Saturday, July 30, 2005

Patrick's Saturday Six #68

1. What was your favorite childhood movie? When was the last time you saw it? Hmmmmmm, this is hard. I'm a movie buff, and have been since I was 4 or 5, when my older brother and I would walk into town, barefoot (we didn't wear shoes in the summertime), for our town's Friday night "free shows": Ma & Pa Kettle movies projected from a grassy hill onto a small ratty screen behind the IGA grocery store in the center of town. I remember that when we walked home afterward it seemed terribly late to me (it was probably around 9PM) and there were always a zillion stars overhead and the nights were loud with crickets, but as we got further out into the country there were also dogs, of which I was scared, and the moreso because my brother, 5 years older than I, always made me walk about 10 feet behind him, because he didn't want to be seen with me. (He currently denies this, but I know better.) But I favorite childhood movie was probably Bambi. Last time I watched it? I just bought the digitally remastered DVD and watched it with my grandson about a month ago.

2. Who is your worst enemy at the moment? Why is that person your enemy? I'm always my own worst enemy, because I procrastinate, and doubt myself, and denial is a way of life for me at times.

3. Which one of the following annoys you most when you encounter a new blog? a. Constant grammatical errors; b. Constant spelling errors; c. Contrived "street" language; d. Too many "nothing happening today" entries. When I encounter a new blog, I quickly read through it and if it isn't interesting to me, I move on. I don't get annoyed by any of the things mentioned in a blog I'm not going to read.

4. Take this quiz: Which alcoholic drink are you? According to the quiz, I'm a cocktail: fun, often the life of the party (dunno about that), interesting, with a good sense of humor, and definitely exciting...young at heart, often give people the escape they need (hmmmm...maybe that's my problem) and make an excellent friend.

5. What's the last thing you said to a person face to face? Who was that person? Um, shouldn't this be the most recent thing I said to a person face to face? OK, this is pretty boring, but I said, "How was work?" to my son, Chris.

6. When you shower, do you ever think of the movie, Psycho? Well, I didn't...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Plastic Fantastic Lovers

My ex and I had been separated for awhile, but weren't yet divorced, and I wasn't ready to date, so chatting was perfect for me at that time. Chatting on the net, in the evenings, after my kids were asleep, seemed a safe and harmless way to have some contact with other adults. I always went to the same adult chat room. I'd made quite a few friends, and there was always someone new trying to figure out what was going on, so I was usually completely engaged by just staying in the main room. Sometimes I had private conversations, but the group in the main room was lively and fun, and that's where the action seemed to be. I noticed that sometimes although friends' names would show up in the room, they would be strangely silent, not participating in the dialogue, but I just thought they were away from their computers and had forgotten to click, "I'm away from my computer". (Yes, I still am that gullible.)

It's hard to explain what a talented, funny group of people had found their way to that room for a couple of months that fall. Everyone had a role, and you'd come in and be greeted enthusiastically, and jump right in. It's what I imagine it must be like being part of a team writing a sit com. I've never encountered anything remotely similar again.

However, even after being a regular for several weeks, I remained blissfully unaware of the meaning of "Adult Chat Room" until one night when I was chatting with G, and he said, casually, "You know, there are pictures on this site of some of the people in this room." "Really?" I said. "Wow, I'd love to see pics of some of the people we chat with!" He told me how to access the pics.

Oh my.

After about half an hour, he private messaged me. "What do you think?" he asked, laughing. "You are SO bad!" I said. "Well, you already knew that, though," he said, still laughing.

Of course, because it was an adult chat room, many times when I'd been in the room I'd been private messaged by guys asking if I wanted to have cybersex. I'd always said no, but the truth was, I didn't have any idea what cybersex was, and it seemed like one of those things that I should have already known, with the result that I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to explain it. I couldn't even bring myself to ask G about it; I knew he'd tease me. Friday night when I was home alone, listening to Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow as I chatted, and a very articulate guy who was a stranger to the room pm'd me and asked me if I wanted to have cybersex with him, I asked him outright: What is that, exactly? He explained. He also said that he was in his 20's; a student working on an MFA in writing, and he seemed bright and was definitely articulate...the perfect Plastic Fantastic Lover, I thought. Feeling adventuresome, I said OK.

"What are you wearing?" he said. I'd just come from the gym, and I answered honestly. I said, "I'm wearing a grey leotard and grey leggings..." He said, "Mmmmmmmmm, I'm kissing you, ohhhhhhh, you feel soooo good...I'm removing your leotard..." He paused abruptly. He cleared his throat. He said, "'ve never actually removed one of those...I don't have a clue how you women get into 'em, and I can't even imagine how you get out of ''re gonna have to help me out here." Suddenly I felt like Mrs. Robinson seducing Benjamin...and I know this is bad, but I couldn't help it...I began to laugh.

I apologized for laughing, and told him I was sorry, but I just couldn't do it after all.

I signed out of the room for the evening, and turned off the computer. In the background, Gracie Slick continued to belt it out: Don't you want somebody to love, don't you need somebody to love, wouldn't you love somebody to love, you'd better find somebody to love...

Hello Internet, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Computer

I'm a technophobe. After my entry about my AR turntable and Shure cartridge, it might not seem like that, but I am. I resist new technology for as long as possible, because it's always the same: at first, I have no confidence that I'll ever be able to master it. However, if I manage to overcome that, I embrace it completely. There ought to be a word for that, for those of us who start out as technophobes only to become technophiles, and maybe there is, but if so, I don't know it...

I was like that with computers. My ex is all about computers and technology, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. A lawyer, he had an elaborate word-processor in his office long before most people had a clue about word processing. As soon as they became available, we had a Commodore at home (remember those? And did I mention that we're both OLD? Water hadn't yet been discovered on this planet when we began dating...) Anyway, just because he was computer literate didn't mean I was.

