Thursday, November 30, 2006

Road Pictures

Weekend Assignment #141: Do you enjoy traveling? Not the arriving and being where you're going, mind you; I'm asking if you enjoy the actual act of traveling from one place to another, by car or train or airplane or whatever. What I'm asking is if you enjoy the journey as much as you enjoy the destination.

Extra credit:
Any more travel planned for 2006, or are you home for good for the rest of the year?

In his answer to his own assignment, John Scalzi distinguishes between travel by car and travel by airplane. This seems reasonable, because they're very different experiences in some ways. I'd also like to mention a few other modes of transportation that affect the nature of the experience: bus, train, and ship. For me it breaks down like this:

Car: great for messing around and exploring along the way. I will usually do so when I'm the one driving. Even when I'm with John, we sometimes find ourselves driving through odd little towns like Gila Bend and Quartzsite, and imagining what life there is like. The downside is the travel time. Because we live so far west and John doesn't like to fly, I'm unlikely to get Back East to see my brother (and the A Christmas Story House and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) or my dad (and the Atlantic Ocean) or Manlius and environs unless I come up with both plane fare and the cost of a rental car, and go alone.

Airplane: fastest and best way to conquer long distances when you don't have a month to get there. Plane travel doesn't bother me at all, although it can be a bit boring and the layovers can be tedious. I like looking out the window, though, when there's anything to see. Trying to make sense of the landmasses below can be a rather challenging game. Perhaps I should use Google Maps to figure that stuff out.

Train: good for medium distances between cities, e.g. London to Liverpool or East Syracuse to New York City. Tucson to (for example) Washington DC, though, would be long, tedious and expensive, and there just isn't much train service Out West any more because of the distances involved and the economics of train travel in the 21st century.

Ship: another mode with a motion sickness issue, but it can be fun. I was on the Oceanic with my mom several years before Premier Cruise Line went under after 9/11.

Bus: a little tedious and depressing. A long ride, little personal control over the where and when, and motion sickness can be a problem.

My favorite? Clearly, for most purposes, I prefer to

Travel by Car

I don't mind flying,
Trains can be cool,
Bus rides are trying
(Whether Greyhound or school).
Boats make me queasy,
But driving is easy.
Put me in a car,
And give me some time.
If it's not awfully far,
I'll get lost, I'll explore,
And still wish for more.
That's the journey sublime!
(And the last of this rhyme.)

This is what I do the most of, but not nearly as often any more as in yesteryear. Too bad, because much as I like Tucson, after a while I start to feel there's a three-mile-long leash that keeps me from straying too far from Wilmot Road.

Still, I did get away from Tucson four times this year, and I'm very happy about that, because some years I never leave town at all. Every one of these trips was by car, and every one of them involved the taking of at least one picture en route:

The Sedona-Los Alamos Trip

Sunset Point
Pronghorn near the VLA

The destination was Los Alamos, but I took the scenic route going up, and an eight hour side trip coming back. This added considerably to my travel time - and my enjoyment. Even though I was alone except in Los Alamos itself, I really didn't find any part of the drive tedious, except for the long drive from one end of Tucson to the other, on my way out of town. There was always something interesting going on: impending sunset at Sunset Point rest area, surprising radio stations, mountains and rivers, cross winds and dust devils, construction zones and choices of routes, billboards and odd roadside attractions. Even the annoyance of not being able to find the turnoff for the Very Large Array in New Mexico led to my driving past and through a herd of pronghorns on the way back to the highway.

The Harlan Ellison Day Trip

In deference to concerns about showing kids in online photos,
here's a shot with the father (left) but not the son.

In May I made a day trip to a hotel in Tempe, Arizona to attend the Nebula Awards Weekend, where my old acquaintance Harlan Ellison was accepting the Grand Master Award. On the way up I stopped at Picacho Peak and enjoyed a little roadside kitch. On the way back (I think this was aroud midnight) I observed a father and his little boy at an Inn-N-Out Burger. They're building one of these places in Tucson, finally.

The Pizza with Sarah Trip

Picacho Peak at sunset, as seen from the driver's side mirror
while foolishly diving south on a rather pointless access road.

A week after that, I drove back to Tempe to finally meet Sarah K. in person, having known her for over a decade online. I thoroughly researched the pizza place we went to in Scottsdale, but it was a disappointment. On my way back, I took one of my favorite sunset photos ever, not because of the sunset itself so much as the framing of Picacho Peak in my side mirror.

