Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bluebonnets and Sharks

I Love to travel.

We recently made the snap decision to go to Texas to see the daughter and her family for Spring Break. We needed a snortle fix (a combination of snort and chortle unique to the grandson). By snap I mean we decided Tuesday night and left Wednesday morning, unheard of in the Murphy house. Strangely, we didn't leave any more items than had we planned the crud out of it. I count it as a successful foray. The Murphys have done Texas.

I like to make a journal entry when we do these trips. I've gotten away from doing regular journal entries because I don't get off on detailing what we ate for dinner. My life is fairly staid except for these little expeditions away from home. I should get back to it, though, because I tend to forget what I'm spending the golden coin of my youth on.

Well I didn't take my journal. So everything is written or drawn on the back of a grocery list. I'd just scan the whole thing in and put it on here but the kids broke our scanner. And I'd enter pictures, but I didn't get my new camera until my birthday, a few days after we got back.

So here is a list of what's on my little snatch of paper:

We saw these animals: went back and
deer (alive and dead), a bazillion cows of all sorts (including long horned), horses, sheep, goats, chickens, buffalo, dogs, cats, a turtle (which we nearly hit on the road), a dolphin (story to follow), herons, llamas, hermit crabs, skunks (dead), possums (also dead), and about a gazillion vultures (one of which was pecking at a dead deer and The Hubs took for a chicken).

These are the things to do next time that we missed this time:
*Visit NASA
*Go see the big crater
*Go to the Monogan Sandhills
*Houston Museum of Art
*Houston Aquarium
*Take the kids up to the top of one of those skyscrapers
*Pick a bluebonnet

In Texas there are LOADS of these things:
@oil wells
@lousy drivers (at least three of them nearly drove us off the freeway)
@damaged guardrails (drunk cowboys?)
@rundown towns
@wild flowers (sadly I didn't get to pick a single bluebonnet)
@trucks of all sorts
@Texas stars (yippee yie kie yay) (I want one, by the way)
@scraggly oak trees
@historical markers
@Texas flags (these people LOVE their state)

We saw a bathyscaphe (deep sea rover like Jacques Cousteau would use) going down the freeway on the back of a trailer. There were swales of bluebonnets. We saw all kinds of GIANT things like a golf ball, a skull, a squirrel, a huge red X, a buffalo, a blue bull, Yogi Bear, a huge muscular shrimp, and a spur. We passed the home of Lyndon B. Johnson and NASA and the last drive-in picture show. There was a driving range with school buses as the targets. There was a sign for Pancake, and two signs near each other reading Stink Creek and Sweetwater (we wondered how they cleaned up the water). Another sign read, "Deep Sh** Cattle Company." We passed Fort Hood and the Pyote Rattlesnake Bomber site. We also went to the world's nicest rest stop complete with what looked like a bank, vending machines, a museum with hands-on displays and a movie, a fantastic playground, a tornado hideout, and of course bathrooms.

One of those days we went down to Galveston to the beach. The sky was overcast and I expected the Gulf water to be cold. On the contrary it was about ten degrees warmer than the water at Moro Bay in CA. We donned our swimsuits and charged out into the murky green water, intent on body surfing as much as we could.
I found that I couldn't even see my feet, so I sent J back to get my goggles, hoping we could then navigate through the murk. No dice.
While she was gone B and I were looking back, anticipating the next Holy Monkey wave.

Then we saw it.

A huge black fin cut through the tube.
My heart jammed itself up into my esophagus and I heard B yelling, "That better not be a shark! That can't be a shark!"

All I could think of was, "NO NO NO!" Those fifteen or so hours of Shark Week programs flashed through my head. All of them said, "Don't go out in murky water." And there we stood not even able to spot our toes. I whipped my head around trying to keep that thing in sight and yanked out my hoop earring (which plummeted into the drink never to be found again). I didn't care. I was waiting for that first bump before the razor sharp teeth sliced into me. I was planning on how to punch it in the eyeball or the snout or get it to turn over on its back.

But then I squinted (no glasses=cruddy vision) and saw as the huge fish breached, that it was....

...a dolphin.

I was never so happy in my whole life.
And J was furious that she missed it. Go figure.
We collected The Hubs and his charge, the toddler bird-pursuer with his mouth-full of sand, the blue-lipped wave-hopper collectors of bits of shell and quarts of sand and hermit crabs, and headed back to civilization and BBQ.

I found I like Eastern Texas with its green pastures (probably because there is a hefty amount of humidity) and ubiquitous stars. I loved being with the family. Even the dog (who was definitely upset at being left home because he broke out of his kennel and peed, chewed, and knocked things over all over the place) was adorable.

All in all, Texas ROCKED.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How NOT to Pleat a Kilt

They're all wearing my colors but J is wearing the Stuart tartan as well.

How NOT to Pleat a Kilt
How to Go Loony in 3,756 Easy Steps

(Click here for a little walkin' around music.) Kiss me I'm Irish (as well as Scot) 

I've always wanted a kilt from our clan tartan. I'm just that way. The old Black Watch tartan is for people who really don't know who they are. I'm a McKusick (among other things). So when Granny went for a visit to Albain (Scotland) and asked me what I wanted, I told her (of course) a kilt.
She came back and handed me a doll saying, "Your kilt is $100/foot! It's not happening on my budget." Good-sized kilts generally run from six to nine yards.

