Thursday, June 29, 2006

Things I Learned Today

Running the fleshy part of your knee into a sharp corner is not good for the knee.

Dropping a glass bowl four times in a row will make it break.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BRAAAAAAAAAAINS!

My neighbor-toddler is in that phase where you ask him, "What does a cow say?" "Moo!" "What does a pig say?" "Oink!"

In a sign of the times, if you ask him what a computer says, he replies, "Beep!"

But the one that never ceases to crack me up is that if you ask him, "What does a zombie say?"

He replies, in the world's cheerfulest toddler voice: "Bwains!"

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A kid this funny at age two has got to grow up to be pretty awesome. Help educate him and expand his bwains by supporting the Peoria PlayHouse!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Trouble with Blogging ...

... is that whenever I call my mother (or any of my relatives or friends) and say, "The most ANNOYING thing happened to me today!" she replies, "I know, I already read it on your blog."

Well shoot.

It puts me into the realm of being that person who repeats all of her stories a heck of a lot faster.

I need some new friends, who haven't heard all my stories yet. (I don't think I can exchange my relatives, though.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Four-Day Heartbreak

Mr. McGee and I have been looking for a dog for some time, and he found one he absolutely fell in love with. I had misgivings that she was too large (70 lbs.) and boisterous, but I agreed to have The Dog come for a trial week, to see if she would eat the cats for lunch.

She arrived on Friday afternoon, and by Saturday morning I was already a goner. She only had two settings, Rambunctious and Off, and she had an utterly charming way of scooting/crawling forward when trying to get good and stretched out. She had a patch over one eye that gave her a real dopey look, and a sprinkle of freckles on her nose. She had a curly tail like a sled dog, but she was a true mutt. She had four entirely different types of fur on her. She wasn't even a mix; she was apparently just patched together from different dog bits like Frankenstein's monster. She looked at me with those big brown eyes and I fell in love.

By today it was clear that I was too allergic to The Dog for us to keep her. "Maybe a poodle, or a labradoodle," friends suggested. "My friend's son is allergic, and he has one." "Maybe shots - maybe a different antihistamine - maybe a HEPA filter."

Maybe. But Maybe isn't The Dog, and when The Dog's foster family came to take her back from us, I bawled like a baby and made sure she'd packed her rawhide bone, the only toy we'd had a chance to buy for her before she left.

I didn't know hearts could break in just four days.

In Which I Take Myself Too Seriously

Nothing really funny or outrageous has been happening to me lately, which means I'm either too stressed with work, or taking myself too seriously, or some combination of the two. It results in a serious dearth of blog stories.

The only funny thing that happened to me at ALL this weekend was that I had to use my asthma inhaler for the first time since leaving the South. Since it's been two and a half years now, I forgot how hyper those inhaled steroids make me. I loaded the dishwasher in 15 seconds flat, then issued a long string of instructions to my husband at such a high rate of speed that he just stared at me, and finally said, "I think you said something about waking up before 8 tomorrow?" Then I had to concentrate really hard on NOT talking, because I suddenly had an awful lot of utterly meaningless stuff I wanted to say (and God knows I have to save that for my blog!) as fast as I could get the ultraprecise words out of my mouth, which was pretty darned fast at that point, and I didn't think Mr. McGee wanted to listen to me rattle on at 400 wpm for an hour or two.

If my life doesn't lighten up soon, I may have to take up streaking or croquet or something. I'm feeling seriously deprived in the wacky department.

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Help Eyebrows get her wacky back: Donate to the Peoria PlayHouse so she can release her (inordinately wacky) inner child!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Weekend Update, with Dog

Mr. McGee and I are adopting a dog, on trial, this afternoon. I have pet dander allergies, so we've arranged with the program we're adopting from to have the dog on trial for a week to ensure that my allergies can handle it. (Some dogs are worse than others for me, and I have yet to discover a reliable pattern.) This is a BIG dog we're trying out - 70 lbs - and I'm a little intimidated. The cats and I like our nice quiet life.

I sort-of hate that we're only taking the dog on trial. This makes me feel guilty (although she's being fostered so at least she'll go back to a home, not the pound, if we can't keep her). I also know exactly what's going to happen even if my allergies are terrible: A week is going to be just long enough for me to fall in love with her and be unable to let her go back.

We're thinking of heading up to the Illinois Wine Festival thingie at Three Sisters Park. We like to try regional wines, so it should be a good time. We've found a Bavarian-style apple wine the other day, from Missouri, I think? It was FANTASTIC.



I saw one of those on my corn a little earlier this week. I had no idea what it was, and it took me FOREVER to come up with the right combination of words to Google it up, since I thought it was really more of a hot pink and teal than a red and blue, but it's a Red-banded Leafhopper. I honestly thought I either imagined it or found an escapee from a local lab, since colors that bright don't occur in nature very often and I just could NOT find my bug on Google. It was about the length of a fingernail; very very tiny. I was tickled pink - hot pink and teal, even.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hate Crimes

Leonard Pitts wrote this past week about the recently-deceased James Cameron, who survived a lynching in 1930. It's a moving and disturbing snapshot of an ugly era in America's history.

