Flies in the worm bin, what'll I do?

Flies in the worm bin, what'll I do?
Flies in the worm bin, what'll I do?
Skip to my Lou my darlin'!

It's really just a few very small flying insects with hard-shell brown bodies, so I don't know if it's going to be a problem. Tiny white specks are appearing on the walls of the bin, and again, I haven't a clue.

Specks in the worm bin, haven't a clue
Specks in the worm bin, haven't a clue
Specks in the worm bin, haven't a clue
Skip to my Lou my darlin'!

The worms have stopped congregating in the high-rise handles of the worm bin, even on weekends. That several of them were forced to resign from public office because of those elite encounters has been much in the press. It's a bit too personal for me to discuss the whole "stand by your worm" phenomenon.

Now worms are opting for a more populist hoedown sort of elbow-swinging social life, clearly courting the evangelical vote:

Deep in the worm bin, what do they do?
Deep in the worm bin, what do they do?
Deep in the worm bin, what do they do?
Skip to my Lou my darlin'!

Yes, the worms are participating in the very old tradition of the American play party. "Skip to My Lou" is a play party song:

What did young people do for diversion and socialization in communities that banned most dancing and considered the fiddle to be the devil's instrument? The American play party was the fundamentalist's answer. Here the singing was a cappella, the dancers followed prescribed steps, and arm and elbow swings would be the only touching.

Little students are singing "Skip to My Lou" as they rehearse for their spring music festival of American folk songs. Play parties died out in the 1950s, but the tradition lives on in children's folk songs. I haven't found a copy of Waltz the Hall: The American Play Party, by Alan L. Spurgeon. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. ISBN1-57806-742-1, but I have put it on the worms' wish list!

Skip a little further, this will never do. We still have to consider the state of baby names. The popularity list for 2007 is a bit less scary than most years, except for the Simple Simon Metapimen rhymin' boys' names--Aiden, Caden, Braden, Jayden--soon to be followed by Afraiden, Maiden, Trade-in, and eBaydon. If your suggestion sounds like an ad campaign starring Keano Reeves for the tuxedo-rental store in that decaying shopping mall in your built-out suburb, maybe you should let your spouse choose the baby's name.

Boys' names
1. Aiden
2. Ethan
3. Jacob
4. Jayden
5. Caden
6. Noah
7. Jackson
8. Jack
9. Logan
10. Matthew
11. Ryan
12. Nicholas
13. Michael
14. Connor
15. Brayden
16. Dylan
17. Caleb
18. Joshua
19. Andrew
20. Tyler

(I've taught boys named all except Jayden and Caden. Aiden, Caden, Jayden, and Brayden will drive art teachers to an early grave with potential alternate spellings to write in the upper left-hand corner of students' artwork!)

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Kibitz and Kaboodlniks

The elementary students are learning a new card game by the makers of UNO, called Kaboodl. The game has k'bosh and k'baam cards, and apparently quite a bit of strategy. I got confused just listening from the other end of the play room, but occasionally was able to offer up unhelpful comments!

Mostly, I started wondering how k'bosh is usually spelled, and where the word originated. From there on, a thick cover of alien vines began to grow all over my mind. Would I be able to get home to my trusty dictionary before I went kaput?

"Here I come to save the day," as Andy Kaufman might sing. Dictionary Woman is on the way!

  • kibosh is a restraint or check, used primarily in the phrase put the kibosh on, similar to quietus [origin unknown]
  • kaboodle is actually caboodle, and means the lot, group, or bunch. Used chiefly in the phrase the whole kit and caboodle. [perhaps ca-, probably short for kith or kit + boodle.]
  • boodle is slang for money, especially counterfeit money, or money accepted as a bribe. Boodle can also be stolen goods; swag. [From Dutch boedel, estate, effects, from Middle Dutch bodel, riches, property...]
  • kith Friends and neighbors, as opposed to kin.
  • kit... among many definitions a container such as a box, bag, valise, or knapsack.... [Middle English kytt, kitt, wooden tub, from Middle Dutch kitte, jug, tankard.] So on that note, let us lift one! This can't get much more muddled.
  • kibitzer 1. An onlooker at a card game who gives unwanted advice to the players. 2. Any meddler who offers gratuitous advice.
  • kibitz To act as a kibitzer. [Yiddish kibitsen, from German kiebitzen, to look on, from Kiebitz, lapwing, plover, hence a meddlesome person, looker on (at a card game), from Middle High German gibiz, plover (imitative of its cry).]
  • killdeer a widespread and familiar American plover.

  • kibbutz a collective farm or settlement in modern Israel [Hebrew from qibbetz, he gathered]
  • kibbutznik a member of a kibbutz
  • Kibbles 'n Bits a dry dog food made by Del Monte.
  • kibble coarsely ground grain in the form of pellets (as for pet food); coarsely ground foodstuff; especially seeds of various cereal grasses.
  • quibble To make exaggerated distinctions or raise objections to the unimportant details of a thing in order to avoid acknowledging its worth or importance.
"Shish," you are probably saying as you raise your hand to object to all these unimportant, yet intertwined details.

  • kebab see Shish kebab A dish consisting of pieces of seasoned meat roasted and served with condiments on skewers. [Turkish sis , skewer + kebap roast meat]
  • kaput destroyed; wrecked [German kaputt, from French capot, as in the expression etre capot, to have lost all tricks at cards, "be hoodwinked," from capot, cloak with a hood, from cape]*
  • kaboom an exclamation representing an explosive sound or event [I'm embarrassed to admit I couldn't find an origin]

  • kudzu a vine, Pueraria lobata, native to Japan having compound leaves and clusters of reddish-purple flowers and grown for fodder and forage, and known as an ECOLOGICAL THREAT. Kudzu kills or degrades other plants by smothering them under a solid blanket of leaves, by girdling woody stems and tree trunks, and by breaking branches or uprooting entire trees and shrubs through the sheer force of its weight. Once established, Kudzu plants grow rapidly, extending as much as 60 feet per season at a rate of about one foot per day.

Kaboodl is suitable for 2 to 6 players age 7 and up.

*And now here is a Hoodwink
Who winks in his wink-hood.
Without a good wink-hood
A Hoodwink can't wink good.
And, folks, let me tell you
There's only one circus
With wink-hooded Hoodwinks!
The Circus McGurkus!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Kansas wind, grass, hills & meadowlarks

Heading to Nebraska, I drove the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) northeast from El Dorado to Topeka. I loved the serenity of the Flint Hills landscape, and made a plan to see more of it on my way back to Texas. It surprised me not to see any wind farms in this almost vacant, and definitely windy, area.

Kansas Highway 177 heads south through the Konza Prairie Biological Station for Long-term Ecological Research, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and the "Heart of the Flint Hills". Part of the highway is designated both a Kansas Scenic Byway and a National Scenic Byway. There's no traffic, the drive is like a cleansing meditation, and it goes through the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World*. What more could you want?

The Konza Prairie Biological Station is a joint effort between The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University to study interactions of grazing, climate variability, fire, and animals, to put it in very simple terms. The website is intriguing. KPBS is also home to the Konza Environmental Education Program for K-12 students.

The Konza Prairie Scenic Overlook on Highway 177, halfway between Manhattan and I-70, offers a panorama of the hilly tallgrass prairie. The bronze plaques in the shelter provide excellent explanations of the geology, ecology, and history of the area.

Heading on south, I saw lots of meadowlarks on fences, and I wondered again about wind farms. The western meadowlark is a very handsome songbird, the state bird of Nebraska, and the only bird I know that looks like Gordon McRae in "Oklahoma"! It's the bandana, of course. And you know how that wind comes sweepin' down the plain.

Next stop was the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve north of Strong City. This is the only unit of the National Park System "dedicated to the rich natural and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem". It's also another cooperative venture. The Nature Conservancy owns nearly all of the land, with the National Park Service owning the tiny remainder. The NPS operates the preserve, while the Kansas Park Trust is charged with enhancing the visitor experience. I arrived too late for tours or an extended hike, but was able to wander around the 1880's buildings of the Spring Hill Farm and Stock Ranch built by cattleman Stephen F. Jones and his wife Louisa.

The limestone just below the surface of the Flint Hills prevented plowing, and preserved this area of tallgrass prairie. Limestone supplied the building materials for everything from fences to the massive three-story 60 x 100 foot barn.

This view looks from Spring Hill toward the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse:

Kansas does have a number of wind projects, with more in various stages of planning and implementation. Governor Kathleen Sebelius has worked to ban wind farms from the scenic Flint Hills with arguments of stewardship for this ecological gem. If I didn't have to iron today, I could spend much more time trying to understand Kansas energy politics, but real life makes demands on even the most relaxed of returning bloggers.

*Cassoday, Kansas

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Cherokee Strip Museum

Headed south from El Dorado, Kansas, after just coffee and a soggy cake donut at the motel continental breakfast. By Perry, Oklahoma, I was in need of a sausage breakfast burrito from Sonic. Sadly, I must confess to ordering the combo meal with tater tots and orange juice. There are four basic food groups for road trips--salt, styrofoam coffee, chocolate, and grease. Please don't tell my little students studying the food pyramid!

I was the only visitor in the Cherokee Strip Museum just after opening Saturday morning. It's a nice museum, and right off I-35. The staffer invited my questions, so I asked if she knew of a book about growing up in the Cherokee Outlet written by a man with a funny name, "maybe Xavier." She hadn't. Since I checked it out from the Edmond Public Library nearly twenty years ago, but still recalled its red-dusted, humorous, not quite tall tale quality, I would rate it a memorable read.

We lived in Edmond at the centennial of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, and I loved reading about that era of my second home state. The Cherokee Strip was opened in another land run in 1893. Every time I drive north or south through Oklahoma on I-35, the moment I cross into Noble County I start worrying about the names of the "Three Guardsmen"*. These famous U.S. marshals tracked down outlaws in the Oklahoma territories. Of course you know that 1893 was the year of the Ingalls shoot-out between U.S. marshals and members of the Doolin Wild Bunch gang near Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Back home now, I have written the names of those three marshals on a slip of paper and put it in the back of my bathroom drawer. It joins the slips with the three members of Cream, the Seven Dwarfs, the five Goss sisters, the Seven Deadly Sins, and the origin of the phrase, "the whole nine yards". My memory must have trouble with odd-numbered groupings. Alternately, even-numbered groups may not merit the same level of interest. Or even-numbered groups may generate more effective mnemonic devices. [And however long I live I'll never be able to spell or pronounce mnemonic correctly. I'll just keep thinking mem-non-ick instead of ni-mon-ick. I just can't nemember mnemonics!]

The old Rose Hill Schoolhouse stands on the museum grounds.

It turns out the author of the Cherokee Strip boyhood recollections was Marquis James, not Xavier. Young Marquis James lived in Enid, not in Perry, but his schoolhouse was probably similar. St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church of Enid may have figured in James' book, but I'm not sure. You can read a 1945 review of the book in Time Magazine. James won Pulitzer prizes for his biographies of Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson.

Cherokee Strip: a Tale of an Oklahoma Boyhood , University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.

*Bill Tilghman, Chris Madsen, and Heck Thomas

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Floyd on fiscal policy fashions

Thought wandering through Kohl's might help my attitude after a long week at work, but it made things worse. Found a pair of desperately-needed basic Lee Plain Front slacks for $21.99, but everything else in the Misses Dept. was hideous, slimy, and insulting to my intelligence. When did aliens from the Planet Acetate take over the brains of department store buyers? The store is jam-packed with ugly faux-retro pseudo-maternity fashions for lifesize Bratz and MyScene Juicy-Bling Dolls by Mattel. I would rather suck a Sucrets than spend five more minutes in the store!

Checking out is as bad as browsing. A magenta-haired kid with giant pierced ear barbells was manning the register. Yikes! He used to be on my son's soccer team.

Maybe there's a good reason why a huge demographic of consumers is not shopping in a patriotic manner. Maybe it's not "the economy, stupid" ala the '92 Clinton campaign, but the repulsive merchandise of '08 that keeps us from spending! Maybe a better economic stimulus incentive would be stores stocked with items designed for real adults.

Jacquielynn Floyd, columnist for the Dallas Morning News, is staging a similar rant, but with broader readership. She has quickly found a large and angry group of female readers, aged 25-80, who are all disgusted with retail choices. Read my lips! Our purse$ stay zipped!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

A-mouldering in the grave

Amy Stewart’s book The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms begins with a chapter on Charles Darwin's studies of worms. Darwin wrote The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits in 1881. Apparently, "vegetable mould" was the term for soil at that time.

Thank heaven, Darwin, and Ms. Stewart for that missing link of information! Growing up where Mulder Drive met Eastridge Drive in the early Sixties, life was simple if mysterious, and school was delightful. "Writing" meant printing in pencil on wide-lined newsprint. "Music" didn't require carrying a tune when we sang "the worms play pinochle on your snout. " We learned to read with Dick and Jane, and spent our fifteen-minute recesses climbing on the jungle gym and chanting, "I see London, I see France, I see someone's underpants." It was okay to get dirty if we were wearing our Play Clothes, but not in our School Clothes. At the pool we got our faces wet and blew bubbles.

On some level, we little kids knew that when we crossed into third grade life was going to get much tougher. We would have to learn the elementary backstroke and the breaststroke. We would start reading Childhood of Famous Americans biographies, and have to "carry" in addition. We would try to get pigs in the pigpen playing jacks with a golf ball on the concrete slap at recess. It wouldn't be a picnic, that was for sure!

Still, for fear factor, the worst was knowing we would be in Mrs. M and Mrs. S's Sunday School class. These two pillars of the church had been teaching third grade Sunday School since before Eve bit the apple. They ran the class like a miniature kiddie church service. The kids sat on wooden benches on either side of an aisle, and opened kiddie hymnals to sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" each Sunday. The goal must have been to prepare eight year olds how to behave in an actual church service.

If we didn't actually sing the verses of "John Brown's Body" as part of "The Battle Hymn," we must have acquired that knowledge at the same age:

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
His soul goes marching on.

He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
His soul goes marching on.

We also sang a dreadful parody with "teacher hit me with a ruler" that is too eerie to print in this age of school shootings.

The Online Etymology Dictionary redirects me from moulder to molder, but not to Mulder Drive:

molder (v.) "to crumble away," 1531, probably freq. of mold (3) "loose earth."

Thanks to a Library of Congress website for teachers I learn the John Brown song predates Julia Ward Howe's writing of the Battle Hymn:

The original version was a religious camp meeting song written in the 1850s and began "Say, brothers, will you meet us? On Canaan’s happy shore?" The song eventually spread to army posts, where its steady rhythm and catchy chorus made it a natural marching song.

Soon, though, a new version appeared that hitched the old tune to a more militant cause. When the abolitionist John Brown was executed in 1859, someone created a new, fiercer set of lyrics; the song now declared that "John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave. His soul is marching on!"

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, the John Brown version of the song had spread throughout the Union army. Soldiers added new verses as they marched through the South, including one that promised to hang Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, from a tree. Meanwhile, Confederate soldiers answered back with their own version, in which John Brown was hanging from a tree.

The version that we know today came to be when an abolitionist author, Julia Ward Howe, overheard Union troops singing "John Brown’s Body" and was inspired to write a set of lyrics that dramatized the rightness of the Union cause. Within a year this new hymn was being sung by civilians in the North, Union troops on the march, and even prisoners of war held in Confederate jails.

Which brings me back to my moldy memories of third grade. That year we took a family road trip to Nebraska City to see Arbor Lodge and John Brown's Cave. I was very leery of looking into the cave, for fear of seeing his body a-mouldering. It was disappointing to find the cave was really a tiny basement under a pioneer cabin. There were no trains to be seen either, on this stop of the Underground Railroad!


John Kagi, one of abolishionist John Brown's most trusted collegues, went to stay with his sister and brother-in-law Allen Mayhew. It was the early 1850's and the area was the Nebraska City area of Nebraska. Their cabin was very close to the Missouri River. Across the river was Iowa and Missouri. John Kagi, under the instruction of his friend John Brown, dug an underground room underneath the Mayhew cabin. It was accessible only from a ravine leading into a creek. The entrance was well camoflauged. There was also a hollow log put into the wall that lead to fresh air outside. This helped the ventilation when the entrance was closed up. This cave was to be used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. At night, slaves would cross the Missouri River from Missouri (slave state) to Nebraska (free state). They would hide out in the cave for the night. Mrs. Mayhew would bring them cornbread. After a short stay, they would be ferried across the Missouri River again. They would be taken a little more north to Iowa (free state), to another stop on the Underground Railroad. Or else, as more recent evidence shows, they would proceed toward Lincoln to hide out in Robber's Cave (see Nebraska haunted sites on Nebraska page). This cabin and cave are still standing where they were over a century ago. The Mayhew cabin is said to be the oldest standing building in Nebraska. It is open to tours and well worth the time.

And now, after this morning of mental mouldering, I may need to find Flashman and the Angel of the Lord at the library. The late George Macdonald Fraser's novel explains John Brown and the Underground Railroad better than any history class from third grade on.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the
coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery
gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush
the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on."
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Our God is marching on.

Darwin, C. R. 1881. The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habits. London: John Murray.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Daphne, Jenufa, J. Sterling, and the arrival of spring

Driving north from Topeka, Kansas on a chilly morning, Janacek's opera was the right choice for the Buick's cd player. The Daylight Saving Time sun was barely awake at 7:30, shining low on the east side of barns and old farmhouses, and spotlighting recent tree damage along U.S. 75.

"Jenufa" is all about raw, chilly light focusing on damaged individuals in a claustrophobic rural village. The tragedy of the opera differs from that of my immigrant ancestors, but every listening gives me new insights into their experience.

Plus, in the opera/drive-time category, "Jenufa" fits exactly the easy 127 mile trip. The recording takes me right to the entrance to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City.

The park isn't really open this early in the spring, but people were walking their dogs on the grounds, and the driveways weren't blocked. The park is now encircled by the properties of the Arbor Day Farm, the Lied Lodge Conference Center, and the Arbor Day Foundation.

I love the juxtaposition of the statue commemorating J. Sterling Morton, the early Nebraska journalist, statesman, agriculturalist, and conservationist behind the sculpture of the Greek wood nymph, Daphne. It's been way too long since I consulted Edith Hamilton's Mythology!

Edith gives a short take of the Roman poet Ovid's version of the Greek nature myth. Daphne was a young huntress with wild hair quite uninterested in suitors of either Olympian or mortal variety. When the god Apollo caught sight of her, he decided she needed a beauty and fashion makeover, but then she would be just the perfect girl for him. Wise girl, Daphne fled from Apollo's attentions, and, with the assistance of her river-god father, was transformed into a laurel tree. This isn't really the best time for me to recount my own dang Apollo's demands for beauty and fashion makeovers, not to mention pierced navels, but Daphne has my complete sympathy.

Founded by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in 1872, National Arbor Day is celebrated each year on the last Friday in April. J. Sterling Morton's home, a 52-room neo-colonial mansion offered lovely reflections of bare trees in the leaded windows.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Worry worms and worry warts

I didn't fret much about leaving my worms in charge of the condo over Spring Break. Didn't figure they would serve liquor to minors or host loud toga parties while I was gone. I was pretty sure they couldn't use the phone to order late night pizza deliveries, and that they couldn't escape from their Rubbermaid home to play Twister in the living room.

Our weather has been so crazy I didn't know whether to set the thermostat on heat to come on at sixty degrees, or to air condition if the indoor temp rose above eighty. After some two a.m. pondering, I decided to program the furnace. Worms can't wear hoodies*.

Since worms will eat and re-eat their available kitchen waste several times, I was sure they had plenty of goodies to get them through a week. It was all healthy and organic--no Slim Jims, Twinkies, or Doritos. They would probably love the dark peace and quiet, since I wouldn't be popping the top off the worm bin twice a day to see if they were behaving themselves! Maybe they would chant "Om".

So before leaving I just popped the top of the worm bin one extra time to holler, "Keep the home fires burning," and "hold the fort!" Then I hit the open road and forgot all about my little vermi pets.

After a week, I found the red wigglers all down in the bottom half inch of bedding. None of them were up in the trendy penthouse bar. I was so proud of them! They deserved a reward, so I added a bit of watermelon rind, a dead houseplant, a rotten piece of red pepper, and all the inedible parts of a fresh pineapple from Kroger to the worm bin. Too, too, too much! Little worms who had been wearing saffron robes and carrying begging bowls were suddenly in Las Vegas. Now I had created a situation requiring worry!

Each time I opened the bin, a small flying insect zipped out. I could smell the contents from a foot or two away, which isn't a big deal, but still a sign of imbalance. So the worms are on a new diet this week. Read my lips, as Bush The First said--No new fruit. Just egg shells, coffee grounds, and cardboard for awhile, guys.

Worry warts are a different animal than worry worms. Being a nerdy little kid back in sixth grade P.E., I had to be square dance partner to the kid with warts all over his hand. His name was Brent. I bet nobody names their baby boy Brent nowadays, since it's an acknowledged pre-existing indicator for warts.

Do you want to do-si-do and Allemande Left with the wart boy?? There are many reasons why I haven't done much dating since my divorce. Fear of wart square dancing is a major one!*

But what about warts? They don't come from toads. According to MotherNature.com,

...warts are benign skin tumors that can occur singly or in large packs on just about any part of the body. And while each type carries its own special name, all are caused by various trains of the fiendish papilloma virus. It masterfully tricks the body into providing it with free room and board in a sheltered "house" that is know medically as the wart proper...

Medical treatments don't seem to be any more effective than old-timey remedies. Some people rub warts with a raw potato. In my family, we sold our warts to my Granddad for a dollar. He got the wart. We got the buck. The wart went away eventually, and we bought Tootsie Rolls or malted milk balls with our dollar. The power of suggestion, removal of stress, and strong belief in a cure can knock out many warts. Which reminds me, worms can't wear boxing gloves.

*Worms can't wear petticoats!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


ESL by Avodart

I rarely turn on my television, so visiting my dad is like learning a foreign language by the total immersion method. If a family arrived in the United States and wanted to learn English by watching television, the first phrase they would master would be, "ask your doctor about." Soon they would be able to recite "in the rare event of an erection lasting more than four hours, seek immediate medical attention to avoid long-term injury."

True, Dad's viewing tends toward ESPN, the Golf Channel, the Weather Channel, CNN Headline News,and MSNBC, with some local news broadcasts thrown in. The ads on those stations repeat ad nauseum. I'm somewhat embarrassed to report that the most effective ads for holding my attention (although not longer than four hours) are the Avodart museum miniature model ads.

When I grow up, I would love to work in a museum creating exhibits. Museums always feel like home to me. So even though the actor has to make frequent trips to the restroom, I think he's got a cool job.

My small sons loved the army miniatures at the 45th Infantry Museum, and the great model railroad layouts at the Omniplex in Oklahoma City and the Union Pacific museum in downtown Omaha. Their all-time greatest hit was the huge miniature model at the Alamo. When will the Avodart guy remember the Alamo??? Maybe the next ads will feature the prostrate actor creating a miniature Iraq for the Bush Library!

Just what is the tag line for the commercial? Our hypothetical language-learning family and I can never decide if the man has a going problem, a growing problem, or a groin problem. Learning English on t.v. is going to be grueling.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Tchaiko Psycho

After an inspiring performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in about 2005, I bought a cd of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E Minor (George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra). Driving along between Norman and Purcell, the music had the same powerful emotional effect and trivial tidbit distraction as usual.

The second movement, II--Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza, is the culprit. The first few notes always derail my teeny-tiny narrow gauge mental railroad, and send it plummeting down a pine-scented mountain slope. Trouble is, that rich evergreen melody sounds a wee tad like John Denver's "Annie's Song". You might remember it as the "fill up my senses" song. Sing along:

You fill up my Buick like regular Chevron,

like Milk Duds in August,

like money down the drain,

like llamas in springtime,

and Old Spice at midnight,

you fill up my senses,

come fill me again.

What were the real lyrics? Between Norman and Purcell I lacked the internet, but I'm glad to provide these words:

You fill up my senses like a night in the forest,

like the mountains in springtime,

like a walk in the rain,

like a storm in the desert,

like a sleepy blue ocean.

You fill up my senses, come fill me again.

And so, I'm always relieved to get back on track for the third movement Valse. Not to be confused with valise--a small piece of hand luggage from the Medieval Latin!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

IQSC Opening

They're putting the finishing touches on the new International Quilt Study Center and Museum this week, and moving the collection. The new facility opens Sunday, March 30th.

My visit to Nebraska didn't coincide with the grand opening, but I did watch some of the installation work on the sculpture in front of the museum. I hope to get back to Lincoln before the Nancy Crow: Cloth, Culture, Context exhibit ends in August.

Until then, I'll be checking for informative stories about the new museum in the Lincoln Journal Star online by Kent Wolgamott. I wish more arts writers were as motivated to communicate clearly and to educate, instead of showing off their arcane knowledge in a certain big city newspaper.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Maybe tomorrow at Tara

Scarlett O'Hara stuck on toilet for two years--Details at ten!

Rhett says he doesn't give a damn.

News that a Kansas woman sat on the john so long that the toilet seat became ingrown fueled much of the conversation in Nebraska this week. Obviously, the woman had flying monkey Oz plumbing issues.

What I want to know is whether the toilet was yellow, pink, or turquoise, since this was a bad case of Fifties trailer park design syndrome. Did the woman have fear of abrasive toilet paper, charminophobia? Also, did Dave Barry suggest there might be snakes in the commode? Was she afraid that popping the seal on the toilet might open an American Standard Pandora's box of real science and evolution? Was she waiting for Elvis to leave the building?

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Sprinksfiration OR Surfing for divas

It is Easter, and an appropriate time to celebrate the miracle of spring arriving on the prairie. I can think of few experiences so astounding as to demand a Divine Artist than spring in Oklahoma. That vibrant, transparent washes of cobalt violet, cadmium yellow medium, permanent green light, Alizarin Crimson and New Gamboge burst forth from the thick, opaque, almost oily Burnt Sienna is a painter's ultimate creation mystery.

Heading north after the glorious Chihuly experience in Oklahoma City, I visit one of my favorite places in Edmond. The little Fink Park sits across the street south from the University of Central Oklahoma campus. When we lived in Edmond, the college was still named Central State, which is why the university radio station is KCSC fm., 90.1.

I have fond associations with Central State, which was primarily a teachers college in the late 1980s. My mother and I viewed a Crayola Dream-Makers exhibit of outstanding elementary student art there that fueled my first teaching ideas. A retired CSU professor of educational measurements re-evaluated my oldest son for the Edmond gifted and talent program after a dreadful assessment by a school counselor.

Fink Park at Spring Break

Now I can add a fondness for the all-classical radio station. Glad to find KSCS while station surfing for the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on two Saturdays. The Edmond station brought me parts of "Peter Grimes" and "Tristan und Isolde," and two presto rounds of the Met intermission quizzes. I could listen from Oklahoma City to Perry one week, and for brief flashes at the tiptop of the Arbuckle Mountains north of Ardmore the next.

A painting I made almost twenty years ago is still one of my favorites. It is based on sketches and photos from Fink Park at Halloween, but the sense of energy in the soil, the trees, and the sky is still very satisfying to me.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Pointy Pontiff Ears

"Why are the kindergarten students wearing Pope hats," I asked Dad. We were driving to the drugstore just as the morning kids were being dismissed for the Easter spring break.

Something had gone wrong with the traditional bunny ears craft project, and the teacher has my complete sympathy. We never know when an art project will go just that little bit off course! It might just be a scissor's whisker's mistake in the cutting of pointy ears with those round-tip Fiskars.

I didn't have a student available, so my zebra hand puppet is modeling the mitre and bunny ears. The Eastridge kindergarten kids were parading proudly out of school wearing their bunny ears on sideways. I didn't have my camera, and certainly wouldn't have snapped a photo, but I sure wish I could capture that image.

That brings me to the vocabulary word for the today:

1913, from Ger. Rotogravur (originally, in full, Deutsche Tiefdrück Gesellschaft), said to blend two corporate names, Rotophot and Deutsche Photogravur A.G. Etymologically, the roots are L. rota "wheel, roller" and Fr. gravure "engraving." The process was used for printing photo sections of newpapers and magazines, so that the word came to be used for these.

I won't begin to try to define the terms for "papal headgear". It's a crossword clue that appears often, and the choices are usually mitre or tiara.

And now for the sing-along, brought to you by the makers of bright foil-covered chocolate eggs and pastel plastic grass:

"Easter Bonnet"

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,

You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.

I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,

I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.

On the avenue, Fifth Avenue,

the photographers will snap us,

And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.

Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,

And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade.

Written by Irving Berlin

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Fritzi's Chihuly

I think this part of the Chihuly exhibit would have been my mother's favorite. It reminded me of her red Dansk cookware and serving pieces. Chihuly calls it the Orange Basket Forest, but the orange is very close to red.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Spring Breaking Glass

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has a permanent installation of Dale Chihuly glass art. How did I miss this nearby gem for so long? It is an easy two-opera drive from home on a Saturday morning. And I was sure ready to hit the open road!

You can take photos in the Chihuly exhibit, which isn't a guarantee that you (or I) can take good photos there. The lighting and surfaces present many challenges. It was very fun to try, though.

These pieces are from the Persian Seaform Ceiling, which is as close to scuba diving in a coral reef as I'll probably ever get.

Light shines down through stacked arrangements of anemone and shell-shaped glass resting on the clear glass ceiling in a long hallway. I felt like Disney's Little Mermaid discovering thingamabobs and doohickeys from another world.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder



A preschool student volunteers to write the name of the day on the dry erase board every morning. Last week we had


but today it was


Fiddle-I-Fee! Fiddle-I-Fee! The fly has married the bumblebee. I fed my cat under yonder tree, and my cat said fiddle-I-fee.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Unsavory type

My neighbor spotted an "unsavory type" going through the condo complex recycling bins to collect all the cans. She also used the term "hobo", which I hadn't heard in decades. She was glad to report she had successfully "run him off the property". This gave me a wonderful mental image of an elderly woman shaking her cane at a tramp fleeing with his bindle on a stick.

First, the lesson to remember--Items placed in recycling bins and dumpsters are not secure just because they are surrounded with disgusting or decomposing material. Private, personal, and financial information, including those endless offers of credit cards, should be shredded. This "unsavory type" did his scavenging in broad daylight and seemed to just be collecting cans to sell.

Second, what is an "unsavory type" or "unsavory character"?--Without getting into the Spitzer scandal, the implications seem to include disagreeable, morally offensive, and suspected of criminal behavior. "Unsavory" can also mean tasteless or insipid.

But, third, what is "savory"?--I thought it was an herb, but it is actually two different Old World herbs called "summer savory" and "winter savory" whose leaves are used as seasoning. My 1976 Joy of Cooking explains:

The leaves of winter savory are used in stews, stuffings and meat loaves. Sauteria montana, a rather resinous perennial evergreen sub-shrub, grows to 18 inches and tolerates lean soil. Summer savory is a much more delicately flavored herb and has many more uses. It is classic in green beans and green bean salad; in horseradish sauce and lentil soup; and even in deviled eggs. It is also used with fat fish, roast pork, potatoes; tomatoes and French dressing. Sauteria hortensis, which grows to 18 inches, needs light, well-composted soil.

I'd never heard of herbs until Simon and Garfunkel sang "Scarborough Fair" in 1966...
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

To further complicate the issue, "savories" are a course served in English dinners before the fruit or after the sweet, "to cut the sugar taste before the port is served". Some of them are fishy. The whole situation is getting fishy, if you ask me! Some savories suggested in Joy of Cooking are oysters or chicken livers wrapped in bacon, sardine crepes, tomato tarts, curried seafood tarts, and toasted cheese rolls. I might be inclined to fake a nosebleed during this course, and return just in time for the port!

Fourth, what's the origin of the term "hobo"?--To me, the term conjures a boxcar hopper who uses a secret code to mark the houses of kind women who will offer food.

I grew up still close enough to the Great Depression to know at an early age that running away from home required tying my belongings in a bandana and hanging that bundle on a stick carried over my shoulder. That bundle on a stick is known as a bindle. This meant that if you couldn't tie, you couldn't run away from home. If you couldn't fit what you wanted to take along in a bandana, you couldn't run away from home. If your mom didn't let you play with sticks, you were probably never going to get a breakout opportunity, and you probably still live with your mom. Also, if you wanted to run away from home, you had to smear your cheeks with Crisco and slap on coffee grounds, which is a fairly significant deterrent to riding the rails.

These theories of the origin of the word "hobo" come from Wikipedia:

The origin of the term is not confirmed, though there is a plethora of popular theories. Author Todd DePastino has suggested that it may come from the term hoe-boy meaning "farmhand", or a greeting such as Ho, boy!.[2] Bill Bryson suggests in Made in America that it could either come from the railroad greeting, "Ho, beau!" or a syllabic abbreviation of "homeward bound". Others have said that the term comes from the Manhattan intersection of Houston and Bowery, where itinerant people once used to congregate.

Still another theory of the term's origins is that it derives from the city of
Hoboken, New Jersey, which was a terminus for many railroad lines in the 19th century. The word "hobo" may also be a shortening of the phrase which best describes the early hobo's method of transportation, which was "hopping boxcars", or of the phrase "homeless body" or "homeless bohemian". Additional claims about the word's origin include derivations from the Japanese word houbou 方々, meaning, in reference to travel, "various places", and from the Spanish word jobo, meaning, in the Cuban phrase correr jobos, "truancy". Some Hoboes claim it stands for Helping Our Brothers Out...Hoboes differentiate themselves as travelers who are homeless and willing to do work, whereas a tramp travels but will not work and a bum does neither.

The Online Etymology Dictionary offers fewer choices:

1889, Western Amer.Eng., of unknown origin, perhaps related to early 19c. Eng. dial. hawbuck "lout, clumsy fellow, country bumpkin." Or from ho, boy, a workers' call on late 19c. western U.S. railroads. Hence facetious formation hobohemia "community or life of hobos," 1923 (see bohemian).

Fifth, what about street people, panhandlers, the homeless, vagrants, swagmen, tramps, and bums?--We hear so much about The Homeless. I don't have time to study the various words, but they seem to indicate different reasons for homelessness. The person spotted "on the property" taking cans from our condo recycling bins seems to have a plan for making a bit of cash. Maybe shelters for the homeless could be supported by collections of cans. And, ho, boy, aren't there some seriously curried fishy tarts out there holding high offices?

Just so you don't join me in insomniac mental scrolling searching for the lyrics to that bad Cher song about people taking Bud cans out of the recycling bin:

Gypsies, tramps, and thieves
We'd hear it from the people of the town
They'd call us gypsies, tramps, and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Lining up

In elementary school my teachers used to think up different arrangements for students to line up--alphabetical by first name, or last, or both; by birthday, by height... We did a lot of things by height back then, in a form of discriminatory shortism. We lined up for the class photo or the Christmas music program by height. When we chose up sides for recess games like Red Rover, the two tallest kids were usually the captains making the choices. These were scary times for skinny short kids. The outcomes were more influential than any NFL draft, at least for a generation of psychologists and licensed family therapists with kids to put through college.

I like to use categories that don't scar students for life:

If you have pink socks you may line up.
If you have white socks you may line up.
If you have no socks you may line up.
If you have two socks you may line up.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Grocery do-overs and makeovers

I live in a hotly-contested battleground state for grocery store wars. Why Hillary and Barack didn't stake out positions in the fresh produce or international cheese displays to shake hands, give out tasty samples, and dispense buzzwords about a greener economy mystifies me. Why has neither candidate addressed the inconvenient obstacles impeding use of canvas totebags instead of plastic store bags in the self-check lanes?

My medium-size Albertsons is in the midst of a makeover. The aisles are widening, and the shelves are getting shorter. The effect is more airy and inviting than when I personally get shorter and wider. Kitty litter is losing display space to Australian wines. I like my smaller store, and appreciate not needing hiking boots as I do in the enormous natural/foodie/gourmet Central Market and Whole Foods stores. Plus, it's right on my way home from work. I [used to] know where everything is, so even a major buy is a fifteen minute experience.

My nearest Kroger just finished a designer restyling to entice more natural/foodie/gourmet shoppers. I'm a simple person. My idea of a grocery store perk is watching the mist machines in the fresh produce department while pretending I'm in the rainforest. A trip to Kroger takes a minimum of forty minutes.

I don't know why Michigan and Florida need to have primary do-overs. "Do-over" is such a playground word! Concentrating on the explanation gives me a headache. I need to put my head under the rainforest mist machine, along with all the other cabbage heads.

As a person living alone most of the time, a head of red cabbage is a long-term investment. I've made endless salads for my school lunches with purple color accents. Cooked pork and cabbage in the wok twice. Made a veggie crockpot soup. Enjoyed polska keilbasa with cabbage and caraway seeds. Took a lovely cobalt violet leaf for the class rabbit to nibble almost every day while pondering how to paint it.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Nehi to a grasshopper OR the boy who cried barf

It is fitting on this day, my brother's fiftieth birthday, that I should spend a moment in contemplation of queasy stomachs. These musings have nothing whatsoever to do with the grown-up person my brother became, but more to do with the way life imitates and aggravates Aesop.

One of my young students tells me often that his tummy hurts. His tummy hurts a lot when he doesn't want to do something. I understand that ploy, having used a similar tactic, "the faked nosebleed" to exit third year Spanish class rather more often than believable, it is embarrassing to admit. An actress I wasn't.

As a young boy my brother told us often that his tummy was upset. Because we almost always saw the proof of this queasiness, and then tried to get the stain out of the rug, my brother had credibility. Orange soda pop is a very persevering stain.

"Credibility Gap" was a phrase of the Viet Nam Era. It indicated "public skepticism about the truth of official claims and pronouncements", according to my dictionary. My brother had no such gap, but my student does. He has been the shepherd boy calling the warning of "wolf" far too often. He is Weapons of Mass Destruction without the orange Nehi.

That is why we were surprised when he suddenly went chalk-white and blew chunks all over the sidewalk. In Aesop, the villagers just ignore the boy's warnings, and the wolf eats all the sheep. In real life, the teachers ignore the warnings, and get it on their shoes. In the Bush Era we forgot the Credibility Gap, and never will get that orange soda out of the rug!

Happy birthday, Rog.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Why worms? Why opera?

The beauty of having one thousand red wiggler worms as pets is not having to walk along behind them scooping poop and picking up steamy droppings in a plastic bag before dawn. To worms it is pretty much always before dawn, except for those occasional solar flares when I take the lid off their worm bin. The whole point of having worms is to collect their castings (aka poop), but I don't have to put them on a leash and go out into the cold night wearing my bathrobe and slippers.

All my red wigglers are named "Dave". Dave is a good, solid name. My first boyfriend was named Dave. True, we were both toddlers, and the relationship didn't last. We shared some good skinned knees and graham crackers, though.

Dr. Seuss created Mrs. McCave, who "had twenty-three sons, and she named them all Dave". The story is part of The Sneetches, one of the greatest books ever for kids or grownups. I only had three sons, but it often felt like twenty-three!

And so, my little Daves are making new and improved dirt that I'll eventually use in my garden. While that is the projected product of this endeavor, the process is intended to make me more mindful of my personal kitchen waste. Beyond that, it is about being part of the most basic cycle of our earth, and acknowledging the efforts of the smallest participants in this contract.

Why opera, then? While the worms break down life to the simplest of sitcoms, opera piles everything on like a cultural game of Dogpile with the Princess and the Pea's mattresses. At it's best, an opera brings everything down to a gut level of rich improved soil, while showing off for every sense like a gleaming scarab beetle.

What are we made of? If we pile all our leftovers in a heap, then let them be digested, can we become as rich and layered as the arias of "Tosca"? Can we also become the form of the most elemental nourishment for garden and soul?

I love the dirt, the sounds, the color, the dark, the rich complexities, and the simple worms.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Scarpia ponders waterboarding

The current Dallas Opera production of "Tosca" is excellent. The soprano is outstanding; the sets and costumes are lavish; the orchestra sound is rich; the men are handsome. Scarpia, the despicable chief of police, is portrayed as a vile cross between Snidely Whiplash and our own "Decider".

Scarpia uses the torture of Magdalene painter Cavaradossi to compel sexual favors from the artist's love, the diva Floria Tosca. How sad on this gorgeous nearly-spring day at a fabulous performance of Puccini's opera of love, faith, art, and corrupt absolute power, I'm thinking of Bush's veto. I'm pretty sure Scarpia sang an aria with these lyrics:

The bill Congress sent me
would take away one
of the most valuable tools
in the war on terror

So today I vetoed it
So today I vetoed it
So today I vetoed it

This is no time
for Congress to abandon practices
that have a proven track record
of keeping America safe

So today I vetoed it
So today I vetoed it
So today I vetoed it

By JENNIFER LOVEN – 1 day ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Saturday he vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks. http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNORmRm4JahUoi8tBwl8CvvliqygD8V9BH28K

Then Scarpia told Spoletta to fake Cavaradossi's execution as was done for Count Palmieri. Nothing goes well for any character after that. Nothing will go well for our so-called civilized nation, either. Our moral standing in the circle of nations is at an all-time low.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Singles scene

I occasionally read those celebrity and gossip columns by Alan Peppard in the Dallas Morning News about who hosted who's birthday at an exclusive penthouse bar in trendy Victory Park downtown. Of course I also sometimes read the nutritional and net weight information on the side of the Rice Chex box at breakfast.

When we were kids my brother had an ant farm. For a few weeks we stared at the ants in their tunnels, working hard pushing things around. Then the ants all died. For many more weeks we still stared at the ant farm. Yup, not much happening again today.

A lot of real life is as exciting as that ant farm or the cereal box. But suddenly I have a trendy penthouse bar right in my kitchen. I swore I wasn't going to be one of those vermibloggers who post photos of decomposing food. So avert your eyes from the compost, and view, gossip reporter-like, the swinging scene just under the rim. Clearly, this is where the elite meet and drop hundreds of dollars on bottle service. For all I know, the worms are engaging in hermaphroditic vermisex while looking out over the midnight skyline.

I really don't have a clue why the worms hang out here. They don't seem interested in the corresponding area at the other end of the worm bin. I want them to go back down to work in the soil factory! Maybe these are trust fund worms who don't have to work for a living.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Caucus disgust #2

The precinct caucus leader received the official packet Tuesday evening, but the Wizard of Oz hadn't presented him with a brain. That might be why the precinct caucus sign-in was set up a small table up the steps to the stage in the elementary school cafetorium. Never mind the folks with walkers. This poor schmo had no tools at his disposal for organizing recording, and certifying over one hundred aggravated Democrats and cross-over Republicans for Hillary.

We had already been diverted through the playground mud around to the back door of the lunchroom. We'd milled about sorting ourselves into precinct 15 and 70 groups, then reluctantly sat ourselves down on the lunchroom benches and floor.

The Texas Democratic Two-Step primary process has been much in the news. The spotlight should remain aimed on it until public outcry forces a restructuring of the delegate apportionment process and a greater organizational transparency for the Texas Democrats, the party of diverse individuals.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Caucus disgust #1

When I am in charge of the world, you will have to vote in your own party's primary. I guess I'll let registered Independents choose which primary ballot to vote.

Every four years the governors of the fifty states, the territories, and the D of C will do one-potato-two-potato for the chance to draw a date out of a hat for that state's primary election. Caucuses will not be allowed. I believe I'll have the current president do the one-potatoing-two-potatoing, and I think it should be televised. It would be at least as exciting to watch as those professional sports drafts.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder



Privilege and responsibility are the dual characteristics of citizenship. We lucky American citizens have the privilege of voting for our officials, and the responsibility to be informed voters. On this day of the Texas primary election, I had a heavy burden and great joy besides attending the post-election precinct convention. More on that note later. For now I'm talking about the hotly contested goat and troll auditions for the spring music festival.

My little sister, the choral director, will never believe it. I evaluated music auditions! She used to stand beside me in the pew of the United Church of Christ (not the same congregation as Senator Obama), and suggest tactfully that I didn't need to sing the hymn "if I didn't want to". I could "just read the words silently", she advised in a whisper. My little brother would support her suggestions with his most forceful aspect, and it is mighty tough to exert influence wearing a pale blue polyester suit with wide lapels and a navy and orange floral necktie.

We won't even discuss how I went to CVS to buy a new toothbrush, and the Bee Gees' "Stayin Alive" was playing on the piped-in Muzak. The Bee Gees sang higher than any of the preschool kids trying out for the Wee Billy Goat. An old married couple, okay, over fifty, was rocking out in the greeting card aisle.

Feel the city breakin' and ev'rybody shakin'and we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive. Ooh, hoo, hoo, hoop, Stayin' Alive.

"Did you ever hear of a hoopoe?," my lead teacher asked. We are talking about birds, not bad disco haircuts. The hoopoe is actually an Old World bird with a bad disco haircut; cute in it's own way, but probably not critical for Texas preschoolers to learn. It says its name, oop-oop-ooping along.

The music festival troll has a big nose and a club. This is all starting to sound familiar. Few children are brave enough to even audition for the part. I want to reach across the divide between my inflated imperial status as auditioner to their young hearts as auditionees to tell them THE TROLL IS THE ROLE TO GO FOR! Few moments in my own childhood were as deliciously nasty and satisfying as playing Cinderella's stepmom in a neighborhood basement production. Well, maybe that time when I was two years old and went totally berserko running up and down the aisles of Leon's Food Mart with my exasperated very pregnant mom in slow pursuit.
Trolls and goats and hoopoes, oh my! Bad disco suits and grocery store hoots... My little brother's very first LP was the Snoopy vs. The Red Baron album of the Royal Guardsmen. The strange comedy cover album by a sextet from Florida included the song that haunted my afternoon. The "Alley Oop" words and music are by Dallas Frazier, 1960, based on the comic strip.
There's a man in the funny papers we all know
Alley Oop Oop, Oop Oop Oop
He lived way back a long time ago
Alley Oop Oop, Oop Oop Oop
Well he don't eat nothin' but bearcat stew
Alley Oop Oop, Oop Oop Oop
Oh well this cat's name is a-Alley Oop
Alley Oop Oop, Oop Oop Oop
Now I will listen to some election news, oop oop!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Hill and Bill and the heavies

Not a good weekend here at the old homestead. Woke up Saturday, and spent the next seven hours in an intestinal nightmare. Then I shivered and napped for another eight hours except for three calls from the Clinton campaign. Ate a baked potato. Slept another eight hours. Woke up Sunday with a calm stomach, but weak knees, sore abdomen, and pinchy twinges in my back, not to mention three more calls from the Clinton campaign. Ate another baked potato.

I believe strongly in the healing power of a baked potato for most of what ails me. Wish I believed as strongly in any candidate for public office. I was beginning to believe Hillary had called down a curse upon me after I cast my early ballot after the luncheon Friday afternoon. My brain was set on High Foggy all Saturday. Everything seemed like a bad community playhouse production of the Wizard of Oz. That Yellow Brick Road is just your intestine, Mama, and dang if those flying monkeys didn't get inside it!

Turned out six of the seven school staff members at our annual luncheon Friday had the same churning gut weekend. I'm not sure if they voted, but I bet Hillary and Bill kept their phone ringing. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It's just Bill [and his little dog Toto]. And please pass the soothing pink Pepto Bismal.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Stupid patron tricks

I'll be starring in the late-night library reality show, heading up the top ten stupid patron jokes tonight. David Letterman will be asking why I put the stamped envelopes for two bills, one letter for my dad, and a sympathy card into the bookdrop. When I called the library the young circ attendant who answered could only roll his eyes.

I'm still asking that question, and my only response is, "I'm a menopausal women in a morning pouring rain." Let's hear Maria Muldaur write that song!

Loaded up the Buick this morning:

  • Lunchbox---check

  • Printouts of NPR stories about EF (Executive Function)--check

  • Totebag of Jetson spacecars--check

  • Water jug for rehydrating--check

  • Three library books (not yet overdue)in a weatherproof bag--check

  • Red cabbage leaf for the class rabbit (much preferred over parsnips)--check

  • Notes about the 24 hr. cable Worm Channel--check

  • Windshield ice-scraper for worst scenario--check

When I arrived at the Post Office and got ready to jump out of the Buick my envelopes were nowhere to be found. Why is that bag of library books still on the floorboard? Standing there in the rain staring at the debris in a '96 Skylark doesn't help, even if I'm wearing my mom's hooded parka. It doesn't make me smarter.

The pinnacle of Collagemama stupidity, The Altoid Bank Deposit, has reigned for years. Today's discomboobled postal book mess is nothing by comparison.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Scary Sci-Fi Movie

Although my young students are incredibly brilliant, they aren't always the very first persons to say the most fabulous thing. And so, I regret to say, other people used the word "tyranntula" before today. Still, the little girl gave her pronunciation a certain Soviet era flourish.

"Tyranntula" is such a flashback to the scary black and white sci-fi tv shows of my Cold War childhood. We watched those shows sitting on the cork tile flooring in the basement of the house next door. We sat so close to the tv, and with the lights off, it's a wonder we didn't all go blind. That's because the father of that house (who never knew best, or ever, ever got to be the head of household) was snoring loudly in his recliner.

You bet "Tyranntula" is one of those movies with poor safety procedures in the laboratory, a clueless young assistant who's taken the boss' daughter out in his roadster on that road between the wheatfields, and some seriously grainy photography. You know to the bottom of your Skips tennis shoes that far scarier things lurk behind the plastic beaded "bamboo" curtain to the laundry room off to your right as you sit crosslegged. You are terrified of what will certainly happen to you should you spill your Nestle's Quik, toy with the crust of your tuna fish sandwich, or--GASP--take too teensy bites of your red delicious. You would rather be chased down, shredded, and slurpied by a giant reptilian spider than get crosswise with the true head of that house. You know far well what happened to the little kid who didn't eat all his hot dog, spilled Kool-Aid, and then wet his pants in terror. It was far worse than any Twilight Zone episode. He was just a shell, an automaton, after that unfortunate episode. I bet he's still in therapy fifty years later.

In the post-Soviet era, we still have some scary possibilities. We could have to pronounce the new Russian president's name on the air. Yes, Dmitri Medvedev, "med-VYED-eff", could be the foreign correspondent's equivalent of spilled Nestle's Quik.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


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