Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're back!

Over the weekend we took a quick trip... to Canada! Jonathan's family was kind enough to send us up to visit Baba and Aunt Cheryl, who needed to meet Meggie and me.

We flew up Friday. We had about a 1:00 flight out of Richmond (yes!!), so we didn't even have to get up at the crack of dawn. Meg did fairly well on the planes. She had a couple of minor meltdowns, but nothing too bad, and anyway she was teething, so that was perfectly understandable. The air train in Newark ran into technical difficulties and took about 20 minutes to deliver us to our new terminal - we never did find out why. We made our flight just fine. Oh, and when you switch terminals there, you have to go back through security. Incidentally, you now have to take off your belt for security, as well as take off your shoes and pull your laptop out. So despite packing very light (for a baby), we still had six bins, bags, and a stroller to send through the machine. We wouldn't carry so much on if they didn't charge you to check anything. ::rolls eyes::

In Toronto, Customs was very professional but the lines were long. Meg just barely made it, mostly by smiling at the people behind us. We got a very cheerful taxi driver in a turban, who told us how wonderful President Obama is, whereas Bush was "just cowboy." He also tried to tell us how great socialized medicine is. I was very polite. We made it to the hotel in Toronto around 7:30 and made an executive decision not to try and see Baba that night. So we ordered a pizza, put Meg to bed, and watched Eureka.

Saturday we got up, had a lovely breakfast at the hotel restaurant, at which Meg charmed everyone, and then over to Baba's. As it turned out, she had had quite the Friday too, and it was just as well we hadn't tried to come over. No matter what the taxi driver said, Canadian medicine has issues. Poor Baba.

But she was delighted by Meg. We spent all day hanging out. Baba even got out her good china to feed us lunch! I felt special. Later on, Aunt Cheryl and several of Baba's friends came over the meet Meggie too, and then we went out for a fancy dinner, where Meg dropped three spoons on the floor and charmed the staff. Just as we were preparing to leave, the waitress put her hands out to pick her up - so I let her - and she walked off to show off the baby to the others! I was like, what? what? what? Did she just swipe my child?? But it was okay. She gave her back.

Baba wanted us to come breakfast with her Sunday morning before we left, so we did. We took lots of pictures. At the airport, we had a terrible time finding the international departures line, and then trouble finding the right customs paperwork, but it was done in the end. And we'd left plenty of time. At Newark we had amazing pizza for lunch and went through security again.

We couldn't get seats together for this last flight, but Jonathan hovered and the owner of the seat just across the aisle from me was kind enough to swap with him. He was Donny, a Scottish musician, and Jonathan got to sit next to his bandmate Eya. Eya was awesome. He had big piercings and tattoos, including a men-at-arms pattern that went all around his forearm, and Celtic knotwork even on the palm of his hand, and it was pretty hardcore. Eya and Jonathan and Meg all went to sleep, so I talked to the Filipina stewardess who pulled out a hidden seat in the aisle next to me. She knew the hospital where I was born and actually used to work for an accountant in the area. Very cool.

Then we got to come home! It was good to go, and good to come back. Meg was glad to see her own crib, I think.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eureka: "Momstrosity"

It kind of was a monstrosity, too.

The world did not almost get blown up. We had no seriously sweet science, though there was quite the chase scene. The dialogue wasn't crisp and witty. The episode started with a little robot spying on Jo in the shower, and really didn't improve notably from there. The episode, to sum up, was not awesome.

Actually, I take it back. The opening scene was the chase scene through the woods at night with a giant plasma-gun-wielding robot named Tiny, from episode 4.2, after them, in which Fargo got to toss off another Terminator quote. The first scene after the credits was the Jo-in-the-shower flashback.

Anyhow. Basically, Jack, Grant, Fargo, and Kevin go camping and the evil robot comes after them. Jack and Grant get into a childish slanging match over Alison, which Kevin rightly walks out on in disgust, and they have to go find him. The best thing about this dismal scene is that Jack finally decided he'd compete with Grant and make a shot at Alison for reals.

Everything that came out of Zane's mouth was either dirty or bad advice.

