Monthly Archives: December 2012

Have a Great End of the Year

Simultaneously, one of the happiest and one of the saddest songs I know. In other words, it perfectly describes 2012.

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Cat Monday

And now one to finish off the year. Ever notice that ginger cats are particularly bad about sticking out their tongues like this?

Cadigan with tongue

The Impending Joey Box Brigade

Back nearly a quarter-century ago, I first made my acquaintance with my friend Joey Shea, already well-known as an illustrator and reviewer back during the desktop publishing era. One day, I received a package from him, and the term “Joey Box” became a regular part of my vernacular. Over the years, we’ve traded assemblages of magazines, weekly newspapers, comics, flyers, buttons, random toys, and even videos, and the term picked up popularity among friends and cohorts who liked the idea of getting free stuff in the mail.

The important consideration with Joey Boxes is that while they’re full of all sorts of interesting items, the whole idea is to spread the wealth. The absolutes were not to send anything that the recipient couldn’t already get, or at least keep that to a minimum. You couldn’t just send junk mail, but junk mail of a particularly bizarre or appropriate bent was all right: if the recipient was into book collecting, for instance, sending antique bookseller catalogues was perfectly all right. Most of all, everyone had to be comfortable with the idea that anything the recipient couldn’t use could also be passed on to friends and cohorts alike. At the height of the zine and weekly newspaper boom of the late Nineties, I was sending out Joey Boxes at the absolute upper weight limit of what UPS would deliver, knowing full well that Joey had a good dozen friends looking forward to putting to use anything he didn’t want.

And what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, most people spend extended vacations visiting exotic locales or spending time with family. The Czarina and I spent this last week cleaning our offices. Events of the past year intruded upon regular organizing activities, and my office was starting to pass for a life-sized mockup of certain scenes from the novel Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. In the process of excavation and deposition, which filled both garbage cans and recycling bins by last Thursday, I discovered caches of promotional materials and review copies from my old science fiction writing days, a small pile of books I’d purchased more than once (and now I understand the value of those smartphone apps that track your library and its current contents), a large pile of magazine contributor copies, and all sorts of high weirdness. It all went into boxes, and the boxes are waiting to go out.
Front of a Joey Box
Some people may not be interested in participating if they don’t know what they’re getting. I argue that this is half of the fun. The only absolutes are that each Joey Box has at least two books from my gardening library (either copies I accidentally repurchased or paperback copies of books I already owned in hardcover), at least one back issue of Gothic Beauty magazine, and Triffid Ranch buttons. Other than that, I’m not saying.
Interior of a Joey Box

Contents of a Joey Box
As far as getting one of these, keep an eye open for a new contest, and the winners get a Joey Box. Don’t worry about missing out, though: the pile of sealed Joey Boxes in the hallway says a lot about the amount of reading wealth waiting to find a new home.

Assembled Joey Boxes

Art is where you find it

Side avenue for the Dallas Museum of Art

Other highlights of the anniversary: since the Perot Museum was as packed as can be expected for the week after Christmas, we couldn’t get tickets for anything other than a late evening arrival. That didn’t stop us, as any excuse the Czarina can find to go to the Crow Collection of Asian Art is a good one. On our way back to our car, we walked past the side entrance to the Dallas Museum of Art, and noted the now-bare bald cypresses planted along the avenue.

That’s when the Czarina noted the oddity in the grass underneath the cypresses. Combine regular mowing of the cypress knees, weather that soaked the exposed wood, and enough cold to make the algae growing on the wood stand out, and you find growths like this among the still-green grass:

Cypress knee

Cypress knee

Cypress knee

Cypress knee

Ambush bug

And among the knees were a few more signs that for all of our sub-freezing weather last week, our arthropod contingent continues. I knew better than to attempt to pick up this assassin bug, as they have a particularly painful bite that I’m glad I’ve avoided so far, so catching a quick photo of it was the only safe and sane option. If it managed to find a decent shelter before temperatures dropped again, it might even live to see the spring, helping to keep the local grasshopper and American cockroach population under control. For that reason alone, having spotted ones at least this big in my greenhouse feeding on palmetto bugs, they’re always welcome as far as I’m concerned.

A decade later, under the sea turtle

At the time, the end of 2002 wasn’t ending so well. The job that moved me to Tallahassee just ended without warning, with my getting word literally a half-hour after buying the plane tickets to come back to Dallas for Christmas. Considering the condition of the economy at the time, finding something new wasn’t all that great a prospect. That didn’t prevent the Czarina and I from getting married shortly after I got back, at the old Dallas Museum of Natural History.

Married under the Christmas Origami tree

We knew that the future could be a bit rough, but our biggest debate at the time concerned the actual location. The crew at the museum gave us an incredible rate for leasing the upper floor, and all we had to do was decide on exactly where. The museum featured a temporary display of a cast of an Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, a big predatory dinosaur native to the area, as well as permanent mounts of a Columbian mammoth, a large mosasaur collected from the shore of Lake Heath, a giant sea turtle named Protostega, and a Tenontosaurus, at the time the first Texas dinosaur ever on permanent display in a Texas museum. She vetoed saying our vows underneath the Acrocanthosaurus, as she felt that doing so underneath a giant carnivorous reptile might set a bad precedent for the subsequent marriage. We settled on her first choice, and had a quick but thorough ceremony underneath the Protostega. For the next decade, every time we went to Fair Park, we’d drag people out to the Museum, and show them the exact spot.

Acrocanthosaurus

To this day, I still give her gentle grief about not going for a more, erm, lively representative of our relationship, as the Acrocanthosaurus cast went back to its owner shortly after the wedding. Be that as it may, we wouldn’t change anything else.

Front of the Protostega

As mentioned earlier this year, the old Dallas Museum of Natural History merged with the next-door hands-on science museum The Science Place to become the Museum of Nature & Science, and the old composite museum was evacuated for the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas. When the new museum opened this month, we both made plans to spend our tenth anniversary underneath the relocated Protostega.

Top of the Protostega

The Czarina and the Lake Heath mosasaur

The Czarina at the Perot Museum

Ten years later

And there we are, a full decade later. I need a bit less peroxide to even out the white hair than I did then, and she’s lost quite a bit of weight since then, but we’re still together and still happy doing so. The only reason why we haven’t booked our twentieth anniversary festivities at the Perot is because we can’t purchase tickets that far in advance. As soon as we can, though, everyone is invited.

Have a Great Weekend

Ten years of marriage later, this is still the song that runs through my head whenever I’m out with the Czarina. Because she really is that great.

*SIGNAL LOST*

*BEEP* “Thank you for visiting the Triffid Ranch Web site today. Nobody is here to answer your queries, because today I’m taking my lovely wife out for our tenth wedding anniversary. If you are in need of assistance, or if you’re looking for a good excuse to get out of the house, we will be at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, where you are welcome to join us. If not, just keep an eye on the newsfeeds, because we’ll probably get there one way or another. Now where did I put my bail money?” *BEEP*