Ten Little Indians (Sherman Alexie)

I dropped my favorite cereal bowl when Annabel Lee appeared without warning in the dining room and said, "I'm worried about Sherman Alexie's marriage."

Annabel Lee is one of my imaginary friends. Unlike my other imaginary relatives and friends, Annabel appears and disappears seemingly at random and always when I am not prepared for her arrival. Prasad and his friend always knock; Bertie and Bob generally call; and Great Uncle Leadbelly requires a search party. But I am never looking for Annabel Lee, and she is almost always accompanied by broken dishes.

"Oops!" she exclaimed as I bent to retrieve the shards. I put my hands over my ears and shushed her. I think I'd had a little too much cognac at the Poe Supper the night before.

"Did you know that cognac will eat through a paper cup?" she asked.

"I do now," I whispered. I carried the broken bowl to the trash. We looked down into the receptacle as if we were staring down into a grave.

"At least it wasn't a pickle dish," she commented brightly.

"You're too literate for your own good," I told her and retrieved a fresh bowl. "Annabel Lee, I can only handle so many allusions before sustenance."

"Ugh, do you have to call me that?"

"It's your name," I said. She was born on Poe's birthday to a mother with a unique sensibility. "You should consider yourself lucky."

"I know. I know."

"It could've been worse," I reassure. "Evangeline or Ligeia or even Lenore."

Her only response: "Nevermore!"

I ate a spoonful of Kashi and wondered about the appropriateness of rhyming 'reassure' with 'Lenore.' The meter was all wrong anyway.

"Sherman Alexie!" Annabel blurted. I dropped my spoon onto the floor. Its clatter echoed in my cognac-soaked head like the bells -- the bells -- the tintinnabulation -- the tolling --

"You keep slipping into the wrong author," Annabel Lee interrupted. "I'm here to talk about Sherman Alexie."

"You know," I responded. "I saw a bumpersticker the other day. It said, 'Welcome to my country. Speak English!' And I thought, 'Welcome to my country. Speak Algonquin!'"

"That would be a lot funnier if you were actually an Indian. "

"All white Americans think they're part Indian," I said. "Besides, I'm much funnier after I've eaten."

"I don't think you should try to be funny any more," Annabel said with a little wrinkle above her nose. "It's ruining Sherman Alexie's marriage." She took her copy of Ten Little Indians out of her bag.

"You know that's all fiction, right?" I asked.

"This is the second book from Sherman Alexie that I've read with a story about a man destroying his marriage because he can't contain his funnybone."

"I thought the stories in that book were all pretty hopeless. Beautiful, but hopeless. There's the woman in the terrorist attack and the dying baby --"

"The baby was kinda funny."

"The baby was dying," I repeated.

"There is a nice love story," she said.

"The guy lied about the cat."

"The story about his mom was sweet."

"I'm not seeing the funny," I said. "Why do you think Sherman Alexie is funny?"

"Did you miss the whole magical vibrator thing? Them wandering around looking for their parked car? Look at this picture." She held up the back cover of the book, which included a large picture of Sherman Alexie, his head tossed back and he was obviously enjoying his own laughter.

"There are two stories in two different books. It's a pattern," she said.

"It's not a pattern; it's a line segment. You need a third point before you can even define a plane, let alone a pattern."

"The problem with funny guys," she went on, ignoring my math joke, "is that they take everything so seriously."

"'How long til my soul gets it right?'" I sang.

"Every statement is a potential joke to ease the pressure."

"Every statement is potential reality," I countered. "The problem with funny guys is that they believe it all."

"There's no difference," she said.

"There is sum." She obligingly rolled her eyes. I said, "All we really want is an audience. Why are you so concerned about Sherman Alexie's marriage?"

"Worrying about authors is my hobby," she said.

"Worrying is your hobby, full stop," I said. "Look, maybe he just writes these stories to work out his own fears and put them to rest. Perhaps if they're stuck to the page, they can't become real. They're not reality, they're about preventing reality."

"If you say so. Still, I think you could cut back the jokes a bit, yeah?"

