Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Talk Thursday (on Friday): The Year That Was

Well, it's as good a topic as any, seeing as the topic-o-meter is misbehaving again. So as my li'l fishy on the left there swims boldly forward into 2011, here's some highlights (and lowlights) from the Year that Was.

We didn't get off to a great start. On the first day of spring (!), ol' Dallas was hit with a blizzard-cum-ice storm that knocked down zillions of trees and killed power all over the city, including here, at the Flaming O Ranch. We spent four days in the dark and
cold, which was I guess less
cold than it could have been on accounts of our gas fireplace, but a lot colder than was strictly pleasant. We ate more than a few meals from our Cookbook o' the Decade, Apocalypse Chow: Emergency Eating For Hurricanes, Blackouts, Bachelors and Other Disasters (available everywhere and very
handy, I might add.) Why didn't we evacuate to a hotel? Uh, three cats, that's why. They thought it was awesome that I was sleeping
bundled up on the couch, pulled up next to the fireplace. I didn't exactly get the awesomeness. Next time, generator and air mattress. Sincerely.

Fun with Appliances, Part 1: This summer our kitchen range blew up (!), showering sparks all over Joan. In keeping with the best advice about how to deal with electrical problems, I grabbed the plug with my bare hands and pulled it out of the wall. The nice electric guy says not to ever do that again, please. My hair has mostly stopped curling now, and we have a new range that looks exactly like the old one. Let's hear it for Sears Home Delivery.

Fun with Appliances, Part 2: In the very hottest part of August, our brand-new air conditioner decided to go all kamikaze on us. Our air conditioner repair guy was here for four frickin’ days (with the internal temp hovering near 90) trying to figure out what in hell could be wrong. It turned out to be an obscure part that never, ever goes bad -- and which was still under warranty. So the whole four days cost us $50 bucks for the service call. Wow. Our air conditioner repair guy is a saint. Also, Caesar the Cat loves him.

Fun with Appliances, Part 3: Our plumber threw in a free inspection as part of an end of the year special. Boy, were we surprised to find out our water heater is 19 years old – which makes it a full 7 years past its natural life span. Guess what’s next on the list to be replaced? And here I was hoping for a new dishwasher.

I went to the Pen to Press Writers Retreat in New Orleans in May. That was great. Besides getting to meet F. Paul Wilson, which was basically the Jen equivalent of Judge Harry Stone getting to meet Mel Torme (yes, I'm old, so sue me), I crammed tons of publishing-industry stuff into my brain and learned not how to write great literature but how to tell a good story. And yes, I took scads of notes. I'm a paralegal. I take notes. It's just what I do. So do I have an agent yet, and am I on my way to mind boggling success in the New York industry corridor? Uh, no. But I am getting rejected on a higher level and by more important people. Stay tuned. I also met two really cool people who have become good friends - Rhett in Jinks, Oklahoma and JulieAnne in Ogden, Utah. Get this - JulieAnne and I knew each other in junior high school. Small world? Or small script? You tell me.

The City of Dallas, in a budget-balancing exercise, laid a bunch of people off. Then it said it was just kidding and hired most of them back. Then some departments were eliminated. Then they weren't. It was a bad time to be working for the City. We didn't really think Joan was going to be laid off - she's sort of the last woman standing in her department - but stranger things have happened, so we were pretty nervous between, say, June and October. This ended happily; Joan didn't get laid off. But her salary got cut. Which is not a happy thing. Meanwhile, Jen got a new job, which is a really good one.

In addition to the backyard cats, we seem to have acquired a pair of backyard raccoons. They
are, of course, attracted to the cat food, and since I won't stop feeding the cats, I think we're stuck with them for the duration. They really are kind of cute, and if we can keep my idiot neighbor from shooting them, we could all coexist in peace. That is to say, unless someone else can trap them; I kept trying, and the only things I ever caught were confused cats. The raccoons just managed to get the food out of the trap and take off without triggering it. Not only are they smart, they make me look stupid. Ya gotta admire that in an animal.

