Monday, December 31, 2007

Sister, you look like hell.

Day before yesterday, as I was thinking about how I was going to get a certain herculean something accomplished while at the same time inwardly bellyaching about the fact that I was the one having to see that it got done, I happened to catch a glimpse of my profile in the reflection of a reflection of the bathroom mirror.

Good God Almighty.

I still don't know who that was.

I had set my teeth together and was pooching out my bottom lip--making a face, I'm certain, that I make all the time--or at least when I forget that other people can actually see me. On the inside, this face feels like, "Never fear. This is the serious-minded, strong-willed individual who has set her mind to getting this onerous task behind her as quickly as possible."

But now that I myself have actually seen it, I know that this is instead my "Poke your finger through these bars and let me see if you are yet fat enough to eat," face.

There was a time when I was intimately familiar with my face and all its many expressions. I knew just what muscle to tighten to convey, "Oh, really?" and the precise number of degrees required to raise an eyebrow to indicate "Come here. Naked, if possible."

Any half-blind idiot can see and feel the effects of having raised hell and put a block under it for four decades on her breasts, hips, and behind. But how am I supposed to know when one of several previously lovely facial expressions has gone over like old milk? And surely, it's not wise to wait until the need to use one of these expressions before finding out that it will no longer serve its intended purpose?

Fortunately, I didn't really have plans for New Year's Eve, so I've got plenty of time to sit down with the mirror, try them all out, and make note which ones I can never, ever, ever make again. And yes, that includes the one I've just described above, so don't even ask me. I'm not doin' it.

Unless you think it might be funny.

image, detail of Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

Friday, December 28, 2007

How to catch a mouse without a mousetrap. For the catch and release minded.

via Chris Glass (who claims it to be the most popular link on his website).

1. Get a toilet paper tube and crease two lines to form a flat sided tunnel.
2. Put a treat on one end of the tube: A cracker and dab of peanut butter works great.
3. Get a tall (at least 20 inches) bucket. A trash can works well.
4. Balance the tube precariously on the edge of a table or counter with the treat hanging directly over the tall sided receptacle.
5. The mouse will scurry to the treat (they like tunnels) and fall into the trap.
6. Set the fella loose at least a mile away from your abode.

Lulu, I think this is for you.
Original content posting resumes on Monday. Thanks for the break.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pick a side.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year's Resolution: Figure out how to get un-famous for having a combination of incredibly poor impulse control and the world's worst luck.

Above the fold: a picture of a random guy, plying his trade.

Below the fold: video surveillance picture of the same guy, stealing a forgotten wallet, while wearing the same clothes.


The newspaper called the cops.

Link to newspaper pdf.

Link to newspaper followup article.

via boingboing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas.

Having the perfect Christmas? See pictures of other folks' family Christmas disasters at Square America's Christmas Spectacular.

Thanks, howaboutorange.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Like Netflix. Only smarter.

Rent two books for the same price as two movies. Read them for as long as you like, then send them back for two more. Just like Netflix.

It's a great idea, but I wish they had better marketing.

Here's the link. You can give it for Christmas. And in partnership with Eco-Libris, they're planting a tree for every gift card they sell this season, which is nice.

Then you'll only have the murder of one tree on your conscience this holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Christmas disclaimer.

A Christmas haiku
the perfect gift for the girl
who has everything.

Next week being Christmas week, although I will still be posting, I will be relaxing my strident publishing standards just the teeniest little bit. I'll probably have you in and out each day in less time than it takes to think up a holiday haiku.

So if you want to take a break from the computer and go to the library, or succumb to an impromptu, come-as-you-are-nap, or see if the cat will talk to you, be my guest.

Come back the following Monday for the high quality, professional standards, creative nonfiction you've grown accustomed to. I'll see if I can find some.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The most obvious title would be some sort of reference to a titmouse, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

In an uncharacteristic turn of bad luck (brought on, I'm sure, because I neglected to eat the traditional birthday corn dog on Tuesday), I managed to escape the White Elephant/Dirty Santa gift exchange without carrying home the most hideous item in the room.

It was such a singularly unattractive item that I very nearly caged it for myself; I thought it might make for good blog fodder, but I didn't want to get stuck with the monstrosity, either. My mother is still trying to unload a bull testicle vase she got stuck with at last year's Methodist Women's Circle gift exchange. I haven't seen it; I'm relying on her description to know that I wouldn't want one for myself. This does pose some interesting questions about the Methodist Women's Circle, though.

So I went for an innocuous red package instead, which turned out to contain an equally innocuous ceramic bird. It was of a rounded design, a sort of fat and happy kind of bird. As I opened it, the woman who brought it announced, "That used to be in my bedroom, but my husband says it reminds him of a woman's breast."

And you know, I was perfectly happy with my gift before she said that. Now, every time I see this bird, I'm going to think of this woman's breasts. I don't know why this should be so; she didn't say that the bird reminded her husband of her breast, only that it reminded him of a generic breast. It would be really cool and synergistic if the bird had reminded him of my breast, but since we've never met I'm sure that's not what he meant. Probably.

So I now own a ceramic item that reminds me of another woman's breasts, which--by the way--I have never seen. I'm not even sure that I can form a mental picture of this woman's breasts; I don't think I ever noticed before that she had them. Now, I am not only hyper-aware of her breasts, I also know that they resemble rounded, fat and happy birds.

And if I do get a chance next year to palm the damn thing off in another gift exchange, you know I'm not going to be able to stop myself from announcing, "That used to sit by my computer, but it reminded me of [my coworker's name]'s breasts."

photo, B. Tovey.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Met my match.

While deconstructing the movie, "I am Legend" last night, I observed that three years did not seem to me to be enough time to allow for the grass to grow up through the cracks of the New York city sidewalks to the extent pictured in the film.

I said this, as is my wont, with great conviction--as though I were a certified expert in the field of post-apocalyptic vegetation. And normally, this tone of voice works quite well for me.

Muffin Uptown's Boy, however, who apparently has expert certification of his own, didn't even wait for the ringing of my pompous tone to subside before disagreeing with me.

"Actually," he said, "According to this new book, New York City without people would be flooded, then consumed by fire, and then quickly overgrown with vegetation. The subway tunnels would be flooded in two days. Manhattan, you see..."

Obviously, this was a man who would not hesitate to beat me to a verbal bloody pulp. Even I know when to back out of the ring.

The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.

Stay tuned.

I was out late celebrating my birthday.

Check back later in the afternoon for today's post.

My apologies to the breakfast crowd.

graphic, Muffin Uptown.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Brand new year, brand new you.

I've been thinking of late about New Year's resolutions.

Maybe this seems a bit premature to you--after all, we haven't even seen the tail end of Christmas yet. But remember, you'll be standing in whatever place you usually stand on everybody-go-out-and-get-blind-drunk-night in a mere two weeks' time.*

So, it's high time you start thinking about your resolution, if you're in the habit of such things. I offer this reminder purely as a professional courtesy. I myself don't believe I've ever resolved to do anything on New Years' Day, unless you count the stalwart assertion that under no circumstances would I allow anyone to make me eat black-eyed peas and ham hocks. I can resolve and then recant any old day of the week. I don’t need a National Holiday to help me do it.

If I had any bad habits (and I'm not saying I do) I already know that resolving to give them up would just destine me to failure. Decades of wasted time, money, and effort have taught me that once I make it official--whatever it is--it's just no fun anymore. Back in the eighties, I was more than happy to Jazzercise myself to the point of heatstroke every afternoon--until somebody convinced me to join the fitness club. As soon as my check cleared the bank, I didn't want to go anymore. If I were to join the National Breathing Association, I'd have to lay down and die right here and now. I just can't be happy as a part of a large, organized effort.

As a writer, the only thing I hate worse than penning a cliche, is being one. I think I'd rather change my life on a day when nobody's paying the least bit of attention. At least that way, I'm the only one who knows that I don't have what it takes to cut in in Jazzercise.

graphic, Zoran Ožetski.

*As for me, I haven't been able to think of anything else since I realized that we were about to turn our calendars over to the year 2008. Why, that's just almost 2010! Look at it--2010. That's blade runner talk there, and I'm not ready. Inexplicably, I still occasionally date my checks 2004!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hey, you. Take it outside.

One morning a couple of weeks ago, a group of us who were congregated around the coffeepot began talking about the things we used to do on the playground.

Turns out, girlhood is pretty much the same, no matter where you spent it--hanging out upside down at the monkey-bars with your very best friend, standing in line to play tether ball, splitting off to play four-square or Chinese jump rope. As we stood there drinking coffee and talking, one thing led to another, and suddenly we were engrossed in a may-as-well-be-fourth-grade, to-the-death, hand-clapping game.

