18 December 2008

After the daily blogging last month, we've had a little hiatus. But it's December, after all, a Busy Month for the academics. Not just the holidays, but all those papers! All those finals! All those excuses, both excellent and not!

Let the games begin.

08 December 2008

Oxford English Dictionary, Changing With the Times

This just in:

Words taken out of the Oxford Junior Dictionary include: Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, dwarf, elf, goblin, abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar, coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren. Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow.

This is, apparently, cause they represent a Britain which no longer exists. England is moving on. They have new words, though, such as blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue, celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph.

I'm still annoyed that the language no longer sustains words like swyve and swink, though, so there's no point in me getting all riled about this. And one of those words wouldn't have been appropriate for a children's dictionary, anyway. But I don't know HOW I'm going to explain all this to the corgi.

06 December 2008

We're back from the last "Bad Dog Class" (marketed as "Adult Basic," but we knew better), and not only did Rhys graduate, he took a prize for the longest "sit-stay." We could have gone on longer, but everybody was so congratulatory, we got distracted.

So I have a dog who can "sit-down-sit-stand-down-sit" pretty quickly (though not as precisely as the dog who took THAT prize), can "sit-stay," can "heel," and even refrain from pulling whilst in class, and is just bright as a button, and then goes home and barks till we all want to pull our hair out -- or at least get in a mass and pretend we're sheep and do whatever he wants -- and nips at our heels until we all want to pull our hair out -- or at least get in a mass and pretend we're sheep and do whatever he wants -- and considers himself the boss of the house, and can't be trusted not to pull when we're walking down the street. Cause he has an agenda. Unless we're in class, where his agenda, being to do whatever he has to do to get the CHEESE, is MY agenda, cause I have opposable thumbs.

But he's got a prize from obedience class.

It was stuffed toy. Within five minutes he had the squeaker and most of the stuffing out.

Life's good, for corgis.

And lord knows they're entertaining.

05 December 2008

More Octopus Stories

Apropos of our octopus fashion yesterday, we have the news from Coburg, Germany, that the zoo's octopus is bored cause the aquarium is closed for the winter, so he's shorted out the overhead light by squirting ink at it, he's been juggling the hermit crabs, he's been throwing stones at the glass and damaging it (he's going to be Real Sorry, if he keeps this up), and he's been changing the decor of the tank, which makes his neighbors unhappy.

Much like Rhys, when he hasn't gotten to the dog park enough.

04 December 2008

Finally, Some Good News

The subject of my post yesterday depressed the hell out of me, so I'm glad to say this morning that the news is that, even though the world has currently gone over a very high cliff in its quest to get to hell in a handbasket, nevertheless the fall fashions are going to cheer us all up: affordable, flattering, and appropriate.
I am so looking forward to teaching "Political Drama" whilst wearing this.
(From the VECONA Fashion Show in Brugge, courtesy of Boing Boing.)

03 December 2008

That's Enough.

France is set to propose a United Nations resolution, on behalf of the 27-member European Union, calling on govenments worldwide to de-criminalize homosexuality.

This concerns the imprisonment and execution of men and women around the world, because homosexuality is punishible by imprisonment in 65 countries in the world -- and death in several of them.

The Vatican opposes this resolution because it could lead to "reverse discrimination against heterosexual marriage."

Better that the United Nations refuse to take a stand on the imprisonment and executution of gays, than that they be allowed, anywhere, to marry?

In what way is this Christian?

02 December 2008

Abbie the Cat is back today -- he's been gone for a while (not like the time he was LOST, which was AWFUL, but more like he just hasn't been posting), but is back to tell us all about his tuna fish prize for something or other -- being a sassy cat, I gather, which he nearly got twice but the humans got in the way.

Also, consider yourself warned: do NOT go to the snake temple and fall into a trance. Cause it's a pain in the butt for everybody else. You want to know WHICH snake temple, you say? Sorry, can't help you there. I'd just avoid tackiness at all of them; that way you'll be safe.

Also, if you're in England, looking for holiday cheer and activities, you're too late, alas, to go to the "Lapland New Forest Theme Park," with its promised "real log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs and other animals, as well as a 'bustling' Christmas market." It opened on Friday, hundreds of people complained to the BBC, the website was down by Monday, and, well, you're too late. Too bad -- it had lots of Christmasy English mud, and some depressed reindeer. It cost 150 pounds! (This translates to \$225 today!) And then you had to pay more to use the broken ice rink and see the chained up barking husky dogs!

There are currently four Facebook groups concerning the dreadfulness of Lapland New Forest.

The manager says that the park's not a ripoff; it's just that there were a few rainy days there, alas. Also he says the ice rink has been fixed.

No word on whether the reindeer are still depressed.

01 December 2008

The NaBloPoMo theme for December is thanks.

The word "thank" goes back into Old English, pretty much unchanged -- that's how important it is -- BUT it originally meant "thought" -- that is, as in "think."

Ha ha, NaBloPoMo! Ha ha! So, really, anything we think is a thanks. So all our thoughts count, for December. Even the little ones, like this.

For which we can be thankful.

30 November 2008

Novenber 30: Posts Every Day for the Whole Damn Month

As soon as I hit the "post" button, I will have fulfilled the NaBloPoMo challenge of blogging every day for the month of November.

Eden wants to know if we managed to be thought-provoking every day, or if we feel like we clogged up the Internet.

Hell, no, I didn't clog up the Internet! No way!

Especially now that I get the Arbroath RSS feed, so that I can tell you that you can buy a 2009 calendar with naked zookeepers at the Dudley Zoo, so as to contribute funds to the Madagascar campaign to keep lemurs in the wild, or that the United States is only 6th on the list of the most promiscuous countries (Britain rules).

Wasting your time! I think not.

Next on the NaBloPoMo plan is "thanks" all through December, which sounds like fun. I'm in.

29 November 2008

Home Soon

The 6:00 AM flight out of Albuquerque was full, which was odd, even on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It's usually empty. And there were lines at the airport, also not usual.

We made the flight, and since we bought the tickets before June, we didn't have to pay for the bags. Bear is being safely hand-carried, after his exciting flight down the steps at Acoma.

Lots of passengers had less than 30 minutes to catch flights, some of which were pretty far away. We got in on time; that wasn't the issue. The issue was that United had scheduled a lot of flights with very little turn-around.

So we hope that everybody got their flights; we hope that everybody's luggage got transferred; we're hanging out waiting for our flight so we can go pick up the dogs from the dog hotel and go home to Nutwood.

And next time I get a chance to buy a car, I'm getting a Prius. I drove one all around Albuquerque and I loved it.

28 November 2008

We Rest from Thanksgiving

We had a lovely day yesterday, hanging out with the family whilst Jim, the courageous and excellent brother who was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, prepared yet another lovely feast.

It was not without its excitements, though. Some of you may remember the exciting turkey problems from last year. This year, we had not only a new turkey recipe, but my wheat and dairy issues.

Jim wanted to make a recipe that called for roasting the turkey above the stuffing, and letting the turkey drippings fall into the stuffing. Excellent idea.

He was making cornbread stuffing with no wheat and no buttermilk, though, and for some reason I forget, he had to make two recipes. So there was a lot of stuffing. This meant that there wasn't much room in between the stuffing and the turkey. And so it took a looooong time to roast.

