1:35

Sligo Creek Bridge Upstream of Hospital
This was supposed to be a report about the conditions of the trails after our recent record-setting rainfall. I took my first bike ride home since the storms flooded so much of the area. My trip home takes me along two major creeks (Sligo and Northwest Branch), and I saw an awful lot of mud and surprising amounts of debris high on the hump-back bridges of Sligo Creek.

I was going to talk about the path-bridge over Sligo Creek that was closed. It's just upstream from the hospital. I had to back-track a bit, but since Sligo Creek Parkway is closed to cars (for no obvious reason), I had a very nice ride after the back-track. Aside from that one bridge closure, the path was muddy and/or sandy in spots, but rideable from Park Street all the way to East-West Highway.

I might have mentioned that there weren't any bridges out on the Northwest Branch (from Amherst upstream to University Boulevard), but that would have only been because instead of bridges, the path rides right through drainage ditches. The ditches were full of pretty deep mud. But I did see a big turtle; he was easily a foot in diameter.

Flat Tire
But, no. I'm going to whinge about people breaking bottles on the roadways because I hit some big glass near the Greenbelt National Park and immediately went flat in the rear wheel. Stupid people and their stupid litter. And I had been moving along at a pretty good pace considering that I had back-tracked and run through some slow spots because of the mud. That 1:35 includes waiting for and traveling on the C2 bus. Actually, it's kinda nice that the bus system has installed all these bike racks. And it's very nice that they have the Smartrip so I didn't have to have cash (or even exact change) on hand to limp home. And, ok, so I was only about two miles from my home, so it wasn't that bad a place to get a flat.

Ok. So nevermind.

The Crazed (Ha Jin)

"Do you think that's south or west?"

"Which way?"

"The way the goose is facing. Left."

"I thought this was going to be about the Ha Jin book."

"How can I say something funny about that book? Stroke, adultery, those poor students at Tiananmen Square --"

"Not everything has to be funny. You could write a regular review."

"People who visit my blog are not looking for boring in-depth analysis and old-fashioned book reviews."

"No, they're looking for wife swapping."

It's partially true, I suppose. That's consistently one of the most popular searches that leads to my site. People are also looking for chicken chasni (aren't we all?), ReqPro error messages, and The Grass is Singing. [As an aside: if you're looking to write a term paper and you don't bother reading the book, it's always a good bet to go with man's inhumanity towards man. I'm fairly certain that Doris Lessing knows nothing at all about RequisitePro.]

"At any rate, the goose is facing left today," I say. It's one of my pet theories that the direction our neighbors' goose faces is an indication of the mood of their household. I haven't really correlated the direction with specific emotional states, but I figure it's a fairly mercurial home. The goose was facing right yesterday.

"You could speculate on who the author considers to be The Crazed. The professor is a bit too obvious."

"I always wanted to be a professor."

"Did you even read the book?"

"Sure, but anyone could have a stroke and/or back-stabbing colleagues; not just professors."

"Yes, and anyone can go around in a tweed jacket clutching a pipe in his teeth."

"Maybe, but elbow patches would make me a laughingstock in the ole CM lounge." I show great restraint by not going to the window to check on the goose situation.

"There's the student who doesn't know what to do with his life."

"Who?" I'm back at the window. Which way is the goose facing? It's looking away from us, now. North?

"I think the narrator is a good candidate for the title."

"Yeah, or perhaps the students who went off to protest. Was it crazy to think they might change things?"

"You might deduce that considering the narrator turns his back on that whole movement."

"Does he? He also walks away from academia?"

"And from overly patriotic nincompoops with their rousing songs and political maneuvers."

I walk back to the window to check on the goose.

"Oh, my," I say and head for the back door.

"Where are you going?"

"Oh, my," I say again. "The goose has fallen over. What are we to do?"

She sighs as I bolt from the house.

"I think I have a good idea who the crazed is in this story," she says.

Iron Chef -- II

Well, we got in last night, went immediately to sleep and woke up today to prepare for an Iron Chef Party. This one was held at our house. Oi, what were we thinking? Go away for a week, then invite people over to your house and try not to ramble too much (since sleep has taken away all coherence).

At any rate, our theme ingredients were mint and ricotta cheese. All contestants made lovely and tasty entries, impressing me once again with the range and talent of our neighbors and friends. Our immediate neighbors (Showtunes and Wee Red, respectively) ran away with first and second prizes. Everybody graciously sat through our presentation of photos from our trip, which just shows how tolerant those Greenbelt folks really are.

I took pictures of all the dishes, but can't find my cable to download them and then upload them for your enjoyment. You'll have to use your imagination station.

