Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We (got) email....

Yesterday, while discussing email addresses over coffee with a friend, I found myself reminiscing about my early days as an AOL subscriber. This was relatively early in the email game for most people outside of technical or academic settings. Back then, for most people, Spam was simply a pressed meat product produced by the Hormel Company and the subject of a rather bizarre Monty Python sketch.

I have a fairly common name which was adopted into a fairly common sounding email address, and as a result found myself the recipient of emails clearly intended for others. Most of them were routine, and I generally ignored them. A couple struck me as being important enough to notify the sender that their email had gone astray.

There was the very nice retired commercial pilot who was trying give advice to his hoping to be a commercial pilot son. I sent him a reply, wishing him and his son luck, and received a lovely answer.

But my all-time, very favorite mis-sent email ran something as follows:

Dear Pat:

It turns out that we can't be in Miami next month after all. Would you be interested in the Super Bowl tickets?


My reply:

Dear Eric:

I am not the Pat you're looking for. But I would be more than happy to take the Super Bowl tickets off of you.


Eric wrote back thanking me for letting him know that his email had not reached its intended target, then said that he had already disposed of the tickets.

Rats. Just when I was thinking that something really cool might come from all this electronic communication.


The commenting problem is fixed.  Sort of.  Turns out it was not so much a Blogger problem as a FireFox problem.  When I use Safari, I can actually comment.  Thanks to datagoddess who mentioned that she had to change from Firefox to IE to get a comment box.  Being a Mac user, that was not an option, but I tried Safari, and violá! Commenting commences!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The best statement of faith I have read in a very long time...

I just wish I had seen it when it was first written in 2004 --  I could have used it a lot since then:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden's "Things I Believe."

There is far too much to quote extensively, but one statement stands out: "I believe that the God who made (among other things) light, and space, and number, and time, and the spiral curve of Fibonacci numbers, must be acknowledged to understand more than I do about why there’s pain in the world."

"In the room the players come and go, talking of their scores on Halo..."

We here at WWF love T.S. Eliot.*  And good parodies of T.S. Eliot, too.  Having already presented "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, as Rewritten for Frat Boys" some time ago, it now falls to us to introduce all of you to...  "The .doc File of J. Alfred Prufrock." (From the absolutely brilliant copperbadge at Live Journal, by way of Making Light.)

*DO NOT get us started on the musical Cats.  Just don't.  Unless you have time for a very lengthy diatribe about Andrew Lloyd Weber.

To the lizard currently hiding underneath the dishwasher...

As it stands, your choices are either 1) keep hiding, and die a slow death of starvation, or 2) wait until nightfall, try to escape, and die a quicker but much more violent death at the paws of one or both cats.  (I would be most worried about the black and white one: she once killed a snake much larger than you.)  The fact that my youngest son has named you "Charlie" in no way changes the fact that you are now as good as dead.

You should have let us capture and release you when you had the chance.

Note to Self...

You really need to start posting about something other than your psyche.  You may be interesting, but you're not that interesting.


All I can hear in my brain is Cole Porter's "It's Too Darned Hot," from Kiss Me, Kate. (No thanks for the earworm, Cole.)  This post both sums up how I'm feeling today, and reminds me how much worse things could be.*

*Except since I wrote that, the tech industry -- along with a lot of others -- have tanked and Barry Bonds has retired.  Which leaves the price of real estate as the major thing to whine about.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Searching for the rainbow

I have a lot of music on my iTunes.  Maybe not a lot by most people's standards, but I think so: 1953 items (and that after I purged about 100 songs this morning, to make room for the latest episode of America's Next Top Model), not including television shows; four days, nineteen hours, fifty-six minutes and 19 seconds worth of music.  A scary amount of that is locked up in Broadway show tunes and movie soundtracks (33 complete soundtracks, from one to four songs from 58 other shows/movies).  That still leaves a lot of room for my other music, which runs from hard rock/heavy metal (Led Zeppelin and Metallica), through country (any one of a number of artists) through rock, and alternative, classical, standards, jazz and even Newfoundland folk rock (Great Big Sea).

Like most people I know, there are a few songs I have multiple versions of; Christmas music, mostly: I've heard  a lot of different interpretations of "Silent Night." There are a couple of non-holiday songs I have multiples of -- I have four versions of "Route 66" (not one of which is by Nat King Cole), and I have eight versions of "Over the Rainbow."

