Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"I'll be back"

This past Tuesday, I thought The Rat Diaries had come to a close. Apparently, however, there was an addendum.

The evidence: a fat, brown rat in a steel trap on my balcony.

As you may know, just a couple of days ago, I believed my two months of vermin torment ended with the capture of a rat in the cabinet under my kitchen sink. However, hidden under the waves of relief I felt that marvelous afternoon were a few inklings of doubt.
Primary inkling: The initial time I met The Rat -- or, more accurately, The Rat's rear end -- he was quite large with a thick, brown tail. The rat caught Tuesday was smallish and gray. (Yes, that's a big freaking inkling but hope can cause delusions, OK?!?)
If you recall from "The Rat Diaries," I surmised that The Rat had recognized the trap under my sink for what it was and wisely refused to go in.  ("That's right: The Rat KNEW BETTER than to enter the trap, choosing to attempt to get the food from the outside, failing, and retreating.") Subsequently, however, a rat was caught in the trap.
My conclusion: The rat caught Tuesday was a scout, sent into the trap by The Rat to do recognizance.
Rat Cyberdine Model 101 remained at large.
The latest incident in the saga began early Thursday morning when I heard the dreaded rustling behind the wall in the kitchen. There was no visible evidence of The Rat's presence but, with utter dejection, I reinstalled the rat barricade and requested that the trap be returned under my sink. This time, it wasn't long at all before there were results. Less than a day, actually.
Upon my return home from an overtime shift, I heard the rustling -- but it wasn't the furtive sounds of a creature at work or at play. It was the disgruntled sound of a creature attempting to escape from a steel cage.
Success again, but was it really The Rat?
The varmint caged under my sink was large. It was fat. It was brown, with an exceedingly long, thick, brown tail. (UGH)
Yes, I believe it was, in fact, The Rat. No delusions.

Following the now-ritual high-pitched screaming elicited by the sight of the creature's scurries came another realization, however: Yes, The Rat was in custody, but the maintenance men wouldn't be available to take him away for another seven hours.

No. This would NOT work. Every noise from The Rat, even caged, caused my nervous system to overload -- as well as involuntary and unfortunate squeaking noises from me.

Either The Rat had to go or I did.

Enter Frank, a dear friend from work. Upon my call, Frank charged in on his magnificent steed (or, more accurately, a 20-plus-year-old Chevy truck). He removed Rat-In-Cage from my kitchen and placed it on my balcony, out of my earshot and my breathing space until maintenance arrived on scene.

One final serendipitous note before I (God willing) close the book on The Rat Diaries: The heroic Frank's birthday? August 29th.

Judgment Day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


When I voted last week, there were no tanks or Molotov cocktail-flinging protesters blocking my way.

When I walked across the street yesterday, no man beat me for not wearing what someone else’s religion thinks I should wear.

When I got up today, I was not forced to go perform a job I hate because that’s what my government told me I had to do for the good of the state.

When I go to sleep tonight, I will have no fear of being rousted from my bed by a secret agency and held against my will.

I can make my life what I want it to be because of the sacrifices of countless others.

From a very grateful American, Happy Veterans Day.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Final Chapter

This, hopefully, is the final entry in The Rat Diaries.

Early this afternoon, The Rat -– Rat Cyberdine Model 101 – met his hydraulic press, his molten steel.

Nearly two months of unease and rat barricade negotiating at last is at an end.

The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it for the first time with a sense of hope.

The Rat Diaries

OK, so “The Rat Diaries” is carrying it a bit far, but the vermin saga with which I’m dealing seems to have taken on a life of its own.

We first met The Rat nearly two months ago (“Screaming Echoes of a Girly-Girl”) and re-encountered him three weeks later (“Targeted for Termination”). The Rat returned yet again in the wee hours of Tuesday morning –- and yet again eluded capture.

There has been a baited rat trap -– one of the spring-loaded, catch-’em-alive metal cages -- underneath my kitchen sink since Oct. 15th. However, as has been touched on before, this is no ordinary rat.

The latest episode began as the last: the rustling sounds under the sink (that’s The Rat) followed by the heart-racing adrenaline rush on the couch (that’s me). I heard the thumping, the scratching, the furtively disgusting movement for just a few minutes – then nothing.

Screwing up my courage, I moved the rat barricade (yes, it’s been in place this whole time; makes washing dishes akin to negotiating an obstacle course) and threw open the doors. Underneath the sink, the trap remained set, but the food inside had been moved from one side to the other and flipped over.

That’s right: The Rat KNEW BETTER than to enter the trap, choosing to attempt to get the food from the outside, failing, and retreating.

Do you read my point here?


It’s now nearing 5 a.m., and the adrenaline hasn’t quite dissipated. Sleep coming soon? Doubtful.

A cognizant rat. And all this time I’ve been worrying about the machines becoming sentient. 