I had an ancient IBM Selectric typewriter that I loved, and I could type about 90 wpm, so I saw no need to suffer the discomfort of becoming acquainted with a whole new form of technology like computers. That all changed when I was accepted into graduate school. It was late afternoon, and I was sitting in the office of the Professor who would eventually become my thesis advisor. He bore an eerie resemblance to Star Trek's Patrick Stewart, and I was in his office to be officially accepted into the psychology program to which I'd applied, and I was happy, but we were at the end of the interview and I was also tired and just wanted to go home. As I stood up to leave, he said, "You ARE computer literate?" "Um, not exactly, errrrrr, is that a requirement...???" He smiled cheerfully, VERY Patrick Stewart, and said, "Yes, it is! Well. You have 3 weeks!"

Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh! Why had I even applied to grad school? I went home and made a couple of phone calls and voila...for better or worse (and it felt like worse) I was signed up at a local community college for an intense 3-week course that ran from 4 AM to 9 AM (those hours are SO not me) 4 days a week for the next 3 weeks.

It was grim, but by the time my grad school classes began, I was able to use a computer, in a rudimentary sort of way. I couldn't imagine that I was ever going to enjoy it, though.

Time passed, and I became more comfortable using a computer. One night my oldest daughter, Alex, discovered a search engine that gave not only addresses and phone numbers for names entered, but detailed street maps showing where people lived. This was pre-Google, and before internet stalking had become a problem. We were amazed, and put in the names of everyone we could think of, including ourselves, thrilled when we saw addresses, phone numbers and maps appear on the screen. The novelty wore off quickly though; we knew all those phone numbers, addresses, and cross streets already. "Can't you think of anyone with whom you've lost contact?" Alex asked in exasperation. I thought for a bit, and then typed in the name of G, my first love. He has an unusual last name, and I'd lost track of him in the '70's, but suddenly, there was his name, address, phone number, and map of the area around his house, in northern Illinois, on my computer screen. Wow. Fortunately for him, I'm not a stalker. I copied the info into my address book, and cleared the screen and forgot about it. Alex and I signed off and played scrabble.

That was that, until I realized G's 50th birthday was coming up. I bought a blank card. Inside I wrote something to the effect of, "I've always been glad that I met you, and that you were a part of my life. I hope this finds you well and happy. Happy 50th birthday." I sent it to the address we'd found using the search engine. About a week later, I received a reply from G, via snail mail, asking if I had e-mail and suggesting we use e-mail to catch up on each other's lives. There's nothing like having an incentive to get comfortable with new technology! My daughter showed me how to set up an e-mail account, and then I learned how to send, receive and check my e-mail; learning about attachments took another entire evening. One afternoon I received an e-mail from G asking if I'd like to chat with him on the net. He explained that he frequented a chatroom where we could effectively talk in real time, via our keyboards. He added, as an afterthought, "It's adult chat, but we're old enough, right?" I had no idea what adult chat was. I thought maybe people engaged in a little scatological humor from time to time. It was fine with me!

I cut and pasted the address he'd sent me into the address bar and suddenly a yellow page appeared on my monitor. I chose a nickname, typed it into a box, and suddenly I was in a room with a dozen other people. This was early net; I didn't have MERC or PERCH installed on my computer, nor was I even aware of their existence; I was in the room via a java applet. The people in that room were a lively and bawdy bunch, and I liked it immediately. It's hard to describe the magic that was there, but everyone had a persona, and the exchanges were fast and hilarious; sometimes I'd sit at my computer laughing so hard that tears streamed down my cheeks.

And now for something completely different

From one of my favorite sites, Live Science:

Top 10 Deadliest Animals

10. Poison Dart Frog: Just like you've seen on late night bad cable movies, some tribes in rainforests (the Choco Indians) actually do dip their arrowheads in frog poison to make deadly weapons (Darts shot through blowguns), which is probably how these frogs, aka phylobates terriblis, came to be called poison dart frogs. Poison dart frogs are bright yellow, and the poison they produce, batrachotoxin, is a slimy neurotoxin that oozes from their backs, where it successfully discourages would-be predators. The bad news is that the neurotoxin is so deadly that the amount produced by a single frog could reportedly kill 10 humans or 20,000 mice. the good news is that the toxin isn't very effective at penetrating human skin, so you'd be unlikely to die if you touched one of these critters by accident, unless you had an open cut on yoru hand or decided to lick your hand after handling one (yeah, right...yuck!). It's best to avoid all small colorful frogs in the wild, though, as most of them produce toxins of one sort or another. However, if you're into vivariums and take 'em home to keep as pets, they lose their toxicity...unless you also bring an unending supply of a certain ant that's an essential component of their diet in the wild.

9. Cape Buffalo: Fight or flight may be the human response to fear, but the Cape Buffalo's response is C-H-A-R-G-E! The average cape buffalo weighs in at around 1500 pounds, and sometimes they're much heavier. As if that weren't enough, they also have two big, sharp, pointed horns on the top of their heads. A single charging cape buffalo is dangerous, but if a herd of thousands stampedes in your're a goner. Cape buffalos have reportedly killed more big game hunters in Africa than any other African animal.

8. Polar Bear: Polar bears are BIG. Adult males average 8-11 feet long and usually weigh between 500 and 1100 pounds, although they can weigh as much as 1600 pounds; females are smaller, averaging 6-8 feet long and weighing between 350-600 pounds. Females usually give birth to twins, but unlike humans, gestation is just 2 months and the newborns are tiny: 12-14 inches long, weighing in at just over a pound each. (UNFAIR!) Polar bears have a sense of smell that's a hundred times better than ours, and they can run at up to 40 mph (but only for short distances). When mad, they hiss like cats!

7. Elephant: Elephants are the second tallest animals on earth, growing up to 13 feet tall, and they can weigh as much as a school bus (10,000 to 14,000 pounds, i.e., 5-7 tons). They often live for over 60 years. Female elephants have big babies (thank goodness some other species do!): after a gestation of 21.5 months, the average birthweight of a newborn is 265 pounds. Elephants are generally good natured, but elephant-human conflicts reportedly result in over 500 human deaths each year, worldwide.

6. Australian Saltwater Crocodile: Also known as the Maneating Crocodile, the Australian Saltwater Crocodile is the largest living reptile. Females grow up to 10 feet long and adult males are usually between 10 1/2 and 19 feet long, although males as long as 27 feet (!!!) have been documented. This is reportedly one of the most aggressive and dangerous tyupes of crocodile, and will eat almost anything it can catch, including humans. Although it'll eat humans, one website stated that more people are killed each year by vending machines than by Australian Saltwater Crocs. NOTE: I was curious to see this statistic, as I'd recently read the same thing regarding sharks. Soooooooooo, I wondered, how dangerous are vending machines? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, "there were 37 known vending machine fatalities between 1978 and 1995, for an average of 2.18 deaths per year by vending machine." CPSC also reported 113 injuries by vending machine since 1978, all as a result of consumers rocking or tilting the machines in an attempt to obtain free soda or money.

5. African Lion: Males average 4 feet tall at the shoulder, 8 1/2 feet long (not including the tail), and weigh an average of 450 pounds. Females are much smaller, usually weighing less than 300 pounds. Lifespan in the wild is 15-18 years. African lions are reported to be almost perfect hunters.

4. Great White Shark: They get BIG: the average size is 10-15 feet long, but they've been found up to 21 feet long and weighing over 5,000 pounds (that's 2 1/2 tons!). Their mouths average 3-4 feet wide and contain about 3,000 teeth. Great whites are thought to be able to live 30-40 yers. They're called apex predators, meaning they're at the top of the food chain; they have no natural predators. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can reportedly smell a single drop of blood in 25 gallons of water (leading me to think sympathetic thoughts for the anonymous, underpaid research assistants stuck with the groundwork on establishing that particular statistic beyond a reasonable doubt). As fearsome as they are, Great whites have reportedly been responsible for just 64 deaths, worldwide, since 1876. They've also reportedly been responsible for 212 recorded non-fatal attacks worldwide.

3. Australian Box Jellyfish: This creature, aka the Sea Wasp, is pale blue and transparent, and therefore almost invisible in the water. With a "head" approximately the size of a salad-bowl, it can have up to 60 tentacles. The tentacles are long (approximately 15 feet each) and each tentacle has 5,000 stsinging cells with enough toxin to kill 60 humans. The stings reportedly cause excruiating pain, usually followed by death within 2-3 minutes.

2. Asian Cobra: This is the snake that's most often used by snake charmers. It's found mostly in India and Pakistan, where it's valued for eating rodents that feed on crops. It's not the most venomous snake in the world; in fact, it doesn't even make the top 10 list for venomous snakes. At a maximum length of about 6 feet, it's also not one of the biggest. Nevertheless, the Asian Cobra is definitely one of the deadliest snakes in the world, reportedly responsible for a majority of the 50,000 deaths reported annually, worldwide, by snakebite.

1. Mosquito: Mosquito-borne diseases kill more people each year than any other single factor: worldwide, over 2 million people die annually. Malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, and encephalitis are some of the diseases than can be transmitted to humans via mosquitoes; they're also a vector by which heartworms are transmitted to cats and dogs. There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide, with approximately 170 species in North America. Mosquitoes are OLD; they're estimated to have been around for 100 million years, or rather, the species is estimated to have been around that long, individual mosquitoes live from a couple of days to a month, depending on the species. Only the females bite.

Written by
emmapeeldallas Blog about this entry

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

callow youth

This is prompted by Mrs. L's essay, Mrs. L's Guide to Raising Adults. I'm an adult now, but I remember when I was not...

In the summer of 1969 I was 19, living on my own in Chicago, in a single furnished room in an apartment hotel on Clark Street, across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo. I'd left Minnesota and my parents' home 2 years earlier, at 17, the day after high school graduation, with not much more than Mrs. L's $100 in my wallet when I arrived in Chicago. I worked as an au pair that first summer, living in the suburbs with the family whose children I cared for. By the summer of '69 I had a full-time job in downtown Chicago in the Clerk's Office of the Federal Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and I spent my days quipping with lawyers (one of whom I eventually married) and occasionally with federal judges. Four nights a week I attended classes at City College, on Lake Street, after which I'd catch either a 22 (Clark Street) or a 36 (Broadway) bus back home, where I'd run a hot bath in which I'd soak, while working on trig problems or conjugating Russian verbs by candlelight. It was great to be young in the '60's, and to be 19 and on my own in Chicago, in 1969 - although money was always tight, it was a heady time for me.

That summer I discovered Leonard Cohen. I mean, I first discovered a Leonard Cohen album: Songs from a Room. I'd first become aware of him the previous summer, when I heard his song, Suzanne, sung by Judy Collins on her album, In My Life, and I was curious about the Canadian poet who'd written the haunting lyrics.

I was quite the audiophile in those days. I didn't have kitchen facilities in my furnished room, but, much more important to me, I had an AR turntable with a Shure cartridge that I kept balanced within the recommended weight range using a small set of plastic disc weights and counterbalance supplied by Shure when I purchased the cartridge. While my best friend was reading Cosmopolitan and Glamour, I was reading StereoReview (to which I'd subscribed) and Scientific American. I was interested in having the best possible sound quality of the recordings that I listened to (she says in self-defense).

That summer, in addition to working full-time, going to school part-time, and being an audio nerd, I was still seeing My First Love: G, a 22-year-old about whom I was totally nuts. We'd met back in Minnesota at a street dance, when I was 16 and just finishing up my junior year in high school and he was 19, and just finishing up his sophomore year at the Catholic Men's College in my town. He was from Chicago, and seemed incredibly sophisticated to me...but then, anyone who wasn't Minnesotan seemed incredibly sophisticated to me in those days. I was immediately smitten.

