Friday, August 28, 2009

Visual Acuity Quiz #2

What is this?

a. mod electrical outlet

b. nose from a blue pig

c. down-market ocarina

What your answers say about you:

a. You probably do not work in the field of electrical engineering. You are more interested in feelings than in facts and have tried to plug your lava lamp into the phone jack even when not under the influence of botanical agents of an illegal sort. If you are over the age of 24, it's now time for you to get a life.

b. You most likely do not work in the field of zoology. Imagination is very important to you. Perhaps you imagine that you are a fantastic singer or that the cute person on your bus is madly in love with you. Maybe this whole thing is just part of your imagination. After all, what proof do you have that this blog exists outside of your mind?

c. If you have one too, let's get together and play Lady GaGa's "Poker Face." I can do a really mean "muh-muh-muh-muh" on this thing. I am also willing to play anything by Pitbull.

Famous Hat

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Spam! Wonderful Spam!

So this morning my good friend Mo P. (ladychat13) sent me the following excessively compelling email:

Good morning

Do you know & get hold of Designers goods? I know of a low price websie sell .If you interested You can to website : www.blahblahblah looking for you like goods.


Don't bother checking out that website, since I have modified it. Though I'm sure it was TOTALLY legitimate, since the thing that most makes me want to check out an unknown and potentially viral website is an unsolicited piece of email full of grammatical and spelling errors. But if you really want to, let me know and you can to website (or websie, whatever) looking for you like goods.

I especially appreciate the singular "thank" at the end. I mean, really, why do I need more than one? That's just greedy.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We'll Never Forget You, BRENT!

An old coworker emailed me this; I don't know who to give credit for creating it, but it's way too funny not to share! Boo Brett!

Famous Hat

Meet Mick

This is Mick. He belongs to some friends of Palm Tree Fan's folks, and she took these pictures of him. I have never met Mick, but he looks like he would be a lot of fun to get to know!

Mick in Profile

Mick Looking at You

Mick Eating Dinner

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wedding Bells for A & A

Last night I had a very weird dream that Octomom was starting a singing career, and also that my fish had two little babies: a tiny Arphaxad (the white one) and a tiny Amminadab (the orange one). They were so cute! That inspired me to look up how to identify your fish's gender, and my best guess is that, despite their masculine names, only Amminadab is a male while Arphaxad is much more likely a female. (Don't expect any junior A&A's any time soon; my fish will never grow large enough in their current home to breed.)

And so I present to you:
The Wedding of Arphaxad and Amminadab!

The happy couple first met in a pet store fish tank, but they really got to know each other in a bowl on a window ledge in my office. Amminadab decided he really liked Arphaxad and would always chase her around and around the bowl, and she never seemed to be swimming away from him all that quickly, so they decided to make it official.

At the reception: Fishyssoise!

Then a honeymoon in the tropics! How romantic!

(Thanks to Palm Tree Fan for all photos and photo doctoring.)

Famous Hat

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Zoo: Flamingos Dance and Swans Pose

Friday evening Anna Banana II and I went to a fish fry with some other people, then the two of us were going to go to a local pub to take a whack at the #4 Brett Favre (aka. Traitor) piñata, but it was already broken, so we went to work out instead. Then Saturday I went to Tiffy's sister's lake house, and they had a donkey piñata for the kids. One girl whacked the piñata so hard that the body went flying off, and I suggested making it into a Brett Favre piñata, but we never got around to it. Since most of the kids were preteens and teens, they were less interested in the candy that came out of the piñata than the cheap plastic toys, especially the whistles, and we entertained ourselves for quite awhile attempting to play songs on the whistles. You just haven't lived until you have heard a chorus of cheap whistles playing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Later Tiffy's niece played the ring tones that came with her cell phone, and Tiffy and I would try to guess what they were called. A typical sample:

Tiffy's niece plays a ring tone which is some kind of atrocious smooth jazz.
Tiffy: "Dancing on the Rooftops."
Me: "Cocktails at Eight."
Tiffy's Niece: "Actually, that one is called 'Jazz Marionette.'"