Alison didn't do anythizng dumb this week, but then she didn't do much of anything.

The house SARAH infects all the AI's in town with emotion code (I think? It was pretty unclear), and Deputy Andy fell in love with SARAH after a brief but embarrassing crush on Jo ("Has anyone ever told you your pH is perfectly balanced?"). Andy finished off the episode by spending the night with SARAH. We don't know. We don't ask. Zane was supposed to cure all the computers emotionally, but conveniently left Andy alone, so no doubt we'll have more computer-skank.

Meanwhile, Henry told Grace that he was from the parallel world, which she took badly. Henry moved out.

They never did explain what the tiny robot was doing around Jo. They blamed Kevin, because it was his school project, but apparently it wasn't Kevin's fault.

Yeah... I hope this is just a mid-season slump and they get their act together. Nobody is happy. Drama is fine, if it's dramatic drama, but not a round of misery. I want my old awesome Eureka back.

Book reviews

In between work, Meg, housework, and guests, I've been reading lately. Some of the fun new books I've come across:

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. I'd heard this recommended, and when Kanary spent the night with us, he was kind enough to bring us a copy. So I devoured it in its entirety within the day. :-) Wilson is a literary heir of C. S. Lewis. You know how at the end of The Last Battle, they get into the new Narnia and the sunlight is brighter, the colors more intense, the peaches more flavorful, than anything in this world? That's what Wilson does for our world. He talks about everything - philosophers, quarks, flamingos (real and artificial), creepy things wasps do, raking leaves, and, of course, Tilt-a-Whirls - and shows us a world spoken by God that can lick your materialist narrative hollow. The book is different, and not precisely comfortable, but it's good.

God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson. This book we found at our church library. I haven't quite finished it, but it's fascinating on its own and in contrast to Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl. Nicolson's premise: The KJV could only have come out of a particular culture like King James, that managed to combine such contraries as Donne's sermons and racy sonnets, the barren sanctuaries and elaborate Inigo Jones mansions, and an entire generation of scholars that channelled all that brilliance and wordcraft and secular and sacred energy into one exuberant tapestry of words: specifically, the Word of God. He calls the KJV the cathedral that Renaissance England never built. I like it. Also, I'm learning a lot from the mini-biographies he sprinkles throughout. At one point he talks about the man that hounded the Pilgrims to go to the new world, and how that man was actually pretty tolerant by Jacobean standards, and rather bored by the whole Scrooby affair.

To jump back a thousand years or so, I read Bloodline by Katy Moran. I picked it up because it looked like decent historical fiction set in early Britain, the warring tribes, Mercia, King Penda, that era. And so it was: well written and researched, a lot like Rosemary Sutcliff. I can recommend it. My main beef with Moran is her anachronistic attitudes. Her character was very modern about disobedience and not wanting to belong to anyone (i.e. no lord). What we get out of the "The Wanderer" poem... doesn't back up that sort of attitude at all. Also, Christianity. I don't mind if characters hate Christianity for the reasons that people back then hated it; people have been hating Christianity for a long time. It's kind of expected. But it did irk me that instead of characterizing it as a dangerous interloping new religion that was going to make their gods angry, she made all the Christians foolish, stupid, or hypocritical. Furthermore, her tribal religion was a comfortable thing that didn't require, say, the occasional man thrown in a bog or burnt alive in a wicker basket. Neither God nor the gods were particularly real to her. Which is a pity. She had a tiresome afterword too, that patronized Bede (!). He was a monk who wrote the first history of England, which had good results, but you know, monks have their perspectives and we don't really have to take them seriously.

In retaliation, I picked back up Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which I've been working my way back through since about last Thanksgiving. Bede wasn't just a monk. He was pretty much the most brilliant, cosmopolitan scholar Britain had produced to date, and an interesting writer, even in translation. His history did focus on the church in England, rather than a more political history, though there's plenty of politics. Bede did his research, found original documents, and interviewed eyewitnesses, so he's actually quite reliable. But as for "perspective," people don't seem to realize that being a monk entails believing in a God who will get you if you lie, so it behooves monks to tell the truth. Of course, he did think what you believe matters, right down to the date of Easter, so if you find belief a little off-putting, I can see why you'd want to dismiss him as just a monk...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Ack! This trailer - it - it distinctly looks like Zane is taking Zoe out on a date. No, no, no! All wrong! In any case, too many Z's for one couple, but mostly just NO.

On the plus side, Nathan is coming back. :-D More complications for Jack, but we missed him. While Henry and Alison were fiddling around with the exotic particle issue, Jonathan and I talked about how much they needed Nathan there... it's exactly his thing.

Eureka updates

We have been keeping up with Eureka. There have only been two episodes since I posted last, because there's now a one-week delay before they put them up on Hulu. (Sigh.) As always I'm including spoilers in with my commentary, so be ye warned.

Brief synopsis: In "The Story of O2," it's space week in Eureka complete with a rocket race to the moon, and some oxygen stuff gets loose (ahem, Alison) and we sincerely hope Eureka doesn't get blown up. In a subplot, Jack goes to Harvard to see Zoe. She's still herself and just fine, but a care package accidentally turns Zoe's science project invisible, so Jack and Zoe chase this invisible cat all over the Harvard dorm. Awkward. Also, back in Eureka, Larry blows up Jo's house.

In "Quitting Time," Alison makes herself obnoxious by insisting Grant quit smoking now. Meanwhile, a wormhole is opening up between Eureka-that-was and Eureka-that-is, and stuff keeps materializing from then to now. It turns out that Grant has exotic faster-than-light particles in his body that are not only tearing him apart, but have a magnetic-like attraction to 1940's stuff, and if they don't cleanse him of them, the two times will implode into each other. They figure out how to reprogram his anti-nicotine nanobots into anti-exotic-particle-bots, and the wormhole is cured. Meanwhile, Fargo and the VIP from Warehouse 13 get a bizarre romantic (?) thing going. Apparently being stuck together lying on double-tap land mines creates quite the emotional bond, but I'm thinking some of it was just unnecessary.

Alison is really starting to bother me. It's like, she arrived in this parallel universe and left her common sense in the other one. To elucidate. Alison's main change in the parallel universe was that her son Kevin no longer has autism. He's a regular, smart teenager. As far as we can figure, Alison is freaking out about how to relate to him, and so she does really bizarre and un-Alison-like things. In "O2," she tries to cheat for Kevin in the rocket race by putting contraband stuff in his rocket's fuel. The old Alison would never cheat.

In the most recent episode, Alison went all bossy-pants and made Dr. Trevor/aka Charlie Grant quit smoking. She could have been cute, but mostly she was just overbearing. He's fresh from the nineteen forties, for goodness' sake. It was culturally accepted then. Give the man a break. Besides, he looks so incredibly Humphrey Bogart cool with that hat and the cigarette.* Yes, he ought to quit, but once he said he was going to, it was just unkind to threaten to sic Martha on him and snatch his last one out of his hand. Then she gives him that nanobot blood-scrubbing patch on his neck, which is nifty, only she conveniently forgets to mention that it will give him a nasty shock if he tries to light up another one. It's just all very... bossy-pants of her.

Other interesting developments: since Larry also cheated by leaving the self-destruct out of his rocket, he blew up Jo's house, so Jack offered her his spare room as an alternative to the town jail. It would be highly inappropriate, but they're so definitely not interested in one another, it mostly came across as sweet. But seeing as Jack was totally sleeping with Tess (may she stay long in Australia), I feel like having Jo as a roommate is pretty mild. Hopefully it won't take too long to get her place rebuilt. In the meantime, she hogs his couch and watches reality TV and is good for him.

Jack needs to get married. Seriously. At this point I'm starting not to care to whom. He obviously wants someone - his sister Lexi, a live-in girlfriend, even Jo for a roommate. It's so frustrating - Jack liked Alison, Alison picked Nathan, and Nathan died, and then Tess arrived and left. Jack finally picked Alison, and they come back and Tess is an issue again. So he gets rid of Tess, and now there's not only Grant the rival, but Alison starts being a brat. Jack can take back his ex-wife Abby for all I care, though she'll have to negotiate a truce with SARAH (the house).

Enough of that. Zane is coming along nicely. One of the random forties things that materialized was... a bullet in Jo's chest. Oops! But Alison was able to operate and get the bullet out with no particular problems, and Zane was good enough to come sit by Jo's bedside and bring her a magazine. Also he called her "Jo-Jo," which he did back when he liked her (even though he did it to annoy her). So that's encouraging.

Henry is still not sure about being married. Jack was able to reassure Grace that Henry doesn't have another girlfriend, but naturally it's hard on her having her husband be so non-husbandly. I guess a surprise marriage would take a while to work up to. He asked her to dance at the end of the episode - progress.

Most remarkable of all: Fargo has a thing going with Claudia from Warehouse 13! She's the "crossover" character from the Warehouse 13 show, which I haven't seen. Whereas his old girlfriend Julia was nerdy in most of the ways Fargo was, Claudia has a major punk streak. She shows up with purple dye in her hair and big black-and-white sneakers, and doesn't encourage Fargo in his dorkiness at all. She may make a civilized human out of him. She's quite... uninhibited. I think I like her, but I'm not sure yet. She's certainly a fun character.

*No, gentle reader, I do not recommend you emulate this. But he does look cool - it's a plain fact. Alison knew it, and probably that's partly why she fell for him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smothered burritos

In other news, I finally figured out what to do with El Pinto green chile sauce and how to make New Mexico-style-tasting smothered burritos - two questions that have been afflicting me pretty much since I got married and left New Mexico. Afflicting, I tell you. And they're wonderful - the burritos, not the affliction. Anyway, this recipe doesn't even heat up the house in the summer, which is nice.

To make them, you will need:

1 mostly-full jar of El Pinto green chile sauce
1/2 lb hamburger
1/2 lb sausage (like Jimmy Dean, not like kielbasa)
1 onion, chunked
flour tortillas, fajita size
1 can refried beans
grated cheddar

Fry together the hamburger, sausage, and onion until cooked through. Warm up the refried beans so they're easier to work with. Spray a crock pot. On one side of a tortilla, layer refried beans, a spoonful of green chile sauce, and some meat. Fold in both ends, and then roll up the burrito from the end with the goody. Put it seam-side down in the crock pot. Repeat. After you've got a layer of burritos, spread a little more green chile sauce over the tops, and cheese if you like. Continue until you're out of meat, tortillas, or room in the crock pot. To finish, spread them very generously with cheese and turn on the crock pot until it's all melted.

As I said, they're pretty much wonderful. I bet this would be a good meal to take for a potluck, too.

An introvert goes to church

"I am fairly certain that even if you could give me a million years worth of Sunday morning gatherings, I would still never connect significantly with anyone in them."

I like the article by Rachel Starr Thomson. She's so right: Sunday morning meet-and-greet time is not conducive to meaningful fellowship for us introverted types. She's also right: doing a job, or going to a retreat, or making an effort in other ways is totally worth it. Personally, I like weekly small groups.

Which reminds me: I need to decide if I want to teach Sunday school this fall, or set up coffee, or what...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

We rode the ferry from Jamestown to Scotland

We really did. You didn't know you could take a ferry from Jamestown all the way to Scotland in half an hour, did you? Of course, it helps if it's Scotland, Virginia. :-)

The birds congregated on the pier.

No consumption of alcohol. No smoking.

On the way to the ferry, we stopped at the beach. It was a wonderful beach. There were rocks and trees and sand, and pretty shells. I took lots of pictures and Jonathan built a sand castle, with a gate and towers and a White Tree of Gondor smack in the center.

We also rescued someone's orange Frisbee from the water and made an imitation sunset. If nobody claimed it, I was going to give it a good home; but somebody did.

It was a really lovely day.

True happiness, Meggie-style

Meg's new favorite toy is paper. Yesterday I had to rescue two sheets of guitar chords and a map from her cute little grasp. Today, as I was cleaning out my magazine pile, I tossed a couple her direction.

She picked up a photography magazine, selected the third page from the back, ripped it out, and started chewing. Bliss.