Super Belated 2016 Round-Up

Books read:

  • The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson OMG
  • The Two Towers and The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
  • The Princess and the Pony, by Kate Beaton
  • Cecil, the Pet Glacier, by Matthea Harvey
  • “The White Album,” by Joan Didion
  • Angels in America, by Tony Kushner (reread)
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, by Roz Chast. Reviewed.
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. Reviewed.
  • Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel
  • Tomboy, by Liz Prince
  • In the Blood, by Suzan-Lori Parks
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two, by Jack Thorne, based on a story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
  • Alan Mendalsohn: The Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater
  • Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett
  • Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

It got a little escapist there at the end. I should note that this list is somewhat incomplete–it doesn’t contain, for example, several nonfiction reference books I read, nor the three times I re-read HST’s obituary of Richard Nixon.

Best book I read: Probably The System of the World, which is itself the third part of a trilogy. Is it 2,400 pages of fanfiction about Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, and the invention of the calculus? A treatise on globalization and economics? An in-depth look at the difficult political transition between Queen Anne and King George I? A joyful romp around the world with the Royal Society? All of the above? Totally worth reading, whatever it is. Someday I want to meet Neal Stephenson so I can give him a high five.

The 2017 reading list can be found here, and my theater reviews are here.

Races run:

Race Date Distance Time
New Years Day Dash Jan 1 5 mi 39:49
Freeze for Food 5k / 10k Jan 23 5 km / 10 km 26:57 / 49:14
LMR 20k May 7 20 km 1:48:47
Ice Age 50 half marathon May 14 13.1 mi 2:01:23
Blue Mounds 18k June 4 18 km 1:55:24
Dances with Dirt July 9 13.1 mi 2:11:13
Madison Mini Marathon Aug 20 13.1 mi 2:07:22
Safe Harbor Labor Day Dash Sept 5 10 km 55:24
North Face Endurance Challenge Sept 18 13.1 mi 2:18:19
Indian Lake Trail Race Oct 1 12 km 1:07:49
Fall 15k Oct 16 15 km 1:19:17
McCarthy Park Trail Race Oct 30 18 km 1:39:46
Wolf Pack Trail race Nov 13 29 mi 5:29:30
Berbee Derby Nov 24 5 km 36:47

Best finish (in terms of pace): Freeze for Food 10k (7:56 pace); New Years Day Dash (7:58 pace); Fall 15k (8:32 pace)

Best finish (in terms of place): Wolf Pack (2nd woman [of two], 8th overall); Fall 15k (3rd in age group, 4th woman of 27); Freeze for Food 5k/10k (6th in age group in both).

Em oi! #422: Useful to Rise Up?

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This comic was begun in December and finished about ten minutes ago. It has taken forever. In real life, it’s 10″ x 16″; it was originally intended for a print publication, so that’s why. The top panel would have looked like this:

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The Foucault essay can be seen here in French and here in English. The translation above is my own. After significant discussion, I decided to translate “les hommes se soulèvent” as “humans rise up” rather than “men rise up,” even though the latter is more accurate. I made this decision for two reasons: one, I think given other things I’ve read that Foucault said I think he recognized that revolutionaries were both male and female–stylistically, it was very typical to assume the masculine when he wrote this, so I’m not convinced it’s an exclusive term; and two, because I initially envisioned this being published in a feminist zine for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, and I thought that using a more gender-neutral term would go over better. A bit self-serving, I realize. But the whole essay is to some extent Foucault’s last middle finger toward his critics following his controversial coverage (and support of) the Iranian revolution, so perhaps let us not get into what is self-serving to whom. The second-to-last panel Foucault speech is from The History of Sexuality volume 1, p. 95 (Vintage Books edition, published in 1995). What he actually says is this:

Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. […] [Power relationships’] existence depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance … [that are] present everywhere in the power network.

(It goes on. The whole section is recommended.) Depending on where you stand, this is either good or bad. Either he’s saying that resistance always exists in a diffuse way, and since the would-be revolutionaries have access to power they can coalesce their resistance in order to affect change, OR he’s saying, as the Who would put it, “Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” You can never be outside of the system because everything is a part of the system.

