30 September 2007

Charles's real estate empire

For now, it's only pretend, sure, but of all the people I've ever met, Charles comes closest to being a mogul capable of conquering all worlds that lay before him. At least that's my conclusion judging from playing Monopoly with him. He is Charles, Landlord of Worlds. With hotels on them.

I went out to Annapolis on a couple of Sundays ago to (wait for it....) see a play. And since Brett and Cate and Charles live on my way home, I left a message before I went into the theater, more or less inviting myself to mooch dinner off of them. Well, not "more or less." I, in fact, left a message inviting myself to mooch dinner off of them. When I emerged back into the bright sunshine* there was a message waiting for me that Cate and Charles would love to be exploited in the name of friendship.

So I headed out to visit, and Cate and I got caught up, and Cate got an advance birthday hug, and we three had a very nice dinner of home-made beef with broccoli and brown rice. Brett, alas, was not home, so I scarfed up his share in addition to my own.**

After dinner we had enough time before Charles's annual bath*** for a quick game of Monopoly. Charles and I come from slightly different Monopoly traditions but we do agree on one of the important of the traditional (if not formal) rules - that a 50 (dollar or pound depending on which of Charles's several versions we are playing) and any penalties incurred are paid into the center and the pot is scooped by whomsoever lands on Free Parking.

We vary in that Charles believes that each player begins with two houses and a hotel. I've never heard of that before, but it works out okay because as soon as Charles has acquired his first monopoly the game is on it's downward spiral, so advancing him some of the construction costs is really just a mercy for Charles's opponent (i.e., the loser. i.e., me.). I mean, how much 9-going-on-10-year-old gloating is a grown up supposed to endure?

So we set to playing and Charles rolls out the strategy that has served him so well. He buys prett' near everything he lands on, tells me the rental, tells me the rental with hotel, rubs his hands together gleefully, and in general behaves like Scrooge McDuck would after finding a quarter on the sidewalk. I am slower to purchase - got to save my cash to pay Charles all that rent - but Charles seems to hope that I am buying properties merely in order to flip them and so offers me reasonable profit if I will allow him to take that nearly worthless land off my hands, you know, more as a favor to me than anything else, really. This last would be more convincing without the gleam in his eye and the used car dealer deameanor that emerges, but what do you expect -- he's only 9. If he were able to complete cover his basic childlike greed and be a smoother huckster, it wouldn't be fun to play with him, merely frightening.

So I sell him some stuff, but not much, and watch my savings dwindle as I meet expenses (hey, just like real life!). Around time that I'm starting to feel the pinch, Charles deploys the second of his sure-fire strategies. Let's remember that Charles's father and grandfather are gamers. But even so, this kid's dice skills are amazing. Why does he always buy Boardwalk and Park Place? Because he lands on them first, of course. (Yes, naturally, I would buy them if I landed on them first. I only look like an idiot. No, I only land there after the Charles Plaza is open for business with its oily concierge smiling at me.)

Why does he get venture capital levels of cash infusions from landing on Free Parking? Because his die rolls take him there. (I'll land on Free Parking a couple of turns later and pick up the solitary 50 from the echoing vaults.)

Between his good head for business and some die rolls that are more miraculous than any crying saint's statue ever was, it's just a matter of time -- a very short matter of time -- before I lose. And then he does the Dance of Joy, sometimes recapping for me great moments from the game that I might have managed to forget. Or will manage with the help of intoxicating beverages once I'm home.

From reading this, you might think that I am only playing with Charles because I'm such a nice person who does things for children to make them happy. Not really. I'm a spinster with a cat and most of the things that deeply interest children, I don't care about at all . And I'm too selfish to spend much time pretending that I do. So the children closest to me have largely learned to take an interest in my hobbies. (The benefits to knowing me are nearly without end, as you can see.) Charles's Nintendo baseball game that he loves? Ehh, never touched it.

But I do like Monopoly and I do like Charles. And I am fascinated by playing Monopoly with him because, in general, Charles is one of the most polite, adult-aware children I know, so it is really interesting to me to see his rapacious, piratical side given free (if temporary) rein.

