Does It Adjust Based on Time of Day?

I've been facilitating for a large organization, so I have little energy. So here's a picture I took a while back of a gasoline pump. Exciting, no?

This device dispenses motor fuel by volume measured in gallons. It does not adjust the volume for variations in the temperature of the fuel. The temperature of motor fuel affects the energy content of each gallon dispensed.

Have you ever seen this notice? Did it ever occur to you that the pump might lie about the volume for any reason, temperature or no?

Wow, That Was Fast

Already got a response from my story submission. That was dang fast, especially since it went all the way around the world to Australia.

Rejection, of course. Maybe this poor story just doesn't have what it takes.

Need Help?

If you're at the Fort Totten Metro Station and you need some help, place your head against this square on the pillar and think helpful thoughts.

Have You Made Your Bus Advert Yet?

Just click on the bus.

More Slush

Submitted Jeeves to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Is that a cool name, or what? They have an interesting review process. We'll see if my Jeeves story is too trite for them.

I need to do some writing.

In the Garden of Iden (Kage Baker)

I thought I'd try something different from a Book Tale this time around. Let me know what you think. It occurred to me that the easiest way to let someone know whether they'll like a book is to connect it to other books that they might have heard of, so I drew a picture of In the Garden of Iden and the first connections that popped into my head. If I made a database of this, I could see extending it to further levels until it was something like a visual thesaurus for books. (I really like the Visual Thesaurus and recommend giving it a look.)

But for now, I just have the first layer of nodes, and, of course, this is my personal take. (Go ahead, click on the picture.)

Quick Summary: Time travel is possible, but things cannot be brought physically back from the past. In the future, scientists have discovered how to create immortals, but it's dang expensive. So, they go back very far in time and turn people into immortals. The payment for immortality is performing tasks for the Company. In this book, our young narrator (Mendoza) has her first assignment: use her botanical training to secure plants that are thought to be extinct in the future so that they can be "rediscovered" in some out of the way place (and used for whatever it is they're useful for). She and her colleagues work undercover as a Spanish doctor and family visiting pre-Elizabethan (Maryan?) England. Hormonal hijinks and religious persecution ensue.

Connection -- Doomsday Book (Connie Willis): Iden was recommended to me because I am a huge fan of Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, a fun time travel book about a set of Oxford researchers who bounce back and forth in time, mostly in the Victorian and World War eras. To Say Nothing of the Dog is very funny and centers on a nicely blooming romance, which is handled very well. I think Iden, however, is closer in tone to Doomsday Book, which has the same world as Dog, but centers on time travel to a time of plague and is much grimmer. Though there is humor in Baker's book, I think its religious persecution makes for a darker book.

Connection -- Pastwatch (Orson Scott Card): The time travel theme itself in Iden is similar to the Willis books in that going to the past is not given any direct scientific mumbo-jumbo and mainly serves to put the protagonist in different time periods. However, the aspect of an organizational approach as embodied by "The Company" feels to me like what is going on in Pastwatch, in which a group is gathered to go back in time and prevent some of the harm done by the arrival of Westerners to the Americas. In that, of course, it differs from Willis and Baker because time travel is allowed to affect the world, even in major ways.

Connection -- Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray): Although set hundreds of years later, there are two aspects in which Iden is similar to Vanity Fair. The obvious connection is that both are about women involved in romantic situations and there is a big English-y ramshackle house. In addition, though, I think both books share a misanthropic view of (and humor toward) the world and I think these women would recognize each other.

Connection -- Twilight: I won't dwell on this one because I'm not a fan of Twilight, but the voice of the narrator is awfully similar. If you aren't put off by the whining in Twilight, you won't be put off by the whining of the narrator in Iden.

Connection -- Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler): On the other hand, if what you like about Iden's protagonist is that she's a strong female character on a mission, I can't suggest strongly enough that you read Octavia Butler's awesome science fiction story about a young woman caught in a world that's falling apart. She's an empath and suffers terribly when she sees someone else in pain. But she is living in a Southern California headed for economic collapse. It quickly turns into a dangerous world and she is forced to find her way north to a rumored safe place. Along the way, she picks up a band of lost souls. In a way, this brings us full circle to the religious elements of Iden, but in a different light, as Octavia Butler examines both how faith can be used to separate and to unite.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Geeks

Push: Mutants with superpowers dodge the US government and a Chinese gang in Hong Kong.
Theater Location: AMC Columbia (near mall)
Noise Level: Fine. I hate that Kid Rock song.
The Skinny: Shoot me if I ever write a movie that has in it the line, "What if everything we're doing makes no sense?" It's just too easy. This was on its way to being a William Gibson rip-off, without the computer sense. Why couldn't they take this talent and make a real story?

Adventures in Time Tracking

Today's trip from our house to Barnes & Noble (to use up my gift cards): 24 minutes.
Today's trip from B&N to our house: 20 minutes.

I measured and now record this here for posterity to show that the "slow" route from Greenbelt to Bowie (193 to 450 to 197) is only 4 minutes slower than the "fast" route (Parkway to Beltway to 50 to 197). Not that there are every any arguments in my house about me always taking the slowest possible route or anything.

That is all.

Every Man Jack of You Should Watch This

This is cool. You can watch Neil Gaiman read the entire text of (Newbery-winner) The Graveyard Book.

Dumb Cops

So we just drove back from the grocery store (My Organic Market) and stuck to the speed limit along Crescent Road (as we always do). The dog killer behind us didn't really like that and tailgated all the way along the lake up to the Catholic church, where he passed me on the right. No lights, no warning. Just pulled around me (this is not a multi-lane road, it's one lane in each direction, there was only a wide spot) and sped down the road.

I went over to the web site, but the only complaint procedures I can find have to do with someone being physically harmed. And in those cases you have to agree to participate in the investigation.

So the only way I have to complain about the Prince Georges Police officer in car #4930 is to write it here. Some system.

Would You Rather... dog food or worms?

Old Biker

Look at that. They used to do bicycle racing at the Laurel track in 1925.

Magical Thinking

Honestly. Last week at Maiwand, a nice (Afghan) kabob place up near Arundel Mills. Little Christian family (they made the kid pray in the booth behind us). Lots of babbling. Eventually, a yelp from the kid.

The Mom: "See? You took something that didn't belong to you. No wonder it burned your tongue."


Isn't it pretty? My first ever story is in there somewhere. It's coming soon.

The Power of Who! (Bob Beaudine)

The thing about Bertie, my best friend, is that in addition to being both imaginary and full of ideas, he is the biggest moocher I've ever met. It's unreal how much food he can steal from your plate considering how he isn't really all that corporeal. So I reviewed the menu at Domku with extra care. Generally speaking, Slavic Scandinavian food isn't known for its fingerability, but one couldn't be too cautious with Bertie around.

"You don't need to worry," Bertie said. "I'm not going to mooch your food today."


"Sure, I know in the past I've snatched a bite or two from your plate..."

"A bite or two?"

"A wee nibble here and there..."

"Last Wednesday, Bertie, you hoovered up an entire bowl of matar paneer using a straw and your amazing powers of misdirection."

"Don't be silly. I'd never mooch matar paneer with a straw."


"The peas get caught in the straw. At any rate, I have put those days behind me. I have discovered The Power of You."

"Oh, Lord." I put my head in both my hands and pushed. These people are always reacting to the books I read, but why'd it have to be this one? "That book was horrible. "

"What book?"

I lifted my head with my left hand by pulling on my own hair. "The Power Of Who! The book you're talking about. The one that says you already know all the people you need to know, so why not go ahead and use them for your own greedy ends?"

"No, no. My book is going to be called The Power of You! You already are all the people you need to know."

"Your own book? Is it going to be as full of exclamation marks as The Power of Who!? "

"Probably not."

"Good! I don't think my heart can take all the forced excitement! So is it going to be full of examples of how if you're already a part of the privileged elite, then you can call on your powerful friends to do stuff for you?"

"Well, that's entirely up to the reader, of course. See, the secret is that your success depends on your imaginary friends. It's all up to who you can create in your head. Need a lawyer? Imagine her. Need to break a contract with your landlord? Imagine up a fraternity brother who can rip up leases. The possibilities are endless."

"And what has this to do with you not mooching my food?"

