Thursday, September 30, 2004

Booger Memories, and a Recipe

For several days, I've been documenting an upgrade of a piece of software my company designed. The software has several "modules," and each module has a different color scheme. When I started on a new module a little while ago, I saw that its decor consisted of black, yellow, gray, white, and that light olive/Army green that my friend Anh and I used to call "booger color."



We started calling it booger color in sixth grade. Anh moved to another state the following summer, and although we mailed a million letters to each other over the next few years, we did not continue to have the close friendship of booger-related giggling that we had as 12-year-olds.



She and I only recently got back in touch with each other and have had a blast sending silly e-mails that are reminiscent of our silly letters of years past. And we still laugh about booger color.



What is funny is that, whenever I've encountered booger color over the years, it always makes me think of Anh. She and booger color will forever be united in my memory.



Now, don't you love googling odd things? I do. So, when I encountered my company's booger-colored software interface, I did a whimsical Google search on "booger color" and found an enticing recipe for "Boogers on a Stick." Good thing I wasn't sipping coffee as I read it, because I would certainly have snorted with laughter and spit coffee all over my keyboard.



Just click this link for Halloween recipes and scroll down to "Boogers on a Stick." The recipe was clearly created by someone with an enviably twisted sense of humor. And it gave me the best laugh I've had all morning.



I know what I'm making for the Halloween office potluck!

This is Why We Hike

McKenzie Pass, Oregon

September 9, 2004



Breaking out of the woods was glorious this morning. The three huge volcanoes named The Sisters sat above cloud-filled valleys. Mist rose ghostly above smooth pond waters. A wide undulating valley of yellow grass, over which the PCT snaked, took us ever closer to the snowy dark red top of South Sister. The land was open, big, breathtaking ... and though it was cloudy all day, the land seemed to glow with a life and vibrance from within. We hadn't seen the likes of this since ... the Sierra ... or ever?



Tirelessly we walked. Four spruce grouse and a doe and her fawn graced us by not running away. They watched us, and me them. All seemed so peaceful.



And yet the day grew ever more enchanting and wondrous. Eagle and I laughed and took photos and felt so lucky to be in such a place. We never knew to expect this level of natural beauty to be associated with volcanoes we'd never even heard of until we hiked here.



Whether it was brought on by the solitude of the day, by the grandeur, or by the sheer number of miles behind me now, I experienced a moment of profound spiritual enlightenment. For a tiny moment in time, as I walked over black obsidian rocks beneath the neon blue belly of a hanging glacier, I felt a true peace with myself and the world. Everything I was, am or will be seemed part of a circle, connected to the mountains and trees, to my friends and family. Joy welled up inside me, and I breathed deeply and clearly.



My feet carried me along the feet of the Middle Sister and eventually to the stark immense lava flows that came from the North Sister over 400 years ago. New Earth created from within.



I remained content and relaxed, and the feeling of belonging here stayed, too. I felt wrapped in it, part of it, content in every way. I thought, if I had to stay here forever, I'd be completely whole and happy, surrounded by this Creation and saturated with sensation. There is so much to see, smell, touch, and hear.



--From Nocona's PCT Journal

Double-Entendre-less, Yet Happily Braceless

Many congratulations to Cousin Stacey, who finally had her braces removed yesterday. She seems very happy about this on her website. So I'm happy for her. Now she'll be able to smile nice and big for the Tall-y wedding photographer this weekend. And I'm sure that her new state of bracelessness alleviates the pain she suffers at not having a surname that yields obvious and humorous double-entendres.



Congratulations, Cousin Stacey! Have fun smilin'!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

One Hundred a Week!

Oh, my. I never dreamed it. "A Sort of Notebook" has had more than 100 hits (105, to be exact) since I installed a counter one week ago. I figured I had about four regular readers (Sherry, Amy, Stacey, and Veronica). My mom, sister, and husband read the blog only at my urging. I think a couple of people at my dad's office read it occasionally. But 100 hits in a week?? Even if those four regulars visited 20 times each? That's about 10 times more hits than I expected.



And then that dear, sweet Cousin Veronica went and said nice things about my blog on her own (now updated AGAIN!!) blog. Perhaps I'll ask her if she'd like to form a two-person Mutual Blogmiration Society with me.



It's a-gonna be a good day. It HAS to be a good day, when one's blog hits the 100-visitor mark. I have lots of work to do, but no immediate deadlines, so the atmosphere in l'office is pretty relaxed. I'm feelin' good. Hippity hop.

Weird and Confusing Cousin Story

No, this is not a story about my weird and confusing cousin. This is a weird and confusing story about a cousin. Or two.



I have a cousin named Jennifer (actually a second-cousin, but we just say "cousin" because we're lazy). Anyway, Cousin Jennifer is 26 and taller than me. In fact, she's been taller than me ever since she was about, oh, 14. So, as you would expect, she refers to me as "Cousin Lanky" and I call her "Cousin Shorty." (Ha ha, we're the family cards!) It's just a silly thing we do, a silly thing that we've done for years and years, along with taking silly pictures at Christmas with our respective silly sisters. I am very lucky to have been adopted into a very silly (in a good way) family, on both sides.



Oh, I guess we can be non-silly sometimes. OK, so here's a non-silly picture of Cousin Shorty at the wedding.







Cute girl, isn't she? With glasses and a fake lightning scar on her forehead, she's the spitting image of Harry Potter. In fact, she was Harry for Halloween last year.



Anyway, after meeting my biological mother several years ago, I learned that I have a second cousin (as in an additional cousin) named Jennifer. We'll call her New Cousin Jennifer for now. She is also taller than me. Now, since I am an adopted child, Cousin Shorty (we'll call her Old Cousin Jennifer for now) is not my biological cousin (though she is very much my "real" cousin). Since we don't share the same genes, and since she has the genes of my 6'1" dad's and tall aunt's side of the family, it makes sense for her to be taller than me.



But you would expect New Cousin Jennifer, who is biologically related to me, to at least be somewhat SHORT, if not shorter than my towering five feet, two inches. But New Cousin Jennifer is quite a bit taller than me. Though I do not know how she compares with Old Cousin Jennifer, height-wise. I also don't know how her silliness factor compares to Old Cousin Jennifer's, but I'm sure it holds its own.



And to make things even more confusing, Old Cousin Jennifer is younger than New Cousin Jennifer. Which is why I do not refer to New Cousin Jennifer as Young Cousin Jennifer. I can't call her Second Cousin Jennifer, either, since Old Cousin Jennifer is technically my second cousin, even though she's the first cousin Jennifer that I met, back in 1978 when she was, oh, about two days old.



Are you with me so far?



As you can see, it's very confusing to have two Cousin Jennifers. So, I had a brilliant idea. Since I call Old Cousin Jennifer "Cousin Shorty," and since New Cousin Jennifer is taller than me, why not call New Cousin Jennifer "Cousin Tall-y"? So, I decided to ask New Cousin Jennifer if that was OK with her.



I hadn't asked her yet, though, because I knew she was in the midst of wedding plans. I'd wait till after she got married. Besides, I've only met her once and hardly know her. Hardly know if her silliness factor would see the humor in calling her Cousin Tall-y, when she's never even met Cousin Shorty and has no context for it.



Now, although I met New Cousin Jennifer's fiance once (at the same time I met New Cousin Jennifer), I didn't know his last name until recently, when I read Cousin Veronica's miraculously updated blog.



New Cousin Jennifer's new last name is going to be--get this--TAULLI. As in, sounds like the opposite of SHORTY.



How cool is that? It was meant to be! So now I have a Cousin Shorty and a Cousin Tall-y! Or would that be Cousin Taulli?

Domestic Bliss

My mom gave Dan and me the coolest gift for our first anniversary: an Oreck vacuum cleaner. Really, you know you're domesticated (or on your way to it) when you get excited about a vacuum cleaner (unless you're my brother Ghent, who exhibited a fondness for Electrolux vacuum cleaners from a young age).



Seriously, after (procrastinating about) hauling our heavy, loud, dust-spewing vacuum cleaner around the house for a year, I was thrilled to see the big box from Oreck waiting at our doorstep Monday evening when I got home from work. I didn't "open the gift" until Dan got home from his meeting in Asheville. After we'd opened it and Dan was assembling it, I called my mom to say thanks.



