Thursday, August 31, 2006

This Is Possibly the Greatest Thing I Have Ever Seen on the Internet. Ever.

It's a German children's book about where babies come from.

There's cartoon nudity (starting on the second screen), and a cartoon erection. I also now know the German words for penis, vagina, sperm, and breast.

The best scene is where the baby is pulling itself out the birth canal with a big grin on its face while the doctor and father stand there smiling. The doctor's medical equiptment miraculously changes from a reflex hammer to a stethoscope on the birthing pages. What exactly is he doing with that reflex hammer???

Best use of the internet EVER. EVER!

http://www.planetdan.net/pics/babies/index.htm

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesdayness

First off, Mr. McGee is feeling much better, and he thanks you for asking. He's still mostly lieing (lying? that's the one I can never recall) down and reading his big fat novel, but today because he wants to, not because he's totally incapacitated.

I had a relatively amusing day. I popped by Kroger to snag a couple things for dinner, and the lady in the bakery section commented on my purchase of "cheesecake on a stick" (why they feel the need to put it on a stick I do not know). I said, "Oh, I like to get stuff like this for my husband; he has a real sweet tooth. I always try to get him something sweet when I go grocery shopping." "What does he bring you?" she asked. "Money," I said. "Well, I can't argue with that!" she laughed. She gave me the biggest piece of cheesecake (on a stick) that they had.

When I was in the parking lot, an elderly gentleman saw me hurrying back to my car and said, "You gotta rush home and make dinner for your husband!" Not one, not two, but THREE people (including my husband) commented, "Is he dead now?" or some close variation thereof upon hearing this story. But generally I figure unless people escalate to actual personal insults (see You're a Terrorist), they're just making conversation. So I replied, "I totally do! He's getting chicken tonight!" (It was very tasty.) I'm not an ANGRY feminist. I'm fond of the menfolk.

I also learned today why my sunflowers are bending over, like kneeling worshippers or sad children. It turns out they follow the sun until seed development starts, then they stop turning and face permanently east, apparently to avoid the hot afternoon sun scorching their baby seeds. Once the seeds start developing, they bend their heads down because it helps keep the birds from eating all the seeds before they're mature. I feel much better knowing it's an evolutionary strategy, not my gardening incompetence. In Italian they're called "girasole" which means, more or less, "sun gear" or "sun turner" or "sun gyrator." This strikes me as more descriptive than "sunflower" since for most of their lives, they do gyrate to follow the sun. Sunflowers have motor cells in the pulvinus that allow them to gyrate. I know bulbs also have limited powers of mobility (they grow long stringy things, sort-of like cilia or flagelli, but not called that, and can "pull" themselves deeper into the soil if you plant them too shallowly), and the whole thing just utterly boggles my mind.

I also learned that sunflowers are made up of dozens of teeny-tiny flowers (florets) rather than one big one, and each individual flower turns into a seed. The petals that surround the central mass of tiny flowers are not floral at all, but infertile florets that turn into big petals. Once again I am stunned by the majesty and ingenuity of Creation.

And to get ever so slightly political about it, I don't understand why Creationists, or Intelligent Design types (Creationism Lite), insist that evolution is so devoid of holiness and majesty and wonder. What could be more spectacular than flowers that turn their faces to follow the sun? What could humble me more before God than florets that KNOW whether to make seeds or not? What else could impress me more with God's grand plan for Creation than the miraculous wonder of God's Created world and its marvelous evolution? What is more remarkable than the nitrogen-carbon miracle of DNA?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Blogger Mini-Bash Is Cool; Mr. McGee Is Hot

So I had a great time at the mini-blogger-bash, even though Castle Patio (aka "the cheese bar") was so smokey I had to stand 12 feet away from my husband and cats when I got home because they didn't want to smell me. A small price to pay for good conversation. The other bloggers there accused me of raising the entire tone of the bar by ordering white wine, which I confess I did, but during allergy season, the only things I can drink without splitting headaches are white wine, gin, and vodka. I promise, during winter, I'll beer it up.

I got to discuss/argue theology with C.J., which is the kind of thing that always puts me in a good mood. I'm looking forward to discussing theology with C.J. NOT in a bar setting, so he can realize it's not that I drink too much, it's that I can't say multisyllabic words without tripping over my own tongue no matter HOW sober I am, and theology just involves a lot of them. I'm starting to worry he thinks I'm a lush since both times I've met him in person, we've been at bars, we've discussed theology, and I've said "pneumamto- pneumtato- pneumatological" and so forth. There are actually certain words that when I get to them in stories, I turn to Mr. McGee and make him say them for me. He just does it better.

Speaking of Mr. McGee, everyone was sorry he didn't join me. He threw his back/neck out yesterday and spent most of today flat on his back staring at the ceiling. Mapgirl said she'd been wanting to see if he was as hot as I claimed (I of course insisted he was), which reminded me of a conversation I had the other day. I was instant messaging with a pre-marital friend of mine who's never actually met my husband, because said friend couldn't attend my wedding and lives far away. I said something about Mr. McGee, and my friend asked what he looks like.

