Wednesday, March 31, 2004

It's Alive!

Everyone, meet Jack.  Jack, everyone.

Yes, this is the first journal entry on the new computer.  Got it set up fairly well -- some bits set up rather easier than I'd expected (the internet connection self-configured to my cable modem -- this was a pleasant surprise), and other bits failed altogether (looks like I'll be getting a new scanner, as my scanner is so old they don't make a driver for Windows XP for it) -- but, all things considered, I got most everything functioning fairly easily.

Actually, the step that took the longest was the act of computer naming.  As soon as I cranked it up, the Dell welcome screen said, "Enter a name for this computer."  And I thought, "Damn, I usually don't name my computers until I've had them for a little while and gotten to know their personalities."  So, I guess this one is provisionally Jack (Come to think of it, Jack Provisionally might be a fine name.) 

Gotta say I'm a huge fan of the flat panel monitor.  Not just 'cause it looks cool and all, but 'cause it is SO lightweight.  I mean, Mariette -- the old computer -- she had such a huge monitor I nearly threw my back out taking it off the desk.  And I'm going to need at least one other person to help me get it back in the box.  This new one is so much easier to handle.  The No Back Strain model.  I'm in love.

Took the cat a little while to get used to it.  While it gives her MUCH more room to sit on the desk, she can no longer use the monitor as something to jump on.  She used to use it as an intermediate step for getting up to some shelves I have above my desk.  So, she pads on over here, taps the top of the monitor as though checking to see if it would bear her -- and then jumps all the way to the shelves in one leap.  Once she verified that she could get up to and down from the shelves without using the monitor, I think she's good with Jack.

I'm off to tidy up all the boxes all over my floor.  I'm not sure when, exactly, I'll get Mariette boxed up and out of here, but I can at least clear a path to the door. 

And... on a less happy note

I'm typing up some signs for an event this weekend ("Sodas - $2" -- that sort of thing) and I was asked to do two signs I didn't do last year.  "In Memoriam" signs.  Our group lost two members this year.  I didn't really know either of them very well, but still -- there's something powerful about typing someone's name and a set of dates.

There is, of course, the reflection on one's own mortality.  The idea that sometime way (way, way, way -- one can hope) down the line, someone who only vaguely knew me will be typing up my name on an "In Memoriam" sign, and double-checking the spelling, and doing some quick mental mathematics to come up with a number that will indicate how long I've been on the planet, but will do nothing in the way of illuminating whether I did anything useful with my time.

Don't get me wrong -- I know that both of these people were well-loved by many others who knew them better than I did.  It isn't that I'm doing these signs because nobody is there to mourn them -- far from it.  It's just that doing the signs has fallen to me -- and it seems almost irreverent for me to be doing them -- when I don't have any grand grief for the departed and instead can look at their names and dates and think only about whether I've got the right font and if the type is centered correctly.

I don't think about my own death much -- hardly at all, really -- but when I do so, it is with some sort of comforting understanding that I'll be missed by the people whose lives I've touched.  I guess I never really thought about the fact that there will ALSO be people who hardly know me at all, who'll sit there at their computers, with sitcom reruns playing in the background, typing my name because it's their job to do it, and not really thinking anything about me at all.

Not exactly the "Circle of Life," is it?

Monday, March 29, 2004

On a happier note

I cannot begin to tell you how much fun I'm having with the DVD of that mini-series I picked up when I was in London. 

I mean, it's deja vu in the literal sense -- I have already seen this.  Back in something like 1989.  That's fifteen years.  (Gak!  I feel so old referencing things that happened "fifteen years ago.")  And if you'd asked me to recount the plot to you, before I started re-watching, I would've only been able to tell you in the most general of terms.

But as I'm watching it again, more is coming back to me than the actual program I'm watching.  I'm not just remembering the story -- I'm remembering where I was when I watched the program, and how much it sucked me in.  I mean, here's me on my sofa last night watching this movie, and we hit a scene that I had TOTALLY forgotten about.  And all of a sudden here's what I think:

-I know how the scene ends.
-I remember how shocked I was when I saw the ending to the scene.
-I remember thinking how Totally Freakin' Cool that was.
-I also remember that I was sitting in my host's living room watching the program.  I was eating a chicken stir-fry that I'd made, because we were in the middle of Mad Cow scare so I was spending a month living on chicken and tuna (and going out of my freakin' mind).  I remember she had these big wooden ... I don't even know the word for it, it isn't "shutters" ... they were two huge pieces of wood that covered the window from the inside, and we bolted them with a big old-fashioned bolt that made me feel like I was pulling up the drawbridge and locking the castle shut for the night...

And I gotta tell you -- I haven't thought about that in YEARS.  It's just amazing how much of that summer this one connection to that summer is bringing back.

It's also bringing back something completely different -- but I'll save that for a later entry.  I really want to watch another episode before bed tonight.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

What the ... ?

I ... I ... I ...

Observe my speechlessness.

Got an unusual item in the mail the other day.  A book.  Unsolicited.  From some folks who call themselves "Progressive Vision International."  Book is called "Let My People Go! -- The struggle of the American Jew to Come Home to Israel" by a fellow called Tom Hess.

Gave it a quick once-over.  The thesis of the book, near as I can tell, is that the author thinks it would be a Really Good Thing if all the Jews in America packed up and went to Israel.

Had an extremely uncomfortable moment thinking this must be what it feels like for an African-American to be told to "Go back to Africa." 

Now, I'm certain Mr. Hess does not want me to feel icked out by his missive.  Mr. Hess wants me to understand that he doesn't want me to go to Israel because he hates Jews or anything.  Oh, heck no.  Hess would like me to pack up my Jewish self and get the hell out of America because the Bible Says So.

Y'know ... I've written this entry a half dozen times and I can't quite find the way to do it.  It's hard to point out how vile and offensive this book is without actually quoting it -- but I don't really see a need to repeat the crap that he's spouting. 

Let me just say that I've been pretty lucky in my life in that -- with the exception of an isolated incident or two -- I haven't really come across much in the way of hatred or discrimination directed at me because of my faith.  I don't know what I find more troubling -- that this jerk has enough of a budget to print out 800,000 copies of his book and mail them to Jews all over the world, or that somehow I've ended up on his "Jews to target" list.

Excuse me.  I'm going to go sit in a corner, hug my cat, and reconsider my belief in the general goodness of people.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Computer woes


Yeah, so, I'm certain the bit about router and adapters in the post about my new computer made no sense to the certified technoweenies among you.  This because I had my terminology messed up.  This means I BOUGHT THE WRONG DAMN PART.  I figured it out last night -- right after Dell told me they'd boxed up the computer and put it in the mail.

I'll be able to return it for my money back (less the cost of shipping) and, after a good deal of research, I managed to find the item I actually need for, as it turns it, rather less money.  So I should come out even -- if you don't count the hassle of shipping a peripheral back to Dell.

Now, that's the desktop.  I also have a laptop.  It is two and a half years old.  When I was plugging it in last night and putting it to sleep, I saw something I don't really like seeing from my computer's power cord:  a spark.  The power cord was giving off little sparks ... very near where it plugs in to my computer.  I unplugged it from the computer (but it was still attached to the wall) and it continued to spark.  I decided this was bad.  Vowed to buy a new one today.

The Apple Store said that, yes, they have AC adapters for two-and-a-half-year-old iBooks.  (The bad news:  $79.)  Drove out there.  Bought one.  Brought it home.  Plugged it in.

It is a newer, funkier adapter.  Say what you will about Apple, but their designs are so COOL.  So I plug the adapter into the wall, and then into my computer, and IT LIGHTS UP.  Not sparks -- just a cute little ring of light right where it plugs in.

It's green.  No, it's amber.  No, it's green.  No.... amber. 

I'm guessing -- either the brand new power adapter has some sort of short in it right out of the box, or there's something wrong with my laptop which is what might have caused the old one to start sparking in the first place.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Well, at least it'll make a good journal entry...

My cat may or may not have a fever.

She had one on Friday. I wanted to find out if she had one today. Now, modern technology being what it is, I do not have to try to take her temperature with a rectal thermometer. (A good thing, too -- I expect it would be completely impossible unless the first step of the directions is "Give Cat Pounce-Flavored Valium.") But now, there's Ear Thermometers. I even saw the vet use one on my cat on Friday. Easy-peasy.

Fifty bucks later and I now own an ear thermometer. I also bought a bag of Cat Chow. (Because, see, she's a year old now, so I need to switch from Kitten Chow to Cat Chow. And she HASN'T BEEN EATING THE KITTEN CHOW this week -- which makes me all worried what with the fevor on Friday.)

So, Ear Thermometer. I read the instructions. It basically involves sticking the thermometer in the child's-- I mean, cat's-- ear for one second. The cat does not think this is a good idea. I can't get her to hold still for a second. She runs away. She hides. She bites me (not actually breaking the skin, but with much more intent to actually do me harm than she normally has). I finally get a reading: 95.2. This would be wrong. I'm aiming for something in the neighborhood of 102. I try again and get a reading around 96. Better, but still not right.

Maybe I'm using it wrong. I put a new safety cap (read: thermometer condom) on the thermometer and test it on myself. 96.2 96.5 97.2 97.7. I start to wonder whether the thermometer takes any readings at all, or if it just increases the reading a little bit every time you try it. I get it up to 98.6, and it keeps going. I stopped taking readings on myself when it put my temperature around 99.7. I tried the cat again. She sat more or less still and I got two readings off of her. Both in the 99 degree neighborhood. I decide the thermometer is a completely useless piece of crap.

On the plus side, the cat damn near devoured the bowl of Cat Chow I left for her. She's eating! Good kitty!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Nerdy Lawyer Rant (3 of 4)

So THEN, Jerk gets on the stand and testifies that, yes, he did virtually experience sex with the victim through the nanos, and he realized it was wrong, and he was really, really sorry -- and the whole reason he gave flowers to the victim the next day was to apologize.

I'm now screaming at the television set. All Sympathetic Hero Lawyer has to do to totally devastate this jerk's defense is to cross-examine him on, "wow -- you felt so guilty about it you watched the tape thirty times?" I mean, they had him. "You felt really bad about it, huh? Did you feel bad enough to destroy the tape? Did you feel bad when you watched it the second time? Feel just as bad the third time? What about the twentieth? Still wracked with guilt?"

But, no -- nothing. Sympathetic Hero Lawyer keeps the fact the tape was watched 30 times to himself. It's only after a "Dude, we're gonna lose the case" discussion with Drop-Dead Gorgeous Young Female Lawyer that Sympathetic Hero Lawyer realizes he has to use the tape in order to win -- and then he uses the tape in the full-blown, you-could-see-this-coming-a-mile-away way of hooking up everyone in the courtroom to little receivers and letting the jury experience exactly what the Jerk experienced. (Really -- am I the only one having "Strange Days" flashbacks at this point?)

Nerdy Lawyer Rant (4 of 4)

OK -- here's the next unconscionable legal error. The Judge never pre-screens it. The Judge is watching this sucker for the first time, with the jury, in open court -- and ends up stopping the playback partially through when he thinks it has gone too far. (Which is coincidentally, just after Sympathetic Hero Lawyer has ripped off his own headset in disgust, and just before CBS would get into more trouble with the FCC.) My point, though, is that judges prescreen EVERYTHING that can be prejudicial -- if you're playing an audiotape in court, odds are the judge has listened to all of it, and probably made a new tape with certain prejudicial bits redacted. No freakin' WAY you would play a sex tape in court without a judge even PREVIEWING it (and, in a case like this, lots and lots of argument).

To their credit -- and it's an amazingly small point -- at the end of the show, when we see (victorious) Sympathetic Hero Lawyer sitting around, holding the tape, engaging in deep introspection, he actually does not destory the tape. I really expected that he would, but maybe someone on the show had some vague inkling that you need to preserve evidence for a possible appeal. (Then again, it should have been in the court's possession anyway -- not given back to Sympathetic Hero Lawyer.)

One episode -- at least a half-dozen legal errors. I wonder if doctors feel the same way about medical shows. In the real world, would them docs in "E.R." be killing people left and right?

Edited to add: Ooo! And I left out the bit where the Judge tells defense counsel that he would dismiss the case on legal grounds if he didn't think the defendant was pond scum.

Nerdy Lawyer Rant (2 of 4)

Let's attempt to look at this from a legal point of view.
- First, has the law changed so much that you can only bring a single cause of action in any lawsuit? I mean, DAMN. It would be malpractice to JUST bring the rape action and not bring the invasion of privacy. And if you CAN only bring one (which would be an astonishingly stupid rule), you'd likely ALSO be committing malpractice if you bypass the sure-winner invasion of privacy in favor of the slightly bizarre rape.
- Second, trespass??!! Trespass is an unauthorized intrustion onto someone else's LAND. It's a property crime. If they think a rape case is "out there" on these facts, trespass is miles further away.
- Third, is there even a civil action for rape? I mean, we all know from watching OJ that there's no civil cause of action for murder -- you bring a wrongful death cause of action. I think the civil action you'd bring in a case of rape would probably be battery (or maybe sexual battery) -- and the ESSENCE of a battery case is an unconsented-to TOUCHING. So they'd have a heck of a time with the elements of that one.
- Fourth, hello? Whatever happened to Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress? Cause, boy, the conversation jerk had with victim the next day is TEXTBOOK Intentional Infliction. And that's a cause of action that can get you punitive damages, too -- which means, y'know, ka-ching.

There's more. Sympathetic Hero Lawyer then finds out that jerk made a RECORDING of the virtual reality sex, and (what's worse) the recording (which apparently has a counter on it) indicates it has been viewed 30 times. Now, Sympathetic Hero Lawyer considers using the tape at trial, but (after a conversation with Drop-Dead Gorgeous Young Female Lawyer) decides not to, because it would be too traumatic for his client. He also decides there's no reason the client should even be told about the existence of the tape.

I'll concede that Sympathetic Hero Lawyer and Drop-Dead Gorgeous Young Female Lawyer do actually have a brief conversation regarding the ethics of this move -- but I'll just say I think that deciding not to tell your client about a piece of evidence you've found that can TOTALLY win the case, because YOU'VE decided it would hurt her feelings -- um, well, you're just ASKING for a malpractice lawsuit.

Nerdy Lawyer Rant (1 of 4)

I apologize in advance. If you're not interested in an extremely nerdy lawyer rant, just move along. Nothing to see here.

Yeah, so, I watched an episode of "Century City," the other night. The lawyers-in-the-not-so-distant-future show. Last night's episode was a sort of "L.A. Law" meets "Strange Days" type of thing. I was curious enough to give it a shot.

Here's the thing. Do they HAVE a freakin' legal consultant? (Would they like one? Make me an offer.) Seriously. I realize that this is TV, so they get a little leeway. And it's supposed to happen in the future, so they get a little more leeway. But this is just WRONG.

Last night's main plot was a case about a woman who got, er, cyber-raped. See, this jerk spikes the victim's boyfriend's drink with some sort of nanotechnology (I missed that bit -- I was in the bathroom) which enabled the jerk to -- from a distance -- have a virtual reality experience of whatever the boyfriend experienced. Which, in the case, included sex with the victim. Now, victim and boyfriend are blissfully unaware of the whole thing until the next morning when jerk goes to victim's office and gives her some flowers to thank her for such a wonderful experience, and ends up recounting to her the intimate details of her... intimacy. She is, understandably, freaked.

All right. So, the DA won't prosecute the jerk for rape because of the minor detail of the fact that he was 20 miles away at the time. Victim comes to Our Heroes to bring a civil suit.

Our Heroes now have what passes for a legal discussion in "Century City." I paraphrase:
Sympathetic Hero Lawyer: We gotta sue this guy.
Less Sympathetic Hero Lawyer: For what? Maybe you've got invasion of privacy, or trespass.
Sympathetic Hero Lawyer: Not good enough. We've got to defend our client's honor, make legal precedent, and put on exciting television. We must sue this guy for rape.

And so they do.

My Evil Cyber-Twin (1 of 2)

I've had lots of AOL screen names. I add and delete them at will. But I've never deleted my original screen name. I can't. It's the "Master" screen name. AOL would explode if I deleted it.

The problem is, it isn't exactly unique. It's something like my initials, which basically means it is a combination of three letters. Can't be that unusual. Other people must use that arrangement of three letters all the time.

I don't know whether some people mistakenly think my screen name IS their screen name and are handing it out to friends and websites like candy -- or whether these folks actually have the good sense to know what their screenname ACTUALLY is (i.e., something other than mine) but something gets lost in translation when they tell their friends.

Either way, I've received LOTS of misdirected email.

Now, let me explain. I'm not talking about spam or porn. These are not messages with the message line: "Hi! I'm so glad I found you!" and a message from "Jen" about how lonely she is and she just set up a webcam and would like me to come check it out. No, I'm talking about real e-mail -- about family news and college majors and job problems. Usually I write these folks back and tell them they got the wrong address -- most of them are grateful, update their files, and never bother me again.

My Evil Cyber-Twin (2 of 2)

For a long time, I got stuff meant for Scott. I got enough stuff meant for Scott, I started to put together his profile. He lived in Florida. He was bilingual. He was frequently invited to parties and movie screenings. He flies on Continental. He set up a brokerage account on one of the online sites and set it to send himself -- that is, me -- regular updates. At one point, I replied to one of his email correspondents and told him to call Scott and tell him to stop giving out my email address as his. The correspondent was sympathetic -- but as Scott was only a distant acquaintance, he wouldn't call him for me. He did, however, give me Scott's phone number, in case *I* wanted to call this moron and tell him his email address wasn't what he thought it was.

I didn't have the nerve to call, but I *did* unsub my account from most of his automated mailing lists. (It's pretty easy. Whenever I'd go to one of the websites to change my preferences, all I had to do was tell it "I forgot my password" and it would email it to the registered address -- i.e. me. Then I had total account access and could unsubscribe myself. TOTAL account access. Good thing I'm not an identity thief.)

So, last night, I order the Dell. Several hours later, I log on to check my email, and there's no confirmation from them. Go on, guess why.

Yep. I gave 'em an invalid e-mail address.

Monday, March 22, 2004


Yes.  I'm gettin' a Dell.

Of all the gadget-type items I wanted to buy, the new desktop leapt to the top of the list when I couldn't get the current desktop to play FreeCell yesterday. I mean, every time I turn it on -- well, about half the time I turn it on, I have to unplug it and turn it on again, 'cause it didn't take. But every time I turn it on, there's an alert that SOME program component or other is malfunctioning and will be shut down, and it usually doesn't affect anything I'm actually trying to do with the machine, so I usually don't care. But when I clicked on FreeCell and it dealt a game but only the top row of cards was visible, that was the last straw. (I dare you to play FreeCell that way. Click on invisible cards and keep getting "That move is not allowed" messages.)

I've got to burn all my documents on some CDs so I can transfer them to the new machine. (Frustratingly, I've been backing up to zip disks. They're so obsolete Dell didn't even OFFER a zip drive option in the new machine. Hey, I had a tape back up before the zip drive.) It's going to be depressing -- going through five years of data and finding that all that I really want to save will probably fit on a single CD. Ah well.

On the plus side, I did splurge a bit for (a) a flat panel monitor and (b) a wireless adapter thing that I truly hope will be compatible with the card in my notebook (and my ISP). The first is a total luxury purchase -- I tried to justify it by saying it would give the cat more room to perch while I type, but even I don't entirely buy that. The second -- well, I *have* a wireless system right now, and it *does* work. Enough. It involves a wireless adapter AND a router, and was put together with the assistance of countless hours of tech support from a friend of mine on the other side of the country who (unlike the paid professionals who were SUPPOSED to help me) actually "enjoys a challenge." (Long, geeky story.) The new wireless adapter only costs $49 -- and I figured that if I can replace the electronic equivalent of duct tape and tin foil that's currently sitting on my desk with a single piece of $50 equipment, it would be a more elegant solution for taking me into the next five years.

New toy!

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Honesty on the Internet

Well, that'll teach me to post an entry before I read whether anyone else had anything I wanted to comment on.

In Scalzi's entry right around here he found an article about people being more honest on the internet than in person.

I am. On purpose. And I've got me a hifalutin sociological reason for it.

Back in college, I took a course taught in the Socratic method (I mentioned it a zillion posts ago in a four-parter called "Foundations" that I'm too lazy to find the link for). ANYWAY, one of the questions posed by the professor in that class was what is the first rule that is necessary for any society. And we tried for days to figure it out. Don't kill other people? Respect property ownership? We couldn't get it. And finally our Professor walked us to the answer -- an agreement to tell the truth. You can't have any society of any kind until the participants have agreed, expressly or tacitly, to speak the truth.

I think that's right. And I like to think of the internet as something of a nascent community. And because of that, if the community is going to have any chance at survival at all, we need a general understanding that we'll tell the truth.

For me, this was actually a conscious decision when I first came on the internet. But I do think that in some sort of subconscious way, most of us have probably sensed the need for honestly and acted accordingly. I mean, what purpose in having web sites and message board postings if people can just spout whatever bullshit they want with impunity? People have to be able to work under the assumption that everyone else here is expected to be telling the truth.

Now, sure, there are exceptions -- and I think the longer a community has been around, the more dishonesty it can take without completely disintegrating. And that's why I'll be more honest here than in the real world.


Attention. Attention.

I have added two television programs to my regular viewing load.

This is fairly monumental -- but it has been due for some time. I have a limited number of slots for shows I'll watch. And when I say "shows I'll watch," I'm not talking about the endless "Roseanne" reruns I catch on Nick at Nite, or random crap on the Game Show Network that plays while I'm getting dressed in the morning. I mean something I CARE about watching. Something I'll care enough about to tape if I'm going to miss it.

Most shows I've watched in the past few years have been cancelled, jumped the shark, or changed time slots so much I can't find them anymore. What with Buffy ending its run and Angel going stupid and getting cancelled, the list of shows I watch regularly has been reduced to Monk, Survivor, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. (Well, there's also The Daily Show, but, because of the time value, if I miss it, it stays missed.)

Well, I've picked up two more. A coworker got me watching 24. I've avoided that sucker for years, figuring it was the classic example of a show with too much continuity -- if you missed the first episode, you were just screwed. Well, two or three weeks with my friends' assistance and a good read over at, and now I'm all caught up on 24. I can even talk borderline intelligently about it as if I've seen the first two seasons.

And, this weekend -- thanks to somehow catching three episodes of it -- I've now officially added Crossing Jordan to the viewing list. I've always meant to, actually. I watched the pilot of Jordan and figured it was a show I might someday like, but it needed to steep awhile in order to catch its rhythm. There were really only two things I liked about the pilot -- the really nice leather coat Jordan wore (I actually bought a 3/4 length coat because of it -- so spiffy) and the presence of Miguel Ferrer, who I've adored ever since "Twin Peaks." ("I do not suffer fools gladly and fools with badges never.") So, the three Jordan episodes I watch are centered more on Ferrer's character than on Jordan herself (hell, she didn't even appear in one of 'em) and I'm now officially hooked.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


Man, Andrea's entry ( brought me back.

Once, when I was a kid, I came home from school and smelled gas in the house. So did my big sister.

Now, I can't remember exactly why there were no grown-ups around -- maybe my folks were out of town, maybe we called them and they told us what to do -- I don't know. But I do remember my sister calling the Gas Company.

When you call the Gas Company and tell 'em you smell gas, you don't get one of them wussy 4-hour windows; you get someone to your house Right Quick. And that's what happened. A nice gas company rep came to our house and tried to sniff out the problem.

Pretty much as soon as he got there, he diagnosed that we did not have a gas leak. But he didn't know where the gas-type smell was coming from. He checked everywhere. Finally, he hunted it down to the kitchen. Particularly, the dishwasher.

We opened the dishwasher and found the culprit -- a steak knife had freed itself from the silverware bin and gotten wedged in the bottom of the dishwasher when it ran. Part of the wooden handle of the knife was charred to a crisp.

We were so embarrassed that we'd called about a Gas Leak Emergency when, in fact, we'd just set a knife on fire with on our inability to load a dishwasher.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


I bought a box of cereal today.

While this may be a relatively common occurrence on your planet, this is a momentous occasion in my life.

Every so often, when in the store, I'll buy a box of something -- generally Frosted Flakes or Raisin Bran.  I'll eat a bowl or two of cereal, and then ignore it.  I haven't reached the bottom of a box of cereal since I was a kid and had my whole family helping me.

Well, last week, I bought me some cereal.  And I've been having it for breakfast every morning.  And this morning, I reached the bottom.  I haven't enough left for a bowl.  I've done it!  I've eaten a whole box of cereal!  (And I went to the store today for more!  I can't get enough of this stuff.)

What fine breakfast product has done this?

Berry Burst Cheerios.

It's like Cheerios with strawberries in it -- except you don't have to go the trouble of washing and slicing the strawberries.  (It's precisely that sort of labor-intensive process that made me give up on cereal in the first place.)  At first it seems a little weird to have these dried out strawberry-like items floating in your cereal, but once you've thrown in some milk, they taste remarkably strawberry-esque.  And there's EXACTLY the right amount of them in there.  You get a little strawberry flavor in each and every spoonful.

Is modern breakfast cereal technology something or what?

The wearin' of the ...

I don't have any green clothes.

Not that I have anything against green (my sheets are green -- mmmm, staying in bed), I just don't have any green clothing. St. Patrick's Day attire is generally such a challenge. I don't even have any emerald earrings. (Not like I could wear earrings anyway, says the girl with one piercing stud and one hoop.)