Friday, November 5, 2010


Fun Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Simply Stacie and My Wee View. The goal of this hop is to get new Google Friend Connect Followers for your blog and be introduced to new blogs to follow! 

When visiting a blog you like, make sure you leave a comment to let them know who you are and that you are now following.

If you would like to have the blog hop added to your page, simply grab the code from the linky tool, and be sure and mention that Simply Stacie and My Wee View are the host blogs.

(Special thanks to @SoapBoxinMyMind)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


    The hills received the hollows that twisted through them, snaked Backwoods2up their ridges. They embraced the former trees clinging to the hillsides, broken or uprooted and blind to the sky. Brier and brush wrapped the hills, and the hills nuzzled back.
    Men, unbidden, came and believed they conquered the hills but the hills, disinclined,  changed. No man outlasts the hills.
    Treen. That's all. Treen she was. She hadn't bent to say more in a coon's age. No call to start now.
     'Sides, nary a one that came to her cared to know her afore name. Nary a one could summon even Treen after.
    The house deep in Gwrach Gorge had been home to her kin since - always, it seemed to folk. No one recalled who built it, likely not even Treen, though Lord knows she wouldn't tell if she knew. For all its weatherin', a warm and cheerful place. Splashes of color from the shelf-lined walls stocked with jars and ewers. Old wooden chairs worn shiny with time and use and molded to fit a body. The cackle of  the black chickens out back lilting along the air.
    She hadn't always dwelt in the house - course not, that was impossible, folk knew. Just seemed that no one alive these days could remember before Treen.
    Herb Woman the kinder called her. Some, with a glance back for hidden, spoke of the Backwoods Witch. A few, braver or more foolish, inched even closer to a greater lie or the greater truth.
    These folk, maybe they had heard the keening.
    In the valley, the day began when he left. She arose. Said the mirror: bruised enough to hurt but not enough to be seen.
    Shame masked, pride saved, and again she cried – brutal, ripping, noiseless. At last, the cloaked ache deep found form and grew, gained power and called out - still unseen but no longer unheard.
    From the belly of the hills came an answer, and a beckoning.
    Pain helped the needy find the way. It spirited them down the old wagon trail, up the ridges, through the thickets, into the gorge.
 Backwoods1     Misery doesn't need directions.
    Lulled by the contented sounds of the black chickens, she looked around the bright room, spying ... blackberry and chicory roots, cherry bark, willow leaves, perhaps wild ginger?
    "Are you comin' to me, child?" said Treen. "Just ailin' a bit and hankerin' for help, or are you comin' to me?"
    She nodded, slowly.
    "I'll suss out the truth, child, don't be callin' on me with no nasty selfish lie."
    The old eyes missed nothing. Owl eyes, sighting telltale signs of untruths or withholding. What was glimpsed remained unspoken.
    At last: "The pain will go, child. You don't get to decide. Treen don't decide. But it will go."
    A death wail heard once, the soul flinches, chills. Twice, it's a truth unclothed, lay bare, and irrevocable. The third cry of the banshee, no living being recollects.
    On the ancient table, worn to be almost concave, stone and glass, roots and leaves, mortar and pestle, and thick, black ... water?
    "Is a way back, child, after the first. Even the second can keep. But, a tríu? The stone is thrown."
    She nodded. She didn’t look away. Treen worked.
    An ashen
moon lighted upon the earth through skittering clouds. Mists frolicked about gullies and trickling water. But they just were, they didn't do.
    The night's other whiteness, most unnatural but more nature than else, searched. The work of the soul-cry: It came when called ... and called when it came.
    He started from deep asleep, winced, then laughed. Tweren't nothin' what he heard. She jumped, chilled, but no smile followed. She tucked the bedcovers higher under her chin and looked out the pane into the darkness.
    Despite the warmth of the sun, the fire in Gwrach Gorge blazed with purpose, consuming the air and all Treen fed it. The black chickens took heed, scattered, kept their distance.
    The trees stood in silent vigil, the wind held its breath, but she didn't come back into the hills, with bawls of regret, with pleas for release.
    Old bones groaned as Treen bent back toward the fire.
    In the valley, he jolted awake again, but no laughter cracked the air this night. Something ... there was something. The shrill cry of a night bird. A haunting from an old dream. But the truth was a lie, he reckoned. He looked toward her.
    The coldness of the wail's echo burned in the silence.
    Treen worked and waited and thought. Child, this is the last time the choice be yours. Mind it well, for what fate will nigh decide, no human being can divine.
    "Truth be told, though," Treen said to the black chickens, "sufferin' don't have many druthers."
    Disquiet stole down from the headlands and into the
valley. Folk made for home, molested by their own familiar shadows now turned sharp and poorly fitting. A presence roused under the peculiar hush that held the night.
    She sat, content, tearless, and watched the hills turn black with the setting of the sun.
    The push of the night woke him, and her, when the air in the room drew too close for slumber. He jerked from the bed to pace, recoiling from the windows, talking aloud to himself and to no one. It was coming, he knew, but what he knew he couldn’t conjure.
    The pause of the wind was a full-mouthed silence.
    The whiteness, unstoppable, cleaved the darkness outside, and the specter birthed as a body without flesh, hollow eyes dead but all-seeing. The face, the face of the banshee, split, and a keening rent the night - a tríu.
    White turned black, and the bloom of a smile touched her face as she closed her eBackwoods4yes in welcome.
    A shroud seemed to cover her thoughts, remembrances, when she arose the d
ay after the funeral. Days, perhaps weeks gone missing - though oddly unmissed. Except for the rays of the sun, all was vagueness.
    So many people had she seen, so many faces unknown. Such a shock, they had said. Your loss so great, they had said.
    The pain will go, child, they had said.
    The power of the hills lies in how they keep their secrets. No man outlasts the hills.
    (I wrote this short story for three reasons: 1. To see if I could; 2. Because I'm a fan of spooky; and 3. Because of a recent family drama that I had a very difficult time reconciling in my head. Writing helped.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Adams on Us

