Golden Northern Lights by Compass

I loved the book The Golden Compass and am looking forward to the movie in December. I'm pretty chuffed with my daemon: at least initially, it is Valthera, a snow leopard.

You have the opportunity to make the daemon change to something more in fitting with my personality.


Location of Uganda: from WikiMedia I didn't want to mention it until she got the visa because I didn't want to jinx it for her, but the Brunette is going to Uganda for a couple of weeks starting 3 May.

Suggestions for things for me to do while she's away are currently being entertained.


Well, I moved pretty slowly this morning, but I didn't get rained on. The sky was threatening for the entire trip, but the sun peeped out as I arrived in Silver Spring. It might not actually get around to raining until this afternoon.

I couldn't find my nice bicycle shorts this morning, so I had to wear the embarrassing ones.

Easy as Uno, Dos, Tres

I had this great idea for our little community. (I don't mean to use the term little in a dimunitive sense. Actually, I guess there is no other way to use the word, is there? Certainly, I didn't mean to be derogatory. Maybe I should go back and change it. Nah, too late.) Since we all live in these super blocks -- something the rest of the country might call row homes -- and the units are all identified by number and letter (for example, the end unit of 19 Court is called 19A, why not do something to make it easier for the firefighters to find any potential customers?

It would be especially exciting for end units. We would force the owners of these to paint big trains or bicycles or trees or something on their end.

But after I tried out my idea on this picture, I see that there is just too much vegetation for this to achieve the desired effect.

What's Your Sign?

Looks like Greenbelt has a new sign at the corner of Southway and Crescent. The round gew-gaw at the top is a logo for ATHA: Anacostia Trails Heritage Area. I suppose that we are in the watershed of the Anacostia, but I don't know how much our history is linked with the river itself.

I'm curious about the selection of items on the sign. It shows a mixture of civic, geographic and recreational sites. For a sign marked "Historic Greenbelt," it oddly fails to mention Roosevelt Center or GHI. For a sign with civic markings, it strangely ignores City Hall, perhaps because it is visible just across the street there?

And They Call It Puppy Love

So, I was listening to this grammar podcast yesterday. I'm a bit behind on my podcasts, what with presentation writing and reading Dorothy Sayers and stuff. I'm still listening to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me shows from January. Apparently, President Ford has passed away? Who knew?

At any rate, the grammar show is a bit like Car Talk for word nerds. I'm not sure it's a position I would want to take, much as I would beg on my hands and knees to have my own radio show. I think it's a dangerous job because setting yourself up as an arbiter of all that is good and holy about a language only leads to acquiring listeners ready to pounce on the impropriety of any utterance.

They took a caller who wanted to know the origin of the phrase "...since Hector was a pup." The phrase is used to indicate a very long time, as in, "I haven't had a Grape Nehi since Hector was a pup." The hosts went on about some connection to Homer and the Illiad and other tosh. They provided some lame corollary phrase "...since Heck was a pup."

Bah! I say. They don't know what they're talking about. The proper phrase is "...since Luther was a pup."

I haven't heard such misguided flim-flam since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

It's Like Rain on Your Wedding Day

So, there's this story over at NPR. I haven't listened to it, but it popped up on my Google news widget on my home page. The summary has an interesting line:

...Most in the college town of Durham, N.C., just want the media attention to go away.
So, obviously, it's time to start having media stories about people who want the media to go away. "Excuse me, ma'am, can you tell me how it would be best for the media to leave you alone right now? Ma'am?"


I had the odd feeling yesterday that all my pants were way too big and all my shirts were way too small. Perhaps a lot of weight from my legs has migrated up to my chest and belly so I'm carrying weight like a home plate umpire's chest protector.

Solution? Pure American: go buy new pants.

You Drew a Circle To Keep Me Out

Why am I forbidden to look at your blog? Is it just me? Have you found some way to cut me out of your random ramblings or have you actually disappeared? If someone else clicks on this link, will they get stream of consciousness literature or a rude message of prevention?

Mr. Squuby, take down that wall!

