Monday, November 29, 2004

You As Farmer

In the barren hills of my heart
you planted yourself with careful
and deft words, sending roots questing
deep into what I thought was dead.

Surely you sometimes thought no crop
would ever grow as you toiled in
my unresponsive soil, weeding
hidden hurts and secret sorrows.

Many times you reaped only pain
as I lashed out, uncomfortable
with the turning of my set life
and the necessary reseeding.

After all theses seasons, I must
now tell you this truth: watered by
your faith, nourished by your smile,
I have bloomed, surprising even me.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Nifty Christmas Tip 6

      Say no. That's right. Say no. You can only do so much. Obligations abound. Friends, family, church, clubs, work ... There are limits to what you can do. You deserve some rest this Christmas. Cut back on your projects. Say no that one extra job. Don't over commit yourself. They will find someone else. Understand that you are human, and give yourself a break. Christmas should also mean peace. And that's a nifty thing.

A statue of Saint Luke in an alcove in the courtyard.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Nifty Christmas Tip 5

      Salt dough ornaments are easy to make and will last for years with care. To make them, you only need three things:
            4 cups of flour (not self-rising)
            1 cup of salt
            1 1/2 cups of hot tap water.
      Mix water and salt together for one minute. Mix in the flour slowly. When all the flour has been absorbed, knead for two minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured board. You want the dough to be about 1/4 inch thick. Form the dough into various shapes with cookie cutters and molds. Place on a cookie sheet that's covered by foil. Be sure to make a hole at top of the ornaments that will allow a hanging thread or wire to go through. (You can't add the hole after baking as the ornaments will break.) Bake at 325 degrees until firm (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). The larger the ornament, the longer it will take to bake. Let cool completely. (Naturally you should not eat the ornaments.)
      Varnish the ornaments with an acrylic varnish, or use acrylic paints to decorate them, and then varnish. The varnish is important as it keeps the ornaments from deteriorating. Be sure to varnish both sides. This is a great family project. Nifty Christmas fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Busy

      I've been busy today with Christmas cards, putting up Christmas lights, housework and bills. I only lack three cards and then I will have the cards all ready to go. I ended up with 52. I only got two light nets put out, but I hope to finish the lights outdoors tomorrow afternoon. Over the next week, I'll get the tree put up. And do some shopping. Sigh. It never all gets done, does it?
      It's nearly midnight so I'll sign off now. Have a great day tomorrow.

Church steeple against a darkening sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Stuffed with turkey

      I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did. I went to my sister's house and ate until I waddled. I had turkey and dressing, pecan-topped sweet potatoes, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, hot rolls with olive oil butter, corn, sweet peas, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and banana pudding. That was the first course ...
      Yes, I know it wasn't Weight Watchers approved. Tomorrow I will be good again, but not until then. Because tonight I had leftovers of all of the above. Ahhhh. It was delicious. My sister is an incredible cook. I shall now sink into a food induced stupor and see y'all tomorrow. Always supposing my stomach doesn't explode.
      Here is my sister's recipe for:
Easy Baked Sweet Potatoes
1 large can of sweet potatoes in light syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup of grandulated sugar
1/2 cup of whole pecans
      Drain sweet potatoes. In small batches, blend potatoes. Pour blended mixture into mixing bowl. Add vanilla, eggs, brown sugar and grandulated sugar. Stir until well blended. Pour into 8-inch square buttered Pyrex dish. Strinkle top with pecans. Bake 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Delicious!
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Nifty Christmas Idea 4

      You can make a quick and easy centerpiece by filling a tall, clear glass bowl or vase with shiny gold ball ornaments. It would also look good on a mantel or side table or anywhere you need a bit of Christmas color. Or take a tall pillar candle, set it on a clear plate and surround it by a ring of ornaments. Nifty.

More colorful foliage.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

lHappy Thanksgiving!l

      Have a wonderful, happy, safe Thankgiving. See y'all Friday!

More fall colors.
©2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A sideways glance at the First Thanksgiving

(I actually wrote the following last year for Thanksgiving and intended to fill in the tiny historical gaps by doing credible research. But what with the knitting and handgun lessons, I haven't had the chance. Still, no notable historian has challenged it so here it is.)