The Disneyland Trip

Windmills, right around sunset I think, powering a casino.

Cypresses near Buckman Springs rest area,
where we nearly always, um, rest.

Our last trip for this year (so much for the Extra Credit!) was to Disneyland in October. Unless I'm forgetting something, this was my only out of town trip with John this year. Even though the Southern Route (I-10 to I-8, go to San Diego and turn north), the Northern Route (I-10 to somewhere around San Bernardino at least) and the Hybrid Route (I-8 to the Gila Bend turnoff and north to I-10) are pretty familiar territory after 20 years of trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios and Hollywood Book and Poster, I still pull out the camera while John drives, and try to catch a mountain pass or the morning fog or a bank of windmills or whatever else is interesting along the way.

Um, what was the question? Oh, yes. You betcha: I like the journey very much--especially with camera in hand.


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Freak Weather Conditions

This morning, I stepped outside into the remains of overnight rain. The windshield was wet, and the sky was completely blanketed in blue-gray clouds. Despite being late for work, I grabbed my camera and took a couple of cloud shots for you. Here they are, completely unedited except for resizing:

I swear to you, I was shocked when I downloaded the photos tonight and saw the rainbow on them. After two years of trying to capture rainbows with a camera with only minimal success, I finally got a few decent shots of one, and didn't even know it! In my hurry this morning, I didn't even see the rainbow!

Either that, or I'm misremembering, and didn't take any photos this morning. This magical appearance of rainbow pictures may be from the same source as the mysterious appearance of the photos several months back of the crane lifting the neighbors' fallen tree. Maybe John took the pictures, and forgot to mention it. Yes, that seems more likely. I know I saw clouds this morning, and raindrops on the windshield. But the actual photography I seem to remember may be from a day or two ago.

Here are the two photos put together, with a little editing:

Neat, huh?

Being a bit late for work, as I said, I had to park "beyond the berm" this morning in the very full parking lot. When I came outside at lunch, I had to fight a strong, cold, horizontal wind to get to the car.

Here's what that long "beyond the berm" row of parking looks like. At least, that's how it looked at lunchtime today. It's actually twice as long as it looks here. I was standing in the middle of it.

There's something odd about the picture, though. Where are the Santa Catalina Mountains? Can you even see them here?

How about now, with the camera zoomed in and the resulting photo darkened quite a bit?

Yes, the mountains were almost completely hidden by a dust storm. This is that old familiar intersection, the Crosswalk of Death, where you can normally see the mountains in all their moods. But today they were hiding.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Round Robin: Thankful for My Unseen Friend

Hi, folks! This week's Round Robin Photo Challenge, "What You Are Thankful For", coms to us from Tammy, of The Daily Warrior. I could give you a list and pictures of things I'm thankful for - living in Tucson, a good job, the Internet and so on - but instead I'm going to expound a little on my answer to a recent Weekend Assignment, in which I said:

I'm thankful that John still puts up with me after all these years. Nearly three decades after we first met, he's still my best friend, my inspiration, my confidante, my travel companion, my main source of intellectual stimulation, my personal humorist, my sounding board, the thorn in my side, my connection for news about Doctor Who and other media, and most of all, the love of my life.

Now, John doesn't like me to post photos of him, especially without his express permission. So let me show him to you indirectly:

This is a fairly typical view of our kitchen table, with John's stuff on it. That's his Disneyland jacket, his backpack, and his Buckaroo Banzai cap - one of them, anyway. As you can also see, he just bought more detergent, and trail mix.

He's a man of (pop) culture...

And he likes his toys.

He's well-read, but he also works with his hands. He built these bookcases.

He also works hard at taking good care of himself. Note the comfy chair isn't used so much for sitting in as to put junk in.

Now go see what other people are grateful for. And, as usual, you're welcome to join in yourself!


~~~ Linking List ~~~

The Daily Warrior

Steven POSTED!

Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly

Outpost Mâvarin

Nancy Luvs Pix

Blah Blah Blog

Suzanne R POSTED!
New Suzanne R's Life

Danella POSTED!
Deep Red Style

R's Musings

Gattina POSTED!
Keyhole Pictures

Caylynn ***Welcome New Member***
Caylynn's Contemplations

Gannet Girl POSTED!
Search the Sea

Life Through My Lens

Sassy - POSTED!
Sassy's EYE

Fond Of Photography

Gina - POSTED!
Gina's Space

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pretty Big Rocks

Your Monday Photo Shoot: You know what you think is pretty. Show us. It can be a person, a place, or thing, just as long as the primary reaction you (and hopefully others) get from seeing it is, my, that's pretty. It's so simple that your major difficulty, I expect, will be narrowing down the field to one thing.

Do you know where this is?

That's right: Sedona! I think this may be called Bell Rock.

Double-click each photo to view larger.

In an effort to find something really nice that a) isn't a sunset and b) I haven't posted before, I went all the way back to my April 2006 trip to Sedona, Arizona. As you may recall, I was on my way to Los Alamos, NM - but Sedona is prettier. The following three shots were "also rans" back in April, not quite as good as the ones I did post. But I did a little work on them tonight (mostly darkened them a bit) in PhotoStudio 5.5, which (you may also recall) I got fairly recently with purchase of a new scanner/printer.

Most interesting spam text of the night:

Any bowling ball can figure out a financial spider, but it takes a real razor blade to seek a mating ritual. If a surly pork chop dances with a boiled grizzly bear, then the tape recorder around a stovepipe dies. Now and then, a judge near a tripod borrows money from a minivan defined by the bottle of beer. Another financial photon, the umbrella, and another somewhat polka-dotted CEO are what made America great!

Sounds like a Madlib, doesn't it?

It's late, late, late, and I'm going to bed. Good night!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Before and After

Tonight, a few more sunset pictures from Saturday, and an update on my horrible backlog of unread mail. I finally took Carly's advice of a month ago, and gave up on catching up everyone's unread posts from October and most of November. Sorry folks, it just got out of hand. The farther behind I got, the harder it was to face up to opening all those FeedBlitz emails and reading the posts therein, and therefore the farther behind I got, and therefore....

I started the weekend with 158 unread emails on my Mavarin screen name, which was actually down from some awful higher number. I managed to clear enough AOL Alerts and Tucson Citizen updates and nudgings such to get the count down to 80 or so. Sunday I noticed that the oldest ones had aged off - and that's pretty much when I decided to give up. So tonight, after three hours of sleep Saturday night and a long day of editing A Christmas Story on Wikipedia in connection with a controversy over trivia and copyright, I got ruthless with the email. Technorati and Borders updates and FeedBlitz, I deleted unread. Come to think of it, FeedBlitz was my blog backup system, but oh, well. AOL Alerts I'd saved to deal with later, I opened and skimmed. Writer's Digest: ditto. Email count as of this moment: 25.

Yes, I still owe comments on Round Robin, and I will take care of that, just in time to do the next Challenge!

Okay, now for a few more sunset pictures. I keep telling you about my favorite nearby spot for sunset photos being near my local Safeway. So here's a shot that combines the Safeway sign with sunset, looking south.

After I left Safeway, I started trying to chase down a shot of some really dark red orange streaks that grew more brilliant as I drove - and then faded into dusk. I never got to a place where buildings weren't in the way, and then it was too late. The photo aboe is as close as I got.

And this is how the sky looked, more or less, when I got home a few minutes later.


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Return of Tucson Sunset

It's been a while since I was outside at sunset, especially a cloud-charged one. I went a little nuts with it - 41 shots, which I just spent two hours editing. The color was legitimately pretty spectacular to the naked eye as sunset started to turn to dusk. I've saturated a few of these, but mostly just to match what I actually saw.

These aren't necessarily the best of the batch. Tonight I'm just going to show you (again) how sunset in Tucson takes up the whole horizon:




West (well, southwest)

West (really)

No more words tonight. Catch you tomorrow.


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Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Sucker for Christmas

laying a finger aside of her nose

Two days down, two to go on this four day weekend.

Today was mostly a day of accomplishing glorious nothing. I'm not sure whether to be chagrined or pleased about that. But I got nine hours of sleep, barely, watched commentaries and featurettes about Looney Tunes, fussed with the Wikipedia article on A Christmas Story, and, for the past eight hours or so, watched movies on tv. First there was Bruce Almighty, and then a chunk of Ice Princess with Michelle Trachtenberg, which turned out to also have the actress who plays Claire Bennet the Cheerleader on Heroes.

Once I got to the point in the story I'd seen before, when Tina betrays Casey, I switched to something called A Boyfriend for Christmas, in which Charles Durning as Santa fulfills a 20-year-old request by getting two people together at last. It annoyed me a bit that the cute lawyer guy introduced himself as Douglas Firwood, and annoyed me more that she didn't catch the obvious pseudonym, especially considering he was carrying a Douglas Fir at the time. I guess I've seen one too many romantic comedies in which the couple gets together under false pretenses, the person lies to learns the truth and gets all mad, and then somehow all is forgiven at the end. Phooey.

But I watched it anyway, because the characters and story had already grabbed me, and because I'm a sucker for "Santa is real" movies. And then I saw An Angel in the Family, in which a dead woman visits her family at Christmas. After that was a movie about a German woman who lets WW II soldiers from both sides spend Christmas Eve in her home as long as they leave the guns outside. And now it's Back to the Future, another movie whose Wikipedia article I've messed around with recently.

BTTF is BTTF, but mostly I've been indulging tonight in that uplifting Hallmark Channel stuff that says that magic and miracles can happen, and people can get it together with a little help and make their lives better. Now, in all reality, I only believe in Santa Claus to the extent that Francis P. Church did, more or less. I believe in the historical existence of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and in the spirit of kindness and giving, and in the ideal of behaving accordingly, especially at Christmas. But I love those fantasy movies in which that ideal is personified in an elderly gentleman with a white beard. What can I say? I love the character, and I love the whimsy, and I love the idea of there being more in Heaven and Earth, etc.

Dang. 4:30 AM. I need to go to bed!


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Friday, November 24, 2006

Late (and Getting Later)

Weekend Assignment #140: Ever been really late to something really important? Share your adventures in tardiness! Yes, if you've ever slept through a flight, or forgotten a date, or neglected to get something out of the oven in time -- with hilarious results or otherwise -- we want to know.

Extra Credit: Do you wear a watch?

I'm tired. Can I do this later? Seriously. I got up this morning for church, I've been busy all day and all night, and in the last 20 minutes my brain and body have told me in no uncertain terms that they decline to function adequately until I after get some major sleep. Tune in Friday afternoon, though. I'll update this entry to include:

1. The All County Choir Story
2. The Sliding Office Hours Explanation
3. The Universal Parking Garage Story

Maybe once I've slept I'll be able to remember that third one better.

Meanwhile, the extra credit: no, I can't wear a watch. It irritates my wrist. I check the time on my Sprint phone instead - far more often than I actually make calls with it.


Well, I'm late in updating this. Does that count? I meant to do it as soon as I got up this afternoon, but John had on some featurettes and commentaries from a Looney Tunes Golden Collection and I could not walk away. Yes, I know Scalzi specifies being late for something "important," but these things are important to me.

Okay. Let's tackle what I promised last night:

1. The All County Choir Story

When I was in high school, I had a moderately good voice - not professional quality, not anything special, but what I mean is I could carry a tune in a bucket. I tried out for all the select choirs and singing groups at school, including the OK Chorale and Swing Sixteen. I was successful in getting into the least selective of them - yes to OK Chorale, no to Swing Sixteen, yes to the Choraliers, no to something else whose name I've forgotten.

The logical extension of all this was to audition, as had my brother Steve before me, for the All Country and Area All State. I think Steve actually made it to All State, but Area All State was as far as I got. There's a story connected with my one Area All-State performance, but I've told that story at least once. (I've spent the last hour looking for it via Google, but it's hiding from me. Found some other interesting stuff, th0ugh! **Another hour goes by.** Aha! Here it is.)

But this is meant to be the All-County story, not the Area All-State one. Don't worry; it's short, if I ever get to it. One year when I made All-County...wait a sec. I've told this before, too, on my LiveJournal. Copy and Paste (with a quick revision) coming right up.

Somehow I had double-scheduled myself that Saturday. In one part of my brain, I was going to some neighboring municipality for the mandatory All-County rehearsal, without which one isn't allowed to be in the concert itself a week or two later. In another part of my brain, I knew I was supposed to babysit the kids next door. It was early that afternoon before I suddenly realized this was the day of the rehearsal. I felt awful. I called. It was too late to go. No All County for me that year. It wasn't just the disappointment of not getting to be in the concert. It was the fact that I'd messed up, badly.

