Thursday, June 30, 2011

In This Country, This is Considered Blasphemy

Tomorrow is July, which means the Fourth thereof is not far away. But honestly (at the risk of sounding very unpatriotic, which would have gotten me killed under our last president), I'm not a big fan.

Earlier in the day, there are usually oodles of cookouts. Considering I don't really do meat, I'm not particularly fond of those. The only Fourth of July cookouts I've loved were the ones spent at my grandparents's. Food in general is always better at their house, even if Grandma didn't cook it.

Lots of time is spent outside. I love the outdoors, but I usually end up getting sunburned, or dehydrated, or just plain exhausted by 8:00. The Fourth is always the hottest day of the year, and I always have to wear a hat. I don't do hats. When I put one on, my hair gets so sweaty and matted and gross that I can't take it off the rest of the day.

The entire day is spent in anticipation of the end of the day, when the city blows its load of fireworks all at once. It's exhausting, especially as a kid, to be so worked up over something that's over in half an hour. I must have driven Mom crazy every year - I'm sure I was crankier than the rest of the year combined on those evenings.

I've never been a big fan of fireworks. Sure, it's kind of pretty to see all those colors exploding across the sky, and it's kind of cool to get hearing damage from something like that (or not). But after the first few go off, they're basically all the same, and there are too many mosquitoes, and you run out of beer.

You're surrounded by multitudes of people, covering every patch of grass in the entire park, or taking up all the good spots on the roof. People on every side of you, talking, yelling, being obnoxious, touching you as they try to squeeze by to find a better spot. Too many people, every year, wherever you are.

Then you have to brave the enormous parking lots and long lines of idiots in traffic just to get home late and be exhausted at work the next day. Being jobless at the moment, I don't have a problem with the last bit this year. But there really should be a half day on the fifth, considering the late nights so many people have. Pretty sure that's why we have New Year's Day off.

I don't mind little fireworks displays with family, earlier in the day, though I wasn't much a fan of those until my little brother - my former German teacher's son - came into the picture. His enthusiasm about setting things on fire and blowing them up is just too contagious to ignore.

One year, he and Spousal Unit set off fireworks at Grandma and Grandpa's. They accidentally wore matching outfits.

Together, they had fun blowing up our entire stash - don't worry, Sam is very safety conscious too, though having Spousal Unit there helped.

That's the one thing I can enjoy about the Fourth, though on occasion, I'd rather skip that, too. I'm not saying I dislike the holiday, exactly. I just dislike most of the festivities.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Farming Ambitions

When I was 10, I decided I would grow up to be a farmer.

Farming, you see, was the only profession that would allow me to tackle all of my interests in one fell swoop. Farms had animals, so I could work with them all the time, and since I loved animals, it was perfect from the start. But there were other reasons that stretched my imagination a little.

I loved baseball. I figured that farms required lots of open space, so I would have room to play organized games whenever I wanted. At this point, I hadn't even seen Field of Dreams yet. Our home in the city had a comparatively tiny backyard, but I couldn't even hit the ball across it yet - I must have had pretty big ambitions.

I loved art. To me, having been nowhere else yet, the Wisconsin countryside was the most beautiful place in the world. Duh, where else would I go to paint gorgeous things like trees and cows? I could set up my easel right outside the barn and create to my heart's content. (I must have planned on having quite a bit of free time - I knew little about how much goes into a working farm.)

I loved being outside, and everyone knows that you're always outside if you're a farmer. You can climb all the trees you want, you can play with the dogs in the creek, you can play in the orchard till dark. Or that was my general understanding of it. Maybe that was just what I thought grownups got to do. After all, that's what Grandpa got to do - I don't think I realized he had another job until he retired.

I loved space. The best stargazing, I knew, was definitley at Grandma and Grandpa's farm, far away from city lights and noisy cars. I remember, every time we were there late, being amazed at how many stars were actually in the sky. At the time, this was my biggest reason for wanting to be a farmer: so that I could just step outside with my telescope and stare off into space all night.

A couple of years after, I settled on wanting to be an astronomer. The beauty of stars and the facts of their size and distance caught my breath every time, and I desperately wanted to learn from them. One of my favorite poems is still Emerson's:

Teach me your mood, O patient stars!
Who climb each night the ancient sky,
Leaving on space no shade, no scars,
No trace of age, no fear to die.

I followed my spacey dream for several years until I had the relevation that... I was pretty bad at science. Not even just to my A+ mind - I regularly got C's in biology. If I had wanted it enough, I could have set my mind to it and gotten better, but I felt like something else would serve me better, so I didn't stick with it.

Another reason I wanted to be a farmer: since that would be my job, I wouldn't need to pay for anything, because I would grow my own food, and with that covered, what else is there to pay for? I would (of course) have plenty of time to do all of my extracurricular activities. Because farming doesn't take much time, does it? So that meant I could spend all the time I wanted with a pen and my latest book - writing.

It wasn't until just before college that I realized people could make a living doing that. I was ecstatic. Yes, I'm still trying to reach that point. But that's why I keep saying - even though I'm 26 - when I grow up, I want to be a writer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The History of Sunsets

It doesn't take much for me to enjoy a sunset. They're something I've always loved and appreciated, perhaps moreso than the average bear.

When I was really little - as in, just learning how to talk - my cousin was impressed with how clearly I could say 'sunset.' No slurring, no misplaced letters, not even remotely drunk-sounding. Sunsets have always been our thing, and I think of her every time I post sunsets here.

I love taking the time to look at them. Sunsets are the proverbial roses that I stop and smell, and they give me a chance to find the beauty, wherever I happen to be when it gets dark. They give me pause, and in the moments that I watch them, I can forget about whatever else happened during the day, no matter how the day has gone.

Today's sunset is very simple - forget about everything else while you breathe it in. And tell me what you do to relax at the end of the day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pictures of Fish and Fire

This was a long, wonderful weekend. The home-based party for Spousal Unit and I happened, we got to hang out with lots of family I haven't seen in ages, and we really felt the love all around.

I'm jumping into the job hunt right away this morning, so below are some pictures of good times and burning stuff. And the Serenity Garden. Enlarge them to enjoy fully.

Friday, June 24, 2011

All of My Favorite Bands are Making Noise

This seems to be a good season for music so far. I've already got three albums on my OMG-need-this-now list, and one of my favorite bands is coming out with another. Let's review, in order of least to most excited.

Oddly, I'm least excited about the new Radiohead album that came out behind my back when I wasn't watching. They've been my favorite for about ten years - basically since I heard friends gush about them and I explored their sound to find out why. I love their experimentalism and that even though, in Spousal Unit's words, they're droney and sleepy, they're not easy listening. Each album takes effort to read behind the first notes and decipher the deeper meanings.

That said, In Rainbows was the new OK Computer. Those two albums are probably going to be the best they ever achieve, so I fear that The King of Limbs will be another Amnesiac - very experimental, still a good listen, but less cohesive and more a jumble of sketches thrown together.

At least, that was what I feared before reading reviews. One said this is Radiohead's "most immediately accessible" album yet - easier on the ear from the start than their others. I don't know if I like that, because one of my favorite things with a new Radiohead album is listening to it for days on end until I decipher it. For me, it's fun, like reading code to find the hidden meaning, to solve the murder.

I hope this album is awesome - Lotus Flower is promising, but we'll see about the rest.I've only heard one song from Bon Iver's new self-titled album, and I don't even know which one it was, but I liked it. Justin Vernon is from my hometown, Eau Claire, and we even went to the same high school, though he graduated before I started. Even then, he was a legend of sorts.

Before I listen to the new album, I have to give his old one a chance. I've only heard a few songs from it, but it just didn't catch me in any way. Maybe it was something about the stratospheric falsettos. Everyone I've talked to about Bon Iver loves For Emma, Forever Ago, and the title certainly thrills me. Maybe we just need to sit down over a cup of tea and have a heart-to-heart.

In one review of the album, lead singer Ben Gibbard said he was embarrassed about the "self-loathing" in their last album, Narrow Stairs. Hopefully that means Codes and Keys, if not happy, is at least a bit less depressing.

I heard You Are a Tourist on the radio earlier this week, driving home from errands. After it was over, I had to turn off the radio - nothing else could live up to that song at that moment, and I wanted to let it reverberate in my mind. I love New Song Nostalgia. I already knew I wanted the album, but this song cemented it for me. (Definitely not the chorus girls in the video, though.)

My one eternal sadness about Death Cab is that they don't do vocal harmonies, and as I've said before, harmony is my favorite. You Are a Tourist almost has some of that - but singing in two different octaves isn't quite harmony. Getting closer, though. And that carefree guitar part is perfect.

