April 2006 Archives

audible.com

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So I decided on audiobooks of the Jack Aubrey series (Master and Commander etc) for the Houston trip. I'm a bit tired of the music on my iPod and a ripping yarn sounds like just the thing for drivetime entertainment. They're 12-15 hours each, so three of them will do pretty well at filling the 45 hour trip.

The only problem is the cost. iTunes music store has all of them, for $35-$45 each! I think that's kind of outrageous, considering the printed books cost $10. Amazon.com falsely advertised unabridged audiobooks for $8.75 each, which sounded great. But when you follow the links it turns out they're abridged and you can only get one at that price. What a ripoff!

On the other hand, by joining Audible.com I can get two of the unabridged books for $23. And according to Alicia I can get a Chapel Hill library card for $10, and they have the first book in the series on CD. So it looks like I'll be able to get the first three books for about the cost of the paperbacks.

If this works out I'll keep the Audible.com membership (2 books a month) for the next few months. I've got a lot of art car trips ahead of me this summer.

So the buzz seems to be that Stephen Colbert wasn't funny at last night's White House press dinner. Georg and I watched it and we thought it was funny. It dragged a bit at times, but we laughed out loud a lot too. The audience wasn't laughing that much, but maybe they weren't expecting him to take aim at them too. I've got to say, that guy has some major cojones to do that routine right in front of the president. Bush seemed amused at first, or at least willing to pretend he was, but not so much as the jokes got more cutting.

Some of my favorite jokes:

"Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash."

"They're not rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. This administration isn't sinking, it's soaring. They're rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenberg."

"I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

"The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will."

There's a complete transcript here.

the trouble with books

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The trouble with getting a stack of books from the library is that I always start reading them right away, even if I'm trying to save them for my trip. I read the guide to planning a long-distance wedding, which was beyond useless. If I had looked at the publication date -- 1994 -- I would have realized how out of date it would be. A whole chapter on how to view phone books from your destination city on microfiche at the library, but nothing about the Internet.

The only useful information in the entire book was a reminder that each state has different requirements for divorced people getting marriage licenses. Georg and I are both divorced but neither one of us had thought about that. The Nevada license bureau website says that we don't need copies of our divorce decrees (whew!) but we do need to know the exact dates of our respective divorces. I have no idea whatsoever. I don't even remember the year of my divorce. I know it was in the late 90s. '97 probably. I guess I'll ask my lawyer. He might have kept a file on me. If not, he'll be able to tell me how to find out.

Actually I'm being too hard on the book. Mostly it was useless because most of its advice doesn't apply to me. How to interview a caterer over the phone, how to make sure a wedding planner in another city is doing what you want rather than what they want, and isn't ripping you off, that kind of thing. And can I just say, thank god I don't need this advice. I want our wedding to be a vacation, not an ordeal.

Is there anyone with a Chapel Hill library card who would do me a huge favor? Since I'll be driving to Houston alone, I want to take some audio books with me. Unfortunately, books on CD are expensive, and the Durham library has very few.

The Chapel Hill library seems to have a better selection, but they don't give library cards to non-residents. If there's anyone reading this who'd be willing to go to the library and get audio books for me, I'd be eternally grateful.

On the bright side, my pre-trip library visit did yield a nice big stack of regular books. I always take more books than I can possibly read so that I'll have choices to suit any mood. This time I've got Dan Savage's new book, a couple of gardening books, two novels by Poppy Brite about the New Orleans restaurant biz, Miss Manners' wedding guide and a sociology book about weddings for balance, and a deliriously trashy novel about the cast of a soap opera "written" by Finola Hughes, who generously credited her ghost writer on the front cover. Not from the library but also on the packing list are Baudolino by Umberto Eco, and The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe since I just finished The Book of the Short Sun and now I want to go back and make sense of things.

I think that pretty much covers all my possible reading moods. I'm not taking anything too highbrow because I know I'll be too tired to focus on difficult reading. Art car trip books need to be relaxing, not challenging. My worst mistake was trying to read The Last Temptation of Christ on a previous Houston trip. Brilliant book, stupid idea to read it under those circumstances. One night I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over, unable to focus long enough to figure out what it meant. Even the Eco is probably too much, but hope springs eternal.

packet

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My packet arrived from the Houston parade! It's full of all kinds of glossy color handouts, and we even get laminated badges. They must have good funding this year. Which makes me wonder why there wasn't anything in there about a travel reimbursement. I wrote to one of the organizers to ask about it, but I think if I was going to get something, it would have been in the packet. I guess I didn't qualify for anything this time. Bummer.

