Sidereal ramblings

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Workshop Day 2

Had a much better, more productive day, despite some computer problems, though I was able to solve some of them. Got to work on our own in our rooms today, which is the kind of time that is really needed in the days before school. I feel now like I'll be ready when the kids return on Thursday, which is not a feeling I had yesterday. I'm still slower than normal due to being limited mostly to the use of one arm. Unpacking and organizing was a bit harder than normal, and because of that, my desk is littered with stuff, and I'm usually much more organized than that. However, I using this as an excuse not to be able to decorate or even put stuff up on the bulletin board in my room, a task which I never relish.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Workshop Day 1

So today was back to work for me after my three-month summer vacation. Not much was accomplished, sadly. We spent the entire morning attending some "technology workshops" given by various members of our staff. What I learned from that I could have gotten in one handout and a five-minute explanation, but we spent over three hours on it. Many of you who teach will understand my frustration with these kind of days, which don't seem very productive. After lunch, I drove down to the high school (the workshops were at the junior high in Trimont), and after a staff meeting, had about an hour and a half to work in my room. This is the time that's most needed, and thankfully, tomorrow the whole day will be devoted to it. I didn't get much done this afternoon. The whole staff got new computers, and I don't think anyone's got theirs to work completely correctly yet. I can log on to mine, but can't get to our "network" and any of my saved documents or even to the internet. I left in frustration today after a day of very little accomplished. Students will arrive on Thursday.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm

As one might expect from a Terry Gilliam film, The Brothers Grimm, is a pretty visually impressive piece of work. For the most part anyway; there are some special effects that don't look very good at all, kind of surprising frankly. However, the plot itself for the movie is rather lacking, and there's very little characterization and even less motivation for the characters throughout. I can recommend it -- it's a diverting couple of hours, and the use of various fairy tales and folk tales is entertaining - but only with those caveats.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Can you say irony?

Earlier tonight, I saw a TV commercial for a "sleep aid," a sleeping pill. Like with most pharmaceutical commercials, they listed a number of potential side-effects for this medication. For this particular medication, one of the possible side-effects was "drowsiness." Much?

Children's Theatre

My buddy Stix has written recently in his blog about the value of community theatre. I've been involved locally with our community theatre for a couple of years, as an actor. Tonight, I attended a performance of our local children's theatre summer program (which is not connected with the civic sumer theatre I've done work with). They did a performance of a musical version of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer (with "Injun Joe" of course referred to as "Joe"). It was interesting. Out of a cast of 30, there were about 5 kinda stand-out performances. The rest weren't bad, per se, they were just, you know, kids. A lot of the kids really seemed to be having a good time on stage which is probably the main reason for doing a thing like this. In a production such as this, the process is more important than the end product, in my opinion. Still, there were a number of lights which shone pretty brightly on that stage. Some of these kids will continue with theatre through high school, and maybe college. Beyond that, who knows?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Read my book

I got a phone call today from a former student, someone who graduated two years ago. He was a good student, and I liked him, though I never felt we'd made any special type of bond. I was at the high school during his junior and senior years. He asked me if I'd read something he'd written. I said sure. I get requests like this periodically, from current and former students, wanting me to look over their work to make sure things make sense, grammatically and otherwise -- papers for other classes, applications for college, essays for scholarships, stuff like that.

This student said he'd written a book. He wasn't concerned with me checking the grammar, he just wanted me to read it and see what I thought. He dropped it by this afternoon, 180 single-spaced pages in a loose leaf binder. I'm anxious to look and it and wish I'd had it a few weeks ago, when I feel I could've given it more attention.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Arm - Update

So I saw the orthopedic guy this morning. Took a couple more x-rays, this time of my wrist, which was the center of much more pain. (Considering the amount of radiation that's been shot through my body the last couple of days, I fully expect to be developing super-powers any moment now.) The wrist looked all right, but the fracture on the elbow (the radius?) was causing the pain. Unexpectedly (to me) the doc didn't put a cast on my arm -- he thought it would heal much faster and better without it. (And looking at my left elbow, which I broke when I was seven, he could see that I didn't quite have the range of motion that I should have. Convinced me.) So I've still got the sling but that's it. I still can't really use that arm for much (no lifting, no pushing, etc.) but with my hand free, I can hold small stuff, at least. I have to go back in a week, but for now I'm getting by a little better (I was able to take a shower tonight). I'm not sure about trying to drive, and I do need to go back to work on Monday. I've got a little more range of motion in my elbow (certainly nothing close to normal yet), but I cannot rotate my wrist at all without experiencing intense pain. So I'm not doing that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

One-handed, Left-handed

So I've been forced to do everything one-handed today, and left-handed, at that. If you've never had the experience, try it sometime. Eating, using the bathroom, washing your hands -- er, hand, getting dressed -- it's all become just a little bit harder and more time-consuming. Makes me feel more sympathy for those who are left-handed, though.

