Friday, March 31, 2006


I'd been avoiding this - a Sudoku obsession. Not that I didn't think the puzzle would be interesting, but because I hate liking things that lots of other people like. (This is why it took me so long to get into Harry Potter and even LOTR, and now look at me.)

I like Sudoku, though. I mean I really, really like it. It makes me happy when I'm doing it, and I think about it sometimes when I'm not doing it. I broke down and bought myself a small puzzle book (with lots of easy ones, because I'm not that good at it yet), and have been working puzzles on planes, in buses, on the couch, in bed. I've discovered something terrible about it: Sudoku makes me absolutely ill, whether I am sitting still or not. Karen says it does the same thing to her, maybe it's the constant eye motion?

Anyway, I'm still enjoying it, but it's making me nauseated every time I do one. Eventually, I assume I'll eventually develop a sort of Pavlovian response: that every time I work a puzzle I'll begin to drool and then throw up.

I showed Alexis how to solve one yesterday, and after only a few minutes she stopped me and said: "I see. This is neither difficult nor interesting -- merely tedious."

Ah, sweet, sweet tedium.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


When I am sad, I imagine there is an octopus in the world who knows me by the feel of my skin.

After you

Two miles East of Exit 147, a Sandhill Crane flew lone and low over my car this misted morning. Legs outstretched, he was on his way from one stubbled, pesticide-ridden, genetically-modified cornfield to another. I thought to myself: Thank goodness you won't have to deal with us much longer.

But I realized that whatever we do to ourselves, we'll do to him first. Whoever said life was fair?

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Persistence of Peeps

I think Jess meant it as a joke - a peeps diorama contest. My mom and I were converging on my sister's home for a late birthday celebration, and we thought a project might be in order. Unlike my house, which is constantly under construction, my sister's house has been recently, professionally, and beautifully remodeled, so it was unlikely that she'd allow house projects. It had to be something else. So, my sister sent the rules to my mom and me...

The contest appealed to our darkest selves.

I mean, I've spent a surprising amount of time manipulating, modifying and generally abusing peeps. Heaven knows, they're not meant for consumption. Do *you* know how many seconds it takes to properly nuke a peep? (Less than fifteen, varying by microwave wattage.) Or a technique for snipping peeps into tiny pieces like some cubist Easter nightmare? (Sharp scissors, rinsed clean between uses.) Or that peeps (of all celebrational varieties) make great toasted marshmallows? (Though I did blister the skin off my thumb by grabbing one by its bubbling sugar crust.) Put simply, he opportunity to abuse these marshmallowy innocents for fun and profit was not to be missed.

There were so many thematic options! I immediately felt that any peeps diorama should be made entirely of candy - I mean, it *is* Easter, after all. Anybody could prop up some peeps in a pre-fab Barbie Dream House, wouldn't it be much more fun to make it out of Necco Wafers? I also felt strongly that a peeps diorama should be *real* peeps - they should be yellow, and they should be chickies. I dandled the packages of purple bunnies in the drug store and tried to imagine them in scenes from Brokeback Mountain (*not* those scenes! Alright, yes, those scenes), but it all seemed too easy.

The first theme that started bouncing around was "We the Peeple," a peeps-only rendition of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This got sidelined by attempts to come up with peeps-oriented puns for our Founding Fathers. My mother's input of "Henjamin Franklin" was a noble, but unrepeated effort.

Then, the idea of creating a "Peep Show," which begged the question - how would a peep wear stockings? Having your mother ask the question: "Where would you put pasties on a Peep?" is enough to make most normal people quickly change their email address, but it just made these daughters discuss how to create peep cleavage.

(Also, after looking at an actual chickie peep in the store, I realized that it actually does look like, well, a pile of bright yellow poo with eyes. I contemplated buying a miniature toilet - no, I don't know where you'd get one either - placing the peep at the bottom and calling it "Peep or Poop?". I was too embarrassed to suggest it to my family, but come on, it's low-brow and high-brow! I love that!)

I began to assemble a crack-team of global experts to address the technical and philosophical difficulties we were bound to address. Valerie, now living in Italy, fielded questions like: "Would sour lemon laces make a good powdered wig for a Founding Father Peep?" My sister-in-law Sarah sent vital scientific peep research. And my mother and I gleefully exchanged email after email regarding logistics, the true form of peeps (I contended only yellow chicks), and diorama themes while my sister Jess pretended she didn't know us.

We were pretty settled on creating a peep show but a few days before we converged, Alexis had a moment of insightful genius at 5:45 am..."The Persistence of Peeps!" she cried in the friscallating dawn-light, "that Dali painting with the melty-clocks."

Of course.

Everyone knows that after you microwave a peep to full bloated proportions, upon cooling, it settles back down to a mere sugared pancake of it's former self. It would be easy to spatula those still-warm peeps over tree limbs and ~ voila! Melty peeps!

The shopping went off relatively hitch-free after my other and I finished mocking my sister for never having gone to a Michael's Craft Store.

