31 August 2005

Humperdinck & Sullivan & Jones, oh my

Coincidence? Or a deliberate attempt to drive G&S fans randomly nuts? Now we know. I found this in an interview with Engelbert Humperdinck in the Palm Spring, California "Desert Sun":

QUESTION: I was surprised to read that Gordon Mills [Humperdinck's manager] didn't realize the original Engelbert Humperdinck wrote "Hansel and Gretel." He just saw the name in a book and decided it was the perfect name for you.

ANSWER: That's right. We both had no idea it was "Hansel and Gretel." He did that with two other people he managed. He did it with Tom Jones from the "Tom Jones" character, and he did it with Gilbert O'Sullivan. He managed all those people.

For all my non-opera readers, the original Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) was the composer of an opera-for-children version of the famous fairy tale based on a libretto that his sister wrote for her children. The Regina Opera page devoted to Hansel and Gretel starts out with a "no, not that Engelbert Humperdinck" and Gilbert & Sullivan fans have had to do the Big Sigh and "no, no" ever since "Alone again, naturally" came out in 1972.

And now, of course, I have Carol Kane's voice stuck in my head saying "Humperdinck! Humperdinck!! Humperdinck!!!"

Mr. Mills has a lot to answer for.

30 August 2005


Here's an e-mail between me and my Dad:

I just talked to Bill and they are all OK. Some damage to Bay House and yard, tree limbs down at house in town, no air conditioning (I guess that really means power is out) but phone works.
Could have been worse by far!
Yore PoP
On Aug 30, 2005, at 2:38 PM, Leta wrote:
> Any news from Bill or Linda about how our Southern relatives are faring right now?

Bill and Linda are my uncle and aunt. And the Southern relatives are pretty much the whole rest of Dad's family. Dad grew up in Mobile, Alabama and I've visited there on several occasions so when the good folks on NPR talk about Route 10, well, I've been on it. I've gone wading in the Gulf (and I'll post the picture that Grandaddy took of me doing it if I can find it).

I've got relatives in Mobile, Atlanta, Norlens (or - if you insist - New Orleans), and a bunch of other places where bacon grease is a condiment and kudzu covers anything that doesn't move at least every twenty minutes. So the pictures are pretty scary. Dan Gretch just reported on Marketplace that Mobile is pretty hard hit - he saw a Winn-Dixie that was open even though it had half its roof missing.

Hang tough, Mobile.

The only good spam is Monty Python spam

Well, it's finally come down to it. I received nine pieces of comment spam during the last twenty minutes. And while I won't borrow too many practices from my medieval forebears, rest assured that during the benign and enlighted Leta regime, spammers will be roasted - slowly - in a cage - over an open fire for the amusement and edification of the populace.

Come on, admit it, you've gotten enough spam by now that you'd all turn out in droves on the day. I would and I'm both a squishy-headed liberal and anti-violence. But my work e-mail is so totally hosed that I get a new piece of spam every six minutes there. Every. Six. Minutes. I log into my work e-mail before I go to bed just to clear out what's arrived since I left the office. I was away from computer access for a week once and it took me an hour and a half to delete all the crap that built up while I was away.

However, That Glorious Day has not yet dawned and Blogger believes that I will get less comment spam if I turn on the word verification feature, which requires folks to type in a nonsense word in order to prove that they are actual human beings before their comments will post. So I've done that. Because I love getting comments and I hate getting comment spam.

But I'm collecting coals and lighter fluid for the Endless Spammer Bonfire. And I will not forget.

29 August 2005

Basil (not Fawlty) & Flowers

On my desk right now is a nice, big bunch of basil brought in by my co-worker John and a lovely vase full of flowers sent to me by David. My desk has never looked better. Or smelled nicer, for that matter.

At your service

David, for all of his fine qualities, is simply too damned self-sufficient. In general, he does favors for me and there aren't many that I can do for him in return. Well, the favor-returning gods have finally smiled on me.

