Saturday, May 31, 2008

You can sit around the fire. You can sit around the radio. You can sit and watch TV. But nothing beats pulling up a chair to the old juke box.

Peach leaf bellflowers

Last year these were new and didn't bloom, but this year I finally got to see what they look like. I think they're great.


Early yesterday I was looking out the front window and noticed cicada shells on our tree. There were many shells, and I went out to get a closer look. On the trunk, and on some other plants nearby, and on the front of our house, were perhaps a hundred shells. I found some cicadas, too, looking a little bewildered.

Erin and Jill looked at them with me, and we caught some and held them. Erin held one, and threw it up to help it fly (such actions do seem to help, as cicadas' capacity for graceful flight is about on level with their capacity to win a bathing suit competition). Even Jill, normally a bit bug-shy, tried to hold one, but it kept jumping from her hand.

Last night, around midnight, I went out to see if there were more coming out. There were! Here's a little fella crawling up the tree, looking for a place to stop and shed his skin:

And another one nearby, getting all David Banner on his pants:

They slowly slip out of their juvenile exoskeletons like pale ghosts rising from shriveled corpses, except they sort of tend to hang upside-down. You know, I try, but it's not so easy to wax poetic about fat red-eyed bugs shedding their skins on tree trunks at midnight:
A side view:

Dinner last night was at Pat and Laura's. Lots of fun seeing everyone, and lots of great food. Pat and Laura boiled shrimp with sausage and potatoes. The shrimp were tasty. I kept wondering how many people love shrimp but would recoil at the thought of eating cicadas. Those who are disgusted by either idea are missing tasty food (and I refer to shrimp, as I have yet to try the cicadas), but I certainly understand their revulsion. Those who think shrimp is a great food but cicadas are disgusting buggy non-food are deluding themselves. If it has more legs than a cow, it's a bug.

I don't know what kind of cicadas these are. I suspect they might be the same sort of 17-year cicadas that came out en masselocally four years ago, just on a different schedule. But I guess they could be, what, 13-year? And I think there are 7-year? I'll have to look it up sometime.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I am curious (Scarlett):
I must admit, I'd like to listen to the album.


Impacting my grammar

I'm rolling over again. Here is a quote from
"Usage Note: The use of impact as a verb meaning "to have an effect" often has a big impact on readers. In our 2001 survey, 85 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of the construction to impact on, as in the sentence These policies are impacting on our ability to achieve success; fully 80 percent disapproved of the use of impact as a transitive verb in the sentence The court ruling will impact the education of minority students. · It is unclear why this usage provokes such a strong response, but it cannot be because of novelty. Impact has been used as a verb since 1601, when it meant "to fix or pack in," and its modern, figurative use dates from 1935. It may be that its frequent appearance in the jargon-riddled remarks of politicians, military officials, and financial analysts continues to make people suspicious. Nevertheless, the verbal use of impact has become so common in the working language of corporations and institutions that many speakers have begun to regard it as standard. It seems likely, then, that the verb will eventually become as unobjectionable as contact is now, since it will no longer betray any particular pretentiousness on the part of those who use it. See Usage Note at contact."
continues Mark: So I'll stop changing "impact" from verb to noun in all the correspondence here at work.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dungeons & Dragons

We played D&D last Friday night, and it was an epochal event, a landmark! Off my socks were knocked! Or, at least I feel a little relief at the end of long-running, very mild tension.
Back around March of 2004, we all played together--Karen, Keith, Brent, David, Paul, Ed, and me--in the D&D campaign that I run. David's character was killed. After that night, my game went on hiatus, as I put other things higher up on my list or priorities. We played Keith's Shadowrun game a little, and David's Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for a while.
Finally, after more than three years, I re-started my game last Autumn. It's been slow going; we've only met a few times, and last Friday was the first time all of us have been back together at the same time (minus Ed, who dropped out, and plus Aaron, who has joined). When we first started back up last year, the playing group was divided because their characters were divided, and the division continued for a while due to circumstances within the game. Some characters were temporarily dead, some were turned to stone, and the two groups were working towards reunion. At last, at the end of Friday's game, all of the characters were in the same spot at the same time. It was the first time in-game (that is, by the characters' reckoning) that they had been together in more than two months; outside of the game, in players' reckoning, it had been just over four years. That's a really long time in a game where other hardcore geek players conduct on-the-ball marathon game sessions in which their characters go through whole earth-shaking adventures in one game night.
I had a nice time on Friday, and I feel like the game went pretty smoothly; the bulk of the evening consisted of a tavern brawl, which sort of bogged down towards the end (my fault), but it could have been worse. The hard part, now, is capitalizing on this little bit of momentum to make sure we can play again soon. If I include the three-year hiatus, this is the longest-running game I've ever been involved in, stretching over about seven years*.  I've occasionally thought about just dropping the whole DM thing, but then I've thought, "Shoot, I've put way too much time into putting this stuff together and just messing around with it to just put it down and not pick it back up. And besides, I enjoy it, regardless of how unproductive it is."
My goal now is to play more consistently. If we can get together at least once a month, that would be good, and it's a somewhat realistic goal.
*Although if I went solely by most game-hours played, the "longest-running game" would probably be Keith's 'Fugs' campaign, played from about 1989-1992, which frequently saw us up until 4, 5, or 6 a.m. multiple times per month.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lunchtime Detecting at Des Pres

Today at lunch I headed over to Des Pres Park with my metal detector (it's a long way from work, but I had to drive to the area on a work errand.) I opted to hunt around a ballfield, and found three pennies and a dime, as well as a couple of pull tabs. The coins I found outnumbered the garbage, so I feel like I made out rather well.
I was almost back to my car, refilling a hole near the parking lot, when a guy walked up to me to see what I was doing. He saw me refilling the hole and replacing the sod, and gave me his approval. I don't know who he was, but he was obviously employed by the Metro Parks. We talked for a few minutes. He told me that he knew of a couple of guys who came occasionally to detect there; one of them found a diamond ring. When he had first seen me, he was concerned, and wanted to make sure I wasn't up to no good. Someone had been digging holes on and around the baseball diamond, and not filling them back in. I expressed my concern and assured him that I was quite careful in digging and refilling, and he said that I seemed all right and was welcome to detect there.
In the metal detecting forums I've read online, people are strongly encouraged and continually reminded to be careful and conscientious about both private and public property. It is very dismaying to hear about these idiots who dig carelessly. It's bad for the property owner, the public, and the hobby.


Friday, May 23, 2008

garden stuff

My corn is as high as an elephant's eye, if the elephant is the size of a little kitten. The peas are growing, but they're not a great vegetable to grow in the heat. If it gets hot and stays hot, they might not do well. Right now the biggest among them are still only about five inches tall. The tomatoes are green and leafy, but haven't really increased in size. I suspect that they are growing their roots, and as soon as the weather gets hot and we have a sunny stretch, they will take off. There is not yet any sign of the sunflowers, but by the end of this weekend I think we'll see them poking up. My dad gave me some sweet potatoes to plant, and I need to figure out where I'll put them. The blackberry bush is full of flowers; I still have frozen blackberries from last year that I need to use. If you want some blackberries in a couple of months, let me know; chances are, I'll have some for you. The glads are coming up in scads, and I'll need to dig them up and separate them after this season. Only one hollyhock is coming back. I still haven't planted the carrots.


Monday, May 19, 2008

more lunch break sketch

This is a pretty small one. It's about 7x9, I guess. Charcoal isn't really designed for little architectural drawings, in my opinion, but the more I worked on it the happier I became with it. This wasn't done entirely on lunch break. Tonight when I got home I used some hard white pastel for highlights.

Mystery Note

The little girl across the street put this in our mailbox. To protect the innocent (innocence is presumed, just like in court) I have scribbled out her name with a crayon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lunch break sketches

The first is in charcoal, the second is graphite. Charcoal I find a more difficult medium because I am not as used to it. One reason I've avoided it is because it's messier than graphite, and I want to keep my sketchbook neat. A couple of months ago, though, I bought a brand new can of spray fixative, so I can just plaster the stuff to the page and keep my pages from being so smudgy. Anyway, I thought these came out decently for quick sketches.
I swear, I took this photo with sunlight shining on the paper. I don't know why it's so dark. I must have had the paper at more of an angle than I intended, or maybe the sun was behind a cloud at that moment and I didn't notice.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Erin and I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes from my youth: Looking under rocks.

More Memory

I couple of days ago I played Memory with Erin, and I beat her 17 matches to 16. I didn't rub her nose in it or anything, but I was very pleased with myself. Also, she occasionally turns over three cards instead of two, so I had the cards stacked against me from the outset, making my victory even sweeter.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Each day with decent weather, my lunch break question is: Metal detecting or art? It should be art, but more often then not it is detecting. I have, though, sketched a little over the past week, and I want to do more.
My attempts to get permission to detect at Bellevoir and at Ten Broeck have ended negatively. There is still the slimmest chance for something at Bellevoir, but it's pretty safe to say that those two places are officially out-of-bounds. Man. Ten Broeck Hospital would have been a fantastic place to hunt.
Yesterday I spent lunch at the children's home, around the baseball diamond again. Two marginally interesting finds: An old Tangee rouge cap, and a little key. Both are old-ish, but I haven't been able to date them. If I had to guess, I'd say they dated to about the same era as the Joe E. Brown pin I found, which would probably be 1950-1960. The key is kind of cool. It's little, like a small padlock or locker key, and has a lion on it. It was made by the Master Lock Co. of Milwaukee, which was founded in 1921, so that gives a pretty definite earliest-date for the key. I'll delight you with photos later.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

I'm putting this in the suggestion box at work

I think it would be a good idea to remove the photos of the President, Administrator, and Secretary of the DOT from the wall of the reception area. This has nothing to do with politics, but rather with the notion that we are an idealistic nation of laws. Our Founding Fathers wisely declined to put the faces of our leaders on our coins, a tradition that continued until 1909, when unfortunately it was discarded. They felt that to do so made our nation too much like a monarchy.
I would suggest something more symbolic and in line with the flags near the door, such as a copy of the Bill of Rights. Or even just some pleasant aviation-related art work.
Besides, all these politicians now use photographs in which they are smiling, which is fine for family photos, but in this context seems to radiate insipid buffoonery. I'd be much more inclined to keep the photos if the people in them didn't wear big fake grins.


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Our peas are coming up. Erin and Jill helped me plant some sweet corn last week, and I hope that in the next day or two I'll see it poking its head out of the dirt. Last night, Erin helped me put four tomato plants in the ground. Two of them are cherry tomatoes, two are bigger varieties.
I am now almost out of room. I only have a small rectangle left for planting. If I want watermelons this year, I will need to enlarge my garden space. However, if I limit the watermelons to just a few plants, it might not be too much work.
Oh, I almost forgot that I also have sunflower seeds that I need to plant. Where will they go?
I have leftover seed corn and peas, and I'll probably have extra carrot and watermelon seeds. Does anyone want them?


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Monday, May 05, 2008


At the church where I work, watching 4- and 5-year-olds, there are several Memory card games. Barney the Purple Dinosaur Memory, Finding Nemo Memory, and a Nemo knock-off named Freddy Fish. Maybe it's just a matter of the kids who are good at it want to play it; or maybe the kids who like to play it get really good at it; maybe I should, as I have for twenty years, blame all such things on my cold and allergy medicine; maybe my brain is just past its prime; but whatever the reason, these little kids totally kick my ass. Sometimes it's by an order of magnitude. It's not unusual for some of them to get ten matches for each of mine.
It's sort of funny. At first, I'd just played the game because they wanted to play, and I didn't really try because I didn't mind handing the kids some victories in the Candyland realm of mindless children's pastimes. It slowly dawned on me, though, that these little kids were better than I was. I started actually trying to win, and man, did I get shot down.
Last week Erin and I played Dora Memory, and although we didn't finish the game, I certainly smelled bitter defeat on the breeze.
So Erin has started her accumulation of skills, talents, and physical abilities at which she betters her father. Today it's Memory. Soon it will be math, running speed, and shooting hoops. Then golf and Spanish, and then art, reading comprehension…


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