But I did something similar a year or so later (she said, introducing another anecdote). Gene Roddenberry was coming to Syracuse, and he was going to hold a press conference in which he was going to talk about a new Star Trek series. (This was about 1975. The new series with the old cast didn't happen. The movies happened instead, a few years later.) My mom made arrangements with someone at Syracuse University (where the speaking engagement was to be that night) to get me into the press conference. I got out of school to do it, taped it and I think asked two questions.

Problem was, I had a job at Friendly Ice Cream in Fayetteville, and I'd forgotten to ask for the Thursday night off when Roddenberry would be speaking. I checked the schedule, and sure enough, I was supposed to work that night. Or so I thought. When I showed up for work on Thursday at 6 PM (or 5 PM, whenever it was), I was fired - for failing to show up for work on Wednesday night! Id been so hung up worrying about missing Roddenberry that I'd misread the schedule! So: happy ending. I got to see Roddenberry's appearance that night after all. And I got rid of a job I was really starting to dislike anyway.

There are circumstances in which it's not so bad to be out of sync with time.


2. The Sliding Office Hours Explanation

Generally speaking, few elements of any job are considered more important than the basic requirement of showing up for work. Someone in my company's HR department told me recently that she once was "written up" by a former employer for being five minutes late, due to a phone call about the fact that her father was dying.

I'm glad to say that m department at Unnamed Largish Company is not like that. Even the electronic time sheets we have now are to be rounded to the nearest hour. Yes, we need to work forty hours a week (at least), but nobody seems to care much exactly when those hours are, as long as the bulk of them are during the day on weekdays.

When I got the job in May of 2005, I was a little distressed to hear my hours were to be 8 AM to 5 PM. I was used to a 9 AM to 6 PM schedule at Worldwide Travel, which I had gradually let slide to 9:30 to 6:30 before Mal told me to cut it out. But over the last year and a half, I've done the same thing at ULC. I started coming in later and leaving later, so that now my "normal" schedule is 9 to 6. Everyone knows about it and nobody seems to mind, but I think I've taken it as far as I can reasonably go. Besides, by 9:01 AM the main parking lot is usually full, and I have to park "beyond the berm" (as I call it) in the long row behind the main lot.

3. The Universal Parking Garage Story

I've have trouble sorting out the chronology of this one in my brain, and it's likely that I'm conflating a couple different incidents. But I think this is more or less right:

I made a number of trips to Universal Studios Hollywood between 1990 and 1993 in connection with Quantum Leap, which was in production there at the time. In one of those trips, I drove or lew to L.A. and crashed with my childhood friend Joel, who was kind enough to take me in and hang out with me for a day or two. I was to meet with another fan named Carol, possibly visit the set of Tequila and Bonetti, and go to U.C.L.A. that evening for a Q&A session with Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Donald P. Bellisario, Deborah Pratt and Michael Zinberg. (For those of your who may not know, they were the stars and some of the producers of Quantum Leap, and Zinberg had just directed a key episode.)

Well, I managed to get a ticket for the UCLA thing, and had a fine time on the soundstage where T&B was being shot. I got to see Charles Rocket do the same line of dialogue half a dozen ways in rapid succession, met former wrestler Terry Funk (no relation), and chatted with actor W.K. Stratton and stunt coordinator Diamond Farnsworth. But it was hard to drag myself away, and it was 5 PM or later before we managed to walk out of the building. Then we had to sign out of the lot and find the right parking garage - there were several.

Now here's where the memory gets fuzzy. I don't remember whether John was picking us up at Universal at 5 PM, or whether we were supposed to drive and meet him somewhere. All I know is that we were about 40 minutes late, and John was frantic. By the time we got to UCLA, we'd missed nearly half of the screening of "The Leap Home," Parts One and Two run together. I don't really regret that,only the worry I gaveJohn. He no longer remembers the incident (I just asked), so I guess I can take that of my mental list of past misdeeds to feel guilty about.


Thanksgiving went fine. Here are a few pictures to tide us all over:

The spread

Hereby hangs a tale. Sort of.

More when I'm conscious again.


*****Later Again*****

The significance of that last shot is that each of those bowls contained something that was just for me. The sausage and bread stuffing has a handful or so of trail mix in one area, which was as close as I could get to my Mom's sausage and raisin stuffing of yesteryear without ruining it for John. The yellow stuff is rutabagas, which were always a part of Thanksgiving dinner when I was a kid. Here's how they look raw:

I'm glad to say that my Dad also ate rutabagas yesterday. John doesn't like them, though. One of the things the Funk family of Manlius NY liked to do was mix them with the leftover mashed potatoes on Friday night. I can still do that tonight, if John hasn't finished the potatoes. But we're almost out of turkey and cranberry sauce and completely out of stuffing - with and without the trail mix. Drat!

And now I'd better consult with John about dinner. See you later tonight with my Friday night entry.


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Thursday, November 23, 2006

All This, and Pumpkin Too!

Note: John Scalzi posted his Weekend Assignment topic a day early, but I'll be doing my response to it on Thursday as usual.

Well, my holiday weekend is off to a good start. After days (weeks, years) of indecision about where we will be eating Thanksgiving dinner (home or in a restaurant; if the latter,then which one?), we discussed our options and I made a few phone calls. No, KonTiki isn't serving dinner tomorrow. No, John doesn't want to chance waiting outside Marie Callendar for 45 minutes again even with a reservation. No, the buffet at the DoubleTree has no openings left except at 10:00 AM - and their dinner is $45 per person. No, Mimi's has no reservations left.

So we went shopping. I was at Safeway last night after my late night at the office, and saw that they still had a lot of food for the holiday. As of tonight, this was still true. One of the first things we saw was this:

Hooray for Pumpkin Anything! The attractively packaged mix for Pumpkin Bread came with a cinnamon grater. The one for Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie came with a whisk. Neato! But we didn't buy these. It was enough for now to photograph them.

These two items, on the other hand, I simply could not pass up. Last year we saw a display that was labeled as having Jello brand pumpkin pudding, but in reality had nothing of the sort. This year, we got the last box of the flavor in Safeway's holiday cooking display at the front of the store. The other stuff is pumpkin-flavored cheese(!), for which I bought crackers. That and beef stick will be lunch or a snack or something tomorrow. Breakfast will be the traditional Pillsbury orange rolls I've had on holiday mornings for over 40 years.

As for the main event, this is simply the first time I can remember, ever, in which we seem to have gotten everything I wanted for a holiday meal in a single trip to a single store, particularly the night before the big day. They didn't have giblet gravy, but that hardly counts - nobody ever has that any more. The store made up for this lack with turkey gravy, now in microwavable jars. Nifty! Mindful of the leftovers problem that arises from a whole turkey for just two people, we settled for a boneless turkey roast, the kind with both white and dark meat. I was surprised and pleased that the store wasn't out of these. Stuffing cubes - check. We're skipping the day-old bread, but I did get the sausage for the stuffing once John reminded me. Cranberry orange relish for me, jellied cranberry sauce for John - check. Rutabagas - check. Yams -check. Rum for John's egg nog, sparkling cranberry apple for me - check. And we got pre-made mashed potatoes and green bean casserole to cut down on the labor and dirty dishes.

Despite John's concerns to the contrary, this turned out to be the easiest and most pleasant pre-holiday grocery shopping in years and years. Oh, there were compromises - no drumsticks, no pumpkin pie - but overall we got what we needed, and even a few pleasant surprises. If this trend continues, tomorrow will help to lessen the bad feelings I've had about Thanksgiving at home, ever since that traumatic horror show of a meal with Mom back in 2002. It's about time I started to get over that.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!


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Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I worked a 13 hour day today - and yes I'm working tomorrow. Hooray for the 4 day weekend coming up after that! I need it desperately - for sleeping, for finally finishing my Round Robin comments, for making progress on the 127 emails on my preferred screen name alone, and maybe even a chance to read and relax and think. How can I take on reading the Bible more often or updating the church web site or working on Mages or finally writing the next installment of Lore Goes to Mâvarin, when I keep slipping further behind on everything with each passing day?

One of my friends was talking in the car on Sunday about a sermon Father Smith gave when he first arrived at St. Michael's, less than a year before I got there (I think). It was about a book called Margins, if Jan remembered correctly. The premise was that modern Americans fill up all the margins in their lives, leaving no blank spaces.

Yeah, that's about right. I have basically no down time. I don't even like down time, to be honest. Lying on a beach is my idea of excruciating boredom, not that I've done any such thing in, oh, thirty years or so. The closest I get to down time is watching a M*A*S*H rerun at 1 AM, or taking a nap when my brain simply can't continue otherwise.

But what are the alternatives? Too much to do, and I don't get it all done. Give me some time, and I'll fill it up with Wikipedia or some tv show or a book or maybe a meal and shopping with my husband. It's always easier to do the stuff I want to do than the stuff I need to do. But does that mean I mustn't watch two hours of tv after 13 hours at work? Am I not entitled? Must I apply discipline, at the expense of the relatively little time I spend in unscheduled fun? Is there something actually wrong with writing a Wikipedia article about Zachary Gray before going to bed for just six hours, up from four the previous night? Must I draw ruled lines in my margins, to fit in all the stuff I should be doing?