"Over the Rainbow" may be the quintessential song of childhood.  Recognition that life is not always lollipops and Santa Claus, that dreams don't come true -- except in that mythical land which all of us assumed existed when we were very young.  In the original, it was sung by a child, or a teenager at least: Judy Garland was sixteen when she starred in the Wizard of Oz, even though her character, Dorothy Gale, was supposed to be only twelve.  Her rendition is given special poignancy if you know anything about the life of child stars at that period -- in many ways they were anything but children.

For the most part, the versions of the song that I have, other than the original, seem mostly aimed at adults.  (The only exception may be Isreal Kamakawiwo'ole's cheerful yet wistful take on the song. The ukelele is a large part of its charm.) Harry Nilsson's soaring version was even used in the soundtrack of a romantic comedy which was very much not about children.*

My  youngest son, while listening me play each version in order while writing this, made the astute observation that all of the versions after the original were slower and sadder. (Again, the exceptions would be Isreal Kamakawiwo'ole's and Eric Clapton's.  Quite frankly, I bought the Clapton version mainly because the words "Eric Clapton" and "Over the Rainbow" wouldn't fit  in my brain at the same time.)  "The original was not sad, because you could get there someday," he said. "These say 'life sucks' and although I would like it to be different it won't be." He hit the nail on the head.

While I admit this may be as much an artifact of the covers of the song I ended up buying as anything else, as all one's music is a reflection one's psyche, something is happening here. In the hands of these more sophisticated singers,  the song moves from a wistful ballad of possibilities to a sad reflection upon lost childhood.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than to note how adults often reimage childhood things -- songs, toys, holidays (I could do a whole post on the co-opting of Halloween) -- to suit their emotional needs.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we recognize what we are doing.

Revisiting childhood as a foreign country is okay, as long as we remember it is a foreign country, and we can't stay there forever, and that there should be limits on how much baggage we carry away.

*You've Got Mail. I've said before how this movie is one my favorite romantic comedies.  Although it's not the only reason, its use of this and other pieces by Nilsson is part of its charm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blogger commenting FTL

Blogger is not letting me make comments.  I have heard from other people that it is not letting them make comments, either.  Looking at the help boards, it appears this has been affecting a number of blogs and there has been no fix yet.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

A novel idea...

I have an idea for a NaNoWriMo plot! It's not very good, tending toward the maudlin and soap-operish (and I'm not going to reveal it here).  It should be fun to write, though.

I already have rough physical descriptions of the two main characters.  I have to do research, though -- about PTSD, about DADT, about battered-woman syndrome, and, on a more mundane level, how much of a car could you get if you traded in a brand-new Lexus SUV.  I told you it was not going to be a bunch of roses. 

The rough outline runs to 606 words.* Given the 50K word requirement, I just have to extend it by a few orders of magnitude in November and I'm good to go.

*According to the rules, you are allowed to do outlines, character sketches, and research before November 1.  You just can't start writing before then.
Come on, come on
It's getting late now
Come on, come on
Hold my hand
Come on, come on
You just have to whisper
Come on, come on
I will understand

Mary Chapin Carpenter "Come On, Come On"

I am not an album person.  I don't have the patience, generally, to listen to an entire album worth of songs by a single artist.  The number of albums I like as albums could probably be counted on one hand.

 One of  those is Mary Chapin Carpenter's Come On, Come On.*

It was a very successful record: seven of its twelve tracks hit the Billboard top twenty country charts. Songs such as "The Hard Way," "I Feel Lucky," and "I Take My Chances" became big hits, and gained Chapin Carpenter new fans -- myself included.

The past day or two I have been listening to the underrated title song.  It is melancholy, about losing things you never fully appreciated at the time, about loneliness and desire for things that you cannot quite name.

Some people remember the first time
Some can't forget the last
Some just select what they want to from the past

Memory is a tricky thing.  The faces blur, remembered pain remains, and the memory of hope.  Hope about the future, hope about who you would be, and what life would hold.  Memory of dreams.  Memory of longing.

I am getting older -- nearing fifty.  Lately I have been aware of how much closer my life is to its end than its beginning. Not in a morbid way, simply in a sense that time is slipping and if I am to become whatever I am to become, I should probably do it soon.