Indeed, it never did get roasted fully.

The gravy also had problems; soy milk and cornstarch SHOULD have worked, but never did, we don't know why.

Eventually Jim went out and bought roasted chickens.

They were great, actually, and there was indeed cranberry sauce, and the cornbread stuffing, which turned out well, and calabacitas, and black eyed peas.

All was well.

Today we're going off to buy pinon nuts, cause there weren't any last year and I ran out, and we have final goodbyes, and then we'll come home.

And next year perhaps we'll have yet more turkey excitement.

Or, maybe we'll just go out.

27 November 2008

Here's What's Under the Wallpaper at Nutwood

The current project over at the house formerly known as Nutwood concerns the master bedroom, which is getting painted. There was wallpaper in there when we started; it looked like it had been put in in maybe the 70's -- large grey and blue flowers, striped background. When we next get pictures, I expect we'll be able to see the lavender walls with white trim, but this morning we received this excellent picture of the walls with the wallpaper off, and the patching put in. You can see that the trim is being stripped -- the current paint job is peeling off, because it was painted over varnish. You can see that there's a LOT of patching needed.
And up at the top, you can see the black border, that went all around the wall up at the ceiling. I'm wondering how many rooms had that.
I don't know whether it's original; the surface you see there isn't the original plaster, but the paper put up on the original plaster, that's left when you take the wallpaper down.
If you know anything about Victorian black borders, and wallpapering and plastering techniques, and can say more about the black border, let me know in the comments!
When we get photos of the newly painted room, I'll share those, too.

26 November 2008

Bear Takes a Fall. Or Flies. But All Manner of Things Are Well.

Yesterday we went out to Acoma, a place I visit almost every time I come back to New Mexico, a place I love dearly. Sky City is now partnered with the National Trust (here's an excellent article on the history of the museum); almost everybody in the Acoma nation lives down off the mesa, but a few elders and tribal government officials live year round up in Sky City still. Visitors can go up on a guided tour. And along the route of the tour, potters sell their wares.

We fell in love with an excellent pottery bear. Beautifully crafted. Full of presence. The potter wrapped him up in bubble wrap and put him in a box full of packing peanuts and taped the whole thing up, so that we could get him home safely.

It's a wonderful tour. You can look out at the Enchanted Mesa, where the Acoma people lived before they came to Sky City. There is evidence of habitation there, and our tour guide this time told us that it'd been carbon-dated to 650 AD. In Sky City, the oldest buildings are dated at 1150 AD.

So we saw that, and we saw the church, and we heard stories, and then at the end, instead of taking the bus back, we elected to climb down the old trail.

It's a doable trail, and there are stone steps and ancient hand holds cared in the rock, but it takes some effort. And Bear didn't fit in the backpack, so he was getting carried.

On a particularly difficult piece I said, "Why don't you let me carry Bear, so that you can get down safely?"

And I got handed Bear, whose box was in a plastic grocery bag. As I carried him out over the steps, the handle pulled off. And we watched the beloved (and not inexpensive) Bear tumble down the stone steps.

That was not good.

But he's ok -- when we got back to the restaurant we opened up the box, and felt his little legs, and then later got him back to my mom's house, where we unwrapped him entirely and admired his beauty and excellent workmanship.

And sturdiness.

So we say Bear flew down the mesa.

25 November 2008

Good Morning!

The bed-and-breakfast will soon be feeding us (the cook is all excited about making gluten-free dairy free blueberry muffins, bless her), and then we'll be off to visit Acoma Pueblo.

A sobering/hilarious compilation of clips of pundits in 2006-2007 making fun of Peter Schiff's prediction that a long hard recession was coming;

Got Medieval is selling magnets of its medieval personal ads ;

An Essex woman is disturbed about her parrot's lust for her feathered hat;

And some prehistoric monoliths are finding their second or third home on a suburban lawn in Dorset.

I'd see how much a set would cost for Nutwood, but I'm much more interested in a turf labyrinth.

24 November 2008

The World According to Me

It's about 7 AM and we're in the Pittsburgh airport, getting ready to fly to Denver, on our way to Albuquerque. It's early. It's dark.

Last night my friend Scott sent me this page, a beautiful map of England, called "An Etymologist's View of the World." I've never seen, ever, a map of the world as I understand it. But indeed, this is what it looks like to me. London? Hillfort. Dublin? Black Pool. I translate the names of the world constantly.

Though as we know from Brian Friel, sometimes "it can happen that a civilization can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of ... fact."

23 November 2008

Rhys and the "Recall" Trick

Yesterday at Bad Dog Class we worked on "recall," which is when you say things like "Rhys, come!" and then Rhys, instead of assuming that what you mean is "stop by when you feel like it, if you get a chance," actually comes.

So we had a little practice in class, and he did ok but not great, and then we were told that we should NEVER, EVER command the dogs to come to us if we couldn't actually make them do it, until they learned that really it meant now, get over here now, not at dinner time, because otherwise they would understand what was obviously true, which would be that we didn't mean it and they could instead run around and play.

So it was suggested that we get long lengths of clothes line and clip it to their collars when they went out, and then when we call "come" and they run off, we can jump on the clothesline and bring then up short, thereby teaching them that really there's no point in attempting to run over into the neighbors' yards and bark at their cats and steal their bunny slippers, cause really they're going inside instead. Cause we said so.

Oh, how elated we were to hear this excellent trick!

So we went right to the Home Depot on the way home, and bought supplies, and went home and created long leashes, and clipped them to the dogs' collars, and let them outside. Betty got herself all tangled up and had to be rescued.

Rhys went dashing off, discovered that the long line was bothersome, turned around and bit through it in 30 seconds, ran around for a while, and then sat down in the snow, wearing the long leash draped all over his head as decoration.

We were, admittedly, able to get him immediately, cause what was left of the leash was long enough to catch him.

But really. So much for the clothesline.

22 November 2008

In a couple of days we'll be leaving for Albuquerque, where I hope to God my brother, may he be blessed forever and may all his actions bring him peace and harmony, isn't trying to figure out how to make wheat-free stuffing. Cause I'm the only one who NEEDS things that are wheat-free, everybody likes REAL stuffing, and I'm pretty sure that stuffing made with Fake Bread will taste nasty.

As help for all of us going off to see the relatives -- or having them over -- for American Thanksgiving, The Nest brings us Topics to Avoid at Thanksgiving Dinner.

Luckily, they also give you a list of Safe Things to Talk About:

Recent vacations
Funny characters at work
The delicious food
Winter/holiday plans
Sports (unless someone at the table is a diehard fan with a hot temper)
The weather
Apolitical movies/TV shows (prepare by catching up on Mad Men and Lost)
And when all else fails: puppies!

Look for lots of discussions of Rhys: How He's Doing at Bad Dog School, at your dinner table in Albuquerque.

21 November 2008

British Education: This Just In.

Well. Much to my surprise, the Brits turn out to not know much more about Britain than Americans do about America. Three quarters of the British polled during Geography Awareness week could not name the three countries that make up Great Britain.

"Explorer" was the top preferred career, though.

I was confused by this, since I thought there weren't so very many places to explore these days.

But then I saw that most of the people in the same poll didn't know where Leeds was, so I figure that "explorer" could mean "the sort of person who can manage to get out of London on the train, and end up somewhere there's a Sainsbury's."