Well, I don't have to answer all these questions tonight. I'm going to bed now, for a little over five and a half hours. I probably won't have to work until 6 PM tomorrow, and after that is the long weekend. We have no idea yet what we're doing for Thanksgiving dinner, but we'll work it out - I don't want to cook, and John doesn't want to go to Marie Callendar. Any suggestions?


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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tuffy: 1, Br'er Rabbit: 0

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Oh no! You and/or someone you love is being attacked by a stuffed animal! Document the moment of terror!

This should be easy. I'll use Tuffy as the loved one/victim. After all, she's afraid of almost everything!

Turns out the operative word in that sentence is "almost." Tuffy is not afraid of Br'er Rabbit, it turns out. When he attacked, she thought she was getting a rabbity hug.

Even when he poked her in the eye, she didn't retaliate.

"Hey, Sistah Tuffy! Whar did you get them spooky eyes of yours? Hey! I's talkin' to you!"

Totally unconcerned, Tuffy ignores her would-be attacker.

Br'er Rabbit tries once more,but it all goes horribly wrong. Tuffy checks to make sure he's okay. I'd advise Br'er Rabbit to quit tangling with my dog and go pester Br'er Bear.


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Monday, November 20, 2006

Unprocessed Experience

Okay, so I was wrong about whether I'd be us for writing a full entry tonight. It's the end of another incredibly long day, I never made it to the office, and I just haven't processed this morning's events yet, either intellectually or emotionally. So we'll just have to make do for now with four annotated photos.

Here is Bishop Smith, standing right next to me as he gave his sermon this morning on security and preparedness and not being afraid. I'm not going to try to explain the sermon now, but I want you to see that the man moved around far too much for me to get a decent shot at that range without flash - and I was certainly not going to shine a light in his eyes from three feet away. Kind of looks like a special effects shot of Homer Simpson or John Scalzi, doesn't he?

Here is the better of the two shots another confirmation/reception candidate managed to take of me at The Big Moment. The battery on the camera was running low by then, so I had the flash turned off, and besides that there just wasn't room to see what was going on very well, especially with some of the people I photographed. People were invited to come up and place their hand on the candidate's shoulder in a gesture of support. My friends Kevin, Jan, and Eva all stayed in their seats, and of course John wasn't even there. But Father Smith and Rev. Angela put their hands on me, and that was enough. At my feet are my church bulletin and my Book of Common Prayer, which I dropped so the bishop could take me by both hands and officially receive me into the Episcopal communion. I think I was grinning, but you can't see it here.

This is Toni Sue, our Verger. She was baptized a year and a half ago, and will probably go on to be a deacon at least. Toni Sue is very kind and outgoing, and the spiritual home she has found at St. Michael's is very important to her. Everyone in the parish has really come to love her. Knowing how important confirmation is to Toni Sue, a lot of parishioners wanted to be in on it, more than could physically get close enough to touch her. So Father Smith told the people in back to put a hand on the person in front of them. This outpouring of love made me cry.

And here is Bishop Smith again, with his dummy Dexter. He's no ventriloquist, but the kids do like it when Dexter and the bishop talk about God in between jokes.


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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Many a Slap 'Twixt the Cup and the Lap

This should be the last of my series of "I'll try to do better tomorrow" entries, for a few days at least. Today has been so long for me that it's hard to comprehend that it's been less than 18 hours since I picked up Toni Sue for Morning Prayer, Low Mass, and confirmation class. On the other had, 18 hours does sound like a long time for one day, even broken up with a two-hour-plus nap early this evening. Since getting home this afternoon I've mostly read and commented on some Round Robin entries, caught up on Julie's blog, read all about a scam association of scam literary agents, read a little L'Engle, and *gasp* done some dishes.

Now I need to get done at least a little bit of what I promised myself (and, privately, God) that I'd do today. On one of the other tabs in Firefox, I'm currently uploading a Windows Media file of Father Douglas's sermon from 11/12. (Yes, I know I should convert it to mp3, but I haven't succeeded in doing so.) If it works, I'll upload Father Smith's sermon from the week before. I also hope to get at least the church schedule part of the church schedule page updated. Other than that, I may wash a few more dishes, photograph today's purchases for this blog entry, wash my hair and go to bed.