I am just as confused by life, by dreams, by hope, as I was when I was twenty.  I am not as afraid of the confusion, no longer believing as I did then that the world is an understandable place, and that my confusion simply indicated a failure on my part to adequately comprehend things around me.  At some point I came to the conclusion that however crazy I may be, everything else is still crazier. Confusion is a sane response to an insane world.

And yet...

It's the need you never get used to, so fierce and so confused
It's the loss you never get used to, the first time you lose

Mary Chapin Carpenter is talking about love, or its handmaiden, sex, but she might as well be of so many other things.  Desire takes many forms, for many things: for security, for certainty, for joy, and yes, for love.  And the loss of the feeling that all things are possible, that God is in His heaven and all is right with the world, is a heavy loss indeed.

The song understands.

* Sheryl Crow has an album called C'mon, C'mon.  MCC's is better.

Friday, September 24, 2010

More than you really want to know about my email address...

I was sitting looking at a friend's email address this morning and going.... "Hmmm.  Oookay.... I really wonder where that came from?"  While a lot of people have variations on their names and or initials, followed often by whatever string of numbers their mail provider has chosen to saddle them with to differentiate them from everybody with the same name/initials, some are more distinctive. Even then, people can often figure out a name's provenance -- or so they think.  At least most people think they can with me. It's not quite straightforward, though.

Once upon a time, in oh, the early '90s, there was this company called America Online.  It was based in Vienna, Virginia, which was but spitting distance, more or less, from where we lived in McLean.  (Okay, it was down at the other end of Fairfax County, but still.)

It was still a young company, even though it had been around in some form for nearly a decade.  This was before it was acquired by Time Warner, before those damned ubiquitous CDs that appeared in mailboxes and magazines with dismaying frequency.  Back when they would trumpet "we've just added our 50,000 member!" (And oh boy, was it a big deal when they hit 100k!)  Before the sonorous tones of "You've got mail" became a pop culture joke and a touchpoint for a silly Tom Hanks - Meg Ryan movie.*

I was a habitué of the AOL's Trivia Forum chat room.  It was a good group of people: Tiger123, Jeopchamp (who had never actually been on Jeopardy!) and BDG (BigDumbGuy -- he was anything but) and many other wonderful people. It was my first experience of large scale psuedonymity, such as is the rule today on the Internet.   People would get to know each other, ask about each other's kids, or how the weekend in Atlantic City went, that sort of thing.

Each evening one or more of the hosts would run games.  (My favorite was "Dog's Breakfast" by Tiger123.)  There were no prizes, no glory, simply the satisfaction of having beaten twenty other smart people.  (One of the greatest challenges, actually, was getting into the room.  Each Forum had room for only 22 participants at a time, and 2 of those had to be the Host and the Scorekeeper.)

After a few months, and quite a bit of success as a player, I decided that what I really wanted to do was direct host games.  This was not necessarily a simple task -- the hosts wrote the games as well as ran them.  This was fine with me: I loved the challenge of writing the questions, especially the need to trade off clarity and difficulty.

I ran several games on a weekly basis over the next few months.  I started off with the rather mundanely named "Trivia with Pat."  I then decided to run a game focused solely on history: "The Time Machine." (For anyone out there who played a game named the "Time Machine" on the AOL Trivia Forum that was not run by me: it was taken over by other hosts later.)  It is amazing what you can shoehorn into the category of "history."

And then I started "Madame Verdi's Information Parlor."  Aha! most people say.  "Mrs. Green.  We get it."**  Let's get one thing straight:  I am not, nor have I ever been, Mrs. Greene.  That's my mother.  Or my aunt.  Or my brother's wife.  Not me.

No.  "Madame" was in homage to this woman:

Anna Louise Germaine de Staël, known by most people who have heard of her as Madame de Staël. (Many people have heard of her because of her most famous quote: "The more I know men the better I like dogs.")  She was a novelist, influencer of literary tastes, and ran the hottest salon with the best intellectuals.  Napoleon disliked and distrusted her so much that he had her exiled .  According to a contemporary source, Napoleon said that she "teaches people to think who never thought before, or who had forgotten how to think." My kind of woman.

I am nothing like her, really.  She wrote very well, was incredibly influential, and had style to spare. But this is cyberspace, after all, where, to paraphrase the Rocky Horror Picture Show, if you can dream it, you can be it. And so the Information Parlor was born.

