April 2008 Archives

dirty tricks

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What do you know, deceptive & possibly illegal robocalls which mislead NC voters about whether or not they're registered. Facing South has more.

logistics

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Progress continues apace on the Memorial Day show, and it's starting to come together! I have the notes for my dad's interview, and have a preliminary Skype call scheduled with him. And today I got the Italian audio (not yet translated) in hand. I listened to the untranslated audio file and even though I don't speak the language, it's fascinating. I understood words here and there, and sometimes was able to figure out what they were talking about. For instance I'm pretty sure Signor Bucca said that the fascists stole all their farm animals and they had very little food, just potatoes and whatever wild animals they could catch. Also, I think he said that the American mafia were involved in preparing for the invasion of Sicily! I'm sure I heard him say "cosa nostra Americana" and "resistenza" in the same sentence. I had heard a rumor about that, and I had wondered if it was true. I can't wait to get the translation and find out for sure what he was saying. Even in the places where I couldn't understand at all, it was really nice to hear the rhythm of their voices.

The logistics for this show have been intense, what with two long distance interviews, one of them intercontinental. (Which means a language barrier, and a six hour time difference, but otherwise far fewer complications than there would have been ten or even five years ago.) It wouldn't have been possible without Skype. All the planning with my dad and with Francesca has been worked out through email and Skype calls and chats. Last night Georg and I tested the ability to get additional audio from iTunes into a Skype call in case that's necessary. (There are two methods: the crude but effective "hold the mic up to another computer's speaker", and a cleaner-sounding but clunky to do method using another application called Soundflower to reroute system audio into Skype). And the day before that I set up an FTP account for Francesca, which I did wrong the first time, and had to do over on another server. Seems like every day there's something to do or arrange or work out.

I feel guilty that so much of the work has fallen to Francesca: she interviewed her father last week, recorded it on her MP3 player and FTPed the files to me. This week she'll record herself translating his interview and send me those files the same way. Next week my dad and I will record our interview. We'll do it over a Skype call just like last time, and I'll use Audio Hijack Pro to record the call. Once both interviews are recorded, then I'll edit the files with Audacity, clean up the "ums," and divide them into manageable segments. Then plan the music selections, and (cross my fingers) have it all ready to go by May 25. I don't know how the pros manage to do this every week, much less every day! I've been working on this show for weeks, and will probably spend at least some time on it every day from now until it airs.

bluebeard's eighth wife

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April 28 movie: Bluebeard's Eighth Wife. This movie was delightful! Directed by Lubitsch and written by Charles Brackett and BIlly Wilder, with terrific acting from stars Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, David Niven and Edward Everett Horton. Cooper and Colbert have wonderful chemistry, and they have great material to work with. I was laughing out loud throughout this -- at the jokes, and also just because the movie made me feel so happy. That's the Lubitsch touch.

gambling lady

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April 28 movie: Gambling Lady. This movie had a twisty, implausible plot made enjoyable by the stars: Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. I adore both of them, and together? A treat. Stanwyck is a professional gambler who marries rich, innocent McCrea. Then there's a false murder rap and they're forced apart by a designing woman, and then, well if this were a weeper I wouldn't be smiling while I write this. Which I am. Also starred Pat O'Brien and C. Aubrey Smith, both marvelous.

some came running

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April 24 movie: Some Came Running. I think I wasn't in the mood to see this movie. It's highly praised, but I didn't like it at all. Frank Sinatra is a war vet with anger issues. Shirley Maclaine is a dumb, classless girl from the wrong side of the tracks who debases herself to Sinatra over, and over, and over. It's really rather unpleasant.

roses, roses

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Spent most of the day weeding around the roses. A couple of hours in the morning, then I went to my show, then came back and weeded again. I'm happy with how much I got done, although it still looks like hell from the street. Because I didn't work at all on the slope, which is what people can see from the road. But if you're standing up on top of the bank looking down at the ground, it looks a hundred times better.

Of the five roses up there, I got the weeds completed removed from four of them, and got started on the fifth. They are doing so well, big and healthy looking. The Awakening has four canes that are each ten feet long! And the Reve D'Or and Sombreuil aren't far behind. I learned a saying about climbing roses: "The first year, they sleep; the second year, they creep; the third year, they leap!" This is the beginning of the second year and I have to say, if this is creeping, I can't wait until they leap.

Antique, own-root roses really are the best. We planted them up on that bank a year ago, in not that great soil, and they've basically had to fend for themselves. We watered them some, but not that much, and never a single treatment of fertilizer, pesticide or fungicide. Heck, by the end of last summer they were pretty much covered over by weeds. According to what all the rose guides and websites say, they should be dead. Instead they're thriving. Three cheers for own-root roses!

The idea is that the roses will ramble down the bank, branches will fan out and cover the slope. I think once we get the weeds off the slope we're going to hammer in stakes and peg down the canes so they grow in the right direction. Right now they're kind of going every which way: some running along the edge of the bank, some straight up, whatever. The canes are still flexible enough that we can train them in the right direction.

The Reve D'or is blooming already. In fact, I weeded around that one in the morning, and I swear another half-dozen flowers opened while I was at my show. I bet it was the increased sunlight from having those weeds cleared away. The Sombreuil has a couple of blossoms open, and looks like it will be in full bloom this coming week. None of the others are near blooming yet, but they have lots of buds.

