Thursday, June 30, 2005

Haiku Declaration

Weekend Assignment #66: July 4 Haiku! A 17-syllable holiday poem, please!

Extra credit:
Patriotic pictures!

Please, Mr. Adams!
Let us celebrate
A Philadelphia day
On which men agreed

Jefferson, Adams
And Franklin worked together
To craft a masterpiece.

"When in the course of
Human events..." lines I learned
In school stay with me.

We hold these truths...said Tom.

Can you imagine
What History would have thought
Of less glowing words?

Would we keep Tom's ink
Under special glass, if all
He wrote was "See ya!"?

We remember Tom
Because a country sprang from
His glorious text.

Franklin helped too.
"We hold these truths..." yes:
We believe more than they did
In Equality.

"Life, Liberty and
the pursuit" of something we
Never quite pin down.

Centuries have passed.
Still we light the rockets' glare
Because we are free.

KFB 6/30/05

 Fitness Diary: Day Four

the numbers to beat next time.My arms were sore today from last night's workout, but not anywhere near as sore as I was afraid they'd be.

Tonight I got a late start, mostly because John popped in a couple of Farscape episodes after our trip to Safeway and Wing Factory (the latter of which took forever).  I walked Tuffy at 9 PM, did my Haiku entry, retrieved my keys from John's slacks, and finally got to L.A. Fitness at 11 PM.  I only had an hour, but I was determined to get some work in, including another half hour on the treadmill, this time with a photo to prove it.

Time being short, I only did three kinds of leg exercises, and only one set of the last one.  Then it was back to the treadmill.  On at 11:30, done at closing time--barely.  This time I went for 30 minutes at 3.0 mph.  My heart rate was up around 140 at one point, but I got through it okay.  I'm sorry the picture's so blurry, but I was in a rush to get it done and get out of there.  I walked out just seconds before they actually turned out the lights.

Aside from my annoying the staff, I think perhaps the end of the night is not the best time to do this workout.  I didn't get all the exercises in, I was significantly more tired than last night, and when I got home I used an inhaler to help me stop coughing.  Worst of all, from 11 PM on they play really obnoxious dance music.  I really need that iPod!  The only benefit of the late hour is that the club is a bit less crowded.

Momentum maintained!


A Simple Choice

I really should have brought my camera to the gym tonight.  The trainer (not the same one as on Monday) switched me over from a stationary bike to a treadmill.  I did fifteen minutes on it before the weight training, and thirty minutes afterward.  The stats for the second stint:  30:00 minutes, 1.39 miles, 114 calories,  starting from 2.4 mph and working up to 3.0 mph, target heart rate 120, topping out at 131 at the end.  Contrast this with my lasting only six minutes on the LifeCycle at level 4 on Monday, followed by walking Tuffy around the block for 15 minutes.  It's not the legs that give out, or the heart that gives me trouble.  It's strictly a question of my lungs hurting, and my panting for half an hour afterward.  That's how it was with the bike, but the treadmill gave me no such trouble.  I'm very happy about that!  Either I'm improving much more quickly than I could ever have expected, or there's something about the treadmill that's a lot easier on my lungs than the bike, or it's because I took two ephedrine tablets earlier in the day, or all of the above.

Karen as of 6/30/05Afterward, I recorded this info with a voice memo on my new PCS phone, and called John.  I woke him up, but he didn't mind when I told him what I'd accomplished.  "I know it's nothing by John Blocher standards..." I said.

"...but it's a good start for Karen," he agreed.  John works out long and hard, nearly every day.  He lost 120 pounds a couple of years ago.

"Can I buy an iPod now?" I asked.

John laughed.  "Not tonight," he said.  "Maybe we'll get you one this weekend."

In between my two stints on the treadmill tonight, I did five exercises (three sets of 20 reps each) of weight training, this time upper body stuff.  Justin on Monday went with my preference for Nautilus machines on the leg exercises, but tonight Junior had me using free weights as well as a couple of machines.  He explained that I should use a variety of equipment, and vary my routine rather than let my muscles get used to the same thing every time I work those body parts.  Okay, whatever.

Karen as of 6/30/05My concern, really, is not that I used free weights and other non-Nautilus exercises.  What worries me is that I trained almost to failure on these exercises, using as much weight as I could, under Junior's supervision.  The last time I did that, without the supervision, I was sore for a week, and found it painful even to type the next day.  After that incident, you may recall, my doctor told me to use "ridiculously low" weight at first, and build back up to a reasonable amount.  Well, this is the second time I've worked my arms and shoulders since then.  My arms and shoulders are quite sore now, but not as bad as the first time, when I could hardly turn the steering wheel on the drive home.

Did I overdo it?  I'll let you know tomorrow.

Answer: no.

Junior also measured my waist, calf, thigh, hips, and upper arms.  Added to the measurements Justin took on Monday (weight and body fat, as measure by a hand-held device), I have my "before" data.  Since that, I haven't eaten anything "bad" at all, and have exercised all three days.  I know that doesn't sound like anything much, but it's on the verge of turning into real momentum toward doing what I need to do.

All this exercise jazz is probably pretty boring to read about, and I'm sorry about that.  But at its core, it comes down to a simple choice.  Who do I want to emulate in the decades to come: my mom or my dad?

Karen as of 6/30/05* My mom had rheumatic fever as a child and polio encephalitis circa 1960.  Her father died of cancer, her mom had multiple heart operations, and her sister had a number of strokes (as did Mom).  She therefore was predisposed toward poor health later in life.  But on top of those factors, she smoked for 40 years, ate poorly, and was sedentary for decades.  Result: after years of declining health, her last year was marked by an ostemy, depression, poor brain function, and going from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair before dying of a stroke at age 75.