I called it the Information Parlor because I wanted to deal with more serious subjects than in some of my other games, things that people really should know.  As fond as I am of the fact, that Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright and were based upon the foundation that his father Frank Lloyd Wright developed for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, is trivia.  What the Kristallnacht was, or who Alice Paul was, most decidedly is not.  And somewhere along the line, I decided I liked this alter-ego, who was smart and stylish and who had simply the most interesting people hanging around her (electronic) parlor.

After a while, the time-requirements of being a full-time mother of two small children caught up with me. Something had to give, and trivia hosting went.  But I kept Madame Verdi in the back of my head: I used it in email addresses, I had a Live Journal where I asked trivia questions under that name. My (as-yet and probably-forever) unfinished trivia book had her name in the title.  The portion of said book which was sent around to friends several years back as a seventy-eight-page Christmas Card did likewise.  When I started this blog, I used the name as part of the URL.Each time I see that name, I think not only of my doppelganger, but the remarkable woman whose honorific she shares.

I hope Anna Louise would approve.

*You've Got Mail is one of the few romantic comedies of the past thirty years I actually like, in spite of Meg Ryan being in it.  Maybe because Tom Hanks is just so wonderful and lovable.
**Usually followed by "So, why did you mix French and Italian? Shouldn't it be either 'Madame Vert' or 'Signora Verdi'?" The answer to which is a most unstylish and unintellectual "beats the hell out of me."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why yes, we do need the Post Office.

I really should never watch clips of Fox News, even when they are being offered by friends to show that even Republicans know racism when they see it.*  Because I get distracted. In this case by the fact that everyone in this clip argues that the Postal Service should be abolished.

Distracted because all of these white professionals are so completely out of touch with the realities of many people's lives -- especially poor people. Older people. Or people in rural areas where there is not a lot of broadband availability.

According to the commenters on Fox, the Postal Service can be shown to be obsolete because of the threefold path of FedEx, the Internet, and cell phones.

Yes, of course,  FedEx makes a lot of money each year, certainly more than the post office: they charge a lot to ship things, that's why.  An overnight letter from FedEx is $33.87.  That same letter from the US Postal Service is $18.30. And before anyone complains of quality of service, I have had problems with FedEx as well as USPS.

What bothered me most, though, was the idea that the Internet and cellular phones have made the postal service obsolete.  Because, of course, everyone has Internet service.

Except my mother.  She's 82, and not very comfortable with technology.  And she is not alone, at least in not having Internet service:  according to figures released earlier this year, 40% of Americans do not have Internet access in their home.  Public libraries can offer some people access, as can schools, but both of those institutions are being increasingly squeezed by budget cuts in most parts of the country.

So, lacking Internet access, how do people pay their bills, or order goods, or communicate with their loved ones?  Through the mail.  Contrary to popular belief, the letter and card is not completely obsolete: I get them all the time from relatives. (We live in different time zones, so phone calls become tricky.)

And as for cell phones... right.  I was  galled at the woman who brought up depositing checks by phone:  I have a decent phone, with a good camera, but I can't do that.  You need an iPhone -- current retail price for the cheapest model $99.  While that is a far cry cheaper than they were originally, you still need to have a two year contract with AT&T.  Which means switching carriers -- not necessarily a inexpensive proposition.  If you rely on sell-phones without a contract, that you can add minutes to as you need them, you're simply out of luck.

The mistake -- or deliberate ignorance -- that all of these people make is to examine their own experiences and extrapolate from there.  They show a profound lack of understanding of how other people -- the poor, the elderly, the rural -- live their lives.**

And it is those people who would most suffer from any scheme to kill the Postal Service. Personally, I think that the Postal Service should be like roads, or sewers, or the services that help support the populace in their daily lives.  We all benefit from having a service which allows people to manage their affairs in a responsible fashion.

But then what do I know?  I'm not on Fox News.

*But yes, kudos to Senator D'Amato for calling out racist bullshit when he saw it.
** This is at its heart a lack of empathy, that quality so decried by the Republicans during the Sotomayor hearings.  But, as I seem to keep saying a lot these days, that's a rant for another day.

Walking the Path: The Lessons of the Labyrinth

On Monday, I walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  Like the sea, this is a centering ritual for me.

In popular argot, "labyrinth" is synonymous with "maze."  It is not, not in the spiritual sense.  A maze is a puzzle, a trap.  The best ones are confounding riddles in which their joy lies in defeating their creator.