I mean, my mother's so crafty she smuggled a glue-gun in her carry-on luggage. (Well, smuggled is probably a misnomer for what she did, since she got caught and was thoroughly searched when security saw it on x-ray. "But it's not a real gun..." my mother insisted, "it's even a low-temp melt.")

We spent that evening creating the diorama stage - with styrofoam inserts in the bottom to secure the props, and wiring the Twizzlers. Yes, *wiring* the Twizzlers, it worked amazingly well...except for the fact that my mother kept reaching over and grabbing bits of licorice from my work area (while she e-mailed from the next chair over), and I was afraid she was going to end up "caught" with a piece of wire through her cheek. Plus she kept stealing the licorice I was working on and then complained about feeling sick...ha! I prevailed, however, and made a pretty nice looking licorice tree...

The chocolate platform was easy, though my sister lost all of her teaboxes in the process of trying to cut one to the right height to support the chocolate bars.

The cliffs in the background are Butterfingers - a candy bar only appropriate for geologic approximation, not consumption.

The enigmatic figure in the lower right of the painting (a self-portrait, my mother announced from her laptop) was being played by a chipper little white chocolate fellow named "Mr. Lucky." Hah-hah...he wasn't so lucky when Jess and I pressed him into a hot cookie sheet and watched him melt! We stared in amazement as Mr. Lucky formed a perfect candy puddle and began to disappear.

"Whoah, this bunny has to cool!" I yelped.
Jess sprang into action, slipped on some shoes and we ran what was left of Mr. Lucky into the back yard to take advantage of the late March snows.

The peeps were the real problem. First, I've always microwaved peeps - fast, quick, painless...and my sister lacks this essential appliance. Troglodite. (Alexis asked on the phone: "How does she heat stuff? Like, microwave stuff?")

Second, heat was not the answer. You see, when you melt a peep, it loses its much-needed facial definition. Beaks, eyes, bulbous forehead - all we came up with a multi-step approach that involved:


Light Heating

Heavy Squishing

And finally, the draping.

The elements came together quite nicely, I think.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Naming conventions

In Trader Joe's, I heard a father call his daughter...Ashland.
I leaned over to you-know-who to whisper: "Did you hear that? Some kid's name is Ashland."

Someone was unimpressed, and continued a fruitless search for goat milk yogurt..."I think he said Ashley."

"No, it was definitely Ashland, do you think she's named after the mine or the gas station?"

I thought this was so funny that when I turned around to view Ashland, and saw her to be a pudgy little blond-haired thing pushing a child-sized grocery cart filled with unripe bananas, I broke into a huge smile. Her mother thought I was giving one of those "your child is so adorable it makes me smile" smiles, and she, from her heteronormative breeder bubble smiled back.

In retrospect, maybe she really was an Ashley, and her father's tell-tale Southeastern Penna guttural gulp distorted the word (which would be why you-know-who understood it). Paradoxically, this could also indicate the mine as her namesake after all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Michigan thinks it's all bad ass...

Oy! I hate this freakin' state.

Michiganders and me, we'll never get along. See, we're operating under totally different social contracts. This is most obvious, not surprisingly, on the road...

Where I come from, if you're waiting to turn left at an intersection, and you get a green arrow - YOU GO. Not that hard, right? You trust that others are obeying the traffic laws, and are waiting their turns...that you are safe to go, Go, GO!

I have been confused since I got here (oh these years ago) why I never seem to make it through the green arrow. Usually, the arrow offers plenty of time to get the average line of waiting traffic through with no problem. In Michigan, however, you will often find yourself waiting through multiple light cycles, inching ever forward toward your the prize: your turn in the spotlight, your 15 seconds of fame...the intersection! You see, instead of just driving through the damn thing, people act like they are merging onto a highway with blind spots and roundabouts.

look right,
look left,
look right again - WATCH OUT!
(oh, phew, just a leaf!)
going, going, easy, easy, don't choke here...


Why, you may ask, do they take such caution? I believe it is because they themselves do not trust others, nor are they trustworthy themselves to uphold the rules of the road if they had the chance to get away with breakin' 'em. How do they know that someone is not going to come plowing through the crosswalks, eager to take advantage of the "break" in traffic. Heck, they did that last week - everybody was just stopped, and they thought to themselves: "Hell, I'm goin' while the goin's good..." only to realize later that people had pulled over for an ambulance (seriously, nobody stops for sirens here). If cars actually do pull over, people also have the delightful habit of whipping back into traffic after the ambulance has passed and not allowing you to re-enter the flow. "Heh, heh," they think, "suckers!"

Dude, we have a social contract that keeps us alive on the road! Learn it, love it, live it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sucking and the suckers who suck

One of the things I'm getting more and more used to is being in pain. I'm limping again today - to and fro across campus, and even a few blocks starts to really hurt. Somewhere around mile four on Saturday, something went all nutty in my right foot. I finished the run, but probably shouldn't have, it hurt more and more and more as the day went on. The thing is, parts of my body hurting still really makes me nervous...I understand it when my knees ache (I mean, come on, they're knees - AKA the most poorly designed joint in the body). But odd pain showing up elsewhere makes me really worried...first my right hip, and now this. It's probably all connected.

I went to the first class of body rolling on Sunday morning, and the teacher made me stand on these hard, blue hemispheres that stretch the muscle as it's healing. Basically, you pinpoint the part that hurts and you stand on it. Making it hurt more. It's like some beautiful, masochistic feedback loop.

Really, it's just dumb to run - it's like the hardest, meanest thing you can do to your body. But I like's the first activity I've done that I've stuck to despite being a spectacular failure.

Alexis and I were talking last night about what it meant to us to be the smartypants in school. It's like we never really had to work at anything, so we never really learned what it feels like to suck at something, and to have to work to get better. If I wasn't good at it immediately, I assumed that I wasn't supposed to be doing it.

Instead, I am now learning the experience of totally sucking, and keeping going nonetheless. It's just not as bad as I thought it would be, and it opens up the world, doesn't it? It's a realization that you and me, we can DO anything. We just may suck at it, but sucking's okay. Since when did an experience become meaningful only if you're good or great at it? That's bunk.

It's good to suck! I may never get better, may suck forever, and that's totally cool.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Missionary Industry

I was wandering through the worn back doors of the internet and found this (I was actually trying to figure out if there had been a boxing match in San Francisco while we were there, but this site came up instead). It's always freaked me out that those natty teen missionaries walking the streets were called "elder" (says so on their nametags). Turns out, everybody calls these guys "elder." Their dads send e-mails like: Your mother will send some clean socks and your Gameboy in the next package. We love you very much, Elder Hutchins.

Funniest, though, is the TV spot. Hey, who's that blonde guy? (By the way, tracting is the act of leaving pamphlets (tracts) around and attempting to set up appointments with people for purposes of proselytizing.)

I blog in my sleep

Or at least in my dreams...

But, in my dreams I am both funnier and more succinct. Go figure.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I am invisible.

Yesterday, driving home, I happened to spot 5 Sandhill Cranes hanging around a field near the highway. They are so freakin' cool...they are exactly the color of the brown, crappy ground, and look mostly like a bunch of sticks and other crud stuck together. In the morning, at Pickerel Lake, when the sun was just coming up over the horizon, you'd sometimes hear them calling out in the dawn.

Haunting, bizarre, wonderful.

As a side note, the first time we came to Michigan, A and I saw some in a field and thought they were escaped farm emus. Then we drove through Ypsi and kept seeing signs for EMU...I actually thought there was some sort of emu industry that I didn't know about.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

So this is what it feels like

I am so disappointed.

I'd been waiting for Nightwatch for months. Months I tell you!!!

Urban decay!
Impossible architecture!
Crows and other falling crap!

How could it go wrong? HOW??

It was supposed to be released in August sometime (or was it July), and it never showed up...then suddenly it was back again! Playing Saturday night in my most favorite theater, and introduced in my most favorite way ever, and right before the movie, Alexis revealed that she had brought my most favorite snack...crap, the movie just couldn't live up to the rest of the experience.

Crap! I was ready to go all obsessive n' shit.

Peter Jackson, where are you and will you please stop playing with mega-apes?


I've been coming down with something. Yesterday, I felt like I had been beaten all over with a sack of oranges (mmmm...oranges), and today feel woozy and foolish. When I'm feeling ill, I generally console myself with all sorts of processed and terrible foods: canned things (Beefaroni), fast foods, and soda (specifically, orange soda which I otherwise loathe). So it wasn't surprising to find myself pulled up in Loomis Park today, with a plate of Kentucky Fried Chicken on my lap, listening to Fresh Air, and looking over the grey/brown vista of Michigan in March. What was surprising was my company.

It was hard to find a spot - almost every other parking space was taken by some other poor sap, no doubt seeking a short period of peace in their work day. I had contemplated returning to my office to eat, but could not face the slew of jocular inspectors (think of your least favorite uncle and imagine that he only talks about plumbing), the bulemic receptionists, and the World's Shortest Fire Chief.

Ah, Jackson.

So, there were a lot of us in Loomis park today, no doubt escaping similar fates. I thought I had found a private spot, but after I'd parked, I realized my neighbor had only been temporarily slumped in her seat and thus less visible. Nap? I thought. But she then began to alternatively writhe and loll...she was either high or masturbating, or maybe both. I locked the doors, but didn't leave.

First of all, I was worried that something was really wrong - that she was seizing or having some other medical emergency (imagine me knocking on her window with my chicken bone..."Ma'am, ma'am are you alright?"). Second of all, how can you not watch that, I mean, come on. She didn't seem particularly aware of me at any time, and I hazarded occasional surreptitious glances from behind my lunch. She was still at it - whatever IT was - when I left. I think this means we all need better places to each lunch...we get into such trouble otherwise.