Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Moustache Mash

I really believe that once you can grow a moustache (even a weasel-moustache), you should no longer be able to go out in a casual attempt at a costume and beg for candy on the basis of it being "all about the kids."

Now, don't get me wrong, Luther. You know I think it's great that Wil is going out with his buddies, and he loves to do the dress-up thing, and that's wonderful. But on principle, yeah, I gotta say... once you're shaving (or failing to do so), surely this thing about just being given stuff by strangers cuz you're "cute" should end?

Equivalent for girls, you ask? Oh, I dunno. There is nothing outward that isn't just custom. For instance, once you start wearing makeup on a regular basis, I don't see why putting some on your face should afford you free candy at every other door. I mean, where's the "trick" in that?

But yeah, I'm a meanie and we all know it. Because once your body can make babies of its own, I have to say, I'm in favor of you maybe not acting like one yourself, anymore.

When push comes to shove, though, I just miss the creativity of it all. Kids (and/or their parents) used to do something to earn the candy. Now parents are buying plastic costumes off a rack, or kids are buying plastic costumes with the money their parents gave to them, just so that the kids can run around and get candy given to them for free...

What is the point?

Next year, I'm carving a pumpkin. And I'm giving out toothbrushes and little toothpastes.

...

Does anyone, anywhere doubt that I can, in fact, cause the dictionary definition of "curmudgeon" to include me after all?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The pistachios are long gone

I'm sitting up here in our little office haven. It's sunny outside, and the leaves on some trees are changing color and falling, and the sky is blue.

The cat, who has a horrible wound in her shoulder from defending our property from other cats but doesn't seem to care about it, is sleeping on the futon couch next to me.

And Luther is talking on the phone, banishing the disquiet from an earlier difficult conversation by connecting with his bro, his brother, in California.

He mentioned, just now, a blog that I'd written. I entitled it, "It's time to go back, the pistachios are gone." But I didn't blog that. I wrote it in a web site I created after we got back from Greece a couple of years ago. He remembers it as a blog, I guess, because it had a kind of blog aspect.

The thing is, it is time to go back. I miss Greece. I don't want to wait until I'm ancient to do the traveling that my ...okay, I don't believe in souls, but how about my CORE needs? I NEED.

I need to go back to Greece. The pistachios are good, yes. So is the air. And the vitality.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

A very few words

One of the faculty members I've worked with for the last four years passed away over the weekend. I wasn't exactly shocked when I got the news this morning, but there is still that odd surprise, thinking that he's actually gone and will not ever again be strolling in with his cloud of cigarette smoke and his styrofoam coffee cup in hand.

I didn't know him well. I liked some things about him very much -his laid-back attitude, his wit, his wonderful skill with language. I disliked other things. I think if we'd ever actually talked as equals we would have disagreed more than agreed about many things. But we didn't talk as equals. He was "senior faculty," and I am a secretary.

But the thing about this guy is, with just a very few words one day, he made a positive impact on my life. I was walking down the hall, and he was in a doorway with his cloud of smoke and his styrofoam coffee, and as I passed him he said, "When are you getting to work on your Master's?"

I was astonished. I can't imagine why he would have thought about me at all. I have no idea what I said in response. But I got back to my office and I sat down and I started thinking, could I maybe actually do that?

Sometimes I wonder if he was just trying to stir up trouble. Sometimes I feel like I'm less and less popular with the "senior faculty" the further I get in my studies, like I wasn't really supposed to do this and am crossing some kind of boundary we secretaries weren't supposed to cross. Have I been stepping on his toes, I wonder?

Did he ever realize, I wonder, that he put the idea in my head?

I'll never know. But I'll thank him as I say my good bye, and I'll thank him again when I graduate. And I'll remember him with fondness.

Have a good forevernevermore, Dr. Adams. You will be missed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Henry Ford

If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.
--Henry Ford

Ford offered a car in the color of your choice: Any color, as long as it was black.

We talk about positive language. That's positive language. He didn't say, "you can only get it in black," or "you can't get it in any other color."

Ford knew about being positive. Though I abhor the car-centric world he contributed to building, I still think we can all learn from his experience and positive attitude.

And the walls came tumbling down upon our hearts and minds

I wasted some of my valuable time this morning, reading some peoples' "If I were President" emails on CNN.com. Wow, people can be so stupid.

