Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hide the Children, Lock the Doors: it's Hallowe'en

Oh man, it's time for Hallowe'en, and you know what that means.

That's right: twisted sexy women's costumes. And there's not a damned thing you can do about it. Women have the option of dressing up as sexy versions of things that were never intended to be sexy, and it will key into men's biological imperative and we will wonder just who the hell we are.

Think I'm wrong? Observe: sexy Spongebob Squarepants. Tell me you would not throw her down and do her. In that outfit. Tell me that, and I will tell you that you are a rank liar.

Some of these costumes are obvious, like this trio: sexy pirate, sexy bier frau, and sexy... Cajun/Renaissance goth slut, I dunno. Yes, they embody patently enticing aspects such as danger, alcohol, and easy availability.

Other costumes start to cross cultural mores like moonshine runners behind V8 engines--case in point, the sexy female Harry Potter. They couldn't have chosen one of the female students to model this after? Okay, they were all kids, but this model is clearly of drinking age: why pattern her after an underage boy?

And for the last couple of years there has been the teen zombie cheerleader, and now there's the zombie prom queen. Dude. What is up with this? Someone's like "It's inappropriate to find teens sexy, and it's inappropriate to find corpses sexy... isn't there some way we can combine them for maximum appeal?" And then someone greenlighted that idea. Gave it the thumbs-up. Someone literally had an office at their job where they said, "We are on for the sexy dead illegal girl costumes."

That's what gets me about people who say they're bored with the world. I cannot wrap my head around the concept that anyone with two working eyes (or any way of sensing what the hell is going on) could ever, ever be bored with the world. There is way too much going on to be bored. There are companies that manufacture sexy undead jailbait costumes. There are countries where you can drink alcohol with a dead snake in it. There is no freakin' reason to be bored.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting Closer, Getting Closer

I'm very excited: last night my wife asked me to brainstorm my short-term goals and things to accomplish, so I pulled out my datebook and allotted some hours to each of these tasks. I now have a clear list of things to do today, how long I get to do them, and still have time to clean the house, play video games (a little), play with the cats before I catch the bus to go to class.

Ideally, by the end of the day I will have applied for a couple more jobs, submitted two queries to local papers, read three chapters from my textbooks, and hacked out a Hallowe'en-themed short story. I'm very excited about this, needless to say.

I work best off of lists. Even if I don't accomplish every single item on a list, I always achieve more than half of them. I work best with that focus, that reminder to keep me on track. I'm grateful to Rebecca for helping me stay focused. Today's going to be an illustrious day for me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Road Trip to Madison

This weekend's been a real trip, so far! Friday afternoon we packed hastily and left Minneapolis under cover of darkness (only because it gets so dark so early) and flew down 94 West to Madison, WI. We pulled into town shortly before midnight and checked into our hotel.

Hotel shopping had been left to me, so I went into it with economy being foremost on my mind. I secured a double bed at the Budget Host Aloha Inn. A kindly Japanese woman greeted us and gave us our key after telling us about her son who's a lawyer but hates being a lawyer, and who has just published his second book and is working on his third. We told her how wonderful this is.

We checked into the first room, #44, and immediately detected a certain smell. I'm not even euphemizing this: it was just an earthy, unlikeable smell. I checked the toilets, they appeared clean; I looked under the bed--no dead hookers. My guess was that the carpet had mildew or something. However, I've never smelled the mold that grows in walls, so I couldn't identify that.

We requested a different room and got one down another arm of the hotel. It smelled better and our complaints were less mystical: the spring mattress was quite uncomfortable, there was a large spider in the bathtub (Rebecca didn't see the one descending the towel rack before I dispatched it), mold spots on the ceiling and a curious faded brown splatter over the bathroom door.

We were so tired we simply changed clothes and watched TV until we fell asleep. Or, more accurately, watched TV until our neighbors pounded on our mutual wall; I turned it off and eventually we went to sleep. The bed was so uncomfortable that small tasks throughout the day were made that much more difficult: bending, twisting, standing up fast, all impinged by our sore backs. And the heater didn't work and our blankets were thin: all night I dreamt of thick blankets. How sad is that?

But cheap! The Budget Host Aloha Inn is more than competitively affordable, aggressively affordable! It is the least expensive hotel I've used in this country. (In Germany, I slept in an off-season ski hostel that charged, like, five bucks per head. That was extremely nice, too.)

Regardless: this was the day we would explore Rebecca's alma mater, University of Wisconsin: Madison. Some kind of event was going on that forced everyone on campus to wear bright red sweatshirts. This was in support of their football team, the Badgers, but the Badgers were playing very poorly this season so their supporters had the good grace to be quiet about it.

First thing, Rebecca insisted on showing me the wonder that is Ellis' Deli: if that's a little play on "LSD," that would explain a lot. Inside is such a collection of puppets, marionettes, papier mache, vintage advertisements, and animated displays as you've never seen in your life (short of House on the Rock). I got some good photos but it won't do justice to the sheer density of the collection here. Our breakfast was very good--Rebecca needed to ask why I was wolfing mine down--and the waitstaff was very friendly and just the right amount of attentive.

Next, we headed to the farmers market around the capitol. It is a very nice looking farmers market. To look at the markets our farmers set up in Minneapolis, you would think they are all impoverished. The farmers market in front of the capitol is a lovely, charming affair. I sampled a variety of cheese and picked out two large bulbs of German garlic; Rebecca got a spicy deer jerky and wolfed it down.

But after we parked near the farmers market and before we actually went to it, we entered a coffee shop called Ancora Coffee. They call themselves "specialty coffee roasters," and from what I tasted, they were called this because an extremely qualified person holding a position of authority bestowed this title upon them. That was some significantly better coffee than I've had in a long damn time!

This is horrible. It is horrible to drive five hours to another city and find the best coffee you've ever tasted, and then return to your own city. All you will think about is the wonderful coffee you're not having. Doubleplus ungood.

We wandered around the farmers market in a blissed-out haze, then Rebecca led me through the state capitol, a gorgeous building indeed. A small girl, unattended by her indolent mother (I saw her later, she was plenty indolent), started to climb up on the thick marble balustrades surrounding the dead drop into the rotunda. I started to freak out, getting a vicarious vertigo, but it was Rebecca who actually walked over and suggested to the girl that she climb down and not do that anymore. The girl, freaked not that she nearly plummeted to a mangling death but that a stranger spoke to her, ran almost promptly to her mom and then changed the topic to running around in broad, shrieking circles.

Children do not make a good argument for themselves. "I'm several varieties of insane! I'm relying upon your good nature not to give me the throttle I so richly deserve."

Rebecca showed me several highlights on campus, and even just driving through was redolent with stories and sagas. I was glad to hear she had such an epic time during college: she was walking on a foot of air, showing me everything and reliving her adventures.

Eventually we met up with Angela and James, where Jennifer and Eric were already waiting, and when Jim and Melanie showed up we left for Flat Top, a buffet stir-fry place along the same idea as Khan's Mongolian BBQ. It was very delicious, with a variety of intriguing mixed drink recipes. Much picture-taking was had, much conversation was indulged in. Then we repaired back to James & Angela's and carved pumpkins for the rest of the night.

