Friday, December 2, 2016

30 Days Of Retro Toys 2016 - Day 2 - Jumpin' Jiminy Inflatable Trampoline

Day 2:
Jumpin' Jiminy Inflatable Trampoline

(Sears Toy Catalog, 1964)

Not to be used as a flotation device? HA! We laugh in the face of such warnings. PUT THIS RIGHT IN THE OCEAN, KIDS!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

30 Days Of Retro Toys 2016 - Day 1 - LEGO

I had a lot of fun gathering vintage toy ads and posting them for 30 Days Of Retro Toys last year. So I'm going to do it again this year! Starting today, I'll be posting 30 glorious, nostalgia- and/or cringe-inducing toy ads from 1964 to 2000. Enjoy!

Day 1:

(Sesame Street Magazine ad, 1987)

* * *

I ended last years' list with a 1964 LEGO ad, so I figured I'd start this year's with a LEGO ad from 23 years later!

Once upon a time, other plastic block companies used to brag about their products' useful storage buckets, which LEGO did not have. In 1987, LEGO finally said, "Hey, we can do buckets, too!"

And so it was that kids were now able to create giant plastic amalgamations of LEGO, Duplo, and some kind of gravity-defying stabilizer (because I have serious doubts that the kid's boat would hold together like that, but now I kind of want to build one and find out.)

We had the magical buckets, but I'll be darned if we ever actually put our LEGO pieces away in them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fantastic Names (And Where To Find Them)

I know I shouldn't talk -- Ivony Shyer, ahem -- but while perusing a list of recently-published novels, I was amused by many of the main characters' names.

Examples Of "Fun" and "Unusual" Character Names (from a list on

* * *

Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed (The Hawkweed Prophecy, Brignull)

Petunia Beanly (Paris For Two, Stone)

Jack "The Jackdaw" Dawson (My Brilliant Idea (And How It Caused My Downfall), David)

Brock Ripley (Gutless, Deuker)

Mercer Buddie (Flip The Bird, Brunner)

Milo Noirlac (Black Dance, Huston)

Izzy Edel (The Sea Beach Line: A Novel, Nadler)

Moses Teumer (Broken Sleep, Bauman)

Catarina Pensbene (Catarina's Ring: A Novel, McGuiness)

Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr (Moonlight Over Paris: A Novel, Robson)

Matthew Grzbc (Contrary Motion: A Novel, Mozina)

Dolly Lane (A Girl From The Savoy: A Novel, Gaynor)

Ursula Hildesheim (My Own Dear Brother, Müller)

Sharon Kisses (The Animators: A Novel, Whitaker)

Cedar McLeod (Into The Fire (The Thin Veil), McIsaac)

Hubie Schuze (The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O'Keeffe, Orenduff)

Bocephus Haynes (Between Black and White, Bailey)

Cade Larrabee (Larrabee's Luck, Choate)

Hunter Talbot Grant III (Scandalize Me (Fifth Avenue), Crews)

Kamryn Cunningham (Sharing You: A Novel, McAdams)

Penny Plage (Forget Love: A Novel, Tom/Northrop)

Adelia Montfort (The Last Summer At Chelsea Beach, Jenoff)

Natalia De la Grip (All In (High Stakes), Ahrnstedt)

Eyelet Elsworth and Urlick Babbit (Noir (The Illumination Paradox), Garlick)

* * *

Why Do Writers Do This?
  • We want our characters (and therefore our stories) to be memorable. An unusual moniker should do the trick, right?
  • Giving characters everyday names like Jennifer or John is fine, but writers (and readers) probably know someone by those names in real life. Writers don't want their friends and family to think the story is about them. Readers want to be able to escape. Neither necessarily wants to have an all-too-familiar name tainting or haunting the story. 
  • The same brain muscles that allow writers to produce creative stories also prompt them to produce creative names. Sometimes they even come up with a character's name first and then write the story.
  • Odd names worked for Mark Twain ("Huckleberry Finn") and other classic writers.
  • No matter how wacky a character's name is, if the writer has been using it (writing with it) for a set amount of time, they may become attached to that name and be unwilling to change it. The name may have become an integral part of that character's essence and personality.
  • Writers may struggle with coming up with a "perfect" name that doesn't date the character or the story (or maybe dates it slightly, but in a positive way.) If they're writing a story set in 1901, names like Henry, Sophie, Eva, and William are all great; they're period-appropriate and are still well-liked today. Herbert, Lester, Mildred, and Blanche, while still just as popular in 1901, don't hold up as well nowadays. Futhermore, if they're writing a story set in 2016, giving characters names like Madison, Brayden, Jaxon, Kaylee and Harper may be fine now, but 50 years from now? Those people will be grandparent-aged ("Grandma Kaylee"?), and the book may seem dated. It's a tough line to walk. In the end, we often just say "screw it" and name our character Brittania Snowybear Jamison XI.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