(Once again, stolen directly from @LateFines, who reblogged it from afternoonsnoozebutton on Tumblr.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Targeted for Termination

The Rat is back.

Three weeks ago I recounted the scintillating tale of my visit from The Rat (Screaming Echoes of a Girly-Girl). Three weeks to the day, at nearly the same hour, The Rat returned.

For the record, I took it pretty well. Granted, I didn’t actually see any of its scurrying parts this time, just evidence: the gnawed hole in the back of the cabinet where the pipe to the kitchen sink runs back into the wall, the crumbled bits of the wall underneath said hole, and food wrappers pulled out of the trashcan. Again, the sounds were what alerted me: the thumping, the scraping, the tik-tik-tik-tik of its nasty little rat feet running around the floor of the cabinet.


Thanks to my REPK (Rat Emergency Preparedness Kit) I was ready this time: 1) boots on; 2) defensive weapon (long-handled Swiffer Sweeper) in hand; 3) scaled-down version of rat blockade intact; and 4) flashlight. I surveyed the scene and improvised until morning proper came and I was able to get assistance - two cups cut from a tinfoil cupcake pan jammed into and filling the gnawed hole, and Igloo cooler wedged against the cabinet doors and braced by a full jug of spring water.

During my call to the front office, I learned more about The Rat. After it was denied entry at my abode, it visited at least four other units – and gnawed through the thick rubber hoses connected to three of their dishwashers. Numerous traps have been set throughout the complex, but The Rat continues to elude capture. Maintenance did snare it once, but The Rat escaped.

This seemingly is no ordinary rat. It’s Rat Cyberdine Model 101.

Rat 101 can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever.

For now, the Sarah Connor of this story is armed with a rat trap under her sink. It is baited with a peanut butter-covered half-biscuit. There is also assistance from Reese - in the form of half a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup added as rat bait.

Weapons of war.

“What did he just say?”
“He said there’s a storm coming in.”
“I know.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hello, neighbor

One (very early) morning, when I was finding sleep hard to hold onto, I was channel surfing and happened upon "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."

I had to stop. Mr. Rogers, much like the characters of "Sesame Street," was as integral a part of my childhood as the smell of coffee in the morning and the nighttime sounds of gurgling water and the frogs in the creek near my house.

I had the great fortune of making my arrival at about the same time "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street" first began airing. Mr. Rogers hit the airwaves on February 19, 1968, and Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Kermit, Grover and Co. entered the world on November 10, 1969 - five days before I turned 2. Then just a couple years later, "The Electric Company" flipped the switch. How lucky was I?

To this day I appreciate the generous spirit that was Fred Rogers. His lessons of kindness, acceptance and self-worth still resonate - and are still so very needed. He addressed difficult topics, like being angry and divorce and war, with no condescension toward his young viewers. He delighted in showing us the everyday wonders of the world, but his joy shone through when he was using his imagination and taking wide-eyed children along for the trolley ride.

How marvelous was it for a child to watch an adult pretend, to make believe?

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was a gift to me and to my sister, who is almost exactly one year older than I. And Mr. Rogers was very special to us, as I'm sure he was to many people.

My sister called me when she learned of Fred Rogers’ passing. I was driving at the time and had to pull over. We shared a cry over the phone, a heartfelt grief over the loss of a man we had never met but who made the world a better place in his time here.

"You are special. You are the only person exactly like you." What a sublime message for kids - and for grown-ups, too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pardon my tartle


The words of a living language are like creatures: they are alive. Each word has a physical character, a look and a personality, an ancestry, an expectation of life and death, a hope of posterity.

         -Morris Bishop, “Good Usage, Bad Usage, and Usage”

I discovered a wonderful book, “They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases,” a few years back. In it, the author, Howard Rheingold, talks about the theory of “linguistic relativity,” which at its most bare bones says that the respective languages of cultures shape the way each people views the world.

“The world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds – and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances.”

And because each does this differently, we’re presented with culture-centric words/concepts that don’t translate easily. Some of these terms have gained entry into our vocabulary – Zeitgeist, tao and mantra, for example. For the betterment of our shrinking world, and to have a little fun, I think we should try to add a few more:

ho’oponopono (HO-OH-poh-no-poh-no) [Hawaiian], n., a social gathering and healing process that combines the functions of a religious ceremony, group therapy, family counseling session, town hall meeting, and small claims court. Note: Under this concept, EVERYBODY agrees to stay in the same room until some resolution is reached. This is how we should run Congress.

uffda (OOF-DAH) [Swedish], excl., a sympathetic exclamation when someone else experiences pain, a combination of “Ouch for you” and “Oh, I’m sorry you hurt yourself.”

suilk (SWILLK) [Scottish], v., to swallow, gulp, suck with a slobbering noise. To the Scottish people, the act of swallowing food with an abnormal amount of noise is considered rude enough to merit a verb of its own. Note: If I didn’t already have the family background to prove I’m part Scottish, this would do it.

fisselig (rhymes with thistle fish) [German], adj., conveys a temporary state of being flustered to the point of incompetence as the direct result of another person’s nagging. Note: If said overbearing nagger asks what’s wrong, reply “I’m fisseliged.” That could be odd enough scare him or her away.

tartle [Scottish], v., to hesitate in recognizing a person or thing but recover quickly enough, remember the name and avoid terminal embarrassment.

sanza (SON-zah, rhymes with Honda) [Zande, New Guinea], n., a circumlocutory form of speech that employs words and gestures to create hidden malicious meanings to apparently polite, innocuous speech. Note: I would swear on a stack of Bibles that I know no one who’s from New Guinea, but I definitely know some women who have perfected this speaking ability.

attaccabottoni (rhymes with a lot of baloney) [Italian], n., a doleful bore who buttonholes people and tells sad, pointless tales. Note: Attaccabottoni is my last entry here lest I become one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

High-tech hicks

My sister and I were talking while watching various relatives play cornhole* during the recent Hensley family reunion at the dinner-on-the-ground** site of Catron's*** Chapel Baptist Church in Kermit,**** Va. My sister, Johnita, recounted a conversation with her 16-year-old daughter Megan (my beloved niece):

Johnita: Christina said her son Hunter has the ability to hypnotize chickens.
Megan: Where'd you hear that?
Johnita: Aunt Virgie told Dad up at the molasses-making.
Megan: God we're hicks.

That bold truth bothered me when I was Megan's age, and it's likely that I wouldn't have uttered it aloud at 16.

Both sides of my family, Hensley and Blessing, settled in this country about 200 or so years ago and they've been in the Southwest Virginia-Northeast Tennessee area since before the Civil War. (My mom still has the document my however-many-greats Grandfather Blessing signed re-pledging his allegiance to the United States of America after the war ended. It's cool.)

We are far closer to the Clampetts than to the Southerners portrayed in "Gone With the Wind" - if either of those works of fiction ever truly bore resemblance to real people. Both sets of grandparents still had functional outhouses during my lifetime, farming was a way of living, and Grandma kept chickens until the day she died.

By no means am I saying that when I was Megan's age I was embarrassed by my country family. Far from it. I simply longed to be sophisticated, much like the beautiful women I admired in all those classic black-and-white movies.

Ever seen the TV series "Green Acres?" I identified with Lisa. Still do somewhat, to be honest. "New York is where I'd rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay ..."

It warms my soul that my darling niece embraces our family, even though it would be more accurate to say we are "high-tech hicks."

Every 21st-century innovation exists here, and at this point a great many of my relatives probably would have a very difficult time minus their cell phones, 200 channels, high-speed Internet and the like. Cousin's pimped-out pickup truck sporting a gun rack includes Sirius Satellite Radio, TomTom and cell phone integration. You get the picture.

God we're hicks.

Yes, sweetie, we are. Now would you PLEASE put down your iPod Touch and cell for just FIVE minutes?

