13 November 2007

Weekend Rain Phenomenon

Q: What are two rainy days in Seattle called?

A: The weekend.

pink umbrella photo by photographer Jef Maion

It's a gorgeous, sunny day here in the Puget Sound. Of course it is. It's Monday. Well, virtual Monday, yesterday being a holiday and all.

At first I thought it was my imagination, this idea that it somehow always rains on weekends, sunshine being doled out only on the days when I'm trapped in my hermetically sealed office.

I told myself to stop being such a Debbie Downer, that there aren't really rain gods up there, high-fiving each other and mocking me, down in my soggy, grey existence, every weekend.

Surely I only thought it rained more on the weekends because that's when I notice the rain. Right?

"Suck it up and drive on, Cowbell," I admonished myself, "Quit being such a whining babypants, it's just your imagination."

Except it wasn't.

There actually is scientific evidence explaining the rainy weekend phenomenon:
The fine particulate matter produced by car exhaust and other human sources of pollution form cloud condensation nuclei, leads to the production of clouds and increases the likelihood of rain.

As commuters and commercial traffic cause pollution to build up over the course of the week, the likelihood of rain increases: it peaks by Saturday, after five days of weekday pollution has been built up.

In heavily populated areas that are near the coast, such as the United States' Eastern Seaboard, the effect can be dramatic: there is a 22% higher chance of rain on Saturdays than on Mondays.

How about that. Our hellish commuter situation is contributing to our hellish rain situation.

Further research turned up a story on KOMO-4 news where our own Steve Pool, of Double Doppler fame, analyzed several years of rainfall records specifically to investigate the weekend rain phenomenon. The findings? Yes, Virginia, it does rain more on Saturday and Sunday than any other day, with Sunday edging out Saturday. Friday -- of course -- is the driest day of the week, which I can see nicely through my 20" wide office window.

Imagination my soggy, chapped ass.

11 November 2007

Tales from the Crypt

So the last post got me to thinking about sick and twisted family traditions. Our little family did not develop this particular brand of humor by accident.

My family of origin was rife with twisted humor. My mom, seen here with me and baby sister back in days of yore, was prone to punnery and word play, while my dad leaned more toward dry, sarcastic wit and scatological humor. It was my dad and I who often teamed up for jokes and hijinks. My mom and sister were, by default, often the victims of our depravity.

My parents moved us out to the country my freshman year of high school. That's a photo of my dad from that time. The one perched on his shoulder is Clara Clucker, my sister's Plymouth Rock hen.

We lived on about 25 acres, outside city limits. And by "city", I mean fewer than 6,000 people, townies and country folks combined. Our house was set about a quarter mile off the unpaved road. Country folks don't have driveways; they have lanes. Probably 2/3 of our land was woods, which started at the bottom of the hill behind our house.

Neighbors were widely spaced. The nearest ones may have been within shouting distance, meaning they might have heard an all out, blood-curdling scream if the windows were open, if the wind favored you, and if their TV wasn't turned up too loud. There were no streetlights, so dark meant dark. Satan's asshole dark. A car crunching down the gravel road was a rare enough occurrence to bring us to the front windows.

Daddy brought home a VCR one day, probably my freshman or sophomore year. This was a big deal in the early 80s. The newest technology! He also brought home a ColecoVision video game system, on which I spent many a happy hour with Donkey Kong and Mario. Anyway, with the VCR came the concept of family movie night. My dad and I loved scary movies. Mom and Sis, not so much. In fact, not at all.

Like the night we watched the original Halloween. Remember that scene where the young couple is in bed together, and the boyfriend leaves to go get her some milk or beer or something? (my sister and I were shocked to see the nekked breasts of the girlfriend character revealed, right there in our living room! The VCR was the best invention ever.) Anyway, in the scene, the "boyfriend" comes back covered in a sheet, wearing his glasses on top of the sheet. The girlfriend thinks it's cute, but of course it turns out to be the murderer, and she meets her demise in grisly fashion. It was scary as hell.

After the movie, Mom went to brush her teeth. A terrified scream pierced our tender eardrums, and my mom came flying back down the hall from her bedroom. Daddy had pinned a sheet up on the wall, and, in a stroke of genius, pinned up a pair of those black glasses with the nose and mustache attached as well.

Then he unscrewed the light bulb in their room. Genius.

The moon was out, so there was just enough light for her to come face to face with a ghostly sheet, complete with glasses. When the light didn't work and the realization kicked in that my dad, the prime suspect, was still out in the living room, and therefore, not under the sheet ... well, that was all she wrote. Mom had a major freak out.

Mom was not amused, but my sister and I sure were. I'm pretty sure part of Sis's laughter was relief at not being the intended victim this time, but still. My dad was well pleased with himself.

At some point during those years, Salem's Lot, a Stephen King thriller involving vampires, was made into a mini-series to be shown on TV. Daddy and I couldn't wait. Mom and Sis reluctantly agreed to watch.

