Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Maple-Bacon Lollyphile

Among other things, I received a pair of unusual lollipops for Christmas. I had the first one of them today. The flavor? Maple-bacon. And the flavor is not chemically constructed, as with certain jelly beans. The lollipop was a disc of maple candy with crumbles of actual bacon suspended through it.

And it was fantastic! The flavor was amazing and wonderful, because it was pure and genuine. The texture was very interesting. Most of the bits of bacon were very tiny, which as they emerged from the maple made the surface of the lollipop feel a bit like sandpaper. The largest chunks of bacon were soft and meaty.

Your mileage may vary, of course. But if you like smearing your bacon through the leftover maple syrup from your pancakes, you'll probably like this lollipop.

They are made by Lollyphile. Apparently they only make three flavors of candy at present: absinthe, maple-bacon, and wasabi-ginger. I do not have one of the absinthe-flavored ones, but I will report on the wasabi-ginger one when I eat it.

Addendum 7/19/2010: I know I promised to report on the wasabi-ginger lollipop, but the truth is I never ate it. It got misplaced, and then it got wet. I found it in my cupboard, misshapen and kind of gross looking. I'm kind of disappointed, because I'll probably never have another chance to try one. But oh well. That's how things go sometimes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from me, my cats, and my itty-bitty Christmas tree! Peace be with you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

And I Shall Name Him Takoyaki

Check out this adorable amigurumi octopus my friend made for me for Christmas. It's very huggable.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Little Critters

Here are the dragons I made for my nephews' Christmas gifts.

And here is the manticore I made for my dad.

I'd never made a manticore before, but I think it came out reasonably well. The main problem is that manticores have human faces, and I completely suck at making anything resembling a human, so he looks rather more like a gargoyle. But he's still kind of cute. I'm rather pleased with his spiky mane.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nearest Book meme

"dribbling violation: steps, traveling, walking"
Flip Dictionary, Barbara Ann Kipfer. Writer's Digest Books, 2000.

* Get the book nearest to you. Right now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write this sentence - either here or on your blog.
* Copy these instructions as commentary of your sentence.
* Don't look for your favorite book or your coolest but really the nearest.

(My quote probably would have been a lot more interesting if the nearest book to me hadn't been a reference tool.)

I caught this meme from The Travelin' Librarian. Pass it on. And if your nearest book is a juicy novel (or not), post your sentence in the comments section (if you feel like it).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Fangsgiving

A Vampire's Thanksgiving

by Anj

She went to the door after the second ring of the bell, expecting her boyfriend, but instead she found a thin stick of a boy she didn't recognize. He was about twelve, thirteen at most, and pretty weird looking, with ghostly pale skin, white hair that hung past his hips, and shining red eyes. His tattered jeans and filthy tennis shoes seemed at odds with his crisp, new-looking southwestern print hoodie. He smiled as though he could see right through her, mumbling, "You look just like her," as he slowly trailed his gaze down her body.

She blocked the doorway, wondering what a child was doing out this late. "Was there an accident? You need a phone?"

"No. I'm here to visit your mother."

She leaned back inside and shouted up the stairs, "Mom! There's an albino kid here to see you!"

Her mother didn't answer. She trotted over to the bottom of the stairs and yelled louder, "Mom!" She glanced back at the kid, who stood in the doorway, studying her with that strange disconcerting smile on his face. Was he on something? Those glazed eyes and that freakishly intense, yet somehow dazed, expression on his face would seem to indicate yes.

But there was nothing to him. He didn't look strong enough to carry a twelve-pack of pop five yards. If he tried anything, she was sure she could take him. "Why are you standing there letting all the heat out?"

"I can't come in unless you invite me."

She scoffed in the back of her throat. "What are you a vampire or something?"

"Yes." He grinned. His teeth did look a little sharp.

Still, that was crazy. No, he was just some nut. Probably one of her mother's "special" students. "Whatever. Come in and close the door. My folks will freak if the heating bill is any higher this month." She turned again to the stairway. "Mom!"

She faced the kid again as the door clicked closed. He stood very still in the middle of the room, hands tucked into the large pocket on the front of the hoodie. She wished he'd stop smiling like that. It made her faintly queasy. She wished she hadn't let him in.

Finally her mother appeared at the top of the stairs. "What is it?"

The girl pointed at the freak. "This kid came to see you."

Her mother furrowed her brow for a moment, then her eyes widened. "Oh. My." She cleared her throat as she descended. "How have you been?"

"Surviving." There was a faint edge of amusement to the boy's voice. "You?"

"Fine." She looked at her daughter. "Weren't you going to the midnight movie?"

"My ride's not here yet."

"Why don't you wait outside?" Her mother sounded faintly anxious, underneath a failed attempt to appear calm.

"Maybe I shouldn't leave you alone with . . ."

"We'll be fine. Go outside."

Lights flashed in the window, and a car pulled into the driveway.

Her mother smiled. "There he is. Go on."

The girl took her jacket from the middle peg of the rack. "Maybe I should skip the movie . . ."

Her mother shooed her with both hands. "Go on. Don't keep him waiting."

"Will you be here when I get back?" She really wished her other mom wasn't out of town tonight.

Her mother nodded. "I expect so."

She barely refrained herself from asking, "Will you be alive?" Instead, she stepped close to her mother and whispered, "I shouldn't have let him in, should I?"

"It's okay. Scoot, now. Have fun."

Fat chance of that. But she let her mother push her out the door. The click of the lock between them echoed with finality.

* * * * *

She looked at the boy, feeling the tug of nostalgia, tainted with regret. He had not aged visibly in thirty years. She tried to remember how he'd looked when he'd been human. The boy next door, her playmate since preschool. Curly red hair, like copper coils. Green eyes. Freckles spangled across his pink nose and cheeks.

