Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Whine, Interrupted

I wrote a huge, whining entry about what a bad day it's been, but then I deleted it. Why? Because the "bad day" aspect was the result of the following:



1. Having to re-install Microsoft Office twice because Word became demon-possessed



2. Having a less-than-stellar piano practice because my right thumb was feeling arthritic



3. Thinking my co-workers hated me (which is a dumb thing to think, but I do dumb things sometimes)



4. Forgetting today's lunch in the fridge at home



5. Noticing that Enorma has returned (Enorma is my pet zit. She camps out on my chin, quite visibly I might add, one week each month. I don’t know where she goes for the other three weeks, but I wish she’d stay there. I’m not particularly fond of her.)



So, anyway ... if that's a bad day for me, then my life is pretty darn good.



So I'm going to spend my blogging break being thankful for the good things in my life.



Here are some of the things/people for which I am most thankful (in no particular order, except for #1):



1. Wonderful husband, with whom I'll celebrate a one-year wedding anniversary next month



2. Sweet kitty cats who are my pride, joy, and favorite snuggling companions (after Dan, of course)



3. Loving family (Mr. Hugh, Mrs. Gwen, Megan, and Ghent) that I adore



4. Strong birthmother (Sherry) whom I also adore



5. Good friends (whom I also adore)



6. Cool imaginary friends (can't forget those!)



7. Home located in one of the most beautiful areas of the country



8. Pet dinosaur named Bingo



9. Passion and talent for the piano (arthritic-feeling thumb notwithstanding)



10. Good job (Microsoft demons and occasional periods of boredom notwithstanding)



11. Special secret relationship with Gilligan (shh, don't tell)



12. Bengal Roach Spray



OK, so I made up some of those. Can you guess which ones? I guess I should also be thankful for the ability to be silly and make stuff up.



There are many sick and dying people out there, some of them in my own family, some of them among my family's friends. But I'm thankful today that my immediate family is healthy and that I'm healthy. Things really aren't so bad after all.



On that note, I'm heading home. Need to build up my reserves for tomorrow's struggle against the powers of Microsoft Word demons ...

Seems Like Everyone's for "Truth" These Days

This one is just kind of silly. So is this one.



This one is pretty funny, though. I like the story about the daring rescue of a six-pack. And don't forget to move your cursor over the "Culture of Life" photo.



Have fun! Meanwhile, it's back to the old non-blogging grindstone for me ...

This is Why We Save Our Money





Retirement? Nah. 2006? That's more like it. At least that's the goal. Specifically, this picture is from the Pacific Crest Trail, a national scenic trail that runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Dan and I want to hike it. The whole thing. It'll take about five months, give or take a few days.



I know, it doesn't make sense. It's not realistic. Thru-hiking the AT wasn't particularly realistic, either. Neither was Dan's walk across America. Or my decision to take six months off of life to write a book. But those are decisions we'll never regret; indeed, they're decisions that we can't imagine NOT having made.



It's on our joint "One-of-These-Days" list.



This is from Yogi's CDT Journal:



Today, I reached 10,000 long-distance trail miles. When I first stood on Springer Mountain at the start of the Appalachian Trail, the thought that I would someday walk my 10,000th long-distance mile was foreign to me.



TEN THOUSAND miles.



Why?



That's a question without an answer. Either you understand long-distance hiking or you don't. Billy Goat told me once that if someone asks why, then they'll never understand. It can't be explained. It's something inside.


By the way, the picture above is from Crow's PCT hike. (Warning--there are lots of pictures on her site, so if you have a slow computer, it may take a while for them to load.)

This is Why I Really Want to Watch the GOP Convention

It's not 'cause I'm a news junkie or a language junkie or any of that (even though I'm all of those things). It's not even so I'll see Jan on TV. Not so I can see Laura Bush, or the Bush twins, or Important People Making Important Speeches.

It's because I'm proud of Jan. She had a big role in this thing, and watching it is like watching her child grow up and shine. I am so, so, so proud to see HER shine. It's hard to express. It's just amazing to me to think that an Important Person in this whole convention thing is the same girl who sat in the back of Mrs. Evans' classroom in 1978, giggling with Kelly Bertrand.

I saw a little bit of the convention last night; however, considering I'm up at 4:45 every morning to write before my 6:00 workout, I conked out before the big speeches. The first thing Dan said when I woke him up this morning was, "You missed some great speeches last night."

I'm going to try to stay up tonight. I want to hear Laura Bush, who, in my (admittedly dorky) opinion, is very, very cool. I mean, she's a BOOK person. How cool is that?

Monday, August 30, 2004

I've Been Slammed

My job is one of those feast-or-famine kinds of desk jobs. It all depends on when a product is due to go out to a customer, and when the documentation has to be ready. If no products are due anytime soon, then I'm twiddling my thumbs for a few days, preparing drafts for future versions of software, and updating our online glossary. Oh, and blogging when I get a chance.



Sometimes, we're told in advance of a deadline and are able to plan for it. You know--take our time, apply our high standards, make sure a document can go through several edits before going out to the customer.



That's the way it's supposed to happen.



But, as is often the case here in Tech Writing Cubicle Land, the powers-that-be suddenly decided to tell the customer that we would have X Installation Guide for them early next week.



X Installation Guide is supposed to be around 70 pages. Not a bad length. But, X Installation Guide does not exist at this time.



At the same time, I just learned that an update of Y User Guide is ready for documentation. Y User Guide is 400 pages long.



So, I took a deep breath, dusted off my magic tech-writing wand, and felt sad because I will not be able to blog as much this week. I am probably much sadder than you are, dear readers. You know that head-exploding thing? Well, when I write installation guides and user manuals, all the creative thoughts leach out of my system and into the keyboard. The keys get sticky and don't want to work. My brain begins to shrink. The brain tread starts to crust over. I start seeing double. My heart cries. My soul groans in despair. I fall upon the thorns of mindless error messages and computer hang-ups! I bleed!



OK, so maybe that's taking it a bit far.



I do have some good news today, though.



1. It's PIANO DAY!



2. Cousin Shorty (a.k.a. Jennifer Hebert) is 26 years old today! Happy Birthday and Hallelujah (splash)!



3. The RNC starts today! Jan, if you look into the camera, don't forget to wave!!



Happy Monday, everyone. The work-shackles are firmly in place. I'm ready to start writing X Installation Guide.



Ooh, did you hear that creaking noise? I think it's my brain shrinking ...

Friday, August 27, 2004

LSU Baseball News

OK, so this isn't going to be a boring news blog. But LSU news isn't boring, so I'll post all of the LSU news I want to.



Ryan Patterson, an LSU outfielder, has been named to the Baseball America Summer League All-America team. Read about it
here.



Many thanks to Erv for forwarding this to me.

I Think I'm A News Junkie

I never, ever thought this would happen.



I always hated Current Events Day at school, when you had to clip some boring article out of the local paper and play "show and tell" with it. I hated the assignment in the ninth grade where we had to write about a current-events "dilemma." (I wrote about the death penalty and nearly died of boredom in the process.) (OK, so I was an apathetic teenager.) I have just never been into current events.



Now, my friend Jan enjoyed current events. And, not surprisingly, look where she is today. (Am I beaming with pride for her? Yes, I'm beaming.)



But I just didn't "get" current events. I preferred English and French classes, where I could explore language and literature--which, I self-righteously argued, lives forever--as opposed to the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of most current events items.



So why have I become a news junkie?



Part of it is that I love the internet. I love combing the internet for the latest news. I'm not so much interested in politics as I am in "spin." I guess it has to do with my interest in writing and literature, and the many levels of communication that you can have in a piece of writing. I read opinion columns like there's no tomorrow. I go from moveon.org and salon.com to nationalreview.com and marvel at how the different worldviews shape what is written and what is believed. I do the same, to a lesser extent, with the radio, flipping from NPR to the conservative station. As soon as I feel like I can't stomach the conservative station anymore (I don't like talk radio), I switch back to NPR. (When I get sick of both, I pop in my Teaching Company lectures, but that's another story.)



It's all so fascinating. I was just thinking the other day, "Maybe I'll go back to school and write my doctoral dissertation on this kind of thing--the way the different parties use language to forward their agenda, gain power for themselves, and discredit the 'other' side."



Heck, I thought. I like to write books. Maybe I'll even write a book. There's certainly plenty to write about.



Then I found a very interesting article today about George Lakoff. I recognize that name from graduate linguistics courses. He's a cognitive linguistics prof at UC-Berkeley and has written several books on just the kind of thing that interests me--the way we use language, and how that language reflects and enforces our political, cultural, etc., worldviews. His most important and well-known book is Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. It was required reading for the folks on Howard Dean's campaign team.



Lakoff calls himself a "progressive," which in Conservative-speak is "liberal." In this article, he talks about how to talk to conservatives ("simply confronting them with the facts won't help") (?), how to project a positive image (Focus on "strength." Remember all the talk of "strength" at the Democrat Convention?), and why the catchphrase "war on terror" wields such power.



I think I'm going to watch the Republican Convention and take notes. Deconstruct and think. Think and deconstruct. I just wish I'd thought about this for the Democrat Convention.