A labyrinth is a discipline.  You need not worry about getting lost, for the way is before you, as long as you follow the path set out.  All you need is patience, and a quiet mind,  The latter is, for me, the most difficult part of the exercise.

Like usual when I walk the labyrinth, I have a specific issue that I am wrestling with.  This time it was letting go:  letting go of people (and a reminder not to do so quickly or easily), letting go of things, letting go of time. Most of all, letting go of outcomes. I can only do what I do in the world; the result of that lies beyond my control.

The first time that I walked the labyrinth, I was struggling with fear: fear of the future, most important of all.  Not so different as this time, perhaps.  I wrote a Live Journal post of things I thought during the experience.  Rereading it, while it seems now rather pretentious, I find great parts still ring true.  Allowing for a little tweaking, an addition or two, they are lessons I am still learning.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ahoy, there, matey!

So once again we reach September 19th, "International Talk Like a Pirate Day."

It is a stupid idea.  Real pirates raped and pillaged and, in their present day incarnations, continue to threaten ships and seamen, primarily off the coast of Africa.  They are not by any stretch of the imagination worthy of celebrating or emulating.

Except, that's not really what ITLAP Day is about, as far as I can tell --- and certainly not for me.  It is a celebration of the caricature of the pirate as it has moved into popular culture.  Paging Jack Sparrow.

At it's heart, it's about doing something supremely silly.... just because we can.  Because every once in a while you need to have a holiday which is not in the least solemn and which has no religious significance or redeeming social value whatsoever, other than giving someone a chance to throw a really good party.*

So, let's party.  If only in our small way.  Here's hopin' the Buccaneers, Raiders and Pirates** win their games today (as of this writing, both the Bucs and Pirates had).  And a great ahoy and huzzah there! to the extremely hard-working ITLAP web-wench.  We be met the lady, and a winsome wench she be, too.

So maties, here's hopin your seas and grog both be smooth.  Save any storm clouds on the horizons for the morrow.

* One of my other favorite holidays is Bloomsday, June 16th.
**But not the Vikings.  Vikings are not pirates.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sometimes, they get things right...

In the past, I have often railed against what I have seen as the idiocy of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Over the past few years, they have engaged in some decisions that made me froth at the mouth.  (Let's not discuss Ledbetter v. Goodyear, or even worse, Kelo v. City of New London.)

In an effort to be more upbeat, I am going to ignore discussions of decisions such as the Citizen's United case, allowing unfettered corporate spending during elections, or the detainee pictures issue.  Instead, there was at least one case to be happy about, at least from my perspective.

This case I am most happy about, Holland v. Florida, seemed to be the sort of thing that would be obvious to any layperson.  An inmate, on death row in Florida, desperately tried to communicate with his lawyer about his case.  All attempts to get the lawyer's attention failed.  The defendant even went so far as to petition the circuit  court directly, only to be told that such an appeal was improper since he was already represented by counsel. The lawyer subsequently missed the filing deadline for the habeas corpus petition.

The question raised before the court was whether the defendant's actions were sufficient to suspend the deadline for submitting habeas review petitions under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.  (The deficencies of which are a rant for another day.) The court failed to answer that question, instead saying the circuit court's decision that lawyer negligence was never enough to suspend the tolling of the statute was wrong.

Well, duh.  If an inmate does all he can and the lawyer is a blithering idiot, it's the inmate's life on the line, not the lawyer's. Sadly, two justices -- two of the usual suspects, Scalia and Thomas -- dissented, stating that the Court was powerless to make any changes.*

Clients are at the mercy of lawyers.  In most cases, it is the lawyers who determine if appeals get filed on time.  There are strict statutes of limitations for a reason: without them, the judicial system would  grind to a halt, and no one could ever be sure that something in their past would not force them before a court to answer for past actions.  (Whether those limits are in fact fair, in any given case, is determined by the particulars of the law.  In some cases, like limits on when an appeal may be filed in a capital case, I find unconscionable; in others, such as limitations on when tort actions may be filed, not so much.) 

Lawyers given to handling capital cases are occasionally underpaid or incompetent.  Until 2000, Alabama attorneys were paid $1000 to defend defendants in capital cases; now they are paid $60 an hour for out of court work and $30 for in court work.  While this may seem like a great deal, for a lawyer, whose has office overhead, and whose capital defense work would affect his ability to work on other, more lucrative cases, it is a pittance.  Not to mention the costs of investigators to probe into the case and the background of the client to find questionable facts or mitigating circumstances.

