Friday, December 29, 2006

New! New! New!

Something is different about this here Central Standard. Blogger has changed some things. You may notice that the typeface seems different. The inner workings of the thing are supposed to be new and improved, too, but I am still poking around. I'll let you know.

Monkey and I returned from Xmas Fest 06 in one piece. It was a long drive back, but we made good time. The visit was good, but everyone seems to think we are moving to Alaska, instead of Nebraska. Jackets and scarves and ear muffs to keep us warm. We'll appreciate them in the face of an old-fashioned Plains windstorm, but I think the change in temperature two hundred miles to the north is not as drastic as some might believe.

The nephews are growing and are as entertaining as ever. The young cousins (remember the ones climbing the walls last Christmas Eve?) still number only four and are as different as four people should be.

Everybody else, for better and worse, is pretty much the same. Thanks Mom and Dad for putting us up (and feeding us scrapple)! Thanks North County Sister-in-law for filling your house with Mad Dogs and Irishmen. Thanks Junior and JD for the crab dip and shrimp (and ruffage). Thanks everyone for being our family.

I just finished my online app for Lincoln Public Schools. Let the job hunting begin. I guess it's on, now.

I hope that I can keep in better touch with this here blog in the new year. I sure fell off at the end of this much to much to do. My resolution for next year: have more fun and use the phone more often.

On a side note: how did MU lose that Sun Bowl? Oh, the misery!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Hook

Yes, I have been observing radio silence for over a week. I guess I've just felt like I didn't have much to say. Ithought I'd take this morning's opportunity to give you an update on the novel.

I am still in the process of revising and editing. It's a slow process, but I think I am making some good choices. It remains to be seen.

I did spend some time recently writing a hook for the novel, since, once it's ready, I might as well send it out to see if anybody's interested. Keep in mind, this is an early draft. Read at your own peril.

A story of time travel, brotherly love, and talking dogs, with a healthy dose of severed digits, liverwurst, and world domination mixed in, The Trials of Vernon follows a day in the life of the title character as he comes to grips with the relationships in his life.

Tuesday dawns as a normal day: Beth is at work and Vernon is off to The Bagel Bin for breakfast, but that’s when things get strange. Vernon’s waitress disappears, leaving him to serve his own coffee, and, eventually, Vernon finds himself reliving the previous two hours. After finding the waitress in the park communicating with his dog, Vernon leads them on a quest to discover how and why his temporal difficulties are affecting him. In the meantime, Vernon’s brother, Brother, is in the midst of his own bad day, as his missing finger eventually lands him in jail, and Stanley, an eccentric collector of everything, laments that he ever gave Brother’s finger away. Of course, Kasha, Stanley’s frequent companion in the indulgence of liverwurst sandwiches, seems blissfully unaware that she is somehow responsible for all of this, as Baraboo Jones minds his bodega, waiting for his chance to conquer the western hemisphere. Throw in some omnipotent chipmunks and Bill, the unofficial watchman of Hot Dog City USA, and it’s no wonder that Vernon eventually realizes something important about himself.

Does that pique your interest?

Today sees the convergence of two great things: chicken nugget day and the last day of school before winter break. God bless us, everyone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Reason # 371 Why My Job Is So Cool

Check this out.

In other news, Monkey and Yoga Lady will be making copious amounts of holiday cookies this weekend. Looking forward to that.

There's still plenty of snow on the ground from last week's storm. And it has gotten super-cold lately (yesterday AM, it was one degree above!). Today and the next two days are forecast to be in the fifties, so, I expect what's left to be gone soon. Hooray! Bring on the mud and the flooding creeks.

Have a good weekend, all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Boys and Girls in America...

Tuesday was a day of highs and lows. The lowest low came as I stood in the cafeteria and opened my wallet in preparation for my weekly chicken nugget feast. In the wallet was nothing. Not a dollar. I had given my cash to Aunt James fot tickets to that night's The Hold Steady show. So, no nuggets for me.

I had some bar-like nutrition stashed in my desk, so I had something to eat. While I chewed my concentrated protein bar, I thought, "This show tonight better be excellent."

And it was. I know The Hold Steady are a band that dichotomizes music fans. You either love them or you hate them. Monkey and I saw them the last time they were through town, and they were great. Tuesday night was no different. The opening bands, Catfish Haven and something I forgot (which is not the name of the band--I really can't remember), from Chicago were okay. Monkey would probably give them a less than okay nod, just so you know. But The Hold Steady rocked. If you get a chance, check them out.

Yesterday saw the author showing his age. I was beat. I don't think I made it to 8:30 last night. I was out on the couch in a heartbeat. Pathetic, really.

Early release today, and maybe Bottle Rockets on Friday. The first full week since before Thanksgiving has been, so far, a'ight.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Happens When You Teach Thoreau (A Really Bad Poem)

Imagine two of five quintuplets,
talking in only rhyming couplets--

That, my friends, is what you'll see
when you read this post from me.

I'll tell you now, with all expedience,
that today was "Civil Disobedience,"

By Henry David, young Thoreau,
who told us what we all should know:

We should do more than voice dissent
when saddled with an unjust government.

For doing so leads us to consenting,
by proxy, to civil wars fomenting.

Regardless of your chosen flower
of nomenclature: Bush or Lauer,

We seem to be in a hefty pickle
'mongst Shia, Sunni, Kurds a-fickle.

I would rather, if you please,
not have my fellows facing IEDs.

Thoreau says when the justice laxes,
we should all stop paying taxes;

When the government's off the bolt,
it's within our rights to just revolt;

To say we've had enough of this
ignorant, cowboy, gunslinging bliss.

The "Decider" has become a faker,
waiting for a word from Baker.

If only he had heeded those
who years ago stood on their toes

And peered just over the White House fence
to tell the man war makes no sense.

We don't want it. It always sucks.
It will wind up costing a gazillion bucks.

Now those words have come to pass,
and somebody looks like a stupid ass.

Of course, I don't mean to make light
of any awful martial sight,

Of any suffering those endure
who have to fight this awful war.

I simply sit and take my cues
from my rhyming couplet muse.

And my muse says now, my friend,
This little ditty's at its end.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


The snow has moved on (and a lot of it has been moved around), November has moved on (Autumn falls away), and National Novel Writing Month is on the last page. The "Currently Teaching" links have been changed, as we moved this week from The Scarlet Letter to the heady world of the Transcendentalists (they of the Oversoul and the "transparent eyeball").

I like teaching the Trannies, but I am always looking more forward at this time of year to the Realists (they will be visiting after the end of first semester). I certainly hope I don't give Emerson, Thoreau et al. short shrift, but as the days of first semester get shorter, I know I sometimes gloss over or skip some interesting and important texts. Of course, the end result (curriculum-wise) is the same, since we are less concerned with texts than we are with skills, but, it is American Lit, and I think it is a bit of a disservice when I have to jettison "Civil Disobedience" because of a snow day. It just happens sometimes....

The streets are cleared in the neighborhood. Some dude came by with a bobcat at about 9pm last night and cleared our street off. I was under the impression that I was going to help pay for that, but nobody knocked on my door, so.... I might venture out today.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day Ramblings and Pics

I am watching CNN, where the major stories are political turmoil in Lebanon and Mexico (which, by the way, are the names of two towns in Missouri, but we're talking about the nations, here), and the next big story is the snow in the midwest. As you know, any time there is a weathery-type event, the news folk send some poor schmuck to do an on-location story. The reports from KC and St. Louis (two more Missouri place names, both of which (in Missouri) are the places we're talking about) brought two things to mind.

First, there were no on-location reports from the streets of Mexico or Lebanon (the nations), as there were from the edges of Missouri. As well, there was far more analysis of the snow than there was of the two major world events. I mean, the Lebanese are demanding a new government, and the Mexicans have two presidents, one claiming the other was not legitimately elected. Is it not possible that Hezbollah will wind up being a major player in that new Lebanese government? Is Mexico not a major trade partner of this country; and will that not be affected by a political tug-of-war south of the border? Are these not issues that might be a little bit more important than a snow storm? Is it okay to ask four rhetorical questions in a row? Or five, even?

Second, if the big snow and lots of infrastructure disruption was what these reporters were looking for, why did they broadcast from two places where there was hardly any snow on the ground when I was sitting in a house surrounded by no less than a foot of snow, where Interstate 70 and other US Highways were shut down, where the snow plows were left sitting overnight due to blizzard-like conditions, where all were asked to stay off the roads and not to expect timely responses from emergency services like the fire department and ambulances? That makes six rhetorical questions; and this direct statement saves me from making it seven in a row (see below).

I know it is petulant and contradictory to make a big deal out of poor weather reporting after criticizing the network for dedicating so much time to weather reporting; but, if you are going to do it, shouldn't you do it right?

Here's a photo of what I did all morning:

Here's an action photo of Ripken greeting the snow early this morning:

Here's a photo of the boys with Monkey from their trip out on Thanksgiving weekend (we were in Rocheport):

And finally, a shot of the Great Pumpkin Pie-Off of 2006 (Yoga Lady and I got our butts kicked by some kid who uses real pumpkin (did I happen to mention that I'm impressed?):

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Four Day Weekend?