The Secret Garden Musk Climbers are still pretty small compared to the others. I got them from another vendor and they might have been younger plants. Or maybe because they were planted later in the season last year, they didn't establish as well. Or, maybe SGMC is just slower to get going. I can be patient though: it has the reputation for being a massive climber that will cover everything with a blanket of white roses that rebloom all summer. Sounds a bit too good to be true. If it's half as good as advertised I'll be thrilled.

While I was weeding Georg removed the stump of doom! He's been working on it for ages. I kind of can't believe it's finally out. That tap root was so big, it was like trying to dig out a telephone pole. The area where the stump of doom used to be will be covered with cardboard and have mulch piled on top. We'll leave it like that all year, and then next year it will be a new flowerbed!

Georg also got started on removing weeds from the slope and ditch by the road. That job is going to be a bastard. I think we are going to resort to chemical means (Roundup). We'll cover the roses with plastic so there's no risk of a breeze blowing the herbicide onto them. We also need to mulch around the roses, weed the back of the bed under the daylilies, and also I want to dig up a narrow strip of turf along the fence so it's easier to mow along the edge. It really never ends.

snooze

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Today was a very fun, not that busy day, which makes me wonder why I'm so extremely tired now.

This morning we went to the Raleigh farmer's market. On the way we noticed that gas prices had gone up again. I think we're going to have to stop going out there just to browse the plant vendors. It's a longish drive and it's just getting too expensive.

In any case, I was glad we went this morning. Because the heirloom tomato people were there. Yay! Every year we plant a couple of old reliable hybrids -- Better Boy and Super Sweet 100 -- and we experiment with a couple of heirlooms. This year we're trying Brandywine and one we never heard of called Paul Robeson. We liked Paul Robeson the singer so why not try his namesake? We also got Sungold, famed as the best-tasting cherry tomato ever. It's a hybrid, not an heirloom, but hard to find, so we were glad the heirloom tomato people had it.

We also got a pint of strawberries, poblano peppers, a couple of unusual eggplants, an adorable dwarf soloman's seal, and a couple of drought-resistant native plants we're going to put down by the road. Including Carolina Lupine which I'm looking forward to trying. The Archer Farms guy told us they thrive on neglect. And they'd better, conditions being so bad down there.

After the farmer's market we had lunch with D. and S. at Udupi, a vegetarian Indian place in Cary. Which was excellent. The only negative was the dining room was a bit hot. It seemed like maybe they didn't have their a/c running yet; they had even opened the front doors to cool the dining room down, although it was in the 80s outside.

In the afternoon we were both feeling full and indolent. I got the show notes from my dad for the Memorial Day radio show we're planning, and got started on music selection. It's fun to pick out songs that go with the various stories. Then in late afternoon when it started to cool down, I sprayed insecticidal soap on some irises that had got aphids, planted most of the new plants, and started weeding around the roses. Which need it so very badly. I feel terrible every time I look at them. They're doing so well out there, confounding predictions by growing and blooming without fertilizer or pesticide or fungicide or any care at all. The least I can do is keep the weeds from overrunning them completely.

the pirate

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April 22 movie: The Pirate. What silly fun this movie was. Judy Garland is a Spanish aristocrat with a crush on a pirate, and Gene Kelly is a traveling actor who pretends to be the pirate. Includes the "Be A Clown" comic dance number, which is the exact same song as the "Make 'Em Laugh" number from Singing in the Rain.

silver linings

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I really have to be grateful to the creepy open source boob guy. Without him I might never have learned about OH JOHN RINGO NO.

oh gypsy moth no

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I'm antsy to get back into the garden. But we have social things to do tonight and tomorrow -- maybe tomorrow afternoon. If it doesn't rain. In the meantime, here are a few things I've learned the hard way about gardening:

  • When buying perennials, big plants in big pots are no better than little plants in little pots. In a month or two the little plants will catch up to the big ones and you'll wonder why you spent extra for the big ones. In this case, you don't get what you pay for.
  • Perennials hand grown by small nurseries are usually healthier, and will do better once brought home, than perennials from big box stores. Plus you can get to know the people at a small nursery and get advice you'll never ever get from a big box store. In this case, you do get what you pay for.
  • If you have patience, perennials grown from seed are the best bargain of all. They might not bloom for 2-3 years but you can get dozens of plants from one seed packet, as opposed to $6 or more per potted plant.
  • Just after a rain is the best time to weed. Weed roots come out of wet soil so easily. Sometimes you can pull out an entire dandelion taproot; it just lifts right out.
  • Just after a rain is the worst time to dig. Digging damages the integrity of wet soil. Plus wet soil is heavier. The only except is hard clay, which can be impossible to dig when dry. It will be heavier but at least you can get a shovel into it. Besides, you're just digging it out and replacing it with nice garden soil, so who cares about damaging its integrity.
  • Don't plant something that needs a lot of water out of reach of your hose.
  • Take lots of breaks to sit down and drink water. Put yourself on a regular break schedule; for instance, a break every half hour, or for every three wheelbarrows of mulch. It's best to start with more breaks than you feel like you really need, and increase frequency of breaks the longer you work. Do not make breaks a reward which you have to push yourself to get to (i.e. "I get to take a break after I finish weeding along that whole section of fence"). This is one I screw up all the time, and end up working too hard and wiping myself out. Don't be like me!
  • Try to schedule your yardwork around the weather and the sun. In other words, don't go out in mid-afternoon when it's over 80 and try to do heavy digging in the full sun. I have times of day that are best for working in the shade; jobs I save for cloudy cool days; and really hard jobs I only do in late fall to early spring when it's downright cold.
  • Gypsy moths are evil.
  • Garden design books written by people living in radically different climates from you are next to useless. The books will be full of plants you can't grow. Same for books that tell you when to do gardening tasks.

in person

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April 21 movie: In Person. Ginger Rogers plays a glamorous actress who has a nervous breakdown and starts wearing an ugly costume (fake teeth, bad wig, etc) so she can go out in public without being recognized. George Brent spends time with her because he feels sorry for the poor ugly girl. Things progress from there as one would expect in a screwball comedy. In general I cannot stand movies about beautiful women pretending to be plain, and this was no exception.

h.m. puhlam, esq.

