Monday, June 30, 2008

The Squee Factor

Rose is back - but the rest of the news is bad for the Doctor and friends

Squee - verb, noun. To express fannish delight, especially by squealing; also refers to the expression itself and the feeling that engenders it.

Saturday's penultimate Series Four episode of Doctor Who, which will air several weeks from now on SciFi in the United States, is a rather squeeful one, in that it reunites a number of characters, brings in characters previously seen only in the spinoff shows, and brings back a major villain not seen on the show since the late 1980s. There's another fannish term being applied here, because the episode pushes all of fandom's buttons with its continuity references, beloved characters and mysteries solved, even as it sets up a major, major cliffhanger, and several only-slightly-less-major ones. The term sounds rather rude to me, so I refuse to use it.

Nevertheless, it's true that fans have gone into meltdown about the episode over the past several days, and no, I'm not going to tell you what the fuss is about. The Doctor Who Forum had its highest-ever influx of visitors the day it aired, which overloaded the Forum's servers; much the same thing also happened on at least two other fan sites. The episode is pulling a 5 out of 5 rating from about 75% of fans, which places it at #5 in fan appreciation out of the 54 episodes since 2005.

What's really interesting, though, is that all this fan squee is part of a huge reaction to the episode from the general public in the UK. It was the most-watched show of the day, and had an audience appreciation index (AI) rating of 91, the highest in the history of the series, and "one of the highest figures ever achieved for a mainstream television programme." Newspaper columnists all over the UK are speculating wildly about how the cliffhanger is to be resolved, and marveling that such a scene could exist without the information leaking in advance. Dedicated followers of set reports and YouTube spectator videos of location filming were aware of the scene that leads up to the cliffhanger, but the cliffhanger itself was on a closed set, and fan speculation about it apparently didn't reach the press until the episode aired. Even press preview copies of the episode were missing the show's last five minutes.

I've read reports of children needing reassurance, of wives taken to their beds to cry over what seems to be happening (probably an exaggeration), of co-workers accosting known fans demanding news or clarification. It is, I suppose, the biggest example of national interest in a television cliffhanger since "Who shot J.R," much bigger than the parody cliffhanger "Who shot Mr. Burns?"

For every ten squee-ers in fandom, however, there's at least one sourpuss who disapproves of the episode, the writer and the way the show is going, and confidently predicts that any minute now, the general public will catch on to how dreadful it all is, and the show will lose its viewers and be canceled again. These are fans of the show, mind you, but usually they're the ones who only like a few episodes from the modern era, and prefer the glory days of 19--, when xxx was the Doctor. One has to feel kind of sorry for these counterfactual spoilsports, who rush to label most episodes as "dreadful tosh," with bad acting and "no plot," and claim that this nonexistent plot is resolved by deux ex machina or a "reset button." Occasionally they have a point, but generally it's wildly overstated.

There are also, of course, perfectly reasonable people who dislike any given episode, and can clearly and logically explain their viewpoint. I should also mention, because I seem to have been unclear in originally posting this, that there are lots and lots of longtime fans who love the show's revival, and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the series across every era. The truly vitriolic grumps are a loud but tiny minority.

Sad to say, however, people at both ends of the squee scale tend to believe, and to state publicly, that anyone who holds the opposing view lacks critical faculties, and is probably rude to boot. People who love the episode tell the haters they don't deserve to watch the show. The haters reply that they've been watching the show for umpty-ump years, have joined the fan clubs and bought the merchandise, and know how good Doctor Who can be, if only that dreadful RTD would go away. Russell T Davies, who is preparing to turn the show over to fan favorite Steven Moffat, is the man who brought the show back after 16 years and made it more popular than ever. He's also the man who wrote the episode that all Britain is talking about this week. But there's no denying that some elements of his writing rub certain fans the wrong way. (There may be modern converts to the show who have an anti-RTD attitude, but I haven't noticed as much criticism from that quarter.)

Some of you folks have been involved in other fandoms, I'm guessing, for House and Star Trek and Buffy and who knows what else. I've gotta ask: is this level of fan frenzy and critical dichotomy a general thing, or specific to Doctor Who?


P.S. Yes, I still have a cold! *cough cough!*

New Monday Photo Shoot #27: Strange and Silly Signs

Okay, this is kind of a rerun of a 2006 Round Robin topic, but I've tried to give it a bit of a twist:

New Monday Photo Shoot #27: Show us a sign that's unusual in some way - even if you have to fake it!

I'm sure that there are lots of interesting, even silly signs where you live, so this should be fairly easy. Myself, I came up with the topic at midnight, and wasn't about to get dressed and go sign-hunting tonight! Instead I just went as far as a sign in front of my next door neighbor's house, took the picture, and then altered it in PhotoStudio. Here it is:

Just thought I'd make the suggested speed for the curve in Calle Mumble a bit more generous!

If that's not enough, here are two views of a sign that was once common in England, but now exists only on props and other representations of the Doctor's TARDIS. This first one is a detail from a pastel drawing I bought at TusCon a decade ago:

It actually didn't photograph very well; too much shine from the flash.

The other depiction is from my TARDIS beach towel:

Beyond the Doctor Who reference, I find the instructions from an old police box interesting as a relic of a bygone era before cell phones.

Now, I'm sure you can top these pictures with great funny, unusual or wickedly altered signs of your own. So how about it? Post your sign pictures to your blog or journal, and remember to leave a link back here in your blog, and a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with the results. Meanwhile, this is Karen, signing off!

New Monday Photo Shoot Results: Fabulous Fakes!

This replica tin toy has a plastic robot.

For last week's New Monday Photo Shoot I asked people to show us something that's fake in some way. The result way light in participation but high in quality:

Jama shows us a beautiful bouquet of fake flowers, and a great ersatz electric guitar.

Kiva shows us the colorful copper critters in her garden.

Thanks, Jama and Kiva! The next topic will be posted as soon as I come up with an idea for it....


Sunday, June 29, 2008


This is to let you know I probably won't make the rounds visiting the Robins' entries until tomorrow. I'm sure they're great, but you see, I'm finding it hard to do anything tonight except listen to myself pant, and wheeze, and cough. It's only a cold, not worthy of overdramatizing, but dang! Unless I feel significantly better by morning, I'm going to call Kevin and Proscovia and tell them I can't make it to church this week. That's rare for me - I think I've missed church due to illness once in the last decade, and that was with a broken ankle. But one of the priests at St. Michael's is over 90 years old and was in the hospital recently, and another has been in and out of hospitals with emphysema. I could probably avoid infecting the one, but I might be called upon to serve at mass with the other. Besides, who wants an acolyte to sit panting and coughing all through church?

Yes, Kiva, I blame you - you and your cybercold, transmitted by bytes and pixels! ;)

And yes, I've also been busy obsessing about today's episode of Doctor Who, which is among my very favorites in the 45-year history of the show. I'd like to sit and watch it again, but for technical reasons that's not possible right now. Yet I can't seem to sit at the computer for long at a stretch, either.

I think I'll go see what, if anything, a hot bath can do for my bronchial tubes (or lungs, or whatever). But first, so this entry has something in it besides Doctor Who and self-pity, here are two recent shots of Oro Valley:

Can you think of a prettier spot to wait for John to pick me up?

The view out the break room window during a storm the other day


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Round Robin: What is a Weed?

Edited for even more typos than usual, Saturday 5 PM. Blame my cold.

Welcome to my somewhat pedantic entry for this week's Round Robin Photo Challenge. The topic Weeds Can Be Beautiful Too! was suggested by Kim of the blog Nekked Lizard Adventures. Good topic - I've spent much of this evening musing about what a weed actually is, and whether I have any appropriate photos to show you.

Although I usually brainstorm and do these Challenges at more or less the last minute (more fun that way!), I've been at a slight disadvantage getting ready for this one, on a couple of counts. For one thing, I haven't been driving much the last few weeks since John's been dropping me off at my temp job; that means much less wandering and exploring than usual. I could have gone out this evening looking for weeds, and in fact I did; but I have a miserable cold right now, which kind of limited my ambition in this area. And third and finally, I live in a desert; more specifically in a city in the desert, after a dry winter and before the rains start in earnest. Really, there aren't too many beautiful weeds out there right now.

Still, I have a few new shots to illustrate my thoughts on the subject, and a few archive photos I haven't used before, as far as I know.

So what is a weed? Is it any uncultivated plant, or just one that grows where it's not wanted? Can a cultivated plant become a weed if it gets out of hand? Exhibit A:

Here's a piece of our firecracker bush sneaking toward the alcove by our front door. John put in the original hummingbird-attracting plant over a decade ago, and it keeps growing and spreading out. Here's some more of it in the alcove by one of the Tikis:

John's trimmed it back at least once, but I think it would kind of look splendid there were it not for the fact that the shade and the lack of water aren't ideal growing conditions for it. You see? Dead leaves.

So what about wildflowers in the desert? Are they weeds, or are they supposed to be there, and therefore not weeds? Can a cactus be a weed? How about a flowering shrub, growing just a few feet from natural desert?

The plant at the top of this entry turned up near the Interesting Manufacturer building. In fact, I think it was on or near the site of the building that burned down a few years ago. The gravel looks like it's there on purpose, which I suppose makes this a weed. It's not all that impressive, but at least it has little pale flowers.

None of these shots really do it for me, so let's go to the archives!

This is one of several similar shots I took with the Canon back in April 2005. I don't think the flowers were planted by John, and they aren't in the back yard any more. It was nice of Tuffy to pose with them, wasn't it? (John tells me the flowers were lantana, which he worked hard to get rid of because they tend to take over everything.)

This was one of my first shots with that camera, in March 2005, at Gates Pass. Between the earlier generation of camera and my inexperience with it, it's not a very clear or crisp photo, but you can see wildflowers and grasses and saguaros. The saguaros are very much supposed to be there, but do any of the flowers or grasses in this stretch of desert park qualify as weeds? Possibly. It's probably not as big a problem here as it is in Florida, but botanists and officials are becoming concerned about the proliferation of non-native plants in the Arizona desert. Bermuda grass, Fountain grass and most especially Buffelgrass grow wild along roadsides, in yards and in empty lots, as well as in relatively pristine desert. Buffelgrass can choke out the native cactus and shrubs, and catches fire easily, leading to devastation. One of the recent controlled burns around here was to try to reduce the buffelgrass before it causes a problem in that particular area. As I recall, even the controlled burn got a little out of hand. Another method of getting rid of the stuff is to invite concerned nature lovers to buffelgrass eradication parties. I'm not making this up!

Here's a patch of rather odd-looking grass in our front yard. Is it buffelgrass? I have no idea.

Now let's see how everyone else did in their challenge to find pretty weeds!

Linking List

Nekked Lizards

Carly - POSTED!

Keyhole Pictures

Karen - POSTED!
Outpost Mâvarin

Wammy - POSTED!
The Ellis Family Cincinnati

Jennifer Robin - POSTED!
Robin's Woods

Jama Hameed - POSTED!
Sweet Memories

Robinella - POSTED!

Olive - POSTED!
Ur Olive

Gina - POSTED!
Gina's Space

Kiva - POSTED!
The Eclectic Granny

Mary - POSTED!
Answers to the Questions

Monica - POSTED!
A Family Affair Photography

Vicki - POSTED!

Julie - POSTED!
Julie's Web Journal

Molly - POSTED!
Return Of The White Robin

Teena - POSTED!
It's All About Me!

Steven - POSTED!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend Assignment #222: Phone Me

Another moment of my life documented.

