Saturday, January 31, 2009

Poem for Saturday

First Idyll
By Susan Stewart

A frayed rope of ivy wound round and round the lip
of a cup, a wooden cup carved from boxwood
that grew for a thousand years.
My cousin has a little goat, black
and white, with a delicate
hoof that looks like
onyx from a distance,
and like coal when
you come close
enough to touch it.


I had lunch today with a good friend from high school whom I basically have not seen since, which was it was at La Madeleine in downtown Bethesda, which means I got to park and walk around a bit in a neighborhood where some of the stores have been there for over 50 years while others have turned over since I was there a few months ago. Then I came home to write a review of "Devil's Due", which is a pretty terrible episode of Next Gen, probably the worst of the fourth season...and I still like it loads better than any SGA or BSG I've watched in the past several months. I can't believe how completely I took Next Gen for granted when it was new.

The view from the caboose toward the 1885 freight house at Ellicott City's B&O Railroad Museum.

The 1927 I-5 Caboose on permanent exhibit on the old tracks.

A table and lantern inside the caboose, which also has elevated seats and beds, plus the original stove.

One of the model trains exhibited for the season inside the station...

...has lots of entertaining features like hobos living under the tracks, a movie on a drive-in screen, and a car sliding down a hill.

Another room hosts Thomas the Tank Engine trains, which had lots of younger children following them around.

One of the artifacts in the onetime telegraph and ticketing room.

Here is some of the original telegraph equipment and information on how to use "the first internet" as the signs called it.

The Friday Five: Beauty
1. How would you define beauty?
Whatever any given individual finds attractive. I don't believe in objective standards of beauty but I also think it's disingenuous to pretend that notions about physical beauty don't exist and we're not all swayed by them -- that I only look at "the person inside" or whatever.
2. What is the best quality a person can have? The ability to see the good in everyone.
3. What is the worst quality a person can have? Cynicism that blinds them to the good in everyone.
4. What makes up your perfect match? You really think this can be listed in one sentence in a meme?
5. Have you met this person yet? Yes.

Fannish 5: Name 5 cliches - from canon or fandom - that you'd like to see disappear.
Oh dear, BSG, I seem to be looking at you.
1. Hopelessly bleak and cynical is more "powerful," "edgy" or "grown up" in sci-fi than optimistic and forward-seeing.
2. Women who shoot, swear, screw and scream a lot should be admired for acting like one of the guys.
3. On the other hand, women must remain celibate or they become impotent as leaders. (Laura, meet Kathryn. Kathryn, Laura.)
4. Angry men will use rape and homophobia as weapons of war because it's a mother-frakking instinct in all men rather than a reflection of the misogyny of the writers.
5. If you just keep the cliffhangers coming, then no matter how absurd, nor how many loose ends you leave, the audience will keep tuning in.

So speaking of BSG...the show is such crap and I dislike it so intensely at this point, more than back when I fell asleep during the miniseries and a bunch of people told me I was just a misogynist who couldn't deal with a female Starbuck, when I just thought it was pretentious rather than repulsive. I was thinking about Sanctuary earlier, and why I like it so much apart from Amanda Tapping -- I like Mary McDonnell too so the problem isn't that there's no strong female pulling me in. It's that Sanctuary at the core sees sentient beings the way Star Trek does: whatever you look like, however weird your background and development, there's a presumption of innate goodness and value. On BSG, the presumption is that everyone -- human and cylon alike -- is wired for self-preservation and self-interest, and will always resort to violence to promote their own ends, even pathetic cowards.

Spoilers: I'm not going to bother to try to analyze episodes or arcs because there's so much inconsistency and stupidity that I'd have to take notes just to keep up, but some moments stand out -- Laura making me shriek with laughter when SHE calls BILL passive-aggressive even as she's saying she won't do her job, and saying things like, "Frakking Zarek, he always had dangerous ideas" -- that's all Laura has to contribute there?! Okay, I did love her telling Baltar that maybe they're both frauds, though Baltar these days is like a parody of himself, a shell who needs lots of mommy-lovers around to bolster his ego. He cracked me up, too, with the line about how he and Laura both made the worst choices ever in their presidential aides de camp. The entertainment value of watching the train wreck is increasingly overriden by shame that I have watched this with my kids, that I not only let them but encouraged them. They don't need to be fed this kind of garbage; I really think I'd prefer teen sex comedies.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Poem for Friday

