Who I am, where I live, what I like

Note: links below marked with an * take you to .jpg images files.

Hi! First things first - here's my cat companion, Gwen and Alison and Ryan, the cutest kids in East Tennessee!, both as required by the Unwritten Rules of the Web™.

Okay, that out of the way... As you've gathered, I was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but like lots of other hill folk, I followed the job to elsewhere. I was born in 1954, so, yes, I did live through the 60s. But I hated them. The only good things that happened in the 60s were The Great Society and Apollo.
UT I attended University of Tennessee.(Go Lady Vols!) I'm a Democrat, a member of the ACLU, and I give money to Doctors Without Borders, and the DNC. Dems!

I put ten years into the army (about six too many). Then I got a job with the Department of Defense (yes, I'm a dreaded federal employee -- don't get me started on the budget process and furloughs!!). Currently I live in Laurel, Maryland, which lies in between Washington, DC, and Baltimore. There are some amenities to the area:

Washington has [among many others:
  • Ford's Theatre, for an intimate experience
  • the Mall -- *" lovliest of trees, the cherry now is hung with blooms along the bough"
  • Teddy Roosevelt's Memorial -- little known, but on a lovely island
  • the Air & Space Museum -- a must for the star-gazers among us
  • the Smithsonian and other museums -- check out the Impressionist room in the National Gallery's old building; you'll swear you can feel the heat coming off Monet's cathedral
  • * the National Arboretum, out New York Avenue and undervisited Baltimore has [among many, many others]: and in the area


    Some stuff about my likes and interests.

    Constantly being added to, of course...........


    Introverts No, I'm not a party-pooper; I'm a party-poopee! No, I'm not shy. Nor lonely. Nor antisocial. I'm an introvert. I need to be alone to recharge, because you extraverts are draining!

    Aaacckk! The Wall Street Journal spreads another myth! On 16 April, they ran a Work Week blurb that began:

    CHIEF EXECUTIVES think they are introverts. Their subordinates disagree. A new survey of 481 corporate chiefs finds 70% of them are introverted...But a survey of the CEO's colleagues -- board members and subordinates -- finds they are seen as "forceful," dominant, socially skilled.
    Hey, WSJ! Wake up and smell the coffee! Introverts are not feebs, dweebs, pushovers, or socially inept bunglers: damn straight we "can obviously turn it on when [we] need to". In fact, we're usually more socially skilled than extraverts, 'cause we've had to learn how.

    If you want to know more about introverts and how we think, check out the Greenbelt (I also go on a bit about the rest of the MBTI characteristics there, too).


    Language I love Language. And languages. [joke: what is a language? a dialect with an army!] I love grammar, and syntax, and deep structure, and all the ways that language functions. I love the smartness of colloquial speakers. I Love Language! (I hate Language Mavens, though -- look here for an article about the nightmare of being cited by Safire).


    Watching There's more on TV than there was last time I did this page...

    Torchwood! Torchwood... a spin-off of Doctor Who, dark and delicious and sexy. The team is quirky and intelligent and sometimes annoying, and I doubt Gwen would be seen in a starring role on American TV, and I'm fairly certain Jack would have to tone down his sexuality, and it's bloody sometimes ... but Russell Davies makes a great show, blending sci-fi and fantasy into a chilling, funny show. Give it a shot - BBC America, Saturday night.

    House. What can I say? I can't believe I'm watching a show on Fox ... but for Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, the Cottages, and this writing staff... I will. I so will. And you should, too. This season has been better than last, too - their long arc so far was something I feared (a reality show-style picking of new assistants?) but it turned out brilliantly.

    Pushing Daisies. Weird, stylistic, and funny. The acting is good, the storyline is bizarre, and it's not even meant to be real - but it's definitely worth watching.

