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Desire Paths


Undertaken DONE Dec. 12th, 2014 @ 12:55 am
I am finally done the first draft of Undertaken! After a spate of writing over the last two days that amounted to over 10,000 words (almost 8,000 just today!) I have a manuscript totaling just under 126,000 words.

Let the editing begin!

Reality Check Dec. 3rd, 2014 @ 07:02 pm
The Harry Potter Alliance posted a graphic on their Facebook page juxtaposing what people think about minimum wage workers vs. the reality of minimum wage workers (most are not teenagers, most work full-time, etc.). However, as I posted as a comment there and as I said when I shared the graphic on my own Facebook page, this graphic is not really adequate to communicate the benefit to raising the wages for the working poor so that everyone makes a true living wage. The folks actually making minimum wage are just the tip of the iceberg concerning who is helped by raising it.

1) When more of the money a large corporation makes goes to improve employee salaries, there will probably be less money available to pay dividends to stockholders. Dividends are capital gains and can only be taxed at about 15%. Those employees' paychecks are generally going to be taxed at anywhere from 20-28% (depending on how many kids a worker has, whether they can write off their mortgage interest, etc.) That increases the taxes being paid on that money by 5-13%, which means more money for the federal budget than if stockholders were the ones getting it.

2) More money in the federal budget means it's possible to pay servicemen and women more and invest in repairing our country's crumbling infrastructure, which means the creation of still MORE jobs paying a living wage.

3) Minimum wage workers making more money also means fewer working poor needing food and housing assistance, which means still MORE savings to the federal budget, more raises for those in the military, more repair to the infrastructure, etc. So far we're talking a win-win-win.

4) When workers are paid more, they also pay more to their local municipalities and state governments in taxes (in states that have an income tax, which a handful don't). This provides more money to pay police, fire fighters, teachers and other municipal workers, making their local community a safer, better-educated and in general nicer place to live.

5) When low-wage workers are paid a living wage their ability to help the economy and their local tax base by buying more goods increases, expanding the amount of money that is collected locally and statewide through sales taxes (the benefit of which is already explained above). The increased business also creates more jobs when business owners need to hire more people to keep up with the greater traffic they will experience. More new jobs created! (At a living wage!)

6) When these workers are able to buy more, the very corporations that increased their pay may very well find that they CAN give their stockholders dividends because of all of the additional business generated both through people having more money to spend AND the goodwill created by paying their employees more, which in turn also increases employee loyalty and longevity and skill.

Municipalities and states where the minimum wage has been increased to give workers a living wage experience a surge in their economies across the board. There is NOT runaway inflation or an increase in the cost of goods because of the other benefits outlined above.

To sum up--who REALLY benefits when the minimum wage goes up? EVERYBODY!

The Holiday Spirit Nov. 30th, 2014 @ 04:55 pm
I believe that it is perfectly reasonable to draw the line at consenting to listen to Christmas music sung by The Beach Boys. Please take note, Trader Joe's.

Also--when did Elf on a Shelf become a thing? I seriously want to know--I feel like I've suddenly woken up, a la Rip Van Winkle, and found myself surrounded by this as if it's always been with us, though I am fairly certain it has not.

Facebook Facepalming Nov. 22nd, 2014 @ 12:04 pm
Okay, okay, I get it, your little baby is turning three years old today! He's the love of your life, he's watched over by angels, blessed by fairies and dressed by birds and small woodland creatures. He's adorable and photogenic, and on top of that his mother is a professional photographer, so roughly five kajillion pictures of him exist since the moment of his miraculous birth.

But does this really require over twenty posts about it over the past three days and a countdown clock? I enjoy seeing the adorable photos that are posted of my friends' kids and my great nieces and nephews, but right now there are as many pictures of this one kid in my feed as all of the other kids combined--and I have 19 great nieces and nephews, with number 20 on the way.

Just saying.

Almost Empty Nest Aug. 16th, 2014 @ 02:21 pm

Ben has signed a lease on an apartment in the neighborhood just north and west of ours, only about a 15 minute walk from our house. And I was recently in the Amherst area with Rachel and her roommate to secure a student apartment for the two of them for the coming year.

