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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

This Beats What I've Got
Moving Stories
Over on Making Light and Electrolite, they are moving. Not the reasonably painless shuttling of electrons that would entail changing URLs - we're talking the real deal here: box up your stuff and change your address, lose the coffee maker, and find that CD you thought someone had borrowed and not returned two years ago.

Moving is one of life's big stress-inducers - up there with marriage, the death of a spouse, and childbirth. I have moved a lot in my adult life - approximately once a year from age 21 to 30. I sat still for three years or so, and then I moved four times in fourteen months. Or you might call it 3 times, depending on how picky you are about half-moves into temporary apartments.

Let me tell you: despite having done it so often, I truly hate moving. I have a friend who seems rather to like it - she gets settled into one place, lives there for a couple of years, and then her fingers itch for the rasp of cardboard boxes and the sticky adhesion of packing tape. I love this friend dearly. I also believe she is clinically insane. I can understand wanting to live in a different environment - wanting something that is more or less urban, a house or apartment that has more or less space, or even just wanting a change in climate. I cannot understand just wanting to move for the sake of it.

I know people who have moved a lot for their careers - for instance, friends who were in the foreign service and changed continents every few years. I have yet to find someone (other than my peripatetic friend) who actually want to move for its own sake, though. When John and I did our penultimate move into a temporary apartment about two years ago, we really tried to be organized. We attempted to think of every single thing we might need for those two months. We tried to keep things tidy and contained while we were in that temporary space. We tried not to broach boxes of things needlessly. What happened? We ended up buying our millionth steward's knife because we hadn't brought one of the 9,999,999 ones we had at our old home. We ended up sprawling and creating piles upon piles of our things, never quite wanting to put anything "away," because we just wouldn't be there that long. We ended up raiding boxes of things we were sure we would not need, but had brought because the movers wouldn't. For two people who like (generally) to be organized, it was hell. Getting Mac during that period was probably not the smartest move either, but heck - life was chaos, why not add a puppy? And the temporary apartment was just the beginning - painting, minor renovations, and the actual moving in to our new house were all ahead of us. We are still in mid-project with the downstairs hall primed but unpainted.

So yes, I am unemployed. And no, I'm not considering relocating. But thanks for asking.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"You are Weary, Stale, Flat and Unprofitable."
A Spammer's Tale. Warms the cockles of the heart (whatever those are).

You Do it Too, You Know.
"We easily forgive our friends those faults that do not affect us ourselves."

--François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld

Ever notice that the person in the argument insisting that others let him finish is often the one who was doing the interrupting in the first place? Periodically, I go through phases of being called on the exact behavior I find most irritating. Embarrassment invariably ensues, but taking your lumps and acknowledging fault is definitely the most graceful way out of such an awkward situation.

There are, however, people out there who cannot find, let alone admit to a fault in themselves. They freely admit that they are "not perfect," but cannot own up to individual imperfections. Bluster replaces introspection and bullying replaces rational discussion or argument. Even worse, they behave in ways they themselves publicly deplore, without ever realizing it.

So here's my question. Why do we put up with it?

For my part, I don't need people like this in my life.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Oh, We Like to Kid...
Transcript of Jon Stewart, basically doing a Mexican Hat Dance around Larry King on Larry's own show.

Up, Up and Away
We went to the top of the Washington Monument on Saturday. Despite the fact that I have lived in the D.C. area for over five years, I had never been up there. We didn't bring a camera (we were traveling light in order to get through the security screens with greater ease), but the pictures here are pretty true to what we saw.

Yes, I was able to enjoy the view. It took me a minute, though. We were in a two-sided elevator, and walked straight from the doors to the East View. I looked out for a few seconds and had the disconcerting sensation that I was experiencing everything from a height of about seven feet from the floor. As I am only 5'7", this was troubling. I had to retreat to the stairwell and hold on to the rail before my perception settled into its normal state.

Hello, my name is Jill Smith and I suffer from acrophobia. I generally pride myself on being reasonably logical, but I have learned to respect phobias as no-holds-barred irrationality zones. I don't know how it works for other people, but I find myself suddenly visualizing a fall from whatever high place I am in - especially if it appears unstable (as a very tall, very thin building seems to be, regardless of how secure it really is). The Eiffel Tower also gave me the heebie-jeebies, especially since the top observation platform slopes very gently but perceptibly away from the central structure and the floor is a metal mesh which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Don't look down."

