Miss Havisham's hamster wheel

Where it stops nobody knows.

I've got to knock down a dozen years or more of cobwebs. Baseboards, let me tell you, I've got enough dust on those babies to make fake mustaches for everyone in town.

Putting a home up for sale is a strenuous, stressful, weird, strange, almost surreal experience, except that people manage to do it every day. My first time being inside when a family was peering in the windows was freaky. Should I pose like a stylish store window mannequin? Could I present a cooking show episode (not gourmet)? Bon appetit or else mime a goldfish in a bowl? My home, my midden dig site, my personal hygiene and inadequate housekeeping are all being evaluated by a lot of little people even though the condo is not yet listed.

Pip pip, it's so nice "Cuties" oranges don't have seeds. I'm running on the exercise/anxiety wheel again with Havisham's hamster. Dickens did not mention the hamster in either Great Expectations or the Christmas Carol.

Driving to work it's E.L. Doctorow reading his short novel, Andrew's Brain. Andrew has great bushels full of issues, and vague boundaries between dream and memory in his sessions on the psychologist's couch. The author may not be the most exciting reader for an audiobook, but his slightly whiny, under-inflected narration seems appropriate for Andrew.

Before sleep I'll read a bit more of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. Flavia rides around on her bike named Gladys solving murder cases. Then I'll leave on that midnight train with dream wheels, hamsters, and pips.

First I go through the board book version of Mr. Brown Can Moo searching for the fish kiss "pip". Alas, the "pip" has been deleted along with the thunder when Mr. Brown is a wonder. Now what was that Sherlock Holmes story about Gladys Knight and the Pips?

P.S. If you click enough links you will find the dancing bell-bottoms. No more clues, pip pip hooray.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


House of cords


I need a teeny, tiny ropin' and wranglin' techno rodeo geek lariat nerd to tame the cords under my computer desk. So, yes, what would Will Rogers do?

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Mind the music and the poodles

The big clean-out continues. Today's major find is a Czech-American songbook published in Omaha, Nebraska in 1909. It was aimed for the trash, but fell open to its Rosetta Stone.

Lordy, Poodles, it's the ivory-billed woodpecker! Not quite, but it's American and Bohemian versions of "John Brown's Body Lies A'Mouldering in the Grave"! Most of the songs are only in Czech. Until I spotted "John Brown" I thought it was all Czech, and was wondering why I've been carting it around for four decades. Click on images for a larger view.

Had such fun reading James McBride's The Good Lord Bird about John Brown. Do give it a peruse at your library!

Did you know "Yankee Doodle" has a verse about pancakes and onions?

Closing today with a little patriotic number.  Have a good one!

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Science + Theater = Sanity and/or Electrocution

The voice of Suzanne Calvin is a richly upholstered armchair surrounded by dust motes in a Victorian study. Suzanne is the voice of the Dallas Opera, telling us it's time to turn off our cellphones. Today Suzanne also explained fire safety evacuation from the theater. The opera would include strobe lights, robots, and a whole tangle of electrical wires.

"Death and the Powers" is a sci-fi opera about a gazillionaire who wants to live forever without the nuisance of matter and body. The choreographed robots would steal the show if the singers weren't so terrific. Poet Robert Pinsky wrote the libretto, and M.I.T. Media Lab professor Tod Machover composed the score. There are questions of life, death, immortality, suffering, energy, matter, money, responsibility, meat, and poetry, all packed into ninety minutes of stunning techno stagecraft. The gazillionaire's adopted bionic son got some great choreography, and we did not have to evacuate. No one was electrocuted, on stage or off. Today's performance was simulcast at ten locations around the world.

When the going gets rough, the stressed devour mysteries. Chee and Leaphorn got me through my divorce. Kinsey Milhone helped with single parenting. Now Flavia de Luce is getting me through home downsizing and job hunting. That's a lot for an eleven year old to shoulder, but Flavia is up to it! She just solved a case involving a metal bicycle trouser clip and a puppet theater.


© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Cereal-sly strange Valentine's Day

(Skunks for Kim and Sisi)
Cue David Bowie on your hi-fi. "Let's Dance" is definitely the right song for a skunk Valentine from a French break-dancing preschool student.