When I moved to Chicago in the summer of 1967, G was about to begin his senior year of college in Minnesota, so although we stayed in touch (I still have his letters), we stopped seeing each other. A year later, after graduating from college, G returned to Chicago, where he attended law school for exactly one day ("I knew it wasn't for me," he said). One day in early fall, 1968, we literally bumped into each other, on Randolph Street, and we began seeing each other again. I was totally nuts about him, and there weren't many things I wouldn't have done for him, and he knew it, although there was this one thing...

I remember the night I first listened to the Cohen album, Songs From a Room. The Cohen song that had first captured my attention, Suzanne, was not on the album, but it was an absolutely amazing album nevertheless. As I sat crosslegged on my bed, listening to Cohen's raspy voice singing Bird on the Wire, Story of Isaac, A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes, The Partisan...I was blown away. G called, and I told him about it. A couple of nights later, G came over. One thing led to another, and afterward, as we lay curled in each other's arms, spent and happy, we listened to the album as it played on my AR turntable with the weighted Shure cartridge. G especially liked the last song on the album, Tonight Will Be Fine. I was touched and slightly embarrassed when he said thatthe lyrics reminded him of me: Oh sometimes I see her undressing for me, she's the soft naked lady love meant her to be...she's moving her body so brave and so free, If I've got to remember that's a fine memory...and I know...from her eyes...and I know...from her smile...that tonight will be fine will be fine will be fine will be fine....for awhile.

When the album ended, he asked me to play it again. I was totally nuts about him, and there weren't many things I wouldn't have done for him, and he knew it...but not that. I refused to play the album a second time for him that night. Audiophile that I was, I explained, earnestly: "Playing it twice in a night will flatten the grooves, I've read about this..."

Gawd. I was SUCH a nerd. Amazingly, he continued to see me for almost 2 years after that, and we remain friends to this day. I can only say...and this isn't Cohen, but a fellow Minnesotan (Dylan): Ahhhhhhh, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Thank goodness.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Lady of Shalott or Why I Blog

When I was in therapy (of course I was in therapy) in many ways (although not in all ways) I'm sure I was a pain-in-the-ass for my therapist. I was always on time for my appointments and I didn't overstay; I never NEVER called her outside of our appointed time, even a couple of times when I was in acute emotional distress...and there were a couple of times, in the 18 months that I saw her, that I was in acute emotional distress between visits...I just always toughed it out and waited for my 4:30 Wednesday appointment...leading her to say I had no sense of object permanence. Um, dunno about that, but it did occur to me that she must not have been a fan of Garrison Keillor or understood anything about the stoicism one develops being raised by Scandinavian in those ways I was probably a pretty good client...but I have a master's degree in psychology and I've worked for a number of years as a clinician in a university department of psychiatry, so I think it's fair to say that I occasionally (OK, often) argued finer points of the various theories of psychology and diagnostics with her more than the average bear might argue such points. Also, because I'm a reader, I made a lot of references to literature in our discussions of my various neuroses. To my delight, my shrink (unlike most shrinks I know, and having worked in a department of psychiatry, I know quite a few) was no slouch when it came to literature...she was well read...and she could give as good as she got, which I enjoyed very much.

And at one point when I was seeing her, I told her that I felt like The Lady of Shalott. "That's not a good analogy!" she said, and she appeared openly upset with me. "But why?" I said, "She defied the frigging curse!" "And then died," my therapist said. "Hmmmmmmmmm," I thought, "What planet are you living on?" but aloud I just said, "Gee, maybe it's my Scandinavian heritage, but I'm well aware that we all die sooner or later; it's inevitible, and anyway, that's not the part with which I'm identifying..."

She didn't believe me, and we never resolved that particular disagreement. For those who don't know the poem, it's an epic romantic poem written by Tennyson in 1842. (I know there's an earlier version, but I like the 1842.) Anyway, The Lady has been cursed...Tennyson doesn't say by whom...and because of the curse she must live alone, in a tower, on an island, just down the river from Camelot. Although it's rumored that a woman lives on the island, she's unknown to the locals, anonymous: "But who hath seen her wave her hand? Or at the casement seen her stand? Or is she known in all the land, The Lady of Shalott?"

She is forbidden, by the curse, to participate directly in the life going on all around her; she can't leave the tower or even look out the windows; she does have a large mirror in which she's able to see reflections of the life outside: "And moving through a mirror clear That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear..."

She must sit all day and weave a tapestry of the reflections she sees in the mirror: "There she weaves by night and day A magic web with colours gay. She has heard a whisper say, A curse is on her if she stay To look down to Camelot. She knows not what the curse may be, And so she weaveth steadily, And little other care hath she, The Lady of Shalott."

For a while, she's content with catching glimpses of life via the mirror: "Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, An abbot on an ambling pad, Sometimes a curly shepherd lad, Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad Goes by to tower'd Camelot...But in her web she still delights To weave the mirror's magic sights..."

But sometimes she realizes that she's missing out: "Or when the Moon was overhead, Came two young lovers lately wed. "I am half sick of shadows," said The Lady of Shalott."

And then one day, Lancelot comes riding into view in her mirror: "A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, He rode between the barley sheaves, The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves, And flamed upon the brazen greaves Of bold Sir Lancelot...The gemmy bridle glitter'd free...The bridle bells rang merrily As he rode down to Camelot: And from his blazon'd baldric slung A mighty silver bugle hung, And as he rode his armor rung...All in the blue unclouded weather Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather, The helmet andthe helmet-feather Burn'd like one burning flame together, As he rode down to Camelot. His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd; On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode; From underneath his helmet flow'd His coal-black curls as on he rode, As he rode down to Camelot. From the bank and from the river He flashed into the crystal mirror, "Tirra lirra," by the river Sang Sir Lancelot."

And in an instant, everything changes for The Lady, leading to my favorite lines: "She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces through the room, She saw the water-lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume, She look'd down to Camelot. Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack'd from side to side; "The curse is come upon me," cried The Lady of Shalott..."

