Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On New Year's Eve, Eve

There is snow in the forecast. May actually cover up all the gray lumps left from the last storms. Dirty, dirty snow. Make it all pretty!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A belated birthday wish

Okay, you know the drill. I'm always late with my birthday wishes. Anyway, I hope you had a fantastic birthday week, Miss Kate. Here is a tribute to you. We will lift a glass next time we meet, Miss Magpie.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Presents!

I got my first Hanukah present of the year! It was in a giant box from my pals in Portland (that's Oregon not Maine). I sifted through a butt load of styrofoam peanuts which were not very "green" although these friends will probably receive them back (Recycle! Reuse!). In the giant box was a star-shaped box. It had 8 compartments where presents can be stashed. Oh my gosh. It's an advent Hanukah box!

Now, I know I'm supposed to wait for each day but of course I opened them up. What did I find? Mostly little bottles of liquor and cat toys. What a statement on my life, nu? If it wasn't so funny, I'd cry. No, no. I am very appreciative and I know these friends will probably not read this blog so I don't have to watch my words. It was a fun present (and there were other non-alcohol non-cat-related items).

Hanukah starts next Sunday. Get out your candles for the yearly fear of burning down the house -- by the over excited cats and the drunk owner.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tis the season for Birthdays!

And not for you know who. First up is Alex -- happy birthday, girl! It's always nice when the day falls on a Friday so I hope you do whatever makes you happy. We will celebrate once you are in town. You must bring your bee-eating puppy over to torture my kitties.

Dear Cupid...and the response

Dear Cupid:

I've had enough of you. You aren't welcome here. If I see your dimpled cheeks or smell your baby barf and powder scent, I will drop kick you over the house.

Remember one of those first arrows that found that weakened artery you so much liked to pierce from then on? Let me remind you -- a tall, scruffy dude who spit tobacco in a plastic cup in my room and whose hobbies included Ultimate Frisbee, not bathing, and freebasing? Though, in all fairness, my lack of success in that tentative step was like a death cult stamping my application as "need not apply."

This heart is closed for business. You go on now. Scat. Shoo. Go darken someone else's door now.

Sincerely,

The Idea of Order

Dear Love's Supplicant:

We regret to hear of your recent trouble but we insist that opting out is simply not possible. It's a standard contract that everyone signs once they lock eyes with that special person over the onion dip. If it is any consolation, see our "fish in the sea" clause.

We hear many such cases as yours -- some that would make your toes curl. We assure you that yours is not the worst scenario that could be occur (see Romeo v. Juliet; Othello v. Desdemona; Jason v. Medea).

To state that you are unloved is far from the truth. There are many people who tolerate the pleasure of your company. Case in point:
attached to this letter are sworn affidavits from your mother and your cats.

Besides, without our services what would become of country music, sonnets, and adolescent graffiti? We
note even now that your own burst of inspiration directly correlates to this so-called "hole in your heart."

In closing, we wish you the best of luck in all future endeavors and regret that we cannot dissolve the contract as it stands.
Please direct all future correspondence to the office of fate (c/o the flying fickle finger).

Kind Regards,

Management

Monday, December 1, 2008

All this Social Networking is Wearing me out

I've revived my interest in Facebook, much to my dismay and have been busy catching up with all the friending and chatting and so forth. Probably good that I didn't do this before I left for Atlanta because I would have run myself ragged trying to see people.

As it was, I spent quality time with the family -- Turkey dinner was with my mother, sister, niece, and nephew. There was plenty to eat. Friday, we did go shopping but only because my mother needed a new washer. I ended up buying my sister an el cheapo DVD player because hers had died. We did buy that washer, but on Saturday. Did my mother really need to traumatize the salesperson when she responded to his comment that the washer would last 15 years with "it will probably outlast me." We are a morbid bunch.

Later that Saturday afternoon, I drove to Alabama (yes, you Northeasterners, one can enter that state and not die) for an Indian food buffet extravaganza. Michelle and her fiance, Jason, hosted. A great friend from my alma mater showed up and we ended up talking late into the night. It was soo good to see Brad. It's been years.

Sunday I drove back to Atlanta and relaxed at the homestead. I flew back this morning. I guess because of all the delays on Sunday, the plane was packed and I did not get bumped into first class (like I was on the way down -- the only way to travel!!).

Now, I must think about the last weeks of class. I am so behind. I hope everybody had a nice holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The before travel nerves

I'm up early today because I woke up and went "oh, crap! I have a lot to do today." I fly out tomorrow, and while I am an old hand at this, I wish I had more time. I picked up my students' research papers on Friday and so far, I'm deeply disappointed. I think I need a couple of the good papers to put me in a better mood. I should have read more of them this weekend but I was very discouraged.

So far, I have arranged for kitty sitting -- thanks Queen and Cranky!!! I really appreciate it. But as for preparations, that's about it. I have a to-do list as long as my arm. I'm also debating if I want to bring aforementioned papers with me so I can grade them. I somehow think I won't. One plus to flying now is that I'm that super frequent flier which means that there is a good possibility that I will be bumped to first class. Woohoo! I sure hope so! I'll let you know if I had to break some kneecaps to get into it.

Though I have not been the best blogger in the world, know that I won't be blogging while I'm away this holiday -- unless my mother's dial-up works miraculously or if I am not too comatose from all the food (she's been baking for a while already!).

I hope everybody has a great Turkey day!

And, last -- I almost forgot. A belated happy birthday to punk rock jukebox Marco! I hope you had a great day!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Yes, it's the "idea of order"

I'm not like one of those fancy pants bloggers who blogs on the day or week as the event happens. No, I like to let things simmer and percolate so it rises to the top until I feel I must talk about it. Perhaps this comes from a deep-seated, postmodern need for skepticism.

Well, I want to tell you about a trip I took a month ago when Bill was in town. You know, it's nice when there is someone new to show around. I end up doing touristy things I hadn't gotten around to doing. For instance, though I lived in Atlanta many years, I have never made it to some of the attractions there -- the CNN center, Underground, Coca-cola museum, etc. But I took Bill around New London in October and after a tour of the Academy which was nice and quiet (except for one of my students in the Watch office working on a paper), we went to the bustling streets of the city. Much to my surprise the Academy's tall ship, Eagle (a WWII reparations gift from the land of the Deutsch) was not only in port, but also open for tours. Unfortunately, I didn't know anyone working on the ship -- mostly enlisted folk whom I could not prevail upon to see the bilges (ooh, bilges). But it was really cool. I have wistfully thought about signing on as a chaperone just so I could lose any shred of dignity I ever had by having my students watch me heave the last bits of my lunch during the heaving seas. Here, I share some cool pics that Bill took with his cell phone.Quite arty, no? He forgot to take a pic of the entire ship so here is one I nabbed off of the CGA site:
As pretty as a jigsaw puzzle! Fortunately as we boarded the seas were rather calm and the tide was reasonably high. That is, the gangway was not crazy steep, although one had to go carefully up. There were cool little plaques that explained the things that we were seeing. If only I had blogged right afterward, I might have remembered some details to share with you. Oh, the irony. I'll have to ask Bill.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting Lost

I have a pretty good sense of direction, yet whenever I head out to a new place (or even a place that I haven't been to in a while), I'll get turned around once or twice. However, I always find my way back. This happens in Boston. On Friday, I attended one day out of a longer conference which was taking place near the Prudential Center. I wasn't driving, and I didn't bother to print out directions. My ride had done that. After a quick look at them while on the road, I thought to myself "hmm, this doesn't look right." And sure enough, once we took the exit off the pike, I had to ditch the printout all together and just wing it. She didn't have another map and Googlemaps had just little, tantalizing windows of streets. Still, I was able to get us there.

Why does this always happen to me in Boston? I have long since sworn that I will never pick up anyone again from Logan because once exiting the airport I am faced with a choice of two ramps and I pick the wrong one, every damn time. I even have that pause when I think "oh, yeah, I always take the wrong one" and then I'm lost in merging traffic.

And those stupid little turnpike signs which will lead me along the merry path like a will 'o wisp and then just abandon me until I'm wondering where is that damn pilgrim hat? (and don't ask pedestrians because they will LIE to you).

I suppose this is because Miss Kate used to drive us into Cambridge all the time and I didn't really have to learn. Still, once I manage to find Storrow drive, I'm so happy. Last time I personally drove into the city, Alex and I almost got smooshed by a semi making a wide turn. We both yelped and found god.

