27 March 2008

Sorry, Mollie

"Taking to the Backstreet Boys is time out of my life that I'll never get back."
Trace Adkins

And with such a lovely baritone did Mr. Adkins dis my former housemate's favorite child band.

Thoughts for the day

Any community's arm of force - military, police, security - needs people in it who can do necessary evil, and yet not be made evil by it. To do only the necessary and no more. To constantly question the assumptions, to stop the slide into atrocity.
Lois McMaster Bujold, "Barrayar", 1991

War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with.

Lois McMaster Bujold, "The Vor Game", 1990

26 March 2008

How to avoid answering that question

Warning - if you have delicate sensibilities, you might want to stop reading after the word "whew." Just a suggestion. Because mental images? They could form.

I am not a smoker. I did smoke some clove cigarettes in college because I thought that they smelled nice and (probably) because I thought that they were cool. And because I thought that they weren't really cigarettes.*

So to prep for Agnes, I am taking "smoking class" with one of my co-workers, which is the source of much conversation around the office. (Possibly the only thing that I could do to evoke more comment would be to get pregnant. And, no, I'm not willing to do that for my art.) The cigarettes that I am using for the show - in compliance with the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act, are tobacco and nicotine-free. They are made from "lotus leaf, corn silk, licorice root, and plant extracts and essences," and, according to my co-worker, smell and taste worse than actual cigarettes. They also have health warnings on them because they are still a lung irritant-delivery system.

Every day for the next few weeks, I'll go downstairs with my co-worker when she takes her 3:00 break and we will hang outside the back door and smoke together. Yesterday I learned not to smoke like a novelty item, and every day in every way I'll get better and better.**

So, as I say, this is the source of much interest around the office. One of my bosses has offered to teach me to chew tobacco should it ever be necessary for a role (uhm.... thank you?) and today we had this exchange:

You don't have to inhale, do you?

Yeah. It's a hundred-seat house, so fake smoking looks like fake smoking which is distracting.

So is that the most unsavory thing you've had to do on-stage?

Uhm... no.


Yeah. And one of our co-workers saw that show. And told me I did a good job.


You're blushing, so I think I won't ask any more questions.


Because I cannot come up with a scenario where I explain the (fully dressed) fake oral sex that I had on stage during Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead without both of us being weirded out for the rest of the day. Minimum.

*They are real cigarettes. With oil of clove sprayed on the tobacco. And no filter. How I was ever admitted to an institution of higher learning remains a mystery.

**Émile Coué -- Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux

24 March 2008

Happy Easter, Part II

For me, it ain't Easter until we say

"Alleluia! The Lord is risen!"
"He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!"

I feel spunkier just typing that, actually.

David is not a practicing Christian* but he does come to church with me on a few special occasions, like Christmas Eve. He listens politely to the service, sings the hymns, and (appropriately) declines to go up to receive communion. He does not mock religions he doesn't accept, nor does he rolls his eyes in silent "oh boys." He is a very good guest.

So I think that I will have to dedicate some time to tracking down a copy of "Anything Can Happen" for him me, which I will lend to him.

Especially as I like to describe most days as "Anything Can Happen Day" after The Mickey Mouse Club's designation for "the day that is filled with surprises... Nobody knows what's going to happen..."

Ohhhh. Found it. Ordered it. Score.

Christos Voskrecé.
Voistinu Voskrecé.

*And, sadly, he rejects my suggested label of Godless Heathen.

23 March 2008

Happy Easter!

Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?
Buttercup: Well... you were dead.
Westley: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
Buttercup: I will never doubt again.
Westley: There will never be a need.

from (of course) the movie of The Princess Bride

20 March 2008

A lovely view from up here

"Where a goat can go, a man can go; and where a man can go, he can drag a gun"
- Maj. Gen. William Phillips, as his men brought cannon to the top of Mt. Defiance in 1777

On Friday I got a nice e-mail from Brett saying that he and son Charles would be hiking Section A of the Billy Goat Trail on Saturday morning and would David and I like to go? David was nursing a case of the sniffles, but I was free and so I rounded up my hiking shoes and we met up at the Visitor's Center.

In general, the best way to get me to do something is to make the information about the activity available and then assume that I won't actually look things up or figure out what I'm getting myself in for.

Like, for instance, that time we were at DisneyWorld and - as I hadn't read up on any of rides, a rather interesting choice for someone who is afraid of heights and has a poor sense of balance - I wandered blithely past the sign saying how tall, how not pregnant, and how free of heart conditions one must be to go on the ride. In fact, I believe that my exact comment as I sashayed by was "Oh, I'm definitely that tall. I'm more than that tall." La, la, la.

And just as I realized that I was in line for a roller coaster and started to try to figure out how to get out of line, Brett, Stacey, and John started telling me that we were in line for the Happy Train to Mickey's Birthday Land or something. I'm not all that bright sometimes, so even that didn't actually cause me to realize what was up. Or rather, way up. And once I did, they just hustled me on board cheerfully talking over my pitiful cries for help.

Not that the DislandWorld folks were going to rush to my rescue; they found the whole thing hilarious. Humphf. I am so put upon.

So anyway, yeah, all I knew when I signed on was that Brett would be there and Charles and that we would be outside on what was supposed to be a beautiful day.* So I followed the link that Brett sent and confirmed that, yep, the visitors' center was the one that I was thinking it was, and went on about my business. I suspect that Brett could invite me to spend six months with his family in a bathysphere**, send me the plans for the vehicle and a list of necessary supplies and health warnings and my brain would file it thus: Brett! Charles! Cate! Something about the beach!

Cate, sadly, couldn't join us this time because she would rather scrub floors than go hiking with me.***

So on Saturday, we met up at the visitor's center and set off on our hike. The first part, which is, well, which is the tow path is very easy. Then the trail breaks right and we leave what's pretty much a semi-paved road and start scrambling over little rocks. No sweat, I can do this. Just keep alert so that I don't turn an ankle and I'll be fine. Heck, this is probably good for my knees! La, la, la.

Then the rocks started to get bigger. To turn into boulders, actually. Around this time, Charles started scrambling up them and announcing how easy they were, which was almost precisely not what I was thinking. The boulders looked like this:

Around the time that the boulders were getting big enough to make me hope that Section A is a loop and that I wouldn't have to meet these rocks coming back the other way, we came round a bit of trail and I saw this:

The Wikipedia caption for the photo calls it the "Billy Goat Trail Cliff." After I got to the top of it, I named it the Cliffs of Insanity**** and began to hope in earnest that we were on a loop. We were and the Cliffs of Insanity was the most "strenuous" part of the trip.

And as I got used to scrambling I got better at it. Not great, but better. I stopped overthinking every step and just took them. And I started treating the relatively flat tops of the boulders more like sidewalks and less like tightropes. It's possible that I am the only person who noticed this blossoming surefootedness, but it still made me feel better.

Especially as while Brett is one of the best people you can have at your side for this sort of thing - supportive, non-judgmental, patient - Charles is, after all, ten years old and being better at things than adults is like getting two desserts and no green vegetables for dinner. So it made him pretty happy to tell me about every blaze he beat me to (most of them) and every rock he climbed better than I did (prett' near all of them).

At one point he was outlining his system for continuing to destroy me, blaze-wise, and I pointed out to Brett that Charles seemed to follow the example of the sort of criminals that Batman always sends back to prison because they'd rather talk about their plan than actually kill Batman. "Yep," agreed Brett, "he's a monologuer." Of course, your average Batman villain stands more or less in place while monologuing and Charles can do it while scampering up a boulder pile in a way that reminds you why both children and young goats are called kids.

I will be revenged, however. Some day Charles and I will be lost in the trackless desert or shipwrecked or something and my contribution will be to smirk and say "Oh, you're so smart -- you get us home" and then go back to reading whatever script was in my purse when the disaster happened. I'm kind of looking forward to this, actually. The best revenge is revenge against harmless small children. (The next best revenge is when someone who is always right - and I know many of them - has to admit in front of other people that you were right and they were wrong. This happens far less often that I would like.)

Anyway, after our exhilarating hike - and it was, I worked up a bit of a sweat and definitely met my target heart rate at least once - we walked back to the car and headed off for a nice lunch with ice cream for dessert. I was also able to give Brett the box of Girl Scout Cookies I had bought for him, which made us both happy.

And I have a picture of the Cliffs of Insanity taped to my hutch at work to remind me that I actually climbed those rocks. And lived to tell the tale.

*It was a beautiful day, just as advertised. Don't worry - this isn't some kind of foreshadowing.

**I'm also not really a fan of small, enclosed underwater spaces.

***Truthfully, she had a prior commitment to help with some pre-Easter Spring cleaning at her church, but that's not what Brett said. Not does it make the best story.

**** I know, not very original, but it seemed pretty accurate to me.

Screechy 80s Band

I like Rush, Canada's major contribution to the world of music. And I particularly like this Rush song, which I haven't heard for eons.

David is not so big on Rush, whom he calls a screechy 80s band. He tried to call them a screechy 80s hair band, but I argued that hair bands are glam rockers like Cinderella or Ratt or Poison, not Rush, who in comparison to Cinderella, et al, are downright somber. And he saw my point.

Rush is a progressive rock band, according to those strangers on Wikipedia, who have written about Rush the most glowing tribute to living people that I can remember seeing.


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

A planet of play things
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 freewill

There are those who think
That they were dealt a losing hand
The cards were stacked against them
They weren't born in Lotusland

All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate
Kicked in the face
You can't pray for a place
In heaven's unearthly estate


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


Gluten-free Pop-Tarts

Nope, I don't know where you can find them. I have, however, written to the Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bakehouse suggesting that gluten-free toaster pastries would probably sell pretty well. You can, too. Glutenfree.Bakehouse@wholefoods.com

Or you can make them at home. Celiac.com has a recipe here.