This album isn't out yet, but I'm so excited for it. It doesn't have a title, it doesn't have a release date. But after Viva La Vida, who wouldn't be thrilled for a forthcoming album? I love how each one has its own unique sound - definitely recognizable as Coldplay, but so different that there's clearly a reinvention between each one. It's no less so with Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.

I'm a little nervous at lead singer Chris Martin's comment here that some "bad stuff" was happening in the band. I hope they stay together for another decade or two - the world needs more music like theirs.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Some Favorites

I take quite a few pictures. Here are a few of my favorites - some old, some new.

Snow in April. This isn't quite a black and white shot.

A penguin at the St. Louis Zoo. He forgot to put his head on when we came by.

A friend at a formal dance in college.

Decor at my mom's wedding recently.

Sisters, also at my mom's recent wedding.

Cotton season!

Dead things can be pretty, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees is a Canadian short film, based on the short story by Jean Giono. When the narrator, walking through the Alps, stumbles upon Elezeard Bouffier, the quiet shepherd has already planted 100,000 acorns. He's trying to turn the desolate land into a beautiful place again. 10,000 of his acorns have become small trees, but he doesn't stop with the oaks - he also has a nursery full of birches.

The narrator, in wandering the surrounding area, shows how desolate the land really is - water is hard to find, winds are intense, the few people are crabby at best and murderous at worst. The two world wars wreak havoc on nature and people. But a single man living by himself in the mountains manages to bring joy to others and himself, just in the planting of trees.

This film is one of the most beautiful I've seen in a long time. You can watch it here if you don't mind Japanese subtitles, or it's available on Netflix - it's only 30 minutes long. It's illustrated in what looks like chalk or pastels - I couldn't find exactly which it was. Each scene blends perfectly into the next - I was especially amazed at the river, later in the movie, and how abstract and how real it looked at the same time. It won an Oscar for best short film in 1988, the year it came out.

I love it for many different aspects. One is the pacifist theme: how much more noble and respectable it is to create rather than destroy. Destruction is an easy thing, wrought in a heartbeat, but creation takes patience, love, and a selfless thought for others, whether they be human, animal, or other.

When I learned that Giono wrote this story in 1953 (you can read it here), I was amazed - little thought was given then to the importance of trees, at least on the grand scale of the ecosystem. It's beautiful to see how much trees can change in a single lifetime.

The part about the wind driving people to madness especially reached me - New Mexico is terribly windy up in the mountains, especially now, when the state and neighboring Arizona are burning like mad. Such high winds for a prolonged time are more grating than people in the Midwest might realize. When it's windy all night, you wake up feeling exhausted. Wind all day grates on your nerves, making it difficult to walk, to drive, to merely hold a conversation with someone. Trees act as a buffer, slowing its madness.

I've said many times before - usually when working through piles of the crap I own - that I would love to just give it all up and live simply, with fewer things, relying on the land and myself for food, shelter, and clothing. I usually get over it when I think about music or how hard it is to turn leather into shoes, but The Man Who Planted Trees made me long for hermitage a little bit more. Yes, this is a fictional story, but it's so real it's almost tangible.

As one of my sisters recently said, more stuff does not make you happier. Things do not provide a sense of lasting accomplishment - the shine wears off and we go in search of something with more luster. Happiness is found in relationships with people, with the earth around us, with the spirit of ourselves. The American Dream teaches otherwise, but I choose to create my own dream.

What are you going to create?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Letter to My Inbox

Dear Gmail Inbox,

I have been oh so patient these last two weeks, like a crabby child awaiting his or her favorite dessert of chocolate cake after a long, hot day.

Okay, I guess a kid waiting for that would be less patient and more stabby, but still, I've been patient. Today marks two full weeks of job hunting, and I'd like to see some real Siegfried and Roy-esque results now. So Inbox, you'd better start jumping through flaming hoops pretty soon.

Some responses to the dozen or so applications I have out in the world might be nice. Do you know, Inbox, how hard I've worked on these applications? I've gently tailored my resume for each one. I've written terrible cover letters from scratch, lauding my myriad talents in ways that make me sound inhuman. And in the meantime, I've even carefully purged the old emails from you.

(Do you know how much some of those emails stank? Didn't even smell as pleasant as the Justin Bieber perfume, and calling that stuff even remotely pleasant is a stretch. Just between us, you really ought to bathe more often, Inbox.)

Anyway. I've been desperately clinging to my willpower the last several weeks. Willpower to resist going to you ten times a day in search of new emails, only to find you strangely empty and silent. It made me wonder what went wrong in our relationship - I've been the one constant, so you must be at fault. I'm beginning to resent the evil power you hold over my head, Inbox, and I realize now exactly what you are: you are the cat, I am the mouse, and you are in league with Cthulhu.

I knew my previous business arrangement with that tentacled terror would not end well, but little did I suspect he'd use something like you to exact his apocalyptic revenge. I thought it would maybe involve a lack of ice cream cake last Saturday, on Avatar Day. Possibly a crucial stitch ignored in my recent knitting. Perhaps accidentally getting sucked into an impenetrable vortex of rush-hour traffic in a new city I don't yet comprehend.

Wait, that one happened. This is too much to handle.

Inbox, for you to have teamed up with him means the shattering of all my dreams: dreams of you being the bearer of all good things, the conqueror of negative thought, the bold hero of my dramatic job search. How could you let me down this way?

I shall continue to check in with you, despite your evil leanings, because humans need sustenance and therefore a means to acquire it. Unless you deliver a sweet message to me soon, though, I'll have to consider you lost to Cthulhu's dark side.

But I know there is good in you.

Your former caretaker and now excommunicated lackey,

Friday, June 17, 2011

Books I Want: The Book of the Dun Cow

A few weeks ago, I was curious if any science fiction books had ever won the National Book Award. So far as I knew, none had. But this award has been handed out for more than 50 years, so I was unaware of several awesome titles on the list.

One was Jem by Pohl Anderson (not related to the doll or subsequent TV show). The other was The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr. I immediately added them both to my reading list.

BOTDC sounds especially entertaining to me. Based on the tale of Chanticleer and the Fox in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, this book focuses on Chanticleer and his barnyard domain. The characters, all talking animals, exist in a time before mankind existed on Earth, when there was a darkness imprisoned at its heart: Wyrm, who seeks a way out into the world. Chanticleer starts having prophetic end-of-the-world dreams, and soon encounters Cockatrice, an antichrist clearing the way for his father Wyrm.

According to various reviews, good versus evil is the theme of this book, and some of the evil makes me kind of shocked that this was published, even in 1978, as a children's book. Which, of course, makes me want to read it even more.

That and the fact that it became an off-Broadway musical a few years ago. I want to see how they pulled off the half-serpent, half-chicken character Cockatrice without making him look completely ridiculous, though according to the New York Times review, he's turned into Paradise Lost's Satan. How anyone can say that's a bad thing, I don't know, but it's presented as such. Wangerin is a minister, so I suppose he wouldn't like his evil character stealing the show from the good one.

This book has mythology, a heaven-versus-hell theme, and from the sound of it, lots of other allegories buried deep within. And I really want to know more about that cow in the title, who isn't featured in any of the reviews I've come across. If you're interested in reading it, stay away from the Wikipedia article - it basically sums up the whole book. I'd be willing to bet fans of Redwall would love this one.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Things That Make Me Blush

I know what you're going to say. If I had a blog post designed entirely around that, it would stretch from here to the Andromeda Galaxy and back again, ten times, with enough left over to TP the neighbor's house.

No, I'm not talking about the hardcore things, like that time I accidentally insulted a former coworker or a customer waiting at the counter while I merrily pop bubble wrap in the corner. (Can you see my face burning brilliantly behind the screen?) This is a list of the things I love to indulge in - the guilty pleasures that I don't explicitly tell people because I usually pretend to be an adult. Or something like one. Sometimes.

Here are a few of the many:

  • Those TV wedding shows. Especially the ones where the girls go shopping for their poofy white dress and the budget is "$5,000 if I really like it." Love them, but not for the reason you might think. I love watching these girls spend exorbitant amounts on chiffon and lace and freakin' crepe paper dresses because they're usually so ugly and so expensive and so impersonal that I just thrill in thinking, You're really spending that much on a dress?! I am so much better with money than you. Kind of snooty and mean, but at least I get it out via people inside the TV, whom I don't know and who don't know me.