    DVD Recommendations:
    "Primeval"- (now on BBC America) - a terrifically engaging show, with interesting characters and great SFX. I love the twist between seasons 1 and 2, and can't wait for season 3!
    "Life on Mars" - wow. I mean, just wow. John Simm handles a difficult job (he's in virtually every scene of the entire show) and Philip Glenister is simply brilliant. It's Brit, it's short (16 eps total), and it's a complete story. Watch it.
    "Slings & Arrows" - an absolutely brilliant Canadian television series (or think miniseries - 6 episodes). This is funny and sad and true - well written and acted. I don't even know how to summarize it: a brilliant actor has a nervous breakdown in the middle of Hamlet, and years later he returns to direct his then Ophelia, also his then lover, in a production planned by the then director, now dead, who betrayed him into madness... and is hanging around as a ghost. Meanwhile, the theater company itself is under attack by an American who wants to turn it into a theme park. Just take my word for it (Netflix it): it's great!
    "Torchwood" and the new "Doctor Who" of course.
    "Bender's Big Score" - Good News, Everyone! YAY! Futurama, the show that wouldn't die! Is this a "movie" or an extra-long episode? Who cares? It's Futurama - the whole gang back together! Fry, Leela, Amy, Zoidberg, the Professor, Zap Brannigan, Kif, Morbo, the Hypnotoad, Robo-Santa, the head of Richard Nixon and the headless body of Agnew ... the Chanukkah Zombie and Kwanzabot and the head of Al Gore (and the rest of him) and new aliens and ... come on! It's Futurama!
    "Hogfather" - yes, Terry Pratchett's novel comes to film - and live action, at that. It was made for Sky TV, and is lowish budget, but it's still pretty remarkable. The casting is excellent, and the script is good adaptation. I do kind of miss Death of Rats and Quoth the Raven (though they have small scenes), and some other scenes, and I wish they'd kept the sword blade invisible, but those are little quibbles... It's wonderful.
    "Brigada (The Gang)" - a miniseries from Russia about the rise and of some New Russians, from their youth in Soviet times to their involvement in politics and crime in Putin's brave new country. It's well acted and the production values are terrific. The only drawback is the subtitles: whoever did them didn't really know his English well. There are a lot of near-homonyms used, where he wrote the word that sounds like the word he meant when pronounced with a Russian accent (like "bit" for "beat", for instance). Also, he couldn't find the standard English spelling for some things, so you get, for instance, Sanya referring to the "Monteki and Capulotti" instead of the "Montagues and Capulets", or to "Alexander Makedonsky" instead of "Alexander the Great". And the use of the nicknames is a bit bewildering to non-Russophones: he's "White" because they call him "Belyy", which means white and is a pun from his surname, "Belov". If you speak Russian, this is an unqualified recommendation; if you don't, it's a bit of work but not much, and I think it's worth it.

    "House Season One-Three" (see above) and "Veronica Mars Season One-Two" (ditto): two tv shows which are worth watching over and over again. Nice extras, but buy these for the main courses - you won't regret it.

    "Firefly" was Joss Whedon's unconventional and brilliant (and very funny) sci-fi drama on Fox for about 8 or 9 weeks last year. It wasn't a very Fox-y sort of program, I guess; at any rate, they didn't even bother to show all the eps they'd made. Which makes the box set of dvds even better: it has all the eps, and in the right order, too. It also has some nice extras, such as commentary on some of the eps, good documentaries, and a very funny clip of Adam Baldwin (who played Jayne Cobb) singing the song from "Jaynestown"... The casting was good, the writing tight and clever, and the vision of the future--half American and half Chinese--inspired and unexpected. It was a visual treat, too. With any luck, the film they're making now will impress someone and they'll get this series back on tv. But for now, this box set is most definitely worth buying and watching, over and over. -- And SciFi's showing it - as a runup to the MOVIE!!! Finally!

    And "Serenity"... sigh. So nice to see it finally. Yes, it's better on the big screen, but don't let that stop you. And you don't have to have seen "Firefly" (but you'll appreciate it more once you do). It suffers from the same problem as "The Peacekeeper Wars" did: the need to put a season (possibly, for "Serenity", a season and a half) into one movie, but although you can miss all the extra mysteries (Book, for instance) and if you're an Inara fan you'll love the deleted scenes, since most of her screen time hit the cutting room floor, still the heart of "Firefly" is here, and the main mysteries are revealed, and - although, since this is Joss Whedon's work, no one is safe and there are tears - you'll go away more than satisfied.

