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Tue, Apr. 3rd, 2012, 07:57 pm [sticky post]

Hello and welcome! Friend me and I'll be happy to friend you back!

After many years in the military, I am poking a toe outside the fannish closet. I work for the feds these days so I am still pretty much a closeted fan.

I don't post often, but I do keep my fanfic here:
The Sentinel

I'm copying my fanfic over to: http://archiveofourown.org/users/Rachel_Martin64

Caveat: If your LJ is blank or nearly blank, please message me so I know you're a real person. Thanks!

Sat, Jun. 8th, 2013, 03:06 pm
Job update

Man I suck at journaling. Not as bad as I suck at Facebooking, though. I think I look at Facebook once a year or so. I created a Facebook only because I was informed that potential employers love to snoop on their prospective employees. So I created a Facebook and filled it with innocuous stuff for the delectation of snoopy employers. Unfortunately I do have friends who naively think that posting news on Facebook = communicating with me, so I should check it somewhat more often.

I got a job in Mountain View, ground zero of Silicon Valley, in the vicinity of San Francisco. After only a month I already know I don't like the people I work with and that I don't want to keep this job long-term, so I won't get into details about a job I don't plan to stay at. I'm leaving my belongings in storage on the east coast, and I'm not buying a car. I rented some furniture and I take a bus to work.

My housing situation is good. I actually found a pleasant and affordable older apartment in a town where rents are typically $3,000 a month. The cost of living here is insane, and I say that as a New Yorker. Mountain View is full of charming little bungalows from the 1950s-1960s that start at, oh, one million. The crappiest condo starts at half a million. The cost of living alone would stop me from ever getting comfortable here and settling down.

And yet I like California so much. I will miss it when I go. The weather here is perfect, every day. It's beautiful here. After the ugliness of Afghanistan, I am just drinking in the greenery, the trees, flowers, flowering shrubs and birdsong, the clean air. I sit in one of the sidewalk cafes of Mountain View in the evening and look at the people. Nobody is afraid. I feel like I just got back from outer space. A penal colony in outer space.

I stayed with relatives for a while after I returned from Afghanistan, before traveling out to California. My relatives behaved as if I'd been on a 2 week business trip to Cincinnati.

Fri, Mar. 15th, 2013, 03:06 pm
Weekend update

Wow, I see it's been over a half year since I updated this. And now I am actually on my way back to the states. I'm in Kuwait now waiting for the freedom flight tomorrow.

I was in Afghanistan about a year. Ending my tour a bit early because I got offered a job back in the states. (As a temporary Department of Defense civilian, I get to do things like end my tour early. If I were here as a Reservist, I wouldn't be able to do that.)

I'm sorry to see I didn't post about Thanksgiving or Christmas in theater, because they were unexpectedly wonderful holidays. I'll probably go back and write more later and share some pictures.

It takes about 3 days to get out of theater. So many legs of the journey, so many stopping points along the way. It's a confusing process and the information flow is not the best and I'm traveling by myself, not with a unit. I keep having this nightmare feeling that I will miss something or be late for something and fall between the cracks and never get out of here.

Tue, Aug. 21st, 2012, 06:56 pm
It's the most wonderful time of the year

Ramadan was July 20th to August 18th, with Eid on August 19-21.

So the toll in Afghanistan for July 20 - August 21:

39 NATO soldiers KIA.

13 deaths were the result of 12 insider attacks.

About 50 Afghans were murdered by their fellow Afghans on August 14th, "the Night of Power." Apparently they were murdered for not being quite religious enough. I should explain that anything you do on the Night of Power is supposedly magnified 1,000 times by Allah.

Due to the escalating insider threat, everyone assigned a weapon now carries that weapon loaded at all times, and that includes carrying loaded weapons into the mess hall and the gym, because NATO troops have been killed while eating and exercising. Previously, people carried unloaded weapons with magazines in a separate pouch. People didn't load weapons unless they were going outside.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was in-country the past few days to discuss the insider threat. Ironically, while his plane was parked at Bagram Air Base (about 20 minutes north of Camp KAIA, where I am), it got damaged during a rocket attack. The Chairman himself was nowhere near the plane at the time, fortunately. He flew home today in another plane.

No incidents where I am stationed. We live and work right by the runways of the Kabul International Airport, which is finishing off the hearing in my right ear, and we joke that the criminals running this country will do nothing that might stop the commercial cargo planes from flying, that is to say, smuggling drugs, cash and weapons. In 19 days I go on R&R. I leave on Sept. 10 for a couple weeks back in the states.

Sat, Aug. 11th, 2012, 11:44 pm
Weekend update

The thing that strikes me the most is the carnage that occurs routinely here in Afghanistan, and the people back home seem just plain unaware. I thought I'd get lots of anxious queries on a daily basis. Nope. I know the Kabul-based western reporters are publishing the news articles. I guess none of my relatives are reading them.

I'm not in the combat arms. I sit at a desk and will not see action unless it's an insider attack. But that's the thing, there have been 5 insider attacks in the past 8 days around Afghanistan, and people back home are oblivious. On Friday an Afghan killed 3 Westerners on a shared Afghan-Western base in the south. Also on Friday in the south, 3 Westerners were killed by an Afghan police officer when they accepted his invitation to an iftar dinner (the meal they eat after a day of fasting during Ramadan). The killer first ate the iftar meal with them and then killed them.

The insider attacks are in addition to the daily carnage. I don't witness it, I just read about it, and still it's stunning. You lose track of all the atrocities that occur in Afghanistan, you have to go back and look at your email to refresh your memory.