"Have I never told you? Or showed you a picture?" I asked.

"No," my friend said. "All you ever say is that he has a nice ass."

Well ... I guess I do. But he does!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Orange Cat Loves Inanimate Objects

Orange Cat, who is in all ways the world's most perfect one-eyed, stump-tailed diabetic feline, has a peculiar relationship with inanimate objects. He's a very loving beast, so when an inanimate objects does him a favor, he makes friends with it. Like when the window is kind enough to show him a bird, or a squirrel, he will often headbutt it and purr at it.

He has figured out that people water comes in glasses, and he wants to drink your water. But he's not willing to take the chance that you might be drinking NOT-water, so any time we come out with a glass of anything - orange juice, wine, tea - he gets on our laps and cranes his head like a demented giraffe trying to ever-so-subtly get a nosefull of your beverage. When I have not-water, I take a moment to let him sniff it, whereupon he looks grumpy about it and curls up on my lap to sulk that I have the audacity to have a glass of something he can't steal when I'm not looking. If it IS water, I have to keep the glass protected from him at all times, because if I look away for even a second, he'll go head-first down the glass, ears neatly tucked back, as far in as he can get to get my water. And if I keep it covered, he remains alert for moments of uncovering, going so far as to attempt to interpose his head between my face and the glass when I take a drink!

The best moment, incidentally, was when we'd had some people over and someone had had a vodka tonic on ice, and there was about an inch of melted ice standing in the bottom of the glass, with a little bit of vodka in it, after the party was over and we were cleaning up. Orange Cat emerged from where-ever he was hiding, and sniffed around the living room, looking for any forgotten food. (Of course we took away those plates first! We're not stupid!) But the glass, since it was basically empty, we had missed. He bounded up onto the chair, went headfirst all the way into the tall glass, smelling only the water, took a single lick, tasted the vodka, and recoiled in disgust (cats are not among the animals that can get drunk; alcohol is just poison to them), and couldn't get his head out of the glass now that he was panicking. I rescued him, but I laughed really hard.

Orange Cat is also a big fan of books. He discovered early on that hardbacks make excellent face-scratching units; if you're sitting and reading, it's guaranteed he will eventually come and scratch that ever-itchy side of his face (the side with no eye) on the corner of your hardcover. This also works reasonably well for him on softcovers -- the back top corner of all my paperbacks is rounded off from Orange Cat using it to scratch and rub against. But he apparently gets the part where all PAPER is the same, but not where its bindings are different. I'm not sure if it all smells the same or what, but he also tries to treat magazines, newspapers, and even single sheets off the printer the same way he does hardcovers, and then looks both startled and puzzled when the magazines flops away rather than scritching him, and the newspaper just makes a lot of noise and gets him nowhere.

Orange Cat keeps me company in my home office a lot during the day, sleeping down under the desk (a convenient cave) near my feet. I find this particularly convenient on cold winter days, because he's quite accommodating about sleeping on my frigid toes. But I'm never entirely sure if it's that he wants to be near me, or if it's because he's in love with my CPU, which sits under the desk. You see, it's warm, so he curls up against its side, and whenever the hard drive spins up, he thinks it's purring at him ... and he purrs back. The two have a very friendly relationship based on snuggling, purring, and shedding, meaning that doubtless my CPU is chock-full of cat hair. I'm scared to even look.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Interpunction

A Dutch friend of mine, whose English is spectacular and blogs over here, had a rare instance where she couldn't come up with the English word for a Dutch one she wanted to use, and so Englified the Dutch word to come up with "interpunction" when she was describing someone's terrible punctuation.

He writes,, like this -- with random,, punctuation throw in at all intervals ...... and lots of unnecessary,, ellipses and things,,

I think "interpunction" is a BRILLIANT word that exactly describes this internet scourge of random-ass punctuation being inserted where it doesn't belong either because the writer is illiterate or thinks it looks kewl. Ergo, I urge you all to adopt "interpunction" as a new English word to describe this random interspersion of punctuation: interpunction.

Online Novel: Warriors of the Sun God

A friend of mine is serializing a novel she's writing, making it available in serial fashion free online, which I think is quite an interesting experiment in the relationship between writer and reader, and in the freedom of information on the internet, and so forth. Also it's relatively bloggy, don't you think?

At any rate, you should check it out at warriorsofthesungod.com.

"The land is growing colder. Ara, the great God of the Sun, does not warm the land like he used to as he crosses it in his fire-boat. The crops are planted later each year by a day or two, and more is lost to frost-blight than we can afford. The prayers and songs now beg of the gods a way to reverse this trend, before we need to move from the land of the gods or starve."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ripe Eggplant

We're getting ready for another burst of gardening activity. I have an 11-foot sunflower I'm going to get a picture of, and we're preparing to rip out the arugula and mustard greens, which have seeded and Mr. McGee has diligently prepared the seeds for winter storage to plant next year, so we can plant a fall crop of lettuce.

Meanwhile, the eggplant has come ripe, the melons (which are freaky to watch grow) have taken over all the paths and are growing nicely, and we continue to have more squash than we can possibly eat. Tomatoes, too.

We planted a mix of four varieties of eggplant. You can't tell which are which from the seeds, so we weren't sure what we'd get. So far, the white eggplants seem to be the winners, with the deep purple ones, the ones you're used to in the supermarket, a close second. So far none of the light purple ones, or the sort-of purply-mottled ones. But I guess the white fruits must have been the hardiest and the most suited to our soil. The white ones (Eggplant Crescent Moon) are HUGE bearers. Ridiculous numbers of fruits per plant.

Meantime, I've been down with a nasty little virus that's been going around. (Maybe the same one C.J. had?) Several other lawyers we know have it, so it's either because all the little folk went back to school and started their viral petri-dish mixing and mutating, bringing the results back home to the adults, or because God is finally punishing the lawyers. Either way, I just want to sleep and eat soup. And then sleep more.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Short Break

In September, I'm going to take about a two-week break from blogging, do some family stuff, some me stuff, some non-computery stuff, recover from nagging typing RSIs, and so forth. I'm drafting a friend to post some "greatest hits" of old entries I'm compiling for her, Monday-Wednesday-Friday for the two weeks I'm gone, so it won't just be "dead blog" for two weeks. (I hate that! Reruns are better than dead air!)

Anyhoo, I've got some super-fun stuff planned for my uncomputery break and I shall have super-fantastic stories (I hope!) when I return from my cyberfast. But I don't want to spoil the fun by giving it away too soon, so you'll just have to content yourselves with foreshadowing until then!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Smell of Home

Every couple years there's a rash of articles in the press about how smells are the most powerful memory-triggers, which anyone who's ever caught a whiff of their grandmother's perfume on the other side of the world in a crowded bus station will know. That one little smell sets off a flood of memories.

I feel like I have more than my fair share of weird smell memories, though. My high school was across the street from an industrial park that hosted BOTH a garbage dump AND a soup factory. The smell of either reminds me of being 15. Since the soup factory was always cooking first thing in the morning, when I arrived at school at 6:50 a.m. for my early bird jazz band class, the smell of vegetable soup always makes me think of cool morning air and jazz music. Not that I could eat vegetable soup for ages after high school, because smelling it every single morning first thing, sometimes mixed with the odor of garbage, was really stomach-turning.

Also in high school, I worked in a different industrial park for two years at a company that did water testing and treatment for industrial air conditioning systems. (Best. High school job. Ever.) We were across from a place that actually manufactured artificial scents for industrial use, and they were working on strawberry for almost an entire year. I can't STAND the smell of artificial strawberry, and there are just so very many ways to get fake strawberry wrong. Banana wasn't so bad; it smells more or less like bananas even when it's not quite right. But there was this few months where they were working on some sort of buttery scent, which reeked of burnt popcorn with stomach-turning overtones of spoilt butter. Burnt popcorn still sends me running from the house, but always reminds me of my job there.

I was thinking of scents this morning because I went out to get the paper, and the ethanol plant is cooking and the wind is blowing right to bring the faint scent of ethanol to my house on the crisp (almost-fall!) air. And all in a rush, I'm back at Notre Dame, with a waterfall of memories of icy sidewalks and football Saturdays in fall and cozy dorm laziness and parties and classes and quads and yellow-brick buildings. As any Notre Dame student or graduate can tell you, the defining smell of Notre Dame is ethanol. The university is downwind from a big plant. There were other smells - if the wind was just right, you could smell the river, and very rarely, when it blew up from the southwest and the time of the year was right and the ethanol plant wasn't cooking, at night you could smell the Wrigley's mint farms' fields! But 99% of the time, the wind carried the sickly sourdough odor of ethanol to campus. It turned my stomach so badly my freshman year that I didn't eat breakfast all year. The smell was strongest in the mornings, and my stomach isn't such a fan of morning to begin with. But by my sophomore year it was familiar and comforting, and now, in Peoria, when the wind blows just right and I can smell the faint scent of distant ethanol, it smells like home.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mom McGee Has Vermin Trauma and Needs Sympathy

Writes Eyebrows's mom:

"I thought Sam was the good cat. She was pacing on my bed at 4:30 this morning and I jerked the sheet to get her attention and perhaps get her off the bed. Instead she growled at me which is unusual. I turned on the light and Sam looked at me with her dead mouse in her mouth. Needless to say my night was ruined -- does anyone hear the mother scream when both men in the house are gone. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

My mother is really irrationally bothered by mice for someone who lives in the midwest, and my dad was stranded in Milan because his flight was meant to go through Heathrow on the way back to O'Hare and the terrorists were all busy making gel-related threats, leaving my mother to cope with the rodentia alone. So give Eyebrows's mom sympathy. She needs it after the vermin trauma.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Your Mailing List Needs Vetting

As most of you who live in Peoria know, there's also a Peoria, Arizona, that's a suburb of Phoenix. (It is so named because its first settlers were transplants from Peoria, Illinois.) It mostly intrudes on my life when I try to google up something like "Peoria carpenters" or "Peoria Italian food" and my first six results are all for Arizona. It happens about 1/4 of the time, just enough to be irritating, but not enough to remind me to type "Peoria IL" every time I search for a local business.