She's empowered (to use a term I loathe, but it's appropriate here). She leaves the tower and finds a boat, upon which she writes her name: "Down she came and found a boat Beneath a willow left afloat, And around about the prow she wrote The Lady of Shalott."

She gets in the boat, sets it adrift, lies back, and begins chanting her own funeral dirge, because she knows that she's dying: "And at the closing of the day She loosed the chain, and down she lay; The broad stream bore her far away, The Lady of Shalott. Lying, robed in snowy white That loosely flew to left and right -- The leaves upon her falling light -- Thro' the noises of the night, She floated down to Camelot: And as the boat-head wound along The willowy hills and fields among, They heard her singing her last song, The Lady of Shalott...Heard a carol, mournful, holy, Chanted loudly, chanted lowly, Till her blood was frozen slowly, And her eyes were darkened wholly, Turn'd to tower'd Camelot. For ere she reach'd upon the tide The first house by the water-side, Singing in her song she died, The Lady of Shalott."

Tennyson, being the romantic epic poet genius that he was, didn't end the poem there...instead, he writes of the locals finding the boat and her body, and he describes their reactions, including Lancelot's: "Out upon the wharfs they came, Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame, And around the prow they read her name, The Lady of Shalott. Who is this? And what is here? And in the lighted palace near Died the sound of royal cheer; And they crossed themselves for fear, All the Knights at Camelot; But Lancelot mused a little space He said, "She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott."

It's a terrific poem. But I digress...which is nothing new (I'm the Queen of Digression)...anyway, although I didn't enter the essay contest, Why I Blog, (in addition to being the Queen of Digression, I'm also the Princess of Procrastination)...nevertheless, even though I didn't enter the contest, I've been thinking a lot, being a newbie at blogging, about Why I Blog...and tonight, for a lot of reasons, I've been thinking about this poem.

After all this time, in spite of everything, there are still times that I feel as if I'm shut up in a tower, on an island, down the stream from everything that's appealing and alive; as if I'm standing with my face pressed up against life/love's glass. There's much evidence to the contrary (as my therapist, among others, would be quick to point out, and I know this - that's there's lots of evidence to the contrary)...but one can know this, intellectually, and still in your heart feel isolated, anonymous, alone...

But there's something about writing a blog...putting your thoughts into words, and then putting the words out there, in cyberspace, for others to see...whether what we write is liked or disliked, read or not that act, by putting our words out there, one is connected to the world, and defies the wretched curse ("But who hath seen her wave her hand? Or at the casement seen her stand?" - I have! Isn't she on AOL?) It reminds me a little of chat, in the early days of the net...there's a sense of connection, and it can free you up, in a good way...I'm not sure how it works, but for some of us, it does work, at least some of the time...

So when I sit down at my keyboard and type away and hit "save", I feel better...I know I've left the web, left the room, but the mirror hasn't cracked (at least not yet); I don't have to go find a boat (a good thing, as that could be tricky, here in Dallas) and I don't have to sing...a VERY good thing...I like to sing, but y'all don't wanna have to hear me sing...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Spoof of Dubya wins Faulkner contest

Sam Apple has written a hilarious parody of Dubya in this year's Faulkner contest. Here ya go:

The Administration and the Fury
If William Faulkner were writing on the Bush White House

Happy reading.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

What will you be reincarnated as?

Here's a link I came across in another blog:

What will you be reincarnated as?

According to the link, I'll come back as a tree... "You will be reincarnated as a Tree: You were meant to be here longer than your time as a human. Stubborn, wise and strong, you are The Ancient One." LOL! There are days that I feel like The Ancient One right now! Anyway, if I can't be reincarnated as a bird, I guess a tree isn't bad...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Patrick's Saturday Six

1. Who was your first best friend? Chris Williams How old were you when you two met? I was 10; she was 9; she was a neighbor down the street in Minnesota. We used to play "Wild Horses", a game where we'd pretend we were wild horses, and we'd prance around the streets and our lawns neighing and whinnying at each other. I think you have to be an adolescent girl to understand the lure of that game. We also spent a LOT of time in a fabulous cemetery built up into the bluffs that was so far outside of town that we had to ride our bikes to get there, and a lot of times, in the summer, we'd each pack a lunch and spend whole days there, wandering around in the cool green light. She didn't think I was nuts for suggesting we go there, and she seemed to enjoy the time spent there as much as I did. We learned a lot of history about our town from those gravestones. Are you still in regular contact with each other? We haven't stayed in contact, but I named one of my kids Chris after her.

2. Other than the "Saturday Six," what weekly or daily memes do you play most often? (Please give a link to that journal.) This is the only one that I play on a regular basis. I play Super Collapse on a regular basis, though, and (ahem) have scored over 2 million!

3. Which of the following likely has the bigger mess underneath it: your stove, your refrigerator, your couch or your bed? My bed; I keep a loaded toolbox under my bed. Re everything else: the ovens and cooktop in my kitchen are built-in; I roll out the refrigerator (all 27.5 cubic feet) and vacuum under it regularly; there's an antique brass fireplace fender under one of the couches (for lack of anyplace else to store it) but nothing else.

4. Take this quiz: How long does MSN think you'll live? 102! Then take this one: How long does Blogthings think you'll live? 88

5. Do either or both of these motivate you to make any changes in your lifestyle? Nope.

6. Name five things you would like to do by December 31, 2005. 1. See Mike settled happily at UA; 2. Get a job (really, I'd love to figure out a way to get paid to stay home...I love being at home, and hate going to an office and having a boss); 3. Finish the upstairs bath! 4. Meet a bright, intelligent, funny, SANE guy with whom to start a relationship; 5. Win the lottery (NOTE: the odds are against the last two, as I'm a magnet for unstable males and I don't buy lottery tickets).