"Well, I figure you have to take good care of your imaginary friends if you want them to do stuff for you."

"And so what does...Oh, Bertie. I'm not imaginary. You are."

Bertie squinted his eyes as if I were suddenly standing in front of the sun.

"Are you sure?"


"Oh, well then you'd better order more stuffed nalesniki."

I looked down and, sure enough, my plate was empty.

Biking to Alexandria

So, somehow I thought it would be a good idea to bike down to Alexandria (Virginia) to meet some friends near the King Street metro station. I'm not sure why it seemed like a good idea. I guess the holiday and sunshine combined with a free morning (I was to meet them at 1) to addle my brain. I thought I could get down there in a couple of hours, have a nice lunch and compose myself before meeting up with the gang.

It took three hours.

OK, it took me half an hour (longer than I expected) to get layered up and hooded and to set the bike up with the pannier to carry my non-bike shoes and a book, so the bike trip was only 2 1/2 hours. But I arrived right at 1pm, so no time for lunch. The meeting went well and after a quick sandwich, I had another bright idea.

I think I need to stop with the bright ideas.

(I'm not sure if my route as marked on the Google map below is exactly right as far as the streets in Alexandria are concerned. I know I rode on a road that had exactly one block cobbled. That actually hurts on the bike, especially after a twenty mile trip. But it was the only way to go because the police had a big square cordoned off down there. Don't know why.)

So the brilliant idea (which might have been influenced by the amaretto and Diet Coke I had with my friends) was to ride the Metro back home. The King Street station was right there. Seemed like a good idea.

Wait a minute. The idea for riding the Metro was from earlier in the day. What am I going on about? I wasn't going to ride 40 miles today, half of it in the dark. All along, I planned to bike down to Alexandria and ride the train home. I was waaaaay too tired to bike both ways.

Anyway, it turns out that that all the trains going north were stopping at Pentagon City. There were no trains crossing the river (at least coming up from Alexandria). Some sort of major track work was actually closing the tunnel down. What a pain.

I took the train anyway. (What else was I going to do, stay the night in a hotel in Alexandria? I didn't have my contact case.) When we got to the airport, I considered exiting and riding my bike along the Mt Vernon trail and over the 14th Street Bridge, but I was much too tired and chose to go all the way to Pentagon City to take the bus shuttle from there to a DC-side station (L'Enfant Plaza) and reboard the train.

Surprisingly, this went extremely smoothly. Oh, there was the problem that at both stations the elevator is located in some random place across the street from where you want to be (it is against the rules for a cyclist to use the escalator), but boarding the shuttles went smoothly (all Metro buses have bike racks, yay!) and I found the Metro staff to be friendly and helpful. And when I got to Greenbelt, I even caught the R12 bus right as it was leaving the station. What a nice driver that was, too. All-in-all, not so bad.

But I am wiped out.

Happy Little Trees

I gave up on the bird poop painting and started another. So far, I've turned this:

into this:

Let's hope there aren't any birds in those trees.

Get Some Pluck

Pluck Honestly, people in the DC area, you need to make plans to go see Pluck in Bethesda before your chance flies away. And I'm not just saying that because I got to play cymbals for them today.

These folks have so much talent that it just gushes out onto the stage. They are a string trio from the UK and they mash up classical and period music for an entertaining vaudeville look at the Titanic's musicians. This was such a fun performance. Please go see them.

The Lady With The Dog

The Reader: Nazi guard continues messing up peoples' lives after the war is over.
Theater Location: Old Greenbelt
Noise Level: Fine. Someone had food, though, savory smelly food.
The Skinny: Well-crafted story about society's tendency to make secrets (or mope). This is not a chipper movie.

We had excellent row-mates.

Is that a 19th Century Novel In Your Pocket?

It's interesting how language changes over time, making it difficult to keep a straight face when reading a book from the past. "Nice" used to mean innocent, for example. It takes a while for most words to evolve, but sometimes meanings (or at least associations) change suddenly.

I read this today from the mid-19th century novel, Vanity Fair:

He scarcely knew a single soul in the metropolis: and were it not for his doctor, and the society of his blue-pill, and his liver complaint, he must have died of loneliness.

Another Ride Without A Flat

Must be some kind of world record.

Lots of tree debris on the road inside the park today. The wind carried into today, but not so strong as yesterday.

Only Seven Years Away

You'd think they'd have a better plan than anyone else for it: "Almost half of the agency's staff will retire by 2016."

The Agency? It's the Social Security Administration.

The Brunette Is Going to Hate Me Today...

...because I just found this.

She's Like the Wind

I feel a little bad complaining about the weather today. It hit 70°F today without rain and with only a few clouds in the sky. That's something pretty amazing for mid-February, even for these midAtlantic states. I'm not going to go on and on about Global Weirding, but you have to admit it just isn't normal. There has been exactly one good snow storm this year, and it was while I was out of town.


It was another day in which I overdressed for biking. I wore a light shirt and a jacket and that was just too much. The heat, awful as it was, is not the story for today's ride. Neither are the horrendous potholes on Beaver Dam Road. Dang beavers! No, today's story (cue Oz music) is the wind.

I was blown out of my lane several times, luckily always away from traffic. Today was my first try of this route and I did it widdershins. I suspect that's the right way to do it because of the hill at Cherry Hill Road, but the wind was a good as a hill and it was a tiring ride. The wind also played havoc with my contacts. I wonder if all those truckers on Route 1 noticed the crying bicycle man?

It was a creepy wind mostly because the top of the Paint Branch Trail goes through an area that has still not recovered from the damage inflicted by a tornado in 2001. (The picture is above.) We don't get a lot of tornadoes in Maryland, but they do happen from time-to-time. When the 2001 tornado touched down on 24 September, we were taking off in an airplane, moving to Scotland. Trees were ripped from the row of yards behind the house we had sold in order to move. It was quite a note to leave on, especially considering the proximity to 9/11.

Caffeinated Thoughts (They're All Over The Place)

Another Argument for Getting Off the Planet

I've been listening to a SALT talk about garage genetic biologists. They seem to agree that we're at the point in microbiology where microcomputing was in the 70s: amateurs are forming clubs and making things out of kits in their garages. I'm all for this, of course, as long as we get to a point where we're treating it like open source (there are more patent controls already in place for biology that I'm not comfortable with). However, before we get there, I'd like to see that we have a way of escaping the planet when we turn the biosphere into an unlivable mess.

More Gladys Kravitz Behavior

Before my bike ride today, I noticed a guy sitting out in a car in front of our row of houses. He was in a big ole American car with one of those police-style (or taxi-style) search lights on the front window post. It looked like an unmarked police car from Starsky & Hutch days. He was out there sitting in the car for at least an hour. I don't think he was spying on me, but I'm pretty sure I was the only one home at the time.

Also, he was wearing a bright orange reflector vest and had something on his dashboard that was bright orange. I don't think that's going to help him be successful at undercover work.

My current theory is that he was a truant officer. We're on a major pathway for kids from the high school, so it might not be such a bad location for catching the little monsters running astray.

Finding Direction

LA told me to buy a lottery ticket, so I did. I think the drawing is tonight, actually, so we'll see if there's any benefit in doing whatever the internet tells you to do. You know, that might be a good idea for a book: The Year of Living Webby -- wherein the author sets up a blog and invites the world to make his decisions for him for an entire year. You'd have to set it up with some safeguards, of course.

Would you all be willing to drive my life for a year?

It's as good an idea as The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible:

Other "Year of Living..." books I found:

My project might fit into one of the last two categories.

Finally, A Bike Ride Without a Flat

It shouldn't be so rare...

Still Not Getting Twitter

So I signed up for Twitter. I'm not going to tell you what Twitter is. If you don't know what Twitter is, I doubt you're able to open a browser and read my blog. Hah, even with that bit of techno-scorn, I can't work up any feeling for this service. I just don't "get" it. I've been watching it for eight hours now (I got a nice Google gadget for my home page). It's kinda boring.

It took me a while to figure out I have to follow someone who might say something once in a while. So, I'm following Paula Poundstone. She's written something every couple of hours.

I don't know how to Turn off iTunes on my iphone. Arlo Guthrie keeps singing out of my thigh.
32 minutes ago from twitterrific
My car is broken, but I can guarantee you it'll be on it's best behavior when it goes to the lieing mechanic.
about 2 hours ago from twitterrific

Funny and sad, all mixed together. Just like life.

