31 December 2005

Extremely loud and incredibly close

I just finished listening to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on CD. I wish the main character, a nine-year-old named Oskar Schell, lived in my neighborhood. He's smarter than his years, but isn't a smart-mouth showoff. He plays the tambourine, is an inventor and spends the book looking for the lock that fits a key he found in his father's closet. (His father died on 9/11.) The flashbacks by the grandparents didn't add too much to the story for me. I wanted to read more about Oskar and his experiences. He's a character you keep thinking about long after the story is done.

The book's author, Jonathan Safran Foer, also wrote Everything Is Illuminated.I'm listening to that now on CD. It's quite intriguing and at the beginning, especially, it is hilarious -- particularly the narrator, a Ukrainian named Alex. There are flashbacks as in Extremely Loud but in this book they are more helpful. The main character, or "the Hero" as Alex refers to him, is in the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The story unfolds slowly and it breaks your heart.

The steps aren't so bad after all

I feel like I'm just surfacing from a long, undersea swim through molasses. I've been mostly sleeping and coughing since Christmas day. This cold could be considered a form of torture. Today I could actually go up and down the steps in my house without having to pause and catch my breath. I was actually motivated to shovel the steps, do some laundry, purge the magazine pile. I'm not doing any sprints but it is nice to stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a shot.

28 December 2005

Christmas visuals

Sophie distressed as the remote-control truck heads toward her new toy.

Butter sculpture. (All those carving lessons, finally paying off.)

Sophie and Billy enjoying the spoils. I whipped around, ran into my brother and he dropped a full, kiddie-sized plate, on the floor. My other brother went in for the catch, missed, and was scalded by a flying meatball. (The injury wasn't serious.)

These Christmas lights have been up every year as far back as I can remember. The steering wheel doesn't make the best tripod. Pretend you're not wearing your glasses.

I think the out-of-focusness of this one makes it artistic.

Christmas memories

Four kids, 7 and under, seven adults, three dogs. It sure was loud! My brother's puppy, Bill, is a nut and loves to play with Sophie (the photo at right doesn't quite do it justice). They are quite loud when they play and often sound like they're fighting, even though they aren't. Nothing says Christmas like a dog fight. A couple of the kids would get freaked out when the dogs were playing so I taught them to yell "dog fight" and raise their fists in the air (instead of cowering in a corner). Seemed to do the trick That's what I'll remember from this year, along with my two-year-old niece chasing her three-year-old cousin with a play hair dryer, both of them giggling.

20 December 2005

Hobo lore

If you haven't heard the interview with John Hodgman on the Daily Show, please do. It's incredibly silly. And, you get to hear Jon Stewart giggle.

To hear the list of hobo names read aloud, click here. I like Staniel the Spaniel, Giant Batwings Roland, Salty Salty Friday, and Mr. Wilson Fancypants. I wish my name was Mr. Wilson Fancypants.

19 December 2005

Hooray for moderate religion!

I love what John Danforth said on Speaking of Faith. I was a little skeptical at first since he's a conservative and let's face it, we've been burned by a few of those lately. However, he also has a moderate faith. Isn't it sad that we now have to qualify faith that way? "I'm a Christian but not one of those mean-spirited, nasty ones." The interview is great.

From one of his op ed's, posted on the Speaking of Faith site:
By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth.

We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours.
The faith trotted out by the "Christian right" isn't anything like the Christianity I know. The Christianity I know isn't cruel or mean-spirited. It's the about loving your neighbor and standing up for the opppressed.

The last couple of weeks on Speaking of Faith has been on Einstein and ethics. Very interesting!

14 December 2005

Ya, I brought it in for everyone... or, Who's a chump?

Well today I demonstrated my chumpness yet again. I bought this beautiful Celebrate box, full of dips and pretzels -- yum! -- from a co-worker. I planned to send it to a friend for Christmas. I picked up my box this morning. Then I set it down on the counter -- the snack counter -- by the water cooler. I opened up the box and looked at the contents. Then I went to the water cooler and filled up my water bottle. Then totally forgetting the box that I had opened 45 seconds before, I went back to my desk.

A couple of hours later I was down the hall from the snack counter and noticed the box on the counter. "Hey, that's my box," I thought to myself. Several of the items inside were open and obviously being eaten. I walked back there to be sure. Sure enough. I busted a gut at my chumpness.

The people who dove into it felt really bad. I told them it was my own fault for leaving it, open, on the snack counter. And, I said, it would keep me laughing all day. I left it out in my area for co-workers to finish off. Everyone thought I was being so nice. Mmmm... yah... I brought it in for all of us to enjoy!

Here's what it looked like after we'd been at the box for awhile.


I'm not one to get all excited about household gagdets but I asked for the scumbuster for Christmas. There's something appealing about going after gunk with a cordless, spinning brush. Also, it might be a good personal safety device.

12 December 2005

You've heard this sweet story; here it is again

This story came around on e-mail the other day. I thought it was so incredibly sweet. Then I deleted the e-mail by accident. I searched for it online and was delighted to find out, via snopes.com, that it's true!