Why this game should have been so entertaining is beyond me, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Then we created our own ring tones called "Buh-buh-buh-Beethoven" and "Chicken Tango," if that gives you any idea. (Probably more than "Jazz Marionette"...) In between all this hilarity we went out on the speedboat so Tiffy's nieces and their friends could go tubing, and we took a sunset cruise across the lake in the pontoon boat (aka. The Floating Living Room) to grab dinner from a restaurant on the far shore. Boats and music - what more could you ask for?

Yesterday Richard Bonomo, Kathbert, A-Fooze, Anna Banana II, and I went to the zoo and were amazed by the performing flamingos. There were two kinds, the larger coral-pink American flamingos and the smaller shell-pink Chilean ones, and they would just be standing around when suddenly all the American ones would look left, look right, look left, look right, flap their wings, and bob their head in perfect synchronicity as they honked like geese. This would go on for a minute or two, then they would stop, we would clap, and the center flamingo would bow. Then they stood around again for a few more minutes until suddenly doing it all again. By the third time around, a Chilean flamingo got into the act, matching the American flamingos move for move and squeaking along with their honks. We clapped even more enthusiastically, and several flamingos bowed, and one even curtsied! Then Kathbert noticed right behind us there was a receptacle for donations topped with a plastic flamingo head, and she said, "They're busking!" The other really entertaining creature was a black Australian swan; while the others went into the Herpatorium, Kathbert and I hung out by the swan pond. One swan was by the fence, so Kathbert said hello to it, and it made a two-syllable sound in response. Then some kids came over and hassled it, so it bit them. Their parents weren't at all sympathetic; they said, "I TOLD you not to tease it!" Then one quiet little girl came over, but the swan didn't bite her. On the contrary, it posed for a photo with her. So much for the expression "bird brain"!

Famous Hat

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Scorched Earth Policy

When I was in college and the world was young, my brother loaded a computer game onto our parents' computer called Scorched Earth. This game was very basic: you were a tank, and your goal was to blow up all the other tanks. The more tanks you blew up, the more money you got, and the more stuff you could buy. Now you could buy practical things like shields, so the other tanks could not shoot you as effectively, or parachutes, so if they blew up the ground beneath you, instead of falling to your death, you would gently sail down to the newly created landscape below you. Or you could just buy bigger, better weapons. Scorched Earth did not have elaborate graphics, and the background was green or brown earth in various configurations that kept changing as the war went on. You could also adjust the windiness of Scorched Earth and make the edges rubber, so the missiles would bounce off, or wraparound, so they would come back out the other side.

What the tanks were fighting about was never mentioned, but you got to choose the colors, designs, number, and even names of your foes. This meant, of course, that I chose the most effeminate-looking colors and designs and then named the tanks after ex-boyfriends. My favorite strategy was to buy the biggest nuclear weapon and incinerate them all: "Die, The Wall! Die, The Weasel! Die, die, DIE, Hoodoo Head!" I usually took myself out as well with this tactic, but so what? It was extremely satisfying, and I still had two more lives left afterwards. Of course, it was always humiliating to have The Wall or The Weasel incinerate me, but all's fair in love and war. If I really wanted, I could have a really personal, down and dirty war with just one ex.

I have long since outgrown incinerating small cartoon tank avatars of ex-boyfriends, but after a bad day at work or an infuriating band practice, I feel a little nostalgic for Scorched Earth. And the best part? You were all enemies, so your boss, your archenemy, and that keyboard player you always want to kill might take each other out and leave you the last tank standing. Then again, sometimes in real life this happens too. Now that I am older and wiser, I find it is better to buy those metaphorical shields and parachutes and let everyone else fling weapons of mass destruction at one another rather than spending money on the Super Giga Nuclear Warhead.

