Ballet legs and back dolphins

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Go with the flow.
Be one with the chlorine.

Get in touch with your inner mermaid.



Thank heaven for the written tests of my Phys. Ed. years. How satisfying to know the rules of tennis, basketball, volleyball, golf, field hockey, and softball! Without the opportunity to ace those tests and counter my failing skills tests, I never would have passed P.E. You would think I'd have nightmares about being an AARP member trapped forever in junior high gym class wearing a dorky light blue bloomer gymsuit with my name written in laundry marker on the pocket. Instead, I'm trapped in Viking Navigation.

Physical fitness is a fabulous idea, especially when balanced with the concept of "recess". Kids need to experience organized sports, but it is essential that they have time to run, stretch, and create their own games. The social and physical benefits acquired while playing jacks and jumping rope are equal to any adult-led league/trophy sport. Does a child learn more hanging from his knees and pretending the jungle gym is an apartment building for gorillas, space aliens, pirates, and princesses or by wearing a batting helmet and pounding ants with her baseball bat in a chain-link dugout?

All of my personal highlights reels occurred in the Wonder Bread years. Since I believed that Lyndon Johnson would personally review my performance, I trained to stun my P.E. teacher in both the sit-up and pull-up events of the President's Physical Fitness tests. When I actually caught a fly ball in deep, deep, deep center field, the entire addled isxth grade class had to be scraped off the playground with spatulas.

My friend will be having extensive kidney tests in the morning. When I send positive vibes, they keep swimming out of their groovy cosmic Age of Aquarius lanes. The first motel swim pool in my childhood memory was a kidney-shaped pool in Topeka. The sky was gray and heading toward lightning. My swimsuit was a one-piece shrimp pink and coral "bubble suit". My bathing cap had a cluster of color-coordinated sea-anemone rubber flowers and an irritating chinstrap.

Please visualize your kidneys as twin swimming pools with perfectly synchronized swimmers backstroking in lovely sequinned costumes and aquafabulosa headware! Add a halo of tiny bubbles.

Requirements of synchronized swimming include wearing a noseclip and a hair bun, which is kept in place with unflavored Knox gelatin. When one is truly in the white light and the flow, it is easy to perform ballet legs, back dolphins, and other cosmic synchro routines.

1531, "act of receding," from L. recessus "a going back, retreat," from recessum, pp. of recedere "to recede" (see recede). Meaning "hidden or remote part" first recorded 1616; that of "period of stopping from usual work" is from 1620, probably from parliamentary notion of "recessing" into private chambers. The verb is from 1809.


Labor Saving Devices with Celery and Garlic

I'm getting used to Internet Explorer 7.0 and the other automatic Windows updates beamed into my computer this week. It took time to readjust my toolbars and settings, and I'm still clicking in the wrong place for my favorites. Of course, I still look for spoons in the drawer where they were in the old condo. We moved into the nearly identical new condo in July of 2000, and swapped the silverware drawer with the placemat drawer to make it more logical and efficient!

With the condo full of sniffling and coughing people, it was time to make soup. Mid-morning I started sauteeing celery and garlic. Divided that into two pots for two kinds of soup. In the first pot, I added chopped mushrooms and broccoli, then a can of Swanson Low Sodium chicken broth. Into the second pot went chopped green pepper, carrots, parsley, leftover turkey, yellow squash, peas, a can of broth, and a can of crushed tomatoes in puree. The steam was making me feel better already. The empty cans went into the recycling basket, and the dishes filled up the dishwasher.

On a roll now in the X-Soup championship of the world, the leftover mashed spuds went into Pot One, along with boiling water. Dill and cayenne were next. Over in Pot Two, oregano, thyme, basil, cumin, Worchestershire sauce, and a bay leaf. Oh, the savory steaminess of it all! My sinuses were happy enough to realphabetize the spice rack.

Just about the time the mashed potatoes were blended delumpily into the broth, and I started stirring in milk, my socks got wet. Huh? The dishwasher was leaking. I'm braver with annoying appliances than with certain computer applications or soup recipes. I am woman with True Value 4-in-1 screwdriver, quarter-inch six-point nut driver, and needlenose pliers, hear me roar! Checked the float, the gasket, cleaned the drain screen, and removed the front access panel to peer into soggy darkness. My How To Fix Everything book was helpful, but offered no guidance for standing on my head or curling myself into the dishwasher without getting wet. I needed a miner's headlamp, a dentist's mirror, and clown car experience! My respect for repair-persons was growing the more I contorted.