The trendy theme in this year's Valentine exchange and preschool party is ... mustaches. Huh?  Faux tattoo mustaches ... Stick-on furry mustaches.
And the runner up is Frosted Flakes, as in "I am cereal-sly glad you are my Valentine". Tony the Tiger would look great with a mustache.

Why do we even have Valentine parties in classes? So we can make stuff out of fun foam???  No:

  1. So each preschool student will practice printing his/her name twenty times, give or take.
  2. So each elementary student will fold a paper, visualize an ice cream cone, and cut a heart shape.
  3. So we can all think about friendship and being nice to each other.
  4. So we can practice the early math sequencing and fine motor skills required to place one card in each classmate's Valentine bag.
  5. So our parents can play around on Pinterest and Shutterfly to create Valentines cards that won't require watching the ordeal of a child signing cards for everyone in class. This defeats 1 and 2.
  6. So even boys can wear magenta sequins if they feel the urge. And everyone can wear mustaches, I guess.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


A house of cards, a condo of drips

Idioms for $500, Alex:

A shaky foundation or a classic building toy. 

What is a "house of cards"?

The images on Charles and Ray Eames' "House of Cards" deck belong to my earliest memories. Talking about the images, and nicknaming them with my parents built my memory. The early exposure to good design shaped my aesthetic preferences for life. Early play constructing card houses built my spatial vocabulary, but I won't rant about that this evening!

The surviving pieces from an Eames' "Giant House of Cards" are locked away with that other classic building toy, the Legos accumulated by three sons.

A house of cards -- an organization or a plan that is very weak and can easily be destroyed Their partners began to suspect that the company was a financial house of cards.

Classic card house
KERA, my local NPR station is presenting a special series on families facing financial difficulties. It's called "One Crisis Away", but could easily be called "A Financial House of Cards".

Found a fun photo of the condo where we lived in the late Nineties. It was taken the day after a supremely bad night downpour with a leaking skylight.

Cell phone played its tune from deep in my jacket pocket while driving home from the storage unit. Neighbor Betty's name showed on the caller ID when I finally fished the phone out to the light. Stopped by her condo to ask why she called, but she didn't call and didn't even have my phone number. But Betty was waiting for test results and worrying about colon surgery. Strange cell phone voodoo, or one of those higher power occurrences. It brought on a sunshine/leaking skylight song from above -- or at least from Ella Fitzgerald and the Inkspots:

Flashback fifteen years

Into each life some rain must fall But too much is falling in mineInto each heart some tears must fallBut some day the sun will shine

Some folks can lose the blues in their heartsBut when I think of you another shower startsInto each life some rain must fallBut too much is falling in mine

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


What a good mom am I!

I stuck in my thumb and pulled out a plum, but I never did toss the baseball cards. Round of parental applause, please.

The Big Downsize is ongoing. It isn't pretty. It's mighty stressful. At least I can say I didn't ruin anyone's life by throwing away the million dollar baseball card! The cards are still there in the first grade blue plastic pencil box with "Say no to drugs" and "Don't throw away!" on the lid.

True, I don't seem to have thrown much else away, either.

*Little Jack Horner
 Sat in the corner,
 Eating a Christmas pie;
 He put in his thumb,
 And pulled out a plum,
 And said 'What a good boy am I!'

No YRMLMs were harmed in the writing of this post.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Winking, blinking, and peanut nods

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

...by Eugene Field

Memories, yes, misty watercolor memories of the way we were at the exact moment when we forgot to credit the library patron's payment of a $2.40 overdue fine. Who, what, where, when! How could this happen? Well, we were being chatty, personable, and trying to do too many things at once. And we queens of the circulation desk are using the "royal we" here!

Memory is so strange. I can see the woman's hand holding two dollar bills, then getting two quarters. I can't see the woman, or her clothes, or her wallet. I can't hear her voice, but we are chatting. It is morning, not afternoon. I give her a dime in change.

I can't remember the library patron yesterday, but I can remember a summer school immersion Spanish teacher in the basement of the Temple Building at the University of Nebraska when I was about eight years old. Anything we didn't understand, the teacher mimed or drew a cartoon on the chalkboard. All her people had peanut heads. Did I learn to speak Spanish? Not much. Did I learn that people's heads look like peanut shells? You bet.

Your brain is upstairs.


Plastic Easter eggheads


All your facial features are on the bottom part of the plastic egg. All your wits, such as they are, are housed in the upper part of the plastic egg.

Now let's think horizontally, since we still can't figure out what happened to the $2.40. If you draw a line from your forehead down to your chinny chin chin, then take half of your face and mirror it, you will have a space alien mouse. Faces that are super symmetrical awaken suspicion in our subconscious. Reality is not so mirror perfect.

A mostly symmetrical face is a sex appeal bonus for attracting a mate. It is a signal of physical and genetic health. A too perfect symmetry makes us suspicious. Danger, Will Robinson! Do not mate with the alien! I repeat, do not mate with the alien!

What makes us blink? Sometimes a stimulus makes us blink. That's called an attentional capture blink. Other times we blink more often in conversation, and less often when we read. Film editors have to be sure their cuts don't disrupt the believable rate of eye blinks for the character's activity. Our subconscious will notice an error. For animators this is even more critical to make a character believable.

Some other day we can consider nictating membranes in the eyes of crocodiles Be sure to stow your brain in the top half of the plastic egg and blink believably.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Monkeys with wrenches keyboarding

If someone puts or throws a wrench, or monkey wrench, in the works, they ruin a plan. In British English, 'spanner' is used instead of 'wrench'.

Open the boot of your automobile, and an infinite number of monkeys with spanners jump out. They race to keyboards, but instead of typing the complete works of Shakespeare, they type the perfect resume. Then they throw the spanners into the monitors and urinate on the keyboards. Repeatedly. As in an infinite number of times. No flushing. No washing hands.

Sigh. Monkeys are not the solution to my problems. The big red tool box is a jumble of wrenches with names I never remember. Who is Allen anyway? Which wrench did Colonel Mustard use in the study?

I need to dismantle the broken computer stand enough so the monkeys can heave the parts into the dumpster. Faux wood laminate on "engineered wood" assembled by single mom and sons at least fifteen years ago held up surprisingly well. It held monitors as big as microwave ovens, and looked down on numerous mice. For years it stood in the dining area wary of attack by burger grease or Dr. P. The sliding keyboard shelf had been caddywhompus for many years before it finally went all crackerdog flop-bot this week.

The monkeys and I will be attacking the computer desk with the hex wrench in the conservatory.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Shredded wheat phalanx goes haywire

Om All servers are down. It has been an interesting internet-less day at the library. Peaceful, except for explaining to patrons why we couldn't perform our normal range of biblioacrobatics. Nothing truly disastrous happened.

It could have been an afternoon in my grandma's Carnegie Library in Pierce, Nebraska, just cards in book pockets and date due stamps, bicycles out front, dust motes in the sunbeams, flies buzzing, and a couple kids asking for Nancy Drew books. We did have two kids asking for Nancy Drew today.

Clear When Johnny Eames posted a photo of spaghetti electrical cables through hot dog transformers everything became ___________.

You can call them vienna sausage squids or you can call them hot dog octopi. It's a Spaghetti-Os beenie weenie super collider. Now I wish I hadn't given away my How and Why Book of Electricity and my 1960 Play Doh Fun Factory extrusion press.

Rolling blackouts occur when need for electricity outstrips supply. If we all bring water to a rolling boil to cook hot dog octopi on a cold night, we will be in for a spell without power.

Clucks Draining the electrified octopi dogs in a colander is like Yogi Bear's brain swapped with a chicken's by the evil scientist in the Airstream trailer. My brain is already feeling swapped with Yogi's..

 Flux or TX 
My life is in a state of _______.

Phalanx  If you amassed enough hot dogs threaded with uncooked spaghetti you could act out important ancient Greek battles. 
Flavia I am hooked on Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mysteries. Flavia is a brilliant chemist who rides her bike, Gladys, to the library. Oh, and she is eleven years old. I wish she could team up with Paloma Josse from The Elegance of the Hedgehog. And now, how 'bout some hot dog spaghetti hedgehogs?

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder