Monday, April 30, 2007

Shameless plug

On May 5th, Pat, Robert, and I will be walking for the March of Dimes WalkAmerica event. This is why we've been going to the gym (to get into shape for the event) and developed the only good-for-us hobby we're ever likely to have acquired. The hobby will outlast the event.

It's a good cause, even outside of the health benefits for ourselves. March of Dimes wants to prevent birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. It's a hard cause to hate even with my own resident skepticism about philanthropic organizations.

The March of Dimes more or less automatically built us donation pages. Donation can be in any amount, from big to little. Here are our little web pages, in case you want to sponsor us (which is by no means required):

Linda's Page
Pat's Page
Robert's Page

More about the gym and health in general later... hopefully today. :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

...when I'm 64?

We've discovered that, at 37 and almost-37, we are finally, certifiably old people.

On Sunday, we drove out to get a bite to eat in Santa Maria, the town where I grew up and where Pat went to school (he actually lived in smaller and even less glamorous Los Alamos, just to the south). We didn't find the restaurant we were looking for, so we went to an old-fashioned, small-scale burger joint (yeah, yeah, I know, but I'm mostly vegetarian.) On the way, we drove through new housing/PUD/condo tracts and marvelled at how dense housing has gotten.

"I hate to be this person, but all of this used to be strawberry fields," Pat commented.

I laughed. I'd been thinking the same thing.

We looked at our high school's sports field and reminisced. "Our bushes and hedges are still there," we told each other, and looked at each other with knowing eyes.

We bought burgers and sides. The sides were expensive: we found out why when they gave them to us. "They ought to warn you that these are so big," I scolded. "Nobody wants these many onion rings." And we drove to the park to watch the ducks while we ate.

There, we honked at kids who were more than usually cruelly chasing ducks. (It's molting season and the poor little bastards can't fly.) Pat wagged his finger; I shouted, "please quit it!" The kids put on their helmets and skated away on those shoes with skates in them, the ones they didn't have when we were kids.

"I see why your mom hates those," Pat said.

We went home and laid around, enjoying the coolth of the spring afternoon while we napped over the covers in our robin's egg blue bedroom, listening to birdsong. I felt guilty for not cleaning out the fridge, or at least doing some laundry. I heard, faintly, from outside, a cry of "ready... aim... fire!"

I nudged Pat. "Go see if there are any parents involved; that sounds like trouble."

He went out and looked for the trouble. Three kids were kicking down the retaining wall around K-Mart, across the duck pond, sending big stone blocks skidding down the hill. He looked closer with binoculars. Yup. Older kid showing off for younger ones. He went out on the porch.

"Hey," he yelled. The eldest kid -- teen -- flipped him off. The tweens giggled.

"Cut it out or I'm going to call the cops!" Pat yelled.

"Okay, sorry," the kid yelled. And they went away. And Pat called and yelled at K-Mart management.

You kids, get off my lawn. And leave those poor birds alone.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tales from the Creep'd

Someone I know, whose family titles rhyme with "laddie" and "bother," is the V-- Creeper.

He is a retired ITT guy who used to work at V-- AFB, back when ITT had all the contracts on base. When any of the shops would order overage or have leftovers from a project, back in those days, they would squirrel away all the spare parts under a tarp somewhere in a "rathole": an unused building, the space above a ceiling tile, an unused, old desk, a corner.

Times change. Companies stop making parts crucial to repair elderly equipment. Bureaucracies get burdensome in ways that cause any project approval or revision take 30 months. If a project orders the wrong kind of wire or screws, it can take 30 months to approve the replacement... or so the Creeper says. It may be straight-faced hyperbole.

Most of the guys who know where the ratholes are are dead, now. Only the Creeper remains.

When the companies now occupying the base want something, they call him. He has a magnificent spatial memory and, like a squirrel, he knows not only where his own ratholes are, but those of other people. Dead men and women who laid their tools by for another time when they were needed have created a niche for someone like a Creeper. "But they don't MAKE that part anymore," people say to him. "Give me a couple hours," he replies. And he brings them what they need.

This has been his job since he retired. He is the V-- Creeper. When project coordinators, dutiful bureaucrats, and desk-jockeys see him, they ask pointedly, "Why are YOU here?" He says, "Somebody has a problem. I'll be gone in 15 minutes, and so will the problem."

