Tuesday, June 29, 2010


If you want to make me squeal...

First, get your mind out of the gutter.

Second, buy me a Pulse Pen!

"What is a Pulse Pen?" you ask.  Well, let me tell you.  It's a pen that actually writes, while taking a picture of the writing so you can upload it to your computer. Once uploaded, you can "translate" it to text, use a keyword search to find a place in your notes or journal—or whatever you decide to use the pen to write.  You can even share pencasts. Here's my first one:

First Pencast
brought to you by Livescribe

But wait, there's more! While you're writing, you can use the pen to record a lecture you may be taking notes on. The pen then links the notes to the audio so you can go back to parts of the lecture you didn't quite understand. Or, if you wish, you can just use the pen as a voice recorder.

And there's no catch. The handwriting to text software does cost $30 extra. The ink cartridges are a little more than what you'd pay for fountain ink. The special paper can be printed for free (Note to self: Possum tooth broke printer, put new printer on shopping list.). It charges through a USB port. And the interface is as intuitive as a smart phone.

So I think I made a pretty good investment.  And I'm still ooohing and ahhing over it. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Public Service Announcement

  1. Orange juice looks a lot like blood in the darkness of 3:00 a.m.
  2. Orange juice poured into a dark vessel...in the dark...is hard to see and, out of obligation to your rotten luck, will overflow.
  3. Orange juice is sticky when it dries, no matter how hard you try to mop it up...in the dark.
  4. Orange juice is not much of a thirst quencher, especially in the dark, when it looks like blood.
  5. You definitely need glasses if the first bleary-eyed sweep of the neighbor's back porch in the full 'sun' of his flood lights does not reveal him sitting there, having a smoke, in a green t-shirt and grey shorts...at 3:00 a.m.
  6. With all that light streaming into the window the neighbor can see you at the sink as you wait for your glass of water to fill, having determined that orange juice, which looks like blood in the dark, doesn't hit the spot.
  7. Your neighbor may be looking directly at you, but he's not looking at your marvelous brain as you stand there in your bra and panties.
  8. There are a multitude of reasons to wear night garments, rather than underwear, to bed: if a fire breaks out, you don't have to dress to get out of the house; if there's a tornado, you don't have to dress to get out of the house; if a train derails and fills the neighborhood with poison gas, you don't have to dress to get out of the house. Last, but not least, if you need a glass of water, you don't have to worry about your neighbor getting his kicks at your expense.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Father's Day

There we all were: nearly everyone in my dad's entire family (he was the 7th of 13 children) sitting in a room that was overflowing with people.  One of my "Aunts of the Apocalypse" (referred to from here on out as the "A of the A") asked a family friend, who happens to be a Quaker minister, to officiate.

I gotta say, I love the Quakers. This group of "Friends" gets together to galvanize a movement to oppose every war this country has ever been in with such aplomb they're never accused of being unpatriotic. I've known a lot of them in my life (my mom, most notably), and every one I've met has been kind, unassuming, and truly thoughtful. And this reverend gentleman was no different.  He came early, I'm sure, to minister to us; some of my family sorely needed it and spent a lot of time with him.  He asked specifically to see me, so I went in all free-thinker, business-like armed with a prayer my dad, class chaplain, had written to give for Thanksgiving , which he and his classmates spent on a bus to Philadelphia on their senior trip, a week to the day of JFK's assassination and my mom's birthday, which has put a major damper on that celebration ever since. My mom, both my dad's classmate and his girlfriend, was nervous for him, a fact she carefully documented on a Post-It note affixed to the copy she sent me. I brought the prayer because I thought the minister could use some of it in his service.  He looked at me, smiled, and said, "Would you read it for me? My eye sight is very bad." That was the extent of our conversation, and when it was over, I realized something very important: he knew exactly what I needed.  I got ministered to, even though I was attempting to avoid it, with a very gracious and graceful twist.

So, I said my piece (and made my peace) and then the minister did his part. It was so different from the last funeral I attended. No hellfire. No brimstone. Just love.

The poor guy only made one mistake.

In typical Quaker participatory fashion, he asked us if anyone would like to share a memory of my dad.

You could have heard a toothpick drop on the carpet.

Dead silence.

And I knew, just as well as everyone else, why no one was saying anything. Here's a Quaker minister asking us to share memories of Dad, who most certainly was NOT a Quaker. I can't remember exactly the list of things Quakers don't do, but I'm pretty sure it includes (besides fighting) drinking, gambling, smoking, dancing, and cursing.  All things my dad LOVED (except for fighting—he definitely didn't like fighting or seeing people in fights).

The first remembrance that popped into my little head was an evening we spent at a restaurant in the town where I was born. We had arranged to have dinner with one of my dad's brothers and his wife and a sister and her husband. I ordered us a bottle of wine, which might have turned into two, and before I could realize it, Dad was three sheets to the wind.

It was time to get him home.

He happily turned over the keys to my mom, and like a little kid returning home from a day at the state fair, crawled into the back seat and half laid down.

But there's some back story you need to know before I get to the punchline.

I had successfully secured my cousin Wanda Lee's (and you know she's on my mom's side of the family because she's got that Southern two-name thing going on) recipe for chicken and dumplings and had brought it with me so my mom and I could work through it and figure out all its deep, delicious secrets.  Mom showed me some things the recipe didn't reveal (DON'T, whatever you do, overwork the dough—you'll get tough dumplings). And then we argued over something else that wasn't in the instructions but that Wanda Lee had been very adamant about when explaining the procedure to me: roll the dough as thin as you can get it. I reasoned that Wanda Lee's measurements were different from the ones Mom had used, so I won and we rolled the dough thin. Well, when we dropped the dumplings into the stock we had made they turned into these marvelous little pockets of air, flour, and water. I swear you could have lain your head down on them and taken a nap, they were that pillowy.

Dad had already eaten the night we made them, so we warmed enough to feed the three of us the next night, leaving the cold dumplings on the back burner.  We served ourselves and sat down at the table to eat. Dad took one bite, and I looked over at him to see how marvelous he thought our creation was only to find that he had the strangest expression I'd ever seen—like all of his teeth were about to fall out of his mouth. I was a little bit nonplussed, to say the least. Mom and I slaved and argued over the stupid dish for hours, and I thought it turned out pretty darned good. But here's my dad looking like he's about to spew.  So I asked him, "What's wrong?" I can't remember his response. I know he tried being polite...something along the lines of "I don't know...maybe I'm just not hungry." As he was explaining, I looked over at the stove and saw that the lid to the cold dumplings was off, sitting to the side. I exclaimed, "Dad, you're eating the cold ones. The hot ones are on the front burner." So crisis averted. He ate the hot dumplings, had seconds, and agreed we'd done a good job.

Flash forward to our drive home from the restaurant. Dad was about as happy as I've ever seen anyone in my life. So happy, he started singing: Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin.

And then he segued into a blues song written by a fellow named Clarence Williams that's been covered by a lot of famous musicians: Hank Williams Sr. and Jr., Ricky Nelson, Van Morrison, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and Dwight Yoakam, to name a few. The refrain goes like this:

My bucket's got a hole in it.
My bucket's got a hole in it.
My bucket's got a hole in it.
Can't buy no beer.

Except this was the only part of the song my inebriated dad could remember, so he kept singing it over and over.

I guess, for variety's sake, he decided to throw in an improvisation:

My bucket's got a hole in it.
My bucket's got a hole in it.
Cold dumplings put a hole in it.
Can't buy no beer.

Now, you have to understand there's a little known fact about my mom that makes this story precious. She has the most infectious laugh I've ever encountered, and if I could achieve that effect on other people, I'd consider it a greater achievement than earning a Ph.D. Being privy, I looked at her sideways to see if the improvised line had actually registered in her brain. She was grinning, so it obviously had. And then we both looked at each other full on and busted up laughing to the point of tears. I kept thinking, "Gosh, maybe we should pull over," but there was no traffic on the road to home, so we just kept laughing and Dad just kept singing. 

That was one of the best nights I've ever spent with my parents. And I remember it fondly.

I'll also remember chatting with my dad online every Saturday night; sending him pictures of the places my husband and I visited by canoe or by foot; sitting outside my childhood home by the fire pit I bought because I just wanted to get away from all the cigarette smoke in the house, counting satellites and shooting stars; trying to learn to play euchre; Dad playing his banjo; all the silly nicknames he had for me (Juniper, Jennipoo, Buddy, and, on a few occasions, Asshole), and a million other things.

I left him with a star map, some pictures of all of us, a desert rose from Arizona, a "love rock" from the Buffalo River in Arkansas, and his last pack of cigarettes.  I hope that's enough to get him where he's going. And I'm so sorry, Reverend, that we saved our stories until you were gone because there were some awfully good ones, and there's no doubt in my mind you wouldn't have judged my dad's life any differently had you heard them. Thank you for your kindness and generosity.

And thank you, Dad, for being you.  So many people miss you, I can't begin to enumerate.