Thursday, December 28, 2006

Paddington Scare

The other night we popped in a DVD called "Paddington Bear Goes to School." Arthur was fairly bored with it (he was having a post-holiday day) and wanted to destroy the decorations in the other room and we were trying to get him to fall asleep. Then, about fifteen minutes into the DVD, Paddington started to dance the can-can.

Arthur went nuts. In a bad way. I don't know if it was the music, the stop-action high kicks, or Paddington's costumes, but he started crying and pointing at the screen. When we stopped the DVD, he cried and signed more. He cried if the can-can was going, but he didn't want it to stop. It was like the can of snakes.

I guess we'll have to watch "Moulin Rouge" when he's asleep; although, Mark and I have been can-canning for him yesterday and he seemed to like that.

Monday, December 25, 2006


When I checked my e-mail last night (between cleaning the house and getting the tree ready) I saw an e-mail from the Writers of the Future folks. "Uh, oh," I thought, "here it is -- another e-mail thanking me for submitting and informing me that my story placed at quarter finalist level (meaning K.D. Wentworth, the contest judge, managed to get through the story without putting it into a reject pile)." When I read the message, I learned that my story, "Glass Mask Magic," had reached finalist level. That means that it's in the running for first, second, or third place for the quarter. If the story doesn't win, there's a possibility that they might choose to publish it in the Writers of the Future anthology anyway.

This is really good news. I've been a semi-finalist three times before (meaning that K.D. Wentworth thought my stories were in the top 20 for the quarter, but didn't make the cut to finalist level). As a finalist story, "Glass Mask Magic" goes to a panel of other writers, and they decide the first-, second-, and third-place winners. Even if the story doesn't place, it means that it's certainly marketable. Of course it would be vindicating to win the grand prize (best first place story), but I won't know for a few more days if I've placed first (or at all) and nobody knows who the grand prize winner is until August 2007.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gift Exchange Shove

We survived another Burridge-Miller Gift Shove.

For those of you not in the know, here's how it works.
  1. A year ahead of time, someone offers to host a family party.
  2. On the day of the party, everyone gets into their cars and starts driving.
  3. Relatives arrive at the party site, and we all have a very pleasant time. Activities may or may not include
    • Singing Carols
    • Eating
    • Watching Football
    • Assorted Party Games
  4. At some point someone -- usually the person who drove the farthest -- will look at their watch and utter the magic words: "We have to get going."
  5. Mayhem. People rush around, sometimes from car to car, with boxes of gift-wrapped loot and shove them into the hands (or trunks) of recipients.
  6. Someone yells, "Wait! You can't go yet!"
  7. Rapid fire hugs and kisses preceed the emptying of the host and hostess's driveway (and adjacent street).
  8. Invariably, a gift is left behind or misdirected

This year was a lot of fun, and Arthur got to meet his first cousins twice-removed, Andrew and Zachary. And their toy trains.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Maybe His Own Room?

Scene: John is sewing a stocking for Arthur while Arthur and Mark are having a sword fight with spatulas in the living room, while the Blue Footed Boobie and the Racoon watch.

Mark: "What's daddy working on?"

Arthur: "Stocking" (a word he learned fifteen minutes earlier). (pause) "Elmo!"

Mark: "He's in daddy's bag on the chair next to the stereo."

(pause while Arthur turns around, walks to the chair around the corner, locates Elmo and returns to the living room.)

Mark (laughing): "Wow."

John (counting on fingers): "That's more than ten words."

Mark: "We're really going to have to watch what we say."

John: "I suppose we could speak in Spanish when we have sex."

Mark (archly): "Olé!"

Arthur: "Olé!"

John: "Perhaps we could use sign. Oh. Wait."

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Scene: John, Mark and Arthur pull into the driveway after Christmas gift shopping. Arthur has passed out in the car seat during the twenty block trip home.

John (turning off the ignition): "Honey, the child's asleep; you know what this means?"

Mark (from the backseat of the car): "Uh, no."

John: "Cookies!!"

(re-wind to earlier that day)

Scene: John stumbles out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where Mark is feeding Arthur nutritious oatmeal.

Arthur (upon seeing John reach behind a pile of gifts on the table and pull out a cookie): "Cookie!"

Mark: "Honey, are you modeling good eating habits for the child?"

Arthur: "Cookie!"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Twinkle What?

So far things are OK here in the southern Willamette Valley. We've had a bit of wind and rain, but the power's stayed on. I think I might be able to hear some thunder. We'll see how many trees are in the roads tomorrow morning, and if there's snow.

Earlier tonight, Mark, Arthur and I were in the kitchen. Arthur had a piece of paper and was forcing me to draw simple shapes on it, like "O", "E", squares, and hearts.

"Oh, I know," I said. "I'll draw a star." So I did and then said, "Star. Star."

Arthur pointed into the air and sang (more or less) "up above the world so high."

Since Arthur hasn't sung anything recognizable up to this point and most of his sentances have been one-word commands, Mark and I were about as floored as when he sat down in front of a computer for the very first time and started typing and using the mouse. Before he was one year old.

I've been signing (and singing) "Twinkle Twinkle" for a while, but "The Itsty Bitsy Spider" gets far more air time, followed by "La Petite Lepine Fu-Fu."

I guess I really do have to be careful about how much Annie Lennox I play.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Liquid Nitrogen

Yesterday on NPR, I heard a piece about eggnog. At the end of it, the interviewee and interviewer chilled eggnog with liquid nitrogen.

"How fun," I thought, and told Mark that for my birthday I thought it would be cool to make eggnog with liquid nitrogen.

Mark donned his safety hat, informed me that folks at his lab who get to play with liquid nitrogen have to go through a training, that liquid nitrogen was much much colder than dry ice, and that if I wasn't careful I could lose an eye.

Hhmph. Alton Brown gets to exhale nitrogen on NPR, and I don't see his safety glasses. At this rate I'm never going to invent a flaming tequila snow cone.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Sit down.

Are you sitting?


Denby is cancelling their Storm pattern!

Why God, why?

Thankfully, Mark grabbed some ramekins; but will they be enough? We live with a toddler! If you haven't gone Christmas shopping for us yet you know what's at the top of our list.

Snakes and Frosting

Last weekend Arthur was introduced to gingerbread and frosting. It wasn't exactly my idea, and the increased intake of sugar contributed to Arthur learning the word "cookie!" in about ten seconds. For the record, I have photos of Mark and my Mom introducing Arthur to the world of art as food as sugar.

As we put Arthur into the car seat to go home, he did a high-energy gyration that only little kids hyped up on sugar can do. It wasn't quite a scene out of The Exorcist , but it was close. I think we could have used him for the car's gyroscope.

Arthur has created his own sign for "snakes." We have a can of "Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle" that is -- you guessed it -- a can of springy snakes. Arthur has a fascination and a repulsion to it. He is always concerned that he knows where in the house the can of snakes is, and when he signs "more" for it and you ask him if you should open it (and launch the snakes) he quivers his head "no" and walks away at an oblique angle. Then he'll sign "more" again, and point to the can. If you do let the snakes fly, he becomes really excited and wants you to do it again.

It got worse when we re-issued a toddler's book of animals into the living room; it and a library book both have pictures of -- snakes! Simply turning to the page will elicit the "where is the can of snakes?" response.

I don't know where Arthur came up with this sign. It's not baby sign or ASL and if it were me, I'd simply pantomime a snake with my arm. No; Arthur has added "snakes" to his personal lexicon of made-up signs: he crosses his hands at the wrists and brings his fingers up to his throat as if both of his hands had been transformed into attack serpents. I'm slightly worried that he's going to give himself little hickeys (uh, no, doctor; he did that to himself...)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pre-Holiday Post

Arthur woke up this morning at 6:15. He usually wakes up about ninety minutes later. I think this is a part of the latest teeth installation, as he's been sleeping for about two and a half hours during his naps. Today he was kind of "bonky," which is what I call the tendency to bonk into things like sinks, tables, chairs, the walls, the floor, or windows.

Speaking of bonking into windows, the other day at the mall, he walked right into a very clean plate glass window. Luckily, he wasn't going too quickly. Mark and I were bad parents and had to hide our faces behind our hands.

Arthur has a new script in his Master Thespian Schtick. He'll place his fists over his eyes; if he's really into it, he'll tilt his head a little and yawn. When you ask him "Are you sleepy?" several times, he'll whip his hands away from his face and bug his eyes out to look very awake. Then he'll smile and laugh.

Arthur has pretty much gotten over Halloween -- now he waits for Mark to come home from work and ring the doorbell. But he really wants the beeswax candle on the mantle to be lit. Almost as much as he wants to eat a bannana. A typical conversation goes something like this.

Arthur (just finishing a banana): "'Nana."
John: "You just had a banana."
Arthur: "'Nana!"
John: "You only get two bananas a day."
Arthur: "'Naanna!"
John: "Bananas tomorrow."
Arthur: "Dandol."
John: "Arthur."
Arthur: "Dandol."
John (realizing Arthur didn't say "Dad-o"): "Oh. Candles at five o'clock."
Arthur: "Cock." (Points at mantle clock)
John: "Yes. That's the clock."
Arthur: "Dandol."
John: "Candles at five."
Arthur: "'Nana."
John: "Bananas tomorrow."

Arthur's latest new words are, car, tea, out, up, down, off, on, and bop.

Actually, bop has been around for a few weeks, and we're trying to teach him the word gentle. Arthur's favorite things to bop are the windows and the walls. And our new floor lamp. Usually with the heavest toy he can find. He's already put some long scores into the front door.

Let's see. After about five weeks, the bookshelves have been primed, painted and forced into position in our bedroom. There's scuff marks on the ceiling and my left index finger is still sore after five days from where I wholloped it with a hammer. Ninety-five percent of my books are in place. And I had to say to Mark, "Honey, you were as right as right can be; I have more books than I thought." So, there's an auxillary bookshelf in the opposite corner of our bedroom.

After I managed to fill the final portion of my five, eight-foot-long shelves with books, I got a sense of peace. The south wall of our bedroom is floor to ceiling books (except for the one two foot section that will become a desk). It reminds me of the old study in my parents house -- it had a bookshelf that was a eight foot wide, thirteen foot tall expanse of books (in fact, the planks in our house now are from that old shelf). I feel comforted knowing that I'm sleeping just three feet away from my large, consolidated library.

I think Mark's a little frightened.

Now the question becomes, what to put on the auxillary bookshelf -- Arthuriana, oversized fiction, or all those chatty little tomes by Dion Fortune?

Arthur's picked up some of our house decorating; last week we hung some photos. Arthur saw and now he wants to tape his his flash cards onto the walls. Mark let him.

The other day Mark got a taste of the Mother Grizzly Treatment. He had given Arthur a paint brush to play with. I was talking on the phone at the time, so I was in one of those states where I was speaking to my Dad on the phone and watching events unfold in front of my eyes. Now that I know better, I will simply hang up and call folks back. But since this was the first time, I watched Arthur toddle around with a paint brush in his mouth while Mark walked away to do something else. Half of my brain predicted that Arthur would fall with a paint brush in his mouth while the other half was speaking to my Dad about tiles for a counter. When my prediction came true (apparently), my Dad got an earful.

Arthur fell down. In retrospect, I don't think he had the paint brush in his mouth, but from where I was sitting, it looked like he fell and jammed it into the back of his mouth. What my Dad heard was me saying, "Are you all right?" Arthur crying, and me telling Mark (in no uncertain terms) that giving Arthur a paint brush to play with was NOT a good idea.

Later that night I apollogized to Mark for yelling at him. In an odd way, Mark's OK with it. "Wow," he said, "I won't mess with your kid again," he said the next day.

Arthur is spontaneously identifying "E", "O", and the number "2" when we read to him. Mark is unnerved by this. "I don't wan't to raise an idiot/savant," he said. "I don't want to raise a savant/savant, either." I guess that he's afraid that Arthur will figure out how to drive the car next week.

Mark's worries about raising an idiot/savant don't prevent him from showing friends and co-workers how Arthur can identify an "E" or an "O", and the two of them have a routine.

Mark: (Making a "V" sign with his fingers) "Hey Arthur, how many fingers am I holding up?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: "Very good." (Brings his index fingers together.) "What's one plus one?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: "That's right! How many ears do you have?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: (Holding the "V" sign behind his head) "Wow, that's great; Now how many fingers am I holding up?"
Arthur: "Two."
Mark: "That's incredible; you're psychic."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow and Windshields

The weirdest thing happened to me this morning.

I was driving with Arthur to Scary Reading Hour at the public library. (For those of you who don't know, Scary Reading Hour is scary because A) the presenters are very nice people who are Very Enthusiastic and B) it's filled with twenty-something parents who wear low jeans and thongs.)

Last night it snowed about a half inch, but the roads and sidewalks were clear. I had to scrape the snow off of the car's windows to be able to see out, and I had the defrost cranked up. Anyway, to get parking at Scary Reading Hour, one has to get to the library about twenty minutes before it starts. So there I was driving down 11th Street when I heard a kind of popping noise. It wasn't a ding, or a ping, or George Micheal singing. No other cars were around us, and no gravel truck was in front of me, so I couldn't figure out what the noise was -- although in hindsight it sounded like shifting ice. As I drove along, wondering what the noise was and exactly where it had come from, a huge U-shaped crack appeared in my windshield. It was about two feet wide and a foot tall, and it was centered in the glass.

I figured the defrost, which was still cranked up, combined with a gravel ding from two years ago, stressed the glass enough to cause it to crack. It doesn't appear to be getting any larger, and we'll have to replace the windshield later this week. I tried to take a picture of the crack, but it only looks like a picture of someone's car in an underground parking lot.

Arthur and I got parking space number one and we sat in the Geriatric Parents Club section of Scary Reading Hour.

Oh. Yes. On the Arthur front, he's pushing some molars out or something. The result is that when he sleeps, it's random; when he's awake, he's easily frustrated and cranky, which makes him more likely to imitate a howler monkey. He's also very -- ahem -- congested, and I'm considering wearing a smock when I have to pick him up.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Fun

Saturday night was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it was Arthur and he had a new molar pushing through his gums. The molar pushed mucus out of his sinuses. So now I'm writing this in the car on the trip back to Oregon, and Arthur is barely breathing through his nose. Don't ask how I know this. I'm hoping that being propped up in his baby seat will help him to drain.

Mark gets several awards for taking on the lion's share of child duty.

Luckily, the tooth waited until after Thanksgiving to push out, so Arthur was a model infant during the family gathering at my sister's and her new husband's house in Everett. Their funniest pastime is flinging objects at squirrels that raid the birdfeeder. I think my sister's favorite projectiles are asparagus butts. I suppose that that the Evil Brother award goes to me for snapping a photo of my sister's sister-in-law sleeping on the couch; it's not a flattering picture.

OK. And I confess. Through some combinations of events too involved to understand, there was old Tang in my sister's house. That meant I had to drink some.

There must be some principle that, unless it grew on a tree, orange food is probably bad for you. Tang. It's right up there with theatre popcorn, Cheetoes, Orange Crush, and Cheddar Goldfish. You know it's bad, you know you shouldn't drink it. But you also know that its forbidden horribleness enhances its chemical flavor and that a secret part of you has craved it since before last week.

I'm under no illusion that Tang is the preferred drink of astronauts -- the first and second ingredients are sugar and I think the third is citric acid. This was old Tang -- the expiration date was about three months ago -- and although the fourth ingredient was some nasty chemical added to it to prevent it from sticking to itself, the Tang had caked into a solid orange mass in the container. I boiled some water.

I got a one of my sister's elegant, sculptured spoons and started chiseling out enough loose Tang to take me back to my childhood days. An orange cloud of dust rose to the kitchen ceiling's lights. People stepped back in order to avoid any future brushes with Orange Lung Disease. I mined three teaspoons into a 12-ounce mug and poured in the water. The resulting mixture was steamy and orange and drinking it was like drinking liquid SweeTarts. In a Proustian moment, I remembered turning my tongue orange with straight Tang when I was ten.

I horrified my family by mixing a second cup twenty minutes later and wondering aloud if I could mix Tang and tequila into a hot drink called "Tang-quila."

Then we played fun word-games like Pictionary and Taboo.

Friday Mark, Arthur, Julie, Randy and I went to a municipality on the other side of the Boeing jet factory where Julie and Randy live to watch the ferries come in next to a lighthouse. It was windy and cold. The sound was pretty in a "nature vs. man" kind of way. Randy had fun faking out the pigeons with gravel (they thought it was bread crumbs). We didn't manage to make it to any other parks to hike (mostly because last week's rains washed out the roads). Julie and Randy went off to watch the Oregon civil war football game. We watched a lot of movies at my sister's. Arthur dosed through most of My Fair Lady, The Harvey Girls, and reruns of The Muppet Show.

Saturday, we spent a relaxing time at some Seattle friends house. While we were there, we went for obligatory noodles and then went shopping for floor lamps. I kept pointing to what I thought were likely candidates and Mark kept saying, "I don't want a bordello lamp." After about the fifth rejection, he said, "I don't want a bordello lamp with Art Neuveau curves." That actually helped.

We had a quiet evening taking pictures of Artur playing with Jean-Luc the cat. Mark bought some children's' medicine and that helped Arthur to sleep. "Helped" is a relative term, and it might as easily be said that it helped Arthur to wake up at 4 AM screaming.

Sunday we are back in Eugene. Tomorrow Mark will go to work and I'll be a full time dad. Arthur seems to have a bunch of molars coming in, so I'm guessing that tomorrow morning, as I'm stumbling around from lack of sleep, I'll be wishing that we had a secret stash of Tang. But we don't even have a secret stash of tequila.

Thank the goddess for chocolate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

John's Orycon Adventure

I've just returned from Orycon. It was the best con (out of four) I've attended. I never thought that a con would rejuvenate me. I'd gotten into a difficult place in terms of my writing, and visiting with other writers and editors allowed me to put various things into perspective.

This year, the scariest costume wasn't the Klingons, or even the latex gals. It was the person who gave me a stalker vibe. I'm not even going to write about what they were wearing.

Here's a quick break down of the panels. Go to a panel with a strong moderator -- a strong moderator will have some prepared questions for the rest of the group, will be able to shut up and let other panelists voice their opinions, and will keep the socially maladjusted know-it-all(s) in the audience from hijacking the panel. Go to a panel with panelists who actually know something about the topic (or who are good at asking questions).

Here's the long-play commentary on the panels that I went to:


Editing the Short Story -- the most interesting thing about this panel, which was made up of editors, was hearing the emotional side of purchasing short stories from the editor's point of view. The coolest quotes were from Ellen Datlow, who said, "We want to clear our desks [of piles of manuscripts]... and we want to love your work." And Eileen Gunn, who said, "The essence of SF is finding yourself [as the reader] in a weird, off-balance place, and then you figure it out."

Palaces and Prisons -- This was a disappointing panel because, A) I wanted the panel to discuss future cities from a science fiction writer's point of view and B) none of the panelists seemed familiar with the concept of arcology. Hello? You're on a panel about future city planning and the only thing you have to say about arcology is that it's ugly high rises for the rich? The panel turned into a "problems of population" discussion. Probably the most interesting idea, which came from an audience member (not me, I was too busy trying to steer the panel to say something about arcology), was the concept that the French Revolution is a metaphor for the dichotomy of the city as urban palace or prison.

What is Magic Realism? -- this was a useful panel, if only because my understanding of magical realism was that it was something like the urban fantasy of Charles de Lint. It's not. (I'm sorry -- even if I've seen "Kiss of the Spider Woman", I've never read "One Hundred Years of Solitude".) Magical Realism (and slip stream) is about taking an absurd idea (like waking up as a bug) and having everyone deal with it as if it were normal or every day. MR is an examination of the rational and the irrational and how they inform each other. As a result of this panel (OK, and I bought another copy of Polyphony), I have a better understanding of why my stories are getting rejected by Deborah Lane (sorry Deborah).

Friday Night: Although I vowed not to turn on the TV... I did and stumbled onto the very latest Dr. Who episode, complete with an old Sara Jane Smith (who now looks like the brunette Abba woman) and a retro-looking K-9. And a Doctor who looks just a little bit younger than me.


We had a wonderful Wordos Breakfast. It was great seeing everyone there and getting a chance to hob-knob with Ellen Datlow. I also got a chance to speak with other Wordos who don't normally make it to Eugene about writing, writing strategies, and family life.

Ask Ellen Datlow -- This was fun and useful. I did get to introduce Ellen to the word "rejectomancy" (the divinatory art a writer uses to try to figure out what an editor really thought about a story by how many code phrases are in the boilerplate rejection letter, by the amount of time it took to get the rejection letter, and by any hand written notes in the margins). When Ellen writes, "I loved this story, but I can't use it for the [magazine or web site]" that that's what she means.

Turkey Readings (from Shimmer Magazine) -- this was the funniest panel. The panelists took turns reading rejections from the slush pile and from Planet 666. There were some pretty painful manuscripts ("Ow! Ow! Ow-ow-ow!"). They also read some accepted manuscripts to illustrate where they had worked with an author to polish a story. The only bad thing about this panel was that it was at the same time as the Endeavor Awards and I missed Jerry Oltion winning.

Ellen Datlow Interview -- Saturday was sort of Ellen Datlow Con. It was interesting to hear some of her stories of how she started out editing at Omni Magazine and to hear more about her editing process.

Juggling Jobs -- the most inspirational. Over the last half year, I've really been wound up about writing production, production, production and I'd lost sight of why I write. It's because I enjoy it. (And yeah, it would be great to make a living at it and to have Undying Fame.) I've been so production oriented that I've been locked up when I try to write. The moral of this panel was take regular time to write, and budget your writing time to balance with your family and your job. And it's OK to focus on your children's and parents' needs.

Alien 1st Contact -- the moderator's idea of moderating was to argue with the other panelists that aliens were here on earth now to eat us. I guess the most interesting idea was (from Jerry Oltion) that if humans and aliens don't have a formal agreement then no one has to apologize for anal probes or shooting flying saucers out of the sky.

Magic or Tech -- very disappointing because it seemed to want to turn into a bitch session and not explore new ways to look at magic, technology, and fictional societies. By this point at Orycon, I had learned enough to ask questions "as a writer" to try to focus the answers on the writing process. When asked why Mercedies Lacky (for example) writes Valdamar as a mediaeval world with magic instead of a tech world with magic, the discussion devolved into an observation that successful writers write less well then when they were less successful.

Shimmer Party -- Fun. Except for that stalker. (Note to self: there's a down side to the World's Most Fabulous Shirt).

Dance -- There's not too many places left in the world where I can free-form dance to cheesy 80's music.


Archery -- really knowledgeable presenter and I wish that I had managed to get through checking out of my room in time to catch the beginning of the talk. As it was, there were some useful "this is what archers do and these are the mistakes writers and illustrators make depicting what archers do" points. Oh, and some cool bows.

Digging Into Cory Doctorow -- Probably not the best choice for me as getting the most out of this panel depended on reading most of Doctorow's work; I haven't read anything by him, and it sounds like I should. It sounds like he's a very smart technogeek writing slipstream.

Blogging for the Writer -- This panel challenged some of my ideas about blogs. I guess I've been "blogging" since 1990 or before, only back then it was called a mail list. The thing that I'd sort of forgotten about using a blog is that it's supposed to be fun. OK, and be careful, because the internet has collapsed people's social personas, so the boundaries between your work persona, your family persona, and your hobbies persona have gone away. There were other points -- like from a publicity standpoint it's better to be interesting than boring. And Cory Doctorow uses his blog like a wiki for what he's interested in... this is interesting to me because I use Voodoo Pad on the Macintosh as a notebook for keeping track of ideas and it would be nice to have just one database.

Beyond Llewelyn -- Well... someone had scheduled a filk fest in the Eugene Room before this panel and when some people get a guitar they lose all sense of time. After several people had mimed "time's up" at this person, we started chanting "Spam Spam Spam Spam" and they still kept on singing something that sounded marginally shorter (but just as cheesy) as "The Horsetamer's Daughter." Once the musicians had cleared out, we discovered that we had only one panelist and she wasn't the moderator. She did a great job trying to moderate, but after about twenty minutes of trying to engage the audience in more than "Llewelyn sucks if you want anything else but Wicca 101" observations, we all mutually agreed to end early. I did continue a conversation with two guys about gay paganism.

Immortality -- This one had a strong moderator. Even though the panel had a tendency to digress and interrupt each other, I got a lot of story setting ideas. I did wish the panel had agreed to talk about immortality instead of the failures of today's health system, and I wish they had agreed about what type of immortality they would talk about (biological or cyber). Someone suggested that the French Revolution... oh, wait... Actually, the most entertaining idea thrown out by an audience member was that The Medical System (which is profit driven) doesn't want to cure people, because if you cure someone, they go away and you only get to bill them once. What The Medical System has done in the past is give people treatments, which require multiple visitations and billings. However, The Medical System is in the process of switching to a "Wellness System", which means you get to preventively treat people before they get sick; so now you can bill healthy people (and there's more healthy people than sick people...).

Then we went home. I should say that Mark wins some sort of award for watching Arthur by himself all weekend and freeing me up to wear nice light-colored clothing without the fear of being used as a baby snot rag.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Spider Fairy

The itsy-bitsy spider
went up the water spout
down came the rain
and washed the spider out
out came the sun
and dried out all the rain
and the itsy-bitsy spider
went up the spout again.

The itsy-bitsy spider
went up the water spout
down came
              the fairy and this is what she said:

Itsty-bitsy spider,
I am getting tired
of singing all these silly songs
and wiggling my hands.
I'll sing this song three more times,
and then I'm outta here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

October Rites

OK, OK, so I haven't posted in a while. Let's see.

Arthur now says, "up" when he wants us to carry him. Which is a lot of the time. He also makes a clicking sound with his mouth when he wants to snap, which is part of the sign for "dog". Arthur recognizes the moon, and he will point to it and say, "moon."

Two weeks age some friends from Seattle visited. Eugene was pretty, it was seventy-something degrees and all the leaves were turning. We did a few traditional things, mostly surrounding eating establishments. We went to a farm where apples were being pressed into cider and where the Pearwood Pipers sang a few songs. And we discussed the lighting treatment for the house.

As part of an early Samhain celebration, I lead a ritual at the UU church. It went pretty well, considering I hadn't quite gotten it through my head that over half of the participants would be teens and pre-teens. I've decided that ritual for this age group is kind of like ritual for cats. From what I've been told, the kids enjoyed it, though (and so did the adults).

Last week Arthur caught a stomach flu, which I caught the next day (thankfully after the ritual, otherwise it's quite likely I would have been invoking the powers of "eeuuw-ack"), and Mark a few hours later. Arthur was pretty much over the flu in a day, so he was running around and aware while it was busily taking over the dads' g.i. tracks. I don't know how Arthur managed to stay relatively grumpy-free, as both Mark and I had the chills and needed to sleep most of last Sunday. Luckily, our friends the Wilds watched Arthur for most of the day. Mark shook off the flu quickly, but I had it for an extra day. I'm pretty sure that I killed most of the flora in my intestines, so I've been eating a lot of yogurt.

Halloween was very fun for Arthur. He did not go out, but he had a great time answering the door and giving out little candy bars (I think it helped that he didn't know that he was handing out waxy Hershey's chocolate). He was interested in all the costumes, and we were surprised at how many two year olds were out working the streets with their parents. We did have one scary moment that was straight out of a David Sedaris Santaland Diary, and I'll leave it at that.

Arthur now demands that I light the candle next to the gargoyle on the mantle and the ceramic jack-o-lantern every night.

This week we're continuing the Great Shelving Project (which was interrupted by the flu). The ultimate goal is to get all of my books out of the boxes in the garage.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Playing Favorites

Arthur is playing favorites. Although he will answer questions like, "What does a cat say?" with "'ow'', when I ask them (and "aw aw" for crows and "wack wack" for ducks), he will not say (and sign) when he's "All Done" with a meal. Which he will for Mark. He also seems to be eating more for Mark in the evenings.

WIcked baby.

Arthur does like to wrestle with me, and continues to ask me to catch him as he falls backwards.

He's also expressing so much interest in the Macintosh that today we checked out the book, "Arthur's Computer Disaster" from the library. For a library encore, Arthur climbed three flights of stairs.

In the physical development department, we've started measuring him and he's grown about a half inch in the last week. I'll have official numbers for his height and weight after the next wellness doctor visit, which isn't for a month or so.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

And the award goes to...

Help! I'm raising a thespian!

Today, my finger got caught in the gap between a table top and its hinged leaf. Since this is the table with the electric keyboard on it that Arthur can play with, I wanted to show him that he could pontentially pinch his fingers. I pointed to the gap, put my finger between the wood planks, and said, "ouch."

Arthur upstaged me. After copying me and saying ouch, he moved to placing his fingers in the space between the tabletop and the table leaf and then holding up his finger and wailing like it had really pinched him. At first, I thought it had (until he smiled a 'got you' smile).

I guess I should learn not to mime.

On the color front, Arthur managed to correctly identify a white and a red bunny toy at Scarey Reading Hour. I was throroughly surprised, because given yesterday's performance, I expected him to shrug 'jenne se qua.' I held up the plastic toys and said, "Arthur, this is the red one and this is the white one; this is the red one and this is the white one. Which one is the red one?" He managed to choose the correct color three times before he got bored and went over to play with the Library's network sockets. Choosing the correct colors counts double, because he did it in front of other parents of 1 to 2 year olds.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Arthur Update

I can see that I need to re-read the books I have on child development. I continue to be confounded at things like
  • why Arthur can point to a picture of a cat in the middle of a bunch of other animals, but he shrugs his shoulders (the sign for "I don't know") when I ask him which of two blocks is the red one
  • why Arthur's favorite key on the electronic keyboard is the one that turns the red power LED on and off (and on and off and on and off and on and off...)
  • Why Arthur will got close to an electrical socket, say "no," shake his head, and then touch the socket anyway
  • why lights, which presumably he's never touched, are 'hotch', which places them in the same category as stoves, fires, pictures of fires, and freshly prepared oatmeal.

Jenn, a Montessori teacher, explained to me that differentiating colors is an advanced concept. I had already used colors in the fractions flashcards I made for Arthur.

At least I understand why Arthur smacked the lap harp with a colored block from a musical toy -- the musical toy makes music when you smack blocks into it, so all musical instruments must be played that way. Luckily, Arthur hasn't smacked my Dad's baby grand piano with a colored block (yet).

I've also learned (a little too late) that I shouldn't have started a pushing game with Arthur. He'd stand, I'd have one arm behind him, and then I'd push him backwards. Then he'd arch his back and look at everything upside down. He thought this was the funniest thing ever and I think I must have initiated theatrical faints for about twenty minutes. Now when he comes up to us we have to be ready for him to collapse backwards.

