Archive for July, 2007

Back to College Off to Sénégal

Monday, July 30th, 2007

It’s that time of year again. All the big box housewares stores are festooned with banners proclaiming the start of the fall semester. Get your dorm supplies here! Grok grok! Isn’ that th’ store whare ya git th’ sekint heds o’ hair? Grok grog Just a minute. [Frooooog! “Git” back into “yer londree baskit!”] Sorry about that. Yes, I have escaped from the laundry basket and reclaimed my blahg. Anyway… This year, we are not shopping for collapsible laundry baskets grok grok or beer can wastebaskets hic or cute little hanging storage units or brightly colored shower totes. The list for Sénégal is a little different. Many of the items make sense, others I am scratching my head about, still others are almost certainly not needed by this particular student, and I don’t see yarn or knitting needles anywhere so somebody must’ve screwed up. After six stores and a close encounter with the Wind-up Woman, we had made a small dent in this list by about noon and were absolutely, totally, utterly exhausted.

Suggested articles of clothing and other items:

  • Comfortable, sturdy, all-purpose shoes for class and walking, suitable for deep sand.
  • Two or three sweaters — make sure one is heavy
  • Jacket
  • Bathing suit
  • Flip flops (can buy there)
  • A couple of dressy outfits for special occasions, clubs, etc.
  • At least one pair of dressy shoes or sandals
  • Plenty of cotton underwear and bras
  • 1-2 long-sleeved shirts
  • A few pairs of jeans (no holes or frayed hems)
  • Workout clothes (goggles, sports bras, shorts, etc., if you use them at home)
  • Women: lightweight cotton skirts, dresses, pants, blouses, button-down shirts, T-shirts and tank tops. Maybe one or two pairs of shorts for hanging out and going to the beach.
  • Men: lightweight, wrinkle-free pants, one or two pairs of nice shorts, button-down shirts

Hygiene and toiletries

  • Basic toiletries to last the year (or at least 1 month)
  • Towel and washcloth. These are considered personal and homestay families will not expect to provide them.
  • One year supply of condoms and other birth control supplies.
  • One year supply of tampons or pads. These are available here but are expensive.
  • Tylenol, Advil or favorite pain reliever. In Dakar these are expensive.
  • Vitamins
  • Aloe vera
  • Sunscreen, Blistex
  • Mosquito repellent (containing DEET)
  • Band-aids, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide
  • Thermometer
  • Sturdy water bottle (when traveling or commuting)
  • Tissue paper
  • Toilet paper, at least one roll for the first two weeks and then buy the rest there when needed
  • Yeast infection medication
  • Antibiotics, Pepto-Bismol (check with physician for best treatment for diarrhea)
  • Cold/sinus medicine
  • Neosporin or another antibiotic cream for open cuts
  • Contact solution (cannot be found there)
  • Anti-itch cream for mosquito bites
  • Fiber supplement or dried prunes (with the local diet, constipation is common)

Other suggested items:

  • Study Abroad Handbook
  • Sénégal Program Guidebook
  • Academic plan, major/minor course requirements to plan your courses in Dakar
  • Recent edition of your school’s course catalog
  • Contact information for your registrar, advisor, and financial aid office
  • Your resume on computer disk and hard copy for internship applications
  • French/English dictionary
  • An American Express card in your name (handy for receiving packages and buying traveler’s checks)
  • An international Mastercard, Visa or debit card
  • Extra pair of glasses or contacts and the prescription in case glasses are lost or stolen
  • A few extra passport pictures
  • Battery-operated alarm clock
  • Pocket calculator (for calculating exchange rates)
  • Small sewing kit
  • Wet wipes or liquid hand sanitizer for travel when there is no running water available
  • Flashlight (can be pocket size)
  • AA batteries
  • Small photo album with pictures of home
  • Recent edition of travel guide: Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books are great
  • Money pouch (those that you wear around your neck or under your belt are handy)
  • Reading material, stationary, lots of U.S. stamps (you can send along letters with people who are returning to the states)
  • Deck of playing cards
  • Small combination lock
  • Map or atlas of the U.S. — a great conversation piece
  • 1 to 2 boxes of quart-size Ziploc bags
  • Umbrella
  • Blanket for your bed (it can be very cold at night)
  • Laptop computer

Grok grok! Explodin’ head o’ hair! Grok grok!

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Grok grok! Pleez skan yer Kroger plus card. grok grok. Pleez put th’ item on th’ skanner. grok grok. Pleez wate fer th’ cashyeer. grok grok. Pleez put th’ item BACK in th’ bag. grok grok. Pleez put th’ item BACK on th’ skanner. grok grok. Do ya hav eny coopons, coinstar er bottle returns? grok grok. Pleez remoov all items frum th’ skanner. grok grok. Pleez putcher coins in before yer dollers. grok grok. Do ya wanna pay by cash er credit card? grok grok. Pleez don’ fergit yer change ‘n’ yer reseet! grok grok. Paper er plastic? Paper er plastic? PAPER ER PLASTIC? PAPER ER PLASTIC? grok grok. WARNING! IT DUZ NOT COMPYOOT! WARNING! WARNING! IT DUZ NOT COMPYOOT! GROK GROK GROKGROKGROKGROK!!!

grok GROK! This is gittin’ skeery! grok grok. Ol’ Baggy is not rite in th’ head! She is ternin’ int’ a U-SKAN! grok grok. I knew those ol’ things’d git t’ her eventyally! grok grok! She’s bin goin’ thru th’ u-skan just about evry day. grok grok. ‘n’ then she fergits sumth’n’ ‘n’ hasta go back t’ th’ u-skan agin! grok grok It’s just gittin’ krazy!!! grok grok. This mornin’ she almos’ pored sum bad milk on ‘er cheerios ‘n’ then she pored it all out. ‘n’ THEN she went t’ th’ u-skan spesifickly t’ git s’more milk. grok grok. ‘n’ gess what? She FERGOT th’ milk! Now the pore li’l Mousey has t’ go git some. grok grok. Me ‘n’ ol’ Smokie finely hadta tie Ol’ Baggy down ‘n’ pore some magick poshun down ‘er throte just t’ k-nock ‘er out. grok grok. We thru ‘er in my londree baskit ‘n’ now she’s sleepin’ it off with Moley! grok grok. snork.

grokgrok grok korg! I’m takin’ over thishere blahg!!! grokgrokgrokgROKG SQUEE-GROK SQUEE-GROK SQUEE-GROK.