1 Week Later

Yeah, I'm angry about the election.

I'm angry at some of my fellow Americans in the following order:

3. People who voted for a 3rd party candidate. (They weren't even that good!)
2. People who voted for DT.
1. People who didn't vote at all.

Because seriously?

I'm trying to cling to hope. Really, I am.

Thoughts this week:

A. God knows what He's doing. *looks upward questioningly*

B. 8/44 Presidents died in office and 1 resigned. That's about 1/5th who "left" office before it was time. 4 years isn't a guarantee. Hey, William Henry Harrison lasted a month.

C. Since DT is a notorious liar, maybe some of the horrible things he said (like wanting to build a wall) were lies? That's an odd thing to think about when wanting to feel better, but there it is.

D. Hillary won the popular vote. We now know she won it by over one million votes! Which means that MOST (I hope) people (WHO VOTED) are not DT supporters.

We had the chance to elect our first female President and instead we brought in THAT.

I am most seriously displeased.

And now, some gifs to express my election and post-election feelings:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Antique Show Creepshow 3: All Creeped Up

It's that time of the year again...

Christmas? Ha, no. Christmas is still aaaaages away, silly.

Nope! Put on some pants, pick up your banjo, and join in a happy chorus, because... it's HOWL-O-WEEN, BABY!

But what's that? You still haven't decided on a costume? Don't worry, my friend, because I've got some great costume ideas for you! Nearly all of these can be constructed out of cardboard, paint, glue, and pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel. 

I D E A S !
Inspired by Antique Show Treasures

Idea #1: Pregnant Superman

#2: Beatles in a Box

#3: Smokey Bear/Pinocchio/Jiminy Cricket Crime-Fighting Posse (Of Doom)

#4: Two-Dimensional Yellow-Suited Superman, aka Man Of Steel Tin

#5: Bald Person With Sentient Feet

# 6: Elsie the Cow, Queen Of The Ice Cream (KNEEL BEFORE HER!)

#7: John Kerry In A Bowl

#8: Pumpkin-Headed Pawnbroker

# 9: Snookums

#10: Snookums' Trusty Gal-Pal, Birdie McBluetights.

#11: SPIN-O, the lesser-known, but equally nefarious, cousin of Coily The Spring Sprite

Feeling inspired yet? 

No? Well, how about...

#12: A Pair of Legs?

#13: A Pair of Legs With Bonus Torso And Head?

#14: A Friendly Bipedal Goat?

#15: A Stylish Suit Coat?

#16: A Child Ballerina Playing croquet Kro-Kay?

#17: A Sinister Elf Family?

#18: A Thumbs-Up-in' Monkey?

How about a...

#19: Kindly Neighborhood Barber?

or a...

#20: Weird kid who likes to watch Barber while he works??

Or if not that, then a...

#21: Pigly Barbershop Customer???


* * * * *

Well, there you go. 21 perfectly good costume ideas. Trouble is, you may not have time to make any of these costumes before Halloween night! Why'd you wait so darn long?

Oh well, there's always next year....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Riker's Story

This is Riker, one of my cats.

And this is his story.

Part I: Catmping

One day in June of 2007, I suddenly got the urge to go camping. I hadn't participated in this activity in seven years, so the desire seemed to come out of nowhere. However, one of my current jobs was making me very unhappy, and I was getting ready to leave it forever. I guess I was in "escape" mode. I wanted to get out of that job and head for the hills... or, rather, the woods....

When I was a wee lass, my family camped in many places, but Ft. Stevens State Park was always a favorite. The campground boasted two playgrounds, a swimming area, a nearby beach complete with the skeleton of an old shipwreck, miles of bike trails, and, I kid you not, the remains of enormous Civil-War-era buildings and bunkers that you could play in and on.