Maybe it's an only child thing, but he moves in between kid and adults worlds much more smoothly than a lot of other children I know and definitely better than I did at his age, when I was self-involved and oblivious (just like now). Charles and smart and funny and well-behaved and plesasant and, in my opinion, a great credit to his parents. I kind of wish they'd raised me.****

One time we were going to play, but we lingered over dinner too long and it got too late and Charles had to get ready for bed instead of do his impression of Alexander the Great across the game board. When told this, he didn't pitch a fit, he just said okay. And moved on. Again, I wish I were that well behaved.

I'll keep playing with him, but I figured that by the time he moves on to some other game, I will have lost enough money and property to him to buy up and build hotels on several nearby planets.

Charles, Landlord of Universes.

* It was a lovely day in Annapolis and I can only credit the fact that I found parking an easy walk to the theater on a street that has an ice creamery that sells ice cream that they make themselves right there that was very, very yummy, especially on an end-of-summer/beginning-of-autumn great-for-ice-cream-eating kind of day to some of cosmic, karmic thing. I'd better do something real good real soon or some bad, bad juju is coming at me.

**Though p’r’aps I may incur your blame/ The things are few/ I would not do/ In Friendship’s name!

*** Just checking to see if Cate reads this. Charles is actually a very clean child.

****Well, actually, in some ways they did. I have learned an awful from my friendship with both them and I owe them more than I can repay. I also love them both a bunch.

28 September 2007

Do other couples bicker about stuff like this?

I was telling David some interesting little anecdote about the Magna Carta the other evening and he was distracted from my amusing bon mot to dwell on the side issue of whether the great charter takes a "the." (For my opinion, see the first sentence of this post.)

So today he sent me a link to the entry in the wikipedia regarding spelling and usage:
Since there is no direct, consistent correlate of the English definite article in Latin, the usual academic convention is to refer to the document in English without the article as "Magna Carta" rather than "the Magna Carta". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first written appearance of the term was in 1218: "Concesserimus libertates quasdam scriptas in Magna Carta nostra de libertatibus." (Latin: "We concede the certain liberties here written in our great charter of liberties.") However, "the Magna Carta" is also frequently used. In the past, the document has also been referred to as "Magna Charta".
Mind you, as a publicly editable site, the article on the Magna Carta on the wikipedia is uses both "Magna Carta" and "the Magna Carta," and the wikisource link in a sidebar uses "the Magna Carta."

Which is a pretty tiny thing to debate, except that it's completely typical of the stuff we go on and on about. Not sex or politics or religion or money or television, but this. I mean, really, is it just us?

27 September 2007

Again, just kidding

Or rather, it's just this phrase, you know? We don't mean it literally.

At least, I don't.

Actor breaks a leg

26 September 2007

ET and Joe Klein

A few months ago my Capital B Boss and I attended a workshop held by Edward Tufte, the graphics guy. Or, more accurately, The Visual Diplay of Quantitative Information Guy. Right now, you are probably thinking "I know the name...." Well, let me jog your memory.

ET (as his adherents call him and as he refers to himself) is best known to the average reader for two things:

* The Napoleon's March Graph, which ET did not create, (Frenchman Charles Joseph Minard did) but which ET so loves that he has made it famous to a generation or so of Americans. You know - this one:

* His hatred of PowerPoint. As much as he love's Minard's graph, he hates Microsoft's slide tool.

ET, like Alton Brown (who calls himself "AB." Hmmmm), has firmly stated opinions that sometimes stray from the strictly accurate to the, shall we say, more rabidly partisan.* There is a eensy-weensy-teensy-tiny bit of "I think this and you must, too, because disagreement on this point will bring down all that good and holy. And just ruin everything."**

Just mouse around his website for a while - you'll see what I mean. Needless to say, his workshops are very informative and hugely entertaining. I loved it. I now also have four of his books, in hardback, in a handy carrying case. Autographed.

So, anyway, any time I see something dissing PowerPoint I think immediately of ET. And in this week's Time Magazine***, Joe Klein's column about the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker contained this bit that ET himself could have written (except that it's less livid):

The general was armed with the modern military's deadliest weapon, the PowerPoint presentation -- serried rank of bar charts marching toward victory, which provided camouflage for the gaping holes and contradictions in the Petraeus-Crocker story.

