Saturday, May 31, 2008

We're heee-eere!

Greetings from Florida!!!

Thank you, we'll be here all week, be sure to tip your servers!

Things went without a hitch until we got to Cleveland and found out that our flight to Orlando was delayed by about 50 minutes. It was okay, we got a chance to stop in a Cleveland airport Max & Erma's for a cool beverage, where we encountered an amazingly surly waitress! Traffic out of the Orlando airport was just crazy, worse than we've ever seen, and I said that I couldn't believe that it could be due to the shuttle launch...that has to be fairly routine around here. I forgot how many tourists come through here, like the guy from England that we talked to while we watched. I also realize now that it's still a very big deal even to those who live around here.

So we were on I-95, about 10 minutes before the launch. The sky was a gorgeous blue, with a few clouds here and there. People started pulling off the highway, and that's when I realized what a big deal this is here, no matter if you're local or traveling from afar. Cars pulled off of the highway and parked, and it was almost like a fireworks display! (As I said to Ken afterwards, "That's the biggest firework I've ever seen!")

I got video of this, too, but I'll probably wait until we get back to put it up (maybe not, though, because I have successfully connected to a network here). I have to say that it was incredibly awesome. The launch was successful, thank goodness, and I had no idea how cool it would be to see it go up. WOW!

It was incredibly bright, much more so than these pictures convey. I can only wonder what it would look like at night! Although we weren't able to get to the beach in time to see it, we still got a great view from the highway (actually, we were closer than we would have been here at New Smyrna), and I'm so pleased that we got to see this launch!

It feels great to be back here! When we got in, it was in the low 90's, with a brisk breeze off the ocean. We're in one of our favorite units, right near the end and looking out at the ocean. After a trip to the grocery store, we went to PJ's, which is one of those funky restaurants with stuff hanging from the ceiling, etc. (The tube with fish swimming in it is especially cool.) I got my fix of crab legs, and I'm stuffed to the gills. HA! Get it? GILLS! Sometimes I slay me.

So the fridge is stocked, and I suspect that tomorrow, we'll be hanging out on the balcony and finishing our books (we started them yesterday--quick Dean Koontz reads!) and then heading down to the beach.

Things are looking good here at our timeshare, and I promise to take some pictures. We've got some new end tables and lamps, and they seem to be maintaining the place very well. We have some questions for them about trading weeks and stuff, and we have a week in Cancun that we can still use--we're thinking about doing that soon--so we should try to meet up with someone this week and talk about all that.

Okay, I need to end this. I woke up at 5:30 this morning (my alarm was set for 7:30) and wasn't able to go back to sleep. I think every single bird in North America congregated in our front yard this morning! I dozed on the plane, but I'm basically wiped at the moment!

Great to know that I can nab a network here--more soon!

Friday, May 30, 2008



We're pretty much on top of everything, and just need to get things packed into the suitcases.

We just spent a little time discussing our menus for the week, and what we need to get at the store Saturday night. We're thinking ribs, chicken, steak, but needless to say, we're going heavy on the fresh fish! It's kind of fun to plan and look forward to our week. We'll go out to eat our first night there (I'm thinking crab legs!) so we don't have to worry about cooking when we're just getting settled.

It's looking good for the launch on Saturday evening. According to the NASA web site, there is an 80% chance of good weather for the launch, so the only variables are flight delays and traffic delays once we hit the highway. Knowing how flights can be, I'm a little worried, but we'll hope for the best and believe that we can get over to the timeshare without a hitch.

I talked to my Mom this afternoon, and we talked about the shuttle launch. She said, "Oh, I hope it isn't like the one we saw." Turns out--and I can't believe I didn't know this--that they were at Cape Canaveral for the Challenger launch. Mom said that they were standing next to Christa McAuliffe's mother, and at first no one knew what was going on, and when they realized what had happened...oh, how awful that must have been. I still remember watching it when I was at work at the lab in North Dakota. We were all horrified, and YES, we will hope and pray that this launch goes off with no problems whatsoever.

Keep your fingers crossed that we can get there in time, but if not, I'm sure we'll be able to pull off the highway and watch!

We'll be taking the laptop, and we hope that we can get the poolside network at the timeshare. I don't think I'll be posting long--or multiple--entries, but I hope to get some pictures and videos up for you in the coming week. See ya on the beach!

Oh, and don't forget to visit The Wildcat's Lair. I can't begin to tell you how much this cracks me and Ken up.

I might have another entry left in me tonight, but we shall see. Dinner soon, then finishing all the packing. Current temperature here: 70°. Current temperature in New Smyrna Beach: 81°. Oh yeah, babe. I'm ready!


Clay Aiken Impregnates Someone!

Posted May 29th 2008 12:28PM by TMZ Staff

Clay Aiken



TMZ has learned Clay Aiken is going to be a daddy. In case you didn't process that, Clay Aiken is going to be a daddy.

Here's what we know. Multiple sources tell us the mother is Jaymes Foster, a record producer and Clay's best friend. He lives at her home when he's in L.A.

We're told 50-year-old Foster, who produced several Aiken CDs, is due in August. She's the sister of record mogul David Foster. She divorced a few years back and has no kids. Aiken is 29.

We're told Foster was artificially inseminated. But Clay is a lot more than sperm -- we're told he will have an active role in raising the child.

No immediate word from Aiken's rep.



My initial reaction was "Ewwwww!"

I think the guy has a great voice, although Ken and I voted for Ruben that year on "American Idol." I know he has a lot of fans (Don't they call them "Claymates?" Again...Ewwwww!) but it seems like he got a little freaky after AI. The whole weird hair thing, and his prima donna attitude with Kelly Ripa on "Regis and Kelly." Now this. A sperm donor.


America, you have spoken

Well, not quite a dozen of you, anyway. By an overwhelming margin of 81% to 18%, you all voted for me to maintain my grub worm status. Thanks to you, I will be dazzling the New Smyrna natives with my blindingly white legs! Actually, I'm glad you all voted that way, because I didn't feel like going to the store today and then trying the tanning thing again. I wish I could remember what I used before--I think it was either L'Oreal or Neutrogena--because it didn't have a strong chemical odor like this Coppertone stuff did. All self-tanning lotions are not created equal, believe me! So I'll have to get my semi-tan the old-fashioned way: baking in the sun like a pig on a spit. Don't worry, I always wear sunscreen, including on my ears and my scalp where my bangs start. I do NOT like to get burned!

In the past couple of hours, it has gotten incredibly humid. I took out the garbage and it felt quite muggy. I suspect we're going to pop some storms here this afternoon, which is too bad because Ken wanted to get the lawn mowed before we left. I've been doing some last-minute things like a load of laundry, cleaning Sheeba's litterbox, etc., and I'll get the kitchen all cleaned up next. Are you like me in wanting to come home to a clean house?

Ayyyyy! I learned a new phrase last night. Apparently this has been around for a while, but I'd never heard it before. It seems especially appropriate, because there have been rare shark attacks at New Smyrna Beach! The phase is jumping the shark. It originally meant a TV show that uses some time of preposterous stunt, such as the "Happy Days" episode that had Fonzie in his leather jacket jumping over a shark while water-skiing, to attract more viewers, but merely illustrates that the show has passed its peak. It eventually expanded to include most entertainment, whether movie franchises or book series, and it seems that "jumping the shark" indicates a sense of obsolescence. If someone tells you that you've jumped the shark, you're a has-been, my friend!