We looked at some pretty grim spaces. Dirty dishes left on tables, bongs, a shower in the kitchen (just a curtain for "privacy"), a spacious basement apartment that was, nonetheless, a basement. And then we found a beautiful, newly renovated second floor apartment near the Mount Holyoke campus, less than all of the other places AND heat/hot water included! Evidently there was something wrong with the contact info on Craig's List, so the owner changed the listing to include his phone, and then he started getting calls about the place. But he liked us best and Rae and Melanie got the pretty apartment. :)

We'll see about Ben's place. They had applied for the first floor apartment but someone else got it, so he and his roommate settled for the second floor, which is smaller but also cheaper. However, I didn't learn until this morning that he'd only seen pictures of that apartment, he hasn't actually been IN it! And he's got some furniture being delivered from IKEA thus afternoon, which he bought without taking any measurements! :sigh: So we'll see how this goes...


Measuring Sticks Apr. 15th, 2014 @ 11:14 pm
Now there's a woman saying that women who get equal pay--or even make more than men around them do--will never find husbands. Wow. Possibly even worse than the woman claiming that the equal pay movement is "demeaning" to women. IMO, both of these women have more than a little growing up to do.

Let's state some opposing ideas here: a) not all women are looking for husbands, so a warning about a large paycheck repelling a man will fall on a lot of deaf ears (and also make a lot of people ROFL); b) many women making good money already have spouses or life-partners, and may make more than those spouses or life-partners; c) lots of men are mature enough that their egos don't demand a partner who earns less than they do; d) some men may LIKE having a wife whose income allows him to be an artist, activist, or stay-at-home dad; and e) many (probably most) women are likely to be less insulted by the push for equal pay than by the idea that their work might be considered more valuable by their employer if a man were doing it.

My husband grew up in a house where his mother was the chief bread-winner, while his father was the artistic one, though that didn't mean a large income for him as an individual. It worked for them. Though my husband earns most of our money now, when we started dating, I was the one who had a job and then my own apartment, which I paid for on my own, without any help from my parents or anyone else. I frequently paid for our dates because I was the one working. It didn't matter to us.

It's about time our ideas about gender and money came out of the Stone Age and into the twenty-first century. Give men some credit for not all equating their paychecks with their penises, and just give women credit for the work they do, period.

The problem with wood Mar. 30th, 2014 @ 12:10 am

Those of you who also see my Facebook posts know that I am working on turning a box room in our house into a home office. (It has also been a playroom for our kids, when they were little, and a dressing room back when our bedroom was next to it, since there is a connecting door between the rooms.)

For a while today, this was actually what the office looked like, which was very exciting for me. I was actually able to sit here and write!

Now it's all taken apart again, because the casters for two of the legs came off, and a large chunk of rotten wood from one of the legs. This actually isn't too surprising because the table sat in a dirt-floored basement under our church for about 25 years before we brought it home for our kids 15 years ago, to use in the playroom, which was fine, but drilling into the legs wasn't a good idea, it turns out.

I did already have a plan B in case this didn't work, so that's what's next. I will need to use some 1x3s or 1x4s to build little wooden "pockets" for each table leg to sit in, and then I will attach the t-nuts and casters to the good, stable wood of the pockets. (The t-nuts are hammered into the wood after a hole is drilled to receive the caster, and there are threads in the middle of the t-nut that allow you to screw the caster in place.)

Which means that my office won't look like the above photo again for a while, until I finish cutting and building the pockets. And then I'll probably prime and paint all the wood, both pockets and table (black) before putting the shelving back on top again.


Two steps forward, one step back...


Memo from the home office Mar. 22nd, 2014 @ 02:44 pm

The work on my home office is coming along. I have cleared out vast quantities of junk that were in here when we were using it as a box room, and now that the electrician has verified that I won't risk burning the house down by plugging my drill into the room's sole outlet, I can get to work repairing the table I will be using as my desk.

You'll notice that I said "in here"--that's right, I was actually using my office AS an office today, writing 1551 words of Undertaken! I am determined not to let the room's incomplete state stop me from using it to write. Just because I cannot actually plug in the computer in here yet doesn't mean I can't operate it on the battery!

Pictures when the work is further along!