I get a lot of random-ass junk mail (I'm sorry, THIRD-CLASS mail) at my business address because I'm automatically listed in a half-dozen public directories by being registered with the state Supreme Court, being a member of the state bar association, and having malpractice insurance, all of which are public records, more or less. Some of it's kind-of interesting - there's this forensics place that teaches CSI-type classes for laymen in related fields. A lot of it is a little strange, almost like a snail-mail version of e-mail spam - multilevel marketing scams, "buy this book and make $1,000,000" stuff, things like that. (What kind of return must they be getting on those scams from lawyer lists to justify paying postage? How naive ARE my colleagues?)

But the ones that persistently crack me up are ones I get about twice a week: property solicitations from Realtors in Peoria, Arizona. "Our new office is open!" or "Thinking of buying a new home?" or "We have a business property that will suit you perfectly, Peoria business owner!" Exactly the same sorts of things I get from my ACTUAL Realtor here in Peoria, Illinois, and from local Realty companies that are expanding or moving or whatever.

How poorly-designed is their database program that it can't sort out useless addresses by state or ZIP code? How much postage are they wasting, here? And why does every Realtor in Peoria, Arizona, appear to be using the same moronic database program??? It's not like I get mail from one particular Realtor. I get it from DOZENS.

It makes me think of when I was in college at Notre Dame, and NARAL appeared to have bought the entire student-body mailing list, to send us all pro-choice advocacy donate-money letters monthly. I was mind-boggled. What kind of return could they be getting from a Catholic university where something like 90% of students were ACTIVELY pro-life? (And most of the remaining 10% loosely so.) Do their donators know about this spectacular waste of resources? Personally, I'd be ticked off if I knew a charity I supported was sending monthly mailings to 10,000 people who OBVIOUSLY wouldn't respond. Once, fine. MONTHLY? You've got to be kidding me.

Discover Card was the other big offender at Notre Dame. We'd all get frequent solicitations from them (as from all credit card companies), and they'd say:


Joe Student
University of Notre Dame
123 Dorm Room
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556

Dear Saint Mary's College student:


I loved that: "Dear Saint Mary's College student." St. Mary's was the college across the street. I can see how an individual might be a little bit confused, but how did their database manage to address all the letters with "University of Notre Dame" in the address and right below that, "Dear Saint Mary's College student"? Am I really going to trust them with my money when they make such glaringly obvious errors? (Answer: No.)

So anyway, corporate and charitable America, vet your mailing lists and check your databases. And please note that I do not live in Arizona and am therefore unlikely to rent an office in Phoenix.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Best Question I Have Heard All Month

A propos of my invocation of Godwin's Law the other day, I wondered to a friend of mine, via e-mail, what people called each other before they called each other Nazis as a conversation-ending super-insult.

She replied, "I always wonder what noises little boys made before the industrial revolution. In my house it's all vroom, boom, bang, etc."

This is a great question. Did they make thunder noises? Blacksmith noises? Animal noises? What DID little boys do for noise before there were machine, gun, and engine noises to mimic?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bits and Pieces

Sorry for the lack of bloggage over the last few days. I've been worn out by the excitement of the last couple weeks (TV appearances, nutty neighbors, etc.) and spending some quality napping time with my husband and cats.

Meanwhile, I'm buried in tomatoes, still waiting for my now-9-foot-tall sunflower to bloom, and wondering why my compost won't hurry the heck up and finish composting. I'm also being a little annoyed that it's time to start another round of marketing my law firm (like so many small business owners, I didn't realize going in how much marketing would be involved - I just want to do the work) and a little panicky that I have to fly through Heathrow in a couple weeks. As if Heathrow wasn't a pain in the butt before. How can a nation with the world's most efficient bus system run such a nightmarishly slow and ill-designed airport?

Grey Cat has learned a few new tricks, among them what we have dubbed "The Launch Pad Game," where he curls up purring on top of your sleeping chest or back for 30 seconds, then launches all 20 lbs. of him off you onto nearby furniture. Then comes back and does it again. After two weeks of this, it occurred to us that if we slept the other way around, he couldn't get to any furniture from our torsos, and the problem has been solved. (Although sleeping backwards is terribly disorienting.)

Grey Cat is always extra crazy when the weather changes, particularly when summer turns into fall, so he's been running around like a demon-posessed furball for the last couple weeks, getting into everything, from the refrigerator to Orange Cat's face. Orange Cat actually laid the smack down pretty seriously the other day when Grey Cat was messing with him. Orange Cat only has one tooth, and he put it to good use BITING GREY CAT'S EAR, which was a first. Grey Cat has been prudently avoiding Orange Cat since, so Orange Cat is moping, because NOW he wants to play-wrestle with Grey Cat, but Grey Cat fears The Tooth.

I think peace negotiations are in the works, though -- I saw them napping just 10 inches apart from one another, rather than on opposite sides of the couch, and they seem to be scooting closer every naptime to being back to their usual shared pile of fur.

Friday, August 11, 2006

When the Chili Pepper Is Named "Fatal," That Should Serve as a Warning

We've been growing some peppers called "Fatalli" peppers (or possibly "fatalii" - the etymology of the word is a little unclear, but I've decided it's a cognate for fatal) in our backyard garden. Mr. McGee, who's a pepper fan, planted the hottest ones he could find that would grow locally. He'd never eaten fatallis before, but the garden dude assured him they were plenty hot.

Fatallis are from the Capsicum chinense species, which encompasses the hottest of all peppers, including nagas and habaneros. Fatallis are lesser-known, but still pretty serious peppers. We're talking 100,000+ Scoville units in all members of the family; they're all 10s on the 1-to-10 scale of chili heat.

Three of our fatallis came ripe recently. Mr. McGee picked them, and decided he HAD to eat one. So while I was out running errands, he cooked himself up an omelet of eggs, onion, and sauteed fatalli pepper.

I'm pretty sure he left the ribs in.

When I returned from the bank, he was standing in the driveway, tears in his eyes and on his cheeks, eating his omelet.

"You know those peppers?" he gasped. "They're really hot."

He kept eating.

I went inside the house, and immediately my face started stinging, my eyes started watering, and I started coughing.

"What the hell did you do?" I demanded.

"That's why I went outside," he said.

Mr. McGee had released SO MUCH CAPSAICIN into the air while sauteeing the peppers that the house was literally unliveable. It was like getting really dilute pepper spray in the face. Every exposed bit of skin was stinging like crazy, and I had to go back outside because I couldn't stop crying or coughing.

Windows open, all exhaust fans on, it took half an hour before the house was liveable, and a good three before it stopped bothering me.

"You are SO not allowed to cook chilis indoors anymore," I informed him.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's Like a Whole New Wardrobe!

Mr. McGee, puzzled: What shirt is that?

(Eyebrows looks down at shirt.)

(Eyebrows looks inside neck of front of shirt. Finds tag.)

Eyebrows: That'd be a backwards one.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Un-Americanism and Neighborhood Politics, Part II

Yes, I'm in the Journal Star this morning.

The more I thought about it, the MADDER I got about it. Yes, he came on my property and insulted me, but whatever, some people are jerks. But the thought of him going out of his way to ruin someone's life on unfounded accusations, rumor, and innuendo -- I just got more and more angry about it.

So I decided I was going to the liquor commission meeting. If he was going to make these accusations, then he was going to have to do it on the public record while looking me in the eye. He may not want "my kind" in this neighborhood, but I'm going to stand up to "his kind." I don't roll over for bullies, and I don't roll over for emotional rhetoric with no substance under it. In fact, that's the kind of thing that just makes me madder and madder.

I was a little nervous, because I wasn't sure if I was going to end up a neighborhood outcast for the rest of my life, but I felt that this was something I needed to stand up on, regardless of the consequences. I felt like it would be wrong of me, as a lawyer sworn to uphold the laws of this state and this country, to let this kind of injustice go unchallenged. So I went.

The angry petitioneer was not there.

I spoke my piece into the record anyway. As I noted when I spoke, I can't really speak to the traffic situation, and as we have no children, I absolutely defer to the worries of those who do have children. The neighbors who came to speak against the permit had cogent arguments, and I have no quarrel with them. They disavowed my angry petitioneer, and said he was a loose cannon. Unfortunately, he had gathered three of the six pages of signatures -- but the neighbors were sure they could regather those three pages in a fair and honest way. I think they can, too.

The liquor commission reccomended 5 to 0 against the petition to sell "packaged goods" (that's liquor at the store that's all closed up, not liquor at a restaurant that you're served), but they strongly stated that they abhored this sort of racism and their reccommendation had to do with roads and community character and such.

After the meeting, my husband and I spoke with the neighbors (one of whom recognized me as "You're the eyebrows! You were on the news!). First off, before anything else, they APOLOGIZED to us for the action of this crazy man they had nothing to do with. How classy was that? They were very kind, and warm, and cordial to us, just another example of why I love Peoria and Peorians. They presented their arguments to us, and I have to say that I reluctantly agree with them. I was indifferent to the liquor license before, and I like the Ethic Foods market so I don't want to see it struggle economically, and I know liquor would help; but I think my neighbors had some really good points. And I think they're probably right.