Earlier this week there was a ramp ceremony here for a French soldier who was killed in action. His body was flown home from Camp KAIA where I'm serving. The night before the flight, his casket was placed in the community center with a French honor guard and with hundreds of people streaming in to pay their respects. (There's a mosque on base but no chapel despite the large number of Catholics and Protestants stationed here.) I stopped in and sat for a while. There were French soldiers all around, and one young Frenchman had his rosary beads out and was praying. I wish the family could know that this deceased man was never left alone.

The next day the French ceremoniously carried the casket out to the plane home, what is called a ramp ceremony. There must have been a 1000 of us standing out on the runway by the plane. I was so moved by the ceremony. At one point all the French soldiers sang "La Marseillaise" a cappella. I'll never forget it. I read online that this soldier was honored at home by the French president, defense minister and army chief of staff. I thought to myself how miserable it is that every American casualty can't get the same treatment. There are too many American casualties.

We have to get through the last week of Ramadan. braced for Eid al Fitr on August 18th. I am so not in the mood for a lecture on Islam-the-religion-of-peace and I am turning off the comments feature on this post.

Sun, Jul. 29th, 2012, 07:13 pm

The air pollution is really bad today. I have a sore throat and swollen glands and my voice is hoarse.

When we inprocess here we go through a newcomers' orientation, and the medical briefer told us that every day you spend in Kabul, it's as though you smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Sadly, Big Army is already disputing the ground truth, trying to claim there's nothing especially terrible about the air quality here. Already scrambling how to get out of paying all the respiratory disability claims that will surely arise. I read a blog post by a vet who said "this is going to be the Agent Orange of our generation."

I take a lot of vitamins, herbs and supplements trying to protect my health. I am very sorry I didn't pay for a chest x-ray and other respiratory tests to establish a baseline before I deployed, but I didn't fully understand how bad the situation is here. The air is so bad for a number of reasons. There's the dust, fine as baby powder, suspended in the air, and the wind blows nonstop all summer. It's like you're breathing in baby powder. Secondly, the pollution. The air is polluted. The Kabul River is polluted and the ground water is polluted. The ground has been stripped of all vegetation due to overgrazing and overlogging, and now it's polluted and as dead and bare as the moon. The Afghans have no modern methods for disposing of trash and sewage. The air is actually contaminated with fecal bacteria. That's not an exaggeration, that's a fact. We're breathing in fecal bacteria and we're not allowed to wear surgical masks for fear of offending the Afghans. The Afghans have no modern methods of heating their homes or cooking food; they burn everything and anything for fuel, especially in the winter when it's cold, so we are also breathing in the smoke of burned rubber, etc.

You can't see the gigantic 14,000 foot mountains beyond the end of the street due to the air pollution.

The water is undrinkable. The water on base is treated and free of bacteria, good enough for showering, but it tastes salty and bad. We all drink bottled water. How the Afghans manage for drinking water, I do not know.

Every right-winger who rails against the EPA and environmental regulations ought to be forced to visit this place.

Sun, Jul. 29th, 2012, 05:46 pm
Weekend Update

The garden is blooming! Must be all the leftover coffee I feed it:

Afghanistan leads the way! Our Congress critters should introduce similar legislation:

New Law Seeks to Cap Wedding Costs
Written by TOLOnews.com


The final draft of a new law capping the number of guests allowed at a wedding and the cost per head has been delivered to the Council of Ministers....

It caps the number of guests allowed at a wedding at 400 people, and caps the cost per head charged by wedding halls at 300 Afs.

....the law was welcomed by Kabul residents who called on government to approve it soon.

"The law should be approved by the government to avoid the big budgets needed for marriage," one Kabul resident said.

Sat, Jul. 14th, 2012, 09:54 pm
Weekend Update

Life in a combat zone:

After 2 months I finally had a reason to get off Camp KAIA and visit ISAF headquarters in downtown Kabul. Nobody leaves without a reason. I have been longing to see something new. It makes me wonder how anyone can survive years in prison, noplace new to go, nothing new to look at. There's a small park at ISAF HQ, full of green grass and trees, and I sat there for a while. Now I understand the term "feasting your eyes." I haven't seen a tree or grass since I got here. The land around Camp KAIA is like the moon. No grass, shrubs, flowers, trees, birds. I was sitting there with a lieutenant I work with and he turned to me and said "All I can think of is that chapter in DUNE where the people are staring at the trees in front of the palace because each tree uses enough water for five people."

Tue, Jul. 3rd, 2012, 08:51 pm
An amusing story

So hey, now that I'm poking a toe out of the fannish closet, let me regale you with one of the funniest stories of my active duty time. I had the great good fortune to work for several years at the combined headquarters of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs. It was the highlight of my career. I should explain that Cheyenne Mountain is not NORAD headquarters, although many NORAD personnel work there. So I didn't work inside Cheyenne Mountain, but visited occasionally, and every time I drove up that long winding road I'd think to myself what a pity it was that I wasn't a Stargate fan. Man, I coulda been the biggest Stargate BNF that ever was!

So anyway, I often answered the main phone line in our office, and let me tell you, every nut in the world has NORAD on speed dial. I should have taken notes, what a book it would have made. So one day I answer the phone and it's a reporter. She tells me that people on the southwest side of town are phoning in complaining that their garage doors are going up and down by themselves. WHAT SPOOKY THING IS NORAD UP TO??