"Dan is thrilled," I told my mom. "Now that we have an Oreck, I'll actually LIKE vacuuming, and Dan won't have to vacuum anymore!" (For a year now, I've had an inkling that Dan likes to vacuum, but he swears that he vacuums only because I don't. It's not that I don't vacuum. I just keep forgetting to, you see. I procrastinate and procrastinate until I forget I was going to do it in the first place. Just as Dan--unlike me--has an admirable tolerance for dirty dishes, I have an admirable tolerance for dirty floors.)



My mom laughed. It was one of those "that'll-be-the-day" kinds of laughs, as in "that'll be the day that Nina enjoys vacuuming." Well, ha ha ha. She knows that, even though there are some aspects of housekeeping that I don't mind (dusting, dishes, and laundry, to name a few), that I'm not much of a vacuuming enthusiast.



Dan swears he isn't, either. Right. And he only vacuums because I won't. Uh-huh. I honestly believe he enjoys vacuuming, enjoys watching the dirt disappear as the vacuum cleaner glides gracefully over the carpet, singing its heavy, whooshing, whistling song. He loves it. I know he loves it.



After my mom and I hung up and Dan finished assembling the Oreck, he and I sat to watch O'Reilly's interview with Dubya. Next, I helped him pick out a video to use for a Scouting presentation he was going to do the next morning. Finally, as it was nearing 9:00 and I had a piano lesson the next day, I stood up and said, "I'm going to practice for a few minutes."



"OK." It was fine with him. Monday Night Football was about to come on, so I essentially had the next few hours of life to myself.



A while later, with piano all practiced, I went downstairs. The floor was spotless. I went back upstairs. The floor was spotless. I went back downstairs and noticed that the stairs, too, were spotless. I headed back upstairs to kiss my wonderful clean-carpet-loving husband good-night, smiling to myself. That sweet thing couldn't help it. He loves the Oreck. He couldn't stop himself from vacuuming the whole house any more than he could stop himself from watching Monday Night Football.



"But honey," I started to tell him, "You know I was planning to vacuum."



But then I didn't say anything. He'd just give his usual story about vacuuming because I kept procrastinating about it. Heck, if he loves the Oreck and wants to vacuum while I practice piano, blissfully unaware that our carpet would otherwise become a health hazard, who am I to argue? :-)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

While I'm On the Subject of Books ...

Looks like S.E. Hinton has come out with a new novel, this one for adults, titled Hawkes Harbor. I read The Outsiders in 1982 and was one of the millions (?) of 13-year-olds who flocked to the movie in 1983. S.E. Hinton was one of those writers who inspired me in my childhood dreams of becoming a writer myself. She still does, even though this novel comes after a 20-year near-hiatus of writer's block.



The Outsiders was another of my favorite books from childhood. I very much wanted to be a "greaser." Wanted to be like Dallas Winston, Matt Dillon's character. Wanted to be a greaser, and I wanted a motorcycle, too. I identified with those orphaned and forgotten kids. Had that wonderful and terrible me-and-you-against-the-world mentality that we feel so richly when we're 13. In actuality, I had little in common with the greasers, of course. But that's part of what made The Outsiders such a great book--even a shy, scared little private-school kid like me could identify with Hinton's tough greaser protagonists.



You know, as I write these things, something inside me says, "Don't write too much right now. You have so much that you could put into fiction and other creative-writing efforts. Don't waste it all here, talking randomly on a blog. Save your stories. Build them. Couch them as real stories, structured living things, and not in the rambling journal-like genre (genre?) of the blogger. And see if you can write about a shy little private-school kid who is so convincing as a character that even an abused or orphaned teenager in small-town Oklahoma can identify with that kid, and maybe find comfort and wisdom in reading about him or her. Like I did when I read The Outsiders."



And ... somehow I know I can do that. If I would just get off my lazy butt and WRITE. Hone the skills, etc. There is so much I could be doing. But then I remember that I'm at work, and I need to finish up this project I'm working on by the end of the day.



Hopefully I'll have time to write tonight. Though I probably won't think about it until I'm in bed and half-asleep. That's the way it always works.



Time for me to shaddup and git to work. Lots more to do before I head home for the day.

Speaking of Re-reading Good Books ...

Here's an MSNBC article from several months ago on the books that many people like to read more than once. Some of my favorites are included in that article.



Here are some of mine:



War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (I just love to sink into this one every few years.)



Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (When I first completed this book, I threw it across the room in anger. A few minutes later, I picked it up and immediately began to re-read it)



Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (This one needs no explanation.)



Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Neither does this one.)



Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (This is another favorite childhood book that I, and my cousin Veronica, still enjoy reading.)



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I just love this one. Always have.)



Twelfth Night, Richard II, and a handful of other Shakespeare plays



Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (one of those thinkin' books)



The Second Coming by Walker Percy (about a crazy music student from Mary Baldwin College who escapes the mental hospital and takes up residence in an old abandoned greenhouse in North Carolina. For some reason, I identify with her.)



There are more ... I'll write them down when I think of them.



Meanwhile, I'd love to hear what books my blog readers tend to read over and over again. There is something special about those books that keep drawing us back, even after we know the stories as if they were our own lives. Anyone? Anyone?

Little Pilgrim's Regress (and Ramble)

When at the first I took my pen in hand

Thus for to write, I did not understand

That I at all should make a little book

In such a mode; nay, I had undertook

To make another; which, when almost done,

Before I was aware, I this begun.



And thus it was: I, writing of the way

And race of saints, in this our gospel day,

Fell suddenly into an allegory

About their journey, and the way to glory,

In more than twenty things which I set down.

This done, I twenty more had in my crown;

And they again began to multiply,

Like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly.



[...]



This book it chalketh out before thine eyes

The man that seeks the everlasting prize;

It shews you whence he comes, whither he goes;

What he leaves undone, also what he does;

It also shows you how he runs and runs,

Till he unto the gate of glory comes.



--John Bunyan, from The Author's Apology for his Book (Part One, THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS From This World To That Which Is To Come)



Today is the anniversary of the publication of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, which was first published on September 28, 1678. Here's a brief description of the book, from the Dover paperback:



"One of the most powerful dramas of Christian faith ever written, this captivating allegory of man's religious journey in search of salvation follows the pilgrim as he travels an obstacle-filled road to the Celestial City. Along the way, he is confronted by monsters and spiritual terrors, among them Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, and the demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. An enormously influential seventeenth-century classic, universally known for its simplicity, vigor, and beauty of language."



Now, I've read The Pilgrim's Progress, or parts of it. When you get multiple degrees in English and take lots of 17th-century English literature classes, you end up reading parts of John Bunyan's famous allegory at some time or another.



It wasn't a new story to me. It was an old, familiar story, and not just because I was in a Southern Baptist home from the age of negative five months through 18 years. I knew enough of the Bible to know about the Christian walk, the temptations, etc., at least as my child's mind could understand it.



But that's not the reason The Pilgrim's Progress was so familiar.



The reason was this:



When I was about six years old, I found the book Little Pilgrim's Progress on my older brother's bookshelf. It's a simplified version of Bunyan's classic, with the language and concepts written to appeal to younger readers. Well, I was a younger reader, and this book did it for me. I am not lying when I say that I'd read this book at least 50 times before the age of twelve. I couldn't get enough of it. I'd finish it, then start over at the beginning and read it again. I might take a break to read The Bobbsey Twins, Danny Dunn, Encyclopedia Brown, or The Lives of Great Americans, but I'd always come back to Little Pilgrim's Progress. I loved it. I had favorite sections, and I knew exactly what page they were on without even looking at the book. I could compare my own life to the different phases/adventures that "Little Christian" had as he journeyed to the Celestial City. This book became a part of me. I wasn't just a little kid who loved to read, I was a little kid who loved to read THIS BOOK.



OK, so I was a religious little kid. Heck, I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the age of nine. And yes, I read Little Pilgrim's Progress AGAIN while I was there, sharing a hotel room with my mom and Miss Doris and writing a record of the many varieties of flushing toilets in 1970's Israel.