On the return from my one-day conference, I rode back with another person who, thankfully, knew Boston much better than I did -- although even she had to make one u-turn. She decided to look for the Trader Joe's in Cambridge so she could note its place for future trips. Though she apologized, I told her "no, no. That's okay. I find Boston traffic relaxing." She missed the sarcasm.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Time is getting shorter

Well, literally, the days are getting shorter but it does feel like all that I wanted to get done this year is not getting done. One of my goals was to keep up with this blog and I have, in fact, started a post a couple times since my last one. But inspiration proved elusive. So, I decided to just plow through -- which is advice I give my students.

I'm also inspired by a visit of a writer in my residence -- Miss Kate. She will most likely blog about this as well but I met up with her on Friday after a long couple days of conferencing with students. I was hurriedly cleaning up my place when I heard a knock on the door. It was not Miss Kate but my downstairs neighbor's daughter who was rather panicked. She had locked herself out and what with the short days, it was dark and her mother was not home yet. I sat her down and she used my phone. Eventually, she got a hold of her mother and everything turned out fine. The girl was clinging to the little black cat who now completely believes that my home is also her home (the cat, not the girl). Kate also showed up about the same time as the mother.

After a little chit-chat, it was off to services at the synagogue because today is the anniversary (Hebrew calendar) of my father's death. I had to say Kaddish for him. There was also a bar mitzvah going on so Kate got to meet a lot of people.

After services (and homemade cookies at the kiddush), we headed over to the Queen's place for martinis and snacks and music and gossip. We were a bit startled at the possums in the Queen's backyard who froze in the headlights and then slunk under the fence. I guess they were looking for some of the fancy cheeses that Kate had brought. I'm afraid that after a few hours I pooped out so we returned early-ish to mi casa. After a few more drinks and some chat, we headed to bed. I apologize to Miss Kate for having to sleep in my "junk" room but I guess it was bearable because she said she slept well.

The next morning, after tea and coffee and fried egg sandwiches, we watched Black Books and then the film Paprika. Then, since it was a rainy Saturday afternoon, we did the only thing one should do -- besides nap and read books -- watch more bad television. I'm so glad that we not only caught the "no more wire hangers" scene from Mommie Dearest but we also watched Alien versus Predator. Now, life is, indeed complete. Finally, we finished our visit with a pizza. All in all, a very relaxing and uneventful day. I enjoyed the visit!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A little Poetry

I've been thinking, in my attempts to make myself blog more, of instituting a weekly poetry update. Ideally, this would include something that I will have written. If you can't thrust your poetry on your friends, then what good are friends? I thought of posting a rather racy poem from Donald Hall from The New Yorker (modern pastoral sex poetry) but I decided to give you the link instead. So, I was perusing the Academy of American Poets website and found a lovely, uplifting gem from Lucille Clifton. It's hard to write an inspirational poem without sounding really sappy and Hallmarky (my friend, Michelle, claims that when I try to make a toast, for instance, I sound like a beer commercial) but this one manages to do it, I think. I hope it makes your day feel a little brighter:

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Friday, October 10, 2008

May I direct your attention

To two new links on the right. One is from the famous Jill Magee, who is back in Pacifica, CA and has become a bit of a serious cyclist. In fact, she recently rode in a competition in Hawaii to benefit those suffering from Leukemia. She hasn't updated her myspace page for a while but I see that she took home a prize -- you go, girl!

Secondly, friends may see a link called "seriously Romania" which may leave you a bit puzzled. In my class this summer, I had a great teaching assistant, Jeremy, who is now in Romania on a Fullbright teaching award. If you want to know the latest news from Transylvania from a good writer, check it out (though I may pull it if he realizes my crazy friends are reading his experimental blog).

In Yom Kippur news, I successfully got through the fast, and the rabbi, not only used my new name to call me to the torah, but also made a bit of a fuss about it in introducing me to the community (and used it to advertise -- "if anybody else wants a Hebrew name and never got one, come see me"). That threw me off a bit because I was freaking out over the Hebrew I had to chant before the reading. Got through that as well, despite the fact I hadn't drank water for almost a day (how do the rabbi and cantor survive with no water?). I also realized that a woman in the congregation whom I highly admire (she's very active in the synagogue and her daytime job is as a lawyer, making sure that people get the medicare benefits they desperately need) has the same Hebrew name. So, I'm doubly pleased that I get to share it with a role model.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A New Name

On Thursday, during Yom Kippur, I've received the honor of being called to the Torah. Being so non-observant all my life, I did know or did not have a Hebrew name. This is rather important since it's the name that is used in aforementioned honor. I talked to my rabbi and we discussed possible names I could choose.

But, I was named after my Uncle Billy (William) who had died many years before I was born. (yeah, I know William = Wendy?). I wondered what his Hebrew name was so my mother asked my cousin to read the memorial plaque in our synagogue in Nashville. She didn't do it. So, my mother asked her childhood friend to look during Rosh Hoshanah. She found it but couldn't read it -- they omitted those pesky vowels. So, she asked the cantor of the synagogue to figure out what it is. I e-mailed him and I found out the following: he had two names, which is also traditional but I don't know why: Yehuda Volf. Now the second name is cool because it means "Wolf." I would like to be called that because it sounds dangerous and edgy. But then the feminine version of Yehuda is, as my rabbi told me, Yehudit. After a quick search on the internet, I discovered that Yehudit = Judith and is the name of the same Judith who slew Holofernes. Yeah, I think I'll take it.

If only I could figure out the feminine version of Wolf....

Above is a rather tasteful ca. 1530 version of Judith with Holofernes' head (Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 1472–1553) . I could have shown a brutal Caravaggio version of this story, but I didn't want to scare my male readers.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The art of the Kugel

It's the holidays, the high holidays, and every year I have a few people over for some traditional food on the eve of Rosh Hoshanah. I started this years ago when I was feeling homesick. Miss Kate loaned me her kitchen and the rest is history. Every year I say to myself "well, it's so expensive and time-consuming, should I do it again this year?" And then I talk myself into it.

In this post, I'm going to address the art of the potato kugel which is a labor intensive but awesome little dish. There are many kugels in the world but I use the recipe that my mother gave me. What's so annoying about it is the grating of the potatoes. Now, one year I used pre-shredded potatoes but I guess they add some chemical to keep it from turning a funny color (and boy, do potatoes turn funny colors) so that was weird. My mother uses a food processor but the texture is just not the same.

So, I peel and grate 7 pounds of potatoes. Peeling has become easier once I purchased a fancy schmancy tool. But the grating is done on a handheld grater and inevitably I tear up one of my knuckles. The truly evil thing I realized after grating the potatoes is that I have to grate a couple onions and after receiving said knuckle wound, it's pretty miserable -- not to mention all the crying. However, this year, I heard that if you put onions in the freezer, it will not be a tear fest. I am happy to report to you, dear readers, that this is the case. No tears!! I highly recommend it.

So after all the grating, I squeeze out all the liquid from the potatoes. I find it easier to do this by hand, but I suppose cheesecloth would work well, too. Then I mix it all together with a little flour, a couple eggs, a little baking powder, salt and oil. That's it. I am always amused that two eggs and 1/4 cup of flour holds this baby together. It's all potatoes!!!

The secret, however, is in the baking. I get my casserole dishes and put a little vegetable oil in the bottom and stick them in the hot oven. After a couple minutes, I pull them out and spoon in potato mixture. It sizzles and, once it's done cooking, there is a wonderful crust all around the kugel. Serve with sour cream (my favorite) or applesauce (my sister's favorite).

I'll put the full recipe up if anybody wants it, but, seriously, are you going to do all that work?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Depp is Mad! Death to Decadent Rodents! And Other Pop Culture News

My e-mail is full of pop culture goodies. Just let me share!

Johnny Depp is going to play the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's next project, Alice in Wonderland. I think he's slowly being typecast as crazy guy.

And, in other news. Stephen Colbert will appear in Spider-man this October.

There's been a fatwah issued against Mickey Mouse.

And, a friend forwarded me a link to an article she read in Southwest airlines' inflight mag about Steve Bissette and the cartooning center he started in Vermont. Watch out for a juicy quote from Frenchy Lunning, the editor-in-chief of Mechademia, the journal I worked on this year.

Mistah Mouse, He Dead.

