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Jan 27

Paint-by-numbers: Who knew how much fun you can have?

Posted on Monday, January 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

IdiditmyselfI’ve had some fun painting. Lacking any real talent, but wanting to hang out with friends, a few of us did some painting. We each wanted to say “I painted it myself!”

Come on. It looks like fun, doesn’t it?


First we had breakfast at a Minneapolis diner, Hot Plate, which features PBN (paint by number) masterpieces on their walls. We knew we could do fantastic, realistic paintings with acrylics, too.

catI chose the paintings for all of us by beauty and by price. I got last dibs. Here is a lovely hand model showing us her technique.

PBNs take a long time. They don’t look like they would, but they do. And one of us even had to use special painting techniques to finish her piece. Can you tell which one is hers?

I’ve had fun. I even wrote the quiz you’ll find below. Take it and then go to Paint by Numbers House and look around. Then it’s off to this Pinterest paint-by-number site. Now go buy your own kit!

Which happened first?space

The kits were invented, developed and marketed by Max S. Klein, an engineer and owner PalmerPaintof the Palmer Paint Company of what U.S. city?

seminarFollowing the death of Max Klein in 1993, his daughter, Jacquelyn Schiffman, donated the Palmer Paint Co. archives to which museum?

There is an online Paint By Number Museum at Does it include those works done on velvet?

What famous American artist used Paint by Numbers as inspiration for his or her painting ?

Richard Hess's incomplete paint-by-number portrait of which president was created for the June 1967 issue of Esquire but was never used. It was, however, eventually exhibited at the Louvre.

Presidential appointment secretary Thomas Edwin Stephens mounted a gallery of paint-by-number and amateur paintings by administration officials and acquaintances for which administration?

Jul 21

Lessons from living in a commune

Posted on Sunday, July 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

The other day I made an of-hand remark about learning to ask for help while living at a commune. This friend suggested that I probably had great stories from that time. It made me wonder. Then it made me feel conflicted for days. Living with 10 or 11 roommates was certainly an experience, but not one I’ve really thought through. I spent a year there, I made lots of changes in my life, and then I moved on. In some ways I’m thankful for the experience and yet looking back makes me a little queasy. What did I learn? Or what lessons were presented to me during that experience?

1. Communal living can be supportive for an introvert.
I came to the house after leaving a 17-year relationship. I was able to spend time along, grieving or ruminating or venting the anger that surprised and frightened me. My room was large enough for that. I was also able to step outside my door to see others and be reminded that I was an OK person. I didn’t have to plan for social interaction so I didn’t have that additional stress. I could drop in and out of social events. I hadn’t been asked over to watch a movie so I could leave in the middle of it or drop in after it started, for example.

2. Physical possessions are only temporarily owned and valued. I probably achieve only a C+ for this lesson. I can still tell you a few of the items I lost or that were destroyed during my year in the house. Every insulated mug I put on a shelf was taken by someone and lost in their car or workplace. I only remember one of those mugs with any clarity or sense of loss. It was a John Beargrease Sled dog Marathon mug. I’m pretty sure I lost other kitchen items. I know that no one who joined the house and then left, left with the same items they brought. Oddly, I remember those mugs with more animosity than I remember anything left at the household I shared with my former partner. Perhaps I expected those losses or I’ve dealt with that relationship more thoroughly.

3. You can ask for help for much longer than I expected before people start getting annoyed. I remember a Thanksgiving at the house when I spent the meal asking people for stuff or for help. Just with little things. Little things I could have done myself, like refilling a glass. Unlike family members who would have given me dirty looks and not even responded to a second request, my roommates seemed oblivious to their service to me. Both before moving in and before moving out I assumed that I would hire movers, but friends and co-workers all volunteered–unasked–to help me move. People can be so supportive.

4. Some people will not pull their own weight. Perhaps the truth is that not everyone measures weight in the same way. But I learned that a few people at the house would take care of much more than their fair share. They were much more invested in the group. While I was at the house  because it was convenient, not because I believed in communal living, I think I contributed to the group. Others seemed devoted to the concept, but not to the reality, and were absent whenever snow fell or other large tasks needed to be taken care of. It never seemed worth confronting them. I coped by simply feeling superior to them. It’s not a rational or classy way of coping, but it worked for me.

5. You don’t have to like everyone you live with. I got along with everyone I lived with but I didn’t want to be friends with all of them. I think it’s good to be around people you jell with. You can care about people you don’t like, wish them well, and be a bit curious about their lives. You can also put away groceries with them.

6. You do need to respect everyone you live with. Sometimes it takes some work to achieve this. Fortunately I was preparing to leave when this was no longer the case for me.

7. Group-think happens and I’m as susceptible as anyone else. Group meals are a good indoctrination time. Most of us will avoid fights when we have food in our mouths. This is a danger, I think, of living in a communal setting centered around any belief structure. It becomes hard to question those beliefs.

8. There are the individuals and there is the group. Each has their own personality. As people come and go, the group culture will change a bit. But those who have left, if they had strong personalities, can leave ghosts behind. One person can have a much larger influence on the group than another person. I know what my relationships were with the individuals, but am very much perplexed by what is was with the group. I think I liked the individuals more than I liked the group.

9. Sharing breakfast daily is almost like being naked in front of someone. I think people are their most honest at breakfast, before their coffee or tea. I developed three important friendships over breakfast that probably would not have been achieved otherwise. We each put on a public face when we dress for the day. I first met the two adults when our countenances were constructed for viewing. But in our pjs we real and I trusted those faces. (If you look for pictures of communes you’ll see photos of groups of naked people. We were never naked together as a group although some people did get naked with each other at one time or another.)

10. A charismatic leader better be on his/her best behavior. In other words he should keep private the activities of his privates.

11. Dogs can have more of an impact than people. Being greeted at the door by the loud complaints of a small dog is an unusual greeting. I miss that little grump more than I miss most of my former housemates.

12. It’s not easy having your parenting and relationship problems in front of everyone. I did not experience this. My mother stayed for a few days and that was the only relationship anyone else saw me have, I think. And maybe only those up early for breakfast even got to meet her. Imagine having to learn to parent in front of several childless people or break up and change rooms.  There’s support but there’s also judgement.

13. I like being around multiple generations. I’m glad one family took up the public parenting challenge. I don’t have children and don’t want them, but I love being around them. And I have always had friends much older than me. Different perspectives, different paces, different histories make me feel like I have more choices.

One year of living this way was enough. The next time I do it will be when I move into an assisted living community.

Aug 20

Board games rated

Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

HabMoo went into a major kick to buy board games before he went to war. Since I rate all the books I read on GoodReads and am kind of in the habit of rating, I thought I’d do so here. At least until GoodReads expands into GoodPlays or something.

My brother used to give my sister and I the best board games when we were young. It wasn’t until we were adults that we discovered that the playing pieces in board games were sold in packages. He must have played every game he gave us first. I understand completely.

I’m not including card games, customizable card games, or dice games here. For some reason I decided to allow a living card game.

Board games of my childhood

I don’t list here games like Password and Concentration, but I probably should. I liked both of them, but don’t think we owned them. There was also a game that had ghosts that glowed in the dark, I think. No one liked to play it with me.

Marbles – I think other people know this as Aggravation. Daddy made the board. Everyone in the family would play. We jumped the corners after a direct corner landing, and moved backward on every throw of a 4. I loved this game. *****

Battleship – I played this game most as a child, but I used to make an old girlfriend laugh by pretending to play “air battleship” where you just shout out random numbers and letters. I played the real game with a great-nephew who just liked to make designs with the pegs; he didn’t care if he hit anything or not. ***

Chess – I love many chess sets but play without skill. **

Masterpiece – Featured paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. Daddy would play this game sometimes and he always bought the forgery. Mom always bought the Mary Cassatt. The artwork was great and the game play moved at a good pace. I didn’t really get into the role of an art dealer, however. *****

Clue – I never owned this game, but I usually won when I played. I liked the movie and I liked the game, but not enough to own. ***

Crazy Clock – Most kids grew up with Mouse Trap. I had Crazy Clock instead where you kicked the man out of bed. Much more fun. ****

Mystery DateI think this was the name of the game. I played it at one slumber party. It had a door you opened to see what your date looked like. Boring and the door didn’t seem to ever work right. Doesn’t deserve even one star.

Risk – I thought this was the best game ever until I played it a third time. It takes so very long to play. The artwork is nothing. **

Stock Market Game – I remember that taking the career of deep sea diving seemed to be our favorite choice. You could buy stocks from Alcoa, International Shoe, J. I. Case, Western Publishing. We played this a lot. *****

Stratego – I remember the TV ads for this. It was strategic and had fun playing pieces. ****

Big Business – The neighbor kids and I found this game in one of their closets and gave up on the instructions and made up our own rules. I’m going to withhold a rating, but we did play it more than once and even used a few of the written rules.

Monopoly – Protect me from this game. I love it that my husband also hates it. *

Parcheesi – Maybe if I had just fought in the Civil War, it would have seemed exotic and  I would have liked it more. *

Rock-O – Maybe shouldn’t count because it’s played with cards, but the cards have special holders and stand vertically, so I’m calling it a board game. The original game got boring, but then came Super Rack-O. ***

Tripoli – More of a card game, but ours came with a container for chips so I’m counting it anyway. It’s a card game so that gives it its stars. ***

Board games of my adult years

Apples to Apples – Only played this once with good friends. It made us laugh. That’s good enough for me. The only limitation I can see is the need to buy new cards after you learn how your friends and family think. ****

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer Deck building games don’t really have to have great back story, but this one suggests the existence of one without providing even a few paragraphs of flavor text. My husband sold this game; he should have asked me first. I might want to kill the cultist again one day. ***

Battles of WesterosThis should be the best game ever, but it’s not. You have to spend too much time fiddling with game pieces. It’s such a great concept, but just isn’t fun. *

CavetrollIt’s a quick playing strategic game. I like the hero and monster figures. ****

Chaos in the Old World – The artwork is great: it feels seedy and nasty.  Four races have different ways of winning the game. It’s challenging and competitive. *****

Chez Geek – Not as fun a Munchkin. You need to play with the right people who are willing to act silly. ***

Citadels – Easy to learn and quick to play. The artwork isn’t special but I do like how your characters can change each turn and you can temporarily kill another player. There’s some strategy, but no pondering or planning moves ahead required. ****

Cosmic Encounter – One of the alien races is a whiner—it can whine for power. Who wouldn’t want to play that character? I seem to win at this without actually trying, so I love it. You can pick on other players even though the game randomly decides who you attack. There are plenty of races so each game is different. This game’s strategy might not work for the next game. *****

Cranium – I could do without the cards that require you to hum. I haven’t played a game yet when I didn’t laugh at someone. I approve of that in game play. ****

Cyclades – You bid for the favor of the gods. That’s pretty cool and I usually get nervous and don’t enjoy bidding. The map and artwork are fun. It seems well balanced. You can hold a conversation while playing, but it does require long and short term strategy. ****

Dark TowerThis almost fits into my childhood when I look back at the technology involved. The game was monitored by a small computer inside the black plastic shell of the tower and suddenly brigands would attack. I still remember the sound for that. It was a lot of fun one summer, but it went out with the trash eventually. **

Descent: Journeys in the Dark –I don’t have much experience with this type of dungeon crawling game. Lots of pieces to manage. I’m reserving judgment for now.

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon – Just started playing this cooperative adventure game. Aside from the nasty rolling boulder that follows you around like a puppy, it’s been fun. The odds of winning or losing seem pretty even. The artwork is OK. ***

Five Straight – My parents introduced me to this game. We played it often. ****

Fury of Dracula – Who doesn’t want to chase Dracula around Europe? I’d give it another star if it was more fun to play without five players. It feels a bit like clue, but with more strategy and one person gets to be Dracula. ****

Game of Thrones – We played the board game once and were not hooked. The LCG is much better. **

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game – This living card game is too complicated to just play for a lark, but it’s very interesting and challenging. I need to spend some time with it, build my own deck, and then learn how to win with it. But I’m not going to go play with the game designers like Alex has. I’m a graceful loser, but I don’t enjoy getting my teeth kicked in repeatedly.

Huggermugger – Very good word games. The board element of it wasn’t quite as good. ***

Ingenious – I suck at this game because I really just want to make pretty patterns. I also suck using the iPod app. But it involves strategy so I enjoy it. ***

Lord of the Rings Trivia Game – I played this two or three times. By trivia, I mean trivialities. One question asked if someone turned left or right at the top of the stairs. As much I love LoTR, I got rid of the game. *

Mancala – Yah, yah, yah. It just doesn’t have enough variation. *

Memoir ’44 – This game lets you recreate and play key battles in Europe in 1944. I assumed that meant I’d be bored by the game. But the game play is great. It involves strategy and the luck of cards. It’s so well balanced that HabMoo and I sometimes play one scenario twice in a row. We just switch roles. The map is a simple game board, but you build upon that with extra squares so it is easily customized. Except for my issue with not being able to easily distinguish the gray figures from the green figures, I love this game. The expansions are just as good. *****

Munchkin – The fun depends on the players. I’ve really had fun playing it and I’ve been frustrated playing it. If your players are comfortable with the game and are willing to be a bit silly, then it’s a great game. ****

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game –  An enjoyable game if the game doesn’t beat you too badly.

Ticket to Ride – The geography of this game drives me crazy. It interferes with the game. But it’s easy to play and involves secrecy and messy up the plays of other people. **

Sequence – Feels a little like a card game. It’s fun and easy to play but not something I really want to play again and again. ***

Settlers of Catan – Easy to learn, competitive, can screw with other players, and can carry on a conversation while playing. ***

Small World – I really enjoy this game. It’s not your typical world domination game because the world is just so small. It’s a fantasy setting that doesn’t take itself seriously. It never plays the same way twice. *****

Thunderstone – A deck-building game that I really enjoy. Sometimes the random draw of monsters and heroes really screws you over. But sometimes it’s fun to yell at the game.

Upwords – I do not play Scrabble and don’t care for Boggle, but this game is fine. I enjoyed playing it while watching TV.  **

Warhammer: Invasion – I’m not very good at this game. Nevertheless, it moves fairly quickly and is probably well balanced. It looks dirty and

Jun 26

Random notes on a Sunday

Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

People have asked me why I call my husband HabMoo. It is not my pet name for him. It’s just a pseudonym for use here. I thought that for comsec and general privacy in a public place, I’d make up names for real people I write about. Except for my Mom, who was special, and can’t be harmed by stalkers now, as far as I know.

So where did the name HabMoo come from? It’s from one of the numerous Metal Gear Solid random name generators. HabMoo is short for Habitual Moose. My name came out as Buckshot Bumblebee, in case you’re curious. But I do not answer to it. So don’t try.

More things to avoid during deployment

Yesterday on my daily walk I was listening to the podcast of “Stuff Your Mother Never Told You” and learned that there’s a new reason I could become depressed while the man is gone. Apparently semen contains anti-depressive chemicals. Or there’s some correlation between having unprotected sex and being non-depressed. The correlation between unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy is probably higher.

Exploding head syndrome

Yah, it sounds crazy but it exists and I’m thankful to the guys at “Stuff You Should Know” for giving me a name for the startling, but thankfully, rare noise that will wake me up. The American Sleep Association’s definition:

Exploding head syndrome is a rare and relatively undocumented parasomnia event in which the subject experiences a loud bang in their head similar to a bomb exploding, a gun going off, a clash of cymbals or any other form of loud, indecipherable noise that seems to originate from inside the head. Contrary to the name, exploding head syndrome has no elements of pain, swelling or any other physical trait associated with it. They may be perceived as having bright flashes of light accompanying them, or result in shortness of breath, though this is likely caused by the increased heart rate of the subject after experiencing it. It most often occurs just before deep sleep, and sometimes upon coming out of deep sleep.