As for the other characters in this little neighborhood drama:

The store manager at Ethnic Foods has been in the US for 33 years, and left the Middle East to get away from that kind of fundamentalism that breeds terrorism. He got a little choked up when talking about how he feels about the freedom and opportunity of America.

The owner of the property, Carlos Salem, is actually the manager over at Men's Wearhouse (off War Memorial, near Target), where we'd met him once before when my husband bought a couple suits! We didn't know that before we walked into the hearing - Peoria is SUCH a small world. I have only the nicest, nicest things to say about Carlos Salem and you should all go buy suits from him because he is an utter encyclopedia of men's clothing knowledge (down to getting the right fit for your shoes -- my husband LOVES his now) and does a helluva tailoring job. He's also just one of those people who's fun to talk to.

The angry petitioneer has not been back, and we are considering our options as to legal protections. Other neighbors suggested he may have some problems, so we're evaluating the best course of action to ensure he won't be back to harass us, but we don't particularly want to destroy HIS life either, or start a Hatfield-McCoy fued in the neighborhood.

And my next-door neighbor (the one with the clematis) left a package in my door this morning that I found when I went out to get the paper: a tea cup, a couple of pretty candles, and a note telling me to "sit back, light a candle, and have a cup of tea" and some kind words to the effect that she likes me regardless of the petitioneer.

Which brings us back to the main theme of this whole horrible experience: Peorians absolutely ROCK. We had one bad egg go off on us, and EVERYONE ELSE, whether they agreed or disagreed with us, has been absolutely wonderful, kind, warm, and neighborly. And SANE. Sanity's such a rare quality in public discourse today. It was a surprising and refreshing experience.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Accusations of Terrorism and un-Americanism

I'm going to tell this story as straight-up and with as little embellishment as possible, saving my opinions for the end. I also am going to be very careful to put only direct quotes I can swear to word-for-word in quotes.

Today a man in my neighborhood came to our door and asked us to sign a petition opposing a local business's application for a liquor license. We asked him why he was opposed, and he informed us that the proprietors were terrorists and funding Hezbollah.

"That's a fairly extreme accusation," I said, and my husband asked for proof.

He said he had "inside information" from police and FBI sources that the man was a terrorist. My husband said he'd need to see ACTUAL proof before signing a petition based on accusations of funding terrorism.

"That's fine," the petitioneer said. "But you're supporting terrorists. You're unpatriotic and un-American."

"I BEG your pardon?" I asked.

"I've lived here fifty years and we don't want YOUR KIND here in this neighborhood. Go back to Boston," he said.

He then said that he knew I was a troublemaker and I'd already made trouble for "several" families on the block. I asked him what he was talking about, and he said, "You know what you've done."

A few more words were exchanged, in more or less the same vein, and my husband escorted him off our property and told him not to come back.

I am ashamed to admit that after he left, I cried. I hate the thought of someone living a few houses down from me HATING me with such intensity. I hate the thought of my neighbors talking about me behind my back (although I don't think they are), and I have not knowingly caused trouble for ANY of my neighbors, other than occasionally relating harmless antics on my blog (which most of my neighbors read, and I generally get permission to relate a story if I think there's even a chance it might embarass or hurt feelings.).

There are so many things wrong with this situation.

First, if he has "inside information" about an ongoing FBI or police investigation, he probably ought not be TELLING THE ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD about it.

Second, I'm not really accustomed to living in a world where people come to your house and insult you. Insult you in an academic debate, or a political setting, or a newspaper or blog, fine. But come TO YOUR HOME and call you un-American, unpatriotic, and a supporter of terrorists? Accuse you of all manner of nastiness? That's soooooo far beyond the pale of what I consider polite society. (It may be that more than anything else that took me aback and upset me.)

Third, we are not particularly vociferous about our political beliefs. We have never had signs in our yards or bumper stickers on our cars. I have met this man once before and didn't discuss politics with him then. I admit that I am generally to the left side of the political spectrum, but I don't consider myself an "American-style" liberal, as it is currently construed, and that's why I'm not registered with the Democratic party. I am also libertarian on several issues, and conservative on a few. My husband's political orientation is different from mine, but as he's a VERY private person, I'll leave that to him to tell you if he wants to. So unless he was making comments about my politics based on my age or appearance, I THINK he just threw that out there because we didn't immediately sign his petition.

Fourth, I have only been to Boston once. But I am now seriously considering putting a Boston Red Sox banner or sign of some sort in my front yard.

Fifth, I have only heard people say "We don't want YOUR KIND here" before on Very Special Episodes of sitcoms where everyone learns an important lesson about diversity.

Sixth, I have never, ever in all the years of people hating me for my opinions had anyone tell me to leave town before. Never.

Seventh, the new corrolary to Godwin's Law needs to be that anyone who accuses their perfectly polite opponent of lack of patriotism and un-Americanism automatically loses the argument. This should also apply in Congress. This as a mode of discourse in modern American REALLY PISSES ME OFF. The whole point of living in a democracy is that people of goodwill can disagree - vehemently - while both wanting what's best for their country. That doesn't make us UN-American -- that makes us MORE American.

Eighth, this is possibly the least effective strategy to get someone to sign your petition in the history of the world.

There are some points here that I can't speak to. I don't know if the petitioneer is a bigot. I'm not inside his head, and as I've discussed before, I'm not really that into hate crimes. I don't know if the proprietor of the store in question is a terrorist. I'm not privvy to that kind of law enforcement information -- or to the inside of the proprietor's head. I honestly don't even know if he's Muslim or not; he's obviously of Middle Eastern extraction, but I don't know if he's Christian or Muslim; I don't know if he was born in the U.S. or abroad; I don't know if he's Arab or Persian or Kurdish or what. I don't know if the petitioneer's problem is the race or religion of the store's proprietor, or if he is a closet prohibitionist with liquor, or if he dislikes immigrants, or if he really does have the inside track on local terrorism investigations. I can't speak to his motives, or to the store proprietor's personal life, and I'm not going to make statements without evidence (which was what pissed the petitioneer off in the first place).

This is also not an indictment of conservatives, and while I do not typically censor comments on this blog, I WILL be deleting knee-jerk blanket attacks on "conservatives" or "liberals" (or "Republicans" or "Democrats") in this case. I do not believe I can in any honesty call this man a conservative; reactionary is probably a far better term. Most conservatives I know have well-reasoned opinions that happen to differ from mine on some issues. This man was angry, spouting off, and seemed uninformed.

And now, I guess, I HAVE officially caused neighborhood ruckus.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The TV Recap

Mr. McGee and I arrived there at about 8:35. Mike Dimmick came out and he was like, "Oh, you brought an entourage!" Mr. McGee says that is pretty much his role in life, being my entourage.

I met Lee Ranson, told him I was very jealous of his green screen. He agreed it was cool. I also met Tom McIntyre, who was not wearing pants. You KNOW they're not wearing pants behind the anchor desk (especially in this heat!), but seeing it is entirely different. Actually, Tom looked Bermuda-ready, where the men all wear shirts, ties, and jackets with knee-length shorts to Parliament because it's so hot. (And they're so British!) It's the weirdest mix of formal and beach-ready.

I was nervous while I was waiting to go on, and right at first, but once I started talking, I totally forgot about the cameras and it was fine because, basically, I just like to talk. (Also, it's really rare people actually WANT you to talk about yourself at length. This is my theory on job/scholarship/grad school interviews: I get to talk at length about the topic I'm the world's leading expert on: ME! Everything I say is right! I know all the answers! I'm told I interview well.)

Oh, and about my eyes flicking back and forth at the beginning of the interview before the reveal? I didn't know when they started filming my eyes (rather than Mike or a graphic), so I kept looking over at my husband, I guess in the hopes that he'd give me a clue? Even though he had no way of knowing either!

It also wasn't until after the interview that I thought, "God, I hope nobody's watching that in HD digital on a 60" plasma screen -- my pores would be HUGE!"

It was a hoot. I had a great time. Mike Dimmick was really easy to talk to and I only felt like my mouth ran away ahead of my brain once (I'm not telling when). The people behind the cameras - I don't know what their real titles are - were also very nice and fun to talk to during the commercials and so forth. (And to reiterate, this is what I love about Peoria: People are so friendly and warm, even when they've just met you.)

When we got to the mid-interview commercial, Mr. McGee waited to hear we were clear and immediately demanded, "WHO does the vacuuming?"

"You do," I admitted. "I don't do any of it," I explained to the news people, who were amused. "I hate the noise."

"That's the most creative excuse I've ever heard - I won't vacuum because I hate the noise," Mike Dimmick said while everyone laughed.

I protested that it was true, but they all made fun of me and asked if I avoided washing the dishes because it involved getting wet, or doing the laundry because there might be dirt. Mr. McGee said that no, I really didn't like the noise, and I always went to hide with the cats in another room when he started the vacuum. Which is also absolutely true. We all go scurrying into another room, ideally on another floor, as soon as we see the evil machine come out.

I was really interested in how they put all the pieces of the news show together, since it's a combination of newsperson on screen and talking, newsperson narrating while something else is on-screen, and doing nothing while sound and picture both are laid in from the other room for clip interviews. There's like two entirely different things going on at once (the news, and the production), frequently with both TALKING at once, and everyones taking in both streams of information at once while doing their jobs.

Sitting in the studio, this seems inordinately complicated and choppy, but I know that when I see it on TV, it's very smooth. I know (from doing newspaper) that a huge complicated job, like putting together an evening newscast or a daily newspaper, isn't such a big deal when you do it every day and there are systems and you have practice, but it SEEMS like a big impressive complicated deal when you're seeing other people do it for the first time.

So anyway, I had a GREAT time. I'd definitely do it again. I've been trying to decide if TV or radio is funner as a guest, and I think it's a toss-up. TV has all that interesting camera stuff going on and all the graphics and whatnot, but on radio you don't have to worry about your clothes and hair. Either one is a hoot!

Because basically, and let's return to the main point here, I just like to talk.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Eyebrows Is Laura, but You Can Still Call Me Eyebrows

Update: You can catch video of half the interview at WEEK.com.

I'm going to add an "about me" thingie to my left-hand blog index there, but that will require the assistance of my brilliant html buddy who has to show me how to do everything but insert links. In the meantime, you can read about me (and see a pic) on my professional website, here, or a little bit below:

Hi, I'm Laura Petelle. I'm 28, married, and I have two one-eyed cats. My husband, Garth Madison, is a litigator with Hinshaw & Culbertson. He is also a total hottie. As for my cats, Orange Cat, who is named Sherman, is also diabetic and has no tail. This makes the neurotic Grey Cat, who is named Jack, seem downright normal by comparison. In real life, I am a self-employed lawyer (you can read about all that on my professional website). But I have a lot of non-law interests, many of which I get to exercise here on my blog. I'm active in the Junior League of Peoria. In my free time, I like to garden, embroider, and theologize. And read to excess.

I grew up outside Chicago, as the oldest of four children. I went to Notre Dame (Go Irish!), where I majored in Government and International Studies (their fancy name for poli sci) and in Theology. I worked all four years on Notre Dame's independent student daily, The Observer, serving as assistant managing editor my senior year. That's where I started writing first-person opinion columns. I won ICPA awards for feature writing, news writing, editorial writing, and column writing. I also have some national awards around here somewhere from the national collegiate press association, but to be honest, there was a lot of drinking that weekend. Also, with IU-Bloomington, Ball State, and Notre Dame all running excellent college papers in Indiana, I thought the Indiana state awards were more impressive. My years at The Observer were marked by some seriously awesome student journalists (including Peoria photographer Nellie Gould), many of whom have gone on to work at major metros and win professional awards very early in their careers. I was extremely lucky to work with student journalists who were so high-caliber; they taught me everything I know.

After college, I enrolled at Duke University (which generously gave me a law scholarship funded through the Gates Foundation. I have nothing bad to say about Windows ever.) in their law and divinity schools, where I continued writing first-person opinion columns for a variety of Duke student and alumni publications. In my four years there, I met my husband, and earned a law degree (JD) and a Master of Theological Studies (MTS). My master's thesis was on pregnancy in historical and modern Judeo-Christian liturgy. I finished up in 2004, took the Illinois bar exam, and here I am! My blog really gives me an outlet for continuing to write those first-person opinion pieces I love to do.

A double handful of my favorite blog entries from the past are below, for anybody just dropping by for the first time who wants to get the flavor of the site.

In which I love my husband, or in which he is amusing:
A Good Day
Marital Fidelity
Mr. McGee, Unplugged

In which I dork out:
It Is Too Better!
Pride and Prejudice Puzzler
Eyebrows Paid Attention in High School Bio
Eyebrows Achieves New Levels of Dork

In which I theologize:
"Happy Easter" (profanity)
Come Thou Unexpected Jesus
Christmukkah Strikes Back

In which I offer brilliant commentary on modern life (some funny, some serious):
Hate Crimes
Why Eyebrows Loves Her Eyebrows
Call for Help
Old School Buildings, Air Conditioning, and May 20, 1988
Some stuff about hair and identity
Why You Are Not Employed

In which I talk about various things:
Dear Peoria,
Nothing Says Christmas Like Turbo Tax
The beginning of the Broken Tailbone Saga
Pickles, Ice Cream, and Eggs
Summertime Poetry
My Primitive Brain Likes Gardening


And the post that kicked off the unveiling, the Eyebrows McGee Peoria PlayHouse Challenge!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

TV Quickie

I loved being on TV! Basically, I think I just like talking about myself! I'll give the full "Behind the Scenes" update tomorrow, but thank y'all for your support, the News @ 9 on My59 team was awesome. I did not get to meet Jenny Li, so I can't report whether or not she's cuter in person (as basically everyone else has), but I had a great time! I'd definitely go back. Really enjoyed it.

Eyebrows on TV Tonight!

Don't forget to catch me on News @ 9 on My59 tonight on channel 59 (broadcast) or channel 11 (cable) ... it's local UPN, whichever you use.

In the meantime, I am going to go spend several hours worrying about whether my hair is going to be supergigantic from the humidity for my TV unveiling!