Sheep in a Jeep cute little blue Honda Civic with a yellow flower sticking out of the vent

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Yes, the toxic fume incident happened at “my” Westgate Kroger. Coincidentally, Mouse tried to shop at Kroger shortly after the incident occurred but was turned away at the door by some employees who told her the store was closed.

Boys will be boys (er, maybe I should make that kids will be kids?) and if there isn’t enough to do, sometimes they will invent something they think is fun and exciting. Like spraying toxic chemicals at library and grocery store patrons. Or detonating homemade black powder bombs.

Explosions are not something that normally disrupt my life much. You can’t hang around with the GG for very long without becoming inured to the sound of things blowing up and I’ve been hanging around with the GG since 1980, so when firecrackers or bottle rockets are going off around our quiet little neighborhood, they don’t typically wake me up.

The explosions I heard the summer before Lizard Breath went to kindergarten were different. I had a job that took place in an office at that time and I worked until early evening. Those were the days when I could sometimes — after as many chapters of whatever book we were currently reading as Lizard Breath could wheedle out of me — get the beach urchins to bed at an early enough hour that I might have a little space of time to myself. I would usually spend that time in the back room, in the dark. Nice and quiet, cooler than the rest of the house, and I felt far away from anyone. I was alone and I had some space. Then… KABOOM!!! What the heck was that! It wasn’t the GG. He had already gone to bed. And it didn’t sound like his usual kind of explosion. It was way bigger than that. I felt a little shaky. For a few minutes, I wondered if I should call the police or something. I forced myself to believe that all was well and went off to bed.

I heard similar explosions throughout the summer. I’m not sure if I exactly got used to them or what. But nobody else seemed too bothered. Then one August night a couple weeks before school started, I was running around doing laundry and various other chores after work. It was a hot evening and the school yard was fairly busy with people milling around and a baseball game. I had just put a load of laundry in and was working on cleaning the bathroom when a huge explosion shook the entire house. Almost before I had a chance to react, I heard someone yell, “Call an ambulance!!” and within a minute or so, we could hear sirens approaching.

There used to be a big wood and tire play structure over there. It was built by parent volunteers back in the 60s, before there were playground police to outlaw homemade playground equipment. That evening, a group of 19-year-olds took it upon themselves to try to destroy the structure. They had obtained a supply of black powder and some gas cylinders and, if my ears are right, had been working on the art of bomb making all summer. They carefully, or so they thought, positioned the bomb in just the right place to blow up the structure and not the baseball players. It didn’t blow up the baseball players. It didn’t blow up the big wood and tire play structure either. I don’t think it actually “blew up” *anything*. But a piece of shrapnel from the cylinder lodged itself into the brain of one of the girls in the group and I’m not sure if she ever walked again.

These were not bad kids. They were local kids who hadn’t figured out what to do with themselves after high school, even what college to attend. They were Community High graduates, one year out, and some had attended Haisley as children. My kids went to those schools. In the end, no one was charged with any crime and I remember the head bomb maker saying that he wished he could trade places with the girl who took the shrapnel. That was 18 summers ago and I wonder what he’s doing now and how the girl is doing. They’d be in their 30s now.

I don’t know what to say about the pepper spray kids. Apparently they haven’t been identified yet. Like the black powder bomb, I think this was supposed to be a prank. But what on earth were these kids thinking? Dozens of people were affected with five taken to the emergency room. How many ambulances had to respond? How many paramedics? How much money was spent on all these ambulances and paramedics? What if they had been needed elsewhere?

Yes, that was “my” Westgate Kroger. The one I’ve been shopping at for 28 years. I’m glad Mouse wasn’t inside when it happened. I’m glad I was doing the laundry instead of taking my beach urchins to the school yard that night 18 years ago. The big wood and tire play structure survived quite a few more years and one more attempt to destroy it, this time when school district employees misread their instructions and tore down a brand *new* structure across the sidewalk from it. Go figure. Eventually the playground police managed to get rid of it.

And then, this morning, I opened up the trunk to my cute little blue civic and I couldn’t put the groceries in there because it was filled with sheep.

I don’t call that purple, I call it maroon. Or burgundy. Or whatever.

Friday, July 27th, 2007

It’s a kind of dark red color. It does have some purple in it. But — in my eyes, at least — it is really more of a red. But not quite. It was a popular color back when I was in junior high. I definitely called it burgundy then. I had a burgundy/white/pink sweater (it was prettier than it sounds) from Traverse Bay Woolens and I found some wool that was an exact *match* to the burgundy color and made a skirt to go with it. I *loved* that outfit. I wish I had a picture of it. If I remember right, I might’ve even had some burgundy tights too. In sixth grade, I had a burgundy sweatshirt. It was oversized and I think I made a sketch of a banana on it with black marker. I wore it with cut-off jeans and, to complete the outfit, I pasted a Chiquita Banana sticker on my forehead. And yes, I used to actually ride my bicycle around the neighborhood dressed like that. Kids? Are y’all embarrassed yet? 😉

I was gonna blahg something else today. I was writing about that and Mouse was talking to me about the “purple” striped linen fabric she bought at Haberman Fabrics on our little field trip over to Royal Joke this morning. We got over there a half hour before it opened, so we initiated my Starbucks gift card while we waited. Thanks, Jean! 🙂 Haberman’s was totally overwhelming but Mouse managed to narrow things down to three pieces of fabric and I was coerced into buying an African-looking cotton print with crocodiles and lots of metallic gold for my stash. Mouse’ll probably post pictures of all this stuff on her blahg, so I’ll just link you to that. You’ll know immediately which fabric is mine.

