27 October 2005

How to weird yourself out

1. Take the contact lens case that you've been carrying around in your purse for the last couple of years to the kitchen.
2. Drop the case into a clean coffee mug.
3. Pour boiling water over the lens case until it bobs around in the water.
4. Watch all the crap that was on the case settle to the bottom of the mug.


25 October 2005

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks passed away yesterday. MSN has a good article, but my memorial was to read one of my favorite essays by Sarah Vowell, Rosa Parks, C'est Moi, which I first heard on public radio on This American Life. It made me buy Sarah's book, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, just so that I could read that essay out loud to people, or make them read it.

Anything I could say about Rosa Parks would be utterly banal. I was born long after the Montgomery bus boycott and have never known a segregated society. (That's one for those "incoming freshmen have never known a world without CD players" lists. When I was an incoming freshman, I had never known a world that would prevent a child from going to school with me because she didn't happen to be white. Thank you, Mrs. Parks.)

I'll stop here because, while to quote Tom Lehrer, it takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee-house or a college auditorium and come out in favor of the things that everybody else in the audience is against like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on, having to this well-fed, Montgomery County, white girl speak out against racism isn't saying much. I'll leave it to the people who know what they're talking about and have more to talk about worth listening to than I.

21 October 2005

My readers - to quote Casey - rock

Thank you, Sir Dennis & Anonymous!!

I posted a few days ago that I would love to have the url for the most famous eBay wedding dress sale of all time.

Sir Dennis was unable to find the Wedding Dress Guy, but found another fun listing "My-Ex-Husband-is-Gay-Heres-the-unlucky-wedding-dress" and "Anonymous" found the Snopes.com listing for the Wedding Dress Guy that both verifies the story and debunks some of the more memorable bits of the listing. And also contains a link to a listing about "reflectoporn." I swear, I learn something every day and I never expected to learn about "reflectoporn." (Don't follow the link unless pictures of nekkid weirdos really improve your day. Just a suggestion.)

Thank you both! Now I have a nice, lasting link to the eBay wedding dress guy and to a woman who now sings Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" with real sincerity.

20 October 2005

Heads Up, NPR

The downside to Autumn would, of course, be that it is also pledge drive time at NPR. Technically, at NPR member stations.

I completely understand the need for the pledge drives and I contribute when and how I can. Not as often or as much as I should, but there are lots of good causes that don't get as much as I should give them (just ask Janice, the minister at my church). And I have friends who work for NPR and I think they should be paid their salaries. And I have a big, geeky crush on Scott Simon, so I definitely believe he should get paid. And Les told me that one of his favorite stations failed to meet their budgetary goals often enough and had to sell out. We don't want that to happen.


I hate, hate, hate it when in order to push the guilt button I get called a thief and a mooch. So I have a rule. My standard donation - when I can - to my local NPR station is $20/year, but I deduct a dollar every time I am accused to stealing by tuning in without writing a check. This morning Nina Totenberg used the word "Freeloader" twice in one paragraph - so that's $2 fewer of my dollars going to NPR. Using this system, some years NPR ends up owing me money.

In order to save NPR some badly needed dollars, I often dive for the radio dial as soon as I hear anything that sounds like pledge drive patter (PDP). And I'll return a dollar to the pot if I hear a good argument (like how much it costs to carry the shows I like, or how small a percentage of the operating budget comes from the government).

I really do like the new protection racket approach to the pledge drive - "pay us now and if we get enough money we'll shave a day off of the pledge drive." Sort of "Nice radio station you have here. I'd hate to see anything happen to it." Brilliant. Works for me. I'll leave the cash in a dead tree in the cemetary, but please don't hurt Marketplace.

And I like pledging via the internet during one of my favorite shows, so I often pledge during Car Talk or A Prairie Home Companion. Especially as they make really fun arguments for pledging. And never call me a freeloader.

I may post how much money I ended up sending in this year, but, in the meantime, operators are standing by. Please pledge now.


It's Autumn, when a young (....) woman's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of Autumn foods, like parsnips and turnips and chestnuts. Foods closer to the sage end of the herb/spice/condiment scale than lemon.