      I hope if you have to travel tomorrow that you drive carefully. Or if you take public transportation, bus or train carefully. Remember only you can prevent forest fires. So stay out of the forest! The chipmunks don't want you there. They plot against you, they do.
      I should really write something about Thanksgiving, but most people know the story of the Pilgrims and their long perilous journey across the ocean. To tell something new about them, one would have to do months of hard research and consult learned scholars. Instead, I'm going to use an easier way that nonetheless is prominent in today's society, particularly among Congressmen: I'm going to make it up.
      The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, in 1620, crossed the ocean in the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth, America, two months later. How lucky is that? They left Plymouth and ended up at Plymouth.
      The Pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution from the governments and churches in Europe. The European establishment was a bit looser about sin, considering the Ten Commandments to be the Ten Suggestions and the Sermon on the Mount to be a Chat with Tea. The establishment, however, was steadfast in its beliefs, burning heretics at the stake. What a happy time was had by all, not including the burnee, of course, who sometimes complained loudly.
      The Pilgrims were led by John Alden or maybe Miles Standish. I'm a little unclear on this. It could have been Flappy Slapdashy. Look it up. On the trip over, several sailors died. This could have been seen as a bad omen, but the Pilgrims didn't believe in omens or baths, either. No, this part is true. They thought baths were sinful and should be taken only once a year -- say for instance when your undergarments were capable of walking to the water by themselves -- and you were never to enjoy them.
      Some modern-day scholars have taken this to mean that the Pilgrims were dour, sour people, like Democrats today, but this simply isn't true. In 1637, Warwick William "Willie" Wipingnose smiled in public at a Pilgrim gathering. Twice. He was immediately flogged and pilloried, but he did smile.
      Soon after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, they discovered, due to bad planning, all the supermarkets were in the Old World. Food got scarce. Several Pilgrims disappeared but were found in various cooking pots in the Donner home.
      The winter was cold, the wolves were gathering and the pantry was bare. Disease struck the colony. The colony tried to strike back, but Disease was too quick and dodged and ran around town, skipping and singing, "Climb Every Mountain."
      But help was just beyond the horizon, or actually just inside the woods. Chief Acornugger of the Whatchamacallit Tribe had met the Pilgrims some time ago. He hadn't liked them, finding them "stinky and dour." His medicine man Pokeineye had warned him of the white man, saying, "They come in long ships to take our forests and our lands and will drive us before them. Do not let them. Invest in casinos. Don't buy Enron."
      For a while, Acornugger led his brave braves against the white man in daring raids, taking tools, clothing and an entire case of moist towelettes.
      Once he or some other chief captured several white men and were putting them to death by cutting off their heads. (Although he wasn't a member of the European establishment, the chief was sympathetic to their methods.) The last victim was a man named John Smith (possibly not his real name). They pushed Smith down on a tree stump and started to chop off his head when the chief's daughter Pocahontas threw herself on top of the captive. The chief was overcome by this display of emotion and ordered Smith released, although Pocahontas kept insisting that she had just tripped.
      Anyway, Chief Acornugger saw that the white people were starving and felt his heart swell with pity, but it turned out to be just gas. A completely different tribe led by some other chief actually brought food, including corn and Twinkies, to the famished Pilgrims.
      The Pilgrims and Indians gathered for a goodwill feast, giving thanks for the food and friendship shared by all. The Pilgrims were so grateful that they didn't steal the land of that tribe until 45 years later.
      And that's almost exactly not the story of the First Thanksgiving.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

A fern in an urn in the courtyard.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Nifty Christmas Idea 3

      My friend Crystal takes her son each Christmas to let him pick out a new ornament for their tree. They make a day out of it and also make a wonderful Christmas memory. She's done that with him since he was little, but I think it's something you could start this Christmas with your child, spouse, etc. Begin a Christmas tradition of your own.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Nightmare

      They're coming after me! The boy ran down the street, hoping he could hide in some dark alley or find some refuge.
      "Run, sweetheart, run! It's more fun this way!" A lone voice called out. The boy looked back as the gang pounded around the corner. Light flashed off their knives, and some of them carried baseball bats. The gang intended to make the boy pay the price for being different.
      The boy looked wildly around. He couldn't outrun them. To his left, a security light cut a swath in the night. The boy ran toward it. At least, he'd be able to see to fight.
      The gang was silent as they ran now. The boy reached the metal light pole, turned and braced his back against it. He sagged and lowered his head. He would have prayed if he could have mustered enough breath.
      The gang ran closer ... twenty yards ... ten years ... ten feet. They stopped, panting and swearing.
      Roy walked slowly toward the slumped boy. He was smiling. Suddenly he lunged forward, his knife directed at the boy's midriff.
      But the boy wasn't there. He jumped to the side. Roy's knife scraped the pole. The boy's left foot came up in a perfect arc and struck Roy in the face. Roy fell backward, blood spraying from his broken nose.
      A frozen silence ensued as the boy and gang stared at Roy. For a moment, the boy hoped.
      Then someone yelled. They rushed the boy. The boy kicked the legs out from under one of them. A fish smashed into the boy's face.
      Blows came from everywhere. The boy couldn't protect himself. He tried to roll into a ball, tried to protect his head, but they caught him and pulled up against the pole. Far off a siren sounded. Too late.
      Roy stepped forward, blood streaming from his nose, and in one quick move stabbed the boy in the stomach. The knife felt like cold fire. The boy screamed and fell into darkness.
      I wore up trembling. I reached over and put on my glasses. The clock read 2:30 and 1979 again. I lay there staring at the ceiling until the sun finally rose.

© 2004. All rights reserved.


Dusk.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Nifty Christmas Idea 2

      My friend Joyce read my blog yesterday and called today to tell me about a recycling idea of her sister's. Her sister takes old Christmas cards, cuts the back off of them, and mails the fronts as postcards. She draws a line down the center of the cover's back, addresses them on the right, writes a short note on the left, stamps and mails. She also has blank cards that she uses by pasting a particularly lovely cover on the front and adding her message on the inside. Nifty and inexpensive.

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas cards ...

      I've spent most of the evening working on my Christmas card list. I've updated addresses, labeled envelopes, picked out cards, etc. I've yet to get a single card finished, but that should happen over the next few days and during the Thanksgiving weekend.
      I enjoy sending Christmas cards and enjoy receiving them. Consequently, my list has 46 names on it this year. Maybe a lot, but like I said, I enjoy doing it.
      Each year, I try to write a poem or a story and include it in the card. I don't always succeed in getting it done before I need to mail the cards, but should be able to this year if things go smoothly.
      I found a couple boxes of cards on sale last January that I really like. My Christmas cards always have the Three Wise Men on them, and these have a stylized picture of them with foil accents.
Nifty Christmas Idea
      Speaking of Christmas cards, a friend of mine shared this cool idea with me. She wanted to send out cards, but couldn't make the time to address them each year. So she purchased a box of labels and handwrote each address on a label, adding embellishments and black and white stickers. Then she took them to a copy store and had the labels copied in various colors. Nifty! She also took colored pens and filled in some of the stickers. Of course, she could have used a computer program like PrintShop or PrintMaster to do this, but she liked the handwritten look.
      I'll try to share a Nifty Christmas Idea each day as we get closer to Christmas. If you have some, please share them!

Inside the courtyard.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Singer and The Song

      Tonight I'm going to give the stage to Calvin Miller and his poetic narratives The Singer and The Song. The Singer parallels the Gospels while The Song resembles the book of Acts. Both books are wise, witty, sad, triumphant and joyful. Even if you're not a religious person and read them only for the exciting narrative, they're worth reading. What follows are a few quotes from both of them:

I knew a blind man
whom a surgeon
helped to see. The
doctor never had a
lover such as he.
It is in such a way
that singers love
composers.
*******************
Hate sometimes
stands quite
close to love.

God too stands
often near to
evil -- like silent
chessman --
side by side.
Only the color
of the squares
is different.
*******************
A healthy child is
somehow very much
like God. A hurting
child, his son.
*******************
To God obscenity is not uncovered
flesh. It is exposed intention.
Nakedness is just a state of heart.
Was Adam any more unclothed when
he discovered shame? Yes.
*******************
A finale is not always the best
song but it is always the last.
*******************
Decision is the key to destiny.

"God, can you be merciful and send
me off to hell and lock me in
forever?"

"No, Pilgrim, I will not send you
there, but if you chose to go
there, I could never lock you out."
*******************
Love is substance. Lust, illusion.
Only in the surge of passion
Do they mingle in confusion.
*******************
Creativity can sometimes be a curse.
Ask Dr. Frankenstein.
*******************
The day of one's death is
a good day to be really alive.

      I highly recommend both books.

The courtyard of a beautiful church.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Ten yucky things I like

      First, I want to say that I don't know how it happened: a nice, well-mannered country boy like me developing a taste for -- even a craving for -- such things. But I do. I've tried to quit, but I can't. I like these things; you're just going to have to learn to live with it. I have.
      Brussels sprouts: Yes, I know they are the green boogers of the vegetable world, but I like them. They're loaded with tons of vitamins and minerals, but I don't hold that against them. I like them steamed with just a bit of salt.
      Swallowing gum: As a child, I was told not to do this because it would tie my insides up, and once was even spanked because I defiantly swallowed a huge mouthful. I rarely swallow gum now, and when I do, it's done without thinking. But when I realize what I've done, it always gives me a small, guilty thrill of pleasure.
      Pamela Lee Anderson: Despite her blonde beauty, this vixen specializes in being vulgar, tasteless and rude. Her body had enough plastic in it to make at least a thousand rolls of Saran Wrap. Still, she has a nice smile, and I keep thinking if she could only meet the right man who would understand and nurture her, she would blossom into someone wonderful. I'll send her my address.
      Lemons seasoned with salt: There is nothing like eating a slice of lemon sprinkled with a generous dash of salt to make your dining companions blanch. To further gross them out, I eat the peel, too.
      The Democratic Party: I like their pro-environmental stance and their civil rights work for women, blacks, the elderly, the poor and everyone else. I like their support of the Arts and college scholarships for everyone. I like the idea of an Universal Health Plan. If their leaders could just develop a moral or even two or three of those pesky things, I might move them off my yucky list and vote proudly for them.
      Sonic Drive-In foot-long hot dog: And not just a regular foot-long, but one with double chili, double cheese with lots of sweet onions and spicy jalapeƱo peppers. This cholesterol packed, carcinogenic, fat soaked, artery clogging dish has been known to make women faint and men excuse themselves. If I am ever healthy enough again, I am going to have two. With cheese fries. Have an ambulance with a cardiac cart standing by.
      Twangy country folk music: I like it when the female singer has a voice of such piercing sweetness and over-whelming volume that it makes your teeth vibrate and animals flee. Iris Demint is my favorite. She can drive insects out of your house.
      Mud between my toes: No, I'm serious. Really. The next time it rains, rush barefooted outside -- or even wait until it stops raining if you're a wimp -- and find some nice mud. It's the strangest feeling as the cool earth flows between your toes, somehow soothing and exciting at the same time. While you're out there, splash around a little. You're only losing a bit of dignity, and if you're like me, you're overflowing with that stuff anyway.
      A really good sneeze: It's always a surprise to me that I can produce such a loud noise with such force. Of course, this gets old quickly if you have a cold and can't stop sneezing, but an occasional one -- perhaps when you step outside into the bright sunshine -- is a cleansing feeling. I realize that this is not much fun for anyone in front of you so try to aim to the side or any unoccupied direction but not into the wind.
      Dog kisses: Not on the lips, of course, but nothing besides a baby will ever kiss you with more enthusiasm and flowing slobber. It's yucky, but I recommend it highly.
      So there you have all ten of them, and after reading them over, I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed about them. It's not as if I'm Republican or watch talk shows or like something truly yucky like those. :)

Beautiful trees.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

World Wonders

      Recently I was watching Public Television -- which is what I always watch despite rumors that I have the complete Baywatch on DVD -- and they were showing a program on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was interesting and certainly filled the time until Desperate Housewives -- uh, I mean, Masterpiece Theater came on.
      Can you name the Seven Ancient Wonders? You can? Really? It seems rather useless knowledge to me, but perhaps you don’t have a life. For the rest of us, the Seven Ancient Wonders were:
      1. The pyramids of Egypt (large pointy things in the desert)
      2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (which sound like they involved outlaws, rope and Boot Hill, but instead it was actually plants that apparently did something bad enough to deserve to be hung)
      3. The statue of Zeus at Olympia (40 feet tall and made of ivory. I didn't even know they had soap then)
      4. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (which got its name from King Mausolus of Caria who died and his wife built a huge tomb to put him in -- I guess he was a very large man. The tomb was so huge that eventually any large tomb began to be referred to as a mausoleum. You can use this information if you are ever on Jeopardy)
      5. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus (destroyed by arson, a good indication that Artemis wasn't quite as powerful as they thought)
      6. The Colossus of Rhodes (I thought this might be a sumo wrestler, but it was a huge statue made of bronze)
      7. The Pharos of Alexandria (400 foot tall lighthouse, made of white marble and destroyed by an earthquake. Sorry, no joke for this one.)
      None of these exist anymore except the pyramids, and since I haven't seen them myself, I can't be certain that they do, not with all those special effects that TV can do. Just the other day, I watched a televised speech by the president, and he looked amazingly lifelike. Anyway, since most of the Wonders are gone, I propose a new list of Wonders or at least things that make me wonder. With a lot of thought and research -- at least ten minutes worth -- I present the following:
      1. The Twinkies of Hostess. How do they put that cream in the center of those little cakes? If that isn't enough to guarantee their entry on the list, consider that they contain absolutely no useful nutrients. You would think a vitamin or two would sneak in somehow, but no. Nutrient free, loaded with gene-altering preservatives and completely delicious.
      2. The Dolly of Parton. Yes, I am a fan, and no, I won't explain why. Yes, I will. It's her music, okay? You should have your minds washed out with soap. Twice.
      3. The Com of Puter. Before computers, it took large groups of people several weeks to make the number of mistakes that a computer can make in just seconds. If computers had counted the ballots in Florida, Donald Duck would be president even though Mickey Mouse obviously would receive the most votes.
      4. The Democrats of Congress. They're getting listed for their incredible ability to keep straight faces as they say things like: "We've always been against big government," "We want to balance the budget," and "We want to put aside party politics and work with President Bush." Their lies alone could make Jezebel blush.
      5. The Inter of Net. This is very complicated so I will type it slow. Right now millions of people are sitting in front of their computer, having clicked on a file to download. They will be still sitting there hours later. The wondrous thing of this is that these same people are in such a hurry on the highway that they will cut in front of school buses and ambulances.
      6. The Post of Office. Despite the numerous times I have won sweepstakes, they continue to lose my winner notifications but still get my bills to me.
      7. The Talk of Shows. Watching a talk show decreases your IQ by several points, thus allowing you to enjoy pro wresting and not wonder at the lack of fatal injuries.
      There you have my choices. You may have different ones. Write and let me know. Then I will write an entry about the fact that you don't have any more of a life than I do.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

The colors of fall.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dear old friend,

      I'm just writing you a note to tell you that I'm done with regrets tonight. When I hung up the phone, after you told me that you were getting married again, I thought, it's never going to happen now. We're not going to be together.
      For a moment, I cursed the bad timing that has always plagued us. For a moment, I thought of the crazy loving we weren't going to share. For a moment, I thought of laughter in a shared, cozy dark. For a moment, I thought, well, my heart will break. And I braced myself for the shock.
      But my heart kept right on beating. And then I realized it was okay. I had been in love with you so long, had become so accustomed to it that I hadn't even noticed that it was only habit now. Somewhere over the years, the passion had been replaced with friendship.
      I thought about it all day today. I turned it over in my mind, examining this strong, healthy reaction that I hadn't expected to find. Somehow, some way, some time when I wasn't looking, I grew up. And it feels fine.
      So I'm done with regrets tonight. There's a whole world still out there. I've wasted too much time already. A part of me will always love you, but it doesn't love you any more. I hope you finally find happiness. You deserve it. And so do I.
Your friend,
TECH

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

And now for something completely different ...

      It's already well known that I wander off the beaten path. Let's completely confirm it. Check out the flash animation at this site: Cows With Guns. It takes a few minutes to load, but it's worth -- I think -- the time. Particularly if you have real sense for the zany.
      I also enjoy Dork Tower and Kevin & Kell, online comic strips that help keep the weird in my life. And we must not forget Monty Python. We don't want to upset the lumberjacks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dojo writing

      Over the past few days, I've been reading Dojo Wisdom for Writers by Jennifer Lawler. The book is subtitled "100 SIMPLE WAYS to Become a More INSPIRED, SUCCESSFUL and FEARLESS Writer."
      Nothing really new in her book in terms of writing, but the presentation rates five stars. Lawler relates such writing/martial arts lesson as "Understand what is expected of you," "Choose the path; never look back," "Accept criticism to grow," "Focus on the openings," and so on. Lawler has a simple, direct style that gives impact to her lessons. This small book is definitely worth the $13 I spent on it.
      Monday night I was lucky enough to see three Stargate: SG1 episodes that I hadn't seen before. Woohoo! These were from the sixth season, and I think I missed them during rehearsals for a full-length play that I co-wrote and directed. Quite cool to get to watch them now.
      Work continues to be more stressful than is good for me. I can't seem to regain my center, my calmness that allows me to operate as efficiently as I can. Oh well. No one's job is perfect. We all struggle sometimes. I just hope this passes soon.
      Have I mentioned that I love Uni-Ball Deluxe Micro pens? The ink flows smoothly, and the pen feels good to write with. I buy them by the dozen.
      Found an excellent site on writing plays yesterday. Playwriting 101 has lots of good information about all aspects of writing a play. A few too many "commercials," but if you're interested in writing for the stage, it's worth looking over.
      I added the Lunar News Network to my science and tech links. Good info and a nice looking site. Check it out if you're as moon struck as I am.
      I tell you now that the sun needs to shine here! I miss sunshine. I'm not a fan of fall and winter for that reason. I like light, and I like lots of it. I'd like to take some pictures of several trees in their fall finery, but it won't stop raining. Sigh. Maybe this weekend, the sun will come out. I hope so.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The play's the (terrible) thing ...