The interesting thing for me about this irrational fear is the way my brain makes it rational during the experience. The internal monologue goes something like this, "Yeah, right it's been here for hundreds of years - but look how thin that is! Who's to say today isn't the day when the whole thing comes down? Everything does eventually, you know..." and on from there. Screaming hysteria becomes logical self-preservation in the flash of a neuron.

So, all things considered, the fact that I was able eventually to look out each and every window is a matter of no small pride. You're still never going to see me rock climbing, though.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Weekend (6/26/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Happy Birthday, John!
I can now unveil John's birthday present (click on photo for larger version):

Six fishies, happily swimming in a six-gallon tank. Call it "Cat TV."

(And yes, the dream I had on Thursday had me filling the fish tank, putting a single fish in, then turning my back only to find that there was a scant inch of water in the previously full tank, scramble to fill it again, turn my back again, tank is in pieces, fishy needs rescuing... Ick.)

Friday, June 25, 2004

Yes, blimps.

This is Stupid. I Now Have Stupid All Over Me.
Back in May, Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light penned a fierce rebuttal to a writing teacher's website which contained advice for writers. Her husband, Patrick*, uttered the title words above upon reading that writing teacher's advice. Stupid, it appears, is very sticky. In a subsequent post, she wondered if the teacher in question had perhaps taken his own terrible advice and lied regarding his own professional credentials. After all, advice usually comes as a result of experience.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Taken his own advice = lie. About your professional credentials. For those who don't like to follow links, here is the original text of his advice regarding this (emphasis mine):

Tip Four: Still worried? Never published anything? Lie a little. Yes, lie. A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this. No publication credits? Write the words “West Coast Fiction Review” on a piece of paper, staple it to one of your stories, and boom, you’ve just been published in West Coast Fiction Review. Is there such a publication? Not that I know of, but it sure sounds impressive. No awards? Ask your best friend—let’s say her name is Martha Green—to give you the 1999 Martha Green Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fiction. What’s the Martha Green Award worth? Not much, unless it entices an editor or agent to read your work.

Making Light's readers tend to ring the "smart" end of the bell curve until it dents, and much googling and speculation followed in the comment threads regarding whether or not he had done anything his resume indicated. Did he really win those awards? Were those publications legit? Who is this guy, and does his employer know he's telling people to lie?

Somewhere along the line there was a bit of gratuitous verbal kicking, some trenchant satire (Making Light's readers can also be terribly creative), and some random digressions. I started one of these random digressions because the discussion had eddied around the issue of whether or not a college degree (or subsequent degrees) really qualify you for anything in most cases. So I asked how many people were working in the field which their degree had "qualified" them. As I expected, there was a torrent of varied educations and careers. Obviously a few writers are there, but they did not comprise the vast majority.

On another blog, John Scalzi noted that he didn't believe this teacher should be kicked behind his back, so he contacted the teacher in order to inform him about the kicking. He also wrote about the response he received from the teacher (which was friendly, though ducked the question of lying and said he was merely trying to get people to "do whatever it takes to give yourself the courage and permission to put your work in the mail..."). As one might expect, Scalzi addressed the omission, and then went on to talk about the publishing business (which unpublished writers continually label as a game which is rigged against them). The Making Light thread petered out on June 6, and its writers and devotees went on to other topics.

Then, on June 23, it got interesting.

The teacher visited the website and delivered what he thought would be an excoriating denunciation of everyone who had examined, questioned, or mocked his work and credentials. Basically, the high points amounted to, "Shame on you - you are very mean, you are talking behind my back (Scalzi begged to differ), you are using your power as an editor at a publishing house for evil, everyone here is a sycophant because they are or want to be published by TOR, I've done a lot of good things in my life, and if you questioned my credentials why didn't you contact me?" Oh, and "I'm suing for slander." He meant libel, but whatever.

And the Making Light readership hung their heads in shame. Fruit baskets were sent to the hapless teacher and everyone lived happily ever after.


No, what really happened was that additional verbal brickbats were aimed at the teacher, more vicious than the first. Why? Well, there were a whole host of reasons, ranging from the fact that he didn't acknowledge that his advice was wrong (though he has changed his website) and instead waved a lot of red herrings about (interestingly enough, even though there was a conversation right on that very thread about the vast array of professions Making Light's readership had - I should know, I started it, he insisted upon maintaining that we were all in TOR's thrall as authors or wannabe authors. Excuse me, I have to wipe some stupid off of me). He also refused to see that his advice to unpublished authors that they should lie in pursuit of a publishing contract made every utterance of his own immediately suspect. And that was the real heart of the matter.

Stupid is forgivable. Lying is not. Stupid is sticky. Lying is stickier.

* Both Ms. and Mr. Nielsen Hayden are professional editors at TOR books, but their website is their own. Occasionally they talk about writing and books, occasionally politics, occasionally random things. To even the most casual observer, this is not an official site for their employer.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Because I Sure As Heck Don't Have Much Energy Today
Very, Very Tired
Ever have one of those frantic, morning dreams that just wrecks your entire night's sleep?


Well, I had one this morning. It concerned John's birthday present (John's birthday is tomorrow - yes, it is a big week of milestones for the both of us). Obviously, I can't go into details because I don't want to spoil the surprise, but it was one of those dreams where you turn your back for two seconds and everything goes wrong and you end up scrambling to fix things and then everything goes wrong again in a new and different way and then just when you think all is well and calm, it happens again, and, and, and... And you wake up all sweaty, puffy, and groggy, and realize that the laws of physics just don't work like that and it will all be okay. But meanwhile, no amount of coffee in the world is going to truly wake you up today. However many hours you may have slept peacefully, that five minutes of frenetic dreamtime has effectively negated your much-needed rest.

But let's go back to that first question. Occasionally, I will have an experience that I think is probably universal in the realm of human experience. I will ask a rhetorical opening question like the one above, expecting a "yes," and discussion of said universal human experience.

Don't you hate it when people say, "No," instead?

Oh, that's never happened to you? I thought it had happened to everyone at some point.

Never mind.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Anniversary Ring
The Hubble Telescope's, that is. (Scroll down for gorgeous images)

Today is my one-hundredth essay.

Almost one hundred days of, "What the heck do I write about?" ("Almost" because some days I actually have an idea before I sit down). One hundred days of setting fingers to keypad and coming up with... well, whatever I come up with (flippancy, humor, rage, introspection, even the occasional "I don't know what to say, therefore I'm saying it at length").

Humans like their milestones in nice, round numbers. Birthdays ending in zero are considered watershed events. Centennials are celebrated by villages, cities, and countries. But those markers are not necessarily particularly significant in their own right. What tends to be more interesting is what is contained in between those zero-ending anniversaries.

So, the zero-anniversary is arbitrary; but, it does give us a built-in pause control. We designate these moments not as auspicious or momentous in their own right, but as times to stop and look back at the auspicious and momentous events. We can congratulate ourselves that we made it this far, and we can look forward and dream about the next steps.

As such, onward to 200. See you there.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Okay -
- this is not exactly what I was talking about...


Feeling Spacy?
SpaceShipOne has done it. It has blasted 62 miles in the air and come back again. Private enterprise has sent a man to the edge of space.

I'm more than a little ambivalent about manned space flight. It is the kind of project that people speak of in generalities - phrases such as "limitless potential" get lobbed about without explanation or context. Certainly, the vastness of space does hold limitless potential. It's Schrödinger's cat on the hugest scale imaginable. Until we actually get out there, our imaginations are free to envision happy, living cats endlessly revolving through the void. But what about the practical application? What happens when we finally get out there beyond our orbit?

Popular imagination leaps us from the Space Shuttle to The Starship Enterprise in the blink of an eye. We go from engineers frantically banging out new UNIX code to make the Spirit rover functional again to terraforming Mars into a human-habitable planet. And caught up in such visions, some exuberant souls start to see Earth, our own little blue-planet home, as superfluous, irrelevant - last year's model. Why bother fixing what's wrong here? Perfect societies and new frontiers await us in space!

...Well, no. At least, not without a lot of work, and a lot more time to do that work in. By all means, let's dream about glorious societies. Let us aim for space and limitless frontiers. But let us not forget that whatever society we create arises out of the one we have now, and you cannot build greatness upon a flawed foundation.