I found a couple of good recipes the other day for foods with either chestnuts or parsnips in them and one - Mercy! - for Chestnuts, Brussels Sprouts and Parsnips which for me is a real hat trick, as I love them all. (Note to David, don't worry, the recipe says that there's only 1 gram of saturated fat per serving.)

As I was gloating to Rich about this miracle, he told me about Chestnut Spread, or Creme de Marrons. (Note: My absolute favorite fun fact about the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston movie The Bodyguard is that her character's name, Rachel Marron, pretty much meant "Brown Brown.")

I found the spread on Amazon and have added it to my wish list because, well, just read: This sweetened puree of chestnuts is delicately flavored with vanilla. It is a wonderful addition to pastries with its nutty richness and creamy texture. Mix chestnut puree into butter cream frostings, fondants, fillings of all types, and cake batters or just eat plain with creme fraiche. Or This sweet and smooth spread is a delicious topping for your morning brioche or your evening ice cream alike. If you have never tried this before, it is like a honey of creamed chestnuts. Even that description does not do it justice.

Rich says he found in the international section at a Safeway once but who do I trust more, Safeway or Amazon?

I have a whole cook book of chestnut recipes and it's time to start stocking up on those spiffy little brown beauties.

And as soon as I find a menu that contains caramel, chestnuts, ginger, parsnips, pine nuts, rosemary, spinach, and turnips, there will be no living with me.

18 October 2005

My consuming passion

Carol and I had a tea party a couple of weeks ago. Theoretically, it was a "tea tasting," which is to a tea party as a wine tasting is a to pub crawl, maybe. Anyway, we used lots of little tea pots (Carol has some truly amazing tea pots, I just have quite a few) and tried mostly green or white teas with names like "Drunken Concubine." It was a very successful day outside of the learning curve for using the little spoutless pots, which involved pouring nearly-boiling water around in the place in a rather profligate manner, and much tea was enjoyed.

It turns out, by the way, that the way to use the spoutless teapot is one of those important life lessons - you pick up the pot in one hand, pull the lid back slightly with the other, and pour with an outward appearance of confidence. No hesitation! No half-measures! Commit! This is your choice and your have chosen it! She who hesitates wears hot water.

The most amazing part of the tea-tasting (for me, anyway) was that Carol brought this tea that unused looks like a large hazelnut, but once it is droped into a (preferably clear glass) tea pot it opens into what looks like a lotus flower.

We're going to have another tea tasting sometime soon and we're going to invite Chris. Chris is a Jasmine tea kind of guy, so I'll get to try some teas I don't usually drink. It is good to step off the usual path.

* * * * *

Someone asked me once what teas I like. The short answer is that in general I prefer teas that are named for people or places & meals (King Richard, Irish Breakfast).

Earl Grey is an exception because usually teas named for people don't have orange oil in them and I'm not big on citrus in my tea. Then again, for years I wouldn't drink Constant Compost and now I like it, so, you know, things change. I still call it Constant Compost, of course, because let's face it, "rind of oranges" is compost.

I like black teas, green teas, and white teas. I don't like flavored teas, especially fruit flavored tea which, if it were colder and thicker, would be appropriate to spread on toast. I don't drink tisanes, which are herbal infusions that contain no tea, (Or as I like to call them: boiled weed water. Heck, "tisane" is from an Old French term for barley water - what does that tell you?) so most of the Celestial Seasons catalogue is absent from my tea cabinet. Rooibos, or "red tea" is not tea. Tea is Camellia sinensis, Rooibos is aspalathus linearis - see how they aren't the same thing?

* * * * *

But the best tea news of the day is that thanks to some unflinching scientists who were willing to go the distance in pursuit of hard knowledge over casual cliché , Carol, Chris, and I will be spared the mistake of using the Chocolate Teapot.

17 October 2005

TTFN, Paul

Good grief. I thought I posted this 10 days ago, but Blogger thought it was still a draft. Perhaps Blogger knows better than I do...

* * * * *

Paul at The Sun Keeps Rising was my first and best "next blog" click. I found him very shortly after I started writing and I left my first comment about a week later. Oddly enough, that comment is sandwiched between a comment from his Mom and his Step-Dad, both of whom I now read. (Actually, I read most of the folks on his blogroll.)

