Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jones Soda Dessert Pack: Lemon Meringue Pie

Well, next up should be one of the Christmas Pack sodas, but the next one in line is Christmas Ham flavor, and since I don't feel all that well today to begin with, I'm going to give it a pass for the moment. Instead, I'll do another selection from the Dessert Pack, Lemon Meringue Pie. Sorry for wussing out, but don't worry--I will drink the Christmas Ham soda in the New Year.

To go with Lemon Meringue Pie soda, I'm listening to assorted songs by Oranges & Lemons, best known for the opening and closing themes to the anime Azumanga Daioh ("Soramimi Cake" and "Raspberry Heaven" respectively.)

Lemon Meringue Pie soda is the same cloudy, pale yellow color of lemonade. So that works. The picture on the bottle appears to depict a piece of lemon meringue pie that has been splattered against a wall.

The message under the bottle cap says, "Serious trouble will bypass you." Of course, if it bypasses me, how will I know that I've missed anything? Still, it's a nice thought, that whatever happens, I have magically dodged something much worse.

The aroma of this soda is absolutely perfect, with the right balance of lemon and meringue. It smells exactly like the real pie.

The flavor likewise perfectly replicates the flavor of the pie. I don't really get any sense of the crust like I did with the apple and cherry pie flavors, but I don't think that's a big minus. Overall, it's quite delicious.

I'll be out of town visiting family over the next two days, so the soda reviews are on hold until January 2. See you then!

Oh, and for those of you have been waiting with bated breath for updates (that would probably be nobody) . . .

1. Although I didn't get sick from the few sips of Apple Pie soda I took while writing the review, I did get an upset stomach after finishing off the bottle later in the day. So I guess even "natural flavors" are enough to get me.

2. The antibiotics didn't work. My teeth still hurt like the dickens, and I'm still taking uncomfortably high doses of ibuprofen to keep the pain in check. Of course, because of the holiday, it will be Wednesday before I can contact my dentist's office to beg for the next treatment option, whatever that might be. Oh well. Such is life.

Everyone, have a happy and safe New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jones Soda Dessert Pack: Cherry Pie

The next selection from the Jones Soda Dessert Pack is Cherry Pie. Seriously, this one would be about impossible to mess up, so if it's not good, I'll go into shock. And cherry pie is one of my favorite pies, right after strawberry rhubarb and French silk, so it's a flavor I know well. (Digression: I wish Jones would make a strawberry-rhubarb flavor! That'd be awesome!)

Now despite the fact that the soda is cherry pie flavored, the picture on the label is of a guy eating either turtle or Snickers pie. I see chocolate, caramel, nuts, etc. You'd think they would have picked a picture of a cherry pie, or at least some cherries. But, whatever.

Anyway, the music choice for this bottle is the only song in my collection that has "cherry" in the title, "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall.

The message under the cap says, "Good news is on the way." Bad news, too, I expect. Both are always true at any given time.

The soda is the same clear red color of any number of other cherry sodas I've had. None of the murky cloudiness of the apple pie soda here. The smell, however, is actually different from other cherry sodas. As with the apple pie soda, I get a whiff of flour, that wonderful pastry crust aroma.

And the taste, too, has the crust flavor mixed with the cherry. And the cherry flavor has that appropriate syrupy taste, like real pie filling. We have another winner. The taste is not merely cherry, but really and truly cherry pie.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jones Soda Christmas Pack: Sugar Plum

The next bottle in the Jones Soda Christmas Pack is Sugar Plum. I expect this one to be good.

What is a sugar plum? All I know is "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" and "Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads." Is it a plum coated in sugar? Is it a confection made in the shape of a plum or with plum flavoring? I just don't know.

Consultation with Wikipedia tells me, "A sugar plum is a piece of candy that is made of sugar and shaped in a small round or oval shape." Okay, that's sort of helpful. But I still don't know what a sugar plum is supposed to taste like, so I won't be able to judge whether the soda's flavor is accurate; only whether it is good.

To get into the proper spirit, I'm listening to "A Mad Russian's Christmas" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a kicking arrangement of pieces from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, including "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies."

The soda is a beautiful shade of dusky lavender. It's definitely one of the prettier sodas I've seen. The picture on the label depicts a startled guy trying to catch a falling Christmas tree.

The message under the cap is, "You just helped save a child's eyesight. Thank you." I guess that means that Jones donates some percent of their proceeds to help children with vision problems. That's very nice.

The scent has kind of a nondescript artificial tang to it, like Skittles or Starburst candies. It's not the most inviting scent, actually. On second sniff, I can detect the plum.

The taste is not bad. It reminds me just a little of those Japanese Ramune pops. You know the ones with the marble in the bottle neck? (If you don't know what I mean, check your local Asian grocery store to see if they have them. Everyone should experience Ramune at least once. I call them "exploda-pops" because it's nearly impossible to open the bottles without making a mess. But, as usual, I digress.)

Back to the Sugar Plum soda. It's good. I like it. The mild plum flavor is there, but really, the primary flavor is the sweet itself. It's like a hard candy, except without the hard. Given Wikipedia's description, I'd have to say that Jones' Sugar Plum is probably spot-on. In any case, it's really quite tasty, and with every sip, I like it better. I would buy this year-round if it were available.

As the lolcats might say, it is "full of win."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jones Soda Dessert Pack: Apple Pie

I'm going to alternate between the Christmas Pack and Dessert Pack flavors of Jones Soda. Unlike the Christmas Pack, where I'm saving what I expect will be the worst for last, I'm going to get the flavor I'm dreading most out of the way with the Dessert Pack. And for me, that means Apple Pie.

What's wrong with apple pie, you say? Ain't I American?

Well, yes, I'm American. I'm also allergic to apples. Or, at the very least, I get sick whenever I consume anything with real apple in it. And so I am hesitant about the Apple Pie soda. I checked the ingredients carefully, and there is no apple juice. There are "natural and artificial flavors," so it is possible that there is some kind of apple derivative in it. It shouldn't be any more dangerous to me than, say, an apple flavored Jolly Rancher, but still, I'll probably only have a sip or two.

But now you've been warned--I am obviously not going to be able to accurately judge how closely the taste compares to real apple pie. One time I had a piece of saltwater taffy with what I thought was a strange flavor, and it took me ten minutes to figure out that it was apple. My diet had been apple free for so long that I'd forgotten the flavor. So you see, I'm likely to be comparing the soda to that taffy.

In the spirit of "American as apple pie," I'm listening to "Song for America" by Kansas. Yeah, I know, that's just a little cynical. But I like the point of the song--we have a wonderous and beautiful country, but we've trampled and destroyed the land. The implication being, stop--we're already in paradise; we ought to treat it better.

Returning from my digression, the Apple Pie soda is not the bright, unnatural green of Jones' Green Apple flavored soda (which I've obviously never had, but I've seen in stores), but instead a sort of dingy, cloudy beige. It is exactly the color of apple pie filling, so they've got that perfect. The picture on the label, of course, is an apple pie.

The message under the cap says, "A balance is needed between home and business." Don't need to tell me twice. I've got that down.

The scent is very apple-ish. I can't detect anything other than apple in the smell, but that's probably because my defense mechanisms are warning me away.

The flavor is nice. I think I can detect a hint of cinnamon, and even a bit of pastry flavor, which brings to mind a lovely, flaky crust. The apple flavor lacks the nasty weirdness of the apple Jolly Rancher candy or that piece of yucky taffy; it's actually rather pleasant. I expect someone who actually eats apples and apple pie might find it a fairly accurate reproduction of the flavor.

Unlike with the Egg Nog soda, the cane sugar flavor does not stand out. All I taste is Apple Pie, which is how it should be.

Well, I've had a couple swallows. Now I'm going to put the rest in the fridge. If my body isn't rebelling within the next hour, I'll assume that whatever "natural flavors" are present are so far removed from the apple that they won't affect me, and I'll be able to enjoy the rest of the soda without hesitation.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Jones Soda Christmas Pack: Egg Nog

Fabulous news! Well, for me, anyway. Indifferent news for everyone else. I may not need a root canal. The constant, throbbing pain in my teeth may just be an infection. My dentist started me on antibiotics and said I should be feeling relief within a day or so. Hooray! Because for the last four days (the weekend and the two-day holiday while the dentist's office was closed) I've been having near constant fantasies about ripping those two teeth out of my jaw with pliers. Yes, I realize that in the short term, that probably would have hurt rather significantly more, but I was imagining the long term payoff of those aching teeth just being gone.

Anyway . . . who cares but me, right? Onward to something more interesting, the first bottle from this year's Jones Soda Christmas Pack. I'm going to start off with a flavor I actually expect to be pretty good: Egg Nog. To stay in the Christmas spirit, I'm still listing to carols. Right now, I'm listing to "Joy to the World" in Japanese ("Morobito Kozorite" sung by a chorus featuring Iwao Junko).

The Egg Nog soda is very yellow, much more so than real egg nog. And of course, being soda, it is clear. In other words, it looks not so much like egg nog as a substance one hands to one's physician in a tiny plastic cup. I'm going to do my best to keep the visual out of my head, instead focusing on the cute snowman picture on the label.

The message under the cap says, "Encourage tranquility if you are feeling agitated." Can't argue with that sound advice.

The scent is just a little eggy and just a little noggy. With my eyes closed, I can easily deceive myself into imagining that it's the real thing.

With the first sip, the dominant flavor I noticed was actually the cane sugar. Now, I love cane sugar sodas, however, it really works to the disadvantage of the egg nog effect. The sweet should not overwhelm the other flavors, but here, it really does. But of course, the biggest detriment to the egg nog effect is, of course, texture. Soda can not mimic the creamy, mouth-coating thickness of real egg nog. This ends up being rather more like cream soda with a hint of nutmeg.

It is, at least, very tasty and enjoyable.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bad Teeth and Weird Soda

Merry Christmas!

I've been fighting a toothache since I broke a lower left molar two weeks ago. It's been worse since the first phase of my repair work on Monday (when I got temporary crowns on the shattered tooth and an adjacent tooth that was badly damaged), and I've been in so much pain this whole weekend that as soon as my dentist's office opens on Wednesday after the holiday, I'm going to be calling and begging for a root canal. (Or a double root canal, since I can't tell which tooth is worse. They both seem to be causing an equal amount of agony.) Probably best to get that done before the permanent crowns are on.

The tooth that broke? It happened when I was eating a piece of soft peppermint. The dentist said my tooth was in such bad shape I could have been eating a marshmallow and it would have still happened. Apparently those old silver-amalgam fillings, of which I have many, expand and contract with heat and cold, and so eventually, they can break a tooth apart in the same way potholes form in roads. Oh, goody. That probably means I can look forward to more problems in the future. If you have any of those old silver-amalgam fillings, you might want to have your dentist give them a close looking-over.

I'm essentially eating and drinking normally, so long as I chew only on the right side. Sure it hurts, but it's not as bad as a migraine, so I can function.

Which brings me to the actual reason for this post--the first of this year's round of Jones Soda special edition holiday flavors.

A friend gave me both the Christmas Pack and the Dessert Pack. The four flavors in the Christmas Pack are Sugar Plum, Egg Nog, Christmas Tree, and Christmas Ham. The flavors in the Dessert Pack are Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Blueberry Pie, and Lemon Merangue Pie. Most of those sound okay, except for Christmas Tree. I can't even imagine how nasty that's going to be. So I plan on making that one the very last one I try.

I'm planning to do the same as last year--drink one soda a day and blog the experience. I will start after Christmas. But for now, to tide you over, I'll review a couple of the Jones holiday flavors that are available outside the special box sets. I bought a four-pack of Christmas Cocoa flavor, and when I got it home I discovered that someone in the store swapped one of the bottles for Gingerbread Man. So I got two flavors without even intending to.

I had the first bottle of Christmas Cocoa a couple of days ago. I'm not sure what it tastes like, but it is most assuredly not cocoa. It reminds me of a chocolate soda I had when I was a little kid. I don't remember the brand name, and I don't think it was on the market very long, but the Jones Christmas Cocoa really trips my memory, so I think it must be essentially the same flavor. It wasn't very good back then, either. It's one of those things where you take a sip, smack your lips, furrow your brow, and think, "What eees it, man?" It's somewhat odd and disconcerting.

Tonight, I will have that bottle of Gingerbread Man soda. Opening it now . . .

The message in the bottlecap says, "A tantalizing prospect will come your way." How very fortune cookie. "Tantalizing" could well refer to a yummy Christmas dinner. Actually, at this point, "tantalizing" could also refer to that root canal. Oh, what sweet relief that would bring! But back to the soda . . .

It is a pale amber color, very pretty. The aroma is definitely ginger, with a hint of spice. The flavor is very good, like a smooth, mild ginger ale. The spicing isn't as apparent in the taste as in the scent, although there is just a hint of molasses. All in all, a very pleasant, comfortable flavor. I may have to get a couple packs of it if it goes on clearance after the holiday.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Peace and blessings upon you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Canada Goose

I made this little Canada goose tonight, for my dad's Christmas present. (He doesn't have a computer, so there's no danger of him seeing this picture before Christmas.) He always wants me to sculpt something for his gift, rather than buying anything, but he usually gives me complete latitude to pick the subject. This year, for the first time I can remember, he actually had a specific request. He wanted a Canada goose to go with the mallard I made back in 1989, just over half my lifetime ago.

So I present the goose and the duck together, along with a penny for scale.

The duck was made with Fimo, which was the only kind of clay I had back then. If you can't tell, that's a slice of bread in its bill. For as long as I can remember, Dad and I have always gone out to feed the ducks and geese in the park.

The goose was made with a mix of Fimo, Promat, and Granitex. I didn't have a shade of brown I liked for the wings, so I mixed glittery dark brown Fimo and "stone" flecked light brown Granitex. I really expected the end result to have a bit more texture to it, given that both components have speckles, but it looks almost matte. I'm a little bummed that a small bubble formed during the baking, marring the goose's white cheek. But I think it still looks pretty decent overall.

And just for grins, here's the real thing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rest in Peace, Reuben Kee

I was saddened to learn of the passing last week of Reuben Kee (1984-2007), widely known simply as "Reu" by fans. I did not know him, but I loved his music. He was a very talented young pianist, and seeing his name attached to a piece of music, I would leap to download it. I never had to wonder if I would like it. I knew I would. His work was always magnificent. I am sad to know that the world will never hear a new track from him.

Some of his arrangements of music from video games are available at OverClocked Remix. I especially recommend "Ascension to Cosmo Canyon," in my opinion, the most powerful and moving arrangement of Nobuo Uematsu's "Cosmo Canyon" in existence.

The rest of his work is available at his own website. I only learned of this site today, so there is much there I have not heard. Based on the 17 tracks by Reu in my iTunes playlist, though, I am sure they are all wonderful.

Rest in peace, Reu. You brought beauty into the world with your music, and your imprint shall last as long as people listen.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Awakening

I picked up the new Melissa Etheridge album, The Awakening. In the booklet, after sharing a bit about her battle with cancer and chemotherapy and the stillness and spiritual journey it forced upon her, she wrote, "If you are able, I hope you would take an hour out of your day, be still, and listen to this album from beginning to end." And I thought I would try to honor the wishes of the artist, so I set the album aside until I had time and inclination to be still.

It sat for quite a while.

Finally I decided I was going to listen to it anyway, even if I couldn't be still to do it. So I put it in while I cooked and ate dinner tonight. By the third song, I was in tears. When I finished my meal, I went and lay on the couch until the album was finished, just listening.

These are songs of power. They are distinct and individual works, but they also comprise a cohesive whole. A few short interludes, like brief refrains that have strayed away from their songs and made their own way into the world, serve as punctuation between the sections of the album. The album is haunting, full of pain and sorrow. It is also full of hope, compassion, and peace. This is the kind of music that can churn the sediment at the bottom of your soul and dredge it to the surface, where the light can burn it away.

If you listen to music to cheer you up, this album is not for you. If you listen to music to feed your sorrow or your rage, this is not for you either. If you just want your music to be a background distraction, this is definitely not for you. (Not that there's anything wrong with using music in any of those ways. I routinely use music for all those things.) But if you want music you must sit down and experience, that demands the same focus and thoughtful attention as reading a novel or studying a great painting, then give The Awakening a listen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lesbigaytrs and Giblets

A couple nights ago, at the Nebraska Library Association conference, I attended a GLBT & Ally mixer, where I heard a couple of new terms for queerfolk. (Well, new to me, anyway.)

First, "Lesbigaytr." (Break it down: Les-Bi-Gay-Tr[ansgender].)

Behold the adorable, cuddly Lesbigaytr! Wai! Huggles!

The other term I heard was "giblets" (GBLTs). Bwa ha ha ha ha!

What all did we talk about at a GLBTA mixer? Mostly zombies. Why? I have no idea. It just happened. Oh, sure, we occasionally forayed into serious topics, like providing safe restroom access for transitioning individuals, and into fun topics, like favorite books and movies, but somehow, the conversation kept returning to zombies. So really, it was more of a GLBTZ mixer. But still, loads of fun.

Hope Blessing Ring

The weather is fabulous today, so I took a short walk around my neighborhood. On the sidewalk a few blocks away, I found what looked like a metal washer, except that the hole in the center had an X through it. I picked it up and turned it over, discovering that the X was the crossed part of a ribbon, molded from the same dull-gray pewter. It had been stepped on a few times, and the top of the ribbon's loop had been scraped along the sidewalk, making it rough and jagged, but also brilliantly shiny.

Around the washer were inscribed the words, "Hope Blessing Ring." Since the ribbon had no special color, it could be interpreted as an awareness ribbon for breast cancer, AIDS, or any other cause one wanted to align it with. Since it wasn't obviously intended for any single cause, I chose to interpret as an overall hope blessing for any and every aspect of life.

I resumed my walk, flipping the ring in the air and catching it as I tend to do with any little thing that happens to be in my hand. I fumbled a catch, though, and the ring bounced off my fingertips and into the grass of the unnamed park (really just a triangle of grass with a graffiti-covered park bench and a twisted, smashed tree bearing the wounds of many storms). I dug through the grass for a while, but never found the ring. So I guess I wasn't meant to have it.

I like to imagine that it will find its way to someone who needs a blessing of hope. And that could truly be anyone. In what time or place has there ever been a person who did not need hope?

Maybe a year from now some kid with a metal detector will find it. Maybe twenty years from now, a construction worker digging the area up to lay a foundation will spot it glinting in the dirt. Maybe a thousand years from now, it will come into the hands of an archaeologist excavating a landfill. Maybe it will never again be seen by human eyes, and the blessing was just for me, the person who dropped it on the sidewalk, and you few who read this blog. Who can know?


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Indian Cave State Park

I went to Indian Cave State Park with my mom and stepdad yesterday. What a wonderful, beautiful place. The weather was perfect, too. Overcast and cool. It got a lot colder as the day went on, but never unpleasantly so. A great day for being out and about.

There are a several excellent petroglyphs of animals like this. Unfortunately, there are many, many more modern-day names and initials carved into the rock. The present-day vandals are destroying the ancient art.

On the other hand, in a thousand years, maybe people visiting the site will consider the initials and names to be ancient art, as well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Feral Martians of Venus

Last night at my friend's monthly movie, we saw a 1962 science fiction film from the Soviet Union. The title on the screen was in Russian, which I don't read, subtitled as Planet of Storms. The box had the title Planeta Burg. I don't know which one is a more accurate translation, but you've got to admit that Planet of Storms sounds a whole lot better than Planeta Burg.

I'll say right from the top . . . this was a bad movie. It was interesting from a cultural perspective. How often do Americans get the opportunity to see Communist era Russian flicks? As with the couple of Communist era Czech movies I've seen, the characters all have a sort of glum fatalism. As one of my friends said, "They're all emo!" Apparently, life under Communist rule just plain sucked, even if you were a cosmonaut.

Three ships, with three crew members apiece, went to Venus. Right at the beginning of the movie, an asteroid came from nowhere and destroyed one of the ships. In the aftermath of the disaster, the survivors were supposed to stay in orbit over Venus and wait for another ship to come from Earth, so they could do their mission with a full crew as planned.

Thing is, they got bored. So the five men took their crappy robot and headed down planetside, leaving the only female crew member alone in orbit, where she would struggle with space madness, which looked a whole lot like bipolar disorder.

The guys got separated. One group of three had a nifty hover car that looked right out of The Jetsons. They cruised around and had a grand old time while searching for their companions. They found a crude sculpture of a dragon, which proved the presence of intelligent life on Venus. They did not even consider the possibility that it may have evolved there. No, they came to the conclusion that Martians must have colonized Venus, and the reason the artwork was so primitive was that the civilization fell and the people reverted to savages. Yes, that's right, Venus is populated by feral Martians. Oh, and dinosaurs. Did I mention the dinosaurs? Yep. Venus, home to feral Martians and cheap rubber dinosaurs.

Keep in mind that they never explicitly stated that they had encountered Martians at any point in the history of space exploration, nor even that they had found any form of life whatsoever on Mars. It's just an unstated assumption that Mars was obviously the site of the first great civilization in the solar system. They even hinted at the idea that Earth was also a Martian colony. So we, too, are feral Martians.

Meanwhile, the other two guys, with their clunky, junky robot, had a big bag of suck. A carnivorous tentacle plant tried to eat them, they caught malaria, and then they got stranded in the middle of a surging river of lava. First of all . . . malaria? The guys started feeling a little sick, so they jumped to the conclusion that it's malaria?

As they lost consciousness, the robot made contact with the group in the hover car. The hover car group asked the robot where his masters were, and the robot spouted off that he had no masters; he was a free machine. Unimpressed, the guys told the robot to give medicine to the ill crew members. So the robot got the pills from the pack, spilled them all over the ground, rubbed them in the Venusian dirt, then with no small effort managed to pick one up with its clumsy, stumpy, poorly engineered club of a hand. Then the robot flipped open the guy's space helmet, dropped the pill in his mouth, and poured water all over his face, managing to splash some few drops in his mouth. I'm not sure if the robot was trying to kill him them or just incompetent, but the scene was unintentionally hilarious.

Presumably, the robot repeated this procedure with the other guy, although the audience was spared the spectacle. The amazing thing was, the guys actually recovered from their "malaria." Yes, a few healthy gasps of Venusian air and a pill covered in dirt and alien microbes was just what the doctor ordered.

So why did they put their helmets back on? Seriously? The credibility was ruined at this point.

And the robot . . . it just got worse and worse. With technology advanced enough to build a bipedal robot that would play music like a walking mp3 player and occasionally wax eloquent on philosophy, they couldn't even waterproof it? A little rain, and it had to run off and hide in a cave? Oh, but while a weak drizzle would destroy the robot, it was perfectly capable of strolling through knee-deep flowing lava.

What happened to the robot in the end? Did the cosmonauts meet any Venusians? Or did they get eaten by dinosaurs? Did the lonely woman in orbit die of boredom, or did she succumb to space madness and send her ship--the crew's only hope of returning to earth--careening down to the planet's surface? If you actually care enough to want the answers to these questions, you'll have to watch the movie for yourself. If you love B-movies, especially if you enjoy mocking them MST3K-style as you watch, put it on your must-see list.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Coming Out Day

Last night, I was writing a post about why I wasn't going to come out to anyone new for National Coming Out Day. I had lots of excuses: it seems pointless when I'm single, I've been date-free for so long that I'm really more asexual than lesbian, and, mostly, I'm afraid. Not afraid of physical harm or anything so dramatic, but afraid of rejection, of having someone I love telling me I wasn't welcome in their home, that they didn't want anything to do with me. As I wrote the paragraph saying that I was afraid to come out to anyone in my family besides the three who have known for years, I typed the following sentence:

I suppose I should have more faith in the people I love.

And I sat there and stared at that sentence for a long, long time and thought about it. Really thought about it.

Coming out isn't about stirring up trouble or making some kind of statement. It's about honesty. The point of National Coming Out Day, I think, is not about making more straight people realize there are gays in their lives. It's really for the gay people. It's about overcoming our fears and breaking holes in the often very thick, very high walls we've built around our hearts. It's about healing the wounds we've given ourselves.

So I decided that I would come out to one person. One member of my family who I love dearly and wish I could be closer to. I paced the floor and stared at the phone. I picked it up and put it down several times. I remember looking at the clock and thinking that if I procrastinated long enough, it would be bedtime and I'd be off the hook.

Finally, I managed to actually dial the number and call my stepsister. After some hemming and hawing and false starts, I told her I was gay. She was great. She said it didn't matter to her one way or the other, and I'd always be welcome with her.

I can not describe the relief I felt. The relief of knowing that no matter what, I am loved and welcome. The relief of learning that my fears were unfounded.

Pushing past my fear like that was emotionally exhausting. I'm not about to rush forward and come out to everyone else in my family right away. It may be another year, or two, or ten, before I can build the courage back up for the next one.

But for now, I have healed one wound in my heart, and I am a little more free.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone. May your lives be filled with love and your fears proven baseless.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dinosaurs Alive 3D

I took a half-day of vacation today, to escape the chemical fumes in my workplace. (They're applying some kind of top-coat to the floor in the basement, but the smell got pretty strong on every floor.) I went to the zoo for a walk. I wish I'd taken my camera, because there was a monkey in the sloth's tree, hanging upside down like a sloth. Also, they have new reedy sea dragons in the aquarium, and they're exquisitely beautiful. Plus the black-footed cat and Mai the three-legged tiger both have babies.