  • Climbing trees. I did it all the time when I was little, and I kind of miss it now. But every now and then, I itch for it so badly that I can't resist anymore. Who cares if I get holes in my pants? Who cares if the neighbor walking her dog gives me a weird look? Trees are my favorite. Being in them is better. And here's some hardcore tree climbing.

  • Champagne. I like wine most of the time, and brandy's delicious when I need something cheap and strong. But I adore cheap, bubbly champagne. I'm talking on sale for $6 a bottle, with the bubbles that go up your nose on every sip and that terribly sweet fruity tinge. Few things are more satisfying that getting toasted without having to pay much. You know what kind of toasted I mean.

  • Singing Disney in the car. Loudly, and off key. I especially love singing Just Around the Riverbend from Pocahontas and Reflection from Mulan. It's just fun.

  • Fan fiction. This one is a really guilty pleasure. I like reading stories people make up about TV shows and movies, especially when novices get the characters down exactly. In other words, I never stopped playing make-believe, and I don't think anyone should. It can also be good writing practice. You may think it's an oxymoron, but there are some really good, intelligent fan fictions out there. Some. (It's a good way to get your romance fix without selling out to Harlequin, plus you can pick which characters you want to read.)

  • Brandy (You're a Fine Girl). I don't care for the verses, but every time this song comes on, I turn it up. Why? Mostly just so I can sing "DOOOO DO DO DOOODO!" at the top of my lungs.

  • Being completely unproductive. I can only do this for about an hour before I start getting antsy and looking around for something to clean or untangle. But every now and then, I put the knitting aside and just watch TV. Or browse the Interwebs for nothing in particular, until I'm satisfied that I've found it. (Rock Hero/Guitar Band doesn't count - you're working toward higher scores in the game!)
What do you think of the new layout? Share your thoughts with me - and your own guilty pleasures, if you'd like.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Mission: Going, in a Bold Manner

Can I just say how much I love waking up here? This morning the sky is grey and leaking, the breeze is as close to frigid as summer gets. I sit here wrapped in a blanket, drinking my favorite tea, as birds chitter in the verdant trees. I am constantly in awe of all the life that surrounds me.

In other news, I've been looking over my list of things to do before my next birthday, which I never actually finished writing. I have 21 items on my list that should number 25. But I've accomplished two more things in the last couple of weeks: one was to get paid for something I wrote or made. I sold a shawl to a friend for $20. Yay! The other thing I accomplished was moving. Though maybe I shouldn't actually count that one till we have a place to live... nah. I deserve the credit now.

There are two things on my list which I will not accomplish, whose opportunity has come and gone - November's NaNoWriMo and the subsequent Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award submission. These goals were usurped by the enormity of wedding planning; I did not feel like being the legitimate kind of crazy after all that started.

Things left on my list, that I'm likely to accomplish:

Write weekly (doin' it now)

Learn some Korean

Take a creative class

Finish afghan by August (hey, I'll need something to do when Spousal Unit's in France)

Consolidate student loans

Make socks for myself

Make sushi

These are all things I can reasonably do before my birthday in October. The following are things that, realistically, I probably won't get around to doing:

Keep running/belly dancing - I haven't been doing this regularly so far, so unless some miracle happens to get me back into it, it's likely I'll continue getting my exercise through housework. And fits of insanity.

Finish Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - This is a wonderful book, and I've really enjoyed the first half of it. But honestly, it's written after 18th century novels, it's very long, and while I would like to know what happens, I get the gist of it. Also, I don't know where it is right now...

Get my tattoo - This is a maybe. I'm pretty set on the design, but the location has been wavering a bit lately. We'll see how I feel about it once I have a job again. And how I feel about pain.

Run 10 miles at once - heh. See the first item on this list.

I ought to complete this list with things I could likely accomplish. But I also enjoy challenging myself. I've got quite a bit of challenge on my plate anyway, what with the job searching and needing a place to live.

But I also need something to look forward to on the other side of all this madness. And so, one additional thing for my list is: Have a tea party with a real tea pot in our new apartment. This requires me getting a job, so I can finally buy myself the tea set I've been wanting for the last umpteen years, and an apartment in which to use it.

I need three more goals, and I'm open to suggestions. Ready? Go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The First Madison Sunset

Nothing like water to make a sunset twice as amazing. A capitol building doesn't hurt, either. Click to make the awesomeness bigger!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Today, I Intend to Not Do Much.

This weekend was exhausting but awesome.

Friday we went to visit most of my family - first time we've seen them since the wedding thing. It's good to know our dynamic hasn't changed much.

We went out, had a feast at a new restaurant (as in, it wasn't there three years ago when I was living in town), and spent Saturday lazily running errands. In the evening, we played Bananagrams together. It's nice to play a game like that and be able to use all the dirty words we want, if they come up, and not worry about what everyone will think.

Okay, so Mom still gives disapproving looks, but we know she won't quit playing.

After everyone else got tired of it, Spousal Unit and I played an intense game, with all the letters. We each had 72 to use up on one large set. Spousal Unit won, in that he finished first, and helped me finish mine. But I still think I should have won by merit of my awesome words.

Pedagogs, myopic, quixotry. Wonder how many people have ever used all of those in the same game.

When we said goodbye on Sunday, it was a nice feeling. It's the first time since New Mexico happened that we were able to say goodbye and know it's not for six months. We'll see each other again in two weekends, for the wedding re-party. I much prefer that feeling to the "see you sometime, in the future, I guess, but who knows when" feeling.

Following goodbyes, we went to Ripon and met up with college friends for some Ultimate frisbee.

Okay, that picture was after frisbee. We were all pretty rusty at first. Some of us wondered, what is this strange activity, that it makes us sweat and use our legs in a rather quick manner? Exercise? How strange. It's been years since any of us played on a regular basis. But it was still fun.

And by the time the group of high school boys showed up, we were plenty warmed up to kick their butts. Spousal Unit told them, "We're all about 30, so go easy on us." I think the oldest in our group was 27. I'm only 26. He does not get to tell anyone my age anymore. Not that I look anywhere near 30, but still.

At one point in the game, the high schoolers, retreating to the opposite end of the field, were talking about us as a team. One said something like, "Yeah, but the girl is actually..."

I was the only girl playing, and I'm going to assume he said I was pretty good. It's nice to know I've still got what it takes to play like that.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Yesterday I got all domestic with my bad self and made rhubarb crisp.

The friends whose space in which we're getting all up (just doesn't sound right with correct grammar, does it?) have this thing where they contribute to a co-op and get veggies and health care money in return. Love, love, love this idea. They get a weekly basket of random goodness from local farmers, and this week, there was rhubarb.

Hooray for rhubarbs!

I decided to make it into rhubarb crisp for them (okay, it was for me too), and talked my mom into sending me a recipe so I didn't have to go hunting for my cookbooks, which are probably in Chicago anyway. The recipe is way easy and I plan to make it repeatedly now.

Check out this shot of the rhubarb. If you enlarge it, you can see some of the little details. Kind of fascinating.

The gist of it is you pour chopped rhubarb in a dish, coat it with sugar, cinnamon and butter, like so...

Looks delightfully bad for you, doesn't it?

...Cover with a brown sugar, butter, and oat topping, and stick it in the Ovenator.

When it's done, you get a little something that looks like this.

Heavenly, right? It looks even better after it's been served and all the gooey goodness has dripped all over your kitchen counter.

Spousal Unit was a big fan from the first bite. I've been told I have to make much, much more of this delectable dessert, or suffer the consequences. (In other words, he'll pout.)

In retrospect, while it was a pretty good balance of tart and sweet, it could stand to have just a tad less sugar. Then again, I'm a big fan of tartness, so if you are less so, keep the recipe as is. The crumbly crispy topping was excellent. And, as always with such desserts, it's better warm, with a scoop of ice cream melting stickily into all the crevasses.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Absconding With a Turtle

A deadline extension would do her no good: Melissa was determined to spend the rest of her life with this turtle, and no lousy newspaper job was going to stop her.

The paper was going under soon anyway; it was no secret. Downsizing, departmental cuts, and overwhelming pressure from the top were all making the copy editors sweat and obsess an unusual amount. Each time the owner or managing editors popped in for coffee, they had the sinking feeling that the time had come. Chaos was just around the corner and the whole copy editing department was being laid off, leaving the paper to flounder in unedited, classless headlines and accidental double entendres all the way to the final print run.

So far, it hadn’t happened, but the threat was imminent, especially with the economy struggling for longer screen time in its Cyrano de Bergerac death throes. Melissa wasn’t going to be there when it happened; she was taking her pet turtle and absconding to South Dakota.

She had decided to pack up the tank after hours, meaning around midnight, when the copy had finally gone to print and all the lonely souls had gone in search of a familiar stranger with whom to spend a regret-filled evening. The turtle cautiously explored her empty desk as she scooped colored rock into a bag. Melissa raised an eyebrow at her friend.

“You’ll have to be a bit more adventurous than that in South Dakota, little dude. I’m getting you a bigger tank.” She plopped the bag of rocks into the tank, and, gripping her hard-backed pet by the middle, eased him in. For behaving so well, she awarded him a cricket. Melissa heaved the tank and marched for the back door.

All she knew about South Dakota was what she had seen in Fargo, but she thought it looked nice. Full of nice people, very casual, accepting of turtles and their slightly eccentric owners. This was coming from a girl raised in Northern Wisconsin, true, but she’d had enough of the city life. It was time for a change, and not just of the scraps in her collage stash.

The turtle was still nameless, despite being with her for nearly a month now. She wanted to find just the right name, and nothing quite fit him yet. Every suggestion was met with a shake of his scaly head, or retreating into his shell. For a few hours he’d been named Houdini, but after a break-in at her apartment, she decided it was too accurate for comfort. She’d even rescinded the naming ceremony, complete with cross-stitched plaque.

The brisk November air was a shock of pinpricks after the stuffy newsroom – small, dry flakes were falling. Melissa cuddled the tank closer to protect it from the brief chill.

Absconding with my pet turtle. Not how I thought this job would end. Trish would give her hell for this one. No way around it: this was one of the more bizarre things she’d ever done. It even topped the penguin scam. And nothing had ever topped the penguin scam.

There was no way around it. Reinvention of the self begged a blank slate, complete with new home, new job, new friends.

But the turtle was coming with.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The year 100 AD, according to Wikipedia, was a leap year. The arts and sciences section of this article makes sure to note that China began using the wheelbarrow about then (very important technology), and lions have become extinct in the Balkans.

Fermium, the 100th element, is a synthetic element with a half-life of 100.5 days. Some people who read this blog might be interested in its synthesis in nuclear explosions, but I'm guessing not many will be.

Here's the ALA's list of the 100 most banned/challenged books from 2000-2009. People were most offended by Harry Potter - not surprisingly, as that little devil-worshipping jerk clearly has questionable morals. (Are you all reading the sarcasm there? Good, just wanted to be sure you're still with me.) My favorite one in the top ten is The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

There are 100 senators in the U.S. Senate right now, because we have 50 states. I hope Sarah Palin is nowhere near the presidency... well, ever. But especially if Puerto Rico becomes a state. Because I don't know if she can count that high. Also, if someone asks her where it is, she'll probably say it's in Spain. Or the Netherlands.

A short hundredweight is composed of 100 pounds, but not a long hundredweight. A long hundredweight has an extra 12 pounds, which (I'm convinced) only exists to piss people off. And a long hundredweight "is now hardly used other than by church bell ringers." Which totally makes sense, in that it makes no sense.

There are 100 tiles in Scrabble, but only for certain languages. This is not cited information, so don't use it in your upcoming report on the history of Scrabble (which is fascinating). I was looking for 100-point Scrabble words when I found this article about the highest-scoring game ever, featuring the word quixotry (a quixotic thought or action, ala Don Quixote).

A snooker cueist needs to reach 100 points to score a century bank. What's a snooker? Someone who plays snooker, of course, which is a game involving the British and a pool table. I'm assuming pants are optional, because all the best games are like that.

Here, have a list of highways with the number 100 in them. Then go drive them all. Yes, of course there's one in Wisconsin.

The Hundred Years' War was actually 116 years, featuring, among others, Joan of Arc and Edward the Black Prince, so called for the armor he wore. Or maybe for his "cheerful" demeanor. Whatever it is, no one's really certain where the name originated.

And, last but not least, you can find out whether you're on pace to live to 100 years old or not. My life expectancy is 101 years - yay!

Including this one, I have made 100 posts to this blog. Go me!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Central U.S. in Sunsets

The first couple of pictures here are from Nebraska; the later ones, Iowa. Enjoy as I delve into the terrifying realm of online job postings.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Today so far, I have successfully not set the alarm right and made two failed attempts to start blogging. It feels like a Charlie-Brown-trying-to-kick-the-football day already so far, so here are some pictures of our new surroundings.

I really hope I get it together before my interview.

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