At the same time, it makes me think. Because of this book, I learned, in a big way, to appreciate allegory at a very young age. It kind of baffles me to think that I was applying literature to life at age six. And comparing what I read in Little Pilgrim's Progress to what I knew about the Bible. But I was. No wonder I loved English/literature so much by the time I took it in school. It was already in me.



And it's not surprising that a book about a long hike, I mean walk, appealed to me, either.



But mostly, Little Pilgrim's Progress was a big part of learning to love reading, learning to see, learning to think and understand. And it made my experience of reading Bunyan's classic that much richer when I finally did read it.



Good thing Bunyan went and wrote the original!



Happy Birthday, Pilgrim's Progress!



Monday, September 27, 2004

Close Call

BEEEEEEEP.



"Nina?" The sound blares over my telephone intercom, drowning out, for a second, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 playing on my headphones.



"Yes?" I say to the phone. It always feels weird talking to a piece of machinery, even if I do know that it's a real person on the other end.



"This is Jean." (Jean is the nice lady who works at the reception desk upstairs.) "Can you come up here right now?"



My heart drops to my stomach. My throat drops to my heart, making an audible "gulp" sound in the process.



"Um ... sure. Be right there."



It's finally going to happen. I'm going to get fired. Even though I always get my work done, I'm going to get fired. For blogging. For playing piano too long on my lunch hour. For checking my Yahoo! mail 40 times a day. For listening to Bach all day long. For ... what? I don't know, but I have a sick feeling that I'm going to lose my job.



As I ascend the steps to the reception area, I imagine that the company president is waiting for me, along with the head tech person who has been spying on my every internet move for the past six months. They'll take me into the conference room and sit me at the far end of the table. They'll read a listing of my every wrong I've committed since coming to work at this job. Perhaps they'll have a PowerPoint presentation showing my unforgivable sins. Then, the axe will fall. I'll be thrown out into the rain. Meanwhile, my manager and co-workers will clean out my desk, dump all of my belongings unceremoniously into a cardboard box, and change my computer password so that I can no longer access anything on my--no, their--computer, ever again.



"Well, maybe I can get unemployment," I think as I look through the window at a grey sky spitting rain. "Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is what is supposed to happen. I'll get a part-time job closer to home. At the bookstore, maybe. I'll hike more. I'll write more. I'll spend more quality time with George the Piano. I'll help Dan take his afternoon naps."



By the time I make it to Jean's desk, I feel better. Getting fired almost, almost seems like a good thing.



On Jean's desk is a vase, and in the vase is a beautiful, fragrant bouquet of a dozen red roses. The note on the card is a mushy note (that I will not transcribe here) from Dan, wishing me a happy anniversary.



So I didn't get fired after all. Didn't get released from this Muggle job to a life of part-time work at a bookstore and afternoon naps with Dan. But you know what? I really can't complain. Life is good!

SOMEBODY Lied, Sirius Died

Note: I don't remember who SOMBODY is. In fact, I believe I had the conversation below with several people.

ME: How did you like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?

SOMEBODY: "It was good. No one dies this time."

In Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Cedric Diggory dies. It's really sad. So, I was kind of glad to hear that no one dies in The Order of the Phoenix.

So, toward the end of the book, when Harry's beloved godfather, Sirius, is sent to his death by Death Eaters, I didn't get upset. SOMEBODY told me that no one dies in this book. So, since I believed SOMEBODY, I assumed that Sirius wasn't really dead. I figured the author just wanted us to THINK he's dead.

So I didn't grieve. I waited patiently for Sirius to reappear. So did Harry (he thought he'd see Sirius again, too). Then the book ended. No Sirius.

I feel cheated. I didn't get emotionally affected when Sirius died, and I should have. I don't feel like I grieved him properly. And now the book is over, another year at Hogwarts has ended, and I'm back in my black-and-white Muggle world of corporate America. And I can't grieve.

Poor Sirius. Poor Harry. I did get all weepy and emotional when Harry sits by the lake for a long time, thinking about all that has happened, and wipes his face on his sleeve when he walks away from it.

Book 6, please hurry up!! I can't wait much longer!

One Year Ago Today





On September 27, 2003, I married my dear and loving husband, Dan.



Happy Anniversary, Hubbie!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Pianokeysia

Pianokeysia (n.)



SYLLABICATION: pee-ann-oh-KEE-zhia



NOUN: A mental condition of acute forgetfulness that affects the victim when she is engaged in a piano experience, e.g., practicing, composing, etc. The victim forgets time, forgets place, and generally becomes "swept away" by the musical experience, regardless of her talent or the quality of the music. During this state, the victim forgets that it is a work day and she is on her lunch hour and she was supposed to be back at work 45 minutes ago. The victim, instead, feels as though she is floating contentedly on a fluffy cloud of well-tempered happiness. This condition is nearly always accompanied by extended delusions of the victim's "bright future" as a concert pianist or Great Composer. The victim may suffer additional delusions of this nature, e.g., that piano and her "brilliant musical career" are more important than any dumb old, stupid old corporate job as a cubicle-dwelling software documentation specialist. Following her recovery from this delusional state (which can last from thirty minutes to several hours), the victim typically must sneak (often with great stealth) back into her company's office through a hidden basement back door--at which time the victim generally entertains vague hopes she will not get fired. In addition, it is common for the victim to suffer a dull sadness that her time with the piano has temporarily ended, and that she must exchange the piano keyboard for a computer keyboard for a seemingly endless while.



TREATMENT: Offer to be the victim's patron (i.e., rich financial supporter) so that she does not have to go to work and can stay home and continue to nurture her talent and maintain her delusional state indefinitely. If this is not feasible, it is advisable that the victim not forget her electronic timekeeping device (i.e., wristwatch) on her bedside table before leaving for work in the morning, and that said victim use said wristwatch to ensure that piano-practice sessions do not exceed the allotted lunch hour.



ETYMOLOGY: Italangreco-Janinian, from piano (lit., "the greatest instrument in the world"), key (from Middle English kai, kei) and amnesia (Gk. for "forgetfulness")



NOTE: PIANOKEYSIA is related to NINSTALGIA (neen-STAL-juh), which is a mental condition of sadness combined with fond memories. NINSTALGIA is commonly suffered by pianos whenever PIANOKEYSIA victims named Nina (my real name) snap out of their altered states and remember to go back to work.

Bostonian Praises Yankees

Will miracles never cease? This is like my Buckeye hubbie praising that team from dreaded Mi-mi-michhhhigannn.



This is from the Washington Post (registration required), about a fundraiser speech Kerry made in the Big Apple:



At the fundraiser, Kerry reflected on his reborn self. He praised the triple victories of the Jets, Giants and Yankees and said: "I came here to bask in your glory, came here to grab onto that winning streak."



I didn't know Boston/Massachusetts folks ever said anything nice about the Yankees!



By the way, for my sports-loving conservative friends, there's another "for truth" group that is cracking down on Kerry's alleged knowledge of and enthusiasm for team sports: Football Fans for Truth.



Warning to my Kerry-voting Democrat/Independent/Green/Dean/ Kuscinich (sp?) friends: You might not find this as humorous as my sports-loving conservative friends do. Sorry 'bout that.

Ohhhhh, Poopy Poopy Poopy

Grumble, grumble, grumble.



This blasted job is, once again, eating into my blogging time. I have all kinds o' good idears for things to write--interesting things, funny things, thoughtful things--but employment keeps getting in the way. Sigh. Will someone please hire me as a columnist so I can get paid to think and write about random things?



Speaking of writing for the media, I just got my latest assignment for "Smoky Mountain Adventures." In addition to the hiking article that I write each month, I'm going to write an article on "How to Get Ready for Winter Sports." Can I hear everyone laughing, or is it ME laughing? I can see the article now ...



"My favorite winter sport is ice hockey (or basketball, or some other sport played in winter). To prepare, simply make some good appetizers, buy some beer, maybe make some hot chocolate, and set out comfortable chairs in front of the television. You hafta have ESPN, ESPN2, and all the other ESPNs, or the guys won't be happy and the sport won't be as much fun. In addition, be sure you let a male person be in charge of the remote control, or the guys really won't be happy and the sport won't be nearly as much fun. For them, at least." Et cetera.



*****************************************

By the way, today is the 20th anniversary of the world's longest kiss. It was 17 days, 10.5 hours long.