David's Explorer (Alberta) has developed what he and I believe to a mild case of vapor-lock. If he starts Alberta in the morning and drives to work, she is happy to start right up when he leaves in the evening. If, however, he drives to some section of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail and leaves Alberta there for a couple of hours, she sometimes becomes, like the wizards and the butts in the urinals, cranky and hard to light. So a few of his hikes have had "waiting for the guy from AAA" as their finale. His mechanic couldn't seem to reproduce the problem and mechanics can't fix what they don't observe, so he and I have been waiting for the inevitable day when Alberta would become obdurate when he needed to be somewhere or when he wasn't convenient to home.

Thursday was the day.

I was down in Tysons Corner (Virginia) having dinner and a production meeting with Mary Ann, who is my producer at Elden Street for The Emporer's New Clothes (auditions September 6 & 7 - please come and read for me!!) - when I got a call from David. Sure enough, he had stopped at Panera for a quick dinner before his rehearsal and Alberta chose not to start. He walked the mile or so to rehearsal and called me to ask if he got a lift from someone at rehearsal to my place, could he stay with me and Metro to work in the morning?

Sure, but as I was out and about anyway, how about if I come to his rehearsal after my meeting and collect him, stop by my place to feed the cat, and we would stay in Reston so that each of us could get to work in a reasonable amount of time in the morning? (The commute via Metro or car between Aspen Hill, Maryland and Vienna, Virginia is beyond icky. The commute via car between Reston, Virginia and Silver Spring, Maryland isn't too bad.)

So I got to see a bit of one of the early-ish off-book rehearsals for Book of Days, got to hang with Casey for a few minutes, and got to hear the whole "how we got engaged story" from a couple of David's other castmates.

David started mapping out his options, re: Alberta, and I signed on to be his chauffeur for the weekend, should he like to have one.

He bused into to work and home on Friday. Saturday after he went to the studio, I met him at the Shady Grove metro and took him to Alberta. She started right up, of course, so we drove to his house and parked her out front, stopped for a quick lunch and then I took him to his Tai Chi class. After Tai Chi we stopped for a slightly less quick dinner and then we went to see Longacre Lea's production of Energumen and The Real Inspector Hound. Neither one of us and seen Inspector Hound in years and years and this production didn't let us down. It's an enormously fun script.

Sunday we headed up to the Stage to see the second weekend of the One-Act festival, hit the grocery store for salad makings (and ice cream for me), and headed home for a nice, relaxing evening of a Gunsmoke radio broadcast and the Phillies-Diamondbacks matchup at the BOB.

Of course, before we did the grocery store/dinner/game thing, we stopped by the WOD Trail, I put on my trainers, and we did a brisk-for-me, slow-for-David two miles. Got to see a hummingbird and a goldfinch, some crows, and, uh, other birds. The Jewelweed is in fine shape this year as well as the Poke Weed and the Joe Pye weed. I suggested that Joe Pye weed was named by someone familiar with the Ann of Green Gables books, but that remains mere speculation.

All in all, a lovely weekend and I got to do something nice for David.

For instructions on how to induce vapor-lock in an otherwise healthy vehicle, write to me privately......

Telling me what I already know

Much More Emotional

You have:

The graph on the right represents your place in Intuition 2-Space. As you can see, you scored well above average on emotional intuition and about average on scientific intuition.Keep in mind that very few people score high on both! In effect, you can compare your two intuition scores with each other to learn what kind of intuition you're best at. Your emotional intuition is stronger than your scientific intuition.

Your Emotional Intuition score is a measure of how well you understand people, especially their unspoken needs and sympathies. A high score score usually indicates social grace and persuasiveness. A low score usually means you're good at Quake.