To preclude an inmate who has done his desperate best to forward his case is to allow technicalities to trump any notion of justice.

There were other cases whose outcome I applauded, such as the Florida beach ownership case, Stop the Beach v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (from the viewpoint of someone who believes --- admittedly perhaps socialistically -- that all beach access should be public)** and, more reservedly, the juvenile justice cases (see previous post).

I am looking forward to seeing what the court does next.  The term begins October 4.  No doubt I will rant about the stupid decisions, but hopefully I will also be able to find time to cheer the good ones.

*There is another rant in here about how some of Scalia's statements in other cases can be construed to imply that there is no constitutional right to prove one's innocence, but again, that's a rant for another day.
** They left the whole judicial takings issue for another day.  Given the makeup of the Court, that's a little worrisome, but in any case we don't have to deal with it now.
Chuck Jones was a genius.  I have been sitting around for the past hour watching various shorts from the "Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 2" -- the collection which includes both "One Froggy Evening" and "What's Opera, Doc?" ("Rabbit of Seville" is on the first collection, I believe.)

At any rate, at the beginning of a lesser known short called "The Hep Cat," the hero (a lovesick tom) runs past the doghouse of his nemesis, which has the name "Rosebud" painted above the door.

I wondered, what sort of a dog would be named Rosebud? And the answer came to me...

A sled dog, of course.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Odds 'n' Ends

It constantly amuses me that, throughout the lifetime of this blog, the two pages that seem to get the most hits are this and this.  People get there through ill-thought-out Google searches.  I keep wanting to set out a disclaimer at the top of the first one saying: "Really, people.  You need to find a better site to check out Wilfrid Owen's poetry.  Or try a library." As for the second... well, I'm pleased.  I'm sure the story of Harry Burn was not what these guys were looking for (and I have a suspicion most of those who get to the page by Googling "little-known heroes" are working on school papers) but I am more than happy to tell people about him.

Note to kid:  there is a correlation between you staying up all hours to talk to your would-be-girlfriend on Facebook and you oversleeping and missing the bus in the morning.  Since you seem to have trouble with this concept, we'll reinforce it: you get no Net access on days you've missed the bus.  Simple?

I missed some of my favorite movies quotes the other night, I realized later, but only one of them was enough of an omission that I feel compelled to mention it:  "There's a fine line between clever and stupid."  (Spinal Tap.) I do in fact say this frequently.

I am not employed... but I am working.  Sort of.  I volunteer at an amazing agency that helps provide grief and bereavement counseling for people following the death of a loved one.  It's a few hours a week, and I take it seriously.  They can't afford to give me a job, although they love my work, and at some point I really do need another full-time or significant part-time position.  Until I have to give it up --- i.e., when I actually get a paying job -- I'll be there, if they'll have me.  Having work that matters in the world is more important to me than how much I get paid for it.  If only I could explain that to the bank that holds the mortgage....

A friend last week over coffee asked, smiling,  "So, how are you going to get a writing job?" Um... I don't know?  I had just finished explaining that on vocational assessments the careers of "Author" and "Columnist" come up with alarming regularity.  Given that it's really hard these days to get paid to produce the written word, I've pretty much given up on doing anything in that field.  But her query made me think -- maybe I've given up too soon or too easily. Food for thought, certainly.  Maybe I am getting old enough that I should stop fretting about what I am going to do when I grow up and simply do it.

Speaking of age, yesterday, following a discussion in which I mentioned that there were people to whom I wanted to say "Oh, you're a baaaaby.... you're not even forty yet!", one of the people I was talking to said "You're not forty yet, either, though, are you?"  Hee hee.  Made my week.  Even if I did simply think that she was very, very bad at estimating ages.  (No, I am not going to tell you exactly how old I am, other than "over forty.")   Thanks for the great genes, Mom.