At any rate, I did not come to lecture, just to voice some thoughts I’ve had recently.

This comic was actually pretty entertaining for me, despite the amount of trouble it has caused. Drawing so many historical personages was fun. The hardest to draw was Mao, since thanks to Andy Warhol, his face is pretty well-known (at least until we get Sojourner Truth on the new $10 bill). Also, in case you were wondering, it turns out that Sojourner Truth was 6′ tall, while Karl Marx was only 5′ 9″. Also, I regret that I had to omit so many august personages–the original draft of this comic included, among others, Alexander Hamilton, Sun Yat-Sen, VI Lenin, and Corazon Aquino. Here’s a fun clip of Jeremy Clarkson hating on Cromwell from QI.

We’ll file this under JC491 L86 2017, for Political theory. The state. Theories of the state–Forms of the state–Change of form of the state. Political change–Revolutions.

I’ll leave you with this final quote from Travesties, by Tom Stoppard:

I learned three things in Zurich during the war. I wrote them down. Firstly, you’re either a revolutionary or you’re not, and if you’re not you might as well be an artist as anything else. Secondly, if you can’t be an artist, you might as well be a revolutionary… I forget the third thing.

Lessons Learned at the Wolf Pack Trail Run

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At the start.

I ran 29ish miles on Saturday at the Wolf Pack Trail Run. 29.28 according to my watch. When I signed up, I thought the race would be 28 miles–it was billed as two 14-mile loops, but there was some overlap between the loops and some extra so it worked out weird. It took about five and a half hours. I was the eighth finisher overall out of fourteen. I was also the second woman finisher…out of two. There were several other women who started the race but dropped out (at least three, possibly more). So really, I was one of only two female finishers. That’s not bad, right?

Here are some things I learned during this time:

  1. Miniature Snickers bars are better than miniature Three Musketeers. Potato chips are not as good as boiled potatoes dipped in salt. Hammer makes a peanut butter gel that is kind of gross–definitely inferior to the GU gel.
  2. I should eat more when I’m running a distance like this.
  3. The Richard Bong Wilderness Recreation Area is a huge prairie area in southeastern Wisconsin. It was once slated to be an airport. I don’t know why it didn’t become one. But it has miles of trails.
  4. Trails that are frozen in the early morning are hard on the ankles. Once they thaw, they get kind of squishy and are hard on the hips.
  5. Mud can pull your shoes off. Oops.
  6. After a while, it’s not going to hurt any more than it already does, so you might as well run because you’ll get done faster. I had a real low point from about mile 19 to mile 24ish. But I rallied during the last 4-mile loop and even passed two people during the last mile (I only passed about four people all race, so this was significant). Looking at the results, one of the people I passed went on to finish about three minutes behind me, so it made a difference.
  7. Running where hunting is going on can be nerve-wracking, but hunters tend to be pretty methodical. Also, I think bullets are expensive, so they don’t want to waste them on you, because you’re not a pheasant.
  8. The hooded sweatshirt I got for this run is awesome and I’m not taking it off until spring.
  9. Driving home right after an ultra sucks. I cramped so badly. But listening to this interview of Lorretta Napolioni on Travel with Rick Steves was REALLY INTERESTING. One of the best interviews I have heard in a long time.
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Some of the trails.

Although I am inherently an angry liberal, I’ve decided to try to talk to more people about politics lately because why not try to understand things outside of my liberal bubble. I had a nice conversation about politics with a woman I ran with for about seven or eight miles. She came from a more conservative part of the state, although she wound up voting for Clinton because of Trump’s statements about women. She was upset about the outcome of the election, but described Trump mostly as more transparently corrupt than Clinton. She wondered if he would be impeached.

Wouldn’t that be interesting.

My longest run for this race was the 18 miles I did last weekend while pacing at tBunk. Before that, I did 16 a week or two ago and 19 at the beginning of September. Otherwise I was busy racing on the weekends. I have gotten faster over short distances, but this wasn’t the best strategy for building the endurance needed for this kind of race. Oops.

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A few minutes after finishing, before I staggered to my car.

Whatever I did right or wrong, I feel good today. I had a little light blistering on one foot (caused by my foot striking the uneven ground in a weird position) and some chafing and whatnot, but my muscles were back to nearly normal twenty-four hours later. I went down and watched the finishers at the Madison Marathon on Sunday and thought, wow, they look like hell. Do I look like that when finishing a race? And also, races are much more fun when you’re spectating instead of running them. And then Monday morning, I went out and ran five miles. Maybe I’m finally getting decent at these longer distance races. On the other hand, I don’t see myself doing any more this year, and next year is a big question mark, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

The Election, and a Few Notes on Pacing

My blog got a bunch of hits the day after the election, as though someone was hoping I’d have something to say. And– I don’t know that I have anything to add to the ongoing fury, but I do have one observation.

In 2008, I went to an Obama rally in Philadelphia. It was October, not long before the election, and after eight years of Bush I didn’t feel especially optimistic that he was going to be able to bring us the change he was promising. My friends and I walked a long way through Philly to get to the rally, and then waited in line for a long time.

I live in a liberal area, but also a very, very white area. So while I knew Madisonians were enamored of Obama, it wasn’t quite like it was in Philly. As we waited under the hot noontime sun, I looked at an array of t-shirts featuring the senator dunking, the senator in African colors, the senator looking senatorial in that iconic HOPE image, Obama as Lincoln, Obama as a Russian comrade. They were different aspects of the man, different avatars. I began, dimly, to realize that all of these were ways in which the community–of democrats, but also of African Americans–were projecting themselves onto the man who was shortly to become president, convincing themselves that he was one of them, that his concerns were the same as theirs. This is like the imagined communities that Benedict Anderson wrote about. People imagine themselves into the political community of the nation; regardless of what the politician actually says, they find the ways in which it’s relevant to their lives.

It wasn’t until the current election and the selection of Hillary Clinton for the democratic nominee that I understood what was going on. The job of a leader is to lead, but to really inspire the populace, a leader has to provide a somewhat blank canvas for people to project something of themselves onto. I realized this even as I was doing it myself, feeling moved and significant to be voting for the first-ever woman who had a ghost of a chance of winning. I even own a magnificent t-shirt similar to those I saw back in 2008; this one features Hillary as George Washington and Bill as Martha.

The flip side of this, of course, is that we project our fears onto the opposition. Notwithstanding the fact that our current president elect has done and said some terrible things (for which, G-d willing, he’ll answer someday), I think the current hysteria in the liberal press is a bit overly dramatic. Trump is not the Antichrist; he’s just some guy. Are bad things happening? Yes. There have been some hate crimes committed this week. But those are still illegal. Let’s not lose sight of this fact: we are not living in a dictatorship. This isn’t the Philippines, people can’t just walk into your house and shoot you for free right now. He is not going to dismantle every liberal advance of the last fifty years. I don’t think he can. Is he going to be embarrassing and tone-deaf? Yes. Is he going to start a nuclear war? I don’t believe it.

We’ve had good presidents and bad presidents, and the country has always survived them. In fact, the country has pretty consistently alternated between liberal and conservative leadership for the last forty years at least. The majority of Americans don’t make their decision based on much more than how they feel they’re doing when they step in the voting booth.

We may not be happy with the results–those protesting are justified in doing so, in my opinion, and I think we need to abolish the electoral college–but running around shrieking (and reading five hundred think pieces about how this happened) is not going to help anything. Instead, try to be kind to each other, and continue to speak truth to power wherever you can, stand up for the downtrodden wherever it is necessary, and consider getting involved with local politics. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Parks and Recreation, it’s that being an angry person at a local committee meeting can sway the motion of the wheels of power.