No trace of freckles on that eggshell white face now.

It was her fault he'd been taken. She wondered if regarded her with blame or gratitude.

"She looks so much like you." He nodded toward the door.

"You think so?" She shook her head. "I expect she'll have her boyfriend drive her around the block, then drop her off so she can spy on us. I think she's worried."

"Of course she is. I told her what I am."


"I watch you sometimes."


"My family is gone, so you're the one I . . ." For the first time, his composure broke. He hunched his shoulders slightly and looked at the floor. "I used to pretend you were my sister. Now . . . you're all grown up, and I . . . I pretend you're my aunt, now."

"It must be very lonely for you." She wondered where he lived. How he lived. She remembered seeing him in the cemetery once, years ago, perched between the grotesques on the roof of the mausoleum. Was that his home?

Well, then. While he'd been hiding in a graveyard, she'd had a good life. The kind of life he could never enjoy. She owed him. She understood.

She embraced him tenderly. Cupping her hand on the back of his head, she pressed his face to her throat. Might as well get it over with.

His cold lips pressed on the side of her neck. She felt the cool, clammy moisture as he opened his mouth. His fangs scraped lightly over her jugular.

Then he stepped away. She'd never felt a prick. She touched her neck, then checked her fingertips. No blood.

He tucked one hand back into the hoodie pocket. "I don't feed on people. I never have." He pointed vaguely to the north. "I go to that big farm outside town. The cows are marked with numbered ear tags, so I can make sure I'm not taking from the same ones too often."

"Oh." Embarrassment washed over her like a hot flash.

"You have a live turkey in your back yard."

She nodded. "That's for tomorrow . . . oh!" She understood, for real this time. He was here for dinner after all.

She took his hand and led him through the house, out the back door.

He glanced up at her, smiling broadly. His red eyes glowed softly. "Is it the right day yet?"

She glanced at her luminescent watch. "Two minutes after midnight."

He rubbed his hands together. "May I?"

She gestured toward the small wire enclosure with the turkey. "Drain it dry." As he pulled open the fence, she added, "Happy Thanksgiving."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scrutinizing My Wellness

I'm beginning an experiment today. Don't know if I'll have the wherewithall to stick with it long term. But I keep saying, "I need to cut back on lattes. I need to stop getting candy bars and chips from the vending machine. I need to exercise regularly. I need to this, that, and th'other." And I never manage to ditch the bad habits or stick with the good ones. But I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, so I'm going to document everything in an attempt to shame myself into living better.

The Rules

1) Write down everything I eat or drink.
-- Water is exempt--no calories.

2) Write down all exercise.
-- Pacing around my apartment and playing on the Wii do not count as exercise, unless I acquire Wii Fit.

3) Write down creative activities (mental exercise).

4) Keep track of money spent.

5) Write down anything else that seems relevant to my well-being.

6) Document my general health and physical complaints, including any medicine taken.

Don't worry, I won't blog my diet or exercise record. No one cares but me. I'm only posting the rules in case any of you want to play along.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Mom and I drove to Kansas on Thursday for the heartbreaking funeral of a wonderful cousin who was only 40 and left us far too soon.

Along the way, we missed a turn at Beatrice, Nebraska. In an attempt to get back on a road that lead to Fairbury, we ended up on a little rural highway that didn't seem to have a name. It was only labeled "PWF." We never saw any clues as to what this might mean, and I haven't had much luck with Google. The road was paved, but narrow and shoulderless. Most of it was still the old pink pavement (which is getting pretty rare), much patched with cement and asphalt. We were on this road for a good thirty miles, and we only encountered seven other vehicles, including the guy driving his combine in the corn field. It was the ultra-scenic route. Compared with the interstate, which is so high up, with such wide shoulders and ditches, on a road like this, everything seemed so very close. And it really was beautiful, with all the reds and golds across the landscape.

So, anyone out there know what PWF stands for? "Public Way to Fairbury"? "Pretty Weird and Far-out"? "People With Farms"? Actually, I'd like to know the real meaning, but I welcome humorous guesses, too.

Quasi-related, we also saw a blue water tower labled "Little Blue NRD." Now I know NRD stands for Nebraska Rural District, but for all the world it looked like "Little Blue Nerd."

Addendum 11/11/08: My mom found it: Public Works & Facilities. That's not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped, but there it is.

Addendum 1/8/09: A kind Fairbury native (kjvaughn) corrected me. PWF stands for "Pawnee City, Wymore, Fairbury," the three towns connected by that road. Locals, however, say it means "Poorest Way to Fairbury."

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Here is a little wyvern I sculpted for my Dad's birthday present. Instead of rearing perfectly upright as I had intended, gravity took its toll on the heavy wings during baking. When the clay softened up in the heat, the wyvern leaned back, and now that it's cool, it's permanent. To restore the wyvern to its intended posture, it must be perched with its tail propped up on something (such as this crystal). The silver burned a little in the oven (despite the fact that I baked it for the minimum recommended time), which is why the tips of the spikes and wings are just a bit brown. Actually, I think the discoloration is an enhancement in this case. Overall, this critter came out all right. I like the way the face turned out. I used BBs for the eyes, which is why they gleam so nice.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ultimate Prinny

I've been playing a lot of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories lately. Why would I need new games when certain old games have so incredibly much replay value? Anyway, I felt inspired to draw a comic, because prinnies have such a harsh lot in life.

Warning: If you've never played any of the Disgaea games, this comic will make no sense.

You might have to click on it to get it to display at full size.

Oh, and of course, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories and all characters and settings therein are property of Nippon Ichi Software. I do not claim any rights. This is just fanart. Please don't sue me. I have no money.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monster Cat

If you at all follow the news about weird and odd things, you've probably seen the pictures of Yoda, the four-eared cat. He's quite adorable.

A few years ago, pictures ciruclated of Lilly, another four-eared cat.

A friend and I were discussing these, and she said, "They look so alien or Pokemon. You almost expect them to have extra limbs, a prehensile tail, forked tongue or something."

And so, I had to draw it.

Disclaimer: This picture in no way implies that I think four-eared cats are monsters! I made my creature a tabby specifically to avoid having it look like Yoda or Lilly. As with polydactyl cats (extra toes or "thumbs"), four-eared cats have a naturally occurring mutation that probably doesn't much impede their ability to have long and healthy lives. My picture is pure, over-the-top fantasy, because I like fantastic beasts and aliens, nothing more.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Branson, Missouri

Still catching up on events I never got around to blogging at the time . . .

Warning: this is a long post.

From June 29 through July 6, I took a wonderful vacation to Branson, Missouri, with my family (Mom, stepfather, stepsister, her husband, and their twins). They'd all been before, but this was my first time.

We stayed at a resort right on Table Rock Lake. The scenery was incredibly beautiful, although the water levels are extremely high. At that time, the lake was 13 feet above normal, which meant all the islands were submerged, with only the tops of trees sticking up like tufts. Boaters had trouble because they couldn't anchor--the ropes weren't long enough. Also, fishing was bad because the fish had so many more places to hide.

At the State Park Marina, the flooding goes well into the parking lot. The handicapped parking spaces were submerged halfway up the signs. The public telephone was almost completely under water, as were several park benches. Several of the docks were inaccessible because they were completely cut off from shore. The main dock had several extensions chained together to reach dry land.

We had quite a few thunderstorms come across the lake, especially later in the week. On the worst day, July 3, the weather started out hot and humid, but pleasant. After a while, I heard distant thunder, and the skies clouded. Then the storm swept across Table Rock Lake very, very swiftly. First the wind picked up, and whitecaps began to form on the water. All the boats, except for one houseboat, hightailed it for the harbor. Then in the distance, I could see rain on the hills. When it hit the water, a sharp white line crossed the lake. Everything behind the line was a mass of indistinct gray. Ahead of the line, the waves kicked up higher and higher. Then the wind hit us, just head of the rain. Our screened-in balcony was drenched in seconds. The fake potted tree blew over. Looking out the window, I watched that houseboat blow hundreds of feet from where it had been parked, then evidently the people inside woke up and got the motor started, and they began to very slowly creep against the wind. I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been for them to be out on the lake in those conditions.

I went out in the boat on one of the nicer days. We went all over the lake, stopping in several places. I got out to swim twice. Keep in mind that I do not swim. I flounder about. But the life jacket kept me afloat, and I had fun splashing and floating around. I went tubing, towed behind the boat. It was my first time doing anything like that. It was fun and exciting, but I got a lot of water in my eyes and I bruised the bejezzus out of my knee bouncing on the waves.

The trees were very different than we have around Nebraska. I wasn't familiar with most of the species. Seeing mile after mile of verdant, thick, impenetrable forest was absolutely breathtaking. So many of the trees have sheaths of vines wound around them, completely obscuring any bark on the trunks or branches.

For a great view, go to Inspiration Tower and ride the glass elevator to the top floor, a glassed-in observation deck. By stairs, you can also go one level down, to an open air deck. You can see all of Branson, all of Table Rock Lake, and Ozarks as far as the eye can see. What a spectacular view.

The Ozarks are full of rock formations jutting from the land, some natural, others blasted out to make room for roads. The ground was so saturated that water was seeping from the cracks between the stones, so it looked like the cliffs were weeping.

Saw a lot of turkey vultures. They're everywhere! And I mean everywhere. I don't think I ever looked into the sky without seeing a vulture, or typically several of them, circling over some point in the distance.

My second most frequent bird sighting was the great blue heron. Every day, I saw several of them at Table Rock Lake. They travel singly, and they are majestic as they fly low and strong near the surface of the water, crossing the vast lake. One morning, sitting out on the balcony with my coffee, I saw a great blue heron fly by very close. This sighting was unusual because had his neck stretched all the way out so he could croak his creaky cry. Incredibly cool! It sounded prehistoric, like I imagine a pterosaur might have sounded. When he finished talking, he pulled his neck back to normal flight position.

There is a lot to do in Branson. It's kind of scary to think that the actual population of the town is barely over 6,000, but the city has 18,000 hotel rooms available. And unlike business travelers who tend to be solo, a touristy place like this attracts couples and families, so rarely would any of those rooms have only one person staying in them. So you could conceivably have six or more tourists to every resident at any given time. I suspect tourism is the town's only industry. But they do it well. It was tremendous fun.

The Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery was pretty cool, and had the added benefit of being free. They have a nice little nature center with live snakes, turtles, and, of course, fish. The runways outside are full of trout. Nerd that I am, I love seeing how stuff works, so seeing the fish farming operation was pretty cool for me. We also saw a young beaver running through the hatchery. He obviously knew where he was going, since he trotted up the hill then ducked under the fence.

Another worthy find was The Fish House, a restaurant in downtown Branson at the end of the Branson Landing shopping area. It's down on the river itself, not visible from the road. You can't see it except from the Bass Pro Shop parking lot. The decor was hunter-rustic, with canoes hanging from the ceiling; mounted fish, animals, and antlers on the walls; and artificially distressed wood and metal furnishings. The mounted heads included everything from a boar to a moose. Their fish, of course, was excellent, but the kicker for me was the jalapeno corn bread that came with every meal. They brought it out piping hot from the oven, still in the small cast-iron skillet it was baked in. It was absolutely fantastic, and the jalapeno was not overwhelming--just a little zingy. Heaven!