Epistle To Hugh Parker
By Robert Burns

In this strange land, this uncouth clime,
A land unknown to prose or rhyme;
Where words ne'er cross't the Muse's heckles,
Nor limpit in poetic shackles:
A land that Prose did never view it,
Except when drunk he stacher't thro' it;
Here, ambush'd by the chimla cheek,
Hid in an atmosphere of reek,
I hear a wheel thrum i' the neuk,
I hear it--for in vain I leuk.
The red peat gleams, a fiery kernel,
Enhusked by a fog infernal:
Here, for my wonted rhyming raptures,
I sit and count my sins by chapters;
For life and spunk like ither Christians,
I'm dwindled down to mere existence,
Wi' nae converse but Gallowa' bodies,
Wi' nae kenn'd face but Jenny Geddes,
Jenny, my Pegasean pride!
Dowie she saunters down Nithside,
And aye a westlin leuk she throws,
While tears hap o'er her auld brown nose!
Was it for this, wi' cannie care,
Thou bure the Bard through many a shire?
At howes, or hillocks never stumbled,
And late or early never grumbled?--
O had I power like inclination,
I'd heeze thee up a constellation,
To canter with the Sagitarre,
Or loup the ecliptic like a bar;
Or turn the pole like any arrow;
Or, when auld Phoebus bids good-morrow,
Down the zodiac urge the race,
And cast dirt on his godship's face;
For I could lay my bread and kail
He'd ne'er cast saut upo' thy tail.--
Wi' a' this care and a' this grief,
And sma', sma' prospect of relief,
And nought but peat reek i' my head,
How can I write what ye can read?--
Tarbolton, twenty-fourth o' June,
Ye'll find me in a better tune;
But till we meet and weet our whistle,
Tak this excuse for nae epistle.


Another by Burns, who was born 250 years ago last Sunday and whose birthday is being celebrated all week in in Scotland.

Finally a day when the kids had school! Though it started two hours late, meaning, paradoxically, that I had to be up and moving early, since Paul had an early morning phone conference and was not available for assisting with breakfast. But I did get to have lunch with Cidercupcakes! We went to California Pizza Kitchen for hummus, soup (yeah, I know) and discussion of who should play Rod Blagojevich in the movie version of his life. By the time he had been kicked out of office, we had watched several episodes of Futurama, particularly "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?" -- the Zoidberg pon farr episode with the awesome national anthem. Plus we had pumpkin spice tea.

Among many other wonderful antique shops, dining establishments and art galleries, Ellicott City has the fabulous Forget-Me-Not Factory.

I had been told that this place was a must-see due to the Pre-Raphaelite artwork, fairies, bubble machines and Renfaire garb...

...not to mention the full-sized pirate on the top floor.

I didn't even know that the store also had year-round Halloween merchandise and miniatures.

Plus such awesomeness as Elvis collectibles, Wizard of Oz collectibles, and these fabulous tropical parrots.

There are a huge variety of fairies and angels, the most I've ever seen in one place.

And the building itself -- a house from the late 1700s with a wall made from exposed bedrock -- has wonderfully decorated staircases and fireplaces.

You can even have your fortune told. (Whoops, guess I wasn't supposed to be taking pictures but I didn't even notice that sign till I looked at this photo at home!)

In the evening we discovered that we had nothing viable in the house for a meal, plus an IHOP coupon that expired at the end of the month, so what could we do...we had brunch for dinner. Then we watched Smallville, which I despised in almost every way...the V for Vendetta plot, the Elektra plot, and it had such a promising opening with Clark remembering how much better off he was without Lana, only to have Chloe -- who very intelligently reminded him last week that he could have Lois -- turn on her own cousin and practically BEG Clark to go back to Lana, apparently to justify her own settling for Jimmy. And now Lana is super-girlfriend, which in principle should please me because I always wanted her to be more Clark's equal, except now I just want her to go away so Lois can be Clark's equal without needing super-speed! Blah!

