Have Fun at Work on Talk Like a Pirate Day!

This post originally ran on September 19, 2010.  A chat friend wondered today how to enjoy the upcoming holiday at work, so I decided to repost it in advance, so those of you who will be working on Pirate Day can prepare.  Arrr, happy Talk Like a Pirate Day to ye!

YARR!  Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, ye scurvy bilge rats! September 19th be the day!

Every year on this momentous occasion, would-be pirates dress up, scoff a tankard o’grog and dance the hornpipe in celebration of a bit o’ silly fun.

How did this holiday start?  Well, me lubbers, click on the link near the crow’s nest of this article for a detailed explanation of why people are running around saying things like “Ahoy!” and “Avast!” today.  It’s mostly for fun, and we all could use a pint o’ that!

How do ye celebrate this day of days, ye be wonderin’?  Ye talk like a pirate, that’s what.  And act like one, iffen ye can get away with it.  But what if you’re at work, as ye may be next year, when the holiday falls on Monday?

If yer captain isn’t too scurvy of a tyrant, ye can answer the phone with a hearty “ARRR!”  If he’s a whip-crackin’ slave driver, ye could stage a mutiny. Or ye could keep it on the QT, among yer shipmates (coworkers).

Some ways to enjoy Pirate Day at work:

  • Make up a pirate name and insist everyone call ye by it.  Find one here!
  • Call people things like “bilge rat,” or “knave.”  Everyone will think yer nuts, but that’s part of the fun of it!  Look here for some language help.
  • Wear something piratey to work.  Fer the menfolk, a casual dress environment means ye can wear a Jolly Roger t-shirt, a bandanna or an eyepatch even, if yer cap’n don’t have a peg leg up his arse.   A hoop in yer earhole will lend a seafarin’ touch.  If yer stuck wearin’ business clothes, a skull tie pin or somethin’ subtle be yer best bet.  Wenches, ye can wear a frilly ruffly blouse and skull earrings, or some epic hoop earrings if ye like.  Add some boots and black pants with a scarf for a belt and ye have a nice pirate outfit that don’t look like yer gonna walk the plank.
  • Add pirate clip art to all yer emails.
  • Eat lunch at a buffet that serves things like chicken legs, fried fish, mashed taters, and hearty breads and desserts.  Pirates ate a-plenty when there was plenty to have.  Pack ye a big, meaty sandwich and some chocolate coins for sweets if there’s no galley nearby or ye can’t jump ship.  Throw in some oranges so ye don’t get scurvy!
  • Read Treasure Island on yer break.  Gotta keep up the image!
  • Describe things in nautical terms.  Like “The Chumley account is three leagues from bein’ complete!” or “”Hoist the mainsail, and let’s finish our slog before Happy Hour!”

Use yer imagination, lubbers, and if ye come up with some other ways to make the daily deck-swab on next year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day a rip-roarin’ party, post ‘em in the comments.  Shovin’ off now.  Enjoy, me hearties!

Figure skating dresses aren’t just for skinnies!

I spend most Saturday mornings skating, either with or without a lesson.  Today I worked on my Adult Bronze Freestyle program, set to music from Final Fantasy X.  I’m still wondering what I’m going to wear when I finally test it.

Elite athletes spend big bucks for the right costumes, some put together especially for them by top designers.  Kids’ outfits are often made by their moms, or purchased plain and then embellished by same.  Adults are mostly on their own.

We can’t ALL wear Vera Wang.

Image:  stylecheckup.com

Most skaters never reach Nancy Kerrigan level.  Good quality skating dresses can cost over a hundred bucks for something simple.  And manufacturers of ready-made outfits don’t seem to realize that most adult skaters aren’t five-foot stick figures.

I’m an adult recreational figure skater, and while I’m not obese, I ain’t skinny either.  I can’t afford to buy dresses or have them made for me, so I bought a sewing machine and learned to make my own.