Oh, and I guess it's time to start the therapy fund. At one point in our house's past, someone drilled small holes into the floor and snaked coaxial cable into the living room, probably for cable TV. For the past month, Arthur has gone over to where the cables were hidden, pushed aside the furniture hiding them, and stuck the cable terminal into his mouth. I'm pretty sure The Fearful Parent Magazine would have something to say about that. I usually say, "Not for Arthur" and make him put the furniture back.

Anyway, yesterday evening Mark, Arthur and I were arranging living room furniture so that it had less of that warehouse feel. Arthur started playing with the cables. I went to the toolbox, got some tin snips, and -- snip! -- no more cables. Just little empty holes in the floors. The look of betrayal wasn't quite as bad as the one last year when Arthur realized the fries on my plate were going to go over his head and into my mouth -- but it was close. This evening he was still looking for the missing cables.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Smit h an d Hawke n

Scene: The Back Patio. John and Arthur are taking a break from using trowels to dig out dirt for a step.

Arthur: Uhhn! (Points and reaches for garden shears that John has moved about three times already).

John: No, Arthur. Those aren't for you. (Thinks about ways to explain why that don't involve pantomiming a severed finger.) See? (picks up safety locked shears; squeezes handle so the blade wiggles impotently against the anvil; runs index finger over the side of the blade.) Ouch. See, this part can cut you. Ouch.

Arthur: (Eyes go wide and he giggles) Ouch! (Reaches for shears.)

John: (Mentally slapping forehead) Ugh. You're not supposed to like it.

-- L A T E R --

Mark: What have you been teaching the child? He keeps pointing at things and saying 'ouch ouch.'

Friday, September 22, 2006

Three is a Dish Washer

I've been watching the scrub jays in are yard for the last few months, and wishing that we had more crows visiting. We had a lot of crows around the old house, but I had no idea that scrub jays lived in Eugene until we moved to the new house.

So today, the day of the new moon and the autumnal equinox, there were three crows in our back yard. (Insert spooky "oooh" here.) It had taken them about a week to locate the bird feeder in the ornimental cherry tree. Arthur and I got a pretty good look at them while an installation guy installed a new dishwasher. So I guess we'll have to re-write that old crow rhyme to include kitchen appliances.

Yes. It's true. We have a dish washer. It's wonderful, and already I don't know how I lived without it. Really. (Thank you Mom and Dad.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Equinox Eve

Happy Equinox; I can't beleive it's only been a quarter of a year since we signed the papers on our new house. We're mostly in and living out of boxes. Not all of the paint is done and we still have some trim to finish. The old place still has some minor things in it that we'll have to taxi over to the new house.

On the Arthur front...

Arthur can walk -- sort of -- have I mentioned that yet? The last three weeks are sort of a blur. In any case, Arthur and I have a game where I'll help him stand, and then I'll say, "Ready? Three, Two, One!" and let go. He'll take a few steps and then more or less fling himself forward for me to catch. Sometimes I don't always get there in time and he tumbles onto the grass.

We also take walks to the local stores. Arthur can push his stroller about the length of a block. He's also acting like a boy; he really likes trucks and today he was very excited to find a tether-ball. And while he likes birds, airplanes seem to be better. He's climbing everything he can get to -- like the chase lounge, and most recently, the kitchen table chairs.

He's also quite the computer geek. He really wanted to play with the computer at the doctor's examining room, and he was very happy when he got a chance to bang on the keys of a Eugene Library Computer. He was very dissapointed that a spare monitor that was on the bedroom floor wasn't plugged in.

Oh, yes. At fifteen and a half months, he's figured out that electrical appliances don't work unless you plug them in first -- we have a select comfort bed and Mark says that Arthur plugged in the little air pump so he could hear it wheeze as it inflates our bed to rock hardness.

The cat is here in the new house, and she's been using her powers of gravity control for evil. I don't know how an eight pound cat can sound like a herd of elephants at 3 AM, and I suspect that she's figured out where the most resonant spots of the house are. That, and she continues to take delight in stepping on our heads. I slept much better the week she was still at the old house, and I've come to the conclusion that a good half of the bumps in the night that used to wake me up in the old house convinced that raccoons, tramps or theives were trying to get into the house were in fact Muriell.

As if that wasn't enough, I'm pretty sure that she's been teaching Arthur how to whine. We've been working on that one. When Arthur points and grunts at something -- usually food -- instead of just giving it to him we ask him if he would like more of whatever it is and we use the sign language for it. I think we're having pretty good luck using Skinnerian opperant conditioning to reward him with what he wants when he signs for it.

When Arthur isn't whining, he's saying some words. Probably his favorite word is 'no.' When he's just saying no to say no, I do try to turn it into a game by saying 'yes', and it usually goes back and forth with no and yes for a few rounds and then we switch to 'Daaad' and 'Arthur.' Arthur also says the word 'hot', which he combines with 'ouch' -- so he sounds a little Scottish and says, 'hoouch'. I've been playing a lot of Rex Harrison singing 'Why Can't The English Teach Their Children How to Speak;' we'll see if that has any effect.

The latest word I've been trying to teach Arthur is 'Gollum'; he thinks it's about as funny as I do.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Finished -- I think

Almost everything is out of the old house and in the new one. Or at least the new garage.

Almost nothing is out of boxes except for Arthur's toys and some clothing.

And we still haven't finished with the paint job.

And our internet connection isn't up yet at the new house.

At least the weather has been decent -- not too much rain and a reasonable temperature.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Plan (No Promises)

Here's the plan for this weekend as I understand it. Since none of this has been written down in the Book of Big Decisions, it could all change (except for the U-Hall rental).
    • Pack (as Arthur allows)
      • Construct Boxes
      • Pack books, plates, toys, laundry, past issues of Dragon Magazine, and embarrassing items...
    • Paint
      • Walls and cabinetry in Kitchen
      • Window trim in Dining Area
      • Window trim in Living Room
      • Floor trim everywhere
  • SATURDAY -- at the new house
    • Pack (as Arthur allows)
      • Construct More Boxes
      • Pack anything Arthur picks up and thrusts at us
    • Paint
      • Walls and cabinetry in Kitchen
      • Window trim in Dining Area
      • Window trim in Living Room
      • Floor trim everywhere
  • SUNDAY -- at the old house
    • Pack (convince Arthur packing means putting things into boxes)
      • Pack piles of paper, computer stuff, even more toys, dirty laundry, past issues of The Space Gamer, and eye the dumpsters...
  • MONDAY -- U-Hall Day
    • Move The Big Stuff

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You Want a Different What?

Well... Mark decided that the colors in the bedroom are a little saturated. "It looks less like a New York apartment and sort of like... a cottage bakery," he said. "Arthur's room really looks like a kid's room," he added. "And this 'Raleigh Green' for the trim? As soon as I put it on I said to myself, I've seen that color before and it's 'baby-poop green.'"

I feel energized when I walk into that part of the house. It's almost a physical sensation. But then again, I like Jean-Micheal Jarre and Juno Reactor -- so maybe it's the limbic part of my brain that needs to be stimulated. Anyway, I gave Mark the go-ahead to get a lighter colored yellow (from the same paint chip as "Glorious Glow") for the living room. I figure I can always live in the bedrooms during the Dark Half Of The Year (dark, so very dark...)

We've been tag-team painting, so we haven't actually been in the living room at the same time. Last night I was painting until one in the morning; the other night Mark was the one painting until past midnight. We've seen so little of each other awake that Mark commented that this must be what couples with two jobs each must feel like.

Depending on what time of day (or night) it is, how many lights we turn on, and how much paint is applied, the color of the living room yellow goes anywhere from a kind of mustard brown to a pale yellow-green. I think part of this chameleon effect is due to the pale nature of the paint color -- it picks up what ever other colors are reflected on it (like from the blue painter's tape). I think it's such a light, unsaturated color that we'll need to apply two coats of it to get a consistent color.

So, I'm not sure, but I think I've been painting the living room a color I would have never have imagined: pale yellow beige. I'm not sure if this counts as a Judith Viorst poem or not.

The current theory is that we'll be moving into the house Labor Day. Really. It's. Going. To. Happen.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Are We There, Yet?

The house is progressing. My Dad came over and has been a great help. When he put on the white primer coat and made the old, icky colors go away I was about ready to leave the walls white. It was like a new morning had come into the house, filling the rooms with light. The old colors really did suck all the light out of the air.

Then he put on the base color: Dutch Boy Glorius Glow. The light from the primer had been a winter's day with snow reflecting a cold blue sky. The light from the top coat was from the heart of summer; it made the oak floor glow. Mark and I had done the right thing by making sure the paint chips harmonized with the short wood planks. I can only conclude that whoever painted the house before us was colorblind or enjoyed being depressed in the dreary Willamette Valley days of January and February, which are filled with moody and poetic drizzle and fog. The only thing that glows during these months are the moss and lichen on the trees (and that's only between the wan daylight hours of 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM).

So far the walls on one and a half bedrooms are complete. There's some minor undercoating that needs to happen in the square hall, and in part of the dining nook. No trim has been painted yet. Mark has been saying things like, "Boy, this sure is yellow -- but I like it. It's cheery," so I think he's hoping the darker trim colors will help to ground things out a little. I suppose that we could get a reproduction of Vincent van Gogh's sunflowers...

On the Arthur front: He can't walk, but he can climb. The other day, Arthur climbed up on top of the landladies' picnic table -- the collapsable one with the swivle top. Yesterday he found a ladder propped up against the deadly wisteria and scrambled up it (I was right there spotting him). And he's a little mad at us for not giving him a paintbrush so he can paint the house.

Mark continues to find (and buy) toys for Arther that are disturbing. He got a sprinkler a few days ago: it's plastic and in the shape of a Disney eyed puppy with floppy ears. Water comes out of the puppy's colar in about seven streams. When the water goes through it, it rocks its head from right to left. At first, it's cute; but after a while, the relentless and sometimes frantic rocking of the head seems like a metaphor for hyperactivity. The water rushing through the puppy represents raw, psychological and physiological force, but it can only be used to knod convulsviely; the puppy cannot not stand still. It's enough to make me want to get it some ritalin. Arthur loves it and will point at it until we turn it on and he can get soaked.

The most recent acquisition is some sort of 1996 musical blocks toy. It's a rectangular plastic box. A memory cartridge fits in the back slot. There arer five additional slots for five small cubes. The cubes are different colors and have different geometric shapes on them. If you arrange the cubes from left to right blue, green, yellow, organge, red, it will play a tune based on Motzart's Night Music. Different geometric shapes on the cube faces signify different voices. I think this would be cool if Arthur knew the sequence of A) colors and B) the tune. He doesn't; the result sounds like an experiment in rap music and percussion as he bangs one or more of the cubes onto toy. Even though it's not the Leapfrog Anti-Diva singing on it, I think I'll have to walk away when Arthur starts playing with it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

We've Reached A Milestone

We've reached a new milestone in home-ownership. It's the "I'm so tired of working on this house I just want this project to be done" milestone.

Or is that the, "Nobody'll notice milestone?"

I'm sure our contractor friend, Ed, will have a name for it that involves fire.

In any case, after about 11 days (and I'm going to guess 48 person-hours of work) we're finished scraping all the paint-like emolents off of the kitchen cabinets. So now we get to clean everything -- the walls, the ceilings, the floors, the cabinets, the mantle, the divider, the oven, the sink, the... say... well, maybe we haven't reached that milestone after all.

Mark has decided that our color scheme is going to make our house look like an unpretentious but upscale candy shop. As long as it's not "Old Lady" decor, I'm happy, and if I can get a purple top hat like WIlly Wonka out of it so much the better.

On the Arthur front: he's climbing everything. He's not walking, yet, but I think his climbing skills are making up for it. He can also stand without help for about five seconds.

As for talking... Well, every now and then I catch Arthur whsipering sibilent words in the corner. It's a little unnerving because it sounds like something like "Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. Precious."

And then there was last night. Arthur's new molar woke him up in the middle of the night, so Mark put him in our bed. A little later I was thwacked out of a sound sleep by a flailing baby arm.

It was Arthur.

He was signing in his sleep.

Arm Photon Torpedos!

For a variety of reasons, our moving date has floated back a week... or even more. If we don't move Labor Day weekend, we'll have to wait until after Shrewsbury (Sept 8-10) to move two weeks later (Sept 15-16). This gives me two weeks to recover from moving and finish up the final draft of a story for the Writers of the Future contest (Sept 30).

I think the quote of the day for August 18 was, "Wow, it's a good thing John didn't have photon torpedoes or those people would be so dead." (Sometimes shouting 'Arm photon torpedos!' at the idiot driving in front of you helps to relieve stress.)

So I'm a man with a mission; finish up the house now so I can free up my will to focus on other projects (like writing, for one thing). It's become obvious to me that we'll be hinkle-pinkling around with various odd house jobs forever unless we hire a baby-sitter to watch Arthur while the both of us take on the tasks of new-home-ownership. So we've got one for next week.

This weekend we had lots of help... Scraping. The. Damn. Kitchen. Cabinets. Even if they are old, clear fir, I'm about ready to take them out and burn them. Even with (or possibly in spite of) using strippers on the cabinets, there's areas of decorative globs that gum up the sandpaper. I've discovered a new tool called a "sandstone" that is sort of like a cross between pumice and a sponge; with a little bit of pressure you can use it to get right down to the wood. At least in the parts where you can use the sandstone. It's a little ironic that the kitchen is what's holding us up because if we could afford it, the kitchen would be the second thing we'd gut and re-do. (The first would be the bathroom.)

Probably the funniest thing to happen this weekend (which I didn't see) was my Dad managed to cut through an extension cord with electrical hedge shears. I'm told it was very dramatic with lots of sparks. Good thing part of the house settlement was installing trip-fuse electrical sockets; my Dad's already had his heart medically rebooted twice.

This whole ordeal has been a learning experience, though; I've learned that Mark and I physically perceive colors differently. If you give us a source green, for example, and a variety of green paint chips, we'll choose different chips. I don't know if we're using different ways to evaluate color tone or color shade or some other color modality -- but it's different. The good news is that Mark and I have chosen three colors to paint the house, we wrote the color names down on a piece of paper and we both signed it. I think this will be the first page in what we'll call "The Book of Big Decisions." I'm very glad that we've irrevocably, finally, absolutely really and for true, nailed down the colors. Now, of course, we have to buy the paint. We've also agreed on drawer pulls for the house -- they're classy and round, and it's nice that we had a gift certificate from Jerry's because elegance and style aren't cheap. We would have gotten some cobalt glass pulls, but they were even more expensive.

In further good news, I've decided that I like the smell of Murphy's Wood Soap. Which is a darn good thing because there's paint dust and chips all over our hard wood floors.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Saturday at "Che Spectreeck"


Mark and I sat down and here's what we came up with. We still very much need any help people want to offer -- and I'm sure Arthur would be pleased to see anyone who wants to stop by.

There was still some substance on the kitchen cabinets that was gumming up the sandpaper, so the cabinets still need to be scraped a bit more and then sanded.

Once we're done sanding, then we can do a final wall and ceiling cleaning. OK, and the floors need to be mopped, too, because we've tracked some paint chip bit things all over.

Other tasks that need to be done are removing face and socket plates from the walls and filling in the drawer and cabinet pull holes (we're replacing the small, old, ugly, 50's style pulls with something a little nicer).

Once everything is clean, then we can begin the painting process. Just as soon as we buy the paint. I'm afraid to give any kind of progress report on color pallets because every time I think we've come to a decision, I'm wrong; I think we're still going with the elemental pallet reported on earlier (but we've had a serious discussion about a monochrome green pallet).

Don't ask me when I think we're going to move.

No Paint Yet...

We're (probably) going to by paint today. This would be good, because we're supposed to paint the house tommorrow. Most of the old paint is off; there's still some tricky parts in the kitchen.

Arthur is not allowed to touch the oven. So I'm not sure what I should do when, after being told a million times that the oven is "not for Arthur", he crawls off and crawls back with a spatula and starts whacking the oven with it.

I tried not to laugh.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Progress Report

Arthur is crawling on his feet and hands as if he were a gorilla. It is probably a matter of hours before he is walking and My Life Changes Forever (Again).

Today my folks came over; my Mom watched Arthur in the back yard while I, Mark, and my Dad scraped paint off of the walls. The bedrooms are all scraped and sanded and plastered. So is the hallway between them. The bathroom we're just going to live with. The living room is mostly scraped and needs to be sanded. The kitchen... needs to be scraped and sanded.

All this scraping makes me feel like I'm some kind of nano-dentist working on someone's tartar build-up.

The People Who Used Latex is beginning to become a theme in my mind. I can almost hear Leonard Nimoy now, "In Search of The Latex Painters." Who were these people and what were they thinking...?

Must. Paint. House.

Friday, August 11, 2006

True Colors

Let's see.

Arthur can blow bubbles if you hold the bubble wand in front of his mouth and tell him to blow. We're hoping to catch some of this on video in the next few days.

On the house department, we've discovered the joys of paint strippers and honest-to-God paint stripping tools. It's a joy to use the right tool for a job. The paint stripper just peels the latex right off of the enamel.

It's kind of funny, but it appears that the interior has been painted variations of green and yellow found in oak floors before it was painted the dreadful olive-sandstone with white trim color. Also in the kind-of-funny department, I thought Mark and I had agreed on a color pallet, but I guess we haven't. It seems the specific tiles from M.P. Verneuil's Art Nouveau Animal Designs and Patterns weren't the final word, at least in Mark's mind, and he'd like to choose some colors from the book, but he's not sure, what. All I know is that the copy we he had blended in well with the oak floor and the pale cream color is bright and cheery.

The colors are sort of a pale creamy yellow, kind of peach, and a dark pine. Or not. Looks like we'll be visiting the Visibone Color Lab over the next few days.

Monday, August 07, 2006

You Oughtta LeapFrog

I was searching around the web and found an Alanis Morissette lyric generator.

Here's what it came up with when I told it my baby toy woes:


Toys, songs, voices
Why God, Why?
Songs, homes, LeapFrog
Why God, Why?

What have I done to deserve this purple horror?
Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of LeapFrog
Like a William Blake character, I'm wordy and alone
Why God, Why?

Babies, toys, sounds
Why God, Why?
LeapFrog, sounds, voices
Why God, Why?

What have I done to deserve this purple disaster that is my life?
Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of LeapFrog
Like a William Blake character, I'm wordy and alone
Why God, Why?

What have I done to deserve this purple misery?
Surrounded on all sides with the Hell of LeapFrog
Like a William Blake character, I'm wordy and alone
Why God, Why?

Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?
Why God, Why?

My Sister's Big Fat Wedding

My sister, Julie, is married now. It was a high church wedding at the Episcopal church my folks have attended since 1967. Julie was regal in her white dress and my grandmother's veil. Randy, my new brother-in-law, looked handsome with his black tuxedo and lily boutonniere.

The funniest part of the wedding was when the officiant dropped the rings. The bittersweet part of the wedding was seating my Grandmother, who has a short-term memory appropriate for a ninety-six year old. The most ironic part (for me as someone who is organizing Unitarian Universalistic Pagans, anyway) was reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1 John 4:7-21. It was also (for me) the most self-restrained part because I had to refrain from reading the lessons as if I were William Shatner or the Bishop from The Princess Bride. I suppose it says something about the readings because many people who heard them -- not knowing they were coming out of the mouth of a neo-pagan -- were moved (or at least complimentary).

Arthur fed us his Cheerios as Julie and Randy were exchanging their vows -- and he really likes my cousin, Jane, because he fed her a piece of highly coveted cheese. The most medical part of the wedding was watching Jane sing The Lord's Prayer and seeing how her uvula and soft palate produce sound (this was before the cheese feeding). The Baby Bach moment of the wedding was when the string quartet played especially for Arthur as folks were exiting the church (I think the viola player might have gotten some cheese earlier if she had been close enough). The 'Be Prepared' moment of the wedding was when Mark loaned a tie to someone at the reception who, um, 'forgot' his.

Mark won the Father of the Year award for watching Arthur all of the day so I could play host at the reception and other Big Brother Jobs. My Dad won the Martha Stewart Award for being unable to sleep the morning of the wedding and getting up at 2 AM to work on boutonnieres. I'm sure my Mom gets an award, too, but I can't figure out what it should be.