Sad news this morning: The Washington Post is dropping Book World on Sundays. They're going to fold their book coverage into the Style section, which already runs book reviews on weekdays, and various other parts of the paper as publications warrant. They readily admit this is because publishers don't pay enough to advertise in Book World, but I am very worried that we may lose Poet's Choice -- always the first thing I read in the Sunday paper -- and other columns that I enjoy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poem for Thursday

Army Cats
By Tom Sleigh


Over by the cemetery next to the CP
you could see them in wild catmint going crazy:
I watched them roll and wriggle, paw it, lick it,
chew it, leap about, pink tongues stuck out, drooling.

Cats in the tanks' squat shadows lounging.
Or sleeping curled up under gun turrets.
Hundreds of them sniffing or licking
long hind legs stuck in the air,

great six-toed brutes fixing you with a feral,
slit-eyed stare...everywhere ears twitching,
twitching as the armor plate expanding
in the heat gave off piercing little pings.

Cat invasion of the mind. Cat tribes
running wild. And one big pregnant
female comes racing through weeds to pounce
between the paws of a marble dog

crouching on a grave and sharpens
her claws against his beard of moss
before she goes all silky, luxuriously
squirming right under the dog's jaws,

and rolls over to expose her swollen belly.
Picture her with gold hoop earrings
and punked-out nose ring like the cat goddess Bast,
bronze kittens at her feet, the crowd drinking wildly,

women lifting up their skirts as she floats down
the Nile, a sistrum jangling in her paw.
Then come back out of it and sniff
her ointments, Lady of Flame, Eye of Ra.


Through the yard the tanks come gunning,
charioteers laughing, goggles smeared with dust
and sun, scattering the toms slinking
along the blast wall holding back the waves

from washing away white crosses on the graves,
the motors roaring through the afternoon
like a cat fuck yowling on and on.
The gun turrets revolving in the cats' eyes

swivel and shine, steel treads clanking,
sending the cats flying in an exodus
through brown brittle grass, the stalks
barely rippling as they pass.


After the last car bomb killed three soldiers
the Army Web site labelled them "martyrs."
Four civilians killed at checkpoints. Three on the airport road.
A young woman blown up by a grenade.

Facts and more facts...until the dead ones
climb up out of the graves, gashes on faces
or faces blown away like sandblasted stone
that in the boarded-up museums'

fractured English "leaves the onlooker
riddled and shaken, nothing but a pathetic gaping..."
And then I remember the ancient archers
frozen between reverence and necessity—

who stare down the enemy, barbarians,
as it's told, who nailed sacred cats to their shields,
knowing their foes outraged in their piety
would throw down their bows and wail like kittens.


From this week's New Yorker.

We had another snow day -- not much accumulation, but the roads had iced over during the night. Even Paul stayed in and worked from home, meaning he had both a computer and a cat in his lap most of the day. It wouldn't have been a bad day had Sears shown up to repair our dryer as scheduled (the mail arrived, UPS arrived, it's not like the roads were non-navigable all day) or at least called to tell us they weren't going to make it...well, I have already ranted about that plenty elsewhere. The kids did more sledding and playing of Wii Fit and had friends over, and I struggled to do laundry with a dryer that will only dry five items at a time and overheats after ten minutes even within that limitation.

This is where Daisy spent as much of her snow day as Paul's lap. Cinnamon spent most of hers in the fishie cat bed...

...while Rosie plunked down on the back of the couch above the heating vent and watched the birds flitting in the trees to avoid the snow.

This is the significant other of the cardinal whose blurry photo I posted yesterday.

She was apparently not bothered by standing in snow, though she spent a lot of time picking seeds out of the bird feeder.

I wish I had a clearer photo of the red one, whose bright color in the snow drives the cats completely insane as he hops around on the deck.

Eventually they end up pesking each other since they can't chase the birds.

And the closer it gets to feeding time, the more time they spend circling by the kitchen.