As I say, though, Americans also have trouble with their own geography. Half of us can't find the state of New York on a map; two thirds of us can't find Louisiana.

We can't find Great Britain, either, which means we'll be no help at all trying to find Leeds.

But, damn, I thought the English could find it.

20 November 2008

Beating up Malory

In the Medieval Lit class, we've finally gotten to Malory, who, after figuring out how to cobble several contradictory bits of Arthurian stories together, would allow us to create most of the middle ages as we culturally know them. I try to be polite about the literature I'm teaching, but Malory goes up my nose.

And he's so easy to make fun of. I myself, in the long ago, posted a Malory parody of our department's reaction to the Starbucks coming in to the Student Union building.

Today I'm pleased to bring you a bit written by one of my students, and stolen by me off another student's Facebook page (I asked, of course).

It started when one of the students asked, about the sword in the stone, "isn't this phallic imagery?" To which I replied, "isn't everything phallic imagery?"

And then later in the grad office they had a long discussion of Malory, using the work "penisy" many times.

And then one of the other students came up with this bit of Maloriana:

"Than kynge Arthure loked on the swerde and lyked hit passynge well, especially its gret gyrth and lyngth. Than seyde Merlion,'Whethir lyke ye better the swerde othir the scawberde?'"I lyke bettir the swerde,' seyde Arthure."Ye ar the more unwyse, for the scarberde ys worth ten of the swerde; for whyles ye have the scawberde uppon you ye shall lose no fluyde. Therefore kepe well the scawberde allweyes with you, and note ye welle thys reysyrvaur at the tippe. Yt ys moste crusiall.'
'Nay, Merlion. I wit ryght welle thys scarberde be to smalle for myne longe swerde.'
'Alas, Arthure, ye shall beget your own downfall with thys vainglory and unwieldy swerde. Put hit away, ye be creyping me out. For Merlion may be maister of many dyverse thynges, but hys cocke doth not crowe in thyn direction.'
[Malory. pg 36. Oxford. 1971]

I'm glad that my students are learning so well.

19 November 2008

Where the Hell is my Car.

Actually, despite the title of the post, I know where my car is -- it's in the parking lot here at work, not on the street outside my house, where I looked for it this morning and it wasn't there cause I forgot to get dropped off back at the garage last night, and just went home.

So I got a ride to work today.

That's sort of emblematic of life these days -- I'm happy, I'm cheerful, I'm getting my work done, but I don't necessarily know where my car is.

Luckily the break comes after Friday -- we'll be in Albuquerque, where I'll be blogging my efforts to find food that doesn't stop my breathing -- and then there's only a week and a half of classes.

So things are going to get easier soon.

After that, we'll be figuring out how to save the new tree skirt from the dogs. Made of felt, with stuffed ornaments and sequins all over it, it's obviously a Dog Toy. Especially if you're the sort of dog that thinks that pillows and bedroom slippers are Dog Toys. We're going to need to tie the tree down -- essentially a Giant Stick, it also is a Dog Toy -- and barricade it off. Save the Christmas tree! Save the tree skirt! Save the presents!

It's going to be lots of fun.

18 November 2008

Real Estate Downfall

Here's the housing bubble bursting, if it happens while you're in Hitler's Berlin bunker.

Thanks, bro! Very funny indeed. He's going to miss the granite countertops.

OMG! An Extra Hour!

I just went to my 10:00 meeting, but my 10:00 meeting is at 11:00, which actually it always is, so I have an extra hour. Excellent.

Time for a Blog Post.

Let's make it out of, not just ephemera, but REALLY fleeting ephemera (that'd be ephemera ephemerae):

1) I don't know which piece of me that thinks this morning's Bayeux Tapestry Joke is SOOOOO hilarious; best not to know, I expect, but here it is:

2) A whole lot of the page at Change.gov which is dedicated to civil rights concerns LGBT issues. The president-elect takes this seriously.

Excellent. Me, too.

I suppose that's not really ephemera, not on the lines of the Bayeux Tapestry Jokes. Nothing's really as ephemeral as the Bayeux Tapestry Jokes.

3) Along those lines, today marks the 5th anniversary of the Massachusetts decision that made same-sex marriage legal in that state. I was in Massachusetts recently, and I noticed that it was still there, and doing fine.

4) Also, on this day in 1883, the railroads created the first time zones. Cause it was the first time we were going fast enough, far enough, to need them. Notice that we're doing fine after that, too, even if sometimes I do call my Mom by mistake when she's sleeping cause I forget that Albuquerque isn't on Pittsburgh time.

5) Also, daylight savings, while I'm thinking about it. That hasn't caused us horrible problems, either, even though back when New Mexico was going on Daylight Savings, a woman wrote in to the Albuquerque Journal to complain, cause her roses could NOT take another hour of sunlight.

And yet, they're still growing roses in Albuquerque, even though now there's an extra hour of sun every day. Life goes on.

17 November 2008

By The Way

I've turned on comment moderation, oh my friends. So go ahead and leave comments -- I'll post all non-hateful comments.

Monday! It's Snowing!

There were some little flurries over the weekend, but what's outside my window is actually snow, the sort that sticks on the ground and gladdens the hearts of cardigan corgis.

For your early weekday reading, here's some PARODY news from the Onion (I emphasize the parody part on account of it's happened that people occasionally think the Onion's for real, which of course it is, but only in a slightly alternate universe):

WASHINGTON—In a landmark decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled to uphold the Bill of Rights, the very tenets upon which American society is based. "After carefully considering the relevance of the 10 inviolable rights that comprise the ideological foundation on which our nation is built, the court finds that these basic freedoms remain important for the time being, and should not be overturned," read the majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast the tie-breaking vote. "Until such time as it can be definitively proven that citizens no longer require the protections provided by the Bill of Rights, it shall remain the principal legal guidance for the United States of America." The Supreme Court's latest decision comes on the heels of last month's 6-3 ruling to abolish the pursuit of happiness from the three inalienable rights guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence.

Heh heh heh.

16 November 2008

Cold, Rainy Day

The cold front moved in yesterday evening strong and blustery. The last of the leaves are pretty much down now. There's been some snow -- not the sort that stays; the sort that flurries around in the air a bit. A tiny bit. Enough to let you know that winter will indeed be arriving soon.

Yesterday the Join the Impact: Pittsburgh demonstration was well attended (especially for a rainy day). I got to Schenley park, and discovered hundreds of people standing under a large tent. We milled around and greeted friends and made favorable comments on signs (my favorite sign so far is "Can I Vote on Your Marriage Now?"). It was like a giant cocktail party without beverages or snacks.

Finally the Rainbow Chorus sang; then there were moving words from a woman married in California; then one of the organizers started calling out the names of groups, to see who was there (LARGE shout out for Pitt. LARGE shout out for Carnegie Mellon. We waited for "Duquesne" and then shouted VERY loudly, cause really, doncha know, we weren't actually taking up that much space); then we were told that we were allowed to walk on the grass (which nobody was walking on because of the signs that said not to), and that we could all go mill around and then walk around Oakland so as to get the point across. Which we then did. And I went home.

Pittsburgh. It's so cute. I'm not good at estimating numbers, but I figure that there were several hundred people there -- not at all like the numbers I expect from my days in San Francisco, but I'm working on blooming where I'm planted. And it was a gathering of great good will and politeness.

