Monday, December 29, 2008

Time Surely Flies. . .

Yeah, I've been quiet for quite a while. I blame the holidays. We traveled south to the Grandparents Sweetie home for Thanksgiving, and they don't have WiFi! I know! There was one computer wired to the incoming cable, and five of us with laptops! In the past we have ridden on the coat tails (okay, okay, stolen bandwidth) from neighbors, but they weren't running their WiFis either. So I kind of fell out of the habit.

Upon returning home, of course, there was the Attack Of Christmas, and there is simply no whining I can do about that holiday that every last one of you isn't sick of, so we'll just skip that.

Post-Christmas, however, that is a tabula rasa. I can work with that.

We have established a new routine here at Chez Evil, that will just about last until the kidlets return to school: Monty Python dinners. Cpt. Sweetie received the entire series on DVD for Christmas, and we have been watching a disc each evening while eating dinner.

Can we talk? How is it that even 40 years later, Monty Python is still so funny? And how must it be to be one of those fellows and realize that nothing you do the rest of your life will be as big as Python was and is? I don't know about you, but I was about 14 when I discovered The Boys, and some of their lines have entered my brain and I say things that I no longer remember came from there. It's like coming out of of amnesia to see Graham Chapman leading a group of Vikings in clamoring "Fishie, fishie-i-o!" and realize "That's where that came from!"

It's a bit odd, probably, for the kidlets to watch some of the saucier skits with Their Parents, but really, isn't that a transition we all have to make, recognizing parents and kids as people?

Thus far, that was probably the most successful gift of the whole Festivus.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homer's Odyssey, Book 16: A Study Guide

The text (from the Internet Classics Archive) gives us the reunion of Odysseus/Ulysses and his son Telemachus like this:

Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was astounded when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he might be looking upon a god.

"Stranger," said he, "how suddenly you have changed from what you were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your colour is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that live in heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due sacrifice and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me."

And Ulysses said, "I am no god, why should you take me for one? I am your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at the hands of lawless men."

As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on to the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but Telemachus could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:

"You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain hopes that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of himself contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old and young at a moment's notice, unless a god were with him. A second ago you were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come down from heaven."

Ulysses answered, "Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who will come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering and much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country. What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva, who does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases. At one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young man with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods who live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor."

As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his father and wept.

The re-enactment of this touching scene, as performed by the 5th Period 9th Grade English Class.

O: Telemachus. I am your father.
T: Aw, hells naw!
O: It's true.

[O and T simultaneously draw a finger down from the corner of their left eye to the cheek, as if tracing a tear.]

Curtain down.

Makes you wish you were there, doesn't it?

Oh Yeah! I'm Bragging!

Tragedy struck Chez Evil this evening, when I discovered we were out of Bailey's Irish Cream. Yeah, it's a horrible enough situation that I went out In The Dark, in Seventeen Degree Weather to go to the liquor store and correct this appalling situation.

This particular liquor store double checks ID against the credit card--they have probably been on the unpaid end of some credit card theft, so they check everybody. So as the clerk rang up my purchase, I handed him my driver's license and credit card.

He glanced back and forth between the two, checking that the names matched --WHICH they DO--and handed back my license. Then he did a double take. Then he asked for my license back, because he wanted to CHECK MY BIRTH DATE!

He seemed a little confused as he handed it back the second time, and I said something dismissive like "I really am old now."

His answer? "No, I thought you were in like your twenties, like twenty five or something."


Hooked on Puppies

The fabulous Suefunky sent me this link, and it's gotten addictive. Beware! This link will take you to cute puppies!

It's a live feed of a litter of 7 Havanese puppies inside a puppy playpen. I can tell I've gotten too attached when I clicked in this evening and noticed which items have been removed for laundering.

Okay, that was maybe a little bit too revealing about my pathetic life. It's a good thing I don't have any more information about these puppies, or I might be tempted to acquire one. Or two. Would all seven be excessive?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

English Majors in the "News"

Thanks to Doc Jen over at Fertile Plots, comes this literary analysis of Jane Austen and the Great American Pasttime.

My laugh for the day.

Rhymes with "Dorky"

Well, this looks desperate. Courtesy of Fussy, I have now been "introduced" to Norky, the "New Original GOODWILL character"--although apparently in no way actually connected to Goodwill Industries International, Inc.

According to his website, Norky is the one and only penguin/eagle cross, who lives at the North Pole and is now in charge of Santa's international spook organization, spying on the world's youth and reporting on the naughty and nice activities, as well as being informed as to their sleeping patterns.

Norky, the misbegotten lovechild of an unholy (dare one say "fowl"?) genetic experiment, is not just Santa's narc, he's also desperate for attention. Would you like Norky to appear at YOUR next special event? Apparently no event is too small--according to the Norky web site:

NORKY has appeared at Schools, Hospitals, Special Needs Camps, THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS, Fourth of July Celebrations, Aids Walks, Memorial Day Events,Baseball games, Half-Time Basketball games, Christmas Parades, Kwanzaa Parades, African-American Festivals, Chinese New Year Festivals, Latin & Spanish Family Festivals, Jewish Festivals, Ice Shows, Eco Shows,Book Festivals, DONALD TRUMP'S CELEBRITY GOLF CHARITY EVENTS, Kids Fairs, YMCA's, YWCA's, MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION, Boys & Girls Clubs, SALVATION ARMY etc.
One wonders if he was actually invited to all these "events," or like Paris Hilton, just shows up and acts like he's supposed to be there.

But his talents don't end there-- he has even been "interviewed on the News." Apparently, Norky is desperate to unload copies of his new CD, to the point where he's willing to do anything to get your attention, including "flying with his Big Yellow Shoes" as well as walking and talking too!

What I find most disturbing, however, is this photo:

What the hell? "The L. Ron Hubbard Winter Wonderland"? Tom Cruise, is that you inside that dopey costume? Has your career really gotten that bad?

Friday, November 14, 2008

My To Do List

My new iPod Touch has an application that allows me to make To Do lists. Currently on the list of things To Do:

1. The Hustle

2. That Voodoo That You Do So Well

3. Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Dum

4. Be A Do Bee

5. The Right Thing

Remember When Crazy People Thought They Were Napoleon?

So, Oprah has opened an online store, just in time for the Christmas shopping season. Nobody ever said she was dumb.

But--really? I mean, really? If she sold some of the stuff she has featured on her "Favorite Things" episodes, I'd be over there shopping my heart out. But that's not what is there.

What is there? Everything you can think of that can either have an "O" put on it, or be made in the shape of an "O." Need a refrigerator magnet? You can get the letter O. You want a key ring? You can choose one with "Oprah" written on it, or "The Oprah Winfrey Show" stamped on it, or an "O" spelled out in Swarovski crystals.

Clothing? Stationery? Pet equipment? Same deal.

Most eye-rolling? The opening page for Home Living: "Your home should say who you are."

Buy from this store, and you are apparently operating under the delusion that you are Oprah Winfrey.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And If You Wash Your Car, It Will Rain.

Last May, when I made a reservation for my Prius, gas was pushing $4 per gallon. The tipping point for me was filling the tank on my minivan, and the total was over $50 (as I recall). At the dealership, the salesman was predicting $6 per gallon wasn't far off.

Today, local stations are selling gas for $1.95 per gallon--less than half the price six months ago, less than it's been in the last 2-3 years. I filled my Prius tank for approximately $15.

I'm feeling inappropriately smug, right now, because while you alls' gas bills have fallen--they haven't fallen as much as mine has!

And when the inevitable happens, and gas prices bounce back up again, I'll still be saving money.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Name Game--Presidential Edition

So, like many of you, we here at Chez Evil were aware of the historic nature of the recent presidential election. So the girls were headed to bed when Barack Obama took the stage at Grant Park, and we called them back to see this historic speech.