In October, the long-suffering Texas Rangers won the National League pennant, only to lose the World Series to the Giants five games later. Win a pennant, lose a Series; that's the way baseball go. It was an interesting time to be a Dallasite, though; I sat through an OA meeting where somebody with an iPhone called out the score every ten minutes, and when the trick-or-treaters came around, Joan and I would pass out candy and yell "Five to two Giants!" to the parents waiting on the sidewalk. I'm thinking this year we might do something crazy like actually watch the games or, even more radical, attend a few, so we know what's going on before the post-season stuff starts. If the post-season stuff starts. Only problem: Tends to be about 103 degrees in the stands for most of those games. Hm, I wonder if I can convince my law firm to rent a corporate box.

So anyway, that was the year, or most of it. 2011 can be a lot more mellow for all of me. I always make the same New Years resolution - to wing it and see what happens. Best of years to all of you, too. And watch out for raccoons.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Everything, Everybody!

And a Merry Christmas, too.
And we'll be speaking before then, but Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Talk Thursday: If This Is The Season Of Joy...

...Why Do I Feel Like Sheep?

Actually, given my penchant for swim-o-meter graphics I should say, "Why do I feel like fish?" but, I suppose the point is taken even if I was supposed to insert Another Word in there. Why do people, some people, my people, this person anyway, get gloomy around the holidays?

Well, let's see; I can think of a few reasons. It's dark. It's cold. Everywhere you look is full of one dose after another of artificial cheer, from Deep and Profoundly Moving Christmas Specials on TV (A Charlie Brown Christmas, anyone? A Christmas Carol? It's a Wonderful Life?) to happy dancing shoppers on escalators at some fictional mall someplace. You can tell it's a fictional mall because in real malls, shoppers do not dance on escalators. They don't even do happy hops. In fact, if you didn't know better you would swear they were trudging uphill through miles of mud. Mall people never look happy. They never drive happy. And forget driving friendly; driving through a mall parking lot at any time during the month of December is a good way to get an adrenaline rush, and possibly several new insurance claims. No wonder George Romero set "Dawn of the Dead" in a shopping mall; if there's anywhere civilization should breathe its last, it should be there, between Bath and Body Works and 5-7-9. Jen has spoken.

Technically, of course, Buddhists don't celebrate Christmas at all, but try telling that to a Buddhist. At least the ones I know in the States tend to celebrate pretty much anything at the drop of a hat, or a meditation cushion. There actually is a Buddhist holiday in December - Bodhi Day, the celebration of Buddha's enlightenment - but it's not like anybody puts up a Bodhi tree in their houses and decorates it or anything. (Hm. Possible business plan. Must think about this.) I live with a pagan and we still celebrate Christmas, though the whole religious aspect pretty much misses us completely. Unless you consider the tree, the ornaments, the gifts, the -- yep, there's a religious element at work there, but it's not Christianity.

See, back before Christianity, when this time of year was about the Oak King kicking the Holly King's butt and reigning over winter, throwing that Yule log on had some religious significance as well as being a practical way to stay warm in the days before central heating. Pre-Solstice depression was a lot more understandable then. The holiday was, after all, about death. It was the "beginning" of winter, but it was also the "end" of the autumn, the darkest night of the year, and quite often one of the coldest. If you were at all sickly, elderly, frail or otherwise less than hale and hearty, nobody really expected you to make it through the winter. And if you were going to drop dead, there weren't too many nights more symbolic than the Solstice. (Well, maybe Samhain--that's Hallowe'en, to you moderns.) So the whole joy-of-the-season thing wasn't a requirement. Heck, it wasn't even a suggestion. Yeah, things got better as the days got
longer and things started to warm up (even though there was plenty of winter left to go yet) - but you were forgiven if you weren't partying hearty around the campfire with the Oak King, tossing pinecones and acting like a fool.

I admit I like Pagan celebrations better than Buddhist ones. Buddhists take everything way too seriously. Buddhists tend to "celebrate" holidays by meditating and studying the dharma - which, don't get me wrong, is very soothing and all that, but it just doesn't scream "holiday" quite as much as the fire, the Oak King, the pinecones, the feast, the sacrificial baby - just kidding about the baby. And I like either of those better than the whole going to the mall thing and the showing up at the various Christmas parties and smiling until my face aches thing. Okay, yes, some Christmas parties are fun, and giving presents is fun too, but the onerous sense of obligation ruins it for me. I'd rather just, you know, be who I am.

Frankly, I think I'd be a lot happier this time of year if I didn't have so many external-media conspirators insisting that I be overcome with joy at this psuedo-religious gift-a-palooza that starts around mid-October and really doesn't stop until February. I hate, loathe and despise being told what to do. Unless, that is, there's something in it for me, like a pay check or a well-completed project or, I dunno, sanity. Maybe Christmas and I could strike a deal: Don't demand that I be happy, and I'll agree to rise a few notches above surly and, you know, talk to people and stuff. I'm just sayin'.

Book o' the Decade Alert! If you're even a little bit interested in religion, you've got to check out The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture by Darrel W. Ray. You may not agree with his theory of religion-as-virus, but his argument is compelling and the implications for our culture and politics are scary--whether you believe in God or not. Four stars.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Talk Thursday (on Sunday): Exhibition and Privacy

Now there's a topic that's near and dear, especially recently. Before I go into that, though, let's just say that anyone who publishes a semi-weekly Web column/blog/ FaceSpace/Mypage/ Whatever can just about kiss any privacy about anything they've ever written on there, as well as any pictures they've posted, so long and goodbye. What's on the Net, stays on the Net, and they'll find it before your job interview and they'll check it out when you're called for jury duty and if you're a Christian, Saint Peter will probably ask you questions about it when you get to the pearly gates (including, but not limited to, "Is this you sitting on Mick Jagger's lap in your underwear?"). Okay? Okay.

Moving right along then: What sort of exhibitionism is still shocking in our age of telling everyone everything? And what can and should remain private? Or are we in a post-privacy era, where nobody can get away with anything anymore?

When Madonna posted her "Sex" book (says Jen, showing her age), any questions about any part of her anatomy we hadn't already seen were very quickly and messily cleared up. Not only did we see her naked, we saw her mind at work, and pardon me for saying so, Ms. Ciccone, but it wasn't a pretty picture. From that point forward, any "mystery" about the Material Girl was really more a case of what in hell was she going to do next. She continues to pull it off, which is kind of, well, shocking. But she doesn't pull it off in a shocking manner anymore. She just sort of casually reinvents herself every few years, and if there's any tiny part of her life we haven't seen, it's just because we haven't been paying attention.

On the other hand, we have Jodie Foster. (Yes, I'm going somewhere with this. Bear with me.) Ms. Foster is circumspect about her personal life to a degree that one might call paranoid until one realizes that she basically had no life of her own from the time she was about six until she went away to college. (The girl was photographed nude at the age of three, for God's sake, and the image is still used to this day on bottles of suntan lotion.) That she decided to slam the doors on any part of her life that wasn't immediately part of the spotlight not only took guts, it took that rarest of rare things in Hollywood; common sense. Non-Hollywood types didn't even know she was a lesbian until she thanked "my beautiful Cydney" in an acceptance speech back in 2008 (the rest of us had it figured out a long time ago - it's that gaydar thing). I don't know this for a fact but I suspect Ms. Foster doesn't have a Facebook page. If she does, it's probably for her production company.

So we have our two extreme examples, exhibition and privacy. Most of us live somewhere in between. Myself, personally, I get annoyed when I write one of these blog posts and get few or no responses. (Or, worse, those weird Asian responses that are in Han Chinese and when translated, seem to be something about sex, but are otherwise incomprehensible.) Nobody likes to be ignored. Yet it's interesting how people get bent out of shape when their Facebook posts, rather than garner "likes" from their friends, get them into trouble instead. I've heard of cheerleaders getting kicked off the squad when their parents or teachers found pictures of them drinking alcohol; disability benefits recipients losing those benefits because caseworkers found pictures of them partying at the beach; guys who lose jobs because their bosses find pictures of them doing mature things like making copies of their backsides on the office copy machine. Some have thrown public hissy fits. Some have even threatened lawsuits. For getting in trouble for doing stuff that there's absolute proof (including written confessions, in plenty of cases) they did it. I wish I could sit in on some of those depositions, because what we have here, folks, is a case of technology running much faster than our ability to cope with it.

In my case, I didn't get into all that much trouble because I expressed an opinion rather than admitting to doing something like, I dunno, copying my backside on the office copier. (There'd be more evidence; the silly thing would have shattered like a cracked egg.) But, ironically, that's the pattern of my life. I only ever got into trouble for opening my mouth at the wrong time in front of the wrong people, most often in high school, and most often there in front of one particular social sciences teacher who should have retired about ten years before he met me. Now that I have a keyboard and a domain name, I can get into even more trouble, and without even trying too hard. So can we all. We're both much weaker and much more powerful than we realize. You'll note, for example, I did two Talk Thursdays in a week and not only did the earth fail to crack asunder, but California did not fall into the ocean. I have to admit I'm a tiny bit disappointed about that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Talk Thursday: No Topic? No Problem.