That was particularly sweet. Pumpkins were the great equalizer. Take a bunch of people whom you think are locked and defined by one clear underground social group, people you think could have no interests outside of obscure foreign CDs, stark clothing, and questionable personal distractions, and give them some large spoons, steak knives, and a couple pumpkins, and prepare to be stunned. We reminisced, we shared folklore and American history, I dare say we bonded. James had a supply of battery-powered LED "candles" so we lit up all the jack o'lanterns and took several pictures of the group. It was so awesome.

Adults can't trick or treat anymore. Under certain circumstances they can dress up in costumes, but they can't hang out with little kids and there is no candy involved. But they can carve the fuck out of a pumpkin like never before. It is a surprising amount of fun, being simple work and a dose of creativity. It's something I could get into several times a year, if crop cycles permitted.

I actually did find a UK message board, maybe it was in Wales, where citizens were writing to the editor to complain of the "decline of Western civilization" in the form of abandoning tradition. Kids barely bothered to dress up in costumes at all, had completely lost the "trick" concept in trick or treat, and, God save us, it seemed that no one carved jack o'lanterns out of turnips anymore. Nope, they'd all fallen into that decadent American practice of using pumpkins, and only a staunch, diminishing rear guard of traditionalists knew how to carve amusing or spooky faces into a turnip these days. Oh, dark days indeed.

We all preferred pumpkins. We had a good time, and then Rebecca and I packed our stuff up and left the Aloha Inn and checked into a Howard Johnson's, where they gave us a nice clean room with a large soft bed, and I've yet to see an arachnid or bug of any sort.

And tomorrow is Angela and James's wedding. Tonight I'm writing up notes for what I'm going to say during the ceremony. It's one of those moments where all you can think is, "Gee, I wish we would've hung out more," but I think I've got some good material and can contribute to the ceremony. I hope so.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dharma Games

Technology has trotted through our household at a brisk clip: last weekend we received a Wii from my inlaws, and yesterday Rebecca finagled a Wii Fit. We tried it out last night but this morning I used it in earnest: half an hour of yoga to wake up, and 45 minutes of cardio after lunch. Now, leaping into it like this means nothing: I tend to geek out on something for about two weeks and then abandon it (see also: calligraphy, linoleum carving, silk screen printing, &c.).

What Wii Fit has going for it is that it doesn't release all its goodies all at once. You have to earn the best stuff: put in enough time and you gain in-game credit to unlock new exercises or advanced skill levels. That taps into my competitive/achiever spirit and I'll hammer away at winning all these opportunities to work out even more.

On the other hand, when I'm in a losing battle, I tend to turn deconstructionist and break a scenario into its component parts. Sure, I could continue playing World of Warcraft, shelling out $72/year, but what is this game really? Didn't I really complete the game at first level? Goals were set, resources were acquired, monsters were slain and tallied, and I was rewarded with advancement. What, essentially, makes the endgame any different than that? After a year of clawing tooth-and-nail to level 59, this is why I don't feel bad about letting my subscription lapse.

I could do the same thing with Wii Fit. If I can't regulate my balance in Sun Salutation pose, I can consider myself to have essentially grasped the fundamentals and walk away from it without further need to improve my score. I hope I don't, but I can totally see myself doing this. And then we've just bought another expensive toy we don't play with.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pointless

If you're looking for a small change in music, open up my Aeria profile in another window/tab and leave it running. Or else you can go to Playlist and start your own playlist, post it on your Web site or MySpace page or whatever. I don't understand what the catch is: you can compile a list of hundreds of songs for free, listen to them for free, and there are no ads between songs or anything. They're not making any money off of me. Granted, you might not find your obscure material listed there, and you might grab a crappy live recording when you're expecting a polished studio product, but you can preview anything and the list updates itself when you make changes to it. It's a good deal.

I've been complaining on my other blogs--this morning--about not having updated my blogs lately, as well as not having done anything useful with my three months as a "freelance writer." I've submitted three queries and heard nothing back, and I haven't developed my fictional work for submission. I've squandered this opportunity just like I knew I would. I have a talent for writing but I have no discipline and I'm not a self-starter. I'm a fuck-up and I have to return to the soul-crushing world of respectable work to make any money.

Soul-crushing... hah. If I had a soul I'd be working at getting published instead of fucking around with a dozen blogs nobody reads and not-submitting queries and manuscripts. I have no soul, I have no drive and ambition, I have no vision. I'm just consuming resources and getting in people's way until Death works its way down to my name on its list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Look at Some Headlines

Woman Chooses to go to Jail Over $7.45 Bill
I want to hear this woman's side. This article only says that she ordered food, refused to pay, was ordered by a cop to pay and refused again. It says she was brought in on charges with "intent to defraud" but I wonder how accurate that is to the situation. I can see two motivations for her action: either she was that unhappy with her service that she'd rather make a statement (however petty, short-sighted, and pointless), or she was so broke that she conspired to get a meal out of a restaurant even at the cost of jailtime (where, presumably, she would receive more food).

Woman Accused of Tending Bar in the Buff
I have to wonder who complains about something like this. In any watering-hole I would assume that drinkers would not be opposed to seeing a 24y.o. woman with her clothes off. Again, I can see two motivations for making that phone call to the cops: either the caller was a woman who was offended by the display or the bartender was no prize to look at. A third consideration might be someone with genuine hygienic concerns but... again, I doubt hygiene was a priority for a constituency of barflies.

Republicans spent $150,000 on outfits for Palin
The RNC shelled out $150K on clothes for Governor Sarah Palin, citing these as "campaign accessories" in their report of "itemized coordinated expenditures." Now I'm jaded enough to react with "oh, of course" rather than "how dare they." This kind of hypocrisy doesn't phase me at all, coming from the RNC. This, hot on the heels of the revelation that Palin charged Alaska over $21K for 64 one-way tickets and 12 round-trip tickets for her children to travel with her, even to events where they were not invited to attend. Not that she brought them to the event, no, just set them up in a posh hotel for the duration and had the National Governors Association entertain them. That said, the division of 76 flights for $21,000 breaks down to about $276/ticket, and I have to wonder how she got such a good deal on those tickets. Orbitz? Priceline?

86y.o. Driver Hits School Crossing Guard
Marie Conley, in "full uniform and reflective vest," was signaling drivers to stop. I'm guessing she didn't do this by standing on the sidewalk and ahem-ing pointedly. I'm guessing she made herself pretty obvious, enough so that other drivers noticed her. Anis Cazeau noted feeling something hit his vehicle but didn't slow down and claims not to have noticed her. Cazeau has an impressive history of traffic violations, not all of which involve failing to notice an adult in a reflective vest standing in front of his car.

A Country Boy Will Survive (scroll down)
Robert "Ice Man" Evans: Man of Intrigue.