One look at the crowds of people passionately invested in the new president made it clear to us all: It was an Obama-rama.

Since the girls were headed to bed, it was also an Obama-pajama-rama.

I was there, as the Obama-pajama-rama-mama.

If I had been wearing my South American fauna p.j.s, it would have been an Obama-llama-pajama-mama-rama.

The speech was dignified and moving. Yup. It was an Obama-llama-pajama-mama-rama-drama.

If only our troops had captured the elusive head of al Queda. Then it would have been an Obama-llama-pajama-mama-rama-Osama-drama.

Okay, now I'm done.

Mark Your Calendars for Summer 2009

I don't know what the release date is on this one, but I'm going to go buy tickets NOW.

I have a thing for cute grumpy old men, I guess.

But the detail! The loving way they made the tarp slide off the mass of balloons, the care with which we see the people watching the house go up--even though we only see them for less than 3 seconds. I even love the chimpmunk looking Boy Scout, with all his camping tins clanging as he runs into the house.

Oh yeah, I'm there. Maybe my kids will even come too.

Friday, November 07, 2008

News Flash! Grumpy Old Man Disapproves Of Kids Today

MSN Today had a highlighted article: "Five Valid Reasons to Stop Using Cell Phones." It's a summary of another article written by a guy who refuses to use a cell phone. I'll save you the trouble of clicking through and summarize them for you. Because I'm just that selfless.

1. Shut Up And Drive. All you kids drag racing through town and talking on your cell phones--somebody is going to get hurt, you punks. Those damn kids today, with their technology can't pay attention to the road! Back in my day, all we had was hollering back at the radio, while lighting our cigarettes and tossing the butts out the window. And that was much safer!

2. You Get Distracted. Back in my old Econ 101 class, we called this "opportunity costs," and so that's what I'm calling it. But what really frosts my cookies is that back in the Good Old Days, only doctors needed to be on call, and they only needed pagers. Damn kids like you, who ought to be in knee britches anyway, who needs to call you? And if you want to talk to each other--what's wrong with two tin cans and some string? It was good enough for my generation; it's good enough for yours.

3. Cell phone accessories are expensive. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about here, but you shouldn't be spending money on wrist straps and text messaging and internet access, and I don't know what all. Why don't you save that money instead and buy a war bond? Do some good for a change, you uppity whipper-snappers.

4. Nobody needs to call you. We did just fine, back when all we had were land lines, and we had to pick up the earpiece and joggle the handle until Ernestine could connect our call. If somebody called us and we weren't there, they just had to call back until we were there. And if they got frustrated and never called us back, we didn't know about it and we did just fine.

So you think this is a lot like number 2 up there, do you? Well, that's all right, because what do you damn kids have to talk about anyway? Didn't you just see each other all day in school? And don't sass your elders.

5. Five? Did I say five? There isn't a number five. Why do there have to be five? Because that's the title of the piece? Dammit, then, there's all that talk on them webby net things about brain cancer. Or maybe it will give you hairy ears. Or make your eyes go bad. Something like that. That might be true, and anyway, we never got hairy ears from our tin cans.

So get rid of those damn phone thingies, and get off my lawn!

Yeah--guess I'll leave my cell phone at home when I go take the buggy out, mister. Because there are no opportunity costs to missing business calls if you are away from your office, are there? Or if you don't work in an office. There is no value as a parent of having a way for your children to reach you if they need you or a way to reach your kids either. Apparently it didn't occur to you that anybody might Or have a cell phone INSTEAD of a land line.

I swear, this guy has got to be like 206 years old.

Does Everybody Know About This But Me?

So I recently found Beyonce's new single on YouTube, and sure--the lyrics are kind of anti-feminist in a third wave kind of way, but even so, the whole thing works for me. I like the percussive song, and the black-and-white dance number is something else.

Then I discovered the choreography was supposed to be an homage to Gwen Verdon--the wife of Bob Fosse and an incredible dancer herself. I knew her from the movie version of Damn Yankees, and her fictionalized version from All That Jazz. So I already knew who she was, and was impressed that Beyonce admired her.

Admired? Hell--stole! This is the original Gwen Verdon "Mexican Breakfast"--which is pretty damn near exactly what Beyonce did, only with more clothes.

So, I have to say that I don't think polyester pantsuits really made for good dancewear--but dayum, that choreography totally holds up. The song, however, is one of those painfully cheesy 60s instrumentals that you'd expect to find exhumed for an Austin Powers movie. So turn off the volume, and admire that not only is this 1960, but it's live TV from the Ed Sullivan show--no retakes, no cuts, no rest.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Politics As Usual

Things are getting nail-bitingly close here. The senatorial race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken is down to less than 400 votes. In a world where President Obama has been declared a landslide winner, the Senatorial race in traditionally Democratic Minnesota is too close to call.

Less than 400 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The election has not been called by any media outlet, nor has it been certified. Minnesota has a law that when an election has less than a one half of one percent margin, the ballots are automatically counted. This margin is far smaller than that.

And yet--Norm Coleman has declared victory. He has declared victory in a press conference, he has declared victory on his web site. Furthermore, he has called for Al Franken to waive his right to a recount, claiming that that odds of overturning the result are extremely low.

I hate this about politics. Sure, intellectually, I understand this--declare yourself the winner, and a surprising number of people will believe it. Hell--the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Florida recount would constitute irreparable damage to the winner--George Bush. You'd think that people smart enough to be on the Supreme Court would understand that until the recount was complete, it was premature to call George Bush the winner. But the tactic confused even them.

So if you are Norm Coleman, why not try it? It worked so well for Bush in 2000. Plus, he gets to plant the idea in people's minds that he is the "real" winner. Furthermore, he has been canny in playing the "tax and spend Democrat" card, by claiming that by NOT waiving the recount, Al Franken is wasting taxpayer money in demanding the arduous task of recounting.

But the margin! It was thought to be around 800 on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday evening it was closer to 300. Shouldn't Norm be certain he has won before he calls Franken a sore loser?

NO! Because in politics, perception is at least half the reality. If Minnesotans become convinced that Norm is the "real" winner--then he wins.

I understand it, but it still makes me want to go rinse my mouth out with Bailey's Irish Cream to get the bad taste out.

My Letter To Santa

Dear Santa:

How are you? How is Mrs. Claus? Thank you for the early Christmas present--I think I will really like having a President Obama around. Here are some other things I would like for Christmas.

1. Please close Guantanamo Bay. It is an embarrassment internationally and a real slap in the face to the American system, where people are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law before a jury of their peers. Military tribunals have failed to act in a true American spirit. Please stop the horror now.

2. Please make sure that the inmates at Guantanamo Bay are either released immediately, or transferred into criminal courts and charged. Too many human beings have been held in a legal limbo, where even their lawyers can't find out what the evidence against them is. If we can't prosecute them openly, and give them the opportunity to adequately defend themselves, we should let them go home.

3. Please make warrantless domestic wiretapping go away too. We have yet to have any assurance that this program conforms to Constitutional protections granted to ALL our citizens. Plus, the Executive Branch isn't supposed to keep everybody else in the dark.

4. Please keep President Elect Obama safe from any crazy people who want their 15 minutes of fame from killing our first biracial president. There are enough crazy people in this world--don't let them get the best thing to happen to America.

5. Plus, if you can, I would also like a train set. And a puppy.

Thank you for reading my letter.

Your Friend,

The Mistress of All Evil

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

I love this video. This cat is completely cool. "Yeah. I got a bag on my head. What's it to you?" This cat is a zen master of imperturbability, and should be played by Kevin Spacey. With a bag on his head.