* Cornhole is a game in which approximately 5-inch-square, cloth bags of corn are tossed toward an angled wooden target, about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, with a hole about three-fourths of the way to the top. Similar to horseshoes, but even more countrified if that's possible.
** Dinner on the ground is what most Baptists (and likely many other non-Catholic and non-Episcopalian groups but for sure Baptists) call the semiannual after-Sunday-church-take-lots-of-homemade-food-outside-and-eat-until-you-can't-move ritual. Prayerful potlucks, as it were.
*** Pronounced "Catern's."
**** That's right: Kermit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Screaming echoes of a girly-girl

When I was quite young, I was very much a girly-girl. For years, I refused to wear anything but dresses and skirts – except for a very cute red top and blue jeans combo number that I recall from first grade – and I always wanted my hair to be JUST SO. Pink and red were my favorite colors, I very much wanted a mahogany four-poster bed with frills as well as a big, white furry cat to lie upon it, and I hated it when my family called my Andie instead of Andrea.

I, now the independent, blue-jeans wearing, sports-minded woman, grew out of it.

Though apparently I didn’t get over it.

Scurrying creatures turn me into a stereotype, an anachronism. The evidence?  High-pitched screams of an unexpected scale. Spasmodic running-in-place. Flailing of arms. Leaping and bounding of an unprecedented degree for someone of limited athletic prowess. More shrieking.

It’s not pretty.

Fortunately for my pride, there seldom are witnesses when these episodes of involuntary theatrics occur. My parents, of course, have enjoyed front-row seats over the years (two fairly recent examples: when the salamander got in their house during a remodel and the day I was ambushed by the big gray/green lizard near the beautiful roses I was admiring).

Solo, I have crossed paths with more spiders than I can count, a tiny mouse in the bathtub, a bat between the screen door and the sliding glass door to my balcony … and, as of very early Thursday morning, a rat in my kitchen.

A rat in my kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.

I heard this noise, this rustling noise (ugh) that awoke me on the couch, where I had fallen asleep instead of getting up and going to bed. Sitting up, I heard it (ugh) again.

Insert feeling of dread here.

I slowly stood up and walked toward the kitchen (rustle, rustle – ugh). I poked my head around the corner and saw nothing despite the glow from the secondary light in the room. I walked in, flipped on another light, turned around – and UGH.

Insert image of 1950s-era, Leave-it-to-Beaver mother standing atop her kitchen table screaming here.

I didn’t ACTUALLY see ALL of the rat (ugh). I live in a very old building, with lots of nooks and crannies, and I saw only its thick, brown (ugh) tail as it scurried (ugh) back through the tiny opening between the dishwasher and the cabinets under the sink. Back into, I presume, hope and pray, the wall separating me from my neighbor.

That tail (ugh) was enough, however. Plenty to send me into conniptions – and, when some sanity returned, running for the tallest pair of boots I own.

I went to sleep sometime after 7 this morning, after throwing away anything that was anywhere near the kitchen floor and couldn’t be bleached. And fashioning a makeshift blockade of trash bags and dishtowels, doused with bleach, that remains entrenched in the tiny opening between the dishwasher and the cabinets under the sink. And creating a bleach moat 10 inches wide between where the kitchen floor ends and the carpeted area begins.

A rat in my kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.

Shrieking sure seems loud at 4:30 in the morning.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reality Bites

I despise “reality shows.” There, I said it.

If that makes me “unAmerican” then so be it.

I harbor no personal grudge against Simon Cowell or Jeff Probst, though I must admit I hold them – if only slightly – responsible for the preponderance of crappyness that permeates those beautiful HD flat-screen TVs these days.

The idea of keeping up with the Kardashians is nauseating.

Kate Gosselin is about as entertaining – and relevant - as watching crabgrass grow.

I would be afraid to let the girls next door anywhere near my house.

I think America has talent but it’s not onstage hanging with Mariah Carey’s husband.

Dancing is lovely, but it’d have to be more fun to dance myself than it is to watch C-list celebrities hoof it.

There’s a reason those Bachelors and Bachelorettes are bachelors and bachelorettes.

The only even pseudo-interesting Situation on the Jersey Shore is the people in that group seem to be covered with some shiny/sticky substance most of the time.

And the “Real” Housewives all seem to have fake boobs and fake tans and fake attitudes and fake lives.

A confession: I used to watch Deadliest Catch. Those men are some of the bravest, craziest and unique individuals out there, but the show and those on it seem to have turned into a caricature of themselves – which means I’m out.

A qualifier: MythBusters is not a “reality show.” IT IS REAL.

And it’s in everyone’s best interest that I don’t get started on court shows - Judy, Joe, Alex, Hatchett, et al. 

I’d hate to get sued and wind up on a trashy TV show.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet and just as deadly

As a longtime sports staffer at a regional newspaper, I’ve grown accustomed to complaints.

Why didn’t we cover the game of (insert name of preferred local high school team) on Friday night? Why wasn’t the name of my son (or daughter) mentioned in the story? He (or she) is just as good as (fill in the blank)!

Cries of favoritism and bias, antipathy and partiality.

The advent of e-mail has made it much worse  —  on countless levels.

Before e-mail became commonplace, a person with a complaint had to take the time to sit down, think (well, somewhat) and write an actual letter, then go to the effort of finding a stamp and mailing the letter. Or the person with a complaint had to pick up the phone and prepare (or brace) for an actual conversation with a live person with the ability to respond.

Not so with e-mail.

E-mail is instant rudeness, instant thoughtlessness, instant crassness.

Quite often, the person harboring a complaint is angry or feeling unjustly treated, both emotions that lend themselves to hasty, brash and —  at least occasionally,  I hope —  promptly regretted e-mails.

From the book “Woe Is I,” chapter "E-mail Intuition," heading “A Civil Tongue”
E-mail can turn the nicest person into a tactless lout. It’s the nature of the medium. Unlike a phone call or an in-the-flesh conversation, an electronic message lacks the vocal nuances, the give-and-take, the body English that do so much to soften the sharp edges of a poorly chosen word. ...
All in all, it’s easier to inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings in an e-mail than in a letter, a phone call, or a face-to-face talk. ...
Next time you log on and enter the ozone, don’t check your manners at the portal.

Of course, I'm nowhere near certain that manners and sports fans can coexist that well, but it's been more than 17 years and I haven't abandoned hope.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Expressing Geekhood

i am a geek

Took the Geek Test and learned that I'm just shy of Total Geek at 23.43173 percent. Total geekhood occurs at 25 percent.

I'll take it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New notebook, fresh start

 The age of the computer. The digital age. Call it what you will,  there’s one thing that owning a wonderfully time- and attention-sucking laptop hasn’t changed for me.Stationery

My stationery fetish.

I haven’t done the back-to-school thing in more years than I care to count, but the annual rollout of fresh, unadulterated notebooks, binders, Post-It Notes, pens, highlighters, pencils and erasers turns my head to a degree that’s akin to a sighting of Hugh Jackman without a shirt.

You don’t know me, but that’s really saying something.

I glory in shelves filled with daybooks and address books, crisp stationery (despite having handwritten but a single letter in the past nine months), calendars and journals. I revel in colorful rows of paper clips, thumbtacks and rubber bands.

Like most people, I primarily use office supplies at, appropriately, the office.

That’s a problem. Procurers of said office supplies have no sense of taste or whimsy – oh, OK, a limited budget. Plain yellow Post-Its? Boring, blue, dime-a-dozen ballpoint pens?

Inconceivable! Journals

So I’m a BYOOS (bring your own office supplies) kind of woman - replacing the office Post-its with my multicolored, variously-shaped, lined, super-sticky Post-Its, the boring ballpoints with multicolored felt pens (though red steadfastly remains my favorite). A special touch? Multicolored Sharpie highlighters of different widths to mark off accomplishments. (I’m also big on list-making).

But don’t worry – I bring home the plain yellow Post-its to use as spoon rests.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I shook it like an Etch-A-Sketch, why won’t it go away?

I'm still quite the novice when it comes to blogging, meaning I have to try new-to-me things, screw up, try again, usually screw up again, ad nauseum, until I discover what I want – which is also not necessarily apparent to me right away.

I bring this up to explain the presence of the picture below. It doesn’t represent anything other than I don’t really know what I’m doing and am working to figure it out.

It’s still a pretty design, though.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The sports world is creative with its idioms, resulting in some mental aching on the part of language enthusiasts. That’s not to say it’s not fun or interesting.

In baseball, a can of corn is a high, easy-to-catch flyball or pop-up. Hard cheese is another term for a fastball.

In football, a slobberknocker is an especially hard hit on a tackle — also known as bringing the wood. The fumblerooski is a play on which the quarterback pretends to fumble and a teammate picks up the ball.

Fertile imaginations had a hand in these.

During the opening weekend of college football season, I heard both a new phrase and an old one, neither of which I really like. The new one was “a case of the quicks,” simply meaning the player was fast. It made its point but seemed unnecessary, and I hope it passes away quietly and immediately. The old one was “the worm has turned,” which is used often in the sports world but also is commonly heard in everyday language. I’ve just never really cared for it — and it has been around a very long time.

Among its word of the day entries, of “the worm has turned” the site says:
It’s one of many derived forms of an old proverb, the base of which is either tread on a worm and it will turn or even a worm will turn. It means “even the most humble will strike back if abused enough.”
The proverb is first recorded in John Heywood’s 1546 collection of proverbs in the form: “Tread a woorme on the tayle and it must turne agayne.” Shakespeare uses it, of course: “The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on” (Henry VI, part III). It has remained common in all sorts of literature: “He’s a very meek type. Still, the worm will turn, or so they say.” (Agatha Christie, The Mirror Crack’d).
The proverb’s first American attestation is in 1703, and there are a number of 18th century American examples, showing that it has been popular for some time.

I found another item about the phrase, one that's intriguing, but questionable.

