The Stanley Hotel: A Haunting?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2013 by sociopathways

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There are a few things you must know about me before I begin to tell this tale.

  1. I am in love with Groupon. Aaron and I have availed ourselves of movie tickets, scuba diving and wine classes and I have an archery coupon burning a hole in my Katniss-style pocket, all for an incredibly reasonable price.
  2. Not many things scare me, and I try to make it a point to confront the things that do. I have been comfortable around snakes, spiders and their ilk from an early age. Clowns are colorful and funny – and who doesn’t like balloon animals? Roller coasters are a little squicky for me (it’s that initial swoop, you know?) but I hop in line at amusement parks because it’s a delicious kind of fear.
  3. The paranormal has always fascinated me. As a tween, my dad took to calling me “Serial Killer” due to my attraction to horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Night of the Living Dead.” At one point, my mom paid me $5 to read something – ANYTHING, that wasn’t written by Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Stephen King or Ann Rice. I pocketed the cash, read Anne of Green Gables for the millionth time and resumed my reading of The Tommyknockers. Never having had a supernatural experience, I have always loved reading and watching others’ stories but if my viewing of “Paranormal Activity” is any indication, (I slept poorly with the light on for weeks afterward) I am ill equipped to actually confront a ghostie-ghoulie myself.
  4. Every birthday, I try to help my husband cross something off of his bucket list. Last year he flew a plane and the year before I sent him to a cabin in the woods for a solitary retreat so he could get his write on, Michael Gideon style. He puts up with me on a daily basis, so when I payback, I have to payback big.

So. It’s a few weeks before Christmas and I am perusing my Groupon app, where there is a deal for a night at The Stanley Hotel. Score! Aaron is a huge Stephen King fan and, as a writer, would really appreciate being in the place that inspired The Shining, one of King’s most famous (and arguably, scariest) works. Mom has been bugging me about cool Christmas gifts to get my husband and I have found her answer. One phone call and a few emails later and we have our Groupon for a night’s stay at The Stanley.

I don’t really think much about how this trip is going to affect me, it’s so far in the future. It’s gratifying to see how excited my husband is – think kid in a candy store but with jetpacks – and I am looking forward to getting away and seeing some mountains. But the time flies by and suddenly, our flight is booked, we’re packed and the following night, we will be spending our evening in the same space that gave birth to Stephen King’s creative epiphany. With some ghosts, maybe.

I can’t sleep. It’s not actually fear keeping me awake – insomnia is a pain in the ass. Our flight leaves in the early A.M. and we have to get to the airport at the buttcrack of dawn. I actually don’t get one single bit of sleep that night. I’m annoyed, but one very large, sugary coffee later, I concede that I can sleep on the plane.

Except I don’t, not for more than 30 minutes or so. I get the window seat and spend most of the hour and a half flight staring at the crop circle topography out our window. (Does anyone know why the landscape looks like that from a distance? How is it that everything is so symmetrical? ALIENS! Why are there more circular shapes than square as you travel farther west? Farmers? No, aliens. Wait, why is that one shaped like a lizard?) These thoughts occupy me for quite some time, so I miss out on sleep.

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We arrive in Colorado, a state I have never been to. I love public transportation and I am in my element as we gleefully hop on the tram to take us to the main terminal, where we will hop on a shuttle to get our rental car. After a minor snafu with the rental car place, we’re comfy in our Ford Fusion and on the road. (Seriously, avoid Advantage if you can help it – so many jacked up fees that our total was more than twice what we were quoted and the woman behind the counter kept trying to upsell us despite a firm no. Yes, I’m still bitter about it.)

