Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Fate of All Fruit

Another exciting New Year's Eve at Richard Bonomo's house, where we ended up looking up the word "trousers" in the dictionary because of an argument about how it differs from the word "pants." We had some eggnog with rum to toast the New Year early (since we weren't sure if we would last till midnight), and then Anna Banana II and I became very giggly, Jilly Moose became very random, and Kathbert became very quotable. About an orange that rotted in Rich's kitchen she said, "It suffered the fate of all fruit." About a person who complains but then eats everything, she said, "She doesn't like anything... except for everything." And we know there were some more, but now we're having trouble remembering them. Kathbert would like to have it noted for the record that she, Anna Banana II, and I were right about the pants vs. trousers argument, and Rich was wrong. However, he will not admit that he was wrong so she just offered to draw him a Venn diagram. Happy 2012!

Famous Hat

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Resolve

New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, and people are making resolutions. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions since I make them at any time that it occurs to me to do so, but this year I have thought of things I want to improve at just the right time. So here are my resolutions:

1. Finish projects. Of course there are occasions when you cannot help leaving a project unfinished, but I feel like for me it is a way of life. I will try my hardest to finish up at least one of my novels in 2012.

2. Anticipate problems. This is a real weakness of mine, and one I get chewed out for at work all the time. My office mate Light Bright suggested I think of the worst case scenario every time I get a task at work and then prepare to make sure that can’t happen. This sounds like a good plan for everything, not just work.

3. Lift weights. I actually started doing this regularly a couple of months ago, so this is less of a new resolution than a continuation.

Feel free to leave your own resolutions in the comments.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No Birthday Crown

I can’t complain about the weather today. It’s so warm out there I practically could have put my houseplants out to enjoy the sunlight. What I do have to complain about is my trip to the dentist, not because of the usual pain of having them poke at my gums and scrape my teeth, as unpleasant as that is. Six years ago I got a crown put on my back molar, and now they tell me I need a new one because the tooth is going bad again. Is this how it is when you have a crown? Does it need to be updated every six years? I have been pretty lucky in the dental department for years, so I don’t have supplemental dental insurance and will have to up my flex spending account. Painful! And it was no fun having the crown put on for my birthday last time, so this time I am going to wait a week. They say it needs to be done as soon as possible, but I’m not falling for that again and wasting my birthday having dental work done.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Recap

I hope all my readers had a wonderful Christmas! Mine was very musical, as usual. We had our “Midnight Mass” at five on Christmas Eve, and then I sang at the Lutheran church for their late service and went to Fruit Soup at the choir director’s place. Got to bed around 2:30 am and got up about eight (yawn!) for Christmas Day Mass. After that I took a looong nap. We had a big crowd at Rich’s house, as usual, and this year he had TWO Christmas trees – one he bought in the den and one from Luxuli’s husband in the living room. I made my cassata and eggnog with some help from a father-daughter team. We separated a dozen eggs in no time! Anna Banana II made the pound cake for the cassata, so that was a team effort as well, plus thanks to Rich for helping frost it. We had plenty of other desserts too, like chocolate bread pudding and chocolate chip cake and pumpkin pie. For the main course we had Rich's authentic Italian lasagne, and of course Cecil Markovitch’s famous spinach salad for a side. As Cecil said, “What a feast!”

Yesterday I had off of work so I slept in, went to the gym with Hardingfele, and then started reading a book my office mate Light Bright lent me, The Hunger Games. It is technically a “young adult” book and I’m not so young anymore, but I’m enjoying it anyway. Then leftovers for dinner at another friend’s house. Today I’m back at work, and it is very quiet, so I found a way to entertain myself: scan documents that nobody else will ever look again anyway, and then get rid of the paper copies. This way I freed up a lot of space in my office but I still have the information if anyone ever asks for it again.

Famous Hat

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Monsterumi Carolers

KNOCK! KNOCK!  Carolers at the door! It's my little Monsterumi creatures, a crab on soprano and a three-eyed, two-horned monster on alto, wishing you a Merry Christmas.


Famous Hat

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bar Joke for Musicians

I don't know who to give credit to for this joke, but it's too funny not to post!

C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, but we don't serve minors." So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished and G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough.

D comes in and heads for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me. I'll just be a second." Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, "Get out! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight."

E-Flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, "You're looking sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development." Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else, and is au natural.

Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution o f a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale
correctional facility.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Missing Trailer

Sad but true story: my office mate Light Bright’s parents had a trailer stolen. They are in another state so there is not much she can do, but she decided to post an ad on Craig’s List, in case someone ran across a trailer by that description for sale. Her ad described the trailer and its contents and then said “Happy Holidays!” Immediately she got an email response as follows:


I am not making any of this up.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookie Exchange

Today we had our cookie exchange at work. I baked my cookies Monday night, using the 1942 recipe and some ninja men cutters Toque McToque had given me, as well as a wineglass to make circles. (I made the dark dough recipe.) This time I used half blackstrap molasses and half sorghum syrup, and the cookies turned out really darn tasty. Then last night I frosted them with the frosting recipe from 1942.

There were many varieties of cookies at the exchange. My favorites (besides mine, of course) were a chocolate orange one and a chocolate and peanut butter pinwheel, and also a cookie base with caramel and dark chocolate over it. But I haven't tried them all yet, so I may find more favorites.

My office mate Light Bright participated in the exchange, then afterwards she gave me all her cookies, saying she didn't want them and her husband had requested that she not bring home four dozen cookies. Monday night Toque had given me some cookies, and then this evening A-Joz gave me chocolate bars with apricot frosting. So many cookies, so little time. Good thing I have friends to help me eat them!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Christmas Present

I am glad to hear so many of you enjoyed the movie of objects at my parents’ house, even if nobody left a comment on that post. It makes me think that I should have made a second movie of the Christmas present my parents gave me. (They also gave me towels, a blanket, slippers, and a dream catcher they got free in the mail.) Picture this: a two-foot tall, bright green stuffed grasshopper with its hands pressed together in prayer, and then its other four legs with sneakers on them, and a big heart on its chest. Now imagine that you press a sneaker, and the grasshopper sings a chipper little evangelical Christian song about being a great kid that God loves. Imagine for a moment that each of the four legs AND the heart on the chest play a different song in that style. Now wouldn’t that have made a fantastic movie? And where, you might wonder, did my parents find something like that?? Would you believe a florist shop? So next time you need a stuffed grasshopper that sings happy Christian songs for kids, look at your local flower shop.

Famous Hat

Sunday, December 18, 2011

At My Parents' House

I am visiting my parents. Here is a brief movie of objects they have around their house.

Famous Hat

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Photos of Queensland

Here are some more photos from Rich's trip to Australia. These are from his trip up to the tropical north, in Queensland. First, Christmas in the tropics:

A beautiful tree

St. Monica's War Memorial Cathedral

This window has images from the Hubble telescope.

In Australia, watch out for cassowaries.

Also watch for stingers in the water.


Beautiful beaches, but with many hazards.

Like crocodiles.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Great Barrier Reef

Richard Bonomo is back from Australia, and he rented an underwater camera to take some photos of the Great Barrier Reef. Here are a few.


Giant Clam


This next creature (pictured in front of another snorkler) is a free-swimming animal Rich described as "a piece of cellophane with black jellybeans imbedded in it." He said he also saw a creature that looked like a scrubber for washing the dishes swimming around.

Famous Hat

Holiday Potluck

Today we had a holiday potluck at work. I attempted to bake cookies from memory – NOT a good idea. I did not put nearly enough sugar into them, and Light Bright declared them barely edible. Fortunately, she had accidentally doubled the recipe for the peanut butter cream pie she was making, thus ending up with two, so she let me carry one into the potluck so that I did not enter empty-handed. That’s what office mates are for – the good ones always have your back.

There were all sorts of things to eat at the potluck, including an obscene number of desserts, but nobody had thought to bring plates so Light Bright, another woman, and I went to borrow some from the cafeteria. As we were returning with armfuls of plates, another woman showed up with paper plates, but she may not have had enough so it was good we had the extras. Hopefully nobody had to go without their salad bar because of us!

We were supposed to wear tacky holiday sweaters to the potluck, but the closest thing I have is a sweater with snowflakes on it, and I don’t consider it that tacky, just winterish. Some people did have magnificently tacky holiday sweaters, like one with tiny stockings hanging off of it. Light Bright forgot and just wore a purple sweater. “It’s seasonal,” she said. “Isn’t purple a holiday color for the church?” I said it was the color of Advent, and Advent is now, so maybe she had a point.

