Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pling: You heard it here first

Fiona is four today. So today, we celebrate Fiona and her inimitable sense of style. In her honor, I'm coining a new word: pling. It's a combination of pink and bling.

I swear I didn't make any of this up, or coach her on how to stand, or anything. She's just got the whole Pink Gangsta look down. Yo, pinky. Word up. And spit that pacifier out.

VeggieTales Got it All Wrong

Tomatoes have long, pointy noses, not flat rounded ones. Come on, people, get it right. Get with the program!

I suppose there's a possibility that we found Bob's brother in the garden last night. With that nose, I'd say his name was... Bill. ;-) It's all moot at this point, though, 'cause Bill's salsa now. Really, really good salsa.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Guess what I finished last night?

All that remains now is to spray the thing, have it photographed, remove it from its backing board, and ship it to its new owners. The can of fixatif, however, says "DO NOT USE IN HIGH HUMIDITY" in all caps amidst a label otherwise marked by a fair amount of restraint. It was 95% this morning. I'm guessing that counts as high humidity. I daren't move it until I spray it, so I guess I'm praying for some really nice weather to stroll along any time now!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Black Hole 3: Adventures in Architecture

Now that I have attic stairs, it's much easier to deal with the attic itself. This is, more or less, what I had to work with when I started:

Notice that almost nothing is straight, nor level. The vertical seem to have been hammered in any old way, and the horizontal supports at the top aren't much better. The insulation is a mess, too.

After a fair amount of work, things are starting to assume a much more pleasing form. I've got four sheets of plywood down for flooring (three in this picture) and I've been gradually repositioning the support beams. Looks a lot better, doesn't it?

I'm not done yet, but I haven't been able to resist the urge to start storing things. An antique high chair and an Exersaucer have already been bagged and brought up. I'm definitely going to have to establish rules about what can go up there; I don't want it to become a junkyard. The allure of free floor space is very tempting, though.

Attic Archaeology

No, this isn't about archaeology in Athens. This is archaeology in my own attic. (Sorry, James. I know you're disappointed.) One of the more interesting bits I uncovered while mucking about in the attic (other than that whoever built it didn't own a straightedge, plumb, or level) was an old magazine from the 1950s. The May 25, 1958 edition of the American Weekly to be precise, and apparently a Chicago edition from the subhead.

The impression one gets, on the whole, is of an reformatted Reader's Digest. You have the cute cover art, mildly interesting info-trivia, a patriotic piece, an interview with some celebrity of some sort, veiled politics, ads (of course!) and sections of jokes.

First, the cover.

A workman in the attic would surely have appreciated this image of a dog pulling out the ladder from under this guy.

You could readily surmise one of two things:

  1. Cute, situational-comedy illustrations were the de facto standard of the day; or,
  2. Norman Rockwell was someone to be emulated.
I tend towards the latter explanation. Which of these items is the chicken, and which the egg — that could be an interesting discussion.

On the patriotic front, right the inside front cover, we have the "Proud to be an American" series, where we're presented with — and I quote — "Another in a series of stories about how some obscure individual has given new significance to the principles that made this country great." We should have such helpful subtitles in our own day and age.

Homework was apparently a big issue of the day, given the impassioned response to a March article called "Let's Abolish Homework" by Junior-high principal Dr. Charles M. Shapp. The response, titled "Let's NOT Abolish Homework" by Jr. high teacher Stanley M. Levin, M.A., states that,

...if conscientious students had no homework, they would be depressed and anxious because of wasted time, lack of direction, unproductivity, and restlessness.
    It is a known fact among teachers that many parents and children complain about the small amount of homework that is given. It is also a known fact that conscientious children are the ones who benefit most from homework. And the Russians have reminded us that this is the time when we must allow our talented students to realize their highest potential.
Last week's TIME cover story on "failing our geniuses" and it's indictment of No Child Left Behind seems to indicate that this isn't a debate that's going to be solved anytime soon.

You can just about identify the time period from the drawing style alone. Given today's illustrations, this decade will probably be known as the time when "everyone had huge heads and tiny bodies."

In a perhaps-related article, "Truth and Myth about What you Eat" set out to debunk what were ostensibly common beliefs of the day, such as, "If you have some food left over in a can it is advisable to toake it out 'just to be on the safe side.'" or the idea that deep thinking requires as many calories as heavy labor, or, inexplicably, "carrots make your hair curly." These required debunking? Really?

The ads themselves are a fascinating bit in their own right.