I was going to watch the Republicans anyway, in an effort to catch a glimpse of Jan. But now I can look for Jan and satisfy my news junkie cravings at the same time.



I can't believe I've become a news junkie. A "Law and Order" addict and a news junkie.



Sigh. It's time for a good, long hike.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Music I'm Addicted To

OK, for all you grammar sticklers, I'm talking about "Music To Which I Am Addicted."



J.S. BACH: Mass in B Minor



I've been stuck on this one for weeks now. Nay, months. I cannot get enough of it. It makes my eyes tear up. It makes my bosom heave. It makes me feel at one with God and the universe. It makes me feel as if all is right with the world, after all. It is miraculous.



And that's just how I feel when I listen to it, to say nothing of the way it engages the mind. It's so satisfyingly intellectually complex, with the voices coming in from seemingly everywhere, but with everyone in such amazing harmony. And I know for a fact that I don't have the musical knowledge to fathom how miraculous it truly is. All I know is what my ears--okay, my good ear--tells me. The very first part--"Kyrie Eleison"--is just incredible. It's about 10 minutes long, and I listen to it over and over again. I have entire hours of my life that are divided into sixths--the six ten-minute intervals that I spend listening to "Kyrie Eleison."



BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor

It's overdone. Overplayed. Everyone is sick of it. Everyone knows it.



Not really. Everyone knows the first four notes of it. Or maybe the first eight notes. But who has taken the time to really listen to it and study it in depth? Not me. The thought of it is overwhelming. You could spend your entire life studying this symphony and still leave stones unturned. I'll admit that I've never really, REALLY, TRULY listened to the Fifth Symphony. Oh, I've heard it as background-wallpaper music (a travesty), and I've heard it at symphonies. I'm sure I have a CD of it somewhere that I've listened to a few times. But I've never REALLY, TRULY listened to it. Never took the time to listen repeatedly for the themes, the interrelations, the differences and similarities between movements, the flowering of C major out of C minor. Never took the time to study the score. Never took the time to research what's been written about it. So I'm doing that now.

CHOPIN: Nocturne in B-flat Minor, Op. 9, No. 1



I'm not addicted to listening to this one. I'm addicted to PLAYING it. This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of piano music ever written. That's been my opinion ever since I first heard a recording of Arthur Rubinstein playing it. It's long been on my list of pieces I want to learn for myself on the piano. So I learned it, with the help of Deborah, my wonderful piano teacher. Actually, I'm still in the process of learning it. I haven't "graduated" from it yet, but I have it down pretty darn well.



Wanna know why I have it down so well?



'Cause I can't stop playing it, that's why!!



PAUL SIMON: An American Tune



The tune from "An American Tune" was actually adapted from a Bach chorale. I knew this, but I didn't know which chorale. So I'm at the piano, workin' on theory, playing through some Bach chorales, and suddenly I realize I'm playing "An American Tune." A-ha! It's a beautiful melody. So I dug up my tape of Simon and Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park and have been listening to it a lot, mostly on my Walkman while working out. Here are the lyrics.



Theme Song to Law and Order: SVU



Hello, everyone. My name is Nina, and I'm addicted to Law and Order: SVU. So I'm addicted to the show, and not really the theme song. But because I'm addicted to the show, the sound of the theme song sets my pulse going. It's an addiction that I've been trying to overcome, but it's difficult, considering it comes on about five times a night. What's worse is that the new series starts up in a couple of weeks.



And to think that I didn't own a TV until 2001. And to think that I used to have a "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker on my car. Oh, woe is me. How the mighty have fallen.



Silly Song That Shall Remain Unnamed



This is the song that Dan and I "wrote" as we hiked the Long Trail together. We sing it to each other all the time. It's silly. But I guess you could say it's our love song. We'll sing it to each other on the PCT. We'll still be singing it to each other at our 25th anniversary. We'll still be singing it to each other when we're eleventy-one. We'll sing it to each other forever. I always have it playing in my head. It makes me think of Dan. It makes me smile.



Enough mushiness. So anyway, that's the music I'm obsessed with these days. And so this won't be a completely navel-gazing post, I'll ask ... What are you listening to these days, dear readers?

It Ain't All Bad in Baghdad

Have y'all seen this? Reality TV has come to Iraq, but in a good way.

Future History

I keep thinking about this “future history” genre that H.G. Wells started back in the early 20th century. It makes me wish I'd become an English teacher, or more specifically, a creative writing teacher.



I’d have my students write a story in which they have a character living in the year 2100. That character is a historian writing about some great event that happened in 2050. And the students’ assignment is to imagine what that historian might write. And to write a story/history from the point of view of the historian. Just like Wells did, only different.



Doesn’t that sound like so much fun? You could even make the language sound different. Just like our language, with its blogs, bytes, e-mails, PDAs, and MP3s, sounds different than it did 20 years ago.



You could take some of the extreme radical views of today and make them the universally accepted norm of 2050. And what would the "great event" be? What kind of a war on what kind of a scale? Or would it be a war at all? What about global warming? What about the long-term effects of our newest drugs? What about the increased secularization of everything? What about ... ?



There are all kinds of cultural, political, and spiritual things to explore there.



[thinking ...]



[thinking ...]



[thinking ...]



Ooh, my mind is suddenly generating some really dark and scary thoughts. Better write them down somewhere so the old head doesn't explode.



Heck, I don’t want to be a creative writing teacher. I just want to be a creative writing student. Forever and ever and ever.



So maybe I’ll take on my own little assignment. I don’t know enough about science to make it believable, but it would still be an interesting exercise. Something to do in all of this free time I have (ha ha).



In fact, just now in the bathroom (yep, that's my free time), I got an idea for a circa-2100 character. He has the funniest, coolest, oddest name I have ever imagined.



I won’t talk about him anymore, though. It’s bad luck to talk about prenatal characters. Even if they're only destined for a fun little writing exercise that no one will ever read.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

My Amy Is Getting Fame-y

What time is it, everyone?



You know what time it is. Yes, you do.



It's time to go out and buy the Spring 2004 issue of Budget Decorating Ideas, a special publication of Woman's Day magazine!



What? You don't typically buy Woman's Day publications?



Hm. Oh, but you'll want to buy this one. Or at least glance through it. Even you, Jonathan.



Why?



Because my dear friend, Amy Powers, has products featured on pages 8 and 28! And if you look at the Table of Contents, you'll see a detail of one of her teapots.



Well, they aren't really her products and teapots. Her company, Inspire Company, sells them. And she owns the company. So they really are kind of hers.



If you were at my wedding, you'll remember Amy as one of my bridesmaids. She was the one who was taller than me and wore a long reddish dress with a V-back ... oh, wait, I'm describing ALL of the bridesmaids.



Anyway, I hope you'll look for this issue on your neighborhood magazine rack. Silly Amy told me, "if you get a chance, look at Budget Decorating Ideas by Woman's Day."



HA! If I get a chance! As if I'm not going to buy 12 issues tonight when I go shopping for groceries!



Silly, silly Amy.



I've added her website to my list of links.

Science Fiction Foray, Part 1

I spent much of my recent weekend struggling through The World Set Free, a short but dense “science-fact/science-fiction” novel by H.G. Wells that was published in 1914. It’s kind of a strange book; although he was writing it in 1913, the narrator exists later in time, maybe the late 20th century, and is chronicling events that “occurred” in the mid-20th century. Whew. So I had to get my willing-suspension-of-disbelief mechanism going.



This book fits into the "future history" genre of fiction that Wells pretty much invented. Much of the story is told in dry, factual terms—like a history book might be. Interspersed are snippets of “diaries” and other documents that, since they were written in the future, never really existed. Several scenes and conversations are presented in the book, but none show any degree of real character development, or even action. Most of the action revolves around “The Great War,” which occurs in the 1950s, in which everyone is dropping atomic bombs on everyone else. Now, atomic bombs didn’t exist in 1913. They hadn’t even thought about existing. Or wouldn’t have, if atomic bombs could indeed think. But Wells thought about it, and he wrote about it.



Wells’ fictional conflagration of war (war of conflagration?), which ruptures civilized society, ultimately leads to a sort of socialist utopia for the survivors, a “one-world order,” where a few in-the-know folks are in charge and everyone else is homogenously content and no one wants for anything.



Very utopian.



It wasn’t an easy book to read, simply because there was no real “story” to latch on to. I kept waiting for it to “pick up,” but it didn’t. No, it wasn’t what I would call an “easy read.” Particularly when my Beethoven biography was on the bedside table, feeling justifiably neglected. But I plowed through The World Set Free, and I’m glad I did.



Wanna know why?



‘Cause last night we met for the “Let’s Talk About It” discussion series at the local library, and we learned why the book was relevant, even though it never met with commercial success (hmm, wonder why?). Apparently, it was quite relevant to scientists like Hungarian Leo Szilard, who worked with Einstein and was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb—of the very idea of an atomic bomb. And he partly got that idea from reading about it in Wells.



So that was interesting to learn, though kind of scary at the same time. Are we writers and storytellers really that powerful?