I have killed another mouse. Before you get all up in my face about killing small creatures and being all Prioress from the General Prologue (points if you get this reference), let me rephrase. I have, yet again, killed my computer's pet, the mouse.

I am highly amused by my new mouse. When I plugged it in, I got the message that the computer detected "a new human interface." I love you, too, laptop.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Give Me Some Credit

My friend, Michelle, makes fun of me because I can and will stand up for myself when I interact with the public at large (interpersonal relationships, on the other hand, get messier when you have to see this person the day after you demanded something). For instance, I will ask people to move over in movie theaters, if it's crowded and they have created a "buffer" zone between them and other people. She's also amazed at how I handle credit card companies.

This summer the CC company with whom I had consolidated a bit of debt, up and changed my due date and unbeknownst to me (I was in LA), I was late with my payment. This meant that I was hit with a late fee AND they rescinded my special interest rate. So, I called them and talked to a representative (surprisingly in the day of automatic systems, it's rather easy to talk to a live person at these institutions). I told them that I didn't know the date had changed and would they waive the late fee and give me the good rate back. Yes. They did it. It was that easy.

Of course (disclaimer) it's best not to carry a balance but I am and have been young(ish) and irresponsible and now I'm paying for it. Just yesterday, I realized that I was out of checks despite the fact I had re-ordered them a month ago. The bank said they mailed it Sept. 10 and to expect them in ten working days. Well, I had a small balance on another CC that I wanted to pay off (because I'm trying to pay off that bigger balance) and the jerks were going to charge me 15 bucks to do it over the phone. After some mashing of buttons, I got a live person, who may have been living on the other side of the world given his accent. Can they waive this fee? Yes.

Ya know, I don't think people just ask these questions. I know that my CC magic number isn't stellar but I suppose they find it easier to accomodate than have an irate person. Plus, they get to try to sell me new stuff but I find it easy to resist.

Just ask, people. It's not hard. Oh, and a little tip on the expensive cable companies? Ask them to lower your rate and they will. I knocked fifty bucks off my internet/cable bill by doing so -- good for a year.

On another credit note, once I began complaining about my dead TV, I have received an offer to take a 20 inch tube TV off a person's hands. I'm debating it. What do y'all think? I was kinda hoping for a flat screen, although I had decided I could not go for the 26 or 32 inch (other expenses are getting in the way). Free is always good but thin is in, my friends.

Monday, September 22, 2008

We Have a Winner!

It was chilly Saturday night and I put on a big sweatshirt that I had not worn since I was in Alaska in June (that thing saved my life!). After a couple hours, I began to get itchy. I scratched, worried that the hives were coming back. I looked but they didn't seem to be developing. After a couple more hours, big red welts started to develop on my arms. Now, I had washed the sweatshirt when I returned from the Alaska with said new fabric softener. It being summer in New England (and summer in LA and Atlanta), I put it away without a thought. I threw it off and took some Benadryl. Fortunately, they did not go to plague level.

I'm pretty sure that my allergic reaction is the fabric softener. Maybe I can safely eat walnuts again?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm sick of all my music

Somebody help me! I'm bored with my music! I've been listening to the same ten CDs for weeks now in my car. I need to take a break and listen to something else. Now, I don't want any suggestions for outrageous purchases (like an ipod or an MP3 player because I need to buy a TV, I desperately need new glasses, and my cat will eventually need medical treatment for her hyperthyroid thingie). I reach out to my music-loving friends to give me some advice.

This is dangerous, I know. I've always hung out with people who know infinitely more about music than I do. My family never really listened to music so my tastes developed rather late. My friends in college were very much indie, punk, new wave, whatever, as well as local music. They still do a lot with the scene in Atlanta. Here in CT, I seem to have the same knowledgeable friends who are or have been in bands or just have a lot of music in their lives.

The caveat -- To give you a sense of what I like, here are the CDs I've been listening to (and listening to and listening to):

Gorillaz -- Demon Days
Suzanne Vega -- Beauty and Crime
Neko Case -- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Deee-lite -- World Clique (I know it's old but it makes me happy)
Soundtrack for Paranoia Agent (anime)
Cake -- Fashion Nugget
David Byrne -- Grown Backwards
Art of Noise -- The Seduction of Claude Debussy
Daft Punk -- Discovery
Black-Eyed Peas -- Monkey Business
Pixies -- Bossanova

I had asked a pal in Atlanta to make me a mix but he has yet to do it. I need to prod him because he's always steered me in the right direction. I know the above list is a mix of recent (and one pop album) and stuff from my college days so no sneers, please. I don't make fun of your music, do I? (well, maybe I do, I dunno).

I've been dying to buy this album from a Brazilian artist because I heard him on the Lehrer Newshour and LOVED the song I heard, but paying 30 bucks for an import album which may take six weeks to show up?? (see, I'm not that much of a music lover -- btw, it's Celso Fonseca's Feriado).

So, anything you can suggest given what I've listed above? I mostly want newer things. Lat time I was in a music store, I thought about filling in some of my classic punk collection, but it just depressed me, because, well, I don't know why.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Other mild diversions besides TV

Thanks everybody for the well wishes. I have yet to purchase a new set but I have been looking around. In the meantime, I have found it rather relaxing. I mean, I do have Netflix which I can watch on my computer -- not ideal, but okay for now. I called up the cable company to reduce my channels, which I had been thinking of doing anyway but never had the nerve, and I was mildly shocked that they would charge me thirty-five bucks to go back to basic cable. Ridiculous! But she lowered what I pay for cable and for internet so it's okay for now. (That's a good tip, btw, call you cable company because they always have some deal going on and they will lower your bill if you show any inkling that you want to have fewer services).

Students worked on a paper this week so I was pretty busy with conferencing and now I have a stack of papers. I even stayed late on Tuesday evening just so I could meet with them during their study hall. I had three hours between meetings so I did something I used to do all the time -- I went to the movies. The Old Mystic Village Art Cinemas is only ten minutes away and I made it just in time to catch Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It was exactly what I needed -- a funny, sexy story set in luscious Spain. I had a good time, even though that blonde girl who can't act was in it. On the other hand, after watching No Country for Old Men, I was surprised that I could find Javier Bardem sexy again (god, he was creepy in the Coen brothers movie). Penelope Cruz was also very good. The funny thing was when I spontaneously decided to catch the film, I was low on cash and this little theater doesn't take plastic. But the guy behind the counter said "go on in. The movie's started. You can pay afterwards." Can you believe that? He wasn't even there when I came out and I had to explain it to the other guy why I was returning to give him money.

I told him "perhaps people who catch the matinee of a Woody Allen film are far too neurotic to skip paying." Yeah, it would have bothered me. I would have had time to go to the ATM because only the previews were rolling (though I love the previews).

Finally, I have a new favorite website, thanks to a colleague who keeps me from working: www.failblog.com It just lists stupid pictures with the word "Fail" written across it. Here's the one that made me laugh out loud in my office. It's titled "French Lesson Fail"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kill Your TV

Not because of all the fun political coverage nor the odd need I feel lately to watch Animal Cops (insert major city here) because I'm in need of a "good cry." No, this entry is an obituary to my TV. For the last year I have ignored all the high-pitched whines and wavy pictures, but now I have no image whatsoever. It is time for new television.

RIP my old RCA, inherited from Miss Kate and Mr. Gene, who were amazed at its second life in my house. I have watched many good things on the set and many, many, let us never speak of the rot on the tube.

I plan on having a flat-screen though not humongous TV soon. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with the computer. Thankfully, I made it through the Daily Show coverage which made me very happy. One of my most favorite moments to share with you.

It's all a choice, people.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Feeling Better

By last Friday, the hives had nearly gone away. I suppose it was because I was at the height of my meds (which I am now tapering off -- doctor's orders). The only side effect was that I felt absolutely bushed. I slept well Thursday night but after running errands on Friday, I came home and slept for four hours that afternoon. I was exhausted and I don't think I moved my body the entire time. Still feeling weak but definitely improving. And this was going to be such a good work weekend!!! Gar!

Anyway, kitties are happy having me immobilized for a couple of days and I don't have to teach until next Thursday. So, now I'm catching up on e-mail stuff I need to do. Been enjoying the political stuff on TV although watching the Gustav stuff just rekindles my anger at what happened three years ago during Katrina. You better believe that gov is covering its butt after nearly 1,000 people perished.

