Thursday, March 31, 2005

Back Yard Photography, 1986-1987

Black-chinned Hummingbird, I think.  Back yard on Grannen.


Another back yard picture.  Desert tortoise.

A flicker, out by the little birdbath-pond where the spadefoot toads used to breed.

Here's that bunny yet again, just 'cause I like him a lot.

Tuffy-spotting!On Monday, just before sunset, I went looking for birds at our current house.  I heard a mockingbird somewhere, but I didn't see anything but mourning doves.  That's the difference between a fenced yard in town and a deserty yard in the west side foothills.  I want to go back to the foothills!

I'm happy to say, though, that there is one animal I can find in my current back yard.  Here she is.


Less Gullible at Six Than I Am Now (Updated)

Weekend Assignment #53: Recount a tale of a particularly successful April Fool's prank you perpetrated, had perpetrated on you, or witnessed personally. As a matter of humor, it's best if the pranks are not merely cruel (i.e., if it ends with someone in tears or in the hospital, that's probably stretching the limits of the phrase "successful April Fool's prank"), but aside from that, bring 'em on.

Extra Credit: Prank someone famous. Tell us how.

Manlius Pebble Hill school

I'm not a prankster, merry or otherwise.  I don't like upsetting people, and I don't have the patience to set up a gag. Other people have fooled me, though.  I'm distressingly gullible.  The most memorable attempt was Lawyer Bob's insistance that he didn't know who William F. Buckley was (aside from Jim Buckley's brother), despite supposedly having just lunched with him.  I didn't believe Bob, but he wouldn't give in.

Other times, though, I believe people when I shouldn't.  Mercifully, I mostly don't remember the details. The ones I do remember had more to do with fraud than mere pranks.

The one really memorable April Fool's prank pulled on me was when I was six years old. My dad got me that time. Well, sort of.

When I was in kindergarten, my mom decided partway through the year to transfer me from Manlius Elementary to a private school in Dewitt called Pebble Hill.  (Pebble Hill later merged with The Manlius School to become Manlius Pebble Hill School.)  The school had an excellent reputation academically, but the big draw for my parents was that they had all day kindergarten instead of half days.  I would no longer need a sitter in the afternoons.  Also, my mom thought I could probably be skipped ahead to first grade.   I've told that story before, so I'll link to it here and leave it at that.

Anyway, my dad was driving me over to Pebble Hill one morning--April 1st, 1963, it must have been. We were already in Dewitt when  he told me that the school had burned down the night before.

I was shocked.  Still, something didn't quite make sense to me, even at age six.

"If the school burned down, then where are we going?" I asked.

Dad turned left, and there was the school, safe and sound.  I was highly relieved.  Truth is, I wouldn't want anything to happen that was remotely like the nasty little kid's parody song I learned years later, but decades before Columbine:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school.
We have tortured every teacher, we have broken every rule.
Now we're  going down the hall so we can hang the principal
As the school comes burning down!

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Teacher hit me with a ruler.
Caught her at the door with my trusty .44.
She ain't my teacher no more!

Nowadays, anyone who sang a song like that would be presumed to be disturbed.  But at F-M in those days, we were just blowing off steam.  Nobody at Manlius Elementary, Pleasant Street or Eagle Hilll even dreamed that a real kid would ever take a gun to school and use it.

Extra credit: in a way I sort of did this, but I didn't mean to. 

Harlan (center, on the chair) demonstrates the proper way to wear his favorite hat
Harlan Ellison wanted to borrow some photos from me, and I agreed to send them. While I was at it, I experimented with scanning the photos, printed the less-than-satisfactory results, and enclosed them in the envelope, along with the photos and some other stuff.

A few days later, Harlan called.  "Listen, I was under the impression that you were going to send the original photos, or the negatives.  But all I see here are bad copies."

"The photos are in there too," I assured him.  Look for a small folded envelope inside the big one."

"Oh, there they are.  Thanks.  I'll get them back to you as soon as I can."

"No rush."

I didn't MEAN to trickHarlan into thinking I hadn't sent the photos, but I don't regret getting the call.  It was good to hear his voice again.

But he hasn't returned the photos yet.

******* Update: 5/4/06********

Several months after I wrote this entry, I did get the photos back.  I'll tell that story on my current blog, Outpost Mâvarin.


Dave's bungee giftUpdate, 4/1/05: Okay, I pulled a prank. As you may expect, it was a very mild one.

Yesterday, Dave at work mentioned that he didn't own any bungee cords.  I bought a six-pack of them at lunch yesterday for $3.49, so I'd have a choice of cord lengths to tie down the loose end of my front bumper.  Dave said that if he had bungee cords, he'd probably find a use for them.

So this morning I found a use for one.  A very silly use.

I took the shortest bungee - it was purple - and bungeed his bottle of instant hand sanitizer to his desk calendar. Ta-daa!


I remembered a prank I actually did myself (with help), over a decade ago.

As you know, Batman, in the early 1990s I was editing TARDIS Time Lore for United Whovians of Tucson, and The Observer for Project Quantum Leap.  I think it was in 1992 that TTL got an April Fool's section.

The header of the Who zine renamed it Tardy Times Lord.  Tracy's column, normally called "From the Control Console," was labeled "From the Controlled Soul."  The indicia said the following:

TARDY Times Lord #8, April the 8th 1970. Published a month (decade?) or two late by the Universal Whonians of Tuscon, a association with insert joke here. TARDY Times Lord is an April Fool's joke published by and for fans of My Favorite Martian, who are solely irresponsible. The copyrights in the series Doctor Who and Quantum Leap are held by a bunch of mindless jerks (not Don B.) who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. This publication does not intend to infringe upon said copyrights, but probably does so all the time. Neither the mindless jerks nor us have any responsibility for this publication or for thefan club which publishes it. All material herein subject to the real disclaimer and copyright notice further in. Don't Panic! This zine is sold by weight, not by volume. Contents may have settled during shipping and handling.

