Saturday, August 29, 2009

contest: submit your story about love (good or bad)

I interrupt regular programming this week to announce a call for stories about love.

Good love, bad love, first love, hearts-ripped-out-of-chests love, hateful love, love lessons, The One, The One That Got Away, betrayal, soul mates, whatever. It just has to be good. Moving, raw, honest, aching, dreamy... whatever tells your story.

My colleagues and I are building an anthology and we're looking for new authors. It can be a blog post you've already written or something you're composing in your head. You can also be anonymous if you'd like. Or not.
  • Prize: $100 (That's half an iPhone!!)
  • Deadline: October 31, 2009. (Isn't Halloween a fitting deadline? Better than Valentine's Day....)
  • Spread the word:
Authors will be notified by November 30, 2009 if they've won. A panel of judges will make the decision.

Desired format:
  • Email your entry with the subject line "LOVE story submission" or something along those lines so I can tell you're not selling me "bigger stick" pills for my manhood.

  • You can submit more than one entry, but only one entry per author can win.

  • Must be a true story, not fiction. We're looking for first-person memoir type accounts. Diary entries. Soul rendering on paper. TMI, no holds barred raw emotions.

  • The story can be in the text of the email, or an attached PDF or Word document (not .docx).

  • Please include your contact info so we can notify you if you've won.We will respond to let you know we've received your submission, and then again by the first week of December to let you know if you've won or not. If you have won, we will also keep you updated on publishing information.

  • Let us know if you would prefer to remain anonymous.

  • Bonus if your piece has a title but it's not absolutely necessary.

  • Length: no more than, say, 10 pages. No shorter than, say, 1 page. But we're flexible on this.
More details on the panel's selection criteria:
Raw emotion should pour out of the story. What details could you add that you would be embarrassed to share with your family, friends, the public? Writing that makes you cringe and say, "wow, that was TMI and really hard to get out but it's the truth, it's what was happening to me inside." You can tell if you're going in the right direction if you would be embarrassed to share the details pouring out. Diary stuff. And one of the reasons anonymity or refuge under a pen name is offered.

cartoon from Jason Love

I'll be traveling this week so see you as soon as I get back online!

Friday, August 28, 2009

"I hate camp!" letter from 6 yr old

I just found this old letter from sleepaway camp when I was a counselor. Kids didn't always love it when they were dropped off, as you can tell from this little girl's note:
Dear Mom, I hate this camp. I hate the showers, the food, the beds, the people, the bugs, the cabin. And I don't have enough clothes. If you signed me up for horseback riding for Monday 7/20/92, I need more pants and shorts shirts send them. I don't want to stay. PICK ME UP. I'm not eating till you pick me up. I almost through up allready from not eating I'm not taking a shower nether till when you or Dad or sombody picks me up. I'll be dirty you don't care anyway. I HATE THIS CAMP. PICK ME UP. Pamela Lynn.

I'm happy to say she did end up staying and actually enjoying the camp - most kids adjust once we showed them a good time!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

putting an animal to sleep. :(

When he woke, I knew something was wrong. Normally Dan's ferret would crawl out of his bed and greet me, but now he stayed put, oddly looking at me. I reached out encouragingly. "Hey there, little fella. Cooome here!" I wanted my after-nap hug.

Dan was away on a trip and I was watching his beloved ferret for a week. If you've never gotten to know one, they're kindof like a mixture between dogs and cats. They're curious, playful and, if you handle them frequently as kits, affectionate. Floyd was all of these things, the sweetest bundle of fur you could imagine.

I waited for him to come out of his bed, yet he balked. I called to him again and realized with alarm he couldn't move the back half of his body. He laboriously pulled himself up over the lip of his bed and when his hindquarters appeared, I was horrified to see that they were not only paralyzed but an eery blue color.

"Anoxia" I thought immediately.

It wasn't a stroke but the circulatory system was shutting down.

I knew he was old. I knew he was sick. But he'd been these things for a few years. I didn't know he was on the edge of death. Here Dan was hundreds of miles away on a boat in the middle of the ocean and his beloved pet, in my care, was dying.

I never had an animal put to sleep before. But I knew it had to be done or the poor little guy would continue to suffer. He refused food, a sign of pain.

I rushed to the vet with him enveloped in a soft cushioned box and sped down the road watching the glorious sunset, wondering how could death happen on a day so achingly beautiful? I turned on the radio and heard the soft melody of a song I'd never heard before crooning lyrics that echoed my thoughts.

