May 2005 Archives

odds and ends

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I haven't gotten hardly any gardening done in the past week, but not only has Georg been picking up the slack, but the plants have been working their magic on their own, too. By which I mean, the butterfly garden is doing well, the mini dahlias look great, the chard is just about ready to pick, and lots of seedlings are up: basil, cilantro, zucchini, nasturtiums, and sunflowers! Yay! The sunflowers are on that bank by the road, that we tilled a couple of weeks ago. So far it's just the back row that are emerging, about a dozen and a half of them. I'm wondering how long I should wait before re-sowing those that don't come up.

Georg found a web page on dealing with rabbits, and based on that page's advice we sprinkled blood meal on the beets and the chard. Apparently they don't like the smell of dried blood. (Makes sense for an animal that is prey.) The web page says that rabbits love beet greens and also like parsley, cilantro, chard and summer squash. But they don't like any of the other vegetables we planted.

Thirteen is doing OK, same as before. I'm putting this bad-tasting gel called "Uck" on her leg, that works pretty well to stop her from chewing. I haven't heard back yet from Dr. Broussard but she had told me last week that since the situation isn't urgent, she would ask some friends for free opinions on the X-rays, rather than paying for a consultation. Which means it might take a little longer. I'm actually relieved by this because if Dr. Broussard thought there was a chance of cancer in Thirteen's leg, she wouldn't wait.

Tonight Janey has her first obedience class. We're going to Pet Behavior Help, recommended by Lisa B. Rockmeier. Who is in fact an instructor there! But not of our class, alas. I'm supposed to bring tasty dog treats, and a chew toy to keep Janey occupied for the discussion portion of the class. I was pretty sure that Jane wasn't into toys -- she's never tried to chew anything in the house, and she looked puzzled when I threw a stick for her to chase. But I dutifully bought her a chew toy this afternoon. When I offered it to her, she dutifully sniffed, and then ignored it. So does anyone want a steak-flavored chew toy? The kind made of rope to floss their teeth.

Instead of Gene Wolfe I pulled out my old copy of The Last Temptation of Christ and started reading it again. Actually "again" might not be the right word because I don't think I finished it the first time around. It's a good antidote to Left Behind.

dagnabbit

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Rabbits got into our beets! Argh!!

This morning when we got up, the tops had been eaten off of three or four of the beets, and a couple of them had been pulled out of the ground in the process. It had to be rabbits. A smaller rodent would have eaten lower leaves, not the tallest ones, and probably would have eaten the roots. We rarely get deer around here, and deer would have eaten them all, not just a few.

Dang! I was hoping Janey had scared away the rabbits. I don't know what we can do about this. The bed really isn't set up to be fenced effectively. Next year we're going to build a raised bed for the veggies, maybe that will be easier to fence around.

neener neener

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Before I started reading Left Behind, I thought it had two purposes: to inspire believers and to convert unbelievers. Probably not genuine unbelievers like myself, but mainstream Christians who wouldn't be considered "true Christians" by the type of Christian depicted in LB. I expected the series would be a cautionary tale, warning mainstream Christians to join an evangelical church post-haste.

Now that I've finished the series, I think I was wrong. The purpose is not to persuade but to gloat. The series is one long "neener neener" to unbelievers. We were right, and you were wrong, and look how much you're going to suffer.

Jesus said: "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." But the believers in Left Behind do rejoice as they trample on the enemy. They wink and laugh at enemy soldiers during Armageddon. The immolation of unbelievers, burned to piles of ash, is described as "almost amusing." They "can't wait" for "the awful reality of Satan and his lackeys getting theirs." They're like playground bullies who act with impunity because they know the teacher is on their side.

Which brings me to the most offensive thing about this series: the way God is portrayed. The believers talk on and on (and on, and on) about God's boundless love for His children, but that's not what we see. Left Behind makes God out to be a nasty little boy holding ants under a magnifying glass. Vicious, vindictive, totally without compassion. That's the God LaHaye and Jenkins want us to believe in.

Tsion Ben-Judah, the World's Only Biblical Scholar, says many times that the judgements and plagues aren't in conflict with a loving God because God is just trying to get everyone's attention, giving everyone one last chance to accept Him. But the punishment so far outweighs the crime that I felt sympathy for the unbelievers who, true to prophecy, curse God instead of accepting Him. After the earthquakes, and the locusts, and the sulfurous poison gas, and the sores, and the oceans of blood, and the darkness, would you be filled with love and worship for the being who was doing this to you? Me neither. We're supposed to see the holdouts as stubbornly choosing earthly pleasure and "thumbing their noses at God," but instead I saw them as God's victims, flies He swatted with His sledgehammer.

And as it turns out, that bit about having one last chance isn't even true anyway. Near the end of the series, the few remaining undecided who have neither become Christian nor taken the mark of the beast find that "their hearts have been hardened" by God. They are unable to convert even if they want to. The believers witness unbelievers begging God to allow them to pray to Him, and think to themselves that these people deserve no sympathy. After all, God gave them plenty of chances, but His patience has limits. That's right, God in His infinite mercy condemns millions of people to eternal torment, because He gets tired of waiting. Converting six years into the tribulation is okay, but six years and four months is too late, sorry, God doesn't want you anymore.

As God's chosen people, Jews are the exception: they're allowed to convert right up until the moment Jesus arrives and starts slaughtering unbelievers. And I must say, Jesus the mass murderer isn't very nice, but at least He sounds like I imagine a god might sound..mostly. (It's painfully apparent when Christ's dialogue was quoted from Scripture and when it was written by LaHaye and Jenkins.) The angels who show up earlier in the series (and have more of their dialogue written by L & J, I surmise) are so badly written it's just tragic. A direct encounter with an eternal being would be a transcendent experience. It would change you forever. But to the believers in Left Behind, it seems rather mundane. The angels show up, save their lives, chat, then disappear and everyone goes on about their business. The believers seem to view the angels as just another tool in the arsenal, like the super cool cell phones and the heat ray guns. One even makes up a nickname for the archangel Michael! (When the angel appears in an airplane they ask, "Are you there?" and the angel says "Roger." Prompting the nickname "Roger.") They're taking that whole personal relationship with God too literally, if they feel free to give funny nicknames to His messengers.

I think the whole premise of this series -- translating Biblical prophecy into predictions of actual future events -- trivializes what it claims to glorify. The book of Revelation is (in my opinion) a work of feverish visions. It's majestic in its lunacy. Trying to break it down into facts and predictions robs it of all life and poetry. What's left is sad and absurd, like a deflated Macy's float.

For instance, Tsion (the World's Only Biblical Scholar) instructs us that "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head" means the Jews, specifically the ones who convert to Christianity. And "two wings of a great eagle" means by land and by air. And "the place prepared for her in the desert" means Petra, in Jordan. And "a time" means "one year." Therefore the passage "The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach," actually means that when the Antichrist attacks the Jews, they will escape to Petra in cars and planes, and live there safely for three and a half years. Leaving aside the question of the basis for this interpretation, how dreadfully prosaic! It's like taking the lines "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate" and saying "That means you are pretty and you have a good personality."

I may have more to say about this tomorrow -- I haven't even addressed Jesus' thousand-year reign of enslavement and thought control -- but I'm tired of thinking about Left Behind for tonight. I think I might dig out some Gene Wolfe. It would be nice to read a good writer's depiction of gods speaking to men, for a change.

first harvest

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We ate food from our garden tonight! Woo! Three beautiful beets that Georg roasted and added to a salad with nice greens, sugar snap peas, red peppers, pickled onions, mild goat cheese and leftover roast chicken. It was so yum. I read that beets should be picked no larger than 2 inches in diameter; any bigger and they start to get woody and tough. These were a bit smaller, maybe more like 1.5", and they were so tender and sweet. We saved the greens to have another night.

Unfortunately that's it for the first beet harvest. I must have done something wrong early on (maybe planted too early?), because only 3 beets came up from that first row. The second row was planted two weeks later and all of them came up. And I planted another row every 2 weeks after that. So we'll have wonderful yummy beets again, every 2 weeks for the rest of the summer. Yay!

thirteen does not have cancer

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Just got back from a very stressful morning at the vet. The good news is, Thirteen does not have cancer. They think. The bad news is, they have no idea what's wrong with her.

Thirteen's left front leg has been swollen and lame for a couple of months now. They checked it out back then, did X-rays, determined that it was probably just some inflammation and sent us on our way with a bottle of Rimadyl. In case that sounds a bit casual, I should say that we were all rather preoccupied with the crazy pacing at the time, and the leg really didn't seem like a big deal.

The leg has been about the same since then, until the last week or two when I noticed that the swelling and limping both seemed worse. Yesterday I had to refill Thirteen's perscription and while I was there, I made an appointment for next Thursday. Then last night I saw Thirteen really chewing at the inside of her leg, underneath the swelling, and I couldn't get her to stop. I made her roll over and show it to me (no small feat). The inside of her leg was looking raw and inflamed and the pad right behind the joint was also inflamed and kind of squishy.

Called them back this morning and hassled them into giving me an appointment today. Which meant rearranging my work to go in this afternoon instead, which my boss was totally cool about. They looked at Thirteen's leg, and said that the swelling was increasing more "aggressively" than they would like, and that cancer was a real concern. Which pretty much freaked me out. If did turn out to be cancer, they would have to amputate her leg. Which would not be good for a fat eldery dog who can barely walk as it is.

To cut to the chase they did another set of Xrays on the spot and they did not find evidence of cancer. What a relief! Apparently cancer would have look like destruction of the bone in a "starburst" pattern and there was nothing like that. Thirteen does have increased bone spurs over that joint, but the vet said it didn't look bad enough to warrant the swelling. So they're not sure what's wrong.

The vet is going to share the Xrays with a colleague and get back to me. But it sounds like the next step is to take Thirteen to the teaching hospital at NC State for a "joint tap." I gather this is sticking a needle into the joint to draw out fluid, like a spinal tap. Sounds awful.

In the meantime Thirteen has to lose weight. It's true, she is about 10 pounds overweight and has been for years. That's a lot for a dog! If her problem is osteoarthritis, then her weight is definitely making it worse. I have to figure out exactly how many calories Thirteen eats every day and report back to Dr. Broussard, who will draw up an eating plan. I already feed her weight loss food and no treats, except a nibble of cheese with her pills every morning. But I guess the quantity of food is too high. Especially since she gets so little exercise now that it's gotten hard for her to walk.

So I'm still kind of freaked out about the possibility of cancer, but Dr. Broussard seemed pretty well convinced that it's not there.

i feel dirty

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Just in case any of us had the delusion we were living in the 21st Century:
Three Crosses Burned in Durham

the scent's the thing

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I've never been a perfume wearer. I've never worn it, and have had enough encounters with headache-inducing stenches to convince me that artificial scent was. Not. My. Thing.

But lately I've been reading starcat_jewel's series of reviews of something called BPAL, and though it sounds an awful lot like perfume, I confess I'm intrigued by the descriptions and the kooky product names. Couple of nights ago I asked her for more info, followed some links and found that BPAL is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, manufacturers of fine perfume oils. Hundreds of perfume oils. All with kooky names and luscious descriptions. And they sell sample sizes!

If the company name and website design didn't show me that these folks cater to a rather esoteric clientele, I would have known it when I discovered they have a line of scents dedicated to the Tarot trumps, another line for the sephiroth, and another called "Springtime in Arkham." No sample sizes available for any of those, alas.

Never having worn perfume, I really have no idea what I'm going to like, or if I'm even going to like wearing artificial scent at all. But I do have some ideas of what I don't want. I dread being like that woman who works on the 2nd floor of the HKB building, and wears such strong perfume that the elevator reeks for half an hour after she disembarks. (I'm not exaggerating. It's really that bad.) I also spent enough time working for a hippie bakery/restaurant to loathe the smell of patchouli. I don't want anything overpowering or too perfumy. Or anything too sweet or fruity. I don't want to smell like a cherry pie. Or like any kind of pie for that matter.

Luckily BPAL has an active forum for customer reviews. I spent a couple of hours browsing, searching for words like "clean," "light" and "summer." Steered clear of scents with heavy ingredients like amber, musk, sandalwood, leather, spices or (ugh) patchouli. And immediately rejected any scent which was described by any reviewer as smelling like "hippie shop," "old lady scent," "lemon pledge," "cotton candy" or "sex." Even if they meant it as a compliment.

Even with all those restrictions I ended up having a hard time narrowing it down to 12 samples (they come in packs of 6). If anyone reading this is familiar with BPAL, here's what I ordered:

Kumiho
Dirty
Old Shanghai
Embalming Fluid
Endymion
Twilight
Szepasszony
Envy
Snake Oil
Sea of Glass
Amsterdam
Xiuhtecuhtli

I tried to pick blends that sounded light, fresh, good for summer (Yes, unlikely though it seems, Embalming Fluid is supposed to be a light, crisp scent that's a favorite for summertime. I've never actually smelled embalming fluid though I have been in an embalming room. I have the mental association of embalming fluid smelling like disinfectant, which is what the room smelled like. I hope the perfume doesn't smell like that). Also I ordered a couple (Snake Oil and Xiuhtecuhtli) that were a bit darker and spicier, so that not everything would be in the same range. And I already regret passing over one that sounded really odd and intriguing (Ultraviolet, they said it smelled metallic).

So who knows where this will go. Maybe I'll decide that perfume isn't for me after all, and end up using them as room fresheners or giving them away. But it will be fun trying them. Makes me feel all girly. Now I'm just anxious for them to arrive! The website said all the perfumes are made to order, and therefore it takes weeks for each order to be filled. Guess I'll just have to be patient.

good advice

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"If you're being bossy, don't be bossy."
-written on an index card by a five year old

left beneath

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I'm finally slogging through the rest of the Left Behind series. I didn't think it was possible, but they get even more annoying towards the end. Satan possesses the Antichrist, and he's kind of an idiot. By which I mean, he has no more idea what's going on than his minions do. I get that the evil secular humanists are supposed to be totally unfamiliar with the Bible & unwilling to find out, even after the plague of locusts and the water turning to blood and so on. But wouldn't Satan at least have a clue?

The most unintentionally hilarious moment so far was in book 9 when the Antichrist desecrates the temple in Jerusalem by murdering someone inside the temple, then going to the inner sanctum and sacrificing a pig, wallowing in the blood and laughing like a maniac. One of the believers sees this and wonders to himself why the minions would offer adulation to someone who acts like a drunken reveler at a frat party. Um? I'm pretty sure the frat brothers at Duke restrained themselves to petty hijinks like burning things and throwing up on the quad. But slaughtering pigs and rolling around in the fresh blood? There must be a lot we don't know about those Bible colleges.

Will write more (maybe) when I'm finished the series, but here's one more for the LB vs. Soaps series.

Romance:
Left Behind: "I could look into your eyes until Jesus comes."
Soap Opera: "I don't do sex for money. I do it because I like it."

working weekend

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Another working weekend, both yardwork and the paying kind. Yesterday Georg and I went to town on the yard. I planted things -- not from the farmer's market this week, from Home Depot. The selection isn't as good and you don't get that warm fuzzy feeling of buying from local small businesses, but they did have some nice things. Like salvias for the butterfly garden, coreopsis and gazanias for the orange and yellow bed down by the road, and gerber daisies!

I have a weakness for gerber daisies so I bought a whole bunch of them to plant in the new bed we're creating by the side of the house. Which meant I had to get back to digging! (This is the bed with the concrete slabs, but the gerber daisies went into the other side.) Have I mentioned that the soil in this bed is hard, heavy clay? This digging is one of the hardest things I've done yet in the yard. Prying out stumps may be harder, but there's so much more to do in this bed that it kind of evens out.

We're not quite double digging, but close: dig out the clay about a foot deep, haul it away in the wheelbarrow, use the heavy fork to loosen the clay another foot deep, then fill the bed with compost and mix it in. I spent hours at it and only just got enough dug out to plant my gerber daisies along the edge of where the path will go. Really I should have waited until the whole bed was dug out to plant anything, rather than doing it piecemeal. But that could take weeks and I was afraid Home Depot would run out of the gerber daisies. (Turns out that was not an unreasonable concern: I went back this morning to get a couple more and the big huge display from Wednesday was almost entirely gone!) Besides, this way I have the instant gratification of seeing pretty flowers in the ground right away. I hope that will help me keep going on the rest of the bed.

While I was digging clay, Georg did an amazing amount of work. First he dug up some of the evil bamboo. Then he pruned back this tall bushy thing that grows over the driveway. Finally he dug out a big stump that was growing against the foundation of the house, so it was really hard to get any leverage with the digging bar. And while doing all that, he also helped me wheel the clay around when I loaded the wheelbarrow so full that I couldn't move it. Yay for Georg!

We were so tired after all our work yesterday that we ended up having takeout for dinner and then falling asleep early. Today I worked on paying work almost all day, which kind of sucked. But on the other hand, this is the client who neatly arranges all his copious notes with big brightly colored plastic-coated paper clips. Free paper clips! Nice ones too. I did take a break this morning to go back to Home Depot for a few more plants. Where I ran into someone I knew from high school. I hadn't seen her since we graduated in 1986 and I had no idea she even lived in this part of the country. Small world! We didn't talk long because her kids were getting fussy and obviously wanted to get moving, but I'm going to send her an email as soon as I get my work done.

concrete ugh

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This week we started on the next landscaping project: turning the unused space on the sunny side of the house into a big flower bed with a path. Last October I had put down newspaper and mulch to keep the weeds down and give us a head start. Which worked great over the winter, but I guess the newspaper wasn't thick enough because the weeds started poking through in the past month.

So, the big task is preparing the soil. We couldn't use the tiller because all the utility meters are against that wall, and I didn't want to risk hitting an underground line. I started on this actually a few weeks ago, dug out the area where the path is going to be, but I found that our cheap shovel wasn't up to the task of digging this very hard soil. I wasted some time trying to find a good, forged shovel at a local store & then finally ordered one from Smith & Hawkins. While I was at it, I also ordered a pair of cute striped galoshes (on sale!) to match the gardening clogs my folks gave me. They'll be great when I need to keep my feet dry but don't want to wear my heavy Dr. Martens.

The shovel finally arrived last weekend while we were busy working on that bed down by the road. And so this week I got back to work on digging. The soil is so bad, horrible hard rocky clay, that the plan is not even trying to amend the soil. Instead we're digging up and carting away the clay, and replacing it with good soil.

I've only got time to work for an hour or two each afternoon, and it's slow going, even with the good shovel. Especially since we hit a major obstacle on Wednesday: concrete. Big slabs of concrete, four inches thick, a few inches under the surface of the soil. Ugh! We've found two so far, there may be more. We're pretty sure the original septic tank (no longer in use) is under this concrete. At least, we know the house had a septic system before it was converted to city sewer when we moved in. And we can't think of any other explanation for huge slabs of concrete in the ground just outside the bathroom window.

One slab is uneven and seems to have a big empty space underneath it. Which reminded me that there was an area right around there that was slowly sinking, the whole time we've lived here. We used to throw loose dirt and rocks onto the space to try and fill it in. Of course now we have to dig out those same rocks. A corner of the uneven slab had broken off & was hanging by the rebar. Georg cut the rebar with the bolt cutters (I guess they're good for more than just corsetry) and then we shoveled as much dirt down into the hole as we could. I don't think that's going to stop the sinking though. I can't really think what to do, besides pay someone to remove the septic system. Which is an expense I really do not need right now. Why can't I ever find something nice, like a beautiful brick border, while digging in my yard?

So in the short term, I guess we're just going to build this bed up, adding a few inches of soil over the concrete, and plant annuals with shallow roots in that place. Then in the fall when things are better under control we can look into having the septic tank removed. In the meantime we went ahead and planted a row of mini dahlias in the small area we got dug out this week, along the edge of the bed. They're really cute but you'll have to take my word for it because I haven't had a chance to take a photo and it's too dark & rainy now.

antm

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Another season of America's Next Top Model has come and gone. I must say, of the contestants who were left, Naima was the one I liked best. I really liked Brittany, she took great photos, and I didn't understand why they ejected her. But once they did Naima was the best one left in my opinion. She's not really Cover Girl beautiful, but she has an interesting, striking face.

I thought that Keenyah had the best career potential, but her weight was a serious problem which she seemed unwilling to deal with. (it makes me cringe to say that, as Keenyah is still quite thin by the standards of a real person. If I stood next to her there's no question she'd be much thinner than I am. But, I'm not the one trying to become a model.) As Shayne pointed out last night, Keenyah would have done really poorly in the runway contest: in one of those bathing suits with the little straps all over the body, even the slightest softness ends up looking like bulges and rolls. On the other hand, her curvier body looked great in the retro photo shoot the week before.

I feel a little sad having no Survivor and no ANTM to look forward to next week. So is anyone interested in getting together to watch the Season 1 ANTM DVDs? There's some great stuff in there: atheist Elise vs. bible-thumper Robin, the group bikini wax, Kimora Lee Simmons, Janice screaming at Kesse that she looks like an amputee who has a penis, and best of all, not much Mr. Jay! I think there are 9 episodes, so we could watch 3 at a time for 3 weeks. That would make a comfortable evening or weekend afternoon. We could start the first week in June. Let me know if you're interested!

landscaping update

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As predicted, I woke up pretty sore yesterday morning. Especially in my shoulderblades, so it must have been from lifting the shovel over the fence to spread the compost on the new bed. A whole truckload of compost, one shovel at a time! I can hardly believe we did it.

Yesterday was a much easier day. In the morning we went to the Raleigh farmer's market, which has great plant sellers. There are several nurseries that specialize in herbs and native perennials, both of which I'm very interested in. We bought a few things but not too many, as I try really hard not to overbuy & risk something dying before I can get it into the ground. (Although, as the work progresses and we have more beds with nice soil, digging gets markedly easier and I can get way more plants into the ground in one afternoon.) Let's see, we bought a few herbs to tide us over until the seedlings get bigger: one basil, one cilantro, one parsley and one epazote. Which is a Mexican herb that, like basil, is no good dried. So I'm very happy about having fresh epazote this year. One herb seller also had another Mexican herb called culantro. I never even heard of it before! But Georg remembered seeing it on the Rick Bayless show. We didn't buy it because we wanted to check and see if we have any recipes that use it first.

We also bought a few flowers: two pink dianthus that had pretty silvery foliage, to plant by the Chinese orchids; a big ass orange and red galliarda for down by the road, and pineapple sage and bronze fennel for the butterfly garden. The butterflies like the flowers on pineapple sage (which really does smell like pineapple), and the caterpillars eat the fennel. And also a tomato plant, again to tide us over until our own seedlings get going.

There was only one disappointment: last time we were at the farmer's market, one of my favorite nurseries had had these really interesting irises with two-colored foliage. The iris bed looks really drab when they aren't in bloom, so these variegated irises would be great to add some color the rest of the year. But I didn't buy them at the time, because like I said, each week I try to buy only what I know I can plant within a day or two. But when we went back yesterday, they were gone! He said he had sold completely out & won't have any more until next spring. Dang. Let that be a lesson to me, if I see something beautiful and unusual I shouldn't wait.

After we got home from the farmer's market I put a pot of chili verde on for dinner, then got to work sowing the seeds on the new bed by the road. It was tedious but easy: I had a yardstick & a short stick for a marker. Just lay the yardstick on the row, pop in two seeds every 8 inches, move the marker, move the yardstick, then repeat. Although I have to say, by the time I was done all that stooping gave me a headache! After sowing 3 rows, each 60 feet long, it didn't seem so easy anymore. I felt like Mrs. Elton picking strawberries:

"the best fruit in England -- everybody's favorite -- morning decidedly the best time -- never tired -- every sort good -- delicious fruit -- only too rich to be eaten much of -- inferior to cherries -- currants more refreshing -- only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping -- glaring sun -- tired to death -- could bear it no longer -- must go and sit in the shade."

Unlike Mrs. Elton and her abandoned strawberries, I did get all my seeds sown. I hope they come up! I'm still rather suspicious of this whole seed thing. All I have to do is put tiny little bits of bird food into the ground, and in two months I'll have flowers? I'll believe it when I see it.

While I was sowing seeds, Georg planted almost all the plants from the farmer's market! Yay! We also took some time to survey the garden and see how everything is doing. The vegetable garden is coming along well. The beets and chard look great, the tomatillos are up, and the summer squash are just starting to emerge.

This morning I woke up sore again. This time mainly in the hamstrings, which I guess is from the stooping to sow all those seeds. I didn't realize that would be hard on the legs but I guess it is. If I only had time to do this kind of yardwork every day, I could get all buff again.

Today I had a work meeting in the middle of the day, but then in the afternoon I headed back to the dump for another load of compost. This is the fourth truckload I've bought from them, and I have to say it was inferior to the previous three. It hadn't really finished composting, and was still pretty mulchy: lots of bits of sticks & things in it. Also I could tell it was still decomposing because it was hot, almost too hot to touch when I was tying a tarp over it. Still, I guess at $7.50 per truckload I can't really complain about inconsistent quality. With the volume we need, we simply can't afford the price per bag at Home Depot.

The place where I want to put this compost isn't ready yet, so I piled it up in an unused corner of the yard. I was rather pleased that it only took me about 3 hours to unload the whole truck, and I finished just before Georg got home from work. It was easier this time than on Saturday, because I didn't have to scoop it out of the wheelbarrow with the shovel, just dump it out on the ground. On the other hand, I was already tired from the weekend, so at times it felt harder.

There's tons more to do in the yard, but I think I need to take some time off from yardwork and get some paying work done. Although I should at least get the insecticidal soap mixed up and spray some aphids that I saw yesterday. I'm beginning to understand that this gardening thing never ends. No matter how much I do, there's always so much more to do!

starship troopers

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April 30 movie: Starship Troopers. Georg and I watched this with our friends in Baltimore, and then on the drive home the next day, had a very long discussion of whether the movie is fascistic, as I remember hearing at the time, or whether it was a critique of fascism, as director Paul Verhoeven claims. We came to the decision that it was probably both. On the one hand, there's no way the Nazi overtones of the society in Starship Troopers were an accident. The TV ad with the smiling children touching the gun? The black leather coat Der Doogie wears? Clearly this is intended to mock, not glorify. But on the other hand, when it gets going the movie does seem to revel or even wallow in the "us vs. them" mentality, which tends to overwhelm whatever social critique is in there.

Lest you think I had a purely dry, intellectual response to this movie, I should mention that my main thought while watching the movie was trying to place the actor who played Carmen, the fighter pilot/love interest. Finally I got it: she was the other girl in Wild Things. After figuring that out, I couldn't see her face on screen without thinking of her getting it on with Neve Campbell and/or Matt Dillon.

hellboy

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April 30 movie: Hellboy. I can't comment on this movie's quality as a translation of the original comic because I haven't read it. But I did enjoy the movie very much. It was fun, exciting, pretty to look at, and kept me too engaged to nitpick or look for plot logic problems. I did wonder why David Hyde Pierce wasn't credited.

pirates of the caribbean

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April 29 movie: Pirates of the Caribbean. I already wrote this up once before, so this time I'll just say that it's really fun to watch with two hip girls who know the movie really well.

hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

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April 29 movie: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Due to my extreme tardiness on posting the movie list, there's not much for me to say about this. Except, wow! I loved it. I had some trepidation going in, but it was hilarious from beginning to end. I wasn't too concerned about changes to the story (especially after Georg mentioned that with a radio show, book and TV show in HGTG history, there really is no one canonical story).

three sisters

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April 27 movie: Three Sisters. Bette Davis plays one of three sisters who endure a series of melodramatic events around the turn of the century. I'd heard good things about this but I found it kind of a snoozer. I might have liked it more if I had read the book.

objective: burma!

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April 27 movie: Objective: Burma! Speaking of war movies which focus on one person. This one practically makes it seem like Errol Flynn pulled off the invasion of Burma single-handedly. In fact the British aren't involved at all according to this version. Which so pissed off the real British, who very much were involved in the real invasion, that this movie was banned from Britain for years after the war. Don't you hate the way Hollywood does that? American GIs are always solving Enigma or saving Leningrad or some such nonsense. Do they think we won't watch a movie about anyone but us?

edge of darkness

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April 19 movie: Edge of Darkness. This 1943 movie about a Norwegian fishing village who revolt against their Nazi overlords was an Errol Flynn vehicle, but in my opinion Flynn was one of the weaker actors in the picture. It's just too grim to be a good movie for him. He never gets to display the rakish humor that is his main appeal. Fortunately the supporting cast (Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston, Ruth Gordon, Judith Anderson) are all very good. Many war movies focus on one person, or maybe a small team, in isolation. This one creates a whole community. No small feat in my opinion.

monsoon wedding

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April 18 movie: Monsoon Wedding. I confess, this didn't leave a lasting impression with me. There's a big wedding in India, and the groom is from America, and I don't think they had met each other beforehand, and the bride kind of almost cheats by the groom forgives her, and someone on the bride's side is tormented by memories of childhood sexual abuse by a family friend. That's about it.

grand illusion

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April 18 movie: Grand Illusion. This was billed as a legendary antiwar movie by Jean Renoir, but it seemed to me to have at least as much to do with class as with war. It's about French airmen held in a German prison camp during WWI. The ranking officer of the prisoners (Pierre Fresnay) is an aristocrat who has more in common with the German camp commander (Erich von Stroheim) than with his fellow prisoners. Both recognize that they are of a dying breed, that the war marks the end of their era, and the future belongs to common men like Jean Gabin (another French prisoner). Religious conflict also surfaces: a Jewish prisoner's well-off family support all the prisoners with lavish care packages, but anti-Semitic sentiments appear when things get tough later on in the movie.

I enjoyed this a lot, and I think it belies the old saw that it's impossible to make an antiwar film. By never showing any battle scenes Renoir manages to avoid the trap of glorifying the violence that is ostensibly being condemned. Even the escape sequence is fairly restrained.

Trivia note: Roger Ebert claims that the tunnel digging and sandbags-in-the-trousers dispersal method from The Great Escape were inspired by Grand Illusion. But in fact, the sand dispersal techniques in The Great Escape were drawn directly from the real life incident the movie was based on. I guess the idea of escaping prisoners hiding bags of soil in their clothes wasn't a new one. Ebert also claims that the defiant singing of "La Marseillaise" from Casablanca comes from Grand Illusion, and I have no idea whether that's true.

landscaping madness

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It was Landscaping Madness (tm Nellorat) here today, as we finally got to work on the bank by the road, in front of the fence. It's really hard to get a mower up there, and it gets all weedy and scraggly and is just a mess. Last winter I had put down black plastic to kill off the weeds, which only partly worked. The wind kept blowing the plastic out of place, but about half of it stayed covering the bank. Now that the weeds are (half) dead, time to get planting up there! The plan is to fill the bank with daylilies this fall, but we're planting annuals in the meantime.

Actually the pre-madness fun started yesterday after work when I borrowed David's truck and rented a tiller. I had planned to do this project in a leisurely way over the next week, but David informed me that due to an insurance problem (the problem being, he forgot to pay it) he has to surrender the tag for a month. And due to a passport problem (he needs one and they won't give it to him while there's a "block" on his license) he has to do it immediately. Thank you, Homeland Security! This is a big hassle for David of course, but also means that we won't be able to borrow his truck for a month. Dang!

I was kind of annoyed that the guy at the rental place didn't tie down the tiller, he just stuck it in the back of the truck. Where it tipped over three times on the drive home, leaking gas into the truck bed every time. But anyway, we got it home, and then this morning I went out early and got a truckload of compost. The tilling wasn't as hard as I had feared; the only truly difficult part was steering it so close to a 10 foot drop. (I did pay the insurance at the rent-all place, in case the tiller went over the edge.) I'm proud to say that I did my fair share, no slacking! Georg and I split the work about evenly. Although I think he accomplished more: being larger and stronger, he was better able to control the tiller.

After tilling we took a break for lunch and then started unloading the compost. When I'm doing this alone, I always take a break to have a drink of water after every 2 wheelbarrows. Once I did 14 wheelbarrows in one day that way. But with the two of us, one shoveling while the other took a break, it went really fast. We got the whole truck unloaded by 3, just in time to return the tiller.

There wasn't really any way to get a full wheelbarrow onto that bank, so we ended up wheeling it up inside the yard and shoveling the compost over the fence. And I have to say, I think this part of the job was a bit harder on me just because of the height difference. That fence is only a foot shorter than I am! I did my share, but by the end of it I was totally wiped out. I can tell my shoulders are going to ache tomorrow.

Georg and I were a little worried about getting the tiller back into the truck, but we were able to lift it without difficulty. And unlike the guy at the rent-all place, Georg had the sense to tie it down! The truck isn't easy to drive, so by the time I got back my arms were even more tired. Still, we decided to go ahead and rake in the compost today. I wanted it done, and I was worried that if I waited until tomorrow my shoulders would be too sore to do it. We used a big metal rake to mix the compost with the soil (which was much less horrible than in other parts of the yard), and then we raked it into three ridges. And then we collapsed for a well-earned rest.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to plant my seeds! Two rows of dwarf sunflowers, and marigolds in the front. Little red French marigolds; I like those better than the big African ones that look like pom-poms. If everything grows, that bank will be beautiful in a couple of months. The yard faces southeast so I think the sunflowers will look really nice from the road.

horse feathers

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April 16 movie: Horse Feathers. This is the Marx Brothers movie set in a school, and one of the best in my opinion. The scene in the classroom, with the spitball fight, the prim pinup poster, and Harpo burning the candle at both ends, is possibly my favorite Marx Brothers scene ever.

all this and heaven too

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April ? movie: All This and Heaven Too. Bette Davis plays a governess who falls tragically in love with her employer, wealthy Frenchman Charles Boyer. Classic melodrama with lots of fun historical costumes and so forth. Virginia Weidler plays one of the children, and every time I see her I wonder why she was so great in The Philadelphia Story and so saccharin in every other movie.

sullivan's travels

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April 6 movie: Sullivan's Travels. Excellent Preston Sturges movie about a director (Joel McCrea) who poo-poos moves that merely entertain, and wants to make a highbrow film called Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? But through a series of misadventures he ends up on a chain gang where he learns the value of movies as escapist entertainment. That description makes the movie sound overly heartwarming and even moralistic. But being Preston Sturges, there's a harsh edge to the film, especially the humor, that protects it from sentimentality.

marked woman

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April 5 movie: Marked Woman. Bette Davis plays a hostess in a nightclub run by the mob, who leads the other nightclub girls to take a stand against their mafia overlords after Davis' sister is killed. It's a good part, not typical for Davis. Humphrey Bogart plays the good cop who helps her.

sin city

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April 3 movie: Sin City. What can I say about this that hasn't already been said? It was spectacularly violent, stylish, Frank Millerish, and the only good thing I can say about the portrayal of women is that the portrayal of men was almost as bad. I really enjoyed it. Although I could have lived without the misshapen lump they made of Mickey Rourke's face. Come to think of it, I could have lived without Mickey Rourke's character altogether.

tokyo godfathers

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April 1 movie: Tokyo Godfathers. I loved this! Wonderful story, sweet without being schmaltzy, about three homeless people in Tokyo who find an abandoned baby during winter. I was drawn in by the characters, really cared about them. This would be a good movie for people who think they don't like anime.

March 31 movies: Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, Zatoichi's Vengeance. It's been way too long, I don't remember anything about these movies. So I will take the easy way out and link to Georg's write-up instead.

the secret fury

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March 30 movie: The Secret Fury. Now I remember, it was Claudette Colbert night. This was a noirish suspense movie about Colbert being driven insane and tricked into thinking she committed murder. I didn't really enjoy it. They made the mistake of putting Colbert in a mental hospital, thus removing her from a big chunk of the film. Plus she really shines in melodrama or comedy, which this was neither.

tomorrow is forever

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March 30 movie: Tomorrow is Forever. They must have been doing a special on long-lost spouses coming back from the dead. Orson Welles plays an idealistic young man who leaves his wife (Claudette Colbert) to join up in WWI. When he's lost and presumed dead, pregnant Colbert marries business magnate George Brent. Twenty years later Welles, now an Austrian scientist, returns to work for Brent.

This was an excellent weeper, with both Welles and Colbert in fine form. Also nice to see a very young Natalie Wood in one of her first acting jobs, as Welles' adopted daughter.

my favorite wife

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March 29 movie: My Favorite Wife. Seven years after losing his wife (Irene Dunne) in a shipwreck, Cary Grant has her declared legally dead so he can remarry. Lo and behold, just as they depart for their honeymoon, Dunne comes back from the dead!

This was funny but not the best outing for Grant, or Dunne, or Grant and Dunne together. The treatment of Grant's second wife is pretty cold. Gail Patrick, the villainess of My Man Godfrey, is good at playing unsympathetic characters. But I still felt really sorry for her.

the prodigal

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March 28 movie: The Prodigal. Has it really been over a month since I wrote up a movie? Yikes. Well at least I have a good one to get me back into it. The Prodigal is one of the best Biblical movies out there. And by "best," I mean "flimsiest excuse to string together endless scenes of sin and debauchery." It's the story of what happened to the prodigal son, before he came back and became all prodigal and had a party thrown in his honor. Apparently he ran off to the big city and fell for Lana Turner, high priestess of Astarte. Who was the pagan goddess of sexy ladies. There's not much to this movie except Turner in her skimpy high priestess outfits, but isn't that enough? Turner also gets the line of the movie: "I've never known so useful a body slave."

mid week blues

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Writing a resume is such an ordeal. Is there anything worse? Well I suppose writing the resume and then not getting the job would be worse. But let's not go there.

And no, by mentioning my resume I am not breaking my longstanding rule not to post anything that I wouldn't care if the whole world knew. Because I already told the people who will be affected if it works out. Which, cross your fingers, y'all.

But anyway, resumes. I hate them. Hate. I have a real problem talking myself up. (Talking about myself is another matter. I mean, just look at this journal.) I had the same problem writing the proposal for VRT. I just couldn't get past the feeling that my work should speak for itself and I shouldn't have to make up bullshit praise to convince a publisher that it was good. Lucky for me, Llewellyn was able to figure that out despite my incompetence at blurb-writing. Here's hoping that Nameless Large Corporation in Need of Help with Semantic Markup is also aware that skill at building web pages is not necessarily reflected in skill at writing about yourself in glowing terms.

Another thing I hate is the Left Behind series. Yes, after seven books I can describe my feeling for the series as hatred. I'm not even going to get into the theology (there's a devastating critique of it at Slacktivist). Even theology aside, there's plenty of odious worldview to go around.

For starters, the role of women. I feel a bit ridiculous even bringing this up. I mean, what did I expect? Equality and respect between the sexes? From Left Behind? Surely I jest.

Okay, so the only genuinely smart person so far is Chloe Williams, but she cheerfully submits to her husband's whim even though she's so much smarter than he is, she has to spell it out for him:

"Don't parent me, Buck. Seriously, I don't have a problem submitting to you because I know how much you love me. I'm willing to obey you even when you're wrong. But don't be unreasonable. And don't be wrong if you don't have to be."

So I guess a husband tells his wife what to do because he cares, but a parent tells his child what to do just for the hell of it. The worst part is that after this speech, Buck realizes she's right, but rather than saying so, he resolves to make her wait a few days and then "announce that he had made a decision." So she won't get any crazy ideas about having a say over her own actions. It's so appalling I can't think of anything to say.

The treatment of unbeliever Hattie Durham is even worse. (And can Jesus hurry up and gloriously appear and strike down these horrible names?) For all the believers' mewling about how much they love Hattie and how they care about her, in fact they all hate her. They loathe her. Their contempt is barely concealed. We're told by the believers that she's "ditzy," "not smart," "selfish," "ungrateful," "whiny." When in fact she seems to me no stupider than the rest of them, and one of the only characters in the whole series to display genuine emotion. Heroic asshole Rayford Steele, who was in fact looking to join the mile high club with her when the rapture struck, tsk tsks the fellow believer who has feelings for her, admonishing him that "there's nothing attractive about her." Because being poisoned by the Antichrist and suffering a miscarriage left her a wee bit haggard. When she's attacked by the plague of locusts they make her live in the shed so they won't have to listen to her screams. When they talk about loving Hattie, they sound like they want to snatch her soul for Jesus and then kick the rest of her out on the street.

And by the way, the locusts? Millions of locusts that look like tiny armored flying horses and cry "Abbadon!" while they sting unbelievers and cause them 5 months of agonizing pain, during which time they cannot die? I'm sorry, that is stupid. I don't care if it's in the Bible, it's stupid. Through that whole section I kept wondering, do the tiny horses cry the name of their demon king in tiny squeaky voices? Isn't that more silly than scary? Are they cute like the little tiny demon in that halloween episode of Buffy? And if someone who's been stung cannot die, does that mean just suicide or by any means? If you cut off their head they'd still be alive? Put them in a wood chipper?

A good fantasy/horror writer makes the impossible seem possible, and the absurd seem plausible. (See King, Stephen.) Left Behind achieves the opposite. The whole story is so ridiculous that even the trivial details seem absurd. (Of course, King also knows how to write a plot, maintain tension, and create characters who sound like real people and make the reader care about them. Skills sorely lacking in Left Behind.) When I read an adventure or fantasy book, I want to be swept up in the story. I don't want to sit there nit picking and wondering how they expect me to believe that in three and a half years the UN could change its name to "Global Community," take over all the world's governments, redivide the world into 10 regions, move the capital of the world to Babylon, convert the world to one currency, create a new religion and subsume all other religions into it, attack and destroy multiple major cities in the US and Britain, suffer a global earthquake, then rebuild Babylon after the earthquake. Not to mention the locust attack and the 200 million invisible horsemen who kill people with sulfurous smoke. I mean, come on! Three and a half years? How long did it take for the Euro to catch on?

And why is there only one sect of Christianity post-rapture? And only one Biblical scholar? (And why would a Jewish scholar who converted to Christianity sound just like a Baptist?) I guess maybe all the theologans got raptured, and then this one guy converted afterwards. But wouldn't other smart people convert too, when faced with that kind of overwhelming evidence? You'd think that in the midst of all these Biblical prophecies come to life, there would be thousands of religious bloggers out there trying to make sense of it. But according to the book, there's only the one guy acting as a Web-based pastor to every Christian in the world.

All that I could forgive, if the believers didn't turn out to be a bunch of smug bastards who drive SUVs. At one point heroic asshole Rayford Steele devotes a couple of pages to whining about having to drive a sports car, far too tiny to hold a man like him. Then when they find a new safe house in an abandoned office building, they're delighted to discover a bunch of abandoned SUVs with the keys still in them. Including a Hummer! Yay! Yes, the narrator actually mentions the Hummer by name. Because if you were living in the end times, a fugitive from the Antichrist, and you were about to be unable to buy or sell because of the mark of the beast, you would definitely want to drive around in a gas guzzling behemoth that stands out like a sore thumb.

On the bright side, the sixth book did provide the most soap opera-esque moment to date. There comes a time on every soap, about twice a year generally, when a villain starts acting extra villainous. Victimizing more people than usual, cackling with evil glee, twirling his moustache and so forth. At the same time everyone in town starts acting suspicious. Skulking, acting shifty, making vaguely threatening statements in public about said villain. At this point you know that there's about to be a big murder mystery, where we will all be on the edge of our seats (or so they hope) wondering who really killed the villain. Neither the audience nor the people in the show know, so all the characters go around trying to protect each other because they all think each other did it, muddying the water even further. And then they drag it out for months until nobody cares anymore, and the wrong person goes on trial, until finally the right person recovers from their amnesia and yells out "I did it!" in the middle of the courtroom. But they get off scot free because it was self-defense. At least that's how it works in soaps.

