29 May 2008

24. In the Frame

24. In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures by Helen Mirren (3.5/5)

Organized chronologically starting with her Russian ancestors, the book intersperses a couple of pages of text with several of photos with further commentary, and then back to text. The writing is a little dry at first, but as you get further along in her life (and the book), Mirren gives you peeks into various personal and work recollections. The variety and abundance of photos and mementos is excellent.

I found reading the progress of her acting career (and traveling) quite compelling. She's been in more movies I've seen than I realized. (White Nights, anyone?) The mini-series Prime Suspect was probably the one for which I learned her name though.

Intelligent, feminine, independent, open-minded, one who seeks out her fears: a fascinating person. The book is well worth a look.

Two years ago on TTaT:here

28 May 2008

Not just for geeks, really

The World Science Festival begins today in New York City and runs through June 1. Their mission is:
To cultivate and sustain a general public informed by the content of science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.
The festival contains music and theater performances as well as lectures on topics of popular interest: the science of morality, cool jobs, neuroscience in the Borne trilogy, faith and science, the science of sports. Check out all of the scheduled events here.

If I were in NYC, I'd want to see the stage adaptation of Einstein's Dreams, a great book of fiction that portrays 30 dreams Einstein could have had while working on the theory of relativity.

I'd also want to see:
Cool jobs in science
The Mind's Eye, a talk by Oliver Sacks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Looks like that one is sold out.)
IJK, "a witty, physics-inspired showcase of sonic juggling."
Your Biological Biography: Genes and Identity

If you're in NYC, at least check out the WSF street fair on Saturday.

Juicy Fruit: the survivalist's gum

Run Jen Run has a great post up regarding her rekindled yet surreptitious passion for Juicy Fruit. (Not the first time she's inspired me, as it happens.)

Juicy Fruit was my favorite gum growing up. I loved its smell, its flavor, and even its packaging. The foil the stick was wrapped in, I would use to toss out the chewed wad, but the rest I would save. The paper wrappers were yellow and marked on the outside but white and unmarked on the inside making them handy for recording notes and impromptu deep thoughts. I bought the large packs which contained 30 sticks (if memory serves) and just pulled sticks out by the foil leaving a row of paper wrappers I could carefully pull apart for notation as needed.

When all the gum and paper wrappers were gone, I would carefully unfold the foil pack and slide it into my jacket pocket, reasoning that if I ever needed to signal an airplane or helicopter from a mountaintop, I could use it as a reflective surface.

27 May 2008

I continue to loathe health insurance

Just spent 29 minutes on the phone during which I was transferred THREE times even though I called the number that seemed right and selected the appropriate menu option.

The kicker is that I got a quote on Friday from someone very helpful, who emailed me the info booklet, and told me all I would have to do is call back to change it if I decided I wanted this plan. Of course, someone transferred me to her that time also, so I have no idea which branch she was in.

Today, of course, this plan which is on their frakkin' website didn't show up on the screens of the people I was speaking to. The final guy assured me he would transfer me to the right person to handle my switch, and I briefly believed him, until I hit the automated service saying that the renewals office was closed and If you'd like to leave a message... Tomorrow, the person who checks messages will hear my inarticulate exhale of despair and bewilderment before I hung up.

I thought telling them the exact plan I wanted by name was going to be the easy part. Frak!

26 May 2008

Ah, Memorial Day redux

For the six Memorial Days between 1986 and 1991, I wished for hard morning rains, but they never came. There were some overcast years, some sprinkles, but no escape from the parade. All I wanted was to sleep in, but instead by 9:30 I was gathering with my bandmates next to the town's firetrucks. Marching band wasn't in any way special or prestigious at my school; since the whole band was fairly small, it was just something we all had to participate in whether we wanted to or not.

In early May, we started holding our weekly full band rehearsals outside in the parking lot so we could practice walking in formation. Dress right, dress forward: which is to say keep in line with the person all the way to your right, and keep in line with the person in front of you. Though the number of rows could vary from year to year depending on how many people were in the band, I always held the right-most position for the saxophones (a small honor as I set the spacing between my row and the row ahead).