Everyone's name was mispelled, in as many different ways as possible.  Every page of it was Page 42. And I started a serial called "Time and Tide Melts the Snowman."  There never was a part two, which was a shame because the story had potential.  Oddly, my copy of the zine doesn't have that in it. Hmmm...


Top 10 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time!

Waiting for the Viking

Okay, so this morning did not go as expected.

I started by called Big Sky Collision. They were very nice, efficient, competent and reasonably priced when I backed into a barrier at a gas station last year. So I called them, and was told to call Allstate and then call Big Sky back. Allstate was next on my list anyway, so I made the call.

This is when things started to veer in an unexpected direction. Mary at my agent's office said that if the other guy was at fault (as clearly he was), my best bet was to contact his insurance company directly. Allstate could act as my go-between, but then I'd be out my deductible, and settlement could take months. That didn't sound good. So. Okay. I agreed to call the other company.

What other company is that, exactly?

1965 Ford--but which one was the driver?On the police report, which incidentally lists other driver "Michael" as being just barely 18 years old and the Ford truck as being from 1965, the other insurance company is listed as "Orian" (sic). Policy number: unknown.

So I looked up Orion Insurance online.  First site that came up was commercial insurance in the UK. Umm, no.  But eventually I found a site that said Orion Auto Insurance had been renamed Viking.  I went to the Viking site, found the number, and called.

Turned out the kid hadn't reported the accident to them yet.  But the lady on the phone took my info, and said someone from the Colorado(!) office would call within two business days.

So I went to work.

what a mess.Well, the insurance adjuster just called.  She was very nice.  They don't seem to have a current working number for Michael, but it is a valid policy.  She's going to call the witness, and I'm to take the car to Maaco tomorrow for an estimate. She even said something about getting me a rental car if the Saturn isn't drivable at night, once Maaco confirms this fact.  Well, yay!

I guess it's going to be okay after all.  My only worry is that if the repair costs "way over $2000," as the adjuster is guessing, the car may yet be totaled.  I hope not.  That poor car and I have been through a lot together!  It was my mom's last major gift to me, and I'd hate to let it go.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Yes, I had a car accident on my way home from work tonight.  I'm okay, and the car's almost certainly not totaled. A youngish guy turned left in his white pickup truck, across three lanes of traffic.  The lead drivers in the left and middle lanes could see him (one waved him through); but he was invisible to me in the right lane until he was 20 feet away. I couldn't tell that they were stopped for someone, because the traffic there was pretty stop and go anyway, about a block short of the traffic light at Craycroft. My lane was moving, though, and I was moving with it.

Fun fact: there is no way to go from 30 to 0 in 20 feet, except by crashing into something.  But I tried.  I promise you, I tried. Then I crashed into the white pickup.

Look at my poor, beloved, abused Saturn! Fortunately, the frame seems to be fine.  The bumper, the grill and the hood took all the damage--those, and my knee, somehow.  It's black and blue, and I'll be sore tomorrow.  The paramedics offered to take me to the hospital, but heck, I hurt my knee worse than this in the bathroom on Christmas Eve.  I didn't go to the hospital then, either.

The piece on the ground is one of my headlights.  Luckily, it fell off in the Mexican restaurant parking lot / driveway, not in the right lane of 22nd St.  I found it lying behind my back bumper when I got out of the car.

John was upset, of course, but he handled the news reasonably well.  He called me back to suggest that I take these pictures.  "You may as well blog about it," he said.

A very nice inspector with the Tucson Fire Department saw the whole thing.  He called it in, talked to the paramedics, stayed with me until the motorcycle cop arrived and told him what happened.  I was cited for not having my current insurance card with me and not wearing a seat belt.  The other driver was cited for making an unsafe left turn and not having his driver's license with him.

As you can (sort of) see below, the truck didn't sustain much damage.  The cop explained to the truck's driver that even if someone waves him in, it doesn't absolve him from  responsibility to yield to all three lanes of oncoming traffic, and to make sure it's safe to proceed. I think the guy tried to tell the officer that I was speeding, but the cop knew that wasn't true, not just because of the fire department guy's description, but because of the pattern of skid marks in the street, and the amount of damage sustained.  "If she had been speeding," the cop told the truck's driver, "You'd both be in the hospital now."  He also said that he personally had written up "ten or eleven" accidents at that very spot on 22nd St. over the years. 

It's not that I never speed, but I could not have done 40 (the speed limit) in the heavy 6 PM traffic.  I estimated that I was going thirty at the moment I saw the truck.  The cop thought I probably wasn't even going that fast.

The driver's boss or dad or something, who wore what looked like a mechanic's uniform from a local brake company, came by to bring the other driver his insurance and driver's license, or possibly one but not the other. Once he saw my car, this older guy very nicely offered to bungee my bumper to the Saturn's engine block.  I accepted, gratefully. He also told the younger guy that he'd had a truck totaled years ago when someone did to him what the driver did to me tonight. 

The same thing happened to me once before, too, twenty years ago in Columbus.  I was driving an 80cc Honda scooter at the time.  The bike was totaled, and I needed stitches in my heel.

I'll have to take the morning off to have Allstate look at the car, drive it to Big Sky Collision, and get either a loaner or a rental.  John's car, a 1984 New Yorker that used to belong to Mom, is getting to be unsafe to drive (flooring it either does nothing or puts in in neutral), but working on that will have to wait.

My taking the morning off will be a hardship for Mal and David at work.  We're short-handed already, because Eleanor's dad, who lived with her, died last night.  I was going to write about that here, all the reflections that come from watching someone else go through a death of a parent; but I haven't the heart for it tonight.