I was particularly irked at the fantasy aspect of it all. "If I were President I would legalize marijuana, blah blah blah." If you were President, darling, you would not actually have the power to do such a thing, but ooookay, pretend the Prez gets a magic wand. While you're at it, how about world peace?

And then of course, I'm pretty close to going over the edge about this wall thing. "I would build a wall all around the United States, so we would be protected from evildoers and dirty Mexicans."

Is it my imagination, or didn't the United States used to be a land where people fought to bring walls down? Is it just me, or is this fervent desire to put up walls a fair demonstration of what has happened to something that once was great?

Someone, somewhere, is shouting back at my keystrokes. It's unintelligable, really, because his English ain't so good, but he's saying something about how the world has changed since 9-11.

Sadly, no. I think we were working on putting up walls before that. 9-11 just brought it out in the open. Strange that some angry, senseless, hurtful men with a couple of box cutters can shed such light. I don't like what I see.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

--Robert Frost

An intelligent, energetic, educated woman cannot be kept in four walls - even satin-lined, diamond-studded walls - without discovering sooner or later that they are still a prison cell.

--Pearl Buck

Friday, October 20, 2006

Possessions are underrated

Money can't buy you love, and things can't make you happy.

That said, some things make me happy. I mean, I look at them, touch them, or play with-- uh, nevermind. The sentiment is true, nonetheless. It's the context that makes one happy.

I have a silver bracelet that is handmade. I don't know where it's from. I bought it from my friend/brother Roderick Zalameda, when he was working at a stand on Queen Street in Toronto. The link, the way the bracelet closes, is a screw. And the screw is handmade too, a silver strand wound around and around in a spiral. Not only is it handmade, it is backwards to the "standard." Lefty-tighty, righty-loosey.

I own many treasures. When someone asks, what are your favorite possessions, I'm at a loss, because I don't rank them. How can I rank them?

What are some of your treasures?

3em is even better than 3M

I found the code I was looking for, and I fixed it. How about that? Of course, I started the hunt in the first place because I wanted a black background, and a black background revealed the complete lack of a right margin in the sidebar content. Finally, I found the sidebar widget, whatever that is, and I changed one of the values to 3em, and wow, that's actually too much margin. I set it to 1em and moved on.

Only by this time, I'd stopped loving the black background.

For my next trick, I'll be trying to figure out how to put a gradient into the background, or maybe tile it with a texture. Because...

yeah, yeah. How hard can it be?

The "new look" is a considerably tweaked version of one of Blogger-beta's stock templates. I made the banner out of a kelp tattoo design I've been thinking of actually having tattooed on my own self, like the woman in the banner only... fatter. And then I made a new gif for one of the template's dividers, and I adjusted some colors. Not bad.

I'll be playing with it some more. Hey, I might even crack open that web design book, eh?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Play time

Obviously (I say, assuming I have "regular viewers"), I am playing with templates. I am frustrated beyond reason by the fact that I can't figure out this language on my own. I never had to open a text book for VB, dammit.

That said, let us be clear: I am not interested in this stuff. I have no desire to write my own "code." Don't even talk to me.

But if you can figure out how I can have a bigger margin in the right column, please let me know. Thx.

CNN's cry for help

Here is one possible explanation for the guy named Loveless who says happiness is overrated:

An evil alien dictator (or perhaps the U.S. government) has taken over CNN and is forcing its staff to slant the news -and through the news, our society- in a horrifyingly dangerous and destructive direction. Reporters are literally chained to their desks, cranking out these lies in mortal fear of torture and death.

But one brave soul is fighting back. He is seeding the news with stories carefully designed to set off our alarm bells. Loveless doesn't believe in happiness?! Come on, that's an obvious fabrication.

And now, stingrays are voluntarily jumping out of the water, into boats, in order to skewer unsuspecting old dudes in the heart. That can't be real.

We must save our intrepid reporter before the evil alien dictator (or U.S. government) discovers what he's been up to.

Love not what you can skip to your heart's content

Too, too funny. I'm going to be late for work, but I just have to post this:

In this morning's news on CNN, an article entitled,
Confident students do worse in math; bad news for U.S.

In essence, happiness is overrated, says study author Tom Loveless.
LOVELESS DON'T SHOW NO LOVE!
"If I'm a math student and I don't perceive myself as confident, you think I'm going to major in it? The answer is no," said Francis "Skip" Fennell
*snort* Shockingly, a guy named "Skip" argues that kids should have fun in math class.