19 March 2008

How to get cool stuff for your desk at work

Today's e-mail:


Is the schedule for the meeting in April set enough so that we can get reservations? Are you arranging hotel rooms? Enquiring minds want to know.


Yep, the dates are firm and I've made the reservations. I have your [hotel rewards] number, so that'll already be applied to your reservation.

Are you going to bring me a present from Alabama?


Sure, you want a lump of red clay or a model space rocket. I haven’t found much else there in Huntsville.


Either is fine with me. Of course, I'll have it on my desk and I'll tell people that you gave it to me.


I’ll go with the space rocket, then.

12 March 2008

Skanky factlet

In all the hoopla regarding the Eliot Spitzer unpleasantness, I heard this interview on All Things Considered:
Michele Norris talks with Martin Monto, professor of social psychology, at the University of Portland. Monto did a study on customers of prostitutes. His research shows that many of the assumptions of why men seek out prostitutes are accurate. They are seeking greater variety, something simple, no commitment. He says many are also attracted to the very illicit nature of prostitution. This risk-taking on behalf of people in the public eye can have several components.
The part that caused me to stare at the radio, grossed out? That would be the part where Professor Monto said that about 20% of men have used prostitutes. That would be 1 in 5. That would mean that I must know several of them. Or lots and lots.

If you are one of them, please don't self-identify. I don't want to know.

Ick. Ick. Ick.

And if I misheard that statistic, what with driving and paying attention to the road and all, please feel free to correct me. Or rather, correct me if the number is lower as that would make me feel a bit better. If it's higher then I really, really don't want to know.

A first

I just heard an ad for some kind of Dietz and Watson prepared chicken that used the phrase "gluten-free."

Right there on the radio!

I think that's literally the first time that I've heard, not read, the words "gluten-free" in any media. Next: television! And after that - movie theaters! After that - who knows!

So I went to their website and found this on their FAQ page:

Q: Are Dietz and Watson meats gluten free?

A: Nearly all Dietz & Watson Meats are gluten free except: Rotisserie Style Chicken, Scrapple, Bockwurst, Fat Free Beef Franks, Gourmet Lite Franks, Gourmet Lite Beef Franks, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Florentine and Chicken Portabella. All the rest of our meats are free of wheat, rye, barley and oat proteins.

Guess whose deli meats I'll be buying the future.

11 March 2008

Out of practice

Part of an e-mail exchange between me and Melinda, Agnes of God's producer. An important plot point in the show is Dr. Livingstone's chain smoking.

"Leta -- I have to purchase herbal cigarettes for you. We have to keep the smoke to a minimum, so we're going to get packs from a few brands to see which works best. A distributor for Ecstasy Cigarettes has offered to let us have their factory seconds at a reduced cost -- the cigarettes themselves are find, but the packaging was dented. That brand only has one flavor, but some others have a variety. One brand has Regular, Cherry, Vanilla, Clove, and Menthol. Since I'm going to get some test packages, do you have any flavor preferences?"

"Clove sounds best to me - it'll remind me of my college years."

04 March 2008


Today, March 4th*, has been declared National Grammar Day and I nearly missed it. I love grammar! I use it all the time!

So it was with great delight that I read about National Grammar Day and joined SPOOG (the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, of course). I have printed out my membership card and noted the fine print that warns me that my membership is "null and void if bearer uses myself instead of me," which right there shows you why it's my kind of organization.

Grumpy Martha makes an excellent pitch for good grammar but this may be her most motivating argument:

There are benefits to speaking and writing grammatically. Besides having proof that you're not Courtney Love, ...

This is even more compelling than calling good grammar sexy or implying that its absence will make your life unlivable.

*Why today, March fourth? Because it's a complete sentence! How cool is that?!

For Noah

I have to watch tv on Sunday evening.

Especially as I think I recognized someone in the trailer.

So unless you're Johnny Depp, I'm not taking your call during the show.*

With thanks to Silver Spring, Singular

*Some exceptions possible, but I wouldn't count on it.

02 March 2008

Or *what*?

I'm listening to Weekend Edition and Liane is interviewing Edward Lucas about his book "The New Cold War." At least, I think that was the subject of the interview because I was surfing around and not playing close attention. I know they talked about Gazprom, the Russian oil company, though, because shortly before he said "Gazprom," Mr. Lucas said the phrase that caught my attention..."three things, gas, cash, or...." and I don't even remember what the third was because my brain was too busy jumping up and down like an hyper eight-year-old insisting the rest of his sentence - in his lovely British elocution - was going be "or ass, nobody rides for free."

And, yes, I know that the best version of that bumper said "gas, grass, or ass" but even so.