My mom's 89th birthday Mar. 8th, 2014 @ 07:01 pm

At my brother's house now waiting for him and my brother-in-law to bring my mom. She's the only one not here yet. No, it's not a surprise party. My brother simply neglected to talk to his son, who was supposed to be driving his grandmother here, before we were expecting them to arrive. (Actually, he didn't talk to his son until almost an hour after we were expecting them.) Turns out my nephew thought we were doing this tomorrow. He can't make it tonight.

With luck they might be here soon. It's 45 minutes in each direction and they left to get Mom almost an hour ago. But we just heard from them and they're stuck in traffic from the Flower Show, so we'll see.


It's always something...


This is not going to be a good review Mar. 5th, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

Dear pedometer,

It is not helpful that you have already stopped working, less than a week after I started using you.

No love,

Other entries
» No pedometer for my arms and Elementary

Not much activity today, as it was yet another snow day. The cleaning I did often took the firm of sitting in place and scrubbing, so that doesn't register much on my pedometer on terms of distance, even if I am getting an upper body workout.

We finally watched last Thursday's ep of Elementary. God, the CBS website is getting as bad as PBS. Like PBS, CBS is now inserting commercials in the middles of scenes, instead of where they belong. Why can't they just put their shows on Hulu? They clearly don't have the skill set to run a streaming website.

Making things even worse, though, is that we are not getting the internet speed we are paying for. Our download/upload is supposed to be 50/25 and the test I just did--three times--is 9/11. Pathetic. Guess I'm calling Verizon tomorrow.

» Too much sitting

I did not get to post before I went to bed last night, but I covered 3.67 miles. Very tired after a long day, but most of it was spent sitting down, so I have only covered a little over a mile so far. I will have to make a point of getting up and moving around during ad breaks in the Oscar broadcast later.

Do you have favorites for tonight's awards?

» Walking today and Almost Human

The past two days were duds, mile-wise. Too tired and achy (head). Today I racked up 4 miles, a big improvement. I guess every day can't be a winner.

I don't know if anyone else out there is watching Almost Human, but we've been enjoying it. I have, however, noticed the following:

1. Considering the demographics in the Los Angeles of 2014, there is a strangely high percentage of 2048 LA that is white. Especially glaring are the low numbers of Latinos and Asians. Not that shows taking place in 2014 reflect 2014 demographics, but future population projections are depicting a very different landscape than what we are seeing here.

2. It is terribly convenient that so many people in 2048 are terribly nostalgic about music. NO ONE seems to listen to anything on their advanced technology that wasn't written before 2014. Perhaps this is some sort of statement about how piracy is going to kill the recording industry and people are just going to stop recording new music in protest.

Or not. ;)

» Daily pedometer report

Logged 3.55 miles today. Too tired for more of a post than that. Bed is calling.

» Walking walking keep on walking...

I know I haven't checked in for a while, but I am still checking on all of you. I started wearing a pedometer today and I'm hoping that keeping track of my activity here, rather than FaceBook, will also lead to posting about other things. I'm using the handy app I recently downloaded to my iPhone for this, so I also won't need to be near a computer to post!

Anyway, today, just going about my business and, getting to and from work, cooking dinner and doing some other stuff around the house, plus a little extra moving around, especially dancing, gave me a total of 3.5 miles! It's a start. I don't just want to know how active I am on gym days--I'd like to know this everyday, and now I can. Plus, I already feel more motivated to get up and move knowing my total will be higher if I do. Sometimes it helps to be so competitive--with myself! Lol.

Another thing I've discovered is that by choosing the "Van Morrison" station on Pandora, I get a lot of music I didn't even realize I liked so much. A lot of it is from when I was about 6-12 years old, not when I was a teenager. OTOH, I listened to the music my older siblings listened to at that time, and they were 12, 15, 18 and 21 when I was 6, and this is what I heard a lot of at that time. It clearly left an impression! And a lot of it was still very popular when I was in high school. (Are there any other songs as long as American Pie? I'm doubtful.)

So tomorrow I'll be doing some more walking, walking, walking...

» In Amherst
On my second day in Amherst, bringing Rachel to Hampshire College, where she is transferring to from NYU. (The final verdict on NYU: too big, too terrible in the way it treats its students, and in New York, which is fine to visit but less fine for day-to-day living, in the opinion of Rachel and her roommate, who also transferred out of NYU and is at Temple this term, but probably UMass Amherst in September.)