Nostalgic memories going wild, I went online and booked a campsite at Ft. Stevens for approximately 4 days in late June, for myself and my friend GG. Since I made that reservation just a week or two before the trip itself, I didn't have much of a choice in available campsites, but the one I got seemed okay from the online picture.

Okay, so the ground was lumpy and, of course, the Oregon-in-June torrential rains arrived right on schedule, but otherwise, the site was okay. GG and I arrived mid-week, and we nearly had the whole campground to ourselves, except, strangely, for the presence of people in the site directly next to ours. 

On either the first or second night, I heard noises outside my tent, as though an animal was out there, getting into something. The next morning, the people in the next-door campsite told us that an animal had indeed broken into their dog's food container, which was like a Rubbermaid container with a lid. They surmised it had been a raccoon.

Later that morning (or perhaps the next day, who knows?) I was sitting in my car, because it was cold and rainy and the tent wasn't a very comfy place. I was reading or writing or something when suddenly I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye. It was the raccoon! It was back! I grabbed my video camera, exited the car, and began to walk toward the creature.

Which is when I realized it wasn't a raccoon at all. It was a cat. He was feasting on spilled dog food.

I approached the cat, cooing sweet nothings, and to my great delight, found that he was a friendly little mammal. I offered him a dish of water and a piece of cheese, which he eagerly accepted.

I had recently been reading the Anne Of Green Gables series, and immediately settled upon the perfect name for this creature: "Walter."

Walter became GG's and my buddy over the next few days. On rainy nights, he hung out with us in the car. On sunnier days, he sat around the campfire with us. When we'd leave the campsite to go elsewhere, Walter would go into the wooded area next to our campsite and hang out among the trees.

We didn't think Walter belonged to any of the other campers, since we and the people next door were the only ones in the vicinity. Perhaps he had been left behind by campers who'd already gone? We didn't know.

So what to do with Walter? I knew if I brought him home (where we already had two cats) I was going to be in big trouble. But I couldn't just leave him there.

On the morning we broke camp, I decided to leave the decision (to leave or to take Walter with us) up to chance, or Providence, and thought, If I call Walter and he comes out of the woods right now, I'll take him with us. If he doesn't come, oh well.

Well, I called... and he came. So into the car he went. GG held him in her lap at first. I wasn't sure where to take him. A vet? An animal shelter? I tried using my primitive cell phone to find a nearby place, but the information I got was either outdated or just plain wrong. So we got a wee bit lost. At last, we happened to pass a farm & feed store. I went in and bought a cat carrier so at least GG wouldn't have to hold Walter the whole way home.

Part II: Home

Back in Portland, I took Walter to our nearby vet and had them check for an ID chip. I also asked if they could tell me his sex. (I didn't know how to tell, then. I was sort of afraid Walter might be a she-cat with kittens who we'd inadvertently left in the woods and would have to return for.) The vet told us that Walter was a male, age unknown but at least three, and that he had no ID chip.

Over the next few weeks, I did everything I could think of to find Walter's owners. I put "lost pet" ads on Craigslist in multiple counties, as well as ads on other Lost/Found Pet web sites. I called and emailed animal shelters. I scoured "found" ads. I even checked ads and newspapers in Washington and California.


My next step was trying to find a new home for Walter. GG couldn't take him because she had a kitty with an illness, and I already had 2 cats. I hoped I could find him a place with people I knew, so that at least I'd still get to see him. If that didn't work out, I supposed I'd take him to the Oregon Humane Society (the place we'd gotten the other two cats.) This broke my heart (even though they're a great, 99.9% no-kill shelter), but if I couldn't keep him, and nobody I knew seemed to want him, what else could I do?

I made a video of Walter and put it on YouTube, hoping to drum up interest in him. Still, it didn't seem that anyone wanted this kitty.

Then my brother and his fiancee came to Portland, saw Walter, fell in love with him, and decided that they would like to adopt him after their upcoming wedding. And so they did!

Walter moved to Eugene, Oregon, was renamed "Riker," and I got to see him often.