I don't have cats. I have a dog, and while he is a very patient dog who lets us dress him up in silly clothing, he would never tolerate a bag on his head like this. He'd be down on the floor with his paws up on his head trying to get out of it. Of course, being a dog, if he did get out of it, he'd then manage to get it stuck to himself with packing tape or something, and then he'd walk around with this thing dragging along behind him, and he probably just stop once in a while and shake his leg.

Because dogs? Dogs have discovered the evolutionary niche formerly occupied by the Three Stooges. They are goofy, and dumb, and tend toward extreme pratfalls. Cats, in contrast, are much more like Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert--yeah, it's kind of awkward and embarrassing, but they MEANT to do that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After The World Changed

As I dropped my kids off at school at 7:40 this morning, the news was that Coleman beat Franken by a mere 800 votes.

That is pretty inspiring--and I'll tell you why. The country is not as divided as the electoral college numbers would indicate. As Cpt. Sweetie told me last night, if you look at political maps county by county, America is more purple than red or blue. As a nation, we are not voting for a "party" reflexively.

That has been one of the great appeals of the Obama campaign for me, and it was again crystallized in his acceptance speech. He did not gloat, he did not give in to pandering to his base. He took the words of the iconic Republican President from Illinois, and he owned them. "Passion may have strained, but it cannot break our bonds of affection."

He explicitly acknowledged his obligation to the entire country, not just those who elected him. "Those of you whose respect I have not yet earned. . .I will be your president as well."

This is the antidote to the vivisectioning of our population that has been happening for the last eight years, and a heartening sign of that is that Coleman will go back to the Senate, and will have to work with this most conciliatory of Presidents-elect.
I have great hopes for our new President-elect, and they focus on his healing the rifts in our country that have been wedged open, widened and exploited over the last eight years. The acceptance speech last night was not a victory lap, but was an acknowledgment that this historic election is not itself change--only to opportunity to make change happen.

Obama set himself to the task of earning the respect of those who did not vote for him. He positioned himself as a worthy inheritor of Abraham Lincoln's legacy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Morning in America

Just fractions of a second after polls closed on the West Coast, CNN called the election for Barack Obama. Regardless of your political team, this is an amazing moment for America.

When you look back at the history of European countries, or the Islamic golden age, or the incredible history of Greece and China, you really get a sense of how young our country is.

It was only 220 years ago that we adopted our Constitution, in which we allowed slavery to continue and counted slaves as only 3/5 of a person.

It was only 143 years ago that the Civil War ended and we no longer counted human beings as property.

It was only 4o years ago that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech before he was shot down.

It was only 4 years ago that our country re-elected George Bush, despite his record of divisiveness.

That is the wonder of this country: that we have a system by which we can make these strides in such a short amount of time, and that our new President-elect will be ushered into his new position without violence or chaos.

We have been an incredibly fortunate nation, that the experiment that is our system of government has worked so well for so long. I hope that by the time my grandchildren (if any!) can vote, it will seem ridiculous that race had any role in our election of President Obama, and that history will look upon him well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cause I'm All About the Fluffy Puppies

For your viewing pleasure, courtesy of I Has A Hotdog:

Weather Wow

Wow. Just wow.

High of 75 degrees today. Yes, it is the third of November. Yes, I'm still in Minnesota.

I'll have to post a picture of the two enormous pink roses I found in my garden today.


Go Vote, Dammit!

I am becoming a believer in the Presidential Election as a sort of Rorschach test. Who you choose as your candidate has more to do with who you are on a "lizard brain" level than with your cerebral cortex.

This idea has been percolating in my head for a while, but was really given form by an article in of course I can't find now, but here's another study that kind of shows the same thing:

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

(Actually, the experiment was reported in early September--I'm just late in finding it.) This study takes self-identified "very conservative" and "very liberal" college students, and watches their brain waves as they conduct a simple task.

The study I read about in Slate was more anthropologistic--again, the researchers looked at the dorm rooms of conservative and liberal college students, and found some distinct personality types. Conservatives tended to have more cleaning products. Liberals had more books. There was a conclusion, IIRC, that the liberal students were more curious and open to new experiences, while conservatives valued stability and order.

Which explains some of the frustration I have been feeling as I have tried to articulate my political opinions to some people who simply Do Not Agree With Me. At. All. Because, you know what? There are SO many issues in an election, and SO many facts that can be slung around, and in the end, it comes down to how you "feel" about those facts and how you weight them.

The William Ayers/domestic terrorist issue? Do you worry that Obama might be heavily influenced or supportive of Ayers past activities? Or do you brush it off as a meaningless acquaintance? Do you see Ayers (currently) as as threat to our country who is trying to recruit bombthrowers? Oo you see Obama as intellectually curious but thoughtful kind of guy who can discern the right thing to do? Do you think criminals can be rehabilitated? Do you think being on a commission with someone constitutes fraternization?

Is Obama too young and untested to be President? Or is he a smart guy who will learn as he grows into the role? How can there be an answer to those questions that is anything like objective? It all depends on whether you are comfortable with ambiguity, or are willing to take risks, and how risky you are willing to be. It's probably got a lot to do with how you experience the world and process information than any sort of logical assessment of objective facts.

So I have come to the conclusion that political discussions are interesting, and serve to force me to organize and articulate what matters to me. Maybe I can convince someone who was kind of leaning in some direction to agree. But I no longer expect that I can persuade someone who is not already looking at the world the same way I am.

So--I am going to vote for Barack Obama. I posted my reasons over here at MinnMoms. Maybe they will persuade someone who is not quite certain. They will not persuade a McCain supporter.

All Growed Up!

My little girl is all growed up--I took her to her first driver's training class tonight.

How do they do that? Go from little tiny things that stay where you put them, into smart, articulate, funny, kind, tall young women--while I haven't aged a day?

How does that work?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Just came back from a "community theater" production of this 1959 play about the one-time mayor of New York City. I say "community theater" because the roles were played by equity actors/singers who sing with local opera companies, work at the dinner theater that spawned Oscar nominee Amy Adams. This is not like "Waiting for Guffman."

In 1960, Fiorello! tied with The Sound of Music for Best Musical. The pair of them beat out Gypsy. Yet how often does your high school stage Fiorello!? Never? That's how often I've seen it. Remember that great movie adaptation? Of course you don't, because there wasn't one. Because, really, who else besides New Yorkers could take this play to their hearts?

It's kind of an odd play in these times. The play spans years from 1915 to 1934, all before Fiorello LaGuardia became mayor of New York. There is a brief introduction from Mayor LaGuardia in 1945, but the play ends just as he starts his ultimately successful campaign for mayor in 1933. The bulk of the play builds up to his overwhelming defeat in 1929, where he crawls back to his law offices in a sulk. Only the clandestine efforts of his long-suffering office assistant convince him to run again in 1934. He finally asks her to marry him (she's been "secretly" in love with him for 15 years), and they start out full of hope.

Ostensibly, this is the period where LaGuardia broke up Tammany Hall, but we don't see how it happens. Sure, there is the only memorable song in the play "Little Tin Box," in which pretend Tammany extortion defendants attempt to explain how they saved up to buy their yachts and mansions, despite their low salaries. But how did they end up in court? What did LaGuardia have to do with it? Who knows?

As an exercise in storytelling, Fiorello! assumes the audience has an awful lot of background information about the man, the times, and the political players. Simultaneously, it expects the audience NOT to know that Fiorello was actually a US Congressman from 1922-1933, including during his "disasterous" defeat for Mayor. Based solely on the play, you would think that Fio barely got his toes wet in the Potomac before joining the army, and then returning to NYC, never to leave it again.

