29 August 2006

How to drop your productivity

Wander over to this website.

I found it, oddly enough, while checking a quote about Richard III (the king, not the play). I think my favorite page on the site has to be What Makes a Bad Calendar just because of "We are trying very hard to be reasonable in the face of complete, planet-wide lapses into idiocy" tone.

I'm greatly enjoying the calendar rants, of course, but what is especially fun for me is the Ricardianism. Not many software companies have as many Richard III facts on their site as these people do. Not to mention that Richard's obituary ("that King Richard, late mercifully reigning upon us, was through great treason of the duke of Norfolk and many others that turned against him, with many other lords and nobles of this north parts, was piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city." - York Civic Records) is hidden in the site and his picture appears at the top of "This Day in History" page. And they included my favorite portrait of Richard in the "This Day" banner.

Hours and hours I could spend here. But I probably shouldn't.

17 August 2006

The miracle of the rose

Before one of the Winslow Boy performaces, Chris gave each of us a lovely yellow-with-dark-pink-streaks rose, which I took home and plunked in a vase and put in my bedroom. My usual routine with flowers is too keep them until they dry out and then toss them in the compost where they will rejoin the great circle of plant life.

I used to keep a "rose mortuary" - all the rose heads in a big bowl - but it turns out that if the humidity levels tips the wrong way, a rose mortuary can turn pretty darn rank, which really drops the romance to a pretty sad level.

Anyway, Chris's rose dried very nicely and was still in its vase one day a couple of weeks ago when I was doing some cleaning and it seemed the right time to compost the little guy. As I was carrying the vase from my bedroom to the kitchen, I noticed that the stem had dried so thoroughly that it had turned black. Or, rather, was starting to turn black starting at the flower and heading south and starting at the bottom and heading north. I'm used to seeing very dark green stems and flowers that are so dark red that they look black, but I don't remember seeing a truly black stem before.

Well, just as I was going to dump the water down the drain and cut the rose into small pieces to fit into my little compost bin in the freezer ... The Miracle of the Rose was revealed unto me. I noticed that just below the black area was a tiny new twig/leaf, maybe a half-inch long, with the leaf being nearly doll-house small. As one is supposed to do when a miracle is revealed unto one, I stood there slack-jawed and stared at it. I tried very, very hard to find some kind of resemblance to an important religious figure or the even more important Elvis, but such was denied to me. The new growth looked like --- a twig and a leaf. I checked the bottom of the stem and there were two itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy little roots. But actual roots!

So while acting very casual, so as not to scare the rose, I decided to see if it would really grow if I continued to give it the same "care" as I had provided before. I rinsed out the vase and put the rose in a small (but clean, something the vase could not in good conscience claim at that point) water glass with enough water to cover the root-ettes and put it on the bookcase in the dining room window where it will receive some (mostly indirect) sun everyday.

There's already a geranium there that the neighborhood church gave me when I moved into the condo, and it seems to be a pretty plant-friendly window. The Chinese Evergreen that I brought back from the near-dead spent many happy months convalescing on that bookcase. (It was nearly dead because it didn't enjoy its first few months in the condo, probably because I did something stupid with it.)

And just as I was thinking "I'll leave the dried petals on because they're still pretty," I slightly knocked the rose against the little shelf over the sink and each and every petal fell off. Such is the gentle humor of the rose.

For now, the rose seems pretty happy on the bookcase. The roots remain pretty tiny but the black has stopped and now there are more twigs and leaves.

Any day now I will start dithering about what, if anything, I should add to the water. One of those packets of cut flower food that one gets with cut flowers? Rooting solution? (I think I have some. Maybe.) I don't have a handy willow tree to make "willow water," but the chemical in question is also in aspirin, so maybe I should drop a ground-up aspirin in the water? Or maybe I should just stick it in some potting soil and pop a plastic bag over it so that visitors will think that I don't know that plastic bags are not toys. Hmmmm.

If any of you out there are reading this and thinking "no, no, no, you silly girl, you'll kill it that way" and have a better suggestion or two, I'd love to hear them.

If the rose remains alive and leafy, it will join the other long-term residents of the container garden on the patio next spring. Maybe one day it will bloom.

And the next time I'm home, I'll play Cyndi Lauper's cover of "La vie en rose" to encourage the little thing. Or maybe even track down Edith Piaf's original for extra encouragement.

And life will always be la vie en rose.....

13 August 2006

Now it's part of my process

I've been a Law and Order junkie for several years now. I'm pretty much commited to Classic L&O, but will watch L&O Sport Utility Vehicle now and again, so I'm familiar with Det. Olivia Benson as well as Lt. Anita Van Buren. And now I can put all that to good use. I've been cast as Detective Madeleine Beck in the Vienna Theatre Company's production of Boy Gets Girl.

"Beck" is in pretty much two scenes, so I'll have lots of time backstage to catch up on my reading. And because Andrea, who played Catherine Winslow, when I had a similarly-sized role in The Winslow Boy, is playing has-lines-on-every-damn-page Theresa, I can greet her the same way I did for our last outing together: <singsong> "You have to memorize more lines than me! Nah nah nee nah nah!"</singsong>.

But the take-away from this is that I'm now watching Law and Order as part of my research.

My last three directors have asked me not to cut my hair and it is now half-way down my back. I happy keep it this length or cut it, but the choice is Chuck's. I'm even willing to get the cut that Mariska Hargitay sports, even though it will require more hair maintenance each day than I normally do in a week.


01 August 2006

How to please (some) bartenders

After seeing her in Lisa's Jill Kills at the DC Fringe festival last Monday, the Permanently Delightful Sally invited us out for a drink. We got ensconced in the very high backed love seats at the Poste Bar in the Hotel Monaco and Sally went to fetch the refreshers. I asked for a Sidecar, which seemed especially appropriate in that setting, but named a back-up drink just in case. Lo and behold! Sally returned with my Sidecar, sugar rim and all, and said that the bartender was very happy to get to make something out of the ordinary. Apparently, anyone can toss a 3-to-1, mixer-to-booze drink in a glass over ice and add a stir-straw, but it takes a mixologist to make a cocktail. Of course, the downside to my having a Sidecar is probably the sight of me licking the sugar off of the glass like a little kid, but I do that with Margaritas anyway, so people are used to it by now. And, as it turned out, the young lady playing Jill is also working tending bar these days, so she made sure to ask me what was in the glass and mentally filed it away for future use.

It may be getting too easy. Next time out I'll have to ask for a French Revolution.


Dad sent the following "all hands" e-mail (below) to the family and some friends. Rollo was a very friendly, happy dog who made all comers welcome in his home. He was a good guy and we'll miss him. Several of my good friends have older dogs and we all know that even the best-loved pets don't live forever - except in our hearts.

* * * * *

Hey Folks!

I'm sure that most of you have already heard the sad news but I wanted to include all in this note. It was a sad day last week when we realized that the time had come to do the last right thing for Rollo, our friend of over 16 years. It was even sadder on Friday when we took him to the Vet. I hoped that he would just not wake up one morning but that was not to be.

Poor Ole Rollo has been going downhill for a while. He was almost blind from cataracts. He did not hear very well except when I was opening a cookie package. Many days he chose to sleep late rather than get up and ask for breakfast. Lately he has had trouble getting up and down stairs. His back end was becoming less and less reliable. He fell down the stairs a few time while we were away. But 16 is really old for Golden Retriever-almosts and so he got a full measure of life.

It was a healthy and happy life almost always. He was seldom at the Vet's except for the annual maintenance work. He did get shot in the back way back when we lived on the Farm. The bullet was still there when he passed on because the Vet thought that it was too close to his spinal cord to risk removal . Probably some kid with a new rifle getting a lucky (or unlucky, depending on point of view) hit on a long range shot, probably a .22.

And so, let me tell you about Rollo and his life with us at the Farm and here in Martinsburg. He showed up one day when Bill was visiting before he went to Africa with the Peace Corps. Probably was dropped off down by the elementary school at the end of our lane by somebody who figured that some kid would take him home with him/her. We had two dogs at the time, Topper, a Great Dane, and Sunny II a Great Dane-Doberman mix. Bill named him Rollo and kept bringing him into the house at feeding time. At the time, I was consulting and had a lot of early morning meetings with clients that were impossible to manage from the Farm and so I had an apartment in Rockville that served as both office and sleep-over place. I usually went in on Monday AM and came home on Friday PM. The first time I came home after Rollo's arrival, I asked Audrey about the new dog. We had discussed dogs before that and agreed that two were enough, maybe more than plenty. She told me about him showing up and her trying to find the owners. She thought that he might wander on and not hang around the Farm. I asked her why she was feeding him and she replied that she could not, in good conscience, feed the other two and leave him hungry. I thought a long minute, and seeing the hand-writing on the Wall, I asked her with a serious face and voice, "How much food do you think it will take to drive him off?" I got one of those Audrey looks that suggested my supper might be in danger. And so Rollo had found a home and, in fact, was at home!

He took up residence under the kitchen table where he could be part of the action but never in the way. Eventually Audrey put a small rug under the kitchen table for him. New visitors often looked a bit quizzical on seeing the rug, especially if Rollo was not on it at the time. It soon became a fixture in our kitchen and Rollo spent a lot of time there.

Rollo was a very smart dog and, in some ways, an alpha personality. He wanted to be in charge but, as long as Topper was around, he was Second Banana at best. Sunny II was a shy lady and did not want to run anything more than her own life and sometimes, not that. After Topper passed on, we rescued Chevy Chase, an out-of-control black Great Dane. He ate 150 feet of garden hose at one sitting and committed various other acts of destruction during his early days with us. We tried several methods of training him but none worked very well until we bought one of those electrical collars with the remote button. The first time Audrey put it on him, he ran off like he always did but Audrey, being alert, pushed her button when he was about a hundred yards away. He went straight up, yelped once, and scooted back to Audrey and hid behind her legs. He went from Outlaw to Christian in one fell swoop. It took a couple of other minor lessons but the deed was done. Now Rollo, having been in charge during the time between Toppers death and Chevy's arrival, was not ready to let go his position, regardless of Chevy's size. Besides Chevy was, in his heart, so gentle that he would not contest much of anything. It soon became clear that Rollo was the Big Dog, even though he was the little dog. And all was well in the pecking order.

We always kept a lot of chew toys around the house so that Chevy could have something besides a chair to chew on if he chose to chew. Rollo had never been a chewer at all before Chevy arrived. But now, if Chevy chewed, Rollo chewed, at least most of the time. Besides that, Rollo decided that the house was too messy with Chevy's chew toys scattered all over the place. He would often go around the house, pick up all the toys, one at a time, carry them into the dining room, make a pile of them, and sit on the pile. Chevy would cry and whine until somebody would take some off Rollo's pile and give them to Chevy. But after Chevy get tired of chewing, Rollo would go get them and put them back in his pile.

One day we were sitting in the kitchen, Chevy was chewing on some toy and Rollo decided that he wanted that toy. So after trying to snatch it away a few times he went off and sat for a bit. Then he jumped up, ran to the front door, and barked enthusiastically. This was the usual signal that somebody had driven up to the door. And so we, Audrey, Chevy, and me, went to the front door to greet our guests, whomever they might be. As soon as we were on the way to the door, Rollo turned and dashed past us, grabbed the toy in question, and hauled it off to a corner for his own chewing pleasure. He was settled in the corner before we got the front door open and saw that nobody was there. We saw immediately that we (all three) had been had. He did the same thing again a few days later so we were sure that it was planned, not random.

Rollo always tried to do what he thought we wanted him to do. If we could explain what we wanted he was more than happy to do it. When I used to go road-walking in the mornings after I left full-time work at MITRE, there were lots of cars on the road. I taught him "Car-Sit!" which meant that a car was coming and he was to sit where he was until I called "Car Gone!" He was smart enough to add the first part which was "Get out of the Road" if appropriate although he was seldom in the road when we walked. He loved to roll in the snow and would seek out the remaining snow piles as the weather warmed up after a storm. Chevy ate snow but Rollo just rolled in it and used it as a back-scratcher. He also never saw a creek that he did not want to get into and stand belly-deep. Not a problem with that but getting out usually meant a fair amount of mud coming with him. I could not find a sandy bottom creek for him to wade in. Audrey's view of creek-walking might be a tad different from mine.

He also had a thing about groundhogs. He went after every one he saw and actually killed quite a few himself and a few more with Chevy's help. I did not attempt to dissuade him because groundhogs dig holes, in pastures, that break horse's legs. One time we were walking through the peach orchard and came across the granddaddy of all groundhogs. That dude was bigger than a basketball when he curled up against a tree, ready to fight. They fight by getting their teeth going like a buzz saw and anything that gets near their mouth gets ground up like a hamburger. Well, Rollo was ready to go after him because it was right there in his job description, "Kill all Groundhogs!" I grabbed his collar and pulled him away, explaining that there would not be any honor to be gained in that fight, that if he won all there was to win, he would still come out poorly. As we moved away (not a retreat but an advance in another direction!!), Ole Groundhog scooted for his hole and we never saw him again. I figured that we surprised him and he was too far away to get into his hole and would not entertain the idea of a running fight with Rollo. So he put his back to the tree and got ready to do or die right there. After I explained the cost-benefit relationship to Rollo a couple of times he saw the wisdom and agreed that there would be better opportunities later on. He said that ties go to the guy who has a nifty collar to wear.

The only exception to him doing what we wanted was barking at trucks, particularly red pick-up trucks, which, for some unknown reason, were anathema to him. They say that dogs are colorblind but Rollo knew a red pick-up when he saw one. This trait dissipated when we moved to Martinsburg, at least largely. Two of our frequent visitors drive red pick-ups and those did not bother him. Don't know what happened to him early on to cause his dislike of red pick-up trucks.

He always got sad when we got the suitcases out for a trip. We tried to pack when he was asleep because he moped around so much after he saw suitcases. He was also exceedingly happy when we came home. The time we were away in England and Africa for five weeks, he was beside himself when we packed. On the day we got home he almost turned cartwheels, he was so happy that his people were home where they belonged and he could keep an eye on them to keep them out of trouble. His Job Description again!!

As he got older, Rollo became more sedentary but even in the past few months, there were times that he ran and frisked like a puppy. He learned which of our visitors could be mooched for a biscuit and, as soon as they walked in, they became his "very best friend" of the moment, at least until he got his biscuit. Then he would pick out his next target. He was a help to me when I was trying to lose some weight because, if I got a snack, he would come sit in front of me with those pitiful eyes asking for a share, his share of my treat. I sometimes skipped the snack just knowing that he would beg, beg, beg and Audrey had convinced me that people food was not good for him, said the Vet.

The last few months were hard for the old gentleman. He had good days and bad days. He couldn't catch biscuits anymore because of his cataracts. However, he did not appear to be very upset when he missed, he just set out to find the biscuit on the floor. He never seemed to be embarrassed when he was unable to perform, he just tried again until he succeeded and then went on with whatever he was doing. Rollo was always a gentleman in every sense of the word. We all could do a whole lot worse than to take him for a role model for how to live a gracious, elegant life. We will all miss him very much and I hope that he has found a fine kitchen table to lie under where he can be involved with the action but never in the way, a place where doggie biscuits and people snacks can be found in great abundance, where there are toys to stack and guard and friendly dogs like Chevy, Topper, and Sunny II to trail around with, and where snow lies in piles to roll in and get his back scratched. Maybe I'll find him again some time, some day!

Love to All of You,