Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Move ePlush Won't Let You See

Last night Hardingfele and Tailor came over and we filmed my sad excuse for a Christmas "tree." Here it is:

Tailor and I have been making movies on ePlush; my little creatures Sylvia the Porcupine and Bellamy the Horse love directing movies, but they are getting very frustrated with the ePlush censorship. I can understand that ePlush would block them from using cuss words, but foreign phrases? Numbers? Where's the problem there?

For example, my first attempt at a movie was two little creatures, a cat and a dog, doing that old dialogue that goes: "That's life. What's life? A magazine. How much? Two dollars. Too much! That's life! What's life? A magazine!" I ask you, my faithful readers, is this controversial?? Apparently ePlush thinks so, because among the phrases I was not allowed to put into the dialogue were the following: "C'est la vie. Two dollars. Five bucks. A couple of big ones. Five clams." It did let me put "Everything you've got" for the amount Life costs, which is an interesting existential observation - certainly life takes everything you have! - but doesn't really make sense for the cost of a lousy magazine. In that spirit, I now present an ePlush movie: what Sylvia and Bellamy are allowed to say by ePlush, and the dialogue they really want to write in brackets. (Richard Bonomo suggested I post an ePlush movie to YouTube, and when I asked if it were truly YouTube-worthy, he replied, "What isn't?")

The scene: an adorable urban wasteland full of darling graffiti and button-cute rundown factories. Funky music plays in the background as two cartoon animals, say a llama and an axolotl, dance while wearing huge smiles and brightly colored, vaguely retro clothes. (ePlush lets you choose one of five emotions for your actors, so their emotions can run the gamut from A to E.) The movie is titled "We're So Happy!" ["The Greatest Story Never Told"]

Scene 1:
A: I love to dance! [Why are we dancing to this noise?]
L: Me too! [I don't know. I despise reggaeton!]

Scene 2:
A: I made you a cookie. [I bought you a drink.]
L: Chocolate chip! My favorite! [Whoa! How much tequila is in this!?]

Scene 3: (close-up of Axolotl)
A: Will you come to my birthday party on Saturday? [How about a Happy Birthday shag?]

Scene 4: (close-up of Llama)
L: Yay! I love parties! [No! I detest Virgo men!]

Scene 5:
A: We'll play lots of games! [You should have thought of that before you married me.]
L: I'll help you blow up balloons! [WHAT?? When did this happen??]

Scene 6: (close-up of Axolotl)
A: We'll eat cake and ice cream! [Have you forgotten last night in Vegas, when you lost at Texas Hold 'Em?]

Scene 7: (close-up of Llama)
L: We'll have so much fun! [But what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and this is Altoona!]

Scene 8:
A: I can hardly wait! [Sorry - it's a legal document in all 50 states.]
L: I know just what to get you for a present! [Bugger. OK then, back to your - I mean, our - place and we'll rut like the animals we are.]

Scene 9:
A: Yay! [Yay!]
L: Yay! [C'est la vie.]

Dialogue written by Sylvia the Porcupine and Bellamy the Horse.

Here is the original, edited movie:


And the movie Sylvia and Bellamy made to protest:


Famous Hat

Monday, December 29, 2008

By Popular Demand: Cassata, the Sicilian Wedding Cake!

By popular demand of my #1 reader, Hardingfele, I am posting my recipe for Cassata, a Sicilian Wedding Cake, although I remain both non-Sicilian and unmarried. (That's OK because Hardingfele was born a Russian Jew, went through an Evangelical Christian stage, and is now a Unitarian, so she can celebrate whatever she wants this holiday season.) My mother (who is also not Sicilian but is married) always made a cassata for Christmas, so I made one once for the annual Christmas Bonomo Bash, and it was such a hit that I have had to make one ever since. (One year when Rich forgot to buy eggnog, I had to make that as well and have had to ever since, so I will post that recipe too.)


1 pound cake
mini chocolate chips
one 15 oz container of ricotta cheese (the original recipe calls for a pound, but the containers come in 15 oz, and the heck if I am buying another container for one measly ounce!)
Bacardi Gold rum (I would not recommend using anything cheaper, but feel free to use something more top-shelf if you like)
orange juice concentrate
TSP vanilla extract
TBS heavy cream
1.5 cups sugar
16 oz semisweet chocolate
2 sticks UNSALTED butter (that is, half a pound)
3/4 cup of strong coffee

First you trim the edges off the pound cake and snack on them as you make the cassata. (I don't care how you acquire the pound cake; I usually get a frozen one, but if you want to make it yourself, be my guest.) Then slice the pound cake in thirds horizontally. Then you mix together the ricotta cheese, the heavy cream, the vanilla, the sugar, a TBS of rum, and a TBS of orange juice concentrate. (Or two TBS orange liqueur, like Gran Marnier; I believe the original recipe calls for that, and my mother never put any booze in hers, but I recommend spiking it with something.) Put in some mini chocolate chips (officially 2 oz but I just toss some in until it looks like the right amount), mix them into this filling, and then spread it between the layers of pound cake. Now stick it in the fridge for at least two hours. (In northern climates you can also set it outside on cold days, if the fridge is full of other food.)

Put the semisweet chocolate in a pan, or better yet a double boiler, over just enough heat to melt it. Pour the strong coffee over it, then melt the butter in bit by bit. Once it is all blended, let it cool enough so that it isn't so runny, then use it to frost the cassata. Then it has to sit for another two hours minimum. I HIGHLY recommend making this the day before you plan to eat it; I always make it on Christmas Eve.


(N.B.: this is the party-sized serving. It makes a LOT of eggnog.)

One dozen eggs
pint of half and half
pint of heavy cream
quart of milk (Richard Bonomo recommends whole milk, not just for eggnog but always)
Bacardi Gold rum (see above)
powdered cloves

First separate the eggs. (This is a pretty labor-intensive recipe.) In a HUGE punch bowl, mix the yolks with the milk, half and half, as much rum as you want (I generally put in about a cup and a half, to kill all the nasties in the raw eggs), and maybe a TSP or so each of nutmeg and cloves. Then, beat the egg whites until they form fluffy peaks. Beat the heavy cream until it is fluffy as well. Carefully fold in the egg whites and the heavy cream. Enjoy. Serves tons of people.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Leaving the Christ in Christmas

Hello, all 3.68 of my faithful readers! How was your Christmas? Mine was a typical Famous Hat Christmas, which is another way of saying it was WONDERFUL! As usual, I sang at my church, then the Lutheran Church, then there was fruit soup and champagne at the Lutheran choir director's house, and then I fell into bed at 3:30 and dragged myself back out of it at 7:30 to go to Christmas Day Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety. For some reason, our choir director there decided that what we really need to do every year after a long night of singing is extremely difficult music, so we sang the glorious "Hodie" by Sweelinck with one or two people on a part (since it has two soprano parts - hey, at least for once I get to sing in my own range!). Not only that, but hardly anyone was at Mass in the morning, so we were singing long after everyone had gone through line for Communion and the priest had sat back down. That's OK, they can spend that time in prayer. I did think it was amusing that this year we also sang the Praetorius "Psallite Unigenite" for Offertory because when you can barely think in English, why not sing in both Latin AND German, a language I can barely pronounce while working at full brain power!