Famous Hat

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Interviewing the Office Mates

Two of Famous Hat's Office Mates

Last month we were forced to attend a session regarding "Respect in the Workplace" or some nonsense like that, and the follow-up session will be today. Our homework assignment was to interview three "team members" for their answers to the following questions. I ignored this assignment until the 3,487th email reminder to do it, so then I finally "interviewed" my three office mates: Toque, Arphaxad, and Amminadab. (Meaning I made up what they might have said.) Then I emailed it to Toque, who made up answers for me. (n.b. "Toque" is pronounced "Tuke" as in rhymes with nuke and puke, and it refers to a winter hat. Since my human office mate is part Canadian, that is the kind of hat she chooses to be.) So everything below credited to Famous Hat was written by Toque, and everything credited to Toque, Arphaxad, or Amminadab was written by me. Confused yet?

Here is my summary of my interview with three office mates:

What values, beliefs, and principles do we share in this research team about:

(1) the work we do?

Toque: We want to do a good job.
Famous Hat: We strive to get work done in a timely manner
Arphaxad: It's important for everyone to pull his or her own weight
Amminadab: No matter what your position on the team, you have to respect what others do, even if you don't understand their roles completely

(2) how we treat each other?

Toque: We should respect one another
Famous Hat: We should support each other and help each other when possible
Arphaxad: We can all learn from our differences
Amminadab: Always follow the Golden Rule to treat others as you want to be treated

(3) how we treat those we serve?

Toque: We need to keep the lines of communication open
Famous Hat: We should be warm and welcoming
Arphaxad: It's important to remain courteous even when the other person is not
Amminadab: Always keep cultural differences in mind - one culture's rudeness is another one's friendliness - and again I think the Golden Rule applies here too

I'll tell you how the follow-up session went later, if there's anything to tell. What I am most excited about is the cookies.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Romance Writing Lesson #1

My name is Keith and I am from the Canary Islands. I love writing romances. Here is my homework.

Hello, Keith. Glad to have you in the class.

WORKING TITLE: Beneath the Dragon Tree
HIGH-CONCEPT BLURB: From the moment the American gentleman saw our protagonist, he knew he had to have her. However, she has her own life and has no interest in being stolen away from it. Can he convince her to come with him?


I know the first thing everyone wants to know about any story is who the protagonist is. What is she like? What motivates her? I suspect that in my case you may find the answers a bit tiresome, so I will give you the briefest of biographical sketches and then will fade into the story like the observer I have always been.

My life began on the tropical island of Tenerife, where I grew up on a cliff overlooking the sea. Life was easy and very beautiful: the warm sun, the sparkling sea, the white sand. Then an American gentleman came and stole me away from my home, my relatives, and everything I had ever known. My roots were very deep on the island, and I suspect he had no idea how badly he hurt me when he tore me away from my beloved home. He was enchanted with my beauty, or so he told everyone when he bragged about how he had abducted me. I was twenty-eight years old, about 5’5” and very slender, and people said I was a striking specimen. Whether this was true, I am in no position to say.

The American gentleman felt it would be safer to bring me back to his country by ship rather than by air. I remember the long trip: how I languished by his stateroom window as the sea rolled by outside, unable to do anything but watch the inexorable expansion of the field of turquoise water between my sad window and my happy island home. Finally we arrived at his home, and he proudly showed me off to his guests for the first few months and then lost interest in me. I sat by his window, gazing out at the anemic northern sun (a pale imitation of the blazing tropical ball of fire that I had always known), and I dreamed of Tenerife.

Like so many American gentlemen, this particular one had atrocious eating habits, and not long after he had brought me to his home, he died of a massive heart attack. He had not thought to provide for me in such an event, and doubtless would not have even if he had suspected such an event was imminent. And so I somehow found myself in my present circumstance, biding my time in the lobby of a luxury hotel. Most people don’t notice my presence; some do, but they will come over, pinch me, and say in surprise,

“It is real! What a cute palm tree!”

Don’t they realize I’m actually a dracaena?

Technically, this portion of the Story Plan Checklist is filled out correctly. However, I’m seeing some areas that could use more work.

First, I do have to point out that, based on your blurb, etc., this doesn’t sound as much like a romance as it does a botany textbook. It isn’t believable that your protagonist could be so passive — unless she knows she has something to gain from the American gentleman. As is, she seems a bit like a wallflower and a clingy vine, traits that aren’t widely appealing in a heroine. I suspect the reason it’s coming off like this is because we don’t get a hint of her true internal conflicts and goals and motivations.

We also don’t get a hint of why the American gentleman wants her so badly—we need to have more internal conflict and goals and motivations for him here as well.

To sum up, the reason your story is coming off as a horticultural thesis is directly related to the lack of deep characterization that will mirror your story here. Include a hint of both characters’ internal conflicts, goals and motivations within your high concept blurb and your beginning story spark—just a hint because you’ll be going into more in-depth later.

We touched on this a bit above, but I have to mention that the bulk of what’s included above is about osmotic tension, which really does put it in a botanical category. If that’s what you want, that’s no problem, but keep in mind that the best kind of botany—the kind that readers can’t put down—has deep characterization along with extremely steamy greenhouse scenes. You truly do want your horticultural treatises to be just as well written as any other story. To be more specific, include hints of the characters’ internal struggles—i.e., those things not related to the botanical aspect of the story—in the high concept blurb and the beginning story spark.

Another area that I was concerned about is that you don’t have a lot of angles for external conflict here. Basically, all we see is horticultural conflict. Even in a botany textbook, you want more conflict than the transplanting and repotting. You may need to think about deepening external conflicts in this story so a hint of those can be included in your blurb and initial story spark as well.

As I said, technically you have filled out this portion of the Story Plan Checklist correctly, Keith. But I do think you will need to dig deeper to get ALL the roots when we get into the characterization, internal and external conflicts, goals and motivation cycles of the checklist in the next several lessons. The characters will need to be explored fully because their internal conflicts, as well as their true goals and motivations are unclear and a bit pale and droopy at this juncture. As you deepen their characterization through the beginning and ending cycles, real growth will be needed, not just some extra foliage. Good start here, but keep working on this.

BAD plant!!!! Why did I EVER teach it to type?? It better not have used my credit card to register for this romance writing class!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So Much for Karma!

Yes, I have yet another hornet story - this time, Saturday afternoon as I sat on my balcony, peacefully doing word game puzzles, a yellow jacket stung me on the left arm. It was completely unprovoked! So much for my good bug karma from helping that big black hornet... I went into the house to find an onion to apply to the sting but could only come up with a dessicated, ancient leek so I put some baking soda on it instead. THEN I noticed the evil wasp was still hanging out on my Hawaiian shirt! So I squished it with my comb. Then I went over to Richard Bonomo's house, where A-Fooze was making Hungarian chicken for him, Anna Banana II, Kathbert, and me, and A-Fooze was able to provide me with a small piece of onion. Then Kathbert arrived, and she had just been stung on the thigh by a yellow jacket while she was out biking! She suggested we use ammonia, so Rich gave us some and we went outside to apply it, since it reeks. The epicenter of the sting swelled up pretty badly right away, but by the next day it was fine.

But you are probably more interested in hearing about my drunken bike ride than my wasp sting. Friday morning I decided to save myself the trouble of biking up the hill to the birthday girl's house (she actually lives on Hilltop Road!) but it was so much effort getting Eusebius into Erin Caitlyn O'Honda that I was already sweaty by the time I arrived... and then I put the front wheel back on wrong so it was pretty difficult biking to the first stop! Luckily the birthday girl's father Dennii was able to fix my mistake, so then Eusebius was the smoothest ride ever. We biked all over town, ringing bells and honking horns and squirting each other with water guns. We stopped at several bars and several houses and had a big water fight. At a New Orleans-style restaurant, the birthday girl had a shot of sake that came from a bottle with an enormous rattlesnake in it. Freaky! She said it started sweet and then had a kick. After eleven hours of this, some people were still going strong (and many others had left), but I was worn out so I called Rich to come get me and Eusebius in the Bonomobile. (Also, I didn't have a light so I was afraid of being ticketed by the bike cops.) Rich had just come back from a visit to the Mothership, so he had lots of baklava. (He said as he was leaving, the Mothership said, "Rich, you're getting fat! Here, have some baklava.")