* My dad's four older sisters are all still alive, so Dad probably lucked out in the health lottery.  He built on this advantage by giving up smoking a couple of decades ago, watching his diet carefully, and remaining active.  He even has his own weight room upstairs in his condo, which he uses daily.  Result: now in his eighties, Dad sometimes walks places instead of driving, and doesn't even need a cane.  His mind is still sharp, and he still enjoys life.

Okay, so I never had my mom's major illnesses, and I never smoked; but I'm plenty sedentary, and I weigh more than my mom ever did.  If I want to end up like my dad, active and healthy and happy, I have to start now, and stick with it.

I'm illustrating this entry with a couple of "Before" pictures, to be taken right after I write these words.  Meet me back here in six months, and we'll see whose example I've followed, and whether all this L.A. Fitness stuff results in real progress.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Moving Day (West Side Story)

Because of the Monday Photo Shoot yesterday, I've waited until tonight to tell you the latest developments in my ongoing adventures at Obscure Largish Company.  As you can see from the pictures below, yesterday was Moving Day at O.L.C. (not its real initials).  But before I get on with telling you about that, let me just mention that last night I missed my chance to work in a great quote to go with my point about the relationship between food and hunger"

Ace:  "
Professor, I'm hungry!  Lack of food makes me hungry, you know?"
The Doctor:  "Lack of food makes you obstreperous!"
--Doctor Who, "Remembrance of the Daleks" by Ben Aaronovitch

And now that I'm watching my favorite Doctor Who serial, it's going to be that much harder to get tonight's entry written!

Friday was the last day for one of my co-workers.  She'd been with O.L.C. for four years.  In order to fill the gap left by her departure, another person was promoted and trained to do her job.  A third person was trained to take over the second person's job, and a fourth person was hired (from the same service that found me!) to handle the third person's job.  For some reason, it was decided that the second person would move to the departing person's cubicle, and that the fourth person should be in the third person's old cubicle.  And as long as all that was going on, my boss decided that everyone in Accounts Payable should be on the same side of the room (east side).  Since I'm only marginally involved with A/P, I was to move to the west side the the room.  By the time this game of musical desks was over, one had moved in, one had moved on, and at least five people had moved around.  I ended up back to back with my old cubicle.

I had some urgent work to do, so while other people were packing, I was generating, printing and collating reports.  One person was in enough of a hurry that she offered to move my phone for me.  I agreed, but this was a mistake.  It turned out that with the phone unplugged, my computer could no longer access the program I was using to generate the reports. So I had to go get it back. When I had to explain this to my boss, I didn't mention the name of the person who moved my phone, thus deflecting any (extremely minor) wrath that might otherwise be directed at the person for her attempt to be helpful.  This was easy to do, because I'm not sure what her name actually is!  It probably doesn't matter, though, whether my boss knows who moved my phone.  In my experience, it's not the sort of place where people get in trouble for minor offenses.

By this point I had packed up a few things, but I decided to leave the rest until the IT guy came to move me.  I had the only computer that needed to stay with me specifically, because of one of the programs I use.  So yes, I still have the computer with the SpongeBob-shaped sticky spot--and I've lost the sun and moon sticker with which I was going to cover it.


By this time, a completely different person from the phone remover had already started moving into my cubicle.  That little piece of real estate had been reassigned--again!  So anyway, I finished my project, went to lunch, took down my pictures and boxed up Lilo and Zorro.  Still no IT guy. The word came down that they'd been busy with network-related problems, and might not even come by on Monday.  Just as I decided to start another project, the IT guy turned up anyway. 

Tabula Rasa--almost

I spent much of the afternoon getting set up again.  (Ooh, look at all these paper clips someone left for me!  And did the other cubicle have this big, shallow drawer?  Too bad this light isn't working, and there's no partition in that one big drawer, but I'll cope.)

After.  Note the different orientation.

The layout of this cubicle is  basically the reverse of the other one.  This time I arranged the pictures a little differently, put Zorro and Lilo on the shelf instead of above the cabinet (Zorro kept falling over when I opened the cabinet in the old cubicle), and put the blue globe down below.  So far, so good!

More important, I'm getting more comfortable with my co-workers. Person #2 and Person #3 have been nice to me all along, Person #4 is a loud, friendly New Yorker, and I've sort  of become friends with two of the people who didn't move, now my neighbors on the west side of the room. 

It turns out that one of my fellow west siders witnessed my pathetic attempt to use the LifeCycle at L.A. Fitness last night.  She mentioned that she lost track of me because I wasn't on the cycle very long, so I explained about the asthma.  It turns out she knows a lot more about asthma than I do.  Hers was many times worse than mine, with hospitals and everything, until a doctor took her off several medications and put her on a different one that actually works.  Now she walks two dogs every day, one at a time, a couple of miles each, and can hike up Sabino Canton and not have to rest for hours before starting back down.  If she can do all that, I'm sure I can work up to doing thirty minutes of cardio without the sensation of burning lungs, or coughing and panting for an hour or more afterward.

Tomorrow night, I have another session with another personal trainer.  John said okay to this new expense.  Yay!  I just need to follow through and do my part.  So far, so good!


Monday, June 27, 2005

Sweet, Cool, and Color-Coordinated

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show us a picture of something that makes you hungry. To be specific for you double-entendre fans out there, it has to be food. Also, it has to be your picture -- don't just cut-and-paste an ad of your own favorite (which is a copyright violation anyway). And naturally, home-made delights are not only acceptable, they're encouraged. - J.S.

For the record, stress, boredom, tiredness, and life in general are what make me hungry.  Food is what makes me less hungry.  Isn't that what it's supposed to do?

The food goes with my decor!

When you're hungry on a 107 degree day in Arizona, cold and sweet is pretty much the only way to go.  Sometimes that means a frozen confection of some sort, preferably a "no sugar added" version.  But for the last two weeks, I've been stopping by Safeway almost every day on my way home, and getting a pound of fruit salad from the deli.  After the first week, John started demanding his share of the stuff.  The big attraction: berries.

The food is color coordinated with my kitchen

Over the weekend, I tried something a little different.  It worked out, so I did it again today.  Instead of the pre-made salad, I bought a wedge of watermelon, a half pint of raspberries, and a half pint of blueberries.  I chopped up half of the watermelon wedge, added some berries, and voila!  Fruit salad without the boring honeydew melon.

With everything here but the salt and pepper, I could have made something cool to drink.

If I were really ambitious, I could have found the top part of the blender, put the melon and berries in there with a couple of sugar free Popsicles or Creamsicles, added a little of John's protein powder, and ended up with a smoothie.  But really, I wanted something to eat, not drink!

Now the above is a bit higher in carbs than I should be eating, but at least the portion is smaller than what I had been buying.  And guess what?  I've actually been to L.A. Fitness two days in a row!  Tonight I had a free introductory session with a trainer, worked the legs, and signed on for four sessions a month.  That should get me motivated.  If I treat it the way I treated school, I can apply the UoP tag line to my losing weight and getting in shape.  I can do this!


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ubi Caritas Et Amor - Or Lack Thereof

Run for the hills, because Karen is going to talk about religion again. 

I always get nervous about entries like this one.  Some so-called Christians will probably be angry, if they ever read this; and non-Christians will probably skip it. I may even get a hateful comment or two--it wouldn't be the first time. Still, I'd prefer that you stick around.  It may not be quite the sermon you expect.

I had lunch yesterday with a friend I've known for fifteen years.  This friend has numerous problems--multiple physical and mental illnesses, family and money problems.  She also happens to be Wiccan.

Now, I'm not a big fan of Wicca, especially as practiced by 21st century Americans.  In my extremely limited experience, it seemed silly and fake, more like a self-conscious fantasy role playing game and snubbing of the prevailing culture than a deeply held set of beliefs.  I could be totally wrong here, and probably am, but the only Wiccan ceremony I ever witnessed left me with that impression.

Do people show similar hostility to another kind of star? Still, D/S believes in it, probably more deeply than I would be inclined to credit from my one brief encounter with the religion.  She does absolutely no harm thereby: does not curse or sacrifice or worship the devil, or partake in any other evil practices of which witches have been falsely accused over the centuries.  Wicca, as I understand it, is predicated on a respect for life, human and otherwise.  My friend commits no crimes or atrocities, and is therefore entitled to her consitutional right of freedom of religion. It is appropriate, perhaps, to briefly express gentle disagreement with her, but she should not be subjected to discriminatory treatment, harrassment, hatred, or neglect because of her beliefs.

Nevertheless, as she moves through the patchwork system of government social services and government-sponsored health and rehab programs, my friend frequently encounters all of the above.  She is labeled a troublemaker and treated with hostility by people in authority, or expected to change her ways if she wants to be helped.  "They wanted me to move to a facility that has three hours of Bible study every night," she told me.  A former Christian, my  friend is already familiar with the Bible, but that's not the point. The implication is that she would receive nightly pressure to recant and change her mind about religion, as a condition for receiving government-sponsored treatment.  Sorry, but that's just plain wrong, on several counts.  It's unconstitutional, it's unfair, and it's unChristian. 

Equally wrong is the treatment she gets from her pain doctor--or rather, lack of treatment.  Having seen a "Goddess Bless" sticker on my friend's mobility scooter, the doctor immediately expressed his disapproval.  My friend has since been told by the doctor's staff that she never will be allowed to see him again, and will only deal with the nurse practitioner instead.  Aside from the insult, and possible violation of the Hippocratic oath, the treatment itself is inadequate.  My friend's pain medication was changed to a famously addictive drug that's "as cheap as dirt," as a result of which she recently spent time in the hospital with withdrawal symptoms.

Not right.  Not fair.  Not Christian.

One of the windows I have open right now is a sermon by Father John R. Smith, to be posted on the St. Michael's web site.  Two brief quotes are appropriate here:

Doesn't that look welcoming?In this age it is not enough to throw biblical statements to the outsider. For God’s words remain empty until they are lived. But when the word is demonstrated in our lives, relationships, lifestyles and loves, it becomes "alive and active," manifesting the living Christ in the world so that the unbelievers or the enemy themselves are forced to ask: where do those Christians get this love and this peace?

But it's never an easy peace.  Jesus goes on to say to His disciples, " I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household." In Jesus’  time, Semitic peoples had a striking way of expressing the love they felt for different people.  Instead of saying, "I love you more than I love him," they would say, "I love you and hate him." This was their way of expressing preference in relationships,and did not mean the second person was hated. So when Jesus said these words it was not meant that we should hate our families but, that our love for Him should come as a priority.  Some of you live this reality: a family member doesn't believe in Jesus, but you love them and would do anything for them, but your belief in Jesus Christ and knowing Him as Lord and Savior is a priority.  You still love them and help them, but you won't follow their beliefs.

This sermon follows on a recent Gospel reading at St. Michael's, in which Jesus eats with tax collectors, 1st century pariahs who were considered sinners and collaborators.  In a choice between the self-righteous or the sinners, the rich and powerful or the humble laborers, Jesus always chose to hang out with the lowly ones: the pariahs, the fishermen, the tax collectors and the lepers.