We took the train up from Philly yesterday morning, since there is only one train a day ("The Vermonter") between home and Amherst (two, technically: one in each direction). That took about 6.5 hours and was pretty much on time, and we got to relax and semi-sleep most of the time. We were fairly sleep-deprived from packing the day and night before. I went to bed earlier than Rachel and Chris, who stayed up all night (and also watched the first Star Trek reboot movie) but my mind was racing just about all night, so I might have gotten an hour or two of sleep, tops.

Fortunately, the inn where we're staying is a five minute walk from the train station. We're right across the street from Emily Dickinson's House:


There was some confusion when we arrived, because we were at the door that isn't usually used by folks who arrive by car (which we didn't, having walked the five minutes from the train station), but once we were in the room it was lovely and we went out for dinner at a very cool Persian/Mediterranean restaurant with huge portions and low prices (and WONDERFUL food!).

Since it's a bed & breakfast, we had breakfast in the dining room this morning, and of course the only other person eating with us is also from Philadelphia! A retired man is here with his wife to visit their grad student son at UMass Amherst, having driven up the day before. And it also turned out that the innkeeper used to live in Philadelphia while her husband was going to pharmacy school at Temple. (Philly people are EVERYWHERE.)

We shopped, had some lunch, and got a taxi to go down to the campus (which is in South Amherst) for dorm check-in and taking what few things we could transport on the train with us. (A moving van is coming from Philadelphia tomorrow with her mini-fridge, a microwave, a television and many boxes of clothes and books.) Later there was a lovely dinner and dessert gathering for new students and their families in "The Red Barn" (which isn't as primitive as it sounds--a very nice renovated space, and fabulous locally-sourced food). We got a taxi back and are settled in our room again. Tomorrow morning we plan to to to First Congregational Church of Amherst and then after lunch head back down to the campus to meet the moving van.

Amherst has been getting socked with snow all day, and it's still coming down a little. Rachel has a very snowy view from her dorm room, which has a view of a gazebo and what I think may be a crab apple tree. So I'll leave you with this lovely, wintry view from Hampshire College in Amherst:

» Been there, done that
I started working when I turned 16, because my dad basically said to me, "Okay, you're 16 now. Go out and get a job." I got a job at Gino's, a fast food restaurant a couple of blocks from my house where my oldest sister and my brother had also worked when they were in high school. At the time, such "restaurants" were permitted to pay minors a percentage of minimum wage, so my starting salary was $2.85 at a time when the full minimum wage was $3.35.

For that $2.85 an hour I wore a scratchy polyester uniform, scrubbed toilets, washed windows, scrubbed out the shake machine and every other surface behind the counter where we put the orders together on trays (eating in) or paper bags (take-out), operated the drive-through order station, made change myself (we had to do it quickly, too, and didn't have registers that told us the change), fetched food from the walk-in fridge and freezers (without putting a coat on), unpacked cartons of food and paper supplies and put it all where it could be grabbed quickly to complete orders, "married" ketchup and mustard bottles to keep the tables fully stocked, emptied trash, wiped down tables, chairs, trash bins and condiment containers, swept and mopped floors, and often worked well past midnight (90-120 minutes past closing) to have the place ready to open again the following morning. I got a 30 minute break, during which I clocked out and was not paid, and during my break I was permitted to buy a Gino's meal with my employee discount. (Only soft drinks were free.) Oh, and there was cleaning the bathrooms frequently, often after customers who behaved in said bathrooms as if they were raised in caves.

Cooks had the pleasure of cleaning grease traps, grills, deep fryers, ventilation hoods, and disposing of disgusting amounts of used fry-grease from the Kentucky Fried Chicken (Gino's was a licensed seller), french fries and similar items. And then mopping the kitchen floors and the walk-in freezer and fridge. They also did hours of food prep before opening, chopping lettuce, tomatoes and onions and otherwise getting ready to cook massive quantities of food. Managers often participated in this prep as well, besides working on the books and balancing everything, creating schedules and getting the money safely to the bank deposit box each night without being mugged. (They gave the local cops free food because they accompanied the manager to the bank each night. And I'm sure this kind of thing still goes on 33 years later.)

All of this is to say that anyone who calls these jobs "flipping burgers" and doubts that those who hold fast food jobs deserve to be paid a living wage have either never held one of these jobs or have developed some kind of amnesia protecting them from remembering what it was really like. I know now that it was technically illegal for them to have paid me $2.85 an hour. I also know that when I started waiting tables and was making $5+ an hour, it felt like I was rich. I wasn't, but by then I was 19 and it did mean that I could afford to move into an apartment that cost me $200 a month, which was about 40% of my income. I didn't have health insurance, but I had a university scholarship that gave me access to the university healthcare system during the semester, and my other general expenses were very low. I took public transit and did not have a car. I bought my clothes at thrift stores and furniture for my apartment secondhand or on sale.

I was able to do that in 1984. Thirty years later, the cost of living has skyrocketed but the minimum wage has gone up very little. If I were still waiting tables I would still definitely be better off than a fast food worker--prices on menus have gone up, and most people are pretty good about tipping properly based on a percentage of the check. However, I know that when I did this work, my best tips were all from former bartenders and waitstaff. I tip generously because I've been there, paying my rent and utilities and buying my bus pass with tips. But fast food workers can't rely on tips and the generosity of people who've been in their shoes--unless those people, and a lot of others, pressure legislators to increase the minimum wage.

Yes, I was a high school student when I worked in fast food. A lot of people still have the mindset that that is who is SUPPOSED to hold fast food jobs, saying things like, "These are supposed to be entry-level jobs, they're not supposed to be careers!" They label adults working in fast food as failures, high school drop outs, people who made "poor life choices".

This is incredibly naive and myopic. Even back when I was working in fast food, someone else had to do my job during the day, when I was at school. High school students didn't open up Gino's at 10 am Monday through Friday--adults who were paid minimum wage did that. They paid their bills and bought their kids clothes and food and kept a roof over their heads with minimum wage. And even then, a lot of them worked multiple jobs or used food stamps or shared housing with others, years after a lot of people might want to stop having roommates, because they had to. It was all they could afford.

And now expenses are higher than ever and real salaries are lower than ever. And people disrespect the job fast food workers do and call it "flipping burgers" as if they get to inhabit some sort of perpetual Fourth of July, standing over a grill on a nice deck with an apron emblazoned with KISS THE COOK, as if this is what they always wanted to do, so why should they be paid a living wage for what a lot of people do for enjoyment, as a hobby? In this argument, there is no recognition of the amount of sheer toil, the back-breaking labor involved in these jobs. Would those who don't want to raise the minimum wage want to do these jobs for a day? For an hour? I doubt it. Yet they think they're easy and stupid and a result of "making poor life-choices", even though we don't choose where we are born, or our parents/caregivers, or the school system in our town when we're kids, or any number of factors that perpetuate systemic poverty.

But we can choose to treat people fairly. Corporations are not people; and if they were people, they'd be horrible, horrible people. I was fairly comfortable as a kid, though we weren't rich. We were lower middle class and never went on vacations and didn't have a lot, but we were never hungry or cold. We were okay. And that was because my dad had a union job. Unions exist because employers failed to be fair to their workers. They failed at being good corporate citizens. That is the ONLY reason that unions exist--because they needed to. I think that not only should the minimum wage be raised but that fast food workers and employees of places like Walmart should unionize. And that is ONLY because their employers failed to do the right thing by their workers. If they hadn't, unions wouldn't be necessary. But clearly they ARE necessary.

Corporate greed has reached an all-time high, along with corporate profits, which are often taxed as capital gains for those who have invested in these companies. Capital gains are taxed at only about 15 percent. If these corporations were forced to give what would have been capital gains for their investors to their employees as wages, those wages would be taxed at a far higher rate than capital gains and increase the country's tax revenue, as well as decreasing the strain on "social programs" such as food stamps that are utilized by an alarming proportion of minimum wage workers. It's a win-win for the country; the same money is taxed at a higher rate, government revenue increases, more people can make a good living (and spend more money) and fewer people need government assistance.

