Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Read Like an Egyptian

The Great Pyramids, the winding Nile, archeological treasures from ancient civilizations—the lure of Egypt is irresistible. Whether it is recreating the lives of ancient Egypt, solving mysteries with mummies, mixing the modern world with ancient mythologies, or exploring the nuances of the country’s long political history, stories that revolve around Egypt are destined for drama and adventure.

The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips, 2004, Random House Books (Historical Fiction)

In the 1920s, Egyptologist Ralph M. Trilipush (secretive, arrogant, and paranoid) has pinned all his hopes on Atum-hadu. Trilipush translated and published the ancient Egyptian king’s erotic verses, but his fame in the field rests on finding the pharaoh’s tomb and accompanying riches. Trilipush is not especially well respected by his fellow scholars and he’s maddeningly jealous of Howard Carter’s recent discovery of the tomb of King Tut. But now he’s got the funding (from his opium-addicted fiancĂ©’s wealthy father) for his own dig, and he knows that Atum-hadu is out there, under the Egyptian sun, waiting to be uncovered. If things don’t go according to plan—and with an Australian detective on his tail, investigating the disappearance of an explorer who had connections to our arrogant Egyptologist, plans might very well go awry—Ralph M. Trilipush is equipped with exactly the kind of raving megalomania to cope with the situation. Author Arthur Phillips’ tale of deceit, self-deceit, and exposure unfolds through a series of letters to and from Trilipush. With a streak of macabre humor peeking out amongst the drama and a mean twist of an ending, The Egyptologist is a strange, darkly comic creation that is sure to shock and surprise.

Crocodile on the Sandbank: Amelia Peabody Mysteries, Book 1 by Elizabeth Peters, 1988, Mysterious Press, originally published 1975 (Mystery/ Historical Fiction)

The first thing Amelia Peabody does when she gets her independence after the death of her father is to head out and explore the wonders of Egypt. Not your typical Victorian spinster, Amelia is destined for adventure. So when she collects an elegant damsel in distress, the handsome archeologist Emerson brothers, and a walking, talking (well, moaning), two-thousand-year-old mummy along the way, it should come as no surprise that the iron-willed, umbrella-wielding Englishwoman knows how to deal with supposed curses and fainting ladies. But in the hot-tempered personality of dashing Radcliffe Emerson, Amelia appears to have met her match. It is hardly spoiling the story to reveal that the comically tempestuous relationship that develops between Amelia and Emerson is the force that drives not just Crocodile on the Sandbank, but the other eighteen books in the series. The real appeal lies not so much in the mysteries (though crime does indeed abound among the ruins of the ancient pharaohs) but in author Elizabeth Peters’ dynamic cast of characters and impeccable re-creation of the sights and sounds of Victorian-era Egypt. Peters has been writing about Amelia and her unconventional family, quirky friends, and deliciously wicked enemies for nigh on thirty years. The books take place in the years 1884 to 1922 (Amelia ages gracefully but never grows an ounce less resolute) and each explores another facet in the relationships of the Peabody-Emerson clan, another archeological site in Egypt, and another chapter in the ever-evolving history of that ancient nation. Fans can also check out Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium, a lovely big book overflowing with details about Amelia and her brood, how they thought, what they did, and what they saw in glorious Egypt.

Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters
1. Crocodile on the Sandbank
2. Curse of the Pharaohs
3. The Mummy Case
4. Lion in the Valley
5. The Deeds of the Disturber
6. The Last Camel Died at Noon
7. The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog
8. The Hippopotamus Pool
9. Seeing a Large Cat
10. The Ape Who Guards the Balance
11. The Falcon at the Portal
12. He Shall Thunder in the Sky
13. Lord of the Silent
14. The Golden One
15. Children of the Storm
16. Guardian of the Horizon
17. The Serpent on the Crown
18. Tomb of the Golden Bird
19. A River in the Sky

The Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet: A Mamur Zapt Mystery, Book 1 by Michael Pearce, 1990, Doubleday Books (Mystery/ Historical Fiction)

The complex international politics of early 20th century Egypt provide the background for this first book in a series that stars Captain Gareth Owen, head (or “mamur zapt”) of the Cairo secret police. In 1881 Egypt’s ruler, the Khedive, nearly bankrupted the country and caused a major rebellion. Britain stepped in to “help”—and never left. Egypt is firmly under British rule in 1908 when our story takes place, with a slew of nationalist and anti-nationalist movements (some more extreme than others) striving to make their voices heard. A member of one of these factions must be responsible for the attempted assassination of politician Nuri Pash. A poor villager comes forward with a tale of revenge, but when police determine that his weapon was British army-issued, things become much more complex. This is the case Owen must solve, even as the city seethes with anticipation of the annual religious festival that celebrates the return of the Holy Carpet, the silk wrapping for the sacred stone at Mecca. Owen has many higher-ups to satisfy and many clues to navigate, but the heart of the story is the tentative friendship he forms with his Egyptian counterpart, Mahmoud el Zaki from the Ministry of Justice. The Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet (and the other titles in the series) is carefully plotted, precisely paced, and character-driven. Author Michael Pearce offers an authentic perspective into the politics and society of colonial Egypt, evokes a richly detailed Cairo that is a character unto itself, and presents an intricate political thriller to boot.