Pitts goes on to say that he supports hate crime legislation because racially-motivated crimes (I assume he also includes other similar crimes, such as crimes against people based on their sexual orientation or nationality) are acts of terror, directed not just against the individual but against the entire community.

But really, so is every crime. That's why they're crimes, not torts -- they are an offense against the common good, against the entire community.

But that's not why I oppose hate crime legislation. I truly, deeply feel that the right way to deal with a hate criminal, or a terrorist, is to treat him just like any other thug. "There is no special treatment," we say. "There is no vengeance. There is no vigilante mob. There is justice." In some ways it seems like the reverse form of the extra prosecution a black man attacking a white woman used to receive (and sadly still does in some places); saying that this crime is special, this crime is different, this crime is more. This PERSON matters more, or less, than this other person. I don't believe that. A crime is a crime, a thug is a thug, and a system of equal justice under law is impassive about the actors in the crime - as impassive as possible, anyway. Hate crime legislation is an admission that these people have power. That they frighten us. That their hate is succeeding. I reject that.

Shortly after 9/11, I wrote a piece for the paper I was then columnating for, urging that bin Laden NOT be taken dead, but alive and brought to justice, with a skilled attorney, in open court, in the United States. He hates everything our laws stand for; what better fate for a terrorist out to destroy America and its freedoms than to subject him to the brutal fairness, the bright sunshine, the zealous representation in our court system? I still believe that, and it's why I hate that we're hiding terrorists in Guantanamo or "renditioning" them to torture camps: It is the light of day that destroys such slime, not the dark of secrecy. (Worse, in such dark places, denying our own system of open justice, we may become what we now fight against.) The KKK knew better than anyone that evil requires darkness and secrecy: It's why they wore hoods.

But Justice wears a blindfold. Bring the doers of hate crimes, the doers of terrorism, the doers of garden-variety crimes before her blind eyes. "We are not terrorized," we say to Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski, to Osama bin Laden and the KKK, to Larry Bright and Matt Hale. "We will not bow before you. We will not justify your actions by persecuting you in the dark. Will we bring you before Justice, we will prosecute you in the broad light of day, and we will treat you like any other thug, like any other criminal."

In the end, I think, this is why I became a lawyer: Because I believe in the blindfold. Because I believe in the sunshine.

Insomnia Catches up with Eyebrows

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


But let me tell you what I'm dreaming of: I'm dreaming of all you wonderful people making donations - big or small or in between - to the Peoria PlayHouse, so children can go there and dream big dreams. Also so I can "come out" and start going to blogger bashes.

It doesn't matter if you donate a little or a lot - every little bit helps, and the PlayHouse has a PayPal site set up so you can donate that way, too.

Haven't got even $10 to spare? Well, at least publicize the Eyebrows McGee Peoria PlayHouse Challenge on your blog!

Now, back to my regularly-unscheduled napping:

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, June 19, 2006

Grass x 3

This is the type of grass that's most prevalent in my backyard:

Which is a mix of perennial ryegrass and whatever else grows well in midwestern lawns. You'll notice it is chopped and torn at the top, and that it isn't setting seed, as the entire purpose of a lawn is to prevent it from ever having grass-sex, so it keeps putting energy into growing "leaves" (blades) which stay nice and green while it tries to photosynthesize enough energy to reproduce. Then we hack down any attempts to get tall enough to do so.

But I also have some of this grass:

Which is known as "Big Bluestem" or Andropogon gerardii or Turkeyfoot or the Monarch of the Prairie. Big Bluestem is responsible for the midwest; it can grow as tall as 10 feet, grows in terribly inhospitable soils, and its deep-reaching roots break up thick, clay-y soils and turn them into loam. (If I recall correctly, its roots can go almost as deep as the plant is tall.) Its tenacious roots also account for why it wasn't until Mr. John Deere introduced the steel plow that the prairie was truly broken to agriculture. Before that, farming on the prairie was a backbreaking and frustrating labor: the richest soil in the world was there for the taking (free from the U.S. government, no less) but the Bluestem that had made the soil wasn't willing to give it up.

My bluestem here is already sending up a seed head, obeying its biological mandate to reproduce, and I hope it does. It's awfully pretty in the fall, and you only have to hack it down with a machete once a year in the autumn, rather than mowing it weekly. Plus, I like to tell people I've been hacking things with a machete.

This is the final kind of grass in my yard:

Which is corn. It's much less hardy than the Big Bluestem, and even less hardy than the relatively wimpy non-native lawn grasses. Corn has been domesticated for more than 10,000 years, and is no longer capable of surviving in the wild. That seedhead on my Big Bluestem is basically the same thing as an ear of corn, but on my Bluestem, it's sticking way up on a slender stalk, shouting "SOMEBODY FERTILIZE ME! And eat my seeds and then poop them somewhere far away so I can spread my DNA all over the place!" The corn, which hasn't sent up its seeds yet, will be the familiar enclosed cob that we all know, slowly bred over millennia so that the kernels are fat and juicy and protected by the corn's own leaves from marauding birds and other animals, relying on humans to ensure it can be fertilized and then replanted the next year. That's corn's evolutionary strategy, a deal with humanity: we'll hide our kernels from everybody who doesn't have opposeable thumbs, but you have to be responsible for propagating us and preserving our DNA.

