July 26, 2012

Russodad 2012: Glorious Balderdash Answers

6)    A tool used for making rope
May 7, 1980
8)  Breznev becomes leader of the USSR
4)    Latin American Paper Money Society

I now have a bone to pick with Balderdash HQ. In typical Balderdash fashion, there are some errors in the answers. Regardless, Balderdash rules say that their answers are to be considered accurate, even if they are not.

With this in mind, Leonid Breznev became leader of the USSR on May 7, 1960. In other news, the Latin American Paper Money Society has never been known by the initials LAPMS. For a lively history of LANSA, check out their webpage.

July 24, 2012

Russodad 2012: Glorious Vacation Novel Edition, answers

...plus Balderdashia pt. 1

 Here are the actual first lines of yesterday's novels. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have discovered that sometimes my siblings chose the second or third line of the book.

Anything For You:
5)    Regan sat in the plush waiting room of the city’s larest and most prestigious law firm, trying to conceal her nervous jitters.
Capital Crimes (My Sister’s Keeper, Berkeley)
5)    The Women’s Association of Northern California, Conquistadores Chapter Number 16, was housed in a sumptuous turn-of-the-century, Beaux-Arts-touched-by-Gothis castle topped by crenellations and turrets and constructed of massive blocks of mauve-grey Deer Isle granite from a long-dead quarry in Maine.
Ahab’s Wife, or The Stargazer
2)    Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.
6)    Peter Jameson hadn’t heard a sound since 7pm.

And now for last night's game of Balderdash! In happy family news we were joined in Balderdashia this year by our ten-year-old grand-niece and sometimes her little sister who, oddly, has remained mostly mute this vacation.

1)    A corn-based food supplement for cattle
2)    Perfectly-spaced, as in a properly mortared row of bricks
3)    To use dirty tweezers
4)    The regional language of the farthest western borough in Belfast, Northern Ireland
5)    The residual in the still after making moonshine
6)    A tool used for making rope
7)    A monogram in which initials are embedded in each other
8)    The space between a South African antelope’s cloven hoof

May 7, 1980
1)    Bright pink and orange were voted the most popular colors in America
2)    MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was formed by Mrs. Phyllis Gray
3)    Ethanol is introduced as a fuel in the US
4)    China’s population tops one billion
5)    On this date the National Geographic Spelling Bee was first held
6)    The much-anticipated wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
7)    Home Box Office (HBO) becomes the first cable channel to air recent movie  releases without commercial interruptions
8)  Breznev becomes the leader of the USSR

1)    Lace and Piecework Maker’s Society
2)    Louisiana Photo-Mapping Society
3)    Lower Ashtabula Pothole Mending Society
4)    Latin American Paper Money Society
5)    Los Angeles Plant Mowing Society
6)    Louisiana Apple Pie Making Society
7)    Light Afflicted Post Meridian Society
8)    Lit Amber Paper Monkey Smores
9)    Louisiana Association of Philanthropic Mothers and Sons

July 23, 2012

Russodad 2012: Glorious Vacation Novel Edition, pt. 1

First a word about vacation: zzzzzzz. It's completely cozy and restful, with the rare exception of my stress dream last night, in which I was given only 20 minute's notice before having to interview Kofi Annan on camera about some cross promotion between the forklift company and the U.N. and a children's book we were working on together. I was extra happy to wake up today and find that that assignment wasn't really happening.

In other news, last night we played the vacation novel game. Here are our offerings:

You can find the article that inspired the vacation novel game here.

Anything For You:

1)    Nick took one lingering look at his address book, rose from the table and sighed.
2)    Reagan stood in the hall of her new office, in awe of her own achievements, when a man walked past her and asked her for a coffee.
3)    When she saw her own name on the door it did not register, and with trepidation she knocked.
4)    In a different time, Nick would have chased a feminist broad like Regan (Regan! What the hell kind of name is that?) around the desk.
5)    Regan sat in the plush waiting room of the city’s larest and most prestigious law firm, trying to conceal her nervous jitters.
6)    Regan’s dreams were no mere flights of fancy.

Capital Crimes (My Sister’s Keeper, Berkeley)

1)    Homicide detective Isis was jolted out of her morning reverie by the ringing telephone.
2)    Sirens rang out in the usually quiet neighborhood…Davita Grayson was dead.
3)    Davida Grayson’s life didn’t just slip away, it was teased away by a sharp tool the the jugular, as a hand covered her mouth from behind.
4)    “This one has a liberal-elite-meets-tea-party-conservative-in-a-dark-allley written all over it, Amanda”.
5)    The Women’s Association of Northern California, Conquistadores Chapter Number 16, was housed in a sumptuous turn-of-the-century, Beaux-Arts-touched-by-Gothis castle topped by crenellations and turrets and constructed of massive blocks of mauve-grey Deer Isle granite from a long-dead quarry in Maine.
6)    “God, that is so depressing,” thought Isis, as the cellphone in the vic’s purse began to ring to the tun of “Celebrate Good Times”

Ahab’s Wife, or The Stargazer

1)    The toll of the bell in the plaza signifies the start of a new day, which held no promise to be any different than any of the previous days in the town of Newcastle.
2)    Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.
3)    The seagulls were mobbing around something only they could see, an avian version of the men pushing and shoving nearby.
4)    She was a miserable woman who spent her days knitting sweaters that would go to no one.
5)    I don’t know what’s worse – the deprivation and loneliness or his homebound hunger for the sea.
6)    Millicent unfolded the weathered parchment again, its script now unreadable, stained by her tears and the salt of the sea
7)    She always expected that when her husband died the sea would not relinquish his body.


1)    Peter, with work and his true love, Melissa, was very confused in life.
2)    Jameson walked out into a D.C. that was swampy and miserable – “and the weather sucks too,” he wisecracked to no one in particular”
3)    Peter’s feet ached in his slush-covered shoes, as he huddled in the warm vapors of the sewer grate.
4)    A dull roar from the streets of Washington cascaded up in to the open windows of Peter Jameson’s office and for a split-second he was able to get Melissa Corley out of his mine – then the phone rang.
5)    Peter knew something just didn’t add up.
6)    Peter Jameson hadn’t heard a sound since 7pm.
7)    It was a typical day for DC: humid, bright, with the scent of political scandal heavy in the morning haze.

Which are the true first lines of these novels? The answers in tomorrow's post.

July 15, 2012

Italy 2012: Last Moments

Ready to sip the last moments of Mantova, we ventured out for a cup of coffee. We ended up at a cafe that provided our only lousy meal.

This was a cute, grainy and awful cake posed decoratively on the day's paper that talks about the destruction caused by the fortnight's worth of earthquakes in the region.

And I like to call this photo "Pitting Edema". Although you can see that the discoloration is receding, my foot chose this day, the day we were getting on a plane, to swell up to alarming proportions. That yellow spot is a dent left by my finger when I pressed into the foot. Eeew.

I went back to the hotel room for a "flopnhoff" before our flight. I coined this term during our visit here.  A flopnhoff is that thing where you have extra time before you have to leave for the airport and you just turn on the tv in your room and look for an awful television show to distract you, such as something featuring David Hasselhoff. This flopnhoff was also foot propping time.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. My foot continued to swell but did not cause any life-threatening conditions. Mantova was pretty great. I was able to orient myself into the forklifts again, and it was good prep for my work 10 days later at the install in Bonn.


Italy 2012: Day 6

Too much talking. Not enough eating.

Just kidding.

We had high hopes for the day, but Jimmy had to work. Time Machine and I wanted to find the record store, but it was too darned hot. For a little bit we sat in the square behind our hotel and people-watched for a while. Darn if we didn't see our modified Louise Brooks from the other night, in a cardigan, dressed like a schoolgirl, with her mom and her grandma. Funny.

Dinner with friends of Jimmy's who came up from Milan and humored us when we wanted to eat at Tiratappi for the third time.


Yummy salami!

and a recitation by our friends of the writings that the Mantovani youth left in my book. PLUS a rigorous researching of what kinds of 60's Italian music I should seek out, since Time Machine and I didn't record shop. Texts were flying from all over Italy as people weighed in on what artists we should listen for. I still haven't had time to check it all out.

They went back to Milan, and we reconvened with a friend at a place next to Bella Napoli. 

Afterward, I did not walk home alone.

Italy 2012: Day 5. Hooligan Chat

We spent most of day 5 watching the forklift handlers pack our crates onto the truck. Time Machine and I didn't have to, but since She Jimmy did, we went with for solidarity. We completed our work in Mantova well ahead of schedule.

In other news, my foot spent the day growing larger and looking like a piece of meat:

Later in the day we went back to Tiratappi. Here's an image of my first baccala:

and the dessert. That's ricotta with pistachios and candied orange, with bittersweet chocolate dribbled all over it. Oh man.

Then we went to the outdoor bar at the piazza next door. First I bought this completely excellent light up Donald Duck from an alleged deaf person for 3 Euros. 

Then our desire to know more about a song that was playing over the sound system that sounded like an Italian version of "Iron Man" led us to a long conversation with local hooligans. They were a mixed group of boys and girls. Super tipsy, tired of Mantova, very funny. One young man had the winning combination of the best English skills and the most annoying personality. Again our Time Machine was the source of unwanted female attention. This was ironic as his girlfriend had broken up with him via letter, as he was getting on the plane to Italy.

On this particular evening, one of the young Mantovani started trying to play footsie with him, as her boyfriend stood nearby. She Jimmy intervened by switching seats with TM. I was apparently too old to notice, or working too hard to diffuse situations that were likely to erupt with the super amped annoying kid on my side of the table. 