Mamur Zapt Mysteries by Michael Pearce
1. The Return of the Carpet
2. The Night of the Dog
3. The Donkey-Vous
4. The Men Behind
5. The Girl in the Nile
6. The Spoils of Egypt
7. The Camel of Destruction
8. The Snake-Catcher’s Daughter
9. The Mingrelian Conspiracy
10. The Fig Tree Murder
11. The Last Cut
12. Death of an Effendi
13. A Cold Touch of Ice
14. The Face in the Cemetery
15. The Point in the Market
16. The Mark of the Pasha

Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead by Nick Drake, 2007, Harper Collins (Historical Fiction/ Mystery)

The ancient pharaoh Ahkenaten is an enigmatic figure even to Egyptologists today. Author Nick Drake re-imagines the king and all the glory of his time in Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead. Ahkenaten is power-hungry and driven, and he’s got a lot on his mind. He’s built a new capital city, created a new style of art and culture, and imposed a new religion on his people. But his vision is severely compromised when his beautiful and beloved wife Nefertiti goes missing. The pharaoh summons Rai Rehotep, chief detective of the Thebes police force, to solve the mystery in ten days—or die trying. Rehotep accepts that his life (and the lives of his family, who will also die if he fails) are in the hands of the strange king, and sets his whole mind and being to the search for the lost queen. He’s given three assistants—ruthlessly ambitious Mahu, cautious Khety, and earnest young Tjenry—and the king’s leave to poke into every nook and cranny of the palace and the city. Rehotep is surprisingly modern in his investigative techniques. He analyzes gossip, interviews suspects, collects forensic evidence, and finds himself deep in conspiracy, scandal, and a fierce battle for power. Ancient Egypt is given the royal treatment in Nefertiti. Ahkenaten is a personality to be reckoned with, the new city of Ahketaten is teeming with intrigue, and readers are completely caught up in Rehotep’s race against time. Nefertiti is the first of a planned trilogy about detective Rehotep; book two is Tutankhamun:  The Book of Shadows.

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell, 2008, Random House Books (Literary Fiction/ Historical Fiction)

Miss Agnes Shanklin is a spinster schoolteacher in rural Ohio, the plain Jane in her family who is loved but overlooked nonetheless. She’s spent her life quietly obeying her hard-working mother and living vicariously through her sister. But when the Great War and the Great Influenza take her family away from her, Agnes is forced into the spotlight. Leaving her grief behind, Agnes takes her modest inheritance and her cheery little dachshund, Rosie, to Egypt. It’s 1921 and the world is still recovering from all those years of trench warfare, but in Cairo a peace conference is underway. Luminaries like Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, and Lawrence of Arabia are meeting to determine the fate of the Middle East. When Agnes wanders into their midst, her mild manner gives way to a sharp mind that serves as an ideal sounding board for their plans and ideas. Her attention is also drawn to Karl Weilbacher, an affable gentleman who showers Agnes with more kindness than she’s experienced in an entire lifetime. Karl is excessively interested in everything Agnes has to say—particularly when it relates to Churchill, Bell, Lawrence, and the plans of the European diplomats. Author Mary Doria Russell vividly portrays the real personalities who created the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, but it is Agnes, the fictional character who narrates this history, who readers will relate too. Inexperienced but by no means uninformed, Agnes navigates the waters of Egypt’s shifting political intrigues with a sense of wonder and wry intellect that is appealing and intimate.

The Professor’s Daughter by Joanne Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, 2007, First Second Books (Fantasy/ Historical Fiction/ Graphic Novel)

It’s a romance for the ages, told in that most colorful of narrative forms: the graphic novel. Lillian (pert and pretty) and Imhotep (dashing and dapper) are in love, and the duo makes quite a splash as they gad about Victorian-era London. Of course, many obstacles stand in their way—Lillian is the daughter of an eminent archeology professor, and Imhotep is a bandage-wrapped mummified Prince of Ancient Egypt. Imhotep is three-thousand years old and somewhat out of touch with modern life (a single cuppa turns him into a drunken mess, insulting gentlemen and wrecking tea rooms), and Lillian’s father is unlikely to approve the match (“You are the property of the British Museum. You are dead. Stay out of this!” the Professor cries when he discovers the mummy and his daughter in each other’s arms). Imhotep’s own mummified dad, the British police force, and Queen Victoria herself get tangled up in this whimsical romantic omedy. As the sprightly forms of Lillian and Imhotep dart across the pages, readers become enchanted by the pair’s hijinks and adventures. Originally published in France in 1997, The Professor’s Daughter was translated by noted graphic novel press First Second Books in 2007. Author and artist collaborators Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert are in fine form here—cheeky humor and expressive illustrations combine for a truly delightful romp.

The Red Pyramid: The Kane Chronicles, Book 1 by Rick Riordan, 2010, Hyperion Books for Children (Children’s Fiction/ Fantasy/ Adventure)

Author Rick Riordan is best known for his Percy Jackson and the Olympians books that combine the pantheon of Greek gods with a rag-tag bunch of modern kids on a heroic quest to save the world. In his new series, The Kane Chronicles, Riordan mines the equally rich Egyptian mythos for a similar but no less exciting adventure. Book one introduces Carter Kane (age 14) and Sadie Kane (age 12). Since the death of their mother six years ago, these siblings have lived separate lives. Carter roams the globe with his Egyptologist father, Julius, while Sadie lives in England with grandparents. The scattered family is reunited one Christmas Eve when Julius Kane brings his children to the British Museum. What happens there results in the destruction of the Rosetta Stone, the disappearance of Carter and Sadie’s dad, and the unleashed power of the ancient Egyptian god of chaos. This god, Set, is of course out to destroy the world and Carter and Sadie—who begin to display some unique powers of their own—are the only ones who can stop him. They are aided (and educated in Egyptian lore) by a colorful cast of magicians, gods, goddesses, and monsters. Sadie is cheeky and tenaciously curious; Carter is cautious but steadfast. The siblings’ banter (the tale is presented as a transcript of an audio recording) is as much fun as the action-packed chapters, and it’s a refreshing to have a female hero join a genre that finally features main characters with a biracial heritage (the Kane kids have a black father and a white mother). Riordan brings ancient Egypt to life and sends it crashing into the modern world. The result is non-stop, dynamic, rip-roaring adventure.

Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy-King by Christine El Mahdy, 2000, St. Martin’s Press (Nonfiction/ Ancient Egyptian History/ Pharaohs/ Biography)

Name an Egyptian pharaoh. Ten to one, the words “King Tut” came rolling out of your mouth almost automatically. When Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s untouched tomb was discovered in 1922 filled to the brim with gold and precious stones, it caused a worldwide sensation. And when several of the people involved in the excavation died of “mysterious causes” attributed to an ancient curse, Tut’s popularity went through the roof. But really, we know very little about the actual life and death of this immensely famous ancient ruler. With Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy-King, British Egyptologist Christine El Mahdy investigates the mystery that lies behind the legend. El Mahdy devoted most of her life and career to the study of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, which ruled the country more than 3,500 years ago. She outlines the ancient geography, culture, religion, politics, and society. She relates Tutankhamen’s family tree and describes the unique period into which he was born—the pharaoh before Tut was Ahkenaten, the heretic king who turned his back on Egypt’s traditional array of gods and built a brand new city in sole honor of the sun god. She describes the riveting account of the discovery of Tut’s tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter. And she constructs a new biography of Tutankhamen, this young man who was crowned king at the age of seven, died in his tender teenage years, and was entombed with almost unimaginable wealth. Tutankhamen is accessible, intriguing, intellectual, and brimming over with the author’s unmistakable enthusiasm for her subject.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hot For Teacher Testing

When I decided to leave consulting and become a teacher (note to self: in a lifetime full of errors, bevues, and regrets, this had to be one of the real keepers...) Oregon, and the nation, were in the midst of the fervor for "high-stakes testing".

Part of this was the whole Bush "No Child Left Behind" thing, but a lot of it goes back to the "A Nation At Risk" kid-brain-missile-gap hysteria and the usual need for the usual suspects to Do Something About It, or at least to be visibly seen Doing Something.In our case we had an assessment at 8th Grade, and then another in 10th, called the CIM or "Certificate of Initial Mastery". The theory was that in 12th grade the kiddos would take a CAM or "Certificate of Advanced Mastery" - what my father and mother had taken in high school in New York state in the 1940s and had been called a Regent's Exam.

The idea was the same; to use the test to certify that the kids had learned their lessons, at least the ones the state felt they needed to learn.

Well lots of schools torqued their entire curriculums around to fit this damn thing. For example, because the 10th graders had to take a History CIM the entire freshman year social science was taken up with something called "World Studies A" and "WS-B". And because the CIM started with questions about the Industrial Revolution, we started in September with the Industrial Revolution. And from there on to WW1. And from there on to the Russian Revolution. Why Russia? Who the hell knows? Especially since in 2002 teaching the Russian Revolution was like teaching buggy-whip making. The damn ramshackle Soviet ediface had just come tumbling down - who the hell cared about the Aurora and Kerensky and the Five Year Plan and Lenin.

Though my students loved the hell out of Boney M's "Rasputin":

"Rah Rah Rasputin
Lover of the Russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Rah Rah Rasputin
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on..."


Anyway, have you ever tried to teach history to 14-year-olds? It's like teaching sudoku to a cat. You will only frustrate yourself and the cat doesn't give a shit. Not surprisingly, for most of the kids WS-A and -B were a total wash.

Except maybe for Rasputin. They liked Rasputin.

But whether the little buggers learned history or not wasn't the point. They HAD to get the history fed them in 9th grade so they'd be ready for the Big Dance in 10th. God forbid that a teacher, or a school, or a district, flushed the CIM. You might never get funded for so much as a new Habitrail for the biology classroom again...

But I always looked at it this way; if you make me take a test and my welfare depends on it, I will likely try and do well on the test, or at least as well as I can. If my paycheck, or my standing, or my future employment rests on doing well on the test, I will bust my hump to make that happen.

But if YOUR welfare depends on MY performance?


You'd better be a pretty sweet pal, or have some sort of serious threat to hold over me. Because otherwise, Giacomo?

You could kiss my ass. Why should I bust my butt for you?

So when I read that there was a study that concluded that "There is also little or no evidence for the claim that teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if teachers are evaluated or monetarily rewarded for student test score gains.", among other things, I had to laugh. This was a surprise?

Teaching is an odd thing. There is tremendous power there. Forget the "classroom discipline", the power game between adolescent and adult that characterizes a hell of a lot of American high school classrooms. No, it's the tension in the relationship between the teacher as possessor of knowledge and the student as seeker of knowledge as old as Plato. The student has to learn as much as the teacher has to teach. The failure of one is the failure of both...so the teacher's power is shot through with faults and weakness.

And it's not really a science and its not really an art. If anything, teaching is a sort of craft, where you learn people like a carpenter learns wood, feeling the grain of them, searching for the places where the gouge will pare away smoothly, where it will bind and crack.

So when you reduce teaching and learning into the kind of test you complete by filling in little ovals with a number 2 pencil...well...let the researchers explain it: "As we show in what follows, research and experience indicate that approaches to teacher evaluation that rely heavily on test scores can lead to narrowing and over-simplifying the curriculum...provide disincentives for teachers to take
on the neediest students (and) also create disincentives for teacher collaboration."

Or, as one of the commentors on this study said over at Crooked Timber: "...it seems like it would make kids, particularly difficult to teach kids, my adversaries in a sense. If they do not improve, then I get fired. It would be so hard to keep my eye on a student’s well-being in that context and not see them as little performers who hold the key to my future. If I suspect them of being unable to help being underperformers, there’s the risk I would start to resent them."