Tomorrow morning I see the orthopedist.

Monday, August 22, 2005

My medical misadventures

I had my dentist appointment today, cavity filled and a cleaning. Besides being time-consuming (I was there over an hour) and expensive, it was alright, I suppose. Later, while out biking, I took a turn a bit too close, ran into what is essentially a guard rail or railing, and was thrown headfirst off my bike onto the sidewalk. (Maybe I was still under the influence of the novacaine, I don't know.) My injuries seemed to be confined to a scraped left knee, some cuts along my left arm, a bruise/abrasion on my right shoulder, and a sore chin where it connected with the sidewalk. I managed to ride my bike home and sat for a half hour or so in front of the TV. I even made a sandwich. However, at this time, my right shoulder and (especially) elbow started hurting more. This bothered me as there were no real visible injuries on that arm. I found I couldn't straighten my arm at the elbow, nor could I bend it more than ninety degrees. Uh-oh, thought I. I drove myself over to the emergency room, where 45 minutes and a half dozen x-rays later, I was told that it looked like I'd fractured my arm. I've currently got a temporary cast/splint on that arm, which is resting in a sling. In the next couple of days I need to see my regular doctor and/or an orthopedist to find out more. Stay tuned.

(And, in case you're wondering, this post was typed entirely left-handed with the old hunt-and-peck method -- except that I know where all the keys are. Still it's been twenty minutes since I started it.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Guilt over ordering pizza on a Sunday night

I got home tonight (I'd been to the movie theatre over in Sherburn) at about 9:45. I was pretty hungry, as I hadn't eaten much all day, so I grabbed the menu off my fridge and called the local Green Mill. The menu said they delivered until 10:00, so I figured I was safe. When they answered the phone, the first thing I asked was "Are you still delivering?" There was a short, but very noticeable, pause before the response came back, "What would you like?" So I ordered my pizza which was delivered a half hour later. Why, I wonder, do I feel a little bit of guilt over ordering a delivery that close to the cut-off time? They were still open to delivery, so I should be in the clear, right? And yet I do feel a bit sheepish about it. Though I must say, the delivery guy seemed cheerful enough -- maybe he was getting some overtime.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Iris Breaks My Heart

Why do we listen to music? For me, it's very seldom just background music. I have music on a lot during the day, but I almost always am listening to it in some sense, even if it's on in the morning while I'm reading the newspaper. And when I get new music, I'll always take some time to sit down (often with the lyric sheet if there is one) and do nothing but just listen to it. I own close to 1500 CDs and LPs. Many albums, many songs, have special meanings for me. Perhaps it reminds me of a certain point in my life (I've been seriously "collecting" music for almost 30 years). More often than not, something about a particular song will touch me in some way, have some meaning or resonance in my life, and often the lyrics will speak to me in a very personal and particular way.

Earlier tonight I was listening to Iris Dement's album, My Life. This is probably one of the saddest albums I've ever heard. (If you are unfamiliar with Iris Dement, she is kind of a traditional country and folk singer-songwriter with an incredible Arkansas twang to her voice.) There is a song about midway through the album called "No Time To Cry." The song is about being too busy with life to find time to mourn the death of her father. ("My father died a year ago today" is the first line.) But there is also a real sense of fear underlying the song that if we were to let go and let those emotions out, they would overwhelm us. The final song, "My Life" talks of her life being halfway over and not accomplishing anything. It's sad, plaintive, but not morose.

It's an incredible album, but not one to listen to if you're already feeling down. (When my ex-wife first left me, that was probably the saddest time of my life. The Replacement's album
Tim was getting a lot of play at my house at the time, but I always took it off before the final song, "Here Comes a Regular" just because it was so damn sad I couldn't stand to hear it.)

The one time I was privleged to see Iris perform live, my friend Jeannette who went with me to the show, turned to me at one point and said, "When she's sad, she's really, really sad, isn't she?" That comment's always stuck with me. And so has Iris Dement's music. It's great stuff.

Fair Food

I spent a couple more hours at the County Fair today. ("Why?" I can almost hear the chorus shout. I had signed up for a second shift manning the local DFL booth.) Today I partook in some of the culinary delights offered at the local fair. I had a hot dog (with fried onions and yellow mustard), a milk shake (Creme de Menthe, mmm), and some cheese curds. Now, these were not your normal little cheese curds. No, for some reason, these were gargantuan cheese curds. They came six in a little paper boat tray, and each one was about the size of a golfball or slightly larger.