Here are the lessons we learned from our potluck: bring plates. Use a recipe. Don’t let someone bully you into making something if you’d rather just bring eggnog. And we hear it is very hard to find tacky sweaters at used clothing stores right now because they are in such high demand. Keep these tips in mind, and you will be fully prepared for your own holiday potluck.

Famous Hat

Monday, December 12, 2011

Alternative Map of the USA

This came from Toque McToque, and I don't know who to give credit for it, or even what to make of it. It is labeled "Teabagger Nation" but would appear to be a map of the country as drawn by a Nebraskan. Anyone who wants to hazard a guess of what connection there is between Nebraska and the Tea Party can feel free to leave a comment.

Famous Hat

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Montauk Point: Improved!

I have cleaned up the music to "Montauk Point" and think it is a lot better now, although the timing on the video doesn't seem quite as good. Let me know what you think.

Famous Hat

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Messiah Lessons

Here are some lessons I learned during our performance of Messiah last night:

1. Baroque music is very forgiving. At one point in "And He Shall Purify," an instrumentalist came in half a measure too early, but because of the nature of Baroque music, it just sounded like an ornament, not an oops. It was like a little fugal section. Then the woman next to me resolved a suspension too soon, but that sounded fine too.

2. Messiah should be listened to as an organic whole. Granted, we didn't do the entire thing because the orchestra is union so we couldn't go over two and a half hours or they would be paid overtime, but we did almost all of it. I am very bad about skipping all the boring arias and recitatives when I am listening to the piece on a CD and going right for the choruses, but being forced to listen to the whole thing made me see how the story builds.

3. The audience gets more respect than the performers. Seriously, the orchestra and soloists were all paid, but we in the choir were volunteer and we didn't even get cookies like the audience did. I only got one because at intermission I went out among the audience, looking for Cecil Markovitch (who was not there), and discovered the cookies.

4. Being part of something larger is amazing. I am a chorister, not a soloist, by nature. I love being an anonymous part of the choir (though not as anonymous as Kathbert, whose name didn't even get in the program) and dressing all in black like everyone else. There is something incredible about being part of something much larger, like a choir, and blending with everyone else. Besides, I don't really like the operatic style the soloists sing in. That's why I skip the solos on the CD.

5. The music and the story will always move people. Messiah might be overplayed, but the music really is beautiful, and the arc of the story will always inspire people. The very basics of our Christian faith can be summed up in the contrast between the tender strains of "For Unto Us a Child Is Born" (which does hint at what is to come) and the grandeur of the Final Coming so beautifully illustrated in "Worthy Is the Lamb." Our God has come to us as a helpless infant, as we will celebrate in fifteen days, and one day He will come in all His Glory.

Famous Hat

Friday, December 9, 2011

Objective Luck Scale

The other day Toque McToque and I were discussing an objective scale for rating luck. She was of the opinion that we always overestimate the luck of others and underestimate our own, and I am in complete agreement. What we were actually wondering is, do people become luckier with age? I feel luckier the older I get, and Richard Bonomo seems much luckier now than when I first met him years ago, but Toque couldn’t say if she were any luckier as the years passed. That is why we decided to create an objective scale of luckiness with luck points.

One luck point = elevator comes right when you call it.

Two luck points = elevator comes before you even call it.

Five luck points = finding a dollar bill on the ground.

Ten luck points = finding a twenty dollar bill on the ground.

One hundred luck points = loving your job.

Five hundred luck points = finding your life partner.

One thousand luck points = winning the lottery.

Feel free to use this to see if you are getting luckier in your life, and let me know the results in the comments section.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Addiction (Holiday Edition)

Thank goodness they have Mass here at the chapel at work! Today is a day of obligation, as I hope at least a few of my readers know, but tonight is our dress rehearsal for the Messiah so I couldn’t make it right after work. Not a problem when there’s a Mass just downstairs!

As my regular readers know, I am something of a rosary aficionado. OK, make that flat-out addict. This point was brought home most decisively when I received a Christmas card in the mail from a group of monks from whom I have bought a number of rosaries this year. How good a customer do you have to be to get a Christmas card? It gets worse. Much worse. Inside the card was an order form for a FREE gift to thank me for being such a loyal customer, and most of the choices were – you guessed it – rosaries. Do they not care at all? How will I ever kick the habit if monks are offering to send me free rosaries in the mail to thank me for buying way too many rosaries?

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hoarse from Handel

Once again this year I am singing in Handel’s Messiah, and the music is so demanding that I get kind of hoarse after every practice. Usually the practices are two grueling hours of singing, but last night there was a one-hour practice that was not mandatory. When I said to my office mate Light Bright that I was thinking of going, she said, “I wouldn’t if I were you. You know the music, and practice always makes you hoarse.” So last night I went home and thought about calling Hardingfele to go work out at the gym, which I really need to do more of, but then I decided it was only an hour practice, how much damage could it do? So I went. Today I am hoarse, and Light Bright said, “You didn’t go to practice, did you?” Not sure why this is happening to my voice. My advanced age? Is my technique bad? Any of my readers who are singers (I know there are a couple of you) are welcome to leave me advice in the comments.

Famous Hat

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wonderful Winter Weekend

This was a fantastic weekend for music. Friday night A-Joz and I went to a Christmas concert, sitting up in the nosebleed seats where we were far above two angels hanging above the stage. Still, I was able to pick out the Fabulous Jackie O in the back row of the choir. Sunday I went to another Christmas concert with Kathbert and Luxuli, this one at Lutheran Cathedral of the West. The university choirs performed the first and last pieces together, surrounding us with a wall of beautiful sound.

It was also a great weekend for games. Both the Packers and the Badgers played in close games where the outcome was far from certain, which made them very exciting. In both cases, they managed come out on top. Yay, teams! The Badgers are now bound for the Rose Bowl, and the Packers remain undefeated.

Saturday night Tiffy and I went to the hookah lounge in the ‘hood for some Mediterranean eats and a hookah before the Badger game. We were surprised that the people at the next table had a child with them, since what about a hookah lounge implies child friendliness? The kid seemed bored out of his mind, but at least his parents weren’t smoking a hookah or, worse yet, letting him smoke one. It reminds me of the time years ago that I saw a woman bring two little kids to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” There’s a reason they show it at midnight, people.

The end of the weekend was just as wonderful, when Luxuli and her husband invited Kathbert and me over for dinner and conversation. I hated to have to leave, but I did have to get to bed in order to wake up (barely) this morning for work.

Famous Hat

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bluebird of Happiness

I just love this, which came in an email from my cousin and is originally from the I Can Has Cheezeburger website:

Angry Birds come to life! But it's OK, I'm not scared - I'm not an evilly laughing pig.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Foreign Language Instruction

I always find it fascinating what phrases our instructors teach us in foreign languages. For example, Toque McToque said she learned how to say “life isn’t fair” in her Spanish class, which led me to wonder about the objectivity of her teacher. Just sayin.’ In Portuguese classes in college, we had a unit on asking people their signs of the zodiac and another one on travel that included the word for hijack. It has always been a great comfort to me to know that if I am ever on a Brazilian airline, I could say, “Good day, my name is Famous Hat, I am a Capricorn, and I am hijacking this airplane.” You never know when that could come in handy.

If you really want to blow your foreign language instructor’s mind, you could do what I did: learn all your German from Bach cantatas and then take a German conversational class. This is a very good idea if you like being asked why your entire German vocabulary seems to consist of 18th century words for Heaven, Hell, Devil, and singing.

As my regular readers no doubt already know, I spent a summer in the Basque area of Spain when I was twenty, and there I learned really practical Basque phrases, like, “How much does this beer cost?” The family I lived with quickly realized that I understood Spanish pretty well, so they talked to me in Spanish when they wanted me to understand and used Basque when they didn’t want me to know what they were saying. However, the only bad words I learned were in Spanish.

In French class we once learned a bad word when our teacher dropped a framed picture of Notre Dame she was showing us, and the glass cracked. She didn’t mean to teach us that word, it just slipped out. It means poop, if you see what I’m saying.

My parents once gave me tapes to learn Gaelic, but then they asked to borrow them back and they will not return them. Every time I ask, they say, “We’re not done with them, and you weren’t really using them anyway, were you?” So the only phrase I know in Gaelic is a dirty one that is probably not on the tapes.

I think everyone should learn a foreign language. I have never heard anyone say, “Man, do I regret all those semesters of French! I could have been learning something really useful instead!” If you want all that French to be useful, just go to France. Or Montreal.

Famous Hat