      Recently I attended a terrible play. Actually the play is a celebrated part of American theater; this performance was a stinker. We're talking so bad that the police needed to cordon off the theater and arrest someone.
      Ordinarily I have a well-developed instinct for avoiding things that might not enjoyable, but a good friend was in the play so I went anyway.
      Let me say now my friend was excellent, her character sharply drawn, her diction suitable and her lines clear. The rest of the cast made me long for a sniper rifle. It's not that they were bad -- well, actually they were -- but I knew the play, knew what the playwright had intended, and they botched the whole sorry mess.
      This is not to say the evening was a total waste. I learned a few things. First, it is impossible to strangle yourself. Second, you can't fake a heart attack well enough to fool my friend Linda who kept poking at me and saying, "You made me come to this. You're going to live through it." And third, ministers who say we don't understand eternity obviously hadn't sat through that performance.
      As a budding playwright myself, it concerns me to see actors and directors miss the point. I co-wrote two one-act plays that were published by Contemporary Drama Service. Both are light, fun comedies. I worry that somewhere they are being performed badly to audiences who don't realize that it is totally the actors' fault. I don't want to be blamed for something over which I have little control.
      Not that my plays are perfect -- well, now that I've brought it up, they are -- but they do have lots of funny lines and good stage action. They are fun to read and to do. I've seen them performed a couple of times by good actors who got the point, and everyone had a great time. I hate to think my little plays are making someone somewhere wonder if they could choke themselves by eating a program.
      At intermission, some people sneaked out. I resisted the impulse to call the escapees cowards, but they were. They were worse than cowards: They were leaving while I had to stay. I wish I had thought about letting the air out of the tires of the other cars, but I didn't know going into the play how bad it was going to be. If I had known, I would have developed a stomach-ache or malaria and stayed home.
      The worse thing about people leaving was that it thinned the already sparse crowd. As more people slipped away, I began to think the actors onstage would outnumber the audience. But there remained enough at the end of the play for the receiving line in the lobby.
      The receiving line, a characteristic of community theater, allows the audience to thank the individual actors for allowing them to see the performance. This posed a problem. The best compliment is a truthful one, and while I could honestly say my friend did a great job, what could I say to the other actors that would both compliment them and not be outright lying? I certainly didn't want to encourage them.
      I considered possible comments:
      "You must be proud." -- Of what, who knows? Let them decide.
      "I've never seen anything like it." -- True enough, but it had be said in a bright, positive tone, and I wasn't sure I could pull it off.
      "It brought tears to my eyes." -- Also true and the same problem as above.
      "My, hours of practice pay off, don't they?" -- Not bad since it implies that the pay-off was on stage while the true meaning was that hours of practice would pay off and how I wish they had done so.
      "Wow." -- Positive tone problem as well as seeming too awestruck.
      "Thank you." -- For ending the play before I tore my eyes out.
      I had reached the front of the line by this time so I chose to just shake hands and smile. The smile was sincere; after all, I was going home.
      As a postscript, I asked a friend of mine to read this blog entry and tell me what she thought of it.
      "I've never read anything like it," she said in a bright, positive tone.
      Hmm.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Fin to Feet

      Long ago, when I was still in college, sleeping through my Biology class, my instructor was actually rude enough to talk so loudly that his voice filtered past my subconscious, trudged through my conscious, and woke me up.
      I glared at him and was about to ask him to hold it down when I realized what he had just said: that humans are supposed to have descended from fish. (Descended, by the way, means to pass from a higher place to a lower place, which I guess means he thought that going from fin to feet wasn’t our brightest move.)
      Of course, that’s only one of the many theories concerning our origin. Other theories include Divine creation, spontaneous generation, microbiologic chemistry, alien seeding, and the much-praised cabbage patch.
      (A side note: In 1971, Franklin Kilping, a British scientist and accordion player, theorized that actually fish are descended from humans. Unfortunately, while trying to date a salmon, he drowned and never developed his theory fully.)
      I personally find it difficult to believe that we came from fish despite how some people kiss. Look at it this way -- no, that way -- ha, ha, I fooled you; I meant, this way: What normal, self-respecting fish would want to be human? With our wars, local sales tax, violence, county sales tax, crime, state income tax, politicians, federal income tax and poverty (caused by taxes), we humans have serious doubts about wanting to be humans.
      If a fish did decide to be human, it must have been a tuna. Tunas are long-finned radicals, or that’s how they’ve always struck me. I, of course, hit back; it’s a matter of honor.)
      For instance, let's consider Charlie the Tuna of television commercial fame. Is it just me or does anyone else wonder about his deep-seated suicide wish? I mean, he wants to be caught in a net, die painfully without water, have his small bones steamed until they’re soft and viciously ripped out, and then have his pitiful bleached remains cruelly packed into a tiny metal can. Want a tuna melt now?
      Or this strange fish could have been a shark, I suppose, since you could look at lawyers and seemingly see proof of their ancestry.
      But as far as I understand it (which, I admit, isn't far, more like the distance from Tulsa to Oklahoma City as opposed to New York to London), the theory says that fish developed legs on land. I see a problem with that immediately: How did the fish get on land in the first place?
      They couldn't swim on land; that's a difficult thing to do. They couldn't walk; they didn't have legs yet. And frankly, the thought that fish used their little fins to crawl out on land, build cities, open charge accounts and throw rocks at people with different beliefs is hard to swallow.
      And then the theory goes on to say that these fish eventually became ape-like creatures from which would arise the apes and us. (This theory is a great comfort to the apes since they like to point out that we didn't descend from them as is popularly thought but from a distant ancestor. In other words, it's not their fault. They find humans uncouth and mean-spirited, particularly in Congress, and they won’t even talk to us. Just go to a zoo and try. They won't say a word.) So not only does this poor fish have to develop legs, it has to develop arms and hands and then at least one thumb to use the TV remote.
      I, personally, don't think man descended from fish. If he had, he would want to eat algae, snails and seaweed. I don't like seaweed; do you? Well, you're strange, but 99.9 percent of the rest of the world do not crave seaweed. So I think that settles that.
      I do like bananas, but as it turns out, apes can take bananas or leave them. It's not their favorite food. Some of them do have a passion for termites or ants -- a fact which doesn't lend itself to support any theory unless the scientists decide that we and the apes descended from aardvarks. Which I might have the nose for.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