This story has to have been made up, right?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Language arts

I just heard from my sister and my Dad in Toronto. My sister just had surgery on her foot. She said she'd taken a big risk: She failed to take a big black marker and write, "Not this foot! The OTHER ONE!" on the good foot before going to the hospital. But all is well, if broken and painful. The little pills should help.

My Aunt Nan, meanwhile, is suddenly due for a triple bypass. I'm thinking there're going to be a lot more little pills in the family.

In honor of the wounded and crippled of my clan, then, I give you... another rant among so, so many. This time, it's about language.

Today when I got home from workschool (the division blurs), Luther greeted me on my arrival with an observation about the poker game on TV, and the names by which the players were identified. "Jessica" was the female player at the table. The other players, all male, were referred to by their surnames.

Okay, so this is not a shocker. I could go off on a tangent, but I'll abstain this time. Instead, let me just provide my reasoning:

Women don't have their own names.

A woman has her father's name until she marries, when she takes her husband's name.

Understand, I don't think the woman at the poker table was the epitome of tradition. But it's a long tradition, and where once I would have blamed an issue of respect, or perhaps an issue of objectification (sexual, that is), I find today that the use of names at a poker table is in its own way accurate. A given name is just a convenient label; a surname is a property, and women don't own property, at least not if there is a man in the family.

Call Jessica "Smith," and one might be confused and look about the room for Smith, for surely this breasted person is not he.

Later, Luther and I talked again about the recent brawl in college football, Florida-style. Luther remarked on the fact that the reports refer to the "players" and the fair or unfair disciplines to "the players" for fighting. Rarely if ever does someone refer to these "players" as... "Students."

Oh, that's right! They're supposedly college students, yes? And every college has a code of conduct for its students, usually published in a fairly concrete form. I went to the University of Miami to look at their Student Code of Conduct but alas, the link seemed to be broken. I wonder why?

Language is everything. There is no equality for women until they own their own names. There is no point in pretending that football players are students until we refer to them as students and hold them to the same standards as the rest of the student body.

I think, until we start to consistently refer to the athletes as students, they will consistently fail to be so. And in the South, mecca of college football, they'll continue to just be poor, black gladiators for the rather limited white populace. How nice.

Meanwhile, I can't do anything about the women thing. I know that I chose to change my name because I wanted to show in a public way that I was making a family with Luther. I would have been happier if we could have had a name all our own, but he's the fourth of FIVE of his name. Hard to just break the mold mid-stream.

But I hate that anybody would ever think I wasn't a Slocombe.

I miss you both. Eat the pills. Love you.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Stupid human tricks

And now, for something completely time-wastingly fun: In the address bar of your browser, do you see a little green B-squared? And if not, refresh.

Ain't it cool?

It turns out to be pretty easy to do this. I made a little square image, and then I went to MyFavatar and uploaded the image.

I'm going to mess with this some more, I'm sure, but in the meantime, oooh, looky at that!

(Okay. That tears it. I am a geek.)

Post-posting notes: It won't show up in Internet Explorer 6.0, but word on the street is that it will show up in IE7. And I don't much care because I avoid IE like the plague. I use Firefox. Finally, I knew I had to delete my bookmark/favorite to my blog and then re-bookmark it, but still I get no little icon in my bookmarks list. Damn. I might have to do some more research...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Visibility is key

Not once has anybody told me that when one is transporting helium balloons in one's car, one should secure the balloons before starting to drive.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Picture: Less than or equal to 1000 words

The Master's I'm pursuing is in Information Design, which is the compact way of saying, "technical and professional communication, recognizing that this can no longer be limited to writing for print, and therefore encompassing the informed utilization of multimedia, including the Internet and World Wide Web." It's a mouthful, isn't it? You can see why we professional communicators prefer "Information Design."

What this actually means to my studies is that every time I turn around, somebody is talking to me about how writing for the web is different from writing for print.

For example, the first paragraph of this blog post is too long for online readers. Sorry. You gave up halfway through, and have already clicked elsewhere.

This morning, I was on my way to work, driving my little car and thinking about what a perfect day it is, crystal blue sky, crisply cool air, warming sunshine, low traffic during fall break for local schools; and I passed the scene of an accident, SUV and sedan, the sedan all spun around and facing the wrong way on the shoulder of the fast lane, ambulance in attendance, cop lights spinning. I thought about how easily someone can jerk a wheel, startled by another vehicle coming by too closely, dance a little too far into the next lane, and strike another car. At freeway speeds, no impact is small, and you're the best kind of driver and can see 360 degrees at all times, having had just enough coffee and not too much hangover, and you still can't guarantee yours won't be the car that's hit. You can't avoid every accident.

