Sidereal ramblings

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Noises Off

I am once again acting in Fairmont's Civic Summer Theatre summer play. (Was part of that redundant?) The play is called Noises Off, and we had our first rehearsal, our read-through, tonight. I can tell a couple of things from the read-through. One is that this is going to be a long play; we did the read-through in just under two hours, and there's a lot of action in this play that wouldn't show up in a read-through, coupled with the fact that read-throughs usually go faster than the final show. Secondly, it's a really funny show. There was much uproarious laughter among the cast members as we read the play aloud, some for the first time, tonight. It's going to be a challenge: the middle act (of three) has a lot of very physical humor, and there are a lot of lines that get repeated, sometimes with only slight changes. But it should be fun, and if it comes off well, it'll be a really great show.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Black Glass

A few weeks ago, I started reading a collection of short stories -- or as they're referred to on the book cover, short fictions -- called Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler. I've read a lot of Ms. Fowler's work: another collection of stories, and her first two novels, Sarah Canary and The Sweetheart Season. I must say that I really quite enjoy her work and a couple of the stories in this collection were outstanding. I really liked "Go Back", "Contention" and "Letters From Home" for anyone who might be familiar with it. Some of her short fiction gets classified as science fiction or fantasy (although none of her novels are) and she often gets published in the genre magazines. A lot of it is more what I've seen referred to as "interstitial," that is, fiction that falls between the cracks of different genres. I seem to have a poor memory for details these days, and I can't rememer much of anything about Sarah Canary, which I read quite a few years ago, but I do remember being pretty impressed by it. I suppose that bodes well if I want to read it again sometime; it'll seem like a new book to me. The Sweetheart Season had something to do with women who played baseball during the WWII era, and I think part of it takes place in Minnesota. In any event, she's a writer I'd strongly recommend, both for her short fiction and for her novels.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mcdonald's rant

The one thing I expect from McDonald's is fast serice. I don't expect healthy food, I don't even expect food that tastes particularly good. But I do expect it to be fast. They are the pioneers of "fast food" after all. I stopped at Mac's on my way home tonight since I hadn't had much to eat all day. There was an SUV-type vehicle at the ordering station (you know, the place where the microphone is), and two cars behind it when I pulled up, making me third in line. From that spot until I actually got up to order took a full ten minutes. Yep, ten minutes. When I arrived there, someone came on the speaker right away and took my order (simply, a double cheeseburger and medium fries). It then took me another six minutes to make it from there to the first window, the one where they take your money. When I got there, no one was in sight, but in a few seconds, someone walked up to the window and took my $2.13. Another four minutes passed while the two cars ahead of me then got their orders and left. By the time I got to the pickup window, it had been ten minutes since I placed my order. And I sat there for two more minutes until someone brought my bag of food to the window and handed it to me. I was told to have a nice day, but no mention was made of the long wait. From the time I pulled into the parking lot until I got my food and left -- twenty-two minutes had passed. And by the way, the fries I was given seemed liked they'd been sitting out for about half an hour before I got them; they were cold and hard. Like I said, I don't expect a lot from McDonald's but their key element was certainly missing tonight.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Back on the saddle again

Since summer seems to have arrived with a vengeance, with temperatures over 80-85 the last couple of days, I have returned to the streets of Fairmont on my bicycle. Prior to yesterday, I'd only gone out a couple of times for very short rides earlier this spring. And I've been riding off-and-on on my trainer in my living room some this winter/spring. This weekend, I finally felt it was warm enough and the winds had died down enough for me to do some serious riding, for the first time since my arm-breaking accident last August. I returned to my regular route, which I had established last summer or the summer before. My basic route is about six miles, with a two-mile extension on both the north and south ends that I can add or avoid, depending on how I feel. Friday night and Saturday afternoon I went out and did about eight miles each day. I timed myself today, and eight miles took me about forty minutes, so I'm averaging about twelve miles per hour for my ride, which ain't too bad. It felt pretty good. I was a little nervous, especially coming down one hill where I pick up some pretty good speed for a short distance -- but that section has always been that way for me, and it was a long way from where I had my actual accident -- which was on a straight and flat strip. On the positive safety side, I've been wearing my new bike helmet, which I got from Bro last Christmas, for the first time(s).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The War Strikes Home

The war in Iraq has affected all of us, to greater and lesser degrees. Many of you know someone who's fought in Iraq, perhaps someone who has been injured or killed. Earlier this week, a couple more soliders from Minnesota were killed. I haven't seen anything in the Minneapolis newspaper about it, and only a brief blurb on the Twin Cities local television news. A slightly longer story ran on the local news channel out of Mankato. One of the soldiers killed, by an IED, was a young man named Robert Posivio, from Sherburn. Robert was a senior in high school my first year here. He was an average student, a quiet (at least in my class) and decent kid. I don't think I'd seen him since he graduated four years ago. He's not the first student I've had who's died. I know at least one of my former Wabasha-Kellogg students died after my time there. But I think Robert may have been the first one to be killed in war. It brings the reality of what's happening half a world away that much closer.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dr. Pepper

I like to try new things -- new food items and such -- from time to time. (No jokes that I get this trait from my dad.) Remember when Coke came out with that Vanilla Coke a few years back? Yep, I tried it. Didn't care for it a whole lot. It seems like a lot of soda companies are trying to come up with new flavors and marketing them under a variation of an existing brand name. Awhile ago, I decided I'd try the new Dr. Pepper Berries & Cream flavor. It wasn't terrible -- it's got a touch of raspberry, which I like, coupled with some vanilla. A bit sweet for my tastes, but an alright beverage. However, it's nothing like Dr. Pepper, so why market it under that name?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Lions of Martin County

I dreamt last night of lions. In one dream I was walking across a field from some small town back toward my home. This seemed a bit more like Winona County than Martin County since there were stands of trees and gently rolling hills, natural features which are severely lacking out here on the prairie. In the distance off to my left about 50 yards or so, I saw two lions, a male and a female, lounging. Unlike real life, my dream self wasn't panicked by this, but continued walking, hoping that I wouldn't be noticed. Later I had a second dream where I was in my room at school, but this being a dream, my room wasn't much like my room really is: there were large windows along the back walls and the desks in the room sat in traditional front-to-back rows. Through the back windows I saw a couple of female lions quite near the building, with several lion cubs. I pointed them out to my students, who rushed to the windows to see.

I'm not sure what any of this means, but it was cool.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Free Comic Book Day -- or Not

In 2002, to coincide with the opening of the new Spider-man movie, the comic book industry started a new tradition of "Free comic book day." Although you can't walk into a comic book store and just take a free comic book or your own choosing (that would be cool), many of the publishers came out with special issues to give away. Retailers had to pay a small nominal fee for the books, but gave them away to people who came into their stores (or as the case in 2002, many retailers showed up at movie theatres and gave copies to people going to see the Spidey movie). The idea was to get new customers to start reading comics, and maybe to give long-time fans, such as myself, some new books to take a look at. (I bought at least one title because of getting a free issue on Free Comic Book Day.) This tradition has carried over for the last five years, with more publishers jumping on the bandwagon and producing books for giveaways, often reprints of previously published material, but occasionally brand-new stories as well. Some comic shops limit the number of books one can take away on this day, and while I understand the reasoning behind that, I think letting people sample as many new and different titles as possible would be a good thing. Last year I went to the comic store in Mankato for Free Comic Book Day and the owner was encouraging everyone there to take as many books as they wanted. I grabbed about 15. This year, yesterday in fact, I was quite enthused for Free Comic Book Day and made the trip up to Mankato to see what the day would bring. Imagine my disappointment to find out that the store decided not to participate in Free Comic Book Day this year. No free comics for me. I had a couple other reasons for going to Mankato that day, which helped stave off complete disillusionment, but I was still bummed out. If I had known they weren't doing anything, I very well might've made the drive over to Rochester or Winona to see what I could find there.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weekend in the Twin Towns

I was in Minneapolis and St. Paul this weekend (yes, both cities on both days) for a number of events. On Saturday morning and early afternoon, I attended a conference that was billed as the "All-State Theater Forum." It was actually better than I had anticipated. The keynote speaker, David Mann, rather than "speaking" to us about theatre stuff, did a 45-minute excerpt from his 2-hour one-man show about his life teaching and directing theatre in a Catholic high school. I also got some good ideas on teaching and directing Shakespeare, among other things, in the sessions. Well worth the $25 the school paid to send me there. Saturday night, along with my friend K and his wife E, I attended the Guthrie performance of Hamlet. Sadly, we were all a bit disappointed by it. For the most part, it was good, but I didn't like the actor who played Hamlet (not him personally, but the way he played the part), and that's a good 40% of the play (just Hamlet's lines), and the blocking was way overdone. "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" Sunday was the annual spring Microcon comic book convention. I bought a few half-price trades (my items of choice for looking at when at cons), and found a Martian Manhunter figure I was looking for for only $5 (the same item had been going for well over $50 last time I looked on eBay). Plus, I got some good stuff in my grab bag -- which never happens. Really, never. I think this was the first time I ever got decent stuff in a grab bag.

Any of those three events would have been enough to get me up to the Cities, but all three just happened to fall on the same weekend.