31 January 2007

In the ground

My parents both want to be cremated when the time comes. The conversations don't feel particularly morbid because amidst the practical, we end up joking about what happens to the ashes: Mom's urn engraved with, "I've got my eye on you," for example, just a little something for my brother. Lord knows I'm not keeping ashes on my mantle (when and if I have a mantle of my own).

Dad doesn't want all the chemical processing, the embalming, done to his corpse. I get that. Mom, so typically, doesn't want to take up space somewhere.

My grandparents are all buried near my parents' hometown several hundred miles away. Visiting tombs of people I know just hasn't been a part of my life. I do understand it though. A place and structure set aside, a representation and remembrance, a small piece of relative permanence.

Even without much of a personal connection (or perhaps because of it), cemeteries have always appealed to me. I like sculptural tombstones, geometric rows, dates that signify history, and the peaceful quiet.

I used to want some big, cool sculpture for my grave marker, but now I consider that to be a manifestation of my unfulfilled desire to sculpt stone. I'd rather create something myself and have it sit in a park somewhere.

Having seen my share of Six Feet Under, I don't particularly want to be embalmed, but cremation doesn't quite hit me right either. A funeral pyre set afire on a boat shoved out to sea: cool; an oven, not so much. Too many logistics and legalities to hope for a flaming boat, I reckon though. If the funerals I've attended have taught me anything, it's that my own will be out of my hands.

One year ago at TTaT: Did you say something?
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30 January 2007


The other night out at dinner, I saw my 6th grade social studies teacher and her husband having dinner with the town grocer and his wife.

A rabbit ran across the road on the way home even though it was very cold out.

Last night, when I hit stop after finishing watching a show I'd taped, I could not fathom why I was looking at Nancy Grace. I'd left the channel on the cartoon network so I could see what episode of Inuyasha was on.

I typed in 59 on the tv remote. Still Nancy Grace. I typed 59 on the vcr remote. No change. Toggled between video and tv. Same. Wtf?

Tried some other stations only to discover that our whole channel lineup had switched in the 45 minute window during which I watched the tape. Could only think to myself: I have to tape Veronica Mars tomorrow, we better still have The CW. (We do, plus a handful of new channels I might conceivably watch- not necessarily a good thing.)

And tonight, this was my fortune:
Fortune- Made in the USA
I'm used to not getting actual fortunes, but this one left me truly nonplussed.

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28 January 2007

To paraphrase

I've hit a dilemma with a piece I'm writing. For most of my life, recalling conversations verbatim has come naturally to me; if there was a disputed recollection in my family, my word was law. It's not as clear anymore though, and the useless details I recall instead make me want to pull my brain apart sometimes.

In this case, I'm writing about a couple of days I'm surprised to find I don't recollect with perfect clarity. There's so much emotional aftermath that it's hard to get the immediacy of the moments prior to it. Technically, I suppose I could ask for the other person's take on it, but that's not going to happen. Our memories didn't always jive even when we got along at our best. So what then?

This must be a common problem in the world of creative nonfiction. Most people's memories do not seem to be like mine (or how mine was), so there has to be a lot of paraphrasing going on, not to mention artistic license for the sake of clarity and story. Any thoughts?

I've gotta jet. I don't exactly feel like going out to eat, but in the spirit of "engage" for 2007, I'm trying to say yes to things more often.

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Is a printer still a printer if it doesn't print?

I'm thinking no. It's the heap of junk shame taking up a fourth of my desk. It still scans, but that's little comfort. It's more irritating because I don't use it much (which may ironically have started the problem in the first place).

I've been slack about addressing the problem because having tried all the preliminary trouble-shooting steps multiple times, the next thing I'm supposed to try is putting in new ink. Even though I did that a couple months ago and they're all nearly full still...minus all the ink clearing I've been doing. I really don't want to blow fifty-sixty bucks on ink to find out I'd have been better off putting that towards a new printer.

Interesting tidbit I've discovered along the way is that my printer won't print if any one color is out, even if that color is not needed. What a fucking scam! Shouldn't surprise me since there was a class action suit against Epson because some of their printers would say ink cartridges were empty when they weren't yet. Still haven't gotten that check in the mail. Maybe I'll see if the coupon half of that settlement works at their online store and put it towards some ink. Ggrrr.