For me the sound is one of the following: rotary dial phone ringing once, childhood doorbell chime, knocking at a wooden door (terrifying if it sounds like an interior door), and maybe a dog bark. Last month I had my best one which was HabMoo’s voice saying a single word. It woke me up, but this time my heart wasn’t racing in fear. I was really impressed that it sounded so realistic since I can’t just call that sound to mind at will. The syndrome is supposedly connected to stress, but hearing HabMoo’s voice was actually quite calming. I hope his voice becomes to new de facto explosion.

Thursday Next

She will have to be the title character for the deployment warm-up. Since Alex has gone to AT (annual training) this year, I have listened to three Jasper Fforde novels. I’m not sure that I would have devoured them in print, but I do so love having a woman with a British accent read to me. It’s very comforting.

Disgusting things I’ve experienced or thought about recently and just thought I’d share. You’re welcome.

I was picking flower only to find a spittle bug on the stem. I’m sure that spit is a great place to house your eggs. Who would want to chew through the spit to get to them?

Have you seen video of the flying fish depositing their eggs? It’s disgusting. A couple of months ago I thought of that video footage while I was taking a bubble bath. I had to get out of the tub. And then shower off.

Many animals pee on themselves to cool off. I’m glad it’s been a cool summer so far. It’s not something I really want to try, but once I know something like this I feel the need to try it out.

I said something the other day to a friend about how I once witnessed a drake basically rape a female duck. The duck got pulled under the water by a snapping turtle, struggled, and then was gone. Beware of Lake Calhoun, if you’re a mating duck. That got me thinking about duck rape and I found this. If you decide to click, don’t blame me for any shudders.

Speaking of birds, how do woodpeckers stand having their tongues wrapped around their heads?

Urban turkeys

Are they getting too smart? I’ve seen them outside the Ace Hardware on Como Avenue, crossing the street to a local park, in the bank parking lot, and in the crosswalk on Broadway. They worry me. How can we be sure they aren’t aliens in disguise collecting intelligence on us? I love seeing bald eagles and falcons in the city, but I draw the line at poultry. It’s just wrong. I’d be happier without the geese and turkeys. The blue-winged teals and wood ducks can stay.

Worst tag line

“Rock Solid. Heart touching.” Not a bad tagline for a family readiness group, but a terrible one for my PC. I see it come up every time I start my computer. And since it’s been locking up a lot lately, I keep wondering it it’s had heart attacks or landslides or something.



Mar 17

Why dog sled racing is a better sport than golf

Posted on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 in humor, Uncategorized

golfThis morning I had to listen to stories about Tiger Woods’ return to golf and the Masters’ Tournament. It was on the morning news. Then I got out of bed, turned on my computer, went to the home page of the Anchorage Daily News and learned that Lance Mackey again won the Iditarod. It got me thinking.

Why is dog sled racing is a better sport than golf even though it receives so much less attention from the press?

white-dogsFirst off is the strongest argument, I think. I know nothing about Lance Machey’s sex life and could I bet I can find out more details about his dog breeding than about his own. That is as it should be. A search on Google for “Tiger Woods sex” and “Lance Mackey sex” return 16,100,000 and 37,800 results respectively. The first page listed for the Mackey search is a sports news page that mentions Tiger. The second one is about his dogs. So I was right. Dog breeding is news worthy since it affects the strength of upcoming teams; human breeding attempts are not news.

Women compete directly with men. There’s no separate league for women. Alaska’s motto used to be “Where men are men and women win the Iditarod.” The sport always has several top female competitors from Libby Riddles, to Susan Butcher, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Jessie Royer, and so many others. There are even husbands and wives who compete in the same race.

Dogs are infinitely more interesting than golf clubs. I don’t think any golfer has ever had anyone ask permission to pet his or her clubs. Nor are there many fans out there taking photos of clubs. They are famous in their own right. Dogs even get their own awards. For the Iditarod they can win the Golden Harness Award, for example. Clubs don’t bark and jump around and show their own excitement for the sport. Now I will admit that no golfer has had to walk miles to track down a loose club nor has to scoop up gallons of golf club excrement every week.

DeeDeeLocations are more interesting. Mushers, even in local races, travel trails not often seen by others. Augusta, Georgia or the Yukon River, which is more fascinating and has a richer history? Do any golf tournaments commemorate anything historic, let alone something like the 1925 serum run to Nome?

Competitors wear better clothing. Many will argue with me over this one. But I think parkas patched with duck tape are more fun to look at than plaid pants. I prefer the Taco Bell logo plastered over Dee Dee’s butt to the Nike swish on a cap.

The action is more exciting. Watching excited dogs and exhausted mushers or watching people follow a ball around, which would you choose any day of the week?

dressThe fans are more fascinating. Does anyone wear eccentric clothing to golf tournaments? I mean fun and eccentric clothing. Mushing fans stand around for hours waiting in the freezing cold and have been known to be served donuts cooked in bear fat (at the Beargrease). They serve as volunteers and suffer with freezing temperatures, long drives, boredom, smelly dog booties, hungry mushers, and tired vets. Golf fans might only stand in the rain, drinking espresso.

The competitors have better stories. I mean this year there was a Jamaican, Newton Marshall, racing the Iditarod. And you can’t just enter that race without finishing other races to qualify. He may have trained in Jamaica on a wheeled sled pulled by stray dogs from a local shelter, but he managed to finish the Yukon Quest. Remember when Colonel Norman Vaughn was racing in his 80s? How about mushing families with multiple generations of competitors and winners? Dick, Rick, and Lance Mackey have all been winners. Martin Buser named his son Rohn after an Iditarod checkpoint and the son is also a musher. And who can resist someone like Herbie Nayokpuk, “The Shishmaref Cannonball.”

An seven course meal cooked by a famous chef on a cook stove is a lot more tantalizing than another silver cup. And the winner hasn’t even had to finish the race yet. In fact, the winner might not be the ultimate winner of the race. Now that keeps things interesting. There are also almost always awards for sportsmanship and for dog care.

I rest my case. But I’d love to hear your opinions.


Jan 26

Random thoughts II

Posted on Monday, January 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

Mother-in-laws say the cutest things: My mother-in-law received a couple of iTunes gift cards last year and was talking about how many “iPod minutes” she had left.

There’s now a manga version of the Bible. It had to happen, but I was hoping I wouldn’t notice. HabMoo spotted one at Barnes and Noble. If you look online there’s more than just this one. From a New York Times review of an edition published by Doubleday: “The Sermon on the Mount did not make the book, though, because there was not enough action to it.”

From the Chronicle of Higher Education article “Ordinary Ugliness“:
“according to data collected by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 30 percent of cosmetic surgery is performed on people who earn less than $30,000 a year, and 71 percent on those who earn less than $60,000 a year.” Well I guess I should get me some. But I’d really prefer to take a loan out for some land. It’ll last longer than my face and probably pay out better, too.

I had breakfast with a friend and we were talking about our mothers. I realized that when speaking to them we both addressed them as “Mama.” We realized that we started calling them that once we started taking on more responsibility for them. We both went from Mommy to Mother (in adolescence) to Mom to Mama.

Jan 16

Random thoughts

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

Why don’t redbreasted woodpeckers have red breasts? Maybe they’re just too shy to show them? See what I mean.

I’m ashamed that I couldn’t name the nine most popular Web sites. I hadn’t even heard of Or it I had, I dismissed it because of their cashback offers.

I’m wondering about the things we become beholden to. This week for me it is the cats. I opened the front and side doors for them a half dozen times yesterday to prove that it was too cold to go outside. I yell at them and warn them about the windchill. I claim to have no control over the weather. Then I open the door. I started on the routine again today before breakfast. OK, I confess, I’m always beholden to my pets.
     For my mother its everyone who spends money on postage to send her something. She feels like she must read ever piece of mail that comes to her. It looks like she’s hoarding junk mail because she won’t just toss anything with printing on it. I confess to stealing her mail when I’m there. Just so she won’t have to read it all.

Did you know there are only 56 reasons to have sex? Number 23 won’t do it for me. And it’s harder if you’re gay or lesbian. And I’m not built for number 49. Or maybe I’m just too noisy. Either way it’s not going to happen.