Monday, December 31, 2007

I did a short bit of metal detecting on my lunch break at Hounz Lane Park today. I found a Mike's Hard Lemonade bottle top and an old pull tab. I also spent fifteen minutes hunting for something that was showing up as a dime 6-8 inches deep, but had to return to work before I fount it. I suspect it's junk metal, a hunk of it, and it's deeper down than I dug.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Busy Holidays coupled with inconsistent Web access equals no posting by me. And it sounds like Erin will wake from her nap (on the floor of the hallway) soon, so this is likely to be brief.

All yesterday I worked on a painting for Jill's bedroom for her birthday. Pictures forthcoming. It is not done, but is nearly so, after about twelve solid hours of work. 28 x 40 inches of kitty cats and butterflies.

Like my brother Brian, I got a metal detector for Christmas. It's a Garrett Ace 250, which is a good one. Lots of fun so far, but the time I've been able to spend with it is limited. According to his blog, he's found a dollar in change, and I'm only at 48 cents. 18 of that came from my yard or the yard next to mine (the house is unoccupied). The rest came from my parents' back yard. I've found bottle caps, nails, construction material, and misc. bits of crud, but the major component so far has been coins, so I guess that bodes well. I find myself mentally tracing driving paths across town, trying to remember places I've seen that might be good hunting grounds.

I'm reading Tolkien's Children of Hurin. Good so far.

Two D&D games this month. Friday night we left off with the three PCs present entering the forboding and fortified lair of goblins and ogres, looking for two missing comrades. Last time they tried this, two party members died. However, they succeeded in killing dozens of goblins and ogres, including some really tough ones. This time out, the PCs are trying to be a little less frontal assault-ish. We'll see how that goes. I'm very interested in seeing how this plays out.

Today I raked the front yard and crushed aluminum cans.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More D&D

This takes way too long, but how could I not?
What D&D character are you?

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Bard/Sorcerer (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

Secondary Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

थे आर्डर ऑफ़ थे स्टिक।

Hmm. It seems I've tripped some switch for Hindi.


I’d guess that everyone who is interested in such a thing has already seen The Order of the Stick, a D&D online comic. But just in case you are interested and haven’t seen it, here is the link. I think it’s fine geeky entertainment and provides an excellent view of the D&D Experience.

I’m only up to episode 163.

Inside this skinny person is a fat person trying to get out.

The past couple of days I’ve not been well. I’ve had a head cold with a cough and congestion (and that has been the status quo for a couple of months, except for a 1-week break from it last week.) And for the past day or two, my stomach has been a little off; whether from Crohn’s disease, or cold medicine, or related to my head cold in some other way, I don’t know, but it’s just been sort of yucky. And I’ve been tired and run-down.

I say all this to explain why, as I was driving to work this morning, it occurred to me that I should really lay off the holiday snacks for a day. I said to myself, “OK, no cookies or candies or whatever at work today.” This office, you know, is zonkers for snacks. It is definitely worth checking the break room every morning to see if anyone brought in donuts or a cake or cookies. This time of year, we’re up to our incisors in sweets.

So I issued my own little moratorium, and yet I walked through the break room and saw Krispy Kremes and a tray of candies. I ended up taking a chocolate-dipped Oreo and a chocolate-covered pretzel. The Oreo was especially good.

I don’t gain weight because the things that make me gain weight (that is, food in general) make me sick. But I have no will power. Or very little. I just successfully fought a fifteen minute battle with myself to resist the strong desire to get a donut. “There are only a few left!” my glutton self said.

“They should go to someone else,” my wise self replied.

“Well, let’s compromise. Go get another Oreo.”

“Good idea. A compromise. Yeah, that Oreo was better than a donut, anyway—hey, wait a second. I said no more, and I meant it.”

“Well, how about just one of those little cookie bar things. They were small. Really small.”

“Yeah, they were. But, umm, no. Nice try. I feel like crap already.”

“I’ll be back later.”

“I know.”

The funny thing is, now that a half hour has elapsed since my inner contest, I have almost no desire for sweets. It doesn’t sound good. Like many other things that I find very hard to resist, if I can hold out for just a little while, the impulse subsides.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leonard Cohen waltzes back in

Once, a few years ago, I decided to listen to my Best of Leonard Cohen CD, but the case was empty. I checked the CD player, Kim’s old one that hadn’t been used too much in a while, and it wasn’t there either. Then I remembered, “Oh, yeah, I put it in the CD carrier I took with me to Oklahoma City when I went for training a while back.” I looked in the CD carrier, in all the CD carriers. Not there either.

After searching some more, I pretty much concluded that I had left it in my rental car in OKC. I’d looked behind book shelves, behind the entertainment center, everywhere. Very sad, although I was amused by the idea of some dude in OKC sitting down in the rental car, and suddenly hearing “So Long Marianne” or “Sisters of Mercy.” He’d have to think, “What kind of weirdo had this car before me?”

I don’t know what trip to OKC this would have been. I’ve been out there twice in the past five years: Winter 2003 and Spring 2005. I can’t recall which trip this would have been, although I really feel like it was before Erin was born, making it 2003.

This Leonard Cohen CD had not been what I expected it to be when I got it. I thought it would be more brooding and electronic, but this was much older Cohen and sounds acoustic and, I don’t know, dippy. Brooding but with a slightly whiny voice. But I listened to it and tried to like it, and pretty soon I did. I began to like it quite a bit.

I’ve missed it from time to time, but never replaced it. The empty CD case hung around just in case, somehow, the CD turned up.

Last night I was switching out our computer monitors, and knew it would take a little while to do. It was late and everyone else was in bed, so I decided to put on some music. Nothing too intrusive. As I skimmed the CDs, I saw the Leonard Cohen case and pulled it out. I could tell by its weight there was nothing in it. I opened it, looked, closed it again. “I suppose,” I thought, “I should throw away the inserts and use this case to house one of our other music or picture CDs. There is plenty of stuff here I can get rid of to make a little room, and this case is at the top of the list.”

Then I skimmed a little further, and saw Radiohead’s Amnesiac. It’s been a long time since I listened to that, maybe a couple of years. That would be perfect. I opened it and there, on top of the Radiohead CD, was The Best of Leonard Cohen.

What’s weird is that I feel quite strongly that I have listened to Amnesiac since the other CD went missing.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No more leak

Oooh, I forgot to mention. The back of our house no longer leaks. The gutter guy put in a nice new drip edge, and that took care of it. The contractor’s advice: The damage inside the walls is minor and non-structural. It has dried out now that the water has stopped leaking into it. Instead of spending thousands of dollars to fix it, just whistle a happy tune and be glad you caught it before it got worse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Warhammer 40K

It was Warhammer 40K on our dining room table last weekend. My small detachment of Space Marines evaded David’s semi-sentient floating mines and torched the three small bio mine factories in the area, allowing for the safe escape of the lieutenant who bore the valuable gene seed that would aid in our eventual victory against the encroaching Tyranid enemy. The models were all David’s. I had a lot of fun, and it was a quick little skirmish.

Space Marines, using a lone flame thrower, head towards the first of three mine factories. The mine that is hitting them in this picture shook them up a little but caused no fatalities.

There is glee in mayhem.

This is a somewhat odd JFK half I found. Note that JFK’s part is unusually wide, and he appears to have shaved the side of his head from his temple to above his ear.

This isn’t from normal wear; it’s on the deepest part of the design, which translates to the highest points on the die used to mint the coin. This makes me think that this results from over-polishing, or some other form of wear, on the die. The high points on the die wore off, leaving the low points on the coin with pronounced flatness. (“Pronounced flatness”—pardon the oxymoron.)

[I was unable to take a decent photo of it today. The pics came out sort of rotten.]

A gentleman in London whom I recently made contact with via a coin discussion forum recently mailed me a bunch of “extras” he had no use for in his collection. I have yet to go through them in any detail, but there is some fun stuff. It was very, very kind of him to mail them to me. If we send Christmas cards this year, he’ll have to be added to the list for sure.

Likewise a forum moderator on the same Web site. He ran a random drawing contest on his forum, and I won a 1963 Cyprus proof set of five coins. I received them in the mail yesterday. Very cool.

Not even December yet, and it already feels like Christmas!


My glads are still pretty green, so I haven’t touched them. After the foliage turns brown, though, I think I’ll be digging them up and spreading them out a bit. I guess I’ll store them in the garage this winter, which may be a bit of a gamble. I don’t know the best way to store bulbs (or “corms,” really; glads don’t technically grow from bulbs), but I suspect that digging the bulbs from the ground with the intention of keeping them warm in the unheated garage all winter might only slightly lessen the risk of freezing them. It worked a couple of years ago, though. I left them in the ground last winter. I think, after I dig them up, clean them, and let them air out a little, they should be safe if I wrap them in something like newspaper and box them up.