These twins were only two pounds at birth (1995). One wasn't expected to live. A nurse put them in the same incubator and the stronger twin put her arm over her sister. The sister's heart rate and temperature began to stabilize. To read more, click here.

At www.snopes.com you can check out all the parking-lot safety, latest scam, etc., e-mails.

11 December 2005

Top 10 foods

Jude and I had this list going way before there were blogs. However, we called it the "if I go to the chair" list. As in, if I go to the electric chair, these are the foods I would request for my last meal. There are 10 but I didn't number them. Ranking was just too difficult.

  • Chicken tikka masala
  • Combination plate at Jerusalem's (shawirma, hummus, falafel...)
  • Strawberries
  • Guava juice
  • Squash
  • Bananas
  • Cheese and tomato sandwich on olive basil bread from the deli in Thun
  • My grandma's rosettes
  • Red licorice
  • Dark chocolate

10 December 2005

World Cup language primer

The story below reminds me of reading about the football hooligans in the Guardian during the 1980s -- thanks to an awesome professor, Marjorie Deakin, may she rest in peace.

I keep thinking going to the World Cup, in Germany!, would be the coolest thing in the world. Then I read things like this that remind me of the tertiary goings-on.

"He puked his guts up? Nice...
, Germany
(Reuters) - The British embassy in Germany launched a new website for the 2006 World Cup on Friday that includes handy German phrases for England fans, such as "He was sick as a parrot" or "He puked his guts up."

From Reuters. Click here for the full story. To see the results of the draw, go to the FIFA site. I'm going back to my German-Christmas-song happy place now.

In praise of my bed

I'm not a big fan of poetry but this one resonates, oh so much, with me:
In Praise Of My Bed
At last I can be with you!
The grinding hours
since I left your side!
The labor of being fully human,
working my opposable thumb,
talking, and walking upright.
Now I have unclasped
unzipped, stepped out of.
Husked, soft, a be-er only,
I do nothing, but point
my bare feet into your
clean smoothness
feel your quiet strength
the whole length of my body.
I close my eyes, hear myself
moan, so grateful to be held this way.

by Meredith Holmes from Shubad's Crown (Pond Road Press)

09 December 2005

Brain in pieces

Friday -- endlich (finally)! It's been a long week and I feel as if my brain is in itty bitty chunks. Even this morning while I tried to have some devotional time it was one "Where's Pam?" moment after another. "Thank you... question... oh look, that book spine is pretty..." Close eyes. "Musing... I wonder if we're going to Fun Sisters or Sister Fun today?"

On one hand, I really like having a brain that flits about from one thing to another. Today it was just annoying. Reminds me of my five-year-old nephew who suffers from the same malady. His parents would say, "Cale, focus." His reply, "I hate it when you say that."

Fun with German

Have a hankering for a little German Christmas music? Go to Weihnachtsradio and click on the Windows Media or Real Player icon. A few too many songs in English but a good listen nonetheless. If you're really lucky, you'll get to hear an annoying version of "The Little Drummer Boy," "Weihnacht faengt an," by Wolfgang Petry. Or, "Oh du froehliche," sung by Roger Whittaker. (I never said it was all good music.)

Here are some fun things I learned at German class yesterday:
  • Man rauft sich die Haare
    tear one's hair out
  • Salat statt Kohl
    salad instead of cabbage -- a play-on-words slogan used against Helmut Kohl when he was running for re-election
  • Faules Ei
    something to call a lazy person -- literally, lazy egg
  • der Stubenhocker
    someone who always stays inside
  • der Faulpelz
    another word for a lazy person -- literally, lazy fur
  • ausgelaugt
    an adjective meaning completely pooped or stressed out -- comes from the word that refers to the part of the washing machine process when all the water is sucked out of the machine
  • Du gehst mir auf den Keks!
    you're driving me crazy -- literally, something like "you go me to/at the cookie"
  • Ich schlage mich etwas aus dem Kopf schlagen
    I drive something from my mind -- "aus dem Kopf" means "ouf of the head" and schlage means "to beat."

Jimmy Carter is awesome!

Jimmy Carter was on The Daily Show the other day to promote his new book. What a great person! He's actually done something good since his presidency. His interview is quite charming. Take a look at Jimmy Carter on The Daily Show.

06 December 2005

Big trek in a big truck

I drove out to Keeley Island in SW Minnesota for a presentation on marketing. I got there in the dark on Monday. This morning I woke up to a winter wonderland! It's a beautiful place, despite the cold (4 degrees Fahrenheit this a.m.).

Because it was a long drive I rented a car (it's cheaper for the company that way). The rental place screwed up so instead of a small or mid-sized car, I got Dodge Ram 4-door truck. It's ginormous! I'm not used to driving anything that large and it does go against my environmental bent. I'm happy to say that I didn't take out any pedestrians or mailboxes.