And then the "Let's Talk About It" group had a discussion, led by Professor Scott Sheffield of Brevard College.



It was so much fun. It was like being an English major all over again. I forget how much I love to explore literature-—everything from its grand ideas and statements to its symbolism, from its complex characters to its sentence structure and even the placement of commas. Yes, even comma placement is relevant sometimes.



It’s all so very, very delicious. Oh, why can't books be edible?!



The next group meets in two weeks, and this time we’re reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I read that in high school. I don’t remember anything about it, except that I liked it, so it looks to be a more interesting read than The World Set Free.



Of course, I want to re-read The World Set Free, now that I have more insight and understand the context better.



Sigh. So many books, so many necessary re-reads, so little time to even read them the first time around.

Girls Here, Boys ..... Over ..... There

I really don't want this to become a boring news blog, but every now and then I find an article of interest to me. And since this is MY blog, I'll share those articles. Like the one I'm gonna write about now.



***********

Here's an interesting article about how single-sex education is being encouraged and adopted by some schools, with promising results. The article tells us that "at least 11 single-sex public schools will open this fall in six states Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina and Oregon." In addition, the number of public schools in the U.S. that offered single-sex classes has increased from four to 140 in less than ten years.



As a graduate of a women's college, I find this interesting. My view, if you can call it a view, is that single-sex education is a Very Good Thing, though it's not necessarily for everyone. It was for me. I never would have taken so many science classes in college if I had been at a co-ed college. I would not have participated as much as I did. And, to be quite the honest little blogger, I probably would have gotten myself into a LOT more trouble if I'd been at a co-ed college, as well!



Terry O'Neill of NOW says that "segregation [of the sexes, I presume] has historically always resulted in second-class citizens." I dunno. Tell that to Madeline Albright, Barbara Bush, Julia Child, Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Margaret Mitchell, and Nancy Reagan--all graduates of women's colleges.

Plus, my mama went to an all-girls school, and look how good she turned out. And don't forget the most excellent Amy Powers, whose inspire company is the place to shop on the internet for unique and beautiful gifts.



I'm no expert on the pros and cons of single-sex education; for example, I don't know what kinds of studies have been done on how the effects of a single-sex college education is different from a single-sex elementary, middle, or high-school education, etc. But, I think it's dumb, dumb, dumb to pooh-pooh it a step backwards and as a recipe for second-class citizenry for women. If anything, it can ultimately make women more confident, capable, and successful. Men too, for that matter (both Dubya and John Kerry went to all-boys schools).



At least that's what I opine. What do you think? Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Score One For Grumpiness

According to Medical News Today, a negative mood can be good for your memory.

People in a positive mood such as happiness were shown under experimental conditions to have relatively unreliable memories, and show poorer judgement and critical thinking skills.



By contrast, those who experienced a negative mood such as sadness were shown to provide more reliable eyewitnesses accounts and exercise superior thinking and communication skills.

Speaking from personal experience (as if anything in this navel-gazing blog isn't from personal experience!), I have a freaky ability to remember things observed, whether they happened 30 years ago or yesterday. I am also a pretty negative person, in general.



So maybe there is a connection, and a little grumpiness isn't so bad for us after all. ;-)

Alice Cooper Made Me Giggle

I first learned about Alice Cooper at the Baptist Church in the early 1980s. And it was at the Baptist Church that I first heard his music.



An anti-rock-and-roll speaker was talking to all of us small-town Southern Baptist teenagers about how evil and sinful rock and roll music was. Although his main emphasis was on 70s rock bands, punk, and metal, no one was free from his criticism. He even bashed poor John Denver.



My tastes at the time were geared towards Rick Springfield, Duran Duran, and other relatively innocuous 80s-pop sensations. I hadn't had much exposure to the likes of Led Zeppelin, KISS, or the Sex Pistols, but even so, I took most of what the guy said with a grain of salt. Some of the kids went home that night and broke all of their rock albums. I certainly wasn't going to do that.



But, thanks to his introduction of Alice Cooper, and his playing of the eerie "I Love the Dead" over the church speaker system, Alice Cooper has forever given me the creeps.



But today Alice Cooper made me laugh in his criticism of rock stars like Springsteen and Mellencamp who are campaigning for Kerry.



"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than [the rock stars] are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal."
I don't know. I just think that's funny. It's also kind of funny to think of Alice Cooper, of all people, as a staunch Republican and Bush supporter, which he apparently is. Here's the brief article from The Edmonton Sun.

Just Call Me Mistress Blogalot

My brother Jonathan says I blog a lot. Actually, what he said was, "Man, that's a lot of blogging."



OK, so maybe I do blog a lot. Particularly in comparison to poor Cousin Veronica. And it's true, I do update a lot more than Cousin Stacey or even Ye Olde Crawdaddy himself.



What's scary is that, in addition to the blogging, I write five to ten pages a day in a "real" notebook. You know, one of those spiral-bound things we used before we had electronic notebooks, text messaging, and palm pilots. I've been writing at least that much every day for, oh, the last twenty years or so.



I just can't help it. My brain gets over-run with words and thoughts and ideas, and if I don't "release" them by writing them down, my head will clog up and explode.



Really.



It's just like a terlit, only different. And the more I read fiction and listen to Bach, the faster my brain fills up, and the more I have to write.



So you see, I HAVE to flush--I mean blog--a lot. You wouldn't want my head to explode, would you, dear readers?



Nah. Didn't think so.

Monday, August 23, 2004

August 23 is a Big Day for Me

Happy Birthday to my old flame, Rick Springfield.







Rick was 33 when I felt in love with him at the tender age of twelve, and now he's 55. I wish I could say that I was celebrating by listening to his music all day long, but the truth is, I'm not. But that's only because I left my rockin' Rick Springfield mix at home. On accident, of course. Maybe I'll make up for it by forcing Hubbie to watch "Hard to Hold" with me tonight. Nah, I wouldn't do that to him ...



August 23 is a big day for me. Not only is it Rick's birthday, but it's also the day school always started at St. James. I lived for the first day of school. In addition to all of that, Cousin Veronica has finally updated her website. That is truly an historic event. Congratulations, Cousin Veronica. I knew you could do it!

Did You Miss It Too Question Mark

As a lifelong word nerd and punctuation enthusiast, please let me apologize to you, my vast reading audience. I have failed you. Not only did I fail you, but I didn’t even know I was failing you until late last night, when I learned, much to my mixed joy and chagrin, that August 22 has been declared National Punctuation Day.



I was utterly joyful at the thought of planning yearly celebrations of punctuation marks, particularly my personal favorites: the semicolon, the en-dash, and the exclamation point. I was chagrined that the entire day had gone by and was nearly over, and I had been completely unaware of this historic event.



So, dear readers, I am sorry. I missed it. Most likely, you missed it. We all missed it. Let's all do that L-for-loser-on-the-forehead thing now, all together, 1 - 2 - 3. But not for long. 'Cause we're gonna make up for it next year!



Punctuation Party at my house, August 22, 2005! Be there, and be prepared to imitate your favorite punctuation mark in a fun and exciting game of semicolon charades! We'll have comma cocktails! Parenthesis punch! Hyphen hors d'oeuvres! Quotation quaffs! Bracket beverages! Ellipsis eats!



We'll take a ride around town and point out all of the incorrect punctuation we find on signs! We'll even take pictures! We'll bash in any mailbox that has an "apostrophe-s" at the end of a last name! OK, so we won't do that. We'll be wild and crazy and act like exclamation points, but we won't break the law.



Oh geez. I'm having too much fun. I shouldn't be allowed to have this much fun this early on a Monday morning.

Mouse-Breath

That is Beau's new nickname. He brought another mouse in at 3:30 this morning. Hubbie was not amused. He woke me up yelling, "Wifey, your son has brought us another mouse."



Hmph. So now he's my son. Hmph, hmph, hmph.



Anyway, Dan has taken to calling our little angel "Mouse-Breath."



"Mouse-Breath." That sounds yucky. No more kissing Beau on the lips for me.

Friday, August 20, 2004

A Thrappy Girl, Indeed!

Thrilled and happy, thrilled and happy, thrilledandhappy, thrilledandhappy, thrilled&happy, thrilled&happy, thrillednhappy, thrill&appy, thrillappy thrrrrappy. I'm thrappy. I'm thrappy! Yes, by George, I'm thrappy!



Why?



'Cause my newest music theory textbook is the good ole green Baptist Hymnal!



I'm supposed to go out tonight, but part of me wants to stay home and do music theory.



But I can't do that. Staying home on Friday night to experiment with four-part harmony in a yellowed old hymnal is boring. It's particularly boring in comparison to going out to listen to live music, which is my current plan.



I will not be boring. I will not be boring. I will not be boring. I will not be boring. I will not be boring. I will not be boring. I will not be boring. I will not be boring.



For now, I'll just be thrappy and leave it at that.



I'll be boring later.