"OK. I'll try," I told her. She tapped me on the head and disappeared. I finished my cereal and rinsed out the bowl. The Brunette called from the top of the stairs to ask who I was talking to.

"Nobody," I said.

"Oh, I thought I heard voices down there."

"Don't worry about hearing voices," I said. "It's just the cognac. I'm alone down here. Well, I mean, there's also Interrupting Cow."

She sighed. "OK. Who is Interrup--"

"Moo!" I said and laughed, laughed, laughed until the tears stopped falling.


Why is it that I'm all chipper and energized until about 3pm? At 3, I'm hitting this wall of molasses and chewing gum and everything turns into




I Have No Original Thoughts

I don't think I've ever done a "meme" before. (Everybody out there, remember to hold up finger quotes when saying "meme." You all do read this blog out loud, right?)

Anyway, I'll use showtune's words (though I saw it first at wee red's:

Because we never really know each other as well as we think, in response to this post I'd like you to ask a question. Anything about which you are curious, anything you feel you ought to know about me. Silly, serious, personal, fannish. Ask away. Then copy this to your own journal, and see what people don't know about you.

In honor of de-lurking month, ask me a question. I'll pretend to be honest.

Our Evolving Language

Hand this yummy 100-calorie brownie to a chemist 50 years ago and I think his first response would be:

"75% organic? Is the other 25% rock?"

I originally wrote that quote beginning with "Forsooth," but decided against it. This weird number doesn't indicate a ratio of inorganic to organic, it indicates the ratio of things grown using organic methods to things not grown that way, but I can't tell if that means 75% of the matter in this brownie were grown using organic methods or if it means 75% of the organic matter in this brownie were grown using organic methods.

I guess it doesn't really matter. I just thought it was an interesting change in language. You can go back about your business now.

TortoiseProc Filename Too Long

Sorry world, this one is for me.

I'm trying to integrate InterSystems' Ensemble Studio with Subversion (using TortoiseSVN). The first step is running their command line tool, which is called TortoiseProc. (This is all on Windows).

For example, you can run a commit from the command line and it'll pop up the TortoiseSVN dialog box that'll capture comments and the bug tracking identifier. Sadly, you might think that the correct approach looks like this:

> TortoiseProc /command:commit /path:"Svn.xml"

But what you'll get is an ugly message that says "Can't check path box box box box box box...Filename too long".

Obviously, this does not mean that the Svn.xml filename is too long. No. The problem is that it is expecting a temp file for something and the default must be too long. Easiest way out is to say not to use a temp file:

> TortoiseProc /command:commit /path:"Svn.xml" /notempfile

There's a Bar in Far Bombay

We're not going to talk about birthdays because it's just too painful, but the Brunette got me an introduction to flying session for some annual event that happened last week, and today I went up with an instructor in the Cessna pictured here. After we left the ground and leveled out, the man took complete leave of his senses and gave me the controls.

Obviously, these people are not to be trusted.

I flew from Bowie, MD, to the Chesapeake, then north along the coast to Annapolis. We turned up the Severn River past the Naval Academy (where I nearly drowned once) and back along US 50. I wish I had thought to ask for a mapping of our route. I'm not sure where we hit the Chesapeake, but I suspect it was over Shady Side (where I got married once) or maybe over Turkey Point (where I've never been).

I dunno. I was just flying.

It was a lot of fun. There are a lot of gauges and things, but the hardest part was looking out the windows once in a while. The instructor pointed out that we were more in danger from something outside the cockpit than inside. The other planes seem to appear out of nowhere, especially with the wings blocking a lot of the left and right views. The throttle is a push lever on the dashboard, the steering wheel is also a joystick for nosing up and down, and you also have pedals for the rudder. Lots going on, but I imagine it's a bit like driving: you'll get used to the routine stuff and keep alert for other drivers.

Speaking of driving, I don't know what I expected of the inside of a small aircraft, but the seats were an awful lot like the seats in my mom's Volkswagen Beetle (you know, from the olden days).

Although it was nice to get to Annapolis without traffic lights, we did have to wait in a backup to take off.

Three Came Home (Agnes Newton Keith)

"How can you be down when faced with such beauty?" my imaginary friend Bertie asked. I had to admit that the view was indeed spectacular. Still, I shook my head.

