Thursday, July 04, 2013

Various Citrus-based Diseases

As I sorted through images to find just the right one for this post, I stumbled upon the following:
I found the image strangely heartening.  
The fact that the ticks are cavorting around on top of a dime means that they are probably at least mildly interested by money, right?
So, maybe you can pay them to leave you alone? 
 Like bullies who take lunch money off cowering schoolyard unfortunates.
 Like all those mafioso-types in films who say that it would be such a shame if something happened to your very nice place of business- such as, maybe, an intense, fuel-soaked inferno tragically burning it all to ashes. And maybe you would give a small sum to help them make sure that such a terrible thing would never come to pass.

Like that?

I would certainly give ticks many, many dimes to leave me alone in the future.  
One run-in with Lyme disease is all a person really needs, thanks very much.

On Thursday night, I felt a bit tired and took some Advil.
By Saturday afternoon, I was in the hospital emergency room with a fever of 104°F.

I never even saw the one that got me.  It was apparently a kamikaze ninja tick- it snuck in, bit me behind the left knee and then ran off back into the mysterious forest from whence it came. 
 Creepy little bastard.

I spent two nights in the hospital.  The first night wasn't too bad- I was quite delirious and hardly remember it. What I mostly recall are  vivid hallucinations about a tiny black kitten made out of crumpled paper. 
 There was also a turkey riding around in the back seat of my dad's pickup.

By day two I felt lots better, though weak.  But I was certainly alert enough to enjoy the amusing company of my roomate, a rather excentric old lady.  She shouted quite a bit.  And when she wasn't shouting, she was burping and farting.  It was kind of hard to decide which was worse. While she was yelling, I'd wish she'd shut up, but then when she did, what followed was no day at the park, either. 
 I wish to god that I was making this all up, but sadly, it is all true.

The kids came to visit me at the hospital.  They regretted that they hadn't brought a bunch of limes.  they could then scatter them across me as I lay in my hospital bed and take a photo that could be captioned in a humorous fashion:, such as:  "Poor mom has Lime disease"
The loling would have been endless, I am sure.

At any rate, I am back home now, taking antibiotics and trying to rest a bit. 
And I'll be keeping  some spare change in the pocket of my robe...just in case.

BTW- Happy Fourth of July!!!!!!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pimp My Livingroom

This post is not about television programs, travel or bubonic plague. It is about my all-time favorite topic: renovating our sweet and rather exasperating old house.
Yes- in May, The New and Improved Romanian Handyman showed up. Actually, we don't call him that. That would be silly.   We refer to him as "DJ Pauly G".  Not to his face- even though the girls mean it in the nicest possible way.  It is just their way of expressing the amount of his awesomeness. The truth is, the man works miracles!  Just look!

 This is the "before " shot. This living room is quite small and has one tiny window.  One!  Only a cave-dwelling troll would have thought to "improve" the place with dark varnished wood ceilings. Sadly, the previous owners were cave-dwelling trolls with a decorating budget.....

Not that our own  "improvements" over the years turned out much better.  The textured wall treatment was my bright idea.  I started hating it the minute I finished putting it all over the walls. Definitely time for a change.....

This is where Paul took down the wall between the living room and the entry hall.  The idea was to make that wasted space part of the living room and give it some much-needed volume....

It was so great to get that horrible wood off the ceiling.  But under it was tons of lathe and plaster.....
As you can see to the right in the photo,  there is
the old opening leading to the main staircase of the house  leading up to the bedrooms. This would be blocked up and the space behind transformed into a closet.....

 Dust ruled our lives for many; many days.  Every surface in the house was covered....

One of the worst things about the hated textured wall plaster was that it was so hellish to remove.  We had to use a wallpaper steamer and putty knives to chip it off little by little. It was truly Satan's Wallpaper

The green being uncovered here is the original wall color from back at the turn of the century.... So, that is an historically accurate revolting shade of green.  Call the Smithsonian!

As for the clean-up task-  luckily we had help from R2D2's cousin.  (see below right-hand  corner)  He's never, ever been in a movie and his name is Kevin.  Sucks to be him.
 Anyway, the above may look similar to what we started with...but it is actually COMPLETELY different.  The room is now about a meter longer, the ceiling is NOT a disgusting troll-ceiling and the floor is a lovely oak parquet instead of splintery pine....

