Monthly Archives: December 2005

How I spent my Christmas Vacation

The XQZ, WRRD, cat on a Triple Word Score Blues*

I went to see my sister
At Christmas time.
Oh, I went to see my sister
At Christmas time.
She whipped out that Scrabble board,
Said “your ass is mine.”

Well, she played all seven letters,
Did it more than twice.
Laughed at my sad attempts:
Rice, ice, dice.

Oh Noah Webster, have mercy on me.
(Noah Webster have mercy on me)
You know I suck at Scrabble

When I drew my tiles
I got nothing but vowels.
Yes, when I drew my tiles
I got nothing but vowels.
Sis grinned and laid down kolkhoz,***
I hung my head and howled.

Well, my nephews both got Bachelors,
I gots a Ph.D.
They beat all my sad attempts,
Laughed viciously.

Oh Mr. Roget, have pity on me.
(Mr. Roget have pity on me)
You know I suck at Scrabble

Shoulda played some Candyland
Or cards or Clue or Risk.
Yeah, I shoulda played some Candyland
Or cards or Clue or Risk.
Might have won or might have lost,
But it wouldn’t hurt like this.

Well, I always lose at Scrabble
To sisters far and wide.
Next Christmas I’ll work extra hard
To spell sororicide.

 Oh Mr. Webster, have mercy on me.
(Noah Webster have mercy on me)
You know I suck at Scrabble

*based very loosely** on The Austin Lounge Lizards1984

**I suck at music/poetry/rhythm, too
***a Soviet collective farm, 78 points

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Xmas Doings…

First, in the spirit of the concerted liberal attack on Christmas, I wish you all a Very Scary Solstice. And I assure you that I will not rest until WalMart greeters are required to shout out a cheery "Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtan"* to one and all!

And now my holiday gift to you — pics from Storm Lake’s own Santa’s Castle. Really more of a "Santa’s Late-Nineteenth-Century House," the castle displays animatronic xmas figures that used to grace big department store windows. This year, they debuted a collection of poodles — yes, poodles — doing what poodles have traditionally done at xmas: decorate the tree, make cookies, pop popcorn, and collect green stamps (which dates the display nicely). Click on pics to embiggen them.


GreenstampsThe really funky thing about the poodles is that they are made of fake fur, which I think the folks at Santa’s Castle must have replaced as part of their renovation, and a faded pinky-tan boucle upholstery fabric which is obviously original and which exactly matches the unbelievably heavy sofa-bed my parents had when I was very young. When I mentioned this, another viewer said his parents had the same sofa fabric. I remember how desperately happy my mother was when we could afford to get a new couch.

*"In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming." C’mon, the suits at WalMart have to have sold their souls to someone. And Deep Ones would be a shoe-in** for work in the aquarium section.


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Primatology in the Home

Went to see Peter Jackson’s KING KONG last night, which was fabulous — all 3 hours of it. In addition to everything else Jackson does right, he creates a real relationship between Kong and the girl, lifting her above the "Kong’s Barbie Doll" of previous films, which allows for two things: the whole creepy Kong-Wants-Woman thing is gone and the girl, Ann, gets to do something besides scream (although she does a lot of that, too). Not to spoil it for anyone, but I really could have done without the giant bugs and concentrically-fanged worms scene.

In an oddly, or at least topically, related incident, I awoke this morning to find that Amelia the orange tabby terror had snagged my sock monkey off its shelf — the sock monkey I’ve had since age 10 or so, made for me by my eldest sister — and savagely ripped off the red pompom that topped his little sock monkey hat.*

In other news, I’m done with the semester except for grading 4-5 papers and submitting the grades to the university. I’m free, free for 5 (FIVE) weeks. Oh the knitting and reading and recreational napping that shall ensue.

*I never realized before how much flair that requisite pompom added to the whole sock monkey zeitgeist. Without the pompom, the monkey looks rather like a balding sock accountant.

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My ass is worth how much?

You may remember that in early November, I applied my ass to a glass-topped library table and broke it into 5 pieces.  I just found out that the replacement cost of the special, non-glare sheet of glass was $335. I can’t decide if the amount should be interpreted as an affirmation of my personhood, as a comment on the size of my post-grad school ass, or merely as an amount I’m happy I don’t have to pay.

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Lucky no more…

Well, yesterday morning the rescued mallard hen died. It’s likely she broke her wing in a confrontation with a dog or a car and had other injuries. I’m happy that she at least died warm and among ducks, rather than in the snowy, lonely area where I found her, but I’m also, and to a surprising degree, sad. My father once told me that I was so soft-hearted that I’d always be breaking my heart through my own kind actions. He was right, but I’d rather live this way than not care at all.

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David vs Goliath Cell Phone Company

Okay, it’s not really a Goliath cell phone company….it’s really a
tiny one, but nw Iowa has no national cell phone service (Cingular is
currently chipping a toehold), so Midwest Wireless has been the only
option for some time. I’d like to think it’s the lack of competition
that has made them so smug, but we all know that most companies have
learned that they can throw up shields made of interactive websites and
call centers and claims that they are doing so to serve us better and
so guarantee that a customer cannot under any circumstances talk to
anyone with any power. And that’s what pissed me off.

I use a cell as my main phone, a practice I began 3 years ago in
Ohio. The phone I had was the technological equivalent of a railroad
spike — no fancy color screen, no camera, no games or podcasts or gps
or Swiss army knife corkscrew. This means that it was also as
dependable as a railroad spike — solid and unexciting and quietly
doing its job.

When I moved to Iowa, I blithely assumed that I would have no
problem continuing to use my cell as my main phone. I went down to MW
in July and bought a two-year contract. Flushed with my impending new
life as a college professor, I also bought a fancy flip-phone camera
that probably did even more things than that, but I hate reading
manuals and so only discovered the most obvious features.  And the most
obvious feature of that particular phone was the fact that it broke, as
in the screen remaining black, 2 weeks after the 30-day warranty was
up. I took it in and the nice girl at MW said it would have to be sent
to their repair shop and she gave me a loaner phone, a nice, dependable
railroad spike. Three weeks passed before I called the shop to wonder
where my fancy phone was. Oh, I was told, we couldn’t fix it, so we
sent it the manufacturer for repairs. It’ll be back in 4-6 weeks.

5 weeks later, I got a call that my phone was fixed and ready to be
picked up. I got it on a Thursday. By Sunday, the screen was black and
would not light up. I went back to the MW store and this is where
things got interesting.

I walked into the store, told them that my phone had broken AGAIN,
and asked for a new phone. "We can’t do that," I was informed, "as our
policy is only to repair, not replace." Ah, but policies can be
changed, I said. The nice girl, now a bit mulish, just looked at me.
"We can give you a loaner," she said, pulling out a railroad spike. But
now I was angry. I asked for a manager. Not here this week, I was told.
I asked for the phone number of the main office. We don’t give that
out, I was told. I asked for the mailing address of the main office,
thinking I would send a letter.* We can’t give that out, I was told,
but here’s the phone number for our customer service call center.

I left my phone for repairs, grabbed the replacement railroad spike
and the proffered card, and went out to my car. There, I called the
call center and got a very nice young man named John, who started out
by giving me the company line of helpful non-activity, but then, beaten
down by my fury and his own good nature, put me on hold to talk to a
manager. I was on hold a long time and when John came back on the line,
I was prepared to unhinge my jaw and swallow his head whole over the
phone line. Fortunately, his first words were "We have a solution for
you. When you get your phone back, if it isn’t fixed to your
satisfaction, we’ll give you a credit for the full price and you can
get a different phone."

Well, I got my phone back…sort of. They claimed that it couldn’t
be fixed and they were magnanimously giving me a new phone. A new phone
that was already out of the package. A new phone that had a call
history running back to September (this was late November). A new phone
that ate its batteries and then wouldn’t charge….In short, they gave
me some other smuck’s old phone and some poor old woman somewhere in
South Dakota is probably wondering why the screen on her "new" phone keeps going dark.

So I went back down to the store. I mowed over all
customer-service-handbook attempts to placate me and send my phone in
for more service by using my Plagiarism Voice** (I had, unfortunately,
had ample opportunity to employ my Plagiarism Voice earlier that week
at school). Finally, my blood haze cleared enough to allow me to
remember John, the nice call center guy. I asked the counter person to
look up the record of my call to John. And there she found it: a
mandate to credit my account for the price of the phone if I was not
happy with the replacement. What she didn’t find was anything stating
that I would have to upgrade my account to deserve this credit, which,
as anyone who has tangled with a cell phone company knows, is how they
manage to screw more money out of you under the guise of fixing your

So, not only did I get a new, different, dependable*** phone for
free, I got the price difference of $40 credited to my account. I
emerged victorious from the Three Month Phone War, and I dedicate my
victory to Loretta Schaechterle, hobbyist consumer advocate and

*You must understand that writing a letter is
no idle threat for a woman (and some men) of the Schaechterle family.
My mother, sisters, cousin, and I have brought companies to their knees
with masterpieces of seething politeness. My mother, the alphabitch
letter writer of us all, once complained about an unsatisfactory string
mop and received in return a new, better quality mop, a matching broom,
and a nearly space-age mop bucket with separate water compartments and
a little wringing-out gizmo.

**Used to address students who have
"accidentally" downloaded whole paragraphs of text and slipped them
into their papers with neither citation nor quotation marks. The Voice
combines an overtone of maternal disappointment and an undertone of
"you have fucked up and your fate is entirely dependent upon my
swiftly-ebbing goodwill."

***I know it’s dependable because I asked the
by-now-trembling sales assistant to recommend the most trouble-free
phone. She was happy to, as it meant that I and the Voice would not be
visiting anytime soon. The phone, by the way, is an upgraded railroad
spike — it’s a flip phone, but other than that, has no bells, no
whistles, and, I hope, no troubles.

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Lucky Duck?

Well, I had just decided that I was going to retire this blog, since not much is happening and yet I feel pressured to make at least weekly entries, when what do you know? Something happened to write about. So Mississippi is reprieved for this week, at least.

It’s Sunday morning and I awoke full of professorial virtue and determined that I should walk to school and get ahead on my end of semester grading. I live across the street from campus and about 1/2 a block from my office building, and as the weather is a balmy 32 degrees, I decided to walk outside rather than simply cross the street and enter the forum, which runs underground and connects with my building. We will call this Lucky Ducky coincidence #1.

I was almost to my office when I passed a female mallard duck, hanging out in a sheltered corner and dragging a wing. Well. I would have left her alone had she appeared sick in any way, but she seemed healthy and I have a very soft heart for animals (Lucky Ducky #2). So I caught her, which was fairly easy because she was obviously tired/hurt and because, having owned parrots for 15 years now, I know how to catch and hold a bird without hurting it (Lucky Ducky #3). I turned right around and carried the duck home, knowing that in my living room was a roomy cardboard box that my recent Land’s End order arrived in, all empty and open so the cats could play in it (Lucky Ducky #4). But that’s not all: I wouldn’t have done any of the above had I not known that my office mate and fellow English prof and her husband are even more soft-hearted than I — their farm is home to 3 stray dogs and 20+ stray cats that they’ve taken in and, yes, 6 ducks they bought this summer. So after boxing the duck, I called them. Lucky Ducky#5: they said to bring the duck on down.

At the farm I was able to check out the duck more fully; she seemed quite healthy but her wing is definitely broken at the shoulder. There did not seem to be any blood. We put her in the pen with the 6 domestic ducks, ready to pull her out again if violence ensued. But the other ducks didn’t seem to mind a bit, and the injured duck settled right down among them. She’s about half their size, which was funny to see, but she seemed happy to find some friendly bills.

So the duck is taken care of. I took the entire incidence as a sign that, rather than working today, I should hang out at home and address Xmas cards and wrap presents. And my friends at the farm are probably sorry they ever gave me their phone number or showed me where they lived.

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