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Abandon ship!

All the action is at FaceBook now. No idea why, but that's why I haven't been here. Well, that and work.

Ye Old Comments and Suggestions

I'm sitting here in my favorite nook at Uris Library at Cornell. It's just across from where Yoram Szekely, esteemed librarian, kept a "Comments and Suggestions" notebook during my freshman and sophomore years. Where once was a faded denim three ring binder, with cardstock pages divided into a question area at the top and a response area at the bottom, there are now four Dell computers. Three chairs inhabit my nook, upholstered in sturdy brown leather and nearly as comfortable as the two soft plum chairs that used to be here. The carpet is new, but the view over Libe Slope to Lake Cayuga is the same.

The C & S book was more than its name suggests. It was actually a discussion board, the only difference being that YS faithfully answered each comment in his Courier type. I was "Tursiops" (yes, I've been using genera as pseudonyms for 25 years) and meritahut was "Little Sidhe." I wrote in green ink, she in purple. I can't really remember the discussions we had (probably dreck, that hasn't changed!) but it was a community (mostly of anonymous strangers) and had the same pull we now feel online.

Ah, nostalgia. It appears YS retired in 2003.  I was looking for any vestige of knowledge about the old C & S book and ran into another 2003 blurb from Cornell about the shushing librarian Action figure. And no surprise that they mention Erica Olsen's Librarian Avenger blog (but as it was 2003 they didn't us the hip blog term).

I love libraries. And I'm doing my part to create some online evidence of the old C & S book so there's something there in case someone else Googles it.

What ho! Google wins again. I discovered that a "Dear Ezra" column started up shortly after the demise of C & S back in 1985, and that it is available online and has a little history. Go to http://ezra.cornell.edu/ and search for "Yoram Szekely." The earliest mention I could find was this one.

And that's the extent of today's procrastination (I hope). 

Freaky scene

Imagine if you will the quiet repose of an early dawn. Lounging with some light reading, slowly gathering energy to face the busy day. Listening to the gentle drips of a warm summer shower on the lush greenery of an overgrown yard-jungle.

Crash! Sounds like a hundred pounds of books and a bookcase topple somewhere on a floor below, taking a crate of wineglasses with it.

Kids okay, fish tank okay, all bookcases where they are supposed to be.

But a large semi-rotted log has found its way through a basement window. Glass is thrown across half the room. And later, one discovers that there couldn't be a much worse cleanup than a drum set (with all its little knobs and rims and nooks and crannies) with tiny invisible shards all over it.

RIP little shark

There is a sort of macabre humor to this story. But I do feel bad about it.

We have a decent-sized fish tank (40 gallons?) and in it rest a castle (former home of the ogre, our Plecostomus, before he got too big) and a facsimile of the Roman coliseum (former home of our blue lobster, who didn't survive an unfortunate molting experience). Now covered in algae, they have been the hiding space for a few rosy barbs.

Yesterday morning we discovered that our larger Bala shark, a sturdy torpedo-shaped fish about six inches long, had managed to get stuck in one of the arched windows of the coliseum. Clearly the fish swam in and was unable to get its dorsal fin through, but was unable to back out, impeded by large silvery scales that faced the wrong way. We aren't sure when this happened -- DH had not fed the fish the previous day and so it could have been more than 24 hours before we discovered poor Bala, still gently panting and swishing pectoral fins.

It took a Herculean effort to un-stick poor Bala, and many scales were lost in the process. Of course there had been considerable swelling of the front end of the fish while stuck.  Immediately the fish started to list and go belly up. We tried to quarantine poor Bala but it was too late. Within moments all signs of respiration stopped and after no motion in 24 hours we concluded the accident had been fatal.

I can't shake the memory of the one Homicide: Life in the Streets episode I've seen, where a man had been pushed off a subway platform and gotten wedged between the platform and an incoming train. The entire episode was about the efforts to reach this man's significant other because it was clear his spinal injuries were going to be fatal and he would die as soon as they relieved the pressure on them. Yet the freak accident had left the man fully conscious, in no pain, and completely unaware of his impending death. It still haunts me.

What th'!??

Who can tell me why the Red Cross shows up in a search on "exterminators columbia maryland"

Screenshot from exterminator columbia search

After a couple of years of peace, we are overrun with carpenter ants again.

Wrong, just wrong

Saw a guy fishing in the pond in front of the Applied Physics Lab yesterday. Now, that's odd in itself -- it's a carefully manicured campus and not the kind of place I'd go to get away from it all.

But what was really wrong is that the guy had a cell phone tucked between his shoulder and his ear. I know, I'm one to talk, having developed a terrible habit of checking and even writing email on my phone while driving. But what is the world coming to when a fisherman has to multi-task?

Raindrops keep falling

After a couple of drought years I can't believe how much rain we've been getting.

There. I blogged. I know it has been a while. Real life and all that.  What's up?