David likes to tease me by assigning nicknames to the people I talk about a lot - "your boyfriend," "your crush," etc. Paul was "your penpal." When I demurred, he said "Check Paul's blogroll. Is there anyone on it who he doesn't know personally besides you?" Well, no actually, at the time there wasn't. Which I found completely flattering and it improved my day for at least a week.

I was once at Starbucks and a young lady at the next table was talking to a friend and to her Mom about starting as an RA and what that would entail. She left the Starbucks with Paul's url scribbled on a scrap of paper from my purse. ("There's this guy I read who's an RA in Wyoming....").

Paul is going to start student teaching and students these days are very apt to Google their teachers. Shauna shut down her blog after she got Googled by parents who didn't like that she was writing about her job and, therefore, her students. And Shauna is quite possibly the most postive human being ever. So you can imagine that having a blog and teaching can be, shall we say, incompatible.

But, dammit, I'm really, really, really going to miss reading The Sun Keeps Rising. Fortunately, Paul has my e-mail address and I have his, so it's not like when a favorite tv show goes off the air and all one has are the re-runs. (Actually, I won't even have the re-runs. When he deletes the blog, it'll be completely gone. Blogger is pretty thorough that way.)

And so, like a clip from a favorite episode, here for my nostalgic pleasure is the first exchange via comments that I had with Paul. The scene: He had written (and I quote) " (someone ask me why "Birth of a Nation" was the most damaging film ever made, even ahead of Nazi propaganda. Go ahead, ask me). " So, in my snarky little way, I wrote: Yes, why is that? Especially as I always thought that "Flashdance" was the most damaging movie in all history. (Snarkiness aside, I saw "Birth of a Nation" in school when I was in junior high, although I don't remember why.)

So Paul wrote a nice, long, intelligent, irate post about Birth of a Nation during which he accidently used the interesting constuction "thiefs." Here's his opening paragraph, which changed forever how I refer to Leonardo DeCaprio, and the comments exchanged between us. Just because both still make me laugh.

Okay, Dearest Readership, I agree that "Flashdance" is pretty bad, though if pressed I'd rank the 1996 godforsaken pile of shit version of "Romeo and Juliet" starring Clare Danes and Leonardo Di-Crap-io right up there. Only movie I've
ever walked out of.

Leta said...
Okay, I am forced as a former English major and current pedant to do this, so I apologize. Thiefs?

I stumbled across your blog when I was mousing around and really enjoy reading what you have to say. Count me among your readership.L.
6:49 AM

Paul said...
Ya got me. I thought I remembered scenes depicting theivery; I could be making that up. I have a fairly active imagination.

Anyhoo, I edited it out. P
7:53 AM

Paul said...
*thievery, not theivery.

7:54 AM

Paul said...

It just occurred to me that you might have been questioning my spelling of "thief" in the plural, not whether they existed in the film.Ugh.

12:26 PM

Leta said...
Well, yes, it really was just the spelling. On the plus side, the name "Leonardo Di-Crap-io" is going to amuse me for the rest of the day and your points on "Birth of a Nation" are well taken.Have a stress free weekend......L

And speaking of eBay

If anyone still has a working link for the best eBay auction ever - the one where the guy was selling his ex-wife's wedding dress and he modeled it himself - please, please send it to me.

American 15, French 45

I really must spend more time on eBay. And I really must not bid on this auction.

Thanks to Siobhan.

13 October 2005

My very own Mondegreen

When my sister and I were about 5 and 8, respectively, we were staying at my grandmother's in Ohio. Gram decided that we should learn another night-time prayer besides "Now I lay me down to sleep," so she taught us both "The Lord's Prayer." So far, so good, until the night that Sara refused to say it because "We're only praying for Leta."

Puzzled, Gram asked her what she meant. "It talks about Leta and not about me!"


"The part where it says 'And Leta's not in temptation.' Why doesn't it say 'Sara's not in temptation?" Why am I left out?"