To my regret, we have now finished watching all of Arrested Development. I wasn't spoiled for the finale, so I wasn't sure whether it came to a resolution or just an end, and I was very pleased to learn it was the former, though I think the level of crack in the last season got a bit outrageous even by that show's standards. Still, it was enormously fun to see Justine Bateman (the remarks on the blooper reel from that episode are hysterical) and Tobias and Lindsay twice inadvertently falling for the same date...heeee! To fill the gap, we started watching The Tick, which only lasted nine episodes, but the kids have never seen them and we all like the ridiculousness of that show too. The county has already announced a two-hour delay opening schools on Thursday, but hopefully this means that they will in fact open!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Buyer Beware Sears

Know how every time you buy a major appliance, the store from which you buy it tries to sell you an extended service contract? Well, do not waste your money on Sears. Our dryer, which is less than five years old, stopped working properly more than two weeks ago. We had an appointment to have it repaired today -- the first day we were able to get on their schedule -- and, since we had not heard from them all morning, assumed they would be coming in spite of the weather, considering that UPS, FedEx, Comcast, a local plumber and various other service vehicles have made it down our street. When we hadn't heard from them nearly two hours after the end of the appointment window, we called and were put on hold for 45 minutes, then told that they had canceled the appointment due to inclement weather and oops, they were going to inform this evening. Moreover, they can't get us on the schedule for another week, until NEXT Wednesday.

I don't know about other people's families, but my family of 4 cannot go two weeks without a dryer unless I do laundry every single day and hang it around the house to dry -- working outside the house isn't possible and sitting on items we usually use for dining, exercise, etc. isn't possible either. The nearest laundromats are a town over -- that's assuming I was willing either to pay money to wash AND dry items there or to bring wet laundry in a basket to be dried there. Keep in mind that we paid for our dryer at Sears with the expectation of service, thinking it would never be necessary to pay someone else for our laundry. Which means that we are going to have to call a private repair company and pay them to repair our dryer -- this on top of what we've already paid for Sears' worthless extended service contract.

Does anyone know whether it is possible to file a report with the Better Business Bureau or someone like that? It's outrageous that Sears is selling "service contracts" and then refusing to provide service -- it's stealing from customers.

Poem for Wednesday

Ex-Basketball Player
By John Updike

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
Is on the corner facing west, and there,
Most days, you'll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.

Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—
Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,
Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.
One’s nostrils are two S’s, and his eyes
An E and O. And one is squat, without
A head at all—more of a football type.

Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.

He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.
His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.

Off work, he hangs around Mae’s Luncheonette.
Grease-gray and kind of coiled, he plays pinball,
Smokes those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphates.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nods
Beyond her face toward bright applauding tiers
Of Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.


RIP Rabbit.

There was sufficient snow on the ground at 5:30 a.m. that the county opted to close schools rather than risk a chaotic afternoon dismissal as the weather got worse. So although we only got about an inch and a half of actual snow -- as opposed to the ice and sleet that came later -- the kids had a snow day, and there was much rejoicing. Adam's best friend showed up before 8 wanting to go sledding and was dismissed till people were actually, you know, out of bed; then the best friend's mother called before 9 wanting to know whether we had seen her son, who had apparently gone sledding without permission. So I was out of bed bright and early in spite of the possibility of sleeping late. Adam spent most of the day sledding and playing in the snow; Daniel, who is still getting over his cold, spent most of the day playing computer games and working on a bridge-building simulator online. And both kids decided that I needed an account on Club Penguin.

A photo taken last spring of a bird who built a nest... this box decorated by younger son's best friend at a birthday party. You can't tell from this photo but there are three tiny eggs inside.

The mommy bird flapped around their deck and made clear her displeasure...

...when I tried to get closer to take a photo.

All day long on Tuesday we had a family of cardinals coming to our bird feeder and taking turns sitting on the furniture beneath the deck overhang to keep out of the falling snow.

Since it seemed like a day for it, here is my Club Penguin alter ego in his bare igloo, with his puffle, while Adam's tour guide penguin is all dressed up with his singing puffle.

By contrast here is Adam's igloo, with the extremely rare Mona Lisa Penguin, plus widescreen TV, puffle play area, gerbil, three fireplaces, bookcases, a grill...I am told that I must be a longtime paying member to get such items, not to mention clothes!

It has been a very good week for me in online swag. Last Tuesday, I got a thank you note from Wolfgang's Candy for posting about how much I enjoyed visiting their chocolate factory and asking if they could reprint some of my photos in their newsletter. The next day, I got a note from Utz offering to send me a t-shirt after I posted photos from their factory tour -- the shirt arrived today. Then I lamented online that I had missed out on California Tortilla's Inauguration Day coupon freebies, and the woman who runs their Twitter account offered to send them to me in the mail, which she did. Comcast's Twitter account saved my weekend when when I convinced them to fix my cable three days early after failing to do so over the phone.

And yesterday I got an e-mail from the marketing manager of the company releasing The Studio One Anthology, asking whether I'd be willing to post about it on my Lee Remick page. I said I'd be happy to, and today I received a review copy of the set, which contains such masterpieces as the original Twelve Angry Men and the phenomenal Jack Lemmon starrer June Moon. Review to follow! Our family entertainment for the evening was of course more Arrested Development, which isn't quite as funny in spots in the third season -- the retarded-girl jokes with Charlize Theron aren't my thing -- but the elementary school prison drama makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Poem for Tuesday

A Man's a Man
By Robert Burns

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.


Burns wrote "A Man's a Man" in 1795. In 1999, it was sung at the opening of Scottish Parliament.

My kids had no school so teachers could wrap up first semester stuff, and since there was a dusting of snow on the ground when we woke up and fits of flurries during the morning, we stuck close to home. So I have nothing of interest to report except that Daniel is mostly over his cold, finally. We watched The Other Boleyn Girl because I was recording it for my uncle, then I took Adam to tennis (where he was displeased at the emphasis in the higher level on learning to serve, which he thinks is boring). By the time we got home, it was nearly dinnertime.

Here are some more photos from the weekend of Ellicott City, the onetime mill town that now features antique shops and craft stores along its winding, hilly historic streets.

The Ellicott City Firehouse Museum, housed in an 1889 fire station, displays antique fire-fighting equipment.

Ellicott City (originally Ellicott's Mills) is allegedly built on seven hills, like Rome. The tributary of the Patapsco River that runs through the historic district beneath several buildings is called the Tiber River.

This allows for shop and restaurant names like Tea on the Tiber, an English tea parlor that serves cucumber sandwiches, scones, lemon curd, and of course clotted cream, along with fruit, cheese, and pastries.

Bedrock emerging from the hillsides has rendered certain lots impossible to use for houses or shops.

But most of the historic district's antique shops wind up and down the hills.

This is a town where nostalgic kitsch can be found as well as high-end items, like this two-level toy store with Playmobil and Thomas the Tank Engine as well as older toys.

And that hasn't stopped crystals, fairies, and other heralds of the New Age movement from proliferating as well.

In the evening we started watching the third season of Arrested Development -- only ten episodes left, woe! And there was Charlize Theron as a British agent/possible love interest for Michael, and Harry Hamlin in a gratuitous cameo as a lawyer, and Scott Baio in a recurring role as Bob Loblaw (say it aloud, we were all howling), and Tobias getting business cards printed up naming his dual roles as analyst and therapist and not understanding why people get upset when he comes up with "analrapist" as his title. And the Church and State Fair where the Rabbis beat the firemen! I am going to miss this show so much, even though it was canceled years ago.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Poem for Monday

The Forge
By Seamus Heaney

All I know is a door into the dark.
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil's short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,
Set there immoveable: an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and a flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.


Our intended destination when Adam got out of Hebrew school was the Folger Shakespeare Library, which has an exhibit on Renaissance journalism through next weekend, but a certain member of the family misread the calendar and didn't realize that it was closed on Sundays. So since we were already parked on Capitol Hill, we walked around the Capitol Building, admired the inauguration scaffolding that was still in place, then went to the U.S. Botanic Garden, which had the triple advantages of being nearby, being open, and being warm. I had only brought the small camera, since the Folger does not allow photos inside, so these aren't my best shots of flowers, and I failed completely to record the names of the specimens, but here is a glimpse of what we saw:

My parents -- who had asked if we wanted to go to the Smithsonian's American History museum with them, but we declined since we were just there two weeks ago -- invited us over for pizza, so we had dinner with them. Then we came home and watched the end of the second season of Arrested Development, which brought back everything that made me howl from the first season -- sad Charlie Brown music, the incestuous cousin movie, hot cops, Gob and Michael beating each other up...I am so sad that the third season is truncated and there isn't any more after that. Oh, but I keep forgetting to mention how very happy I am that Obama lifted the Global Gag Rule! It was so nice to be downtown knowing that Bush is no longer in the White House!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poem for Sunday

By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.


"'Digging' starts off tracing the poet's break from his sod-cutting father in Northern Ireland," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "The pen he holds as a gun in the opening lines suggests Heaney is a kind of stickup man at first, taking aim at his father for doing undignified work, which Heaney must 'look down' on. And though digging makes 'a clean rasping sound,' the old man is a comic, almost feminized figure, 'his straining rump among the flowerbeds' 'living roots awaken in my head,' the memory of that work sends green shoots into the pen he holds. For this reader (bred herself to plod behind a plow), seeing the two jobs conflate is poetic alchemy."

Daniel took the S.A.T. this morning! I have no idea how he got old enough for that to happen. Adam volunteered at Hebrew school in his place, and they both came home in reasonably good moods, so I hope that means things went well. In the afternoon, we went to Ellicott City because it was the last day to see the Holiday Festival of Trains at the B&O Railroad Museum (which we had also never visited, and was admitting Maryland Zoo members free). The train displays were fantastic -- I was expecting setups like the ones at Fairfax Station or Brunswick, but there were two massive exhibits portraying the Baltimore-Ellicott City train stations at different points in history, and several other model train displays, plus the surviving main depot, freight house, and a caboose at this oldest surviving railroad station in the U.S. And the town itself is wonderful -- dozens of antique and collectible shops, tea houses, bakeries, toy stores, and restaurants, many in historic buildings slanting down a hill where bedrock breaks through between the houses and a stream requires many bridges, some with buildings right over them. Plus they have their own Shakespeare company!

Behind the B&O Railroad Museum, a view of the old track, replica horse-drawn passenger rail car Pioneer, and a bit of the town of Ellicott City.

This is one of the holiday train displays, housed in the telegraph and ticket office of this onetime B&O Railroad station.

Paul's grandfather worked on the Erie Lackawanna line, so we always notice model trains with cars representing it.

In the background of the model train above, you can see some of the examples of much older model trains kept in cases, like these 1915 toys.

Downstairs, the freight agent's living quarters are also decorated for the holidays. Originally a holding area for cargo, the lower level was converted in the 1840s, though it still has low, wide doorways to allow large barrels to pass through.

The museum has several living historians such as this one to explain what life was like on the railroad and in the town 150 years ago.

This enormous HO-gauge model in the freight house shows Baltimore's train yards, including the roundhouse that is now the main building of Baltimore's B&O Railroad Museum.

And we were lucky enough to have a train rumble through on the newer tracks behind the station while we were inside the freight house.

After stopping in several of the stores (tea shop, fairy emporium, handmade chocolates), we came home for dinner only to find that the chicken had not thawed, so we went out to California Tortilla using the coupons they gave out in honor of Inauguration Day, which we weren't here to receive but the lovely woman who runs their Twitter account generously gave us anyway. It's been a really great week for me on Twitter -- and Blogger too, since I got notes from both Wolfgang's Candy and Utz thanking me for my posts about their factory tours. In the evening we watched Crusoe, which is my current favorite TV show, and I am very happy that we're going to get at least some explanation of what Blackthorn is up to and why before NBC yanks it off the air. Spoilers: I'm not sure what Olivia is up to, but she can't possibly treat Susannah worse than she was being treated in the madhouse, and I'm pretty sure that was St. Mary's Abbey in York where she took her (Paul thought it was Whitby, but in either case we've been there).

I'm still puzzled why Susannah's brother is putting up with the way she and her children are being treated -- if Blackthorn plans to marry someone else and produce his own heirs, he won't be sharing with Susannah's brother, and if he's going to adopt his second-generation illegitimate grand-nephew and raise him as his own, why terrorize the children? Would he really have been out of the succession anyway given such messy circumstances for Robinson's birth? It's interesting that Blackthorn refuses to disguise his aristocratic contempt for Friday, who is of course angry at being treated as a savage, but also seems jealous that his best friend has another best friend on their private island. And it's irksome that Robinson is so busy trying to impress Jeremiah that he doesn't always give Friday credit where it's due. And it's annoying that we have to wait a week for a resolution!

We ended the evening watching a bunch of episodes of Arrested Development that had us screeching in amusement...Tobias playing Mrs. Doubtfire, and Will Arnett's Gob trying to divorce Amy Poehler' we ever find out her name?