Semi-Random Roundup

  • Viriler. That’s the word I used as the first play of our first game of Scrabble last night. (It was four-way Scrabble: Xy vs. me vs. MaPó vs. Martin, whom we had over for basil burgers.) Because it cleared my tray, it was worth 70-some points, and of course awed my opponents. A pretty good word, I thought: the comparative form of virile, of course. You know, virile, viriler, virilest. No one challenged it, and I won the game easily. Only it turns out that viriler is not in the dictionary. I guess more virile is the preferred form. How embarrassing.
  • Thru Flickr and my blog, I’ve made the acquaintance of one Todd A. Price, who happens to be the food critic for the Gambit Weekly. He just published an article about his job in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Anyway, I got a chance to tag along on his recent visit to a po-boy joint in the Bucktown vicinity, and it was supercool fun, because he has to stay under cover and use a fake name. It was like being a secret agent, only without the risk of being shot. Mission: Fried Pickles! I’ve read restaurant reviews with an almost religious fervor since moving to New Orleans, so I got a real kick out of this.
  • Speaking of culinary experiences, I had lunch at the Marigny Brasserie today with the science fiction club. First time I’d ever been there. I had the Oyster BLT. Check out the description from their menu: “Crispy Fried Oysters, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Romaine Lettuce, Ripe Tomatoes and Horseradish Remoulade Dressing served on Toasted Brioche Bread.” Also had the truffled mushroom and pork confit. Damn, that’s some good rich food.
  • Ned used one of my Flickr pix on TanqueLogue to head up a rant about graffiti in Bloomington. He even mentioned the “No @nswers” tag in front of the church on Kirkwood! What a cranky old man.
  • A blogger made the front page of the Times-Picayune this morning, which may be a first. Seems the author of the Daily Ablution exposed a Guardian columnist’s affiliation with radical Islamic groups. Also seems the blogger, Scott Burgess, is from New Orleans.
  • Lee Harris has written a thought-provoking article titled “Do We All Worship the Same God?” which contrasts two different atheistic perspectives on the religious experience. I don’t necessarily care for the author’s views on other subjects, but I like where he’s coming from here. Essentially he seems to be arguing for an atheistic perspective which doesn’t simply dismiss religion but attempts to understand it. And it ends with a great one-liner: “Few things matter more than how men choose to deceive themselves.”

Update: As of 2012, the Lee Harris article has gone missing from the address originally cited but can still be found on the web.

Ella Dee

Just got word that Xy’s brother’s girlfriend has successfully given birth (via C-section) to a healthy baby girl: Ella Dee Paxson, six pounds and a few ounces.

I thought it was odd that the girl got her father’s last name even though the parents aren’t married, but I guess that’s patriarchy for you.

Anyway, cheers to Ella Dee.

Bonehead

After more than four months, a box of various equipment I requistioned finally arrived today. Included in this box was a 250 GB external firewire drive. I installed it at our video workstation, right on top of the 120 GB firewire drive which is currently chock-full of digital video files.

First order of business: Format the new drive into native Mac format. So I opened the Disk Utility, selected the drive, and formatted it.

Only I selected the wrong drive. Accidentally formatted the old drive, the one with all the video files.

Oops.

So now I’m trying to restore the data with a program called MovieSalvage. I think it’ll probably work, and we’ll get most everything back, but damn — I feel like an idiot.

Bird Poop in My Hair

I ride under a lot of tree branches every day. About half of my ten minute ride to work is under tree branches. These tree branches are filled with many birds, and these birds are pooping all day long. Which raises the question: After years of riding my bike to and from work every day, how much bird poop must fall directly on me without my knowing it? How much bird poop do I have in my hair right now?

A Dozen More for Good Measure

Remember when I said I was done posting pix from our vacation trip? I was wrong. I found a dozen more which I’d meant to post but forgot. The Devil’s Kitchen! Caveman BBQ! The DeVille Motor Inn! The Factory Bowl Outlet! How could I forget? I’ve added them to the set, which now stands at an even 100 pix. If you’ve already seen the others you may want to dive right in to the photostream.

Eyes

I’ve been wearing contact lenses for almost four months now. Mainly they’ve made me realize how much my glasses suck. But the contacts are far from perfect. They tend to get uncomfortable after a while — I get a bit of a headache. They’re blurry unless they’re sitting in exactly the right part of my eye. Every time I blink, they move a little.

So I’ve decided to get Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (better known as LASIK) or some other form of refractive surgery. I’ve been reading up on the risks and benefits and cost and I think it’s worth it. My dad had it about ten years ago and recommends it highly. So I’m boning up on the various lasers and hunting for good eye surgeons now.

Bitch-Ass Hot

How hot is it? It’s bitch-ass hot here in New Orleans. There’s just no other way to describe it. I asked Xy yesterday, “If you could use only one phrase to describe how hot it is, what would you say?” Her reply, of course: “It’s bitch-ass hot.” Exactly what I was thinking.

Mind you, I love the heat. But even I have to admit it’s bitch-ass hot.

I don’t know where this phrase came from or how it entered our vocabulary or even what it means, exactly. But it seems perfectly appropriate to days like today.

It’s plenty hot even if you’re doing nothing. If you’re foolish enough to attempt, say, planting some sage and basil, especially in the afternoon, the sweat runs down into your eyes and drips off your nose.

Bitch. Ass. Hot.

Holiday or Vacation?

I’d originally put in for last Monday as a vacation day. But I came back from our trip a few days early, and was ready to go in to work — only the University was closed because of Hurricane Dennis.

My first thought was, “They’re going to screw me. I deserve to get that vacation day back, but they’re going to screw me out of it!”

Then I calmed down and for some reason I actually thought, “No, they’ll be reasonable, and I’ll get my vacation day back.” I don’t know why I thought that. I must have been momentarily insane.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from HR that confirmed this:

You’re crazy if you think you’re getting that vacation day back.

So I’m getting screwed. But somehow I no longer care.

Shooting Blanks?

All the fretting we’ve been doing lately — me for the last few years, Xy for the last few months — about whether or not to have a child — has an ironic aspect. We have good reason to suspect that one of us may be shooting blanks.

Consider: We’ve been married and enjoying conjugal relations for nearly twelve years with no pregnancies. In fact, neither one of us has experienced pregnancy with any previous partner. I’ve been sexually active for 19 years, with three partners, none of whom have gotten pregnant. Xy has been sexually active for 23 years, with about ten times as many partners, and hasn’t gotten pregnant once.

OK, it’s hardly conclusive. We’ve both diligently practiced birth control. Perhaps it’s just a combination of that and luck. But it does raise the possibility that one of us might be physically incapable of having a child.

If that proves to be the case, the burning question becomes, “Do we want to adopt a child?” But that question seems to burn a little less intensely, for some reason. Less biological clock pressure, I suppose.

And of course I’d be pissed about all the hassle thrown away on birth control over the years.

Crash Course

Our friend’s sister is getting married in a hurry, because the groom has to ship off to Iraq. They had a videographer lined up, but because they had to change the date and fast-forward everything, that fell through.

So they asked me. Yikes! I’ve videotaped two weddings, one of which qualified as a complete disaster. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy either, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing — like me. Sure, I know some of the technical details of how to operate video equipment, but there’s more to a good wedding video than that. And you basically have one shot to record one of the most important events in these people’s lives, so you’d better get it right.

I love weddings, but the thought of having to videotape one makes me break out in a cold sweat. But that’s beside the point, because in this case I couldn’t do it. It’s four hours away, so it would have to be an all-day affair, and I’ve got work obligations.

So…

Xy volunteered, and I just gave her a crash course in how our crappy little video camera works, and instructed her on the finer points of using our even crappier tripod, which actually broke (again) during the tutorial. It’s mended with a paper clip.

As I gave her pointer after pointer, she started to feel the pressure and began freaking out. “I can’t do this!” I laughed. Better her than me. But she’s nervous because she actually cares, which means she will likely do a halfway decent job, as opposed to someone who takes a cavalier approach and makes an unwatchable video.

Back to Work

Back to work today, and it was quite comfortable to be back in my office doing what I do. Cozy, almost. All the familiar faces and routines. And the long list of equipment I requisitioned something like three months ago still isn’t here! Yet another snag — haven’t figured out what it is yet.

As for Fountainebleau yesterday, it was a blissful experience. After six years living here, I finally immersed myself in the waters of Lake Ponchartrain. Locals who grew up and remember a dirty nasty lake might be skeptical, but it certainly seemed clean to me. There’s a nice beach there at the state park, just over the causeway, and the lake is so big you can’t see the other side. That makes it seem kind of like the ocean. If I wade out a long way, the water actually comes up to my waist. Well, it’s better than the ankle-deep water on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And there’s a stand of old cypress trees that seems almost supernaturally beautiful. There are dead ones a few feet out into the lake itself, draped with living moss swaying in the breeze. Gigantic blue and green dragonflies flitting about.

And as I waded and Xy floated on her inflatable raft, we discussed the idea of maybe — just maybe — having a child someday. I asked Xy about her reservations, fears and misgivings. She mainly seems to be worried about a loss of independence and freedom; specifically there are three areas where her style might be cramped:

  1. Sleeping in.
  2. For legal reasons I can’t mention the second reason, so use your imagination.
  3. Financial worries.

I worry about all those things, too. Well, I don’t sleep quite as much as Xy. I worry about thousands of other things. But I’m profoundly ambivalent. I also cherish many hopes. But all this is trivial. Over the years, I’ve boiled my hopes and fears down to their sheer essence, down to two entirely contradictory and irrefutable arguments. I don’t think I’ve posted about that yet, but I will. Some day. Soon.

All About Chiggers

I’ve been reading about chiggers, and it’s fascinating stuff. I thought they were insects. I thought they burrowed into your skin. Wrong on both counts!

But I can’t find any reference to the hot water treatment for chigger bites.

In the past, when I’ve had poison ivy rash, I’ve found that bathing in extremely hot water provides hours of relief from the itching. I figured it might also work for my chigger bites, so I’ve been soaking my feet in hot water. I’m happy to report it works pretty well. The key, I think, is to make the water as hot as you can stand.

Trip Metrics

We got home last night. This was the longest vacation Xy and I have been on together, ever.

  • Days away: 16
  • Miles travelled: 2,506
  • Gas burned: Maybe $150 worth, but I kinda lost track.
  • Money spent: No idea.
  • Beds slept: 7
  • People visited: About 20?
  • Flags burned: 1 (on International Flag Burning Day, of course)
  • Lost along the way: My ignition key. Fortunately Xy brought hers too.
  • Automobile disasters: Only one! A flying rock chipped our windshield on the way home.
  • Chigger bites: numerous (Thanks, Scott & Justine!)

Itinerary: New Orleans > Forrest City, Arkansas > Silverleaf’s Ozark Mountain Resort, Missouri (in Mark Twain National Forest) > Waynesville, Missouri > St. Louis, Missouri > Monrovia, Indiana > Bloomington, Indiana > Indianapolis, Indiana > New Orleans

We got home last night at about 9:40pm, which mean it took almost exactly twelve hours to drive the 816 miles from Indianapolis.

We’d planned to stay in Bloomington until July 10th for a big anti-I-69 protest which I wanted to videotape for ROX, but we didn’t because it didn’t seem to be actually happening as planned, perhaps in part because of news the previous week that I-69 is going to be on hold for 10 or fifteen years. (But my sources say this is a smoke screen designed to short-circuit the protestors.)

We also hurried home because of weather. We just missed Tropical Storm Cindy by a few days, but we’re back in time for Hurricane Dennis. It seemed possible we’d have to rush home, grab the pets, and evacuate, which would have sucked. Looks like we’re now just outside the cone of probability, so we’ll ride this one out.