Bloggity Thoughts

I am feeling kind of sad today. I recently found out that the mother of a friend of mine was diagnosed with esophageal cancer three weeks ago. This was one of the "moms" who carted us around town as kids, who saw us all through our school programs, proms, and graduations. More recently, this mom took part in my wedding and helped to make it the beautiful wedding that it was.



Please keep this mom in your prayers. She is undergoing chemo and radiation now, and it saddens me to no end to think of her (and her family) suffering.



E-mail me (mizwaterfall at yahoo dot com) if you want her name ... not everyone likes to have their names splashed on the internet, even if it is just a blog with a narrow readership.



********



There is some good news today. My own wonderful mom, Mrs. Gwen, bought me a couple of COOL BATIK DRESSES 'cause she got tired of seeing me in the same bluish-purplish-whitish tie-dye sundress that I wear all the time. So, today I am wearing a COOL BATIK dress.



********



Today is also Music Theory Day. This, too, is a very, very good thing. At noon, I'll meet with my music theory teacher, Vance, and go over this four-part-harmony-writing thing. I am so excited at the prospect of writing music. I'm always "makin' stuff up," on the piano, but the things I'm learning here will allow me to write more formally, and ultimately to write for many different instruments. As I sit here, listening to a Mozart piano concerto, my head gets filled with dreams of writing Great Music. Maybe I'm too old for that, but then I figure, I probably have 40 or so years left on this earth. If I work hard on theory and composition, starting today, I'll have 40 good years of composing--or at least trying--ahead of me.



*******



The carpet in our den is saturated with water. The plumber came by this morning and found the culprit: a leaky dishwasher. So we need a new dishwasher. Of course, we just so happen to need a new dishwasher less than a week after shelling out $$$ for vacation plane tickets to Oregon. Sigh. When it rains, it pours.



*******



I started reading another book last night: The World Set Free, by H.G. Wells. I've read maybe three science fiction books in my life, so this is kind of a new experience. I'm reading it for the "Let's Talk About It" series at the Haywood County Library. I'm also still reading the Beethoven biography. But I also borrowed The History of the Presbyterians from our pastor, so I need to get it finished and get it back to him. Whew. Between music, reading, writing, home-owning, and blogging, it's a wonder I find time to go to work!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Nocona Has Set Me Straight

Here I was, thinking about buying crinkly skirts, peasant tops, and tie-dye dresses.



Nocona has set me straight. She sent me a gift certificate to REI so I can buy hiking gear. I really need some new gaiters, and a lighter-weight headlamp would be nice, too.



And to think I was going to spend my hard-earned money on non-hiking items! I'm supposed to be saving some of that money for the PCT!



Thanks, Nocona!

From Shoppin' to Chopin

Perhaps it is the ubiquity of consumerism and "product celebrity" that turns me off to shopping.



Or maybe it's just 'cause clothes don't fit me.



Here's an interesting little editorial on a new mag, Shop, Etc.



It's a magazine that's all about shopping.



I'm going to quit thinkin' about shoppin' and go play some Chopin. No trips to Street Fair or Indo for me this afternoon. I'll go find a pianner instead.



Why? 'Cause Chopin is more fun and rewardin' than shoppin'. Cheaper, too!

Vestis Virum Reddit

Warning: Somewhat Self-Centered, Navel-Gazing Narrative Follows

I hate to admit it, but the clothes I wear sometimes affect how I feel about myself.

Today I’m wearing khaki pants and a faded, tired light-blue shirt: plain, boring cookie-cutter clothes that I bought at the mall ten years ago. My hair is in a ponytail (woke up too late to wash it) and I’m wearing glasses (contact problems… long story). I look and feel like the near-sighted Cubicle-Dwelling Technical Writer that I am.

Yesterday I wore a sparkly purple gypsy skirt and a stretchy, sexy black shirt. And sandals. No glasses. My hair loose. I felt beautiful, even though the clothes were a little big on me. I felt like the Dazzlingly Exciting Creative Person that I am.

But today I feel blah. Like an imposter. I really am more of a Dazzlingly Exciting Creative Person, and not so much of a Cubicle-Dwelling Technical Writer, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me.

I think it's time.

Yes, it is. It's That Time Of The Decade.

Once every five or ten years, I have to throw out the hole-y socks, stained shirts, and threadbare pants and start over. It’s an event that I dread because I hate shopping, hate malls, hate having to try on stuff that never fits (when you’re 5’2” and small-boned, finding clothes is a problem, whether you’re a size 4 or a size 14. I know; I’ve been both).

And then there is the whole issue of spending money. I don’t like most clothes, and I hate spending precious money on things I don’t like.

Oh, Adam and Eve, why did you have to eat that stupid apple? If it weren’t for you, we’d all be running around blissfully naked, and none the wiser. But you listened to that stupid snake, and now we have retail.

And my clothes are falling apart, so I need to go shopping soon. Wal-Mart and Target are out of the question; their clothes don’t fit my body or my style any better than mall clothes. Believe me, I've tried both.

When it comes to wardrobe issues, I actually do have a “style.” I think. Can I call it a style? My brother, who has very good taste in clothes and style-related things, would probably respond with a resounding “NO.”

Ah, my dear older brother Ghent ...

[Looking nostalgic, with a faraway look in my eyes.]

I remember the first time I was exposed to what would help to mold my “style.”

[Dreamy harp music playing.]

It is the mid-1970s, and Daddy, Ghent, and I are riding around in the vicinty of Ella Shoe on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We drive down Chimes Street, where shiftless-looking people hang out on the side of the street and the stores and bars have a run-down look to them. In a small parking lot, a long-haired, dirty-looking couple is selling flowers and clothes. The clothes are a mix of long, flowing skirts and dresses and t-shirts, many of them painted in bold, swirling colors.

I am mesmerized.

“Can we go there?” I ask naively, pointing at the clothes display.

My older brother wrinkles his nose in disgust. “Waterfall, those are hippies.”

Ghent’s disgusted look tells me all I need to know. But still …

“What are those clothes? They’re pretty.”

“Those are tie-dies and hippie clothes.” My older brother, already fashion-conscious at the age of eight, speaks knowingly and with finality. He clearly does not approve.

I guess I wasn’t so fashion-conscious. I thought those swirly, flowy, and colorful clothes were beautiful.

So now my favorite stores are the hippie stores in downtown Asheville like Street Fair and Indo, where I can find long, crinkly batik skirts, flowy peasant blouses, jangly silver jewelry, and funky little hats. And tie-dye. I will never outgrow my love for tie-dye, no matter how often it goes out of style.

There’s only one problem with those stores, other than the fact that they’re a little out of my price range.

Nearly everything is “One Size Fits All.” That means “No Sizes Fit Me.”

So I end up at the mall, in the department fartment stores, in the Petites Department, buying things like “sportswear” and “misses fashions.” Blah, cubicle-dwelling cookie-cutter clothes. Unfortunately, malls do not sell hand-dyed hippie/gypsy garb reeking of patchouli.

Now I'm getting depressed. My khakis have a hole in the hip. I've been fiddling with a loose string hanging from the sleeve of my shirt. One sleeve is literally shorter than the other because I pulled out so much string. I wonder if the Cubicle-Dwelling Ragamuffin look will ever become "in."

Yes, I'm a professional with a professional job. Mm-hmm. I shoulda been a seamstress.

Lunch hour is just around the corner. Maybe I’ll go to Street Fair or Indo and see if I can’t find a size S or XS buried in the One-Size-Fits-All-But-Me clothes. If not, I can always get a funky hat. If I’m going to be a Cubicle-Dwelling Ragamuffin, I can at least be a Cubicle-Dwelling Ragamuffin With A Cool Hat.

Don’t you think so? Ghent? Dear brother, are you out there?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

254 Years Ago Today







ANTONIO SALIERI

Born: August 18, 1750, Legnago, Italy

Died: May 7, 1825, Vienna, Austria



Today is the birthday of a classical composer whose music pretty much fell into obscurity in his lifetime. Antonio Salieri wrote over 40 operas and numerous instrumental works, including two symphonies, a concerto for flute and oboe, a triple concerto, an organ concerto, two piano concertos, and several chamber works and string quartets. This guy even wrote music for ballet. And masses. And cantatas. In addition to that, he served as court composer and later court Kapellmeister in Vienna for many years. His students included the rather more well-remembered Franz Liszt and Ludwig van Beethoven.



However, most of us remember Salieri as the villain of the Peter Shaffer play Amadeus and the Oscar-winning film of the same name (which happens to be my very favorite movie in the whole wide world). In truth, there is no proof that Salieri killed W.A. Mozart, though the rumors abounded in Vienna after Mozart's death in 1791. Salieri became mentally unstable in later years and spent his final years in an asylum.

You can listen to samples of Salieri's music here (operatic stuff) and here (pianner stuff).





The Styles, They Are A-Changin'

It's a wild and crazy time for technical writers. As always. After all, our profession barely even existed when I was a wee-little Shakespeare-quoting English major wondering if real, salary-paying companies actually hired "word people" like me.



Now, Wired News is ceasing to capitalize the "I" in internet, the "N" in net, and the "W" in web.



This is a stylistic change whose time has come.



Why?



As Wired tells us, "The simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually, there never was."



The article by Tony Long can be found here.

If You Were a Book, What Book Would You Be?

I'm Alice's Adventures in Wonderland!







"After stumbling down the wrong turn in life, you've had your mind opened to a number of strange and curious things. As life grows curiouser and curiouser, you have to ask yourself what's real and what's the picture of illusion. Little is coming to your aid in discerning fantasy from fact, but the line between them is so blurry that it's starting not to matter. Be careful around rabbit holes and those who smile to much, and just avoid hat shops altogether."



What book are you? Find out here.



Many thanks to "inkling" for pointing me to this fun site.

Where, Oh Where Have My E-mails Gone?

They overhauled our Outlook system at work. My e-mails are gone. I don't really care about the work e-mails, but I seem to have lost all of my personal e-mails, which means I have lost all the e-mail addresses of friends and family.



Argh!



If you are a friend or a familial unit who e-mails me at my work address, please drop me a note so I can get you safely back into my address book!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Ohhh Nooo, Not Again!

Last night the hubster and I were huddled over his computer, reading an e-mail from a friend of ours. Suddenly, we heard a baleful sound coming from behind us:



"M-E-E-E-O-O-O-W-W."



You could feel the tension in the air as we both braced ourselves and turned. What did Beau catch this time?



Sitting innocently on the floor was Hideaway with her toy mouse at her feet. The tension disappeared in an exhale of relief from both of us. She'd "caught" her "mouse" and wanted to share it with Mommy and Daddy.



We showered her with compliments and kisses and told her what a good girl she is for catching a toy mouse (we emphasized the word "toy." Very strongly. Don't want her to get any ideas!).



All too often, it seems that the rowdy, rambunctious, and rule-breaking kids get all the attention. So I'm happy to be able to write about my well-behaved "Heidi" today.



I just hope Beau isn't teaching her to hunt real mice!

Here's that Katahdin Picture I Promised





This is my beloved husband on August 15, 1999, the day he summitted Mt. Katahdin as the final goal of his 2,168-mile walk from north Georgia along the Appalachian Trail.



He kept an online journal of his hike and has more AT pictures on his website.

Monday, August 16, 2004

For Lexicon Lovers

Did you know that a menudo (in addition to being the legendary--LEGENDARY--80s band) is a tripe stew seasoned with chili peppers ? Or that pleather is a plastic fabric made to look like leather? Or that barkitecture is the architecture of doghouses? Yes, folks, these are real words that, while you may not find them in the dictionary, do show up in real books and magazines.



If you found that first paragraph intriguing, then friend, we have something in common. Here are some fun links, just for you:



Wordspy, a neat site that I found. It lists and defines all the new words that have entered the culture in recent years.



As the site tells you, it is "devoted to lexpionage, the sleuthing of new words and phrases." The words covered are actual terms have have shown up "multiple times in newspapers, magazines, books, Web sites, and other recorded sources."



Another fun web-place for word buffs is the good ol' Merriam-Webster site, which lists the newest words to make it into the dictionary.



As a writer and chronic word-coiner, I love reading this stuff.

Approval Rating Plummets

I'm talking about Beau's approval rating, of course.



This time, he had a friend for Mouse #1. At 2:30 in the morning. Heralding his new catch with the usual "M-E-E-E-O-O-O-W-W."



Sigh.



Actually, I was sound asleep, so Dan, having gotten home only an hour or two before from his Ohio trip, was the one who got to see it and yell at Beau.



Good and excellent animal lover that he is, he rescued the poor, frightened mouse and put it back outside. And yelled at Beau some more.



We're fixing the cat door today so that our darling little Mouse Maimer can get out during the day, but he can't get back in unless we let him in.



Won't he be surprised!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Held Prisoner, by George

Help! Help! I can't stop playing! I need to work on a writing project, and I need to clean house, and I need to go work out ... but I can't tear myself away from the piano!



It seems easy enough. I dressed to go work out three hours ago. I'm on my way out the door ... but wait, let me just go practice my c#-minor scale again, real quick ... and whaddaya know, it's an hour later, and I'm still at the piano. The c#-minor scale got practiced, then I moved on to another scale, then to the Chopin, then to something I wrote, then to some ragtime tunes, then ...



OK. I'm going to go work out. Or write. Or do something other than play. I gather my notebooks for writing. I have the overdue library books. I'm on my way out the door. I'll go to the library, then work out. But oh geez, I left my water bottle next to the piano. Can't work out without the water bottle. Let me go get it.



Getting the water bottle ... wait, let me just play "Edelweiss." For some reason that song has been in my head for two days. I don't have the music, but I have a by-ear version I play. OK, I'll just play "Edelweiss," then I'll go.



Wow, that's a pretty song. Let's play another pretty song.



Twenty minutes have passed. I really need to go. Need to stop playing pretty songs and get moving.



Oh, but while I'm here, I may as well practice the g#-minor scale. And these arpeggios need work.



Forty-five minutes have passed. Now I'm flipping through the Baptist Hymnal, playing whatever strikes my fancy, making up fun arrangements as I go.



I really need to go work out. My butt's getting tired of sitting on this piano bench.



I have all my stuff. I'm ready to go. At the door. Ready to walk out. Now I have everything: keys, purse, water bottle, Walkman, rockin' Rick Springfield tape for the treadmill, and ... oh geez, I left my headphones on the piano.



I'll be just a second getting them ...



Ah, I love those rare days when there is absolutely nothing that I have to do!

Happy K-Day to Dan!

Five years ago today, Dan summitted Mt. Katahdin and finished his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Congratulations, Hubbie, and happy Katahdin-anniversary! I want to post his Katahdin picture, but I can't do it from home. Someone remind me to post it tomorrow.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Saturday Night and the Moon is Bright

Actually, I'm not sure if the moon is bright or not. It's really kind of cloudy out there.



Today was a pretty active day. My parents came to visit--actually to help me paint our guest/library/piano/gear-storage room. We picked out the paint, grabbed a late breakfast, then headed back home to start painting. It was pretty much an all-day job, but we got it done, and now our room is a nice, soothing shade of pink (but not too girly or pepto-esque).



Once they left, I settled down with George (the piano) for some serious quality time. Since we'd been preparing to paint, the guest/library/piano/gear-storage room has been quite a mess and I've neglected poor George this week. I'm just starting to learn the Mozart Fantasy in D minor. Like most Mozart music I've played, it looks so easy on paper and sounds so easy on tape, but when you start trying to actually play it, it's so much trickier than I expected.



A bit later, I watched a Disney movie on TV--Disney's The Kid, starring Bruce Willis. It was pretty hokey (Bruce triumphantly yelling "I'm not a loser! I'm not a loser!" at the end was a bit much), but I thought it was an interesting concept. Bruce Willis plays a 40-year-old man who is magically visited by his 8-year-old self. Throughout the movie, we see that this is because both the child and the adult have something to learn about themselves and how they can make their lives better. And then there was a bit of a twist at the end. Cute movie, even if it was quite the hokey flick.



Hmm, I wonder what my eight-year-old self would think of me if she were to drop into my 34-year-old life. She'd probably find it rather sad that I remember "Lou had his eyes glued on those new blue suits." Yep. She'd probably say, "Old lady, I really woulda hoped youda gotten beyond that by now. But ... you're still in love with Bo Duke, aren't ya?"



Last night, after a snafu mix-up of Friday-night plans, I ended up seeing a movie called Napoleon Dynamite. GREAT little film that is rated PG and was apparently a hit at the Sundance Film Festival last year. It's about an awkward, nerdy kid named Napoleon and the embarrassing and sometimes painful situations that he finds himself in. What I loved is that, even though many of the scenes were odd and almost surreal, they were so true-to-life at the same time. And practically every one of the oddball characters reminded me distinctly of someone I know, or knew in high school. It's an independent film so it may be hard to find, but I encourage anyone who likes odd, goofy, and out-of-the-ordinary films to seek it out.



I watched some of the news today and was saddened by the tradegy and disaster that Hurricane Charley has left in his wake. I have a number of hiking friends and acquaintances from the Orlando area, so I'm hoping they are all OK. We've heard from a few on the AT List, so that's a relief. But seeing the footage on TV brought back nightmare memories of Hurricane Andrew, 14 years ago this month.



Most of tomorrow will be devoted to getting the house straightened up (it's a bit of a mess since we moved so much stuff around to paint) and practicing piano (lesson on Monday). Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Lou Had His Eyes Glued on those New Blue Suits

Last night my sister told me she’d used my Humory blog as part of a lesson plan in creative writing, and that her students actually enjoyed hearing it (and trying to guess who “Ella Shoe” was). Hm, maybe I’m writing for the wrong age group!



Anyway, we chatted awhile, and she was telling me how all of the fourth graders in North Carolina are required to take a writing proficiency test at the end of the year. From what I’ve read, the fourth graders are expected to be able to write creative and personal pieces. To me, this sounds like loads of fun—creative and personal pieces are my favorite types of writing—but, my sister told me that, by the end of the year, after so much hard work and focus on writing, many fourth-graders (sadly) become burned out and actually develop a dislike for writing.