Whilst marching, and chanting (I hate chanting. I've always hated chanting. Now that I am all old and curmudgeonly, I simply walk along channelling energy and grinning. But I don't chant anymore. Cause I hate it. I don't mind signs, though; next time I'll bring one), we were careful to cross the streets WITH the lights, and not block anybody on the sidewalk.

Cause in Pittsburgh, we're polite whilst protesting. It's so darling.

15 November 2008

Join the Impact: Pittsburgh

At 1:30 Eastern Time, I'll be over at 4100 Forbes Avenue (known to many of you as Schenley Plaza), for my local version of Join the Impact, happening at the same time (so, if you're in Hawaii, that'd be 8:30 AM) all over the States.

Cause that's enough. That's just enough. Civil rights are civil rights. We all get to have our own religion, or none at all if we like that better, but we don't any of us get to inflict it on the rest. And Prop 8 started this all off, but this isn't a California issue. This is an American issue.

So my main concern at the moment is: do I want to take an umbrella, or just rely on the hood of my parka? It is WAY raining, and there's a cold front coming in.

Hmm. Looking out the window, I think -- parka AND umbrella. I am SO not missing this.

14 November 2008

Hello on Friday.

Here's the deal:

If you sign up with NaBloPoMo, you have to blog every damn day of the month, even if actually you have not much to say, other than that you've discovered an hilarious site called You Suck at Craigslist (is there a You Suck at eBay site?) where you can view "French Prudential" furniture and the like, and also that if you need to start buying your Christmas presents, you could do MUCH worse than to go on over to the Chaucer Blog (It Ys Rad!) and purchase t-shirts that say "I study medieval literature cause that's where the money is," and mugs that advertise themselves as being the True Holy Grail.

Other than that, it's Friday, we're reading Jonathan Swift and Mervyn Peake, and then later we'll go see The Glass Menagerie. Your usual sort of day.

13 November 2008

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

My favorite news feed, Nothing to Do with Arbroath, warns us today that teaching your dog to bring you the mail may be dangerous to its health. Cymbeline, a Scottish terrier in Colchester, had his jaws glued stuck by the high gloss finish on a fast food menu. Now, admittedly, those of us living in the States are probably not getting Roosters menus in the mail -- at least not from the take-away in Colchester High Street -- but who knows which restaurants might be using that same formula instant glue for their high gloss menus! Let us all be careful.

In related dog news closer to home -- well, if you live in my house -- Rhys, having gone to three Bad Dog Classes, is now EXCELLENT on his walks,* when I bring along the cheese and pepperoni, cause he thinks he's at school. Ha, ha.
*******************
*Well, except when he sees 1) the crossing guard who gives him biscuits every morning; 2) his beloved friend Remy, the Papillion, 3) Big Dogs he wants to herd and boss, or 4) the entrance to Bad Dog School, which is a clue to him that he's getting treats once he gets in the door.

12 November 2008

Mr. Gradgrind Runs the Cemeteries for Bath and Wells

Thanks to Arbroath, we have the news that the diocese of Bath and Wells has ruled that one cannot put garden gnomes in its cemeteries:

A spokesman for the Diocese of Bath and Wells said: "There is no such thing as a real gnome so why should we have such unnatural creatures in churchyards?"

Plastic flowers are also out, though indeed there is such a thing as a real flower. Also, no teddy bears. Inappropriate. Tacky.

Clearly, that there are no real gnomes -- according to the spokesman; I don't agree, really -- is not the problem. The problem is the issue of taste. Garden gnomes are not dignified, I gather, and hence inappropriate amongst the grieving. The dead, I think, are not the concern here, really; presumably they've got other things to think about.

What I'm most cheerful about, in this controversy, is the way that the spokesman for Bath and Wells has fallen into the role of Mr. Gradgrind. Not a good place to be.

(And if you can't remember your Hard Times,* here's a bit of Mr. Gradgrind's philosophy:

"You are to be in all things regulated and governed," said the gentleman, "by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don't walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don't find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use," said the gentleman, "for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste."
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*If you came by this post earlier, you will have seen that I called Hard Times Bleak House, which it isn't. They've both been on my mind lately; that's my only excuse!

11 November 2008

Armistice Day

It's Veterans' Day in America, which used to be called Armistice Day; today we mark 90 years since the ending of World War I. My grandfather was a sniper for the marines, and fought at Belleau Wood.

Lots of sightings of "In Flanders Fields" on the blogosphere today; I'll offer "The Ladies go Dancing at Whitsun," my favorite WWI song/poem (though I'm also very fond of "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"):

Dancing At Whitsun

It's fifty long springtimes since she was a bride

But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide

In a dress of white linen and ribbons of green

As green as her memories of loving

The feet that were nimble tread carefully now

As gentle a measure as age do allow

Through groves of white blossom by fields of young corn

Where once she was pledged to her true love

The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow free

No young men to tend them or pastures go see

They have gone where the forests of oak trees before

Have gone to be wasted in battle

Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones

Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons

There's a fine roll of honour where the maypole once stood

And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

There's a straight row of houses in these latter days

Are covering the downs where the sheep used to graze

There's a field of red poppies, a wreath from the Queen

But the ladies remember at Whitsun
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

As sung by Tim Hart & Maddy Prior

Prop8

My old friend (one of the oldest; we were actually in junior high together, though we didn't really know each other till high school) David, who's generally all laid back, sent me what he posted on MySpace (which I forget to look at, though I'm very good about my Facebook page). On election day, he was the first to his poll on Valencia Street in San Francisco. And for us, that day went very well indeed, except for the passing of Proposition 8 in California, which took away the rights of same-sex couples to marry. He gave me permission to post this:
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Let's admit that the "No on 8" campaign was not waged with any particular intelligence. I don't want to point fingers at this point because it's not useful. Suffice to say that the "Yes on 8" campaign ran a very slimy and completely misleading campaign promulgating outright lies.
Ultimately I think the community needs to get away from fighting hate with hate. Calling everyone who voted for Proposition 8 a "bigot" gets us nowhere. The majority of the people who voted "yes" were responding to the lies and fear tactics of that campaign. We needed to educate these people and we failed. If parents think we're going to try to indoctrinate their children and cause them to become homosexuals, they are obviously going to vote against us. If women fear that their husbands will be stolen from them, they are going to vote against us.

We need to react to their hatred and fear with understanding and education. If we had educated people about some of the supporters of this proposition we would have probably been more successful. For example, if more people had known that the millionaires who donated huge sums to the campaign are on a mission to undermine the constitution and replace it entirely, many voters might have had second thoughts before they voted "yes."

We need to portray the supporters of that proposition as being part of a dangerous fringe of society that threatens the rights and freedoms of EVERYONE. Our modus cannot be one of resorting to the same sorts of tactics that they employ. If people had known that Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., supports stoning gay people, it would have shown them what a disturbed man he truly is, and perhaps gotten them on our side. If it had only been the bigoted right-wing fringe voting for the proposition it would certainly not have won. Yes, they were well organized, and yes they appealed to ignorance and fear. But calling the people who are part of that fringe names is not productive. Our next campaign must be one of educating all those who were too ignorant to have known better. We need to start now and not wait until the next election.