Plus, we were tired of being on the road. We enjoyed the trip a great deal, but it’s good to be home again.

Other random observations:

  • Cottondale, Alabama, is an epicenter of stupidity and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Downtown Indianapolis sure has changed — for the better.
  • All those high-rise apartment buildings in downtown Bloomington seem like a net positive to me.

It was great seeing everyone I saw, and if I missed you this time — sorry! Hopefully next time.

I’ll be posting pix to Flickr soon.

Strange Transitions

Last night we ate dinner in a cave. We woke up this morning in the DeVille Motel in Waynesville, Missouri, perhaps slightly hungover from the previous night’s bout of drinking at a local nightclub. Soon we were touring Onandaga Cave. Shortly thereafter we ate lunch at Homer’s BBQ, a little hole-in-the-wall in Sullivan, Missouri, where Homer himself said we didn’t have to pay since we were short on cash. And now I’m sipping chilled Chardonnay in an exquisitely appointed 9th-floor loft right in downtown St. Louis.

View from the Loft

That’s the short version. When last I wrote, I was on a crappy metered dial-up connection. And I had to use Windows. But now I’ve got a Mac and some stolen high-speed wifi, so I can expand a little. Let me back up:

Caveman Xy

Caveman BBQ is a place I’d read about and wanted to visit because it sounded intriguing. It’s a restaurant in a cave, way out in the boondocks, a few miles outside Richland, Missouri. We ate there last night. It had a certain charm, and indeed it really is in a cave. Our server was a sullen teenager who seemed so utterly disinterested that it was actually a source of great amusement. Xy thought the barbecue sauce tasted familiar, “just like KC Masterpiece.” I almost pooh-poohed this as an insult to the integrity of the chef, but shortly thereafter I heard another patron inquire as to the provenance of the sauce, and the server (another person, not our sullen teen) replied with a chuckle: “Actually it’s KC Masterpiece!” I don’t know if he was joking. I suspect not. But I guess you go to Caveman BBQ for the experience, not for the cuisine. Verdict: provisionally recommended, especially if you can manage to canoe there on the Gasconade. That would be awesome.

Xy Falls

It started raining, hard, after we left Caveman BBQ, so we pulled off 44 at Waynesville and stayed at the DeVille Motor Inn.

Xy on the Counter

Xy Tankard

Waynesville seems to have an inordinate number of bars, tattoo parlors, and adult bookstores. Quite a few churches too. Perhaps it has something to do with the proximity to Ft. Leonard Woods. There were a lot of military types at Torches, the incredibly cheesy bar we ducked into for a few drinks. Loud, horrible music, overpriced drinks, obnoxious DJ. Verdict: avoid at all costs.

Lily Pads

This morning: the Onandaga Cave in Onandaga State Park. Words fail me. Tres cool. We dropped our last cash on a guided tour. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Weird Features

Homer's Bar-BQ

Homer’s BBQ in Sullivan was, frankly, much better than Caveman. It’s bedecked with patriotic and religious slogans, and Homer invited us to a Bible study tomorrow morning, and spoke with evident sincerity about the prospect of eternal bliss in union with the godhead — and the peril of eternal torment and damnation. Perhaps he sensed we were heathens. He seemed a very sweet man. He showed us a photo of a wheelchair ramp they’d just built for a man with no legs. When I realized we were short on cash, he didn’t seem concerned. He said the purpose of the joint was more to spread God’s love than to make money. Nevertheless, or perhaps allthemoreso, I was compelled to find the nearest ATM and rush back to pay him. Verdict: Recommended if you’re passing Sullivan on 44.

What is She Doing for God?

And now we’re in St. Louis, visiting Xy’s college roommate, Lori Jones, a.k.a. LoJo. This loft is absolutely stunningly gorgeous, the kind of place you dream about if you’re an art-fag wannabe like myself. It has the kind of austere beauty that I’m not sure I’d have the discipline to maintain.

LoJo Hugs Henry

I note there’s some KC Masterpiece in the fridge.

And I just read that Sandra O’Connor is resigning.

Damn.