If you "do" Twitter and want to follow me, I'm at abbotofunreason, but I'll warn you that all my posts will probably look like:

I opened this window and it won't close.
less than 10 seconds ago from TwitterGadget

Do you use Twitter? Why?

Cover Me

So, I was excited to do this week's Weekly Geek exercise, because I remembered that recently in a bookstore I had come across a version of a book we own and had been amazed at how a new cover had changed my impression of the book.

Here's the task:

Pick a book--any book, really--and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more)...Or they could span several countries. Which cover is your favorite? Which one is your least favorite? Which one best 'captures' what the book is about?

The problem is that I can't remember what book it was that set me off. I trolled through my LibraryThing catalog of cover art without success.

It might have been American Gods. The cover on the left is the one we have and it shouts the middle parts of America to me -- a place that has the House on the Rock and other weird roadside attractions. (The House on the Rock is one of the sideshows in this great book about immigrant gods plying their trade in the US.) The only real difference between our cover and the current one, I guess, is the hotel sign. The newer one emphasizes the road and brings the lightning strike into center field. The image of the road, to me, doesn't say "road trip" as much as the other. In fact, this cover makes me think more of Cormac McCarthy's book than American Gods.

But I don't think that was the one that brought such an immediate reaction in the bookstore. It's not such a big change, though the missing sign somehow makes me sad. Still, it must have been some other book.

A more likely candidate is Diamond Age, a book I mentioned in another Weekly Geek post. The cover we have (on the left) talks to me. The gears and face and other bits and bobs reflect the engineer's role in this book. It was nearly impossible that I'd have skipped picking up this book. The new cover, a virtualized hand holding a live mouse, might have missed me.

On the other hand, the cover does honestly represent another aspect of this complex book. I can't say it misrepresents the book. Not all readers are mechanical engineers to whom gears speak quietly. The mouse doesn't grab me, but I don't think it would have made me mad.

I can say that if I had seen this bright pink cover, I'd have gagged. It looks like some sort of Logan's Run thing. Ick.

I give up on trying to find that irritating cover. Here's something I thought was interesting:

We have all of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries and all of them but one have a cover in the same style as the one on the left here. Our copy of The Nine Tailors, however, is the one on the right. I like it a lot more and wish we could change the entire series over to that style. I think it is warmer and more dignified, though the skull is kind of creepy. It's odd, though, because it de-emphasizes the bells so much (the ringing of the bells are the nine tailors of the title).

Of the other available covers, I also really like the bell pull in this picture. This picture does a better job summarizing the book than either of the ones above. After all, the book is a mystery, so having a body (or part of one) is good. Most of the other book covers stressed the bells in some way, much like this cover on the right, which I find much too loud to look at.

Of all the covers for The Nine Tailors, this is the one that makes the least sense to me. I wonder what language that is?

How Little Things Change

Just to keep you up on how things are going in 1666 (the Great Fire is coming this summer!), here's yesterday's entry by Samuel Pepys:

It being fast day I staid at home all day long to set things to rights in my chamber by taking out all my books, and putting my chamber in the same condition it was before the plague. But in the morning doing of it, and knocking up a nail I did bruise my left thumb so as broke a great deal of my flesh off, that it hung by a little. It was a sight frighted my wife, but I put some balsam of Mrs. Turner's to it, and though in great pain, yet went on with my business, and did it to my full content, setting every thing in order, in hopes now that the worst of our fears are over as to the plague for the next year. Interrupted I was by two or three occasions this day to my great vexation, having this the only day I have been able to set apart for this work since my coming to town. At night to supper, weary, and to bed, having had the plasterers and joiners also to do some jobbs.

So, it looks like Sam did projects the same way I do: Mess around with it until I hurt myself then hire professionals to fix up my mess. (Not to mention the darn phone calls every 15 minutes!)

It Really Is the Simple Pleasures

What's the best way to get me off the couch and onto the bicycle?

Ice cream! I rode out to Simple Pleasures in Old Bowie today. These are the same folks who bring (locally produced) ice cream to our farmers market. The temperature shot way up into the 60s today, so ice cream was just enough to push me over the edge and onto the bone rattler.

