12/31/05

Bowl Tickets for Under Two Thousand Dollars



Add this to your football classic schedule.

12/30/05

Frozen pizzas delivered



The ice flowing down the Missouri River past downtown Omaha last week was in rounded pieces with turned-up pizza crust edges. Dad and I stood near the sculpture commemorating the contributions of labor unions to Omaha's history, and looked out at the ice. Dad hadn't seen anything like this in his eight decades.



Unfortunately, from a certain angle, it looks like the labor unions are flipping Iowa the bird.

12/29/05

Back to the Bible. O.T.

Back to the library. I've had the good fortune in my lack of fortune to spend several days working at my old library job unsnarling cataloging problems.

People have strange interests and hobbies. I don't understand train and plane spotting or coin collecting. Why someone would collect army tanks (fullsize) is beyond me. Ditto for climbing the highest peak on every continent, Star Trek conventions, and editing Wikipedia.

You will not understand why I enjoy library catalog snarls. Can't explain it myself, except that it uses perserverance, patience, and attention to detail that were rewarded traits in my formative years, along with big doses of bifocal squinting. Cataloging is probably equal parts of nature and nurture and nuttiness.

Cataloging is a very slow game in which the rules change slightly every ten to twenty years. All the participants realize they are tiny workers in the cosmic ant farm. When the Human Genome Project runs out of work, the scientists can search for the markers in classification strands and trace the origin of librarians. Are we all descended from the original Dewey in the Library of Eden (where everyone whispered and no one had sticky fingers)?

So this week I've been cleaning up the Bible. It's a bad job, but somebody's gotta do it, as Noah once said. You could high-center the Ark on the mountain of confusion in the catalog of your town public library's subject heading tangle of O.T. and Old Testament mired in obsolete computer subfields and codes.

The only snarl I can remember worse than Bible headings was A.S.T.M. Originally the American Society for Testing and Materials, now known as ASTM International, it's a voluntary standards development organization which has created thousands of standard test methods by which materials and produced items are tested and evaluated and compared. And I have to add that for each of those thousands of standard test methods there are hundreds of committees, subcommittees, conferences, monographs, and annual reports. Then there are the cross references that lead a searcher through the acronyms and name changes since 1898. All that's needed is the word "begat", and maybe the seven sacks for the seven wives met on the way to St. Ives. In the olden days just after the dinosaurs died out, I used to glare at the card catalog (now obsolete and sorely missed), and think A Serious Thorn in My (backside).

In my hospital volunteer "Candy Striping" days (C.S.D.), I got off work at seven p.m. Dad would pick me up, and about the time I climbed into the '54 Chevy, the peppy theme song for "Back To the Bible" would be playing on the radio. "Back To the Bible" was based in my hometown, and perhaps prepared me in some small measure for my future life in the fundamentalist Bible Belt. On lucky Wednesdays, Dad would drive me to King's for a burger and fries, or a tuna frenchee sandwich (a tuna salad sandwich battered and deep-fried in holy hot grease). All I can remember of the song is:

Back to the Bible
Back to the Bible
The wonderful word of the Lord

A word for today
and a word for tomorrow
The wonderful word of the Lord

Barbie was a Candy Striper. She never got old enough to be a Pink Lady. She never got the library bug, either.

Usage Mangling Time (UMT)

All this time I thought the hour went into a bank to be spent later! A dearly demented friend sent me an explanation this morning (CST):

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Similar examples would be dog walking time or book reading time. Since saving is a verb describing a single type of activity, the form is singular.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable.

My earliest association with Daylight Savings Time is with catching fireflies in mayonaise jars in the backyard. An evening spent catching lightning bugs in a jar would be a Light Savings Time. We thought the fireflies would be bedtime nightlights. Those easy-going barefoot twilights might have been early in Nebraska's standardized application of DST. I don't know, but President Lyndon Johnson signed The Uniform Time Act into law in 1966. Maybe what this country needs now is a Uniform Marshmallow Roasting Act.

Marshmallow is commonly misspelled marshmellow. Nice idea, but wrong. The Online Etymology Dictionary reports:

marshmallow
O.E. mersc-mealwe "kind of mallow plant (Althea officinalis) which grows near salt marshes." The confection was originally (1884) made from paste from the roots of this plant.

"Althea" is one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs. Check out The Annotated "Althea". May it chase the Little Drummer Boy, Rummy, and Cheney right out of your head. Here are the lyrics:

I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction
Althea told me upon scrutiny
my back might need protection

I told Althea that treachery
was tearin me limb from limb
Althea told me: now cool down boy -
settle back easy Jim

You may be Saturday's child all grown
moving with a pinch of grace
You may be a clown in the burying ground
or just another pretty face
You may be the fate of Ophelia
sleeping and perchance to dream -
honest to the point of recklessness
self centered to the extreme

Ain't nobody messin with you but you
your friends are getting most concerned -
loose with the truth
maybe it's your fire
but baby...don't get burned
When the smoke has cleared, she said,
that's what she said to me:
You're gonna want a bed to lay your head
and a little sympathy

There are things you can replace
and others you cannot
The time has come to weigh those things
this space is getting hot -
you know this space is getting hot

I told Althea I'm a roving sign -
that I was born to be a bachelor -
Althea told me: Ok that's fine -
So now I'm out trying to catch her

Can't talk to me without talking to you
We're guilty of the same old thing
Talking a lot about less and less
And forgetting the love we bring

Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia.

12/28/05

Homegrown tech support

A geek in the house is worth two in India.
Confucius,
or maybe Aesop


My 2006 New Year's wishes for all of you are simple:


  • May your computer only crash or "get laggy" when your twenty-ish children are home for the holidays. Call it a scheduled meltdown with help at the ready (drinking IBC root beer and leaving oil spots* on the driveway). Call it deliverance from dueling antivirus programs.

  • May you never have to watch "Dukes of Hazzard" reruns down at the Firestone while your tire is being fixed.

The oil spot probably won't be sold on eBay. It does look a bit like Huey Freeman in the Boondocks comic strip.

12/25/05

The Circle Game

There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through...
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
... Joni Mitchell


These images are from my parents' basement where dust motes float in sunbeams. Winter light from the window wells is a gift of the season when we are attentive.

12/24/05

Six half-price placemats

...five napkin rings. Just when I thought it was safe to go shopping, to just zip into Mervyn's store closing sale for major bargain reconnaissance, the four calling birds winged me. It wasn't Muzak's fault, or even that darn singing reindeer wreath in the Kroger check-out lane. I suffered my attack of Little Drummer Boy syndrome in the completely unmusicated housewares department. Now I'm stuck with a continuous mental loop of The Twelve Days, and the only thing worse is pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.

Just thought I'd share!! Isn't that what Christmas is all about??

Jigsaws, yardsticks, and quiltblocks




Dad and I spent an afternoon trying to remember the businesses in Pierce, Nebraska, and their locations along Main Street. Recollections set off by a whiff of sawdust let me find the hardware store of my dreams. Not that I dream of owning a hardware store, but that this particular hardware store image has popped up in dreams for as long as I can remember.

The dream glimpse is full of dustmotes in the sunbeam coming from a high window, giving the interior a pixie dust magic. There are just two aisles down the lenghth of the store, and in the center is the stack of galvanized buckets and tubs. The left wall is covered with little drawers for all the different sizes of nails, screws, bolts, hinges, and other bits of hardware. Above the main floor is a mezzanine.

It took a meandering trip through our combined memory lanes to get to this satisfying solution. We began at Steinkraus General Store, which I usually avoided on my childhood strolls because it smelled funny. We added the Rexall Drug with its display of comic books in the south window, and the Cones State Bank on the corner with the one traffic light fairly easily. The gas station with the water fountain by the sidewalk was never in doubt. The Co-op and Creamery were around the corner from the bank. The Council Oak grocery store was caddycorner on the block with the butcher shop, and the Gamble's store that later became Pamida. The picture show was across the street from Steinkraus. Confusing our trip were the different locations of German's Market in the Thirties and the Sixties, and the construction of a new Post Office on Court Street. We slowly added in Dr. Deaver's office in the little gray house, the grain elevators, the depot, the lumber yard, Dairy Sweet, taverns, cafes, newspaper offices, Chevy dealer, and blacksmith.

Dad surprised me with the news that he had written up the football games for one Pierce newspaper. Since he was the PHS team manager, he had all the stats.

We finally determined that my dream hardware store was a real store at the east end of Main Street near the tracks and the post office. It was Lundak's Hardware at one point, and Magdanz Hardware at a different time. The mezzanine level was for the undertaker. The puzzle pieces are in place.

12/23/05

Sad Holiday Note

Parker Station Cafe at the corner of Alma and Parker in Plano has been a favorite breakfast spot for my family since we moved here in 1990. Naturally, when my oldest arrived for the Christmas break, the two of us wanted to go to Parker Station to celebrate.

Ratsafrats!

The door is covered with hand-written notes from Crystal the waitress saying how much she misses everybody, and from the management saying "We are closed due to circumstances." There are notices about who owns the waffle makers and dishwashing equipment inside the cafe.

My sons, my dad, and myself are all sad "due to circumstances." If your town has a friendly locally-owned cafe, please go there and have the breakfast special for us! And if you happen to know the origin of the word "ratsafrats", I'd love to hear about it.

12/15/05

Fresh Ink

This year's coveted Golden CollageMamaDrama Award goes to Dallas Theater Center's Fresh Ink for the outstanding staged reading of Denis Johnson's "Psychos Never Dream". This free event last Monday evening knocked my yellow gox box socks off. The writing was tight, profound, powerful, and hilarious-- Sophocles meets the Coen brothers. The cast* was extremely strong, and the experience was theater boiled down to the essential characterization through voice, physicalization, expression, rhythm, and timing. Fresh Ink productions have no set, no props, and next-to-no costuming.

I work with small children. If there is a loose thread in a sock, or a snag in the rug, they will pull on it and be unable to concentrate. If one child adjusts the velcro strap on a shoe, the carefully woven classroom chemistry will disintegrate. If there's a loose corner on the wallpaper, the children will pull at it until the room is a disaster. It is difficult to explain the art concept of form.

Form is when an art work has no velcro shoe strap! This staged reading was so perfectly constructed and executed there was not the tiniest chance of unraveling. Seventy-two hours later, I'm still held in it's orbit. That's gravity!



Notable Mentions for the 2005 Golden CollageMamaDrama Award:

Second Thought Theater's "Wonder of the World" by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Theatre Three's production of "Going to St. Ives" by Lee Blessing.


Wingspan Theatre Company's "Blind Date" by Horton Foote presented as part of the Festival of Independent Theatres (FIT).


*Psychos Never Dream cast
Critter--Raphael Perry
Floyd--Bruce DuBose
Red--Tina Parker
Sarah--Sally Vahle
Man's Voice--Lee Trull

BRAVO!!!

I like to box.
How I like to box!
So, every day,
I box a Gox.
In yellow socks

I box a Gox.
I box in yellow
Gox box socks.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
Dr. Seuss

12/11/05

Nice runners, bad coverage

Dallas' premier running event, the White Rock Marathon, usually known as The Rock was run this morning by thousands of runners. Runners come to the Metroplex for the event from all over the world, or from just down your street. About 4000 runners do the 26.2 mile marathon through lovely parts of Dallas, and the rest run the half-marathon or the five-member team relays.

After volunteering at the timing chip testing station for two days, I had greeted a big chunk of those runners, and wished them a good race. In two days, I met one (1) grumpy runner. The rest were polite, and easily amused. As they waved their timing chip above the scanner, they were stunned by the technology that instantly brought up their name, age, hometown, and race number on the computer screen. For many it seemed to be an official acknowledgement that whatever their time was on Sunday, they had already done something major by committing to the race and being disciplined in their training. "Sweet!" "Bingo!" "That would be me!" Spouses were proud of each other. Children were proud of parents, age twenty-five to seventy.

WFAA (Channel 8) coverage of The Rock was new this year. The t.v. show seemed to think viewers were only concerned about which man and woman won $12,000 in their divisions, and which handicapped runner completed the Hummer-sponsored Cooper Gender Challenge to win $25,000. I bet you could count on ten fingers the viewers who wanted to hear George Mason University coach Juli Henner's opinions about the decisions leading up to the Cooper Challenge handicap figure for the elite women. Nothing against Frank Shorter, but I wanted to see REAL LIVE PARTICIPANTS more than hear a pivotal figure in the sport analyze the history of modern marathons. I wanted to see coverage of all the elite runners finishing, of the enormous mass of runners at the starting line, coverage of outstanding local runners, and footage of runners passing the aid stations with live music.

My mom would have been so annoyed. This is what frustrated her about golf tournament coverage. It's all talking heads analysis, commercials (the same ones over and over), speeches by pompous corporate sponsors, the requisite athletes' visit to hospitalized children, and allegedly heart-warming stories of people overcoming adversity (or obesity) to compete. Thank heaven when I watched the NCAA mens soccer championship match on ESPN2 this afternoon there was coverage of the play, not coverage of the sportscasters.

12/8/05

Hot-Air George

Dubya gave us Speech Two of his plan for victory in Iraq this week. Condi explained how torture was illegal under U.S. law. Don't you feel better? I love a good story or fairy tale after some milk and cookies.

"Reconstruction has not always gone as well as we had hoped," Mr. Bush said, in an admission that paralleled his concession last week, in the first of four speeches laying out his Iraq strategy, that the United States had not properly armed and trained Iraqis to resist insurgents. --NY Times 12/08/05



I want our soldiers, heck, all the soldiers of the whole dang Coalition of the Willing, to be home by New Years. They are risking their lives daily for Dubya's Web of Evil Deceits. What really bothers me, as a mother and a citizen, though, is the big mess the U.S. has created in Iraq. Who is going to clean up this mess? I look the part of Mama Bear, I'm disgusted enough, and I could probably find a big enough box, but I can't just stomp in and throw the whole mess in a box. When you make a mess, you are responsible for cleaning it up. My mama told me so. Didn't Barbara ever mention it?

Better Together
Buy The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room and The Berenstain Bears and the Truth by Stan & Jan Berenstain today!


Buy Together Today: $6.50 --Such a deal, George! Better than the story about the goat.

I do wish Stan and Jan could have a session with Brother George and Sister Condi!

Working up a sweat

Yeehaw! It's a Snow Day in the Metroplex! The streets are icy, and it's about eighteen degrees. Nice and sunny, and not much wind.

Since I knew last night that today's classes were cancelled, I didn't wake up until nine, mostly to the noise of icicles falling and squirrels galumphing on the roof. Stayed under the blankets until I admitted defeat by the NYTimes crossword puzzle. The condo seemed so cold and drafty.

Capri pants weather is officially over when we have the first ice storm. It's time for the closet switch. Capri pants to the back. Winter pants and fat pants to the front for the official trying-on. What works, what fits, what zips?! It's a lot like jumping jacks, and I feel lots warmer now.

12/7/05

1433 Q Street

Dad was a young college student at the University of Nebraska in 1941, about the age of my youngest son. He first heard about Pearl Harbor at his boarding house near the campus. That is on his mind tonight.

Difficult to imagine, but when Dad was living in that boarding house he would mail his dirty laundry to his mom. She would mail it back clean and folded, with homemade cookies tucked into the box. What a different world!

This is what Grandma's house looks like now, but in those days it was surrounded by tall, gracious elms, spirea bushes, and hosta. The porch floor was painted gray, not covered in outdoor carpet escaped from a miniature golf course.

Grandma was a fabulous cook. She could womp up a "midnight lunch" more satisfying and fun than you can possibly imagine. When I was small, my sister and I always slept in the Pink Bedroom next to her dining room when we visited. No matter what time I was sent to bed, I would keep myself awake so I could eavesdrop on the adults' conversation and stories during "midnight lunch". Sometimes I would sneak out of bed to open the door just a crack. If it was warm, I would be listening to the bugs and small town night sounds through the open window, so it was very difficult to wait up. I had to make up stories about the porcelain figurines on the dresser to stay awake. The porcelain bride and groom would dance on the lace doily, circling the hairbrush. The bride would sing a song with the words in the frame on the wall.

It's easy enough to be pleasant
when life goes by like a song,
but the man worthwhile
is the man with a smile
when everything goes dead wrong.

Don't make me put on Midge's mittens!

We had a bit of wintery precipitation on Wednesday. It got a bit cold, although where I grew up it would have been considered a heat wave.

The local t.v. stations switched to non-stop weather coverage. Reporters haven't had enough chances to stand on street corners and exit ramps and yell into microphones since Katrina and Rita. There's a risk they could lose their skills. This time they informed me that I should "drive more slowly than normal", and "not follow too closely". Most profound, I should "stock up on toilet paper". For a one day ice storm?

Weather Doll Midge will need a change of attire for the winter. I may still have her red and gold ice-skating dress.


I spy with my little eye something that is icy. How on earth did the homesteaders survive without tv weather and Doppler radar? Those poor people had to walk outside to see what was happening! They had to use common sense and caution when deciding about travel. They had to take a shovel, a blanket, and sand along.



Lots of memories this week of time spent reading Berenstain Bears books to my sons. We all need a refresher course about Too Much TV. Maybe curl up and read how Laura and Mary twisted hay to burn during the Long Winter when they ran out of coal. Sure hope they stocked up on toilet paper!

Hot-Air Henry

My youngest spent last weekend volunteering at Gallup's Redrock Balloon Rally. His reward was a ride in a hot-air balloon on a cold-weather day. Eleven degrees! His balloon photos are way down at the bottom of his photo album webpage.

This photo really speaks to my current life. I've let go of the draglines, and my sons begin their ascents. Sometimes I'm the one up in the balloon looking down on the highways and interchanges of their lives. Which direction will they go? Will they merge carefully? Are their seatbelts buckled?

Other times I'm the clueless land-bound driver gawking up at those glowing bubbles floating on invisible thermals I can't begin to understand. The world they will live in, the world they will help create, is a leap beyond what I can imagine.

Read my little students Mary Calhoun's wonderful story, Hot-Air Henry, today to set us off on a snowy project. Yowl-meow! My sons are high-flying cats!

12/6/05

Baby Jeff and Baby Katie

Sometimes I get mixed up. I sort e-mails into my Trash bin instead of into my Recycling folder. Maybe I should rename the Recycling folder "Condo Waste Diversion". Then Trash could be called "Deep Six".

These days I push wheely recycling carts around the condo complex. Recalling a hot day in 1983 or '84 when my college buddy and I pushed our stroller babies around the UNL campus. How did Baby Jeff and Baby Katie become grad students?? They were just playing in the red wagon, and out in the inflated wading pool!

Conditions not favorable for mosquitoes

Forecast covers a broad range of mosquito types. Specific mosquito
species may be more or less active than the overall forecast,
depending on weather conditions or time of day.


Trying to find out if my morning drive will include sleet, and Weather.com gave me this very helpful insight. I'll be wishing my species could be less active if we actually get a winter storm overnight. Thought I'd have to turn on the air conditioner last Saturday when we had a record high of eighty-nine degrees.

Forty years ago last weekend I rode a saucer sled down an elevated iced run sculpted by the teenage boy next door. I went flying over a retaining wall and clonked my nose on the edge of the metal sled. Not to be gross, but I held an aluminum foil pie pan under my nose while it bled for a couple hours. Conditions were not favorable for mosquitoes that day either.

Tomorrow I will read Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening" to a class about to create cool color metallic constructions. They will be using aluminum foil pie pans from Mrs. Smith. There's much to do to for class preparation:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Frost wrote "The Road Not Taken" ninety years ago, a full fifty years before my saucer sled exhilaration led to the lifelong aggravations of a deviated septum.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.


Thank heavens. Knowing I'll be safe from mosquitoes has made all the difference!

12/5/05

Younger than springtime by geologic standards



The Buick is a mess. My car hasn't looked this bad since Mt. St. Helens erupted awhile back. Windblown dirt last week coated it, and was followed by sprinkles of rain. This created grubby leopard spots, reminiscent of the flocked foil wallpaper popular in the 1970's. No time to wash or wax, as I'm still trying to find the sweet spot in the wiring for the driver's side rear turn signal.

Huh? What's that you're saying?

The big Mt. St. Helens eruption that dusted vehicles in Nebraska with volcanic ash was twenty-five years ago???? Half my life ago!? Are you sure?

KENNETH CHANG wrote about Mt. St. Helens in the New York Times of November 29th. I'd kind of forgotten that Mt. St. Helens has been erupting in a fairly low-key way for a couple years now. Geologists are surprised that this slow-mo eruption has occurred so soon after the 1980 biggie.

What is twenty-five years in the geologic time scheme? A blink of an eye or less. What forces are at work? Those way beyond our ken, to use a crossword puzzle word. We are each just a sniffle or an itch on the Major Cosmic Time Line. If you feel really self-important, maybe you rate a wink. Mt. St. Helens, Pompeii, and Krakatoa are just the self-conscious zit-fussing of Geologic Adolescents.

The forces moving continental plates, whether designed or impressively self-motivated, grind along steadily, unenthused by our ridiculous religious squabbles.

Small self-serving minds do not wish to consider such large time-frames. Ethics, responsibility, conservatorship, and stargazing wonder are so totally out of style in the Era of Dubya. Perhaps the current powers that be will be surprised when swallowed in a tar pit of their own deceits, asphyxiated in an ashfall of their own rhetoric, or swept away by the melting glacier of their arrogance.

Igneous MagmaMama suggests we ought not sit here sedimentarily while layers of wisdom are buried under the silt of lies mixed with aggregates of excuses and broken promises. It's time to apply heat and pressure to cause transformation. You may be whichever Metamorphic Power Ranger you prefer!



Younger than springtime, are you
Softer than starlight, are you,
Warmer than winds of June,
Are the gentle lips you gave me.
Gayer than laughter, are you,
Sweeter than music, are you,
Angel and lover, heaven and earth,
Are you to me.

12/4/05

Scale

SCALE The relative size of an object when compared to others of its kind, to its environment, or to humans.

Who am I?
My name is Ned.
I do not like
my little bed.
This is no good.
This is not right.
My feet stick out
of bed all night.
And when I pull them in,
Oh, dear!
My head sticks out of bed
up here!

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss

How do kids learn the concept of scale? How can we teach it? When should we introduce it in art class?

Had an interesting discussion with my students ages 6-10 about scale and making the relative sizes of things agree Thursday afternoon. My efforts to explain the concept verbally were total failures. I couldn't even "get it" myself, so how could they?

Because my younger classes were doing a fish collage, I have been reading A Fish Out of Water for a week. This is one of the few books that I am just as delighted to read aloud the eighteenth time as the first. (I especially like adding sound effects!) You remember the story. A boy feeds his fish too much. The fish grows and grows, as the boy keeps trying to put it in a large enough container. Thank heaven Mr. Carp is able to save the day!


The kids (and I) get the concept best when an image has a scale problem. Showed them some funny magazine ads--a stinky sneaker dwarfing a living room chair, a woman appearing to pick an apple bigger than the planet Jupiter from an orchard tree, a high-heeled shoe taller than the Eiffel Tower, a man golfing on a lily pad.

How could a shoe be taller than a building? The kids patiently explained that a photographer had photos of shoes and of buildings. The photographer cut out the images and pasted them together to make the picture. "That would be a collage like the one we made last time," they told me. Whoa, skippy. I was impressed.

How else could we make that picture? One student took off his shoe. I moved the papier mache jaguar to the far end of the hallway. We took turns laying our heads down on the rug to squint past the stinky shoe to see the teeny jaguar jumping out of the giant shoe.



The first time Barbie invited Tiny Tears and my Gordie doll over to her Dream House for shish kabobs I got an inkling of scale. That would have been in first grade. About fourth-fifth grade kids get interested in scale models and train sets. I'm not sure they really grasp the concept before then.

ChexMama/ChipMama

I don't just feel like a winner because the tiles are still sticking to the shower wall. I won a competition among the Indiana grad student residence hall supervisors for Mom's Best Chex Mix, with my version known as Kris Kringle Krunch. Plus, I'm getting ready to volunteer at the chip check station for The Rock Marathon's Fitness Expo next weekend. Have fun and get a free t-shirt? What a deal.

After their Thanksgiving visits my sons needed extra carry-on bags for hauling their Krunch back to campus. Krunch is how college sons know their mommy still loves them!

I offered to wear a t-shirt marked "Chip Dip" while manning the chip testing mat at the Expo. The volunteer coordinator politely suggested I could be a "Chip Chick". This sobriquet reminded me less of a Hooter's gal than of that legendary woodchuck chucking wood. I think I'll just call myself the "Chip Mama".

Chip dip always meant stirring one package of dry Good Season's dressing mix into a pint of sour cream. Serve with Fritos and Fresca!

I am loathe to give up my winning Chex Mix recipe, but I will offer a few hints:

This is not a microwave recipe. Good things take time!

The Cheerios, Corn Chex, and Rice Chex may be replaced with store brands, but don't tamper with the Wheat Chex.

Frito Lay is a major employer in my Dallas suburb, so I use Rold Gold pretzel rods or tiny twists. Mister Salty disappeared from our grocery shelves years ago.

Add only the nuts your family likes.

Don't use the lowest price oleo. Spend a little bit more for a better result.

Melt the oleo in a big bowl in the microwave.

Stir the Lawry's Seasoned Salt, garlic powder, and Worchestershire sauce into the melted oleo.

Preheat the oven to 250, even if Great Aunt Neuralgia says 200 degrees.

Contemporary snackers are accustomed to more spicy flavors than your Great Aunt Neuralgia. Add cumin, Tabasco, cayenne, paprika, more garlic, cilantro, and sage to the oleo mix.

Put all the cereals and nuts in big roasters.

Drizzle the oleo/spice mix over the cereal mixes in the roasters.

Use a Rubbermaid spoon-shaped spatula to mix up the ingredients.

Bake in the 250 oven 2.5 hours uncovered, stirring every half hour with the rubber spatula.

Be sure to taste-test every time you stir!

After 2.5 hours, turn the oven off, and leave the roasters in the oven until morning.*

In the morning, scoop the Krunch into large and small containers. Cover tightly. Put some in the freezer.

Always tell the postal worker that you are mailing Chex Mix as a survival kit to your college kid. It seems to brighten their day, and keeps them from being disgruntled.

*Do not trust this step to a male spouse or family member. My ex turned the oven to BROIL instead of OFF. When I returned home with my children the house was filled with smoke, and the Chex Mix was cremated.

Carbon 14 dating is not an online service for middle-aged singles, but maybe it shoud be.

Who do you read?

Last couple of weeks I've read books by two of my favorite authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, age 78, and E. L. Doctorow, now 74. The March.

I guess I go for older guys. George MacDonald Fraser is 79, and his wonderful creation, Sir Harry Flashman was born in 1822. Don DeLillo is about seventy. Just two young pups, Ron Hansen was born in Omaha in 1947, and Carl Hiaasen is only 52. My dad and I share our birthday with Ted Kooser, who is 66.

Bo Diddley is 77.

I walk 47 miles of barbed wire,
I use a cobra-snake for a necktie,
I got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made from rattlesnake hide,
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of a human skull,
Now come on take a walk with me, Arlene,
And tell me, who do you love?

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?


Who do you read?

Don't know what it means, but my favorite female authors are close to my age. Louise Erdrich is 51. Barbara Kingsolver and Steph Kallos are fifty, which is a whole lot younger than it used to be.

Edgar Laurence Doctorow is a pretty scary name for a boy born during the Great Depression. The March is interesting, but less memorable than Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and my favorite World's Fair.

Love In the Time of Cholera is still my favorite by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I can't imagine his books as plays or movies. I hope they will become compelling, steamy, magical, modern and timeless operas!

12/2/05

Robert's Rules Radio Soap Opera

Pledge drives drive me to other radio stations. Say it louder: Pledge drives drive me to other radio stations. I can't hear you! Hey, Public Radio! PLEDGE DRIVES DRIVE ME TO OTHER STATIONS!

Dear Terry Gross,

I enjoy your program, Fresh Air. I can only listen to it on Wednesdays. The trouble is, KERA had so many pledge drives that I started listening to the Dallas City Council meetings on WRR,101.1 fm on Wednesday mornings.

The City Council meetings, held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month, are broadcast live from 9:00 A.M. through their conclusion if earlier than 6:00 P.M., or through 6:00 P.M. (subject to change).

Terry, I love that Dallas Mayor Laura Miller knows her Robert's Rules of Order, or at least has a good parliamentarian by her side. Robert's is the K-Y Jelly of business meetings :

Why is parliamentary procedure important? It is important because it's a time tested method of conducting business at meetings and public gatherings. It can be adapted to fit the needs of any organization. Today, Robert's Rules of Order newly revised is the basic handbook of operation for most organizations from congresses to clubs, so it's important that everyone know these basic rules.



Even if only a few of the people in attendance at a meeting actually understand the intricacies of parliamentary procedure, everyone is reassured that there is an underlying structure for the meeting. If there's structure, then everyone feels safer. They sense they will have a chance to speak without interruption, and without fear of personal attack. They sense the presence of a civilizing force and generally try to live up to it. Church boards, student organizations, Model United Nations , babysitting co-ops, and parent-teacher organizations all use Robert's Rules with success in my personal experience.

Maybe because people listen and watch so many programs with confrontational styles of interviews and panel discussions, they expect and behave with that style at meetings of all types. Lately the U. S. House of Representatives has gotten pretty close to a Jerry Springer Show segment. Then we have the splendid example of Dick Cheney presiding as president of the Senate offering barnyard anatomically impossible suggestions to Patrick Leahy. The Dallas City Council meetings could easily cross into that pattern if it weren't for the strong parliamentary structure. Instead of everyone yelling obscenities at once, order allows each participant to sound as knowledgeable, foolish, self-serving, or arrogant as they really are at the microphone. That the mike occasionally picks up the Mayor's muttered asides is just gravy. It's good radio drama and comedy.

I don't vote or even live in Dallas. I just listen for the entertainment value, Terry. It's so much more fun than a pledge drive.

Wish my condo association would practice a little Oil of Robert's to smooth the meetings. As soon as the president erroneously asks for a motion to call the meeting to order, I get a gavel-pounding headache. After that, all pretense of structure falls away. People ages 25-93 imitate Dick Cheney over earth-shaking issues of pooper-scooping and tree-trimming.

If you don't hunker down in a secret vice presidential bunker somewhere, but need to live in the world with other humans, parliamentary procedure is one of the most useful foreign languages you can pick up. There are dummy and idiot guides at the bookstore. You can get a quick guide to chairing a meeting or more detailed instructions on-line. Maybe there are even audio lessons for learning while you drive!

11/30/05

Aquaculture with spangles and sequins


This week we are making "Fancy Fish" collages. The photos are from the first day teaching the project, and many of the later pieces have tighter compositions and richer contrasts. Later in the week the less obvious background fabrics yielded more intriguing compositions.

Every piece is a celebration of the contributions of materials by friends, family, and business. The backgrounds are upholstery fabric samples from an architect. The fish shapes are cut from gorgeous Indian saris that had seen better days. The blue sponge/foam rectangles are from a Raytheon WASTE giveaway. The trims are from the Bridge Club Ladies, and friends of my Dad's. The seashells are from someone's vacation at the beach. The graduation tassels are from another art teacher afflicted by the amassing virus!

The glue is SOBO, shaken not stirred. We are talking about big ideas vs. tiny details, planning, and gluing techniques to avoid seriously sticky fingers.



11/28/05

The Ice Storm Survey

Through the email miracle of forwarding friend-of-a-friend tidbits, I got hooked into pondering the choices of books and games I would make in case of a prolonged power outage due to a Dallas ice storm. This is a variation of the mental games I've played most of my life, "Fantasy Dinner Party Guests", and "Stranded on a Desert Isle".

The premise is you are house-bound without electricity for a few days after a big storm. What books would you want to have if you were alone, if you were reading aloud with someone, and if you were ten years old (limit two per category)? What games would you want in those same categories?

I had the great good fortune, as I see it now, to grow up in a place where blizzards and snow days were a feature of every winter. We didn't lose power often, but diversions back in those olden days were far less dependent on electricity than now. We had batteries for the transistor radio. I didn't actually write on a slate by the light of a candle like Abraham Lincoln.

During a blizzard, we listened to the weather. Not the weather report on the transistor, but the howl, swirl, and shriek of the wind, the creaking of the very cold house, and the sleet hitting the windows. There are few things more satisfying than being wrapped up in a comforter made by your grandma, listening to the weather, and rereading your favorite book, knowing it doesn't matter when you get to sleep because school is already called off for tomorrow. Possibly one of the few things that are more satisfying is a rowdy game of Yahtzee with all your cabin-feverish family and any friends who bravely tromped through the drifts for a visit and some excellent homemade sugar cookies!

If you beg me, I will share my choices. If you share yours, I will forward them to the friend-of-a-friend without your name or email address. It's a fun thing to ponder, even if it is still warm enough to wear shorts and flipflops in Dallas.
_____________________________________________________________
Does anyone have luck with the Blogger "Search This Blog"? Does it ever yield results?

11/27/05

Cassiopeia: The Queen



Cassiopeia was the mother of Andromeda and the wife of Cepheus, the Ethiopian King of Joppa. The Romans believed this striking W-shaped constellation was Cassiopeia, chained to her throne as a punishment for her vain boastfulness. I'd like to chain W to his throne as punishment for his vain boastfulness and blind arrogance, but that's a different constellation.

Back in the Sixties, I visited the Mueller Planetarium Sky Show at the University of Nebraska State Museum. At the little gift counter (museum gift shops not having reached their full bloom in those days), I purchased two constellation postcards that looked quite Peter Max. I may still have them in a box somewhere. One constellation was Cassiopeia. I just liked saying "Cassiopeia". It's almost as good as LMNOPO:


Elemenopeo is a very cute book for teaching art, but it's not a constellation.


These are the very cool new constellation postage stamps. If I put them on envelopes addressed to nieces and nephews, maybe they will grow up intrigued about constellations or Cassiopeia. If nothing else, you can't do the crossword puzzles without Orion!

Thanks to my Blog Muse, I have mog blues--plenty of blue Christmas lights. Had the boys help untangle them while they were home. My youngest is a big fan of Old Blue Eyes. You may also want to croon Blue Moon while desnarling:

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon
You know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

11/26/05

They came, they showered, they conquered

Veni, vishy-vashy, vici!
Slowly emerging from my Oscar The Grout shower repair irritability. Looks like the tiles are going to stay on the wall. The sons have subjected them to three or four lengthy showers, and so far so good.