Anyway, she was talking about her “purple” fabric and I was a little grumpy. I *am* a little depressed today. Don’t worry, it’s just a garden variety of depression. I wanted to whine on my blahg. It’s my blahg and I can whine if I want to but this is not the travelin’ funeral blahg either. So Mouse said “purple” and I grumped, “I don’t call that purple, I call it maroon.” Or burgundy. Or whatever. And suddenly, I had a new and better blahg entry. I’ve been thinking about how people often attach different color names to what are identical colors and how hard it is to talk about color and have someone else get the idea of what color you are actually talking about. And then to try to translate any particular color from one medium to another: fabric to yarn to beads to paint to RGB. A color that makes a fabulous silk dress might be totally over the top in a fuzzy wool sweater. Or vice versa. Or maybe a *little* of it could provide a much-needed spark to a fuzzy sweater using mainly less vivid colors.

I could go on and on about this. Don’t even get me started on the Crayola Crayon box colors. I knew all 64 by heart when I was a kid. Overall, it was a pretty good day with our little field trip and I did actually get a few chores done and some work on coding my internship layout. And then, Lilmagg *made* my day.

The next few days are busy and Sam may be around (and if she’s not, I hope to see her in the Yoop) and then we’ll pick a passenger up on the red-eye and drive to the beach and cousins and all kinds of people will be around and life will be just fine.

Page 167 (or thereabouts), HP Snapshot

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Lemme see… Our friends are in a muggle cafe where Ron has just made a disparaging comment about cappuccino, angering the waitress. Suddenly, the next table turns out to be death eaters. They attacked and our friends were immediately on the defense. There’s some stuff I don’t quite understand about wands and spells and Ron ends up wrapped up in some kind of stuff. And then I had to quit reading. I couldn’t even finish the chapter. I don’t know what happens next and don’t anybody tell me. I’ve already seen some spoilers. A kid on one of my flute loop groups got so excited he let some stuff spill. And was chastised. And apologized *profusely*. Poor kid. Old tired mooms like me just don’t usually have big blocks of time available to sit around and read books. Even Harry Potter books. I’m coding for an internship this week. Web work, when you are scrabbling for whatever little jobs you can get, is like that. You work when you have the work. And this is a free internship. I’m not getting paid. But it’ll be a great portfolio piece and I’m working with some fantastic people. And it’s *coding*! I love coding and I need more practice with it. So I’m happy. But I do *not* have time to read.

“thank you mama web warrior”

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Well thanks are not quite in order yet but boy oh boy I sure have spent a lot of my time dealing with customer service personnel this summer! I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. I successfully resolved two fraudulent credit card transaction issues. Then I lost my debit card and had to cancel it and get a replacement. Those two companies fall into the “good” category. Thank you, National City and Chase. Two more issues are pending. One is *probably* resolved to my satisfaction but I won’t know for another couple days. The other is still a battle but one I am starting to have a little fun with. Honestly, some people are so incompetent you almost have to laugh, as angry as you are at them.

I want to blahg about the last two but I can’t do it yet. But it reminded me of an old story. A few years ago, I took over yet another Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) treasury. Or tried to. PTOs are rather notorious for being disorganized and their treasuries are often in a mess. This is not (usually) due to fraud. It’s just that being on the board of a PTO is a volunteer job and often a thankless one. Many people who take it on lack the time and/or expertise to handle the job they are assigned to. You don’t exactly have to turn in a resume or go through a background check to be considered for the job. It’s more a matter of, “do you breathe?” (At least, last I looked.) It happens that I *like* to sort out messy bank records. I don’t know why and that would be a whole ‘nother blahg entry anyway. But whenever a treasury was up for grabs, I had my hand up in the air and I would work hard to get it in order.

So, when the kids’ high school PTO treasury came up for grabs, there I was with my hand up. This one wasn’t as bad as some of the others I’ve taken over. It was a relatively quiet treasury and because the gross revenue never reached the threshold upon which the IRS might notice it, I had no tax reports to worry about, etc. It should have been easy. Except that the previous treasurer, whose last child had graduated, didn’t seem to want to give up the account. I couldn’t write checks until she signed over the account and, to me, it seemed like she did everything in her power to prevent that from happening.

I worked with the president to try to get the previous treasurer to sign over the bank account. She was always too busy. Even though her office was directly across the street from the bank. The one time all three of us managed to meet there, it was Friday afternoon and there was a long line and the former treasurer panicked and ran out on us. Okay…

That’s all not to mention that I had experience with this bank from a previous treasury. My first thought was something like, “Oh no, not *that* bank.” One time I had walked in there with a deposit from a middle school “fun night.” I had a lot of cash and maybe $7 or so in coins. The teller looked at my neatly packaged coins, in little envelopes with the denomination and total amount written on the envelope and said, “we don’t take coins.” Say what? Fortunately, a manager, one who knew me, walked by her right at that moment and rectified the situation. I’m sure that what they *didn’t* want to take was big bags of uncounted pennies, etc. And I don’t blame them. But, sheesh! And then there was the time I had my (then) young kids in there with me and a man who smelled strongly of airplane glue was arguing loudly with a teller. But that wasn’t the bank’s fault. (I don’t think.)

Anyway. Finally, the previous treasurer signed off on the paperwork and took it to the bank and the PTO president emailed me to say that it was there and I could just go over and complete the transfer. So, off I went. I walked in and looked around. I couldn’t see anyone but tellers. I didn’t think they’d have the paperwork but I walked up to the window anyway. The teller pointed to the right and said, “Oh, you need to go over there and wait for someone to talk to you.” Okay. I went “over there” and sat down. I waited for ten minutes. There were cubicles “over there” and although the people in them didn’t look busy, they made every effort to totally, completely, utterly ignore me. Hey, do I smell like airplane glue or what? I walked back to the teller. She gave me one of those looks like she thought I smelled like airplane glue was crazy and said, “I *told* you to go wait over there.” I replied that I *had* waited “over there” for ten minutes and no one came out to talk to me and I wasn’t going to go wait “over there” again. Okay. This time she sent me over to the *other side* to some young preppie type punk.

