Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The Crisp, Crisp Joy of Fall
Monday morning as I headed east to get on the freeway, Venus was sitting low in the sky like a brilliant crystal, cold as ice in the blue-black sky. It was a mild day eventually, cool in the shade. I napped happily, having had a good morning. For one, I had finished my very last order and sent it off. Second, I had a new chair. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but I had changed my wonderful typist's chair (one without arms) years ago for an "ergonomic" chair and so regretted it, because the damn thing had arms which bruised my elbows when I typed. I finally traded my armed chair with a co-worker for an armless chair, but the dang thing must have been made for someone as tall as Abraham Lincoln and never fit me properly.

The new chair is different from any that I have ever had. For one thing, the seat and the back aren't padded like on a regular office chair. It's made of webbing, and on the seat back is an adjustable lumbar support which can be flipped. It has arms, but they can be canted outward to keep away from the elbows. It's very comfortable.

The third thing was funny. There is a woman I keep running into in the ladies' room. She must use crutches to walk, but is very deft with them. On Monday morning I got a note from one of the contract employees. She said she had worked with a friend of mine in Warner Robins and Ann had mentioned me to her, and where was I, anyway? Had we met? So I told her where I was, and sure enough, it was the same woman! We had a good laugh, especially since her name is Linda, too.

Drove home with the windows down, despite the fact that at rush hour it was a bit warmish, and I did have to turn the A/C back on when I came to all the stop lights between the freeway and our house. But barely four hours later, when James took Willow out between House and Castle, he came back in crowing about how nice and cool it was outside. So, like the hero of "A Visit From St. Nicholas,"
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash
and turned on the fans and oh, it was lovely.

Tuesday morning it was 51°F, with Venus still hanging like an ice crystal in the sky. Another good day for a nap. Unfortunately I had some other problems and had to leave work a little early.

Last night was the best yet. Temperatures went tumbling, a perfect night for sleeping, and I awoke this morning to find it 48°F, the grass stiff with dew. I had to put my jacket on when I took my walk, and the windows stood wide open all day.

At lunch time I finally cleaned out the bird feeders after the rain last weekend. Both of the bottoms of the feeders had started to sprout grass and ferment. Ugh! The ick factor hadn't driven away the birds, but I did, at least for a while, as I had to use an untwisted coat hanger to de-gunk the larger one and then pound on it upside down so that the clotted bits could fall out in moldy chunks. Then I filled them both with fresh food and eventually the flock came back: nuthatches and the cardinals and a woodpecker.

Sometime after dinner we heard the hawk calling outside again. We have had a hawk in the neighborhood for months. Once it perched upon the rails of our deck. We thought it was a red-tail or a Harris hawk, but its cries more closely match something called a red-shouldered hawk on the Cornell ornithology site. Then the crows set up a row. So we stood out on the porch for nearly a half hour in the deepening dusk, listening to the crows scream and another bird scold, and the hawk give its wild cry as it circled above. And then we realized why the hawk cries are so numerous—there are two of them! One perched almost over our heads while the other called from a few trees away.

Sunday night we had watched The National Parks on Dish's wretched chopped-off-each-side presentation, and then Monday was taken with House. The Sunday experience was so depressing—not only was the picture chopped, but it was flat and uninspiring—that yesterday we didn't even bother trying to watch part three and played our Netflix choice instead: disk one of Penn and Teller's Bullshit! Funny, funny series, although Penn's use of profanity is really overwhelming.

Tonight, I messed with the "rabbit ears" until the two separate aerials were doing a split and set the UHF loop so the edge faced east to west. And suddenly, miraculously, there was GPB. So we watched part four of The National Parks in glorious widescreen HD. The Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Tetons, all so close you could almost touch them. Wow. Wow. Wow.

The windows are open and the crickets are singing, and the last cries of children playing under the streetlights have faded.

I love autumn.

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» Sunday, September 27, 2009
Step by Step
Yes, we hit Kroger as usual today, for milk and bananas and the other weekly groceries. We also went to Borders.

But our main business was at Lowes, which is told in Autumn Hollow.

Anyway, when we finished with the paving stones, we had a nice remainder of the afternoon watching Clark Howard and "Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse." I am astonished: we have had three weeks of not-too-stupid Randy Disher, although he was briefly on the edge there eating the gingerbread men in front of Natalie in the voodoo episode. Amazing!

During supper (thin-cut pork chops with a tomato and cucumber salad...yum!) we watched the two Rick Sebak specials that GPB aired before The National Parks: the unusual buildings one and the Lincoln Highway special. Love these things.

Watching The National Parks now, but not enjoying as much as I should because Dish doesn't carry either of the Atlanta PBS stations in HD. But we can't get GPB with the antenna, only WPBA. When WPBA broadcasts it, we can watch it via broadcast and see it in HD. Hell of a thing, eh? Stupid stuff we get in HD, but PBS we don't.

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» Saturday, September 26, 2009
Nifty Fifty!
Wow! They are saying in the 50s as a low starting Tuesday night. Woohoo! If that's true, we can shut the A/C off!



The Saturday Shopper
James was up bright and early—okay, early...LOL—at 6:50 to go to work today. I slept until 8:30, after having a strange dream about not allowing a group of panicky people to use my cell phone. I awoke surprisingly chipper, considering I had a dreaded errand to come.

I decided to go the farmer's market to get a few things. It was overcast and fairly cool, and I bought a little honey, a loaf of French bread, more pimento cheese spread, a surprise for dessert, and some of those nasty boiled peanuts that James likes. I guess boiled peanuts are an acquired taste, and I haven't acquired it. :-)

I had planned to head home, but instead went straight on to my errand. The last of my work pants, which I bought years ago and have been nursing with patches, finally gave their all on Tuesday. I'd planned to buy new pants, but was hoping to wait until October. I hate buying clothes. I even hated it when I was two pounds short of my ideal weight. Shoes are even worse. I really don't get the shoe thing with women; shoes are something to put on your feet outside or to keep warm. You have a couple pair for work, a couple pair for weekends, a good pair for funerals and weddings, a ratty pair to work in the yard, and some slippers. What else do you need?

Anyway, I decided to go to Acworth. I could hit the SuperTarget, the Kohls, and the WalMart, and still look at Books-a-Million for a copy of Country. Sadly, I didn't find the Country, but did get Just Cross-Stitch's annual Christmas ornament issue and a bargain book. Then it was on to Target. I've had horrible luck searching for clothing at Target and this time was no exception. They don't seem to have any dressy pants at all. I wouldn't wear what passed for pants there at a dogfight. The one near-decent pair I saw had cuffs, which sure wouldn't do since I always have to hem my pants. I hardly ever find pants for people my height.

I did get James a couple of Mexican dinners and found quite a pretty little fall vine wreath for only $2.50.

There is also a Ross Dress-for-Less in that shopping area, so I tried there. They did have one pair of pants my size! And they weren't too long and fit my waist and hips...but were too tight in the thighs! Weird.

So I drove down to Wally World and did find some suitable black pants there. They only had the one color, but I got two pair. I'll put different color buttons on them, or something, to tell them apart. Bonus: also found James' favorite scent of deodorant. The musk Speed Stick is hard to find.

Came home down US41 and decided to stop at the Hallmark shop in the shopping center on Jiles Road, next to the Publix. This is the same Hallmark where I bought the cute little "Mary's Moo-Moos" figurines for Christmas:

I checked the case where the little cow figurines usually are kept and not only was there a cute little Christmas figure, but they had this cutie as well:

It's now on the kitchen table, in front of the autumn candle arrangement.

I couldn't find a picture online of the other figurine. It is a little bull in overalls sitting next to a 40s-type desk telephone with the receiver up near his ear and four little cardinals all over him, and the title is "Just calling to wish you a moo-ry Christmas."

I went home through Pine Mountain Road and spatters of rain, to Barrett Parkway, back to Whitlock Road and then through the battlefield park and Jim Miller Park to home. Had part of my free bowl of soup for lunch along with some of the french bread from this morning.

Along about three the weather radio went off with a shriek. I got Willow outside just before it started to rain. After awhile it thundered and we were in Georgia Monsoon Season for a bit. It seems to have passed over now, and James is home and the birds back at the feeder.

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» Friday, September 25, 2009
Friday on My Mind
Yessss! Only one more thing to finish up at work! My supervisor and one of the vendors finally worked out an equitable agreement about a license, and all that now needs to happen is for the revised purchase request to make it to me so we can lease some copiers for the next three years.

Last night I enjoyed a wonderful gift someone sent me in the mail: sample episodes of Lassie that have been broadcast on TV Land in Canada. Along with the enjoyment came bitterness that we in the United States do not share the luck of Canadian viewers in seeing the series without it being chopped up like liver and then smeared with all manner of banners and popups before it reaches the airwaves. The TV Land broadcasts have a small logo in the right hand corner and a brief "PG" tag when the episode first starts, but no other screen ornamentation, nor are great chunks cut out of the story for hideous ads for "male enhancement," ambulance-chasing lawyers, Chia Obama heads, and other useless crap. I know advertising pays the bills, but does it have to be such a damn bully? An advertisement should be a polite guest in your home, not the obnoxious loud neighbors you threaten to call the police on.

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» Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Drying Out
Yesterday was truly "night and day" compared with Monday. Very, very scary, and the stories on the news are heartbreaking. Roads washed away and the Six Flags roller coaster are just minor things. People with no flood insurance because they were not living on a flood plain, but still flooded, have lost everything. Houses full of mud, some still full of water. A school in Austell was completely wiped out. A 3-year-old was yanked out of his father's arms by a current of water as his father hung on to some bushes. Today they played the 911 call of a poor woman whose car was swept into the water and hidden by undergrowth. The 911 operator spoke to her until her phone cut off. The fire department couldn't find the car for the water and the bushes and she didn't know exactly where she was to tell the 911 operator. So she drowned in her car.



» Monday, September 21, 2009
"That'll Do, Twi"
When last we met, James had called me about the rainstorm just hitting his building. My team leader was in my cubicle at that point to talk to me about an order she was helping me with, and told me she had water in her basement and a sinkhole in her yard. The next wave of the storm took a bit to reach us, then came down in waves. By then even Gary in the next office was saying that maybe I ought to go home.

But I wanted to finish a simple modification I had been assigned. I worked through that, and by the time I finished it was about 3:15. About that time my branch chief appeared, saying if I wanted to go home to go.

I kept looking at the traffic map; it had been getting better, and now it was starting to get worse.

Fifteen minutes later our director solved the dilemma and told everyone to leave.

It was a hard rain when I finally got outside, but not yet monsoon-like. I'd checked the traffic maps and the freeway was orange and red in both directions, so I decided to go my overland route, through Dresden Drive to Windsor to Chastain Park and out Mount Paran Road, although I was worried about the last, as it twists under so many trees.

I made it as far as the light on Buford Highway. It's a long light and I watched, peering through the downpour and the windshield wipers, as a car on the opposite side of Dresden just sat. And sat. And a car that came up behind him continued the sitting.

This was not a good thing. I made a flash decision and turned left down Buford Highway instead. If I still wanted to go down Dresden, I could connect with it again at Clairmont.

It was raining harder, and even with the wipers at top speed it was hard to make out the puddles. I went past Clairmont on a snap decision to go through Buckhead instead. There were big puddles on Buford. Some I managed to skirt, some I couldn't see, a couple of times I couldn't get over. At one point I felt myself starting to panic and my heart to pound, especially when I hit one small lake and my battery light flashed for a few seconds. I guess I got the leads wet. But Twilight plodded on.

There was one last lake before the entrance to GA400 on Sidney Marcus Boulevard, and then the traffic, and the rain, slackened as I turned on Piedmont, then on East Paces Ferry. From there it was like driving home pre-February 1999 again, down to the crawl before the two lights on West Paces Ferry Road.

The freeway was moving okay at this segment so I got back on when I reached Northside Drive so I didn't have to come behind the sinkhole that is Cumberland Mall, and got off at Spring Road.

I reached home 70 minutes after leaving work. Like Farmer Hoggett, I gave the car a fond pat. "That'll do, Twi. That'll do."

More about the continuing deluge.



Water Everywhere
Crimeny, it's pouring again! James just called because he was worried about me.

I hope Twilight can swim, because I sure can't...



Something to Be Happy About...
A new House and a new Castle, both on the same night. Could television get any better?

(Okay...Robert Sean Leonard, Hugh Laurie, and Nathan Fillion could be on a special celebrity Jeopardy, but that's wandering into the realms of Fantasyland...and where's that drool towel when I need it?)

I put on the first Castle last year hoping for an appealing quirky mystery series, and I was not disappointed. If you like light mysteries, you might try this one. I especially love novelist Castle's relationship with his teenage daughter and his Auntie Mame-like mom.

Castle at

Castle Fan Page

(Oh, good grief, I didn't realize someone was ghostwriting Richard Castle's new book, Heat Wave, and it was going to actually be published...LOL.)

Rick Castle also has "his own" Facebook page and you can "Friend" him.



Awash and Wear[y]
Last night Thunder continued to grumble, until it was growling quite loud at bedtime. At midnight, the weather radio came on shrilly to report more flood warnings. (I passed it on my way to the bathroom and not only turned the volume down, but covered the speaker with a wad of Kleenex. Basta!)

The soundtrack for the night went thus: ::RUMBLE!:: "Bark, bark, bark!" "Willow, it's okay; go back to sleep!!" ::RUMBLE!:: "Bark, bark, bark!" "Willow, go back to sleep!!" ::RUMBLE!:: "Bark, bark, bark!" "Willow, enough!" ::RUMBLE!:: "Bark, bark, bark!" "Willow, shut up!" etc. James said she did finally stop barking before every rumble, but he knew that only because he didn't fall asleep until 2 a.m. I awoke at every loud clap of thunder, or when a particularly bright bolt of lightning penetrated the light-blocking shades and insulated curtains in our room, so that, needless to say, when the alarm went off at six I was rather bung-eyed.

Snapped on the television for Schuyler and there in glorious darkness lit by headlights and brake lights was a traffic report that looked like something out of Armageddon. About a quarter mile north of where I work is the intersection of I-85 and I-285, flippantly known as Spaghetti Junction for its intertwining elevated ramps. Every single approach to Spaghetti Junction had an accident—yep, from the east, west, north or south. The southern accident wasn't causing much of a backup, and I usually take that route anyway because there are fewer trucks: south on I-75 until it meets with I-85 north of downtown in a V-junction known as the Brookwood interchange, and then north on I-85.

Unfortunately a "lake" of epic proportions had appeared from the rain on I-75 just north of Brookwood. One car was still swimming in it and police had blocked the rest of it off so only the two right lanes were in use.

Not to mention when I looked outside it was like the Twilight Zone...just black. I couldn't even see onto the deck from the window next to it.

So I just booted up my telework connection instead and sat working on one of my replacement PRs until (a) some light actually appeared and (b) all the red warning flashy things disappeared from Spaghetti Junction. Right now it's thundering again and starting to rain, but when I actually drove in it was just a light drizzle.

Schuyler called after me plaintively as I left. Awwww...

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» Sunday, September 20, 2009
Every once in a whole we are still hearing a rumble of thunder in the distance. A while back it sounded like an artillery barrage. It has rained all day, fitting accompaniment to my mood.

Not sure what did it, but I was sick most of the night, back ached. Awoke to read e-mail for the bad news about Mary. Cried some, choked down some breakfast. We'd planned to go to Fry's today and we did. Steady rain all the way, with a few bouts of what I refer to as "Georgia monsoon season," great gouts of water poured everywhere. Passed yet another craft show in Roswell; this one not doing very well, either.

Looked at antennas at Fry's. If the rabbit ears we have won't do, the next step is an outdoor antenna, and not sure if I want to do that. (Later I messed with the antenna and GPB did come in a bit better.) Did find something special: the 26-part 1963 CBS series World War I, narrated by Robert Ryan and with a great score by Morton Gould. I used to watch this every weekday night on one of the Boston stations, 25 maybe, or 27 from Worcester...might have even been WGBH's sister station 44. No longer sure. The archival footage is wonderful, a great companion piece to the later The Great War.