My brother and sister-in-law would bring Walter/Riker with them whenever they came to Portland for visits. It took me ages to learn to call him "Riker," but eventually the name stuck.

Riker could be a bit of a sourpuss during his weekend visits. He would act aloof and/or bully the other cats. But I now attribute this attitude to the fact that he didn't much like car travel.

Fastforward three years. My brother and sister-in-law got a dog. Dog and Cat did not get along. Dog is a shepherd dog, and wanted to herd Riker. Riker's response: "See my claws, peasant." 

When they asked if we could keep Riker for a while (until the dog had obedience classes or something), we said "yes," of course. 

"A while" eventually turned into "forever."

Now Riker is ours. Full circle or something. I couldn't be happier.

Part III: The Patient

One day, not long after we took Riker in for good, he got sick. Very sick. He had some kind of intestinal thing. I took him to the vet, and she told me that Riker would need surgery in order to live. 

I had three choices...

1. Good surgery, which would most likely fix the problem completely. Cost: $$$

2. Medium surgery, that might or might not cure him but would at least fix the problem temporarily. Cost: $$

3. Make him comfortable. Cost: Extreme sadness.

Long story short, I was the only one in my family willing and/or able to pay for the surgery. So I did. And he recovered.

A year or two later, Riker was diagnosed with Diabetes. I have to give him shots of insulin twice a day.

Then one of his teeth fell out, and he had to have full-on dental surgery.

He's allergic to corn and gets bad skin rashes.

Two weeks ago, I found fleas.

And so it goes.


Part IV: He's Worth It

Riker, center, in a rare moment of peace with our two other cats, Didi (1998-2014) and Baylie (2000-). 

Riker (top) with Baylie, on my mom's lap. They used to hiss at each other, but they've begun to bond in the past year. 

Riker loves food. We had to teach him the words "no" and "wait" so he wouldn't beg and/or try to literally take food out of our hands. Yes, he understands. Who says cats can't be trained?

Riker is the only cat I've ever had who doesn't mind wearing clothes. We've had to put clothes on him a few times to keep him from biting hot spots or sore patches, and he's always like, "A shirt? Okay, sure, human. We both know I look ridiculous, but it's kind of cozy, so whatever, carry on."

* * *

Some people say that things happen for a reason.

I believe it. Especially in the case of Riker.

I believe that me disliking one of my jobs led me to want to escape. Escaping led me to camping. Camping on those particular dates in June, 2007, led me to that specific campsite. Camping at that particular campsite led me to Walter/Riker.

Even though, at first, it looked as though Riker and I would only have a short relationship, he ended up becoming a permanent member of our family. 

And I couldn't be happier.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Visit To The Woodland Park Zoo

I spent the morning of October 2nd at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. 

I had previously attended weddings at this zoo (of people, mind you... though an animal wedding would be awesome) but had never really toured the place... until now.

With my Oregon Zoo membership card, I was able to get half-price admission to the WPZ, which was already in its "off season" and had lower prices than during the summer anyway. Admission plus parking came to around $12 total. 

Once inside, I got a map and began to plan my route. I quickly realized that this zoo is big! According to, the WPZ is 92 acres (compared to the Oregon Zoo's 64 acres.) While some exhibits were clumped together, others felt very spread out. I did a lot of walking that morning.

I was glad I'd grabbed a map, because the pathway system at this zoo is tricky. Signage isn't very clear on most paths, and there are a bunch of little trails that sometimes made me feel like I was in a labyrinth. I understand that they want to spread out the visitors (away from one main path, where it might get crowded) and make the zoo more nature-esque, but...

...come on. The city of Venice was easier to navigate!

But of course I saw a lot of animals.

There were a couple of interactive exhibits, including "penguin feeding," which, for $5, allowed you to throw some fish into the penguin pond, and an aviary where you could feed birds seeds off a stick for a buck. The particular aviary where this was occurring was not an ideal place to hang out, as nearly every pathway had a tree overhanging it, every tree had a bird, and nearly every bird had already eaten and was now all about nature's calling. (I got out of there quickly.)

All in all, I spent about two and a half pleasant hours at the Woodland Park Zoo and visited pretty much every exhibit during that time. On this Sunday morning in early October, it wasn't very crowded. I had a good time looking at the variety of animals that live there, and would someday like to visit this zoo again.