My friend is as close to being a metaphorical leper as you'll find in the modern world.  She has no husband, no money, and lots of illnesses.  Her own son seldom consents to see her, although he lives nearby.  She is terribly lonely.  My friend is fat because of her disabilities, and a vegetarian in a McDonald's world.  She wants to work, but even self-employment seems to be beyond her at this point.  She furnishes her small apartment mostly out of dumpsters.  To top it off, she's an adherent to a minority religion that is little tolerated and less understood.  And yet she is intelligent and generous and kind, with a keen sense of justice.

So how would Jesus treat a woman like that?  Certainly not with disdain and hostility and neglect!  He would bring her love and peace and healing.  This is what we should also try to do.

But contrast this with the text of a banner I saw last night on a website that a Jewish friend of mine considered absurd enough to be funny.  The web page was primarily about Noah's sons riding dinosaurs. Frankly, I was too angered by the page's header to be amused by the pseudoscience:


I totally missed the fact that the page was satirical, no more in earnest than The Onion. The words on this banner are more blatant than most of what one sees from the religious right, but I found it all too plausible. Churchesall over the country struggle with issues of tolerance, and all too many come down on the side of exclusion.  I'm thinking particularly of the gay issue here, but it also extends to the denial of communion to politicians who don't want to pass secular laws to enforce church doctrine.  Admittedly, there's a serious issue of morality involved here, but it seems short-sighted to place that single issue above all others, especially since reasonable people disagree on the subject. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, birth control or abortion, but that's all some people seem to care about, not the "love your enemies" stuff that Jesus did talk about.

Some groups of Christians routinely declare that other Christians aren't really Christian at all, because they don't pass some sectarian litmus test.  Come to think of it, I suppose I'm doing that myself here.  It's not that I think that the most homophobic, intolerant Christian conservatives don't believe in Christ.  It's just that they have a twisted way of showing it, informed more by Us and Them mentality than by the Beatitudes.

It galls and astonishes me that after all these centuries and all we've learned, after crusades and pograms, burnings and persecutions and an Inquisition, people still use Jesus to promote hatred and discrimination instead of love and peace. My friend will never be inspired to return to a religion that's supposedly about love and peace, when its practitioners primarily exhibit the opposite qualities in dealing with her.

Welcome - even if you don't conform.Reminds me of the Whos of WhovilleFather Smith's sermon today pointed to a much better approach, and St. Michael's sets a much better example.  The church and its parishioners feed the homeless, help the sick, and welcome refugees and the marginalized.  Even the graphics provided by the Episcopal Church USA, an entity that currently struggles with issues over gay clergy, send a better message than those who hate others in the name of Jesus. 

When religion and hatred and intolerance go hand in hand, neither God nor humankind benefits thereby.  Instead there is evil and malice.  This is true whether the religion in question is Islam, some form of Christianity, or anything else.

If, on the other hand, a person practices peace and love and tolerance, helps others and does not judge them harshly, that person is following Jesus's example.  This is true whether the person believes in Jesus or not. These principles are universal ones, taught by many religions as well as secular ethicists.  The Ten Commandments are not a Christian invention, although certain presentations of them may be.  Even the numbering of them varies by denomination. But the basic principles of honesty, kindness, and fairness are acknowledged the world over in one form or another.

Myself, I'd rather eat lunch with a kindhearted Wiccan, or Jew, or atheist, than someone who claims to love Christ and yet treats non-Christians (or gays, or any other category of "Them") with hostility and disdain.

And so, I think, would Jesus. 


Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.  - "Where charity and love are, there is God."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Fifteen

Art by Sherlock
The synopses of previous installments have gotten out of hand again, so follow the links if you need to read them, either to refresh your memory or because you're new to the story.  Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven.  Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen.

Part Fourteen:  Cathma and her friends meet Lee Ramirez, the American who inherited Li Ramet's magical talent for understanding and being understood in any language.  With Lee's help, the Americans and Mâvarinû compare notes.  It turns out that they all know their situation: Their spirits and consciousness have now been transferred into each others' bodies.  Lee confirms that his counterpart, Li Ramet, is involved, and should arrive soon with the remaining affected people.

Part Fifteen: Inheritance

Josh Wander’s suggestion to return to his castle made a lot of sense, so the Americans-turned-Mâvarinû walked back into the itinerant magician’s great hall, accompanied by the Mâvarinû-turned-Americans.  The room looked bigger this time, with chairs that Cathma didn’t remember seeing as Cathy earlier.

The American mall patrons who had remained inside looked relieved to see Cathma and her friends, and astonished to see their counterparts.  “Are we in Mâvarin, then?” asked the man Cathma knew as Sen Tilen.  “There really is a Mâvarin?”

“There certainly is,” Cathma said. “Go through that door, and it will be Dewitt that seems unreal to you.”

Art by Sherlock“Hmm.  That’s interesting,” said Fabian Stockwell.  Cathma knew he was Fabian from the fact that he wore Fayubi’s shapeless blue robe.

“What’s interesting?” Cathma asked.

“You’re speaking  and understanding American English now.  Do you still identify yourself as Cathma rather than Cathy?”

Cathma thought about this.  “Well, I do remember Dewitt better in here than I did out there, especially what happened today.  But I still feel more like Cathma than Cathy, no matter what language I happen to be speaking.  What about you?  Are you the mage or the school teacher?”

Fabian laughed.  “I guess I’m a mage who thinks he’s a teacher.”  He smiled at his counterpart, the one in the American slacks and Tommy Helfiger shirt. 

Fayubi smiled back.  “That makes me the teacher who thinks he’s a mage.  Hello, Fabian.  I’m glad to be able to talk to you.”

“As am I.  The question is, are you really a mage?”

Fayubi frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“As Lee Ramirez told you, I’ve been playing with your toys, and making them work. Do you have magic here as well, or did I inherit your magic along with your body?”

 “Hmm.  Good question,” Fayubi said.  “I did have a vision of your arrival, so I’d have to say that I’ve retained at least some of my magic.  Have you had any actual visions since your consciousness completed the transfer?”

“I’ve had several of them,” Fabian said.  “It was frightening, the first time, but I quickly got used to seeing things that weren’t there.”

“So what are you saying?” Cathy asked.  Cathma was a little startled; she’d been about to ask the same thing. “Are you both mages now?”

“So it would seem,” Fayubi said.

“Great,” Cathma said.  “So which of you can divine a way to resolve this problem?”

Fabian and Fayubi looked at each other.  “I’m not sure that either of us can.” Fayubi said.  “Sorry.”

“We’re not the ones to do it,” Fabian added.  “We’re going to need Randy’s help, and Rani’s.  And Li Ramet’s of course.”

“What can Randy do?” Cathy asked.

“He can do what I can do, if the tengrem lets him,” Rani said.  “It’s an awful lot to ask, though.  There must be thirty people in this room, and twenty more out there in what’s left of the mall.  Do you really expect an apprentice and a confused high school student to transfer all those minds and spirits?”

“What other choice do we have?” Carli asked.

Rani shook his head. “I don’t know.  I’ll try though, if Randy will.”

“Where is Randy?” Carl asked.

“He’s coming,” Rani said.  “Can’t you hear him?”

Somewhere beyond the open castle door, Cathma heard the distinctive sound of a tengrem’s gallop.

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six  Part Seven
Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten   Part Eleven   Part Twelve   Part Thirteen  Part Fourteen

Welcome to Mâvarin

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

Two Pipes and Two Sunsets

In a way it's too bad I decided not to mention specifics about my new employer in this journal. I could regale you with a really interesting geographic quirk, and tell you of my gracious and semi-successful bit of socialization today, and shock you with a seemingly paranormal incident that should more properly be attributed to sleep deprivation. But instead I'll just tell you that I'm getting better at my job and a bit more comfortable with my co-workers, and that an IT guru finally got my remaining computer issues resolved today. I even found sun and moon stickers to cover up the SpongeBob-shaped bit of old adhesive on the monitor.

In other news, I picked up the certificate dedicating one the the pipes in the St. Michael's organ to my 100-year-old friend, Eva. I was only one of perhaps half a dozen donors pooling funds to honor her in this way. The $100 donation for a pipe dedication is used to retire some of the debt the church incurred in acquiring, housing, installing and repairing that magnificent organ.

Back in 1998, when I was still relatively new to St. Michael's, I put up $100 ($20 at a time over the course of several months) to buy a pipe in honor of my high school boyfriend, the late Dan Cheney. After I made the last payment, the parish administrator left a voicemail on my home phone, asking me to call her. Today I finally got back to her about it. When I said it was dedicated to my dead boyfriend from high school, she said "You have one of those too, huh?" Hers came back from Vietnam in a body bag. Anyway, by the end of the day today, Alicia had put together Dan's long-delayed organ pipe certificate.

I don't really have anything else to say tonight, so here instead are some fresh pictures.

The original version of last nights background, except for cropping.

Another version of the shot I used as a background last night.

all I did to this was resize it.

Tonight's sunset pre-show.

I think I autocorrected this one.

A couple minutes later and a block further east.

unfiddled with

All did to this was resize it.

Still no moon!


Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Song for Getting Away

Weekend Assignment #65: Dedicate a "summer song" to someone in your life. Could be a happy song for someone you like, a "kiss-off" song for someone you don't, or a romantic song for someone you want to know better. Point is, it has to be summery, and you have to intend it for someone.

Extra Credit: Ever have a song dedicated to you? What was it?  - J.S.

If you're here for a celebration of sun, surf and the music of Brian Wilson, you've come to the wrong place.  The genius behind the Beach Boys wrote some great songs, no question, but Tucson has no surfing, no beaches, and no California Girls - well, maybe some California girls, but what is that to me?  In Tucson, summer isn't something to be celebrated with the top down on your classic convertible, or by putting your board in the back of a Woody and heading down to the shore.  The closest thing to a Woody I see around here is a PT Cruiser with fake wood grain panels.  Tucson summers are to be dreaded, and endured, preferably in a nicely chilled room with a virgin Pina Colada or, if you insist, a frozen Margarita with salt.  I don't do alcohol, but that's definitely the summer drink around here. 

The only fun part of summer in Tucson is the really wild thunderstorms at the height of the monsoon, usually about 5 PM on a July afternoon.  Just hope that nothing technological gets fried when the lightning takes out the power in your neighborhood.  It's been raining off and on tonight, but that's just a tiny appetizer for the storms that should be rolling in within the next three weeks or so.

So what's the right song for summer in Tucson?  Well, last year I wrote extensively about Rain by the Beatles, in connection with Tucson's rainy season.  But this year I'm taking a different approach.  What's the best way to cope with summer in Tucson?  Why, by getting the heck out of town, of course!  So the following two chord road trip anthem is dedicated to my beloved husband John, in the hope that later this summer we can head out to California for a few days, going "faster miles an hour...with the radio on."  It's an early song by the wonderfully eccentric Jonathan Richman, whom John and I saw in concert back in Columbus in our Rockarama days.

I'm not sure about the legalities and proprieties, but I think this is allowed:  a link to a 90-second streaming song sample, courtesy of AOL Music, Last Call Records and Singing Fish.



the modern lovers - live at the longbranch

RoadrunnerClick to Play

Beserkley Years - Roadrunner
audio 01:34

Search powered by: Singingfish

with the radio on!

going faster miles an hour - at night
Well now
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive to the Stop 'n' Shop
With the radio on at night
And me in love with modern moonlight
Me in love with modern rock & roll

Buy the song!  Buy the album!  I also love Pablo Picasso and the song about the new bank teller, which may or may not still be available.  But Roadrunner is especially appropriate for the drive from Tucson to Southern California along I-10 (or I-10 to I-8 for the southern route).  The desert crossing is best done at night. Part of the song references an entirely different part of the country, but we'll just ignore that part, unless, of course, it happens to be your part of the country. 

