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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tab Closing Potpourri

The origin of OK in the English (well, American really) language.

I can smell when cookies are done baking from 2 rooms away, and I'm overweight, so it's no surprise to me that there's a correlation between sense of smell and obesity. The last time I lost weight successfully, I had a sinus infection.

Smart people tend to stay up late and sleep late. Aw, ain't that sweet?

Save time? I'm good at that. Here's a list of thirty time-saving tips. I survive at work with number 1. I'm a master of keyboard shortcuts and finding alternate routes to destinations cited in number 2. I'm a freakish planner, always working out the options based on the known situation cited in number 5. With number 7, I made it through 40 pages of the RFP while doing allergy testing. With number 8, I pay all my bills the minute I open them. Bill arrives, enter in bill pay (possibly with a delayed pay date), shred bill, and done! (I love done.) Anyway, suffice to say it's a great list of tips. Try some out!

Does anyone have a Live Journal feed for Robert Krulwich's blog on NPR? I love these stories, and I'll set up a RSS feed in Zimbra if I have to, but I really use LJ as my RSS reader, but don't have a paid account, so I can't set up those feeds on my own.

TSA Revisited

The TSA has been getting a decent amount of heat on this one, but the big issues are still going unaddressed. Why should a rape survivor need to choose between a health risk and psychological harm just to travel? Why should a pregnant woman be forced to use a device with unknown and untested health risks? Why should a bladder cancer survivor be so badly handled that he ends up boarding a plane covered in his own urine? Why should a parent have to explain to a kid that you should never let someone touch you there, unless it's a total stranger at the airport? For me, there's a select group (husband, gynecologist, etc.) of people who get to touch my labia, and that generally doesn't include strangers at the airport. How did this suddenly become acceptable to so many people?

But I'd stuff my concerns into a dark corner if this was actually doing anything to save us from the evil terrorists. But as Al Quaeda of the Arab Peninsula has made clear, it's not. As Adam Savage makes clear, it's not even stopping us from 12 inch razor blades on a plane. The TSA is wasting time taking nail clippers from soldiers carrying rifles, but utterly missing real threats again and again. It's time to step back and reevaluate the whole process with attention to what actually works. What we've got creates new risks and doesn't manage to mitigate the risks it's intended to. Start over. Learn from countries who've been doing this longer. And in the meantime, how about we spend a little less time groping each others' labias and penises and a little more time watching out for large metal blades, m'kay?

2 Year Old Recites Gettysburg Address

Some kids are awesome.

Monday, November 22, 2010


It was also a big weekend for baby arrivals. Josh and Magenta welcomed their new baby girl and Jeff and Wendy welcomed their new baby boy. I look forward to meeting the latest additions very soon.

Meanwhile, I had a grand time playing with Mira on Sunday. She's such a cutie bug. Fred handed her off so that he could run Cratchitt's final scene with Scrooge and she happily waltzed with me around our floor and seemed to thoroughly enjoy all the sights and sounds of dress rehearsal. The photographer thought she was darling and she looked into the camera with a fascination that quickly made them fast friends.

Running Towards Dickens

On the final weekend before Dickens, I sent Erik to Mikado rehearsal at 9 a.m., made myself some breakfast, made some food for the week, made rice crispy treats, sorted through the Things box, cleaned the kitchen, took the trash out, and got bundled up for the Cow Palace. At 1:30, I ran out the door, headed for the Palais de Boeuf. On the way I encountered pouring rain so heavy in Redwood City that the windshield wipers on high were just barely managing to make the road visible. By the time I got to Burlingame, I had to get my sunglasses out because the sun was blazing and the sky was blue. Go figure.

Our floor was installed at Dickens, and most of our major furnishing were in place, but all was not well. The lighting was all bulloxed up, regardless that we've been at this for 11 years and regardless of the lighting diagram they had. The rain was coming back and dripping through the roof if all sorts of inconvenient places. We also have no chairs, so that was odd. Our backstage was set up, but lacked it's usual hasp for a lock.

But a good rehearsal was had. We practiced the Belle/Ebenezer scene with Martin and worked on Stagecoach, as well as lots of dancing. We went through the Shakespeare's Sister questions and dancing was nearly drowned out by the sound of hail hitting the room.

The rainstorm I'd driven through earlier was hitting harder by 4 o'clock. At 4:30, the hail was pea-sized and came down in short bursts over the course of the next hour. It was also dumping buckets of rain. Those of us not dancing ran out front to see the hail bouncing off of cars and roofs and such. It's been a good long time since we've had that sort of storm around here, but I suspect it's mostly for the best. The Cow Palace wasn't quite up to the challenge though. The roof was leaking in several places. The deferred maintenance building up is showing now, and unfortunately, one of the leaks is right over our dance floor. We taped it off, put a trash can to catch it, and reported our leaks to management.

Elizabeth mentioned going out to dinner for Sean's birthday. Alexandria was also longing for a steak, so they decided to come along. I asked if it'd be alright if we joined too. Before we knew it, dinner was a table for 10! It was perfect. I'd wanted to do something for Sean's birthday, but had lost the thread earlier in the week. It was such a joy to spend that last evening before Dickens sharing good food with some of my favorite people.

The drive out there was a little less than perfect, but everyone made it safely. Driving home, the rain had returned to a normal sort of rain, falling consistently, but not threatening to swamp us all on the freeway. We tumbled into bed with full bellies, knowing full well the alarm would come too early: our first day of 10 a.m., dressed.

We heard that the roof leaks likely won't be fixed for next weekend (if at all), so we're hoping for no rain on Saturdays and Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That should be do-able right?

The usual lunch options around the Cow Palace are pretty dismal: McDonalds, KFC, or Taco Bell. There's a bakery that does sandwiches, but they're closed on Sundays. A new Chinese restaurant opened last year, so I decided to try it on the good recommendation of a friend, and I can report being very pleased with the result. Fantastic string beans, very good chow mein, and mediocre sweet and sour. I may end up living on string beans throughout the run. They were delicious.

We made it through the day with a lot of hitches and bumps. It was a rockier dress rehearsal than I've seen in years, but we've got a lot of enthusiastic new folks in the cast who look to be a lot of help. By 5:40, we were singing the Hallelujah chorus and running a few Christmas carols before heading home. Home by 7, I felt as exhausted as I usually do after a full day of fair. A couple of episodes of Doctor Who while being relentlessly snuggled by Pixel and Leeloo, and we were off to bed. I can't believe it's really here and we've got the killer 3-day weekend of Dickens starting Friday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hourglass Traffic Signals

Most awesome design change I've seen in years!

I want them everywhere! Do I have time to wrestle out of my jacket before the light changes? Now you could tell! It's brilliant!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

100 Books

Elizabeth posted this on Facebook. Being an English teacher and English major really helps this list fill out. Being a lover of science fiction helped a lot too.

This is also a VERY odd list. The DaVinci Code alongside the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare? Really? I think not.

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible
(I should've read it cover to cover, but even my Bible-as-Lit prof excused us from some of the lengthy begats in the latter half of Genesis.)

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Yes, even though my official emphasis is Renaissance Dramatic Literature, I've yet to make it through all of the Histories, having skipped King John and some of the Henry VIs)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (Hated them.)

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis (Um, repetition of 33?)

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
(Loved this!)

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herber

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (repetition again, so why single it out?)

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Monday, November 15, 2010

TSA: Would you prefer naked x-ray photography or physical molestation?

Alright, this is out of control.

No one should have to submit to the health risks of an x-ray, nor naked photos, nor physical groping just to travel in this country.

This has gone beyond nuisance level into violation. This is no longer security theater. When we're sexually assaulting children in the name of protecting our country from terrorists, we've lost sight of what's really important.

Check out this description of what this woman, her 8 year-old and her 20 month-old went through at the airport after opting out of the scanner to avoid unnecessary radiation. Skip to 4 minutes 20 seconds into the video to hear the mother's account of her recent experience:

Right now, I'm really sad I have plane tickets for January. I have serious doubts that this will be resolved in the next 60 days. I have to believe the ACLU will file suit shortly. If they do what this woman describes to me, then I'll surely report it to the ACLU. I know they assume that the short little lady will be compliant, so I usually get picked for additional searches, but if some TSA dude grabs my crotch, it will be all I can do not to grab him right back and see how he likes it.

Hello, Fourth Amendment, this is your citizens calling. We need you.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Vax Update

Now 3 weeks later, my arm still has two lumpy spots that feel like a bruise when pressed. Otherwise, I'm back to normal with the full range of motion in my arm and seem to be able to carry a normal weight again in the arm. That step lagged the end of taking pain meds by a few days, but seemed fine by this past weekend.

There's a basic risk/benefit analysis that totally works for the TDaP. You take it once and get 10 years of immunity to some really serious stuff. If you're sick for a few days (or even 2 weeks), it's totally worth the benefit of 10 years of insurance against catching three common and extremely nasty bugs. That same analysis totally breaks down for the flu shot. You take it once, get immunity for one year from a flu bug that they may or may not have guessed right on. Getting sick for a few days isn't worth an immunity that's valuable for a year or less, unless catching the flu is likely to be life-threatening for you. I'll cheerfully go get another TDaP booster in 2020. I will encourage others to get there TDaP. I encouraged Erik to get his and he got one today. I will not however sit quietly back and go along with the party line on "Get your flu shot." Instead, know the risks, and decide for yourself. If it's right for you, get it.

And for any vaccine where you may have had a reaction, please report it to the Vaccine Adverse Reaction database. It is only through consistent reporting that the vax manufacturers and our government will know that there is a problem that may need attention. Too many people write it off to "Oh, I must have been getting sick already" or food poisoning or some other falderol. If you're feeling sick 6-48 hours after a vaccination, please report it. Maybe we can make a better vaccine in the future.

On Changing Names and Feminism

I've had several folks surprised that I changed my last name. There's an undercurrent that no one who is a feminist would do such a thing.

I actually thought about this quite a bit. In California, you have the option to change to either partners' name, or make some hybrid of the two. I've never been especially attached to "Hill." For whatever reason, a shockingly high number of people ask me to spell it to them. My knee jerk reaction is, "Oh dear god, are you really that dense?" Sure, maybe it's force of habit and they say it to everyone. Maybe it's not hearing entirely and easier to justify than, "Sorry, I missed that." Maybe it's wondering if it's somehow spelled Hil or Khil or whathaveyou, but seriously, Hill is not hard to spell. Small mountain. Over there. Sigh.

So another option was some sort of hyphenate. Unfortunately, Hill-Woodbury sounds dorky and Woodbury-Hill sounds like a really cheap wine. This was right out. CamelCase sort of combinations like WoodHill or Hillbury or HillWood didn't bring any particular joy either, so back to the drawing board.

Ultimately, Erik is more attached to his last name than I am, so we went with his.

It's not a lack of feminism that led me to this. If you've met me, you know I'm kind of a take-charge woman who runs my own life, owns my own property, pursued my education, and would feel lost without her career. In some ways, it was my life that the feminists of the 20th century were fighting for, and I fully credit them for how good I've got it. However, another thing that they gave me was the ability to CHOOSE. And me, I'm just really good at having an opinion and making a choice about it. So, I'm Mrs. Woodbury. Mrs. Ammy Woodbury. Or Mrs. the Woodbury. Or we are The Woodburys. Or something like that.

I'm a tad less comfortable with Mrs. Erik Woodbury as my grandmother wrote on my recent Get Well card. I'm still very much Ammy. You'd have to do battle to take that from me. Still, it was awfully sweet getting that from my grandma, and I suspect it brought her a certain joy to write it. (Her grandkids haven't cooperated very well in the get married and have kids department.)

However, the process for changing your name is no picnic. It's going to take months. The Social Security card is done. Next up: DMV.

Villefranche - Nice, Monoco, and Monte Carlo

I have not forgotten to wrap up the honeymoon trip. I just got consumed (like everything else for two weeks) by the vaccination reaction. I got rather a bit less than the minimum done during those two weeks, so this just had to wait. And now, back to our adventure!

The port of Villefranche is beautiful. It's deep and surrounded on three sides. We had to tender in again, but it was much shorter and easier than it was in La Spezia. We went on a tour that took us to Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo (which is part of Monaco, but whatever).

Nice was utterly charming. We wandered with the guide amongst the narrow lanes of the old city. There was a pasta market with fresh pasta right near a butcher shop and across from a gelato shop. This is the charming little European city I could spend days and days enjoying.

There was an antiques market open for the day where the farmers market usually is on Mondays, so we enjoyed strolling through and looking at the various trinkets and treasures. Some of it was just your average flea market, but some of it was stuff you just wouldn't see in the U.S. Our friends Kevin and Carrie got a set of plates. We split up and wandered down to the sea side to walk along the water for a bit, then headed back into the old section to grab a sandwich before heading off to another country.

Now, Monaco is another country in the sense that a local prince said it was a long time ago and somehow this stuck. It's tiny. It's also insanely wealthy because one prince of Monoco decided to try building a casino. It worked. Really well. So well that there are no income taxes nor sales taxes in Monaco. The wealthy love to live in Monaco. Even better is to be a citizen. I will never be that person, so I felt really out of place in Monaco. It was lovely, but not really a place I need to visit again.

Grace Kelly married the prince of Monaco back when she was a movie star. She had two children and everyone was happy, but she died tragically in a car crash in Monaco where her daughter may or may not have been driving, or she may have had a stroke while driving the twisty, treacherous roads there. We went to the church where they married and where she is buried.

Next we headed up to the palace and wandered around there for a bit.

We reboarded the bus and headed towards Monte Carlo, home of the annual Grand Prix race and the big casino. The streets are closed for a week or so to allow the prequalifications and the race. The prequals are the interesting part because that's at full speed. The final race, there's no passing, so whoever did best in the prequals usually wins because they're in the pole position.

We headed up (and I do mean UP) to the casino through a mall. The main casino has a 10 euro charge to enter for one day, but this is largely to discourage tourists. A week-long pass is 16 euro and the season pass is just 54 euro. The casino had a roundabout ringed with every sort of luxury car you can imagine (though not the only one I'd want - a Tesla). Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari were all represented.

Erik opted to go in the casino. I opted to go to the Cafe de Paris for gelato. Gelato was lovely. Erik didn't gamble, but enjoyed watching one blackjack player throw down huge sums of money and do pretty well. Other players started better on him rather than their own cards. High stakes gambling at its best. Meanwhile, I enjoyed my gelato and read my email on my iPhone while sitting in a beautiful park. It was a moment of paradise, watching ducklings play in the water.

Back on the bus we headed towards our beloved ship. It was going to be hard to leave.

We enjoyed another lovely dinner with friends, then went to Disco Night at the Rockin Bar D. Disco night was awesome. There was hustle and line dancing for Erik and I. Every few songs they'd dress one of the guests up as a famous 70's icon, and Dave grabbed Erik and said, "You come with me, and you get the camera ready." Erik handed me the camera and he came out a few minutes later in full John Travolta white suit and pompadour.

We made it to bed, thoroughly exhausted again, and not nearly ready for our last day at sea.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Dickens Fair!

Dickens Fair workshops started this weekend. I got through my required workshops and costume approval and got my card so I'm all set, save for more rehearsals and some last minute costume details. I got many compliments on my new dress, many congratulations on our nuptials, and many surprised looks from folks who haven't seen me since last year as the blonde hair was new to them. (The hair is still really working for me, so I'm sticking with it for now.)

They gave us six "transformer tickets" this year. For the first two weekends, admission is free. For the final two weekends, these tickets get you half-off. It's a great deal, and I seriously hope folks take the cue and show up for the second weekend. Everything is running at its finest, but it's not so crowded you can't walk (or dance!).

The views from the school in Pacifica are amazing. I don't know how those kids manage to stay in class when they could just sit in the parking lot and watch the waves roll in. The school itself is in pretty rough shape though.

Every year, Steve Johnson arranges for us to overrun a school in Pacifica for 2 weekends to do workshops for Dickens Fair. A few years ago, Danielle pointed Fezziwig's to Donor's Choose as a way to give thanks to the school (and to encourage a positive relationship with the school so that they'll invite us back!).

This year, Fezziwigs is once again leading the charge in charitable donations to the school. Steve contacted Dave Batzloff, our Mr. Fezziwig, to let him know that Mrs. Pemberton, Oceana's principal said, "The students have embarked on developing an organic garden on school grounds. You'll see it from the cafeteria. It is a combination of recycling, science study (e.g., time needed for things to decompose), and making a connection to the earth and living things. The students are in need of tools, composting soil, work gloves, seeds, trellises, and lumber for the beds." A call for cash at the end of Fezzis rehearsal on Sunday produced $84. Add that to the collection from the morning meeting, and the kitty is up to $118, with plenty of room to grow!

Now there are two ways to contribute to Oceana High School. We can go to Donor's Choose to contribute online to the two projects currently awaiting funding for the school, or we can contribute cash on-site in the cafeteria to fund the student gardening project.

It never ceases to amaze me how generous Fezziwiggers are with both their time AND their money.

P.S. Let me know if you would like a ticket. Mine are not currently earmarked.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Mostly science news, but a couple of other tidbits here.

First, solar roads. Use all that blacktop to absorb energy. Most awesome idea ever!

HPV cancers are on the rise. It's not just cervical cancer anymore. It's also being associated with oral cancer, throat cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, and more. Parents: get your kids vaccinated. This is preventable! It's too late for my generation, but hopefully our kids can be spared.

Meanwhile, researches have figured out a mechanism for clearing viruses from cells and may be able to develop new anti-viral drugs from it. Imagine that you could take a drug the way we do with antibiotics to stop a cold or flu or worse.

I'd love to see a movie on the life of Mary Kingsley. Her skirts once saved her from a spike-filled doom at the bottom of a pit. Hooray for late Victorian fashion!

Have you actually read the Bible? I have, and it's interesting both for what's in there and what isn't. A huge chunk of our understanding of Christianity isn't from the Bible at all. Angels, Satan, even the story of the Holy Grail in the Bible is VERY different from how we know it. Angels aren't humans with wings and a harp. Satan isn't a red dude with a pitchfork, and Hell is nothing like Dante's Inferno where your torture is related to your crimes with concentric levels based on how bad a baddy you are.