So I laugh and assure her that OF COURSE it's not NORAD's fault. OF COURSE NORAD is not making people's garage doors go up and down!

So I hang up and go to tell my boss about this hilarious call. My boss just looked at me and said, "Check it out."

So I check it out and... yep. Some guys were on top of Cheyenne Mountain testing some equipment. Yes, it was our fault that garage doors were going up and down by themselves on that end of town. I had to call the reporter and eat crow.

After that, no matter how strange the query, I checked it out before giving an answer.

Sun, Jul. 1st, 2012, 11:56 pm
New job

I’ve been in Afghanistan 6 weeks now. My circumstances have changed and I feel like it’s safe to put a toe outside the fannish closet. I’m a Reserve officer who’s been on active duty for the past 11 years. Recently I left active duty and I’m in Reserve status again.

So I deployed to Afghanistan 6 weeks ago, but strangely enough I did not deploy as a soldier. I deployed as a civil servant. I’m here for a year as a Department of Defense civilian employee. I wear a uniform, an old Desert Storm era uniform, not the multicam that the troops wear. I live in the barracks and eat in the mess hall. I am on Camp KAIA, a NATO base, built beside the runways of Kabul International Airport. It is interesting to be serving with people of so many nationalities. In the office there is a German, a Spaniard, a Frenchman and a Brit.

My belongings are in storage. I gave the Kia Rio away to a nephew, and I sold the Mustang. Hard decisions. I drove all over the west and midwest and southwest in the Kia, and it never let me down, never broke down and stranded me, I feel sloppily emotional about that cheap economy car. The Mustang was a dream car, more like flying a jet than driving a car, but I had no good storage solution or maintenance plan, and I felt like it was time to let it go. It got me through the divorce. I hope it is bringing its new owner as much pleasure as it gave me.

Tue, Apr. 3rd, 2012, 04:30 pm
Creative Writing Class

In early February I paid to take a creative writing class. It runs until the end of April and meets once a week. It’s at a brand-name university and the professor is a midlist author who’s published 18 novels. I’m being vague because I am not really sure the class has been worth the money. I’m going to ramble about the class. And I’m going to ramble about the process of transforming a fanfic into a pro fic.

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Tue, Jul. 19th, 2011, 10:48 pm
The richest country in the world

Today I heard of the death of an acquaintance's wife. I asked for an address to send flowers. Or did the family want a donation to a charity in lieu of flowers?

Neither. The family has asked for cash donations to help pay the crushing medical bills. You know, all the bills that their health insurance company weaseled out of paying.

About two years ago the husband of a co-worker died. She too asked for cash to help pay the medical bills that their insurance wouldn't pay.

I can't think about this too much or I go crazy with rage remembering how terribly my beloved mother-in-law was treated in her last days by Oxford Health Insurance and Beth Israel Hospital in New York City.

I am incredulous that there are Americans who do not want national health insurance. I am incredulous that there are Americans who defend our current health care system.

Mon, Aug. 16th, 2010, 11:23 pm

Moving to the NCR to work at the Pentagon. I rented an apartment online, without seeing it in person (gulp) in Northern Virginia. The movers come tomorrow and I am in a hotel now. I leave St. Louis, Missouri on Friday.

I will miss the Midwest. I'm from NYC and would probably never have seen the Midwest had it not been for the job moving me here. I've seen so much and done so much here. Almost every holiday weekend I got in the car and drove hundreds of miles to sightsee. I've been through Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota. I'm kind of sad to head back East, which is strange because it's home. I want to come back to visit. I'll miss driving for hours on Interstates through wide open countryside. I was warned the traffic in the Washington metro area is so horrendous that I needed to get an apartment near the Metro at all costs, and I have (after weeks of hunting online). My apartment is walking distance, about 1/4 mile, from a Metro station, can't beat that. On the down side, my apartment is a 4th floor walk-up, no elevator. On the up side, the rent is low by local standards.

My last road trip was actually to Tennessee. I went on a tour of the Bell Witch Cave in Adams, Tennessee. I get inpatient with SPN because it rarely fulfills its promise to explore American folklore. While there are some shining episodes, like the one about the legend surrounding Robert Johnson, it is obvious to me that the writers' talk of "research" is b.s. We get episode after episode of generic Hollywood monsters like werewolves and vampires, when every town in this country has a story. I rolled my eyes at the episode where the MOTW is a "skinwalker in St. Louis," completely ignoring the real legends around here like the haunted Lemp Mansion or Zombie Road. The Bell Witch of Tennessee is possibly the most famous American legend of all, because it is the most well documented and observed of all -- hundreds of people witnessed the persecution of the Bell family by this entity. I will get around to posting some of my cave pictures later.

I feel grateful to have a job in this economy, and money left over from living expenses to do things like take weekend road trips. Should I lose my job, I will know that I took advantage of all the opportunities it afforded me to see something of this country.

My Kia Rio continues to get me around and about. I have decided it's the perfect car. It's a 10-year-old economy car that no criminal will bother with, and when careless people bang into it in parking lots I don't have to get upset. Meanwhile, the Mustang has been at a garage getting some repairs and upgrades. I am relieved to say the difficulty I had in handling the car was not a matter of nerves or imagination or feminine vapors. The Mustang did have a few mechanical issues. I'm driving the Kia to Virginia and Fed-Ex'ing the Mustang. Yes, really. I never want to take either car into the demolition derby around D.C., so hopefully I will discover some nice drives in Southern Virginia and the Carolinas.

Lastly, my divorce became final in mid-July. After two years, it is done. I am sad about that and am hoping the new job in the new city will get my thoughts moving in a new direction.

Sun, Apr. 25th, 2010, 06:01 pm
Mustang Sally

Been a crap year between the job and the divorce, and lost heart to do more writing.

The crazy boss did move on (was moved on against her will) in June 2009. The workplace got somewhat better under her replacement, but hasn't improved as much as I had hoped. However, I should be getting transferred to a new office in September. Might be in North Carolina, might be in Washington, D.C., don't know.

Well, I've been driving the same ol' sensible economy car, a Kia, for 10 years. It's this car that I've driven many thousands of miles around the west and midwest. In March I figured it was time to buy yet another sensible economy car. But somehow on the way to the Kia dealership I bought a 1966 Ford Mustang.

Buying this car was like an out-of-body experience. I didn't say a word to anyone because I couldn't believe I was buying a car online. I figured it had all the potential to be a cosmic disaster. I did buy it from a reputable dealership, and I did check them out through the Better Business Bureau, and I did hire an appraiser to inspect it. But for the past month I've had anxiety attacks that the whole thing was an epic prank and there wasn't really any dealership and there wasn't really any car and the transport company wasn't going to deliver anything at all. But yesterday the Mustang was delivered and my heart almost stopped when I saw it in the parking lot. It's here and it's for real and it's better than advertised. The dealership didn't lie, the appraiser didn't lie, and the transport company didn't lose it.

And now I am having anxiety attacks that the Mustang is just too much for me. I sat in it and turned it on and holy shit. The sound of it and the feel of it, it was like turning on a jet engine. I drove it around the parking lot a bit, and it is not easy to drive. It is challenging to drive. So here I am scared of my own car and not confident at all that I can handle it on the street. And I'm thinking, Holy crap, I just bought a car I can't even drive.

Right now the car is in storage at a classic car dealership here in this town, because as an apartment-dweller I am still struggling to arrange garaging, and I still have to work through the issues of making the Mustang legal to drive in this state.

When I feel most panicky I go outside to visit my Kia, which was paid for years ago and runs well and is as comfortable as an old shoe.

Sun, Mar. 8th, 2009, 09:55 pm
Watchmen (Spoilers)

Just got back from seeing it at an IMAX. All the IMAX showings of Watchmen in my area were sold out this weekend, so I made sure to get there a half hour early to get a good seat. The theater was already half-full of other people with the exact same idea, but I got an excellent seat.

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Wed, Mar. 4th, 2009, 08:31 pm
I fail at LiveJournal

There's a journal I follow because the person writes things I like to read. Well, today she posted that she is defriending people who have failed to post an adequate number of comments in her journal. And then! She posted statistics! Comment statistics demonstrating how often or how rarely we miscreants post in her journal! Comment statistics! Comment statistics! There is actually a software program that allows BNFs and would-be BNFs to run comment statistics!

Alas, I failed to make the cut. I did not meet the standard and was defriended.

But I have an even better story. There is a retired lady whose journal I like to read because she writes in a very sprightly, engaging manner about her daily routine, housecleaning and shopping and so forth. Well, one day she defriended me. She explained that I was just too boring.

I shall flush myself down the Intertubes.

Tue, Feb. 17th, 2009, 08:28 pm
The fannish closet

So I'm talking with my boss's new henchman, or should I say henchwoman. Apropos of nothing, the henchwoman suddenly leaps up, goes to her computer, enters my real name into Google, and dramatically spins the monitor around and shows me the result.

I already knew what the Google search would reveal -- nothing interesting. I just stood there looking calmly at her until she stopped behaving like a detective on CSI.

And people wonder why I'm in the fannish closet.

I was certainly taken aback to see this woman taking malicious pleasure in trying to see if key employees were up to no good on the Internet. Apparently, one day when I was out sick, she went surfing around Facebook trying to see if I had updated my status with anything incriminating, like, say, "Blew off work today to go fishing." However, I do not have a Facebook. And clearly the hipster henchwoman is not quite hip enough to have heard of LJ, Blogspot, Wordpress, or...drumroll please...pseudonyms!

Wed, Feb. 11th, 2009, 09:52 pm
The soap opera continues

... at my job.

To make a long story short, our boss is being forced to retire May 1st (after 30 years on the job). She doesn't want to. You know how a wounded animal flails around hurting everyone until it dies? Yeah, I think that's what we're in for.

In the past few days, she's summoned us together for 2 lengthy meetings at which there is much talk about loyalty and dark warnings that the disloyal will sent to the cornfield.

Great. Richard Nixon has been reincarnated at my job. I can only hope I am not on the Enemies List. Being cut would be unfortunate for me as I have spent the last half-year going through a divorce and am paying $500 a week in alimony. (Yes, I'm the woman, paying alimony to the man.) But that's another post.

Sun, Dec. 21st, 2008, 11:33 pm
Christmas, bah, humbug

A normal workplace would have a Christmas lunch or dinner for the employees. A couple of hours out of our lives, over and done with. Not us. No, the boss decreed that we had to put on 12 days of entertainment from Dec. 4th to 19th. A lot of people at my job are unbelievably stressed out from being forced to put on a multi-day, multiple-event "celebration." I'm sure the True Meaning of Christmas is not supposed to be a lot of people saying fervently "Thank fuck it's over."

I myself am in the doghouse because I refused to take part in one of the many mandatory caroling events. I was assigned to a group that was supposed to walk around the complex for three hours singing the boss's daughter's favorite song, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas," while doing a funky little dance. I refused to participate and was later counseled for my bad attitude. Whatever.

I have been mulling over how to spend the weekend. There is actually a small ski slope 30 miles away, and I was thinking of going there. But I was also thinking of driving to Chicago to photograph the beginning and end signs for Route 66, by Grant Park. The weather in Chicago has been so wild that I am not sure I should attempt it. I guess I will just have to check the weather the night of the 24th and make a decision.

Sun, Nov. 2nd, 2008, 10:32 pm
AC/DC in Chicago

I just got out of the AC/DC concert in Chicago at Allstate Arena. It was amazing! A completely sold-out show, about 19,000 fans there. I got a great seat through the fan club, on the floor, 21 rows back from the stage, next to the catwalk. Angus came down the catwalk! I could have touched him! Except for the 300 pound security guard who threw himself between me and Angus. Damn. The scurity inside the arena, and the police presence outside, was pretty over-the-top. We're all waiting in line to get in and an actual SWAT van rolled past and we all started laughing. It was hilarious to see all these young cops in helmets staring warily at us old farts like we might start rioting and laying waste to Chicago. I guess the decades have not dimmed our reputation, lol.

Anyway, a great show, not long enough, though. A good mix of old and new songs. I think I should have some great pictures. And none of them taken with a zoom lens, that is just how close I was.

Sun, Oct. 26th, 2008, 02:32 pm
The McCain Economic Plan: An Heiress for Every American!

ETA: Link is dead :(

The UK's Telegraph has assembled a collection of the finest American political satire videos. Check out "John McCain's Economic Plan," "Elitist Portrayal of Obama" and "Diebold accidentally leaks result."

Sat, Oct. 25th, 2008, 11:37 pm
"The Daily Show" Visits Wasilla

I can hardly believe that the only actor in this clip is the faux reporter from "The Daily Show." All the people being interviewed are real residents of Wasilla, Alaska. I thought for sure the Mayor of Wasilla was a plant, but no.

ETA: The link is dead :(

Sun, Oct. 19th, 2008, 05:13 pm
Saturday Night Live: Alaska Rap!

Sarah Palin was dull during her appearance on Saturday Night Live. However, what did come out of the Oct. 18th episode: the magnificent Alaska Rap! Featuring a dancing Todd Palin inpersonator!

ETA: The link is dead :(

Wed, Oct. 15th, 2008, 11:03 pm
The funniest damn thing to come out of this election

ETA: link is dead :( Used to be a website called "Palin as President"

It's interactive. Start moving the cursor around the picture of the Oval Office. Wherever the cursor turns into a hand, click or double-click. It is hysterical. I clicked on the windows and the shades rolled up so you could see a dinosaur walking around on the White House lawn. And after the windowshades roll up, click on the glass of the window to the far left and see what happens.

Click on the door at least six times...

Make sure to click on the red phone!

Sun, Oct. 5th, 2008, 11:54 am
Saturday Night Live: Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Debate

ETA: link is dead :(

Fri, Sep. 26th, 2008, 11:34 pm
Saturday Night Live: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

ETA: Link is dead :(

Sun, Sep. 21st, 2008, 01:19 pm
AC/DC ticket!

So I was on the phone with ridesandruns, telling her sadly how I was not going to be able to see AC/DC in concert. They are not coming anywhere near my town; the closest (and I use that word loosely) venue is Chicago, on Thurs. Oct. 30. I'd have to take a couple of days off work just to get there and back, and anyway they sold out Chicago about an hour after tickets went on sale. And as I'm telling her this, I'm pulling up acdc.com just to stare and wallow in my misery... and to my disbelief, I see that a second Chicago date has been added. Sat. Nov. 1 -- not a weekday! not a workday! And fan club tickets are still available!

Ridesandruns urges me to quit talking, get off the phone and buy that ticket.

So I am now the proud owner of a ticket on the floor at Allstate Arena. I have a terrific floor seat right next to the catwalk, for the Nov. 1 show in Chicago. (Not General Admission, but an actual seat.) And I got it through the fan club at face value of $89.50. I can't believe it.

I am even more amazed I got this ticket when I read the stories about ticket scalping. I can't believe the scalping that is going on. Apparently scalpers bought themselves multiple fan club memberships and used them to buy multiple seats at multiple venues. Now they are re-selling the floor seats for up to $2,000.00 each (face value $89.95) and they are selling seats in the nosebleed section for up to $500.00 each (face value about $50). AC/DC tried to prevent scalping with an elaborate system I won't go into, but sure nuff, the scalpers have figured out a way to get around this system.

But the worst story I read on the AC/DC community board is that Ticketmaster sold all the Vancouver, B.C., Canada show tickets to companies called TicketExchange and TicketsNow, and these companies are now engaging in legal scalping, re-selling the tickets for $500 to $2000. According to the Canadian fans, there are no laws regulating ticket scalping in B.C. The B.C. fans never had a chance to buy the tickets at face value. I don't see who on earth can afford tickets at these prices.

So I am going to be thankful for my own luck, while feeling bad for fans who got shut out by scalpers.

I reserved a room at a decent hotel for a decent rate within walking distance of Allstate Arena. My plan is to leave home at the crack of dawn and drive to Chicago on Sat., Nov. 1. Drive back on Sunday, Nov. 2. The big, big problem with a Nov. 1 date, no matter what my mode of travel -- snow. If there is snow, I have to give up and eat the cost of the ticket. I won't be able to give the ticket away due to AC/DC's anti-scalping measures. So I have a hotel room that I can cancel the morning of Nov. 1 without penalty, and I am not going to buy a plane ticket because the refundable ones are too expensive. I'll just see if the weather allows me to drive on the day. The most I will lose is the cost of the concert ticket.

Wow, I have a great seat at an AC/DC concert, can't believe it.

Tue, Sep. 9th, 2008, 08:36 pm
Hair: It's not just a musical!

For years I've been straightening my naturally curly hair for work and pinning it tightly to my head. For the past two days, I said screw it and wore my hair au naturel.

Sure nuff, today someone complained to the boss about my hair. Apparently my curly hair is dangerously nonconformist. It was suggested to me that I could wear a wig to conceal the masses of terrorist curls.

So I will resume slicking my hair down and pinning it tightly to my head.

And people wonder why I am in the fannish closet.

Tue, Sep. 2nd, 2008, 01:20 am
There is a god (or a reasonable facsimile thereof)

I can't believe it. Yea, verily, I have lived long enough to SEE AC/DC GO BACK ON TOUR!!

Did the faithful ever think this day would come? Not I. I am ashamed to say I gave up.

But lo! On October 20th AC/DC will release Black Ice, their first album in 8 years. There is going to be a world tour! Their first world tour in 8 years! And it is rumored to start in Chicago this Halloween!

This, on top of the new Metallica album, Death Magnetic, coming out Sept. 12, and their North American tour, after years of performing overseas. The North American pre-sale to Metallica Club members was Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. AND I GOT A TICKET!

Mon, Sep. 1st, 2008, 09:17 pm
Labor Day weekend

My computer spent most of August in the shop. I suspect it was actually worked on for only 2 days. Has anyone else noticed that no matter what's wrong with your computer, the solution is always to wipe it and re-install the operating system? I had my files backed up on an external drive, but oh, the loss of pirated software.

Over the holiday I left the car in the garage and bummed around town. I saw Carmen, one of my favorite operas, and I went to a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) show in downtown St. Louis. Eclectic tastes.

opera142 is the one who made me aware of the WWE's existence. I think a WWE show is like watching comic book characters come to life and act out a storyline. And I'm a comic book fan, so I figure that's why I'm watching.

If you want to read the fun version of the evening, read Opera142's summary. Here is my own boring version.

I was sitting on the west side of the arena, and throughout the evening the characters mostly faced east, so I suppose that's where the fixed TV cameras were located (although there were many roving cameras). I don't know if there's a way to find out that sort of thing before buying your ticket, though. Most of the characters seemed to make an effort to turn and face all corners of the arena, which was appreciated by the fans in the cheap seats.

My camera was flummoxed by the lighting inside the arena, and I was way up in the cheap seats, so my pictures ain't great. And my battery ran out after about 3 hours. Yep, it was that long, 4 hours 15 minutes. I got my money's worth.

The indoor fireworks were impressive, and the balls of fire that spouted upwards (very Wizard of Oz) when Undertaker came out. As high up as I was seated, I felt the heat.

We were told that the show was being broadcast live (this was Sun the 31st). There were lulls, presumably during commercials, when they'd entertain the crowd with video on the jumbotrons or with matches between unknowns. The female announcer (Lena?) would count down to air time and ask fans to start waving their homemade banners, etc. Now that is impressive, that all the banners, signs and posters being waved are homemade. They are not handed out to fans by TPTB as you enter the arena.

I was very surprised by the number of small children (ages 5-10). The arena was packed, not with young men, but with families -- moms, dads and young children. On the one hand, it was nice, I felt comfortable. (The most unsafe part of the evening was the walk to my car afterwards.) On the other hand, I don't know what to make of parents who think this is appropriate entertainment for small children.

My two favorite WWE characters were there, Beth Phoenix and John Morrison. Beth Phoenix is a female wrestler who actually looks strong and muscular. All the other female wrestlers look like Playboy bunnies or runway models. Beth Phoenix looks like a real live Xena. I wonder if she'll ever be in a movie.

Oh, John, how grievously you disappointed your fans. Morrison and Miz entered the ring and Morrison did his usual hilarious strutting and posing in his over-the-top rock star costume. Then he and Miz hopped out of the ring to meet their opponents (a duo called Cryme Tyme) and the fight started on the floor outside the ring. Suddenly two more guys, Rhodes and DiBiase, ran in, shoved their way in and started fighting with Cryme Tyme. Miz and Morrison just looked around, shrugged, and walked off!! Went backstage! Everyone started booing. The part where they walked off wasn't shown on the USA cable network rebroadcast on Monday night. You hear the crowd booing, but the crowd is not actually booing at Cody and DiBiase, they're booing at Morrison and Miz. Neither man showed up again for the rest of the evening.

Ah well, I'm going to suppose this was scripted; I can't imagine any actor willingly giving up his air time. I have to suppose Morrison and Miz were told to leave the stage to Rhodes and DiBiase.

Triple H had the best lines of the evening. At one point he was leaning over the ropes lecturing the guys on How To Film A Promo. ("No, not porno, promo.") And then at another point he turned around and a wrestler was up in his face and he says, "Is it possible for someone on this show to finish a sentence without being interrupted?"

Sun, Jul. 6th, 2008, 02:06 pm
"Little House" road trip

On the 4th of July I got in the car and drove several hundred miles to Mansfield, Missouri, to see the house where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived out the rest of her life from 1894 to 1957. Then I drove a couple more hundred miles west to Independence, Kansas to see the place where Laura and her birth family lived in "the little house on the prairie" from 1869 until 1871, when that part of Kansas was Indian territory.

Laura Ingalls Wilder is a famous American children's novelist. When she was an elderly woman, she began to write books about her childhood in a pioneer family living on the frontier. These books are collectively known as the "Little House" books. Many people are familiar with the Michael Landon TV show based on her books.

For those who think fandom began with the invention of the World Wide Web, Little House fandom began in the 1930s and continues to this day. Toward the end of her life Laura received about 50 to 100 fan letters a day and was earning a comfortable sum from her writing, enough to live a middle-class life. Unfortunately the copyright to Laura's books was stolen from Laura's elderly daughter Rose by a conman named Roger MacBride. Laura had asked for the rights to revert to the Mansfield library after Rose's death. The Mansfield library went to court and lost. MacBride's heirs are still profiting from the rights. But small private foundations own and operate Laura's home sites with the aid of volunteers (and apparently with no aid from the MacBride heirs), so don't refrain from visiting or donating.

No photography was allowed inside the Mansfield house. (I bought postcards but don't have a way to scan them.) It was so very interesting and wonderful to see the rooms and furnishings actually used by Laura and her husband. It began as a tiny one-room home and over the decades they expanded it into a larger place. We got to see the room and desk where Laura wrote out her stories by hand. In the kitchen it was very cool to see the dishes and wood-fired cook-stove Laura used, plus the early electric stove and refrigerator they bought later. Many artifacts of her life are preserved in a museum next to the house.

After visting Laura's grave in Mansfield, I got in the car and drove 200 miles from the Missouri Ozarks to the Kansas prairie to see the location of "the little house on the prairie." I got into the small town of Independence, Kansas about an hour before sunset and found a place to stay. The hotel clerk told me there would be fireworks at the town park a few blocks away. So that is how I ended my Independence Day. Sitting by the fountain in the park of Independence, Kasas, watching the fireworks with the local families. I certainly did think about the blessings of liberty.

The next day I set off to see the Ingalls home site, several miles southwest of Independence. The location of the Ingalls cabin was sleuthed out by Little House fans and a cabin has been recreated on the site. The Ingalls family traveled here by covered wagon from Minnesota and settled here in 1869 when it was still legally Indian territory. During 1870 the U.S. Cavalry and the Osage Indians skirmished in this area. The Ingalls left in 1871. I think the story goes that the Cavalry required them to leave.

As both a Little House fan and a Supernatural fan, I must note the connection between my two fandoms. Laura talked about her memories of the Benders during a speech that she gave in Detroit in 1937. Apparently her father was part of a posse that dealt with "the bloody Benders," who operated near the Ingalls' Kansas homestead. Apparently Pa Ingalls narrowly escaped being murdered -- he didn't enter the Benders' tavern because he couldn't afford to buy anything. He just got some water from the pump outside and went on his way.

And finally I got back on the road and drove east. This trip was also a chance for me to see some sights in Baxter Springs, Kansas and Cuba, Missouri, two towns along historic Route 66. Route 66 is "the mother road," the first cross-country road established in the U.S. It passed through small towns from Chicago to Los Angeles. Route 66 disappeared from maps after the Interstate system came into being. But many people like to travel on what's left of it and see the sights that still exist. It has a strong nostalgic and romantic appeal.

What a great way it was to celebrate the 4th.

Edited to add: Some time back I visited "the little town on the prairie," De Smet, where Laura lived from 1879 to 1894. I found out that in 1939 Laura and her husband, by then both quite elderly, drove themselves from Mansfield, Missouri to De Smet, South Dakota to see the old place. Then they drove from De Smet, on the eastern side of the state, to Mount Rushmore, on the western side of the state. Okay, I made that drive just a few years ago and I found it challenging. I am filled with admiration for two elderly people making this drive in 1939.

They traveled from De Smet to Mansfield by covered wagon, and traveled from Mansfield to De Smet in a car. How very cool. They lived through such times.

Thu, May. 29th, 2008, 11:25 pm

Over the week of Memorial Day I got in the car and drove several hundred miles to Colorado Springs. It was good to see the area again and meet up with my old acquaintances, especially as several of them are moving on as well.

This morning I headed back east to St. Louis. The first time I drove across the Great Plains, I got a fine case of agoraphobia. Spent the evening in my hotel room shaking. But the open space has grown on me over the years. It is awesome to me now to look around and have an unobstructed view of flat grasslands in every direction. I drive with the windows down and the hot air rushing in and my music blasting over the road noise. The sunlight is so strong I wear a long-sleeved shirt and sunblock when I drive.

Tonight I'm in a coffee shop called Harry's in one of my favorite Midwestern towns: Lawrence, Kansas. I discovered Lawrence some years ago when I was at Fort Leavenworth for several months. (No, I wasn't a prisoner.) I liked to spend weekends there when I could. It is a lovely town. Now it's known in SPN fandom as the hometown of the Winchester family. The show has never filmed on location here, and I wonder if the residents are even aware of this "connection."

I think tomorrow morning, before I continue on my way, I will try to find Stull. It is about 12 miles west of Lawrence and supposedly there is a gate to Hell in the old town graveyard. All us SPN fans thought that the producers planned to make some use of this fact -- why else choose Lawrence as the Winchesters' home town? And yet, to date, Stull has never figured into the show.

I let my Blackberry die a couple of days ago. Feels great, even if I know I am going to pay and pay.

Wed, Mar. 12th, 2008, 12:26 am

I can't believe it. Thanks to an LJ comm, I have a link to a download of Zork, one of the earliest computer games, written in Fortran for mainframes. And I don't have to break into the Smithsonian and fire up the ENIAC. I can play it right here on my laptop with Windows XP.

http://www.infocom-if.org/downloads/downloads.html or http://almy.us/dungeon.html

I gather they call the original Zork a "text adventure" or "interactive fiction." No graphics. No visuals. It took lots of imagination to play this game. And a lot of intuition. And the ability to read and spell....

"You are standing in an open field west of a white house with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there." Type in the words, "Open the mailbox," and it all begins.

I have to send this link to my brother-in-law the engineer, the one who introduced me to Zork.

Mon, Mar. 10th, 2008, 01:37 pm

The Blue Oyster Cult concert was a lot of fun. I was in the second row center. I regret that I didn't buy tickets to both shows (as most other people had).

The nicest part was being around other people who were unapologetic, unembarrassed fans. There were 6 men in particular who were such fanboys, enjoying themselves so much, it was great to watch them.

I thought it was a pity the band didn't come out between shows to sign autographs and take photos with the audience.

Because of work conflicts, doesn't look like I can attend either of Metallica's only 2 U.S. shows this year, one in Tennessee (the Bonnaroo festival) and the other in Tucson, Arizona. I guess I have to wait till the next U.S. tour in support of the next album release.

Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008, 01:00 am
Rockfic rec: "Green" by ScrewTheDaisies

Midwestern fanboy gets invited to join a world-famous rock band. Sounds like the premise for a Larry Stu on fanfiction.net. But it really happened for a young bassist named Jason Newsted who was hired by Metallica after the band's original bassist died.

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Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008, 12:49 am
James Marsden: Interstate 60

After thoroughly enjoying "27 Dresses," I went home and watched "Interstate 60" again. I've watched this James Marsden movie several times now. A "road trip" movie. Also a comedy, a fantasy, and a coming-of-age movie.

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Thu, Jan. 31st, 2008, 01:19 am

Would you pay this man a million dollars? Found on eBay:


It's like reading fanfiction.net! The guy is asking for a million. And! Someone has bid $100,000!

A couple weeks ago I was watching the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction broadcast live by the Speed Channel. Watching the $2,000 cars of the 60s and 70s sell for $100,000 to $500,000.

I've been browsing eBay and Craigslist looking for the kind of car I learned to drive on, a Plymouth Duster. The Duster was a light-weight Mopar with the famous 340 V8 4BB. No frills, priced cheap for the youth market. The least well-known Mopar -- not well known today like the Charger, Road Runner or Barracuda. What no one seems to want to remember is how damn badly the Charger, Road Runner and Barracuda sold in their time, while the Duster sold about one and a half million copies. It was the poor guy's muscle car and performed as well as the Mustang, Camaro and Impala.

Sat, Jan. 26th, 2008, 11:42 pm
Comic book reader demographics

I recently acquired some demographic information from a publicly-traded comic book company. This information is not at all top-secret but available to those who know where to look for it. The portrait that it painted of the average mainstream comic book reader is as follows: Male, 20-25, video-game player, disposable income, "techie," single. What is the breakdown of male versus female readership? More than 90% of the readers of mainstream superhero comics are male. From Occasional Superheroine at: http://occasionalsuperheroine.blogspot.com/2008/01/demographics-of-mainstream-comic-book.html

I am supposing that by "mainstream," the author means Marvel or DC comics.

My own impression is that Marvel and DC have more female readers than they might think, and that many readers, male and female, are older than 20-25. Personally, I would have guessed that the average comic book reader is a middle-aged man with a family and a mortgage... someone who started reading comics in the '60s or '70s and kept up. Well, unless Occasional Superheroine divulges the source of her info, I guess there can be no rational disputing.

Male, 20-25, video-game player, disposable income, "techie," single... I wonder -- is this who really reads mainstream comics, or who Marvel and DC wish would read their comics? I've often gotten the impression that entertainment conglomerates ignore their real audience in favor of their fantasy audience.

Tue, Dec. 25th, 2007, 12:59 pm

I moved to St. Louis to start a new job. The past 8 weeks have been hectic.

I miss living out West. I'm glad I saw as much as I did before I relocated.

Mon, Sep. 17th, 2007, 01:15 am

Over the Labor Day weekend I took some extra days of vacation and hit the road. Traveled across New Mexico and Arizona on I-40, drove on parts of historic Route 66, saw the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.

Seeing Monument Valley has been a long-time goal of mine. It is as staggering and awesome as it appears to be in photos. I want so much to go back, and spend the night in the valley, see sunset and sunrise.

Living in the Midwest has been such an experience. I've stood in the wagon wheel ruts of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails in Kansas, seen Louis and Clark landing sites, Pony Express stations, the "Little Town on the Prairie," the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Mesa Verde. But mostly what stands out in my memory are the wide open spaces. I've driven across Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, and parts of Wyoming. Roads where I'm scared I'll run out of gas before I find the next station. Gas stations that only accept cash. Places with no cell phone reception. Travelling with food and water and a sleeping bag in the trunk. I'm used to travelling by subway, bus and cab. It was hard for me to get up the nerve to drive on mostly empty roads, in mostly desolate areas. It's been scary but so rewarding.

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