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As we drive, I keep seeing signs for the Denver Butterfly Museum. Aaron and I like to play a game called Follow the Signs and the signs are pointing me to insects so we make a quick stop. We take many, many pictures in the butterfly habitat, touch a few starfish, I hold a tarantula named Rosie and we’re on the road again, this time looking for food. I think my husband might eat my face if I don’t put a burger in his hands immediately, so we stop at a McDonald’s off the highway, where I score us a free milkshake through stupidity. (I ordered a chocolate milkshake, and then changed my order to a Shamrock shake but they had already poured the first so they gave us both. Sleepy ordering and Denver McDonald’s staff FTW!)

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We soldier on and much as I would love to nap, as I am getting dumber by the sleep-deprived second, I can’t make myself because mountains. Mountains! I love mountains. We’re driving through the thick of Denver and the presence of these beautiful behemoths lend a bit of gravitas to the scenery. I’m in awe, though I don’t see any of the mountain goats I am so actively seeking and I take far too many pictures as we wend our way up the ear-popping incline. We turn the final curvy corner and there she is – Estes Park, CO. It’s beautiful. You can see the bright white of The Stanley shining in the distance, just beyond the lake. Quaint little shops and rustic lodges litter the landscape. The mountains majestically rise above it all. It is in this moment that I decide that I could live in Colorado.

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We arrive at the hotel. It’s gorgeous, all warm woods and intricate details that you typically find in grand, historic hotels of this type. We make our way to the front desk and as we check-in, Lindsay, our friendly front desk agent, lets us know that we have a surprise waiting for us. We’re not THAT surprised, as my mother has been gunning for us to get to the hotel all day and has been constantly reminding us that we need to use this as an opportunity to really enjoy ourselves and let go on this trip in the weeks leading up to it. My mother is many things, generous being one of them, but subtle she is not. Aaron and I have discussed the fact that we may have tickets for one of the hotel tours or a gift certificate to the restaurant waiting for us when we arrive.


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Aaron reads the card Lindsay hands him and smiles before showing it to me. My eyes skim it and stop at one number. 401. We’ve been upgraded to room 401. The Stanley is known for being haunted and if you’ll excuse my making up words, the fourth floor, home to the former nanny wing, is known for being haunteder. Supposedly, you can still hear the laughter of small children in the halls. Rooms 401, 428 and 217 are the hauntedest of the bunch. As we learned from the video on the hotel’s website, 217 is where Stephen King stayed when he was at The Stanley and it is where the ghost of Mrs. Wilson, the resident housekeeper resides. She’ll put your clothes away for you and apparently, if the story of The Shining genesis is to be believed, will act as a muse for writers at 3 AM. Room 428 is home to a watchful cowboy who likes to stand over the bed at night and 401 is home to Lord Dunraven, a sailor who likes the ladies. I hear screaming in my head. I let out a loud gasp, tear up and cry “Oh, NO!” I actually have to turn away from the desk to collect myself.

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Poor Lindsay is so concerned by my reaction that she offers to move us to another room, which I decline. I want to face my fears. I want Aaron to enjoy this night as much as possible. I definitely want to see a ghost for the first time, no matter how much it terrifies me. So we get our keys and head to the room. It’s still light out and I am exhausted so after getting settled in a bit and exploring the room, which is beautiful, we turn on The Shining (which runs constantly on one of the hotel channels) and I take a disco nap, bringing my grand sleep total to about an hour and a half.

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It’s exploring time! I’m awake and Aaron has been patient enough. We meander around the hotel, taking pictures and ultimately end up on one of the hotel tours, led by Bonnie, a very sweet, very knowledgeable older lady on staff. She gives us the history of the hotel and it’s owners, F.E. and F.O. Stanley, and in each room, makes it a point to tell us the ghostly tidbits. We end up on the fourth floor and she tells a story about Lord Dunraven grabbing her butt when she was in 401. I try to ignore it. I take a picture in the basement tunnel that has suspicious lines on it. They weren’t there when I took the picture and they weren’t there in the subsequent pictures I took so I can’t explain them. Ghostly energy? I have no idea.

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Tour over, it’s time to eat and we freshen up and head downstairs. Our reservation is for 7:30 and we have a little time to kill so we sit at the bar. Aaron is excited to try one of the top-tier whiskies on offer (The Cascades has the largest whiskey collection in the state of Colorado) and I have been wanting to try the Mandarin Martini all afternoon, ever since we passed by the sign advertising it in front of the restaurant. We sit down and Aaron orders his Crown Royal XR and I suddenly have an overwhelming need for a Bloody Mary. So I order it. It’s yummy.

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At dinner, we have lamb meatballs as an appetizer (they were called something fancier but I can’t remember what), I order the French onion soup and Aaron and I both order the filets with roasted vegetables. Everything is wonnnnnnnnderful and my Bacon Bloody Mary complements the filet perfectly. Aaron has to settle for beer, as he shot his $26 whiskey in under two seconds. Why? I honestly have no idea. He’s crazy like that.


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We want dessert and still have some money left on our tab but we are exhausted so we order it to go so we can relax with it in our room. As we wait for it to be boxed up, I pop outside for a quick smoke. I’ve been a little jumpy and have asked Aaron to stick close to me all day, but now it’s dark out and I am alone. For the first time, I realize just how freaked I really am. As I smoke, every noise I hear has me spooked. A dried leaf skittering across the sidewalk almost makes me wet myself. I finish my cigarette as soon as possible and hightail it back in to the restaurant. I have the unsettling feeling that I am being watched.

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We head back to the room and I take a leisurely bath in the enormous cast iron tub. It’s relaxing, but only because I make Aaron sit on the toilet and talk to me while I soak. I am worse when I am left alone with my thoughts. He’s been very patient with me thus far, poor guy. Having had several paranormal experiences of his own, he’s nonplussed at the ghosties and is more excited about the Stephen King aspect of this trip, but he is genuinely concerned at my level of nervousness. I’m not screaming or crying, but there’s a definite undercurrent of nerves and need. We settle in to bed and eat our dessert. The tiramisu tastes great, but my eyes keep darting anxiously around the room, looking for dancing shadows.

Now. Aaron will tell you that we had all the lights in the room on. This is not true. He can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and while I was exhausted, I spent more time awake in that room than he did. The lamp on my side of the bed was on as, as was the T.V. Once, Aaron made the mistake of turning away from me to go to sleep and I made him flip right back around and talk to me. After Aaron expressed some mild annoyance at my having disrupted his sleep for the third or fourth time, bolting upright and flipping restlessly as I was, I halfway watched a movie (though I have no idea what it was) and fell into a fitful sleep. At one point I woke up to “Grease,” which helped. You just can’t be scared when you’re watching Danny Zuko. It was a long night for both of us. Sorry, babe.

The next morning eventually dawned cold and clear and I was decidedly less freaked out. Aaron and I lazed for a bit and walked around the hotel some more, just taking in the ambience. It is truly a gorgeous hotel. As I got ready to head to the airport, I hear Aaron pipe up from the bedroom. “Babe, did you open the closet?” I hadn’t. Aaron had been looking at a picture on the opposite wall and watched through the reflection in the glass as the heavy, creaky door slowly and silently inched open on its own. I, of course, made him sit on the toilet again while I finished getting ready. We closed the closet door (firmly) and started packing. Then, as Aaron sat in the sitting room off of our bedroom, and I packed in the next room, I looked up and was surprised by an open closet door. “Babe, did you open the closet?” Aaron replied that he didn’t. The door was fully open. I went a bit wide-eyed, but didn’t freak out, which made Aaron suspicious. I’m still not sure if I have fully convinced him that I did not touch that door. I didn’t.

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Bonnie told us on our tour that if a woman got into the closet and closed the door, Lord Dunraven would stroke her hair. I had been staring at the closet side-eyed the entire night, thinking that I should try it. I surely didn’t want to but again – I like to make myself do the things that scare me. After a few false starts and a deep breath, I climbed in and shut the door. Nothing happened, but then, I was clenched so tight, I don’t really know if I would have felt anything had Lord Dunraven tried to cop a feel. Still. I did it.