Your Scientific Intuition score tells you how in tune you are with the world around you; how well you understand your physical and intellectual environment. People with high scores here are apt to succeed in business and, of course, the sciences.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Scientific

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Interpersonal
Link: The 2-Variable Intuition Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating

26 August 2005

Mabel Osborne

From Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (1916)

Mabel Osborne

Your red blossoms amid green leaves
Are drooping, beautiful geranium!
But you do not ask for water.
You cannot speak! You do not need to speak—
Everyone knows that you are dying of thirst,
Yet they do not bring water!
They pass on, saying:
“The geranium wants water.”
And I, who had happiness to share
And longed to share your happiness:
I who loved you, Spoon River,
And craved your love,
Withered before your eyes, Spoon River—
Thirsting, thirsting,
Voiceless from chasteness of soul to ask you for love,
You who knew and saw me perish before you,
Like this geranium which someone has planted over me,
And left to die.

24 August 2005

Gluten-free fun facts

We should learn something new every day. In the past few days I have learned some new things about Celiac Disease. Feel free to share them with friends or use them to impress people at parties.

1. In England "Celiac Disease" is called "Coeliac disease" and could result in something called "gut cancer."

Long-term non-treatment of Coeliac disease is associated with throat cancer, gut cancer and nutritional deficiencies, such as anaemia. The most common complication of the disease is osteoporosis, since the absorption of calcium is reduced significantly.
"I'm so glad to be gluten free" by Abigail Wild, The Herald, 22 August 2005.

Can you picture Dr. House telling a patient "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that you have Stage Four gut cancer. There's nothing we can do."

2. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization - the folks who will have my back on the whole labeling thing - was developed by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) in cooperation with the Food Services, Inc., a subsidiary of the Orthodox Union (OU), the world's largest and oldest kosher certification agency.

"Food Services, Inc. and the Orthodox Union are pleased to be included in this key development on behalf of those who for health reasons are required to be gluten-free," declared Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of the OU. "The OU's standard of excellence in kosher certification is recognized worldwide. OU field inspectors are deeply familiar with modern food technology and with the intricacies of industrial food manufacturing equipment, which will be applied to their work with Food Services, Inc. We look forward to this opportunity to use our expertise on behalf of the gluten-free consumer."
"New Food Safety Program - Independent Certification Program for Gluten-Free Food Processing" by the Gluten Intolerance Group on Foodconsumer.org.

And considering how persnickity Jewish dietary laws are supposed to be, this makes me quite happy. If inspectors, following guidelines that the OU find acceptable, say that there is no gluten in a product, then there ain't no gluten anywhere in it and possibly not for a few inches around it. Unlike our government which allows you to not list the flour that you rolled the chocolates in to keep them from sticking together because what the heck, the flour isn't in the stuff. There is no "what the heck" at the OU.

Okay, that's it for today. More fun facts as we learn 'em.

23 August 2005

No, I'm not taking Pekoe

Tanya and Cathy - two of my co-workers - are participating in a walk for Howard County (Maryland) Spay and Neuter and animal awareness programs. Animal Advocates of Howard County are sponsoring a Walk for Paws on October 8th. They are dog people and I wouldn't be surprised if Tanya took one or both of her German Shepards, which got us contemplating me bringing Pekoe, the fabulous orange tabby:

"Pekoe! Come here! No! Don't kill that little dog. Just becuase he's smaller than you doesn't make him prey." (Fabulous orange tabby that he may be, Pekoe is still a solid 12-pounder and a bit of a thug. When he lived with Blue, Pekoe's ambition was that Blue - who was four times his size and weight - would die blind and soon. Peek still regrets that he didn't make this come to pass. He did, however, terrorize Rusty, Jean's very cute and friendly Dauchshund such that Rusty wouldn't come out from under the wing chair for several days.)

"Pekoe! Come on! It's time for the walk! We're all walking this way, Pekoe. We're walking - now. We're not lying sunning ourselves on the pavement now. Come on, Peek."

"Pekoe - get down. I am not carrying you through this walk. No! Do not hang to me with your claws. Get down and walk."

Yeah, definitely much easier just to pledge $10 and let Tanya and Cathy do the walk.