This 46y.o. homeless man earned his nickname two years ago while ice fishing. His six-pack of beer exploded (from chilling on the ice, presumably) and soaked his pants. When he refused to move from his spot until he caught a fish, his pants froze to the ice. Firefighters freed him by pouring hot water around him.

More recently, he was riding his bike in Boulder, CO, when a car hit him and fled. After getting checked out at the hospital (and after a beer and whiskey for the pain), he walked his bike across a bridge (train-only, not intended for pedestrians) when he spotted the lights of an empty coal train heading at him. Reasoning that it was a shorter trip to cross the bridge than run back, he decided to go for it and ran towards the train. Subsequently, he was struck by the train and fell into a creek ten feet below.

He got a ticket for trespassing and will go in for a CT scan and X-rays for the hit-and-run with the car, though I'm sure they'll also check for the effects of getting hit by a train.

Robert "Ice Man" Evans, ladies and gentlemen. "Excitement's his bread, adventure's his butter, and danger? Why, that's just strawberry jam to top it off."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Political Infancy, Me

I'm going to spend this entry looking at Republican statements and responding to them. I was reading Michelle Malkin's Web site last night and... okay, she's crazy, but there are still points that need to be addressed. That president of the CA Women's Republican Federation disseminated a racist e-mail FWD she received, and that was a terrible lapse of judgment; Malkin's response to that was not to condemn hate speech or to assure anyone that not all Republicans are slope-browed, backwater racists, but to retaliate with an adolescent "Oh yeah? Well, Liberals do such-and-such." In the style of McCain and Palin she absolutely did not directly respond to the issue (to be fair, no one asked her, unlike a press conference or debate) but guided the monologue to what she wanted to cover.

It was at this point that I began to discern that I'm not going to change anyone's mind by hitting the Liberal news sites and browsing Liberal message boards. Those are people I already agree with: no new ground can be broken. I have to go into the trenches and talk to the people who disagree with me for anything new to happen.

And I'm unarmed. I'm really undereducated in this respect, I'm politically naive. If I were to leap into the fray right now I'd be julienned with cheap shots and libel that I don't know enough to defend against. And because a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, the Republicans are very dangerous with embedding a seed of fact somewhere deep in the heart of an argument--from which spawn all branches and legs of half-truths, corrupted information, insinuations, and bald illogic.

So I'll go out and delve, scrape some material samples, and bring them back to my lab for analysis. For now I won't make contact, there's no need. As with all my dozen blogs, this is just an exercise for my own betterment.

I'm paraphrasing a quote which I'm inclined to attribute to Christopher Hitchens:

"You've got to be interested in politics, because politics is interested in you."

October 16, 2008: David Letterman, CBS
Letterman asked McCain if he honestly felt that, were McCain unable to fulfill his office and the US suffered a 9/11-like attack, Palin would be sufficient to lead the country.
McCain: "Absolutely. She has inspired Americans. That's the thing we need! We need inspiration now, we need courage. We need to know that we're the greatest nation of the world and we can come through this. I agree with your assessment of the way the world and this country [are], and they need somebody to say this, this person is an inspiration to us. This is a person that has done so many things that are very unusual. So, all I can tell you is that if you were looking for somebody, someone who was in the old-boy network of Washington, part of whom, many of whom have gotten us into this ditch to start with, then that's fine. But I think America is crying out for change and she represents the kind of change that we need."

McCain absolutely avoids citing any specific qualifications Palin possesses to lead the USA through a terrorist-based crisis. Earlier he indicated some aspects of being governor of Alaska, but being "governor of a state with 24,000 employees" does not equate to leading a nation of 305 million citizens even in times of peace.

McCain says that Palin represents the kind of change we need, but he does not state what change it is she will bring. He is correct in iterating she is not a member of DC's old-boy network. That is a patently safe statement. Here are others:
  • Sarah Palin has never eaten a raw puppy.
  • Sarah Palin adheres to all known physical laws.
  • Sarah Palin has rarely misspelled her own name in her lifetime.
  • Sarah Palin is not Yakuza.
Does that make her any more qualified to preside over a nation?

Personally, having watched her interviews and debate, I don't credit her with quick thought. She is amiable and accessible, but I have seen nothing in her performance that inspires me with any faith in her competence to lead a nation. I would totally have her over for a backyard grilling, I'd take some pride in cooking her a salmon and I would share my favorite beer with her; I don't think she is a terrible person. Yes, she lied about her position on the Bridge to Nowhere but she kinda has to, doesn't she? Let's not be naive, all politicians have to play up their careers, though I tend to respect those that honestly confront their flaws and own up to them. When someone commits an error and then attempts to cover it up or spin it in a positive light, the smallness of the issue does not mitigate the decrease in respect with which I regard them. I wish Clinton had immediately come clean with his infidelity rather than drawing it out and handing the Republicans even more material to work with.

As for Bush... there's too much. He is not nearly big enough a man to accept responsibility for his actions, not big enough by half. All he can do is deny his culpability for the rest of his life, it's too massive to own up to.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Preserving the Frame and Documents

A little late, I thought to document my process of restoration for this framed Daabs-Attest. I only missed actually bending the nails back and I replicated the scanning process, but everything else is as it happened. Well, I didn't photograph my shower in which I rested the documents on the sink in the hopes that a little steam might help strengthen them. Maybe that was a bad idea, I don't know.

Okay, so yeah, I used a claw hammer to bend back the tiny nails in the back of the frame, in order to release the backing plank... I wish I knew what these components were actually called. You know that there's technical jargon for everything.

Once the backing was free I carefully lifted it out and then the certificate and newspaper from the frame. These documents were too large to fit my flatbed scanner so I had to turn them sideways and scan each side in two halves.

In order to help support the documents, rather than let them droop out the side of the scanner, I piled a stack of trade paperback graphic novels for the excess paper to rest upon. The books weren't selling on eBay or Amazon, but at least they were able to serve a useful purpose here.

Next, I got a microfiber cloth and some generic glass cleaner and scrubbed down the pane of glass. It wouldn't come free due to the tiny nails so I left it in and tried not to spray the wood frame too much.

What's interesting is that the glass pane itself was neatly cut on three sides and then very jagged on the fourth. It's as though the glass cutter lost his enthusiasm when freeing this pane from a larger sheet. I'm not sure what the process was back then, when mass-producing sheets of glass. It's very old glass, with tiny bubbles running horizontally like transparent grains of sushi rice.

(I don't know why Blogger rotates that jagged glass image 90 degrees clockwise. I didn't take the picture at that angle and I didn't rotate the image during editing. Blogger just won't upload it right-side-up.)

Then I got out these Pledge wipes for the frame. They're orange-scented but that's irrelevant: I wanted to nourish the wood a little and clean out some of the dirt. The wipes were filthy before long, and the wood looks a little better. I hope it does some good.

It's apparent from this photo that the frame has seen a couple coats of paint. Under the dark brown there's a layer of white, before you get down to the wood itself. If I knew more about painting wood I could tell whether the white stuff was actually a former color or if it's some old brand of primer. As it is, I have no idea, just wanted to document where it had chipped from the frame.