Monday, June 21, 2004

...Very Glad This is Not Me
One Year... and Then Some
John and I have been married for one year today. It's been a big year, a tumultuous year, and it's been a long time coming.

John and I first met over ten years ago, and since then, we have been friends, been more than friends, been out of touch, and reconnected. (If I worked for the Washington Post, I would be looking for a cicada metaphor right about now.) We never lived closer than 100 miles away from one another until we lived in the same house. Looking at the facts that way it looks daft, but I have never done anything saner in my life than to marry this man.

Like I said, it has been a tumultuous year. A lot has happened, and a lot of stress has resulted, but home has been a haven from it all, through it all; and for that, I simply say, "Thank you, John. I love calling you 'husband.'"

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Weekend (6/19/04)
On the weekend, blog rests. (And you simply must try this one - it's hilarious).

Friday, June 18, 2004

"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her..."
- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Several people have had several different takes on each day's "Wherein Our Heroine..." titles. One friend thinks them "Victorian," and (I believe) a bit twee. The ubiquitous Mark sees them every morning and thinks of injectable drugs. My mother enjoys them, savoring them as a hint to what lies beyond before she reads the daily text. Other friends have taken to e-mailing me and referring to me as "Our Heroine," which is rather kind and gratifying.

None of this tells me or anywhere else where this delusional affectation came from, but it was really there from the beginning. It's one of those things that just came straight out of the back of my brain, unannounced and without warning. Pretty soon I was wondering if I could keep thinking up "Wherein Our Heroine" titles. Soon I realized that the writing of the daily essay was the difficult thing and the Whereins mostly take care of themselves.

Heroines are decidedly different critters from Heroes. The use of the word "Heroine" is decidedly old-fashioned, but the term "Hero" is currently bandied about with alarming regularity and inaccuracy. To me, "Heroine" has a kind of sepia-toned, Mack Sennett, tied-to-the-train-tracks, silly sensibility about it. On the other hand, the term "Hero" is still in constant modern usage: lately, it has even been used as a stand-in for the word "victim," which is a tidy but dishonest bit of linguistic sleight-of-hand. As such, I much prefer to see myself as an heroine.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy." Well, I am an heroine and I am not planning on living a tragedy. If anything, I'm living in a post-postmodern comic melodrama. So, if you will excuse me, I'm off to bean a villain with a cream pie.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Monsterriffic Randomness
Monster-filled walking tours of New York.

Believing Your Own Press Releases
My slight rebranding earlier this week has caused me to think further on branding and communications in general. I'm not a graphics expert, which is why I often take the advice of friends who have education and experience on the subject; but, I do know a thing or three about verbal branding, and one particular shibboleth has been irritating me lately.

I am not sure how long SC Johnson has been proclaiming itself to be "A Family Company." However; I can tell you that to me, at least, this particular phrase is meaningless. Meaninglessness in corporate communications is nothing new; however, there are types and types of meaninglessness, and I suspect that "A Family Company" comes under the heading of "Sacred Cow." Sacred Cow corporate communications are any bit of phraseology that:

a.) The CEO loves, despite its inapplicability to the company, generally connoting delusions of grandeur (for instance: every tiny little biotech is "a leading company" in its sub-field, even if it was only founded yesterday);
b.) Has been passed down from time immemorial and no-one has the guts to disturb the ashes (which is my suspicion re: "A Family Company"); or
c.) No longer really describes the company, but someone On High is afraid of a total rebranding effort (Cf: any semi-solvent dot-com that is still limping around, eking out an existence on a new business plan that they have evolved to, but not planned or properly communicated to the world at large).

Sacred Cows are not the only type of meaninglessness out there - in fact, the vast majority of meaninglessness is Herd Mentality Corporate-Speak. Herd Mentality types love the latest buzzwords, and will use them until the reader lapses into a numb, verbally narcotized coma. I know it is not really going to happen, but wouldn't it be refreshing if companies described themselves in simple, catchy, realistic terms? Corporate communications people are not in and of themselves uncreative or unrealistic people. But the process a press release or marketing campaign goes through ensures (in most cases) that creativity, realism, and specificity get stomped in the service of safety, tradition, fear, or some combination of the three. Then the Herd Mentality takes over. Any press release that contained the words, "We are a scrappy little company that is looking to improve one aspect of the way you buy widgets," would be changed to, "We are an entrepreneurial enterprise in the process of revolutionizing the commercialization of widgets and widgetizing data." Note: the more hands a press release goes through, the more superfluous syllables will be added. Call it Smith's Law, if you wish.