It's amazing what creatures of habit we are. In my car there are spots for everything. In this truck I lost so many things over the past day and a half. It didn't help that all my winter accessories are black, as are the seats and floor in the truck. Good thing Sophie has a bit of white on her. I might have lost her in there too!

30 November 2005

Finally, a flak vest for Sophzilla!

Sophie stays out of most dangerous areas but it's better to be safe than sorry. A German firm is now making bullet-proof vests for dogs. On the down side, they're about 6.5 pounds (i.e. a little over one-quarter of Sophie's weight). She'd be dragging down the street but she'd be safe from snipers.

Cereal after a White House staffer

For the past few years I haven't been much of a cereal eater. Last week I bought cereal for my parents who were visiting. They are creatures of habit and cereal is their a.m. habit. Now I'm hooked.

I bought the copycat Cheerios by Malt-O-Meal. They're called Scooters. I refer to them as Lewis Libbys. I got one of those looks from my parents when I made the breakfast offer: "Who wants Lewis Libbys?"

Oooh, the snack treats

From this week's Onion. I couldn't resist copying the photo here. See the full story here.

What a toad

California congressman Randy Cunningham has pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion -- $2.5 million in bribes from, shocker!, defense contractors.

He was in tears while announcing his resignation, saying that he had lost the trust of his friends and family. My question: Were you asleep when you took the first bribe? Did you start with one commode, and like a bag of M&Ms, one thing led to another and you've bought out half the antique store? (See the list of the glorious prizes he bought with the $2.5M.)

I might feel a bit sorry for him if he had, for example, used the money to pay off a loanshark or buy a kidney for a relative. But as my Mom would say, "He's a real toad."

29 November 2005

Kids can be twisted

This story ranks up there with my friend Kathy's, "Honey, we don't do that with cheese."

My friend Christopher was recently at a friend's house. The friend has a six-year-old son. Here is the exchange between son and Mom.

"Mom, my finger smells." "Well don't smell it then." "I can't stop."

Was is heute auf der Fahrbahn? (What is on the highway today?) Ein Hund, beide Richtungen. (A dog, in both directions. Perhaps the dog was running back and forth between lanes?)

More evidence of geekiness

I am obsessed with office supplies, particularly with pens (latest: fountain) and planners. I'm organized and plan my time pretty well. Yet, I'm always on the hunt for more information, a different form, another tip.

I was looking for some info online and ran across the Busy Woman's Planner. This is not for me. I was particularly turned off by the font and color on the pages. Do women really demand italics and gentle colors? Am I just a jerk? Nah, I just prefer my Franklin Planner with the New Yorker cartoons. Although, I'm eyeing up the Time Design system. I could get my calendar and forms in German. Ooo la la (as my sister-in-law likes to say)!

4 miles in 30 minutes!

The first workplace snow/ice of the season. How lovely. It looks like a winter wonderland when you're inside and don't have to go anywhere. If you do, you may suffer from bouts of weather-related boredom and or rage.

Which begs the question, Why do we live here? I'm not sure why my great grandparents happened on Minnesota. They got half way across and thought, "Good enough. I'm tired. Let's stop here."? There aren't any fjords and there aren't even many hills, much less mountains. I like the story about my great grandfather (I think it was) who left Norway to avoid conscription in the army. Rock on, brother!

Fargo. Now that I don't get. I talked to JoJo yesterday and he said they first got ice, then snow and then wind! My poor sister-in-law was out on patrol, too. I hope she just hunkered down in a donut shop all day. This morning I heard that the state patrol would be reopening I-94 between Fergus Falls and Fargo. Good grief!

In some cities people come up to your car and clean the windscreen and then ask for money. If there were cocoa/coffee people delivering hot drinks to your car window this morning, they would have made a killing. It's safe! The cars are going so slow. They're often stopped altogether. Which made it possible for me to originally write this entry, by hand, on the drive to work this morning.

Oooh, just got yelled at by a co-worker for playing a Bing Crosby Christmas CD!

28 November 2005

I laugh through my tears at your misbehavior

Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) was talking about Terrell Owens, the Philadelphia Eagles player who was suspended for the rest of the season. Stewart asks (I paraphrase here): when was the last time you could go to work, curse at your boss, say he's not doing a good job, punch out another employee and then say 'I think I'll play tonight.'

Sometimes justice does prevail

It's nice to see that sometimes scoundrels are exposed. From Deutsche Welle:
Pet Parrot Exposes Husband's Philandering
Frank Ficker of Freiburg must have thought he had it all: successful wife, nice home, and a mistress on the side. But the family parrot, a pro at imitating Frank, blew the lid on his cheating ways.

"Hugo always liked to mimic Frank and he could do his voice perfectly," said Petra... But one day Petra heard the bird repeating something she'd never hard before. "I heard him doing Frank's voice, but saying 'Uta, Uta,'" she said. Since Petra didn't know an Uta, nor had she ever heard Frank mention her, her suspicions were raised. A search around the house turned up two plane tickets to Paris, one for Frank, another for Uta, who was, evidently, the other woman... "I kicked him straight out," she said. "It's just me and my parrot now." Divorce proceedings are pending.

