Monday, July 31, 2000

31 July 2000

Well. This weekend was... busy.

Friday evening, I'd just finished chopping vegetables and meat for stir-fry for dinner when K.T. dropped by to pick up the last two Harry Potter books and give me back my key. She suggested that Matt and I come over to her place and have pizza for dinner, and we could watch a movie or something.

Since a) I've been complaining about wanting to get out more, and b) we'd just been hearing at lunch about the great extras on the Galaxy Quest DVD, we agreed, and I wrapped the stirfry up and put it in the 'fridge for later.

We didn't actually watch Galaxy Quest, just the extras, but it was fun - the cut scenes were hysterical, and the "making of" was pretty good. We sat and talked with K.T. and Kevin for a while, then headed home around eleven when I started feeling sleepy.

When we got home, I sat down at the computer, intending to check my mail and then go to bed. I skimmed through the list mail, then followed a link I'd been sent. I was reading the article when my "mail giggle" went off - I had new mail. Assuming it was more list mail, I pulled up the reader to scan the title and delete it.

But no! It was from Kris! I started to read it, realized she'd probably just sent it, and logged into AIM. Yup, sure enough, there she was. She said hi, and we chatted for a while. Apparently, she was feeling a little insomniac. Excited? Nah.

Saturday was somewhat busy. I weeded the mulch beds, and raked the mulch so it was more evenly distributed. I made meringue kisses for the evening's game, loaded and ran the dishwasher, finished up some details for the game, and ran some errands to the bank and such.

The game was... disappointing. K.T. brought one of my favorite recipes - cherry tomatoes stuffed with tuna - and sandwich fixings, and I set out mayo, mustard, and tomato slices, and we had a good time munching our dinner. Then we started gaming, and I got them into the first combat of the night, which was supposed to be a rough, fast battle.

Heh. It took us two hours. The bad guys couldn't hit. The party couldn't hit. It was almost funny to imagine; bands of tough adventurers standing on the road between farmland and forest, swinging their weapons at each other with about enough strength to hurt a mouse and enough agility to hit a barn. By the time it finally ended, we were really all too tired to get into the business of the town that I'd hoped to get into.

I'm starting to get the impression that my gamers want me to hurry up and wrap this thread up so we can play Matt's 7th Sea game instead.

The other detriment to this particular game was Matt's discovery of ants crawling in through the kitchen window. Everything went on hold for a bit while Matt and I wiped our counters and windowsill down with undiluted bleach. And then we had what Matt calls the psycho-itchies for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, I did more work around the house - finally sanding and painting over several spackled holes in our walls and places where the paint had been chipped or gouged. We made a trip to Lowe's and bought a couple of flags for our flagpole, a towel hook for the bathroom, and a couple of other odds and ends.

We were on our way back from Lowe's, coming up on Pierce's Barbeque, when I saw a car start to pull out of their parking lot onto the two-lane highway, hesitate, and then pull out, turning left to go in the opposite direction from me. I slammed on the brake, and the car went into a skid. (Hello? Anti-lock brakes? What happened?) I turned the wheel, hoping to turn into Pierce's parking lot rather than hit this guy. If he'd hit the gas, he'd have pulled clear. But he'd frozen and hit the brake.

At least my turning avoided any injury - if I hadn't turned, I'd've slammed right into him. As it was, I hit the back-seat door, pushing it in toward the tire well. The impact chewed up my bumper, smashed my headlight, and dented my hood and side panels. I doubt I could get my hood open with a crowbar at this point. I pulled the car the rest of the way into Pierce's parking lot, and he pulled across the street to park on the side of the road, and after verifying that no-one was injured, we exchanged information.

In the aftereffects of adrenaline rush, I didn't want to deal with the hassle of the police. We decided to just let our insurance companies deal with it. On the way home, we realized we really should have called the police - the other guy was completely at fault, even if his view had been severely blocked by cars parked on the side of the road. (Pierce's is a very popular barbeque place.)

Too late now, so I'm trying not to worry about it too much. My car is driveable; I even discovered on the way to work this morning that the headlights and turn signal still work - the covers are just squashed. I'll call the body shop down the road from my house this morning that's affiliated with my insurance company and make arrangements to have an appraisal and get the thing fixed. (Yes, I know I don't have to go to a place affiliated with my insurance company. But they're really the most convenient place anyway.)

So, in the aftereffects of that, Matt and I were both sortof grumpy and snippy as we put up the flag.

We got the mounting bracket and flagpole from my grandparents for Christmas, along with some holiday flags of - to be honest - dubious quality. We sorted out the flags we wouldn't be caught dead flying, and took them to the Miss-Mas party, leaving us with flags for the 4th of July, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. A flag pole with no flag looks pretty dumb, so we decided to just leave off installing the flagpole until later.

We didn't get around to putting it up for the 4th of July, since we were out of town just before, and anyway I didn't want to put it up until we'd gotten a non-holiday-specific flag to put up when there wasn't a holiday going on. We discovered that Lowe's has flags purely by accident, but they had a couple we liked, so we went ahead and got them, and now, only seven months later, the flag is finally up.

Around 7, Braz and Kris came over. They'd gotten to town a couple of hours earlier, but wanted to take a shower and change clothes. They're staying in a hotel until they can move into their new house, so I promised Kris the use of our kitchen until they have one of their own. I fixed the postponed stir-fry for them (after adding some more vegetables and another packet or two of chicken) and then we went out for ice cream. We drove by their new house, though we couldn't get a good look in the dark. The neighborhood looks nice, though. I can't wait to see it!

So this week will be nice and busy. I need to call the exterminator to come and take care of the ants. (Luckily, that'll be free, since that's part of our contract with them - they spray once a month, and if there are any incursions, they come out for free.) And I need to call the auto repair shop and take my car in to have it fixed. And Braz and Kris will be over just about every night for dinner. And there's one or two other things going on that I'm not really at liberty to discuss in public yet.

I wanna take a nap.

Word of the Day: opprobrium - something that brings disgrace; public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious; contempt, reproach

I hope getting my car fixed won't be too much of a hassle. Driving home after the accident wasn't any fun, with Matt and I both heaping opprobrium upon ourselves for not calling the police. And we'll probably stay tense about it until after the car is fixed.

Friday, July 28, 2000

28 July 2000

It was the smartest spider I've ever encountered. But, alas, it wasn't smart enough. The really smart spiders wouldn't mess with me at all.

Tuesday I came out to my car in the morning, ready to go to work, and there was a long anchor strand of spiderweb from the driver's side mirror to the window of the back seat. I looked carefully: no spider. So I unlocked the car door and opened it, being moderately creeped out once again by the sheer amount of stretch spiderweb can offer. Spandex? Who needs it?

Wednesday morning I came out to my car and the spider had learned not to anchor its web beyond the crack in the door, and there was a beautiful, complete web stretching from the mirror to the edge of the car door. Again, I looked carefully: no spider. So I lifted one foot, and with a sweeping move that would've done my old karate teacher proud, wiped the web away so I could safely unlock the car.

Yesterday morning, there was no web at all, and I thought perhaps the spider had learnt its lesson and gone away. But around 7 in the evening, Matt ran out of gas for the lawn mower and asked me to run out and get some while he weilded the weed whacker. And as I walked by my car, there was the spider itself, busily building a new web. I called Matt's attention to it. He considered. He didn't think he could get his foot up that high. I could, but I was wearing sandals, and I certainly wasn't going to put bare skin that close to a spider. I turned around, looking for a spare scrap of lumber or something with which to destroy the spider, and heard Matt curse. I turned around, and he shrugged. He'd tried to nab the spider, but it had quickly run back into its hiding place behind my mirror. Oh, well. I rid the car of web and moved on with the evening.

This morning, I approached the car from a wide angle, curious to see if the spider had given up. No, there was a new web this morning, and the spider was hanging out in a most spider-y way right in the middle. But this was the world's smartest spider. It saw us coming. As soon as Matt and I rounded the corner of the car, it hauled its little spider-y ass straight for the mirror.

It didn't go all the way behind the mirror, but just stopped right on the edge, where we could still see it. I'm not sure why. Maybe it wanted to see the way we destroyed the web in an effort to build a better one. Maybe it thought we had a can of Raid with us to spray behind the mirror. Maybe it was just tired of disaster after disaster and secretly wanted to die. I don't know. But my shoe was not going to be able to get to the spider on the corner of the mirror. Maybe it knew that.

But Matt looked at it carefully, then pulled out his keys. "I can get it," he said.

I looked at Matt carefully. "You can?"

He started fiddling with his monstrous Swiss Army Knife. "Yes!" he said excitedly, "For I have... scissors!"