When the professionals arrived, they quickly determined that the part and repair of my dishwasher would cost more than a new one. I hated spending the $54 for the service call, so I pumped them for recommendations for reliable dishwashers. Keep it simple, they said. Get a dishwasher with a dial, not a control panel. They must have known about my spoon drawer and the Windows toolbars!

Home Depot will deliver my new, very basic, GE dishwasher in a few days. By then the fans will have dried out underneath the cabinets. We've enjoyed the soup, but I'll have to handwash Pot One and Pot Two.


Recurring Nightmare Variation Survey

Viking Navigation. Mr. Sanders. Room 348.

That was the class I forgot to attend until the big research paper was due. I had attended it a few times last semester, but I got confused and started attending a math class in a parallel hallway instead. You know how if goes. Neither room was anywhere near the salmon pink dream locker with the impossible combination. Upstairs. Downstairs. Down one-way halls. So naturally, I failed the final and had to take the class again.

This semester I could barely lift the textbook for remedial Viking Navigation. I didn't attend class, although I had my schedule written in pencil on a tiny scrap of a crumpled envelope. The period was always over before I could get the paper flattened out to see where I was supposed to be. Kind of like my life right now. Worse, I forgot to go to the counselor until I could no longer withdraw passing. I had to withdraw failing she said, right after she announced to the world that "another one's run afoul of Mr. Sanders." Maybe that's a fowl, since this is Thanksgiving Day. After much consultation, the counselor assigned me eight days of community service, and switched me to Mrs. Barry's English class. Mrs. Barry was much fatter than she was in 1973, and had dyed what was left of her hair a melon orange color. The class was studying underwriting of poetry in an ancient steam-heated lecture auditorium with wooden folding chairs.

I'm just thankful for waking up from that mess! All in all, it wasn't as bad as when I dreamt I forgot to go to third year German and lost my car keys, or those dreams when my fingers are too fat to "dial" my cell phone.

Just as a survey question, please add a comment about which particular class you forgot to attend until the final exam! And yes, Millard Lefler Junior High did have a one-way hall and salmon pink lockers.


Black Olives, O Best Beloved

"What are you having besides turkey?" That's been the question of the week, and I'm not really sure. There will be turkey, sage dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry jelly, and sauerkraut. Most important of all, there will be pitted black olives. Turkey is optional, but black olives are essential!

My most culinary son and his special friend-girl will be here for the holiday. They are globe-trotting members of the foodie generation. They like to cook together. We'll make our final menu plan together.

Several of my little students will be having turkey "for dessert". Life is short, the saying goes, so eat dessert first. One student announced he will be having "turkey burgers, and they don't hop away." That's something for the gratitude list. With his wide blue eyes he patiently explained to me that turkeys hop away, but turkey burgers don't. Hope I don't have hopping turkey burger nightmares...

That is why I like pitted black olives. Once you put them on your fingertips, they never hop away. For that I sing "Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen" along with another three year old in class. He was singing Hymn 2072 like Sidney Poitier and the nuns in "Lilies of the Field"*.

None of the preschoolers expressed strong opinions about cranberries. No matter what the foodie generation decides, I will stick with Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce.

My oldest ate a whole bag of fresh cranberries, and wrote me wondering if his innards would bog down. He loves the bitter taste. I'm thankful for the memories of his eating cherries and berries as a toddler! Who would have guessed that cranberries were the tart trend for twenty-somethings?

Amazon.com essential video
*Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for this endearing movie about a handyman who thinks he's just passing through a little town in New Mexico, and ends up staying awhile to build a chapel for a cluster of German-speaking nuns. The renowned actor is highly entertaining in his combative exchanges with Lilia Skala, playing a Mother Superior who survived Hitler and makes no bones about bullying the goodhearted, itinerant worker into doing more and more for her. The film has an ambling, easygoing style with several memorable moments, not least of all is Poitier leading his holy hostesses through verses of the gospel song "Amen." Lilies is directed by the late Ralph Nelson, a pioneering director of live television who also made a number of popular feature films with notable performances (Jackie Gleason in Requiem for a Heavyweight, Cary Grant in Father Goose, Cliff Robertson in Charly) in the 1960s and 1970s. --Tom Keogh


Too cold, too old

If it's too loud, you're too old. So says the rock festival mantra. I'm not old! I'm still hip and groovy, or at least hippy and grooved. I had a great time at Eric Clapton's Guitar Festival at the Cotton Bowl a year or so back, and at Santana and Steely Dan concerts with my sons. I play an occasional game of The Sims on the computer. I can send text messages on my cell phone, although I tend to use complete sentences and punctuation.

