Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Commercials we stop channel-surfing to watch

Currently, it's the American Express commercial with the frowns and then the smiles.  If commercials are engaging, sponsors don't have to worry about Tivo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Four strings, eight dollars.

I bought a "First Act Discovery" ukulele for Hanukah on Sunday.  We gave it to Rafi, but she agreed to share it.  Sunday night, I looked on the web for how to play it.  Found a great on-line ukulele tuner. I wish I could find a similar page for lute.  There was also, which has learn to play in 3 minutes (1 chord) or 4 minutes (another chord), and free sheet music with tablature.  Printed out jingle bells, home on the range, and auld lang syn.  Now we're all set.  Let's see who actually ends up playing it.  If any of us.  Lots of fun, the bit I did.  It did come out of tune after one attempt at Jingle Bells.  Is that normal?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

600 Credit Cards

Rafi began to memorize The Charge of the Light Brigade, but now she's changing it.

She recites the first stanza straight, and the second one up to "Theirs not to reason why". But then she recites:
Theirs but to do and buy.
Into the Shopping Mall rode the 600.

Food court to right of them
Food court to left of them
Food court in front of them
Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!
Then she collapses in laughter.

I'm not sure if we're going to finish the poem. So far, it has been educational. She has learned the words "blunder", "dismay", and "reply". She has learned the poetic principal of having one Soldier stand for all of them. She's learning how to parody.

She turns 6 next Monday.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

my email wants to be Twitter

When I log into my yahoo email, the welcome screen now says:

What are you doing right now?

It provides a line for me to type in the answer.
I'm torn between: "None of your business!" and "I'm checking my email, duhh."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Rafi's latest story

The Girl Annabelle and the Mysterious Boy Named Kevin

By Rafaela Zeballos, Age 5.

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Annabelle. And she was very nice. And one day she met a strange little boy. The boy was the same age as Annabelle was. And that day the boy and Annabelle became friends. But there was one thing about the boy that the girl didn't know about the boy. The boy's name was Kevin. But when the boy was just about to tell Annabelle his name, he thought Annabelle would think his name was lame. But he knew his parents always told him to tell people his name. So he took a deep breath and told Annabelle his name. And this is what he said: Hi. My name is Kevin. And the girl said back: Hi. My name is Annabelle. And when they were grownups, they married each other.

The End.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ogunquit Cell Phone Photos

Along the Marginal Way

Sam and view nearby.

Surfer ready to encounter Bill.

Zoe on a tamer beach.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Questions for Dr Phil

Isn't it traumatic to have one's worst weaknesses exposed on national television? Are a lot of the guests hurt more than helped? Is there a support group for them?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camping, Lessons Learned

  • Bring more towels.
  • Figure in a half day to set up and another half day to tear down. (Maybe under 3 hours, if you're good at it.)
  • Ideal camping trip is three or four nights. Rodrigo says three nights.
  • Have an extra sleeping bag or quilt handy in case it gets cold in the middle of the night.
  • You really need to find your swiss army knife before the next time.
  • Don't forget pillows.
  • Rain entertainment should also be packed. (According to Zoe.)
  • The more stuff, the more to sort through to find what you need, the more delay in getting anywhere.
  • Having one bag for one category of stuff was useful. E.g. the "medicine cabinet" bag, the non-cooler food bag, etc. Do this with the rest of the items, so you won't lose the bottle opener again. (also see, swiss army knife.)
Food lessons:
  • The Coleman forks that screwed together to be very long were great for hot dogs. I could cook five hot dogs at a time by holding them in the flames of a wood fire. No waiting for coals.
  • Don't use the Coleman forks for marshmallows. They stick terribly. Bring disposable wooden skewers for the marshmallows.
  • One packet of hot dogs was enough for one night. And next time remember lettuce.
  • Bring fruit. Apples, oranges, grapes--all were good.
  • The propane burner did come in handy. So next time bring something in which to boil water for tea, and some tea.
  • Freeze a carton or two of lemonade and put them in the cooler to defrost and drink. That would be more useful than the blocks of melted arsenic-contaminated tap water.
  • Food takes up a lot of room. Pack enough for the first night cookout and some stuff to nibble on for breakfast. After the first night, eat out. Or go grocery shopping while there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

family camping on the Cape

I needed to take a vacation before my co-worker went away for a month. I did not want to spend more than the cost of a new Energy Star refrigerator, the item that has been topmost in my future large expenditure plans.