It struck me the other day while working in my garden that I have a sort of primer of midwest grasses: the Big Bluestem that built the prairies before man even arrived on this continent; the corn that lured immigrant farmers to our rich soil and feeds the midwest (and much of the rest of the world); and the lawngrass that proclaims a wealthy leisure class (that is, one that can afford to use land for something other than food production) has arrived.

More than any other plant, the simple grass, in all its myriad varieties, tells the story of American midwest.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New Circle of Hell - Hell's 10th - Created to Contain I-55

... where today, going southbound, both lanes were closed completely for nearly two hours due to another fatal accident that blocked the entire roadway. This time there was no way off the highway, so there was no inching, just sitting there with our 5,000 closest friends, cars turned off.

We did meet some interesting people waiting and chatting and walking around the interstate/parking lot. But we spent 11-12 hours in the car this weekend for a round trip that at its WORST should take six hours. (And frankly after that much quality marital time stuck in a tiny car with Mr. McGee ... well, it's a testament to the strength of our marriage, and I want a solo spa vacation.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I-55: Ninth Circle of Hell

It typically takes me 1 hour and 45 minutes to get the Des Plaines River bridge on I-55 from my house in Peoria (including one bathroom/gas stop), and then another 45 minutes or so (accounting for Chicago traffic) to get to my parents' house north of the city, for a total travel time of about 2 1/2 hours.

TODAY IT TOOK ME SIX FRIGGIN' HOURS.

About 3 miles back of the Des Plaines River bridge, we spent about 45 minutes in stop-and-go traffic because of an accident. We got free of that, were going a speedy 70 mph, and suddenly ran into THE TRAFFIC BACKUP FROM HELL.

It occurred because of an accident that closed all of northbound I-55 (at the bridge over 53) and, sadly, involved fatalities. Still, it took us MORE THAN TWO HOURS once we landed in the backup to get to the very next exit (which was 53) so we could get off I-55 ... with everyone else on the whole damned highway, as all of I-55 was being routed off onto 53 for more than 3 hours. We actually stopped at IHOP because we'd intended to be in Chicago at around 12:30 and it was now 3 p.m. and we had had no food since breakfast, and because I just couldn't handle any more sitting in traffic at that point. (God bless IHOP. The dude who was our server got the biggest tip ever. I was SO HUNGRY.)

We left Peoria around 10:30 and got to my parents' house areound 4:30. I drove the whole way (there was no good place to change drivers while sitting in traffic on I-55), and my calf has been twitching ever since from having to ride the brake for nearly 3 hours total.

I'm so grumped-out. I can't even think of a clever "donate to the Peoria PlayHouse" tagline because I'm so exhausted from the six-hour drive from HELL. I promise to be funny on Monday or so. If I can manage to survive I-55 again. It'll be a near thing. Donate anyway.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny

I read this funny post today about how to cheat good, and it reminded me of an instance in college wherein I did not cheat but got accused of it in amusing ways.

I was taking freshman Philosophy 101, which I didn't really like, and which was one of only four big lecture-hall classes I had during my college career where my primary contact was with a TA rather than a prof. My TA was an ASS. His name was something kinda pretentious (like Cassius or Pretentio or something), so I suppose he was pre-doomed to a life studying philosophy. He once threw a temper tantrum in class when his demonstration (this was hilariously and unintentionally ironic and it speaks to his personality that he didn't get the joke) of how effect follows cause didn't work. He threw the chalk at the wall to show us that chalk always shatters when it hits the wall, except the chalk didn't. He threw it over and over and the chalk wouldn't shatter. Then he started yelling at it and jumping up and down on it. I think he was a little unbalanced.

So I wrote this paper on St. Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God. I was feeling clever and a bit pretentious myself, so I titled it "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny," a phrase I had learned in biology and was so inordinately fond of that I wrote a poem about it when I was 17ish and knew everything. Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny means that the development of the fetal organism resembles the evolutionary development (in the adult members of prior species) of the species of the whole. (In its original form this argument is largely discredited, but development of specific organ structures in fetuses typically follow the sequence of the evolution of those structures in time and can provide important clues to evolutionary sequences.)

In this case I wrote about how the sequence of logic in Anselm's ontological argument reflected his overall intellectual development as reflected in his writings and biography, thus the ontogeny of his ontological argument (ha ha!) was recapitulating the phylogeny of his overall learning process during his life. Whether this argument is crap or not I have no idea. I probably just really wanted to title the paper "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny" because it sounds smart, it rhymes, and it puns on "ontological."