    "Concert for George" - the cd's good, the dvd's better. You get the theatrical release, the complete concert, uncut, and a lot of interviews and rehearsal footage. The concert itself is wonderful, beginning with Ravi Shankar's (other) daughter, Anoushka, playing a sitar solo and accompanying Jeff Lynne on The Inner Light, and then conducting a mixed Indian/Western orchestra in a long piece Ravi wrote for George's memory. Then a 22-song set of some of George's best songs (also a Traveling Wilburys number, a Carl Perkins number, and a ukelele version of a lovely old standard), performed by some marvellous musicians (Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Billy Preston) - and with the dvd you get to see them. Ringo's wonderful, at the mike or on the drums. Plus, you get Jools Brown's number, cut from the cd for some reason. Also, you get the talking, by Eric, by Ravi, by the others, which means now you can hear Olivia's observation on seeing Dhani on stage with the others. And you get to see it, so now you'll know (if all you have is the cd) just why the audience clapped and cheered in the middle of I'll See You In My Dreams... plus you get a lot of backstage stuff, and a lot of interviews (the musicians, Dhani and Olivia, producers, Pythons (yes ... two Python numbers not on the cd ...) If you loved George, you'll love these dvds.

    "Roswell"'s third season's finally out on dvd. This uneven but excellent and addictive show never quite knew what it was or who its audience was. But the premise is entertaining, the acting good, and the writing usually good, too. It's much better than most of what's out there now.

    "Sailor Moon" - the uncut first and second seasons, complete with Japanese show title (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon). If you're a very young girl, this may be a bit intense for you. If you're not, this is Sailor Moon as it was meant to be seen. Some episodes weren't ever on the DiC TV version, some were cut (some were shredded), and no episodes were translated properly. The plot holes are gone (even the silly ones, like "Darien", his memory gone, insisting that he doesn't recognize the name "Darien" when all the Dark Kingdom people are calling him "Prince Darien" -- after all, he's Mamoru and Prince Endymion in Japanese). Zoisite is male, Rei dates Mamoru, the backstory is more complete and a lot darker, and people do die. It's like a whole different show. It's intense, funny, and I admit I cried during the last two episodes of the first season. (If you're worried about your children seeing it, I'd say if they're old enough to sit through a subtitled program and read the subtitles (there is no English dub), they're probably old enough to handle it. It's not graphic, even though it's not for the little bitty ones.)

    "Descendants of Darkness" -- four story arcs in a thirteen-episode tale of supernatural cops (tracking down those who kill, and those who won't die) in modern-day Japan. This one's too intense for youngsters, but teens can handle it. It's beautifully drawn and well-written, with lovely character development and (for a change) the English dub's not bad, if you don't mind that truly awful voice they've given Watari... The story follows Tsuzuki, a bit of a loose cannon, and his new partner Hiroki (who's got problems of his own, stemming from his untimely death at 16), as they find themselves targetted by a madman, the truly evil Dr Muraki, who's obsessed with Tsuzuki in more ways than one... We've got a vampire, we've got a cursed violin, we got a murder mystery on a cruise ship, we've got cloning experiments and transplants and falling cherry blossoms... And, oh, yes; we definitely have men in love. With men. If that bothers you, this one's not for you. But if it doesn't (and it's not like there's sex going on), then this one is most definitely a keeper.

    Not anime, this time. It's the "Complete Black Adder Collection" on DVD. Not just Black Adder I, II, III, and Goes Forth, but also Blackadder Back and Forth. Plus many special features (including "Historical Footnotes" that tell you what really was going on), especially Blackadder shorts, like the infamous "Blackadder's Christmas Carol" and "Blackadder: The Cavalier Years". Rowan Atkinson is priceless, of course, and his supporting cast likewise. Brian Blessed's Richard IV and Hugh Laurie's Prince Regent stand out, but everyone's perfect. This series is funny. You'll never hear the phrase "I have a cunning plan" without chortling again.

    Okay -- more anime. (Just remember: it's a medium, it's not a genre!) "Martian Successor Nadesico": this is absolutely hilarious. It's science fiction, but it's funny. And yet it explores some pretty serious themes: the nature of war, why we (should) fight, the meaning of leadership, and the pervasive influence of pop culture, in this case, anime itself. Yes, that's right: the characters on "Nadesico" are hooked on an anime series called "Gekigangar 3" and it and its fans (some of whom are, not to spoil the story, quite unexpected) are a major characters. There are mecha, of course, and girl pilots, and a young genius girl, and a hapless boy pilot who'd rather be a cook than a hero, and a mysterious doctor... all the standard ingredients but somehow, as if Howmei-san herself had mixed it up, the recipe comes out different and remarkable.

    Ooooo... this one's very good. "The Hakkenden: The Legend of the Dog Warriors". Seven soul brothers, the reincarnations of the children of a heroic dog and the princess of the clan he saved (don't worry, it's incredibly tasteful), find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other and a beleaguered clan in 15th c Japan. It's a complex plot, with a lot of characters, and well worth your time. It's gory, but all the violence is integral to the plot--just don't let your little children watch it. One word of warning: when you get to ep 10 and the animation sucks (there's not a kinder word for it) don't panic: the much more beautiful style returns in 11. I have no idea what happened there... just put up with it.

    And you can't miss "Cowboy Bebop"! It's anime, it's totally cool, and it's on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network (Saturday, 11:30pm). It's also out on DVD. Plot? Oh, yeah. A lot of plot. Heroes Spike and Jet, with new-comers Faye and Ed (who's a girl, by the way), are bounty hunters in a solar system which features a ruined Earth and 'gate' travel that allows people to get from Venus to Ganymede in days. (Venus, by the way, is gorgeous.) The police seem to rely on bounty hunters, not surprising considering the sheer size of the place, and they rein them in by only paying on live prisoners. The animation is detailed and often breath-taking, characters are developed over the course of the series, and back-stories are deep and complex. Watch the characters watching Faye's younger self on Beta tape in "Speak Like a Child"; watch Jet deal with Alisa's explanation for why she left him in "Ganymede Elegy"; and watch Spike take off like a crazy man at the mention of Julia's name in "Jupiter Jazz"—these are real people with a lot of pain in their pasts. Anime conventions are used and sometimes to startling effect: rain or snow often washes things clean again in the art-form: in the episode "Waltz for Venus", the fall of spores from the floating plants (floating in the sky, that is), echoes that theme visually, but as the spores are in fact the cause of the tragedy contained within the episode, it is an ironic echo. And then the ending... oh, wow. Tragic, inevitable, real... This is a very, very, very... very good series.


    Reading Currently mysteries, mainly; also biographies, science fact, and general/regional (like New Stories from the South, or Bailey White).

    I still love Angela Thirkell! She wrote splendid and hilarious comedies of manners set in a fictional rural English county. You must read this women. She is unbelievably good. Try Growing Up, a funny, poignant look at coping with WWII. Or The Headmistress, another WWII novel dealing with displacement, of a girls' school and of the people whose house it now occupies, and with watching one's children grow up and go off to war. Really. Read this woman.
    And of course, read Anthony Trollope, too - Angela Thirkell's character's grandparents!


    Listening Opera (this is my page on that), classical, classic rock, girl groups, Barry Manilow, folk (Peter, Paul & Mary; Ian and Sylvia; Stan Rodgers), folk rock (Steeleye Span), modern Celtic (I mean like Carreg Lafar and Capercaillie) and traditional (like The Corries), Mandy Patinkin, medieval (motets, Anonymous 4), contemporary country (Mary-Chapin Carpenter), and bluegrass (I'm talking Norman Blake and Ralph Stanley, here).


    Playing The games I like are mostly classic board games like Clue, Parcheesi, Monopoly ... I also play bridge (well, sort of), and dominoes. I GM/DM/WM/boss a fantasy role playing campaign, and would love to run as a player again (hint hint to anyone out there looking for people). I also like frp computer/nintendo games, games that require thought and may, in fact, contain no actual violence at all. I like Ultima, Zelda, Myst ... you probably get the idea.
    Flash! A friend just introduced me to "The Settlers of Catan" -- and am I glad! This game is loads of fun (even though I lost the first three times I played it). Strategy, luck, interaction, no violence ... I love it!


    Politics I am a Liberal. I have a lot more to say, but ... you'd better go to the Greenbelt's liberal campsite for more, if you want to hear it.


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