I don't recall offhand whether I've mentioned it here, but my beat up old Sanyo Sprint phone has been acting weird for a day or two. It suddenly started beeping intermittently for no reason - no alarm, no call, no voicemail, just beeping. Last night I charged the phone, and the charging light stayed on for hours after the phone was unplugged from the charger. Today the beeping was accompanied by the charging light and a display indicating the phone was being charged, even though the charger was many miles away. The phone didn't respond at first to my turning it off, and once or twice it turned itself back on and continued the same odd glitchiness. I called Sprint and they confirmed what I already suspected: I needed a new phone. Which brings me to this week's Weekend Assignment question:

Weekend Assignment #222: What do you use a phone for? Do you strictly use it to make calls and pick up messages, or do you take advantage of other technology bundled with phones these days? Which features do you use all the time, which others would you use if they were available and cheap, and which would you not bother with even it they were free?

Extra Credit: Do you still use your land line to make and receive calls from friends or family?

I learned earlier today that my most recent two-year agreement with Sprint had run out, and so I had the opportunity tonight to switch to Verizon, Nextel (owned by Sprint) or even a pay-as-you-go phone. Since I've sent about two or three text messages in my life, never used a phone for IM or web, and carry a decent digital camera wherever I go, I figured I was in the market for a low-end phone. I was seconds away from buying an LG Chocolate Black for $29.99 with a two year Verizon agreement when John talked me into buying it later, because he was bored and wanted to go home.

When I went back out tonight, I started with the Sprint Store. There was a twenty-minute wait for service, which gave me time to browse through the sample phones and explore a touch screen guide to the phones' features. Despite my I-only-want-it-to-confirm-appointments-and-such philosophy, I have to admit I was tempted by what some of the current phones can do. There might be an occasion when I'd need to transmit a photo immediately, or use GPS. I seldom use my iPod, but I might listen to music on a phone, because I'd be carrying it anyway. And there were Blackberries! And Palm-somethings!

When I got to speak to a Sprint guy, he was very nice and helpful, but the news wasn't good. Some time ago, Sprint switched me over to a bargain basement $29.99 a month plan, on the grounds that I never use up my minutes and they didn't want me to jump ship. But to qualify for a discount/rebate on a phone, I'd not only have to renew my agreement, but also upgrade to the standard $39.99 plan. Phooey! Or I could keep my cheap plan and buy the phone I wanted outright - for over $300! Double phooey!

So I went across the street to Best Buy. This is what I ended up with:

It's only a Rumor.

This is an LG Rumor. I got it for $49.99, in a chain-exclusive Best Buy Blue model. Somehow the sales guy got the Sprint server to give me the discounted price with renewal of my service contract at the current $29.99 a month rate, plus a modest one-time upgrade fee. I half expect Sprint to call or email me tomorrow and try to renege. Hope not, though!

This phone has a camera function (meh), media player and web access. Doing anything online, including listening to streaming audio or video, would cost me extra, so that's not going to happen. But I bought a SD memory card, which will allow me to save a modest amount of audio on the phone and play it locally at no charge. The catch it getting it to talk to my computer, where the music lives. But that's an accessory for another day.

Unlike the Palm, the Blackberry and the Motorola, the Rumor doesn't have a GPS function, only a GPS chip so that 911 can find you in an emergency. What it does have in common with the high-end PDA phones is this:

That's a real QWERTY keyboard, with upper and lower case, and punctuation I haven't quite learned to access yet except with number keys. So far I've saved one note, just a test sentence about Rani. But this, too, can be saved to the SD memory card, and eventually transfered elsewhere. It remains to be seen whether typing on tiny buttons will ever be more convenient than carrying around a notebook and a pen with which to write a scene for the novels.

As for the extra credit, I got a call from my dad on the land line on Father's Day, returning my call to him. 95% of the calls we get on that number are political calls, surveys, non-profits, and miscellaneous solicitations of one sort or another. The only reason we haven't dumped it entirely is so I can call John at home. Without the land line, John would have to get a cell phone, and he doesn't want one.

It's your call! Tell us what telephonic technology you actually use, what you'd like to use, and what you'd never use. Post it to your blog or journal, and don't forget to link from here to there and from there to here. I'll text back a week from now with your posted messages. Have a great week!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weekend Assignment Results: What We're Drinking

Last week for Weekend Assignment #221, I took note of the coming of summer thirst and asked what people like to drink. The answers came in a variety of flavors, but tea is strongly represented. Click on the names below to see the full entries:

Bea said...

I prefer making my own iced tea. I control the sweetness of it, the freshness, and quality of it. But I don't often make iced tea at home because if I did, I'd be drinking it all the time.

Jama said...

Like Karen I don't drink alchohol and coffee,but on a daily basis, I must have hot milo (chocolate malt drink), while reading the morning newspaper. I like wake up earlier than the rest of the family so that I can have an uninterrupted reading , while sipping the hot beverage and whatever simple meals I prepared for myself. Most of the time, it's just milo to kickstart the day.

Julie said in comments...

Too much coffee, apparently, since I'm up at this hour. Yet, I haven't had any of the stuff since about 10:00 yesterday morning. Perhaps the mere thought of coffee is keeping me awake. ;-)

Duane said...

My drink of choice is usually that old Southern specialty, ice-cold sweet tea. I drink it all the time -- day or night, winter or summer. I much prefer the homemade variety, but will occasionally drink a bottle of Lipton or Nestea, a poor substitute.

Florinda said...

I am a huge water drinker, one of the annoying people rarely seen without a bottle of water in hand. That doesn't mean I drink "bottled water," though; I'll buy a six-pack of bottles periodically, but I have a tap-water filter attachment on my kitchen faucet and I refill and re-use the bottles from there. I probably re-use the bottles too often, if you worry about leaching plastic, but I've decided not to think too much about that.

Kiva said...

Tea! I normally drink about four cups of it in the morning without lemon. Since I am congested, I'm adding a spritz of lemon this week. Sometimes I twirl in a splash of honey. If I'm totally miserable, I stir in a jigger of Grand Marnier. I guess I'm just slightly sick since all I crave is a bit of lemon.

Mike said...

For me, it depends on where I am and what I am doing, as I guess it would be with most people. At work I drink water for the most part. I usually buy one bottle and refill it over the course of a week or two, rinse and repeat. Most people at work wouldn't dream of drinking the water out of the drinking fountain, but I don't find it to be bad. If I get some kind of heavy metal poisoning, I'll just sue. That's what we do, am I right? I'm just kidding of course. (Anyone know a good injury lawyer?)

Sarah said...

As far as alcoholic ones, I like fruity adult beverages with vodka in them, like cosmopolitans and fruit martinis (I just learned from Wikipedia that martini purists insist that martinis must have gin in them, not vodka, but whatever. I like vodka). I also like an occasional glass of wine, not that I know all sorts of things about it like, say, Frasier and Niles. I started out preferring red but at some point, for some reason, I started to favor chardonnay. I also like the "hard" versions of cider and lemonade.

Nice job, folks! You inspired me to have a cup of tea last night, and again today! Now I'm back to diet root beer.

The new Weekend Assignment topic will be posted shortly.


A Change in the Weather

Clouds promise the coming monsoon - maybe

It rained this evening. There was even a little thunder and lightning. This news will not impress anyone who doesn't live in a desert, especially in light of the recent flooding in the Midwest. But I think it's the first time it's rained here in a month or two. This is the time of year when we start watching for a change in the weather, the specific patterns of pressure and dew point that herald the Arizona monsoon. I think we're a little early yet, but this could well be the leading edge of our rainy season. There have been several wildfires in the area over the last few days, two of them caused by lightning over the mountains. This morning we could smell smoke in the air, blowing in from the fire in the Rincons. By tonight that fire seemed to be out, or close to it.

The dark is light.

I came outside after work to photograph the clouds and the dogs, but the clouds weren't very interesting, and the dogs weren't very interested. The photo at the top of this entry has been darkened and saturated, and it's still not very impressive. The one immediately above this paragraph is the exact same shot with the solarization effect applied. I'm not sure what it proves, if anything, but it's much more interesting.

Furry and blurry, the dogs fail to pose for Steven's Furball Friday

It was well after dark when we got our little bit of rain. The dogs weren't terribly impressed. In the past, Tuffy has often indicated a desire to go to the other outdoors, where it wasn't raining. But tonight's rain wasn't very heavy. The dogs followed me out, felt the rain, went back in, and then came out again briefly when I stayed outside. Really, they were much more interested in the possibility that I might go into the kitchen and get them some leftover chicken.

Tuffy enjoys the cooler temperature - only in the 90s!

John and I should give up trying to judge Tuffy's health from day to day. It's too variable and too subjective. Just yesterday John spoke of half-expecting to find her dead. Today he concluded that she does have an appetite after all, just not for the dog food he just bought by the case at Costco.

Oh, and the doggy door broke last week. I'm sure it wasn't the dogs' fault; it was old and damaged from many years of sun and summer rain and dogs in a hurry. I wonder whether whichever dog was going through the flap at that moment even noticed the falling hunk of plastic. Given that they're both easily spooked by loud noises and sudden movement, it seems likely. Really, despite their very different fur, Tuffy and Pepper are remarkably similar in some ways, particularly in behavior. They both like to hang out and know where their people are, but they're both a bit skittish and neither one is overtly affectionate - no licking, in other words. If anything, Pepper is even less so than Tuffy, despite the fact that she hangs around with me all evening, in case I should have a sudden desire to scratch her or feed her chicken.

Oh, and about last night: as soon as I went to bed, I realized there was a continuity glitch in the scene I'd been editing. So I had to get up and fix it. Told ya! But I finished editing that chapter today. All in all I cut a page and over 350 words from that particular chapter. That doesn't sound like much in a manuscript this long, but I'm pleased anyway.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sleepy Karen is Sleepy

I've spent the evening in Mâvarin, editing Chapter Four of Heirs. My revisions are going well, but I'm getting sleepy - which is understandable, because it took me three tries to get to bed last night. If I don't fall asleep right away, I can easily lie awake for 45 minutes or longer, and the rest of the night ends up seeming like no more than a doze. It's better to get up, take care of whatever is bothering me, and then try again - and yet again, if necessary. But at some point my body has to let me sleep, and I'm hoping that my brain isn't lying to me right now about its willingness to be unconscious.

The assistant to Tuffy's oncologist called today about an appointment we made a few months ago for tomorrow. We just had Tuffy in there a few weeks ago, so I canceled the one for tomorrow. Short of spending another couple thousand dollars on her, this time for tests, there isn't much to be done that we're not already doing. John is trying to establish the right dose of medication for her, based on the vet's advice. Frankly, she's not doing as well as she was a week ago.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Goodbye, Foole

Somewhere in the Museum of the Weird, probably in the record crates that are hopelessly blocked by boxes and furniture in the front room, is an LP entitled Occupation: Foole. The significance of this particular copy of this particular record is that one night in 1976 or 1977, I stood outside the brand new Syracuse Civic Theatre with my friend Evelyn, waiting for George Carlin to come out after the show we had just attended. He eventually appeared, signed the LP, and was funny and pleasant during our brief encounter. We asked him where he was headed next.

"Where's home?"
"Lost Angeles."

To which we responded with an all-too-obvious observation about the people of Los Angeles. Ah, well. Doesn't matter. A good time was had by all. As we left, we merged with a crowd of people leaving an O'Jays concert at the Syracuse War Memorial Auditorium. They'd had a wonderful time, too, and assumed we'd been to the same concert. Many years later, I wondered whether I might have liked the alternative concert. But the truth is, I will never regret seeing George Carlin perform live at that particular moment in his long career.

My interest in George Carlin began circa 1974. I no longer remember exactly how it started, but I think some members of our Star Trek club pitched in to buy me a copy of Carlin's seminal "hippie era" LP, FM & AM, as a birthday present. All these years later, I can still recite bits from it, including this forecast from "Al Sleet, your Hippy-Dippy Weatherman":

"Tonight's forecast: dark. Continued mostly dark tonight, changing to widely scattered light in the morning."


"Before you were born - remember, kids?"


"And here's a partial score: Stamford, 29."

