31 December 2007

A successful return

After four days in the Happiest Place on Earth, we survived and returned home unscathed. Mickey Mouse held for me all the allure he ever hasPC290283. My acquisition of souvenirs included an ornament for the Christmas tree, about a dozen collector pins, tee-shirts, a dress shirt, maps, unused Fastpasses and more. Although Disneyland remains my favorite because of its more intimate scale, I think Walt Disney World has many more possibilities. The newer rides tend to stray away from clichés and stereotypes, and the atmosphere delves deeper into cultural eccentricities, cross-cultural comparisons and "edutainment" that lets a visitor learn while having a bit of fun. The cost is high, but the product quality for entertainment is rich and varied. (My photo is of the Expedition Everest ride at the Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The Tibetan prayer flags, the Nepalese music, the beautiful calligraphy on the signs made the experience very realistic. However, having not been to Central Asia, I can only imagine.)

One day, I would like to have visited all the Disney parks in the world, adding Disneyland Resort Paris, Tokyo Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and whatever other park comes along. It's my willful suspension of disbelief that makes the parks so fun for me. Only three days ago, I stood before Mickey's SpectroMagic Parade in the Magic Kingdom and waved mightily to the Mouse just as if I were still four years old. My name is Kenneth. I'm a Mickey Mouse junkie. Disney Vacation Club is calling to me. How will that financing work out?

Merry Christmas to all...

and a happy New Year!

This morning I realized that my children are growing up quickly.  They were not up at the crack of dawn and did not come sprinting into the living room to see what was under the tree.  Despite that little difference, they were very enthusiastic about the morning.  They relished every gift as if these were the only ones they had received for Christmas from anyone at all. I'm so glad that they have learned to show gratitude for the blessings that come their way, no matter the form.

Last night, at very much the last minute, I made cookies for Santa Claus.  They were oatmeal with cranberry, chocolate chips, mixed nuts and coconut.  I prefer loaded drop cookies like these to refrigerator cookies simply for the time factor.  I'm guessing that Santa does, too.  We put a large one out on our Santa plate and a mug of soy milk (in case Santa is lactose intolerant). ;O)  Once the children had been asleep for about an hour, John and I set out our gifts and then let Santa do his work. ;O) We slept until 8 o'clock this morning, and by then I couldn't wait any longer.

All the weeks of preparation seem to take so long, but in less than an hour, there's a mass of shredded wrapping paper on the floor.  Of course, today with our departure for Orlando and Disney World, we weren't disappointed with the speedy Christmas gift reveal.  Being able to join my sister and mother et al for some holiday fun will be yet another Christmas blessing.  The continental separation from loved ones is frustrating, so I genuinely look forward to opportunities like these, a mini family reunion without the typical emotional stresses based on house guests, meal preparations and frowning faces after opening a "disappointing" gift.  We're skipping the attitude and going straight for joy and the creation of a few good memories.

...After six hours already on the highway, I'm eager to arrive at the resort.  We have only 30 minutes or so left for our drive.  I've brought some presents for my niece and some token gifts for my sister and mother.  If there's a restaurant open, we may go to dinner, but even if we don't, I'll be content simply to visit for a little while.  Tomorrow will be a big day, and the hardest decision will be determining which of the many Disney parks to go to first.  Traveling on Christmas day is a bit rough because so few gas stations are open, but we did find a Starbucks!  Thank goodness for a little caffeine.

(written 25 December 2007)

23 December 2007

My Regional Accent (continued)

It seems that after a decade and a half of life in the South preceded by almost another decade of globe trotting I have not shed my Western accent. In more than one way, I'm quite glad. Although my accent marks me as a cowboy despite my not driving trucks or hitching wagons, it ties me to my home in Nevada. (That's /nı 'væ dʌ/ not /nə 'va dʌ/ for you outsiders.)