He went to snip the spider in half. Clever spider, it evaded him by repelling from the mirror down to the ground and making a beeline for the dark space under the car. Spiders move fast. Very fast, when they want to. But not fast enough to evade Matt's shoes.

Matt grinned at me. "Stamp... and drag."

I finally got my new glasses. When I'd called Tuesday, they told me they were waiting on a piece they didn't have in stock, and it would probably be Thursday before I got them. Assuming they meant either the frames or one of the lenses, I sighed and resigned myself to wait until Thursday.

Yesterday morning I called to see if they'd be ready by lunchtime or if I'd have to wait until the end of the day. I was told the missing piece had just been delivered, and they were ready as soon as I wanted them. They explained that they'd been waiting for the clip-on sunglasses.

I was about ready to explode. I could've had the glasses on Tuesday, after all. If they'd just told me it was the clip, I'd've told them that I was willing to come back later to pick up the durn sunglasses! Sheesh.

But I like my new glasses. They're wire frames, so they're not as heavy or noticeable as my old glasses. The nosepads are slightly textured, so they don't slip down my nose (though from habit I keep trying to adjust them anyway). And these nosepads are on straight, so they don't make my eyebrows look crooked.

Oh, yeah, and I can see better. All in all, a big improvement.

Well, this is it. This weekend, Braz and Kris are coming to town so Braz can start his new job. They're staying in a hotel next week, because they can't move into their new place until next weekend, but they'll be here!

I'm excited. They're both good friends, and it'll be nice to have friends who actually live here in town. Of course, it means I'll have to start my diet back up, since I promised Kris I'd be her diet buddy, but maybe having a diet buddy will mean I'll actually be able to make some real progress.

I expect we'll be seeing a fair amount of them this week - hotel rooms just aren't exciting places to hang out, and anyway we promised Kris the use of our kitchen until they've moved into their new place.


Matt and I take turns preparing meals. Matt pointed out yesterday that I'd got it easy this week - Monday is our "subs" night, Wednesday I just finished cooking the chicken cacciatore he'd started on Tuesday before the Hicks' came over, and "Liz never cooks on Friday!"

Last night, as we were snuggling down to go to sleep he asked, "So, have you decided where we're going out tomorrow?"

Indignant, I replied, "We could eat here!" I got a very dubious look for my trouble. I thought about cooking, shrugged, and said, "Well, we could order pizza, you know!"

Word of the Day: vulcanize - to treat rubber or rubberlike material chemically to give useful properties (as elasticity or strength)

I wonder whatever happened to Heph? (No really, there was a train of thought, there - "vulcanize" comes from the name for the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. Vulcan's Greek counterpart was Hephaestus, the lame god of fire. Our friend Heph - and I have to stop and think to remember his real name was Tom - took his handle from Hephaestus because he only has one leg. See? All perfectly logical. C'mon, you didn't think I was honestly going to find a way to work "vulcanize" into a paragraph or two about my life, did you?)

Thursday, July 27, 2000

27 July 2000

When we were on vacation last week, I swear I saw more fishermen on the airplanes than I've ever seen before in my entire life. At first I had no idea what these long tubes were, or why they were allowed as carry-on, or why their carriers couldn't at least be more careful with them - I almost got smashed in the face by them at least twice.

On the way to Montana, I overheard a couple of them talking and figured out that they were on a fishing holiday, and deduced that the tubes held their poles. I'm still not sure why they couldn't have been checked; they seemed sturdy enough. But at least I knew what they were.

What astonished me was how many of them I saw. It seemed like practically every other person in the airport was lugging one of these tubes, ranging from cheap cardboard tubes to expensive-looking ones of brushed aluminum with built-in handles. And I would swear to you if you asked me that I have never seen these tubes before in an airport... Which confused me most of all.

Is it just that I haven't flown in the summer much? Or is the tube-carrier a recent innovation in the fishing world? Or was that the opening week for some popular places? I don't know. I didn't ask.

I was too busy trying not to get smashed in the face.

I was sortof proud of myself last night. I'm not officially dieting at the moment, though I've promised Kris that when she and Braz get here, I'll be her diet buddy. But what I'm doing right now is attempting to eat sensibly. Scary thought, I know.

So what I did last night was pretty astonishing, for me. I went rummaging through the house looking for a snack. I didn't want the cherry tomatoes or carrots in the fridge, and our place is usually pretty devoid of snack foods... I opened the pantry, and found myself face-to-face with my half-box of Girl Scout peanut butter cookies. I don't know why they hadn't already been eaten.

I pulled the remaining tube out of the box, got myself a can of diet ginger ale (don't make that face - diet Northern Neck beats regular Seagram's any day) and a book, and tromped upstairs to sit on the computer and chat.

Between chatting with K.T., Jeff, Karen, and Kris online and skimming the first chapter of the book, I only ate three cookies. And when I'd eaten the third cookie, I wrapped up the package and didn't touch it again. I was only barely tempted, even!

And then, to make things even better, I'd intended to have some popcorn while I watched Sex and the City on HBO, but it was a re-run of the show I'd seen on Sunday. I thought about making some popcorn anyway and reading a few chapters of the book, but decided no - I should go to bed early, since I've been so exhausted all week.

I'm proud of me.

Word of the Day: sensibility - the emotion or feeling of which a person is capable; refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste

Is it just like me to go on vacation and come home with a bunch of books, or what?

Actually, I didn't. But I wanted to. I added a few of them to my wishlist, in fact. The book about the Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry I would've bought, if I'd seen it in the museum gift shop. Jill found it, but not until I was already through the line, and she only found the one copy. And Gramma and Grampa Brooks had a coffee-table book by Guinness Records highlighting every year of the 20th century in news and factoids that I'd have stolen if I could.

The other book I saw in the gift shop at the Montana airport, as I was picking out some huckleberry candy to take with me. (Montana is big on huckleberries. Don't ask.) Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Old West. I don't want to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities, but I'm fascinated by that kind of thing - not sexually, but culturally. You can learn a lot about a culture by examining its seedier underbelly. But I thought about it, figured Matt would tease me unmercifully, and decided against it. When I sat back down with my little bag of candy, I told him, "I almost bought a book."

He'd been in the gift shop with me for a bit, looking for a magazine. "Soiled Doves?" he asked.

I stared at him. "Well... Yeah."

"I figured that was your kind of book," he laughed.

Well. If he's going to tease me for it anyway, I might as well buy it! Right?

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

26 July 2000

We had dinner last night with K.T. and Kevin - we wanted to thank K.T. for feeding the cat while we were gone (and Kevin for scrounging for rides so K.T. could feed the cat) so we had dinner at Second Street. K.T. had suggested trying a new place they'd heard of, called Quizno's, but it took so long for us to find it on the map and figure out how to get to it that Kevin suggested we go someplace we could actually find and save the experiments for some time when he wasn't starving.

Dinner was interesting. Our waitress was so perky and bouncy we were debating at one point just what drugs she was probably on. And sitting not far from us was a woman wearing a tube-top, her arms angled to hide it, so that at first glance it looked like she was sitting there naked. As Matt put it, "I know I didn't see what I think I just saw. I just need to confirm that I didn't see what I think I just saw."

Argh. My new glasses won't be ready until tomorrow. I was hoping they'd be ready today. Having ordered them, I'm sortof eager to get them - they'll be much lighter than the current ones, less scratched, and more stylish.

Oh, I finally got the pictures from our trip up! The pictures from Chicago are in with the rest of the July pictures, while the wedding pictures are in their own section.

I've been making minor changes all over the website in the last day or so, or at least coming up with ideas for changes. For example, on my page of other journals, I'm adding excerpts from each of the other journals, so you can get a feel for them before reading. On the people page, I'll be adding links not only to their web pages where possible, but to pictures of them in the photo album and/or journal entries where they're mentioned. If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Okay, there was some discussion about this at dinner last night. Apparently, a few of the "big" journalists have added a link to their pages to allow interested readers to make a donation to them, and this has caused a big stink in the journalling community.

Well, that's hardly surprising. The question of whether or not the sun rises in the east has been known to raise a big stink in the journalling community. Journalists are highly excitable, opinionated people.

I had noticed the button just yesterday on one of the journals I read, shook my head, shrugged, and ignored it. I have no intention of paying to read a journal or of giving gifts to someone I'm not personally friends with, but if other readers want to do so, that's fine with me.

I do find it sortof funny that it's causing such a ruckus. One of the few things most online journalists agree on is freedom of speech, and if you complained about an offensive song or TV show, they'd probably be among the first to tell you that you don't have to listen or watch. But these small, inoffensive, and easily ignorable links are apparently driving people mad.

(I say apparently because I unsubscribed from all the journal and diary mailing lists a while back when I couldn't take the childishness any longer, so I'm getting this all secondhand.) Oh, well. Not being one of the "big" journals, I certainly don't expect gifts from my readers. (Heck, I don't even get e-mail most months!) But just in case you were wondering, I do have a wishlist. ;-)

Word of the Day: Kafkaesque - suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; esp. having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality

I was grateful when the cat woke me up this morning at 3 am. It doesn't happen often, but last night my dreams were filled with strange, Kafkaesque scenes of me wandering endlessly through the sterile hallways of an office building, looking for Quizno's. When I finally found it, it was crammed behind a photocopy machine in a room hardly big enough for three people, and the subs were all pre-built and stuffed in a cooler with no bottom, and I was just about to climb into the cooler in search of cheddar cheese to replace the swiss when the cat woke me up.

No, I don't get it, either.

Tuesday, July 25, 2000

25 July 2000

On Friday, our last full day in Chicago, while I was standing around with Matt and Grampa Brooks talking to the people giving us the corn, I took my glasses off to clean them on my shirt. They really were awful. I wiped down the right lens, then braced the frames against my stomach while I went after the left.

I wasn't looking at the glasses, but at the people talking. I felt the glasses fold under my hands. My first thought was that the temple had simply folded in, but that couldn't be right... I looked down.

My glasses had broken in half, snapped cleanly at the center of the bridge.

Luckily, I really only need my glasses for reading, working on the computer, and driving. I can see just fine for anything else. (I can even read and work on the computer without them, but it gives me a bit of a headache.) I laughed over the strangeness of it, showed the pieces to Matt and Grampa, and didn't worry about it too much. I figured I'd repair them with crazy glue and/or tape when we got back to Gramma and Grampa's house - I'd look like the quintessential nerd, but it would do until I got back to Williamsburg and could make an appointment with an optometrist. (It's been two or three years since my last vision checkup anyway, so it was overdue.)

Grampa went one better: He soldered my glasses back together. It's not very pretty, but it's holding them together pretty well. I still called an optometrist yesterday, and they had room to squeeze me in yesterday afternoon.

The machine that tests peripheral vision was kindof strange. I'd done one of these tests before, so I knew more or less what to expect, but this one talked to me as I punched the little clicker. Click... click... click... "You're doing fine." Click... click... click... click... "You're doing great!" Click... click... click... "Almost done." It said something about every twenty clicks, and I clicked almost a hundred times for each side.

(By the way, the doctor told me I have excellent peripheral vision.)

I'm an extremely low risk for whatever it is they check when they dialate your eyes, so he didn't dialate mine, which was fine with me. I hate those drops they use for that - it stings. He did put in some drops to numb my eyes, for the glaucoma test, and that about killed me. I hate having anything even near my eyes (I have to close my eyes to put my glasses on, and put drops in the corner of my eyes and let them wash over, rather than right into the eye) and the glaucoma test involves touching this little rod thing right to the iris of your eye. It didn't hurt (that's what the numbing drops are for) but he had to try about twelve times before he could get through my wince. I was right on the verge of full panic mode. My last eye doctor had a test that used a puff of air. That was physically less pleasant, but didn't invoke my eye fear. (Nope. No contacts for me.)

In any case, he implied that wearing my glasses all the time instead of just for reading and using the computer had made my vision worse, and told me my current glasses were actually a little too strong for far-sight activities like driving. The astigmatism in my left eye has gotten significantly worse, so he changed my prescription, and sent me out to talk to the people with the frames.

The lady sat me at a table while I was still rubbing the numbness in my eyes, and asked what I wanted. "Well," I told her, "I want something smaller and lighter than what I've currently got, I'm very interested in clip-on sunglasses, and I'm allergic to metals." I thought this would be a tall order.

"Oh, you're going to be easy!" she exclaimed, and went off to collect some frames for me to try.

She came back with about half a dozen titanium frames. I commented on the expense, and she nodded sympathetically, but explained that the clip-on sunglasses only come on wire frames, not plastic ones, and promised that the titanium wouldn't trigger my allergies or break nearly as easily as my current set did.

Well, okay. I'd hated painting fingernail polish on the metal parts of my glasses anyway. I narrowed down the bunch she brought me until I'd picked out the ones I thought looked the best. $309. Before lenses.

In the meantime, the lady behind the counter can't get my insurance company's automated system to recognize my social security number. I had to pay up front for everything, and then file a claim with my insurance company to get back whatever I can. (My insurance does cover glasses - a pair of frames every two years and a pair of lenses every year, up to $200, I think.) All I can say is, the insurance company had bloody well better pay up. They increased my premiums last month.

Word of the Day: leitmotiv - a dominant recurring theme; in music, a recurring phrase associated with a person or idea, esp. in Wagnerian drama.

Well, there you go. Eyes have been the leitmotiv of this journal since I started it, and now I've done an entire entry on my eyes. Hope you've enjoyed the redundancy. (By the way, in case you're wondering, I completely forgot to get any pictures to expand the Other Eyes page while I was on vacation. Every time I remembered it, it was an inconvenient time, and then I forgot again by the time it was convenient. Argh.)

Monday, July 24, 2000

24 July 2000

So, to continue... We spent most of Sunday travelling to Chicago. The airport in Montana, which we'd been too tired to take much note of when we'd arrived, was a treat - deer, moose, elk, and goat heads mounted on the walls, and an enormous black bear stuffed and displayed in a case near the escalators. It was also such a small airport that they wouldn't even let us go back to our gate until just before boarding.

We spent the day in transit, and wound up at Gramma and Grampa Brooks' house by about 9:30 that evening. We spent Monday and Tuesday relaxing and recovering from the hectic busybusy of the wedding. We went out to dinner with Matt's dad and his ladyfriend on Monday to a good Italian place, then on Tuesday with Gramma, Grampa, and Matt's Uncle Larry and Aunt Debbie. After that dinner, we were dropped off at Matt's mom's house so we could get an early start the next morning.

Jill, cleaning her closets, had found a box full of Matt's old schoolwork and such, and we had a fun time reading little stories he'd written and looking at pictures he'd drawn. Just that morning, Gramma had shown us a picture of Matt at the age of about three or four, and I'd teased him all day about his cute little chubby cheeks. This collection of first or second-grade schoolwork only added to the fun.

Wednesday morning, Jill woke us up early and we headed for the train into Chicago proper. Just outside the train station, we took a bus to a spot near the Field Museum.

Sue, the T. rexThe first thing we saw when we entered the museum was Sue, the largest and most complete specimen of Tyrannasaurus rex ever found. As I gaped at the huge skeleton and marvelled at the sheer age of the thing, Matt overheard some woman say to her kids, "I don't see what the big deal is. It doesn't look that big!" Lady, take a look at that ribcage! You wouldn't even be a snack! If you added enamel back to those teeth, they'd be bigger than bananas!

Oh, well, there's just no pleasing some people, I guess.

Liz and some costumesThe Field Museum was also hosting a Star Wars exhibit, which we thought was a show, but turned out to be several rooms of production props, costumes, and concept drawings, highlighted by plaques on the walls discussing the elements of myth in the movies. It was interesting, and of course I took a lot of pictures.

We could easily have spent the rest of the day in the Field Museum, but we wanted to also take in the Museum of Science and Industry, which Matt had assured me was loads of fun. We took another bus, and wound up stopping for lunch at a little Italian place that turned out to be a real find. Too bad I can't remember the name, now!

Walk-through heartThe MoSI was hosting an exhibition on the Titanic that would probably have been amazing, but we didn't think we'd have time to see it and any of the rest of the museum. We looked at paintings that seemed to move; gadgets and gizmos galore; a beautiful, enormous fairy castle; a model of the human heart big enough to walk through; the whispering gallery; a ton of hands-on demonstrations; an animated circus; and tons more stuff. We didn't get to appreciate even half the museum, I'm sure.

On the way back to the train station, we stopped at the popcorn store for some caramel corn. I was thrilled to learn that they have a website and online ordering. Now I won't have to wait a year and a half to satisfy my cravings!

Liz and Matt enjoying some hot dogsThursday we got up a little later, and drove into Chicago instead of taking the train. We parked a couple of blocks from Matt's sister's apartment, and walked about half a mile to Wrigley Field. I've only ever been to one live baseball game before, and never a major league game, and we thought it would be fun.

Sammy Sosa takes a swingWe had great seats - close to the field and just a twitch past third base - and a great view of everything. We got there in time to watch the Phillies' batting practice and to have a couple of hot dogs for lunch. Of the five runs scored that game, four of them were home runs! Matt says I got the true "Cubbie" experience - they lost. But the final score was 3-2, so at least they put up a fight!

To add to the fun, it was Free T-Shirt Day, so I was handed a t-shirt as we walked into the stadium. That meant I didn't have to pay for a souvenier! Matt bought a program and scorecard, and kept score through the whole game. He teased me later, opening it up to show a grid of mostly gibberish, "Look! You can relive the whole game!"

After the game, we walked back to Rachael's apartment and picked her up, then walked about halfway back to Wrigley Field to have dinner at an Italian restaurant called Leona's. While we were looking over the menu, the worse of my feet surprised me with a charlie horse in the arch. I curled up behind my menu and tried not to make a lot of noise. I wound up being embarrassed anyway, though. I always feel obsessively inadequate around Matt's sister.

Oh, well. The pain subsided after a bit, and retreated a bit further after I took a couple of ibuprofen. I calmed down enough to enjoy dinner, and even laughed as Matt teased his sister by ordering dessert. (Um... No, that probably doesn't make sense. Don't worry about it.)

Friday, courtesy of Matt's brother Evan, we went to the movies to see X-Men. I'd been expecting to enjoy the special effects, but I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the plot as well. There were enough in-jokes that I caught that I'm sure there were plenty more for avid readers of the comic. ("We actually wear this?" "What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?") I loved it that the "villian" honestly thought he was trying to help, and that the romantic interests didn't all line up neatly and resolve by the end of the movie. I also thought it was nice that the "good guys" didn't all work perfectly together; that they had their quibbles and arguments. I enjoyed the fact that the movie didn't take itself too seriously.

Evan told us after the movie that the guy who played the Toad was the same actor who'd played Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace - and that the scene where he pulls a pipe out of the elevator doors and spins it in his hands was closely choreographed to mimic the light saber duel in TPM. I thought that was funny.

Of course, they left it wide open for a sequel. If they do one, I'll probably go see it.

Six!After the movie, Jill took us back to Matt's grandparents' house, where we relaxed some more and repacked our bags. Matt's cousin Tina came over for dinner to see us, which was nice. Grampa Brooks did some work for a farmer down the road a bit some time ago for free, in return for fresh corn whenever he wants it. He called down to the farm to see if any was in, and then he, Matt, and I drove over to pick up what was probably two or three dozen ears of corn.

I love corn, so I was thrilled. I six pieces with dinner, and probably could've had one or two more if I hadn't also had potatoes, ribs, green beans, and fruit salad! We had a good time talking with Tina about her work (she's a jeweler) and all sorts of other things.

Saturday we flew back to D.C., and then drove home. It seems we never get to spend enough time with the family in Chicago, but it was good to get back to our house and to see the cat. Not to mention sleeping in our own bed and showering in our own shower. We weren't as happy to have to do the laundry, though!

Now I'm back at work, and I can't log into my computer. It should have been a simple problem - my password expired while I was gone. I called the sysadmin and she changed it for me. But now it's an hour and a half later, and I still can't get in. I'm logged in as administrator for now, but I won't be able to get my e-mail until she checks it.

Yup. I'm back.

Sunday, July 23, 2000

23 July 2000

Hello, my faithful! I'm back! While I was gone, I wrote up the part of our vacation that was my brother's wedding, so I thought I'd give you that today (along with a few pictures, even!) and tomorrow, I'll finish it up with our visit to Chicago. How's that sound?

Well, tough, I'm going to do it that way anyway. Our trip started on Wednesday, the 12th of July:


We worked until 2:00, then came home and finished packing. We were on the road by around 4:30. We drove up to Washington, D.C., where once again we struggled with terrible directions. A few days earlier, I'd called the hotel in D.C. to confirm our reservation and get directions from an actual person, since we've had terrible luck with internet map services in the D.C. area.

The directions I'd been given went like this:
"From I-95 North, get onto I-495." Well, 495 goes in two different directions, but I figured I'd just follow signs toward Dulles Airport. And if I went in the wrong direction, it would make our trip longer, but we'd get there eventually, since 495 is a loop. What I didn't count on was that there had been quite a bit of road construction in that area since I last had to be on 495 for any reason, and the sign for Dulles didn't appear until after it was too late to take the first exit anyway. Luckily, we'd guessed correctly and decided to take the second exit anyway.

"From I-495, get onto Rt-267 East." That seemed pretty straightforward, until we saw signs for Rt-267 West, but no corresponding signs for going East. Just as a guess, we took the West exit. Our guesses were confirmed since almost immediately we saw signs for the next part of the directions.

"Get on the Dulles Toll Road." This was actually accurate, and there was no direction to choose, but it was confusing nonetheless, since getting on the toll road involved crossing six lanes of high-speed traffic in less than fifty yards, trying to read signs pointing in every direction imaginable, all with the sun shining directly into our faces and making the signs almost invisible.

"Take exit 9B." When I'd asked the person giving me the directions how much the toll on the Toll Road was going to be, I didn't get a very confidence-inspiring answer, but they were fairly certain that fifty cents figured into it. I'd taken several dollars in quarters, which was good, because it wound up being fifty cents to get on the road, and then thirty-five to get off. We panicked a bit until Matt found a dime to go with one of our quarters, because there was no way to get from the lane we were in to the lane reserved for non-exact change.

Once we got off the Toll Road, the directions to the hotel were fairly accurate, and we checked in with relief after the harrowing traffic. By the time we'd gotten our bags in and moved the car to long-term parking (we left the car at the hotel while we were gone) we were exhausted and hungry. We walked across the street and wound up in a sports bar ironically named "Scrooples". I say ironically because there weren't any in evidence. Our fries that we'd ordered as an appetizer came with our hamburgers, and the waitress waited until my third glass of iced tea to tell me that there were no free refills. (I don't think I've ever been anywhere before that didn't have free refills on iced tea!)

Anyhow, we tromped back across the street after we'd eaten, took showers, set our alarm clock for Way Too Early, and dropped off to sleep.


We got up Way Too Early and dragged our bags to the hotel's lobby to catch the 5AM shuttle over to the airport. The ride was quiet and uneventful aside from the overpowering scent of perfume from the woman in front of me. (Who on earth puts on perfume for an airplane ride? And if you answer "me" to that question, let me tell you: Stop it right now! If you can't stand the idea of being met at the other end of your flight smelling like only yourself, then put the bottle in your carryon and apply it on the ramp! I'm only mildly allergic to perfume, and I was ready to strangle that woman!)

When we checked in at Dulles, we encountered a soft-spoken gentleman with somewhat broken English who made it understood to us that Matt and I would not be taking a single flight from Dulles to Great Falls. I tried to explain that this was the arrangement our travel agent had provided us (a single-stop flight, meaning the plane would land at some point, but that we probably wouldn't get off) but he was confused. There was no such flight, despite my printed itenerary. We'd be flying to Minneapolis/St. Paul, enduring a three-hour layover, and then flying on to Great Falls.

Well, obviously, something had changed between March and July, and this was not the fellow to tell us what it was. At least we did have tickets for both legs of our flight, and somehow we'd gotten first-class seats for the longer first leg, so we didn't complain too much.

We worried a little about whether our rental car reservation would still be held for us in Great Falls - car rental places sometimes cancel if you don't show up within half an hour of your expected landing time. And we wished we could get in touch with our family in Great Falls to let them know we'd be several hours later than planned, but there was really nothing we could do. They'd just have to worry that we were late. At least no one was planning on meeting us at the airport!

A day spent in airplanes and airports isn't worth recalling. When we arrived in Great Falls at 1pm local time (that is, 3pm EST, meaning we'd been up and travelling for about 11 hours) I got off the plane with two priorities in mind: First, going to the bathroom. Second, getting to the rental counter to see whether they still had my car.

I was so intent on those two priorities that it took Matt several tries to direct my attention to the beaming face of my father, who was unexpectedly waiting for us. After I'd hugged him hello, I backed up half a step to see my brother with an even bigger grin. I haven't seen John since Easter, so I gave him a huge hug, and then - unable to ignore my shrieking bladder any longer - headed for the bathroom. Matt called me back and I turned around to see my cousin, aunt, and grandmother, as well. I laughed, and pointed to the bathroom door, promising to return swiftly.

It looked like the entire clan had gathered at the airport. What on earth...? I took care of my first business, then returned to exchanging hugs and greetings with my family. My grandfather, uncle, and mother were already down by the baggage claim area. My dad had indeed come out to the airport to meet us at 10 or 11, and been told about the flight change. He went to the rental car desk to make sure we wouldn't lose our reservations, and the fellow running that counter knew exactly what had happened: apparently, when we'd made our reservations, NorthWest was still on winter scheduling. I was a little irritated that the vastly changed schedule hadn't shown up on the travel agent's computer, but there was nothing for it now. In Minneapolis I had re-verified the rest of our flights, so they were all up to date with no harm done.

The reason the entire clan was there was explained: My aunt and uncle's flight out of Japan (they live in Thailand) had been delayed by five hours, causing them to miss their flight out of Los Angeles. They'd been awake and in the same clothes for almost 48 hours, and had landed less than half an hour before Matt and I. After a little confusion, we got sorted out to follow each other from the airport to the hotel.

John relayed the message from Sam: I was to call her parents' house as soon as possible, to arrange to meet them to get my dress fitted. As far as I was concerned, it was not possible to call anyone until after I'd checked into the hotel and had a chance to breathe for a few minutes. John shrugged, his duty done.

The hotel, it turned out, was the base site for another wedding that weekend, as well as host to a convention and a bunch of rodeo cowboys who were in town for a major event. They had been completely booked the night before, and the cleaning staff was four people short. In short, our room wasn't ready yet, though we could expect one in the next hour or so. We gathered up the family and went out to lunch.

The room was ready - barely - when we got back, and we rested for a few minutes, telling stories and such. John had to go back to the Wynia's anyway, so I caught a ride with him, leaving the keys to my car with my mom. (For reasons almost too complicated to explain, there was a shortage of cars that evening. The reasons involve Bill and Sharon's lost luggage, Sharon's somewhat neurotic turn of thought, and the separate bridal shower and bachelor's party. Apparently, of the three cars we had at the hotel, we were going in four different directions.)

Anyhow, I wound up at the Wynia's, where Mrs. Wynia marked the hem of my dress and I tested the fit. Then I waited around for a while - talking with John and Sam, who came in just as Mrs. Wynia was finishing with me - until it was time for the shower. I caught a ride with Sam to her sister's house just down the street.

Samantha at her showerI thought my own showers were sortof boring, so I was fairly unexcited about Sam's. Not to insult Sam's sisters, who had obviously put a lot of work into the party, but I'm so shy, I hate being surrounded by a lot of people I don't know, and I'm not very good at small talk. I explained about seven thousand times that I was John's sister and fielded at least four thousand questions about my origins and my career. That was one bonus: Samantha's family are all extremely artistic, in one way or another. Most everyone I talked to seemed to run into a brick wall when I said I was a computer programmer, and they moved on to more creative conversationalists.

After a while, my mom approached me. "It's almost nine," she said, "I think we'd better gather up your aunt and grandmother and go." I could hardly believe it. John had said something earlier about how the sun didn't set until around 9:30, but I hadn't really absorbed it. Not only did it not look like 9:00, it didn't look like the sun would set for at least another hour! I was flabbergasted all the way back to the hotel.

I'd meant to wait up for Matt when we got there, but after puttering around a little getting undressed and putting things away, I looked at my watch (which I hadn't reset with the changing time zones) and realized that it was nearly midnight, East Coast time - and that I'd been up since four. I fell into the bed and crashed hard, despite the throaty growling of the broken air conditioner.


The hotel window curtains didn't close entirely, and the window faced east. As a result, Matt and I were both awake long before the alarm went off at 8:00. We took our showers and dressed, then trooped down the stairs to find my parents. I got an address from my dad, consulted our map of Great Falls, and we took off for the photography studio.

With John and Sam deciding to live in Great Falls, my uncle's world-travelling job, and my grandfather's steadily declining health, my dad decided we should take advantage of the opportunity presented for a family portrait. We just had one last year, but as Dad said, we never know when the family will be able to all be together again. My uncle's two older children couldn't come, but the photographer thought he could take digital photographs of them and paste them into the family portrait.

The photo session lasted almost two hours, and at 11:45, Sam and I left everyone else chatting amiably and making plans for the men to pick up their tuxedos, and headed to her parents' house. The other two bridesmaids had already arrived, and I finally got to meet the Charity and Jen that I'd been receiving joint e-mail to for months. ("Dear Charity, Jen, and Liz...")

Barstools at the Lost WoodsmanWe all piled into Sam's mini-van, and she drove us to a restaurant on the far side of Great Falls (about a 15 minute drive) called "The Lost Woodsman" for the bridesmaid's luncheon. This was a place with character. Everything was decorated in carved wood - statues carved from logs of gold prospectors and indians; elaborately carved doors; chair and table legs that looked like simple bark-stripped wood... Barstools carved in the shapes of horse and mule behinds left us laughing. The food was excellent, and there was plenty of it. If you ever find yourself in Great Falls, I highly recommend the place.

We ran a couple of brief errands with Sam after lunch, and were back at the Wynia's around 2:30. I had another brief dress-fitting session, and then was back at the hotel by about 3:30. I relaxed for an hour, and then Matt put his tie back on while I checked my makeup, and we headed to the church for the rehearsal.

We met the wedding coordinator, who struck me exactly like every other wedding coordinator I've ever met - a bossy busybody, which is why I didn't use one. But she was efficient and did her job of getting us organized. The minister was a pleasant older gentleman, humorous and patient - he earned high marks from me by including the three younger girls (junior bridesmaids and a flower girl, aged 8-10 or so) in the ceremony without condescending to them. My mom started crying on the first run-through, and luckily my dad had an extra handkerchief to loan her.

I did have a bit of a confrontation with Sam over the marching order. The extremely logical lineup of attendants at the front of the church left me walking down the aisle with a friend of hers rather than Matt. If Matt hadn't been an attendant, I wouldn't have said anything, but since he was there, we both strongly preferred to walk with each other. Poor Sam, caught up in the pre-wedding stress and frenzy and running on only two hours of sleep, she locked up and couldn't comprehend a change to her plans. Luckily, Sam's mother and the wedding coordinator suggested that Matt and I walk together, but still stand at our assigned positions, and she agreed to that. Actually, I think that actually wound up looking smoother in the long run, because I was the first bridesmaid to appear, while John and my father were both already at the altar when the processional started. Matt coming before the other groomsman prevented a strange hole in the lineup on the men's side. (If that didn't make sense, don't worry about it. No-one looks at attendants anyway.)

It was during the rehearsal that I found out that the church - while sporting a stunningly beautiful sanctuary and enough electronics equipment for a small television studio (they broadcast services, I discovered) - wasn't air-conditioned. In the 95-degree heat, we fanned ourselves in the vestibule and hoped the weather would be more cooperative the next day, because filling the sanctuary with guests would only increase the heat.

After the rehearsal, we went to the country club where the reception was being held. There was some initial confusion generated by the fact that the reservation was in the name of Sam's brother-in-law - the club sponsor - rather than in the name of the wedding. And then they'd set only three tables instead of four. But they moved quickly and set the fourth table, and we sat down to a slow but delicious meal. When we got back to the hotel, it was almost 10:00, and we nearly collapsed into bed, knowing the next day would be very long.


Samantha getting dressedSamantha wanted us at the church by 10:30 so we could be dressed and ready for the photo session at noon. I thought this was almost absurdly early (and because my sense of tact had apparently been left behind in Virginia, I actually said so at one point) but to ease her stress, that's when Matt and I went to the church. To be fair, I'm glad I did, because I was the only one who had a camera while Sam was being made up and dressed, and I got some nice pictures while I was waiting.

Charity and Jen arrived just after Sam was dressed, and we oohed and aahed over Sam's dress - which was gorgeous without being overblown - and then dressed ourselves when Sam went up to the sanctuary to begin the three-hour photo session. (Bride and groom at 11, add attendants at noon, and then family arrangements at 1.) Between the three of us, we'd brought everything we needed. We zipped each other into our dresses, shared out knee-high hose (thank goodness for long dresses), traded around nail files and polish, complained mutually about the shoes, and checked each other's makeup.

The photo session was pretty tiring, and I was grateful when I was allowed to escape downstairs into the social hall, which was much cooler than the sanctuary. They'd set up sandwich, cheese, and fruit trays for us, and I grabbed some food and a soda while I eased my throbbing feet and talked with my family.

Kissing!The clock sped up, and suddenly it was time for us to be lining up in the vestibule. The wedding itself went fairly quickly. I felt pretty conspicuous as I shifted from foot to foot (I never wear dress shoes, and the crunch on my toes was only making things worse) - I was sure I was fidgeting worse than the little girls. While Charity was singing, I felt a lump rise in my throat and then spill over into tears, and I started crying. I'd forgotten to get a handkerchief before the ceremony started, and now it was to late. I wiped my face and tried to sniffle quietly, but I couldn't stop crying.

I could see both my dad and Matt across the aisle, and could tell they were both tempted to run over and give me a hanky. The worst moment was when John and Sam turned to face each other for their vows, and John glanced past Sam at me, and I could see tears forming in his eyes as well. He managed to control his, at least, and speak his vows in a clear voice.

It was over quickly after that, and I managed to grab my brother for a hug before heading out to the front steps to see them off. They did something really nifty instead of rice that I've never heard of before - guests leaving the church were given tiny bells on a ribbon, and we rang the bells as John and Sam left.

They left the church in her father's old white convertible, sitting up on the back of the seat so everyone could see them. It was only a few blocks from the church to the reception hall, and my dad told me later he drove maybe 15mph the whole way, and layed on the horn whenever he passed anyone else.

John and Sam dancing (He looks a little funny because he's singing to her.  Isn't that cute?)The reception was fairly nice - hors d'oevres and dancing. About the time I was sure it must be getting late, I checked Matt's watch and realized it was only coming up on seven! Things wound down quickly after that, though, and Matt and I headed back to the hotel after giving John and Sam final hugs and farewells.

Matt and Liz - Clean up pretty good, don't we?There was another wedding in progress at the hotel when we got there, much to our amusement. We changed into more comfortable clothes, and spent the next couple of hours chatting with the family and cooling our aching feet. At one point, I decided I was recovered enough to maybe go across the street to the Dairy Queen and have a cone, but Matt pointed out that the DQ was probably closed at 10. With that realization, exhaustion crashed in again, and we staggered back to our room to sleep.

Sunday we spent mostly in transit between Great Falls and Chicago, so there's not much to tell. I'll pick up the story tomorrow with the things we did in and around Chicago. Yes, I'll let you know as soon as I get the photo album up - I took four disks' worth of pictures, so it might be a while!

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

12 July 2000

Well, here we go. You won't hear from me after this for almost two weeks, until the 24th. Tonight we'll drive up to DC (and would you believe, that's the shakiest part of this whole trip, as far as I'm concerned?) and stay overnight, catching the hotel's shuttle to the airport tomorrow at some ungodly hour (the plane leaves at 6:30 AM) and we'll be landing in Great Falls, after a six-hour flight, in time for a late breakfast.

Which I'll certainly need, because I won't be eating anything on the plane. I simply can't use plane bathrooms. I'm too fat. Heck, I could probably lose a hundred pounds and still be too fat for airplane bathrooms. It's one of the things I dread about airplane travel. I wind up scheduling an entire day around when I can and can't expect to be able to use the toilet. And this one's a doozy - six hours straight on the plane. I need to remember to eat a big dinner tonight.

To be honest, plane travel always makes me a little nervous anyway. It's not a full-blown fear; I've never hesitated to get on a plane or schedule a plane trip. But always, about a day before the flight, I start getting a little queasy (aside: remember to pick up some Dramamine before you leave town) and about the time we're actually boarding the plane, my palms start to sweat. How long it lasts depends on the length of the flight and how smooth it is. I can only really sustain my nervousness for about half an hour after we're off the ground. Though the first time Matt and I flew back from Chicago, we came home through mild but unending turbulence, and my hands shook until after we'd collected our baggage.

Six hours. I'm glad we're going to Chicago and not straight back home after my brother's wedding. The trips from Great Falls to Chicago and from Chicago back to D.C. are both in two stages, and shorter even including the layovers.

I can't believe my little brother's getting married.

Well, okay, the young man I made friends with while I was a graduate student who still doesn't write me except to forward e-mail anecdotes... Yeah, I can believe he's getting married. He's attractive and intelligent and romantic and fun to be with. He's got some weird hangups, but don't we all? I wouldn't want to marry him, because if we're together for more than a few days or one of us is particularly tired, we start fighting. But yeah, I can see any number of women falling for that guy.

But my little brother... The one who used to sit at the top of the playground slide because he was afraid to slide down. The one who kicked over my sandbox castles just as I was finishing them. The one who threw bugs on me when I was in the pool. The one who always got the cool toys when my grandparents went on a trip, while I just got an addition to my de facto doll collection. The one who let his friends sneak into my bedroom when I wasn't home to look at my bras and underwear. To me, he was a fat slobby crybaby, and I'm sure to him, I was a prissy snobbish know-it-all tattletale.

He was Han Solo when the neighborhood kids converged on my dad's pickup truck as the Death Star. He faired poorly in school, being a kid who hated reading, coming only a few years behind a sister who would rather cut off her legs than be separated from books. Teachers always tried to judge him by my standard. Even when I hated him, I could see that wasn't fair. Why couldn't they? He turned to art when I'd become interested in music and theater, I think just so he'd be able to do something I couldn't.

We sat together through dozens of family functions at which we were endlessly greeted by older relatives we were certain we'd never met before. We had picnics in the front yard when we were small. When we were older, we found the shortcut through the woods to the candy store together. He was always in trouble, but never ratted when he wound up taking the rap for my mischief. (Don't look at me like that. It didn't happen that often.)

And now he's in Montana, which is a hell of a long way away. (Six hours on a one-stop flight from Washington, D.C.) And he's getting married in three days. My husband and I will be standing attendant to him and his bride, and I don't think I'll believe it until I actually see it. (Note to self: Remember to pack a handkerchief and to make sure I'm wearing waterproof mascara.)

Word of the Day: persiflage - frivolous bantering talk

Hey, considering the amount of it we do, how come my friends and I have never come up with this word before? Of course, we don't usually talk about our banter. We just do it. It's sortof strange, actually - if I step back from it and pretend I'm a stranger, it's like listening to another language altogether. The shortcuts, the punchlines unattached from their jokes, the silly quotes and slang... Our persiflage is finely crafted for our group.

Tuesday, July 11, 2000

11 July 2000

This month's On Display topic is restlessness, and the Word of the Day is scrutinize - to examine closely and minutely.

It's not an easy topic for me, because I'm not a very restless person. Pretty much the opposite, in fact. When I was in high school and all my friends were trying to see how far away they could go for college, I wanted to go to William and Mary, half an hour from my parents' house. When I finished graduate school, I couldn't come home fast enough. When I'm looking for jobs now, I limit myself to this area. I say I want to travel, but mostly I just want to look at things in other places and then come home at night to sleep. Matt bounces his leg constantly with a kind of restless nervous energy. I don't get it.

I'm just not a restless person. I'm a staid homebody with little or no ambition.

Every now and then I'll feel restless. I've been more restless than usual in the past couple of months. Usually, if I just ignore it, it fades away. But this time, each new restlessness has been feeding another. Job dissatisfaction. The Hall plot a month or so ago and its attendant need to write. Philosophical and spiritual cravings. A desire for more variety in my social life.

And all of those things are linked, I think, one way or another. But they're not fading. Oh, with the Hall plot resolved, I'm not struggling with character feedback any more. But I've still got this desire to write, only I can't seem to stick to or finish anything but scenes and vignettes. I'm working on the philosophical and spiritual cravings, but I have to go slow, because my mind has been trained to reject instantly and violently any hint of being told what it can and should and can't and shouldn't do by any external source. My expressed desire for a more varied social life only churned up a lot of worry and turmoil among my friends, and now I'm not sure where we all stand. My job hasn't gotten any more satisfying, but I've so far failed to think of another track that I think would suit me better.

I wish I knew what caused the feeling. I'd choke it until it died, or else drag it out into the light so I could satisfy it. As it stands, it's like putting my hands into a river and trying to pull up handfuls of mud from the bottom - I can touch it, but it slips from my fingers before I can pull it out.

It feels like there's a step that has to be taken, only I'm not sure how to take it. I wonder if this is what causes seemingly content and happy people to commit suicide - are they overwhelmed with this peculiar restlessness until they finally decide that the only way to still it, the only possible step to take, is to move on to the next life, the next world? I can't imagine that's right. Life is a gift, and to reject it without having plumbed it to its depths is wrong on a scale I can't even comprehend.

But what, then? Maybe it's a warning from my subconscious not to get stuck in a rut. This is the longest I've ever gone without some sort of major change. (No, being laid off and changing jobs doesn't count. I'm doing the exact same job for Logicon that I was doing for 3GI, right down to the individual projects. It's almost eerie how similar they are.) But what am I supposed to change? No matter how closely I scrutinize my life, I can't seem to see the piece that's going bad, the part that needs to be removed or replaced or repaired because it's contaminating the rest.

Mental restlessness. This, too, shall pass.

Monday, July 10, 2000

10 July 2000

Well, you're not going to hear much from me for the next couple of weeks. Well, I'll post today (obviously), tomorrow, and Wednesday, and then you won't hear from me until almost the end of the month.

I got e-mail from my brother's fiancée this morning, and boy am I glad we're going to be relaxing in Chicago for the week after this wedding! Wednesday evening we're driving to Washington, D.C. to stay overnight at a hotel near the airport. We'll spend all of Thursday morning in an airplane (I need to make sure I charge up my Palm before we go), and between landing in Great Falls on Thursday and leaving Sunday, I've got a shower, a photo session, a luncheon, a rehearsal, a dinner, a hair appointment, another photo session, a dress fitting - oh yeah, and a wedding and reception. Not to mention coordinating with my family to make sure Matt gets his tuxedo picked up and to the bachelor's party baseball game. And Sam warns in the e-mail that she's got "individual jobs" for the attendants. My poor Palm will be smoking by the time we've boarded the plane for Chicago.

I'll be taking its recharger, so if I get a slow moment (there are always slow moments, no matter how packed the schedule looks) I'll try to take notes so I can post a journal entry when I get home.

We've got a lot to do in Chicago, too, but it will be a more relaxed pace. Of course we'll want to visit all the available relatives and friends, and we've got plans for at least one day in Chicago proper, and Matt's mom wants to take us to the movies one day... But as I said - much more relaxed. I just need to remember my anti-inflammatory drugs for the day in Chicago.

Look for Matt to go completely bezerk any day now as I start to stress over the packing and planning.

We had a good weekend, I think. We were going to game with K.T. and Kevin on Friday, but K.T. had acquired a desire for steak for dinner, so we went out to eat. By the time we got home, she decided it was too late to game, so we popped The Shadow in the VCR.

Saturday, I'd been planning on risking a trip to the Barnes & Noble for a copy of the new Harry Potter book, but there were a couple of copies in the comic book store when we stopped for our comics. I weighed the discount Barnes & Noble would be offering against the probability that I'd be having to fight dozens of kids and long lines for the book, and decided to pay full price for it at the Cube instead.

So I spent most of Saturday draped over the living room chair, reading. I hadn't quite finished the book when we went to bed, but since we had plans for Sunday that meant I shouldn't sleep in too late, I decided not to stay up late to finish it.

Just as an aside, now that I've finished it... There had been an uproar on one of my mailing lists about this book, mostly anger at parents' groups who wanted the book banned from schools because it portrayed magic and witchcraft in a positive light, and encouraged rebellion against authority. Now, I'm with my fellow list members on the magic/witchcraft thing - kids do understand the difference between reality and fantasy, and it's absurd to think that they'd become Satanists or anything just because they read about magic in a book. And up until I read the book, I was with them on the discussion of rebellion - I do agree that kids need to be taught to think for themselves, and I don't think quetioning authority is necessarily a bad thing. But there were things in this book that disturbed me, and would have disturbed me further, I think, if I were a parent. They boil down to this: cheating, with no punishment or ill-effects - that is even represented as the only way to achieve the desired goals, and assisted by an authority figure.

Now, I still enjoyed the book, and I appreciate Harry as a normal kid, mischevious but basically decent. I love it that he's got his share of personality flaws, and I think he represents a good role model for modern children. The stories are fun, with just enough plot twists to keep me guessing, without becoming so convoluted that I can't follow what's going on. They must be fantastic to kids - a protagonist they can relate to in a story that neither insults their intelligence nor preaches. So, all in all, despite my discomfort, I still think they're the best thing to happen in children's literature for years.

Sunday, I got up and finished the book, and once we were both up and showered, we headed over to K.T. and Kevin's again. We went out to get some lunch, and then over to the movie theater to catch Fantasia 2000. The movie was brilliant. I thought it was too short - only 70 minutes - but the little kids in the theater started getting restless just at the beginning of the last piece, so it was just a hair too long for them.

Actually, I have to say I was surprised at how well-behaved the kids were. I had mentally groaned at the number of parents with little kids (like four or so) coming into the theater. Fantasia is beautiful, but I couldn't see such little kids sitting still for it. Heck, I'd been bored by the original Fantasia until I was in college. Luckily, this one featured a lot less in the way of abstract visuals, and some of the pieces were downright funny, so I guess that helped.

Word of the Day: effigy - an image or likeness, especially of a person, as a sculpted image on a tomb, or a crude figure representing a hated person

There was a guitar player and singer at the restaurant we went to Friday night. He was set up in the bar area, but you could hear him in the lobby and the first dining room of the restaurant. He was awful. While we waited for our table, we heard him butcher several songs we recognized, and even the songs we didn't know were terrible. We considered burning him in effigy, and then for real, but instead Matt requested a table as far as possible from him.

Friday, July 7, 2000

7 July 2000

So, now that it's official, I guess I can talk about it. Braz just accepted a job offer here in Williamsburg, so he and Kris will be moving here. Braz starts at the beginning of August, so the fact is they'll be here before we even know it. Matt and I are both very excited!

I told K.T. about it yesterday, since she'd promised to feed the cat for us while we were gone to Montana and Chicago, and I thought she should know that we'd promised to let them stay at our house over the weekend we'll be gone so they can look for a place to live.

Her first reaction - which she admitted seemed a little paranoid and insecure - was to wonder if, with Braz around, she'd ever see Matt again. She asked me if Braz would be joining either of our games.

Well, as a matter of fact, I'd mentioned to Kris while we were visiting them that I'd love to have Braz in my game, and made clear that she, too, was welcome to join (though I know gaming really isn't her thing). Kris told me that she didn't think Braz would join - that he might join in an occasional game, but that he really wasn't into gaming any more and that she didn't think he'd want to participate in a regular game.

I was disappointed, and so was Matt when I mentioned it to him. I'll be completely honest - I wondered if maybe the fact that Braz isn't really into gaming anymore has more to do with Kris' lack of interest than his own... But it doesn't really matter. I got the impression from Kris that she'd be unhappy with Braz if he did join a twice-a-month game, and so I doubt he'll join even if he wanted to. I sighed with disappointment (Braz is a great role-player) and moved on. It's not like we're not going to see them if they don't game with us, after all!

I told K.T. that I didn't think Braz would be joining the game, and she wondered if Matt would continue to game if Braz wouldn't be there. I told her that I was pretty sure Matt would still be gaming, even without Braz. Again: It's not like we don't already have plenty of plans to see Braz and Kris during the week! She sighed and muttergrumbled about how little gaming we've been doing.

The funny thing is that I haven't missed the gaming. I didn't miss it when we went on hiatus over the holiday season, and I'm not missing it now. I'm not going into "gaming withdrawal" and I'd actually been thinking about either quitting or scaling back the gaming. Gaming is a social thing, for me. And I've been having at least as much fun running around with water guns, or going to the movies, or just sitting around shooting the breeze. It seems to me that there are dozens of things we could be doing instead of gaming that could be just as fun: I've heard there's an ice skating rink in the area, but I've never been; there are several museums and parks; there are college theater productions; we could go roller skating or bowling...

I think what I'd actually like to do is get together with my friends on a (more or less) regular basis, and do stuff. K.T. had actually suggested it a while back, but we never got around to doing it. Why? Well, part of the problem was Kevin's schedule, and part of it was that we were spending every Saturday night gaming. We all need some time to ourselves, and some time to run errands and do chores. No matter what they show on TV, you can't spend every night socializing. My thought is that gaming could be on the list of "stuff" to do, but that we could add other things to the mix. I'd even be willing to write a program to keep track of the possibilities and select one at random for us when we can't decide!

But I don't know that anyone would believe me that Braz and Kris moving here isn't the impetus for this thought - that it's a thought I've been having for months, but been uncertain how to voice.

Oh, how exciting! My dad just came into my office... Wait. Note: John and Sam, it's probably best for you to skip to the next section if you're reading this before the wedding. Just trust me. (If you're not John or Sam, don't worry. I don't think either of them actually reads this journal. I'm just covering my ass, here.)

My dad's been trying to plan a bachelor party for my brother for next Thursday evening, the same night as the girls' bridal shower. He thought it would be neat if he could take all the guys to a baseball game, but was unsure whether there would be a home game that night. His backup plan was to take the guys to a local cowboy bar with some minimal historic value.

He just came into my office with a print-out of an e-mail from Samantha's dad. It turns out that the CEO of the minor league ballpark there is a member of his church, and they talked, and the CEO is offering to set them up with box seats, catered with pizza and hamburgers and hotdogs, and maybe even getting John to throw out the first pitch!

Doesn't that sound fantastic? Now I'm jealous! Who wants to go to a boring shower when you could be at a baseball game?

Matt researched yesterday the possibility of us going to a Cubs game while we're in Chicago. They are, in fact, playing the Phillies the Thursday that we're there, so we're planning to make a day of it. I'm very excited about this, actually, despite my pathetic grasp of baseball.

Cubs fans are a breed apart from other baseball fans. They really are. It's amazing. And it seems like everyone who's ever lived in or near Chicago is a Cubs fan. I think there's something in the air or the water. (Maybe it's that green stuff they put in the river for the St. Patrick's Day parade.) Cubs fans really are fanatics, and they don't try to hide it.

And I've been told by more than one source - even from one source that isn't a Cubs fan - that Wrigley Field is a great place to watch a game; that it's a field with a lot of character and fun. An experience totally unlike any other baseball game. (This from the non-Cubs fan, even!)

So I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the whole trip, actually. Just don't expect me to come back well-rested!

Word of the Day: shell game - a swindling trick involving a small ball or pea placed under walnut shells or cups; a fraud, especially involving the substitution of something of little value for something valuable.

I'm going to try to talk to my manager sometime today or next week. It's time for me to think about my career - not only what I want to be doing tomorrow or next month, but next year, and five years from now. I'm tired of being on the sucker end of the corporate shell game, and I'd like to begin transitioning elsewhere.

The only question is: where?

Thursday, July 6, 2000

6 July 2000

(This entry written for the Waning Poetic collaboration project for July.)

When I was ten, I hated my life. I won't say I was the least popular kid in my class, but I was right up there. (Down there?) I went to a private school, because when I was about six, I'd taken some tests and my parents were told that I'd do better in small classes. And so they scraped together the money to send me to a private school.

Intellectually, that school was the best thing that could've ever happened to me. Their classes were at least a year ahead of the public schools, so I was challenged without having to skip a grade. (When I was in kindergarten, they'd tried to skip me to the first grade. I refused - all my friends were in the old class, and I didn't want to be the baby.)

But socially... Well. My parents were convinced that the reason the other kids didn't like me was that they came from families much wealthier than ours. I'm not sure that was the case at all. I think they didn't like me because I was shy, and they instinctively sensed that I could be easily upset.

Kids have a much more stratified and protean social structure than adults. Every child needs to know they're not at the bottom. Every one needs someone they can push around and abuse - even if they're nice enough not to actually do it, they need to know that whipping-boy is there. (Yes, even your precious angel.) That was me.

I think kids are innately cruel. Not evil, in the way that cruel adults are evil - but thoughtlessly honest. I'm not saying kids don't lie. The gods know, I told enough of them in my day. But the lies kids tell are almost always for their own benefit. It would never occur to a kid to lie to save someone else's feelings.

I was in the fifth grade when I finally felt enough of an outsider that I told my parents that I wanted to go to a different school. Being as shy as I was, that was an enormous leap for me. And I guess it told my parents something, too - that I would rather face an entire room of people I didn't know at all than go back to the familiar abuse. It was probably something of a relief for them, anyway. We weren't poor, but we weren't rich, either.

Public school was a revelation for me. It was like an entire new world had opened up before my eyes. And it was infinitely better than private school had been.

But now, when someone talks about how they'd like to go back to being a child, I'm unable to resist qualifying it - that I'd only go back if I could remember being an adult. Because I can remember being ten.

Word of the Day: abstemious - marked by restraint, esp. regarding food or alcohol

I've thought of becoming at least partially vegetarian. Not out of any abstemious desires, or even because of health or moral reasons. And I couldn't do it completely - the smell of bacon frying or beef cooking sets off a Pavlovian response in me that requires satisfaction.

But at least ninety percent of the time, I'm not all that interested in meat. I find myself lately having to force myself to eat the pieces of chicken in my dinner rather than pick them out. And when I serve myself, I actually try to get as little meat as possible onto my plate.

Listen to your body, they say. Maybe my body is telling me it doesn't need any more protein for a while. Or maybe it's starved for vegetables and fruits. But how do I reduce my meat intake without depriving Matt or cooking two meals?

On the other hand, I ate an enormous rare steak when we were at the Outback a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it's just a summer thing. Or maybe it's just a chicken thing - maybe I just need to take a break from the chicken for a while. Ah, well, I'll figure it out...

Wednesday, July 5, 2000

5 July 2000

Well, we had a fantastic long weekend. We drove to Lynchburg Saturday, getting to Braz and Kris' around two. We admired their house (the last time we'd seen it, it had been packed to the gills with boxes and in dire need of some paint) and argued for a while about where we were all sleeping. ("We're not sleeping in your bed while you sleep in a tent!" "We like sleeping in the tent!" "We can sleep on the couches just fine! Really!") They won that argument. ("You can sleep on the couch if you want. We're still sleeping in the tent.")

Then we went to Sam's Club to pick up stuff for the party. Another argument ensued over whether Matt and I were allowed to pay for any of the party supplies or if we were confined to paying only for "our" things. We won that argument by stealing things off their cart when they weren't looking.

They tried to take us for a walk along a trail in a new park along the track of an old railway. It was heavily forested area, and Matt and Braz soon decided they were going to turn it into the next big money-making themepark: a Vietnam theme park, complete with live ammo and tiger traps. While they were having fun describing the multitudinous ways to be eviscerated in their new park, Kris and I were being eaten alive by gnats. We decided after only about a quarter mile or so to give up and turn around. Maybe we'll go back sometime when it's not so hot and buggy - the trail was actually very pretty (barring the boys' strange senses of humor).

Remember when guys used to just dunk their sisters?Sunday was the Independence Day picnic. We spent most of the day setting up for it, and being eaten by the gnats in the backyard. Kris and I finally decided that we couldn't stand it anymore and went up to the drugstore for big citronella candles, an outdoor fogger, and an incense-like anti-bug device. We figured between all those things, one of them had to be able to discourage the bugs. Kris and I argued about whether I should help pay, which I solved by just stuffing $15 in her purse while she wasn't looking.

The four of us started the festivities a bit early with a "preliminary" watergun fight, and then people began arriving. The picnic was a great success. If I'd known how many people were going to bring food, I'd have told Kris not to bother with half the stuff we picked up at Sam's! I never did get to try a "Brazburger" - but don't let that fool you into thinking I went hungry at all!

Kris is a killer with that watergun!We had several watergun fights over the course of the afternoon, ate a ton, and eventually set off the fireworks at about 8. (Yes, the sun was still up, but we were getting tired and other people had to be heading home anyway. They were still quite impressive.) As a result of poo-poohing Matt's concerns, I developed a splendid sunburn across my shoulders. (I'd been wearing my bathing suit and some shorts during the watergun fights.)

The Hive MindWe spent Monday mostly just being lazy and recovering from the party. I got Braz to take me to the store for some aloe for my sunburn, and he tried to trick me into letting him buy it along with the things he was getting. He did a good job of it, too - if Kris hadn't found the $15 just before we left for the store, I might've believed him when he said he'd get it rung up separately and let me pay him back!

We went to the Silver Pig for lunch - Carolina barbeque and hush puppies that were just fantastic. Then we went to the mall to see Me, Myself, and Irene, which was hysterical (though not for the squeamish or puritanical of mind).

That evening after dinner, we played a game of Spades, Matt and Braz partnered against Kris and I. It was great fun, though I'm still convinced that if Kris hadn't actually taunted the boys, they'd never have been able to recover enough to beat us! I'm looking forward to the next game, though I think to keep things fair we should rotate partners every so often.

Kris' family had plans for the Fourth that didn't include Matt and I, so we parted ways Tuesday morning around eleven. It's probably just as well - Matt and I had laundry to do, and by the time we'd finished burning our sparklers on the front lawn, we were exhausted.

It was a good weekend, with the additional bonus of a short week in front of us.

Two short weeks, as Matt reminded me over dinner last night - next week we'll be taking Thursday and Friday off to fly to Montana for my brother's wedding. I think by the time we get to August, I'm going to be so tired I'll barely be able to stand up!

Word of the Day: procrustean - arbitrary, often ruthless, disregard of individual differences or special circumstances

I've long thought that out school system should be changed. The relentless march of grade levels from kindergarten up through graduation - especially combined with laws that prohibit anyone from being held back more than once - display a procrustean attitude toward education that really satisfies only the few average students. Exceptional students go unchallenged, leaving potential wasted and the student bored; while slower students are harried along, "learning" what they have to learn by rote without ever really understanding any of it. It's a disservice to the child, a disservice to the community, and a disservice to the country.

The entire system needs to be scrapped, and built over again from whole cloth: a system of education in which a child's age matters less than their intellectual capacity; in which physical maturity is secondary to emotional maturity.

Of course, it will never happen. I'd be happy if teachers were only paid what they deserve.