For the first day or so they were home the sons had to use the downstairs shower, so they descended wearing bath towel togas. Et tu, shampoo? I would like to show you the funny photos of a vintage toga troll doll, and of Homer Simpson wearing a towel. You ought to click these links, but don't lose the grip on your towel.

One son has uncharacteristic short spiked hair styled with "pomade" this visit. The other looks like a lean woolly mammoth. How I do love the Online Etymology Dictionary!

pomade 1562, from M.Fr. pommade "an ointment," from It. pomata, from pomo "apple," from L. pomum "fruit, apple," so called because the original ointment recipe contained mashed apples.
smarmy "ingratiating, unctuous," 1924, from smarm "to behave in a flattering way" (1920), variant of colloquial smalm, smawm (1847) "to smear, bedaub" (the hair, with pomade) of unknown origin.

I remember when these guys styled their hair by bedaubing it with Gerber applesauce:


I have to laugh at the photo where I'm about to give my youngest a bath in the kitchen sink. My sweatshirt says, "I Survived." The sentiment still fits even if the shirt's too small!

11/25/05

RENT

Do high school English classes still read Romeo and Juliet then West Side Story, and assign that "compare and contrast" essay? Of course the inserted question is do high school English classes actually assign reading at all? My kids still slogged through Great Expectations and Dostoyevsky, but many classes watched videos instead of reading books. I wonder if the video of Miss Haversham's wedding cake is half as creepy as the one I've imagined for over thirty years.

I grew up listening to Broadway musical LPs and 78rpm recordings. I read the synopsis on the record jacket, and imagined a play in my head while lounging on the living room carpet. It was a primitive existence, I know. Sometimes I would go into my cave and paint pictures on the wall by torch light...


In high school my best friend was obsessed with the musical "Grease". We listened to her LP of the Broadway show over and over until we could sing along with all the words. She told me about the show she saw in New York, but I mostly made up my imaginary production. When we saw a touring Broadway production at Lincoln's Pershing Auditorium, it was great fun, but we did not sing along. I never did see the Olivia Newton John movie version. That was probably because I was so disappointed in the Julie Andrew's "Sound of Music" movie compared with the touring Broadway show I had seen with my grandma at Lincoln's old Stuart Theater.

The newspapers are filled with reviews and discussions of movie musicals this week with the opening of "RENT". I will add my two cents worth! I got free passes to a preview screening Monday night because I vaguely knew the play was based on Puccini's "La Boheme". I wanted to do the old "compare and contrast" essay. It's a sickness. Post Lincoln East High School Essay Stress Disorder, we'll call it.

Beyond "La Boheme", I didn't know much about "RENT" except that the Broadway musical was very popular. I was sort of busy in the mid-90s being a single mom, teaching art, sewing costumes for childrens' plays, and trying to pay rent. Guess I missed that the musical was about AIDS and junkies. Didn't realize the screening would be filled with high school students belonging to a sort of RENT cult, way beyond our "Grease" obsession. They were pouring out of the cars in the cineplex parking lot, then popping their trunks for more friends to jump out.

Because it was a free screening, we sat in the theater for an hour plus before the show, through singing contests, radio dj appearances, and t-shirt giveaways. We had a looooonnnnnngggg time to observe the RENT fanatics around us. So much energy, earnestness, insecurity, hormones, enthusiasm, and need to push against authority! Within five minutes I had a raging pep rally headache. Thank heaven the audience couldn't stomp on the bleachers.

Bleachers. Now it connects. Lincoln East won the state class A basketball tournament in 1971. My friends and I were rabid supporters of the Spartans, but anti-rah rah Pep Club. We called ourselves Hardhats, and wore real metal construction hardhats painted in the school colors. We stomped on bleachers and yelled ourselves hoarse for the Spartans. I even made surprisingly accurate continuous line drawings and wire sculptures of the individual team members. Fanaticism. Energy. Enthusiasm. Insecurity. Rebellion. Earnestness. Hormones, even.

Not knowing the Broadway show or the music, "RENT" had to stand on its own merits for me. These are my beefs:
1. Apparently the songs have lyrics. We couldn't tell. The music is very loud, and no words are discernible. At "La Boheme" there are supertitles to read, and this movie needs them, too.
2. The cast looked like a reunion of "Saved by the Bell". Too old for their parts, but too scrubbed into fresh-faced perkiness. They don't look urban, let alone like poor, starving, ill, junkie artists. Reminded me of those old dancing Dr. Pepper t.v. commercials. Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?
3. I was not enticed to give a damn about any of the characters. Not intrigued, enthralled, empathetic. I pretty much wanted to slap all of them, and tell them to quit pretending. They aren't adults. They aren't artists. They aren't adolescents. They aren't suffering. They aren't shocking. They aren't making a statement. They don't even pretend to look cold.
4. The set looks like a plastic sanitized-for-your-convenience slum theme amusement park. You must be this tall to ride this ride.

I did like the dancing. I got one tiny lump in my throat remembering a real life friend and his horrible AIDS suffering.

Jesse McKinley's NYTimes search for the RENT locales in the East Village made me realize the movie is a nostalgic version of a time, place, and issue. Nostalgia and edginess can't coexist.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...