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We headed down to breakfast and had a wonderful meal. I had the Redrum French toast with bananas and a pomegranate mimosa and Aaron enjoyed eggs, toast and ham. Again, delicious – maybe even better than dinner. As we were perusing the menu, there was a notation in the beverage section. Remember that Bloody Mary I was telling you about? Apparently it was Lord Dunraven’s drink of choice when he stayed at The Stanley. I remembered my quick switch and overwhelming desire for a Bloody Mary the previous night and smiled. Was Lord Dunraven messing with my head, or did I just really need some olives in my diet? I don’t know.

We left The Stanley with full bellies and made it to the airport with time to spare. (Plenty of time, as our flight was delayed. Boo.) As it stands, the tally for our trip runs to a picture with some unexplainable lines on it, two open closet doors and a Bloody Mary. As such, I can’t really make a case for the hauntings at The Stanley Hotel but I can tell you that we had a wonderful, albeit it wakeful time. I can also tell you that my husband is very patient and Groupon is awesome. So there’s that.

Wherein I Am A Lovely Young Woman and Kinda Make Sense…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22, 2011 by sociopathways

I got to thinking the other day about cool opportunities that social media has afforded me and this blog post sprang to mind:

http://marcomm201.blogspot.com/2008/02/out-of-mouths-of-babes-email-marketing.html

Just wanted to post this, mostly because Jay Berkman, writer and megamarketingmind behind this blog is the newest hero addition to my pantheon. And I like being called lovely.

Your Dinner Is About To Get Scientific

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2011 by sociopathways

Q. What the hell is O/W + G → (G+O)/W?

*Answer can be found at the end of this article. Happy reading!

Chefs by their very nature are chemists, crafting alchemical masterpieces of taste and flavor from basic ingredients. Most chefs would tell you, however, that they have no idea WHY that recipe called for baking powder instead of baking soda or why that flour/egg/sugar mixture became a cookie in the oven. A few brave Discovery Channel viewers might venture something along the lines of “baking soda is gassier, I think.” or “The oven… dries stuff out…heat… I think”** but few would be able to tell you that baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a base that must be mixed with an acidic ingredient in order to react and expand in your cookie dough, while baking powder is sodium bicarbonate with starch and a powdered acid already mixed in. Or that when baking, particles in that doughy concoction become denatured and change shape as they get hotter and drier, via the process called convection. 

My point is that food is inherently scientific at every point in its cycle, from the chemical makeup of table salt (sodium chloride, or NaCL) to the boiling point of water used to cook pasta. (That’s 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level.) Many cooks can turn a radish into a beautiful flower, but few are aware of the physical and chemical principles that make their food so fabulous. There are some chefs who are taking the science of food to a whole new level, in a culinary discipline called Molecular Gastronomy.

Food explorers have been figuring out the whys behind our pies for centuries, but molecular gastronomists, or as I like to call them, Fe Chefs, got their start in 1988 when world-renowned chefs, Herve This and Nicholas Kurti created an order dedicated to the physics and chemistry behind cooking. Herve writes, “Initially, as written in my PhD dissertation, molecular gastronomy had five aims: to collect and investigate old wives’ tales about cooking; to model and scrutinize existing recipes; to introduce new tools, products and methods to cooking; to invent new dishes using knowledge from the previous three aims; and to use the appeal of food to promote science.”

Today, molecular cooks continue to delve deeper into the processes of food preparation, coming up with new techniques that defy the conventions of the kitchen. Chefs such as Ferran Adria, of El Bulli in Spain or Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, in England, are using tools that sound better suited for NASA, tools such as anti-griddles, liquid nitrogen, emulsifiers and cryo guns, to create exciting and texturally unique foods. It’s quite apparent that their adventurous patrons are loving every bite. El Bulli receives over one million reservation requests to fill the 8,000 slots they offer each year. The restaurant is sold out in one day.