The problem with Smith's Law and the Herd Mentality is that boredom and incomprehension come along as a by-product of this sort of editing. And considering how many hands a piece passes through to reach this state, it is an incredible waste of time, money, and effort. Actually, in point of fact, communications professionals learn to bang this nonsense out fairly early in the interest of not having to go through seventeen editing rounds. As a result, perfectly good writers get homogenized into hacks who produce sludgy, meaningless dreck due to constant exposure to Smith's Law and the Herd Mentality.

So back to, "A Family Company." I suppose this catchphrase is designed to connote warmth, home, Mom, and apple pie. It is supposed to make us feel all cuddly and fuzzy about buying floor wax, air freshener, and plastic bags. You know what it makes me think? Adelphia was a family company, too.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Other WoT?s
As I mentioned in yesterday's Extra, WoT? is not unique in its use as my acronym. Because I have to take John to the dealership for his truck this morning, I thought I would review some of the alternative WoTs out there.

Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan's Fantasy Series.

WoT Now? - An online comic based on same.

Recipes for an Ethiopian dish.

Water on Tap, because everyone knows the Federal Government is incapable of not complicating simple terms such as "Tap Water."

Wot Nxt - apparently a Dutch music company...? (Edit: Marcel from Wot Nxt has checked in and notes in the comments that, yes indeed they organize and release all sorts of music in Holland. He also notes that there is an Irish boy band also called Wot Nxt. Who knew?)

Apparently, the Working Group on Development Techniques also calls itself WoT. Okay - if "Writing or Just Typing" should have been shortened to the Polish "WoJT," then I say these clowns need to start using the Welsh "WGoDT." Notably, these people are also Dutch. I think the Dutch are a little too fond of I-don't-know-WoT.

Speaking of the Poles...

Web Oriented Technologies - er... if you have a web company whose services include design and multimedia, perhaps your site should not be Dead Boring? Just a thought.

Sad Bastard or Wot! Okay, this is my favorite.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

This is Just Cool...
Maw Here. Maw HUNGRY.
My thoughts are confused, random, tumbling things this morning. I can't seem to latch on to anything long enough to spin it into something interesting. John Scalzi hit the nail rather squarely on the head when he referred to writing a blog as "feeding the maw." It's an interesting problem in and of itself: coming up with reasonably unique essays on a daily (or at least weekdaily) basis without having the well run dry.

Many of my essays are almost refined conversations I have had with various people. Anyone who has known me for a while has heard me grind my teeth over airline speak or rant about the general misuse of language. (Yes, I do own a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. It is even a signed copy. Fear me, for I am a language geek.) So, I started thinking about conversation. How many original things do we really say every day? How many original thoughts get produced, let alone aired, on a daily basis? How many times have we said or heard the same rants from our selves or our friends? I would venture to guess the numerical answer would probably run to the triple digits.

Once, as a snotty teenager, I heard my father winding up on one of his favorite rants: the 55 MPH speed limit. Before he had gotten to his pièce de résistance, "The American Public has repealed de facto the 55 MPH speed limit!" I started bending over and peering at his feet. Thrown off of his stride, he stopped and looked at me, wondering what was wrong.

Addressing my mother and my friend, who were the current auditors of this polished and practiced tirade, I said, "I'm sorry - did anyone else see a soapbox?" Luckily, Dad was in a mellow mood (mellower than his revival-tent-style orating would have suggested) and he stopped, smiling sheepishly.

I am truly, truly grateful I have no teenagers in my life at present. Most of my friends have gentler means of stopping me in repetitive mid-rant. Sledgehammers, for instance, work nicely.

Slight Rebranding
I have mentioned before that my friend Mark is, well, a bit tenacious. He also knows a thing or three about visuals. He has been peeved for some time at the discontinuity of "writingortyping.com" and the original name of the site, "Writing, or Just Typing." The "Just" was just about driving him 'round the twist, especially as he rightly assumed that we have no Polish readership which might render the acronym "WoJT?" phonetic and appropriate.

Despite the fact that WoT? shares its acronym with things like "Weapons of Terror" (you can add your own question mark here if you wish), it is a tidy, funny little acronym which is also fully in keeping with the self-deprecating humor that started the whole thing.

So, behold the new logo, which includes the quote that spawned the idea in the first place.

And now, I must walk the dog. Excuse me...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Got Music?
Test your knowledge - Abba to Zappa.

Setbacks and Responses to Same
In one week, it will have been a year since John and I got married. I don't say this to remind John, or to start anniversary celebrations early, or for any other reason except that lately I have been trying to apply lessons learned from the experience of our wedding.

Weddings and marriages are vastly different things, though it is common for many young newlyweds to forget about the latter in the chaotic run-up to the former. Marriages are everyday things - both in the minutiae of living every day together and the massive impact that is all of those bits of minutiae added up. Weddings are, at their heart, big parties. The wedding celebrates the change in your everyday circumstances, but it is not the change itself. However; it is easier to focus on a single day rather than trying to think about the rest of your life, and so a great deal of stress and anxiety comes to bear on that one big blowout of a lifetime.

Knowing this, John and I opted for a small, restrained wedding in the garden of friends. Smaller size meant fewer things to worry about, which would hopefully leave us room to remember what was truly important to us - the marriage itself.

Thank goodness for that, because fate and mother nature conspired to throw several choice potential disasters in our way. First of all, our minister was ill and we had no rehearsal. Luckily, she was well enough to do the ceremony on the day, and we eased through the small bits of confusion which resulted from the lack of a run-through. Secondly, last year was the rainiest year on record in 100, and June the twenty-first was not spared. We moved the ceremony inside the tent (which arrived mere hours before the ceremony, rather than the day before as promised) where we had tables set up for a late luncheon - in other words, John and I got hitched in front of what was later the buffet. The area under the tent ended up a sodden, muddy mess as we squelched about during the reception. Smaller, silly things went wrong - I put the ring on John's right hand instead of his left.

Result? The wedding was glorious. And among the hundreds of photographs are many cozy shots of umbrellas - silly mugging under a very girly umbrella by John and my father, parades of guests braving the rain and venturing out to look at the gardens under umbrellas of various sizes and colors, and a series of end-of-day shots featuring two happy, tired, ready-to-get-out-of-the-formalwear newlyweds under a giant red umbrella.

The point of all this? I should be as flexible about current setbacks in my job search as I was about setbacks at my wedding almost a year ago. Move the chairs under the tent and get on with it. Because this situation is only a part of my life, not the rest of it.

Friday, June 11, 2004

What Does the Weather On Hedgehog Hill Look Like?
Find out here.

John has the day off today. Ray Charles died yesterday. These two facts have nothing to do with one another, but it would be nice if they did.

I'm not going to eulogize Ray Charles. I am in no way qualified to do so, and there are plenty of other places that are. I am just going to say that I am grateful he was here, glad he sang and played for so many years. I am still amazed by his depth and versatility. He was one of those rare musicians who didn't just cross genres - he ignored them and made them irrelevant. He didn't make rock, blues, soul, R&B, or country. He made music.

It is for that music that I say, "Thank you, Mr. Charles. Thank you very much. You were a great man, and you will be sorely missed."

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A la carte - a website from a French cuisine obsessive.

We sought equilibrium yesterday. Our house became ours again, quiet and calm but for Mac's occasional barked objections to something going on out front. Serenity was in order, so with that in view, we took the canoe to Seneca Lake. We did throw one potential spanner into the works, though.

We brought Mac.

Mac can be a fuzzy little bundle of contradictions. He loves us and wants to be with us desperately, yet hates to ride in the car. He loves water, wading in and dipping his tummy, but he gets up again and shakes almost immediately. We bought him a doggie life-jacket last year, but other than making sure it fit him, we had not used it and did not know how he would handle riding in a water-vehicle. Would he view in light of a fun adventure, or a trip to the vet?

So, Mac started at my feet in the front of the truck on our short little journey to the lake. But, unusually for him, he ended up mostly in my lap, looking out the window and panting heavily with anxiety. Mac is not a large dog, but at 36 pounds and with fur like a Yeti, he is not exactly a lap dog either. Nevertheless, we got there, I didn't melt, we kitted Mac out in his safety-orange life jacket, launched the canoe, and lifted him in.

He loved it. He eagerly watched everything, but moved cautiously from side to side, never panicking or making the canoe wobble alarmingly. We paddled from the boat launch to a shallow area bordering on a field, and threw his frisbee into the water. He swam for the first time, spluttery and slightly panicky, but gaining confidence with every retrieval and shaking gallons of water out of his heavy coat (Shetland Sheepdogs are built for chasing sheep over the hills of Scotland: water dogs they ain't). When we headed home, tired and hot but pleased with the year's first outing, we brought with us a happy dog, panting gently and smelling of low tide.

And so, we are on our way back to equilibrium. Because nothing brings balance and peace like shampooing a smelly dog.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Might not be so bad...
... next thing you know, Nepalese Yak Herders are going to have Starbucks.

Soooo Hap-py.....
Many pardons, darling Dearest Readers. As previously noted, we have had house-guests. As a result, I feel an awful lot like Audrey Hepburn towards the beginning of "Roman Holiday" - I kind of drift towards the nearest horizontal surface in order to lie down on it, interspersed with requests for a "silk nightgown with rose-buds on it" and declaring in a trailing, loopy voice that I am "Sooo hap-py....."

For those who haven't seen the movie, she was on tranquilizers. For my part, I don't need them.

Regularly scheduled essays will reappear tomorrow per our usual scheme.

Sooooo hap-py......

Monday, June 07, 2004

Horsey Randomness for Monday
Smarty, Smarty, Missed the Party
I feel really sorry for Smarty Jones. The Belmont Stakes this year was the most exhilarating, disappointing, deafening race I have ever seen. Deafening because John was booming "GO SMARTY" in my ear (never knew the man liked a horse-race before. Go figure). Disappointing because Smarty was pipped just before the post by a relative unknown, a bay called Birdstone. Exhilarating because it had all the hallmarks of a fantastic race - the undefeated Favorite: the little horse that could; his tall, regal, temperamental rival; the tight three-way contest that broke out near the start; the little horse that could pulling away from his pursuers; and finally the emergence of another little horse that could who passed the Favorite for the 36-1 longshot.

It is, of course, unknown whatever Smarty himself felt when Birdstone sailed past him and beat him by a length. It is likely that he was peeved, though. I once owned a little chestnut horse who always wanted to be first like Smarty. He was, frankly, a pain in the butt when he was forced to go second in something as tame as a trail ride. I imagine that Smarty probably reached inside himself for more speed, and was surprised when it wasn't there, then forgot about it as the world swirled about and Birdstone got the blanket of roses thrown over his shoulders. The race itself is everything for him - once it is over, the aftermath of joy and sadness belong to the humans.

Nice to be a horse, I guess.

Notice: Our Heroine's In-Laws are visiting through Wednesday. Content provision may (or may not) be erratic as she attempts to balance hostess duties with webly duties.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Weekend (6/5/04)
On the weekend, blog rests.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Speaking of Bicycle Racing
Lance is King - at least until Tyler Hamilton dethrones him... (MP3 link).

We May Be Behind the Times, But We Get There Eventually
Well, we finally did it. We got a TiVo over the holiday weekend.

For those of you who think this is not a momentous occasion, you either don't own a TiVo or don't know our friend Mark. I am convinced that Mark is the person for whom the term "idée fixe" was coined, and his mental jaws have the approximate tensile strength of a pit bull on steroids. Generally, if Mark thinks something is for you, you're likely to give in sooner or later. So, after about two years of saying, "Yeah - maybe sometime," whenever Mark insisted we purchase a TiVo, we succumbed to the lure of the latest greatest deal and bought one.

It's nice, I have to admit. No worries about tapes, no worries about broadcast schedules. We already watch less crud that we are not interested in. Fewer commercials (I say "fewer" and not "none" because John hasn't yet developed the reflexive desire to pick up the remote and make it go "ba-boop ba-boop ba-boop.... ba-boop" until they are gone - for those of you who do have a TiVo, you know what I mean). We can actually watch "The Daily Show" now, even though we are early-to-bed types and can't be bothered with the VCR.

So, televisically, our life is just that little bit better. I worry, though, that we will become evangelist-pains-in-the-butt over the device. It certainly seems that it is the type of device that inspires that sort of devotion, based on all the evidence. And just because we now have eleventy-seven hours of fly fishing and bicycle racing recorded off of OLN doesn't mean we have to watch it...

I guess we'll just have to make sure we get outside more often and read more books. After all, it's not like we're going to miss anything on TV we really want to watch.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

If "schadenfreude" is the enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others, I propose "schadenlieder" - the perverse enjoyment of the awfulness of really bad songs.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
Occasionally, the grand void of our great national attention span spews up some meaningless either/or contest that will be endlessly debated. Chicken v. Egg, Tastes Great v. Less Filling, Red Sox v. Yankees, or my personal favorite: Blonde v. Brunette.

You see, I'm blonde. I would venture to guess that the number of blonde jokes currently roaming the internet, eagerly proclaiming the mental deficiency of the follically pale are about equal to the number of lawyer jokes currently roaming the internet, eagerly proclaiming the moral questionability of those who possess a J.D. Lucky me - I fall into both categories.

Here are some of the casual truisms that culture spews up regarding a woman's hair color: blondes are party girls, brunettes are serious; blondes are trashy, brunettes are sultry; blondes are stupid, brunettes are intelligent. Lastly, blondes are proclaimed to "have more fun."

Balderdash. I'll tell you who has more fun.


I went red for a few years in my twenties. I netted a single negative reaction from that decision, and that person was one of the few that actually noticed that red was not my natural hair color. I tried everything from strawberry blonde through Julianne Moore red to deep auburn. It was great. Where a blonde will be seen as "easy," a redhead will be approached with some deference, due to another truism: the legendary redheaded temper. So, where as a blonde plenty of people assumed I was dim, as a redhead I got many initial reactions that combined flattering interest with wary watchfulness. I can tell you which one I prefer.

It was fun for a time, but eventually I returned to the color that just comes out of my head. After all, I couldn't be bothered to color it forever. Now grey hairs are starting to come in. That's perhaps the one nice thing about being blonde - the grey won't really show for a while.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Cuniculary Randomness Today
No, it's not dirty. It's Kung Fu Bunnies. (Via)

Oh, the Agony
I am SO out of shape.

I went for a brief bike ride yesterday - all suburban streets, gentle hills, nothing that should have been particularly strenuous. I was tired afterward. We're talking about 20 minutes of vague, gentle physical activity. Back in the days when I was using a bike as a major source of transportation, this is not even an outing I would have noticed. "Was I on a bike? Huh?" Granted, that was 20 years ago, but even last year I was in some sort of shape. Not this year.

I have been harboring a notion in the back of my head for years. I believe human beings are designed to self-destruct. Think about it. How many of our number crave bad-for-you type things such as sugar and fat? A whole heck of a lot of us. When we get out of shape, what do we want to do? Keep the couch warm. When we decide that being out of shape is not what we want and we start to get back into shape, what do our bodies tell us? "NOOOOO!!! We LIKE being fat! That HURTS! STOP!"

A well-designed critter would crave spinach and physical activity. This critter craves potato chips and the TiVo remote. Obviously, there is a design flaw somewhere. Can't I just reload the firmware and get firm rather than flabby? No? Why not? Design flaw, that's why not.

So, in order to override the design flaw, I must go off and do things today. Such as, perhaps, getting back on my bike.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Awww... Go to England Already
British Virtual Tours.

The Monday-Holiday Paradox
Everybody have a good holiday?

Yes? Good.

Our long weekend was so busy it felt as if we need another weekend to rest up. Is there something in human nature that makes us say, "Hey! Leisure time! Fill it up!"? Or is it a purely American phenomenon? Long weekends are especially pernicious that way: the extra day means that instead of stretching normal weekend activity over three days, we tend to cram in about four days worth of parties, barbecues and chores. As a result, by about four yesterday, after a large lunch and a walk around the neighborhood, John and I and two friends we had invited over were practically lolling about in a stupor.

I'm still feeling a bit stuporous. Which is not to be confused with stupendous, as stupendous would include energy and I have none of that. Instead, I have a vaguely sludgy feeling that seems to require activity to throw it off. So I'm going to go be active now.