Ack! It makes me think of when people become turned off to hiking because they get tired of the bugs, or the sweat, or the uphills. You want to say, "Keep going ... this is all worth it. Just wait and see!"



I try to think about fourth grade and writing. I don’t particularly remember writing in fourth grade, though I do remember being madly in love with Bo Duke, and being obsessed, like everyone else, with smelly stickers. If I think about when I learned to write, and when I first learned to love writing, I have to look back further back than that, to my pre-Hazzard County life--before we discovered smelly stickers (remember the pizza sticker?).



It all started, I’m certain, because I loved stories. Whether they were stories in picture-books at the library or Bible stories in Sunday School, I always loved the way stories seemed to take me to another place imaginatively. And the words of the Bible, in particularl, instilled in me a love for language, for the rhythm of words and phrases as they were weaved so skillfully into parables and poetry.



My love for stories turned into a passion for books—those treasure troves of stories—and later, to a love for words and finally writing itself. I guess that, since other writers had shared their stories with me, I felt a natural desire to share my stories with others. By the time I was a teenager, I had a full-fledged, very romantic and teenagerish sense of destiny that I was meant to be a Great Writer. But then again, I was kind of a weird kid. :)



Anyway, the first time I remember doing creative writing was in Mrs. Evans’ second-grade class at St. James. She had a routine.



“Take out a sheet of paper,” she’d say, and while we rustled through our desks and the click-click of binders opening and closing filled the room, she’d write “Name” and “Date” on the board, followed by a school subject. It looked something like this:



Name

Date

Math (if the subject was math)



We, in turn, would write on our papers something like this:



Janina

October 5, 1977

Math



Then we’d get our written assignments.



Of course, I never got all that excited when she wrote “Math.” I liked this one better:



Name

Date

Writing



Yes! I’d feel like I’d scored a point when she wrote that wonderful word instead of “Math.”



Then we’d get a topic: “The Happiest Day of My Life,” “If I Lived on a Spaceship,” or “The Oldest Man in the World” or whatever. Then we could WRITE.



I always welcomed the chance to make things up and “pretend on paper.” I still do.



Sometimes Mrs. Evans would write:



Name

Date

Dictation



And then she’d sit in front of the room and dictate ten or so sentences to us, and we’d have to write them down. Each exercise would focus on whatever sound we were learning. Sounds tedious, but for me, this was almost as enjoyable as Writing; the sentences were often very silly, which actually made dictation kind of fun.



For instance, one day we were apparently learning various spellings for the /oo/ sound. One of the sentences was this one:



Lou had his eyes glued on those new blue suits.



What an odd sentence.



Someone snickered, and then Mrs. Evans started laughing. The class started laughing—partly at the silly sentence, and partly because Mrs. Evans was laughing. We laughed for a long time. We laughed until tears were running down our faces. I think Mrs. Evans did, too. We calmed down a bit, and she tried to re-read the sentence ... but broke into giggles again. Which, in turn, set us all off again. It took forever to get through Lou and those new blue suits.



Now, it’s normal when the kids can’t stop laughing about something, but when the TEACHER couldn’t even stop laughing, well, that delighted us even more.



Writing was fun in second grade, and I guess that had a lot to do with my early love for writing. I do remember one thing that was not fun, despite its title: Fun with Phonics, a despised workbook. Phonics were not at all fun for me, partly because the exercises were so laborious, and partly because I had already learned some of the concepts in the process of reading at home. Still, the creative writing activities and silly dictation sentences incorporated the concepts from ever-tedious Fun (ha!) with Phonics, so phonics weren't all bad. Learning them definitely made me a better writer as a child. And they were "fun" in the context of the kinds of writing that I did enjoy.



I guess that’s part of why I think learning really is such an adventure. Like a long-distance hike, much of it is hard, slow, and tedious. Sometimes it seems like you’re ascending such miniscule steps in the process, but then one day you look back and are amazed at how far you’ve come.



And it's when you get to use those hard-earned writing skills for other things--like organizing a story, or explaining a process, or composing a mini-essay to show your dad how much you love him--that those smaller struggles become worth it. Just like, for an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, reaching Mt. Katahdin--or even a good view mid-way--puts all of the daily pain and effort of the past few months into perspective.



Even the hard, slow, and tedious part of learning is kind of exciting when you look at it that way. Though it sure helps to have people like Mrs. Evans, my sister, and Lou, with his eyes ever-glued on those new blue suits, to make the journey fun.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A Bit of Dental Humor

"Happiness is your dentist telling you it won't hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill." -- Johnny Carson



"My dental hygienist is cute. Every time I visit, I eat a whole package of Oreo cookies while waiting in the lobby. Sometimes she has to cancel the rest of the afternoon's appointments." -- Steven Wright



Q: What time was the vampire's dentist appointment?

A: Tooth-Hurty (2:30)



Q: What does the dentist of the year get?

A: A little plaque



Q: What does a dentist do on a roller coaster?

A: He "braces" himself.



Q: What did the dentist see when he went to the North Pole?

A: A molar bear.



It's unbelievable, the poor quality of dentist jokes one can find on the Web. And these were the CLEAN ones. Someone should really do something about the paucity of good dental humor available.



OK, so "dental humor" is an oxymoron. Today I've had Valium and Tylenol-3, and I'm still in pain. And all I had to get was one measly filling.



And now I'm not "filling" very good.



Har har har har har!



Owwwwww ....

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

"Beautiful!"

"Beautiful!"

That's what my pianner teacher wrote as her assessment when I played the Bach Sinfonia today at my pianner lesson.

Beautiful! I done went and played that dad-burned Bach beautiful-ly!

Now, let me 'splain sump'n here. People who know me know that I, on occasion, have indeed played beautifully. Not braggin', just statin' a fact. But Bach's a feller that I have avoided like the plague for much of my pianner-playin' life. OK, so I avoided the feller's music, not the feller himself.

Here's why:

When I was a wee little punkin' of a girl, not knee-high to a grasshopper, my pianner teacher would put all us students in pianner festivals and what-not. Basically, this meant stressin' over ... um, I mean preparin' ... a couple of pieces of music appropriate to our respective levels. I hated to practice when I was little, so I always made these festival stress ... I mean preparations ... a whole lot more trouble than they shoulda been. You know, I was one of them students who wouldn't practice and wouldn't practice and wouldn't practice then suddenly would practice like crazy to have the pieces ready in time. And they were always ready, might I add. (I'm pattin' myself on the back right about now.)

An' then, for the festival, all the little pianner students in the gret stet of Lou-zee-ana would descend on Ella Shoe and go into little rooms in the esteemed MVSIC AND DRAMATIC ARTS building and play for a judge.

Now, I don't know 'bout you, but there are two things I love most 'bout playin' pianner:

1. Playin' fer myself
2. Showin' off fer other folks

There is one thing I most certainly do NOT love 'bout playin' pianner:

1. Playin' fer one other person, 'specially when that person is (1) better than you and (2) hidin' behind a stupid clipboard on which to mark every dumb mistake you make, and it don't matter if you played it perfectly at home yesterday or not. Ain't no showin' off factor to it a-tall. An' you don't git points for learnin' it in flat under two weeks.

Despite my dislike for these here festivals, I usually earned myself a "Superior" ratin', which was the A-1 highest ratin' there was, thank you very much. If you got a "Excellent," that meant you did "so-so." If you got a "Good," well then, buddy, maybe you're playin' the wrong instrument. 'Least that's how I saw it, as a seven-year-ole.

'Cept for that dad-burned Bach Festival. It was all Bach, nothin' but Bach. I think it was in December every year, though I could be wrong. I prob'ly blocked it out of my memory, kinda like you do with nightmares.

Every year I'd stress ... I mean, prepare ... fer the dreaded Bach Festival. I didn't like Bach so much as a kid. OK, well, I liked some of the Minuets and I loved sump'n called "Musette in D," but there was this one called "Bourree" that I just could not stand, no way, no how. I had to play it for the Bach Festival one year.

I think I played in that Bach Festival for four years. Or five. And do you know what?

They kep' givin' me a "Excellent." Even though I was the best pianner player there.

Well, maybe I wasn't near the best (sheesh, I was only a kid), but those "Excellents" sure do a number on your pianner-playin' self-esteem.

I don't know why I got "Excellents." One judge wrote I played too robot-o like, an' another said I played too emotional-like. Cain't have it both ways, judges. An' if I'm too emotional, well, I cain't he'p it if I was born to play Beethoven. Sheesh.

Or heck, maybe all that last-minute learnin' just didn't cut it. (I know, I know, I know, all you pianner teachers are noddin' with vehemence right now, thinkin', "yep, that's it, you annoying little pianner student brat who never practiced," but what do you know.)

But I just sort of accepted that I'd never be more than "so-so" at playin' Bach.

And I put Bach's music on my black list and avoided it like the plague for many a year. And when I did hafta learn Bach, I struggled an' fought with it 'till I got to where I could play it "so-so," an' then I'd plumb give up.

(I'm a "all-or-nothin'" kinda girl, as they say.)