Molecular cooking does have its detractors, opponents such as Jun Tanaka of Pearl in London. “Chefs will move away from molecular gastronomy. Things will go back to being more about the produce, about things being natural.” Many chefs agree with him, feeling that these chemistry experiments are just what they seem to be… flashes in the pan. The societal movement toward fresh, locally produced ingredients seems to be at odds with what can only be described as Extreme Cooking. The controversy probably won’t die any time soon.

But neither will the science. In a world where children clamor for astronaut ice cream and Dippin’ Dots, can carrot air really be so far behind? At the very least, the chefs of tomorrow will probably be able to answer the question, “Why did my dish do that?”

*That would be the shorthand CDS (complex disperse system) for whipped cream. Looks yummy, doesn’t it?

**Actual answers I received from co-workers. They shall remain anonymous because… seriously?

How To Make Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream*

By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., About.com Guide

You can use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream pretty much instantly. This makes a nice cryogenics or phase change demonstration. It’s also just plain fun. This recipe is for strawberry ice cream. If you omit the strawberries, you can add a bit of vanilla for vanilla ice cream or some chocolate syrup for chocolate ice cream. Feel free to experiment!

 Difficulty: Average

 Time Required: Minutes

What You Need:

  • 5 or more liters of liquid nitrogen
  • gloves and goggles recommended
  • large plastic or stainless steel punch bowl or salad bowl
  • 4 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1-1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 quart mashed fresh strawberries or thawed frozen berries
  • additional half cup of sugar if you are using unsweetened berries
  • wooden spoon
  • wire whisk

Here’s How:

  1. This recipe makes a half gallon of strawberry ice cream. First, mix the cream, half-and-half, and sugar in the bowl using the wire whisk. Continue mixing until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. If you are making vanilla or chocolate ice cream, whisk in vanilla or chocolate syrup now. Add any other liquid flavorings you might want.
  3. Put on your gloves and goggles. Pour a small amount of liquid nitrogen directly into the bowl with the ice cream ingredients. Continue to stir the ice cream, while slowly adding more liquid nitrogen. As soon as the cream base starts to thicken, add the mashed strawberries. Stir vigorously.
  4. When the ice cream becomes too thick for the whisk, switch to the wooden spoon. As it hardens more, remove the spoon and just pour the remaining liquid nitrogen onto the ice cream to fully harden it.
  5. Allow the excess liquid nitrogen to boil off before serving the ice cream.

Tips:

  1. The mix of whipping cream and half-and-half helps to make a very creamy ice cream with small crystals, that freezes quickly.
  2. Don’t touch liquid nitrogen or store it in a closed container!
  3. If the ice cream begins to melt before everyone is served, simply add more liquid nitrogen.
  4. A large plastic mug with a handle is good for pouring the liquid nitogen. If you use a metal container, be sure to wear gloves.
  5. I’m told a cordless drill with a mixing attachment is even better than a whisk and wooden spoon. If you have power tools, go for it!

 *I have not tried preparing this recipe. I have a hard enough time with knives and fire and simply cannot imagine the kind of damage I could inflict on my self/home/cat if I had liquid nitrogen at my disposal. By the same token, I am not recommending that YOU try this recipe for much the same reason. I like you and I hate lawsuits.

Sources:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/what-is-the-difference-between-baking-powder-and-baking-soda-in-pancakes.html

http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v7/n11/full/7400850.html

http://www.howstuffworks.com/molecular-gastronomy.htm/printable

http://iweb.tntech.edu/dswart/Thisnmat1303.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heston_Blumenthal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denaturation_(biochemistry)

http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB126532946414240915.html

An Exercise In SAT Words… And My Frustration

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2010 by sociopathways

This week, I was told that the words I use are too big.