I stayed just a little too long
Now it's time for me to move on
I pulled into the parking lot and tenderly gathered the box while Floyd looked at me questioningly, his innocent face turned sweetly upward.
Goodbye yesterday, I just can't stay around
He had no idea he was dying and no idea that in a few moments, I was going to hand him to some strangers to "put him out."
Goodbye morning, sorry it had to end
I peered at him for one last look, fat drops falling silently into the box and wetting his soft fur. Then I ran inside.

You see I cried just a little too long
Now it's time for me to be strong
I handed the box to the robotic clerk behind the counter. We had no local vet because the ferret usually saw Dan's veterinarian uncle. And so I was not at a place we had any relationship with.

Businesslike, I gulped back tears and handed them the ferret. They asked if I wanted to be there.

I couldn't. I couldn't stand there and watch the life drain out of him.

They say I'm hopeless
I stood in the waiting room, completely and utterly alone, fighting back waves of sadness. Why now? How am I going to break the news?

Fifteen agonizing minutes crawled by where I tried in vain not to think.

An emotionless assistant finally emerged from the back and handed me a shoebox, lid closed. "Here you go," she offered. I silently held out my credit card, a stoic pillar of sand about to crumble any second.

Goodbye yesterday, I can't take you with me
And then I turned to leave.

The face that I presented to the world, the one I thought looked strong, must have been a mask of grief and loss so transparent that a woman, a complete stranger standing in the doctor's office looked at me and kindly opened her arms for a hug. She said gently, "I've had to put a few cats to sleep, I know how it is."

Not usually prone to hugging strangers, I fell into her arms and she surrounded me with warmth. Not a pat-pat hug, but a true hug of comfort. A strangled sob suddenly escaped and I realized I'd been holding my breath. Unable to speak, I nodded to thank her for her kindness. Then I broke away and ran to the car where I could break down in private. I sobbed the whole way home.

I always wanted to thank that woman for being there for me that day when I so badly needed it.

Hello yesterday, remember how it used to be
She'll never see my blog. She'll never know how much that tiny gesture meant. But I'm writing this today as a tribute to that little creature. And to say that the kindnesses you offer strangers may matter more than you could know.

Lyrics to Hopeless
by Dionne Farris

Hello morning, now when does the fun begin
Goodbye morning, sorry it had to end
But see I cried just a little too long
Now it's time for me to be strong
Hello morning, I sure missed you last night
Goodbye morning, you just won't do me right
I stayed just a little too long
Now it's time for me to move on
They say I'm hopeless, as a penny with a hole in it
They say I'm no less, no less, no less, no less, no less
Than up to my head in it
Hello yesterday, I sure need you now
Goodbye yesterday, I just can't stay around
You see I cried just a little too long
Now it's time for me to be strong
Hello yesterday, remember how it used to be
Goodbye yesterday, I can't take you with me
No, no, no I can't
You see I stayed just a little too long
And now it's time for me to move on

. . .

My other TMI Thursdays -->

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Funny twitter updates

This has moved to here:

Sedona is for spleens

This past weekend, we also went to Sedona to see the beautiful red rock formations. The city is named after the postmaster's wife, Sedona Schnebly, population around 12,000.
Sedona, AZ at the golden hour (sunset) --
look how the rocks come alive!

But even when the rocks are dull, they're beautiful.
Here, monsoon clouds peak over this sandstone formation.

A tree branch arches off.

Another rock formation stark against the bruised sky.

The Devil's Bridge, a great trail in Sedona.

I saw this yesterday -- the Taylor fire, about 10,000 acres have burned and about 110 people are fighting to put it out. Forest officials are not yet sure what caused it.
A helicopter drops water onto the Taylor fire from a reservoir in Sedona. More information on the Taylor Fire at the Coconino National Forest website -->
These photos were from two separate days in Sedona -- this past Sunday and, the cloudy photos, about a month ago. More tree photos from Sedona -->

Monday, August 17, 2009

Telescope construction, part 2 (Discovery Channel Telescope)

The Discovery Channel Telescope, under construction.
Image from Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ.
More info about the DCT from Lowell -->

So, Dan is helping to build a new telescope. And he took us to go see it yesterday.