The other summer song I would dedicate here (on the principle that I almost never tell just one story in these Scalzi assignments) is Don Henley's The Boys of Summer. That one is dedicated to my friend Howard. We met and were "just friends" at Syracuse University in the 1970s. He's a baseball fan, a sometime sports writer and a copy editor. Back in the day, he used to try to get me to go to Syracuse Chiefs baseball games with him. I kind of wish I had, now. He came for a visit a couple of years ago, saw Tucson's great old ballpark (Hi Corbett) and fan-unfriendly new one (Tucson Electric Park--and yes, we've done that joke, thank you).  He even went to the BOB (Bank One Ballpark) with us to see the Diamondbacks. Baseball players are often called the Boys of Summer, of course. The aging narrator of the song is looking back at the past ("voice inside my head says don't look back, you can never look back") and remembering a woman. And that's all the explanation you're going to get on this one.

No, nobody's ever dedicated a song to me, but I've gotten some requests played on the radio.  When I was in high school, I used to ask a certain WOLF disc jockey to sneak in a Beatles song every Tuesday night while I babysat.  In the early 1990s, my favorite non-Beatles requests include Jerry Lee Lewis's Great Balls of Fire and Ray Charles' Georgia on My Mind.  One day I had these two songs and Unchained Melody on my mind, all of which were heavily featured in a couple of Quantum Leap episodes.  I didn't get around to calling in a request to Cool 92.9's Alan Michaels (remember, this was over a decade ago, when Cool was cool) before he played all three songs!   A few weeks later the Cool playlist changed.   Alan wasn't allowed to play those great songs for a while after that, darn it!


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Night Moves

Mountain Unstandard Time

Sunset, unenlightened

So I'm sitting at Popeye's at about 7:45 PM, writing the beginning of this journal entry in my head.  I just finished photographing the sunset. It's the second day of summer, the second or third longest "day" of the year; but I look outside and it's dark.  In the words of my SuperBuddy, Sunny, "Night has come."

Sunset comes early, and darkness falls quickly.

When I was a kid in Manlius, an early summer sunset would happen around 8:30 PM, and it wouldn't get fully dark until about 9 PM.  But that was in Central New York, latitude 42.98N.  This is Tucson, latitude only 32.22N.  Furthermore, Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time.  The same thing that gives the Arctic its long summer days and long winter nights gives Tucson shorter summer days and shorter winter nights than Manlius, NY or Columbus, OH.  And the permanent MST keeps all the summer stuff happening roughly an hour earlier than in Denver.  Bottom line: sunset comes early on summer nights, and night falls fast.

Shame on the Moon

Where is the moon?

Now you'd think that with Tucson's low humidity, clear skies and unadjusted time zone that summer's full moon would rise at sunset.  John Scalzi, Chuck Ferris, Carly and others have said it's a spectacular one, this moon that was officially full last night. It's supposed to be extra big-looking.  I love that kind of moon. Too bad I didn't get to see it!  There was no sign of the thing when I came out of Popeye's around 8:00 PM.  There was some cloud cover, part of the process of building toward the monsoon, but usually I can see the moon through the clouds.  Not tonight.  See the moon in the picture above?  Neither do I, but that's where it should have appeared.  No, that bright spot is not the moon.  It's a streetlight.

Not quite 8 PM.  Night has come!

But okay, maybe I was out a few minutes too early, or the moon hadn't had time to clear the Rincon Mountains.  So I took a few pictures of the night on my way home.  There was lightning on the horizon in the western sky, but far too infrequently to be captured in the picture above.  So I gave up, and went in to watch some Stargate SG1 on DVD. 

I went back outside about 9:30 PM.  I figured that by then, I'd probably missed the moonrise, the cool part when the moon is near the horizon and looks incredibly large.  Well, maybe I did, but it's impossible to tell.  No moon appeared over my house.  There wasn't even a bright spot in the cloud cover.  I walked between the houses, in case they were between me and the moon.  Nothing.  I walked across the street, hoping for a better angle and better clearance of the neighborhood horizon.  Didn't help.  I got in my car and drove a mile or two east on Golf Links.  Still no moon!  Shame on the moon!  It's MIA tonight!



Unretouched, except to correct the angle and resize.

Tucson Weather Conditions (NWS Tucson)

Weather Clichés, Tucson Style

This is my entry in the Round Robin Photo Challenge.  Subject: Cliché.  In doing this one, I'm totally wrecking an entry I had planned for later, but oh, well.

I'd love to have done a picture of a coyote howling at the moon in front of a giant saguaro cactus, which is as cliché as it gets in Arizona.   But no coyote has ever yet sat and posed for me, especially not in a residential neighborhood well within the city limits.  So on this first day of summer (second by the time this is posted), I'm going to talk about the weather.  After all, "Everybody always talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it."

"Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get" - Robert A. Heinlein, quoted on National Weather Service Tucson page

It's not the heat...

It's the heat!

Trust me: around here, it's mostly the heat.  This was an actual reading on my car's temperature display this afternoon.  We don't know exactly where the Eagle gets its readings, but it's probably from somewhere near the roof of the car.'s the humidity!

(Sorry I couldn't get better pictures of these gauges last night.  They turned out to be very hard to photograph, with or without flash.  The new photo is from Wed 6/22 at 6:22 PM.)