So it was a big ole deal when my pianner teacher wrote "Beautiful!" in my pianner notebook today. Done brought a li'l ole smile to my face.

But I sure am glad she didn't write "Excellent."

Beethoven, Blogging, and Beau

"What silly trash are you scraping away at now? You know that I can't bear that; scrape according to the notes; otherwise your scraping won't be of much use."



--Johann van Beethoven, to his young son Lugwig, upon hearing little Ludwig improvising and composing rather than playing the music that had been set before him.



Last night I started a new book: Beethoven, by Maynard Solomon. I was on the elliptical machine at the health club, ready for a good one-hour sweat-fest. I had the headphones ready; the plan, as usual, was to watch "Friends" re-runs for the hour-long workout. Normally, I also have a magazine to read during the commercials. But last night, I decided to start reading a book I'd just checked out from the library: this biography of Beethoven. I figured I'd get the preface, intro, etc., read during the commercials.



I casually started reading the front flap while half-watching the first two minutes of "Friends." But I was soon hooked on Beethoven. I took the headphones off and started to read in earnest. Before I knew it, I was at the end of Chapter 2 and I'd burned 550 calories and it was time to go home. Before I went to bed last night, I started reading it again and stayed up, reading, for two hours. So I'm tired this morning. I'll probably have more comments, quotes, observations, etc., on this book in future days (hold on to your seats!), so stay tuned.



********

The Belch asks, "How do you ever find time to blog? I would think that would be a full-time job."



Well, Belch, remember all that time I used to spend e-mailing you ... ? Now I use that time to blog!



Seriously, it helps that (1) I'm a chronic journaler and always have potentially journal (blog)-worthy thoughts running through my head anyway, begging to be released into the written word, and (2) I type like a madwoman, something like 90 wpm. I blog a bit before work, a bit at lunch, a bit during the afternoon lull. Some folks take cigarette breaks, gather in the kitchen for coffee, or go to restaurants for lunch. I don't. I blog. Among other things.



And for me, a blog is kind of like a trail journal, but without the trail. The real question for me should be, "How do you ever find time to transcribe Nocona's PCT journal?" To that question, I have no answer!



********

And a very Happy Birthday to yet another family member, the Critter-Catching Kitty himself, Beau. It's hard to believe that eight years ago today, our ferocious feline was a tiny, wet, mewling, blind, and squirming creature.







Our Beau gets a bad rap because he's been known to bite and attack humans (in addition to small creatures). He can't help it that he comes from a long line of feral cats and may actually have some bobcat in him. He's actually my sweet angel and is a Mama's Boy through-and-through. He loves his Daddy, too. Happy Birthday, Little Fella.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Shall We Name This One Mickey?

We never found Beau's chipmunk/playmate/prey from last week. Apparently, he never found it either. I guess Beau got lonely.



So today he brought us a mouse. A LIVE one. Of course.



I'm still in bed, and Dan is in the bathroom. It's about 6:00 a.m. I hear the now-familiar urgent, loud "M-E-E-O-O-W-W" coming from the other room. Hideaway is on the bed with me (we're having our morning love session), so I call out to Dan, "Hubbie, I think Beau's got another critter."



So Dan goes into the other room (our office), and sure enough, I hear, "It's a mouse!" And, "Wifey, are you gonna come help me catch it?"



Me? Hm. But I'm drinking my coffee. And Hideaway is resting against me, so I can't exactly move. Besides, I am not properly dressed for a mouse-chase. Neither is Dan, but that's beside the point.



But I couldn't have helped him. 'Cause he and Beau lost the mouse sometime within the next ten seconds.



I had to laugh ... Dan, exasperated, is saying, "Beau, where'd the mouse go? Beau? Listen to me ... Beau! Beau, where are you going? Wifey, he's going back outside! Just like that! He doesn't care!"



Ah, yep. Been there, done that.



Later, Dan told me, "What's amazing, Wifey, is that you recognized his 'I-have-a-rodent' meow."



Well, of course. A mother knows her own child.



We'll keep you updated on this latest in this intriguing new development.



Aren't ya glad this isn't one of those boring political news blogs? ;-)



Aren't ya glad ya don't live with us?

Top 10 Reasons Hugh Baxley is a Wonderful Father and Should Have a Very Happy Birthday

10. A-ha, Sani-flush! (Don't ask.)

9. Who else will order three desserts with you—and two spoons?

8. He makes a mean pot o’ cawfee—and a li’l decaf.

7. He’s the most affectionate father ever and has probably patted our backs more times than we thought pattable.

6. Mabel and Clio kitties loved him, so he must be lovable and deserve good things.

5. He can have entire conversations with people he doesn’t know … even though they seem to know him.

4. ‘Cause my dad is better at tennis and ping-pong than your dad. So there.

3. He exemplifies that thing parents are supposed to have for their kids: unconditional love.

2. He never seems to run out of silly pet names for us.



And the number one reason Hugh Baxley is a wonderful father and should have a very happy birthday …



1. Two words: DIRTY BIRD.

A Humory

(Humory = Hugh + Memory)

Basketball Season, 1975

We're probably riding in the Oldsmobile, or maybe we're in the silver Mercedes that, unbeknownst to me, my dad will end up driving for the next 20 years. I'm sure we have WJBO on the radio. Or perhaps the radio is off, and we're singing "Frere Jacques" and "Alouette." My dad is teaching me French at the nearly the same time I'm learning English.

We're on our way to visit the home of a woman who is apparently a close friend of my dad's, Ms. Ella Shoe. I've never met her, though, even at my young age, I'm very impressed by her generosity. This woman has a huge house, and she's always inviting hundreds of people to visit and watch her kids play basketball. My dad and I have made it a sort of ritual to go to Ella Shoe's house; even in 1975, when I am barely five years old, it's a familiar event for me.

After a stop at IHOP or, in later years
Coffee Call for beignets and cafe' au lait, Daddy and I head over to the grand home of Ella Shoe herself. She has THE COOLEST house, let me tell you. It's perfectly round and had curved concrete ramps like great welcoming arms, and these "arms" lead to the doors. So many doors! I figure that Ella must be very rich, and she clearly loves visitors. Daddy holds my hand as we walk "uphill" in the winter darkness. We hand our tickets to "the man," then enter the house.

What a place! It smells like popcorn, roasted peanuts, and chewed-up gum, and it's so bright and colorful! Everyone is dressed in purple and gold, and all things purple and gold are for sale. I see other little girls my age dressed like cheerleaders, complete with purple-and-gold pom-poms. From a young age, I learn to love purple and gold. Even Daddy is wearing a gold jacket. I feel a little overwhelmed by all the people, but safe with my Daddy, who is taller than everyone. Like most five-year-olds, I guess, I imagine that my dad is the tallest man in the world. He buys a program, then we enter Portal M to find our seats--section M19, row L--and then the fun really begins.

It is here at Ella Shoe's that I first learn to nurture what will become a lifelong fascination with observing people. Forget the basketball court, which seems miles away to my five-year-old mind; our seats are at the end of the row, and my favorite activity is to watch the endless stream of people walking up and down the steps of the aisle. OK, so maybe I'm a bit too easily amused.

But it is all so exciting! I'm endlessly fascinated by the bright colors and the wonderful smells! Not only is everyone dressed brightly, but the seats themselves are purple and gold! It's like a circus! And colorful flags line the stadium! And the energy of the place rises feverishly when Ella Shoe's children burst out onto the court far below. Everyone stands and cheers! At the age of five, I don't think it strange that Ella's children are a mix of black and white; the only colors I see are the purple, gold, and white of the uniforms. Ella's kids wear those colors, and they are the ones we cheer for. The ones wearing the other colors? They don't matter. They are, as Daddy tells me, the "Visitor." He may as well have called them "martians." They are not our team. We do not cheer for them.

And I haven't even mentioned the
music, which is the best part of all! From the National Anthem to "Tiger Rag" to Ella Shoe's very own Fight Song, the music carries and energizes the charged spirit of the place. At five, I assume that the band members are also Ella Shoe's children. Thanks to them, and the early indoctrination of my devoted father, the Ella Shoe Fight Song today has a similar emotional effect on me as the National Anthem or "Amazing Grace."

After the game (we stay till the end), I'm tired, and Daddy picks me up and carries me down the sloping ramp that spits everyone back outside. I don't know if we won or lost; I didn't really watch the game. Daddy may have watched it, but we also watched the people, shared popcorn and a coke, looked at the flags and the huge electronic scoreboard, took turns looking for Aunt Joyce and Uncle Warren through binoculars borrowed from a neighbor, and flipped through the program. All and all I just enjoyed spending time with my Daddy at Ella Shoe's.

The visits to Ella Shoe's with my dad, from 1973 until the 1990s, make for some of my happiest memories. To this day, I love all things "Ella Shoe" ... I mean, all things
LSU. And of course, I love my dad--for making those memories with me, and for being such a wonderful dad.

And so goes the story of Hugh Baxley's successful and complete indoctrination of his oldest daughter.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hugh!