And by all means let's use African Americans, Asians, and Latinos to tell our story. If we show a broad spectrum of folks from different ethnic minorities who are supporting us, we stand a much better chance of winning. This next push needs be an inclusive fight not just for gay rights, but for human rights.
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I'm of the same mind. It's appalling that a majority of voters -- however slight -- can be persuaded that it's a good idea to take away the rights of some of their fellow citizens,* but the world has been shifting, the nation has been shifting, things change, and I believe that even the recent losses of gay rights in the last election are part of what will turn out to be some of the last swings of the pendulum away from rights, and we will be moving back towards them. When Clinton took office, the majority of Americans didn't think that gays should serve in the military. Now, 75% of Americans think that of course gays should be able to serve in the military -- and that figure includes conservatives and evangelicals.

So definitely, there are things to do. Definitely, as David writes, we're needing to educate. Across the nation, on Saturday, November 15, there will be co-ordinated demonstrations against Proposition 8 -- it was a California proposition, but it's a national issue. Here in Pennsylvania, we're WAY further away from allowing same-sex marriages than California. But it's our issue, too.

Here's where you can find information on demonstration times and places in your area of America.

And all you buddies of ours out there in other countries -- such as Canada, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands (which allow same-sex marriage); and Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Andorra, Switzerland, France, Uruguay, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Ecuador, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Slovenia (which allow civil unions) -- hang in there. Pray for us. We'll get there.
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*The passing of Proposition 8 in California wasn't the most egregious violation of gay rights on election day. That'd be the passing of a bill in Arkansas limiting adoption and fostering rights to married couples. This also will probably not stand up to lawsuits. But what an incredible, willful, short-sighted vote.

10 November 2008

A meme! A meme! And it's not obnoxious!

Thanks to my brilliant friend Cindy over at My Brilliant Mistakes, we have a subject today. Cindy wrote a blog post on ten things she loves that start with the letter J, and said that if you asked her in the comments, she would give you a letter and then you could blog about it. And tell people that if they ask in the comments, you'll give them a letter to blog about.

The bestest part of this meme is that, instead of me picking y'all, you pick yourselves! yay! True freedom.

My letter, according to Cindy, is S.

My ten S things:

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1) Saturdays. Saturdays rock. Sometimes they involve working on the outside of the house, sometimes they involve shopping expeditions to the bookstore or the co-op, sometimes they involve Bad Dog Class, but whatever it is, it's different than it was on the five days previous, and for that, it is excellent.

2) Snow Storms. I missed them in San Francisco, and I'm glad to have them back, and really, they're WAY more dramatic here than they were in Albuquerque (though if one were in Taos Pittsburgh snow would pale), and Rhys loves them, especially when they are higher than his legs -- which isn't that hard to accomplish -- and he has to bounce.

3) Stage. Really, there's nothing like the theatre, no how, no way.

4) San Francisco. Do I miss it? Yes, I do. But mostly I'm just grateful that a large portion of my young adult life was spent there. I got a LOT of education in San Francisco, in many different areas, and had I been anyplace else at that piece of my life, I would be fundamentally different, and I'm happy with how things turned out. So blessings on that city/area.

5) Shepherds (dog variety). I love herding dogs. I love their intelligence, and their passion, and the things they think up to do, and the way they insist on working with humans towards the greater good. Granted, my Cardigan Corgi is a sort of anomaly -- the only herding dog known for what's euphemistically called "creative disobedience" -- but that's why I ended up with one.

6) Sex. Hello.

7) Summer. I used to hate the summer, but it turns out that had more to do with my then obesity than summer itself. The heat is fine by me now. And all that time! I love it! And I get to go to work anyway, but not teach, just read books and write stuff! Cool!

8) Swans. They are gorgeous, which I like, and also they are gawdawful, which I also like. I mean, you do NOT want to mess with one. Once in the Lake District I had to protect the baby from an enraged swan -- enraged cause we happened to walk by and it saw us, not cause we were doing anything. I love them. Terrible animals.

9) Siblings. I have two -- brothers -- and I love them dearly. They know where I'm coming from. They've got my back. Do not mess with them, or I will say Bad Things about you.

10) Spanish Inquisition. Didn't expect that, did ya? But nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

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Now, if you like, it's your turn; leave me a comment, and I'll give you a letter. (And even if NOBODY wants a letter, I've still gotten through my daily NaBloMoPo obligation! Cindy! You rule!)

09 November 2008

Turning Around

I think I finally caught up on sleep, after the historic week. Historic weeks, if they fall during the school semester, involve staying up late refreshing the computer screen and watching the news, and then later in the week staying up late to grade the papers that didn't get graded during the heat of the historic week.

All this culminated, on Friday night, with me getting lost on the way to a restaurant that's really easy to find, if you're not me on not enough sleep.

I never used to get lost, back in the long long ago, but a few years ago I started getting lost All. The. Time.

I knew it was an embodied metaphor for something or other, but I could not see what it was.

Now, looking back, I know that I had, in my life, taken a Wrong Turn, and I kept telling myself that, and I kept not listening.

Till I did. Now I don't get lost anymore. I have back my old confidence that all is well, and all is well, and all manner of things are well, and if I take the wrong turn somewhere I just turn around.

So I'm glad to report that I did, indeed, get to the restaurant Friday night, after some tears.

Should I worry that I've taken another wrong turn in my life and this was a symbol of it? I don't think so (I'm on CONSTANT monitoring these days, anyway) -- not a big one.

I needed to be sleeping, probably.

So I slept a LOT yesterday. When I wasn't busy over at Change.org, working on helping my country stay on the right path, now that we turned around.

08 November 2008

Rhys Needs Your Vote. I guess.

I've been informed by the rest of the household that we're having an election for Pack Leader. I'm running against Rhys, the Cardigan Corgi. (Shown here in a photo from his youth.)

I'm not sure what Rhys's platform is (mine is that I pay the mortgage, buy the dog food, and have opposable thumbs), but he's got a lot of campaign strategy together already.

One front involves accusing me of giving in to the child and buying him a used PlayStation II for his birthday last August. "Do you want an enabler as pack leader?" Rhys's ad will say. Then it will show Rhys running away with one of his toys in his mouth, with the voice-over saying, "Vote for Rhys. He's no enabler. He'll never give up his toys."

I did buy the child a used PlayStation II for his birthday. I admit that. But it was made after careful consideration of time constraints and budget constraints, and I stand by that decision.

Rhys can run against me all he wants. I'm taking him to Bad Dog Class today, and we'll see where that gets him.

Also. If he doesn't stop jumping off the bed, and start remembering to use those pricey foam stairs I got him, he's going to do severe damage to himself. Do you want a pack leader who's got permanent joint damage at the age of one and a half? I think not, and I'd like to point out that at 54, I'm in excellent health (well, except for that allergy and not breathing stuff), and do not have to use the foam stairs to get in and out of the bed.

I'm just saying. If you want a bossy, adorable, bossy, barking, bossy, loving, bossy damn Cardigan Corgi to run the house, you go ahead and vote for Rhys as Pack Leader. But remember. A vote for Rhys is a vote for Mayhem.

07 November 2008

Friday Collection

First, WHAT is this? There's a metal detector forum, over at Treasurenet.com, where metal detector enthusiasts can post photos of things they've found and can't identify, and one of those unidentifiable things is seen in the photo here. If you know what it is, head on over to the forum (there are more pictures there, too), and give them a shout out.

Second, my brother Carl didn't believe the video of a plane landing with one wing to be a true, un-messed-with, actual video of a plane landing with one wing, and Snopes doesn't either. This will be a sad piece of news for the ex-fighter pilot who sent me the clip. He loves that video.

Third, a friend has pointed me to a new ancient religion, Tarvuism, "the world's fastest growing religion," which holds octopuses as sacred (cause the deity was saved by one), and fosters the belief that we should all be nice. I'm just passing this along. That the whole octopus-deity conjunction sorta reminds me of Cthulu is my problem completely, and should in no way be connected to Tarvuism.

Fourth, the president-elect has a website -- change.gov -- where we can go to find out what's happening, see what we can get involved in, give our opinions, comment on the agenda.

06 November 2008

Blind Dog, Clever Humans; Good Way to Start the Day

Arbroath provides us today with a video of a blind dog (shepherd cross) fetching sticks thrown into a lake. Sometimes he gets there forthwith; sometimes he is guided a bit by his owners' voices. We're told this was his favorite activity before he went blind; he was pretty depressed for a while, but then they all figured out how he could continue stick fetching, the activity which gave his life meaning -- his human friends throw rocks at the sticks, so that he can hear where they are.

05 November 2008

Did indeed get some sleep last night, though I waited till the last of the speeches were over. Now I get ready for my classes. And maybe some of my students will show up. Or not.

As part of my participation in NaBloPoMo, wherein I promise to blog something every day, even if I have nothing to say, I give you the news (from Arbroath; who else collects this stuff) that on Monday, a Hampshire man drank 24 cans of lager, put a traffic cone on his head, and tied up traffic on the M3, because he was upset about the plight of children in Africa.

I'm sure you were interested in that.

04 November 2008

Well, There You Are.

Pennsylvania was called a while ago; Ohio just got called. It's essentially over.

Probably Not.

Here, from Survey USA, are the results of a poll they took in 2006, to see, if Obama went up against McCain in a presidential race THEN, what the electoral vote disbursement would have looked like (Obama 28, McCain 510).

What the Gamblers Say

Tired of watching the news?

Here are the betting odds on the election.

I've been refreshing it occasionally, in between reading student journals. Very interesting.

Went to vote at 9:20; was done by 9:40. The lines of early morning were gone, though there were more people there at that time than usual. We figure that the lines after most people get off work are going to be pretty long. But it wasn't bad, voting in Edgewood. Turnout is usually pretty high here, so it won't be a REALLY unusual day.

Then I went and got my free Starbucks coffee.

We were too excited to stay home, so we went on down to vote at 7:30, and for the first time EVER there was a line. So we went home, so that the people who need to get to work earlier than we do could vote. We're going to walk the dogs and then go stand in line for a while.

Good Morning. It's Really Early.

I woke up at about 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. Probably a result of the combination of the time change and the presidential election. In theory, I've got time this morning to get to the polls after 9:00 (there's usually a rush in between 7 and 9), and get to a scheduled meeting with a student at 12:00.

In theory.

But no one can predict how long the lines will be. So I'll have my cell phone, in case I have to call the office and cancel. (Since Pennsylvania doesn't have early voting, we're all showing up on the one day. And "they" figure 75% turnout in Allegheny county.)

And then this evening, I've got it all set up in my room so that I can have the tv on, be at the computer, AND get some of the Christmas sewing done. I may be up all night. No telling. I've warned students; we'll be having class tomorrow, but it's possible that I'll be running on fumes.

It's good weather. Nice to not have to stand in the rain.

03 November 2008

Never Panic. Here's Why. (Now re-edited for factual content!)

Sometimes my students ask me things like "is it time to panic yet?" -- usually when they're trying to figure out if they can pass the class of mine they're in. And what I say is that there has never been, and will never be, any situation ever that any human ever is in ever, in which panic is the best solution. Even if you're piloting a plane and the wing falls off, I say, panic is STILL not your best option.*

Here's proof. No, alas, probably not so much. Snopes.com believes the video to be digitally doctored. Too bad. The fighter pilot who sent it to me LOVES this video. Still, I stand by my original statement, which is, don't panic ever. You might as well not go down having horrible hysterics.

(Watch the whole thing. It's going to be ok, believe me.)
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*The ex says that when he was learning to fly fighter jets, he was told that the first thing he should do, if a wing fell off, was to reach up and wind the clock. Just. Don't. Panic.

02 November 2008

Bossy Corgi and the Bad Dog Class

I'm pleased to report that Rhys, after two sessions at the Adult Basic Dog Class, has remembered "sit" and "stay" and has now begun to heel. Indeed, walks are much better; more than half the time he's NOT pulling.

Thanks to all the 3,000 years of Welsh farmers, who might have bred a bossy bundle of muscles, but had the good sense to add in brains and an enormous desire to eat all things in sight. An obsession with food is a benefit to training.

In other news, I'm bemused, but chuffed, that somebody surfed in here after googling "naughty site."

Yep. Naughty sites, naughty dogs, that's what we're all about around here.

01 November 2008

New Rhino Ritual

If you read Boing Boing you've already seen this, but if not, here's a link to an excellent video of an escaped rhino drill, from Tokyo.

Now, I live near no rhinos -- I'd have to drive over to the northside, to the zoo, to see one. So my daily life is not connected to rhinos. But I am quite taken by the solemn, ritualistic feel of the video. And I think that it would be pretty easy to invent a ritual using the meaningful movements shown in the video -- the falling down in front of the rhino, the herding of the rhino with plastic netting, the futile poking of the rhino with sticks, the final conquest of the rhino with tranquilizer darts and nets. Especially easy would be the fact that you don't use a real rhino, just some guys in a plastic shell costume. So I want to invent this ritual. I think definitely we could get this together by next Halloween.

Boing Boing got this from Nothing to do with Arbroath, a Scottish (I'm guessing here) blog which is full of interesting things, such as information about mushrooms breaking apart driveways, and jilted lovers crushing cars with giant machinery, and to which I now subscribe by rss feed, because it is clearly a Superior Blog of High Importance.

Here, for instance, is a video of a cat playing with a box. I love this blog.

25 October 2008

Les Misbarak.

(Thanks to Crooks and Liars.)

20 October 2008

NaBloPoMo!

The lovely Cynthia has talked me into joining up with her, and many like minded bloggers, to celebrate NaBloPoMo -- National Blog Posting Month -- by, obviously, Posting Every Day For a Month. That month being November.

So I'm getting ready for the marathon. If you join up, you pretty much get to make your own rules, Cynthia says. So you can faithfully write every day, even if it's just a little bit, OR you can write ahead on the days (such as American Thanksgiving) when you don't have a computer.

Here's my plan: I'm taking the laptop to New Mexico for Thanksgiving. So I can predict now that I will be posting ALL about the difficulties I'm having finding gluten free, dairy free enchiladas.