Once the documents had been scanned completely, I laid them back down on the glass pane, replaced the back plank, and gently bent the nails down to hold the plate. They bent back so easily I wondered if I had damaged the metal nails in my process. I wonder if a preservationist who specializes in frames and portraits would have a cardiac arrest to witness my brutality. I can only apologize for my ignorance so much.

You can see my cat, Toki, guiding me through the process. (The bulk of his advice consists of informing me that he could do it better and warning me not to f*** up.)

And here's the finished product. I brought it out to the yard for atmosphere.

A Minneapolis Saga

Once in a while Rebecca gets an urge, sometimes a "calling," to go thrifting. It's almost a spiritual quest for her and she's scored some amazing finds in the past. I'm not one to question that level of being tuned to the ebb and flow of the universe. She can also make parking spots appear with greater than 50% accuracy, so, yeah. I don't question it.

Last night she took me to Arc's Value Village Thrift Store, which I'd never been to before. Actually, she asked if I wanted to go thrifting with her, a question which is usually met with indifference or resignation, but last night I felt pretty strongly that I wanted to go thrifting too. I would look for some sweaters, sure, this was the season for it.

We headed south, negotiating the various eruptions of road construction, and found the store in an interesting landscape of little shops and chain outlets. The interior was much nicer than other thrift stores I've seen--they must have some on-task management or a staff who likes their jobs. Rebecca went to shop for clothing and pointed me to the men's department.

I did find a couple racks of sweaters, and I did land a couple nice garments. I noted with some curiosity that there were a great many sweaters and sweater vests there all sized at extra large or XXL. Maybe as many as half of these were that size. I didn't know if an obese man had lost some weight and donated his wardrobe, or if these were garments that didn't manage to get sold in a regular store and ended up here.

I wandered over to the books section and found a wonderful pile of old comic books. Not ancient, probably not valuable to anyone but a serious collector, but some real treasures. I took a Conan the Barbarian color comic book (1984) that was just awful! Larry Yakata was the writer and churned out such memorable passages as this:

Conan! Conan! Surely the gods have blessed this most beautiful and wondrous of days!
Our mutual toil and efforts have bourne the sweetest of fruit!
We rogues,
working in perfect unison! Ay! Ay!

This, from an orphaned child tagging along with Conan. There's also an ad for the Atari 5200 on the back of the comic. I'll go into greater dissection of this thing later.

But the important event of the shopping evening came when we were shopping for portrait frames. We've just painted our bedroom a pale, dusty purple, and I have it in my head that a neat decoration would be to paint a bunch of variously crafted picture frames a slightly darker color and hang them, without pictures, in a group on a wall. I think it would look neat. I found a large poster with a long written piece entitled "What Is A Man?" Rebecca wondered what it was and I guessed from appearances: it was hand-written calligraphy, probably someone's pet project, and it looked as though the scribe was developing a personal font. At that, a blonde man in a denim jacket, standing behind Rebecca, suddenly became very interested and kept peeking at the poster as I described it to her.

But this is the important part. I spotted a beautiful thick wooden frame and pulled it out, and inside was a large certificate of religious nature. Entitled Daabs-Attest (quick Internet search suggests this is a Certificate of Baptism), it is for Gilbert Nikolai, dated 1888 and located in Minneapolis. The certificate is a form "Published by the Publication Soc. of the Norw. Dan. Luth Conference, Minneapolis, Minn." I held it in my hands and couldn't put it down. This was a valuable historical document, in my unschooled estimation, and it was not right that it should languish in a thrift store. It should be given to some local organization, either an historical records office, a Norwegian/Danish organization, or at the very least I could attempt to trace the Lutheran church which officiated the ceremony.

We brought the certificate home and I pried back the nails that held the thin wooden plank in place behind the certificate. When it lifted away a section of newspaper was revealed, a page cut out from the Minneapolis Times. I can't find a year on this section of paper because the edges were trimmed and the center of the page was removed, but it certainly is old. I'll research some online archives and see if I can place it at a specific date. The section is too large for me to fit entirely on my flatbed scanner, so I've scanned the upper and lower halves, front and back, and will reassemble them in Photoshop (while preserving the original high-resolution scan separately). I'm also scanning the Certificate of Baptism and will give it the same treatment.

I'm not going to suggest the document "called" to me. I'm neither Norwegian nor Danish, and I know nothing about the preservation of documents over a century old. But when I held this frame and certificate in my hands, I did feel a sense of responsibility, like it was up to me to right a wrong. I absolutely could not return this thing to the shelf; I absolutely had to bring it back and find a proper home for it. I don't know what that's about, but I felt very strongly about it.

Maybe I can turn my search into an article for publication. That's how I look at everything now: opportunities for articles. This is one of the benefits of going out more and seeing things, taking fresh notice of the city I've moved through for twelve years, questioning the viability of everything as an article to be written up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's Wrong With the Writer's Market?

This is upsetting: I just attempted to login to my account at WritersMarket.com but was told that my account had expired. This is absolutely wrong. I have a receipt from them dated 9/3/08 assuring me of my one-year subscription. This is how my account is listed:

Subscription Status: Suspended
Subscription Term: One-Year
Automatic Renewal?: No
Date of last billing: Monday, October 06, 2008
Date of next billing: N/A
Expiration Date: Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Even the account acknowledges that it doesn't expire until... wait. My accounted started 9/3/08. Why was I billed on 10/6/08? I paid $30 as one lump sum, there were to be no monthly withdrawals. What the hell is going on?

I've e-mailed the company with my complaint. I tried to call their Help Desk but it had closed six minutes prior. This is genuinely irritating.

Kitties in Autumn

We've been trying to get Toki and Bella accustomed to wearing harnesses. We clip them on their bodies and let them roam around the house, for about ten minutes at a stretch. Bella absolutely dislikes the feeling of something clinging to her and will hide under a couch; Toki has adjusted somewhat and can walk around without dragging his belly on the ground.

BellaToki Wartooth

Today I thought I'd give them some time in the harness and then leash them up to go outside. I brought one cat at a time for sanity's sake; Bella went first.

She sniffed every plant in the front yard, crouching low, rarely uttering a quiet yowl of confusion, but she started to enjoy the environment. She ducked behind some bushes and practiced crouching under cover. Then she trotted through an alley of leaves to the back yard. She's very familiar with gazing out the kitchen window and surveying the yard but now she was in the middle of the experience and really seemed to appreciate it. Then she started to freak out, running under bush branches and a drainpipe which resulted in the leash getting tangled, so I brought her inside.

Then it was Toki's turn. He had be staring at us with envy and some anxiety, watching Bella stalk about the yard. Toki started out only wanting to sniff the front steps, though, so I had to carry him to the front yard. At first he stood still, not knowing what to make of it, and then he was on familiar ground: a leaf fell and he darted to chase it. Any time a leaf rustled, he pounced on it with real glee. Then we started to trot up the sidewalk and it was Bella's turn to be jealous. She sat in the sunroom windows, staring at us with an expression of tremendous injustice, darting from window to window to gain a better view as we strolled. When Toki needed to wander into the street, I reeled him in and we went back inside for a debriefing.