American accents are as varied as those of any other anglophone country. We former British Imperial subjects have made every effort to separate ourselves from our linguistic forbears (spend a few moments comparing Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries) and in doing so, we've created enough of our own internal divisions. However, it makes for a more interesting country. The foods we eat, the words we use, the way we speak--all of these help to create a sense of cultural identity. Even though it seems at times that you can drive through any American town and find the exact same rubber stamped commercialized chain restaurant or retail outlet, our diversity is not yet erased. During our grand tour of the American roadways, my children and I made wide note of some of the varied vocalizations of English throughout the country. Even our dog Beau seemed to notices some differences in the aboiements of his canine compatriots.

Here's to local colloquialisms, accents and habits!

My Regional Accent

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Sensibilité moribonde de Dumas père

Pendant une année déjà sinon plus long je suis en train de lire Le Comte de Monte-Cristo d'Alexandre Dumas. Ce n'est pas que le français de l'énorme roman est trop difficile de déchiffrer, mais plutôt que cette œuvre est tellement complexe. En toute vérité, il comprend l'équivalent de deux ou trois romans dans une collection de deux tomes épais. L'édition que j'ai prise est celle de Pocket avec une préface intéressante que j'ai évidemment lue, le texte intégral et deux sections commentées, l'une sur le texte même et l'autre un dossier historique. Je compte tout lire, mais à ce moment, je n'ai achevé que 546 pages, deux tiers du premier tome.

Quant à mon esprit amateur de fiction, le livre est bon et le style de Dumas m'attirent beaucoup. Néanmoins il y tant de chapitres qui ne semblent servir à rien. Par exemple, toute l'exposition sur les fameux bandits romains m'a beaucoup confondu et me semble inutile. Les convolutions et circonvolutions du complot me laissent gratter la tête de temps en temps. Mais, c'est d'habitude chez Dumas.

En plus, qui n'est pas vraiment choquant quand je considère
Les 3 mousquetaires, Vingt ans après, Georges et La reine Margot, ce conte du comte est vraiment sanglant. Les assassinats, les enlèvements, les morts. Je me demande si la vie au XIXe siècle était aussi violente ou si ce n'est qu'un effet littéraire que Dumas a voulu établir pour ses fictions. La scène la plus frappante est celle de la fin du chapitre La mazzolata. Je la cite :

... Franz était comme fasciné par l'horrible spectacle. Les deux valets avaient porté le condamné sur l'échafaud, et là, malgré ses efforts, ses morsures, ses cris, ils l'avaient forcé de se mettre à genoux. Pendant ce temps, le bourreau s'était placé de côté et la masse en arrêt ; alors, sur un signe, les deux aides s'écartèrent. Le condamné voulut se relever, mais avant qu'il en eût le temps, la masse s'abattit sur sa tempe gauche ; on entendit un bruit sourd et mat, le patient tomba comme un bœuf, la face contre terre, puis d'un contrecoup, se retourna sur le dos. Alors le bourreau laissa tomber sa masse, tira le couteau de sa ceinture, d'un seul coup lui ouvrit la gorge, et montant aussitôt sur son ventre, se mit à le pétrir avec ses pieds.

À chaque pression, un jet de sang s'élançait du cou du condamné.

Moi, comme Franz dans le récit, je suis devenu malade et faible. On croirait lire un tel passage dans un roman populaire et scandaleux des années 1930 aux EU ou bien voir une telle scène dans un film d'épouvante d'aujourd'hui. La fascination humaine avec la mort existait et existe depuis toujours, et ça rend peut-être la vie plus chère. On est toujours content de ne pas être le prochain bœuf d'entrer dans l'abattoir.

22 December 2007

Home for the holidays

Yesterday afternoon, my boyfriend John arrived in Atlanta. He's been working in Mountain Home, ID on a power plant construction project for Siemens and Idaho Power. Six months of work already and he still faces another two months at least of bitter cold 60-hour work weeks. Fortunately, he gets about 10 days of vacation for the holidays. I'm so glad to have him home with me. Right now, he's snoozing peacefully on our sofa with our dog Beau asleep at his feet. I'm watching Born Yesterday on Turner Movie Classics while I sit in the easy chair.