Don't believe anyone who calls minimum wage workers moochers and bums who just need to go to school to get a good job. Good jobs are not that easy to come by these days and plenty of people working in fast food DID go to college and can't get any other kind of job because of corporations that have been rewarded for shipping jobs overseas. We need to stop rewarding companies who give their employees the shaft or just eliminate jobs altogether to maximize their profits and start making sure these companies do right by their employees. Our economy will never recover unless we start with making certain that the people at the bottom of the heap are able to live above the poverty line while working hard for a living.

It's the right thing to do.
» Sleepy Hollow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Man, that's annoying to type, with all of the periods.

So far I'm enjoying MAoS. (And laughing whenever I watch Once Upon a Time on Hulu because typing just the "O" in the search criteria brings up OUaT but also brings up MAoS. Yes, I'm sure that TONS of people search for that show using the "of" in the title.")

Anyway, my husband and I were watching last night's episode when it was actually broadcast for once, instead of later in the week, on Hulu, and when Skye gets all emotional and hugs Simmons, I couldn't resist saying, "And a thousand fanfics were born."

I'm picturing them as small, dancing fairies, throwing pixie dust into the air and cheering squeekily as they leap from flower petal to flower petal.

I've also watched all six extant episodes of Sleepy Hollow, in just two days, because my daughter called it "adorable". It is. And every time Abbie and Ichabod give each other a "significant" look I also find myself thinking, "And a thousand fanfics were born."

This time I'm picturing the fanfics as fairies in 18th century garb, dancing sedate and orderly line-dances such as at a country house party in a Jane Austen book.

I haven't actually sought out any fanfic for either fandom because I fear that nothing would live up to my visions of the dancing fairies. ;)
» I'm tired, but I'm LONDON tired
Took the train down to Greenwich Pier this morning for a Thames boat tour that took us to Westminster. Will have to upload pictures late tonight or tomorrow, because we then gave ourselves sensory overload by visiting Westminster Abbey (where you are not permitted to take photos indoors, so we didn't). We are just back in the flat briefly, after buying theatre tickets, eating lunch and walking through the National Gallery.

Tonight: Spamalot!
» London Calling
We are here! In the London flat we are renting for a week, through the cold and wet, but now the sun is shining and the Druids are about to have a celebration of its return!

No, really, it looks lovely out and the forecast for the rest of the day is ZERO rain and a temp of about 13C/55F, so we are off to explore Islington, particularly St. Paul's Road, for food and interesting things to do.

If you are in London and want to get together before next Tuesday, let me know and I'll give you the number of the iPhone we are using whilst here.
» London Question
So--those of you who know London, a question:

If we got tickets to see a West Ham vs. Man City match in East London on a Saturday evening (@5:30) is that a really dicey thing for two Americans to do? (Or anyone, for that matter?)
» Tea Party Wedding Crasher 3D!
MINISTER: I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss.

[Bride and groom kiss and guests clap and cheer. Except for the desperate-looking guy we'll call Teep Artie running down the aisle.]

ARTIE: Samantha! I'm here to rescue you!

[Artie has a bloody bandage around his head and is limping. He looks like he hasn't changed his clothes for a month.]

SAM: Artie? What are you doing here? I told you to take a hike! This is my wedding!

ARTIE: Yes, but it's not too late! You haven't consummated it yet. We can just get you an annulment and--

SAM: Why would I do that? I rejected you over and over. Why don't you get that? I'm married to Barry now. I never wanted to be with you. That's why I got the restraining order. How did you get in here? Why can't you take a hint?

ARTIE: You just don't understand what I can give you!

SAM: Don't care is more like it. And didn't you have to file for bankruptcy because you couldn't pay for your appendectomy?

ARTIE: That was just a bump in the road.

SAM: You don't look so good. How's your asthma?

ARTIE: Well, I can't get an inhaler now for less than $500. I changed jobs, and it's a pre-existing condition--

SAM: Oh, that's not an issue any more. Thanks to Barry.

[Sam bats her eyes at Barry, who smiles benevolently at Artie.]

BARRY: And if I'd had my way, you wouldn't have had to file for bankruptcy because you couldn't pay for an operation.

ARTIE: That's socialist propaganda! I deserved to go bankrupt! Sam, please, I still love you. Just say you love me and we'll run away together!