Saturday night I went to a "Leo party," which was supposed to be a birthday party for "all the Leos," but it seemed that the host was the only Leo there. Most of the other guests were Brazilian, and they sang and played Brazilian music and made delicious Brazilian food. (Sorry to tell you this, Hardingfele, but it seems like in Brazil they mostly eat meat.) (Which made Rich very happy to hear!) There was actually a guy there who knew all about tuning systems; he said he tuned his piano in (yuck!) equal temperament, his harpsichord in Werckmeister, and his clavichord in sixth-comma mean tone. He also told me a local piano seller HATES equal temperament (cool!) and tunes pianos to seventh-comma mean tone, which I'd never heard of. But hey, at least it's not equal temperament! But if you think sparks flew between me and this man, you are wrong because I am made of some kind of non-flammable material.

Famous Hat

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Cake

Since I now have a reputation as someone who likes to show off cakes (my own and others), Hardingfele sent me these pictures of the cake at a going-away party for her coworker. And since I don't have much time to blog, I'm just posting these pictures. Enjoy! I won't be able to blog tomorrow either, since I will be busy biking from bar to bar with a bunch of people for Tiffy's college roommate's annual biking and drinking extravaganza. If you are reading this at work on Friday, you can envy me biking around and drinking gin fizzes while you are sitting at your computer. HA HA!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why a Hornet?

All 4.5 of my faithful readers may remember my story about sharing an elevator ride with a hornet. This morning I had another hornet experience: there is a window on either side of the front door of the building my condo is in, and on the lefthand window was the biggest, blackest hornet I had ever seen, desperately buzzing around as it tried to find a way out. It was three times the size of a yellow jacket, but I figured it was not nearly as aggressive, and it was such a beautiful, shiny ebony that I couldn't help admiring it and feeling for its plight. I held my auto insurance bill out to it and it climbed onto it, then it crawled onto me. I was a little leery (you should have seen the size of its stinger!) but it did not sting me, and when I walked outside, it suddenly turned into an angel and said that since I had passed the test and was compassionate to one of God's creatures, I could have anything I wanted, so I asked for a greenhouse. Just kidding, it flew off happily, but I'm sure I got lots of karma points for helping it!

Here is yet another hornet story for your reading pleasure: once Richard Bonomo, Tiffy, and I went to a picnic at an observatory, and Tiffy and I saw the biggest, most beautiful ant ever. It was a rich crimson color and seemed to be made of satin or velvet with a fierce-looking black stinger, and it ran very quickly over the ground. I wanted to follow it, thinking there must be an entire colony of these beautiful ants, but Tiffy thought it looked scary and we should keep our distance. Later I googled "satin ant" and found nothing, but when I googled "velvet ant," there it was - the Velvet Ant! She was actually a wingless hornet, and she spends her days searching for yellow jacket nests in which to lay her eggs, so that her young can devour their young. Not only beautiful but useful too! However, velvet ants have an excessively painful sting (which, unlike yellow jackets, they only use when provoked) which is so awful that one of their common names is "cow killer," so Tiffy's instinct to keep our distance was right on.

A guy I once dated said his favorite quote is from Dylan Thomas, who as a child received a coloring book that he said "told everything about the wasp but why." Then again, why anything? Why mosquitoes? Why (yuck!) tomatoes? Why hurricanes? Why a duck? I for one, not being God, do not know the answer.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Biking Etiquette

On my daily ride to work, I observed two things today that struck me as being contrary to biking etiquette. Does anyone out there in the blogosphere know? Is there a set of rules? The first thing I saw was after two very fast bikers passed me, and the second one started drafting the first one, although it didn't seem as if they were together. Is it rude to draft someone you don't know? (By "draft" I mean ride so closely behind another biker that he protects you from wind resistance, like geese flying in a V behind a leader.) The second thing that happened is that someone had "reserved" a space in the bike rack by leaving a lock on a particular space. Since it is a fairly crowded bike rack, I thought that was rude and just went ahead and parked in that space anyway. (I was not so rude as to lock that lock up with my lock!) We'll see... perhaps I will leave work tonight to find Eusebius with two slashed tires. They can't slash his seat because that is already cracked anyway.