But the times, they change again. He says that now they have followed him, searched, or accidentally found all his ratholes --and destroyed them, at long last. There's no purpose to it: the space they occupied isn't being used and they cost nothing. It will only cause problems for those items to be discarded, before --and after-- their time. Now, the only ratholes that remain belong to dead people long gone, and he doesn't have their inventories memorized.

This is a person with whom I have very little in common, except that weird knack for the spatial dimension of memory (which is why I am utterly useless if somebody tidies my desk or helps me with paperwork.) Well, that's not quite true. I guess we share many features of our sense of humor. He's the only other person in the world, except MAYBE my brother, who says "framistat" to indicate a generic object for which one doesn't remember the name, or suspects that the other conversant doesn't know it. I do think of the life stories of inanimate objects in much the same way as he does (his specialty is guns; mine is jewelry and paper, like memoirs or cookbooks.)

Yet we have profound and keenly felt differences. For instance, he believes that communion with the Divine happens in a church; I'm a nature girl myself. He believes life is a struggle, often bloody, in which the most powerful and prepared will win. He believes the End is nigh and that I should be a mommy. He calls all useless animals "varmints" and does his best to eradicate them one or several at a time; coincidentally, he calls all animals "varmints."

But once in a while, it's delightful to realize that everyone around you is a superhero, a spy, a bounty hunter, a McGuyver, a ninja, somebody's hero, somebody's beloved, somebody's nemesis, a vital force in the world who is to be reckoned with and remembered. They have a special nickname and a talent that nobody else in the world can replicate, and that will be missed, unless times change so quickly that it is a memory before they are.

Reexamine your most exasperating loved one. I promise you won't regret the process.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

So it goes...

Kurt Vonnegut passed away on April 11, 2007, at age 84.

I consider him the single most influential writer on my own writing. That's not much of a commendation, coming from an unpublished fritterer like myself, but I mean it. He was a man of paradoxes: bleak zaniness, pessimistic humanism, satirical science fiction. He was a man of principled politics, who dared to sneer truth to power.

In his fiction and semi-fiction, he wrote in fragments, the way important experiences tend to be remembered--at least the way I remember them. He was a strict adherent to the concept of the unreliable narrator: that is, all his storytellers are human, and they do not tell all of the truth all of the time (nor do they perceive it, except the ones who do).

He was the founder of Bokononism, a religion founded on the primary principle that its holy text was composed entirely of lies. It's a close cousin to Discordianism. It's an analysis of a heuristic; the examination of a cultural phenomenon that never was, yet is. I'm a huge fan of this kind of project, because I believe we can separate the social and mystical aspects of religion through such imaginary examples. And yet he used Bokononist concepts and terms as plot devices (such as "wampeters") and as flags for his own satires (such as "granfalloons") in seemingly unrelated works of fiction, so that there was a ribbon of more-or-less devout Bokononism in all his books.

He was also a graphic artist, doing mostly-line-art in an abstract, Cubist-influenced style. His specialty was silk-screened asterisk assholes: he used them for his signature in other images.

Although he was absurd, crass, and well-carbonated with hate and suicidal thoughts, he was a first class intellectual and I can find nothing to dislike in him. I loved him, and I'll miss him. He lived with his whole soul and conscience.

I'll leave you with his eight rules for writing a short story, from Bagombo Snuff Box:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Honestly, this blog is not meant to be a continuous obituary, and I am not insisting that you mourn Mr. Vonnegut, either. Conscience is an agonizing thing, but nonetheless, I urge you to be as much like him as you can bear to be.

Go read his stuff and don't brood on the irrelevancies of flesh and blood, and when you write, follow those rules.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


A short one tonight, because I'm tired and madly overextended (I keep adding things to my schedules and duties without taking other things away... at work as well as at home) and I have already been intolerably rude to my partner, which, y'know, kinda shows that I'm unfit for human company this evening. Like a zombie, about all I can do is paw at the glass, wondering why I can't go over there when I can see over there perfectly well, and bungle the basics of human social behavior. Braaaains.


Love 'em.

On Easter Sunday night, we went to see Grindhouse. I recommend it for the following people:
  • people who play roleplaying games
  • people who like pulp horror movies & 70s horror
  • people whom zombies amuse
  • people who are captivated by farce
  • you, probably
The first film, Planet Terror, in the generous double dose of cheese Grindhouse presents, is easy to love. It's brilliant both as a send-up and an action film, with flowing gore, larger-than-life heroes, woundedly sexy heroines (you know... exploitation movie style), and zombies. Personally, I think Bruce Willis as a bad guy is enough to get me into a theater.

Do go. Zombies a-popping and they are hilarious: farce abounds, the zombies are self-aware, and ... well, if you remember the 70s with unrealistic nostalgia, this is for you. It will remind you why you play roleplaying games (if indeed you do): the overcoming of improbable wounds, the wisecracking and prevalent enemy, the fun of being a character so hypertrophied as to distort its own humanity. Even if you're not a griefer who delights in the latter, you will understand the lure, I think, so long as you can get past the exploitation and cheese... and the movie embraces the cheese so thoroughly (through missing reels, improbable caricatures, and ...well, look, it's a zombie movie, and cheese is kind of a prerequisite) you must reject your dignity early and completely.

The second half, Death Proof, is quite possibly the grimmest thriller I have ever seen, and very good in its own way: probably it is stronger than Planet Terror in terms of plot, but it's a slow starter and exceedingly dark, cruel, and gory... it has a strongly Hitchcockian cast, if Hitchcock knew he could play to an audience who would not flinch at the most ghastly human violence, no matter how starkly it was portrayed. It's not as much fun as Planet Terror, but it is rather provocative: by this I mean it makes you examine yourself. We're back to the Aristotelian notion of catharsis, here... and it is disquietingly closer to our violence-numbed tastes than a classical Greek tragedy would be.

Er... more zombies: "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton. :)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Grebeously wounded!

Glorious image is one of the photos of Jef
frey Rich, which I have unkindly used without permission: go enjoy his beautiful work.

See these things? They're Western Grebes. Beautiful birds, but, as you can see from this gorgeous picture, their legs are on wrong. Wrong, th
at is, for any purpose other than swimming: watching them walk is like watching Charlie Chaplin, drunk, trying to keep in an enema on a greased skating rink floor covered in ball bearings.

I'll get back to them later.

I got off at noon today for Good Friday, and Pat had a glorious day of screwing around planned for us. We drove down to Vandenberg Village and Lompoc via the scenic (and carsick-making) Harris Grade, hoping to catch sight of the omgwtf amazing fields of flowers that bloom near Lompoc every summer (that's where they grow the flowers for the Rose Bowl Parade, among other distinctions). Although they aren't blooming yet, the wiry yellow flowering mustard, purple lupines, and my personal favorite flower, the dazzlingly apricot California poppy, were everywhere on the roadsides, interrupted by towering green-blue eucalyptus trees, old oak growth, scarlet Indian paintbrush, and other signs of home. A gorgeous drive.

The destination for our drive was lovely Jalama Beach. There, we wandered out onto the tar-infested, silky soft sand and marvelled at the parasurfers (or whatever they're called: they're human kites, more or less, out on the water in wetsuits). As we wandered along the water, letting our beloved Pacific Ocean wash our feet with bone-achingly cold surf, and totally unprepared for the beach (me in my work clothes, both of us without sunscreen), I noticed something I wanted a closer look at...

A Western Grebe, sitting incongruously on the sand, watching people pass by him (or her) without evident concern.

Migrating birds often pause, exhausted beyond the ability to fly, on beaches. The bird's torpidity wasn't enough in itself to concern me.

"Let's go see HIM," I said. And, "Watch out for tar."

"Hang on a second," Pat replied. "I just stepped in goddamn tar."

I watched the grebe get up and totter with Chaplin-drunkenly-enema-holdingly gracelessness about six steps, then plunk back down on his belly. I said, "Oh no, there's something wrong with him!"

"He's fine," Pat said, poking the tar on his foot with his fingers, which were immediately tar-contaminated beyond all possibility. "They're like loons: their legs are too far back for them to walk. He just can't take off from land. He needs to get in the water."

"Did you just step in tar?"

"I told you that."

"I told you to look out!"

"I thought it was mud."

I watched the grebe take one idiotic step away from a passing couple and then flop again. "No, I think there's something really wrong with him. At least he's tired."