Arthur has a cold. And possibly a new molar. Luckily, this all manifested after the wedding was over, so all of the 2,000 wedding guests think Arthur is the cutest, most well behaved baby ever. I try to remember all their kind words when Arthur wakes up screaming at midnight (OK, Mark will point out he had a little help waking up), or when he uses my pants as a Kleenex.

For the wedding, Mark purchased An Infernal Machine. For Arthur. He described it as a lawnmower that would help Arthur learn to walk. In reality, I think it's a cross between a monster truck and a Mardi Gras float... with a shopping cart handle attached at the end. It's a "Learning Band Walker." I don't mind (much) that it plays trumpet solos. I don't mind (really) that it has volume and on/off switches that Arthur can reach and manipulate.

What makes this, this thing, An Infernal Machine is that it has a woman singing. And not just any woman -- if it were Cher or Yma Sumac it would be fine. It's Her -- the same woman from the LeapFrog Writing Desk. In fact, when I said, "Augh! It's the same woman!" Mark said, "Oh yeah, it's the same company; LeapFrog."

It's bad enough that natural selection has provided the world with a person who can make the phrase "one, two, three, four, five" sound like a ultra-perky description of saccharin-sprinkled pink bunnies and unicorns frolicking in the woods. But presumably a toy executive decided that they needed to hold auditions to find such a person and pay them to keep doing it.

I hate the LeapFrog Writing Desk Woman. I hate Her so much -- and I don't normally do this sort of thing -- that when Arthur's asleep I think up ways to fool the LeapFrog Writing Desk into saying curse words. There's a lot you can do with a well placed X or homophone.

I did a quick Google Search, but I didn't find a hack page for the LeapFrog Learning Band Walker. Then I did another Google Search, but I still don't seem to be able find any instructions for replacing The Anti-Diva's voice with my own.

Why don't they hire someone like Annie Lennox or Alanis Morissette to be the voice for these toys? Or even my cousin, Jane; kids could learn all about uvulas that way.

Ah well... back to scraping paint off of the house.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Pause in Scraping

Yesterday was my and Mark's second anniversary. Sarah, Gretchen and Lexi watched Arthur and we had a nice romantic dinner at a local restaurant. One of the women who used to work at Savoure was our waitress. We commiserated about the loss of the salon, and Mark added that we probably make better tea at home now. It was pleasant to be able to be with each other without having to focus on the child or scraping paint.

The last two nights I've been having all sorts of strange dreams. Sunday night's dream was very magically oriented, with amethyst and talking bears and Bigfoot and fish taking naps on the surface of the oceans. Last night's dream wanted to be a cross between a Prince Valiant cartoon and a National Geographic -- I'll have to look up Greek images of a horseman with a falcon. Then it turned into a reality dating show. I'm actually glad these types of dreams have returned; lately it seems I keep having dreams where I'm stuck at Arcosanti and anxious about catching a plane or train.

Tonight there's more paint scraping. Actually, I think it's sanding, now. I was wrong about the wall trim, it's not latex paint -- so really, all we have to scrape are the window casings (which is still more scraping than I wanted to do). The new house is nice. I was saying to Mark the other day how great it was that we had a full view of the southern sky so we could see the path of the moon and sun. The sky is darker over the new house (we're away from the bright lights of highway 105), so we can see the stars, too. I haven't done more than eyeball the house's edge with Polaris, but I'm pretty sure the house is squared with the cardinal directions.

Now all we have to do is paint, pack, move in, and unpack....

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Homes with Laurie Anderson

Looks like we're going to have to get higher desks in the new house. Either that or The Child will have to go to a computer class. Maybe we can find a drool-proof keyboard with a projectile-proof screen.

The other day we went on a open house tour put on by local area builders and realtors. It was strange. The first house was basically The Mariott meets the boy's club. In the bathroom was a huge, two-basin wide mirror. It was a two way mirror, and a television was installed behind it. It was the weirdest, stupidest thing I had ever seen -- I made the mistake of giving my opinion when somebody asked, "Isn't that TV cool?" I think he was the contractor who built it, and if he'd had cat ears they would have been flat against his head.

We went to a bunch of houses, mostly to look at color combinations and design ideas. The first three houses were more or less the same color. And they were very blandly decorated. Except for the lamp shades; it looks like your choices are Louis XIII lamp shades with dangling beads or large glass hurricane lamps (Mark broke his own, hastily enacted 'Be Nice' rule by calling the latter "somebody's science project.")

Then we went to the "MacMansions." I never understood the term before that night. It looked like The Borg had scooped up a chunk of southern California and dropped it on the southwest end of Eugene (where it used to meet the forrest). What struck me about these houses was that each room was designed for a single function, and that the rooms were not to human scale. One room looked like the ruins of the Lady Chapel at Glastonbury Cathedral -- it appeared to be missing a middle floor, and I kept looking around for where a crucifix should be. Oh, yeah, and it appears that new houses must come with small auditorium for showing either The Incredibles or Pirates of the Carribiean. When I ran into another TV installed behind a bathroom mirror, I said, "Oh no, it's another one." before I could stop myself.

The whole TV behind a bathroom mirrror really stuck with me, and inspired a Laurie Anderson-esque poem:
Good Morning, America

I woke up the other day
And I went to the mirror
But I couldn't see myself
Instead, it was the TV guy
And I said,  "Oh boy, I look good."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Saved by French Art Nouveau

I think that maybe we have chosen a color scheme to paint the house. We found a pattern in a Dover book of Art Nouveau animal patterns by M.P. Vernevil. The pattern is for tiles representing air, earth, water and fire -- a bird, rabbit, fish and salamander in a three colors: a sort of light peach, a redish tan, and an olive green. I think once we are sure, we'll take down all the paint chips and color samples. If you can zoom in on the advertisement behind me, you'll see pretty much how we've felt about finding just the right color.

People also wanted pictures of the house. It's a mess. We've removed most of the doors, and there's paint scrapings all over the floor. Arthur is not allowed in the house until the painting (and clean-up) is over.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Options

I got off the phone today with Ed, a contractor friend of ours. We discussed the scraping and it turns out scraping enamel paint off of trim is like throwing Sauron's Ring into the Cracks of Doom; it's a nasty, dirty, hazardous job that will take a long time and somebody's got to do it. At least we don't have to deal with any Orcs. But Ed did give me some options:
  1. Set the house on fire and rebuild
  2. Try some non-toxic paint remover
  3. Rip out the old trim, and put in unpainted new trim
  4. Grin, bare it, and multiply how long we thought it would take to paint by four

I suppose the one good thing about all of this is that we can't seem to come to a decision about what color to paint the insides and maybe we'll have some idea once all the trim and walls have been prepped.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stop the Presses


We're not even halfway done scraping all the latex off of the trim. So much for having the house painted by this weekend. So much for moving into it by August 15. Mark doesn't even want to pick a moving date. I'm secretly hoping that we can move by the end of August simply because it's unsettling to me to shuttle between two places all the time and I'd like to get back to writing instead of thinking about painting (and packing and moving and unpacking).

At least we didn't get a real fixer-upper.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Time Windows

I think we're going to start measuring time in how long it takes to scrape all the evil latex paint off of a window. For me, it's about two hours.

It's been another scorcher in the Willamette Valley -- 101 F on the valley floor. Arthur and I ran away to Corvallis, where it's cooler.

The Great Color Debate has taken a pleasant twist; Mark appeared this evening with a casket. Inside were photographs of various art pieces he's taken over the years. He also had a copy of a Sister Wendy book and a book on Edward Burne-Jones. "We already know what sorts of things we love, so let's choose a few and build our color palette up from that. He then turned to a reproduction of Burne-Jone's Briar Rose, the pannel where Briar Rose is asleep, and pointed to the rich green tapestry hanging behind her. "Isn't that beautiful?"

So we may go for a Pre=Rephaelite Brotherhood look. Given how long this house painting job is taking, it might be appropriate to use Love Among the Ruins as a starting point.

Monday, July 24, 2006

We'll Be Done When?

It's just after midnight, so technically it's Monday morning; the thermometer is reading 78 F as an outside temperature and NOAA reads a few degrees lower. And it's supposed to be like this for the next few days. Euew. Just eeuew.

Today we spent something like eight hours collectively on the task of stripping the latex paint off of the trim. We managed to sort of clear one side of four and a half doors (keep in mind that each door has two sides) and the woodwork around an old cabinet. We still have something like three more door sides to go, plus all the trim and the mantle (although I did manage to peel most of the top of the mantle off with my bare fingers yesterday. So it's probably really optimistic to imagine that we'll be done painting by this Saturday. We might be ready to start. Mark is talking about moving our moving date back a week or two, as well.

Mark likes to use an electric sander to take off the latex. I prefer an old-fashioned paint scraper. Mark's sanding down to the beige enamel layer; I find that with the stripper I'm going down to the green jade enamel layer. At the end of my shift, I was sweaty, and covered in dust and paint chips. I felt like an extra from The Ten Commandments -- only with a dust mask.

Since we don't want to know what's in the beige and jade enamel paint, we're keeping Arthur out of the house until we're finished scaping. Of course, we're going to have to rinse down all the walls again. I'm voting that we get a sponge mop and use that.

The great color debate is going forward and backward. I thought we had settled on a kind of pale wheat color and a darker one for the trim, but Mark has other ideas. I suggested that maybe we could get some corrugated aluminum siding and use that as a kind of wainscoting, but Mark vetoed that faster than you could say "Post Modern."

So I find myself waiting for the house to cool down enough so I can sleep by blogging and playing with colors at Earlier, I sat in a cold bath and read Architectural Digest and Sunset Magazine. What these magazines have taught me is that our house could be beautiful if we had $50,000 to throw at it.

Money aside, I did see some things it might be fun to try; a hanging lamp / chandelier for the square hall; painting the walls a river stone color and the trim a dark stain to make the house look like a castle; or we could paint our house as blandly as possible to emulate a semi-famous designer.

Part of the problem is the house -- I don't know how or why, but it really wants to slide into "Old Lady" style (and Mark agrees with me on this one). I don't know if it's the 50's round chrome cover over the kitchen vent (which was grease colored before I cleaned it), or recessed linnen closets or the very wide mantel that could accomodate a flock of ceramic owls with room to spare for a bunch of antique farm impliments -- but I do not want to live in my Grandmother's house.

I find the back yard much easier to think about. When I let my imagination go, I can see a kind of mini-gazebo surrounding the cherry tree, only with the roof pitched to direct water onto the tree and a bench encircling the tree trunk. I see a long narrow brick trough running west to east with water in it. The trough is stepped into three sections, and a cascade of water tumbles from the higher sections into the lower before being pumped back. At the top, there's a little jog in the trough so that the Garden Sphinx can have the water come from underneath her paws as she looks north -- watching the circumpolar stars spinning over our roof at night.

If only the tree and yard would stretch to the demensions of my imagination.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Move Calendar

When a Door Closes


Arthur has been watching us and he's figured out what doorknobs are. Luckily, he can't quite reach the doorsknobs in the new house. He pulls himself up, stretches, and just barely brushes the bottom of the knob. He can reach our current house's bathroom knob, so it's only a matter of time before he ascends to the bathroom level and can play with the toilet.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What Were They Thinking?

Hooray! It's the end of Saturday, and we're where we thought we would be Friday night. Today's theme was "What were they thinking." Not us; the previous occupants of our house.

While the mercury climbed into the hundreds (and the humidity rose, too) we contniued to wash the walls and scrape back the trim. The current wall paint layers are a kind of ugly sandstone-meets-khaki and a pale intestinal pink (in the kitchen). Before that, the walls (and ceilings) were white. Before that, they were a kind of avocado-sage green, and before that they were yellow. We're guessing the green and the yellow layers are the layers we don't want to know the chemical composition of. And guess what, we're probably going back to a yellow-based palette (although Mark isn't quite sure yet and wants to experiment with one room before committing).

Whoever did the last paint job didn't really know what they were doing. The white trim on some of the door frames, the Jim Kirk divider, and the mantle was a latex paint applied over an enamel. At least in most places the white latex peels off like a bad sunburn. In other places, they painted over hinges. It was a rush job, too, as there are some places where you can see through the top coat.

We hope to do better.

We also found places where people were creative with trim, walls, screws, and nails. I also found the false ceiling in the kitchen where we can hide small bodies (I found two dead wasps, so that's a start).

Mark Wyld stopped by to help (during the hottest part of the day), and I think he thought we were being anal-retentive very thorough in our efforts to prepare the walls and ceilings. Mark W also broght by some hedge clippers -- they're vorpal, and Mark D had to call me back into the house to continue scrubbing the walls before I could begin my topiary masterpiece. They're waiting though, hung up on a nail, calling to me.

My dad loaned us a laser level. Mark tried to convince me that we had no tasks in the house that could use a laser level; but I quickly chimed in that they would be handy getting a square-cut hedge. They're waiting for me, too, singing a duet with the clippers.

In the very early evening, Elizabeth and Jamie (from Scary Reading Hour at the Library) stopped by and Jamie and Arthur got to play together for a while. By this time we were taking a kind of break in the back yard, so I pulled up some pernicious weeds and we discussed things to do with rhubarb (which, it turns out, we have growing in the back).

If we're really good, tomorrow is taping day.

Friday, July 21, 2006

John Burridge

Today Arthur and I hid out at my folk's house. They have a swimming pool and air conditioning. They're also going just a little bit crazy getting ready for my sister's wedding, mostly because about three weeks ago their water heater failed and flooded the downstairs and the wallpaper and the carpets and some of the sheetrock and various stored items (like books) got soaked. Who would have thought your house could be flooded on a hill 300 feet above sea level?

In response to the wedding, my sister is fighting back her inner Bride-zilla, my dad is channeling his inner vaudeville carpenter, and my mom is making lots and lots of lists.

I had gone to help out with The Great Deck Rebuild, but ended up doing some computer work for the folks, instead. Then Arthur needed to be fed, and then we both sort of napped. We did make it into the pool, but Arthur wasn't as into it as I thought he would be.

This weekend is the great house scraping weekend. Tonight we managed to scrub and scrub and the one room that had been a Shrine to Mother Whoever is a completely different color from the other rooms. Maybe we'll have to call that room the Sistine Chapel. Five more rooms to go! A quick and dirty estimation of the square footage is about 1000 square feet of walls (probably in a very, very pale yellow) and about 800 square feet of ceilng (in a nice, bright white) to wash, rinse, scrape, prep and then paint.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Angels Don't Lie

The weather I hate is back. I guess it's back all over the country. Tomorrow (Friday) and most of the weekend it's supposed to get to 100 F. At least it isn't humid, and at least we can cool the house down to 60 F or so at night. I wish it would rain. Don't get me wrong, I like the sun and the light, it's just the heat I could do without.

The other day I was walking Arthur around our new neighborhood on a shopping trip and he started imitating the crows. It took him a few tries before I realized what he was doing. He's also learned the sign for bird, and I think today he wanted us to whistle, so he made the sign for bird followed by music.

The house move is going slowly. I think it really hasn't quite sunk in that we are home owners. We're also having to rethink our decorating style. Six years or so we agreed that we wanted a fairy tale cottage style. It was that or else sixties retro (which I think is a little sterile) or Elizabethan Palace (which Mark thinks is too exhausting).

Mark, who has more style than I do, noticed it first. Fairy tale cottage style doesn't work with the new house -- the ceilings, while high, are not vaulted, and there's no exposed rafters or wood banisters or ladders going up to lofts. It's a 1950's house that sort of but not quite uses golden rectangles in the floor layout.

Just to move something into the house I took the two gilt angels out of my writing loft and put them on the fireplace mantle in the new house. They don't go at all... OK, they go even less in the new house than they did in our current home (but they're gold and over the top, which is why I love them).

We'll have to negotiate a new style we both like. I think we might be able to go with an Arts And Crafts style or a Mission style. Art Deco is out. Mark has already vetoed hanging wattle fences as a border along the top of the walls as a way to add some texture to the house. He's also vetoed painting the walls as if the house were the Temple of Dendur, and he's vetoed placing a Japanese spirit gate outside the dinning area window to continue the line of portals that start with the front door and continue out through said window. I've taken down the offensive light fixtures in the bedrooms, but we haven't found something to replace them with.

I still think we should build a bunch of shoe-box-sized boxes, sink LEDs into them, paint the walls white, and then change the LED colors to whatever mood strikes us. We could even cycle through Christmas colors and bring out the gilt angels.

I don't know what we're going to do with our dog-sized Sphinx.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Joys of Home Ownership

We haven't moved yet, but we're getting a lot of junk mail from mortgage companies who would be very happy to charge us money to manage our mortgage.

The moving strategy goes something like this:
  • Clean the walls
  • Prep the walls
  • Pick a color to paint the walls that isn't dreary or too Romper Room; something that doesn't make our complexions look blotchy or ghastly and yet doesn't force us to live with an oddly colored trim
  • Paint the walls
  • Paint the walls with a second coat
  • Wonder how to pull up the carpet tacks underneath the space heaters
  • Attend my sister's wedding
  • Pack everything we own into boxes
  • Move
  • Wonder where the hell various items are for three or four weeks
  • Wish the kitchen had more damn counter space
  • Pull up the blackberries living in the yard
  • See how much money we have left for things like new window treatments to replace the hanging plastic slats in the living room and to get new bedroom (and kitchen) light fixtures so we can send the current ones back to Tragicistan
  • Install shelves that are too high for Arthur to reach
  • Raise the shelves that were too high for Arthur to reach when we started...
So far, what we've discovered is that Arthur prevents us from getting anything done unless he's napping, we wear him on our backs, or one of us watches Arthur while the other actually works on the house.

We have managed to clean the walls -- we think the sooty black marks on a wall we were blaming on an old space heater were actually caused by a previous occupant's shrine to some Indian Personage (when we saw the house the first time they had a very large portrait of a middle-aged woman surrounded by many candles and thurables).

The back yard lawn is bothersome. The last folks to mow the lawn didn't mow it so much as mush it down. We've aquired a fabulously antique push mower, but the grass is too tall to mow even at the mower's highest setting. I have managed to create a kind of path which runs from the back patio slab to a couch sized spot of dried yellow grass stubs. We have three rose bushes -- I like the blooms, but Mark doesn't like rose shrubs. We also have two trees, a nice, shady ornimental cherry tree, and a sad, dying, broom-handle of a maple tree. Along the patio slab is an herb garden -- the herbs are slightly withered except for the oregano (which is a thug) and the clover (which is overrunning the sage).

So far our neighbors are friendly. Our neighbor to the east is Dorothy Parker. I guess we'll have to get her books.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tequila vs. Rum

I've discovered rum mixed with orange juice.

In some ways I think I prefer tequila. Tequila can be integrative -- I feel when I've drunk enough tequila that I've somehow managed to tap into the mysteries of touch. Rum is just disorienting -- things feel disconnected.

My sense is that rum has knocked out my main integrative processes -- the sub-processes that allow me to walk and turn out lights seem to be working OK. But the way that they communicate with each other isn't working properly. I also feel really cold, but the thermometer is reading 69 F. This sort of thing hasn't happened to me with tequila or vodka.

Vodka usually knocks out my awareness of muscle tension; so does tequila. Rum doesn't appear to do this -- I can feel how my right neck connects to my right shoulder. I can feel how my nose feels when I touch it, but my nose has become localized. With tequila, my nose would become a minefield of tactile information; under Vodka my nose would just be numb. With rum I can feel my nose, but it feels a slightly disconnected from my face.

With tequila, and to some extent vodka, it feels easier to organize my thoughts. Rum seems to muddy them more. I suppose that I might have felt this way with my initial experiences with tequila and vodka, but that repeated doses have allowed me to learn how to think (or at least navigate cognitively) -- rum is a new experience, so I have no corresponding cognitive mapping. Rum may be an opportunity to explore alternative connections in my cognitive associative array.

Rum seems to have affected my balance... I don't recall feeling this dizzy before. Again... Awareness has been redefined upon a macro level -- awareness of how my hands move is limited to the start and end processes. Libido seems slightly elevated, but nothing compared to the reactions of tequila. Salacious phrases seem just as easy to mutter under rum as they do tequila, but they're more amusing under rum than anything else.

I suppose a video tape would reveal flaws in my motions that I am unable to detect at this moment. To me various test motions seem fluid (except for occasional typos in this text).

In summary, rum seems to have the same effects that I imagine nepenthe might have -- awareness has been knocked back from a micro level to a macro level, and there is a disascociation of bodily sensations. To the extent that I can perform automatic tasks, I can. It would be interesting to see if tequila and rum could be mixed -- would the hyper-sensitive tachtility associated with tequila overcome the apparent numbing effects of rum?

So, how about art, truth, beauty and freedom?

Right now Im' feeling like a biological process trapped by my perceptions. Is this delusion or a glimpse of how the processes really work? It all comes down to the question of is reality a revelation of hidden processes or an unfolding of known processes into unpredicted patterns? I have to day that with rum I feel like I've slowed down my cognitive processes enough to look at them.... And the only thing I can tell you right now is that they're dizzy.

I suppose Dionysus would be laughing at me right now. Here I am, a confirmed desciple of Apollo, and I can barely type because my fingers wish to follow other branches on the cognitive associateve tree of homophones and synonymes and my eyes keep bouncing between the goalposts of this window. Only practice typing and the shining light of Fowler's Modern English Usage keep this posting legible.

Leave this body for a moment. Do not shuffle off this mortal coil so much as jump above (or below or beside) it -- like a passenger in a Volkswagan sticking his head out of the sunwindow (or was it moon window?) My hands try to sign in a new language... they try to sign in a language my eyes do not know. My body wants to dance new forms, but they are divorced from meaning. Is this a metaphor for the world -- forms do not have meaning? Or is meaning packaged in everything and it is our task to organize the messages into something coherant? Do the gods and goddeess and dieties send us everything at once ? Do our senses act not as doorways, but as gateways -- blocking out the messages so that our feeble minds can deal with things in a linear fashion?

If truth depends on what you drink, I prefer the drink that gathers truth together. I prefer the cup of truth that bridges the world of vision, of disolution, with the world of the every day. I prefer a truth that doesn't make one so dizzy.

Another Rejection

The US Post Office finally deigned to deliver our mail today. I'm not sure what happened with our mail hold while we were on vacation -- they were supposed to deliver our mail last Wednesday, but they didn't get around to it until today.

Sitting in our mail box wa a large conglomorate of messages bound together with two rubber bands. Nestled in amoung the junk mail from the Baby Industrial Millitary Complex and various mortgage companies was a slim envelope from Polyphony. I've developed a writer's feel for letters. The ones that have a mass that's slightly more than the mass of the envelope are rejection letters. I imagine that an acceptance letter is hefty with a contract. The one from Polyphony was wan and thin.

Anyway, the negligent mass of the envelope spoke to my spinal cord and I knew that a rejection letter lay concealed within. I said 'damn' in front of Arthur several times. I shivied open the envelope and there it was, the dreaded form letter, "Thanks for playing," with a nice and encouraging hand-written note from Deborah Layne.

So, with this rejection it's pretty clear that I don't quite understand the market for my stories. I'd like to think that I'm simply sending things to the wrong markets; the alternative is that I'm outclassed, and my writing can't compete against other stories. The next step is to re-evaluate what I've written from a marketing point of view.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New York (the state)

Once again I've let the blog get behind and have a ton of things to write.

Last week we got back from a two week vacation in New York (the state). Our flight home got in about 9 PM and we got home about 1 AM. I don't know how Mark managed to get into work the next day.

Arthur was the best child on the plane both ways. On the way back there was a particularly insane child three rows ahead of us, so in contrast every other child on the plane was a veritable angel.

The Dwyers are doing well; we managed to spend time with all of Mark's brothers and sisters. We flew into Newark Airport and then rented a car so we could drive to Suffern, New York, where Mark's mother, Mary, and two sisters, Melora and Melissa live. Suffern was our home base. Everyone was quite excited to see Arthur, especially Kristina, Melissa's daughter. We got (somewhat) adjusted to the time zone in time to drive to Buffalo July First.

While we were in the air flying to Suffern, the bank was trying to reach us. They'd forgotten to have us sign some piece of paper and they wondered if we could pop in and sign it. We'd only been telling them for about two weeks that we were going on vacation. So there was an afternoon of frantic FAXing. Everything got straightened out, but at one point Mark was considering flying back to Oregon to sign everything.

July First we drove to the wedding celebration. Driving to Buffalo was somewhat entertaining as it was the July Fourth weekend and just a few days before many of the roads in New York (the state) had been flooded out by torrential rains. Arthur traveled well, and we had a nice stop on the Erie Canal where we saw some old stonework and various unattractive joggers.

Mark's oldest brother, Michael, lives in Buffalo with his family. Laura, one of Michael's daughters, had a large wedding celebration with tiki torches, inflatable totem poles, faux grass skirts, and lots and lots of games. The Dwyers took up most of a wing of a local Mariot. Mark's sister, Maria, and her family; and Mark's other brother, Matthew, and his family came up for the celebration. I'm afraid I only saw it on tape, but during the celebration the three brothers did an improvised tiki torch dance that was pretty funny (think Ooompa-loompas in grass skirts).

July 3rd, several of us went to Ontario to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It was obligatory that we ride the Maid of the Mists to get as close as possible to the falls. Arthur was great in the line to the boat, and then slept through the entire twenty minute aquatic adventure. The falls were pretty; it's amazing how much water flows over them.

While we were in Ontario, we got a chance to visit a butterfly conservatory. I got a some really good shots of butterflies up close. Even though we stayed much, much later than we had initially imagined we would, Arthur was a real trouper through it all.

July 4th, we had a nice breakfast and visit with Michael and Karen (and Christian and Patrick) before setting out to visit Amy and Sharon in Ithaca.

Ithaca and Cornell were interesting. It's always fun for me to see buildings that are older than my grandmother (a building in Oregon is old if it was built in 1910). Amy and Sharon fed us wonderful meals and took us on a great tour of Cornell. Amy, Mark and Arthur listened while Sharon and I went up into the bell tower near the Ash Chapel with a chime mistress to see the chimes played. She let Sharon and I sound the noon carillon.

We sped off from Cornell July 5th to visit Mark's sister, Megan, at the Joseph Campbell Center for Symbolic Studies in New Paltz. Megan, her husband, Morgan, and their two boys, Marly and Masio, were all at trapeze camp (which Megan teaches). Megan's class wrapped up and we visited their cabin before finishing our travels back at Mary's in Suffern. Since we were leaving after dark, we stopped back at the trapezes to see all the fireflies. There were lot, they were in the meadow and up in the trees -- it was the most fireflies I have ever seen in once place.

July 6th we hopped into the car again to visit with Lime Green Larry in the City. I actually asked Mark, "So, if people from Oregon are Oregonians, and people from California are Californians, people from New York are ..."

"New Yorkers."

"But," I continued, "people from New York City are..."

"From the city."

Anyway, we got into the city a little early, so we went on a photo outing of the city, and wound up at the Museum of Natural History. It was funny; I love their astronomy section, but it's all astronomy 101 stuff. So after about a half-hour looking at suns and planets and the spiral of time, we went into the dinosaur exhibits. The taxonomy is exhausting, but I always feel like I'm learning something new. Mark decided that Arthur needed to have all the dinosaur's feet pointed out to him. Judging from the photographs, I think he might have been looking at their teeth instead.

We met Larry at the Rockafeller Center for a trip to the Top of the Rock. The elevator ride up was really cool; the ceiling went clear so you could see the blue LEDs in the elevator shaft, and they had a timeline of TV playing as you ascended. The view was great. The sun was setting and the sky was very clear. Arthur liked the light fixtures.

Larry had to leave us to our own devices, so July 7th was Metropolitan Museum of Art day. Arthur handled it pretty well, but the MET really isn't very infant friendly beyond the Temple of Dendur. Luckily he fell asleep for most of it, and Mark continued to perform the lion's share of child care duties. I think the most interesting object this visit was one of Hatshepsut's sphinxes. The face was more or less in one piece, and the eyes still held a mesmerizing power.

After the Egyptian exhibits, Mark wanted to see the Rembrants -- various pieces that had once been united as an alter were reassembled for the first time in many years. I think of the Rembrant exhibit the most interesting piece was the top where God and some angels were posing with a sphere or two; the angels had these sort of petulant expressions on their faces.

I'm afraid most portraits don't speak to me jewelry, sculpture and architecture do. I'd say that the most fun painting we saw was one by William Blake that was the parable of the Virgins with the Oil: the foolish virgins lamenting was so over the top it was great. There was also an interesting picture of King David and another one of a kind of flower angel emerging from the mouth of a serpent.

Outside of the museum, on a park and bubble break for Arthur, we saw Cleopatria's Needle (where I met a new best friend who insisted that I try absolutely everything in my and my camera's power to photograph it).

On July 9 we (Mark, myself, Arthur, Mary, Melora, Veronica, Melissa and Kristina) went to the Bronx Zoo. We saw the gorillas, giraffes, African dogs, various rodents, buffalo, wallabies, tortoises, goats, chickens, geese, peacocks, alligators, and prarie dogs. Probably the most funny event was when Arthur, who had been exposed to a battery-powered dancing rodent that sang "Girl, You Really Got Me Now", signed to us (by reaching out and making a pinching motion) that he wanted us to turn on the wallabies -- presumably so they would start gyrating and singing old seventies rock songs.

What I found fascinating was the gorilla exhibit. It was pretty slow for a while, but then a mother gorilla started to express her milk, lick it off of her hand, and then regurgitate it. It looked like she had eaten some grass or other plant material as well. She would repeat this process -- expressing, licking, regurgitating -- and I'm guessing that she was working on creating a kind of semi-digested paste for her infant. What was intriguing was that she would stand on her legs and then sort of bend over like she was one of those glass drinking birds to regurgitate. Her legs seemed engineered to accommodate her large belly as she swiveled at the hip. Then she'd essentially barf up into her hand while the homo sapiens on the other side of the glass said things like eeuw! They eeuws were louder when she licked it all up again. I couldn't help thinking about all the pagan imagery of the Sacred Mother's milk and in my mind I could hear my friend Gra saying, "Ha! Where is your Goddess Now?"

July 10th we (Mark, Arthur, Mary, Melora and myself) visited a lake with Megan and her boys. Arthur really liked the lake and wanted to play in the water for a really long time. It's a good thing he seems to like cold water because that's what he'll get when we visit the Oregon coast. This was our last day in New York (the state), and we had racked up about 1500 miles in travelling.

July 11th was the day we journeyed back to Oregon. It was a long day, but fairly easy -- we got back to Eugene around 1 AM.

Now we're back and we own a house. We're in the throes of repainting and we'll have to pack up everything we own in about three weeks -- stay tuned.