One year ago at TTaT: The Sleeper Must Awaken
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27 January 2007

Making life easier

So I finally started using a feed reader yesterday. I don't know why I resisted it for so long, because it's so much easier than looking at live bookmarks and remembering the blog titles of the last post I read for everyone. In part, I suppose it was because now you won't be able to tell if I stopped by unless I leave a comment. Sometimes I just don't have anything to say. Anyway, I wanted to let you know I'm still reading and probably keeping up to date better... we'll see how it goes.

The other thought this whole thing triggered is doing things the hard way. Why is that my default mode so much of the time? I suppose there's some perceived gain to the hard way that makes it seem reasonable until the scale tips and suddenly it seems idiotic. And then there are the hard things that just seem difficult because of fear or anxiety. It's easier to think of them as hard so I can put them off. Taking charge of your life is something you've got to want to do.

One year ago at TTaT: Either I've still got it, or I should be insulted
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23 January 2007

Potentially crazy making

In this case, I refer to Easter eggs, the sort found in DVDs rather than clumps of grass. Honestly, I don't know anyone with the time and patience to try every button combination on every possible menu item on their DVDs. I am particularly awed by the people who found the hidden extra(s) on the 4 disc extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: that's patience and dedication (or some serious OCD). Also, the Dodgeball extra commentaries which are activated by hitting enter each time Ben Stiller snaps his fingers in the movie. Seriously, how does anyone figure that out unless by some fluke accident?

Fortunately though, these people do exist, and they share their finds on the internet. That's the sort of hunting I can do.

More than a third of my DVDs have hidden extras of some sort, so chances are a few of yours have some too. Here's a couple places to look if you're interested:
Easter Egg Archive -alphabetical title listing
DVD Review: Easter Eggs -search by title

Also, don't forget, Veronica Mars is back from hiatus with a new episode tonight at 9!

One year ago at TTaT: Skepticism
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21 January 2007

I really do hate chainsaws

9:00 AM on Sunday is no time to rev up your chainsaw. At first I blamed Craig, our neighbor across the street, because it seemed to be coming from that direction and I could sort of forgive him because I know he works during the week. Then I realized it was coming from next door: retired Larry, or more probably Larry minions.

After about ten minutes, I groped through a couple drawers and pulled out some earplugs. It was quiet for a while, but then I could still make out the muffled high-pitched whine.

Eventually I crashed out and had a dream in a high school setting which involved my locker being destroyed and feeling like I was wearing ear plugs even after I'd pulled them out in the dream. Also, my knees completely gave out and I started to fall. There was the briefest moment where I decided not to grab for the wall of lockers (like I expect I would in life), but instead reached for the young guy friend who'd been walking the halls with me, subjecting him to dead weight. I could tell that I kind of liked him which made my choice all the stranger. There was nothing romantic about hanging on to him with my arms around his neck, regaining the strength in my knees and legs. If anything, my sudden near collapse was alarming to him, but when my equilibrium was restored, he just set out to help me with my mangled locker. It looked beyond repair to me: bent, missing the door's hinges, installed upside down; I started looking for an empty locker, bigger and better than the one I'd had before.

One year ago at TTaT: Note to self
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18 January 2007

To Memorize

The American version of the OED and a Webster's collegiate dictionary both define memorize as: to commit to memory; learn by heart.

Learn by heart? Are you effing kidding me? A cliche is not a definition. How is someone supposed to look up 'learn by heart'?

And then there's words that are defined by their own roots. At this point in my life, I can see that it may be a space issue in printed dictionaries, but it can still be mighty irritating.

One year ago at TTaT: Flood
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17 January 2007

Gimme some Dirt

I admit it, I'm hooked: Dirt. What a great vehicle for Courteney Cox.

One year ago at TTaT: The Turn of Obsession
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16 January 2007

Other People

I don't expect much regarding the quality of library CDs, but I do wonder what the hell people do to them. Eat lunch over open cases? Key the discs to assuage their aggression? Stand on a pile of CDs and do The Twist? When I gingerly tried to pry open a booklet that was badly stuck together, it smelled of vomit; I promptly put it back and washed my hands for a right long time.

Is it so hard to hold CDs by their edges and not spill stuff on them or throw up all over them?

In other news, Fitena is hosting Carnival of the Mundane this Friday. She's accepting entries until Thursday the 18th. More details and submission info is available here.

One year ago at TTaT: Tagged
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10 January 2007

Well, here goes peeps

I'm about to take a stab at installing some more memory in my computer. If I suddenly disappear for some lengthy stretch... something went awry. Cross your fingers.

See you on the other side.

UPDATE: Success! I did end up enlisting some help though. "Press gently" my ass. It's not like it was hard, but the stress it caused made it seem hard. I confess I'm still a bit leery knowing that only 3 screws keep my computer from plunging into my desk. Sometimes it's nicer not knowing how little is holding something together.

Decisions and anti-decisions

Why does doing what's best for yourself always seem so hard? I'm making bad decisions, or rather my indecision/refusal to choose is a bad decision. It's so easy to just say I'm waiting until I figure things out, and it's a near total cop-out.

I felt like I was ready for change around my birthday a few months ago, but it didn't take that long for the status quo to become comfortable again. That's the catch: it is comfortable, easy even, and any of the changes I should make won't be. It's hard to embrace struggle when it will leave me with less than I have now. I need to figure out what I'd gain from the change. Until that becomes specific and real to me, and outweighs the hassle of struggle, outweighs my life now, I don't see myself making it happen. (Unless by whim, I make one large change which instigates a cascade of changes; it's been known to happen on occasion.)

Inertia coupled with anxiety- don't forget the existentialism!- is capable of powerful constraint. Just writing about it makes me feel a bit sick.

When I was a kid, I never really considered what my life would be like beyond college, but I did presume that I'd have more answers than questions by now, that things would sort themselves out. I suppose I still want that to be true, but I need to get on with sorting it out myself.

One year ago at TTaT: Mom reinterprets a classic
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09 January 2007

I want one

Though I've always agreed that iPods are cool, I've never wanted one. I'm just not one of those walk-around-wearing-headphones sort of people. However, Apple's new iPhone has my attention. Phone, iPod, web browser, digital camera: yeah, I want one.

Will I actually get one? Well, considering it still needs FCC authorization before they can sell it, and there's no price listed for it (though it must be more than an equivalent capacity iPod), I'm thinking no. No time soon anyway. Still pretty cool though.

One year ago at TTaT: The Doctor is In
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07 January 2007

The Road is my Favorite Place: Days 11-14

(Days: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten)

27/viii/04 to 30/viii/04: Troy, IL to Richfield, OH
530 miles/853 km

The next week of the journey did not feel as much my own and was largely devoid of photography. I visited some friends along the way, but my timing was mostly poor for them. This was difficult after 10 days beholden to no one but myself. The joys of anonymity were quickly swept away by the eyes of people I'd known for years. The pressure of what to do next with my life resurfaced as they were preoccupied with work and prior commitments.

Days 11-12: A brief visit in Indy, IN with Cathy who I met halfway through her final semester of undergrad. If not for the budding presence of email, the development of our friendship might have arrested after she graduated.

We went out to dinner the night I arrived, and the next day, I tagged along to a birthday party of her friends' one year old. A couple people I'd met briefly previously or had heard of, but mostly it was a view into a life and group of friends that are more settled than most people I know. Maybe not with work and in some cases not with relationships, but with where they want to be for the most part. More settled than me certainly.

She had to work the next morning, so I decided to take off that night to make things easier. Also, I didn't want to miss my all-time favorite sport of the Olympics, summer or winter: 10M platform diving, and her tv antenna had terrible reception for that channel. I checked into a Super 8 in Greenfield, Indiana, soaked in the air conditioning and marveled at the stunning level of difficulty dives the men were performing: 3.5s and 3.6s. So amazing.

Days 13-14: An even briefer visit in Columbus, OH with Marc who I've known since grad school.

Though it was Sunday, he had to work to do for the beginning of the semester the following day, so I had time to kill. I checked out at 11, ate at a Bob Evans full of Sunday brunchers, and then drove to the Easton Town Center, a large indoor/outdoor mall complex in Columbus, OH.

"One for Hero, please."

The guy behind the ticket window huffed, "It's not in English. It's got subtitles."