* As I like to point out, some of the things in the Columbia PP slides should be blamed less on PP and more on what happens when you have engineers do an admin's job. Bill Gates isn't responsible for Boeing's shoddy proofreading.

**We all have that to some degree. Check sometime on how flexible David is on the number of items allowable on a computer desktop and the acceptability of touching the monitor when pointing to something. Whew. I'm lucky to be alive, I swear.

*** "This week's" meaning the Time Magazine that I am carrying around this week. Their dating system is somewhat peculiar. Specifically, though, this one is dated September 24 but I've had it since last week.

Can I borrow 30 million dollars? I'llpayyouback,Iswear.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through reading 1215, so imagine my surprise at reading in today's news that a late 13th century copy of the Magna Carta is going up for auction. For a mere $20 - $30M, you can own your very own Great Charter.

And I really need to spend more time at the National Archive. When I was about 12 my Mom bought me a membership in the Archive and, packrat that I am,* I still have some of the membership documents they sent me. At least, I think I do. But they've had Ross Perot's Carta on loan and on display for several years now and I ... I don't think I've seen it. I've admired the Declaration of Independence, but, heck, that's an 18th century document, practically yesterday.

In other medieval news, historian Jonathan Rubenstein of the University of Tennessee/Knoxville was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for "shining vivid light on how violent events such as the First Crusade are recorded and remembered by future generations."

This is, of course, a great honor and I would be the last person to sneer at a cool half mil, but it's not going to be enough to land Dr. Rubenstein his own for-keeps copy of King John's Least Favorite Document.

* Can you see why she would sign me up for that particular institution?

25 September 2007


94.7 The Globe is way too static-y today, so I'm listening to the very distant runner up, Mix107.3. The only thing that 107 has over The Globe is that 107 plays Hinder, who I find vastly entertaining. Hinder is sort of the current Marrillian in that they quite possibly suffer more per measure of music than nearly is humanly possible.

24 September 2007

Alien in New York

Is it just me, or would having Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as one's President be like living in a nation run by Borat?

Absolom Jones and Gene Robinson

My church (the Episcopalians, not my specific parish) is, as most people know, in the midst of a family discussion on who should and should not comprise "the dignified clergy," specifically the episcopacy.* We may end up as two churches, which would be a pity, but the Christian church's history resembles rather nothing more than a series of river deltas as we divided and divided again often as a result of an irreconcilable issue.

History, as it often does, keeps me hopeful. On the whole, the Episcopalians have been a progressive lot. Sometimes more slowly progressive than I would like,** but moving ever upwards nonetheless.

In 1786 the membership of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia included both blacks and whites. However, the white members met that year and decided that thereafter black members should sit only in the balcony. Two black Sunday worshippers, Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831), whose enthusiasm for the Methodist Church had brought many blacks into the congregation, learned of the decision only when, on the following Sunday, ushers tapped them on the shoulder during the opening prayers, and demanded that they move to the balcony without waiting for the end of the prayer. They walked out, followed by the other black members.

Absalom Jones conferred with William White, Episcopal Bishop of Philadelphia, who agreed to accept the group as an Episcopal parish. Jones would serve as lay reader, and, after a period of study, would be ordained and serve as rector. Allen wanted the group to remain Methodist, and in 1793 he left to form a Methodist congregation. In 1816 he left the Methodists to form a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Jones (ordained deacon and priest in 1795 and 1802) and Allen (ordained deacon and elder in 1799 and 1816) were the first two black Americans to receive formal ordination in any denomination.***

Set us free, O heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear: that, honoring the steadfast courage of thy servants Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

* One of the best things about any brand of religion is the fun, wonky, vocabulary it generates. The adjectival form for the Gospel of St. John? "Johannine" which sounds less biblical and more like the lead singer for Concrete Blonde, but I digress.

** We have women clergy and women bishops, but Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Episcopal church wasn't made a bishop until 1989. 1989. Good grief. And even then not without controversy. Good. Grief. On the plus side, the current Presiding Bishop, is the clearly-not-a-guy Katharine Jefferts Schori.