I removed their harnesses when each came in and gave them treats, grooming them and praising them for their bravery. They seemed quite satisfied. As a souvenir, a leaf stuck to my boot and fell off in the living room and Toki had some pleasure in pushing it around.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Turn On, Log In, Register

Awesome: Obama's advertising in video games! While ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was the first to represent himself on Second Life, when he was considering running for president, in 2006, to my knowledge nothing like Obama's technique has been done. His image will appear on billboards and banners put out by VoteForChange.com in such games as Madden 09, NHL 09, and Burnout Paradise, a car racing game.

I don't think this flies in the face of his April statement, "turn off the television, turn off the video games." It would be naive to assume that everyone had, at that moment, stopped watching TV and playing video games forever. And if people are still playing--and playing in virtual worlds that replicate ours right down to the billboards and ad space--there is no reason not to buy ad time and promote himself there.

On the one hand, I think McCain would refuse to see the sense of such a gesture and would become derisive of it. On the other, we could also probably expect to soon witness his libelous smear campaign extend into the virtual realm as well.

President in the Dog House

I was surprised to realize this morning what a non-entity our president has become.

In the face of the election campaigning going on, any time Bush has to speak publicly he comes across like a kicked puppy. This morning he was talking about how some of the bailout money would be used to buy equity stock in some failing banks, to give them the strength to continue business and get back on their feet. His tone was reserved, almost subdued. He carefully read all the big words on the script without any errors (a first). His delivery was so quiet and abashed that he sounded like an underclassman who'd been unwillingly recruited to deliver a school announcement.

I'm guessing at two reasons for this. One: he's jealous of all the attention McCain and Obama are getting right now. He's not doing anything interesting (besides completely f***ing up the national economy as a parting gift). Two: maybe someone showed him the news story that indicated his popularity is lower than Nixon's was.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Married the Right Woman

Sprint Commercial: "Can you believe we still call these phones, considering all the things they do?"
Me: I cannot believe it. I will never call it a phone again.
Rebecca: I'm calling it a dilliwhistle.
Me: I'm calling it a vagina.
Rebecca: I'm- what?
Me: "My vagina's going off!"
Rebecca: ...I hear ya.

Medium-Sized Fish in a Small Pond

A friend of mine submitted my shadow blog, Small Laws, to MNSpeak. I was flattered at the gesture, glad she enjoyed the blog, but it's just my own vent. I don't think "reporting" traffic violators like this will change or improve anything in my environment, but it makes me feel better. I'm not bottling it up inside, I'm getting it out and talking about it, posting the pictures (and I have a lot of them)... it's therapeutic. Like taping a photo of McCain to a punching bag and beating the shit out of it with a baseball bat or a battle ax.

I certainly didn't create that blog with an audience in mind. I certainly did not gear it up to be popular. It is merely the pillow into which I cry. Or the void. The effect is the same.

Today I happened to notice that MNSpeak has a comment function and was curious as to what people had to say. A couple strangers had commented on Small Laws and brought interesting things to the table, but the comments on MNSpeak were... well...

Well, this is the Internet. People feel permitted to speak frankly when they can't see who they're talking to and feel themselves pretty much untouchable. They also mistake hyperbole for comedy, or maybe that's a security issue, so it's not enough to say "I disagree with such-and-such." It is comedy to say "such-and-such is made of concentrated bat guano." It happened that a young woman only recently legal to drink wrote her assessment on the premise that I've never left Minneapolis in the course of my life. And another gentleman who primarily posts links to other things on his blog, rarely writing original material, found me "long-winded."

Those might be irritable comments to hear about yourself, but in a case like this it really, really helps to look at the source. The young woman has no life experience and therefore believes no one else does either; the gentleman does not like to write and therefore gets lost after eight words in a row. That's acceptable. There was another snarky comment but I had the opportunity to go to her author's blog and then to a picture of her, and it was apparent she wasn't nearly half as bad-assed as she believed herself to be.

See? Consider the source.

Where otherwise this would be a post filled with hatred and vengeance, I got a glimpse at who was casting judgment on me and decided I can take that from them. Now, if Gene Wolfe critiqued me as being verbose, that would sting on a couple levels, but if the gentleman with ADHD thinks I go on and on, I'm still within acceptable parameters.

And actually I had something else to say: I was going to talk about my lovely trip to the apple orchard yesterday, being in love with my wife and enjoying the weather, the whole package. However, I'm abruptly not in the mood to be pleasant.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Submission Guidelines

I notice different publications handle their writers' guidelines very differently.

Wired promptly e-mailed theirs to me, upon my request. I wrote to Flaunt almost three weeks ago but haven't heard anything yet.

METRO Magazine attempts to discourage new writers, while Harper's is very accessible and inviting.

Minneapolis City Pages has hidden their guidelines entirely and only the pure of heart may uncover them.

As for actual queries, I haven't had much luck. I sent out three queries for a video game article on Sept. 18 and am still waiting to hear back from anyone. I'll give it another week--they give themselves four weeks to respond--before I send out reminders... with my swank new and (hopefully) professional-looking e-mail address. Does that really make a difference? I'm told it does.

Anyway, I need to send out more queries than three in a month. I feel like I should be sending one out daily, and then I could use the waiting time to work on my fiction. That's the idea, anyway.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Esprit de Corps: FAIL

Usually, when a veteran runs into another veteran, they're pretty excited to connect and trade stories. You trade kernels of information very rapidly: your MOS, maybe your rank, where you were stationed and when you served, &c.

Today I went to Yom Kippur services at Mount Zion Temple in Saint Paul. Rebecca and I went with her sister's family. She said I didn't have to go, but I know how important the high holidays are and I don't want to be separate from what's important in her life.

We waited to collect hymnals (is that the right word? Prayer books?) and I saw an elderly man breeze by. He had hearing aids in each ear, a tan blazer, and a cloissonne pin that grabbed my eye. To anyone else it would've looked like the design on the thorax of the black widow spider, only done in black on a field of red. To me, though, it was home: it was the unit badge of 7th ID (Light). Excitedly, I asked him if he was indeed prior service. He confirmed he was and moved to grab a book.

I asked him if he was stationed at Fort Ord, CA, because I was 7th ID (Light) too. I was one of the last units there before the base was closed and sold back to the state, I said. He said curtly, "No. Korea," and started to leave.

I further explained that I was also stationed in South Korea and that got his attention more than anything else. He was at Camp Casey; I was at Camp Carroll, which he didn't recognize until I said it was 18 miles away from Taegu. "Oh, you were way to the south," he said, moving away.

"Sorry," I said as I backed off, "I just saw the unit patch and got excited." He laughed politely and left.