My line-up number is 41. I was actually expecting a lower number since I turned my application in so early. I got it in before the official announcement, because a Houston local posted to the artcarz list and I filled mine out right away. Maybe the first 40 people were all either locals, or even more on the ball than I was.

Still, it's great to be so near the front of the line: for one thing, I think the spectators are more excited near the beginning of the parade. Also, the closer to the front, the less chance we'll get tangled up in any breakdowns or logistical snarls. Plus, we can pull over at the end of the route and watch all the rest of the cars go by. So we get to enjoy the parade as participants and as spectators!

There are a bunch of maps in the packet, but I'm going to print out my own maps too. Houston is a fiendishly hard city to drive in. We get horribly lost at least once on every trip. But this time will be different!

the veil

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I put a bid on a wedding veil on Ebay.

main street drag

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Let's not talk about how crap the past 24 hours have been, or how the next are going to be. Instead, here's some good news: I got my route information for the Main Street Drag. This is the daytime event where we drive around in small groups visiting Houston Schools. This year the staging area is at the zoo, which sounds cool except that of course we won't actually get to see the zoo.

Undersea Mah Jongg is in group 4, the Eels, and we're going to: Grady Middle School, St. Theresa, The Lighthouse Center for the Blind, River Oaks Elementary, St Luke's School. It sounds like a great lineup. No high schools, which is good because the high school kids tend to be too worried about looking cool to risk any enthusiasm about the art cars. And the Lighthouse Center was on our route in 2004, that was a wonderful experience.

Now, the bad news: the event starts earlier this year. In previous years we had to be there at 9 and we rolled at 9:30. Which schedule was repeated on the website. But the email I just got says that the lineup begins at 8, and the first group rolls at 8:45, with subsequent groups leaving every 5 minutes. We're in group 4, which means we'll be leaving at 9:05. (And unlike many art car events, my experience of the Main Street Drag is they roll exactly when they say they're going to roll.) We have the Art Car Ball the night before, so getting out to the zoo that early won't be easy. Still, the staging area is our first opportunity to see the cars in daylight. So I do want to get there early enough to see the cars and take some pictures. Plus, they usually have some kind of free breakfast, even if it's just bagels.

The email included the CC list of everyone in our route. I only recognize one of the addresses, but it's one of my favorite Houston people: Brian of the Santa Claus Car! He's also the president of the Houston art car club, so it's possible they just CCed him because of that. But I really hope he's in our group. It's a long event and having someone cool along on the route makes it a lot more fun.

so good you'll start dancing

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I've been gorging on strawberries all day. Mr Farmer was at the farmer's market this morning! His strawberries are as good as ever, and he's added to his patter: instead of just yelling "Taste a strawberry! Picked fresh this morning!" now he also yells "So good you'll start dancing!" When I took the photo, he asked me, "Did you take my picture because I'm so handsome, or because I'm so good looking? It had to be one or the other!" I love that guy.

in defense of the yucca

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I've trash talked yuccas a lot, so I thought I ought to say something positive about them. They're certainly dramatic when in bloom. They'll grow where almost nothing else will, and as long as you give them full sun they're just about maintenance free. Just because I hate them doesn't make them bad plants. I wouldn't even hate them if they weren't taking over the bed down by the road.

But no longer! We have nearly vanquished the yucca. Yesterday and today we dug out a huge clump, and then got started on the last one. I've complained a lot about that crazy big root, how deep it goes and how hard it is to dig it out. This time I took a picture of the entire root so y'all could see that I'm not exaggerating. That was the root for one clump (2 full-sized plants and it was sending up more shoots). It grew in all directions, almost 2 feet deep in one place, through solid clay. Georg compared digging it out to archaeology: chip out a bit of the root, brush the dirt off the hole to see which way it continues, chip out a bit more, and repeat.

It will be so nice to have those yuccas completely out of that bed. The silver lining is that, having dug out such huge holes, we're now filling them with nice garden soil. I guess we ought to have dug out the entire bed while we were at it, but I just couldn't deal with that much digging.

Speaking of digging clay, today I also leveled out the path around the septic tank bed. (I really ought to think of a nicer name for that bed, but "the septic tank bed" is how I always think of it.) I should have done this weeks ago, but by the time we finished the bed I couldn't stand the thought of digging any more clay. So I left it as it was, a bit too low in spots and way too high in others.

Well last night's torrential downpour caused the path to crack and sink about six inches near the front. I had walked all over the path to pack down the soil when we first built it up, but I guess there were chunks of clay in there with air pockets between them. The rain must have softened the clay enough to settle into those air pockets. Anyway I dug out a bunch of soil from the high places, and used it to fill in where the path had collapsed. The clay was still really soft from last night's rain, so it was relatively easy to dig.

mulch madness

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My plan this week was to get multiple truckloads of mulch. Said plan was thwarted by the city dump running out of mulch. I wonder if they ran out deliberately, or they just didn't plan well enough to make more in time? It's not like it could have been much of a surprise. When I was there on Monday I could see that they were almost out.

Anyway, they said they may have more by Wednesday. In the meantime we spread the first truckload on the bank by the road. Georg and I did about a third of it on Monday, and then I did the rest on Wednesday. I thought this task would go faster than it did. First I had to weed again. On the bright side, the weeds weren't nearly as thick since I had already gone at them a couple of weeks ago. On the down side, the weeds which remained were all of the tenacious variety.

Once the weeding was done we got to work on the mulching. The bank is outside the fence, and it's impossible to get a wheelbarrow up there. So we had to wheel up the mulch inside the yard, and throw it over the fence handful by handful. Then go all the way around, climb up the bank and even out the mulch by hand. I tried to uncover as much daffodil foliage as I could, but I'm sure there are still some buried under the mulch. That's not good for them, but I don't think it will kill them.

After the mulch was all spread, today I sowed mini sunflower seeds to fill in all the gaps among the daylilies. I had about 250 seeds and I think I used about half of them. Maybe I should have sown two seeds in each spot. I'll check back in a week and resow anything that hasn't sprouted yet. My plan is to mix annuals and daylilies up there, using fewer and fewer annuals each year as the daylilies spread, until eventually the whole bank is covered with daylilies. Here's hoping it works out!

Sowing the sunflowers wasn't hard work -- at least, not compared to digging up clay -- but it was tedious. Scoop a handful of mulch out of the way, press a seed into the soil, scoot back about a foot, repeat. Lots of crouching and stooping. Although I must say, if you're going to spend an hour and a half crawling around on the ground, let it be freshly mulched. Much more comfortable than when I was up there weeding earlier in the week. Still, I was pooped by the time I finished.

Speaking of seeds, the vegetable garden is looking great. Everything we planted from seed is up: zucchini, chard, beets, onions and carrots. The tomato seedlings look great. The only disappointment so far is the pepper seedlings: they don't appear to have grown at all since I put them in the bed. Well, it's only been a week. I can't remember how long it took them to get going last year. The watermelon (on the far side of the yard where they'll have room to sprawl) are sprouting too, as are the tall sunflowers.

The only bummer about the vegetable garden is the weed seedlings. We chose a really sunny spot for the beds : they're in shade for about an hour in late morning, but otherwise it's full sun all day, from early morning until sunset. The only problem is, it's right near an oak tree. The kind that drop those little helicopters. Which fell into the beds by the thousand, and are now sprouting like crazy. Every day I pull out dozens of those guys. Fortunately they're easy to distinguish from the seedlings we want.

In other weird gardening news, the gerbera daisies from last year came back! I had no idea they could survive the winter. I thought any frost would kill them. But no, apparently they die at 20°, which was a bit colder than it ever got last year. All but two came back, and three of them are in bloom already. Sheesh, if I'd known I would have protected them with straw and they might all have survived. Oh well, I'll know better next time.

It's kind of fun to walk around the garden and see which perennials are poking their heads out. The mulleins look great, have multiplied over the winter and are in full bloom. The chinese orchids look like they're going to bloom soon, and the giant alliums (I guess that would be giant allii) are about to open. The irises didn't do so hot, which was my fault because I transplanted them at the wrong time of year and left them out of the ground too long. But at least they look mostly alive, and I hope will recover enough to bloom next year. The black-eyed susans are going nuts. I planted them in the least hospitable part of the garden, hoping they'd hold their own. We do have a few casualties from last year: a coreopsis with unusual colors and a veronica, both of which I'm a bit sad about. And it looks like the Mexican petunia is a goner too. I'm not upset about that because I've heard it can be invasive.

The blue mist shrub is starting to get big. I'm a little concerned about that one because we had planned to move it to a location soon to be vacated by an evil yucca. But I've let other garden tasks take precedence, and the yucca is still there, and soon it will be too hot to transplant the blue mist shrub. Which will soon crowd out several smaller perennials in its current, way too crowded location. Well, if it doesn't rain too much this weekend maybe I'll get the yucca out. I hope it rains some though. I didn't water the sunflower seeds, assuming they'd get rained on overnight.

answer unclear, try again later

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Is Ralph Nader bugshit crazy, or does Steven Colbert just make him seem that way?

love your gap

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Something happened in this week's America's Next Top Model which thrilled, and then annoyed me. They sent two of the contestants to get dental work: Joanie to fix a snaggle tooth, and Danielle, to fix a gap in her front teeth. Joanie's snaggle tooth (by which I mean a tooth that was in front of and above her other teeth) was so bad that I had wondered why they had cast her in the first place. I mean come on, no one is going to hire a model with a tooth like that. So Joanie suffered through 18 hours of painful dental work in which they yanked out a bunch of teeth (on camera, no less -- eww!), ground all her teeth down and then glued on new teeth. Now she has a perfectly even, perfectly phony set of choppers. I don't know if it will make Joanie a better model, but she seemed really happy about it. So it was nice for the show to pay for all that dental work.

But Danielle was the one who interested me more. When she sat down in the dentist's chair, he asked if there was anything about her teeth she was concerned about. In all sincerity she said "Yes, my gums are receding." He shot back "What about the gap?" She brushed him off, insisting that "I love my gap; the gap is staying!"

That whole exchange made me laugh, and cheer for Danielle. She knew they sent her there to get rid of the gap in her teeth, because we saw Tyra telling her so. And the dentist obviously knew why she was there too. But she acted as though the show had sent her for no reason but basic periodontal health. In a confessional interview she said the gap was part of who she was. I thought that was great.

Not so great was the dressing down Tyra gave Danielle in front of everyone later on. Tyra said that she could never be a cover girl looking like that, and that if she wanted to stay in the competition she'd better go back to the dentist and do what she was told.

That really pissed me off. First of all, most of those girls are never going to be top models, no matter what Tyra says. I don't see Tyra telling Jade she has to magically lose 8 years from her age or she's out of the competition. And I think that's more of an obstacle than Danielle's gap-tooth. Look at Eva, the 5' 6.5" winner from two seasons ago. They not only cast her but gave her the prize, knowing she's four inches too short to be a working model much less a top model.

I also thought it was odd that Tyra usually brings up successful models to defend contestants with physical drawbacks -- Kate Moss if they're talking about a short contestant, Queen Latifah or Emme if it's a larger girl, Cindy Crawford for a girl with a big mole -- but she never mentioned Lauren Hutton. Granted, Danielle is no Lauren Hutton. But then Eva Pigford is sure as hell no Kate Moss.

I think it's wrong of Tyra to single out Danielle, and force her to make a permanent, unwanted change to her appearance, in pursuit of a goal she probably won't ever reach anyway. I guess I could see it if Danielle was the absolute lead in the contest, and the gap in her teeth was the only thing holding her back from super-stardom. But this is just wrong.

The preview for next week shows Danielle going back to the dentist, with some narration about her difficult decision. Don't do it, Danielle! Love your gap!

houston logistics

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I've been playing around with the new Google Calendar to help plan the Houston trip. It seems to be almost exactly like iCal in look and functionality, with one major additional feature: If you provide a location to an event, the calendar will link to a map of that location, and directions to and from that location. You don't even have to provide a street address for most businesses; "Jacques Imo's, New Orleans" worked great.

I think this is going to be a huge help in planning. I entered everything I have to do and everything I want to do. Now I can figure out how to get to each event and how much time I need to schedule for getting there. It's a bit sobering to see how tightly scheduled the entire trip will be. In fact I had to adjust my times on the day I drove from New Orleans to Houston. I had given myself time for a leisurely breakfast in New Orleans, but when I saw it all blocked out like that I realized that I would make myself late for the out-of-towners welcome dinner, much less have time to check into the hotel, shower and so forth.

(Knowing how long it will take to get from place to place has tripped us up on every previous Houston trip. We always end up late to the Art Car Ball because we underestimate the travel time, and/or get lost. And don't get me started on the night we spend driving all over the damned city looking for a fire extinguisher, because we stupidly left the hotel without getting clear directions to a Wal-mart.)

Seeing the schedule all blocked out also makes me realize that finding time to eat is going to be a problem. On both Thursday and Friday we're not going to have an opportunity to eat lunch until after 2pm, and then there's another event at 7. I suppose we'll have to eat a snack before the evening event and then plan on a late dinner. If we don't plan that just right we're going to be miserable at the evening event. At least, I will.

Of course I could do all of this without Google Calendars. Like I said, it looks almost exactly like iCal, and because it's still a beta I found entering new events a bit clunky. Especially the times; it had a tendency to kick me out of the entry window while I was trying to enter or change a time. I was also disappointed by the publishing options. I thought it would let me publish it to a web page, so that anyone (that is, anyone who cares) could see my calendar in all its overbooked glory. But actually the only publishing options are to iCal, or to an XML feed. Neither of which do the links to the maps, which is the coolest part. Plus, you can't make a calendar public without adding it to their public search function. Since my calendar refers to a trip away from home, and I couldn't figure out how to remove my real name from it, that seems like it would be really stupid.

On the other hand, publishing to iCal will be helpful for Georg and me, in case we need to check the schedule and we're not online. Too bad it doesn't have enough integration with iCal to let us update events there and have them show up in Google. And Google Calendar does have an "agenda" view, not available in iCal, that I like a lot. Georg says he thinks Google Calendar will be a boon to PC people who are stuck using Outlook, which he hates. (I've never used it so I don't have an opinion.)

In other travel notes, I realized that I made a logistical mistake: Instead of stopping in Atlanta like we usually do, I decided to drive a bit past it and stop in nearby Newnan, GA. That shortens the GA to LA leg of the trip by about an hour, giving me a little more time to hang out in New Orleans. Seemed like a good plan, unfortunately I didn't realize that this also means I'm going to have to drive right through the middle of Atlanta during rush hour. Twice: in the evening on the way out, and in the morning on the way back. Dang.

for that alone

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Under the current [congressional redistricting] system, Gingrich reasons, Democrats "get to rip off the public in the states where they control and protect their incumbents, and we get to rip off the public in the states we control and protect our incumbents, so the public gets ripped off in both circumstances. … In the long run, there's a downward spiral of isolation."

I agree with Newt Gingrich. For that alone someone should be impeached.

(quote from slate.com)

gardening fools

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We've been gardening fools the past few days. With weather like this, how could we not spend as much time as possible outside? Wednesday we weeded around the vegetable garden beds. Weeding is probably my least favorite job in the garden, but it has to be done. Those vines would crawl right into the beds if they could. Now we have a weed-free zone of about a foot around each bed. Of course the weeds will continue to encroach, but at least now we'll see them coming and have a chance to pull them out before they get into the beds. I think I did something else on Wednesday, but I can't remember. Oh yeah, I weed whacked around the blueberries.

Thursday we mowed the lawn and did more weed whacking. In some ways, mowing feels even more pointless than weeding. At least with weeding, you can mulch and then reduce the weeds in future. But mowing has to be done over and over, and never gets better. But on the other hand, I kind of like the repetition of walking up and down the yard, surrounded by the noise of the mower. It's sort of like time to think where you know you won't be interrupted. It would be perfect if the mower was self-propelled.

Friday I dug out more yuccas. God I hate those things. Those big fat roots go so deep, into the solid clay below the topsoil, and you have to get the whole thing or the plant comes right back. I had to move several other plants because the yucca roots had grown under them. What with stopping to deal with the termite situation, I didn't finish digging out the yucca until mid-afternoon. By which point it was way too hot to be doing that kind of heavy digging. I was seriously wiped out. I fell asleep before dinner, and then was too tired to go with Georg to AV Geeks. Instead I stayed home and watched Serenity.

Today we took it easy. Relatively so. We started with a trip to the farmer's market, which is doing herb days this weekend. It was mobbed! We bought tons of plants, then came home and I planted them while Georg weeded down by the road. Just a couple of days ago I realized that we've been working so hard on the yard, but only up by the house. Down by the road where people can see, it looks all weedy and scrubby. Oops.

I planted tomatoes (there's a couple at the farmer's market selling heirloom tomato plants for only $2 each! Next year I'm not going to fool around with seeds), three dozen petunias, a dozen verbenas, a lemongrass, a tricolored sage, a pineapple sage, a couple of small shade annuals that I forget what they're called, and a yellow daisy called Leopard Bane. The tag said it repels leopards. I couldn't possibly resist that.

(We also bought but haven't yet planted a heat-tolerant phlox, an autumn joy sedum, an iris with pretty variegated foliage, and a bronze fennel.)

Even though planting is much easier than weeding and digging and mowing. I was still really tired by the end of the day. I guess it was being out in the heat and the sun. Or maybe I'm just a wimp. Regardless, I think I need a sun hat. I think I got a mild sunburn today. I don't see any pink, but my face feels tight and dry the way it does when it burns.

We had a nice dinner -- cod baked in green mole, and sauteed spring vegetables -- and now we're chilling. First we watched Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? and now it's World Poker Tour. I don't know anything about poker, but I find this show fascinating.

things you do not want to see

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Today's thing I did not want to see: a swarm of termites. Not in the house, thank god, but in the herb garden, which is close enough to the house to cause major concern. I found a guide to termites online that confirmed they were definitely termites, not flying ants. The key indicators: termites have straight antennae, ants have crooked; termites have four wings of equal length, ants' wings are unequal length; ants have a thorax but termites don't. I sprayed them with bug spray, which seemed to kill them even though termites weren't listed on the label. Unfortunately, the web page says that killing the flyers doesn't affect the colony.