*** From The Lectionary, specifically the page on Absolom Jones contributed by James Kiefer. The Lectionary also has very handy listings of Feast Days, Holy Days, & Commemorations as well as listings of readings for each Bible passage and each Sunday. This means that with just
a tiny bit of prep I can avoid attending church on Prodigal Son day and spare my friends the annual rant about why I hate that story.

Usually we're just kidding

When I hung out with a bunch of medievalists in college (many of whom I still hang out with because they are such lovely people) our response to anything being thrown - including little, squishy decorative pillows - was to whine "You'll put your eye out!" or "It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye."

The whining was very important because we were making fun of the self-appointed safety patrol who would nag people about safety procedures of which we were already aware. (For some reason, the SASP were all natural whiners.) We were also quoting A Christmas Story, but that's not the point.

But I bet if the internet had delivered up unto us this story of a modern medievalist unintentionally doing his impression of Harold Godwinson, we'd had shut our sarcastic yaps for a few days.


Man speared in the eye during medieval joust for tv show

21 September 2007

I have a little shelf

I have a handy little area where I keep a few books at the office. Are they books about finance, engineering, contracting, treasury management, Excel, keeping engineers and accountants placid and productive? Well, not quite. They are:

Agnes of God (John Pielmeier). I'm probably going to audition for it. Lent to me by Andrea.*

The Big Heavy Book of Shakespeare (Edward de Vere). Actually the Cambridge edition of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare with peculiar, very modern, sketches for matte stainless steel statues, what is this a volume of Shakespeare or the storyboard for Metropolis Meets Forbidden Planet? illustrations by Rockwell Kent. I have always referred to both this book and the Riverside Shakespeare as The Big Heavy Book of Shakespeare. Imagine my surprise when some poor, benighted soul asked me - in all innocence - if it was really called that. Sometimes the world is too much with me, I swear.

The Invention That Changed the World (Robert Buderi). Okay, this one is about microwave radar, but come on, it's a history book. Lent to me by a co-worker.

Persepolis (and Archaeological Sites in Fars) (Werner Felix Dutz, introducing). Lent to me by a co-worker. Very, very cool book filled with color plates, photographs, drawings & plans, and maps of the Persian ruins in Persepolis. Published in 1969.

Webster's Ninth New College Dictionary
(published by Merrian Webster). What do I actually use to confirm spellings and usage? Dictionary.com.

Wonder of the World (David Lindsay-Abaire). Another possible audition. My copy.

I also used to have Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Sarah Caudwell) here, but for some reason, I took that one home.

* (Note to self - Give Andrea back her darned book!)

20 September 2007

Song for Sick Me

When I have a cold I get it out of my system having lots and lots of chicken soup and taking lots and lots of zinc and drinking lots and lots of water and hot tea. I think the cold gets bored and just leaves. And as I make my soup, I recite versus from my Nutshell Library book, Chicken Soup with Rice, by Maurice Sendak.

In January it's so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To sip hot chicken soup with rice
Sipping once, sipping twice
Sipping chicken soup with rice

In February it will be
My snowman's anniversary
With cake for him and soup for me!
Happy once, happy twice
Happy chicken soup with rice

In March the wind blows down the door
And spills my soup upon the floor
It laps it up and roars for more
Blowing once, blowing twice
Blowing chicken soup with rice

In April I will go away
To far off Spain or old Bombay
And dream about hot soup all day
Oh, my, oh, once, oh, my, oh, twice
Oh, my, oh, chicken soup with rice

In May I truly think it best
To be a robin lightly dressed
Concocting soup inside my nest
Mix it once, mix it twice
Mix that chicken soup with rice

In June I saw a charming group
Of roses all begin to droop
I pepped them up with chicken soup!
Sprinkle once, sprinkle twice
Sprinkle chicken soup with rice

In July I'll take a peep
Into the cool and fishy deep
Where chicken soup is selling cheap
Selling once, selling twice
Selling chicken soup with rice

In August it will be so hot
I will become a cooking pot
Cooking soup of course-why not?
Cooking once, cooking twice
Cooking chicken soup with rice

In September, for a while
I will ride a crocodile
Down the chicken soup-y Nile
Paddle once, paddle twice
Paddle chicken soup with rice

In October I'll be host
To witches, goblins and a ghost
I'll serve them chicken soup on toast
Whoopy once, whoopy twice
Whoopy chicken soup with rice