I love these phrases that can be traced back to pop culture references, especially such a specific one as Fonzie jumping a shark! Word and phrase origins have always fascinated me, and I find ones such as this a lot of fun. It shows how pervasive pop culture is, and how certain phrases can enter the mainstream. (One of my personal favorites is a response to someone making the mistake of telling me I need to learn my place: "Nobody puts baby in a corner.")

How about paraphrasing the old Irish blessing? "May the road rise up to meet you, and may you ne'er jump the shark."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just a wee opinion

After a bright start to the morning, and temperatures pleasant enough to sit outside, the afternoon got cloudy and cooler. As the evening nears, the sun is trying to make a comeback, but still a cooler-than-normal day. I just keep thinking, "Hot and humid Florida in 48 hours!"

I'm about halfway through Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father. (More in a moment.) In the interest of entertainment versus philosophy and fun versus thinking too damn much, I am setting it aside temporarily. I just picked up the latest Dean Koontz book, another Odd Thomas venture, and that will be my airplane book and initial vacation book. Odd Thomas is one of my favorite characters I've encountered in fiction, right up there with Sherlock Holmes, Lestat, and Repairman Jack. When we last left Odd, I believe he'd said goodbye to the specter of Elvis, after Odd helped Elvis to finally leave this world completely behind. However, he'd picked up another ghostly friend, Ol' Blue Eyes. I'm looking forward to some sheer entertainment.

I think I need it, because I'm finding myself feeling a little at odds (so to speak) about reading Obama's first book. Not because I dislike him or disagree with what he writes, but I find much of it disturbing. Bear with me while I try to sort it out, okay? And I promise to not make this overly political, because that's not what I'm focusing on right now. (Although I did exchange several emails today with a psychologist friend who talked about how upsetting it is to be treating soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, after they've served up to three tours of duty in Iraq. THREE! Shameful.) A little background on the book, based on what I've read so far, and what Ken (who has already read it) has told me. The first part is about Obama trying to figure out his heritage and where he fits into society. A Kenyan father, a mother from Kansas, his grade school years spent in Indonesia, his high school years in Hawaii with his white grandparents, undergraduate years in L.A., time in New York City at Columbia, and I'm just now getting to the part where he moved to Chicago. What a hodgepodge of cultures and heritages to try and sort out! The second third of the book is about his efforts as a community organizer in Chicago. The final third is about his trip to Kenya to connect with his distant family.

I guess what is disturbing to me is that race is still such an issue. Obama wrote this book 10 years ago, and wrote about coming to terms with being half-black, and it's something that is STILL coming up in the election. I won't mention any states specifically, because I've heard the same sentiments expressed in my own state and in virtually every other state across the Union, but when one resident was asked about his advice for Obama, he said, "Stop bein' so black!"

This makes me want to either cry or punch a wall. I just don't get it. If you don't like Obama for his politics, fine. If you don't like Hillary for HER politics, okey-dokey. If you don't like McCain's stance on issues, go for it. But when I hear that you don't like 'em because they're black, or female, or older than the average bear, it just makes me think that you're ignorant. Why can we not get past this? Why is this still an issue in the 21st century? Have we forgotten about the great Melting Pot that helped to drive our country's economy and made us what we are, and about the immigrants who were proud to fight for the U.S. during various wars? Have we forgotten that very few of us are the original citizens of this country, Native Americans? I'm mostly German, and my ancestors came over in the late 1700's. Where did yours come from? I'm not from around here, how about you? If I sound pissed about this, I suppose I am, a little bit. It appalls me to encounter the level of prejudice that I see and hear on a day-to-day basis.

I'm happy to say that I wasn't raised that way. I never got that kind of attitude from my parents, and they taught me that the measure of a person depends on what is in their heart, not on whatever their skin color happens to be. In all the travels and vacations I experienced with my parents, I NEVER saw them treat anyone badly, for any reason, including race or religion. We are better than this, people, and I for one am SICK of the empty rhetoric I'm hearing about why this or that person is unworthy because of whatever bias the person spouting such rhetoric happens to have.

If you feel the need to send me a forward about how Obama is a Muslim (he's not), or about how Hillary refused to meet with a group of Gold Star mothers (a lie), or about how Senator McCain is going to make us the "United States of Mexico," please don't. I don't wish to hear jokes about Obama's name--that seems more than a little juvenile to me, and I suspect that most of OUR names sounded pretty funny to those who were here first. Is it really necessary to ridicule other cultures and other names? I don't care to hear about how Hillary is a PMS-ing witch with her finger on the nuke button. Hey--at 60 years old, I think she's post-menopausal, for Pete's sake! And regardless of how you feel about McCain's politics, he is a war veteran and he survived a POW camp, so give the guy some respect, okay? All three are also U.S. senators, and deserve some respect for that. If they screw things up, it's our job to vote them out, but I still believe that our elected officials deserve a little respect. (Bathroom stall, escort service, and intern incidents negate the whole "respect" thing, at least in my world.) 

I just want to smack each and every person who says, "I won't vote for so-and-so because they're [insert label here]." How about getting past whatever bias you have and focusing on what is wrong with our country, because there's plenty to fix. I appreciate any discourse and discussion with someone who wants to talk policy and issues, but I will automatically delete any forward or email that smacks of prejudice, hate, or ignorance. Grow up, America, and get past this, because we've got some work to do.


My Chemical Non-romance

I got a little more packing done today, some odds and ends. (We aren't leaving till Saturday morning, so there's no rush. It's just nice to be mostly done with it.) I sat out on the deck and read for a while, then I did my self-tanning lotion on my legs. I think it looks pretty okay, and I don't see any orange-ness or streaks or anything. I used Coppertone this time--I think I used L'Oreal before--and my only complaint is the smell. Why does stuff like this have to smell so strongly of chemicals? (Uhh...probably because of the chemicals in it, Beth.) Oh...yeah.

We've certainly come a long way. When I was in high school, sometimes girls would use QT. Does anyone remember that? Oh my goodness...what I've got on my legs now looks like a slight tan, but you could always tell when a girl used QT, because it was more like a walking basketball! And you know what? I shouldn't just say "girls," because now that I think back on it, I remember a guy who used it! He had really blond hair, so yes, it was very obvious, and NOT a good look.

I've lost something else, but at least this time I'm not emotionally attached to it. In the course of packing, I started looking for my sunglasses holder--you know, the string thing you put around your neck. We always use them in Florida because the waves can knock your sunglasses off your face pretty easily. I thought I stashed them away somewhere after last year's Florida trip, but I'll be darned if I can figure out where they are. I probably stuck them someplace and thought, "I'll remember they're HERE." I guess not! Well, that's something that I can pick up easily when we go shopping after we get there.