SAM: Artie, you're delusional. I never loved you, I told you over and over again, and now I'm married. Just go away and stop bothering me! You have to accept that this is how it is!

[Artie suddenly pulls an elderly woman from her seat on the aisle and pulls a gun out of his pocket; he holds the woman around her neck with one arm and presses the gun against her temple with the other.]

ARTIE: Okay, how much do you love me now? Say you love me!

SAM: Don't hurt Nana!

ARTIE: I'm not the one who wants to hurt Nana! It's Barry, with his--his--DEATH PANELS!

[Barry curses.]

BARRY: Listen, asshat, there's no such thing as death panels! Why do you keep trying to scare Sam and her Nana about freaking death panels? You're the only one threatening Nana!

ARTIE: To get Sam to listen! And get her to hate you!

SAM: You're the only one you've made me hate, Artie! I've given you my answer over and over. Now let go of Nana!

ARTIE: Maybe--maybe we can negotiate something. Maybe you can spend Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays with me--

SAM: I'm not going to negotiate with you, Artie!

ARTIE: You negotiated with that other guy--

SAM: That was to buy my house, Artie.

ARTIE: But you hated the guy selling it to you. So you'll negotiate with someone you hate but not me?

BARRY: We hate you too, Artie, but we don't negotiate with terrorists. Let Nana go.

[Artie pouts.]

ARTIE: I'll turn off the electricity! The doors are electronic--we won't be able to leave! And you'll either all die of starvation or have to start eating each other! And--there aren't any bathrooms here, so you'll have to pee in the corner, and it'll start to smell!

[Sam sighs.]

SAM: For Pete's sake--why won't you quit? You can't make me love you, Artie. And even if I were on the fence, you wouldn't be helping your case with this bullshit. I'm married. It's a done deal. I'm happy. This is what I want. GO AWAY NOW.

ARTIE: What if I--what if I make it impossible for you all to see cute videos of baby pandas?

SAM: Then we'll all hate you even more! More threats aren't going to make me change my mind. What part of IT IS OVER do you not get?

[Artie blinks in confusion.]

ARTIE: Um, all of it.

[Suddenly, Nana, puts her elbow in Artie's ribs, takes the gun from his grasp and aims it at him.]

NANA: Shut up and go away, asshole. Before I shoot. I may be mostly blind and can't remember my address most of the time, or what year it is, but I've had a license to carry a gun since 1960 and I'm a crack shot, so go ahead--try me.

[Artie looks down the barrel of the gun and faints dead away. Nana puts the gun in her purse and sits down again.]

NANA: I never liked him anyway. Those stories about death panels always sounded like something he'd thought way too much about, like he'd been planning them for years. Good riddance.

[The music starts up and Sam and Barry walk down the aisle arm in arm, stepping over Artie on the way out of the chapel. The guests clap and cheer again and when they leave, Artie is left alone, lying in the aisle, drooling onto the carpet.]

» Back to NYU
We're taking Rachel back to New York for her second year at NYU tomorrow, and I may or may not have internet access while we're doing that--it's unclear. (I may have access purely through going to an internet cafe or some other place in public that has wifi if the place we're staying doesn't have access.)

She's really looking forward to her new dorm room, which will have a real kitchen that is NOT shared by obnoxious suite-mates from hell. And a friend from Philly just started going to school in NYC and promises to come over to bake muffins, so that's something else for her to look forward to!

I'm making lovely progress on the WiP--just over 60,000 words in 60 days--and am also reading a weird variety of books: Codex Born by Jim C. Hines (the sequel to Libriomancer; Bring up the Bodies; A Most Devilish Rogue (waves to Anne!) by Ashlyn MacNamara; and I just finished Zealot, by Reza Aslan. I've downloaded and will soon start the memoir on which Call the Midwife was based, so I'm looking forward to that; my boss is reading it already and she highly recommended it.