1. I got a new job! About six weeks ago at the Entomologists Party (TM) various folks were sharing stories of the long and twisted paths they took before finally landing their dream jobs at age 43. Well, the perfect job opened up for me, I applied, and got it. Starting next month I'll be working for the Smithsonian on the Encyclopedia of Life. Just in time to start paying real money into social security before I need to start drawing from it.
2. I figured out a new way to commute that is much more comfortable. Drive ten minutes to a park and ride, hang out on a cushy bus for an hour, and get dropped off right in front of the Natural History museum. See point 1.
3. We finally got the new washer and dryer. They are LG, teal, and eerily quiet (except for the gentle electronic beeps and chimes). I feel like such a grown up. Until now we've always bought used and/or lived with decrepit ones that came with a house. Starting the last two or three years, all of our major appliances -- original to the house which was built in 1984 -- are breaking one by one. Doing our best to stimulate the economy.
4. I've been logging mega-miles on my HiHy doing things like getting fingerprinted for the new job, and chauffeuring my mother-in-law for Mother's Day and for a concert this week. She seems to be be holding ground with respect to memory and mobility (she's turning 80)
5. We successfully completed what are probably the last round of school projects before the end of the year. Yay! I can retire the glue gun and the shoeboxes for a few months.
6. I had a book group meeting and only one person came.  Radical that I am, I chose Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Not surprisingly, I couldn't find any book group questions so had to make up some of my own. I'd like to think everybody had legitimate reasons for missing, but . . .
7. When it hasn't been raining we've been hanging out on the street, worshipping Tiki Bob. When it has been raining, we've been reading. I finished reading Gregor the Overlander to everyone (and finished the series myself). Lately I've been reading this rather gory book by forensic anthropologist about how you can determine age, time of death, etc. from grisly remains.  Number one son read twenty books for the Feed to Read project from Heifer International. He's raised over $500 ($200 of it his own money) so can buy two llamas and two sheep for the Knitting Medley (I know you'll approve, Roger). 

Yes, we have no technology

Most of my blogging lately has been over at Fieldmarking.

Our dryer died a couple of weeks ago and (surprise surprise) the Y chromosomes in the house have not yet discovered the ability to hang up wet laundry. They are supposed to do their own, but for some reason I've been doing the mom thing more than usual on that front. The good news is that it is comforting to know it is possible even for suburbanites to live without such major electrical appliance (though hanging up a clothesline outside is an act of rebellion). Not that we plan to do without, we're just slow as usual deciding on a replacement. And shocked that we can't easily compare energy efficiency (Energy Star doesn't evaluate dryers). I'm not at all sure how/where to hang up wet sheets, so they remain unwashed for now.

Spent all day today restoring order to the garage. I got about 1/3 of it done so now we can walk around DH's car and open the extra fridge again. Whee. Small victories. Building lots of karma in the department of "you can't bring new stuff into the house without taking out at least the equivalent volume of stuff."

Friday was movie night again. We've had neighborhood kids over to watch videos that I choose the last few weeks. This time we watched Time Bandits. I think I liked it more the first time I watched it, but I love that the kids were still quoting it and talking about what it means as they spilled back onto the street.

Previous screenings have included: Buckaroo Banzai, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Of course, Princess Bride, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail led off the series last fall. Temple of Doom was not a good choice for the 9 year old crowd -- the whole ripping the live heart out thing kind of put them off. Still, want to be prepared for the new IJ movie next month. Banzai was great because we spent the whole thing trying to explain to each other what was going on as if it really made sense.

Any ideas for bygone movies to share? I like to pick ones that are older because *I* like them and none of the kids have seen them. I refuse to watch anything with Bionicles or Pokemon characters in it.

The fairies mourn Shaky Jake

I just found out that Ann Arbor's Shaky Jake died last fall. I would never have known except I was enjoying learning about Urban Fairies and came upon a photo. So here is the unlikely juxtaposition. There is a fascinating world of tiny mysterious doors around Ann Arbor, Michigan. The fairies who live there are only rarely seen, respond to letters (often by children) and hoard the "droppings" that well-wishers leave them. My favorite is the tiny socks someone knitted. Please click to see a whole page full of fun.

Fairy socks

One of those "droppings" was a miniature guitar case with a Shaky Jake sticker. Everybody who lived in Ann Arbor through 2007 must surely have been familiar with this friendly street personality. More than a musician, Jake was an institution. The video below tries to capture why he warmed hearts.

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Impromptu relief


impromptu relief
Originally uploaded by cyanocorax.
A new medical breakthrough! When you've lost the measuring cup for your Dayquil, and simply must find a way to get through the day, follow the simple steps below.

1. Approach your nearest coffee station furtively
2. Grab a single-serving of creamer
3. Drink the cream
4. Fill up the cup with Dayquil, hoping that it is approximately one tablespoon.
5. Repeat step 4
6. Discard responsibly

No doubt the shot of creamer helps, too.