I don't know if I've mentioned that aspect of our timeshare vacation--we have a full kitchen in the condo, so on most nights we fix dinner there. We'll go out to eat a few times, but we really save a lot of money by cooking in, and we don't mind doing it. Especially once we found the fish market! I know some people wouldn't think that having to cook while you're on vacation is much of a vacation, but one of the reasons we can afford to take the vacations we do is because we do things like cooking in when in Florida! Since neither of us mind cooking, it's no big deal. So we usually head out to Publix or Food Lion that evening and stock up for the week--we'll make a couple more trips to get more perishable stuff during the week, but we've gotten pretty good at planning out what we need while we're there. I've already started my grocery list! Ha ha!

Good God, I might have to go wash my legs again. This smell is really getting to me, and Sheeba wants nothing to do with me. Of course, that could be normal cattitude. The results look fine, but note to self: don't buy Coppertone sunless tanning cream again--too smelly!

I'm back. A little Zest and a rinse later, and I feel--and smell--much better. So how much of it washed off? Oh...looks like most of it. I don't care--I just couldn't stand that smell anymore! I hate to trash a product so utterly and completely, and maybe it's just my sensitive nose, but BLEAHHHH! The rest of the container is in the trash! So here's the question: to self-tan or not to self-tan, before we leave on Saturday? Help me decide. An added bonus: if I run out and get some more stuff tomorrow, I can also pick up some sunglasses holders. I will not be voting in this, because I honestly can't make up my mind!

Out to launch


I had an email from Ken already this morning. He heard at work that the space shuttle is scheduled to launch on Saturday.


He asked if I could check and see what time it's supposed to launch, so I went to (which is a really cool site, by the way--they have some pictures taken by the Mars Lander), and it's scheduled to launch at 5:02 PM EST.


Why do we care, you ask? Well, Cape Canaveral is just south of New Smyrna Beach--it takes maybe a half an hour to 45 minutes to drive there--and we can see launches while standing on the beach outside the timeshare! We were down there one year when they launched a satellite, and that was really neat and exciting. There were updates over the P.A. system by the pool, and they did a countdown and everything. So that was neat enough--to see the shuttle go up would be awesome!

I checked our flight times, and we're supposed to get to Orlando at 1439 (sorry, I'm reverting to military time), which means that we should be on the road by 1530, and it'll take about an hour to get to the yeah, we might get there in time to see it. My mind is racing right now.

Like I wasn't already excited enough--this just adds (rocket) fuel to the fire!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lovely Spam, wonderful Spam!

What a bummer--we were looking forward to "Last Comic Standing" tonight, but NBC is showing hockey instead. Not a fan, with all apologies to any hockey fans out there. So we're delaying dinner a bit so Ken can crank out some "work" work, then we'll watch a movie.

No, we're not having Spam for dinner, but there was an article on AOL about how Spam sales are up as grocery prices have gone up. I haven't had Spam for years, but I'd certainly eat it if I had to. Believe me, when I was growing up, there were times when we had Spam for dinner. Mom would fry it nice and crispy, and we'd have some kind of vegetable with it, and probably some kind of potatoes, maybe baked sweet potatoes...I am no stranger to Spam.

I find it interesting that it would be perceived as a "hardship" to have to eat *gasp* Spam. At least it's eating, right? It's nutritious, and you won't starve if you have to include it in a meal. And no, it's not Nutraloaf. It's actually edible.

I dunno...I guess that being a child of Depression-era parents gave me a different perspective. Mom was very frugal with her dinners, and every once in a while, we had fried mush (any Southern readers will know about fried mush) and THAT I wasn't a fan of. (Although I might like it now.) Sometimes we had dandelion greens that Mom picked from the yard. We didn't eat like kings, but we never went hungry.

The Spam article talked about how people are starting to cook more meals at home, rather than going out a lot. I'm not saying that we should all start cooking with Spam, but maybe cooking at home more often is not such a bad idea. You'd be surprised at how much we save by not going out to dinner often. It's pretty much a rare treat that we reserve for special occasions and vacations. In that spirit, here's the recipe for what I made last night. Sorry I don't have a picture, but it basically looks like hamburgers. My Mom used to make these a lot, and still does, and it's really easy to fix. Serve a salad and something like rice or potatoes with it, and there you go! Dinner is served.

Mom's Meatloaf Patties

1 lb hamburger

1 slice of bread, in tiny pieces

1 egg, beaten

about ¼ cup milk

a little minced onion

a little dried parsley

Combine egg, milk, onion, and parsley. Pour over hamburger and bread, and squish together with a potato masher.

Form into four patties and fry until cooked through. Enjoy!

Indiana May Packer


Within a week, you can find us sitting on that porch area, overlooking the beach and feeling the breeze! And quite possibly, enjoying a cool beverage! That's Breakers, by the way, just down the beach from our timeshare, and a visit to New Smyrna Beach means a walk down the beach and a burger at Breakers.

I'm mostly packed for our trip, and I'm glad I did that, because now I'm getting really excited about it. It was fun to pull out some shorts and skorts and some of the cute little tank tops that I haven't had a chance to wear yet because it's been so FREAKIN' COLD! At least for this time of year. Criminy! It's been a very pretty day here, with plenty of sunshine, but it's still chilly enough that the furnace came on a few moments ago (I quickly shut it off). I can't begin to tell you how good 90° sounds right about now, with the sun beating down on me until I'm panting like a dog. When that happens, you just go hop in the ocean!

I probably packed too much, as always. I actually put a couple of things back, but then I pulled out a couple more things. I think we'll be able to fit everything into the large hard-sided suitcase, though (Ken is the master packer), and then we'll have a small carry-on, too. Last year when we took the kids to the timeshare for a week, and then went on the cruise for a week, oh my God, I think we had like 8 suitcases! It was insane. That wasn't easy to pack for, though, because Florida was a very casual week, and the cruise was dressier. At the end of the first week, we essentially had to repack everything in preparation for the second week, because we didn't take every suitcase on the cruise.

Anyhoo, it should be a little easier this year as far as the packing!

I'm a board short kinda gal, so I pulled out all my cute board shorts and the swimsuit tops to go with them...I can hardly wait to hit the beach! Oo, that reminds me, I need to get the beach towels out of the closet....

Hey, I found some clip-on sunglasses today, and they really aren't dorky at all! They fit my new glasses almost perfectly, and they're really easy to pop on. I did NOT get the ones that flip up, by the way! Although I got transition lenses, they don't turn dark in the car, so I really needed to get something for driving on those really bright days. I can't believe how sensitive to light my eyes are. Am I part vampire or something?! In Florida, I wear my contact lenses during the day--I'd rather lose a pair of sunglasses in the ocean than lose my real glasses. I can wear some nice dark sunglasses and not worry about frying my eyes. "My eyes! MY EYES!" (Scream it like you're in a horror movie and you just got a fork or something in the eye. It's funny!)

Talked to my folks today, and they're doing just dandy. Last Saturday, Ken and I went down to see them, and we took them the split rail fence that Ken took out of our front yard, out by the road. I guess Dad wasn't too thrilled about putting that up, but Mom wanted it...however, he said that they put it up the very next day, and he thinks it looks pretty good! Both he and Mom sounded very pleased with it, and I'm glad that we were able to "recycle" the fence. Dad said he dug all the post holes, and Mom planted some bushes and flowers and stuff. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Mom and Dad are 79 and 84 respectively. They're such a trip, and they're two of the best people I know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"The Andromeda Strain" review

Oh, I had such high hopes!