Earlier this week I was just too darn confused navigating the unfamiliar Park Lane DART Park & Ride station. Dropping a friend to catch the train, I got bogged down in the parking lot instead of the drive-through Throw-Mama-From-The-Train-A-Kiss-Goodbye lane. My only escape route led up a ramp and through a parking garage. I emerged on the backside of a Best Buy store. Tired and frustrated I drove around the building, only to encounter a campground of wacko Playstation 3 sidewalk scouts. I was ever so relieved to finally find the access road to the freeway without running over a sleeping bag!

Who are those deranged folks camping on the Best Buy #58 sidewalk? Don't they have real jobs and schools? Why would they stay there when the temp dropped forty degrees and the wind gusted to forty mph that night? I just don't get it, so maybe I am too old after all. Even after reading all about the comraderie of the sidewalk campers in the Dallas Morning News, and learning that most of the campers intended to buy a Playstation 3 at midnight to sell it during the day for 3-4 times the cost, it still seems nuts.

Since Tuesday, I've tried to think of something for which I'd be willing to camp on the sidewalk outside a store. Peace on earth? Yes. Affordable, universal health care? Yes. An end to the ridiculous emphasis on standardized testing of school students for political purposes? Probably. A breakfast at my grandma's house with kolaches and sausage? Yup. That's it though. Let me know the release dates on those, and I'll get my sleeping bag down off the shelf. All is calm, all is bright...

Real candy

The preschoolers are still talking about Halloween. We asked them if they had any candy left. One girl said she still had some M&Ms, but no "real candy". What is "real candy," we asked her. "You know," she said, "Big chocolate bars."

Indeed I do. Skip the bite-size individually-wrapped items, the Smarties, and Pixie Stix. Cut to the big Milky Ways and Snickers, Hersheys, and Dove bars.


"It is a good day to die"

"Check engine" is not what we like to see on the dashboard when zooming off to a D.A.P.E. workshop on preschoolers' development and guidance. Like most preschoolers, I wanted to ignore the warning and keep pedaling my tricycle in crazy circles, faster and faster past all the other kids. Unlike most preschoolers of my acquaintance, I had a nagging fear that something was wrong with this plan. The Buick is tired and creaky. Sometimes it's cranky. It's due for its safety inspection, and we are entering a holiday week. The Buick is usually uncooperative at safety inspections, and has been known to have major meltdowns at holidays. Maybe the Buick is the preschooler in this scenario, not me.

Our morning was crisp, sunny, beautiful, and perfect for driving my Skylark tricycle in crazy circles. Instead, I drove it to the dealership like a nervous old lady. I did not want to die, or to have the car die, even if it was a good day.

Monday I typed up Native American poems for the elementary students. The poems and chants always strike me with their spareness and rhythms. They have the clean, honed feeling of haiku, but the rhythm that makes me want to drum or to dance. I wanted to pull out my old copy of John Neihardt's classic Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. It is cool that there's an electronic edition available. In Neihardt's chapter 25, page 204, Black Elk tells of the massacre at Wounded Knee:

...An old man by the name of Protector was there, and he ran up and held me, for now I was falling off my horse. I will show you where the bullet struck me sidewise across the belly here (showing a long deep scar on the abdomen). My insides were coming out. Protector tore up a blanket in strips and bound it around me so that my insides would stay in. By now I was crazy to kill, and I said to Protector: "Help me on my horse! Let me go over there. It is a good day to die, so I will go over there!" But Protector said: "No, young nephew! You must not die to-day. That would be foolish. Your people need you. There may be a better day to die." He lifted me into my saddle and led my horse away down hill. Then I began to feel very sick.

John G. Neihardt spoke to me once, and I've never been quite the same. Actually, the poet laureate of the state of Nebraska spoke at a school assembly in the auditorium of Millard Lefler Junior High in about 1970. Neihardt was a tiny man in his nineties with flowing white hair slightly more tamed than Einstein's. He could barely see out over the podium, but when he began to speak about Black Elk's visions we were transfixed. We were pulled from our world of buying candy and gum at the Ben Franklin 5 & Dime by the power of his words. Ever tried to get the attention of even one junior high student??? Our principal, Kathryn Hurst, often ranted to us after an assembly that we were the worst class ever to blight the Millard Lefler auditorium, but this time we were held silent by his electrically-charged presentation.

My check engine light was speaking wisdom due to overly-charged spark plug wires. Consumer Reports has tips for what to do when your Check Engine symbol lights up.
The Buick is much improved and revitalized after its day at the dealership. I'm thrilled that it passed inspection without the annual rebellion by the left rear lights.

Thank heaven the Buick doesn't need to be planning for an Orpheus Society bequest to the Dallas Opera in its will. It will live to enjoy another fall day, pretending to be the shiny tricycle coveted by all the preschoolers. The Orpheus letter arrived to solicit my bequest, but I'd already enjoyed the day. The Buick and I both felt recharged.

Old Lodge Skins, played by Chief Dan George in the 1970 movie of Little Big Man tells Dustin Hoffman's character, Jack Crabb, that "It is a good day to die." In a way, the wise Old Lodge Skins is telling us to check our personal onboard diagnostics:

"It is a good day to die" is a native American expression that has oft been misinterpreted. Usually used in Hollywood movies by stoic noble savages heading into battle it's true implications are far beyond mere warrior bravado. Simply put it means to live each day as if it was your last and make sure you have no regrets when you have to leave. If every day is a "good day to die, how would denying yourself the emotional experience of being human serve any purpose.

(from Leap In the Dark blogger Richard Marcus, 6/18/05)


Our lovely baby llama

I'm pleased to report that Aaron Chimbel of WFAA did another video news segment about my caddy-corner cria at Custer and Park in Plano. On Monday I saw the baby llama sitting on the back of its llama mmama while she was resting. It looked ever so much like the rare pushmi-pullyu in Hugh Lofting's The Story of Doctor Dolittle. At least it resembled my mental image of that fictional creature.

One of the most lovely things about reading is creating our own mental images of the story. I avoid movies based on books I've read because they rarely jibe with my personal version.

We went to see Disney's "Mary Poppins" at the old State Theater on "O" Street in 1964. I was horribly embarrassed to be seen crying at the end of the movie. It was the first time I cried at a movie, but far from the last. I was crying because the ending was sad, but also because Julie Andrews was nothing like my personal vision of P. L. Travers' nanny from reading the book. I was nine years old, and confused. Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Ed Wynn, and Glynis Johns were all wonderful in the movie, but it just wasn't sooty and foggy enough!

After that I didn't want to experience the clash of expectations by seeing Rex Harrison in the 1967 Dr. Dolittle, or Dick Van Dyke in the 1968 Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Ian Fleming's book is a favorite to this day, but I dreaded a clean and sparkly Hollywood version.

I read Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain for the first of many times after I saw the 1969 movie at the old Joyo Theater. It still bugs me that the endings are different. The movie images make it impossible to create my personal mental illustrations whenever I read the book. I still love Sam Gribley, Fearful the falcon, the wonderful librarian Miss Turner, and the Baron weasel. I still entertain the idea of running away to the Catskills and living in a hollow tree. It beats being stranded on Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins with a pack of wild dogs with only my own imagination!

And so, if you have a personal mental image of a charming baby llama on an historic farm in the middle of a built-out suburb, please don't view the WFAA link. Get your colored pencils and watercolors. Hold on to your interpretation!


Waiting for Stonehenge to dry

Way back in the olden days of the 1960's when we walked to school through the snow, children did not have free AOL internet cds to use for tracing circles. It was a cold, dark, and primitive time. We had to use our Etch-a-Sketch and Spirograph to pretend we had the thumb-clicking computer games that hadn't been invented yet. We actually wore clothes made from gingham and rickrack. [Be sure to remember us when you plan your holiday/tax deduction-inspired charity giving! Many of us are still in therapy.]

I belong to the Romper Room Do-Bee generation.
Miss Linda on Romper Room could see all of us through her Magic Mirror, and name us by name. Her circular mirror was an amazingly powerful device.

In those dark ages, parents did not let their children run with scissors. You had to be at least thirteen to carry a sharp, pointy compass in the zippered pencil bag inside your three-ring Slicker binder. We learned early, though, to draw an accurate circle with two pencils connected by a length of string or wire. Primitive people are resourceful, and that is why they are able to create the felt circles to make poodle skirts!

Maybe that is why I've always been fascinated with the circles of Stonehenge. How did people nearly five thousand years ago lay out the circles for pits, berms, and stones? Never mind the astronomy aspects of the project! How did that mom on Salisbury Plain tell her kids to stop bickering about it?

You, Nyorg, will stand here and hold this stick to the ground. This is the most important job. You must do it very quietly for the magic to work. You must stand still and be strong until your dad gets back from hauling those fifty ton stones twenty miles. [At least that's what he claimed he was going to be doing.]

Now, Snyurg, you have the most important job. You must take this length of rope woven by the Grandmothers, and attach one end to Nyorg's stick. Then you must attach the other end to Klorgle's stick. This magic will only work if you hum quietly to yourself all the while and keep your finger out of your nose and your loincloth.

Klorgle, my brave girl. You are the dancer who has the most important job. While Nyorg stands still holding his stick to the ground, you must stretch Snyurg's rope taut and dance with your stick all the way around the flat meadow. Your dancing will make the sun rise and set [and keep you out of the hut while I make moss stew for supper and feed baby Gleurg. ]

Why yes, Nyorg, that's a very good question. A henge is an earthwork system of bank and ditch. Please keep standing there holding your stick very still. [Makes me think of Charlie Brown on the pitcher's mound.]

My students are waiting for their clay Stonehenge projects to dry so they can be fired in the kiln. After that, they will paint the projects with watercolors and have them done by the solstice. If we stand just so and really squint, we might discover the Big Poodle and the Little Poodle in the night constellations.


It isn't over until the fat...

... man snores.

Everything about the Dallas Opera's 50th anniversary production of Verdi's "Nabucco" is fabulous. Fabulous!! Dallas artists Frances Bagley and Tom Orr designed sets worthy of a Wonder of the World like the Babylonian hanging gardens.

I'm happy to report that the man seated behind me announced that he did not have season tickets. That was even before he fell asleep and started snoring loudly during the famous chorus of the Hebrew slaves, "Va pensiero", in Act III. What if the supertitles projected above the stage read, "sleep apnea"? What a wonderful commercial this would make for those Breathe Right nasal strips for athletes and snorers!


My new neighbor is a cria

Cria is one of our vocabulary words for this lovely fall day. A cria is a baby llama, and there's a very new one at the farm caddy-corner from my condo. Every condo should have a caddy-corner cria!

The Haggard Farm's llamas are featured in two online videos made earlier this year. The YouTube video features lots of wind and traffic noise from the busy Custer and Park intersection, so turn your volume down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujRY_PbHRXk. The second video comes from WFAA's mobile journalist, "Mojo" Aaron Chimbel. Just hang in there through the Toyota commercial for the llamas.

I was reading on LlamaWeb that llamas and alpacas are camelids, and remembering my introduction to camels at Lincoln, Nebraska's old Antelope Zoo. The camel was in a fenced area outside, and it was a notorious spitter. We lived close to the old zoo when I was a toddler, and my mom used to take me to the zoo in the stroller so I would be distracted while she cut my fingernails.

Spitting is also the llama way of saying "Bug Off!" According to LlamaWeb, spitting is "normally used between llamas to divert annoying suitors, ward off a perceived threat or, most commonly, to establish pecking order at mealtime, an occasional llama who has been forced to tolerate excessive human handling may have developed an intolerance for or a fear of humans and will spit if they feel threatened by them."

Turn your volume back up before you listen to the audio clips on The Llama Question and Answer page. I can't find our old copy of Peter Spier's picture book of animal sounds. Gobble, Growl, Grunt was a favorite of my oldest son. He liked the buffalo that said "ballooo" best. It seems to me the llama was on the page of silent animals with the mute swan, spider, and tortoise, so I was surprised to learn that mama llamas and crias hum to each other. Somehow, it isn't all that surprising that male llamas orgle, our second vocabulary word:

Males will make a very strange sound while they are breeding which is called an “orgle”. (101k) They will sometimes make this sound if there is an open female on the other side of the fence. A breeding will typically last twenty minutes and will often go longer, with the male orgling continuously. All of the other females will gather by the fence to see what is going on as soon as they hear an orgle. Often the male is quite attentive to the female during the breeding process, nibbling lightly on her ears and rubbing her neck with his front feet. The female, on the other hand, usually looks completely bored and will sometimes eat grass, occasionally looking around at the male, as if to say “Aren’t you done yet?”