I called Clegg's, who sent someone out within a couple of hours. He told me that it's not uncommon to find a colony of termites in the garden, because mulch is the perfect environment for them: moist, rotting wood. He didn't find any evidence of termite damage under the house, whew. He did find something that indicated our last termite treatment was in 1973. He said that back then the chemicals lasted for 20 years, which means we're 10 years overdue. Eek.

He quoted me a price of $650 to treat the house. He said that they recommend retreating after 5 years, although the manufacturer of the chemicals says you're good for 10 years. It doesn't last as long because it's safer for us and the pets. I'm not thrilled about having this surprise expense, but it sounds like we have to do it.

the shoes

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The wedding shoes arrived today!

smellies

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Yesterday was a good day for BPAL. First, they posted the full moon update five days early. A rerelease of Carnaval Noir, a bunch of new Alice in Wonderland scents, and the best part is, the grapefruit scents are back! Apparently the spike in grapefruit oil prices is over. They're leaving the limited releases up a full week because most of the staff are going to a convention next weekend, but I went ahead and placed my order yesterday. I knew what I wanted so there didn't seem any reason to wait:

  • Phobos: Chilling white musk, lemon verbena, white grapefruit and lemongrass. 5 ml. Normally I don't buy bottles unsniffed, unless it's unavailable in sample imps. But this sounds so me, I couldn't resist a bottle. I love all these ingredients, and reviews describe it as "lemon sherbet." I want to smell like lemon sherbet!
  • Baobhan Sith: Grapefruit, white tea, apple blossom and ginger. 5 ml. Another grapefruit rerelease. I had an imp of this, sold it, and have been regretting it ever since. Apparently this is pronounced "bay-oh-ban shee." That confused me immensely until I saw someone use the alternate spelling "baobhan sidhe." Those wacky Celts!
  • Kunstkammer: A sensory jumble, a true cacophony of odors: black pepper, benzoin, blood orange and olibanum. 5 ml. I'm not sure about this one; it may be too resiny for me. But it was the only scent from last year's Carnaval Noir I wished I had tried. This is my last chance, so what the heck.
  • Shattered: A blend of white champagne notes, grapefruit, lotus, slivered mint and crystalline aquatic blooms. Imp. Another grapefruit scent. Some of the ingredients sound iffy, but still worth a try.
  • Drink Me: However, this bottle was not marked 'poison,' so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off. Imp. I hear that the quoted text is not totally reflective of the scent. But I almost don't care what it smells like; I have to at least try it.
  • Eat Me: Three white cakes, vanilla, and red and black currants. Imp. This sounds like it will work well for me.
  • Mouse's Long and Sad Tale: Vanilla, two ambers, sweet pea and white sandalwood. Imp. Amber doesn't much like me, but Beth keeps blending it with other ingredients I love, so I keep trying.
  • Tweedledee: Ridiculous! Kumquat, white pepper, white tea and orange blossom. Imp. This could be great for summer.
  • Tweedledum: Absurd! Green mango, fig, patchouli and green tea. Imp. I shouldn't have ordered this: I love fig and green tea, but loathe patchouli. But the imps come in sets of six, and it is part of a pair and all.

Then after placing my order in the morning, in the afternoon my March 14 order arrived! I managed to test most of it:

  • Monster Bait: Underbed: Cassia-caked cocoa coconut over angel food cake. 5 ml. When will I learn that BPAL cinnamon hates me? In the bottle this smelled lush and chocolately. On me it smelled like a rancid cinnamon car freshener. Seriously vile. After a long while it settled down to a nice chocolate with a touch of cinnamon, but it's not at all worth two hours of gack. Waah.
  • Usher: This is Roderick Usher: a faded genteel light musk and fougere, heightened by hectic white mint, gleaming mandarin, ethereal tea leaf and gritty blackcurrant brushed by the scent of the tarn that surrounds the House, and the gloom and decay of the walls that hold him. 5 ml. I bought this because reviews described it as a more subtle Dorian. I don't agree with that assessment at all, but I do like Usher. It smells a little weird for the first 10-15 minutes, then dries down to a beautiful skin scent. Very soft and unaggressive. It smells like I'm not wearing scent, I just happen to smell really good. (And how do you know that's not the case anyway.)
  • Sundew: A carnivorous enchantress: diverse, lovely and graceful, emitting a sticky, glowing golden, sweet and terminally inviting scent. This smells exactly like the mini daffodils blooming all along our driveway. It's uncanny. Unfortunately, I don't want to smell like that. It's nice in the garden, but on me it's cloying and heavy. Ah well, at least I only bought an imp.
  • The Mock Turtle's Lessons: Blurry aquatic notes, with a confusing, contrary splort of iris, ambrette, green apple, vodka, white mint and a squish of lime. This was a pleasant & light aquatic, but by this point I was a bit scented out and can't really review it. I'm going to give it a try another time and see if I get a stronger impression.

don't remind me

| 11 Comments

An odd phenomenon we noticed on Staten Island: almost without fail, everyone who found out we were from Durham immediately asked us about the accusations of gang rape against the Duke lacrosse team. (Now that I think about it, the only person who didn't was the priest. Boy, that would have been awkward.)

I never really knew how to respond to the question. I think I said something vague to the effect that it was a terrible crime, which was exarcerbating tensions between the university and the community. Which response didn't seem to be what people wanted to hear. That confused me. I mean, what did they expect me to say? Maybe they were looking for a response like "They're guilty as sin" or "she's lying." Or maybe they wanted gossip about details that hadn't made the national news.

On the drive home Georg expressed his concern that if the case is still going on in May, we may end up having this conversation over and over again in Houston. We tried to think up a good answer that would derail the conversation, but we couldn't come up with anything. Georg's suggestion was "I think they should all be shot in the head." Eek. That might work, but more likely I think it would inspire an even more heated response.

But I couldn't come up with any decent alternatives. "Don't remind me" would require explaining why we don't want to be reminded. Pretending to be unfamiliar with the case would be even worse; the questioner might helpfully explain the whole thing to us. "I'm from Chapel Hill" would probably work; most people outside NC have no idea how close together the two towns are. But I don't want to lie about my town just to avoid an unpleasant conversation.

Any suggestions?

houston

| 1 Comment

Just got back from Staten Island. The weather was bad and the circumstance was worse. At least the traffic wasn't much of a problem.

But enough of that. This summer is going to be busy with lots of travel. First up is the Houston TX art car parade. This is the biggest art car event in the country (and as far as I know, the world). It's crazy, wild, absolutely grueling, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. Here's the schedule:

  • May 8: drive from Durham to Atlanta.
  • May 9: drive from Atlanta to New Orleans. Dinner at Jacques Imo's.
  • May 10: drive from New Orleans to Houston. Welcome out of towners party that night.
  • May 11: pick up Georg at airport. (He can't drive with me, because he already used too much vacation.) Art Car Ball -- a loud, long party -- that night.
  • May 12: Main Street Drag from 9-1, which is the tour of schools. I love this, though it's one of the more draining events. We drive all over the place in small groups, and we never know where we're going, and there's no food or water or bathroom. You'd think the schools would let us use the bathroom! Some of them don't even have any shade, we just stand in a parking lot in the sun until it's time to leave for the next school. But if you bring your own water and snacks it isn't so bad. That lasts until 1 or so, then they give us red beans & rice for lunch. Then we have a couple of hours off to rest, and there's some new event that night. A seminar or something, I'm not sure.
  • May 13: the main event! We have to be there at 9 to display our car, and the parade starts at 1. There's an after party, then we have a dinner break and on to the illuminated cruise that night. The illuminated cruise is one of my favorite parts of the weekend. It's basically an unlicensed parade: the cars get themselves all lit up and then drive around the city honking at people. Most of the cars use Christmas lights, but a few have open flame jets on their cars! And last time one of the cars was towing an open flat-bed with a live band on it.
  • May 14: they have a barbecue at the Orange Show, but we always bail on that. Drop Georg at the airport in mid-morning, then drive to New Orleans.
  • May 15: Probably driving to Atlanta, but I may decide to spend an extra day in New Orleans.
  • May 16: Home.

I think I'm going to skip the webcasting this year. It's always such a huge hassle, and just doing the same thing again doesn't seem worth the effort. This time I'd like to enjoy the parade and not have to worry about tech issues (and guarding the car) all the time. Besides, if I'm not using my phone as a cell modem, I can use it as a camera and post photos to my site in real time.

shopping redux

| 5 Comments

Had a rather hellish afternoon yesterday of driving hither and thither, everything taking far too long, notably the "shortcut" to the vet acupuncturist which added about 15 minutes to the trip. Fie on the person who suggested it as a shortcut! At least it was a pleasant 45 minute drive. Anyway, in the course of the day, I managed to find a $7 skirt at Ross Dress for Less which goes with my exhorbitant Ann Taylor Loft jacket. Between the two I ended up with a reasonably priced outfit.

In case you're tired of hearing about clothes shopping -- god knows I'm tired of doing it -- I also did some book shopping. Bought a couple of books on building decks (the kind that attach to your house, not the Tarot kind, and more on this in another post); The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe for a gift; and The Book of the Short Sun by same, for myself. I was sure I had already read Short Sun, and the covers look familiar, but recently I reread all my Gene Wolfe books (I don't read a lot, but I have a few favorite books I like to reread as a respite from stress. My Gene Wolfe books are definitely part of that group.) and I couldn't find Short Sun. I think I must have borrowed the series from the library. Which means I only read it once, which explains why I remember so little about it. I'm really looking forward to reading the series again, and I hope retaining more this time.

In other shopping news, I've been an Ebaying fool lately. I started out looking for accessories for my wedding outfit (again, more on this later) but ended up buying several amazing hats, of which I will post photos as soon as I get my act together and take the darned pictures. Also a pair of sunglasses and a square baking dish from Fiestaware. You can seriously get anything on Ebay.

But wait, still more shopping. I'd grown somewhat disinterested in BPAL of late -- I still wear it every day, but hadn't ordered anything in months -- but they've had some good updates recently. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of:

  • Usher: part of the Poe fiction series (that's right, they did not one but two Poe series, one inspired by his poetry and one by the prose) and described as being similar to Dorian, which I adore.
  • Enraged Bunny Musk: This is the second "enraged musk" scent, and I have my doubts about it as it was described as powdery, which I'm not crazy about. But what the heck, I do like white musk and I know the perfect person to give it to if it doesn't work for me. (The first in the series was Enraged Orangutan Musk which I skipped because it was way musky.)
  • Monster Bait: for those of us who miss the monsters of childhood and want to lure them back. I ordered the whole set: Closet, Underbed, and the special one-day-only Underpants. I would have ordered Monster Bait: Underpants no matter what it smelled like, but the description is nearly ideal for me. Saffron, vanilla, sandalwood, sugar and cream. I love all those BPAL ingredients, except saffron which I've never tried but I love the way it smells so I'm guessing it will make for good BPAL.
  • BPAL also started a website for the Twilight Alchemy Lab, and I got into a decant circle so I could try five TAL blends without having to invest $25 a bottle (eek!). This way I can buy only the ones I like. I'm very much looking forward to the decants, especially Road Opener which I want to wear for the Houston road trip.

shopping

| 4 Comments

This evening Georg and I went shopping for this weekend. I didn't think at first that I'd have to buy clothes, but then I realized with a shock that I don't have a single black dress in my closet. In fact I hardly have any black clothing at all. A couple of sweaters and a miniskirt, and that's it. That's a huge change in my fashion sense, which happened without my even noticing.

So we went to the Southpoint mall (or "Southpointy" as we call it), where I got my second shock: the prices. Did y'all know how expensive clothes are in the mall? It's outrageous. I had no idea because I hardly ever buy clothes anymore.

I poked around a couple of stores but ended up buying from Ann Taylor Loft. Mainly because they had a decent petite section, which is a necessity with tailored clothing. I can get away with regular sizes in loose-fitting clothes, but I'm so short that anything tailored for an "average" height fits me really badly. For instance on a fitted jacket, the waist is way too low on me. So it either pulls too tight over my hips, or it rides up, i.e. the waist of the jacket rises to find my waist. Which is several inches higher, causing the fabric to bunch up above the waist. That's probably way more than you wanted to know.

I managed to find a cute jacket on sale for only slightly exhorbitant, then managed to convince myself that a brown tweed would be somber enough for a funeral. They also had a black jacket which I liked a little better, but it was way more expensive. And it wasn't petite, so it didn't fit right at the waist, and I would have had to take 5" off the sleeves. Are tall women's arms really that long, or am I just stumpy?

I didn't end up getting a skirt because they didn't have anything that was quite right, and I just couldn't stomach the prices for something not-quite-right. I might as well go to Target and get a simple brown skirt that won't fit any worse, and might even fit better, for $50 less. I figure if I'm going to spend big bucks on part of the outfit, it should be the jacket.

It rankled to buy clothes that I could make for a quarter of the price, but I don't have time to make this outfit. Besides, a tailored jacket would be really time-consuming, so buying it wasn't as painful as if it had been a dress I could whip out in an evening. And on the bright side, now I'm set if I ever have a formal business meeting.

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