October 9th, 2006

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Back from the Blue Ridge

The trip up to Tennessee, which I left for Friday morning, was great! Got back around seven tonight and now that I'm rested, with all my smoky clothes clean and dried, I can post some details, plus a whole load of pictures.

The trip up was fun, with great driving weather and very amiable traveling companions. Kris and Shelby are so much less stressful than other people I've traveled with, and it made the trip -- 90 miles, through GA, SC, NC and into TN -- go quickly. On the way we stopped at a couple of interesting places, including a friendly but super redneck BP-cum-diner somewhere in South Carolina and a great Mexican place -- completely with large vegetarian selection and a Mexican tranny waiter -- near Ashville. Going a bit out of our way, we also stopped at an outfitting shop in Johnson City (TN) to pick up a few camping supplies we were missing.

Finally we arrived at Roane Mountain State Park, which is right near the border with NC and located basically in the Smokies, in an area that's not in the national park but has a lot of national forest and is mostly tiny mountain towns and hills and mountains and streams as far as the eye can see. The group we were joining up with was SONG, Southerns on New Ground, a progressive group of activists and organizers working for change (racial justice, queer rights, etc.), and all in all there were about 30 of us, all women except one guy. We had a whole section in the park, the organized group section, with tents set up at four different sites. When we arrived, we had just enough light to set our tents up. We wound up with only two, since the tent Kris brought for me had the wrong poles packed with it, but Kris and I were able to double-up. That done, we joined up with those who'd arrived already, in time to get some chili and other dinner goodies. We sat around that campfire, plus one by our own site, 'til pretty late, then went to bed.

Kris and I had enough room in our tent, but didn't sleep well, not least because it was freakin' COLD. Still, Saturday turned out very well! I got up and provided breakfast for Kris and Shelby, plus a couple of other people who were cold and hungry. Then there was more breakfast over at the main site, provided by SONG. Mmmm mmmm! After that Kris, Shelby and I went off on a hike on one of the local trails. It was less than three miles but took around two hours, as it was winding up and around all these hills and mountainsides, plus we stopped on top of a ridge to have a snack and talk. The Appalachian forest is different from other forets I've been in, with rhodedendron, little blue flowers, and weird fungi, and at this time of year it was beautifully colored. We kept hearing woodpeckers calling and hammering at the trees. By the time we got back it was around 3, so we had a late lunch before going off on a little bit of a road trip. First we drove up to a nearby scenic overlook, from which you could see a huge swath of the nearby mountains and valleys, and then we drove up a winding road up, up and up Roane Mouintain. The mountaintop was actually in a cloud and we wound up driving inside a cloud. Visibility was nil bt it was fun driving! When we got back it was dinnertime again. We spent the night mostly around camp fires, singing songs, having a round-robin discussion, roasting s'mores, etc. Kris, Shelby and I also managed to slip in hot showers at one of the bathrooms. After packing up our stuff some in preparation for a morning departure, we all went to bed, and managed to sleep a lot better.

It rained overnight and it was kind of drippy still in the morning. Still, we managed to have a bit of breakfast, take down the tents, pack up and leave by 10. The drive home was longer than the one up, since not only did we take a detour to go down part of the Blue Ridge Parkway (though only a bit, as it was quite foggy out), but Kris had to do a conference call around 3 (which kept getting disconnected) and then there was a traffic jam on 85, like 70 miles out from Atlanta. We also stopped at a Waffle House for a late, late lunch. At long last we made it back to Atlanta, where I was dropped off at my building around 7.

Yay for road trip and camping fun! Also, yay for the pictures I took, which I'll be posting in a sec.
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Prison Camps

I have to go to a meeting right now, but um, this story looks like it bears reading!

American Prison Camps Are on the Way
Kellogg Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, is constructing a huge facility at an undisclosed location to hold tens of thousands of Bush's "unlawful enemy combatants." Americans are certain to be among them.

I keep hoping I'm going to wake up from this nightmare...
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That's it, the OTHERS have to go

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

The other day I was at a store and they were entering me into their customer sytem and were like "Are you from California?" I said no, but found out there's a Wendy Darling in California. I was like, "Damn!" Although I've found a few other Wendy Darlings online, there just aren't many parents who'd give such a name to their kid. Maybe a few actually have changed their name to that on purpose. I do get asked a lot if my name is a pseudonym.