(A bit of context for you: I was at work, where I spend my days in business dress, with some fairly educated, intelligent people. I wasn’t talking to a bunch of preschoolers, nor was I speaking to a group of ESL students. )

At the time, I was giving a job interview with a fellow manager and after the applicant left, Fellow Manager and I sat down to talk about our impressions.  Fellow Manager had some notes for me as well.

“Sometimes, Lauren, you use really big words. And it can be… a bit much.”

Ouch. Not the greatest thing to hear about oneself, particularly when I was expecting to talk about hiring. (When did this become about me?) Still, I was bugged but not surprised, as this now marks the third time my vocabulary has been mentioned as a negative in the workplace.  To say nothing of the teasing in elementary school and sotto voce digs that surrounded me in high school English class.

Here’s the thing; I really don’t feel as though my vocabulary is such a stretch. I DON’T use big words. My every day A to Z language choices don’t generally include words like ameliorate or zeitgeist. In fact, the second time my verbiage was mentioned at work, I was hauled into a managers’ office for using the word “equality” in a team meeting. Up until that day, I had never really thought of equality (both the word and the concept) as any particular brain-buster, but you can consider me corrected, Boss.

To be fair, I’m not always wholly aware of the words I am using. Measured speech isn’t exactly my forte. (Is forte a big word? And on that note, do people mean that my words are large or do they mean complex when they say “too big?” To my knowledge, I have never actually used the word antidisestablishmentarianism in a sentence, and that’s the baddest mama-jama of a word there is, outside of medical terminology. But I digress.) I tend to speak quickly and my memory isn’t always the sharpest – so while I can probably give you the gist of what I said, someone would have to take dictation for me to be able to tell you my exact wording. So there’s that.

Still. I like words. I always have. I’ve been a voracious reader since the age of four, a writer for almost as long, and you don’t love books and language like I do without picking up a few things here and there.  Picking up, say, the subtle nuances between the words affect and effect. Or the beauty of a well-turned phrase. The liberation one feels the first time they use a challenging word properly. I just wish everyone knew or wanted to know the joys of language.

Because I’m concerned. Concerned that I am living in a world where people scream their political ideologies from the rooftops, but don’t know how to spell them. A world where, as in the satirical movie, Idiocracy, we’ve devolved to the point where “Uhhhh… you’re retarded” constitutes insightful observation. A world where I am told that my ability to express myself intelligently has become my issue to overcome, rather than someone else’s educational deficiency.

I feel like Chris Tucker in Rush Hour. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?” And I could do one of two things. I could choose to dum down my talking skillz. Pepper my sentences with “OMG” and enough “likes” to make Facebook proud. Or, I could continue to speak well in the hopes that the grand oral history that has marked the human race as a brilliant feat of evolutionary excellence will someday make a comeback. I choose the latter, thankyouverymuch.

This week I was told that the words I use are too big. But you know what? No. I’m taking a stand because someone has to for all the words that aren’t “a” and “the” out there. You say the words I use are too big? Well, you know what? The words you use are too small. In fact, they’re damned diminutive. Deal with it.

/stepping off soapbox

A Moderate’s Manifesto (Mine, Anyway)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by sociopathways
In response to the “Rally to Restore Sanity” that took place this past weekend, the scary and unfriendly comment boards on my favorite political blogs, the election results of last night, the many people who would tell myself and countless others who we are based on what we believe, the divisiveness and horror of the past few months in particular and the past few decades in general, I give you my very own political manifesto:
 
I believe… that my right to choose is just as valid as your right to have children. This does not make me a murderer.
 
I believe… in small government and responsible spending. This doesn’t make me Hitler incarnate.
 
I believe… in supporting business in order to foster economic growth. This doesn’t mean that I am a rich fatcat, hellbent on hurting the working class.
 
I believe… in the legalization of marijuana. This doesn’t mean that I am a lazy pothead. I don’t even smoke.
 
I believe… that the stimulus was a bad response to an awful situation. This doesn’t make me a racist.
 
I believe… that health is personal and should remain a matter of individual choice. This doesn’t mean that I wish death on the poor.
 
I believe… that love is love is love and that marriage should be an expression of that. This doesn’t mean that I condone bestiality, rape or incest.
 
I believe… in the millions of Americans that are just trying to make the best decisions they can for their loved ones.
 
I am a social Liberal. I am not a babykilling fascist, nor am I a stupid Communist.
I am a fiscal Conservative. I am not a greedy elitist or an unfeeling racist.
I am a moderate.
I am an American.
I am a human being.
 
I am here.

A Womb With A View.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 28, 2010 by sociopathways

While being terribly productive at work (read: surfing the net for interesting news items), I found this:

THIS is a felt reproduction of Bella’s womb (post-vampiric impregnation) from that movie about all those vampires.

That’s really it. I just HAD to share more rabid Twilight insanity. People make me laugh.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by sociopathways

Once upon a time, there was a bottle of sake. Now, this particular bottle of sake was a very special bottle of sake, more special than all of the other sake bottles in the world, with their fruity flavors and hot and cold temperatures, and tiny cups and rituals for drinking. While old, this bottle of sake wasn’t the most special bottle of sake because of its’ age, or, for that matter because of where it was located. It had originated in Japan, that strange, mystical, exotic land of Hello Kitty fanaticism and Harajuku girls, but now it could be found on a non-descript, dusty shelf in a darkened tavern on the corner of an unassuming street in the Midwest - not exactly the most glamorous of locales. Nor was it special because of the bottle it was in, for the vessel was simply glass and square and somewhat dingy, what with sitting on that aforementioned non-descript and dusty shelf for so long.

No, what made this bottle of sake special was what was in it. And what was in this bottle of sake was… reptiles. A snake and a lizard, to be exact. As well as few amphibians, of the salamandery and toady variety. And probably a couple of mouse droppings. (Damn dusty shelves!) The poor, pickled creatures stared out from the glass, cloudy-eyed and eerie, from their dank and dirty perch, night after night.

Most passers-by were either unaware or unnerved by their silently mocking gaze but one girl, one strange and somewhat special girl, viewed their mere presence as a challenge of her courage. Weird, creepy sake was not being consumed? No one would step up and try the nasty stuff? Inconceivable! This girl worked in the darkened tavern on the corner of the unassuming street in the Midwest and as she toiled into the wee hours every night, she would often find herself wondering, “What does that sake taste like?” and “I bet it tastes like evil, with just a hint of oakiness!” and once, upon closer inspection, “Eww! Is that a mouse dropping?”

It went on like this for months, until the girl’s 21st birthday. And on that day, the owner of the bottle and the owner of the tavern called the girl over to them and firmly placed the most special sake bottle in the world on the only slightly sticky slab of bar. Challenge extended. The girl took a deep breath and nodded. Challenge accepted. The three cracked open the bottle (after much maneuvering and grunting – it was a very OLD bottle) and readied shot glasses. Doing the honors, the girl poured.

The sake glistened in the lamplight and vapors of evil and oakiness (the girl was right!) wafted from the glass. With a few sly sideways glances to make sure the other two had their glasses ready, the girl pinched her nose and… bottom’s up! Churgle. Gah! Oh, it was awful! Like formaldehyde and reptile and grease and all things dark and unpleasant. It burned going down and gagged coming up.

But… it stayed down. And then it worked it’s magic and it was good and warm and probably had something to do with the shenanigans that were to occur later that evening. (I could elaborate here, but the girl would probably be a bit miffed, as her mother reads this blog. Suffice it to say, amphibious liquor = crazy times.)

The End.

*This blog post was supposed to be something completely different… hence the title. I was GOING to write about doctors and how much I despise them when they are right. BUT I started to write this and had far too much fun with it to stop. Consider it a writing exercise. Thanks for reading!

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