October 2004 Archives

the best day of the year

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Every year I look forward to the day the clocks get turned back. Sure, it means it gets dark way too early in the evenings. But gaining an hour always seems like the most amazing luxury. I always use my wonderful free hour the same way: sleeping.

I needed it more than usual this time: it's been a hectic few days. Thursday I caught up on work and then subbed Divaville. Friday I sewed the chemise and drawers for my costume, which took the entire day and way into the night. Saturday I cleaned my car, then spent the afternoon in Clayton at the "trunk or treat" with Patricia. In the evening we went to Lisa's halloween party, which was so much fun that I stayed up way past my bedtime. This morning I slept through my extra hour and then some. In the afternoon I planted a bunch of irises Nancy had given me, then Georg and I cut down a couple of small trees. (Actually he cut them down and I cut them up.)

All of which I will write about in detail, but right now I'm going to lie down and watch TV. Tomorrow and Tuesday I'm going to be volunteering for the county democratic party. I don't know how tiring that will be. So I may end up waiting until Wednesday to get caught up here.

My anxiety level about the election is really starting to get me down. Especially after seeing my friends Joe and Diana yesterday and the day before, both of whom are really depressed and pessimistic. I thought my decision to volunteer would help me feel less stressed, but actually it's made it worse. I guess I feel more invested or something. This morning instead of sleeping, I was thinking that instead of volunteering here, where Kerry has no chance, I should go up to Virginia where the race is pretty close. But I'm not sure I could work out the logistics on such short notice. Besides, I hate talking to strangers so I'd probably make a really bad canvasser.

Joe is a lawyer & he's going to eastern NC to work as a poll monitor. That's really cool. Almost makes me wish I was a lawyer too so I could do something like that. Almost!

Okay, enough about politics. The birds have finally found our suet feeder. I've seen a red bellied woodpecker on it three times! yay! They're still not crazy about the tray feeder out front, although the goldfinches are all over the little mesh bag of thistle. I think maybe the tray feeder is in too exposed of a location. Maybe the birds that like tray feeders also like more cover. The one in back is near a lot of shrubs and overgrowth, and there are always cardinals on it. I can't wait for spring when the goldfinches will have their beautiful bright colors. I just have to keep remembering to fill that thistle feeder over the winter so they keep coming back.

hydrangea.jpgOne of our hydrangeas is in bloom! I thought it was a bud for next year, but what do you know, it opened up. It's still a bit green, but the flowers are going to be red and white. That is, if it has time to mature before it gets too cold. I had been thinking that I should have picked it off so the plant would put its energy into developing roots, but I couldn't bear to destroy our first flower. And I noticed a new shoot at the ground so I think the plant is okay.

Looks like this year I'm going to end up with not one but two Halloween costumes. I'm still plugging along on the "Scarlett before the ball" costume for Lisa's party. I'm also going to a "trunk or treat" earlier that day with my friend Patricia. And how weird is that, me attending a church-sponsored Halloween alternative? I'm really looking forward to it though. I've never lived anywhere that got trick-or-treaters, so it will be great fun for me to have something like the trick-or-treat experience. Anyway Patricia got pirate costumes for us. Actually she just got hooks and eyepatches. I'm going to go to the thrift store for a ruffly white shirt and black headscarf. If I have time, what with all the sewing and work and stressing about the election. Which I'm not talking about anymore, dammit.

How about the really important things. Like America's Next Top Model! Poor Kelle. I liked her, but for her sake I'm glad she got eliminated. Watching her unravel while the judges flayed her alive was just not fun. I don't know why they hated her so much. I mean yeah, she wasn't photogenic, but their hatred of her seemed undeserved.

I'm really starting to dislike Jay Manuel for his nasty comments to Kelle. And for his Cover Girl informercial "makeup tips." (I actually tried the one last week about how to make a "sixties eye." yes, I tried a Jay Manuel makeup tip. Probably the most embarrassing thing I have ever admitted in this journal. All I managed to do was poke myself in the eye with the mascara wand.) And I also hate Jay's lame-ass art direction. I read that he's really a makeup artist, and I seem to recall that's what he did last season. This season Tyra is letting him try his hand at art direction. According to a real art director on a forum I read, Jay is really bad at it. The guy on the forum says that he chooses a photographer who has good rapport with models, and then he lets the photographer handle the model while he (the art director) focuses on lighting and composition and such. Jay seems to think art direction means yelling "Own it, girl! Don't be so hoochie!" and then complaining that they can't take direction.

I think Kelle was glad to go. They usually cry and make bitter statements about making it on their own while they're packing. Kelle actually smiled, and said things like "by the same hand, there's only so much humiliation I can take." Which is true, and also a cute malapropism, but not as good as last week's "I was in denial about my snout, but now I know."

I'm really annoyed about the show's treatment of Cassie's bulimia. She admitted it two episodes ago, with no response from the show, but then this week Tyra coinicidentally has a meeting for all of them with a plus sized model and a nutritionist to talk about body issues? Which they've never done before? But Tyra is shocked, shocked I tell you, when Cassie again admits to throwing up? Yeah right. If Tyra is running the show the way she is portrayed, then she's watching the raw footage and she knew damned well about Cassie, probably the same day the rest of the contestants knew. And if not Tyra, then whoever is really in charge of the program knew. I think it's really irresponsible of them to have someone in a modeling contest who says she's not bulimic because she doesn't throw up after every meal, but not to do anything except suggest that she might want to see a counselor (and then take no for an answer). Considering all Tyra's talk about wanting to use the show to send a positive message about body image, this really sucks.

i voted

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ivoted.gif

Yes, this evening after Georg got home from work we drove up to Northern Highschool and did our civic duty. Northern is one of four locations in Durham County where you can vote any day this week.

We went today to avoid the election day lines, but we still ended up waiting in line for half an hour. I bet the lines during the daytime are short, if any, but Georg couldn't get off work to vote early during the day. And we had already driven all the way out there, so we stayed. With lines like that a week ahead of time, I can't imagine how crowded the polls will be on election day. In a way I'm glad there was a line: it means people are voting.

The process was a bit slower than normal election day voting. Mainly because the early voting places aren't divided by district. People from all over the county were there, and the election workers have to look you up on a computer to see which ballot you get. They print out a form with your name on it that you hava to sign, then they get the correct ballot out of a box that has all the different ones. Also there were only 2 people looking up names, plus one more taking signatures.

However, it was just like regular voting in that we did not have to show ID, just say our names and addresses. The ballot is exactly the same and they even had those same blue cubby things to vote in. At my regular precinct on election day, they have a bunch of tables because there are always way more people than cubbies. But today the room was very small, they just had 4 or 5 cubbies and one table where 2 more people could sit. They controlled the crowd by only letting people in as space permitted.

Voting itself was easy. I had printed a sample ballot and marked down the candidates I wanted to vote for, so it was just a matter of filling in the arrows. I don't know why people complain about the arrow ballots. It's the easiest ballot design I've ever used. The arrow pointing right at the name makes it easy to see that you're voting for the correct person.

So that was our early voting experience. All told it took about 40 minutes, plus the time to drive up to Northern High School, which is on Roxboro north of Latta. I'm really glad we got this out of the way. I think I'm going to volunteer to drive people to the polls on Tuesday. Not that it will make a difference -- we are still in a red state, in that sense my vote doesn't even count -- but I think I ought to do something that at least feels productive. My anxiety about the election increases every day, and maybe doing something will keep me from totally losing it on election day.

I'm going to save my "I Voted" sticker because the Indy had a list of businesses that have free giveaways if you wear your sticker on election day. Free fries from Jo & Jo's, woo!

dc inverter needed

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Does anyone have a DC inverter they'd be willing to lend me for a couple of days? An inverter is the thing you plug into your car cigarette lighter to create AC power. I need one for the Chicks Rock art car glow cruise Saturday night & they're kind of expensive to buy just for this event, when I already have one for my own car.

Also needed to borrow: caulk guns. Let me know if you have any to spare, thanks!!

all that and a mini donut

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I love the state fair! So much fun. We never go to the midway or the rides or the depressing "world's largest pathetic animal" exhibits. Every year we do the same things: we go see the livestock, the rabbit house, the agricultural displays, the home ec contests (crafts, quilts, baked goods), the flower and garden show, walk around the "Village of Yesteryear" craft booths, have a cup of fresh apple juice (or hot cider, depending on the weather), and eat at least one bag of mini donuts.

Mini donuts are the best thing ever. They are so much better than funnel cake. They make the donuts right there in front of the window: the batter gets dropped into this little canal of oil, floats down the canal, gets flipped over by automatic paddles, then plops out the end onto paper towels. Then they stick a dozen in a bag, coat them in cinnamon sugar, and give them to you. There's only one mini donut place in the whole fair. It's right in front of the big building with the cows. But good news: they told me that next year they hope to have another mini donut outpost on the other side of the fairgrounds.

The new taste treat this year was deep fried banana pudding. Alas, this was not (as we had hoped) a chunk of banana pudding that had been deep fried. Actually it was a deep fried banana with a cup of pudding to dip it in. No vanilla wafers. The banana was really good though. I'm pretty sure this was only the second time I had eaten banana in the past two years (the first time being that amazing molten cake in Asheville) due to the low carb thing. I had forgotten how good banana tastes. Especially when it's all soft and gooshy and batter fried.

The livestock was fun, although we didn't see any pigs. That building was all goats instead. Maybe by now the pigs have already been judged and auctioned off. Or maybe they come later in the week? I don't know. We also didn't see the big butter sculpture in the cow building. Maybe they moved it someplace else, but we missed it. We saw the sheep though, and the rabbits. Georg and I agreed that the prettiest are the rex breed, which have gorgeous velvety fur. My favorite was a reddish brown called "castor," but Georg preferred red. Which was very similar to castor, but lighter.

This year we missed the piglet races, but we did get to see a new cute animal event: "Doggies of the Wild West." I was hoping this would be dogs in cowboy costumes doing tricks, and that's exactly what it was! Well not costumes actually, just bandanas. But they did cute tricks: the medium-sized dogs jumped over hurdles and danced, and the toy dogs balanced on the people's heads. One of the dogs actually balanced on one forepaw on the guy's hand! Alas, I didn't get a clear photo of it.

I always worry about whether the animals in these carnival shows are well treated. (This has become a concern for me about the piglet races, I've been feeling like I should try to find out more about them.) So I was glad to see that the dogs looked content and happy. There was a lot of affection between the people and the dogs: once when the guy picked up a dog, it licked his face. And I saw the woman petting and talking sweet to the dogs when she put them back inside their "stagecoach" crate. That made me feel good. They also announced that all the dogs were rescued from animal shelters, which was especially nice. Both of my dogs were rescued too. (But they don't do tricks. Unless lolling around is a trick.)

The crowds were surprisingly low today. I think the weather kept them away. This was great for me because I have a mild case of -- what do you call fear of crowds? -- well anyway, crowds bother me. There have been times at the state fair when the crowds were so thick that panic started to set in, I felt like I couldn't breathe and I was going to lose my shit if I didn't get out of there right now. Crowds don't stress me out unless they're so bad that it's difficult to move. Which it sometimes is at the fair. Lucky for me, the threat of rain kept enough people away that it was easy to walk around.

We did get rained on once, but we hung out in the Village of Yesteryear until it stopped. The weird thing in the Village of Yesteryear was a potter who, instead of demonstrating pottery, was sitting at his wheel hectoring the audience on their ignorance about American cultural history. "I'm supposed to educate you! Why do you need to be educated about our history? This is our history!" Um, dude, making people feel bad isn't likely to sell a lot of pottery. Though he did have a pretty big audience listening to the rant.

Every year I look at the entries in the sewing competition and think to myself that I should enter that. I have definitely made things as nice as the stuff that wins at least the second place ribbons and maybe the blue ribbon stuff too. Maybe next year I could enter the costume I'm working on now, the corset, chemise and bloomers. I wonder if it has to be made in 2005, or if it would be okay since I won't finish it until after this year's fair is over.

The best thing about the home ec competitions was seeing a prize-winning entry made by someone we know! Lisa's mom won second prize for her chocolate mint brownies. The entries didn't have names on them, so we're not 100% sure, but we think we saw her brownies. They were the only brownies that looked like mint, and they had a second prize ribbon on them. Yay for Lisa's mom!

zowie

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Teresa Nielsen Hayden linked to my copyright page. It's in her list of links, right between "Threads Online" and "Jack Chick Halloween." Whoo! Maybe that's why the page has been getting more email than usual. I wonder how she heard of me?

I feel guilty about the people who write to me about the copyright page. People send detailed questions about their work, and I never have any idea what the answers are. Nor do I have time to find out for them. To be honest, I usually just don't reply. Hell, I barely have time to keep up with correspondence from people I know, much less complex questions from people I don't. But I still feel bad about it.

I guess they see me as some kind of expert in copyright law. Which I absolutely, positively am not. The copyright page only exists because I had to research the issue for my deck. And at the time I both had too much time on my hands, and also was royally sick of having the same endless debate about copyright law on collage mailing lists. It gets tiresome to explain, for example, how "fair use" actually works over and over to people who speak definitely but have no idea what they're talking about. I felt like engaging in these debates was only adding to the din. But failing to engage meant that people who didn't know any better might believe the flood of misinformation. So I wrote down everything I had researched on the copyright page.

I've been meaning to add a page on "theory vs. reality" for a long time. Because the information on the copyright page presents a very bleak picture of what a collage artist can do. I often get mail from artists who read my page and are just devastated because all their work turns out to be in copyright violation. But I get the impression that things are a lot looser for fine artists. My collage art was published, and publishers are super strict about the legal issues of the work they publish. I don't fault them at all; they need to protect their investments. Naturally they don't want to publish something that might get them sued. But the result is that artists who publish (book illustrations, greeting cards, etc) probably need to be much more mindful of copyright than artists who show in galleries.

I have heard of a lawsuit against Robert Rauschenberg for using copyrighted material (I think it was a Ford advertisement) in a collage. But it seems to me that if you have to be as famous as Rauschenberg to get sued, then most of us have nothing to worry about.

destruction is fun

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We got the chain saw working yesterday. Yay! It took forever, because we didn't understand the starting directions at first. You have to open up the choke all the way, then pull the cord just until it starts to fire. Then close the choke and keep pulling the cord until it catches. We left the choke open, so we were just pulling the starter over and over, and flooding the engine.

But we did figure it out eventually and get the saw running. Georg cut down a tree! Well okay, really a sapling. Just a bit too big for me to encircle with my two hands. (Which is smaller than most of you will imagine because I have small hands. Speaking of which, I recently discovered the cost-saving tip that kid's gardening gloves fit me better and cost half as much.) We also cut up a bunch of fallen wood that had been laying around. We have several more saplings that need to go, but we were so worn out from trying to start the darned saw that we had to leave them for another day.

Georg had used a chain saw before but I never had, so I was a total safety freak. Which is not a bad thing when dealing with such a dangerous tool, I think. Goggles of course, also I made Georg wear a hard hat, and tried to convince him to wear his leather jacket but he didn't want to mess it up. I did some sawing too, cutting up the sapling once it was on the ground, and Georg showed me how to hold the saw so that if it kicked back, it would go away from me. It didn't kick, but it was hard to control because of the vibrations. Also I noticed that sometimes when you let go of the trigger, the blade keeps moving. Which was a bit scary.

Even though we only got one sapling cut down, the backyard is already starting to look bigger. It's going to look huge when we get the rest of them down. It was a great weekend besides the chain saw victory too. Yesterday morning I help Lisa sew curtains for 9 Westy. We only got one curtain most of the way made, but it was the most complicated one, and made of a slippery fabric, so I was glad to be able to help. Then before the sawing I spent some time in the afternoon hauling and stacking the logs from that felled tree.

I worked out a system for moving the logs which perfectly encapsulates my "macho woman/wussy girl" approach: First, turn over log. Inspect for creepy crawlies. If found, squeal and jump back. Wait for creepy crawlies to disperse. Carry or roll log (depending on size) over to woodpile; heave up onto pile. If carrying, be sure no part of body except gloved hands touch log. Actually, it's not totally ridiculous to be so concerned about the critters, because poisonous brown recluse spiders love to nest in rotting wood. And I know several people who have been bitten. So there's a good reason to be squeamish. The wussiest thing I did was when a bug flew up and bumped into my nose. I reached up to brush it off, thought it had gone inside my nose, and started freaking out, "eee"ing and trying to yank out ... my nose ring. Good thing I figured out what was going on before I succeeded in pulling it out!

Saturday was fun too. It was a great mail day: I got my invitation to the Chapel Hill Christmas parade, some blueberry plants I had mail ordered, and best of all, a wonderful gift from my friend Nellorat. It's a little box decorated with charms that represent all different parts of my life. The art car, my dogs, computing, music, tarot, sewing, gardening .. it's all there. I just can't get over how thoughtful it is. I'm trying to decide what to put in it. Maybe ribbons or buttons.

We hadn't gone to the mail center in a few days so we weren't sure how long the blueberry plants had been sitting there. So, after giving them a few hours in the shade to get used to being outside again, we planted them that day. They are so cute! We put them near the big pine tree where they'll get lots of sun, also the soil should be nice and acidic which blueberries like. They aren't supposed to bear fruit until the year after next, but I bought varieties that are supposed to cross-pollinate well so I hope we'll get lots of fruit.

Then I mowed the lawn, which is definitely the most boring part of yardwork. Too bad it has to be done so often. At least I feel all environmentally virtuous since we use an electric mower. While I was doing that, Georg started working on pulling up the bamboo in the back yard. We got instructions on how to deal with it from that show Gardening by the Yard. (By the way, I love that show.) The bad news is that bamboo will come back from even the smallest piece of root. But the good news is that when unobstructed, the roots are shallow. So we'll probably have to dig up that entire area, but at least we won't have to dig too deep. The area where it's growing was used by previous owners for an above-ground pool. Georg said the bamboo comes up really easily from the gravel around the pool area, but clings tenaciously to the sand that was directly under the pool.

The hard part will be preventing the bamboo from invading again. Our neighbors have a huge growth of it. (And can I just say, I think planting invasive bamboo on the edge of your property is just as rude and stupid as letting your teenage son's rock band practice outside with the amps turned up to 11.) According to Gardening by the Yard, the one effective way to keep bamboo out is to dig a trench 30" deep and install a thick underground barrier. (you can also use this barrier to keep bamboo in, if you want to plant it but prevent it from spreading.) I'm sure that will be fun. Once we get it all pulled up, we can measure and find out how much of the barrier we need to order. I don't think they sell it at Home Depot.

if I were a celebrity...

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...this would be my paparazzi photo:
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early voting

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Early voting just started in NC. I've seen a lot of flyers and websites encouraging people to vote early. Most of them say something like "Vote Early and Help Defeat Bush!" Which makes me wonder, what is the advantage of voting before election day? Is it just the fact that if you vote in advance, you can't forget or have car trouble or something and fail to vote on election day? Or is there some other benefit to getting your vote in early?

I was thinking about voting early anyway, because big elections are a huge hassle at my polling place. The space is badly designed and there's a bottleneck right before the tables where you get your ballot. In a busy year the lines are always really long. I downloaded a PDF from the state board of elections with early polling places for each county. In Durham county there are three high schools and you can vote any day, even Sundays.

the senator poured beer on my weave

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[Okay, I meant to post this yesterday when it would have been more timely, but I was too busy working and doing laundry all day, and then dancing my ass off all night.]

Watching America's Next Top Model and the final debate on the same night was a bit weird. I was hoping it would make the debate seem funnier and more surreal. But actually the debate came off really boring in comparison, presidential spit foam notwithstanding. Or maybe that wasn't just me. Seems like a lot of people called the debate boring.

How could a debate between a trained monkey and a stuffed shirt possibly compete with a bunch of would-be models catfighting and falling off a runway? When Survivor wants their contestants to suffer, they take away their food. When Tyra wants her contestants to suffer, she makes them do a runway show for freak-show designers Heatherette, wearing clown costumes (excuse me, "edgy fashion designs") and stripper heels, on a zig-zaggy runway that they aren't allowed to see in advance. What fun!

Eva had the best line of the episode with "First of all, I didn't even know you were a bitch," Amanda the self described "earth mother" continues to be a nasty little snot, and Toccara continues to have the best potential as an actual working model. In my opinion of course. Last year's winner Yoanna visited the show and made me wonder why I liked her so much. I think the biggest laugh was "white girl with a really good tan" (her words, not mine!) Kelle following the catfight around from room to room, asking "Does anyone have an extra pair of sunglasses?" over and over in the midst of everyone else screaming at each other. Comedy gold, people. I wonder if she really needed sunglasses that bad, or if she wanted to watch the fight and that was the best excuse she could think of to follow them around.

The Heatherette designers Richie Rich and Trevor Rains also sat in as guest judges, but alas they did not bump fists and say "Wonder Twin Powers!" like the guys from D Squared did last year. They also lost major points with me for snickering at Miss J. Alexander, who I love. I'm sorry, but Rich and Rains are in no position to make fun of another flamboyant fashion personality. I was also annoyed at the girl who complained that no one "explained" to her why Miss J. (a man) was in a short skirt and heels. Because he's your runway coach, dumbass, and he has to show you how it's done. Anyway she got eliminated, which is the well-deserved fate of anyone who hopes to get into NY modeling and then is shocked, shocked I tell you, to meet someone for whom gender lines are a bit blurred. Put your American flag prom dress back in your suitcase and go home!

gogol bordello

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Gogol Bordello was amazing. As Alicia said, they fucking rock! The show started way late. The doors were supposed to open at 8:30 so Georg had gotten a sub for his 8-10 radio show. But the doors didn't actually open until 9:30 and Gogol Bordello didn't take the stage until 11:20.

Tons of XDU DJs were there, and there was a pretty big crowd too. The opening act, Clang Quartet, was one guy and a lot of dissonant noise. Banging things and making feedback. Also he was really into Jesus. He wore a shirt with a giant Jesus face on it, had "Real Men Love Jesus" on his amp (Alicia and I agreed that we were comfortable enough with our womanhood to feel no obligation to love Jesus), and his tamborines were shaped like crucifixes. He played about a half hour but it felt like about five hours. Really, it was awful. Or as Phil more diplomatically put it, avant-garde improvisational percussion just isn't my thing. Georg and I hid in the back by the bar until it was over. Phil told me afterwards that a bunch of hipsters stood up front catcalling the guy and making insulting comments about Jesus. That really pissed me off. I mean, I didn't like the performance either, but his religion had nothing to do with it. Besides, they could have gone outside until he was done. I felt bad that the audience had been so rude, so I went up while he was putting away his equipment, shook his hand and told him that he was great. Actually that was a lie, I found it rather unpleasant, but I felt like he deserved a little appreciation. It took guts for him to stand up there in front of everyone and make all that noise.

Anyway, the show finally started and it was amazing. I got separated from Georg pretty early on, because I was trying to see and ended up moving forward. The only annoying thing was this chick who thought she was slam dancing or something, and kept flinging herself against me. We were about the same height, and one time she whacked me right in the nose with the back of her head. After that, when she shoved into me I just shoved her right back. Fortunately she had friends all over the audience so she kept moving around, and wasn't in my face for too long.

One of the reasons I had wanted to see this show was because last time Gogol Bordello played in the area, I talked to Phil right afterwards (I used to have the show after him on Monday mornings at XDU) and he raved on and on about how amazing it was. Well, he wasn't exaggerating. They played a solid hour and a half. Definitely the highest energy show I've ever seen. I danced on stage! Lead singer Eugene Hutz handed me up onto the stage at the end of the show. (Along with a lot of other people.) Manic is the only way to describe this show. At one point early on, Hutz had an open bottle of vodka which he was pouring on himself. There were these two girls (Georg heard someone call them "pixies" because of these Tyrolean hats they wore) who sometimes danced, sometimes played cymbals and a marching drum, and at one point used slingshots to fire stuff into the crowd.

[Hey, that reminds me, I got one of those things and put it in my pocket. I'm going to go get it and find out what it is. I'm back. It's just a piece of newspaper wrapped up in twine. Nothing inside it. Kind of disappointing.]

If you haven't heard Gogol Bordello, they sound like what if the Clash were from the Ukraine. And if you haven't heard them, go buy their record right now. Or better yet, catch the tour.

I had a splitting headache when we got home, but I took a bunch of Advil and my head feels pretty clear now. My ears have pretty much stopped ringing too. I think I'm going to try going to sleep. Have to get up early and take care of a work thing before driving Lisa to the auto mechanic to pick up 9 Westy. Luckily her mechanic is really near my house. There's a Bojangles right across the street, too. Mmm, biscuits.

i am not blogging the debate live..

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but I just have to say this. Bush has a big gob of spit in the corner of his mouth. EWWW.

back in durham

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We got back this afternoon around 3, the dogs are home, and all's well in the world. Now I'm settled in on the couch, catching up on TV shows on the DVR. (Gardening by the Yard, an episode all about how to contain bamboo, yay! We have some out-of-control bamboo that came in from our neighbor's yard, so I really need to know this.)

Okay, so yesterday we drove from Asheville up to Blowing Rock. We knew the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed around Mount Mitchell, so we drove most of the way up route 19, which was a very pretty drive through moutain towns. The spot we had planned to get on the parkway turned out to be six miles before another closure, but there was a sign directing us to the Mineral Museum, right at the on-ramp, for detour information. There was a nice lady there who gave us a very good map and very good directions. She also showed us some photos of the damage. Whole chunks of the road are just gone. Apparently it's going to be closed for some time, because the mountain collapsed in places. They have to test for geological stability before they can rebuild.

I'm glad we were able to drive on the parkway, because it's just beautiful. There wasn't much of any fall color in Asheville, but I guess that little bit further north and higher altitude made the difference. By the time we got up around Grandfather Mountain the colors were wonderful. The one thing we didn't understand was the people who tailgated us. We weren't going that slow. Besides, who the heck goes on a scenic drive when they're in a hurry? But no worries, there was always an overlook where we could lose a type-A ass tailgater.

Blowing Rock, which we'd never been in before, turns out to be one of those aggressively quaint little towns. Like Black Mountain NC, or New Hope PA. The impression from the main drive is that the town contains nothing but gift shops, restaurants, hotels and realtors. We're not too into the cute gifte shoppes, so we only stopped into a toy store, and a hipster shop which was a lot like Cameron's inside. It was lucky we went in there, because they sold lounge CDs, both new and used. I scored a couple of lounge/electronic comps, a Dinah Washington CD called "Dinah Jams," and a new CD by Daniele Luppi! I'm really excited about the last one. I have a couple of tracks by Luppi on the two Ultradolce comps, but I've never seen a solo album before. With this addition to my collection, I'm thinking about signing up for a mystery show on Italian lounge music.

We also had lunch at a little cafe called Trout something. I had an open-faced reuben, which was excellent, and Georg had a trout sandwich which he said was also very good. They offered a choice of chips, fries, salad or pierogies with your sandwich. I'd never seen pierogies on a menu before except in a Polish restaurant. I hadn't had them in years, but I used to make them all the time. I think the brand was called Mrs. T's. I'd boil them, then saute some onions, toss the pierogies with the onions to crisp them up a bit, and serve them with sour cream. Mmm, good times.

The drive back to Asheville was as scenic as the drive up, but more rolling pastoral hills rather than sweeping mountain grandeur. We would have enjoyed the drive immensely, except for a major unintended detour along the way. Somehow we lost route 70 in the middle of downtown Marion. We found another road that took us right to 40, but the onramp was mysteriously closed there. A guy gave us directions to connect with 40 later on, but the directions went way the heck out and were hard for us to follow. We ended up going about 45 minutes out of our way, and finally connecting up with 40 where we would have if we hadn't lost route 70 in the first place. Well, I felt bad for Georg having to do all that driving, but other than that there was no harm done.

As I wrote before, we had dinner at the New French Bar while we made use of their net access. Alas, I have to say my dinner was not very good. They were out of the thing I wanted, so I chose something else semi-randomly and didn't enjoy it that much. The only good thing I can say is that it was very filling. Which added to my tiredness, which led to my passing out on the couch around 9 pm last night. We ended up opening up the couch and sleeping there, instead of upstairs. It was nice and cozy in front of the fire.

This morning we cleaned up the cliff house and went in to Asheville for a nice breakfast at Early Girl. I had strawberry and sunflower seed pancakes. Weird sounding combination, but it sure was good! They also had fresh squeezed apple juice, some of the best apple juice I've ever had. It was just like the juice you can get at the state fair, right off the apple press.

We also stopped by Blue Moon Bakery, which I have to say was a big disappointment. The place reminds me of the original Ninth Street Bakery where I used to work, and we always go there everytime we're in Asheville. It turns out they're closing at 4 every day now, so we didn't make it there until our last day. They didn't have any of the wonderful desserts they used to carry, none of the dessert pastries or cookies or fruit tarts, and the breakfast pastry selection was pretty sparse too. I guess they had sold everything in the morning rush. We were going to get yummy-sounding pumpkin croissants, but the woman in front of us snapped up the last two. That bitch! Worst of all, we were actually ahead of her, but I let her go first because I didn't want to waste the counter guy's time until we knew everything we wanted. Oh well, that was a bummer but not the end of the world. I didn't even know pumpkin croissants existed until five minutes before they were snatched out from under me, so to speak. Besides, after we got home Georg bought me a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie from Whole Foods, so I got my fill of pumpkiny goodness.

I hope Blue Moon Bakery isn't in financial trouble. The reduced hours and reduced product line are bad signs. Anyway, we had one last stop before heading out of town: Make Me Fabric, the vintage fabric store where I bought that amazing polka dot fabric last year. Unfortunately, their prices have gone up a lot. They had several groovy mod fabrics that I would love to have, but at $18-20 a yard I just couldn't justify it. I think the price increase backfired, in my case at least. At $10-12 a yard (the prices last year) I would have easily spentover a hundred dollars. But as it was I got out of there with a couple of small sale remnants and a few buttons for under $20. Well, the owner Lisa told me last year that people would pay a lot more for her fabrics on Ebay, so I guess she decided that there was no reason to charge lower prices in the store.

We left Asheville at 11:30 and got back here around 3. It was such a wonderful vacation. Just what we needed. I wish we had spent a little more time just relaxing and enjoying the cliff house. But I do think we did a good job of not running ourselves ragging trying to do too much. The Campfire Lodgings people were great. This is our second time staying there, and I've been really happy both times.

asheville, monday evening

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That hot jazz combo last night at the cafe was great. They had a silly name -- Sweet Mama T and Her Red Hot Babies -- but they were very good. I tipped them a dollar, which should have been more but it was the only small bill I had. I was a little embarrassed to tip so little but they all thanked me (they were between songs when I walked up).

I have to say, of everything we've done so far on this trip, hanging out at the cafe with our computers listening to live hot jazz was my favorite. What a fun way to spend an evening. I am such a geek.

We had dinner at an upscale restaurant called Marketplace. It was a bit pricey, but well worth it. The waiter raved about the wood fired grill, so I had pork chops with roasted apples, spinach and fingerling potatoes, and Georg had bison tenderloin with beets and a potato gratin. Sad to say, my pork chops were actually a bit tough. I really wouldn't expect overcooked pork from such an upscale restaurant. In fact I almost ordered it medium well, fearing that medium might be cooked too pink for my taste. Good thing I didn't; I'd hate to see how medium well would have turned out.

But Marketplace still gets high marks from me: the dessert was good enough to more than make up for the entree. I had a molten lava chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, banana rum sauce, and sliced bananas. Oh man! It was amazing. Rich but not overwhelming. I wonder if it was some kind of signature dessert for them, as two different waiters told us it was their favorite. Georg had a plum souffle, which I did not taste because, you know, eggs. He said that the souffle was an excellent example of souffle, very well prepared, but the flavors were maybe too subtle. At least compared to the cake, which knocked our socks off. I wonder if it's difficult to make a molten cake turn out right. I bet you have to practice a few times to get the feel of your oven. I've had molten cakes before that were soft inside but still basically like cake all the way through. This was like a thin crust of cake with chocolate sauce inside.

Right now it's Monday evening and we're at the same internet cafe as last night, the New French Bar. We ordered dinner but we're geeking out until it arrives. We talked to the manager about the wireless access. She was very bummed that the local weekly listed 3 Asheville places that offer net access but did not include them, even though they were the second place here to do it. She asked us to tell everyone we know about their wireless access. We don't know anyone in Asheville, but I dutifully mention here that New French Bar has net access, the signal is very good, they play great music (Elvis tonight), you can sit outside or in, and they don't seem to mind if you nurse one drink the whole time you're working. Also, they should book Sweet Mama T and Her Red Hot Babies again. They were great.

Today we drove up to Blowing Rock, partly on the Blue Ridge Parkway but mainly on state roads. We had a great time, but I think our food is arriving so I'll have to write it up later.

asheville, sunday evening

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We're sitting in the outdoor patio of a different internet cafe, killing time before dinner. This time Georg got connected too, yay! There's a band setting up in the courtyard. I really hope they don't suck. It's cool and beautiful here as evening comes on. It would be just about perfect if the waitress would come back with our drinks.

Sleeping in the cliff house was a little less than ideal for me, the light sleeper. I felt like I was falling into the middle of the bed all night. Also, one of the doors to the outside doesn't lock. It's a door that would be really hard to approach from outside -- it goes to a deck, and you'd have to climb up that slope to get to it. But still, at every little noise I would strain my ears to hear if it was just the house settling or an axe maniac. Okay, maybe I was being a bit paranoid. I'm not used to having doors unlocked at night!

Despite all predictions we actually got some sun today. We probably should have jumped on the opportunity and driven up to Blowing Rock, but Georg was tired of driving so after getting online this morning, we went to the arboretum south of Asheville. Which was really nice. They were having a big bonsai show, which we only looked at a little bit. Mostly we checked out the garden of native NC plants. They also had a formal garden with a buncgh of hydrangeas in it. We saw a couple of varieties that we just planted, which still had dried blossoms from this past summer. The mopheads are huge! I can't wait until ours bloom.

[The band is an all-female hot jazz combo. A bit loud, but not at all unpleasant. And my tea arrived.]

Unfortunately we planned today's meals pretty badly. We had coffee drinks at the internet cafe this morning, which made us feel full so we didn't want lunch before the arboretum. Which took a few hours, so we didn't end up eating lunch until about 4, by which time I was feeling pretty darned cranky. We stopped at a little grocery store and made sandwiches back at the cliff house, then drove up to the top of the mountain to walk around the campsite. They have some nice walking trails up there. The yurt looks exactly the same as when we stayed there last summer, same furniture and everything. I wonder if they bought the exact same things, or if they were able to salvage the furniture? As described, the gas fireplace isn't installed yet. The ceramic log got cracked so I guess they have to buy a new one. Also it looks like they're installing an a/c unit. I wish it had had one last year!

Tomorrow it looks like we're going to drive up the blue ridge parkway (as much as we can) to Blowing Rock, walk around and sight-see there, and then take a regular road back down here. We picked up a free map at the campground so our alternate route back is all settled. Unfortunately it looks like it's going to be cloudy and rainy most of the day tomorrow. Damned tropical storm Matthew! At least we both brought boots and raincoats.

asheville, saturday evening

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We got into Asheville around 2:30, just in time for the campground office to open. There are a lot more people here now than last August, and they have a little snack bar in the middle now. I guess that's because it's October, high tourist season here.

They put us in the cliff house! It's amazing. First of all, it's huge. I think they said 3,000 square feet. It has 2 bedrooms and 3 full baths, plus more people could sleep on the 4 futon couches around the house. Two fireplaces, but we're probably only going to use the one in the living room. The other one is in this little conversation area upstairs.

It's not just on a cliff; it's built into the cliff, with cliff rock inside the house in places. It looks to me like it was built in the late 60s or early 70s. I don't know why it feels that way to me. Maybe the way the space is divided into small areas, and the odd staircases and paths to get to those areas. It would be a great house for parties, but if you lived here all the time it might get tedious to navigate. Or maybe I just think that because I'm so used to living in a small house. But the circular staircase does make me nervous.

The decor is the polar opposite of the yurt. The yurt was sleek and modern with slate tile, shoji screens, etc. The cliff house is totally rustic: dark wood furniture, an old-fashioned wood stove in the kitchen (there's a modern gas range too), and antiques like a roll-top writing desk, old Singer sewing machine, quilts on the beds, and so forth. It fits in with the design of the building. All that wood paneling, stone walls, and exposed beams on the ceiling.

I have to admit, the cliff house is totally swank, and I'm very happy about the bathroom situation -- I wasn't really looking forward to walking to a bathhouse in the middle of the night in October! -- but I'm also a little sad that we aren't in the yurt. She told us they had gotten everything done in the yurt except installing the gas fireplace. It's not as cold up here as I had expected, but I still wouldn't want to be sleeping in a tent with no heat.

After unloading the car and checking out the cliff house, we headed to downtown Asheville to walk around and check things out. We stopped in at Malaprops, a nice bookstore, and I picked up a book of North Carolina birds with nice photos. I've been wanting a bird book since we put the feeders out front. We also checked out a new comics/gaming shop -- and you know a comics shop is hardcore when the space set aside for gaming is equal to the space for merchandise. We didn't want to interrupt the gamers but I did buy Georg a "Knights who say Ni" bobblehead. Also looked at a cute plush killer rabbit, but the bobblehead seemed like the better choice.

There's an open square in the middle of town where, one night on our trip last year, there was a trance DJ spinning a great mix. Alas, tonight there was a horrible rock/blues band. The few minutes we heard while walking by were literally painful. Sad to say, the audience for the awful band was about ten times larger than the audience for the DJ last year. He only had a group of kids who appeared to be his friends, us, and some homeless people.

Of course we had to have dinner at our favorite restaurant here, Salsa's. It's always mobbed but we went pretty early so we didn't have to wait more than a few minutes. The food there is wonderful. Every dish is so complex. I had a tuna and crab enchilada, and Georg had a sweet plantain stuffed with lamb. We also got the sample plate with chips and 3 salsas -- we chose avocado and ginger, pineapple chipotle, and chayote and corn. We agreed that if we had a Mexican restaurant that good in the Triangle, we might never eat anywhere else. Actually, Patio Loco is pretty good. Their best specials are as good as everything on Salsa's menu (at least, everything I've had). But Patio Loco is much more traditional. For example they'd never serve seaweed salad, which is what I got as a side with my tuna and crab enchilada. Also rice, beans, plantains, and grilled tomato/corn/chipotle salsa. It was great.

We had talked about getting dessert at Chocolate Fetish, but after Salsa's we were both full. So we walked around a bit more, then headed back to the cliff house. We're sitting in front of the fire now, in our jammies, watching Food Network. I'll post this tomorrow from a nearby cafe that has wireless net access. What a great vacation.

asheville

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[This was written on Saturday, but I'm posting Sunday morning from a cafe with wireless net access. Alas, Georg can't get his iMac connected at all. It's on the network but he can't get through to the internet and we have no idea why. Technology is a little less wonderful than usual today.]

Took the dogs to the new kennel, Pets Companion. It's way the heck out -- on 501 north, almost to Bahama -- but it's so nice inside! I told Georg after I got back that the old kennel was like taking your dogs to stay with your uncle who raises hound dogs out in the country. He loves dogs and you know he'll take care of them, but it's not the most professional environment. Pets Companion was like going to the vet's office. Everything was nice and new, the staff all wear brightly colored scrubs, and the woman who handles medications had a long talk with me about what both Lina and Thirteen need and when. She printed up a med chart for the front of their pen and even said she would put the anti-lick gel on Lina's leg 4 times a day, like the vet wanted! I didn't think they would be willing to do it that often, I just asked her to do it as often as she could manage in a day.

While I was there I made reservations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's more expensive and I feel kind of bad about leaving the old place after so long, but with Thirteen's health declining, and Lina having health issues too, I feel like they need to be at a kennel where the staff will be on top of their medical issues.

Georg took care of packing while I was driving to the kennel and back, so all I had to do was pack up my computer. My only major disappointment is that I forgot all my camera accessories -- the tripod, new lens, and polarizing filter which I had bought just for this trip. Argh! I thought about it yesterday, and went into the study to get all that stuff, but got distracted by something else and forgot all about it. It's supposed to be cloudy all weekend anyway, so the polarizing filter wouldn't have been that much use. I am bummed about the tripod though. Now that I'm here, I remember last time planning to bring it so I could get a nighttime shot of the wig shop. Oh well, no point agonizing over it. At least I remembered the camera.

The drive out to Asheville was faster than we had expected. We stopped for lunch at Keaton's Barbecue again. Every bit as good as I remembered. I think they must have had an increase in tourist visitors, probably due to the Road Food people. (Which is how we heard of them). There are signs all over the restaurant now asking customers not to photograph the staff without permission. The "absolutely no profanity" sign is still there, and we still had to remind ourselves not to shout out how goddamned good the fried chicken was. This time I also had the macaroni and cheese, which was outstanding. Some joints like that serve gross institutional mac and cheese, with mushy macaroni and bland cheese sauce. This was just like something you would make at home: the texture of real cheese and a nice baked crust on top and bottom.

There doesn't seem to be much in the way of fall colors out here. I guess because it's been so wet and warm this fall. All we need is one cold snap, one night of frost, and all the leaves would turn. I don't think we're going to get that. But it's still beautiful though.

paris is burning

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October 7 movie: Paris is Burning. I was going to say that everyone who would be interested in this movie has already seen it, but then I found out that Georg hadn't seen it before last night. So I will just say that this movie is a fascinating documentary about gay drag/dance contests in New York in the mid-80s. I remember the first time I saw this movie, I was amazed at how vibrant and fluid voguing was. The Madonna video pales in comparison to Paris is Burning.

god I hate politics

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This debate is so godawful annoying. Just an endless series of "he's lying!" "no he's lying!" It seems like the last one was more subtantive. I can't even tell who's winning, because I loathe Bush with such intensity that every word out of his mouth is hateful to me. Listening to him claim to be "a good stewart of the land" and claim to believe that no one's rights have been restricted in any way since 9/11 is making my teeth hurt.

the cup

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October 3 movie: The Cup. Another one of those "can't believe I hadn't seen this" movies. Young Tibetan monks in a monestary in India love soccer, and convince the abbot to allow them to rent a TV and satellite dish so they can watch the World Cup. Very sweet movie; not a lot of subtlety but watching it made me feel good.

love me tonight

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October 3 movie: Love Me Tonight. Sweet, silly 1932 musical starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. Robert Osbourne said that this was the first musical to integrate the musical numbers into the movie, instead of isolated set pieces. He also said that "Mimi" (sung in the movie) is Chevalier's signature song, but for me it will always be "You've Brought a New Kind of Love to Me," as sung by the Marx Brothers. ("If the nightingales could sing like you, they'd sing much sweeter than they do!") Myrna Loy has a supporting part as a man-crazy aristocrat.

gardening update

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I didn't have much time for gardening this week but I did get one major project done: laying down newspaper and mulch all along the sunny side of the house. That area is supposed to be grass, but it gets all weedy and gross and it's difficult to mow because there are a lot of small stumps. With the mulch down it looks a lot neater, and next spring it will be ready to plant up. I left the newspaper off the front right corner of the bed because there's a bit of mint growing there that I want to keep. I know mint has a tendency to take over, but I have so much space to fill that it might not be such a bad thing.

The house both shelters that area from the coldest winds, and also reflects afternoon light. So I think that bed will probably be the warmest part of the yard in winter. I'm hoping to plant some things that are iffy for our region, like gardenia and dahlia. And I'd love to grow a fig tree, and this bed seems like the only good place for it. Also the herb garden will probably expand into that space. ooh, maybe a bay leaf! They're not supposed to survive our winters but Nancy has one in her sheltered backyard that's the size of a small tree. I'm going to have a lot of fun planning this bed over the winter.

In other gardening news, the nasturtiums are coming up! We have seven little sprouts. That's only a third of the seeds I planted, but I'm hoping there will be more by next week. Also, the goth pansy bed looks great. I'll take a picture when they've grown a little. Right now the little plantlings are too far apart and it's hard to get the different colors in one photo. All the perennial herbs look good except the tarragon, which has gotten all leggy and half-dead. I don't know what's wrong with it, but we rarely use tarragon anyway so I won't be heartbroken if it doesn't survive.

logistics are fun

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So, we're trying to plan a trip to Asheville. We want to stay in the yurt again, which we had done last year. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, Asheville has been slammed by storms in the past couple of months. There's been a lot of damage out there, including a tree falling on the yurt and destroying it.

Luckily they have another new yurt, which they were planning to add to the campground. So they didn't have to order a new one to replace the one that got crushed. They're putting it up right now, but they're not sure it will be done in time for us. Which is okay, because if the yurt isn't ready they're going to put us up in a cabin called the cliff house for the same cost. The cliff house is so nice that I'm kind of hoping the yurt isn't ready in time!

So, getting ready for a trip always involves certain logistics. On Wednesday I took the dogs to St. Francis to get their shots updated so they'd be kennel-ready. Last night (meaning, the day after their vet appt.) we noticed that Lina is worrying at her knee again. Sure enough, she had opened the incision again. What great timing! Back to the vet again this morning, to try and find out why the heck she keeps worrying this spot. Unfortunately, they have no idea. The vet (not Dr. Lindeke but the new doctor, Dr. Broussard) said we should just let it heal up again. If she does it a third time I should take her back to the vet college at NC State, who did the surgery.

Dr. Broussard said it's not going to look nice when it heals, and stitches wouldn't help because it's old tissue. I honestly don't care how it looks; I just want her to stop reopening it. They gave me this gel called "Yuk" (great name!) which you can put around a wound to stop the animal from licking at it. This is supposed to prevent the need for a e-collar. I hope like hell it works.

While we were there we also had to get a bordatella vaccination for both dogs. But didn't we just have their vaccinations on Wednesday? Why yes we did. But alas, bordatella isn't one of the regular vaccinations St. Francis does to all dogs. They only do it for dogs who will be boarded or professionally groomed. I didn't know that there was an extra vaccination for boarding so I didn't ask for it. I just said "give them all the shots they need to get them up to date," assuming that meant they would get all the shots they needed. Silly me!

I'm not upset with St. Francis; it wasn't their fault, just a miscommunication. It wasn't even that much extra hassle because I had to take Lina in anyway for her leg. And to their credit, to make up for the inconvenience they didn't charge me for Lina's exam, just the vaccinations. That was cool of them.

Meanwhile, we had to find a new kennel. Because the receptionist at St. Francis had raised some questions about the sanitary conditions at the kennel we had planned on using. If Lina has an open wound on her leg I certainly want her to be someplace impeccably clean. Which meant finding another kennel on a day's notice. I had hoped they could stay at St. Francis, but they're totally booked right now. (Last time they were full and we had a medical situation, they let my dogs stay in the bathroom, but this weekend even their bathroom is already full.) St. Francis recommended two kennels, the second of which -- Pets Companion in north Durham -- had space. Whew! They're more expensive, but they said they would take care of the dogs' medication. Which is a huge relief because the "yuk" gel is supposed to be applied to Lina's leg several times a day.

So, that takes care of the dogs. (Except that we might have to go back to St. Francis and get an e-collar if that "yuk" gel doesn't stop her from licking.) Next up, a trip to Triple A to get maps and find out road closings. We had planned to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Blowing Rock, but we heard that large sections of the road were closed.

I have to say, that was the least helpful visit to Triple A that I've ever had. I wonder if the woman I talked to wasn't at her normal station or something. She first read off mile markers of closed sections of the parkway, but refused to give me a map on which to mark this information. Eventually she coughed up the map, but then refused to repeat the mile markers. Why, you ask? I cannot imagine.

Eventually the guy at the next desk gave me a phone number -- long distance, mind you -- which I could call to find out the road closings. I wanted very much to ask them why I had to make a toll call to get information that was their job to give me, but by that point I just wanted to get out of there. So I wrote down the number and left. There was a third guy there, who was on the phone the whole time I was there. I talked to him before we went to Houston, and he was extremely helpful. Not only did he allow me to mark the information I wanted on a map, he even did it for me! I wish I had been able to talk to that guy again.

So that's been my day so far. Now I'm taking a lunch break before getting to the work I haven't been doing all morning. I did have one good work-related thing happen this morning: a possible new bookkeeping client who was referred to me from Stoneline. Bookkeeping doesn't pay as well as web stuff, but it is regular money. Plus I have to finish up the laundry, and call that number the Triple A monkeys gave me. Logistics are so much fun.

(Speaking of malevolant monkeys, have y'all heard about George W. possibly wearing a prompter during the debate? I'm deeply skeptical -- the consequences of pulling a scam like this would be so bad, I can't imagine even Bush being that arrogant -- but I have to admit I will take evil pleasure in hearing his people deny it.)

fall is here

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It's definitely fall. It's gotten cold enough at night that the house is really chilly -- below 60° -- when we get up. In fact. I'm having a hard time working right now because my hands are cold, even though I'm wearing a bulky sweatshirt, heavy socks and polartec pants. If my fingers are stiff and uncomfortable, I can only imagine how my old arthritic dogs are feeling. Guess we should start closing the windows at night.

Speaking of the dogs, yesterday morning they gave a big scare to a Duke Power man who came to the door. I leave the front door open so they can come in and out the dog door as they please, and when they heard him knock they went tearing out the door, barking their heads off. Now, Thirteen couldn't intimidate anyone; she just looks so harmless. But Lina has a fearsome bark, and she moves fast too. I can tell when Lina means business and when she doesn't, but I can understand that someone who didn't know her that well might not know the difference. The Duke Power man looked like his life was flashing before his eyes, and with Lina bearing down on him I don't blame him. Of course, once she got out the door she started wagging her tail and sniffing his feet. That's my guard dog, always on the job!

There was even more doggie excitement later in the day when I took them to the vet for a checkup. They have mixed feelings about the vet's office: everyone there is really nice, and there's all kinds of good smells, but on the downside nasty things like shots and temperature-taking happen there. We talked again about Thirteen's cough, which has gotten worse. Dr. Lindeke thinks that it's probably chronic bronchitis but that fall allergies may be aggravating it. Allergies are kicking my ass this fall, so it's certainly a possibility. Dr. Lindeke had me put her back on EFAs in her food, which I really should have been doing all along, it's an anti-inflammatory which can help with a lot of things like her itchy skin and her joint problems. Dr. Lindeke said that if the cough doesn't ease up in a couple of weeks from the EFAs and the end of ragweed season, we'll start a cough suppressant that Thirteen might have to take indefinitely.

There's always one weird, unexpected and/or annoying problem that comes up in these visits, and this time it's with Lina. Apparently when she eats, she gets food & water caught in the wrinkles around her lower lip, which is causing inflammation. Why this has just started happening now is beyond me, but in any case I have to clean the area after eating and apply a topical antibiotic (which luckily we already have). Yes, I have to wipe my dog's mouth after she eats. Dr. Lindeke suggested unscented baby wipes. I suggest "ew."

After the fun at the vet's office I had a busy day. I had a couple of hours to get some work done, then off to Denovo for a conference call. It was supposed to be a meeting but the client couldn't get away. It was just as well. There was really no need to meet in person, it was easily handled over the phone, and the call only lasted 15 minutes. After that I headed to Stoneline to try et again to resolve their computer problems. This time I think everything is fixed. Took me over 5 hours though. It would have gone faster but I initially had the wrong system install disk, which wouldn't run on the computer because it was wrong disk, but I didn't know that so I spent some time trying to figure out why it wouldn't accept the disk. Eventually it got figured out, I re-installed the system, got their programs running the way they like them, made sure their net access was still OK, and etc.

Finally got home a bit after 9, where Georg had a wonderful dinner waiting for me. Carnitas, green vegetables, and some kind of yummy corn tortilla + fresh salsa + melted cheese thing. There's nothing like staggering home after a long day, and then just lying on the couch stuffing yourself with porky goodness and watching America's Next Top Model. Which has not yet produced another line as good as "bitch poured beer on my weave," but I am happy that my two favorites -- Toccara and Yaya -- are still the best contenders after they all got a makeover last night. And that Janice, the freaky-former-model judge, is still as crazy as ever. (She seems less mean this year, I wonder if she got a happy pill injection along with the botox.) On the other hand, I'm very unhappy that one of the contestants admitted to bulimia but the only response was all the other girls gossiping about her. I think that was really irresponsible of the show. I sincerely hope the people in charge get more involved next week in a constructive way, like taking her to a counseler or something.

Actually, now that I think about it the interesting thing about last night's show is the emerging character to hate: Amanda, the blind woman. In the makeover they bleached her hair platinum blonde and gave her really long extensions. She seems to have taken this as a call to be a super diva, which seems to mean "skanky bitch": walking around preening and posing all the time, talking in an even more breathy voice, bragging about how threatened everyone is by her, etc. The two best/worst moments for Amanda were first, early in the show when she called her toddler son "my light, my Ja Rule." What the hell does that mean? Also, if she's so crazy about her son, why is she halfway across the country in a modeling competition? The whole purpose of which is to get her into a career which would keep her away from him all the time? Then she went on to say that he's special because "he was conceived to the hour on 9/11." I rewound and watched again to make sure I didn't mishear her. What the?? Do we really want to know that she and her husband were getting it on while the country was being attacked? Ew!

The second cringe-worthy moment, which actually had me say "ew!" out loud, was at the end, when one of the judges commented on Amanda's new appearance by saying "where did you come from?" To which she purred, "from your dreams." First of all, ew! She really doesn't have what it takes to pull of a comment like that. (Now if Janice said it, that would be great. Because we would all know she meant our divalicious nightmares.) Secondly, I have a hunch the judge in question is not dreaming about women. I know, I know, assumptions make an ass out of you and me, but the guy pings the gaydar pretty hard. Now if Amanda had said "from another galaxy," that would have been funny and would have acknowledged the unearthly look they gave her.

Amanda's only other presence in the episode was to encourage the other girls to come to her if they had any problems, then blab to everyone when the girl with bulimia confided in her. Clearly Amanda is an evil alien drama queen. Alas, she photographs well so she'll probably be around for a long time.

shaolin soccer

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October 3 movie: Shaolin Soccer. This is another one of those "I can't believe I didn't see this until now" and oh lordie, it was fun! A loving, hysterically funny tribute to classic HK martial arts movies, it was styled just like one of the old historical kung fu movies: film style (especially the close-ups) the way people talked, everyone having a goofy name for their superhero powers, even a Bruce Lee-style yellow jumpsuit on one character (also seen on Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Part 1.) But set in the present day, with soccer as the ultimate test of skill.

This is a must-see if you have any love for Chinese martial arts movies, and probably still very funny if you're not that into them. My favorite thing was the toss-off gags, like the Shaolin Soccer team's penultimate opponents being a team of women wearing fake moustaches. The movie never explains whether everyone else knows the team are women, and if so why the moustaches. They're just there, making ominous threats ("the only way you will see the finals is if we let you!") and getting their asses righteously kicked by Shaolin Soccer. And if you think that's a spoiler, you haven't seen many martial arts movies.

My only minor quibbles were 1. wishing the CGI was a bit better, but then again cheesy effects are part and parcel of the genre they're paying tribute to; 2. they indulge in a plot device I hate, namely the female love interest having a serious flaw in her appearance (in this case very bad acne) which magically disappears when she falls in love with the male hero. Just for once I'd like to see a movie where the hero falls for the ugly duckling girl, and instead of immediately transforming into a swan, she still looks the same. That would mean that he really did love her for who she was, instead of hinting that he was simply the first to see her potential as a fixer-upper.

On the other hand, the ugly duckling in Shaolin Soccer did have her own martial arts superpower and she also showed up with a shaved head for the grand finale, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

rpm top ten

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OK, I know that being music director is a really time-consuming, pain in the ass job. And I have no wish to criticize someone who volunteers to do a job like that, when I know I never would. But I confess that I'm a bit irked about the frequency with which we get the top 100 playlist back too late to report to CMJ. Especially last week, when 5 of the overall top 10 were RPM. Four of which were reviewed by yours truly. (That's even with Lounge Story 2, which was getting lots of spins, having gone missing. Which really yanks my chain, but that's a topic for another post.) How often do we get so much RPM in the top of the playlist? Hardly ever. I think this is the first time since I started reporting. All good stuff too.

Since I can't report to CMJ, I'm posting the RPM top 10 here. woo, RPM!

DJ Cam...Liquid Hip Hop...Inflamable
Lars Horntveth...Pooka...Small Town Supersound
Re:Jazz...Re:Mix...Kriztal
Sasha...Involver...Global Underground
Venetian Snares...Huge Chrome Cylindar Box Unfolding...Planet Mu
Toyen...Did You Bring Me On National Television...Racing Junior
Mouse On Mars...Radical Connector...Thrill Jockey
Savath & Savalas...Manana...Warp
"Medeski, Martin & Wood"...End of the World Party (Just In Case)...Blue Note
Wagon Christ...Sorry I Make You Lush...Ninja Tune

mulch.. I love mulch

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It's been a gardening weekend. On Friday my friend David lent me his truck so I could get two truckloads of mulch. At first the plan was for him to drive, but at some point we realized that there was no need for him to spend his whole day helping me get mulch, when I could just borrow the truck and do it myself. So we got the first load of much, I dropped him off at his house, went home and unloaded it, then went back and got another.

It was a lot of shoveling (I wish there had been someone around to get a photo of me standing in the truck, pitchfork in hand, knee deep in mulch), but I think driving the truck was more tiring. An older Chevy small truck (X10 maybe?) lacking power steering or power brakes, it was more difficult to handle than the much larger Ford F150 I drove before getting Undersea Mah Jongg. The braking was a bit scary to be honest. I'm just lucky that the first time I tried to brake was at the mulch place with nothing around, because I tapped the brake the way I would with my car, and sailed right past the place where I expected to stop. If I had been in traffic, I would have plowed into whatever was in front of me! But once I got used to the effort and time required to stop, it was fine. I just had to go slow, start braking really early, and sit up a bit off the seat so I could put all my weight into it.

The other odd feature of the truck is that you don't need the key to start it: just turn the thing that the key goes into and it starts right up. This is actually kind of cool, because in future I'll be able to borrow the truck anytime, even if David isn't home to give me the key. (no I wouldn't be stealing! he said I could.) My old Toyota had similar key quirks. I never tried to start it without the key, but I do remember that you could remove the key while it was running.

So anyway, it took most of the day, but I was much less tired than I would have expected to be after shoveling two truckloads of mulch. I even had the energy to mulch the hydrangea bed in front of the house. They're looking really good. Even the one that got banged up in transit has lots of little growth tips. And one of them has a flower bud for next year! It's the "regula," which is supposed to have purple and white flowers. I'm actually wondering if I should snip off the bud so it will put its energy next spring into growing roots. It would be so nice to have a flower though. I might write to the nursery who sold it to me and ask them.

Yesterday we took a load of trash to the dump before returning the truck to David. You know, if I were driving behind an old truck, with the back end bashed in, piled high with junk that isn't tied down, going 5 mph below the speed limit, would I tailgate? Um, no, I think I'd give it as much room as possible. Because maybe there's a reason it's going so slow? Unfortunately this logic escaped the idiot woman who tailgated me the whole length of Carver St. before finally passing me on a double yellow line, cutting back in so close that I had to swerve to the right to avoid rear-ending her. I try really hard to contain myself and not to antagonize other drivers but I couldn't help myself, I stuck my arm out the window and gave her the finger. It's not like a soccer mom in a minivan is going to start a fist fight or anything, even if she does drive like a maniac. Besides, I could have taken her.

Anyway after returning the truck we went out to the farmer's market. We always have a great time there and this week the pumpkin vendors are out in force. We didn't buy a pumpkin but we did buy a beautiful perennial sunflower and a marjoram from one of my favorite plant vendors, and a flat of pansies. They had black pansies! I've never seen that before. We got black, crimson and dark purple for a little goth pansy bed up by the house. Also some normal pansies (yellow with red centers, white with blue centers, that sort of thing) for down by the road.

I planted the sunflower and pansies yesterday and today, while Georg spread mulch and did some weed wacking. Also we hung up some more bird feeders in front, because the birds found the ones already out there. We've been getting titmice, chickadees, cardinals and best of all, two goldfinches (male and female). Yay! The goldfinches really like this little mesh bag of thistle, and the other birds like the squirrel-proof feeder (the kind with the tray that closes if there's too much weight on it). We added a tube feeder with sunflower seeds, and a little mesh box of suet, which we read that woodpeckers like, because I've seen a couple of woodpeckers hanging out in the dogwood. I hope they find it and do like it.

Last night we went to an opening at Tyndall, and a fun party at Shayne and Dave's. Georg, Lisa and I were the last guests to leave, and I was a little worried about staying too late but Shayne and Dave didn't seem overtired or anxious for us to go. It's pretty rare for me to close down a party anyway. During the evening they showed a DVD of the Wattstax concert (the "Black Woodstock" according to the box). It was on in the background so I didn't watch too closely, but it looked like a really good movie. I'm going to check and see if Netflix has it.

This morning I slept rather too late, went to Home Depot with Georg in the morning, finished planting the pansies, and then reviewed a couple of CDs for the station. Georg made a fabulous pot roast for dinner and I made Julia Child-style broccoli (baked in butter and parmesan cheese) to go with it. And that prtty much wraps up the weekend. Now I'm off to Stoneline, their computer is acting up again and I won't have time to help them tomorrow. Sigh.

green fields

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Sept ? movie: Green Fields. This was a 1937 movie all in Yiddish. It was filmed in the US but set in, well they never say exactly, but I'd guess somewhere in Eastern Europe. A yeshiva student goes out into the world and into a rural community. Two peasant familes fight over who gets to host him and their daughters both fall for him. Eventually everything works out in a romantic comedy sort of way.

I never heard of Yiddish movies from the early 20th century before. I looked for more information online, but unfortunately I didn't find out whether Green Fields was unique, or part of a whole Jewish film community outside of Hollywood, similar to the African American film industry. Honestly, it wasn't a triumph of great moviemaking. But it was a sweet film, heartfelt and simple. The most interesting thing was the cultural details, like the peasant mother teaching her daughter how to act properly so she'll attract the scholar.

(Also I was a bit amused that the film was shown as TCM's "Friday Night Import," even though it was made in the US with an American cast and crew. I guess they called it an import since it wasn't in English.)

thirteen women

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Sept ? movie: Thirteen Women. From this movie I learned that before the studios discovered her talent for comedy, Myrna Loy often played exotic vamps. (Yes, this is the third Myrna Loy movie in a row. They must have been running a special on her on TCM last month.) Here she plays one of those vaguely ethnic exercises in Hollywood xenophonia: she looks somewhat Chinese, has an unplaceable accent, hangs out with an Indian swami, is described as "half-Asian," but has a sort of Russian name (Ursula Georgi).

Anyway, the movie. There are these twelve white women who all went to school together, and now they've all had their horoscopes done by the swami. Who predicts death and doom for all of them. Except that really Loy is forging the horoscopes as her revenge on the women. She was at their school too, but they were racist and drove her out, thus depriving her of a better life. And somehow she's hypnotizing them from afar into doing whatever the bogus horoscopes say they will do. It's actually much less interesting than this description might lead you to believe. I was hoping for a sort of Abominable Dr. Phibes with Myrna Loy as Vincent Price, but no such luck. Thirteen Women was actually more about Irene Dunne (one of the intended victims). Still, it was worth watching just to see Myrna Loy vamping it up.

libeled lady

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Sept ? movie: Libeled Lady. Another William Powell/Myrna Loy romantic comedy, this was made after the first Thin Man movie but before Nick & Nora became a franchise. Spencer Tracy runs a newspaper which has libeled spoiled heiress Loy, so he hires degenerate reporter Powell to seduce her so they can blackmail her into dropping the suit. Or something like that. It's been a while, I mainly remember that it was funny, and Powell and Loy had great chemistry (of course). The odd thing about this movie was Spencer Tracy. His character wasn't exactly a villain, but still the closest thing to it I've ever seen him play. Jean Harlow plays Tracy's oft-neglected (and loudly complaining) girlfriend.

the thin man

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Sept ? movie: The Thin Man. It's been so long since I wrote up a movie that I can't remember when I watched The Thin Man. But I did, and enjoyed it immensely. William Powell and Myrna Loy are so much fun. Did you know that in this, the first Thin Man movie, the title does not refer to Nick Charles, William Powell's character? Nope, the thin man was another character. All the other Nick & Nora movies have "Thin Man" in the title, so I guess they decided the thin man was Nick after all.

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