It was the best five minutes of my entire week.

It's occurred to me since that it's been a really long time since I've played at anything. Oh, I'm a great believer in having fun where I find it (especially at the expense of someone else). I try to keep a couple evenings open throughout the year for the all-out, all-beer-and-acoustic-disco sing-a-longs my friends and I enjoy. And I'm not the only one. Every time my friend Tawana disappears on a weekend, I know she's gone back to the casino to take other people's poker money. And there are lots and lots of people (mostly men) who would never miss a weekend out on the golf course.

But for the most part, being able to play just for the sake of doing so is something we lose the minute our children stop using us as substitute playmates.

What a shame.

I seem to remember that it was easier to really bring it during the day if I knew I was going to get to blow off some steam later on the playground. And besides getting us out of their hair so they could grab a smoke in the teachers' lounge--wasn't that something the faculty were trying to teach us about our future in the world o' work? First, work really hard; then you get to play.

What they neglected to tell us, though, was that we were going to leave all those games we had mastered in the schoolyard. Even if you were the best hopscotch player in all of four counties, you were still required to leave your title behind when you moved on to middle school. I lost a lot of cred when I went on to sixth grade.

After thinking about it for a while, I've decided that if I can get my hands on a handful of jacks, some chalk, some jump rope, and a couple of kick balls, I can greatly increase the output of my department. We'll work really hard, and then we'll play. Let the rest of the world struggle under the whip; I'm gonna use a little dodgeball to get some heart-stopping copy from these folks.

But not before I totally kick some double-dutch ass.

photo, Martin Boose.

Friday, December 14, 2007

An extra special guest post.

This email made the rounds up and down the East Coast earlier this week--I think in a sly attempt to steal some of my material. I'm stretched thin, So, I'm stealing it back.

I called Mundane Jane (Deb) this morning to draw comfort regarding the presidential nominees. For those who do not know this, Deb and I talk at least once a day and many times two to three times a day.

I called in a panic that Mike Huckabee is going to win not only the Republican nomination but the Presidency. You cannot imagine what comfort it gave me when she said, “He’s never going to win.”

Knowing that she is extremely adept in the ability to research, I thought she had seen the Pugh Report, looked up what Sir Gallup Poll is barking, and relentlessly searched the political blogs. Clearly, I could not wait to hear why she knew this to be so true. She stated that Huckabee would not win with the same tone of confidence she uses when she tells me she will be napping by noon on Saturday. And on my life she said, “He will never win because he looks like Bugs Bunny in the mouth.”

I cried.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Please be kind. If you can't be kind, then for the love of God, be careful.

There's been a new, unwelcome development on the menopausal front.

I am now seemingly in a constant state of snit, for no apparent reason.

And to this I say, "Uncle, already." To whoever is in charge of handing out the menopausal misery to those of us who have had the good fortune to have outlived our reproductive usefulness I say, "Thank you, I'm full. Really. I couldn't eat another bite."

Then it turns out that a teeny, tiny little spark of temper can, in and of itself, bring on a roaring, internal organ-searing, get-up-and-let-me-have-that chair-can't-you-see-I'm-having-a-stroke hot flash.

And that just burns me up.

photo, Neil Gould.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Be still.

Monday night, after a not-very-productive or enjoyable day at work, I walked in the door at home and went straight to the computer. I hadn't accomplished much with my day, and the little bit I managed to do was, I felt, not very good.

Most people go home after a frustrating day and just try to get over it---a little How I Met Your Mother, maybe some pizza, probably some beer, and after a couple hours, they feel like they might be able to answer the charge again the next day.

I'm not so good at that. Usually, I'm re-living the battle, but trying to do it in such a way that it comes out differently. Sometimes this works just fine and I come out ahead. Mostly, though, I just come out tired.

That was the situation when Muffin Uptown came in and began making cookies in commemoration of having finished her last class. She brought first the cookie dough and later the first cookie for me to taste and approve. Which I did. Then she went about her business and left me to mine.

Then, about a half hour later, I heard her sitting in the living room, singing softly to the cat.

And every difficult thing about my day fell silently and completely away.

photo, Ruth Strong.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In which I manage to free-associate an explanation as to what might have gone wrong with my second marriage.

I spent some time deconing my bathroom on Sunday morning. In addition to the usual debris found in any working woman's bathroom, I found an earring I thought I'd lost in my daily travels and a five dollar bill. This last I found in the bottom of the trash basket as I emptied the trash. I haven't yet been able to come up with a reasonable scenario in which it ended up there. Maybe it was left by the tampon fairy.

But that does fairly adequately describe the general sense of chaos and disorganization at my house. Truly, it's no wonder that that I live alone.

But lo, the many years I was a married person, I squandered a lot of perfectly good ill feelings toward each of my respective beloveds for making such a mess of the house--most especially the bathroom. I won't go into detail as regards men and their lavatory habits; if you are or have ever been married, you already know that there's nothing I can say to make you laugh about it.

But I will tell you that my second husband grew up just about as far out in the country as you can live and still have a zip code. And while you can take Bill out of the hills, you can't--well, you know. Suffice it to say that he would have happily peed off the porch six times a day, given the opportunity. I see now that I should have encouraged him to do so.

You've got to be a special kind of person to willingly clean up after someone else in the bathroom. And I wanted to be that person, I really, really did. But after a few years, every Saturday morning as I again cleaned (somebody else's) whiskers out of the sink, I found myself wondering how many Diet Cokes I would have to give up each day to be able to afford to have someone else clean up in there. And as naturally happens when a woman starts thinking about cutting back on her carbonated caffeine consumption, I began wondering how many Diet Cokes it would cost me to have him killed.

"Why, if I lived alone," I thought, "my house would be virtually spotless."

And it was--for a long time. But then that Karma thing came to get me. Now, I can grow my own whiskers. And I seldom clean anything anymore, because I can only see dirt that is (1) two inches in front of my nose or (2) fifteen feet away. So most of the time, I don't realize how dirty my bathroom is until I walk into a wall and fall into the floor, where all the really disgusting stuff lives.

Which is how I happened to be cleaning my bathroom on Sunday morning.

Damn you, Karma. Again.

photo, DF.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Overheard while shopping. (And just so you know, I've no idea of the size, style, or brand of the offending merchandise.)

Can I help you?

Um, yeah. I want to get a refund.

Yes, ma'am. Let's see what you... Oh. I'm sorry ma'am, but we can't take returns on panties.


No, ma'am.

What am I supposed to do with them, then? I sure can't wear them.

I'm sorry.

No! Just keep them. I don't know--give 'em to some poor homeless person or something, I don't care! I want these out of my life. Do you understand? I've got to get these panties out of my life!

Saturday, December 8, 2007


December 8, 1980.

© Jay Russell

Friday, December 7, 2007


I understand that I am not the first person to comment on this; I'm not even the first blogger to give the World Wide Wonder the privilege of listening to her belly-ache about it. I may, however, be the only one in danger of having her head explode over it. I hope you'll understand that as an English major with my very own personal soapbox, I can no longer restrain myself on this subject.

We've eleven more months before we get to pick the grand prize winner, and I need somebody who's in charge out there to know that although I will listen to all the debates, stump speeches, sound bites, and talking points they want to throw at me--before I go to the polls, I'm gonna need one more thing.

I need to hear each and every candidate say the word nuclear.

Even after seven years I still find it hard to believe that our President--a man who graduated from Yale and attended Harvard Business school, a man for whom English is his first language--is incapable of correctly pronouncing this word.

It might interest you to know that as an undergrad, I very narrowly passed a college Linguistics course. Thus am I in a position to know that this mangling of language, if you care, is referred to as metathesis. For the layperson, it's that adorable thing tiny children do when they pronounce spaghetti as pasghetti. It's cute when you're four; not so much if you're the leader of the free world.

And because he's the leader of the free world, he has advisers--people he pays to make sure he doesn't make a mistake that makes him look like a doofus. Don't you suppose that those people are whispering into his ear, every time he steps behind the podium? "Now try to remember, Mr. President--the word is nuclear. New-clee-ur."

So for a long time I was convinced that he was not a very smart apple--that he just could not be taught. But lately--and maybe it's just me--but sometimes I swear he's giving that offending syllable just a little more emphasis than he did five or six years ago. Like maybe he wants us to know that he's not stupid, dammit. He can say nuclear as well as the next guy.