“Oh great,” I thought. I stated my business and this guy totally gave me the bum’s rush. “I don’t have those papers. I don’t know where they are.” I was fit to be tied. And I resolved to not leave without access to the bank account. Five minutes into the conversation, a co-worker came back from her break or whatever and he asked her about it. “Oh, they’re right here on my desk,” said she. Relief! I was thinking we were getting somewhere but then, when my preppie punk looked up the records in his computer, he found that there was *another* person who was authorized to sign checks. Someone I had vaguely heard of whose children were long graduated. He started stonewalling me again. “We *have* to get this person to sign off.” I was getting the bum’s rush *again*. I could tell by his tone of voice, his body language and his eyes. I did *not* know where this person was or how to get hold of her and I figured that if I did get hold of her she’d be wondering (like I was) about the sanity of the bank people. I finally said, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to sit here until I walk out of here with access to that account.” He finally said, “well, I’ll call my supervisor.” “Fine,” I replied. He got on the phone. I am pretty sure there wasn’t a real person on the other end but when he got off, he looked at me conspiratorially and said, “you know what, I am just going to give you access to this account.” I replied, “That’s a good idea.”

Phew! I HATE doing stuff like that. I have a hard time staying calm when dealing with incompetent, inflexible bureaucrats and their ridiculous company policies. To this day, I don’t know how I managed to get out of there without SCREAMING at someone. When I got home, I emailed the PTO president, a highly respected member of the community and a hero of mine, to tell her that I *finally* had access to the account and the ordeal I endured to get it. I almost fell off my chair laughing when she replied, “If I had been in your place, I think I would have taken my gun out of my purse and started shooting.”

Moom, I like little kids *much* better than you do.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

The corollary to that is something like, “there’s a good reason why I am not a teacher.”

It’s been another long day. Got up and walked early in the morning, bedroom, bathroom, laundry times two, errands, grocery store, straightened out various financial problems, including an ridiculously long ongoing situation with Visabuxx and re-entering five years worth of checking account data into Quicken (don’t ask). And all kinds of other stuff that I won’t bother to document. I can’t say there wasn’t any fun involved. I mean, I actually *like* to balance bank accounts.

Five o’clock. Time to shut down the Macbook and go for a walk. I rely on walking to de-stress. I don’t totally let my brain go on auto-pilot but I let it kind of meander around. Sometimes I solve problems that way or at least come up with some new strategy.

So, I’m cruising along and it’s summer and it’s, well, not really that hot, thank you god, but probably hot enough to sell lemonade. I turn a corner and without looking a half-block ahead of me, realize with some degree of horror that there is a lemonade stand! Yikes! When I walk, I don’t need lemonade or water or anything else. I don’t carry quarters with me when I walk. And I always feel so guilty walking by those hopeful little faces with a “no thanks.” I feel like they’re thinking, “who is that ugly old witch?” Grok Grok. Yeah, Ugly Ol’ Witch inna big ol’ ditch! grok grok Excuse me a minute. [Shut up, Froog.] Sorry about that RUDE interruption! Grok grok to you, you old Froog!

Now, I think that setting up a lemonade stand is a good, constructive summer-time activity. I think it’s better than getting dumped off to a constant series of camps or learning the art of pick-pocketing. I vaguely remember plotting and planning various “sales” when I was a kid. I can’t remember if we ever actually set up any kind of sale. We had limited venues. The back road was (is) a two-track used by an increasingly small number of people as the beach goes on. It would be interesting to try to sell lemonade on the beach during a screaming nor’wester and when it was lemonade weather, we were busy swimming.

I wish I was better at interacting with little kids. I don’t dislike them. Heck, I *had* two of them. If I am in the right mood, I like to talk to kids just like I like to talk to my grown-up friends. Often, I feel like I understand them better than some of the other adults they encounter. I’m just not a schmoozer. It’s hard for me to make small talk with *anyone*. Somebody else might stop at a lemonade stand and, even if they didn’t have a quarter (or two), talk to the kids about the weather or what they were doing or whatever. I can’t do that. It’s my five o’clock walk and I have to keep going.

If I were a better schmoozer, I’d be shaking those kids down for a website design job. Lemonade stand would be fun to design. I can think of several scenarios. Lemons in every one. A tropical version. A hand-written kid version. And maybe an arctic version. But, sigh, I am not a schmoozer.

Note to self: learn to be a better schmoozer.

And to all you lemonade stand kids. Keep at it! Do not mind old fogies like me!!!

Don’t get me wrong. I love little kids. On my own terms though. I would not be a good teacher.

A Play [a very short play]

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Little Girl On Bike w/ Training Wheels: Hi!

Kayak Woman (somewhat tentatively): Hi…

LGOBWTW: If you would bring a dog next time, will you let me pet it?

KW (quite incredulously): Yes I would but I don’t have a dog so it’s highly unlikely.

Four (and 50-something)

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Blogiversary!!! Four years ago today — on the 22nd of July, 2003 — I wrote my first blahg entry and I’m taking today to ramble on (and on) about blahgging.

I’ve had a website since 1999 or thereabouts but, until four years ago today, it was a static site that I used for posting pictures and linking to weather and other stuff. Here’s what it looked like in 2001. That’s the earliest version that the Internet Archive has. By the time I wrote my first blahg entry, I had moved beyond the black background and adopted a loverly tables-based layout.

When I wrote my first entry, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mouse and I had arrived at the beach for a month or so, leaving Lizard Breath and the GG sweltering on the Planet Ann Arbor. I’m not crazy about using the phone, so I started writing little two or three line blurbs about what we had done that day and posting badly optimized pictures. To my surprise, one or two people *besides* my immediate family started emailing comments. When we returned to the Planet Ann Arbor late that August, I kept writing. I made my “blahg” the focus of my home page and devised a system of archiving old posts by month, which you can get to here. Eventually I figured out that blogging software existed but it wasn’t until spring of 2006 that I got around to installing WordPress. I started a project to convert the archived posts to WordPress but that involved a lot of tedious copying, pasting, and html coding, so I soon put it on hiatus. I may get to it eventually. Frankly, enough crap has happened in the last couple years that revisiting a lot of my old posts just depresses me. My brain spends enough time reliving the bad times of last few years on its own. I don’t need to go back and read about it. For now, anyway. I know I’ll feel differently eventually.

I have written an entry every single day for the last four years. That surprises me a little. Yes, there are days when it’s hard to think of what to write. There are other days when I can think of three or four topics. *Something* always comes up, even on the longest, sleepiest, boring-est of days. I edit and edit and edit and edit, even sometimes after I post. I like to write but I have a lot to learn. I know when I’m not hitting the mark. I think some of my best posts happen when I just sit down and ramble incoherently but I can’t always do that. If you catch me in a spelling error or extra apostrophe, HIT ME! I am a stickler about those things but proofing yourself can be tricky. On the other hand, sometimes I deliberately misspell things or use incorrect grammar. It’s my blahg and it’s about my [so-called] life. It is what it is.

My personal set of blahgging rules and conventions is continually evolving but here’s more or less where it stands at the moment:

  • My posts are essentially “snapshots” of my [so-called] life. It is dangerous to blahg about your job or school or whatever on the Internet. It’s a public venue. A bad day will often appear on my blahg as humor. On the other hand, I might write some long, rambly, angst-filled rant on an otherwise good, productive day, just something I had to get out of my system. A cryptic entry might be disguising something real or I might just be feeling particularly random that day.
  • I will skirt the edges of most controversial issues like politics and religion. Opinions and values on these things come in RGB, not B/W. Everyone who reads this (all ten of you) has different opinions. Sometimes my own opinions change from day to day. Arguing about that kind of stuff is not worth the stress.
  • I will take on things like the public schools or incompetent customer service or bad business practices or real estate developers. As a citizen and consumer, I will exercise free speech on those kinds of issues if I feel the need.
  • Blahgging about my beach urchins will usually fall into one of several categories: 1) technical, i.e., moving or graduating or similar life change, 2) memories of when they were little, 3) something that we did or experienced *together*. If they want to talk about themselves on the Internet, they can. And Mouse does. When she is so inclined. It’s probably a good thing the Internet wasn’t around when they were babies. I’d’ve prob’ly been posting about poop and the whole works. Some people do.
  • Dead aminals: In the early days, I posted *occasional* photos of seagull or fish or rodent carcasses. I now put them behind links. The GG was just absolutely jumping up and down with glee at my recent Beach Flotsam post. “That’s your best post *ever*!” said he. I’m sure not everyone agrees.
  • Despite the Kayak Woman moniker, I don’t try to be anonymous myself, the site is copyrighted under both of my aliases. I refer to other people by nickname or first name if I can’t think of an appropriate nickname. That goes for people I know personally. Public figures are on their own.

I wrote my first blahg entry on a 12″ screen G4 Mac powerbook connected to the internet via a very slow dial-up. I had a wireless card in that thing but it was a few months later that I actually turned it on and used it. Now I’m using a 13″ screen Intel Macbook (white) and I can almost *always* find a nice, fast wireless connection. Even on the beach. That’s just astounding. My brain does something I can’t put into words when it tries to hook that reality up with the days when we had outdoor plumbing at the beach and the only person with a phone was my uncle, who needed it because his career as a doctor often required him to report ASAP to the emergency room. I can still remember his phone ringing in the middle of the night.

Guest blahggers? Yes, bring it on! But I won’t post it unless the person who *wrote* it gives me explicit permission! This is the Internet, yaknow.

What’s next?

  • A new design!!! I threw this one together in about five minutes. I want to do something more creative and get to know WordPress and php inside and out instead of just hacking around.
  • Podcasts. Need time. And practice. And a decent microphone, etc.
  • Better looking, web standards-compliant slide shows.

Last but not least! It is the birthday of my uber-cousin* Aimée and also that of my *other* uber-cousin’s husband, The Marquis! They are just catching up to my age, that means they are 50-something. But hey, 50 is the new 30! Grog grok grok grok! Pink is the new green! Pink is the new green! grokGROK!

*Uber-cousin just means that they were born the same year as me. Really, all of my cousins are uber-cousins.

Saxophone Giraffes

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Did I go to the art fair? Am I going to the art fair? How is the art fair this year? No. No. I don’t know.

I haven’t gone to the art fair and I am not going. Hmm, actually, it’s over now anyway. I didn’t go. I get hit with this same set of questions every year. Multiple times. I do not have any money. I do not need anything. I am picking away at the shambling mounds I already have. I am getting *rid* of things. I do not need any more objets d’art, aka junk.

I used to like to go the art fair. But that was back when I could fit all of my worldly possessions into the back of a Ford Fiesta. I used to come to The Planet Ann Arbor to visit Pooh and the Marquis and their friends and we would walk downtown and spend hours and hours at the art fair. Everything was exciting to look at and I wanted it all. I didn’t have any money but I didn’t have any responsibilities either and we’d party on into the swampy southeast Michigan night. I have one vague, fuzzy memory of loitering around up on South University one Saturday night after the art fair was over. There were some big poles leftover from an art fair structure and someone in our party was lobbing them around and singing operatic arias. I can’t remember exactly who it was but he was not a musician.