The funny thing is, the assassination of the Antichrist played out in the exact same way. (Except for the part about the trial and the amnesia.) I almost laughed out loud when I realized what was happening. Much of the book is spent with heroic asshole Rayford Steele and his secret plot to kill the Antichrist, but when the time comes a whole mess of random characters show up and skulk around, for no reason except to create confusion about who did it. (Which they reveal almost immediately at the start of the next book, and it was totally obvious anyway, but that's beside the point. It's usually pretty obvious on a soap too: it's either the day player they can afford to lose, or the saintly heroine who the audience won't mind seeing get away with it.)

Well I have worn myself out bitching about Left Behind. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep reading or not. I hear they continue to get worse. But then again, they are a fast read. And thanks to the library I can read them without having to give any money to those hacks. My tax dollars at work!

soo full

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Why did I not find out until now how amazingly good the chili is at the Q Shack? My god that is good chili. Too bad it will soon be too warm to eat chili. I know, in Texas they eat it in the summer, but for me chili is like stew: cold weather comfort food. I ate too much tonight, but somehow managed to just barely avoid eating way too much. In other words I could have eaten less but at least I didn't make myself feel ill.

Have not gotten any gardening done in a couple of weeks. Which is bumming me out. But the seeds I planted before -- the chard, beets and turnips -- are doing good. And the shallots are going like gangbusters. Also the Chinese orchids Nancy gave me last year are in bloom. They're really beautiful, they look like real orchids. However I'm a little alarmed by how fast they spread. She gave me three bulbs, which I allowed to sit around until I was sure they were dead. Finally I planted them late last fall, and now I have four or five blooming plants plus at least a dozen little sproutlets. I fear they may take over the garden. I should plant them in the least hospitable place on that bank, where only the hardiest plants will grow, and let them duke it out against the elements.

We only seem to have one casualty from last fall's planting: the mexican petunia shows no sign of life. I think it would be up by now if it were going to. Also we lost one balloon flower. I think I mistook it for a weed and pulled it out. But the others are doing well.

Jane continues to be great. I'm trying to figure out what her breed is. The shelter identified her as a shepherd mix, and the receptionist at the vet said the same thing. But the vet tech said she looks like a husky mix. This morning I woke up just as the sun was rising, and in the semi-darkness I could see her but couldn't see her yellow/tan coloring. I have to admit, in b/w vision she did look more like a husky. Well, both those breeds shed like mad so it doesn't really matter.

This morning on our walk (actually walk/run; I'm trying to tire her out so we run about half the time. I think it wears me out more than her but it's better than nothing) we saw a rabbit. I think if I hadn't had the leash wrapped around my hand Jane would have gotten loose from me and killed it. She was that fast. She hit the end of the leash (jerking her neck and my arm with great force) at the same time as I yelled "NO!" At which she immediately stopped, cringed and returned to me. Wow. Of course she kept straining to go after that poor rabbit, but everytime I said no she would cringe and come back. I have to say that was impressive.

While we were looking at dogs I deliberately tried to find one who did not look like Lina, because I didn't want to feel like I was replacing her. But I have to say, Jane has a few habits that remind me so much of Lina that it's uncanny. It's not the way she looks but the way she sounds: when she shakes her head, when she grumbles a little while lying down, or when she paws at the carpet to choose a place to lie. Lina used to do that all the time, and the first time Jane did it my heart skipped a beat. Come to think of it, Lina used to guard her food too. Weird.

Even if Jane didn't have her own charms, I would love her for making Thirteen happy. Thirteen, by the way, is totally normal. Since Monday there's been no pacing, no digging, no accidents. We were supposed to up her dosage of selegiline last week, but I decided to keep her at a half dose. If it's working, why drug her more? The vet says that the drug has a preventative effect to reduce further brain deterioration and so I should increase her to 3/4 dose. Maybe next week. For now I'm just enjoying having my dog back. When she's not a crazy demented freak, Thirteen is the best dog in the world.

I just realized that I haven't written up a movie in weeks. But I have been dutifully keeping my list. I haven't been watching that many movies lately but I still have about 15 to write up. Maybe I'll have time to do that this weekend.

crazy day

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Did you ever have a confrontation that you were totally dreading, so much that you literally couldn't eat? And then you finally get there and it's not like that at all, the person who could have been angry and unreasonable is the opposite instead. And then when it's all over, you feel like this huge weight has been lifted, plus you can't wait to eat, and being hungry feels so good. That happened to me today.

I was too stressed yesterday to post, due to the aforementioned impending confrontation. So here's the Jane Lane report for the past two days. She's doing really well adjusting to the new household. I think the destructive behavior on Tuesday was just restless energy. We took her out for walkies before work yesterday and today, without Thirteen so we could go further and faster. And Jane was good, no damage or accidents both days. I guess she just needed to get out and get a little exercise so she could deal with being cooped up for a few hours. The exercise is good for me too!

She's also better at "sit" than I originally thought. We discovered at the vet's office yesterday that if you stand right in front of her and hold up your hand while saying "sit," she can sit fairly reliably. On the vet's advice we stopped leaving her food out. That was the one source of tension between the dogs: Jane guarding her food all day and growling at Thirteen when she went anywhere near that part of the room. We've been putting the food dishes down for a half hour at a time, giving them a chance to eat in two separate rooms, then taking the dishes up again. Unfortunately Janey isn't really eating at all. She's too busy either guarding her food or following us around to eat. But I guess she'll eat when she gets hungry enough.

Jane did really well at the vet's yesterday. She didn't fuss about being poked and prodded. And she also learned to get into the car on her own! It only took a couple of days. Good thing too, because she's heavy: 67 pounds! The shelter people told me she weighed only 50. What happened to my plan to get a smaller dog this time? With short hair which wouldn't shed? The vet says Jane is a tad overweight, but she looks positively skinny compared to Thirteen. Who is a little chicken pot pie, I admit, and makes most other animals look slender.

Janey's new bad habit is sleeping on the couch. She just started last night. I'm not too worried about this one; it's pretty low on the list of bad things a dog could do in your house. She does at least know that we don't want her there: she jumps down and looks guilty whenever I walk into the room. In general she seems to want to please us, she just needs some training to learn how.

Okay, I know I'm going on and on about the new dog, but she just did something really cute. I'm listening to Georg's show while I write, and he just did a talkset, and when Jane heard his voice she ran over to the speaker and listened to him. Aww! She's really attached to Georg. When he left this evening she ran back and forth, looking out the windows for him. That must be how the miniblind got torn up on her first day alone.

spare pc?

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Does anyone reading this have a spare PC lying around with an average (not great) monitor that they wouldn't mind lending me for a few days, or selling for cheap? I need to review the color of some images for a website, and the PC I use for browser testing has such a crap screen it's no good for this.

jane's second day

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Jane's second day here has gone pretty well I think. Not perfectly, but pretty well. We got off to a good start this morning when we discovered Jane and Thirteen sleeping peacefully in the hall, and no accidents in the house. Yay!

Getting ready for work was a bit difficult this morning, what with feeding both dogs, getting them outside, and Janey's general clinginess. In fact I never had a chance to take a shower. Luckily it was a cool day and I didn't have to get too close to anyone in the course of the day. Got home to discover no accidents. Yay again! Today is the first day since I took this job two weeks ago that Thirteen hasn't peed on the floor while I was at work. And she's not pacing at all. I don't know if it's Jane's presence or the selegiline, or both. But Thirteen is definitely doing better.

On the downside, Janey was a bit destructive while I was out. She pulled down a roman shade in the dining room and destroyed a miniblind in the study. I think I can repair the shade, but the miniblind is a goner. With both acts of destruction being window-related, I'm concerned about what she's going to do to the screens when it warms up and we leave the windows open.

Jane clearly needed to work off some energy so I took them for a walk in the park. Unfortunately we have to walk so slowly for Thirteen that it wasn't much exercise for Janey. After we were done, I put Thirteen in the car and then ran Jane up and down the parking lot a couple of times. Some guy was getting into his car and stared at me like I was nuts. But what the heck, I can't look any weirder running back and forth in a parking lot than I do driving my car every day.

Jane still isn't jumping into the car of her own accord, but she's going more willingly now. I have to lift her up to get her front legs on the seat, and then she climbs in the rest of the way. This was fine on our way to the park, somewhat less so on the way home because Janey was wet. I always walk Thirteen up to the edge of the water a couple of times so she can have a drink. But Jane waded right in up to her belly. Apparently she prefers to drink without lowering her head. I was thinking that Janey needed a bath before, but now she smells like the shelter and mucky water.

After the park I had thought to run a couple of quick errands -- groceries for tonight and also an ink cartridge for Stoneline -- but that didn't work at all. Jane is, have I mentioned, a bit clingy. As in "doesn't want to be left alone in the car" clingy. As in "turned sideways and shoved her head and one entire leg out the partly open window trying to follow me" clingy. I swear I thought she was going to dislocate her shoulder, or break the window. No harm done, I went running back to the car and she slid back inside. Now that it's getting warm I don't dare have dogs in the car with the windows rolled up any higher. Looks like I'll have to stop taking them with me to run errands, at least until we've had obedience classes for Janey.

We are definitely going to need some kind of obedience training, because food seems to be an issue for Jane. I thought that growing up around 11 other dogs she would gobble down her food. But no, she guards her food all day, growling at poor Thirteen when she comes anywhere near that part of the room. Yet, like the pot calling the kettle black, Janey makes a beeline for Thirteen's food whenever we aren't looking. Unfortunately Thirteen has gotten into the habit of eating slowly throughout the day, but she can't do that now because we're having to put her food away whenever we leave or go to sleep.

Janey is after our food too, begging shamelessly and trying to steal food when we aren't looking. Georg walked into the kitchen tonight to find her standing up on the counter eating the chorizo he had bought for our dinner! Lina was like that sometimes (we still laugh about the time she ate half a huge sub sandwich while my back was turned, leaving only a grease spot on the floor) but Lina wasn't big enough to get up onto the counter.

So in the short term, I'm going to take Janey out tomorrow morning for a brisk walk/run before work. I hope that some good exercise will leave her too tired to damage anything while I'm gone. Thirteen is always so sleepy in the early morning that I don't think she'll mind being left behind. And in the long term, can anyone recommend a good place for basic obedience training?

kinetic photos

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The KineticBaltimore.com guy has posted great photos of the event. He has a shot of the Titanic popping off to reveal the lifeboat underneath, and one that I didn't see at all: the cow completely overturning in the water! I'm sorry I missed that.

(My much lamer camera phone photos are here.)

There were a lot more mishaps in the water this time than two years ago. Besides the cow overturning, which we didn't see, and the Titanic turning into a lifeboat, which was intentional, there was also:

  • the Sponge Bob aquarium, which sank too far into the water, causing the structure to buckle. Fortunately they were able to get it out of the water and continue the race.
  • the two headed dragon, which had a pontoon failure on one side. They even tried the water twice, but the same thing happened both times.
  • the gerbil chariot pretty much sank completely. I'm not sure if they finished the race or not.
  • the most serious water related accident was the "Westward Ho" train, which lost control on the way into the water, crashing into the rocks and into a little boy who was sitting too close to the edge. We think the boy was more scared than hurt: though he screamed when it happened, wailing "I'm going to die!" a doctor among the spectators came over and made sure he could bend both legs. And eventually he was able to walk away on his own power. Westward Ho, on the other hand, took serious damage. They dragged it back to get it off the little boy and I think one of the wheels came off. It never made it into the water. I felt so bad for the pilots. That must have been awful for them, to run over a child. And the kid! How scary is that, to get hit by a train in a water park? No wonder he thought he was going to die.

On the other hand, the mud pit was a bit of a disappointment this time. It rained so hard that the mud turned into a puddle. Two years ago no one made it through the mud: everyone got stuck and had to be towed out. This time every single entry made it through. Some of them didn't even slow down! There has to be a happy medium, where the mud is sticky enough to create a challenge but not so thick it stops everyone.

Even despite the heavy rain, the event was loads of Kinetic goodness. I wish we could go every year! But unfortunately it conflicts with the Houston art car parade, which we go to every other year. So it's Houston on the even numbered years and Kinetic Sculpture Race on the odds!

bringing janey home

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Jennie is here! But we changed her name to Jane Lane. Janey for short.

I got done early at HKB so I went by the shelter around 1, even though my appointment was at 3:30. They were really nice about it. I had to wait a few minutes until they were ready to process the adoption, but they let me walk Janey outside while we waited. She's not too well leash trained, she tends to roam around you & wrap the leash around you while you walk. But as promised, she didn't pull on the leash & was very good about stopping when I stopped.

Her backstory is kind of sad. Apparently she was in a house with 12 dogs. Animal Control told the people that was too many, so they dumped 6 of them at the shelter. Several of the dogs were so frightened and poorly socialized they had to be put to sleep. But Janey and her brother and one other were sweet and got along with the shelter employees, so they got to stay. Janey has been getting obedience training since she got to the shelter. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell she only knows "sit" if you have a piece of hot dog in your hand. I'm going to have to work on that. On the bright side, she does seem to be house trained. When I walked her at the shelter, the first thing she did outside was go to the bathroom. And she's been in and out of the house all afternoon, with no accidents.

I had a hard time getting Janey into my car to go home. I don't know if she'd ever been inside a car before, but she just did not want to go. She's big too (60 pounds!) so I had to get a shelter volunteer to help me lift her into the car. Once inside she loved the car. It's about a half hour drive and I took the back roads so she'd have nice things to smell. I hope that next time she'll remember how fun it was and not hesitate to get into the car.

I kept her on lead at home until I was sure she wouldn't be aggressive with Thirteen or anything. Janey did growl once when they first met, but just a little growl to say she meant business. After that they got along fine. Well, to be honest they coexisted but didn't interact much. That's fine with me. I didn't want a dog who would pester Thirteen. Janey didn't seem to mind Thirteen following her around while she (Janey) explored the house and yard, so that was great.

Janey ran around exploring for a couple of hours. She was a bit clingy, always wanting me in sight if not right beside her. But I think that's to be expected, what with the totally new environment and all. I did a little yard work outside the fence, and she followed me but didn't try to get out of the fence. Whew.

Janey lay down about a half hour ago, and now she and Thirteen are both sleeping. I think it's been a highly successful afternoon. The next hurdle will be feeding them, which we plan to do in separate rooms. Wish us luck!

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