bunrab: (me)
We are visiting fairs this summer - it's a project. The first couple of fairs were in July - quite early as ag fairs go.

Week of July 26: the Cecil County fair, up in Elkton. Admission to this one is only $2 for seniors, and that's 60+ so that we both count as seniors, so we didn't bother aiming for Senior Day, though if we had, according to the schedule, there would have been several hours of senior-specific things going on. We went on Wednesday. This fair opens to the public at 9, but several of the shows aren't until afternoon, so we aimed for getting there at noon, as with last week. This is our longest drive, 75 miles to get there, and thanks to roadwork and random traffic, it took us nearly 2 hours, so we actually got there at 12:30. This was instantly, obviously, a better-run fair than Washington County; they had guys directing parking, and marked handicapped spaces, and an actual front gate with cheery young people staffing the admissions kiosks. We asked about food, and the young lady pointed us toward it. The midway wasn't open at this one either - according to the website http://www.cecilcountyfair.org/ it opens at 5. So no fair food here, either - the Lions Club has their own little permanent building and they were serving lunch, a limited menu but the fair special of "Chicken Fingers and Freedom Fries" was quite reasonably priced and lots of food, and despite the silly name, the french fries were good. They have a picnic table area in the shade.  The food area has wi-fi - of /course/ it does; there were several people with their laptops, who appeared to be exhibitors (you can sort of tell them - the uniform of shorts and well-worn tall boots tells you who's mucking out stalls.)

After lunch we started walking around - this is still a small fairgrounds, compared to some, but they have enough permanent buildings to put on a good show. We went through the commercial building first, which was pretty dead in the water except for a Tupperware lady and a Bible Association; all the other booths were unstaffed. There was an additional tent with more vendors out back of that, nothing I wanted to buy, and 2 whole booths taken up by a Baptist church - even though we didn't meet anybody's eye, they still started calling out to us. Anyway - Home Arts, small but larger than Washington County. Several quilts, some crocheted items, lots of sewing, and lots of canning - three multi-shelved stands full of jams and pickled veggies and corn relish and so on, very attractive. Lots of kids' art. Decent array of baked goods, though since the building isn't air conditioned some things were sagging. Lots of fans - the temperature was comfortable enough in the shade, and they did not stint on the fans anywhere. Next building over rabbits and pigs. A very few pigs - not a great swine turnout. There were probably as many rabbits as at Washington, but they were poorly caged and poorly labeled; I felt quite sorry for the poor buns; they didn't have enough space or enough ventilation, and a lot of them weren't even labelled by breed. Then on to Poultry, of which there was a decent assortment, a few turkeys and quite a few varieties of chickens. Not as wide a variety as Montgomery County (more later on that) but still a decent variety for a small show, including some of the really silly ones where it's difficult to tell that it's a bird, let alone what species of bird it might be. Onward: goats, and more goats. A few sheep, lots of goats. In fact, the goats took over one of the horse barns as well. Goats like Larry; we always have goats trying to stick their faces up into Larry's face. A couple of cow barns.

By then it was getting warmish; we didn't slog all the way over to the other horse barn, the big one, because it was set off from the
rest, and besides, it was almost time for the afternoon entertainment to start. That's right, real scheduled entertainment, during the day! (The night-time entertainment Wednesday night would be a rodeo; we weren't going to stay for it, but it's apparently a big deal there, and people come specifically for that.) First up, Skybound Canine Entertainment - trained dogs catching discs and jumping through hoops - well, sort of trained: these are all rescue dogs, and part of the point of the show is to show how much you can do in the way of training and playing with even an older dog. The fanciest part of the show was the dock-diving: they had several dogs doing dives into a large pool, and a mini-Australian-Shepherd name of Ray-Ray did a 21 foot dive into the pool. Ray-Ray truly loves his job. A few seconds watching the chainsaw-wood-carving guy (the carvings weren't for sale during the day, but were being auctioned and raffled off at night.) Then over to the Kachunga Alligator Show. Yes, real alligators. No, one can't teach an alligator to do tricks. It's mostly an educational thing; the guy sits on an 8-foot alligator and opens its mouth and explains the teeth, and the alligator's various water adaptations (did you know that alligators can hold their breath for up to an hour?) and then after dragging the alligator around by the tail, he let it go back in its shaded cubby, and brought out 2 baby alligators, and invited all the kids in the audience to come have their pictures taken holding a real live alligator. I found it educational; Larry hadn't though it would be real alligators, so he was surprised. Then, after a few minutes' break, a magic show - nice enough, though the fancy showgirls painted on the sidings were in reality one young man assistant dressed in black. The neatest trick, to me, was turning a white dove into a much larger white rabbit into a full-size white standard poodle. The magician did have each of them wave to us before turning them into something else. He asked for a child volunteer from the audience to help on one trick, but the 2-year-old who volunteered wasn't quite up to the task. Part of the problem was that we were all sitting in the upper bleachers in the shade, rather than the bleachers closer to the stage but out in the direct sunlight. That made it difficult to talk people into things. And it /was/ getting hotter. So, at that point the Young Farmers had opened up their ice cream booth, and we went over and had ice cream, and then headed home, having spent almost 3 and a half hours there.

Verdict? A bit of a long drive for us, but the cheap price of admission, plus the vast improvement in most things over the Washington County fair, made us feel that we did get our money's worth at the Cecil County fair. And if it wasn't so hot and Larry didn't have to work Thursday, staying for the rodeo (included in the price of admission!) might well have been fun.
bunrab: (me)
That's what Frederick calls their county fair. I won't say it was great, but it was a reasonable amount of fun. Frederick is a far more agricultural county than Montgomery, but it didn't have more animals - fewer horses than either Montgomery or the State Fair. Sheep, well, everyone seems to have plenty of sheep and goats and dairy cattle, and there was no shortage here. A decent size poultry barn, not quite the size of Montgomery but certainly far better than the state fair; Sebrights seemed to be one of the fancy chickens of choice, and there were a few of those funny crested ones, and one called a Phoenix because of its tail feathers - looks vaguely like insect antennae to me - and a few Mille Fluiers (why they have to spell that so oddly for chickens, I don't know) which have lovely polka dots. A little pool full of baby ducks paddling around. The rabbits were a disappointment - the entire rabbit section consisted of three lionheads, half a dozen himalayans, and two Jersey Woolies. I will say, Larry is beginning to be able to recognize rabbit breeds; I guess I'm having a bad influence on him. He really goes for the lionheads every time, so I'm guessing that my next rabbit, once Fern is no longer with us, will be a lionhead. (Fern is still going strong - she was approximately 10 years old in approximately April, and she's doin' fine. Skinnier and eating a bit less than when she was younger, but vigorous and bright-eyed.)

Over by Dairy Cattle there was a "Birthing Center" with baby pigs and cows a couple days old, and a couple very pregnant cows waiting to drop any second. Cute pile o' baby pigs!

The Home Arts was somewhat bigger than Montgomery, though nowhere near the State Fair. More quilts than Montgomery, by far, including a couple that I'm pretty sure were in the State Fair. The display of the quilts wasn't good though - most of them were folded far too small. I think you have to be able to see at least 1/4 of a quilt to appreciate it at all, and many of these were folded and hanging over racks against the wall so that you could only see an eighth or a twelfth of the quilt. A lot more crocheted things than Montgomery, too. Many really nice crocheted afghans. Lots and lots and lots of baked goods - we wandered through them counting the Rice Krispies treats (none of those won any awards, amazingly enough). The decorated cakes were pretty cool, including one with so many flowers on it that I pretty much had to just take their word for it that there was a cake under there. And loooooots of canned stuff  - relishes and pickles and veggies (didn't see much jam or jelly at all, come to think of it) - and more relish and more pickles, pickled beets and watermelon pickle and oh, how you can tell this is the 21st century, lots and lots of salsa. I'm thinking that a county as pasty-white as Frederick probably didn't have a lot of salsa entries in the canning category a generation ago. One thing here that I hadn't seen at Monty or the State Fair was quite a few skeins of hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn, including one that was one of the Best in Show winners overall for home arts. And several of the sewing entries were historical costumes.

Free tote bag from someone in the Commercial building, and quite a few free pencils from both Commercial and the Farm & Home building (where the various state and county farm-related agencies have booths, and the Dept of Natural Resources, and so on.) And we stopped and wound up talking to the ladies at the Grange booth for quite a while, and Larry bought the Maryland Grange Cookbook. Larry's grandfather had belonged to the Grange in Pennsylvania.

I forget what the pavilion was called that had a few animals to be petted - two alpacas, possibly the same ones that were at Montgomery, 2 miniature horses, a mother and her six-month old colt, a couple of smallish burros, bunch of geese, one grumpy turkey. Pygmy goats.

One way you could tell that Frederick is more ag than Montgomery or the state as a whole is how much of the space was devoted to the farm machinery exhibits - big chunk of land, lots of other things besides tractors - big metal feeders, things we didn't even recognize... and lots of space devoted to vendors of various sheds and pole buildings. Those were nice, chances to step into some shade and rest. Oddly enough, for the kids' stuff, far more 4-H than FFA - I would have thought that FFA would have a bigger presence here.

And as expected, being several weeks later in the year than the other fairs, the giant pumpkins were in fact much, much larger. Not as large as the Massachusetts State Fair, but way larger than any of the earlier fairs in Maryland - the champion here was 220 pounds. (I don't recall any at the State Fair being over 90 pounds.) And lots more of the small gourds and squashes than the earlier fairs, including some of the largest pattypan squash I have ever seen. Just for fun, a decorated potato contest - the one we liked best was half a dozen potatoes dressed up as Minions. Most of the potatoes were in dioramas to add to the effect, thought there was one potato decorated as a chicken that was good in its simplicity  - the potato had grown pretty much in a chicken shape, with neck and head at one end and a tail-ish point at the other; all the kid did was add eyes and a beak and a bit of color.

We wound up not buying any food - I think we were already fair-fooded out for the season - just some iced tea. We cut our browsing through the Midway a bit short because I was exhausted and Larry had an allergic reaction to something, we have no idea what, that made his hands puff up. They went down again in a couple hours, but it was certainly mysterious. Something someone was using to groom their sheep or cow? Something in the finish on a pole building? Anyway, we even resisted the candy maze guy - we still have candy left from the last two fairs anyway.

Overall: handicapped parking is very good, there's lots of parking, admission price reasonable, a decent fair experience though most of the entertainment was going to be just harness racing, no big acts. Very good on the produce-and-canning areas, decent showing of crochet and quilting, adequate on the animals and that birthing center was a nice touch; relatively small amount of "commercial" outside of the farm machinery and farm supplies areas. Worth spending an afternoon at if you're in the area, though probably not worth driving 50 miles to if you've got your own county fair nearer by. (Actually only about 35 miles from either my or Larry's place.) Since the Howard County fair (the county where I live) is pretty darn small, I will continue to regard the Montgomery County one as my go-to fair, of all those I've been to here so far.  Yes, I have to admit it, though I hate saying anything nice about Texas, but the State Fair of Texas is in fact a damn good state fair, better than the one here. I am NOT, however, going to travel 1400 miles each way to go to that Fair every year!
bunrab: (me)
We went to the animal fair
All the birds and beasts were there

Well, maybe not all, but lots. The Montgomery County fair is a big one, much bigger than Howard County (where I live, and which was back a week and a half ago) and almost as big as the State Fair. In some areas, bigger. Although the State Fair has lots more Home Arts (arts and crafts) it's got a really pitiful rabbit and poultry section, whereas the Monty Cty fair has an entire rabbit barn and an entire poultry barn. Now, I do miss visiting fairs with Steve, who would have looked at every single animal as closely as I do, and talked to every single rabbit, and laughed at every single chicken, but on the other hand, with Steve, I never would have gotten to the Montgomery fair at all - we only went to the State Fair up here. (Back in TX, we didn't make it to the State Fair every year - Dallas is a bit of a hike and hotels are often quite full those weeks - but when we did, of course that's an enormous fair, and some years we went to the Travis County fair, which isn't as interesting animal-wise but certainly had one of the hugest exhibits of new farm equipment I've seen.) And Steve really didn't care about the Home Arts stuff that much, despite that I do all sorts of crafts; it's nice to go through the quilting and knitting and needlepoint with someone who does want to look at it (if not quite as closely as I do).

So we got there shortly after opening, early enough to get one of the closest handicapped parking spots and to have first pick of the rental electric scooters, the availability of which at fairs is one of the great innovations of the 21st century, I think. The one I got was pretty peppy - it did hills surprisingly well compared to some. Not that great a turning circle, but I didn't get horribly stuck anywhere. Today was Senior Citizens Day - discounted admission for those over 62, which Larry took advantage of. One of the neat things about Senior Citizens Day is that lots of the old folks older than us just thought we looked harmless and therefore stopped right next to us at random moments to tell us interesting facts about how the fair was in their day, or to chat about whatever object we were all standing near. It's nice to be able to serve as a harmless ear for people who need to convince other people that they still have something worth saying.

There was a raptor show going on over at the community stage, with some lovely owls, and we stopped by their booth later, too, to peer more closely at the owls. Some interesting information about owl hearing and about owl flying, especially as compared to other raptors. They did have a red-tailed hawk, too.

The rabbit barn was dominated by Dutch, mini-lop, dwarfs, and mini-rex, but there were a couple of multi-colored full-size rex (polka dots in more than one color on white) and one really nice Rhinelander whose ears were a gorgeous tortoiseshell mottle. A couple of Jersey Woolies and an American Fuzzy Lop. And a few Lionheads, which caught Larry's eye. They're still a relatively new breed for showing, and there weren't a lot of them. One Flemish giant, a medium 15-pounder, not terribly big as Flemmies go. There weren't many of the giant breeds at all, that one Flemmie and a couple of NZWs, no Californias and no Checkered Giants (my favorite breed). Checkered Giants seem to do best further north - the Massachusetts state fair always had a good assortment of them when I lived up there. A full-sized angora and a fair couple dozen English lops rounded out the large rabbits. I gotta say, I've never been that fond of the really smushed-in faces of Netherlands Dwarfs of show quality. When we were looking at the Jersey Wooleys I was explaining about spinners who keep them and angoras as pets and then spin their own rabbit yarn.

We made the mistake of going in the "Chilly Mall" (the air-conditioned commercial vendors' building) before we ate lunch, which meant that the pick-your-own-candy booth sucked us in, and we walked through the maze of candy bins and came out with 3/4 of a pound of assorted root beer barrels and Squirrel Nut Zippers and caramels and Atomic Fireballs and so on. Other than that, we didn't spend any money on stuff or souvenirs, just on food, which was, of course, bad for us. Pit beef and sausages for lunch. Hey, at least we avoided corn dogs and fried Oreos. The county fairs have much less fried stuff than the State Fair or the average RenFair - no fried cheese, no fried ice cream, no fried peanut butter... We were too full to try the roasted corn ears and limeade when we got to them.

The Home Arts was, as I said, somewhat smaller than the State Fair, but there were a couple of nice quilts and a spectacular quilted table runner, and quite a few nice cross-stitch pieces. In the knitting and crochet, there were almost no sweaters at all - one women's sweater and a couple of kids' sweaters, that's it. There will be more of those at the State Fair, I'm sure. Some felted pieces that are best described as "interesting." And, there was a spinning exhibition, and sure enough, there was a lady hand-trimming her American Fuzzy Lop, who was mostly hypnotized lying on his back in her lap while she trimmed him. Very relaxed rabbit.

There were not many ducks or turkeys in the poultry barn - just a couple token ones. We saw quite a few sheep and goats being sheared over in the sheep barns, but that's not as funny as watching the rabbits. The only alpacas were the ones in Old MacDonald's Barn for the kids, where there was also one full-grown camel, but no llamas. I guess the camelids aren't as popular in Montgomery County as some places. There was a goat judging going on, and it was interesting watching the kids pose their goats, adjusting their legs a couple inches one way or another. Some nice large horses in the horse barn - a Belgian, a couple American Drafts, and one Clydesdale, and a Percheron who looked a tad small compared to those guys, though Percherons are not a small breed. You can tell I've been to more ag fairs than the average urban dweller; I can tell those apart, as well as being able to spot a Silkie chicken at 100 paces and tell a Barred Plymouth Rock hen from a Laced Wyandotte at 50 paces. I will say I remain as ignorant of cow breeds as ever - I know that Holsteins are the "cow-patterned" white and black ones, and recognize a Brahma, but other than that, I'm just, "oh, there's a brown one, there's a black one." Larry, on the other hand, can tell a Jersey from a Guernsey. His grandad had a farm, and used one of the red brand of tractors - I forget the name of it now, but one of the red ones. Me, I recognize big green, but really don't notice the other brands that much - though when I see the orange Kubota equipment, I can't help but think of kabocha squash, which is a Japanese pumpkin, not an orange one but a pumpkin which makes me think of orange and so... well, maybe that's silly, but I think of them as Japanese Pumpkin equipment.

Anyhoo, around 2:30 the overcast burnt off, the temperature rose 10 degrees in half an hour and I started to worry about sunburn, so we headed back to the midway, ate some fried dough - it ain't a fair if you don't eat fried dough or funnel cakes - and headed home around 3, with Larry a bit tired from doing all the walking and me a bit tired from that last half hour of heat and sun. I feel fairly well Faired.
bunrab: (Default)
When last seen, we were headed toward San Diego. We drove down CA-78, through a great deal of sand, some of which seems to be used by a great many dune buggies out in the middle of nowhere. Sand, sand, and more sand. Glamis, CA, appears to consist entirely of an RV lot and a place to start one's dune buggy/ATV off into the sand from. Finally we got down to I-8, to zoom into San Diego. We arrived early enough in the day to get in a couple hours at the Reuben Fleet Science Museum, before checking into our RV park down in Chula Vista. That museum is one of the other places we had visited in San Diego on our previous trip. We ate supper at a really good Thai place in Chula Vista. The RV park was quite nice, and quite large. Good laundry facilities, extensive, well-stocked store. Then Monday morning, the point of going to San Deigo: the zoo! Got there a little after 11; on a weekday, had no trouble at all finding 2 parking spaces for the RV. My scooter worked just fine. Weather was perfect - sunny, but never quite hit 70 degrees F. So, we started with the 40-minute bus tour, just to get a quick overview of where things were and what looked best. Capybaras, giraffes, lions, the big stuff, were easily visible from the bus. When we got back to the beginning and retrieved the scooter, we had to decide which way to go. We didn't so much decide as drift, and we wound up at the meerkats fairly quickly. Although the bus tour had mentioned juvenile meerkats, they hadn't mentioned what we found most interesting: a mother meerkat carrying an infant by the scruff of his neck, finally putting him down in a spot where she and another meerkat - dad? - could sunbathe. Steve got several good pictures of the baby, and I'll get them posted when we get home. We probably spent half an hour with the meerkats; this is why we almost never get to see a whole zoo; we tend to keep watching the animals being themselves. Anyway, there were koalas, doing the absolutely nothing that koalas do so well. And there was young panda - 9 months old, not exactly a baby any more, but sort of a panda toddler. Eating carrots and apples and climbing into a hammock and nibbling on his toes. And then there were the warthogs. The baby warthogs were actually just nursing on mom and occasionally wiggling around. Dad warthog had the most peculiar hair/mane cut. But it was the juvenile warthogs that kept us amused for quite a while. They were climbing all over a large stack of tree trunks, much as you'd picture goats would do. The young warthogs are pretty sleek, a reddish color with white stripes and spots, like baby deer and baby tapirs (we had fun watching a very large tapir wade through a pool, too!). And the juveniles were endlessly playful, playing tag, dashing over to annoy mom and then dart out of her way, back around the entire compound in one zoom, back up the logs and then a leap off of them... it's a pity the gift shop didn't have much in the way of warthog gifts. I nonetheless managed to find stuff to buy; the younger Schoenlebers will find themselves stuck with panda souvenirs.

Tuesday was our drive up to Sunnyvale and Oakland. Somewhere along the way we passed a car dealership called Mossy Toyota; we managed to make more jokes about that than we should have. Cindy, you should be quite glad you're not with us; our conversation would drive you *completely* around the bend. The less said about I-5, the better. It's a giant reminder that most of CA is desert or mountains or both, and should never have been densely settled, and *certainly* we shouldn't have tried to irrigate all of it and then have the farmers get upset when the water starts running out. Because Los Angeles apparently always has traffic jams, no matter what, and because the RV isn't very good at reaching the speed limit when doing serious climbing uphill, we got to Sunnyvale very late, and had a nice but hurried visit with Kartik and Usha. Thank you for the cupcakes, Usha! And then we drove up to Oakland, managed to find Jeremy's in the dark, managed to park the RV on their winding street, staggered in, ate a banana, and went to sleep.

We spent Wednesday hanging out and eating food, and playing with Jeremy and Brenda's new dog, a totally sweet Papillon named Yukon, who DOES NOT YAP. Seriously, Not one single yap the whole time we were there. An adorable dog. Emily and Anika were adorable, too, of course. It was great to get the chance to relax and talk. Family stuff, not really anything the rest of y'all need me to post about. Thursday morning, B packed us a whole bunch of tamales and rice for the road, which we have just finished eating here at the RV park in Elko, NV.

Nevada should never have been settled by anybody for any reason. It is completely ridiculous that places like Elko are here. I was ready to do a whole rant about that, but it wore off some. Really, though, there is no point to humans attempting to settle the area between the Sierra Nevada and Salt Lake City, and the fact that these towns are here and have casinos is proof that humans do not have enough common sense to continue to support the species for very long.

Tomorrow: more I-80! Contain your glee!
bunrab: (bunearsword)
Saturday night when we landed in Blythe after some 550 miles of I-10, I was too tired to do a lot in the way of writing.

So where were we? Last time you saw us in any detail, we were in Van Horne. We had to turn on the heat overnight there - altitude sure makes a difference in temperature! We left Van Horn pretty much on time, stopped in El Paso for lunch - Luby's! I do miss Luby's cafeteria. And infinite refills of good unsweetened iced tea before one has to ask. And a huge bin of sliced limes for the iced tea... When we stopped for gas off of I-10 at Rt. TX-178, there were signs for the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. I-10 does run close to the border! We topped off again in Lordsburg, NM, in an attempt to not have to buy gas in AZ - you know I like lots of people who live in AZ, a Denizen or so here, a musician there, but I'm still really peeved at your state for the "Ihre Papieren, bitte!" law. Anyway, we also bought iced tea in Lordsburg, traded places in driving...

New Mexico at that latitude is not very wide, only 150 miles or so. We did note when we crossed the Continental Divide. Whee! (Look it up, people, look it up.) We weren't really going downhill much after that, though - it was still uphill, regardless of drainage basins. And that continuing uphill really started screwing with our gas mileage.

If I hadn't already mentioned this, once one is west of Fredericksburg, TX, the predominant color is tan. Sometimes it's a reddish tan, sometimes as pale as beige, sometimes distinctly taupe, but it's all shades of tan. It got steadily tanner as we went further west, too. More about that later.

Middle of nowhere: pecan orchard. A couple of *miles* of pecan orchard (we knew that was what kind of tree it was by the sign advertising "Pecans, walnuts, wine" at the side of the highway.) Desert, desert, desert, then all of a sudden this huge chunk of green trees in orderly rows. A few blocks of saplings, but quite a few blocks of trees that were a good height - not as mature as, say, Sam's trees, but probably somewhere between 10 and 20 years old, which means someone had successfully been irrigating a huge area for a long time. Then we happened to try the radio and up popped some Dixieland jazz - it turned out to be A Prairie Home Companion, from a station in Tucson, even though we were still more than an hour east of Tucson. That station stayed good reception for quite a ways west - we listened to all of PHC, then it went to classical music, and when that finally started getting fuzzy, we scanned and found a classical station in Phoenix that lasted us for another 100 miles. We also saw lots of saguaro from the highway. I <3 saguaro. (On our previous road trip almost 25 years ago, we had stopped in and taken a tour at Saguaro National Monument on our way back from San Diego to Austin.)

Some of how we amuse ourselves on long drives is making fun of signs. Certainly the signs in New Mexico warning us "Caution! Dust storms may exist." weren't terribly helpful. I mean, we already know dust storms exist; there's a lot of scientific evidence for them, almost as much as for gravity. It would be a lot more helpful to have signs that warned us where and when to expect to meet up with said storms, yes? Other signs we made fun of: AZ has something weird going on, as long after we were past any city, out in the middle of nowhere and its dog, were exits for "339th Ave" and then "411th Ave" - those numbers seem rather high for avenues, even if one were naming streets uniformly across a whole county never mind a city...

We did have to get a couple of gallons of gas in Tempe, AZ - we clearly weren't going to make it all the way across 400 miles of AZ on one tank, given the awful gas mileage we were getting due to heat and a terrific headwind. At the time, we noted that from Tempe to the CA border is about 150 miles, and then on the map, Blythe is a tiny fraction of an inch past that.

We pulled into the KOA in Blythe, CA around 10 pm Pacific, and the guy was still at the desk. Lots of oleander! We ate Connie's tamale pie for supper. Let us note that in fact, the KOA *is* a fraction of an inch past the border - one enters the CA stop-and-deny-having-fruit customs booth right on the border; the exit for the KOA is immediately past the inspection booths, and then the road curves under the highway - so that the campground itself is maybe a bit east of the customs booth, and north of it, hovering directly at the border. The GPS units - all our various phone thingies - all did not seem to sense that anything past the first few feet of Riviera Dr. existed; it took some effort to find that turn going under the highway and spot the sign for the campground!

More later about the last westward leg.
bunrab: (saxophone)
Did you know that? If you weren't sure it was true, I'd be happy to send you some of the rabbit fur collecting in corners, as proof - yes, our dust bunnies are made out of real bunnies!!

I did some repairs to wooden toys this afternoon, with mending plates and angle brackets. An internet seller of rabbit play tunnels and such was going out of business, so I ordered some of the last of their stuff (half price!), and, as in previous orders, one piece arrived broken - which may explain part of why they went out of business. Well, no refunds or returns, so I put the tunnel aside for a few weeks. But finally decided that I needed a clearer living room floor, so it and a previous "play station" that had a leg broken off got fixed. We had previously tried gluing the broken leg, but it didn't hold up for long. Metal mending plates should be able to withstand a four-pound rabbit. I traded around who has what kind of tunnels and toys - now Chippy chin has the smaller play station, since the Funnybunnies didn't like it so much; the Funnybunnies have a second litter box to chew on and scatter around; Fern has the refurbished large play station, instead of a tunnel where she can hide herself too much; and the repaired tunnels are now what's between cages - one between Fern and Funnybunnies, one between FBs and Gizmo, and one between Gizmo and the big plastic bin that keeps the hay and Carefresh more or less safe from rabbits. Fern actually seems to like the new setup - she jumped up and down and up again from the new tunnel, and perched on it for a while, which she hadn't when it was in her cage; she had only ever gone under it.