At one point the Mantovani took possession of my notebook and left us a poem constructed of snippets of song titles, and the annoying kid taught us a dirty toast, which is also now in the book. This blurry photo sort of sums it up. Annoying kid is on the left. The woman at the back of the photo who looks like a zaftig Louise Brooks seemed really intense. She was the one person I wanted to speak with who I didn't get the chance to. Bet she has a story.

So ends Day 5.

Italy 2012: Day 4

In reviewing my photos, it seems as if day 3 was more eventful than I'd recalled. After dinner which, by the way was at this restaurant:

We went to the palazzo next door and had a few negroni sbagliato, and went upstairs to our rooms for a moment prior to going dancing. On the first set of stairs I caught my toe on a stair, went flying, and sprained my foot.  I took that as a sign, limped into bed. With the dancing crew, hijinks ensued with a local floozy who wanted to dance with Time Machine, insulted She Jimmy and caused a scene. I missed it all!

Day 4 was the last true day of work. I'd been standing all day for the three days prior, but someone found me a chair and I rested my foot.

That evening we managed to finish in time to go to Papa's, a nearby restaurant, with the forklift handlers to watch Italy v. Croatia in the European Cup. 

Then off to Bella Napoli, which is owned by a friend of one of the forklift handlers. She Jimmy ticked off the owner by ordering the restaurant's signature dish and not finishing it. When she told our friend that she'd ordered an appetizer and that's why she couldn't finish the entree she was informed that she shouldn't have ordered the appetizer.

I guess that that just isn't done!

Then off for a toddy. It was really hot, so it was a gin and tonic. Then I wanted to go home but nobody else did, so I took some preposterous and incorrect directions from Luton and walked home.

Then I realized a) I was lost and b) my phone had 8% battery. Oo oo. I texted this photo of my location and demanded they find me:

and tried to phone them but they were phoning me, and it was all quite comical. There weren't that many people in the street at that hour to ask for directions. I felt dumb, but was unafraid. I knew that I could sleep in any doorway, or I could wait until the next hour for the bells in Piazza del Erbe to chime the hour and I could follow the sound of the bells.  Eventually I found lovers on bicycles who gave me directions. I understood the first two parts of the directions, then I found more lovers on bicycles and asked them. Eventually I found my way.

July 14, 2012

Italy 2012: Day 3

The simple pleasures! A cheap and yummy ice cream during our coffee break: 

Some terrific graffiti on the side of the museum. One thing we noticed in Mantova was that graffiti was often signed. Although you're never going to know who Grigorio's piccolina was.

 And dinner: 

I sucked the heads of those shrimp because I see people doing it on television and I have to say that it was too mineral-y for me. To each his own :) We were so tired at the end of the workday that we could only go to dinner at the outdoor cafe outside the door of our hotel.

July 13, 2012

Italy 2012: Day 2

In the middle of the night on Day 1, I had insomnia. I was awake, therefore, when a large aftershock occurred. Given that I was sleeping in a centuries-old masonry building in a bed with a GLASS HEADBOARD, I moved to the center of the room, away from masonry and glass. Since I couldn't sleep, I updated the USGS "did you feel it?" questionnaire. The things we do when we can't sleep.

The workday started with some dark brown brew and a teensy piece of pizza.

Then the cute walk to work. In our travels we'd pass by the horse butcher shop. I would not have noticed if it hadn't been pointed out to me. The sign was a beautiful red decal of a horse profile.

The museum was tremendously beautiful. Here was the view as we ventured back from our coffee break:

I'm not at liberty to talk about the forklift deinstall, but I got to work with really great people who balanced sweet humor and professionalism in a nice way. My main conservator, Augusto, paints gorgeous abstract expressionist paintings when he's not conserving forklifts.

The coffee shop at the museum, I forgot to mention, sells these:

We ate lunch here in the park every day. The guy who owns the place remembered She Jimmy from the install and doted on her daily.

This first day we noticed a woman at a nearby table having a seizure. Pretty distressing. Her friends helped her and we soon had a full range of local medical emergency folks on hand. Italy seemed oddly together in this regard.

After work She Jimmy, Time Machine, Luton and I went to Tiratappi for dinner. I have reflected on Tiratappi this week and still think that the three meals I ate there were three of the best meals I have ever eaten. If I had to pick a last meal, I couldn't possibly. But a fantasy last week of meals would include one here. Start with a very cold bottle of lambrusco. Continue on with the raw fish and avocado dish below, have the octopus appetizer, any main dish, and finish with the ricotta, orange and chocolate custard.

No evening in Mantova would be complete without a negroni sbagliato at the local bar in the next piazza over. Then back to our yummy, air-conditioned centuries-old rooms.

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