30 December 2008

Very good, madam

I've been reading a bunch of Dorothy Sayers lately and there usually comes the part where Lord Peter wishes to be uninterrupted.  Bunter is instructed that Lord Peter is not at home and his Lordship is left in peace until such time as he resumes accepting calls and visitors.

Living in an era when we are at the beck of so many different forms of call, it pleased me greatly to realize that I have, effectively, an electronic Bunter.  

If I'm not at work, the way to reach me by phone is to call my mobile because the only reason I have a landline is for the DSL for the computer.  The only people who use the landline number are cold callers and I never answer it.  

My mobile has Caller ID.  And when I moved into the building, the nice folks in the rental office arranged for the front door visitor system to ring my mobile.

So if I ever wish "not to be in" for any period of time, I can simply turn off the mobile.  

And if I run across a suitably dignified and reserved* run of dialogue for Bunter expressing that although he may be sitting in just the other room, Lord Peter is not at the present time at home, I may have to change my outgoing message on the mobile.  

*Two words that usually only describe me when the direction in italics is "sarcastically."

29 December 2008

Out of the waste stream

David has started saving corks from wine bottles (and other spirits) for recycling. Feel free to give me yours to give to him or just send them on to Yemm & Hart who will make other nice cork things out of them.

Wine Cork Recycling
Yemm & Hart Ltd
425 North Chamber Drive
Fredericktown, MO 63645

This activity has a couple of fun side effects:

Cork recycling gives you a nice cheering sense of helping sustain bird (and other animal) habitat as you are sipping your Chardonnay or Shiraz; and

When your friends and family notice the volume of corks you have collected and ask how long it took to accumulate that many, you can glance at the bowl of, oh, 30 of them and say "Uhhh.... couple of weeks, I guess"* and then enjoy some quality time with your near and dear during the intervention.

*Of course, if the number is more like 50, then you'll want your answer to be "Uhhhh... couple of days, I guess." Try to keep your answer an inverse of the number of corks.

Of spices and slippers

Wherein David and Leta experience the joy of giving in an all-new way...

Part the First:

A few years ago David noticed that I had a pretty ratty pair of slippers. (The slippers had achieved this level of rattitude by being the kind that I particularly like and sometimes have trouble finding - they're basically just fleece ballerinas so that my feet don't get all hot and sweaty.) So, figuring that he had found a problem that he could solve for me, he quizzed me about slipper preferences and for Christmas presented me with a lovely red velour pair from, I believe, Eddie Bauer that came in their own little presentation bag. Oh, how nice!

So I took the nice, new ones home and brought the ratty old ones - which were now my spares - to his house. The following Christmas, I received a very nice pink fleecy pair from Victoria's Secret. Oh, how nice! So the pink ones live at David's and my ratty old ones are in my luggage.

It's a good assumption that everyone who will ever read this has already figured out that David's real goal is not to supply me with new slippers every year, but to drive the ratty old slippers out of my life altogether. I didn't realize this until he noticed the ratty ones in my luggage and looked like a home-owner watching the mouse saunter out of the kitchen carrying the piece of cheese that had been baiting the trap.

He asked me hopefully what I would do if he bought me a nice, new pair of slippers to go into my luggage? Oh, that be nice. And the ratty old ones? Oh, I'd probably put them in my theater box to wear backstage.

Listen carefully and you can probably still heard the grinding sound his teeth made.

Part the second:

I am not the only keeper of the beyond stale-dated. David, himself, has a cabinet filled with herbs and spices that pre-date me and we started seeing each other just after GWB was "elected" the first time. I've been suggesting for a long time now that the fenugreek that he and Susan bought for some long ago curry could be tossed, along with orange peel that smelled like citric acid and dust.

My position on the moral high ground was pretty much ensured after I went to use some nutmeg, which David buys whole (because he uses a nutmeg rasp) and it had nutmeg worms. At that point I began to lobby harder for not keeping the those poor, dried nuts, twigs, leaves, etc through the end of the last mortgage payment. My own rule is not to keep them more than four years. I date them when they come into the house and everything bought before January '05 will be pitched by Inauguration Day. New president, newish spices.

Part the third:

So our anniversary present to each other this year is that David gets to pitch my ratty old slippers and I get to dump his antique foodstuffs. He thought we were each going to throw out our own stuff, but what's the fun of that? So when I read on-line that he had tossed the fenugreek, I called him immediately with a Cease and Desist order. Now I get to empty the mere-memories-of-their-formers-selves contents from the bottles and David got the warm glow of tossing my ratty old slippers.

Of course, I dumped his spices out the front door, so I was recycling whereas he tossed my slippers into the trash (which I couldn't watch), so he was just adding to the waste stream.


So if traditionally the first anniversary is for giving paper, the second for giving cotton, etc, in the 21st century, the eighth should be for giving your loved one the thing that they have been itching to dispose of and allowing them the joy of ditching it. The Eighth Anniversary could be for de-accessioning.

22 December 2008

Like Communism

During Anne of Green Gables Maggie, Susanne, and I would would wait for our Act I, scene 5 entrance off stage left. Maggie, who is 13 would be holding the doll playing her little sister and she would smile into its sweet little plastic face and say kindly (and very quietly) "I hate children."

Later on she quoted her boyfriend:

"Children are like communism. Good idea on paper, but the real thing? Not so much."

19 December 2008

Not quite a Turing Test

According to GenderAnalyzer, "We think http://letahall.blogspot.com is written by a man (81%)." Not sure why, since it is pretty largely agreed that I'm a rather girly girl.

They are (it is) more confident about David, having 84% certainty that A Honey of Anklet is written by a man.

To make it more interesting, ofaust.co tells me that I write most like Jules Verne (88%) and control subject David writes a little like Edgar Allen Poe (16%).

The Typeanalyzer's results are just as unlikely, but it has really cool scientific-looking "brain activity" charts. The "brain activity" charts are humorous for at least two reasons: 1) the word "rhythm" is misspelled; and 2) the implication that I have consistent brain activity, which is only true if scanning Facebook for cool new Flair and Stickerz counts as brain activity.

ISTP - The Mechanics
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

David (okay, this one is a little more plausible):
ENTJ - The Executives
The direct and assertive type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and how to get things done. They are talented strategic planners, but might come off as insensitive to others needs and appear arrogant. They like to be where the action is and like making bold and sweeping changes in complex situations.

The Executives are happy when their work let them learn and improve themselves and how things work around them. Not beeing very shy about expressing their ideas and often very outgoing they often make excellent public speakers.

Still, somehow, after all this research I feel more self-aware. Thanks, Internet!

via Hjalti, who is a man, no matter what the internet says.

15 December 2008

My type?

Nearly twenty years ago, long before I had internet access or structured my day around checking my e-mail and reading Facebook status updates (and ... working) I heard about a young lady named Allison Atlas who lived in Bethesda and needed a bone marrow transplant.

I mention the lack of e-mail and internet because that means that I probably learned about Allison by seeing a flier somewhere, like at the grocery store or wherever else they had been blanketed by friends and family. It's much easier today to e-mail your entire address book, write a blog post, and create a Facebook event, so I have always appreciated the dedication shown by the Friends of Allison or anyone putting so much time and effort into saving someone they care about.

So anyway, I heard about the bone marrow registration drive, which was going to be held at the Jewish Community Center because Allison was of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. I'm not*, but I figured that even though that reduced the chances that I would be a match for Allison from tiny to minuscule, I went anyway and stood in line for over two hours with other people who were actively hoping to be inconvenienced and put through a rather uncomfortable medical procedure in hopes of giving someone else another chance at life.

I wasn't a match for Allison and, so far, I haven't been a match for anyone, but I keep hoping. I check that my registration is current every year on my birthday and I encourage people to join the registry.

Today Quinn posted that the nephew of a dear friend of hers is now depending on that same registry. So if you were thinking about joining the registry or wondering what to do what some extra dollars in your charity fund....

*I'm Engish - Irish - German Episcopalian.

14 December 2008


I've heard similar readings at off-book rehearsals. And, sigh, in a couple of performances.

"Nobody knew but me. Concealment's been preyin' like a tiddleyum upon my damask cheek - Shakespeare! And I've been sitting' like Patience on a thing-ummy-jib smiling' at grief - more Shakespeare - same speech - ibid, as they say in the books."*

Archie Millar in Gray Mask by Patricia Wentworth

*Twelth Night, Act 2, scene iv:

Viola: She never told her love,
But let concealment like a worm i' th' bud
Feed on her damask cheek; she pin'd in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief.

12 December 2008

We're agin it

Most of my conversations with my mother these days are practical: things she needs;* things she doesn't like about Very Assisted Living; when am I going to come visit/help her? But yesterday she called me around 9:00-ish in the morning to ask my if I had ever had scrapple. It seems that there was a piece of scrapple on her breakfast tray and she wanted to determine the family policy on foods made out of offal.