I looked at Rachel and asked if I'd done something wrong. "No, you seemed to handle yourself pretty well," she said, admitting surprise at his unwillingness to talk shop. "Why would you walk around with your badge on your lapel if you didn't want to talk about your military service?"

Exactly. I was genuinely surprised at how disinclined he was to connect with a fellow soldier. I've had better conversations with Marines.

Marines!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Advertising on the Edge

Tired of network cards that only perfunctorily fulfill their... whoa, sorry, I'll start over. Had a lot of caffeine today, heh.

Tired of junky-assed network cards that only do as much as they have to? Had enough of listening to your coworkers bitch about equipment that does exactly what it's expected to... but no more?

Well, no more! This morning heralds the dawn of new technology: introducing the Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card. You want more than you paid for--now, you can have it. For a price.

The Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card is like 30 network cards in one, all doing the same thing, just... in slightly different ways that distinguish each one from the others. Like, one processes all data in red, another one leaves your data vaguely grape-scented, and another one converts all packet transfers into a series of whistling noises. Is your tea ready or is your computer just that good? Only you and the office Englishman will know.

The Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card. It's not just good: it's a Killer.

That's not just hype. The Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card will literally deprive your other hardware of its inherent right to exist. Our network card is without sin, for it lacks the faculty to distinguish good from evil... and it acts on that missing component with extreme prejudice. If you thought the Cyberdyne Systems Grievous Injury Router did a number on your peripherals, just try to find all the severed body parts once the Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card is done with your department.

That is, if you can survive. If somehow you manage to escape the evil steel blizzard of sheer performance power, then we invite you to call the police--every Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card comes with a free iPhone--and try to file a report. But we warn you: gaze in to the Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card, and the Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card also gazes into you.

Do you want that? Does this sound like something you want? How old were you when you first realized you wanted a network card to gaze into the core of your identity? Seventeen? Twelve? Have you known since you were six? Well, if you 're 35 now, then it's been a maximum of 29 years that you've had to wait for this kind of technological satiation, so enjoy it. Savor it, you sick fuck. The Cyberdyne Systems Killer Network Card is due to manifest in your schema, so be careful what you wish for: you just might get it. Especially if you complete the user-friendly Flash order form on our Web site. Provided you entered your personal and shipping information correctly, you may get exactly what you wished for.

And more, like we said. Our premise in the third paragraph. Yeah, I had to look it up too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Ultimate

Oh my gods, it finally happened. I wondered if I'd ever see this day.

Google seems to offer full functionality in Web design. As you know, I created a quick and dirty Web page once I discovered Google Pages: http://sxoidmal.googlepages.com/.

But I wondered if there were a way to rig it up between Google Pages and Google Documents to fake a free blog. That's when I discovered they were already there: http://sites.google.com/site/sxoidmal/.

It works a lot like I recently discovered WordPress does: you create pages as per your needs, and you can make one out to be a blog. Which I did.

Which makes a lot of my other blogs redundant. I think I actively maintain eight blogs currently. They're all over the place and some of them actually do have specialized purpose, but yeah. I like to be in the habit of writing a lot. When I write about my day in one, I don't want to repeat myself so I have to approach it from a different angle or focus on different aspects when updating the next blog. Then it gets trickier and trickier as I go down the list, so I get a lot of writing exercise and I'm spreading myself around the Web like regal eggshell latex paint.

But now Google offers a service where you can do everything, and you can create stuff that you need as you need it. They don't seem to have a Blogroll yet, where you would, like, list your friends' sites in the sidebar, but there are certainly ways around that, yes. And they provide instructions on how to point your domain name to your Google site, which I'm about to do right now.

Specifically: I'm about to create my professional online portfolio and buy a domain name for it. If Google offered one free domain name with this service, it would be entirely free; as it is, it'll run me, what, $12/year? Cheaper if you look around, and I know where to look: I can get it down to $7/year.

I'm very, very excited right now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Slow, Cold Sunday Morning

Nothing ground-breaking to say here. I'm just writing to stay in the habit of writing. It's ten-thirty on a chilling October morning. Bella's curled up against my leg while I have my laptop actually, literally upon the top of my lap. How many people actually write like that? My theory is that people started calling them notebooks because they felt silly never putting their laptops on their laps.

It's not a strong theory.

Aw, damn, I don't have Boards of Canada on this computer. Oh well, I've got Panda Bear, the Beta Band, and my recent attraction, the New Pornographers. I'm surprised at how much I like them.

Sunday morning. What do we have planned today? I think we have a brunch later today. I should wake up Rebecca because I think she won't enjoy sleeping in this late. We slept in to eleven yesterday and she was pretty put off about that, even though we did run around and achieve quite a lot.

To my left, there are two sets of blinds on two windows. The windows are counter-weighted and made of a lovely orangish-brown dark wood. The left blinds are fully lowered, the blinds on the right are drawn half-up. The slats are rotated perfectly vertically so the most light can come straight in. I have a friend who used to live in Madison, now is in Reno, who knows how to effectively and efficiently clean blinds like this. People don't think of how dirty their blinds are until someone comes in and says, "Hey, I clean venetian blinds," and then you start examining your own blinds with an uncharacteristically critical eye. My blinds are filthy, you think. How could I have let them go this far? Is it affecting my athsma?

Oops, Bella just heard something that requires her investigation. ...And there goes Toki to join her. Rebecca must be up. I'll go make coffee.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The State Park, the Farm-Raised Trout

Today was quite a busy day, compared to how other weekends have gone. It's important to me because of the message at Rosh Hashanah services, where the rabbi asked us what we'd do if we were granted $86,000 every day. You have to use the money because it doesn't roll over, and if you do nothing with it you lose it, just get more money the next day. He suggested we'd take the money and save it or blow it.

Well, we get 86,000 seconds every day and we should make the most of them. We should spend as many of them as possible rather than letting them slip by and expire. I think we came closer to that today.

Granted, we didn't wake up until 11:00 AM, because we'd stayed up late, but we did hit the ground running. Without even cleaning up we threw on some clothes and hustled out to the St. Paul farmers market. There's this one guy, Todd Thomas, who manages his own trout farm, and the trout he raises are downright addictive. He feeds them mussels and clams, raises them naturally in a clean environment, and these little bastards are so tasty! We grabbed quite a few packages, along with some broccoli and a lot of chicken, and came back home to get cleaned up.

We wanted to get some exercise so I researched State Parks--hiking trails in particular--and decided on Afton State Park. We dropped some books off at the library and headed out, less than an hour's drive away, breezing past a "pick your own" apple orchard. We renewed our State Park sticker on the car and I discovered a new thing: this little metal medallion you nail to your walking stick. Traditional in Europe, Minnesota has recently adopted this practice in the last two years, and the rangers at this park are surprised at how popular they are. Rebecca is mystefied by my perspective: I'm less motivated to go out and check out a State Park for its own sake, but now I'm all fired up about seeing as many as possible just so I can collect these little medallions. Maybe that sounds messed up, but I'm really excited about it: I'm going to buy a walking stick and I'm going to line that bad boy up with little metal plates.