20 August 2005

The Lazy Little Blood Donor - part 1

I've been - off and on - a blood donor since college. Markland, the medieval reenactment and good times group I belonged to, would round up folks everytime there was a campus blood drive with loud announcements that the faithful should "Bleed for the Militia!" (Campus groups got some kind of credit, even if it was just shinier halos in the afterlife for participating in pro bono activities). And I'm O Negative, so I'm very popular at blood donation centers. I forget how much I've given but it's somewhere around 3 gallons by now.

I don't do it as often as I should - certainly not the every eight weeks that Stacey does - but I'll certainly participate in the ones that fall into my lap, like the ones that Jill would organize at work. And now Glenn has organized one via the Reston Community Players, so this morning I'm going to finish my coffee, steal the last of David's cranberries to have for a post-bleed snack, and head over to RCP's rehearsal hall to Bleed for Community Theater!

17 August 2005

Come into the garden, Maud

I have five medium sized pots on my patio and have started a decent-ish container garden. The year before last I tried tomatoes and discovered that my condo-ghetto neighborhood is actually just crawling with deer. Hungry, tomato-eating deer, darn them. The parsley and the spinach did pretty well, though.

This year I left one pot lie fallow, filled one with rosemary, and one with moss roses. One has the day lilies that Stacey gave me from her yard, which bloomed beautifully. And the last has the lilac that I bought not long before Mollie and I left the house on Pierce Drive. I had meant to plant it to replace the hideous thing I had cut down but we ended up moving before I could so it spent several months living indoors in a pot, which is not to the liking of most lilacs. It should have died, but, like Tiny Tim, did not die. All right, lilac!

I planted the moss roses pretty late, but they are doing just fine and growing like Topsy and the rosemary has really taken off as well. I'm on a big rosemary kick right now (along with ginger), so it's nice to have some fresh to use when I cook. (When, of course, I'm home to cook...). And it just smells nice out there. If I'm home during the daylight hours - which happens about as often as finding money in the street - I open the sliding glass door, let the cat roam about a bit, and do some garden maintenence: I pull the grass out of the pots and out from between the patio bricks, deadhead stuff that needs deadheading, throw stuff into the compost that needs composting, turn the pots a quarter-turn, and brush Pekoe so that we can have orange cat hair all over Aspen Hill instead of all over my condo. Or rather, in addition to all over my condo. Pekoe eats grass, wanders and sniffs around the condos on either side of me, and flops over on the patio for a stretch out on the warm patio bricks.

I'm not using anything like Round-Up on the patio bricks because I'm encouraging the moss that is considering growing between the bricks. There's no mortar there and the moss looks pretty, so why not. At some point I need to make some moss starter which is sort of like sour dough starter - take a good sized handful of moss, break it up, and dump it onto a bucket of warm water. Let it steep, maybe adding a bit of yogurt to encourage the whole process, and then sluice it over the bricks. Add time and rain and voila! Nice, moss-y stuff between the bricks. (Thanks, House and Garden channel!)

I started the compost by scavenging some bricks and bits of two-by-four on my walks around the neighborhood and marking off an area under my dining room window and next to the patio. It's not very large, maybe 12 x 24, but I'm only one person and I'm never home, so 'twill serve. Anyway, I toss anything compostable there and the maintenence guys mow over it when they forget it's there but they mainly leave it alone. I don't add chemicals or turn it because the secret to my gardening is benign neglect. Thrive or die, that's the rule here in Leta's Little Green Space. So far, so good.

One of my co-workers grows lovely basil every year, so I don't have to grow basil, I just wait for his to appear in the office. I think I'll take him some rosemary. And Cate, too. Cate, Brett, and Charles are having me to dinner next week and fresh-from-the-pot rosemary is such a lovely hostess gift, don't you think?

So much for her happy ending

Easily the best line in the "waif-y singers who take themselves too seriously" catagory. At least if you're trying to really capture that annoying, self-righteous, teenager vibe.

"Let's talk this over; it's not like we're dead."

Makes me laugh every time I hear it.