Have watched Clark Howard, Colour Confidential, the two Jeopardy eps we missed, and now have it on.

Oh, on the way home we plowed through yet another portion of "monsoon." We were both a bit hungry and stopped at the Waffle House because I needed a grilled cheese sandwich. The waiter seemed to be having a feud with the grill cook and we both wondered if we'd ever get our lunch. The waiter finally started my grilled cheese sandwich himself. Weird.

Still thinking about Mary. Can't help thinking of her every time I look at my little Country Pickins shadow boxes. She loved miniatures.

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A Black Day
All of North Georgia seems ready to wash away and a friend has died.

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Monopoly's Hidden Maps Help World War II POWs Escape - ABC News
Via Kerri on Facebook--neat story.

Monopoly's Hidden Maps Help World War II POWs Escape

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» Saturday, September 19, 2009
"If You Like Craft Shows, and Getting Caught in the Rain..."
...then it was a perfect day for you!

We were up at 8:30 to go to the Farmer's Market. Very small today, wedged between Church Street and the railroad tracks because there seemed to be some sort of craft show setting up on the Square proper (just looked; it's this year's Marietta Streetfest). We just got two beautiful tomatoes and two nice cucumbers; didn't feel like sweet corn, and the honey person wasn't there. Don't know if that was because of the "squishing" or if they are not coming now that summer's over. It was just drizzling lightly and we wandered about sampling things.

James wanted to get some cash, but we weren't near any of the branches of his bank. I suggested going to Walgreens to look for some of his deodorant and then getting cash back. The cash-back gambit worked, but when we left it was pouring rain out, so we had to decide: did we want to go to Blue Ribbon Affair this morning or not?

Just as we were leaving the store, I glanced down at the Saturday Atlanta Journal-Constitution and an article about the rain, which started thusly:
We're likely to run out of summer before we run out of rain. Fall arrives Tuesday afternoon, and it had better be traveling by boat....
Major LOL!

So we came home to bring the groceries home and check radar, which showed a honkin' big cloud bearing down on us, but the rain had slowed to a drizzle again, so we went.

Very small this year: they let us in free due to both the size and the rain, I think. Some vendors in tents outside, then only one building in use. We got a few more pieces of fudge, I bought three tiny homemade Christmas ornaments (two of them cross-stitched), and we bought some dips. There were a lot of other pretty things, but nothing we really needed.

From there we made a quick pass downtown, thinking if we found a close parking space we might look in on the Streetfest, but there was nothing close and as we cruised the booths it looked like more of what we had already seen, so we passed and went to the hobby shop for a while. Someone had brought cupcakes in honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Ahrrrrrr...ahoy! Ye morsels were too sweet, matey. :-)

I took a quick trot across the way to the hardware store, as James was looking for strike-anywhere matches for an emergency kit. Love this place: it's a real hardware store, not like Lowes/Home Depot. Smells just like Mancini's Hardware on Cranston Street used to smell. If the spinner had been there with the bulbs for your television set, it might have been almost complete. :-) Anyway, found the matches, bought some more S-hooks, which are invaluable in the closets, and found a pack of 25-watt light bulbs. Do you know how hard it is to find 25 watt bulbs anymore? I use them in the lamp in the foyer; it has to be dim or the light comes into the bedroom, and I don't need to waste electricity there anyway. Last time I had to buy candle-shaped bulbs because that's all there was in 25 wattage.

(Oh, yeah—on the way to the hobby shop we stopped at Big Lots since we hadn't been there in months. Guess what I found—the very oatmeal I couldn't find at two Walmarts, and at a lower price than WallyWorld, too.)

We came home via Cost Plus World Market (working on ideas for two Christmas gifts; they had some wine on sale for $5/bottle, so we got a bottle of white and one of red—we cook with it, not drink it, so we don't need to be concerned how it tastes) and Michaels. Been messing about on the computer, reading the comics and all that, and trying to clean up the magazines that have begun to stack in the living room. Fall Festival in WW so I am trying to catch some leaves. Also cleaning the bathroom, paying some bills online, that sort of thing.

The rental house next door is finally getting tenants. Some folks with kids. Hope they're nice!

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» Friday, September 18, 2009
Bella Notte!
We had supper at Vincent's Italian Ristorante tonight. It's gone wayyyy past the day we first went there and had terrible service. Our waiter, Jeremiah, was super, and supper equally so. James had lasagna and I had rigatoni with meatballs. The other half will make a nice lunch next week. The pasta was cooked perfectly—marvelously al dente.

The music was great, too. They didn't have the usual Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack junk Italian songs, but music I grew up with: Jerry Vale, Connie Francis, what sounded like Al Martino or Enzo Pinza—and even Lou Monte. They played both "Lazy Mary" and "Pepino the Italian Mouse." Other kids grew up with "The Wheels on the Bus" or camp songs. Me, I grew up on Lou Monte and "Pepino." LOL.

After supper went to the Barnes & Noble at West Cobb in the forlorn hope of finding Country. So few places carry it! Bought a copy of Ballet Shoes because I've never read it, and a really cool remainder coffee table book about the making of The Wizard of Oz (I'm not a crazy Oz fan, but this talks about the progression from book to screen and talks about the silent versions of the books, etc. A few great shots of Terry, who played Toto.)

We also stopped at Hallmark and found the Webkinz turkey—what a great Thanksgiving decoration! He's so cute, with crossed eyes to boot. Maybe I'll call him "Clarence."

Watching more Muppets tonight. I notice Disney has pared those original ITC logos off...

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Not a Cute Little Headache
For some reason or other, I didn't sleep well last night; kept waking up. After James left for work, I finally did fall into a sound sleep, unfortunately accompanied by a bad dream about Schuyler escaping outside. So when I got up I wasn't feeling any too swuft.

Our lawn service was supposed to be coming this morning, but he called just before I got up, saying he'd prefer to wait until the grass was drier. I couldn't blame him. It has been raining for days, stopping and starting and starting again. Drove home in an absolute gullywasher on Wednesday, the car creating backwashes like a speedboat every time I hit a puddle.

Today it was just damp, cloudy and occasionally misty when I set out for WalMart. I was completely out of chicken broth and needed yogurt, and was planning to pick up a couple of boxes of oatmeal since, due to the rain, I hadn't stopped at Publix when they had them on twofer. Well, phooey—they were out of both broth and oatmeal.

By the time I got out of WallyWorld I was starting a sinus headache and was tempted to go home, but I wanted to finish the shopping. The headache eased a bit before I got to BJs (BreatheRights, pepper, and other needed things), but started to build again when I hit the other WalMart at Powder Springs and the East-West Connector. Unfortunately they carry no sugar-free oatmeal at all, but they did have the broth.

One last stop: Kroger. Bought gasoline and went inside for my bread for lunch and found some really nice Granny Smith apples. They'll have to hold us until the apple festival in Ellijay and we can get some really nice Grannies. Also got milk, but the price has finally risen after months to over $1.99. Well, 'twas nice while it lasted.

By the time I got home, the sinus headache had reached epic proportions. I hoped it was just that I needed to eat lunch, or take my glasses off, but doing both didn't help a bit. I had already put the perishables away, so I took three ibuprofin, turned off the television and the light, and lay down on the couch to hope that it would go away quickly, since it now felt like someone was running a drill between my eyes.

My head had just hit the pillow when a lawn mower bellowed to life outside and Willow started to bark. Arrrrgh!

Thankfully the drugs kicked in and the headache went away by the time I had to go outside and pay Paolo, but boy, that was nasty. Then I put the fall things on the porch and mounted the metal leaves on the side of the brickwork.

Three cool things did happen: first gasoline was $2.079 at Kroger, when it is about $2.249 everywhere else, even at BJs! The October Country Living was out at BJs.

And I found seasons one and two of The Muppet Show at BJs for only $16.99 each—previously they have been $35-$40 a season! Watched the first three after I recovered from el headache...still a fun show. Had the "Muppet Morsels" feature going, in which popups told you interesting behind-the-scenes stuff about the characters and guest stars.

(Oh, we watched Leno again last night—this one should have been on Monday! Good monologue, Eric Clapton as a guest in the musical number, fairly humorous short skits and stand up comic, and Halle Berry as a guest. Also saw the premiere of Community. Not sure if I like it. Comedies seem so shallow and brief these days. There were so many commercials and so little show it came across as a series of interconnected skits rather than an episode with a storyline.)

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» Wednesday, September 16, 2009
One Minute Longer
Oldest Medal of Honor Recipient, 100, Downplays "Hero" Talk

Just wow.



» Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Day-O, Jay-Oh!
James and I have always enjoyed Jay Leno, or at least many segments he made famous on The Tonight Show, "Headlines" being our favorite with "Jaywalking" as a close second. Jay as interviewer was always iffy—sometimes he tended to overpower his guests, or not lead them into talking, instead telling a story about himself. On the other hand, some interviews were priceless, including his "What the hell were you thinking?" line to Hugh Grant, and the animal appearances were always great for a laugh.

So when we heard about the new gambit, weeknights at ten, we shrugged. I don't think either of us had illusions that it was going to succeed as a nightly show. Maybe it would do well enough to be scaled down to one or two nights a week, but nightly—naw.

After last night's premiere...okay, one to none. Sorry to say I enjoyed Adam Hart-Davis and his Victorians and Tudors much more of what I watched today.

An opening show, especially a variety/interview type like this, needs to lead with a "boffo" opening. This was more like "blando." Jay came onstage to rather nondescript, dull theme music—at least Kevin and the band were back—and the first joke in his monologue fell flatter than the proverbial pancake (when you have to explain the joke, it isn't working). I dunno, maybe Jay thought he had to tone down his late-night humor; the whole thing was rather weak. The Obama "interview" was cute, but went on too long, and the skit with Kevin "cheating" on him with a Leno look-alike was good for a titter, no more, maybe because I find the idea of the series The Cheaters, on which the skit was based, appalling.

Jerry Seinfeld's appearance was too short—while I disliked Seinfeld, Seinfeld himself is funny—and the car wash business with some singer named Dan serenading a cute girl much too long and was only minimally amusing.

Finally some tone-deaf rapper wandered onstage and mumbled his way through an inarticulate apology for something rude he did at some obscure awards show and then proved he was tone-deaf when his band performed (the girl singer in the band at least had a good voice; why not let her sing instead of chanting some monotone garbled lyrics?). For heaven's sake, man, if you're going to apologize, do it in a loud, strong voice with a ring of sincerity.

The show closed with "Headlines," and even those were lukewarm. There have been nights when James laughed ourselves silly over these things. After three months off the air, all you could come up with were funny Chinese restaurant names? And the segment seemed rushed...probably because of the rapper guy's apology.

A disappointing start. One only hopes Jay can reach into a bag of tricks for some of his funnier guests—David Duchovny comes to mind, as does Julie Scardina from the San Diego Zoo—and save this puppy, or else NBC's going to be creating more idiot reality series—what's next? The Littlest Loser about fat kids on a diet, or The Real Housewives of Sheboygan, Wisconsin or Dancing With the Deaf with host Marlee Matlin?—real soon now.



» Monday, September 14, 2009
Those Humorous Brits
I've just found two cool British series on History Channel International. One I've already missed the first five episodes, darnit. It's called What the Victorians Did for Us. The second one appears to have just started and is called What the Tudors Did for Us. Both are hosted by Adam Hart-Davis with a humorous touch rather like James Burke in Connections or Tim Hunkin on The Secret Life of Machines. The Brits do the best documentaries. The Tudors show I'm watching just talked about the appearance of realistic portraiture, which may have had something to do with the discovery of the lens used in conjuction with the camera obscura.

Looks like there are some episodes on YouTube.



» Sunday, September 13, 2009
"All Those Clouds in the Sky, No Damn Sun in My Eyes..."
"...and I'm so surprised it's not a dream!"

(With apologies to the Carpenters and "On Top of the World.")

Otherwise known as the long, long post.

One more week to go before telework can start again...we need to make sure everything is finished up. Been nice seeing everyone but I'll be so glad to get back to sleeping an hour later, my walks in the morning, and being able to do laundry and chores during lunch. The house is a wreck and I despise washing clothes on weekends. And it's time to put my fall decorations up, but I'm too dog tired at night after 90 minutes of round trip commuting and nine hours of work to do it then.

At least I have the new computer at work! It's so nice operating with 2GB of RAM rather than 512MB. It hasn't fixed the ICE problems—that's a problem with the server—but everything else is moving faster.

On Friday I get off at 3:30, so I came home via Costco to fill up on gas. Wow, 2.189! By the time James got home from work Willow had been walked, I was changed, and I had finally gone into my new "Ultimate Rewards" catalog that replaced the Borders coupons I used to get. What a crock. Yes, you can get Amazon points, but it looks like it takes forever. For instance, you have to get 1,400 points to buy the book I just finished reading (a $8 paperback). Everything else is like frequent flyer points, fancy restaurants, and, as I predicted, stores that sell clothes, shoes, and expensive purses. Yawn.

Since James really needed gasoline, we went to Costco at Town Center for gasoline and finally made it to Borders for the book James wanted two weeks ago but we couldn't buy because their computer wasn't working. We had a nice collection of coupons, including $2 off a magazine, so I was able to buy the sequel to A Beautiful Blue Death and also, finally, a Golden Guide to trees, plus the new "Shop Smart" and British "Country Living."

We had supper at My Cousin Vinny's. I just had spaghetti and meatballs; hadn't had any for a while. James had a chicken dish. We both had enough left over for a lunch. Then we went to Town Center Mall; I wanted to see if Yankee Candle had anything new in fall things. Not sure I like any of their new scents. Checked in Hallmark and FYE, and bought some half-price chocolate at the Lindt store. It will be good for desserts.

I wanted to go to JoAnn, so James dropped me off and went to Hobbytown. I got a "Cross Stitcher" with some pretty fall patterns and a few dollar things, including a pair of gloves and "ear warmers" (those things skiers wear, like a giant headband).

We came home via "the Ditch" at Jim Miller Park, even though we couldn't see anything but they had opened the original road again, which now also has a sort of access road/pathway, presumably a route for the people who will be parking in the field beyond for the North Georgia State Fair.

We pretty much decided that if we woke up early on Saturday we would go to the Farmer's Market. We woke up at 9:30. :-) After last weekend, we wanted to rest! About ten we went to Costco—best time to go: no long lines. Dropped all that off, then went to Kroger. Then all the grocery shopping was done and we could have fun.

So we went to the hobby shop for a while. I sat in the meeting room while James schmoozed with the guys and read the new issue of "Country Woman" I found at Kroger. I hope they have the next issue because someone I know is in it: Melody Howell, the head of "Christmas to the Max." They are profiling her—and her fifty-six Christmas trees.

Next we went out to the Borders at East Cobb. Paydirt! I not only found the "Early American Life" I saw two weeks ago at another Kroger, but they have the Christmas issue as well! I also bought a book called The Anglo Files, a humorous book about England that I passed on last time, and two books that I saw at DragonCon and didn't feel like buying at full price: Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day and Magic Lost, Trouble Found, the first book in a fantasy series.

I also picked up the next of the gingerbread reindeer at Hallmark. Now only Donner and Blitzen are left; they will be out Columbus Day weekend.

We arrived home for a few hours, then went to trivia. It was a nice dinner and we won the game, but instead of playing music, they were playing the Georgia/South Carolina game. Loudly. So you could barely hear the trivia master, let alone the person next to you. Phyllis asked if they could turn it down, but the waitress told us someone at another table asked them to keep it turned up. So you allow some of your customers to annoy the rest of your customers? Weird.

Had a nice evening on chat. Something funny happened, though: I periodically autoscan the broadcast channels to see if any new sub-channels have appeared. I've been hoping one of the local channels would pick up This Television, which shows some 60s series like The Patty Duke Show and movies. Friday night I did an autoscan and came up with a couple of new sub-channels, including 29-4, which appears to be a bunch of public domain films running without station ID or even commercials. They were running Westerns Friday, and when we got home earlier this afternoon Pygmalion with Leslie Howard was showing. Now as I changed channels to this station a weird British film was on. It turned out to be one of the "Goon" movies, Peter Sellers' film debut.

Well, I was discussing with Rodney my desire to have a good enough antenna to get Georgia Public Broadcasting over the air. We get WPBA, the Atlanta PBS station, but not always reliably, and since the analog broadcast quit, we haven't been able to get GPB at all. says we need a "red" coded antenna to be able to reach the signal. I told him I had just rescanned last night and GPB still wasn't coming in. Well, just for the hell of it I plugged channel 8 into the remote—and now it, and its two sub-channels were coming in. Not very good, though; very pixilated. (This evening it was back to no signal.) I want to go to Fry's and see if there is a pair of rabbit ears that will actually do this job.

Finally we withdrew to bed in order to be up this morning at 8:30 and be on our way to the Yellow Daisy Festival. This is the best weather we have ever had for it. The forecast was for 83°F, but it was pretty much cloudy the entire day and I don't know if it ever got that high. I wore my nice wide-brimmed "straw" hat anyway and was glad not to need it. It was rather humid, but we didn't get exhausted and dripping wet after three hours of walking.

James got the magnesium fire starter he wanted for our emergency kit. I bought him a barbecuing gadget (it's a combination grate cleaner and meat turner; very clever) for our anniversary, and he got me Marcelline Wallis' new Christmas album (she does dulcimer music), plus an album of Celtic music. We got our annual fudge from Ginny's, I bought a new "shadow box" for the hall bath, a lighthouse/seaside theme, from Country Pickins, and also a small heart shelf which I will paint, with a little dog, apple, birdhouse, and gingerbread cookie container for it. We also bought three casserole "kits," and three dips to replenish our stock, and an apple-patterned recycling storage bag for our plastic grocery bags.

Last year I bought a decoration for the front porch. There is a gentleman there who does metalworking, leaves on branches, either dogwood or maple. The leaves have iridescent patterns on brown created from the heat of the welding iron, and then they are clear-coated so they have a lovely sheen. I could only afford the small branch of five maple leaves last year, and it looked really lonely on the brickwork out there! This year I bought another five-leaf branch to add to the arrangement. This branch has three of the brown leaves along with two golden leaves which will stand out nicely. Plus he had single leaves you could purchase, so I bought a large and a small one. This will fill out the design nicely. I told James I should get some little resin birds for it!

We finished up about one and were about to go on the long march out to the parking lot when the guy in the golf cart offered us and another lady a ride. We sat in the "rumble seat" and boy, did he go fast! I had to brace myself with my foot on a metal projection at the back of the cart to keep from feeling like I was going to fall out.

We put the GPS to good use and found the Longhorn on Hugh Howell Road. It was time for James' birthday dinner. We both had a Renegade and both brought half of it home. (James' half will make him a lunch and my half made me two sandwiches.) On your birthday, if you register online you get a coupon for a free dessert. We got a chocolate stampede, which is a huge piece of mousse cake with two scoops of French vanilla ice cream. What we did was eat the ice cream and take the cake part home, because this darn thing is for at least four people, not two! We can both have dessert on it twice this week!

And finally, since we were on that side of town, we went to the DeKalb Farmer's Market to pick up boneless skinless turkey thighs, ground turkey, and ground pork, plus vegetables for the week. Our first order of business when we got home, of course, was wrapping all this meat for the freezer! Now it's full, and then we could finally sit, relax, and read the paper and watch Clark Howard and Colour Confidential (oh, and do the damn laundry...LOL).

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» Friday, September 11, 2009
Well, Drat... report's been saying really low 80s for the weekend, and clouds. Now it looks like it's going to be 84 on Sunday. Bleah. Hope it's at least cloudy...



Moment of Silence
Ceremonies to Honor September 11 Victims

Photoessay: The Challenge of Memorializing 9/11

First thing I did this morning after getting dressed was go downstairs and put up the flag. We bought that flag on Labor Day weekend, 2001, and the first time it was ever put up was for 9/11.

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» Thursday, September 10, 2009
Fresh Air
Golly, it was wonderful out at lunch, cloudy, a breeze, and wasn't over about 74°F! If it could only stay this way for Sunday! Right now the weather report says a high of 80 on Sunday, and cloudy. Hope it stays that way.



Here's a site with free clipart from Victorian/Edwardian-era magazines. I recognize many of the pictures from issues of St. Nicholas!



» Wednesday, September 09, 2009
New CPU at Work

ICE doesn't work any faster, but you can't have everything...



Yet Another Rhode Island Joke


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» Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Hey, Look...We Made!
Geeks Find Romance At DragonCon

Noticed lots of shirts this year that said either "geek" or "I love geeks."

Wouldn't it be nice if someday society started to respect intelligent people, rather than "beautiful" people or "strong" people or "sexy" people?

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» Monday, September 07, 2009
DragonCon, Day 4
The tortilla roll-ups not withstanding, the routine worked this year: we had everything ready to go at night for the next day. When we got in at night, I pulled the battery out of the camera and swapped it out with a charged one and put the used one in the charger, put the PDA in the charger, fastened my badge and my watch to the strap of the camera bag. Then went into the kitchen, emptied out the lunchbag, put what I could in it for next day. Clothes were laid out on the chair in the bedroom. We got up in time for me to have oatmeal, milk and yogurt as always, since the rest of the weekend my diet is radically changed. Seems to have helped.

I was the one with the 10 o'clock panel this morning, but we got there in time to register for next year, then for James to head to the Marriott for a panel. I went upstairs for the Arthurian panel and found the room locked and people milling around outside. The moderator for the panel didn't have a key to the room.

So we started the panel outside the room, talking about our favorite printed versions of the Arthurian mythos and also some complaints about Merlin's diversions from the mythos. Our main objection to the Guinevere character, for instance, is that she's a commoner. She shouldn't even be Morgana's lady-in-waiting, and she can't marry Arthur!

The nice Sheraton man opened the door for us and we continued the conversation inside, talking about films and even the series The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (which starred William Russell, who later did Doctor Who)—and more creebing about inconsistencies on Merlin, although most people admitted they loved Anthony Head as King Uther (it's a very good role, even though he's an asshole...LOL) and that Colin Morgan is cute.

I was fun and fancy-free for the next panel period, so I strolled over to the Marriott and just took one more turn around the Dealers' and Exhibitors' rooms. I did buy three stills from Jerry Ohlinger's stall—goodness, I just realized I've been buying stuff from Ohlinger for thirty years now!: a nice black-and-white of Darren McGavin in Kolchak, and color pics of Nathan Fillion and Molly Quinn from Castle. Also stopped at the ARTC table to say hi.

And that was my last taste of the hue and cry. I crossed back over and headed to the Sheraton for the rest of the day.

I love being with the BritTrack folks; they're certifiably crazy. And even though there were two more panels before the "Dead Dog" wrapup panel, the craziness had already started. Alan Siler was giving away key lime cupcakes and some weird "shrimp cocktail" potato chips, and a bag of jelly babies was passed around. Notwithstanding, the first panel was actually "Torchwood: CSI Cardiff," with Alan, Rob Bowen, and Caro McCully (and Rob Levy, not shown):

The chief discussion was about who the panel, and also the audience, thought was the most underappreciated character on the program, and also things that folks liked or didn't like about each of the characters. More than a few folks didn't like Gwen, who is supposed to be the "everyman" character. It was agreed that Tosh was quite underused; some voiced the opinion that she spent too much time mooning over Owen—and then got a great backstory before her own ended! No one liked Owen's backstory much.

By the "Everything Doctor Who" panel, mania was in full swing. More food was passed around, and an impromptu game of volleyball with four white balloons broke out. (I was getting flashbacks from registration...LOL.) They had been giving away little goodies all weekend—DVDs, T-shirts, even British-made food—and Rob Bowen started a scavenger hunt...there was this young woman in the front row; it was her first convention and she was still full of energy, and he would give her his camera and ask her to go out and ask people to do something, like do "YMCA," and when she came back with the photo, give her a prize. (Several other folks did it, too, including one guy who was sitting next to me, but it was mostly this one was such fun to watch!) The balloon volleyball was fun, too.

The final panel: Alan Siler, George (who was in an Underdog costume much of the weekend), Rob, Caro, Rob Levy, and the other Rob:

Caro discussing the annoying schedule changes as Rob Levy looks on:

...and Alan and George:

The distractions continued, but some of the newer fans kept the panel mostly on target by asking about favorite episodes and companions, and which episodes of the classic series a person who only watched the new series should try. This panel blended seamlessly into the next, James arrived from his wrapup panels, and the happy chaos continued.

Rob Levy read a list of "Top Ten Reasons" that Caro was the greatest. The running gag about the "French track" which has been going on all weekend proceeded apace, as they planned a Jerry Lewis film festival, a wine-and-cheese event, an Agincourt dance (no, wait, they thought that was "too soon"), and other silly events. Rob Levy proposed that it could be held at the Westin...but later when the panel settled down they popped the surprising news that there is an actual rumor that they are going to use the Westin in the future. Are they kidding? The Sheraton's only a two-block walk...the Westin is...gawd, in sight, but still "out there." Gad.

Caro was talking about the difficulty of setting the schedule since the rooms were changed almost until the last minute, and also they got Terry Gilliam as a last-minute guest. We talked about possibly having two rooms next year, one for games or film, other for panels. It was wonderful that we got the ballroom for the larger panels this year. I remember previous years, not last year when they first moved to the Sheraton, but before that, when the British panels were packed to the rafters in those tiny panel rooms in the basement of the Hyatt. This is heaven after that!

Finally they got down to giving the posters off the walls away, and we reluctantly decamped for home. We had planned to go to Longhorn for dinner, but it was already after five. We got a pizza from Kroger along with the usual suspects (bread, milk, bananas, etc.) and had that for supper while we got lunches ready, did the laundry, and put things away to go back to the routine tomorrow. Schuyler burbled and Willow leaped into James' lap at the first opportunity.

Magic time over. Time for bed. Aloha. :-)

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» Sunday, September 06, 2009
DragonCon, Day 3
Wow. No dog barking, and I slept until five minutes before the alarm. What gives?

I keep getting sick during DragonCon, so ate my usual breakfast at home today (oatmeal and yogurt) to keep certain parts of my body on an even keel, then we drove downtown. We thought about eating at the cafe at the Hilton, but they had only starchy breakfast things like croissants and bagels. Then we thought we might hit the buffet. $21.95!!!! Are they kidding????

So James had some eggs and sausage at Dairy Queen and I ate most of his biscuit, then he went off to his panel. I really had nothing to do this morning, so mentally tossed a coin and then went to the Babylon 5 panel over at the Hyatt. For a ten o'clock panel on a Sunday morning, attendance was pretty good: only Bruce Boxleitner didn't show up—Peter Jurasik called him on his cell and had us all "Booooooooooooo" loudly to wake him up—and he was ably replaced by Julie Caitlin Brown for most of the panel. Yet another sequence of amusing anecdotes, including talking about craft services feeding them so well that they needed two uniforms, one for "fat" days and one for normal days. (Claudia commented that of course the women needed them for certain days as well.) Peter Jurasik and Stephen Furst talked about their joking with each other, and of course someone asked the former to do Londo Mollari's classic "What is it, you moon-faced assassin of joy?" They also talked about how serious Walter Koenig was about his role of Bester (Furst told a hilarious story about being stranded in Pittsburgh and having to share a room with him) and about not really knowing the future of their characters and how plot revelations surprised them. One little girl asked "What would you do if a Shadow was in front of you right now?" Claudia and Tracy both screamed. LOL. Tracy also had a good story about driving Jerry Doyle to a medical procedure and having him see her untidy car and ask when the last time it was she cleaned it. (They kept saying "Jerry was here last year? We're sorry.")

At the end of the panel they talked for a few minutes about Andreas Katsulas, Richard Biggs, and Tim Choate, although the funniest stories were about Andreas, including the story about him naked and smoking outside his hotel room.

Stephen Furst telling the "soap" story about his audition:

Claudia Christian (I think telling a Jerry Doyle story):

A smiling Peter Jurasik:

Tracy Scoggins looks on as someone talks:

(If Tracy's eyes look at all weird, it's my fault...still don't know how to work the red-eye reducer well...)

Next I trucked over to the Sheraton for the Classic Doctor Who panel. It was still relatively cool out, so this wasn't so bad. The panel was downstairs in the  Registration Hell  Capitol Ballroom and boy, was it chilly down there. Even I was cold. All my photos of the panel came very dark in that cavernous room, but Alan Siler, Rob Bowen, Rob Levy, and Louis Robinson were some of the  guilty  participants. They chatted about their favorite doctors, companions, episodes, fielded questions from the audience, and spent the first five minutes of the panel, as always, goofing off, especially about the mythical "French track" that Rob joked about and someone believed. Rob Levy says there is a "City of Death" tour in Paris! Yes, you can see all the landmarks shown in that episode. Rob Bowen of course talked about Lalla Ward. :-)

At one o'clock I wanted to see Patrick Stewart, but didn't think I had a snowball's chance in hell in getting in the room. (I was right. I even tried going up there fifteen minutes after it started, in hope I could sneak in and stand along the wall. Nope, it was full.) So I took my time coming back from the Sheraton, went into the Hilton, and strolled around the Walk of Fame. I used to like to take candids of the actors signing autographs and talking to the fans, but the arthritis has made my camera aim while walking very iffy these days. I did say hi to Alan Ruck (best known as Ferris Bueller's buddy Cameron) to tell him how much I enjoyed him in Twister ("Rabbit is good! Rabbit is wise!") and in "Spider" in From the Earth to the Moon.

From there I went across to the Marriott and finally strolled the rest of the second exhibition hall. As I thought, not much there that I wanted, although the stuffed animal dealer had the cutest tricolor corgi and a great Australian cattle dog. (I thought of Spiffy, Jen!) It's a good thing I got the Gremlins and Sylvia Anderson books yesterday, as they were gone today.

From there reconnected with James in the Hyatt at the panel about historical re-enactors. Here's the entire panel—gentleman on very left is a Revolutionary War re-enactor:

These two folks are in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) medieval re-enactors:

The gentleman on the left here ("Trip") is a Civil War participant and of course the fellow on the right, if you couldn't tell from the uniform, does World War II (he even owns some WWII-era armored cars).

Very enjoyable chat, especially about the stupid questions that they get (is that real? are you in a play? etc) and how the "normal" world reacts to them. (In Vermont a paintball/re-enactor group was considered part of the state militia due to vagaries of state law and got recruited to help out during a blizzard.) They also mentioned reactions to their hobby: both Confederate and Union soldiers have been spat upon, or people ask how they can recreate such terrible things/people, like being a prison guard at Andersonville or being Waffen SS. They mentioned that there are now Vietnam re-enactment groups, which upsets some people, but they want to let the vets know that they were appreciated and their hardships were understood, even if no one showed it when they returned from active duty.

James left the room when this was over, off to another panel, but I stayed on for the discussion of the upcoming "reboot" of Sherlock Holmes into an action hero with Robert Downey Jr in the title role and Jude Law as Doctor Watson. This was part of the alternative history track and a great deal of the audience were "steampunk" fans. They are great fun to talk to and I must admit I love the idea of the genre: Jules Verne/H.G. Wells/The Wild Wild West/"Space 1889" all rolled into one, but I wouldn't want to wear those heavy costumes! One of the program participants was Carole Nelson Douglas, author of the Irene Adler novels:

So we talked if the characterization will stay true to the character or not, if this isn't just Holmes for the video-game attention span era, if Holmes hasn't survived other permutations (after all, in the 1940s, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were hunting Nazis and jewel thieves—not to mention that House is just Sherlock in a hospital setting!).

While James was at the Military Science Fiction panel next door, I attended the Time Travel panel (here, with Jana Oliver [dark hair] and S.M. Stirling [right]):

The talk was about keeping your timestreams straight, character reactions to the time, the mechanism of the time travel, etc. but the consensus was that if it is well written and the time travel mechanism is consistent, it works. Several stories were discussed, including Slaughterhouse Five and "Bid Time Return," which became the movie Somewhere in Time.

James and I hooked back up outside the meeting rooms and went back up to Regency for tonight's ARTC performance. Matt Ceccato sat with us (his wife Kelley was performing) and we had a grand time. The first event was a surprise: the Thomas Fuller Award went to Ron Butler...

...who was totally gobsmacked. His wife and sons already knew and had managed to keep it secret from him for two days!

Here are Sara Goodell and Clair Kiernan in a super ensemble adaptation of H. Beam Piper's "Omnilingual" (also featuring Ron, Alton Leonard, Trudy Leonard, Brian Torxell, and Hal Widerman) in which an exploratory Earth expedition finds the last remains of Martian civilization and attempts to decipher the documents and the other media left behind.

And below are David Benedict as Rory Rammer, space marshal, and his faithful sidekick "Skip" Sagan, about to endure a shakeup at space command when a man who hates Rammer is appointed his new superior.

Skip is promoted while Rory is demoted to crap jobs like playing Raddy the Radiation-Exposure Raccoon for schoolchildren. Then Skip persuades the big boss to assault a crime stronghold... Rated R for ROFL ending!

Congratulated Ron on his award and chatted a bit with Lin and another gentleman about Doctor Who, then returned to house and hearth after a brief stop at Wendys for a small burger. I was tired of those silly roll-ups we've been eating by the time Friday was over. Either need to waste money at the food court and miss panels next year, or figure out something else. I don't mind carrying the snacks and the fruit juice boxes, but the roll-ups have to go...

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» Saturday, September 05, 2009
DragonCon, Day 2
A much easier morning: we rose about eight, I had some oatmeal and yogurt, read the comics, puttered in Webkinz. We still reached downtown early enough to have seen a 10 a.m. panel, but instead James had an omelet plate from Gorin's and I had a bagel with cream cheese at Peachtree Place.

Since we still had a little while before our first panel, we went into the second exhibition hall, the one I had missed yesterday. Well, we were doing well until we came upon this bookseller. He had the two sequels to Patricia Wrede's Sorcery and Cecilia (sequels I didn't know which existed until sometime this year), and also the first book in a duology, an alternative Elizabethan-era novel about sorcery and playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare, by Elizabeth Bear. I also bought the new Beatrix Potter mystery so I could charge the whole caboodle, since I want to save my cash for the garage.

Our first panel was in the Science track, "Celebrating Apollo 11." Basically we all reminisced about how we watched the moon landing and what it meant to us. Several younger people even talked about memories their parents had passed down to them. One man's mother-in-law had been one of the few female engineers who had worked at Grumman on the lunar module. Other folks' parents, like James' dad, had been involved in the companies supporting the space program in some way. One of the moderators was a Canadian who built a 4-foot high Apollo capsule in his room. Another man still had the cardboard "build your own lunar module" kits Gulf Oil used to give out.

Gosh, it was so nice to be with people who remembered how magic it all was.

We made a quick break out of there (this was in the Hilton), through the Marriott (thank God for that new bridge!), and to the Hyatt for the Babylon 5 cast panel...well, first we had to go up the stairs and all the way "behind" the building to wait in a queue until they let us in the room. (I say "behind" because we were actually at the front of the hotel on Peachtree Street.) This was a great, great panel. Leah Rosenthal was the moderator of this gang of jokers, consisting of Stephen Furst, Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Tracy Scoggins, and Peter Jurasik. Bruce and Claudia joked about killing off "Half-Pint" (Boxleitner's wife, Melissa Gilbert, who had a role on B5), Stephen Furst talked about turning up so flustered at his audition that he got the part simply from that, they all mentioned how dirty and smelly the B5 set was (on the site of an abandoned factory) and how the heavy costumes even smelled bad, and many other things were discussed, all with a large dose of fun, especially from Claudia Christian, who is irreverent and quite hilarious. (Tracy Scoggins, I think, got the biggest laugh, though, when she was asked how it was working on Lois and Clark with Teri Hatcher: "Well, if you had six months left to live, you should do it in Metropolis, because it would have seemed a lot longer." LOL!)

Photos below: entire panel, with Leah Rosenthal third from right, then Stephen Furst, Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Tracy Scoggins, and Peter Jurasik:

The next panel was in the Alternative History track and was about how history is portrayed in movies purportedly about that event. Some of the panel below (I wasn't familiar with most of the people; the gentleman at the podium was an expert in the Scots, the woman in the hat a Revolutionary War reinactor, the redhaired lady had a degree in history, and the gentleman in the hat was of partial Native American heritage; other members of the panel were experts in other areas of history).

They chatted about movies like The Patriot (a major offender!), Dances With Wolves, Troy, The 300, and others. One thing we concluded is that the panel either needed to be longer or split into genres, like military films, Westerns, adventures, etc. There just wasn't enough time, even with them setting a 5-minute limit on the films.

James wanted to go to the Dealer's Room as they were saving something for him that he wanted to buy as a Christmas gift, so we left the Hyatt and descended into the madness that was the Marriott. I mean...really. The ballroom level was a mob scene, so clotted with people it looked like New Year's Eve in Times Square. The racket of all those voices were horrendous.

We stopped by the exhibitors' hall before we went downstairs so I could pick up the Gremlins book. This was a story written by Roald Dahl when he was in the RAF during World War II, which Disney had planned to make into a cartoon. That deal fell through, but the concept art still existed, so they had turned it into a book. It was only $5, and when I got there there was another book I had heard about, but never seen, a coffee table book by Sylvia Anderson called My FAB Years, about her work with her husband Gerry and the series Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Fireball XL-5, etc. This was only $10, so I had to grab it.

After James had picked up his purchase in the dealer's room, we just walked outside, where it was hot, humid, but blessedly uncrowded and relatively quiet. Wow. Have the fire marshals seen that mob? Anyway, we walked to the parking garage and dumped off our load of books (James found three bound volumes of "Steve Canyon" comics), then went back over the bridge to Peachtree Place to cool off in the A/C and have some Gorin's ice cream. We have been spoilt by Brusters...this stuff is truly awful, and it was soft and melting, too.

Next we went back to the Hyatt. Since it was too early for the next panel, we strolled through Artists Alley and James bought me a cute little print: cartooned images of Harry Potter (with his patronus), Hermione Granger (with her wand, of course, and Crookshanks the cat), and Ron Weasley getting Owl Post from Pigwidgeon. (Yes, "Pig" is what sold the picture.) We also said hi to Andy Runton, then went around the art show. The "intestinal" (gross) art is still minimal, and we saw some nice pieces. No great spacescapes, but I bought James a print of a dragon attacking a Sopwith Camel, very visually arresting. I also found a lovely small print of a blue falcon with its wings forming a rainbow below. I said to James: "That's what Schuyler probably wants to be" and bought it on the spot.

This next panel was about the challenges and rewards of writing alternative history/time travel novels, and included Jana Oliver (the "Time Rovers" books), Eric Flint (1632 and sequels among others), and S.M. "Steve" Stirling, whom James has just begun reading. (I can't recall the name of the moderator at left, or the other young woman on the right, who publishes a science fiction magazine.)

They chatted about the popular time periods for alternative fiction, especially the Civil War and World War II, and how some of the settings, especially Gettysburg, seem to be overused, and how other pivotal periods, such as World War I, are often ignored, about how your own worldview as well as your lead character's perceives society at that time, about whether the character or the time period initially drove the book, and gave responses to other questions from the audience. Quite enjoyed it as I enjoy well-written alternative fiction.

It was time for the last panel, and here we split: James to the Marriott for a gaming panel, while I went to the Brit Track's "Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey" panel about David Tennant's last days in the role of the Doctor. As always, the panel began by ribbing themselves—here Alan Siler looks on as Rob Levy reads "The Top Ten Reasons Caro McCully [the head of BritTrack] is Tired" to Caro:

and Rob "in the Hat" Bowen, Jorge, and Maranda look bemused.

Much of the beginning of the panel was taken up with discussing how young the new Doctor (Matt Smith) looks—one person asked dryly, "Will the next doctor be old enough to shave?"—and how everyone will miss Tennant, as he has really left a positive mark on the series. Also much speculation on how the new producer, Stephen Moffat, will change the show's tone. Smith's Doctor is already being described as a combination of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy with an overlay of Patrick Troughton. Also wondering whether some favorite characters, like Sally Sparrow, whom Moffat created, will return.

At the end of the panel some spoilers were offered, and many people left so as not to hear them. Sorry, I'm "into" spoilers. So don't highlight between the exclamation points if you don't want to know the spoilers: !Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and J.K. Rowling have all been approached to write scripts. The Master will return in the series finale. The Daleks will appear in Matt Smith's first story. Harriet Jones, Martha Jones, Mickey, Rose, Jack Harkness, Sarah Jane Smith, and Rose will all return in Tennant's finale, as well as the woman from the bus who made the prediction to the Doctor. Derek Jacobi and John Sim will both return as the Master, but Jacobi only for narration. A person in a Time Lord costume is seen in a publicity photograph, so there is a possibility some of the Time Lords survived the Time War. It sounds as if River Song will be back, as we were told it will help to watch "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead" before you watch the two-part finale.!

And now it was really time to go home, get cool, have a nibble and a drink!

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» Friday, September 04, 2009
DragonCon, Day 1
Ah, yes, it's back to what James calls "the Bataan death march of science-fiction conventions."

In the past years, since the convention proper didn't open until 1 p.m., we've been showing up around 11 a.m. In the last couple of years, D'Con seemed to get their registration problems ironed out. Last year, we walked right in and had our badges within 15 minutes. The longest time it took was finding the room because the signage was incorrect. It was a little longer the year before, but it wasn't the hour-long wait it was in the past.

Well, I wanted to get there in time for the 10 a.m. panel with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, so we got up at 6:30 and were on the road by seven, grabbed breakfast at Burger King, and were at the Sheraton—new venue for registration—at quarter to eight. Dumbfounded, we saw the line outside the building stretching all the way down the hill and around. So at eight they opened the doors and started letting people in and we thought we'd wait for the end of the line.

At eight thirty people were still walking up the hill. Yow.

By this time the milk I had when I got up was working on me, so we walked to Peachtree Center to use the john. Then we walked back to the Sheraton. This took fifteen minutes. The line was gone.

It was instead snaked inside, like the line for Space Mountain in midsummer. We were in line for 65 minutes. About a half hour into the wait, someone got so bored they inflated a beach ball and people were punching it around the room. Unfortunately this was a ballroom and had crystal chandeliers. The third time the beach ball hit the chandelier they made us stop.

It was totally stupid. The alphabetical lines should have been divided into more subgroups, so the majority of the people weren't stuck in A through D or whatever the first line was, and the remainder were sometimes half-empty while people with that last name languished in the line.

Anyway, we did get to see Shatner and Nimoy, at least 45 minutes of it, but only on closed-circuit TV. It was as hilarious as I had expected, with them bantering back and forth with the easiness of old companions. Shatner played fake petulancy when he didn't get asked a question and Nimoy parried with faked sobriety while poking fun at Priceline. They talked about the blooper reel by talking about their reaction to it, Shatner plugged Raw Nerve and ribbed Nimoy about a telepathical youngster he was exposed to while doing In Search of..., and also talked about a movie he did in Esperanto, and I laughed until I almost cried.
Bill and Leonard on the "Jumbotron":

James went off then for one of the Apocalypse track panels and I went back to the Sheraton for the Torchwood panel, which featured Gareth David Lloyd and James Marsters. [hormonal drool alert] Gareth has grown a beard like Orlando Bloom's and while I've never liked OB much, Gareth looked reallllly nice in the beard. [hormonal alert over] Very good-natured panel with Lloyd talking about keeping his demise in "Children of Earth" a secret and Marsters telling about his son's search for the perfect guitar. One really funny moment: audience member asks Lloyd what his least favorite question at conventions is. He retorted "'What's it like to kiss John Barrowman?'" LOL. That one brought down the house. Another audience member looked at him and said "Sorry you're dead." Even more LOL. There was also a Ianto Memorial Film.

Gareth David Lloyd:

James Marsters:

At this point I was going to a scheduled panel with John Billingsly and Anthony Montgomery, but it turned out the panel was for Garrett Wang, so I tramped from the Sheraton to the Hilton, took the new trans-street bridge, and went to the Dealer's Room just as it was opening. Since no one was coming out, the guard at the exit door was letting some folks in temporarily, and some lady on the staff came over rudely bellowing at him and the people that I was in line with—we were almost at the door—that he shouldn't be doing this and that was an out door only...sheesh, how rude can you get? Couldn't she just say quietly and politely, no, the door had to be reserved for an exit, and please go to the entrance there rather than screaming like a banshee?

Didn't see anything I wanted; even the Pocket Dragon supply seemed thin this year. Suits me. I did get a laugh at one table that had books. The young woman running it said brightly to me, "Are you a book person?" Honey, you have no idea! Also got through one of the two exhibition halls. I might want to buy the Disney book about the Gremlins, which is only $5. Lots more Steampunk items this year, I notice.

I blew off the other hall to get back to the Sheraton for the "Behind the BBC" panel, which featured Louis Robinson, whose Sherlock Holmes/Hound of the Baskervilles panel I so loved at Timegate. There was another gentleman on the panel who had also worked at the BBC, but it's late and I've sadly forgotten his name, but they both chatted about the ease of getting some programs through in the past compared to the difficulty now, the relative freedom BBC radio has compared to BBC television, the little rivalries between the different regional BBC entities (BBC Wales, BBC Birmingham, etc), the surprising reappearance of Doctor Who, etc.
Louis Robinson:

From the Sheraton I trucked back to the Hyatt, via the Courtland Street Garage (which was full!) and across the "Luke Skywalk" as James and I call it to Peachtree Center, for Dean Haglund's improv panel. I expected it to be SRO as always, but this afternoon edition was only half full. Everyone's loss. He basically postulated a story that was a prequel for the last X-Files film, where, as his Lone Gunman character Ringo Langly, he had to talk Mulder and Scully out of moving in together. The only problem: I need to quit going to these things. I laughed so much I got a headache, my back hurt, and several times I couldn't catch my breath. I was wheezing at one point and when it was over had to retreat into the ladies' room to take three ibuprofin.
Dean Haglund in improv mode:

I joined James downstairs at the Hyatt after finding the artists' room (they put it next to the art show finally—wow, go figure) and visiting Andy Runton's table. There was a new "Owly" collection out and I also wanted the "Starry Night" t-shirt. And then as Andy was autographing my copy of the book I saw the print. An Owly and his friends in the forest print. In the autumn forest. Talk about something that had "me" written all over it! Of course I bought it!

James and I finished our day at two writers' panels. One was about "the red-haired stepchildren" of media publishing: professional writers who also do tie-in media books. Peter David, Terri Osborne, Robert Greenberger, Timothy Zahn, and Josepha Sherman, who have all done media novels, were on the panel. It was a lively, fun discussion of whether these novels were "real books" or just pushing "real" books off the shelves, about the challenges of writing for them, publishers' whimsies, etc.
"Red-headed stepchildren" (LOL):

The second panel was about what made certain science fiction novels classic, are the "golden years" of science fiction over or are they still with us, is a classic more subjective than objective, etc. I wasn't familiar with the panel members, but it was an excellent, intelligent panel.

By now it was 8 p.m., and as much as I wanted to see that 8:30 panel on Britcoms, I was pooped. We're planning on a later start tomorrow, maybe with breakfast at the Hilton or at Peachtree Center. There are places there with fruit cups and bagels and things.

I can't wait until I go back on telework. I always get out of shape in the summer and I had just started walking before starting work in the morning before we got pulled off telework for end of fiscal year. I really, really want to start walking again. This is ridiculous; I shouldn't be so sore just from walking back and forth between hotels.

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