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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Bonus Holiday Weekend Animal Blogging
John felt that after Friday's "Sultan Simon" cat blogging, that the other animals in the household needed some equal time. (Click photos for larger versions).

So, here's MacIntosh and Dash, sitting pretty for Cheerios.

And here's Dash, stretching tall to get a Cheerio.

...and just because this is classic, here is Simon with his beloved - John's slipper. He carries this around the house. I found him lying on the bed, guarding his beloved slipper with great fierceness.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Weekend (5/29/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, May 28, 2004

I Have No Idea...
...why this was made, but it's fabulous. Twinkies as a fuel-source! Brilliant!

Zip. Nada. Bupkus.
I am full of nothing today.

No cranky ramblings, no pastoral musings. Some days are just like that, I guess. Perhaps it is cosmic comeuppance for telling someone a little while ago that coming up with daily topics was getting easier. The Jinx Gods said, "AHA! Fuggedaboudit. You shall have the urge to move closets on Monday, ideas that come to you in the night and are gone by morning midweek, and an empty head on Friday."

So be it, who am I to resist the tides of fate? I have an empty head and needs must get on the road, as my best friend of *choke* thirty years and I are about to have a long-anticipated Girls' Day Out.

So, as Monday is Memorial Day and even Our Heroine needs a holiday sometime, have a great weekend and I will see you Tuesday.

Okay, so here's some cat blogging...
Even John Scalzi sometimes submits to the urge to post a cute cat photo. So:

Sultan Simon, emperor of the duvet.

And in repose....

Thursday, May 27, 2004

What's Really Scary...
...is that I'm not just using 10% of my brain.

What the...?
I need to start keeping a pad and pen by my bed. I had an idea last night for today's essay, and it is now completely (and probably irretrievably) gone. I hate it when that happens.

Those ideas - the ones you think of fleetingly, charge yourself with remembering, and then promptly forget - those always seem to be the best ones. As you can't remember them, you are free to believe they must have been works of pure genius, perfect in every crystalline detail. The reality is probably far different. I may have had a mildly clever idea, even something that might be a bit thought-provoking. Or it may have been pure rubbish. But my anxious waking brain seems to be convinced that I am leaving my best stuff on the nocturnal cutting room floor. We will never know, as I did not note anything down and now have no clue what I was thinking about.

The problem is, even if I station the pad and pen and charge them with recording my near-sleep notions, I'm pretty sure they would gather more dust than ideas. If I'm near sleep, I'm going to drop off, barring any sudden loud noises (and even they won't usually wake me up - I frequently sleep through thunderstorms). If I get an idea in that milky place between waking and sleeping, it's highly likely to stay in that ether. There's very little chance I will summon up whatever it takes to rouse myself, turn on the light and jot down a note. My husband is probably thankful for this, as he is a very light sleeper (except when he has rolled over onto the duvet, rendering it unusable by anyone but himself. Then nothing short of a trumpet blast is going to wake him as his wife shivers and tugs at the edges of the human burrito in a vain and pathetic attempt to reclaim her portion of duvet real estate).

So - instead of whatever marvelous work of genius my semi-conscious brain may or may not have spat up last night, you get this, Dear Reader. Sorry.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

How All This Works
Occasionally, I hear some disaffected type say something like, "I'm going to use my vote to send a message." It sounds terribly jaded, doesn't it? Can't you just feel the world-weary sigh gusting past your ear? The problem is, it's also abysmally stupid. It's sort of like saying, "I'm going to use that hammer to apply my mascara." It's your prerogative, but it isn't the right use for the tool and it isn't going to do you an iota of good.

Last time I checked, nobody was wringing their hands over the write-in votes for Mickey Mouse. Similarly, that "message" Ralph Nader sent to Washington a few years ago? That would be: there are more than a few people who are willing to treat a Constitutional right like it's a bit of funky performance art.

A vote is an expression of preference, generally a binary one. Another bit of lunacy applied to voting is, "I don't like either party so I'm going to vote for [fill in something useless here]." This reminds me greatly of a child offered chocolate or vanilla ice cream who demands strawberry.

"We don't have strawberry," Reasonable Adult responds.

"WANT strawberry!" Many tears and tantrums later, still no strawberry. Wanting it isn't going to make it appear. You can vote for Donald Duck in every local, state and federal election. He's still not going to be your representative.

The main problem with using a vote to send a message is this: you are liable to be misinterpreted. Voters for Nader may have been saying, "I think the political system stinks." They may have been saying, "Both major party options are nauseous." They may even have wanted Ralph Nader to be president. Stranger things have happened. Only the last option is what the system is for, though. And when you have more than a few options as to how to interpret something, people are likely to do one of two things: assume it's the most likely one, or pick the one that suits their purposes best. If you don't like the current choices for President and you don't agree with their policies or ways of thinking, it's highly likely that they will take your ambiguous "message" and infer something you find abhorrent.

