Monday, December 31, 2007

Party Cats

We had an early New Year's party last night. After the first few groups of people arrived and it started to get noisy, Kitsu ventured out of the master bedroom where she had been supervising the placement of coats on the bed and ran a quick circuit around the party rooms. She must have liked what she saw, because her tail went up like a fluffy, striped flag and she proceeded to work the room as Official Greeter Cat.

Eventually, Sachi realized that she was missing out on all of the action. She came up from the basement and ensconced herself on the cat tree in the kitchen to hold court. It was a very successful strategy. Everyone who walked by told her what beautiful blue eyes she had.

When the guests left, the cats ran around the house trying to find them. Hoards of admirers seem to tickle their feline fancies. That and I think they've been missing the contractors and construction noise they'd been living with for the last year and a half.

Only problem, in the girls' eyes, was that none of the guests brought a ladder. That would have made it perfect.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I seem to be developing a bad habit of losing my winter coats in airports.

About four years ago, I got tapped in the Houston airport for one of those icky pat-down searches and managed to forget my coat in the rush to get on the plane before they closed the doors. Even though I left it in the pat-down area, it was lost forever.

So I got a new coat.

And dropped it today while running through the airport to get to my gate.

The Engineer and I ran back and forth over the path I'd taken, but did not find the missing coat. I tracked down the phone number for the airport lost and found and called repeatedly until boarding, but only got a machine telling me to call again later.

Dang! It was 20 degrees when I got back to Salt Lake City. Not fun for finding the car in the parking lot while toting two suitcases. Guess I'll have to get another coat. I really regret losing the leather gloves and cashmere scarf I had tucked in the pockets. The scarf was the Engineer's first Christmas present to me.

Under the circumstances (or any circumstances) I'm glad I don't have my sister-in-law's taste in coats. This is a picture of her and her sister clad in their long mink coats on Christmas day.
It boggles my mind that anyone would spend $6,000 on a coat made of dead weasels.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Farewell For Now

Tomorrow morning a jet flies from Salt Lake City to Detroit, Michigan. I will be on it. I will return after Christmas. Until then...

Happy Holidays!

Christmas Tokens

If I was rich in my own right, I would probably end up giving most of it away. I simply don't have whatever it takes to put the acquisition and hoarding of money front and center in my life. I also like to give gifts.

But, alas, I'm not rich, so I have to think of less extravagant gifts than a Porsche or a diamond tiara.

I want to give my friends tokens that say I appreciate having them as friends, yet that don't cost a whole lot of money. I want them to be pleased, not to feel obligated.

One of my friends makes beaded and bent wire jewelry. She has "earring parties" at her home a couple of times a month where she opens her bead boxes and gives instruction on how to build earrings. She taught me how, so I've decided to make earrings for some of my friends for Christmas. Actual construction doesn't take a long time, but the selection of materials does. I look for beads and findings (the parts that finish the jewelry off and give it structure) that go with the person I'm making the jewelry for.

My young nieces get butterflies and fairies. My cousin who loves vibrant colors gets rich red. It's fun to try to find things that each person will like and put them together pleasingly. Sure hope the victims, oops, recipients, like my efforts.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Casual Endearments

This morning the Engineer took my car and me to his office well before the sun rose. He's headed out of town again, and will go from office to airport later in the day. I had a back seat full of Christmas boxes to ship and, since his office is near UPS, I went to a restaurant between the two places to have a bite of breakfast while waiting for UPS to open its door.

As an aside: Geeze o' Pete! Do you know how much it costs to ship packages 3rd Day?!?!?!?!? I almost had a heart attack! Thank goodness for plastic money. The Engineer said to "Do it," so he can't complain when he gets the bill.

The waitress at the family-style restaurant was excellent, very attentive and on the shady side of 50. Having worked as a waitress in my teen years, I am polite and a heavy tipper. I think most experienced waitresses have radar that can detect this. She took my order and said, "That'll be up in just a minute dear."

I don't know about most folks, but it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to be called dear.

As she flitted around the dining room, pouring coffee and serving eggs, I notice that she called everyone dear, sweetheart and honey. This kinda took the shine off my warm fuzzy as I realized it was her standard mode of address. Ah well, she was a fine waitress, so she got a 25% tip nonetheless.

The use of casual endearments is a phenomenon I have noticed in middle-aged waitresses across the country. Back in North Carolina it was "darlin'." In Michigan it was "sweetie." I wonder if it improves the size of the tip or if that's how they address all casually met people in their lives.

I was raised by a Proper Southern Lady, so I call any woman over a certain age Ma'am. Men of a similar age are Sir. Can't help it, that's what comes out my mouth. I must admit to feeling rather foolish, though, responding to my waitress's "dear" with "Ma'am."

For the record, if you ever hear an endearment from me, it's not a mode of address, it's a sign of affection.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hotel Hell

For some possibly crazed reason, I have always thought that hotels and motels, being in the business of renting folks a place to sleep, should be expert at anything to do with beds.

Silly me.

I have spent the last two weekends at resorts. High-dollar, fancy-dancy, expensive resorts. (Not my choice, business trips with the Engineer both times.) If hotels and motels should know about beds, resorts should excel at providing their clients with sybaritic beds and sleeping environs.


In common with the cheapest fleabag flop house, the powers that be at these resorts had no idea of how to properly make a bed.

Last weekend it was the flat sheet on the bottom syndrome. The bed is made with a flat sheet that is tucked under at the head and on the sides. It's not tucked under at the foot because it's not long enough. The sheet is not centered on the bed, so one side is stuffed well under the mattress while the other is barely tucked under the edge. Then, just to make things more interesting, the top sheet and blanket are tucked snuggly under the mattress along both sides and the bottom. In order to get into the bed to sleep, one must pull the top sheet and blanket out from under the mattress. Which also pulls the bottom sheet out from under the mattress. The bottom sheet must then be tucked back under the mattress. Unless one pulls all of the sheets off the bed and remakes it from scratch, the bottom sheet is still on unevenly. The short side of the sheet inevitably comes untucked as soon as the sleeper rolls over the first time and bunches up underneath him, leaving him sleeping on the bare mattress. How happy for him.