Yes, I understand that some things have to be left out when you are talking about a Broadway musical--it isn't really history they are presenting. Even so, the character arc of the play is really odd unless you are fully aware of the real history of the man. You have to know that he was Mayor from 1934-1945, is credited with restoring NYC during the Great Depression, took on major Mafia figures, and voluntarily chose not to run again in 1945. If you don't know that (which I didn't, and certainly have no emotional context for these facts) the play makes no sense.

Here is my summary of the main scenes of the play:

Scene 1--F.H. LaGuardia ("Fio") has a law office where he helps immigrants with legal troubles. He has a staff of 3, although he apparently never gets paid for his work. (This is 1915.)

Scene 2--Fio decides he's going to run for Congress, because of something about Tammany Hall. He helps striking shirtwaist factory workers win a better wage, and he wins the election.

Scene 3--In DC, he insists on the need for a draft and US entry into WWI, and enlists.

Scene 4--He comes home from war, marries one of the shirtwaist factory strikers and runs for Mayor. (Okay, he came home in 1918, ran for mayor in 1929. In the play, this looks like a couple of weeks). Tammany Hall hires ruffians to disrupt a speech, his wife dies, and he loses the election all in one night.

Scene 5--Faithful Marie approaches the Republican machine to help Fio with his new campaign for mayor. The Republicans gloat over the fall of Tammany. (Whaaa? When? How? Who?) Mentor agrees to forgive Fio for ignoring him for the last 3 years (Again--whaaa?) and a judge names Fio as the Republican nominee for mayor--all without Fio's knowledge. Fio decides to accept the nomination, proposes to Marie, the Republican machine smiles, curtain falls.

This raises some questions in a non-New Yorker. Why is the Republican machine any better than the Tammany/Democrat one? Why should we root for this Fiorello, when the only legislation we see him stand for is the draft? (That one certainly plays oddly in the post-Vietnam era, where the army is all volunteer.) He hates "the exploiters" and sides with striking workers, so he becomes a Republican. Again, not so clear in these times. His campaign speeches seem to cast him as the Sesame Street candidate: "The name is L-a-G-u-a-r-d-i-a. . ." Sure, he can spell, but what makes him worth a whole musical?

I think there is a reason you don't see this play mounted very often outside New York. If your previous exposure to LaGuardia was through heinous air travel through his airport. . .a play has to work a WHOLE LOT harder for your empathy.

Not All Democrats Are The Same; Or, In Which I Wax Smug About Chicago

As I said in my earlier post, we spent 4 days in Chicago last month as tourists. The precipitating cause was to go see "Wicked" for Tonks' birthday. Because her birthday falls in the traditional 4 day educator union gathering weekend, it seemed like a nice thing to do.

I noticed some things about Chicago that I hadn't noticed before. One was that it was a really really big city. Which is secret code for "stinky and dirty." We stayed at the Blackstone Hotel right on Michigan Avenue, overlooking the lake, and while the architecture is quite striking, the alleys are dark and smelly in a way they just aren't in St. Paul. So, it turns out, that while I appreciate that a big city provides lots of culture, I just don't want to be in as big a city as Chicago. Who knew?

Another difference I noticed was the street fashion. Admittedly, most of the people I run with tend to dress in "sensible mom" clothes, rather than designer duds. No Carrie Bradshaws in my circles. In Chicago, I saw lots of women who put a lot more effort into their outfits than that, but I'm not convinced that the end result was actually "more fashionable." They certainly tried harder, but I saw a woman pass me in an outfit I swear I used to own, back in about 1985, and even if those styles are back (which I doubt) they did her no favors. Had she been at least a foot and a half taller and weighed a good 40 pounds less, then her outfit would just have looked out of date.

There were a LOT of skinny women in skinny jeans tucked into knee-high black suede stiletto boots. THE Chicago look this fall, I guess. But it is a sign that I am bloody old, because it just made my feet hurt to look at them. In fact, it makes my feet hurt to remember them. Yeah. I'm old.

Maybe I'm just channeling old information, but I think of Chicago as still being solidly, eternally, unremittingly owned by the Democrats. Maybe there is no longer a "machine" per se, but it is no coincidence that the current mayor is named "Daley." Yet, Democratic Chicago is a very different sort of Democratic than the Democratic St. Paul, as measured in Prii.

Prii being the plural of Prius. While I continue to love my own Prius, here at home they're tremendously common--kind of like chips in a cookie. If Twin Cities traffic were a cookie, it would be Prius-flavored, full of Prius morsels. Yet in the 4 days we were in Chicago, I saw 2 Prii. Just two! I saw twice as many as that just sitting at a traffic light. Not even counting mine.

Does this mean anything? Probably not. But maybe I can warm myself through the coming long winter by basking in the warm glow of feeling superior to Chicago.

It's November

Oh my word--I just looked at my stats for October, and I didn't realize I had done so few posts! Only three? Three?

Then I realized that while it feels like I have been posting continuously, it hasn't been here. It's been here--over at the MinnMoms Community site. And that is where I have been forced to articulate my political views and defend them.

Plus, we took a four day trip to Chicago, and I had no internet access because the stupid hotel charged $11 per day PER COMPUTER!!! And there were 4 of us, so we just didn't go online. The withdrawal pains were drowned by walking for miles and miles each day, so our legs and feet hurt, which distracted from the lack of internet.

Also, I have been a slave to my (brand new) sewing machine, because it was Halloween. And my kidlets, bless their cotton socks, pick costumes that can't just be purchased at the local Party America. Sursels was a "ghost dancer from the Haunted Mansion (at Disneyworld)" which was a goth countess costume from the above mentioned Party America, but since she wanted to wear my old hoop skirt under it, I had to construct an underskirt for the costume to cover the yards of white hoop.

Tonks decided to be the Lady of the Lake. Could she have decided this back during the Renaissance Faire, where it would have been possible to buy a blue costume? Of course not! She only decided 8 days before Halloween, and a mere 2 days before the Halloween Dance at her school. I did finish the cape (with hood!) in time for the dance, but the dress took longer. Quite a bit longer. I did finish it before I went to bed on Thursday night, so I didn't have to do any last minute sewing on Halloween itself. Did I mention I went to bed at 2 a.m.?

So, October is a busy month--our anniversary, two birthdays, Halloween. . .I shouldn't be entirely surprised that the month went by with so little posting.

Now, it is November, and I pledge to do better. Not NaBloPoMo level better though. Yes, I did it the last two years, but as you can see from the date, I've already missed my first post, so no promises.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bumper Stickers In My Neighborhood

What does it mean when the same car has these two stickers (not on the bumper either--on the body of the car, along with about a dozen others)?


Hmmm. Could it be that this car owner is espousing a campaign of prevention, not prohibition to reduce the occurrence of abortions? This hints of a more nuanced thinker than is usually identifiable by the presence of multiple bumper stickers. Perhaps I need to meet this person?

Tee Shirts in My Neighborhood

On a tee shirt seen in the neighborhood:

Sometimes I wonder. . .

why is that Frisbee getting bigger?

. . .and then it hits me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Say Whaaaaa?

I was out at a restaurant last night, and because our economy is cratering (thank you, David Letterman), CNN was playing in the corner. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the crawl at the bottom of the screen.

"John Cusack will be facing trial after the collapse of a plea bargain."

What? What? Everybody's favorite lovelorn teen, Lloyd Dobler?

The man who made single handedly made "professional puppeteer" a sexy profession?

(Okay, "sexy" might be a bit of an oversell. At least, "verifiably heterosexual?")

I just couldn't believe it.

It took about 20 minutes before the crawl came around again. This time I caught the entire crawl.

"The woman accused of stalking actor. . .John Cusack will be facing trial after the collapse of a plea bargain."

Whew. Now it's safe for me to love dogs again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fashion ADD

I know, you all come here for incisive political commentary, fabulous commentary on Issues of the Day, and kick ass parenting tips. Right?