Also at Branson Landing, every hour on the hour, they have a show at the fountain. A series of fountain jets shoot high into the air in patterns timed to the music piping from the loudspeakers. Behind the water jets, a series of fire jets punctuate the music with flame spurts. The fountain jets were occasionally augmented by popping blasts of air that shot the water extra high. It was only ten minutes long, but well worth it. Very, very neat.

Branson Landing is otherwise not that exciting, unless you love to shop. The majority of the stores were major chains that I expect to see in any mall, so that seemed pretty boring to me. I'd rather go to places I can't find around home.

Besides the Fish House, the other restaurant I'd strongly recommend to anyone visiting the area is on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. Students at the college pay no tuition, but they are required to work on campus. So the restaurant is staffed entirely by students in white coats and black ties. The decor is all wood, copper, and stone--very classy and well built. The food was excellent. I had the special of the day, a cajun ribeye sandwich on ciabata bread. Fantastically wonderful. Creme brulee for desert.

But the single best meal I had wasn't in a restaurant. On our last day there, the fish were finally biting. The guys wanted to stay out longer, but the lightning crashing down all around the lake forced them to come in. But they brought with them a large, beautiful black bass. Within minutes, the bass was in the frying pan with a little butter and a light dusting of crumbled crackers. Oh. My. God. It is no stretch to say that was the best fish I've ever tasted. Certainly the freshest, but also so tender, yet firm; succulent, with a gentle, mild flavor; savory and just a touch salty from the butter and cracker, and a hint of underlying sweetness. Absolutely amazing.

Another activity I'd recommend is the Veterans Memorial Museum. They had artifacts from every 20th century war, labeled with not only a description of the object but some history about the soldier who had owned it or donated it to the museum. Among the many interesting things was a display of "trench art," which soldiers had made from spent shell casings.

The centerpiece of the museum was a life-sized bronze sculpture by Fred Hoppe. Fifty soldiers from World War II charging forward, two by two. Each soldier's face was modeled on a real American who had fought in the war, one from each state, their names inscribed on brass plaques by their feet. The level of detail was phenomenal. Not only their faces, but their physical builds, their gear, their weapons--every soldier was truly an individual. Some were carrying specialized equipment. Some were missing the knives or shovels from their packs. If you looked closely, under the feet of the running men was a small, unexploded shell. Elsewhere in the line, one of the soldiers had just been shot, captured at the moment of death with his knees buckled, his back arched, and his face slack. His rifle hung suspended mid-air as it dropped from his limp hands, and his buddy reached over to catch him. The sculpture was powerful, and the subjects very human. This was not merely a statute of some random soldiers, but truly real men. One of the best memorials I have ever seen.

Branson is most famous for all the live entertainment. I went to two shows. The first was Noah: the Musical, at the Sight & Sound Theater. The animals, both live and animatronic, were pretty cool. The set was absolutely amazing, with the inside of the ark wrapping around the sides of the theater. We were right in the middle, so we had a fantastic view. The performers were enthusiastic and had good, strong voices. Unfortunately, the script was kind of cheesy and glurgy, and the score very forgettable. Yes, I know its an adaptation of a Biblical story, but it was excessively heavyhanded and preachy. They brought Jesus Christ into it at the end. The story of Noah is important to other religions, too, but they made this an exclusively Christian version. Which is fine, since the Sight & Sound people's expressly stated mission is spreading Christianity, so it's not likely that anyone who wasn't already a Christian would even go to that theater. But the play was too long. The boys (age 10) got bored. And while I liked the giants in the corrupt city, with their voice amplifiers, dreadlocks, and log-like legs concealing stilts, I don't remember any giants in the Biblical account of that particular event.

The theater itself was enormous and fancy, very elaborate and lavishly decorated. However, the paintings and sculptures all seemed a little off. The proportions, expressions, and poses were not realistic. So it seemed pretentious but not polished. I probably wouldn't go to another Sight & Sound show.

The other show I went to was the magician Justin Flom at the Imaginary Theater. He is apparently one of the newer acts in Branson, so he doesn't have his own theater yet. His theater is a small section of a former steak house that also houses a museum and probably some other things. The building is large, old, and very elegant.

Justin Flom's magic show was tremendous fun. I saw the seams on one or two of his tricks, and could probably replicate them with the right equipment, but for the most part, the magic was, well, magic. He put a woman in a box, cut the box into pieces, and she waved out of a tiny hole from a small piece of the box. Of course, he reassembled her so he could put her in a different box, then fold it down to the size of a milk crate and run it through with swords. Then later, he put her in yet another box and ran her through with spikes. These kinds of illusions, I can't figure out. The card tricks likewise were very impressive, as was the levitation.

He was really nerdy in a charming, self-depreciating sort of way. His enthusiasm and energy were on par with a golden retriever puppy, in other words, boundless. And best of all, he picked both my mom and my stepfather out of the audience on separate occasions. He made a mouse appear out of a box of cards for Mom, and then asked if she liked the magic tricks with the big white tigers. When she said yes, he replied, "That's good. We're going to do a card trick. We're on a budget." He had Mom pick a card out of the deck, write her name on it, then he shuffled it many ways, and in the end, the one card that was reversed was of course the one she'd written her name on. He let her keep it.