I use Kwik Sew patterns, which are interchangeable.  If the skirt is too short on one, I can substitute something else.  I’m also tall, so I had to lengthen the bodice and sleeve patterns.  The instructions are easy, and the patterns simple.

I have two ready-made dresses, and I only wore one of them once.  It’s a lovely purple dress with spaghetti straps .  Let’s get one thing straight.  I’m a woman, and I have boobs.  The only way I felt comfortable in the thing was to wear a nude leotard under it.

Mostly, I try to stay away from:

Excess crystals

I don’t have the body for these (yet—I’m working on it).  No need to accentuate bumps I don’t want anyone to notice.  Besides, the good ones are pricey.  I don’t want to waste them on a homemade crap costume.

Circular skirts

They flare out nicely, but unless they are a bit longer than usual, they make my hips look bigger.  Flat skirts actually are better for a fuller figure.

Poofy sleeves

If you have sticklike arms, go for it.  Or, preferably, if you’re under ten years old.

Cute if you’re six; not so much if you’re sixty.

Image:  northernice&dance.com

Tiny anything

Ever notice what happens when a lady in a figure skating dress skates backward really fast?  The underpants on that dress need to cover your butt completely.

Bare outfits

The purple spaghetti strap dress I mentioned earlier is covered with sparkles and is flowy and beautiful.  I can’t bear to get rid of it.  It’s like a faint, closeted hope that I may someday be able to go bra-less.  But without something underneath, one jump and Janet Jackson will be on her knees thanking God she’s not me.

Thin fabrics

It’s cold in there, dammit.  Not only do thin fabrics show things I wish they wouldn’t, they’re not warm enough.  I favor stretch velvet, not too shiny.  Sometimes it’s still not enough, so I use a stretch lining fabric or that extra leotard.

An extra layer also helps conceal any supportive garments.  Technically, you’re not supposed to wear anything under a skating dress, but I’d rather not distract the audience with flying body parts.

Here’s an example of a gorgeous costume on a mature skater.  This is Dr. Marci Richards, competing at the Adult National Figure Skating Championships.

You go girl!

Image:  figureskatingabout.com

Skating costumes reflect the character of the music.  They’re not as literal as stage costumes, unless you’re in Disney on Ice.   Like the words you choose when you’re writing, your colors and embellishments help set the tone for your program.

For adult skaters, it’s certainly possible to look as great as you skate!


6-15-12 Venus Solar Transit!


Today, the orbit of the planet Venus took it across the face of the sun.  This phenomenon is happening now.  It is visible from Earth.

This will not happen again for 105 years.  You can watch it online.  Tomorrow there will be tons of video and pictures, I’m sure.

I got two pieces of welder’s glass, one #10 and one #5 darkness, and taped them together.  I was able to see it.   I went outside and made all my neighbors look at it!  I made the ice cream man look!

A digital camera doesn’t have enough zoom to get a picture of the planet (it was just a little black dot), but I got some nice greenish pictures of the sun through the welder’s glass.

Photograph by Elizabeth West

Look, the sun is a ball.  Who knew?  :P

Psycho Kitty was not impressed.

“Yeah…so what?

Photograph by Elizabeth West

Here’s a better picture of what astronomers will see / are seeing:

Rainwater Observatory, French Camp, MS


I hope you got to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.   If you lived on my street, I would have made you look at it too.  Sorry about that.  You could have had ice cream.

Flying Tips

Update: Valerie Cecil of Guestdoor.com informed me that my TSA link was all 404’ed.  Thanks, Valerie–it’s fixed now!

Check out this article she sent me on how to protect yourself against identity theft while traveling.  She’s included some really good tips on keeping your information safe.


If you have a job that requires frequent travel, you’re probably used to many of the inconveniences.  If not, and your book hits the big time, you might be traveling a lot.  (Yeah, we should all be so lucky.)

I’ve written about flying and how much it sucks these days.  I’ve flown more in the last two years than in my entire life, with Egon being so far away.  It took a little getting used to.

The Internet is full of tips and tricks to make traveling by air easier.  One also finds a plethora of bitching.   Rather than do that, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned, in my favorite list-ish fashion.

Wear comfy clothes, but not sloppy ones

Long ago, when flying was kind of a luxury, it was also a special occasion.  People wore business-type clothes to fly.  They spent a lot of money and even in coach, you were catered to.  I can remember meal service and comfy seats in Coach.  Sigh.  Those were the days.

Want this in business class? Try international airlines. You won’t get it on an American carrier.

Image:  Jiang / Wikimedia Commons

Now the seats are smaller and the planes more crowded.  You might wish to clad yourself in comfortable clothing.  But please, show a little decorum.  Items to avoid include:

  • Flip flops – these are horrible for your feet.  They’re horrible for my eyes.  I don’t want to see your gnarly toes with yellowish, fungus-infested nails.  Blargh!
  • Pajamas – who thinks it’s okay to wear these out and about? Sure, maybe if you’re four!
  • Revealing clothes – anything that would get you on peopleofwalmart.com should be left at home or packed in your carry-on.  Some airlines will kick you off for this.  Really.

Pack sensibly

By sensibly, I mean don’t take the entire house.  I have trouble with this one.  I usually take my computer, since I don’t have a tablet or smartphone, and like to be able to write if the muse hits me.  But I’ve managed to get along with one small duffel and a backpack.

  • Make a list.  I have a standard one that I adapt to each trip.  For example, I don’t have to take hair products if I’m visiting Egon or family—either I have some there or can borrow.  But I might pack extra conditioner if I’m staying at a hotel.
  • Take clothes that can do double duty and don’t wrinkle.  Knit blends are best.  Downy® Wrinkle Releaser really works, and a travel size is available at Walmart.    Many hotel rooms have irons, and if you’re staying at a private home you can wash clothes.

Understand airline and security rules

Like it or not, the reality of air travel means dealing with security and safety.  Not only liquids and shoes, but electronic devices on the airplane, and your behavior.   Yes, there are hotheaded, power-mad asshats out there.  No, you aren’t justified in breaking rules simply because you don’t agree with them.

If I could get a tack past the TSA, it would be sooo in your seat…

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • Shut your electronic device off and put it away for takeoff and landing.  I don’t wish to have your iPad crash into my head if the captain has to slam on the brakes.  Before you mouth off about books, I put mine in the seat pocket until the plane is in the air.

The flight attendant’s safety warning says “ALL CARRY-ON ITEMS MUST BE STOWED FOR TAKEOFF AND LANDING.”  That means everything.  You can survive for a few minutes without Angry Birds.  I promise.

Yeah, it’s not that cute when you’re eight, either.

Image: Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Story Time!

On my way back from a recent Egon visit, I was subjected to my very first bag search.  Aww.

I did warn the TSA that I had camera batteries and a small wrist/ankle weight in there, but it alarmed and I was pulled out of line.  The TSA at the Tucson airport were very professional.

No, I’m not endorsing the agency, but it could have been much, much worse.  Next time I’ll take the weight out of the bag, if I have to travel with it again.

  • Do not stare at people who are in the little holding area getting their bags searched.  They could be innocent and you could be next.


By remembering your manners and adding a little patience to your bag o’ tricks, you can make air travel less of a hassle.  And if you’re a writer, airports are great places to people watch.  Maybe the next generation of travelers will learn something from you.

“Someday, boopy, you’ll wear pretty dresses, ride a pony and be subject to extra-constitutional privacy invasion. Make us proud.”

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Star Wars Day and Other Nerd Holidays

Happy Star Wars Day!  May the Fourth be with you!

I would hope some of my readers know what I’m talking about.   But if you don’t, today is Star Wars Day.   On this day, Star Wars fans celebrate their favorite films and culture.

“No, I’m not obsessed. Why do you ask?”