(...after stopping at the bike shop in the morning and having them replace my tube. You might remember it went flat earlier in the week.)

It's a small café set in the back of an antique store. It feels like a tea room, but with better desserts (cannoli and pie in addition to the ice cream). And the folks are very nice. I had a meatball sub with a side of horseradish cole slaw, but the real draw was the ice cream: I had scoops of Grape Nuts ice cream and Sweet Potato ice cream. The Brunette had Butter Brickle.

Did I mention they have ice cream?

After the bigger lunch than I had planned, I looped to the south of Bowie to hit the WB&A trail back to Rte 193.

Isn't this where the Munsters lived?

I haven't been on this trail before. It seems nice enough, though there are some strange mixed use areas where driveways pop off it.

In spite of the warm weather, it is still February, so there was ice and snow at the entrance to the tunnel under Rte 193, but I safely navigated the patch. On the other side, the Glen Dale Splash Park looks odd in the winter.

What's this route look like to you?

It was an awfully nice ride up until the end. As I turned the corner at the high school, my tire went flat. Again.


Maybe Fiona is right: the bike is trying to tell me something.

The folks at Proteus replaced the tube again. Looks like I got into a bad batch of tubes. We'll see how this one does.

Push My Buttons

Coraline: 3-D stop-motion animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book about a little girl who discovers a parallel world of button-eyed doppelgängers.
Theater Location: Bowie Crossing
Noise Level: The woman behind us with seventeen kids: pours her soda into seventeen cups, then shuffles her popcorn into seventeen paper bags, then continues rustling around for half the movie. All of this after yelling at one of her kids to be quiet. Ack.
The Skinny: Excellent film nearly as good as MirrorMask, but I'm not convinced the 3-D added anything.


I spent several hours of wasted time because of stupid Internet Explorer. I'm modifying a Confluence plugin that uses Raphael. I had a small error that only appears in IE, not in Firefox. This isn't unusual. At any rate, I fixed the error and went back to test in IE and I kept getting a "failed" error. I spent hours ripping stuff out and putting it back in to try to find the problem. I discovered that the failed error didn't appear if I didn't do any Raphael, but even the Raphael stuff that that I had made work before was giving me the stupid little yellow triangle and the useless "failed" message.

Then I restarted my computer. The problem is gone.

I hate you Internet Explorer.

Mary Poopins

Another in our series of dog curbing signs. This one from along the boardwalk in Baltimore's harbor (I think it's Canton at this point?)

GHI Is In The Zombie House

Zombies, were you expecting GHI to visit today?

Update: OK, GHI went away. Maybe he just knocked on the door and left. He had a bucket though.

See what working at home has done to me? It has turned me into that annoying lady who lived next to Samantha and Darrin.


/not antisocial/(you can talk to me!) This weekend saw the end of my birthday month. On Saturday, we had the final party and I got this cool shirt from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. It's from the XKCD store. Yay, XKCD.

I also got a boatload of Barnes & Noble gift cards and I've already ordered three books:

@!##$!ing Tires

Another flat tire today. Arrrrrrrrrgh!

I Said, What About Breakfast At Denny's

And she said, I don't remember that film. Are you on drugs or what?

We joined 500 new best friends for free Grand Slams this morning. I don't think the hour wait was worth it, but I tend to just eat cereal most mornings.

Icehenge (Kim Stanley Robinson)

The snow comes; the snow goes. It rarely stays to chat a while. What's the point of cold weather if it doesn't result in measurable snow?

These are the thoughts that crowd my head as I stare out the front window. Winter is a cold, lonely, introspective time. The cold steals the leaves, the grass, the friends. I am convinced it takes away days from the calendar of our lives and tosses them in the bin.

I am in the pit of despair, the slough of despond. Ah, here are some young people walking up the path to my service side door. Yes, they are imaginary, and it is also true that I can never remember the one kid's name. Even so, these lads will remind me of my vitality and bring me cheer.