We don't eat them, I told her.

She said that she didn't think that we did, because (I paraphrase here) she tried it and said that while it started out tasting a bit like sausage, by the time she was ready to swallow, it's true nature became all too apparent.

Mom put a decent amount of effort and creativity into describing her reaction to finding this on her plate. She wanted to know if she had to finish it. Absolutely not. I agree with the people who define it as stuff "too disgusting to be used or sold elsewhere."

I then told her about a party some years ago where my housemate Jenny took an informal "scrapple: yes or no?" poll.** Maybe it's because I do live in the Mid-Atlantic region, but there were a surprising numbers of yeses - about half the respondents, with no attendees abstaining. It seems that everyone - if they have heard of it - has an opinion on scrapple and it's pretty much a zero-sum: either "yeah, sure, it's good" or "ewww, yuck, no, I don't eat floor sweepings."

All in all, it was a fun conversation, one of the sort that I miss having with my mother these days.

*And if she says "desperately needs" one more time about something that is neither bleeding nor burning, well, things are going to get a little fraught.

**No, I have no idea why this particular entertainment happened at that party. Mostly our parties were pretty normal.***

***Okay, that last bit probably isn't true. Our parties were probably pretty weird, but we enjoyed them.

26 November 2008

Same here

In fact, I'm not sure that anyone who was ever a teen-ager hasn't felt like this.

I didn't related well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn't relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closer to than anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with me, never on exactly the same page. Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain.

From Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

25 November 2008

For Maura & Gwydion

With heart and with voice
Let us welcome this mating:
To the youth of her choice,
With a heart palpitating,
Comes the lovely Aline!

May their love never cloy!
May their bliss be unbounded!
With a halo of joy
May their lives be surrounded!
Heaven bless our Aline!

My kindly friends, I thank you for this greeting
And as you wish me every earthly joy,
I trust your wishes may have quick fulfillment!

Oh, happy young heart!
Comes thy young lord a-wooing
With joy in his eyes,
And pride in his breast -
Make much of thy prize,
For he is the best
That ever came a-suing.
Yet - yet we must part,
Young heart!
Yet - yet we must part!

Oh, merry young heart,
Bright are the days of thy wooing!
But happier far
The days untried -
No sorrow can mar,
When Love has tied
The knot there's no undoing.
Then, never to part,
Young heart!
Then, never to part!

20 November 2008

From my Scottish tenantry

Dear Friend of Laphroaig -

Our country's great national holiday is upon us. It's St. Andrew's Day, celebrating the patron saint of Scotland.

Though St. Andrew never made it to Scotland while he was alive, he holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Scottish people. Legend states his relics were secretly transported to Scotland during the Middle Ages. And during the late 8th century, King Ungus reportedly saw a cloud in the shape of a Saltire (the St. Andrew's Cross on the Scottish flag) before battle. He pledged that if victory came to his forces, St. Andrew would become the patron saint of Scotland.

Now, festivities, feasts and events mark the November 30 celebration of St. Andrew's Day in Scotland and around the globe. As a Friend of Laphroaig, consider this e-mail an invitation to our party in Islay. If you can't make it here, gather your friends together at a bar or your home, open a bottle of Laphroaig and toast the patron saint of Scotland, St. Andrew.

Old Scottish Blessing - If There is Righteousness in the Heart:

If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.

Simon Brooking
Master Ambassador, Laphroaig

19 November 2008

Why I'm not in management

Unless these are secretly tactics that the Wharton School endorses...

1. A discussion with my Boss about some people who by not having done something are holding up other portions of the project:

Me: We need to bring back some kind of vicious, painful, and humiliating form of revenge. But only against other people. Not me. I cry.

My Boss now tells me that added to his goals for the week is to make me cry.

2. In an e-mail when the WATCH tabulator asked me how I manage to get such good compliance on ballots:

Me: It's a combination of flirting, cajoling, nagging, and begging. The same way I get cast in shows, actually.

18 November 2008

With an "e"

The child hesitated for a moment.

"Will you please call me Cordelia?" she said eagerly.

"Call you Cordelia! Is that your name?"

"No-o-o-o, it's not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It's such a perfectly elegant name."

I don't know what on earth you mean. If Cordelia isn't you name, what is?"

"Anne Shirley," reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that name, "but oh, please do call me Cordelia. It can't matter much to you what you call me if I'm only going to be here a little while, can it? And Anne is such an unromatic name."

"Unromantic fiddlesticks!" said the unsympathetic Marilla. "Anne is a good plain sensible name. You've no need to be ashamed of it."

"Oh, I'm not ashamed of it," explained Anne, "only I like Cordelia better. I've always imagined that my name was Cordelia -- at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne splled with an e."

"What difference does it make how it's spelled?" asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

"Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks somuch more distinguished. If you'll only call me Anne spelled with an e I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia."

From - but of course - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

17 November 2008

Miss Lydia Thompson's Farewell

From page 6 of The Pall Mall Gazette, for May 3, 1899, of a “farewell address” in verse that Gilbert wrote for the actress Lydia Thompson. Sent to Savoynet by Arthur, the Reference Librarian. Good folks to know, librarians...


The following address, written by Mr. W.S. Gilbert, was spoken by Miss Lydia Thompson at the conclusion of the proceedings yesterday: --

The other day, when sitting all alone,
Thinking of pleasant times long past and gone,
“Why, bless my precious heart and soul,” said I,
“I’ve left the stage, and haven’t said “Good bye!””
That sounds ungrateful—-but, to be quite plain,
I hoped I might be coming back again,
And would not speak the word one can’t recall,
Till “Good-bye” meant “Good-bye” for good and all.

“Good-bye”—-an easy word for you to say—-
“Sorry you’re going, but you’ve had your day.
Next please!”—-And the obedient profession
Supplies new-comers in prolonged succession—
A thousand fair ones for your smiles contesting
(A hundred acting and nine hundred “resting”);
But when I say “Good-bye” in faltering tone
To you--the truest friends I’ve ever known--
The friends whose warmth expressed in gladdening chime
Supplied the sunshine of my summer-time--
The case is somewhat different. You see,
I’m losing you—-you’re only losing me!

But this won’t do at all—-I’m off the scent,
My line’s light comedy, not sentiment.
My future tense seems cheeriness to lack,
And so, I won’t look forward—-I’ll look back.

What changes have I seem since that dim age,
When little Goldenhair tripped on the stage!
The Drama, struggling then in lodgings shady,
Has made her fortune and is quite the lady,
With endless hosts of highly cultured friends.
Think how she dresses now, and what she spends
On vast dramatic shrines—-in sumptuous salaries—-
In real Venetian-leathered pits and galleries—-
In plays that run a year to houses packed,
And cost, to stage, a thousand pounds an act!

Stage-management—-that has advanced a bit
Since poor Tom Robertson invented it—-
Tom Robertson, whose histrionic chickens
We sneer at now—-but then we sneer at Dickens!

Knighthoods for actors of pronounced ability
Earls, countesses, engaged to play “utility”;
Ibsen—-a zest for jaded appetite;
No fees-—half-guinea stalls—-electric light
Matinées twice a week, and, sad to say,
Matinée hats—-I see one here to-day;
Stock-companies completely out of date,
Burlesque quite dead—-(it never risked that fate
When Talfourd, Planché, Brough, and Byron made it,
And Rogers, Clarke, and Marie Wilton played it—-
Then, strangest chance, of playhouses vast crops!
Playhouses plentiful as grocers’ shops!

Ten in twelve months! Well, I don’t want to prate,
But if new theatres crop up at that rate,
Where will you find your pieces, if you please,
And where your actors and your actresses!
Ten months will build a playhouse, per contractor—-
It takes at least ten years to build an actor,
And, as our best authorities insist,
Ten times ten years to build a dramatist!

Well, if too long I’ve babbled of my youth,
I’m rather loath to go, and that’s the truth.
Still we must part-—it’s idle to delay it:
I’ve come to say “Good-bye!”—-so let me say it.
The link that binds me to you must be broken—-
Come now, come then, the last word must be spoken!
In no light mood the farewell phrases fall—-
God bless you! God bless me! God bless us all!

16 November 2008


So there's this place not far from David's called Dinner Zen, which is one of those "we'll create a menu and do all the prep, you assemble it and cook it at home" franchises which managed to come up with a promotional gimmick that I swear was created with me in mind.

They now sell cupcakes (or did yesterday anyway) including a very yummy gluten-free chocolate one with chocolate frosting that tastes nearly exactly like the kind of Betty Crocker-style cupcakes that I love and they were willing to throw a little money to the Reston Community Players or the Elden Street Players or one of the local schools with theater programs.

Eat cupcake, give money to local community theater group. Win/win, right?