The rosemary that I have growing in a pot is now at my office. Last week I brought it in and placed it by a consenting co-workers cubicle, next to a window. I hope it over-winters well, because a grand two-year-old rosemary plant should be nice to have next summer.


I watched the critically acclaimed “Army of Shadows” last week on DVD.

It’s a French film from 1969, about the Resistance during WWII. It was not released in this country until early this year.
I was expecting greatness, but my reaction was tepid. There were some very good things about it, but overall I can’t really recommend it.

Thanksgiving night I went to the theater with my brother Kevin and saw “No Country for Old Men.” Really, really good. I’ve had it on my mind quite a bit since viewing it.


I still need to finish the Cherokee Park landscape that I started the weekend before last. I haven’t touched it in a week.

I bought some black sumi ink to augment my ink experimentation. I’m eager to break it out, but so far I’ve only smudged it around a little. I wonder what a drawing done with both sumi ink and walnut ink would look like.

Carrie has loaned me some lino cutting tools and a brayer, which drastically reduces the already fairly modest start-up costs for doing some relief prints. I’ve really wanted to do this for months now, but now that the real opportunity is here, I’m not sure what I want to do.

At first glance, linoleum block printing seems quite a bit different from the way I normally work. I think of lino prints as typically depicting a self-contained object, or small group of objects, graphically clean and somewhat simplified. But when painting or drawing, I tend to work very sketchily, with a large variety of marks, and somewhat improvised. This method of drawing doesn’t directly translate into block printing. Also, the subject matter I keep thinking of doesn’t seem to reflect my general subject interests (that is, landscapes, vegetation, and buildings.) However, it just occurred to me that there really isn’t any reason at all that I can’t do a landscape as a block print. And it had already been on my mind that interesting buildings would be great to work on (I keep thinking of churches for some reason.)

I want to launch into a multi-color block print, but it seems wiser to do at least one single-color print to sort of feel my way into the process. It’s been a long time—more than twenty years—since I’ve done it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random cute kid stuff

Jill’s longest sentence, to date: “Peach jelly momma buy p[l]ease,” said to Kim at the grocery. I guess the syntax could use a little work, but I’m still impressed, especially with the use of the word “buy” and the considerate addition of “please.”

Yesterday at her preschool, Erin’s teacher, Ms. Kathy, had the students paint paper plates with a mixture of tempera paint and spices. The result was a painted pumpkin pie: A coppery-brown painted plate that smelled strongly of pumpkin spice and cinnamon. On the way home, Erin told Kim, “We painted with a [s]poon!”

“You painted it with a spoon?” responded Kim.

“Yeah,” said Erin. Pause. “I don’t think Ms. Kathy knows.”

“You don’t think she knows what?”

“what a ‘poon looks like and what a brush looks like.”

Last night Erin begged me to get out some grown-up games. She has been very interested in some old games that Kim’s dad brought over from storage a few days ago. She’s asked both Kim and me to get them out and just play them by ourselves; I suppose she wanted to see what they looked like, and was intrigued by the boxes, especially “The Game of Life.”

So I consented, first getting out a chess set. She and I played chess (she now knows that the horses are called knights, and that the king is important, and that you can capture other pieces on your turn.) Then we played Life, spinning the spinner and moving the little cars around the board. She’s a pretty good counter, and can recognize many of the numbers on the spinner without my help.

Also last night, Jill and Erin were playing with electric musical toys in the kitchen and dancing. Jill started doing this chicken dance--tucking her hands in her armpits, flapping her elbows, and saying “Ock, ock, ock” as she rapidly stomped in circles. The effect was very, very funny.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cherokee Park

I dressed warmly and went to Cherokee Park today. Here's a decent (I think) start to a painting.

I also sketched some airplanes at Bowman Field, but the scenery just wasn't frosting my brownies. It's something I may come back to. However, for the time being, the notion of painting parked aircraft on the tarmac is more appealing to me in theory than in practice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Usually when I hold the camera at arm’s length and snap a picture of myself, the results are awful. This photo turned out very nicely, though. I think it helps that my head is turned and the highlight of the picture is my much more photogenic daughter.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, November 12, 2007

Two ink drawings

Here are two sketches I started on lunchbreaks and then worked on a little more at home. These were done with my homemade ink, homemade bamboo pens, brushes, forythia twigs, and crowquill nibs.

The ink not being as dark was I want has forced me to work a little more in layers. I don't think these come across as "finished" works of art, but I'm pretty happy with the results. Since they were mostly done on lunchbreak, I had to work fast, and I like the look of fast work.Sycamores and Black Walnuts, 16 1/2 x 11 1/2, walnut ink on paper

Gravel Path, 16 1/2 x 11m1/2, walnut ink on paper

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rearranging the cold goods

Yogurts are never big enough to satisfy.
The bottle of margarita mix
from back with the crumbs
four years, an unused señorita
now dumped to make room.
Some things aren't made in Jelly Belly flavors
Things unmentionable to some
hot fantasies,
Things so savory.
When was this meat from?

How to Make Black Walnut Ink

Homemade Black Walnut Ink11-8-2007

I recently began making my own black walnut ink for use in drawing. There are various recipes around the Internet, and all of them are similar.

This is a long process, but most of the time is devoted to waiting. Very little of it actually involves doing something.

The basic process for making black walnut ink is this: Get rotten black walnuts, husk and all. Boil the heck out of them. Strain the mess and use the brown juice for drawing or writing. That’s all there is to it, really, but I’m always game for elaborating…

Step 1. Find your walnuts. Black walnut trees are fairly plentiful here in Louisville, and that seems to be true for much of the eastern half of the U.S. In October, one can spot the green, leathery, round fruit (usually just a little smaller than tennis balls) on the ground or getting ready to fall. One doesn’t use them when they are green, however. Gather the blackest, rottenest, gunkiest ones you can find. If there aren’t any that are black and icky, gather the green ones. Gather the entire fruit. The small, hard shell with the nut in the center is a non-essential piece for the ink. What one needs is the leathery rind. Just pick up the whole thing.

Newly gathered walnuts. Eat 'em? Naw! Get back, squirrels! I'm an artist!

(Warning: Black, oozy walnuts will stain hands and clothing, so use some caution.)

Step 2. Put them in a plastic bag and let them rot. The green ones will turn black over a few days or weeks.

(Another warning: At any step in this process, one can set all these walnuts aside. They are already rotten; it’s not like putting one’s ink-making on hold for days or even weeks will ruin the batch. If you store the walnuts outside, however, critters will be drawn to them. Squirrels will tear open bags and gnaw on pots.)

I refer to the walnuts in disgusting terms, and they are pretty gross. They get slimy and moldy, and you’ll probably find all kinds of strange little bugs living in them. Don’t worry. It all cooks down to the same brown sludge. Except for those little pale brown beetle larvae. They stayed shiny and intact even after hours and hours of boiling. If the ick factor is too high, just remember that you must suffer for your art. So must those with whom you share your kitchen.

Step 3. After they are black, put them in a large pot for which you don’t have any great affection. I used a large aluminum pot that we use very infrequently. I was surprised that, after I was done, the pot cleaned up very well; other sources, however, say that their pots and pans can become discolored. Stainless steel or enamel-coated pots seem to be the general recommendation, but my aluminum one worked just great.

Cover the walnuts with water and let them soak for at least a day. The longer they soak, the better. My first batch soaked for a day, and my second batch soaked for several days. I plan to make a third batch which I will allow to soak for several months.

(Another warning: The walnuts, water, and ink all have a high capacity for staining anything they come into contact with. This includes kitchen counters, fingernails, dishes, wooden spoons, and your clothing.)

Step 4. Dismantle the walnuts. Tear, mash, and break them up. The more little pieces one can get, the better. Remember, the rotten, black pulp material is the stuff that turns the water into ink.

With my first batch, I tore them up before I soaked them. With my second batch, I didn’t really break up the husks until they were cooking. Step 4 can kind of be inserted anywhere in the soaking step, or early in the cooking step (Step 5.)

Use this water, which at this point has started to turn black from the walnut juice, for the next step.

Step 5. With the walnuts still covered in their (now-blackened) water, put them on a medium-low heat. Let them simmer for a long time—hours. If the water gets too low, you can add more. The goal, though, is to let it slowly cook down.

Periodically, dip a brush into it and test the liquid on some paper to see how dark it is. Once the liquid is as dark as you want it, your ink is nearly done. It has probably cooked down quite a bit by this point.