Then I blinked and somebody hit the fast forward button and all of a sudden, I was living on The Planet with a career, husband, house, and two beach urchins and my Ford Fiesta now had a name, “Mama’s Little Gold Car.” I needed a new art fair strategy. Early is the name of the game for me, so I’d pack up the urchins and a stroller and hit the art fair as soon as it opened. We’d start out by walking up and down Main St., which is pretty well shaded at that time of the morning. Then we’d turn up Liberty, straight into a sizzling southeast Michigan sun. Whomp! Sometimes we’d make it all the way up to State and sometimes not. By an hour after the fair started for the day, it was too hut hot for us and we were done. Time to go home. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I can’t remember what kinds of things we bought during those years. Little trinkets for little girls, probably. I still did not have any money but I had quite a few responsibilities.

And then there were all those years of summer theatre camp. Summer theatre camp performances have always been purposely scheduled during the art fair at the Trueblood Theatre, on State Street right in the middle of the whole thing. When I was working for YAG, I never had time to go to the art fair, even though I was working right in the middle of it. I would be frantically running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to park various Courtois vee-hickles, schlepping stuff in and out of the theatre, running errands, and managing panicky parents and others. I would steal a half hour and dash madly down Huron to Main to visit my favorite jeweler, whose booth was just off Huron. I still did not have any money but I would buy earrings anyway.

I don’t work for YAG any more and they’re tearing down the Trueblood so the YAG performances were in Ypsilanti this summer. I don’t know if my favorite jeweler was at the fair. Actually, I’m not even sure she’s still living. I don’t care about anything else at the art fair. I don’t need anything. I have too much stuff. I *hate* having to navigate through the crowds. I walk too fast and bump into things and knock little old ladies over. I still do not have any money. I think one of these years, I will probably go to the art fair again. I think I might even *enjoy* it again. *Maybe* someday I will even have a little money to spend. Not this year.

Okay, finish those Harry Potter books!

$21.98 x 2 > 12:01

Friday, July 20th, 2007

The previous earthquake post is much more interesting than anything I have to say today so scroll down to read that one. But this is what I predict, not necessarily in any particular order:

  1. Harry Potter will not die. Except possibly in the case that the author has another seven books up her sleeve and plans to resurrect him soap opera style in oh, let’s say about book four. “It was all a dream!” as was once said in Dallas.
  2. Dumbledore will morph with Fawkes and they will resurrect as Super Falconcam!
  3. Snape will do all kinds of horrible dastardly things and then he’ll meet Harry’s Aunt Petunia. They’ll fall in love, she’ll divorce Uncle Vernon and Snape will adopt a muggle lifestyle.
  4. Harry and Ginny? Harry and Hermione? Harry and Luna? Luna? Luna who? Oh yeah, Luna. The other kid who can see the thestrels. (I didn’t remember that by myself, it was on the radio.) Anyway, who knows? And who cares? They’re all 17 or thereabouts. They’ll break up.
  5. Voldemort? He’ll take up the trombone and join the MSU Spartan Marching Band.

Whaddya y’all think? I will not be one of those who has the answers by three o’clock tomorrow afternoon.

guess how we woke up at 4:42 last night? renee?

Friday, July 20th, 2007

article. i looked at the clock, and it was 4:42.

if it’s july 20, check out the big blue square… we live just to the left of that.

in other news, i will be home early on the morning of august 1 (these events are, in fact, unrelated).
love to all,

elizabeth

Hold the pickles.

Thursday, July 19th, 2007
  • Tiptoed gingerly out the front door of The Landfill at 0-dark-thirty, watching warily for skunks.
  • Became totally bamboozled at the signage for how to get to the passenger pickup at the “old” terminal and subsequently…
  • …Survived an unpleasant encounter with a nasty little b*$#% security guard at Metro. Did I really call her that to her face? Maybe. No, I am not proud of it. But not particularly sorry either. Sheesh!
  • Picked up red-eye passengers (Jay, Carl, Ashlan) from Seattle.
  • Breakfast at Marc’s Midtown with passengers and Jane. The State Street Marc’s, not the other one. Conversation? A little dingy (I mean dingy doy da doy da doy, not dingy dirty), due to various members of the red-eye crew. But that just added to the fun. Seeya on the beach if not before!
  • Chipped away at the usual mountain of chores, tasks, and errands with a couple of little flute oases in between.
  • Diligently checked all online financial records to make sure no further virtual pickpocketing was done by fine, upstanding companies such as Reservation Rewards or TLG*Netmarket/Trilegiant.
  • Emails from Amazon.com cleared up the mystery of the two identical pending bank debits that appeared earlier this week and then disappeared. Harry Potter books that I ordered way back when, of course. One to The Planet Ann Arbor, one to Callyforny. Eventually, I guess I’ll get to read one of them. Still not sure why the pending charges disappeared but I know they’ll return.
  • Helped hung out at the YAG summer theatre camp 2nd Thursday barbecue. I brought a trowel just in case but it wasn’t needed.
  • Scrambled to help move the remains of the BBQ food inside when the skies opened up and dumped.
  • Hid behind the STAC door watching campers and snack ladies lob each other with water balloons in the pouring rain. *Why* did I forget my camera???
  • Helped transfer umpteen million empty cups from one broken box to another and back again (don’t ask), stashing some special big red bups cups in yet another box for use in an upcoming pee day.
  • Home. Whew!
  • Tornado siren.

I think that’s about all. Guess I’ll go for a walk.

Quidditch Quilting Through the Ages

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

housequilt.jpgEverybody is quilting. Mouse is plotting and planning and haunting fabric stores. And I’ve been right along with her. I’ve been to the Viking store three times in the last two days and Joann Fabrics once. Jean and her sister are working on one or two or three quilts. They are *always* making a quilt or two or three. Sue is making a house quilt. Yes. Sue is making a house quilt. For her oldest grandson. I was oohing and aahing at all of Sue’s beautiful house blocks as she was laying them out in the costume room at STAC. And then, I was hit by a lightning bolt! I have *made* a house quilt.

That house quilt in the picture is the last full size quilt I made. The colors are a little more vibrant in real life. I made it for Mouse back in about 1989-1990 or so, that would make it 17-18 years old. It’s old enough to have a little hole in it and almost looks kind of antique now, except for some of the fabrics. It’s machine pieced (I think) and hand quilted.