P.S.  I've going to postpone the back yard wildlife pictures until tomorrow night. I'm sure you all understand.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Wild Guesses and Wild Animals

Okay, with no further delay:

Ten Things That May Be True About Becky Yanagi
(educated guesses, based on a meme suggested by Paul L.)

1. Becky never has fewer than five books in various stages of being read.  Sometimes there are as many as ten.
2. Becky's odd sleep schedule stems from a combination of online activities and parenting activities. But she's a night owl anyway.
3. Becky--or maybe her mother, acting on her behalf--once turned down a modeling job because a) it was unseemly, and b) it interfered with school.
4. Becky and John have narrowed down the list of possible girl's names to four--no, five--no, four.
5. Although the preschool question remains unresolved, Becky can tell you which school districts in the area have the best reputations, at least at the K-6 level.
6. The top priority in house hunting, if Becky and John decided to move, would be Tyler-centric considerations - a safe place to play, neighborhood kids, good school and recreation opportunities nearby.  Second priority is as much space as possible to accommodate a growing family and their stuff.
7. Becky prefers take-out to cooking, but it has to be good stuff, not junk, and there has to be something Tyler will consent to eat.
8. Although Becky has lived in the Northeast all her life, she's not sick of snow yet--well, maybe a little.
9. Becky would like to travel more, preferably with the whole family healthy throughout the journey.
10. For Becky, the hardest part of going out of town is getting behind on reading people's journals.  Unless the trip involves family (other than John and Tyler).  In that case, the family contact part is sometimes more stressful than the being offline part.

I hope this came out okay!

More Critter Pictures, circa 1987

A number of people seemed to like my wildlife pictures from 1986 or 1987, so here are some more of them, taken from the same photo album.  This was the period when I used to take my hand-me-down Canon AE1 up into the mountains nearly every day, along with a zoom lens, a macro lens, two bird books, binoculars, sometimes a tripod, and even a plastic sandwich bag full of bird seed. This ended when a) someone stole the camera out of our van on night, as part of a multi-family burglery of neighborhood vehicles, and b) I eventually had to get a job, which curtailed my  birding quite a bit!

This is a junco, probably at Molino Basin on Mount Lemmon. 

Another shot of that owl.  I'm pretty sure this was at Catalina State Park.

Back to Molino Basin.  Pocket gopher.  This is not a very good picture technically, but what an amazing-looking critter!  Here he is again:

And here's that back yard bunny again. More back yard photography tomorrow night.


Monday, March 28, 2005

News and Stuff (as if I Haven't Already Blogged Enough Today)

1. Go read Sarah K's LiveJournal to see how I did on my Ten Things That Might Be True About Sarah.  While you're at it, check out Sara G's reader-interactive serial.

2. I'm starting to get a lot of responses to my revised resume. A few of them are real leads on real jobs in my field.  The rest are sales jobs, vague come-ons that sound like scams or at least fishing (but not phishing), and attempts to sell me something.  Still, I'm encouraged.  The latest one is for a real accounting-related job in Tucson, with a low-end job description but good pay and prospects.

Disconcertingly, I had to ask Mal to call the recruiter today as a "supervisory reference." I joked that "If you want to ruin my life, here's your opportunity."  He laughed and agreed to make the call. 

She asked Mal what I did there (he said "bookkeeper," which isn't as good as saying "accountant"), whether I did a good job ("yes"), whether I'd been there a long time ("yes") and what he'd do when I left ("panic, probably"). She didn't go into depth.  Mal and I figure she was basically checking for gross fabrication on the resume.  Well, fine.  Aside from the terminology of my job title (which varies, depending on who's talking to whom," It's all fairly unimpeachable.

3.  I'm going to put off the other meme stuff another day.  Between the church web updates, blogging and other goings-on, I was up past 4 AM last night.  I really want to get in eight hours (for a change) tonight. Sometimes, I have to do the sensible thing, y'know?


Some bunny's tired.

(This desert cottontail used to hang out under our Israeli pine tree

in our back yard on Grannen. Circa 1987. Photo by Karen or John.)

Radio! Radio! Right Now!

I'm on the radio in 20 minutes! Make that 4 minutes! 8 PM MST!

If you miss it, check the web site for broadcast times of "A Poet's Moment." It's one of their mini-programs, and each show is broadcast four times. Remember, all times are MST.

If you don't want to hear my less-than-dulcet voice overdramatizing my best poem, then, well, never mind. But it's a cool station, regardless of whether you hear me on it. Where else can you hear Louis Prima, Woody Guthrie, Ziggy Marley, Stan Ridgeway, Fanny, blues, Tucson artists, electronica, obscure rockabilly, equally obscure psychedelia, and classic samba?

There will be another show, with another poem. I'll let you know when he gets that one scheduled.


You missed it already, didn't you? Yes, you did! Sarah heard it. I heard it. The rest of you missed it. I understand. You didn't get adequate notice.

Like Little Rabbit Foo Foo, I'm going to give you three more chances:

Wednesday at 1 PM MST
Friday at 2 AM MST
Sunday at 2 PM MST

All times are approximate. Tonight it aired 3 minutes before the hour.

Here's the poem, in case you want to read along:

Pilate’s Answer:

“...And All Ye Need to Know”

by Karen Funk Blocher

And when they thought they needed him

For all men's grand and trivial schemes,

They hunted, leaving women home

To watch him dancing at their doors.

The men would sometimes find him, too:

An ear between two whispered words,

A hand in dying, dancing flames,

An eye that blinked in time with stars.

Soon or late, they thought they spied

An ancient foot between two growls,

And grabbing by a withered toe

They dragged him to the stadium.

In the center was a stage,

That they from every angle might

Survey and study ageless flesh:

Now young, now old, forever strange.

And one by one they came to coax,

To scream, negotiate, threaten, bribe...

While he stood smiling, mocking all,

His mouth forever smiling, shut.

And much would some of them endure

Just to glimpse his shadowed face.

They sat on nails. They cut off ears.

They starved alone among the rats.

Then many, failing, came outside

To claim that they had heard his voice,

And used his name to justify

Their good, and bad, and mad ideas.

Others, quiet in their chairs

Would paint him 'til their hands were dust,

In somber blues, in burning reds,

In glorious fluorescent tones.

A child, a sphinx, a laurel crown,

A junkie, shepherd, quiet pond

They saw in him, and in his hand

A flower, pitchfork, candle, sword.

Each night the thwarted pilgrims left,

Some early, others staying 'til

Their eyelids pressed on reddened eyes

And legs could scarcely stagger off.

And finally, when all had gone,

Truth left the stage, invading dreams

And laughing, spinning changing lies

For men to follow, blindly grateful.


That Lousy Hummingbird Photo (other photos added)

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Get a shot of one of our fine feathered friends (preferably undomesticated).

I'll try to do better later.  But this male Anna's Hummingbird happened to be at St. Michael's on Saturday.  He represents one of about 17 species of hummers that have been seen in southern Arizona at one time or another, about 13 of which are seen every year.  Not all of them make to Tucson, but some of them do--such as this guy.

Hummingbirds of Arizona

Late Additions:

Here are some bird pictures from 1986-1987:

Great Horned Owl

Cactus Wren (state bird of Arizona)

Curve-billed Thrasher, relative of the mockingbird and almost as good a singer.

and last, not a bird, but a bunny:

Resting up from Easter?


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Why Don't These Things Just Work? / Ten Things

Why Don't These Things Just Work?

<--->begin rant>
Okay, I'm officially annoyed.  I wrote my Sunday night post in an AOL text window, because the Composer pages in version of Netscape I installed on the new laptop (7.2) code things in annoying and unhelpful ways.  (Example: image size is coded in such a way that any changes made to it using the Image Properties window are immediately ignored.)  Why did they have to wreck my favorite HTML tool?  It worked just great on my old computer!

So anyway, I used an AOL text window instead, per John Scalzi's suggestion.  I looked up the entry with Paul Little's "Ten Things That May Be True" meme, wrote ten things about Sarah K., left a placeholder to write one about Becky Y., went offline, and went to dinner.  When I came back, I copied a different meme from a different Sara's journal, and set about answering that.  I was just finishing up when a blue screen full of white Courier text appeard for less than a second.  Then my new laptop rebooted, and told me it had just recovered from a serious error.  The MS Windows IE screen that popped up said something unhelpful about a device driver.

Needless to say, I've lost my entire unposted posting.

This is the sort of thing I bought the new laptop to avoid!  The old one had a serious error not long ago, and there were signs that the hard disk was dying.  But this new one doesn't much like my CF card reader (the probable source of the crash), and it seems to leave out letters when I type fast (two-fingered, but fast).


So I thought I'd better upgrade from the free 60-day subscription to Norton Antivirus to Norton SystemWorks 2005. Only, the Symantec web site wouldn't let me.  So I installed NSW 2003 from a CD.  I figured it wanted NSW to upgrade from, not just NA.  But I still got an error screen, something about cookies, which reappeared whether I used IE or Netscape, and regardless of how liberal my cookie settings were.

Double Aargh.

So I tried to run LiveUpdate.  That just failed, at least to some degree.  Need I say Aargh again?



I just hadn't configured Netscape Composer properly. D'Oh!  If you want to use it to write journal entries, I suggest that you set your preferences NOT to reformat HTML files, and NOT to use CSS styles.  If you love CSS for some reason, then never mind.

And the bottom line on not losing text of any sort, of course, is to save your work.  But frankly, I don't like saving posts-in-progress.  Maybe I'll make a default file name, and keep reusing it, and Shelly sort-of suggests.

One thing that isn't solved is the fact that my new laptop likes to omit a letter or two per sentence typed, especially the letter e, unless I type very slowly and pound the keys extra hard.  If my newest postings seem more typographically challenged than before, you now know why.

Oh, and I eventually found a Symantec page that says they don't sell upgrades for NSW, only whole new programs.  So why the heck is there an upgrade button on every page that sells NSW 2005?  Hmm?  And when you click it, why does it complain about your cookies instead of telling you there's no such option?  Bad Symantec!  No biscuit!

Ten Things That May Be True About Sarah Kishler
(reconstructed from memory)

Keep in mind that I've never actually met Sarah, despite having known her online for over a decade.  Sarah K., Sara G. and Jim R. were the hoopiest of the froods who used to hang out on the Hitchhiker's boards on Prodigy in the early 1990s.  I've lost track of Jim, but Sara and Sarah are even hoopier now.

Anyway, here are my semi-educated guesses:

1)  Sarah was born in the Year of the Cat.  If she wasn't, she should have been.

2)  Sarah has seen her second-favorite band, They Might Be Giants, at least five times.

3)  Sarah missed her only chance to get playwright Arthur Miller's autograph when he ducked out of the room to avoid being asked about Marilyn.  Sarah would not have asked about Marilyn.

4)Sarah acts in local theater because she enjoys it, not because she wants Hollywood to discover her.

5) Although Sarah generally prefers comedies, she appreciates serious plays too, if they're well-written.  Cf #3 above.

6) Sarah's favorite Python is Eric Idle.

7) Sarah's favorite wild animal is a bobcat or a mountain lion.

8) Sarah is easily seduced by silliness and eccentricity.  No, I don't mean sexually.

9) Sarah would like to follow up her first book, Spark Stories, with more writing, but her job, theatre, volunteering and other activities get in the way.

10) Nevertheless, Sarah will eventually write something really good, and people will gladly buy it at Barnes & Noble.

I know it's not very funny, but I was going for sorta kinda accurate here.  How'd I do, Sarah?

Becky, I'm going to hold off another day on yours.  Nettie, I'll try to do your interview questions tomorrow  night.

That other meme can wait another day, too.  Tonight I've got to get ready for that poetry recording tomorrow.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Two

Art by Sherlock

I'm a little worried about what will happen to this new serial when I reach the point at which I have to know the cause of Cathy and Carl's problem, and how to fix it.  I'm also concerned that only a few of you know the backstory for this.  Oh, well!  I'll do my best to keep it accessible to people who haven't read the books.

Part One:  Cathy and Carl Salazar are on their way to high school in Dewitt, NY when their uncle and guardian, Jamie Barrett, suddenly starts behaving strangely.  After referring to the twins by odd names and promising to pick them up later in the carriage, Uncle Jamie looks confused--but denies that there's anything wrong.

Part Two: What Does Randy Know?

As they made their way from the parking lot to their lockers, Cathy and Carl discussed their uncle’s strange words. “I don’t get it,” Carl said. “He didn’t look like he was kidding or anything.  Why would he say something like that?”

Cathy shook her head.  “I don’t think he was kidding.”

“Well, what other reason could there be?  Hypnosis?  Drugs?  Insanity?  He’s always been so normal up ’til now.  Positively boring.”

“You just don’t like that he doesn’t let you get away with stuff,” Cathy said.  “But I agree. This isn’t like him at all.”

“Yeah, well, if it’s not like him,” Carl said, “then who is it like?”

Carl’s question sounded absurd, but somehow it wasn’t. Somewhere in the back of Cathy’s mind, Uncle Jamie’s talk of royalty and carriages sounded very familiar.  Why?  She didn’t remember anything like that in Tolkien or Lewis, or any other fantasy she’d read.  Not specifically.  And why would Uncle Jamie talk like that, even as a joke?  He mostly read John D. MacDonald, not Patricia C. Wrede.

“I don’t know,” Cathy said. 

But their friend Randy, when they told him about it, seemed to have at least one idea about Jamie Barrett?s odd behavior. ?And he called you Your Majesty?? he asked.

Cathy shook her head. ?He called Carl ?Your Majesty.? He called me Cathma.?

Randy reached into his locker, and pulled out the blue spiral notebook he always carried with him to lunch, study hall and English class. Cathy was pretty sure that Randy's first class of the day was math, but Randy grabbed his notebook anyway, and clutched it protectively. ?Are you sure nobody?s ever called you Cathma?" he asked. ?I mean, your name is Catherine Maria Salazar. Cathma is at least a possible nickname.?

?Who ever heard of anyone being called Cathma?? Cathy protested.  ?I?ve been called Cathy, Cath, and even Cate a couple of times, but never Cathma.?

?What do you think it means, Randy?? Carl asked. 

Randy looked at each twin in turn, and seemed to come to a decision.  ?I?ll tell you at lunch.?

?What can you tell us then, that you can?t tell us now?? Carl said. ?If you have something to say, just say it.?

Randy shook his head.  ?I?m not sure yet what I know,? he admitted.  ?Maybe nothing helpful.  Maybe a lot. The bell?s going to ring in a minute, so there?s no time to explain, even if I knew what to say.  Just trrust me, okay??

Carl frowned.  ?What did you just say??

?I said ?trust me.??

?That?s not exactly what you said,? Cathy told him. ?You rolled the r in ?trust.? You aren?t taking French this term, are you??

Randy looked suddenly frightened. ?No.  No, I-I?m not.? He grabbed the rest of his books and dashed away down the hall, just as the bell rang..

Part One

Welcome to Mâvarin (info on the books and characters)

Joshua Wander and other past fiction (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Last call: the next part of Joshua Wander's story is available by email only, to a limited number of readers.  Please email me if you want to be on that list.

Good Friday (but not a great one)

sunset - almost

This particular entry is chock full of religious musings. It will probably annoy the non-Christians among you, and maybe draw an attack or two from fundamentalists.  Sorry about that.  I'll try to make it up to you with some cool new pictures at the beginning, middle and end of the entry.

sunset over the Jim Click lot

Over on the St. Michael & All Angels Arts blog, in which I post mostly my own religious stuff to a audience of zero, I just reprinted an early posting from Musings.  It was called "Palm Sunday Heresy."  It was the history of my attempts at religiosity, from mock masses in the game room to high school Jesus Freak-ing, the many years when I didn't attend church and the reasons why St. Michael's has become my spiritual home, even though I still don't know exactly what I believe, much less understand it all.  I'm not going to post the whole thing again here; just bop over to the other blog if you're curious.

But at the end are some updates, most of which I will mention here, and even expand upon:

******* Update: 2005 ******

Karen does the first reading on Maundy Thursday 2005It's been a year, almost, since I wrote "Palm Sunday Heresy."  I've gotten better at being a lector, and I don't make quite as many mistakes as crucifer. But really, overall, not much has changed in terms of my knowing what I believe or what I should be doing about it.  I listen to the sermons - heck, I edit and post the sermons.  I say the prayers and sing the hymns, carry the cross and read aloud at the ten o'clock.  Yet somehow, I don't seem to be making much progess.

I haven't accomplished much this Lent, in terms or fasting or readings or special devotions. You know I haven't quite managed to avoid blogging at work, and I haven't done that well on the dieting.  Last year, I read Girl Meets God plus all four Gospels during Lent. Not this year.

Nor have I learned anything much about my faith, such as it is.  I still don't understand about  heaven, or how to reconcile troublesome Johannine presentations of Jesus to the earlier, very different synoptic ones. Most of all, I haven't figured out about what Father Smith calls "the scandal of the cross." I don't understand the reason for what happened on Good Friday all those years ago. Oh, the human reasons - jealousy, politics, power, and sectarian disagreement - seem clear enough, but God's reasons remain obscure to me.

But I know that something happened, something that matters, something that resonates through 2000 years of translations and interpretations, of the same or similar words repeated so often that meaning threatens to slip away. It matters, whether or not I understand it, whether or not I'm clumsy or distracted when I'm carrying the cross or sitting in the sanctuary.

And I pray that by next year, I'll understand why it matters and what it means, at least one percent better than I do now.


moon over C.L.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Life of a Blogger, Illustrated

This is another two-part entry. 

Casting My Life

Weekend Assignment #52: Congratulations! Hollywood is making a movie of your life, and you get to choose any actor you want to play you -- yes, even if they're dead (the things they can do with special effects!) Who do you choose and why?

Extra credit: Name the musician/band who will play the theme song to the movie.

Who would even want to play me?First of all, the story of my life would not make a good movie. I can turn the occasional incident into an amusing essay, but really, my life as a whole would be pretty darn boring unless it was heavily fictionalized.  Of course, Hollywood does that all the time, so I guess it's okay.

I thought of Kirstie Alley to fill the lead role, but she's six years older than I am.  Kathy Najimy is only a month older, but she has that nose, and well, no.  She just doesn't have the same brand of quirkiness I have.  Unless I think of someone later, I think I'd prefer to play the part myself.  After all, who knows more about my motivations than I do?

Speaking of which, there was a guy on NPR today who'd written a book about people playing themselves in public in this postmodern world of blogging and reality tv.  This prompted me to write the following email to Talk of the Nation (it wasn't used, of course):

As a blogger, I post fairly personal information (no, not THAT personal) on a daily basis.  Although there are things that I hold back, I do so more out of respect for the privacy of others than my own.

This past weekend, my dad was in town. He expressed the opinion that he and his generation would never share their lives with the world at large as I do.  He feels it's nobody's business but his own (and possibly that of his family) what he did in World War II, and that talking about it online would be self-aggrandizing.  Frankly, I don't understand his attitude, although I try to respect it.

It all comes back to the concept of "image," which I railed against in high school. It always seemed to me that I was exactly the same person to my friends, teachers, parents, and later to readers.  After all these years I can admit, grudgingly, that I will apply filters of polite behavior standards, or keep some things private.  Still, overall, I feel that what I put on my blog is not so much a performance as a piece of Karen, only slightly filtered.

Is this a postmodern performance?  Or is it just me?

Karen Funk Blocher

I suppose I just violated my dad's privacy again.  Oh, well.  Don't tell him, okay?

For the extra credit, I'm holding out for McCartney.  Or better still, The Beatles, with an alternate take of Things We Said Today.

Tucson Pro and Con

Over on my LiveJournal, I received the following comment the other day:

Hi Karen

I wanted to ask you about living in Tucson (I'm thinking about moving there in the next few months), but I couldn't find your email address on any of your other blogs.

If you don't mind I'd like to ask you a few general questions about living there. I can be reached at ....


First of all, non AOLers may be unaware that the screen name listed on an AOL Journal (e.g. "posted by mavarin") is an email address.  Just add to it.

Second, I have lots of thoughts about the pros and cons of Tucson. 

Snow on Mount Lemmon, March 2005.Pro:
If you're not fond of snow, this is the place to be in winter.  It only snows in the city for about ten minutes, once every three or four years. If you get to missing the white stuff, just drive up Mount Lemmon during the winter, and get it out of your system.

110 degrees in summer is no joke, even if it is "a dry heat."  Just as the monsoon is coming in but before it actually rains, the humidity goes up a bit and it gets really miserable. 

Fortunately, there's such a thing as air conditioning, in cars and in buildings of all kinds.  There are exceptions: the central A/C broke down in my house at least five years ago and has never been fixed, and the A/C in my Saturn is inadequate in high summer.  But MOST places in Tucson are adequately cooled. You'll still be miserable at a day game at Tucson Electric Park, but generally it's no big deal.

This is a very pretty place to live.  There are mountains almost everywhere you look, the desert is fairly scenic, and there's a fun mix of fake Santa Fe, modern and other architecture. 

There are lots of places in the city where no desert plants can be seen.  Also, certain elevations of desert aren't all that pretty.  If you want a lawn, you'll be told to "Beat the Peak" in your watering schedule, and the grass will probably go brown anyway.

Bank One and the CatalinasPro: 
Tucson is easy to navigate.  The Catalinas are to the north, the Rincons to the east, the Tucson Mountains to the west.  You can learn to distinguish them in about five minutes, after which you'll never be lost in the daytime.  Nearly all the major streets are either N-S or E-W, and spaced about a mile apart.  Easy.

Maybe you've got to build bypasses, but it Tucson it hasn't happened yet.  In Syracuse and Columbus, the Interstates cover the territory with a north-south freeway, an east-west one and a circle skirting the city's edge.  Tucson only has I-10, an east-west route pretending to be a north-south one, plus I-19 to Nogales.  I-10 is mildly useful between Grant Road and I-19, in and around downtown.  But the southeast part of it is well into the boonies, because of Davis-Monthan.  The northwest part is similarly inconvenient.  Be prepared for lots of long drives on Grant or Speedway or 22nd Street. And oh, yeah, don't drive through washes (flash flood areas) during a major storm.

This is a great place if you love baseball.  Hi Corbett is historic and folksy, albeit less so than in the days of Mike Feder and the Toros. Spring Training finds the Diamondbacks, the White Sox and the Rockies in residence, playing the Phoenix-based Cubs and Angels and others.

Tucson Electric Park.  Feh.  Unfriendly, modern ballpark, too far from town.

Old Tucson's replica train depotPro:
Lots of fun historic places to go to, with or without visiting relatives in tow:  Mission San Xavier Del Bac, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson, the Center For Creative Photography, Sabino Canyon, The Pima Air and Space Museum, and the Titan Missile Museum all come to mind.  Day trip possibilities include Tombstone and Phoenix.  A long weekend will get you to Las Vegas or Sedona or the Grand Canyon or the White Mountains, or Los Angeles if you don't mind spending half the time driving.  And if you're a gambler, you don't have to go as far as Vegas to have fun. We've got several casinos, operated by the Tohono O'odham and the Pascua Yaqui.

Old Tucson hasn't really recovered from the arson fire years ago, and there's nothing much going on there once summer hits.  You'll have to drive to Phoenix for the big rock acts or major league baseball.  Most truly historic buildings were torn down decades ago. And the casinos are a bit of a drive to get to.

Roadrunners and cactus wrens, kingsnakes and desert tortises, curve-billed thrashers and coyotes make benign and interesting neighbors.

Occasionally there's a scare involving a bear or a mountain lion up in the Catalinas or other wild places.  Coyotes occasionally kill cats.  Certain toads are poisonous, so don't lick them, or let a dog do so. Don't mess with that rattlesnake; are you nuts?  There probably aren't any scorpions or black widows in your shoes, but it's possible to encounter one of these poisonous critters on occasion, and yes I do mean indoors.

The cost of living is fairly low compare to much of the country.  You can buy an awful lot of house here for the cost of renting an apartment in Boston or L.A.

Be prepared for a major pay cut compared to Boston and L.A.  I suppose it kind of evens things out.

my hero, JanetPro:
Tucson is predominantly Democratic.

The state is predominantly Republican. But John McCain is a pretty good guy, and Janet Napolitano (shown here) managed to get elected governor anyway.

Overall, I like Tucson a lot.


Tomorrow: catching up on my memes, and maybe a few thoughts on Good Friday.  Or not.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I started this journal a year ago today.  The first picture I put on it was of Tuffy - of course! 

So how will I celebrate the anniversary? With more pictures of Tuffy--of course!

To Do List  (annotated Thursday morning):

1. Sleep. (Didn't do nearly enough of this Tuesday night, but I did better Wednesday night.)

2. Work. (Yes, I worked.  Even got stuff done.)

3. Call the recruiter. (Dithered over related issues, such as accessing RHI web site.  Did not call.)

4. Finish learning about styles and numbering in Word. (Nope. Not so far.)

5. Study formulas in Excel. (I really need to do this.)

6. Write suppositions that "may be true" about Sarah K. (Soon.  Becky, too.)

7. Write interview questions for Nettie. (Will do.)

8. Write or repost something on SMAAARTS to close out Lent. (I have something picked out.)

9. I really *must* send out those Holiday Trivia prizes!  They're on this desk right now, but I want to customize them before they go out. (Maybe this weekend.)

10. Clean!  Come on, do it! (John bagged up all the mail this morning. Now I've got to take it out and trash most of it.)

And I didn't even mention studying for the CPA exam.


3/23/04   Quick Rundown of Miscellaneous Opinions  posted by mavarin (1 comments)  Top reason I'll never vote for George W Bush: I disagree with virtually everything he says...

3/23/04   Testing...  posted by mavarin (0 comments)  This is to test the IM/Buddy List feature of this journal. Here goes nothin'!

3/23/04   Googling Mavarin  posted by mavarin (4 comments)  I check the site statistics on often.  It's interesting what I find...

3/23/04   Lent   posted by mavarin (0 comments)  Growing up Catholic, I was used to the concept of "giving up something for Lent."  As an...

3/23/04   Hi there!   posted by mavarin (1 comments)  See what you started, Shelly?  This is just a quick hello and placeholder.  Tonight...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New Toys - Truth and Balderdash - Web Memory Meme

New Toys

Today is John's birthday.  He got books and baseball cards and a 1959 Disneyland supplement, and we're going to see Shonen Knife shortly. They perform at 11:30 PM--pretty darn late, even for me! (Update: we decided to skip the concert.  We're both tired and short on sleep, and we just saw Shonen Knife last year, and John has a cold.)

John is also going to get my two-year-old Compaq, because I just got a new one.  Becky found a killer deal, just as my old hard drive appeared to be dying, again.  Above is a picture of Shela-the-laptop.  It's mostly set up now, but I'm having trouble staying online.  The loose wires that go to the 1970-style four prong phone jack may be dying.  That, or I need to make sure the firewall isn't causing problems. I bet it is. (Yes, it was.)

While I was in Yikes today, buying John a Rat Fink Wobbler, I found something I had to have for myself.  Do you know who this is? (John said, "I can't begrudge you getting that.  It's pretty cool!")

The Truth Value of Balderdash

Paul Little has a meme in which he's made a list of "Ten Things That Might Be True About Karen Funk Blocher:" It's all balderdash, of course, but there are minor elements of truth in some of them:

1) Karen's favourite song is Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through by Meatloaf. Either that or My Heart Will Go  On by Celine Dion.

Truth Value: 1%.  I like Paradise By the Dashboard Light and a few other songs by Meat Loaf, but I'm not familiar with that one. Celine Dion? Never!  I'd have trouble picking one favorite song, but I'm very fond of Things We Said Today, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away and If I Fell (all by The Beatles, of course).

2) The highest pair of heels Karen owns are two inches, and she's only ever worn them once.

Truth Value: 60%. I did wear beige chunk heels to my wedding, and they may have been almost two inches.  I think I wore them more than once, though.  They may or may not still be in a box in storage somewhere.

3) Karen's Joshua Wander series was to have included fictional television commercial jingles that she wrote and recorded. They were later edited out.

Truth Value: 5%.  I don't see how tv commercials would fit in with that series.  I did, however, record (a capella on the iMac) one of the songs from Mages of Mâvarin.

4) Karen once lost her car keys for a whole week. Only after she had paid to get them duplicated did she find them under some papers on her desk.

Truth Value: 50%.  I couldn't survive a week without car keys, and usually when I lose something it's not on my desk. (Exception: my cell phone earlier this evening.) However, I have found credit, debit and grocery discount cards under or between the car seats, a week or longer after losing them.

5) Karen still has, tucked away in a drawer, every pair of eyeglasses she's ever owned. except one. They were her favourites.

Truth Value: 10%.  I think I have one or two old pairs in a drawer, or possibly in an old altar bread can.  They aren't favorites, just old backup glasses.

6) Karen isn't even remotely interested in the new Dr. Who series coming out. She thinks it will be "complete bullocks."

Truth Value: 10%.  I had major trepidations about it, but I saw a wonky download of it the other night and liked it a lot.  I still have minor reservations, but I want to see more.

7) In grade school, Karen never raised her hand, even though she knew all the answers.

Truth Value: 0%.  Are you mad?  I've always raised my hand, all the time, except possibly in Chemistry or Algebra when I didn't understand the material.  Even then, I probably raised my hand to request clarification.

8) Karen likes to collect nostalgic toys because she feels guilty about how badly she treated her toys as a child.

Truth Value: 55%.  I do collect old toys, and I do feel guilty about all those china  animals I broke, and about not keeping my Barbies and trolls.  But that's not why I collect such things now. Most of my original items either were thrown away by a maid, mistakenly sold by my dad at a post-divorce yard sale, given away by me to people who didn't appreciate them, or lost in the 14 moves I made from 1975 to 1986.  I want my things back, but not out of guilt!  More like greed.

9) Karen has clear high school recollections of grades 9 and 11, but can remember almost nothing about grade 10.

Truth Value: 10%.  Hmm.  Tenth grade.  The first of the spectacular ankle sprains.  Mr. Petty for bio.  Dan Cheney and the founding of STAR Syracuse.  The Bobby Fischer sketch.  Ms. Hiestand. Miss Winter. Eh, I could probably come up with more stuff, but I'd want to check my facts.

10) Karen will neither confirm nor deny the rumour that she was once locked in a storage room for fifteen minutes with Scott Bakula.

Truth Value: 5%.  I do deny it.  On the other hand, Teresa and I spent about 25 minutes in Scott's trailer on the Universal lot once, while his publicist guarded the door from the outside.  What was going on in there?  We were interviewing, unfortunately without a working tape recorder, and Scott was eating spaghetti.

And there you have it. Karen, I hope you don't get too upset with me for making you the example in this new bloggame. You're next. Pick a blogger you read and fire away. But, once again, be nice.

No problem.  Anyone want to volunteer to be the subject of my speculations?

A Meme to Test Web Memory

Okay, it's my turn. Here's the premise.  The Web is a wonderful thing, but it has a few serious flaws in its collective knowledge. If something happened since 1998, it's probably referenced online somewhere.  If it happened between 1780 and 1906 or so, and involves a birth, death, immigration record or wedding, it may be online because of genealogy research. But if it happened between, say, 1950 and 1990, it's probably not mentioned online anywhere unless you personally did so.

Case in point:  I've heard from a number of people in response to a journal entry I wrote many months ago about Manlius, NY in the 1960s and 1970s.  People have found that entry because there just isn't much else online about Manlius between 1920 and 1990.  Similarly, my dad's long career at Syracuse University and elsewhere gets hardly a mention online, except by me.  Same with his war record.

So here's the meme, and I hope you'll participate.  Think of it as an unscientific study, or a game, or whatever.  What I want you to do is this:

1. Think of someone who played a significant role in your life when you were a kid (say, eight to ten years old). If you're only 12 now, you're excused from doing this, simply because your childhood was well into the Internet Age.

2. Google up that name.  Is the person you remember mentioned online to any significant degree?  Did you have to wade through 19th century family tree records to find one reference to the person you knew in 1960 or 1970 or 1980 or 1990?

3. Blog about your result.  You don't have to mention the person by name, but I'm interested in knowing how many people find a significant web presence or historical record, and how many find next to nothing, and what turned up instead of the person you wanted.

4. Leave a link in the comments to this posting.  Alternatively, tell your result here instead of in your own journal.  Your choice.

I'll start.  Remember my story about my fourth grade teacher, Miss Skinner, who had to put up with my deliberately ungrammatical essay about The Monkees?  I looked her up by first and last name.  The first screen of Google results included a bunch of web sites about a character with the same name, who appeared on a long-running British tv show and eventually died.

Then there were the usual family tree records, usually with the first and last names referring to two different people.

Finally I found a single reference to my old teacher. The page listed a fund named after her, probably a scholarship fund bequeathed in her will. 

On that same web page, I discovered that my wonderful third grade teacher, Miss Olds, also gave her name to a charitable fund. It was listed as having been established at the time  of her death, after over thirty years of teaching "second grade."  (Well, I had her for third, so there!)  It's a college scholarship fund for F-M students. Well, good.  I'd rather that Miss Olds was still alive and well, but that's asking a lot after all these years.  She was far from young, even when I had her for third grade.

You may recall that I last saw Miss Olds in 1975, the day before I graduated from high school.  Even then, she still had something to teach me: the word "synchonicity."  Which is roughly how I came across her name today.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Can't Embarrass a Dog

But I can do a Scazli photo challenge.

Your Monday Photo Shoot #3: Show your pet in scenario that would be embarrassing to it, if it knew enough to be embarrassed.

From files already uploaded:

It's Super Deformed Tuffy! That's what she'd be called if she were drawn this way as an anime character, with her head looking the same size as her body.  It also would be fun if animated Tuffy had those glowing eyes.  Speaking of which...

I had a neighbor in college (the first time around) who claimed that dogs were aliens.  A Weekly World News headline at the time ("How to Tell If Your Dog Is a Space Alien") agreed.  Think there's something to it?

Dogs don't like being dressed as Santa.  Or reindeer. 


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