So everytime I say that prayer in church, I always say "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and Leta's not in temptation..." I would like to say that I do it that way as an homage to my sister, but really, it's just a little joke that Lord and I have. Especially as I am so very frequently in temptation.

Temptation, oh, temptation!
Were we, I pray, intended
To shun whate'er our station,
your fascination splendid?
Of fall whene'er we view you?
Head o'er heels into you?
Head o'er heels, head o'er heels,
Head o'er heels into you?

(W.S. Gilbert, The Yeomen of the Guard)

11 October 2005

Yet another use for Google

As a tired phrase meter.

Type in a short phrase and if there are more than 5 pages of results returned, you've got a cliche on your hands.

07 October 2005

I'll have what he's having

Robert Siegel on NPR today interviewed Charles Martell regarding having his cheese - Stinking Bishop - mentioned in the new Wallace and Gromit movie.

Wow. Charles Martel.

It may be a smelly cheese, but if it can grant nearly eternal life, I'm having some.

Sure, he's had to stay under the radar - he's added an "l" to Martel, moved to Gloucestershire, and lost his accent, but in an obvious nod to history geeks everywhere, he kept the name that he's carried all these centuries.

Forget the Stilton, pass the Stinking Bishop.

06 October 2005

Lady Mondegreen

It's probably just me. Maybe it's because I spend too much time these shuttling between Aspen Hill and Herndon. Okay, it's not that, because I've always heard it this way. Even when I had never heard of a certain theater company.

Most mondegreens, I can shake once I learn the real lyric. Like in REM's "End of the World as We Know It," I now hear Time I had some time alone, not, oh, Time I had some Tylenol. And in Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers," it's definitely Jeux sans frontieres, not She's so funky now. (In the interests of full disclosure, these are not my actual mondegreens, but the real lyrics have imprinted on me to the degree that I can no longer remember my actual mondegreens.)

The exception is REM's "Man on the Moon." Just to review, the real lyric is: Hey, Andy, are you goofing on Elvis? Hey baby, are we losing touch? But, even now,years after learning the real lyric, when that song comes on the radio, my brain will only supply me with Hey Andy, are you goofing on Elden Street....

I've decided to accept it and sing it that way. REM will never hear me, so they don't care. And the folks at the Elden Street Players will probably never hear me and they already think I'm weird, so it's not like it going to hurt my reputation with them or anything.

05 October 2005

Life Less Ordinary

"Life Less Ordinary" by Carbon Leaf is my favorite song right now. I look for it on the radio, pecking at the tuning buttons like some kind of hypnotized chicken until I (all too rarely) find it. I like the whole song, but that parts that caught my attention were these lyrics:

The night you came into my life
Well it took the bones of me, took the bones of me
You blew away my storm and strife
And shook the bones of me, shook the bones of me.
By the way, I do know why you stayed away
I will keep tongue-tied but...

Honey understand, honey understand
I won't make demands
Honey understand, honey understand
We could walk without a plan.

The first is just a really spiffy lyric. The second is a paraphrase of something I've said to more than one person: "We're grown ups. We can have any kind of friendship we want." People get too tied up with expectations - we should be more willing to walk without a plan. Someone I used to know told me that a relationship is a process, not a thing. When I am my better self I remember that.

So, just for me, and because of the people they remind me of, here are the entire lyrics.

Live a life less ordinary
Live a life extraordinary with me
Live a life less sedentary
Live a life evolutionary with me

Well I hate to be a bother,
But it's you and there's no other, I do believe
You can call me naive but...
I know me very well (at least as far as I can tell)
And I know what I need

The night you came into my life
Well it took the bones of me, took the bones of me
You blew away my storm and strife
And shook the bones of me, shook the bones of me
By the way, I do know why you stayed away...
I will keep tongue-tied next time

Live a life less ordinary
Live a life extraordinary with me
My face had said too much
Before our hands could even touch
To greet a 'hello'(So much for going slow...)
A little later on that year
I told you that I loved you dear
What do you know?
This you weren't prepared to hear
I'm a saddened man, I'm a broken boy
I'm a toddler with a complex toy
I've fallen apart, since the ambush of your heart

The night you came into my life
Well it took the bones of me, took the bones of me
You blew away my storm and strife
And shook the bones of me, shook the bones of me.
By the way, I do know why you stayed away
I will keep tongue-tied but...