According to the CDC, "More than 41,000 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes each year, and crash injuries result in about 500,000 hospitalizations and four million emergency department visits annually" (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/mvsafety.htm, accessed Oct. 12, 2006).

And yet, people drive longer and longer distances to work and home each day. People spend more and more time in their cars, in traffic, than ever before. And why? Mostly because it's cheaper for businesses and homebuilders to build on open, undeveloped land than to rebuild on developed land, and where your future boss puts his business doesn't relate in any concrete way to where your builder decides to offer your future home. It's all completely meaningless, except for the fact that you need a place to live, and you need money to pay for it. For that, you put your teensy little car on the road with giant tractor-trailers at 80 miles per hour each morning, and you swear to your heart's content at the people on cell phones with electric razors and makeup kits and bowls of cereal at the wheel, and you try to see 360 degrees around at all times, even through that B-pillar that blocks your view and makes you blind.

I tell myself it's worth it, and I get to work safely, and it's a gorgeous day, and I start thinking about writing a blog entry, but I can't decide which to write about: car accidents, my car, the beautiful day, the way I woke up this morning to the sound of a neighborhood-wide broadcast of a high-pitched tone and the electronically-spoken words, "FIRE! FIRE! LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!" And I think about the letters I used to write to my friend Luther.

In 1999, my friend Luther spent six months in Kuwait. I had only recently "met" him, playing an online game with him and several other people in various locations at odd ours of the day and night. He was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force, married, with two children he clearly adored. I didn't know how to spell "sergeant," and I didn't know where Georgia was.

Luther was smart, and he had very traditional manners of a type that seemed old-fashioned to me, but he was also coarse and flirtatious and funny, and just plain foreign to this Canadian hippy-raised forever-single forever-childless city girl. I liked him and decided we would always be friends. And when he was sent to Kuwait and asked for mail, I sent mail, about anything and everything. On the streetcar, at work in the middle of a long take of another boring shot of some show or another, at home waiting for the pizza and pasta delivery from Ciccio's, at Ted's Collision bar drinking with friends, I scribbled notes about my world onto scraps of paper, and then I'd put them together into long, rambling letters that wound up painting a picture that was far more of me than of the city I'd been trying to explain.

They were good letters. I enjoyed writing them. I saw more of my city and my life, in those six months, than I'd been seeing for a long while.

This blogging thing, this is a little attempt at that awareness. Of that joy in who I am and what I love (and hate) about the world around me. And most of the blogs I visit regularly are something of the same, whether the entries are short or long, business or personal.

It's like the whole blogging thing defies the conventions. This paragraph is too long. I've used too many descriptive words. Punctuation is harder to see on-screen. I need to use headings and subheadings. People find it too difficult to read long blocks of text off a computer monitor. The resolution is too low, and the light is harsh. I'm sure it's true: It says so, right here in all three text books for this semester's class. I know it's true.

But I found the car accident interesting. And it's a gorgeous day. I liked writing long letters to my friend Luther, and letting him decide whether or not to make the effort to read them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday morning fallout shelter

So I browse to CNN because I'm stuck between audience analysis and content development plan and need a break.

North Korea claims it's done its wee nuclear test.

And "Foley fallout continues in capital."

Fallout.

It makes me snicker, it does.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes, this is Thanksgiving weekend. Don't talk to me about American Shopping and Football Day, which is not for another month and a half.

I don't have much to say on the topic, mostly because I do not have the day off tomorrow, and I have homework due at noon, too. Still, for some reason I am thinking about food, and two dishes in particular come to mind, even though neither is a Thanksgiving food.

Butter tarts, as it turns out, are Canadian. I mean, if you're American, there's a good chance you've never heard of them. I can describe them as like little pecan tarts without the pecans, but it's not quite right because they can actually be made with pecans, and anyway they don't taste like pecan pie. They taste like... butter tarts.

You can read a little more about them here.

Web surfing the butter tart tends to call up articles about poutine. Poutine isn't related at all, of course, except that it's another Canadian treat. Poutine is another "what are you trying to do, actually induce a heart attack right here?" food, and even though I've only had it a few times, I dream about it often and wonder when and where I might get to enjoy it again.

I know poutine as fries, cheese curds, and gravy. When I tell people about this, I usually have to explain what cheese curds are, and the whole conversation gets off-track at that point. If you don't know what cheese curds are, you're sitting at a computer. Look it up!

Meanwhile, a quick web surf on poutine will show that there are lots of poutine recipes that call for "sauce" rather than gravy, and the type of cheese is a bit up in the air, too. The most shocking thing of all, however, is that there are "Canadian themed" restaurants outside of Canada. Not related to poutine, you point out? Oh yeah? Well, read about poutine on Wikipedia, and then come complain.

McDonald's poutine? Blech! Shouldn't that be illegal?

I'm in love

Some pictures just make me smile all the way from my toes through the top of my head.


I will go down with this ship
I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love and always will be


Friday, October 06, 2006

Homesickness

Two years ago, we went to Greece. Partway through the trip, we took a ferry to the island of Paros. In a little shop on Paros, Luther bought two photo prints, images from the 1950s, little scenes from the towns of Naoussa and Parikia. They were really terrific because they were pictures of Paros as it was back when Luther's Mom spent time there as a child.

Then we took the ferry back to Athens. The ferry ride is a couple of hours long, and Luther took half a dramamine, and I wandered around and watched for the dolphin I'd seen on the way over. And when the ferry docked, we left the ferry, and the photo prints stayed with the ferry, tucked between a seat and a wall where they wouldn't get damaged by passersby.

Occasionally I hunt for such pictures online. It's a fruitless pursuit. The Greece that is online is young and all about the new, not the old.

When I hunt, I get homesick. That's the best word to describe it. I remember the smell of exhaust from the scooters zipping dangerously by on the road between the little hotel and the little beach in Parikia. The Greek dust on the marble -was it marble? I remember it as marble- of my Mom-in-law's patio, where one can stand surrounded by miles and miles of city and see the Acropolis right there, like it's the most ordinary thing in the world. Riding the streetcar. Ice cream at the beach.

I found one photograph of the port of Piraeus in Athens, from the late 1800s, with three-masted ships. The beach with the ice cream is in the picture. My mind does a triple-track camera dolly move, with a focus pull from the Athens of my high school Ancient History class (the second time in summer school, because I failed it the first time) to the Athens of two years ago, with a bus ride, and branded umbrellas in a beach bar, and pretty sailboats, and a photograph that I use for my Blogger profile.

I say to Luther, "When are we going home?" and he doesn't even blink, because he knows which home I'm talking about, and he says, "Soon, baby."

Then today, Jimmy Buffet is playing in my head, and I'm thinking about bantam chickens standing on Volkswagon beetles. And I still have that dusty marble in my mind, but I'm picturing the fireworks of New Year's so far away they look like sparklers, and the black ocean is all around me, and it's quiet because the ship has a sail and isn't using its motor. Waking up in our tent, with the wind blowing, but we did a crazy thing and brought the futon from the couch, so we don't even need tent pegs because the futon keeps the tent on the ground. And we ride our bikes off the Navy base to the bar, where we eat oysters with friends.

Yesterday I was homesick for Greece, and I'm still homesick for Greece, but today I am also homesick for Key West.

I wonder how many places I'll be homesick for, by the time I'm done with this living thing and decide to go away?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Swamp snap cookies

Awhile back, I told my friend Danny Sadder (no relation to Daniel Sadler) that on some days I love the smell of the swamp. When the water level drops, the rotting vegetation is revealed, and the stench is rich and wild and alien and beautiful. Although it has aspects in common with a backed up toilet, the effect is decidedly different. Swamp smell, here in the middle of Georgia in late summer, is like the smell of ...danger.

Today on my way home, though, it smelled more like cookies.

Specifically, the swamp smelled like some kind of freakish gourmet ginger snap cookie just coming out of the oven. Allspice, fresh cardamum pods, and slightly fermented orange zest. The effect was particularly stunning because the air conditioning does not work in my little Honda del Sol, so as I rounded the curve of I-475 a few miles from rejoining I-75, the swamp cookies smell came at me through the window in a blast of hot air, quite like I had just opened the oven and leaned in to see if they were ready.

I'm not saying you should ever -ever- eat the cookies, mind you. Back away from the cookies.

But some days, the swamp smells really cool.