My boyfriend Dan Cheney and I used to recite the entire poem "The Hair Piece" in the cafeteria at lunchtime. Great stuff.

Shortly after that I bought his LP Class Clown, which contained the first iteration of his "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV" routine. I thought it was fabulous, not so much because I was fond of the words themselves, but because of the wordplay and satire and absurdity of it. The rest of that album didn't tickle me at much as FM & AM had, because it was mostly about growing up in "White Harlem," attending catholic school and being a troublemaker, none of which had much relevance to a shy girl at a public high school in suburban Manlius, NY. But that didn't stop me from buying Occupation: Foole, the third and last item in my Carlin collection, about the time I hit college. I was so taken with the premise of the title that I actually cultivated the nickname Foole for a while. Hardly anyone picked up on it, which is probably a good thing.

George Carlin was getting involved with cocaine about the same time I was interested in his work. Eventually he got clean, but I gather from a Biography segment I saw about him years ago that the drugs damaged his heart, which finally gave out this week. He was 71. The timeline on his website details a number of heart attacks he had along the way, in between listings of his albums and HBO specials.

I haven't really followed his career much in the years since I got that autograph. There were at least a few good bits in A Place for My Stuff! but I never bought the LP. He had a special in 1984 called Carlin on Campus, which I've happened across a few times over the years and enjoyed. He was on Shining Time Station, but I preferred Ringo in the same role. He had a sitcom briefly in 1994, but it wasn't funny or likeable. By then he seemed to have turned into an eccentric professional grump rather than a goofy, lighthearted satirist with a love of wordplay. Maybe I was the one who had changed. More likely, we both did.

Still, when I heard on NPR this morning that George Carlin had died, I could not help being a little sad. It's the end of an era, although I can't quite tell you what era. The man did a lot of stuff in many styles of comedy over a considerable number of years. And I'm grateful to him, especially for the work he did in the 1970s, when he enriched my life without even trying. In one of his albums, he spoke about being grateful to Ed Sullivan (who had just died) for bringing the Beatles, Elvis et al. to the tv audience. "Thanks, Ed. It may be a little maudlin, but thanks, Ed," he said.

Thanks, George.


George Carlin's official web site

New Monday Photo Shoot #26: Fake!

New Monday Shoot #26: Show us something that's fake in some way. Faux fur, non-alcoholic beer, imitation bacon bits...whatever you like; if it's not real, we want to see it!

Here are a few of the fakiest fakes to be found here at the Museum of the Weird:

This fake stone gargoyle is just a plastic Halloween decoration from Target. It sits on top of my desk. I've faked in the sky and the rooftop here, because, well, why not?

As I understand it, the law against photographing or otherwise reproducing money includes a prohibition on using real cash in tv and films. (Seems a little crazy to me, but there you go.) The bills above are prop money from the Robert Altman film Popeye, which starred Robin Williams in the title role. Not only are they from the "United State of Sweethaven," Sweethaven being the town where Olive Oyl and her family live, but they're also a little larger than real money.

Your turn! Photograph some unreal something, post it to your blog or journal, and be sure to link from there to here, and back to your blog in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with our celebration of the ersatz!


Monday Photo Shoot Results: Candles and Such

Torches at St. Michael's

Last week for the New Monday Photo Shoot, I asked to see some candles, or candle-related objects. Here's what people came up with:

Jama has matched up some interesting candles with interesting candle holders.

Julie actually needed to use her candles this week during a power outage.

Kiva is allergic to candles, but that hasn't stopped her from doing the chianti bottle melty thing.

Carly has a cute cat candle.

Laura has a cute cat candle holder, intended as a gift for a cat-loving cancer patient.

Thanks folks! The new MPS topic will be posted momentarily.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

How Is She? We're Not Sure.

I missed Steven's Feline and Furball Friday again, and Bea, whose two dogs both died recently, asked for an update on Tuffy's health. To be honest, we don't really know how she's doing. She had improved dramatically on the full dose of prednisone, and the Pepcid the vet had us add also seemed to be helpful. She no longer kept her head down and avoided us, she was a little more energetic, she begged for food and hung out with us and with Pepper, and even ran outside to bark a few times.

But the vet said that the prednisone was bad for Tuffy in the long run, and was already giving her a bleeding stomach ulcer. So on her instructions, John cut her down to half a pill a way, and after a week or more he cut her down to a quarter pill a day. That was yesterday or the day before. She had seemed to be doing well at first on the reduced dose, but by Friday she wasn't eating much, was back to her loner routine and kept her head down, albeit not as far down as before. So John is going to try a full pill alternating with half a pill daily, and keep her on the Pepcid, and hope that helps.

Meanwhile Pepper is doing fine, except for an itch that contributes to her serious shedding. Black dogs leaving clumps of hair on light-colored carpets is a problem we haven't run into before; all out dogs to date have had finer, lighter hair than this. We'd bathe her, and probably will, but knowing Pepper, she'll run outside immediately afterward for a nice, thorough roll in the dirt.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Is It Tomorrow Yet?

Well, of course, in a sense it is. It's 3:49 AM, so technically it's Saturday. I just finished watching my one-viewer marathon of 2008 Doctor Who episodes, in preparation for the one that airs a little later today in the U.K. When I finish writing this entry, and maybe doing a few dishes and putting a little time in on Heirs Chapter 3, I'll go to bed. With any luck, there will be a copy of today's episode waiting for me when I get up.

I've been looking forward to this particular episode since last November, when the news hit that Billie Piper, who played Rose Tyler in 2005-6, was returning to Doctor Who. That was when I joined the Doctor Who Forum, in fact, just so I could read the location shooting reports from the fans who spotted her filming. It's been quite a roller coaster ride since then, and I've only gotten more obsessed with the show. You can tell, can't you?

It's actually not a good thing to want to rush through time to see the 11th episode of Series Four. There are only 13 altogether, and next year there are only three or four specials (the count varies in reports, but it's probably Christmas 2008 plus three in 2009). It would be better to savor each show and not rush toward the looming drought of new Who. But I can't help it. This year's "Doctor lite" story sounds too intriguing to be waited for with patience and equanimity.

In theory, Rose Tyler was stuck in another universe forever at the end of the 2006 series, but this year she's been popping up mysteriously, not in every story but beginning with the first one of the season. She walked through the last two minutes of "Partners in Crime" only to fade away like a ghost, leaving fan squee and consternation in her wake. She's popped up on computer screens, unheard but clearing shouting for the Doctor, unseen except by the tv audience. But later today Donna talks to her repeatedly and in person, and apparently does not know at first that the mysterious young woman is Rose, whose loss the Doctor was mourning when he first met Donna.

The episode is called "Turn Left," and it seems to be an alternate history story in which the Doctor died because Donna wasn't at HC Clements a year and a half ago at Christmas. I've seen a little more speculation and spoilery detail than I care to know in advance, so that's all I'll say here on the subject. But it's just the first of the three season-ending episodes, which apparently tell one apocalyptic story. As usual when the show does something daring, I'm a little nervous in advance of it. It could crash and burn, and really damage the show. But it won't, will it? I'm sure whatever showrunner Russell T Davies has in mind for this, it will be great. I hope.

Meanwhile I heard from another Tucson Doctor Who fan tonight. Hello there! This person arrived in town when the show was already gone from Tucson's PBS station, and only a year or so before out local fan club folded. Most of the original United Whovians of Tucson are scattered to the four winds now. It's nice to know that my friend Kevin and I (and to a lesser extent John) aren't Tucson's only remaining Who fans.

That's it for now. I'll try to have something interesting tomorrow night for those of you who aren't even a little interested in my favorite tv show. Meanwhile, good night!


Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekend Assignment #221: What Are You Drinking?

Some of our recent "empties"

Summer is starting in Tucson, and in the Northern Hemisphere generally. As temperatures top 100 degrees here, John and I start going through beverages at an amazing rate. Which brings me to this week's Weekend Assignment question:

Weekend Assignment #221: What do you like to drink? Do you prefer Coke, or Pepsi, or neither? Do you start your days at Starbucks, or end your days with a nice cup of herbal tea? Are you a connoisseur of beer, or do you like to keep a pitcher of lemonade on hand? Do you carry a bottle of water around, and refill it as you go? Tell us about your favorites!

Extra Credit: Have you ever invented your own drink sensation?

I don't drink alcohol, I hate coffee, and I'm not a big fan of cola, although I'll sometimes drink the latter for the caffeine. Basically I go for diet sodas, as big a variety of them as possible. Who wants to be bored, drinking the same thing day after day, week after week?

Of course it doesn't hurt that the Kalil products were on sale the other day at Safeway: buy two cartons, get three free. "The Good Guys at Kalil" are the local bottlers of non-Pepsi, non-Coke soda options. So I bought two cartons of diet ginger ale, and one each of Diet Sunkist, Diet A&W and Diet 7Up. Yes, I should probably be drinking water instead, but these are much more interesting!

As for the extra credit, I've made a variety of soda and juice combinations over the years, routinely mix root beer into cola, and once tried adding black pepper to Diet Pepsi. The latter wasn't terribly good, but it wasn't awful, either.

So how about you? Tell us what you're drinking these days and why. Post it to your blog or journal, and don't forget to link from here to there and from there to here. I'll splash back through in a week with a cooler full of your delicious responses. Meanwhile, drink up, and have a great week!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Weekend Assignment Results: Beauty, Eh?

Last week for the Weekend Assignment, I asked you to tell us about something you consider beautiful. Let's see what beauteous things people talked about:

Pat (DesLily) says in comments, "that first photo really is gorgeous!!!" Thanks!

Carly extols the beauty of the Bay Area, and proves it with her pictures.

Kristi Wachter tells us why she loves the ever-changing ocean.

Mike gets a little help from Hubble to show us the beauty of the universe.

Sarah says in comments, "I'm going to have to submit an IOU for this one . . . but off the top of my head, some things that are beautiful include the Great Barrier Reef, a starry sky in the Sierras, Half Dome, and Sedona."

Kiva sees beauty in a particular newborn child - her granddaughter.

Yes, all of these subjects are indeed beautiful. Thanks, folks! A new Weekend Assignment topic will be posted shortly.


Pacing Myself

Okay, so that was too much walking.

I made it to the edge of that shopping center and back, probably a little over a mile roundtrip, in 111-degree heat. It's good that nearly everyone was still at lunch when I returned, because I was coughing and hacking a little bit from the combination of heat and exercise. That sounds a lot worse than it actually was, but it was good that I wasn't due back from lunch yet, and could rest and cool off in the break room before returning to work. Twelve hours later, I still have a little gunk in my lungs. I got through my shorter walks with no problem, but I clearly overdid it today.

I'm not giving up, but I'll need to be more sensible about this. A short walk at lunch, with a bottle of water instead of flat diet soda (D'Oh! I forgot to buy the water!), and maybe some mall walking evenings and weekends. Or walking the dogs at night, when it's only around 97 degrees! Mmm, that doesn't sound very promising, does it? But I'll work something out.

Meanwhile, it's bedtime. I hope I can lie down without too much coughing!

Sorry for the short post. If I wrote any more tonight, it would be about Doctor Who anyway.There's an insane "Doctor lite" episode coming up Saturday in the U.K. The preview shows the Doctor dead. Now only that, but he died a year and a half ago, in one of the Christmas specials, and didn't regenerate. How does that work, exactly? And on top of that, Rose is popping in from another universe, and won't tell Donna her name. Fans have been posting insane theories, but I'd rather wait for the episode itself.

Oh, and one minor bit of good news. I've finally wrestled a particularly awkward scene into submission in Chapter Three of Heirs of Mâvarin, made it shorter and clearer, and managed to work in a hint of foreshadowing. I know, nobody cares but me, but it's my small victory over Crel's red dress.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Walkin' (Yes Indeed)

So to get some exercise in preparation for Disneyland, enjoy nature, do something interesting and maybe even lose a little weight, I've been walking down to Oracle Road and back on my lunch break. I may venture out onto Oracle itself tomorrow; we'll see. There is one shopping center within walking distance, but probably not close enough to eat something and get back in an hour.