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I won't go into the specific, horrid details, but I have been sick for about the last three weeks and it has really cut into our fun here in the USA. While in Avignon, I came down with some kind of flu and I had thought it was almost gone when I got on the plane in Geneva on the 10th. But I was coughing by the time we got stuck in Denver and I quickly re-infected poor Valentine. Then we got to Lincoln and made my mom sick. And now poor Mallory is sick in bed. Here's a nice picture from two days ago, back when she was one of the few healthy people left in this House of Plague.

(That's my parent's new dog- a rescue Wirehaired Terrier named Tess. She's very calm and sweet.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beth in Nebraska

After many, many adventures, we have finally arrive in Lincoln!
We won't be here for long.... we are here for Art's celebration of life ceremony an will just stay two weeks.
We've been able to spend time with family and have some fun...all of which will eventually appear on this blog.
Just not today.
But I just wanted to say that it is great to be back after three years away....

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The month of March sort of got out of hand and escaped unblogged. But rest assured, April will not suffer the same treatment. And I will have plenty to write about because I will be in the United States. FTW! But before I get into all that, lets catch up on last month. To make a long story short: There was Easter. We ate nice food, prepared by Mallory and myself. Then we had a nice outing to a nearby castle, because that is how we roll here in France. 
Le Chateau de Ripaille, near Thonon-les-Bain
The kids all seemed to enjoy it

Another highlight since I last blogged was my visit to Avignon with Valentine.  She was busy at the Fine Arts school, so I had lots of time to wander around on my own.  I spent much of my time revisiting the "Palais de Papes".
I have visited it once before, but as it covers about 2.5 acres, there was still stuff to see....
Mostly built between 1334 to  1364, it still  dominates the city.
The only bad thing about the trip was that I came down with a very bad case of the flu.  in fact, I've been sick for about a week now...but seem to finally be recovering.  For a while I had my doubts that I would.  When I spent two days in bed reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, I knew I was possibly in big trouble.  LIW books are my instinctive go-to position in cases of impending death and disaster. 
Fortunately, I pulled back from the brink of mortality and "The Long Winter" has been put back on the shelf, only three-quarters finished.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Regrettable Television

I haven't been writing on my blog because I've been watching too much television: some of it very, very bad and some of it very, very good (which is also bad, in a way- as it sucks up time that could be better spent organising my laundry room or making scones or possibly writing blog posts.)
Let's have a look at some of the culprits.
1. Terra Nova- Reading a description of the basic plot outline, this show sounds like it was created with me in mind. Dystopian future? Time travel? Dinsosaurs? Produced by Steven Spielberg? Sign me up!
Sadly, "signing up" includes exposure to a thin plot propelled forward by painfully cheesy dialogue and the boring antics of surly, extremely well-groomed, attractive and completely predictable teenagers.  
"Disappointed" hardly covers this one.  I wanted to like it, but just couldn't. 
So,  I decided to try for "so bad that it's good"-style viewing. 
But it was a lost cause.
The network cancelled it, but that is too little, too late. Now not only is the Fox Entertainment  Group responsible for the horror that is Fox News,  it is also to blame for making me HATE a dystopian time-travel dinosaur show.
You have truly done an evil, evil thing, Fox.

2. Revolution- This is another show that seemed like it had been imagined as an early birthday gift/late Xmas present created specially for ME- a  dystopian post-apocalyptic future conspiracy extravaganza produced by JJ Abrams.
The basic premise is that quite suddenly,  all electronic devices stopped working (sort of like the EMP that wipes out everything in Dark Angel*).  Also, for some reason, internal combustion engines no longer work (this also happens in the excellent urban fantasy novels "Ariel" and "Elegy Beach"**) This is never explained, but one is left with the hope that it will be, as one man has a jump drive that supposedly holds the secret of why everything shut down and how to get it all back on again.
It all sounds great, but problems are evident 15 minutes into it. The action is set 15 years after the lights go out.  And this low-tech future is mostly inhabited by preternaturally attractive young people between the ages of 16 to 25.  They are all extremely well-groomed and recieve excellent dental care. (Who knew that you could get veneers on your teeth in the low-tech dystopian future?) 
They're so clean, despite the fact they have to wash up with a bucket of water heated up over a fire. 
And the clothes of these young subsistance-level farmers is so  fashionable, perfectly fitted and completely unworn.
And clean. 
Did I mention how damn clean the low-tech dystopian future is?
They are supposed to be running for their lives, but all manage to look as though they've just finished up a yoga class and are heading out for some sushi.
Now, I'm no snob.  Far from it. I love me some post-apocalyptic clichés. Give me a good fascist militia, a drunken  lowlife who is secretly super-awesome,  and a plucky tomboy who is good with a bow and I'm ready to go.
But somehow this show manages to make every  single trope of the genre boring and silly.  And that I cannot forgive.