"I know," I said, gesturing to the sign in the window that stated it was in Mandarin. "That's fine."

He regarded me skeptically but gave me the ticket. Clearly they'd had problems with this before.

7:08 p Eastern time. Columbus, OH @ mall. Just saw Hero which was amazingly beautiful & heartbreaking.

After the matinee, I went to check on my car in the parking garage since it was still full of nearly all my possessions. Everything was still there and my cell got reception, so I leaned back in the driver's seat for a bit. Marc had left me a message that he'd be there by 7:30 and would call again once he was at the mall. At quarter after my phone vibrated; we agreed on a landmark we could both find, and then there we were.

Of all the people I went to grad school with, he was among the least likely I ever expected to see again, but he's become the one I most expect to cross paths with no matter where either of us happens to live, and I'm so grateful for that.

We scoped out some restaurants at the mall but ended up driving over to Logan's Roadhouse for steaks and catch-up. He still had some work to do that evening, but he gave me the grand tour of the new house he and his wife had purchased earlier that summer before getting me settled in their guest room. It's a cool house of a size, scale, and layout I'd like for myself... some day.

His wife was out of town, so I got up early the next day to leave when he did so he could lock up.

30/viii/04 12:15 p Easton Town Center's Loop. Just killing a bit of time before driving to Cleveland. Impressed w/restrooms in AMC part of mall (not AMC's but main mall). Large stalls. Nearly every stall has its own sink, dryer, a shelf for your stuff in an alcove, mirror. It was about 5' wide by 4' deep maybe even 6' w. Big & not a handicapped stall. Anthropologie store was neat but $. And I'm allergic to something here- probably pollen & fresh cut grass.

Along the highway, I saw a sign for Grandpa's Cheesebarn which I felt compelled to check out. It took me a couple U-turns to find the driveway, but it was well worth it.
Grandpa's Cheesebarn Sign Grandpa's Cheesebarn Mouse
Amish shedsTasty cheese samples. They also sell meats, sandwiches, figurines, xmas stuff, bears, windchimes, and all sorts of jarred preserves and pickled things. And Amish built sheds. I picked up a few smaller souvenir items for the fam and took some shots before getting back on the road.

After scoping out the lodging options around Richfield, OH, I went on the hunt for dinner. There were no mid-range restaurants forever, and I had become very hungry. Finally, I saw a shopping plaza with a restaurant draped with reasonably priced daily specials. Pazzo's sounded promising-- all I'd really been looking for was something like a Pizza Hut, casual with a restroom. But when I walked into Pazzo's, there was an elegant, well-stocked wine bar across from the entrance with men and women in suits having drinks, people just off work I assumed. A couple people glanced over when I walked in and then dismissively turned back to their drinks and conversation. I was so clearly underdressed that I backed out before the hostess turned up even though I really needed to pee.

The BoneyardAcross the parking lot, I saw an establishment called "The Boneyard" with skeletons hanging on it and figured I couldn't be underdressed for that. I moved my car and was glad to see the "To Go" parking signs because I hadn't even been sure it was a restaurant. Boneyard doorI breezed past the hostess stand and a couple other customers following the restrooms sign. When I returned, I took in the decor more fully: skeletons everywhere, like haunted house rejects getting work in the off-season. Why a food venue would choose skeletons for its decor was beyond me, but I was so hungry I didn't much care.

The food was all right, but I kept thinking someone was approaching because there was a moving skeleton just on the edge of my peripheral vision.

I was beat by the time I got back to the hotel. The Olympics, my tv mainstay for the trip, were over, but miraculously there was a movie I hadn't seen playing on HBO, so I stretched out on yet another strange bed and watched Seabiscuit.


One year ago at TTaT: Made infiltrates my dreams
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06 January 2007

64 F? That's crazy talk

But it's true. 64 degrees (17.8 C) in January in New England. (The average temperature range is 9 to 28F/-2 to -12C.) And the sun's really shining through now, so it might even be a bit warmer than that. Although this is pretty close to my favorite weather, it feels pretty strange occurring here now.

I'm glad the grass is still green though; it's depressing when there's no snow and it's all tan and brown.