Last night, at a ski resort which shall remain nameless, the bed was made with a fitted sheet. Of course, the top sheet and blanket were still tucked in rendering the bed unusable until they were untucked, but at least the bed was made with a fitted sheet.

Kind of...

If you've bought a new mattress lately, you will discover that they are making them thicker than they used to, which means that none of your old fitted sheets are deep enough. This $200 a night ski resort had not bothered to get new deep-dish fitted sheets to go with their new pillow top mattresses. The bed itself was comfy, but every time either the Engineer or I moved, the top corner of the sheet popped off. Again leaving the would be sleeper in intimate contact with the bare mattress.

Why doesn't the hospitality industry understand how to make a bed? My mother taught me how when I was in grade school. Neither concept nor execution is that difficult.

Ah well, I guess I should be thankful there were no bed bugs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Letters

The first year I was married to the Engineer, I made the mistake of writing a newsletter to put into the Christmas cards we sent to the folks we didn't communicate with on a frequent basis. This, of course, set precedent. Now I have to do it every year. Don't know why, when I am so frequently afflicted with diarrhea of the word processor, but I have trouble doing it. And the two cats trying to jam themselves between my chest and the keyboard don't help at all.

When one is writing a Christmas newsletter, one must find exactly the right tone, bearing in mind that it's the season of cheer and that it's going out to a wide variety of people, from kids to octogenarians, broke to well off, liberal to conservative, It's got to be upbeat, but the folks who aren't sitting on top the world should be able to read it without feeling their noses are being rubbed in the writer's smug self satisfaction.

One must also consider how to handle the important events that are not so good. One can't just say, "Uncle Ed croaked last May and good riddance, he was a horrible old grouch." One must think of some unmistakable euphemism. "We lost Uncle Ed last spring," might mean he wandered off while touring Disney Land. "Uncle Ed passed through the pearly gates last May. We shall miss him, but have warm memories of time shared with him to console us." Smarmy, but the older generation will appreciate it. (After all, it's going to be them one of these days.)

An advantage of not having kids is not having to think of positive ways to portray what they're up to. "Jillian celebrated her high school graduation by getting plastered and knocked up by some unknown young stud. As she didn't tell us until too late for an abortion, we are still debating the options of adoption or keeping the little ba..." Good grief! You can't say that! "Jillian graduated from high school last spring and is currently exploring a myriad of paths opening to a bright future." That's what the politicians call "spin." Likewise, "Jeb got caught smoking dope behind the bleachers at homecoming and is serving 16 months in juvie," is simply not acceptable.

Fortunately for my Christmas newsletter, nobody died this year, or lost their job, or ran afoul of the law. My brother did get divorced, which makes me very sad, but I never mention him in the Christmas letter anyway, so I don't have to get into that. I did slip in that little 'we're real folks and life's not perfect' note though:

The remodeling project continues. Two humans, two cats and Wunx~’s computer all lived in one 12’x12’ bedroom for seven months -- you could, literally, call us a very close family. The upstairs is mostly finished now, though, and living conditions are much improved. The newly vaulted ceilings in living and dining areas and master bedroom give the house a totally different feel. That it no longer rains in the kitchen is also a plus. We like it.

And so it goes, nothing too bad, nothing too self congratulatory, try not to be boring and add a little humor as leavening.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Night Noises

Bump, bump... rattle, rattle...

The cats and I are alone tonight, the Engineer's in Canada. I know it's the wind, but I don't know what it's playing with on the roof.

I'm not going outside to find out.

My ears are better than most folks'. I hear things. Mostly things that really are there, but sometimes I let my imagination run away with me.

In North Carolina, one morning at the crack of dawn, I heard something scrabbling at my bedroom window, trying to get in. I got my baseball bat and pulled the shade up with a snap. Found myself eye to eye with a hawk. We stared at each other, mouths open, for a fraction of a second before he shoved off and flew away. I think he was trying to make love with his reflection in the glass.

The baseball bat is my chosen protector when I hear night noises. I figure if it's burglars, I'll take out their kneecaps, then they won't be able to chase me as I flee. I've made more than one baseball bat patrol since being married to the Engineer. Once he's asleep it would take an explosion in a beer factory to wake him -- and only if the flying beer hit him right in the face.

When we were first married and living in Houston, there was a terrible storm one night. Pounding rain, lightning, thunder, the wind shook the whole house. I was sure a tornado was bearing down on us. I grabbed the Engineer's arm and tried to drag him out of bed into the central hall where we would be safer. I couldn't wake him. I couldn't budge him. I resigned myself to an early death for both of us.

We survived.

Next morning when he woke up, he asked me what the heck had happened that branches were down all over the yard.

Yup, my trusty baseball bat is my first line of defense against night noises.

Friday, December 7, 2007

If It's December, I Must Be On the Road

Why does everybody schedule everything in December? Don't they know it's the Christmas season and we're already busy?

The Engineer is a poohbah and has to attend important board (bored) meetings. I get to go too. (Click here for my reaction to that.)

Off Friday morning, back late Sunday night. I will try to have something worthwhile to post by then.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cats Rule, Dogs Drool

It's a 99.9% surety that was written by a cat. A female cat, to be specific. Esmerelda Vibrissae, Beauty Cat, Queen of the Universe, always claimed that male cats were actually little dogs dressed up in cat suits. She did not feel their disguise was particularly believable. Of course, Esmerelda looked down her regal nose at animals. a category which included human children under the age of 12.

The attitude of cattitude is probably why I like girl cats so much. I wish I had more of it myself.

Dogs are nicer folks, but... they do drool. Click here for a good cartoon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Shopping

Though kids can be naughty or nice
At Christmas they all share a vice
Our whole culture's got it
We're sadly besotted
With how much we can get for what price.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Picnic Table Report

Finally -- the first real snow of the year!
And still coming down!

The Engineer's going skiing tomorrow!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Thanks to those of you who wished my eyes to heal quickly. I can see again, though it still looks like I took a beating with an ugly stick.It was my own fault, so I deserve to be laughed at more than I deserve sympathy. Besides, now I have a really good excuse for getting a cleaning service -- I'm allergic to dust and I'm allergic to cleaning products. Damned if I do and damned if I don't.

Send in the maids!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Thanksgiving Disaster

The week has been... interesting...

The Engineer left Saturday for big business doings in Texas. The plan was for me to fly down and join him Wednesday and we would spend Turkey Day with the Twin's family in Houston.

Monday the insulation guys finally blew the yucky gray fluffy stuff into the attic. Boy, did it stink.

Tuesday afternoon, I decided to go postal on the Engineer's shower. Regular cleanser just doesn't do the trick on the tile, so I bought some Lime-Away, stripped down, put on latex gloves and climbed on in. I spent a couple of hours scrubbing each tile individually. I wanted the colorful, 1950's vintage tiles to shine.

By the time I was ready to attack the grout with a toothbrush, my eyes were stinging like the dickens. I decided the grout could wait until the next time he was out of town. I rinsed the shower walls off, sprayed it with regular cleanser, then climbed back in with a sponge to wipe down the walls and shower myself off.

Within two hours, my eyes had swelled up to the point I couldn't open them at all and was effectively blind.

I knew it was an allergic reaction. I've done it to myself a couple of times before when using oven cleaner. Which is why I have the dirtiest oven in Utah -- I no longer go anywhere near oven cleaner.

So the Engineer spent Thanksgiving in Houston and the cats and I stayed home.

It's really boring to stay home with blind eyes. Not a whole lot to do besides try not to knock anything over. A friend did invite me to join his family for the feast, but I demurred because eating by braille in public is simply not polite (and pretty darn gross for onlookers, I would imagine.)

My eyelids have unswelled to the point I can see again, but it will be a few more days before I'm back to normal.
Guess that grout won't ever be toothbrush cleaned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Money Makes the World Go Around

I try to say that I don't understand what it is about money that makes people so avaricious, but that's a lie, I think I do. It's not the grubby pieces of paper, metal or plastic, it's the power they bring. With sufficient money, you can do what you want, when you want, how you want. Don't we all wish for that?

I honestly can't understand the things that some people want, however.

Why would anyone want a forty room mansion and a fleet of cars? Keeping up 40 rooms would be a full time job and you can only drive one car at a time.

True, if you had unlimited money, you could afford staff; a maid, a butler, a chauffeur, a cook. Nice to be freed from daily chores, but, to me, privacy is more to be desired. Even if I had the money for mansion and staff, I wouldn't have them. A cleaning lady once a week, on the other hand...

Not that I don't have my weaknesses, I do. Who doesn't?

If I could have all the money I wished for, I would want enough to take care of day to day living without worry for the future. Enough to travel some, to visit friends and family and see the world. Enough to give gifts when I felt like it and donate some to worthy causes. Enough to see me to the end of my life with maybe some left over to throw a nice farewell party. I don't want palaces or yachts or empire, just security.

Which, sadly, is more than most people have.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Unmentionables

Sex, religion, politics and money: these are the things that a Proper Southern Lady cannot talk about in public. Thank God I'm not a Proper Southern Lady.

Some of these topics were more unmentionable than others in my childhood home. Sex was never discussed, nor was money, both topics were totally taboo. To this day, I have no idea how much money either of my parents made and firmly believe that my siblings and I were immaculate conceptions.

Religion and politics were simple subjects with the basics assumed. When I was a child, there were three major religions: Protestant, my family's religion; Jewish, lots of smart people were Jewish; Catholic, they had too many babies. There were three immutable premisses about politics: Republicans were good, Democrats were bad; evil Communists were trying to take over the world.

I'm sure that my parents are quite baffled by the way their eldest daughter turned out. I'm a flaming, bleeding heart, tree hugging, whale kissing (right on their blubbery lips), but fiscally conservative, liberal agnostic who thinks sex is one of the most hilarious things going. For some reason the strictures on discussing money did take. I'm not comfortable discussing personal finances to this day, it's none of anybody's business but the individual's. Public money is fair game, however, and dang the way those idiots in Washington spend my tax dollars!

It's time to step out of the comfort zone and blog on these forbidden subjects. I just need to figure out what order to take them in...

1. Money -- the one I'm least comfortable with.
2. Politics -- the most annoying one.
3. Religion -- the scariest, most confusing one.
4. Sex -- the fun one!

Blog you later, alligator.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Dinner Party

was a success. I got the house cleaned and the food cooked before the guests arrived. Even managed to get in a shower. The food was good. The BirthdayBoy loved his pies and made sure to take the remains both of them home with him.

I did forget (actually didn't even think about it) one thing...

I did not vacuumed the chairs at the dining table. Due to the remodeling chaos, it had been over 18 months since they'd been used. By humans, anyway. The cats have been sitting on them the whole time.

Everybody got up with cat hair all over their derrieres.


Friday, November 16, 2007

What Have I Gotten Myself Into

A friend's birthday is tomorrow, but the Engineer is leaving town Saturday morning, so I invited the friend and his wife for dinner tonight. Which means I have to bake two pies, Friend's traditional birthday pie and one for the dinner. (I'm famous for my pies.)

The Engineer has been fussing since we started work on the house that we haven't been able to have a specific couple over to entertain. Since Couple A and Couple B know each other, I invited Couple B as well to kill two birds with one stone. Then I thought about Couple C, who know both Couples A and B, and figured I'd better invite them too.

So tonight's the first dinner party in the half remodeled house. The Engineer set the table last night, as he doesn't trust me to do it. I'm just glad he didn't use the fine china and Waterford crystal - I hate washing that stuff by hand, I'm always afraid I'll break something.

The dining room looks much better than it did in March. Kind of wish the Engineer had somewhat different taste in art, but the two paintings on the back wall are by a very famous Latvian artist, so he treasures them. The are both of the same thatched roof grain storage barn. The Twin has a similar painting. Twin's wife calls them the coffins. I concur.

Excuse me now, I've got to go tear up the plastic he taped to the floor to keep the carpet from being walked on. Then I will start baking and cooking.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Wanna

Since returning from my long vacation, I have not been in the mood to blog. Don't know why, just don't feel like it. I've been arguing with myself about it.

"Okay, Witless, why did you start this blog in the first place?"

"To practice consistency and build character."

"Are you doing that right now?"

"Don't wanna."

"Is that any kind of an attitude?"

"Yeah, a poopie attitude."

"One of the hallmarks of being an adult is showing a little self discipline."

"Poop on being an adult, it's no fun."

"Think about the feeling of accomplishment you get when you make a blog entry every day."

"Is it really an accomplishment or is it just a demonstration of Sturgeon's Law? 'Ninety percent of everything is crap.'"

"Well, you sure as heck aren't going to get the 10% of good stuff if you don't wade through the 90% of crap."

"Maybe my crap stompin' boots got stuck in the muck and I pulled one off struggling to get out of it then stepped my bare foot into the crap and the yuck squished up between my toes."

"Seems to be about where you are right now."

"Ain't that the truth."

It's no wonder one of my nicknames is GrumpoGirl.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thank You Notes

My mother was raised to be a Proper Southern Lady so, of course, she tried to raise her own daughters in the same proud tradition. There were lots of rules.

  • Always keep a pleasant expression on your face.
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
  • Sit with your legs together and your back straight.
  • Wait hand and foot on your men.
  • Keep your home, your family and yourself immaculate at all times.
  • Accept compliments graciously.
  • Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies "glow."
  • Go to church every week (except for Communion service.)
  • Help those less fortunate than yourself.
  • Write graceful thank you notes for every gift and kindness given you.

I must hang my head in shame and admit to breaking every one of these strictures, some of them more frequently than others.

Except the one about Communion services, I never go to Communion services -- not difficult since I don't go to church except on special occasions.

Some of the rules, I have no qualms about breaking. In fact, some I revel in breaking. "Wait hand and foot on your men." HA! Ain't gunna do that. EVER! (Though if I'm honest, I will admit that the Engineer is pretty spoiled.) And when I'm working out in the garden in the heat of summer, I sweat. It's good for me and I take a shower afterwards.

The one about the thank you notes is the one that niggles most at my conscience because I agree with it and don't faithfully do it. It's worse now than ever because here in the Land o' Mormon all nice young LDS girls are trained by their mothers in the fine art of thank you note writing. Back home, most women, and all men, of my generation are indifferent thank you note writers. Here the thank you note always arrives in less than a week. Sometimes, if I'm good and send off a nice thank you note, I get back a thank you note for my thank you note.


Thank you notes are hard for me; possibly a visceral rebellion to my mother's not letting me play with the toy, spend the money, read the book, wear the clothing, until the appropriate note was sent. It's not that I lack gratitude, but how do I convey it gracefully? One must state what the gift is, how it will be used and how appreciated and valued it is. To make it more complicated, the note must not seem trite and formulaic, it must be bright and original.

"Thanks for the book, I've always wanted to read it," just doesn't cut the thank you note mustard.

"Thank you for the lovely red sweater. I will wear it every time I teach at the Red Cross this winter. I will feel thematic and look sharp too." Okay, that sounds good, covers the thank you note bases. Of course, the note must be filled in with how nice the giver was to give it to you and how you appreciate their friendship more than any, no matter how wonderful, gift.

Then there's the problem of what to do when you get a gift that you'd really rather not have. A gift that will live in the back of your closet except for occasionally, when you're seeing the giver, that you feel obliged to pull it out to demonstrate that you really are using it. And don't try to tell me you've never gotten one of those gifts, we all have.

"Thank you so very much for the puce and purple fuzzy scarf, it will be a valued jewel in my wardrobe." Okay, I've covered what the item is, how it will be used. I guess it's honest, valuable jewels are put into a safe deposit box and never seen -- that's honest. Isn't it?

So, to those of you to whom I owe thank you notes, Thank You! I really do appreciate it, but sometimes, when it comes to putting pen to paper, I'm simply inarticulate. Not to mention a bit of a procrastinator.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Bynum, North Carolina used to be a cotton mill town, but the mill closed and most of the folks moved away. Then the artsy, but not wealthy, people from a few miles north at the University of North Carolina discovered the little town on the Haw River and moved in. Now the mill houses have tenants again.

A friend of mine lives in a little lavender mill house. It is clapboard inside and out, walls and floor and ceiling. The heating system is a wood stove in the living room. She has a couple of electric space heaters and a warm and friendly dog to get her through winter nights. She loves Bynum and her little lavender house. She says it's like camping out full time.

Around the corner and down the road a piece lives Bynum's most renowned resident, Clyde Jones, an old guy who stuck around after the mill closed. He started carving "Critters" with his chainsaw about 25 years ago. He never sells them, but if he likes you, he may give you one. Most every house in Bynum has a Clyde Critter or two on the lawn.

Only in Utah

Did you know that Jell-O is Utah's "Official Snack Food"? Yes indeed, the state legislature passed the resolution a couple of years ago. Heck, Bill Cosby's an honorary Utah citizen because of his Jell-O commercials. When the Olympics were here in 2002, there was a green Jell-O (with julienne carrots) commemorative pin. Sold like hot cakes, very collectable.

Jell-O has other uses besides eating... It makes an excellent temporary hair dye. Provided, of course you want purple, green or orange hair. It's cheap. I know teenagers who swear by it.

Here's what's been in the newspaper every day for the last week:

Break the mold and write a Jell-O haiku
The Salt Lake TribuneArticle
Last Updated: 11/06/2007 06:54:25 PM MST

Write a haiku about your family's favorite holiday Jell-O salad for the The Tribune's inaugural Jell-O Salad Haiku Contest and win cookbooks and other food prizes.
Be silly, funny or sarcastic. Just send your poem, the recipe and, if you're really ambitious, a high-resolution photo of the Jell-O creation to

What can a witless wanderer do besides write the dang haiku:

Fruit jewels in bright jell
Autumnal, ephemeral
And it jiggles too

When the Engineer heads out of town Sunday, I plan to make orange Jell-O with mandarin orange slices and take that hi-rez photo. Tah-dah! Pretty spiffy picture of fall themed jello, don't ya think?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


For almost 15 years I've been a volunteer Red Cross instructor. I have taught First Aid, CPR for adults, children and infants at the citizen responder (regular folks) level, AED, CPR for the Professional Rescuer and Infectious Disease Transmission. Every few years the Red Cross changes the curriculum. Every few years the manikins change too.

I've worked with seven different manikins over the years, five in the past, two now:
  • Resusci Annie, a life-size, full-body, heavy-weight female manikin who is normally reserved for professional level classes. The Cadillac of manikins, some models can be plugged into a computer -- she's expensive.
  • Crash Kelly, now passe, thank goodness. He was a major pain in the derriere to put together, but a workhorse once he was assembled. Like most adult manikins, he was just head and torso, no arms or legs.
  • Chris Clean, my personal favorite, a head and torso manikin that was medium-weight but easy to assemble -- his rubber face (nose, mouth, chin and cheeks) popped on and off for easy cleaning.
  • The babies and Actar -- more about them below.

The old baby manikin was a fairly realistic, life size doll in an ugly pair of striped shorts. His legs bowed out like a cowboy or a frog on the dissection table. The whole front of his head was a latex mask that buttoned on behind his ears. When his face was off he looked like something you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. When his face was on he looked enough like a real baby that he creeped out some students. Because of this, I named him "Mutant Vampire Frog Baby."

I call the current baby manikins "Mutant Alien Vampire Frog Babies." They don't have the secret vampire face under a latex mask, but they still have frog's legs. They are hollow silver plastic with pop off heads and bitty plastic lungs that get buttoned to their chests under a blue foam tabard that snaps on at the crotch. They get toted around in a special zipper bag with "Actar Infantry" printed on it. Students find them much less distressing to work with than the old realistic baby manikins. You have to be very careful how you handle the new babies, though, or their heads fall off.

Now-a-days the primary manikins are cheaper and lighter. As well serving as an adult, they stand in for Little Timmy, which I guess is okay since, with no legs, they're short enough. Actar comes in four pieces, a hollow white plastic head, a corrugated black plastic cylinder that functions as a rib cage, a plastic bag lung and a blue foam sheet with three holes in it that the head and two ends of the rib cage cylinder get plugged into. When we get to the part of the class that requires the manikins, I have each student pick up the four pieces of Actar then guide them in putting him together.

I kinda miss Chris Clean, he was my main man for a few years. In fact, I bought my Mazda 626 based partially on being able to fit six Chris cases, a TV, a VCR and a box of supplies in it (amazing how much you can stuff into a hatch back) because I drove all over the western end of North Carolina certifying adult Girl Scouts.

I could never get that serious about Actar; he works, but he ain't no Chris Clean.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Meeting in DC

It was a grand expedition to meet Cicada for lunch then go view pandas at the zoo.

Fortunately GuiGrl had inside information and we found a parking spot in a garage directly under the restaurant. Cicada was waiting as we emerged from the subterranean warren. It was a good time, never a scarcity of subjects for conversation or laughter. Thank you Cicada!

I've heard a "bloggers-in-real-life" photo is mandatory for these occasions, so here it is. Cicada has shown her face on the Internet before, but GuiGrl and I will preserve our anonymity. (Plus Cicada's taller than the two of us -- everybody's taller than the two of us.)
The zoo was not a smashing success. I had gone skating on a grape in the produce department of the grocery store a few days before I left on my trip and damaged my right foot, so I was more than a little gimpy. The light was too stark for photography and the pandas, both giant and red, did not pose obligingly.
I did, however, get an excellent photo of the rare and elusive Arachnida holloweenius.

I Need a Break to Recover From My Vacation

It was a good trip. Of the twenty people I wanted to visit, I saw sixteen. I wish it had been twenty out of twenty, but time and circumstances didn't permit.

I stopped at Grace's condo. For closure, I guess. The wheelchair ramp had been refurbished. I hope somebody nice lives there now.

My old apartment is about a half mile away from Grace's place, so I went by there too. Big changes -- when I lived there it was brown brick with old fashion windows and doors, no air conditioning. The street of fourplexes has been made into a street of condos, "Starting in the low $190's." I used to pay $145 a month rent. Boggles the mind.

All the driving and the visiting isn't what I need to recover from, however, it was the trip home that wore me out. Fortunately, I left Chapel Hill for the Charlotte Airport early because traffic was stopped west of Greensboro for about an hour for road construction. Dumped the rental heap and made for the gate as fast as I could, heart pounding for fear I'd miss the plane. Only to discover all Newark flights delayed. They finally boarded us two hours late and we arrived in Newark at 7:45 p.m., just as the plane to SLC was taking off. I ended up spending the night in Terminal C and flying to Houston on the 5:30 a.m. flight, then on home in the afternoon.
Newark Airport, Concorse C, 2:00 a.m.

When the taxi dropped me off at the house, Kitsu came running down the driveway, wailing at the top of her lungs and hugged my legs. As soon as I got into the house, Sachi went into VelcroKitty mode too. For the last three nights I've slept under a living fur-and-purr blanket; warm and cozy, but a wee bit difficult to change positions without making the girls whinge and moan.

The Engineer seemed glad to see me too. He hadn't changed the sheets since I'd left, so that was one of the first things I attended to. He's had me running my tail off since I got back. Loads of laundry, lots of cooking and cleaning, running errands and shopping. And we had to attend an engineering geek fest and dinner Saturday night. No rest for the wicked it seems.

I really could use a couple days off to relax..

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Slogging on POTS in the Rain

My parents live way out in the boonies of western North Carolina. The same "good ol' boy" owns the small local telephone and cable companies - he has a monopoly on non-snail-mail communications in this neck o' the woods. My cell phone doesn't work at all unless I stand in the middle of the street and even then it only gets one or two bars. The only connection my parents can get to the internet is POTS, Plain Old Telephone Service.


Now that that's out of the way...

The vacation is going well, I made all my flights, though I did have to do an 11 minute connection in Newark from one terminal to another when the first plane came in late. Made it as they were closing the door on the second plane. Then, of course, we sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes. That's air travel.

My parents are looking good and it's wonderful to see them after so long. (Even if they do have slower than slugs computers and slower than a glacier internet connection.) I love this area and would truly like to move back here some day if only I could convince the Engineer.

The rain has been following me around. It rained in DC for the first time in 34 days when I was there visiting GuiGrl and meeting Cicada. It rained in Charlotte for the first time in ages when I got there and it rained all the way on the drive out here to the western edge of the state. North Carolina has been in the worst drought in living memory, but I brought the rain.

For some reason, however, this rain magic does not seem to work when I'm on my home turf - or, in the case of Utah, my home desert.

Ah well, I'm happy with bringing rain and friendship to the people I visit.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

In Our Nation's Capital

It's good to see old friends. GuiGrl and I hung out yesterday and talked up a storm. Guess that's what happens when you haven't seen each other for a couple of years. Today we're going to meet Bioephemera's Cicada for lunch then head to the national zoo. GG's got a thing for pandas. Tomorrow the plan is to go to the Maryland Renaissance Festival. GG's husband, the MarvelousMike, will join us on that expedition. He and GG make an interesting couple; he's 6'5" and she's 5'2". I'm 5'2" also, so he'll be bracketed by short women tomorrow.

Coming east reenforces how much I miss the lush greenery of this side of the country. There are green areas in Utah, but they aren't the same -- the feeling is different. I can hardly wait to get to the Blue Ridge Mountains. To see the living green mountains rising up all around me, to feel the soft, moist air and hear the gurgle and splash of water, is to be home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Goodbye Cold World

It was cold and wet, a combination of rain and sleet, not pleasant weather for picking the last of the tomatoes. I picked until my fingers wouldn't bend any more. Got a bunch of 'em.We had a week of unseasonably warm weather between the snowstorms, and it fooled the plants into thinking they should grow and set fruit again. I have many itty bitty eggplants and Armenian cucumbers. The cukes set on in the cooler weather but don't enlarge. Patty pan squash bloom, but don't seem to get pollinated, so the female blossoms turn brown at the end before they can even start growing.

The Engineer has gone on a pickling craze. He likes the Runge pickles so much that he wants me to try pickling everything, especially all of those green cherry tomatoes.

I did the last few Armenian cucumbers last night, so I guess if any of the little tomatoes are still firm when I get home from my trip, I'll give them a try.

But tomorrow I fly south-east, (Warm!) Until the first of November, this blog will lie quiescent.

Bye for now. See you in a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

How Dumb Do They Think I Am?

What really ticks me off about these things is that there are some folks who are nieve enough to respond to them, so these creeps actually manage to make money off of innocents.

To: Undisclosed-recipients:;
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 23:10:14 +0100
Subject: FDF(GRANT)

P O Box 1010,
Ipswich, I70 1NL
United Kingdom.

Dear Beneficiary,
The Fondation De France (FDF) would like to notify you that you have been chosen by the board of trustees as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development.

The FDF, established 1969 by the Multi-Million group and now supported by the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Organization (UNO) and the European Union (EU) was conceived with the objective of human growth, educational, and community development. In conjunction with the ECOWAS, UNO and the EU, We are giving out a yearly donation of GBP?500,000.00 (five hundred thousand great british pounds sterling only) each to 5 lucky recipients selected globally.

These specific Donations/Grants will be awarded to only five(5) lucky international recipients worldwide, in different categories. Based on the random selection exercise of internet websites and millions of supermarket cash invoices worldwide, you were selected amongst the lucky recipients to receive the award sum of GBP?500,000.00 as Grant/Donation.

You are required to email your full Names, and contact information directly to the regional secretary, Fondation De France Host Headquarters in Europe.

Request your grant application claims form F5.CONTACT THE SECRETARY FOR MORE INFORMATIONS ON YOUR CLAIMS, Please endeavour to send a copy of this notification to the regional secretary and also quote your qualification number (FDF-021-6647-9163) in all discussions.

Dr. Steven Alkin
(Regional Secretary)
FDF Host Headquarters,
Birmingham,United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44)-704-572-2125
Fax: (+44)-709-289-4930
Office Hours
Monday~Friday (7.30am~6.30pm)
Saturday (9.00am~2.00pm)

Please note that these donations/grants are strictly administered by the EU, ECOWAS, UNO. You are by all means hereby advised to keep this whole information confidential until you have been able to collect your donation.

On behalf of the board kindly accept our warmest congratulations.


Mrs. Angie Randall
Fondation De France
(Grant/Donation Co-ordinator)

N.B:Any breach of confidentiality on the part of the beneficiary will result in disqualification.Please do not reply to this mailbox. Contact the regional secretary.

If it wasn't suspicious enough from the address to "Undisclosed-recipients", the text I highlighted in red should surely scare anyone with an ounce of savvy away...

Failed Ambitions

I recently stumbled across a couple of cutsie blogs I'm embarrassed to admit I like. and

I sent in a lolcat to "I Can Has Cheezburger ."
They didn't publish it.


Then I sent this to "lolsecretz. "
They didn't publish it.

Pout. Pout!

Fortunately I didn't tell Sachi, so she's not pouting too.

Where Have All the Earthworms Gone?

When I was a kid, I loved warm rainy days.

My sibs and I had bright yellow slickers and black rubber boots. We would march through the puddles -- Splash! Splash! Splash! Worms came out of their holes and crawled all over the grass and sidewalks,

We were great worm collectors. We filled the pockets of our slickers to overflowing with long, squirmy, slimy earthworms. If our hands got too gooey, we wiped them in the wet grass then caught more worms.

When our pockets were full we ran home to our back door and yelled for Mom. She would come to the door and admire our oozing wads of worms. She would tell us in a delighted voice how proud she was of us and how wonderful worms were for the garden. "Now go put them in the garden," she would say. We scampered back to the garden and scattered our worms thither and yon. We were firmly convinced that nothing would grow in the garden without our worms.

One magnificently rainy morning, when my brother was in the first grade, he collected both pockets full of fat, juicy earthworms on the way to school. As a third grader, I was more sophisticated and saved my worm collecting efforts for the way home since I knew worms would stiffen up and die if you left them in your pockets all day.