And y'know what?

I could have told you that twenty years ago, and saved a lot of money I spent on getting a teaching certificate. Because when I was an Army sergeant part of my evaluation was a graded exercise called an ARTEP. Several months before the ARTEP I would gather my squad for a friendly talk.

“We’re about to do this graded field problem” I would explain. “We will be graded as a squad but the grade will only reflect on me. The graders will not listen to my explanation of how many of you are gimps, wheezers, chronic self-abusers, morons, gomers, mouth-breathers, learning disabled products of the union between a Marine and a gorilla, the offspring being, of course, a retarded gorilla. They will not believe that the reason we fucked up were because you oxygen thieves were unable to learn. They will blame it on my being unable to teach you.

Therefore, I will carefully explain everything we will do. I will show you how to do it. I will coach you through it. You will then do it for yourselves, with my direct supervision and correction. Finally we will do it at combat speed.

After that you have my personal assurance that any subsequent failure on your part, however small, will result in your horrible lingering death, probably involving a red-hot poker and one or more of your bodily orifices, or a transfer to a posting on the Korean DMZ, whichever you fear more.”

Now I never failed an ARTEP. But this is, in effect, what high-stakes testing will do for teachers and students; make the student fuckups the teachers' problem.

Mistakes? Mistakes are good. We learn from mistakes. But fuckups? As a teacher I can deal with fuckups.But the fuckups won't like it, and neither will I.

This doesn't seem like a good way to teach, or a good way to learn.

But I have to tell you; I'm not sure if a lot of people really understand how to do these either, and that will be the subject of some of the next posts.

Oh, and just as a note?

The Oregon Department of Public Instruction never fully implemented the CAM and abandoned the CIM several years ago.

But CIM or no CIM I wonder if my students still remember Rasputin?

"Rah Rah Rasputin
Lover of the Russian queen
They put some poison into his wine
Rah Rah Rasputin
Russia's greatest love machine
He drank it all and he said "I feel fine"Oh, those Russians..!


I have just changed the player to reflect some mid through late 80's. I have spared you all The Bangles, my love affair w/Morrisey, and some other crap that no one can handle anymore. Also, I did not put up any "Hair Bands" and some Heavy Metal which I loved! I still to this day love AC/DC, Metallica, Ozzy, and Guns n' Roses. Maybe the next playlist will be dedicated to early metal?

Oopsy on the ones I forgot! Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode, etc. etc.

Enjoy! And remember, the player only starts when you do it to avoid maximum annoyance☺

Thanks for reading!

Oh and P.S., before anyone gets into the dispute with me, I know the first Duran Duran came out much later than the 80's. And.. after listening to his "Save A Prayer" and "Rio" is by some other freak, apologies☺

A touch of NEW...

Here are some of the latest...

I've also made some fabulous, (if I do say so myself;) custom invitations but I need to watermark them before I post. Working on my own site, eating strange Asian bread that tastes like butter but there is no butter in them...

I mentioned about a month ago during my fascination w/The Runaways that I was reading Suzi Quatro's biography. Well, sorry Suzi I bad mouthed the writing too soon because you have had one hell of a life! Amazing just for the connections alone! As some of you might remember Ms. Quatro played Leather on "Happy Days" in the 70's. She also was extremely popular in Europe and Australia for her rock 'n roll attitude and of course Leather. Joan Jett followed her around like a groupie and that is how I got turned on to the info. regarding her in the first place! Man, my writing is atrocious today! Anywho, fantastic life story worth a read if you care about music and where rock 'n roll started.

I am concurrently reading "The Bipolar Diet". Mostly common sense approaches but also a lot of science regarding hormones, thyroid, and basic things lacking in people with this illness. I could write several books on it myself, but then I would become depressed!!! lol If you can't cry ya gotta laugh, I always say.

I'm just about to start more fantabulous reads, one is about a gal who rescues books that are about to burned by nazis in WWII. The other (keeping w/the theme), is about 4 holocaust survivors in an internment camp.

My plan/strategy for this week is to promise myself peace. I am not up to par w/my normal self and it's getting too much. So I'm not bidding on every job, going every place, or forcing myself to do anything yucky. School starts Tuesday and I'm hoping for the best.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This kid is f'n AWESOME!!!

Watch this Ozzy video and you will see the most amazing kid guitarist ever!

Hopefully I will be continuing my musical tirade through mid to late 80's some time this week. Remember kiddies, before Ozzy was just Ozzy alone, he was the lead singer for Black Sabbath. But more on that later...

Weekend sums it up, pretty much nothing to report. We just had some serious Asian food. I can't tell you what type because I couldn't read the labels! lol I'm an ignorant American that goes to the Asian Grocery Store and hopes I can figure it out. I do have a new love for Thai tea. They assure me it's orange because of the type of tea it comes from. Husband all business all weekend. Major biz stuff happening for him so we won't be hanging out for oh, 2 months?? lol Poor guy♥ Grandma (who always reminds me she reads this:) is trying to kill us w/yet another chocolate banana bread. Who do you think ends up eating these things for breakfast when everyone else gets Mexican Food? I think I have gained 10 pounds this summer! Other than the usual crap, tomorrow is High School orientation for my oldest so I'll be a wreck again.

Off to work oh yes, there ain't days off in my life!

Thanks again for reading and helping make my hop a success!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekend Blog Hop is here!

Welcome to my new Weekend Blog Hop!

In case I didn't say this before, if you don't have a blog you can link your site, Facebook, etc. Whatever you want, it's all in fun☺

It's simple to participate, here are the rules:
  1. Please place the "Weekend Blog Hop" button in a blog post and/or on your blog somewhere. This lets us all know where to find each other!
  2. Follow my blog.
  3. Visit at least 2 blogs on this list.
  4. Add your name/image to the linky list below so we can visit you back. I will be following everyone who posts.
  5. Comments are optional but always appreciated☺

Please support this blog hop by using your Facebook, Twitter, and forums to advertise. It's great for everyone to discover new friends, followers, and fantastic blogs!
Thanks so much for participating!

Let's get down to the "Situation"...

Last night Jersey Shore graced my presence again with their wonderful antics! If you are a current reader of this blog you know how much I love my Jersey Shore, because I constantly blog about the show.

Let's recap;

On a personal note, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola looks EXACTLY like me back in my early 20's. Now we have 60 pounds of fat separating us, but it's really kind of scary.

This week's episode brings us Sammi finding out that Ronnie has been screwing her over on a daily basis, but her girls don't even tell her face to face about it. They give her a crappy note and she of course falls apart. The "Situation" laughs about the note, girls don't really seem to care. There are rumors around the internet that J-Wow has a thing for Ronnie, thus the fighting.

MVP aka Michael Vincent Pauly, smoosh some ho's and fend off a grenade. Who was the cutest grenade ever and definitely not a hippo!

Other than that, not enough drinking or fun and I swear MTV has added some more commercial breaks.

Thanks for reading,

☼☼☼Breaking News☼☼☼

Large? Fire brewing right next to my parent's house..


Let's all hope the 3 kitties don't need to be deposited here w/the 4 dogs. No one will ever get a moment's peace again!

I know you are reading this mom, so get the heck out when it spreads, k? The fire will take at least another hour to spread to our hour 3 miles away.

Just gotta love living across the street from a nature preserve.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

17 minutes...

To Jersey Shore bitches!!!!


Money makes the world go 'round...

And round and round, etc. etc...

As much as we all probably hate to admit it, without money you starve and someone else gets all the f'n cupcakes! So when it's tight things get ugly. I'm noticing lately that people are starting to really get angry about this recession/depression and they are taking it out on us poor service people. I have never had so many customers try to talk me down in price and/or up in free samples. I also have had some really strange clients that just dropped off the face of the Earth after ordering. I think people just accept bids in case as placeholders, then get it somewhere else cheaper. Either they don't realize that we actually take time to get things done and fit them into our schedules or they don't care.

If you want to find out what my work/time is really worth on the internet market just take a look at the many freelance sites. It's completely horrifying how little some people charge for things. I used to get down on Etsy clients who wanted the whole shebang of a logo for $30. Now I see people making a logo for literally $5! How the heck am I going to compete with that? Why even work, I could get more if I just sat here and asked my husband for it! lol I did have to lower my prices like crazy to stay in business and it makes me sick when people want a ton of something for nothing and don't understand that I actually do create these things. I mean, the computer ain't gonna just answer my email and pop out a design! lol

On the bright side, my son went to his High School sign up today and all was well. I dropped him off per his request, although parents were allowed to stay. I find that weird because when we were in school the parents were never around. What 14 yr. old kid wants his 39 yr. old mom talking to him in front of girls? Which is how I found the cutie when I picked him up! Ahhh, if I'm going to get old and ugly, at least my kid will be happy.

The countdown is now on, only 1 week before moms everywhere enjoy a 9 month vacation!

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vegas, Nebraska-Style

Still grinding out the last of summer projects, particularly longer form writing. In the meantime, here's a photo I took a few years back, of a rent-to-own outfit on O Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. Have been pondering Venturi and Scott Brown's Learning From Las Vegas (1967) in the context of contemporary developments.

NEW Things I'm currently working on...

Some of these are done, some are still in the editing process. I also have a set of baby shower invitations, an E-Book cover, btwn. 4-6 logos, can't remember? My customers are all over the place time wise so I guess that's why it all works out? I can stay up all night for the other side of the world and service the U.S.A. in the day! No, I don't need sleep all I need are cupcakes:)

Thanks for reading!

Rediscover: And the winner is...................

Rediscover: And the winner is...................: "Here's the drawing........... Opening......... And the giveaway winner is...... CONGRATULATIONS TO 'GRAPHIC DESIGNS BY TARA' Thanks to..."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beef with Spiced Sauce

I had to flip through my key ring the other day looking for some damn key I hardly ever use when I came across my P-38.

Those of you who weren't in the service, or were not in the forces before 1980 probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but it's the little rectangular thing on the top of the ring in the picture below. Yeah, that thing, with the little hook sort of blade piece on it.It's a can opener.

Really. I shit you not. The little hook blade opens out at a right angle to the rectangular piece and you hook it over the rim of the can and punch the tip of the blade into the top. You work it around, punching and moving, punching and moving, until you get most of the way around, and then you bend the top of the can back.

It works slicker than water off a cat's ass, usually. I've opened all sorts of cans with it, from gallon tins to tiny potted meat cans. It's slow, and you have to take your time and be thorough, but I've never had one fail on me. It does what it's designed to do - open tin cans - and does it well.

I always thought it was a neat little piece of American ingenuity, but it turns out that the original design shows up in 1913 as the brainstorm of one E.M. Darque', so the American in question seems to have been French, or of French extraction.The version I was introduced to in Basic Training back in 1980, though, goes back to WW2 and looks American as the Andrews Sisters. It worked pretty well even in the hands of a cherry private learning which meals to open and which to bury and which to try and trade away.And it occurred to me, as I was thinking about this little gadget, that the things that were of crucial importance to me; finding a way to wear my P-38 on my snap-link key ring because I hated the way it would open inside your shirt and poke your chest when you wore it on your dogtags, making sure I opened the boxes of C-rats (or Meals, Combat, Individual, to give them their right name) prior to getting on the 80-pax for Green Ramp to ensure I dumped the nasty crap and stowed the trade goods somewhere out of the way. Fruitcake? Fuck THAT. Cinnamon Dust Roll? Somebody might trade you a B-1 packet for that. Pound Cake? OhsweetjesushappydayIloveyoudarlingpoundcake..!

Were as useless now as knowing how to speak ancient Sumerian. I had carefully amassed all this knowledge and lore...only to pass on and, though retaining most of it, find it completely and utterly useless.And the hard-won knowledge of arcane foodie lore now lost and useless? Things like knowing which C's had John Wayne bars (a round chocolate bar with tooth-busting nuggets of toffee all in a silver foil wrapper found in the B-2 units [I think] - legend had it that the name came from a scene in the movie "The Green Berets" where the Duke himself gnawed on one. I've seen the movie - it's terrible, as advertised, BTW - and I don't remember the candy bar scene. But that was the story, anyway) and which had the loathed "Charms" fruit candies.Knowing which meals had the good desserts, like peaches or pears, and which had the dust rolls and the apricots. You had to know which cases had which, because to bring back a case full of Beef and Shrapmetal and Fruitcake was to be pounded by your squad.And the little tricks to eating well in the field, like humping a bottle of tabasco (I liked soy sauce, instead) or something to mask the flat, heavy taste of almost everything in the meal. Or remembering to keep the box, which could be used as a stove when you didn't get the little blue or purple Trioxane heat tabs. Punch a hole in the can, put it back in the box, light the box, and when it burned to ash the meal would be at least half cooked. Warm Spaghetti with Beef Chunks, while not as good as hot Spag & Chunks, was better by far than COLD Spag & Chunks.Mind you, there were some C's that you only ate if you were truly starving. Chopped Ham and Eggs? Sweet fucking Baby Jesus, but those were awful. Find someone who would trade for them and you were golden. Or not, and get stuck with the horrible foodlike thing and eat it or go hungry.

And remembering how to trade. Marketing was key; packaging a couple of jam tins with a tuna can for a Beans and Baby Dicks. Or, frabjous day, getting someone to trade you a Pound Cake.

One of the medics in my outfit liked to play the same mean trick on the new grunts in his platoon. At the first meal stop on a field problem he'd pick through his C-rat tins and casually ask "Who wants to trade for a Pound Cake?"

A gang of hopeful cherries would shower him with largesse in hopes of taking advantage of the obviously feeble-minded Doc, and he would wait patiently, picking his victim and make the trade. At which point the outraged new meat would squawk that he had, not the treasured Pound Cake, but a Chocolate or Cinnamon Dust Roll.

"Yes, but pound it up your ass and it will be a Pound Cake..." Doc would sneer, and all the old sweats would roar.

And sitting here, remembering Doc's scurvy trick and the laughter and the cursing, all my memories, for good or ill, of the canned meals and the guys who shared them summed up in the little metal gadget still on my key ring all of thirty years later, I realize that the are probably no more than a tiny handful of soldiers now in the Army I served who remember those cans and those days. And that they, like me, have nowhere to take their old wisdom, no reason to impart it to the next generation of soldiers. We might as well know how to load and fire a crossbow.

And realizing that I realize that time and a way of soldiering, a way of life, has truly passed by, that the Army I knew and the times I served in have gone, are part of the Past, and like all past things have left just the merest of traces behind, like the tiny OD metal shavings floating in the yellowish jelly of a newly-opened can of Pork Slices, Cooked, With Juices.

Dance for joy

I've never really "gotten" dance the way I get music or drama or film. Stories told by Terpsichore have just never worked for me. And, yes, the "Nutcracker" is very pretty, yes, thank you. I do have a four-year-old who loves princesses and ballerinas.So while I don't get the princessy part what I do get is the dancer as athlete. Which is why I wanted to repost this photograph of the dancer Naiomi Goldberg's battered feet.

Often the price of knowing the truth, or attaining beauty, or achieving mastery in anything, is pain.

And often the pain must be given freely for to attain the true mastery, the true beauty, the requisite suffering must be a gift that does not count the cost.

(h/t to Kevin Rolly, whose image this is)

Le Brave des Braves

One thing you can always count on driving Southeast Portland's McLoughlin Boulevard is bumper stickers.

All sorts, from the usual cowboy and redneck slogans that dominate life in the southeast through the twelve-steppers' "One Day At A Time" all the way to the "Keep Portland Weird" and the outre' band stickers of the hipsters.

But among the most common are the military. These range from my own 82nd Airborne patch decal (stuck down in the corner next to the Rose City Rollers and the literary mudflap girl that represents Mojo) through the very visible USMC propaganda, the yellow-ribbon and pray-for-our-troops painless patriotism tokens. It's pretty amazing, when you think about it, for a nation that supposedly began with a stern rejection of all things standing-army-ish, how infested we are with militaria of a rather denatured and cartoonish sort.

I caught this one as I was still laughing at the one I'd passed several miles back that stated that the driver's other ride was my mother. This kind of statement is actually pretty witty for southeast Portland, the land of the rubber trailer-hitch scrotum.

But I'm not sure the driver got the sort of sexual-dominance result he was looking for (I'm doing yo momma, bitchez!); the mental picture of my mother, 86 and in need of adult diapers, getting sexed up by this Lents Lothario struck me as powerfully ridiculous. Hey, I thought, it doesn't really work for me but you go for what you need, stud, and I was still laughing about that when I ran up behind the pickup flying another of the fairly common southeast Portland automotive messages;

"Land of the Free/Because of the Brave".Normally I shine this sort of silly shit on. I usually find it offensive but harmless, like obese twenty-somethings waddling around with SWAT team t-shirts or screaming eagle ballcaps, the sad ejecta of an American culture that says if you say you want to do something (or worse, say you merely like something) it's almost practically the exact same as actually doing the thing.

But this week I caught a little bit of the old Ridley Scott file "Blackhawk Down" and was struck hard by the bitter sorrow in the movie's account of the vicious, futile Battle of Mogadishu.

Scott didn't mean it that way, of course; his Beyond Thunderdome battle flick is intended to make you all misty eyed about the young American heroes fighting for each other in comradely love. It's a beautiful, elegiac piece of utter crap war porn.

The American troopers are all gutsy heroes fighting for each other while the cynical politicians wheedle and betray them, of course. The hordes of Skinnies aren't really people; they are there just to be fuckdolls, to give the war porn its money shot. And like good porn, the hot pounding battle action just keeps coming; wave after wave of nameless Somali freaks seem to rise from the dead and attack like horrible real-life Negro zombies armed with AKs and RPGs, their fearsome inhumanity insuring that you will love our fighting men because you fear the dusky legions they are killing.

The reality behind the film - that this meaningless horseshit mission, the bastard product of a midnight union of eleemosynary television and credulous national greatness politics, managed to get 19 men killed and almost 100 wounded for absolutely no fucking purpose - was as invisible to the viewer as the larger context in which these men fought and died. If you took the film at its face value, as it intended you to take it, you saw only all those lovely young American men fighting and dying for the love of their country and each other. You saw the brave defending the free.

And - mind you, I'm still driving along McLoughlin, past the seedy payday loan storefronts and the chrome and neon blare of the car lots, the many newly-vacant windows where the small businesses and mom-and-pop stores have failed under the weight of the Great Recession - as I'm thinking about this I started to get angry, really angry, about the lies that our "leaders", civil and military, that our press, that our punditry, told about Somalia, about war, about the politics of Puntland, that led up to "Maalintii Rangers" - the Day of the Rangers, that left young American and Somali men dead in the dirty streets, and are still being told, told to send more young men to their meaningless deaths in the dirty streets of similarly worthless Third World cities and, as a byblow, inflate the "patriotism" of the sort of fool that drives around with a "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" bumper sticker.

And I started wondering.

What freedoms have we Brave been defending lately? Who are these Brave, and what the hell have they been doing to earn their bumper sticker praise?

Were there the brave that stopped the Grenadian armored spearheads cold in the bloody snows around Bastogne and Houfflaize and defended the Arsenal of Democracy from Caribbean aggression?

Perhaps this was the brave whose rifles shredded the Panamanian grenadiers in the fields of Freeman's Farm as we beat back Noreiga's bold bid for continental dominance at Saratoga?

Could these brave have been the brave that caused the astounded Iraqi general to cry "Those are regulars, by God!" as we repelled Saddam's invasion of the Midwest at the Battle of Chippewa?

Could these brave warriors have been the ones which sank the Al Qaeda carriers at Midway, sweeping the Pacific clean of The Pan-Islamic Co-Prosperity Sphere, and saving the West Coast from invasion?

Or the brave that rolled over the remnants of the evil Ba'ath legions on their way to Berlin and the end of the global Ba'athist threat?


Our public worship of soldiers and soldiering, our yellow ribbons, our "War on Terror", is built on the same fucking self-deluding horseshit that ended with good men face down in the dust in a dump of a town by the Red Sea. If we were an honest nation we would admit that for most of the past sixty years and certainly for all of the past twenty years - since the fall of the Soviet Union - our armies and navies have done little but exercise the prerogatives of global power. That's what the armed forces of Great Powers do, and that's much of what we have done since the defeat of Japan, nearly entirely since the defeat of the Soviets.

If we still are the land of the Free - and although I believe we still are, more or less, there are some legitimate grounds to be skeptical of this - it is because of the Rude, the Skeptical, the Free-thinking, the Morally Outraged, the Watchdogs of Government, the Gadflies, and the Critics.

Yes, we have sometimes served freedom, we soldiers, in our way, when we could, when it served the purposes of our political masters.

But only a fool places blind trust in the powerful. The business of soldiering has been the business of power as the business of dealing fear and death always is, and to pretend otherwise is to be a fool.

On a lighter note...

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I really am t'd off right now and all I have to say is a bunch of neg. bullsh*t because of this f'n child molestor. So I'll save my commentary on the rest of my life for tomorrow. Besides, when it's 100 degrees not much happens outside of my A/C!

Thanks for reading!

This is really serious!

I am FUMING and ashamed of my community today. I'm not a PTA mom or joiner inner to begin with and this is exactly why not!

Long story short, please follow this link, read my comment regarding this person who is accused of molesting a child in our neighborhood.



Update on this.. I just heard that people are openly slamming the victim's family via T.V. and other outlets. Airing a minor's information has got to be illegal and as for doing it in the first place that's called "blaming the victim".

I'm so beyond disgusted!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up

Thank you all so much for making my first Weekend Blog Hop a complete success! I met over 40 new friends and many more from visiting each of your blogs. I will definitely be continuing this next weekend and thereafter. Special thanks to everyone who promoted my hop, especially Pink Dandy who is just a doll!

So as we all wind down from what was supposed to be a weekend but seemed to go by in a 2 hour blur, I hope everyone is well. Summer is coming to an end (in theory, it will be 100 deg. here through October:( and kids are back to school soon. Can't say it was a really productive summer as far as outings away from home. But in regards to family fun, we had a blast! Lots of laughing, hanging out together, and cherishing the kids before they are too old to be smooshed☺ I've got my business down to a reasonable amount where I can sleep up to 5 hours a night, so that's good. I actually saw my best friend last week for the first time in 3 months and I never knew how much I missed my non-cyber life till I got that break. I've also been forcing myself to take my illustrations a lot more serious and really work from the ground up. Unlike some of my competitors (you lazy a$$es know who you are) I create most-all of my graphics from scratch. I am obsessed now with building the perfect woman! Not being creepy, I mean the perfect graphic of a woman! lol I've never really mastered making people so it's been a chore to say the least.

What weirdness lurks around the corner for you my dear readers? A lot of biography reviews, more thoughts on Jersey Shore, music of the mid-late 80's and why a 39 yr. old already has empty nest syndrome!

Sure there's a lot more, but my house is suddenly filling up with the a$$y smell of hamburger helper that my 14 yr. old is cooking, so I have to go fast and fling open all the doors/windows!

Love y'all, thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Welcome to the Pink Dandy Sunday Blog Hop!

This blog hop will be up for one week with a new blog hop every Sunday.

For complete rules and regulations please visit Pink Dandy

Friday, August 20, 2010

NEW Weekend Blog Hop is here!

Welcome to my new Weekend Blog Hop!

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Please support this blog hop by using your Facebook, Twitter, and forums to advertise. It's great for everyone to discover new friends, followers, and fantastic blogs!
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What lies below...

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I'll be coming up with my own blog follow soon, when I get a second in btwn. dog/kid hosing off, cooking, cleaning, and mastering the art of work avoidance!

Hope y'all have a fantastic weekend planned, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cooling off

Both the weather, and my little Peeper.

He called me where I was working late to night to tell me he loved me.

Mind you, his little sister also horned into the conversation to tell me he was teasing her.


At least the weather is cool.

My ass

I usually try and ignore the military priapism of the American Right.

Some of it is genuine love for the U.S. Army, some of it comes from soldiers who have served, some of them in hard and ugly places. Some of it is a genuine respect for and honor towards the Americans who, as some sort of anthem set to the tune of an old drinking song says, "...stand between their loved home and the war's desolation".

But a hell of a lot of it seems to be the worst sort of war-porn woody, the second-hand fawning and meeching of wanna-bes and never-weres over people whose lives and hardships they never really cared to try and whose sufferings they celebrate only until the sufferers themselves become a burden. I seldom see the Chamber of Commerce types who sport the lapel pins and magnetic stickers at the veteran's homes, or the shelters, or the VA hospital where the underpaid workers wipe and dry the wreckage of the wars that these ruddy businessmen and hearty politicos seem to find so magnificent. American conservatives appear to have some sort of mindless adoration for people, at least American people, with weapons, as if somehow by the mere act of putting on some tree-colored clothing they stop becoming the dudes, hosers, jocks, stoners, gimps, wheezers, knotheads, romeos and juliets, wierdos and whackos and just plain fucktards we knew in high school. It's their magical thinking thing, and they're welcome to it. I've been a GI, and trust me, we can fuck up a wet dream; I've seen it.

But, whatever.However, I do reserve a special contempt for the "professional patriot" who has actively passed up an opportunity to serve yet insists on sporting the colors and talking the talk of a hardened veteran. People like Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney, men of the wartime generations who chose to, if not actively flee, at least find ways to avoid the merest chance of military service, only to return to (or emerge in) public life unchastened by their own fear and eager to hasten others into the line of death.

So it is with a particular sneer that I read and see that the patron of the professional patriots, the Archpundit of Conservatism, Rush Limbaugh himself, had a uniformed color party at his fourth wedding.Now I have no particular opinion on the presence of the national colors at a wedding, first, fourth, or otherwise. It would seem to me that flaunting national symbols on a day intended for the celebration of personal union reeks of a certain...mmm...insecurity? Weakness? A draping of patriotic bunting to cover the failure of three preceding marriages?

Or perhaps I'm reading too much into this; it's Limbaugh - the man is practically a walking lapel pin, a right-wing bumper sticker with legs. Why wouldn't he think it appropriate to have fighting men with flags at his wedding?


If these really ARE servicemen (and the poor picture makes it difficult to discern details but something about the cut of their uniforms makes me think more of cheap costume rentals than an actual interservice color guard), then I as a taxpayer, you, and everyone else in this country who pays a penny in federal taxes, is helping pay for a right-wing blowhard's fourth wedding. And five troopers, who should be doing something useful for the nation, are being used as props at the quadrennial nuptial fest of a man whose opinions are loathesome to at least half of the nation they serve.

I've had a couple of weddings, myself. At both of them I was serving either as a U.S. Army reservist or an Army National Guardsman. In neither case would I have considered it appropriate to have asked my units to provide a color party; even if I had desired one, the notion of dragging fellow enlisted men to dress up in their Class A's and march about on a day when I schmoozed, drank, and partied would make me sicker than a rat. As it was, I got fuck all from the Army for my weddings other than some colored ribbons to pin on my suit.

To be splashed with beer in the sergeant's mess to celebrate your wedding is one thing; to demand drill and ceremonies from enlisted men...well, I would hate to be the sort of man, or the sort of soldier, or the sort of sergeant whose troops thought of him with that in mind. I would think of myself as a very poor man, a very poor soldier, and a very poor sergeant, if I had to parade out troops to make myself look patriotic, or powerful, or whatever having uniformed troops at my wedding would make me look.

Manly, perhaps?But then, I never missed out on the war of my generation because I had a cyst on my ass.

I can see how that might leave a man feeling he looked a trifle less than...manly...on his wedding day.