28 May 2008


Ahh, the dinner check.

David and I sort of take turns treating each other, although he picks up the check more often than I do and more often at better restaurants. This doesn't stop me when we are at, say, Panera and he asks if I'm buying him dinner from considering looking at the nice young lady behind the counter in a way to imply that he is some dissolute man-twinkie, whom I am constantly imposed upon to buy things for. That would be fun. I really should do that sometime.

And I have a friend with whom I have dinner every so often who picks up the check unless I can either beat him to it or make a good argument as to why I should be allowed to pay it.*

Larry was in town last week and we had dinner on his birthday. And you'd think that seeing how rapidly he's aging (he is seven months older than I am and is rejoicing in his ever more encroaching senescence), his reflexes would be going, but no, when the check came he got to it before I had finished recognizing that it had arrived. "But it's your birthday!" I protested and his answer was that yes, and I would be celebrating his birthday by allowing him to buy me dinner. I couldn't argue with this logic. (He, after all, teaches law and is very logical.)

But it all worked out. I had lunch a couple of days later with Exploding Dave, who was in town on assignment for a while** and when the check came, I hooked it with Larry-like efficiency. When Dave started to protest I told him that he should just consider this as me supporting the troops. He conceeded graciously.

I'm starting to think of this as the informal law of the conservation of dining out funds.

*The time that he was an hour and half late and every waiter in the restaurant felt sorry for me until he finally arrived and then smirked at him, that wouldn't have been a good occasion to reach for the check. I didn't even think about trying for that one.

**And must be doing a very good job and we have had no ordnance explode in Silver Spring while he was here

27 May 2008

Clothes sorting quick tip

Everyone sorts their laundry differently. Not 100% differently, but most people sort their laundry using some slight variation on the method used by the parent who did laundry as they were growing up. So I learned Mom's sort and varied it to suit myself when I took over doing the laundry when I was about 14.*

Mom's method divvied everything into four piles: white, based-on-white***, light, and dark. Underpinnings, delicates, and such in little mesh laundry bags that don't go in the drier but are washed with their color cohort. So Mom is a color sorter. I know other people who do all the denim or all towels separately. Or sorting based on fabric weight.

Which means I'm a color sorter, too, in my own way. And because I merely absorbed Mom's system rather than putting it to any kind of rigorous questioning, I'm not always sure what counts as a dark vs a light. Especially as lights are often also lighter fabric, so if a towel is a kind of medium blue, but it's a towel and therefore heavy, does it go with the jeans (dark) or the t-shirts (light)?

Problem solved. I now have a sure-fire test to determine whether something is dark or light in color. Remember when Jack Germond compared writing editorials to wetting one's self while wearing a dark suit? "You get a nice, warm feeling, but nobody notices."

So if you want to know which of Mom's laundry piles you garment goes into, spill some of your dessert on it. Then walk down the hall to the kitchen, remove the stain with wet paper towels, and walk back to your desk. If your co-workers are making an obvious effort to keep their gaze at your shoulder height or above, you are wearing light-colored clothing.

The grey skirt that I am wearing today, as it turns out, is not dark.

To figure out if the garment is just kinda light or really light, drop a Necco wafer on it after you get back to your desk. Compare/contrast the white sugar mark with the rest of your garment.

The things that I do just to provide you guys with handy tips, I swear.

* A very helpful phrase to know when you are going to take over a chore from someone else is "Do you want me to do this? Then I'm doing it my way. Why don't you go read the paper or do a crossword or something"?** See? Two handy tips in one blog post.

**Updated for these modern times "Why don't you go update your Facebook status or play sudoku or something?"

***Like checks and houndstooth and stripes and such.

25 May 2008


"You have kept me at your beck and call for fifteen years. I shall never again do what you demand of me. By every rule of single combat, from this moment your life belongs to me. Is that not correct? Then I shall simply declare you dead. In all of your dealings with me, you'll do me the courtesy to conduct yourself as a dead man. I have submitted to your notions of honor long enough. You will now submit to mine."

