Unintended Consequences

I feel a bit like a war profiteer or somebody who preys on the unfortunate circumstances of other people, but what you gonna do? It turns out that this marvelously bad economy is going to benefit us in at least one way: The Brunette just wrote to tell me that our mortgage payments for the next year are going down by $150 because we have one of those delayed ARMs and the lending rates have plummeted.

I suppose the smart thing to do would be to go ahead and keep paying the number we got used to this year to buy down the principal. How much would a reduction of $1800 in principal save us over the life of our home ownership? Any accountants out there?

Today's Rorschach

What do you see?

I see a tired grumpy old man riding his bike on an 8.6 mile jaunt. Oh, wait. That was just me. What I really see is the head of a snake with its forked tongue sticking out.

And I feel much better now, thanks. Biking always clears the mind. It was awfully humid out there this morning, though. I thought the humidity was really mucking with my sunglasses, fogging them up so terribly that I had to take them off to see where I was going.

In this case, I think it was the heat and not the humidity. The plastic coating is all wrinkled up.

Fat Cat

The Brunette volunteered to serve drinks at the New Deal Café, so I'm cruisin' the net on a Saturday night. The 75 year old man in the couch over to my left just commented that the reason that this place would now succeed is because they got rid of "that Vegan junk." His companions were confused. "The vagrants are still out there!"

At any rate, here is the obligatory cat picture:

We stayed at the Brunette's brother-in-law's house last night to watch the baby. They have a cat that puts Tubby's weight problem to shame. I swear this cat had neck rolls.

Disowned

OK, there's a book tale scheduled for release early next week. (I've pushed it into the future to give myself some time to think about it before it goes live.) I hope the mention of the book encourages you all to read Possession. On the other hand, I advise you to avoid the movie like the plague. We watched it last night on DVD. The movie is a disgrace to the book's name. They removed the heart of the movie, several interesting characters, and turned the protagonist into an American. Not so bad that they turned him into an American (that happens), but they turned him into a kleptomaniac and a grump. Our book's protagonist was much more shy and self-effacing.

So, read the book, skip the movie.

Just for the record...

...it is currently 50°F at the FabLab in Norway. There are some lovely pictures of the Lyngen area with Google Maps (from where I stole the picture above). Sadly, the Fab Lab's site is all Norse, so I can't tell if they need any Configuration Managers.


Read more about Fab Labs to see why I'm getting excited about them.

A Man Who Follows His Own Tracks Until He's Lost*

I had the unpleasant experience of discovering that I'm emotionally shallow. If any of my friends out there still read this, they might not be as surprised by this as I was. I may have come to this conclusion in the past, but luckily the shallowness prevents me from really putting it away in long term storage.

When I got my shiny new iPod, I made little playlists of the songs I own. I've got Calm Music, Driving Music, Druggy Music, things like that. I hardly ever actually listen to the playlists. Generally, when I'm not listening to podcasts, I'll just shuffle through the entire library.

Yesterday, I was kinda grumpy and down, but I couldn't figure out why. Jeez, the week is almost over, it's only a week until we fly off to London, I get to speak in front of an audience there. What's to be down about? So it wasn't until this morning when I switched on the iPod for my walk down to the bus stop (about twenty minutes, but that's my choice, not Metro's fault) that I realized I had been listening to the Moody Music playlist. What a set of bummer songs. How easily my mood is affected by outside factors!

Thank goodness shallow people have an easy solution to the moodiness. I switched over to the Science Fiction/Fantasy Songs playlist and now I am in a completely different mood. Sorry, deep people, can't help you with your troubles.


* from Mark Heard's song, It's Not Your Fault (Look Ma! I'm doing what the cool kids are doing: making footnotes!)

Fuel

Forgot to upload this picture from the weekend, which is appropriate because I forgot to take my camera along when we dropped by the National Arboretum. Always enjoy the bansai display, but there's a new garden devoted to plants that could maybe, possibly, act as a fuel source in the future, some day.

Turns out that the President wasn't smoking grass when he mentioned sawgrass in his State of the Union speech some time back. It really exists. Here it is pictured with another possible fuel: sunflower seeds.

Hmm. I suppose it is the National Arboretum. I wonder if the President had any say on which plants would get displayed?

All That You Have is Your Soul (Tracy Chapman)

FAIL! Perhaps you would like to finish this one.

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was this morning's train ride.

The idea is supposed to be that you write and complete whatever it is before the end of the ride. I think I made a good start, but I got too far in before I started thinking about how to come out. In the interests of honesty, I'm putting this up just as it was written.

Somewhere along Kenilworth Avenue, the skies grumbled a bit. A man standing at the bus stop shook his fist at the sky, but he did not think fast enough. The clouds only darkened and let loose a fine dousing.

The man's head sunk into his shoulders, which collapsed into his chest. It was just one more thing he had failed to anticipate. The disappointment made him forget to imagine the bus arriving late, but it showed up on time anyway, and he shuffled on board and collapsed in the back row.

He stared vacantly at his boots. They were now a dull red vinyl, two nicked and bumpy lumps that looked like chewed up wax lips. The boots were curiously out of sync with the rest of his clothes -- standard black slacks and a rumpled Oxford, a little frayed about the collar. When he had bought those boots, he still remembered his name. But now his name was as lost to him as his soul, he had been under cover for so long.

The name was Todd. Perhaps it is no surprise that he had abandoned such a normal, pedestrian name. Todd had been such a normal, pedestrian man before he discovered his power. Todd had read the comic books: A man with power must hide his identity to properly work for justice.

He discovered his power when playing the lottery. He purchased a ticket from the liquor store next to the pupuseria. Todd never drank, but the numbers called him. he took the ticket home and placed it beneath a magnet on the refrigerator. The magnet was a curved American Indian figure playing a pipe. His mother had sent the magnet from New Mexico. He knew the figure would bring him luck.

When he sat at the little table in his kitchen, Todd was washed with such certainty that he was going to win the $32 million prize that he pulled the closest piece of paper to him -- the envelope for the electric bill -- and started a list of things he would buy after he claimed the money.