The smell of the boiling walnuts is distinct, but not especially strong or unpleasant. It reminded me of rotten logs and damp forest.

Step 6. Let the dark brown mess cool for a while, and then strain it. The best method I’ve found so far is to stretch an old pair of nylons over a glass or plastic container, and pour the walnut sludge into it. Squeeze the sludge in the nylons to get as much liquid out of it as you can. Empty the walnut crumbs out of the nylons into the garbage (or your hedge, or compost heap, or your neighbor’s porch) and repeat until you’ve strained all the liquid into your container. Your container should now hold ink, free from all but small bits of sediment. This sediment, which will settle at the bottom of jars, shouldn’t be a problem.
I tried letting the muck drain through coffee filters. I don't recommend it. It was painfully slow and messy.
A page from my sketchbook, where I was testing and playing with the walnut ink.

Straining the ink. I put an old pair of nylons over the opening of a large plastic can that pretzels came in. After I filled it partially with walnut sludge, I pulled it out and squeezed it over the glass bowl. By the time I was done, the glass bowl was nearly full of the ink.

Step 7. You might want to add a preservative, since the ink can grow mold. The best recommendation I’ve heard so far is to add a small amount of denatured alcohol (add it so that it constitutes 5% of the ink). Salt would also work, but salt can lead to corrosion in metal pen nibs. Vinegar also can retard mold and bacterial growth, but its acidity renders the ink non-archival.

Optional: Most black walnut ink makers recommend the addition of gum arabic to improve the ink’s flow.

Results so far:11-8-07: After a couple of batches homemade black walnut ink, I am unsatisfied with the ink’s darkness. I tried taking a couple of jars and boiling them down further, and the ink did become more concentrated. The ink also became a little thicker and didn’t flow as well. This might be where the gum arabic would come in handy, but I haven’t bought any yet. A 2 ½ jar at the art store runs about twelve dollars. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t be making my own ink! Heh heh. I may try buying some powdered gum arabic on Ebay.

Even though the ink isn’t as dark as I’d like, it still is pretty nice. I think I might be able to make the next batch darker by letting the walnuts soak a lot longer—months, instead of days.

I am also running a lightfastness test with the ink on the dashboard of my car.

I will edit this post periodically as I learn more.

2-7-2012:  I guess I should add another update.  A couple of months ago I made another batch of ink from walnuts that I had sitting in a pot in my garage for about two years. Or was it three?  Anyway, they were sitting covered in water for a very long time.  I've read that there are chemicals in walnuts that discourage mold growth, and that must be true, for there was no mold in the walnuts. (Then why does the ink grow mold, I wonder?)

       These walnuts had also been soaking with some old nuts and bolts to add some iron content, on the theory that it would darken the ink.  I don't kow whether it was this iron, or the age of the walnuts, or a combination of the two, but the ink came out noticeably darker than previous batches.

6-27-13: Another brief update.  I am still using ink from previous batches and have not made any ink since that mentioned in the update above.  But to elaborate on the above point, I recently had four drawings side-by-side: three done with the newest batch of ink, which had very aged walnuts as well as rusty metal added to the mix, and one drawing done with an older batch that had not sat around soaking as long and which had not metal in it.

   The first three were brown, but were more of a charcoaly brown, whereas the the one had more of a burnt sienna appearance.

   My goal had been to make a darker ink, but comparing them, I think I actually like the browner one more.  It just has a more vibrant feel.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pastimes and interests, waxing and waning:

-Making art: /\ 5 points
-Coin collecting: \/ 1 point
-Roleplaying games: \/ 3 points (commentary: Despite my recent excursion into Dan’s Cthulhu-land, I’ve not invested the time I want into RPGs. I really need to do some DMing soon before my players forget what they did last. Writing a long recap is a pain in the butt.)
-Gardening holding steady at seasonally low value.
-Boardgames: \/ 1 point. (commentary: I haven’t played much lately, although I did get the opportunity to play a really cool card game with the Sparkses last weekend.)

I’m working on assembling my pictorial tutorial for the creation of black walnut ink. Over the past few days I’ve made a couple of landscape drawing with it, and I’ll post pictures of those, too. Unfortunately, with the time change, I don’t have any decent daylight to use for photographing them when I get home from work.

The basil in the garden has all flowered and turned ugly. Between drought and then torrential rain and then cold, the tomatoes are all split and yucky. I was kind of burned out on them by early October, anyway, although I have a few green ones that I intend to fry.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Call of Cthulhu, Part 2

We had arrived in the fishman cult room unobserved, for the monsters were absorbed in their diabolical ceremony. In a short moment, the waters of the great pool stirred, and a colossal beast arose: Something like a bipedal eel, a fish-man-demon of immense proportions, matching the golden statues of the altar. The chanting increased in volume as the beast strode from the water and sat his obscene bulk upon the golden altar. It was the fish-god’s chair.

Our stunned amazement was broken by Police Sgt. Willis, whose military rifle thundered to life. His blasts ripped the demon’s eyes apart, sending it into a frenzy. The others of our group produced weapons as well, and I pulled Willis’s pistol from his hip holster for my own use. I think I acquitted myself well, considering that I have almost no firearms experience. I killed one of the fishmen, and wounded two others. The photographer used his large photographic apparatus to blind the fishmen with flashes, and I think that had he not done so, we may have suffered greatly. As it was, we slaughtered the mutants as they closed in on us.

As we fought, the great fish demon struck the three captive girls with its tail, killing two of them. It then vanished back into the water.

After a hail of gunfire, the fishmen were dead. The one surviving girl was beside herself with fear and babbling incoherently. After a brief talk, it was agreed that the doctor and I would accompany her quickly back to the sunlit world. The rest would hurry down another tunnel, seeking the rest of the missing girls.

The doctor and I fled with the girl we had rescued back through the dank tunnels. We had come a long way through these menacing sewers, and the way back was sure to take at least an hour. It seemed to go on forever, and we hoped to encounter other rescuers.

Suddenly, our hopes seemed bourne out, as we spotted a flashlight ahead of us. We encountered a large man with a light and a gun, hurrying in our direction. We greeted him gladly, but he leveled his gun at us.

(Here the story ends, and Fr. Duddlesworth’s account mysteriously leaves off. How did he present this story? Was he dictating? Who knows? I kindly invite one of the other players from the night to put the ending on the tale, as I was not present. Yet I’ve heard how it ended. If no one else recaps in a few days, I’ll tack it on myself.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

We went trick-or-treating in Chris and Helga's neighborhood tonight, after dinner at their house. Lots of friends on hand, and we formed a pretty big trick-or-treating gang, but we didn't see many other kids out in the neighborhood. It was a beautiful night, just warm enough that you could probably get away with wearing a t-shirt. Our girls are little enough to be real slow pokes, so we lagged behind, except Ed and Loraine and their daughter stayed with us. We went to a half-dozen houses, and it wasn't a quick affair, let me tell you. C & H were wonderful hosts, as always, with great decorations and even better food. It was all very pleasant."Trick or treat!"


Earlier tonight: The Chicken and the Pumpkin

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Call of Cthulhu

(Part 1) Friday evening I drove up to Dan and Amy’s in Florence for a “Call of Cthulhu” game. Dan ran the game, using the Savage Worlds game system. There were seven players, plus Dan.

I arrived with a full stomach, but that didn’t keep me from eating some of Amy’s truly fine chili and homemade bread rolls. There was also a large jar of candy corn and peanuts which, when eaten together, taste almost exactly like a Payday candy bar. Also, dark chocolate peanut M&Ms. And corn chips.

Dan passed out pre-generated characters for each of us. I took the role of Fr. Angus Duddlesworth, founder of a runaway shelter. The year was 1983. A CD player near the game table played music of the early 80s until we got tired of it.

Game synopsis, in short: I read in the paper that the teen boys who had been staying at the shelter were horribly murdered in the night, and all the girls were missing. The boys had been ripped to shreds.

I hurried down to the crime scene. The door was guarded by two officers. One of those lads was a good Catholic, and I talked my way past. He accompanied me, but soon had to run back out: Inside was unimaginable carnage. The bodies had already been taken to the coroner’s office, but the gore was everywhere. Officer McCarthy could not stomach it and went back outside to retch.

I steeled myself with prayer and tried to understand what had happened. I saw no sign of forced entry, until I noticed the basement door. I appeared as if something had forced it open from within. Had someone been locked in the basement?

I no sooner saw this than Sgt. Brian Willis arrived on the scene. He was irate that I was walking about the premises, and hurriedly showed me outside. As he questioned me, a reporter –whose name I never learned—showed up, as did a man named Dr. Connick. Sgt. Willis began to realize that his two officers, one nearly incapacitated from nausea and distress, were inadequate to secure the building.

I searched the building’s exterior and found nothing of note. By the time I was done, I found Dr. Connick and the reporter discussing the matter with a woman named Jodi, who was looking for her missing god daughter, one of the teens from my shelter. A man named Randy was there, too, as well as a teen named Jimmy, a young man who had stayed in the shelter previously and who was looking for his girlfriend Sharon.

With Sgt. Willis intent on keeping us in the dark, we retired to a nearby eatery. Dr. Connick told me that he had been at the coroner’s office, where in one of the bodies had been found a large fish scale. The reported said that there had been a history of girls missing from this area, going back fifty years, and that unidentified, eviscerated bodies sometimes wash ashore. The police, it seemed to us, were not acting quickly enough to find the missing girls.

Jodi worked out some plan to distract Sgt. Willis. She may have done something to make him hold a press conference. I’m not sure. At any rate, were were able to sneak back in the back door of the shelter.

In the basement we found that the iron sewer cover was opened. Equipped with flashlights, we began exploring. Jimmy spotted a strange trail of slime starting at the rungs we had descended, so we opted to follow that.

After quite a bit of walking down the main passage, we found rough stairs leading downward, straight through the bedrock to another series of tunnels.

There, we found a circular room with a pool in the center. I saw what I first took to be a person swimming in the water there, but it lunged from the water and attacked us. It was a horrendous fish-man, like a beast from a horror movie! Jodi killed it with a shotgun blast. I do not know who this woman is, but I’m glad she was with us.

The doctor examined the corpse. We all fervently hoped that it was a man in a rubber costume, but it was not so. It was some mutant or horrid hybrid.

As were struggled to come to terms with this awfulness, Sgt. Willis and one of his officers arrived. They had been pursuing us, and had heard the shotgun.

We explained the situation, and he told us that we must leave. However, he recognized that this was a matter beyond any with which he had dealt before, and knew that he could not force us. Jimmy, at the least, was uncontrollable in this eagerness to save his girlfriend. We continued down another tunnel, desperate to find the missing innocents.

Horror of horrors! We found a tremendous cavern in which dozens of the horrid fish-men were holding blasphemous rites with insane chants. A giant golden altar, flanked by huge fishman statues, stood next to a pool. As we watched, three of the teen girls were led to the altar.

(To be continued.)


Last night I had the idea to go see a movie with Kim. Originally, I’d been thinking that I’d like to see the 3-D version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” but there weren’t showtimes that seemed very agreeable. On a whim, I scanned the rest of the showclock, and noticed a listing for a movie called “Once,” which the Courier-Journal gave four stars. It was at the Village 8, the “cheap theaters.” That’s good, because I’m cheap.

I had never heard of this movie, and looked up a few more reviews for it. The critics loved it. It sounded interesting, so we went.

I won’t describe the film; you can find plenty of reviews. I’ll just say that I thought it was a true little joy of a cinematic experience and I’m really, really glad I saw it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wood rot

I had taken today off to go with Kim and the girls up to Huber's Family Farm, or whatever it's called. We were going to look for pumpkins, and go through the corn maze, and admire the gourd selection, and watch apples being turned into cider, and whatever else they do there.

Those plans fell through, however. The heavy rains earlier this week poured through the window of our family room: The water drips from the top of the window pain, having entered the wall through a seam in the roof. Today, a building contractor that Kim's dad knows, and a window guy that the contractor knows, came out to investigate the situation.

It's pretty bad, but I guess it could be worse. It turns out the drip guard above the gutter over the window doesn't reach far enough under the shingles. The roof has a slight flaw there, allowing water to pool under the shingles just at the edge, next to the gutter. It there seeps (or, in some cases, pours) down through the wall.

We also discovered that some of the wood inside the wall under that window (and likely above that window, too) is thoroughly rotten.

It will take quite a bit of repair. A gutter and siding guy that the contractor knows is supposed to come out early next week to look at it.

I called State Farm, and they said they only cover it if it's an accident, as opposed to a maintenance issue (in other words, they cover a lightning strike or tree limb damage, but not rotten wood from a leak.)

We may be able to save a hundred dollars or more if we take down and put up the gutter ourselves, which would be a 3-person job with three extension ladders, but that seems do-able. Even so, it'll be at least a thousand dollars, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

totally loaded, I suppose

I had many dreams last night. In one, I was a werewolf, but not really: It was sort of a game. Read that as dream ambiguity. I ran after friends and family members to scare them. Kim and someone else pinned me to the ground and tranquilized me with something they injected into my arms, in the same places I get my allergy shots. We were all laughing.

In another dream, or possibly a continuation of the same one, a bunch of large owls flew down. They were brown and white barn owls, I think. One landed on my arm. It was sort of threatening due to its size and sharp talons and beak, but it wasn’t attacking. Then it became a beautiful woman in an owl costume.

There were other dreams, I think, involving car chases and art. I woke up thinking about ink, wonderful inks of black and brown, all varieties, waiting for me to draw or paint with them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Big Lunch

Today for lunch I am eating the largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever made in the history of the world. It is 4 ¾ x 7 inches, more than 1 ½ inches tall, and weighs 9.9 ounces.

Post-lunch update: It was delicious.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I worked on my first batch of walnut ink this weekend. I took photos along the way, so I’ll post a step-by-step outline of the process. I’m not entirely happy with the results, but I’m happy enough that I’ll use what I have.

I’ll be making more, I think, and tweaking the process.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Pan's Labyrinth"

I finished watching “Pan’s Labyrinth” a couple of nights ago. Almost all of my DVD watching is a multiple-night affair. This movie was spread out over five days, in three different viewing sessions. It’s really the only way I can watch a movie without staying up way too late or abdicating my responsibilities as husband, father, and homeowner. I’ve found that it lessens a movie’s impact.

Perhaps it lessened the impact of this movie. But, wow. I sure wish I’d seen it at the theater. Some viewers may have very legitimate reasons for not liking this movie. It is art, after all, and all response to art is subjective. Perhaps it seems too violent, or too fantastic, or too gloomy. Perhaps you hate anything touching on fantasy. Perhaps you hate subtitles.

Surely, though, one must recognize that this movie is masterfully assembled from the finest quality ingredients. Everything about it, I thought, was dead-on. Fortunately, I liked the ingredients, too. I could handle the violence, I like fantasy, I don’t mind subtitles.

So, wow. Best movie I’ve seen in years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ghostly encounters #2

I used to work for the county District Court Archives, which had offices on the first floor and basement of the former county jail, downtown. At some point in the past, the jail was renovated into office space for the district courts, county attorneys, and other county agencies.

It was nicely renovated, but the construction was still old brick and limestone blocks. Catty-corner to the Hall of Justice, the building held thousands and thousands of records relating to various court cases going back to the 19th Century, and saw all kinds of traffic during the day. Lawyers, cops, private investigators, criminals of all stripe, and the mentally ill all paraded through, providing me with interesting anecdotes.

The records I worked with were a mix of district and circuit cases. The circuit cases were generally more interesting, and often more grisly. Those were the cases the dealt with more serious crimes, like murder, rape, and arson. A couple of the rooms had been used for storage of evidence, although not much evidence was around at the time I worked there. Just a few odds-and-ends. Just knowing the room I was in had recently held murder weapons was enough to add to the atmosphere.

I recall my boss and others saying that a prisoner had hanged himself in the area our offices were, and that one of our storage rooms had been solitary confinement. Where the parking garage is now, there had been a courtyard, where there had been hangings.

All this made the building sort of a creepy place to be at night, when the doors were locked and hardly anyone was around. I worked there in the evening for a while, and there nights when the time was up and I was out of there with a pretty solid case of the creeps.

By eight o’clock at night, there were few people in the building. Often it may have been just me and the security guard, who had a booth by the front door, far out of earshot. I listened to the radio and tried to keep from my head thoughts of the frustrated, irate, disappointed, or just downright strange people I’d met earlier in the day, perhaps skulking around outside the building, looking for unlocked doors. Or hiding in the restrooms or under the stairs.

A friend and co-worker related this story, similar in a way to my Mountain Dew story: He was in the farthest corner of the archives room at the end of the hall in the basement, filing circuit court cases (those are the ones that dealt with, for instance, murder. Photos included.) The case files were kept in heavy cardboard bankers boxes, stacked on metal shelves four or five high. The boxes lined the walls of the room and also filled a free-standing set of shelves in the middle of the room.

After filing a load of cases, he walked around the room making sure all the drawers were closed. He shut a few drawers, walked around to the other side of the room, and shut a few more. Then he turned to leave, looked back, and saw that a couple of the boxes he shut were open again.

Weirded out, he almost flipped the lights off and slammed the door with the intention of just getting the heck out of there. Instead, though, he stopped himself and forced himself the think calmly about it. There had to be a good reason the heavy cardboard drawers had dragged themselves back open, right?

After thinking about it a bit, and then messing with the drawers, he realized that when he had slammed shut the box drawers on one side of the island of shelves, the backs of the drawers had bumped against the backs of the drawers on the other side, bouncing them back open.

Rational explanations aside, it was still a damn creepy place to work.

My ghostly encounter #1

Just about ten years ago, at another place I used to work, I had a supernatural experience. Not really. But the experience was one that I remember as funny and, for a few seconds, slightly startling.

I was sitting in the otherwise empty breakroom, having polished off my lunch and the last of my can of Mountain Dew, and reading a magazine. My lunch break was nearly over.

Without warning, my can of Mountain Dew slid noiselessly and smoothly from one side of the table to the other.

My reaction, for a couple of seconds, was to sit slack-jawed, the hair on my neck prickling upward. Then I looked around to see if anyone else was around. I didn’t see anyone.

After another couple of moments of consideration, I formed a theory about what had happened, experimented, and solved the mystery to my satisfaction. We’ll play “Encyclopedia Brown” and see if one of my thousands of readers can guess. Here’s another clue: This happened during the summer.

More Ghost Fiction

Here’s another ghost story, one that I recall reading many years ago. I suppose I read it somewhere between sixth and eighth grade, and I found it memorable enough that the plot and the title stuck with me (I had the title slightly wrong: I thought the phrase was the “Watery Ghost” instead of “Water Ghost.”) It was in a collection of short stories I checked out of the school library.

The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall

Aluminum cans

I guess I could have posted this a couple of days ago during the blogosphere’s environmentalist Action Day, but I only thought of it just now.

Last week I decided to save aluminum cans. Normally I throw them in the recycling bin at home. Now, though, I’m making an extra effort to seek them out. I keep a cardboard box under my desk at work, and pick up the ones I find around the office. In addition, I’m keeping a bag in my car for when I find them as I’m sashaying about town. Soon, I’ll procure a bin of some sort for my office’s break room.

I’ll save the cans for a while and then cash them in. I figure after a year, I’ll be able to afford a hundred –dollar coin! Or maybe a tube of cobalt violet oil paint!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I love ghost stories in spite of--or perhaps because of--this. Here's one of my favorites:How Fear Departed From The Long Gallery.
In the spirit of Halloween, here isThe
Straight Dope on the curse on MacBeth

Caufield's Halloween Parade 2008

I didn’t take any photos of the Halloween parade, though I could have taken twenty. I refuse to write twenty thousand words, however.

There was a pretty good crowd there, more than last year, and the weather was nicer—a slightly cool with no wind. The street was lined with families, many of whom were in costumes.

The thing I love about this parade is that it’s such an amateur affair. There was not even anything as fancily practiced as a high school marching band. It’s campy, silly, cute, and weird.

My favorites were the JCPS librarians. There were about fifteen of them, dressed as witches in striped pointy hats, but still looking very much like school librarians. They were pushing library carts and occasionally spinning in maneuvers to music blaring from a boom box.

There were a couple of costumed Girl Scout troops riding in decorated pickup trucks, hurling tootsie rolls at spectators. Several of the area seasonal haunted house attractions had marchers or decorated vehicles (plenty of hearses), as did a few other area businesses. The Korsair Charities Flying Fezzes drove a street-bound helicopter which had bats suspended from its slowly rotating rotors.

In my opinion, some of the imagery is too strong for little kids. Some of the costumes are frightening, and some of the marchers menaced the crowd with chain saws. (Although I enjoy it as silly fun in parade context, this sort of gory slasher stuff has always been a very non-essential ingredient in my enjoyment of Halloween. I love the spooky and the creepy, but the out-and-out violent and gory is off-putting.) Despite this, there were plenty of small children among the spectators, and I didn’t see any of them run shrieking in fear. Which surprised me.

I’ll plan to go again next year.

I have recommenced working on my own costume. I don’t know if I’ll have it done by the 31st. I need to pick a deadline prior to the 31st; maybe the 26th. I am taking photos of the work-in-progress.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A ten-minute shrieking fit, during which she was placed in her room, ended with Erin asleep face-down in her doorway. It's like Marlin Perkins popped her with a dart.
On the "Mombasa Express," the old VW bus that kids can play on, at the zoo: I just thought Jill looked really cute in this picture.

An old landscape

This is a landscape I painted at Riverview Park in 2002. It's about 40x30 inches, on a panel. I've sent it across the country, and I sure hope it gets there in one piece. I tried to take some nice pictures of it before I boxed it up, and this is what I got. Five shots with an awful glare, and one shot that's all yellow. Just try to picture this in your head as being somewhere between the two.

I really thought I had the glare worked out. I took the picture at an 80 degree angle to the window. What the heck? I'm sure Candy is rolling her eyes.

I just realized that the opening sentence of the preceding post makes it sound like I find my wife and children uninteresting. That's not the case at all. I could go on at length about the cute things that Erin and Jill say, and the wonderful things that Kim does. But, really, I know that everyone who reads this blog (hi, NSA!) are only interested in Slovakian coins, growing watermelons, and landscape paintings.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Although I feel like I rarely have anything going on in my life worth blogging about, I find that if I go for four of five days without posting, I have stored away in my mind too many things I want to comment on and don't have the time or energyt to write about them. Even though they are just little things.

I went to the First Friday trolley hop downtown on the fifth. I saw some good stuff. One gallery had a couple of violinists playing; their music filled the small space, and it was beautiful.

Swanson Reed Contemporary had an exhibit by Louisville artist Ted Bressoud. Mr. Bressoud has cut up paper money (ones, tens, twenties, hundreds...) and arranged the pieces into crosses. He says in his artist statement "Making a religious icon out of money was, at once, destroying what I worshipped and deitizing it." The results were, I found, fairly simple in their elegance, pleasing to the eye, and provocative.

Another highlight was David Schuster's studio and gallery at 211 South Clay Street. His paintings are very approachable. They are realistic without being photographic, they're colorful and vivid, and they display a love of both drawing and paint application. He paints the way I want to paint. He also seems like a very nice guy and I enjoyed my brief conversation with him. His work is a lot of fun to look at, and I recommend a visit to his gallery space to anyone who's visiting galleries downtown.

Other weekend highlights that I hope I get some time to post about: I harvested some bamboo from alongside Interstate 71, and cut some of it down into dip pens. I greatly enjoyed Erin's soccer game on Sunday, and it wasn't even miserably hot, although the thermometer said it was. Last night we had dinner with the Gilberts, and had the privilege to enjoy a visit from Shagufta, who regaled us with fascinating tales from the last dozen years of her life.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Kyrill & Methodius

St. Kyrill, or Cyril, invented the Cyrillic alphabet. He and his brother, St. Methodius, are considered patron saints of Europe. They were born in Thessaloniki, Greece in the 9th Century, and converted a lot of Slavs.

There you go.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Erin the builder & destroyer

Here's a Slovakian coin I bought at the coin show. I thought it was sort of pretty; that's a nice design. Those two fellas are St. Kyrill and St. Methodius. I'll have to look them up.

Saw in its final stages

My workspace in the dining room.

Finished saw

The Wine Tasting

Saturday evening’s wine tasting party was a lot of fun. Each of the twelve guests was to bring a bottle of wine under $10. I didn’t know until immediately beforehand that we were also supposed to dress up like our bottles of wine, but I think I looked smartly TV wine commercial-like in my green jeans, black T-shirt, and tan sport jacket.

Kim and I brought a bottle of malbec and a bottle of strawberry wine from a Kentucky winery.

Disclaimer: I don’t know anything about wine. I don’t know a malbec from a zinfandel from a merlot, except that I think all zinfandels are white. And, actually, I think I might have had enough merlots over the past decade that I might be able to guess if it’s a merlot if I haven’t been told. I swear, though, Saturday was the first time in my life I ever heard the word “malbec.”

Laura wrapped each bottle of wine in a paper bag and numbered it, so that we could only go by the numbers, not the labels. Then we were seated outside on the porch. It was a beautiful evening. Pat and Laura had a long table with candelabras, and place settings. There was a fire in the yard. It was very dark.

Chris G. was dressed as a butcher, Loraine as a gaucho (gaucha? Gauchita?), Chris S. like a Kentucky Colonel. Helga was in her tango outfit. Ed wore a long wig and a sleek black dress that showed off his tattoos. Everyone else was dress strikingly, also.

We all had scorecards, passed around the bottles as we dined on salads, bruschetta, rolls, and these awesome hors d’oeuvres consisting of almond-stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto. (Hmm. My spell check function wants to change “prosciutto” to “prostitute.”)

There was a main course of chicken, pork, noodles, and vegetables, but I had very little, as Kim and I had just eaten. All the food I had was excellent.

The two wines that we brought fared well, getting generally favorable comments. The strawberry wine was mild and sweet, and the malbec was decent and somewhat interesting, though not a favorite. The greatest commotion was over an elderberry wine that Aaron brought, with the opinion seeming to run from “Hoo, what is this crap?” to “Wow! Undrinkable!” My comment: “Like a pack of Smarties dissolved in Alka-Seltzer.” Although the beverage was dislikable (really, it might not be bad poured over vanilla ice cream), I must give thanks to Aaron for providing great entertainment.

After a tiramisu dessert, we all sat around the fire and chatted. Then Kim and I had to go home to relieve our baby sitters, who were asleep on the sofas.

Monday, October 01, 2007

And now, your weekend update

Weekend synopsis:


Coin show, already mentioned.

Dinner with the Sparkses at Wendy’s, just for the fun of it.

D&D at Brent’s house. We started at about 9 p.m., and stopped at 1:15 a.m. David brought bourbon. At the end, I accelerated game time to get the chronology of in-game events up to about where I wanted them to be. Now, though, I have a list of things I really need to get together before the next game night. I need to get a map of the island of Thanos and the ruined city of Marding. I need to work on weapon enchantment options and prices. I need to complete details of another location they may end up very soon, and another location they may go.


Up with Jillian at 6:15, after a somewhat more than 4 hours of sleep. I spent a couple hours ruing my Dungeon Master status. Jillian was in a really good mood, though, and very cute.

Kim ran errands and worked much of the day. I played with the girls and cleaned. Cleaning in our house is like using a small plastic shovel to clear a long driveway during a moderate snowstorm. One may take a small step back and see the progress made, but another step back reveals that the task is overwhelmingly big and that the work that’s been done will be swallowed up again quickly. That’s why it’s best to focus on little areas. I used the dirt devil on the upholstered glider-rocker and parts of the family room carpet. I took some old toys out to the garage. I cleared off parts of the kitchen counters. Erin and I made fudge.

Mom and Dad came over to watch the girls while Kim and I had a date night. Bless my mom and dad! They do so much for us, as do Kim’s parents. We had a great night. After dinner at Rocky’s, we went to Pat and Laura’s for a wine tasting party.


After we worked at church, we went to Erin’s soccer game. Those games are a hoot. The weather was much nicer than last week, although the sun was still hot. It’s fun seeing the three-year-olds watch the ball roll past… Sometimes it even bounces off their shins, and they don’t move.

I played with Erin and Jill in the back yard, which is where we also had dinner, despite the mosquitoes. I pulled some of the gourds off the fence. I think some of them will be cured soon.

I went to bed at a reasonable hour.

Coin Show

Last weekend’s annual Fall coin show seemed to be a success. I don’t know how things were on Saturday, but Friday went well, for the time I was there. I worked from the time it opened, at 10:00 a.m., until 1:00 p.m., at the front table. We handed out name tags to dealers, prompted visitors to put on name badges, and sold raffle tickets.

There were about fifty dealers and eighty tables, and the venue was spacious. I could have spent much more time and money if I’d had either. As it was, I spent 1 ½ hours and $20.

I had to return in the afternoon after work to take back one of the coins I purchased, for I became convinced that it was a counterfeit. I wish I’d taken a picture of it so that I could show people what I was talking about. I was a little excited when I first found it: In one dealer’s binder of world coins, he had a couple of pages of 18th and 19th Century reales and half-reales. I’ve been looking for such a coin from the 1730s, because that’s the kind of coin that would have been in common usage in the Colonies when the first Tablers came over during that decade. I spotted a 1737 half-real for $18.95, and the dealer said he’d let me have it for $15. It wasn’t in great shape, but that was a good price, so I purchased it.

When I got back to work I looked at it a few times, and became troubled. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was a replica. Finally, I became sure that it wasn’t just a fake, it was a poorly done fake that screamed “I suck.”

The details on the coin were poor. There was metal between the bars on many of the letters. Importantly, there were bubble-like raised nodules of metal, which is what would occur if the coin were cast in a mold that had bubble-holes in it that had formed when the mold-making material had set. Most damning, there was a broken flange of metal protruding from the top edge of the coin from where the metal had been poured into the mold.

At least, this is what my eyes told me. (For anyone reading this who doesn’t know, all those hints of the coin being cast in a mold are important because legit coins are not cast in molds.)

I took the coin back, explained to the dealer my concern, and handed it to him. He looked at it with his loupe and mentioned something about the quality of the coins at that time varying considerably, and then he gave me my money back. So I have no problem with this dealer, except that I think it was a seriously problematic coin that he himself should have caught. There were a few other world coins I bought from him that I’m satisfied with.

The best deal of the day: In found a 1960 Franklin half in nice shape marked with a price tag for $10.00, and a 1971 Eisenhower dollar that was sort of worn, marked at $2.00. However, both of these were in a bin marked “half off,” making the Franklin half = $5.00 and the Ike dollar = $1.00. I thought, “A dollar for a dollar? I’ll bite.” I took both of them over to the dealer, and he said, “I’ll just take five for both.” So, essentially I got the Franklin for $4.00, which is significantly below today’s bullion value for the silver in the coin.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Why do we say, “Dinner is ready!” but say, “The meal is ready”? Why is there a “the” in front of “meal” but not “breakfast,” “lunch,” or “dinner”? We also say “The snack is prepared,” not “Snack is prepared.” I’ll have to think about this a bit. I’m guess it’s related to our reasons for saying “at the seventh hour” as opposed to “at seventh hour.”

We ate the breakfast at seventh hour.
We ate meal at the seven o’clock.

“The” seems to be a place-holder for something more titular. I don’t know. I know how to use it, but I don’t know how I’d explain it if I were teaching a class on non-English speakers. I’m sure there are explanations, and I’ll have to poke around.

Monday, September 24, 2007

King's Island

My brother Kevin and I went to King’s Island on Saturday. It was the first time either of us had been in more than ten years. Here is a review.

General review
We had free tickets, a free buffet lunch, and a five-dollar vouchers that could be spent anywhere in the park, so money wasn’t a factor for us. With normal adult admission somewhere in the vicinity of $45, and food prices very high (2 slices of pizza for $5.95, a bottle of Desani water for $3.65), I wouldn’t normally consider going. If, however, I had $150-$200 to spend on a one-day getaway for a family of four, I’d certainly consider it. The park was well-kept and clean, and attendants were plentiful. I had a lot of fun.

Some Specifics
King’s Island opened in 1972, and the general layout hasn’t changed. I was pleased to see many of the same features I recall from my first visit in the mid-Seventies, such as the massive topiary clock near the Eiffel Tower, and the huge row of fountains along International Street.

The parking lot, sadly, is no longer divided into Hanna-Barbera character-named sections. One can no longer park in Boo-Boo Row 20, or Quickdraw Row 41. We parked in Face/Off Row 42. I assumed that the sections are named after Paramount movies, since until last year Paramount owned the park. It just occurred to me, though, that the sections could be named after park attractions, and Face/Off is the name of one of the rollercoasters.

Kevin and I both noticed that most of the graffiti that had been scratched into the railings around the attractions, the result of untold thousands of youths waiting in lines for millions upon millions of man-hours over several decades, was gone. The wooden railings all over the park, once heavily adorned with intials, dates, and wads of chewing gum, were in many cases replaced entirely and always painted in a heavy layer of glossy enamel.

It was hot. Despite the awnings over many of the waiting areas, the longest lines always had their tail-ends in the sun. For popular attractions, the tail-end is long. The most grueling part of the day was our wait to get on the FireHawk rollercoaster; that was nearly an hour long, and most of that was in the sun. It would have been fine if it had been in the seventies, but it was in the nineties, and there were no clouds. Park attendants set up a stack of coolers with cold water and plastic cups, which was a great idea. I got the last plastic cup. I hope some cups arrived for the people behind me. One girl in line, evidently suffering from the heat, was being aided by friends and park employees.

