Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chaos Theory: Six (More) Random Tidbits About Me

Drats! Tagged again! This time, by RetroHeather at How to be a Woman..? (Is that supposed to be a trick question, Heather?

I mean, I think I know...I hope I haven't been doing it wrong all my life.)

DISCLAIMER (Heather, your "cat" looks like a Bush Baby):

If tagged, you are not required to participate and you are not allowed to hate me because of it. (As @blogbooktours would point out, these games of tag are a great way to increase your blog traffic. Yeah, whatever - let's face it, we just don't get out and play often enough, once we reach adulthood. So c'mon, play tag!)

The point: Share six or seven things folks don't know about you, then tag six other bloggers to do the same.

Okay, before we start, can I just point out that if there are six or seven things y'all don't know about me by now, it's because (a) I didn't want you to know; (b) you weren't paying attention; or (c) they're very obscure things and I've probably forgotten them or assumed you weren't interested in knowing?

  1. I flunked my first IQ test, but started college at age 12.
  2. Michael Crichton diagnosed my daughter's first case of hives over the phone.
  3. I have Dr. Michael DeBakey's hands on my piano. Well...sort of.
  4. I'm afraid of roux. But I made some this past Thursday! I'm inordinately proud of that.
  5. I used to swear I'd "never work with computers." My dad's still laughing at me for that.
  6. Gary Stollman was an online friend of mine in the 1980s. Before he was abducted by aliens and replaced by clones.
  7. Never play Trivial Pursuit with Tom Clancy. Just sayin'...

The CIA is after me. No, really - they keep sending these "bloggers" (wink, wink) over to "tag" me to write six "random" things about myself... they've now compiled a three-shelf dossier at HQ that is guaranteed to cure their agents' insomnia or drive them to jump off the roof.

Who to tag, next? Hmm...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Book Review: Historic Photos of Houston, by Betty Trapp Chapman

This is not the most stunning book of photographs ever to grace my coffee table. Some of the photos are a little out of focus. Some are grainy. All are black and white; few in the "artistic" sense that my daughter associates with black and white photography. And yet, Betty Trapp Chapman's Historic Photos of Houston is fast becoming my favorite book of photographs. It is certainly one of the most intriguing. Gazing into these photos, I feel as if I'm being drawn back in time.

One problem with studying history is that teachers too often present its central figures as two-dimensional, cardboard cut-outs. Houston's history comes alive in these photos. Some depict significant events: ground-breaking and opening night at the Astrodome; Mission Control at the Johnson Manned Space Center following splashdown of Apollo 13; an oil gusher; a dinner party honoring Booker T. Washington; the Democratic National Convention in June 1928. Some invite comparisons with modern day Houston: a devastating fire in the Fifth Ward; flooded Houston streets; a traffic jam in 1930; road construction on Texas Avenue. And others seem quirky, mundane, fun, and human: C.L. Bering's 250 ducks; cotton being graded; a horse-drawn hearse; a troupe of actors; ladies lined up at the library. The pages breathe with the history of Houston. Again and again, I flip through the pages - backwards, forwards, finding new details each time I look.

This book contains a copy of the oldest known photograph of Houston, taken in 1856, and a photo taken from the same point at the 300 block of Main street, ten years later. Clearly, Houston was booming - and it has continued to grow and to thrive ever since brothers Augustus and John Kirby Allen founded it to become "the great commercial emporium of all Texas."

Historic Photos of Houston touches upon life, government, education, and historic events from the 1800s to the 1970s. You want stunning? Compare the aerial photo of Houston, "the sixth largest city in the nation" as of 1970, to the first photo from 1856. It's a little like looking through Houston's baby book, and it's impossible not to gain a new appreciation for the spirit and energy of the people who appear in these photos - the people who guided Houston from infancy to adulthood.

Happy Thanksgiving!



This is my first Thanksgiving...