We bought a Coleman Bayside 8 tent for about $160 from Target. It's a roomy 8-person tent that we could stand up in. The four of us could sleep in it with our luggage around us. It wasn't stuffy, like the reasonable small tents I'd slept in before. It would have been nice to have more windows one could see through with the rainfly on, other than the two through the door. With the rainfly off, it is a good screen house. I can envision using it as a refuge from bugs in the backyard. Its best feature is a swinging door, which you can secure with Velcro when you and/or your kids are going in and out frequently. When you're in or out for a while, you can zip it shut like in a normal tent.


I wanted to visit Plimoth Plantation, so the first night we stayed in Miles Standish State Forest ($14). It was decent, though more of a getaway for the metro-Boston resident or budget-alternative to a hotel than a destination worth crossing state lines for. We were disappointed by trash left around the campground and in our campsite. There was also a lot of electronic noise from fellow campers. We had to listen to baseball until after the supposed quiet time of 10pm. One nice feature was a small pond within view of our campsite, where we could wade or even swim.

Before the trip, I'd looked at websites for different campgrounds near Plymouth MA and on Cape Cod. One of them, "Paine's" in Wellfleet had seemed very snooty. They had families with children segregated into a section separate from the all-grownup parties. After our first hour in Miles Standish listening to whiny and crying children from surrounding sites, I decided they had a point. After my darling child began bawling at the top of her lungs after 10pm, I conceded that our family was no exception.

It takes a while to get used to camping. I woke up in the middle of the night because I was too cold, then was woken too early by five-year-old Rafi. I tried to amuse her with a notebook and pen I fished out of my pocketbook.

"I'll write a story," said Rafi.

"Great," I said, and closed my eyes.

"Mommy, how do you spell 'Once'?"

"O-n-c-e, but I gave you the pen and notebook so you'd let me sleep. Just make up a spelling. It doesn't matter. Please let me sleep."

I closed my eyes.

"Mommy, how do you spell 'upon'?

I was zombie mommy and not in the mood to learn anything. We tubed Plimoth plans and headed for the beach.


We stayed at the Sweetwater Forest campground in Brewster MA ($32 times 3 nights). It's on a large plot of land that contains a picturesque marsh, sandpit, and pond. There were horses in a privately owned farm in the grounds, but they were not for the campers to ride. There was canoeing and fishing in the pond but not swimming. If you walked out onto the boat dock, you could see large turtles swimming in the pond. I think that's the first time I've seen large turtles in New England, outside of an aquarium.

The campground boasted a miniature golf course, but it was more of a collection of miniature putting greens. No windmill and no kitch--it wasn't proper miniature golf.

The water and electric hookup sites were somewhat close together but landscaped in a pleasant way. The tent/no-hookup sites were slightly more spaced. When we asked to stay an extra night and had to move, we got to stay in the "DLK" site, which was really beautiful--overlooking the pond in one direction and a small playground in another. It was also very secluded. I overheard someone saying "DLK" stood for "David L Klein". A websearch reveals he was a co-owner of the campground, who died in 1996.

We bought a sticker for the national seashore ($45). We went to the Marconi beach and had a great time riding waves in the seaweed. We went to the other two National Seashore beaches in the Provincetown area, but arrived late in the afternoon and found them cold. We drove through P-town with difficulty, and decided we needed to walk or bike there from somewhere else. We looked longingly at art galleries, then drove to the first pizza place on Route 6 that had parking. Very good pizza.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Give Parsons the Emmy

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series:

First off, it's cool that four of the nominated actors are on broadcast and I've actually seen three of those four shows. Well, I've encountered The Office while flicking channels, but it was way too creepy for me to watch past a few lines of dialogue, so I can't judge on Steve Carell's nomination.

