Monthly Archives: October 2013

A fluke is worth a thousand pukes

fluke 2011_resizePhoto from Rufford Foundation

“Welcome to the Babuyan Islands! I knew you’d love it.”

“Love it? I think I just puked up my toenails. Does your grant money cover Dramamine?”

“Funny. As soon as you see the first spout, you’ll forget all about being seasick. Camera ready?”

“Always. How many re-sights did you guys log last year?”

“Fourteen. Our photo IDs prove the humpbacks breeding here are migrating to feeding grounds off the coast of Russia.”

“Does it get old, squinting through those binoculars day after day, on the off chance that in this roiling ocean you might actually spot a fluke?”



In honor of its 99th challenge, Trifecta has mixed things up a bit. Instead of using the third definition of a provided word to construct a story of 33-333 words, participants this week are free to use any definition of any word found on page 99 of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell a tale in 99 words. One lucky winner will win a $99 gift card…provided there are at least 99 participants! If you’d like to play for a chance to win, head on over to Trifecta and link up!


I’d never heard of the Babuyan Islands until this challenge. Turns out they are a small archipelago, part of the some 7,100 islands that make up the Philippines. The islands are beautiful, but largely undiscovered due to their remote location. Getting to the islands is a challenge…the Pacific is particularly rough in that area…unless you are a whale. Humpbacks and at least 12 other cetacean species favor this northern Philippine locale as a breeding ground and/or stop on their migratory journey. The Rufford Foundation website, particularly Jo Marie Acebes’ final report detailing the results of her project funded by an RSG grant, provided the backstory for the above dialogue.


Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Challenges, Fiction, Tuesday Tales



An open letter to my fellow gym mates

showerPicture from weheartit

Dear Gym Rat,

First, I’d just like to say how much I admire your endurance. There’s no way I could do 45 minutes at level 15 on that Adaptive Motion Trainer. Ten minutes at level 1 and my calves are cramping, so you go, girl!

But just because I am in awe of your stamina and envious of your non-jiggly thighs, does not mean I want to share your funk.

In the row of six available showers, I purposely select the one at the end because it only abuts one other shower. I always choose an end one. ALWAYS. An end shower means less chance of a draft that will wrap the slimy, mildew-spotted shower curtain around my legs. It also means my shower can only be potentially contaminated by the splash-over of one other shower.

I know I’m type-A, but I honestly thought every female on the planet would share this aversion to foreign splash-over. Moreover, I thought all women, being the considerate creatures that we are, would be careful not to inflict such contamination on others.

But not you! In a row of five vacant showers, you choose the one RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Before I can dry off and escape to the safety of the lockers, you have turned your shower on full blast. In the blink of an eye, your water, your shampoo, your soap, your funk are splashing under the shower wall onto my recently scrubbed feet, ankles, calves.

Ick, ick, ICK!!! I am contaminated.

Now I’m torn between trying to stand outside my shower, putting my right leg in then my left leg in hokey-pokey-style to rinse off your splashed-on funk (without acquiring more in the process), running down to the other end shower for a quick rinse before anyone else comes in, or retreating to my locker to slather hand sanitizer all over my lower legs (FYI, that stuff stings like hell).

Next time, for the love of Pete, can you please leave a one-stall buffer? Better yet, pick the other end shower. You’ll love not getting your cheeks (the ones you just tortured for 45 minutes at level 15) caressed by the moldy shower curtain.

With sincere gratitude,

The clean freak in the end stall

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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Monday Mix, On Me, True Life


Weekly photo challenge: Infinite


This bronze statue of a war-weary soldier was positioned in front of a mural of a World War I battlefield cemetery at the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium. To me, it spoke of the infinite toll war takes on all involved.



The week in review

The Good…

100_1702I got to spend a whole day just hanging out with my mom on Tuesday…something I haven’t been able to do much in the past five years while living overseas. We shopped, we chatted, we ate. Before she left, she revealed an early Christmas gift…a Ninja! I’m just a little intimidated, being a girl who’s only ever used a $20 Osterizer in the past. Can’t wait to whip up some smoothies for after the gym. Bet it makes a mean frozen margarita, too. Was somewhat disappointed to find out that the cookie dough pictured on the box is not actually included in the contents. 😦

The Bad…

Duncan 3-001My new-to-me Nissan Rogue is picking up where my previous vehicle left off five years ago–collecting flat tires. If there is a nail or screw within 50 yards of the vehicle, it will be drawn to my tire like lemmings to a cliff. I’ve had the Rogue less than two months, got brand new tires put on it two weeks ago, and this Friday it had to go in the shop for a tire patch. Thank heavens for the tire pressure monitoring system…at least the Rogue tells me there’s an issue before I head out to work and find the tire rim sitting on the garage floor.

The Ugly

Sales officeIf you ever need a snake oil salesman, just let me know. I can hook you up. Not quite George Strait’s “oceanfront property in Arizona” but it doesn’t sting any less. Seeing this on Wednesday made me wish for a double batch of frozen margaritas from the Ninja.

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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in How It Is, Saturday snippets


To soothe the savage beast

amphitheaterPhoto copyright Sandra Crook

In the darkness of the wings, Marcellus was nearly swept up as the tsunami of the third grade chorus rushed offstage, trailing nervous energy and holiday anticipation in its wake. Tugging one final time at his tie, the young soloist moved toward his center-stage mark. Stabbed by the spotlight as the curtain rose, Marcellus felt his stomach churn violently and sucked in a breath, certain his chicken nuggets were about to make an encore appearance. Instead, the purest, clearest notes spilled from his lips, immediately stilling fidgety parents impatient to get home before the roads iced over. ”O holy night…”


Honestly, I’m not trying to rush the season in this little story for Friday Fictioneers, but the lone figure on the “stage” at L’Amphitheatre des Trois Gauls (Lyon, France) in Sandra’s photo this week made me think of elementary school Christmas pageants.


Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Challenges, Fiction



I ain’t skeered…well, maybe a little

100_1262-001I’ve gotten in the habit over these past several months of choosing a random question to answer on “Deep Thought Thursdays” (some thoughts have been decidedly deeper than others). I’m not sure how deep this one is, but being the season of ghouls and goblins, I found a rather timely question at The Daily Post this morning, in their Daily Prompt: Fright Night.

Do you like being scared by books, films, and surprises? Describe the sensation of being scared, and why you love it — or don’t.

I’ll read a scary book (which may or may not have a lingering effect…see Tuesday’s post about It) and occasionally watch a scary movie (the hubby loves this, as he comes home from the theater with an armful of bruises where I’ve grabbed him). I can close the book or close my eyes if things get too intense. But I absolutely cannot handle scary surprises. Namely haunted houses.

I think I was about eight years old. There was a special party for all the kids who had collected money for UNICEF while trick-or-treating. My younger brother had filled his little cardboard house with donated coins, but was sick the night of the party, so I alone donned my costume and Mom and I set off. The school gym was filled with apple bobbing stations, bowls of peeled grape eyeballs and cold macaroni brains, and boatloads of cupcakes–all the things you’d expect at an elementary Halloween party. There was also a haunted house. Even at that young age, I was not fond of being scared, but I agreed when Mom asked if I wanted to go through it. I knew that with her by my side, I’d be okay.

Except when it came time to walk through the haunted house, Mom was not invited. An older girl, probably a high school student, was a guide for the haunted house, said it was just for kids, and promised she’d stay with me the whole time. I resisted, more than happy to skip the whole thing to stay with my mom and eat another cupcake, but was eventually coerced into going with the guide. Turns out other kids’ parents got to come into the haunted house. Also turns out the guide was not just a guide. She was an actor, and needed a young sidekick in a supporting role to sell the story that had been devised for this very elaborate haunted house. Way too elaborate for elementary kids. Way too realistic for young, impressionable children. Way. Too. Scary.

By the time we neared the exit, I was practically climbing up the guide to escape the hands reaching out of the darkness from all sides, no mean feat since I was simultaneously covering my ears to escape the screams and groans from the other actors and covering my eyes to escape the strobe lights and the frightening images revealed with each flash. I thought my hell had finally come to an end when the guide reached for the doorknob to let us out of the haunted house, only to find there was one last surprise. The knob was rigged to shock her, and she fell to the floor gasping with her final breath that we should leave her behind, save ourselves.

I was mad that she promised my mom to see me safely through and was now dying on the floor. I was scared to death being left to fend for myself. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. But there was no way on this earth I was touching that doorknob. Finally some other kid’s dad came bravely forward and we were free. I nearly trampled a ghost, a princess, and a pirate trying to get back to my mother, and nearly dislocated her shoulder trying to pull her out of the gym.

To this day, more than three decades later, I cannot walk through a haunted house. A couple months ago, the hubby and I went through the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds in London. By “went through” I mean that I ran as fast as the guide’s pace would allow, dragging the hubby in my wake. He wanted to linger and enjoy all the actors jumping out at us from dark corners. I wanted to get the hell out of there.

There was a commercial on TV the other night for a nearby theme park’s Halloween Haunt. Essentially the entire park becomes a giant haunted house. I’m not sure once you’re through the gates that there is anywhere safe to escape the “bloodcurdling horror and nightmarish madness.” Hubby asked if I wanted to go. I was instantly nauseous. Uhh, thanks, but NO. I’d rather stay home and reread It. Or maybe poke my eyes out with a stick.




Lead, follow, or get out of the way: Proper highway driving

i95-north-trafficImage from WTVR

Driving in England for two years was an excellent refresher lesson in how to properly and politely use the highway. The last two months of driving up and down I-95 have clearly demonstrated that this knowledge has been forgotten (never learned?) here in Virginia, so I’d like to pass on a few pointers. However unrealistic impossible, all of the following assume multi-lane highways, with free-flowing traffic (no accidents, no construction, no military convoys) and ideal driving conditions (no fog, no rain, no snow, no ice, no sun glare).

1. Know before you go. Highway speed limits in the US generally range from 55mph to 85mph. If your vehicle is not mechanically capable of achieving the posted speed limit, or if you are too timid to navigate the roadways at that velocity, choose another route.

US_speed_limits Map retrieved from Wikipedia

2. Slow traffic keep right. If you are only willing to go as fast as the posted speed limit, the right lane is your home. Stay out of the other lanes. If you are comfortable driving somewhat above the speed limit, you might be able to drive in the middle lane, depending on who’s out there on the road with you. No one, and I mean NO ONE should be traveling in the far left lane. It is meant as a passing lane.

slower-traffic-keep-right-and-i-ll-keep-calmImage created by BradEiskamp

3. If you’re gonna pass, pass. Regardless of whether you choose the middle or right travel lanes, you might come up behind a vehicle moving slower than you. In this case, you will need to move one lane to the left in order to overtake the slower driver. Make sure you have a large gap in traffic on your left before changing lanes, then step on the gas! Do not move into the left lane if it is going to take you five miles to finally overtake the slower car. As soon as you have safely passed the slower car(s), pull back into the lane to your right.

4. Be the other driver. Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. Anticipate what he wants. If you are in the center lane and he comes charging up behind you, so close that in your rearview mirror you can read the barista’s notes on his Starbucks cup, he wants to get around you. If he does not have room to move left, you might need to speed up until he can find his window of opportunity. Or maybe, just maybe, you could be courteous and move to the right.

If everyone on the interstates would adhere to these few simple guidelines, driving in the States could be just as civilized as driving in the UK. So please, sir–yes, you in the rusted out Civic–lead, follow, or get out of my way.