By the time he was tired enough to go to bed, Todd had covered three envelopes, the edges of a K-Mart circular, the backs of a half dozen receipts, and the inside of a label he peeled off a soup can with his plans for his soon-to-be-claimed winnings. In bed, he was unable to fall asleep. Instead, in his mind he filled the blank ceiling and walls with further items that would soon be in his grasp. When he finally did fall asleep, Todd did not find rest.

In the morning after the drawing, Todd jauntily walked into the liquor store to verify his winning numbers. He stuck his ticket into the plastic scanner to let it read the ticket's bar code. It beeped and thought for a moment before spitting out its result.

"Not a winner," the scanner's text output said.

Todd stepped back in surprise. Surely the machine had misread his ticket. So he put the ticket back in the slot and waited for a new message to appear. Unfortunately, the machine thought and then responded with the same statement. Todd was not a winner.

"But I was so sure," Todd said to the clerk, who simply nodded. They are always so sure...

Todd drifted out of the liquor store and back to his apartment. He sat in the kitchen and wondered at the lists of stuff he had left scattered on the table.

"I've never been so certain of anything before," he told the magnet. "How could it not come true?"

Todd was a bright guy and realized that "never" was an awfully strong word, so he stopped thinking about the lottery ticket and started wondering if he had indeed ever felt so confident before. In general, Todd carried a heavy confidence deficit but he started to remember times when he had felt so confident in the past:

  • As a teenager, he was sure that Mary would go to the prom with him. He rented a spiffy tux, bought the tickets, and then asked her.
  • In 1989, he was positive the Orioles would enter and win the World Series.
  • As a college student, he was confident he would win that poetry contest hands-down.
  • As a kid, he had been certain that his father would come back and live happily ever after with his mother.

All of these situations had one thing in common, Todd realized. Not a single one had come true. What a record that was. Todd could have chosen this moment to give up on life, but instead he understood the power that had been given to him and worked to figure out how he could use his power for good. If he could go around figuring out worse-case scenarios and trying hard to fantasize their fulfillment, he could probably make the world a better place.

(He did test his power by imagining that the 7-11 lose power and prevent him from getting the milk he needed for the morning's cereal. Needless to say, he was successful at preventing this catastrophe.)

"If I can imagine it, it will not come to pass," was his motto. "Gotta work on that motto," was his follow-up. The first step in his new-found hero-hood was to buy shiny red boots and a costume to wear under his mild-mannered clothing. The second step was to stop thinking about the good that would come from his work -- can't afford to spoil it.

So, Todd began his self-training, working to figure out little and large catastrophes and heartbreaks to hope for and imagine...


This is where I had to leave the train at Rosslyn. I had planned to go somewhere how much thinking up bad stuff to happen to people affects his soul, but I ran out of time...

Would You Believe...

It's our first harvest of the year! One lonely pepper so far, but nothing else seems to even be on its way.

I grew up on Get Smart re-runs. (Yes, they were re-runs. I'm not that old.) I remember watching in my grandmother's basement because channel 5 (or was it 20?) showed them during her soaps. I liked coming to Grandma's house to watch TV because she had more choices: DC had two independent stations, but Baltimore only had the one. Sometimes we could pick up the DC stations, but not always. The music alone is still enough to make me smile.

So I was a little worried about going into this one after seeing what Hollywood did to Speed Racer.

Get Smart Another movie based on a TV show. Clumsy secret agent pairs up with competent woman to attempt to foil a plot by an evil secret agency.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza
Noise Level: Much, Much Too Loud
The Skinny: I think this one was successful. It changed some stuff, sure, but I think it kept the spirit of Buck Henry's original show and I spent a lot of the movie laughing. Too bad Hiro didn't get more screen time.

Subcity (Tracy Chapman)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was Wednesday evening's train ride. What a pain the ride home from Rosslyn was: I stood for about half of it. So this is on the short side.

This story is better understood if you read the first and second installments.

The path to the Spellman Overpass curves gently from the parking lot at the end of Gardenway to the bridge over the Baltimore Washington Parkway. It splits a patch of woods on the west side of the Overpass. Along the path are a playground, a set of community garden plots, and an ugly marker, squat and solid, coated in brown paint. It is easier to read the marker with your fingers than your eyes. It commemorates Gladys Noon Spellman.

This morning, as Roddy McCorly approached his appointment with destiny (the fight), the path was also host to a little girl. She had a box of chalk and was busily decorating the asphalt-paved path with shades of blue, green, and yellow.

The little girl was crying.

As Roddy walked along the path from the parking lot, he could see that she had been writing a letter. It started at the playground. By this time, the little girl was halfway through the community gardens.

"Dear Mr. President," began the words scrawled in pink on the pavement.

My mother always told me that if I was bad you would come and take me away. So I try to be pretty good. You know, it isn't always easy. Mike always pulls my hair and John always takes my dolls.

Maybe you should come and get John and Mike.

You're kinda scary, so maybe you can see as how Mom's threat made me be good so much. Or maybe you can't, if you're as bad as all that.

Anyways, I guess I was kinda bad this morning. I didn't mean to be, but you know how it is. Sometimes diplomacy doesn't work.

I flushed Mike's Nintendo DS down the toilet.

He served it; I know he did. but I don't think you and Mom think so. Probably you know how much a DS costs and how long Mom has to work to buy one.

Or maybe you don't. Mom doesn't think you're very smart. Which is why I thought it was a good idea to run away after Mike started crying.

Boys shouldn't cry, don't you think? Big baby. Mom usually likes a crier, but it didn't seem like a good idea to make her choose between Mike and me at just that particular moment, you know? So I took my chalk and ran away.

I figured that if you're as dumb as Mom says, even if you came after me, you wouldn't know where to look if I wasn't in the obvious places. And sure enough, you haven't found me yet, ha ha. Sometimes things aren't where you expect them to be, no matter how much you hope and pray.

But the thing is, I'm kinda lost. I don't really know where I am. And I'm hungry. And I'm tired. I'm also a little bit scared. What is going to happen to me?

Anyways, I was hoping you could go ahead and get me. I admit I was bad and maybe I deserve to be carried away by the President. Come soon, please. There's a weird boy walking out of the woods.

Honest regards,
Karen

"Where do you live?" Roddy asked the little girl.

"I live on Ora Court," she sniffled. "But I don't know where that is."

"I guess your mother's probably kind of worried," Roddy said. He was thinking of his own mother. "I know where Ora Court is. We can take the R12 bus there."

Roddy had expected an argument. He had somewhat hoped for one, actually. The fight was a big commitment. This poor lost girl was a distraction. But Karen just reached up her hand to hold. He pulled her to her feet and told her to collect her chalk.

"I just have to get through this fight first," Roddy said.

"How long?"

He looked at his watch. "Oh, half an hour or so. I'm early."

Karen started wailing. Roddy panicked. What was he to do with the poor wretched thing? She was going into conniptions. His honor told him he had to face the fight.

His heart told him the girl was scared and alone.

He imagined all the things the other kids would say. The names they would call him. He'd probably get in even more fights, just because everyone would think he was a scaredy cat.

He wondered if he could leave a note.

Karen started pulling at her hair.

"Ok, Ok," he said. "We'll go now. You need your mom more than I need to fight." He took her hand and they walked away from the bridge. Roddy hoped that this was the last tough decision he'd have to make, ever.

Finally, the clouds opened up and the rain poured forth. As Roddy and Karen walked to the bus stop, the cleansing waters wiped away Karen's letter to the president and she eventually stopped crying.

Mixed Up

I tried to make a mix tape of the songs in the MusicTales project because I figure most of them are on the obscure side, but the iTunes store only has 8 of the 20. At any rate, here are 8/20 of the Songs from a Morning Commute. If I ever do this again, I'll do the random thing and then see what can be put in the iMix. Eight stories would have been much more manageable.

The Wilderness and Roddy McCorly songs are in there, so you can listen along for those last two stories.

Wilderness (The Choir)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was Monday morning's train ride, which was a little longer than usual because I had to head out to West Falls Church. This continues the story started here.

The forest accepted Roddy like a penitent taking communion. It swallowed him whole and removed him from the world of light so quickly that he tried to stop his forward momentum in order to allow his eyes to adjust. Instead, he stumbled down a slight slope, bumping from tree to tree. The journey to the bottom of the hill increased in velocity when a root caught his foot and he fell face forward over a cliff.

The ground caught him with a blow to his diaphragm that took his breath away. But at least he was no longer moving in darkness. After catching his breath, Roddy sat and felt the forest adjust to his sight. In reality, the fall had only been about three feet, but the blow to his gut and the scratches and bruises from the trees left him wary of movement.

Some way to prepare for a fight, Roddy thought. I'll already be beaten up before I get there.

"Not all preparation is physical," said the tree at Roddy's back. Roddy spun to face his new companion, but only saw the tree. It spoke again: "Everybody wanders in the forest."

"An ent!" Roddy said excitedly. He remembered these friendly, if slow, creatures from Tolkien.

The tree reached a branch back and smacked Roddy across the face, knocking him to the ground. The ground stopped his fall again, but did not cushion him. The tree laughed. Roddy put his hand to his face and discovered a wet scratch below his right eye.

"Lesson One," the tree said. "Not everything you think you know is true."

Roddy's cheek began to sting. Anger was released into his blood stream along with a dose of whine. It's not fair, he thought.

"The world's not fair," the tree chuckled at him. This was so much like something that Roddy's father used to say that he flew into a rage and jumped up to pound his fists on the tree's trunk. The tree seemed unfazed. After a bit of this, the tree started a low-pitched hum. Roddy's pounding on the tree could be heard as punctuation in the hum. It was like some kid playing Tarzan on his chest.

Roddy stopped hitting the tree and stood back, exhausted. The tree smacked him and he fell to the ground again. As he struggled to catch his breath, Roddy began to notice the pain throbbing in his knuckles. He looked at them -- bloody and pulpy.

"Lesson Two," the tree said. "You'll hurt yourself worse than anyone else ever will."

Roddy stood and stared hard at the tree, which continued laughing at him.

"I already have a school," Roddy said. He turned his back on the tree and walked away. The tree could not follow, of course (trees don't really walk like in Tolkien, apparently), but it half-heartedly threw a few monkey balls at him. The prickly spheres bounced off his back without doing harm.

Roddy did his best to maintain some distance from the other trees as he walked through the forest. He was pretty much as successful as could be expected in the woods. His regained vision helped immensely. He was not accosted by any more trees as he walked along, and soon he had forgotten that he had lost his breath. His knuckles stopped throbbing.

Roddy had no sense of direction and no real goal in mind anyway. He had never played in these woods and just now wanted to survive the night. When morning came, he could worry about finding the Spellman Overpass and facing his appointment with destiny. So he wandered in the woods, hoping that some clue would appear to give him an idea for his next step.

At least an hour passed without anything happening of interest. Roddy could only estimate time based on his feet, because his watch had broken in his earlier fall. (Or maybe the woods had made it stop.) At any rate, he came to a clearing and decided to rest for a moment. He pulled off his backpack and sank to the ground. He lay his head on the pack, just to rest a second.

It was only when he was fully settled that he noticed the Ferris wheel. It stood in the middle of the clearing shooting multi-colored lights into the night. It blinked red and white and blue as it turned slowly. Roddy squinted at it. It seemed to be a hundred miles away. The tree had been enough lesson for him to know better than to jump up and run to it to investigate.

"There are wonders to behold, there, lad," said a voice at his shoulder. Roddy turned to see a diminutive bearded lady.

"Ah, the circus metaphor," Roddy said. The bearded lady frowned and crouched. She was wearing sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, all black with a single blood-red ideogram on her left breast. Roddy was embarrassed to realize he had been staring at her breast and stood up hastily.

The bearded lady pulled her hands up in standard movie ninja style and, just as if there were puppet wires holding her up, she flew a few feet above the ground, whirled and kicked at Roddy's stomach. She missed, because Roddy had stepped back, caught his foot in the Ferris wheel and fallen over.

The Ferris wheel had been only about eight inches high before Roddy crushed it in his clumsiness. (Lesson Three: Very small, far away, he thought.) It was surrounded by an array of tiny rides and festival tents. The miniature carnival was deserted.

"Lesson 3," the ninja bearded lady began, but Roddy decided he was tired of this game. He picked up his bag and ran. Running had done him no good before, but he had no other plan. This, of course, led him to Lesson 4: You can't run away. The woods and lessons were all around him.

Roddy met many more strangers that night and learned a great many lessons:

Lesson 6: Trust no one.
Lesson 8: Find someone to trust.
Lesson 12: Sometimes you have to learn a lesson twice.
Lesson 18: You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd.
Lesson 37: The capital of Afghanistan is Kabul.
Lesson 43: The square of the lengths of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of both sides' squares.
Lesson 44: The hypotenuse is that long side.
Lesson 62: The only way to get through is to go through.

And so, by the morning, Roddy was battered, exhausted, and ready to face his duel at the Spellman Overpass. Well, almost ready. As he approached the bridge, he came upon a little girl sitting on the path. She was crying.

Roddy had one more lesson to learn.

Give It To the Birds and Bees

So I bought one of those twenty dollar Pennsylvania Lottery tickets last weekend. I imagine I'm going to win big, but the drawing isn't until the 5th of July. This led me to wonder: if I leave the country with a lottery ticket and while I'm out of the country it is chosen for the $1M prize, does that mean I'm carrying something back into the country worth $1M and should declare it? If I don't, what might happen? I think there's a short story in there.

Don't Tell Anybody!

Haven't you always wanted to be a super secret blog experiment shopper? Here's your chance. And here's a badge for your blog:

<a href="http://lacochran.blogspot.com/2008/06/does-wegmans-rule-experiment.html"> <img src="http://bp2.blogger.com/_n4bRBeag43Q/SFhacZtD0zI/AAAAAAAAAZ0/DyegY-pHWBk/s400/supersecret_90.gif"> </a>

And Where Was Rerun, Any Way?

The Happening A B horror movie about a mysterious attack that causes people to stop resisting the impulse to kill themselves.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza
Noise Level: Not bad. Odd movie to bring a baby to though.
The Skinny: I don't even know what to say.

Tubby Paints a Picture

We bought this pretty scanner/printer thing so that Tubby has a place to rest. Just a few moments ago, he pushed the button to scan and print a copy of whatever is on the glass of the scanner.

The noise doesn't seem to have bothered him at all.

I know he's also been sending emails on the Brunette's computer. Soon, he'll be using the microwave and won't need us at all.

Roddy McCorly (Flying Cows of Ventry)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was Thursday morning's train ride.

Roderick Randolph Antonio McCorly. What kind of name was that to curse a kid with, anyway? The only positive thing that could be said about the name was that it wasn't followed by a junior, or worse, a Roman numeral. "Thank God for small miracles," Roddy's mother would have said, except not really in this case.

His name was her fault, after all.

Lots of things seemed to be his mother's fault lately. Roddy was smart enough to recognize the statistical improbability of his mother being the sole cause of his every misfortune, but thinking that didn't make the feeling retreat in any way. His mother blamed his general disgruntlement on his impending teenagehood.

This, too, angered our protagonist.

And so Roddy made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Roddy was a reader, and, like all readers, Roddy didn't completely live in our world only. He had recently run through a string of books, some high fantasy, a few Native American tales, an SF or two, wherein the social norm was to send a maturing boy off into the woods on a rite of passage.

Roddy felt this was his ticket out of this particular phase of emotional turmoil. This was his chance to demonstrate his independence and exercise some control. Somehow, he was aware that he was two steps away from becoming Emo Boy, mooning over girls and poetry and junk. A rugged night of adventure would set that straight.

After he packed his sandwiches, he went into the bathroom and cut back his bangs.

He shouldered the backpack and slipped out the service-side entrance. He expected his mother wouldn't notice his absence. By now, he was generally in his room, reading before bed. His younger sister was already supposed to be asleep. Guinn was the other reason for this rite of passage.

Roddy fully expected his sister to spill the beans about the fight tomorrow morning at breakfast. His mother would freak and keep him from going.

That would make him an even bigger outcast. The morning's scheduled fight was a necessary part of his metamorphosis, no matter how physically unprepared he might be. A challenge had been thrown and accepted. Nobody is more attuned to the rules of chivalry than the almost-teen.

The trees of the Green Belt filled the spaces between super blocks and around the cooperative. A fairly unbroken stretch reached from Roddy's house, wrapping around homes and hugging the Parkway all the way from Northway in an arc to Southway. In the middle of this small wilderness was the Spellman Overpass, a pedestrian bridge over the Baltimore Washington Parkway.

Roddy had begun to think of it as The Bridge of Doom.

The Spellman Overpass was the site chosen for tomorrow's epic fight, partly because it provided easy emergency exiting if the cops showed up, but mostly because everyone knew where it was and there was plenty of room for a crowd to gather. Roddy expected the fight to really take place a little closer to the playground than the bridge, but when arranging a fight like this, one doesn't quibble over details like that. Ten feet from the vegetable gardens or an inch closer to the Spellman marker didn't matter much. He was going to get beaten up.

But first, he must make it through the night.

Perhaps it would strengthen him. A trip to the wilderness would prevent his mother's interference and, if the books could be believed, probably provide him with fortitude and support. He wanted to believe he would receive some magic weapon or guidance through the night's ordeal.

Even a few magic beans would be cool.

Roddy was a smart kid. He knew in his head that as he stood at the edge of the woods at the end of Northway that there would be no magical beings or adventures in the forest. The sound of traffic on the Parkway was an ever-present background. Just beyond the city's giant mulch pile stood the grounds of the rationalist's dream: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Roddy took a deep breath, hitched up his backpack, and plunged into the woods secure that there would be no magic or mystery in the forest tonight.

Roddy was wrong.

Agnes Goes Around The World

A game because I'm bored but can't set aside enough time to really do a music tale.

Do you remember Connections? I loved the idea of skipping around the world on a series of ideas. Let's try it. Find a phrase and work out how to follow it through related ideas to every continent.

In the last 30 day period, the phrase that has sent the most Googlers to my site has been "agnes newton keith." (This isn't going to do anything to reduce that search result, is it?)

Agnes Newton Keith was the author of Three Came Home. It tells the story of her family's time in WWII prisoner of war camps. It would be too easy to extract a continent from that, so we'll instead start with her father, a founder of Del Monte. Del Monte is based in San Francisco, California (North America). Del Monte owns the Starkist brand of canned tuna. Do you remember Charlie the Tuna? In the olden days, he was an animated tuna that had some sort of death wish: He wanted to prove to Starkist that he had good enough taste for them to can him and feed him to humans. Every commercial ended with the poor thing being told, "Sorry, Charlie," and he had to go on living.

You'd think that kind of self-destructive behaviour would be the brainchild of someone like Kerouac. In fact, there's one actress who claims that Charlie the Tuna was a creation of James Dean. James Dean is famous, it seems to me, mostly for dying young, which is important for true immortality. He also starred in a total of three movies. One of those movies was East of Eden, based on the book by John Steinbeck, who also wrote Cannery Row.

Oops. Did I just go in a circle there?

Also acting in East of Eden was folksinger Burl Ives. I remember Burl Ives as the talking snowman in the animated Christmas television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He sort of cut through the snow like the Remington shaver thingy did. Rudolph (the TV show) was produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr. Arthur's grandfather was Harry Davenport, an actor in Gone with the Wind, which starred Vivien Leigh.

Amazingly, Vivien was born in India and so we are now on the Asian continent!

Also from Darjeeling is the 2007 Indian Idol winner, Prashant Tamang. Prashant is a police officer. His win was helped by his fan club: "His fan club raised tens of thousands of rupees to buy cell phones and phone cards to get people to vote." Indian Idol is a cousin to American Idol and both shows are descendents of the UK's Pop Idol.

Which gets us very quickly to Europe. Sorry to be so quick, Asia.

Interestingly, the UK's Pop Idol only lasted two seasons. In the first season, the second place finisher was Gareth Gates. Gareth is now a speech coach using the McGuire Programme, where stammerers and stutterers help each other. One hopes they don't use the old folk remedy I found on Wikipedia: "hitting a stutterer in the face when the weather is cloudy." Other famous stutterers were Lewis Carroll, Winston Churchill and Emperor Claudius I.

Claudius came to power in Rome in AD 41 after the death of Caligula. Claudius was big on edicts, including an important decree that "all Roman citizens shall be allowed to pass gas whenever necessary." (Can't get through an entire entry without a gas joke!) More interestingly, Claudius was responsible for expanding the Roman empire into Brittain, Judea and Mauretania.

Mauretania is not the same place as the modern country of Mauritania, but they are both in Africa!

Mauretania covered areas now considered Morocco and Algeria. Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States, way back in 1774. The largest port in Morocco is Casablanca. Do you know what it means to be a sister city? Me, neither, but Casablanca is sisters with Chicago, Bordeaux, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta.

Kuala Lumpur brings us back to Asia, but mostly so we can look at the world's largest twin towers: the Petronas Twin Towers. Until very recently, this building represented the tallest building in the world, but it has lost that title. Another interesting thing about the Petronas Twin Towers is the architect: César Pelli.

César Pelli was born in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, which brings us to South America.

César Pelli has two children, Denis and Rafael. I really wanted to work in Denis Pelli, because he worked on a paper about shrimp vision. Sadly, although he seems to be well-rounded (including work on matlab packages), I couldn't find a way to link him to Australia. So I had to turn to César 's wife, Diana Balmori. Diana seems to be a very respected landscape architect. Her firm, Balmori Associates, has done some fine work all over the world, including the design for the University College Dublin Gateway. The Irish project was done in association with London-based architect Zaha Hadid, who "doesn't do nice."

Last year, Zaha was chosen to design four buildings in Collins Street (Docklands), Melbourne. That puts us in Australia.

Nice.

Actions Speak Louder (Bruce Cockburn)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was the morning train ride.

Under a Flag, They Swore a Bond, Caught Under Fire They Ran

A columnist in the New Yorker describes his flag:

The bra and panties stand for women’s rights.
Davy Crockett shaking hands with Daniel Boone symbolizes how we need to put aside our differences.
The skull and crossbones, in the lower right corner, stands for pirates, and all that they have given us.

What do the symbols on your flag represent?

Mine:

  • The Book represents the importance of alternate forms of insulation.
  • The Bicycle Wheel demonstrates freedom of movement and the power of the center. And grease. Grease is important.
  • Plate of Spaghetti is there because I like Play-Doh. Plus, spelling is important.
  • Penguin Grasping Small Flag: The flag has the same image as the overall flag, so it also has a penguin with the flag, which also has a penguin with the flag... This represents either infinity or man's inhumanity toward man. I can never remember which.

Fins (Jimmy Buffett)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was 60 minutes. Just imagine how great the pun would have been if I'd had a lot of time to think it out.

The R12 bus turned the corner and the driver hit his brakes. He activated his horn and opened the doors.

"Crazy woman!" he shouted at the nurse who mounted the steps. "What are you doin' running out into the street like that?"

"I didn't want you to go off without me!" she said and swiped her SmarTrip card. "You never stop for me."

"You're never at the bus stop," he grumped. "There isn't a bus stop on this side street."

She made her way back in the bus, ignoring the rest of the driver's commentary. The driver closed the door and drove on. The nurse walked by Karl who always became nervous at this point in the drive. Introduce a nurse in the first act, he thought, and she has to be used by the third act. The bus now had three nurses. That had to be bad luck. She sat down next to the other nurses.

"Yolanda! Mabel!" she yelled.

"Yumei!" they yelled back.

Karl hunkered down and waited for the worst.

"We haven't seen you in forever," said Yolanda.

"Since Luther was a pup!" Mabel said.

"Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper!" Yolanda roared.

"Since gas was less than $4 a gallon!" Mabel said.

"Since ..." Yolanda started, but she couldn't think of another idiom. "Uh, since last week!" And all three laughed.

"How did your blind date go?" Yolanda asked when the laughing had subsided. This must be the happiest bus on the planet, Karl thought. He knew from last week's conversations that Yumei had planned a blind date for the weekend with a computer-generated link. He wondered how the technology worked there. Did they take blood samples and compare genomes? He pictured those "love meter" tests you see in the Boardwalk arcades, where the lights all blink depending on how strong your grip is. He wouldn't be caught dead in a blind date, of course. It was just too out of control.

"Two blind dates, actually," Yumei said, and the other two gasped and cackled. "I need to get down to one calendar. Sometimes I put stuff in this little paper one, and sometimes on the email one, and sometimes on the one on the kitchen wall. I can't keep them all straight."

"You'd think the matchmaking service would keep track of that for you," Mabel said.

"That might work if I only used one," Yumei said. "Anyway, I forgot all about Paavo. I feel so bad."

"Was he mad that he missed you?"

"Oh, he didn't miss me," Yumei said. "Thank goodness I always have the first date at the same place."

"Where?"

"At the Baltimore Aquarium. My mother always told me to meet strange men in public places."

"It helps to have witnesses," Mabel put in.

"Your momma is ok with you meetin' strange men?" Yolanda asked. More laughter.

"Oh, sure. I don't suppose the men in Cincinnati are all that weird, so what did she know?"

Mabel had finally done the math. "So, you met two men in the Aquarium?"

"Not at the same time, of course," Yumei said. "Remember I forgot all about Paavo. I met Mikko there at 1. It was very crowded. I find that the fish, though, keep the guys kinda calm. They don't get all over-excited like they do at, say, a hockey game."

"Wise, wise," Yolanda said, shaking her head in approval.

"We met up on the second floor where all those fish are, you know?"

Yolanda and Mabel nodded.

"Was Paavo nice?" Mabel asked.

"Mikko," Yumei said. "Mikko was kinda nice. A little nervous. I might have been intimidating."

"Intimidating?" Yolanda asked. "How?"

"Well, I wore those great shoes I bought last week. I must have seemed like six feet tall or something. Plus I was kinda pitched forward, you know? Those shoes aren't exactly flat." Karl pictured her standing among the fish like the mast of a half-sunken ship, tipped to port. "He brought me flowers."

"How sweet!" Mabel said.

"Typical," Yolanda said.

"Anyway, my cell phone rang while we were looking at the puffer fish. I saw that it was Paavo, and that was when I remembered: I was supposed to meet him at 1:30 downstairs!"

"Upstairs, Downstairs," Mabel said. "Ain't it always the way?"

"I told him I had to go to the little girl's room," Yumei said.

"You said 'little girl's room'?" Yolanda asked.

"I didn't want to mispronounce lavatory," Yumei admitted. "It's not a good word for a first date."

"Oh-kay," the other nurses said.

"Anyway, I could see Paavo from the escalator."

"How could you tell it was him?"

"Oh, he had flowers and was looking around all nervous and rabbit-like. You start to get to where you can spot 'em, you know."

"Did you run down to meet him?" Yolanda asked.

"Well, at the moment I noticed Paavo, Mikko yelled down to me. He said that there was a ladies room upstairs. Why was I going downstairs?"

"Oh, no! So he saw you meet Paavo?"

"Well, not exactly," Yumei said. "When I turned to see what he wanted, my heel caught in those little grooves of the escalator. I twisted over and fell."

"Oh, no!" the nurses repeated. "What happened?"

"Oh, Mikko jumped on the hand rail of the escalator, you know, and slid all the way down to get me. At the same time, Paavo came running over to help me up. And you can see what happened right?" Yolanda and Mabel nodded. "Mikko slid right into Paavo and now they were on the floor."

"Oh, no! So Mikko and Paavo got into a fight?"

"No, no. They got up and the first thing they both did was come over and take me by the arm and help me stand up."

"That's sweet," Yolanda said.

"Mikko and Paavo are interesting names. Are they Greek?" Mabel asked.

"No, they're both from Finland," Yumei said.

"Imagine that," Yolanda said.

"A Fin to the left, Fin to the right," Mabel said.

"And Yumei's always falling down."

Asparagus Battle!

I'd say that the opening day of the Greenbelt Farmers Market was a success. I suppose it's still a little early in the season for much variety in produce, but I did see strawberries, apples, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, and gobs of asparagus. There were also herbs and flowers and butterflies, not to mention some delicious looking baked goods. I'm not a fan of coffee, but the locally roasted coffee (certainly Baltimore is more local than where the coffee comes from) seemed to be a big hit.

I overheard one farmer say that he had gotten more visitors in his first hour than he had gotten all day yesterday. That has to be good. I hope the support stays high for the follow-on weeks. Remember, every Sunday 10-2.

My Name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian From the series of children's books by CS Lewis. Four kids return to their realm to find it overrun by baddies, but they come to the aid of one of the baddies because he's learned how to be nice (and he's pretty). Lots of fantasy creatures, but no Bacchus.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza
Noise Level: Too Loud
The Skinny: Honestly, the point of this movie is that ugly people are not to be trusted.

Way Out West

After my trip to Clarksburg, I had to drive home in the rain. To be honest, the rain seemed to move faster than I did, so I got a few dry patches and rolled into Maryland with pretty good visibility.

It's pretty easy to forget over here in our more urban areas that there are parts of Maryland with hills and rivers and natural junk. That picture above is from the westernmost rest stop in Maryland. The Youghiogheny River Lake is a Corps of Engineers project. The river after it runs into Pennsylvania is popular for rafting and has a wonderful bike trail along it.

What is it with highways and shoes? You can't help but imagine that the occupant was whisked away so suddenly that she was pulled right out of her shoe. If both shoes had been left, I guess I might have been worried I missed the rapture! Or whatever it is M. Night's new movie is about.

I'm pretty sure that the gap in the distance is Sideling Hill, which I passed through soon enough.

Some people think this is evidence of geological age and change. I think it just looks like the planet is smiling at us.

The "mountains" around here might not seem like much to westerners, but the clouds still play in them sometimes.

High on the Hog

I mentioned earlier that I got to spend the night in Clarksburg, West Virginia. My fabulous job took me there for a meeting with a customer. Our meeting was long and uneventful -- aside from the fact that some were not able to make it to the meeting because of the flooding in Clarksburg. After the meeting, I wandered around looking for something to eat. I like to skip the chains when I'm away, because I can eat at chains at home. I'm on the road anyway, might as well try something new.

But the Clarksburg restaurants made me feel fat. I skipped Chunki's Hightime Lounge.

I opted instead to try out Tubby's.

Clarksburg cuisine seems to be centered on hot dogs and pizza. I wish I had eaten at Grandma Cookie's Hot Dog Express when I had had the chance. But the rain was coming down and the little tin hut next to a Family Dollar store didn't look like it had seating.

The thing about Tubby's was that it was a bit difficult to locate. When I finally rolled up, I wasn't sure it wasn't just somebody's house. At any rate, I didn't get to sample their fare because just as I crossed the threshold, the power went out. No food for me at Tubby's.

When I drove back down through the town, Chunki's was also without electricity, so I stopped at the Country Kitchen. The best thing going for it was that it was spelled correctly. I don't know what I would have done if it had been spelled with two Ks.

Next, a little bit about the drive home.

Bike to the Farm Day

This is kinda neat: It looks like there will be a bike valet at the Greenbelt Farmers Market, so you can ride there and be sure someone will look after your bicycle. Get local produce and don't add to the environment's problems, good deal, eh?

The market runs 10-2 on Sundays, starting this very Sunday.

Here's a map.

Change

Wandered down to the snack shop at the bottom of the building to get a soda pop. (I'm just back from West Virginia, so I should call it "pop," I guess.) Love that Coke Zero with fake Cherry flavor. I also love that Zero candy bar, but did you know that it actually has calories and junk? False advertising, I say! Were you further aware that the Zero candy bar is a Hershey product? I didn't until I just Googled to find out the calories.

Let's not talk about the fat and calories.

Where the heck was I? Oh, yes, I wandered down to the snack shop at the bottom of the building to get a soda pop. The 20 oz bottles are a whopping $1.67, but I was thirsty because this building does not turn its air conditioning on overnight, so every morning is a sauna, only we aren't allowed to walk around with only towels on. All-in-all, that's probably a good thing. Every time a sauna is depicted in the movies, it is peopled with fat old hairy men. Who wants to see that? Certainly not me: I've been to West Virginia.

Let me explain that last one: I stopped at a gas station on I-79 on my recent trip. As I washed my hands, I noticed this rhyming graffiti: "If you're gay/Change your way." Now, if I had heard that out loud, I might have thought that somebody had decided that something in whey caused homosexuality. In general, I think the dairy industry is evilly getting its hands into all kinds of unnecessary places, but I don't really think that whey can cause homosexuality.

I imagine a sudden influx of gay men to West Virginia. They all gather at this men's room and read this graffiti and are suddenly changed! Before you know it, West Virginia is awash with gay men trying to change their ways. Everywhere you look, gay men flocking to West Virginia to worship at the shrine of change graffiti. "I read it! I'm straight now!" they'll shout.

Is that really what West Virginia is going for? A bunch of gay men congregating in bathrooms? Oh, and I'm not trying to imply that all gay men want to see fat old hairy men in towels. It's just more likely, don't you think?

I'm having trouble with tangents today. Let's try again: I wandered down to the snack shop at the bottom of the building to get a soda pop. The cashier reminded me that I had to fork over $1.67, so I passed him $2.07. I hate pennies. I try to get rid of them any chance I get. In fact, if I drop a penny, I'm not even going to bother to bend over and pick it up. Let's face it, my time is worth too much. At $250/hour, two seconds are worth more than a penny (1.39 pennies, in fact). The Brunette thinks it's littering, which is probably a fair point.

Now, all the Brits reading this are laughing at the "drop a penny". Which is fair, because I still giggle over "pants." The rest of you are wondering if I really get $250/hour. But I've wandered away from the topic again. Where was I?

I wandered down to the snack shop at the bottom of the building to get a soda pop. I passed over my $2.07 for a $1.67 product. He handed me 50 cents.

"You've given me too much," I said.

"No," he said. "You gave me seven extra cents."

"Yeah," I said. "So 50 cents is too much change."

"No," he said. "It's right. See the 7 cents makes it so you get silver."

"Dude," I said. When was the last time you said dude in public? "I don't have to argue with you about giving you your money back, but 100 minus 60 is 40, not 50."

"OK, sorry," he said and replaced one of the quarters with a dime.

"No need to be sorry," I said and walked off.

Maybe a Fabergé Onion?

I know that many of you think the life of a configuration manager/build engineer is just a Fabergé egg of excitement, glamour and exotic travel. Oh, this career has it's rewards, I'm sure, but keep in mind that for every trip to London, there's a four month stint in Topeka, Kansas.

Or an overnight in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

I'm not one to insist on civic pride. Heck, my father lives only a few miles from Boring, Maryland, but really: Bland and Ordinary only a few blocks apart?

I didn't want something ordinary, so I dined at Dagwood's. The Comics Curmudgeon would be proud.

Unfortunately, it was not a very busy place.

Well, it's only one night. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the best sign of all. The Greenbeltians in the audience will appreciate it: "Welcome. We are building an inclusive community."

Watch Out for the Rocks

There's a lighthouse out here on Interstate 68, in Western Maryland. (Is the W supposed to be capitalized? It's not like West Virginia. Actually, it looks a lot like West Virginia, but it's not its own state...) Anyway, I'm just saying that this lighthouse is pretty far inland. As far as I can tell, it belongs to the church next to it. Lighthouses are meant for warning folks to keep away from the rocks. What does this lighthouse want us to keep away from? Is the service that bad?

Come With Me (Tonio K)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through the list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link.

Timebox: This item's timebox was yesterday's bus/train ride to work. A third of the way through, my pen ran out of ink, so I had to finish on the computer. I have never gotten comfortable with creating straight into the computer. I wonder if you can tell a difference? This sort of an artificial exercise anyway...

Mark swayed in the hammock while Melanie climbed the rocks looking for penguins. The penguins here were odd little birds, not the tuxedoed Emperor penguins from farther south. Here they were short, squat little things with bright feathers popping from their heads like party streamers.

Mark was thinking about rummaging up some food for a late lunch, but he was waiting for a sign. Mark believed in signs. Maybe the rumbling of my stomach is a sign? he thought. It was a clear enough sign anyway. He rolled to a sitting position, or tried to. The hammock was terribly unstable and he found himself falling off the hammock and then he was falling, falling faster and faster.

He kicked his feet rapidly, trying to stop his fall, and he managed to kick the cat off the bed. Either the cat's disapproving meow or the smooth sounds of jazz on the alarm clock brought him fully awake.

The island was only a dream.

Mark eased out of bed, doing his best not to disturb Melanie. He padded off to the shower and performed his morning rituals. After a quick bowl of cereal, Mark crept into the bedroom, pecked Melanie on the cheek, and grabbed his badge from the dresser.

At the bus stop, Mark sat on the back of the wooden bench. He liked the bus stop: it was real and unchanging. It even has its own sign, Mark teased himself. He knew his obsession with signs was killing them.

A year had now passed since he and Melanie had decided to leave the DC area. Agreeing to leave was not difficult. The constant rush, rush, rush was eating away at their souls. There weren't individual events to blame, but the anger of commuting, the powerless droning of government contracting, and the emotional walls constructed for protection against the masses were all combining to nibble away like the waters that created the Grand Canyon.

Actually leaving turned out to be more difficult than expected. Although they knew they wanted to leave DC, they had no idea at all where to go. Mark was further worried that they didn't know what they would actually do when they got there. How many places in the world could support a logistics specialist?

Melanie felt they could find some entirely new career paths or just find a beautiful place to live and scrape by. Mark didn't really have much faith in this approach.

"But you didn't really grow up wanting to do logistics, did you?" she had asked.

"No," he admitted. "It's not like being a firefighter or an astronaut."

He had applied for the job on a whim. He had never told Melanie the story of his application. He had been in Crystal City to meet a friend who was speaking at some conference. After lunching with his friend, Mark wandered around the underground city, looking for a distraction. That's when he saw the most beautiful woman. She was wearing a professional looking blouse and skirt, but her feet were clad in ratty tennis shoes. She clutched a brown bag and was power walking to the south. He followed slowly. Although she was obviously rushing, she kept getting stopped by clumps of bored office workers in no hurry to return from lunch. It was not difficult to keep up.

She reached a bank of elevators in a sort of dead-end branch of the hallways and pushed the up button. By this time, she and Mark were alone and he felt like he'd definitely be caught out if he turned back at this point, so he waited with her, boarded the elevator with her, and followed her into the offices of Columbia Technology Consulting. She disappeared down a hall, and he had a moment of panic as he stood before a rather grumpy looking receptionist.

"Are you here for the job fair?" she asked. It was a sign.

Of course, the woman was Melanie.

He didn't tell her the story because he didn't want her to think he had been a stalker and because she didn't really get his attachment to signs.

He looked at his watch and wondered where the bus was. He fingered his badge and pictured the badge's loop as a chain. He couldn't imagine working in this empty shell any longer, but he really couldn't leave without a plan. Something to say was next. Melanie had found it a lot easier to quit.

His mobile phone rang.

"Hello?" he asked.

"You left without saying goodbye," Melanie said.

"I didn't want to disturb you. You seemed so exhausted."

"I suppose I was sleeping pretty hard. I don't see any reason for it, though --"

"Stress," Mark said. "It's building up."

"Mark, we have to decide what we're going to do. Don't you want to go? I thought this place is killing you."

Mark looked down at the cement around his bench. There was a copy of the free newspaper laying there. A big advertisement of a Van Gogh exhibit splashed across the back. Mark looked at the Starry Night painting and thought of sand castles.

"It is," he said. "But where will we go?"

"Don't ask where. I don't know," she said. "I'll go anywhere with you. You're the one that seems to want to have it all planned out. Let's just go."

Mark shook his head. I need a sign, he thought.

"There aren't going to be any signs," she said. "I could just pick up an atlas and put my finger down. It'd be a better place than this, surely."

"Yeah, but would it be far enough away?"

"I don't know," she sighed.

"We could pick the farthest place away from here." It was a weak joke, not even a joke really, just silly talk to fill the space.

"Hmm," she said.

"What?"

"Hold on a second." Mark could hear tapping over the line. She came back disappointed. "Oh. I tried to enter the opposite longitude and latitude from where we are into Google maps and I came up with water. It's just the middle of the Indian Ocean."

"Native American Ocean," he corrected.

"That's not funny."

"There aren't any islands?" he asked.

"Well, there looks like one over here. It's a few hundred miles."

"What's it called?"

"It's called Île Saint Paul," she said. "It's a French colony."

"Are there logisticians there?"

"I don't know, Mark. It looks pretty deserted."

"What about palm trees?"

"There are some pictures over at flickr," she said. "I don't see any trees."

"The bus is here," he said as the R12 approached. He climbed the steps and swiped his SmarTrip card. "Gotta go."

"There are some funny looking penguins," she said. "Try not to yell at anyone today."

Mark fell to the side as the bus turned the corner before he had sat down. He caught his side on the corner of the seat.

"Did you say penguins?" he asked. The seat had knocked the breath of him, so he was a bit raspy.

"Yes. But they have these funny feathers on their heads."

"OK," he said. "Let's go. Pack the bags. I'll quit today."

"Don't make fun of me," she said.

"I'm not. I mean it. We're going to Île Saint Paul. Whatever's there."

"But what about work?"

"It's a sign," he said. "When I get home I'll tell you a story about how I got this job. You'll understand about signs."

Fedora the Explorer

Yes, we went to another movie yesterday. We are gluttons for punishment.

Indiana Jones and Whatever the Heck He's Doing This Time. A sequel to a series of movies that were filmed a long time ago. Some random kid gets Indiana to travel to South America to find the kid's mom, to get some crystal skull thing, and to fight the Commies.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza
Noise Level: Much too loud. The screaming baby didn't help.
The Skinny: Eh. Indy doesn't seem too interested in figuring out where the mother is. In terms of movie tension: Commies aren't so instantly, obviously evil as the Nazis were, at least as portrayed in this movie. I think religious fantasy objects are more interesting than...well, don't want to give it away!