Okay, got all that? (Clearly, this is a nerd post.) So I turn in my shiny smart paper with shiny big words, and promptly get it back with a D MINUS. I had never received a D minus in my ENTIRE LIFE! EVER! This was appalling. The lowest grade I had ever received on an essay before - which I am still mad about - was a C in freshman high school English on an essay on Julius Caesar (my favorite Shakespearian tragedy) about how Brutus wasn't an honorable man. My teacher totally had a thing for Brutus being, like, the most honorable man in all of literature and so simply remarked on my paper that my interpretation was wrong: C. (Insert important life lesson about subverting your own ideas to the prejudices of your superiors here.) But back to my ontological argument paper: Because it was one of our first papers as college students, we had to meet with the TA to get the paper back and receive the grade. I didn't know until I sat down at the cafe table with him that I had a D MINUS. I was shocked. I asked him what I had done - or not done - to receive a D minus.

"First of all, you used words you don't understand," he said.

"WHERE?" I demanded, incredulous. "I don't use words I don't understand!"

He pointed to the title.

"I understand those!" I protested.

"There's no way you understand those; I had to look them up in the dictionary!" he informed me. There was a wealth of ego and inadequacy in that lonely emphasized "I".

I explained to him off the cuff what they meant, to prove that I KNEW what they meant, and protested I learned the theory in high school biology.

He said, "You may have been having fun with a thesaurus rather than a dictionary, and I'm sure you can memorize definitions, but using the dictionary is a cheap academic trick and it's cheating. The rest of your writing is not bad, but since you cheated, I can't give you above a D minus."

I was utterly gobsmacked. I protested I hadn't cheated, nor used a dictionary, nor a thesaurus. He said, "The alternative is that you flat-out plagiarized it." At that point I was literally speechless. I took my D minus paper and left, and went right to the prof's office.

She read the paper while I sat there and said, "This is a B paper." And changed my grade. But wouldn't switch me out of Pretentio's section. So I got to watch his chalk-tantrum-throwing, plagiarism-accusing antics all semester at 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

This may be why I never cottoned to philosophy.

While I get that he obviously couldn't deal with a student using a word he didn't know, what I never, ever understood was a) How was I supposed to be ignorant of the word "ontogeny" when we'd been reading the ontological argument for two weeks? and b) HOW IS USING THE DICTIONARY TO LOOK UP WORDS CHEATING IN ANY UNIVERSE EXCEPT DICTIONARY-WRITING????

Why AT&T Sucks, As Does My Week

Eyebrows awakens slightly as Mr. McGee slips (well, thunks) out of bed at 5 a.m.:

Good Wife Eyebrows: He has a very stressful court case this morning he's probably preparing for. I should get up and make him breakfast.

Bad Wife Eyebrows: Or, I could roll over and go back to sleep.

(Bad Wife Eyebrows won, at least for 45 minutes. Stupid insomnia.)

Which leads me neatly to my point of the day: The world is full of people who either rock or suck. Most people are a mix of rocking and sucking, but clearly lean in one direction or the other. Sometimes entire groups of people rock, like when a whole town turns out to donate blood. Sometimes entire groups of people suck, like people who riot after sports games, or FEMA.

This week, virtually every single person I have dealt with has SUCKED. A lot of this week has been small- to medium-sized sucking, like the bagger who refused to bag (and put canned goods in with my eggs!), or the client who doesn't want to pay, or the aphids on my bean plants who are not technically people but still suck. Lot of things like that.

The big super-craptistic suckingness that sort-of crowns the Week of Suck was this AT&T customer service person yesterday. AT&T has made an error concerning my yellow pages ad that I won't go into here, but suffice to say it is not an inexpensive error for me, and whether they honestly bungled or deliberately misled me, the error is their fault. So I called customer service, got nowhere, and got passed up the line to more superior supervisors until I ran into

THE SUCKIEST CUSTOMER SERVICE PERSON OF ALL TIME.

She STARTED OFF the conversation by talking over me and interrupting me repeatedly. (At one point in the conversation she actually said, "Okay, now you can talk," after interrupting me over and over and talking louder and louder so I couldn't say anything.) Further in, she informed me I was a bad lawyer, implied I was illiterate, and accused me of lying. She kept at this until I actually started crying.

Sample conversational snippet:
me: "blah blah blah, so the contract says X."
her: "Our contracts are governed under North Carolina law, so that doesn't apply."
me: "Um, my contract says right on it that the choice of law is Illinois."
her: "No it doesn't."
me: "Yes it does."
her: "No, it DOESN'T. It says North Carolina."
me: "No, it says Illinois in article ##. I have it right in front of me. My contract is from before the AT&T/SBC merger. I don't know if you've changed your contracts since then, but mine is governed under Illinois law according to the contract."
her: "No it isn't."
me: "That's what it says!"
her: "No, I'm sorry ma'am, but it does not say that."
me: "Well, fine, then under North Carolina law, X is still true."
her: "No, it isn't. In North Carolina you're not allowed to do X in contracts."
me: "YES YOU ARE! I WENT TO LAW SCHOOL IN NORTH CAROLINA!"
her: "Then you must not understand the law very well."
me, incredulous and wildly offended: "Excuse me, but are you a lawyer?"
her: "No I'm not, ma'am, but even an idiot knows X."