Well, kids, no Talk Thursday topic has appeared in my mailbox yet. Not sure why--maybe the topic-o-meter had a blowout and they had to send to Shanghai for parts - but I'd like to assure my nervous fans, both of you, that this is not a problem. I have never needed an excuse to blather on at great length. Besides, I already have a topic picked out, and I was gonna use it whether it fit in with the "official" topic or not. I'm kinda stubborn that way.

December the sixteenth is not a good day for me. In fact, it's pretty much the worst day of the year to be Jen. The only good thing about it is that when I wake up tomorrow morning it will be December seventeenth and things are bound to get better. Every year I try to forget what happened on December 16 and every year I manage to remember it anyway. Nine years ago, on December 16, 2001, someone I care very deeply about killed himself. And yours truly has really never been the same since.

Oh, sure. I'm familiar with the various platitudes. He wasn't in his right mind at the time. (Well, obviously.) He had some problem, maybe a mental illness, that we didn't know about. (Yes, he had a big problem that we didn't know about then, and probably also a mental illness, and a serious alcohol problem, besides.) There's nothing you can do to save somebody who truly wants to take himself out. (Who wants to save him? It's too late to save him. He's probably a fourth-
grader in Beijing by now. I just want to track him down and beat the stuffing out of him for putting everyone who loved him through all this crap. Too bad it doesn't work that way.) The Lord works in mysterious ways. (Don't even get me started on that one. The Lord had nothing to do with a .34 blood alcohol level, a belt and a handy ceiling pipe.) You need to let this go, Jen. (Uh, hello. Tried that. Been trying for about nine years now. Hasn't worked. Still upset. Thanks for the thought, though.)

And hey, I wasn't even a close friend or family member. Yeah, I cared deeply for the guy, but I was a fringe dweller in his life. I'll be kind and say he probably would have recognized me in a crowd, might have remembered my name without too much prompting. But if I'm still this upset after this long, imagine what his close friends went through. Imagine what his kids went through. Imagine what a thrill it must be for them, to remember Christmas as the time when their daddy

So here, at last, is the point I'm trying to make. If you, whoever you are, are thinking about suicide, if the notion has even crossed your mind lately, but especially if it has done more than cross your mind, please, please please please get some help. Don't rip a giant hole in the hearts of everyone who has ever loved you. Don't leave a hundred or more people to write maudlin blog posts at their favorite Middle Eastern restaurants on a busy Thursday night. Pick up the phone -- right now -- and call one of these numbers: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) (TTY: 1-800-799-4889). In the Dallas area, you can call (214) 330-7722. Okay? Okay. Thanks. Tell them Jen and Stuart sent you.

William Stuart Adamson Jr., April 11, 1959 - December 16, 2001

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Talk Thursday: But For The Grace...

Now there's a loaded Talk Thursday topic if ever I heard one. What am I willing to cop to, that for the grace of somebody /something, I'm not doing/saying/being? I mean, but for the grace of an X-chromosome, I'd be male, but how exciting is that? Not very. A similar genetic coin toss gets made every two seconds and the results are all around us. No, for real blog fodder, you need the good stuff. But for the grace of Gandhi, for example, I'd be British. (Which, not being born in India, I can't lay claim to.) But for the grace of the policeman who came along at just the right moment, I'd have gotten into the big black car with the friendly stranger and who knows what would have happened. (Relax, this never actually happened to me. It's an archetypal story, and I'm just using it as an example.) But for the grace of God, I'd have fallen off the roof and become a paraplegic. Something like that. Some disaster narrowly averted, some horrible fate missed by inches.

The thing is, I don't have that many disasters narrowly averted in my life. Most of them actually happened. I mean, I guess they could have been worse, but bigger disasters narrowly averted doesn't really make up for smaller disasters that actually happened, in my humble opinion. And smaller disasters do not blog fodder make. But for the grace of my dad's amazing pilot skills, we'd have all fallen out of his airplane when the door popped open at 5,000 feet. (No, not really; we were all wearing seat belts, and there's not much suction at that altitude. Kinda rattling for a few minutes there, though.) But for the grace of my ear, nose and throat surgeon, I'd be getting a lot more sinus infections. (Not only isn't that impressive, it's kinda gross.) But for the grace of an old lawyer friend who talked me out of it, I'd have gone to law school. (Doubt it. I was pretty much dead set against going to law school. Old lawyer friend just gave me a much more persuasive argument.) Bor-ring. Pretty soon my legion of screaming fans - both of them - will be skipping past this entry to read the latest Dear Abby column over at the Chicago Tribune site.

So that leaves me with only one option. The scary option. There but for the grace of God, I didn't turn out like this lady.
This is without a doubt the scariest book I ever read. It's so scary I told Joan not to read it because it would give her nightmares. I've read it about five times and it gets scarier every darn time. Forget Stephen King, forget George Romero, forget Ben Kingsley (yes, I'm afraid of Ben Kingsley; go see Death and the Maiden and then come back here and tell me with a straight face that you're not afraid of Ben Kingsley). It ends happily, by the way, but like lots of things that end happily, you have to slog through a lot of mud to get there.

Yes, of course it could have been worse. I could have been born to strict Fundamentalist parents of the type who disown their kids for not marrying someone of the opposite sex. I could have joined the Air Force in college and found out only then how utterly unfit I was for military service. I could have stayed in music school, stubbornly retaken class piano and flunked it a few more times before getting tossed out on my ear. I could have not been wearing my seat belt when the door popped open at 5,000 feet. But frankly, what Ms. Hornbacher and I have in common is plenty bad enough, thank you. And a novel-length illustration of how bad it can get if you don't take care of it is enough to scare me straight. So to speak.

I know I've been lucky as hell that my life hasn't turned out the way Ms. Hornbacher's did. Well, half of it was luck. The other half is doing what the nice medical profession tells me to do. If I keep doing that, will everything will continue to flow along smoothly in the life of Jen? It's more likely than not, but there are no guarantees. Sometimes you can do all the right things and everything can still go wrong. Just ask Ben Kingsley. He starred in BloodRayne.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ex. Asper. Ated.

Every day, I remind myself more of my mother. During trial prep I heard myself say to my lawyer boys, several times, "Everything's fine," and "Don't worry, I'll handle it." Those are Mom-isms from way back. Then just a few days ago I called my sister and said, "Your mother is driving me crazy." Which is, of course, exactly the thing my mother does when she's annoyed with my father. It's "Your father is driving me crazy" when she's annoyed with him. When she's pleased with him, it's always, "Dad" or, sometimes, "That man of ours." I took a look at myself in the mirror and I'm rapidly becoming a composite of both parents. Mom's face with Dad's hair. Well, that's a cool combination, anyway. Dad's hair is very thick and, though shot through with grey, still all there. And then there's my nose. It's my nose. Nobody in the family has a nose like mine. So I have this original, classic nose. But I digress.

I have a sick relative. My mom used to be a nurse, and I guess once you're a nurse you're always a nurse, kind of like there's no such thing as an ex-Marine. So my mom is taking care of this relative. This is a relative I've spent a fair amount of time with, gone on a number of trips with, etc. And I'm exasperated out of all reason that nobody will tell me what the hey is going on. Or rather, the persons who know won't tell me what the hey is going on. Neither will the relative. Every time I'm on the phone with said relative, the conversation is always hello, how ya doin', fine and goodbye. Every time I'm on the phone with Mom and I ask about said relative, she says, "Everything's fine" or "Don't worry, I'll handle it" and changes the subject. The more pointed I get with my questions, the more obvious the changes of subject. As in, take the hint, Jen. I've always been lousy about taking hints.

It could be that nobody actually knows, that all the test results are coming back negative or, worse, confusing. It could also be that this relative doesn't want anyone talking about it, hence the radio silence. If somebody would just tell me that, I'd probably be fine with it. (Probably. Not necessarily. I'm not promising anything here. I'm just saying probably.) It's the fact that nobody's leveling with me that's driving me up the wall.