Well, even so, today's entry will address the worldwide shortage of fashion insights by Evil Mistresses. Really--no thanks are necessary!

Birthday Barbie

A million years ago, when my kids played with Barbie dolls, one of them got the "Birthday Barbie" as a birthday present. She came with an odd assortment of accessories, including a balloon and a blowout. By inserting the end of either item into her mouth, and then attaching the GlamourWhooppeeCushion to her back, Barbie could operate the blowout or inflate the balloon! Great fun for little girls. For Evil minded girls like me, however, I couldn't help but see her as "Blow Job Barbie," her lips slightly but permanently parted and the hole in the center.

Somehow, in the intervening decade, I had thought this particular excrescence had been discontinued. Imagine my surprise when I find out I was wrong:

Interestingly enough, this "album" cover was heavily Photoshopped and put on the cover of Australia's answer to Cosmo, where it was deservedly fugged.

The Emmys

We "missed" the Emmys a week ago. If you call "not watching a ceremony about people we don't recognize winning awards for TV shows we don't watch" the same as "missing" it. Especially since we were out on the boat on a glorious late summer evening instead. . .

But I never miss the chance to check out fashions. So imagine my horrified glee to see this one:

"What!?!?" I cried. "What the heck is Pheobe Price doing at the Emmys? Surely nobody has actually cast her on a show?"

Then I looked at the caption and realized that this was not the infamous "P squared," but instead Christina Hendricks from the period melodrama "Mad Men." What a relief.

My relief was shortlived, however, because the very next picture I saw WAS Ms. Price, trying too hard as usual:

Oh well.

Jonas Brothers

Sometimes, it's fun to squick out the kids by pretending to crush on the latest prefab preteen item. This year's model is apparently the Jonas Brothers. So, while I am old enough to be their mother. . .I mean, older sister, at least I know who they are. And while my kids were dissing them as lame, I offered "Well, I think Kevin is kinda cute." The looks of horror on the girls' faces were priceless.

But really, how bad is this?

In my defense, he is 21, and thus as old as I was when I got married. So I'm not TOTALLY out of line.

So, why in the name of all that is Evil, Kevin, did you go and get a man perm?

There is nothing good to say about this, except maybe that it doesn't look any worse than Mike Brady looked, back in the day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Bumper Stickers

So, yesterday, I spotted a real jalopy in the parking lot at the grocery store. All four hubcaps were gone, and the wheel wells had rusted through. The back bumper had sagged from it's proper position, looking like a overly-burdened diaper on a toddler. One of the rear lights had been broken, and the whole car looked dingy, tired and old.

Of course, it did have a bumper sticker on it:

Which just goes to show you that the poor sod probably doesn't have much treasure in heaven either.

Politics--Now Organic!

So, does California reflect the nation? Probably not, so why is this even news? A formerly best selling organic Chilean wine has now stopped selling in San Francisco. Not even in the whole of San Francisco, but in one particular San Francisco wine bar.

Hello! It's not even pronounced the same. The wine is pah-LEEN, the candidate PAY-lin. The wine is sir-AH, the candidate SAIR-ah. And yet, the Bay City's discerning Democrats are refusing to drink their formerly favorite wine due to the alleged similarity of name.

Regardless of my politics, I wouldn't go cutting off my nose to spite my face like that--and NOBODY can read the label of the wine that's in a glass anyway!

Talk about odd bedfellows. . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrrrrgh! It Be September 19th Agin!

Avast there, ye landlubbers! I be Keelhaul Kate Bonney, and today be Talk Like A Pirate Day! Did all ye bilge swilling wharf rats find yourselves awash in grog and wenches? Did ye loot and pillage and otherwise maraud the English language?

No? Why not, you miserable pitch monkeys?

Health News--Update

So, what do you do when you have a breast biopsy, and they refuse to give you the results directly, but send them to your primary care provider.

And you know your primary care provider is out on maternity leave?

You wait the 48 hours they say it will take, and you call your doctor's office and say: "Hey! There's a biopsy coming in and how do I find out what it says?" Because I'm sure as heck not waiting until maternity leave is over, am I right?

"Oh, well." Says the receptionist. "If there is something wrong, somebody will call you." Yes, she actually said this. "No news is good news."

No, I don't think so. How long am I supposed to wait to find out that I'm not going to get a call?

Fortunately, a very thoughtful and understanding nurse gave me a call. "I just didn't want you to have to wait all weekend until someone could call you on Monday, just to find out everything is normal."

So--YAY! Nothing to worry about over the weekend! Nothing abnormal, nothing questionable, no further medical intervention necessary. Now I am free to whine about how itchy my bandage is.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Plus Ca Change. . .

Sursels had a volleyball game today, and there is a dedicated cadre of parents who come to watch the games. Today I had the pleasure of watching with one of the coolest parents in the gym.

Because we are parents, cheer every play whether it is successful or not. So do the players. In fact, whenever one of them makes a good play, they high five. When one of them makes a bad play, they low five in support.

My friend mentioned this. "When I was a kid, I don't think we did all that congratulating and touching each other. You know, after every play?"

I thought for a moment and realized that she was right. "Actually, when we were kids, we were a lot more likely to point out the kid who made the bad play and blame him. 'You idiot! Why did you do that? We would have won except for you!'"

"Oh yes. Exactly! Maybe this IS better."

Health News

I had a biopsy today. Since my mother had breast cancer three years ago, my health history is a lot less rosy. A close female relative has had cancer. Recently. A friend of mine is doing a 3 day walk for the Susan J. Kommen Foundation, and she shamed me into getting my annual mammogram.

Shall we talk about mammograms? Ugh. Man, it's like they are calculated to make you feel differently about your body. Those aren't breasts! They are tennis balls in a stocking! No wonder they can get stretched and squashed and pressed flat. It's because they are just accidentally attached to your body. I mean, jeepers! As I get older, my skin is becoming less elastic, less able to snap right back to where it was. At some point, if I keep getting annual mammograms, I might as well just leave my breasts there at the doctor's office, since there's no way they are going to spring back onto my chest any more.

I thought that things looked clear when I left the doctor's office last week. But I got a call early this week--doctor wants to see some new views. He will look at the films right there, and possibly order a sonogram. You will have answers before you leave the office today.

So I made the earliest appointment I could, and went back over. I dutifully put my clothing and jewelry into the provided locker, donned the faded patient "robe" and waited to get squashed again.

It was even worse this time. Only one side was questionable, so the up side was that they only had to torture one breast. On the down side, I quickly felt asymmetrical, with one side pulled and stretched, and the other side left alone.

You know the stupid thing about the robes they give you? Once you get into the room with the machine, you have to pull your arm out, at which point you are essentially undressed anyway. And then the technician has to position the questionable boob, pushing and pulling it across a VERY FLAT steel surface. The extra fun part is that, because this is a retake, and they are trying to get a magnification of a specific area, the pain is extra exquisite. Because once the technician gets your boob in place, and squishes it flat like a pancake with the automatic Boob Squisher (I think that is the actual name of the device)--she then has to give the thing an extra turn to really make things painful.

So, there I am, squished and bent over a very solid and very square machine, which is also COLD, and the final turn has knocked the breath out of me. So it's really not necessary for the tech to say "hold your breath." Because really, who's breathing?

I went through this three times, and then was sent back to the waiting room while the doctor reviewed the films. I hadn't even made it all the way through an US magazine when I was called into a new room. A "procedure" room.

Turns out that I had calcifications. Not that that is unusual, of course. Lots of women have calcifications. These particular calcifications, however, had changed over the years. They were kind of hard to see. The doctor wanted to be certain, so he wasn't going to order an ultrasound. No. He wanted a biopsy.