Wednesday MVCB had just a library work session, not a rehearsal, so I didn't have to bring my bari sax. So I emailed my teacher that I was gonna bring my soprano sax for my lesson instead, and then bungeed said soprano onto the back of the bike and rode over there, instead of using the cage. Great weather for it. A big accident on I-95 diverted me onto an exit I wasn't familiar with, so I even got in a little wandering around on strange roads. And after lesson, most of the staff of the music store where I take my lessons had to come out and admire the bike; I am not sure they previously believed me when I said I rode, as they've only ever seen me when I've had to be carrying 30-something pounds of nearly 4-feet-long assymetrical bari sax, which does NOT work on bike. (I have calculated that if I were 6 foot 2 inches or taller, and weighed at least 200 lbs, then I could carry the bari back-pack style and it would not significantly screw up my balance, center of gravity, or wind resistance. But as I am 5'4"...) My Evolve fish carrying a wrench was their favorite of all my assorted stickers and stuff. Then I ran a bunch of errands, since I had a couple hours before the band session. Had to carry the sax in to various places, since I couldn't just leave it bungeed to the bike; it's not a super-expensive sax, but I still don't want it stolen. Luckily, a straight soprano in a grey plastic case looks pretty innocuous. Silver Diner at LakeForest Mall (avoided rest of mall). Gaithersburg Library. CVS. Then Stedwick Community Center. I wasn't expecting Steve - but he decided why should I have all the fun, and rode his bike out to join us, so then we could ride home together - which we did entirely on back roads, no highways at all, during the very long dusk at this time of year. Lots of lightning bugs everywhere; it's so neat to ride through a whole flock (?) of them on a bike! We stopped at the Double T in Ellicott City, on Route 40, for supper. I was pleased to get an overall 60 mpg on this most recent tank, including as it did the stop-and-creep caused by the traffic accident, and the slow riding behind what seemed like every cement truck in Montgomery County.

I told Perry, if rain will kindly hold off on Wednesdays, he can expect me to bring the soprano to lessons for the rest of the summer. Gonna work on some Baroque oboe concerti!
bunrab: (alien reading)
Let's see. First, Gaslight Grimoire, an anthology of Sherlock Holmes fantasy stories (sort of) - which I've done an Amazon review of, but it's not posted yet; I'll provide a link as soon as that's posted.

Speaking of which, could some of you go read my reviews for The Magicians and Mrs. Quent and Grease Monkey and Life Sucks, click on the little Yes buttons for my reviews, and maybe even add comments to the reviews? Thanks!!

Speaking of graphic novels, which the last two mentioned above are, I continue my efforts to decide whether graphic novels count as real books for grown-ups, not just comic books with too much self-esteem. One of the funniest is Rex Libris: I, Librarian by James Turner, which is an intergalactic space opera featuring a librarian who will go to any lengths to recover an overdue book. First published as 32-page comic books, this book is a collection of 5 of those, which comprise a complete story arc. Great dialogue, good characters, fun light-science-fictiony plot. Don't miss out on meeting Rex's boss, Thoth! (Especially funny to me since I have recently been to see a bunch of Egyptian mummies at a museum.)

The source of the amigurumi lemur is a book called Tiny Yarn Animals by Tamie Snow. Of no interest to anyone who doesn't crochet, but if you do crochet, you gotta try a couple of these critters! The lemur is the cutest, of course, but the beaver is also tooo cute, and if you're a fan of Kitsune in Japanese stories, then you'd like the little red fox.

OK. Off to band rehearsal in Essex. Tomorrow: saxophone lesson. Note to self: must buy more La Voz reeds; Bill's here in Catonsville doesn't carry La Voz bari reeds, despite that it's a large store; the much smaller L&L in Gaithersburg has a much better selection of reeds, as well as a fantastic repair department. So tomorrow is Gaithersburg on the way to Montgomery Village rehearsal!
bunrab: (alien reading)
some of which must return to library Thursday. So I'd better mention 'em now.

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent - amusic, sometimes superficial. He makes an interesting case, in his chapter about the SCA, for the way the SCA manages to create nerd jocks, unlike most nerdy groups.

Recovery Man by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - latest in her Retrieval Artist (Miles Flint) series; all the books in this series are seriously good crime fic/mystery fic as well as quite acceptable science fiction - a far more serious blend of SF elements than, say, J.D. Robb. I like the way she does really alien aliens. And I like the dry sense of humor that sneaks in occasionally. This volume has far more to do with Miles' past history/personal life than any of the previous ones. One of the things I like best is how realistic the characters are - even the nasty-guy Recovery Man has some sophisticated thoughts and thinks about what he's doing, not an all-evil-all-the-time-just-because villain.

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. Well, of course, RVs/motor homes/campers are a lot more common now than they were in 1960, and the interstate highway system is a lot more complete (even in some of its deteriorating-infrastructure state), so some of the book is a bit dated. But it's still interesting, especially the postscript about the Kennedy inauguration - coming up as we are on the Obama inauguration, which, you will recall, is more or less a local event where I am; yes, traffic and security and whatnot for DC does stretch all the way to our area.

I had briefly mentioned Odysseus on the Rhine but didn't say anything about it, and I should. It's a sequel to The Odyssey and before you go "ewwww" please listen when I say it's quite nicely done. I've added a review to Amazon.com, which should be posted within a few hours. (And if you read it and like it, besides the Yes button, could you possibly add a comment? I'm a glutton for comments, and they keep Amazon from thinking that it's the same few fans all the time. Thanks!)
bunrab: (Default)
Okay, some Amazon.com reviews - read 'em, click the little Yes button, you know the drill:
This Might Not Be Pretty (a Stone Soup comic strip collection) by Jan Eliot
Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred - already mentioned this one; it's on my "favorite books this year" list.

Briefly in tweets I quoted from A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell. It was written about 10 years ago, so the chapter on the internet is overwrought and out of date. And the chapter on Martha Stewart is just plain weird, has nothing to do with the rest of the book. But nonetheless there's some interesting reading in some of the chapters, particularly about how the rise in mobility (more and more individual transportation) contributed to the world being ruder.

From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell - a re-release of the first Inspector Wexford novel. From 1964. I've never gotten around to reading any Rendell before. Eh. I could see the plot twist coming a mile away. And I find the whole thing too British for me. In order to read the story smoothly, one has to be familiar with the British school system, and with the whole "this neighborhood in London automatically conveys such-and-such a social and economic class" thing, which is not information I've ever cared to internalize. I know a lot of people don't mind it; it's a personal thing to prefer novels set in places where I know the milieu.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, that's an 8.) Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. Very, very funny book. Especially the chapter on why Chinese food is "the chosen food of the Chosen People, or, The Great Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989." The history of General Tso's Chicken, the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world, and a comparison of the McDonalds model as Windows and the Chinese restaurant model as Linux. I bet almost everyone on my flist would find something to enjoy in this one.

Michael Chabon's The Final Solution - a short book that, although it never mentions the name, is clearly meant to be a sort of alternate-history "Sherlock Holmes lives to a ripe old age in rural England." A quick read, nice enough, and the parrot is a nice character.

Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone and Neil Googe - another graphic novel, this one a very loving send-up of old-fashioned comic books, the kind from the 1940's through 1960's, with a touch of how counterculture and Goths and Postmodernism took over from those. The plot is set in the town of Tranquility, where all the retired maxi-heroes (someone must have a copyright on "super-heroes") live. And the young African-American female sheriff who gets to try to keep the whole town calm. Probably MORE fun reading for someone my age, who read all those '60's comics books at the time, than for younger people who don't have that whole context.

Oh, and of course The Eight by Katherine Neville, already mentioned that it was in progress. Finished it. A bit silly and complicated in many spots - requires a willing suspension of disbelief for the fantasy element that sneaks in, as with any magical/religious object that exerts mysterious powers over people, even though otherwise set in the "real world." And quite a bit of the whole Freemasons/Rosicrucians/gigantic historical conspiracy wingnut stuff as part of it. Good fun, though, and I liked many of the side digressions, such as the tale the 18th-century chess player tells of meeting J.S. Bach. On the whole, a bit non-sequitur-ish, as the mystical power of the chess set at the end has nothing to do with how it was introduced at the beginning, but nonetheless a good adventure thriller, sort of "what if Indiana Jones were a woman working for a big-8 accounting firm in the 1970's?" with a whole bunch of French Revolution and other international travel thrown in.

Okay. Gotta go change clothes for yet another band Christmas concert tonight. Whee. "Sleigh Ride" till our lips fall off.
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
First, here is the delightful and handsome red river hog:largish picture behind the cut )
That picture is from the side. Now here's a closer one of the head - this is actually a different one of the three hogs that were trotting around their plot of land:another largish pic )
Now don't you all agree that this is definitely an Elf Pig, and that this species should definitely have a role in some forthcoming fantasy?

Finished object of needlework: a quilted table runner for my cousin J, whose wedding we went to LAST October - finished a year after the wedding. There are also four placemats that match the runner. you know the drill by now )
Now I am partway through Cindythelibrarian's curtains, a quilted set for my niece V who got married in July, and I've just gotten started on a quilt for niece J whose wedding we just went to this past weekend. I'm also going to make placemats for my sister S for Xmas. Oh, and in there somewhere I'm attempting to finish a sweater for NaKniSweMo!


Oct. 8th, 2008 04:41 pm
bunrab: (alien reading)
A few posts ago, I mentioned Dave Freer's A Mankind Witch, and in truth it was a bit from that, as much as Granny Ogg's writings, that inspired the post "To Serve Rat." Oddly enough, *after* that was when I ran across the book Rats: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, from whence came yesterday's tweets about rats. And then, AFTER I had twittered those, I read the newspaper, and lo! an article about rats in Baltimore! The city is proposing a rat census, as the first step in reducing Baltimore's rat problem; the initial estimate of the number of rats in Baltimore City is 3 million! Which is quite a bit more than one for every fifteen people - Baltimore City is only about 700,000 people, although the metro area of much of Baltimore County is well over a million.

And the slightly odd tone of the above paragraph may be explained by the fact that I am currently reading John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor - a book that had never held the slightest interest for me, until 1001 Books for Every Mood happened to mention that it wasn't just a detailed historical novel of colonial America, it was also a hysterically funny soap opera of a tale. And indeed, in Barth's introduction to the edition I happened to get from the library, he states right out that his intent was to write as much in the style of Henry Fielding (Tom Jones) as he could. So far I am having fun reading it, although it has to be gone at only a couple dozen pages at a time, and it is a great fat book, so it will take a while. And for that while, it will undoubtedly continue to influence my writing style. Perhaps not quite as wordy as when I read Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards, which had me talking funny for weeks, as well as writing, but still funnier than ordinary twenty-first century Kelly.
bunrab: (squirrel_sweater)
Please note: the following does not reflect my actual views on rats. I love ratties. They are terrific pets. They are sweet and intelligent. But this is what sprang, full-blown, into my head after reading just the wrong page of a fantasy novel set in a medieval-ish setting, at just the wrong moment.
To Serve Rat

Rats for RenFairs
Rat Drumsticks
Because the rat drumstick is not as meaty as the turkey drumstick, it is only economical to prepare in large batches at once. However, one must take precautions when frying the drumsticks, so that they do not stick together in one large mass. Therefore, after dipping them in the usual batter, roll each drumstick in a coating of finely crushed cornflakes or riceflakes, before stacking in frying basket. Stir frequently while frying.

Rat On A Stick
Although the traditional method of serving rat-on-a-stick is to use the entire body, roasted on its own little spit, the average RenFair attendee is not prepared to deal with removing feet, wings, tail, or head. Therefore, to minimize trouble (and to minimize garbage and leftovers littering the grounds), it is best to prepare rat kabobs of rib, loin, and breast chunks; this satisfies the requirement of being on a stick, while being much easier to eat.

Fried Wings ("Rattalo Wings")
Because the rat wings are quite bony, as with most wings, it is not advisable to serve these to audiences which will be standing, walking around, and talking. Reserve bowls of Rattalo Wings for the dining pavilion, where dishes for the bones can be provided at each table.

Authentic Rat Dishes
Rats-Ear Soup
Perhaps the best known rat dish is the delicacy Rats-Ear Soup. This would be served around harvest time by wealthy land-owners, to prove that they had removed all the rats from their silos before completely filling them (and to show off that they had the servants and chef to prepare such a labor-intensive delicacy). For the less-wealthy, or for those who had enough cats, ferrets, or cobras that they never had a sufficient supply of rats, a Mock Rats-Ear Soup would be prepared using shavings of mushroom. Often the host would purchase a small bag of genuine rats' ears from a market, to sprinkle just a couple into each bowl of Mock Rats-Ear.

Stuffed Rat
Because of the relatively small amount of meat on each rat, to stretch out each serving, a cook would stuff the rat. The fanciest preparation would be to stuff a mouse inside the rat, and an almond inside the mouse; this also served to supplement the amount of protein in the dish. A sauce would be prepared of cream, ground almonds, and, during harvest season, pomegranate seeds.
bunrab: (Default)
Watch the gap! is the LIRR's motto, apparently, and they repeat it more frequently than almost anything else. For that matter, Amtrak says it a lot too, although they are more polite and less New York about it: "Please be aware of the gap between the train and the station platform." I've just been in New York again for a few days, visiting my friend Sally-the-hoarder and helping her throw out some more stuff. We got a lot done. The upstairs of the house is *almost* empty, so that it can be recarpeted and repainted and rented out, which will help a great deal in supplying money for doing long-delayed maintenance and renovation to the rest of the house. We put a whole bunch of small furniture items out at the curb, and, since it's the weekend lots of college students are settling in, almost all of it disappeared within minutes. Except for a sofa in really bad condition, cat-pee-wise. Which is too bad, because other than that, it was in excellent condition. Oh well, it will keep the town sanitation department bulk pickup guys employed. And lots more papers went to recycling, and lots more stuff that she's keeping went into clear plastic bins where it can be stacked neatly and she can see what's in them, instead of losing track and buying duplicates. Progress! Next: convincing her to get rid of some of the downstairs stuff, where she has her grandmother's stuff, including furniture, and ALL her parents' furniture, as well as everything that she has purchased over the years. And she claims to love it all, including the 50-year-old lamps with brittle cords and shades that are in shreds. Sigh. Oh well. A little bit at a time.

I got back Saturday. Coming back on the LIRR to get to Penn, there were many, many college students, and many, many open cans and bottles of beer, and much shrieking. Which made the conductor change the announcements a bit: "Watch the gap. And take your crap with you. This means you. Take your beer bottles and crap off the train with you." The Amtrak regional back to here was quieter. Train really is a very comfortable and easy way to travel. And do it late enough at night, and the fares are less than half what they are at peak times.

Today we went to the State Fair, as this is the last weekend of it. I looked at all the "home arts" - needlework and cooking, mainly, and I was interested mostly in the needlework - and we went to the Sheep and Goats pavilion and the Swine Judging pavilion and the Cow Palace - skipped the horse barns, since there were signs saying no strollers allowed past this point, and I assumed that applied to my scooter, too. Yes, same scooter that I took to Europe. It makes wandering around several crowded blocks' worth of fairground doable. Let's see, then a tiny chickens-and-rabbits building, then the Exhibition Hall, with vendors of all sorts of stuff Ginsu knives!, waterless cookware!, handwriting analysis!, Jews for Jesus!, Electrostatic brooms! (we bought one of those); candy apples (I bought a couple of those...), cinnamon pecans, Jack Daniels mustard and barbecue sauce! For those of you not familiar with State Fairs in the USA, this is a pretty typical vendor selection. All sorts of crap, mixed with some good stuff, mixed with booths from the political parties and several government agencies and a few more charities and a lot more crap for sale. Then through the 4-H petting area, which included a very attractive llama and a snooty alpaca. Walked through the Midway a bit, and the food pavilion featuring locally made/grown foods - everything from corn-on-the-cob to lamb sandwiches to pit beef, not just junk food but some halfway real food - to get to the last hall, the Agriculture Hall, which featured lots more state agencies' booths, and a John Deere tractor, plus all the prize-winning individual pumpkins and apples and corn and flowers... chatted with the people from the Maryland Insurance Admin for a while, wherein we shared a few laughs about Inland Marine insurance. I don't often get to talk to other people who think Inland Marine is as funny as I do. Outside that pavilion were the armed forces recruiting trailers, and the Motor Vehicle Admin's trailer (guess how many people wanted to visit that) and the county fire department's safety training trailer. And then a last glance toward the Midway, and we were done. We would have spent longer, but they don't have as much of a rabbit show here as they have at the Texas state fair or the Massachusetts state fair, nor nearly as many hysterical-looking chickens. No emus. No pig races. And we skipped the learn-to-milk-a-cow parlor.

So, now that I'm back from being sick (previous post) and going to NY and going to the fair, I have about two weeks worth of y'all's posts to catch up on, ha ha. If there's something I absolutely need to know, give me a comment here so I can go check it out, 'cause otherwise I am going to just read the last couple days' worth.
bunrab: (Default)
You are trying to fall asleep on a hot summer night. Or maybe you're just standing in line somewhere, or hanging onto a pole or rail on public transportation, or listening to the automated voice calling the next number at the DMV.

Suppose you are dying. You have enough blood, and enough energy, to scrawl six characters. Maybe you were murdered and want to point police toward your murderer. Or maybe you're trying to clue in one of your family members, but not the others, toward where you've hidden the diamond bracelet. You can use any letter (any alphabet), number, character (from @ to $ to ?), an arrow pointing in any direction, a sketch of a hand pointing in any direction (you know, like a WingDing), a stick figure (line for body, circle for head, short lines for two arms each and two legs each) in any position, or any similar sort of icon that only takes a few lines to sketch - for example, a child's-style outline of a house with a door is an allowable character, but a detailed drawing of the floor plan of the second story of your house isn't - that's too complicated. So, who are you scrawling for, and why, and what do you scrawl? Note: of course it's OK to play with the number of characters, but you don't have time to write entire paragraphs. IMportant note: no, do NOT comment here with your answers; this is just a mind game to occupy your time, not something I'm challenging anyone to respond to.

And an older one, that I used to play on the trolleys all the time:
You win or inherit a certain amount of money. Where does it go to? First, think of $100. What would you do with that when it came out of nowhere? How do your thoughts about it change if it's $500? $1000? $10,000? $100,000? $1 million? Where, for you, is the dividing line between just spending it, and actually doing something with it? If you're giving a portion to charity, which and why? And how does your decision about charity change as the amount grows larger? If you are giving 10%, say, when it's $100, you're giving $10 so that probably all goes to one place, since it's not big enough to split up - but would you split up the 10% of $10,000 into several recipients of $100 each, or give all $1000 to one organization where it might make a bigger difference? When you get to the larger amounts for charity, would it make a difference to you if giving it all to one charity meant you'd get a plaque in their building or maybe even a room named after you? And on a separate tack, how do you choose to pay off your debts? Smallest ones first to get rid of some entirely? Ones with the highest interest rate first? Are you going to earmark a couple hundred to pay a lawyer to update your will? (See murder, above.) Note: No fair saying you'd put it all in your kids' college fund, or that you'd invest it all and spend it later; that's not in the spirit of the game. Important note: once again, I do not want you to tell ME what you're thinking - I'm just passing along this idea of how to waste time. If you comment at all to this post, it should only be to suggest similar ways to pass an hour's wait at the DMV where you've forgotten to bring a book.
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
I was tagged by [livejournal.com profile] jocundushomo. (I'll get you back one of these days, she says evilly...)

A. List seven habits/quirks/facts about yourself.
B. Tag seven people to do the same.
C. Do not tag the person who tagged you or say that you tag "whoever wants to do it".

1. I have great difficulty assigning the words right and left to the correct hands. I know which direction I want to go, but figuring out which word to blurt out to match that direction takes me a very noticeable couple of seconds.
2. I pick up my underwear and toss it in the hamper with my toes.
3. I honestly think inland marine insurance is an extremely funny topic.
4. I finally learned to whistle with two fingers in my mouth when I was about 48. I learned that I could actually whistle a TUNE that way two days ago - I had never tried it before.
5. I think the habit of viewing dead bodies in their coffins is disgusting. I have never gone up for a "viewing" and I don't ever plan to.
6. I once worked as a hot-pants-wearing exhibition model at a car show. Granted, it was for an experimental car designed by a college team who were friends of mine, but still.
7. I don't know if this counts as a quirk - but I really like hashi and hitori puzzles and I don't like sudoku puzzles.

Tagged: [livejournal.com profile] miz_geek, [livejournal.com profile] bcjennyo, [livejournal.com profile] pussreboots, [livejournal.com profile] fritzsmomma, [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet (ha!), [livejournal.com profile] cavia, [livejournal.com profile] crustycurmudgeo (note: I forgive you (any you) in advance if you really don't want to do this.)


Feb. 18th, 2008 07:45 pm
bunrab: (Default)
Here you go, [livejournal.com profile] fadethecat - I'll do my bit:
Fadesburg wants you!
Help build industry!
bunrab: (alien reading)
Charles Stross, Merchants War - fourth volume in the series, and it's a muddled mess. Has devolved entirely into milfic, bows and arrows against machine guns, who's got the nuke, and bunches of ridiculous CIA abbreviations. Stross is better when he's being funny; this series started taking itself too seriously, and there's too much action - can't even keep track of how many characters there are any more, let alone who is on whose side and who is spying on whom. Difficult to finish - and it's still not done, either.

Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government by Dana Milbank - done in a hokey anthropological study manner, it's really just an excuse to retell all the scandals that have happened inside the Beltway in the last 30 years. There's not really anything new here, nor any deep insight - mildly amusing, at best. Does include dirt on all sides of the political fence - it's not just against the current administration.

Gastroanomalies by James Lileks - making fun of horrible food from the '50's. Very funny. No redeeming social value, just fun. His new captions for pictures from old cookbooks are wonderful.

Conscientious Objections by Neil Postman - I remember being quite impressed and provoked to thought by this when it first came out in 1988, so when I spotted it on the library shelves, I thought, what the heck, let's reread it. It hasn't aged all that well in 20 years - parts of it are quite dated; Postman did not have an accurate forecast of what computers would do to us or how much stranger politics would become. His insights on why teacher education sucks are still valuable, though.

Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America by Cullen Murphy - the answer is: in a thousand ways, no; in a couple of very important ways, yes. Murphy makes the point that pretty much every civilization since Rome fell (which he puts at AD 476) has compared itself to Rome, and pretty much every one comes to the same conclusion: "yes, but we're better! And we're not going to make the mistakes they did!" and that there are still plenty more mistakes to make. History repeats itself, but not exactly. His comparisons include social, cultural, political, and military, and for each he points out what's different, what's similar.
In the Ellipse just south of the White House stands a granite Zero Milestone, intended to be Washington's version of Rome's Golden Milestone, the symbolic central reference point from which all things are measured. Well, it isn't our central reference point at all - no one has ever heard of it, though you could argue that modern America began on this very spot. This was the place from which Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1919, set out to lead the army's "transcontinental motor convoy" across America. By the time Eisenhower reached San Francisco, sixty-two days later, he understood that America needed what Rome had possessed, a network of good public roads. When he became president, he created the interstate highway system. Tourists pay no attention to the Zero Milestone at all, and yet our own descent into hell started right there. [emphasis his]

That whole stretch of the Italian shore was vacationland for the Romans. Museum drawers are filled with ancient beachtown baubles of glass or clay: "Souvenir of Neapolis, " they might as well say, or "This Mule Climbed Mount Vesuvius." Villas crowded the lush volcanic hillsides, Sluice gates brought the renewing sea into the teeming fishponds that each great estate would have; the truly rich were known as piscinarii, "the fishpond set."
(And he then continues to call the rich among the Washington crowd the piscinarii.)
It will be a while, I hope, before tourists stroll among weeds poking up through the Map Room and the Oval Office, or pose before the scenic remaining columns of the South Portico. In Rome today you see leathery men in cheesy centurion's garb posing with tourists in front of the ruins. I'm not sure I want to know what the Washington equivalent will be - Green Berets, maybe, or TV reporters or special prosecutors.

I bet you can tell which of these books I liked best.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Some interesting websites, courtesy of New Scientist:
How to evolve a watch (answering the creationists): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0
Physics illustrates bizarre human decisions: http://www.researchchannel.org/prog/displayevent.aspx?rID=17528&fID=4269
A synchronized swimming team demonstrates mitosis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFuCE22agyM
The Late Alex G. Parrot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6KvPN_Wt8l
Don't try this at home - magnesium: http://www.science-tube.com/index.php?c=chemie§ion=002
LSD tested on British soldiers: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=517198059628627413
First episode of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos": http://www.guba.com/watch/3000082657
British comedian Ali G interviews a panel of scientists: http://chime.tv/#v/j0fs
Statistics, lots of them: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/92
bunrab: (bass)
I've started writing a Christmas song. Its title will probably be the first line of the song, "We don't need God to have a merry Christmas." Sample verse, draft version (lots of polishing needed yet):
"In the dark, we all hope for light
And so we have the candles burning bright
Candles on the Christmas tree
The candles lit for Hannukah
Candles in the windows
For the travelers from afar."

Recent listening:
The Carol Album: Seven centuries of Christmas Music - Taverner Consort, Choir, & Players. Many unfamiliar items, many foreign language items (Latin, German, French) and Middle English. Interesting listening, and I like the harmonies.
Christmas with the Canadian Brass featuring the Great Organ of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Not only is it bright, loud, brass, but also a large, loud organ. Who could ask for anything more? The Hallelujah Chorus is so good with the organ that you'd almost swear you could hear the words despite the lack of a choir.
Christmas in a Celtic Land by Golden Bough. Like their other album, already mentioned, this has several songs I haven't heard elsewhere, and perhaps more to drink than we associate with modern american Christmas. You can tell it's folk music 'cause it includes an accordion. "Dear Joseph" is something I haven't heard elsewhere, a very pretty tune. "Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake" is a hoot. I really like their voices and harmonies.
A Little Christmas Music - the Kings Singers. I could live without guest soloist Kiri Te Kanawa - I just don't like shrieking sopranos, I'm sorry. Anyway, other than that complain, this is nice stuff. KTK is in the medley of songs done as if by Mozart. I always like the Boar's Head Carol, and sing along with the chorus at the top of my lungs. Ends with Patapan and Farandole - the French carol that everyone here thinks of mainly as the melody from one of the "L'Arlesienne" suites.
Swingle Bells - Swingle Singers. They're sort of out of style now, but I still like a dose of Swingle Singers every now and then. Some foreign stuff on here that one doesn't hear very often, assorted Yule polkas and a bit of Bach.
Christmas Brass - Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. I have this unfortunate tendency to refer to PJBE as Peanut Butter Jelly. But really, they're everything good about brass. A large ensemble than the Canadian Brass and other assorted quintets, and they managed to sound even larger than that; their arrangements are often complex enough that you'd swear there was an entire concert band.
Sing We All Merrily - A Colonial Christmas - Linda Russell & Companie. Older carols, no pop stuff, with dulcimers, mandolin, harp, according, Northumbrian small pipes - very folksy, very nice - Russell's voice gives the group a distinct sound and style.
It's a Spike Jones Christmas. Do I really need to say anything more about this? Actually, yes - there's some perfectly nice stuff, done more or less straight, on here, in between the comedy numbers. But yes, there are all the comedy numbers you expect. It's from Rhino, whaddaya want?


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