This is what my British friends would call an "information capture scheme" in that in order to throw a few pence to the local community theater, I had to give Dinner Zen my e-mail address. But if this results in my being able to get really good, rather than fine, chocolate GF cupcakes, I'd let them call me every half hour, so I happily gave them the info they wanted.

I bought two yummy cupcakes (one for me and one for Michael, who has baked loverly cookies for prett' near every DC-area community theater production over the last few years and deserves a treat. Then I nosed around the store for a bit, especially noticing the To-Go freezer near the door and thinking that could come in handy some night. I also was very busy hoping that the cupcakes were here to stay, not some fly-by-night, make me want them then take them away thing. Because that? Would be cruel.

I also moused around a bit on their website and was both encouraged and puzzled by the following from their FAQ:

We have food allergies in our family, can I still come in?

One of the great things about Dinner Zen is that you can customize meals the way you like them. Most people with allergies will have no problem in our store. Please tell us about your allergy concerns and we will help guide you to the best menu choices for your family. If somebody you will be serving food to is allergic to an ingredient, please choose another dish from the menu since we cannot be held responsible for allergic reactions.

I think this translates to "yes, but don't try to eat anything."

But did I mention that the cupcakes are very yummy?

15 November 2008


The D.C. area weather usually turns from summer to autumn between my mother's birthday (October 14) and my father's (October 22) and then it gets warm again for a bit and then autumn comes marching in all cold and blowy.

Today autumn came marching in. The weather ranged from the 40s to the 70s with lots and lots of wind and some random rain.

I describe as the kind of weather where no matter what you are wearing, at some point in the day you will regret it and then be glad again for it before the day is done.

14 November 2008

Happy Birthday from the Squishy Liberal

My fondness for the writings of P.J. O'Rourke is one of the many things about me that David finds inexplicable. And today is the Cranky Libertarian's 61st birthday, which I am celebrating by posting a few random P.J. quotes. I should probably also celebrate it by sending money to the sorts of liberal causes that he ridicules and I like, but maybe later.

(And in the interests of balance and fairness and creating a place where all voices can be heard, etc, on December 27th we'll get some quotes from my favorite History Nerd, Sarah Vowell.*)

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

I am a little to the right of ... Why is the Attila comparison used? Fifth-century Hunnish depredations on the Roman Empire were the work of an overpowerful executive pursuing a policy of economic redistribution in an atmosphere of permissive social mores. I am a little to the right of Rush Limbaugh. I'm so conservative that I approve of San Francisco City Hall marriages, adoption by same-sex couples, and New Hampshire's recently ordained Episcopal bishop. Gays want to get married, have children, and go to church. Next they'll be advocating school vouchers, boycotting HBO, and voting Republican.

The real truth about children is they don't speak the language very well. They're physically uncoordinated. And they are ignorant of our elaborate ideas about right and wrong.

*I do not claim P.J. as my favorite Libertarian. That will always be, of course, Hjalti.

13 November 2008

It's my fault and I'm sorry

I like Pushing Daisies and was foolish enough to say so out loud where the television gods could hear me.

And then, as if that weren't risky enough, I joined the Facebook group "Save Pushing Daisies 2008-2009." Sure there are at least 4,900 other peope in the group, but that wasn't enough to hide me and my horrible tv karma.

So now it looks like it's going to go away.

Stupid ABC.

This is a number to call at ABC (818-460-7477 -- not toll free, of course) that other people could use to lobby for the show. I'm afraid that if I call, it would be pretty much the same as attaching my Elizabeth R to the death warrant.

I'm sorry. Feel free to blame me.

Everything we do is a choice.
Oatmeal or cereal, highway or side streets, kiss her or keep her.
We make choices and we live with the consequences.
If someone gets hurt along the way, we ask for forgiveness.
It’s the best anyone can do.
-Ned ep.3

That’s the most tragic story I’ve ever heard. Not withstanding the big ticket items like genocide and famine, but tragic nonetheless.
-Olive ep.6

So, everyone wants stuff. We wake up everyday with a list of wishes a mile long and maybe we spend our lives trying to make those wishes come true, but…just because we want them, doesn’t mean we need them to be happy.
-Ned ep.6

12 November 2008

The Facebook Effect

There are probably lots of Facebook effects, but the one that I have noticed recently is that I am finding out the results of casting for shows from people's status updates and Wall-to-Wall conversations.

Sometimes this happens before all of the phone calls have gone out.

I don't yet know how community theater will change to adapt to this, but it will be interesting to watch it happen.

11 November 2008

Kinda accurate, actually

I got this one from my friend, Laura Out West. And while it's not a perfect description, it's at least as accurate as any other horoscope-type personality profile I've encountered. I am a Dove. A scary large number of my family and friends are Monkeys. Quite a money minded bunch of people I know!!


January 01 - 09 ~ Dog
January 10 - 24 ~ Mouse
January 25 - 31 ~ Lion
February 01 - 05 ~ Cat
February 06 - 14 ~ Dove
February 15 - 21 ~ Turtle
February 22 - 28 ~ Panther
March 01 - 12 ~ Monkey
March 13 - 15 ~ Lion
March 16 - 23 ~ Mouse
March 24 - 31 ~ Cat
April 01 - 03 ~ Dog
April 04 - 14 ~ Panther
April 15 - 26 ~ Mouse
April 27 - 30 ~ Turtle
May 01 - 13 ~ Monkey
May 14 - 21 ~ Dove
May 22 - 31 ~ Lion
June 01 - 03 ~ Mouse
June 04 - 14 ~ Turtle
June 15 - 20 ~ Dog
June 21 - 24 ~ Monkey
June 25 - 30 ~ Cat
July 01 - 09 ~ Mouse
July 10 - 15 ~ Dog
July 16 - 26 ~ Dove
July 27 - 31 ~ Cat
August 01 - 15 ~ Monkey
August 16 - 25 ~ Mouse
August 26 - 31 ~ Turtle
September 01 - 14 ~ Dove
September 15 - 27 ~ Cat
September 28 - 30 ~ Dog
October 01 - 15 ~ Monkey
October 16 - 27 ~ Turtle
October 28 - 31 ~ Panther
November 01 - 16 ~ Lion
November 17 - 30 ~ Cat
December 01 - 16 ~ Dog
December 17 - 25 ~ Monkey
December 26 - 31 ~ Dove

If you are a Dove: You symbolize a very happy-go-lucky approach in life.
Whatever the surroundings may be, grim or cheerful, you remain
unaffected.In fact, you spread cheer wherever you go. You are the leader of
your group of friends and good at consoling people in their times of need.
You dislike hypocrisy and tend to shirk away from hypocrites. They can
never be in your good books, no matter what. You are very methodical and
organized in your work. No amount of mess, hence, can ever encompass you.
Beware, it is easy for you to fall in love....

If you are a Dog : A very loyal and sweet person. Your loyalty can never be
doubted. You are quite honest and sincere when it comes to your attitude
towards working. You are a very simple person, indeed. Absolutely hassle
free, humble and down-to-earth!! That explains the reason why your friends
cling on to you! You have a good taste for clothes. If your wardrobe is not
updated with what is trendy, you sure are depressed. Popular and
easy-going. You have a little group of dignified friends, all of them being

If you are a Mouse : Always up to some sort of a mischief! The mischievous
gleam in your eyes is what makes you so cute and attractive to everyone.
You are an extremely fun-to-be-with kind of person. No wonder people seek
for your company and look forward to include you for all get-together's.
However, you are sensitive which is a drawback. People need to select their
words while talking to you. If someone tries to fiddle around and play with
words while dealing with you, it is enough to invite your wrath. God bless
the person then!

If you are a Lion: Quite contradictory to your name, you are a peace loving
person. You best try to avoid a situation wherein you are required to
fight. An outdoor person, you dislike sitting at one place for a long
duration. You are a born leader, and have it in you how to tactfully derive
work from people. You love being loved, and when you receive your share of
limelight from someone, you are all theirs!!!! Well, well... hence some
people could even take an advantage, flatter you to the maximum and get
their work done. So be careful.....

If you are a Cat : An extremely lovable, adorable person, sometimes shy,
with a passion for quick wit. At times, you prefer quietness. You love
exploring various things and going into depth of each thing. Under normal
circumstances you're cool but when given a reason to, you are like a
volcano waiting to erupt. You're a fashion bird. People look forward to you
as an icon associated with fashion. Basically, you mingle along freely but
don't like talking much to strangers. People feel very easy in your
company. You observe care in choosing your friends.

If you are a Turtle : You are near to perfect and nice at heart.The
examples of your kindness are always circulated in groups of people. You,
too, love peace. You wouldn't like to retaliate even to a person who is in
the wrong. You are loved due to this. You do not wish to talk behind one's
back. People love the way you always treat them. You can give, give and
give love, and the best part is that you do not expect it back in return.
You are generous enough. Seeing things in a practical light is what remains
the best trait of you guys.