A plant at my office.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A new gadget

      I got a new gadget today. A digital postal meter from Pelouze. Woohoo! A new toy! You should guess by my use of TECH as an ID that I love gadgets.
      I'm not a first adopter, however. Firsts pay a lot for the latest and greatest, and they have to suffer through a lot of bugs and problems. I'm a second or third adopter. The gadget is still cool when I get it, but it's a lot cheaper and with fewer bugs.
      But is a digital postal meter that cool? Well, it's probably not high on the geek scale, but I've wanted one for a while. It's going to make it a lot easier to mail out submissions, particularly since the USPS site will give postage amounts and will even print postage if you have the weight of an item. Nifty.
      A major no-prize to Susan1! She found the secret hidden in yesterday's entry. She's one smart cookie, she is.
      Well, I need to go to sleep. That's all I've done for the past few days. My sleep tanks were empty, I guess. Y'all have a good night.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Today

      Certainly it might seem I have a fixation on a blonde-haired song vixen, but it's not true. In fact, we won't even talk of her this entry. And I like to say to Frenzied that I have only mentioned monkeys three times (including this mention) over the past few weeks, but she noticed both previous mentions with such intensity that she thought I had mentioned them several times. Who has the fixation, eh?
      How have I been today? Still sick, but better. Or empty. Either one means that I've had a few stretches today when I didn't pray for a good, clean death. Or unconsciousness.
      And in book news, I've started a major revision. The tension level did fall once my characters fled into the Wilderness, becoming more of a sightseeing trip than an escape. We're going to see what I can do about increasing the peril.
      Rah-rah-rah to all the NaNoWriMoians. Next year I'm going to participate. It sounds like they're having lots of fun. And getting a lot of writing done. It's a good, good thing.
      Oh, there's a secret in this blog entry. A fabulous no-prize will be awarded to the first person who finds it.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Willing myself well

      I've been totally sick today. That's what I get for bragging about rarely getting sick in a comment a few entries back. I should know better. It's like that old Jewish custom of not bragging about your good fortune because then God might hear and take it away. But I don't know why everyone thinks God is out to get them.
      I do not have a Charo fixation! I just think she looks great for a woman in her sixties. And she seems so bubbly and fun. And sweet. And sexy. And I want to be her roly-poly love monkey. But that's not fixation because I can stop any time I want to, really I can. I just don't want to. Cuchi-cuchi! (By the way, the lovely Charo is also an award-winning classical guitarist. She really does have something under all that blonde hair.)
      The other folks aren't posting enough. Thank goodness for ER, 3&8 and Joel who continue to provide something for a poor, sick boy to read. Their rewards will be great in heaven. It's like the non-posters all have lives or something weird like that. Sigh.
      All I've done today is sleep and be sick, and it's time to try to sleep some more. I will better tomorrow. Y'all take care, you hear!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Since I can't think of anything to say ...

... here's Charo again! You can never have too much Charo.

I do want to thank everyone for their support over the past few days. You guys are awesome. Thanks.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Bougainvillea at my office.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

A nice rejection

A computer form:

Dear Mr. (TECH),

We thank you for sending us your book. However, at this time, we don't feel it's right for our agency's goals.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

(Agent)

In handwriting below the printed form:

(TECH)
Please submit your writing to us again. You have definite talent.
Enjoyed this book but think it needs more work. Nice beginning and fantastic ending, but needs more character development and tension. Don't be discouraged. Rome wasn't built in a day!
(Agent's Editorial Assistant)


Well, crap. Sigh. Back to the keyboard. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Charo. Just because I could.

Tick ... tock ... tick ... tock ... tick ... tock ...

      This is a timed writing. You may be unfamiliar with that term. Basically a timed writing is when you write as fast as possible for a certain amount of time (in this case, 15 minutes) in an attempt to awaken your creativity and to stifle your innate "editor." (When I worked for a newspaper several years ago, there were many a time when we wanted to stifle or even smother the editor, but this is another thing entirely.)
      Supposedly this device will allow you to tap your subconscious which is just brimming with ideas and cool stuff. I say "your" subconscious because apparently mine is empty or is out for a quick bite to eat and then stopped to see an afternoon matinee since the tickets are so much cheaper then. Otherwise, I wouldn't be using this as my blog. With me?
      Yes, sometimes I run out of things to say. Hard to believe, I know, perhaps you should sit down.
      I use these timed writings in my poetry class to awaken my students' creativity as well as get them accustomed to the idea of actually writing. I know that sounds strange, but a lot of people would be a writer if it wasn't for the rotten inconvenience of actually having to write. I do understand this: I would be Lucy Lawless's love slave except for her inconvenient husband as well as that protective order she took out against me, but that's another story involving a nun, a pelican and a mule named Lois Jo.
      Anyway, the point is that we all have this editor that criticizes what we think. It says of every idea, "No, that's dumb. What, you only got gravel for brains? How many times did the stupid stick hit you anyway? Be quiet and don't make a fool -- well, a bigger fool of yourself." Timed writings are about shutting that guy up.
      Not that I am a big believer in just letting it all hang out. After you get the words down on paper, you need to go back and polish them. I believe most things benefit from editing. I recently watched the movie Titanic on home video. It's a long, long, long movie. By the end of it, I would have torpedoed the ship just to get it over. And as I type right now, I am making many -- a few -- really, just a couple -- okay -- one error which I will go back and fix after the timed writing is over. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to understand it -- which might not be a bad thing entirely.
      My 15 minutes is up so I have added another 15 so that I can finish this. In other words, I am two-timing my timed writing. (That was a lot of work to get that joke in there, and I'm not sure it was worth the effort. Let me know.)
      The idea of a time limit could easily be adapted to political speeches. We give each candidate 15 minutes to speak -- I mean total including radio and television ads -- and then we vote. We wouldn't be any less informed than we are now, and the candidates would have less time with which to lie.
      I have run out of things to write at this time. When this happens to my students, I tell them to write positive thoughts until their brain kicks back in, such as "I am a good writer," "I do a good job," "I am God's gift to women," "Lucy Lawless wants me," "I will be rich and lord it over my snotty neighbors" and so on. Don't write negative thoughts. Timed writings are a way to reach your subconscious, and you don't want to be programming bad thoughts.
      Most people think they'll have no problem in writing for only 15 minutes, but when they hear that clock ticking, they freeze up faster than a Republican attempting to name one good quality of former President Clinton. The clock creates an amazing sense of pressure that stops some people cold. But I tell them to continue putting words on paper as fast as they can.
      You put enough pressure on your creativity cork, and eventually it will blow free, surprising you with what it gives you. Like, for instance, a blog entry.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


