Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Short post tonight.

This morning my two alarms went off. If you'll recall, I have two alarms, one beside my bed, and the other on a shelf across the room. I'd read this was supposed to be a sure-fire way to not oversleep, because, see, one has to actually get out of bed to turn off the alarm. (This is not a sure-fire anything. I turn off the alarm and go back to bed.)

Stennie and I recorded our Hucklebug podcast last night. Our topic was "Our Most Embarrassing Moments - Ones We'll Talk About, Because The Truly Embarrassing Ones We'd Just As Soon Not Relive." She told two and I told two.

I went to bed quite late because of the recording, and when I finally awoke to my two alarms ringing, they'd both been ringing a half-hour. That's another drawback of the sure-fire alarm across the room thing. If you don't hear it, it makes no difference where it is. I finally became semi-conscious, realized the time, hit my bedside alarm, then tore out of bed to go hit the far-away alarm.

What I didn't realize, though, there in my semi-conscious state, was that my left leg, from the knee down, was asleep.

And so I hopped out of bed, took a step on that sleeping leg, and began to reel around the room. Of course when this happens, the brain doesn't go into Logical Thinking Mode and say, "Hey, just fall down. Fall flat down, dumbass." No, instead your body takes over, trying at all costs to stay upright. And that's just what my body did. It swayed and lurched and hobbled on one lame leg until finally it could take it no more, and I went tumbling into the floor.

However, before I became floor-bound, I took one last turn. Into the table holding my TV set.

I ended up on my ass, in the floor, with my television set on top of me.

And that was funny, until I realized I couldn't lift the TV off me, and that I hurt.

I finally got the TV back on the table by sliding it over my shoulder, and got up. It felt like a bus had run over my left foot.

And so I'm hurt. I've got it wrapped, elevated it this evening, and thanks to a couple of Tylenol PMs, slept until right about now. I came around to name the acrowinners, then I'm heading bedward.

And I've walked like Frankenstein all day. That's not a particularly attractive way to walk.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners! So, how did you caption the picture of Mrs Mama Duck and her babies?
- Honorable Mention goes to the dishy Michelle, with her, "Dawdling along, twittering loudly, Duckies strutting."
- Runner-Up goes to Kellie (with an ie), with her, "Dad Attending To Lost Duckie Son."
- And this week's winner goes to the DeepFatFriar, with his, "Ducklings arise! Tackle Latter Day Saints!"
- Extra points to those who mentioned the clothespin.
- Thanks to everyone for playing! Great acros, you all deserved prizes. You've all done very well!


Monday, April 28, 2008


Hello, acrofriends. Welcome to another round of acromania.

Ahhh, Spring is here. I know this because it was in the high 70s this weekend, has rained just about every day, hit 50 today, and is supposed to snow tomorrow morning. That's Spring around here, anyway.

Another sign of Spring? New life! I went walking down my street today with a camera. Tracking.

As I was coming home from work today, a mama duck was leading a parade of her babies right through my yard. I squealed with delight, but knew I needed to make a quick grocery run, and if I stopped home to get a closer look, that trip would never take place.

So I went on, bought my groceries, came back home, and noticed the parade had moved on down the street. I grabbed my camera and took off.

And so in honor of Spring, this week's acro shall be a "Caption the Picture."

Yes, give this picture a caption.

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 would make a really cute bed for those babies. Then tomorrow night at 10:00 est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners.

So, the topic, "Caption the Picture." The letters:


Now waddle off and acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I drew the clothespin again from the acrobasket. You may choose to use it or not.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Picture Sunday

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

To all you who've been reading about the Great Water Debacle of 08, I may be on the verge of telling you our long national nightmare is now over. Wednesday, I had plumbers at my house. New plumbers. And they supposedly fixed my pipe, gave me a new frost-free outside spigot, and replaced the very old pressure-reducing valve on my line (there's something the old plumber was right about - I had one, it was just some 15 years old) before they went on their way. I hear no water running inside or outside of the Poderosa, and I'm waiting for one last meter reading from the town yoo-hoos.

If the meter is not running, you'll be the first to hear about it. If not, you won't hear about it at all, because I will have indeed checked myself into The Home for the Really Really Fruity.

I had the afternoon off on Thursday, and decided to mow my yard with my newly-repaired (by me) lawn mower. Pay attention to the "by me." Because you know this isn't going to be a good story. Yes, after sailing along in the back yard I swung around to the side of the house, and - you guessed it. The cog in the blade height thingie again stripped, and I was left with a lopsided blade height thingie. I tried again to fix it.

Let's just say that it didn't work very well. In fact, let's just say that my lawn mower died. And in fact, let's just say that I killed it. Yes, I was just a little too angry in working with the cog, and I broke it right in half. So there's no way it would stay in any spoke in any cog. Because, you see, it's broken.

And I felt surprisingly not so bad about it. Mainly because this season I've come to hate that lawn mower so much I feel its death was justifiable homicide. It was a cheap piece of machinery. I knew that when I bought it. I mean, that's why I bought it, let's be honest.

The only thing I felt bad about, finishing up my yard with a lopsided blade height thingie that was cutting one side of my mowing row too close, was that I am a big fat miserable failure as a Mowing Girl. And so I walked, back and forth, back and forth, trying to make a decision. Did I buy a new mower? A new cheap piece of crap I know how to use, if not repair? Did I buy a new mower of a more powerful type, that I know neither how to start, maintain, or use? Or did I just admit defeat, throw my hands in the air, give up, and find a Mowing Boy (or girl)?

I pondered it most of the day Friday, and decided I'd take the plunge and buy a better mower. Everyone seems to be able to mow and pull those cords and start them up, so why can't I? (Don't answer that.) I got some helpful buying hints from The Ziffel, husband of my friend, workmate, and mother figure San, and Mr M said he'd go with me and help me pick one out.

And so Saturday, I headed off to B'burg with clothes, green tea, clarinet, music, iPod, Sherman, and state income tax refund in tow, and Saturday evening Mr M, the DeepFatFriar, and I went lawn mower shopping.

And heeeeeeere's my new mower.

Yes, I know I have to take it out of the box to use it. It's just that it rained very hard this afternoon, and I had to get it out of the back of podmobile2 because I couldn't see out the back window - and while the back hatch lock is still working - and so I slid it out of the car and walked it into my house. Hopefully I can get it all set up tomorrow.

To be honest, there's not much I can tell you about it except it has a motor, a bagger, and it's red. Good enough for me.

Rain today aside, the weather has really taken a turn down this way. It's been very hot. And on hot days like this, who doesn't want a nice, refreshing, cool beverage? Well, that's a dumb question - everyone wants one! And that's where our recipe du jour comes in. From the "Refreshing Drinks" file at cardland, please say hello to Shermanade.

Nothing says, "Ahhhhhh, that was refreshing" like a little bit of Sherman in a glass. Just make up your favorite cool beverage (it's iced tea for us), put a healthy helping of Sherman in a pitcher, and pour the beverage over it. Not only will you get the taste of Sherman in your drink, but you'll get to see his smiling face from the pitcher.

(Oh, don't be silly. Of course I didn't pour iced tea over Sherman. Thanks to Mr M for his wizardry in the Paint Shop Pro department.)

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Speaking of our boy Sherman, I invite you to head over the to the Comfy Chair Cinema and view our latest offering, "Sherman's Footlight Parade." I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Water, Water III: The Revenge

Hello, my loyal and stalwart buddies. Yes, I'm buttering you up right from the get-go, because you've hung with me through the Great Water Debacle of 08 thus far.

When last I left you, my fine feathereds, I'd celebrated a day wherein I thought I was getting a new water meter (which I'd asked for), found out I didn't get one, but the town yoo-hoos had found a leak on their side of the old meter (which had happened once before, and for some reason took them four months to look for another one), and my old friend Barbara at the water office was in the process of giving me a shitload of credit on my monthy water bill.

Well, that was the first hour of that day, anyway.

A couple of hours later I'd been told by my old friend Barbara that more town yoo-hoos had come out to check my water pressure (it was way high), heard water running, checked that just-fixed meter (which was again running when I was not home), it was officially proclaimed that I did indeed have a leak (apparently another leak, one not fixed by said yoo-hoos earlier in the day), and the credits to my water bill had blown away like stardom to the 3d runner-up in the Miss America Pageant.

That was some day.

Since last we spoke, you good folks and I, I spent a Friday off from work doing a lot of outside yard stuff, and heard the water the yoo-hoos heard, and I heard it as plain as day. In fact, it was hard to believe I was looking at the outside spigot at the back of my house and no water was coming out of it. Because it sounded like it was on. I had a distinctly sinking feeling.

Friday evening I called my plumber, who again wasn't hanging upside down like a bat and answered the phone. Now, I like to make all manners of fun of my plumber, he's been my family's plumber for some 30 years and has always served us well, but when he told me about some very serious health problems he'd just been diagnosed with, my heart went out to him. During that phone conversation I expressed my concern, told him not to worry about me, but could he recommend someone to me that he would trust to come out and look around my place.

And his reply was, "Well, my testing doesn't begin till next week, so I could come out Saturday." So, as I stated in my Picture Sunday blog, I waited all damn day for him to come to my house and he never did. I began the business of looking for a new plumber on Monday.

(Hang with me, it gets better.)

So Monday I was sitting at work trying to get a few minutes in between tasks to form a Plumberial Plan of Action, and I heard a slight tappity-tap at my office door. This is a rare occurrence, because most people walk through the main door of the office and head back my way. I opened the door, and there stood my old plumber. He'd just been by my house. Here's what he told me.

1. He heard no water running in the back of my house. I sat there for a few seconds open-mouthed, and told him I could hear it as plain as day, what it sounded like, and where it came from. He told me that maybe what I was hearing was the traffic passing on the street in front of the house. Now, I know I'm no plumbing school graduate, but when I can't tell the difference between a car and a running faucet, it's time for me to sell my house and admit myself to The Home For The Really Really Fruity.

2. I already had a pressure-reducing valve on my water line. This is, if you'll recall, the item I asked my old friend Barbara about that turned my good news of last week into horrible news. I asked her about these valves because the town was selling them at one time, and I distinctly remember not going to their offices to buy one. If I'm mistaken on that one, I need to sell all my possessions and enter The Home For The Really Really Fruity. I mentioned this to the plumber, along with the fact that I had a way high reading of 100 pounds pressure. He said apparently that pressure-reducing valve I didn't buy, well, didn't work.

3. He checked my meter, upon arriving and departing, and it was not running; however, the meter for the house next door was running, very slightly, like they had a leak. Yes, I was thinking it too, but to be honest, with him being sick and my being on my way to The Home For The Really Really Fruity, I just didn't want to argue the point.

After finally manually setting my jaw back where it needed to be on my face, plus a little down time to put my head on the desk and wallow in self-pity, I called Barbara again. Why? I don't know, I was grasping at straws. I asked her, just one last time, if the yoo-hoos could check my meter. Right then, when I wasn't at home. A few hours later the call came and the meter was indeed running, and of course, she doesn't know who my plumber is, or that he's sick, or that I was too tired to argue the point, and she said it. He was obvioulsy getting the two meters mixed up.

Yesterday I came home from work to find my parents at my house. I thought maybe they'd come by to do some staring at me, but it turns out my dad wanted to see if he could hear the water I could hear, and he could. He could just as plainly as I could, and so between the fact that he was trying to talk to me about who we should pick as new plumbers while I was outside my house trying in vain to find a way to open the still-stuck hatch on podmobile2, I had a slight nervous breakdown.

(Which, I'm happy to report, came to a dead halt when I went inside, got the remote opener on the second set of podmobile2 keys, hit the unlock button twice, and my hatch unlocked and opened. There was a small hay-looking piece of something near the latch, and I don't know if that's what caused the original problem, or it's in the remote. I don't care at this point. It opens.)

(Well, for now.)

I got a call last night reminding me of my 11:00 appointment this morning with The Furnace Man. (*whoooooosh!*) As you all know, The Furnace Man, who is actually The Furnace Men, Junior and Junior's son, Junior Junior, are my heating heroes. They fixed my old heat pump a hundred times, prolonged its life, and when it finally died of old age, they replaced it with a new one. They're friendly, efficient, not expensive, and I trust them to the ends of the Heating Earth. I like The Furnace Men. And every April, before Air Conditioning-Cranking Season, they give my heat pump a physical.