"See, I told you he wouldn't be dead yet," Prasad tells his friend when I open the door. Prasad generally speaks for the two because the kid whose name I can't remember has become surly and grumpy. Also, it's a bit of a pain to refer to him in dialogue seeing as there are only so many ways you can say, "that boy who lacks nomenclature says..."

"I only pointed out that he is old enough to be dead," the boy who lacks nomenclature says. "Not that he actually is dead."

"We are all old enough to be dead," I point out.

"Oh, you're a barrel full of chuckles, you are," says the unnamed lad.

"We'd like a lift," Prasad says.

"We'd all like a lift," I reply. "Tell me something to cheer me up."

"No, no. We'd like you to drive us to Lake Artemesia."

"When did young people stop saying 'please'?"

"Spouting clichés about young people only reinforces your image as a crotchety old man," Prasad points out.

"Oh, all right, get in the car. Isn't it a bit cold for a trip to the lake?"

"It's perfect."

We drive along in silence for a while. It occurs to me that the boys might be up to no good. I don't know why this occurs to me. I was an angel at that age.

"Why do you want to go to Lake Artemesia?"

The boys look at each other.

"Have you read anything interesting lately?" Prasad asks.

"Well..." I think for a moment. These kids know I'm a sucker for talking about books. "I just finished Kim Stanley Robinson's Icehenge." It's a science fiction book about an oppressive government on Mars and a mysterious ice monument built on Pluto.

The boys look at each other again. The boy whose name I can never remember shakes his head at Prasad. I don't like when my imaginary friends have secrets. It must be because I'm not on their level or something. "You know, compared to the folks in that book, I'm nearly a child."

"Yes," Prasad says. "The people in Icehenge do live a long time. "He makes it seem like living a long time might be boring. It is a shame KSR decided to put us through the boredom, too."

"That's only a small bit of the book," I object. "Just in the end of that middle bit. The rest is interesting."

"It is a strange book," Prasad says.

"Oh, I think it's really three connected stories more than it's a novel."

Prasad shakes his head. "No. I mean it's a weird future."

"I guess back in '84 it was hard to break out of the whole US vs. Soviet thing, let alone think of China or India or anyone else taking any space role."

Prasad shakes his head again. He has no patience for politics. "Does he really think that Pluto might someday be considered a planet?"

"It is difficult that our books cannot grow and change. It's something to keep in mind when we think about all the things we think we know now. I suppose it is always possible that Pluto might be considered a planet again someday."


I know that Prasad knows better than that, and since we have arrived at the little lake, I let it slide. I walk them out to the edge. It seems like I ought to keep an eye on them. I don't know what they're up to, but I'm determined to keep it from getting me into trouble.

We stand looking at the ice. The temperature has gone up in the last few days, but the lake still has a thin sheet of ice away from the shore. After a few minutes of this, the boys nod at each other and walk back toward the car. I frown and look from them back to the lake. Then I follow as quickly as I can.

"That's it? You just wanted to look?"

"Oh, we did what we meant to do."

I think back to the few minutes we just stood by the reeds. I didn't see them do anything, did I?

"What?" I say, intelligently.

"You know the part of the book I liked the best?" Prasad is back on the book to distract me. "There were all those mind games that people played on each other and on themselves. Trying to decide whether the big ice blocks were a hoax or not."

"Stop talking about the book," I say. "What did you do at the lake?"

"I guess old folks really are hard of hearing," says the brat to whom I refuse to give a name. Prasad nods. I squint and grip the steering wheel. I'm never giving those kids a lift again.

What a Nerd

After writing that long screed about my childhood, I searched the net to find the rules to the card game Nerd. It turns out that for all of these years I've been calling it the wrong thing. According to this site with rules, the game is called Nerts or Pounce. One of my friends called it Peanut.

So maybe I wasn't a big nerd after all?


Rich in Truthiness

I've been tagged. As always, I'll respond to the tag, but I'm not passing it on. I don't care if Ted in Silver Lake, Kansas, didn't tag ten of his friends and a piano fell on his favorite cow. I'm willing to take that risk. Sorry, Ted.

All of my faithful readers are more than welcome to feel tagged, if they want.

The Meme Thing Rules:

I have to tell you ten honest things about myself in writing and then tag ten people to pass it on.

