Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Buckle up. This is going to be a long trip.

First, let me just start out saying right now I have NO business commenting on anyone’s fashion decisions. I have attained the height of my fashion when I stumble upon the happy coincidence of having on a pair of matching socks. So, I shouldn’t say anything about anyone else.

Then again, neither should Mr. Blackwell, so here we go—

Walking out to the deck last night across the crosswalk bridge, there was a young lady in front of me, wearing some sort of plaid skirt. “Some sort,” because it was unlike any plaid I had ever seen—the lines were not the least bit parallel or perpendicular to anything. The effect was made even more extreme because this skirt was knitted of some lightweight, stretchy material, and the young lady’s caboose it was painted onto was the biggest car in her train. The startling effect of crazy, twisted, plaidiness was still further enhanced by the purposeful, pounding, swishing, rotational, agitational properties of the young lady’s gait.

It looked like two drunken Scotsmen were brawling in her drawers.

Again, I’m the last person with a right to criticize anyone else’s couture choices, but I can tell you right now you’d never see me in something like that.

On to home, where I first had to drop by the drug store to pick up some drugs and Dots candy and soap. The Dots are intended to be ammunition for Rebecca’s trebuchet—they’re much softer than glass marbles, and less likely to shatter and lodge in someone’s eye and cause trauma and pain and lawsuits and stuff. And they’re edible. Sorta.

Anyway, got the Dots and started looking around for some just plain ol’ aspirin and stuff. Our church supports a tiny congregation in Russia and we’re getting together a big box of stuff to send. One of the items requested was over-the-counter medicines—I still think it’s hard to beat aspirin, so I got a couple of big bottle of that and then…what?

I started trying to reason this out, which obviously made the visit last a very long time. Since the members there pass along whatever they cannot use, I couldn’t quite count on whoever ended up with it knowing how to take it. Their preacher speaks English well enough to translate the instructions, but after it gets away from him, who knows? A couple doses of liquid medicine is hard to wrap up and take with you, and it could leak in shipment, so it looked like I would have to stick with tablets and pills. But with so many different kinds of cold remedies and pain relievers and allergy medicines and junk that all looks alike and has pretty pictures of flowers and sunshine on the boxes, it seemed like it would be too likely someone could have an adverse reaction if they weren’t careful. And, then, since aspirin is not good for little kids, I figured it would be good to also send along something they could take. I figured some chewable children’s acetaminophen might go over good, but I spent ten minutes looking for something with a picture of a kid on the box to make sure it was obviously for kids. (Most boxes just have pictures of fruit, or kittens, or butterflies or some such crap.) The other drawback was that you can’t get gigantic bottles of children’s medicine like you can everything else.

Well, that was a couple of things down—now what else? More walking around and trying to figure out something that wouldn’t require a PhD and English to be useful. I finally figured some Band-Aids and vitamin C would be hard to mess up with, so I got those, and after all that difficult multicultural cogitating, completely forgot to get us some soap. (I didn’t figure this out until much later in the evening, when it was nearly bedtime and I had made an additional shopping trip to K-Mart. Oh well.)

I went up to the front to stand in line, and had my second fashion epiphany (yes, I know—how long can it be before I have my own show on Bravo?) of the evening:

You know, band uniforms are rarely flattering.

There was one of the girls from the high school band waiting in line in front of me—they had a concert scheduled for last night and I suppose she was about to head over to the school—and she was all decked out in her white band uniform and red superhero cape. As are all the girls in town, she was just as pretty as a peach—long brown hair in ringlets, pulled back just-so, a face like an angel, polite to a fault, and wearing something that gave her the alluring shape of Fred Mertz.

I guess there’s not much you can do about that, though. The high-waisted, baggy crotch look seems to be very popular. You know, it just occurred to me that I never remember seeing any sort of military band in any of the Star Trek shows or movies. With all the other trappings of military protocol like the bosun’s whistle and the insistence on acting like they were a military bunch, you’d think this would be one of those things you’d see all the time. Admittedly, I’m not a big ST, STNG, STDS9, STV, etc., fan and I may have missed it over the years—if so, I’m sure someone will let me know—but I just have to wonder if they DID have a marching band if they had the nifty sleek Starfleet uniforms, or something else entirely?

Anyway, I paid for my stuff and went up the hill to the house, walked in, congratulated Oldest again for being able to remember how to spell “wok” and then found out the she was supposed to have her clarinet lesson at the high school. (Then again, she has supposed to have been having these for the past two months, and they have gotten cancelled due to the instructor’s illness or other calamity each week.)

“Are you sure? You know, the high school band is supposed to be having their concert tonight.”

“Uhhhm, I don’t know.”

“Can we find out?”

Reba said she didn’t know who to call to find out—I nearly made the mistake of asking why they just couldn’t have called the high school band room and maybe, potentially, have found out. I figured my best bet was to just load Ashley up and take her on. So, we jumped back in the van and made our way to school. Got there, and not only was the band concert getting ready to start, there was also a girls basketball game going on, AND…no clarinet lessons. Oh well.

I decided that instead of heading straight back home, we would stop off by K-Mart for a couple of extra things to put in the box for Russia. As I have mentioned previously, the ONLY reason I would stop by K-Mart is that, even at this special time of year, the one where we live is usually deserted, meaning you can zip in, find a parking space at the front door, go straight to the stuff you want, and get checked out in no time at all. AND, it did not disappoint—space up front, in the door, pick up some gloves, some toboggans, and forgot the soap again.

I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get the toboggans I really wanted—they had tons of UofA stuff, but not a SINGLE Auburn one.

Man, you try to spread a little culture around and look how much help you get!

I guess that’s what I get for Doin’ da K. Anyway, we were back out in a trice and on the way back home. I had planned to stop and get some gas and a carwash to clean off the 15 pounds of pigeon poop that had somehow managed to attach itself to Reba’s van, but it began to rain. Hey, free carwash! On to home, and time for Oldest and I to eat a bit of supper.

And find out that Ashley’s drama class in-classroom production of “Cinderella” was going to require (in addition to the dress and shoes we bought last week) that Ashley provide sound effects of waltz music, AND a chiming tower clock.

::sigh:: “Exactly how long have we known about this?”

(I use the royal “we”, just in case I actually HAD been told about it earlier and had simply forgotten about it…not that I could ever forget anything.)

“Today. [Name of Unhelpful Partner Who Was Originally Assigned to Bring Music and Bell Sounds] told me today she wasn’t going to do it.”

Hear that? That loud, heavy, thunking sound? It’s just me, beating my head against the table.

Well, the waltz music is no problem—we have enough classical music CDs to build a dam across the Blue Danube, but the clock sound was going to be difficult. There’s going to be no running to the store for a clock gonging recording, and I am computer illiterate. I have no CD burner or MP-3 player with which to rip and burn and shred and mutilate and all them other things the kids say. This was going to require something from back in the Dark Ages—a blank tape cassette. I figured that I could find some .wav files somewhere out there on the Web, and record the sound as it played through the speakers. Crude, and possibly even useful—just like me!

So, I sat down and started surfing—you know, there sure are a lot of sites with bell sounds. But it needed to be that big, deep, throaty gong sound—no hand bells, no mantel clock, no cuckoos. I needed Big Ben. I finally came across a site that has a little program you can use to make your computer strike the hours just like Big Ben, including a nice little 20 second peal of Westminster Chimes.

So, after digging around in the boxes of ‘80s detritus and finding a nice blank 90-minute cassette, there was the task of finding a recorder. The kids have one of those little cheapy CD, radio, tape player things, and AH-HAAA!, it has a Record button! HOORAY-wait a second. There ain’t no place to plug in a microphone—it’ll only record the radio or a CD, not any sort of ambient sound. ::sigh:: Hoist by my own petard.

It was at this time that Oldest came in and shoved papers in my face—“DAD!! This has to be typed!!”

Let me just say, ::sigh::

It seems that ANOTHER one of her assignments is due today, being some kind of a artistic/poetic analysis thing for Language class. The assignment was to come up with a painting, and a poem to accompany it, and write her OWN poem that would complement the chosen works, and THEN reproduce the painting and stick it on a piece of poster board. Being a mentally indecipherable 13-year-old, she had chosen for her artwork Frida Kahlo’s visually troubling “The Little Deer”. Oldest had no idea who Kahlo was or that there had been a movie with the bounteously talented Salma Hayek—she just thought the picture was really weird.

And then she had to find a poem to fit it, which turned out to be one of Emily Dickinson’s. Despite the fact it was chosen only because it had something about a wounded deer in it, it actually turned out to be an interesting match. She then had to come up with her own poem, and in the perpetual miscommunication between the adult and middle-schooler mind, she thought the teacher’s instruction to create a similar poem meant that she wanted her to just rewrite the poem with different words. So, she had gotten out a thesaurus and started coming up with synonyms for ‘brake’ and ‘hidden’ and ‘smitten.’ I managed to get her to understand that what the teacher was looking for was a poem written in her own words, using similar ideas or thoughts found in the original.

OHHHHhhh. So, after a few fits and starts and complaints, she came up with one, and did herself a pretty good rendering of the artwork. She’s been working on this off and on for a while, so I couldn’t accuse her of slagging off, but it would have been nice to have a bit of a warning that some keyboarding would be required, especially seeing that I was right in the middle of trying to set up a sound effects studio.

Luckily, I do type fast, so I pounded out copies of hers and Miss Emily’s poems and handed them to her for affixing to the poster.

And then, back to trying to figure out how to record. Surely there’s some way to do this without having to go back out and lay down some cash for something that’ll get used exactly ONCE…

WAIT!! There is—my microcassette recorder!! I used to use it when I had to do jobsite observations—heck of a lot handier than attempting to hold onto a pen and legal pad while clambering up a ladder and trying not to go sliding off a roof. Only problem? No idea where is last wound up.

Maybe…HERE! No.

Then mayyyyyyybe…HERE! No.

Oh wait, it’s right here on the computer desk in its own little drawer. Silly man! It even had a tape in it! But dead batt’ries. ::sigh:: And that was another thing I had forgotten to get at the store, even after being reminded that we were all out and that the GameBoys were about to die. EXCEPT—for the GameBoy belonging to Little Boy, which sat perched on the end of our bed! I yanked the cells out of that—he doesn’t need to be messing with that silly stuff anyway—and popped them into the recorder and BINGO! I’m Thomas Flippin’ Edison now, baby! Or not.

I got the website cued back up and pumped up the volume through the tiny speakers atop my desk and let ‘er rip.

BING Bong bing bongggggggg,

bong Bong BONG Bonnnnnnnnngggggg.


Then time for the striking of the hours—each one lasted ten whole seconds, but I stopped and restarted every five seconds for brevity. It still has a bit of dramatic hesitation about it, though. Overall, I would have to say the sound quality has the timbre of a garbage truck emptying a dumpster, but it’ll do.

Oldest was very happy with it, and that goes a long way.

By this time, David Letterman was on the teevee, so I figured I might as well stay up and catch a bit of it, seeing as how his guest was Tim Russert. There was also the matter of elf distribution.

Mommy had heard tales from the children about a gimmick thought up by someone who made a mint off of me, in which little kids are encouraged to leave out crackers and water in order to attract a special elf helper STRAIGHT FROM THE NORTH POLE!! Our kids know kids at school who have received these special visitors, and Miss Reba was quite smitten by the precious little tale of how the elves come to be, and so, being a warm-hearted soul, she sent away for three little elves. The children had dutifully left out crackers, water, and tender notes begging Santa to consign one or more of his helpers to a life lived being beaten senseless by rowdy little youngsters.

Off to bed, and after Mom had a chance to play with the new additions to the family, and after Dad cut off the tags that say “Made in China,” they were ready for distribution.

As she did that, I sort of dozed and watched Dave, who seemed genuinely shocked that Al Gore had dumped his erstwhile running mate for Mean Dean the Ragin’ Machine. He made a couple of jokes about it—“The guy who lost the election to Bush, endorsing the guy who will lose to Bush” and the Top Ten List was about it, and Tim Russert talked about it. Russert noted that yesterday morning he was over at the “Today” studio and saw Lieberman waiting to go on. He approached him and sort of asked him what his thoughts were on the endorsement, to which Lieberman replied, “Et tu, Brute?” (Tim’s version came out more as “Et ta, Brutus”, but I knew what he meant.) Anyway, ouch. But sorta apropos (other than the fact that the Senator ain’t, and won’t be, Caesar.) Gore has his own ambitions, after all, and just as he used Lieberman to further them when it helped him, he’s ready to dump him when he can’t help him.

Just politics, don’t you know.

And this is all about Albert, and not Dean. Although Dean supporters are widely trumpeting the endorsement as giving establishment street cred to his candidacy, it seems much more likely that Gore’s only thoughts are positioning himself to battle Senator Clinton for 2008, or at least try to throw some of his wooden, beta-male weight around inside the party.

You gotta feel for Mr. Lieberman, though. He seems like a genuinely good fellow—decent, hard-working, principled, thoughtful, measured, not given to flights of raging insanity—no wonder he’s not making any headway with the base.

So, after Tim said goodnight, I did, too.

Off to the land of tumultuous dreams which seemed to incorporate EVERY SINGLE THING I JUST WROTE. More on THAT little funhouse ramble in a minute or two.

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