I should, of course, be used to this by now. I'm Scandinavian. Way before everything else of interest about me (gay, female, a little loopy, American, writer, paralegal), being Scandinavian is the brightest color in the palette. It's the religion (Lutheran), the background, the whole emotional quality of my life. Scandinavian folk don't talk about anything Serious head-on. We. Just. Can't. Do. That. We hint, we evade, we say "That's nice" a lot. (And then we spend years in therapy wondering why in hell we're wrenched with chronic anxiety all the time. Go figure.) Trouble with me is, I didn't actually spend my entire formative years in North Dakota, and I got exposed to normal-type people who, you know, YELL when they're angry and CRY when they're sad and LAUGH when they're happy and weird stuff like that. Small wonder I'm so mixed up. But anyway. I have much less patience for Chronic Evasion Syndrome than my parents do. Hence, source of conflict. Hence, serious frick'n exasperation.

So I'm reduced to picking up fragments of the story wherever I can, piecing together hints and allegations and things left unsaid. I'm almost to the point of calling another relative, who would probably know more, but I kind of hate to do that because even though I know this person would know something, I'd just be calling because I know this person would know something, which is a rotten reason to be calling somebody, even though I'd also be calling to say hi.

Dilemmas, dilemmas. Is it too late to go back in time and be born Mexican-American?

Cinematic brilliance alert! Go see "Unstoppable." Awesome movie with an unbelievably cool chase scene, even if it's between two vehicles that are unable to make turns and top out at around 70 mph. Highly recommended!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Talk Thursday (on Saturday): Sticks, Stones, and Words That Stab Much Deeper

Significant words in the life of Jen:

Reading an email from a literary agent on a crowded elevator on my way to work one morning quite recently, I suddenly exclaimed, "GODDAMMIT!!" Uh, it was kinda loud. And everyone turned around and stared at me. I was pretty embarrassed. The email wasn't good news, either.

My ex broke up with me, she said, because she didn't want to be in a relationship "just because it was convenient." Yep, it happened about seventeen years ago and I can still hear it. That's "convenient" with a sharp "c", a long "e" and a pointed "t". I didn't want to hear the word "convenient" for years. Still don't, in all honesty.

When I was about nine, my mother, in an odd fit of prescience, took me to a psychiatrist. I told her I didn't want to go back because the doctor asked lots of questions and I felt invaded. My mother said that when she took her car to the mechanic, she had to answer all his questions or he wouldn't know what was wrong with the car. I didn't get past the word "car." Great. I was now equated with a motor vehicle. I'd better be good or I'd be recycled for spare parts. Or worse, recalled to Detroit. (Or Tokyo.)

Joan, my wife, is often referred to around here as "Pi." While this is a common Southern nickname for a woman, it's not often spelled out as a mathematical formula. It came about that I was abbreviating "pie" as "22/7", which is, "3.14285714...." or the radius of a circle, in a note. Joan read this literally as 22/7, meaning 22 hours, 7 days a week - because everybody deserves two hours off. So now "Pi" means two hours off, the radius of a circle, 3.14285714...or a fine pastry that often contains fruits, nuts, or both. And sometimes it just means Joan.

Back in the Middle Ages, people used to get sick and die of various diseases that involved facial lesions, all of which were lumped together (for lack of medical knowledge) under the general heading of "the pox." Since then (and I've been alive since then; indeed, I've been alive for ages and ages) I've discovered that the word POX!! pronounced exactly that way, with at least two exclamation points, makes a fine, satisfying fake swear word in circumstances where FUCK!! would get you in big trouble. Another satisfying fake swear word is GEORGE W. BUSH!! but that can be taken wrong in certain circles. You have been warned.

"External" is a word most often applied to something that is, uh, not internal; unless, of course, you live around here, in which it means a certain kind of cat. There are two kinds of cats in this house; the internals and the externals. The internals are the spoiled rotten house cats. The externals are the feral cats, who live in the back yard and share food, however unwillingly, with Madame Raccoon. We think rather highly of the externals around here, so much so that we named our external hard drive "Clan External" in their honor.

And this post is going nowhere fast, so in closing, I leave you with the word "ay-yow." This word comes from a cat dialect, most commonly spoken by all black and tuxedo cats. While it is most often used to express the concept, "Give me some tuna," the word literally means "heart's desire." Should one's heart's desire be thwarted, beware of the "maaaaare," which in most cat dialects means, "I'm going to smother you in your sleep."