Excuse me. I don't feel so good.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

County Fair

I spent nearly five hours at the Martin County Fair today. To really get the full effect of the fair, one need spend only about an hour or so, I'd say. I did get to participate in what I feel is the oddest, perhaps the coolest, thing about the fair: the free pork feed. If you're willing to stand in line (in the sun, today) for half an hour or so, you can get a free pork sandwich, a cookie, and a carton of milk. Free. It's pretty much worth it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I've mentioned Graham Joyce's novel Requiem a couple of times last week. I finished reading it on Sunday, and have had a couple of days to let it percolate inside my mind. Despite being a bit disappointed by the non-resolution of the ending, I liked it quite a bit.

Requiem tells the story of Tom Webster, a former teacher, who quits his job after the death of his wife and journeys to Jerusalem. The entire book (sans flashbacks) takes place in Jerusalem. There's a lot of interesting stuff about religion in the book, since Jerusalem is the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A lot of conflict arises out of religion, and the ways it has been used and molded to control people. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to a more religious person, although I have found that many highly religious types tend to be pretty narrow-minded and this book needs to be approached with an open mind. There are also some pretty graphic sex scenes.

There are some elements in this book which have stirred in me a desire to explore some things a bit further (the religious aspects, not the sexual ones).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Highway 61 Revisited

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of driving from Minneapolis/St. Paul down to Winona along highway 61. This is a road along which I made many, many trips in previous years, but probably haven't been on for a couple of years now. It was sort of like revisiting an old friend, only with several new restaurants and shops along the sides. The more things change... And the "camp Hok-Si-La" sign in Lake City always reminds me of Knapik. The sun was setting about the time we got to Wabasha, and I remembered the many times I drove that Wabasha-to-Winona route after dark. Always keep one eye peeled to the side of the road for deer; oddly enough, I didn't see any last night. Dozens upon dozens of bugs committed suicide on my windshield, though.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


August seems to be the time for "vacations." After spending all of June and July in rehearsals or performances almost every night, I've spent a little time away from home this month. I'm leaving now again. I'm meeting my family in Albert Lea in about an hour. From there, I'll be taking Bro up to the Twin Cities. We're staying overnight, and he has his annual post-transplant check-up on Monday, which I'm sure is pretty close to an all-day thing. We'll be driving back to Winona on Monday night, and I'll stay overnight there before coming back home on Tuesday. Not really much of a "vacation," I suppose, but I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Kootchfest '05

Well, today would have been the day for Kootchfest, my annual party/together here at my house. Unfortunately, this year's 'fest ended up with no one here. Most of the people I invited couldn't make it, as we all know how busy life can be for most of us. Out of the couple of people who could come, it was decided not to attend because there weren't more people who could make it. Apparently just coming out to see me wasn't enough for these folks. No, they needed a bigger party or they couldn't be bothered. So I ended up spending the day mostly by myself. That was okay. I got a lot of reading done (again, Requiem by Graham Joyce -- I can hardly put it down), went biking, went out for Chinese food, and took in a showing of Batman Begins (my second). All in all, it turned out to be a very good day.

(Bill, don't take any of this too personally. It's all in good fun.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

An odd simile

I'm reading a book titled Requiem by Graham Joyce. I'm really enjoying it, but more on that later. This afternoon I came across the following sentence: "[T]he matter was always there between them, like unwanted concert tickets pinned to a wall." While I thought that was really cool, it really stood out. Nothing else in the book (thus far, anyway) has been about music or concerts. A cool image.

(And it's been a long time since school. I almost titled this post "an odd metaphor.")

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Movie Reviews

I decided to go to the movies this afternoon.

First I saw Sky High. I liked it. The high school losers vs. "cool" kids and delayed romance with the next door neighbor storylines were things that I'd seen before in, oh, say, about 70 million movies. But the superpower stuff was cool. Neat examples of different superpowers, and some good-looking superhero battles. It was all a bit cheesy, but fun. It wasn't so much a parody of comic books, but a comic book movie not based directly on a comic book. A lot of it was the kind of stuff that I'd expect to find in a comic, and probably for that reason, I liked it.

Afterwards I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I wasn't sure if I wanted to see this, but I am very glad I did. Now, I've never read the original Roald Dahl book, and hard as this may be to believe, I never saw the Gene Wilder version, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I thought I should see that before seeing the new movie, but then realized that without seeing it, I'd have a very different experience at the new movie than most people. I was smiling and/or laughing throughout most of the movie. It definitely had the odd quirkiness of a Tim Burton film, which is something I enjoy. And Johnny Depp's performance as Willy Wonka is freakin' hilarious. Amazing. It's hard to imagine how the original movie version is better than this. I've heard that this movie stays closer to the original Dahl book; then again, I've heard the exact opposite, and having never read it, I can't say which. I really liked it, though.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I may have mentioned that I didn't sleep much during my Chicago weekend. In fact, the four nights of Wed-Sun, I slept for 14 hours total. Often I don't sleep well normally. If I wake up in the middle of the night (whenever "middle" might be depending on what time I've gone to bed), I can sometimes be awake for an hour or two (or more). Since I lived alone (and have for a long, long time), I'm not used to there being other people around when I sleep, so that makes me, well, not really "uncomfortable," but it prevents my sleeping soundly. Add to that the fact that we'll stay up really late and then get up early to go to the con the next day.