"He probably just needs rest before he can fly again, hon. I have to get this fucking tar off me."

"Good luck with that," I said. I'm not usually that snide; tar brings out the best in people.

I scared the reluctant grebe into the surf, hoping the water would help him. As soon as I went away, he resentfully tippy-toed his way back away from the water.

I sat down on a tarless patch of sand and watched people and water and wind and birds. And, of course, the grebe. Other people watched the grebe like onlookers at an accident: not sure they should interfere, not sure they shouldn't. A parasurfer trying to work up momentum to launch almost stepped on the grebe, and the grebe's response was to say a kind of smoker's coughy "ehhh!" Since that was exactly his reaction to me, hardly a surprise, but you would think a parasurfer stepping on you would alarm you if you were a shy duckish-sized bird.

"He doesn't like the surf," I said to Pat, who was now scraping his tarry foot with a rock. He threw down the tarry rock in disgust and began rubbing sand into the tar. The tar on his fingers and feet started to get bigger and grittier, but that was the appreciable difference.

"Well, I've got to get this tar off of me before I can pick him up," Pat said. "Otherwise, it'll mess him up."

I watched the waves. The grebe watched me. Pat eventually gave up on the tar and said, "Well, I at least have to rinse off some of this sand." He trudged back wet and salty and said, "Give me one of my socks."

I did.

He stretched the long black sock over one tarry hand halfway up to his elbow, and tucked it between the thumb and fingers to make a kind of sock puppet. I chortled. "A grebe glove?"

"Yup. Now the other one." He socked up that arm as well. I took both of our shoes and my purse and we walked up to the grebe.

He didn't even try to get up. He said, "ehhh! Ehhh!"

"That's some beak," Pat observed, holding out black sock arms to the annoyed wildlife.

"Grab him," I said, nervously.

"Wait a minute. I want to see what he does."

The grebe lunged at the sock-clad hand and bit the living hell out of it.

"Ow," Pat said.

"You're scaring him," I said.

"OW," Pat said. "That bill is sharp!"

I held out my shoes to the grebe, who savaged them mercilessly, picking one up. "Now!" I said.

Pat grabbed the grebe. The grebe grabbed Pat. "Ow," Pat said. "Ehhh!" the grebe said, with murder in its piercing crimson eyes.

I held out my hand to distract the grebe from Pat's arm. It bit me in one swift lunge, with its impossibly long neck. "Ehh!" it said. "Aaah!" I said. "Ow!"

"Yeah, he'll get you," Pat said. The grebe tried for Pat's eyes, and hit his neck. Pat held the grebe at arm's length and tried to manage the madly bicycling feet at the back, the wings, and the long neck: it was pretty much like holding a horrible hybrid of a loon and a vacuum cleaner attachment with its mind set on murder.

We walked that bloody bastard bird back up the beach, up the dunes (where it went momentarily mad and Pat dropped it, frightening the three of us intensely when it landed in a broken-neck-looking pose: it was so stunned it forgot to try to murder Pat for about 20 seconds and didn't say "ehh!" for about 40 seconds.) We attracted Pied-Piper-like streams of concerned children and hippies. I helped slip Pat into shoes so that he could walk on the hot pavement, and while I was straightening up, the bird lunged at my face, hitting my glasses frame with its scissor-like bill. "Ehh!" We took the angry grebe --Chaplinesque samurai of the waterways-- to the park authorities.

"We think it needs a vet," we told them.

They looked at us incredulously. "How'd you catch it?" the park management guy asked.

"It was just sitting there on the beach, and couldn't fly. It just sat there looking at us. It's a grebe and they can't take off from land. They're fresh water birds."

"You're right, it's a grebe. But from all the injured wildlife I've seen, I can tell you that THAT bird isn't hurt." It lunged at Pat's face and bicycled madly, croaking, "ehh!" "It's much too energetic to be seriously injured. But they're freshwater birds and they don't do too good on land. And sometimes what happens is that they get onto the beach and they can't fly, and they get beat up by the surf if they try to go out to sea to fly. So what usually happens is that they manage to get back to the creek, or... we... take them... So I guess what you could do for it is you could walk it down to the creek."

"There's a creek?" we asked.

"It's down that way, past the general store."