We hiked around for nearly two hours, too. The weather was fantastic, brisk but sunny for an autumn day. The leaves were turning, people were out boating along the river, and I got a couple dozen pictures of interesting plants along the way. I'll post them up on Flickr soon. At one point I asked Rebecca whether I should bite the bullet and become a nature photographer; in response she sucked in her breath and assured me there was no dearth of such a creature.

The hard thing about hiking around a State Park is doing so in Minnesota. When you run into other people, you can't just smile and say "hello." The encounter necessarily turns into a huge ordeal to see who can muster up the strength to make eye contact, who has the brazenness to speak up first and speak loudly enough to be heard. And then say that you do throw your pride into a basket and look at someone and say "hi:" there's every chance they'll purse their lips and snap their head away, or simply keep their head hunkered down and pretend nothing happened. It really contributes to one's bitterness, like another dose of mercury in one's liver, and it makes one less willing to put any energy towards this basic human consideration.

In short, it sucks ass.

We enjoyed our hike and drove home. One of us had a minor freak-out about the advanced state of chaos in our apartment, and I went out to start the grill for dinner. That is, I started the grill and then snuck back in to grab a beer, the corn, the trout and tinfoil, some canola oil (to clean the cooking grid), and a fistful of paper towels. I was going to set out there and set good.

At length, Rebecca came out to join me just as the grid was shiny and clean, and I wrapped up the fish in foil and placed it on the grill with the ears of corn. Rebecca brought a large dish of sliced zucchini--I do love grilled zucchini--and we spread those out to toast. Our neighbors had set up their fire pit and were about to cook some food (I overheard them preparing zucchini, funnily enough) and Rebecca took the initiative to start social contact. High fucking time, man. I wish I had the bravado to do something like that, and to this point our neighbors hadn't gone out of their way either. It's all Rebecca for the win.

We chatted nicely enough, talked about cooking and jobs and geography. R. and I went back to tend to our food and practiced memorizing their names--I am terrible at names--and scooped up everything for dinner. We set up trays in the living room and watched the episode "Choices" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season three is really, really good. Everyone agrees the Mayor is such an excellent villain.

Rebecca's washing the dishes and I'm blogging about the day in various blogs. Bella has come up from the basement and is curled up on my right, on the couch in the sun room. Toki has climbed down from the painting ladder and is trotting off to see what Rebecca's up to. I hear people chatting outside, enjoying one of the last pleasant nights we'll see this year, I'm sure.

I would not poll everyone in this household, but if you asked me, I would say today was a very good day.

Friday, October 3, 2008

As With Absinth, the Good Stuff has no 'E'

I wrote out the companion article to the previous entry last night, but removed it so that I could clean it up with some editing, as well as remove some of my hostile, intoxicated impressions of a couple other patrons. No reason to list those here; anyone who knows me can probably guess what I said anyway.

So the evening got started: we were issued a little blue ticket (for later drawings) and little strips of paper with four discs on them, underneath which were listed the four scotches we would sample that evening. I was already excited. Several years ago I attended a bourbon tasting hosted by Fred Noe of Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey, which was a real treat. I've also had the whisky flight of three kinds of Jameson and a shot of Red Breast at the Local, but there was no guided tour there. You get four shots put down in front of you and you quaff at your discretion.

This evening was substantially different than that, than either of those events. Fred Noe did touch upon the history of his distillery and guided us as to what we could expect from what we were about to drink. We had Maker's Mark, Knob Creek, &c., but as I said, this night was quite separate from these events.

Fiona MacNeill heads this show by herself (though sometimes bar own John Dingley helps her pour), and for $25 you get much more than "here's some drinks and an interesting story." She walked over to a large wall map and indicated where each dram's distillery came from. One drink had two flags, which meant that it had been created in one area but the distillery ended up in another. Remember the debate about Speyside? This was opening an entirely new world to me. Maybe my friend Bexley would know about this stuff, but it was definitely new to me.

A once-active blogger and accomplished musician and artist in her own right, Fiona transplanted from Scottish Borders a few years ago and started working at Merlin's Rest last year in June. Troy counted back and calculated that this was the tenth Scotch Flight event--toward the end of the evening I regretted missing the other nine, and not just because of the booze. This was a wealth of information that deeply intrigued me. As for my own heritage, I'm one-half UK and Irish. I've traced my ancestry down a likely path from Briggs to Mackerwithey to nothing less than Clan Ruari, one of six clans of Gallowglass, a source of personal pride for me.

So, Fiona announced we would be assessing each drink based on six criteria: strength, appearance, nose, palate, body, and finish. Jumping the gun, I had thought I'd apply what little I know of wine and tried to assess its legs and bouquet as well. That's just silly: of course scotch has great legs.

I've just decided i'm not going to run down all four scotches. That would be a disservice to Fiona's event: if you want to learn, you should just show up. I'm retaining my notes but will share with you my personal favorite scotch from the evening.

Ardmore: when it was announced this was 56.8% alcohol, the entire room went "Woo!" You'll note that "woo" is something you go, not something you say. A cheer was predictable, but "woo?" Were we no better than a sorority liaison on MTV? At least they didn't say "w00t." I would've walked out right then and there.

Anyway. This Ardmore was single-cask distilled in 1990, and were I a lesser man I would make a joke about women of this age as well, and so I won't. It's a newer brand we were drinking tonight, Fiona indicated, only recently gaining enough momentum to incorporate some kind of graphic design on its label. She described the process of making this scotch: it starts out being aged in an oak cask and then is moved to a quarter-cask, as per the distilling style of the 19th century. This distillery is one of the last to have its own cooperage (barrel-maker), but a scotch can never be made in a first-filled barrel, and this is where it gets interesting. They lease the barrels to Jack Daniels (Tennessee Whiskey (with an 'E')) since...

Actually, this is where I got confused. She said that bourbon can only be made in first-filled barrels, but bourbon can only be made in Kentucky. I have three favorite Kentucky bourbons. Whiskey (Tennessee or otherwise) is not the same thing as bourbon. Oh, wouldn't be funny if this was Scottish retaliation for Americans not knowing the difference between whisky and whiskey! I'll have to ask her about that when I speak to her next.

Anyway, Jack Daniels uses the barrels for their first-filled use, then sends them back to Scotland so they can be used there. I've really got to get my facts straightened out with that story, because it's dead fascinating. Also, this Ardmore distillery is the only one, Fiona reports, to fully use peat, a process common to Laphroaig. I'll have to ask her more about that, too.

The Ardmore dram was a light, pale yellow not unlike a white wine, honestly. It is barrier filtered, rather than chill filtered, and what that means is that more "impurities" will linger in the liquor. They don't taste bad; they give it character and identity, if anything. The only arguably negative effect is that the scotch will turn cloudy when water is introduced, purely an aesthetic consideration. When I added water, however, it didn't seem cloudy in the same sense that absinth or Pernod turn a milky jade or yellow: it just became a little streaked, light was refracted and then it went still again. So it's not even a consideration, as far as I'm concerned.