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday night date

I have a date, so this will be brief. Xander, who'll turn 3 at the end of August and who is Absolute Perfection (and I'm completely unbiased, nevermind that he's my grandson) has come to spend the night. There are legos all over the floor of the gameroom, and we've built a number of interesting (and quite phallic) objects. Xander is equally interested in taking legos apart, though, down to their smallest components. His small motor skills are excellent, but every once in a while he encounters a problem and when this happens, he brings me the lego pieces and says politely, "Need help, gamma!"

Kath says that a couple of weeks ago, when she said, "Xander! Do you want to go see Grandma?" he stripped off all his clothes and chose a new outfit and dressed himself. He rang the doorbell (which is about at eyeball level for him) and when I answered the door, there he stood: barefoot, in a Captain Nemo t-shirt, Buzz Lightyear training pants (fetchingly worn backwards), and a bicycle helmet.

Hey! I've had dates show up in worse!

OK, time to watch Toy Story.


There was an interesting essay in the NYTimes on the 17th about blogging:

The New Nanny Diaries Are Online


more later.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

me and my camel in Big Bend

I'm sitting here drinking a cold Corona with lime, but what I'd really like is a nice cold glass of ice tea (I know, I know, y'all Northerners call it iced tea, but in Texas we just call it ice tea)...anyway, I'm having the Corona instead because the solenoid on the water valve on my icemaker needs to be least that's what I think is wrong with the #*&$ thing...and I've been putting off calling a repairman because I'm anticipating that he's going to say it'll cost me a couple hundred bucks to repair it, and I know that a new solenoid costs only about $30, so I'm gonna be ticked if I'm told it's a lot of money. I know I should just replace it myself, but I've been too damned lethargic this summer to do it. I've done a lot of work on my house this summer, but I hate working on anything electrical (she says defensively). :) In the meantime I've been buying bags of ice at the grocery store and putting them in the freezer, only to realize that I go through a lot of ice. Also, it's so hot outside that the bags have usually frozen into a solid block of ice by the time I get home, but hey, I have a saltillo tile floor in my kitchen, so I just throw the bag down on the floor and voila! lots of nice small ice cubes again. However, tonight I discovered that my guys have used up the latest bag of ice, leaving me with no way to make ice tea, and thus I'm drinking an ice cold Corona...but I digress...

My son Michael (twin #1, 2 minutes older and 2 ounces heavier at birth than his younger brother, Christo) is going to be a freshman at the University of Arizona at Tucson this fall, and there's much excitement around my house these days in anticipation of that watermark event. Mike and I are going to drive out, so I've been planning our itinerary (an essential act as I have NO sense of direction and we could end up in Massachusetts if I don't have a well-planned ant-route mapped out beforehand). It's an obscene distance to Tucson by car; just under a thousand miles from Dallas. Two lllooonnnnggg days of driving, and two pretty boring days at that, as anyone who's ever taken I-20 west out of Dallas can vouch.

I've been looking at the map, trying to figure out where we can stay the first night on the road. On principle, I refuse to stop in Midland/Odessa (or even to slow down as I speed past both places) but there's nothing after Midland/Odessa until El Paso. Then I realized that if we take a couple of extra days, we can do a pretty cool side trip to Big Bend and Marfa. If your eyes are glazing over and you're thinking "She said she's drinking a Corona with lime, but what the hell is she smoking, and what's Marfa?"..Marfa is where the 1956 movie, Giant, was filmed. Y'all remember Giant: James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Chill Wills, and a very young Carol Baker, Dennis Hopper and Sal Mineo, among others...anyway, it was filmed in and around Marfa and the cast stayed at The Hotel Paisano, aka El Paisano.

El Paisano opened in 1930. Most of the time, it was a cattleman's hotel. Deals to buy and sell herds were made in the lobby, so it must have been a pretty exciting change to have real movie stars staying there while Giant was being filmed. But Marfa's in the middle of nowhere, so after the movie stars left, it went back to being a cattleman's hotel. By the late 70's it had fallen on hard times and closed its doors. Then, in 2001, it was purchased and refurbished and has since re-opened it's doors.

I was in Marfa about 18 months ago, but I didn't stay at El Paisano; I stayed 30 miles away, in Marathon, at The Gage (where the West meets Architectural Digest, according to a friend, and that's as good a description as any of The Gage). I spent a night at The Gage ( on my way back from camping in Big Bend so I could see the thing for which Marfa is most famous these days: the Marfa Mystery Lights ( and

The lights have to be viewed at night (obviously) but I stopped by El Paisano in late afternoon and walked through the lobby. It's pretty, but pricey, and it was deserted when I was there, and between the fancy, deserted hotel, the location, and the Marfa lights, I couldn't help thinking of The Eagles' song, Hotel California:

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
’this could be heaven or this could be hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the hotel El Paisano
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel El Paisano
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany twisted
She's got the Mercedes bends
She's got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
That she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard
Sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember
Some dance to forget
So I called up the Captain
Please bring me my wine
He said
We haven't had that spirit here since 1969
And still those voices are calling from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say

Welcome to the Hotel El Paisano
Such a lovely Place
Such a lovely face
They're livin' it up at the Hotel El Paisano
What a nice surprise
Bring your alibies

Mirrors on the ceiling
Pink champagne on ice
And she said we are all just prisoners here
Of our own device
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!

If you Googlelize El Paisano, you'll be directed to the website ( where there are a lot of pretty pictures of the rooms and lobby. There's something a little eerie about those pics...I half expect Rod Serling to show up and say: "You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind...a journey into a wondrous land of stop, the Twilight Zone!"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Patrick's Saturday Six

1. What is the last thing you either camped out or got up unusually early to be able to buy? That's easy; I was in line last night at midnight for the latest Harry Potter. I'm a die-hard fan!

2. If you had to give up one of the following for a full year, which would be the easiest to do without? Which would be the most difficult to give up?
a) Your personal vehicle
b) Your Telephone (both cellular and land line)
c) The Internet
d) Meat (all of it: Beef, Poultry, Pork and Seafood)
e) Television

Television would be the easiest thing for me to give up; I grew up without television (and without a car, for that matter; I didn't learn to drive until I was 30, but that's another story). The most difficult thing for me to give up in Dallas would be my car, as public transportation here is very poor, and many of the things that I do are not within walking distance. Giving up my phone(s) would be a close second in difficulty, though.

3. How many items (include all bottles, boxes and containers) are in your medicine cabinet? Which is the last one you used? There are 46 items in my medicine cabinet, but none of them is medicine; there are bath oils and powders, colognes, lotions, etc. Having raised 4 children and now having a 2-year-old grandson who comes over regularly, I keep medicines in less accessible places. The last item I used was a bottle of Banana Republic Classic cologne, which I spritzed on this morning after getting dressed.

4. What is the first source you go tofor news of any kind when you wake up? How much do you trust that particular source? I turn on my computer and look at the front page of the NYTimes online, to which I subscribe. The front page is always one of my morning e-mails. I then go in and read any stories that interest me, and yes, I trust the NY Times, to the chagrin of most of my conservative, Republican Dallas friends.

5. Take the Quiz: What do the letters of your name stand for?

Judi: Judicial/Unforgettable/Dignified/Insane - hmmmmmmm...OK, dunno how "judicial" I am, but there are people who'd say I'm unforgettable, I think, but NEVER dignified...that's just not me...ditzy maybe, sometimes ;p and insane, yep, I'd agree

As for emmapeel: Exquisite/Modern/Meek/Adventurous/Perfect/Exciting/Exquisite/Loud

Sheesh, exquisite???? Um, that's an adjective I'd reserve for Audrey Hepburn; nope, I'm not exquisite (even though it's listed twice!!) - I'm also not meek...I'm definitely adventurous (hey! I've ridden a camel, gone on cattle drives more than once, and gone whitewater rafting for a week...and done plenty of other adventurous things that AOL might not sanction my listing)...Perfect - HA! 'fraid not...Exciting...yep, there are people who'll testify to this, hehehe...Exquisite (see earlier comment)...Loud - nope, I'm not loud. So much for the acronym generator.

6. What is your favorite color and why? If you have a journal or journals, is this color the primary one on those journals? If not, why not?

Blue is my favorite color, in part because I love most of it's variations...I find it soothing. But I also love drab colors; browns, greys and earthtones, and the primary color on my blog is a sort of grey/brown. I didn't use blue because I think it's overrused.

muggle central

Mike and Jon went to Walmart at midnight and bought a copy, and Jon (not realizing I was in line at B&N for a copy of my own at the same time they were at Walmart), generously told Mike to tell me I can have his copy in two days, and can even keep it if I replace it with a paperback for him. At 9:20 this morning Brenden called to tell me he and Kath bought a copy at Fry's for $13.00 and that Fry's still had a couple hundred copies left...this in addition to the copy that Kath had pre-ordered at B&N several months ago, but that she discovered, online, had been shipped to their old California address. So as I spoke with them this morning, Kath was waiting for it to be a decent hour in California so she could call Brenden's grandma and ask her to go over to their old house and pick up the copy she ordered. Dunno why, but it makes me happy to know we're a family of Harry Potter fans.

HP and the Half-Blood Prince

I just got back from Barnes & Noble, where I got in line at midnight to pick up my copy of the latest Harry Potter. Now I'm back home, and to accompany my read, I've got a ham sandwich, and a bottle of Ace's hard pear cider, and a slice of dark chocolate pound cake...and I have to say, this is the best Friday night date I've had in a LONG time...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

moving forward

My bedroom door hasn't latched properly the entire 20 years I've been in this house, except for the occasional day that the humidity was so high it swelled the door into alignment. 99% of the time, when I shut that door, the latch hit the strikeplate just a little low, so if the door was lifted a bit, it would latch. Accordingly, for the past 20 years, when I've gone into or out of my bedroom I've usually pulled up a bit on the door to get it to latch, and it's been an incredible pain in the butt to always have to remember to do that. When I haven't remembered, I've come home to find the cats asleep on the chaise (they're not allowed in there), or the door's suddenly opened, on its own, at inopportune moments, etc. But no more!

Friday night I went to Home Depot and spent $1.19 on a whole stack of plastic shims, and this morning I trimmed one and screwed it into place, behind the bottom hinge...voila! After 20 years, the door now latches, perfectly and effortlessly, as it should! I'm still amazed...such an easy, inexpensive fix! I think there may be a lot of things in my life that are like that, where just a small amount of concentrated effort will reap a big reward. Now to figure out what they are...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Saturday Six

1. How many mirrors are there in your home? If you could go for the rest of your life without ever looking in a mirror (but still know that you hadn't missed a button or that your hair was disarrayed, etc.) would you? There are 14 hanging mirrors in my home (including medicine cabinet mirrors, mirrors on the back of closet doors, etc.). No, I wouldn’t be willing to go the rest of my life without looking in a mirror, because I don’t trust anyone else to tell me what works and what doesn’t. The significant others in my life, be they former spouse, lover, or children, tend to say "You look fine", but I can look in a mirror and tell at a glance that I want different shoes with an outfit, or to wear a longer/shorter skirt, etc., and that’s important to me.

2. What online abbreviation annoys you the most and why? LOL! LOL, because it’s overused. ;p

3. What do you hate the most in this world? Prejudice.

4. You decide to go to your next high school reunion. What do you anticipate would be the thing most people said about you behind your back? "She looks great!" (dunno if they'd actually say this, but I'm not paranoid; I don't imagine them saying anything bad).