To give our marching group a bit more heft, it included band members from 7th through 12th grades. A couple of 6th graders would get the "honor" of carrying the banner in front. For drum major, a few factors weighed in to the choice: would his or her instrument be missed from the group? did he or she want to do it? and most importantly, could he or she fit into the small white uniform with gold trim?

The rest of us wore maroon suits with gold stripes down the sides of the pants, a white overlay with a stiff uncomfortable collar, and the stupid tall fuzzy hats. Unfortunately, the uniforms were bought when the band still marched for a Halloween parade, so they were made of heavy wool. For certain portions of the parade (it was actually 2 small parades), the band had to stand in the full sun while several speeches were made, the poem "In Flanders Fields" was read by a pretty, attention-hungry girl from the band, and "Taps" was played and then played again in the distance for an echo effect. Here we'd lose one to three people to heat exhaustion despite my Mom's efforts.

Of her own volition, she brought water and passed the bottles through the ranks during the speeches. They were the original (now old) style green Gatorade bottles with the long straw coming out of the top. Eventually we convinced our band director to let us take off the helmets during the speeches, and still we were all dripping with sweat.

The parade started in one town cemetery and ended in the other. There we dispersed, stripping off sweaty layers, packing up instruments, and walking to the VFW for free sodas. Then I'd go home, rinse off, and change clothes before heading to the annual picnic at our band director's house. Getting up for the parade may not have been what I wanted to do at the time, but it's certainly memorable.

A year ago on TTaT: Wuss!

25 May 2008

Random Scan Sunday 1: Concrete Cylinders

sketch of concrete cylinders9/V/04 5:35 pm
near the end of a manmade jetty. 3' d concrete cylinder triads going down into water. Submerged covered mossy green & barnacles.

A year ago on TTaT: Don't think, just write

22 May 2008

Again with the passive-aggressive?

There is no taking back a first reaction with my Mom. When she suggested Zed, a restaurant that doesn't serve much I like, I said, "Really?" hoping there'd be an alternative.

Then she asked where I wanted to go, but I didn't have a strong opinion about what I wanted to eat. Dad suggested a couple places.

I said, "Oh, they have barbecue chicken pizzas at Zed. I could have that. Or either of the places Dad mentioned would be fine. Or we could go to Mimsy's."

"Well, let's just go to Zed since that was your mother's suggestion," Dad said.

"Sounds good," I said.

"No one wants to go to Zed," Mom said.

"That's not true," I tried to explain, "Dad never said he didn't want to go there, and it sounds fine to me. I thought of something I could have."

"No, let's just go to Mimsy's, and some other night you and I can go to Zed," Mom commented to Dad.

I tried to convince her Zed was fine, which it would have been, but she wouldn't accept it. When we sat at our booth in Mimsy's, Mom said, "I should've stayed home," and I wanted to throttle her. Then I thought, I should've stayed home.

To some, my initial reaction may have seemed passive-aggressive, but I was just expressing what I felt in the moment, and I was true to that throughout. By the end of that conversation (the above version is abridged), I wanted to go to Zed and had expressed that as clearly as I could. However, Mom wanted to be a martyr, so we went to Mimsy's and dined under her cloud of wronged silence.

Just because I have a gut reaction does not mean it is permanent and unmalleable. Also, if I concede to your wishes over mine, I mean it and will be gracious about it.

Green Porno

Isabella Rossellini, a cartoonish milieu, and insect sex in very short films on the Sundance Chanel website.

Strange, but cool: Green Porno.

Two years ago on TTaT: Close call

21 May 2008


So when I called the phone number listed as the one to learn about other health insurance coverage options, she couldn't tell me about any other plans because there aren't any others like the one I have, and thus none of the other myriad insurance flavors show up on her screen. Compartmentalization, sigh.

She did give me the name and direct number of someone who should be able to help, but the two times I tried it I got his voice mail. Just not quite ready to leave a message and be at his mercy. I should though because his number is long distance. Bah.