26 November 2005

Christmas tree, sold as is

Put up Christmas decorations today. The house looks so cozy now. Sophie especially likes the tree. She likes to chew on her toys under the tree and on the tree skirt.

The snow and decorations look so lovely this time of year. And, the sun finally returned. I was about to put away the sharp objects.

Thanksgiving was lovely. Very different than previous years but so nice in its own way. We went to Jax Cafe and had a lovely dinner. No leftovers but on the flips side no fuss, no muss.

21 November 2005

Where oh where is the enemies list?

A couple of weeks ago Bill O'Reilly promised to post his list of enemies on his Web site. Where is it? Aaargh! You can't just offer that up and then not provide it. I can't stand the suspense. If you, too, are waiting impatiently, check out Nixon's enemies list while you wait.

While you're on Bill's site check out his Christmas Store (something for everyone on your list!) and his reading list.

For a very good laugh, check out O'Reilly's interview on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart asks why Bill is still so mad at France. "If this were the Peanuts series, France is Marcy."

Speaking of Christmas shopping, make sure this on your list for all the little ones in your life. The Playmobil Security Check Point.

The beautiful city

I am a city person. They can be so beautiful, especially at night. Here are some photos of Chicago from the weekend before last. The moon was incredibly lovely on one particular evening.

19 November 2005

Sabado gigante!

Had a brilliant time with Lorelee running around Chicago last weekend. It was one big shop, eat 'n chat. Saw Pride & Prejudice -- the new one. It's fabulous! Pure swoonage. The actors are different than my preferred version (A&E, 6 hours) but were good. I will see it again and again.

Crate and Barrel is the mother ship. So many housewares! So many gadgets you didn't know you needed. Condiment spoons, soy sauce dishes, cherry pitters.

If I ever go to death row, I will request Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls.

18 November 2005

Make it plain!

Here's a statement on today's scandalous passage of the House Budget Reconciliation Bill. Italics and bold are mine.

"Woe to you legislators of infamous laws....."

Washington, D.C. ------(Friday, November 18, 2005) Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and Convener of Call to Renewal, made the following statement today on the narrow passage of the House Budget Reconciliation Bill.

"The prophet Isaiah said: "Woe to you legislators of infamous laws ... who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan." Today, I repeat those words. When our legislators put ideology over principle, it is time to sound the trumpets of justice and tell the truth.

It is a moral disgrace to take food from the mouths of hungry children to increase the luxuries of those feasting at a table overflowing with plenty. This is not what America is about, not what the season of Thanksgiving is about, not what loving our neighbor is about, and not what family values are about. There is no moral path our legislators can take to defend a reckless, mean-spirited budget reconciliation bill that diminishes our compassion, as Jesus said, "for the least of these." It is morally unconscionable to hide behind arguments for fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. It is dishonest to stake proud claims to deficit reduction when tax cuts for the wealthy that increase the deficit are the next order of business. It is one more example of an absence of morality in our current political leadership.

Budgets are moral documents that reflect what we care about. Budget and tax bills that increase the deficit put our children's futures in jeopardy - and they hurt the vulnerable right now. The choice to cut supports that help people make it day to day in order to pay for tax cuts for those with plenty goes against everything our religious and moral principles teach us. It says that leaders don't care about people in need. It is a blatant reversal of biblical values - and symbolizes the death of compassionate conservatism.

The faith community is outraged and is drawing a line in the sand against immoral national priorities. It is time to draw that line more forcefully and more visibly.

I applaud those House members who have stood up for better budget priorities and fought hard all year to keep issues of basic fairness at the forefront of this debate. And I thank those on both sides of the aisle who stood up and did the right thing in voting against this bill, despite pressure from the House leadership. These strong voices provide some hope for getting beyond an ideology that disregards the role of government for the common good.

Are you happy, enough?

The story below strikes me as incredibly funny and also sad. Reminds me of a very annoying consultant that I used to work with. When he wasn't busy, which was often, he'd go on a share-my-superness-with-others tour of the office. If he saw you with a normal expression, or God forbid, a frown, he'd say "SMILE!" in a really upbeat and annoying way. Now I'm a happy person. I wanted to say, "I was smiling, on the inside, until you came along." This guy could turn any story to himself. Complaining about your ninth-month-in-pregnancy backache? Well, he sprained his ankle last week running.

When our new boss arrived we started calling him the puppy because of the way he almost danced around the new big cheese. He was so eager to please. "Can I tell you about my great, money-making client and how much they love me?, my athletic training regimen..." It was best if you stayed clear after lunch or any time you had a fully tummy.

From Deutsche Welle:

Some say Germany is a nation of complainers. One company in Leipzig got tired of all the bellyaching and instituted a "no grumbling" policy. Experts say a little less whining could be good for the country.

There are days when Franka Michalski simply wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. It could be she tossed and turned all night, or it might be raining cats and dogs outside. But when she goes to her job as a customer support technician at the IT firm Nutzwerk, she better put on a happy face, or at least keep her dark thoughts to herself. At her job, moaning and groaning can put you in the unemployment line.

The contract she signed when she took the job stipulates that griping on the job is strictly verboten.

Full story here.

17 November 2005

Hooray for Iceland, Sweden & Spain!

Nordic states probe 'CIA flights'
Iceland and Sweden are investigating allegations that planes flown by the CIA used their airports during secret transfers of terror suspects.

The Icelandic government says it has asked the US for an explanation and is still awaiting a satisfactory answer.

On Thursday, the Swedish government began an investigation to establish whether CIA prisoner flights had used Swedish airports.

Spain is investigating similar claims about secret flights from Majorca...

The CIA's controversial "extraordinary rendition" programme involves removing suspects without court approval to third party countries for interrogation.

The US state department has refused to comment on specific allegations, or to confirm or deny claims the CIA has set up secret prisons across the globe for the interrogation of "war on terror" prisoners.

Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2005/11/18 11:22:37 GMT
I hope people in other countries are burning up the e-mail and postal mail to Bush and his cronies. I don't get it. Do they think these people are expendable -- you can torture someone if they're evil. (Um, is there a lab test that reveals this?) I have so much trouble with this adminstration that trumpets Christian values yet instigates and allows this. If that's how Christians behave, why would someone want to be one? The God I believe in, to channel Bono, doesn't believe in torture, man!

Check out Senator John McCain's story in Newsweek: Torture's Terrible Toll.
Abusive interrogation tactics produce bad intel, and undermine the values we hold dear. Why we must, as a nation, do better.The case against torture by John McCain.
Make your voice heard! Ask Dennis Hastert, Who Would Jesus Torture?

One-stop Christmas shopping

Perfect for anyone on your list.

Sweetness and stupidity

Kyra, a seven-week-old lioness, gets a kiss from Norman, a white-tailed deer, at the Hollywild Animal Park in Inman, South Carolina.

And now for something stupid. Would you need to be told that you should throw out glowing meat?

Glowing' meat alarms Aussies
16/11/2005 10:46 - (SA)

Sydney - An Australian food agency sought on Wednesday to quell fears about glow-in-the-dark meats after a man called a Sydney radio station alarmed about his luminous pork chops.

The New South Wales state Food Authority said the phenomenon was caused by a harmless light-emitting bacteria, pseudomonas fluorescens, that is naturally present in most meats and fish.

"While most of us would understandably be shocked to see our food glowing, it is important to remember that the micro-organism responsible for the glow is not known to cause food poisoning," said the authority's director general, George Davey...

While the bacteria is harmless to humans, it spreads quickly on meat that is starting to spoil, said the food agency, which recommends throwing glowing meats in the trash.

Full story here.

14 November 2005

Evidence of nerdiness

I take copious notes. Pretty much always. Why?
  • It helps me to listen better
  • I can read them and learn from them later!
  • Helps me not to get bored or fall asleep
  • I'm a knowledge geek -- "I must learn and remember all!"

Ever since I returned from Switzerland -- in July! -- if I crave anything, I crave chinese food. (And no, I'm not pregnant.) So, I've been getting a lot of fortunes lately. If I like them, I keep them. Here are two recent favorites.

  • You have a reputation for being straightforward and honest.
  • Your love life will be happy and fulfilling.

13 November 2005

Who's a chump?

That would be me. On Saturday, I took a flight from Minneapolis to Chicago. I've flown gobs of times. I looked at my ticket. A14. Schlepped it down to the gate. It was really like the Siberia gate. When I arrived, nothing was there. It looked like what I think the Fargo airport might look like. I had misread the ticket. A14 was my seat. My gate was on the D concourse. Yes, I embrace my chumpness.

When I arrived at the gate the flight was boarding. A woman behind me was in the midst of a family crisis via telephone. Apparently, someone was really mad because Grandma came over to their new house but didn't go upstairs. "She's 87; she doesn't go upstairs anywhere!"

Thank you, thank you, I didn't sit next to a talker. The person behind me, however, did not have an unexpressed or inspired thought the entire flight. The man beside her had a blank/exasperated expression, "kill me now." When the plane touched down, with a huge thud and shake, she insightfully replied, "No one's sleeping now." As we drove up to the gate, she interestingly said, "I wonder how much those guys [the ground crew] make?"

11 November 2005

Happy Armistice Day!

Today in history -- the armistice, 1918. There's a race on to capture the stories of surviving World War I vets. There are just 10 left! I wish I would have asked my Grandpa more about WWI. But, as I was nine when he died, it isn't too surprising that I failed to do so. He was on a submarine. Couldn't do that. Claustrophia. Aack! I'm reading Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? I've said it before here but it's a fascinating read as is Keegan's The First World War. Plenty of blame to go around.

Do you travel? Do you use the bathroom? You can research bathrooms or add your own comments at The Bathroom Diaries -- "rates 8000+ public bathrooms in more than 100 countries." I wonder if you can download to your Palm?

Another reason to love Billy Bragg. (But I still don't like his "Between the Wars.") I wish I would have realized how incredibly cool he his (such a good lefty) when I saw him at Milton Keynes in 1985.
A mother fighting breast cancer is this week knocking at the door of the pop chart's top 10. Her surprise hit has been made possible by the personal support of the veteran musical maverick, Billy Bragg. From the BBC.
Would you buy Napoleon's tooth? Someone did, for $19,000. Sounds like the man didn't floss -- "By the time of his death, he was a physical wreck and his gums were soft and bled easily and his teeth were loose." Shiver. Thank you, thank you to my existential dentist! (My teeth are all firmly in place but I do occasionally have that teeth-falling-out dream.)

Was ist heute auf der Fahrbahn? (What's on the highway today?) Ein Brett. (A board.) Yesterday there was a Falschfahrer (someone driving the wrong way).

Not-so-nice co-worker

These have gone round and round e-mail. I picked out my favorites. (I keep the list in my Palm for handy reference.)

Things you'd love to say at work
  • I can see your point, but I still think you're full of crap.
  • I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
  • I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
  • Ahhh... I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again...
  • Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
  • Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
  • What am I? Flypaper for freaks!
  • Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
  • Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
  • Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
  • Oh I get it... like humor... but different.

10 November 2005

All about me

Five things I want to do before I die.
  • Travel to Turkey
  • Travel to the Middle East
  • Take my nieces and nephew on a big trip
  • Speak near-fluent German
  • Live in another country for awhile
Five things I can do
  • Play piano
  • Paint
  • Laugh a lot (often including snortage)
  • Speak German -- poorly but I digress
  • Plan
Five things I cannot do
  • Snap the fingers on my left hand
  • Most math in my head
  • Whistle
  • Enjoy football
  • Reach the high cupboards without a stool
Five things that would attract me to a potential mate
  • Sense of humor
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Confidence
  • Kindness
  • Open-minded spirituality
Five things I say most often
  • Lovely!
  • Super!
  • Oh, for the love of Pete!
  • Rats! (When something goes wrong.)
  • Blah, blah, blah Ginger (usually used to make fun of myself when I've been talking too much)
Five celebrity crushes
  • Colin Firth
  • Jeremy Northam
  • Ciaran Hinds (Watch "Persuasion" and you'll see what I mean.)
  • Herbert Groenemeyer (Listen to "Land Unter," "Marie" and "Der Weg." If you don't develop a crush you must have a heart of stone.)
  • Scott Simon (intellect, humor and public radio)
Five things/people that make me laugh
  • Sophzilla
  • My nieces and nephew
  • David Sedaris
  • Monty Python
  • The Simpsons
I stole this idea from Dash. Thanks Miss Dash!

07 November 2005

Weird pet people

A friend's husband works with someone who makes Halloween costumes each year for her cat. On Halloween his co-worker brings the cat in, in its costume. She takes it very seriously. This is extremely funny yet also disturbing.

I heard about DogCatRadio on a German radio station. (Sometimes I'm so proud to live here.) The station plays music that appeals to pets (how do they know?). I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. I listened to four songs. Ish all around. "Send Me an Angel" by the Scorpions followed by "Love Will Keep Us Together" by some chick (no Captain or Tenille), "Celebration," and some song by Rod Stewart. I'll give you whatever you want. Just turn it off.

I'd love to hear the annoying music guy's take on this. He always has such a clever way of bashing things. (You can hear his annoying Halloween music picks, including a goose version of "Honky Tonk Woman," and the stunning, "I'm Gonna Vomit on You" on NPR.

Here's an excerpt from a story on the station:
What's the frequency, Fido? Net station caters to pets
By Dinitia Smith
New York Times News Service
Published November 2, 2005

"Remember, be kind to your mailman," said Jane Harris, a disc jockey. Then she softened her voice until it was a little insinuating: "He only wants to deliver the mail."

It is a message that many of her listeners need to hear. Harris is a DJ on DogCatRadio.com, a new Internet radio station for pets. Now dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots can keep the anxiety, the loneliness, the restlessness at bay while their owners are out. It is radio just for them, live 17 hours a day, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Central time, and podcast for the rest of the 24 hours.

Those who listen to DogCatRadio will find that there is generally an animal motif to the playlist, like "Hound Dog" ...

And Dionne Warwick is also popular, especially her soothing song "That's What Friends Are For."
Ratcheting it up on the disturbing scale is the "Dogs in the Hood" Christmas CD you can buy on the site. I listened to a sample of "Sleigh Ride" -- a cheesy version of the song interspersed with occasional barks and meows. The "Hot, hot, hot" song is disgusting. What is it doing on a holiday CD?