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April 19 movie: H.M. Pulham, Esq. I really enjoyed this thoughtful movie about a Boston society man (Robert Young) looking back on the road he didn't take: a New York career and romance with Hedy Lamarr.

the heavenly body

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April 19 movie: The Heavenly Body. Astronomer William Powell treats wife Hedy Lamarr like an idiot. She gets him back by acting like one. I can't recommend this unless you really, really love one (or both) of the stars.

harold and kumar go to white castle

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April 19 movie: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Now this was funny! I really enjoyed it a lot. I rented it after hearing Neil Patrick Harris on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, discussing his part. Which was indeed hilarious. Though I must concede, I would have enjoyed the movie a lot less if I had watched it in a theater and hadn't been able to fast-forward through the gross-out bodily function scenes (the two girls in the bathroom and the guy with the skin problem).

At first I thought this was basically the same as After Hours but by the end I decided they're totally different. After Hours (if I recall it correctly) is completely nihilist. Harold and Kumar is a much more traditional narrative: they have a goal, they encounter obstacles, they achieve the goal, and they become better people in the process. Nobody is a better person at the end of After Hours.

The DVD menu screen features Harold and Kumar in their car, wondering why the viewer won't pick a damned option already. "Come on, be nice! They got the DVD!" "No, man, this is starting to piss me off!"

blazing saddles

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April 17 movie: Blazing Saddles. I was disappointed and surprised by the lack of funny in this movie. I saw it decades ago and thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. This time it seemed ... mildly funny. At times. The Count Basie cameo was really cool though.

Somehow May has turned out to be a busy month for Divaville Lounge, with three theme shows:

  1. On May 4 at 10 pm, "Divaville Lounge After Hours," an hour of old songs too racy, raunchy, and just plain dirty to play during the day. This will be in addition to the regular show that afternoon from 2-4. (Many thanks to Bunch of Pants for this concept!)
  2. On May 11 from 2-4 pm, a birthday tribute to Irving Berlin.
  3. On May 25 from 2-4 pm, a Memorial Day show featuring interviews with two survivors of World War Two who were children in Europe during the war.

I'm looking forward to all three, especially the WWII show. The logistics have been a handful, and more often than not I thought it wasn't going to come together. (And, knock on wood, I won't be 100% sure until I have all the audio in hand.) But (if and) when it does all come together, I think it's going to be something special.

join the circus

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So they called PA for Clinton a couple of hours ago. Is the media going to descend on us now? Hopefully I won't even know about it as I avoid TV news as much as possible. That certainly won't change if they turn their laser-like focus of trivia and sleaze on us.

(note to my dad: that is a grammatical use of hopefully as I am hopeful of success in continuing to avoid TV political coverage. Thank you.)

moments like these

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  • Calling a friend I hadn't spoken to in forever, and thought I might never speak to again (due to that whole intercontinental thing), and feeling like it's been nine days since we left off, not nine years.
  • Overhearing a guy in a restaurant express his shock that he met a girl who was "cleanly dressed" and had "nice parents" and yet, she watched anime! And even played roleplaying games! The horror!
  • Watching a bunch of old "greatest hits of Yo! MTV Raps" specials from the late 80s and getting to see two hip-hop tracks I loved, hadn't heard in years, and didn't even know had videos: Award Tour by A Tribe Called Quest and The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep.
  • The schadenfreude of a really good flame war that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

All that plus a nice dinner? This must be my day.

a boring day

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Seems I forgot to post yesterday. Well it was a boring day. I worked, I worked on logistics for an interview show in about a month, I worked in the yard, I called the cable company and convinced them to replace our flaky DVR, I emailed the board of elections and got a PSA about one stop voting for the station, went to the station meeting, had dinner at Federal, then spent the evening trying to figure out who I'm going to vote for. And watched a show about Mariachi Reyna, the first all-female mariachi group in the US.

mariachi night

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Georg did a good job of describing our extremely fun night out on Friday to have great Mexican food and watch a great mariachi band. The food was particularly good that night; I had my favorite, carnitas con nopales. They opened a deck with a couple of outdoor tables, so that when the restaurant was starting to feel too hot and loud, we could move outside and still hear the music. It was so nice outside, cool and clear. We ended up staying until almost 10, and when we left the place was packed. Just as we were leaving, the band started up a fun, fast-paced song. I asked Santa Salsera if she knew the name of the song and she sang along, "The happy gringos se va!"

Bunch of Pants posted a great video of the band doing one of our requests: El Mariachi Loco Quiere Bailar (The Crazy Mariachi Wants to Dance). If this sounds at all like fun to you, join us next time! It's every other Friday so the next night will be May 2.

garden chores

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Today was a garden chores day. We've been working on digging a new bed down by the road. It's been a nasty, weedy area for years, out of control most of the summer, and it's right out front where everyone driving by sees it.

The weeds are so thick, and the soil so hard and rocky, that the best way to dig up the weeds was to get down on the ground and shove the flat-bladed shovel under the edge of the weeds, horizontally so to speak, and then pry up a chunk of the matted weed layer. Paul James calls this "sod busting" but there's no sod, so I call it weed busting instead. It's really hard work, hard on the shoulders. Normal digging you can put your whole body into, but this is all arms.

We've been slowly working on this for the past couple of weeks, a little bit at a time. Today I got an early start, worked all morning and got a big enough area cleared to make the bed. I even found a couple patches of rudbeckia hiding in the weeds.

While I was working I talked to a couple of people. First a woman walked by with her dog. She saw me working and said, "You never give up on that ditch!" I agreed that yes, I keep trying, and someday I'll beat it. Then she said, "No matter what you do, it seems like it's gone in two weeks!" Okay, thanks lady, stop trying to make me feel better.

Then a volunteer from the Obama campaign came by. She asked me if I knew yet who I was supporting, and I told her I had also volunteered for Obama. I told her I was surprised to see her because canvassers don't normally come up our street; it's not very pedestrian-friendly. She said they were trying to visit every house with a democratic or unaffiliated voter. She also told me they're canvassing every weekend, and doing phone bank every weeknight, until the primary. I'm hoping I'll have time to help them in the next couple of weeks.

Once the weeds were busted, then came the hard part! Well actually it probably wasn't harder, but I was getting tired and still had so much to do that it felt harder. First loosen the soil. Like I mentioned, it was so hard and rocky that in places I couldn't use the big fork & had to whack at it with a mattock. And the stones, good grief, the stones. Gravel everywhere, some larger stones, and one about the size of a grapefruit. Everything bigger than the gravel had to be pried out with the mattock.

Then added about two wheelbarrows of nice compost, and turned it in, and then about three wheelbarrows of mulch on top. Then finally I could plant: three dozen marigolds and six ice plants. I'm going to put black-eyed susans behind the marigolds when they come it at the garden center. All tough plants which can handle the tough conditions down there.

There's still a ton to do, clearing the weeds to the right and left and also up the bank. Still, it's a good start. Good thing, too, because I am so sore and tired. I took lots of breaks during the day, drank lots of water, and watched last night's Battlestar Galactica (best. episode. ever!) and I was still wiped out by the end of the day. I've been watching movies all evening.

because it's the law

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I am now officially trained and ready to be a poll worker. I even had to say an oath. The instructor of the training was really good. Funny and engaging and passionate about democracy. He gave a little speech at the end that was pretty inspiring, about restrictions on voting rights in North Carolina's past, and how in 2008 anyone* can vote freely, with respect and privacy, without fear or intimidation, and how it's our job to make that happen.

I'm much less worried now about how much there is to remember, because I learned one key fact: no one deals with fixing problems except the "exceptions table," and no one is assigned to the exceptions table without separate "exceptions training." I didn't do that training, so I'm in the clear. It seems that you get assigned to one station for the day, and that one station has a narrow set of responsibilities, and you can just focus on that area of responsibility and not worry about everything else.

Funniest thing: the instructor had this transparency which said "Because It's The Law," and throughout the session he kept saying "Why do we do X?" and then he would put up that transparency while everyone called out, "because it's the law!" Then late in the session he was explaining that everyone gets to cast a ballot, no matter what. Even if it's pretty clear that they aren't legal to vote (for instance they are a resident of another state), we just give them a provisional ballot and let the board of elections sort it out. "We never turn anyone away, and why don't we?" he called out. As the room responded with the expected "because it's the law!" he put up a transparency that said, "Because We're Not Florida."

Second funniest thing: "Don't sell Tupperware inside the voting area" is a rule. Yes, it is a rule because they caught somebody doing it a few years ago.

Weirdest thing: I said the pledge of allegiance for the first time in my life. What can I say, I always went to weirdo schools that didn't say it, and I was never a scout. Somehow the opportunity never arose before. I have mixed feelings about swearing loyalty to a flag (a country, okay, but a flag?), but I didn't feel right about refusing. So I said it. I did not say "under God" as that is the one part of the pledge I strongly object to.

Coolest thing: finding out that one gentleman in the training session had been a chief judge for 55 years! The whole room applauded him.

After the main training I did equipment training. There were 3 of us in that training session (as opposed to 100 in the general training session). It was run by the guy who maintains the equipment and it was much more low-key. He showed us how to use the machine that tabulates the votes, and the machine that helps people with disabilities mark their ballot.

It's actually a really cool machine. It has all kinds of options for whatever assistance a voter might need: a touch screen, and Braille buttons, and a jack for a "sip and puff" which is a tube that lets someone control the system by blowing into the tube. But the voter has to provide their own "sip and puff" if they need one. Which makes sense: I wouldn't want to stick a tube into my mouth that strangers had used too. Anyway, once they get through making their choices, the machine prints the ballot and then it goes into the tabulating machine as usual.

*everyone except a convicted felon who hasn't finished serving their probation or parole, but we won't go into that.

the amitabh bachchan chronicles

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April 15 movie: The Amitabh Bachchan Chronicles. We got together with Santa Salsera and watched this collection of Amitabh music videos. We had already seen most of the videos, and it was fun to remember the movies (or try to remember, in some cases). There were a couple I hadn't seen, particularly a really early one with freaky psychedelic effects: Amitabh is praying, and then a ray of light comes down and shines on him in the colors of the rainbow, then he floats up into the sky and sees a vision of figures representing all the major religions in India (all portrayed by Amitabh in costumes and sometimes fake moustaches) and then he sings a song about Indian unity and religious tolerance. We think. There weren't any subtitles so it was hard to tell sometimes.

No songs from some of his best movies: Don, Sholay, or Amar Akbar Anthony. We wondered if it was a rights issue or if those movies are on another volume.

the producers

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April 14 movie: The Producers. Speaking of Ziegfeld Follies, the "Springtime for Hitler" number clearly owed a lot to the Ziegfeld Follies. The costumes in "Springtime for Hitler" were no more ludricrous than the costumes in Ziegfeld Girl, except for the whole Nazi angle.

ziegfeld girl

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ziegfeld04.jpgApril 13 movie: Ziegfeld Girl. Fun musical / melodrama which follows three women -- Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner -- who join the Ziegfeld Follies. Ziegfeld Follies was this stage show in the late 20s and early 30s featuring women dressed as showgirls walking down stairs. The women go through trials and tribulations, have affairs, experience fickle fame, and walk down a lot of stairs. Also stars Jimmy Stewart, George Sanders, Eve Arden, Edward Everett Horton and Tony Martin.

the other end of her party line

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Kevin requested a gif of Doris Day's ass, and unfortunately I had already deleted Teacher's Pet from the DVR, but I have Pillow Talk on DVD which has a similar scene of Doris dancing & swiveling her hips while the male lead ogles the aforementioned ass.

t-doris-day-ass.gif

Her dress isn't as tight here as in Teacher's Pet but still. Imagine voiceover by Rock Hudson, "So that's what's on the other end of her party line!"

Animated gif behind the cut.

the ascent of man

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April 10 movie: The Ascent of Man. Disc 3 includes 3 episodes: "The Starry Messenger," about the trial of Galileo; "The Majestic Clockwork," about Kepler, Newton and Einstein's Theory of Relativity; and "The Drive for Power," about the Industrial Revolution.

"The Drive for Power" includes footage of amazing automata (mechanical dolls) created in pre-revolutionary France. There were automata that drew real pictures, ones with moving eyeballs and even one whose chest rose and fell as it "breathed."

don't be a dick

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I got a letter a few days ago telling me how to do online poll worker training. It's not a substitute for the in-person training, which is mandatory. I'm really glad, though, to have an opportunity to learn this stuff at my own pace before the training session on Thursday.

The online training is really thorough, and kind of sobering. Before I had been thinking of this whole experience as to some degree just a lark, something fun to do on election day. Watching the training has made me realize how much is at stake and how important it is not to, you know, screw up democracy.

There are five parts to the online training: preparation, setting up the voting area, the voting process, voters with disabilities, conflict management, and breaking down the voting area. The ones on setting up and the voting process are a bit intimidating because there's so much to know. I hope they cut new poll workers some slack and assign us to the less complex tasks, or pair us up with someone more experienced.

The ones on disabilities and conflict management mainly boil down to, in the words of Wil Wheaton, "don't be a dick." Example instructions include not to pat a voter in a wheelchair on the head, or not to grab a voter with a disability and try to "assist" them across the room without their permission. Wow, it's kind of sad that they need to tell poll workers that. Still I'm glad they included that in the training. I'm sure they don't want a bunch of idiots condescending to voters with disabilities and making them feel uncomfortable about voting.

The conflict management instructions are old hat to anyone who ever worked a customer service job. Be friendly to voters and if they're having a problem, treat them like you're sorry and you want to help them fix it. Again, it's kind of sad that they need to instruct poll workers not to be assholes to voters. Maybe they get a lot of people who never had to wait on people for a living. There's a hilarious list of phrases we're not to use, like "What is your problem?" and "What do you expect me to do about it?"

Last night I worked on the training while listening to Sean's all Nature Boy mystery show. Which was kind of hilarious when the training videos started up. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn .... " "In this session you will learn your responsibilities and obligations as a poll worker." This afternoon I listened to Illinois Street Lounge, which actually worked really well. It added that perfect something-something to listen to "Happy Go Lively" or "Patricia" while watching goofus/galant videos of voting scenarios with bad vs. good attitudes. If only we could listen to that kind of music on Election Day!

ship ahoy

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April 8 movie: Ship Ahoy. I love this movie! It's an incredibly silly wartime romantic comedy starring Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton and featuring Nazis on a cruise ship. Highlights of the movie are the soundtrack by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (who appear in the film, ostensibly as the entertainment on the cruise ship) and a scene where Powell tap dances Morse code.

The Dorsey numbers feature Frank Sinatra, Connie Haines, Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers, none of whom are named in the credits (though Dorsey introduces Haines by name during the movie, also Buddy Rich). Sinatra sings two numbers: "Poor You" and "Last Call for Love." Dorsey also does one of my favorites, "I'll Take Tallulah," but sung by Red Skelton instead of Sinatra. Feh!

teacher's pet

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April 7 movie: Teacher's Pet. Romantic comedy starring Doris Day as a journalism teacher and Clark Gable as a newspaper editor who believes life experience is the only education worth having.

As a romance this didn't work for me at all. Gable is so much older than Day that I found his attentions towards her creepy and enjoyed the movie better when I pretended they weren't happening. As a professional comedy, this movie was spectacular. A funny and insightful look at clashing perspectives about what journalism means and what it should accomplish, and two talented, stubborn but not unreasonable people who gradually learn that their own way isn't the only way.

There's a great scene early on where Gable pretends to have no experience and signs up to be a student in Day's journalism class, so he can show her up. He argues with her in front of the class, until she tells him to go write a sample story. Day reads the story in front of the class, obviously preparing to rip it, and him, apart. When she sees how good it is, she apologizes to him in front of everyone and says it's the best story she's ever seen in a class. Instead of smirking with a "gotcha" triumph, Gable has the decency to look ashamed of himself. That's the moment when I knew I loved this movie.

One very, very shallow comment: Doris Day had an incredible ass. Gable spends much of the movie ogling it, which, creepy, but I can understand why. I was ogling her ass too. (My use of the past tense is in no way intended as a judgment on the current state of Miss Day's ass. I haven't seen a photo of her from the rear in decades, so I can't say.)

dark victory

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April 6 movie: Dark Victory. Wrapping up the Bette Davis birthday tribute with another one of her best.

the bride came c.o.d.

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April 6 movie: The Bride Came C.O.D. Extremely silly movie starring Bette Davis as an heiress running away to get married, and James Cagney as a private pilot hired by her father to prevent the marriage by kidnapping her and taking her back home to Texas. The plane runs out of gas and they crash-land outside a ghost town, and then it's basically the same as It Happened One Night. With many scenes of people falling ass-first into cactus patches.

That description makes the movie sound terrible, and it was. I still enjoyed it. I was thrilled to see it because I had tried to record it ages ago, and then someone died (I think maybe Ingmar Bergman) and TCM pre-empted all that day's programming, so I never got to see it until now. It was silly good fun. Davis gets the best line: "You're not even good enough for the cuss words I know!"

all about eve

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April 5 movie: All About Eve. What an amazing movie this is. Bette Davis is perfection, as is George Sanders and of course Thelma Ritter. Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill and Marilyn Monroe also turn in excellent performances. The weak spot for me is Anne Baxter. She doesn't ruin the movie or anything, she's a fine enough actress. But "fine enough" just isn't enough on the same screen with the likes of Davis and Sanders. I wonder what this movie would have been like if someone like Patricia Neal had played Eve.

telltale signs

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How I know I am pedantic: This morning I was trying to decide which Drupal book to order. Looked at sample chapters online for a couple of books. Picked the one which used "comprise" correctly on the first page.

That's not the only reason to get this book; I probably would have ordered this one anyway. But it was definitely a deciding factor. Misuse of "comprise" annoys me to no end because people often use the word when they're trying to sound formal and educated. And then they get it wrong! It's better to speak normally than to misuse ten dollar words in a misguided attempt to sound intellectual.

ps: if you're not sure whether you use "comprise" correctly: put "comprise" in a sentence and then substitute "include." If the sentence still makes sense, then you got it right. People misuse "comprise" as a synonym for "compose" but it really isn't at all. The parts compose the whole; the whole comprises the parts.

hot afternoon

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Circumstances beyond my control -- an unexpected work phone call at lunch time, followed by an afternoon meeting at a restaurant, which turned out to be closed due to a broken water main -- I ended up having to skip lunch and then sit outside in the sun for hours, with nothing to eat or drink. On the first hot day of the year too. Finally got to eat lunch around 4, at the post-meeting meeting. This is a recipe for a headache, and by the time I got home at around 5 I was definitely feeling the "funny feeling" that usually precedes a bad one. For once I had the sense to take medicine immediately, drink lots of fluids and lay down. And I managed to avoid the headache, whew!

It bummed me out extremely not to get any yardwork done on a beautiful day like today. At least I got outside and took a few pictures after I was sure the headache wasn't going to happen. This is such an exciting time of year in the garden. Every day something new is emerging. This year we're starting to see volunteer plants we actually want: patches of black-eyed susan here and there, sunflowers that reseeded from last year, and even a whole patch of yarrow where I'm sure I didn't plant any. What fun!

lookie, i'm on the radio

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The People's Pharmacy headache show was posted on their site today. They used more of my interview than I expected. Including one bit early on where I said "kind of" four or five times in two sentences. Wow, me so articulate!

After my thing they interviewed a headache expert and asked him to talk about me specifically. Which was kind of weird. Like I was getting a personal consult, in the third person. His main advice for me was to take the damn Imitrex. I know, I know, I'm sure he's right.

I did learn a lot from the show. For instance I didn't know that Excedrin and Excedrin migraine are the exact same thing; it's just a marketing gimmick. At least I buy the store brand so I'm not a total marketing dupe. Also I didn't know that it's important to take headache medication only three times a week at most. Dammit. I've taken it every day this past week, just in case a mild headache turned into another killer. And I have a mild headache right now. Guess I'll just cross my fingers. The show also listed some vitamins which can work as a headache preventative, which I may try.

Anyway I recommend the show if you're dealing with headaches.

catching up

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It's been a pretty good weekend. Friday night was the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica, woo! I thought it was a good episode. Not perfect, but you know, it's just a TV show. I'm lucky that I only started watching the series recently, and I just got caught up when the season 3 DVDs came out a couple of weeks ago. So I didn't have to wait a year like the folks who had been watching all along did.

Saturday morning I visited with Moses. Who was very cooperative about the whole thing. Thanks Mose-man!

Saturday afternoon Joe and I volunteered for Obama. They sent us to the bus depot in downtown Durham to register people to vote. It worked pretty much like I expected: there's a mail-in form which we ask people to fill out on the spot. We return the forms to the Obama office, which mails them to the board of elections.

The bus depot was not actually as good of a location as I had hoped. When the buses show up there's a throng of people ... who are all rushing to get a bus. And don't want me jumping in front of them with a clipboard, cheerily asking "Excuse me sir, are you registered to vote?" So the throng of rushing people rush to their buses, and then the buses leave, and then there are 6-8 people left ... for the next 20 minutes. So there was a lot of downtime.

We did have some nice conversations during the downtime. One guy told us that he used to do the same work for pay. He seemed surprised that we were doing it as volunteers! He said he had worked mainly for the Natural Law party (remember them? I did; Joe didn't), and had also worked for the Republicans and Democrats. He said that back in the early 90s the Democrats paid $8 per hour, and the Republicans paid $8 per registration! Gee, I wonder which party has more money?

That guy also saw how much time we spent just sitting around waiting for the next bus, and tried to give us helpful advice. He told us to go to Franklin Street that night because there was going to be a big event for the basketball game. I thought it was really sweet that he was trying to help us be more productive & less lame.

We were there for a little over an hour and only registered 3 people. On the bright side, those 3 people seemed really happy about it. Two of them even approached me! And one of them took an extra form for his aunt. Lots of the people I talked to said they had been registered in the past couple of days, either there at the bus stop or at the library. That was heartening.

After volunteering I was completely wiped out. (Have I ever mentioned that I'm painfully introverted? I've worked hard at overcoming it, but interacting with people still tires me out. And interacting with dozens of people who don't want to talk to me really tires me out). So I took some headache pills, then took a nap. And watched Bette Davis movies all evening.

Today I had my show, which was fun as always, and also did a couple of hours of weeding. It's kind of miserable to weed when the ground is all wet, but that's the best time to do it. The roots lift right out of the wet soil. Sometimes you can pull out a dandelion's entire tap root without any tools, just by gently tugging.

Also Georg and I had some excitement on the way home from the radio station. There was a dog wandering around in the middle of the road, and a couple of people trying to catch him. We pulled over to help as did several other people, and two cops also. The poor thing was some kind of hound, obviously terrified. He had a collar but no tag. We chased him off Main St. and made a loose circle around him on one of the side streets between Main and Hillsborough. He kept running in circles, back and forth, right past us but just out of reach. He wanted to stay near us but wouldn't get close enough for anyone to grab him. Eventually a K9 cop arrived with his dog. The stray came to the police dog, but still wouldn't let the cop close enough to touch him.

We had been there about 45 minutes when the cops announced that they were giving up. We left then too. The K9 cop was clearly an expert dog handler. If he couldn't get that dog, we sure couldn't. I appreciate their trying for so long. And I'm glad to live in a small enough town that the police would even care about a stray dog in the road. I still feel bad about the dog. I think I'm going to avoid driving on Hillsborough Road tomorrow. If he did get hit, I don't want to see the body.

stardust: the bette davis story

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April 5 movie: Stardust: the Bette Davis Story. It's Bette Davis' 100th birthday today, and they're showing her movies all day on TCM. Including this documentary from a couple of years ago. Lots of great clips, including one of my favorites from The Cabin in the Cotton: "I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair!"

It was interesting to compare this to the Davis biography I read a couple of months ago. Davis' oldest daughter comes off particularly badly here. The daughter apparently wrote a nasty Mommie Dearest style biography then became a premillenial dispensationalist. And told a reporter, after Bette died, that she didn't care because her mother hadn't been part of her life anyway. That's Christian compassion for you.

now, voyager

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April 5 movie: Now, Voyager. I adore this movie.

April 4 movie: The Ed Sullivan Show: Tribute to the Red, White and Blue. Patriotic clips from the Ed Sullivan show. I rented this because it included a "rare performance by Irving Berlin," about whom I'm doing a tribute show on May 11. Well, Irving Berlin's song was recorded in 1968, when he was 80 years old and his voice was shot. And for the second half of the song he's backed by about a hundred Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Blech!

Otherwise the clips have some great moments, notably Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" and the drill teams of the Army and Navy doing amazing tricks with bayonets. And ridiculous as well, especially a couple of Vietnam-war era numbers. First Loretta Lynn did "God Bless America Again," a spoken word piece about how troubled America was, and how God should take her by the hand and get rid of those damned hippies. Well that was the gist of it.

Second was an astonishingly offensive number by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, admonishing antiwar protesters to quit their yapping or else. I quote the refrain: "If you don't love it, leave it! Let this song I'm singing be a warning. When you're running down our countrymen, you're walking on the fighting side of me." The song also included a couple of anti-immigrant jabs about how Roy and Dale love America because it's the country of their birth.

nova: the great escape

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April 2 movie: Nova: The Great Escape. Great documentary follows archeologists uncovering Stalag Luft III, the real-life site of the events fictionalized in The Great Escape. The archeologists find "Dick," the third tunnel which the Nazis never discovered. Inside they find supplies like the air tunnel and a lantern (made from powdered milk cans) and a forged government stamp (made from a shoe sole). Three survivors of the escape attempt are interviewed about their experiences and then brought to the dig. The best moment in the show is when the archeologists show the tunnel entrance to the soldiers, and one of them (in his 90s at this point) silently but clearly mouths the words "son of a bitch!"

the howards of virginia

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March 31 movie: The Howards of Virginia. Revolutionary War era melodrama starring Cary Grant and Martha Scott. Grant plays a rough pioneer in buckskins and a crazy accent; Scott is a refined Virginia lady. The best acting in the movie is by Cedric Hardwicke as Scott's Tory brother.

bop girl goes calypso

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March 31 movie: Bop Girl Goes Calypso. Bad. This movie was bad. A rock-n-roll singer meets an egghead professor who proves, scientifically! through the use of science! (actually by measuring decibels of applause) that rock and roll is on the way out, and calypso is the next big thing. The only reason to watch this movie is a couple of performances by Lord Flea.

patriotic duty

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I got a letter today confirming my assignment to work at the primary. I get to work at my own precinct. I wouldn't have minded wherever they had sent me, though it will be nice to be so close. Especially since I have to be there at 6 am on the day of the primary. Also the night before to set up, which I didn't know about.

The letter was from the chief judge of the precinct, and asked me to call and confirm that I'm going to be there. Which I did. Talked to a nice gentleman who I'm guessing is the judge's husband. Also I have to do training on April 17. They warned me that the person conducting the training is a stickler for punctuality & that I would be turned away if I was more than 10 minutes late. Um, I wasn't planning to be late, but thanks for the heads up!

The letter thanked us for "volunteering for this patriotic duty." I never thought of it that way before. In Italy working the polls is a civic duty -- it's randomly assigned, like jury duty. How do they select election workers in other countries?

voter registration

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For some reason, North Carolina requires voters to register at least 25 days before voting in an election. This means that April 11 is the deadline for registering to vote in the primary this year.

I talked to the Obama campaign's Durham office today and they are greatly in need of people to help with the voter registration drive. My friend Joe and I are going to go out on Saturday, weather permitting. I'm sure every party & campaign has a similar effort going on. Whatever candidate you support, encouraging voter registration seems like a worthwhile effort.

buy a rain barrel from acque belle

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The rain barrel guy came back today. Took one look at the barrel and replaced it with a new one.

The weird thing is, after that first day when I took the photo, the barrel had stopped leaking. Georg and I didn't understand it at all. We thought maybe it only leaked when completely full, but even after all that rain over the weekend, no leak. I told the rain barrel guy we could keep the one we had, since the leak had apparently stopped, but he insisted on replacing it. He said he hadn't noticed the patch before and wouldn't have given me that one if he had. He speculated that maybe whatever had been used to patch it swelled when it got wet. That would explain why it leaked at first, and then stopped.

He tipped the barrel over to dump the water out: wow that was a lot of water. It knocked the blocks off level in the soft soil, which no big deal, we have time to fix it before it rains again. The barrel guy happened to mention that he was going to remove the parts and use that one for a trash can. I had a light bulb moment and realized that I had been wanting to make compost tea this year, for which I need another barrel, which will not stay full all the time, so the patch isn't a huge problem. So I offered to buy the patched barrel from him, instead of him taking it away. He gave it to me for $30, which he said was his cost for the parts.

While the patched barrel is empty, I think I'm going to add some caulk to the inside of the patch. That way the water pressure will force the caulk into the crack, rather than just a patch on the outside which would have water forcing its way out.

So now we have 3 rain barrels for $150. What a deal! If you have any interest in rain barrels I highly recommend Patrick at Acque Belle. He drove all the way out here, was friendly, inexpensive, and stood by the product. I really couldn't ask for more. And I would love to send more business his way since he was so good to us. (Nice to Jane too, even though she barked at him!)

vox pop

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One good thing came out of yesterday's headache extravaganza: the People's Pharmacy interviewed me. Coincidentally this week's show is about head pain and they needed a short description of a headache.

Their studio is in the tobacco warehouse downtown. It's really different from WXDU: everything looks shiny and new, with not a cigarette butt or graffito to be seen. And they have a producer who pushed all the buttons in a different room. I was a little nervous, surprising considering I'm already on the radio once a week. Or not surprising, considering their show is nationally syndicated and my show's listeners number in the tens. At least!

I'm going to be a very small part of the show: just a minute or two describing chronic headaches, which they'll drop in before the main interview. After they stopped recording they told me I was describing classic migraine symptoms and I should go to a head pain clinic. Which I probably should. They also took me on a tour of WUNC, which was really interesting. I didn't realize the space was so big. Besides the studio where the Graedons recorded me, there's a bigger studio in the front where they record The State of Things, another smaller one for the person who introduces Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and an open area in the middle called "the hive" where the news people work. The boards all look a lot like WXDU's board, only smaller. Oh and they have a nice server room too. I counted 9 racks, all full. Actually there might have been another row of racks in the back, I'm not sure.

So anyway, if you get the People's Pharmacy radio show, you can hear me complain about my headache for a minute or two in the upcoming show. If your local NPR station doesn't get the show, the podcast will be on their website on Monday.

one of those days

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A headache is bad enough. A bad headache, the kind that makes me nauseous, is worse. A bad headache that lasts more than a full day? Sucks.

At least it finally seems to be gone. I'm going to sleep.

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