I'm also very very very very very (multiply that by a few dozen more times) glad to be leaving Philadelphia and the neighborhood of Fairmount in particular before the kick-off of the Made in America festival. Our neck of the woods is chaos incarnate right now, with a massive construction project on the Parkway to build the four stages for the concert(s), very loud sound-checks, and constant buzzing from news helicopters covering this for the local (and maybe also national) newscasts. On top of that, major amounts of traffic are being rerouted onto Fairmount Avenue that would normal be on the Parkway, all of the buses are having to go half-way across town before reverting to their "regular" routes (so we're walking to 30th Street Station in the morning via the Schuylkill bike path) and in general, if it were merely a three-ring circus out there it would be a lot more peaceful than what we've got. And some people are going to be paying huge ticket prices to go to this. Go figure. I'm just glad I'll be 90 miles away instead of in the midst of it.
» Oh, those wacky funeral directors...
It's really eye-opening doing the research for my current writing project. Even though I grew up going to a funeral home for piano lessons (the organist there, who was married to the funeral director, was also the organist at our church, and I took lessons from her daughter, who was also an organ and piano teacher) I didn't really witness the funeral business from the "inside". I saw a little of how the house was run, from a purely physical standpoint. (I often was in the position of racing past an open casket with a body in it in the viewing room to get to my lesson. And no, I didn't have to run past it, but in a way, yeah, I really did.)

I hated encountering the enormous guard dogs, which made me terrified of dogs for many years afterward. My sister also cleaned house for them occasionally, and I also sometimes had to walk up and down to my lessons via the "servants' stairs" that were at the end of a long corridor and were almost EXACTLY like the servants' stairs you see on Downton Abbey. I loved the house itself for its grand architecture; it was a Tudor Revival, possibly from the twenties, with lovely woodwork and enormous stone fireplaces and a lot of diamond-paned windows. For a little while I was also friends with the caretaker's daughter; that family lived in a former carriage house on the grounds, built in the same style as the main house, but on a smaller scale, which I thought was much cooler than my own 1958 twin ranch house.

Anyway, the eye-opening part started with reading The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford; she updated her original 1963 book in the mid-90s. Then today I read the entire 71-page Pennsylvania Funeral Director Law, a lot of news stories about 30 funeral directors challenging the law in a lawsuit, the judge hearing the suit declaring 11 different parts of the law unconstitutional, and the appeal of this decision by the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association, the result of which won't be known for a couple of months still. (The appeal was heard last month, over a year after the judge said a lot of it was unconstitutional.)

I also read about the traffic laws pertaining to to funeral processions. And about an order of Catholic Monks in Louisiana who were told to stop building simple wooden caskets to sell to people who didn't want to pay a huge markup at a funeral home and the monks' triumph in court. And another story about an Orthodox rabbi who won a civil rights case against the Funeral Directors Association on the grounds that their rules muddied the separation of church and state, because Orthodox Judaism doesn't permit embalming and in general Orthodox Jews tend to eschew the services of funeral directors and rely on their rabbis to conduct the services and even clean the remains to prepare them for burial.

Now I need to do some editing to reflect the info dump into my brain, but it's all good. I'm ahead of my self-imposed schedule (on chapter 6 out of 13) and tomorrow I can do a sweeping edit to incorporate a lot of what I've learned. It's almost--almost--making me nostalgic for my childhood piano lessons...
» Potterdelphia and PhilCon
Had a fun outing this afternoon to the Franklin Fountain (awesomest ice cream in Philadelphia!) with the other folks of Potterdelphia for a belated Harry Potter birthday gathering. I'm now officially LJ friends with drinkingcocoa :waves: whose little girl was also along for the outing, sporting beautiful face-paint from a trip to the zoo!

I also got to schmooze with Skot again, our fearless leader, and Katie, who turned out to be a Psychic Serpent fan, and met Maggie and talked again with David, who was lucky enough to go to MistiCon. (I couldn't have gone even if I'd known about it sooner--it was the same weekend we were bringing Rachel home from NYU.)

I'm so glad I started going to these gatherings--I was really getting way too introverted even for me, which is saying something, and it's good to get out and talk to people about something other than my day job. I'm also going to try to get to PhilCon again this year, which I haven't done since they moved to Cherry Hill because traveling over there on the busiest weekend of the year for me, work-wise, just wasn't feasible. They've moved this year's event to the first weekend of November, which works much better for me, so I can go again! (And even book a hotel room to stay over for a night or two, thus avoiding constantly being on the bus between Philadelphia and Cherry Hill.)

Anyone else planning to go this year? Maybe I should talk some of the Potterdelphia folks into going!
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