The buzz at school yesterday was the forecasted winter storm, which was to bring us ice and sleet followed by up to a foot of snow by Friday morning. Like all good teachers, I expected sunny skies when I woke this morning, and told my kiddos to do their homework accordingly. After all, I explained to them, the more prepared for school they were, the higher the likelihood that school would be cancelled.

The prospects for bad weather were bad enough that Monkey's proposed departure for a trip to Lincoln this weekend was moved up a day. She spent last night in a KC HoJo's. Her post-trip report had some nasty freezing precip falling in the KC metro area yesterday afternoon, but here on the homestead, we just had some wet and loud thunderstorms.

Last night, Elementary Teacher ( a new character to this, the chronicle of the author's life) came over to watch the OSU-UNC basketball game. He's from Ohio and doesn't have ESPN. It was great game (UNC won 98-89, or some such ridiculously high score). When bedtime arrived for me, the skies were cloudy and it was cold, but no precip was falling.

This morning, the grass is crunchy and the tress are icy. The roads seem okay, here, but the county roads are apparently a bit slick. The ticker on the TV screen flashed some nearby school closings, but nothing here. At 5:40, I was preparing for a normal day at school. Then, to my joy and surprise, the screen flashed the magic words: "Columbia Public Schools are CLOSED today." Woo hoo!

The forecast is still pretty nasty, with a foot of snow still forecast by Friday morning. In the immortal words of TS Eliot: "Do I dare to each a peach? Do I dare to expect two snow days in a row?" I shall, in a superstitious nod to J. Alfred Prufrock, wear my trousers rolled, today.

What good fortune it would have been had I needed to write a few thousand words to finish my novel on time. But I don't! 'Cause I finished that puppy. I am almost going through a bit of post-writing flurry withdrawal. I kept thinking I had something to do last night, but I didn't. It was a bittersweet feeling of longing mixed with triumph. I feel it still.

So, dear reader, what shall I do, today? Back in Mob Town, a snow day meant toilet paper sandwiches with a glass of milk, but I think I'll have something else for lunch. I'm just glad it's not Tuesday. It would suck to miss chicken nugget day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We Have A Winner!

Well, after neglecting my students, my colleagues, my friends, my wife, and a host of other things, it has all paid off.

I finished my novel! I am amazed how it sort of all came together, and how some things I had been working on in the past (and some things waaaaay in the past), raised their ugly heads in this piece, too.

It was a slog, but it has been worth it, especially since Monkey is now showering me with kisses!

And now...prepare for a possible snow day on Thursday/Friday.

Think about this: I finished my novel on chicken nugget day. What could be better?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This year, I am giving thanks for Monkeys, puppies, and Democratic victories, just to name a few things.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On Target

I have finally made up the difference between where I should be and where I am. I should have, if I want to finish the novel by Nov. 30, 31, 673 words by the end of today. I currently have 31,844. So, instead of being my usual 3000 words behind, I am actually almost 200 words ahead and am on pace to finish on time. And, should I so desire, I can keep plugging away and get even farther out front. But, I have written 7000 words or so this weekend, so I feel like I've done enough. I think I'll spend the rest of the day grading papers and watching Peyton Manning carve up the Cowboys.

Monkey and I are gearing up for Turkey Day. Pie making on Wednesday (hooray two day work week!), so Monkey is happy about that. And company coming into town, too. So, it should be an exciting week. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Halfway Point

This morning, at approximately 7:39 CST, I crossed the 25000 word mark! This is an achievement, but it only serves to remind me that I have a long way to go, and less time than is optimal to get there. BUt I am determined. I was talking to PartnerTeacher yesterday after school, and I realized, while talking to her, how disappointed i will be in myself if I don't get this done. This morning (at least the first two hours of it) has been encouraging. Can I write 5000 words today? I'd feel so much better about my prospects for completing this task if I do.

By the way, at this stage of the process, I am pretty sure this monster will never see the light of day. It reeks. Sorry, Osculator. Then again, after a few months go by, I may want to show it off just because I did it. And we can laugh together at how bad it really is...or we can be surprised when we find something worthwhile (if we do find something worthwhile (if we CAN find something worthwhile (aw, hell, let's just agree to laugh at it))).

Off to type some more (after a nutritious breakfast, of course).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Progress: Speaking Your Mind

Bad day, yesterday, on the writing front. I wrote zero words! After school, I had to moderate a forum at school on No Child Left Behind. I didn't get home until eight, and I was pretty beat. I watched a little TV instead of writing! Boo!

I got some done today, so I feel better, but I really have to kick it into high gear this weekend if I am going to make it. We have out of town guests on T-day weekend, so I don't know how much I am going to be able to get done. Plus, I am just tired of playing catch up. I should be at 25000 by the end of today, so I am about three thousand words behind the pace (if I want to finish on time). I don't know what is up with the word counter. My word count is right, but my goal is way lower than what I think it should be if I want to finish on November 30.

That is all.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Twenty K and Chili

In case you haven't been watching in fascination the word counter just to the left of this post, I just hit 20000 words on my novel (barely). It's not good (although eventually, it may be), but I am doing it, which, for some reason that not everyone needs to understand, fills me with some pride. However, since almost all of my little bit of free time is dedicated to putting word to flash drive, posts will be minimal for the foreseeable future.

By the way, Monkey and I are both feeling much better, AND, I made chili on Sunday. Woo hoo!

Friday, November 10, 2006

This is Really Important

Did I tell you that Boring Election voted this time around? With the fate of the free world hanging in the ice skating rink-free balance, she proudly declared that this election was "NOT boring."

Worth a post all to itself!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Through-Lines, Party Lines

Obviously, the through-line for November is the novel. Writing, writing, writing. I am slowly closing in on being on schedule. Currently only 5000 words behind. With luck, the weekend will afford me time to catch up.

Today was a pretty uneventful day. My health seems to be improving. That's good. Slowly, all the other teachers are falling prey to the flu. They're taking days off! Bunch of wusses!

This weekend, Monkey and I have no big plans. No football games, no travelling. I envision grading and resting and emerging on Monday the picture of health. Saturday night, Monkey and I have decide to have sushi and see a movie, but we have no idea what to see. Any suggestions?

By the way, I would be remiss if I did not mention the recent midterm elections. This is indeed the first election since I was in my mid-twenties where I really felt like my team came out on top. I guess Clinton's two terms were a positive, but not something I could really feel good about. This feels good. After so much of the Republican partisanshipfulness, there over-simplification of everything, their arrogant disregard for the rule of law, and their demagoguery, I hope that the Dems can help make things more like what governing in America should be, a consideration of what is best for everyone and a discussion of what is and is not permitted under the Constitution. Of course, the danger of the new guys turning into slightly different versions of the old guys is present, but I am hoping this will not occur.

Anyway, after two days, things seeem different--in a better way...the real test comes after 1/20/07!

God Bless Everybody. No Exceptions!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chicken Nuggets Equal Novels? What the Hell is He on About?

There is satisfaction, such as a well enjoyed meal of chicken nuggets on a Tuesday noon. And then there is satisfaction, like hitting 8000 words on your novel.

There is joy, like that experienced reading an excerpt of your novel and saying to yourself, "That is not bad." And then there is joy, like that experienced when you tell a class of fifty juniors that your novel is crap and that it just doesn't matter. The joy of writing--that's why you do it. The ability to say (you hope) I won! I wrote 50,000 words in a month! That is joy. That is satisfaction.

I'm still hacking--hacking up phlegm AND hacking away at the mountain of words I must employ this month. Check out the button over there if you are interested, and participate (in the writing, not the hacking up of phlegm)! It's never too late. What the hell!

I also confessed today, as I do every year to my classes, of my love for Anne Sexton. She was the first poet I really loved that I found all by myself. I guess I had liked other poets and poems that I read in school, but she was the first one I remember finding and liking all on my own. And you never forget your first.

What else? Oh, Monkey is doing a great job of being my muse while I write, AND, she wanted me to make certain that everyone knew that she had been going into work late in order to get extra rest while she was sick. She did a good job of self-care (better than I did), and she is now almost as good as new. I, on the other hand, am slowly recovering (today is over a week!).

Alright, sports fans, I gotta go write some words. Later. But I leave you with one of Anne Sexton's poems.

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves;
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
Whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ignoring the Flu

I've had the flu since Tuesday. Haven't missed work, though. The explanation for which is hardly worth the time or effort. Let's just say I'm dedicated.

Since I didn't miss any work, even when I could hardly croak out a "Good morning" on Friday, I figured it would be a great idea for Monkey and I to head up to Lincoln for the Mizzou-Nebraska game on Saturday. It was a bad idea. The game sucked and mostly I just slept and force marched back to Missouri on Sunday, with Monkey feeling the early effects of the ick herself.

Sunday was misery, to say the least. Today, I am feeling better, yet not 100%. Monkey is still in a bad way, but she went to work today, anyway. And I hardly have any room to berate her for it (even if I still do).

In other news, November is National Novel Writing Month, and I am doing my best and keeping track with my kiddos. One of my block sections is even working on a sort of class novel, each of them taking a hack at 1000 words or so and passing it along. Who knows what that will turn out to be, but so far it's been fun. I, by the way, am way behind the set pace for 50,000 words by 11/30. I have about 3000. I should have 10,000. I'll catch up.

As a matter of fact, I should be writing, now. And so I shall.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dog Sitting, Falling Back, and Winning the World Series

What a weekend, folks! Friday was an exciting treat as the Cardinals beat the Tigers 4-2 to win the 2006 World Series. This was a spectucular occurence for several reasons. One, the Cardinals are my adopted home team, since Baltimore isn't my home anymore. Two, the Cardinals' woes at the end of the season (and, really, throughout the season) made them less than favorites to win any of the playoff rounds they were in, let alone the whole enchilada. Three, the clinching game occurred on exactly the same night that I usually find myself at happy hour in a den of Cardinal supporters, so it was extra sweet--way better than watching it at home, but not as good as being there in person.

In addition, Friday, the Powder Puff team had organized at little shindig at a local pizza joint. Coach B was unable to attend, but I stopped by. They bought a cake, which was nice, and the festivities broke up after not too long (mostly because, it seemed, many folks wanted to go watch the ball game). So, gratitude to the Gold Team. They were, and are, awesome.

Saturday, Monkey and I watched a debacle at Faurot, as the Tigers bumbled their way to a 26-10 loss to Oklahoma. A beautiful day to watch a football game, but the game was awful.

And last night, of course was the dog party, which went off without a hitch, really. We even snuck out for an hour to visit Osculator and Ms. T's Halloween party (sans costumes). Plus, this morning, we "fell back" and returned to Central Standard Time. It's good to be back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Ballad of the Gutted Calendar

I was doing some planning this morning, deciding how much of The Scarlet Letter should be read by when, when I realized that November is so close that if you stand still for a second, you can smell cranberries and sauerkraut. No wonder I haven't seen a turkey for two weeks. Always trust the animal world. They know a thing or two.

I know that this happens every damn year. You're paddling around in a canoe with a pair of shorts on one minute, you look down at the sun shining on your bare, brown toes and--just like that--you're freezing your personal parts off in the middle of the wettest, grayest day the Lord has ever cast down upon you (since last October, anyway). Yet, each time it happens, we are taken completely by surprise. Such forgetful creatures, we humans. At least I am, anyway.

Monkey brought pictures back from Montana. I'll post a few if I have the patience. Sometimes this Blogger thing is about as frustrating as a whistle pig under your house. (It's still there as far as can be discerned.)

This weekend, Monkey and I will be watching Ripken and Ms. London Belle and Grandma Sophie (Uncle Joe's 'rents' dog). A three dog night on Saturday, whether we like it or not. Craziness, people, plumb craziness.

In baseball news, the story of the day is "will they or won't they?" They didn't last night, and the odds are not great that they will tonight. I, and millions others, hope they do. Go, Cards!

I believe that is all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Don't Rain on My Parade (With a Special Appearance by Robyn Hitchcock)

It's Homecoming Weekend here in the Land of the Tigers. The forecast calls for rain later, but the current parade is going off without a drop of interference. I'm not there, but I can hear it from here. Sounds drummy.

I'll be taking in the game later today, hoping to stay dry and to watch Los Tigres end a 14 year losing streak to the Kansas State Wildcats. The odds are pretty good, considering we have a better team this year than they do; however, over the course of the last 14 years, we have had a better team than they at least three times, and we still lost. So, you know, that's why they play the games, and all those other sports cliches.

My classes are currently waist deep in Romanticism, and this week will be treated to EA Poe's "Ligeia." If you've never read it, I suggest it. I'll try to link to it over under the Currently Teaching links. Anyhoo, I thought a good supplemental/introductory text would be Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians' tune "My Wife and My Dead Wife." I looked online for a copy of the song, but the best I could do was to find a copy of an out of print re-issue for 45 bucks. I asked my musical guru at school, the Rev. Wayne Coomers, but he didn't have it (he did offer to find a downloadable copy and to burn it--I wish him luck). After discussing with the Rev, I went to see Capt. Morgan and Coach B--they might have been helpful. They had nothing. But, it got them and me to reminiscing about Mr. Hitchcock. The boys had seen him open for REM (a moment of silence) in 89. I had seen the same tour, but with Throwing Muses, instead. We lamented the loss of both REM and Robyn Hitchcock (and the Muses, a little bit), realizing we had heard nothing from Hitchcock for quite some time. What if, we posited, he had been dead for 15 years and no one had noticed. For some reason, we found this morbidly hilarious.

O, the wonderful ways in which we entertain ourselves.

The Monkey is in Missoula, hoping to see a bear. I am hoping exactly the opposite. As you probably suspect, Monkey v. Bear=Bear Wins!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Autumn and Much Before (Well, Actually, Mostly During)

Pumpkinfest! It's here again, Faithful Reader(s). This Saturday, the Monk and I headed down to the quiet hamlet of Hartsburg to attend the 15th Annual Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival, a veritable rite of Autumn here in central MO. And, as usual, it did not disappoint. We had a beautiful day to leisurely and dustily drive a back route into H-burg on River Road, a dirt and gravel swath that made it's way past corn and soybean fields, hay and tractor sheds, and, for a quarter mile, the sleepy banks of the MO. While there, we enjoyed some homegrown ribeye and a tasty funnel cake, and we ran into a couple of my students working the traffic for the sheriff's dept. A wonderful day, to say the least. We also picked up some take-home delicacies: apple butter, horseradish, and jalapeno jelly!

Friday night was the usual happy hour, followed by dinner with Osculator and Ms. T. Happy hour conversations ranged from baseball to self-gratification, so, as stated before, the usual. Dinner was fun, and has left me scrambling to find an "I (HEART) Fran Tarkenton" T-shirt. You know, just because.

This past week, back home, most of my family had birthdays. My mom, my uncle, my grandfather, and my oldest nephew. My brother's comes in eleven days, so October is a busy birthday month in the author's clan. I also found out, from one of my students, that October 5 is the most common birthday in the US. It's nine months, roughly, from New Year's Eve/Day. You do the figuring as to why that might be a popular dios de concepcion.

Also, as mentioned before, the Gold Team romped to a clear victory, 28-6, over the Purple squad during this past Homecoming Week. It's good to go out a winner. The post-game, adults-only celebration wended its way through Columbia, visiting bars and homes alike, and led to the author's carrying himself home on foot from Lou's Palace.

Finally, moving forward in time, Sunday found Monkey and I in St. Louis, where we visited the Botanical Gardens and treated ourselves to the Chihuilly (I don't know if I spelled that right) installation of giant colored glass. It was quite a sight, all that pretty glass incorporated into all that flora. Quite a weekend, I must say!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Deep, Deep, Deep in the Weeds

Brother and Sisters! It's been so long, too long, since last we spoke. I have been crazy preoccupied with school, school, and, mostly, school. I have had some opportunity to enjoy myself since that wonderful weekend in KC.

Monkey and I took a trip to Portland, OR for the wedding of our good former CoMo friend QP. It was a great party and a fun weekend, which we spent with many of QP's relatives (Mom, Dad, Bro, cousins, aunts, know, relatives). The flight out of KCI was nasty rough, provoking an anxiety attack out of me. I didn't know what was happening, I was tingly numb and sweating and nauseated. Monkey looked at me and said, "You're having a panic attack." I looked at her and said, "Oh, yeah." Then I just stared straight ahead and focused on my breathing. By the time we were over Wyoming, I felt a little better.

Mostly, I have been preoccupied with keeping things together at school, in the face of much adversity. My fill-in partner teachers have been swell, and, except for one gigantic asshole of a kiddo, my studentials have been great, but it is still a stressful situation. Partner Teacher thinks she may return at the start of second quarter, which is less than two weeks away. We shall see.

I'm sure I am leaving out a bunch, the Gold Team's rousing victory, the celebratory debauchery that evening, the Octoberfest...but I will update you later. Not nearly a month later, but later. I might even include some pics (but not of the debauchery). For now, on this eve of Chicken Nugget Day, I must put the shoulder to the wheel and get some work done.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stompin' at the Savoy

Monkey and I had a great time in KC this weekend. Upon our arrival at the Hotel Savoy, we watched a bit of college football before dinner. Outside of our sixth floor window, it sounded like someone was landing airplanes on the roof. I thought, maybe we were really close to an airport, which would have been bad, and caused me to reminesce about a night Monkey and I spent in Cheyenne, WY, in a Motel Six next to a railroad depot. No sleep for Monkeys, I thought.

But I was wrong. It was the Blue Angels, apparently performing for some sort of air show. I loves me an air show, don't you know. They came awfully close to the hotel, but I didn't get any good shots of them up close. I did take this shot of a formation just a few blocks away.

The architecture at the hotel was very cool, with lots of stained glass and art deco fixtures. We went to Lidia's for dinner, and it was great. Monkey got a giant piece of osso bucco, I got a super tasty sea bass. The play we saw, well, it was not very good. And long. Finally, we popped over to Cheesecake Factory for dessert. A great night, over all.

The museum on Sunday was good, except that we missed all of the exhibits. We manged to be smack in between the closing shows and the opening shows. However, we enjoyed the permanent collection, anyway.

We were home by 5pm on Sunday, both of us a bit tired, but very happy with our chock-full weekend.