Meanwhile I've entered all my immediate family members' names and all the rest of them score a bunch higher statistically, except my mom, who scores a 5, as Hannah Darling is just a weird combo. Of course, her maiden name, Hannah Nienburg, scores a 0 -- because there aren't any Nienburgs, statistically speaking. Caleb's name, Caleb Racicot, also scores a 0, because his last name is the "19846th most popular last name." Noooobody has it, which is because it was a very rare last name in France and everybody with it left for Quebec. There is supposedly (statistically) nobody named Marialana D'Agata, but I know one.
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No Trek uni for me!

I was bidding on a Star Trek uniform on eBay, a nice female crewmember outfit, and was surprised to find that even after being offline a few days, I was still top bidder, as of last night. Well, today while I was working at the market and couldn't get to my email, a bidding war erupted. The price was $51 this morning and my max was $60. It sold for $130! He he. I would not have bid that high for a little piece of polyester. I've found the dress online elsewhere, but all Larges are out of stock. If I could sew I'd get a pattern for the dress and do it -- patterns are readily available -- but I can't so I'll go as something else for Halloween.
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A few newsbites, updates and such...

Got an email from Mom with some bad news about my Uncle Billy, who lives in Brewster, NY. Apparently he had a stroke over the weekend, and on top of that he's got other things wrong with him, so the situation is pretty grim. My uncle is about five years older than my dad and has had a lot of the same health problems. So far I haven't got an email or phone call with any more info, nor have I called to ask, but I will find I soon one way or the other. I've never been at all close to my uncle and have seen him only every few years, but he is my only surviving blood relative outside my immediate family, with my sole aunt gone several years back and grandparents long before that; my mom is an only child with all her relatives mostly in Germany or also long gone.


My day over at the market was, hmm, interesting. It went well (all of four hours, it's part time), but it's a bit overwhelming adjusting to the environment, which is quite chaotic. There are security officers, vendors like the serviceman from Muzac, the uniform and linens guy, phones ringing, shoppers coming to the service window with questions, drains backing up, and all against a backdrop of a market selling everything from smoothies to pigs' feet. I think overall it will be good for me in a lot of ways, as I'm being forced to interact with a very diverse crowd and also have to answer and phone and make phone calls without having a nervous breakfast. Doing well so far! Tomorrow I have to call a bunch of vendors to get quotes on various aspects of an office move, plus special uniforms for the security officers.


After work I took a nap after work and woke up quite groggy, I made myself go in to the gym and had a good workout. Better than that, though, I got some information out of Willy, the staffmember who did my initial fitness assessment and chats with me all the time. From him I learned:

1) The reason my hips have been killing me is the running. It wouldn't happen, except I'm not doing the right stretches beforehand and as a result the tendors in my hip are getting punished every time I run. I always warm up before running, but never really stretch right before. He showed me what stretches to do and when I ran tonight, I did them, and while I was running I figured out what he was saying and yeah, when I run the pressure hits exactly where I have the pain in my hips. I'm happy to find it's not just "getting old" that's been bugging me all these months!

2) After giving me the tips on stretching, Willy gave me an informal assessment and says he's sure I've lost a whole bunch of body fat, maybe 7 percent. According to him -- and he assesses fat as part of his job -- I've lost the most weight in my legs, arms, back and face. I've also built a lot of muscle. Of course, this doesn't keep me from being frustrated with all the fat left in my middle and the fact I still can't wear pants, but hey, at least five months has resulted in *some* change!


Over the weekend I started in on Mary Renault's The Praise Singer and by now I'm nearly done with it. It's full of the usual Renault goodness, but overall it seems to be missing any sort of plot. It's an autobiography of an ancient Greek poet and the people and places and history he goes through, but it doens't really "go" anywhere as far as plot, whereas The Mask of Apollo, a similar book built around an actor, worked very well, with far more plot.


Luckie has been super sweet since I got back yesterday. She seems to want to be petted all the time, or else played with. She keeps jumping up wherever I am -- in bed, on the couch, at the bathroom sink -- and seeking attention. Tonight she had a long game of playing with the two remaining play mice. She had 7 or 8 but now all but two have disappeared somewhere in the apartment. Soon I'll have to break down and buy more, at which point I'll discover them all hidden in a houseplant or tucked deep inside the sofa.