In November's gusty gale I will flop my flippy tail
And spout hot soup-I'll be a whale!
Spouting once, spouting twice
Spouting chicken soup with rice

In December I will be
A baubled, bangled Christmas tree
With soup bowls draped all over me
Merry once, merry twice
Merry chicken soup with rice

I told you once, I told you twice
All seasons of the year are nice
For eating chicken soup with rice


Sometimes it takes me a while to find the stuff on the net that I was meant to see and this is a case in point. It was originally published in 1998, so perhaps these kids today are once again learning all the history that they're supposed to. Or not. But I liked the handy Clip-n-Save England From Then to Kinda Now.


55BC: The arrival of Julius Caesar to these shores is a good start. An easy one to remember. Old baldy's visit was short but just about unforgettable for all concerned.

787: The Vikings make their first raids and Wantage man Alfred would soon be well on his way to greatness.

1066: The Battle of Stamford Bridge between Harold II and Harold Hardrada, King of Norway - if you want to show off. Otherwise the Battle of Hastings.

1215: King John signs the Magna Carta. Where? - on the bottom!

1314: Big home win for Scotland at Bannockburn. Regularly recalled after embarrassing football defeats.

1485: King Richard III killed at the Battle of Bosworth, conveniently bringing the Middle Ages to a close.

1649: King Charles I loses his head after over-staying his welcome in Oxford. 1688: The Glorious Revolution. A good date, less easy to recall what actually happened.

1745: Bonnie Prince Charlie invades England. But he only got as far as Derby.

1805: Battle of Trafalgar. So big it could yet be the date of an autumn Bank Holiday.

1832: The Reform Bill. Well, Dr Maddicott has it on his list of MUSTS...

I, of course, would add 1420 1415 so that I can justify my near constant quoting of the St. Crispin's Day speech.

And, of course, my favorite mnemonic for the holders of the English orb and scepter:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Steve,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three,
Edward One, Two, Three, Dick Two,
Henry Four, Five, Six, then who?
Edward Four, Five, Dick the Bad,
Harrys twain and Ned, the lad.
Mary, Lizzie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
William and Mary, Anne o'Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria.
Edward Seven, Georgie Five,
Edward, George and Liz (alive).

19 September 2007

Featured Article

David e-mailed me to let me know that my favorite American president is the featured article on Wikipedia today. So here's a little snip from that article, just for fun and, well, as an example of why he's my favorite president.

Truman was chosen to be an officer, and then battery commander in an artillery regiment in France. His unit was Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Infantry Division, known for its discipline problems. During a sudden attack by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains, the battery started to disperse; Truman ordered them back into position using profanities that he had "learned while working on the Santa Fe railroad." Shocked by the outburst, his men reassembled and followed him to safety. Under Captain Truman's command in France, the battery did not lose a single man.

Sick but not leaving

When I told my Capital B Boss that I wasn't feeling too special and might not last out the day he pointed out that we already had three staffers on sick call and that all other leaves have been suspended until further notice.

So I told him if I felt the need to join them on sick call and he prevented me, then he would get 30-minute updates on my symptoms and why I will probably weigh less tomorrow than I did yesterday. (I didn't train under Brett for nothing. I understand how to retaliate and escalate as needed, I just don't usually deploy those weapons very often.)

A seasoned veteran in these campaigns, Capital B Boss then pointed out that I should follow the normal chain of command and report said symptoms to my Lowercase B Boss, who would decide how much detail Capital B Boss really required.

Lowercase B Boss, not wanting to hear anything, then indicated that as our reviews have not yet been finalized, I should think carefully about how much medical detail to bring him.

Even when I feel like crap, working here is so much better than working anywhere else.

And the crisis seems to have passed and I feel a bit better. Whew.

Schelby played my e-quest!

One of my favorite Shriekback songs - the other is Fish Below the Ice. Hmmm. I have time to swing by home on my way to rehearsal and grab my Oil and Gold CD.

I think I will.

Nemesis by Shriekback.

In the jungle of the senses
Tinkerbell and Jack the ripper
Love has no meaning not where they come from
But we know pleasure is not that simple
Very little fruit is forbidden
Sometimes we wobble sometimes we're strong
But you know evil is an exact science
Being carefully correctly wrong

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody's happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

We feel like Greeks we feel like Romans
Centaurs and monkeys just cluster round us
We drink elixirs that we refine
From the juices of the dying
We are not monsters we're moral people
And yet we have the strength to do this
This is the splendor of our achievment
Call in the airstrike with a poison kiss

How bad it gets you can't imagine
The burning wax the breath of reptiles
God is not mocked he knows his buisness
Karma could take us at any moment
Cover him up I think we're finished
You know it's never been so exotic
But I don't know my dreams are visions
We could still end up with the great big fishes!

14 September 2007

Back in the Day

Radio in the area has prett' near always sucked, but there was a time when it sucked a whole lot less. (Tangent rant: You know, for a reasonably major metropolitan area and the nation's capital, you'd think the radio wouldn't be so bad. But no. It is. Cleveland has better radio than DC. Of course, Cleveland Rocks.)

Jake Einstein, who gave us WHFS, has passed away. Way, way back in the day 'HFS was where you'd tune in to hear music that you couldn't hear anywhere else. And where you'd go and be assured that you'd never hear a song repeated during any one-day period in a time when Top-40 meant "the same 40 damn songs played over and over until you hated all of them." Or perhaps "play these dozen or so songs every 40 minutes."

I'd always described 'HFS as playing whatever music they could find, but they were legitimately famous in this area for having a dj-selected playlist instead of a computer-generated one. They were even allowed to bring in stuff from home to play. Possibly the most famous story about the old 'HFS was the one about the day that Cerphe bought his first new car and spent his shift playing nothing but car-related songs.

Over the last few years a bunch of refugees from 'HFS have found a home on so-much-less-sucky-than-most-of-the-rest 94.7 The Globe, including Cerphe and Weasel and they seem to have brought their music collections with them (well, at least some of their music collections). So there's that, at least.

Farewell, Mr. Einstein. Thanks for the good stuff.

13 September 2007

The sign in front of my desk

It hasn't reached this point yet, but may well shortly.

If whatever it is doesn't require an immediate - short - answer, please just keep walking. Unless, of course, you sign my annual review.

I guess they're not "Times" subscribers

Today on Morning Edition Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep were reporting the current state of the throwdown between Kanye West and 50 Cent. Steve got to the second reference to the latter, called him "Mr. Cent," and he and Renee cracked up. On the air. "That's what it says here - Mr. Cent!" he laughed and they continued, chuckling only slightly.

It's still in the story on the web so if you want to hear NPR staffers who aren't Scott Simon cracking up during a broadcast, just hit the "listen" button.

I so look forward to their next story on Iggy Pop.

12 September 2007

Understanding Engineers

Actually, the main thing to understand about engineers is how much they love these nine jokes. I get them via e-mail about once every six months and have prett' near memorized them. Tragically, I also quote them a fair bit because I'm descended from engineers and lawyers.

And if I'm going to know them, there's no reason you shouldn't.

Subject: Engineering Mind

The engineering mind is different.

Understanding Engineers - Take One:

Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want."

The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

Understanding Engineers - Take Two:

To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Understanding Engineers - Take Three:

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!"

The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!"

The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let's have a word with him. -- Hi George, say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The greens keeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."

The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"

Understanding Engineers - Take Four:

There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past.

The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, "This is where your problem is." The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again.

The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.

The engineer responded briefly: "One chalk mark, $1.00. Knowing where to put it $49,999.00."

It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

Understanding Engineers - Take Five:

What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?

Mechanical Engineers build weapons. Civil Engineers build targets.

Understanding Engineers - Take Six:

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body. One said, "It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints. "

Another said, "No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections."

The last said, "Actually it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?"

Understanding Engineers - Take Seven:

Normal people believe that ...if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Engineers believe that: "...if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet." -Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

Understanding Engineers - Take Eight:

An architect, an artist and an engineer were discussing whether it was better to spend time with the wife or a mistress. The architect said he enjoyed time with his wife, building a solid foundation for an enduring relationship. The artist said he enjoyed time with his mistress, because of the passion and mystery he found there.

The engineer said, "I like both."

The others: "Both?"

Engineer: "Yeah. If you have a wife and a mistress, they will each assume you are spending time with the other woman, and you can go to the lab and get some work done."

Understanding Engineers - Take Nine:

An engineer was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket. The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week." The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket. The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want." Again the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket. Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you that I'm a beautiful princess, that I'll stay with you for a week, and that I’ll do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?"

The engineer said, "Look I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."

11 September 2007

The enemy of the good

Today is Leslie's birthday and I dropped her a Happy Birthday e-mail. I'm not sure if she'll write back, which makes me sad because I don't know if her failure lately to write back is because she's just up to her ears with job and family or if we have drifted apart and I'm (as always) a little late to catch a clue.

My friends are generally well-spoken, well-written people who value what words sound like and what they mean. Which makes many of them pain-in-the-butt correspondents.

Even casual notes have to be crafted and edited and polished until they are worthy to be collected in the 27-volume edition of Leta's letters, I Can't; I Have Rehearsal, to be published by Harper Collins or maybe Hyperion in a few decades after I become a world-famous community theater actress and WATCH Adjudication Coordinator.

I'm not speaking from the moral high ground here because I'm the same way and I understand, I really do. But after two or three unanswered letters I'm no longer breathlessly anticipating witty epigrams, I'm just feeling abandoned. If e-mail had a version of wrinkled and jelly-stained, that would be fine. Misspelled and incoherent? No problem. Three unpunctuated phrases "doing fine - too busy - miss you." Great, I'll take it.

I'm reluctant to send "are we still speaking?" e-mails* because they would either go into the "answer this when I'm up to producing something worthy of Fitzgerald or Wodehouse" folder or the "stupid, needy e-mails from people I no longer care about, so delete" folder.

Guess which one insecure me thinks they're going into?

Well, anyway, Happy Birthday, Les. Miss you.

EDITED: She wrote back! And there was great rejoicing.

*Once in my life (so far) an "are we still speaking?" e-mail worked the way I hoped it would. I'm thinking of having it framed.

08 September 2007

Still pretty good advice

I am having a lovely time reading my new book, 1215, and have found this:

A new genre of lifestyle and etiquette literature sprang up, of which the greatest was The Book of Civilised Man, written by Daniel of Beccles. He instructs the aspiring gentleman on how to behave in an enormous variety of social situations: in church, as a page in a noble household, at the dinner table, as a guest, in the street (don't eat in the street and don't peer into other people's windows), in a brothel -- and many more. He tells you when, where and how you can urinate, defecate, spit, belch and fart politely. He offers advice on how to live a long, healthy and happy life, what to eat and drink, with some recipes thrown in, discusses exercise, when to take baths, how often to have sex. Moderation in all things is the guiding principle, seasonally adjusted: in summer, for example, you should cut back on hot baths and sex. Cheerful songs will keep you in a good mood. Cultivate entertaining conversation, avoid quarrels, and get yourself some new clothes now and again.

Or Richard of Devizes thoughts on London:

Whatever evil or malicious thing can be found anywhere in the world can also be found in that city. There are masses of pimps. Do not associate with them. Do not mingle with the crowds in the eating-houses. Avoid dice, gambling, the theatre and the tavern. You will meet more braggarts there than in the whole of France. The number of parasites is infinite. Actors, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatters, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorcerers, extortioners, night-wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons.
Hmmm. Typing this, I realize that it's been way too long since I've been to London.

For Cate

I know what Instructional Technology is because some years ago Cate moved across the country to get a Master's Degree in that field, but she probably doesn't get to chat about it socially much. And here I have found someone who teaches math (Cate teaches math), using the latest (I suppose) in Instructional Technology, gardens (Cate gardens), and knits (Cate ... well, you get the idea).

Learning Curves

07 September 2007


Underneath his 19th century gruff avuncularism, W.S. Gilbert understood the hearts of young women better than you'd think. I remember the first time I heard these words* and thought, "yes, that's it, exactly."

When he is here, I sigh with pleasure
When he is gone, I sigh with grief.
My hopeless fear no soul can measure
His love alone can give my aching heart relief!
When he is cold, I weep for sorrow
When he is kind, I weep for joy.
My grief untold knows no tomorrow
My woe can find no hope, no solace, no alloy!

