Friday, November 30, 2007

Where's Jesus? (There He Is! And There! And There!)

Well, in less than 24 hours it will be December, and I guess that means the grouchy pre-Christmas blogs can begin. I'm already pretty damn grumpy about the whole shebang, mainly because since about November 19th my mother has called me at least once a day, from Florida, asking me what I want for Christmas. I don't know what I want, actually I don't want anything. You know, it's an odd occurrence to have reached the point in one's life where one wants nothing, and I should be happy, I mean, doesn't wanting nothing mean one is happy? However, I'm not happy, because I'm being asked over and over what I want, and I guess my mother has to do something because she can't come over all the way from Florida to stare at me, and so instead she calls every day and says, "We're going to ______ [fill in the store]. Do you want anything from there?"


Now, I can't even come up with some sort of generic item, like a teapot or something, to tell her I'd like for Christmas, and she's asking me if I want something from a particular store. As if I could say, "Yeah, Mom. Target today? Well, there's a blouse on the right hand side of the store near the back, brown striped, on the second swirly rack from the underwear display. I want it." And the sad thing is that even if I could do that, she'd come back with the green polka dot sweater, the one that would raise my body temperature by 30% and make me look as big as all outdoors. "Well, you said left hand side of the store at the front, green polka dot, on the first straight rack from the light bulbs."

But that wasn't even what I was going to write about.

What I was going to write about was this. This is my friend's, the dishy Michelle's blog. She took the time, in an entry appropriately named, "Oh, Christ," to tell us this story here. If you don't want to follow the link and read, I'll fill you in with some background.

There is a Nativity Scene round about this time of year in Daley Plaza in Chicago (where Michelle resides), and they keep having to replace their Baby Jesuses because the little babe is apparently a target item for theft. Yes, he's been stolen a couple of times, and then there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the religious community, and people volunteer to police the area and make sure no one touches the Christ Child, which is sad, since he was in fact a Baby of the People. And finally, the Powers That Be just took to permanently affixing the little nipper down in his crib, a big black cable wrapped around his swaddling clothes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in 2007 Baby Jesus is bolted into the manger.

Joseph: Mary, the baby won't stop wailing. This is supposed to be Silent Night, Holy Night, for cryin' out loud.
Mary: Sorry, dear, the wise men had to bolt him down because the townsfolk wouldn't keep their meat hooks off.

(I was going to add a line about getting used to those bolts, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.)

Now, there's a lot to be said about this story. Mainly that there's a Nativity Scene in Daley Plaza in Chicago. To be honest, it damn-near boggled my mind. Michelle was a little dismayed that they kept referring to a small plastic doll as "The Baby Jesus," but that doesn't bother me so much. I'm from the south, where "Baby Jesus" is just as popular as "Jesus," and if you've seen the movie "Talladega Nights," you know what I'm talking about. (In what is probably the funniest scene in the film.) So, sure, he's a piece of plastic, but he's Jesus Plastic. Barbie's just plastic, but she's Barbie, right?

The people interviewed for the story, the self appointed "God Squad" who look out after plastic JC, wonder aloud what kind of a person would actually steal the Baby Jesus from his manger. Well, let's have a little Christ-theft profiling, shall we?

* People who really like the Baby Jesus.
* People who take the song "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" a little too seriously.
* Kleptomaniacs.
* People who like to kidnap garden gnomes and take them on cross-country trips, sending their owners postcards from various landmarks. (Which is, btw, the only reason I'd ever own a garden gnome.)
* Poor little Spanish boys who promise the Baby Jesus that if they get a new red wagon for Christmas, they will take him for a ride around town. (And if you've ever seen the Christmas episode of "Dragnet," you'll know exactly who I'm talking about, thank you.)
* People who really dislike the Baby Jesus.
* People who were also shocked there was a Nativity Scene in Daley Plaza in Chicago, and wanted concrete proof for their loved ones.
* Terrorists. (OK, so I don't personally see terrorists stealing the Baby Jesus, but they're on the suspect list for everything else, so we can't discount them here.)

By the way, the article linked above also contains this little nugget, which I absolutely cannot pass up quoting. If that's OK with Mr Gerry Smith, who wrote the article. "Last December, 32 plastic Baby Jesus dolls were stolen from Nativity scenes in people's front yards then lined up along the fence of a South Side woman's lawn." I can't help it, and I'm so sorry for the people who lost their Baby Jesuses, but I just love that story. I wonder about the woman who was the recipient of the 32 Baby Jesuses. What was she like? You know, it almost sounds like a Christmas Special. "Where's My Baby Jesus?" It could focus on all the families who've lost their respective Baby Jesuses, show the police trying to track down the thieves ("One last night on 16th Street! That means he should strike on Elm next!"), and finally, the lonely woman who wakes up on Christmas morning to find her yard awash in Baby Jesuses. Which are returned, and everyone ends up happy.

Of course, that special won't get made. Because it has the audacity to mention the Baby Jesus. And here's where my first grouchy Christmas blog shall end.

You know, I'd never consider myself a Christian, I'm not an atheist, I'm not really much of anything. I'm kind of a religious mutt. And Lord knows (I mean, really, He does) how I dispise me some bible-thumping Christians. But there's one small area in which I really hate to admit that they have a point. And that's in Christmas. Christmas is celebrated as Christ's birthday. One of my favorite Christmas specials growing up was "The Little Drummer Boy." For years and years it never made it back to TV because it was deemed "religious," and therefore not shown on Network TV every year like "Rudolph" and "Frosty." Well, you know what? Fuck you, networks. It's Christmas, for Baby Jesus' sake, and if you're so afraid of offending viewers by mentioning God and Jesus, then just forget the holiday even exists, pull all your specials, and lose the $117 billion dollars you make on advertising the crap out of the season.

I really think there's room for Rudolph, Frosty, Baby Jesus, the Wise Men, and Charlie Brown all at the Christmas table. Just not in the yard. Which is my pet peeve, you know. All the Christmas figures in the yard side by side. Frosty the snowman looking over into the manger at the Baby Jesus.

You don't suppose Frosty.....? Nah, he wouldn't.

Betland's Olympic Update
* A lunchtime blog. Help me think up an excuse why I was late coming back in.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tooting For Gold

It was just last night I said I wish the Olympics would hurry up and get here. For one reason only, really. You see, it's rather hard coming up with the Betland's Olympic Update when there are no Olympics going on.

By my estimation, the next Olympics will be in 2008. In Beijing. If there's still a Beijing in 2008. And it's shaping up to a be a real nail-biter, competition-wise. Not in track and field, or gymnastics, or swimming. Or even equestrian or volleyball, as far as I know.

The real barn-burner will be the Olympic Clarinet Competition.

I didn't realize how close all the teams had gotten. I mean, sure, in the early days of sanctioned Olympic Clarinet, the British ruled The Games. Then there was a period where those spiky French took over. Lately, though, the undisputed and unbeatable team are the Italians. I thought this was still the case, anyway. Until a conversation a few weeks ago with Mr M. See, Mr M follows Olympic Clarinet Competition with a vengeance. And according to him, the Clarinet World seems to have achieved a sort of parity.

Now for those of you who don't know your Olympic Clarinet, let me give you a little background. Background courtesy of the International Olympic Clarinet Playing Association.

The IOCPA rules are easy to follow.

* Both team and individual medals are awarded.
* Teams may consist of both male and female competitors - there is no gender-specific competition.
* Olympic competition begins with the preliminary round. This round consists of scales, picked at random by judges, and an etude, also randomly picked by judges, that every participant must play. A new piece, written especially for the meet, will also be given to competitors who will play the piece by sightreading. [Imagine the horror of the Brazilians in 1988 when one of their own was disqualified for peeking.]
* After the preliminary round, the clarinetists with the top 12 scores will advance to the competition round. The competition round consists of five disciplines: unaccompanied prepared piece, accompanied prepared piece (by one or more non-clarinet instruments of the competitor's choosing), a modern prepared piece (written after 1900), a traditional prepared piece (written before 1900), and freestyle. Both the modern and traditional pieces may be played accompanied or solo, but the player must rely only on skill and interpretation. The freestyle competition encompasses all a player has to offer, and can include improvisation, original compositions, swaying, footwork, and/or vocal stylings (a hearty, "Yeah!" to end the piece).
* At the end of all five competition disciplines the top three scoring players will be awarded the gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Olympic Clarinet All-Around Competition.
* The top eight scoring players in each individual discipline will also re-compete to be awararded gold, silver, and bronze medals in each of those five disciplines.
* Gold, silver, and bronze medals will also be awarded in the disciplines of clarinet duet and clarinet quartet.
* Scores from each player in each preliminary and competition round will be added to determine the gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Olympic Clarinet Team Competition.
* All clarinets will be inspected before and after every competitor's performance to ensure the horn has not been tampered with. The IOCPA will tolerate no illegal equipment.­°
(° - see, "IOCPA vs. Brymer, 1956," or "The Cork Grease Incident.")