The Racer: This was our first ride of the day. It’s 45 years old, and has been at King’s Island for 35. This was probably the first “grown-up” rollercoaster I ever rode, and it’s the yardstick by which I measure all the others. It’s fast and lurchy but fairly painless. There was almost no queue at all, which was a great bonus.

The Beast: Still ranks as the best rollercoaster I’ve been on. The violent beating one takes on it isn’t quite bad enough to keep is speed and drops from topping my list. Kevin and I individually noted the sensation of the meat on our calves vibrating: Wub-wub-wub. I got slammed back and forth quite a bit, but not enough to really remember the pain. Which brings me to…

Son of Beast: Sounds like a kiddie coaster, right? Like a miniature version of The Beast? Holy crap. Constructed from an entire forest’s worth of lumber, its speed and drops are exceeded only by its violence. We both felt sharp pain in our lower backs when we hit the curve at the bottom of the second hill, and then could do nothing but hang on and watch in dread as we continued the horizontal curve and hit the same sharp turn again. This ride kicked my ass, and more than half of that was in the bad way, not the good way. I won’t ride it again.

Flight of Fear: Like Son of Beast, this ride does some unpleasant chiropractic work, with the added terror of working you over in a dark enclosed warehouse. It’s like a gang fight with strobe lights. It’s fast and loopy and worth riding once, but I’ll avoid this one in the future. Which is what I said last time I rode it. I just forgot.

Firehawk: This coaster, the park’s newest, is a “flying” coaster. One is strapped in very securely, then the car flips and you spend the entire ride hanging from your harness. You’re flat on your stomach looking down at the ground. It’s light on the bone-crunching, but heavy on the “Oh-God-I’m-Going-to-Die” feeling, so I rate it highly. This had the longest line we waited in.

Top Gun: Not a bad ride, but one must endure the movie-themed junk all over the place. The ride is relatively smooth and fast. The fact that it’s a hanging coaster may once have been a nice gimmick, but it’s not so novel now and the supports from which it hangs tend to obscure the view. Note so self: If I ever ride it again, try to sit in the very front car, where I’ll be able to stare death in the face more clearly.

Delerium: This ride is similar to that swinging galleon ship ride, but on a grander scale. About fifty people sit all around the edge of a saucer, which hangs from a tall support beam. Then the saucer and beam start to rock, going higher and higher as the saucer slowly rotates. Shortly, one finds oneself being giddily lifted well past vertical, then plummeting earthward, over and over. Peaceful yet terrifying, I think this is the best ride there.

Someone else's pic of Delirium

Some very old favorites are still around. The Monster and the Scrambler are still there, and still fun. We didn’t go an any water rides.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sick, Profit, Coin, Saw, Freud

1. I started feeling a little ill on Thursday, and by Friday evening I knew that I had the cold that pretty much every single one of my co-workers has been passing around for the past two weeks. I stayed home yesterday. Today I feel much, but not 100%, better. I suspect that my quick recovery may be due to those zinc lozenges.

2. I watched the pilot episode of “Profit” last week. It was pretty good. I think maybe that was the only episode I ever saw. My Netflix disc has ep. 2 on it also, and I’ll try to watch it soon. It’s odd; in 1996, that was a show that was absolutely an oddball, very original, and doomed to failure. If it came on now, it might be a minor hit on Showtime, or USA. TV is a little weirder now, I guess.

3. I missed Erin’s second soccer game to attend my coin club meeting on Sunday. I must admit, I would have enjoyed the soccer game more. However, this meeting was the last meeting before the big coin show on the 28th and 29th, and I knew that they’d be signing up volunteers to help. I signed up for Friday the 28th, 10:00-1:00, and I figure I’ll probably be working at the front table like last year. Also, at the coin club auction, I purchased a 1982-P Lincoln cent with a clipped planchet error. I think that’s my first purchase of an error coin.

4. I think I’m done with the saw. I sat down last night with my painting supplies, and my two dead butterflies and one dead bumblebee, and my insect field guide, and my sketchbook, and tried to figure out just how to paint in a nice bug or two. I created a couple of small pencil sketches, and then I painted a butterfly (a European cabbage white) on an artist trading card. Finally, I decided that I was NOT going to add anything else to the saw. No bees or butterflies. I spent fifteen minutes doing a little touch-up on the blue sky behind the trees, and decided I’d be an idiot to work on it any more. I’m pretty happy with the results.

5. Last night I dreamed that I was fishing on a big boat with Paul. He hauled in a 15-foot pike. There were many friends on the boat—it was a regular Otter excursion. I was worried that the huge pike would start thrashing and injure someone, including Erin and Jill, who were nearby. Pike also have large, sharp teeth, by the way. I was holding the pike on a stairwell was we tried to get the boat into a dock. Erin and Jill came close to look at the fish, but I was really concerned that the fish would break loose, so I told them to move away. Jill did, but Erin didn’t, and I woke myself up yelling “Hurry!”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Conversation exerpt

I: “I saw some hot air balloons last night.”
Co-worker 1: “Did you? I see them all the time out where I live.”
Co-worker 2: “Balloons are stupid. They’re so slow. Why would you want to go anywhere so slow? There are a lot cooler ways to get there. Airplanes go fast. Airplanes are cool.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another dream

The alarm sounded this morning, and I hit snooze, and immediately fell into an annoying dream. Until the alarm went off again, I dreamed that I was on the phone with a bill collector who was trying to get a “tracking number” (dream-speak for routing code) for a check I’d sent in. I spent some minutes searching, and then found my own hand-written notes, but the numbers I’d written were indecipherable. The resembled the graffiti one sees on innumerable passing train cars, obviously comprised of letters and numbers but somehow inscrutable. Finally, I found another actual check from which I could read the numbers, but there were so many numbers that I had a hard time figuring out which were the ones the caller wanted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Black Walnuts

I will now be on the lookout for black walnuts. I’m not sure, but I think almost any walnuts growing in this area will be black walnuts. They can be used, I’ve heard, to make a very nice ink.

If you have any walnuts growing near you, please let me know. I have a few good leads on obtaining some, but there is no such thing as too much information.

If and when I get a bunch of walnuts, I’ll chronicle here my efforts to turn them into drawing ink.
I have big dreams for a Halloween costume this year. But will I actually make the time to do this? I need to price PVC pipes and PVC glue, and solidify plans to make a big scary yead. I've done a couple of very small sketches, and need to work on more.

Last night I had an unpleasant dream that I was watching televised film from an aircraft cabin camera as the plane was catching fire. People were out of there seats trying to get a view of another compartment on the airplane where a garbage can had caught fire (thanks, Brian.) One lady was on fire and another lady was trying to wrestle her to the ground to put out the flames. I knew the plane was going to crash.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Saturday morning I went to the St. Regis Park city-wide yard sale with Kim and Mom. I obtained three items, two of which were purchases and the other of which was a freebie. First, I bought for a dollar a little three-pronged gardening fork thing. Second, I was given a bunch of plastic poker chips. Thirds, I bought a 3-ring-binder slide-holder page of coins and little bits of junk for fifty cents.

The coins and junk—it really, really is junk—was a good deal. Nothing actually valuable, but there are several eastern European coins (Yugoslavia and Turkey, mainly) that I could put in my collection. There are also three Office of Price Administration rationing tokens from WWII, and one or two more tokens I have not identified. As for the junk: One rabies vaccination tag that I think is from the 1960s, a campaign pin which I’ll have to look up but I suspect is from when Bert Combs and Julian Carroll ran for Governor and Lt. Governor in 1971 (Thanks, Wikipedia!), a pair of cufflinks, and part of an earring or something.

The poker chips I got for use with various games, but my main intention is to use them for D&D. I won’t go into it unless someone asks*, or until I turn this into a roleplaying game blog, which could happen some day. I was standing at a yard sale looking at the poker chips in a cookie tin, wondering what the price was, when a lady walked up as said, “You want those? Just take them. Let me find you a bag.”

*For David and Aaron, since I know you read this and probably are wondering: The chips will replace those colored index cards.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The result of car-drying. An undried one is included for your reference.Dried tomatoes

Painted saw

Yesterday I decided I was done with the saw, but today I'm really having second thoughts about that bee. I'm not satisfied. I would appreciate any comments you'd care to make. I may just turn that bee into a monarch butterfly.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More dried tomatoes

Several days ago I cut a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half, salted them, spread them in a pan, and heated them in the oven at 190 degrees for an hour or two. Then it was bedtime, so I pulled them out (there have been times in the past where I’ve accidentally or intentionally left them in the oven overnight, and the results were crunchy and bitter.) At that time, they were showing slight signs of shriveling, but still looked pretty much the same as when I put them in.

I put the tray on my dashboard the next day and left them there. It was a hot and sunny day. By the time I left work, they were done. In fact, they were a little over done. I think they might have come out better if I had not put them in the oven.

I’ll have to make some more before the weather cools, if I can manage it.


Why would I post a D&D game recap? I don’t know. I just broadcast. I hoist my banners with pride. It’s not as weird as a knitting blog.

We played D&D on Sunday night. This was with Team Beta, or the Ensley Group, or whatever I feel like calling them at any given moment. Team Alpha, or the Arlay Group, or whatever, traveled south to Arlay to get their comrade the half-orc barbarian resurrected. Team Beta is still at the ruins of Ensley Keep, cleaning and making repairs. They had a lot of relatively amusing character interaction.

Actually, I won’t post any real recap. Some of my players read this blog, and there isn’t much I can say that wouldn’t possibly provide too much information to some players who maybe shouldn’t get that information yet.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

tomatoes & other garden stuff

I am attempting to make some sun-dried tomatoes. Last year I made some in the oven, and they turned out very well; I tended to eat them like raisins after they were done, so I didn’t get to keep as many for use over the winter as I had planned. But the ones I did keep were pretty useful. I just dropped them into boiling pasta for the last few minutes of cook time, then drained it all together, then added some butter or olive oil. That was good.

Unfortunately, drying in the oven can be a little annoying, because one must run the oven at low temperature for a long time—six to ten hours. I over-cooked quite a few. This year, the idea of keeping the oven running while the air conditioning was fighting off the 90+ degree heat just didn’t appeal to me at all.

So I am trying a new method. I happen to have a Ford Festiva-shaped solar-powered dehydrator, which I brought with me to work. I placed it so that the front solar screen was facing the sun, put a tray of little sliced tomatoes on the front panel, and went into the office to work.

I think this might take two days. Wish me luck.

Also, the newspaper mulch I’ve attempted to use in my watermelon bed has failed catastrophically. It is now difficult to see the watermelon vines under all the 18-inch-tall grass, as well as the volunteer tomatoes and basil (I won’t complain about the last two. The basil is especially welcome, and has a pleasant lemony flavor.) My garden, almost every inch, looks terrible. It’s extremely weedy, overgrown, and browning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just like 8th grade

Book Report

A Book I Read on My Summer Vacation by Mark T.

I just finished reading a novel! That makes a total of two for this year, which is as many or more than I’ve read in several years. I turned the last page yesterday as I sat at the Mall St. Matthews food court, waiting for the Goodyear mechanics to be done with my car.

Since I spend so little time reading fiction, I must select great monuments of literature, right? Yeah, sure. This particular book was Riders of the Dead by Dan Abnett, and was published by The Black Library, the fiction-publishing arm of Games Workshop, which produces the popular Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 miniatures wargames and roleplaying games. You can clearly see the tie-in because, above the book’s title and the cover art depicting a bunch of men killing one another with giant medieval weapons, is the big “WARHAMMER” logo. The book was recommended, and loaned to me, by David.

Well, I thought it was pretty darn good. There was a time when I primarily read science fiction and fantasy novels, but I left off with that because…well, I was going to say that so many of them were lame-o, but that’s not really why. There are countless titles, and among those countless titles are many, many very good books that I’ve never reached for. I think it actually comes down to this: I don’t allot much time for fiction. I read (or, most often, browse) non-fiction. When I do get around to reading fiction, I want it to somehow matter. I want it to be something important, or educational, or unforgettable. I don’t often set aside time for reading fiction for the joy of reading fiction.

I sure used to, though. When I was a teenager, I’d often start a novel and not put it down until I had finished it, opening it when I got home from the library and finishing it sometime before dawn the next day.

A month or two ago I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t a great or important literary work, but it was well-written and clever. I loaned it to David, and he loaned me Riders of the Dead. One evening I cracked it open and read a few random pages involving some guys killing one another on horseback in the middle of a stream, and it was pretty engrossing. So I decided to I’d read it soon.

This is the first swords & sorcery novel, besides The Lord of the Rings, that I’ve read in 15 years, maybe more. I call it swords & sorcery although there is little sorcery in it. The Warhammer setting, clearly but loosely based on late medieval Europe, keeps magical fireworks a rarity. There is, however, plenty (buckets and buckets!) of limb-hacking, decapitating, bone-smashing, blood-puddling, horse-toppling, chest-impaling, skull-stacking, and war-whooping. In between, Abnett does a fine job of painting cultures and landscapes in a way that feels quite real and down-to-earth without becoming overlong or wordy. Having a pseudo-European backdrop certainly must have helped; the cultures didn’t need to be created from whole-cloth. But it’s imaginatively told.

The story involves two horse soldiers from the continent’s great Empire. They travel with a large army to the steppes of the northeast, preparing for an incursion of brutal barbarians. They are quickly overrun by the hordes of the north; one is captured, and the other escapes to join a local band of horsemen in their resistance fight. The bulk of the book skips back and forth between the two over the course of a year.

I found the writing to be surprisingly good, as was the editing. The language is descriptive and evocative. My only real complaint is that the final scenes—the climax of the book—seemed rather abbreviated. Perhaps the author wanted to convey the sense that the reader was rushing unstoppably towards a fateful confrontation, but it instead feels like he just wanted to finish because he was tired of writing it.

That flaw, however, is minor. I’d have to file this book under “ripping yarns.” I’ll add, for any of you knitters who read this, that a “ripping yarn” can be a good thing in certain contexts. But I bet you knitters aren’t too likely to read any novel in which the stacking of trophy skulls is featured prominently.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And so the cosmic dance continues

At ten minutes before six this morning, I walked out the front door in nothing but my boxers, crossed the lawn, and stalked up my neighbors’ driveway. Then I was able to see the moon. The Earth’s shadow hid our milky whiteness, hers and mine. The eclipse had ink-washed the moon’s top three-quarters; the bottom still shone a bright salmon hue against the grey-brown of the morning sky.

Every time I view a lunar eclipse, I think of a story that a professor at U of L told me once. He was in France with a bunch of friends. After dinner, they were all outside as a lunar eclipse was occurring. He knew some French, but was not fluent. Looking up and noticing the moon, he blurted in French, “Look! The moon! …It isn’t there!”

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Movie review, random thoughts, restaurant review

The Host

David came over last night and we watched “The Host,” a Korean monster movie. I thought it was pretty good. After a fairly standard set-up in which an uncaring U.S. Army doctor orders the dumping of scores of bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River, I was treated to scenes of a hideously mutated, bus-sized creature (fish? lizard? salamander?) trampling and mauling panicked pedestrians and picnickers.

After the initial rampage, four family members band together to rescue another who was kidnapped by the beast.

The monster, at least as it appeared on the small screen, was nicely done. There were a few scenes it which it was a dark shape moving underwater in which it didn’t look very convincing; it had a “painted-on” look. But for the most part, as it ran, tumbled, and jumped through the cityscape in broad daylight, it had a natural look.

I found the main characters to be interesting and appealing. Although I’m not sure I got some of the plot nuances (I feel like I’m missing a few grains of understanding with the whole virus/no virus/ “agent yellow” deal), it all held together and progressed in a more-or-less believable* fashion, taking into account the bumbling-comic aspects of the family’s situations.

Yesterday I mowed my front yard and about a third of the back. I had to quit in order to fix dinner for the girls and relieve their Nana, who was sitting them while I cut. The grass really needed it; the front lawn had not been mowed in more than a month. It was hot and humid and the cut grass came out chunky and gloppy. When I came in and picked up Jill, she kept reaching down to touch the front of my T-shirt. She’d make a “Gee-ahh” sound, some sort of commentary on how wet I was.

The night before last Kim and I had a date night. We had dinner at Puccini’s, again while Nana watched the girls. Thank goodness for grandparents—Erin and Jill have the four best. Puccini’s was good. I had a small pizza with artichoke, olives, mushrooms, and bacon. Kim had fettuccini with pesto sauce. Both were very good, as was the garlicky cheese pepperoni bread appetizer. Prices were reasonable. We’ll go back, some day.

*edited to add: When I say “believable,” I mean as compared to similar movies.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last night, as that crazy storm was winding down, I headed over to Carrie’s to work on that saw. I am almost done! A couple more hours of work, maybe less, should do the trick. Really, it might be less than an hour of painting.

The night before last I finished “Revenge of the Sith.” The second half was a definite improvement over the first. Instead of rating the movie a 3 out of 10, I’ll raise it to 5. That means, to me, that it was watchable, some parts were fun, but overall my reaction was tepid.