My brother dearly loved his teacher and, when he saw her standing in the hall next to the classroom door, he was inspired. He ran up to her with his freckled face aglow.

"Hold out your hands and close your eyes," he said, "I have a surprise for you!"

She smiled and did as he asked.

My brother dug deep into his two bulging pockets and dredged up the biggest handfuls of wriggling worms that a first grader could manage. He deposited this wonderful gift into his teacher's cupped hands.

It was not what she was expecting.

She flung up her hands and let out a shriek that shattered every eardrum in the school. Worms splattered against the walls, ceiling, floor and not a few students.

She was making frantic panting noises and shaking her hands when she looked down and saw my brother's face. He was devastated. His lower lip was trembling and tears spilled from his eyes.

"But Mommy likes worms," he sobbed.

She bent down and hugged him.

"So do I," she said, "I just need to know when I'm getting a handful.

"Thank you for the present."

All the kids in the hall got to spend the first few minutes of the school day picking worms off the walls and each other. We took them outside and put them into the shrubbery around the school "where they would do the most good."

Now-a-days when it rains, the worms don't come out like they did when I was a kid. Oh, sure, you see a few, but nothing like it used to be. There aren't as many butterflies either. Or frogs and toads.

I miss the creepy crawlies. I wish people would stop polluting the earth, air and water so the bugs, amphibians, snakes and all the little wildlife that so delighted me as a child could come back. We need them to keep our planet and our souls healthy.
Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

P.S. One of the most fun parts about rainy worm days was chasing Cindy Kraschenko. She screamed and danced and dodged better than anyone when we threw worms at her. She deserved it too, she was a snotty, superior kid -- really.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Stupid Human

Sachi wonders why the heck I haven't gone to bed yet. Don't I know she's ready to snuggle up?

Searching For Content

Sometimes coming up with something to write about can be a challenge. I have a file on my hard drive called "BlogTopicIdeas." Tonight I opened it.
  • The Y chromosome -- Did it June 19, though there's enough material there to write a novel.
  • The joyous teenager with the bouncing bosom -- Hmm, that's people watching like last night's blog.
  • Rock pockets and carbon monoxide -- Don't remember the carbon monoxide part of this thought.
  • Cotton bras and shirt wrinkles Did you ever have one of those "well, duh" epiphanies? --Been there, done that -- March 29
  • Eating weird stuff -- March 25th
  • Katherine Hepburn & Mae West -- February 7 & 8
  • Trying to kill the spouse -- I think I'll save this one for later -- let you wonder just how I tried to off him.
  • Loaning books -- A-ha! I've got a limerick for this one.

If you're ever so dumb as to lend
Your favorite rare book to a friend
He'll move out of town
That dirty low down
And you'll lose book and friend in the end.

Success! I knew that list was a good idea. Better get busy thinking up and writing down some more emergency ideas.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

People Watching

I love to watch people, always have. Sometimes I wonder if it's polite. I wouldn't particularly want someone watching me. I can't help it, though, I have eyes and they see things. I watch animals too. And plants. And clouds. Pretty much anything except sports. It's the way I am.

The fascinating thing about watching people is speculating about the untold story. There are undoubtedly perfectly mundane reasons for the things they do, but I'm not cognizant, so I have to make it up.

Grocery store checkout lines can be fascinating. I always look at what the other people are buying. Why was the lady in front of me getting a cart stacked full of Cheerios and Cap'n Crunch -- nothing else, but probably all the Cheerios and Cap'n Crunch that were on the shelf. I suppose it's a better buy than a cart full of Cap'n Crunch and Froot Loops, but why so many boxes of cereal? Who is she feeding it to? Will she come back later for a cart of Sugar Smacks and Corn Chex?

(And as an aside, what the heck is Cap'n Crunch made of anyway? I'm sure it's nothing organic.)

The guy who bought eight bags of marshmallows and a tube of Bengay had me speculating for days. Good thing Homeland Security hasn't instituted the Thought Police yet. I have no terrorist leanings, but I will admit to having a rather warped sense of humor; they would probably arrest me on general principles.

A man was standing at a bus stop the other day wearing an orange vest and holding a stick that was about twelve feet long with a ring on the end of it. He was sweeping the stick through the air, tapping the butt of it on the ground, gesticulating as if he was leading an invisible orchestra. He wasn't part of a surveying team, the stick was too long and there was no second guy peering through the little telescope thingie. Would the bus driver let him board with that long stick? Was he even waiting for a bus? Would some road rage prone driver take offense and get out to wrap the stick around the guy's neck?

I look at tattoos and piercings, at clothing and hair. My feeling is that if someone paints their hair bright pink and has it standing out in spikes all over their head it's because they want to be looked at. Ditto to women in clothes cut down to there and up to here. It's meant to attract eyes. Surely it would disappoint them terribly if no one looked.

Juxtapositions can be imagination titillating too. This is one of my favorites.

How did the angry knights end up in the same field as the oblivious young lovers? Will the lovers realize they're in danger before the knights go medieval on them? The lovers can likely run faster than the guys weighted down with armor, but what if there are more warriors waiting to pounce?

How can I not watch people and ask the ridiculous questions? It's so much fun.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Because of the mess with the house remodeling, it's been two years since my last trip back to North Carolina, so I want to see everyone. The logistics are getting complicated. It's a good thing the Engineer never comes along with me on these trips, it would be pure torture for him.

Chapel Hill is going to be hard. One of my favorite, long-time friends lived there, but she died a few months ago. There's going to be a big hole in the heart of my Chapel Hill visit. My biggest regret in not making the trip last year was not getting to see Grace before she died.

Grace and I took each other under our wings when we first met. I was working for a business services company and hired Grace to answer phones during the night shift. She was a widow with MS and couldn't get out to work a regular job. We hit it off at the first meeting.

I never knew how old Grace was, but I do know she was a modern career girl in New York City during World War II and that she married an older man after the war and traveled throughout Europe with him working for "Stars and Stripes." Her stories of those halcyon days were fascinating.

She shared her calm acceptance of what life hands you and her wisdom with me. I brought her produce from my garden, caught her parakeet when it got behind her dryer and pumped up the tires on her wheelchair.

