Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Road trips can be -- scary

Isn't this an amazing view? What you can't see are the signs at this rest stop (and every other rest stop in the American southwest) warning of creepy, crawly, biting, stinging, hissing and venemous creatures hanging out in desert camo waiting to part you from a delicious piece of your warm, human flesh. And that's just the beginning of road trip dangers ...

I once sputtered to a stop in a dusty, one-horse town on a two-lane highway in Nevada. It was way past my usual stopping time, but nothing more promising had appeared and now the road stretched ahead of me for empty miles towards the horizon. A stringy, tough looking woman greeted me from behind the desk of the town's single, ramshackle, motel. "Honey," she said, "I'm putting you in the room next to mine so you'll feel safe." In my mind, the town lost its air of gentle decay and began to look dark and menacing.

After stashing my suitcase in my room, I stepped out the door, headed for a seedy convenience store, which appeared to be the town's only food source. It was after sunset and shadowy figures were lurking in the weak, orange light given off by the single dingy lamp over the entry to the store. I may have considered going without dinner that night. Luckily, common sense (and my devotion to regular meals) kicked in. I gathered my courage, leashed my attack dog, Sam the Cocker Spaniel, and, assuming my most fearsome don't-mess-with-the-librarian expression, I proceeded forth. The miscreants gathered around the store's entry attempted to intimidate me by greeting me with a threatening, "Good evening, ma'am," but my determination to snag a frozen dinner unmolested must have impressed them because I lived to tell about the encounter and to enjoy my mac & cheese and a peaceful night's sleep.

Road trips can be very edifying and adventuresome, but it is necessary to pack a resolute attitude and a fair bit of courage along with your undies.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Word for the day: Egregious

Some words are just freighted with meaning. You simply have to be grateful they're a part of the English language. Egregious for example. If you say it, you sound intellectual and articulate. People will be impressed with the breadth of your vocabulary. But they'll also know what you've really said is that some brainless twit, some drooling lackwit with the I.Q. of beach sand, has done something seriously stupid. You've managed to package all that withering scorn into a word that makes you look like an upstanding citizen protesting a grievous error. So let's hear it for egregious!

P.S. Sorry for the really bad cartoon. I don't have a photo of egregiousness. I'm either stunned to the point of paralysis by someone else's egregiousness and incapable of pointing my camera at them or I'm busy committing egregiousness myself (and you know I'm not going to record that for posterity!).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Be seein' you off planet!

Wooohooo! I just took a quiz to see which science-fiction space crew I'd fit best with and, omigod, it was the Serenity crew! I am so out of here and off planet! So thanks to my favorite cynic (you can find him at I Love Cynics) for the idea. I'm a happy space cadet, 'cause Firefly is my favorite sci-fi series. Here are my results:

Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in with? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Serenity (Firefly)

You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


I'll be sending you a post card from somewhere far, far away, as soon as I figure out how that works.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our refrigerators, ourselves

Refrigerators remind me of phrenology. You remember seeing those old illustrations with some hapless person's head all divided up like a butcher's chart? Except instead of being divided into cuts, the head is divided into regions, and the lumps and bumps in each region are supposed to shed light on that region's aspect of personality. I think you can do that with refrigerators and acquire deep insight into the owner's personality. Here are some refrigerator regions I've identified:
  1. The Beverage Zone - anything beyond non-fat milk and high pulp orange juice can be very revealing.
  2. The Half-used and Abandoned Condiment Region.
  3. The It-was-bad-the-first-time Leftover Area.
  4. The Out-of-sight-out-of-mind Scary Science Zone.
  5. The Future Experiments with Weird Food Region.
  6. The I-had-good-intentions Mushy Vegetable Zone.

Picture your refrigerator door. Now picture it with those zones drawn on it. See? You can diagram your refrigerator just like a phrenology head and gain insight into your subconscious mind. I'm giving you self-help advice for free! You should always read my blog. I rock!

In the interest of transparency, here are 10 things in my refrigerator:

  1. Half empty can of Hershey's chocolate sauce.
  2. Organic free range eggs (can't you just see little legs poking out of the shells as my eggs trotted around on the prairie!).
  3. Box of baking soda that absorbed its last odor in 2003.
  4. Bottle of Koon Chun Barbeque Sauce.
  5. Day old pizza slices.
  6. Half empty jar of dill pickle relish.
  7. Cranberries (antioxident bonus points for me!) (See picture above; you were wondering how it related weren't you?).
  8. Roll of polenta purchased last spring.
  9. Sweet and sour guava sauce, best before 05/2007.
  10. Half-eaten bar of Maya Gold chocolate, best before 08/2007.

I'll leave it to your imagination which regions those items came from.

What? You want a chart to tell you what particular regions and items might mean personality-wise? Are you kidding - after I've revealed what's in my refrigerator? Actually, I've included an interpretive chart in my book, Your refrigerator and you: if it's lurking in your frig, it's lurking in your mind. Look for it soon in book stores near you.