After my walk, I decided to see the Dinosaurs Alive 3D film at the zoo's IMAX theater. Alas, that turned out to be a big disappointment. The computer animated dinosaurs were rather disappointing. I've seen better animation in low-budget kids' movies. Plus they went to all the trouble of making it 3D, but they ruined any potential sense of realism that may have provided by skimping on the interaction between the dinosaurs and their environments. Dinosaurs would walk across desert sand and leave no footprints. The perfect wind-ripples upon the sand were completely undisturbed by the ferocious to-the-death battle happening upon them. Sometimes the animation overlaid on the filmed background was not lined up quite right, so the dinosaurs seemed to be sliding or drifting a little with each step. I'm not even sure they consistently remembered to have the dinosaurs actually cast shadows.

Then the 3D effects themselves were bad. This wasn't the old-style red lens/blue lens style of 3D, but you still needed glasses. The technology wasn't explained and I'm too lazy to look it up, but I assume it has to do with polarization of the light or something along those lines. Anyway, for objects in the middle depth, it worked fine. For distant things, there was no sense of depth at all. For close-up things, the effect broke down. Items had ghost images around them where the two components of the film didn't come back together. So the ghosty double-vision close-ups actually ended up giving me a headache. At times I ended up closing one eye so I could just watch it 2D.

Then the content of the film itself was somewhat lacking. It was only 45 minutes long, and I'd have to guess that the actual animated dinosaur sequences totaled somewhere in the 5-10 minute range, including the several repeated scenes. Most of it was spent on the paleontology grad students, and it came off as really, really staged. I'm sure all documentaries are staged to some degree, but this just seemed extra bad. It seems more like a poorly scripted paleontology recruitment film than anything.

Plus I don't trust their facts. Near the end, they said something to the effect of "only two percent" of all dinosaur species have been discovered. How do they know that? You can't give a percentage known for a predominantly unknown body of knowledge. There is no whole to calculate it against. Maybe we've only found one percent. Maybe we've actually found 20, 30, 50, or 90 percent. The thing is, it is impossible to know. It's one thing to say, "we think that we may have discovered as little as two percent of what's out there to be found," but quite another to assert as a fact, "we've only found two percent." The first is speculation. The second is a lie.

All in all, I'd say skip Dinosaurs Alive 3D. Not worth the time or money, or the headache.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Book Review: Writing My Love

I just finished reading a cute, charming lesbian romance novel called Writing My Love by Claire McNab (Tallahassee, FL: Bella Books, 2006). The premise is an author wooing her editor by writing a romance novel with thinly disguised versions of themselves as the lead characters. It's as much a comedy about the writing process as a romance novel, and as such it's hilarious with its digressions on the use of italics for emphasis, rhetorical questions, alliteration, telling vs. showing, and so on.

Some of the literary jokes are subtle. Wandering point of view is a common problem in novels, and the novel that the character is writing is full of awkward point of view shifts. However, the main story is perfectly solid in its point of view, proving that McNab knows what she's doing. Also, the character's vehement protests against the accusation that she writes purple prose are written in the deepest shade purple I have seen in a long time. That's just a tiny sample of the delights that permeate this book.

Recommended highly not only to lesbians looking for a sweet romance story, but also to all writers, gay and straight, with a sense of humor about the creative process.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Root Beer Milk, Part II

Well, my attempts to mix my own root beer milk have been met with epic failure. Even though I used the finest ingredients--farm fresh milk and upscale all-natural root beer--I couldn't get the taste right. The sweetness of the root beer is not by itself enough to make the beverage as a whole sweet. So I'm guessing that Burbach's dairy adds sugar to offset the non-sweetness of the milk. When I added a spoonful of sugar to my cup, the flavor was almost right. However, the sugar didn't dissolve fully in the cold liquid, and thus my drink had texture. Eeek!

So I'll just buy the Burbach milk when I want a treat.

Ten Pennies

Taking a walk this afternoon, I came across a stack of ten pennies. It's like finding a dime, only less convenient.

The thing is, someone went to the effort of stacking the pennies and deliberately leaving them along the edge of the walkway.

Why? Seriously, why?

Not that I'm complaining. I'm ten cents richer, and that is always a good thing.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Root Beer Milk

I've recently gotten into the farm-fresh milk in the heavy glass bottles, because it tastes far and away better than all the standard brands of mass-distribution milk. Around my part of Omaha, I can get milk from two local Nebraska farms--Burbach and Legacy. Both are wonderful. Definitely worth the extra cost. I'll never go back to Robert's or Blue Bunny again.

Anyway, these local farms also put out some flavored milk, as well. Chocolate and strawberry, of course, are essentially standard milk flavors. Delicious, but nothing to blog about. However, for today, as my birthday present to myself, I have a bottle of Burbach's root beer milk.

It is brown, a shade or so lighter in color than chocolate milk. Since the base is whole milk, and I'm used to skim, I expect it will be much richer than I'm used to. I'm going to start with just a little tiny cup of it . . .

I'm shaking it first, of course.

Smells good . . . smells really good . . . the root beer smell is very strong, with a powerful dairy current running through it. The scent seems much more like cream than milk.

It is delicious, like a root beer float that has been thoroughly mixed together after all of the ice cream has melted. Honestly, the root beer flavor is not as strong as the scent led me to believe. I could do with a bit more root beer.

On my second cup now. There is . . . not so much an aftertaste as a coating on my tongue. I expect that's more due to the use of whole milk, which is so much thicker than I'm accustomed to.

Final verdict: Good stuff. A little weak for my tastes, but a nice treat.

Although next time I'll just get plain milk and mix it with cane-sugar root beer until I get the flavor balance tuned to my tastes.

Onto my third cup, and now it's time to post.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mysterious Phone Call

I had a bit of an odd experience last night. I was sitting on my couch playing video games. My cell phone, which was in my pocket same as always, rang. Granted, it was an unusual ring, not the tone I have programmed for incoming calls. The display screen announced that the call was from my grandma. When I answered, she seemed a little bewildered. Never in my memory has she called without a specific purpose in mind, so I thought it was odd that she seemed to have nothing in particular to say. After a bit of confusion, we discovered that she thought I had called her and she was waiting for me to get to my point! We talked for a little bit, and afterwards I checked my phone message history. The call was logged as outbound rather than inbound, so it definitely originated with my phone, even though I hadn't touched it.

Has anyone else ever had a cell phone spontaneously make a call on its own?

I hadn't been talking out loud, and the volume was low on the TV, so it shouldn't have been any kind of voice activation thing. Barring supernatural explanations, the best I can come up with is interference from some other device in my home, such as my wireless PlayStation controller or the cordless phone which was off but laying nearby on the table. I suppose if one of my neighbors had something putting off a strong signal, that could have done it, too.

Anyway, it was so strange!

Friday, August 31, 2007

More Cat Pictures

Here's Murphy again. He loves tomatoes. When I bite or cut into a tomato, he can smell it from any room in the apartment, and he comes running. I sat down on the couch after work today with a tomato, and he was all over me trying to steal it. I kept twisting around, moving the tomato away from him, but he was quite persistent. Finally I just let him have a few licks in exchange for a photo op.

And here's Luna, the 16 pound cat, sitting in the tiny box lid from my NIV Study Bible, with that faraway "I am pondering significant things" look on his face. (Don't you believe it!) I love how the map of the Czech Republic is like a halo behind his head. (By the way, the map is on the wall straight. It's just the camera angle that makes it look crooked.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fridge Cat

I opened my fridge to get a snack, and Murphy hopped right on in and made himself at home. He showed no signs of vacating, and once I'd decided my electric bill couldn't stand me holding the door open any longer, I had to forcibly extract him. His fur was very cold, and he seemed mighty miffed over the eviction.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary

Friday at the bookstore, I picked up Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary, by Monica Nolan (New York: Kensington, 2007). The lurid cover, so reminiscent of the 1950s pulps, proclaimed, "Her soul was pure. Her desires were sinful. Her typing was impeccable." How could I resist?

I absolutely devoured this book. It is screamingly hilarious, oozing with purple prose, and sauteed in cheese. In both style and tone, it reminds me very much of my all-time favorite lesbian novels, Mabel Maney's trilogy, The Case of the Not-so-Nice Nurse, The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend, and A Ghost in the Closet, featuring Nancy Clue, Cherry Aimless, and the Hardly Boys. If you like that sort of campy humor, then Lois Lenz is for you.

Lois is a small town cheerleader who moves to the big city for an exciting career as a secretary in 1959. Who knew filing could be so enthralling? The clueless, naive heroine stumbles through the labyrinth of office politics, blackmail, stenography, raging lust, Communists, and a mystery that makes me want to ask where Velma and Scooby are hiding, all while making only one single typo. Best lesbian novel I've read in years! It is grand fun with a cherry on top!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Three C's: Coffee, Candy, and Cataloging

I attended a workshop on cataloging sound recordings today. (It was excellent, by the way. The Nebraska Library Commission always does such a good job.) During the lunch break, a colleague and I ventured forth to find coffee. We spotted big awning that proclaimed in huge letters, "Panache, your neighborhood's best coffee." When we went into the building, the letters on the door identified the place simply as "The Coffee House." My colleague got an iced latte, and I got a "Mex Mocha."

I knew I was in for a higher class of latte when I saw the barista get out the massive glass jug of milk. Yes, they were using real organic farm milk. Oh, heaven! Oh, bliss! As implied by the "Mex," the flavor was more like cocoa than the average mocha-grade chocolate, and there was a nice cinnamon bite to it. I have had "Aztec" or "Mayan" mochas before, but this was by far the best.

Now, perhaps I was just pumped up about the cataloging workshop, or perhaps my brain is just naturally warped, but I actually found myself thinking about the sign on the awning versus the sign on the door. I imagined creating a MARC record for the coffee shop. Hey, librarians catalog much more than books. We catalog tools and artwork and historical artifacts, so I see no reason whatsoever that we couldn't catalog a building. But the question is, would one catalog a building as an architectural structure or a place of business? I suppose that's the difference between cataloging it as a serial or as a single monograph of a numbered series.

Anyway, AACR2 and LCRI probably don't prescribe a chief source of information for a building. Would it be the largest sign, visible from the street? That was my gut reaction. On the other hand, what about the sign on the door? Well, with a book, the chief source is defined as the title page. If you take the awning to be analogous to the cover and the door to the title page, then The Coffee House would be the title proper and Panache would be an alternate title.

Well, a little searching on Google verified that The Coffee House is the official name of the business, and Panache is actually the brand of coffee they serve. However, I found a spot on a UNL webpage referring to "Panache Coffee House" as a co-sponsor of the Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend Conference (how cool is that!), so obviously some Lincoln residents do think of Panache as the name of the business. That's enough justification for inclusion for me. (Add access points based on actual use! Bend those rules! That's what cataloger's judgment is for!)

Anyway, this brought me to:

245 14 $a The Coffee House.
246 1_ $i Sign on awning : $a Panache : $b your neighborhood's best coffee

Those of you who don't work in libraries are looking at that and thinking, "WTF?" Those of you who do work in libraries are looking at it and thinking, "Hey, where's your GMD?" What would be the GMD for a building anyway? Realia?

Anyway, I'm going to stop now, before I lose my non-library readers, if I haven't lost them already.

After returning to Omaha, I made a beeline for my bank. The new presidential dollars were supposed to be released into circulation today, and I was hyper-hyper-hyped for it. Hooray for Thomas Jefferson, our third president on his own shiny gold dollar!

I got to my bank and they didn't have any. They won't have them in until next Wednesday.


Despondent, I trudged over to get some take-out Chinese food and a candy bar for dinner.

Now, about this candy bar . . . it was a Peanut Butter & Banana Creme Reese's Big Cup, "King Size" in honor of Elvis. Now, the idea of peanut butter and bananas together was absolutely appalling to me. However, I have this thing, see--I must try every new flavor of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that comes out, and I must buy it upon first-sighting. It's a requirement. Okay, I lied. It's just an obsession. Anyway, with great trepidation, I bought the PB and banana cups.

To my immense shock, I liked them. It's actually a delicious combination. I'm traumatized and delighted at the same time.

So now I'm stuffed full of Shanghai chicken and peanut butter, banana creme, and chocolate, and I'm still sliding off the caffeine buzz. The PlayStation 2 calls . . .

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Weekend

Yesterday was my grandmother's 90th birthday. She is in excellent health, body and mind. We had a lovely family dinner at her house, celebrating not only my grandma but also my aunt, since they have the same birthday. Grandma had a card shower, and she was hoping to get 90 cards, one for each year. She surpassed that number of cards by quite a few, receiving tidings from as far away as the Czech Republic. So that was quite wonderful.

I wanted to do something special for my card, so I drew it myself. Here's the front.

I thought about coloring the whole thing, but a test version I did on a photocopy ended up looking pretty bad. The brown ink completely obscured all the fine detail on the feathers. So I decided to leave it as a predominantly black and white picture, with only the splash of yellow. I think it worked out okay. I've only recently started using a .38 mm pen to ink my pictures, and I'm liking the effect. I previously used wider pens and went over some sections multiple times to create variable line widths for the illusion of weight and substance. But I'm finding that I like the fine line work better, since it allows for much more detail. In some ways, it's like I'm reverting to an earlier art style, since this is more in keeping with the kind of work I did back in high school. The thick-line style was something I picked up in college, and it gave more cartoony effect. Sometimes that's what I want, but it also feels good to get back to realism sometimes.

On the way home from Grandma's, we got caught in a phenomenally vicious thunderstorm. We had to pull off the highway three times, and on several occasions it seemed like the wind would shove us off the road or roll us over. It was probably one of the worst storms I've ever been caught out in. (I've experienced worse storms on occasion, but always from safely within a building.) Mom was very nervous, and she mentioned that she'd been struck by lightning once. I was a small child at the time, so I have no memory of the event.

This leaves me wondering how I came to like thunderstorms so much. I mean, I respect their power enough to seek shelter and unplug computers and such, but I don't really fear them. Usually children absorb the fears of their parents. That's how it happened with Mom's fear of spiders--I grew up completely terrified of spiders, and I remain so to this day. So, if Mom is (rightfully) afraid of lightning, why is my reaction completely opposite? But I love nothing better than watching a lightning storm (through windows, while I'm safely inside, of course). We had a big thunderstorm last week while I was at work, and I was practically dancing in my office. It improved my mood and morale for the entire day. Thunderstorms are like uppers for me. So I guess I'm aberrant in that respect.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Java Pop

I found another strange soda to try: Java Pop. I keep thinking, "I need to quit drinking soda and cut back on the coffee," and then I see this Mocha Java Pop Coffee Soda on the shelf, and I don't even think twice about grabbing it. I mean, it's two of my vices wrapped up in one! Cane sugar pop and coffee together? How could I resist?

On the positive side, it's fair trade certified and USDA organic. Does that offset the calories and tooth rot?

Well and good, but how does it taste, you ask. Pretty nice, actually. It reminds me of some coffee candies I've had. I can't say that I really notice the "mocha" part of it, but I do detect a definite hint of caramel. Decent stuff. (Although overall I still like the green tea root beer better.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pretty Moth

Behold the beautiful creature that was waiting on my door when I came home from work.

Darned if I know what species it is, though.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

All That and Several Bags of Chips

A friend and I tried to go to the zoo today, but because the weather's so nice, the zoo was insanely crowded. One circle around the parking lot and a glance at the huge lines at the gate (note: this was not right at opening time, either), and we left. We ended up having lunch in the Old Market and shopping a bit. Then we went to Wild Oats.

So there I was at a grocery store specializing in health foods, and what did I get?
  • Two kinds of soda: green tea root beer and white tea pomegranate soda.
  • Two candy bars: a gluten-free vegan chocolate crisp and organic peanut butter cups.
  • Three bags of chips: malt vinegar & sea salt kettle cooked potato chips, yogurt & green onion kettle cooked potato chips, and Snapea Crisps.

Yes, I went to a health food store and bought a load of junk food. It is my nature.

Besides, it's exotic and bizarre junk food!

All right . . . the Snapea Crisps. These are little green snackies made from, yes, peas. Sounds disgusting, or at least disconcerting, but they are fantastically delicious. They are salty, savory, and lightly crunchy, with the texture of baked cheese puffs (but, of course, nothing cheesy about the flavor). They are also incredibly addictive. I ate the whole bag this afternoon. I want to get more, but it would probably be dangerous for me to keep these around the house.

The rest of the goodies I got, I will save for other days. I have already had way, way too many calories for today.

In other junk food news, this week I discovered Blair's Death Rain potato chips at UNO's student center. There are two "medium" rated flavors, and one "xtra, xtra hot" rated one. After trying both of the medium ones, both of which left me sweating, panting, and guzzling water, I think the hot one would be way too much for me to handle. However, the "medium" buffalo wing flavor is so good that I went back the next day for more. If you want something that blasts open your sinus passages while still actually tasting good, these are the chips for you.