That's me and my sister, over there to the left, long before any depravity had started. Well, actually, maybe some depravity had taken root; this photo was taken not long after I'd decided to cut my sister's hair. My mom was not happy, as she'd already scheduled the photo session. I thought Sis looked great, and was quite pleased with myself, as you can see in the pic.

Don't we look sweet as sugar, with our little nautical theme going on there? By the time high school rolled around, a lot of the sugar had worn off. Along with the nautical themes.

Anyway, Salem's Lot was showing! A mini-series was a big deal before Tivo, Netflix and 500 cable channels. Hell, before DVDs. Everyone in town was going to watch it. The fact that there really wasn't that much to do in our town made it an even bigger deal.

Salem's Lot was seriously scary. It had these horribly heinous vampires who would show up even in my nightmares, so you can imagine my sister's. In fact, looking at the fangs and yellow eyes of this guy to the right, I'm gaining a clearer understanding of why that beastly devil-rat from the last post currently making the rounds in my house freaks me out so much. There's an uncanny resemblance.

The Salem's Lot vampire may be lodged more deeply in my subconscious than I realized.

I don't remember a whole lot about the plot in Salem's Lot, but I do remember there was this floating little boy vampire who terrified my sister. He would appear at the window of the sleeping movie-child, and scratch ... scratch ... scratch against the screen, enticing the child to invite him in. The little boy vampire scared the crap out of my sister. He pretty much scared the crap out of me as well, but my mind was already formulating a plan.

That night after everyone was asleep, I carefully removed the screen from my window and picked up a long stick I'd placed there before bedtime. The stick was long enough that I could lean out and scratch ... scratch ... scratch against the screen of my sister's window, her room being just down the hall from mine.

I guess she wasn't sleeping too well that night, because it didn't take long for the scream to come, a scream like the undead loosed from the confines of hell. Timing was critical. I waited until she ran out into the hall, an extra beat for good measure, then ran out of my room, asking, "What happened?! What's the matter?"

My sister stopped cold. If I, the chief suspect, was in the house, in the hallway ... then who was outside scratching on her window?!? Sis continued to protest when mom told her it must've been a bad dream.  No! She really did hear something outside, she did! She wasn't crazy!

The folks checked Sis's room, but thankfully did not check outside, where the incriminating stick still lay. Daddy didn't say a word. The raised eyebrows and barely visible smile said enough.

Years later, I told Sis and Mom the real story -- Daddy and I were practically howling. Mom and Sis ... not so much.

10 November 2007

Fright Night

A few Halloweens ago, the Male Offspring and I took a little trip to Value Village, that Holy Grail of Halloween, on a quest for a cheap costume forged from the castaway clothing of others. With an old choir robe, a witch's hat, some reflective tape and some scissors, Male Offspring was magically transformed into a wizard.

Aww. Isn't he cute? He looks so little-boy here; it's amazing what a difference a couple of growth spurts can make.

Mystical symbols of wizardry, or reflective armament against idiotic drivers? Both! It's all about multifunctionality when it comes to cheap Halloween costumes.

These were the pumpkins from that year: Teen Demon's frog, my cat, Male Offspring's tree spirit, and the Bohemian's witchy symbology.

This was Teen Demon's costume. Even cheaper. She's a thrifty kid. The Bohemian put on a Nordic looking hat, a big knitted poncho, a scarf, and some funky boots and went as some type of ... I don't know, someone who lives in a cold place.


So anyway, all of that is backstory for today's subject, which stems from that fateful trip to Value Village with the Male Offspring. We were commending ourselves for keeping down the cost of costumery, when Male Offspring stumbled across the perfect Halloween item.

It was a rat. A giant, rubber devil-rat, long yellow fangs bared in a silent shriek of rage, revealing the angry scarlet portal to his despicable rat gullet. A monster rat. The kind of rat that would come flying across the room at you in a Stephen King novel, the kind of lurid beast that would just as soon rip your throat out as skitter through city sewers with his normal-rat brethren.

This was the Beelzebub of the rodent world.

The son and I cooked up a plan. The rat would come home with us, concealed until Halloween night, when he would make his appearance. He would appear on the back of the toilet, which, in that house, was tucked back in a recessed corner of the bathroom. Nature eventually calls. The girls were guaranteed to find him at some point.

Except they didn't, because we forgot to bring the archfiend out from his lair under my bed, by the time the fated night rolled around.

We were so disappointed! I couldn't believe we forgot. No matter; we could wait. The hell-rodent would remain our little secret for the next year.

Mostly he gathered dust, but not too much - there was a dust-ruffle around his lair, after all. Every once in a while though, Male Offspring or I would stealthily take him out. I'd hide him in the son's bed, or he'd put him in my bathroom sink and turn my dimmer way down. It scared the bejeezuz out of us every time. And each time the victim would silently plot revenge, biding time until the rat's next appearance.

We never have remembered to put him out on Halloween for the girls. He's become our own private fright night. Sometimes half a year goes by with no sign of the rat, then one night, I'll pull back my covers, unsuspecting, to discover its hideous. foul visage glaring up at me from my bed. Every time it makes me jump and scream like a girl. And curse. Last night I let loose a string of vilification scaring even the dogs, upon finding this in my bed:

wait for it....


The son is so going to pay.

07 November 2007

Happy Birthday, Joni

Down on your knees, all of you! Wow, so many of you were already there...

It is the birth date of my personal goddess, one Joni Mitchell. This here is a call to worship, people. Actually, Joni wouldn't want a big deal made...

"I never wanted to be a star. I didn't like entering the room with all eyes on me. I still don't like the attention of a birthday party. I prefer Christmas, which is everybody's holiday."

It's weird, whenever I read her words, I hear them in her voice, sometimes with her laugh. So, in celebration of her artistry, genius and all around beauty, Joni's words:

Songs are like tattoos

You know the times you impress me the most
are the times when you don't try.

~Woman of Heart and Mind

All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you too
~All I Want

I can't go back there anymore
You know my keys won't fit the door,
You know my thoughts don't fit the man
They never can,
They never can
~I Had a King

Marcie's faucet needs a plumber
Marcie's sorrow needs a man

Some get the gravy, some get the gristle.

It seems such a shame
We start out so kind and end so heartlessly
~See You Sometime

There's no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get,
And still feel so alone
And still feel related

But now it's cloak and dagger
Walk on eggshells and analyze
Every particle of difference
Gets like mountains in our eyes
~Good Friends

He reached past the wine for my hand to hold
And he saw me young and he saw me old
And he saw me, sitting there.

~The Priest

He's the warmest chord I ever heard~My Old Man

And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees


I know you don't like weak women
You get bored so quick,
And you don't like strong women
'Cause they're hip to your tricks

~You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio

Now she rallies her defenses,
For she fears that one will ask her

For eternity
And she's so busy being free.
~Cactus Tree

One minute she's so happy
Then she's crying on someone's knee,
Saying laughing and crying
You know it's the same release
~People's Parties

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

With kids nearly grown and gone
Grown so fast,
Like the turn of a page
We look like our mothers did now,
When we were those kids' age
Nothing lasts for long
~Chinese Café

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We're captive on the carousel of time,
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
~The Circle Game

Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet.
Oh I could drink a case of you darling,
And I would still be on my feet...
I would still be on my feet
~Case of You

Happy Birthday, Joni.

03 November 2007


Last night Male Offspring and I had the opportunity to go to a screening of the film, Banished - American Ethnic Cleansings. The film maker, Marco Williams, stayed to answer questions after the screening.

The film has been making the rounds of film festivals this year, and will be shown on PBS in January or February, 2008. It covers three (of many) communities in which the Black populations were forcibly expelled in the early 1900s, losing their homes and land. They were forced out with guns, bombs, fire, lynchings. Many of these communities remain White even today.

One family, including their 95-year-old matriarch, finds that the 38 acres of land once owned by their grandparents in Forsyth County, GA, is now a wealthy subdivision. Researching the deed history shows that there was never a deed of sale before the family was run out of town - other people took it afterward, by default, by illegal means. The people living on the land now, in $300,000 homes, believe they have purchased the land fair and square.

(When the Ex and I lived near Atlanta, we were told never to go to Forsyth County or Macon - that Black people "weren't allowed". That was in 1990.)

Another family attempts to recover a grandfather's remains from an unmarked grave in the all-White town of Pierce City, MO. The family had onced owned property in town, but was among those forced out by a mob of Whites who, with weapons from the local armory, fired on the homes of their Black neighbors.

The film maker also visits the all-white town of Harrison, Arkansas, where the confederate flag still flies. He interviews a pastor trying to take steps toward healing, as well as the head of the local KKK who considers himself a community leader.

Marco Williams was soft-spoken, thoughtful, and easy on the eyes. Hey, truth is truth, y'all. He said that before the actual filming started, he scouted out the towns on his own. I think he was brave as hell to do that as an African-American man, more so after seeing the footage. He admitted to being "terrified".

It was interesting how he used tangible means to tackle this subject - land. Property equals wealth. It is concrete, it appreciates in value, it can be passed on to our children. Over the course of time, it is how wealth is built. The land these families had worked for, when it was not easy for those of African descent to acquire land, was lost. Stolen.

The film raises the question, how different might the lives of the descendents be, had their families not lost their land - their wealth? They had to start over from scratch, often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

Mr. Williams has included some trailers for the film on his site, if you're interested. These aren't actually in the final version of the film, but it gives an idea.

The film doesn't offer concrete answers, but it does bring out some difficult questions about a part of our history that we are not taught.