When he called up my stepfather, he did a rope trick with a sliding knot. The trick itself was pretty transparent. I could probably do it myself without any additional instruction. But it was hilarious watching him put different wigs on my stepdad and asking him to dance like particular popular singers, from Stevie Wonder through Michael Jackson. My stepdad doesn't dance, and his knees are bad, so he wasn't able to mimic the moves. The magician commented that it looked like my stepdad was doing Stevie Wonder no matter which singer's name he was given.

Anyway, the magic show was awesome. Well worth the time. Flom is very young, so he'll only get better. I hope he makes it big, so I can say, "I saw his show back when . . ."

Really, I can say only two bad things about the whole trip:

Wasps everywhere around the resort. No one got stung, but my stepsister is allergic, so that was a real worry.

Brown recluse spiders. In my bed. In my stepsister's bed. On the ceiling above my mom's bed.


But I think the wonderful things about the trip outweighed the multiple incidents of spider panic.

But since I'm a home-body by nature, I was glad to return home to my kitties. I could tell they missed me, too. After I took my dirty laundry out of my bag and carried it down to the laundry room, when I came back upstairs, I found a green mouse cat toy in my bag. It had to have been Murphy's way of telling me, "I'm here. Don't leave me again."

My Life Lately

I haven't blogged much lately. Sorry about that. I've had too much real life in the way. I'll try to catch up now.

In June, I had my first mammogram, the baseline. They found an abnormality, so on July 15 I had a breast biopsy which included a lumpectomy. The piece they removed was 6.9 x 6.8 x 1.2 centimeters, and thankfully, it turned out to be benign. The long wait from the beginning of June through mid-July was quite stressful, so you can imagine my relief once it was all over. I'll have a nice two-inch scar to remember the experience by. And the knowledge that the "twilight" anesthetic makes me sick as a dog.

That's all I'm going to say about it here, but I kept a private journal (17 pages) so I wouldn't forget all the details. That's my biggest piece of advice to anyone facing any surgery--keep a journal! Record all the names, phone numbers, appointment dates, technical details of everything the doctors and nurses tell you, and progress in your physical condition. No one can remember all that, so writing it down is extremely helpful. And never be afraid to ask the doctors and nurses to repeat something or to spell a technical term. You need the correct spelling so you can look it up later.

And thank you again to all of my family and friends who supported me through it all.

My Cat is an Overachiever

My cat Murphy tried to jump up onto my lap this morning, and he lost his balance when I yelped at the sharp claw in my thigh. He slid off my lap, trying desperately to regain his footing (with his claws, of course). I now have a nine inch cat scratch on my leg. I'm pretty sure that's a record, at least for me and my cats.

At least it's very shallow. Very little of it broke through all the layers of skin, so there's only about four blood spots along the line. Still. Nine inches. I'm impressed in a twisted sort of way.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wind and Hail and Chaos

Quite a vicious little storm we had last night in Omaha. When the tornado sirens went off just after 5 pm, the sky looked perfectly fine to me. Within two minutes, I saw the dark cloud on the horizon. Two minutes later, I realized how incredibly fast that dark cloud was moving. Just as I decided to close my windows, the insanely powerful wind hit. It blew my window pane out of its tracks just as I put my hands on it. Thankfully, it did not break, and I was able to wedge it back into its tracks and get it shut. After I closed all of the windows, I retreated to the next room to watch from a distance. (I have no storm shelter. The "basement" of my apartment complex is full of windows and glass doors.) Visibility was zero. Then a sustained burst of horizontal hail hit the building like a sandblaster.

Behold my shredded window screen. All those little white blotches are holes. Notice also how it's too dirty to see through. The rain and hail were filthy with windborne dust.

I'm just lucky that the glass didn't break. A friend and former coworker lost three windows and a tree at her house.

As suddenly as it had begun, the storm was over, and everything was perfectly peaceful. The total duration was perhaps less than ten minutes. From what I've heard on the news and talking to people on the phone, the damage is very widespread. All of Omaha, and presumably any other town hit by this storm, is an absolute mess.

I lost power during the storm, but regained it about 4:15 this morning. OPPD obviously worked all night. I heard chainsaws around 1:00 am, which I assumed was them chopping up the trees that had fallen on power lines. I hear that quite a lot of homes in Omaha are still without power this morning. So I got lucky again.

So here are a few pictures, all within a block of my home.

It looks like a lovely lake, but this is Turner Street and the park.

The water levels were down when I took my walk around the neighborhood, but Dewey Street had obviously been flooded enough to wash this hunk of asphalt over the curb and onto the grass.

Here are some downed lines.

The Lutheran church next door lost a tree.

So did the folks across the street.

Look at the way this metal signpost was twisted, then bent flat against the ground.

Even more than an hour after the storm had passed, the hailstones were still piled thick on the ground.

It was quite an event. The timing of the storm was especially bad, as so many people were just getting off work. Also, great crowds of people were out in the open for the Summer Arts Festival, the concert at Memorial Park, and Shakespeare on the Green. I've heard the Summer Arts Festival was utterly destroyed, and that people who were at Memorial Park and the Green were badly bruised from the hail.

What a mess.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Lost World

Last night I watched The Lost World, the silent movie masterpiece. (2001 DVD by Image Entertainment, from the Blackhawk Films Collection.) This particular edition was assembled from pieces of eight different surviving prints of the movie, and it was about half an hour longer than any version I'd seen before. It's still not the complete film as it appeared in theaters in 1925, but it's probably the closest restoration possible. They did a fine job of repairing the film, minimizing scratches, shakes, and other damage; it does not seem cobbled together at all. The picture quality is much, much nicer than I'm accustomed to seeing in a 1920s vintage film.

For being 83 years old, the movie stands up surprisingly well. I was really struck by the high quality of the stop-motion animation used for the dinosaurs. I've seen many films from the 1950s and '60s that fall far short of these effects. They even went to the trouble of animating the dinosaurs' breathing, a touch of detail I've rarely seen with stop-motion effects. The dinosaurs' bellies swell and shrink with each breath in a way that makes them seem almost real. Clear your mind of all the fancy CGI effects you've seen and imagine sitting in a dark theater in the Roaring Twenties. The experience must have been absolutely chilling.

The movie was groundbreaking. There are echoes of this film in almost every monster movie and adventure flick that came after, from King Kong to Indiana Jones. (When I saw the little graphic of the boat sliding across the ocean, all I could think of was Indy's airplane trailing a line on the map.)

One of the neat effects was the use of color. Yes, it's a black and white film, but some scenes were tinted for effect. So scenes inside well-lit buildings were in sepia, while night scenes were in blue, jungle scenes in green, and a sunrise in red. This was very effective in setting the mood.

The human story is kind of bland, but let's be real--we're watching the movie for the dinosaurs. The beasts represent the best paleontological knowledge of the time. Sadly, much of it is quite antiquated. The dinos are taildraggers, with the bipedal ones standing upright like meerkats. And there's the brontosaurus. Egads! Well, sure, we know now that the so-called brontosaurus was really the skeleton of an apatosaurus with the skull of a camarasaurus slapped on, but back then, brontos were in! And these were no slow, lumbering beasts. No! These fast and agile dinos could hold their own in Jurassic Park.

As for the humans, we've got the nerd boy who proves himself and becomes a manly man; the big game hunter, a decent guy who gets kind of shafted in the end; the crazy scientist with wild hair, wild beard, and wild eyes; the forgettable, bespectacled entomologist; and an incredibly annoying waif-like heroine. She obviously has some courage, because she goes on this expedition, wears pants, climbs mountains, and so on, but she looks clinically depressed all the time, pursing those tiny rosebud lips and looking up sadly with those enormous doe-like eyes. I'm not sure why the hero (nerd boy) falls in love with her, unless he is some kind of vampire that feeds off sorrow and misery. And back at base camp, we've got a generic white guy and his bumbling companion, a painful racial stereotype character in blackface. This offensive caricature is my main complaint against the movie.

Still, from a historical perspective, this is an incredible film. Well worth an hour and a half of your time.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mountain Dew SuperNova

And the third and final of the new Mountain Dew flavors is SuperNova. It's sort of a purplish pink. Magenta if you will. Very appealing.

The label describes it as "Dew with a blast of strawberry melon flavor and ginsing." That's the common thread of all three sodas. As much as the Mountain Dew label itself, ginsing binds them all together.

The smell is . . . actually not that different from the smell of Voltage. On second whiff, I can pick up more on the strawberry.

Hmm. The taste is nice. As they say, strawberry melon. My impression is watermelon, as opposed to cantaloupe, muskmelon, or honeydew. The strawberry and watermelon flavors balance perfectly--neither overwhelms the other. Very nice, but something's missing. Where's the citrus zing? Isn't that required for Mountain Dew? Not that it doesn't have a bit of zing, just not as much as Voltage or Revolution.

It is delicious, though. I like it. It is worthy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mountain Dew Voltage

New blue Dew number two: Mountain Dew Voltage. Voltage is a slightly different shade of blue than Revolution, a little bit darker, tending toward indigo. If Revolution is the shade of twilight just after the last sliver of sun has vanished over the horizon, Voltage is the sky about a half hour later. Still not really dark, just not as light. It's actually quite beautiful.

The label describes it as, "charged with raspberry citrus flavor and ginsing." Yep, ginsing again.

And I've never understood how blue came to be the color associated with raspberry flavor. All the raspberries I've ever seen have been red. I hear tell that there are black raspberries and gold raspberries, but I've never heard of a genuine, bona fide blue raspberry plant. Maybe someone thought there was too much confusion with cherry and strawberry also being red. Or maybe someone just wanted to make a blue soda and couldn't find a real "blue" flavor and picked raspberry randomly. I have no idea what the first "blue raspberry" pop or candy was, but it's taken root throughout all the junk food industries.

Anyway, on to the drink.

As I open the bottle, the smell is unmistakably raspberry, with a zing that tickles my nose before I even take a sip.

Hmm. Unlike Revolution, where the berry flavor dominated, in Voltage, the berry flavor seems secondary. The citrus taste overwhelms it. Rather than "raspberry citrus" I would probably call this "grapefruity with a hint of raspberry." This is not to say I don't like it. Actually, I think I prefer it to Revolution. I might even prefer it to Code Red, my longstanding favorite Mountain Dew.

Very nice.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mountain Dew Revolution

On my last visit to the grocery store, I discovered that Mountain Dew has released three new flavors: Revolution, Voltage, and Supernova. Apparently, ordinary Dew, Code Red, LiveWire, Baja Blast, Game Fuel, and whichever other flavors I've forgotten just aren't enough.

Well, they got me hook, line, and sinker. Sucker that I am for new flavors of anything, I bought one bottle of each. I'll review them separately, because I can't drink that much Dew at once. Back in college, yeah, I would wash down my footlong jalapeno sandwich with six cans of Mountain Dew, but these days, I can't eat or drink like that.

I'll start with Revolution. It's a dusky blue in color, like a favorite pair of worn-out jeans. The label describes the flavor thusly: "Infused with wild berry fruit flavor and ginseng." What doesn't have ginseng these days? It's so everywhere.

As I open the bottle, the smell very much reminds me of the blue Gatorade Frost. In fact, if I close my eyes, I imagine a bottle of Gatorade in front of me. Possibly the color of Revolution contributes to this illusion, although it's not exactly the same shade of blue. (The Gatorade Frost being a bright electric blue, while Revolution is darker, like the pale leading edge of twilight.)