And in the realm of junk food for the mind, check out for pages upon pages of silly pictures of cats (and sometimes dogs, hamsters, ferrets, or walruses) with goofy captions. Be warned: if u hatez bad grahmar and mispelings, u will b offendeded.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dogs and Cats Living Together

Last night I hung out at my friend's house and played with her pets. I wanted to visit the good dog again before he got adopted, since she's got some promising leads on homes. So here's a picture of the sweetheart dog I blogged about before, Snickers (on the right), with his sister Taffy (left). Doesn't Snickers have the cutest smile?

Also, as I went around attempting to get pictures of every animal in the house, multiple cats told me in no uncertain terms that my camera's flash is way too bright . . .

I love the expressions on their faces!

I should write more, but I'm tired and groggy after apheresis at the Red Cross.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Charles Bridge Birthday

On this day exactly 650 years ago, the foundation stone for the Charles Bridge was laid by King Charles IV himself. The Charles Bridge, spanning the Vltava River in Prague, is one of my favorite sites in the Czech Republic. In honor of its birthday, here are a couple of my vacation photos from 2005.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Nothing to say but the fun and useless observation that it is 7:07 a.m. on 07-07-07.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Happy Fourth of July! No fireworks from me, but in honor of the holiday, I offer something cool I stumbled across this morning.

This site features an extensive collection of science fiction technologies, broken down by the time period in which the stories were written, and also a collection of recent news articles featuring new technological developments that seem like they were ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel.

For example, did you read about the new memory erasing drug in the news? (Scary stuff, in my opinion. I can see why PTSD patients might need something like that, but there is phenomenal potential for abuse, if it is possible to effectively delete any memory.) has not only an article on the drug, with tie-ins to the idea's sci-fi roots, but also a separate entry for the original instance, in Philip K. Dick's 1966 story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."

The only complaint I have about the site is the lack of a search box. Boo, hiss! Of course, it's easy to get around that with a Google search limited by site. Just include the following in your Google search box along with your other search terms:


The site even includes some inventions that seem like sci-fi, but were actually real machines that have since passed out of use and been forgotten. Check out this message machine from the 1930s, like an early, mechanical version of Twitter.

It's a very neat archive of cool, creepy, and weird ideas. Seems like a fun place to poke around. Or if you have something that really interests you, you can find out which sci-fi stories you ought to be checking out at the library.

Have a happy and safe Fourth everyone!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob

Okay, I've been very lax about blogging lately. Too many other things to keep me occupied. My apologies to the two or three people who actually read this regularly.

Regarding my long stretch of writer's block, I decided to stop beating my head against the wall and put that story away. I'll get back to it someday, months or years from now. A few weeks ago, I started a new book, a fast and loose fantasy, and that's going very well so far. It's flowing nicely, and my writing quality is much improved. So I'm following my inspiration, and it's paying off. Writing is fun again. And so is drawing, which I've also started up again. Life is good.

I took a half day of vacation today to do some errands, and I had lunch at Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob in Dundee since one of my coworkers had recommended it so very highly. It's a little hole in the wall with a lot of charm. New, freshly painted walls and groovy light fixtures contrast with old brickwork, giving the joint a lot of character. They're too new to be in the phone book yet, and while they have a website, it doesn't have any content yet, so for those of you local here in Omaha, Nebraska, you can find the place just south of the intersection of 50th Street and Underwood.

There are only three things on the menu: falafel sandwich, Doner kabob, and curry fries. They are all cheap, and the quantity is enormous. I had the Doner kabob and curry fries. Get the curry fries if you've got a friend to share with--the basket is huge, way more than one person can handle. (Well, at least this one person.) They are very tasty, and mine were nice and crispy.

The Doner kabob was not what the word "kabob" makes me think (skewer), but instead a bread pocket stuffed with lamb and vegetables (most notably, fresh, crisp, thick-sliced cucumbers), with a really yummy spicy sauce. The taste and texture of the lamb reminded me of a gyro. The sandwich was far too thick for me to get my mouth around, and thus extremely messy. Dagwood Bumstead might have trouble with this one. It was absolutely delicious, with a very rich, savory mix of different flavors. I will definitely have it again, and I recommend it highly.

Now I can't wait to go back and try the falafel sandwich.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Good Dog

When I was younger, I was afraid of dogs. I'm told this was not always the case, and that when I was very young, I got along well with my uncle's dog Buddy, a white German shepherd, and rode him around like a horse. I've seen a picture, but I don't actually remember Buddy. My earliest recalls of dogs are all laced with fear. I don't know why or what happened, and ultimately it doesn't really matter. Emotions do not need reasons to be real. I was okay with small dogs, because I could kind of trick myself into regarding them as strangely-shaped cats. However, large dogs ("dog dogs") were always an object of fear.

After college, I dated then lived with a woman who had a golden retriever. (Yes, I moved in with her after we broke up. Don't ask.) Blaze was a good-natured if hyperactive dog, and living with him for two years got me over my fear of dogs. And I will always thank him for that. However, I never really liked him. And in general, even if I was no longer afraid, I still overall disliked dogs and preferred not to be around them. At best, with well-mannered dogs, I was indifferent, a definite step above repulsion. (This all, by the way, is very similar to the way I react to babies and toddlers--which is why I do not and will never have children.)

Well, last night, I actually met a dog I liked--genuinely liked. This was a strange, foreign emotion for me.

I went to a friend's birthday party, and this household--in addition to a having two permanent dogs and several cats--takes in foster dogs. These are rescued animals who need a temporary home until they can be adopted. My friend and her wife are superb with animals, and they can take in dogs with social and behavioral problems and through love, persistence, and careful training, teach them how to be good dogs, so that they can safely and happily go into a new home.

They currently have two six-month-old foster dogs, presumably littermates, Taffy and Snickers. I look at them and think their names are reversed, because Snickers is the light-colored one that makes me think of honey taffy, and Taffy is the dark one that makes me think of a Snickers candy bar. And I had my usual don't-care-much-for reaction to Taffy, but Snickers was different. It was love at first sight with those dark, dark eyes in that pale face, and the one ear that stuck up while the other flopped down. Several times when I was sitting down, he came and lay on my feet. He was very gentle and mellow, and I realized that I was truly enjoying his company and I missed him when he wandered off. I petted him, fed him pieces of my hamburger bun, and for a moment actually wished I had a house with a yard, so I could adopt him. Imagine me actually liking a dog enough to want to live with him! My friend called it a miracle. But Snickers was so sweet, and he kept coming back to me, so I think he liked me too.

Of course, the reality is that I have a one bedroom apartment and two cats, so adopting a dog is impossible. Also, it might not be wise because I doubt I would be a very good dog-mom. However, the thought was there and the desire was there, like a door being opened in my heart. I don't know if I will start liking dogs, or if Snickers will always be just the special exception.

If you have a house and a yard in need of dogs, Snickers and his sister need a good home.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I took a half day of vacation today. Since the weather was lovely, I ate lunch in a park, then sat and read for a while (current book: Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven). I came home and watched the very swift-moving, short-lived, tiny rainstorm, then took a nap, wrote a few pages on my new story, and finally went for a walk, whereupon I encountered a butterfly that let me get rather close. Here's a picture.

I don't know what kind of butterfly (or moth?) this is, but it's certainly beautiful. Check out the underside of its wing, with the lovely bright red spot near the leading edge.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I just got back from a brief walk around my neighborhood, and just as I was approaching home, a family of four cottontail rabbits charged over from the church lot next door, crossed in front of my path, then ran into the bushes in front of the apartment building. Then they decided that wasn't where they wanted to be after all, so they bounded out of those bushes, passed right by me again, and ran back to the church. One was slightly larger, so I presume it was a mother with her nearly-grown kits. They didn't seem particularly fearful, and two of them came within a yard of me.

I bet it's good luck when four rabbits cross your path, and doubly good luck when they cross back again. That's thirty-two lucky rabbit feet! (All the more lucky, since they're attached to living, healthy rabbits.)

And it's not like the rabbits touched me or anything, but my cat is all over me right now, sniffing everywhere. If not the bunnies, I wonder what he's smelling? I didn't touch or brush against anything, and I took off my shoes when I came in the door.

Baked Beans on the Doorstep

Since sometime yesterday, a large can of baked beans has been sitting on my neighbor's doorstep, right in the middle of the welcome mat. Very strange. Makes me want to know the story behind it. Probably it's just as simple as someone borrowed some beans from them and came by with a replacement can when they weren't home. But it's more fun to imagine that the beans mean something, that it's some kind of "go here and do that" signal.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

PlayStation 2 Controller Deconstructed

Wow, I must have been more worn out from my friend's move than I thought. I went through one closet, and ran out of steam on my weeding project. Maybe I'll do more tomorrow.

But I did something else fun. I had a broken wireless PlayStation 2 controller, and instead of just throwing it away, I did what I always do with dead electronics--I tore it apart just to see the insides. There is no socially redeeming value to this activity, but that's not the point. Actually, I'm not sure there is a point. But it is entertaining. To me anyway.

Anyway, here are some pictures . . .

Here's the inside of the receiver.

Here's the inside of the controller, just after removing the back panel. You can see where the rumble pack nests. There's an unused space on the other side for a second one, not that I care, given that I despise the rumble feature.

This is the array of the controller's guts, before and after disassembling the buttons.

Everything else I was able to unscrew or pry apart easily, but the rumble pack was a tough nut to crack (literally). Getting inside it required the not-so-gentle application of a hammer (shown). Unfortunately, this stopped the nifty spinning action and totally ruined the magnet. (Alas. I'd been hoping to keep the magnet and put it on my fridge.)

By far the COOLEST part of the controller was the mechanism for the analog sticks. The steel pin inside the stick was hinged in one direction, and the bar it was attached to would rock in the opposing direction. A curved piece with a long track fit over the bar. It rocked when the lever moved on its hinge, and allowed the lever to slide freely through the track when it moved along the opposite axis. One of these two rocker bars had an extra long bit on the end, which clicked a small button when the analog stick was pushed straight down.

Here are all the parts. Since there were two analog sticks, I only tore one mechanism down to its barest bits, but kept the other intact for my trophy (I keep a trophy from every piece of electronic equipment I demolish).

Any other broken junk laying around here for me to dismember?


Well, the weather decided to cooperate after all, despite the report I read this morning. It rained only lightly once we got started, and before we finished, it stopped altogether, and the sky cleared.

The move in general went very well. A friend of my friend's father brought some of the people from his church, and wow, but were they ever a well-oiled, precision moving team. Their stunning efficiency turned what we expected to be an all-day ordeal into a few short hours. It's true as they say, many hands make light work.

And I got to do my favorite job: standing in the U-Haul and stacking, wedging, and finagling stuff into place, like a giant game of Tetris. I'm worthless for heavy lifting, but I am pretty darn good at packing, if I do say so myself.

But let me tell you, there is nothing like helping someone move to make me want to go through all of my closets, drawers, and shelves and look for stuff to get rid of! So I expect that tonight, I shall be doing just that.


I'm helping a friend move today. I'm supposed to meet her in forty-five minutes to pick up the U-Haul. Of course, it's pouring rain, crashing thunder and lightning, and the forecast says that it's probably going to continue all day. Looking out the window right now, I can barely see across the street.

Oh yeah, this'll be fun.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"My Bike Ignites!"

Woo! I got my DVD of Kamikaze Girls today. I ordered it the night I finished reading the novel, because the book was so great. The movie follows the book for the most part, but the plot does diverge a bit, especially towards the end. But that's okay, because the movie is grand fun in its own right. Actually, in many ways, it's even more quirky and bizarre. The screenplay didn't just change the story; it successfully augmented it. The additions they made suited the spirit of the story marvelously. The alterations, including a significant change in the order of certain key scenes, worked well enough. They took full advantage of the medium to create a spectacular, lush, vivid visual feast. In short, it was as beautiful as it was strange. And of course, it was supremely high in cheese. Not bad cheese like Cutey Honey, but good cheese like Moulin Rouge. My only problem with it involved a bit of scatological humor, because I really don't like that sort of thing. However it wasn't worse than various scenes in Shrek.

I also picked up the Kamikaze Girls manga, as long as I was at it. However, I found it to be rather disappointing. The adaptation of the novel's story was lackluster and didn't do it justice at all, and the additional stories included in the book were just not that good. ("Ichigo's Case" was decent, if not great. But if "The Pinky-Ring Princess" and "The Middle-Finger Princess" were not bound together with the other stories, I would actually throw them away. I feel like they are contaminating my bookshelf.) I recommend skipping the manga altogether, but read the novel and watch the movie.

I'd have to say I still like the novel best. There is such a richness to the story, so many subtleties that weren't conveyed in the movie. But the movie was a hilarious blast, definitely worthy fare.

(Oh, and if you were wondering about the title of this post, "My bike ignites!" is the opening line of the movie. That pretty well sets the tone, don't you think?)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cutey Honey

At my friend's monthly DVD-and-dinner party, we watched Cutey Honey, the live action movie based on a 1970s anime. Now, I've been avoiding Cutey Honey in any form for years, on account of the giggle and jiggle factor. However, the movie actually turned out to be fun. I won't lie and say it was a good movie, because it wasn't. But it was very entertaining.

The movie opened with what my friends and I dubbed "leg cam." Basically, the camera was positioned in the actress's lap, looking down her legs as she took a bubble bath. It would not be the last time we saw leg cam. During fight scenes or swinging in the park, the director apparently thought we occasionally needed to see the view from her crotch.

Underwear scenes and scanty costumes littered the movie at every turn, but it never crossed the line. Thus we were spared any actual nudity. Likewise, no sex.

The villains, costumes, and fight scenes were right on par with, say, Power Rangers. Occasionally, they splurged on low-quality CG special effects. At other times, typically during fights, they cut to choppy animation because apparently they couldn't budget for actual stunt performers. But for the opening credits and during flashbacks, they actually tried for a better quality of traditional animation.

Ah, the opening credits. The Cutey Honey theme is a J-pop classic. I've had a Euro-dance mix of it in my playlist for years.

But, oh dear, seeing the lyrics of that song subtitled was, shall we say, a bit traumatic. Ahem, "She's the popular girl with the big, bouncing boobs."

Oh. My. God.

I've been listening to WHAT for all these years? I can only hope that this song never came up on my random shuffle when I had Japanese friends over at my home. If it did, they were too polite to mention it . . .


Anyway, back to the movie. Opening theme, leg cam, and all that aside, it was a cute story about a superhero, a policewoman, and a plucky reporter against a bunch of really ugly, really over-the-top bad guys. At some point, I found myself thinking, "This kind of reminds me of Iczer One. Or maybe it's more like Iczer Three, what with the four lackeys serving the main villain and all. Anyway, it would definitely fit in the Iczer-verse." A few minutes later, one of my friends said, "Hey, this is just like Iczer One!" So perhaps the similarity was more than passing.

One of the lackey villains seemed, well, not exactly cool, but at least less uncool than the others. Until his personal string quartet showed up to provide music as he whipped out his microphone and guitar-shaped pitchfork/axe/spear/whatever to do battle. Goodbye, mote of cool.

At another point, we were "treated" to a long montage of Honey wandering the city, changing into a diverse array of ludicrous costumes. "Oh my Lord, she's having a music video," groaned one friend. Her husband described it as "follow the moping fashion victim."

There was a nice bit o' lesbian subtext, which I wasn't the only one to notice. That was a definite plus. No kisses, though, so that adds a minus. But neither woman ends up with a man, so there's another plus. So on the gay-o-meter, it tips slightly (but only slightly) to the queer.

Anyway, I should stop now. I can't quite say, "It was so bad it was good." But I'll say, "It was so bad it was hilarious," and leave it at that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

To Err is Common

I feel like a fool lately. Well, that's not accurate--I've felt like a fool for as long as I can remember. But lately, it's been amplified.

Yesterday, one of my favorite cousins got married, and I had the honor of reading scripture at the wedding. I chose 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8a, 13, and I rehearsed and rehearsed until I had it down. I read it several times flawlessly, with perfect timing and inflection. And then yesterday, when I was actually in front of people, I read much too fast and I flubbed verse 2. D'oh!

The day before yesterday, I got an e-mail regarding my fanfic "Azumanga Daioh Plus Six," which I wrote in late 2002-early 2003. It continually amazes me that I wrote a fic good enough that I occasionally get fanmail even now, four years later. None of the other fanfics I've written generated much if any comment even when they were new. (And since I haven't actually published any of my original works, I have no idea what kind of response/nonresponse they might garner.) So I'm actually rather proud of "Plus Six."

Anyway, this email wasn't exactly fanmail, but it did show that this gentleman was a careful reader with a thorough knowledge of the source material. He found an error not in the story itself but in my notes. I thanked him, and in my response, I blithely misidentified Chihiro as the unnamed "Female Student B." He emailed back and (kindly, gently) called me on it. So I feel like quite the idiot.

When I wrote AD+6, I watched Azumanga Daioh repeatedly, both with and without subtitles. (Without because at the time I was studying Japanese, and I was using AD for listening practice.) I knew it backwards and forwards. I could quote some of my favorite scenes in Japanese.

I have not watched it since 2003, and just like my Japanese and my German before it, I have forgotten. Use it or lose it. It's lost. It's gone the way of my aviation history knowledge and my one-time ability to sing along with Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" without missing a single word. The information is probably somewhere in my brain, but the filing indicators have gotten garbled.

Then this morning I read "Democracy and Things Like That" by my favorite essayist Sarah Vowell (in The Partly Cloudy Patriot, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.) She talks about how the 1999 talk by Al Gore at Concord High School was misconstrued, and she sympathizes with the reporter who wrote down one word wrong. And she admits that she herself has ". . . publicly misspelled names, confused Sinclair Lewis with Upton Sinclair, and gotten who knows how many things wrong over the years . . ." (p. 54). And I felt better about misreading the 1 Corinthians 13: 2, confusing Chihiro and Female Student B, and assigning some debatable call numbers to music CDs.

I guess screwing up is just part of being human. Thank you, Ms. Vowell, for reminding me that I'm in good company.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Almost but not quite Writer's Block

Hanging around home, I was just screwing around on the web, doing nothing useful whatsoever. I decided to try the coffee shop thing again, to remove myself from the temptations of the web and video games. I went to Caffeine Dreams, which I've been to many times. But while I like the atmosphere for hanging out and gabbing with friends, it turns out to be terrible for concentration.

I got a decaf latte and settled down at one of the shiny steel tables. These tables are asymmetrical works of art. I stared at the screen for a while, trying to tune out the somewhat annoying music they were playing. Finally, I managed to start writing. I didn't get very far, however, when the angle of the sun through the window grew low enough to drive me from that seat. I found another funky steel table, but it turned out to be a different height, very uncomfortable for typing. So I moved to a third table, a standard square of wood. The height was fine, but I was directly under a hot light, which made the top of my head quite uncomfortable. So, after barely a page and a half of writing and less than half of my coffee, I gave up and left the shop.

I came to the library where I work. I don't like coming here when I'm off duty, because I'm always afraid people will recognize me and ask me to help them find things. But it's summer, so there are hardly any patrons in the building, so I'm relatively safe. Aside from whispered conversations at nearby tables, other people typing on their laptops, and the muffled traffic noise beyond the window, this is a decently quiet environment.

Alas, I only wrote one more page before stalling out. After staring at the screen for a while, I've decided that I'm done for tonight. But now I'm gong to take advantage of the library's wireless network and post my first blog entry from the laptop. Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kamikaze Girls

I just finished reading the Japanese novel Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto, English translation by Akemi Wegmüller (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2006). I picked this book up because the cover blurb described a plot so silly I just could not resist. A Lolita and a Yanki on a road trip to find a legendary embroidery artist? What the tweet?

And this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently. For the first few chapters, I found Momoko, the Lolita, to be so misanthropic and, well, almost wicked that I didn't like her. However, everything she said was so incredibly outrageous that I had to keep reading, out of morbid fascination.

And then Ichigo made her appearance, and I loved her from the first sentence. A foul-mouthed, ignorant, hard-core biker chick, Ichigo was the absolutely perfect foil to Momoko's ruffles and Rococo lifestyle. And as their relationship grew, I came to like Momoko. It turns out she wasn't senselessly coldhearted. She just had never before encountered anyone who wasn't utterly worthy of contempt. The bizarre friendship between these two girls strengthens and transforms both of them. It's a dual coming-of-age story, as well as a wildly fun ride.

If you are bothered by profanity, be warned. Ichigo rarely utters a sentence without it. Otherwise, I can't say anything against this book. It's one of the rare, delightful stories that I can imagine reading again and again throughout my life.

Incidentally, and this really has nothing to do with anything, "Momoko" means "Peach Child" and "Ichigo" means "Strawberry." The last eight-pack of Activia yogurt I bought had alternating peach and strawberry cups. Coincidence? Well, yeah, probably so. But I digress.

There is apparently a Kamikaze Girls movie out, which why the book got translated into English in the first place. I'll be placing an order tonight for that. I must see it!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Black Tongue

When I brushed my teeth this morning, my spit came out black. I looked in my mouth and discovered to my great alarm that my tongue had a nasty black coating. The parts I could reach came off with the toothbrush, but it went all the way down my throat, and I couldn't scrub back there without triggering my gag reflex. Gargling with Listerine didn't remove the color.

My first thoughts were that this might be related to either my acid reflux disease or to sinus drainage. I'd felt headachy and nauseous all day yesterday, but I had assumed it was my usual reaction to heat and pollen. I've never awakened with a black tongue before, though, so whatever was going on was most certainly not usual.

Afraid I'd caught something horrible, I turned to Google. This led me to a MedHelp forum post that said the black tongue was caused by--I kid you not--chewing Pepto Bismol tablets the night before! The Mayo Clinic website confirmed that this was a possible cause.

Whew! I'm glad it's nothing serious. But I swear I'm going back to liquid Pepto after this.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Last night I knew I should try to write, but I knew that if I stayed home, I would just play video games. So I took the laptop and headed off to a coffee shop downtown. I decided to go to a place I'd seen, but never actually been to before.

I had to circle and crisscross the four-block area several times before finding a parking space. Of course, it was on the furthest corner of the Old Market from the coffee shop I planned to go to, but that was fine. The weather was nice, so the walk was pleasant.

The coffee shop, called The Meeting Place, has a lovely atmosphere. Very cozy and homey. (Actually, it's more of a bistro. The food looks very good, although I didn't have any.) I committed sacrilege and ordered a decaf mocha latte. (Too late in the evening for me to handle caffeine. Plus I'd already had a fully-loaded latte that morning.) The total came to $3-something. At first, I only saw three one dollar bills in my wallet, so I reached for the five. Then I noticed that there was another one crumpled to the side. So I gave him four ones, but my short-term memory got stuck on the five I had planned to get him. So when I got my change back--coins only--I thought I was missing a one. He corrected me, and when I looked in my wallet and saw that the five was still there, I knew he was right. He probably thought I was trying to rip him off, but he was very polite. I felt so embarrassed.

So . . . writing. I picked a nice spot by the window, not near any outlets but I figured I should have a decent charge on my battery. I hit the power button and nothing happened. So I moved to the next table, beside an outlet, and plugged in. Nothing happened, and I noticed the green lights on my compact surge suppressor were not lit. I wandered around the room for a while. Because of the shape of my surge suppressor, I could not plug in to the top outlet if someone else is plugged into the bottom. So it took me a while to find a spot with an open outlet, at about the worst spot in the place, right by the service door.

There, the green lights on the surge suppressor lit up, so I knew the power was good. But the laptop still did not start. I physically removed the battery and reinserted it. Then, still plugged into the wall, the laptop finally started. I nearly wept with relief. But then it got about halfway through the OSX startup sequence, and the screen went blank. The startup chime sounded again, the machine came up with OS 9.2. Keep in mind that either startup sequence on my laptop takes somewhere in the three-to-five minute range.

OS 9.2 finally came up, and I went to the startup disk control panel to change to OSX. Word only works in OSX, so if I wanted to work with my existing writing files, I couldn't stay in 9.2. Except the startup disk panel only showed 9.2. I closed and relaunched it, twice. It still didn't recognize the OSX system. I rebooted the computer, then went to the startup disk panel again and had the same problem, three times in a row. I launched the startup disk panel a fourth time (seventh, if you count the times before the reboot), thinking that I would just have to give up and accept the fact that OSX had somehow become damaged and was unusable. I was nearly in tears.

Finally, the OSX folder appeared, so I selected it and restarted. At last, the laptop was functional and in the proper operating system! All told, this took about a half hour, and by now I had finished my coffee.

Well, since the battery indicator showed an 80% charge, I unplugged the machine and moved to a more desirable table by the window, with no outlet. This was the fifth table I'd sat at. Of course, I kept my empty coffee cup close at hand to make it look like I still had something.

But now that the computer was finally working, my brain was not. I stared at the screen for close to a half hour before finally writing anything. I barely produced more than two pages, and--quite frankly--they suck. So I gave up and came home to play video games. I dropped a two dollar bill in the tip jar, because the guy had to put up with a lot, what with my confusion over the change and my game of musical tables.

Only two good things came out of the evening. One, the mocha at The Meeting Place was fabulous. Two, later in the evening, just before bed, a good friend who I haven't heard from in close to a year called me from Japan, and we had a wonderful chat. That cheered me up immensely.

Tonight after work, I will try again to write. I hope I manage to be significantly more productive. (It would be hard to be less.)