I suppose it was fitting that we sang a macaronic piece, since we had lasagne for dinner and that's something like macaroni. As usual I made my cassata and a huge bowl of eggnog and, as always, both were well-received. Rich Bonomo hosted dinner, as always, and as always the tree got decorated Christmas Day. Like last year, as I was driving to his house on Christmas Eve, I saw one of my crazy neighbors had thrown away a perfectly beautiful tree, so I rescued it (with some help from my kind nextdoor neighbors) and brought it to Rich's. His guest Mr. Why, who used to be his roommate, then put all the decorations on the tree before putting on the lights, so to this very moment it remains unlit. He also decorated in blocks, so that all the silver ornaments were at the top, all the gold ones were in the center area, the blue ones were in the lower left, and the red ones were in the lower right. This is a typical maneuver on the part of Mr. Why, and it had the added delightful effect of totally baffling my Archirritant, who apparently did not realize that Mr. Why had done this on purpose. When she told him that he should not have the colors segregated like that, another party goer noted that it could be the George Wallace Christmas Tree. As always, my Archirritant with her 180 IQ was the only one who didn't get that joke; not that she doesn't know who George Wallace is, or his connection to segregation, but she seriously is missing some kind of humor gene so that the only things she finds funny are anecdotes she relates that leave the rest of us bemused. This is what happens when someone tells a joke: everyone else laughs, she waits a beat to make sure we are laughing, and then she laughs raucously. (She is generally raucous, and rapacious too! She's like an entire flock of macaws stripping a pecan grove of fruit, except that she is not in any way lovely to look at.) Sometimes, just to add to her ridiculousness, she tries to prove that she understands what is so funny, thus proving that in fact she doesn't get the joke at all. A classic example from a Christmas past: her ex-husband, who is an atheist Jew (but also comes to Rich's house every Christmas - seriously, I couldn't make this up if I tried!) made a crack about his greasy thumb, and I laughed, so Archirritant laughed and said, "That's funny because Ex-Mr. AI bakes a lot!" Now let me just state that Ex-Mr. AI is a FABULOUS baker, as evidenced by the cake he made for AI's birthday per my post on that subject. (The word I hear from Kathbert and Anna Banana 2 is that AI hoarded this cake, after she had made a big fuss about not being able to eat it, and didn't let anyone have seconds so that she could take home what was left - nearly half the cake - and eat it herself!) Anyway, back to XMAI's greasy thumb: I was puzzled and said, "Oh... I thought he was making a crack about being Jewish." XMAI concurred that, in fact, he was making a Shylock-themed joke. XMAI is not particularly PC, and he has a dry wit and is as charming to be around as his ex-wife is excruciating.

A friend of ours I'll call "Florita," an exuberant little Mexican lady, was visiting from upstate; she used to live in town but on Monday will be moving to the same west coast state as Mr. Why, though they will be across the state from one another. Florita, Mr. Why, and I dropped in on the Lutheran choir director, who was having dinner with Kathbert and two other guests, a very sedate gathering as opposed to Rich's chaotic party with over a dozen people at the dinner table and more people coming and going all night long. We sang a Christmas carol, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," but we could only sing the chorus because Florita doesn't know the words to the verses in English. (Not sure she knows them in Spanish either, or Latin, for that matter.) Mr. Why, who variously tells us that he is from French Canada, Singapore, or Transylvania, but who is clearly ethnically some flavor of Chinese, introduced himself as a Japanese exchange student named Yoshi, but Kathbert and I blew his cover. Since Florita had parked illegally, we couldn't stay too long, so we headed back to Rich's house, and then Mr. Why took off to visit "The Octopus," the friendly neighborhood letch. He asked if I wanted to go, but I didn't feel the need for a Merry Christmas fondling, so I told him to just tell The Octopus that I said hi. (Mr. Why was safe, since The Octopus is many things, but he is extremely heterosexual.)

As every conversation at Rich's inevitably must do, this one led to a perusal of the dictionary. This came about because AI, who is the "foremost authority" (in what? you may ask, and I reply that she does not specialize) was going on about the Koreans having a day to celebrate their alphabet, and I said that was a great idea, why didn't we have an Alphabet Holiday? (Preferably as a paid holiday, since I am a state employee.) (But I truly am quite fond of the alphabet; see my post on being a hopeless word puzzle game addict.) AI said something about our alphabet coming from the Phoenicians, and Cecil Markovitch said no wonder it's a phonetic alphabet, if it's a Phoenician alphabet. AI was quite insistent that the two words were unrelated, since "phonos" is "sound" in Greek, so I said maybe the Phoenicians were very noisy people. (In which case, maybe AI is a Phoenician!) So we looked up the etymology of "Phoenician" in the dictionary, and of course it said the etymology is uncertain.

The fun had to end at some point, since I had to work today, so I went home to my little creatures and finally put up my "tree," which is a black cast iron rack for storing pots or plants or what have you. It is vaguely cone-shaped, so I wrapped my Christmas lights around it. Voila, a tree! The animals were singularly unimpressed, but they were happy with their Christmas treats.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Confessions of an ePlush Addict, or Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Confessions of an ePlush addict: I am writing in my blog because right now I cannot get into ePlush World. Apparently every child in North America received an ePlush animal for Christmas, so when I tried to log in this morning to do my basic ePlush "Dayly Kare," the server was busy busy busy busy busy. So now I am writing in my sorely neglected blog, for all 3.68 of my faithful readers.

Mr. Why is here at Richard Bonomo's house for the holiday, and he just told us (Rich and me, that is) a story about one Christmas he spent in Nicaragua, where yellow school buses go to die. A bunch of them were on an old yellow school bus, traveling toward Costa Rica, and a tiny little native guy whipped out a miniscule pistol and tried to rob them all. The huge Texan guy sitting next to Mr. Why said in Spanish, "If you try anything funny, all of us big fat Americans will sit on you," and the small erstwhile thief jumped off that school bus and onto the one behind them, which he then proceeded to rob. Then they spent the night at a five-star hotel (which would only be three stars in this country, said Mr. Why), smoking Cuban cigars and drinking Cuban rum. The next day they went to an enormous lake with twin volcanoes emerging from it; using machetes, they forged their way to the top of one volcano and hiked down into the crater, where there was a small lake.