See? Easy.

Now, Mr M has a heatlhy disappointment this year for the United States Clarinet Team. He knows the team quite well, because for a short time he was their equipment manager. He said it got to be too much work, travel, and hassle, and frankly, he didn't like putting up with all the primadonna behavior. I personally, while I can't vouch for their behavior, have a lot of faith in the Home Team. They're coached this time around by Hymie Voxman, and include captain Ricardo Montalban - no, wait, that's Ricardo Morales, I get them mixed up every time - Sean Osborn, Eli Eban (on the "klezmer" team, he does well in freestyle), Mozart specialist Charles Neidich, and Richard Stoltzman. Stoltzman takes the place of recently retired (due to me, no doubt) Larry Combs.

The French usually look pretty good around Olympics time, and this year they are captained by the very Phillipe "Two Door" Cuper, and have Bruno Martinez along for the ride as well. However, unless they do some personnel changing before 2008 they'll sink like a stone, because they also have the disadvantage of player-coach Guy "Oui Oui" DePlus. I've never been a fan of the player-coach system myself, and DePlus is way past his sell-by date. Believe me. I heard him play last year.

Britian's fielding a strong team lately, with Colin "Lungs" Bradbury coming out of retirement to captain the team. Emma Johnson, Roger "The Heat" Heaton, and David "Large Bore" Campbell round out the team. They generally do quite well in the traditional category (Grainger and Vaughan Williams), but I'm not sure they have what it takes to finish strongly, especially in the freestyle.

And you can never count out Spain, with Sr Pedro Rubio and Oskar Espina Ruiz, or those pesky Czechs, led by Milko "Pee Wee" Pravdic and with the weight of the mighty Prague Clarinet Quartet behind them. It should be interesting to see how the Spaniards do as the months progress - rumor has it Sr Rubio has been testing out a ligature that borders on illegal equipment. Something about the number of screws, but it's all very hush-hush, so I'm only hearing bits and pieces on the grapevine.

Mr M is putting all his money on Chile come 2008, and I hope you'll all offer him a place to live afterwards, when he's penniless. Chile has only one team member cemented, and that's his hero, Luis "Something Came Off My Horn" Rossi. See, Mr M thinks that just because Rossi makes the best horn in the business that he plays the best. Well, that may or may not be, but unless some humble Chileans step up to the plate soon, a Chile Team Gold Medal is just not in the offing. And I'm not so sure about Sr Rossi's chances in the All-Around Competition either, because for the past few months he's been playing hurt. He pulled a muscle in his upper lip. Mr M assures me he's well on the mend now and back in practice, but, I mean really. The upper lip. That's the rotator cuff of clarinet players. I'm scratching Chile right off my list of favorites, although my newest border (and former Rossi employee) Che Guellama has been waving his "¡Team Chile!" pennant a lot lately.

For my money, the Team to beat is of course the Italians. I personally feel they've still got it. I mean, they're captained by Alessandro Carbonare, for cryin' out loud! Only the premiere clarinetist in the free fucking world, come on. And as if that weren't enough, they've also got expert reedsman Sergio "Rudolf Valentino" Bosi as co-captain, and Paolo Ravaglia in there as well. At the time of this writing, the Italians are unbeaten in competition this year. Yes, a whopping 12-0 record, which would not only give them a BCS Bowl in College Football and possibly a national championship, but it's also a formidable record in Olympic Clarinetting as well. There's no doubt in my mind of Alessandro winning the All-Around Competition. He'll be the one all the others shall set their sites upon. And it certainly won't hurt if there's a large female contingent in the Olympic Audience. All that screaming and swooning is going to help sway the judges Alessandro's way, and he'll be atop the podium, gold medal around his (very luscious) neck.

I feel the only team with a real chance, albeit an outside one, to beat the Italians are the Venezuelans. They've only lost twice this year, both times to the Italians. That may give them an edge in motivation, but motivation has to be paired with sheer clarinetular muscle. I'm not so much worried about their individual performers, though Alcides Rodriquez and Jorge "The Monster" Montilla are quite good, but they have a very special card up their Venezuelan sleeves. The Caracas Clarinet Quartet. They're a virtual lock to win the quartet competition, and if they take it by a wide enough margin, they could just sneak in there. However, word on The Vine again is that Alessandro and Sergio Bosi might pull a fast one and team up in the duet competition for a performance of "Il Convegno" for Italy. If that happens, the Venezuelans will be going home wearing the silver for sure.

So at this point, I'd call it as such: Italians take the gold, Venezuelans the silver, and just sneaking in there for a surprise bronze, I'm picking the Brits. Possibly the Americans could take a bronze, but only if they have a very, very good competition. And Stoltzman doesn't pull out some of his diva behavior. I think Bradbury gives the British a slight edge.

And look for Alessandro Carbonare to be on your Wheaties box sometime around the beginning of September.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners! So, what are you taking along to the "Antiques Roadshow?"
- Honorable Mention goes to Duke, with his nod to our own personal hero, "Found stupendous Dickinson auction overrun."
- Runner-Up goes to the DeepFatFriar, with his brilliant, "Flatware Saint Dominic ate off."
- But the winner is the one that made me laugh for the longest amount of time, and that is LilyG and her, "Frito sack diorama, aged overnight."
- Thanks to all who played, you've all done very well!


Monday, November 26, 2007


Yes, it's back, you letter-loving bastards. It's time for another round of acromania.

OK, I was going to do a post-Thanksgiving acro, but that's just, well, so last week. So I've been doing some thinking, and came up with a different topic. One that's oh, so three years ago. But I like it, and I'm sticking with it.

I like "Bargain Hunt" on BBCAmerica. And I used to like "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS. In fact, I did a Picture Sunday about it some years ago. But this week's acrotopic shall be, "What Are You Bringing To The Antiques Roadshow?" Family heirlooms? Stuff you found on the side of the road? Your aunt Bertha's fruitcake? Let us know.

All the other rules are the same. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym they can that not only matches the topic above, but also the letters below, which are randomly drawn from the acrobasket. The acrobasket is not an antique, but he's very, very valuable. Then tomorrow night at 10:00 est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners and non-winners.

So, the topic, "What Are You Bringing To The Antiques Roadshow?" The letters:


So there you have it. Now acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I'm having trouble thinking of updates. I need the Olympics to start back.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and what a weekend to have to end. Four day weekends are wonderful, but they make going back to work on Monday harder, don't they. Anyway, it's time for another round of Picture Sunday.

I'm not feeling so talkative, and there's not much to tell anyway, but I've got lots of pictures for you.

I spent a very relaxed Thanksgiving with friends rather than family. That, of course, is why it was relaxed. I had dinner with Mr M and the DeepFatFriar. It was a very nice day. Great meal. Good wine. Fun conversation. Movies. Oh, and the odd clarinet duet.

A little visual, though.

Of course, Thanksgiving begins with a nice turkey, and ours was certainly that. As was the stuffing that went with it. DFF did the bird, Mr M did the stuffing. How could you refuse a turkey from this man?

We also had some gravy, which had to be good since it was given the DeepFatFriar Seal of Approval.

Mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, asparagus, and these two items, Mr M's 21-Dollar Salad and my pumpkin pie.

And the wine. Well, what can I say about the wine but this.

This wine was grown at a vineyard on land owned by a deed of trust from the estate of - yes, hold your breath, because it's that exciting - Fred MacMurray. Yes, make your best "Double Indemnity," "The Apartment," or "My Three Sons" joke. But it was really good wine. In fact, Fred and I got on quite well. I became quite besotted with Fred. Or was that besotted on Fred.

Anyway, a good time was had by all.

And the rest of the weekend, I chilled! Came home Friday, did a little laundry, did absolutely sod-all on Saturday, and today the DeepFatFriar came down and we raided Sam's Club, doing much raping and pillaging, and then we celebrated our newly gotten gains by watching a movie.

However, I do have one more small picture. It's for anyone who read Mr M's Birthday Blog, about my idea for a new "Mystery!" on PBS, "Captain and Boy." I figure along with the idea, I needed to work up a promo photo to send them as well.

You'd watch it, wouldn't you?

And now it's time for the recipe du jour. Yes, I made pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, which I of course didn't get to eat, and deviled eggs, which I did. They weren't bad, and I can't help it, I think it should be "devilled" eggs, because when I see "deviled" eggs, I want to say "de-viled." But that's neither here nor there. Next holiday, try bringing these to your big pot luck dinner. From the "Devilish!" file at cardland, please say hello to Deviled Ham and Eggs.

Yes, why just settle for deviled eggs when you can combine deviling with that old American classic, Ham and Eggs? You shouldn't settle! Have both! All you do is boil up your eggs, and instead of replacing them with doctored up yolks, just stick in some Underwood deviled ham. Yes, it must be Underwood, because they have the dancing devil on the package. Then top with a pickled beet (if you're fancy, and I know you are), and serve to the bewildered partygoers.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I'd just like to announce that this weekend, I finally figured out the neverending mystery of my Movie List. (Yes, I have a movie list.) So it's completely up-to-the-second updated now. Hats and horns!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good Lord, Get Off Your Ass And Clean Your House

As you all know, I live at the Poderosa. The Pod is my humble home. Seven rooms of bliss, and seven's not that much, and yet I say this one thing over and over. "My house is like a pigsty."

And you know, I've never quite understood that phrase. Sure, pigs are always caked with mud and pig doo, but look at the average pigsty. It's a fenced-in square of mud. That's not so bad. There are no stacks of magazines and DVDs, no clarinet music strewn about the living room, no dishes waiting in the dish drainer to be put away in cabinets. No folded clothes on the bedroom floor, no wet laundry in the washer waiting to be dried, and most importantly, no kitchen table that serves as the storage place for a coffeemaker, coffee, liquor, toys, papers, batteries, snacks, more DVDs, and, well, everything but dinner.

So I'm sure somewhere on a farm in Iowa there are pigs saying, "Look at this pigsty. My pigsty is like the Poderosa."

I like to laze around in bed on Saturday mornings. After a long week at work and a long Friday night of chilling, it's just what the doctor ordered. While doing this lazing, I generally like to watch BBCAmerica's Saturday morning fare. I'm in love with "Cash In The Attic," and have a ball watching "Bargain Hunt." It all comes to a screeching halt, though, if they decide to slip in episodes of "What Not To Wear." I personally don't care what I wear, much less a bunch of women I've never met, and I hate this show with every fiber of my being. That's usually my cue to get out of bed and get started with the day.

I'd been seeing commercials for another show of this ilk, one called "How Clean Is Your House?" Apparently it featured two old bitties who come to your house and tell you how clean it is. Oddly enough. It didn't look the least bit interesting to me, so I never sought it out.

But a few weeks ago I caught an episode of "How Clean Is Your House?" quite by mistake. And let me tell you. I seek it out now, even though once I find it I tend to look away more than I watch.

Quite simply, the answer to "How Clean Is Your House?" is, "Spotless." I mean, compared with the poor souls who show up on this program. For never in all my born days have I ever seen filth like this.

The show always begins with us being introduced to the Poor Schmoe (PS) who's getting a visit from the Old Bitties (OB). The PS always tells his or her story, which consists of things like, "I used to live with my mum but she died," or "I'm a bachelor," or, "We do Wild West Reenactments and travel a lot." Then the OB show up at the PS's home, while the PS is gone, and have a look around. And I don't really know if I can describe what these homes look like.

Imagine your living room. Now, imagine what your living room would look like if the local trash truck backed up into your yard, broke out your living room window, hoisted up its trash holder, and dumped the entire contents into the room. I know you think I'm exaggerating here for effect, but I swear to you I'm not. When the Old Bitties open the door, stuff literally falls out. They can't walk through a room for the trash - there's not even a path, say to the computer or the bathroom.

And speaking of bathrooms, well, we can't, really, because the bathrooms are always quite unspeakable. There's never much water in the toilets, but that's not to say they're not full, if you get my drift. We see 10 or so years' worth of gastrointestinal events right in those toilet bowls. Right in the room where these people brush their teeth, for God's sake, assuming they do, which if you think about Britons and dental work, maybe they don't anyway. But disgusting is just not quite the word.

And kitchens. Lord have mercy, the kitchens these PS have. If the OB can find the sink, it's full of rust and dirty dishes. And rusty dishes. The kitchen countertops are about 3 inches high with filth. What kind of filth, I've no idea. Is it grease? Lint? Dust? We don't know, until the OB take samples of this filth, run it to a lab, and tell the PS all about what the filth is and what kind of bacteria are dancing around in it. And the PS stands there, listening, sometimes sniffling up with tears, wondering how in the hell they let their life get out of control like this.

Then for the rest of the show the OB show the PS how to clean things, and the OB clean the entire house and get it all sparkling inside. And the PS comes back inside the new clean house and marvels about how now life is going to be just fine.

Now, here's my aside. I like a good aside. I still don't think I'm giving you the full descriptive benefit of the filth in which the PS on "How Clean Is Your House?" lives. And so I did a little internet research for you. Yes, with much effort I found some pictures, so the least you can do is click a couple of times on these links and have a look for yourself. If you dare. All you have to do is click on my link, then the link on the site that says, "Image Gallery."

Let's start with the woman whose mum died. And really, I was half expecting the Old Bitties to find the woman's body underneath all the filth in that house, but they never did, which was at once a relief and a disappointment. Here are the slides from her episode of the show. As you can see, she's a messy so and so. And she talks in her interview about how she never invites friends to her home. Well, I'm certainly glad of that, because after one invite, she'd have no friends left. And what really bothered me about this woman is that she's a DJ. She loves records. I love my records too, and it appalls me someone would be so haphazard with her own collection. But that's just me.

And how about the bachelor? Here are some slides from his stint at being the PS. Now, I'm going to be bold here and say this guy may well be the Filthiest Man On The Face Of The Earth. There are two rotating themes throughout this episode - how the guy can't get a girlfriend, and how he loves his little nephew, whose parents won't allow him in the guy's house. I personally can't believe the gall of this guy to pine around about not having a girlfriend. Can you imagine being taken back to this place after dinner for a romantic interlude? And as for the nephew, well, if I were forbidden from seeing a beloved member of my family because I was the Filthiest Woman On The Face Of The Earth, I'd either learn to clean or kill myself. But no, this guy visits his nephew in the outdoors. In public parks. And that, my friends and blogees, is just plain pitiful. And for pure comic relief, the bachelor complains to the OB that he always seems to be scratching. As if he can't understand that! The OB do some labwork and find out this is because there are enough dust mites in his bed to fill Wembley Stadium, its football field, concession stands, and parking lot.

Now let's move on to the Wild West Reenactment family. They're a weird-ass bunch of people anyway, so I don't guess I was so surprised that they would live like they do, though the extent to which they live it is disarming. Have a look here. OK, so maybe I lied when I said there's not a path cleared through any of these rooms, because there's a distinct strip of filthy floor running through the other filth in this PS living room. But! This family has the added attraction in the dirt department of owning 3 dogs, 3 tarantulas, a lizard, a chinchilla, and a rat! Boy, I bet that rat thought he'd died and gone to heaven when these people brought him home. These folks also had a special bonus of actually having a filthy freezer. They left food in it so long it developed a life of its own. The mom whined a lot about her allergies, and when the OB showed her all the bacteria in their house, it was only then she seemed to understand the reason for her constant wheezing. After their house had been cleaned, though, this PS family just flat-ass creeped me out. See, if you'll notice from the pictures, and it was more obvious in the episode, they never show a bedroom for the daughter. However, the son's bedroom features bunk beds. And the family, there in all their cleanliness at the end of the show, talk about how they'd always been a very close family, but now they'd be even closer, and all I could think of was a brother and sister in their late teens sleeping in the same bedroom. But again, that's just me.

But here's the thing. I guess. This show mystifies me in so many ways it's kind of hard to find the thing, but I think this is it. These people get a quick cleaning lesson, a whole team of BBC Cleaners to wash up the filth they've created for themselves over the past decade or so, and at the end of it all they sit around in their homes talking about how now everything's going to be just fine.

No it's not!

What "How Clean Is Your House?" really needs is the HCIYH psychiatrist, who comes in and analyzes all the inhabitants of these homes to find out why in God's name they've let their surroundings go to hell in a shitbucket, and why, even if they're embarrassed by it, they still choose to sit around in their own filth all day. Because you cannot tell me there's not something seriously wrong with a person who does that. And having a clean house might be great, and keep them from scratching and having asthma and having to pine about not being paired up with a fine ladyfriend, but it's not going to solve whatever created the problem in the first place.

And I can guarantee you that if the OB would go back and visit the PS five years from now, they wouldn't find a nice and tidy abode. They'd find five more years of filth.

And this could happen, I suppose, and then the show could go on from now till the end of time. Which is I guess why there is no HCIYH psychiatrist.

Anyway, if I ever go on about my house being a pigsty again, I give you all permission to slap me hard across the face.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* We have no acrowinners, owing to the fact that I didn't get much of a head count of participants. Which is OK. Gives me more time to clean my house.
* By the way, I may have achieved some sort of record for the amount of times the word "filth" is used in a blog. But I can't help it. Sometimes filth is just filth, and there's no way you can dress it up.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to another round of Picture Sunday.

This weekend was pretty much business as usual, a blissful night of Friday chilling after going to the grocery after work, then a Saturday trip to Mr M's to commune with him and the DeepFatFriar. Who, and I've been meaning to tell you this, was once a friar, is definitely deep, but is not at all fat. He supposedly was at one time, but I've seen pictures and challenge this.

There was something of a double event Thursday in Betland. I had to travel about 90 minutes west for a TheCompanyIWorkFor meeting. Event Number One is that we had our first snow of the season. I damn near froze putting gas in my car, but drove back in the snow the whole way, happy. (I like snow.) Event Number Two is that before I came home not only was I the purchaser of two pairs of shoes, but I finally found a new bed set. I've been looking for one for about a year, and I'm very picky when it comes to these things. I don't like flowers, I don't like swirly patterns, I don't like tropical scenes, satin, knobby chenille, or much else. However, I do like stripes. I also like stripes in enough colors that I'll have a neverending array of matching sheets.

Oddly enough, white sheets came with this, which was, in my humble opinion, the worst color they could have picked. I put them on though, because they were new and had that nice strip of color along the top.

Now, let's go back to Tuesday. Tuesday, as you know if you read my Tuesday blog, was Mr M's birthday. He asked for a specific gift from me. He wanted me to make him a rubber stamp.

Now, I used to do this, and I used to be quite good at it. I used to be good at it some 15 years ago, when I had young hands and eyes and a lot more creativity running through my veins. I wasn't so sure I could still make a stamp, and to make matters worse, he wanted a stamp of a very specific thing. He wanted a stamp of the fingering diagram, the holes and keys, of a clarinet.

But I was game, and gave it a shot. The first one was coming along fairly well until I decided to hone and refine. And I got a little hone-happy, and wiped the low F-sharp key right off his artisitic clarinet. So I started again, and, well, there's not much I do I'll say I'm happy about, but I think I did a pretty good job. Here it is.

See, now when he (or one of his students) wants to remember a certain fingering, all he needs to do is slap that stamp on a piece of paper and start filling in keys. As in, "Hey, Mr M, how do you play a high C-sharp?" "Well, funny you should ask." (*slap!*)

And there you have it.

OK, now time for the recipe du jour. You know folks, I will readily admit to having the odd crisis of confidence. As evidenced by the above story. However, there are times when I'm convinced that I'm just a flat-out fucking genius. Tonight's recipe is one of those times.

We all know Thanksgiving is upon us. Thanksgiving, of course, used to be a day of relaxation, family gatherings, and big feasts. Not so today. Let's face it, moms are working, kids are running in a hundred different directions, dads are in front of the TV watching football, and frankly, you probably have relatives coming over you want to dispense from your home as quickly as possible. Well, tonight's recipe is just for you, modern family! It's from the "One-Dish Meals" file at cardland, and please say hello to it now, Thanksgiving Dinner.

Yes, Thanksgiving Dinner the easy way. It takes an hour. All you do is mix up a can of pumpkin, an egg, and some cream, and put it in a pie crust. Then you position some sliced turkey breast around the edges. Bake it, and when it comes out of the oven, top it with a ring of mashed potatoes and green beans, and stick a dollop of stuffing in the middle. Of course, when eating a piece of Thanksgiving Dinner, you must top it with some gravy and whipped cream. The holidays don't get any easier than this.

And sorry about my trash in the upper right hand corner of the picture there. Tonight's trash night. For some reason I was particularly trashy this week.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* May I have a head and hand count of who'll be around this week? I need to know whether to do acro tomorrow. Thanks.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This Blog Was Made Possible With Support From Viewers Like You

The other night I was talking to Mr M, and he informed me he'd just woken up. He was watching TV and fell asleep in his chair. He was watching "Mystery!" on PBS.

I feel it's a little bit of false advertising for PBS to put an exclamation point at the end of "Mystery!" In fact, "Mystery?" would be more appropriate. They've gone way downhill in the excitement department.

"Mystery!" used to proudly claim its exclamation point. They were full of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Rumpole of the Bailey (a formative figure indeed), and that one with John Thaw, "The White-Haired Detective Who Had A Sensitive Side And Always Outwitted Both His Foes And His Dumb Young Partner." It wasn't called quite that, but I can't remember exactly what it was called. And Adam Dalgliesh, he was something.

The last time I saw "Mystery!" was just a few weeks ago. The DeepFatFriar and I sat on the couch at Mr M's house and watched "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries." Well, we watched half of it. And after that half was over, we still couldn't figure out which one was Inspector Lynley, so I went home and I'm not sure what DFF did, but I don't think it consisted of continuing to watch the show.

Oh! Inspector Morse. That's who John Thaw played.

Anyway, back to the other night, when Mr M fell asleep. He mainly fell asleep because once again during this show he'd already figured everything out and lost interest. And he concluded with, "I could do a better mystery."

And I think he may be right.

After all, he has a deerstalker cap. That seems to be about all it takes to get your own mystery on "Mystery!" these days.

I told him it was a fine idea, but that he'd need a sidekick for his mystery solving capers. I suggested Sherman. Because let's face it, if your hero is as grumpy as Mr M, you need a bright young red-headed cartoon character at his side for some warm-fuzzy relief.

He liked the idea, and we decided Sherman could have his own cape, and magnifying glass, and that Mr M would wear his deerstalker, and possibly a tweed jacket with elbow patches. He has one of those, too. And they could roam the countryside, solving mysteries in big antebellum homes and quiet cottages in the wilderness.


However, Mr M will only be a detective if he can don his Captain A persona. This worries me a bit. I'm afraid he'll want to wear his Capt. A outfit, and somehow, that's just a little undignified for PBS. I think I'll agree to it only if we create a backstory wherein the "Captain" comes from his old army days. Say, back during World War I (it can't be World War II or I'll fall asleep), he was in the Army Band.

So at this point, I guess I have no choice but to write the idea down and send it to PBS.

"Captain And Boy," a Continuing Saga


It's late in the afternoon in the charming village of Evanside. Captain A, retired from the Army Band and now teaching, has taken his favorite student Sherman, a bright young red-headed cartoon character, for a walk through the woods to search for cane with which to make clarinet reeds. As they walk along, they begin to hear the sweet sounds of a clarinet playing in the distance. They cannot resist, and walk towards the sound.

As they get to within sight of the cottage where the clarinet sounds are coming from, all goes suddenly silent. The two wait, holding their cane. They look at each other. Sherman suggests they investigate; if they cannot get the player to continue his music, at least they can ask him where in the woods the best cane is.

They approach the cottage, and find the door ajar. "The door's ajar," whispers Captain A. "No it's not, it's a door," replies Sherman. Capt. A rolls his eyes slightly and pushes the door open enough for them both to enter the cottage. There in the study of the small home they find a man sprawled out onto the flowered carpet, lifeless. His clarinet is beside him.

"My God!" exclaims Captain A. "He dropped his clarinet in the floor!" He immediately goes to the clarinet to check it for any damage.

"Captain?" Sherman asks, quietly. "The man - I think he's sick. I think he's... he's... dead!"

"Hmmm, so he is," says Capt. A, feeling for a pulse. Rising, he looks at the music stand. "Franz Danzi. Not many would be brave enough to take this on." He looks at the body again. The man is a stranger to him. He touches the clarinet reed gingerly. "It's still wet - this man has just expired. And I suspect foul play." "Foul play?" asks Sherman. "You said it yourself. He was playing Franz Danzi. I think he probably just keeled over." "Sherman, no man with a Rossi clarinet and a Gonzalez #4 reed would just keel over, even during a Danzi piece. This man was murdered!"

"Quick, give me your cape, Sherman, and let's get this clarinet off the floor before it gets damp."

"But shouldn't we call the police, Captain? I mean, that clarinet is evidence."

"We'll call them from home. The police don't appreciate clarinets."

And so the two head back to the small bungalow of the Captain's, and phone the police. The police, of course, agree with Sherman's initial diagnosis, that the man died of natural causes. So Captain A and Sherman retire to the Captain's specially equipped Music Laboratory, where they test the horn for fingerprints. And they find an amazing discovery.

"This is an amazing discovery!" says Capt. A. "There's enough arsenic on this reed to wipe out the entire New York Philharmonic!" Sherman gasps. "So it was murder!" he says, barely audible. "You bet your ligature it was," replies the Captain.

The next morning, Sherman arrives at the Captain's. The Captain is playing the clarinet.

"Captain? Are you playing the evidence?" Sherman asks. "Well...yes. Maybe it will give us some clues," replies Capt. A. "Hmm. Maybe it'll give you a cheap thrill," says Sherman. "I thought we were going to take the evidence to the police. Besides, you know you can't keep that clarinet. It wouldn't be right." "Right? Would it be right to take it the police and have it sit in the evidence room, gathering dust, for months on end?" bellowed Captain A. "Well, actually, yes it would," says Sherman. And so the two head off to the police station.

They present the police with the clarinet and reed, and their discovery that the strange clarinet player was indeed murdered. The police take these and stick them in the evidence room, dust puffing out as the door closes. Capt A shudders. They tell the Captain and Sherman that they've identified the man, that his name is Phillip Cooper.

"Phillip Cooper?" Captain A is shocked. "Lips Cooper? My God - he's a legend. He was with the Cleveland Symphony. He could hold a high C for fifteen minutes. He could flutter-tongue 'The Flight of the Bumblebee' at 188 beats per minute!" Sherman is shocked. "188 . Captain, a man doesn't play 'Flight of the Bumblebee' at 188 and not make a lot of enemies."

Our Two Heroes head back home for duet practice, and decide to stop at the new music shop on the way home. They've not checked it out yet, and have heard it's full of solos by all the old masters and out-of-print music from France and Germany. They go inside and meet the owner, Larrs Kamms. He smiles sweetly, pats Sherman on the head, and gives him a piece of candy. He shows the two stacks and stacks of music. There is a box on the top shelf behind Herr Kamms, a box Capt A reminds the man he's forgotten to show them. "No. Is not music," he says, smiling. "Is just... some old photos of special meaning to myself."

Sherman looks at a particularly hard piece and remarks that Lips Cooper had probably played it before. "Do you know who Phillip Cooper is? He's a legend," Sherman asks Larrs. "Nein. Nein. Have never heard of this Cooper," the man replies, suddenly quite curt. "Is lots of music here - you pick something to play."

Captain A raises an eyebrow. "Do you have anything by - Franz Danzi?"

Larrs Kamms suddenly explodes. "Nein! No Franz Danzi in my shop! I have no Franz Danzi!"

The Captain and Sherman leave the shop. "He's an odd sort," says Sherman. "He was so nice, and then he got all mad. Captain? Capt A?" But the Captain is lost in thought. "Sherman, how would you like to come over tonight? You meet me at the bungalow at 9:00. And bring your magnifying glass." "Oh, boy!" says Sherman excitedly, and runs off home.

Sherman returns to the Captain's bungalow at 9:00 sharp. It is dark. Captain A picks up Sherman, puts him in the pocket of his jacket, and walks to the music store. He pulls Sherman out. "OK, boy, time for you to go into action." He shows Sherman the keyhole on the front door of the shop. Sherman squeezes through it, but gets his rather large head stuck.

"My head's stuck!" Sherman whispers. "Well, can you feel around in there to pick the lock?" inquires Capt A. In short order, the boy has tripped the lock, and the two are inside the darkened shop.

Mr M takes out a flashlight and shines it on the top shelf of the wall, to the box he'd asked to see earlier in the day. "But that's Herr Kamms' special memories," says Sherman. "Well, I have a hunch, boy. Let's see just what his special memories are. You need to get to the top shelf and hand me that box." And so Sherman bounces a few times on the counter, then boings himself up on the top shelf. He jumps back down, and the box lands on top of him, smashing him flat. "Little help here, please," mumbles Sherman. Captain A lifts the box off Sherman, and the boy pops back into shape. "The things you get me into, Captain A."

Still holding the flashlight, Capt A removes the lid of the box. Inside are a few pieces of sheet music, programs from various symphony concerts, old reeds, and some newspaper clippings. He makes random "hmm" sounds as he goes through them.

"Aha!" he whispers as he shines his light on a clipping announcing the arrival in Philadelphia of the Cleveland Symphony. They were to be playing a concert there some 20 years before. In the photo, out front, was Lips Cooper.

"Captain A, Captain A," rushes Sherman. "He did know Lips Cooper!"

"Not only that, my boy," says the Captain. "Look at this." He points to the back row, to a shadowy figure, barely visible. It was Larrs Kamms.

"Holy cats! Are you sure that's him?" asks Sherman. "100 %, my boy," says Captain A. "And listen to this." He began to read, "'The Symphony will feature Phillip Cooper performing ''Variations on a Theme From Mozart's Don Giovanni,'' by Franz Danzi.'"

They take the box and rush to the police station to convince the officers strange things are afoot with music shop owner Larrs Kamms. The police, with Captain A and Sherman in tow, pay Herr Kamms a visit. When confronted, Kamms folds like a cheap card table.

"I come to America to be famous clarinetist. I go to Cleveland, I make beautiful music. I deserve to have big solos. But no! They hire Phillip Cooper! They give him big solos, make him star. And they make me play alto clarinet. I am excellent musician, I am famous in Germany! And they make me play alto clarinet!" Herr Kamms begins to weep. "Alto clarinet."

He continues. "I find Herr Cooper has retired secretly to Evanside. I come here to find him. To find him and talk, only talk. To ask why he takes my space in Symphony. When I get to his house, I find him there. He is playing Franz Danzi. I cannot contain my anger. I send him for me a glass of water, then produce arsenic I just happen to have on my person. I put it on his thick #4 Gonzalez reed. In my wrath I have killed Herr Cooper."

"In your wrath?" screams Captain A. "You brought that arsenic with you specifically to kill one of the great clarinet players of all time! This is a classic case of premeditated murder! Take this man away, out of my sight!"

The police handcuff Larrs Kamms and lead him away. As he passes Sherman, the boy looks at him, then shakes his dropped head. "You could have practiced more. You could have been the best at the alto clarinet. But no, you took the wrong way, Mr Kamms. You got any more candy on you?"

As the police head away to the station, Captain A looks at the chief of police. "You think I could have that 'evidence?' It's getting awfully dusty."

"Well, we'll see," replies the chief.

Captain A and Sherman then walk in the direction of the Captain's bungalow. As they get smaller in the distance we hear, "Sherman, I'm feeling like a duet. How about you?"

The End

I don't think "Mystery!" could turn this one down.

Tonight's story is dedicated to Mr M, whose birthday is today. Happy birthday, Mr M!

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, tell me about the toilet.
- Honorable Mention goes to no one, since only two people played. The rest of you must have been fixing your toilets.
- Runner-Up goes to Kellie (with an ie), and her, "Fantastic Bowl Of Excretion Juices. Toilet!!"
- And this week's winner goes to LilyG, with her, "Floating ball object -- eternally jammed. Tosser."
- Thanks to all who played - you've all done very well!


Monday, November 12, 2007


Hello, acroers. Welcome to another round of acromania.

Tonight's acro will be short and sweet. But first....

I just spent round three in the battle with my toilet. See, after installing Toilet Innard Set #2, all was well between the lock nut and the tank, but I was still getting wetness on the towel I had there for the changing of the innards. I was perplexed, I was frustrated, and I investigated some more.

Boy, was Duke right in his comments of yesterday. Because now I had a leak at in the tube that connects from the water shutoff to the toilet. And it was leaking on both ends. So after work it was back to the hardware for a new tube. 30 minutes later, new tube installed, all finally seems to be well. I have flushing, I have no running toilet, and I have dryness. Which is about as good as it gets here at the Poderosa.

This is as I'm typing. Who knows what could happen after I go to bed tonight. I might wake up tomorrow in a floating bed.

Anyway, tonight's acrotopic is simply, "The Toilet." Wax poetic about the toilet for me. Or on the toilet, I don't mind.

All the other rules are the same. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym they can that not only matches the topic above, but also the letters below which are randomly drawn from the acrobasket. The acrobasket told me from day one to call a plumber. I didn't listen. Then tomorrow night at 10:00 est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners and non-winners.

So tonight's acrotopic, "The Toilet." The letters:


So there you go. Sit down and acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* No update. The update was above.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders.

I had a weekend at home planned. I was anticipating it a great deal. It's been the first weekend in, oh, say, 12 or so weeks I haven't been on the road in some form or other. I was going to watch my World War II movie ("The Longest Day"), chill, sleep late, have a few martinis, and take my sweet time on a recipe du jour. I was going to do some things that needed attention as well, things I'd been putting off.

Friday morning arrived. I hopped out of bed and got ready for work, knowing that I'd be spending a cold morning outside, because the first thing I had to do before going in to TheCompanyIWorkFor was to inspect a house. It's a thing we do there at TCIWF, and this was kind of an emergency for a nice lady who needed it done quickly. So it would be my first task of the day.

As I was brushing my teeth, I noticed that my bathroom sink drain, which is very slow and sickly about draining, was, well, not so much sickly as dead. I gave the sink the fish-eye, went off to finish getting ready, came back about fifteen minutes later, and it was still dead. No resurrection, the water was still standing in the sink, and I came face-to-face with the sad realization that I had myself, for the first time since living at the Poderosa, a stopped up line.

I poured some unclogging gunk into the sink and left on my task, which included not being able to find the house I was to inspect, and, after finding it, realizing that the office camera was broken. This is our second broken camera, and house inspections without a working camera are a no-go. I had to have all this ready for the nice lady that morning, so I went back home, picked up my own camera, looked at my sink, which was still clogged, went back to the nice lady's house, got my pictures, measurements, and everything else, and headed to the office.

When it was time for lunch, I headed home, but, smart girl that I am, I realized I don't own a plunger. I've never had the need for one. So I pilfered one from the building where our office is and toted it home with me. I plunged in lieu of lunch, but it didn't work. In fact, it made matters worse. I made a call to my plumber guy. Of course he didn't answer the phone, because I'm convinced he hangs upside down like a bat 23 hours of the day, but I left a message. He didn't call me back.

I spent Friday night not so much chilling as bailing water out of my sink, plunging again to no avail (this time with my brand new plunger), and deciding, "Fuck it, I'll watch my World War II movie." Of course, though, as you all know, or should, World War II makes me fall asleep (I've slept through some of the most volatile WWII battles on film), and so about 20 minutes into "The Longest Day," I was dozing away in the Comfy Chair.

I went to bed about 4:00 Saturday morning, and was awakened by a phone call at exactly 9 am. It was my plumber guy. He said he was on his way. He got there at 12:30.

I don't care, though, because he unstopped my sink and only charged me $25 to do so, so if he wants to hang upside down like a bat all damn day, he can have at it. Saturday was looking up.

But before we go any further in this not-so-little tale, I reached a new milestone in those wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning.

Not only 3 million, but 4 million! This was over a few days, but I've now reached the point where I feel there's no stopping me and I'll never lose. I'm leaving the game up from now on to see just how far I get.

But back to Saturday looking up. I was going to get to those tasks that needed attention. The ones I'd been putting off.

The first was figure out, now that those bastards at Comcast have changed their website layout, how in the hell to update my movie list. (Yes, I have a movie list.) As you hucklebug listeners know, I've put the Comcast Bastards (CB) on the fuck-off list for two weeks in a row, and it's all because of this.

It used to be so easy. Go to the "personal web pages" site, browse for my movie list (yes, I have a movie list), select it, and hit the "upload" button. Bang-zoom, easy peasy, there was an updated movie list.

The first time I tried to do this under the new regime, well, I couldn't even find the "personal web pages" site. I looked and looked, and time was a-wastin' and it was almost podcast time, so I didn't pursue it. I just grumbled, and put the CB on my fuck-off list.

The next time I tried, I found the right site, but it didn't matter much. Everything had changed to the point where I was lost before I even got off the ground. I needed help, but all I could find was a five-minute video tour of making a web page, and though time wasn't a-wastin', I had no desire to sit and take a tutorial. So I grumbled some more, and decided I hated the Comcast Bastards (CB) and that surely they'd find their way to the fuck-off list once again.

And so I tried again. I found a help section, and it said, and I quote, "The process by which files are uploaded remains unchanged; however, the look and feel has." This, my beloved blogees, was a blatant lie. I mean, the look had changed, yes, and the feel had definitely changed, because I don't ever remember going to the neighbor's house and asking if they had any .22 cartridges before when uploading something to my website, but the thing about the process being the same was total bullshit. However, even knowing this I followed their instructions, uploaded my latest movie list, went to check it, and - it was just the same as it had been before, and I got nary a credit for the new movies I'd watched. Time was again a-wastin' this time around, and so I grumbled, and the CB made it to the famed and feared hucklebug fuck-off list a second time.

I was going to work on this Friday night, in the wee hours of Saturday morning, after I'd watched my World War II movie. Instead, I slept through my World War II movie, lost all interest in anything other than trying to reach 4 million in Text Twist and watching "The In-Laws" instead, a movie I've seen more times than I could ever count, but it never puts me to sleep.

But heady with knowing my sink drain was clear, I came straight to the computer yesterday afternoon and started messing around with the Comcast Bastards' (CB) new design. I uploaded. It said I was successful. I looked at my movie list. Not updated. I went back, chose a different file path. It was not successful. I went back and tried another. And another. And I'd keep going back to the path I knew was right, the one that gave me the big thumbs-up in having a successful upload, but my movie list wouldn't update. This went on for hours. I mean, I watched Wisconsin beat Michigan and was in the process of watching Virgina Tech beat Florida State, and it was the same thing over and over.

Comcast Bastards: Your upload was successful!
Me: No, it wasn't.

CB: Yes, it was successful!

Me: Then where's my damn updated movie list?
CB: You
have a movie list?
Me: You know damn well I have a movie list. Why won't it update?
CB: Your upload was successful!

And on and on. I sent a couple of emails to my web maven Stennie, but she wasn't around. Finally, I figured it out. Those Comcast Bastards had, in changing their webpage layout, changed the urls for Comcast web pages. It would have been nice had the CB let me know this, either in the emails announcing their new design or in their help section. "The process by which files are uploaded remains unchanged; however, the look and feel - and your damn url, you loser - has." However, since that discovery, and changing the link over there to the left in Blogger, I've tried to upload other things, and the new url always comes back with an error.

You know, since the CB are now giving their people all this free web space, I'd considered a complete retooling (reupholstering, if you will) of The Comfy Chair. I'm not sure I'll bother now.

I left that task, finished watching Virginia Tech beat Florida State, and then headed to the bathroom. Yes, the game was exciting, but that's not what I mean. The second task I've been putting off is replacing the innards of my toilet. I'm sure there's a name for those things, the big tall thing with the knob at the top and the little trap door thingy with the chain on it, but it doesn't say that on the box. I can't remember what it said on the box, but in the interest of fair advertising it should have said, "Instrument of Torture."

I spared no expense when buying my innards, and bought the most expensive ones in the store. They had a 10 year guarantee, which I sincerely hoped was true, because I don't want to ever have to do this again. Because to install your new toilet innards, you must remove the old innards. And this, my friends, is a pain in the ass.

The directions told me to turn off my water and flush my toilet, which would drain it, and then, and again I quote, "Absorb the remaining tank water with a sponge." Now, I don't know what kind of by-God sucking sponges they have in Toiletland, but there was an inch of water left in the tank. Again I bailed, and bailed, and then finally got to the sponging stage. I removed the old innards, which were wet and slimy and cold and absolutely filthy. I can remember when we were in school and they always told us that when those Godless Communists dropped the bomb on us and we had to hole ourselves up in the basement, we could use the tank water in our toilets to drink. Well, I'd rather go outside in nuclear fallout and drink from the glowing stream. It couldn't be worse than the water in a toilet's tank.

I threw the old innards away, and began the task of installing the new. The trap door and chain thing was too small to fit on my overflow tube, and yes, I know you're impressed with my knowledge of plumbing vernacular. In trying to force it on, the chain broke. I would have taken it back to the store and pointed to the "10 year guarantee" written on the box, but I'd spent the last hour with my head and hands in the toilet, and, well, I had no fucking toilet! I wanted this over. Anyway, even a new box would have the same ill-fitting trap door, and so off I went to the trash to fish out the cold, wet, slimy, and filthy trap door and chain from the original. I re-replaced it. I flushed, and all was well.

Until I came back to the bathroom to marvel at my handiwork and experience the flush of victory again. It was then I noticed there was water dripping steadily from underneath the tank. It was leaking between the tank and the lock nut, and yes, my plumbing vernacular is amazing. I wanted to cry but didn't, did some investigating and more tightening, and although I stopped the actual dripping, there was still water around the nut. The one on the tank and the one writing this.

So! Today, back to the hardware. I bought a new toilet innard set, and several other plumbing-related items, including a wrench bigger than the one I had. I'd decided I was going to fix this toilet if it killed me, which was a distinct possibility. I came home, drained the tank again, bailed again, sponged again, took everything out again, and put in a different brand of toilet innard set this time, which immediately endeared itself to me when I found that the trap door and chain had a variable ring which fit on my overflow tube, and now I'm just showing off my plumbing vernacular.

And even though the new brand didn't have a 10 year guarantee, it said instead it was the #1 brand amongst people stupid enough to fix their own toilets, as of the time of this writing it is flushing, holding water, not running, and, most important, not leaking.

So that's how you spend two days and $40 and fix your toilet. I don't know why I didn't ask my plumber guy to do this yesterday morning, I guess because I am indeed stupid enough to fix my own toilet. He'd probably have done it for $25 and saved me a lot of heartache. However, it's kind of nice knowing I did it myself. I may not be able to figure out the Comcast Bastards' way of doing things, but I seem to getting OK in the sewage department.

And that's a hell of a long story. So how about a recipe du jour?

Earlier in the week, I was investigating my freezer. I don't really clean my freezer out that often. I don't keep much in it to clean. However, I have this sliding tray at the very bottom I seldom use, because it seems to always have other stuff in it. And I realized that that other stuff had to have been put down in that tray in my first one or two years here at the Poderosa. I started going through it, and there really wasn't that much stuff in it, it was just all in baggies which gave it more bulk. I did, however, find one item of note.

I don't know how long it had been a resident of my freezer, but I found a piece of steak that looked like it was from the Ice Age. I probably stuck it down in the tray one day, then just forgot about it. I unearthed it, looked at its decidedly grayish-brown color, and knew that before he got the heave-ho on Trash Night this poor soul would finally get his place on a plate in my home. And so, from the "For Carnivores Only" file at cardland, please give a long overdue welcome to The Steak That Time Forgot.

Bless his heart. He spent the best years of his sad life in the bottom of my freezer. Now he's old and gray. Really. I mean, he is literally old and gray. I decided to dress him up a little, and gave him some olive eyes, a fake gray mustache, and a dollop of mustard for a nose. Because, really, you're going to need some sort of condiment if you try to eat this tough old coot.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Upate:
* Flapper! The trap door is called a flapper! I just saw it on the box. You know, it doesn't really flap. I shall continue to use "trap door."

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Just Went Green All of a Sudden!

Sorry. Once again, false advertising in the title. But I just couldn't help myself in paraphrasing one of the great movie quotes of all time, Cary Grant's, "I just went gay all of a sudden!"

I'm not that green. Well, sometimes when I wake up in the morning after a wicked night with the Sauerkraut Band, or if I go for a third martini instead of my normal two, but that's about as green as I get.

Which stinks.

Here I am, a mature woman old enough to vote and drive a car and buy liquor and everything, and I know what's good for the environment and what's not, and I love our planet just like you all do, and I find I'm not doing much about it. I had an interesting conversation with Mr M and the DeepFatFriar some years ago. They were quizzing me on the fact that I, this person who proclaims to "hate the outdoors," was a member of the Nature Conservancy. I replied, "Well, I love nature, I just don't particularly want to be out in it."

Sure, I don't litter up the landscape, but I consider that an act of politeness more than anything. I don't drive a behemoth vehicle that gets 8 mpg on the highway and blocks everyone's view, but that's common sense. Those vehicles are useless, and I don't care if you live at the top of Mt McKinley, you don't need one. I haven't clogged up the world's resources by having 6 kids, but let's face it, I'm not exactly the person one looks for to have 6 kids with. So let's just say I'm not consciously green.

NBC, for some reason, and don't ask me what it is for I do not know, has decided to go green all of a sudden this week. It's everywhere you look when you turn on your TeeVee and start wasting energy by watching, the world's energy and your own. This started for me on Sunday night, when I turned on our local station to catch the 11:00 news (our local news is more entertaining than newsworthy), and instead got the end of a football game.

Imagine my surprise when they went to the studio afterwards, and there sat Bob Costas, Tiki Barber, and Chris Collingsworth in a dimly lit room. It was so dimly lit you could barely see the faces of the three. It was then they announced how they were sitting in this half-lit studio because it was Green Week at NBC, and they were saving electricity by not using the normal amount of light it would take to, oh, say, to see them sitting there. And so these three shadowy figures went on to do the post-game wrap up, all while sitting in a dark room. While - there was a huge screen behind them, lit at full face value, showing the NBC Green logo. And also while - there was a running crawl above the fully lit logo, with letters in lights moving about telling us how NBC had gone green all of a sudden.

And that, folks, is just dumb.

They could have been sitting there in full light had they dropped their self-promoting logo and lettering. Or they could have been really smart and dropped the post-game wrap up in the studio altogether. Because, let's face it, if you've just watched a 4 hour football game and you need three men in shadowy light to tell you what just happened, well, you'll not only not understand the going green all of a sudden, you'll probably also not understand how to turn off your TeeVee and go to bed.

As you know, I watch the Today program, even though I loathe it and yell things at my television set when it's on. I'm like that. They're having a very special Green Week there at the Today program. They've sent Matt Lauer to Greenland, Al Roker to the Equator, and Ann Curry to Antarctica, which I'm very surprised they haven't re-dubbed "Ann-arctica" for the occasion. They sent them all there in big jet planes with large gas-guzzling engines and they took many cameramen who plug lots of TV equipment into electrical jacks, and on and on. The fourth member of the Today Team, the inexplicable Meredith Vieira, stayed at home in New York, because as I explained in an earlier blog, she refuses to work past 10:00 am on the show, and I guess she wanted to be in New York so she could go wherever it is she goes when she leaves work early every single rotten day of her stinkin' life.

So Matt's there in Greenland, talking about snow and the melting icecaps and how the polar bears are going hungry lately, and Ann's down in Antarctica wearing sunglasses and talking about how it never gets dark there, and she's smiling way too big so I have a feeling she's getting pretty cranky because of it. And Al's there at the Equator - doing the weather. Yes, when it's time for the weather, they go to Al at the Equator and he tells us what the weather is where we live. I personally would like to have seen Willard Scott in a small hut in Siberia saying hello to 100 year olds, but I guess that was too much to ask.

Anyway, back in the studio in New York, where Meredith is interviewing people and looking at her watch waiting for 10:00 to come, they've had experts, I mean some really green people, these people are just chartreuse with knowledge, and they're telling us how we can all make our own damn lives a little greener without stepping on huge airplanes and spending $50,000 to go to Ann-arctica.

One couple this morning was telling us about all the things that are recyclable that we probably didn't realize were. Like CDs and DVDs. And they proceeded to pull out this huge cardboard box with a slit in the top of it, and tell us there's a company that will send one of these to you, and when it's filled up with discs you can send it back to the company and they'll recycle them. And that's a capital idea, I like the idea a lot. However, the box is about four feet high, and when it's filled with four feet of CDs and DVDs.... Well, I can just imagine going to the post office to mail that one back to the recycling company. Postage is probably $250.

Apparently, your mattress is recyclable, too. You know how? When you're through with your current mattress, you - put an ad in the paper offering to give it away! Which proves that one man's trash is definitely another man's treasure, and I don't even want to think about where some of those 15-year old mattresses end up, especially when I'm getting a hotel room in a strange town.

However, yesterday there was a green little fellow there in the studio with Meredith, and before she kicked him off the air at 9:55 (OK, that was for effect, it was 8:55), he gave us seven tips for a greener everyman. One week, seven days, and you too can go green all of a sudden. They were:

1 (or Monday): Turn down the heat. Just two degrees can make all the difference in the world. Well, hell, maybe I was greener than I thought. I keep my house temperature at about 65 degrees. So I'm good on that one. However, in the summer I also keep my temperature at 65 degrees, which I guess makes me somewhere in the reddish-brown area. But I get bonus points for greening Mr M's house, because every time I'm there I turn his heat down a few degrees as well. Without him knowing it.

2 (or Tuesday): Unplug gadgets. Apparently having them turned off isn't enough, they're still sucking energy by being plugged in. OK, this one, well.... I guess I need to worry at this stage about turning off lights in rooms I'm not in (though I'm getting better at that one) and sleeping with the TV on (I'm not getting better at that one). But in the kitchen, I tend to do this. I don't plug in the coffeemaker, can opener, microwave, or blender unless I'm using them. The computer, TV, DVD, stereo? Damn, that's a task. Mainly because all the plugs are hidden away where I have to stand on my head to plug or unplug them, and curse when I have to do so for any reason. I'll get back to you on that one, Green Man.

3 (or Wednesday): Wash clothes efficiently. This comes in two parts, washing in cold water, and washing in full loads. I'm good about the first, horrible about the second. I separate into whites, towels, white underwear, colored underwear, jeans, reds, blues, and pastels. And socks. I have an unnatural fear of fading. The only thing I wash in warm water (I wash nothing in hot) is towels, for I just don't think they'll be really clean washed in cold. Green Man says this is untrue, and last night I washed my first-ever cold towels. We'll see when I take them out of the dryer, which I guess I'm not really supposed to use, but do anyway.

4 (or Thursday): Eat less meat. Now, I admire vegetarians, as long as they don't look at me as a meat-eater and hack and gag. I wish I could go meatless. But I came to the stark realization long ago that I like meat. And since I'm supposed to get so many grams of protein into this system of mine now and can't live on Orange Crapius protein drink, it's not going to happen. Sorry, Green Man. I'll go meatless on Thursdays, if you like, but that's it. (By the way, I'm a little confused on this one, anyway. The theory is livestock push up greenhouse gas effect, but if we don't eat the darling creatures, won't there be more of them, therefore pushing the greenhouse gas effect even higher? My head hurts, or I'm dumb. Or both.)

5 (or Friday): Leave your car at home for one day. I've often said I could walk to work and back if I weren't so lazy. This is doable, though I doubt I ever will. And why did you ask that of me on a Friday? Friday's my errands-after-work day! Am I expected to walk to the bank, to the grocery, to the liquor store, then carry all that home on my back? You're a mean one, Mr Green Man.

6 (or Saturday): Go green in the home. They say pick one project on this day that will cut energy usage in your house. Like setting the water heater down several degrees. Or replacing your light bulbs with the flourescent kind that save energy. Or going to a low-flow shower head. I'll take the light bulbs, please. I've been thinking about doing that anyway. The water heater and shower head? Forget it. My shower is sacred, not even Green Man messes with it.

7 (or Sunday): Write a letter. "Dear Mom, thanks for having me and taking the time to change my diapers and all...." Oh, they don't mean to just anyone. They mean to a manufacturer or store to thank them for being greener, or I guess chide them for not being so. "Dear Wendy, thanks for turning off your giant Wendy's sign when you close. Not only does it save energy, but it keeps me from sitting at the drive-thru for 30 minutes wondering why I'm not getting waited on. PS - Could you, in addition to turning off your giant Wendy's sign, also please turn off your fucking store and drive-thru lights when you're closed? Thanks again, Bet." (I guess sending an email takes more energy.)

So, there's your own personal guide to going green all of a sudden. I'll let you know about the cleanliness of my cold towels, and I really have been trying harder with the room lights, even though the kitchen light's on right now and I'm in the dennette. And if you hear I've had a stroke, it was probably from trying to stand on my head and unplug my televisions. Next trip to the Wally World I'll check out those light bulbs, and if you'll pardon me, I have to go now to write a letter to Wendy. And her giant sign.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, tell me about my food rainbow, and why it's just as good as Mother Nature's.
- Honorable Mention goes to Mr M, who didn't enter, but likes being on the winner board, and since no one else volunteered an acro, I'll stick him here.
- Runner-Up goes to LilyG, with her, "The extreme dining zone! Divine!" I like my recipes being known as "the extreme dining zone." Can I patent that, Lily?
- And this week's winner is the DeepFatFriar, with his, "They each disturb Zeus's digestion." Which doesn't make mine better than Mother Nature's, but certainly no worse, and it made me giggle.
- Thanks to all who played (and didn't)! You've all done very well!


Monday, November 05, 2007

Picture Acrochallenge! Monday

Hello, beginning of weekers, and lovers of letters. Since I didn't get a Picture Sunday up last night (no pictures, no time, dinner with the folks), I thought I'd kind of combine Picture Sunday and another scintillating round of acromania.

You know, a couple of Fridays ago I went to see the Hackensaw Boys. That was a good thing. I should have known it would be a good night, because on the way to the tiny but teeming town of Floyd, VA, I saw a rainbow. I saw - a double rainbow! It was a sight to behold, and I beheld it. Twice. I stopped at two points on the road to pull out my camera and snap a photo.

Pretty, huh?

Well, I was so inspired that I decided to turn that beautiful rainbow into a recipe du jour. The candy Skittles invites us all, in their commercials, to "taste the rainbow." So from the "Don't Taste The Rainbow" file at cardland, will you please welcome into your homes the Edible Rainbow.

Ah, there it is, shining out like the barometer of queasiness that it is. The rainbow consists of bars of, going from inside to outside, ketchup, peas, mustard, mashed potatoes with blue crapius protein drink mixed in, pickled beets, dill relish, and southwestern dipping sauce. There's a whipped cream cloud hovering overhead, and under the rainbow is your own little pot of gold, a pot-shaped pat of butter.

Now, since we need an acro, let's make the acrotopic, "Tell Me Why My Rainbow Is As Good As Nature's Rainbow." Yes, I know, it's going to take a big stretch of imagination, but I know you can do it.

All the other rules are the same. Everyone will get three entries to come up with the best acronym they can, that not only matches the topic above, but also the letters below, which are randomly drawn from the acrobasket. The acrobasket got a little queasy himself looking at my rainbow. Then tomorrow at 10 pm est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners and non-winners.

So, the acrotopic, "Tell Me Why My Rainbow Is As Good As Nature's Rainbow." The letters:


Oooh, the elusive Z. Good luck on this one.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Night off from recording the hucklebug, and I still couldn't get the acro up before 10:00. I'm hopeless.

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