The reason for this urgency about my church-centric tasks is that I got the date of my "Reception" into the Episcopal Church wrong. It's tomorrow at 10 AM, as Toni Sue puckishly told me over and over today. In the morning, Bishop Smith will shake my hand, and welcome me to the church I've attended for nearly a decade, the church where I carry the cross and read aloud from the Old Testament and take pictures and grab a service bulletin for the purpose, so often neglected, of posting updates to the St. Michael's website and blogs. And it occurs to me that if I'm going to take this seriously, I should do more for God, the church and its people, not less.

Oh, good. The Father Douglas sermon uploaded. I've started a blog entry for the two audio links, and now I'm uploading the Father Smith sermon. I hope. I wonder whether I have any others sitting neglected on my hard drive. Oh. I see I have, but they're older than the ones I know I've posted. Maybe I posted them, but long enough ago that they've dropped off the front page of the SMAA news blog.

I haven't taken any photos since Wednesday night; my camera must be feeling positively neglected. But here is a quick picture taken just now, actually my second try in ten minutes to photograph today's purchases. See, Toni Sue asked me what I would be wearing Sunday morning, and told me of a good deal on skirts. I was already wondering what to wear to the annual office holiday party next month, so after church and class and lunch we went to K-Mart. They didn't have any skirts for me, and the one black dress I tried on was "a world of no," as I told Toni Sue. But I got black cotton pants, nothing fancy, and these two tops, and men's 10 1/2 Thom McCann loafers to replace my perpetually dying $10 sneakers. There should also be a black headband - or maybe it's really really dark green - but it's hiding from me.

The first time I tried to photograph these clothes, there were white spots on the photo, especially the blouse on the right. Dust on the laptop's LCD screen? Nope. Dust on my lens? Yes, that's not all of it. The blouse on the right picked up dust and dog hair within a few minutes of leaving the shopping bag.

Guess I'll wear the other one tomorrow - and hope nobody thinks I'm equating Confirmation with funerals by wearing black.


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Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Saturday Morning Appointment

I love photographing St. Michael's, but I end up with a lot of unedited and unposted pictures.

Last weekend, I wrote briefly about Saturday morning at a confirmation class at St. Michael's. I meant to return to the subject in a bit more depth, but I've been busy, obsessive, insomniac and a little bit ill, so I didn't get around to it. I won't do more than scratch the surface of the topic tonight, either.

This took forever to upload because I didn't resize.

It's all part of the same problem, isn't it? This week I didn't get around to writing about why I'm in that class, or posting the baptism photos I took two weeks ago, or reading John 16 and 17, or updating the church web site, or downloading those two sermons on audio. And that's just the religious stuff I didn't get done. There's also the sleep I didn't get, and the dishes I didn't wash (did some of them, though), the laundry I didn't put away, the visits to the gym I didn't make, and the TV Guides I didn't sort through as John asked me to do a month ago. Yes, I'm busy, but mostly I'm busy doing all the wrong things.

At some point I'll be brave enough to write about angels. No, Paul, I won't be making any major claims about them.

But in five and three quarters hours I will pick up Toni Sue at Walgreen's and take her to St. Michael's, where we will sit at Mass together, followed by Confirmation class and lunch. Maybe this weekend I'll be able to stay motivated long enough to get the sermons and the web update done, and post some pictures, and think some more about what it all means to me. You see, I'm not actually getting confirmed next weekend. I went through all that at St. Ann's in Manlius in 1970, when I was 13 years old. But next weekend, at Father Smith's request, I will be "received" into the Episcopal Church, the same denomination for which I've designed web pages and carried a cross and even blogged intermittently for the past several years. Being received is the equivalent of Confirmation for people who were previously confirmed in other denominations.

I won't be joining the clergy anytime soon.

Frankly, I'm hoping to learn more and accomplish more this time around than I did when I was thirteen. My big memory of that is my staring at the buttons on Father Harrison's too-tight cassock as he told us that only Catholics went to heaven. I was shocked that any priest would still believe such a thing, much less try to pass on that outmoded teaching. The instructor of my confirmation class did some quick damage control the moment the pastor walked away.

St. Michael's isn't at all like that, of course. One of the many things I like about it is that people come to it from a variety of religious traditions, and find a spiritual home among people who like and accept each other regardless of background. I really do want to learn more about this church I've adopted, this church that's adopted me.

But lately, as I prepare for a ceremony in which the bishop will lay his hands on me while John sits at home, I find myself distracted and undisciplined, as usual. I'm not prepared at all.

I need to do better.

Guess I'll start by downloading those sermons - and going the heck to bed in the meantime.


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