Can you imagine kissing when neither you NOR the person you're kissing has used toothpaste in 17 days? And how did they go 17 days without hiccupping or sneezing? Can you imagine kissing a person who is in the middle of a sneeze ... and still continuing to kiss them afterward? My cat, Hideaway, once sneezed on me when I was kissing her. Needless to say, the kiss (and the accompanying cuddly mood) stopped right then and there.



I also wonder, how did the kissers eat during their kiss-a-thon? How did they sleep? How did they poop? I guess they had to accompany each other to the bathroom.



Talk about multi-tasking!



No wonder this record hasn't been broken in 20 years!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Autumn

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river-sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies ...


--from "To Autumn," by John Keats



It's autumn--my favorite season in the whole, wide world. After a long summer of rain and oppressive humidity, and after a month of murderous floods, the weather has finally calmed and turned absolutely perfect: cloudless blue skies, brisk cool mornings, mid-day temps in the mid-70s. The leaves in these beautiful western North Carolina mountains have actually begun to turn pale shades of red, orange, and yellow. And the wretched humidity is all but gone. I'm a happy, happy girl.



I'm also a busy girl. Yes, this pesky job is keeping me glued to my office computers all day instead of playing hooky and going hiking, which is what I'd like to do. I won't be able to blog much today, either. For that, dear disappointed blog-readers, I apologize.



So, in place of imposing my random silly thoughts on you this morning, I'll share with you the poem that always comes to my mind throughout fall. Just as autumn is my favorite season, "To Autumn," by John Keats, is just about my favorite poem. I don't know if it's legal to reproduce the entire poem on the blog, so I'll just give you this link to it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A Piano Day Ramble Around the Chapel

I feel like I'm back in the seventh grade. It's piano day, and I'm not ready. Not NEAR ready. Now, I have a very cool piano teacher who does not believe in hitting her students' knuckles with a ruler, so I'm not worried about her being angry or anything like that. But I was one of those kids who never practiced as much as I should, so I always approached piano lessons with a sort of dread. I have a small twinge of that childhood dread today ... not really a dread, that's too strong of a word. It's more of a discomfort. A feeling of, "I'm not prepared. I won't play well. I'll embarrass myself. Deborah (my piano teacher) will be disappointed because she loves it when I play well."



I'm not all that disappointed in myself; it was vacation week, and I've been busy with non-piano things, so I've been forced by circumstances to take a bit of a sabbatical from practicing. Music is still a big priority, so I know I'll be back to my regular practicing now that I'm getting back into my routines.



News Flash ... Well, this isn't really news, but it has to do with this blog entry. Deborah just called to postpone my lesson by about 15 minutes. I told her, "I may need a practice lesson today." (A practice lesson is where the student practices for an hour and Deborah gets other stuff done and gives advice here and there on how to practice more effectively.)



"Um ..." she said, then explained that one of her UNC-A students is planning to come to the lesson to hear me play my Chopin. (That student is working on the same piece.)



"Oh, I can play the Chopin," I said. "That's won't be a problem at all."



I haven't practiced in forever, and here I am getting ready to play Chopin for an audience of pianists, even if it is just an audience of two.



Actually, after not having practiced in forever, I did practice over lunch hour yesterday and was surprised at how good the Chopin sounded, considering. I think it's because I'm more relaxed, having just gotten back from vacation.



During the piece, a mosquito kept bothering me. What a mosquito was doing in the chapel of the Presbyterian Church, I have no clue. Maybe it was a devout Presbyterian mosquito. Maybe it was a REAL PERSON who had been transformed into a mosquito by an evil wizard and she went there to pray that God lift the curse.



Maybe I've been reading too much Harry Potter.



But she was there, and she kept buzzing in my face (Please! Please help me turn back into a human!). I finally stopped playing and proceeded to walk around the chapel, clapping my hands together in an attempt to kill the mosquito (assuming it really was a mosquito). My eyes must be getting really bad because I kept missing it. I'd CLAP, then walk a few feet, then CLAP again. A high CLAP, a low CLAP. For twenty or thirty seconds. I never did get the mosquito (maybe this is a good thing ... maybe God is protecting her until the curse can be lifted) and finally gave up and headed back to the piano.



My hands were warm and numb from all the clapping. Giddy and rubbery feeling. And the Chopin sounded even better and more relaxed than before. Maybe I need to clap my hands really hard as part of my warm-up piano routine from now on.



I don't expect any ovations when I finish playing the Chopin today ... but I wonder if Deborah would mind if I gave myself a rousing ovation BEFORE I started ...

Hey, We're Boy Scouts, Let's Go!

A group of Connecticut Boy Scouts played a major role in rescuing an 80-year-old Appalachian Trail section hiker who got caught in a thunderstorm on her way down Mount Katahdin in July. Loretta Copeland, of Ocala, Florida, had spent more than 24 hours climbing up and partway down Katahdin, most of it during the thunderstorm. When she and her hiking companions didn't return by the next morning, Boy Scout Troop 96 of Ellington and several others were "pressed into service as the main rescue team." The troop had planned to hike to the summit--which is the northern terminus of the 2,174-mile trail--that day.



Fourteen-year-old Scout Andrew Slicer is quoted as saying, "We were pretty shocked when the rangers asked us to take part in the rescue," and then he added, "But we were like, hey, we're Boy Scouts, let's go."



On behalf of my Boy Scout husband, many thanks to Jan "Lite Shoe" (AT '03) for passing on this story! Jan's comment: "Isn't that their job? To help little old ladies across the street and down Katahdin?"



You can click here to read the whole article.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Tonight's The Night! and Other Magical Thoughts

I really hate that I'm excited about this.



Tonight is the season premiere of Law and Order: SVU. Somehow, somehow, I'm going to manage to meet with some poetry enthusiasts at 6:00, attend the "Let's Talk About It" book discussion group at the library at 7:00, practice piano at 8:30, spend quality time with Dan AND watch Law and Order: SVU from 10:00 to 11:00, and read more Harry Potter. Hm, looks like Harry will have to take up the 11:00-to-whenever slot. As usual.



Speaking of Harry Potter, I really need to learn that trick Hermione used ... you know, the one that allows you to be two places at once so you can get twice as much accomplished. Yeah, that one.



This is because Harry Potter has disrupted, once again, my sleep patterns. I can't pick the book up and "just read a few pages before I go to sleep." Oh, no. I have to read large chunks of it. I stay up until 1:00 a.m. reading, when my normal bedtime is 10:00 (except on Law and Order: SVU nights, I suppose). This is precisely why I waited until vacation to read Book Five--I needed to be able to stay up late and not have to worry about work responsibilities. Unfortunately, I didn't get started until late Saturday at the end of vacation.



It was certainly easier when I read Books One through Four. I'd just finished my AT thru-hike and hadn't yet started back to work. Spent a week and a half basking in my centrally heated home, reading, reading, and reading. Stayed up until 3:00 a.m. reading Book Four because I was too scared to go to sleep. But those were the days when I didn't have to go to work.



Of course, now I have to re-read the first four. It's been nearly four years since I've read them, and the author keeps referring to things that happened in previous books--things I only half-remember. So I need to re-read them all, and then probably read Book Five again. I thought, "Now that's really silly, to want to read them all AGAIN, just so one can have an organic continuity to one's reading experience."



But then, last night on AOL, Dan was chatting with our niece, Samantha, who asked if I'd read the latest Harry Potter yet. He told her I was in the middle of it, and she told him that she'd already read it, but then she'd re-read the first four before reading Book Five again.



Dan was amazed. It amazes him--and many people--that kids like Samantha so willingly and enjoyably plow through these very thick and sometimes disturbing books. Of course, I had to explain to him the whole thing about continuity. Combined, of course, with the sheer joy and adventure of reading.



Those grown-ups just don't get it, sometimes.



Some of 'em do. Me 'n' my friend Staci (Boudreaux, not Hebert) (can you tell I'm from Louisiana?) once decided what House all of our co-workers would be in at Hogwarts. She was a Hufflepuff. I was a Gryffindor. Ted was a Slytherin (and proud of it). Most folks were Ravenclaw 'cause they were so smart. What are you? Find out here!