5. You learn that because of some galactic mixup in fate itself, you must restart your life tomorrow in a new place. You will emerge as a person with a unique past and won't seem out of the ordinary to those in the new place. You will retain the experiences and memories of your past, but the people you are closest to will believe that you are dead and gone and you would be prohibited from contacting them. Where would you go and why? I’d go somewhere near water, and it would probably be south, although I also love the northeast. I grew up in Minnesota, on the Mississippi, and although there are many things I like about Texas, I’ve always felt landlocked here in Dallas.

6. What are you most passionate about in this moment of your life and why? Oh wow...that’s hard for me because I’m trying to figure out so many things about what to do next in my life right now. At the risk of sounding like the AndieMacDowell character in Sex, Lies & Videotape worrying about the world’s garbage and other things she couldn’t control, I’d have to say that the thing most likely to get a rise out of me these days is Our Esteemed Leader and His Minions blathering on and on about the necessity of increasing the ranks of the volunteer army with Yours, Mine and Ours but not Theirs, and sending young soldiers off to places we have no business, if the Bush girls suddenly join the army and are shipped off to Faluja, I may be somewhat assuaged...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Andromeda Strain

I've been reading other people's blogs, and a couple of days ago I came across a comment on a British blog asking if Starbucks has proliferated across Europe like it has in the US. The writer went on to equate Starbucks with the Andromeda Strain, and said it's meant the end of good coffee in America; he further likened it to McDonald's, "except that McDonald's is cheaper". It was a funny, but in many ways pertinent rant, and as I sat with my ex at our local Starbuck's this morning, I thought about it.

It was pouring rain outside, so there were just a few fellow caffeine addicts who'd braved this morning's weather. I got my usual Starbucks drink: a grande, non-fat, extra-dry, "for-here" cappucinno; my ex got a hot green tea. We then sat down in a couple of overstuffed chairs and briefly discussed various and sundry matters; everything from the London bombings to our twin sons' dentist appointments. Most of the people around us appeared to be engaged in similar casual conversations, and I noticed that most of the people who came in alone, even if they ended up reading the paper or gazing at the screens of their laptops once they got their drinks, initially engaged in a bit of banter with the staff as they ordered their drinks.

Watching all this, it occurred to me that a large part of why I like Starbuck's is because it provides a neutral, comfortable place to meet and talk a bit with others at any time of day. We live in a world where the morning news reminds us that one can be blown to bits simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and where many people seem to feel increasingly frightened and isolated. So to be able to go to a place where one is assured a sense of connection, however brief, whether with friends or with strangers, is a good thing... regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of the coffee.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


This morning I had a piece of furniture delivered from Crate and Barrel. A little background info here for those who don't know: I had an electrical fire at my house a couple of years ago. No one was hurt, which is of course the most important thing, but...I can say from experience that the best thing is not to have a fire. The level of disruption created by a fire is horrendous, and in this instance, to add to that, an unscrupulous contractor made off with a third of my insurance settlement...suffice it to say, it's been a long, hard haul, putting my house back together, room by room.

So this morning I was up bright and early to be ready for the delivery guys, and I'd pulled back the rugs, moved furniture, etc., to facilitate delivery of an "entertainment center" (sort of a horizontal armoire for tv & video equipment) for my gameroom. The first delivery man came into my house, took one look at the doorway of the gameroom, and, grinning broadly, engaged in a bit of schadenfreude

I groaned inwardly and bit my tongue; he and his partner brought the piece of furniture in, on its side, and the first guy again seemed to take an apparent delight in telling me there was "No way" it would fit through the door and into the gameroom. He added, "This is a floor sample, right?" I said, "Yes, that's right." That means I got it for a great price; less than 50% of the regular price, but floor samples aren't returnable, even if it they literally don't fit in your house. He reminded me of this, and looked so pleased with himself that I wanted to kick him. "Well, where do you want it instead of the gameroom?" he asked, still smiling broadly. I told him to leave it right outside the gameroom.

After he left I went online and re-read the "How to Measure" section on the C&B website and found where I'd gone wrong: the guidelines said that the diagonal measurement must be less than A OR B; it should have read the diagonal measurement must be less than A AND ALSO less than B. Disgruntled, I turned my attention to the entertainment center and started thinking, hey, wait a minute, this thing wasn't carved out of a solid block of wood...I got a screwdriver and a square bit and began disassembling the base of the entertainment center...I was grateful to discover it was screwed but not glued...15 minutes later, voila! The entertainment center was a good 8" shorter than it had been, but to my dismay it still wouldn't fit through the doorway.

I went to Home Depot and got a small dolly of my own to faciliate matters, and then I got Mike and Chris, who are 19, to help me with it. After re-measuring and re-calculating, I also got a pry bar from my tool kit and removed a narrow strip of molding from one side of the doorway. We then wedged the entertainment center, on its side on my dolly, into the hall outside the gameroom, as far as it would go. Mike and I were inside the gameroom, trying to turn the piece into the doorframe, and Chris was on the hall side, pushing. He kept saying, "Mom, this isn't going to work", but the more he said it, the more determined I became..."Just SHOVE IT, HARD!" I finally shouted at him, and he did, and then...woo hoo! Suddenly it was free of the door and inside the gameroom!

We then re-attached the base, and before we set it upright, I took an indelible pen and wrote instructions on the bottom about how it was necessary to remove the base and the piece of doorway molding to get the piece into the room.

I felt like calling Crate and Barrel and asking someone to tell the delivery guy that we got it in -

There should be a word for the reverse of schadenfreude, but if there is, I don't know it; nevertheless, I feel it: the boys and I took joyful pleasure in overcoming the negativity of that delivery guy.

Happy Independence Day!
(taking malicious satisfaction in the misfortune of others): he said, "That's not tall enough (referring to the doorway); it's not gonna fit." I said, "Excuse me, but that doorway is 81" high by 32" wide, and the piece of furniture is 58" wide by 70" high by 27" deep, so how is the doorway not tall enough?" He said cheerfully, "It won't be tall enough once I put it on the dolly!" I bit. I said, "How tall's the dolly?" "It's 3 or 4 inches high," he said.