One seriously delighted cat

Long, long ago Mollie bought Pekoe (the fabulous orange tabby) a cardboard box filled with corrogated cardboard and lighly scented with catnip. He went berserk and spent the rest of the evening licking the box lid and racing up and down the hall and the stairs.

It's gotten pretty beat up in the intervening years and was starting to fall apart, so I stopped at Trader Joe's on Saturday and got him a new one. He recognized it immediately and got so excited that he jumped up on it as I was taking the lid off and began to scratch and lick and roll around like a crazed kitten. And I hadn't even put in the catnip yet. Still haven't.

The best thing is that his new box is a "doublewide" so instead of merely perching on it, he can sprawl out and really be one with his box. Pictures will be posted once I take them. And have them developed. And scan them. But until them, just click on the link and mentally add one blissed out orange tabby.

Cat scratch fever

14 August 2005

Medical Update

Well, the short answer is "yes," I have Celiac Disease. Color me glum. On the plus side, living my life as though I'm permanently in Phase II of the South Beach diet should result in me fitting back into clothes that have been mere memories for the past decade. And that's the only plus side.

So I went in for my second "Is this or is this not Celiac Disease" snoop around, which was an endoscopy, which is a biopsy whereby the medical team puts fairly horrible light rock on the stereo (something Phil Collins-y whiney), gives the patient a heaping helpin' of Valium (to offset the horrible light rock, I assume), and then threads a tube with a camera and snippers down the patient's throat. Which, oddly enough, was not that bad. I was afraid that I would choke on the tube or gag violently or something, but nope, after that Valium hit I couldn't have choked or gagged even if they'd put Celine Dion on the stereo. Hmmm. Perhaps that explains the Phil Collins...

They asked me to open my mouth, said please swallow, said thank you and we were off to the races. They went for a stroll through my upper GI tract and I dozed. I probably drooled, too, but they were too nice to make fun of me. They took their biopsies, woke me up, and sent me on my rather drowsy way. David took me home, for obvious reasons.

I rescheduled my follow-up appointment a couple of times but there's only so long that one can put it off. My doctor was all bright and chipper as he gave me the handout about my new life-time annoyance. And (I love Google) I already knew most of what he was about to tell me, although he was able to clear up the whole oats mystery. Oats are considered risky for people with CD, not because they have gluten, but because they are often grown near or with or on top of (or something) wheat which leads to contamination. I guess I can have oats if I grow my own.

Do on your own activity for the Reader: the next time you are in a grocery store try to find gluten-free processed food. Remember, "malt" counts as gluten.

Starting in January food containing wheat will have to be labeled as such, but "gluten-free" and "wheat-free" are not the same things because there's gluten in rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale.

Oh, and another on your own activity: Get tested for Celiac Disease. It's a simple blood test. Finding out that you have it is not much fun, but not finding out until you have lymphoma and osteoporosis is much less fun and 1 in every 133 Americans probably has CD. Most of them don't know it. If you have any Irish ancestors, go get tested. Apparently, the hugely-potato and almost-no-wheat diet of the Irish for a couple hundred years helped create the problem.

(I gave that last little speech to my neices, Cheryl and Angela, at lunch today and once again proving that our family leans towards high intelligence/low wisdom, they said that if getting tested means not having pizza anymore, they'll just skip the test, but thanks. We'll see.)

And it turns out that different counties have different gluten-free guidelines. The Canadians, a wise people with their priorities straight, have decided that 12 years in an oak cast renders whiskey a gluten-free product. The US isn't so sure. I'm going with the Canadians on this one, she types, with a tot of Dewars in front of her.

I bought a book called The Gluten-Free Gourmet because it actually had some recipes for things that didn't call for "guar gum" and "xanthan gum" both of which sound like something that comes from Monsanto instead of something that comes from my kitchen.

But in the meantime, if you drop by my place any time soon, you're likely to leave with lovely parting gifts ~~ a box of Bisquik, a cereal bar, or maybe my highly valued jar of Wheat Germ.

07 August 2005

And we're back in ---5 ---4 ---

I've been on a cruise! And I have a new job at work! So .... dude, update thyself.

Well, it's been a not very quiet couple of weeks in Silver Spring. The admin staffer who supported our contracts department decided to leave the area and I was approached about taking over her job, which is a really cool job and includes fairly important work. (I won't describe it in detail, but let's just say that if I don't do my job well, people don't get paid and we don't collect money for work we've done. Both of which, as we all know, suck.) So, anyway, I said I would be delighted to take that postition and commenced learning that job, while doing my old one, while one admin staffer was on vacation, and after another had left the company. "May you train in interesting times..."

Here's a rough picture of how the job offer discussion went:

I was sitting at my desk one evening waiting for a phone call from Gaye about where/when we would be having dinner. I normally finish my work day around 5 and it was around 5:45. Mike (our CFO) stopped by my desk and said "When are you leaving? Oh, wait, you're probably leaving now. Never mind."

"No, it's okay, I'm waiting for a friend to call. What can I do for you?" (Clock watching is for people who never make personal phone calls or send personal e-mails from work. I am not one of those people.)

"Can you come down to my office for a few minutes?"

"Sure." (Said nice and casually. What I was thinking was "Why is Mike firing me? He's not my boss. Why isn't Laura firing me? I don't want to get fired. This sucks!!!") Then I realized why I couldn't find the shoes I had been hunting for. "Uhmm, is it okay if I'm not wearing any shoes? I left them at the at the front desk."

"No problem. Come on."

("Oh, my. He's going to fire me when I'm barefoot. That's just so wrong!") And I told him how whenever Jim catches me wandering around in my stockingfeet he always asks me doesn't the company pay me enough to buy shoes and how's it's a long-standing joke between us. You know, sort of whistling on my way to the scaffold.

So imagine my surprise when he offers me the job supporting the contracts department. It's a lateral move, but the company already pays me pretty darn well, so that's fine. I was pleased and flattered to be considered and they do interesting stuff. It meant that I was shifted from the admin department to the contracts department, so I will no longer do a bunch of stuff that I really enjoyed, like being Leta the Coffee Girl (I did actually enjoy this. Go figure.) or doing all of the supplies ordering (which I also enjoyed), but I get a very spiffy new computer and a much nicer desk and a cool group of folks to work with, so unless they decided to fire me while I was gone, I'm really enjoying the new job, even though I miss the old one. Our admin staff is a good team and I liked being a part of it. It's weird not knowing what's going on with them or sitting at the front desk for Tanya when she's on break, but I'll get used to it.

And, of course, one of the reasons why they wanted to get me in contracts is because it's pretty well known that I am always there. I'm almost never sick, I come in no matter what the weather, and - thanks to my mortgage - I no longer take-out-of-the-country vacations. So, naturally, Gaye's and my cruise was scheduled for my second full week in the Contracts Department.

"Cruise? What cruise?" I hear you cry. Why, the cruise that Gaye and I took to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. "Oh, that cruise." I'll update about that too, but not right now. (And, yes, I realize that Canada is, technically, out of the country. But not several-hours-on-a-plane, out of the country.)

Other exciting events since July 19th...

Brett and Cate and Charles moved back from England!! Hurrah, hurray!

Stacey had a birthday, so I took Stacey & John & Samantha & Charles & Cate to see "Schoolhouse Rock Live" at ESP, which was enormous fun. And I met Marty's daughter, Caitlyn, who has the same birthday Stacey does, so I introduced them.

I found a script that I like for "The Emperor's New Clothes" which means that Mary Ann can order scripts before the auditions (auditions: September 6 & 7, it'll be fun!).

And I'm about to spend two weeks remounting "Perfectly Good Airplanes" for the Stage's One Act Festival. (We go up August 19 - 21.) I'll have a couple of weeks after "Airplanes" closes and before "Emperor" auditions which I think I'll fill with seeing non-theater friends. And having a normal kind of life. Or as normal as I am llikely to have.

Coming soon --- more exciting updates! And travel pictures!