Monday, August 9, 2004

I Promise, This is the Last Music-Nerd Post of the Day

Just wanted to share the good news that I "graduated" from the Bach Invention No. 12 in A-Major last week. So now, the three pieces I'm working on are the following:



J.S. Bach, Sinfonia No. 5 in Eb-Major

Chopin, Nocturne in Bb-Minor, Op. 9, No. 1

W.A. Mozart, Fantasia in D-minor, K. 397



You can find them here, if you're interested in hearing what they sound like (although the recordings are somewhat computerized-sounding).



Yes, I know I'm a 34-year-old professional writer with a professional job and a husband and a house and all that ... but I still somehow imagine myself to be a music student with some sort of musical future. Like I'm s'posed to be friends with those up-and-coming opera singers, or something. Or like I'm s'posed to be the composer of one of those operas they're planning to perform in, say, 2026. I actually got a little depressed during the intermissions, wondering how far I might have gone, musically, if situations and opportunities--and my own motivation--had been different earlier up the road.



But still, I think there's still time to contribute something special to that magical body of art called "music."



Who knows. I just feel like there's something there. Something musical in the cards for me. My intuition tells me there is. Call me crazy. Meanwhile, I'll just keep practicing piano and learning what I can about musical composition.



Ah yes, composition. Comp "classes" start again on Friday, and I can't wait. I'm working on writing four-part harmony with the bass in either root position or the first inversion. Kindergarten-stuff if you're Bach or Mozart, but ya gotta start somewhere. One of these days, it'll be as easy for me as spelling or simple addition, if I work really, really hard. One of these days, but not just yet ...

I Just Love It When This Guy Gets Married

I'm talking about Figaro, of course.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro performed by the Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center.

I want to write about it, but I don't know what to write ... a review? a plot description for readers who aren't familiar with it? a rant about people who say they "don't like opera" when they haven't even given it a chance?

I suppose I'll do a little bit of each.

First, a review. Not, of course, that I'm remotely qualified to review an opera. So, please understand that these are just my impressions, as A Person Who Doesn't Know Much About Opera But Loves Mozart All The Same.

THE SET: Minimal. Nothing elaborate, so it allowed for quick set-up and take-down. I read somewhere that BMC put the entire opera together in two weeks; the necessary simplicity was apparent here. Boxes were stacked haphazardly on top of one another, and certain items that represented a scene were wedged here and there. In the Countess' bedroom scene, for instance, Cherubino's jumping-window was wedged between two boxes. I suppose the boxes were effective in serving the scenes, but at the same time, they made for a strangely "modern"-looking backdrop for bewigged singers in 18th-century costumes. Set design was by Robin Vest.

THE MUSIC: Good, good, good. The music is always good. Conducted by John Greer.

THE PERFORMERS: Is that what you call them in an opera? Performers? Singers? Whatever they were, I thought most were quite good, and some were particularly fine. Andrew Cummings as Figaro was excellently cast--not only did he sound the part, but he looked the part. He WAS Figaro. Not a bad-looking guy, either (that always helps). And Lee Taylor as Susanna was endearing in her clever and canniving ways. I loved Benjamin Czarnota as the Count. Sure, his voice was great, but I just loved the fact that he was rather short and slight, physically. It made him effective as a conniving little weenie of a count, next to Cumming's tall, strapping, sexy Figaro. Perhaps my favorite "character" was Andrea Hill as Cherubino. Anyone familiar with this opera knows that Cherubino is such a wonderful character anyway; I would imagine that any soprano would jump at the chance to play this role. I know I would, if I could remotely carry a tune. But anyway, Hill did an excellent job as Cherubino; I found myself forgetting that she was female and actually believing that she was an adolescent boy. The only disappointment was Steven Kirby as Don Bartolo. Although he "loosened up" as the opera progressed, he seemed very stiff in the beginning, and I felt that that took away from his overall performance.

COMPLAINTS: The two intermissions. I guess this is par for the course at operas or something. I don't know. This is the fourth opera I've been to, and I've enjoyed them all so much that I never remember if I was annoyed by the length or the intermissions. At the opera this weekend, I would be so into the performance ... and then the curtain would close for the intermission. I'd blink my way out of operatic dreamland, thinking, "What? We have to take ANOTHER break?"

I thought one of my complaints would be the fact that the entire thing was done in English. The original is in Italian, and the CD of arias I've memorized in the car are all in Italian. And English often sounds so ugly next to Italian ... but really, it wasn't bad. I still think I would have preferred the Italian, but I can honestly say that the "English" aspect did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the opera.

Well, this has been a really long post, and I actually have a lot of work to do today, so I'm going to hold off on the plot description and the rant. (Hmm, I'm hearing a collective sigh of relief out there ...)

Seriously, y'all, I won't rant, but if you think you don't like opera, try giving at least The Marriage of Figaro a chance. Opera ain't all about 400-pound women with horned helmets and spears, bellowing at the tops of their lungs (sorry, Wagnerians). And Figaro is one of the most accessible operas out there--interesting storyline, fun (and funny) characters, good love story, catchy tunes, etc.

Sooo ... nurture the opera-lover in you that's waiting to come out. Go rent Amadeus. Pick up a recording of arias or duets from The Marriage of Figaro (or Le Nozze di Figaro) or other Mozart opera. Sing a high note or two in the shower. Do something to extend an appreciation for opera. 'Cause it's not appreciated nearly enough these days.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Hummingbirds

My friend Lite Shoe (yes, that's a trail name) says, "If you want to slip into the natural world for a very precious few moments ..."



Here are some "really beautiful photos of the progress of a hummingbird nest, egg and young 'uns."

Friday, August 6, 2004

Pet Peeve O' Day

I have pet peeves. Lots of them. Here's one of them:



/.



Yes, that's it, or part of it.



/.



Specifically, my pet peeve is when people refer to this symbol as a "backslash."



IT IS NOT A BACKSLASH!



It's a SLASH. Or, if you prefer, a FORWARD slash. But NOT a backslash!



THIS is a backslash:



\.



Why? Because it is BACKWARDS.



Slash: /.



Backslash:



\.



Got it?



Good.



(I had to put a period after it, or the HTML demon would render it invisible.)



Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.



Now, to prove that I'm not all seriousness and frowns ... here's the Web site of my first love.

God Bless Mama, an' Daddy, an' the Kitty, an' NyQuil ...

Yes, NyQuil. Ah yes, folks, I was forced into the dark and sordid world of illicit drug use last night. I've been spending the last few weeks with my old buddy N. Somnia, and finally decided I needed some sleep. Took a swig of NyQuil and conked out for ten glorious hours ... aaaahhhhhh. I feel like a new woman today.



Dan has been in Iowa at the National Order of the Arrow Conference (a Boy Scout thing) for the past week, and he gets back home today. Thank goodness. It's been very lonely without him. As much as I love my solitude, it just doesn't feel right when he's not around. I've had to make do with using the cats as snuggle partners. They're fine, but they don't compare to the ultimate snuggling champion himself.



Speaking of Dan, it looks like his favorite performer, Bruce Springsteen, has been in the news of late. And he's come out for the "other" presidential candidate. Hmmm. As my sister said on the phone last night, "Wonder if Dan's so crazy about Bruce NOW?" :-) (I asked him. He is.)



I'm not, but it has nothing to do with politics. Bruce Springsteen assaulted my good ear.



I had always dreamed of seeing Bruce in concert. He came to Baton Rouge in 1985 when on his "Born in the U.S.A." tour. My fellow ninth-graders Mary Boagni and Jeff Hastings got to go, but I didn't. Hardly anyone else did, in fact, because the concert sold out so fast. So I swallered my jealousy like a capful of NyQuil and spent the next 17 years hoping another "Bruce" opportunity would present itself.



Finally, in 2002, one did. I got tickets to see him in Charlotte. Several tickets, in fact! They cost something like $80 each, but I didn't care. This was Springsteen!! So, in December 2002, I went with Dan, Megan, and John G. Young (Dan's friend and later our best man) to see BRRRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!! BRRRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!! BRRRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!! BRRRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!! BRRRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!!



Well.



That was the LOUDEST concert I have ever been to. It didn't help that we were sitting near the speakers. Maybe I sound really OLD here, but I don't see how everyone in that band isn't completely deaf by now. I had my fingers in BOTH my ears the whole time. Dan, John G. Young, and Megan seemed to be enjoying themselves, but all I could think was, "How can they stand it?" And it's not like I've never been to a rock concert!



Now, this is weird, but it really happens: some people who have severe hearing loss (like me) also suffer acute, greater-than-average sensitivity to loud noises. It doesn't make sense. You'd think that loud noises wouldn't bother us, since we can't hear anything anyway, but they do!



I survived, and now I can say I've seen Bruce Springsteen in concert. When he comes back this way, Dan and John G. Young can go see him yet again (they've already seen him about ten times), but I'll stay home and listen to his CDs or something. Or Bach. But I don't need to see--or hear (if you can call it that)--Bruce again. It was on my "one-of-these-days" list, and now it's crossed off, and I can go on with my life.



Ah yes ... the old "One-of-These-Days" list ... I'll devote an entire post to that. One of these days!