Speaking of writing, NaNoWriMo begins November 1.  I have not decided whether I am going to participate.  Unlike the only other time I did NaNoWriMo, I have no idea for a plot.  Writing about my life might be less than dramatic -- or not, as the case may be.  The last time, I wrote a book so nakedly about my own life (a roman à clef on steroids) that I was afraid to have anyone in my family or circle of friends read it, for fear that they would stop talking to either a) me or b) the individuals on whom other characters in the story were modeled.  (It was close enough to my own life that at a party I called a woman in my extended social circle "Barb," which was the name she had had in the book.  "Who's Barb?" the woman asked, confusedly.)  It was also, not to put too fine a gloss on it, simply godawful.  Really, really, painfully bad.   But an amazing amount of fun to write. 

And can't all of us use more fun in our lives?

"We the people...."

On this day 223 years ago, "We the people" became the recipient one of the greatest gifts of democracy ever presented upon the earth.

The U.S. Constitution remains a wonder of draftsmanship: explicit enough to get things done, yet flexible enough to allow for the shifting sands of history.  The drafters could have done a much more restrictive job of detailing what goes into a system of government, yet they didn't.  They created a document for all ages, as much as for their own.

It's not perfect:  many words by people far more eloquent than I have been spent in discussing its major failing -- the treating of millions of people as little better than property.  It would take 78 years for that injustice to be corrected.

Its greatest strength lies in the opportunity it provides for correcting its most egregious wrongs.  There is not enough protection for individual rights?  Add a set of amendments designed to safeguard each of us from the tyranny of the majority as enshrined in a representative government.  Slavery still allowed?  Amend the Constitution!  After a protracted and bloody war, true; but don't throw out the whole document and start anew.  Just add words which recognize that all men truly are created equal. *

Out of the twenty seven times the Constitution has been amended in over 200 years, only once has the country decided later that the amendment was a bad idea.  That's not a bad batting average.

The Constitution defines who we are.  The Declaration of Independence may have given birth to this nation, but it is the Constitution which gives it form and shape.

Happy Constitution Day, everyone.

*It still fails in one respect: the lack of a simple sentence which would read  "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Letters I really should send...

Dear Apple, iTunes Division:
No, I absolutely refuse to buy the entire Cars soundtrack just to get John Mayer's great rendition of "Route 66."  While I love Randy Newman's work, I can live without hearing more Sheryl Crow on anything, and I already own Rascal Flatt's version of "Life is a Highway" (which is not nearly as good as the original, but I digress).  Nor will I shell out ten bucks just to get Sarah Machlaclan's "When She Loved Me," from the Toy Story 2 soundtrack.  This is extortion, plain and simple. (Okay, so I can understand making people buy the whole album to get Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," but that piece (not really a song) is nearly a half-hour long.)  I would not buy anything else from you in protest, but I admit I'm hooked.

Dear Democrats in Congress:
Bipartisanship is a myth.  The Republicans did not practice it when they were in power, don't be browbeaten by them into attempting to practice it now.  It will not work.

Dear Supreme Court of the United States:
Thank you for having a number of opinions last term that did not make me want to gnash my teeth and rip my hair out.  Way to go, ladies and gentlemen.  I look forward to seeing what you do next term.

Dear Editors of the St. Petersburg Times:
Please keep turning out the best paper in the U.S.  Aside from your excellent news reporting (especially your longer series), you continue to be the major source for me of news about the Rays (hurrah!) and the Bucs (sort of worried about them, really), living here in exile in Giants and 49ers country as I do.

Dear Tampa Bay Rays:
Thank you for having a lovely season thus far.  It's so nice to be rooting for a winning team.

Dear Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Please, please don't suck this season.

Dear High-school students in my house:
How nice that you've finally realized the correlation between actually doing your homework and getting decent grades.  Keep up the good work.


Dear friends -- there are several of you, and you know who you are -- who have asked me really difficult personal questions over the past few weeks:
Thank you.  I am a work in progress, and works in progress need to have their butts kicked now and again.  I don't have any answers for you, but at least I'm thinking about the questions.



Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like ... well, whatever.

Rocket Scientist dropped by my room last night, smirking.  "It's an anniversary!" he proclaimed.  "Oh, yeah?  Of what?" I replied.

"It's been six years since your 'Prado Moment'!"

I was very good.  Although my reponse is not repeatable in polite company, I did not actually throw anything at him.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My own post for today, on fear of Muslims and religious tolerance and the election of public figures, did not come together in time.  Just as well.  I'd rather have it in good shape and my thoughts as clear as I can before I post it.

However, I would like to post a few links.

The first, to Terry Karney's post for today, "Today, call me a Muslim ."