Honey understand, honey understand
I won't make demands
Honey understand, honey understand
We could walk without a plan.
Honey understand (honey), honey understand
I won't rest in stone all alone
Honey understand, honey understand
I'm all ready to go
But you already know...

Live a life less ordinary
Live a life extraordinary with me.
If I could name you in this song
Would it make you smile and sing along?
This is the goal: to get into your soul
If I could make you dance for joy
Could that be the second-chance decoy?
The bird-in-hand I would need
To help you understand?

The night you came into my life
well it took the bones of me, took the bones of me
You blew away my storm and strife
And shook the bones of me, shook the bones of me
By the way, I do know why you stayed away
I will keep tongue-tied next time

04 October 2005

I crack me up.

Like most extroverts (and most egomaniacs) I like to make people laugh. Of course, the best is when I can make David laugh. And the double-plus good is when I can make him laugh so hard that he has to hold the phone away a bit while he does that Alan Alda-y big laugh that I like so much. I got one (bordering on two) of those tonight, which reminded me of some other things that made people laugh recently. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Talking to Jill today about the newsletter which has some formatting stuff that used to drive her crazy and now drives me crazy, I said "Yeah, well, as we Episcopalians like to say, Oy."

2. Talking to David about almost mentioning this blog to someone higher up the food chain at work, I said that when Mike told me that next year he's taking his vacation during year-end just to avoid Year-End Madness, I nearly said "Yeah, I posted about that on my blog," but I caught myself in time and said "Yeah, I told some people ---" David was really amused at the euphemism "some people" as a subsitute for "anyone on the internet."

3. David was explaining to me that there are several colorful metaphors for the need to pee first thing in the morning and the effect that this has on men. A moment's thought would have made it obvious that of course there are colorful metaphors for that. Anything involving that particular piece of anatomy is going to involve colorful metaphors. Heck, that piece of anatomy probably generates more CM than it does carbon-based off-spring. Anyway, as I say, David mentioned one or two of them. So I asked if when we buy our huge estate we could call it "Morningwood." And then he barked with laughter while holding the phone away for a bit. Ahhh. Life is good.

Yeah, okay, not the last word in comedy, but they made people laugh. So -- I'm here all week, folks, and let's be good to the waitstaff.

03 October 2005

And, boy, am I flattered

Any show, any role, any time, any place -- An actor I know speaking of a director I know.

I got the best compliment of my directorial career when I was casting The Emperor's New Clothes ("Finally Including Nudity in the Children's Theater!"). Amy, who has worked with me in 21 Pairs of Sneakers and HMS Pinafore drove down from Columbia, Maryland to Herndon, Virginia to audition for me. This is about 100 miles round-trip and includes the always-interesting-and-not-in-a-good-way-beltway and the you-(literally)-pays-your-money-you-takes-your-chances-Dulles Toll Road. For an unpaid show for children that lasts about an hour. And Amy gets up before 5:00 am, so the trip home from rehearsal would feel very late at night to her.

We were taking a short break and Amy and I were chatting. Or rather, I was chatting. Amy was obviously contemplating how crazy she would have to be to agree to do the show. So I let her off the hook. We'll work together another time, but I'm going to stay flattered forever that she made that drive - and actually considered doing the show - just because she likes working with me.

Wow. I mean, like, --- wow.

Happy New Year!

My company "celebrated" year end on Friday and some of us in the Contracts/Finanace area are sending "Happy New Year" greetings to each other today.

And, of course, tonight at Sundown begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

In both cases the books are closed on the old year and a new year is begun. Time to finish up, to reflect, to cast out. Save the good, discard the bad. (Is it a coincidence that the festival of Discardia finishes today? I think not.) Time to take on better ways, better choices -- a fresh, clean start.

Apples and honey and clean, new file folders to all!

L'shanah tovah.

(Next week from Ask an Episcopalian - "What is Yum Kippur and should I wish my Jewish friends a Happy Day of Atonement?")