Armand D'Hubert, The Duellists


My niece Angela graduated from Radford University this month. And because we are a very modern family, here is the list of her cheering section:

me (her maternal aunt)

Daddy (maternal grandfather)
Audrey (maternal step-grandmother)

Bruce (step-father)
Jennifer (step-father's girlfriend)

Cheryl (sister)
Brian (sister's boyfriend)
Brie (sister's boyfriend's daughter, about 10)
Emmie (sister's boyfriend's daughter, about 6)

Travis (step-brother)
Heather (step-brother's girlfriend)

Samantha (step-sister)
Amaya (step-niece, about 4)
Shania (step-niece, about 2)

Valerie (step-aunt)
Taylor (step-cousin)

Jean (step-grandmother)
Les (step-grandfather)

Christina (father's ex-wife, so former step-mother)
Joshua (half-brother, about 7)

The sharp-eyed reader will notice a couple of things:

1. That her mother and father weren't present. My sister, Sara, passed away unexpectedly a few months before Angela graduated from high school. But she was there in spirit. Angela's father couldn't be there, although I don't know why, but not for so unhappy a reason.

2. That of the 20 of us, only four are related to her by blood which was one of my favorite things about the whole affair. We don't normally spend too much effort remembering exactly how people are or aren't related unless I'm playing Southern Chess* and my thought for the day was that we just make that vague circle-waved-at-shoulder-height gesture and lump us all as family if anybody asked. The only ticket for admission was loving Angela and wanting to celebrate this milestone with her.

It was a lovely day and the University made some very good decisions:

The graduation started with a plenary session on the lawn, so when there weren't enough seats, the late comers (or the just before the Pomp and Circumstance comers, like us) could just plop down on the grass in the sunshine. Or the shade. Which also meant that during the speeches, the little kids could run around on the lawn every so often without bothering anybody.

Of course, it also meant that when Travis was near to fainting from hunger, he and few others (including some of the smaller children) could sneak off to IHOP for breakfast. This only became a problem when Angela found out about it, although she was somewhat mollified to learn that they didn't bug out until after she marched and the speeches (please contribute to the alumni fund, please don't forget the alumni fund) began.

Then there was a recess which allowed everyone to meet back at Angela's apartment - right across the street from campus! - before we headed over for her college's graduation.

There was a reception before her college's graduation with sandwiches, chips, a veggie & dip platter, and a cake. The cake had a picture of Angela and her class mates on the top and enough sugar in the frosting to keep the children jazzed through the end of the day. We got to meet several of Angela's friends and their families and we got to sit in chairs at tables which are much better for juggling plates and drinks than a big, open room.

Angela pointed out her favorite professor, who, she said, totally changed her attitude about school. "How?" she was asked. "Well, she was really hard on me which I hated at first but then I got to like it." It seems she liked having expectations to meet and sometimes exceed. Good on her!

She officially graduated from the theater, so I felt right at home. And she graduated with two of the other small colleges, so there were only about 140 or 150 names to go through, rather than everyone's.

Her degree, by the way, is in Recreation, Parks and Tourism,** so I'm assuming that the National Park Service looms large in her career goals. And her favorite professor is also the favorite professor of most of her college so the ovation when she was introduced was long and enthusiastic.

And every single ceremony was Mamet-ianly short and to the point. That was the best choice of all.

Congratulations, Angela!!

* Southern Chess is when you sit around figuring how people are related and I'm actually pretty good at the generations and the removeds.

**I would have punctuated that with the terminal comma so that Parks and Tourism doesn't look quite so much like a subtitle, but they didn't ask me.

23 May 2008


"We no longer have any sort of ... primative wonder. The closest we come to a miracle today is in bed. And we give up everything for it."

Mother Miriam Ruth - Agnes of God by John Pielmeier

Still not buying the t-shirt though

Alert friend Lori found a piece in the City Paper about the gluten-free options at Nationals Park. My favorite sentence, of course, was this one: People with [Celiac] can’t process gluten and are thus condemned to order many T-shirts celebrating this fact. And, of course, there are links to the Cafe Press's Celiac Couture Collection.

I should note that the Beltway Bar at the Park is also stocked with gluten-free treats in bottles...

And maybe I can stop by the Noah's Pretzels in Gaithersburg on my way to the theater this weekend and try one for myself.

22 May 2008

Article Something or Other

I think that I have previously mentioned that my Capital B Boss* likes to talk to me in military and I like to reply in theater. We understand each other pretty well, largely because these cultures share some deeply held beliefs and traditions.** Like "hurry up and wait" which well captures Tech In. Sure the military likes to do things very early in the day and theater people like to do things very late at night, but those two times often overlap, so my comparison holds.

Anyway, I was smirking smiling about something or other a couple of days ago and Boss pointed out to me that I could be charged under Article 131 for "Silent Contempt." He wandered off to do something important and I wandered over to Google.

The next time he was near my desk I got his attention and pointed out that Article 131 covers Perjury.

"Oh. Well, try Article 133."

"Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman."

It seems that the UCMJ may have been revised and/or expanded, so we have settled on my being prosecuted under Article 134 which is actually referred to as the General Article, but I informally call "Things That Annoy Your Boss." It reads thus:

Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.

As you may have guessed, it is the phrase good order and discipline that really speaks to my Boss. He loves that phrase. And he did tell me a story about someone who was Court Martialed during the war in Viet Nam for "making a gesture of silent contempt" while in the line.

So I told him about a book that Brett owns called (I think) Summer Soldiers and Sunshine Patriots which includes a listing of all courts martial during the American Revolution. One gentlemen, who shares my surname and I desperately hope is a relative, was brought up on charges for "refusing to follow the order of a superior officer and threatening to shoot any soldier who follows same."

And no, he can't get me under Article 88. That only applies to contempt against public officials, not one's Boss.

* Winner Best Boss Ever '05, '06, '07, '08.

** No, no, no. Not rum, sodomy, and the lash. Or, well, maybe....

Radar for English Majors

When I was at Maryland (and maybe still now) a few courses were offered to try to lure people from in other disciplines. Our general name for these was Physics for Poets. I took one and enjoyed it. IIRC, it was a the physics glass that involves dipping a rose in liquid nitrogen and then smashing it on the counter. Or maybe I just heard a lot about that one. It's been a while.

Anyway, this week at work we had what I've been calling "Radar for English Majors." Greg inherited the job of organizing our noontime lecture series which is sort of continuing education for the technical staff. Over the past year or so he has arranged for speakers from various disciplines from both inside and outside the company to present a (half-hour, 45-minute + question period) talk to the MATLAB crowd, who consume company-purchased pizza and learn something.

Normally, these fly right past me because: 1) I'm not supposed to eat pizza any more; and 2) the subject matter would be way over my head. I mean, come on, half the time here I don't understand the titles of the projects let alone the engineering/physics/math behind them.

But they got me with this one because they were clever enough to phrase the invite thus:

Dear Silver Spring and the Navy Yard:

The noontime lecture for the month of May will be presented by [senior staffer] and [brilliant, talented not-as-senior staffer, who reads this blog] of TSC's Silver Spring office.

Details follow:

Title: Monopulse 101 [substitute for actual title. I like working here.]
Speakers: [Senior Guy] and [Not-as-Senior Woman]
Date: Monday, 19 May 2008
Time: 12 noon to 1 PM
Location: 8th Floor Conference Room, Silver Spring office.


We plan to present the topic at the Radar 101 Level and include a flashy engineering tool demonstration. We hope this forum will attract a broader audience and result in a lecture that is both interesting and entertaining. As such we would like to extend a special invitation to everyone, but especially the Corporate Staff to participate in this Radar-over-Lunch session.*

* Perhaps we should call these RAP sessions, that is, "Radar And Pizza".

Needless to say (and yet I am saying it because that's just how I am), I am a member of the Corporate Staff. But I am also a dilettante and I can find prett' near any subject interesting for 15 minutes or so. And because there was a piece of wedding cake on my desk Monday, I already knew that I was having a gluten cigarette, so I might as well have the pizza, too. So! Learning something and flouting the rules. It's too much happiness.

I have attended educational experiences that were outside of my official "area of information" before. Like the time that I was visiting Larry down in Tallahassee and sat in on his contracts class at the law school. I didn't understand everything, of course, but it was pretty spiffy to watch him get all pedagogical in a setting other than a G&S rehearsal.

And we did hit on something I actually knew. The question that he asked the class involved placing restrictions on a check. From the Introduction to Banking class I had taken a few years before (no, really), I knew that restrictions written on a check by the payer (eg, this check not valid until or unless or some condition had been met) are not legally enforceable. In my banking class I was taught that this is - very generally, of course - because bank managers have no interest in enforcing your outside conditions. Checks are "demand instruments."

Okay, so I could have answered the question and for an instant I considered raising my hand. Then it occurred to me that Larry would call on me, would allow me to answer the question, and then would say "Yes, that is correct. Now, as you remember from last week's reading, ...." and then he would ask me a follow-up question that I would have no possible way of answering. So I kept my hands in my lap. Not always as dumb as I look, am I?