14 October 2008

Medieval Debate Procedures

I like to blog in a timely fashion, as proof that I am Keeping Up With Stuff.
So, since the third and last presidential candidate debate is coming up soon, I'll share with you the medieval view of the proceedings, as given to us by Bayeux Rhythms:

06 October 2008

Family Photos in the Email

I had treats in the email this morning -- my double-second-cousin Melinda sent photos that she'd gotten from her mother. Taken around 1955 (probably on Long Island), they include this picture of my great-grandmother, Berthe Eskelund Lindtveit. Things I know about her: 1) Her famous fiskeboller actually came out of a can; 2) MANY of us have "her" krumkage iron, cause she would buy them, use them, and then give them away to daughters and grand-daughters; 3) she remembered the primroses on the fjords in the spring; 4) she told my mother that she left Norway because she had "the wanderlust."
Maybe that was true, at least in part. Whenever I go to Norway, I wonder again how anybody could ever leave it. It's got to be the most gorgeous place on the planet. Also, the food is tasty (see fiskeboller and krumkake, above; also lefse, strawberry cream cake, lingonberry jam, and salmon. Lots of salmon). Also, the humans are cheerful and sane.
But time and economics doth happen to us all. Only Ireland lost a higher proportion of her people to America, over the middle of the 19th century and into the first part of the 20th. When the hard times come, you do what you have to. You remember the primroses. You get your brother the sea captain to bring more fiskeboller.
Thanks, Melinda! Nice to start the week with treats. And some excellent perspective.

03 October 2008

Palin Debate Flow Chart

Boing Boing has been kind enough to post the "Sarah Palin Debate Chart," courtesy of ph33r and loathing. Thanks!

01 October 2008

My latest advice on papers, which I am able to give you because of the one I am reading Right Now, is:

Do not, especially if you are the sort of student who has not shown up ONCE in class so far (we're now at midterms), begin your paper with a statement about how the best literature in the world has been produced by British writers, especially some from the twentieth century, though class in the last few weeks has opened your eyes to the wonders of medieval literature, because

a) It can't possibly have done that, since you weren't here, and

b) even had I not had the training I've had, I would be able to Quickly! Like a Shot! recognize this sentence (and indeed, the next four pages, as it turns out) as Blithering Meant to Take Up Space Until You Reach the Page Count.

I'm going to go eat my dinner; tomorrow I'm sure I'll be able to approach this paper calmly, pointing out simply that there is no thesis (at least not one that I've discovered yet), and that if you've only got 5 pages, you need to actually focus on an aspect of one work, in order to discuss it fully. Rather than, you know, discussing All of Medieval Literature.

And by that time I'll be able to be polite about it.

29 September 2008

Good Morning! It's Monday. Let's Do Links.

Here we are, bright, early, starting a new week. I've got papers to grade, and readings to read, but nevertheless I take time to share important news with you, oh my friends and relations.

First, courtesy of Thorn and Beth, we have Shay Black, singing that great Irish song about Barak O'Bama, the great Irishman. There are other versions of this song out there on the Net, but I'm partial to this; I used to live around the corner and down the street from the Starry Plough, where this version's been recorded, and I'm glad to see that a pub I loved so well is still strong. And that James Connolly can still be read on the wall. I see that it's now a full service restaurant, too. Hmm. It's gone upscale from the days I was hanging out there with Andrew Shulman's Deakin band. (So have I, now that I think of it. But I was young then.)

Second, the excellent Cake Wrecks is making fun of Dog Cakes. Rightly so. It's important to read Cake Wrecks everyday. Every. Day. Cause you never know what you might need to copy.

Third, I'm pleased to report that if you die in Denmark, you can get buried in a cemetery devoted to Odin and Thor. Inside the outline of a Viking ship! This cheers me no end.

Fourth, you've probably already seen this, but CollegeHumor has produced a parody Disney trailer of a Sarah Palin movie.

24 September 2008

In Which Rhys Gets Sent to Juvey (If You Live in Edgewood and You're Missing a Fluffy Bunny Slipper, Let Me Know)

Rhys, the Cardigan Corgi, is now in his Teen Dog Days. In Rhys's case, this means that he, besides writing poetry full of teenage angst (containing lines like "the light is a symbol of my darkness") spends a lot of his time NOT following any of the commands that he previously knew very well, such as "sit," "stay," "come," "down," and "quiet" -- especially "quiet"; he's just not down with "quiet" -- and making up other things to do entirely, such as figuring out how to get out of the backyard and run up and down the street and through the backyards of the neighbors. (Next stop, I gather, is the phase wherein he stays out all night smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. If he asks you to buy some for him, just say no.)

For an animal with such short legs, he's remarkably hard to catch.

Anyway, apparently somebody on the street likes to keep her fluffy bunny slippers in her backyard. I know this because when we finally caught him the other day, he had one. So if you're missing one, let me know. It's around here someplace.

In the meantime, you'll be happy to know that I've discovered the Doggy Juvenile Detention, which starts next week. Here's the description:

Teen Intervention – Has your puppy reached those teen months where they act like they've never heard the word "sit" or "down" or "come"? Or did you adopt a slightly older puppy in an effort to avoid the 'puppy stage' and been thrown for a loop by that 'teen' attitude? Have they gone from following your every movement, to just walking away or teaching you to chase them? This course is geared towards teaching and re-teaching young dogs. We start out teaching your dog to 'Heel" (walk beside you – and at your pace), Sit/Stays, Down/Stays, and good Recall (come when called). Each week we build on what we've learned and add something new.

Yes. I'd like to re-teach my dog, please. Not to mention me myself.

And can you do something about that gawdawful poetry, too?

16 September 2008

How to Research Your Old House, If It's the One Formerly Known as Nutwood

When we bought Nutwood, we were told that it was built in 1877; it had been moved to its current location from someplace else. That's it.

So I went first to the local library, to look at "the archives." The archives for Edgewood Borough turn out to be a manila folder full of some clippings, and some copies of "A History of Edgewood Borough," published in 1934. In all the file, there was no mention of the house at our address, or any mention of some house getting moved there. I did learn that the piece of street the house is on wasn't put in until about 1897, and before that it was a stream, making the story about the house getting moved here more plausible -- clearly, it was built before the street existed. I found some plat maps on line, and I was able to see that indeed there was no house here at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, though it shows up later.

I went down to the Allegheny County Courthouse to research the deeds. This got me back to 1911, when the plan for the land plots (of which this is #11) was filed by George Johnston (whose name shows up in early Edgewood history). It also gave me the names of the owners of the house for several decades -- back to 1911, though the deeds didn't go back further.

I went online to do genealogical research, and found, by looking at census forms and draft cards, that the house, which had been sold to Maud Bean in 1918, had been occupied by the Beans by at least 1917. But before that no-one shows up at this address. (The Beans would eventually lose the house, in foreclosure, in 1933.)

I also found, by googling the name of the owners from the 60's through the 70's, the man who had, in 1984, restored and flipped the house. Emailed him. He and his sister, who grew up here, are going to come by some weekend soon, to tell us about the house as they knew it. She told me that the old people who lived behind them told her that the house had been originally moved from the hill above -- so it would, originally, have been on the street behind us, before this street was moved in. He told me that a history of the house had been written, by one of the founders of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

I went by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks library to see what I could find. They do not have, in the founder's collected papers, the history of the house. Darn.

But through looking at the plat maps, and working with the Edgewood histories, and doing genealogical research, I believe -- so far -- that the house was built in 1876, by Alexander Cadman -- it was next door to his dad's house (that'd be Sampson Cadman, immigrant from England), and you can see on the plat maps that at the time this house was built, Alexander owned this property, as part of the property that's now behind it. If you're following this.