I think I'll be a children's librarian when I grow up. Or a teacher of reading. Or a story-writer. Or a hobo. Not a technical writer. That's a muggle job if there ever was one.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Plaquemaniacs and Pageantry

Congrats to Plaquemaniac Jennifer Dupont, who was First Runner Up in the Miss America pageant this weekend!



I don't generally follow these things, but I think it's pretty cool that someone who looks kinda like my old friend Amye Dupont (and is related to her somehow, I'm sure) made it that far in the pageant. And she lives in Plaquemine, my hometown. Very cool!



I was in a beauty pageant once, when I was about six years old. I think I probably came out last. I think my friend Staci Hebert must have won that one, along with every other beauty pageant she was in (except for the ones her cousin Nancy won). They were beautiful and did that sort of thing all the time--walking gracefully, smiling for cameras, and such. I did not smile for cameras. I was a shy kid who just stared at my very pigeon-toed feet when in a crowd.



Then I was in the "Queen Sugar" contest in high school and probably came out last again. That was OK with me. The next year, they contacted me to participate in the contest once more, but I had to decline, since I was leaving the next day to work in a kitchen in Yellowstone National Park for the summer. I've never fit the mold of "beauty queen," and found that I could fit the mold of "folksongwriting-kitchen-help-hippie-hiker-type-with-hairy-legs-and-no-make-up-and-a-bottle-of-rum" much better.



Of course, Dan has long wagered that I would win first place in the "Most Beautiful Woman Living At Our House" contest. Which is quite an honor, considering I would be up against the lovely Hideaway cat.



What a ramble. I really need to get to work ...

Vacation Recap

This blog entry is not all that interesting, but I didn't do a very good job with journaling last week. So this, folks, is my record of my summer vacation--for whoever is interested enough, patient enough, or just bored enough to read through the whole thing.



Destination: Portland, Oregon (and surrounding locales)

Dates: Sept. 11-18

Fellow Traveler: My beloved husband, Dan a.k.a. Hubbie

Places Stayed: Chez Belch in Tigard, Oregon (a suburb of Portland); motel in Astoria, Oregon; motel in Rainier, Oregon; Chez Twig in Hillsboro, Oregon (another suburb of Portland)



ACTIVITIES



Saturday--We flew from Asheville to Portland, then drove to Chez Belch (home of Dawn and Paul, a.k.a. Belcher and Navigator). Had dinner with them; went to bed kinda early 'cause we were tired.



Sunday--Dawn, Paul, Dan, and I went to the Saturday Market in Portland, where we bought a cool catnip present for Heidi and Beau. We bought Portland postcards to send to friends and I vowed to send them out before returning to Asheville. That afternoon, we went to Powell's Books, the largest independent bookstore ever. They had my book!!! And when Dawn purchased it, they sold out of ALL ONE COPY in stock!!



Monday--I went hiking with Dan in the Columbia River Gorge area, then we drove to Astoria to meet up with our friends Nimblewill Nomad and Dwinda, and their friends Mary and John. Ate at a really good seafood restaurant; bought Astoria and Gorge postcards to send to friends; vowed to send them out before returning to Asheville.



Tuesday--The six of us had breakfast at the Pig'N'Pancake, and then we dropped Nomad off to finish his last 17-or-so miles of the Lewis and Clark Trail (he had started from St. Louis several months before). While he hiked, Dan and I visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum (where we toured the Lightship Columbia) and the Astoria Column. We met up with Dwinda and went to the Cape Disappointment lighthouse to meet Nomad and walk the last bit of his hike with him. We took lots of pictures until it started raining, so we stopped in at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center nearby and enjoyed an excellent exhibit on Lewis and Clark. Next, we drove in the rain to the village of Rainier to find a motel for the night. When I saw Ivan headed for Louisiana on the news, I called Mrs. Gwen and Sherry to make sure my respective "moms" were OK. Vowed to send postcards soon. That night, we went to a bar where I GOT ID'ed!!!, then went to a diner with Judy, a woman with MS that we met that evening.



Wednesday--We met our new friend, Judy, and her caretaker for breakfast. When we learned that Mount St. Helens was only a 45-minute drive away, we headed for the mountain in a caravan of two cars (actually a car and a van). We then proceeded to miss a turn somewhere and essentially circled the entire mountain. Views were OK, but not great--it was a pretty cloudy, foggy, miserable day, weatherwise. Dan and I had serious quality time in the car for those many hours, though, laughing and reaching new heights of Dan-and-Nina silliness. We eventually ended up at the Mt. St. Helens visitor center for a snack. I bought postcards and vowed to send them soon. Back in Portland that night, Dawn and Paul gave a party for Nomad, which was lots of fun. We had salmon that Dawn had caught with her bare hands (OK, she had a fishin' pole) when in Alaska.



Thursday--Dan and I drove to Hillsboro to see Wendy (a.k.a. Twig) and Darrin. Despite the rainy weather, the four of us went hiking on the coast near Cannon Beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Back in the village of Cannon Beach (or was it Seaside?), we stopped for a mid-afternoon snack and bought yummy cookies. Headed back to Chez Twig for a Thai dinner and a movie, during which I fell sound asleep.



Friday--Today was the day we were supposed to go hiking near Mt. Hood on the PCT, but the weather was determined not to cooperate. So, we decided to have an "indoor" day and headed back to Portland, to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). There, we saw a planetarium show, watched the IMAX "Lewis & Clark" film, and toured a submarine. We wore lab goggles and did chemistry experiments. I took a hearing test and failed in both ears (surprise!). It was a wonderful day; I'm so happy that Dan loves museums as much as I do. Later, we spent the evening with Dawn and Paul. We had dinner at a local pizza joint, where there was a MS. PAC MAN game ... uh-oh. Suffice it to say that I had a blister on my thumb by the time we left that night. Back at Chez Belch, we drank wine and played a fun game called "The Real Game of Life." Laughed till we cried. Before going to sleep that night, I accepted resignedly that the postcards were not going to get sent during this vacation.



Saturday--Dan and I spent 14 hours traveling back to Asheville via Salt Lake City and Houston. I read Harry Potter all day long.



All in all, it was a very good vacation. I wasn't ready to come home. I still haven't sent the postcards. Oh, and since I'm making lists today ...



Best Part of the Vacation: Being with Dan 24/7



Other Best Parts: Seeing old friends



Books Read: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; I, Robot by Isaac Asimov; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling; the Book of First John (about 100 times for a class I am taking)



Days of Rain: 7 (I know, I know ...)



Museums Visited: 3



Home-cooked Meals Eaten: Only one :-/



Number of Times I had Salmon: THREE! (including Alaskan salmon caught by my friend Belch!)



Law and Order Reruns Watched: 2



Number of Glasses of Wine Imbibed: Hmm... I lost count of that one



Period of Most Uncontrolled Laughter: TIE--(1) when Dan and I were in the car, trying to find Mt. St. Helens; (2) Playing "The Real Game of Life" with Belch and Paul



Number of Times My Face Hurt from Smiling: Hmm ... lost count of that one, too



Number of Times I Hugged and Kissed Hubbie and Felt Overwhelmed with Love for Him: 2,526,326 (and counting)



Number of Times I Practiced Piano: ZERO :-(



Miles Hiked: Less than 10



Number of Times We Lost and Found Our Money: 2

Friday, September 17, 2004

Safe & Sound

I'm on vacation, so I can't blog much. Just wanted to let the world know that (1) my family is safe in Plaquemine; (2) Sherry and Rebecca are safe in Kenner; and (3) our Asheville-area house is not under water, although several surrounding communities are.



I called my mom and she said that Sherry and Rebecca were welcome to stay with her and my dad if they needed to evacuate, but those girls were smart and had already evacuated north to Mississippi. Luckily, the hurricane shifted and didn't hit New Orleans, though others weren't so lucky.



I'm just happy that the people I love are safe. Whew. And it looks like our flight back to Asheville is still on. Though Asheville and surrounding areas are going to need a good, long time to recover from Flood #2 of 2004.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Happy Birthday, Gwenny!

Yes, September 11 was a day of tragedy, but it's also my beautiful mom's birthday.



It was also a day that brought the country together, albeit in grief. It united us, for a time. For a little while at least, it made us think--made us really consider and realize what in life is truly important, and what is not.