Image: Werner100359 / Wikimedia Commons

Geeky demonstrations of fandom are nothing new.  During the 1960s and 1970s, Lord of the Rings devotees ran around saying “Frodo lives!” and “Gandalf for president!” or writing it all over everything.  But with the advent of the Internet, they have exploded.

May 25, Geek Pride Day, started with a loosely organized event called the Geek Pride Festival, made by Tim McEachern, which ran in Albany, New York from 1998 to 2000.  It was picked up in Spain in 2006 and spread like wildfire via the tubes.

Geeks and nerds are becoming the new cool.  In typical geek fashion, this 2011 article by Todd Bishop on GeekWire contains charts explaining the aspects of geekdom.

Companies like ThinkGeek cater to our desire for toys and gadgets from our favorite media offerings, or cool stuff like cubicle trebuchets with which we can launch office wars.   A calendar program I came across called VueMinder Lite (the free version) has an option to fill in geek holidays.   And conventions like DragonCon, ComicCon and VisionCon attract major and minor celebrities alike.

Besides Star Wars Day, some of the holidays geeks have created or commandeered include:

CapsLock Day—June 28 and October 22

I hadn’t heard of this one, but it’s pretty funny.   One of my coworkers at Exjob would love this one.  All his emails LOOK LIKE THIS.  YES HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THAT IN INTERNET SPEAK, THIS IS CONSIDERED YELLING.  The original holiday was in October, and the June 28 addition celebrates capspeak pitchman Billy Mays.

Pi Day—March 14

Celebrates pi, or π, the mathematical thing.  No, I don’t do math but I know the first three digits of pi are 3.14.  So there.   Eat pie on this day and talk about math.  Or just eat pie.  :)

Computer Security Day—November 30

An international observance, this holiday originated in 1988 to highlight computer security issues.  Celebrate by doing a virus check, changing a password, or helping a newbie with his/her computer safety issues.   This is a good day to schedule an annual equipment check.

Hobbit Day—September 22

Birthday of Bilbo and Frodo.  First started in 1978 by the American Tolkien Society.  Do something hobbity today!  Read some Tolkien, have a party with ale and fireworks (if you can).  Or just go barefoot, as hobbits do.

Talk Like a Pirate Day—September 19th

This is my FAVORITE geek holiday!  My chat room goes nuts with this one.  I attempt to get away with piratespeak as much as I can, even at work.  My ideal day job would be one where we get to dress up Pirate Day.  At the very least, I can usually get away with a ruffled blouse, boots and my skull earrings.

Official logo – more info at http://www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html

You can find more geek holidays here, at Geekdays.com.   Pick your favorite and celebrate!

Console Games are Kicking My Butt

With the exception of a few PC titles such as the Myst series, an old Cyberflix title Titanic: Adventure Out of Time (I LOVE this game) and Angry Birds, I haven’t played many RPG or puzzle games.  It’s a nerd weekend, however, since Egon and I are attending VisionCon (see my post Geek Heaven). We also checked out a really cool ‘80s-style arcade downtown in my city.  Ah, Pole Position.

Egon has a nefarious plot to turn me into a gamer.   He loaned me a superfluous PS2 and is making me play my way through Final Fantasy X.  In a clumsy, excruciatingly slow manner, I’m actually enjoying it, except for one thing.

For a newbie, this crap is DIFFICULT.

The controller is evil.

During my first stint in college, I spent hours at the mall arcade.  Ms. Pac Man, TRON, Centipede, Galaga, and Tempest were my favorites.  All these games have only a joystick and maybe one trigger button.  Playing Myst on my computer required only the arrow keys and the mouse.  Easy!

The PS2 controller is a freaking nightmare.  There are buttons.  The buttons don’t go the way you would think.

Worst of all, each game has different controls.  L1 for this, X or O for that.  I spent hours getting yelled at by the King of All Cosmos in Katamari Damacy just to get the hang of moving the little Prince around.

It even LOOKS evil. Like something Darth Vader would have.

Photographs by Elizabeth West

An unfamiliar strategy is required.

One of my biggest challenges in Final Fantasy X is figuring out HOW to fight monsters.  I can’t just indiscriminately shoot.  I have to target each monster’s weakness with each character’s strengths, without getting everybody killed in the process.

A perpetual goof is forgetting to scroll to Black Magic when it’s sorcerer Lulu’s turn, and hitting Attack instead.  You can’t fight Ochu with Moogles! They don’t do anything!

Okay, ignore Lulu's enormous boobs. See the little stuffed animal she's holding? That's a Moogle.....you're still staring at her boobs, aren't you?

Too many things on the screen

Myst, Riven and Exile have nothing but scenery.  You walk around and touch everything, following your instincts (or if you’re impatient like me, the hint chapters in the strategy guide).  The only things to read are journals and letters scattered around.

FFX and other games have status bars everywhere.  I can’t read all that stuff at once.  That’s why I don’t read comics; I have to stop and look at every panel twice in order to get it all.  It’s annoying.

I’m not good with numbers either.  Don’t make me do math or I’ll run away crying.

Too scary

Silent Hill 2.

It's only a game...it's only a game...it's only a---GAAAHH!!!

It’s not all bad.  I love watching Egon whip through Portal 2 and I really do like playing.  If I had more time, I daresay I’d get the hang of it.

Below find some of the games I’ve finished / sampled / want to play:

Flower – sooo pretty.  Relaxing ambient music, and a cool interface that allows you to swoop and soar as the wind spirit.  When you touch all the flowers you’re rewarded with a buzz from the PS3 controller.

Final Fantasy XIII – I rode the chocobo.  Whee!

Limbo – very creepy.  Arachnophobes beware.

God of War III – Egon let me fight some skeletons.  I think I would like this one.

The Hitman series – I have them, but haven’t played yet.  Love Jesper Kyd‘s music.

Some of the Harry Potter games (not the LEGO ones) – I bought them used. I think they’re simple enough they won’t drive me crazy.

I think I’m getting into the groove.  Lucky for me, I don’t have a job now so in between filling out online applications and getting some writing done, perhaps I can play more.  What the heck, I’ll work later. Hand me that controller….


Healthy Recipes aren’t Just for Rich People

A perpetually hungry chat friend wanted me to write more posts about food.  Since this is an author blog, I have to tie it in somehow.

I have to eat so I have energy to write.  Also, writers and artists are notoriously poor.  There.  I did it.  Onward!

I notice when I go to the store and try to purchase more nutritious food that my bill is higher on average than when I buy crap.  No wonder poor people are fatter than rich people.  Not to mention rich people can afford personal trainers.

So how do you eat healthy on a limited budget?  Here are five tips:

#1—Buy frozen veggies.

Frozen is just as good as fresh, because they are picked at the peak of ripeness.  Besides the convenience factor, frozen veggies don’t have the sodium levels that canned veggies do.    I have a recipe for Peas Almondine for one:

–3/4 cup of frozen peas

–Butter (just a little)

–Sliced or slivered almonds

Put frozen peas in a microwave-safe dish, cover with water and nuke for 1 minute.  Toast the almonds in a dry pan on the stove until they just begin to brown.  Drain peas, add butter and nuke 1 more minute.  Add almonds and toss.

The most expensive thing there is the almonds.  Keep the leftover nuts in the freezer so they don’t get rancid.

#2—Forget coupons; watch sales flyers in the paper.

Coupons tend to be for processed food.  The frozen veggie ones are almost always for the kind with fattening sauces.  Keep an eye on your local grocery’s sales flyer.  You can sometimes sign up for emails and grocery discount cards.

Dry goods hold up well, but they don’t save you money if you’re not going to use them.  So buy food you will actually eat in quantities you can use before they go stale.  Oatmeal and lentils are cheap and good for you too.

#3—Cook more instead of buying prepared food.

Prices are higher than ever.  When you eat out or buy convenience foods, not only are you not getting nutrients you need, you’re spending more.  Cooking dinner?  Make a little extra for lunches next day.  Prepare a big batch of soup or chili on the weekend and freeze individual portions.  Then you can pop them in your lunchbox and take them to work.

Explore Japanese bento.  There are numerous websites with recipes and tips on preparing these tidy little lunches.  Leftovers work great in them.  You can get bento boxes online or in Asian stores in larger cities.  I got this for my birthday (yes, I like cute Japanese anime characters, so shut up!):

It holds just enough food to make me full, which also keeps me from overeating.

Check here for a tutorial on how to choose the right size bento box for kids and adults.

#4—Remember WHAT you eat is as important as how much. 

That nutrition label is there for a reason.  Read it!  You only need 30% of your daily calories from fat, but “reduced fat” on the label doesn’t mean you can eat twice as much.  Look for vitamins, minerals, and low amounts of sodium.  If you eat lean protein at every meal, you will stay full longer and save money.  A proper portion of lean meat should be the size of a pack of playing cards.

You can get better quality if you only need a small amount.  I buy ground round, but because it’s only me, a pound or less is economical.

Low-nutrition food has calories the body doesn’t use for anything, so they get stored as fat.  Eat as much fresh stuff as you can, and you’ll be thinner.

#5—Make a meal plan for the week or month.

If you know what you will be preparing ahead of time, it makes shopping much easier.  Check over your meal plan.  Then make a list and stick to it!  You’ll be less likely to buy impulse items or buy something you don’t have the other ingredients for, which might go to waste.

This is a good source for making a meal plan.  Try it for a little while and see if it works for you.

College students are a special case, as is anyone who is unemployed or on EBT.  But if you plan your purchases well, you can stretch those dollars until they squeal and still maintain a healthy kitchen.

Here are some links to help you:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/  Nutrition information

http://www.squidoo.com/easy-menu-planning  Lots of meal planning tips

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=511   Good article on healthy budget dining

http://justbento.com/  All about bento

http://lunchinabox.net/  This is defunct but still has a lot of good bento info.

Happy eating!

How to Love Your Nerd

I’m a nerd, and a geek.  So is Certain Someone.  It’s the best time I ever had with anyone.

Most people agree geeks and nerds are kind of the same thing.  They’re not, really, but they share many similarities.

First, they’re usually pretty intelligent.  Second, they tend to like things that aren’t mainstream.  Third, they may or may not be socially awkward.  Sometimes at a sci-fi/fantasy convention, it’s hard to tell.

It is possible to be both a nerd and a geek.  While geek is a term used to label someone with superficial pop culture interests as opposed to more upper-level intellectual pursuits like nerds, just because you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn’t mean your IQ is in the lower percentile.   You can still be a microbiologist who thinks Buffy kicks ass.

If your family member is a nerd

A brother, sister or even a parent may be a nerd.  In my family, I’m the only person who reads Harry Potter, who gets anything about current video games (except maybe my nephew) and knows who Frodo, Elrond, Glorfindel, and Tom Bombadil are.  I’m still learning about the games, thanks to CS, but new stuff keeps your brain in shape.

If your family member is like me, embrace this person.  Do not try to make her be something she is not.  She thinks fashion is trivial—so what?  Look for other common interests.  Almost everyone has something, even if it’s only making fun of Aunty Myrtle with the hairy mole.

If your child is a nerd

You know it’s always good to encourage your child’s interests, right?  I would kill for a kid that liked science and grew up to work for NASA or the CDC.  Talk about built-in source material! Okay, that’s a writer nerd talking.   But still.

You may have dreamed of a buddy to shoot hoops with, but if your kid is a music nerd who is only interested in the cello, PLEASE don’t make him feel bad for it.  Use this as an opportunity to expand your own horizons.  Ask him something about what he’s interested in.  Kids absolutely love it when they get to tell adults stuff.  And you might learn something from him.

If your spouse / significant other is a nerd

Harry Potter, marine biology, computers; whatever her main interest, it’s not going to be a surprise to you if you married her.  It might even be her career.  She’ll have cool stories.  She can fix your machine.  A brainy chick is sexy.  But you’re smart enough to know that.  Right?

NEVER EVER EVER make fun of her for being intelligent.  It makes you look like a dumbass, which you are if you do this.

Wives / girlfriends, you may not appreciate your nerd’s large collection of Star Wars figures, but if he’s hoarding you have issues I won’t cover here.  All that passion can be channeled toward you if you know how to work it.   Nerds often make fantastic boyfriends / husbands, because they are so damn happy to have someone who really gets them.

If you’re still engaged, be advised.  Never marry a man thinking you’ll change him.  Rough edges can be polished but a nerd will always be a nerd.  Don’t like it? GTFO and leave him to someone who will appreciate him.

Nerd gifts

When nerds have a birthday or Christmas is coming, they usually let you know EXACTLY what they want.  Pay attention to this.  Get the junior telescope or regulation Jedi Master outfit from the website your kid has emailed you 47,000 times.

Don’t buy your nerd something you think he should have, unless your son has completely outgrown his underwear and his face is turning purple from the constriction.  Anyway, underwear makes a lousy gift.  Something practical yet cool will be appreciated, if he hasn’t gotten around to getting it himself.

Accepting a gift from a nerd

If the gift is nerdy, like a paleontology kit from the Nature Store, don’t just pitch it into the closet.  Give it a chance.  Nerds are smart and observant (most of the time) and yours may have noticed a budding interest you mentioned in passing.  You might find you like looking for fossilized dino poo in a box of fake desert.

Nerd manners

Sometimes, your nerd may scoff at something you say or a question you ask.  Kids especially may do this because they haven’t learned how to navigate social situations with grace and tact.  Don’t let him do that.   Make it clear to your nerd that just because you don’t know every little nuance of Starship Troopers and have never heard of Robert Heinlein, that doesn’t mean you are stupid.

Nerds are running the world now.  As Gilbert in Revenge of the Nerds wisely pointed out to the beautiful people, “There are a lot more of us than there are of you.”  Being a nerd isn’t the stigma it once was.  Love your nerd and the rewards will follow!

Summer is A-Comin’ In

I was going to write that title in Middle English á la Chaucer, but it looked funny.

To kick off my summer, this past weekend I went back to Tucson to see Certain Someone (CS).  We drove up to the top of Mount Lemmon.  Usually this time of year Tucson starts getting pretty toasty.  It’s a dry heat, yes, but still damn hot.  Up around 8000 feet above sea level, there’s a big difference.

Yes, Arizona has mountains.  They are kind of pointy.  They’re not high enough to have a lot of snow, like the Rockies, which I flew over on the way home.  Pretty!


This is a pointy Arizona mountain.

Because they have been shaped by erosion, there is a lot of this going on:


And when you get to the top you’re in Summerhaven, a tiny, unincorporated town with…well, nothing.  But it sure is pretty.  When you brave the winding mountain roads, you’re rewarded with this:

There’s a lot of dust in Arizona, and it likes to fly around in the wind.  If you drive south and west of Tucson over more pointy mountains, you’ll come to Old Tucson and the Desert Museum.  You can walk around outside and look at plants and a few animals, and some neat exhibits in the buildings.  I got a great long-distance view of some dust storms from there:

In the desert live many different animals like this burrowing owl.  A ground dweller, the owl eats insects and small rodents and is active during the day.  He likes to hunt mostly at dusk and dawn, when it’s cooler.  Who could blame him?


Javelinas (say hav-eh-LEE-nuhs), closely related to peccaries (a kind of wild pig relative), also hang out here.  The museum has a few and apparently they know what to do with a 98-degree afternoon.


Sleep under a bridge, of course!


Cacti are everywhere in Arizona.  The common prickly pear can be seen all over Tucson, and it comes in more than just green.



The saguaro (say SWAH-ro) is the most famous cactus of all.  If you drive into Arizona from California, you will begin to see them dot the landscape, like alien sentinel scouts:


Saguaro – advance guard!


Then they thicken and approach:


Saguaro sentinels – they're everywhere!

And as the second wave crests and recedes, you pass into New Mexico, where they disappear altogether.

They have a flower on top that blooms in May and June.  Elf owls like to live inside them.  If you see a rather large hole in the body of the cactus, chances are some sort of bird has made a home there.


Tall…silent…knobby appendages…yep, they're aliens, all right.


Driving around Tucson, we passed the famous No-Tel Motel.  Yes, it exists!  Look here for a fascinating (and squeamish) Tucson Weekly account of Saxon Burns’ attempt to stay there for a week.


Daily, weekly, monthly rates were posted; don't know about hourly.

I leave you with this cool horse sculpture from the Desert Museum.  There’s a lot to see and do in Tucson, so if you’re passing by that way and get a chance, check out some of the nature there.  The desert isn’t all scrub and scorpions.  (For the record, I haven’t seen one of those yet.)


Y'all come back. HEEEeeeeee!


How to Tell if What You Just Heard Was a TARDIS

I’ve been watching Doctor Who on DVD and Netflix.  Great show! How did a nerd like me miss this?

It occurred to me that it’s very hard to come up with something original for a story.  People would argue it’s all been done.  Well, blimey, I think the TARDIS is pretty original.  “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” is a pretty funny name for a spaceship.  But then, the TARDIS is no ordinary ship.

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, published one of the first successful time travel novels, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in 1889.  So time travel fiction has been around for a while.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s produced by the BBC, and was on from 1963 to 1985 originally,  and was revived in 2005.  It’s the madcap adventures of a 900-year-old alien, a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey, who flies around in his TARDIS.

The Doctor is one character, played by different actors, because he goes through a periodic regeneration.  My favorite was David Tennant, the tenth Doctor.  The current eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, is kind of growing on me.  I plan to watch as many of the older shows as I can.

The Doctor is just known as “The Doctor,” and someone invariably asks, “Doctor who?” Hence the show’s name.  He travels with one primary companion and often a few extras.  The companions are usually women, caught at a crossroads when the Doctor comes into their lives.  He doesn’t date them, but he does love them in a deeply protective and mentoring way.

His TARDIS looks like a 1950s blue police box, something like a phone booth, and makes a very distinctive sound as it materializes and dematerializes.  It’s sort of a mechanical wheeze.  According to a recent episode, it’s not supposed to do that, but it’s due to some wonky adjustment.   The Doctor likes it so he left it that way.

Click HERE for the sound of the TARDIS!

Its most distinguishing feature is that it’s bigger on the inside than the outside.   This often amazes first-time visitors.  It contains many outfits from different time periods, although the Doctor and his current companion never seem to change clothes when they visit the past.  And no one there seems to notice.

Despite the incongruities, the show is a plethora of fast-talking sci-fi / fantasy action adventure with great character and awesomely creative villains.  Because it’s time travel, they can encounter everyone from Shakespeare to a giant slumbering futuristic head (The Face of Boe).  And since they can go to other planets, monsters and aliens abound.

One of the scariest monsters in any show ever appeared in a Season 4 Doctor Who episode called “Blink.”  Weeping Angels are classical-looking statue-like creatures that feed off energy.  They don’t move when you’re looking, but when you’re not…**

The Doctor tricked them into surrounding the TARDIS and then dematerialized it so they were trapped, looking at each other, and couldn’t move.  Clever!

Sci-fi and fantasy genres give television, film and novel writers endless possibilities.  There’s almost nothing you can’t do.  Speculative fiction has produced some real dogs, but there are lists and lists of excellently written books out there.  Tons of good TV shows, too.  I know people who don’t like that sort of thing.  That’s cool.  Go read some boring political thriller and leave me to my TARDIS!

If you have any suggestions on sci-fi books or shows to share, please do tell in the comments.