"HALO glorifies as it cleans." The guy is, according to notes elsewhere on the ad, "Jimmie Rodgers, singing star of Roulette Records." There's no such credit to the girl, or even an entire face, so, presumably, "Use out shampoo, and (no matter who you are) you can get a guy like Jimmie Rodgers to look at you twice."

A number of things struck me about the ads in general:

  • There were a lot of food ads. Things like Hellman's Mayonnaise and Hunt's Tomato Sauce merited full-page coverage, and things like restraint, cholesterol, and calories weren't considerations. The photo of mayo being poured by the ladleful into hollowed and fancy-cut tomatoes (as containers for a vegetable dip, I think) turned my stomach. Likewise, the can of condensed milk being poured out onto what looked like english muffins topped with tomato slices struck me as... odd.
  • Properties of products were advertised that we wouldn't think twice about today. Wesson Oil takes the smoke out of frying. (Underline theirs.) This deodorant lasts ALL DAY. Wait, didn't it always? The latest thing on the runways of Paris is eye makeup — "Fashion magazines are showing mascara, eyebrow pencil, and eye shadow as basic parts of the costume, as necessary as gloves or handbag."
  • Scientific or exotic sounding names and features were selling points, many of which are still around today under different, usually more humble guises.
    • "NP-27" was the sure cure for athelete's foot. (This now goes by the brand name of Tinactin.)
    • "Incabloc" made your new watch more modern, more precise, and prolonged its life. (No details were given in the ad, but a little research uncovered that this was a shock-absorption system to protect the jewels commonly used as bearings. The company still exists.)
    • The mysterious and miraculous "Tefla" made bandages not stick, as demonstrated by two photos of a child smiling sweetly or scowling as the bandage came off her face. (Tefla is still a selling point for Curad.)

And, throughout, a sampling of jokes:

"Nick Kenny claims that there are 25,000,000 overweight people in the U. S. today. That's in round figures, of course."

Not surprising, given the mayonnaise ad elsewhere. I'm guessing 25 million today would be a cause for celebration, rather than alarm.

A young savage knocked cautiously at the door of Robinson Crusoe's hut.
"Good morning," he said politely.
"Well, for Heaven's sake!" gasped Crusoe. "Isn't today Thursday?"
"Yes, sir"
"Well, buzz off, old chap. You're not due here until tomorrow."

I don't get it. Maybe I should read Robinson Crusoe sometime.

Or, perhaps, the education system has failed me, as Robinson Crusoe was never assigned to me as homework.

If any of this brings back memories, or you have an explanation for some of these things, feel free to chime in on the comments!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

You are getting... hungry...

More often than not during summer, the sun is setting as we sit down to eat. And, for a while — before the sun gets in my eyes and I have to pull the shade — the light plays across my food in an interesting way. Deborah has (for the most part) gotten used to me getting up in the middle of a meal to go fetch the camera.

Deborah calls this picture "Pickles at Attention." Appropriate enough. I call them "pickles that get your attention" — cutting up the peppers releases the flavor a lot better than our old method of just dropping them in. So: Andy pictured a pack of peppered pickles...

They call these "grape tomatoes"... except that, now, grapes are the size of cherry tomatoes, both of which are larger than any cherry I've seen. Maybe we should just start specifying the diameter? Or going back to calling them "itty bitty" and "great big" tomatoes?

An unbroken tostada on a clean plate. How long can that last?

Watermelon, soaked in ginger ale. Yummy scrumbos.

The sun is setting soon. I wonder what's for supper?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's a bit damp around here

Rain, rain on my face
It hasnt stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud

Those were the lyrics going through my head a few days ago as I watched state-wide thunderstorms roll across the weather radar on my computer screen, and as I tried, with increasing difficulty, to get things done around the outside of the house. After discovering that the motorcycle was in water deep enough to cover the rims, I parked it out on the street. The streets seemed to be well drained, but not the place between our house and the Volkers'...

Fortunately, Chris has the sort of equipment on hand to deal with this. He says he was going to use this water pump to make a giant Slip 'N' Slide for his youth group, but it got put to much better use here, I think. Not a moment too soon, either — the water was less than half an inch away from spilling into the shed when we finally got the pump going, and it was almost two in the morning before the water level dropped below the level where the pump could pull it.

Thank God for neighbors who are better prepared than we are!

White Hole

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Black Hole (Part 2)

Note the food on the kids' table behind my father-in-law. We had to eat in the living room to avoid the falling plaster in the kitchen.

Ta-dah! Pull-down attic stairs!

All that remains now, of course, is to replaster and paint the ceiling, and put down a floor in the attic. Should take me months. But this is the hard part that allows the rest to happen. The old access hole to the attic involved a 16 x 24" wide opening that you had to get through by climbing up the pantry shelves. Deborah could scarcely believe that I fit at all going up the old way. This is MUCH easier. And now, soon, we'll have a nice place to stash some of our stuff!

