With Thomas Dolby in the Floating City

Members of the Poison River Delta tribe getting to meet Thomas Dolby

The Game Neverending (GNE) changed my life, but I wasn’t looking for a game or new friends, just following related links after reading a short story. In a similar fashion, after a chance notice of a TED blog link while purportedly culling my RSS subscriptions, I embarked in the research ship Snowdonia to help form the Floating City in Thomas Dolby’s online alternate reality game. Barely familiar with his music three months ago, I now have a few albums (downloaded for free as game prizes), an autographed deluxe album, a couple dozen favorite songs, and more that in memories. Additionally, the experience culminated this last weekend in a show that wouldn’t have been as special were it not for the conditions created by the game. Allow me to explain.
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10 2011


Katya wrote the following poem for school for a prompt of picking an emotion and describing it as a crayon color. While I thought the poem was interesting, I was intrigued more by the device she picked up and demonstrated at the end:


Hyper is the color of Blazing Pink.

It sounds like an angry train.

It looks like an enormous blur.

It smells like chocolate.

It tastes like ice scream!

Hyper feels like air rushing by all around you.


I’ll return to other blog posts soon, including detailing the continued exploration of the household’s cat-sized hiding spots.

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11 2010

Good Meets with Alton Brown

Photo by razordu30 on Flickr

I just came back from the heavily packed parking lot of Alton Brown’s book signing. Due to a babysitter malfunction, I went for the Q & A session, then tagged Mark at home to go to the book signing (though there were plenty of kids there, and AB insisted that all the kids get their books signed first, my kids apparently didn’t remember their yesteryear obsession with Good Eats).

Alton was memorable, witty, goofy, and friendly. Some bits:

One boy asked if he’d ever do an “outdoor food” episode of GE, as in camping food. Alton declared that he had done so many episodes outdoors, but the boy insisted this was for Scouts. So Alton promised he’d do a camping GE…with squirrels, how to pick one, how to skin it, how to stab a stick in its butt. “Welcome to scouting, son!”

Doesn’t ever watch Food Network, last watched tv three years ago. Says he’s reading sixteen books at the moment, current fave is Roald Dahl’s autobiography.

Someone asked if we should eat the koolicles (koolaid-brined pickles) at the NC State Fair, as tonight was the first night. After disparaging fair food up and down, he admitted that brine would kill most…things.

Wouldn’t touch the question of which Iron Chef was his favorite…

…but food that Challenger chefs have prepared and he wondered what they were thinking? Trout ice cream. “It’s what you think it’d be like but worse. Trout. Ice. Cream. Then put those words together. I think I even got a scale stuck in my teeth.”

Asked one woman why she took her glasses off to ask him a question. Then a couple questions later, he was told how handsome he was. His response was to suggest to the glasses lady that she loan her glasses to the second woman. But several women commented on how handsome he is. Guess geek is still in.

“Eating is about the people your with and the time you’re having, not about what your shovin’ down yer pie hole.” Didn’t have restaurant recommendations because he likes staying in (and presumably cooking instead). Love his realistic perspective of food.

Asked what food he’d eat for his last meal, he said he’d spend the last few weeks finding a Little Debbie truck and only taking a break to get a smoke, citing his experience being born and raised as Appalachian trailer trash.

When asked what he “really” thought about truffles, he reiterated that winter truffles were better than sex, that he’s had thousand-dollar truffles, and not thousand-dollar…oh wait, there was his ex-wife.

TV show parodies he’d like to incorporate into Good Eats: currently working on a Man vs. Food, Star Trek, and one “particularly loathesome reality show”

Favorite international destination has been Tokyo because the food is amazing. However, he lists the downside of Tokyo as the Japanese not knowing that the rest of the world exists, and eating up all the bluefin tuna, whales, and then what’s next? This prompted another question about the regulatory board of seafood and one of the few serious answers of the evening.

That’s all! Hopefully Mark gets me a good photo or sumptin’.



10 2010

Strange Cats: Meet Toffee Crunch!

Toffee Crunch (TC) doing the new cat thing by hiding in her litter box

There’s a saying that you will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats. Given that my chances of convincing the spousal unit that we should have a nonstrange cat were nil, we compromised on fostering cats. I liked the idea of helping adorable kitties who were traumatized or unsocialized get a chance to find a permanent home, and Mark liked the idea that after a few months, he’d never see that particular animal ever again. Ok, I jest, but only a little.

So this new category will be a view into the challenges and benefits of cat fostering, demonstrate the progress (or potential lack thereof) of each cat, oh, and bear witness to the power of lots of gratuitous cute cat pics, amirite??

So given the choice of three cats who were all in need of a break from the shelter, we decided on Toffee Crunch because she had been there almost a year, and started off almost feral. She had also come to the shelter with a litter of kittens. All and all, a heavy load for a pretty young cat!

We started her off in the bathroom with the door closed, where she crouched in her litter box, and later in a corner on a huge sweatshirt I have. After we left the door open, she proceeded to new hiding spots over the course of a few days: under the dining table, inside our hollow electric organ, and currently underneath my bed. Lest you think how horribly traumatized she must be to hide so much, she is now coaxable out of these spots, and trades purrs for scratches and rubs. She just must feel more comfortable in enclosed places still.

Last night I was pretty frustrated because she had hid in the organ all day, but after the din of kids ended with their bedtime, I eased her out with kitty treats. We spent an amiable and quiet evening together, her kneading the carpet while I worked on a project, she occasionally begging to be petted and sitting squat on my fabric like any reasonable cat must. Perhaps with her under my bed now she’ll find her way to the infinitely more comfy bedspread tonight!


08 2010

Couch to 5K-style playlists

I’ve been doing my exercise inside this summer because I’m such a humidity-phobe, but surreptitiously eye the runner lifestyle. A couple of my friends have used the Couch to 5K system, which is a running guide to progress from being a new runner. James at spotifit has started creating playlists for this purpose; one uses the beginning of each song to switch from running to walking, and vice-versa, instead of using a watch as one would otherwise have to do. Unfortunately, Spotify (the music-streaming service used to create the playlists) is currently Europe-only, but Americans now get rdio.com! If you’re familiar with last.fm, it’s similar, but with increased music availability for streaming.

Anyway, as playlist creation is rather fun, and the system is easy to work with, I started trying it out on rdio. I’ve created a sample list for about the second run of the second week, but couldn’t resist the siren call of everything being a They Might be Giants song, with the energy TMBG has. You can stream it here if you’re a member (if you want an invite, let me know). You’ll note that my walking songs are a little shorter than they maybe should be. That’s just a short TMBG song or album for you.

1. The Guitar (3:48, warm-up walk)
2. Why Must I Be Sad? (4:08, brisk walk)
3. Twisting (1:55, jog)
4. Sleeping In The Flowers (4:30, brisk walk)
5. Destination Moon (2:27, jog)
6. How Can I Sing Like A Girl? (4:26, brisk walk)
7. Subliminal (2:45, jog)
8. Spiraling Shape (4:24, cooldown/walk home)

If you’re familiar with TMBG, you’ll notice a trend with the songs, in that they’re from only 4 albums. I hope rdio is still building up the music database. I also hope that the 3rd party tools available for Spotify will also be developed for Rdio (including tools to convert a playlist from one service to another).


07 2010

My Mom (by Emma)

Shortly after typing up the previous entry, I found Emma’s preschool riff on Mother’s Day.

Dated 5/6/09

I think my mom is 35 years old. [she overshot a little]

My mom’s favorite color is green. [sure, why not!]

I like it when my mom cooks macaroni/ravioli

I like it when my mom takes me to Children’s Together Park [it’s only the coolest park in town, that’s why]

When I cry, my mom helps me.

My mom call me Emma. [Not according to this]

My mom’s job is working at her computer. [sigh, that was before I had legitimate “work” reasons to be at my computer ๐Ÿ˜‰ ]


09 2009

My Mom (by Katya)

Cleaning my desk (yes, shocking) I found this set of prompts Katya answered for first grade last year.

My Mom

My mom is a great mom.

My mom likes to cook a smootie. [smoothie]

My mom knows I’m cute.

My mom says clean your room.

My mom can nurcher her child. [you figure it out! my daughter is a suck-up]

My mom wishes that one of my teeth will fall out.

My mom loves her children.

My mom is a great mom.


09 2009

Toby’s First Dictionary

A compilation of words (and gestures) that Toby finds important enough to learn and say, organized chronologically.

Digger, as in the construction truck. He’s learned how to specify more trucks as he’s learned about the variety of truck videos on YouTube
A mooing sound in conjunction with pointing to a cow
Ahce creahm
Ice cream, said low and fast
Ben, another primary kid at church. He can identify Ben’s voice from across the chapel and will swivel to find him
Barking like a dog
While not a definition, exactly, it is almost an automatic response to seeing a dog now. It is often accompanied by dropping to his fours, crawling around, and getting patted and cooed over by his sisters and Mama.
Usually the response to any question, and most famously it is used for giggles by asking strange things like, “Who would like food on their head?” or “Who wants me to eat their cake?”.
Emma, though he usually doesn’t say it unless slurring at the end of saying Katya’s name.
Airplane, though no one understands this one.
“I do it!” said urgently and loud, whenever someone dares help him with something. He started slurring together phrases like this pretty young.
Either “bubbles” or “bus,” depending on context
He makes the sound of a fire engine to identify a fire truck
The sound of a helicopter, accompanied by twirling his finger in the air (Heidi taught him that one, unknowingly).
Duh Truh
Dump Truck. He learned this and is other first transportation-related words pretty early.
Dog. We’re not sure how he came to choose this word over “dog,” but it certainly makes sense!
Gahleegee, Geegee, Guhleekee
Kitty. This is usually paired with “Arfah.” If he says one, he has to say the other, and it usually goes back and forth “arfah, kitty, arfah…”
Daddy. In June 2009 he started holding up his hand to his ear like a phone whenever he said Dada’s name.
Mommy! This is usually paired with “Mama” and goes back and forth “Dada, Mama, Dada…”

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08 2009

25 Things about the adult in this blog

Typed this up for facebook and decided to share with a slightly larger audience.

1. Whenever I have to play the “2 lies 1 truth” get-to-know-you game, I usually write that I helped kids hold tarantulas in my last job.

2. The other truth I put is that I’m a twin. No, she’s fraternal, and yes, she’s older. Supposedly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

3. I don’t have a stock lie that I tell. Any ideas?

4. I’ve never had a retail job. My first job was as a newspaper girl, then a tutor, then a lab rat. Then boring post-college jobs.

5. I play World of Warcraft. Amusingly, half of my Facebook friends might judge me for that, and the other half might judge me for not being a level 80 yet.

6. My first computer was a TI-99. My sister and I had it hooked up to our little tv in the basement and checked books out of the library to get programs for games.

7. Before my senior year of high school I participated in a college chemistry program. I got the highest score on the organic test, so won the special “hat” from a polymer demo. I think my parents threw it away when I went to college. :(

8. I have several daydreams for the future. One of them is to restore a historic mansion. I’m not exactly good at interior decorating though; I just like old houses.

9. I have a secret addiction to novelty and designer toys. But I rarely buy them.

10. I often compete with my high school self, who was a major nerd and disgustingly good at everything in school. It’s hard living in the shadow of yourself.

11. I’m a better-than-average cook, but I’m also a lazy cook. You don’t want to see my knives.

12. I’m an uneducated chocolate snob. That’s probably the worst of any kind of snob. And I still eat anything.

13. I was pregnant while working at the tarantula job listed above and still feel ick when I smell white vinegar (which we used for cleaning windows).

14. My favorite food ever is tomatoes stuff with sausage, covered with salt, and buried in a mound of dirt and left to ferment.

15. I have a good sense of cute.

16. I threw an eraser in 2nd grade while the teacher was gone. I’m not sure how she noticed it when she got back, but she threatened to make us all stay after unless someone copped to it. I was terrified since I had never stayed after, so admitted it was me, thus shocking my poor teacher. And yes, throwing an eraser is pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever done in school.

17. I’m always too cold, regardless of the actual temperature.

18. I saw my not-yet-husband Mark in a religion class we had together and had a huge crush on him. I was too shy to really followup other than commenting on his TMBG shirt, but months later I happened have a class together with his best friend, and gradually started dating Mark while we campaigned for our friend to be university class president. How cool of a nerd girl romantic plot is that? I could make a movie!

19. While hanging out with Mark and our friends in that impressionable first stage of getting to know each other, I laughed so hard that orange soda came out of my nose. This is both testament to how funny we all were together and also how much Mark must love me to have witnessed that and still stay.

20. Speaking of campaigning, the best thing I have done in several years (other than raise a few wonderful kids) is help with Obama’s campaign. I think I amazed myself with what I could do. The excitement and good feelings have sort of faded, but I still have a memory of how intense that time period felt.

21. I have a green belt in aikido. Only black belts seem to mean anything to people, but that does represent about 3 years of my life. This is the 2nd time I’ve stopped. Maybe someday I’ll have a black belt.

22. On accident, I started collecting friends in other countries. When I’m retired I’ll probably never stop traveling.

23. I do have a dream that my kids will live in another country with me someday, but I don’t think relatives would forgive me. So they can consider this their first warning. ๐Ÿ˜‰

24. I first started surfing the web using Lynx because I didn’t know what Netscape Navigator was. Heck, a lot of you probably don’t either.

25. #14 was a lie I put in to see if you actually read everything I wrote. And to give me two extra statements.


02 2009

If I Were President

(I believe Katya wrote this from a prompt her teacher gave)

If I were President I will have ice cream every day. If you did something nice you could have some. There would be two different favors every day. You have to bring your own bowl or ice cream cone. I really wish I was President.

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01 2009