...Each male has a slightly different orgle. The previous orgle was Lazo who was actually trying to persuade Beverly to lie down. She didn’t but he was certainly trying, and eventually gave up. The next recording is Conquistador breeding Socorra. (56k) He was also having his toes trimmed at the time. This is often the easiest time to work on the male’s feet as his mind is completely occupied and doesn’t even seem to notice the manicuring. [emphasis mine]

I was going to get manicure sets for my grown sons' stocking stuffers this Christmas, but there are some things a mother doesn't need to know! I'm not ready to be a grandmother, although the little cria looks very cute and cuddly.

Bobbing for pumpkins

One of our favorite sights at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo was the outdoor pool for the tigers. Tigers are great swimmers, which is always a surprise, and they loved playing with the empty aluminum kegs floating in the pool. The zoo's cat complex is the largest cat breeding and management facility in North America.

Tigers were the only thing missing last Sunday morning at the Dallas Arboretum! The fountain pool in front of the Camp house featured all these floating pumpkins in every color and size.

Only the good towels die young

Finally finished the grout and caulk repair on the downstairs shower, so I can get to work on the upstairs caulk issue before the Thanksgiving houseguests arrive. Now there's a new problem, and you can sing along:

Where have all the bath towels gone?
Long showers passing
Where have all the bath towels gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the bath towels gone?
Gone to college every one
When will they ever learn?
When will I ever learn?

A coworker says her mother-in-law gives her a new set of bath towels every Christmas. I think that is very thoughtful and sweet. A mother-in-law would understand well that it's a treat to have some fluffy towels to put out when guests are coming instead of the tired towels that don't really dry any more.


Flying Non-Stop

Thank heaven our Governor GoodHair has finally simplified all the air travel issues plaguing us in North Texas. Governor Rick Perry sat next to San Antonio megachurch evangelist preacher, Reverend John Hagee, on a red-carpet red-state stage on the Sunday before Election Day. "If you live your life and don't confess your sins to God almighty through the authority of Christ and his blood, I'm going to say this very plainly, you're going straight to hell with a nonstop ticket," Mr. Hagee said during a service interspersed with religious and patriotic videos. Perry said afterwards he didn't hear anything he would take exception to.

It's unclear if the Governor sat at the left hand or the right hand of the inerrant Rev. Hagee. It's also unclear if those of us going to hell in a handbasket can use the overhead carry-on bins, or have to check our luggage. Yes, I know, you can't take it with you, but the luggage restrictions for the unbaptized and unsaved are as blurry as the fine print on the repeal of the Wright Amendment! Here we got all excited about flying out of Love Field on Southwest Airlines with one-stop ticketing. Now we don't even get to wander the halls of the purgatory motel looking for the ice machine to fill up our plastic bucket.

What will be the color-coded terrorist threat level for passengers winding their way through the maze of ropes at the security checks at DFW Airport? Seems like folks destined to burn in hell forever should get to take moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, aloe vera lotion, chapstick, and lots of bottled water. Will seating be Southwest Airline cattle-call style or assigned?

Whenever I think of Texas Governor Rick Perry, weighty issues like salvation, border patrol, or school accountability are not on my mind. Instead I ponder his hair and wonder if it is fake anything or real Dynel.

Dy·nel (dī-nĕl') is a registered trademark product from Union Carbide, a copolymer of vinyl chloride and acrylonitrile employed in making fire-resistant, insect-resistant, easily dyed textile fiber. The Dynel advertising slogan ("It's not fake anything. It's real Dynel") is just one of the memorable slogans created by Jane Trahey in the 1960's. Ms. Trahey was best known for Blackglama's "What Becomes a Legend Most?" campaign, and for Danskin Inc.'s "Danskins Are Not Just for Dancing."

With the travel destination and mode determined, it is alway wise for the tourist to pick up a phrase book of the local idioms:


O.E. hel, helle "nether world, abode of the dead, infernal regions," from P.Gmc. *khaljo (cf. O.Fris. helle, O.N. hel, Ger. Hölle, Goth. halja "hell") "the underworld," lit. "concealed place," from PIE *kel- "to cover, conceal, save" (see cell). The Eng. word may be in part from O.N. Hel (from P.Gmc. *khalija "one who covers up or hides something"), in Norse mythology Loki's daughter, who rules over the evil dead in Niflheim, the lowest of all worlds (nifl "mist"), a death aspect of the three-fold goddess. Transfer of a pagan concept and word to a Christian idiom, used in the K.J.V. for O.T. Heb. Sheol, N.T. Gk. Hades, Gehenna. Used figuratively for "any bad experience" since at least 1374. As an expression of disgust, etc., first recorded 1678. Hell-bent is from 1835. Hell-raiser is from 1914 (to raise hell is from 1896); hellacious is 1930s college slang. Expression Hell in a handbasket is c.1941, perhaps a revision of earlier heaven in a handbasket (c.1913), with a sense of "easy passage" to whichever destination. Expression hell of a _____ is attested from 1776. Hell or high water is apparently a variation of between the devil and the deep blue sea. To wish someone would go to hell is in Shakespeare (1596). Snowball's chance in hell "no chance" is from 1931; till hell freezes over "never" is from 1919. To ride hell for leather is from 1889, originally with reference to riding on horseback. Hell on wheels is from 1843. Online Etymology Dictionary


We need a what?!

My county is still advertising for a Bioterrorism Planner. It's been at least a month since I first noticed this job opportunity, and I'm amazed that the county hasn't changed the job title to something like "Bioterrorism Response Planner". Maybe it's a trick to entrap particularly dimwitted terrorist plotters who wouldn't mind the $44K salary and good benefits for devising nefarious contagious schemes.


Veni, vidi, vici

On August 2, 47 B.C. Julius Caesar took off his shoes in Syria after he conquered, but history does not record that part of his pithy dispatch to Rome. Yes, he came, saw, and conquered, but Suetonius fails to mention if he remembered to buy groceries on the way home.

On July 20, 1969 A. D. the erupting celebration at Mission Control drowned out the last of Neil Armstrong's famous communication from the moon. [Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.] Buzz and I are putting on our bedroom slippers and having some instant cocoa with freeze-dried marshmallows. (+ Play Audio)

On November 1, 2006 A. D. I came home, took off my shoes, and was finished for the day. It didn't matter that I forgot to buy milk, bread, and lightbulbs on the way home. Once the shoes are off, they don't go back on! I wanted to translate my motto into a catchy and pithy Latin slogan I could have printed on t-shirts, but the Inter Tran free web site translation server for English to Latin was unsuccessful when it came to shoes.

"Veni domus, I took off my shoes, meus dies est perfectus" isn't going to sell on t-shirts and coffee mugs. Inter Tran couldn't handle Julius either:

EGO venit , EGO saw , EGO victum.

So I'm going with this for the t-shirts:

The EGO has landed, but she forgot to buy bread, milk, and lightbulbs.

Order your shirt now in S, M, L, or XL. [minimus, medium, magnus, susicivus amplus]

It's as confusing as going to Starbucks. If EGO could figure out the small, tall, grande, and venti cup sizes, she could probably conquer the world, get the 2% at Albertsons, and even keep her shoes on after seven p.m.


Oddly Orange Citrus Quivering

After the students went off to their trick-or-treating last evening I made a collage of leftovers from the class project. It made me happy (and I know it, clap my hands!) with its transparent and translucent layers over geometric patterns.

The day after Halloween is more frightening to teachers than any bowl of slimy eyeballs. Little kids who are already goofed up because of the end of Daylight Saving Time ratchet up the weirdness with sugar and overstimulation. They are cranky, and they can't stop saying, "booger, booger, booger."

Next year, I'm happy to report, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 goes into effect. Daylight Saving Time will begin on March eleventh. That's the only date when I've ever personally known three real live humans who share a birthday. It fills up the square on my calendar with Roger, Judy, and Heather, and now this time change!

Daylight Saving Time will end on November 4 in 2007. Maybe by then the Halloween '07 chocolate rush will be played out.

For today, the vibrating patterns in the collage seem appropriate. The Grateful Dead meets The Great Pumpkin and overdoses on candy corn.


Most of the students finished their mixed media drawings of their transparent constructions. This one is especially successful in showing both the transparency and the structure. The artist is in first grade.


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