So my goal for this lecture was to listen carefully, learn what I could, and not embarrass the Corporate section. I got there a couple of minutes early in order to snag both a good seat and some sausage pizza (my favorite). I was, in fact, sitting right next to Not as Senior Staffer which meant that I could share my pizza with her and could benefit from any stray muttered comments she might make.

And thus began the lesson. Knowing that there were accountants and admin folks in the room, the presenters actually did keep it pretty easy to understand with a reasonable amount of engineer-specific terminology.* Even so, I understood about one sentence in three and would nod when I got something.

Sort of like when I was in France about five years ago. Theresa, Howard, Les, and I went to church mass and as I had been in the country about a week, my "French ear" was more or less up to speed, so I understood about a third of what I heard. Sermons Homilies are really good for ear training because the priest speaks fairly slowly, so I was doing even better than usual until we got the point were he implored us to avoid peaches. This seemed odd to me (as it might to you, depending on how you feel about peaches) so after mass I double checked the word in my French-English dictionary which David thoughtfully gave me before I left on the trip.

Ahhhh. Yes. Pêche does mean peach. It is also (as pêcher) a verb meaning "to fish." And - more to the point - péché is also a verb meaning "sin."

So in the same spirit of learn what I can, try not to get too much wrong information, I did a reasonable amount of nodding. And was grateful when one of the accountants asked a fairly basic question that I thought I understood because when my interpretation was confirmed and I did my little headbob, Not So Senior Woman leaned over and whispered "which you knew." And I did!

So now I know a little bit more about radar and what some of our acronyms mean, I was duly impressed with the flashing engineering tools which has some of the same properties as the sort of flashy computer tools you see on crime dramas, I had a yummy lunch, and I didn't embarrass the Corporate side.

Not bad for a Monday lunch.

*Did you know that while Delta is represented thus: Δ, double Delta is represented so Δð. I didn't, but I do now. I'm looking for opportunities to use this new knowledge.**

** Hmmmm. Another engineer told me that Δð means "delta difference." Perhaps I will seek out further information before I start tossing that around. Perhaps I won't.

*** I can see why my father is not a Catholic if he might have thought they would inveigh against fishing. Better safe than sorry and not allowed to fish.

19 May 2008


I normally suffer from a bit insomnia but now I suffer from the far more pernicious FAI - Feline Assisted Insomnia. I don't always know when to expect a FAI event but they all start out more or less the same: I go to bed and hope to get some sleep. I need to cut that out, clearly, as it must be the cause of my problem.

I read for a bit and just after I've turned out the light and drifted off, Pekoe (the fabulous orange tabby) will find a way to make some kind of noise that I either can't identify or can't ignore. So I wake up and have to deal with stopping him from making that noise and then I'm all awake and alert and can't get back to sleep for quite some time. Considering that he's often in another room when it happens I am impressed at how well he times my nodding off.

A couple of Thursday nights ago, though, he kicked it up a bit. Instead of the usual vaguely annoying* or unidentifiable noises, he made a sound that was all too identifiable - smashing glass. And when you've drifted off a couple of minutes before and then hear smashing glass, you don't think "Hmmmm. I wonder what that was. I guess I'll find out in the morning. NTS: Wear slippers or walk carefully." No, you leap fully alert out of bed thinking "What the hell?!" and wondering 1. what he had managed to smash; 2. how much you will/won't miss that thing; and 3. if the smash was first in a series.

Let's hope that the answer to 3 is "no" because what he managed to smash - which I will only miss until I replace it - is the glass in the front of the china cabinet. From the circumstantial evidence, he was trying to jump from the table (where he's not supposed to be) to the top of the china cabinet (ditto), didn't quite make it, and managed to kick in the glass front to the cabinet. According to my Dad, Mom's parents bought the dining set sometime in the late 30s or early 40s, so that glass is 65 or 70 years old minimum.

It survived several of my grandparents moves, Mom and Dad's moves, and my moves but when a cat is determined that I not sleep, well something has to give.

And so, here for the Peekster, is the first song I've come across that he could have written.

*Like when he plays "small object on the dresser hockey"

I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass - Nick Lowe

l love the sound of breaking glass
Especially when I'm lonely
l need the noises of destruction
When there's nothing new
Oh nothing new, sound of breaking glass

I love the sound of breaking glass
Deep into the night
l love the sound of its condition
Flying all around
Oh all around, sound of breaking glass
Nothing new, sound of breaking glass

Oh all around, sound of breaking glass
Nothin' new, sound of breakin' glass
Safe at last, sound of breaking glass

I love the sound of breaking glass
Deep into the night
I love the work on it can do
Oh a change of mind
Oh change of mind, sound of breaking glass
All around, sound of breaking glass
Nothing new, sound of breaking glass
Breaking glass, sound of breaking glass

15 May 2008

Recruiting Post

As sometimes it may happen (or does happen, no "may" about it) a post was sent to Savoynet* attempting to recruit men for someone's local G&S production. As I have pointed out previously in this space, community theater is a great way for men to meet women* and thus I was well pleased with the following correspondence:

John Lanigan-O'Keeffe suggested the following:
Dear Rob,

Put this ad in your local paper or in The Independent lonely hearts and definitely in your programme for every production.

Men! Do you want to meet women?
Join your local operatic society.

There are twice as many girls as guys.

Half the guys are gay.

Half the guys are married.

There are all these women and just you.

Listen to the Voice of Personal Experience:- "I and several others I could name solved their search for love by joining the men's chorus. I met my first girlfriend in Orpheus in the Underworld, my late wife through Utopia, Ltd and my fiancee in Eugene Onegin. In rehearsals and performance, you see the ladies warts and all, and choose the best. You see who's selfish, who's considerate, who laughs at frustration and who blames the nearest person, who listens and who's a compulsive talker, who has a sense of humour and who is up themself. I observed for several weeks and chose the best to be my onstage partner. Soon she was my life partner. Men, don't give up. Reach for that phone and join St Albans Operatic Society today!"

Which sparked this post from Clifton Coles:


Men! Do you want to meet men?

Join your local operatic society.

Two-thirds of the guys are gay.

One-third of the guys are married.

Not all of the married guys are straight.

All of the women are married.

All of the women are gay-friendly.

Some of the women have gay husbands.

Drinks every Friday after rehearsals.

Testimonials: "I met my first husband and the love of my life by joining the men's chorus. I met my second husband and the love of my life building the set for the show. I met my present husband and the love of my life when he was accompanying rehearsals for the show on the piano." "I was third peer on the right, baritone. He was fifth peer on the right, tenor. I made sure he was at my elbow at 'though our heart she's badly bruising' and we've been inseparable ever since."

Men, don't give up! Put that cocktail down, reach for the phone, and call the State-Operated Dramatics Operatics Musics. I'll readily bet it, you'll never regret it!


In loving jest,

Uncle C
(perceptively intense and consummately utter)

If enough groups follow these models, we should have no further trouble maintaining the strength.

*Savoynet is the international e-mail discussion list for G&S anoraks fans to which I have cheerfully subscribed for a dozen-ish years.

12 May 2008

Because it's raining

"[It] refers to Meher Baba's one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God's Voice." Those nice strangers on Wikipedia quoting Mr. Townshend.

Love Reign O'er Me - The Who (Pete Townshend)

Only love
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers
Laying in the fields.

Love, Reign o'er me
Love, Reign o'er me, rain on me

Only love
Can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love
Can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love Reign O'er me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool cool rain
I can't sleep and I lay and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool cool rain

06 May 2008

Like we didn't suspect as much

From "A Real Fairy Tale," a preview article about a production of the Fraser Valley G&S Society's Iolanthe in the BC Local News:

After so many happy experiences working together they’ve honed their communication to a virtually psychic level, they said, which may explain why [director Rick] Harmon is now willing, with [choreographer Carol] Seitz’s permission, to divulge one of their long-standing verbal secret codes (former cast members beware).

“Whenever we used to say ‘It’s wonderful, I love it!’ that meant ‘It needs to be fixed right now’ “ he chuckled.

Well, here's the problem

According to Chris Rock in a performance of his that I ran across on the hotel cable:

Women need food, water, and compliments. And the occasional pair of shoes.

Men want food, sex, and silence.

05 May 2008

Scary, scary fact of the day

I heard on Morning Edition (or the Marketplace morning report...) that half of Americans have less than $50K in retirement savings.* A few years ago I read that the average 40-year-old woman has about $7K in retirement savings.

Pause for Implication Percolation.

I think I'll start investing in companies that make cheap cat food.

*I have more than that because I believe in my 401(k) possibly more than I believe in the three paragraphs of the Nicene Creed.

01 May 2008

Real Friends

How to tell real friends from merely friendly acquaintances:

When you do something dumb, your real friends will never let you forget it. Sort of like my belief that if you slip and fall on your butt the latter will rush over to help you up, but the former will point and laugh first.