Next year, we're thinking Omaha!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Big Eight

Monkey and I celebrated wedding anniversary number eight this past Tuesday. We are planning a weekend in KC to celebrate. Dinner and a show on Saturday. An overnight at a swanky hotel. A visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum on Sunday. We are both looking forward to it. Aunt JAmes and Uncle Joe will be entertaining Ripken this weekend, so, thanks to them!

Chicken Nugget Day was a success, but only barely. I think I was wiping gravy off of my face just as my kiddos were rolling in for fifth hour. And, honestly, the "other" vegetable was pretty heinous. Some unshelled peas that were amazingly both tough and mushy at the same time. Not good. Is our enthusiasm for Chicken Nugget Day waning? Hell, no! We simply look forward to better days in the annals of processed chicken. But then, don't we all.

Grading I should be doing, so grading will soon be done. I am certainly tired of watching West Virginia massacre my Terps. 37-10 at halftime? My Powder Puff team might be able to give these Terps a run!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Am Not Alone

Today I was treated to some student poetry. A student I had in class last year shared with me a poem she had written in 9th grade that addresses a subject near and dear to my heart. That's right, ladies and gents, chicken nuggets. Here, without further ado, is an excerpt from said student's poem, "Ode to Chicken Nugget Thursday." I was granted permission to post it here.

Ode to Chicken Nugget Thursday

I wake on Monday longing for
The aroma wafting through the door.
Crispy tenders in my sleep,
Counting nuggets as if sheep.
Mounds of comfort on Styrofoam,
Deserving of utensils chrome.
Tuesday comes, two days to go,
My dreary life drags on so slow.
Alas, alas, what do I see?
A nugget oasis in front of me!
So close to me and yet so far,
If served on silver, fit for a zar.
It's Wednesday now and I can't wait,
Nuggets and spuds will soon meet fate.
Oh how my mouth waters all the day long,
I yearn for the sound of the lunch-bell gong.
And as I lay me down to sleep,
Visions of rolls into my head creep.
Woo hoo, hooray, it's Thursday now,
Can't wait to dig in to delicious chow!

I couldn't have written it better myself. And, lucky for me, in my world, chicken nuggets come on Tuesday, and that is tomorrow. I am getting hungry just typing this! I surely hope I can manage it this week. Last week was just awful. Just awful.

Note: the photo above does not do justice to the gustatorial beauty that I experience each week. Our nuggets come with mashed "potatoes" with "gravy" and a "roll." Sometimes, we even get a second "vegetable." No cookie. And get that ketchupy dipping sauce outta here. That is what the "gravy" is for, baby. Also, I go crazy and hit the choco milk. No weak white milk for this cat. No way.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fear of a Gold Hat

Faithful readers will note that it is the time of year when the author's mind turns to football. Yeah, yeah, the NFL season opens tonight. But I'm talking about something more real. Something more within the true sphere of my existence. Don't get me wrong. I love Sundays in the Fall. I love pro football. I love Saturdays in the Fall. I love NCAA football. I'll be happily wolfing down overpriced hotdogs as I watch the Tigers battle the Ole Miss Rebels at Faurot Field this weekend. But what I am really jacked up about is Powder Puff football.

Coach B and I are chomping at the bit, more than ready to defend our crown as coaches of the 05 champion Gold Team at our school. Sadly, our nemeses of the past two years, the pair of coaches against whom we are 1-1, have bowed out of the game. The rubber match will not be played. Coach B and I suspect it is fear of the Gold Team juggernaut that has made the decision for our honorable enemies, but they contend that they have "too many other obligations at the present time." Whatever. Instead, we face a new pair of foes. A pair culled from the few willing volunteers not three hours before the first informational meeting. It will be a shame taking it to a couple of rookies, but bragging rights are on the line, and, even though I truly believe that the way you conduct yourself on the field, rather than the final score, determines wether you are a winner or a loser, being the one with the most points at the end of the game TOTALLY beats getting your ass handed to you. Trust me, I have done a comparative study, and one is WAY better than the other.

In other news, I went to school splintless today, and except for some stiffness and a little soreness, I had an okay time of it. I still favor the finger, but I should be as good as new (though slightly crooked) in no time.

Now, it's time to start game planning!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Puttin' the Squeeze On

I guess I didn't tell you this, but in a bit of what I see as passive aggressive behavior, Fearless Leader has shortened our lunch period by five minutes in order to afford an extra five minutes to third hour for school-wide announcements. Now, announcements, especially in a school as large as mine, are muy importante, but now, we have twenty-five minutes for lunch.

As a result, I didn't have enough time to get my nuggets today. This perturbs me. Luckily, I had forgotten about it this morning and I had a cheese sandwich with me. I worked through lunch anyway, so I guess I needed the time I would have spent in line waiting for my food to do more important things. But twenty-five minutes? It seems wrong to me.

In other news, I am toying with the idea of playing softball tomorrow night. The finger is not 100%, but it is much improved after two weeks. I almost went to school with no splint today, but decided against it. We shall see.

I hope everyone's week has started well. I am a bit piqued today, but not a bad day overall. The nuggetlessness notwithstanding.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Laborious Weekend

Another perk of the teaching profession: you work a week and a half and--BAM--a three day weekend! The first full week of school has gone well. I seem to have some really great kids, this year. I was suspecting, after the excellent crop of last year, that this year would be less stellar. It appears this is not the case...but, it's early.

Went to the MU football game yesterday. A rousing, though not very exciting, 47-7 win over Murray State (who?). In years past, such an underdog opponent would have either given the Tigers a game of it or beaten them outright, so an expected easy victory is actually encouraging. Monkey and I had a good time. The weather was pretty nice.

I'm off to enjoy the rest of my relaxing three day weekend. I hope you do the same.

One last benefit to the three day weekend (when Monday is the off day): when you get back to school, it's Chicken Nugget Day!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Contemplations with a Broken Finger

10. Why does the middle finger have such an uninteresting name? Consider the other fingers. Big Mr. Opposible gets the common moniker "thumb." Proceeding to the right (we are discussing the right hand, in this case), we have the index finger. Why? Well, because this is the finger we generally use when following down the list in an index, looking for the topic we are curious about. Then, sad middle finger. Obviously, it IS the finger in the middle, but why isn't the index finger called "middle finger minus one" or "almost middle finger" or "inframiddle finger"? Next, we have the ring finger. This seems to answer the age old question, "Which came first the ring or the finger?" However, if you think about it, how much sense does that make? Finally, the pinkie. Obviously, a white man came up with this name. I wish it would have been named by someone of a darker race. After all, who wouldn't want to walk around with a couple of "brownies" on his or her hands?

9. It's not easy to brush one's teeth or shave with a broken middle finger. Don't even get me started on the difficulty of flossing.

8. One cannot appreciate how often one bangs his or her finger on random objects until one bangs a broken finger on a door knob, a steering wheel, a gallon of milk, a faucet handle, a sofa arm, an alarm clock, a brake handle, the inside of a mailbox. The list, unfortunately, is endless.

7. Using two hands to field a ground ball is fundamentally sound. I keep telling myself this. From now on, however, I will charge ALL ground balls.

6. Everybody has a funny question about someone else's broken finger. It's like that scene in Sid and Nancy, when Johnny is sitting on a counter, getting his battered face bandaged. He's apparently been assaulted. Someone enters the room, sees Johnny and says, "What happened John? Tried to kiss your mother?" I will not regale you with the witticisms I have endured.

5. Teachers do a great deal of writing.

4. Walgreen's has a not very large, but adequate selection of splints.

3. Given time, one can figure out how to do just about anything with a broken middle finger. Fortunately, I have been able to use my busted digit to avoid washing the dishes for a little while.

2. Ice cream makes everything feel better.

1. Given the choice, I would rather have a broken finger than a broken just-about-anything-else.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Injured Reserve

I rounded first
Never thought of the worst
As I studied the shortstop's position
Crack went my leg
Like the shell of an egg
Someone call a decent physician
--Jimmy Buffet, "Growing Older But Not Up"

Broken finger! Softball. And the right hand, too.

Left handed typing is too exasperating. Although I did do a whole crossword this afternoon with my left. That was taxing my patience.

Details later. How much later? Don't know. Give me a few days, at least.

Peace (and watch out for those bad hops at third).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In the Weeds

Sorry that I have been so unbloggery lately. Prepping for tomorrow's impending first-day-of-school-ness has been a daunting task, for some reason. Perhaps the prospective of working with several long-term substitutes (due to the loss of my partner teacher for a couple of months for an operation and chemo treatment in St. Louis) has me a bit flustered and I am overcompensating by trying to plan a lot more in advance than I usually do. Perhaps the fact that this will be my last year at my current school is creeping into my mind and making things harder (shouldn't it make it easier? You know, what are they gonna do, fire me?).

Whatever the reason, I have been out of touch. I apologize. Let this serve only to put me back in touch. I have nothing to report. Only seven more days until the next Chicken Nugget Opportunity! Oh, baby.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Knowledge is Power

Things you didn't know
Wouldn't change anything now.
--The Bottle Rockets, "Things You Didn't Know"

Ten Things I Didn't Know (That I Know Now)

10. The porcelain pitcher that accompanied a wash basin (pre-modern indoor plumbing) was known as (and is still known as) a ewer. Coincidently (which I am beginning to use more and more frequently in the sense of two incidents that occur in close temporal proximity, rather than two incidents that occur with no fatalistic influence whatsoever), after encountering this word in a crossword puzzle this weekend, I came across it while reading The Time Traveler's Wife. Past experience makes me suspect that I will see this word at least twice more in the near future.

9. Hotlinking in the "Comments" section does not work. Anon AMVB taught me that. Thanks, Fashionista!

8. Sore necks can last for at least three days. Ouch!

7. Some of the folks that produce TV shows do not do a great deal of dramaturgical research. A recent episode of a new weekly drama, using Civil War reenactors in a large part of the story, really blew some historical veracity involving "Bloody" Bill Quantrill and his final battle. Any Civil War reenactor worth his or her salt would have gotten it right. It's fanatically important to them.

6. The mangosteen will save the world. I don't know how, but it will, I just know it.

5. Yesterday's sunset was beautiful. The whole late afternoon was pleasant. Visited with Aunt James and friends for a little while, and my bike ride back home was great. Almost cool. Today feels almost early Fall-like. I'm sure the blistering heat will return, but for today--wonderful.

4. This is my last free Tuesday before the start of our contracted work days (they start on Thursday). The plan is to head up to school for a little while today, to get some more preliminary work done, but, you know how plans work with me.

3. Insects visited me in my dreams last night. It's not the first time that has happened, and I'm certain it will not be the last. Just so you know, they were pleasant dreams (and pleasant insects--we had coffee!).

2. Given recent trends (and a well-learned sports pessimism), the Cardinals will not make the playoffs this year. On an editorial note (which is redundant, I guess, since almost all of this is editorial, in a sense), such a result this season might be the best thing that could happen to the team. Many stalwarts have passed their point of true production, and the pitching has been flaky and unreliable this year. Some of the current young pitchers could work out great next year, but the line up (beside Pujols and Rolen) needs an overhaul.

1. Playing guitar is painful. Until the fingers toughen up (literally) those digits really wail. I'm just about over that, now. But I still sound pretty awful. Practice, practice, practice. There will be no public performances any time soon, if you're wondering.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Spiders, Flies, and Medical Conditions I Wouldn't Wish On My Worst Enemy

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider
(It wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her).
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly.
Perhaps she'll die.
--"There Was an Old Lady"

There's this fly in the house. I speculate, using my awesome powers of perception, that this is probably a house fly. It keeps buzzing at the window (as house flies will), trying to get out. But why? If it is a house fly, and this is a house (both of which are even-money propositions), then why does this creature feel the need to vacate the premises for which it is named? I can't answer that. But, I can tell you that the incessant buzzing (which sounds like this: "buzzzzz buzzzzz buzzzzzz") is annoying me just a bit. I hope it soon either a) finds it's way out of the house, b) learns to accept its lot in life, or c) dies (which in some ways is related to b)).

Also bothersome are the occasional outbreaks of fruit flies. We haven't had many this year, but sometimes, they just seem to appear all over the kitchen. This could be a function of either a) their small size making it difficult to see them entering the house through screens and open doors, b) their small size allowing them to come in to the house undetected riding bananas and peaches, c) their advanced, yet undetected civilization having the ability to teleport themsleves.

Perhaps more troubling for Monkey, however, is a recent phenomenon involving wolf spiders. The other day (Saturday, I think), we were standing in the kitchen. Monkey had just cut her finger on we-don't-know-what (very mysterious, really--she was making wheatcakes; how does one cut a finger making wheatcakes? Sharp flax seeds?), and we were in the midst of bandaging said finger (a pinkie, by the way--left one, I think). Monkey looks down at the floor, and standing menacingly in the doorway between the kitchen and my office is a big wolf spider. This thing was maybe two inches long from the tip of its back leg to the tip of its front leg. Before really thinking about it, I dispatched the spider with a paper towel (much to Monkey's relief). I felt a bit bad about this. I know these spiders are not dangerous, but in the middle of the mysterious cut finger episode, I shot first and asked questions later.

After disposing of the arachnid, I had a flashback. I saw, in my mind's eye, the satisfied look on the spider's face. I saw the blood slowly pooling on Monkey's pinkie. Was that a flash of reflection I saw as I leaned down to squash the spider? Did he have a small piece of glass raised in one pointy leg? How had I escaped the vicious slicing action of his last desperate attempt to wreak havoc on my family? Where was the dog? I looked around frantically, only to find Ripken lounging blissfully ignorant on his new, fluffy and immense dog bed (the whole family can fit on this thing). Then, I passed out.

I came to, and not a minute after, another, much smaller wolf spider popped out of the same room. Having set a precedent, I stomped that one, too. I felt like Jeff Daniels. We haven't seen anymore spiders since then (nor any cocooned people in the neighborhood).

On Friday, I drove down to Eagle Bluffs. There, the car was invaded by giant black horse flies. I feared for my life! I have seen several black horse flies hunt in packs, carrying large deer and small children off into the setting sun, never to be seen or heard from again. Lucky for me, I managed to maneuver the invaders out of the vehicle without getting myself assaulted or kidnapped (although I did have to give them all the cash in my wallet--but it was money well-spent). I saw them later that day, drinking Miller Lite cans in the parking lot of Lucy's. Those flies are not to be played with. Bad flies.

In other developments, I woke up Sunday with a stiff neck (lucky for me I didn't have other symptoms, as well). It was about the worst stiff neck I have ever had. I could barely move my head in any direction. I sat/reclined on the sofa with a heating pad all day (didn't even change out of my PJs until 4pm). It's still a bit sore today, but it is a more diffuse copable pain. I think it might be the house fly's fault.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Somebody Loves Hypertext!

Dear readers, my apologies.
I'm drifting in and out of sleep.
--REM, "The Sad Professor"

As I wipe the nap drool from my cheek and crack the vertebrae in my neck, Summer sizzles to a close. Let's recap our off-season reading list. I will try to be as chronologically faithful as my memory will allow, starting with the most recent. If I have already mentioned any of these in previous posts, I apologize.

Currently engaged with Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. So far, so good. I am fairly interested in the concepts of time and space (but aren't we all) in a theoretical sort of way. I read How to Build a Time Machine a while back, but, as of yet, I have not built one. Anyway, this has been an interesting read, what with the concepts it deals with (in a totally non-conceptual way), and it takes some attention to keep up with all the shifts in time and place, as well as the relationships between the characters (in their various nows and heres).

Prior to that was Chuck Pahluniak's Invisible Monsters. Pahluniak wrote Fight Club (which I have not read). This was a wild ride. Fast, furious, and fun. It deals with our culture's ideas about and relationship with physical beauty, as well as familial relationships, sexual and gender identity, prescription drugs, real estate, and Canada. Okay, Canada doesn't play that large of a role in the story, but it makes an appearance. Perhaps the cover should say, "Special Appearance by Canada." Recommended. It can be as deep or as shallow as you want it to be--just like this Blog.

Jump back to Kinky Friedman's The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover--wait...I think I did this one already. As well as that which came before it, Dan Brown's blockbuster The DaVinci Code. It was a'ight. They both were a'ight. We could all live and die without reading these two and manage to be fulfilled completely.

So, back to time travel. Beside the fact that we are all time travelers (moving onward each second, now, and now, and now), here I type this entry while the Cardinals-Reds ball game from last night is on the tube. A rebroadcast. The Cards lose 10-3. It ain't pretty. But for the two hours (or three)that this is on, are we not transported back to yesterday evening? Yeah, I know, we're not, but a boy can make broad leaps of faith, can he not?

The heat keeps coming, although it has lately stayed in the balmy 90s instead of the wicked 100s, so, thanks for that.

Monkey has been in a wonderful frame of mind (except for the heat) since her test. Not getting up at five am and studying like it's a full time job (beside your full time job) really puts a girl in a good place, apparently.

I am trying to suck as much sloth-like behavior as possible out of the last eight days of summer break. Wish me luck--it's nap time!

Monday, August 07, 2006

All That and Sweet Potatoes Au Gratin

Be my sweet potato
Be my honey lamb
Dance around the campfire
Hang around a while
--Cracker, "Sweet Potato"

Spent the weekend celebrating Monkey and hanging out with folks. Friday we hit Chevy's for Happy Hour, with a cast of irregulars, some with proper Blog names, and some without. I will spare you the details. Fun had by all, of course.

Saturday, Monkey and I saw a matinee (since she didn't have to study all day) of The Night Listener. We enjoyed it (if I may speak for Monkey). I would recommend it. It's a kind of psychological thriller. Not an action packed type of flick, but it keeps you thinking.

After the movie, we went to a local "nice" restaurant for official couple recognition of the end of the Death March (see previous post). The food was good--we both had halibut (Carribean style), and the sweet potatoes au gratin were almost better than the fish!

Sunday, the weather went all Hell on us again--103, after three whole days under 100. We went to Favorite Berry's Main Squeeze's house for some grillin' and chillin'. Good food--turkey burgers with brie (nice), and some damn good potatoes.

A digression on the potato: given the choice of three things that I would have to eat exclusively for the rest of my life, I would probably choose tomatoes, potatoes, and thin-sliced pork chops. And I would probably not eat the pork chops all the time. Something about the potato (and I am thinking here mostly about your workaday russet-like potato, although, if the fine print allows it, I would try to slip in some sweet potatoes and such every now and then; you know, maybe a yam). When I was in my first bout of college, at Towson State University (now, just Towson University), I had this buddy in an acting class who would bring a potato (microwaved/baked) to rehearsal in a Tupperware container every night. And every night, I was one jealous SOB. There I was nibbling on some stale-ass Fritos I got out of the roach-infested vending machines in the basement of Fine Arts (which is a really beautiful building now after the renovations--but I digress in this digression), and he's enjoying the earthy, room tempature goodness of a cooked potato, and he was eating with his hands (well, and his mouth, of course).

But, did I ever bring my own potato to enjoy? No, I suffered for my art, and in subsequent scenes with this particular actor, I used my jealousy as an emotional touchstone. Oh, the wonders of the acting technique. A Moon for the Misbegotten over a potato--aaaaaand scene.

Anyway, good potatoes, good dinners. In between the eating and celebrating, it was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. We watched a number of cartilaginous fishes chomping down some defrosted tuna pieces and a few arms and legs, too. I have to admit, I wish that the programs would steer a bit away from the sensational and stay more within the educational aspect, but I guess those days are gone. We miss you, Jacques Cousteau!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Power of Positive Thinking

Today is the big day for Monkey. She takes her EPPP exam this morning, down in the state capital. I offered to drive her, but she said no. We have been thinking positive thoughts, and I ask that you do the same for her today, between 10am Central and about 3pm Central (just to be on the safe side).

Now, I don't expect that you will be able (or willing) to devote five prime day time hours to concentrating on directing your energies to Monkey as she sits in front of a computer and tries to diagnose medical and psychological conditions in vignettes about made up people that have a) gone nuts, b) smacked their head on a bed post, c) lost their marbles, d) boinked their melon off a windshield at thirty-seven miles per (not wearing a seatbelt, you know), e) all of the above. Any little bit, however, helps. Even if all you can manage is to puff out one second of positive energy for Monkey, in the middle of sticking a new pin in the voodoo doll of your boss that you keep in the big right hand drawer in your desk, under the folder of corporate references and that small, but well-known bottle of "cough syrup" that you need to hit about three to seven times a week. Even if all you can give her is a pair of positive ions that float out of your mental melange of regular thoughts, like, "I need a haircut," "Who am I, really?," and "Why is this can of tuna so hard to drain?"

Tonight, we will be celebrating the end of an era that I like to call, Monkey's Self-Enforced Bataan Death March of Studying. She won't know how she did on the test until the end of the month, so I'm sure she'll (and I'll) be a little nervous waiting for the results (which, of course, will be positive--positive thoughts), but, at least she won't have to study like it's a second full-time job any longer.

You go, Monkey!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welcome to Hell, Part One Hundred and Two

Goddamn, it's hot! After a brief respite last week, the Fiery Furnace of the Plains is back open for business. Recent highlights include watching birds drop from the sky fully roasted, making melted crayon mosaics in the street, and trying to coax Woody the Whistle Pig out from under the house with a Fudgesicle in one hand and a piece of frozen celery in the other (neither worked). One oh four yesterday, one oh one today, one oh-my-God tomorrow (you saw that coming, di'n't-cha?)

Spent today in the casa, working on that ol' vocabulary. Updated the "Currently Teaching" links, since I will soon be teaching something again.

As well, I've decided to learn to play the guitar. In my high school and college days, I was a drummer until I sold my drums back in the day (when I moved out of my parents' house). I guess I can still play, but it's been a while. Now, I am focusing my energy on the guitar, with ambitions to eventually tackle the piano, the trumpet, and the violin. I was never really that interested in other instruments when I was younger, but there's no time like the present.

If I find some time, I plan on improving my French and getting fluent in Spanish and Polish, too.

Somewhere in there, I expect I'll pick up my PhD in Twentieth Century American Poetry, Forestry, and Entymology. I still love me some insects!

What am I doing typing this? I gotta go, I got too much to do. Au revoir!

Monday, July 31, 2006

All Work and No Play...

It's that time of year. It's time to start getting ready for the kiddos to arrive. It's time to plan units, build lessons, swipe white board markers, dust off the khakis, hang some edumacational posters, and get ready for school. Tomorrow will bring August, and that means classes start in less than three weeks.

Of course, our beginning of the year activities begin the week before that, so I'll be up to my neck in "bureaucratic bullshit" in no time.

For the time being, Partner Teacher and I are whipping up some introductory activities, and I'm choosing texts and making vocabulary lists ("fervent," baby). But, slowly. No need to plan the whole year this far out. A brother needs to take his time. After all, I'm still on vacation, technically.

Until the middle of August, I'm still balancing a little work with a lot of play.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

One Pie, Two Pie, Yellow Pie, Blue Pie

Sometimes you just have to experiment. After all, without change, adaptation, innovation, invention, there is no progress.

And sometimes, the occurence of unrelated things leads one to create, in the course of which, one might experiment.

It is late July, and two things happened on Saturday that are germane to this post. First, fresh peaches were available at the farmer's market. We bought a 1/2 peck. Second, blueberries were on sale at the Hyve. A dollar ninety nine a pint. I bought four pints. On Monday, a new Gourmet magazine arrived at the Monkey House (along with the credit card bill for the card used to charge all the gas for the last two trips--UGH!). In this particular issue is a recipe for blueberry pie, with a crust recipe that I found intriguing.

I have, for several years, been trying to perfect the process of creating and manipulating my mother's pie crust recipe. It has been difficult work, but I have been getting much better at working with it. I haven't furiously thrown twisted, torn and half-flattened batches of unbaked pie crust into the garbage for a longg time, now, but it used to happen about fifty percent of the time. Well, yesterday, I tried the new recipe on two pies--one peach and one blueberry.

It was a slight dilemma that I had. I felt, on some level, that I had to maintain some family loyalty. I counter-argued (with myself), that nothing is more valuable than flexibility when it came to cooking, baking, washing dishes, removing sauce splatters from the underside of the table after you've dropped a bowlful on the floor--anything in the kitchen. The counterargument won.

Working with the new recipe was notably different. This one has way more butter in it and more flour--it makes way more dough, so that's a plus (but a bit wasteful). I did far less working of the dough with my hands. This is also a plus, since it a) keeps the hands cleaner, and b) keeps the dough cooler. This one also was way easier to manipulate, as far as getting the rolled out dough from the work surface to the pie pan.

As far as taste goes, the new recipe was lighter (because of all the butter replacing the Crisco), but it's taste was a bit less bold. Also, it baked to a much lighter, almost yellow color. (I have pics, but Blogger is giving me a bit of a hard time today. Maybe, later, I'll post them.)

Drawbacks include that working with this dough was much messier (i.e., more flour everywhere). To be truthful, however, this might be due to the fact that I discovered far too late that I was out of wax paper. Wax paper is a rolling out secret that keeps the dough from sticking to the rolling pin without the use of copious amounts of flour. Obviously, that contributed to the mess.

Monkey, after a preliminary taste test, was firmly in the "I like the old crust" camp. I was in the "they both have their good points" camp. I would definitely make this crust again.

The next time, I might try to figure out a way to create a hybrid of the two. Now, there's an experiment!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hey! That's No Fair, Giving a Guy a Shot Down There

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Woo woo woo.
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away.
Hey hey hey.
Hey hey hey.
--Simon and Garfunkel, "Mrs. Robinson"

The Graduate has always been one of my favorite films. The first time I saw it, as a high school senior-aged kiddo, I guess I was just entering that age period where the world was before me and I had no idea what to do with it, or in it. Much like Ben Braddock. Beside the personal connection I seemed to have with the main character of the film, I especially liked the tone that Mike Nichols gives to the film. It has a sort of semi-experimental, psycho-emotional cadence that feels (even now, many years later) a bit painful to watch, in some scenes, but fits the film perfectly.

But that's not what I came here to talk to you about.

Yesterday, one of my Blog-mates listed a set of new rules (the origins of which I am still uncertain). They were hilarious. One that struck me was a new rule about grown men who collect baseball cards, the gist of which is that it equals creepy. The tag line was (a paraphrase), "a ten year old collects souveneirs of his heros, a thirty year old collects pictures of men."

Then, today, in another in a growing list of examples of coincidence (I think not), has a column on baseball cards. Several sports writers wax semi-poetic on a particular card they have stored in their memory banks (or even stored in a plastic sheet in a notebook in a safe deposit box in a local bank). Some of them were sweetly nostalgic rememberances of an old card for a player who had been traded from the hometown heroes the season before, the destiny of the card itself lost to the fading memories of forty-five year old brain cells. But, a few others involved discussions of cards that dudes had procured in their twenties or later. One involved a pair of post-boyhood-hero-collecting age dudes laying out cards on the floor of their apartment while watching a ball game between their rival squads. The emotional kicker of the story made one particular card a reminder of a friend who died tragically, which makes criticism of the story a tad on the harsh side, but come on...if anybody sees me a)buying a pack of baseball cards at my age, or (even worse) b) laying them out in position on the floor of my house in front of the TV--well, whatever method of dispatch you choose would be just alright with me.

It's like the forty year old going over the seat backs and pushing a twelve year old and his mother out of the way to catch a foul ball at a ball game. I've seen it happen, and it is wrong. I have offten said, fully keeping in mind that I am an A-level sports fan, for sure, that sports makes grown men act like children, it makes people stupid. But what can be done? Does anything need to be done? Is it wrong that a thirty-five year old husband and father of two spends hours combing the Internet and Card Shows looking for Topps No. 120, so he can complete his 1990 set of Rookie Cards. No. And, as long as the twelve year old gets up off the cement, brushes the peanut shells out of his hair and continues watching the game while Magoo rejoices with his official Major League baseball, sloshing beer all over the people in his row and looking for someone to high-five, I guess eveything is okay. But the next time a foul ball comes the kid's way, I'll bet Mom gives the old guy sitting behind them a shot to the 'nads. You go, Moms!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tour-less (It's Not a Word, It's a State of Being)

On your marks get set go
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race
Bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
Bicycle race
--Queen, "Bicycle Race"

About three years ago, I started paying attention to the Tour de France. I knew about Greg LeMond in the eighties, and I had heard about Lance Armstrong in the nineties, but beyond knowing that there were a couple of Americans pedaling around the sunflower fields of France, I knew little else. And cared less.

For some reason, perhaps increased coverage because of Lance's attempt at winning six tours in a row, or, due to the increased coverage, a better knowledge of what the race entailed, I got hooked. I watched just about every stage of the race in 2004 (on OLN), sometimes waking up early enough to watch the live coverage instead of the late morning rebroadcast. It was fascinating, watching these guys pedal these bikes faster than I'll ever get a bike to go, climbing ridiculous mountains and navigating hairpin turn-filled descents while dodging insane Euopeans dressed as the Louvre who leaped out at the riders as they streamed by. I garnered an appreciation for the sport, the athletes, and, even to some extent, some of the French traditions (the race has been run since the first decade of the ninteen hundreds, I think).

Anyway, it was totally cool, and I was into it. Except, last year, our cable company switched its programming packages. We no longer received OLN with our package, but, for an extra pound of flesh a month, we could get it with an add on package. No way, thank you very little. So, no Tour last year.

Except, if you recall, I spent last summer in Eugene, while Monkey finished up her internship at U of O. And she had OLN on her cable package. So, hooray, I watched again, as Lance took down a seventh tour.

No such luck this year, sports fans (as the Great Santini would say).

And because of this (a cosmic coincidence involving my cable companies greed and my unwillingness to pay $500/month to watch television) I (and everyone else as fiscally responsible (or cheap) as I) missed seeing history made (or missed a reassembled electronic signal that mimicked (in two dimensions and thousands of miles away) the scene upon which actual history was made). This morning, Floyd Landis, the heir apparent to Lance Armstrong, pedaled perhaps the most amazing bicycle race in the history of mankind (no, I am not exaggerating). He was more than eight minutes behind the leader after falling apart in yesterday's stage. Today, he is thirty seconds behind after single-handedly (but double-wheeledly) demolishing the field in a brutal mountain stage. It must have been amazing to watch. It was thrilling to sit by my computer monitor and watch the race unfold in a graphically uninteresting way, so it must have been a hundred times more thrilling to watch on the tube. And even more thrilling to watch on Coach B's new quarter-mile wide, high def projection screen TV. But I don't think he has OLN, either.

Thanks, MediaCom. You suck, but you're all we got.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Welcome to Hell



It has been rather hot here lately (I hear it's been rather hot everywhere lately--I wonder if Al Gore had them do that for the release of his global warming documentary--he can do that, you know--after all, he did invent the Internet). It's to the point where I have not been outside for longer than ten minutes since about Saturday. It's really unpleasant. It's so hot, even the whistle pig doesn't come out. The forecast calls for 100 today and 102 tomorrow. In the words of Aunt James, "That's not right!"

The last softball game of the Spring season is tonight. Mercifully it's at 9pm, but it will still be 95, then. No championship for the Deadliners this Spring (the heat has little to do with it). We are gearing up to get them in the Fall, however. That season starts August 23, I think.

Stay cool, people.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Life is What Happens When You're Sitting Around Waiting for Something to Happen

One would think, after perusing the last dozen entries or so, that all this boy's life is about is hurtling himself across American roads at eighty miles an hour, racking up speeding tickets, eating turkey sandwiches, and taking pictures of his wife and others with half of his head in the foreground. This is not entirely true. Summer, this year, has been filled with few cares (where I am concerned), but much else is going on around me. Let me clue you in to a few of those.

To begin with, the most important theme for the last few weeks has been the Monkey's preparation for her EPPP test. I really have no idea what the acronym stands for (but I am pretty sure one of the Ps is "psychology" or "psychological" and I suspect that one of them may be "practice" or "professional", and the E might stand for "exam" or "examination"). At any rate, all the cool kids call it "E-triple-P." I like to call up Snoop Dogg every once in a while and call it the "E to the trizzy pizzy." He hates that. But I digress.

Whatever the acronym stands for, it is the liscensing exam for practicing psychology in the US of A. You can see where my conjectures about the letters may come from. The studying has been a frustrating endeavor for Monkey, thus far. By association, it has also been frustrating for me, but only vicariously. I have done my best to be positive and supportive in the following ways: no loud belching while Monkey is studying; all baseball is viewed on MUTE while Monkey is studying; limited "Hey, Monkey, listen to this" while reading the newspaper when Monkey is studying; no music while Monkey is studying (and thus, no dancing while Monkey is studying); no laughing and saying "Boy, I'm glad I don't have to take the E to the trizzy pizzy" while talking to Snoop Dogg when Monkey is studying; no talking to Snoop Dogg while Monkey is studying. In addition, I sometimes (recently) help by quizzing Monkey a little using her 1 million flash cards about childhood development and maternal depression and such, and asking her questions from practice tests she has taken already (as a reinforcement of her learning).

Some days, Monkey comes home and feels like she is progressing, and that she will probably pass the test. Other days, she comes home a little frustrated and worried that she will not pass the test. In either case, I try to be supportive by saying things like, "What do you want for dinner", or "That's a nice pair of socks you are wearing", or "Golly, it sure is hot, huh?".

In addition to that, I recently was extremely worried before our trip to Lincoln when I thought I had not paid a bill but was down to $0.12 in my checking account (okay, that's an exaggeration--it was $0.27). I went to the cable office (it was the damn cable bill--by the way MediaCom, it sure would be nice to watch the Tour de France this year, but no OLN...I'd trade it for the both the Sci-Fi Channel AND the Fox "News" Channel--I never watch them), credit card in hand, prepared to pay the bill. By the way, I didn't have the bill with me. I don't know if I lost it, or I never received it (oh, no, that never happens), but I didn't have it. So I get to the office and explain what is up to the woman at the counter, and it turns out that I had paid the bill, like two weeks prior! Silly me. I never pay the cable bill that early. What was I thinking? And look at the trouble it caused me. Well, I learned from that: never pay the cable bill ahead of time.

Now, as has been mentioned before, travel time is over. It's time to start focusing on the upcoming school year, but it's a slow transition. I told myself I was going to start yesterday, but I started reading The Da Vinci Code instead (I know, what have I been waiting for?). I'll probably finish that by dinner tonight. Then , I said I would begin today, but here I am at 11 o'clock chronicling my life so far. Maybe I will start today. Maybe I'll start tomorrow.

Maybe I'll make a turkey sandwich, grab the camera, hop in the Penguin, and drive somewhere. I just hope I don't get a speeding ticket.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

At Rest

That's it, folks. I just washed the Penguin. No more traveling. Until September. But, for the summer, I am happily homebound, after being homeward bound just yesterday. The new car, purchased in February, has 9000 miles on it. Almost 5000 of those since Memorial Day Weekend. Baltimore last week(1970 round trip), Lincoln before that (700 round trip), Maine (airport drives (250 round trip)), Conroe, TX (1600 round trip).

Spent some time with my family this past week. I was unable to post obviously, but I survived the trip and I am back. Highlights included fishing with my dad (once legally at Loch Raven, once illegally at Dundee Creek (I told him that was tidal water, but he didn't believe me--oops!), seeing imported Costa Rican butterflies with my nephews, breakfasting with my cousin and with Jersey Girl (separate breakfasts), and shopping for Utz potato chips, scrapple, and Berger cookies at Giant and Mars to satisfy Monkey and my craving for things from Back East (I told her, "I had to go all the way to Mars for these freaking cookies!").

I will skip the descriptions and just throw some pics at you. All in all, it's good to be back home (and staying put for awhile).

View from the I-68E Maryland Welcome Center (Youghiogheny (Yok-i-gay-nee) River)

The Author and a breakfast companion (note the fashionista T-shirt) The author and the coolest 86 year old in the world
The nephews with the mother and grandmother (pointing at a turtle)
The author with his favorite two and a half year old
The author's favorite 15-month old

Monday, July 03, 2006

Summer Time Means Two-A-Days

I know I am not in the habit of posting twice in one day, but a recent comment from an old friend encouraged me to come up with my top ten driving songs. Finding ten to be a constrictive number, and having too many variables to consider, I instead came up with a virtual mix tape of what I would throw on a road trip compilation (if I wasn't taking fifty CDs with me, anyway--I know, I need an iPod that plugs into the car stereo--much better for traveling). My criteria (made up as I went along): twenty five songs, divided into two sides (imagine the old TDK 120 minute cassette tapes). Side One has been dubbed the "Speed" side, songs that make your foot a bit heavier, for when you need to make some time. Side Two has been dubbed the "Mettle" side (get it? Speed/Mettle), songs chosen because they are strong enough to withstand a weakly devised road theme.

Comments and/or your own lists are welcome!

Here goes:

Speed/Mettle: ATR's Summer 'o6 Road Trip Mix

Side One: Speed

Drain You--Nirvana
Dig My Grave--They Might Be Giants
Steve McQueen--Drive By Truckers
Inside Out--Eve 6
Rockaway Beach--Ramones
Bury Me With It--Modest Mouse
A Good Idea--Sugar
Head Like a Hole--Nine Inch Nails
Kool Thing--Sonic Youth
Bucket Head--Meat Puppets
Let It Be Me--Social Distortion

Side Two: Mettle

Friend of the Devil--Grateful Dead
Last Goodbye Blues--Joe Turner
Water Your Hands--Aloha
Go West--Liz Phair
Are You Ready For The Country?--Neil Young
It'll Be The Same Without You--The Mendoza Line
I Miss The Girl--Soul Coughing
Going Out West--Tom Waits
Wheels--Freedy Johnston
Hard Luck Story--Whiskeytown
Borrow Your Girl--Bobby Bare, Jr. and the Young Criminals Starvation League
Someone Take the Wheel--The Replacements
If I Had A Boat--Lyle Lovett

Ain't No Moss On Me

If I was a road dog, baby,
and all of my songs were true,
I reckon I'd like my whiskey drinkin'
a whole lot more than I do
--Jimmy Buffett, "Big Rig"

Lincoln in the rear view mirror, we now set our sights on the Motherland. The Land of Pleasant Living. America in Miniature. The Old Line State. The Bay State. Perhaps the only state in the union that refers to the President of the United States as a "despot." That's right ladies and gentlemen, we're heading to Maryland in two short days.

Of course, when I say "we," I really mean "me," since neither Monkey nor Ripken is going with.

It's about a sixteen hour drive. Monkey and I have done it in one big jump before (maybe twice, even), and we've already done a thirteen plus hour drive to Conroe, TX, last month, but I just don't feel like pushing myself that hard on a solo flight. The plan is to drive to Columbus, OH, by Wednesday night, camp in Buckeye State Park, and then head in to Mob Town on Thursday PM. Two eight hour tours. I can handle that.

Lincoln, by the way, was a productive trip. My meeting with the department head was informative and encouraging. Monkey and I (guided by our gracious hosts on several walks about town) got a feel for real estate prices and desirable locations. We saw a few Lincoln sights. Of course, to me, the move is barely a blip on the Reality Radar. A year is (depending on how you look at it) a long way away. It will soon begin to loom larger in my forecast of the future, but for now, it is an amorphous thing. The bottom line on Lincoln so far: I can live there. It will take a while to get used to it, but I think it will be okay. At any rate, it will be different. And, of course, I will miss many people and things about where I live now. There is nothing to be done about that. But, again, it is down the road a piece.

I may have some connectivity in Charm City, so, updates are possible. I'll try to remember to bring the camera, too. I know AMVB likes the pictures!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Compendium of Randomness to Shock and Amaze

Well, everyone watched as she torched the university
With pan flares and rockets and fluids,
And it was widely reported that Catherine Dupree
Had sought some revenge for her faulty degree.

--Will Johnson, "Catherine Dupree"

Been on a Will Johnson kick the past few days. Don't know why.

The Texans were promised, but never delivered. The more I thought about them, the less I liked the way they fit into the narrative of "A Very Long Story," so, ultimately, I left them out. However, as a sneak preview of one of the special features that will be available on the DVD release of "A Very Long Story, The Musical Based on a True Story," here is the never-before-seen-treatment of the Texans.

The Texans (A Very Long Story, Part Unpublished)

Upon our arrival at the Cove Farm Inn, a strange little man greeted us in the sitting room. A slowly dying fire struggled to keep up appearances in the large hearth as he approached us, his head cocked to one side like an uncomprehending dog.

"Hello." His greeting was firm. He seemed comfortable in his surroundings.

Could this be MuffinMan's caretaker?

From behind us, through the kitchen, a child approached, shuffling her feet. Thin, scraggly curls shook on her head. She held a blue toothbrush to her chest like a shield. As she neared, it was clear to me that this was a woman, not a child, perhaps anywhere from 28 to 45. But so small. I half expected her to put on a curly-peaked cap, take first position, and begin singing in a scratchy falsetto, "We represent The Lullaby League."

"Um, yeah. Where's MuffinMan?" Obviously, Monkey did not ask for MuffinMan, but, I need to be consistent here.

"He's down at the house." Which was about forty yards across a sopping wet field.

"I'm George."

"Yeah, hi."

We left our bags and went to get MuffinMan.

Did you ever meet one of those people who, from the second you laid eyes on him or her, you were sure that something was just not right about him or her? Monkey and I had just met two.

They were guests at the inn, like us. They were married, like us. But, that's where the similarities ended. They were from Texas (as was previously reported). We ate breakfast with them four days in a row. They had two tow-headed kids, who, really, have absolute no chance to live a normal life. Oh, the wicked curse of odd parents.

They forgot maps, they got lost, they misremembered directions, she was too short to reach the rungs on a ladder trail. One of the boys kept playing some annoying handheld video game while MuffinMan was trying to explain something one morning. I was about this close from snatching the thing right out of the kid's hand and yelling, "Knock it off, Freakchild!" But, I was cool.

One morning, Monkey and I tried to break into their rental car's trunk. We were convinced there was a body in there, be it man or beast. They just struck us as your typical body-carting family, you know.

I don't think being from Texas had anything to do with it.

This is my 100th post. I imagine that this has no significance whatsoever.

Worked on updating my resume, today. Monkey and I are heading up to Lincoln, NE, for the weekend. I am meeting the English department head from one of the high schools up there on Friday. It's not really a job interview, but I thought it would be best to have a resume on hand, in case she asks for one. As a matter of fact, I am going to make her take one, whether she asks for one or not!

Whistle pig status: no recent sightings. Did the close brush with dog jaws scare him/her off? Don't know, but I have seen a smaller marmot hanging out by the bridge around the corner. Relatives? Our resident groundhog in disguise? No idea, but the fact is, I have seen no large, slow mammals in my backyard since the day before yesterday.

Due to the travelling, don't expect to hear from me until Sunday night at the latest.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Don't Make Me Go All Chester Crabtree on Your Ass

As many of you may already know, I have a special place in my heart for Groundhog Day. A recent discovery has brought me face to face with a dilemma, however. Living under my house (and having recently taken up residence--two weeks ago or less) is a large, slow groundhog. Contrary to popular belief, a groundhog is not a gopher (which immediately renders my Moose Miller title reference innacurate, but, whatever). It is, according to sources the same animal as a woodchuck (and is also known as a whistle pig). It's a marmot (which reminds me, as does many things, of The Big Lebowski--"Nice marmot").

Regardless of what it is or isn't classified as, the main point of emphasis for me is that this particular whistle pig is living under my house, tearing up dirt and insulation to make a cozy little woodchuck nest (and not, as far as I can tell, chucking one freaking piece of wood (but there is a conditional in there: "IF a woodchuck COULD chuck wood", so I guess I shouldn't expect to see that), and driving Ripken Ozark crazy. The squirrels, in there attempts to raid every last bird feeder in creation, have been scaling the walls and roof of the house to leap, with no regard for their own personal safety, onto nearby feeders, and driving Ripken "up a wall", so to speak, with their clatter. The marmot offers new torment for Ripken, since he knows now that this particular rodent is pretty easy prey. Yesterday, when we went out back, dog was about two inches from clamping down hard on some whistle pig spine. I yelled, "No!" That may have slowed the dog up just enough to save the groundhog. Now, I sort of wish I would have just let the dog do what he was about to do, but then I would have had to get a dead marmot away from my dog--gross and difficult, I am sure.

Let me tell you this: the whistle pig is a slow micky ficky. I guess, with its short legs and its ponderous girth, it is relatively impossible for it to get any speed, but I have never seen an animal move so slowly that wasn't a turtle. As a matter of fact, I may have seen a turtle or two with a faster time in the forty than Monsieur (or Madame) Marmot. It makes me wonder how they have managed to live so long (evolutionarily speaking). With such slow times, one would think that any fox or bobcat or coyote could have snatched up every last one of these slow-mo mammals that ever lived. I guess not. They must be crafty, these groundhogs.

So, my dilemma is this: the marmot must go, and Landlord is responsible for that. But, what if Landlord's brilliant plan for removing the groundhog involves poison, or squirrel-shaped plastic explosives, or a slug from a .22? I am pretty sure he's not the type to lay out a Havahart trap and drive the captured whistle pig off to the nearest groundhog refuge. So, what to do? Landlord has already been called, so I guess my dilemma is no dilemma at all anymore, but I still hope that Woody has a chance to carry on his slow, herbivorous life somewhere else. How would they treat Punxatawney Phil, after all?

Now, If I could just figure out how to get these damn squirrels to stop crawling all over my house, Ripken could live in peace.

Note to JPB: I never did get around to the Texans, did I? Stay tuned.