The temperature in the house was still over 90 degrees F at 11 PM, and the humidity  in the laundry room was up around 55%, according to this vintage set of gauges.  This humidity may be considered "normal" in most of the country, but usually around here it's more like 11%,except during the monsoon. 

Either way, frankly, 115 degrees is pretty darn hot.  No, it wasn't the official high temperature at the airport, but it was the official temperature of my car at 2:10 PM!

Here's what the NWS admits to as of fifteen minutes before I took that picture, plus the most recent reading.  Today's official high temperature was at both 12:55 PM and 1:55PM:

Time             Temp Dew Rel   Wind      Wind   Visib.  Clouds  Precip  24 Hr  24 Hr 
(MST)            (f)  Pt  Humid Direction
  (miles)        3 hour  Max T  Min T
21 Jun 11:55 pm  89   45  22    E         9      10.00   CLR     0       110    82
21 Jun 1:55 pm   109  45  12    E         17 G24 10.00   CLR     0.01

But it's a dry heat!

Cloudscape, June 21st, 6:45 PM.

Oh, really?  Does this look like a dry heat?  It is true that in May and June, the humidity is often down around 10% to 15%, but I find it kind of hard to breathe when it's hot and dry.  As we move toward the summer monsoon, the humidity starts to rise. Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, are a low-cost alternative to air conditioning around here when the humidity is low.  They cool off a room by evaporation of water, much as the evaporation of sweat is supposed to cool you off.  But when the humidity is high, there's less evaporation, and swamp coolers only make things worse.  We don't have evaporative coolers in this house anyway--or central air conditioning that works, for that matter.  Desktop Weather claims the current humidity (as of 12:20 AM on 6/22) is only 20%, but I don't think I believe that.  It also claims the temperature has dropped to 87 degrees now.  Oh, joy!

Oh, well.  Remember.  Every cloud...

Clouds as I leave work, June 21st, 6:30 PM.

...has a silver lining!

These are the clouds that greeted me when I finally got off work tonight.  (I had stayed late to finish a project that really needed to be finished by today.)  Today we actually had a few drops of rain, and it didn't cool things off at all.  The only good I'm getting from these clouds so far is a few decent pictures.

What silver lining?  June 21st, 6:45 PM.


Tucson Weather Conditions (NWS Tucson)
NWS Monsoon Info

Now go see what everyone else has done with this Round Robin Challenge!

Round Robin Linking List for Wednesday, June 22nd:

Kat... "From Every Angle" - posted!

Mary... "Alphawoman's blog"  - posted!

Aunt Nub (AKA) Liz..."Aunt NubsEmptyHead" - posted!

Celeste..."My Day and Thoughts" - posted!

Steven..."(sometimes) photoblog" - posted!

Monica..."Mamarazzi" - posted!

Becky..."Where Life Takes You" - posted!

Gypsy..."Gypsy's Journey" - posted!

Carly..."Ellipsis" - posted!

Alan..."F-Stop" - posted!

Kimberleigh..."Life as I live it" - posted!

Karen..."Musings from Mavarin" (well, duh!)

Betty..."My Day My Interests" - posted!

Duane..."sotto voce" - posted!

Nancy..."Nancy Luvs Pix" - posted!

Sharky..."Substance; or lack of"

Robbie..."Robbie's Ruminations" - posted!

Coy..."Dancing in the rain" - posted! and again!

Michael..."Confessions of a Madman"

Patrick..."A Stop At Willoughby" - posted!

Derek..."Picture of the Day" - posted!

Tess "First Digital Photos   - New!

Oh, and by the way here's a survey for bloggers, from MIT:

Take the MIT Weblog Survey


Monday, June 20, 2005

Gifts That Mattered

 Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of a gift that has sentimental value to you. If you like, explain the sentimental attachment. The gift can be anything that's important to you, from any time in your life, from a stuffed animal to a new car to a simple card that just means a lot. You pick the gift. - J.S.

My Saturn, March 30, 2005The best gift I ever got was also the biggest:  my 1997 Saturn.  You probably know what happened to that.  If you don't, you can deduce the answer from the picture at right.  It counts as a sentimental gift because my mom bought it for me at the beginning of the last year of her life.  Her entire estate at the end wasn't worth a third of what that car cost, but it was important to her that I have reliable transportation, both so I could take her to doctor appointments and so that she didn't have to worry about how John and I were going to continue to get by sharing her old 1984 New Yorker.  When the car was totaled earlier this year, my heart agitated for fixing it anyway, strictly because of the Mom connection.  Ultimately, though, I did the sensible thing, and got another car.

The second best gift I ever got was the digital camera I used to take the Saturn photo and the third photo in this entry (and, indeed, every photo I've taken since March 10th, 2005). The Canon PowerShot S410 was John's birthday gift to me this year, and boy have I used it!  The sentimental angle is that I love the camera--and the man who gave it to me.  Still, I'm not going to repost the picture of that gift here tonight.

Setting aside these two obvious big-ticket items, what I want to highlight are a couple of gifts that didn't come from relatives--not official relatives, anyway. 
TrophyFirst up is a rerun photo of Trophy, the stuffed poodle toy given me by Joan Fagan, my godmother, on the occasion of my baptism.  I was six years old at the time.  Trophy came on a red velvet pillow.  The combination of dog and pillow reminded me of the shape of a trophy, from a dog show, for example.  Hence the name.  I lost the pillow within a year or two, or possibly the maid threw it out.  She did things like that.  But Trophy I hung onto.  A friend's dog chewed on Trophy early on, but my mom sewed him back together.  (This is why one leg is shorter than the others.)  When I stayed with my dad's parents and sister for a while while my mom was in the hospital (in 1963, I think), Trophy came with me.  When he got all worn and torn, my Aunt Hazel restuffed him and sewed him up a second time. Years later, I replaced worn or missing foam with wadded tissues and possibly glue,and sewed him up again myself.  Trophy was at the head of my chronological list of stuffed animals that I often proudly recited: Trophy, Snoopy, Percy, Timmy, Toothy... well, I'm no longer quite sure of the exact list beyond those initial five.  But you get the idea.  Percy, Timmy, and most of the later additions are long gone, given to a neighbor child whose mother threw them away.  But I still have Trophy, Snoopy and Toothy, and still keep Trophy out where I can see him.  He's not pretty any more, but he is in effect my Velveteen Rabbit.  He's also one of my main memories of "Aunt" Joan.  I lost touch with her at least thirty years ago.

Tutti and...should I name the little dragon?The last photo features two gifts a couple of friends gave me in the 1990s.   Tutti came from my friend Linda, and kicked off my reaquisition of the Barbie-related dolls I had as of 1969.  Tutti  is Barbie's nearly forgotten little sister, who came out in 1966.  I got my original Tutti for Christmas that year.  During the winter I lost the doll in the little mountain of plowed snow at the foot of the driveway, but got her back in the spring.  I vaguely remember giving Tutti, Bubble Cut Barbie, Talking Stacey and Casey to a friend, probably Lori Thornton, when I no longer cared about them.  But once Linda got this replacement, equally vintage Tutti for me, I replaced the dolls I no longer had, and picked up a few that Cindy and Lori originally had as well.  Unfortunately, one hot Tucson summer I made the mistake of displaying this Tutti holding this green pail, and some of the green plastic melted onto the doll's arm.  Drat!  Sorry, Linda!

Also in that photo is a little dragon figure, given to me by Sara G. in 1992 or 1993.  Sara and Sarah were two of the most interesting "froods" on the old Prodigy Hitchhiker's Guide boards during that period.  They both got to read a version of my first novel, which probably explains why Sara sent me this neat little dragon.  Note that the dragon is a writer: he's holding a book and a pencil.  Sara told me many years later that it seemed like an appropriate gift for me.  Considering I'd never even met Sara at the time (and still haven't, except virtually), the gift was  a big surprise--and much appreciated.

It occurs to me that I could also have mentioned my first-ever dog, Jenny, given to me by Bob, and Tuffy, given to me by D.J. from work.  But dogs aren't gifts.  They're family!


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Allaboshi Ficacious!

 Dad in his replica flight jacket
Phone Call

Well, of course I called my Dad today for Father's Day.  Much of the conversation was about my brother, a continuing source of worry to my Dad, to Ruth (my stepmother), to me and to my Mom when she was alive.  I don't want to tell the whole story here; in fact, I don't think anyone even knows the whole story.  Suffice it to say that Steve hasn't had a job as a computer programmer in years and years, currently works part time at Dillard's, and recently failed a course in nursing school.  Dad plays the tuition, and is understandably concerned.

Besides Steve, we talked about his Father's Day gift that didn't arrive on time (my Dad is very forgiving about such things), my new job, and Dad's opinion that when it comes to education and money and careers, I'm "doing it right."  There was no discussion of health issues (Dad is very healthy for his age), or of the lease at the railroad museum, or of the CPA exam I'm not studying for.   I didn't even mention my tribute to him in this journal this past Thursday.  It would only have embarrassed him.

Another thing we didn't discuss was the past.  There was no reminiscence about my childhood, or World War II.  My Dad likes to look ahead, not back.  A propos of Steve, Dad did mention in passing that he used to be in charge of educating thousands of adults at Syracuse University, "so I know it can be done."  I did it, finally, and Steve graduated on the first try back in 1972.  But Steve's further education isn't going as smoothly.  That was the extent of the reminiscing.

Still, there are things about Dad that I'd like to reminisce about.  Since I don't do it with him very often, you guys get to read about it instead.

Things My Father Told Me

When I was growing up, my Dad had a seemingly endless supply of silly stories, poems and expressions that he would drop into the conversation from time to time, for his own amusement and mine. One of them was an endless loop joke:

It was a dark and stormy night.  The Captain said to the first mate, "Tell us a story." And this is the story that the first mate told.  "It was a dark and stormy night.  The Captain said to the first mate...."

Dad on his birthday in 1986.For the Fourth of July:

I've got a rocket,
In my pocket.
I have no time to stay.
Away she goes!
I burn my toes!
It's Independence Day!"


I asked my mother for fifty cents
To see the elephant jump the fence.
He jumped so high,
He touched the sky,
And he never came back 'til
The Fourth of July."

Except that once I memorized the latter poem, my dad made me laugh by pulling the old switcheroo:

And he never came back 'til
The fourth of August.

There was also a bit about Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced boy:

He walks!  He talks!  He crawls upon his belly like a reptilian monster!  And for just one thin dime, the tenth part of a dollar, you can see it all on the inside!

As I said, silly stuff.  He also had "Cantelope, I'm married," and "Lettuce have lettuce!" and other wordplay.  But my favorites were the nonsense words.  I don't know whether it's a real word, but a person who behaved stupidly might be called a stupnagel.  Other people had their thingamajigs and their whatchamacallits, but Dad told us to "put the fortescue on the ritaplat," or to pass him the scrangemafortis.  And from time to time, he'd tell us, "Don't be so allaboshi ficacious!"

I asked him about this last one a couple of times in recent years.  Turns out it's part of some longer nonsense that he picked up from his dad or something.  Unfortunately, I haven't managed to memorize the long version, so I can't pass it on.  I don't have a kid to pass it onto anyway.

But if YOU would like to start saying the short version, you have my permission!