I wanted to keep making quilts but somehow I could never manage to fit them into my schedule, at least not full-sized ones. You would think that would stop me from buying fabric, right? Not. I have about half a basement wall of yaffa blocks full of quilt fabric down in the dungeon. I didn’t totally stop doing fiber arts stuff. I made doll quilts and wall hangings. I made little patchwork bags for birthday party favors and girl scout ceremonies, overstitching and beading them or whatever technique I was experimenting with at the time. I got sidetracked on beadweaving for a few years. And then little fabric collage projects in various forms. And yes, I have more than my share of unfinished projects hanging around.

I think I have come full circle. As I began slowly dredging through my studio dungeon earlier this summer, I got to the point where I can almost get to the fabric. There’s a mattress and box springs in the way but I can navigate around that. Actually it makes a good sliding door. But here’s the important thing: I have an idea for a quilt! A full-sized quilt. I’m not going to use a pattern, at least not exactly. It’ll be based on traditional pattern elements like squares and triangles but it’ll grow more or less organically. I’m gonna hand piece it. When I saw Sue’s house quilt, I knew I had to get going.

Don’t worry. I won’t turn this into a quilting blahg any time soon. But if I actually come up with something I *like*, I’ll keep y’all posted. I betcha I won’t even have to hit the fabric store to complete it. But I’m sure I’ll find some excuse to go there anyway. For just that perfect little piece of fabric. I promise I won’t start stockpiling again.

So, while y’all are reading about quidditch, I’ll be quilting away. On the beach. And wherever.

Love, Kayak Woman

Summertime and the livin’ is easy

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

I think every kid needs a long summer break from school. When we were kids, as soon as the school year ended, we launched a relentless campaign to move out to the cabin. It was about a 15 minute drive from our house in town to the cabin and Grandroobly could easily drive in to the bank every day. The Commander usually gave in pretty quickly and issued us each a bushel basket to pack our clothes in. She loaded up the car with us and our bushel baskets and the dog and the kitchen stuff and off we went for a long summer of beach living. Beach living that more often than not, especially in June, meant an un-summer-like 45 degree temperature, driving rain, and gale-force winds. But who cared? It was summertime and the livin’ is easy. Roight?

We could swim just about whenever we wanted to. Every mom on the beach was ready to drop just about anything to go sit on the beach and watch us. Even if she had to wear a winter coat to stay warm. We built log forts on the beach and dug to China and engineered elaborate damn (oops) dam systems on the stream and made cigar box troll houses and created elaborate clubs with merit badges and bratty enemy cliques and the whole works. We walked to Doelle’s and went on peanut butter sandwich picnic expotitions to Birch or Cedar Point or the Back Light or even Round Island. Did we ever get bored? We sure did. I don’t think that’s always a bad thing.

We always like to say there was only one rule at the cabin, which was DON’T THROW SAND! As memorable as that rule was — and it still stands, so DO NOT THROW SAND — it wasn’t really the only one. But our rules prohibited activities that were truly a matter of life and death. Don’t go swimming unless you get an adult to watch you. Or you could drown. And you *could* drown! Don’t go across the road into the swamp. You might get lost forever. And you *could* get lost forever! Our land went back a long way for a little kid and it was rough, buggy, wetland terrain. With bears and lynxes and cougars. (Oh my!) We learned those rules early and didn’t question them.

I think kids need time to explore and create and daydream and read and run wild with their cousins. After a summer of doing just about whatever I wanted to do, I never felt like I had lost academic ground when school started in the fall. As much as we hated leaving the beach, there was also something fun and exciting about moving back to town and starting school again. The next grade, new school supplies, a clean, organized desk, our bikes, the school playground, and town friends. Boredom set in quickly enough with the 4-6 weeks of “review” that began every school year.

I think things are different now. There are a lot of families for whom a long summer break means lining up a string of camps. Day camps of all description and sleepover camps, with one of those fun-filled family vacations thrown into the middle of it all. You know the kind. The car breaks down, the kids get sick, and the dog runs away. Kids are on the go all summer. No down time. I know this because of the incessant questions I used to get from theatre camp parents. Can I drop my kid off early? Can I pick my kid up late? Well, why *don’t* you have before and after camp care? Can you arrange a carpool for my kid? Can you pick my kid up? No. No. No. No. Triple no!!! And then, once the camp began, there would be the kids who had to miss the final performance because they were leaving for horse camp or Disney World or France. “Oops, we forgot to check the calendar.” Kee-reist! Who in their right mind would want to go to Disney World in the *summer*?

And then there are the inner city kids for whom camp and fun-filled family vacations are usually out of reach. I guess most of them have a lot of freedom too. But it is probably not spent swimming, at least not on an isolated beach with somebody’s mom sitting there watching in a winter jacket. And what kinds of activities are available in that environment? Selling drugs? Stealing candy from the corner store? Hanging around with gangs? Am I exaggerating? I don’t know. It’s almost unfathomable to me that so many kids grow up with so little chance to experience the great outdoors. I’ve known kids from The Planet Ann Arbor, not the inner city by a long shot, who were so unfamiliar with the woods that they were afraid of bears at girl scout camp, which is 30 miles north of megalopolis just a couple miles off the freeway. Bears? Possums and skunks maybe. But I have those in my back yard.

I don’t know what I think. Maybe some version of year-round school might be better for some kids. Either those with too much to do or those with too little to do in a questionable environment. We were *not* wealthy when I was a kid. We were *lucky* to have a beach to spend the summer at. It wasn’t as easy for me to give my kids the same experiences I had when I was a kid. My job was five hours away and I managed to work up to a three week vacation after 10 years. I tried my best to take my kids to the beach for as much time as I could possibly manage. To swim and explore and daydream and run wild with their cousins. I know it’s not that easy for all kids to do. I wish that all kids had more time to run and dream.

Thanks to The Marquis, who should really get his own blahg, for bringing up this topic on his email chat group a while back.