And it made me appreciate, even more, all of the good, caring, loving people in my life. And Mrs. Gwen is right up there, at the top of that list.



I have lots to write about Mrs. Gwen, but it was hectic at work today and we're leaving at the crack of dawn this morning for several days, during which I will not be at a computer. So, I won't be able to write a proper Happy-Birthday-Moma blog until I get back. So stay tuned.



And meanwhile, Mrs. Gwen, have yourself a wonderful birthday! I love you.





Friday, September 10, 2004

Stinkytown

Downtown Asheville is stinky today. It smells almost as bad as Brusly during sugar-cane season. Or Bourbon Street in the very early morning, before the street-cleaners have come out to work their magic. Here, the streets are soured with the smells of smeared poop and old vomit, and an aura of tee-tee scent just sort of hangs stickily in the humid, misting air. And there’s also that revolting rotted-trash odor that often pervades when you walk past an over-full dumpster after a rain. I held my breath for nearly the entire quarter-mile trek from the parking garage to my office.



I guess this is what happens when the water stops. The City cut off downtown Asheville’s water yesterday morning due to the flooding from Hurricane Frances (the French Broad River several blocks away is well over its banks). I was hoping the boss would tell us to go home (since we had no working terlits), but—thanks in part to an urgent Friday deadline—we had no such luck. Instead, to prevent our bladders from bursting, the City installed several port-a-potties in an underground parking garage down the block.



The port-a-potties didn’t have locks on the doors. There was a man to guard them, though. Just like Dan “stands guard” when I’m using the woods alongside a hiking trail.



Now, I really don’t mind port-a-potties; Lord knows that, with my teeny-tiny bladder and hiking lifestyle, I’ve used enough privies, trees, roadsides, and greasy old gas stations not to be picky about where I go. But it’s a little unsettling to use a port-a-potty when there’s no water with which to wash your hands afterward. Luckily, someone at the office had some of that alcohol gel stuff, so I used that. Just like on the AT.



I did have drinking water, though, which I’d brought from home in three 1-liter Nalgene bottles. So at least I was able to stay hydrated AND contribute my share to the underground port-a-potties.



What I didn’t remember was to bring my lunch (again). None of the restaurants were open, obviously, so I starved all day--except for some miniature Hershey bars I yogi’d from a co-worker.



Rain, mist, privies, Nalgene, yogi-ing, candy bars, and having someone stand guard while I pee … it made me homesick for the trail.



And you know what? When I'm thru-hiking the PCT in a couple of years, if I encounter any of the stinky smells I described above ... well, they'll probably make me homesick for Asheville.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

A Bad Name for a Hurricane

Really, now. What were those hurricane-namers thinking when they thought of "Ivan"--a name that's usually followed by "The Terrible"?



They should have named it "Itsy," or something like that. Since it apparently feels compelled to live up to its name.



I sure do feel sorry for those Floridy people. And for this couple.



Speaking of hurricane names, did you know that they only used to be given women's names? Hmph. Here's some more interesting data on the naming of hurricanes.

Charge of the Day

This is from the German poet Ranier Maria Rilke:



"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

Wikipedia

Here's a neat online encyclopedia that'll keep me from pulling my hair out today.



I've been really busy at work for three hours now, beating my head madly against my computer screen. Sometimes I like my job; it's quiet and stable, challenging but not too much so, and rarely stressful. I work with nice people and I have a good boss. And the money I make allows me to afford piano lessons and save for the PCT. So I really can't complain.



HOWEVER, some days are a true test of patience. Today is one of those days. 'Nuff said.



Deafness Update: 'Bout the same as yesterday.

Charge of the Day

This is from the German poet Ranier Maria Rilke:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

A Great Site for Autodidacts

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Here's something that'll keep me from pulling my hair out today.

I've been really busy at work for two hours now, beating my head madly against my computer screen. Sometimes I like my job; it's quiet and stable, challenging but not too much so, and rarely stressful. I work with nice people and I have a good boss. And the money I make allows me to afford piano lessons and save for the PCT. So I really can't complain.

HOWEVER, some days are a true test of patience. Today is one of those days. 'Nuff said.

Uniform Ramblings

It looks like uniforms are coming back into fashion.

Wait ... were they ever in fashion?

Interestingly, I recently finished reading Brave New World. In Huxley's futuristic dystopia, everyone has to wear a particular color according to their caste: Betas wear green, Deltas wear khaki, etc. The entire society (except for a few) are almost completely mindless, or their minds have been completely conditioned to conform. It's all about conformity, and how conformity brings stability. Of course, in order to have stability, they had to get rid of art, religion, etc., as well as anything that might inspire the passions--such as motherhood and monogamy. Nurturing the passions decidedly disrupts bland stability. And disrupted stability brings about wars and class envy and unhappiness and all sorts of social gremlins. And the sinister world "controllers" want everyone to be happy, or at least content. So everyone is conditioned to be content, from birth to death. And on and on.

Anyway, the folks at my reading group were talking about how the uniforms took away from the sense of individuality, of personal expression. That's usually the argument I hear against uniforms.

Here's one quote I found:

School is also the place where the next actors, writers, artists, politicians, inventors, designers and and musicians are trained. School uniforms send a clear early-life message to students that conformity is important and creativity is not, that authority is allowed to abuse it's power and constrain our constitutional right to free speech and expression. Students learn from uniforms that their individuality, political opinions and religious rights are unimportant, as is their education: students are regularly suspended for non compliance to the uniform code even if their school work is excellent. If uniform-requiring schools were actually in 'the business of learning' this would not occur. ----Tara Maginnis, Ph.D., Costume Designer / Associate Professor Chair of the Theatre Department of University of Alaska Fairbanks
Whatever.

Dr. Alan Hilfer, senior psychologist in the Children's and Adolescent Unit at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn says that one of the "cons" of uniforms is that, "Clothes are a source of expression for children, and as kids get older, they become increasingly resentful of uniforms."

Well, heck. I grew up wearing uniforms. From age six to twelve, I was in a black-watch plaid jumper, then from age 12 to 18, I was in an awful V-necked navy and white plaid jumper. Blech, blech, blech. Here are the bad experiences that resulted from wearing the same thing every single weekday for 12 years:

1. When I was in college, I could never decide what to wear ... the ripped jeans and the red/yellow tie-dye, or the stonewashed jeans and the blue tie-dye? A lifetime of wearing the same thing every day made it difficult to make fashion decisions later in life.

2. I have bad memories of looking ugly in my uniform. Did those experiences build character? Did they scar me for life? Probably a little bit of both.

Umm ... that's about it. The good experiences? I didn't know they were good at the time, but here they are:

1. I never had to worry about what to wear.

2. I could get dressed while half asleep.

I liked not having to worry about expressing myself through my clothing. I guess I expressed myself through my writing and music instead. And academics, of course. Oh, and we had our own little rebellious ways of self-expression in private school. Remember those wild-colored long shorts called JAMS that were popular in the early and mid-1980s? Well, for a while, it was a big game to see who could get away with wearing JAMS under their uniforms. And when Izod and Polo were all the rage, a lot of girls would wear those shirts (instead of the regulation white blouse) under the uniforms.

And we had buttons. Oh geez. So many buttons. Like political buttons, only they were buttons of our favorite pop stars and actors. We'd make our own buttons, too. I made one with Martin Short's Saturday Night Live character, Ed Grimley, on it. I think I still have that one.

Ah, the methods of creativity that uniformed kids must resort to!

I carried a big yellow ESPRIT bag. Wore lots of black liquid eyeliner. Got my hair cut really short and used mousse to make it stand straight up. Wore Duran Duran buttons. Wrote dark poetry. Those were my attempts at expressing myself.

Funny, they were practically identical to many other mid-80s teenage girls' attempts to express themselves. Hmm ...

What would I do if my job suddenly required uniforms? Complain. Gnash my teeth. Cry.

Seriously, my previous job spoiled me. We could show up in our pajamas if we wanted. I was allowed to dress like a slob, and I did. At my current job, we're not allowed to wear blue jeans. It just about drives me crazy because jeans are just about the only thing I own. I don't have a lot of other clothes, and I don't have the bank account for a big shopping spree. I end up wearing my hated khakis most days. Snore.