3. All's Faire in Love- This is a movie, but I watched it on my television. So, it totally gets counted as "Regrettable Television".   Once again, it all looked good on paper. If this movie had an Ok Cupid profile, I totally would have dated the heck out of it.
 Get this: a romantic comedy filmed at the Michigan Renaissance Faire.
It had me at "Michigan Renaissance Faire".
Sadly, this review from Rotten Tomatoes about sums it up :"If you don't like the word 'penis' but crack up at the use of 'wang,' 'ding dong,' 'wenis' and 'wiener,' this is your movie."
Not to say there weren't a few good bits.  But it takes a LOT of good jokes to make up for the over-use of the word "wenis". 

4. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.  The only thing that could possible  make it worse would be the word "wenis".  In fact, if you changed the title to "Star Wars I: The Phantom Wenis"***, it probably would officially become the worst movie, ever.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why the hell I watched this.  As a crazed Star Wars fan since I was a sci-fi freak 12 year old back in 1977, I'd presumably seen this thing when it came out in 1999.
Well- it's like this: one evening, Mallory told me that she'd like the watch the Star Wars films. She hadn't seen them for a few years and hardly remembered them at all.  While Sev and I have often revisited IV, V and VI over the years, the twins had not really joined us. So, I thought it would  fun to have a SW marathon, starting with TPM and going on to the end.  But looking at sci-fi section of our dvd collection, I noticed something odd: films II through VI were there, but "Phantom Menace" wasn't.
I couldn't figure it out. 
Maybe I'd lent it to someone and forgot?
I put it out of my mind and ran upstairs to obtain a copy. (I will NOT say that I  downloaded it off the intwebz.  That is illegal and not something I would do. Probably.  Unless I was desperate.)
Then I settled down with Max, Sev and the twins to enjoy a fun movie night.
My happiness lasted... about three seconds.  That's when the scrolling intro text began. Also the questions. SO many questions: 
Trade routes?
What's next?  The Teapot Dome scandal? The War of 1812?  Is this History Channel? What's WRONG with you people?! You are limited only by your imagination in this outer-space fantasy world and you are giving me trade disputes, taxes and  blocades? I didn't like this in high school history class, so why do you think I would like it now? WHY?!

Also- Jar Jar Binks.

It took about 10 minutes of stunned misery before I suddenly remembered why I had no copy of this dvd on hand.  In fact, this was the result of a concious decision I made in  back in Burkina Faso in 2000 after watching the movie for the first time ever (on VHS tape, btw!!So retro!!).  I was SO bitterly disappointed and disgusted by it that I proclaimed that the film was not welcome in my home.  I banished it from my life and seldom thought of it ever again, except to occasionally mutter things like "Jar Jar Binks was created by demonic forces to destroy human souls."
My self-soothing mind-wipe was so effective that I didn't really conciously register the fact that, while I eventually upgraded all our Star Wars films to DVD versions, I never purchased SWI:TPM.
 Good call, in retrospect.
Why anybody thought it was a good plan to re-release it in 3D is anybody's guess****. 

I guess that's mostly it for bad television that I regret. Luckily, there was also some really good stuff.  And I promise you that the giood stuff is just as good as the bad stuff is bad. 
And that's saying something. 
If you follow me. 

So, my next post will be all about the really excellent stuff I've seen over the last two months: less complaining, far more rhapsodising.

* Dark Angel is one of my favorite sci-fi series, ever. And would look like "Citizen Kane" compared to "Revolution", if "Citizen Kane" had featured Jessica Alba as a genetically engineered super-soldier.