You just take the cake!

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Yeah. 😉

Okay, okay, okay. I’ve been told this is too cryptic. It relates directly to something in a post made within the last week. Who can figure out which one?

Alfred Niko

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Just to keep us on our toes on an otherwise exceedingly boring day. No Basenji in this one, just terrier. Probably smells the old lion hunter around here though since he was here yesterday. (This one’s only 11 seconds, 300K, *might* be accessible to dial-up…)

Virtual Pickpockets Be Damned!

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

A new credit card with a new number arrived today so hopefully our experiences with scammers should be at an end. I had the Reservation Rewards situation taken care of and was vigilantly watching that credit card account daily for any other weird charges that might show up. Then, to my great surprise, one did! It was for $99.99 and the vendor was “TLG*NETMARKET.” This sounded just as suspicious as the Reservation Rewards vendor code “WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS.CO” so I fired off a note to my credit card company telling them that I had not authorized any such purchase and there was no way I was going to be held accountable for it. They put an immediate hold on my account and got me in touch with the fraud department, which credited me for the charge, canceled the card and issued a new one.

We know that the Reservation Rewards charges resulted from a Classmates.com membership. Classmates, for some unfathomable reason, is tangled up with Reservation Rewards and during the Classmates membership signup process, several screens pop up asking you if you want a $10 cash back award for signing up for “Classmates Reservation Rewards.” It is VERY easy to miss the fact that this has nothing to do with signing up for a Classmates membership and that you have to click a “No Thanks” button to proceed without inadvertently signing up for a *Reservation Rewards* membership. A message stating “you are authorizing the secure transfer of your name, address and credit or debit card information to Reservation Rewards for billing and benefit processing” is buried in a long paragraph of text. Following acceptance of this “offer,” the hapless Classmates member is bombarded by a number of email messages from Reservation Rewards. These look a lot like spam and our mothers all told us to delete spam without reading it, right?

I did some searching on the Internet, and found that TLG, also known as Trilegiant and any number of other names, has various ways of snagging people’s credit card info. Here’s a link to someone else’s experience with TLG/Trilegiant and apparently there’s also a class action lawsuit. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a timing coincidence that the TLG*NETMARKET charge appeared within two weeks of getting the Reservation Rewards charges refunded. I can’t help but wonder if the two companies are one and same or related somehow. Otherwise, I have absolutely no idea how TLG/Trilegiant obtained my credit card number.

Am I afraid to buy things over the Internet now? No way! I remember one time my brother noticed some odd charges on his credit card. They were from Indonesia or some place, right Karen? At that time it was possible to buy things on the Internet but not very easy. We all had dial-up and most ecommerce sites were horrible. But in Jim’s case, the charges were traced to a Flint/Grand Blanc area bricks and mortar store clerk who had recorded his credit card information after a purchase.

The important lessons to be learned here are to watch your credit card like a hawk. It’s easy to do if your records are accessible on-line. When you do discover something odd, let your credit card company know *immediately* that you suspect fraud. As for Classmates.com, it would do well to end its relationship with Reservation Rewards.

And finally, if any blogosphere monitors from TLG/Trilegiant or Reservation Rewards are reading this, I’m sorry but you *are* scamming. You are participating in unethical business practices by deliberately designing web pages with confusing interfaces, causing users to click buttons or check boxes that pull them unwittingly into purchasing unwanted “services.” A Google search on either company yields hundreds of links to similar stories. Your blogosphere monitors would be better put to work cleaning up your business practices. There has got to be a better way to make a living.

Hopefully that is my last word on this subject and I’ll be back to posting stuff about dogs and beaches and lake freighters and dead aminals. You know, all the usual exciting stuff. Love, Kayak Woman.

Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Joy to the World!

Friday, July 13th, 2007

It took me years after we first moved into The Landfill to be able to discern that the ice cream truck was playing the theme from the movie The Sting. I *know* the music from The Sting. I saw the movie about a billion years ago and I’ve heard it on the radio or in the mall or wherever at least a brazillion times since then. But I also used to play it on the puano piano. Back when I actually played the puano piano with any regularity. The Commander had the sheet music at our house and I remember one occasion in particular when there was a bank party and one of Grandroobly’s fun bank friends kept asking me to play the music. And making me scotch and sodas. I don’t drink scotch and sodas now. I don’t drink ouzo either but that’s related to one of *my* friends, not Grandroobly’s. And the Alpha Bar and a story I will never tell on the internets. Er, maybe after everyone else involved is dead. Maybe.

But somehow, when the ice cream truck rolled by The Landfill, all I could hear was a sort of mournful sounding dingly dingly. The GG, who *listens* to music avidly but doesn’t sing or play anything that I know of, could get The Sting out of it. I could not. Years and years later, I finally heard it. Maybe they had fixed the sound system? I dunno. Anyway, today I was walking and there was a much newer ice cream truck rolling slowly along the street and I could hear this kind of distorted dingly dingly music. It didn’t sound like The Sting but I couldn’t tell what it was. When I got a little closer, I heard Christmas music! Say what? Is Silent Night actually supposed to make people buy ice cream on a hot July day? (Actually it was not that hot today, the temperature barely broke 70.) I dunno. I didn’t feel like buying ice cream. I just thought it sounded a little weird.

Hmm, Christmas must be in the air. NPR just played a snippet of Jingle Bell Rock. Something about the stock market, apparently.

Prehistoric Lake Superior Shoreline

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Okay, maybe “prehistoric” is stretching it a bit. This is what the beach looked like in 1986. A bit smaller, donchya think? Click to enlarge:

beach01.jpgbeach02.jpgbeach03.jpg

For those who care, yesterday’s situation is resolved and I am in the Illustrator class. Unfortunately, before it was over, I felt compelled to brag at some length and in some detail about how smart I am to two different people that I have never met. I *hate* doing that. Because I am not all that smart. But my back was against the wall, hackles raised! Over an Illustrator class! I am no Albert Einstein but remedial math? Kee-reist!