I guess I'm supposed to tell you ten things you might not know about me. 'Cause a list that started off "1) I write a blog. 2) The blog is called The Abbot of Unreason. 3) My name is not really Abbot of Unreason..." wouldn't be terribly interesting, eh?

  1. I was one of those annoying goody two-shoes kids. I think that I can fit every time I was ever in real trouble on the rest of this list.
  2. Oh, and we moved around a lot. I went to ten different schools before graduating high school. All of the trouble I remember getting into was after moving to the south.
  3. At one school in the 8th grade, I was sent to the principal's office after a recess football game. There was the usual trash talking and stuff going on on the field, not to mention quite a bit of swearing, but I've never been a cusser. (Is that a word?) At some point someone on my own team tackled me. I called him a fool. I was marched off to the principal who explained to me that all those other kids calling each other idiots or mocking their mother's sexual history were okay, but because in the Bible it says that anyone who calls someone a fool is going to Hell, I was more wrong than anyone else.
  4. In the same way, I was sent to the principal's office at another school in Tennessee for reacting to a kid who hit me by saying, "Damn you, Mark." The kid who hit me (I didn't hit back; you might say I turned the other cheek; or reacted with cheek?) was not sent to the office. I talked my way out of punishment, though, by explaining that I actually meant that I wanted him dammed up, like a blockage in a stream or something. My father's a civil engineer and that's what he does: make dams. I surely wouldn't mean anything so awful, especially as someone who didn't go to church, it wouldn't occur to me to send someone to Hell. The principal let me go. (It's funny that I still remember the kid's name after 25 years. I don't think I was at that school more than three months.)
  5. I was lying. It hurt when he hit me in the back and I wanted him to suffer. That was wrong, of course, but still, this is supposed to be an honest list.
  6. I was sent to the principal's office once for disagreeing with my teacher. My mother was going through school to be a nurse and I'd help her by reading the questions in her school books to her. So, when the teacher tried to tell us that the placenta was the name of the bag in which the fetus developed, I knew she was wrong and was public about refuting her. This time I was in trouble for disrespecting my elders. After this point, I got better at keeping silent, but as I told the principal, it's not just about the difference between a 98 and a 100 on a test, it's about the truth!
  7. I was lying again. It was all about my grade, though the unfairness of it is what caused me to whine. And, I mean, really, how could you not realize that something called a amniotic sac might be the bag in which the baby grew?
  8. At one school, I got in trouble for teaching the other kids how to play poker. There was a gap in the bus service, so we rode a neighborhood bus to the grade school where another bus took us off to our own school. We'd sit there for something like 45 minutes, IIRC, so I taught my bus mates how to play poker. We got "caught," which is pretty funny because I didn't know it was against any rules and we weren't hiding what we were doing.
  9. At the same place, I was brought to the principal for "almost coming to fisticuffs." I swear that is the phrase used. We were in the cafeteria waiting for the bus and some kid accidentally kicked me or maybe I accidentally knocked him off the little seat and so we yelled at each other it escalated and we stood up and stared at each other, breathing hard, like something might happen. I don't think either one of us was enough of a fighter to throw a punch, though, so standing there was about all we were going to do. Off to the principal, anyway.
  10. The only time I was ever grounded was late in high school. My friends and I had discovered a card game called (appropriately enough) "Nerd". I loved that game. It was fast and easy. We would play for hours without realizing the time. On one night, six of us were playing the game (at the youth pastor's house, no less -- and you thought I was a complete heathen) when the phone rang. It was pretty late, after my curfew in fact. (Generally, I was never in much danger of missing my curfew so I went long stretches without even remembering I had one.) The phone call was from my mother. She asked, "Where are you?" I said, "Gee, Mom, you called, so you know where I am." She hung up. I knew at that point, if I wanted to live, I would get home immediately. It's always been hard for me to know when to be serious and when not.

So, there you go: ten things about me. I'm pretty sure those are all the times I ever got called to the principal's office for misbehaving. I don't remember getting in much other trouble. If you build up a little bit of goody-two-shoes padding, I found, you could get away with a lot more.

Now, that I'm done, I wish I'd started every line with FACT! as in "FACT! I once carried a shotgun on school property and shot at stuff. Believe it, Yo!"