Two! No, really, now! Two!

I'm getting quite behind in posting; there's quite a lot going on.

That said, on to Aiden's Birthday, which was on the thirteenth, but we celebrated on the fifteenth, and now I'm telling you about it a week later.

With seven people blowing discreetly from around the table, Aiden managed to blow out the candles in two or three tries.

He didn't need any such help with the cake, though. That's angel food cake with blueberry filling and whipped cream. The first bite, as they say, is with the eyes...

Someone finally figured out that kids play with the boxes as much as the gifts, so they started making really cool boxes. On this one, you unzip the teeth of the alligator to open it, remove the boring thing inside (some nice overalls) and set the gator-box to eating various things around the living room, like balloons, sisters, and cats.

Deborah managed to find a toy drill that looked almost exactly like my own. Seriously, this thing had more features and works better than some other cordless drills I've owned. Here I am, showing him how to drill.

That's one birthday for a small boy, one giant mess for the living room.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Black Hole (Part 1)

A black hole has been opening up in the kitchen ceiling at Patience corners, and threatens (promises?) to devour all...

Fill in the blanks...

Complete the following:
____________ is having your wife call you up at work and ask where the crowbar is;
____________ is telling her where it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Two, Going on Eight

Aiden is two. (Only two?? If you ask him, he'll say, "Eight!" so he very well may grow up to be every bit as good at numbers as me! He's on the right track already...)

Celebrations will probably be tomorrow, as Grandpa & Grandma Renaud and Aunt May are on their way from New Hampshire, and will probably arrive sometime today.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What, you don't have a secret decoder ring?

Several people (not just you, Mom) have asked about the translation/pronunciation/meaning of the inscription on the shirts I blogged about on Friday. Take this as fair warning if you get one — people will ask.

The main inscription is from the first two lines of Enuma Eliš, the traditional Babylonian creation story:

The first two lines of Enuma Elish

e-nu-ma   e-liš   la   na-bu-ú   šá-ma-mu
šap-liš   am-ma-tum   šu-ma   la   zak-rat

When on high no name was given to heaven,
nor below was the netherworld called by name

So, basically, "In the beginning" for Babylonians — something most students of the Ancient Near East would recognize readily. (Or so I am told.)

The smaller inscription next to "" has the determinative LÚ.DAM.GÀR (merchants) plus the phrase kib-rat erbe-tim "of the four corners [of the earth]," which was a classic epithet of the Neo-Assyrian kings.

Don't you feel smarter already?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Drawing to a Close

I've been working on this thing for months. A year, almost. It's almost done. Just a few hours left, filling in the background with blueprint-style drawings of various parts, and then I can reclaim nearly half of the back room in my shed. I'll definitely have to get it photographed by a professional before I send it out to the couple that commissioned it. I don't know whether I'm excited to have it be done, or if I'm going to miss having it around to work on...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Keeping Cool

We normally don't get out the air conditioner until the weather here is brutal. We got it out on Wednesday. It didn't take Fiona long to figure out where she wanted to be!

The Cuneiform Invasion

It's rather nice to have your work in popular demand. After the success of the Enuma Elish cuneiform mug last year, a number of people have requested the same design as a T-shirt. Well, now you can. Get 'em here if you want 'em!

In the meantime, meet my two new co-workers, Amy and Jon, both editors, who started on Monday. I don't think anyone told them modeling was part of the job description, but they got the hang of it pretty quickly.

I suppose that's an occupational hazard, working in the same room as me. Now, to find someone to model the cuneiform Onesie for me...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

New Neighbors

After having the small house next door sit empty for quite some time, we're getting new neighbors, Rich and Ruth. It looks like it's going to be a summer home for their extended family, including their adult children.

They've been doing a lot of work cleaning up the long-neglected yard, and wound up taking out a dying tree. To our great surprise, you can actually see the lake from our house now!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Deborah came across these the other night, as she was getting out her button-maker to use at our church's Spanish VBS. These are old, old, old. Back then, we weren't terribly enchanted with America and it's customs (Deborah especially) and these made perfect sense.

Unamerican. How well do you think these would fly these days? Literally trying to fly with one of these on your shirt would almost certainly get you pulled aside for questioning. Aside from the opinion and it's implications, I don't think people these days are so much in the habit of wearing their hearts on their shirt sleeves (or bumpers) as was more common years ago. These days, you'd pin your political statement to your blog rather than your shirt.