The results:

Dish Presenter Averages Total Score
Presentation Originality Taste
Grasshopper TartTaleswapper8.68.58.88.63
Chocolate Mint Truffle TerrineJust Showtune9.338.338.28.62
That's Amore Italian Summer SaladWee Red7.69.28.88.53
Ricotta GnocchiJ7.256.758.757.58
Lasagna SoupThe Brunette5.67.88.47.27
Eggplant Roll-upsM6.57.57.757.25

In addition, the Eggplant Roll-ups received the most "je ne sais quoi" votes.

Greetings from Hawaii

Desolation Trail
Wish you were here and all that stuff.

Somebody told us that Hawaii was all lovely beaches and relaxing on the beach. Here we see the Brunette and the Other Brunette searching for a place to put down the beach blankets.

Actually, this is Desolation Trail in the volcano park, which was just awesome.

We find ourselves overusing the words "awesome", "cool", and "beautiful", like we're like teenagers again or something, like.

Congratulation

Congratulations to our zombie neighbors who have gone and tied the knot! Sorry we couldn't be around for the ceremony, but we wish you all the best. We're sure you're going to enjoy married life.

Does Eddie Murphy Get a Royalty for This?

There's a small shack at the kiss and ride lot at Greenbelt Station. It has three vertical sides and a roof. The front is exposed to the elements. The shack has exactly one bench. Our little book group had convened there for its most recent discussion.

"I think we should call it the Flash Book Group," I said.

"No no no no," said Tina. She put her box of glass gew-gaws on the bench, then thought better of it and moved the carton to the ground so her girlfriend could sit down. "Flash mobs are so five years ago."

"I don't see why we have to call it anything," said Tina's girlfriend, also known as Tina. She had not brought along a box, but she shared the small glass sculplting business with Tina.

"Names are important," I said. "For instance, look at those cabs."

"Do I have to?" asked Tim, who, now that I think about it, is also a glass sculptor. The two cabbies in front of us were having a very animated conversation. They looked like they were being swarmed by gnats.

"That 'PG' really irks some people," I said, pointing at the Silver Cabs of PG logo on the door of the nearest taxi. Our county leaders got themselves in a tizzy recently when a TV show shortened "Prince George's" to "PG". They were convinced that it is somehow demeaning to refer to a place by its initials.

"All those people in LA must really hate the rest of us," said Tim.

"Not to mention the whole US of A," said Tina.

"If they're all upset, why do they make 'PG' a part of the cabbie's license IDs?" asked the sitting Tina.

One of the cabbies jumped back from the other. Smoke and a small flame played along one of his pant legs. One of their cigarettes must have flicked over during their gnat-swatting. The non-flaming cabbie popped his trunk, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and sprayed the enflamed cabbie. All the while, they continued their animated conversation.

"Then there's the New Deal Cafe," I started.

"Hey," interrupted the standing Tina. "Did you see the films there the other night?"

"The 48 Hour Film Project? Yeah, I thought the Greenbelt entries were pretty good," said Tim. "I imagine it takes some quick thinking to write, direct, and edit a film in 48 hours."

"And to fit in a prop, a character and a line of dialog..." opined Tina.

"I don't know," I said.

"You couldn't even write a story that quickly," said Tim. "You think you could do a whole film?"

"I guess not," I admitted. "But it would have been nicer if the SpongeBob had worked."

"Technical details," said Tina. "I liked the one about the three wishes best."

"I Dream of Gene," said Tim.

"I wish we could come up with a name for our group," I said. Everybody groaned. "I won't bring it up again. This is absolutely the last time. I swear."

"Until next time," piped up Tina.

"How about 'Gay Glass Sculptors Extraordinaire'?" suggested Tim. Tina and Tina nodded thoughtfully.

"Well, that leaves me out on two counts," I said.

"Three, actually," said Tim.

"And that has nothing to do with books. The name needs to reflect what we're about, why we meet as a group, why we exist at all. Our entire raisin thingie."

"Raison d'etre?"

"Yes! We are a book group. We read books. It's what we do."

"What book did we read this time, any way?" asked Tina. Tina and Tim shrugged. I flopped my arms to my side.

"Uh." I said. Dang. I'd forgotten to pick a book for us to discuss. We stared at the cabbies for a while. They had been joined by a third. He didn't wave his hands at the gnats so much as nod them to death. "What's in a name, any way?" I muttered.

"Amen, sisters," said Tim.

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1:30/1:15

At the top of the big hill where Metzerrot joins Route 1, it's one way for cars away from Route 1, but walkers and bikers come up the hill from the trail. So there's a nice light there for bikers to cross over to Greenbelt Road. I don't think the switch is working, though. Twice now, I've waited through two cycles after pushing the button with no green light for me. Both times, I gave up and crossed when it seemed safe.

Crossing Route 1 is never safe.

At any rate, I'm blaming all of my tardiness on that light.

This morning's ride was beautiful. In fact, we've been having some wonderful biking weather. I need to get back into the swing of biking every day, but I'm getting old. I'm happy to have gotten my morning time down to 1:15, which is also the quickest I've done the ride home. I think I can get it down to an hour.

Got a mirror for my helmet, finally. That has really helped the Rt. 193 & Rt. 1 exit ramps in the morning and crossing the Baltimore Washington Parkway exit ramp in the evening. It's all about momentum, baby.

SF

Here's a list of Victorian Science Fiction links. Don't know why I'm linking to a list of links, but I am, so there.

Connie Willis

"Didja see my shoes?" I asked my imaginary friend Bertie and held up my right foot. He tried to grab a chicken wing from my plate as I did my best to avoid kicking the footstool on which I had placed my soda. We had met at Busboys and Poets to help him prepare for his radio show: Judging Books by Their Covers.

"Nice," he said around a bite of stolen wing. I didn't mind too much because I was looking forward to the meatloaf. (This was way back when I was trendy and ate a lot of meatloaf. Of course, these days we're vegetarians.)

"I call 'em my 'weed shoes'," I went on. "The uppers are made from hemp, there's no corporate logo, they're not made in a sweatshop, and the soles are recycled tire tread."

"What's the red dot on the toe for?"

"That's for kicking corporate butt," I said, proudly. At least, that's what the ad says. "Let's talk about books."

"OK," he said. "I'm thinking about doing a show on one author."

"Which one?"

"Connie Willis."

"Good," I said, delighted and yet a little troubled. I'm not sure I'd call what Bertie does 'respectful'. "She's one of my favorites."

"Let's see if you can guess which books I'm talking about, then," he said and snatched my last wing. I was knee-deep in meatloaf at this point. Good stuff. He consulted his notes. "The first one's sort of a Dadaist --"

"You don't know what Dadaism is," I interrupted.

"This is a sort of Dadaist fable," he repeated, "about a luxury automobile and its quest for love, happiness, and a stable future."

I thought for a moment. "Oh," I said. "You mean Lincoln's Dreams. Cute."

"Is it close?" Bertie's shtick is that he reviews books by their titles alone; he doesn't actually read the things.

"Not really, no. It's about a woman who thinks she's having Robert E. Lee's dreams."

"Not Lincoln's?"

"Well, no. Not unless I completely misunderstood."

"And how likely is that?" he said, a bit snidely if you ask me, especially for someone mooching off my good graces.

"What else do you have?" I asked.

"The next one is a tense love story about a pop star diva who falls in love with a minister from one of those faiths that doesn't have music. He wants her to leave her career and join him as a missionary."

I had to give that one considerable brain cycles. Didn't get a positive result.

"I'll give you a hint," Bertie said. "She has to decide whether or not to leave behind the fame and her position on the music charts to follow him into the unknown."

"Ah. Uncharted Territory?" Bertie gave me the charades signal -- finger-to-nose.

"You're actually a little warm on that one. It really is a love story of sorts."

"Oh?" Bertie said, disappointed. He doesn't like to be too close to the mark. "From the cover, I thought it was some kind of space-cowboy thing. "

"Well, it's that, too," I said. "Next."

"OK. You know that Fawlty Towers episode where Basil has German guests in the hotel and implores everyone to --"

"'Not mention the war' -- yeah, I know. You talk about it all the time."

"That's because it is a classic TV moment, Will. Of course, as he fixates on it, he can't mention anything else but the war. This book's pretty much the same thing, except it's about a restaurant instead of a hotel."

"What? Bertie, you can't be that politically incorrect."

"I didn't say what kind of restaurant it is. It's just that the owner has to make some shady meat deals to make ends meat and --"

"To Say Nothing of the Dog is my favorite Connie Willis book. It's funny and touching. I won't have you ruin it like that."

"I'm just --"

"Man, now I can't get it out of my head. Do you have something else? Quick."

"Just the one," he said. "It's about a woman who wants to dance in the movies with her heroes, but she can't because they're all dead and stuff. So she finds a way to use technology to insert herself into old films."

"Oh, good, the check," I said and took out my credit card. "Bertie, that's exactly the plot of Remake."

"Really? I got one on the first try?"

"I gues it's exactly what it says on the tin."

"Hmm," he said. "I'll have to give this set some more thought."

"I guess so."

"What's that?"

"It's my credit card," I said.

"Really kicking the corporate butt, there," he said.

"Yep," I responded. "One Disney dollar at a time."

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iPod, uPod, we all Pod Together

It looks like the release is up and finally settling down. What a ride!

Yesterday, we had a regional company meeting where many interesting things were discussed. The company gave us all a video iPod, to "help foster communication". Now, we're all sitting around with ear buds clogging up our ears. Not sure how that helps communication, but who am I to complain?

It seems they're going to do company podCasts. I guess that means that the iPod has finally "jumped the shark."

Oh, yeah, and we got a mug.

If we'd gotten these iPods last year, I might have keyed my tale about River of Gods more to the embedded personal soundtracks. The end of silence is near.