I am still so angry I have not yet decided how to handle this mass of utter suck. Certainly an incredibly irate letter to AT&T is going to be involved, but I haven't decided if the amount of money involved makes it worth my effort to sue, and I haven't decided if I will cancel my phone and high-speed DSL services. (My alternative for high-speed access is not a good one. Which is another thing that sucks: monopolies and lack of local competition.)

So ends my Symphony of Suck for this week - I hope. I'm not sure I can handle any more suck!

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Want to rock? Donate to the Peoria PlayHouse through the Eyebrows McGee Challenge!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Weather Forecast Apparently Has a Big Night Planned



Right there under the word "tonight," there's a link that says "carry an extra towel." Thanks for the tip, weather.com, but where am I going that I need an extra towel? Or is that, like, the forecast writing a post-it to itself? Is my FORECAST going somewhere where it will need an extra towel? Or is this, like, a Hitchhiker's Guide-esque universal commandment, to carry an extra towel at all times?

It is a mystery.

But at least my forecast is a frood who really knows where his towel is!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

String Bags and Inexplicably Irate Baggers

I use string bags (like these) when I go to the supermarket (and sometimes on other errands). They can fit a lot more STUFF, they cut my plastic bag consumption to about 1/3 or 1/2 of what it was before, and they're more comfortable to carry if you're lucky enough to be able to walk to the grocery store. (And if not, fewer trips in from the car!) And of course, they're ecologically friendly.

The trifecta of easy environmental changes (that is, the ones likely to be adopted by people who AREN'T serious environmentalists) are those that protect the environment, cost the same as or less than the conventional alternative, or provide some tangible benefit to your life. Overseeding my lawn with clover, for example, hits this trifecta. It's better for the environment (and for my GRASS, which is greener because of all the nitrogen the clover fixes in the soil!), it cost me all of $5 to seed the entire lawn and now I don't have to apply any fertilizers or weed-killers (I can hand-pull the few that out-compete the clover), and I get a tangible benefit from spending less time caring for my lawn. Clover tops out at three inches and doesn't look as scraggly as grass when it gets there; we seem to be mowing about half as often as before we overseeded. My cast-iron skillet also hits the trifecta: it benefits the environment in two ways, by lasting FOREVER so it doesn't need replacement or wear out (generating trash) and by not using volatile toxic chemicals found in non-stick skillets (well, not as MANY anyway); it is DEAD CHEAP (and will last 10 times as long as a regular skillet costing 10 times as much); and it provides me a tangible personal benefit in that it adds iron to my diet. (Seriously - up to 80% more.) Also, excellent for fending off burglars or as a weight-lifting substitute.

So string bags aren't QUITE the perfect trifecta. They are much better for the environment, and they improve my life in a couple tangible ways, by being easier to carry and by not having the ROAMING HERDS OF WADDED UP PLASTIC BAGS eating my kitchen drawers. Now I have just about enough plastic bags to use as trash-can liners and for when I clean the litterboxes, so that's about perfect. They cost about $6 each and I don't get any serious monetary benefit from them, but some grocery chains give you 5 cents off your order if you bring your own bags, which would add up over time, I suppose.

But I like my string bags anyway. They're brightly colored and lots of people ask where I got them and comment on their cheerfulness and utility. Older women often DEMAND to know where I got them, because, "I used to shop with bags like those when I was young and I didn't know they made them anymore!" Grocery baggers typically like them because they can fit alarming quantities of groceries in a single bag.

But today's bagger looked at my string bags with a DISGUSTED look. She put ONE FOOD ITEM in each bag and announced, "They're full. I'm using plastic."

Uh, okay, lady.

She actually grumbled and groused the ENTIRE TIME I was checking out about how my string bags were stupid and useless, which is a response I've never actually gotten before.

I don't have anything really deep to say about this. Just that I was relatively taken aback! I guess the deep part of the post is the part about the environmental trifecta, so go read that part again.

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Help kids learn about the local environment and food supply by donating to the Peoria PlayHouse through the Eyebrows McGee Challenge! Then maybe if any of them work as grocery baggers (to pay for college, maybe), they can be nicer about my string bags.

Monday, June 12, 2006

We're Hunting Wabbits!

I came home the other day to discover my neighbor (the scientist one) in the backyard with what I can only describe as a wrist-mounted slingshot, firing tiny steel pellets at rabbits. Or wabbits, since clearly Elmer Fudd was at work here.

"What are you DOing?" I asked.

"Keeping the rabbits out of my garden," he said as the slingshot twanged. "I'm not very good. (twang) I don't hit them, but it scares them. (twang) Wanna try?"

"Um, no."

Mr. McGee, however, did. As did every other man in the neighborhood. They were like friggin 8-year-old boys, chortling and politely asking, "May I have a turn?" But what they were REALLY wanting to say, in 8-year-old fashion, was, "MY TURN! MY TURN!" while laughing maniacally.

"That's the first step down the road to sociopathy," I pointed out, as various wives and I made disapproving noises and discussed how this was SUCH a man-thing to be doing.

They claimed it was not, as they were only firing at pests. Which I suppose is a good point, or every farmer in America would be a sociopath for protecting his crops. Although a point somewhat undermined by the CONSTANT GIGGLING as they fired those little BB-things at the poor but considerably stupid rabbits, which didn't know enough to get out of the damned yard but would hop a mere five feet away from the previous shot and get shot at again. When the rabbits did finally take the hint and leave the yard, all the men groaned with disappointment. "Is it coming back? I think it's coming back! Is that one in the bulbs?"

Men.

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Help bring out the child in everyone (in a less rabbit-unfriendly fashion) by donating to the Eyebrows McGee Peoria PlayHouse Challenge.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weekend Garden Tidbits

We've had a very social past few days (when it hasn't been raining!), since we've been working in the garden, the neighbors on one side have been painting their house (the longest side of which faces our house and backyard), and the neighbors on the other have been trying to run their two-year-old out of steam in the backyard. This makes for quality backyard socializing over cheap white wine (well, for the chicks, anyway).

My intrepid husband is installing fencing behind our kitchen garden, marking off the back of the yard, which is all still grass and un-landscaped. We're hoping to get a dog this month (I have been the slow link in that chain, but now that we've got a local serial criminal making the rounds, I'm entirely on board.), so we're putting in a fenced area where she can run. Or where we can put her when we get tired of the cats screaming bloody murder about the canine interloper to their peaceful lives. Whichever.

I was out weeding my veggie garden on Friday afternoon when some 12-year-old boys who live in the neighborhood cut through my back yard. "Hi." "Hi." "Hi," they all intoned, one after the next, all monosyllabic and proto-teenagery, embarassed to be caught shortcutting. Then one of them stopped and said, "Your garden is beautiful! How long have you been working on it?"

Best compliment ever. I made a 12-year-old boy use the word "beautiful."

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The Eyebrows McGee Peoria Playhouse Challenge raised $80 on its first day. Don't forget to donate!

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Eyebrows McGee/Peoria PlayHouse Challenge!

As y'all have probably gathered from my posts, I'm involved with the Junior League of Peoria, which is currently working to bring a top-notch children's museum, the Peoria PlayHouse, to the old administration building (Pavilion) in Glen Oak Park, to open in 2008. I came to Peoria and joined the League after the plans for the Peoria PlayHouse were already in motion, and I haven't actually served on any of its constituent committees, which is to say I have no particular ego investment in the museum, so you may take me at face value when I say:

THIS MUSEUM IS GOING TO FRIGGIN' ROCK!

There weren't too many children's museums around when most of us who are now adults were children, so you may not be familiar with the TRUE AWESOME FUNNESS that is a children's museum. When I was in law school, we had Barrister's Ball at a children's museum in North Carolina one year, and it ROCKED. There we were, all 22 and older, and instead of dancing to the really quite good DJ's music, we were all playing with the exhibits and learning about bugs and cyclones. There's just something really, really satisfying and interesting and enjoyable about getting your hands on something you can manipulate. And, for me anyway, learning weird-ass facts about the world. Which makes me happy in any format.

So it took me a while to get around to reading the master plan, which you can see in PDF format here, or you can take a look just at the exhibit blurbs in html format here. That is when I realized the true awesomeness of the Playhouse because, HELLO!, sand porch! No, but seriously, the amount of work and thought that's gone into this master plan - down to the color scheme - boggles my mind and the exhibits look FUN. I am already trying to think of what kids I know who will be the right age in 2008 for me to steal them from their parents to take to the PlayHouse so I don't look like a TOTAL dork playing with all the exhibits.

So what does all of this mean to you?

Well, now that I've seen the master plan, and now that I REALLY want to play on the sand porch and in the VACUUM ROOM!, I've been wracking my brains to think of a way that I can do my part. You see, the Peoria PlayHouse, unlike a lot of other cultural initiatives currently underway in Peoria, is being built entirely with private donations - no tax dollars.

So I challenge YOU, Eyebrows McGee readers, relatives, and the Peoria blogging community, to raise $1000 for the Peoria PlayHouse by the end of July. If you do, I will drop the cloak of anonymity, arrange a blogger bash, and I will COME OUT. Perhaps wearing a ridiculous hat. Perhaps singing karaoke. The more money you raise, the more willing I will be to make an ass of myself in public for your amusement. But regardless, if you raise $1000 for the PlayHouse by the end of July, the true identity of Eyebrows McGee shall be revealed to the world. And there shall be beer.

This shouldn't be too hard - this blog gets at least 100 unique hits on a day when I post. Bill Dennis at Peoria Pundit, who loathes anonymous bloggers and can't stand not knowing who we are, says he gets 1,000. If every one of my readers donated $10, or everyone one of Bill donates $1, you're already there, blogerinos! Can you spare $100 for the education/fun-having of our local children? Only 10 of you need to do that!

So there's your incentive, Peoria blogging community - direct your readers to donate! The more interest you generate in the PlayHouse (and since the Peoria blogging community of bloggers and readers is actively involved in Peoria, I really want to get you all interested in the PlayHouse, and generate some publicity for it here online!), the more donators the Eyebrows McGee challenge will get, and the closer you will get to discovering my Clark-Kent mundane identity. And, well, beer. (Raise enough, and I will BUY the beer!)

I'll post reminders throughout the challenge, until the end of July, in among my regular posting about husbands, gardens, and things that annoy me.

There are three ways to donate:

First, you can donate via PayPal (find the button here).

Second, you can write a check

or Third, you can make a pledge,

in either of those two cases, get the form HERE .

When you donate, note that you're donating for the Eyebrows McGee Challenge. All donations are tax deductible. The PPH donations folks are going to do their best to keep track of Challenge donations, but to be safe you can also e-mail me (link on the upper left there) or post in response to any of my posts (which e-mails me) and let me know the amount you donated, so we'll have two tallies.

So get on it! Get donating! Get publicizing! I AM DYING TO PLAY ON THE SAND PORCH! You'll be serving not only the children of Central Illinois, but my insatiable need to build sand castles.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

In Which I Suffer from Hard-to-Spell Words

I am having an irritatingly crappy day for no particular reason; I am struck with angst, weltzschmertz, and even a touch of ennui.

I have this overpowering urge to throw a tantrum - or at least engage in some primal screaming - but since I am ostensibly an adult, I'll have to content myself with looking sulky and having a cocktail.

The tantrum would be much more satisfying. I may need to buy better liquor to ameliorate that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Some Blog News

I have finally, as promised, added more local Peoria bloggers to my links that I read and have become aware of since I last updated. I'm sure there are more of you out there so please feel free to e-mail me if you want me to add your link.

I need to do a little more work over there - "links" and "link-backs" no longer make good sense as headings; I should make it something like "Peoria Stuff" "Peoria Blogs" "Other Stuff" and "Other Blogs" or something.

Finally, Eyebrows is tentatively planning an anonymity coming-out party. There are a few more details to be worked out, but stay tuned ... I'll post the details on the plan before the week is out!

Botanical Wonderland


When I was a little girl, we lived two doors down from an elderly couple named the Zimmermans. (I think. I'll have to check on that with my mom.) They lived on a corner lot, so when we went for family walks around the block, we would pass their backyard and it's beautiful, wonderous, fantastic garden.

I'd never seen anything like it. I'd seen farms, of course, but nothing like this in a backyard. There was no lawn at all in the Zimmermans' back yard; it was entirely vegetable and flower beds, some raised, some not, with gravel-covered paths between. There were little fences around some beds, and stakes and tomato cages in others. And oh, the bees! They were everywhere, buzzing around the entire yard. Why did the bees like this yard so much, I wondered. Why were there so many more here than anywhere else?

It was overwhelming, a riot of green, and of smells, and of butterflies flitting from flower to flower. It wasn't perfectly-groomed like the Chicago Botanical Gardens I had visited many times - this was a working garden, a living garden. It was in all possible ways different from any other yard on the street - it looked different, it smelled entirely different, it even sounded different. I wanted to stop and stare. I wanted to hop the fence and walk on those inviting little paths and see what interested the bees so much.

I didn't, of course.

The Zimmermans were about my grandparent's age, or a little older, so they'd lived through the Great Depression, and I imagine at least one of them probably grew up on a farm. To them, a lawn must have seemed terribly wasteful, all that good land lying fallow when it could be providing a great deal of food. Waste not, want not. They must have enjoyed gardening, to have such a garden and take such good care of it. They used to share the fruits of their garden with the neighborhood - the traditional zucchini and squash that bear more than one person can possibly consume!

In my neighborhood, the children use backyards as shortcuts from one house to another, declaring their dominion over all grassy highways and byways. My home office window faces the backyard, so I often see them dashing through my yard, scaring the rabbits and racing to catch a friend.

The other day a 10-year-old boy was pelting through, as only 10-year-old boys can, when he drew up short to a complete halt. He stared. And stared. He was utterly fascinated by my vegetable garden. He stooped to read the plant markers, to find out what these mysterious plants were in their raised beds in neat rows, with chicken wire protecting some but not others. He inspected the plants closely, hands behind his back. He lifted one foot hesitantly, as if he wanted to walk into the vegetable garden and go examine the plants on the other side -- but he thought the better of it, and stayed on the path. He walked to the back gate slowly, looking back at my garden, before taking off at top-speed again once he had exited.

Has he never seen a garden before? I wondered, amused. What kind of child is so fascinated by vegetables? Has he truly never seen food being grown?

And then I remembered the Zimmermans, whom I hadn't thought of for years, and all at once I was six years old and could smell the fresh earth and sharp greenery of their vegetable garden, hear the buzzing of the bees in their orgy of pollinating ecstacy. I was back on the verge of that mysterious wonderland that called to me so invitingly.

Next time, I hope he steps inside the garden.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Memo to IL License Plate WWJD 28:

Memo to the driver of the car with the Illinois licence plate WWJD 28:

What would Jesus do? Jesus would not cut me off in traffic and then deliberately blow a red light while grinning like an idiot and going 20 mph over the speed limit.

Just in case you were wondering.

As penance, go spend your vanity plate fee on FEEDING THE HUNGRY, you jackass.

And I mean that in the most loving, Christian way possible.

Choosing the Right Vegetable for You: 2 a.m. Edition

Late last night, when I rose from my bed to worship the porcelain goddess intermittently for approximately two and a half hours, I had a headache that would kill a horse, which was really not helping with the nausea. I tried pressure points. I tried what tylenol I could keep down. I tried dark and quiet, even unplugging appliances and turning off clocks so my bat-hearing didn't have to listen to the hum of electricity or tick-tick-tick of the second hand. What finally brought some relief was a cold compress on my forehead or the back of my neck, so I decided it would help even MORE if I had a COLDER compress.

But I didn't have any ice on hand, and I couldn't find any icepacks in the freezer. About to despair, I remembered that I'd read people sometimes use packages of frozen peas to ice injuries and so forth. So I stumbled back to the freezer and, in the dark (light was piercing my brain with lances of searing pain), tried to find something vegetable-related to use as an icepack.

First I pulled out frozen chopped onions, and I thought (in a much clumsier and less-coherent fashion than here reported), "Erm, no. Might reek of onions if they thawed. That'd be bad."

Broccoli florets? "Maybe but ..." Squeeze package. "No, those don't seem comfortable -- too many big chunks and pokey bits."

Rummage rummage rummage - "Aha! CORN NIBLETS!"

Perfect. Is there anything corn CAN'T do?

Down for the Count

I either have a stomach virus or food poisoning, but in either case, I'm going to go curl up and whimper.

I'll blog again when I'm no longer trying to decide if death or recovery is the better option. (Death is currently in the lead, but possibly only because my cats want to curl up next to my warm, fevered body, and I just want to be left the hell alone to whimper in peace.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Vacation Day 4: Apparently I Am Behind on Laundry

Last night Mr. McGee carried a basket full of laundry down to the basement, which I cannot recall him ever doing before. Sure, he migrates the laundry baskets if I ask, but he's never done it spontaneously. I took this as a hint that he probably wanted me to do some laundry.

Investigating the laundry, I discovered that my laundry sorter was half-full, my laundry chute entirely full, and my laundry basket over-full. Definitely time to do laundry. Normally I do three loads. I have at least six down there.

The one way in which I have been diligently observing my vacation is in refusing to get dressed. I throw on business casual clothes for client meetings, but otherwise I've been wearing pajamas all day. The rule about pajamas is that you can wear them as many days in a row as you want, until a) they stand up on their own or b) your neighbors see you in them. Once your neighbors see you in them, you have to put that set of pajamas in the laundry and start wearing a new set, because otherwise your neighbors might think you're the kind of person who wears the same pajamas several days in a row. There is a caveat to the neighbor-pajama rule, though, and that's that it doesn't count as the neighbors seeing you if they only see you bringing in the newspaper or taking out the trash, as long as these tasks are done before 8 a.m. and they don't speak to you. If they speak to you, it still counts.

Earlier in the week I was low on pajama-type clothes. In my house, pajamas are sweatsuits, grungy shorts, old T-shirts, and a few pajama-pajamas, but after the whole
entire neighborhood saw me in my froggie pajamas when a water main on our street burst right in front of our house and everyone (including the high school students) kindly came to knock on my door at 7 a.m. as they left for work to let me know about the break, and got to see my pajamas with the obscenely happy frogs on them, I've kind-of reverted to sweatpants. I now save my frog pajamas for when I visit my parents, primarily because my siblings find them terrifying. "The frogs are so happy," my brother noted in a unnerved voice, "but she's so MEAN! It's disturbing!" I am not socially acceptable until I've been awake for an hour.

At any rate, it probably should have alerted me to the fact that laundry was due to be done when I ran out of pajama-things, up to and including things that aren't pajamas but can sort-of be pajamas, like yoga pants. On Wednesday I resorted to wearing a beach cover-up sundress-type thing, and when I was out watering the plants, my neighbor stopped me to talk to me.

"Dammit," I thought, for the beach cover-up was now destined for the laundry as well. But I suppose that's the fate you suffer when you're wearing pajamas at 3 in the afternoon on a weekday.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Marital Discussions

(We pass a FedEx truck on the way home from dinner.)

Me: "Ooh! Yesterday I saw a UPS truck delivering packages to the post office!"

Him: "Really? What for?"

Me: "I don't know. I almost stopped the UPS guy to ask him, but then I decided I really just wanted stamps. (pause) Isn't it fun being married to me?"

Him: "It has its moments."

Me: "Just be glad I didn't follow through on my plan to go argue about the Christian morality of Hummers with the car salesmen."

Vacation Day 3: You Can Guess

I take a 7:30 a.m. client meeting and later spend hours doing research in some local archives.

I continue to receive e-mails defining the term "vacation" for me.