My father once told me a story when I was a young girl, which he now claims he NEVER told me: he went to a Catholic high school, and one of his classmates wrote his paper in alternating lines of black and very dark blue ink. The nun who read the paper was somewhat chronologically enhanced, and her eyes kept jumping from line to line, so she just gave up and gave him an A. I thought this was a fantastic story at the time, but I have my doubts now that it would really work. What do you think?

Last night during our "Midnight Mass" at Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety (which is at the late, late hour of 5 pm), Rich and I were both thinking about the Exultet and the Easter Vigil, as we discovered afterwards. I have always thought Easter was cooler than Christmas anyhow; it's beautiful that Our Lord came down among us as one of us, but it totally rocks that he took down Death in the Great Smackdown of the Passion and Resurrection. Anyway, a very joyous and blessed Christmas to you and yours, and a happy and fortunate New Year.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

103.6% of Transdniestrians Can't Be Wrong!

This time of year, when it is so cold and dark, my thoughts generally turn to Tahiti, but now and then I think about the cushy Cabinet position a friend's sister says awaits me when she takes over Transdniestria. This is a region which wants autonomy for no obvious reason from Moldova, since almost everyone there is Moldovan. During one election, the winning candidate received 103.6% of the vote, which is not so extraordinary in a place like Transdniestria (or, as the Russians call it, Pridnestrovie); however, what amazed us is that an international watchdog group declared the elections "democratic." Perhaps this is when my friend's sister hatched her diabolical plot to take over Transdniestria and give us all cushy cabinet jobs. (N.B.: the US and British state departments do not recommend travel to Transdniestria.) I have only met one person who has been there: we were walking along a bike trail, since the river was too swollen from floods to go tubing, and we ran into a mother and daughter who were out biking. Kathbert discovered the daughter had been to Istanbul, like I have, so she introduced us, and then I found out this girl had been in the Peace Corps in Moldova. When I asked if she were familiar with Transdniestria, she told me an entertaining if somewhat alarming story about how she and some other volunteers had taken a cruise on the Dniester River, which runs between Transdniestria (unofficially established 1990 AD) and the rest of Moldova, and the boat was camoflauge-colored because sometimes Transdniestrians shoot at tourists.

But that isn't really what I was going to blog about today. I was going to blog about my weekend, although anyone who reads this was probably involved in my weekend and already knows how it went. I can sum it up in one word: Transdniestria. First, on Friday night, Aimee attacked Cashmere. (Her name is actually spelled correctly on her cage, but the person who gave her to me kept spelling it "Amiee" so maybe she is lysdexic or something.) Cashmere was not entirely innocent in this regard, since she was chasing Aimee when Aimee turned on her. I was right after them, about to scoop up Cashmere, when Aimee attacked her in the litter box and she literally went flying and landed on her side. I caught Aimee and put her back in her cage, then I called Anna Banana 2 to ask what to do about these behavioral issues, since her father had been a veterinarian. She reminded me that he had been a LARGE animal vet, so we had moved on to other topics when Cashmere came and stood in front of me. She looked as if she had been in a boxing match! Her left eye was swollen shut, and her left ear was drooping. I said, "I have to go!" and grabbed Cashmere, who was unusually pliant about being cuddled; but when I tried to put some ice on her poor swollen face, she bolted out of my arms. I was reluctant to take her to the animal hospital, partly because of the cost but mostly because how would she react to being stuck in a box, taken out in the cold, and having strange people poke at her when she was already so traumatized? I called Kathbert, and she agreed with me that I should just watch her at home. Her eye and ear grew better over the course of the evening, and by Saturday morning she seemed to be her usual, perky self... except that she is now terrified of the guinea pigs. Hardingfele came over and examined her eye and ear but could detect no sign of trauma. Then we filmed the guinea pigs and Sylvia. Here, at last, is the long-promised footage of real (not virtual) Sylvia hiding in a check box, trying to turn over, and waddling around.


Famous Hat

(I was going to blog about my parents' visit, but this post is already too long, so I will do it in a subsequent post.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guinea Pigs Are Not Rocket Scientists

I don't know why it should come as any surprise to me that guinea pigs are not that bright, but after two years of living with rabbits, who are held back only by the fact that they don't have opposable thumbs, I forget how not bright they really are. Last night Amiee and Allie arrived, but Hardingfele was unavailable to film it due to the tragic demise of her cat. (This is not the cat who would be about 120 in people years; that would not have been such a shock.) Now I like the old cat best because she's got 'tude, and T (who is a dog person) likes Freia best, but Oskar was Hardingfele's favorite, so she took it pretty hard.

Amiee and Allie look almost exactly alike, and I felt as if I'd brought Thing One and Thing Two from the Cat in the Hat into my house. Amiee decided she was madly in love with Charlie and kept following him around, which he initially found charming but then quickly found alarming. Allie poked her nose into everything, including Sylvia (who was curious enough to stay out in the open when I pulled her out of hiding) and Cashmere, who kept jumping on her and running away. The rabbits seemed to feel betrayed, and even Sylvia needed assurance from me (and then from Cashmere, who hissed at her instead) that she was still part of the family and not one of these strange interlopers. Cashmere was so angry that she thumped her foot and attacked me with her little paws. (At least she didn't bite!) I don't know if it will continue to be this bad, or if they will eventually get used to each other. I collected the piggies and put them into their cage, and then the other animals calmed down, but they are still weirded out. (Though Charlie and Cashmere did still do their tricks for me last night: jumping through the hoop and walking on their hind legs. Anything for a treat!)

Here is my handy comparison for anyone thinking of rabbits vs. guinea pigs for pets:

Rabbits: It is highly possible that they can read, considering how they chew up the MOST important papers first
Guinea pigs: Can be taught their own names

Rabbits: No contest. What's cuter than a living stuffed animal?
Guinea pigs: Cute, if you can get past the fact that they look like giant, tailless rats

Rabbits: Cuddle at your own risk; will snuggle up to you of their own accord
Guinea pigs: HIGHLY cuddlable (is that a word?)

Rabbits: As complex as people; Charlie can be clingy or cheerful, and Cashmere can be delightful or a diva
Guinea pigs: Easy-going, but some are shyer than others

Rabbits: They need plenty of space to bounce around
Guinea pigs: Perfectly happy in a cage

Rabbits: Who made you the boss? So what if you're bigger? Not fair!
Guinea pigs: Time to eat? OK. Time to go home? OK. Time to play? OK

Guinea pigs: Eaten by Peruvians
Rabbits: Eaten by everything

Which is the superior pet? Guinea pigs, being smaller and calmer, are better for children. Rabbits, being smarter and cuter, are better for Famous Hat, but hopefully I will readjust to guinea pigs! A caveat on the cavies: My parents are coming this weekend, and if they are jonesin' for more guinea pigs, maybe I will send Amiee and Allie home with them.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No Guinea Pig Update, But Plenty of Cookies!