It's also been closer to 110 degrees than 100, I think, officially but so far it hasn't been much of a problem for me. I'm not sure why. I just clicked close to Oro Valley on a weather map, and it gave a high today of 111.

Does this look like desert to you? This is the street between Oracle and the one Interesting Manufacturer is on. There are a variety of trees as well as cactus. But some parts of the desert do have trees; it depends on the elevation.

And yes, there are flowers, too. I'm not a flower fan, but I like these because of the bright colors and the variety of shapes and textures.

This saguaro has fruit on the ends of the arms, and holes for birds to nest in. Woodpeckers start the holes, but after that it may be home to doves, owls, cactus wrens, etc.

This is kind of a "Where's Waldo" shot. There is a cactus wren in this tree. Can you find it? I tried to photograph some kind of flycatcher (or was it a woodpecker? I forget) in a different shot, but could not find the bird myself.

I'm rushing to bed now. Last night I went to bed at midnight (a definite improvement!) only to lie awake for an hour. I'm tired enough tonight that I'm hoping the insomnia will let up for a change.


Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm Going to Disneyland!

No, not immediately. But Sara and Sarah and I have been planning a trip for months, and for a while it looked as though they would have to go without me. But I'm working again, and we got some good news today that I won't be sharing with you, and the bottom line is, I can go after all!

No point in waiting at the station

The only downside is that I can't take the train as I'd hoped. The train from Tucson to L.A. leaves Saturday night, not Friday, and returns Sunday afternoon. I would have to return on the same physical train, probably, three hours after it arrived. That's clearly useless to me. The Amtrak schedule just isn't designed for weekend trips out of Tucson. Darn it!

A Jolly Holiday for sure!

But still. I'm going! I haven't been to Disneyland in nearly two years (I know; I feel more deprived than I really am), but that's not the main point. See, I've known Sara and Sarah online since 1991 or 1992, before I'd even heard of AOL. Since then I've met Sarah precisely once for a few hours, and I've never met Sara in person at all. That changes this July, at the Happiest Place on Earth. Huzzah!


New Monday Shoot #25: Candles, or Something Like Them

New Monday Shoot #25: Nearly everyone has candles, for one purpose of another. Photograph one or more candles - real or otherwise.

Leaky oil-fed torch candles

It occurred to me today at church that St. Michael's has a lot of candles of various sizes and uses, and not all of them are actual wax candles. Last summer the "torches" (basically candles on a pole) tended to burn down fast and unevenly, due to a large box fan situated near whether the acolytes sit in the sanctuary. Sometimes the candles blew out entirely in the middle of mass, and at least once I ended up with wax in my hair. To solve this problem, the Altar Guild bought plastic torches filled with lamp oil. They look identical to the real candles from a distance, but they don't burn down. One problem, though: the oil tends to leak down the pole onto the acolyte's hands. Yuck! And they still go out in the middle of mass sometimes.

Spot the real candle.

Other candles at St. Michael's are partially real, like most of the ones on or near the altar. A normal-size white candle is fitted into a much larger housing. The large "candles" stay the same size, but the real candle inside burns down and is replaced.

Still other "candle"-shaped lights are just electric bulbs, as in the chandeliers.

And still other candles at St. Michael's are real, like these votives.

Here at home, we mostly have votive candles for jack-o-lanterns and Christmas luminaria. But my favorite candle is this snowman, which is roughly as old as I am. My mom wanted to burn it down once as a symbolic goodbye to winter, but I got upset that she was destroying a relic of my childhood and she eventually relented. I don't regret this.

Your turn! Do you have candles around for aromatherapy or romantic dinners, religious use or decor, or simply as a light source in case of power failures? Whatever they look like, whatever they're for, please show us in your blog or journal, with a link from there back here, and from the comments here back to your blog. I'll be back in a week to show off everyone's candles. Thanks!


Monday Photo Shoot Results: Presenting Plastics

Last week for the Monday Photo Shoot, I asked to see pictures of things made of plastic.
is plastic, more or less. There may be some metal in my old glasses, but that's about it. Even the labels are plastic, I think. Pictures presented included the following portrayals of plastics:

Carly shows us the starring role plastics played in serving her lunch.

Jama came up with a plastic Barney and more.

Kiva 's sixth month old grandchild has a number of plastic toys.

Thanks, folks! New Monday Photo Shoot topic follows forthwith!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Humans: Threat or Menace?

I think it was in ninth grade that my English class was not only assigned to read the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, but to watch the 1963 film based on the novel. I hated them both, passionately. In the years since then, I have occasionally remarked that it's the one book I would "unread" if I could, and one of only two or three films I would "unsee."

Then today I saw "Midnight," the newest episode of Doctor Who which just aired in the UK. I don't like to go on too much in this blog about the plots of episodes that have not yet aired in the U.S., but I must tell you that this particular story shook me. It was a psychological horror story about human beings at their worst, pretty much the opposite of the pro-humanity message usually put forth by Russell T Davies, the showrunner and author of this episode. While it's true that there are extenuating circumstances (including a particularly mysterious alien) that help to bring about the characters' paranoia and potentially murderous behavior, that doesn't make it any easier to watch or accept.

Yes, I know that people sometimes behave horribly in the real world, especially when stressed or frightened. On the trivial, relatively harmless end of the scale, I was ganged up on by a circle of kids on the school playground in fourth grade, and laughed at by the teacher who should have put a stop to such things. People have been killed for cutting someone off in traffic, or for money, or because people have convinced themselves and each other that another human being is one of Them, subhuman and evil.

If I need reminding of the failure of humans to behave humanely, I have only to listen to the news. The United States currently has a president who believes in denying habeas corpus and other protections to offshore prisoners for years on end, on the theory that they're "bad guys," and resists making any attempt to prove this assertion in civilian court. The Supreme Court finally made a stronger statement about this unconstitutional policy than in its previous decisions on the subject, and John McCain made some horrible, ridiculous statement about it being the worst decision in the history of the country. And in the same week, this paranoia about Them has led to erosion of similar principles in the U.K., and protections that go all the way back to the Magna Carta. Aside from being unethical, this Us and Them attitude backfires on the country that behaves this way, making Us seem ignorant and cruel and hypocritical.

That's all real stuff. I don't like it, but I accept that people behave that way. So why can't I handle seeing six fictional characters on a space bus, excluding the inciting alien, being mean to the Doctor? That's crazy, isn't it? Don't I know that people under duress can be horrifyingly evil? How else does one explain the Holocaust?

Okay, yeah. But.

By and large, I don't see people murdering each other over money, religion, political power, sexual orientation or any other motivating factor. Heck, I've never seen a murder at all, and hope I never shall. I think one reason I listen to NPR rather than watching tv news is so I won't see people suffering and dying in Iraq or Zimbabwe or Myanmar. And on NPR I also hear the voices of people trying to help, the Doctors Without Borders rep, the reporter who sneaks into a third world country at the risk of his own life, the Red Cross or UN spokesperson.

And I know that there are a lot of good people out there, and that people are mostly good most of the time. For every xenophobic jerk who thinks that a young Mexican man or woman sneaking across the border in search of a better life is a lawless, freeloading "invader," there's someone else who is trying to reduce the horrible death toll in the Arizona desert of "invaders" who didn't manage to survive the dangerous trek. I've seen many people behave with kindness and compassion - and that's what I prefer to see in people, not the awful flip side.

The question is, what can we do about human brutality, paranoia and mob behavior? Is it inherent? Can it be overcome? I'd like to believe that it can. What it would take, I think, is for people to be taught to reason and to understand, and to have compassion. Most of all, we need to know, finally know, that we're all human beings and there is no Them. If every person saw the value in every other person - the Muslim, the Jew, the undocumented alien, the opposition leader, the member of that other tribe or religion or nation or faction - it would be much harder to have wars and murders and other horrible things that we do to ourselves.

Unfortunately, I know of no way to accomplish this. All I can do in support of the cause, apparently, is rant in this blog.

Rant over, until next time.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Round Robin: We Made These!

(Apologies if this entry takes a long time to load. I saved some of these photos in a larger size than usual so you can click on them and, I hope, read the text in the pictures if you're so inclined.)

It's Round Robin time again! This week's topic, "I Made That" was suggested by Jennifer Robin of Robin's Woods. She wants us to photograph something we made, other than photos, of course!

First off, let me state for the record that I'm not at all good with any kind of craft work. I can't sew, knit, do needlepoint, create macramé or decoupage, or build a coffee table (except maybe from a kit). I've had lousy eye-hand coordination all my life, so I seldom attempt to make any kind of physical object. The last one I recall doing was my Tiki mask last year. It took me all night, and it was...well, acceptable, let's say.

Consequently, nearly all my creative endeavors are technology-assisted. I blog and take photos, I write fiction, I mess around with photo editing software. When it comes to making an actual thing, I need a printer, or a buttonmaker, or...


Back in the early 1980s, John, his friend Kal and I owned a record store called Rockarama. I was the manager. Among our wares in those days were handmade buttons, based on topical rock and roll images or slogans, or cut up photos from magazines.

In the 1990s, the Murray twins and I made Quantum Leap and Doctor Who buttons for the fan clubs and conventions. They came in two sizes. Eventually I shipped the buttonmaker that produced the smaller, more popular buttons off to Margaret Colchin so she could continue to produce "goodies" for Project Quantum Leap members.

A commercial grade badge maker from Button Up

We kept the large buttonmaker. It's still sitting in a closet here at the Museum of the Weird, along with our leftover Doctor Who buttons and a bust of Sherlock Holmes (and no, we didn't make that!).

No, I didn't make this standup. John designed it and put it together.

During roughly the same era, John went into the trading card business. He designed and produced trading card sets for the anime properties Robot Carnival and Akira, British favorites The Avengers and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and even the rock group KISS.

In 1994, John's company, Cornerstone, made the first of four series (or was it five series?) of Doctor Who trading cards. I introduced the project to some of the key actors at a convention in late 1993, because the BBC had told us we needed to contract with each of them individually.

Later I wrote the backs of nearly all of the cards that had text in Series One through Series Three. I also selected the quotations for the cards in Series Four, some of which came from interviews the Murrays and I had conducted ourselves. Before Series Three I even got to accompany John and his business partner to London, to help select pictures for the cards from the BBC archives. The writing turned out to be surprisingly difficult, because the extremely limited space on the back of a trading card forces the writer to be very concise, which isn't my strong suit. Still, I'm very proud of what we did with these.

Eventually the Doctor Who cards license ran its course. John made another Monty Python set and a couple of Austin Powers sets before the bottom fell out of the trading card market and he had to get a real job.

No, there isn't really a Dalek guarding this case of trading cards.

But here at the MotW we still have binders and boxes full of trading cards that John designed and I wrote. I didn't run the printing press, didn't diecut them from the oversize sheets, and didn't pack them in cartons to be shipped. But all in all, I think it's far to say that John and I made those cards. Don't you?

Now let's go see what the other Robins have made!


Linking List

Jennifer Robin - Posted!
Robin's Woods

Steven - Posted!

Wammy - Posted!
The Ellis Family Cincinnati

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Olive - Posted!
Ur Olive


Jill - Posted!
Letting Crazy Take a Spin

Jan - Posted!
The Prytz Family

sweet memories.....

maryt/theteach - Posted!
Answers to the Questions

Sandra - Posted!
Strong Chemistry

Robinella- Posted!
Not A Stepford Wife

Janet - Posted!

Carly- Posted!

Kiva - Posted!
The Eclectic Granny

Teena- Posted!
It's all about me!