The Web is full of silly quizzes but who doesn't like to take them? Take the Harry Potter character quiz (suprisingly interesting), find out what kind of animal personality you have. World Book has a bunch of fun quizzes -- womens' suffrage, the civil rights movement, leaders in the Cold War. Woo hoo! Go ahead. Waste a little time.

I'm Albus Dumbledore on the Harry Potter quiz (INFJ -- didn't realize the quiz was based on the Myers Briggs until I finished it; I'm always INFJ!)


Disclaimer: I've never gone dumpster diving and I don't yell at people as they walk by.

01 November 2005

No tricks, just treats

I'm reading an excellent book, Europe's Last Summer, by Fromkin. It's about what led up to the beginning of World War 1. It's fascinating. In it the author references The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendahl. It was like being reminded of a sweet treat from way back.

I first ran across The Charterhouse of Parma in high school. It was a "Great Performances" mini series. I was completely transported. I didn't bother asking any of my friends at school if they, too, were delighting in the series. Just like I never came in on a Monday and asked, "Did you see 'Masterpiece Theater' last night?" I'm a nerd from way back. Only when I reached college did I find fellow nerds. People who look at the library as one big candy store.

Candy reminds me of Halloween. Look at these cute monsters I ran into yesterday.
And they made out with quite the stash.

29 October 2005

Strong Bad

I think I'm getting a cold. I could probably sleep around the clock. Not like the The Cheat in the latest Strong Bad e-mail. (Click on "sb emails" at the bottom of the page.) Mmmm... suudsu.

I don't know what it is about Strong Bad that I like so well. His goofy headwear? His Ed Grimley pants? His goofy voice? His horrible personality? He's an awful character and extremely funny. Kind of like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day. Or Basil Fawlty.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to be an enormous jerk for just one day. Maybe it's more fun to think about than to actually do. Like the passive-aggressive drops we came up with at work. (A play off the book How Full Is Your Bucket): "I like you a lot more now than I used to." "You look really nice, today."

On a completely different note, Reformation Day fun. And, wild boars running amok in Seoul.

27 October 2005

Tis the season to be cozy

The nights are getting cool and the mornings are brisk. It's slipper time. Here are my new slipper socks. Aren't they the funniest? They're from my sister-in-law. She's a great shopper. She tapped into both my love of the slipper and animal prints.

How cool is this? You could get yourself, a friend and at least a couple of dogs into this cozy number. The giant armchair is part of a trade fair in Hanover.

26 October 2005

Shut down the hall of shame

Shut down the School of the Americas! Click on the link at left or go to www.sojo.net

The School of the Americas (SOA) - renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001 - is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers located at Fort Benning, Georgia. It needs to close? Why?
  • The SOA has used U.S. tax dollars to train more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics.
  • SOA graduates have consistently used their skills to wage war against their own countries' civilians.
  • Among those targeted by SOA graduates: educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor.
  • What do the SOA grads do with their skills? Torture, rape, assassinate, "disappear," massacre, and force people into exile.
As recently as 2002, an SOA graduate was arrested for the murder of Colombian archbishop, Isaias Duarte.

25 October 2005

Cheney: human rights for some

Cheney Plan Exempts CIA from Bill Barring Abuse of Detainess
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 25, 2005; Page A01

"The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody."

Reading this causes me physcial pain. It is complete madness! Haven't we learned anything? At the end of World War II, some very wise people composed a document to safeguard the right of all people. I guess it's antique and cute. The U.S. is now one of the torturing countries. I'm so proud. Bush's "beacon of freedom" talk is just that -- talk.

From the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (emphasis is mine):

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

24 October 2005

Head, so very heavy

Finished up a long, stressful weekend of work events. There were two big to-dos. I had loads of logistical responsibilities. The funniest part was on Sunday when I had to line up about 75 people for a procession. I had to ring a bell and wave my hands above my head yelling, "We're going to start lining up now." One of the few days I wished I was taller.

Both of the events went off very well. However today it feels like someone went at my brain with a whisk. This afternoon I had to make a presentation. I'm hoping that I didn't come off as a drug addict.

On a similar note, it's time to start looking for ways to gross out the kiddies for Halloween.
I'm not sure if the bleeding brain would make them laugh or freak. It's probably a little late to order my mold anyway. Oh well, maybe next year. You don't need a mold to make realistic-looking fake blood or eyeballs.

23 October 2005


On Friday a group of us went over to Vine Park Brewery to brew us up some hooch. We started out the evening with a drink at Mitch's Supper Club. None of us knew the neighborhood so we ended up there kind of by accident. It was what I imagine is a true supper club -- meat, meat and more meat and a waitress who puts her hand on your shoulder and calls you "Hon."

Our two batches of beer were none the worse for wear despite Marjie getting her hand in it. Our "brewing coach" thought it was so funny that he called over the guys who were bottling.

21 October 2005

Long, cold winter?