For anyone who was hoping for an update about the guinea pigs I was supposed to acquire last night, their current owner decided she didn't want to venture out into the snow. So instead I went to Hardingfele and Tailor's house and baked cookies. You see, in some sort of fit of insanity I had agreed to be part of the cookie exchange at work, which would be fine except that I am the opposite of a domestic goddess. (Would that be a domestic demon or a feral goddess?) So I made the following offer to Hardingfele: if I supplied most of the ingredients, let her have some of the cookies, and threw in dinner as well, would she help me bake the cookies? I needed FOUR DOZEN, which sounded like an intimidating number. Hardingfele said sure, so I stopped by the neighborhood grocery store to get flour and eggs and then drove through the snowstorm to her house.

Dinner was catered by a local Mideastern restaurant. (No, I did not order it; I scrounged leftovers from some meeting they had at work.) Mm, spinach phyllo squares, pita bread, feta cheese, and some kind of dessert that was phyllo dough wrapped around rice pudding custard! Hardingfele supplied the wine, and Tailor supplied the entertainment with the story she had to write for her homework. (She is a very good writer.) Then we began the cookie baking.

I had originally wanted to make an elaborate sort of cookie my mother used to make when I was very small, but which even she had given up on by the time I was ten or so. It involved making a butter cookie dough with bits of chopped-up candy cane in it, dying half of it red with food coloring, forming it into little snakes, and braiding a red and a white snake of dough together to form candy cane cookies. Labor intensive, yes, but I figured with three of us we could easily do it. However, it turned out that for that type of cookie dough, you were supposed to chill it for an hour before forming it into shapes. We didn't have that kind of time to waste, so we went with Plan B: drop cookies! You can do just about anything with that kind of recipe, for example, chocolate chip cookies. That didn't seem sufficiently Christmasy, and more importantly, we didn't have chocolate chips, so we made orange cranberry cookies. Hardingfele provided the orange extract and cardamom and donated the craisins, while I put in a sprinkle of clove powder I had hauled along with my other ingredients (including brown and white sugar and vanilla extract). I had forgotten my butter, so she had to donate two sticks to the cause, and in exchange I gave her vegetable oil and four eggs. Then we baked the cookies, and we had four dozen in no time! We let Tailor throw random things in the last batch, since those were for her, so they were orange cranberry M&M cookies. Finally we sampled our experiment, and they were delicious!

This means tonight I don't have to worry about baking for the cookie exchange tomorrow. I only have to worry about making something for the Holiday potluck and getting a gift for my Secret Santee. No wonder they say the holidays are so stressful!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Two-Guinea Christmas for Charlie and Cashmere

Tonight, I am doing something crazy: I am adopting two guinea pigs. They used to be lab animals, and they are both albino. (I hope I can tell them apart!) Two females, their names are currently Amiee (I had nothing to do with that spelling) and Allie, but I'll find out tonight if they even know that. Allie is rumored to be very playful, while Amiee is shy, and they are both around two years old. (During a good deal of my childhood, we had a guinea pig we called Jennapig who lived to the incredible age of almost seven. When she died, she was very thin and shaky with lots of gray hairs peppering her black sections.)

I remembered Jennapig fondly and had guinea pigs during most of my college and graduate school career after a roommate and her boyfriend bought two "female" guinea pigs and one of them bore twin boys. I named them Ulysses and Aeneas, but Ulysses died of a sudden, mysterious illness when he was only 10 months old, so I got Aeneas a girlfriend named Phoebe. She died tragically in pigbirth, so I got him another girlfriend named Veronica, and they were very happy together, having several litters of piglets until I got Aeneas fixed. Eventually they died, and I got a guinea pig named Sebastian, but I found myself in a situation that was not guinea-pig friendly so my parents had him for the rest of his life. (They were jonesin' for a guinea pig anyway, and he was spoiled by the grandkids.) Then last year I helped a choirmate take care of a guinea pig who went by the ridiculous moniker of Sir Fat Louie (he was named by a class of preschoolers), and then I was jonesin' for a guinea pig! While the rabbits are superior in almost every way, they are not cuddly like guinea pigs are.

I looked on the Humane Society website and found Amiee and Allie, but their owner said she had decided to keep them, after all. When I told Hardingfele this story, she said a friend of a friend was trying to unload four tame rats down in Chicago, and why didn't I adopt those instead? I wasn't super excited at the prospect of pet rats, but I'd heard they are actually quite friendly and intelligent, so I emailed the friend, who said her friend was still deciding what to do about the quartet of rats. When I never heard anything back, I went on with my life, already quite crowded with seventy-some plants, two rabbits, one real hedgehog, and one virtual porcupine.

Then this weekend Amiee and Allie's owner sent me an email: Was I still interested in the guinea pigs? I said sure, and she says she will bring them over tonight. So Charlie and Cashmere will be getting pet guinea pigs for Christmas! How will they react?

I predict Charlie will be ecstatic. He loves all females, certainly human ones, so he will probably just see the piggies as two more hot chicks. Whenever my girlfriends come over, he comes running over making his little happy sound; I'm sure in his mind he sounds like Barry White as he coos, "Hey baby, haven't I seen you here before? What's your sign? I'm a Gemini!" But of course my friends just see a floppy-eared ball of fluff running up to them, so they fuss over him and say, "He's so CUTE!" and he still thinks he is the Studmuffin to end all studmuffins. When my male friends come over, he is more standoffish.

Cashmere may be more of a problem. She fell madly in love with my father when I took them to my parents' house, so she would probably prefer male guinea pigs, although it is possible that she would consider any extra animal an intrusion on her territory. However, she is also very curious. I cannot judge what she will do based on her interactions with Sylvia, since she was scared of the hedgehog for months after she arrived. The guinea pigs will not be nearly as scary, and they are a little smaller than the rabbits, so maybe Cashmere will appreciate the fact that she can push them around. Maybe they will all become great friends. It's hard to say.

I predict that Sylvia will be indifferent to the arrival of Amiee and Allie.

Hopefully Hardingfele will be able to film this auspicious and probably adorable meeting. If so, I will post it here.

Famous Hat

Monday, December 15, 2008

Real vs. Virtual Sylvia

Real Sylvia and ePlush Sylvia are very different, and it isn't just that one is a hedgehog and one is a porcupine. Here are examples of my interactions with them:

Real Sylvia
I give her a mealworm to eat, and she bites it in half and then decides that she doesn't like the taste of it, leaving bits of chewed-up mealworm on my shirt.

Virtual Sylvia
No matter what I give her to eat, she says, "That tastes great!"

Real Sylvia
When I pick her up to play with her, she curls up in a ball and hisses. Sometimes she poops on me.

Virtual Sylvia
I log into ePlush, and she throws me a kiss and says, "I missed you so much! You're my very bestest friend!"

Real Sylvia
Once Hardingfele and I wasted an hour trying to trim Sylvia's toenails. We were only 75% successful in this venture, since we eventually gave up and left one foot untrimmed. Sylvia rolled up into a ball, hissed at us, and foamed at the mouth. Meanwhile, Hardingfele's daughter Rock Star Tailor and my two rabbits sprawled on the floor, watching us with great amusement.

Virtual Sylvia
Whenever I give her a bath, she giggles when I make her rubber ducky squeak.

Last night Richard Bonomo had Kathbert and me over for dinner, and afterwards I was playing with ePlush Sylvia when Kathbert said how unfair it was that I could just impose my will upon her.

"If I did programming for ePlush," she declared, "I would make it so Sylvia could get into all kinds of trouble while you were logged out. And if you asked her to do something, sometimes she would refuse."

I was intrigued by the concept of an ePlush pet with free will. It's the same conundrum God faced when He created humanity: if He gave us free will, then our love would be unforced... but we could also do stupid things like lie, steal, and be atheists. Maybe ePlush Sylvia would still love me, since I do take good care of her. Rock Star Tailor sometimes purposely lets her ePlush pets get sick because she is entertained by the green snot that pours from their noses once they reach a certain health threshhold. I should ask her if her little ePlyjs still say she is their bestest friend.

Famous Hat

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why Does T Hate Joisey?

T is talking to Richard Bonomo (who is now back from Japan) about how much she hates going to Jersey for her job.  She hates the "creepy, Sleepy Hollow part" on the Garden State Parkway, where some guy claimed he was going to take an exit and then decided at the 11th (and a half) hour that he would not do it.  He nearly killed T in her rented Corolla.  (At least it was a Toyota and not a domestic car, since she drives a Honda.)

On the New Jersey Turnpike, they had one of those old-fashioned tollways that you had to go through even if you have an Easy Pass, and she was almost sandwiched between two semis in her little Corolla.  And then she returned it with no gas!

When she was in Princeton in October, it snowed!  The trees were beautiful red, gold, and yellow... and then there was snow!  And then there was the trip out West, where her coworker's GPS system told them to drive right into the Hood and then advised them to take a left-hand turn that didn't even exist.  But in New Jersey, on the Turnpike you can't even turn left!  You have to turn RIGHT to go left.  It's a true jug handle turn!!

She and her boss were trying to fly standby, and her boss could because she has Premiere Executive Status but T only has Premiere Status so she was delayed for two hours.  She was also on the runway at O'Hare for two hours for a one-day audit that she had hoped to be able to do from her desk.

From September to the beginning of December, T was three days in the office, three days traveling.  (Of course, one of those trips was to Curacao so it's hard to feel sorry for her over that!)  Then when she was in Canada, they were having some sort of weird coalition government coup, where the prime minister who was ELECTED can be told he no longer is prime minister by some woman who is lieutenant governor.  It's like a remnant of the monarchy!  T thought I would like the word "prorogue" - she can't remember what it means, but it has something to do with Parliament taking a break.  If the Lieutenant Governor denies it, the Prime Minister would be so embarrassed that he would have to step down.  (I don't understand this at all, but T is the one who was there so she knows more about this than I do.)

Wow, Rich is reading about this on Wikipedia, and some people have to wear tricorn hats and some wear bicorn hats.  Some people were going to vote "no confidence" because the PM didn't vote for a stimulus package, even though they were defeated in a landslide.  T was amazed they could just take over the government like that even after getting spanked in the general election.   So the PM got his prorogue and could keep his job, and democracy is still alive in Canada, but T still hates New Jersey.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 11, 2008

True Adventure: Escape from Louie's Lounge!

The weekend after September 11 (you know which year I mean), my best friend T and I were sitting by the lake, talking about the week's events, when a middle-aged man in a bright yellow wifebeater shirt interrupted our conversation to say he was from Jersey and he was totally wigged out by the attack. T and I felt surprisingly indulgent toward him, despite his somewhat rude usurpation of our conversation; I was just too weirded out by anything to care, and T thought he had something of significance to say, since he was wearing a yellow tank top, and she'd had a dream that there was a "golden triangle" in a Western city. (It was a strange time - it all made sense then.)

The conversation with Mr. Jersey was random but not particularly scary, and we parted ways agreeing that the world was going crazy. A couple of years later I was walking home from work when a car pulled up next to me, and the driver said, "How ya doin'?" He was wearing sunglasses and a tie-dye T-shirt, and I realized it was Mr. Jersey, so I did something very stupid: I got into his car. It didn't take me long to figure out what a mistake that was! His breath smelled boozy, and he kept putting his hands all over me, but when I complained he said Italians are just touchy-feely by nature. Gone was the bizarre but harmless rambler speaking cryptically of the New World Order; this man was just a loopified and louche letch. I was frightened to be in a car with him, so when he offered to buy me dinner downtown at "Louie's Lounge, " I jumped at the chance to at least give him time to sober up. He bought me a sandwich at Louie's Lounge but only had a "sandwich in a cup," a stein of beer, although he certainly did not need any more liquification. When he got up to recycle the beer, I seized the chance to dash out the back door of Louie's Lounge.

Once on the street, I wasn't sure what to do so I dove into the backdoor of "¡Café Olé!" next door, wove through barristas and patrons carrying cappuccinos and croissants, and bolted out the front door. I was dashing toward Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety, where they were having a Knights of Columbus meeting, to seek the protection of all those men, when a bus pulled up at the bus stop. I got on it, figuring I could take it wherever it went (away from Mr. Jersey, that's the important thing!) and then transfer to one going back to my house, but as it turned out that wonderful vehicle dropped me off within a few blocks of home. I felt extremely lucky - and stupid - and most of my friends were horrified by this story, but T thought it was thrilling.