Now to taste it . . .

I was afraid it would taste just like Gatorade Frost, but I am pleased to report that it does not. It has a sort of generic berry flavor, not identifiably blue-, black-, or raspberry, but perhaps some mix of all three. I think I taste blueberry, but that could well be a mind trick as my brain links together the beverage's blue color and the "wild berry fruit flavor" description. What fruit? I would guess some sort of citrus, as that is the Dew hallmark. I do feel a citrus zing on my tongue, but I can't pin down lemon or lime as a recognizable flavor.

No, wait. There it is, in the aftertaste. It reminds me of a Japanese Ramune soda. You know the ones with the marble in the bottle? If you're not familiar with them, the marble is stuck tight just under the lip of the bottle, and you have to push it down to open the soda. No matter how careful you are, pop always sprays everywhere, which is why I usually open my Ramune in the parking lot of the Japanese grocery store, before I get in my car. My nickname for Ramune is "Explodapop."

Anyway, the original Ramune has a lemon-lime flavor. Not like real lemon and lime, but like those little lemon-sour pellet candies that come in the packages with the cool Bandai toys. And that same fakey lemon-lime flavor is the last taste to linger on my tongue after a sip of Revolution. It really isn't the standard Dew citrus flavor at all, and the similarity to the Japanese candy makes me feel disappointed that my bottle of Revolution didn't come with a Godzilla finger puppet or some miniature plastic sushi. At the very least, there ought to be a marble in the bottle. I suppose I could put a marble in the bottle, but it wouldn't be the same.

That said, I like Mountain Dew Revolution. I still like Code Red better, but Revolution isn't bad at all. It's certainly a step above LiveWire or Game Fuel. At least I know that if I have an urge for "Romulan Ale" (for which any clear blue drink will suffice), I now have an alternative that's better tasting than Gatorade Frost or that vile Goody Cream Soda.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Zoo, Again

I went to the zoo again today, this time alone, just to take a walk. Since it was a weekday with cold, overcast weather, the zoo was mostly empty, so I was able to get into the butterfly pavilion.

Here's a random butterfly. There are many, many different species of butterflies in the exhibit, all mingling peacefully. None landed on me, but some flew close to my face.

And elsewhere in the zoo, some wild turkeys have moved in. They are not technically zoo animals, as they roam free and I've seen them hop in and out of several exhibits all over the east end of the zoo. I guess they've decided that the zoo is easy living. I wonder if they're refugees from the flock that I usually see in the ditches along the interstate.

Here's a turkey hanging out with a peacock. At first, it seems like an odd juxtaposition, but it really makes sense. They're about the same size and build, and the males of both species show off by fanning their tails. They have a lot in common.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Day at the Zoo

I went to the Henry-Doorly Zoo today with my ten-year-old goddaughter and her family. We had a picnic, saw lots of cool critters, and generally had a ton of fun. However, we didn't get to see the new butterfly pavilion because the zoo was packed to the brim with people, and the crowds at the pavilion were insane. When we arrived at the zoo at 11:00 am, we were given tickets that would admit us to the pavilion between 4:00 and 4:30. By 3:00, we were totally pooped and ready to call it a day. Then we went out for ice cream at the famous Zesto's. Despite the fact that I've lived in Omaha for many, many years, it was my first trip to Zesto's. I'd never seen strawberry soft-serve ice cream before, but it was so good that I'll definitely go back. It would make a good cap for any zoo trip.

So here are a few photo highlights . . .

The tapirs were all lovey-dovey. So cute!

Ball o' lemurs up on the ledge.

Mr. Bobcat was showing off for a change.

The okapi was out and about. Such a beautiful creature.

Giraffes and penguins living together. 'Tain't natural, but they seem happy.

The peacock was struttin' his stuff for the ladies.

The leafy sea dragon is one of the most elegant and exquisite animals I know of.

Shark! Look at all those teeth!

And this fish is just plain weird. I don't know what it is, but it looks like it's trying to grow up to be a narwhale.

That's all for now. Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Doritos: The Quest

Okay, because I'm a sucker for gimmicky foods, I bought a bag of Doritos: The Quest. Matrix-green letters on the shiny black bag promise, "Guessing the flavor is just the beginning . . ." For me, I expect it may be the end, as well.

As I open the bag, the tangy smell makes my nose tingle. My first thought is lime. My second is vinegar.

The underlying color of the chips is yellow with brown speckles. However, a splotchy pale green haze shadows the valleys of the chip's surface. There's a heavy dusting of large white crystals, which I presume are salt. I'll be honest . . . the shade of green is not the most appealing. It's not guacamole green, nor lime green. It's sort of . . . something-left-sitting-too-long green.

Okay, now to taste it . . .

Lime is the overwhelming flavor. Also, they are very salty. There's a zippy zing going that I don't have a name for. It's kind of interesting, though, and not at all unpleasant.

I don't drink, but I've heard that tequila typically has a lime-and-salt thing going. So maybe they're tequila flavored? But since I've never tasted tequila, I can't really confirm that. The chips are pretty tasty, though. But very, very, very salty. Oh my God, now I'm incredibly thirsty.

Time to chug some water.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lesbian (gay women) vs. Lesbian (people of Lesbos)

Saw this in the news this morning:

People of Lesbos take gay group to court over term 'Lesbian'

I don't know how they expect to change widespread global use of the word "Lesbian." However, I see their point. It's probably easier to come up with another good term for gay women (bland as "gay women" is, it would probably suffice), than for the people of Lesbos (who have been properly called Lesbians for millennia) to find another name.

So if the word "Lesbian" becomes restricted to the geographic designator in Greece, would the rest of the world follow? Not immediately, but over decades, I suppose it's possible that global use of the word could shift. It probably would anyway, with or without this lawsuit, as it is the nature of language to change.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Miscellaneous Corn

Check out this wacky corn I found at the grocery store this morning. I've never seen corn like this, with purple-tinged white kernels. So I had to try it. I have no idea what this strain is called, as the produce label only said "miscellaneous."

I cooked it the same way I always cook corn on the cob, by steaming it in the microwave. Upon cooking, the white darkened to something more akin to gray than yellow, so it looked slightly less appetizing. However, it turned out to be quite delicious. It's definitely a variety of sweet corn, rivaling the white-and-gold two-tone sweet corn for flavor. The kernels were plump and juicy, and the core of the kernel was bright yellow. I would definitely have this again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Invasion of Astro-Monster

Nope. Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero) was plain awful, even in its original Japanese.

The 1954 film Gojira was suspenseful, powerful, and even rather moving. In that first movie, Godzilla was actually a scary monster. He was a dinosaur, acting with animal motives. There was nothing human about him. He moved like a beast, not a man. He was a force of nature, an ancient animal awakened, then transformed and twisted by the actions of humanity. When that first Godzilla destroyed Tokyo, it was truly a magnificent moment in cinematic history. It was terrifying and heart-rending. You really felt for the woman clutching her children and telling them, "We'll be with your father soon." Or the radio announcer reporting on the destruction, knowingly facing his own doom with dignity as he signed off, "This is our final broadcast. Goodbye," just as Godzilla moved in for the kill. Yes, that first Godzilla killed people. Death was shown on screen, as were the wounded, maimed survivors. The despair and sorrow were palpable. That first movie was one of the greatest disaster movies ever made, to say nothing of one of the greatest monster movies. Heck, delete "disaster" and "monster"--Gojira, in its unedited form, is a truly great movie. No qualifiers needed.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

By the 1960s, the vintage of Invasion of Astro-Monster, Godzilla had been fully personified. He had become a fancy-dancin', high-kickin', goofy superhero. He no longer acted like an animal, instead making blatantly human arm gestures and other movements. He was no longer frightening, nor even slightly intimidating. Oh, sure, he stomped a city flat, but he looked so ridiculous doing it, with those high steps and swinging arms, that it was merely laughable. They never showed any people actually dying in all that destruction, just running away to safety. The real sense of fear and threat is all gone.

And the aliens and their dorky-looking flying saucers and ridiculously primitive uber-computer were outright dreadful. (Not that the computer was supposed to be primitive, mind you. Pretty much every 1960s-era movie depiction of a futuristic, super-powerful computer seems primitive and clunky compared to even the outdated junky computers that can be found in virtually any apartment complex dumpster today.)

Of course, I do love cheesy B-flicks. I absolutely did enjoy Invasion of Astro-Monster on that level. I just find the sharp contrast between 1950s Godzilla and 1960s Godzilla fascinating.

Stack o' DVDs

I bought a bunch of DVDs on sale today. Which one of these is not like the others?

Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street -- blood and gore and unspeakable violence.

Kill Bill -- two volumes of blood and gore and unspeakable violence.

Nancy Drew -- kindness and cupcakes conquer all!

Yeah . . . Nancy is probably creeped out by who she has to share the DVD shelf with.

And despite these new movies, what am I watching tonight? Invasion of Astro-Monster! (Otherwise known as Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero.) I've been enjoying the original Japanese versions of the Godzilla movies. Gojira and Godzilla Raids Again were certainly much better than their U.S. versions, Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Gigantis: the Fire Monster respectively. (Gigantis, in its U.S. release, is borderline unwatchable. I couldn't finish it!) Here's hoping the Invasion of Astro-Monster is also secretly a good movie in disguise.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Luna and the Monsters

In response to my last post, S said, "Poor Luna looks like she's in hell!!"

The thing is, Luna wouldn't leave the couch! No matter what I did, he was bound and determined to outlast me! I put the plushies around him, and he sat still for a couple of minutes, then moved to the other end of the couch. So I moved the plushies to where he was. And he moved again. Three feet to the left, three feet to the right, three feet to the left again. This game went on for fifteen or twenty minutes. With the picture I used in the last post, I loved the "okay, I'm starting to get annoyed" expression on his face, especially the faintly red glowing eyes.

But just to prove that he didn't really mind all this plushie nonsense too much, here's a picture of him looking reasonably content, even with the chimera perched on top of him.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


While most of my tax refund will go toward replacing my glasses and, most likely, more dental work, I did allow myself to buy some frivolous things with part of my state refund. Namely, monster plushies!

(My long-suffering cat Luna is shown with them for scale.)

I have loved griffins ever since I was a little girl. They've always been one of my favorite mythological beasts. With my love of birds and cats, a half-eagle, half-lion monster was just the coolest thing on wheels. I have wanted a stuffed griffin for nearly my entire life, and I had never before seen one, until I discovered the Here Be Monsters toy line.

What caught my eye first (before I saw they had a griffin) was the chimera. How often do you see a stuffed chimera? Seriously!

So I treated myself to the griffin and the chimera. And they are so adorable! They're goofy and cheesy, which makes them somehow even more lovable.

I think when I get my tax rebate, I will allow myself another plushie or two. I'm thinking the hydra is a must-have. All those cute little heads! The beholder ("eye tyrant," as they call it) is also pretty darn special. But the gargoyle and the transformable werewolf are rather tempting, too. And that four-foot long Chinese dragon! That would look pretty awesome stretched across the back of the couch.

Oh, it takes so little to make me happy sometimes.