  • to make pumpkin pie, from scratch.
  • to make pecan pie, from scratch. I improvised, adding semisweet chocolate morsels and 12-year-old single malt Scotch. Yum.
  • to make gravy, from scratch - without a recipe. I am not so afraid of roux, anymore.

All of the recipes (the sweet potato puffs, the pecan pie, the squash pie) came from the Joy of Cooking we received as a wedding gift, almost twenty-five years ago:

The only "improvisation" was the chocolate and the Scotch. And the use of a modern, Cuisinart food processor - something that is, in my opinion, essential to baking:

The stuffing is Stove Top. The cranberry sauce came from a can. And the pie crusts were Pillsbury. But the rest - it's all from scratch. The turkey was so tender you could cut it with a fork.

I am thankful for my family and friends, for a good solid home that has survived the wacky Houston weather since 1998, for good food, for good health, a good job, and brighter-than-average coworkers who make it worth coming to work every day. I am thankful for hope and look forward to change. Let's start that change by being nicer to our neighbors - down the street and around the world.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ten Secrets to Hugely Successful Article Writing (Humor)

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword. In that case, never tick off a writer. A couple of years ago, several writers and I found that our work was being used on various Web sites without our permission or knowledge. While waiting for a response to my legitimate copyright violation notices and subsequent DMCA take-down notice, I decided to have a little fun with the scum--er, plagiarist--who, according to WHOIS, was in the Ukraine.

This post rated "M" for "Might offend due to profanity and really poor imitation Ukrainian accent." Which was only fair, given the really poor imitation of my writing found on said plagiarist's site(s). You've been warned; do not complain to me!

From the Desk of Ivan Mor Smirnoff:

10 January 2006

I take you along on bumpy ride to getting pooplished. We'll see just how hard it really is, kidlinks, as I soobmit this to free articles site. I am going to be famous author some day soon! Smoochies, Ivan

Ten Secrets to Hugely Successful Article Writing

1. Don't write drunk. I write like seagull spit when I have been drinking. You think all great writers were drunks and drug addicts? Yes? No? Probably. But unless you are Hemingway or I-95, you write drunk and your donkey will be hanging out for all the world to see.

2. Write about thinks Googly people want to know. Mesothelioma, sex with cats, girl with broken leg, writing while drunk - all good topics for freebie articles. Lots of people want to read this shit.

3. Proofread. About 80 proof ought to do it.

4. Use humor. Always should be tasteful. Not like my uncle's favorite joke: Why chicken cross road? To fuck duck on other side. (Is from old country, maybe loses something in translation.)

5. Be original. Don't steal stuff other people's words. Maybe they no write so good, either.

6. Write about sex. Sex sells. Everybody want to read about sex.

7. Don't use bad words. Bad words like "lawsuit" and "Pythagorean." No one can pronounce "Pythagorean" and no one like "lawyers."

8. Make sure you use lots of keywords, like "mesothelioma" and "sex" and "slutty teenage virgins" even if article not about those things. Article get picked up by fifty bazillion search engines that way, make you lots more money.

9. I forget what was supposed to be tip #9. If you have good idea, write it down, or you forget too.

10. Submit to free content sites and pretty soon - boom! - your name be toast in forty-six countries! You be famous, make lots of money.

Now I Wait, and Wait, and Wait

11 January 2006

You know, Dahlink, Ivan to tell you somesink... I am SO upset. My article was not accepted. It was not sloosh-piled, either. Rinky-dinky site so BAD that I log on this morning and POOF! it gone. (No, sadly, not site - just article.) It say I never submit anytink. Ivan to know - what you tink I should do? Submit again? Maybe twice, just to be sure? Maybe hundred times. You can never be too sure. Right, Dahlink?

Smoochies, Ivan

12 January 2006

Oh, Ivan to die. I am crushed, Dahlinks. Lookit dis: This article has been disapproved. Your article has been disapproved. I can't even get fly-by-night Siberian crooks to pooblish me. I must really suck as writer. Maybe I go back to being doctor. It was more fun to play that, don't you tink?

Dejected smoochies, Ivan