On a completely different topic, here are some lovely photos my bandmate and fellow member of my OTHER choir took of the church we sang at the Sunday before last.

Figure 1: View of Chapel from Choir Loft

Figure 2: View of Congregation from Choir Loft

Figure 3: View of Main and Side Altars

Figure 4: Choir Loft

Figure 5: Stained Glass Window behind Choir Loft

Famous Hat

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summertime, and the Hangin' Out is Easy

This weekend I continued the musicianship when the contra dance band I play in had a gig at a kiddie restaurant. We were paid in food: a free meal that evening AND a coupon for another free meal! Not a bad deal for playing some singalong songs and leading tots in the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey. (I led the Chicken Dance, and one of the fiddlers led the Hokey Pokey while playing! She's much more talented than I am!) Then I went to hear a salsa band that played many of my very favorite songs, and we consumed several boxes of popcorn and then went out for ice cream. Salsa makes you hungry!

Yesterday a bunch of us, including Rich, Anna Banana II, Cecil Markovitch, the married B-Boy and his new bride, drove almost three hours west to a shrine on a bluff to hear my OTHER choir director play an organ concert. That may sound crazy, but we all love the shrine, and I really wanted to see it now that it is finished. The setting reminds me of the Pyrenees, and the summer I spent there many years ago. So beautiful! Also, the day was rainy and hot and humid, so spending it in an air-conditioned car was not really a waste. (Saturday was hot too, but the rain cleared up by the afternoon so I hung out in my pool.)

Saturday Kathbert, Rich, and I made the best dinner, with fresh green beans from my bandmate's garden, fresh kolrabi from the farmer's market, fresh blueberries of unknown origin (Rich said a friend gave them to him but he can't remember who), fresh peas from the Asian market, lotus leaf buns, and what Rich calls "Chinese Bland Dumprings." Oh, and wonderful mango juice he got at the Asian market. All that fresh produce makes me so happy. I wish it could always be summer, so I could bike to work and leave Plant World on my balcony and always have fresh produce at hand. But when winter comes, maybe I will be happy about getting to go cross-country skiing.

Famous Hat

Friday, August 7, 2009

Livin' la Vida de Musica

I apologize - I completely forgot to tell you how my gig went on Tuesday night! We didn't play to an enormous crowd, as you can well imagine, but the people who were there were enthusiastic and really got into the belly dancing. I was paid in beer and sat around drinking it while watching the second act, a blues group. Our oud player was the guitarist, and their singer was one of the two in our group. When the oud player and I were practicing one night, he mentioned that we would play a particular song in "piano tuning," and I knew what he meant - the dreaded Equal Temperament! I said, "We don't need to - you and I can play whatever note we want, and the singers can sing in just tuning too, and what do the drummers care?" and he agreed. Then again, after a beer or two (we all had one before the show), do you care as much where G# and Ab are? Or Bb versus Bbb?

Last night I went to choir practice for the Messiah, and - guess what? - it was in Equal Temperament! My dracaena marginata is going to subject me to much public humiliation! It's bad enough that people insist on performing Classical and Romantic music in ET, but I had hoped we were all more enlightened about Baroque music... I thought this would be a big crowd, but apparently it was an elite group because the people I recognized from my OTHER choir were all really good. (So how did I get in there, right?) Apparently my OTHER choir director passed some of our names on to the choir director who gathered this group, and he then emailed us to see who would like to perform the Messiah. I have sung probably every chorus in this work and wondered how much use it would be to start practicing for a Christmas concert in August, but the music really is so glorious that it was a joy to sing, even in - yuk! - Equal Temperament. Anyway, the director is a crazy Kiwi with a whacked-out accent, so what we are losing in tuning, we are gaining in listening to him say, "Teenors, can you sing that agheen?" (And, he is quite a fine specimen too!)