But here came some more education: why would someone add water to their drink, if not to dilute it? That was my preconceived notion. With scotch whisky, however, it's quite different. You add a couple drops to "expand" the drink, and that's my own misappropriation of the phrase, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. It spreads the smell out, it spreads the flavor out, and it brings different flavors to the fore. It's fascinating! I wonder how much I've missed out on, in my career of drinking scotch, by not adding a couple drops of water.

The Ardmore I found leathery and peaty to the nose, certainly. Fiona described it as "peppery" with an "underlying sweetness." It started out sweet on the tongue but went hot quickly, wow. A couple drops of water only muted the aroma slightly and it brought out the sweetness, but as our hostess indicated the heat builds up on the tongue and doesn't wash off, so further drinking resulted in further heat. That's entertainment value. The finish, therefore, lingers quite a bit and lasts with the more you have to drink. I was afraid to move my tongue afterward.

So yeah, for $25 you get four drams of obscure and classy scotch whisky, some geography, a little history, and homemade shortbread (Fiona baked it herself). If you can ignore the Festies coming down off their seasonal buzz, shouting their advice and corrections in the middle of Fiona's lecture, you're set.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Flight of Scotch: Merlin's Rest

Did you know that the little purse that hangs in front of the skirt is for men and men alone?

That's just one of the many interesting facts I'm due to learn tonight. I'm sitting in the back of Merlin's Rest (36th St/Lake St, Mpls) with my friends Troy and Mike. We're right outside the kitchen and perched at one of five tall, slender octagonal tables. Troy's started out with the BBC Burger and Guinness; I'm warming up with a Guinness and have ordered the Angus Burger; and Mike will have the Walnut Burger with his Newcastle. Like you wanted to know.

Our waitress is dressed in a skimpy little Scottish lass number (and is dropping a lot of objects, to her chagrin) and sports an authentic Scottish accent, the origin of which is of course impenetrable to me. I am an uncultured boor, after all. Anyway, the waitress struggled with our credit cards and I needed change for $100, so Troy commented that the waitress might need some pockets. It was jokingly suggested that she try a sporran, I think, but the waitress iterated that women may not wear such things. May not, sir.

My kilt has very deep pockets, but it's solid black, too. And then my belt holds a hanging pouch and a large square pouch that fastens to the belt itself. Feel privileged? That's more than I generally admit, but you've got to fly your freak flag high.

Why is my face flushed? My face feels very warm, and we haven't even started drinking. But I did pay my entrance fee and I got a little sheet of paper with spots marked for the four glasses:
  • Loch Morar 12 year, Highland
  • Inchmurrin 12-year, Highland
  • Ardmore 13-year, Speyside (Highland by some reckoning)
  • The Arran Malt, Island
That looks interesting, doesn't it! Oh, and it seems Fiona is the "whiskey wench." The ceremony just started: a young man walked around playing the bagpipes to announce the ceremony, followed by "Wild Bill" Watkins carrying what I may assume is a claymore (sword, for non-AD&D players), and the dear Fiona, who is now expressing gratitude for us skipping out on listening to another woman (Sarah Palin--believe me, there's no contest).

Carafes of water have been distributed because, evidently, the Arran Malt is very serious. Fiona claims it nearly rendered her blind. Were I a lesser man I would suggest "she looks all right to me." Be glad I am not. Also, Troy and Mike note that the bar is rather warm tonight, so it's not just me (that "flushed face" comment above). Trust me to show up in my union suit.

I'm almost done with my Angus Burger, which is very tasty--bun's a little plain but the focus is on the meat, isn't it? The fries are thick and hearty, I've splashed malt vinegar across them but always have them with mayonnaise. What did I tell you about me being a boor?

Fiona is indicating a large wall map where the four shots come from, elaborating upon regional history. See, the Ardmore distillery is located somewhere bordering Highland and Speyside, but she considers it to be a Speyside brew (I'll look these terms up later). And she indicates that one drink had two markers on the map because even though it originated in one town, the distillery is located elsewhere, apparently. These are interesting and relevant stories, one really has to be here to appreciate them.

And where are you? This flight occurs the first Thursday of every month at 7:30 PM! This isn't just a one-off, and I look forward to checking out future flights, yes sir.

In Which XN Complains a Bit More

Oh yeah, I will never observe Talk Like a Pirate Day. I don't think it's funny. I'm not offended by it, I don't come from a long line of pirates. My grandfather was not a pirate, I'm not one-fourth pirate by stock. It's just... not funny. Every time I start to say "I'm surprised it has gone on this long, that it's caught on this widely," I interrupt myself to admit, "Oh yeah, this is the nation the re-elected Bush."

I'm also unwilling to participate in this Zombie Pub Crawl thing, too. I know I've gone on about this before, so I'll only sum up: my friends and I were doing this long before it got popular, and then the guy who made it popular went on to get arrested on three counts of shitheadery and possession of bad ideas with intent to distribute. But no, I was not doing the pirate thing before anyone else was. I don't know what's up with that. At some point in the last several years I lost my patience for certain everything below a certain stratum of humor. And yes, these things are hierarchical to me.

What is up with Toki? He will not stop yowling. He wants my attention for something and runs to lead the way, then pauses to look at me meaningfully. If he's hoping to get fed, that's not for another 40 minutes.

I started up another blog at WordPress. Not just another blog, but another WordPress blog. I got psyched out by all the features they offer--there was a bad episode where I blocked an entry from view after trying to figure out all the extra features--and deleted it, and now I can never have "sxoidmal.wordpress.com" again. I named it something lame instead and will use it for creative writing exercises. I was interested to learn in class last night that anything we intend to submit for publication must not first appear online in a blog or such, as this may itself be considered publication, and any place that desires "first run" submissions will not find this acceptable. I wonder how many places really would give a rat's ass about that, and how far the legal definition extends.

As for me, I haven't heard back from any of the gaming magazines. I sat down with the Writer's Market and drew up a list of magazines that accept various genres of short story, like Fantasy, Mystery (at my wife's request), and Experimental (let's see how far we can push that). In the meantime, however, I must solicit more articles for local publications and try to get something in print. I interviewed the originator of the Minneapolis Drunken Spelling Bee, which sounds like a good story, except both the City Pages and the Rake have run articles on this nascent phenomenon, so... they may not be interested. Yet I still need to remind myself I can't know until I ask. Guess I'll work on those query letters now.

I've been reading more about my favorite author, and I'm inspired/shamed into writing something. I updated most of my blogs (which doesn't count) and want to solidly plan some short stories as well as rewrite the first chapter of my novel. I'm afraid that it will be too childish to have each chapter be... oh, I could write a chapbook. That never occurred to me. Chapbooks are in right now, I think (like I've got my finger on the pulse of modern culture). I also just finished a collection of short stories by Richard Matheson. Gods, if you ever want to be intimidated out of writing again, read him. Yesterday morning I finished half the book before I even realized what I was doing: engaging as all hell. These are perhaps quintessential short stories in their best form, and they would be useful tools to trick children into reading more.