I love squash.

I feel a bit sick ...

      Working for a living would be okay if you just didn't actually have to go to work. You know what I mean: the sun is shining, love is in the air, songs are being sung, Republicans are accepting illegal campaign contributions, Democrats are lying, babies are being born, and there you sit at work, contributing nothing to the great and unending process of life.
      You could call in sick. Don't look so shocked. We're all adults here and can handle such subject matter. Don't say you haven't considered it. All of us have.
      In high school, I never skipped class. I was one of those revolting students who enjoyed learning, taking notes, cleaning the room and -- I shudder to mention this -- running small personal errands for the teacher. I know, I know, but everyone has a shameful secret. That I was a teacher's pet just happens to be mine. So I was in class whenever there was class.
      Of course, in my high school, you had to go somewhere. You couldn't stay in the halls because it was dangerous. During the energy crisis (Remember that? OPEC?) my school came up with the dark idea of turning off the hall lights to conserve electricity. Some students believed it was because the teachers enjoyed seeing us stumble into walls. I didn't believe it even though the laughter from the teachers' lounge was suspicious. But you heard that a lot, particularly after the monthly locker search for marijuana. Our school board was proud that none was ever found.
      Unfortunately, the halls had no other lighting. Walking to class was an adventure as you fought off bats, discovered lost cities inhabited by apes, and out-smarted the vicious fungus on the water fountain that was known to leer at Melinda, the head cheerleader.
      Ah, Melinda ...
      Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, skipping class. I didn't do it. And I don't skip work. For one thing, my creditors are particular about being paid. For another, my parents imposed a strong work ethic that has always been a bane to my lazy nature. But they also gave me incredible intelligence, good looks and awesome humility so I shouldn't complain.
      I sit there at work, day after day, moving paper from pile A to pile B to pile C. On an exciting day, I sometimes move paper from pile A to pile C, skipping B completely. Once I had a pile D, but you can't expect that kind of thrill all the time.
      A former secretary of mine, however, was a master of calling in sick. She missed work for: stomach trouble, female problems, flu, sprained ankle, summer cold, fall fever, winter cold, spring allergies, infected toenail, rash, boils, etc. I fully expected her to have leprosy and miss work because a limb dropped off. Our boss thought of firing her, but she needed to come to work so that he could tell her. I've wondered if she had another job.
      From observing her, I can pass on these tips if you choose to call in sick.
      Stomach trouble works as a great excuse. It is vague enough that no one will expect a lot of medical terms, but also easy for you to give disgusting details if you have to. Our secretary was so talented at description that I saw her make strong men flinch and proud women cry.
      Choose a day on which no projects are due. Otherwise, you may make your boss angry enough that she gives you plenty of time to be sick at home.
      Make sure that you have a doctor that knows you. If a note is required, you can go to him and claim to have stomach troubles. He'll take your temp, prescribe some sugar pills and write you a note. Two weeks later you will receive a bill for four thousand dollars.
      Take off on sunny days and rainy days so that there is no pattern. This may mean that you have to take off days when you really don't want to, but you will just have to suffer ... or something like that.
      When you return to work, act as if you're grateful to be back, like you actually were sick and not just watching soap operas and game shows and eating chocolates. Do this well and you will even get sympathy, grudging perhaps but sympathy none the less.
      Trust me, it worked for her.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A great love

      One of the great loves in my life is poetry. (Thought I was going to say Lucy Lawless, didn’t you?) But most people dislike poetry, having been tortured in high school by having to read poems which were drier than a Republican’s heart and as confusing as a Democrat’s budget.
      People need another chance to learn to appreciate what good poetry has to offer. The following excerpts are from some of my favorite poems. They are well worth looking up and reading aloud.
      For example, take the stirring, age-defying words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892) in this excerpt from Ulysses:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
      Or how about this short comment on life lived fast from “The First Fig” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950):
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
It gives a lovely light!
      An excellent defense of a good day’s work and a life lived in honest labor is found in “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882):
Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.
      In “The First Elegy,” Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) confronts the beauty and power of the infinite:
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’
hierarchies? And even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
In that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
      Ever so often, one of my students in my poetry classes will ask me to choose my favorite poem. It’s impossible. Different poems are my favorites at different times as they each have a message to impart, but they have all enriched my life.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