Frakkin' health insurance

I have to change you again it seems. You suck! You sent me a letter saying if I needed to change my plan, you'd send me a letter with at least 60 days advance notice. FYI, typing April as the date of your letter does not disguise the recent May postmark! So more like 40 days. Doesn't sound so bad except you want 35 days advance notice for any changes. Turns out even the 1st letter wouldn't have given me 60 days. Frak you!

No doubt you'll want a cancellation notice for my current plan in writing too. With Memorial Day- aka postal holiday- ahead, getting that to you in time should be fun.

I loathe calling you for estimates. It's been a year, but it took so long last time to sort out that it feels much more recent. You couldn't even give me numbers for separate types of plans without having to reenter all my info. Which you couldn't just pull up from the system with my ID number in the first place. What's it going to be next year, huh? 'Cuz if I have to change it again then, I'm going to punch you in the face. I'm sure your insurance will cover it.

3 years ago on TTaT: Troubling breaths

17 May 2008


Rockin' some pretty sweet hair today but haven't been anywhere.

S'aright. I take it as a sign that some of Whoorl's styling tips are sinking in. At least, I'm hoping it's a repeatable feat.

A year ago on TTaT: Eight, at last

16 May 2008

Lick the light switch

So I've been watching Wonderfalls on dvd again, and I'm reminded just how sad I am that they cancelled it. I actually caught the four episodes they originally aired even as they jerked the show around the schedule from week to week. Stupid tv execs.

In the dvd commentary, the creators talk about some of the story lines they had planned for later in the series, and they sound offbeat and twisted, i.e., great. All is not lost, however, as the whole 13 episode first season is available on dvd. Since the writers knew the show's fate before they finished filming, they were able to tie up most of the major threads, so you can watch these episodes and not feel ripped off by some cliffhanger ending as often occurs in cancelled shows.

Set in Niagara Falls, Wonderfalls is the story of Jaye Tyler, an over-educated, underemployed, disaffected 20-something whose life is changed despite her best efforts the day inanimate objects start talking to her, coercing her to do things which may or may not be in the best interest of those around her. It's a silly premise, but the ways it plays out really makes me feel for these characters. (Yes, I have a bit of a crush on Jaye. Happy birthday, Caroline Dhavernas! (belated technically))
Jaye: What if we're too late? What if he's already beat her to death with a bag of oranges for withholding trick money?
Eric: Well, if she had any trick money I don't think she'd be living in a barrel. I know I wouldn't be.
Jaye: Yes, but maybe she's just a lazy whore. That happens, right? They can't all have hearts of gold and good work ethics.
Good times, watch it!

3 years ago on TTaT: tip of the week- financial information

15 May 2008

Have you seen a shirt like this one?

This is pretty much my favorite shirt despite the fact that the pattern is a bit more floral than I care for.
fave shirt WS
I've had it for ages and wear it over t-shirts all the time.
fave shirt MS
As you can see, the cuff edges have frayed off and I'm starting to accumulate some sizable holes.
fave shirt CU
I love this shirt, but it's too far gone to wear out in the world, so I'm looking for a replacement.

This is where you come in. If you see a shirt similar to this one online or in a store somewhere, please let me know in a comment or email.

Specifically, the ideal shirt would have (listed in order of importance):
  • the same color scheme as pictured above: a pale blue background with a sort of slate/denim blue for the pattern

  • a thick vine-like or scrolling pattern (or possibly a cool geometric)

  • no flowers!

  • made of cotton

  • no darts or fitted pleats

  • a collar that doesn't button down
If you see a shirt that doesn't meet all the ideal specifications but has the same feel as my shirt, please pass it along. Considering my own thus far fruitless search, I'm not expecting a perfect match. I just want another cool shirt I can wear as a layer over t-shirts.

I beseech you to keep an eye out.

Two years ago on TTaT: OK, I cave

13 May 2008

Peaceable Kingdom

For dinner, we ate some burgers and fries at the boat ramp by the river. Dad pointed out a duck flying overhead, and we watched a guy paddle upstream and then load his long, narrow, oddly angular canoe onto his pickup truck. Then we went for a ride to see if the pygmy goats were out.

They were, all six of them, along with the 3 ponies. Next door, the dogs were out: 2 bloodhounds, a corgi, 2 dachshunds, and a basset hound. After getting a good goat fix, and as Mom pointed out, "a dog and pony show," we headed back. A rabbit hopped along the side of the road and then into the brush as we drove past.

At the small farm we call "the peacable kingdom," instead of being in the side pen, the cow and horse were munching grass in the front lawn. A few chickens clustered by the front steps. Their sheep were in a pen on the other side of the road with a guard llama.

Two deer pranced across the street and stopped in a small parking area, looking back as if they were waiting for someone, and then bounded effortlessly over a fence and into a thicket.

Times like this, I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

Bad Pet Rocks

Bad pet rocks

Two years ago on TTaT: Sense of smell

12 May 2008

And yet another Note to Self

When you can't discern the edges of platforms, catwalks, and the like because the video game environment is dark, and you've lost all patience because you can't quite make the jump you need to, do not assume the game designers were going for lush blacks, as lovely as they may be aesthetically. Crank up the brightness on your TV!

Oh for the love of science, why didn't I try that sooner? WHY?!

3 years ago on TTaT: Today's thought

06 May 2008

Leafing out

spring buds, leaves, sky MCUspring leaves CUspring trees MSspring trees MS, trunk featuredspring trees WSDay to day, the light transforms. Soon only scattered dots of sky will be left.

A year ago on TTaT: A little encouragement

05 May 2008

Why didn't we think of this sooner?

Remember the amped up s'mores (hello, brown sugar!) from the other day? After the bars have totally cooled, a 15 second zap in the microwave will return them to melty perfection.

Two years ago on TTaT: Speak up, Thirteen

04 May 2008

Rock Paper Scissors: Extreme Deathmatch

Adult Swim strikes again. However this time, instead of taking my favorite show off the schedule, they are making me laugh as I play Rock Paper Scissors: Extreme Deathmatch.

I've been playing as paper which is fun because some of its special fighting moves involve origami. Another plus of this game is that the instructions (which keys and key combinations do what) remain on the screen during the game. Good times.

On an entirely different note, I need to not forget that Mother's Day is a mere week off. It really snuck up on me and I have no idea what to get. Jewelry perhaps. Certainly not flowers considering our mutual allergies and sinus sensitivities. A trip to HomeGoods may be in order. Any great ideas out there not involving sweets or bath products?

Two years ago on TTaT: Blue gloves

03 May 2008

Free Comic Book Day- Today!

Today (Saturday May 3rd, 2008) is Free Comic Book Day! Click here to search for a participating store near you. If your local comic book store doesn't show up in the results, call and ask because the list may not be comprehensive.

A year ago on TTaT: Pygmies!

02 May 2008

The cure for what ails ya

s'more bars MWSs'more bars MSs'more bars CU
Look at the gooey, melty, toasty goodness!

If you eat them before they've totally cooled, the chocolate will drip and the marshmallows will stretch out in gooey strings: so frakking good! They frakkin' rock even when they're cool though.

Mom came across the recipe in the book Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke. The author calls them Rocky Road Bar Cookies, but they're really more like amped up s'mores, y'know, AWESOME!

UPDATE: Note that walnuts have been substituted for cashews in the version of the recipe pictured.

Two years ago on TTaT: The principle of the thing

01 May 2008

5 actually could be the answer

"One...two...three...four...Five!" In my half-sick state yesterday, odd number five was a stunning revelation. Remember how I wondered if I could be doing something that could make one ass cheek more toned than the other? Turns out I am. Taking stairs two-at-a-time where one leg steps twice while the other steps thrice with a tendency to always start with the same leg. Methinks it's time to switch that starting leg.

A year ago on TTaT: How cheap am I willing to be?