One year ago at TTaT: Fallen snow

04 January 2007

When correspondence was tangible

Just got back from a groovy exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum.
More Than Words: Artists' Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art

It's up through January 14th, well worth seeing if you can swing it. Later this year, the exhibition will travel to other venues. If none of those will work, then there's a book of the exhibition.

The letters vary widely in age, language, and imagery, love letters to thank you notes, but they're all pretty damn cool. Makes me miss getting mail.

One year ago at TTaT: Saying it well
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03 January 2007

Formalwear Claire

(Many thanks to Jenny of run jen run whose hilarious post "Never a Bride" inspired this one.)

Formalwear and Claire have a long history of adversity despite her appreciation of fashion. Claire prefers looking at fashion to wearing it for the most part. She still remembers that red Narciso Rodriguez dress that Julianna Margulies wore to the Golden Globes some years ago that she liked so much she thought it would make a great wedding dress... if she ever decides to get married and in a dress. If she does marry, it's just as possible she'd request everyone be in pajamas for the ceremony.

For Claire, it's always been about what's comfortable, mostly from a physical standpoint, but there's also this element of self-consciousness that creeps in and shapes how comfort is defined. She'll say it's superficial to judge people based on appearances, that she doesn't want to be judged on her looks, but her clothing choices serve more to deflect attention than to promote some sartorial egalitarianism.

Sometimes, however, she chooses to defy her comfortable inclinations. Just as a reminder to herself and the people around her that she's capable of being completely different, or at least seeming to be. These almost alter ego shifts are typically last minute whims which compound the stress of shopping.

Claire's prom dress ordeal took place the Monday before the dance and was the first time she encountered the baffling idea of dyeing shoes to match.

The day of her grad school graduation, Claire roved through Macy's, her parents floating around her in slow orbits, not seeing anything to wear except one dress on the wall that kept catching her eye. It took her a few passes to work up the nerve to try it on because she wasn't even looking for a dress, and it wasn't something her parents would expect her to like. There's nothing like an ill-timed, "Oh my god, Claire's wearing a dress" to fuck with her alter ego, but thankfully, her parents didn't comment other than to say that they liked it.

The dress was a long, narrow, silk, navy slip with a purple lace, sleeveless, kinda tight shell that went over it. When her alter ego started losing its hold, Claire bought a grey silk jacket to go over it which she wore most, but not all, of the night. Though her pair of navy canvas scuffs were not in the least formal, they would serve and save her the agony of shoe shopping (which she didn't have time for anyway). Unfortunately, when she got home, none of her brassieres worked under the dress. Ultimately she went without which wasn't really noticeable but made her even more glad for the jacket.

Several years later, Claire's alter ego kicked in again when she was invited to a friend's wedding. She would've hauled out the grad school dress to see if it still fit, but lamentably, it was in storage thousands of miles away at the time. Shopping would be required. Two days before she had to fly out for the wedding, she walked down to the massive Nordstrom's on Market in San Francisco to start looking for a dress.

Though the pianist on the baby grand did calm her at first, reaching the floor of women's formalwear made her breathing shallow. Nothing caught her eye this time and without any idea of what she wanted, all the clothes became a blur. The best thing about that floor was the lounge section of the restroom where she went to quietly freak out in a comfy chair. She was leaving in less than 48 hours and had no idea where to begin, not even her size.

She knew her hip clothes shopping lovin' bud Chala was busy with work that afternoon south of the city, but she was two minutes shy of a panic attack. She pulled out her cell. The lounge had cell reception; things were looking a little brighter.

"Hey, what's up?" Chala answered.


"Where are you?"

Claire took a breath and tried to sound less crazy, "I'm in the women's lounge on the 4th floor of Nordstrom's."

"What are you doing there? It's so expensive."

"I know, I just thought... I don't know," she leaned forward and rested her chin on her hand. It had seemed like a good idea at the time to Claire. In a voice so resigned she felt she would burst into tears in the next moment she concluded, "I told you I didn't know what I was doing."

"All right. Meet me at the Rack in an hour."

The cusp of breakdown metamorphosed into elation. "Thank you so much! I really appreciate this."

"I know."

"Is that the one in the complex with Trader Joe's on 9th?"

"Yeah, it's down on the other end."

"Ok, I'll see you in an hour."

Claire has rarely had the patience to successfully shop in discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall's, or Nordstrom's Rack, but she had complete faith in Chala since she'd seen her in action before.

Chala burst through the door, snagged a cart, knew right where the dresses would be and started piling them in. When she tossed a 70s retro brown plaid skirt suit onto the pile, Claire scoffed, "I'm not gonna wear that to a wedding."

"Oh, I know. I just want to see how it looks on you."

Claire had been down this live dress-up doll road before; she protested, "I don't even like brown."

Chala continued, "Trust me, it'll look good on you."

Claire rolled her eyes but left it in the cart because Chala was doing her such a huge favor.

"Let's get you set up in a dressing room," Chala said, pulling an armful of dresses out of the cart.

Once they entered the dressing area, Claire stopped and eyed Chala suspiciously. There were only two individual dressing rooms and they were both occupied; the rest was one large open expanse of benches and women changing. Chala smirked and said, "I figured you wouldn't be happy about this, so I didn't mention it. One of 'em might open up, but the mirrors are better down at this end anyway. C'mon."

Claire growled under her breath and followed.

Chala hung the dresses along the wall, selecting one for Claire to try first and sat down. This section of the dressing room bowed out like the end of a dumbbell so it wasn't quite as exposed as the area by the entrance. Only one other woman was changing in this area against the opposite wall. Claire took a deep breath, started unlacing her shoes while calculating what order to remove her other garments in so as to be least exposed. Jacket, shirt, put the dress overhead, and then pants she decided.

Claire looked at herself in the mirror, pleased with meeting her wave of self-consciousness head on when Chala said, "Dude, you have to take that off." She was looking at the stretchy tank top Claire was wearing instead of a bra that was oh so conspicuous above the top of the dress.

Channeling her inner teen, Claire tilted her head, crossed her arms, slumped her shoulders, and sighed petulantly. "Really?"

Chala nodded, "Yeah."

Enlisting Chala's help meant playing by her rules. As Claire yanked at the zipper, Chala laughed and interjected, "Whoa, take it easy." She was right: these were not the hardy pants' zippers that Claire was accustomed to. She continued unzipping it gingerly, but her fingers were vibrating with restrained energy. Facing the wall, Claire wrestled the dress off, ripped the tank top off, and then put the dress back on as quickly as possible. Her cheeks were burning, but at least she'd faced the worst of it.

After several dresses, including the plaid skirt suit just for Chala's amusement, they had it narrowed down to two dresses: one simple black dress and one long shiny and slightly fuzzy mottled green dress. The black would require shoes and accessories; the green was definitely cooler, but it was also 3-4 times as expensive, pricey even at its discounted rate.

Claire was ready to go with the black when Chala noticed a puncture near the hem through the back of the dress.

"If it was just a tear, I could fix it," Chala explained, "But there's nothing you can really do about a hole like this."

"Did you notice if they had another in this size?" Claire asked hopefully.

"I don't think so, but I'll look. Just stay here."

Claire tried on the green dress again. It was a bit too long even for someone her height. She put on her black Skechers; the lug soles gave her enough height to keep the dress off the floor but still left the shoes out of view. That would solve the shoe problem, and she could always excuse them because the wedding was taking place in a cave.

A few minutes later, Chala returned empty-handed.

"No luck?"


"What do you think of this one?" Claire asked, gesturing to the green number she was still wearing.

"I think it's an awesome dress. I'd buy it if I had the money."

"It is comfy."

"Totally. If you get it, I'm gonna borrow it."

Claire smiled, looked in the mirror one last time, and said, "Ok, I'm gonna get it."

wedding toast
CTAR table
CTA reception

One year ago at TTaT: Mulling
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01 January 2007

I like me some angles

What sex is your brain?

This is a cool quiz on the BBC's Science & Nature site that I saw over at 2Blowhards. My brain is dead center on the continuum which doesn't surprise me. What's cool is seeing how the various sub-categories shake out. Despite an overall middle score, there were a few sections I rocked out in opposing directions (like angles and words); they must've balanced each other out.

The results come with links to more info about the science behind the original study.

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2007: Engage

"For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence." - Rilke

One year ago at TTaT: Wring in the new year
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