And the reason I was in this particular "procedure" room was because that was where the biopsy would be. Right here! Here in this room where there was a large examination table with a hole the size of a dinner plate in the middle of it. Because that's where you put your boob so the doctor can shoot it full of lidocaine, cut it open, and use a computer to take tissue out. But the fun doesn't end there! No! Because as you are lying there, they run the tissue out and x-ray it to be certain they got what they wanted. And then! Are we done? No we are not! Then the doctor inserts a titanium thing that looks like a tiny staple, so that if they need to get another sample, they can go right to the same place. And! The titanium thing works as a marker, so in future years, they can watch for other changes in that location!

So! Do I want to do it now? Or do I want to schedule it for another day? It's clear they would prefer I do it now. Maybe they are afraid that if I leave I will never come back. The idea is kind of appealing. But really, maybe I can just get it over with. So I climb on the table, and have to lie perfectly still.

Which is easier said than done, of course. Because as I find out as the procedure takes its time, when I first lay down, I was very tense. Tension in my arms holding me up from the table, keeping my head parallel to the pillow. As time passed, the muscles in my shoulder and neck started complaining. Which was kind of distracting, and actually hurt more than the shots for the anesthetic.

I had a doctor and two technician/assistants. The two assistants took turns laying a hand on my arm or shoulder--to comfort, or to keep me from moving? You be the judge. "Now the doctor is doing X. Now the doctor is. . ." and the second one said, "Don't tell her what the doctor is doing now. She doesn't want to know."

It wasn't too bad, actually. Especially since I was given a list of things I can't do for a couple of days until the incision heals. Not that they put in stitches or anything. But I should mow the lawn or rake. I shouldn't lift anything over 20 pounds. "I'll bet I can't cook dinner either, right?"

"Oh, not for at least three days, up to two weeks! And no vacuuming. What else should she not do?"

After the doctor was done, I got to get up and. . .have ANOTHER MAMMOGRAM! Oh, what fun! Of course, my whole boob was pretty numb at that point, but this time, they don't need it to be as squished as they needed it every! other! time! Sure--the time it doesn't hurt is the time they don't hurt it anyway.

You know what else? They lied to me. They took the biopsy, but they didn't tell me anything about it. Nor will they. The results will be sent to my primary care physician, and SHE is supposed to call me. Oh, but by the way? She's out on maternity leave.

Well, too bad, but that's where the results are going, and I'm going to have to find somebody there to tell me what's going on.

What can you do? If I don't hear anything by Friday, I should call. Friday--is two days away! So, I'm just going to have to assume that everything is fine, unless I hear otherwise.

On Friday.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Death Knell

Have you noticed how everybody even slightly famous seems to have a clothing line these days? Sarah Jessica Parker has Bitten, Madonna is at H&M, P. Diddy has Sean John, David Arquette (David effin' Arquette? Who died and left him behind as a style icon?) is starting one. All the cool kids have them too--Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, 50 Cent. . .the list goes on and on.

So really, it should be no surprise that LL Cool J has a line as well. Actually, it is apparently this third line of clothing, after FUBU and Todd Smith. I was kind of surprised to hear about this latest one, however, since I haven't heard ANYTHING about ole LL since about 1989. While he's been making cds and acting and writing books since then, none of that ever showed up on my radar.

Hence, this latest effort has a decided whiff of desperation about it:

LL Cool J, exclusively at Sears.

Sears? SEARS? WTF? I mean, Sears has negative cool. Sears sells house paint! And lawn mowers! And tool boxes! I mean, if ever a store embodied dead white suburban dads of the 1950s, it would have to be Sears. If somebody cool went into a Sears, we'd experience a cool/anti-cool implosion that would rip the space time continuum.



Good luck with that.

Prius Easter Eggs

Some video games give you "Easter Eggs;" funny little extras that the game programmers put in for amusement. Easter eggs usually require that you do something unusual--some combination of moves and buttons that aren't ordinarily something you would do. The reward varies, but can be a video clip, an unusual inventory item, you get the picture.

In the Nancy Drew games by Her Interactive, the Easter eggs are really Easter Eggs that just sit in your inventory and sparkle.

Apparently, Toyota has some game programmers on their staff, because recently, I have had to do some pretty unusual things to change settings on my Prius to make it work the way I want it to.

The things I want to change are pretty innocuous--most recently, it occurred to me that my Bluetooth connection would be more useful if the person on the other end of the call could ACTUALLY HEAR ME. I mean, it's not terribly driver friendly to answer a call and then have to stick my mouth right up to where the microphone is hidden, just to be heard. Especially since I don't know where the microphone is hidden, so I just direct my voice toward the speaker from which I hear my caller, and TALK REALLY REALLY LOUDLY.

You could work yourself up to some road rage that way, having to holler until your neck veins stick out trying to make yourself understood.

"The word is 'flat.' FLAT. FLAT!!! F as in flag, L as in little, A as in apple, T as in table--you know--straight across! Horizontal! FLAT!!"

Yes, that was an actual conversation I have had from my car.

So, maybe, there's a way to increase the volume on the microphone? You know, make it so it picks up my voice better? That seems like a natural kind of thing--you change the volume on the radio, you can raise and dim the inside lights, you should be able to adjust the microphone as well.

So, clever me, I go to the MFD. It actually stands for Multi-Function Display, but sometimes we call it something else with the same initials. Anyway! I pull up the Information screen, get to the Phone screen, and tap the Settings button.

No sale. I can change the volume on the ring. I can change the volume of the caller. I cannot change the setting for the microphone. So I go look in the Owner's Manual.

First, I look in the index for "microphone." Nothing. Then I look up "BlueTooth." Yes! I go to page 272 and start to read. And turn the page. And turn the page. And turn the page. You are getting the idea, aren't you. There is nothing about the microphone--location OR settings--in the Owner's Manual.

Well, I'm not to be thwarted! No sirree! If there is even going to be a point to having BlueTooth in my car, I need to do something about this damn microphone. So, I go online.

Of course, there I find the answer. Answers, actually. I can find information and videos on how to install a second microphone. I can order a BlueTooth headset with attached mike, so I look like Britney Spears In Concert when I make a call.

And, bless their geeky little hearts, I find the answer on PriusChat. All I have to do is go turn on the car, hold down two buttons on my MFD and turn the headlights on and off. Three times. This will give me a new diagnostics screen on my MFD that will allow me to adjust the mike settings.

Of course, this is ridiculous, isn't it? Turn the headlights on and off three times in order to get a new screen on my in-dash monitor? Who would ever think of doing that? I don't know, but DANG! if that didn't give me exactly the tool I wanted. Factory setting for the microphone is "0" on a scale of 0-10! No wonder I sound like I'm living in the bottom of a tin can!

I wonder what would happen if I opened and closed the gas tank hatch three times?

Bumper Stickers That Don't Exist

We were talking about bumper stickers around the dinner table the other night, and Sursels presented us with her own composition:

HONK! . . .if you like noise.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Come Join the Conversation

I know I have mentioned the MinnMoms site here--it's a new site run by the St. Paul Pioneer Press to highlight newspaper articles that address mom issues. More to the point, it has community boards where I (along with 13 other metro moms) are talking and posting about the stuff that we are interested in.

We are having quite a lively discussion about Sarah Palin here. We are helping each other commit to writing with writing prompts here, and a round robin story here.

The main page is here, and you can contact me privately through that site. I'm AKAMom over there, and I hope you might come join us.

More Reasons to Love My Prius

Reason #4356: Cool young hipster at Labor Day protest parade points at Prius, points at me, and says "That's hip." (I'm hip! Who knew?!?)

Reason #4357: after getting a manicure, I can leave the keys in my pocket, and still unlock the car and drive away without marring the nail polish!

Sign that Prii are officially ubiquitous? Finding a parking place at Target, and ending up nose to nose with another one.

Bumper Stickers Seen in the Hood

The political season has brought out some new bumper stickers. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Does It Mean. . .?

So, I just spent a LONG weekend nagging the kids to get ready for the first day of school. We bought school supplies, and I nagged and nudged and ordered them to pack their backpacks, and go over their class lists, and assemble their equipment, and clean out their closet full of last year's stuff, and made them pick out what they were going to wear. . .

And I STILL got a phone call because somebody forgot something and needed me to 1) find it and 2) bring it to school.

Does this mean I should stop nagging, or should I assume that my nagging meant only one thing was forgotten?

Oh, That Isn't What You Meant?

I was out on the river the other day, watching the alternative to water skiing: wave boarding.

Suddenly, I understood how the Bush Administration could keep saying that they didn't use torture at Guantanamo or Abu Garib. They just confused "water boarding" with "wave boarding!"

(Slapping palm against forehead) OH! So you mean we aren't subjecting suspected terrorists to healthy outdoor water sports? Who knew?

What I Did On The First Day of School

Did I mention? That today was the first day of school? Have I made that clear? Not that I'm happy about it or anything. . .

So what did I do with the family gone. Did I run around and clean up all the messes from the summer? Did I run 47 loads of laundry just because I could? Did I get out and pull weeds from the sadly neglected garden?

Of course not! It was a gorgeous day--bright and clear, with a lovely breeze and so I jumped into my little car and went to the zoo.

There are two zoos here. The Minnesota Zoo is where we usually go--it's large, it's glamorous, it's a zoo that exists not just to introduce people to animals, but to help preserve endangered species by participating in breeding programs and international efforts. Today, I went to the other zoo.

The Como Zoo lies inside the city limits of St. Paul, and has a humble beginning. It was started as a deer park when someone donate a pair of deer to the city. I went there often when the girls were little: it was free, it had a sea lion show, it had many different kinds of animals in an area easily managed by little legs. While it no longer showed animals in iron cages on concrete slabs, you could see those old cages still attached to one of the education buildings.

When my girls were little, there was a rickety carnival that set up on the edge of the park, run by the kind of carnies you thought only existed in the movies. These (mostly) men were tough and grizzled, tattooed and dried out. Their skin was dark from the sun, and possibly also from the thousands of cigarettes they smoked. The rides ranged from toddler-level to teen-level, although there were only a few of each kind. Everything rattled, and shed paint flakes, and had the eerie aura of being only half real--you could wake up one morning and it would all be gone, with only grease spills and trampled grass to show it had been there.

About five years ago, the city ended its contract with the carnies, and built its own rides. The first year this happened, my kids were disappointed, as all the new rides were too small and too tame for them. With the loss of the rides, we tended not to go to that zoo any longer, becoming members of the newer, more glamorous zoo. I was not prepared for what I saw when I went there today.

A great deal has changed in the last five years! The rides area, called "Como Town" has added back many of the old carnie rides, but with new and shiny bright equipment. It has added places to climb and dig, rides that require pedalling to make it work, and a sort of go-cart track that is used to teach kids traffic safety. Almost everything has an educational component, and now it's larger than the old carnival ever was, with more food, more guest services, and more restrooms, all brighter and cleaner than before.

Como Zoo has also opened an enormous Visitors' Center, which provides a clear entry point, and offers wheel chairs and strollers and clean and lovely bathrooms, as well as a gift store that looks like it actually is profitable! The polar bear exhibit has been closed, and the bears sent to another zoo while a new habitat is being built. This is a wonderful thing, since the old space was terribly small, made mostly of concrete terraces, and the bears tended to swim in the tiny pool in mind-numbing circles.

Even the Primate House has expanded, with at least four new species of monkeys and lemurs, with several updated habitats. Yes, the older exhibits remain, and seem a bit small for the animals, especially the giraffes. But surrounded as they are with all the new construction, they no longer feel tired and old, but rather temporary and soon to be remodeled and expanded.

This is only to the good, and I highly enjoyed my day at the zoo. Although I was the only person there who didn't have at least two kids under the age of 10 with me.

The New Beginning

Today, my girls went back to school. The house seems quiet without them here, and a little empty. This is when I can start to focus on my work--however I define that.

Not that this summer has been anything like as hard as when they were younger and looked to me to organize and enrich their lives. Those days when I felt like an ER surgeon must feel--constantly on call and having to be ready to rush to someone's aid when they call. Now, with the girls being older, and with iPods and computers and headphones and YouTube, the house actually isn't any quieter then when they are here: it just feels like it.

So, this feels like the right time to make a change to the cast of characters of this blog. "Pony" is now nearly 4 inches taller than I am, and will be eligible for drivers' training in a matter of weeks. "Bunny" has also topped me, though not yet by much, and has started 7th grade. Those names were what we called them when they were babies, and they no longer fit these Amazon warriors. So I'm looking for what to call them.

"Bunny's" new name is likely going to be "Sursels." This is her nickname from German camp--she made a name tag with her German name, "Ursel" but decorated it with squiggles, and so her camp buddies read it as "Sursels." "Pony" is harder. Her Chinese name is phonetically close to her real name, so I don't want to use that. It translates into "Elegant Writing," which isn't a good nickname at all. Maybe I'll just call her "Tonks" in honor of her love of reading, Harry Potter, and punk rock.

So here's to a new year, new beginnings, and new names.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics Overload

So, really, I like the Olympics. I might even go out on a limb and say that I love the Olympics. I love opening ceremonies and will even sit through the parade of nations. I watched them 12 years ago after delivering my baby and having to be awake for 2 a.m. feedings. Did you know that rhythmic gymnastics as 2 a.m. are mesmerizing?

Captain Sweetie comes home and the Olympics come on. Which is great--I like watching people at the peak of a sport where only the tiniest of margins marks the difference between gold and silver. People who have spent their productive time training their bodies to do things I wouldn't want to do even if I could.

But I am TIRED of NBC's coverage. It's not Olympics, it's The Michael Phelps Show! Starring Michael Phelps! Produced by Michael Phelps! With the Michael Phelps Orchestra! Last night, we were treated to a montage of his races, because now that he has won EIGHT GOLD MEDALS IN A SINGLE OLYMPICS it appears NBC is physically cannot last an entire night without Michael Phelps.

It is not Michael Phelps' fault. He is being as thoughtful and cooperative with all the dumb ass interview questions as it is possible to be. But lay off the man already! You don't really need to ask him how he feels being the #1 most requested friend on Facebook. What do you think he's going to say?

I blame NBC. It's like they have this terrible crush on the guy (they are not the only ones, it seems) and they are all writing "Mrs. Michael Phelps" all over their trapper keepers, and decorating it with hearts and flowers. They've already picked the wedding colors and decided who to ask to be maid of honor. Let it go! There are other sports, you know.

Last night, an American woman won gold in discus, which was apparently the first gold any American has won in 76 y. ears. Not that there would be any interest in watching any of that competition, which is an event that dates back to the original Greek Olympics. No way! So we get a Michael Phelps retrospective dream montage, and we see the discus thrower for the duration of time it takes to play her national anthem at the podium.

I know--broadcast television sells viewers to advertisers, and their job is to put out something that the most people will want to see. Apparently, NBC has decided that most people want to see Michael Phelps, and aren't interested in anything else--not even his TEAM MATES who swam the OTHER THREE LAPS of the relay that brought Phelps his 8th gold medal. Nope. If you just listened to the commentary and didn't look at the pictures, you would think Phelps swam it all by his ownself.

It's just a sport! Not even a sport NBC covers any other time than the Olympics. Michael Phelps did something no one else has done, but he didn't invent cold fusion, or discover a cure for cancer, or save drowning puppies. He got in a pool, and swam. Fast. Get over it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The News From Munchkinland

Well, it happened. Less than a week after her 12th birthday, Bunny is taller than I am. I am now officially the shortest person in my family.