A Square is A Rectangle, But A Rectangle...

Current argument discussion in the waiting room: whether a drag queen is the same as or different from a transvestite.

I am determined not to get involved.

River-Horse (William Least Heat-Moon)

In mid-December, I stood on the hill looking down on Crescent Road. Our small house and Ridge Road lay behind (and slightly above) me. I had a long journey before me, one that had been planning for weeks...days anyway. I was sure it would be a grand journey, full of adventure and excitement. I half hoped I could even get a book out of it. The journey would take all the concentration I could muster.

But at this moment, I had culverts on my mind.

"What's a culvert?" the kid asked. He had appeared as if from nowhere, which was appropriate because he does not really exist. He is one of many figments playing in my imagination. The sad commentary on my imagination, though, is this: I can't ever remember his name.

"It's a drain that goes under a road," I said. "When I was your age, boys were always getting stuck in culverts. They'd bring out the fire department and all the parents would gather 'round the opening. Sometimes, there'd even be a news crew, or there might be a photographer, hanging about waiting to catch the joy on the mother's face when the boy got free. Or tears if otherwise. I wonder why nobody gets stuck in culverts these days."

"Is that a culvert?"

"No, that's a pedestrian underpass. It was built to allow people to cross the street without touching the street." We walked under Crescent Road and came to the first real challenge of the journey.

"What's wrong?" he asked as I paused near the benches.

"My goal," I said with my best documentary voice, "is to get to the other side of Ridge Road without touching the surface of a street. Yes, I could have just walked straight out my front door and crossed to the other side of Ridge, but this is a challenge."

"Kinda like the book, huh?" he said. I sighed and asked which book. "River-Horse. I just finished it. This guy decides to cross the U.S. by boat. It isn't always the same boat; he just wants to keep water underneath him as much as possible. He planned out his route with only something like 150 miles of dry land for portaging."

"My only obstacle," I went on, "aside from this overwhelming feeling of unoriginality I suddenly have, is how to treat this strip of asphalt." Between the underpass and Roosevelt Center, there's a driveway connecting two sets of parking lot. "I have decided that parking lots do not count as roads, so this strip of tar is not going to hamper my journey."

With renewed confidence, we crossed the central plaza of Greenbelt's Roosevelt Center. Roosevelt Center is a small shopping center constructed during the 1930s along with much of the housing in the area. Greenbelt, Maryland, was created as an experiment during the FDR years as part of the New Deal. The town was designed so that most of the children could access the school, the library, and shopping facilities without crossing a significant road. The core of Old Greenbelt's housing continues to exist, these days as cooperative endeavors. There is also a cooperative grocery store and café. At one end of the plaza a concrete mother looks over her child and these 1600 families with concern.

We walked down the path beside the doctor's office. Although confident in my decision to allow parking facilities, I was uncomfortable for the portion of our journey that crossed the lot between the doctor's office and the aquatic center. I did not like the feel of asphalt or the look of the steel buffalo arrayed around us.

"Yeah," the kid spoke up as we neared the swimming pool. "The author of that book rambled a lot, too."

"Maybe he was just giving you a taste for the journey," I suggested. Beyond the swimming pool, the path took us down to playing fields. We crossed baseball fields currently pulling double duty as football pitches. "It's a long way across the U.S."

"More than six thousand miles, the way they did it, all meandering around and stuff. A travel narrative should inform and entertain. If it's going to be tedious, I should just take the trip myself."

"Maybe he's looking for sympathy," I said.

"All writing is a cry for sympathy," the boy agreed.

After the playing fields, we turned left and followed a path beside the creek that feeds our lake. These days, the lake is mildly silty and over-vegetated. I supposed this was the natural effect of damming.

"That's what the guy in the book says. I didn't realize so many of the big American rivers -- Columbia, Missouri, Ohio -- had dams."

"So, it was an ecological education for you?" I asked.

"Sure," he admitted.