It's supposed to be a cold winter and heating costs are supposed to go through the roof. How far can you turn down the heat before the pipes burst? At what temperature will Sophie turn into a Sophsicle? I won't buckle under and buy her a snowsuit. She'll have to make due with blankets. As for my meat-locker cube at work, I'm considering the stuffed-animal pants. (Doesn't some guy in the Red Hot Chili Peppers have these pants?) They might not be pretty but sometimes you have to set fashion aside. (Care2 has some good suggestions about how to keep heating costs down.)

On a related note, I'm sure Chevron and Exxon are already feeling the pinch. I'm carpooling a couple of days a week now. Power to the people!

20 October 2005

Church of Spongebob

Heard about this on Radio FFH, a station out of Hessen (Germany). Here's a story from the BBC. Yet another reason for other countries to think Americans are wacko.

SpongeBob Squarepants
US fans of the flamboyant cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants have set up a church in his name.

More than 700 members of the Church of SpongeBob meet for services in New York, Texas and California.

The church's manifesto says it wants to push "simple things like having fun and using your imagination", and offers study courses on the cartoon.

Further along the rant well traveled

Ya, I've been on a bit of a tear lately. Tomorrow, lighter fare. I promise!

Bill Maher reportedly read this open letter to Bush at the end of one of his recent shows. Whether or not he did doesn't dilute the fact that it's a great message!

Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend – you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the Army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished. Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man?

Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don't. I know, I know. There's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: “Take a hint.”

19 October 2005

Warrant issued for DeLay's arrest

What a good way to end the day!
Texas Court Issues Warrant for DeLay

By Suzanne Gamboa
The Associated Press

A Texas court on Wednesday issued a warrant for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's arrest, and set an initial $10,000 bail as a routine step before his first court appearance on conspiracy and state money laundering charges.

Travis County court officials said DeLay was ordered to appear at the Fort Bend County, Texas, jail for booking, where he'd likely be fingerprinted and photographed. DeLay's lawyers had hoped to avoid such a spectacle...

The charges against the Texas Republican stem from allegations that a DeLay-founded Texas political committee funneled corporate money into state GOP legislative races through the National Republican Party.

News from Deutsche Welle

A German Poop Patent Proposal

"Taking the eyes off the ground while walking can be dangerous in Berlin: The city's streets are notoriously plastered with dog poop. While many complain about the problem, a resident is now trying to profit from it."

The sign reads, "This is not a dog toilet."

18 October 2005

Show your anti-Bush colors!

Bad news -- 1189 days to go. But, here's a little comic relief. The Backwards Bush countdown clock key ring (live countdown clock on the site!). OK, it's ugly but sometimes necessity trumps fashion.

Hooray! I have a very serious case of Schadenfreude! "Probe sheds light on Bush assault on critics," from CNN.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's CIA-leak inquiry is focusing attention on what long has been a tactic of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration: slash-and-burn assaults on its critics, particularly those opposed to the president's Iraq war policies.

Cheney's Office Is a Focus in Leak Case

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney's long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

And to close, some words from propher Martin Luther King, Jr. Just as true today:
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

17 October 2005

Ooooh, I'll have me some of that

Some recipes from Terry at work (ha ha!)
Cat barf on toast. Mmmm.
Vegetarians can have their turkey too!
I am so tempted to make this for Thanksgiving -- as a joke. The kids would love it! But how does it go together? How do you affix the veg to the body? Dip? Caulk? And what's the body made of? Styrofoam? Clay? Pressed meat?

Oooooh, full moon tonight!

16 October 2005

Bad in two languages

I've rediscovered my love of the German language. I'm spending a lot of time listening to songs in German and attempting to read in German. I now sometimes think of something in German, first. This is cool if I'm, for example, writing a note in my planner or talking to my dog. Not so fine when I'm trying to explain something to someone at work. And I'm finding myself spitting out the oddest English sentences. They're not necessarily German or English construction. I fear that I sound like the people in David Sedaris' essays on learning French (especially the one about trying to explain the concept of Easter, in French -- see Me Talk Pretty One Day).

This week my copy of Herbert Groenemeyer Live arrived. Pure joy! He has a great voice and the sound is so full. I just love the song Marie (about his daughter when she was a baby). It's very sweet, but unlike other similar songs, it doesn't give your gag reflex a workout. The guitar in the song reminds me of Mark Knopfler. Land Unter and Halt Mich are also lovely and highly singable. Ich Hab Dich Lieb is a favorite and reminds me of studying in Germany. I could go on and on. To hear some samples (with videos) click here.

15 October 2005

All sappy about autumn

Today was absolutely gorgeous. Sophie and I enjoyed a lovely walk at a big park not far from our house. I took my camera with and had a great time capturing some of the things along the way.

The colors are turning, the weather is cool but not cold. Bliss man!

Sophie found much to smell and explore. Not so interested in the geese but was curious about what they left behind.

14 October 2005

Groceries, no thank you (& commies!)

My brother and I nicknamed this place "Rat Foods."
Alterations on the nails? Clothing? At the same time?

Miss the commies? Need a little laugh? Go here and click on "Stompy" under "Other Songs." This guy is so twisted, yet so funny!