My job before my previous job was in the medical field. We wore scrubs. I loved them. I wish I could wear scrubs all the time now, only people would think I was a medical person, which I am decidedly not.

But I'm tolerant of uniform policies. It just makes things easier. Lets you focus on more important things than on "Whatever Shall I Wear Today?".

I don't mind uniforms. So long as they don't include khakis.

At least that's what I opine.

Of course, I don't have kids, so no one cares what I think anyway. But hopefully y'all enjoyed the story of the Ed Grimley button, as well as imagining moi with lots of eyeliner and my moussed hair sticking straight up. (I know ... very scary!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Asheville's Looking Like Baton Rouge on a Rainy Day

Here's the parking lot of the Kinko's that we use for all of our company's print jobs.







Needless to say, we're printing things in-house today.

Can We PLEASE Go Back To Bed Now?

It's 6:30 a.m. and pitch black outside. We're waiting around, flipping from The Weather Channel to the local news, wondering if I'll be able to get to work. Or if I should even try. Apparently, parts of surrounding towns (Canton and Clyde) are under 3-4 feet of water, and parts of I-40 are shut down due to flooding and mudslides. Sigh. Luckily, we live on a mountain, so flooding isn't a problem (except for our lovely roof leak). Still ... Dan knows several people who are truly flooded, so we are indeed lucky.



To work or not to work? Should I risk the drive to Asheville? Is it a risk at all, or is it perfectly safe? Oh, the indecision! I'm waiting till daylight so I'll at least be able to see what's coming. I have numerous memories of driving through deep water in Louisiana ... hm, I have a story about that. If I have time today, maybe I'll blog it. It's a purty good story. But I can't make any promises, because I have a tight Friday deadline, an eye doctor's appointment, AND a piano lesson on my plate today. The ole Ninster will need to work some scheduling magic here.



Deafness Update: I'm still deaf today. And my ear and jaw hurt. Maybe this is a jaw thing and not an ear thing. All I know is that when Dan says, "Good morning, Wifey!" all I hear is a faint "mrrrr mrrrnnnn mwfffrrrr." Very frustrating!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Feelin' Beethovenian

For a couple of hours last night, as Dan flipped back and forth between “Law and Order,” ESPN, and Fox News, I cloistered myself in the piano room for a couple of hours. It was my second marathon piano session of the day, only this time I wasn’t practicing Chopin and Mozart. No, this session was a theory session. And I had a lot of work to do.



First, I needed to review Friday’s lesson on secondary triads. Next, I needed to work through the exercises, or at least get started on them. The instructions for the exercises read something like this:



Write tenor, alto, and soprano parts for the following measures.



Of course, the workbook has the bass part (or a different part) already entered. From there, I need to (1) figure out what key I'm in, and (2) figure out what chords are implied by the bass (or whatever voice is already provided). For example, if the bass note is a “B” and I know that it’s a “6” chord, then I also know that the chord is either G major or G-sharp minor. Or, if the B is flatted, then it’s either a G minor or a G-flat major.



Once I figure that out (not all that difficult, with practice), then I need to fill in the missing parts. Sounds easy enough. If I know the notes that belong to a chord, then it’s just a matter of filling them in on the staffs. If I know I’m supposed to write a G major chord and the B is in the bass, then I know I need to add at least a G and a D to the voices (G, B, and D make up a G major chord).



Sounds simple, if you know your chords. Only there are about a million rules to follow. For instance, you can’t have parallel octaves or parallel fifths. If you have a certain kind of chord then you need to double the root (the G of a G major chord, for example), but if you have a different kind of chord, then you have to double the third (the B of that G chord). If you have a 6-4 chord, then you have to double whatever the bass note is. And if your shoulder itches when you write down a certain note, then you have to stand up and do a rain dance. They are very, very exacting, these rules!



So Dan came in later and asked how I was doing. I whined and complained about how HARD theory is (he knows I love every bit of it, or I’d be doing something else). I told him about the rules, and he asked a perfectly legitimate question:



"Why do you have to memorize all the rules? It sounds like the music would be uninteresting if it all had to follow the same rules.”



True, true. I wholeheartedly agree. Only the “rules” I’m learning are sort of like the rules of grammar in English: I need to know them inside and out, backward and forward, in order to be able to build upon them. And I need to know them intimately before I can begin to break them with some semblance of aplomb. Yup. Learning the notes are like learning the alphabet. Learning the rules of harmony are like learning grammar. Or paragraph construction. Or something like that.



Ah, music composition. Maybe one day I’ll be good at it.



But the composing thing is not the reason I’m feeling Beethovenian today. No, it’s for a totally different reason. It’s because, for the past two weeks, I’ve barely been able to hear a thing. Half the time, my ears are ringing a tone two octaves above Middle C (I checked). Whether they’re ringing or not, everyone sounds like they’re adults from a Charlie Brown cartoon. Even when I have the hearing aid in. Of course, I can’t turn the music or TV up too loud because loud noises are physically painful to my ears. It’s driving me crazy.



Then, magically, as I was reading Beethoven last night (to the tune of my Tinnitus One-Note Sonata in C), I came across this passage from one of Beethoven’s letters:



To give you some idea of my extraordinary deafness, I must tell you that in the theatre I am obliged to lean close up against the orchestra in order to understand the actors, and when a little way off I hear none of the high notes of instruments or singers. It is most astonishing that in conversation some people never seem to observe this; being subject to fits of absent-minded-ness, they attribute it to that cause. I often can scarcely hear a person if speaking low; I can distinguish the tones, but not the words, and yet I feel it intolerable if any one shouts to me. Heaven alone knows how it is to end!
Then he goes on … but I read that and thought, “Ahhh, I know just how you feel, Louis!"



Really, it just amazes me that a man with my bad ears (and worse) was also one of the greatest composers that ever lived. It inspires me. It tells me that maybe I'm not wasting all of the money and time I spend on music theory and composition. I know I'll never even begin to approach the greatness of Beethoven, but it still makes me dream big. Makes me think of someday writing Great Music, symphonies even, despite the deafness.



You know how sometimes folks will sit around and talk about the one person from history they’d like to meet more than any other?



Well, I think I’d like to meet Beethoven. I doubt that, between my English, his German, our combined deafness, and our misanthropic mood swings, we’d be able to communicate very effectively. But I think he and I just might get along. Who knows … maybe he could even help me with this blasted music theory that I love so much.

September 4, 1973

[This blog entry is posted three days late because I was gone for Labor Day weekend and couldn't access it from home. My apologies.]



I was only three years old at the time, but I still have some memory of this historic day in my life (though my memory may actually be of the day after September 4). Here's what I remember:



I came home. From playschool? From my grandparents' house? I don't rightly know. But I came home. That's what I remember.



I was upstairs in the doorway to my parents' bedroom when my mom told me I had a new baby sister.



"Would you like to hold her?" she asked.



I suppose I said yes. Because my next memory is of sitting in a rocking chair with my new baby sister across my lap. My memory is of a much larger baby than a newborn, but that's probably because I was just a little tyke myself, and not much larger than a baby at the time.



At some point my mom told me that her name was Megan. I'd never heard that name before. My parents liked to give us unusual names. Of course, they had no clue that an onslaught of baby Megans, Meegans, Meghans, Meghanns, Meagans, Meaghans, and Meaghanns and would come mewling and puking into the world over the next 20 years.



I'm still waiting for "Janina" to hit the list of Top 10 Baby Names for Girls. Hasn't happened yet. Sigh.



Anyway, I could go on to tell the story about Megan and the cookies, or the story about the first time Megan said the "S" word. Or how the "S" word was one of her first words. But she's an elementary school teacher, so it wouldn't be very nice for me to tell that story. :) But I will share a picture of my sister, circa 1975.







Wasn't she cute? (She still is, by the way.)



I'll also tell you that Megan was meant to be. See, my parents didn't think they could have children. The experts told them they couldn't. So they adopted. First, they adopted my brother in 1966, and then me in 1970. So there we were ... a complete (??) family: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Dog (Poochie), and Cat (Wampus).