We stopped at the edge of the lake's southern bay and watched the geese and ducks float around. I like to watch for turtles, but turtles are rare at the end of the year. Even the heron had moved on to warmer climes. The waters were slightly rippled by a breeze, but the view was lovely. This side bay lay halfway between its headwaters and the dam. It was not cursed with the overwhelming algae that the east end endured. We made like herons and moved on, too.

"Did you finish the book?" I asked.

"Of course," he said. "One always finishes the book. Besides, it did get exciting at the end. You start to wonder if they're going to make it; the rivers get rougher and things start going wrong."

"Perhaps you wouldn't have cared about the boaters if you hadn't gone through the build up," I said.


We continued to follow the lakeside path until we came to the dam. The dam was not an impressive feature, not being designed for river locking, flood control or hydro-electric power generation. It was only a concrete lip, really, with a bit of overspill into the outbound creek. I guessed we were about two and a half miles from home.

"It's a long way around just to cross the road," the boy piped up.

"Sure," I said. "But it's the journey that matters. I think we'll go nearly four times that distance to succeed. My plan is for us to follow the creek here. This is where we leave the nice man-made pathways. I think we can follow the creek under Kenilworth Avenue and Cherrywood Lane. There's more open space on the other side of Cherrywood, where we'll turn north through the woods and follow Beaver Dam Creek back under Kenilworth again. I know there's a bigger bridge there. If we can do that, I believe we'll be able to sneak through the agricultural research center to get to the woods along the parkway, which will lead us back to behind the dentist office on Ridge Road. And our journey will be complete!"

"What are you running away from?" he asked after I had stepped into the water a few times.


"It became apparent late in the book that the author was using the journey to run away from something. In his case, it was his marriage."

"My marriage is fine," I said.

"Maybe your job?"

"My job isn't always fun," I admitted. "But a walk around the neighborhood wouldn't get me out of it. No, I'm on this journey for what I'm sure the journey can do for me."

We stopped at the edge of Kenilworth Avenue. The creek drained under the divided highway in large corrugated metal tubes. The sound of traffic on Kenilworth was drowned out by the trucks on the Interstate off to our left behind the trees. I stooped down to look through the pipes. I could barely make out light from the other side. The passage was much smaller than I had hoped, as small as I had feared. The passage was much too narrow for me to use. There would be no moving forward.

I straighted up and looked at my watch.

"Oh, look at that," I said. "It's five o'-clock. The dentist office is now closed. I guess I didn't make it in time. Oh, well, can't say I didn't try. Time to go home." I turned away from Kenilworth and headed up the creek. I was stopped by the kid's voice, which was accompanied by a hollow echo.

"Is this a culvert?" the voice asked.

"Yes," I said. I did not turn around.

"Gosh," he said. "I think I'm stuck."

Thunder Island

A quick thunderstorm just passed by.

Nobody ever did react to the fire alarm and it eventually discontinued its annoying racket. My father came out of his surgery and starting his recovery process. There are three 1/2 hour visiting "hours" for this unit. I won't be able to see him until 8:30, but we're hopefully optimistic.

So, I've got four hours to waste here in north Baltimore without anywhere really to go. Guess I'll push out a new book tale.

Hospital Hotel

Well, I'm waiting here at Sinai Hospital where my father has popped in for some urgent surgery. The place is fancy: it has free wireless everywhere. There are probably other things that make it fancy, but the free wireless certainly tops my list.

So, Dad is having an exciting week. My sister is also having an adventure: the house behind hers burned to the ground last night.

And now the fire alarm in the hospital has just gone off. Nobody seems upset. In fact (I'm in the cafeteria), nobody is moving at all. I wonder if this happens often. Perhaps these folks are immune to emergency situations.

Doing my best not to freak out too much...

Ah, Greenbelt

Greenbelt is full of the weird and wonderful. Yesterday, a very large Easter bunny stopped by our house. She brought carrots for the Brunette and a chocolate/marshmallow bunny for me.

Come to think of it, isn't that sort of sick? "Here have a chocolate representation of me. You'll love it!" Can you imagine what might happen if they made chocolate images of other special people?

At any rate, we were thrilled to be visited by the giant conejo. Tubby: not so much: