Crazy Weather

I’m sitting in a pleasant bar/café, sipping Earl Grey, munching a bagel (occasionally wiping the cream cheese off my keyboard), watching out a large picture window as the wind drives the trees into a frenzy. The walk over here was quite the little trek; we marched straight into the face of the storm and arrived sodden in front and dry in back. As we walked through the nearly-deserted pedestrian mall alarms were going off in the buildings all around us, triggered by the violent thunderclaps. As we walked, fuego gestured. “Sky’s blue right over there.”

It is not raining anymore (or, more precisely, it’s not raining at this moment), but the weather is still much better to watch than to be in. Another pub day. It’s New Year’s Eve, and apparently Galway is where folks from Dublin come to party down. We plan to stake out our turf early in a pub that will have local music later; even on regular nights they’re difficult to sit down in once the evening sets in. Today will require dedication and endurance to get a prime spot. We are up for the challenge.

Grumpy Tummy

We’re in Galway, now, and we will be for a couple of days. The car has been returned to the Budget People, so moving is now a bit more of a hassle. That’s OK with me; the time spent in motion and looking for a place to stay each day is time that could be put to better use.

Unfortunately, last night I was unable truly appreciate this. We sat at the King’s Head, but halfway through my Guinness I started feeling queasy. After the second one I was decidedly ill. I thought eating would help, but that was not the case at all. fuego and MaK gushed over their Irish stew, while I stared listlessly at my potato soup. We repaired to the bar half of the establishment and listened to a local jam session for a while. “I feel all right as long as I don’t eat or drink any alcohol,” I said, to which both fuego and MaK responded by trying to get me to drink traditional czech medicinal alcoholic beverages.

This morning I am fine. As I told fuego, my stomach just needed to reboot. Onward we go, into the teeth of light rain driven by occasionally fierce wind, searching for that dark, warm haven that such weather caused a people to embrace. Truly this is the weather that gave birth to the pub.

While you’re at it, drop by fuego’s place and wish him a happy birthday!

Catching Up

The days pass, the miles and kilometers roll by (depending on the country), and the Internet remains a dream, a rumor whispered in hushed tones, stories told in back alleys about a place around the corner or in the next town. Now we are at a place that has Internet, but, in the words of the desk attendant, it’s a ripoff. When he told me the price, I choked and agreed that I could wait another day. There’s a cybercafe just up the street…

“But Jerry,” you ask, “you’re a cheap bastard; what are you doing in the sort of hotel that can charge out the wazoo for Internet access?”

I’m glad you asked.

Had you been reading the episodes in chronological order, you would have already seen the name Sligo (rhymes, most likely, with “I go”). We passed through on Christmas day, and everything was closed. Well, we’re back, and now there are things that aren’t closed. Unfortunately, any affordable accommodation is either full or… closed for the season. It was a little bit late in the evening when we got here, and after a long series of strikeouts we were faced with the prospect of moving on to a different town, to arrive even later and face ever-diminishing chances of people even answering their doors, let alone having room. The other prospect that loomed out there, that we had mentioned a couple of times earlier when it was still funny, was the all-nighter. Sligo really isn’t where we wanted to end up tonight, but we were all ready to get out of the car and into a comfortable bar.

Then we found the Sligo Southern Hotel. It is big, and fancy, and twice what we’ve paid for rooms so far. After a brief pow-wow and a room check we decided to accept their hospitality for the night. Now we sit in the very nice bar, of a pricey hotel in a town that once again is unable to provide us with what we needed. It looks like a really nice town, too.

Causeway and Effect

This morning found us in Bushmills, in Northern Ireland, eating a satisfying breakfast in a friendly dining room. We were the only guests at the B&B, so we had the undivided attention of our hosts. “Isn’t the weather fine this mornin’?” our hostess asked. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.” I looked out the window at the street glistening in the gentle rain. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, both because I enjoy a gentle rain, and I assumed I would like any alternative less.

Our hostess had the traits I’ve come to associate with the people of this land: the gift of gab, a friendly demeanor, and a distrust of the cities. We heard about the rising cost of real estate, the driving habits of the locals (along with the details of a tragic accident), and a host of other topics. Somewhere in all that she asked us what our plans were for the day. We told her we were going to the Giant’s Causeway, and she approved of the decision. Since the causeway is the biggest attraction for miles around, I can’t imagine she was too surprised, but it did steer the conversation onto the subject of runaway development.

We escaped the pleasant conversation and headed the short distance to coast and causeway.

I suppose it’s about time I told you what the Giant’s Causeway is. A long, long time ago, a volcano erupted and filled a basin with lava. This lava cooled and contracted, and cracks formed in the basalt. The cooling was steady enough that the cracks formed in a regular pattern, and now the sea is eroding the formation, revealing hexagonal columns of stone.

On the coast the wind was brisk and chilly, and we taught MaK the word “blustery”. Loaded up with cameras (four between the three of us), bundled against the bracing December air, we set out to explore the cliffs on the northern end of the island.

[I’ll put some pictures here, I promise. Just not right now.]

This I will say: Of all the places to go in the off-season, this is a no-brainer. Time after time we have been faced disappointment because things are closed for the off-season. At the Giant’s Causeway pL didn’t park very close to the car next to us because their doors were open. “That’s got to be good enough for this time of year,” he said. I agreed. After all, we were three of perhaps fifteen tourists in Ireland.

Wrong. There were a lot of people there. I don’t blame them, either; that place is pretty damn cool. I can’t imagine what things are like in the summer. Well, actually I can imagine, and it’s not pretty. At some point the person/rock ratio gets tilted too far and I, at least, would start to think more about the other people there than the attraction itself. We rambled, got our shoes muddy, hopped across rocks, stacked a rock or two, then tramped along the cliff top for a ways. Between us, we took many, many pictures, which will tell the story from here on out. At least they will, once I sort through them and delete most of them.

Roving on an Irish Christmas

I’ll try to keep this episode short, after that last one. Today was our first full day on the Emerald Isle, and we spent it going from one end to the other, in order to meet up with friends. The roads were empty, so driving was not as much of an adventure as it might otherwise have been.

Note to any who might spend christmas day here: Everything is closed. In the town where we stopped for lunch, one passerby we asked had heard that there was a market somewhere that might be open until two; he was out looking for it. Even the chinese restaurants were closed. (At one point I’m pretty sure we saw a gas station that was open, but we didn’t realize what a rare find that was at the time.) Fortunately we still had ample munchies, packed in preparation for just such a contingency. Right after we started munching our snacks we found the One Restaurant In Ireland Open On Christmas. It was an Indian place, and was mighty good.

The end of day two finds us at Ritz Budget Hotel in Killibegs, and this place is right nice. There’s a fishing fleet anchored nearby, so soon I expect to be munching some fine, fine fish and chips. In the meantime, I’m Ireland for my second night and have yet to see the inside of a pub. That’s just not right.

Hostalized in Cork

As we sat in fuego’s apartment wrapping up supper and getting ready to leave on our trip, fuego said, “dang, we’ve still got a lot to do today.” With the plane leaving well after dark, it felt like we had an extra day’s worth of stuff to do, even after running around all day getting ready to travel. Soon we were on our way, however, lugging luggage through the metro system, spending an extra buck-fifty for the express airport bus (we weren’t quite sure the other bus was running that late on christmas eve), and losing a few toiletries to the new “no fluids” rule (MaK maintained that they were not fluid, so the security people produced illustrated cards prepared for just such an occasion, which of course did nothing to placate MaK, resulting in the entire check-in process grinding to a halt. This would have been a problem, but there were only thirteen passengers going through the security for that gate.), we were ready to fly.

I was a bit surprised to see the plane getting the de-ice treatment before takeoff, but I agreed with the pilot that it’s better safe than sorry. The only drawback was that if the plane was late reaching Cork we might not be able to score our rental car, which would complicate things greatly. The flight was uneventful, as flights usually are these days, and we made up for the lost time, went quickly through customs, and found the guy waiting for us at the car rental place. Thus armed with a four-door instrument of death with the steering wheel on the wring side, we made our way into Cork town proper. I was navigating, fuego was steering, and MaK was cowering in the back seat. Things went pretty smoothly, but as navigator I was a little dismayed that we didn’t have driving instructions to the hostel where we would be staying. What we had were walking instructions from the bus station.

Fortunately there are lots of arrows on the roads telling drivers which direction each lane is heading. fuego piloted well, although the windshield wipers got a good workout — the lever for the turn signals is on the other side of the steering wheel. Suddenly we discovered ourselves to be right next to the bus station. Bickety-bam, up and around on some narrow streets and there we were. We unpacked the car and as we were hauling all our crap into the hotel a kid loitering outside wished us a Merry Christmas. Loudly. We replied in kind (only more quietly), and I wondered if that was going to the last we were going to hear from him.

We checked in, and were informed that although the reservation was for three, it was actually for a double room and another bed in a dorm. Naturally married couple got the double room and I got pot luck. It didn’t bother me much; I could leave my stuff in the more secure room and just crash in the dorm. After a supper of bread and cheese (there was nothing open at that time on Christmas Eve, however MaK brought a variety of cheeses and breads so we were in no danger of starving) and the traditional Czech Slivovice Christmas toast, I made my way to my room. I figured I’d either be the jerk who comes in last and wakes everyone else up, or I’d be the first one there and all the other jerks would wake me up.

It turns out I was somewhere in the middle. I came in as quietly as I could, and there was enough light to see by so I found my bunk and settled in. As I lay in the darkness I heard a faint beeping from somewhere nearby, then heard someone listening to their voice mail. More beeping, and then the room fell silent once more, until a few minutes later when the same phone announced the arrival of a text message. Not long later another arrived, at which point at least the phone’s owner turned off the sound. There was then a short whispered conversation between the phone’s owner and her friend, and the two girls said goodnight. Across the room a male voice grunted a good night as well. The room fell silent. Outside I heard a nearby church chime the quarter hour and realized it was now officially Christmas.

“Faith,” whispered one of my roommates some time later, pronouncing the name as two syllables: Fae-aeth, “don’t forget the candle.” After a pause one of the girls that had whispered previously climbed off her bunk, which squeaked loudly, and blew out a candle on the windowsill. She returned to her bunk, was inspired to type out another message, and the room was quiet once more. It felt final.

Meanwhile, outside the window, Loud Merry Christmas Kid had been joined by several friends, and they continued laughing and bickering into the night.

I lay in the darkness, wondering if my roommates would be getting up as early as I did. I wondered what they looked like and I imagined the possibility of even talking to them. I imagined that this might be a good way for me to travel, to put myself into situations where conversation is nearly automatic. I thought about the breakfast room in the morning, and about how I might meet some of my fellow guests there.

I was relieved when the loud people outside finally fell silent. The pleasure was short-lived, however, when at least some of them came into my room. They tried to be quiet, but (presumably) drunk young folks still have things to whisper and giggle about, and it was a long time before things settled down once more. My fantasy about traveling from hostel to hostel, staying in the dorms, and writing about it was quickly eroding. Instead, I decided to let my alarm go off just a little longer than necessary in the morning. So much for conviviality.

The last person to arrive was the one sleeping in the bunk directly over mine. As with the others, he tried to be quiet, but the climb was difficult for him. Eventually he made it up and he settled in and quickly fell asleep. I know he was asleep because he was snoring. Twice I’ve been in a Hostel dorm, and both times it was my job to roll over and disturb the Snoring Guy whenever things got too loud.

Overall, the first night in Ireland was not a restful one; really just a layover between air and car travel, and not the true start of the adventure. Christmas morning came far too soon, and in the darkness I put myself together and went down for breakfast. By that point I had no illusions that any of my roommates would be showing themselves before we were long gone. Even had they been there I would not have been able to recognize them, except perhaps by voice. I will never meet Faith and her Irish friend, never speak with any of the others about adventures past and future. They are whispered voices in the night, formless, faceless, and fleeting. Not to mention annoying.