The last 30 hours have been quite hectic. Yesterday we went to dinner and did some final shopping for Christmas, then we spent the evening wrapping all the presents. I don't put anything under the tree until late Christmas Eve. Santa Claus does his magic ;0) whenever he can squeeze our little apartment into his schedule for the night. When the children come out in the morning, it's quite the surprise to see the filled stockings, the tree surrounded by gifts and the dog about ready to pop out of his fur with excitement.

Gifts will be a bit less extravagant than in the past because John and I budgeted most of our money for a trip to Disneyworld. Christmas night, we'll meet my sister and her family and my mom in Kissimmee where we'll stay in their timeshare while we all take advantage of the parks for three or four days. During the trip, we'll spend a day at Cape Canaveral to see the Kennedy Space Center. About the whole trip, I'm very enthusiastic, probably enough for my kids and John as well. It will be the first time that I'll get to spend any of Christmas Day with my mom or sister in more than 15 years. The whole trip will be wedged neatly between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Whirlwind to be sure, but more than likely fun as well.

20 December 2007

Trompe l'œil

It's just a Kodak CX7430 EasyShare snapshot of my computer after I uploaded a picture of my Christmas tree. If I could balance the colors better, the trick would be more appealing.

19 December 2007


The term is an example of how anglophones and francophones have distinct differences in logic. We prefer to tie up all the loose ends, while those of the esprit gallois prefer to unravel all the knots. Despite the lack of Latin ancestry in my bloodlines, I have an affinity for the French way of thinking about ending a story.

The deal for the house fell through. There were a lot of reasons, and the rational part of me simply wants to let it go, focus on the future, not assign blame. Really, there is no blame to assign; some things just happen. Ultimately, I have nothing less than I had three weeks ago, and my life is still good, my children are healthy, my boyfriend loves me, my dog still snuggles up to me. Eventually another opportunity will arise for us in the housing market. With the market the way it is, the same house may still be available a year from now. Who knows?

Thanksgiving was great. Having my dad here after not being with either of my parents for America's holiday in 21 years was a great pleasure. Next year, my boyfriend and I will fly my mom to be here with us. I'm so grateful to this man in my life who has helped me to get closer to my family than I think I have ever been before despite geographical distances.

My son's educational pinball game has tilted yet again. Whether it's going to be continued academic probation or indefinite suspension from the gifted program, I have know idea. The poor kid has been like a bird caught in the hypnotic cobra's stare, the cobra being his bitch of a science teacher who seems to have spent the last six weeks poised with pen over disciplinary referral form. On medication, he's just like any other 13 year-old boy. The compassionless witch (no offense to practitioners of Wicca), has targeted him for her vitriolic attention all semester. At least his mother and I were able to have him removed from her home room so that he can start his day with someone who smiles.

Now that the fall semester has come to an end, I can take a big breath and rest for a couple of weeks. My first ever art class was a success. Only one student didn't pass, but in the end, he had turned his attitude around despite the many weeks of his lack of interest in art. They had all internalized many of the principles of design and elements of art. Their last few projects demonstrated understanding of color theory, space, balance, unity. I guess I might be pretty good at this teaching business.

A week ago, my children's middle school held its Christmas concert for the band. I have to say that Mrs. Becton is one amazing band director. Middle school students played Christmas carols in tune and on beat and with dynamics! It was a pleasurable evening, and I wish I were the kind of dad that carried a camcorder everywhere he went. Their grandfather the former band director would be proud of those two kids, I'm sure.

Tonight, I sit on my sofa, key these words, sip some Merlot and watch a tacky Rankin & Bass Christmas special on ABC Family. Tomorrow, I sleep as let as the dog will allow and catch up on reading Le Comte de Monte Cristo. Thank heaven and the school board for the two weeks away from work. Merry Christmas!

07 December 2007

Or not...

...acquiring real estate