He just doesn't want to.

photo, Steve Woods.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Have you seen this person?

Uncharacteristically silent and presumed missing.

Criminal Justice professor. Tormentor of computer technical support personnel and terrifier of future FBI agents and prison wardens. Willful defiler of nap window.

Height and weight: approximately the size of a minute.

Wanted for anonymous, snarky comments on family members' blogs. Considered armed and not-a-woman-to-be-trifled-with.

If you see her, tell her happy birthday.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cover me. I'm going back in.

A friend of mine has proposed setting me up with her neighbor.

This is a somewhat new development, and I'm not sure what I want to do with it. I almost always have to find my own men.

Not that I haven't, on occasion, tempted fate. The few times I've broached the subject with my friends, though, their response has almost always been, "Gosh, I'm not sure I know anyone you would want to go out with."

Like that has anything to do with it.

For the most part, I just go out with anybody who asks. My philosophy has always been--if they aren't all scared of girls and stuff--I'll go. I have even, on occasion, attended to the dating ritual since I've been writing this blog. Relax, already. You haven't heard about it because there was nothing to report except the slow and steady progression of my hymen growing back.

It's probably a better idea to restrict my pontifications regarding men to the glorious (if fictional) Gil Grissom and the elusive (albeit married) Ira Glass. Surely, finding a date is difficult enough without the guy in question worrying about reading Saturday night's details on the World Wide Wonder.

A couple trips to that well, and I'll be lucky to find enough men to carry my eventual coffin down the aisle.

photo, Cris Watk.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bested by a black cat and a hot whiskey.

I spent my Monday evening drinking hot toddies in an effort to capture the ever-allusive Christmas spirit. And what do you know--I write fairly moving and heartfelt Christmas book copy while slightly under the influence. The kind of verbal daring-do my readers have come to expect, however, seems to require that I be in full possession of all my faculties.

Thus, this would seem to be a good time to introduce you to my new favorite avoidance technique. Granted, it looks like it should be easy. Tic-tac-toe easy. Just get one step in front of the computerized kitteh and keep it hemmed in so it can't step off the pad. I guess it's a good thing that it looks so damned cute as it sashays off the screen. Play it here.


Because she was merciless in her dedication to blog every day during the month of November and because her moon is apparently in the seventh house, Meg over at nutmegreports won the copy of Trimmings that I contributed to the prize pool at NaBloPoMo. I surfed over and read her blog and she's clever. I like that in a blogger.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I'm ashamed to admit that at least one of the things I was thinking was, "Finally, a way to get Ira Glass to notice me."

One of the writers from the Knit and Crochet department appeared in the door to my office late one day last week.

At first, I was afraid their boss, Material World girl, was gone for the day and I would have to deal with some sort of instructional writing emergency. Something to do with semicolons, no doubt.

Instead, out of the blue, she said that someone had told her I was a David Sedaris fan, and was I aware that she had gone to high school with the Sedaris' children, and lived on their block in Raleigh, North Carolina?

"David Sedaris? My David Sedaris? You did not!"

It's true--she did. So we talked for a long time and she told me about being in the same classes with his sister Gretchen, and what she remembered of the family. As the conversation progressed, I realized I was talking about what I knew of Sedaris' early years by way of his stories--but in such as way as though I had actual, first-hand knowledge.

"...and the youngest sister, let's see, her name was..."

"Tiffany," I supplied.

"..and his folks, I wonder if his parents are still living," she said.

"Mom died several years, ago," I said, "Cancer. It was very sad."

And I was thinking about my Karma and what a very good girl I must have been to have this stupendous story walk in, unbidden, and sit itself down in my office. Oh, the posts I could cull from this one small series of anecdotes!

And then, dammit, the second thoughts.

Speaking strictly for myself, I don't ever want to hear anything from anyone anywhere claiming to remember me from high school. Really. The ride wasn't that much of a thrill when I was strapped into it. And if you're at all familiar with Sedaris' writing, it's easy to conclude that he might not be that keen on getting back in line for another loop-de-loop, either.

And I mean really--how much would that suck--to work so hard to be famous and successful and put all those miles between you and that kid you were in high school, only to have some random person dig it all up again and put it on the World Wide Wonder?

So I just couldn't do it. I thought wanted to do it, but now I don't.

See? Karma. Sometimes you don't even really have to work at it.