I popped out of work this morning and headed to the Poderosa, to find that The Furnace Van was already in the driveway. I got out of my car only to be greeted by not Junior or Junior Junior, but another Furnace Man. Kenny.

Kenny was also very friendly and efficient, came in, looked at the heating/cooling main, changed my filter for me, oiled some stuff, headed out back to check the heat pump itself, and came back to the door in just a scant few minutes.

With this piece of news.

"Ma'am, do you know that you have a leak at your outside spigot?"

"Ohhhhh, yes," I answered, and followed him around to the back of the house, even though the rain was frizzing my hair, and tried to explain four months of hell to him those fifty steps. I was finishing up my story as we hit the back of the house, and he said, "Well, it's right here behind the spigot. You don't have a frost-free spigot and apparently it's frozen at some point. I stuck my head in the crawlspace and saw where it was leaking and running down the crawlspace wall, then found the valve and turned it off for you. It's easily fixed by a plumber."

And I stood there for a moment. And I heard - nothing. No water.

As much as I wanted to, I resisted the urge to jump on top of Kenny and kiss him all over his face, but I did thank him profusely.

And between The Dad and I, I think we've decided on a plumber to come and fix the problem, hopefully ending the Great Water Debacle of 08.

I really wish The Furnace Man did plumbing, though. I'd so much rather give them the money, if only for finding the damn problem.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners! So, just what was wrong with Mr M's Clarinet?
- Honorable Mention goes to the dishy Michelle, with her, "Hard inner core, exterior fulla krapola."
- Runner-Up goes to the DeepFatFriar, with his, "He imagines clarineting errors--functions keenly." Which I would actually believe had I not played the horn myself.
- And this week's winner is Kellie (with an ie), with her, "Heineken In Clarinet. Ed's Favorite Keg." Which is funny, but Mr M wouldn't take his Rossi within 100 yards of the Sauerkraut Band. Are you kidding?
- Thanks to all who played, you've all done very well!


Monday, April 21, 2008


Hello, all my acrofriends. And welcome to another mind-numbing round of acromania.

I'm appealing to you all for some help here. Well, actually I'm not, but Mr M is.

As you know, Mr M has the beloved Rossi clarinet. The clarinet he paid an extortionate amount of money for, although it does come with a rather cute screwdriver for tightening keys. He loves this instrument, and in a world where men are free to marry musical instruments, I'm sure they'd be strolling down the aisle. And playing their own first dance song.

Well, for about the past two weeks, there's been a problem with the Rossi. Mr M will be playing along, then will get into about the high B-natural, high C range, and the thing just goes nuts. It hesitates, the notes won't come out, and it's driven him just about to the brink of a nervous breakdown. He's shoved leak lights up it to look around, has removed keys and replaced them, has performed all sorts of minor surgeries, and nothing has helped. He's going to drastic measures tonight - a blowout, so speak. He's blowing it out to see if there's anything lodged inside.

Anyway, this week's acrotopic shall be, "What Is Wrong With Mr M's Clarinet?" Maybe you clever sorts can come up with the answer to his problem.

All the other rules are the same. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym that matches not only the topic above, but also the letters below which are randomly drawn from the acrobasket. The acrobasket offered to lose a handle once to make Mr M a new clarinet reed. Then tomorrow at 10:00 pm est, I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners.

The topic, "What Is Wrong With Mr M's Clarinet?" The letters:


So, help a friend in need. Acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Everything I have is broken. I'm not kidding. I really am King Midas In Reverse.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to another round of Picture Sunday. No recipe du jour this week, so if that's what you came for, you shall be disappointed.

This was an odd weekend for me. The good and the bad.

The good was that I had Friday off. This was because I was supposed to have plans for this weekend. A Hackensaw Boys concert that didn't come off (the club closed down!), and a weekend of lazing around with my long-lost cousin Jacob. Even though the concert was canceled, I had hopes of going to R'noke anyway and still lazing. However, Jacob called and was sick. She said she felt like shit, but offered to still go, but as she was sick with the same strain of crud I fought for six weeks and have just finally gotten over, I passed. I told her I loved her dearly, but didn't want to be quarantined in a room with her for two days. She understood.

Instead, I spent my Friday off - almost all day of it - working in the yard of the Poderosa. That would be the lower forty, or in my case, the lower one. It's a small yard. I'd mowed on Thursday, and Friday I wed and fed (is that the past-tense of using Weed & Feed?), then hit my flower bed to pull out the dying daffodils I hate with ever fiber of my being. Now my bed is ready to plant flowers I like much better, sturdier flowers that are easy to take care of.

I also have new fencing for the flower bed, in fact I have two kinds. I bought one kind and then found another I liked better. I'm awash in fences over here. Anyway, it doesn't really matter, because both kinds are in the back of podmobile2, and for some reason, the back hatch of podmobile2 won't open. It's just stuck. There is no way to open it with the key, there's no keyhole, no button from the inside that does it, the only way to open it is with the remote control opener. That opener will open nigh-on every door on my car but the back hatch. So not only can I not store groceries and large items there, but I can't get out the stuff that's in there now.

Podmobile2 is turning out not to be the trusty, stalwart, valiant friend that original podmobile was. Well, was until his steering wheel came off.

So Friday night I was way tired, and chilled around the house some, hoping to get out and have a nice rest of the weekend, Mr M took pity on me and invited me to B'burg, but things went very awry when I spent the entire damn day Saturday - I mean, from 8am to 8pm - waiting for my plumber.

He never arrived. And tomorrow I'm finding a new plumber.

So Saturday night was mainly drinking coffee, watching a movie, and welcoming a new member of the household.


To tell you about that, I have the saddest of news to report. Yes, the lowlight of my week (which up until then had been the fact that the lawn mower I fixed myself last week broke again) happened yesterday.

As I said, I was mowing on Thursday and doing other work on Friday. My "yard outfit" had gotten mighty dirty, and in all those hours of waiting for the plumber to come yesterday, I did a hefty load of laundry. Round about 4:00 I started the task of loading the wet clothes into the dryer. One handful, fine, another handful, great.... Then I looked down into the washing machine.

And there laid my iPod.

My wonderful and beloved iPod, my surprise Christmas present from Mr M in 2006, my constant car and exercise companion. I didn't realize he was still in the pocket of those yard work pants. But he was, and there he laid, on a mountain of wet clothes, like the dead hero in an opera.

When you see a sight like that, you tend to do odd things. I pulled the iPod out of the machine and immediately tried to turn him on. No go. Then I - and it's embarrassing, but true - tried to give him the kiss of life. I went to his little usb hole and blew into it. I was thinking if he was water-logged, I could blow the water out and all would be well. Of course, now I realize how stupid that was, but I was desperate.

I loved that iPod. But he was dead.

And there was nothing to do but go to the store and buy another iPod. And so I grabbed my envelope that held most of my Christmas bonus, which I'd been saving for a rainy day, and which was going to be my weekend trip money, and headed out. I got a new iPod. And still have $90 of the bonus left, which is nice, but this new iPod just doesn't have the character of the old one. The old one was slim, long, lithe. The new generation iPods are short and squat. Believe me, I have enough short and squat in my life. But this one has more space in it and plays movies and videos, even though I'd never do that, I mean, who wants to watch a movie on an iPod? What am I, sixteen years old?

Anyway, Saturday night became Load New Music Into the iPod night as well.

But before that happened, we had a little service for my old trusty friend.

A lot of the household gadgets showed up. The old digital camera, well, the new one did too, but he was getting the picture. The portable CD player, my metronome, a remote control came as the representative for all nine of my remotes, the Flip showed up, the new iPod was there as a show of respect, the portable cassette recorder made an appearance, as did the armband iPod holder, who, in a fit of grief cried out, "Why? Why? Had you been in me this never would have happened!"

Old iPod was laid out nicely, and everyone said he looked very natural.

And when my metronome did a eulogy about how he liked to keep time with old iPod's music, well, the cassette recorder just couldn't help himself and lost control.

It was a lovely service.

I went to B'burg this afternoon for a few duets and dinner with Mr M and the DeepFatFriar, and new iPod served me well, though I just can't get used to his new shape. A honeymoon period, I think.

And then back home. Now it's trash time, and getting ready for tomorrow.

Sorry about the recipe. Hopefully it shall return next time.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* There is a new movie at the Comfy Chair Cinema! Hey, did you like "The Yodel of Love" a few weeks back? Then you'd better head over there right this minute to check out the new feature, "The Yodel of Love, Pt 2," or "It's a Wonderful Pickle."
* By the by, the old iPod is lying in state on my television this week. If you'd like to pay your respects, come on over.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Guy Went Crazy

Boy, aren't we all lucky that I'm such a well-adjusted and happy person?

OK, I didn't expect you to believe it, but if you've known me a while, you have to know that I'm a lot better than I used to be. In the old days, and I'm talking up until about five or so years ago, depression would take over my life - it would point me in the direction of the chair and make me sit staring at the wall. I'm happy to say that I can now multi-task the occasional depression and still get on with the business of living and even interacting with people and having fun. It's an odd thing.

I finished my taxes tonight. My state taxes, it wasn't a last-minute thing, I had until May 1st. But this is about the latest I've ever completed them, and I kept putting it off and forgetting. I'm getting a refund, so I don't know why it's loomed over me like the harbinger of hate it's become, but I finally got to a point yesterday where I was thinking, "Hey, wonder if I call the state and say, 'Listen, I'm getting a $200 refund, but I really don't want to do my taxes, so would it be OK if I just didn't file and let you all keep the money?' they'll say it's all right?" To me it would be worth it.

I did my taxes tonight in less than a half-hour. I don't even know if I did them right, didn't double check, just went to the state's website, logged in, hit no, yes, yes, no, no, yes, put in some numbers, and hit "submit." And it's done.

The folks are home from Florida, and my mom still has a myriad of medical problems, most of them stemming from the fact that she won't do what she's supposed to do. She was finally diagnosed with psoriasis, and this diagnosis seems to have brought her to the depths of humanity. She was given, by her specialist, a prescription for a new drug that is supposed to manage the condition pretty well, but she was determined from the beginning not to take it. She still hasn't. Instead, she goes to other doctors and gets other prescriptions, and complains about her hands and feet and all the other places she breaks out, and this woman has taken enough prednisone to fell a small European country.

She developed a stabbing pain in her stomach/back region right before they started home, went for tests in Florida, came home without the results, and went for tests up here today. I've thrown up my hands many times in this whole debacle, but I always keep bringing my hands back down and trying to help her, suggest to her that she needs to stick with her specialist and go to no general physicians around here, but she won't listen.

And so I worry, and know that there's not a damn thing I can do for her unless she wants to help herself first.

But still, I've been relatively happy, and scooting right along with the business of living a life.

It's been a year since my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He had an appointment with his oncologist on Monday, had some bloodwork done, and is awaiting the results. His scan in December showed him cancer-free, and he came back from Florida looking as good as I've seen him look in ten years. But he worries about Mom, and those blood tests are still pending, and I have some Dad worry floating around me as well.

I think, and I know I'm going to hell for this, so you don't need to tell me I am, I think what bothers me so much about my mom right now is that during all this not doing what she's supposed to do she's whined and bitched and moaned and pissed constantly about it. She has psoriasis, for God's sake. My dad had fucking lung cancer and I never heard as much as a discouraging word through all the chemo and radiation and hair loss and skin burning off. Put it in goddamn perspective, Mom.

OK, that rant over, I'm still in good condition, and playing the clarinet and going to see the Hackensaw Boys and doing a podcast and having a fine old time.

I came in to work this morning to some rather shocking news. See, we've had a trainee for about 2 months now. A very green 21 year-old college graduate learning the ropes. It was some tough going, but he finally started opening up a little and letting us see he was indeed human, and I was getting to like the little guy. When I walked in the door, The Boss handed me a folded up piece of notebook paper. It was his resignation.