At the end of the day, there are really only two major messages politicians get out of votes: either "I won" or "I lost." Anything else is just noise.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Nothing to do with Bugs.
...Why do I Even Bother?
Dear Reader:

I do understand that I am far from perfect. The entire output of WoT, if collected, could be charitably described as "uneven." However, I don't get paid for this, and you don't have to pay to read it. I am slowly, more or less steadily, acquiring a larger readership (if my site statistics are to be believed), and that is satisfaction enough for me. If there are people out there - friends and strangers - who enjoy consuming the stuff I happen to decant out of my head on a daily basis, well, bully for all of us. It's a fair transaction as far as I'm concerned.

Which brings me to The Washington Post.

The Post has been absolutely mesmerized by the whole cicada thing. Yep, they exist. Yep, they're large. Yep, they're a bit of a phenomenon. Yep, they're noisy. Yep, they go crunch when you step on 'em and splat when you drive into 'em.


Why this has to take up a certain number of column inches every single day is beyond me.

They really have been running nonstop cicada stories since before the buggers emerged. When they may emerge, what their mating habits are, why they take 17 years to do their thing - on and on and on. In fact, they have been doing this long enough that the strain is starting to show.

Take today's story. It contains some truly priceless gems, possibly the most precious of which are the opening 2 paragraphs:

Of the many strange and wonderful qualities of cicadas, the most striking is their utter obliviousness.

They're in their own universe. They do not care about us. They don't care about the war in Iraq, the prisoner abuse scandal, the presidential race, the federal deficit or the rising price of gas. They don't even care about the cats and dogs and birds that sometimes turn them into a snack.

What? Come again? Since when do bugs - any bugs - care about wars, torture (does nobody in the national media have a copy of the Geneva conventions either?) scandals, presidents or presidential races, or the price of gas? Why is a bug's obliviousness worthy of comment?

More importantly, somebody is getting paid to write this? Yes, indeed. Probably not well, but he does get paid. And I am paying my tiny fraction of his salary by being a subscriber. Oy.

He goes on with:

But they teach us something. They remind us that the world isn't about just us.

Funny, that seems to be the point of these fevered maunderings. It's not just all about "us" - it's all about the writer! And the writer has a deadline! His editor has given him the cicada beat, and he must write several hundred (907, to be exact) words on the subject. Pity the poor writer. He comes too late in the cicada rotation to report anything scientific - that was taken up in the early weeks - or anything meaningful - that was the next day, perhaps - so, he just resorts to sort of making stuff up like some unemployed blogger sitting in her living room. How pathetic.

Hopefully, sometime in December, approximately six months after the cicadas have disappeared, the editors at the Post will have found something else to obsess over. For instance, I hear we have an election coming up.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Mel, You Wanted to Know Where to Donate that Bike...
Nothing Much
Today's entry will be short, as I have been sitting here for quite some time without any notion of what to say.

The fact is, I have the almost-irresistible urge to be Up and Doing.

The urge to be Up and Doing, combined with the fact that the hot weather has ceased its hippety-skippety behavior and moved in for good means that today will be the day when the great closet-swap occurs. Cool-weather things will get banished to the downstairs for the season, and the warm weather things will re-inhabit my day to day closet. My dry-cleaner will have a sudden business boomlet. It is rather a massive project, involving many trips up and down the two flights of stairs between my day to day closet and the basement. Every year, I tell myself that I have too many clothes. Every year, I move them about anyway.

So - with that, I'm off. I hope everyone has a great start to their week.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Weekend (5/21/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Freaky Fun with Faces for Friday!
Today's Essay Brought to You by Google
Aside from its primary use as a cracking good search engine, Google can be a nifty surreality check on what brings people to your site. Since I started writing WoT? in February, there have been some intriguing Google searches which brought readers to my homepage. I thought I might share them with you.

neda ulaby - This was the first "off the wall" Google search that I got. I bagged this link for my reference to her in "Manning the Ramparts." The fact that somebody came to my site off of a search for Ms. Ulaby was remarkable, though. I tried doing the same search at the time, because I wondered how many more infinitely relevant sites you would have to dig through in order to reach my little essay, which only referenced her in an incidental sort of way. WoT? came up on page three of the Google search. NPR (her employer's site, containing a bio) was the first result returned. If this person dug through all that to get to my site, it makes you wonder what they were really looking for...

show me an imaginary island that tells you the size - I love this one. I have no idea what the searcher intended to measure through displaying imaginary islands, but I do admire its Dadaist sensibility. I hope they enjoyed, "Oh, So That's It."

will rogers we can't all parade heroes sidewalk - This person either wanted the exact Will Rogers quote and didn't know about Bartleby's quotations online, or they were looking for the text of my mother's speech in "Guest Blogger." I know which one I hope it was. I'm more than a little proud of Mom.

buds typing - To the best of my knowledge, my plants, though blogged about on a fairly frequent basis, have never taken over the keyboard.

gang writing - Good grief. Anybody looking for gritty, inner-city observations must have been sorely disappointed by musings on plants, spring, word geekery, and my cranky ravings about heat, bugs, and the dog's noisy aversion to the sidewalk workmen. I wish them well. Recovery from the shock may not be swift.

writingortyping - All I can say is, if you already have the URL, you don't need to put it into Google. Also, don't double-click web links, open multiple browser windows if you want to compare sites, and you don't have to quit out of a program when you're finished with a document.

jill sawdon - Yes, I am the artist formerly known as Jill Sawdon. No long-lost person has gotten in touch with me lately, though, so I have to assume that whatever curiosity they had about me was assuaged.

Now, we get into what I call "The Cicada Chronicles." If you think I have gone on a lot about these critters, be sure you don't read the Washington Post until after the onslaught is over. Your head will explode.

maryland brood x cicada observations - I wonder if they were looking for bug sightings or just folksy musings on the subject. What they got was, "Today's Forecast: Hot and Buggy."

cicada warnings for pet owners - Sorry. I offer no practical tips on this subject, except: when they barf, clean it up.

cicada writing - Despite variable quality of WoT? essays, I swear I have never let a cicada do the writing. We have a "no literary cicadas" policy here at WoT?

Last, but not least, this just in this morning:

what is megrims - Let's just say we don't need to go into that again. And speaking of heads exploding, for goodness sake, I know it's just a Google search but you can't make your subject and your verb agree? Google's going to ignore the verb anyway, so best to leave it out in the first place. Besides, there are a zillion good dictionaries out there on the web. You don't need me for this. Now, go on - shoo!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

After That, I Need a Cold One.
Pettiness and Power
"As usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private separate advantage."

- John Locke (1632–1704)

In my last job, a perennial and thorny problem caused much head-scratching, strategizing and frustration. The problem was not budgets, resource allocations, or business planning. The problem was The Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper was basically a petty tyrant with a tiny, but pernicious power: access. The Gatekeeper's favorite word was "No." These sad little monsters knew their only power was that of denial, and they used it unscrupulously and often. There was generally little reason for the constant denials: having the power was excuse enough to use it. Often, when you finally were able to meet the August Personage whose portals they guarded, you found out that the Gatekeeper had reached far beyond what they were supposed to do, that they had said "No" far too often and to the wrong people. In the worst cases, Gatekeepers lost their jobs.

I sometimes used to wonder, "What happens when Gatekeepers have more power?" Unfortunately, (via) I have my answer. The principal of Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico seems to be a gatekeeper run amok. Among other things, he has suspended a student for the offense of reciting her own poem: a poem whose offense was that it was critical of the Iraq war. He has ordered her mother to destroy all of the child's other poetry (she has refused, but as she is also a teacher, her job may be in jeopardy). He has torn down posters by art students because they express opinions other than his own. He has effectively fired the teachers who supported the poetry and art students by not renewing their contracts. And he has refused to forward at least one teacher's credentials to a school which would now like to hire him, thereby rendering the teacher temporarily un-hirable.

That is a truly impressive catalogue of egregiously mean-spirited abuses of power. It takes a perniciously creative mind to think of all the ways you can model unconstitutional and overreaching behavior to a community. I am in awe of the engorged ego which must reside in this sad excuse for humanity. And I hope that the day will not be too far away when this "educator" is ordered by a court of law to sit classes in ninth-grade civics class, where he may presumably learn about a quaint little document he seems to be unaware of: The Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

New to Me
Word of the day. Today's is objurgation.

More Word Geekery
John sent me this this morning. Ah. Now that I am on an word-rampage, it is nice to be able to continue it. (I'm a bit of an organization freak, he works in a library: we're a match made in the card catalogue).

What a great collection of syllables and meanings are there! Clandestine, lugubrious, obstreperous, curmudgeon, ethereal, chiaroscuro, lagniappe, twee...

Who could possibly limit themselves to secret, dismal, unruly, crusty old man, heavenly, light and shade, small gift, or cute? (No, a twee is not something whose bwanches you cwimb, even if my spell-checker doesn't recognize it.) All of these are perfectly useful, lovely words, if a bit basic. Basic is fine: Whistler painted masterpieces in shades of gray. But what if all art were only painted in shades of gray? We would long for red, purple, green and yellow. And after that, we would reach deeper for scarlet, aubergine, peridot and jonquil.

There is a statistic out there that people like to throw around regarding how many words an average American has in their vocabulary. While that is probably nonsense (I can feel my eyebrows start to lift almost automatically when the terms "average person" or "average American" are invoked), I would say it is generally true that there are a great many under-utilized words in common speech and writing. As such, we paint our word-pictures either in shades of gray or bright, harsh primary colors, losing the opportunity for subtle shading.

I like seeing the world in magenta, amber, mocha, and silver, and I'm looking for new colors every day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Because it is That Kind of Day
Word-ward, Ho!
My mom gave me extra points for the use of the word "megrims" yesterday. We're such word sluts. My best friend refers to me as "The Girl who Swallowed a Dictionary."

It's true. I have plenty of people in my life who ask on a not-infrequent basis, "...what does that mean?" I am not sure why I like words so much, but I can guess - they are useful, they are beautiful and they are fun.

Take that word "megrims." It is severely out of date. The last time it was in common use may have been several hundred years ago, but like a well-preserved antique it is still useful. It has its own specific medical definition, but the French formulation "migraine" has outstripped it in popularity there. It has a secondary meaning of "whim or fancy," which seems strangely light and out of step with its primary meaning as a skull-splitting, debilitating headache. Best of all, the plural form has an entirely different meaning. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary entry (2 b plural: low spirits) was the form I was using yesterday.

Who couldn't love a word like that? Okay, maybe you couldn't, but what word lover could pass up such a two-syllable Swiss Army knife? I can understand why migraine sufferers don't refer to a "megrim." A migraine sounds like what it is - it has big, strong, bold vowels. "I-AY" might be something you would say in the throes of such agony. But "ee-eh"? No. Those sounds convey a middling-to-bad day, a tiny whine, the dismissal of a mediocre meal. Megrim is a small-sounding word, and as such it is gorgeous: it is perfect for indicating prissy lowness of spirit, a tiny fit of the vapors, something worth ignoring. The tales I have heard of migraines indicate they are nothing to be ignored, and migraine sufferers are right to pass on megrim as a descriptive term.

So much for useful and beautiful. But fun? Yes, fun! Have you ever had an object you saved for some time, with no thought as to how it might be useful? Perhaps it was packed away in great big wads of aging newsprint. Did you ever have that "a-ha!" moment where you realized where it might serve a purpose? Did the use (finally!) after all these years give you pleasure? That is just one of the ways words are fun for me. I could have gone another way yesterday. I could have said, "The experienced geranium owner knows to ignore their low spirits - they will get over it in time." It would have worked, but it wouldn't have been fun. "Megrims" conjured up a better image: a hypochondriac geranium reclining on a chaise longue, handkerchief to forehead, emitting low moans. A subject, perhaps, for the late Edward Gorey. "Low spirits"? It is perfectly useful, but its pedestrian syllables don't quite summon up the melodramatic image I was looking for. So, out comes "megrim" from the old cardboard box, and voila! It made me smile, and it made Mom smile too.

If it made you smile as well, congratulations. Word-ward, Ho! You're a word slut.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Why Not?
Flowery Prose
I just thought you might like to know that my geraniums are very, very happy.

I don't know why you might like to know this, other than the fact that I'm sitting here, wondering what to say today and viewing their verdant loveliness. The pink one has a couple of brave blooms and an entire battalion of buds, ready to spring into action. The others look sure to follow suit any minute.

Is there a 12-step program for geranium owners? It seems that you either like the geranium or don't; and those of us who like the geranium seem to acquire more and more of them as the years go on. It usually starts with the standard scarlet, then after you own a bunch of those, it goes on to different colors, then the fancier types - firecrackers (with spiky flowers of two colors), scented (lemon or rose: brush past them and their perfume lingers), Martha Washington (with crazily serrated leaves and fluttery, frilly, two-color flowers). There are, of course, more. But I won't bore you (further).

Don't get me wrong: I am no geranium expert. You don't have to be. The darn things will grow like crazy just given sunshine and water. And there are so many types, with so many different qualities, that a trip to a nursery almost always ends up bringing home a new one. Never mind that the trip to the nursery was for herbs, hostas, or a new Japanese maple. A geranium will find its way into my car for the homeward journey. It's like a packet of gum at the grocery store - a flowery impulse purchase.

So, as a consequence, I have quite a few. Another fun fact about geraniums: they're migratory. Really. They love sunshine so much, that in the spring they get moved from the upstairs hallway (great sunshine in the winter) to the deck in back (great sunshine in the summer). Their first few days in a new location, they get very nervous. They throw the geranium equivalent of a tantrum, shedding leaves and looking like they want to jump off the railing. The experienced geranium owner knows to ignore their megrims - they will get over it in time. Sure enough, in a few days, they are wondering why they ever complained about being in this hot, sunny, humid place. Why, it's perfect for us! Let the flowering begin!


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Weekend (5/15/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Fun With Lewis and Clark
Fill Up the Canvas - the Lewis and Clark expedition online: this time, with less syphilis!

Why We Do This
Reading an active blog is sort of like that movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral." You start to run into the same people over and over again. One blog leads you to another, and - surprise! - the same cast of characters is there, munching canapes and holding glasses of champagne. Like-minded people start to congregate in ever-widening Venn Diagrams of overlapping opinion.

Eventually, acquaintances start to form. They probably lead to friendships: I can't say for myself yet, as I am too new to this game. But it makes sense.

I would venture to guess, though, that everyone came to the party expecting something a bit different. Some want a soapbox. Some want to spark conversation. Some want to practice their writing skills. Some want a creative outlet. The list goes on and on.

The thing is, the more you do this, the more you wonder if you are a thousand miles from civilization, screaming into the wilderness. Occasionally, a comment comes in and you say, "AHA! There is someone out there who reads me!" But generally, those are few and far between. In the meantime, you may start to analyze the silence. Does it mean that your readership (an exclusive club to be sure) agrees with you? Or do they disagree and are simply being polite? Or do they disagree and think you so incapable of rational thought that they won't even bother to engage you? What if your readership is just bored? Should I quit? Why did I start doing this again? Are those reasons good enough any more?

An online acquaintance of mine, Mary Kay, is going through this sort of analysis. I understand the impulse. So far, the writing itself and the occasional conversation it sparks are enough for me. I hope they are for her as well.

Afternote: It is rather disturbing to me that the spell-checker in my blogging program doesn't recognize the word "blog." Sometimes technology is SO twentieth-century.

They're here...
Only a few so far and as yet, no big noise.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Something Completely Different
Mitigating Circumstances
There have been various attempts to provide "perspective" to the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. The Washington Times, in an editorial about the recent words of Senator Inhofe, offers this on the torture that occurred:

"If photographs of detainee abuse are authorized for public dissemination, he said, 'for every picture of abuse or alleged abuse of prisoners, we have pictures of mass graves, pictures of children being executed, pictures of the four Americans ... that were burned and their bodies were mutilated and dismembered in public. Let's get the whole picture.'"

The article also touches on the number of people who were involved in the acts at Abu Ghraib. These are seven, according to Inhofe's count (those are the seven currently accused - chain of command is not taken into account). Inhofe finds it significant that these seven are a tiny fraction of a percent of the entire force in Iraq.

This is a heated issue, and it seems to be causing some brain fever. So I will posit a scenario for consideration. Imagine: a mugger is in front of a judge, charged with armed robbery and assault. He has viciously beaten a man in the course of stealing his victim's wallet and watch. His defense runs thusly: he presents photos of the victims of a gang (already in custody) which had perpetrated a series of brutal murders. He points out that he is only one man in society, a tiny fraction of the town in which he lives. He argues that he has caused very limited harm - a robbery and beating, as opposed to the multiple murders committed by this gang. "Your honor," says his attorney, "please keep this man's actions in perspective. He didn't cause as much harm as the gang: let's get the whole picture. I think it is just time to move on."

To me, that does not look like perspective; it looks like obfuscation. Each defendant is only one person, yet if they are found guilty, they are not judged by how much of a percentage of the human race they comprise - they are judged by the harm that they do.

"It could have been worse," is not a defense at law, and perspective is not a mitigating circumstance for a crime.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Go Bob, GO!

Speaking of Noise
I am truly starting to feel like the Grinch:

"And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!"

The Powers That Be in our Home Owner's Association decided a while back that minor cosmetic pitting and slight settling was reason enough to replace our sidewalks. John and I, thinking the sidewalks were more pristine than anything we would normally see in New England, disagreed. However, the PTB in the HOA got their way, and now we have had 2 days of jackhammering, crashing, booming and barking.

Yes, barking.

At about one and a half, Mac decided his role in life was watchdog. This is to be differentiated from "guard dog," mind you. Anyone who actually gets into the house is greeted with a wagging tail and an ingratiating wiggle. He would probably eagerly show a stranger where all the best stuff is kept. But, as long as anyone is going to pull up outside our house, or walk past within a radius of 50 feet, he is going to let us know about it. Luckily, we live on a normally quiet cul-de-sac.

The operative word in that last sentence is "normally." For the last two days, I have heard a nearly relentless string of dire, doggy warnings that there is stuff going on outside, all expressed in remarkably loud barks for a 36-pound dog. I am starting to fear for my sanity.

Anyway, it will all be over tomorrow. If you don't hear from me, look for me inside the concrete.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Wow, I am very glad I am not a teacher.
Interesting essays.

Today's Forecast: Hot and Buggy
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree...

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

He bends to the order of the seasons, the weather, the soils and crops, as the sails of a ship bend to the wind. He represents continuous hard labor, year in, year out, and small gains. He is a slow person, timed to Nature, and not to city watches. He takes the pace of seasons, plants and chemistry. Nature never hurries: atom by atom, little by little, she achieves her work.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Seasons in DC aren't the stately forces of nature described in poetry and literature. They nip in and out, play tag with one another, and spring out from behind a doorway to scare the bejeezus out of you with a loud "BOO!" One bright spring day it might be a nippy fifty degrees. The next day it will be eighty. All the while, the weather gods snicker behind their hands and delight in sweating out the unwary. "Did it again!" they chortle. "She's left the house wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt! Eighty degrees for her!"

Dear Readers might get the impression that I am not a fan of warm weather. They would be right. While some people revel in the hot, steamy summers DC is famous for, I go into vapor lock. Somehow, there just doesn't seem to be enough oxygen in the air when it is 95 degrees with 90% humidity. And the way DC dances in and out, doing the "hot to cold and back again" hokey pokey, I have a hard time acclimating to the heat in the springtime.

This week, the projected highs are 89 degrees. Yay.

But wait, there's more! This year, in addition to increasing heat and humidity, our DC weather will bring us noisy bugs. The "Brood X" seventeen-year cicada is due any day now. It should be really fun to sweat, crunch bug carcasses underfoot, and try to keep the dog from snapping up an indigestible buggy snack. John appears to be fascinated by the things, sending me articles and websites on a regular basis. He actually found two cicada nymphs in our back yard this weekend and brought them to me. They rolled around in his hand like fat, happy babies. Soon they will be oversexed adults, millions of them, each buzzing like a sawmill to attract a mate.

Kids nowdays. They grow up so fast.

Monday, May 10, 2004

For Dog Owners
Dogs In Elk. An online thread about a strange problem. "Anne V," (in blue, on the left) explains her predicament to various others on the thread (in red, on the right). Be sure to put down beverages before reading this, as liquids are likely to shoot out of your nose during perusal of this document. I find the vegetable recreation merely distracting, but it's easily ignorable.

What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?
Dateline: Three o'clock this morning, Our House. We were awakened by one of the worst sounds a pet owner can hear at that hour. As such, I can report back to my Dear Readers that rising from a sound sleep to clean up dog barf is not a marital bonding experience for either party. The dog didn't seem too enthused about it either.

Is there a scientific study out there that proves once and for all that an animal who is retching will actively choose a carpeted area to do the retching on? I have seen cats spring from easily cleaned hardwood or tile, in order to be sure that they deposit their payload on hard-to-clean carpet. I'm just asking.

Mopping up random bodily fluids is one of the dark facets of pet ownership. That critter looks cute, plucking your heartstrings with innate virtuosity and skill. No vile thing could ever emerge from this fuzzy bundle of joy. You bring it home. The cleanup begins. When Mac was a puppy and in the process of being house-trained, my mother called on one particularly frazzled evening. "What's wrong?" she asked, clearly hearing in my voice the tones of a woman who is about to be carted off to the maximum security ward in the local hospital for the insane.

"The dog has peed and pooped in the house today. Both."

From high atop the ladder where John was painting, he quipped, "If he barfs, he gets a hat trick."

As to why the dog was suddenly ill in the middle of the night, I believe it is one or more of three things: 1.) he appears to have consumed a pine needle, which was resistant to his digestive process, 2.) he has actually learned to read and read the Taguba Report, or 3.) he read today's Random Thing and wanted to make sure all future canine postings included him.

Whichever it is, he's not telling.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Weekend (5/8/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, May 07, 2004

I Always Wondered About This
On Being a "Recovering Attorney"
As I note in my FAQ, I am a "recovering attorney." Admittedly, this is a pretty lame joke, but the mild humor is usually enough to deflect someone who is hellbent on finding out why on Earth you would "throw three years of your life away on training you don't use." The fact is, I use the training: I just don't use the licenses. The fact that I am not a slave to the Unholy Billable Hour and do not have to enter an ulcer-inducing courtroom more than make up for any pain I might feel over not using "Esq." after my name. (And it has been quite painless so far, thank you.)

However, having professional training in a specific field can net you some strange expectations. As I go about my daily job-search, I get the occasional question, "Have you ever thought about returning to the [practice of] law?" This, to me, is a bizarre question. Considering the fact that many people cling to the misconception that the study of law is comprised of memorizing the U.S. Code, as well as any state codes you happen to feel would be useful, this is a really strange question. My memory - anyone's memory - is just not that good. (It was never good enough to memorize the U.S. Code, either, but that's another essay.)

The fact is, I have not practiced law in ten years. The only time I did practice, I was doing a one-semester stint in the domestic legal clinic of my law school. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a legal clinic, this is the lawyerly equivalent of driving school. You may be the one with your hands on the wheel, but you always have a supervising attorney next to you with his or her foot poised over the extra brake. The only thing you lack is a big sign across your backside that reads, "Student Attorney." (Though when I went to court I often felt as if I did have such a sign.)

So, even though I have three years of study and two licenses to practice law, I have only four months of practical experience (in divorces and custody disputes, a practice I found depressing and enervating) and those two licenses are in states approximately 500 miles from where I live now. The practice of law as a "fallback" career is not one I should be pursuing for many reasons. If I had not driven in ten years, despite having passed the driving course and possessing a license, I would not attempt it again without serious re-study.

Occasionally, people even ask me if I am thinking about taking the Bar Exam in Maryland. This is even crazier talk, as far as I am concerned. I studied for six days a week for about two months to pass the last time, and I was fresh out of law school, with all the concepts and the vocabulary still roaming at large in my mind. Now I can't even read my own thesis fluently any more. I feel like the legal side of my brain is a neglected chest with rusty hinges, crammed with dusty, moth-eaten concepts. A great deal of reconditioning would be needed to bring any of that into working order again, and some things would have to be replaced outright because the tools I have are too out-of-date or have deteriorated beyond repair.

So no, I will not be "returning" to a practice I never really had to begin with. Besides, practicing law would interfere with my budding career as a Pop Star.

Pop Quiz
Example A:

Fred is a college freshman at a large university. He wishes to join a social organization whose entry criteria include ritualized humiliation of its applicants. Knowing this, he applies to join anyway. Later, photographs from the social organization surface which show Fred unclothed, hooded and at the end of a leash - the other end of which is held by a clothed female.

Example B:

Joe is a citizen of a conquered nation. He is arrested by the military of the conquering nation and placed in prison. Later, photographs from the prison surface which show Joe unclothed, hooded and at the end of a leash - the other end of which is held by a clothed female.

Attempt to label these two situations. Compare and contrast: what is the same and what is different? What are the most compelling differences? You have 30 minutes. Show your work.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Really Random
What is the America You Know?
Okay. I'm very late to this fray. I have tried long and hard to remain outside the political arena. Partly because I am looking for a job, and expressing a political belief can be dangerous when you are looking for a job in the Washington Metro Area, and partly because I don't really like political arguments. I think they are far too susceptible to Godwin's Law and its corollaries.

But things are just completely out of hand.

G.W. Bush referred to the evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib and said that it is, "Not the America that I know." Funny, the United States of America that I know includes citizens who will drag a man to death behind a truck because his skin is a different color from theirs. It includes a young man beaten and left for dead tied to a fence because he said the wrong things to the wrong people. It includes teenagers who acted as if they might have been in training for Abu Ghraib.

America also includes many examples of good things, good people. There are teenage good samaritans getting recognized for their actions. There are people volunteering to build houses for low-income families. U.S. doctors are joining with physicians around the world to help combat disease in poor nations.

The America that I know is all these things and more. The good stands with the bad. That is the way the world works, the way things are. But the foul things that people are capable of inflicting on one another do not go away when you refuse to see them. And if I, who love my country and want desperately for it to be a wholesome place, can see and remember the bad, then you can rest assured that those who do not love us will also see and remember the bad as well. Those people will not be fooled by blindly optimistic statements that ignore reality.

Besides, another occasion when Bush used the same phrase should have taught him something about America. It can be a dangerous place.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Televisory Randomness
The Acme products catalog. Anyone need an anvil?

Our Collective Case of Anwhedonia
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Therefore, I am following Rivka's example and going for something a bit lighter today.

In that vein, I refer to something that my great and good friend Alicia points out in a comment to "An Experiment" below. It appears that "Serenity," the movie that is rising from the ashes of the television show "Firefly," is actually being made.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden considers this a "a temporary respite from our collective case of anwhedonia," and I have to agree.

For those who are puzzling over the newly-coined (as far as I know) term "anwhedonia," it is a reference to Joss Whedon, TV show and movie creator and writer extraordinaire. For those who are aficionados of his work, we had a brief, shining moment in the sun last year when he had three shows on the air at the same time. "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," a show which rewarded those who came at it with an open mind and confounded the expectations of people who were unwilling to give it a chance; "Angel," the "Buffy" spin-off and "Firefly," which I humbly submit was Whedon's best work, in spite of its incredibly short life.

"Buffy" ended its seven-season run last year. "Angel" is ending this year. And "Firefly" was cancelled after only eleven episodes aired. This summer, we fans of Mr. Whedon will go from three nights a week of Whedony goodness to zero.

Allow me to rant for a bit. The programming trolls over at Fox Television are the most contemptible idiots ever to need a serious clue-by-four to the head. They ordered "Firefly" knowing full well that Joss Whedon's ideas come from somewhere to the left of left field, but also that he makes them work. Given a fighting chance, his shows find a passionate and devoted audience.

So instead of giving the show that fighting chance, Fox does the other thing. After a lack of promotion of the show that must have been embarrassing and disturbing to all involved, they placed "Firefly" in a time slot that is commonly known as the "death slot" - Friday night. They also showed the series out of order, only showing the pilot episode at the end of the show's eleven-episode run, thereby guaranteeing that even the most devoted Joss Whedon fan would be baffled by certain plot points or relationships. They didn't even run three episodes they already had in the can. In essence, they did everything they could to make the series a ratings failure. (By the way, this is not an isolated incident - they did the same thing to "Wonderfalls" this year.)

The only thing they did right was release the series on a DVD, which is a fantastic piece of work. Not only is the show marvelously compelling when viewed in order, but every disc contains at least one thoughtful, insightful, often humorous commentary "extra." There is a "making of" featurette which contains touching stories from cast members and crew that illustrate how deeply everyone was involved in making this a really great show.

Now, all nine original cast members have signed on to the project and it goes into production next month. It may not be a cure for the Whedon-less Television Blues, but at least it's something to look forward to.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

No Joy in Randomness Today
Making Light's thread on Abu Ghraib is far more comprehensive than I could ever care to be. I encourage you to visit.

Angry. Very, Very Angry.
The Abu Ghraib situation has me absolutely sick. Sick, angry, sad, tired, frustrated, ashamed. All of those words and more, and no matter how many words I would try to use, they still sound weak.

The photographs - nay snapshots. The smiles on the faces of young soldiers and "contractors." The creepy dehumanizing of prisoners via hoods, nudity, threats of electric shocks and worse. The "administrative rebukes" that are being issued by the higher-ups (what about to the higher-ups?). The people in our own country who look at the photographs, shrug and say, "Well, Saddam was worse." The apologist statements from the folks back home, defending the "anything goes" theory of war.

I'm sorry, when you're measuring behavior on a yardstick whose demarcations are marked out by a murdering megalomaniac, you have seriously lost the plot. And when you're confusing conditions in a military prison with conditions on the field of battle, you're either willfully ignorant or woefully delusional.

I am not at all surprised that this can have been committed by Americans. Just think back over the past few years - I was going to give a list of atrocities that Americans have perpetuated on American soil. But I'm sure you can come up with your own list. It would probably be better than mine.

I'm done now. I have to go call my congressional representatives. Mission Accomplished? Not until the people responsible - all of them - face the legal consequences of their actions.

You Get a Lot of Channels With That?

Pity poor MacIntosh. He's got something wrong with his feet (which is not helped by his constant worrying at them). This is a newfangled, soft "Elizabethan collar" which is intended to keep him from being able to lick his feet. The floppy style is a vast improvement on the old-fashioned plastic "conehead" which tended to make Mac walk into walls with a hollow thud. This one just makes him look like an extra from the second season of "Blackadder."

Dash is not amused. He has yet to recognize his favorite brother inside the big blue satellite dish.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Good Vibes
My former roommate designs yoga clothing. Namaste.

Oh, So That's It.
I guess it's called "outrage fatigue." Mary Kay Kare over at Gallimaufrey has successfully named (and, as she's a retired librarian, catalogued) my pain.

I used to console myself with the thought that in November, at least, I will be able to make my tiny contribution to changing the world. Then I remember that Montgomery County has electronic, touch-screen voting and I feel less than stellar about that so-called solace.

John and I occasionally muse about what we would do if we won the lottery. Our imaginary winnings used to go towards imaginary vacation homes, boats and horses. Now we're in the market for an imaginary island, where we can be self-governing.

But I do have one piece of really good news: on Saturday John was notified that he has been accepted to the Masters of Library Science program at Catholic University. I think about that and pride at least momentarily squelches all outrage fatigue.

An Experiment
I have added comment functionality to WoT?. To enter comments or notes on an entry, please click on the "Comment" link at the bottom of that entry.

I am essaying this as an experiment at this point - if I get trolls or abusive language, I will delete the post or "disemvowel" them as Teresa Nielsen Hayden does on Making Light. As John Scalzi says, "This is not a democracy. As Sylvester Stallone said in that classic of futuristic jurisprudence, Judge Dread, -- "I am the law!" (actually, Stallone says something like "Huhhhyeeehamdelaaaaaw!" But you know where I'm going). This is to say that I reserve all rights to edit and delete posts as I see fit. I am the sole arbiter of what is acceptable and what is not. There is no appeal. If'n you don't like it, don't post. Conversely, by posting here, you accept I have the right to edit and delete posts at my whim."

*Sigh* It would be nice to think that one didn't have to give disclaimers to invite conversation; however, I am too avid a blog-reader to live in that particular fantasy realm.

So, with that, please converse!

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Weekend (5/1/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.