For the majority of voters, this was not a referendum on the state of the soul of the nation. It was two crappy politicians making half-believable promises. I desperately want to believe that it is not the case that 50% of the (voting) country is composed of racists, sexists, bigots, anti-Semites. They’re just people who are frustrated with the current administration. I’m actually willing to place a bet that most of them did not vote against Clinton because she was a woman, or because they have some complex view that boils down to reasons why women cannot be president. If anything, the handful of liberals who have confessed, “I wasn’t that happy with Hillary” is the reason for why she lost–she was inspiring to me, but a moderate neo-liberal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and a lot of them would just rather not make the effort to go vote for her. Hillary will always be president in my heart, and let me be clear–I cried when I realized she was going to lose–but the truth is, a lot of people think about the whole situation and shrug.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Stop reading the news, you’ll be happier. Get off social media and go outside. The moon is nearly full. Look at the stars and think about how small we all really are. And also this.


Okay, who wants to hear about pacing?

Last Saturday I joined my friend Sandy in Kettle Moraine State Park for 18.2 miles of fun after dark. For four and a half hours, we hiked, jogged, and occasionally fell down over wide trails that occasionally grew rocky and hard to navigate. The stars were magnificent, the temperature was chilly, and the woods are dark and terrifying.

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I tried not to let on to Sandy the tenor of my thoughts, but it’s basically like being in every horror movie ever made. When you’re pacing, the person you’re running with has been running for 50+ miles, which puts one in an altered state of mind. It falls to the pacer to try to create reality for them, specifically by not introducing weird ideas about the terrible things that could just jump out of the woods at you.

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Foxes make noises that sound like screams. A whole bunch of foxes can sound like children screaming. It’s a really weird thing to hear in the middle of the woods. Coyotes sound like you’d expect. And then we came around a bend and realized we could hear a sort of humming noise, like traffic at a distance. But we were in the middle of the woods out past Whitewater, not a spot known for heavy traffic patterns. In fact, when I looked at a map later on, I was fairly sure that we weren’t even near the meagre one-lane road that ran past the park. I told her I thought it was traffic anyway, because all my other ideas about what it could be ranged from the outré to the mildly macabre.

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In the dark, it’s hard to get clues from the environment in the way you normally would. For example, you can’t see the horizon or in many cases tell if you’re going up or down a gentle slope. Your internal proprioception can begin to fail and you find yourself running in all sorts of weird positions.

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As I was leaving, Sandy got her hiking poles out and went off to spend the next seven hours hiking alone through the woods (and then another six hours with her next pacer). I am staggered by the amount of commitment and mental fortitude that an event like this requires. It feels superhuman. I shivered halfway home, eventually stopping to buy decaf coffee, chocolate milk, and cheesy popcorn at the only 24-hour gas station I could find. Then I stuffed popcorn into my mouth the rest of the way home. #noregrets

Occasionally I’ve been asked if I was going to do a longer ultra–something 50+ miles long. I always say “maybe.” It’s certainly daunting. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel up to it. Pacing for a 100-miler was awesome though. I’d totally do that again.

Tomorrow I’m off to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area to try and run 28-ish miles and not get shot by hunters. I am overly enthusiastic and under-trained. Should be fun!

Running

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This comic panel is the result of me 1) drawing a seven-panel comic about a race, 2) inking the first four, and then 3) deciding they were lame and this was the only salvageable one. I’ve actually done a bunch of comics lately, then discarded them because not funny. Maybe because the looming election is taking up such a large place in my thoughts. We’ll see how soon I can get my act together.

Here are all the races I’ve done since August, in brief:

  1. Madison Mini Marathon (13.1 mi). Normally I wouldn’t do this race, but a coworker asked if I wanted to run it with him. He did it in 1:30ish. I did 2:07:22. First race back after being off for more than a month for a poorly diagnosed IT band-related injury. 93/256 in my age group.
  2. Safe Harbor Labor Day Dash (10k). Did it on impulse when I woke up in time to bike to the starting line. Took the first three miles to really warm up. 55:24. 26/56.
  3. North Face Half Marathon (13.1 mi). Hilly course, wasn’t feeling it. 2:18:19. 14/15.
  4. Indian Lake Trail Race (12k). Supremely hilly course, and I ran it better than I’d ever done it before. 1:07:49. 17/32.
  5. Fall 15k. Ran far, far harder than I expected I would. 1:19:14. 3rd in age group, 4th woman overall.
  6. McCarthy Park Trail Race (18k). Spent a lot of the race trying to figure out how far 18 kilometers actually was (spoiler: about 11 miles). It was cold and rainy. 1:39:46, which although a good deal faster than the 18k I ran in June (Blue Mounds, 1:55:24), was only good enough for 9/14 in my age group, or slightly more hideously, 28 of 35 overall. Oh well.

With the exception of my exciting finish at the Fall 15k, I haven’t been placing well (and annoyingly, the Fall 15k only did prizes for the top person in each AG rather than top 3). But my times have been good and my races have felt fairly strong.

I wanted to race five different distances this year. So far, I have raced one 5k, one 5 mile, two 10k, one 12k, one 15k, two 18k, one 20k, and four 13.1 mile races. This coming weekend, I am pacing a friend through about 18 miles of her 100 miler, and then the following weekend I’m doing a 28-ish mile trail race as the finale to my season. After that I may take it easy for a while.

Andre is totally over listening to the builders knock out drywall downstairs.
Andre is totally over listening to the builders knock out drywall downstairs.

A Weird Sensation

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I found this when M. André knocked over a pile of papers in my office the other day. After some research, it became clear that somehow I’d drawn it in March when I had my last dentist appointment but never posted it. So here you go: a found comic. I have my six-month appointment Friday, which means that I’ve successfully put off getting the tooth pulled that they told me to get pulled for an entire half year. Good show, me.

Not much else to report. I’ve been off running with an injury (sciatic nerve issues) for the past week, but today I ran five miles. It was amazing. Now I’m starving and I want to go get a snack, but going from my office to the kitchen seems like a long, possibly painful trip, and so maybe I’ll just stay here. . . .

I’m informed that the pretensesoup.com address will now redirect to ehlupton.com properly. Huzzah.

Em oi! #421: The Scottish Pronunciation

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This particular line has always bothered me. I’m not even sure “Macbeth” and “heath” count as slant rhyme. They’re just something that looks like a rhyme if you see them written.

I don’t usually do two comics in a week, but Madison Shakespeare Company‘s Macbeth opens TONIGHT, so I wanted to get this up. If you are busy tonight, that’s just as well–they’re sold out. But they still have shows tomorrow at 18:30, Saturday at 14:00 and 18:30, and Sunday at 18:30. The shows are at the Edgewood College amphitheater and are bring-your-own-chair. $12 suggested donation. Check it out; there will be swords.

(Aside: Are there any words other than “amphitheater” in English where a “ph” appears but the letters are pronounced separately across a syllable boundary instead of as a pair? How odd.)

Anyway, the witches are Cynthia, Gladys, and Azaelia. Of course.

I was thinking about the appearance of supernatural entities in Macbeth and in Shakespeare’s other works more broadly this morning, specifically the elements that would today probably be referred to as magical realism today, as they appear in otherwise realistic plays. In other words, the witches, the ghosts, and the dagger. In most productions of Macbeth, the show is typically produced with the witches and Banquo’s ghost (played by the actor who played Banquo) on stage, but the dagger speech is done without an actual dagger. There are likely practical reasons for this–it’s relatively easy to slop on some blood and send a glassy-eyed Banquo up to stand among the dinner guests, but it’s a lot harder to get a dagger to appear and look reasonably good just hanging there, especially when a show is being done en plein air, as this one is. But this creates a curious dichotomy–the dagger can be conceived of as being just Macbeth’s hallucination (he is under a lot of stress), while the witches and Banquo’s ghost are there in a more objective way. This brings a consistency to the behavior of the ghosts of Banquo and that of old Hamlet in his eponymous play; both seem to wander as they wish and appear only to whom they wish (for example, Horatio and the other guards see old Hamlet’s ghost, but later Gertrude does not).

We’ll file this under PR2823.W5 L86 2016, for English literature–English renaissance (1500-1640)–The drama–Individual authors–Shakespeare, William–Separate works–Macbeth–Criticism.

Em oi! #420: I HELP

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If you follow my Instagram (or if you are one of the myriad people I’ve chattered at in the last week and a half), you have probably guessed that I spent a couple of days in Manhattan after my meetings last week. As part of this, I got to go for a run in Central Park, fulfilling a long-time dream. Several people warned me that the interior of the park has a lot of paths, and that it was easy to get lost, so when I saw a map (this was the only one I saw), I went over to have a look, and found myself in company with a number of other tourists. In my view, coming up behind people and unexpectedly knowing their language is probably the best part of knowing a second language. I have done this with Mandarin in a bunch of places, including a money-changing office on the border between Cambodia and Thailand and a cab in Singapore. This might be the first time it really came in handy in the US.

I should note that despite the best efforts of my long-suffering teachers, I still speak with a strong Beijing accent (these tourists had a more refined speech sensibility). 对不起, 我的朋友!

Anyway, the map in the photo is a rough approximation of what Central Park looks like in my mind. The big circle is the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which is about 1.58 miles in circumference (I ran one lap) and in which I think I saw a merganser (a weird-looking diving duck). The thing that looks like a bird’s nest is the Ramble. I first encountered the Ramble in the play Angels in America, which mentioned it as a place where gay men meet to have anonymous sex.[1] The sign at the entry didn’t mention that (surprisingly!) and instead described it as a place for bird-watching. I thought it might be a nice place to run some trails, but I was worried that I would get lost and freak out my cousin. Or interrupt something awkward. So I didn’t go in. But it was very pretty. Apparently, when you are at the Bethesda angel (which also plays a major role in Angels) looking north, you are seeing the rambles across the lake.

The rambles is basically the tree stuff behind the fountain.
The rambles is basically the tree stuff behind the fountain.

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Central Park, truth be told, even though I did nearly nine miles that morning (so seven in the actual park). Later, my cousin and I power-walked through on our way from the Met to Lincoln Center and I got to see the John Lennon tribute in the area called Strawberry Fields, complete with unwashed guy playing guitar.

I could keep writing about New York for ages, because I went to so many areas and my cousin just knows a ton about the city, so now I know a ton about the city. But it’s getting late, so I will bring this to a close.

We’ll file the comic under P118.2 L86 2016, for Philology. Linguistics–Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar–Philosophy, origin, etc. of language–Language acquisition–Second language acquisition.

If you normally access this blog through the pretensesoup.com domain name, I should have forwarding fixed on that in a day or two, so you will be able to find the new blog whichever URL you prefer.

[1] According to Wikipedia, they have been used for this purpose since 1920.

Em oi! #419: Question Spiral

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True story. I don’t know if I did something right here or not; maternal instinct: I do not have it. Six-year-old was adorable though.

I inked most of this on an airplane. (Also, sorry about the janky scanning; I did this with the Cam Scanner app on my phone at 30,000+ feet up.) As I write this, I’m lying on a bed in a hotel in Long Island, watching some stupid Food Network show and wishing the pressure in my sinuses would go away. I don’t really know what’s wrong with it. Possibly the airplane caused it to freak out. Hopefully that rather than the tooth I need to get removed acting up. New York: so awesome.

I guess I should get to bed. I took a Benedryl about an hour ago and now I’m knackered. Hope you are all having a good night and your sinuses are okay.

File this under BF723 D3 L86 2016, for Pyschology–Developmental psychology–Child psychology–Special topics, A-Z–Death.

We’re Back

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We are back from Indianapolis. The cat has gone rogue without us. He is intrigued by our appearance, but confused as well. Who are these people and why are they in my house?

He’ll probably get over it at some point. Right?

Probably.

While I’m here, welcome to the new blog! Update your bookmarks and stay a while.

Now if you’ll excuse me, five and a half hours in the car have left me walking with the gait of Igor, so I’m going to go lie on a heating pad and do groaning until I feel better.