Not the first time this has happened. I remember once, when I was on the bus to school, discovering that it was St. Pat's and I was greenless. I looked around frantically and found I was carrying a green textbook. I peeled a small piece off the cover (I *hate* defacing books, but it was for a greater good) and taped it to my fingernail. (I *wanted* to tape it to my third fingernail, but can't remember if I ultimately had the cajones to do so. "You wanna see my green? I'll show you my green.")

Maybe I can get JeffComedy to teach me some of that step dancing. (

Come to think of it ... oh, I remember what green clothes I have! When I did an adult figure skating competition, my music was a Celtic fiddler, so I had a cute little green figure skating dress. No way on this earth I'd wear that in public. Although it'd be easier to take a piece off of that than to butcher another book.

Monday, March 15, 2004


I said below that one thing I always do when I travel is apologize for American television.

I do that a lot. But there's one thing I *always* do when I travel, always. Something that I never do when I'm home, but always sort of look forward to when I'm away.

I eat dinner at KFC.

I'm not sure when this first began. I think it was one of my very first trips to London -- and I was really exhausted but trying to stay awake that first night -- so I went out and grabbed some KFC takeout and ate it my hotel room.

(And then I learned: don't throw the trash away in your hotel room -- you'll smell it up something awful. You can usually find me wandering the halls of my hotel, looking for a "public" trash can in which to toss a pile of chicken bones.)

Since then, KFC has nearly always been a part of my vacations. (Yes, I ate at KFC in New Zealand.) It's almost a ritual. Like I'm not on vacation yet until I've stopped by the Colonel's place. Gotta have my chicken and "American biscuit."

So, that's my embarassing travel ritual. You got any?

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Grocery Shopping (1 of 2)

So, I went shopping (at Vons! The strike is over!) and brought home a whole mess of groceries. I was running a little late -- had to get to the theatre -- so I wanted to bring them up to my apartment really fast, and get... the fridge stuff in the fridge, the freezer stuff in the freezer, everything else out of reach of the cat, my clothes changed, and the hell out of there.

OK, first problem. The "community shopping cart" we usually keep near the elevator was nowhere to be seen. I scanned the garage and saw it over in the corner by the water heater. Fine. I ran over there, grabbed the cart, brought it back to my car, and loaded it with groceries.

Not all the groceries fit. I figured I'd leave the three heaviest items and bring them up after the theatre that night. I mean, I didn't really need to bring up the big bottle of laundry detergent, the 12-pack of Coke, or the 2.5 gallon jug of water.

As it is, the shopping cart is overflowing with my groceries. I push the button for the elevator and it opens immediately. Problem: there's a little step between me and the elevator, and I can't get the shopping cart up it before the elevator door closes. I keep trying to get the cart to do a wheelie to get up the step but it won't comply. FINALLY, it does. I call the elevator again and shove the cart in. Push the button for the second floor.

Nothing happens.

I hit "door open." The door opens. I hit "door close." The door closes. I hit "2." Elevator makes a noise, but NOTHING HAPPENS.

I push on the "stop/start" button. Nothing. I pull it out and push it again. There's something a little wrong with the button (it's at an angle) but there's nothing I can do.

I get out of the elevator. I thought I'd heard one of my neighbors in the garage, and wanted to ask if they'd heard if the elevator was broken. When I get out of the elevator, the door closes behind me.

And the elevator engages, bringing my groceries up to the second floor without me.

I run for the stairs. I reach the first floor and hit the call button, hoping to meet my groceries here. But the elevator has already gone by here and is on its way to 2.

Grocery Shopping (2 of 2)

I run up the next flight of stairs and reach the elevator, just as I hear it go back down to 1 and stop there. I have sitcom-style fears that my shopping cart is going to go flying out on that floor and careen around the courtyard of its own accord.

I hit the call button and eventually my groceries meet me on 2 -- to the great amusement of some guests of my next-door neighbor, who were actually waiting for the elevator to use it.

I take my groceries in, and I'm an upacking maniac -- throwing frozen foods in the freezer, cold foods in the fridge, and everything else in the cupboard. (Come to think of it, I never DID rinse the grapes.) I run into my closet and throw on a sweater and skirt outfit, so I look all presentable for the theatre. I grab my ticket, take the shopping cart (to return it) and get the elevator down to the garage with no further incident.

I go to the theatre. On the way home, I stop off at In-N-Out for a burger, which I bring home. Since I'm carrying my dinner, I still don't have enough spare hands to bring up the three items in my trunk, but something tells me to take a peek in there and make sure everything is ok.

And it is then that I discover my 2.5 gallon container of water has sprung a leak, and about 1/4 of its contents has spilled out into my trunk and saturated the thin little rug back there.

Well, on the plus side, the laundry detergent didn't open -- I could just picture myself driving down the street with soap suds oozing out of my trunk.

On the minus side ... anyone know how to dry out a trunk?

Friday, March 12, 2004

Books (2 of 2)

Science Fiction:
Chunky:  Dan Simmons's "Hyperion" & "Fall of Hyperion"
Crappy:  Robert Asprin's "Phule" series

Chunky:  Sean Stewart's "Galveston" and others; a great deal of Steven Brust's stuff, some Guy Gavriel Kay
Crappy:  A nearly endless list, including Robert Asprin's "Myth" series, the other Steven Brust stuff, David Eddings's "Belgariad" and "Mallorean" (until he started writing the same story for the third, fourth and fifth time), and some Craig Shaw Gardner.

Special note:  Also a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, who operates in the special sub-genre of Humorous Fantasy.  There are few practicioners of the art, and Pratchett's stuff is hard to categorize.  It's kinda crappy with chunks.

And, yes, Tammy, I have enjoyed those "Anita Blake -- Vampire Hunter" books you sent -- although I do try hide the covers when I'm reading them.

Books (1 of 2)

In the comments to the entry below, our new pal Liz says "I probably read crap compared to you."


I read a lot for my job.  A lot.  Vast quantities of paperwork.  And so, when I do read for fun, I generally read crap.  Crap of the highest order.  Crap that is so crappy, I am sometimes embarrassed that people actually see me with these books in my hands.  (Now I know why my mom puts her books in a little bookcover when she reads them.)

Well, no more.  To hell with shame.  Ladies and gents, I now present a journal entry on The Crap I Read.

I mostly like reading stuff in three genres:  mystery, fantasy, and science fiction.  (And I look pitiably on anyone who says fantasy and science fiction are the same, although some authors can overlap them.)  In each genre, I read the "chunky" kind, and the "crappy" kind.  As an extreme example, Arthur C. Clarke writes chunky science fiction -- you can really sink your teeth into his stuff.  Whereas, say, the "Red Dwarf" novels -- those are crap.  It isn't a statement on their quality -- they are actually quite a good read.  They're just, you know, fluff.  The literary equivalent of cotton candy.

So.  Things I have particularly enjoyed reading:

Chunky:  Caleb Carr's "The Alienist" and "The Angel of Darkness."
Crappy:  Katherine Neville's "The Eight," a long list of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, pretty much anything by Dick Francis
(Footnote -- Caleb Carr's "Killing Time" was crap in the other sense of the word.)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

You people are SO not helping

Had some ideas for an entry that was all AOL-J community building.  Tried to follow up on them.  Lemme tell you -- 40 minutes of failure -- that's what I got.

Idea the first:  Use the AOL-J search feature to search other journals for something that really interests me, and see if I can find a kindred spirit. 
- Searched for "Snowglobes."  Got one hit -- they were mentioned briefly in this person's bio. 
- Searched for "Hyperion" (the name of a novel I rather liked), got no hits.
- Searched for "Avenue Q" (the name of a musical I've been thinking about lately) -- got a few hits, including one I am responsible for.  Did hit this journal, amusingly entitled "Why I hate the Boston Red Sox, love Hugh Jackman and other ramblings."  Didn't say much about "Avenue Q," but there's quite the Hugh Jackman photo gallery, and I can't really object to that.

Idea the second:  Go on a link walk.  Jump to the first journal I link to, jump to the second journal that person links to, jump to the third journal that person links to, and so forth.  I'd been hoping to get up to 10, but I ended up hitting a brick wall much earlier.  The problem (at least, the problem for this particular venture) is that people link to journals outside of AOL, and once you've followed a link out, it is unlikely you'll get linked back into the system -- and my goal here was to find other AOL Journals to poke around.

Idea the third:  Go back to the search function, find someone's journal that has a bunch of those "getting to know you" questions on it, and answer them.  While there may be a journal out there with such a thing, it didn't easily pop up in the search engine.

I give up.  What do you folks do to find other members of AOL-J you might like to connect with?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Stagecraft (2 of 2)

So, about five hours into the show, Lyra & Pan make a voyage to the Land of the Dead.  This is notable because they're not dead yet.  An administrative guy (with a clipboard) complains that they don't belong there, so sends them over to the waiting area, where they sit with all sorts of other still-alive people.

Some of the other still-alive people are surprised to see Lyra because she is there "without her death."  They explain, "Before we arrived, we could never see our deaths.  We always had them, though, like everyone else.... Your death comes into the world with you the minute you're born, and it stays with you every minute of your days, until it's time to go.  It could come at any moment.  When you're sick with a fever, or you choke on a piece of dry bread, or you stand at the top of a high building.  In the middle of all your pain and hardship, your death comes to you kindly and says... 'Easy now, easy, child, you come along o' me.'  And then it shows you into a boat and out you sail."

So they tell Lyra she won't ever be able to get on the boat until she asks her death.  They tell her she can see her death if she just wishes to.  She wishes.  Pan tells her not to -- he's frightened by the whole idea.  He hides in her arms -- the puppeteer hands the puppet to Lyra like we've seen him do dozens of times already.

And then he walks downstage, slowly removes his fencing mask, and Lyra identifies him as her death.

What an amazing piece of staging!  This is why I love theatre.  With that one little quirk of double-casting, they've created this unspoken, beautiful connection between a person's soul and his death.  I'm still marvelling over it.

Stagecraft (1 of 2)

OK, it's been a few days and I'm still just overwhelmed by one particular little bit of stagecraft they used in His Dark Materials.  So I'm going to share it with you (even though it will require quite a bit of set-up.)

In the world of His Dark Materials, every person has a daemon.  (Pronounced: demon.)  Your daemon looks like an animal.  It follows you around -- indeed, you can't be separated from it.  You can think of a daemon kinda like a witch's familiar, but it's rather more than that.  It is described as the "physical manifestation of the human soul."  Oh yeah, and they can talk.

In the stage production, the daemons are played by puppets.  (Very pretty, elegant, fluttering-piece-of-silk puppets.)  Our lead character, Lyra, has a daemon, Pan, that looks kinda like a small squirrel or ferret (or something with a bushy tail).  Sometimes Lyra operates her own daemon puppet (like when Pan is scared, so huddles in her arms) but he's frequently operated by another actor.  And since the other actor isn't really supposed to be there, he's dressed in black from head to toe.  He's even wearing what looks like a black fencing mask over his face -- he totally disappears, in order to make the puppet the character.

Other daemons are also portrayed this way -- so during the six hours of this show, you sort of get used to ignoring these people dressed in black who are operating the puppets that are the daemons we should be paying attention to.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Oh... my.

There's one thing I always find myself doing whenever I travel abroad:  apologizing for American television.

"Culture" is pretty much our biggest export, and -- on the whole -- I think that the fact we've given the rest of the planet Jerry Springer is something for which we, as a people, owe the world a general, "We are SO sorry."  I mean, REALLY.  Britain gives us all that stuff on "Masterpiece Theatre," and we respond with Judge Judy.  It isn't a fair trade, now, is it?

Well, no more.  I had the privilege of watching "There's Something About Miriam" -- a UK-made "Bachelorette"-style dating show in which the main character has a little secret.  No, it's not that she's not really a millionaire.  It's that she's not really a woman.

She is, in fact, a pre-operative transsexual.  Beat that, American television.

And in fine American style, the men involved subsequently sued the show to prevent it from being broadcast (because of their emotional distress).  The producers settled, the men got paid off, and the show aired. 

:::sniff:::  Britain has surpassed us.  I'm so proud.

Monday, March 8, 2004


Remember where we were with the earring story?

We were here:

In London, I was sitting in a theatre waiting for a show to start, and I felt something cool on my ear. Reached up, and the piercing was wet. LEAKING something. A clear, somewhat gooey something. This was completely spontaneous. I did NOTHING to make it commence with the leaking.

When I got back to the hotel that night, I saw some dried blood around the piercing. I didn't have any alcohol on me so didn't remove the stud to get a closer look, but I tried to clean it as best I could until I got back home.

Got back home. Removed the piercing.

Have concluded I was wrong about blaming the facial lady. I don't think the skin is peeling around the piercing at all. I think the piercing is leaking this fluid, and what looked like peeling skin was just dried goo.

Oh, and it started bleeding again when I removed the stud.

I seem to recall -- WAY back when I got my ears pierced the first time -- that someone on the university nurse line told me to remove my studs and replace them with gold hoops -- that would help with "drainage." I'd do that right now, except I broke one of the hoops, and I think wearing one hoop and one stud would look particularly stupid. (Or particularly Janet Jackson.) Then again, it does appear to be a medical necessity.

23B (1 of 2)

Today's rant:  Ushers And Other People Who Think You Are A Freakin' Idiot.

This one has been simmering all through my trip, but hit a fever pitch when I got on the plane coming home.

You see, I go to the theatre a lot.  In America.  And here, every time you walk into a theatre, there is an usher waiting to escort you to your seat.  Now, SOMETIMES, very rarely, the usher will ask if you need help finding your seat.  I appreciate these folks.  I generally respond with something along the lines of, "alphabetical order, right?  I think I can handle it" and head off toward my seat.  I'm proud to say I always get it right, too.  But mostly, the usher will escort you to your seat, apparently on the assumption that figuring out that row N is the one directly behind row M is just a little too difficult for most people.

And when I was in London, I realized this isn't a worldwide phenomenon.  At each theatre I went to in London, I was actually expected to find my own damn seat.  Sure, there was generally someone there to answer any questions I might have, but, mostly, I was left on my own.  It isn't really HARD to find your seat:  rows are clearly numbered, seats are clearly numbered, and before you even ENTER the auditorium, there's generally a "seats 1-15 to your left/seats 16-30 to your right" sort of sign.

And I thought, "How WONDERFUL!"  Isn't it nice that someone actually assumes I'm smarter than a potted plant?

23B (2 of 2)

Getting on the plane flying home, I was assigned seat 23B.  Now, I had a pretty good idea where this could be found.  Let's run through all available data: 
I've flown before.  Every plane I've ever been on before is numbered front to back and left to right.  I can assume this plane is set up the same way.
- So, I'm thinkin' about 23 rows back, and on the left aisle.
- I know it's a left aisle because I was promised an aisle seat, and something labelled "B" ain't gonna be on the right.
- Besides which, there's 2 seats on the left, and calling the window "A" and the aisle "B" would make so much darned sense.

- Just in case I missed it, there are row numbers on each aisle seat and on the overhead compartments
- There are row and seat numbers on the armrest of each seat, to confirm any tentative seating decision I might make.
- I had been on an identical aircraft flying TO London, and was in 22B on that flight.  A reasonable inference would put 23B right behind it.
In short, I'm about as certain as I can be that I can find 23B without flight attendant assistance.

When I get on the plane, the American flight attendant does not ask (as her English counterpart did) "Do you need help finding your seat?"  No.  Instead, she asks each and every person boarding, "What seat are you in?" so that she can helpfully direct you to the right location in the plane.

Argh.  I feel like enough of a small child in that they no longer trust us with actual silverware.  Must they compound the plastic fork experience by treating us like we're unable to find "B" in an alphabet without professional assistance?

Sunday, March 7, 2004

This is SO cool (1 of 2)

(OK, it's only cool because I'm a lawyer, but, I must admit, my Inner Nerdy Lawyer is really impressed.)

I ended up back at the internet place in London -- doing a quick email read before I find some carry-out -- and (for my viewing pleasure) I got to watch a guy get arrested by London police! 

(Well, I'm sure it wasn't arranged just to let me see this particular part of the British Criminal Justice System in action.  But really, darned thoughtful of them.)

I hadn't witnessed anything that led up to it (also a darn shame, 'cause wouldn't it have been nifty if I had to come back to testify?) but it appears that some people believed the chap about five computers away from me tried to remove the monitor from the wall (and thereby damaged it).  Enter the police.

Now, you really can't cue up the "Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha gonna do?" music here.  Because this entire encounter was so soft-voiced, so polite, so ... English, it would most definitely have ended up on the "Cops" cutting room floor.

The officers surrounded the soon-to-be-arrestee and told him what he was claimed to have done.  He tried to interrupt with protestations of innocence; they told him to wait and he'd be given a chance to explain once they finished telling him what they had.  He waited, they gave him a chance to explain.  One of the cops remained with him while another then went to speak to the witnesses.  When the cop returned, he (again politely) told the fellow that he was being put under arrest for attempted theft, because several witnesses said they'd seen him trying to remove the screen.

This is SO cool (2 of 2)

They read him rights which sounded an awful lot like our "Miranda" warnings--at least in the Remaining Silent department; I don't recall anything about Free Appointed Counsel.  They handcuffed him.  He very politely said, "you don't have to handcuff me; I'll go with you."  They very politely insisted on the handcuffs.  They then asked, "Do you have anything on you you shouldn't have?"  (I love this question.)  They further clarified they were asking about drugs, weapons, etc.  He didn't.

He tried to prove his innocence.  Said he had monthly pass to use the internet here.  Why would he try to steal the screen if he had a monthly pass?  Said he'd log in with the pass to prove he does, indeed, have a valid pass.  "There's no need to do that," said the officer, with genuine honesty in his voice, "I believe you."

And they took him away.  Quietly, without any further fuss.  Most people here in the internet place just kept typing away.  Because it wouldn't be polite to stare.

Saturday, March 6, 2004

Back to the "Ordinary" Day (2 of 2)

I got in.  (I think everyone in the returns line did.  Yay for the returns line.)  REALLY glad I went.  Absolutely adored Part 2 of this show.  Loved it to little bits.  Cried at the end.  (Not just sniffles, actual tears.  Mere inches away from embarassing blubbering.)  Went right out and bought the entire trilogy of books.  Very happy camper.

Topped off the evening by a traditional-type English meal.  (Steak and mushroom pie.)  Decided I would branch out beverage-wise and, as I'm not much of beer person, my waitress recommended cider, which I discovered I rather like.  (Mmmm, cider.)

Am now pleasantly buzzed.  It's probably the last entry I'll make from London -- tomorrow I'm going to visit my friend outside the city.  I'll be back in time for dinner, but I think it will be a grab-some-takeaway-and-pack dinner, rather than a go-out-and-stop-at-the-internet-place-on-the-way-back dinner.  (Wonder where I can get another bottle of cider.)  It has to be an early night 'cause I'm leaving early Monday morning.

And then it's back to the REAL ordinary.


Back to the "Ordinary" Day (1 of ?)

Last night, I made tentative plans for today:  horseback riding through Hyde Park.  (English riding.  With the little cap and boots and everything.)

I got back to my hotel and asked the concierge for any other bright ideas of what to do.  He had none.

I went up to my room -- it was now just midnight -- and discovered that housekeeping had opened the window.

This is extremely bad.  (Did I mention the "just midnight" bit?)  Freezing cold weather had been pouring into my room through the wide-open window for HOURS.  I closed the window immediately.  I wanted to crank the heat up to a nice, warm circle of Hell setting, but could not do so -- I know this because when I first checked in, I tried cranking up the heater and SET OFF THE SMOKE ALARM.  I didn't mind it then, because the room was generally warm (and kept heat well overnight) -- but now the place was just ICY.  I put the heater on a low setting (as high as I dared take it) and took a hot bath to warm myself.  When all was said and done, I didn't get to sleep till about 2:00.

Upon waking up about six hours later, there was NO WAY I was in any shape to go riding.  I was exhausted.  (I believe "knackered" is the word.)  I didn't even really think I was up for a museum or a London walk.  I thought I'd maybe take in a play.

Went to the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square.  Nothing there I wanted to see.  Toyed with seeing a movie.  (Last chance to see "Return of the King" on a big, honkin, screen.  I was tempted until I realized the price was about $18.  Hell, I could probably get the DVD for that.)

With, literally, nothing better to do, I went back to the National and queued up for a return ticket for Part Two of "His Dark Materials."

Friday, March 5, 2004

Out of the Ordinary Day (5 of 5)

I didn't see anything in the way of films, but when I started looking at the British Television stuff, something caught my eye.  One summer -- 1988, after my first year of law school -- I worked for a barrister here for half the summer.  I lived with a nice lady in a tiny little room at the top of her house.  And while I was here, I happened to catch a mini-series on TV.  Well, I caught MOST of it.  Three of the Four parts.  I left town before the final episode aired.  The nice lady watched the last part for me and wrote me a synopsis, but as she hadn't watched the first three, her explanation was somewhat lacking.

And there it is -- the whole thing -- on DVD.  I recognize the title immediately, and it isn't particularly expensive.  I stand there flipping the box over in my hands, debating whether to buy it to see the last part of something I first watched fifteen years ago.  And then I notice:  it starred Stephen Dillane.  I buy it on the spot.

Heh.  Well, since I did both of things I'd wanted to do today, I have to go find something for tomorrow. 

Out of the Ordinary Day (4 of ?)

After poking around the Royal Observatory, I dropped by the Maritime Museum on my way back to the rail station.  (Cause, I mean, it was there.)  I was starting to get pooped at this point, but they did have a couple of neat displays -- a huge room full of models of all the different "ships of war" (back before this term meant "aircraft carrier") and a whole display devoted to Admiral Nelson.  Got to see his very own goofy hat.  :)

Headed back to town, had dinner, saw a play.  (Jumpers, a Tom Stoppard play starring Simon Russell Beale.  Beale is one of a handful of actors who I would unreservedly see in whatever play they happen to be doing -- and I dig Stoppard as a playwright something fierce, so booking this show for this trip was a no-brainer.)

Beale isn't the only such actor -- another is a fellow named Stephen Dillane, who I've also seen in a couple of Stoppard plays.  (As they say in court, "Don't worry, your honor, I'll link up.")

On my way to the theatre, I had about a half hour to kill, so I stepped into the nearest HMV.  Wasn't looking for anything in particular, but I thought I'd look at the local DVDs.  (I have a code free DVD player, so I'm always on the lookout for Nifty Foreign Stuff I can pick up.)


Out of the Ordinary Day (3 of ?)

(Man, I wish I had the longer entry limit.  I'm breaking this up so much, all the recent stuff is already falling off the bottom of the page, dammit.)

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich is up a hill.  (Had I thought THIS through, I would've figured that one out, too.  I mean, when they drop the time ball at 1:00 every day, the idea is for ships in the river to actually be able to see it.)  So, I made a brief stop to actually put ON the knee brace (which works much better when removed from the box), and hiked up to the Observatory.

You need a ticket to get in, but it's free.  As soon as you enter, you're in a courtyard where the Prime Meridian line is marked, and they've got a real accurate clock ticking off time.  They've also got (added bonus) "the" official measures.  You wanna see if a ruler is exactly one foot -- this is the place to go, my friend.  I don't know why, but my inner mathematician just dug this.

Much to see at the Royal Observatory.  Saw all sorts of timepieces -- everything right up to a model of the new atomic-type clock (cesium, I think) that promises to lose a second every FIFTEEN MILLION YEARS.  Which should be close enough for government work.

I was most impressed by the H4, the timepiece (sorry, "chronometer") developed by Harrison that ultimately won the Longitude Prize.  Hey, I watch my movies on A&E, this shit MEANS something to me.  (Actually, they had all 4 of Harrison's chronometers, which were really stunning.)

Out of the Ordinary Day (2 of ?)

They've outfitted the Cutty Sark for visitors, and they're trying to museum up the place.  But, basically, you give 'em a few quid and they let you wander aimlessly around the ship.  They've got the whole history of the ship (started out in the tea trade -- apparently it is the last surviving Tea Clipper), some stuff in display cases (like all the tools someone would use in the 19th Century to rig up sails), and some of the rooms are done up exhibit-wise with wax-work figures (e.g., look at this guy sleeping in his cot).  Which was all very interesting, although I think what I liked best was that you COULD wander around aimlessly.  When I went up on deck, I was the Only Person There -- and it's just an amazingly cool feeling to walk back and forth on a deck of one of these great old sailing ships all by yourself.  (Sometimes tourists just get in the WAY.)

So, yay for the boat.  Very spiffy. 

From the aft deck, I could see the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.  (The foredeck is aimed toward the Thames, so you could get a great view of London from the South Bank.  And that Millenium Dome thing -- in whose direction I laughed, mockingly.)

So, it was off to the National Martime Museum -- although what I really cared about is the Royal Observatory, which is part of the same grounds.

Out of the Ordinary Day (1 of ?)

Well, it's only 10:30, and seeing as I have free internet use (cough up 7 pounds, get unlimited use for 5 days), I thought I'd write up today 'cause I'm all wide awake and ... wide awake.  (Clearly I'm not as articulate as I'd hoped.)

OK, in poking around, I decided there were two things here I'd really like to do (that I've never done before).  First, was visit the Cutty Sark, and second, stand on the Prime Meridian and synchronize my watch with the rest of the planet. 

Not so coincidentally, both items were right next to each other.  (Had I thought this through, I might have realized it.  Both having that, y'know, naval connection.)

So, my first stop today was taking the Docklands Light Rail out to a station conveniently called "Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich."

Cutty Sark's website conveniently gives you directions from the rail station, saying to exit the station, turn left, then turn left again.  I think "look up, see ship, go there" probably would have covered it.  I mean, it's kinda hard to hide a clipper ship.  Even if it is in drydock.

Theatre Geek Report -- the evening show (3 of 3)

I think what I liked best about "His Dark Materials" (as a play) is that it exists.  With the rather large (but also rather recent) exception of Disney Theatricals, nobody in the United States takes children's theatre really SERIOUSLY.  That is to say, you don't get big theatrical productions aimed a youth audience.  As a big time theatre geek, I am frustrated by this -- how are we ever going to instill in our youth a lifetime love of the stage when their only chance to be exposed to it is some local company doing "The Phantom Tollbooth"?

What I love about "His Dark Materials" is that it is GOOD theatre -- top drawer theatre -- with no expense spared on props, sets, costumes ... and a top of the line cast.  I mean, they've got great classically trained Shakespearean types in here, extremely talented dancers in more movement-based roles (I noted, with irony, that one of the cast members used to dance in Matthew Bourne's ballets), and they even got Timothy Dalton in the role of the ... shoot, I don't even know how to describe the role, excepting its the sort of thing you need that kind of actor for.  Like, remember when they made the third Indiana Jones movie, and they got Sean Connery to play Indy's dad?  (Of course you do.)  It's that sort of role, and Dalton is just ideal for it.

This isn't the first time the National has gone all out for a children's theatre piece.  (On the contrary, they have quite a good track record with it.)  It's the first time I've managed to see one there, though, and I am just floored by the quality of what they put out -- and I really wish we'd do more of this in America.

Theatre Geek Report -- the evening show (1 of 3)

Last night, I saw "His Dark Materials."  (Well, Part One anyway.  It's six hours long so they split it over two performances.  Part Two is the show I couldn't get a ticket for.  I solved this problem by buying the script.)

Now, if you live in England, you've probably heard of "His Dark Materials."  Not so much the play (although it is getting VERY good press), but the books on which it is based. 

It's a trilogy of children's books.  Fantasy-type books.  My understanding is that they're very successful here, although nobody in the States has heard of them.

(I recently found out they do have an American publisher.  Now that I know something about them, I can guess why they're tanking in the States.  The story involves religion, which is a pretty touchy place to go with children's books.  I haven't read the script for Part 2 yet, so I'm not sure how it turns out, but it involves a journey to the land of the dead, and I'm pretty certain one of the main characters is trying to kill God.  Or whatever passes for God in these parts.  While I understand the books to ultimately be fairly positive on religion, spirituality, souls and all that business, they are EXTREMELY negative of organized religion, particularly the Church.  I just don't think that sort of thing would play well in the U.S.)

Theatre Geek Report -- the evening show (2 of 3)

I digress.  Big sweeping fantasy books that most people here have heard of.  So most people go into the show already UNDERSTANDING the rules of this universe, while I'm trying to ramp up.  The show does give some brief nods in the general direction of explaining itself, but it's a lot to catch up with when you're totally unfamiliar with the rules.  ("OK, and the little squirrel-like thing is following the protagonist around WHY?")  And there's all sorts of magical artifacts with which everyone is familiar, and I'm, y'know, not.  (An "alethiometer."  Got it.)

On the plus side, not having any familiarity with the books means all the plot twists and turns are genuinely new to me.  Which, I'll admit, made the show a great deal of fun -- because buried in this somewhat confusing world of deamons and armoured bears and witches and one very f'd up church hierarchy was a really great tale.  Which I got to enjoy.  (So I'm the only one in the audience who gasps at the theatrical equivalent of "Luke, I am your father.")

NZ's Theatre Injury Report

Can I travel ANYWHERE without injury?

Particularly the National theatre?

The two shows I saw yesterday were both at the National.  Last time I was at the National, I twisted my ankle walking to the theatre.  This ended up being the ligament injury that I kept reinjuring skating, and is currently reported to be "as healed as its going to get."

So yesterday I was very, very careful walking by the place I did that to myself.

I was less careful walking down the stairs.  Because, I mean, they're STAIRS.  I can walk down stairs.  (I can even chew gum at the same time.)  The night before, I'd walked down HUNDREDS of stairs (the escalator was out at the underground station so they sent us down a huge winding staircase).  So, I mean, no problem with the stairs.

Between shows yesterday, I just stayed around the National Theatre complex (three theatres, several restaurants, some displays, a shop).  And walking down the stairs at one point, I felt a sort of pop in my knee.  I ignored and kept right on going with my day. 

By the time I returned to my hotel at night, I was limping up the last few steps out of the underground station.  And it hurts worse this morning.  I'm fine on flat areas, but it's quite uncomfortable on stairs.  Argh.

I'm popping some Advil and I bought a knee wrap.  Sumbitch.

Theatre Geek Report -- the matinee

Yesterday, I saw two of the plays I actually came here to see.  (Only one was a musical -- don't know what I was thinking when I'd said they both were.)

First was a dance piece by the name of "Play Without Words" -- which also pretty much sums up the concept.  Choreographed by Matthew Bourne -- who is, well, put it this way, a ballet choreographer whose name I actually know.  Three of his earlier pieces played Los Angeles (one of them, a "Swan Lake" with men playing the swans) made it to Broadway.  Anyway, I adore his stuff, and signed up for this on the strength of the fact that he did it.

It's a five character play.  I picked up the program and it listed two or three dancers for each role.  This is not unusual -- dancers generally rotate parts.  So I started looking around for the little slip of paper that says who is dancing which part at this performance.  Answer:  they all were.  The really inventive thing about this show is that two or three dancers played the same part AT THE SAME TIME.  They would either do the same steps simultaneously, or different steps meaning the same thing, or play the same character at a slightly different point in time, or play the same character if a different choice were made.  It was really remarkable.

And particularly eye-catching when two characters had sex, in that you would see two or three couples in different love-making dances on, say, different bits of furniture.  Matthew Bourne is quite, quite good at sexy choreography, and triple-casting the parts really let him triple the fun.  (Is it getting warm in here?) 

Really great piece.

The word of the day is...


New word I learned, from one of those morning chat shows.

It is the practice of having anonymous sex in public places.

(The idea apparently being that hetero couples thought, "hey, why should the gay men have all the fun?")

The chat show was having a discussion about it, as the practice has somehow exploded in Britain, with over 100,000 claimed practicioners. 

The question was posed whether they should set aside certain areas of parks for the activity -- so that people taking their kids out for a walk or something won't accidentally stumble upon a couple in flagrante in the foliage. 

"Adult Entertainment Area --
Don't feed the pigeons
Please dispose of your litter
Condoms available around the back."

Thursday, March 4, 2004

The Travelogue (4 of 4)

I felt a little sorry for the actors, trying to perform all energetically in a huge theatre with a living-room sized crowd.  As for the performance itself, well, now I understand why there weren't crowds outside the theatre banging down the doors to get in.

One of my favorite little theatre things to do is overhear what other people are saying about the play.  Now, in this production, the costume scheme was (probably intentionally) somewhat reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean, with The Pirate King in reds and blacks (with long hair, and red scarf) like Captain Jack, and Frederic more in browns like Will.  Which similarity had most of the audience talking about the movie at the intermission.  So, when I got back from getting my ice cream (London theatres sell ice cream at the interval.  A practice I truly wish we'd take up in the States.), I overheard this middle-aged Englishwoman say -- and, when you read this, please read it in the proper English accent, it's much funnier that way -- "I like Johnny Depp, too.  All women like Johnny Depp."  Cracked me up.

Well, I can't do anything unusual today -- I've got two shows today and after my Hearty English Breakfast (all hail the free breakfast buffet that came with my hotel!) I barely have time to surf the net for something fun for tomorrow before I'm off to the theatre.  Hopefully, it won't rain tomorrow.  :)  One can but dream.

The Travelogue (3 of ?)

In the absence of anything better, I went with a production of "Pirates of Penzance."  True, Gilbert & Sullivan don't quite rank up there with ABBA or The Who in terms of rock songs, but there's some peppy stuff in there.  Besides, I already know the plot, so don't need to pay a WHOLE lot of attention to script intricacies.  And, well, Anthony Head (yes, that Anthony Head) was playing The Pirate King, and there's a curiosity factor there that was just too strong to ignore. 

So, last night, I found myself at the Savoy Theatre watching "Pirates of Penzance."