If you are a Panther : You are mysterious. You are someone who can handle
pressure with ease, and can handle any atmosphere without going berserk.
You can be mean at times, and love to gossip with your selected group. Very
prim and proper. You like all situations and things to be in the way you
desire, which, sometimes is not possible. As a result, you may lose out in
some relationships. But otherwise, you love to help people out from
difficult and tight spots when they really need you.

If you are a Monkey : Very impatient and hyper!!! You want things to be
done as quick as possible. At heart, you are quite simple and love if you
are the center of attraction. That way, you people are unique. You would
like to keep yourself safe from all the angles. Shall your name be dragged
or featured in any sort of a controversy, you then go all panicky.
Therefore, you take your precautions from the very beginning. When you
foresee anything wrong, your sixth sense is what saves you from falling in
traps. Quite a money minded bunch you people are!!

10 November 2008

Home again, home again

I am back from a flying visit to Torquay which is in Devon. Which is next to Cornwall. Which are in England.

Which is in Great Britain.

Which is part of the United Kingdom.

Anyway, I was there to sing a lot of G&S and make some new friends. As far as I can tell, I did both. (Possibly other attendees will tell you when I am out of earshot that I actually did neither, but that seems unlikely.)

It was a lovely trip and it's great to be back, although it may take me a few days to get back to saying tuh-may-doe instead of tuh-mah-toe and to return the r's to their accustomed places in my speech.

Sarcasm - also free

Let me start this out by saying that British Airways is a great way for Celiacs to travel. On their "manage my reservation" page, one can opt for "medical meals" which include gluten-free ones. If the request is made within 24-hours of flight time there is no guarantee that it will be honored, but they do what they can. My request was made at prett' near the 24-hour mark, but my meal made it on board, for which I am grateful.

Everyone got that? Okay, back to being snarky.

It was meal time and the dinner carts were coming up the aisle. The stewardess asked me if I would like beef or chicken and I told her that, uhm, I was supposed to have a gluten-free meal. I suspect that I was her first ever Celiac passenger because she smiled sweetly at me in a "don't mess with me, this is a long flight" kind of way and said, even more sweetly, that the chicken was free. And would I like some free wine as well?

And, you know, this just didn't seem like the right time to start educating the cabin staff about my RBAD*, so I just accepted the tray that she was trying to hand me.

Then I started trying to hand her back all the things on the tray that I couldn't eat, starting with the roll.

This seemed to cause a penny to drop somewhere, possibly as the cabin staff connected the nuisance in seat 46J with the medical meal in 46J. Oh yeah. So the correct tray was brought to the stewardess who, rather chastened, handed it to me with an apologetic smile. I, of course, was graciousness itself in accepting both my correct meal and the unspoken repentance.

And - for the curious - I had:

Chicken in tomato sauce;
Salad with a lemony olive oil dressing;
A gluten-free dinner roll;
A small bowl of fruit - pineapple, I think? (It's been several days since then.)
A little bag of dried fruit;
Vanilla pudding;
A gluten-free brownie; and
A full split of wine.

Well done, Brit Air!!

*Rather Boring Autoimmune Disorder

06 November 2008

It does say it all

Gwyn found this and sent it to me and a few other folks. And while I agree with most of it, the last paragraph really spoke to me. Now matter which side of the aisle the people you voted for sit on, we're all in this together.

It's not over. One election doesn't solve anything--no matter who you elect, that candidate still has to live up to his promise. No matter what change you want, you have to get out there and make it yourself. But for the first time in a very long time, it felt like the country had opened its eyes again and remembered its name.

The Morning After on Cleolinda's LJ.

05 November 2008

Dear Building Management

Dear Building Management ~

Thank you for the new "Water Management" showerhead which I found installed when I got home today. It's very pretty with all that shiny chrome.

It's also a "low-flow" showerhead, of course. "20 GMP Max" according to the showerhead. So I am writing this note to clear up your possible puzzlement about the upcoming increase in my water usage. I have pretty thick hair and a low-flow showerhead really doesn't get shampoo out of it in any kind of timely fashion and I find that my only solution is to just stay under the damn thing for however long it takes, so my showers will be getting longer.


Leta the Tenant

Dear Rest of the World ~

If you have any ideas how I can crack this puppy open and remove whatever blocks the flow of water or reduces the water pressure or whatever, I'd be interested to hear it.

Leta teh pruney

04 November 2008

Election Day

A good friend, whose opinions I otherwise respect, doesn't vote saying that if G-d has intended for us to vote, he'd give us real candidates...

Well,...If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Free Will by Rush

There are those who think that life is nothing left to chance
A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.

A planet of playthings,
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive.
"The stars aren't aligned
Or the gods are malign"
Blame is better to give than receive.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose free will.

There are those who think that they were dealt a losing hand,
The cards were stacked against them
They weren't born in lotus land.

All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate.

Kicked in the face,
You can pray for a place
In heaven's unearthly estate.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose free will.

Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete.
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose free will.

03 November 2008


(Martha Raye & William Katt in "Pippin.")

"No Time at All"

When you are as old as I, my dear
And I hope that you never are
You will woefully wonder why, my dear
Through your cataracts and catarrh
You could squander away or sequester
A drop of a precious year
For when your best days are yester
The rest'er twice as dear....

What good is a field on a fine summer night
When you sit all alone with the weeds?
Or a succulent pear if with each juicy bite
You spit out your teeth with the seeds?
Before it's too late stop trying to wait
For fortune and fame you're secure of
For there's one thing to be sure of, mate:
There's nothing to be sure of!

Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

I've never wondered if I was afraid
When there was a challenge to take
I never thought about how much I weighed
When there was still one piece of cake
Maybe it's meant the hours I've spent
Feeling broken and bent and unwell
But there's still no cure more heaven-sent
As the chance to raise some hell

Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

Now when the drearies do attack
And a siege of the sads begins
I just throw these noble shoulders back
And lift these noble chins
Give me a man who is handsome and strong
Someone who's stalwart and steady
Give me a night that's romantic and long
And give me a month to get ready
Now I could waylay some aging roue
And persuade him to play in some cranny
But it's hard to believe I'm being led astray
By a man who calls me granny

Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

Sages tweet that age is sweet
Good deeds and good work earns you laurels
But what could make you feel more obsolete
Than being noted for your morals?

Here is a secret I never have told
Maybe you'll understand why
I believe if I refuse to grow old
I can stay young till I die
Now, I've known the fears of sixty-six years
I've had troubles and tears by the score
But the only thing I'd trade them for
Is sixty-seven more....

Oh, it's time to keep livin'
Time to keep takin' from this world we're given
You are my time, so I'll throw off my shawl
And watching your flings be flung all over
Makes me feel young all over

02 November 2008

Asking permission

Sally, Paul, David, and I went to Christine Lavin's concert at the Barns of Wolf Trap last night and during intermission I got to distribute Christine's homemade Barackolate Chip Cookies.* She gave away copies of the recipe as well and I've written her an e-mail asking for her permission to post it here because it sounds yummy and is fun to read.

Fingers are crossed that permission is granted because, well, read this excerpt and you'll see what I mean:

"Mix all the chips together in a separate bowl, stir them around -- look, all different color chips! And they're all gettting along peacefully, like our Founding Fathers hoped we would."**

Clearly this is the cookie recipe American needs this week.

*Guess how she'll be voting on Tuesday...

**Formatting Chistine's.

01 November 2008

Words of Power

Ever wonder how I end up going from show to show to show? I finally figured it out. Using the phrase "I'm not doing anything right now, so my time is wide open" brings any "theater break" to an end within 48 hours. I might as well be lighting black candles and sprinkling chicken's blood around me in a circle.

29 October 2008


After Serge, in an act of pure madness, had demonstrated to Marc that he cared more about him than he did about this painting, we went and had dinner, chez Emile. Over dinner, Serge and Marc made the decision to try to reconstruct a relationship destroyed by word and deed.

At one point, one of them used the expression "trial period" and I burst into tears.

This expression, "trial period" applied to our friendship, set off in me an uncontrollable and ridiculous convulsion.

In fact, I can no longer stand any kid of rational argument, nothing formative in this world, nothing great or beautiful in this world has ever been born of rational argument.

from "Art" by Yasmina Reza

Operetta Geeks for Obama!

So there I am reading my (as usual) somewhat outdated copy of Time magazine and what should I find in the October 6, 2008 issue? Why, this picture taken in Nobleville, Indiana.

Now, if we ignore the subject of the photo and concentrate on the young lady smiling at her, the alert reader will notice that the young lady's t-shirt has a picture of a (wait for it...) pirate on it and that the particularly alert reader can make out the last syllable of the name of a certain Cornish port made famous in a certain piece of 19th century musical theater.

Frankly, I am a little surprised that Obama's crack campaign staff didn't notice this as well and make a more serious effort to lock in the operetta vote. Sprinking G&S quotes into his speeches, for instance, would have gone a long way in that direction.

This, for instance, springs to mind:

When all night long a chap remains
On sentry-go, to chase monotony
He exercises of his brains,
That is, assuming that he's got any.
Though never nurtured in the lap
Of luxury, yet I admonish you,
I am an intellectual chap,
And think of things that would astonish you.
I often think it's comical--Fal, lal, la!
How Nature always does contrive--Fal, lal, la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la!

When in that House M.P.'s divide,
If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,
They've got to leave that brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.
But then the prospect of a lot
Of dull M. P.'s in close proximity,
All thinking for themselves, is what
No man can face with equanimity.
Then let's rejoice with loud Fal la--Fal la la!
That Nature always does contrive--Fal lal la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal lal la!

On accuracy

Among the FSS (Frequently Said Stuff) at rehearsals is the reminder that the author chose those words for a reason and that we're not working from the first draft.*

We all try for accuracy, some more successfully than others. When I was Production Minion for the Stage's production of "Art," I rode book for the guys at rehearsals, took line notes, and would e-mail them the corrections. One e-mail, entitled "Towards Zero," contained exactly six corrections, and all of them were happy/glad-level** paraphrases.

Not every show is that close. Not by a long shot. And I know some actors who are so famous for their paraphrasing that I joke that the program should credit them as co-authors. And that they have masters degrees in MSU (Making Stuff Up).***

So I was interested to run across this interview with Ayre Gross as part of a critique of Donald Margulies' Brooklyn Boy. After all, the most recent show in which I tried to deliver the dialogue with any kind of accuracy was Margulies' Dinner with Friends. Nice to know that he would have appreciated our (not always 100% effective, but sincere) efforts to present the script as written.

“How interested was he in the actors being faithful to his dialogue?”

“Oh, it's not even a question. I think everyone in the room understands that the language the playwright uses is not just the broad ideas. That there can be as much meaning in the syntax, or in the rhythms the playwright has written, as in the broader meanings of the theme. There was never any kind of 'we’ll improvise something here.'”

On rare occasions Margulies would solicit advice from the actors.

“Did he accept your suggestions?”

“He definitely responded to, but it was not like anyone ever went in and said, 'Listen, Donald, this is what I want to say here.'”

*I'm pretty sure that the latter truism is mine. Just one of my many contributions to the American theater.

**When happy is substituted for glad, a word with roughly the same meaning. A very small change, in other words.

***I have a pretty wit. A pretty, pretty wit.

28 October 2008

This seems familiar. Too familiar.

Christopher Stasheff wrote a series of SF/fantasy books back in the 80s about a interstellar agent who fetches up on a planet called Graymarye which is a semi, kinda, sorta medieval society.* Pretty much, as I like to say, what would happen if Markland and the SCA had their own world. Or if Renn Faire was alway and everywhere.

The one that I am reading now is the second in the series, King Kobold Revived. Most of the characters speak rather "yeomanly" but Rod Gallowglass, our hero, speaks in very idiomatic late 20th Century English, as does Yorick, a time traveling Neanderthal**, in case the following excerpt sounds a bit peculiar.

...."There's that little matter of the rumor he's supposed to circulate," [Rod] reminded Tuan.
Yorick shrugged. "That you and your army have really come just to oust Mughorck, isn't it? Not to wipe out the local citizenry?"
"Thou hast it aright."
"But you do understand," Yorick pointed out, "that they'll have to fight until they kow Mughorck's been taken, don't you? I mean, if they switched to your side and he won, it could be very embarrassing for them -- not to mention their wives and children."
"Assuredly," Tuan agreed. "Nay, I hope only that, when they know Mughorck is ta'en, they'll not hesitate to lay down their arms."
"I have a notion that most of them will be too busy cheering to think about objecting."
" 'Tis well. Now..." Tuan leaned forward, eyes glittering. "How can we be sure of taking Mughorck?"
"An we wish a quick ending to this battle," Brom explained, "we cannot fight through the whole mass of beastmen to reach him.

" 'The High Cave'?" Tuan frowned. "What is that?"
"Just the highest cave in the cliff-wall. When we first arrived we all camped out in caves, and Eagle took the highest one so he could see the whole picture of what was going on. When the rank and file moved out into huts, he stayed there -- so Mughorck will have to have moved in there, to use the symbol of possession to reinforce his power."
"Well reasoned," Brom rumbled, "but how if thou'rt mistaken?"
Yorick shrugged. "Then we keep looking till we find him. We shouldn't have too much trouble; I very much doubt that he'd be at the front line."

*Amazon's description: Gramarye is a forgotten colony of Earth, an abandoned planet of telepathic outlaws, where elves and witches are real, and the fantasies of the Middle Ages endure.

**Yeah. Don't ask.

For my friends who are parents

And there are many of them and they are very good parents. Bless their hearts.

I’m nearly a decade into parenting, if you factor in pregnancy (and I choose to, because I view pre-natal vitamins as the preparation for a lifetime of sacrifice). So it’s embarassing to admit what just occurred to me as I doled out food that morning to various mammals: parenting is the only job besides combat soldier where you wake up on the job. Sure, some lawyers work punishing hours and have been known to sleep at the office on occasion, but no one has ever walked into their bedroom in the dark of night and demanded a re-analysis of tort reform.

Not only do you wake up on the job, you frequently wake up to information which would make a lesser person try to hide in the box with the ski-clothes. Which parent among us hasn’t awakened to the fact that a) There’s a lot of vomit in their house, b) It’s someone else's vomit, and c) It’s their job to take care of both the vomit and the person who is currently generating more vomit. And need it be said that a sleepless night or two with children hosting an especially energetic stomach virus – one that causes the washing-machine to actually die from overuse – should result in a little extra bonus in ones parenting paycheck? Of course, in the real world, the extra bonus is the parent getting the stomach flu, which arrives the morning the parent has signed on to monitor a field-trip to a pig farm.

"For What It's Worth" from The QC Report blogged by Quinn Cummings.

Posted while listening, no kidding, to "Sweet Child of Mine" on the radio...

27 October 2008

For Lori

A friend passed away on Saturday, much too young.

Borrowed Time by David Moreau

I will not die tonight
I will lie in bed with
my wife beside me,
curled on the right
like an animal burrowing.
I will fit myself against her
and we will keep each other warm.

I will not die tonight.
My son who is seven
will not slide beneath the ice
like the boy on the news.
The divers will not have to look
for him in cold water.
He will call, "Daddy, can I get up now?"
in the morning.

I will not die tonight.
I will balance the checkbook,
wash up the dishes
and sit in front of the TV
drinking one beer.

For the moment I hold a winning ticket.
It's my turn to buy cold cuts
at the grocery store.
I fill my basket carefully.

For like the rain that comes now
to the roof and slides down the gutter
I am headed to the earth.
And like the others, all the lost
and all the lovers, I will follow
an old path not marked on any map.

24 October 2008


"On a break" is community theater for "spend more time with my family" which is politics for "unemployed."

Feel free to suggest dinner dates and movie nights...

Walking to work

My apartment is a mile from my office. There are lots of things that are good about this - I like living close in - but the best is that when the weather is nice and I don't have time pressures afterwards, I can walk to work. This is good for my pocketbook (the price of gas); the environment (the use of gas); and my figure (burning calories instead of gas).

Until recently I walked to work accompanied only by whatever reading material I had on me. This is a mixed blessing as one of the bigger stressors on my mother during my formative years was her belief that she had witnessed me crossing Colesvillle Road with, as she put it, my nose stuck in a book. More than once.

Oh, as if. That would have been dangerous.

Besides, I was crossing this*:

not this:

The fact that my co-workers have claimed to see me do the same thing here:

lends no credibility whatsoever to Mom's case.

Anyway, David recently upgraded to a newer, fancier, yadda, yadda iPod and, being the nice sort that he is, gave me his old one rather than tossing into a drawer or something. I call it myPod.

So now my walks to work have a soundtrack. I listed to podcasts of This American Life and Selected Shorts and am enjoying them so much that I sent a little money to WBEZ to help pay for them. (You're welcome.)** And a walk that takes about 25-ish minutes while reading takes about 20 minutes while listening, which is also good for my figure.

I suspect that the number of days that I walk will drop with the temperature, but for now walking around in the lovely autumn weather is a definite good. ++good, in fact.

*And pretty nearly exactly there, as a matter of fact. Just a little bit beyond the white car on the left.

**Yes, I realize that the WBEZ contribution is only for TAL. When I can, I'll pony up for SelSho.

15 October 2008


Along with "Where is your coat?"* and "So what show are you working on now?"