I love science. I built a website on the history of early cosmology for the American Institute of Physics a while back and so learning about Dan's work has been extremely captivating. But never having been to a telescope before, I had no idea what all that big stuff* was.
*Big stuff: [n] complex big things outside even bigger buildings consisting of large humming shapes, ductwork, wires and gnarled cabling.
my beloved friend Stephanie, who inquired of our building engineer, "What's all that big stuff??" while pointing to our work's HVAC system. Or basically anything that looks like it belongs in a big laboratory with a hunchback laboring over it.)
So, here's some big stuff for you. (NO, not your genitals -- you'll have to rely on your email for those opportunities. Sorry.)

Telescope BEFORE the dome panels
were added. (June 7, 2009)
Sunday August 16, 2009 (yesterday).

Doesn't it look like someone's house? You'd almost not know that a big 4-meter diameter telescope will be living here one day.

So, a telescope kinda looks like this inside:

These are pictures inside the dome before the telescope is added.

Steve, taking a picture of the scaffolding and other big stuff.

Dan cranks open a side door.

Dan, explaining an architectural drawing of the interior.

Mirror-coating chamber.

The mirror-coating chamber is in the accessory building, a huge secondary lab where people will work on instrumentation and where the mirror will be coated with aluminum and made shiny.

Right now, the mirror's in Tucson. Eventually some nervously sweating trucker is going to have to carefully load and haul an enormous and very fragile 14 foot convex piece of glass five hours up the interstate to this room, where it will be aluminized and lifted into its rightful place as a telescope reflector.

The neat thing about this telescope is that it will be the largest in the continental U.S. and one of the largest in the world (listed in the Wikipedia in the list of telescopes under construction).

--> See my first blog post of the telescope's construction (June 7, 2009).

AND! For a fantastic write-up of the technical information (with humor), see Steve's blog post and photos about the telescope -->

Saturday, August 15, 2009

winner of belt giveaway!

Hautepocket! Runner ups get chocolate. I'll be contacting you. Thx for entering!

I took my spleen to Wupatki

Dan at Wupatki National Monument

Today we visited Wupatki, an ancient Indian pueblo about 800-900 years old. If you're going to the Grand Canyon, stop by. This is right on the loop with Sunset Crater. Wupatki is a modern Hopi word for "big house." (So, you kickin' back in your wupatki??)

Dan photographing the pueblo ruins.
About 300 people were thought to live at Wupatki.

A sunflower hangs its head at the end of its blooming season.

Isn't it amazing to imagine how many spleens lived here so long ago? It's thought that the people left when a volcano (now Sunset Crater) erupted 900 years ago. I looked at the lava fields and tried to imagine what that must have been like. And now, cozily tucked into bed posting these photos, I'm very grateful for a warm house and no need to evacuate suddenly into the night.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The ugliest clothes on the planet.

Fashion critic Cara and I flanking a
particularly ugly shirt.
No, it's not a
curtain but I don't
blame you for wondering.

Why are the clothes so ugly this year? Have you noticed this? Hideous, loud, obnoxious colors, maternity shapes (good god, why would we want to look pregnant if we weren't?), baggy waistlines blousing out from under the chest and patterns that shouldn't even be on bedding. Have we learned nothing from the 60s and 70s??

I need to remember this. When I am 80 and wondering was it really that bad? I want to whip out my extra-large iPhone for arthritic fingers, find proof and say yes, it really was that bad.

So because I was feeling extremely judgmental, I went undercover to assemble a collage of the ugliest clothes I could find.

It wasn't hard. I may have spent all of 20 minutes finding enough fashion blog fodder.

To compensate you for the damage you'll undoubtedly do to your eyes by feasting them on this psychedelic crap, I'm offering a free belt giveaway. To enter, post a comment and I'll have the very large and vocal doves roosting outside my window peck out the winner.

Important note: when you see the ugly clothes ON someone (besides me, because I'm just horsing around), know that these examples stood out because of their ability to transform a willowy figure into a shapeless lump. Heck, if a shirt can make an anorexic plastic torso look fat then I don't know who could pull it off!

Fashion critics, Steve and Dan
on part of our mission.


Ugly clothes hideous clothes and ugly AND hideous clothes:

Me at left: ready to command a Spleenizistan marching band. Right: I think I just wanted to look fat and ugly. Mission accomplished!

Not only do the waistlines in these ugly dresses begin right under the boob, but the huge sashes are still not large enough to actually encircle the waist. End result? You will look pregnant.

WTF is that on the left? It's definitely not the right shape for a shower curtain. And I couldn't find the hem for a curtain rod so it definitely doesn't belong on a window. But this can't possibly be made to fit over a human body. Or at least a human body that wanted to appear attractive or professional. And seriously?? I don't think Barney would even wear the, um, thing on the right.

Rule #1. Where is the waist? A woman's waist does not begin under her breasts.
Even Maddox, manly man and creator of the best site on the internet, says:
(Image from Maddox.)

Not sure whether you want to look fat OR pregnant?

No worries! You can have BOTH! Look fat AND pregnant in our special ladies wear.

I can't decide whether it's the "THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS!" patterns or the shapelessness of these ugly dresses that get me. In Walmart, these would be fru-frus but here they're sold as high fashion. I'm not fooled.

You can also look thin and ugly too.

Left: wrapping paper. Middle: plastic picnic tablecloth? Right: the tablecloth that can't make up its mind whether it's celebrating July 4th or St. Patty's Day. You might get your ass kicked though for not being sure.

Is shapeless is your goal? Got it covered.

I don't understand the one on the left. Which side is up?
At right: better than zebra stripes to ward off, um, EVERYONE. If you're terrified of meeting people, this is the perfect dress to activate their flight instinct and effectively render a 5-foot NO TOUCH zone around your entire body.

If I were a clothes buyer, I would kill the career of whatever fashion designer made the one on the left as sexy beach wear. Guideline: if it wouldn't appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated bikini edition, it's not something men are fantasizing about seeing.

The NJ part of me (my roots go deep) actually does like the garish striped thing on the right. But I don't have the right fingernails to pull it off.

Someone was actually wearing the skirt on the left. It looks like a dishrag. The ugly dress in the middle looks like it belongs on June Cleaver. I thought we agreed that lime green & polka dots were better left in the 60s?

The ugly dress on the left has a bit of "bling" attached to it, what with the bone-like neckline. I could see how the middle might work if you had a huge bust, but again, the waist is made for preggers. The hideous monstrosity on the right, however, is tailored for measurements which I'm not sure actually exist on any real people. Can someone really be that large and, ahem, small, at the same time?
Um, don't answer that. I'm probably the first in line. lol. Word of advice: baby, if you've got back, like me, these are DEFINITELY not complimentary. (Perhaps that's why I'm enraged enough to devote an entire post to this meaningless and shallow subject.)

Shoes are not exempt! Look at these hideous things! I might understand the visual appeal for cruel shoes -- you want your feet to look hot (a gene I am apparently missing) -- but I'll never understand why anyone would want UGLY cruel shoes. Can someone please explain?
BTW I took an unofficial poll of the male population and 100% (both of them) agreed that a hot woman wearing a hideous shirt is still attractive. "She's just a pretty woman in an ugly shirt, is all," one said. "Clothes do come off," said the other. So maybe this enables the mistaken notion that these clothes might actually be desireable, I dunno.

Want more? Check out my view of the Spiegel catalog -->

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

hike in the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff (pix)

Even though I had corks stuffed up my nose this weekend, we still managed to get out and about. Here we're exploring the Coconino National Forest. (I know, I know -- wasn't that hot? Blame the sexy image unwillingly seared onto your brain by the delirium brought on from my sinus infection.)

Fire in the distance

A fire had just started. Fire's an ever-present danger in dry Arizona (and Northern Arizona, where I am -- Flagstaff -- is actually much better than the rest of the state).

Dan snaps a photo of the smoke.

Fire also visible at the Grand Canyon.

You can actually see fires at the Grand Canyon in the distance (about 70-80 miles away) -- one at the North Rim and one at the South Rim (separated by about 13 miles).

Lightning strike scars a tree.

The Coconino National Forest in & surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona is one of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forests in North America. Lightning scarred trees line the landscape. If there's any doubt as to whether lightning strikes or how often, just wander into the mountains and just look around -- trees like this abound. (Watch the forecast AND the sky though! You don't want to see it firsthand!)

Macro shot of a downed tree.

I love the symmetrical lines of wood.

Me photographing pretty yellow flowers.

The fruits of my labor!

Another bud reaches up for the sun.

Flagstaff is lousy with these gorgeous yellow flowers. They're all over the place -- in the woods, on the side of the road, everywhere.

Leaning against a burnt trunk stump, the casualty of another fire.

Dan next to the impressive root system of a downed pine.

And the sun sets.

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