What's amazing, and what I intended to write about when I started this entry, is the amount of sleep I've gotten since I returned from Chicago. Sunday night I slept 12 hours, and Monday night I slept 10. (I do tend to sleep a whole lot whenever I'm at my folks' house, though, for whatever reason.) I was up late last night (after 3:00), and woke up at six for more than an hour (I actually got up and ate some breakfast and then went back to bed), and I just now took a nap for about two hours.

What's really amazing to me is not that I can do that, but that I'm able to. Let me explain the difference this way: how many people out there can lie down for a nap and not be disturbed for two hours? It's that living alone thing, again, plus the fact that my phone seldom rings. One time this summer, I had to get up early for a Saturday morning rehearsal --bearing in mind that my "normal bedtime" has become around 3:00 a.m.-- and took a four-hour nap in the afternoon!

My friend Mo and I used to have these friendly "competitions" in the summer to see who could sleep the latest. He was pretty good at it then. One day this summer I woke up at 2:15. (That's in the afternoon, of course.) I'm guessing I won that one, Mo.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Well, I'm back from my visit to Chicago and the Wizard World comic book and pop culture convention. In some ways, it was the best time I've had there in my seven years of going; in other ways, it was the worst. There were some of the best deals I've seen: lots of dealers had half-price trade paperbacks, which is the main thing I look for at cons. I picked up a dozen or so. Most of the panels were a bit lame, but I did manage to talk to Brian Michael Bendis (currently probably the biggest name in comics) a couple of times, and in a way that should give me an "in" with him if/when I ever see him again. We had a great room in the hotel, a two-level suite that we were "upgraded" to for next to nothing, but unfortunately were almost kicked out of the hotel due to the loud, drunken partying of some of my companions. (I was in bed, trying to sleep at the time.) I got very little sleep over the entire weekend, but that's par for the course. I managed to drop off a submission at a couple of publishers, too -- keep your metaphorical fingers crossed for that one. I got a couple of cool sketches for my Martian Manhunter collection -- one a very cool colored sketch from Tom Mandrake, the former artist on MM's own now-cancelled comic. I spent a fair amount of money, but no more than I expected or planned to, and came home with about as much extra as I did last year. I had a great time talking and laughing with the guys for most of the weekend, too. It's my one real vacation for the year, and I look forward to it every summer, but I'm glad to be back home.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Just a note to let the regular readers of my blog (yes, that's right -- both of you!) know that I'll be absent from cyberspace for awhile. I'm leaving now for my annual trip to Chicago and the Wizard World comics convention. I'm bracketing that trip with a day or two on either side in Winona, so it'll be about a week before I'm back.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

In print

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, with that rising star Jimi Hendrix on the cover (mine came in today's mail), a letter of mine is printed in the letters column. It's slightly edited, and I think my original is better, funnier, but what the hey, I got in print.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Dating in the 21st Century

So I had dinner tonight with a woman I know. Was it a date? What does that term even mean anymore? We met at the restaurant for dinner. We had a good time talking through dinner, and even stayed there long after we'd both finished eating. We were there maybe two hours. I didn't get especially dressed up, but I did change clothes before I went. I picked up the check -- which was kind of an odd moment, because neither of us said anything about it, but she just kind of stood back when I took it up to the register and paid. I guess technically I had asked her if she wanted to go out for dinner tonight, so in some customs, it would be my duty to pay for it. (I'm not at all upset, annoyed, or otherwise put out by having paid; I don't want to give that impression. It was just an odd moment is all.)

So was it a date? I don't know.


I just returned from the dentist, my first trip in four years. I hate going to the dentist, even if it's just for a check-up, like today, I'll sit there white-knuckled the whole time. I generally don't mind going to the doctor, giving blood, anything like that, but the dentist -- yuck. Hey, can you poke around in my mouth with some sharp metal instruments and see if my gums will bleed? Yeah, that'll be fun. He did find one cavity (and I don't believe I've had a cavity in fifteen years or so -- and I used to go to the dentist way more often when I had insurance that covered it), but overall said that my teeth were in good shape, better than expected for not getting them checked out in four years.