The site says:
When Shakespeare used that simple phrase, “The worm has turned,” he knew his audience would understand its meaning and origin. A widely used expression even today ... but few who use it know why.
“Worm” is a common term for “dragon.” In fairy tale terms, the flying dragon spewing fire would ravage fields and villages. To be in the dragon’s path resulted in inescapable destruction. What a relief if it changed directions.

Though the segue from a mythical fiery, flying beast to a worm is suspect, another prevalent sports colloquialism also reportedly arose from a winged creature: the jynx.

Baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson was among the first to use this word in print when he wrote in his "Pitching in a Pinch" (1912): “A jinx is something which brings bad luck to a ballplayer.” Big Six probably didn’t know that the word may owe its life to a bird called the jynx, which was used to cast charms and spells. The jynx, known in America as the wrynecked woodpecker or wryneck, takes its name from the Greek jynx for the bird. In the Middle Ages this rara avis, with its grotesque, twisted neck, its odd breeding and feeding habits, its harsh, strident cries during migration and its near silence the rest of the time, was thought to have occult powers. As jynx feathers were used to make love potions and black magic charms, the bird’s name itself came to mean a charm or spell, especially a black magic spell, cast on a selected victim. It’s easy to see how the slang term jinx arose from jynx, but the long flight of the jynx from medieval times to the printed page of 1912 is not easily explained.

Medieval birds tied to superstitious baseball players. Marvelous.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have a grammarian ax to grind.

(Those who don't have an abnormal obsession with words and syntax should feel free to stop reading now.)

I have many pet peeves: people who drive for miles in the passing/turning lane without ever actually passing or turning, whistling in the workplace, telemarketers.

My biggest pet peeve, however, involves the incorrect use of pronouns after a preposition.

(Seriously, it's OK to stop reading.)

I happened across the prepositional phrase "between he and I" in a quote a few weeks ago during a night on the job.

I shuddered. Then I fumed.

It's wrong, as anyone who passed the second grade should know. It's also either self-important, as though the speaker feels he or she is above using the lowly words "him" and "me," or a sign of an inferiority complex, as if the speaker is concerned that others will think he or she is ignorant.

And such flagrantly incorrect grammar is ubiquitous in television and movies, only reinforcing its use.

To me, it's fingernails scraped across a chalkboard.

From the book "Woe Is I," Chapter 1 "Therapy for Pronoun Anxiety:"
I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the seeds of the I-versus-me problem are planted in early childhood. We're admonished to say, "I want a cookie," not "Me want a cookie." We begin to feel subconsciously that "I" is somehow more genteel than "me," even in cases where "me" is the right choice - for instance, after a preposition. Trying too hard to be right, we end up being wrong. Hypercorrectness rears its ugly head!

The book continues:
I can hear a chorus of voices shouting, Wait a minute! Doesn't Shakespeare use "I" after a preposition in "The Merchant of Venice?" Antonio tells Bassanio, "All debts are clear'd between you and I, if I might but see you at my death." That's true. But then, we're not Shakespeare.

Indeed we are not.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Some of the words Glenn Beck uses and the ideas he espouses are admirable ones. He speaks of goodness, of righteousness. He speaks of personal freedoms and of optimism. Unable to keep his patriotic emotions from getting the better of him, he speaks of love of country. 

So why do I feel that when the cameras turn off, he morphs into a modern-day Lonesome Rhodes? 

If you haven't seen "A Face in the Crowd, " a 1957 movie starring Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, you can't get the reference. Griffith plays Rhodes, a hobo-turned-cult personality who rises from utter irrelevance to become a power in the country, culturally and politically. 

When he's on-air, he's affable, a self-effacing pitchman with common-man ideals. 

But when the cameras stop rolling, he's a power-mad con artist with no respect for the people who hang on his every word and buy whatever he tells them to buy: products and ideas and people. 

"I'm not just an entertainer. I'm an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force ... a force!" 

"This whole country's just like my flock of sheep! ... Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers -- everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. ... They're mine! I own 'em! They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. ... You just wait and see. I'm gonna be the power behind the president ..."
When I consider other people, it is in my nature to eschew cynicism. I look for, and expect to find, the good in human beings and in their intentions. I believe that the benefit of the doubt is the crux of a workable society.
So why do I harbor such suspicions about Beck? Why the perceived ulterior motives of a truly dangerous bent? Why can't I shake the feeling that, deep down, he's a snake-oil salesman?
Like Lonesome Rhodes, Beck is a pitchman, but being paid to shill for a product is hardly new or nefarious. He's unbendingly fiscally conservative, which I respect even if I don't necessarily agree with. He's a recovering alcoholic, but I admire those who confront their demons and work every day to keep them at bay.
True, Beck has offered plenty of bizarre fodder to raise suspicions: likening Al Gore to Hitler (in a much less genocidal way, of course), comparing stem cell research to eugenics, pondering on-air whether he could kill Michael Moore or maybe hire a hitman to do it instead ...