There was an awkward pause. We had the impression that the park management guy wanted to slam shut the little window on the booth and run away, far away, from the possibility that we would hand him this angry ball of all-natural scissors and hate. We looked at each other. Pat shifted the bird.

"Okay, thanks. I'll take him down there."

The grebe chose this moment to lunge at Pat's face. Pat sucked in his breath and cried out, "Ohh, that was a good one, he got me, he got me." His glasses were askew. Both nostrils were slashed by the razor-sharp bill of our friend the grebe. "Am I bleeding?"

The management guy shut the window.

"Um, not yet," I said. The grebe seized Pat's sock arm and twisted. "Ow," Pat said. "You little bastard."

We managed to get him to the creek and turn him loose. He fluffed up his 50's-bully-in-a-movie 'do and drank as much fresh water as he could hold, swimming gracefully away. We told the children and hippies goodbye and went to buy some cold soda and some Tar-Off wipes (they work! Oh, goodness, how well they work!)

And that, ladies and gents, is what I did today, and why Pat's nostrils will be grebeously scarred.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A few book reviews for my literate homies


Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

This one is good despite its lurid and gawdawful name. Really, a flawless dark farce that reads like an action movie written by Vonnegut in one of his more playful spells. Enjoy.

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

I've read a lot of Moore's books in the last few weeks because they're all pretty good... this one is the other one that I can recommend without reservations. It's fluffy, occasionally tests the willingness of your suspension of disbelief, and sometimes loses its credibility, but it's still a pretty darn good book. By no means as good as Island, but simultaneously not as bad as the non-starter Practical Demonkeeping.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Rumors of my debt have been greatly exaggerated

Now that I'm back in a residence of my own, I suddenly have those things again... what do you call them, bills? I find myself looking resentfully at my paycheck with great disgust at the huge hunk of taxes that are withheld; I have never been one of those people, but now that I am being nickle & dimed by California's berserk corporate laws...

Let me explain. First, there is the fact that I am billed separately for state tax and the necessary infrastructures of First Freaking World living standards, such as, say, garbage removal, sewerage, and water. Second, there is the outright larcenous business practice surrounding the starting of new accounts, or, more drolly, the modification of existing ones to meet the demands of reality. If you, say, move into a new home and want to change the name on the bill to, say, your own -- I know, bizarre and foreign concept -- you are subject to all the fees you can eat. How does a $100+ refundable deposit, plus a $25 connection fee, plus a credit check and potentially a non-refundable deposit, grab you?

Screw it. I'll ruin someone ELSE'S credit.

The trouble here is, of course, that it's my mother who is the owner of this home, and whose name appears on all the utilities. I'm sure that for some stupid reason it sounded like a good idea to her at the time. It wasn't. Sometimes I'm po'. Well, pretty much I'm po' all the time and I don't want to wreck HER credit being po'... so either I have to pony up money on time every time (a good policy anyway but I don't miss paying bills on time because I WANT to...) or pony up a crapload of money to put my own name on a bill explicitly so I can mess up my own credit. Brilliant.

On top of this, there are vet bills (don't ask: hugenormous), computer replacement costs (not as awful as they could be, but utterly craptacular in their timing), and the inevitably, endlessly unprioritized necessities that we will end up suffering for having deferred into infinity: dental work and health care put off until some magical later, analysis costs for archaeological materials, savings for the next emergency and/or for our student loans, when they come home from hardship deferment to roost. Don't go to grad school, kids -- the bills are moider.

I don't make enough money... no matter how much I love my job. I have never so looked forward to a raise as the one I will receive at the end of my 90 days probationary period.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering whether/how we should be participating in this class action suit against Menu Foods. I don't want to do a lot of talking about it, but I believe it is probable that Pepe died as a result of tainted food. This is especially ironic as we fed her high quality, small scale produced cat food 99.999% of the time: we ran out of food and had to make do for a few days with the cheap stuff... Menu Foods. One week later, kidney failure. Could be coinkeedink. Could be brutal irony of the worst kind.

It doesn't matter in the sense that nothing can bring her back. I would like them to assume the blame and her veterinary bills... and I have a call in to the vet asking what they think. I'm waiting on a call back, or on Pat to go shake them down for answers. I don't like having the unanswered question nagging at the back of my consciousness.