Grace was a trooper. She lived in her own one bedroom condo and was fiercely independent. She greeted any knock at her door or phone call with a cheery, "Hello, hello-oh!" Living in Europe had given her cosmopolitan tastes in food. She introduced me to quite a few new dishes. For many years, she would get on her electric wheelchair and go to the grocery store, bringing her groceries home in the back basket.

The first trip when she got the electric chair was to the drivers' licence bureau. She figured if she was going to drive it on the street, she was going to do it legally. She threw the whole office for a loop, but they consulted the codes and found out that she was indeed eligible to get a licence to drive it. They set up orange traffic cones in the parking lot and had her run the slalom - which she did in grand style. It was the first driver's licence she'd ever had.

Her last trip to the grocery store, one of her wheels hit a soft spot on the shoulder of the road. She tipped over and split her scalp open. Head wounds bleed like they are competing in an Olympic event, so she was soon blood soaked. She lay there pinned under her wheelchair, covered with blood for around a half an hour as cars whizzed by, ignoring her. Being Grace, she never shouted or begged for help, she just waited patiently until a city utility truck stopped. The guys put her in the front seat, pitched the wheelchair in the back and took her to the hospital.

I suspect that the only reason I found out about her misadventure was that the hospital refused to release her unless someone came to picked her up and sign for her and promised to stay with her overnight to watch for signs of a concussion. I was honored to be the person she chose to bail her out of the joint.

After her accident she took the city handicapped transport, but eventually became unable to do that as her condition deteriorated. She lost both breasts to cancer, which made it tough to wheel her inside chair, but she never asked for help.

After I married the Engineer and moved to Utah, I returned to North Carolina every fall and always went to Chapel Hill to see Grace. I would stop at the grocery store and run amuck through the aisles, buying all the nonperishable delicacies that I thought would tickle her fancy, then I'd get some fresh produce and french bread to stock her fridge. Ordering groceries over the phone didn't let her chose the best produce and her tight budget didn't let her get the little frills around the edges that she loved. I hope those groceries and the books on tape I sent her regularly made everyday life a little brighter.

I miss Grace. If I hadn't married the Engineer, I would have asked her to come live with me when she started failing. She would have said no. I know that. She would still have died of a sudden heart attack when her time came. I know I could not have changed that, but regrets linger.

When someone we love dies, it's hard not to keep mourning (heck, my eyes are dribbling as I type this.) It's hard not to keep mourning, but I think it does the person you loved more honor to remember the love and friendship with joy and to be grateful for having had the chance to know them.

Grace, I love you and I miss you and I feel so lucky that our lives intersected.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Eye Fibers and Floaters

I had an eye fiber yesterday. As usual, it began with my eye feeling dry and irritated enough that I eventually noticed it and realized I had something in it. After a good bit of blinking and eyeball rolling, I managed to get part of it to the corner of my eye and fished it out.

It's amazing how long an eye fiber can be. Feels gross to pull it out, but more annoying to leave it in. This one was about three and a half inches long. They seem to be more frequent in the winter when I'm wearing wool.

Eye fuzzies make me nuts and I wonder if anyone else has a problem with them. I tried Googling eye fiber, eye fuzzy and fiber in eye. Found lots of stuff about fiber optics, macular degeneration and a band called Tangle Eye. I tried detritus in eye -- boy, are there a lot of bands out there with weird names.

How about a parallel path? Let's look up eye floaters. 826,000 entries for that one. I've had floaters as long as I can remember, so I suspect they were congenital. Being a science fiction reader as a child, I used to fantasize that they were little aliens trying to take over my brain. Which, to me, was more acceptable than the alternative that I had worms in my eyes. I wouldn't tell the adults about them for fear that they would "do" something to me. Which is the same reason I took a razor blade to the only plantar wart I ever had two days before the doctor's appointment. Mom was PO'ed, but it never grew back.

To be honest, I've always found floaters rather entertaining; they were great to play with during those long and boring lectures college kids are often subjected to. I've had them so long, I don't see them unless I'm tired or go looking for them.

Next I searched eye annoyances and found things from examples of extreme ugliness to dust and grit. No long and kinky fibers.

Am I the only one who gets eye fuzzies?

Sunday, October 7, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I recorded a CNN special investigative report: "Inside Afghanistan: Behind the veil." The Engineer is out of town again, so I watched it tonight.

I am sitting here before my keyboard with my insides all heavy and congested. I don't understand how people can consider other people to be less than human. After watching this documentary, the only explanation I can think of for the way Afghan women are treated is that the men don't think women are human.

Of course this probably strikes me more profoundly because I'm a woman and because I know, pervasively, throughout history, women have been considered an inferior species.

It's not just women; anyone who's different can be conveniently labeled as inferior. It was okay to have black Africans as slaves in colonial America because, after all, they weren't really human. Never mind that white folks could cross breed with them and produce viable offspring. Anyone who's a different religion is suspect at the very least, more likely damned. Gays, no doubt about where they'll be cooking for all eternity. Don't yah know that their raison de'tre is to destroy the heterosexual family. And, hey, if people speak a different language, can't trust 'em, they're probably plotting in their heathen tongue against us.

I read a science fiction story when I was a kid that really left a mark on me. It compared an alien in human society to a green monkey, The story claimed that if you took a monkey from his troop, painted him green, then returned him to his troop, the other monkeys would kill him and tear him limb from limb because he was different. The author claimed that aliens would never be able to live among humans because they would provoke the same reaction from us. Different is bad and frightening and needs to be controlled or killed.

Sometimes I'm ashamed to be human. Especially when I don't feel like I'm doing anything to make it better.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Getting Better At It

Covered up the garden again today. I am getting better at it, plus it wasn't snowing and freezing cold this time, so it was easier. Also had the advantage of cat help. They thought I was putting up a kitty play palace for them. They pounced each other and me multiple times from beneath the Shrouds of Mystery. It's supposed to snow pretty much all day tomorrow, then get cold for a couple of nights. If this can protect the garden until Tuesday, it should be clear sailing for another week or so. There are still tons of green tomatoes that I hope will start to color up before I have to tear everything up for the winter.