My commentary on Sarah Palin will have to wait but believe me, I will have a few things to say.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hives are for BEES!

Dear Gentle Readers -- it's been an eventful week and no, it's not because of the Olympics, nor the Democratic National Convention, nor even, for the first week of classes. No, none of that. I have discovered that I'm really allergic to something but I don't know what it is. It all started when I went out with Ken in his batmobile (custom made 2008 Honda Accord with leather seats!) for ice cream on Saturday. We drove around in the back country and he even let me take over the steering wheel -- which is impressive because I didn't let anyone drive MY new car.

Then we came back to my house and watched TV. All of a sudden, I was really itchy. I would scratch and scratch and all these welts rose up on my skin. I could feel my legs burning. Although I had never had hives before, I knew what they were. So, because I had accidentally dried my clothes with a used dryer sheet, I thought perhaps that was the cause because I've been itchy doing that before. So, I changed my clothes and didn't think anything about it. But the hives kept coming back and nothing I could do would help. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, scratching an itchy heel. Then an hour later, my shoulder! And so on -- skritch, skritch, skritch.

On Sunday, by the middle of the day, my tongue started to swell and I became very nervous. I looked up hives online and all the medical websites said to seek medical care when hives reach the face. I know how alarmist these websites can be (never go to a foot problem site, for instance) so I called a friend of mine who is a doctor and he recommended that I go because this symptom indicated that my airway could close. At one point, it was so bad that I couldn't speak! I called the Queen who rushed to meet me at the emergency room. By then, the swelling in my tongue had gone down so I could carry a conversation. After a relatively short wait, I was admitted and they put me on a heart monitor and all the bells and whistles. The Queen was an awesome friend, putting me at ease as I faced this crisis. Did I mention that I'm between health insurance? Isn't it a sad state that I almost delayed care because of this fact?

The ER doc had the nurse put in an IV and they shot me up full of a powerful steroid, Benadryl, and Pepcid (which I didn't know but is also an antihistimine). Let me tell you that Benadryl can knock you for a loop normally and once I felt it flowing in my veins, I was, as I put it to the Queen, feeling pretty groovy. The hives went away. I also sent the Queen away because I didn't know how long I'd be there and I knew I wasn't making any sense. I couldn't quite finish my sentences. So, I stayed in the hospital for another hour and then I went home. I have a course of steroids to take and I am also taking Benadryl to keep the hives at bay. They keep coming back! Right now as I type, I can see the redness rise. Time for my meds. My doctor friend assured me that it will take time for it to finish with me. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to teach because of all the irritation (excuse me, class, I need to take a bathroom break and scrub my body with steel wool) but I timed my medicines well.

Next up -- get health insurance and go to an allergist. Was it the maple walnut ice cream? (I hope not! I love walnuts). Was is the chemicals in Ken's car? Was it the generic fabric softener? Or something else all together?

The funny thing is that the medicine I'm taking is exactly the same that my sister takes when she has a flare-up with her MS. We commiserated on the phone.

Anyway, thanks to the Queen for being such a great supportive friend. Keep my in your thoughts as I scratch my way through the week.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Da Bears!

I've been thinking about finishing up my Alaska posts when I came across this interesting article in the Sunday Hartford Courant. There have been a few bear attacks in the city of Anchorage -- targeting runners and bike riders. The last paragraph sums up the problem in its entirety:

"Sinnott [biologist for Alaska Fish and Game] said he was surprised anyone thought it was a good idea to hold an all-night bike race in a park known to have bears and along a creek filled with salmon."

Not a good idea, at all. Humans 0, Bears 3.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Absence makes the heart.... (subtitled the WAR ON TERROR)

I've been avoiding the internet(s) because it drags me in so. Some interesting news from one of my many mailing lists. Apparently, a game called "The War on Terror" has been pulled from shelves in England. You can read all about it here. In a nutshell, the problem was this:

"The player who is designated as a 'terrorist' state has to wear a balaclava (Brit speak for a ski mask) with the word 'Evil' embroidered on it—and it was this ski mask that caused the Kent constabulary to seize the game. The Kent police contended that 'the balaclava could be used to conceal someone’s identity, or could be used in the course of a criminal act.' It appears that when it comes to the War on Terror board game, the police, like the buyers for the tony high street chains that have refused to carry the game, sorely lack a sense of humor."

And can't people just buy a ski mask anywhere? Or have these, too, been banned in Britain?

In other, unrelated to "war on terror," news, I would like to plug two books which are written in or feature some pals. All of you probably already know about this, but it doesn't hurt to send a shout out to Mr. Gene, whose 500 Essential Graphic Novels has been published. Awesome! I can't wait to get my copy so I, too, will be in the know. Plus, my friend, A. Hunt, has a story featured in Comic Book Tattoo Tales Inspired by Tori Amos. If you are a Tori Amos fan, or like short story comics, get this book. It's a hefty tome -- nearly ten pounds -- so make sure that you get free shipping on Amazon.

Aren't I cool to have such cool friends?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cleaning out an Apartment

So, my good friend, Chris, is about to leave for Kansas. He pointed out the house he will be living in on Google Maps and noted that various towns in the area had been destroyed by tornadoes in the 90s. I asked him if his house has a cellar but he said he didn't think so. Well, Dorothy, I said, what are you going to do? The only nearest neighbor is an 80 year old woman with a one-eyed cat named Fuzzers. Hopefully the tornado won't go after its blind side and let's hope the elderly woman has a cellar.

But anyway, I timed my return to Connecticut to completely miss the packing and moving stage but I was around tonight to help him clean the apartment (which is a mirror image of my apartment). It's going to be weird without him. He's been a great neighbor and a friend not only because he could always be counted on for cat sitting (and the cats adored him) but that we meshed well in our general misanthropy. Plus, he made my wireless network, a true network by signing on.

He's also responsible for the birdwatching. Good luck, Chris, on your move and on your life in Kansas!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The great time suck or Remember that time when we were all nostalgic? Good times....

Alas, I should be in bed, but I have been sucked into the Internet. **waving for someone to rescue me**. All my college friends have become overly nostalgic and have coerced me into joining Facebook. Already I have been reunited with a ton of people. It's scary how many of them look so much older. Had I not seen pics of myself from "back in the day," I would have believed I'm unchanged. Sadly, not the case.

The worse part of cruising the internet this time of night is how much multi-tasking I do. Do you remember when you couldn't open a million tabs? I think I used to make Gene dizzy with my multiple windows. Right now I have two e-mail accounts, an article from the comix list, and my blog open. Oh and of course, I had to do a little work, so I have a folder open as well. I forgot that I had promised to write comics entries for this encyclopedia from Greenwood. Thankfully, the due dates aren't until next April (lookout for panicked or non-existent posts in April next year!).

Let me add a little substance to this post so as not to waste all your precious time. My good friend A. Hunt will be back in town next week with puppy in tow. I plan on playing with said puppy and then she and I will be going to see Wall-E which is the new Pixar flic -- a feelgood movie about various dystopias. I look forward to it. It seems to have gotten good reviews. This, gentle readers, will make the fourth movie in a month that I have attended. It's a miracle. I never seem to get to the cinema and now I'm wondering what I'll be renting from Netflix in the coming months. Yes, I saw Dark Knight -- twice, because the first time was opening weekend and I was tired, sitting too close to the screen. I don't think I really knew half of what was going on but I do remember the several times that I averted my eyes due to the mind-boggling violence. This is PG-13?? Then I saw it in Atlanta with my friend Paul. We sat further back. I enjoyed the movie although I enjoyed the trailer for Watchmen even more. On first screening, sadly I was not with comic book fans so I could not suitably geek out. I just sat there chanting "please don't suck; please don't suck." I have to admit that it looks pretty darn good. I even recognized some of the scenes so maybe it will follow through. However, they must not sanitize it. As my friend, Paul, said, Rorschach needs to look like he smells. I concur.

As for the other films I went to see -- I already blogged about Mongol. I also went to see Mamma Mia! with my mother, sister, and niece. It was an appropriate film for the four of us and I was amused, having very low expectations. Wow Pierce Brosnan canna sing (neither can Meryl Streep). Last, and least, was Hellboy II, which I saw with my nephew. I concur with both the Queen's and Cheryl's reviews. I think I was prepared for the suckiness (sense the "suck" theme in this entry) although imagining Cheryl writhing during the Manilow sequence sent me into fits of giggles. Sorry Cheryl! (I expect to be thwacked for that comment)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I laugh in the general direction of chronological blogging

Now, what would be the fun in recording events soon after they occurred? Let's all be a little more postmodern, shall we?

This blog is about my two celebrity sightings in and around LA. I was rather put out that I spotted some famous folk because I was just going to lie about all the fab people I met. I even had a very nice photo of a limo in front of Hollywood farmer's market which I was going to claim that it was Madonna buying rutabagas. (yes, I know she's living in London, but my way is funnier).

The first sighting of the elusive celebs fell right into my lap. A scene from Dexter was being shot in the place where the kids take their breaks during the three-week marathon class (funny how these "breaks" kept getting longer as time went by). We were given some advance notice that filming was going on so I was pretty excited, having been a fan of the show before I got rid of Showtime. I was a bit alarmed that at least one of my students (a 13 year old) loved the show as well ("don't your parents monitor anything you watch?"). I finally caught a glance of the star, Michael C. Hall as he walked on the set. Unfortunately, we were rather busy keeping the kids from being mischievous -- see kid above "the words 'keep out' is not meant to be a challenge!" One thing I enjoy about this show is that Mr. Hall is genuinely creepy which is no mean feat considering I watched him for many years as the uptight gay brother on Six Feet Under. He convinced me that he can act. There was also James Remar (playing Dexter's father and so the scene being filmed was a flashback) who has done a slew of TV and movies, most notably an extended stint on Sex and the City, but I'll always remember him as Lord Rayden from Mortal Kombat.

Probably the most amusing event connected with the filming that unfortunately, I didn't get to witness was what happened after class. The kids have an activity period which includes a variety of stuff -- sports, swimming, crafts, etc. One of the most popular games is a version of Dodgeball called Trench. They play this on the field next to where the crew was set up. Because the microphones would pick up any high-pitched noises (though lower register ones would be ok), the kids were asked to play silently. And they did -- silent dodgeball. I heard that the grips were all duly impressed. I wish I could have witnessed that.

My second celeb sighting occurred all the way from JFK to LAX when I flew back from Connecticut on that crazy weekend trip I did mid-class. It was Sunday afternoon and I was taking a puddle-jumper over to JFK when I found out that everything was grounded. I would miss my connecting flight. So I mosied over to the guy behind the counter and sweet-talked him to see if he could get me on another flight (going cross-country is a pain, people). I told him that "I would even take First class if I must!" Sure enough, he sticks me in business class on a later flight.

I was pretty happy with that, considering I was so exhausted. A little pampering was just what the doctor ordered. Things were going smoothly at JFK until I was alerted to the fact that they were boarding early. I was on the phone to my ride in LA and had to be one of those people you want to punch because they don't get off the cell phone as they are handing over the boarding pass. However, I was worried I would miss my flight. I walked down the end of the ramp and what do I see but a weird contraption and not the plane. (I was reminded of A. Hunt's comment when we went to the Daily Show and was hustled into a room with no exit -- "they are going to gas us!") Now, this was my first experience with a people mover of this bulk and we were driven to our plane which was out on the tarmac. We loaded from the back once the people in the plane realized we were there (after much pounding on the door). Now ensconced in Business class, I relaxed with my free drinkie and though I thought I was going to miss my flight, we sat there as several people movers unloaded their passengers.

Then who do I see in the aisle across from me? (I was in the window) Adam West. The Batman. I was surprised at how quickly I'd identified him. "no, surely not!" then I heard him speak to the flight attendant -- got to be him. Since I was a newcomer to first class, I played it cool and didn't bother him -- after quickly texting people who would appreciate it. As Mr. Gene put it "Holy Proximity!" I got to "know" Mr. West for many hours as we were stuck again on the Tarmac for an hour (or more). You know it's bad when the pilot comes on with "I wish I had better news but you won't believe the sight in front of me." Due to bad weather, a runway or two was closed and all traffic was diverted elsewhere. We were in the wrong place which meant a hundred planes were in front of us as we glacially taxied to where we needed to be. Still, if you are stuck on the tarmac in JFK, what's better than having free movies, lots of leg and arm room (no more fighting for the armrest!) and free booze. We also got a meal with REAL silverware. Now that I've made it to silver medallion level on Delta, I'm not looking back, people. Mr. West was very nice to everybody so I can't tell any stories of him being a jerk to the "help."

So, those are my two celebrity sightings. When the episode of Dexter comes out, I'll let you know and you can see the fountain where I had to restrain a student from jumping in after a frisbee (they accused me of falling back on my "military" training).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Topic: the Weather (or I'm hot! Are you hot? it's hot!)

I'm in Atlanta and the blog is way overdue for a post. Sadly, I am in the local library which has given me thirty minutes in which to check in on my life online. (mom has dial-up -- very sad). However, the library, due to the Patriot Act, will not let me check out books on my mother's card. They will also not let me check out books because I'm not local (ha! and my first job was working at this library when I was 16). Since I did not bring many good books with me in order to keep my baggage weight down (currently 47.5 pounds), I am unhappy and find mself reading mysteries that my mother has lying around. My mother reads some sick stuff.

Anyhoo, it's hot here... and smoggy. I went to Dave and Buster's with my family yesterday and when we walked outside, it just about knocked us down. The "air quality" is also very poor -- dangerous for the very young, the very old, those with respiratory diseases and people like me who smoke a lot. This is the number one reason I think will not move back to this city. Let's put some better public transportation, people.

Yes, boring post but some previews to keep your warm -- Alaska wrap-up, including a hilarious rendition of moi in a vaguely sporty situation; celebrity sighting in first class from JFK to LAX, and a review of the Dark Knight which I saw Friday night (I'm sure that most of you geeky people out there have seen it already but bear in mind, I was watching it after living and breathing pop culture for three weeks. I was in high academic mode and I could not fully "geek" out without Gene there). And perhaps I'll have the details of my interview from last weekend. No, no news yet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shoot Me Now -- Or Wait Until We Get Home?

I've been stressing out all week over the logistics of something I thought I should have been able to do and then I just found out that it's not going to happen (nope, still flying home this weekend for a different situation). I'm sorry to be so vague but I have to keep names out of it for obvious reasons. I have to say that my reaction to the news surprised me because I felt so defeated.

Fortunately, to raise my spirits, I have been thinking about the film I saw last night in Santa Monica -- Mongol, the sensitive coming-of-age story of a future world raider. It's the first of a trilogy so I'm on the edge of my seat to find out what happens next. Cinematography was great and the costumes were tres cool. Plot a little thin although I liked his foil in the movie. I went with Kate's pal who has been the most awesome hostess. On Sunday we went tourist, by going to Hollywood and down the walk of fame and the Chinese Theatre and plenty of buildings dedicated to Scientology. I know you, too, would have been tempted by the exhibit on the life of L. Ron Hubbard. I successfully resisted. We also went to Amoeba records and there, too, I resisted purchasing anything (given that my luggage already almost weighed the limit at 48 lbs, I didn't want to tempt fate. Plus I have been in the "let's give things away" mode for the last month.

Class has been going extremely well and I say this not even because I confided in my students that I had a blog because I don't think it will hold their interest long enough to find it. The true blog confession was in theme with our subject for today -- public, private, and virtual space. I had given them an essay about how truly evil (no, really) DisneyLand and DisneyWorld is and they were quite up in arms. By the end of the session, I got a few "the author's right but does she have to be so mean about it?" I think I'll show them Simpsons in Itchy and ScratchyLand:

Marge: what are you doing in jail?
Homer: I'm a political prisoner!
Marge: How are you a political prisoner?
Homer: I kicked a giant mouse in the butt, do I have to draw you a diagram?

Anyway, took the kids on a "field trip" where we examined public spaces on campus. Though it had been cool in the morning (and then cool in the evening), we seemed to have selected an hour in the afternoon where the sun was especially bright and there was no shade. I got doubly sunburned. By the time we had to head back across campus, it was like the Bataan death march. Poor kids!

Speaking of weather, I think I actually felt a few sprinkles of rain as it quickly evaporated in the air. It does rain in LA!

Then I had a delightful dinner where I talked to someone who must have read every Faulkner novel a couple times. (he could place all the obscenely funny scenes that I could remember). Then we then diverted to discussing Werner Herzog films which made me very happy.

And since I don't have TV to distract me, I have had many songs stuck in my head during the day. For a few mornings straight, I had the theme from Working Girl (that Melanie Griffith/Harrison Ford flick) which I have no idea where it came from. I also had some contemporary rap music and finally, blissfully, the Ramone's Blitzkrieg Bop and the theme from the Banana Splits. I feel comforted by the juxtaposition of these last two.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Long Story but...

I'm flying to Connecticut this weekend and then back to California on Sunday. Anybody up for a dinner Saturday night? Or a ride to the Hartford airport on Sunday afternoon?

I'll give you the skinny later. But I guess it's good news, and not an emergency...

And I'm this freakin' close to being a "real" frequent flier with the privileges of such. I have to stop flying.

Monday, June 30, 2008

California -- Still Sunny

I am patchwork tanned. Since I arrived on Thursday, it's been meeting, meeting, orientation, work, nap, walk around. And I have different shoes -- I even have a pair of flip flops. As a result, the tops of my feet are criss-cross tan and my arms are already brown -- just from walking around.

Otherwise, things have been going smoothly. What a difference a year makes. Last time, I didn't know a soul here and though I was very busy, I was a little lonely. This year, I get a lot of "hey! I recognize you" and "it's good to see you" so I feel more welcome. Perhaps it's also because I'm more confident of what's expected of me.

First day of class and it's hard not to compare them to last year's kids. But everybody is different (and a few of my kids are back taking another class).

We watched cartoons today. It's a good life.

Friday, June 27, 2008

In La-La Land

Alaska will have to be on hold for a bit (I'm gearing up for the big "kayaking" drama to entertain you all). I've just arrived to my teaching gig in LA. It is with disappointment that we are not staying in our fabulous apartments that we had last year. In fact, these dwellings are, well, underwhelming but they will be serviceable. At least I was able to connect to the wireless (when will Kalamazoo do that??). I did walk over to the area we lived last year to look at birds. What did I find but the same mockingbird in the same tree, singing its little heart out. Makes me very happy though a little sad that I won't hear him outside my bedroom window on those full moon nights.

That reminds me that one of the interesting birds I saw in Anchorage was a Black-billed Magpie which is a beautiful bird with a very long tail and flashy white patches on its wings. Picture is from All About Birds website.
Impressive, yes? Although not as impressive as Chris spotting Scissor-tailed Flycatchers outside his new digs in Kansas.

Anyhoo, enough about the feathered creatures. Orientation starts tomorrow and I'll have to think about teaching. Nothing much else happened today. My flight was uneventful (which is always good).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Juneau, ya know?

I'm all packed for tomorrow and the house is reasonably clean. The cats were running around frantically as I took away the things they sit and sleep upon. I also left a three page instruction manual for my wonderful cat-sitter who will be here throughout. I think Pumpkin pissed him off last year by "christening some of his stuff." I have bought "cat grass" hoping that will help with her digestion. Sometimes I think she believes she's in a competition with someone -- like an Olympic event.

Can I also complain that it is wicked humid today?

Okay, back to non-humid, cool Alaska. After a half day in Ketchikan, we left port around 1:00 and headed for Juneau (which is the state capital for you geography buffs -- are all following me on the map?). Again, the next morning, I wake up to a beautiful sight:
You can see that other cruise ships have headed into town. Well, we split up for our tours (we can do more damage that way). My sister and niece went whale watching. Mom and I went on a tour of a rainforest. Surprised? Yes, it was a temperate rain forest and very beautiful.
We lucked out by going later in the day because we were a tour of four as opposed to the usual busload. Our partners for the day was a rather taciturn couple from Perth. Turns out our tour guide who took us in a golf cart up the side of a mountain was going to spend a semester in Perth, surfing. That's what I like about all the summer kids who come to Alaska to make some money. They are all a well-scrubbed, shiny-faced, let's go climb that sheer rock face lot. Makes me feel my age.

Our guide pointed out many amusing ways one can die in the wilderness which I greatly appreciated. Though my mother looks like peaches and sunshine, she has a dark streak. When we did the obligatory practice drill for if the boat hits an iceberg or something, we gathered at our meeting area with our life jackets. When told how to jump off the boat (don't jump, rather, step off), my mother commented that the water would kill you anyway so what's the point of doing all this anyway?

Back to the tour. I learned some interesting facts. Like, when bears wander into the town and get in trouble or keep coming back, they are sent to an island where all the bad bears live together (sorta like Battle Royale with the furry set). I also learned that when a bear comes out of hibernation, they eat a lot of skunk cabbage (they need something, as my guide put it, "to pull the trigger."). But don't try this at home, because it will kill you. See that weed -- it's called "Devil's Club" and it will make you wish you were dead if you get caught hiking in it.

I also learned from our lovely tourbus girl two stories. One was about a sea lion who had discovered a fish farm and gorged himself. He wandered off and took a nice snooze right in the middle of the road. Since these guys can weigh half a ton, they had to re-route traffic around him until he decided to wake up and waddle off.

I also learned why there is a statue of pelicans in front of it (and for those of you keeping score at home, there are no pelicans in Alaska). The Juneau folks had ordered the appropriate eagle statue for the capital -- and believe me you can't throw a ball without hitting a bald eagle there (and then go to jail because they are protected and a national symbol). At the same time, Florida put in their order for a statue of Pelicans from the same business. They switched them. Florida kept the eagles and Juneau had to settle for the Pelicans. Now, mind you, I did not see the state capital and the pelicans and on more than one occasion did I hear contradictory information from guides so take everything I write with a grain of salt.

And then after all this, we went shopping. Mom bought a bear.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dropped the Ball, Again

Here I am busily preparing for my trip to Atlanta then LA and I realize that I have yet to finish my Alaska trip (which believe me, is more of a record for myself than necessarily written for all of you nice people). When I think about working on the blog, more interesting things happen to me. For instance, my friend, Ken, came over and we ate pizza and I made him watch weird anime as I am wont to do. Then we flip around cable channels because he doesn't have cable and he strangely enjoys the commercials. Anyway, on IFC, I notice that Dead Alive has just started and it's just about up to the custard scene. So, I said, "Ken, you have to see this because it's the most disgusting scene and when I first saw it, I was eating at the time." Why not share the delightful agony of stomach churning?

Well, we watched it and then he wanted to finish the movie, which is a fine, funny, gross film if you have not caught it (early Peter Jackson -- I wonder if the people who handed him all those millions to film Lord of the Rings caught this flick and said "that's our man!"). I am sincerely glad that we had finished the pizza beforehand (Ken even said that he didn't want to take his share of the leftovers home because the film was so gross and pulpy but I made him). I had completely forgotten about the zombie guts that chased after the hero. You get a sense that the make-up guys and Jackson laughed their butts off through the entire thing. Thanks, Kate for another gem (now if I could only get this film out of my memory, but I digress).

Okay, back to the boat and to the pictures. To answer Kate's question, "did we even feel that we are in a boat?" Yes, I could feel the motion. That first night we sped our way up the coast and I could feel myself slowly sliding in the bed. Thankfully the fam has strong stomachs (see above). Perhaps the coolest sensation of cruising is when one wakes up to the boat docked in a different world.
You will see a lot of pics off this back deck (and yes, they had a smoking area there). Since we opted for cheap accommodations (inside cabin), we were fortunate enough to be at the rear of the boat and one flight up was this wonderful deck. In the morning I woke up to green mountains to gaze at over coffee and smokes (and all the coffee you can drink. This deck was also home to the 24 hour buffet). You can see a pic of the back of the boat here. Look for the flag to see where I was standing.


It seems like all these Alaskan port cities are mostly accessible from air and sea. Not so much by car (how absolutely un-American). Our tour off boat was the cheapest and the most wheelchair friendly, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. I know you are all amused by the picturing me in a place where I am actually witnessing outdoor sports like log rolling and various chainsaw events but you will get no such pics. Here's one of my sister, freezing her patootie off.
As the above link tells you, watch and marvel at "rugged professional timber athletes." Indeed.



Too bad I couldn't take one of them home for a souvenir. [insert obligatory sex joke here]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We get on the ship and some more pics of Vancouver

On the day we boarded the ship, I wasn't able to get a good photo of it because we were herded and culled. First through customs and then our mouths and ears were checked. No, not really but it certainly seemed like that. I guess to get 2600+ people onto one ship through one door is a bit of a challenge. So we sat in the waiting room until we were finally called. Then we had to wait for the ship to set sail (only to wait an hour in the harbor while they worked on the magnetic compass or something like that).

Here is a pic that sums up the waiting:

Mom, sister, and niece all waiting on the deck. Note the excitement.

And here you can see my feet (that's the only pic you will get of moi!). We sailed on the Sapphire Princess (one of the many Luuuv Booooaaats).

The lovely city as seen from a very expensive and large boat. No, really, it does look better from there.

Sailing under the Capilano Suspension bridge. There were people waving to us from it and they didn't even spit on us nor did they jump. Canadians are very nice people.
Another nice view of the bridge.

Next up: Ketchican. Alaska's first city (named so because it is usually the first people visit when setting sail for Alaska. We visited there first in keeping with tradition).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Some Pics of Vancouver

This was the view outside our hotel window. There's the harbor and lots of expensive boats.
Here you get a sense of how the window opens up and gets that deck feel. I suppose the railing is so that you don't get drunk and fall out of the building.
The Vancouver Art Gallery with the "KRAZY" exhibit. Did they have to pick such an ugly face???
A lovely view of the mountains at the top of the Lookout or whatever it is called. This was part of the tour we took the next day. Here you can see snow-capped mountains. Since Vancouver will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, our guides proudly pointed out the conveniences of having snow pretty close to the city. Visiting in 2008 meant that a lot of the buildings were covered in plastic in order to be good and spruced for the games.
Some totem poles done by local artists for Stanley Park. They can only be found in the Pacific Northwest.
A closeup of a piece of art in the Park.

Now I wish I had taken more pictures but soon we will get to the boat I promise you. I was also able to take some short movies of a few things. Hopefully I'll be able to upload them too.

And, finally, a cute picture of the kitties who were so happy that I came home but are very unhappy that I am not sharing the canned salmon with them.

Gotta figure out a way of getting ride of spooky eye....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vancouver: Too Lazy for PIcs

Well, my pictures of Vancouver are not that exciting and I don't feel like fooling with the dig cam right now. But don't worry, I'll provide some pretty pics soon enough.

The nice thing about paying a lot of money for a cruise is that they really do believe in service. No, really, they do. Nowadays everything is do-it-yourself and lots of mechanical voices asking if you absolutely must talk to a live person (as a side note, on some voice recognition systems, if you start cursing loudly, sometimes they will connect you to a living human being to whom you can curse in person. I never knew that robots could be so sensitive). But anyway, I step off the plane in Vancouver (uneventful flight. Watched 27 Dresses which was awful but took my mind off the hours of flying. I never spoke to my seatmate although we were squeezed in together because we are not small people. Then one small child, who was really good most of the flight, had to pull my hair when I was up getting something out of the overhead bin. The mother was very apologetic and she had been great about walking the child up and down the aisles. I said it was no problem. Who wouldn't want to pull my hair? The child must have thought a long-haired puppy had come on board all of sudden). But back to cruise service -- I step off the plane and there are three cruise representatives. I'm marked off their list. They wait while I smoke and then get my luggage. Then one puts me in a cab (and pays for it -- well, we had paid for it ahead of time) and then presto, I'm in a fancy hotel, just south of Stanley Park.

I wait hours and hours for my family to show up. I wish I had gone to the Vancouver Art Gallery so I could see the Krazy exhibit while I was waiting which I had to rush through the next morning.

Our hotel had a fabulous view of the harbor and I watched floatplanes take off and land. The really cool thing about the room was that you could slide open the windows on one wall so you got a kinda deck feeling. Plus there was a fainting couch where one could loll and watch the world out the window. There is not nearly enough lolling going on in one's life.

Fam finally showed up and I was happy to see them (hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving) and even though all four of us were going to be crammed in this one room, my mother thought it was funny that I said "I haven't slept well in six months. What's one more night?"). My mother has a twisted sense of humor.

Our first meal did not bode well for things to come. I took them to a place next door which I thought was "safe" but everything in the menu looked weird to them. "What's tarragon?" and "Can't I get shrimp instead of prawns?" My mother scared my niece by telling her the difference between shrimp and prawns was that prawns had their heads and the little eyes look at you from the plate, asking for mercy. I do have to admit that the food was rather bland and not up to snuff but I was already getting irritated with my American tourist family.

The next day, we decided to walk down the shopping district and at the end I would go to the museum which was only a mile away. The world, however, looks different when one is pushing a wheelchair and gentle slopes become death marches. Although the weather was cool, we were all sweating like proverbial pigs when we finally made it to the street we were looking for. The flaring tempers also did not bode well for our trip. But that's our style. Lots of angry words then food. Then the world is okay.

I finally abandoned them and went to the museum. And no, I did not just suddenly let go of my sister while going up the hill. I sped through the exhibit which I will save for a future post (or publication because I have some very strong opinions about it). Then we met for lunch and then took a guided tour of Vancouver.

My southern family was cheered by the fact that Canada had supported the South during the Civil War because they wanted all those nice raw goods picked by slaves. A little embarrassing for all involved during the tour. Okay, my family is not that bad. It was just an interesting fact and since none of them have blogs, I am free to paint them in much any light I want.

Finally that evening we went to a good and crowded fish restaurant and I had both a martini and a glass of wine. I felt good. Mom was supportive of this mood because I think she secretly thought that if she had liked alcohol, this would have been a much more pleasant trip for her.

Next blog: getting on the boat

PS: I cut my hair yesterday. Not extreme but pretty extreme. And there's no one to see it yet!!! (or those who have seen it have not commented which is distressing)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back from the Wilds of Alaska

Hi everybody! I've returned and am slowly getting used to Eastern Standard Time. What was the most difficult, however, was stepping into 90 degree heat after more than a week of cool, sweater-wearing temperatures (not to mention the 11:00 sunset). My ride from the airport was commissioned to put in my AC toot sweet once I saw my melted cats in the apartment. Feels good in here.

So, I thought I would write down my impressions over several blogs. I have been saving up some goodies for you and I have pics since I bought a dig cam right before I left. I just need to figure out how to upload the pics but that shouldn't take too long once I decide to try it.

The few days before I left was a frenzy of activity. I had a to-do list that stretched two-columns down a legal pad. Making to-do lists is always a opportunity for hilarity. I like the fact that items can range from the minute (pack extra memory card) to the very broad (finish that revision before you leave and e-mail it!). I think I got nearly everything done. I suppose I did all right to let people know I would be in the middle of the water and without internet (or internet for muchos bucks). My e-mail was not inundated with screams of "where are you?"

I will also try to put this in some semblance of order though it will descend in chaos on whim and frustration. I was very fortunate that my neighbor agreed to take me to the airport at the god awful time of 3:45 am so I could catch my 6:00 am flight to Toronto. I even got a couple hours sleep which was a miracle. That's at least one good thing about having another person drive, there is a failsafe alarm system if for some reason I set my alarm for PM rather than AM. Good thing I got there when I did because fifteen minutes later, they would not have checked my bag. I think I would have thrown a world-class fit.

Now, for those of you who know that I travel a lot, I like to have a lot of control over what airplane I fly, what seat I select, what time I set off, etc. I know the tricks of the trade and can talk airlines into doing things for me that they don't do for anyone (I've gotten them to waive fees for ticket changes -- for a small fee, I will tell you how I did it and no, I did not have to debase myself in any way that your dirty minds are thinking). However, for this flight, I did not have control over anything. It was booked through my mother's travel agent. I flew Air Canada (see Miss Kate's numerous rants about this airline) on a tiny, microscopic, walk on the tarmac, I was sitting on the wheel hump airplane. It was so small (how small was it?) that if we needed anything, we had to ask the guys in the cockpit. I was tempted to pull aside the curtain and ask them if I could have a martini and to complain that the inflight entertainment of the harmonious snoring throughout the cabin was not what I was expecting. However, I restrained myself. For all I knew, the other ten passengers were Air Marshalls.

For all my complaining, the flight went smoothly. Even though I had expressed some trepidation over the fact I was on an Indiana Jones era plane with propellers (no curtains in the windows), the guy behind me assured me that it would be a good flight (though he didn't get my reference to Indy -- and I thought I was being clever). He was right that the hum and noise of the plane just knocked everybody out and we slept most of the two hour flight to Toronto.