One of my favorite poets

      Paul Lawrence Dunbar was the first African-American poet and novelist to achieve national and international fame. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, June 27, 1872, and was the son of former slaves. Dunbar was known for his use of dialect, but was also an accomplished poet and novelist in standard English. At age seventeen he published his own newspaper, the Dayton Tattler, an African-American newspaper printed by his high school classmate and friend, Orville Wright of the Wright Brothers. His first book of poems, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1893. Dunbar published many books of poetry, novels and music during his short life. He died in Dayton on February 6, 1906. He was only 33 years old.
      In junior high, I stumbled across the below poem in a collection of poems. It stunned me with its power and pain. I copied it into a notebook, but the author's name got torn off over the years, and I couldn't recall it. I finally found the poem on the Net and then was able to purchase some of his books. What a true, strong voice he had. He died too soon, and the world is the lesser for it.

WE WEAR THE MASK

By Paul Lawrence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

      Learn more about Dunbar at the University of Ohio's Paul Lawrence Dunbar site. His work is worth the search.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Regret tonight

      You don't read this blog. Or maybe you do.
      I wouldn't expect you to. You've gone on to a new love. Or maybe not.
      You see, I don't know. We haven't spoken in a long time. But tonight I was listening to the radio, and a song played that made me think of you. I know it's a cliche, and we both hate cliches. It wasn't even a song that I can remember us listening to, but it reminded me of when we were together.
      Somehow, maybe because of all this time in between, I can mostly remember only the good. The bad ending doesn't seem so bad now. Funny, huh?
      For a moment, I indulged myself. I thought of what I should have said, what I should have done, how I could have made things work out differently. I like to think that if I had known how much I would miss you, miss your wit, your smile, your wisdom, that if I had known, I would have been smarter. I would have made the right decisions that would have kept us together, would have kept our love growing despite all the things against it.
      I know better, of course.
      I know that nothing is served by this look at the past.
      We made mistakes. We paid for them. It's different now. We're different now. And we can't go back.
      But I wanted to say -- even though you'll never read this or if you do, I won't ever know -- that you're remembered with love. That I regret losing you. But I won't ever regret knowing you.
      The song ended. I have work to do.

All alone I came into this world
All alone I will someday die
Solid stone is just sand and water, baby,
Sand and water, and a million years gone by.

I will see you in the light of a thousand suns
I will hear you in the sound of the waves
I will know you when I come, as we all will come
Through the doors beyond the grave.

All alone I came into the world
All alone I will someday die
Solid stone is just sand and water, baby,
Sand and water, and a million years gone by.


By Beth Nielsen Chapman and Bill Lloyd
from the CD sand and water

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Sex and the Single Novelist

      No one is reading me tonight so I can write anything. All the responsible adults are watching the election. I check in occasionally on the results, but I'm not needed there. Since everyone is gone, I can talk about sex. That's right. SEX. Catch your breath.
      In my fantasy novel, which is a love story as much as it's an adventure story, my characters have a couple of scenes where they have a bit of fun. I wanted to give enough details so that the reader could realize that they were having hot monkey love, but not so much that it caused an "ewww" reaction as they held the book.
      I went to my local library, waited until right before closing, and then checked out ten modern romance novels. I was pretty sure I'd know the plots of the book: girl meets boy, he treats her badly, they fight the whole book, and then they fall into bed as the last page is turned.
      Man, am I out of date! They fall into bed a lot sooner and more often these days. Many times. The rest of the plot is still the same, but they're doing the naughty and doing it with a lot of detail. A lot of detail. Of course, they don't use clinical terms to describe the sex -- apparently that would kill the mood -- instead we are treated to phrases (and I didn't make up any of these) like "his throbbing man-shaft of pleasure iron," "her snow white, silky soft nursing mounds," and one that I had to read twice to fully appreciate it: "her undulating cavern of velvet passion."
      Cavern?! My gosh, how big is this woman? Do they give tours? Is her last name Carlsbad? And that undulating couldn't be good. She needs to see a doctor and fast. And "pleasure iron?" I showed that part of a book to a female friend of mine, and she said, "Ouch." Then she borrowed the book.
      And the way they talked during sex. This is quoted from Passion's Rogue. "She spread her arms wide and cried out, "I cannot wait! Take me now. Fill my senses with your savage love. Let me fly among the heavens. Let us soar to the stars above, my love, and we will shine among the hosts." Look, lady, he's a guy, not a space shuttle.
      I was shocked by the graphic nature of the books. As I read them over and over and over, I kept wondering what is this world coming to? And these were at the public library. Not in a brown paper wrapper or anything.
      Still, reading those books was informative and helpful. I learned what phrases I would not be using in my book. In fact, I think they might just shake hands and let go at that. Any more than that and it could cause undulating, and none of us want that. I don't think we do. Do we?

Mimosa pods. © 2004. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 01, 2004

News Briefs

      Earlier today, TECH of 51313 Harbor Street mailed his book off to an agent. "It was a great relief," Tech said. "I hadn't realized how much pressure was on me until it was gone." When asked of his plans, TECH said he was going to give the book "a rest" for a week and then pick it back up and do more polishing and editing on it then. He doesn't expect to hear from the agent until the end of November or the beginning of December. We'll keep you posted.
      In other news, TECH voted today. He went to the county courthouse and was able to vote early, thus avoiding the crowds tomorrow. He said, "Go out and vote. Be heard."
      And finally in a surprise move, TECH announced that he was continuing his daily word goal. "I have a couple of projects beside the book so I'm going to concentrate on them as well as the book," he said. "I plan on having the final polish rewrite done on the book by Christmas, although I'm not sure I will ever be done with it until it's finally published."
      Back to you.