Anyway. Alexander, who along with his dad was one of the founders of Edgewood, built it, when he married his first wife. She died, and he remarried, and this house got moved here. From the time it was here, it's been at least two apartments, sometimes three.

And now it's one house again.

I've got three more places I can look; Edgewood was part of Wilkinsburg when the house was built, so I'm going over to the Wilkinsburg library to look at THEIR archives -- maybe I'll have more luck. And the main Carnegie library has a Pittsburgh history collection which also I need to look at.

If all that fails, I might contact the owner of the house for whom the history was written. (Or not; he might not be into hearing from total strangers who bought a house he once owned.)

Someday, perhaps, I'll be able to prove who the builder was, and then the house can be "The Alexander Cadman House," or whatever. Till then, I now think of it as "The House Formerly Known as Nutwood."

15 September 2008

Oh, Naughty Site Meter. Naughty, Indeed.

So all of you using Site Meter know this, but for the rest of you:

Site Meter, which for many years has provided many of us with a service allowing us to see how many hits our website has, from whence they come, and which of our links are clicked on, had a Cunning Plan to update itself, and make its services Even Better.

So this involved Site Meter being down over the weekend, which it mostly was, after which we would all be allowed to move on over to the new platform.

Which some of us did.

And then it turned out the new service sucked, AND that our old statistics -- which they had PROMISED would be moved on over with us -- didn't show up. Or, at least, for me they didn't show up.

So they took the new platform on down and said sorry:

Dear Valued SiteMeter Customers,

As you’re no doubt aware by now, we’ve chosen to roll back our website to the previous “classic” version.

Based on some performance issues we were experiencing along with feedback from the community it appears we have pushed our new site live prematurely.

Our intention is and has always been to offer you, our customer’s better tools and more accurate data. Obviously we fell short of this. The first thing we need to do, moving forward, is to roll out new product releases in parallel to our current platform. This will give everyone a chance to try out, evaluate, and comment on our new concepts.

Last night I could get on to the old site, with my old statistics. So that was fine.

This morning, not only can I not get to my old statistics, I can't even get to the blog, except by switching browsers, cause Site Meter has disappeared from my other browser, taking its version of the blog with it.

So now I wait, whilst the technogeeks slug it out.

Site Meter asked us if we wanted to be part of the Beta testing, now that things didn't work.

Right. Bite me.

What I want to know is, am I still paying for the new service? Or even the old?

12 September 2008

By the Way: Tidings of Past Events

The Geoffrey Chaucer blog is not dead, though Jeff doesn't post anymore much, on account of it got taken over by Thomas Favent (who was blogging about going to "Blazinge Fellow" recently).

Today, though, Henry "S-Chain" Bolingbroke has written the blog -- he's that guy who isn't king, and couldn't be, could he, cause it would be treason for him to think about usurping power.....

Though of course, if he won, eventually, after several tries, then he would be Henry IV, wouldn't he? And that would make everything ok.

11 September 2008

Dealing with Mice, According to Brannens

I've got all this stuff I need to blog about The House Formerly Known as Nutwood, which I now refer to as The Alexander W. Cadman House -- and will keep that up unless I get more history out of the library and become conviced he didn't build it* BUT

Carl Brannen, over at Mass, has just posted about his problems with mice, over at his ethanol plant, and how he deals with them. And I don't think you should miss "Quantum Field Mouse Cube Theory."**

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*One of the posts coming soon will be ALL about "Researching Your Old House, If It's The One Formerly Known as Nutwood."

**I have to admit that I don't always read Carl's posts, even though I love him very much and like to hear what he has to say, because mostly the posts are written in a language I do not understand, which looks like this:

"Let $A_k$ be a complete set of N annihilating primitive idempotents. That is, $\Sigma_k A_k = 1$, and $A_jA_k = 0$ when j is not k, and $A_k A_k = A_k$ for all k. Also suppose that each $A_k$ is Hermitian.

Let $\alpha_k$ be a set of N real numbers. Then:

$\Sigma_k e^{i\alpha_k}A_k$ is unitary.

I’m guessing that the reader will find the proof immediately. If not, ask in the comments and I’ll give the short proof."

And I do not know what in the hell that means.

I do understand the mice, however.

04 August 2008

Update on Nutwood

We've about come to the end of what we can do for Nutwood this year; we wanted to get the house painted, but the more important jobs took up a big ol' bunch of money. As of now, though, the gas leaks have been fixed; the exposed hot wires have been fixed, and the electrical outlets made non-lethal (next year, we plan to replace all the knob-and-tube wiring, which still takes up half the house); and the concrete steps up to the house in the front have been repaired.

And the contractor's been so busy! Here, for instance, you see an overhang which was thoroughly rotted out, on account of the unmaintained gutter. It was in such bad shape that it had plants growing out of it. And look! All fixed.

Here you see a corner of the house which does NOT have, any longer, a giant vine, growing up the house, engulfing the live electrical wires, pulling off the gutter, and climbing on up the roof, toward my room, where it planned to eat me. It was scary.

Now, however, this is a boring corner. I give thanks.

Let's go to the basement now. When we first saw the house, there was a lake here. Now things are pretty dry. Why? Ah, remember the first picture of the formerly rotten eave and gutter? This is the basement corner underneath.

An even bigger lake was in this corner, and this is drying up, too. This is the corner underneath the completely plugged up gutter and storm drain, from which the contractor pulled 35 pounds of compacted debris. This pretty much explained why they weren't working.

All of the basement window frames were rotten. I like to keep things as close to their original conception as possible, but in this case, we went with the contractor's suggestion of glass blocks. They're safer than the panes, they let in more light, and the installed vents give the basement more air circulation (see drying lakes above).

And my favorite piece of the basement so far: when we first saw the house, this alcove (originally the steps from the basement to the outside) was blocked up with a rotten piece of plywood, covering up a load of junk, including a boiler. When the contractor pulled the junk out, the lake of water got larger -- the junk was acting as a dam. We're waiting to see whether the alcove dries out now that the surface water is being directed away from the house, or whether there's water seeping in from underground.

This is the same corner, from outside. The white patch visible right above the stone foundation, by the new fence (also installed by the contractor, since we have dogs), is the replacement wood for the rotten STRUCTURAL BEAM! Structural beam! What were people thinking. And why was it rotten? Oh, you know. The plugged up gutter and storm drain. Moral of this story: People. Get the gutters cleaned out. Really. They're not decorative.

We also had to pay for things that the borough required, such as porch railings. From Construction Junction we got old spindles (saving hundreds of dollars), and the contractor built them into a wonderful railing, with a cedar top and some copper newel post finials I got on eBay -- I chose simple spherical ones, since the lines of the house are so simple.

And here we are, present day Nutwood. We did so want to paint it this fall, so as to cheer up the neighborhood, but as I say, we think not. There was all that rotten siding to fix. We're planning to paint the mint green a sage green, the pink a straw, and the purple brown -- natural colors, more fitting the simplicity of the house.

Coming soon: pictures of the inside. The circus themed dining room is still as it was. But at least it won't be falling into the basement any time soon.

Oh, and by the way, if you're in Pittsburgh and you need a general contractor, here's the guy we LOVE.