The second, to a post made about three weeks ago by Fred Clark over at Slacktivist, "Please forgive me for the actions of extremists I have never met who commit acts of violence that I have never advocated."

 And finally, for everyone of all religious persuasions, "God Angrily Clarifies Don't Kill Rule."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Movie Quotes

I actually have two substantive political posts in process.  I am too brain-dead to work on them right now, so I decided to write fluff.

Tonight, on FaceBook (I have been spending a lot of time on FB lately, so sue me)  I found occasion to write some of my favorite movie lines.  Here are twenty of my favorites, in no particular order (they're from memory, so if I don't get them exactly right feel free to correct me in comments).  The starred ones are ones I have actually used in conversation, more or less:

1.  "Are you crying? There's no crying in baseball!"* A League of Their Own  (I've used this at actual Little League baseball practices.)
2.  "Aristotle was not Belgian.  The London Underground is not a political movement.  And the central tenet of Buddhism is not "every man for himself."  A Fish Called Wanda
3. Also, from the same movie: "I've worn dresses with higher IQs than you!"
4.  "Houston, we have a problem."* Apollo 13 (Okay, as the wife of a NASA lifer, what do you expect?  I say this to my kids.)
5. "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."* Cool Hand Luke (Again, a favorite to say to my kids.)
6.  "I coulda been a contender."* On the Waterfront (Let's not discuss Jeopardy!, shall we?)
7.  "...So do all who live in such times ... All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
8. "It's 106 miles to Chicago.  We have a full tank of gas, a half pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."* The Blues Brothers (There was this trip where we drove across the Midwest.  I must have repeated this quote across all of Illinois, usually followed by a giggle.  My family was not amused.)
9.  "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."* The Wizard of Oz. (See above comment.)
10. "So what? Noah was a drunk.  Look at what he accomplished."  (Dogma, the best movie about religion ever made.  There was also a hysterical opening screen about platypi, but I can't remember the exact wording.)
11. "Badges? "We don't need no stinkin' badges!"* Treasure of the Sierra Madre (usually used with something substituting for the word "Badges")
12.  "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."* Finding Nemo (Usually repeated to myself as a mantra.)
13. "I didn't recognize you without the handcuffs." Rent
14. "It will work itself out." "But how?" "I don't know, it's a mystery."* Shakespeare in Love
15. "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."* Raiders of the Lost Ark
16. "I love you!" "I know."* The Empire Strikes Back (Quite frankly, after that exchange, Han deserved to be frozen in carbonite.)
17. "I am shocked! shocked! to find gambling going on here!" (Casablanca.  In fact Casablanca is a gold mine for great quotes.)
18. "We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.... But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that." (also from Casablanca)
19. "Look, it's Ethel Barrymore!" (Singing in the Rain.)
20. "Look, Princess, let's get one thing straight - the only person I take orders from is me." "It's a wonder you're still alive." (Star Wars)

And one I hope my kids never say again: "There can be only one Highlander!" (Okay, so we were in Scotland, but still.  On the other hand, I think they were getting back at me for the Blues Brothers quote the year before.)

My favorite movie quote exchange came at the Apple store.  The "genius" and I were trying to get an operating system problem resolved, and the laptop was simply not cooperating.  I softly said, "Open the pod bay doors, HAL," and, without missing a beat, the Apple guy came back, "I can't do that, Dave."

What are your favorite quotes?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Because I'm bored, but too brain-dead to do anything useful

I almost never cross-post from my LJ to here*, but you know what? It's 1 a.m. and I am very much awake.  (Note to self:  Coke has caffeine, stupid.  Drinking it at 11 p.m. and expecting to get to sleep anytime soon? Not wise.)

So, about my LJ...  I have a quiz there.  Some time ago I made a cd mix called "Pat's Soundtrack."  The quiz is composed of odd lines from the songs, to see if people can identify them.  Just in case you're up at 1 a.m. too, and as bored as I was.  Or in case you're just interested.  Or like proving to yourself how musically savvy you are.

*I sometimes cross-post in the other direction.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I have been trying to comment to blog posts here, and the stupid Blogger won't let me.  Pooh.  Other people have complained about this in the help fprum but I have yet to see a satisfactory answer.

Who you gonna call?

I may be going to hell for linking to this.....

My one hope in life is that whatever God there may be has a sense of humor, or I am totally screwed.