After Part One last night, I was thinking the remake of "The Andromeda Strain" was pretty cool, staying fairly close to the original. My hopes were dashed--dashed, I tell you!--tonight by Part Two.

Well, it wasn't horrible. I liked a lot of it, but I suppose it was inevitable that I would compare it to the original.

Some thoughts:

I was disappointed that they shortened the decontamination sequence when going into the Wildfire complex. I loved the scene in the original when they had to don a metal head shield and all their body hair and the top layer of skin was burned off.

Eric McCormack was the investigative reporter, a new addition to the story. Eric did a good job, but I really didn't see the point of adding this drug-addicted, sensationalist character.

One of Andromeda's effects was irrational and psychotic behavior. This was illustrated nicely in the new version when a guy chopped off his own head with a chainsaw. Nice touch!

The new version got a little too "preachy" with politics and the environment. It also posited that Andromeda was sent from the future as a warning to stop destroying our habitat. As much as I love our habitat, again...preachy. I think this also lessened the story by removing the "random." In the original, it was just a random virus that was alien to Earth and hitched a ride on a satellite, and our scientists were pitted against a seemingly invincible organism.

I was also disappointed in the final sequence, when Stone has to climb the inner core to stop Wildfire's self-destruct sequence. What was up with all the falling debris?! Ken said, "Is that supposed to indicate 'self-destruct'?" The self-destruct device was a nuclear weapon, so I don't think there would be a bunch of trembling structure and raining debris. It would just vaporize the place. Lame.

All in all, while I didn't hate it, it made me resolve to buy the original. Four hours was too much for this--the original's elegance and drama was in its simplicity, and sense of urgency. With four hours, there was just way too much time to muddle the story. The additional story lines and extra time merely clouded what was so cool about the original, and what I still love about it: the SCIENCE. A team of scientists facing an organism that could spell the destruction of the entire planet, and they've got just a few hours to figure out the solution. That's some good stuff, and this was just way too sensationalistic.

One very important thing, though, was that this story is still very pertinent, perhaps more so than ever. While I'm not sure what threat exists from outer space, the threat right here on our own planet is serious enough. I'm not talking about "avian flu," because as of now, that's exactly what it is: avian. If you think that "pandemic flu" is the equivalent of "avian flu," you are mistaken. Avian flu has the potential to become a serious problem--and the potential to become pandemic--but at the moment, transmission is limited to those who are in close contact with infected birds. The "pandemic flu" that you read about is the usual human influenza virus that makes an antigenic shift and becomes something that none of us have been exposed to or have any immunity to. The flu shot will probably not keep you from getting it, but if it's a killer strain, it may provide enough protection to prevent you from succumbing to it. Not to mention that you might prevent those who are more susceptible or have weakened immune systems (i.e., the elderly, children, or those with respiratory problems) from catching something that could possibly be fatal.

After watching the entire remake, I'll still take the original "The Andromeda Strain," with its focus on science and on solving a planet-threatening problem.

An off-topic comment:

I had an email from Shane, which included a clarification about his Mustang:

"by the way, it's '66, not a '67. that's where the 66 in [my email address] comes from. it comes from route 66 too! remember, they are both the same! and dad was 66 years old when we drove the '66 mustang on route 66 for 666 miles! (you've probably never heard him tell that story!) mom's pink mustang was a '67.

I can't remember if I've ever put up a picture of Aunt Bert's pink Mustang. It was completely and utterly cool. Oh hey! Look what I have on this computer! I thought it was only on the basement computer...and it's not just the Mustang that's cool. Aunt Bert was such a BABE!


Life on Mars??

Have you all been reading about the new Mars Lander? It's pretty cool!

Lander Prepares to Dig on Mars


Posted: 2008-05-27 13:06:58

PASADENA, Calif. (May 27) — Fresh images sent back by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander from the Martian northern polar region showed most of its science instruments were in good shape, mission scientists said.

The one snag on the lander occurred when the protective sheath around the trench-digging robotic arm failed to unwrap all the way after touchdown and now covers the arm's elbow joint.

Since landing on Mars on Sunday, Phoenix has delighted scientists with the first-ever peek of the planet's unexplored northern latitudes. The terrain where Phoenix settled is relatively flat with polygon-shaped patterns in the ground likely caused by the expansion and contraction of underground ice.

Phoenix will dig into the soil using its 8-foot-long arm to reach the ice believed to be buried inches to a foot deep.

The lander will study whether the site could have supported primitive life. Among the things it will look for is whether the ice melted in Mars' history and whether the soil samples contain traces of organic compounds, one of the building blocks of life.


A good friend of Ken's from the U of Illinois engineering program is now working for NASA.** He sent Ken some of the preliminary pictures, and they're amazing! Here's one of them:













**This is a complete fabrication.

Saddle up!

I just got back from the car dealer with Blacky. What started out as an oil change and a recall repair ended up being an $800 bill. Gaahhhh! But like I said, we're pretty good about keeping up with the maintenance schedule, and Ken definitely puts more miles on Blacky than I do on Slick. And you know, I really don't feel that they were gouging us, or using a "bait and switch" as my pal Jimmy wondered. This really is all part of the maintenance schedule. I know that on my '95 Mustang (his name was Rod), I stuck to the schedule, and I kept it for 10 years, with I believe over 150,000 miles on it.

That doesn't mean that $800 is any fun!

I asked the car dealer to come and pick me up, because after a 3-day weekend, Ken will probably be at work kind of late tonight. This way it's all taken care of and we can get back to our own cars tomorrow. (More about that in a moment.) The guy that picked me up in the Ford Windstar minivan was an older gentleman, and just as nice as he could be. We had a nice little chat, and we had to go pick up someone else, so we had an even longer chat. But what was kind of funny was that he was such a cautious driver! I'm sure they don't want to scare the customers or anything, but he drove really slow, and he'd start putting his brakes on SO early! I don't think I'm a particularly aggressive driver, but I guess in a Mustang, you get used to GOING. Ha ha!

As for getting back to our own cars, it's weird how you get used to your own! Mine is an '05 hard top and Ken's is an '06 convertible, and you wouldn't think there would be that much of a difference, but I have my seat set the way I want it, I'm used to the touch I need to use on the accelerator, etc. At one point, when I took off after a 4-way stop, I actually made my head snap back and went, "Whoa!" It seems that Blacky's gas pedal is a little more sensitive than Slick's! I'm ready for a drive with the top down soon. I'm looking forward to nicer weather!

Speaking of Mustangs, when we dropped off Blacky yesterday, we noticed a white Shelby sitting inside. We were admiring it through the window. It was still there today, so I couldn't resist taking a peek inside. Mark, one of the guys at the dealer, said, "Pretty nice, huh?" I said, "Oh man, yeah." I asked if it belongs to someone in town, and he said it belongs to one of the "bigwigs", and he brought it down for a recall. (I'm not sure if he was talking about the dealership or Ford.) The point is moot, because a Shelby is way out of my league! But Lord have mercy, what a sweet car!

Disaster averted

Being the avid reader that I am, I have many bookmarks. I have exactly two that are my favorites.

They are both metal bookmarks of the style in the picture: they are flat, and one part slips over the page while the other slips under. They stay in place, but they aren't bulky. I love them. One is a Frank Lloyd Wright bookmark that I got when Cousin Shane and I visited the Dana-Thomas House in Oak Park, Illinois on our short Route 66 trip. That was in 2001, so you can see that I have kept this bookmark and even treasured it! The other is a Bastet bookmark, the Egyptian cat goddess, and I got that one when we went to Philadelphia in 2006 to see the Tutankhamun exhibit. I've been using Bastet more often lately, but in preparation for vacation, I replaced Bastet with a paper bookmark--I never take my "special" bookmarks on vacation, because I don't want to risk losing them.

So I put Bastet aside for now, and then looked for Frank Lloyd Wright on the table...then on the side table...then on the floor BY the tables. Then I looked in my stack of books by the bed, thinking I'd left it in a book I'd put away. Then I went downstairs and looked at the bookcases and books I'd recently read. By this time, I'm getting a little upset with myself, wondering if I'd thrown it away by accident. I looked at my books again, then I looked in my junk drawer among all my pens and refills...then I looked in the little baskets that hold odds and ends. Frank was GONE!

I realized that it was foolish to be so upset (and honestly, on the verge of obsessive) about a bookmark, but dammit, I LOVED that bookmark, and it was from a special trip and held special significance for me. I calmed myself down and thought about it. I knew I had seen it recently in the vicinity of the chair where I sit and type. I had recently cleaned things up a bit, and I knew that I had some books out here I was getting ready to read but hadn't yet, and when I cleaned, I put those books back on my stack. I went and looked again, this time picking up the books and looking inside.

I FOUND IT! It was hiding in the book that Dr. Will sent to me. I know it's probably kind of silly, but I feel so relieved. I knew I would remember that bookmark and always regret losing it, both for its simple beauty and for the memories it held. I hoped that it would turn up one day, but I'm glad I kept looking.

Feel free to think to yourself, "Jeez, it was just a bookmark." I can laugh about it now that I've found it!

You want new tires with that?


Tell me if this sounds familiar:

Me: Hello?

Woman at Service Department: Mrs. R? We have your '06 Mustang here for the recall repair, and it says you also wanted an oil change?

Me: That's correct.

SD: Now, you're also due for an engine flush.

Me: How much is that?

SD: About $150, and that includes the oil change and lube.

Me: Okay, go ahead.

SD: You're also due for tires. [I'm thinking she means rotation.] We're showing 3/32 on them and minimum is 4/32.

Me: I'll have to talk to my husband first.

So after hearing back from Ken, I called them back to have new tires put on. When he heard how bad they are, he said to go ahead.

I swear, isn't that always the way? We go in there expecting about a $30 charge for an oil change, and instead it will be well over $500. ARRGHHH!

That being said, I know it's important to keep up our cars, and as performance vehicles, they need a little extra TLC. I plan on keeping my '05 for many many years, so I'm pretty good about following the maintenance schedule. Which reminds me, Slick is also due for an oil change. Uh-oh...what else will they tell me I need?!

A little bit later

And add another $130 for a front end alignment. It hasn't been done on Blacky, and I figured that with new tires....

But ouch, man. VERY ouch.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Packing and other stuff

Ken is packed for Florida already, can you believe it?!

I'll get everything ready to go this week. It seems that we're both getting excited for our week in New Smyrna Beach! Today has been quite balmy, but after thunderstorms tonight, our high tomorrow is supposed to be 65° or so. You can see why the beach and hot sun is sounding pretty good right now!

I'm also starting to think about some fresh seafood, especially some raw oysters. Oh yeah, babe! I never in a million years thought I would like raw oysters, but Ken got me to try them when we were on our honeymoon in New Orleans, and I loved how tender they were--almost melt-in-your-mouth--and I was hooked. A little cocktail sauce and lemon juice, serve it up on a Saltine...oh, I love 'em! Whenever we're in a coastal area now, whether it's Florida, New Orleans, or San Francisco, we get some raw oysters. I was stunned that in San Francisco they didn't have Saltines to serve with them. You gotta put 'em on a cracker!

I also want to use some sunless tanning lotion on my legs. Ken asked, "Why?" I said because I don't want to look like a total grub worm when we're down there! Don't worry, I know it's not a real tan, and that I still need to use sunscreen, but I just really like having a little bit of color on me. My arms are okay, but my legs could use a helping hand...err, foot...oh, whatever. You get the drift!

Hey, I've got a joke for you!

Q: What do you call a chicken with one leg?

A: Chicken Eileen!

Yeah, Ken had a similar reaction.

That's what I'm making for dinner tonight.

Chicken Eileen

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to within a (half)inch of their lives

3 ounces stuffing mix, prepared as directed

8 slices mozzarella

Put a slice of cheese on each chicken breast, then a scoop of stuffing. Roll chicken around stuffing and fasten with toothpicks. Place in 9x13" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until juices run clear, then place another slice of cheese on each chicken breast and bake for 2 more minutes.


I've never tried this before, but I have some fresh mozzarella in the fridge that I want to use, so we'll see how it works. After reading reviews of the recipe, I'm going to kick it up a notch with a little Essence--BAM! (sorry, I never get tired of doing that)--sprinkled on the chicken breasts before I add the cheese and stuffing. I'll let you know how it turns out. I always love recipes where I get to break out my meat mallet!

The rest of the week, I'll work on cleaning out the fridge and not making too much for dinner. I usually make more so that there's enough for a lunch for Ken, but not this week.

Hope you all had a great day!


More movies

A quick trip to Circuit City to buy a digital converter box for the TV in the basement (we don't have satellite for that one) resulted in a dozen or so DVD's. How can you pass up a $4 DVD? We got some that are replacements of VHS tapes ("Dances With Wolves"), some that are favorites of mine ("Reservoir Dogs"), a recent good one that we haven't seen yet ("Syriana"), and some that just look exciting and/or scary ("Bugs"). And one that made me go "YES!" when I pulled it out of the bin: the twentieth anniversary edition of "Dirty Dancing." Score!

Have you noticed that Ken and I love our movies? With rerun season coming up, I'd say that we have plenty to watch!

We also looked at the digital cameras, and Ken debated getting a small one of his own until he saves up enough for the Canon SLR that he wants. Then he debated going ahead and getting the SLR, because he already has quite a bit set aside for it. Then he decided to get neither, and said he'd wait until he had all of the money for it. Now that's some willpower, and sticking to the budget! Of course, the DVD's weren't strictly in the budget either, but he does set aside money for stuff like that.

We dropped off Blacky for a recall repair and oil change tomorrow. It was fun to roll down the windows in Slick and cruise along on this warm day. We jammed to Kid Rock a bit. It feels fairly humid, so I think we probably will get the storms they're forecasting for later tonight.

Don't forget--part one of "The Andromeda Strain" on A&E tonight!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Till the end of the day....

Whew, what a fun afternoon! Shane got here around 4:30 and we all watched the end of the Indy 500. Congrats to Scott Dixon on his first win at Indy! There were a few crashes, but no one was seriously injured--although Ryan Briscoe might be dead meat when Danica Patrick finishes with him. Man, she was loaded for bear after their crash! I can't say I blame her--that was a stupid mistake.

We had a great time sitting out on the deck and chatting and laughing. I suppose Shane and I bored Ken a few times by laughing hysterically over weird things that happened when we were kids, but Ken already knows that we're a little on the odd side. Ha! He seems to like us despite our weirdness!

Before Shane got here, I told Ken that I wondered if Shane might not drive the Mustang. (I believe it's a '67--correct me if I'm wrong, Shane--and a gift from his Dad. Virtually everything is original, including all of the interior. It's so sweet.) Sure enough, Shane fired her up and drove her tonight! It's a beautiful midnight blue color, with pale blue interior.

Here are several pictures, including the Mustang, pictures of Nutwood, Shane, Ken, me and Shane, me and Ken, and a brat that screams "Eat me!"



Isn't that a gorgeous car? It even has the original paint job, if I'm not mistaken. There is some superficial paint damage, but it's minor. It is such a beauty.






Ken is all smiles about having his picture taken! I'm not sure why he hates to have his picture taken so much, because I think he looks pretty cute.






It's always great to see Shane. We always have so much fun together!







Ken and his special "grillin' shirt," that says Grills Gone Wild. Woooo! Par-tyyy!








 Me an' mah cuz!







                                                                                             Me an' mah hub!






Brat sez, "Eat me!" Everything turned out great. The potato salad definitely wasn't as good as homemade, but it was also much easier! 







Part of our back yard in late afternoon. The circle of rocks in the foreground is our sacrificial altar fire pit, and we hope to have a bonfire soon, before the weather gets too hot for our robes a bonfire. Beating heart S'mores, anyone?




As the sun was starting to set, I got this picture...I love it when things start getting so lush and green, and this is the kind of thing that makes me think, "MAN, I love this place!"






And finally, the end of a most excellent day. The sun has set, the moon has risen, the frogs are peeping, and Shane and the Mustang are ready to roll. Rain is supposed to come our way tonight, so I'm so happy that we got to enjoy such a great day.

I hope you all had a great day, too!

The cookout approaches


Well, we're halfway through the race, and Danica Patrick is hanging in there. There have been a few accidents, but it seems that no one has been badly hurt so far. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Some people say they want to see wipeouts, but not me. Many drivers have died, and it's no laughing matter.

Ken is still mowing, and the yard looks great! He weedwhacked around the pond and stuff, too, and it really makes it look nice. I've been tidying up inside a bit--I know Shane wouldn't care, but it's still nice to neaten things up a little--and I've got the baked beans ready to pop in the oven in about 15 minutes. I swept off the deck and sprayed for wasps, so I think we'll be able to eat outside with no major problems. I've got some iced tea made for Shane in case he doesn't want beer, and I made some fresh ice cubes (who knows how long the other ones had been in the freezer!). Aren't I the hostess with the mostest? Ha ha!

Wish y'all could come on by!

A big Thank You





First and foremost, Happy Memorial Day, and a word of thanks to all those who have served and given their all for our country. We are grateful. 





Ahh, today looks to be even more beautiful than yesterday! A perfect day for the 500, and a perfect day for our little cookout! Cousin Shane is coming over to join us, so I know we'll have lots o' fun in the sun!

The new grill is AWESOME. The T-bones were perfectly cooked, and I think Ken is very happy with it. He'll get to use it again today with the brats. Which reminds me, I need to get them out of the freezer!

I'm including an ad that makes me laugh every time I see it. I haven't used this product, so I can't endorse it, but I sure do like their commercial!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cukes and Onions

After we watched "A River Runs Through It," I finished my cukes and onions.

First, the movie. I had not seen it before, but Ken had. I wept quite a lot. Yes, it was sad, but I was mostly moved and touched by the scenery and the sentiment of fishing, and the relationships...I've been to Montana, and it really is THAT gorgeous. There are plenty of other places in our country that have incredible beauty, and I look forward to seeing more of what our country has to offer.

I wrote about my Mom's cucumber and onion recipe the other day. I'd like to clarify it a bit.

I used three good-sized cucumbers, peeled and sliced. I used one large Vidalia onion, cut in half and sliced thinly. I combined about a cup of Miracle Whip with a couple of tablespoons of milk and a couple of vinegar, and maybe a tablespoon of sugar. I wanted to be sure to get it marinating tonight, because the longer it sits, the better it gets.

Tomorrow's cookout menu is brats, baked beans, potato salad (didn't make it myself, but got a good one at our favorite store), and this cuke salad.

Enjoy the day, and with the Indy 500 happening today, happy racing!

Undiscovered Territory

A conversation while cooking:

Me: I could go for some music. Since I wrote about them the other day, how 'bout some J. Geils?

Ken: Sure!

Me: Are you familiar with them?

Ken: Oh yeah.

Me: Seriously? Even their older stuff, like I wrote about?

Ken: Oh yeah.

Me: No way!

Ken: Shyeah!

Me: Cool!

As we're cookin' and jammin' to J. Geils, what a nice reminder that we still don't know everything about each other, and that there is still undiscovered territory. And little "discoveries" like this just reinforce our compatibility. I love Ken no matter what, but knowing that he's always loved The J. Geils Band, too,  is just an added bonus. Shyeah!


Ken's new BFF

Ken was out watering the trees he planted, as well as the peach tree he planted last year. I heard him yell, "Hey Honey!" I looked out, and he said, "Check out my new friend!" While Ken was out front, this little guy wandered over, and Ken scratched the kitty's ears. Then the kitty started following Ken.

I don't know if I've mentioned that the people across the road have multiple cats--I've seen at least 5--that they let roam. We are both very torn, because we love cats, and these really are pretty and friendly ones, but we do NOT like it that they let them roam onto our property--they hunt our birds and agitate OUR cat. Let me also say that I strongly believe that cats should be indoor animals, and that it's been proven that they have longer lives if they aren't allowed to roam free. It also upsets me because I've seen at least one of those cats get killed while crossing the road.

Oh, and speak of the devil, guess who just came up on the deck, right up to the sliding glass door, looked in and gave a little meow, as in, "New friend? Are you there?" I HATE this, because this looks like such a cute and sweet cat, and I just had to go out and shoo him off the walkway because Sheeba was all agitated in the window of the bedroom.

I made the mistake of petting one of these cats last year while I was sitting out on the deck. He/she kept hanging around and trying to follow me just breaks my heart! People, please keep your kitties indoors, but if you DO let them roam, make sure they're fixed. My pal Indigo is constantly trying to help feral cats and their kittens, and for anyone who loves animals, it's upsetting to see them roaming around, tick- and flea-infested, and with cuts and scratches. Some people say, "Oh, but cats have to hunt or they aren't happy." That's what cat toys are for. Have you ever seen a cat stalk a spot on the carpet, or a piece of string? They don't need to be outside hunting, they can do that perfectly well indoors, and they'll stay much healthier.

This has been a public service announcement.

What a great day!

Wow, what a gorgeous day it's been! For the first time this year, it feels like summer!

We slept in, read the paper, talked with Cousin Ros and Aunt Bea concerning our trip to California this summer, then to Kimberley and Steve regarding the same trip (as well as about a trip together to Vegas later in the year), along with just getting caught up in general. Interesting to get perspectives from some California teachers--Ros, Kim, and Steve are all teachers--about California's budget crunch. Ros said that there have been layoffs in her district. That's such a shame.

Ken made a trip to Lowe's while I washed the bathroom walls. We have a slight mildew problem in the corners above the shower, so he got some anti-mildew paint and we'll give that a try. Other than the mildew, the walls and paint job are really in good shape, so we think we'll just paint the ceiling. We're not sure why we get mildew in there, because we have a ceiling fan. ???

Later on, Ken worked on putting together our new grill. (We got it at the end of the season last year.) It looks great, and we're going to give it a "test drive" tonight when Ken grills some T-bones. Yum! While he did that, I sat nearby and soaked up some rays, ready to lend a hand if needed. I helped a couple of times!

Now Ken is out planting some trees he bought at Lowe's today: a pear and a ?cherry?. Correct me if I'm wrong, Honey! He got a couple of small arborvitae for out front, too, and we hope we can continue to get trees between us and the house across the street. (Their yard tends to look a tad messy at times.)

It felt great to sit outside and enjoy the weather a bit! Tomorrow is supposed to be even nicer.

Hope you all are enjoying the weekend so far, and that your day is as beautiful as ours has been. And it's not even over yet!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indy 500 memories

Ken just called a few minutes ago, and is a little ahead of schedule. He should be home around 8 PM rather than 9 PM. Sweet!

When the "NBC Nightly News" started, Brian Williams said something about being live from Indianapolis, and I thought, "Indy? Why are they in Indy?" I actually thought something bad had happened, which is kind of a sad commentary on today's world, isn't it? Then I realized that he was at the Speedway, and I said, "Oh yeah, the Indy 500!" Derrrr! Since I've lived in Indiana most of my life, race coverage is ubiquitous starting at the beginning of May: time trials, pole day, reports on all the drivers and their cars, etc. I'm not all that much into racing, so I don't follow it closely, but I do enjoy having the race on TV while doing other things--I just love the sound of it!

I've been to the Greatest Spectacle In Racing once, and have said that I don't really have the desire to go again. However, Ken has never been, and has expressed an interest in going one day, so I'd go again for him.

Want to hear my Indy 500 stories? Sure you do! <wink>

I can't even remember how I got tickets one year. I think my ex-brother-in-law got them or something. My friend Susie came down from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and a friend from work, Ellen, and her boyfriend, Vince, also said they'd like to go. Ellen and Vince lived on the West side, over by the Speedway, so Susie and I headed out early Sunday from my apartment on the East side. We encountered very little traffic getting over to Ellen and Vince's but when we left their house to head to the Speedway, Holy Moley! Vince drove my car, and he knew lots of back roads and alleyways that got us out of the worst of the traffic. He was driving like a crazy man. Of course, in the spirit of the day, everyone wants to be a race car driver! He got us there, though!

We made our way into the Speedway, knowing that we had a ways to walk. I can't describe how big the place is, and the Speedway never releases actual attendance records. I've heard that it's about a half a million people, the biggest sporting event in the world. And it sells out every year! Amazing. So we walked and we walked, Susie and I carrying our cooler between us (beer and sandwiches). Then we walked some more. We walked past the Infield (where all the RV's park) which is notorious for sheer craziness--and it's all true. It had rained lightly that morning, so the Infield surface was an amazingly adherent mixture of mud, urine, and beer. (The sneakers I wore that day went in the trash after I got home.) When visiting the bathroom once during the afternoon, there was a tall woman wearing nothing but a thong, completely covered in mud, washing the mud off in the trough sink. I have to laugh when I think about it, because I think I was actually a little shocked! I'd heard plenty of stories, but I had no idea it was that crazy.

Our seats were in the bleachers inside the track. At one point before the race started, our section and the section across the track started up a little competition. They yelled, "Tastes great!" We yelled back, "Less filling!" Remember, we're talking a half a million people there, so in our sections there may have been 100,000 or so. The sheer volume was unbelievable. Over the PA, we heard Jim Nabors sing "Back Home Again In Indiana," then we heard, "Lady and Gentlemen, start your engines!" The starting line was across the Infield from us, so we heard a distant rumble. A huge cheer went up, and a few seconds later, the first cars flew by us. It was one of the coolest and most exciting moments I've ever experienced, with the sound of the crowd and the sound of the cars zipping by at 180 or so mph.

You know, I don't even remember what year I went (although I probably have the ticket stub somewhere) or who won that year. I recall a couple of accidents, but no one was killed or seriously injured. But I remember the sheer excitement of it, and as I write about it, I can hear in my mind the amazing sound of the cars as they passed our section.

So would I go again? Yeah...I suppose I would if the opportunity presented itself. There really is nothing else like it.

I never really wish for any particular driver to win--I only wish for no serious accidents. Sunday promises to be a perfect day for the race, so Godspeed to each and every one of them!

Lunch buddy

I got back a little bit ago from a very enjoyable lunch with Cousin Shane! (The picture is from my retirement dinner, though.) I picked him up at the Post Office (the branch where he works) and we went to Between the Buns. Yes, that's the name of the restaurant! We had yummy sandwiches and lots o' fun chatting about music and road trips and just getting caught up, and it seemed like the hour just flew by! I'll look forward to the next time we can do this!
Ken left this morning for a quick business trip (he should be back around 9 PM), so lunch out was a nice distraction.
A bit of a gloomy day, but the sun is trying to peek out. It's also supposed to start warming up and give us a superb weekend. I might work on my cucumbers this afternoon, so they can really soak up the flavor for a couple of days. But looking at Sheeba all curled up and snoozin' on the chair beside me, I'm thinking that a cat nap sounds pretty good right now! More later!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

10K and cucumbers

A quick note while the pasta warms up and the bread bakes and the garlic roasts....

Ken pointed out that I reached 10,000 visitors on here! Cool! I knew I was getting close, but I didn't see it reach that point. Drat! It's like watching your odometer to see when it changes over to 10,000 or another nice round number, and you miss it! I wonder how many people have gotten into a traffic accident because they were watching those numbers scroll by on their odometer? On my car, though, it doesn't do the scroll thing--it's digital. Not quite as much fun.

I mentioned marinated cucumbers and onions. Here's a quick recipe. Keep in mind that unless it comes to baking, I'm not big into specific amounts.

Marinated Cucumbers and Onions

Peel and slice however many cucumbers you want.

Soak 'em in salted water for a while in the fridge.

Slice an onion (preferably Vidalia) and separate into rings.

Drain cukes and add onions.

Combine some Miracle Whip--half a cup or so--a little milk, a little vinegar, and a little sugar. Taste and adjust as necessary. Pour over cukes and onions and stick in the fridge at least overnight. It gets even better after a couple of days.

I'm looking forward to our first real cookout meal of the season!

Instant Karma's gonna get you....


Have you all heard that Shania Twain is divorcing her husband of 14 years, Mutt Lange? (I remember him for producing AC/DC's classic "Back In Black.") Apparently, he cheated on her with his secretary, who also happened to be a good friend of Shania's. Ouch man, betrayal in duplicate! I guess Mutt really IS a dog.

I'm not a fan of Shania's, but I think she has a really good voice, and c'mon, she's a knockout! Doesn't it make you wonder why he would cheat on such a beautiful woman? I don't know what she's like personally, but she's always come across as decent and likable in interviews. I think it just proves that cheating behavior usually isn't the fault of the cheatee, it's some kind of fatal flaw in the cheater.

It makes me grateful and happy that Ken and I are so solid. Quite simply, I would never cheat on him because I would never hurt him that way. It really IS a betrayal, and my loyalty lies with him. It would just be a terribly mean thing to do, and I care for him way too much to ever betray his trust.

I've had a cheater or two in my past, and I'm glad I don't have to deal with that anymore. I dated this one guy for several years and found out after I broke up with him that I was one of several "girlfriends." Ugh, it makes my skin crawl to even think of that whoredog. Last I knew, he had at least two illegitimate children by different women. I heard from a friend a while back that this guy had finally gotten married, but had told my friend that he had to take Viagra to keep up with "them all," so who knows how many he's still got on the line. Charming, eh?

But wait...there's more! And I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did! My friend also told me that this ex had been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, and for a long time, one side of his face was mostly paralyzed. My pal said that the guy had lost most of his hair, and that due to the Bell's Palsy, his nose ran constantly and he drooled. <sigh> I love a happy ending, don't you?

Is it bad that I'm sitting here with a little grin on my face? I can't deny that I definitely felt a sense of vindication when I heard about that, because I feel that Karma caught up with the guy at last. It always does, don't you think? There's a wonderful German word: Schadenfreude (pronounced Shah-den-froy-da). It literally means "bad joy," and figuratively it means a perverse enjoyment in the misfortunes of others. I'm happy to say that I've never felt that kind of sentiment towards people I care about and like, but when I heard that about that ex, believe me, the Schadenfreude was thick enough to cut with a knife! Ha!

So hang in there, Shania. I bet Karma is going to catch up with Mutt, too, and before long, you'll be throwing your own little Schadenfreude party.


Summer soon?


First off, a big Happy Birthday to my big sis, Diana! Actually, since I'm the baby, I have 2 big sisters, but Di is Big Sis to both me and Susie.

For those of you wondering at Bates Motel as my picture choice, all I can say don't know Di! This is the gal who actually owns a fog machine, and always breaks it out for Halloween. She's a lot of fun at parties! Love you lots, Di.

A beautiful sunny day here, and while it's still not as warm as I'd like it to be, it makes for a pretty day. I ran some errands this morning, including a stop at the grocery store. I wish I'd eaten something before I went, because I got into cookout mode. Brats, potato salad, I'll make some baked beans, and I got cucumbers to make marinated cucumbers and onions. Yummy! I thought about getting some sweet corn, but it isn't ready here, so I don't know where this came from. I'll wait and get locally grown later this summer. I think we'll do our cookout on Sunday, if Ken is willing, because that's supposed to be a pretty nice day. Maybe we can put the new grill together on Saturday and give 'er a spin.

I love it when we have cookouts, even though it's usually just us. Sitting out on the deck and smelling the stuff grilling, walking around barefoot, enjoying the view, listening to the birds...don't you just love summertime?


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Mystery of the Vanishing Epistle

I used to be notorious in my family for my lengthy handwritten letters. It started when I was in high school and I had a pen pal in Germany (if I recall correctly, her name was Bettine), and we exchanged air mail letters in German. When I got to college, I wrote to my folks and my sisters and Cousin Shane and other cousins. It was always an exciting thing to stop at the desk of Mysch Hall and get my mail and know that someone was thinking of me while I was away at school. On one memorable occasion, my Mom even sent me a canister full of hush puppies, reminding me of our fish fries in Georgia and Florida! During the summers in Georgia between my college years, I wrote long letters to the aforementioned cousins, as well as friends from college.

After college, I continued to write to my family and friends, but it wasn't until I was on my own after my divorce that I really kicked it in to overdrive. I wrote letters of normal length to my parents and others, but I wrote long, rambling letters to a few people who truly seemed to enjoy them, mostly Cousin Shane and my sister Diana. I found that for my really long letters, small stationery pages weren't adequate, so I kept a three-ring binder with loose-leaf paper for when I wanted to do some serious writing. I would often write a letter over a week or so, resulting in a 25-30 page letter that needed extra postage. I would draw pictures and diagrams, and a frequent comment I got was, "When I read your letters, I feel like I'm talking to you!"

For those of you that have been reading this journal for a while, I know it's hard to imagine that I could ever write that much! <snort> Well, some things never change.

What I find sad is that the art of letter-writing is essentially gone. As much as I loved doing it--and I still hand-wrote 2-3 page letters up until a couple of years ago, to Ken's Mom--my hands and wrists simply refused to continue the tradition. While my profession, with its constant pipetting and repetitive motion, had much to do with it, I realize that those long letters I wrote years ago also took their toll on my hand and wrist health. I find it ironic that something so enjoyable to myself and others would keep me from writing such letters today.

Email has definitely made it easier to keep in touch with others, but I also think that it's meant a huge loss in terms of the beauty of handwritten letters (not to mention handwriting). Seeing an old, yellowed, beautifully handwritten letter gives a sense of presence and humanity that no computer printout can ever give. I look at the letters that my Dad sent from overseas during WWII, and I love seeing his familiar handwriting, set to paper 20 years before I was born. My handwriting is somewhat similar to my Dad's, and my sisters and I all share an eerily similar half-writing/half-printing style. For some reason, none of us inherited my Mom's ladylike script.

The joy of receiving a letter in the mail is, to all intents and purposes, a thing of the past. We still receive handwritten notes from Ken's Mom, because a computer is not and never will be in her future. My letters to her now are composed on the computer and printed out, because I still tend to write long letters, and 4 printed pages would translate to a good 8 or so handwritten pages. She understands and says that she just enjoys the letters, and to keep 'em coming. I still enjoy writing thank you notes and other small notes by hand, but my days of long, long handwritten letters are behind me.

As I sit here at the computer wearing my wrist brace on my right hand, I mourn the loss of the long letter from a friend or other loved one...opening the mailbox and seeing a handwritten envelope and knowing that it's not a bill or charity solicitation, it's a personal letter...sitting down and reading the letter that someone took the time to write out to you and seeing the nuances and beauty of their handwriting. I also mourn the loss of my ability to write such letters, because I know exactly how much they mean and what a treasure they are. We can save computer printouts of letters we've received, but they don't hold a candle to those letters we save that contain the handwriting of our loved ones. That is something special, and something that we have almost lost.

Here's to the handwritten letter. You are missed, my friend.