I say all this by way of explanation of my presence.  I wonder what excuse the other 49 people had for being there.

Really.  Huge, 3-level theatre, NOBODY IN IT.  I was sitting in the stalls (read: orchestra), which had about 20 rows in it.  I was in the 7th row.  There was a couple in the 8th.  Nobody sat farther back.  And it wasn't like the first 7 rows were packed, either.  Once the show started, we all sort of rearranged ourselves so nobody had anyone blocking their view, and we all had spare seats to throw our coats on.  I think there were some people in the dress circle (read: mezzanine).  I know this because, when I walked in, I heard someone say they were closing the upper circle (balcony) entirely and sending those folks down to the dress circle. 

I mean, there was a danger that the audience would be outnumbered by the cast.  I'm quite certain that, if you throw in the orchestra and the theatre staff, we were.

The Travelogue (2 of ?)

Had theatre last night...

Let me explain something about me, travel, and jet lag:  I take short trips and haven't the TIME for jet lag.  I have, basically, three ways of dealing with it:

1.  When I get on the plane, I set my watch to the time at my destination, and attempt to act accordingly.  (Sometimes this is impossible -- in which case, proceed to step 2.)

2.  When I get on the plane, I set my watch to the time at my destination, roll my eyes in shock, then IGNORE the time for the rest of the flight.  Sleep when tired, eat when hungry, and when arrive, keep telling self, "1:00 in the afternoon.  Yeah, I can believe that.  It's 1:00 in the afternoon."

3.  (And this is the most important step.)  Upon arrival, stay awake until a reasonable time to go to sleep.  Since my trips have generally involved theatre, I've learned it is easiest to accomplish this by "seeing the loudest, most obnoxious musical I can find."

Successful shows in this area have included, "Mamma Mia!"  "The Who's Tommy" and (the world-champion loud, obnoxious musical) "We Will Rock You" -- a show based on the music of Queen, with a plot so horribly stupid I think the show has remained open for two years SOLELY based on its capacity to keep tourists awake their first night in town.

The problem with this trip is that, although I intend to see some musicals (two of them. Today), neither is particularly loud and obnoxious.  In fact, I'd rather like to be fully awake and thinking for them both.  So I couldn't book them for my "first night" show.


The Travelogue (1 of ?)

Not much to report about the flight over.  I was sitting in a side aisle seat, next to an older Englishman who lives in the country.  (Before we landed, he tied a cravat around his neck, which was just so ... older Englishman who lives in the country.)  He didn't like flying so coped with it by ordering two drinks (both whisky), tossing them back in quick order, and falling right to sleep.

(Which plan I might emulate on long flights in the future -- but I didn't think drinking was a good idea as I was packin' Nyquil.)

The problem with the slightly-drunk sleeping Englishman is that he wasn't as respectful of his neighbor's personal space as your standard Awake Englishman would be.  So he was sleeping on the armrest, leaning into my shoulder, with his legs leaning into my space such that I had to bend myself into all sorts of interesting positions so as not to actually touch knees with the man.  (And when I glanced over at him and saw his hand resting on his, er ... his ... his ...  well, I just thought, "it probably means nothing, but eww.")  So I asked the flight attendant if there was another vacant seat, she took one look at the fine representative of the UK to my left, and said she'd see what she could do.

Five minutes later I was in the next cabin, stretched out across three unused center seats, and doing an approximation of napping.

(I couldn't ACTUALLY sleep.  I had some damn song running through my head I couldn't get rid of, and I didn't bring any music I could've played to drown it out.)

So ... got here with less rest than I generally like, did my usual Run Through Immigration and Customs (first in line!  Yay me!) and found my lovely hotel.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

And a note re: 52

And if anyone here is reading my fictional Beta journal -- it apparently won't get updated till I get back.  (Despite my having written a couple entries and e'd them to myself for later posting.)   I can't get the beta journal to come up on IE here, so you'll just have to wonder what our hero did to get back at the kids on Tuesday.

(If you're curious -- yes, my 8th grade Geometry class did that once.  Not to a sub, though.  Somewhere, I have a photograph.)

In brief (ha) 2 of ?

So this trip is something of a flashback to my older self, and -- actually -- the Journey of Self Discovery has already begun.  When I unpacked.  See, when I packed the other day, I packed everything I generally pack for a cold London Theatre trip -- wool skirts, wool pants, wool sweaters.  (There's a theme.)  And, when unpacking, I discovered that, with the exception of a lovely little Merino wool turtleneck I picked up in New Zealand (which, really, I should've bought in every color), I don't wear any of this stuff anymore.  It isn't ME.  I'm thinking of all the other cold-weather-gear back in my closet and wondering why I didn't pack any of THAT.  It's like I associate London with those clothes, and associate both with the type of person I used to be. 

(Is this making sense?  I got about ... no sleep on the ten hour flight, so I don't even want to think about how long I've been awake.)

In brief (ha) 3 of 3

ANYWAY, when I was planning the trip -- which will basically have me here through the weekend -- I booked four plays, left one day open for the fifth (long story -- the show is sold out but I thought I could try the cancellation line -- or, as they say over here "queue up for returns") and one day to visit a friend who lives a few hours outside of London.

And when I got here, part of my mind started spinning over what OTHER plays I could see (advantage London theatre has over New York theatre:  they don't have a "standard" matinee day, so I could see two shows every day if I plan the schedule right).  And this other part of me --

the part the zorbed, and colored my hair, and likes sometimes wearing my hair straight, and wants to white-water raft again, and thought "geez, I don't want to wear that sweater I used to wear in High School" --

THAT part, said, "dude, stop.  There's lots more to see in London than more plays."  So, now I'm trying to look into some OTHER stuff to do.  I'm not sure what, yet, but I'm sort of excited about NOT visiting my same favorite three or four museums, and instead finding something a little more my (current) style.

Of course I'll still keep using the internet.  THAT part will never change.

In brief (ha) (1 of ?)

I probably should have explained something about me going to London before I left.  There wasn't nearly the excitement over this trip as there was over New Zealand because this is a short trip and I've kind of done it before.  Kind of a few times.  I come; I see plays; I have tea; I leave.  This is sort of my standard "old form" type of vacation, which I've done on a semi-regular basis to some place that has lots of plays (generally London or New York) -- pretty much until a trip to Australia (which, for the record, involved theatre) changed everything when I innocently took a one-day cruise in the Great Barrier Reef, and decided that maybe, just maybe, there's more to vacations than sitting in dark rooms with several hundred other people being entertained.

Well, that was one hell of a run-on sentence, but you get the idea.  This is standard Old-Form Vacation.  I planned this trip because fares were really cheap and I still ENJOY theatre trips, but, frankly, between you and me, I don't think I'll be doing them nearly as often.  Two reasons for this:  First, being a (part-time) theatre critic now requires me to see a heck of a lot of plays in L.A., so going to theatre while I'm on vacation doesn't seem quite as appealing.  Second, y'know, New Zealand.  Way fun.  No plays. 

Monday, March 1, 2004

A new record!

I finished packing!  It is before 11:00 p.m.  Actually, it would be amazing if I'd finished packing anytime before 1:00 a.m.  People procrastinate different things -- I procrastinate packing.  Hugely. 

But I made serious strides what with being home sick.  I did all my laundry over the past few days AND I packed up the "bathroom bag" two days early.  Go me!

And, from the Department of Learning From My Mistakes, I have packed the "bathroom bag" in my carryon.  With some nightclothes too.  So, next time I get separated from my luggage, I'll be ... less unprepared!

Two Slightly-Related Oscar Comments

Item:  Johnny Depp just went up hugely in my esteem.  Showed up, dressed nice, spoke articulately (rather than his usual slightly-stoned delivery, which I'd always thought was an act), and said respectful things when asked stupid questions by Pre-Show Guy.  Also handled himself quite well when aforementioned Pre-Show Guy dragged Keisha Castle-Hughes over to meet him.  (Which, again, was a really stupid thing for Pre-Show Guy to do.  I mean, what's Castle-Hughes supposed to do?  Drool and say, "You're really hot"?  I mean, it's one thing for a thirteen-year-old to want to meet a cool movie star, and another for her to actually meet him in front of a world-wide audience.)  And Depp managed to come up with something really nice about how he liked her work (and I'm thinking, "wonder if he even saw Whale Rider"), and he kept the conversation from sounding as terribly awkward as it must have been for the ten or fifteen seconds they had a camera on them. 

Item:  OK, exactly who wrote Will Ferrell's introduction?  Because I'm fairly certain that when Billy Crystal announced him as "Everyone's favorite elf," the 13-year-old female viewing population said, as one, "I think not."