I have long expected this--after all, Captain Sweetie is quite tall, and the girls have always been the tallest of their grades. So it wasn't nearly as traumatic as, say, turning 30 had been. But nobody really warns you about this happening--the day your kids are taller than you are. I mean, I am not a particularly short person--hell, I used to be the tallest girl in my class for years!

Fortunately, I know more nasty tricks and I have a MUCH more forceful personality, so I don't expect to have to give up my utter domination of this family. Plus, I still have the car keys.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Kiss 'n' Tell

So, I haven't been posting much lately--mostly I've been too busy making out with my new Prius. You know how it is, when you first fall in love, and you can't think about anything but the one you are totally crushing on? Yup. It's like that.

Do you think it's cheap to sleep together after the third date? Because I'm totally having the Prius' babies. Think how cute a baby Prius would be! Kind of like a Miata, with better gas mileage.

The touch screen in the center of the dashboard operates just about everything except the brake pedal, and it won't get you a Diet Coke, but short of that, it's amazing. Kind of like an iPhone, only bigger, and you can drive it. It takes voice commands for phone calls, gives incredibly useful driving directions--better than Google maps, or even your own husband/wife. Too bad Amelia Earhart didn't have a Prius navigator along instead of Fred Noonan, know what I'm saying?

I've had the car for a couple of weeks now, and I'm finally starting to notice a few things that are less than optimal. Some things are probably not included to cut down on the weight and improve the gas mileage, so I don't begrudge those--things like motorized seat adjustments, for example. It doesn't come with all the DVD screens and cup holders and skee ball lanes you can get on the minivans these days--it's a "family car" potentially, but not really a "mom car"--you'd never get the entire soccer team in it, for example. It supposedly seats five, although the middle back seat is pretty slim.

A major improvement (other than the gas mileage) over my last vehicle is that the Prius has an auxiliary jack in the center console between the two front seats, as well as a 12 volt outlet (what used to be known in the quaint old days as a "cigarette lighter"). This allows me to plug in the iPod directly to the stereo system, avoiding the hassle of finding unused FM frequencies. With the purchase of a nifty little "car kit" from Belkin, the iPod plugs into the outlet, and the audio jack runs from the charger to the auxiliary jack, which produces better sound than plugging in through the headphone jack. The downside? The iPod can't be controlled through the stereo controls, so you have to manually change playlists, albums, whatever. This can apparently be addressed through the addition of an aftermarket item, but shouldn't it be standard? If satellite radio capability is standard, can't they do the same for my iPod?

Another minor stereo glitch is the way that it posts information from radio stations. The audio screen shows six (pre-set) stations--the one actually playing is highlighted, and shows the name of the band and the song--more or less. There are only a limited number of characters visible at any time, which means that you have to watch for a significant amount of time to get all the information. Distracting much?

There is a "message" option, where a separate screen shows the station, band and song in an easy to read format, with no odd broken lines, no time delay to scroll. BUT! The message screen DOES NOT work while the car is in motion.

The other glitch is that once you change stations, the last bit of message remains on the screen--posting old data about what WAS on the LAST time you tuned in to that station. So I was driving around with "FOGHAT" staring at me--which I assure you I did not actually listen to.

Every day it seems I learn something new that the car can do, or else there is something new I can customize. I turned off the annoying reverse beep, programmed in my default destination for the GPS navigation, enabled Bluetooth for my cell phone and entered my four most frequently called numbers.

So, I'm off to see what else I can do with it. It's like a really good boyfriend--it's perfect, AND it can change!

Points to Ponder

They say that exercising the mind helps avert senility. So, as a public service, here's something to stretch your brain around:

If a man determines to fail, and he succeeds, which has he done?

Feel free to send me your $20 co-pay, and I'll submit the bill to your insurance.

Photo source here.

Journey to the Center of the Earth, A Review

With the kidlets off for two weeks of summer camp, Captain Sweetie and I have had to fill the sad and lonely hours, taking what consolation we can from the echoing emptiness of Castle Evil, and desperately filling the long days with what amusement we can find.

HA! Fished you in! We are totally treating every night as Date Night! On Wednesday night, we took ourselves out to see Brendan Fraser's movie Journey to the Center of the Earth. Or rather, Brendan Fraser's FIRST movie in what promises to be the Summer of Brendan Fraser. (The Mummy comes out next week.)

The question arises, "Why is this a movie, and not a theme park ride?" Because frankly, if the seats moved in sync with the action on the screen, and fans blew wind through your hair, you'd think you were at Universal Studios theme park.

To start with, the movie was shot to be seen in 3D, pulling out every 3D trick the film makers could think of. Trilobite antennae wave in your face; a yo yo flies out of the screen at you; a Swiss Army knife hovers in the air--none of which have any point other than to highlight the 3D effect. Some theaters do show this in 2D, which must be even more pointless.

The plot, such as it is, is that Brendan Fraser's older brother Max went missing some 10 years ago after a trip to Iceland. The seismic events he was studying seem to have re-aligned precisely as they were 10 years ago, so Brendan Fraser and his brother's sullen pre-teen kid go up to Iceland to follow his trail.

They meet the incredibly competent and cool Hannah, who is a mountain guide and leads them up to one of Max's sensors. A storm blows up suddenly, and the three take refuge in a cave. Of course, lightning strikes the hill and the cave gets closed off. Our Intrepid Three have to find another way out.

They have some adventures, yadda yadda mine cars, yadda yadda rappelling, yadda yadda follow bio-luminescent birds and they find the other world hidden inside the earth. Our Heroes immediately find a tree-house that contains items from the original expedition (which is chronicled in the Jules Verne book) as well as signs that Max had been there. But time is short, as lava is rising and making the place to hot for human survival.

Cue the Act 2 adventures: yadda yadda build a boat; yadda yadda ugly fish with big teeth getting eaten by pleisiosaurs; yadda yadda parasailing; yadda yadda some nonsense about reversed polarity so north is actually south. We get a very silly sequence involving running from a T. Rex-- which, contrary to any survival strategy that actually works, chooses to turn away from the ocean teeming with life, and chase a kid the size of a single tooth across a baking desert. No, I don't know why either.

Our Heroes get separated, get reunited, and finally escape back to the surface by riding a dinosaur skull up a volcanic tube which turns out to be in Italy. Yay! The End.

Really, the whole thing would be totally pathetic, if not for charm of the principal actors. I mean, how can you salvage a movie that gives us Brendan Fraser brushing his teeth and gargling in 3D? At least Brendan Fraser plays a smart but bumbling nice guy; the character of Hannah is actually tough and resourceful and doesn't scream once; the nephew is attractive and believable, with the added bonus of not being Spencer Breslin. As it is, though, you would probably enjoy this movie more if you chug a couple of margaritas before putting on the 3D glasses.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Love, Prius Style

So I've had my Prius two and a half weeks, and man does it rock! I'm getting roughly 50+ miles per gallon, which is really the only reason I bought it. My 1998 Odyssey is still in excellent condition, and runs really really well. It only gets about 22 mpg, and when gas was hitting its head against $4 per gallon, better mileage was the tipping point to getting a new car.

Although I didn't get a new car so much as I got a computer with four tires and a steering wheel. It seems like every day requires me to program something new. Today, I managed to get the garage door opener (cleverly located on the rear view mirror) programmed.

Did you know:
  • That the plural of Prius is Prii (pronounced PREE-eye)?
  • That you cannot operate your iPod through the stereo controls? (Boo!)
  • That certain touch screen features are disabled while the car is in motion?
  • That window controls on the arm rests mean your dog can open his own window to stick his head out?