Famous Hat

Thursday, August 6, 2009

One Million Giraffes Strong

In college I once did research for a talk on dragons and unicorns in art all over the world, and I came across this delightful story: a Chinese king had sent sailors out to find him a unicorn, and some landed on a foreign shore and found it - the unicorn! It was graceful and gentle, just as they had expected, although they were a bit surprised that it stepped on the ground without any concern for the insects it might be harming. They captured it and brought it back to China, where the king was very pleased with it, and it lived the rest of its days in his court. From depictions of the "unicorn," we know that what the sailors brought back is the creature we know today as the giraffe.

Some kid in Norway is asking for one million depictions of giraffes, and so last night I drew him this picture. (If you want to send him a giraffe, here is his website: ) I know perfectly well that giraffes are white with big dark orange spots, but I couldn't find my markers so this was executed with a gold pen, a three-fourths dried up yellow highlighter, and a green pen for the eye. Anyway, giraffes are often depicted as yellow.

Figure 1: Famous Hat circa 1995

In a sense you could say this is a self-portrait, since for tax purposes in 1995 I was a giraffe. I was a graduate student that year with some odd jobs on the side, but for occupation I put "giraffe," and apparently the IRS had no problem with that because they sent me my entire refund. I guess they figured a giraffe could gross $3,000 in 1995. Then again, as Kathbert pointed out, maybe they just thought I dressed in a giraffe costume for a living.

Figure 2: Famous Hat's 1995 1040-EZ Tax Form

Famous Hat

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another Letter from Dracaena to Obama

My plant is at it again! It has written yet another letter to President Obama:

Dear President Obama:

I realize that you are a very busy human and have not had time to address my question about floral representation in the Zodiac, but no matter. I have another matter that your administration should address: the abiding evil of Equal Temperament. The person who waters me is trained as a piano tuner, and she has informed me that a “tuned” piano, when it is in equal temperament, is in fact not in tune at all. The major thirds are so wide that I don’t know how you humans can stand it! I would like to propose a law that all music written before 1900 be played in extended sixth-comma mean tone, and anyone found playing it in equal temperament should be subject to much public ridicule. Thank you very much for your kind attention to the concerns of a humble houseplant, and remember: Just say no to Equal Temperament!

Dracaena Marginata

That crazy plant! Why did I ever teach it to type?

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bicyclists: Second-Class Citizens?

At the institution where I work, much lip service is paid to alternate forms of transportation, including biking. Then - guess what? - whenever they do construction, they are careful to make sure cars still have a viable route to work, but pedestrians and bicycles? Whatever. For example, yesterday a coworker and I got off the bus (a supposedly favored transportation mode, and to be fair, the institution does provide free bus passes), but as we walked up the hill, we came to a spot where the sidewalk was torn up and a bunch of construction workers shooed us into the middle of the street. Certainly an ideal place for a pedestrian! A sign that said: "Please use other side" had this phrase scratched out, since there is no sidewalk on the other side. This would just strike me as the usual thoughtlessness towards "inferior" types of transportation so prevalent in our society, but in the case of our institution it seems like exquisite irony. Get out of your car to get to work! You might even arrive in one piece!

Last week as I was biking to work on what is known as a "heavily utilized bicycling corridor," I was suddenly impeded from making any forward progress by an enormous conclave of children and soccer moms and some guy dressed like a pirate. Apparently the rights of spoiled suburban kids to participate in swim meets supercede the rights of working-class stiffs to get to their jobs in a timely manner. Can you imagine a major DRIVING thoroughfare being blocked off for a swim meet??? And if roads have to be blocked, we get weeks of warning, but no sign had ever been posted saying that on such-and-such a date the bike path will be blocked. A woman with an Australian accent thanked me for obligingly walking my bike, and she seemed sufficiently sympathetic, so at that point I was only mildly annoyed. Once past the whole mess, the woman ahead of me climbed back onto her bike, so I followed suit. Only some soccer mom yelled at me (but not her) that I had to walk my bike. I said I had, but this was well past the crowd. She said I still had to walk the bike, so I said I would if she would write a note excusing me for being late to work. When she refused, I called her an impolite name (all it means, technically, is female dog), and her reaction made the whole thing worth it: she gasped as if I had shot her child in front of her and said in disbelief to nobody in particular, "She called me a [bad word]!" (When I went to confession and said I was sorry for not being sorry, but I couldn't work up any real contrition, not only did the priest grant me absolution anyway, he actually laughed when I told the story!)

The final bit of evidence that this institution does not hold biking in such high regard as they would like you to believe is that this morning, as I was biking to work, I was nearly run down by two men in one of our institutional vehicles. When I hollered, "I have the right of way!" which is just a statement of fact - no bad words, no middle fingers - they hollered something back about bicycles. Probably that bicycles NEVER have the right of way. It would seem that this is the actual official policy of this institution, never mind what they say. Perhaps someday they will see the light... Meanwhile, I will just have to dodge obstacles, find new routes, and avoid being run down by institutional vehicles as I continue to refuse to drive to work.

Famous Hat, Reformed Piano Tuner
(Just say no to Equal Temperament)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Flashback Weekend

I had a very busy weekend. Friday night I practiced for a gig tomorrow with the hardcore Mideastern band, then Saturday I went to the Farmer's Market and saw a friend I hadn't seen in several weeks, with her toddler son I hadn't seen since he was a little baby. As we were talking, a friend I hadn't seen in over a year came up and said hi, so we started talking, and THEN a person I hadn't seen since high school said, "Are you... Famous Hat?" Was that ever random! Especially since I don't live all that close to where I attended high school.

In the afternoon I went to a party hosted by a woman with purple hair and tattoos who raises bees, and there I ran into several people I hadn't seen since my days in the Medieval recreation society! It was just a "Blast from the Past" kind of day. In the evening I went to a bonfire at a county park, where we played "Telephone Pictionary" while the light was still good, and then when it got dark one guy threw copper pipes with pieces of rubber hose in them into the fire, which then burned all sorts of colors, teal and violet and green and red and blue as well as basic orange. It was so beautiful! One guy made a film of it, and I asked him to email it to me, but so far he hasn't so I can't post it here for your viewing pleasure.

Yesterday I spent the whole day in Milwaukee. First Ethel was getting her fifth rugrat dunked, and a baptism is always a big deal with her clan, so they had a big party with tons of food and piñatas for the kids. After the kids bashed the piñatas open, they put the pieces over their heads and ran around pretending to be space aliens. Ethel is the youngest of nine herself, so there were plenty of nieces and nephews of various ages around, and I played sheepshead with some of the older ones and various other relatives of hers. Then I headed to a breathtaking chapel in a Catholic convent, where oddly enough the Lutheran Association of something (church musicians? ministers?) had the opening liturgy for their conference. They had invited my OTHER choir to sing there. The only odd parts of the liturgy were the ribbons on a stick that one woman waved as she processed up the aisle, and the sermon. The woman minister was talking about how she saw a man holding a sign that said: "Homeless and hungry," and when he looked into her eyes as she waited in her car at a stoplight, she said, "I realized he was free and I was trapped." Liberal guilt that does not result in action does not appeal to me at all; when she then just drove away, I decided I'd had enough of her sermon and wandered off until it was over. After all, if she really thought he had it better than she did, why didn't she offer him her car and then she could have taken the sign? Because she knew he did NOT have it better than she did, that's why. I could only imagine that if they had changed places, maybe his sermon would have been much more entertaining!

Speaking of my OTHER choir director, a couple of years ago he had us sing "Which Was the Son of..." by Arvo Pärt for the All Saints' Day vigil service. I can't help wondering if someone said to Pärt, "Yo, Arvo! Bet you can't take the most boring passage of Scripture and set it to music that will move the listener!" If such a bet did take place, that buddy of his lost. The words are just the geneology of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, but the music is incredibly beautiful, and by the time we got to the end, "... which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God," we were practially in tears. And what has that got to do with the price of tea in China? you are surely wondering. Two of the names in the aforementioned geneology are Arphaxad (the grandson of Noah, the famous ark builder) and Amminadab, and that is where my fish got their names.

By the way, Minnie and Max are no longer looking for a permanent home. My officemate's mother decided to keep them herself.

Famous Hat