The moral of the story: men from Jersey in brightly-colored shirts are not always our friends.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In a Jam

One of my absolute favorite things to do is jam. There is nothing cooler than getting together with one to sixty-eight other musicians and playing. There is a connection there like nothing else I've ever experienced; in Greek there are four words for love (philos for brotherly love, eros for romantic love, storge for love of objects and agape for perfect love), but there is no word for how you feel about someone after you have jammed with them. (Or, for that matter, for the love you feel for someone who has set your words to music. I have had two of my poems set as choral works by a friend of my OTHER - there you go, Rich - choir director, and I feel a special connection to him that is definitely not eros so maybe it's closest to agape...?)

I have the peculiar problem of jamming once with a group and somehow becoming from thence forth a member. Eventually I have had to extricate myself from several of them, having still failed to master the art of bilocation, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy jamming with them!

My favorite jamming partner, of course, is my heirloom mandolin, Mandy. Here are some of the best jamming memories I have:

After playing the mandolin in a pick-up brass band led by a 101-year-old retired music teacher, I ended up at the centenarian's house jamming with an accordion player.

One year just before Christmas I jammed in front of the Christmas tree with a Mexican lady playing flamenco on her guitar. She proposed that we take our act to a local restaurant and I concurred, but then she got busy with something else. (What kind of an excuse is a baby, anyhow?)

Once in a school gym in Winnipeg (OK, so the setting wasn't the most exciting) the members of a semi-professional Renaissance music group jammed with our totally amateur Medieval music guild, part of a nationwide Medieval re-creation society. We all dressed in gorgeous Renaissance raiment and played for other people dancing in equally impressive garments. It was like watching jewels making graceful moves... in a school gym.

At a local bar there is a bluegrass jam once a week, and once when I proposed the song "Long Journey Home" ("Nothin' in my pocket but a two-dollar bill, Lord..."), the others said great, YOU get to lead the singing since it was your suggestion. They even gave me a sheet with the words on it, so there was no getting out of it. I stood in front of the microphone and started singing, and from behind me I heard a woman with a fantastic voice belting it out, so I backed off a little to let her take it. Wouldn't you know, she backed off too! So I took it up again and so did she, and we did this several times until I finally realized DUH, I was hearing my own voice coming out of the speakers! Nothing like being a natural blonde. (I once wondered why the woman at the next booth in a restaurant was staring at me until realizing the back of the booth was a mirror.)

This was a gig, not a jam, but once the plugged-in Mideastern band I play with was asked to play an acoustic set outside. It was a gorgeous setting beneath the trees on a lovely summer night, and all around the stage they had set up candles. The belly dancers danced on an Oriental carpet in front of the stage, and when one of our drummers went into a long African rhythm solo, they danced an African dance to it. Afterwards a couple of local musicians jammed with us.

My contra dance band was invited to play our Cajun repertoire at a benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Many other acts were on the bill as well, and at the end of the concert we all jammed on "When the Saints."

Perhaps best of all, my contra band was hired to play at a birthday party, and the birthday girl asked if her brother-in-law could play bass with us. We felt it would be in bad form to say no, so we said sure... and he was INCREDIBLE! It turned out he taught at the Berklee School of Music and had backed up a number of well-known jazz singers. He made us sound amazing!!

The best jams are often after a concert where several groups play, and at the end everyone gets to play together. I hate the word "synergy," but in this case the whole often is greater than the sum of its parts as you play off the ideas of both those musicians you jam with all the time and those you have just met for the first time.

Of course, there are all the times I've sung with random groups, like the high school choir that got on the free holiday trolley I was riding. The director asked if she could sit next to me, so I said sure, if I could sing with them. (I am a fairly competent sight reader.) So we rode all over town singing Victoria and "While By My Sheep" (the famous "Joy, joy, joy!" echo carol) and other wonderful Christmas songs. If you sing or play, drop me a line. We'll jam sometime.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Curses Again! (Or, How I Got Hoodoo'd)

There is a huge storm here today, so I skied into work with Hardingfele. That took a little longer than I expected, even minus the break to get coffee and a croissant. I figured on brownie points for just showing up, but wouldn't you know that everyone else was here too, and on time! So here I am in an old hoodie emblazoned with the name of a state I have never lived in (another thing left to me by the former owner of Sylvia and the electric mandolin) and slippers, since I didn't want to wear ski boots all day, and everyone else looks like their normal selves. And why did I bother fixing my hair??? Hardingfele was laughing at me because my mascara ran in all this driving snow. "You look like Tammy Faye Baker!" she said.

(That's for Rich, so he knows what he's missing over there in Japan.)

In the electric Mideastern band I play in, we do an Arabic-tinged version of "I Put a Spell on You." (We also do this great flamenco version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit.") And do you know, I have had a spell put on me! If you remember my post about curses, people often put curses on other people without thinking about what they are saying. I had completely forgotten that this had happened to me.

Some terminology: there is probably a technical difference, but in popular parlance, "voodoo" refers to an actual religion that is an amalgamation of Catholicism and African spirit possession, while "hoodoo" refers to folk magic which is often malicious. So as opposed to Voodoo Head, the benevolent little doll that improves peoples' careers (he is currently hanging out with a busmate, improving hers), I will refer to my ex as Hoodoo Head. This would be the boy I was madly in love with in college. You see, ever since returning from visiting my family for Thanksgiving, I kept having romantic dreams about him. I thought, is this payback for talking smack about that acquaintance pining for four years over a guy she dated for a month? I have always maintained that you should not mourn longer for the relationship than it actually lasted, but here I was all googoo once again about a guy I hadn't seen in three and a half times as many years as I'd actually dated him! If a child had been born the last time I'd seen him, that kid would now have to pay adult rates at the movies! So what was my problem?

To remind myself of what a jerk he was, I reread my diary entries pertaining to him. However, that was a mistake because I thought, "Hm, maybe he wasn't as big a jerk as I remembered. Maybe some of it was me being a jerk." Which is true for everyone, I suppose, when they look back at their younger years, but in my case there was a specific reason which I will discuss in a subsequent post. (To add insult to injury, he ended up with someone who was very similar to me but without this particular reason for being a jerk.) Then, to my surprise, I found where he actually once said to me, "I hope you never get over me." He done hoodoo'd me!! And I had completely forgotten about it.

I think Hoodoo Head put this curse on me without much thought, and probably at a time when he thought we might end up together forever, in which case it would make a little more sense. However, it was a cruel thing to do because he did end up with someone else, so why would he even need me to never get over him? Honestly, he would probably be a little creeped out to know that I even think about him at all after all these years. (But since he doesn't read this blog, all my readers can feel free to agree that he has nobody but himself to blame. Don't hoodoo your girlfriends if you don't want them obsessing over you! D'uh! First rule of hoodoo, if hoodoo has any rules. Maybe I should make some up so this doesn't keep happening to other unfortunate lovelorn maids.) The irony is that Hoodoo Head is one of those skeptical humanists, or "brights" or whatever they call themselves these days, in the mold of Dawkins and Hitchens, so he would never even believe that he had put a curse on me. I am too decent a human being to curse him back; all I want now is to find out how to break this curse. (Hopefully it is not as powerful as the Curse of the Bambino, or, God forbid, the Curse of the Billy Goat! Right, Hardingfele? Look for the Cubbies to take the pennant in 2035 if it lasts as long as the Curse of the Bambino.) So does anyone know how to reverse hoodoo curses? If I'd only known, I could have asked around down in New Orleans.

Famous Hat

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pro-Accordian, and I Vote!

Once a friend of mine randomly said, "Welcome to Heaven - here is your harp. Welcome to Hell - here is your accordion." (Later I found out she stole it from a Far Side strip.) I laughed for twenty minutes, but actually I do love the accordion. Polkas are OK, and that Mexican music that sounds like polka is OK, but think of all the great music played on the accordion!

Just last night I went out dancing to Cajun music with the accordion player from my contra dance band, and she was coveting the small button accordion of one of the Cajun band members. The accordion really makes the music, although she did note that it only had a one-octave range. It brought back memories of long ago, two and a half whole months to be exact, when I was wandering the streets of New Orleans and heard Cajun music blasting from every Cajuncrap tourist shop. Now anyone who knows anything about Louisiana knows that New Orleans is about Creole culture and jazz music, while Cajun culture is centered around Lafayette. However, most tourists must just think of things being "Louisianan" (is that a word?) so they throw everything together. Much like the Tropical Party they had on the cruise I went on: it was definitely pan-tropical! The only major tropical culture I didn't see represented was the Canary Islands, as a reggae band in Hawaiian shirts played and people danced the limbo while drinking rum out of coconuts under tiki torches. Unfortunately, accordions are not particularly tropical so there were none at that party. But if you get an accordion upon entering Hell, and Hell is warm like the tropics, then maybe it wouldn't be such a stretch to associate them....

Famous Hat

Saturday, December 6, 2008

True Adventure: Catechism Captive!

At my church (let's call it Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety), we have a small parking lot that is always being used by non-church folks (or, as we refer to them, poachers). I first ran into this problem one year on Ash Wednesday, when the parking lot was so crowded that I had to park someone in, figuring I would run right out the moment Mass was over and release whoever it was. To my surprise, three people were already standing by the car when I dashed out of Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety (OLPS) the moment the priest gave the final blessing. How did they beat me out here? I wondered, failing to notice that they did not have ashen crosses on their foreheads. One man was very annoyed and said to me, "Is this your car?" I said yes, sorry, I got out the moment Mass was over. (I couldn't understand why he was so annoyed, since it had JUST gotten over.) He said to me, "Who the *@$# parks likes that?" and I said, "You know, sir, maybe you should consider giving up being a jerk for Lent!" His two friends laughed, and to my surprise so did my friends when I told them this story. They were the ones who first clued me in about the fact that I had undoubtedly parked in a poacher.

Since that day, I have been very protective about OLPS's parking lot and have chased many a poacher away. (My favorite Mary is Our Lady of Guadalupe, who looks like she could kick your @$$, and I'm sure you've realized by now why that is!) So this morning I was railroaded into teaching catechism for Richard Bonomo, who is presently on a plane to Japan, although many other people were available. I regularly taught for a number of years at OLPS but for the last two years I've been enjoying sleeping in. So this morning I dragged myself out of bed, drove through a snowstorm, and was peeved to find the OLPS parking lot completely full. On a Saturday morning?!? I spotted a guy who was clearly a slacker, with an African drum slung over his back, and I asked if he were there for church business. He replied that he was there for parking business, since it was a public parking lot, so I pointed to the sign that clearly stated it was only for people on official OLPS business and reiterated my question: "Are you here to go to church or to teach catechism or something?" He wanted to know if he should move, so I said yes, unless he was planning to teach. He told me his father was a preacher so he could do it, although he was not Catholic. So I told him he'd better.

When I came into the school building of OLPS, where we teach small Mexican children to be good Christians, the DRE told me that another regular teacher had not shown up, so he was putting that class in with Mr. Bonomo's. Nothing like having 23 small bilingual children staring at you! But to my surprise, my hostage did show up to teach catechism, and he wasn't half bad! The DRE took me aside and asked who he was, so I explained that this was his penance for poaching in our parking lot. Captive Catechist (Mr. CC) told the children the most whacked-out version of the Temptation in the Garden that I'd ever heard, but since it was basically correct, I let him do it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out he knew some Spanish (as do I) so the small Mexican children realized they couldn't pull anything over on us. One boy also has Downe's Syndrome and was bouncing all over, but Mr. CC got him engaged with a beach ball globe. He literally had the whole world in his hands! The other kids enjoyed playing on the drum, and then we took them over to the church, which somehow survived the post-Vatican II wreckovation that ruined so many other churches. Mr. CC's breath was taken away.

"This place is gorgeous!" he said in amazement. (The small Mexican kids and I were more used to OLPS's incredible beauty, since we get to see it at least once a week.) Then we sang some Advent and Christmas songs while Mr. CC played his drum and the Downe's Syndrome kid played with the whole world. We prayed a decade of the Rosary, went back to the classroom, and played Catechism Trivia and Catechism Hangman, which Mr. CC had the clever idea of showing Jesus on the Cross. Luckily, one of the kids realized the word was "Advent" before Jesus was crucified! Then the bell rang for Angelus, meaning class was over. I had survived my enforced teaching, and so had my hostage! He even said he enjoyed it.

So a word to the wise: if you plan to park illegally in the parking lot of Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety, don't be surprised if I force you teach small Mexican children to be good Christians.

Famous Hat

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Best Years of Your Life!

Why are adults always saying things to teenagers like, "These are the best years of your life! Be sure to enjoy them!" No wonder the teenage suicide rate is so high! Have these people completely forgotten what it's like to be a teenager?? In case you have forgotten, let me remind you: Acne. Peer pressure. Hormones out of control. Everyone really IS watching what you do. Too old for kiddie discounts, too young for R-rated movies. Too young to drive, too old to play with your favorite toys without your friends laughing at you. Minimum-wage jobs. Being dumped by a significant other or shunned by the popular group is the END OF THE WORLD.

Now I really like teenagers, they are much more interesting than children, but I see no need to lie to them. I always say don't believe the hype, it only gets better and better from now on. Once you leave adolescence, you can do fun things like have slumber parties without any adults there - because you ARE the adults! - and instead of making shakes in the blender, you can make grasshoppers or daquairis. If you feel like driving to Tennessee for the weekend, hey, be my guest. Instead of saving up for stupid designer jeans that you only want because everyone else is wearing them, you can save your money for trips to the tropics or the furniture you REALLY want. Tell teenagers something like this, and their eyes light up. Remind them that adolescence is a temporary state of insanity and not the zenith of their existence, and they practically weep with relief. And they know you are telling the truth, because teens can spot BS three miles away.

