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Jun. 22nd, 2011 07:05 pm Dear world

a.k.a. Why my day has been a tightly-wound ball of fuzzy nutso.

For any of you that might follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I thought I should explain.

We have had an annoying buzzing noise on our phone line for a couple of days. We have also been having our internet service experience drop-outs, and that's the same company. Therefore, I set up an appointment to have a Qwest tech stop by and fix it today. Because it was an external issue, I didn't have to be here and they set the appointment for any time during the day.

Today, about 10 am, I hear banging on the door. I'm upstairs, on the floor, and my knees hate me, so it took me a minute to get to the door. No one in sight. I check the other door. There's not a van parked anywhere nearby either. Whatever.

About 11, the girls and I discover that the internet is out. I check the phone -- no dial tone. I look around, no guy and no van. I grab my cell phone and after the gauntlet of buttons to push, reach a live human in another country (sheer speculation on my part, but....) who tells me that the fellow is here. I look some more and realize that I can see about 1 1/2 feet of ladder sticking up over our garage. Oh! Okay, that's why. I thank her, and get the girls ready to go to class. Ten minutes later we're out the door. There's a ladder, a disconnected cable, and two cones blocking our alleyway. No guy, no truck. Whatever. He'll be done by the time I get back. I manage to do a u-turn in the alleyway and take the girls to class.

I then get the van to the dealership for an hour and 45 minutes of sitting and trying to ignore CNN, which proves irresistably bad. The high point was Fred Thompson trying to sell reverse mortgages to elderly people. (Knox Pooley, anyone?) From there I go to the grocery store. About 3 1/2 hours after I left, I get home. No ladder, no dangling cable. So far, so good.

I get in the house and check the phone. No dial tone. WTF???? There's a tag on the front door from Qwest, but with none of the info filled in. I have no clue. I call the 800 number again, same long process. This time they tell me that he hasn't been here yet. I explain that he was, as I HAVE NO DIAL TONE. They explain that the repair guy hasn't come yet. I explain that I'm really annoyed and they are messing up my day. They stick to the script. The guy hasn't been here yet. I hang up my cell phone, and try to use the AT&T connection on my iPad to get to the Qwest rep that I'm pretty sure is on Twitter. AT&T hates me. I'm in Minneapolis, for heaven's sake! But I have no coverage. I call Paul and cry on his shoulder. He gets on Twitter and finds the right place and vents heavily.

At that point, I figure I have to get out of the house (this is where the sane tweeting came from). I go to (relatively) nearby coffeeshop Sister Sludge, and get myself high-calorie treats. These are sane people. Their seats are comfy. Paul calls and lets me know that he has talked to someone in Iowa (same continent, whoo-hoo!) and that things are looking up. I pick up the girls at 4:30 and head home, secure in the knowledge that if the Qwest guy shows up, at least Paul is home and I won't have to deal with it.

Eventually the guy did show up, and was nice, and explained some of what had happened (although I think the previous guy -- yes, there were two of them -- needs some more training). And best of all, it all was fixed. I'm not sure how much of what had to be fixed was what I had originally called about, but.... And the person covering their Twitter account was good, as was the person in Iowa. But it kinda destroyed my productivity and plans for the afternoon.

I think I'm still recovering. I may also be coming down with a sinus infection. But Paul assures me that there is a sidecar waiting for me in the refrigerator and that he will get it for me whenever I want it, which I think will be right after the girls are in bed. Bleah. Long day.

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Jun. 1st, 2011 05:16 pm Where have we heard this before?

I found this today.

Title: The Poor Little Penny Dreadful
Author: Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

The poor little Penny Dreadful has been catching it once more. Once more the British Press has stripped to its massive waist and solemnly squared up to this hardened young offender. It calls this remarkable performance a "Crusade."

I like these Crusades. They remind one of that merry passage in Pickwick (p. 254 in the first edition):--

"Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of that species of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or animated by this display of Mr. Weller's valour, is uncertain; but certain it is, that he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall, than he made a terrific onslaught on a small boy who stood next to him; whereupon Mr. Snodgrass--"

[Pay attention to Mr. Snodgrass, if you please, and cast your memories back a year or two, to the utterances of a famous Church Congress on the National Vice of Gambling.]

"--whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in a truly Christian spirit, and in order that he might take no one unawares, announced in a very loud tone that he was going to begin, and proceeded to take off his coat with the utmost deliberation. He was immediately surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice both to him and to Mr. Winkle to say that they did not make the slightest attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller, who, after a
most vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. The procession then reformed, the chairmen resumed their stations, and the march was re-commenced."

"The chairmen resumed their stations, and the march was re-commenced."
Is it any wonder that Dickens and Labiche have found no fit successors? One can imagine the latter laying down his pen and confessing himself beaten at his own game; for really this periodical "crusade" upon the Penny Dreadful has all the qualities of the very best vaudeville--the same bland exhibition of bourgeois logic, the same wanton appreciation of evidence, the same sententious alacrity in seizing the immediate explanation--the more trivial the better--the same inability to reach the remote cause, the same profound unconsciousness of absurdity.

You remember La Grammaire? Caboussat's cow has eaten a piece of broken glass, with fatal results. Machut, the veterinary, comes:--

Caboussat. "Un morceau de verre ... est-ce drole? Une vache de quatre ans."

Machut. "Ah! monsieur, les vaches ... �a avale du verre à tout �ge. J'en ai connu une qui a mangé une éponge à laver les cabriolets ... à sept ans! Elle en est morte."

Caboussat. "Ce que c'est que notre pauvre humanité!"

Our friends have been occupied with the case of a half-witted boy who consumed Penny Dreadfuls and afterwards went and killed his mother. They infer that he killed his mother because he had read Penny
Dreadfuls (post hoc ergo propter hoc) and they conclude very naturally that Penny Dreadfuls should be suppressed. But before roundly pronouncing the doom of this--to me unattractive--branch of fiction, would it not be well to inquire a trifle more deeply into cause and effect? In the first place matricide is so utterly unnatural
a crime that there must be something abominably peculiar in a form of literature that persuades to it. But a year or two back, on the occasion of a former crusade, I took the pains to study a considerable number of Penny Dreadfuls. My reading embraced all those--I believe I am right in saying all--which were reviewed, a few
days back, in the Daily Chronicle; and some others. I give you my word I could find nothing peculiar about them. They were even rather ostentatiously on the side of virtue. As for the bloodshed in them, it
would not compare with that in many of the five-shilling adventure stories at that time read so eagerly by boys of the middle and upper classes. The style was ridiculous, of course: but a bad style excites nobody but a reviewer, and does not even excite him to deeds of the kind we are now trying to account for. The reviewer in the Daily
thinks worse of these books than I do. But he certainly failed to quote anything from them that by the wildest fancy could be interpreted as sanctioning such a crime as matricide.

Let us for a moment turn our attention from the Penny Dreadful to the boy--from the éponge á laver les cabriolets to notre pauvre humanité. Now--to speak quite seriously--it is well known to every
doctor and every schoolmaster (and should be known, if it is not, to every parent), that all boys sooner or later pass through a crisis in growth during which absolutely nothing can be predicted of their behavior. At such times honest boys have given way to lying and theft, gentle boys have developed an unexpected savagery, ordinary boys--"the small apple-eating urchins whom we know"--have fallen into morbid brooding upon unhealthy subjects. In the immense majority of cases the crisis is soon over and the boy is himself again; but while it lasts,
the disease will draw its sustenance from all manner of things--things, it may be, in themselves quite innocent. I avoid particularizing for many reasons; but any observant doctor will confirm what I have said. Now the moderately affluent boy who reads five-shilling stories of adventure has many advantages at this period over the poor boy who reads Penny Dreadfuls. To begin with, the crisis has a tendency to attack him later. Secondly, he meets it fortified by a better training and more definite ideas of the difference between right and wrong, virtue and vice. Thirdly (and this is very important), he is probably under school discipline at the time--which means, that he is to some extent watched and shielded. When I think of these advantages, I frankly confess that the difference in the literature these two boys read seems to me to count for very little. I myself have written "adventure-stories" before now: stories which, I suppose--or, at any rate, hope--would come into the class of "Pure Literature," as the term is understood by those who have been writing on this subject in the newspapers. They were, I hope, better written than the run of Penny Dreadfuls, and perhaps with more discrimination
of taste in the choice of adventures. But I certainly do not feel able to claim that their effect upon a perverted mind would be innocuous.

For indeed it is not possible to name any book out of which a perverted mind will not draw food for its disease. The whole fallacy lies in supposing literature the cause of the disease. Evil men are not evil because they read bad books: they read bad books because they are evil: and being evil, or diseased, they are quickly able to
extract evil or disease even from very good books. There is talk of disseminating the works of our best authors, at a cheap rate, in the hope that they will drive the Penny Dreadful out of the market. But has good literature at the cheapest driven the middle classes from their false gods? And let it be remembered, to the credit of these
poor boys, that they do buy their books. The middle classes take their poison on hire or exchange.

But perhaps the full enormity of the cant about Penny Dreadfuls can best be perceived by travelling to and fro for a week between London and Paris and observing the books read by those who travel with first-class tickets. I think a fond belief in Ivanhoe-within-the-reach-of-all would not long survive that experiment.


Penny dreadfuls, comic books, jazz music, video games....

This piece is by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. The original date of publication? October 5, 1895. They never listen....

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May. 2nd, 2011 09:18 am Osama bin Laden

This is my two cents on the death of Osama bin Laden. I'm going to put it out there, and disable comments where I can. This is solely my opinion, and I don't need trolls or arguments with friends to make me feel bad.

I consider myself to be a liberal (fiscal conservative/social liberal, really), and I frequently vote Democrat. I vote other things too, though rarely Republican. I am proud to live in the United States of America, though I am not always proud of the choices the people in charge make. I'm not religious, but agnostic. I'm not a pacifist -- I do believe that military intervention is sometimes called for. I think that "hate" generally damages the person doing the hating more than the person being hated.

I have very clear memories of September 11, 2001. I was at home with my 8-month-old daughter, in Minneapolis. My husband called...MPR didn't have the news yet, but CNN did. I'd been to New York City twice before, never been to the World Trade Center. But watching CNN from my basement in Minneapolis, it felt like someone had struck at my heart, and the heart of the country. I was shattered. And it took some time for my little world to get back to normal. It was too quiet, lending the world an air of waiting for something to happen. They'd grounded the flights that normally went over our house, and we'd occasionally hear a military plane. But life went on, and my world did get back to normal. Mostly.

That's my life, though. Many other people had their lives much more badly torn apart than I did. And not just those that lost friends and family to the attacks. I know people that changed radically after the attack, who I internally think of as "damaged", as it seems to have pulled them apart and not let them come back together the way they were before.

After the announcement of last night, I heard stories of crowds of people chanting "USA, USA" (something that would usually get me rolling my eyes) and people cheering that Osama bin Laden was dead. I have also heard people saying how horrible this is, to cheer for a death. Tasteless though some of the reactions may be, I'm certainly not going to miss him. And I am hoping beyond hope that this will enable some of the people damaged by the attack on 9/11 to pick up the healing process once again. And I am hoping that this will help our country to heal a little bit more of the great rift that was created after 9/11. To use the inevitable metaphor, a wound with a foreign object in it will not heal properly. If the obstruction is removed, there is hope that the wound will heal correctly and the body can be strong once again. Our country needs this and so do its people.

Feb. 24th, 2011 11:16 am More books to go away!


Popcorn -- Ben Elton
Warped Factors -- Walter Koenig
Hidden Warrior -- Lynn Flewelling
Endangered Species (An 'Angel' novel) -- Holder and Mariotte
Servant of the Bones -- Anne Rice

Paperback Swap:

The Razor's Edge -- W. Somerset Maugham (one of multiple copies)


The Foxfire Book -- ed. Eliot Wigginton
Fast Food Nation -- Eric Schlosser

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Feb. 22nd, 2011 11:35 am The book purge continues

I know, you're thinking "What, two days and she's already fallen off the wagon?" Well, it was a busy weekend with lots of snow and the daughters were home both Friday and Monday. The good news is that "British Summertime" by Paul Cornell has left the house. One less book!

Today, Amazon got:

The Rising Stars of Manga 5
Wise Guy -- Nicholas Pileggi
The Elizabethan Zoo

Paperback Swap:

Pandora -- Anne Rice

charity pile:

Leah -- Seymour Epstein
The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy -- Macpherson
The Politics of Global Economic Relations -- Blake and Walters
The Politics of Policy Making in Defense and Foreign Affairs -- Hilsman
World Politics -- Kegley and Wittkopf

Yes, P. said I could get rid of the textbooks a while ago, but I never did.

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Feb. 18th, 2011 03:24 pm Day 2 of the Great Book Purge!

(I can hope, can't I?)

I should have made clear for anyone who might still be reading this, that when I said "PaperbackSwap" I meant paperbackswap.com, which I have found useful for getting rid of books I no longer want in exchange for books I do want (and in some cases, have wanted for years).

Also, since the main goal is getting rid of the books, if anybody wants something in the Paperback Swap or charity piles, just speak up and arrange a pick up time. If I think there might be a chance of getting actual cash out of it, I'm going to keep it in the Amazon pile until its month runs out.

Added to the Paperback Swap pile today in the hopes they go away:

The House of Tomorrow -- Jean Thompson
The Magnificent Wilf -- Gordon R. Dickson
The Woman Between the Worlds -- F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Caring For Your Baby and Young Child (Birth to Age 5) -- American Academy of Pediatrics

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Feb. 17th, 2011 01:10 pm I'm not dead! Whaddya know?

I have to dash off in a minute to pick up my daughters from school, but I wanted to put this on here. I'm going to try something new. Moral support would be fantastic (if anybody reads things here any more). In any case, I'm hopefully going to use this to keep track of a project, and maybe you can help guilt me into continuing if I slack off.

If you know me, you probably know that I have too many books. Like, by a factor of ten. Or more. My daughters and I have worked out a deal to help thin out their bookcases, but it doesn't help much with mine. The problem is that I like books. A lot. And some of my books I haven't read, so of course I can't get rid of those. And my kids might like them when they're older. And I can't just throw them out. And...and.... I should probably just try loading up a box and sending it away, but I can't even manage that. I'm taking baby steps. Actually, this probably insults baby steps. But this is what I'm going to do.

I have three piles: Amazon (exchangeable for cash!), PaperbackSwap (exchangeable for other books!), and charity (exchangeable for tax credit). I'm going to try to get rid of *at least* a book a day for a year. Books can sit in the Amazon or Paperback Swap piles for a maximum of one month.

So far today (and I really do need to head out, so this will probably be it):

Amazon: One Lonely Night by Mickey Spillane & 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal
Paperback Swap: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton and British Summertime by Paul Cornell

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Dec. 4th, 2010 01:58 pm streaming on Netflix

This is a partial list of things that are available streaming on Netflix that make me happy, posted mostly for a friend who is looking for recommendations. She's probably seen most of these, but I wholeheartedly recommend them to everyone except small children, and most of these would be just fine with kids as well.

84 Charing Cross Road
The 39 Steps
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
An American Werewolf in London
The Avengers
Babylon 5
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
The Big Chill
Black Dynamite
Breaking Away
Broadway: The American Musical
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Carnival of Souls
Circle of Iron
Continental Divide
Cowboy Bebop
Cry Freedom
Cyrano de Bergerac
Desk Set
Die Hard
Die Hard With A Vengeance
District B13
Doctor Who
Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Driving Miss Daisy
Duel At Diablo
The Duellists
Educating Rita
Executive Decision
F for Fake
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Frank Zappa: Apostrophe/Over-Nite Sensation
The Fugitive
The Gamers: Dorkness Rising
Gods and Monsters
Grand Illusion
Grey Gardens
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth
Heaven Can Wait
Heavy Metal
His Girl Friday
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (TV)
Hollywood SHuffle
Hudson Hawk
In & Out
Into the Woods
Ip Man
Iron Man
Johnny Got His Gun
Julie & Julia (half of it, anyway)
Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Little Shop of Horrors
LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro
Mad Max
The Mechanic (1972)
Monty Python's Flying Circus
My Man Godfrey
Nerdcore Rising
Not Quite Hollywood
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Original Gangstas
Paint Your Wagon
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Punk: THe Early Years
Repo Man
The Rockford Files
Rocky & Bullwinkle and Friends
Romancing the Stone
The Ruling Class
The Secret Garden (1993)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Space Cowboys
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Super-Size Me
Tango and Cash
Terminator 2
The Thin Blue Line
This Film is Not Yet Rated
The Tick
The Twilight Samurai
To Sir, With Love
U.S. Marshals
Wallace and Gromit
Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
The Year of Living Dangerously
You Can't Take It With You
Young Sherlock Holmes

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Nov. 28th, 2010 01:17 pm The Bibliomaniac's Prayer

The Bibliomaniac's Prayer
Eugene Field

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way
That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day,--
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan's fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.
Direct me in some godly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation's way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
They'll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes.

From A Little Book of Western Verse (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1896).
This poem is in the public domain.


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Jul. 24th, 2010 11:29 am TdF

Andy, we love you. Go eat something.

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