It was obviously very hastily written, I have an idea in his vehicle right after he left work yesterday, then placed on The Boss's desk for her to find this morning. He said nothing but glowing things about us and our efforts to help him and be friends with him, but he said he had some "personal problems" that were making it very hard for him right now, and that he wasn't giving the job the attention it deserved and he felt he was being very unfair to us all by continuing on. I knew that he'd just broken up with a girlfriend recently, and it apparently was a pretty bitter split, but I found out later from San, my friend, workmate, and mother figure, that there was other weird stuff going on with him as well. Living situations, apparently a pretty weird-ass family, he was alone in a town where he didn't know anyone....

So now, though again I'm living a pretty good life here and though again there's not damn thing I can do about it, I'm starting to worry about the little fella. I mean, he has to work somewhere, I'm assuming, and he'd mentioned to San that after work he goes home and sits on his porch, alone, till after dark, and now I'm worried he's going to do that 24 hours a day till he calcifies. I hope he doesn't.

However, what's really been looming over me has been hovering for about 3 weeks now. Every time I write the date. At work, on a check, I write the date and say it to myself. "3 weeks now." "It's only 2 weeks." "It's just a few days." And by that I mean the 1-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. April 16th.

And I say this like it's just popped into my head that it's time to remember it all. But it hasn't been that way, not for me, because I never really forgot it. I think of it most days. I think of it every time I drive back from B'burg, through N'rows, the town where my dad's side of the family always lived. That's where one of the vicitims was from, who my cousin Jacob knew when he was just a boy, though he wasn't much more than a boy when he was killed.

I think about it every time I see the campus. B'burg is pretty much built around Virginia Tech, and you can't drive to many places without seeing at least part of the campus. All I have to do is see one of those many gray stone buildings, and it comes back. I think about it when I drive down Main Street, where a church has 32 flags representing the countries of the victims. I thought about it during all the Hokie football games. I think about it every time I record my service hours for the VT Engage vounteering program. (Being in Community Band gives you service hours.) I think about it every time the television reports another case of campus violence.

I thought about it when the Dear Nephew was accepted to be a resident adviser at his university for next year. One of the first victims last year was an RA.

I thought about it last week when I was on campus seeing the Hackensaw Boys. It was International Week, and the hall where The Boys played was filled with happy people of all nations, in costumes, dancing and mingling and having a great time. And I was having a great time. But I was thinking.

Certain songs that have never meant such to me now remind me of the time. Of that week of shock and sadness, and of hope and togetherness. There's not much that doesn't remind me of it.

Yesterday it was very hard to let go of. It was unseasonably cold here, and snowed most of the day. It was unseasonably freezing that day. Bitter cold, it was. I mentioned to the girls at work I just couldn't shake the feeling, and they didn't really get it. I don't expect them to. I'm not sure I get it myself.

I knew none of the victims. I'm not a Tech graduate. I've seen and heard it before. A guy went crazy and killed some people.

But it's never happened in my place. My friendly mountains, my adopted B'burg, my second home. Home of my friends, my bands, the place I've gone to for most of my social activities for the last 25 years.

And I'll never understand it, but none of us ever will, and it's happened before and will surely happen again.

And so I continue to multi-task, and live my pretty good life while thinking about the horror of last year. I probably will for a long time, and I almost feel ashamed of that. I don't know why, but I do.

I guess because it's easy to laugh and joke and snark around. People don't want to hear that you can't stop thinking about some people who were murdered. And so I'll not talk about it anymore.

But I'm OK.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So give me your fake headlines.
- Honorable Mention goes to Kellie (with an ie), with her, "Elephant Dung Aids Some Nauseous Orlandoers." (Orlandoers? Is that what they're called?)
- Runner-Up goes to LilyG, with her, "Easter Duck Accepts Settlement - Now Orthodox." (Who sued the Easter Duck?)
- And we have a first-time winner this week, it's Duke, with his very vivid, "Exhumed Dinosaur Attacks Smithsonian North Offices." (I see a movie in there, Duke.)
- Thanks to all who played - you've all done very well!


Monday, April 14, 2008


Hello acroites, acroees, acroers, and acrobabes. Welcome to another round of acromania.

I read a headline today on one of the online news sites. It went like this. Exactly. "JK Rowling Heads To Court In Potter Suit." Now, I know what that means, and you do too. Someone's writing some Harry Potter spin-off book, and she's trying to stop it from happening, and she's going to court to do so. But you know me, and I couldn't help giggling on and off all day at the thought of JK Rowling heading off to court in her Harry Potter suit. You know, glasses, cape, wand.

Anyway, this week's acro is easy. "Make Me A Headline." It doesn't have to have a double meaning, be true, or anything else. Just make me up a headline.

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. "Wicker Basket Wins Nobel Peace Prize." Then tomorrow night at 10:00 est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners.

So the topic, "Make Me A Headline." The letters:


So, acro. Please.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* No updates. Late for podcasting.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Picture Sunday

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

Business as usual this weekend, no Hackensaw Boys, no Community Band concerts, just clarinet duets and movies. And meat loaf and mashed potatoes. And it was good.

OK, we're going to go straight to the recipe du jour.

You know, my boy Sherman isn't just a layabout cartoon character. He goes to school. Well, home-school, taught by Mr Peabody. Last semester he built a bridge out of fudge. This year. Well, this year he did this.

Yes, the marshmallow castle. The plans were apparently done by geometric equations, but they're all very hush-hush. All I know is that it took two bags of marshmallows and a lot of patience.

And now that that's done, an extra treat for you all. Sherman and I made a little documentation of the building of the marshmallow castle. It's crude, the camera moves, and the music's not in sync, but what the hey. You make a movie by taking 56 2-second mini-movies and editing them together. And we'll talk.

And don't think that's this week's Comfy Chair Cinema movie, it's not! See the Olympic Update for that.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Yes, it is, a new movie up at the Comfy Chair Cinema. It's a retrospective, so bring your pencil and paper, because you might be asked about it in film class, if you decide to take one. And then maybe one day I'll take one.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Water Water, pt 2

Hello, friends.

When last I left you, I was wrangling with the town, speaking to my old friend Barbara at the water office, and hoping I'd get a new water meter. Remember that my water usage flew from about 3000 to 9000 gallons in one month, then began to vary with great degree, and I was about to get really, really hinky.

When last week's Water Water installment ended, I was told I probably wouldn't get a new meter, because apparently such a jump just isn't bizarre enough to warrant one, but Barbara was printing out my water history and sending it to the Man In Charge.

Cut to Wednesday morning last. I woke up, not to my normal two alarms, but to noise outside my bedroom window. I got up, turned off the still-sleeping alarms, and sat up. I could see the welcome blinking yellow light of a town truck. I ran to the window like a kid running to the tree on Christmas morning. I was getting a new meter!

I was late to work that morning, owing to the fact that the water was off for about an hour at my house. But I putzed around doing what I could before showering, and finally the truck meandered off, without nary a town yoo-hoo coming to my door to tell me what was done. When I got to work, I sat down and phoned Barbara.

Here's what I found out. I didn't get a new meter. Instead, these town yoo-hoos did what I'd also asked Barbara to have them do from the beginning of this whole debacle, to dig around the meter to see if there was a leak somewhere on their side. Remember, they'd done this before, and found a leak, fixed it, and all was well till this last flare-up. And so Barbara went on to happily tell me that they'd dug, found a leak between where their meter connects to my line, fixed it, the meter was now not running (a good thing in the Water World), all was well, and Barbara herself was in the process of adjusting my water bill.

But then I had to go and open my big mouth.

I asked Barbara about a pressure reducing valve. See, about a year ago the town put all new lines through the city limits, and it apparently raised the water pressure a good deal. So they were offering, at a nominal fee, a pressure reducing valve to attach to your own personal water line to, well, to reduce pressure. I didn't go for one, I'm not sure why, but I didn't. And after all this, I started to wonder if maybe I should have taken a valve.

When I asked Barbara if the fact that I didn't get one of these valves could have caused two leaks at the meter, she said she didn't rightly know, but she didn't think it would. I asked if I could come and get a pressure reducing valve anyway, and she said no, because they were all out. There was a real run on them, and when they ran out that was it, they wouldn't order any more. She told me that I could buy my own and have a plumber install it, but before I did, maybe she should send someone out to check the water pressure at my house. Did I have an outside spigot? I sure did, I answered, and told her it was at the back of the house.

I hung up the phone happy, and with the slight possibility of being happier if I could find out whether I needed one of these valves.

Two hours later I received a phone call from Barbara. This phone call contained five curt pieces of news.

1. The yoo-hoos had come to my house to check my water pressure. It was 100 pounds, which is very high.
2. While the yoo-hoos were there, they heard water running behind the wall at the back of the house where the spigot was.
3. The yoo-hoos, because of this, checked the meter again. It was running again.
4. I did in fact have a leak, even though I didn't seem to have one two hours earlier.
5. Barbara had stopped the business of adjusting my water bill, because my problem was now no longer their problem.

Talk about going from the penthouse to the outhouse in the span of a morning.

When I went home for lunch, I turned off anything in my house that could have sound. It was a quiet shell. I started walking along the walls at the back of my house, and when I reached the laundry room, I heard it. Water was running. I continued into the bathroom and heard it there. Yes, for the first time, I heard a leak.

I went back to work from lunch and called my plumber. He was agog. Well, first of all, I have to report with a shock that still lingers, I was agog, because he actually picked up the phone. He was home, presumably not hanging upside down, and I didn't have to leave a message on the answering machine.

However, that all waned when he kept telling me there was no leak and nothing was wrong. This back and forth went on for some time, then he finally decided that if there was a leak, which there wasn't, it was in the toilet. I told him I didn't think so, that that wasn't where the water sound was coming from, but he insisted the toilet was all it could be. But the food coloring test, I protested. It passed the food coloring test. He told me to try another test. Turn the valve to the toilet off, take the top off the toilet, mark the water line with a pencil, wait at least two hours and more if possible, and see if the water went below the pencil line. I told him I'd give it a go.

And I did. And I knew that when I turned the toilet valve off and could still hear the sound of water running, it was going to be a big fat failure, and it was. After leaving the toilet overnight, the water had not moved even a smidge.

I told the plumber. He didn't believe it. He insisted it had to be in the toilet. He insisted right up to, but not past, the point of saying, "I'll be right over and look at it."

He promised to come over and look around again. That was Friday. He hasn't come yet.

I can still hear the water running. And my water bill rising.

Funny how I couldn't hear the water running before the town yoo-hoos showed up, huh.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, please tell me, what did you do with Jesus.
- Honorable Mention goes to DeepFatFriar, with his, "Dined sumptuously down under the aquaduct."
- Runner-Up goes to Stennie, with her, "Didn't steal Don's underwear, that's all." (Sounds like Stennie's hiding something.)
- And this is a most amazing night. For the first time in history, and last time I'm sure, we have a three-way tie for the winning acro. Three entries were so clever, and me chuckle so hard, it's impossible to choose between them. They are, in order of arrival in the comments, the dishy Michelle's "Danced seductively down United's tarmac 'A'," LilyG's "Dropped stones directly upon the apostates," and Kellie (with an ie)'s "Discussed Sin, Dogma, Ultimate Truth, Aliens." Three massive acros!
- Thanks to all who played, you've all done very well!


Monday, April 07, 2008


Hello, acroers. And all the rest. And welcome to another round of acromania.

You know, I was driving today. I was driving to the optometrist's. I had an appointment. (I just don't drive there for a past-time, you know.) And on my way, I saw something on a church marquee.

Now, I live in the Bible Belt, and so I see many, many pithy sayings on church marquees. So many I don't even notice them anymore. They're not clever, they're not edgy, they don't make me want to go to church. I've become oblivious to them.

Except this one. For all it said was, "What Did You Do With Jesus?"

This marquee stopped me in my tracks. All I could think of when first seeing it was, "What? Jesus is missing?" Then I began to think about it literally, what did you do with Jesus? Play cards? Go fishing? Take him for a ride on your new scooter? What?

Tonight's acrotopic is, "What Did You Do With Jesus?"

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 spent a Sunday collecting money for Jesus. Then tomorrow night at 10:00 est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners.

So the topic, "What Did You Do With Jesus?" The letters:


Now, send Jesus home and acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* My eyes are doing very well, might I add. I got lesser prescriptions for both eyes.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to another round of Picture Sunday. It was a big weekend this weekend. Too bad I don't have more pictures of it.

It started yesterday when Mr M and I headed off to - wait, we didn't head off to anywhere. Because our very own Hackensaw Boys were playing right in B'burg. No long traveling, no overnight stays, just a quick jump across town and there we were.

They were playing on the campus of Virginia Tech, and I learned a couple of things very quickly after the Boys took the stage.

1. The Commonwealth Ballroom is an absolutely shitty place to hold a concert. Now, granted, the music was part of an entire festival going on there (it was International Week at Tech, which, tell me how the Hackensaws fit into that because I haven't figured it out yet), and the music was on a stage at one end of the ballroom while the booths and "International Market" were all set up on the other end of the room. But you know, I saw a concert in that same damn ballroom some 20 years ago, and remember commenting on the shitty sound. It hasn't changed. It was like seeing the Boys in a gymnasium. But you go where they are, and the whole shebang was supposed to be outside and got moved indoors because of the weather.

2. I have a lot to learn - possibly via a four-year film school course - about videotaping the Hackensaw Boys. Yes, I was so excited to have my Flip camera in tow, and by about the second song it became very apparent that a) I like to be too close to get all the boys in one shot, b) I like to dance too much to hold a camera steady, and c) well, I just want to enjoy the show. I did get a couple of songs done, and one while they were out on the floor, but I don't know that you'll ever see them. To put them on the Comfy Chair Cinema, I have to send it to YouTube, and I feel a little leery about doing that. Is it copyright infringement? Even though there are nearly 100 other Hackensaws videos there? I don't know, you tell me.

Anyway, the best part - and certainly most unexpected part - was that I had family galore at this shindig. After arriving and scoping out our first perch in front of the stage, my cousin Jacob found us. She was there with her husband, and she talked to us for a while before retreating to the side of the stage. She doesn't like to be in the hoeing down area.

Then, after the show was a few songs in, and some folks at the front had ambled off and Mr M got us primo real estate right in front of the stage, who should walk up and plop himself beside me but my Dear Nephew. He and a school friend made the trip and he sat with us the whole show, well, the whole show until I moved. He also endeared himself to me by wearing his smokin' bunny t-shirt.

After sitting in the floor for a while (at the front, you had to sit in the floor), Mr M finally urged me to go dance, and I did, got up and walked back a few feet to where the dancing was going on. And who should I spy in the audience, near the door, but my sister! My sister, bluegrass music hater, was at a Hackensaw Boys concert. Then I looked over and found her husband there too. I dont' know what possessed them, but I got my sister over to where I was, and we watched the rest of the show together.

Anyway, in lieu of a video, and because I need some pictures for Picture Sunday, here is a still from Saturday.

Baby J! He plays bass! He plays guitar! He plays accordion! He plays harmonica! He has pinchable cheeks! And - he points! (And good Lord, I promise you that demon-seed-looking girl in the lower left-hand corner was just a regular girl.)

Then today it was the Blacksburg Community Band's spring concert. It came off well, though not necessarily because of me. I didn't play like I wanted to, and had the embarrassing experience of a solo when I didn't want one. The very last note of a movement of our most challenging piece, I squeaked. I also got very tired very early into things, and at some points found myself blowing more air out of my horn than into it. But no one died, at least not that I know of, and I got through all the pieces and can put that to rest till next year.

Afterwards the DeepFatFriar invited Mr M and I over for a lamb dinner, which rocked, and it was a good way to relax before starting the journey back home.

The only other photos I have are of Mr M's snobbish neighbors. This new family moved in a couple of months ago, and I just don't know what to make of them. When I arrive at his house, they're always at the fence staring at me. And I always speak, in their native tongue, no less, but they've yet to speak back. They just stand and stare. I thought you might like to see these rude next-door neighbors.

Yes, every time they're there, I give them a hearty "moooooo!" and they just look at me like I'm insane. Snots.

However, one of them has a most interesting hairstyle.

Reminds me of Ryan Seacrest.

Anyway, because of the busy weekend and the late hour I arrived home, there is no recipe du jour.

However, I would like to announce that there is a new movie at the Comfy Chair Cinema. I made it Friday night, and I think it's my best work yet. I'm giving you the link to the Cinema there, but I'm also giving you the YouTube link here, because when I view it from the Cinema page, it reloads over and over, thus pausing the video, and believe me, people, this isn't a video that needs to be paused. (I think it pauses because it's so long - I made a three minute movie, guys!)

Hope you like it.

And I guess that's it for this weekend. Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Well, I see where I can upload a video right here from blogger, using their stuff. Let's try....


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Water Water Everywhere (Actually, Water Water Nowhere, But I Seem To Be Paying For It)

Today is April Fool's Day. And aren't I just on the Train of Big Fools.

I did a rather ranting blog on Feb 6th. It was about my water bill. You can go back and read it for the full recap, but I'll give the lazier amongst you the Reader's Digest version. About five months ago, the water bills at the Podersa, my humble home, went from normal to astronomical. They did this because my water usage went from normal to astronomical. Or so the town says. I don't say it, because I've not changed one thing in my day-to-day living in the past, well, truth be told, ever, since I've lived here, but certainly not in the last five months.

And when I say the town's telling me my water usage has gone right out the proverbial wazoo, I mean it. From 3400 to 9700 gallons in one month.

The first time this happened, well.... Wait. Let's go back to the real first time it happened. The actual first time it happened was not quite a year ago. I went from a small amount to a large amount, got on the phone, and called the town. That was my first-ever phone meeting with the ubitquitous Barbara, who really is a very nice and friendly lady, and she sent someone to read my meter, and she said it was running when I wasn't home. That's apparently not a good thing in the Water World, and she had some town people to come over and dig around. They found a leak right at the meter site, right on their side of the "who pays" line, fixed it, and all was well again. Till those storied five months ago.

That was when I took that big plunge mentioned above. And from the time of that plunge till the time I'm sitting here writing this, I've just become a mental wreck.

Now back to the Reader's Digest version of that last blog. When the second big jump came, I called Barbara again, and again she had someone read my meter, and again it was running. She suggested I had a toilet running somewhere in my home, and since I just have the one, it didn't take me long to find it, and I changed all its innards and made sure they were new and secure. Still the high water bill. So I called again, and was told to test my toilet by dripping food coloring into the tank and seeing if any leaked out. I did, and it didn't. Then she said she'd send someone out again to read the meter. Again.

Of course, during all this, she kept telling me she didn't think I had a leak anywhere, because of the now-famous line which has become both the bane of my existence and the reason for my insanity. "A leak won't fix itself." See, my water usage wasn't getting larger, as would happen with a leak, or even staying the same. It was varying, up, down, 9000 gallons one month, then 7500, then 8100, then 6000. Barbara had the town do everything - everything, of course, but to have them come and dig, because it just couldn't be a leak - and finally, she sent some yoo-hoos out to read my meter when the water main was turned off. The meter didn't run when that happened, and so these yoo-hoos confirmed to me that I had a leak either under my house or in my yard. Then they wandered off to wherever town yoo-hoos wander off to, and I was left with, well, I was left with a leak that fixes itself. And not only fixes itself, but fixes itself at will, then leaks again, then fixes itself again. I called Barbara yet again, and funnily enough, this time she decided that I did in fact have a leak, self-repairable or not, and that I should call a plumber.

I was disgusted and confused, but I called my plumber, who, remember, hangs upside down like a bat 23 hours of the day, and he said he'd be around to look, but he never came. In the meantime, The Ziffel (don't even ask), the husband of my friend, workmate, and mother figure San, came over. Now, The Ziffel knows his stuff. I daresay he could build his own house, roof it, wire it, plumb it, paint it, and landscape it. He came inside the house and walked around with his ear to every wall and the floors. He said normally, and especially in a house as small as the The Pod, if there was a leak, you'd hear it. He heard nothing. Then one sunny day he came over and crawled around in my yard all morning feeling for wetness, giving-way spots, and places where there could be anything odd going on. He said, "You don't have a leak, and you need to call the town and tell them to replace your meter. If you ask, they have to do it, and that's where the real test will be. But I can guarantee you don't have a leak."

And so that was that, but I didn't call, because I'm alternately extremely busy during the day and forgetful in those rare moments of peace and quiet.

I was sitting at home about a month ago, hanging around after work, probably playing Text Twist, when I heard someone - and no, I'm not making this up - sweeping the steps in front of my dennette door. I got up to see who in the hell would be doing this, and it was my plumber. Yes, he'd turned himself upright and headed over to have a look around. He did the same thing inside that The Ziffel did, checking faucets and hoses and toilets and bathtubs, listening here, rubbing there, he looked behind the latticework in the laundry room where the water heater sits, pronounced it "dry as a bone," then he went underneath my house to the crawlspace. He was gone awhile, then came back to the door and told me he saw nary a leak, and that I needed to call the town and tell them something was wrong with the meter.

And so that was that again, but again I didn't call, because of the above reasons, and also because I'm kind of backwards, and I had a feeling they'd tell me I couldn't have a new meter and that would hurt my feelings.

But yesterday I paid bills. A depressing thing in the best of times, but there was my water bill, all $65.72 of it, staring me in the face. And I knew it was now or never.

I always pay my water bill at the town office's drive-through. (Sorry, can't bring myself to use "thru.") It's on the way home, and I just pop by at lunch, hand them my check, they stamp it, and give me my portion back. So I have several months' worth of stubs in the visor of podmobile2. For those I don't have, I have a check register. Those only have prices, of course, not water usage, but I started looking at what I had. I've got an array of water bills since July that range from $40.02 to $67.61 to $31.64 to $65.43 to $57.62 - well, you get the idea. There's absolutely no pattern there.

So today I asked San (the mother figure, you know), "Now, if I call them and tell them I want a new meter, they have to do it, right?" And she said, "Of course they do. They're the town, you're the citizen, you're paying your bills, they have to do it." And so, and I'm not kidding here, I dialed the town offices with one hand while white-knuckle gripping my current water bill and check in the other. And I got my old friend Barbara.

And while Barbara was still very nice and friendly, and really, I do like her a lot even though we've never actually met, she pretty much told me that I wasn't getting a new meter. She said, and get this, you'll love it, that something really bizarre had to be going on before the supervisors would OK a new meter install. By something bizarre, I can only imagine they mean a little green man pops out of your meter every hour on the hour and does a naked toe-dance in your yard for the neighbors before heading back underground.

And so I went on again, and again Barbara said she'd have someone read my meter, which, honestly, that just gets right up my snout, it's the same fucking meter I've had all this time, and yes, once again, Barbara used that tried and true phrase, "A leak won't fix itself." And when she did, I just kind of lost it.

And I did in fact get to use the phrase that I hedged on using during our last phone call, and told her that apparently I did have a leak that fixed itself. Then, well, it's sad to say, I just began to plead. Like a man being strapped in the electric chair.

I just kept telling her, "You're reading my water usage to me over all these months, and it goes from 9000 to 7000 to 8000 to 6000. Do you not think that's odd? If I'd normally been using 2500 gallons a month, and I have a month where my usage decreases 2000 gallons? That means I'm basically using no water for an entire month."

Barbara said she certainly felt for me (I think what she felt was a need to get me off the phone), and that she'd print out my entire saga there and send it over to her supervisor and see what he had to say. But she's still sending someone over to read my meter tomorrow.

My meter must be one hell of a good read.

I'm supposed to hear from her tomorrow afternoon. I'll keep you posted.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, tell me about your breakfast cereal.
- Honorable mention goes to LilyG, with her, "Doctors ecstatic -- nuts, leaves, young locusts." Leaves!
- Runner-Up goes to Kellie (with an ie), and her, "Dainty Egg Noodles. Like Yodeling Lederhosen." Sorry, I loved that she worked the Yodeling Lederhosen in there.
- And this week's winner is the dishy Michelle, with her, "Damaged, excreted nuts, legumes, yellow lentils." Finally - a place for damaged nuts.
- Thanks to all who played - you've all done very well!