"I've just...I dunno," I said.

"You've been reading again, haven't you?" Bertie asked. I nodded.

"This woman was a prisoner of war during World War II and she wrote about her experiences."

"POWs are kinda grim," he said.

"Usually," I agreed. "But it's even worse when the war is over and she's free. On the ship home, she observes the conversations of those around her. Listen to this." I read the following passage to him:

Meanwhile, sitting in the lounge talking, listening to the radio broadcasts, we learned the pay-off. The world had not changed. The Anglo-Saxons still despised the Jews, the Jews the Filipinos, the Filipinos the Negroes, the Negroes the Chinese, and the Chinese everybody. The Americans hated the English, the English hated the Australians, and everybody hated the Russians, who hated each other. Love of country flourished, while love of humanity whithered; worship of God was present, and following of Christ was absent. This was the victory we had won. This was the world we had bought with that blood. This was peace."

"Doesn't sound hopeful," Bertie remarked. "'Course, she had just been through hell and didn't have this to look at." Bertie waved his hand at the donut case. This was the beautiful view: freshly made donuts at the newly-christened "Laurel Tavern." We had met there to see what the new owners had done to the place. The Little Tavern chain was a big part of my childhood in Baltimore. It served small hamburgers, much like Krystal or White Castle, only more rustic. This building had been one of the last Little Taverns when it closed for remodeling in the fall.

"And now that's gone, too," I said.

"To quote They Might Be Giants: 'Time Marches On.' On the other hand, you have to admit that these donuts are delicious."

"Sure," I said. "And they still sell little burgers. Still..."

"Excuse me," interrupted the imaginary kid whose name I can never remember. "Gotta get to the counter."

"Again?" I exclaimed. "You were just in here! Are you really eating all those donuts?"

"Nah," he replied. "It's just that the machine only cranks out the donuts so fast and I need to stockpile."

"Why are you hoarding donuts?" I asked.

"Oh, I read this book about this family in a POW camp and they survived on smuggled food. I want to be prepared."

"I don't think you have to be worried about..."

"You might want to hoard some of the little burgers and sausage rolls, too," Bertie interrupted. "Protein, you know."

"Say, that's a good idea," the kid said.

"Where's Prasad?" I asked. He and Prasad were nearly inseparable. I was proud that I could remember Prasad's name. In fact, I chanted it in my head. Prasad. Prasad. Prasad.

"He's writing letters," the kid said and rolled his eyes.


"Yeah, he thinks he can stop the eBook trend by protesting."

"Why does he want..."

"Same reason. If we get stuck in a POW camp, and we don't have any books, we'll be out of luck!"

"Not much leisure reading in camp, I expect," I said.

"No, but we'll want the paper for the latrine."

"Ah. And I was worried that kids would never take up reading if they never see their parents holding a book."

"Maybe he should be figuring out how to make HDTV from a Spam can," Bertie suggested.

"Yeah, they made a radio out of tin cans so they could find out what was going on outside," the kid replied.

"The digital system might be a problem today," I said. He shrugged. "You know, I got this book from a used book sale on Labor Day. How would it have gotten to me if it were only available as an eBook?"

"Maybe you should help him write letters," the kid said. "Gotta go now." He ran out with a bag of burgers.

"Now, there is hope after all," Bertie said.

"Because there are still children?" I asked. He laughed.

"Oh, gosh no. You got me wrong."

"I was about to say..." I said. "Oh, I get it: hopeful because there are still people who are trying to stay prepared and think more than ten minutes ahead? Yeah, I can see that. I guess it's also hopeful that she ended her book by sayin:"

I believe that: While we have more than we need on this continent and others die for want of it, there can be no lasting peace.

When work as hard in peacetime to make this world decent to live in, as in wartime we work to kill, the world will be decent, and the causes for which men fight will be gone.

"With an open heart like that, after the way she had just been treated in captivity, there must be hope..." I enthused.

"Uh, maybe," Bertie replied. "I just meant that now the kid's gone, there'll actually be more donuts for us."

9 to 9 Means Hillary Wins?

So, when I used to play in little league, if the game ended with the score at 9 to 9, we called that a "tie."

I will not become a ranting political blogger. I will not.


As we watched CNN report the primary counting in New Hampshire last night (We were at the house of friends in Greenbelt, of course. The primary was in New Hampshire...), first AP and then CNN eventually "gave" the race to Clinton. They were coy about it, sure enough.

They had cool little graphics showing county-by-county totals, and they kept a constant ticker of the vote counts and percentages. The talking heads blathered on and on about who was "winning." But not a single time did I ever hear them mention that little marker at the bottom of the map that showed CNN's prediction for delegates won by each candidate.

In the end, everywhere I look I'm reading that Hillary "won" the primary and has "come back from the political dead." (As an aside, that might actually increase her appeal: wouldn't it be cool to have a zombie in the White House?) Where was I? Oh, yes, it took me 25 minutes of web searching this morning to find out if NH's primary is "winner-take-all" or district based. The Wikipedia entry doesn't say, which is weird. But it turns out that New Hampshire is not a winner-take-all state. That is, the delegates for the convention are alloted by both district and state-wide results (and there are some extra non-committeds, too). Why didn't we hear about that during the analysis last night? If we accept the district-based allotment in the real election (we've had two presidents elected with fewer popular votes than his opponent), do you think we can't understand it with the primary? This page provides a prediction of delegates from NH: Clinton gets 9. Obama gets 9. Edwards gets 4.

Sounds like a tie to me.

So what do we learn from this? The media thinks we're stupid? Oh, geez, we already knew they think that. Here's an interesting number: the 2004 Democratic convention counted 4,353 delegates. Think about how significant 9 delegates are against 4,353. What the media thinks is that it needs to make up some story to entertain us. And Americans hate a tie.

A tie is like kissing your sister.

So 22 votes are now cast out of more than 4,000. I suppose that means Edwards was right.

Poe Supper

So, we've decided to do our own take on Burns' Supper with a celebration of Edgar Allan Poe. So far, only women have accepted the invitation, which is fine by me!

We haven't figured out what to serve instead of haggis. I don't think we can get raven this time of year. But I think we'll be drinking cognac, the choice of the famous Poe Toaster.

Though to be honest, I thought the Poe Toaster was some sort of kitchen appliance.

Here's the invitation we sent out:

It is traditional for Scots to gather in late January to celebrate the birthday of the poet Robert Burns. At these "Burns Suppers," folks gather around a haggis, recite Burns poetry and song, and (of course) drink whisky. The haggis is central due to Burns' poem, Address to a Haggis.

We thought it would be fun to host such a supper, but since we live in Maryland, it seemed more appropriate to celebrate our own poet who was also born in late January. Not only was Edgar Allan Poe an interesting early American poet, he invented the detective short story, he was a popularizer of cryptography, and he may have died in a dangerous election fraud scheme (good for this year, no?)

Bring a bit of Poe poetry or prose to recite, and join us for a Poe Supper. We'll provide the food and drink. You provide the entertainment.

P.S., I doubt our kitchen will be completely ship-shape by then, so the dilapidated surroundings of our under-reconstruction home should add to the Poe ambiance. Also, due to scheduling conflicts, we will be celebrating a week after his actual birthday.

Holey Kitchen, Batman

Dear Neighbors,

Sorry about all the noise.

Well, the contractor I mentioned before brought his minions and started work yesterday. The task is to move the washer and dryer from the ground floor kitchen upstairs to the closet next to the bathroom. You can see above that they put in a few pipes.

Below, you'll see what it means to live in a block house in our cooperative. This is the ceiling to our kitchen. The floors are separated by a layer of concrete, so it was tough going to make a hole for the wires and piping needed for the new placement of the washer and dryer. Can you see all the rocks? It's like living in a cave.

TJ on LT

Happy New Year to everybody who follows the Gregorian calendar!

So, over on LibraryThing, Thomas Jefferson has finally gotten around to cataloging his books on-line. What's fun about this is that we can compare libraries and find that we have some of the same books. Five, to be exact.

It'd be cool to see what the Unsuggester suggests for Thomas Jefferson.