts, "My bunions! Save yourself! I'm done for!..."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Sweaters and Snark
Why Plumbers are Expensive
Sometimes, the most innocuous-sounding suggestions are the worst ones.

John and I got our brains sucked by Lowe's Saturday morning. It is one of the few explanations that makes sense of the rest of the weekend. It was not the normal brain-suck, where you decide on a project and somehow forget to get a vital tool or bit of hardware to complete the project. It was the suggestion of and acquiescence to a project that is simply insane to begin with.

Let me back up a little. Our house was built in the mid-80's, and most of the fittings can be described as "contractor's specials." You can probably imagine: the bathrooms have plate-glass mirrors affixed simply to the walls, with a long Hollywood-style strip of dressing-room lighting along the top. Stair railings are big, chunky pieces of timber atop a prefabricated metal assembly of stringers and uprights. All the original sockets and switches in the house are "almond." Worst of all, the lavatory taps are those faceted plastic "crystal" balls that you swivel and fidget with until you get the water temperature you want. Since there is no tactile reference on these orbs, it is entirely possible to scald the living bejeezus out of yourself if you turn on the tap without visually checking its orientation while the dishwasher is running and the pipes are full of ready-to-go hot water. Not to mention, they are intensely, aggressively, inscrutably ugly.

So, early Saturday morning, standing idly at Lowe's I asked John the seemingly innocuous question. "How hard would it be to swap out the taps in the master bathroom?" And after a long process of choosing appropriate taps and bringing them home, emptying out all counter surfaces and cupboards, cleaning out gag-inducing traps, hacksawing through the old drains which were fused, going back to Lowe's to get supply hoses (as the old ones were welded instead of screwed), finding out that the taps we had originally chosen would not work because the mechanism that works the drain stopper was too far back to slide down into the hole, returning yet again to Lowe's to pick out different taps that would hopefully work, installing new taps and drains, returning everything to the surfaces and cupboards, turning the taps on to find out that the drains weren't screwed down tightly enough, removing everything from the cupboards and mopping up the water, screwing down the drain in my sink to make it work properly, not being able to get John's drain to screw down enough to work properly, returning to a local hardware store for better advice, coming back with plumber's putty and re-installing the drain, finding it still doesn't work, then finally jamming as much plumber's putty around the offending area as possible to stop the leak and putting everything back into the cupboards, we now have new taps in the master bath.*

I think I'm going to have to learn to live with the rest of the "crystal ball" taps in the rest of the lavatories in the house, though.

*Our Heroine must note, in all fairness, that most of this two-day odyssey was performed by Our Hero.

7/14/2005 ETA: The coda to this story can be found here.

John Scalzi Started It...

1. Open up the music player on your computer (if you have one -- the music player, I mean. Clearly you have a computer, because otherwise you couldn't read this).

2. Set it to play your entire music collection.

3. Hit the "shuffle" command.

4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. That's right, no skipping that Carpenters tune that will totally destroy your hip credibility. It's time for total musical honesty. You can put the list in the comment thread, or write it up in your blog or Journal and then post a link in the comments.

Our Heroine's List:

1. Amado Mio -- Pink Martini
2. Alright -- Jamiroquai
3. Second Chance -- Longhouse
4. April In Paris -- Doris Day
5. I Fall to Pieces -- Patsy Cline
6. Made of Gold -- Jonatha Brooke & The Story
7. Sophisticated Lady -- Boz Scaggs
8. King's Highway -- Kenny Wayne Shepard
9. Sarah Maria -- James Taylor
10. Johnny Tu N’es pas Un Ange -- Edith Piaf

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I am still new enough to blogging to find it flattering and pleasing when someone adds me to their blogroll. Or perhaps the warm glow of finding out that someone you have never met is a regular reader never wears off.

In the case of In Favor of Thinking, I got two warm glows. I have known for a while that Mel had linked to me, but only this morning I realized that she had classified me under "Academics II." Wow! Thanks!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The New York Times proves that, whatever else has gone on in the last few years, its writers can still write. This is the most perfect lede I think I have ever seen:

Scott Peterson, the fertilizer salesman from Modesto, Calif., whose five-month murder trial fed the nation's appetite for real-life courtroom drama, was found guilty of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn child in 2002.

(From the print edition - the online edition is slightly different.)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Got Some Holiday Shopping to Do?
My Readership Will Surely Disapprove
I have a very soft spot in my heart for the first Bridget Jones novel - also for the movie of same. Cultural aesthetes everywhere are holding their noses, but I have confessed to guilty pleasures before, so this should come as no surprise. I have been thinking about how sometimes you appreciate something for what it gave you at the time - something apart from whatever dubious "cultural" or "aesthetic" value it may intrinsically have.

Before you ask me to turn in my cool card (hah! We both know I never had one), I should probably explain the circumstances. Bridget Jones' Diary was the first book we read when I joined my book club. I was a fairly new transplant to the DC area, and the promised company of four intelligent, funny women was a thrilling change from the limited social circle I had enjoyed living in New Hampshire. Since that first evening, these four women and I have shared weddings, births, joblessness (not just mine), and lots and lots of books. Our meetings are few and far between, but contain much laughter and nonstop conversation. We have marched through Dickens, wended our way through the thickets of Nabokov, and puzzled over the prose that wins a Pulitzer. But when the heavy and the deep becomes too heavy and deep, we have allowed ourselves the light and shallow. It was on just such a light and shallow note that I joined these women who have been such good friends to me, and for that I am very grateful to it.

The movie provided another refuge from the heavy and the deep. In March of 2001, my grandmother died after several years' suffering from ovarian cancer. I had flown to Connecticut to spend Easter with John and his family, and I was weary from the hollowness of grief and the concerns of trying to find my father, who was incommunicado somewhere in China. John asked what I wanted to do, and I said, "I just want to laugh." He took me to see the Bridget Jones movie, and for about an hour I was able to laugh. It was the definition of escapism, and it was exactly what I needed at the time.

I am thinking about this because movie sequel has been released. It sounds as if it is a shallow, dim copy of the original - no surprise, as the book sequel was the same. But that soft spot in my heart (and possibly my head) remains for the originals. I can be as much of a cultural snob as the next person, so it is a good reminder to me that escapism has its own merits.

New Vocabulary, Courtesy of the Typographical Error
The two extremes of the continuum of thought on the development of the English language are wildly divergent. One end seems to feel that the dictionary should have been frozen about 50 years ago. The other end believes anything goes with regards to language development. The vast majority of the world (at least those who think about the matter) is probably somewhere in the middle: deploring some changes as meaningless, while thinking others add valuable nuance to a living language. Me, I will go down in flames before I succumb to the dubious charms of "irregardless." However, two typos have charmed me recently into thinking about linguistic expansion. They are as follows (with thanks to Mel for the second word and assistance in coming up with semi-precise definitions for both):

rainly: ('rA-nlE) adj. - 1. The mundane dreariness associated with necessary, repetitive tasks. Jill embarked upon her rainly morning routine, checking websites for new job listings and calling networking contacts. (Addendum: WoT? reader Maria Perez notes that as she likes rain, an alternative definition of "rainly" is in order.) 2. Invigorating, as if being sprinkled with freshness and renewal. Maria sipped her morning coffee, feeling rainly and energized by her long sleep.

pibbynacker: ('pib-bE-nak-&r) - n. - One who draws negative attention to himself by committing acts of random, minor destruction: Dash, a little pibbynacker if ever there was one, was caught chewing on a houseplant and sharpening his claws on the carpet. also v. - pibbynacking: ('pib-bE-nak-i[ng]) - Acting in such a way as to be labeled a pibbynacker. Locked in the bedroom, Dash wailed to be let out, but decided on a course of pibbynacking by hiding under the bed instead of coming out when Jill opened the door.

Use them today in a sentence.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Speaking of Laughter...
Jack of As the Apple Turns delights his daughter Anya with a kickball, a beanie dog, and Newtonian physics. Hilarious (link is to a Quicktime file with screaming toddler laughter, workers of the world beware).

The White James Brown - In a Library
Here's why I love my husband. Well, one of the many reasons.

He's got a positively whacko sense of humor. Yet that talent for the absurd comes packaged in Central Casting's idea of an outdoorsy, quiet, librarian-type (which he is, so no awkward cognitive dissonance there). But then he comes out with things like the "hat trick," sending anyone within hearing range into a gale of laughter.

When I first met John at our mutual friend Maria's house over ten years ago (eeeeee!), he displayed absolutely no interest in me. In fact, as we waited for Maria to get ready to go out for breakfast, he picked up a magazine and started to leaf through it. You know that thing people say about first impressions being a one-shot deal? Well, sometimes that's just wrong. After receiving the impression that John thought I was too dull even to make polite conversation with (and coming to the same conclusion about him myself), the three of us went out to breakfast. John continued to be as quiet as he had started out, so Maria and I chattered away in our usual style. I had written John off completely by the time I said something intended to be funny, but directed at Maria. John suddenly threw back his head and positively boomed with laughter. He may not have "had me at hello," but he certainly caught my interest with that delighted, unselfconscious, and loud guffaw.

Periodically, he checks into the web-things that I read. He was listening to some musical recommendations from Mimi Smartypants, when he spontaneously announced that he intended to stun the world by becoming the white James Brown in a library. When I started laughing and told him that he had only himself to blame if he found that to be tomorrow's blog-title, he said, "Do you have any objections to being termed my 'Beeyotch'?"

No, baby, I know you love me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Are Ivy League Schools the Hard Slog they Once Were?
Pinwheeling and Unhelpful
Wow. Topics have come thick and fast over the last few weeks, and looking back it seems that daily postings have sprung with a gentle facility for a while now.

Not today. This nothing that you're reading comes after sitting and staring, searching and applying for two positions (can anyone put in a good word for me at the American Red Cross or Booz-Allen?), and sitting and staring some more.

It is one of those weeks where I feel as if today really should be Friday. Yes, it is Wednesday. The last two days have been long, however. I am not the only one who feels this - last night, John asked, "Is it Tuesday or Wednesday today?"


"I was hoping you would say it's Thursday."

As it has a wont to do, the long week will wend its way to a close, and the cycle will start again, hopefully with different, better details. But this current static tension is not a good thing. The sitting and staring is not working: it only produces pinwheeling, unhelpful thoughts. I am going, as my mother likes to say, to "move my body across the Earth." I am going to make bread, I am going to take the dog out into the chill outdoor air and allow him to make me smile as he races across the field in pursuit of his frisbee, to bring it back and start the racing anew. That is a cycle I can appreciate.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Submission Guidelines
Funny - though the color choices may make you blind...

NaNo Technology
It's November - and you know what that means, right? No? Neither did I, until recently. So I'll let you in on the secret. It's NaNoWriMo.

What do you mean, "What the heck is that?" Isn't it obvious? Well, no, it wasn't obvious to me either. Here's the scoop. It's National Novel Writing Month. Over 40,000 people have signed up to write a 50,000-word (175-page) novel between November 1 and November 30. Quality is not an issue. It's all about output, working under the premise that in too many cases creativity gets bogged down by editing. Last year, only 14% of the participants cranked out the required number of words to reach the finish line. Since the project started in 1999, two "Wrimos" have had their work professionally published.

It is an interesting idea. Freeing yourself from the question, "Why do I do this?" long enough to reach an arbitrary goal does bring its own rewards (I should know - you're reading the result of just such a fling at the unknown). It would certainly disabuse some of the notion that novel writing is something they can do (the "everyone has a novel in him" idea).

Am I doing it? No. Kind friends have suggested that I write one, but if I have a novel in me somewhere, I can't locate where that might be. Maybe I broke my novel when I whacked my foot.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Something I Didn't Know I Wanted Until I Saw It.
Babe Magnets
I live in a house full of male creatures. My husband: John Smith, International Terrorist, MacIntosh (aka Mac, Toshie, Dogface, Fuzzy, etc.), Simon, and Dash. Simon and Dash are stay-at-home types, enjoying (we hope) the lazy, safe existence we have foisted upon them. The rest of us venture out into the world to suffer its slings and arrows. Or, in the case of MacIntosh, to enjoy the love and adulation that is your rightful due when you are fuzzy and cute and have fur that a guitarist in an 80's hair band would give his eye teeth for.

When John and I first moved to Maryland, we lived in a temporary apartment and got Mac after we had lived there a scant few weeks. Mac was a babe magnet from the beginning, all lollopy paws, big brown eyes, and snubnose curiosity. Walks around our temporary apartment tended to be extended enterprises, with Mac's fan club stopping us to chat, pet, and play. John and I have spent the last two and a half years knowing our place: we are the roadies, there to serve. Mac takes all the attention with a blasé attitude - he has always been a babe magnet and he knows no other way to be.

My husband is also a babe magnet of a specific variety. For those of you who like your men flashy and trendy, John is not for you (well, he's not for you anyway - he's for me, but that's getting ahead of ourselves). For those of us who like quiet capability, thoughtful intelligence and good sense, and a certain wild-card sense of humor (not to mention, as I lapse into the New England vernacular, wicked cute big brown eyes), John is terribly appealing.

But we have been together for a long time - about five years in total, and while our familiarity does not breed contempt, it does breed comfort. So I was surprised and amused yesterday as we made a stop into Hudson Trail Outfitters and I suddenly found myself to be invisible. Being on the brink of leaving because we couldn't find a mechanic in the bike section, a young female employee offered to help us find someone. I should rephrase. This Siren of the Bohemian Outdoors offered to help John find someone. Depositing some clothing on a rack, she deplored her clumsiness - veering precipitously close to a giggle, and flashing John a sideways glance. I stood behind him, realization of my sudden invisibility starting to dawn, amusement starting to spread. John replied with a somewhat sharp joke, and she flashed him another glance, saying in an admiring voice (and I kid not), "You are direct, aren't you?" It was all I could do not to start giggling myself.

The best part of the joke is that when I batted my eyes at John later and teased him for being such a babe magnet, he had no idea what I was talking about. Either that, or he's even smarter than I thought he was.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Cute vs. Evil
WoT? Google Searches, Vol. 4
Yes, Dear Reader. It's that time again. Google Searches Vol. 4. Vol. 3 is here, in case this sort of thing amuses you. If you're really in a time-wasting mood, here are one and two as well.

posture description when typing - Do you mean the correct, ergonomic version, or the dissipated, couch-potato slump I generally employ in the wee hours of the morning when I'm cranking this stuff out?

just the other day the old man looked just like me lyrics - What?! I never looked like an old man! (Well, maybe first thing in the morning, before my coffee... we won't go there.)

typing kindergarten - Is this one of those hyperactive, start-getting-your-kid-into-Harvard-when-he's-three things? Ecchhh. You won't find that here.

description of ideal job - We've been over that. I don't have one.

what is an anthropologist's paycheck - I dunno. Maybe a dinosaur bone?

anne rice amazon rant - Oy! This one came up several times. It seems that Ms. Rice's meltdown on Amazon was generating some serious curiosity.

house of lust - I have to tell you - all of Europe is beating a path to my virtual door with this one. Google's Italian, German, Danish, UK, French sites (and more) have all led folks to me at various points. How turned on these searchers must be when they see that "House Lust" was just a Random Thing about Arts & Crafts-style houses! (Hint: Google doesn't care about articles like "of.")

writing about my dream house - We haven't even got started on that one.

buick low tire warning reset - Whoops. This isn't a Buick how-to page, but I can tell you from experience that the reset button is located in a fuse panel on the passenger's side of the dashboard, facing the door. You're welcome.

you dear reader have the advantage over me i am writing this sunday before the election takes place the opportunities for me to look foolish are legion so i will resist both predictions and triumphalism - Excuse me? Wow. I've never seen a search string this long. I checked on the day it appeared, and I was indeed the first entry for this search. The googlebot has finally caught up with the real owner of this, though, and I am now number three.

Yay! We're number three! We're number three!

Have a nice weekend.

Can anyone explain to me why I have been making bread almost obsessively for a month?

Is it Fall? Is it some sort of comfort food jones? Is it anti-Atkins backlash?

I have no answers. It's yummy, though.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just in Time for Christmas
A message to all the Dear Readers with double-x chromosomes: ever go to a sporting goods store and get frustrated by the fact that only 15% of the rack space is dedicated to people shaped like you? Well, solutions are out there. So, go out and "ride like a girl."

For someone who has been seeking for almost a year, being sought-after is a delicious novelty. The morning after I had substituted for my regular Yoga teacher, she called me and asked if I could sub again for her. Her small daughter had pinkeye and needed to see a doctor. So, I showered, changed and ran up to Germantown to teach a beginner class.

This week, I am teaching three classes for the woman who owns the studio where I study. Later this month, I am teaching four more classes for the Germantown studio. Since I cannot justify spending the money on the Yoga teacher-training class I had my eye on until I have regular, full-time income, the trust these other teachers have placed in me fills me with wonder.

The most wonder-full thing is that I have been offered the beginner's class at my home studio, starting in January. Not to sub, but to teach.

The foundation of Anusara Yoga (the style I study) is opening to, or flowing with Grace, explained thusly: "...It is a willingness to be aware of all parts of ourselves—the light and the dark, the full rainbow of sensation, perception, emotion, and thought. To be in the flow is to look at whatever arises with freshness and freedom. It is simply to open our hearts with love to the present moment without clinging or pushing. Anusara is accepting the world and ourselves as we are, and then responding with love."

The fact that these teachers believe me worthy to join their ranks helps to make that response possible.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

This Old, Random House
I don't like waiting at the best of times. I really don't like waiting to see who is going to be President. That is all I am going to say about the actual election part of the election.

I grew up in a small town. It has grown larger, and as I have mentioned before, it is no longer the little town I grew up in. I have lived in a variety of places since I left the nest, never really putting down roots however long I stayed. It was always a source of wonder to go back to Hollis and inevitably run into people I knew at the small collection of shops in the center of town. I never looked for that sense of community elsewhere - I suppose I assumed it took at least a decade of living in a place to have that wide mantle of community thrown over you, to have your anonymity peeled away by acquaintanceship and caring.

We have lived in our current home for just a little over two years. It is a typical, sprawling suburban community, the kind of place where you are almost startled to see your next-door neighbor in the grocery store or at the post office. But standing at the polls yesterday, I saw a huge collection of neighbors coming in and out of the elementary school where voting was set up. Many stopped by for a chat or even a hug. I knew them. They knew me.

Without even realizing it, I have become a part of this community. It feels strangely like home.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day
Up before first light, I worked at a literature table at our local elections today. Given all the reports of conflicts expected at polling places around the country, it was a remarkably cordial experience. The guy working the literature table for the other side offered us drinks, smiles and thumbs-up were displayed by passing voters despite long lines to get to the polls, and the County Executive sent some of his people to the various precincts with bagels and orange juice for the volunteers. Best of all, there were huge numbers of young people getting involved. Even a few seventeen-year-olds passed out literature, undaunted by their inability to vote just yet. One newly naturalized citizen stopped by to ask questions, cautious and unsure about her new rights.

Only a couple of people were obnoxious. One woman, passing the young volunteers at our table, threw her hands up and said, "Don't even try me. I hate him." It was an odd reaction to a smiling young man who was simply standing there holding literature. We said, "Thank you for voting," to just about everyone as they left. One woman responded, "We didn't vote for your guy," with a sarcastic smile.

"Thank you for voting," we replied.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Little Late, But...
Item one: Pat and Maria are in. The new house looks great, nobody threw their back out moving the sleeper sofa, all is well. During a quick post-move grocery run, where we purchased a feast and stocked up on candy for the little ones in their new neighborhood, Maria and I noted a gentleman who plonked a bag of single-serving-size packets of pretzels onto the belt, placing a box of All Bran in front of it. Obviously, his is the house to be avoided in that neighborhood if you are under fifteen years old. Maria, whose father is a retired dentist, had a bit of a flashback to our childhood where he handed out potato chips instead of Snickers. Oh, the humanity!

Item two: Three Halloweens ago (our first in this house), John and I committed the cardinal Halloween sin. We ran out of candy. So that year we were compelled to turn off the front porch light and huddle in the den at the back of our house, hoping the neighborhood kids would get the hint. To our shame, the motion-sensor light betrayed us and we froze like hunted rabbits through an endlessly ringing doorbell. Last year I had to be gone for trick or treating, but the candy situation was well in hand when I returned - a few random Reese's Peanut Butter Cups remained, so all was well.

A message to all the rugrats in our neighborhood. Where the heck were you last night? Our doorbell rang approximately eight times. John, traumatized by our first Halloween experience, had bought five bags of candy. Our big wooden salad bowl still overflows with mass-produced sucrose bombs. We sat there, dog securely leashed, drinking white wine and watching Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars in mostly-undisturbed splendor. The TiVo's pause button barely got a workout. Not only that, but the mass of Halloweeny cuteness that usually greets us? Not so much. We had two Disney princesses, a few assorted small goblins, and the rest were marginally costumed young teenagers of the variety that John likes to call "punkass kids."

It's like being robbed in reverse. Here I am, left with all this candy. I might as well have bought pretzels.

Posting Late
Hey all - I am volunteering at our local polls on the morning of November 2, so I will be posting late.

I know I don't have to remind my Dear Readers to vote, but...

Vote. Please.

Thank you.

See you later today.