I remember one example of propaganda that backfired when I was a teen: for some reason one day in our civics class we had two cute, bouncy Israeli teens just a couple of years older than ourselves show up to talk to us. Since they were children themselves and had no particular accomplishments to boast of, they just mentioned some things about their families (I remember they were both the oldest child) and their schools. One boy and one girl, they were not particularly Semitic-looking, and we were puzzled about why they were there. When the boy asked us if we knew where Israel was, pulling down the world map, a guy in our class asked them if they resented the fact that Orthodox Jews were the most hard-core about holding onto the Occupied Territories and yet they were the only ones who didn't have mandatory military service because of their religious beliefs. The two kids blanched, and the boy weakly said, "Oh... so you know something about the problems in our country." At that moment I suddenly realized that they were there to sell us on the idea that Israel is Our Friend and Palestinians are Bad. Of course, the Palestinians did not have the money to send perky, photogenic teens all over the US to tell us what great friends they were with us. And since that day I have been extremely sympathetic to the Palestinians, the Basques, the Catholics in Northern Ireland, and other suppressed peoples. (Although I do NOT support terrorism. Suppression is no reason to kill innocent people.)

In some ways, teenagers are very clear-sighted, perhaps because they tend not to see shades of gray. When I was in high school in the 80's, everyone was terrified of the Soviet Union, but I wrote a paper for that same civics class in 1988 (before the fall of the Berlin Wall) about how the Soviet Union was not the greatest threat, Islamic terrorism was. Now if a stupid little 16-year-old teenybopper could see that, it must have been in plain view for everyone to see, but the adults were too blinded by their fear of Communism to see the ensuing threat on the horizon. I'm not saying teenagers could have prevented September 11, but they may have things to tell us and we shouldn't disregard their often keen insights.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Iberia? Where's THAT?

The other night I was at my choir director's house with some other friends, and one guy (we'll call him Antoshka) had spent Thanksgiving with a bunch of Coptics. The choir director had an encyclopedia of the ancient world, so we were reading about Copts, and Antoshka said how the Early Church was really focused in Egypt and Armenia. I said what about Georgia, and he said that wasn't Christian until much later. So of course we had to look up Georgia in the Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. The first thing it said is that ancient Georgia was divided into two kingdoms, one in the east and one in the west (although it gave conflicting accounts of which was which): one called Lazica and one called... IBERIA??

This struck me as fascinating because of course the Iberian peninsula is the area including Spain and Portugal, and it has been known as Iberia since ancient times. So why would Georgia also be called Iberia? Was there possibly a connection between the Georgians and the Basques? I once wrote a paper in college on this subject, but my main reference was a paper from the 1950's written in French, so I'm not sure this is seriously considered a plausible theory anymore. However, there were some interesting parallels in basic vocabulary words like sheep, wind, rain, mountain... Important words indeed for mountain-dwelling shepherding peoples! Did the ancient Greeks and Romans know something we don't know? Are the Basques and the Georgians indeed related, since they are both Iberians?

Maybe it is just a coincidence. Although many people in the state of Georgia in the US are of the Caucasian race, nobody seriously wonders if US Georgians are Caucasians. After all, they are not mountain-dwelling people. But what about Appalachians? Nobody has ever mentioned that possibility before. Since so many people seem to think the term "Appalachian" has a negative connotation, I am proposing that from now on we refer to them as "Iberians." It has more cachet, sounding slightly Continental, and if all it means is "mountain people," then they are as Iberian as any Basque or Georgian!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Half a Funny Story (Or, a Half-Funny Story)

This past spring, some of the doctors I work with went to a conference in Toronto. One of them brought a gift back for the fellow she was mentoring, a half-mug that says: "Toronto was so expen$ive I could only afford half a cup!" (It's in half the vertical way, so the mouth of the mug looks like a D, not an O.)

A couple of months later I was down in the fellow's office and saw the mug on his desk. When I commented on how clever it was, he asked if I wanted it, since he was never going to use it.

"Why not?" I said. "It's my half-birthday. What could be more perfect than a half-mug given half-heartedly?"

But that's only - you knew it was coming - half the story. That afternoon I took my half-mug down to the cafeteria and filled it with coffee. When you bring your own mug, coffee costs 85¢. I asked the cashier if he would charge me half-price, since it was only half a mug, and he said he didn't have that button on his cash register. I told him I would then have to put 85¢ on my credit card, since I didn't have enough cash.

"How much cash do you have on you?" he asked.
"Forty-seven cents," I told him.

And do you know what he did then? He rang it up as "$0.47 miscellaneous." People tell me this is their favorite part of the story, that a cashier would play along. How do you think the mug scanned? I don't think it's half-bad!

Famous Hat

Monday, December 1, 2008

Driving Me Crazy!

While I was visiting my family, I did something very terrifying: I let my niece drive my car. She turned 16 at the end of the summer and has her permit but not her license yet, so my mother mentioned how a really good auntie thing for me to do would be to take out the niece (let's call her Denise) (although she is technically Da Step Niece, not Da Niece) for some driving practice. I wasn't sure how much fun such an activity would be for me, or more importantly, for Erin Caitlyn O'Honda, but on Saturday I drove to my brother's house and handed Denise the keys after telling her the following story:

I have only owned two cars in my entire life. Sydney was 17 (older than you!) when I finally got rid of her. She was being held together with duct tape. (Denise: So are Mom and Dad's cars, and they are only five. Me: True... But I take care of my cars so Syd didn't get that way till she was 15 and a half.) When my friends finally made me get a new car, I cried when I said goodbye to Syd as she went off to a charitable organization to be fixed up by troubled teenage boys (like your brothers, only these boys have been caught). [Just kidding, I did NOT say that!] (NB: Sydney was in such bad shape that they just sold her at auction for parts.) This car is named Erin Caitlyn O'Honda. I love her very much. Please take care of her.

I must have made poor Denise somewhat nervous, because she nearly drove into the mailbox as her two younger brothers were watching out the window with great amusement. However, once she got out of their view, she proved to be an absolutely fine driver. She gave me a tour of her small town and drove me to the next small town over with no incident, and I have no doubt that she will pass her driving test.

My biggest concern now? That in two years her brother (Da Nephew!) will expect me to take HIM out driving! And somehow I don't expect him to be as kind to Erin Caitlyn O'Honda....

Famous Hat