I sighed and resigned myself to admiring my doll from the shelf, sure that I'd never afford it. Luck was with me, though. Our clan needed an editor-in-chief for the newspaper. I stepped up and boldly asked if my payment could be a kilt. "Aye!" the out-going editor said. They shipped me a bolt of luscious tartan cloth and the words, "ádh mór" (Good luck).

Those were prophetic words.
These are the directions I was working off of. For some reason they look much simpler when you aren't wrestling fabric and sewing in perfectly straight pleats.

After exhaustive web checks I finally got some sketchy directions. There should have been something entitled Pleating Kilts for Absolute Dolts. To me reverse box pleats meant about as much as "The homogeneous lamina which lies between the cardioid r=a(1+cos0) and the circle r=2a cos 0."


Finally after my 3rd exhaustive treatise I decided I was ready to head into uiscí aisteach (uncharted waters) and cut into my precious $100/foot material. "It'll be grand," I thought. "They've been doin' this for centuries." Using the floor and several boxes of pins I pleated and pleated to my heart's content, my tongue out and my leanaí (children) jeering. 
You'd think these would be SIMPLE directions.

You have to be very precise about exactly where you set the pleat so that it shows the exact same part of the tartan every time. How deep you set the pleats is determined by how much material you have, how chubby (or not) you are and what part of the pattern you want to show most.

There are apparently very good reasons for the reverse box pleats (or double sett pleats) next to the aprons. At first I forgot about them and just did the regular pleats and the aprons. I even basted in the pleats on three different levels like the directions said to do. Then I held the thing up to me and it was ró-mhór (too big).

You have to understand that I never baste anything. Yeah. I'm a rebel. But this time I was going by the book if it killed me. So I pulled out the basting thread, took out every stinking pin, and reset it smaller. Again I basted everything, just sure it would be iontach (wonderful). I held it up and again it was fós ró-mhór (still too big).

By this time I was ready to find a claymore and somehow do myself in (very difficult to do with a sword that long). But I was chinneadh (determined) to get it right.

So I did it again. This time I tried to hold it up to me before I basted. The fit seemed right so the basting proceeded. It looked pretty good flat. I even sewed about six inches down each pleat to set the pleats. At the end of that grueling session I held my fantastic kilt up and it looked iontach. 

Then I put it on 

and it looked uafásach (horrible).

At this point I was ready to find a match and light the blasted thing. I realized that it needed the double sett pleats to make the aprons hang right. I'd already been dúr (stupid) and sewed the pleats in and sewed them to the waistband. 

So I picked out the edge pleats and inverted them. Now the aprons sat quite nicely. I sewed everything back in and patted myself on the back. The kilt was a
sárshaothar (masterpiece)! I did a little Slip Jig as I kilted myself up. Only to find that...

The uafásach thing was ró-bheag (too small).

I decided then and there that I was the one who would have to lose about three stone of ugly fat instead of re-doing the kilt. To this day I haven't redone it.
All the stinking pleats are in the back. You mostly only see apron. Yeah. Do-over.

But now I'm wavering. Reality is whacking me about the head and shoulders with a clue bat, saying, "Le do ghlúine a cheapann tú go bhfuil tú ag dul chun titim trí chloch? Tá tú ag ól an Kool-aid." (With your knees you think you're going to drop three stone? You've drunk the Kool-aid.)

It might be time to bow to reality and re-pleat the uafásach thing into something I'll look iontach in finally.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I just finished BLOODBORNE by Gregg Luke. My hands are still shaking.

This book had me reading late into the night under the covers. Luke has all the greatest marks of a fantastic thriller. He doesn't bash you in the face with buckets of gore, bad language, and sex, which are hallmarks of too many of today's "thrillers."

What he does is subtly suggest something and lets your imagination run rampant. Which it does. All the ingredients are just outside our doors in real life, making the believability on this one high. Love the twists, the strong, intelligent heroine, the flawed but strong hero, and a villain I personally wanted to peg down and paint with honey. Mind control, secret societies, virology, and spy tactics all come into play in a delicious mix of terror, spotless research, and great writing. Luke knows his stuff. I can't think why this isn't a movie yet. It would sit nicely on a shelf with DA VINCI CODE.

The premise is spot on, chillingly so. Developing super viruses for use as continent-wide phage? Of course there are people out there who are intent on doing the same thing. As I read, I hoped that the villain's own vector would take him down, or one he contacted from the lake. That would be poetic justice. You'll have to read this book to see if I was right. You can get it here.

I lie in wait for that tiny shadow flitting and diving around my head, heralded by the telltale buzz.

Monday, March 3, 2014



This book took off from scene one. Kids will love its fast-paced action and its believable characters.

Huber Hill is the scrawny guy everybody bullies in middle school. Especially Scott McCormick, who gives him probably the worst nickname ever. (I really hate that name and hate that poor Hubey never seems to shuck it off.) At first we really want Huber to kick ol' Scotty to the curb, but because Huber is a cool kid, they become best friends.

When it comes time to share the secrets Huber's dying grandfather has left him, he shares it all with Scott and his sister, Hannah. The trio go after treasure in the mountains, with the help of an old map, a notebook, and some old-fashioned sleuthing.

Unfortunately they aren't the only ones interested in the money. A creepy Spaniard shadows the three treasure hunters' every move, intent on beating them to the gold in a nail-biting race to the finish. He'll stop at nothing--not theft, not spying, not assault, or even murder to get what he wants. Luckily the kids have powerful forces on their side.

This was a fun, speedy read and fits on the shelves with the likes of Obert Skye's books and The Janitor. I gave this one 4 pizzas.

You can get this book here.