Where Are Your Shoes by Charlotte Erickson

There's a rusty water pump
And a bright black snake
Along this dusty road
Child, where are your shoes?

There are fallen coconuts
And huge heaps of garbage
Under this blazing sun
Child, where are your shoes?

There are elephants strolling
And baby goats roaming
Through this tiny village
Child, where are your shoes?

There's a dirty face
And one small, outstretched hand
On a beautiful girl
But child, where are your shoes?

*From November-ish to April-ish, in the back of the car.

14 October 2008

Just in time for NaNoWriMo

From "The Writer's Almanac":

Lester Dent wrote more than a thousand pulp fiction stories, all with the same formula, which he detailed in an article that explained an exact formula for writing a 6,000-word pulp story.

Here is the formula for the first 1,500 words:

1. First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved — something the hero has to cope with.
2. The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)
3. Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.
4. Hero's endeavors land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1,500 words.
5. Near the end of first 1,500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

08 October 2008


My 401(K) - or as a friend in an e-mail yesterday called it, his 201(K) and soon to be 01(K) - balance has been dropping in a sickening kind of way. For instance, I've lost $8,644.21 since Monday. This past Monday. Two days ago.

I'm down $34K and change since June. My little pile of "if cat food, at least name brand rather than store brand cat food" retirement savings is back to where it was in January of 2006. I've lost 33 months and yet don't feel any younger.

My Boss says $2 Trillion dollars has evaporated from domestic retirement accounts. Two Trillion.

One of our staffers is closing and emptying her 401(K) because she says she'd rather pay it in penalties and taxes than have it simply disappear on its own. And because, I suppose, she intends to put the sad remains under her mattress. (My investment club calls that Locking In the Loss.) No, I do not recommend this course of action.

So it's not too surprising that this clause from a kinda recent (September 29th) Time magazine article by Andy Serwer and Allan Sloan about Current Unpleasantness caught my eye:

While we're trying to get our heads around what amounts to the biggest debt transfer since money was created,...

06 October 2008

Collateral benefits

For me: After making so many Lemon Almond Polenta cakes - at three eggs each - I've actually mastered the ability to crack an egg into a bowl one handed.

For the audience: I have to bring a complete cake for each performance, of which only slightly more than 1/4 is plated. So our lovely stage manager, Jason, slices and puts out the remainder in the refreshment area during intermission. Come to see the show and you might get to try the cake if you're quick enough.

03 October 2008

Annual Performance Review

My Boss won't let use the following answers in my self-evaluation. Such as a pity, as it would be the most concise and honest one I'd ever written.

Accomplishments during last review period: Didn't piss anyone off so much that they felt that had to fire me.

Goals/objectives for coming review period: See above.

Shakespeare put it best

"See what a grace was seated on this brow...."

"Like a mildew'd ear"*

Even if Richard had not been piteously slain and murdered, he'd still be long dead, I agree. Either way, yesterday was his 556th birthday.

(Hamlet, of course, not Richard III. Act III, scene iv)

*By far, my favorite comparison in all of His Bardness's work. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Nope, much better to compare a king to a mildew'd ear. Good one, Will!

25 September 2008

Best work quote of the day (so far)

You're screaming at the choir here!

22 September 2008

How to have a successful community theater career

Own enough underpinnings that you don't have to do laundry too often.

Make sure that you have enough big girl panties to get you through the most stressful Tech Week. 'Cause you're never stressed alone.

19 September 2008

How to convince me to go somewhere

5 e-mails:

From Carol in NYC:


Would you have any interest in going to Torquay in November? The reason I ask is that Claire and I have been trying to think of someone who would be a really congenial third person in our rental car...and I KNOW you would enjoy it! Meriel is also a possibility, and you'd like her, too.

Just a thought...happy to provide details.



From Claire somewhere in England:

It would be great if you could join us, Leta. UK Qwerts are extremely silly, with a good deal of fooling about. If you can make a friend giggle in the *middle* of their aria with a smart remark, so much the better.

Driving down, it is obligatory to sing along with whatever I chose to put on the CD player - preferably loudly and out of tune, and also to share as much shameless gossip as possible, and if you don't have any, make it up !


From me to Jackie, our hostess in Torquay

Carol and Claire are doing a very fine job of convincing me to attend Torqwert V, so I'm information-gathering before I give them a solid "yes" or "no" today.

So, uhm, is there room for me? I am willing to share if someone was hoping for a roommate.

And (here's the fun one) I have Celiac Disease, which is an allergy to gluten which is found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and a few other grains which makes feeding me a special challenge. I can send over a small box with a loaf of bread and a couple of other things that I can have if that would help. And I spend a lot of time reading labels on food. Fortunately, I am asymptomatic, so it's not that I'd need to be rushed to the hospital if I accidentally eat the wrong thing. And think how much beer you'll save, although I'll make it up in Whisky.

I hope all is well with y'all. It's definitely been too long since we've seen each other.



From Jackie in Torquay:

Yes, yes, yes. Of course we have room for you. Please come, especially if you don't mind sharing.

I know all about Celiac Disease as my brother-in-law is a really bad sufferer. Also, running a hotel you do get lots of people with special dietary needs. You don't need to send over a box - we can get gluten free stuff here which I will gladly get in for you.

Book that flight at once.


Jackie and Bob

From me to Carol and Claire:

It looks like I'm in!

I'm am smiling so broadly right now....

Where I'm going: The Torcroft Hotel on the English Riviera
Why I'm going: TorQWERT V

I'm going to surrounded by friends old and new, I'm going to sing a bunch of G&S, I'm going to be able to eat without bringing my own food, and I'm leaving the country again before my passport expires.

It's been kind of a stressful summer but I am really starting to look forward to the Autumn.

18 September 2008

This means something, I just don't know what

The new e-mail notification always makes me happy, thinking that it might be something good, either work-wise or socially.

The phone ringing gives me the opposite feeling, whether it's the phone on my desk or my mobile.

Text messages - even though they come through my phone - also make me happy. Even though I don't usually know who they are from.

Field Trip!

Or "The Humanities Major Infiltrates a Really Cool Government Facility" ...

Every now and then working with engineers pays off. For instance, the other day I got this in my e-mail:

Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2008 7:02 PM
Subject: You are invited by the IEEE/AESS and IEEE/ GRSS to Tour NASA on 9/16/08

Next Meeting: Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 at 10am

Topic: “NASA Technical Tour, Integration and Testing Facilities & Hubble Cleanroom ”

Presenter: NASA, sponsored by the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing and Aerospace Electronics and Systems Societies

Location: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

About the Tour: See how NASA builds, tests, and prepares for satellite missions.

Cost: Free

Naturally, I wrote back and asked to be included because how often does an English/Humanities Major get to tour science geekery on this level? I billed myself (to my bosses anyway) as the "corporate representative" to the tour and e-mailed the following to my friend Tim who is an astrophysicist at Goddard: "By the way, I'll be at Goddard for the IEEE tour on September 16th. No points for guessing who will be the only non-engineer there." and we made a date for lunch.

Finally, I would be going somewhere besides my office where my badge (or as I call it, my geek tag) would be considered fashion-wear.

The tour invitation got such a good response that the organizers had to break it up and do it over three days, so I got moved to September 17th. My goal was to not stand out as the Humanities Major in the room, so this morning I got up all bright and lark-like and selected an outfit from the non-Jane Austen end of my wardrobe spectrum: Black slacks, black v-neck shirt, maroon sweater, and flats. Good for walking around in, not likely to interfere with eqiupment that might cost multiples of my annual salary.

We started the tour in the Visitor's Center and proceeded to the theater where they have the Science on a Sphere (SOS) display. According to the brochure, SOS is not revolting breakfast fare but "a suspended 6-foot diameter sphere that displays 3D animated data of the planets, moons, and our earth. The GSFC production crew has also made the first movie to be seen on the SOS called 'Footprints'." Very, very cool. We got to see - among other things - weather patterns from over the past couple of months (think Gustav and Hanna and Ike*) up to that morning. When the guy behind me misinterpreted the data and said we were looking at "today" before we were I was the one who quietly corrected, "no, that's August." "Oh, so it is." He is a scientist. My cover remained intact.

After the SOS we boarded a couple of shuttles and were taken into GSFC proper and into Building 7/10 & 29.


The Building 7/10 Spacecraft Test and Integration Facility contains cleanrooms for spacecraft integration and special chambers for environmental test of spacecraft. Nine thermal-vacuum chambers, four large vibration platforms("shakers"), and an acoustic test chamber capable of 150 decibels are located in this facility. There is also a full-scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Building 29 Spacecraft Systems Development and Integration Facility is a 7990 m² facility that contains one of the largest cleanrooms in the world. The High Bay Cleanroom is a 1,161 square metres (12,500 sq ft), class 1,000 (M4.5), horizontal flow cleanroom measuring 30.5 x 38 x 27 meters (100'x125'x89'). Its five 250 horsepower fans are capable of moving 25,388 m³/min (900,000 ft³/min). It has been designed to support the integration and testing of flight hardware and has the capacity to accommodate two full-sized shuttle payloads simultaneously and plays a major role in preparations for the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Missions.

(Thanks, Wikipedia.)

Specifically, the Cleanroom is the largest known Cleanroom in the world. Its 9 stories high, so pretty much everything connected to it just looks freakin' big. I am convinced that I passed a drawer on the tour labeled "Big A$$ Wrenches." (The drawer for sockets, alas, was merely labled "Sockets.") Sort of sums up the experience, right there.

There is a smell common to government facilities. It's not a bad smell, but it is very specific. It's kind of a mix of plastic, metal, and recycled air, with maybe just a soupçon of ozone. I've smelled it when Dad took me on Navy ships and I've smelled it a few other places and it's there at Goddard. Maybe it's the smell of our tax dollars working very hard for us.**

Anyway, we were also taken to see the vibration platforms, the thermal test chambers, and ... the acoustic test chamber. The rule at GSFC is that if there is something that can be tested before an object is shot into space to roam the galaxies at 172kph, they test it. Hence, the acoustic test chamber. Picture loud. Picture the speakers that your most annoying neighbor ever owned. Now picture that speaker being, oh, 10 - 12 feet across. That huge freakin' speaker was quite a few feet overhead and we could only see the back of it and the several feet of business end that was resting on a platform overhead. We walked into the room that leads to the acoustic test chamber, our guide pointed up to the speaker and the group reaction was pretty much "Whoa!" I still tend to think "Whoa!" as I remember it.

Our guide told us that nearby staffers usually find a reason to be out of the building when things are being acoustically tested.

The last stop on our trip was the cyclatron, which a) is huge and b) can spin things up to a rate of 6g. Yep. Six times the gravity of the earth. Humans tend to pass out at 3g. Oddly enough, our guide wouldn't let us ride the cyclatron, but did point out the big mark on the wall from the last time that someone started the device without being 100% positive that everything was completely secured. We all agreed that a good goal was to not be the last signature on the checklist for that event.

As I was leaving the building it began to occur to me that those payloads must find space very restful after all the testing they go through in Greenbelt.

After our tour, I met my college friend Tim for lunch and although I'm sure that the other people enjoyed the tour very much, they didn't get to have lunch with Tim afterwards, so I can only pity them. Tim, who is both wicked smart and a nearly professional story-teller, is a very entertaining lunch companion. With my theater schedule and his two daughters starting their teenage years, we don't see each other nearly often enough.

Goddard hosted "LaunchFest" this past weekend and from what our guide told us, they had a good enough response that they'll do it again, possibly next year. If you get the chance, go. Maybe they'll let you ride the cyclatron...

*No, no, not "Gustav and Walter and Franz." Be serious.

**It is not, as Apocalypse Now teaches us, the smell of victory, as that has a strong napalm aroma.

Appetite grows by what it feeds on?

Desire has no object, only a singular cause: desire desires its own cause in order ever to perpetuate itself. The ego experiences desire in the form of psychological contents (”wishes”). The subject of the unconscious does not have desire - it is desire.

From Journal of Thieves

17 September 2008

My alma mater, not my year

David likes to check out the antique photos on Shorpy. Today he sent me this one of the archery team, cheekily labeled "I'm With Cupid."

Montgomery Blair High School girls, 1935

16 September 2008

Band Camp for Operetta Geeks

"...the all-time nerdiest thing I've ever been involved in, and I say that as a person who has been involved with public radio and marching band." Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot

I don't know which of my geeky hobbies would win for all-time nerdiest thing I've ever been involved in, but I suspect that the hot money is on either the historical re-enactment, the D&D, or the G&S Sing-Outs.

Or, as I put it in an e-mail to David:

Doug is also talking about coming. Largely, I bet, because in our ongoing "you are such a geek" conversations, he thinks that witnessing me singing G&S will count as a critical hit. As if. Anyway, he'll probably come to his senses and bail but if he doesn't, I can introduce you and you can protect each other from the G&S freaks and their show-themed t-shirts.*

Before I go any further, of course, I must mention that my D&D, G&S, and Re-enactment friends are among the finest, kindest, loveliest people I know. Smart and creative, too. And I do not make fun of them while standing superiorly apart. I am deep in their midst where I am happy and at home. But let's face it, any hobby you have to explain to people...

So the 4th Great Gilbert & Sullivan Sing-Out was held over the last weekend in August and I got to immerse myself in a full weekend with friends who get most of my references and are not only willing but happy to hang around talking about G&S and bursting into song. We infested the Rockville Civic Center's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater and sang our hearts out.

Some highlights:

- Seeing Long-Distance Kate. I haven't seen Kate since she moved to Louisville nearly a decade ago. Since last we met she has acquired the love of her life and two daughters. Her sons - who I knew as little boys - are men. Good-looking men. One of them is engaged. Where did the years go?

- Seeing Local Kate. She lives less than five miles from me and yet we never see each other. Kate brought her daughter Ali who was 8 the last time I saw her a few minutes ago. She is now 15. Fast few minutes. I caught up with Kate and Ali and asked about Kate's other daughter, Sammy. "So how is the Fairy Princess?" "Exactly." As a toddler and little girl Sammy was dewily emerged from under a drift of flower petals. It seems that at twelve she hasn't changed. Look close in the pictures her mother carries and you can still see the wings, I swear.

- Seeing Debbie. Again, lives here. So we had to pay a bunch of bucks and commit to spending a beautiful weekend indoors to run into each other, but now we have a lunch date for next week. Completely worth it.

- Memorabilia. I finally bought a copy of the third edition of Harry Benford's G&S Lexicon which lists me in the acknowledgements. Why did Harry include me? I dunno. But he did and I feel all famous and learned about it. I've been meaning to pick up a copy for a while (I have an earlier edition), and now I have one. That fact that I am thanked and Larry isn't is probably the most surreal thing about G&S that I can think of.

- Buttons. We - of course! - sold buttons*** that VLOC folks made. When we were planning the last Sing-Out Denise mentioned that we'd need ideas for buttons. "Hand me a pen." quoth I. And a couple of minutes later I had listed a dozen which had sold handily. This time I e-mailed my suggestions in and ditto. Buttons are how geeks self-identify.

- All that singing. We sang all of them. All thirteen operettas. Sometimes I sang from the back of the house, sometimes from the stage, sometimes from the front of the house. But the absolute best was sitting on the risers during Pirates and just listening to the men. The men's chorus music in Pirates is so lovely, so lyrical, and from where I was I could hear those gorgeous, gorgeous harmonies. And this Baritone-preferring soprano just fell in love with the tenors because they earned it. They were glorious. And I could turn around and tune into each voice as I chose, so I got to hear old and dear friends like Les and Lyle because no matter how glorious the tenors are, a baritone's a baritone.

- And more singing. Sullivan might just as well have written in an alto and soprano line for certain pieces. "Cat like tread" and "The March of the Peers" are two of them. Tantantara! Tzing! Boom!

- The re-writes. Gary had a verse as the Major-General's song, which he has given me permission to post here. He and Local Kate wrote the lyrics together and smartly decided that as Pirates would commence somewhere after 10:00 at night, he would sing this instead of the traditional 3rd verse, not after it. Fabulous!!

When I can be a part of VLOC's Sing-Out here in Maryland,
And yodel thirteen op-er-as, from piracy to Fairyland,
When I can wrap my tongue around the issues in this patter song,
And listen as Kate Huntress-Reeve contributes to the Matter song...

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern scholarship,
When Blair Eig sings the Roulette song and pockets a ten-dollar chip,
And when the Sing-Out's finished, all the fun and games will melt away...
When I am in my Lexus doing 80 on the Belt-a-way!

(When he is in his Lexus...)

It's often hard to think of rhymes that make the lyrics up to date,
But Kate and I collaborated! Now I fear it's getting late,
And so in making up a verse to (hopefully) amuse you all,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I'm already looking forward to the next one in, I think, 2012. Must start warming up.

*As it turned out, Doug did have to bail, largely because his schedule was OBE. Rather a pity as he missed some damn fine singing** by some damn fine people.

**None of it, alas, by me. I clearly need to sing more as I was sorrily out of voice.

***Or, as I think of them now, "real live Flair."

My favorite thing about Pink's "So What"

She calls her ex a "tool." You just don't hear that enough in pop music.

Mm, cake!

Beth: Oh, that looks so good, what is it?
Gabe: Limone-mandorle-polenta.
Beth: Mandorle?
Gabe: Almond.
Beth: Mm.
Karen: Instead of white flour, you use polenta.
Beth: Oooh, what a good idea.
Gabe: And six eggs.
Karen: It's very eggy.
Gabe: And a ton of butter.
Beth: Mm, it's delicious.

Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies

Okay, so the girl with the annoying food allergy is doing a food show. Specifically, I'm doing a show where cast members drink coffee, eat cake, drink wine, eat salad, etc. In general - and I can do this because I'm asymptomatic, which means that I don't get actively sick if I eat something gluten-y - if my character needs to eat something, I eat it. But if there's an easy work-around, why not take it?

I asked Craig, our director, what he was planning to do about the one of the items that I am required to eat - the cake. He thought that he'd probably just ask the Properties Designer (the person in community theater responsible for things that carried, moved, eaten, etc by actors) to get a yellow cake. "Or I could get a gluten-free cake mix and be responsible for the cake."

I am usually happy to be responsible for: learning my lines, learning my blocking, showing up on time, and, um, performing. I am usually very resistant to being responsible for anything external to that. Why? Largely, because I am very lazy.

But I actually do like to cook and rarely get to do it. So the chance to cook and do a show, well, I volunteered to provide some of the food for a food show.

Gotta love the internet. Go to Google and type in lemon almond polenta cake and then just scroll through the returns (go ahead, I'll wait). Something I'd never heard of before I first read Dinner with Friends back in 2004 and something that had no real resonance for me before I went gluten-free (mostly) in 2005 is all over the web. I read lots of recipes, eliminated the ones that called for "flour", focused on ones that looked reasonably simple, and settled on this one from Nibb'lous.

It's a very easy recipe to make. Frankly, the hardest part was translating the measurements from grams to ounces, which wasn't even necessary as my measuring cup has both.

Some thoughts:

- If the recipe calls for softened butter, than the very first thing to do is put the two sticks of butter (the half-pound of butter*) in the bowl you'll be using and leave it on the counter as you create your mise.

- The Whole Foods near my place doesn't carry caster, or superfine, sugar, so I made my own by running regular sugar through the coffee grinder. This idea may also be all over the internet, but I thought of it myself. (When I am not busy being a complete idiot, I occasionally guest as a genius.)

- If the ingredients are listed in metric, then perhaps the oven temp will be as well. The cake takes an impressively long time to bake at half the correct oven temp. (And, thus, we are back to idiot.)

- I made a glaze for the top but instead of lemons I used key limes (donated to the cause by Mattie), sugar, and titch of cornstarch. Tastes lovely. Boils in nothing flat. Do not turn your back on it.

- None of the recipes I found suggest using a parchment round in the bottom of the pan, but good luck getting the cake out in one piece without one.

- With all that butter and all those eggs, this is one really moist cake, which a good thing as far as eating on stage is concerned.

The second time I made the cake, I set the oven to the correct temperature. Worked out much better. Mattie and I tasted attempt #1 and she gave me some good feedback. Laura, Sally, David, and I tasted attempt #2 and the rest went to the theater for my castmates to try.

I figured that Andy, who actually has to eat his piece would be given a primary veto. If he hated it, we'd use yellow cake or something similar. Andrea has to eat some of hers as the lights go down, so she got a secondary veto. Doug has to plate it but doesn't intend to eat it so his opinions matter less. Craig, our director, got to try some because I like it when people eat my cooking.

They liked it!

So now I only need to make another 15 or so of them.....

*It's a seven-inch cake tin. That's an Alabama-level of butter in this cake. With the three eggs and the corn meal it just needs to be deep-fried to be an official Mobile recipe. And maybe served with a side of bacon.

15 September 2008

Where to find me

The Cameron Highlands Resort.

An interest in tea can take you to the exceptionally beautiful Darjeeling in the northeast of India or Kerala in the south or even to Uganda and Malawi in Africa... And of course, being served afternoon tea in ravishingly lovely hill country -- well, what could be more glorius?

Caroline Grayburn of Tim Best Travel.

My schedule:

Morning - get up, drink local tea. Look at pretty scenery.
Noon-ish (flexible) - have lunch and tea.
Early afternoon - nap.
Afternoon - Afternoon Tea amid the pretty scenery.
Evening - Cocktails and dinner.
Night - tea and a book.

I think I can be packed in about 10 minutes.

14 September 2008

My candidate

After much thought, I've decided to lend my support in this election to the Surprise Party. Technically, they haven't run for office since 1940 and their candidate, Gracie Allen, has been dead for over 40 years, but it would make me feel so much better to Vote for Gracie than anyone else I can think of.

She ran a positive enough campaign even for Brett.

In all seriousness, though, like Brett I'd far rather people try to convince me to vote for rather than against. And Gracie's campaign was no more insubstantial than the 3rd grade bickering we're getting from the current crop.

Vote for Gracie!

13 September 2008

Leta > Leta > Leta

Leta is busier than I am, but I am busier than Leta.

12 September 2008

Just because I miss it so

And because some days the thought of "shipwrecked and comatose" doesn't sound so bad.

The Red Dwarf Theme Song

It's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere,
I'm all alone, more or less,
Let me fly, far away from here,
Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun.

I want to lie shipwrecked and comotose,
Drinking fresh mango juice,
Goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes,
Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun
Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun.

I’ll pack my bags, and head into hyperspace,
Velocity at time-warp speed.
Spend my days in ultraviolet rays,
Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun.

We’ll lock on course, straight through the universe,
You and me, and the galaxy.
Reach the stage, hyperdrive’s engaged,
Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun,
Fun, fun, fun, in the sun, sun, sun.

Maybe I should just get the DVDs....

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mencken

"When things get so balled up that the people of a country got to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are not trying to put nothing over on nobody."

H.L. Mencken, The American Language

11 September 2008

Both parties would say this proves their point

"America demonstrates invincibly one thing that I had doubted up to now: that the middle classes can govern a State. ... Despite their small passions, their incomplete education, their vulgar habits, they can obviously provide a practical sort of intelligence and that turns out to be enough."

Alexis de Toqueville

10 September 2008

This is what comes of allowing poets to write plays

Doug lent me his copy of Under Milk Wood, a play he talks about the way that I talk about Betrayal (except that he has actually directed both of them and knows them better than I ever will). I picked it up to read yesterday in order to clear my "library card" with him (which is written on the front of his script for Dinner with Friends so I remain very aware of it).*

So there I am, sitting in the Starbucks before rehearsal, and I open this thing. As I do so, Laurie swung by on her way to her rehearsal, saw it in my hands and asked "Who's doing that?!" "Nobody. I'm just reading it." "Oh." And off she went.

I read the little essay at the beginning and I read the little guide to Dylan Thomas's Anglo-Welsh pronounciation at the back. And then I needed to head to the theater, so I left the Starbucks and began to read the text as I walked.

Page 1.

To begin at the beginning:
It is Spring, moonless, night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine tonight in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.
OMG. I coundn't just read it. No way. I had to hear the words and so, in my walking rhythm, I started to read it a bit aloud.

Page 2.
Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nanny-goats, sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman's lofts like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread's bakery flying like black flour. It is to-night in Donkey Stret, trotting silent with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercoulers done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy.** It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.
By now I was at the theater and tracked Laurie down just to tell her that "Oh, my God, I love this play. I'm on page 2 and I love it." "I know!"

During Andy & Andrea's scene, I curled up with in the back of the room, whispering the words like some kind of postulant with her breviary, stoppping only to poke at Doug and point out the amazingness (which he already knew) of bits like --
Mrs Rose Cottage's eldest, Mae, peals off her pink-and-white skin in a furnace in a tower in a cave in a waterfall in a wood and waits there raw as an onion for Mister Right to leap up the burning tall hollow splashes of leaves like a brilliantined trout.
Why he didn't just swat me away remains a mystery.

As I am reading his copy, I get to see all of his edits, directions, and the occasional thought which is the best part of borrowing someone else's script. Mind you, some of his edits make me sad; for good and sufficient reason, for instance, "sloeblack" is gone from the first paragraph. (Would you like to know the good and sufficient reasons? Ask Doug. It is not for me to reproduce them here because what happens in his reheasal hall, etc.) So no "sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack," alas. I may have to just start saying that randomly to myself to replace in the multiverse the number of times that phrase was not said in its entirety in his production. As always, the multiverse can thank me later.

Another nice thing about borrowing someone else's copy is that - unless that person is all German about her script's and book's spinal integrity the way I am - working copies of scripts tend to lie flat on the desk as one is typing out particularly good bits into one's blog.

He pointed out a few characters that he thought I'd play well. I am immensely flattered.

I'm on page 32 right now. There are only 95 pages, alas. I will probably re-read it before I return it. Maybe more than once.

*David is the only other person who refers to my "library card" in casual conversation about borrowed books.

** The next time that I need a screenname for something, I'm thinking that rosytinteacaddy is the way to go, except that a band in New Zealand thought of it first.