Now it's your turn! What's in your refrigerator?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't make the sea bird police mad - just don't

Here's where it all started to go wrong: There's a little vestibule thingie that you have to pass through to get to the sea bird exhibit at the Alaska Sea Life Center. And there's a cop stationed there. I didn't notice she was a cop at first, because she's disguised as a mild-mannered staff member. So my sea bird experience started by being held captive in the vestibule, staring longingly through the glass doors that led to the exhibit and the truly cool birds, while Ms. Cop read us the riot act ... er ... explained exhibit policies regarding our behavior when we viewed the sea birds, plugged several Center programs aimed at our wallets, and listed the types of birds we'd be seeing (in case we hadn't gotten a clue from pressing our noses up against the glass doors). She does this in a high speed monotone designed to kill enough brain cells that no one could possibly pose a threat to the birds. Trust me on this.

But I'd already visited the sea birds on a previous trip and I was jazzed! I had my camera and my ever present goal to take the absolute perfect bird picture; one that will blow all other bird pictures off Flickr and into the ether. Plus I truly, truly love animals. I get that it's an amazing privilege to stand in that exhibit and watch those birds. So I stationed myself about 4 feet back from the wall that separates the birds from the onlookers and pointed my camera. Now, mind you, I was using an 18 to 200 mm lens, which means it goes from a wide angle view to a close-up view, and a person can get a little confused about where they are relative to their subject when they are zooming through that range. Still, I hadn't moved from the spot I was standing, I was using the close-up end of the zoom, and I figured that, unless I saw a giant bird eye staring at me through the lens, I was far enough away not to annoy the birds. So you can imagine my surprise when I hear, right in my ear, "PSSST!! STEP BACK NOW!" It was Ms. Cop, glaring at me. I couldn't have been more startled if she had drawn a gun and shouted, "Step away from the sea bird!!"

Of course, I stepped back. But I kind of thought that if I was scaring the birds while standing four feet away from the pool, holding perfectly still so my pictures wouldn't be blurry, and not talking, maybe I should just watch them from outside the exhibit. So I headed for the door. But, I turned back for one last look. And here is what I saw: Ms. Cop was up close and personal with one of the birds that had hopped up on the dividing wall and she was scratching its little head! Possibly my eyes narrowed and a tiny "grrr"escaped my lips. But not until I was outside the exhibit. I'm not getting in Ms. Cop's face. She's mean.

I would have written off Ms. Cop as just one of those icky people that you meet once in a while, but then we crossed paths again under circumstances that made me more sympathetic. I returned to the Sea Life Center a few days later, on a day when 250 Anchorage school children were loose in the Center. Walking down a hall, I passed Ms. Cop. She was a study in controlled anger. She looked like she could spit nails! I knew just how she felt. Those miniature deliquents/hell spawn/school children scared my octopus! When they came trompling and shouting up to its tank, it shrank up into a far corner, turned pale and closed its eyes. I really, really wanted to walk up to them and hiss in each child's ear "PSST! STEP BACK NOW!"

P.S. Ms. Cop and 250 school kids notwithstanding, I still totally love the Sea Life Center. I still want a job throwing fish to the sea birds. Or, maybe, I want a job guarding the door to the exhibit. I can be mean, too. Send in the kids ...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Today is Cephalopod Awareness Day!

So, have you hugged your octopus today? I haven't because mine is far south at the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. I know it's my octopus because, when I sit quietly in front of its tank, it looks me right in the eye and then it slowly begins to dance. Its tentacles curve and spiral. The membranes between its tentacles billow and sway. I'm enchanted. I could sit for hours watching, and I do. I am convinced this amazing creature is trying to communicate with me. Cephalopods are smart.

Here's what you can do to celebrate Cephalopod Awareness Day (stolen directly from The Octopus News Magazine Online):

1. Tell a friend some random things you know about cephalopods.
2. Hug your cephalopod plushy.
3. Meditate for 15 minutes and imagine yourself as a benthic octopus, feeling in the dark, cold ocean floor with your eight independently-sensory arms ... passing food up to your beak which is located under your head.
4. Eat cheddar-filled jalapeno poppers as a way of supporting that product, in hopes they will eclipse deep-fried calamari as the mid-grade appetizer of choice ... poppers, yum!
5. Sculpt an octopus out of mashed potatoes (you were full from the poppers anyhow).
6. Make octopus shaped pancakes for breakfast.

And, last of all, check out Cephalopod Centerfold, a blog dedicated to all things cephalopod. Plus it's funny.

So, if you're at the Sea Life Center and the octopus dances for you? Don't tell me. I want to keep thinking it likes me best!

Update: If squids are your favorite cephalopods, take a look at the squid site.