My first really beloved long-term pet was my dog Sunny. She was a tiny fluffball of a Spitz/Poodle hybrid, and looked just like an itty bitty Samoyed. Her tail curled. She was as happy as her name. She died while I was on vacation when I was 11, due to eating some snail poison; they told me it was due to a "false pregnancy" to keep me from getting angry at my grandmother, who had put out the poison, for years. I think I owe to this pretty depressing but perfectly normal event my terror of getting pregnant (yes, really, I do have a phobia that doesn't have anything to do with 18 years + of childcare!) as well as my disdain for poisons. I do not, however, blame my grandmother: things happen.

Sunday was my grandmother's birthday-- April Fool's Day! -- the first one we had had together since she passed away a few years ago. She and my mom used to play the absolute meanest pranks on each other... my brother and I would scurry around the edges and try to be considered collaborators on both sides so as not to become targets ourselves. For about 10 years both Mom and Grandma Red would call me and each would insist that I call the other one and tell her I was pregnant, as a prank. One year I finally faked bursting into tears and saying, "Oh, I wish it were a joke!" Boy, that got Mom. :) The last time we had a birthday party for Grandma Red and I was there, we made her a cake frosted with cream cheese frosting heavily, and I MEAN HEAVILY, laced with wasabi. She LIKED it. "What's in this? It's really good!" Meanwhile, we had flames coming out our own nostrils... waiting for her to notice and eating the cake under her skeptical eyes... aieee!

We had a little party that was absolutely heavenly at my new home to celebrate her birthday. No pranks this year, but we did make a lot of food. Mom's unbelievable orzo salad with fresh mozzarella balls (the teeniest little ones) and grape tomatoes and basil and citrus cilantro grapeseed oil... marinated steamed spring vegetables... cranberry salsa* and crackers... marinated grilled chicken sandwiches with about every trimming one could desire, including chipotle ranch spread... homemade baked beans, and chips and soda pop. Goodness! Afterwards we dragged our food-laden tummies out onto the porch and sat on the plastic chairs, listening to the ducks and goldfinches and red-winged blackbirds and everything else and generally blissing out. I got a happy little sunburn, and I don't mind. Later, we went to the gym and worked out.

*(Cranberry salsa? Sure, go to VegWeb, linked Stage Right, and do a search on their recipe index for it. Oh my GAWD. Seriously, get off the fence, go eat it. I'll wait.)

I find that I like working out. I'd better, as I am signed up to walk the March of Dimes 10K with several of my officemates. Joining a gym here is JUST like joining a church here... socially necessary among most circles, and you get asked the same questions. "I joined my brother's gym." "Oh? Which one? How long has he been there?" The gym stinks pleasantly of eucalyptus (as does the Great Central Californian Outdoors... and my school desks, years ago, since I collected the "acorns" until the teachers called in my parents to force me to remove them-- and so did Pat). Everyone is friendly and encouraging, despite my Rubenesque* physique. I'm not embarrassed: hell, I like my body, and I plan to make it more liveable for a longer tenure. Besides, what are they GOING to say: "Eew, you disgust me, fatso... get out and get even fatter but ... ulp ... far away, please, at least out of my sight"?!?

*(Not like I was painted by Rubens. No, more like I've been eating a steady diet of them.)

The central coast is a bizarre place. There are various old families and nouveau riche families who have extensive holdings: mine is one of the latter, but I am the po' relation. Many of them project scorn to the extent that any conversation is lese majeste (yeah, yeah, so I don't know how to do accents on Blogger). I still have childhood awe of many of them for which the places I know are named: when a canyon is named after you, or a mountain pass, or a winery, or, hell, a repair shop, I tend to go all starry-eyed. When all my state history classes in grade school mentioned you... well, behold as Linda faints with reverence.

It's irrational. Let me tell you about old cowboys with prominent family names: they smell just like you never think about an old cowboy smelling-- like stale sweat, Marlboro funk, Old Spice, denture breath, and cow shit. Sure, some important people smell just divine, but not all of them. And working at an insurance agency processing claims gives you a special kind of new perspective: everybody copes pretty much the same way with getting their back bumper rammed by a momentarily careless driver.

Well... this one rambled... I'll try to focus myself a bit more for the next one.

In the meantime, have you enjoyed Sockbaby yet? I know it's old, but it still makes me cackle.