The chalkboard scribble is also far from comforting.

But, honestly, such drivel isn't what makes me want to pull back the curtain to get a real look at the Wizard; at least in those odd statements, I felt Beck was being truthful with the American public about his feelings and beliefs.
I'm much more fearful of his seemingly innocuous statements.

I, too, love freedom. I, too, have great pride in and hopes for my country. I, too, am grateful for the many and continuing sacrifices being made on our behalf by our servicemen and servicewomen.

But unlike Beck, I know I don't have a stash of snake oil hidden in my closet.

Donald Duck meets Glenn Beck 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I recently watched the movie "Love Happens," with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart (ehh film, though I do think Eckhart is a terribly underrated or, at least, often overlooked actor. But I digress). One quirky facet of the Aniston character was that she enjoyed finding obscure words and writing them on walls behind paintings in a hotel.

Now, I've never actually defaced hotel walls with words like "quidnunc," but I do recognize the impulse to discover and share such vocabulary. I am an admirer of esoteric terms (I've been known to read medical dictionaries for fun, which also feeds into another fascination of mine: Level 4 viruses. But, again, I digress). Mostly, however, I am a connoisseur of rarely-used and somewhat peculiar words that, in a more colorful world, would be of a more commonplace usage.

I suppose that's not going to happen unless quite talented screenwriters start supplying us with our daily conversations. Or Joss Whedon becomes ruler of the universe.

Until that day comes, here are just some of the marvelous words that actually have relevance in everyday life but I'm unlikely to hear:

mendacity, n., an instance of lying (thanks to Tennessee Williams, it's more familiar than it otherwise might have been)

perspicacious, adj., having keen mental perception and understanding

abattoir, n., a lovely-looking word that unfortunately means slaughterhouse (OK, most people don't encounter an abattoir often and have no need to utter the word, but how pretty is that term for such a bloody thing?)

malversation, n., corrupt behavior in a position of trust (how is this not widely used?)

quondam, adj., onetime, former 

pulchritudinous, n., beautiful (of course, if you tell a woman she's pulchritudinous, she might not appreciate it - onomatopoeia doesn't apply in this case.) 

rhabdomancy, n., the use of a divining rod for discovering subterranean water (Granny Clampett had the skill, although I never once heard Jethro call it that. And no, I don't know a single person who might need to use this in real life, but come on ... it's a really cool word.)

 quotidian, adj., daily; commonplace, ordinary, trivial

sybarite, n., a person devoted to luxury and pleasure (should have been used when Enterprise crew visited Risa)

onanistic, adj., (look it up)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?

My family got cable when I was barely a teenager. That summer, I discovered old movies.

I had seen vintage movies before, of course. Once a year, network television (we got NBC, CBS, PBS and - when the weather was right - ABC) rewarded us with some of the classics or, at least, family favorites: The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, The Sound of Music, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Ten Commandments, Mary Poppins.

But I didn't know of much else until cable television crawled into my little valley in Southwest Virginia.

Katharine Hepburn was a revelation. The Philadelphia Story. Bringing Up Baby. Woman of the Year. The African Queen.

Gracious, Bogart. Casablanca. The Maltese Falcon. To Have and Have Not. The Big Sleep. Key Largo - mustn't forget Lauren Bacall.

Cary Grant, the unsurpassed movie star. North by Northwest. Arsenic and Old Lace. To Catch a Thief. Operation Petticoat. Father Goose. Indiscreet. That Touch of Mink.

Oh yes, Doris Day. Her appeal was tremendous during what I dubbed my "Harlequin years." Pillow Talk. Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Send Me No Flowers. With Six You Get Eggroll. The Glass-Bottomed Boat.

Jimmy Stewart. Clark Gable. Audrey Hepburn. Grace Kelly. Spencer Tracy. Elizabeth Taylor. Tony Curtis. Rock Hudson. And Marilyn Monroe.

Their faces, their voices, the way they carried themselves. I was captivated.

Some Like It Hot. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It Happened One Night. Giant. All About Eve. My Fair Lady. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sergeant York. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Bell Book and Candle. Sunset Boulevard. Cleopatra. How to Marry a Millionaire. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Rear Window. Breakfast at Tiffany's. Auntie Mame. Charade. Roman Holiday.

I reveled in women exquisitely dressed, men in crisp suits and hats, dazzling settings, danger and romance, charm and heartbreak, excitement and longing, humor and passion. The lives and events depicted in such films obviously were often mere illusion, but that fact merely nourished a young girl already harboring overwhelmingly fanciful notions.

Yes, reality came as quite a shock to that young girl.

But to this day if I happen to catch any one of those movies (and many others like them) on TV, I greet it with a rush of feeling like seeing a dear old friend I have missed for far too long.

What's the harm in a little fantasy?