Then, against all odds and the dire predictions of the "experts," those crazy adults went and got themselves pregnant. Nine months later, we had Megan, the "surprise baby." So now Ghent (my brother) had someone besides me to torture with his tickling. So you see, I was very grateful to have a sister.



Seriously, I love having a sister, even though I was jealous of her at times, and even though I wasn't always the nicest sister. She still loves me, after all I have put her through. That is definitely a testament to her own capacity for unconditional love.



I haven't been a jealous older sister for many years now. In fact, I've spent the last 20 years looking up to her (and not just 'cause she's taller than me). She is my closest friend, and we have so much fun together because we have 31 years of private jokes between us.



We got to spend Saturday together, which was great. Part of the reason Dan and I moved to western North Carolina was because Megan lives here. So, after many years of living nearly 1,000 miles from her, I got to see her on her birthday. That's purty cool.



I am so thankful. Not only was I adopted into a loving family, but I've been able to enjoy 31 years of a "surprise" sister as well.



Here's to 31 more years. Heck, here's to 51 more years. By then, we'll be meeting each other for lunch at the Piccadilly every day. Or maybe she'll pick me up from the nursing home and drive me to the Piccadilly. Either way, we have a standing promise to be old-lady-regulars at the Piccadilly. And that's what really matters.



Hope you had a happy birthday weekend, Mu!

Monday, September 6, 2004

Mindless Labor-Night Ramble

OK, so this won't be much of an update because I'm tired and am going to bed soon. But my head is full of bloggable things, so I'm hoping to write a bit more on this site over the next few days. It's still going to be busy at work, but I'm sure I'll snag a few minutes here and there to write something. Maybe I'll even write something interesting. Just maybe!



I must say, though, I have thoroughly enjoyed these three days away from computerland. I owe lots of people e-mails (between work busy-ness, e-mail overhaul, and hard-drive coma, I didn't have a lot of e-mail time or access last week), so stay tuned, All To Whom I Owe E-mails. I have not been very good at keeping in touch this last week.



This Labor Day weekend purty much consisted of the following:



- Snuggling

- Practicing (piano, for all the new folks)

- Reading

- Hiking

- Cleaning house

- Hangin' out with my newly 31-year-old sister

- NOT surfing the 'net

- NOT watching TV

- NOT writing technical things (woo hoo!)



Maybe I'll write more on those later. Maybe not. Anyhow, here are my conclusions for the weekend:



1. I love snuggling. Thankfully, Dan and the cats also love snuggling.

2. I practice piano a lot more now than I did as a 12-year-old. I enjoy it a lot more now, too.

3. Brave New World is a really, really good book.

4. I miss my pre-grown-up summers when I could sit in a tree all day, reading Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn books.

5. Hiking is the best method of stress-relief that I know of.

6. I will never learn to love cleaning house.

7. I think I would be a good English teacher during the five years before the typical teacher burn-out set in.

8. My sister, Megan, is very cool and wonderful.

9. I have deep, meaningful thoughts when my mind is not encumbered by internet chatter, television, or the goings-on of my day job.

10. I need a patron. You know, like artists and poets and composers had in the old days. Any volunteers?



Time for sleep. Tomorrow, it's back to the old grindstone ... the "wake-up-at-four-o'clock-a.m.-to-write-then-go-work-out" grindstone.



Hope everyone had a good Labor Weekend.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Spin is Interesting, but Lies ... ?

Have y'all heard about this one yet? The Associated Press apparently fabricated a story about a Bush audience booing when the Prez announced that Clinton was having to undergo heart surgery.



This may be old news ... I don't know. I've been happily away from the internet and TV all weekend long.

Friday, September 3, 2004

This One's for Hubbie

It's September 3rd. I believe it is our friend Kanga Perkins' birthday, but I can't be sure.



It's also the anniversary of the first-ever pro-football game, played in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, against neighboring Jeannette in 1895.



Here's a link from the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, and here's an interesting (but long) story from about the first pro-football player, John "Sal" Brailler. Historians agree that he became the first pro-football player when he accepted $10 and "cakes" (expenses) to play the Latrobe/Jeannette game on this date 109 years ago.

Blorgasbord

Q: What's worse than being so snowed under at work that you don't have time to blog?

A: Having your hard drive go into a coma so that you can't work OR blog for seven hours.



That's what happened to me yesterday.



Of course, there are much worse things than that going on. Poor Florida is about to be torn up by another hurricane, and the whole hostage situation in Russia has gotten scarier. From Bloomberg:



Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Russian troops stormed a school in the country's south, after hostages started fleeing the building where armed terrorists had been holding as many as 1,500 people captive for two days in Beslan, North Ossetia.



More than 200 wounded were taken to hospitals, Interfax said, citing Lev Dzugayev, spokesman for North Ossetia's government. Russian broadcasters NTV and Rossiya showed children escaping and gunfire and explosions could be heard during the broadcasts.

Can you imagine that happening here in the U.S.? Scary, isn't it.



Dan and I stayed up to hear the Prez's speech last night. There is something about W's optimism and idealism that makes me just want to go out and Make the World a Better Place. It makes me wish I'd become a teacher or a social worker, or maybe a presidential speechwriter. It makes me want to sluff off this cushy tech writing job and do Something Important. I know that writing and composing are important, but I also feel like I should be doing something more immediate: counseling pregnant teens to put their kids up for adoption, or teaching people how to read. I just underwent training to tutor adults in reading over the past couple of months, so I may be teaching people how to read before long.



Well, it's time to quit thinking about doing Important Things and go back to the less-important task of writing software documentation that few will ever read. But when I take breaks I'm gonna hang out here.



Here's a quote that made me smile this morning:



"This coffee is a sporty, tasteful cup with a jaunty creaminess." (Description of the "Coffee of the Day" at a local coffee shop. I don't know. I just found that description rather amusing.)



Thursday, September 2, 2004

Belief-O-Mazing, Man

I took the Belief-O-Matic test, which tells you which faiths most closely match your personal beliefs. I can't comment on its accuracy, since you record your "beliefs" through a series of multiple-choice answers. But it's still interesting.



According to the Belief-O-Matic, I'm most like Roman Catholics. Must be my south Louisiana upbringin'. Dot Didier is smiling right about now.



Orthodox Quaker was a close second in my final "score." In fifth place was "Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant," and in sixth was "Mainline to Liberal Christian/Protestant." Islam has spot number nine. Unitarian Universalism, the faith of my beloved Ralph Waldo Emerson, was #17. At the bottom of the list were Scientology, Secular Humanism, and New Thought (whatever that is).



No, I'm not taking internet multiple-choice quizzes at work. I would never do that.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

A Not-So-Bad Good Ear

Yes, I have a good ear and a bad ear. My bad ear is pretty deaf and beyond hope of a hearing aid. My good ear (the one with the hearing aid) isn't so good, either. Or so I thought.



I just took some "ear training" tests on an Ear Training site I found during my coffee break and got 31 out of 35 intervals correct.



And I got 7 out of 10 on the "perfect pitch" test!



I love making good grades.



Seriously, I like this site. As a wanna-be composer, I think I'll find it quite helpful. Only during coffee breaks, of course.



I promise, I'll post more interesting essay-like blogs soon. I'm just snowed under at work this week. :-(

My Sleepy Haze, and A Poem for Today

Stayed up too late last night. Watched as the convention started out strong, then just sort of limped its way to the end. I still think Laura Bush is very cool and wonderful and strong, though I kind of think her daughters should have been seen and not heard. Ack. I was kind of embarrassed for them. Of course, they're only 22. But geez ... who cares if the Prez and his wife call each other "Bushie"? Not me, that's who. And I didn't get half the jokes. Either it's my bad hearing, or I'm even more out-of-touch with the pop-culture scene than I was at age 22. (Probably the latter. And I was pretty out-of-touch then.)



Of course, I was half-asleep by the time they came on. It's hard to watch something that starts at 10:00 p.m. when you're used to being in bed by 9:00. All I could think, through the haze of my fatigue, was, "I stayed awake for this?"



But Laura Bush sure seems like such a nice, smart lady, doesn't she? I thought it was effective when she talked, from experience, about the anguishing decisions that a president has to make.



Anyway, it's going to be a busy, non-blogging day at work, so I thought I'd share with y'all one of my favorite poems.