In Toronto, I had an easy time through customs and to my plane. I even browsed a really good bookshop and picked up yet some more reading for the ship. I ended up reading Dickens' Little Dorrit most of the time I was there, finally finishing it when I returned to Connecticut. My family, however, had to run for their connection, especially since they had to pick up their bags and run to check them again -- and they had overpacked.

All right enough airport logging. I know that you are just so fascinated by it. Next blog -- Vancouver.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What kind of Crack post was that last one about?

I mean, I talk about Dick Cheney and puppies in the same post? Am I insane??? Anyway, brief summary of events. I got up way too early. Got my tickets and parking pass (yay! I could park on campus!). I pulled up and gave a colleague a heart attack because she thought I thought I was processing and I was unaccounted for (nope, not walking -- just sitting). Then I hung out in my office which thankfully was open (other buildings were closed for security reasons). Going through security was fast and I passed some of my former students who were working the lines (in fact, one nicely pulled up in a golf cart and gave me a ride).

At the football field, I now realized why it was so quick. There was practically no one there! The crowd was very, very small. My plans to hide under a tree on a hill (grassy knoll?) next to the stands was dashed as I thought climbing up there would be conspicuous and weird (and likely to be tackled by Secret Service). But, under the direction of a cadet. I sat in the far end of the stands where there was shade. This was good at first because it was verrry sunny. However, about the time when they were handing out the diplomas and commissions, I was freezing my patootie off. I spotted a friend and moved over to her to sit in the sun. (you know it's cold when I willingly sit in the sun).

So, the Secretary of HS apparently crashed the party (doesn't he have stuff to do?) because he showed up and he wasn't on the program. There was also some Governor there but I didn't recognize the name (and he wasn't on the program either). Cheney entered with cowboy hat (because, as for me, sunlight will harm him). His speech was rather a traditional tribute to the class and not so much on politics. I suppose this was because last time I saw him, it was 2004 and months before the election. I did enjoy his joke that unlike the graduating class, he wouldn't have a job in eight months (oh, let me count the days, minutes, seconds). I really enjoyed the cadet speech though. She spoke well and movingly (and a little politic -- that is, safe). One event was a little different this year. Usually they have an awesome flyover with the CG jet and helicopters which just barrels over the water and over our heads. It's pretty cool. This year, however, they decided for a slow flyby as the cadets through their hats in the air. I bet it made for a pretty cool photo op but I have yet to find one (probably because all the news photographers were between the cadets and the podium so they could get the image of them tossing their hats in the air. The aircraft was over their heads). It was weird to see them seem to float by.

After graduation, I went to the reception which was good because I was STARVING after sitting in the stands for hours. (I realized after the fact that I had some trail mix in my bag, left over from my trip to Michigan -- stupid!).

Got some punch and snackies, not too much sun, nor too much poison and left easily out the front gate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I find your lack of faith disturbing...

I sense a disturbance in the force. So, I thought I could get away with avoiding graduation this year, and yet there is a ticket and parking pass waiting for me. Seeing as I know many of the graduates, I'm going. I was trying to avoid it not only for the annoying security of the event but because America's Dark Father will be there. Should be interesting especially since the stars have aligned to make it so.

I wonder how he will talk about Iraq? He was there a few years ago, not long after the start of the war, and it was pretty creepy.

In other happy news, I played with a puppy today. Thankfully I did not take him home though he could have fit in my pocket. He was determined to stay with me as he tugged on my hair and clothes. Happiness is, indeed, a warm puppy, Charlie Brown.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round...

As many of you know, I have been previously (and currently, although that's too complicated to go into right now) employed by the Gov (henceforth BB -- Big Brother; the sundry agences will be bb1 and bb2, etc)). So, let me guide you through a dialogue.

Setting: My home, August 2007

Me: Whoa! What's this deposit into my account for? That's much more than I was expecting. I better call and get this straightened out.

dials phone

Me: Hello. I'm calling because there has been a mistake. I was not owed this much. Can you straighten it out?
bb1: Oh! Thanks for letting us know. We will get on it.

month later

Me: Hi! I was wondering if this was taken care of yet?
bb1: You are in a file on my desk. I have let them know and I'll be going to HQ this month and see what I can do.
Me: okay (I'm in a file on her desk?)

months later, dropping by the office
Me: So, any resolution?
bb1: Oh! I haven't heard anything so I'll keep working on it.
Me: Okay, but I am paying income tax on this amount.

fast-forward May 2008

opening a letter from BB. Enclosed is a bill for an amount that is much more than was deposited into my account and does not account for what was due to me.

Me: Hey, that's not right! (calling the number on the bill)
bb2: (after a navigating the menu and receiving a live person on the end. After a brief explanation, the brusque voice says...) You need to call this number.
Me: Okay.

meanwhile, left a message for bb1, dialing number to bb3

bb3: (a friendly voice and some fun hold music) okay, you aren't in our system. Let me see if I can find who you need to call

some funky soul hold music later....

bb3: Here's the number (gives out the number for bb2 that I had just called)
Me: Umm, they told me to call you.
bb3: they were just confused. You are under x department, not our y department
Me: okay, thanks

calls bb1 just to see if she is back in the office. No answer
redials bb2 number and after much mashing of numbers later...

Me: Hi! I need to straighten out this bill and you sent me somewhere else but you are the department I need to call. I work under X.
bb2: (different person, equally brusque). Oh, Ms. bb2 (sub-1) handles these accounts. I'll connect you
(goes directly to Ms. bb2 (sub-1)'s voice mail. She's out of the office until May 19th). I leave a message.)

***sigh***

Friday, May 9, 2008

I got a gal in Kalamazoo Part Deux

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop outside of campus. I believe that Kate had lunched here earlier in the day. I am happy as a freakin' clam. I can smoke. I have Internet. I have a quiet place. I have coffee. I can have ice cream if I want it or sweets or anything my little ol' heart desires. Just lovely. Plus, it's a bonus that since the car is rented in my name then I can come and go as I please. What luxury!

So, paper went well and it's over and done with. I was paired with two MA students who were giving papers definitely related to topic, but they were just youngsters. I don't say this in a very negative way because I believe both are non-medievalists (at least one a Victorian scholar -- hey, if I was to give a paper on Victorian lit, then I would imagine I'd be in the same boat). The panel was also well-attended which is nice. Not too big but actually filled out the small room. It's never fun just to give one's papers to fellow panelists.

I haven't been to too many sessions because of all the work I brought with me. Good news on one level -- I finished editing one paper (not mine) and the author seemed rather happy with the result. This good because it was a massive revision and I was asked to edit with a rather heavy hand, especially since English is not the author's first language. Now, I should be working on my paper for this same journal. *sigh* Will it ever all be done?

And I'm still not getting good sleep. I have discovered coffee with a shot of espresso (they call this the "sinking ship" -- oh dear!).

In another hour I will go to the open bar reception for UConn people and will meet back up with Kate and probably a bunch of other people who I want to see. That's at least a very nice thing at this conference. I know a lot of people here and we are both (usually) mutually happy to see each other. I even gave a ride to the coffee shop to another UConn person and she is sitting on the other side working as well. I am happy to enable happy workspace!

Happy, happy, joy, joy to you all. Will post more soon.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kazoo

I'm sitting in the lobby of Valley I which is where Kate and I are sharing a room and the lobby is the only place I can get internet reception. It would be such a godsend if we could get it in the room. The trip here was pretty uneventful -- some rain as I was driving us in. We took it easy for the most part and had pizza at Bilbo's (mostly because we figured that the medieval hotspot would be intolerable during the other evenings of the conference). Then I worked on editing an article and looked at my paper. I present it in thirty minutes. I'll be glad to get it over with. I wish I had a better attitude toward this conference. I suppose the upside is that in the bare bones dorm room, I am focused on my work.

I didn't sleep well last night because I was probably thinking of all the work I had to do. Then again, I never sleep well in an unfamiliar place. This morning was particularly noisy -- with garbage trucks, people walking outside, and a few birds having territory or mating battle through songs. You would think they would get tired of the same tune? But I heard the same one echoing far and near. I wonder who won?

In other bird news, the swan is nesting by the lake. A swan's nest is pretty spectacular to see although it would have been nice to see the babies. Okay, more on this later. Must look over the paper one more time. No more coffee though or else I will read my paper in five minutes, not twenty.