**Author Stephen Boyett posits the failure of all advanced technology.  This includes guns and  is caused by magic, which actually works. Fair enough. (Also: if you can, one day you should read "The Architect of Sleep"- his 1986 novel, which is almost impossible to find, but is one of my fave books, ever!)

***Alternate title proposed: "Star Wars I: The Wenis of Jar Jar Binks"

****Here's a great review from Wired

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Mayor's Wishes

Last night I went to our local town hall to attend "Les Voeux du Maire".  The latter is a phrase that's hard to translate easily into English.  The few sources I found styled it as "The traditional New Years ceremony of the the mayor's office", which is accurate, but not very elegant.
 The direct translation is "The mayor's wishes"...and after an hour or so of listening to his wishes, I had a few wishes of my own- the main one being to get the hell out of there (and possibly move to Switzerland).

I don't want to be mean. I KNOW it's a thankless job to be the mayor of a tiny* village in rural France.  The tax base is sadly minuscule and each inhabitant seems to have their own very personal complaints and issues that they want solved hier, bébé**.

That said, being mean and snarky is SO much more entertaining that being nice.  Don't you agree?

So, there I was, sitting on a vaguely beige and definitely grimy plastic chair, in the company of  about 150 other unfortunate souls. The invitation had promised a glass of wine along with the speech, and I think that was a key factor in the turnout.  Without the lure of free booze, that mayor would have been looking out at an audience comprised of only the assistant mayor, a few town council members and the school cafeteria lady (who also serves as the bus driver and janitor).

While the idea of serving wine was good, looking back, I see clearly that a tactical error was made with regards to the timing.  The whole thing would have gone off much better if the alcohol had been served before and during the speech, rather than after it .
And I think the mayor could have benefitted from a few pre-show shots, as well.  As it was, we all had to sit there, stone cold sober in our sticky chairs*** and take in the mayor's one hour long attempt at pubic speaking.

The man has been mayor in St.André forever****.  But apparently,  making a speech every year since forever doesn't make you any better at it.  Funny.  
And even more amazingly, the whole hour-long discourse was contained on a single bright green post-it, which he looked at every 15 seconds.

The contents of this marvel of de-motivational speaking?  I won't bore you with the specific details...they mainly involve central heating, insulation and sewer systems.  The real problem was in his approach to presenting his not-yet-drunk constituents with the various bitter pills needing to be swallowed.

It's hard to explain it in abstract...let me give you some examples.  Below is an exerpt  from his speech*****, translated into English for your reading pleasure. 

"About 750,000 euros will be needed for the renovations.  And that means there won't be any money for other things.  Some people will be happy.  Others won't be happy.  But that's what was decided,. So, we're doing it that way. Maybe it's completely arbitrary.  I don't know...but there you go, then. Whatever."

After one hour of this, your brain begins to melt,  madness descends...and the carafes of wine that get passed around are very welcome indeed.  It didn't hurt that there was also sausage, cheese and little puff-pastries filled with pear compote.

As we munched on the above mentioned snacks, the man himself came by.  JP remarked that the mayor had a small Legion d'honneur****** symbol emboidered on his tie.
 I  replied "Oh. He got it for incompetant pubic speaking?  They give awards for that now?"

So- the bad news is that our septic system problems are all our own and no help from the mayors office is going to be had for any of the dozens of households involved. 

The good news is that if you, dear reader,  have a secret desire to become mayor of a small village in the French Alps, I could probably persuade most of the population to vote for you....

*587 people, at last count. Now that's tiny!
**French for "yesterday, baby"
*** It's actually completely unfair of me to harp on the less-than-pristine state of the  chairs, as that was at least partially my fault. For New Years Eve, I rented the town's party hall with a few friends and had a bit of a soirée.  There were sixty of us and I suspect that a bit of wine/champagne/disgusting tequila-flavored beer might have ended on to a few of the chairs. Maybe.
****Since 1993, anyway.
*****OK- I made it up based on my rather inaccurate memory of what was actually said.  But the spirit is there.  This was really what the guy sounded like. For reals!
******Some kind of  award invented by Napoleon in 1802.  They have big medals and fancy sashes, FTW!