I do enjoy both Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock and Charlie Sheen in 2 and a half men. They're good actors with great comic timing. But the roles they play are relatively attractive and, as the 2-1/2 men song goes, "manly men".

Jim Parsons has impressed me as an actor who is doing a fine job with an exceptionally difficult role. He manages to balance his portrayal of an innocent, egotistical nerd with obsessive-compulsive issues without making the role either too broadly cartoony or too uncomfortable to watch. He keeps it at a light-comedy level, good characterization, and fun to watch. That must be really hard. He deserves the Emmy.

Outstanding Commercial:

My favorite commercial this past year was the Verizon cell phone commercial about a teenager who got an actual but vicious pony for Christmas, instead of a new Verizon cell phone like her two friends,who are shown commiserating with her, along with the Verizon network personified.

That wasn't among the list of nominees.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Readercon Thursday Goblin Fruit Party

At the open "Launch Party" for the poetry e-zine Goblin Fruit, I met a poet Mary Alexandra Agner, who works with satellite technology at Lincoln Lab. I flipped through her chapbook (new word I learned that night) and thought her poetry was rather good, which was a pleasant surprise for I usually have trouble connecting with modern poetry.

Two women played harp and several women sang. It was pleasant and made me nostalgic for lute music.

I heard a publisher of a print magazine Realms of Fantasy trying to coax an on-line author to publish in print as well. She called an e-zine publisher from across the room to her defense of online over old print media. The e-zine publisher was way more inclined to discuss rather than debate. He and the print publisher had an interesting time comparing experiences and business models. That is, I found the conversation to be very interesting and a kind of a continuation of an interview I'd heard recently on Terry Gross with an editor of Wired magazine who recently published a book called Free, about on-line business models.

Then an acquaintance started talking to me, which pulled me away from my shameless listening in. After figuring out how we knew each other, I looked at my watch. 10 before midnight. Way past my bedtime, and I still had an hour's drive home. Sleepiness thus intruded on my vacation Friday, but I think it was worth it.

world's oldest

Prostitution ought to and will some day be a respected profession, with training, certification, professional societies, and a code of ethics. Like lawyers, mental health workers, and clergy, prostitutes will and should be able to provide clients with legally-protected assurance of confidentiality.

And, no, that won't take the fun out of it. Quite the contrary. These are the Dark Ages.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday night Readercon Panel: Character..Breakthrough..Mind

From 9 to 10 the crowd and I were at a panel discussion called: The Origin of Character in Breakthrough of the Mind. It seemed to be on how characters can run away with a story and do things that the author hadn't planned for them in the first place.

The most interesting anecdote on this was told by Peter Straub. He was writing a story about two families. His purpose was to contrast the life of two boys being raised in different trying environments, one rich and one poor. Across the street from one of the boys lived a cranky old man. The kind of cranky old man always yelling at kids to get off the grass. Eventually the cranky old man turned out to have a very interesting past and story. He took over the novel. The novelist talked about having to throw away pages and pages that didn't belong in the story any more, and that his wife complained, "those were the best pages."

Writers talked about the "gift story" that would show up as inspiration. Ellen Hand had such a story occur to her about 20 years ago. One morning she began to think about a woman who saw Elvis. She started writing at 10 am, finished at 10pm, mailed it off the next day, and it was published. She says that these gift stories occur only once in every eight years or so. The young writer Daryl Gregory said that he's still waiting for his.

The moderator Jim Kelly kept referring to the voice of his subconscious that tells him how to write as "the little guy". Soon the entire panel was referring to their "little guy."

The panel ended with responses to a question as to how to silence the inner critic when the critic suppresses your writing instead of helping you improve it. Some talked of the value of deadlines, so you can tell the critic you don't have time to listen.

Thursday night Readercon 8-9pm

So after last year's exhausting day at readercon, I decided to go just to the free Thursday night this year.

(Actually, my natural cheapness was at work. Soon after I started a new job across the street from the readercon hotel, I checked the website for early registration. It was more than early registration for Arisia, and they don't have the whiz bang costumes and movies and special effects to pay for. And I wasn't sure what I'd be up to in July. Early July is usually a hot sunny time when people go to the beach. That hasn't happened this year, but how were we supposed to know?)

At 8pm I went to a reading by Elaine Isaak. She read from an as-yet-unpublished novel. It has an interesting premise, in that the main character is a barber-surgeon from the Middle Ages. Actual magic occurs, so it is fantasy, not historical fiction. I heard some kludgy words in beginning paragraphs, but later the story got more interesting as the main character developed depth. I would like to read what happens to him when the book comes out. Though I know, of course, it's bound to be bad, for you don't want to be one of her heroes.

Around 8:30 I poked my head into the panel discussion on authors talking about reviewing books. One author (Malzburg?) was giving a tribute to a reviewer named Burgess, who'd been reviewing SF books since 1965 and who died two years ago. Maltzburg turned to another panelist, Gene Wolfe, and said: "You know, Burgess called you one of our Greatest Living Science Fiction Writers".

Wolfe replied, "Burgess was very insightful."

That was a great response, and got a big laugh. It seemed a little bit too true in this case, at least to me.

I know that authors need to be egotistical. On the other hand, I gave up after the second book of Gene Wolfe's Torturer series, because it was just going on too long and he didn't move the story forward and he was just too pleased with himself and what he could write. The details of his world were just too gruesome to put up with any more without it moving the story forward at a more reasonable pace. After the first book, I thought he was a great writer and had created a compelling character. I got the second book to read more. After the second, I decided he was too egotistical to be a good-enough writer for me to keep reading him. Of course, he's the famous published author on the podium, and I'm not.


As we were leaving Earthfest, an esplanade concert sponsored by WBOS, I met a young intern from rival station WFNX. He was handing out cards for his station.

Aren't you in enemy territory? I asked.

He said yes, but was there to tell people that FNX was better. I like FNX and said so. I also grinned, called him "sonny", and waxed nostalgic about the early '80's, when WFNX was "The New Music Source".

"We still are" he said.

I reminded him that WBOS had just given us a great concert. He agreed, but said that BOS wasn't a real local station like FNX was.

"They have robots. We have live DJ's. They stole our playlist."

Fine, but, driving to work a couple of Fridays ago, I listened to 92.9 playing FNX music, while on FNX the DJ's were having a call-in as to whether Michael Jackson was going to heaven or hell.

My guess would be heaven, but who the hell are they to pose such questions?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

mint tulips taffeta

came in my head this morning before I was out of bed. It's been years since I last read The Demolished Man, but those three words stay imprinted in my brain. Little sensory tastes--sweet, then tragic. A woman the detective liked but could not love enough to marry.

Monday, May 04, 2009

How dangerous is caffeine?

Under the influence of three cups of free coffee and too much sugar, I purchased a duck decoy lamp for my nightstand. Perhaps I should stay out of Building 19.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A gray May Day

Would I be wrong to say to a woman leaving the ladies' room with me:

"Hey, come on. There's swine flu. Please wash your hands."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Miss USA 2009

Flicking channels the other night, I came across the Miss USA contest. I called my five-year-old daughter in to watch. Don't they look like Barbie dolls?

Yes, she said, smiling. They look exactly like Barbie. Except they're a different color from my Barbie. And they can move without someone moving their arms and legs for them.

I had switched on just in time for the finalists' questions. Historically, this has always provided a chance for some amusement. The first one fit the stereotype perfectly. She was asked if Health Insurance should be the right of every American. Her response was something to the effect that in politics, it's less important if you're left or right than that you have integrity. Integrity is very important, she said. It was like Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin: I'm going to ignore that question and answer this one instead.

Next was Miss California, who waffled when asked about Gay Marriage. Apparently she didn't waffle enough, for her response started a mini-controversy that is still in the news today.

The other two actually gave reasonable answers to their questions. I also decided that they were the two prettiest. I hung around until after the commercial to see them come in last. I thought the contestant who gave the non-answer won, but when I look it up, I see that Miss North Carolina won. The waffler came in second. Miss Arizona, the non-answer-giver, was second-runner-up. I don't remember Miss Carolina's question--perhaps it was before I turned on the show. I've tried Googling for it, but there's only blogging about Miss CA.

It reminded me why I stopped watching beauty contests. They keep not picking the prettiest ones to win.

I was also curious why they bother asking the contestants questions. Is the point of the questions to not pick someone who can give a reasoned response, but to make sure you've selected a spokesperson who will avoid answering any political question no matter how absurd she sounds in her non-response? Without having heard Miss Carolina's Q&A, I can't say.

Friday, April 03, 2009

528xi. Try to date this guy.

He played her Sinatra in the Elantra. He maximized his Maxima, bought the ultimate Altima. But even his impressive Impreza failed to impress her.

--You wanna roll in a Corolla? she scoffed.

-Yes, your ass in a Yuris, he insisted.

--Don't cram me in a Camry. I won't sit in a Fit.

-No dice?

--No vice in your Versa. Your Prizm's a prison.

-Wanna Forerunner for foreplay?

--Don't deny me my Denali. Rip my bodice in an Odyssey.

In her Explorer he tore her fedora. He caught his cape in the door of the Escape. But he focussed her in his Focus, ravaged her in a Rav4, humped her in her Hummer, mounted her in her Mountaineer. The priest arrived in his Prius and they were wed. They happily tumbled into their Tundra.

Through the rear-view of her Vue she could see her ex- in her CRX. The tourists in the Taurus waved good-bye.

The slob in the Saab sobbed, Could I date chicks with a Matrix?

The commute's not getting to me. Really. I'm fine.

He looked at us from his Stratus. Our mother drives an Armada.

so not a dog was fed
so not a word was said
so not a deal was made
so not a debt was paid
so not a thing happened
in the Sonata

Thursday, April 02, 2009

murtaugh list

Clever idea on "How I met your mother" Monday night: The Murtaugh List, or list of things we're too old for now.

I thought if I typed it into Google the next day, I'd find mention of it. Didn't get a chance to look until today. Found this.

We'd just been talking about the issue the night before seeing the show.

In your thirties, you find you can't get away with stuff you got away with in your twenties. You're not flexible if you don't stretch regularly. You can hurt yourself if you try things you used to get away with. But you're better in a week or two.

In your forties, the damage lasts for months. Or is permanent.

Friday, March 20, 2009

margie catching up with pop culture

There's a song that I thought was by Joe Jackson that I recently read was by Sublime. I googled Sublime, wondering, Is this a new band?
No. They broke up in 1996, after their lead singer died of a heroin overdose. And they sang other songs I've heard and didn't identify as being by the same people.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

arisia 08

best lecture I attended:
Effect of microgravity on human body, or how to get to mars without killing the crew.
Very packed with information. Speaker (Dr. Schneiderman) was very well prepared.

best lecture I only made it to the last 10 minutes of:
Artist Guest of Honor Dave Seeley's description of process, on Sunday.
I wish I could have made it to more.

what I like about Arisia:

variety: panels on art, writing, physiology, burlesque

very nice art exhibit. I'm sorry I didn't buy the hand-painted leaves and space shuttle tie.

great children's program--both fast track and childcare kids were very happy with their weekend.
The lady in charge of childcare/kamikaze costuming kindly let the younger child go up on stage with her elder sister even though the costume was a Building 19 starfleet uniform and a lizard hat--not quite a creatively produced costume.

very accepting atmosphere. Lots of people dressed weirdly walking around and everyone smiling.

unofficial motto of Arisia: We embrace the stereotype.