When I rejoice, he shows no pleasure.
When I am sad, it grieves him not.
His solemn voice has tones I treasure
My heart they glad, they solace my unhappy lot!
When I despond, my woe they chasten
When I take heart, my hope they cheer;
With folly fond to him I hasten
From him apart, my life is very sad and drear!

*Constance's Act I aria from The Sorcerer which I've sung now and again in our "living room" G&S get-togethers.

02 September 2007

Book Swap

Mattie is not just a hot babe with a law degree. She's also a reader and so a few weeks ago when I got an invite to a girls' night/book swap at Mattie's, I replied with alacrity that I would be there.

Of course, timing is everything (or at least a whole lot) and I had taken several grocery bags of give-away books to the library not all that long ago and didn't have on hand any that I needed to part with, so I applealed to David. I mean, you can't go to a book swap empty handed, can you? Of course not. David asked me if this was a "I read this but don't expect to read it again" type thing or a "Please get this out of my house" type thing. The former, of course. He supplied me with a couple of hardbacks that I could hold carry in while holding my head up, I picked up some gluten-free ginger molassas cookies, and off I went.

Mattie had assembled both a great room full of women - there were about 13 or 14 of us altogether, about half lawyers* - and a delightful repast. We unloaded books, loaded plates and filled glasses, and gathered in the living room, chattering away. The ensemble was comprised of different women that Mattie knew from different groups, so I met several new people and retained about 8 or 9 of all the names (including my own, luckily).

(By the way, for those of my dedicated readership who believe that any gathering of women will naturally result in lingerie modeling and pillow fights, go ahead, apply that here. Who am I to ruin your fun.)

We used the now-standard gift exchange technique of having numbered slips of paper and having the person with slip number one choosing first, slip number two choosing second, etc. The books were introduced and I heard a some variations on "I wanted to like this because [another person] did, but .... ehhhh" or "I liked but I'm not going to read it again" or (my favorite) "It's a well-written book with characters I just didn't like" or (in my case) "David knew that I needed a contribution. They could be fabulous, they could suck." Mattie had primed the pump with several books from a co-worker which were introduced as "From a woman at my office. She says it's a good beach read."

Extra points were given for books with gold embossing on them indicating that they won the Whitbread Prize or the Pulitzer or something similar. Points would have been taken away for Oprah's Book Club, but none of them had that distinction. We were all pleased to notice that the books covered a wide range of subjects and that there were no duplicates, although there were a couple by the same author, like "Le Mariage" and "Le Divorce."

The one that really caught my eye (huge surprise here) is called "1215: The Year of the Magna Carta." It is (all together now-----) a history book about the early 13th century. With an index. And I coveted it. I asked if I could see it for a minute and when handed it, I smiled cheerfully and said "Now try to get it back!"

Luckily I drew #2, so after #1 picked some other book (smart girl), "1215" became mine. Mine. It is my book. After that the rest was gravy. I felt just like the girls in the All-of-a-Kind family when they were given books that they could keep forever instead of returning to the library lady the next week.

After one selected a book, one put one's number back in the champagne bucket we were using as a hat and after everyone had selected one book, we drew numbers again. In compliance with the law of conservation of gloating or whatever, I was #13 for the second go 'round. We had three full go 'rounds and then a general melee (insert wine-fueled hair brushing and pillow fighting here if necessary).

Kate asked if it was acceptable to take home more books than one brought and I said that I figured Mattie's goal was to end up with as clear a coffe-table as she began the evening and that I came with two and was leaving with six, so anyone who wanted to was free to sneer. No one did. All the books found new homes, we had a great time, we met new people**, and we got some cool new books to read. And if we don't like these new books, we'll just do another book swap in a few months.

And here's the cool Good Reads website that one of the women at the party (who's name I've managed to forget) sent to Mattie who sent it to me.

*Or as Kate divided us "the legals" and "the non-legals."

**Among the women I met was Stacey. When I found out that she and Jennifer had done a show together, we played Theater Twenty Questions until we knew a bunch of people in common. Stacey was in "City of Angels" and "Ruthless!", so we know a big bunch of people in common.