A Load of Carp

I’m heading to distant shores later today, and in my classic fashion I managed to completely squander yesterday. I plead extenuating circumstances — I was out with Soup Boy, Izzy, and Little John Friday night and while the night wasn’t excessive (at least for me it wasn’t), it did run late. After walking most of the way home I realized the day trams were running. So, yesterday I was pretty tired.

Rather than photograph sidewalk carp vendors and track down an electrical adapter so I can keep my array of battery-powered items running in the Islands of Misfit Electricity, or even do simple tasks like catch up with email, I watched cartoons. (For those keeping score at home, I watched Chobits, an anime that fails to have the weight of a serious show or the charm of a silly one. It does involve a robot with special powers, which of course looks like a teenage girl (rhymes with Japanese). The story is pretty much the same as Pinoccio, but instead of a marionette the main character is a robot who wants to become a Little Girl Superweapon.)

In the late afternoon I took a nap that lasted until this morning. Now I feel pretty good, but there’s a lot to do between now and departure.

Speaking of carp, my landlord knocked on my door yesterday and gave me a big chunk of the stuff. “Kapr,” he said, as I hefted the plastic bag. “Ryba,” he expanded in my moment of confusion. Then the light turned on and I realized he had just handed me several pounds of frozen, not-very-tasty fish. Still, it was a nice gesture. I thanked him with enthusiasm that lasted for about fifteen seconds. What the hell am I going to do with this? I asked myself as opened up the fridge, and then made things more complicated by breaking the handle to the freezer compartment. There’s a lot of carp in there now. It’s frozen, but they might be working on the wiring while I’m gone, which leads to nightmare scenario #48, freezer filled with rotting animal when returning from Christmas travels. That hasn’t happened to me since I was in college, but the memory of that incident has left me scarred for life.

So, anyone want some carp?


Hitting the Road

Several people have asked me what my plans are for the holidays, which in itself is mildly humorous (plan?), and in response I would hedge and say something like, “I’ll probably just hole up and get some work done, or maybe I’ll go somewhere warm.”

Of course, when someone else does the planning, I’m happy to ride along. Thus when fuego asked if I was interested in Venice for New Year’s Eve, I was all over it. Later, when the plan changed to Ireland, I rolled right along with it. So it seems that I will be spending a couple of weeks on the Emerald Isle, and much of the time I will be in the corner of the island that the recent tech boom managed to avoid. It is also, from what I can make out, the stormiest part of Ireland, and me without a raincoat. (No major worries on that count, one of my favorite memories of that country is being caught in a downpour several miles from home while bicycling around with Jesse, hollering out blues riffs. That was the day we learned just what it means to be a “soggy bunny”. (Although, that was summer; it would be less of a good memory in winter, I suspect.) )

I’m Ireland bound, where the only point of etiquette is that you converse with the people around you. A culture like that is certainly worthy of admiration. It’s fortunate that some of them speak a language similar to mine.

I have no idea how often I’ll be able to get online, so posts here may be infrequent, or come in bursts. Any disruption of routine is likely to lead to new things to write about, so if history is any guide there will be pauses of several days followed by several long posts that prove to be too much to read, with the best one way at the bottom where everyone will miss it. It’s a system I’ve honed with care over the years.

Following my trip to reacquaint myself with top-fermented beers I will be invading the western hemisphere. After getting car, insurance, and renewed driver’s license sorted out I will be puttering around the western US for a week or three. I strongly suspect this three weeks will be much closer to actually being three weeks, since I will have a return ticket. (For those new to these pages, the last time I drove around for “about three weeks” it took 7 1/2 months, and established “Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas” as a way of life, and not just a writing style. What a great time that was…)

Café Mania

I am back in my corner at the Little Café Near Home, my steaming mug of tea close at hand. I am perched significantly higher than I was before; the Chairs of Death are gone, made up for with a rearrangement of the booth seats, which have been given stilts to accommodate now-taller tables. Some floor space was lost to the stairs; where there used to be six small tables now there are five. The tables are taller than they used to be, however, so the reduced seating is made up for by accommodating more standing. I have not ventured into the mysterious downstairs yet, but since the toilets are down there, it’s only a matter of time.

Overall, the place feels a little less café-like, and a little more bar-like. It will be more difficult to drag tables together to suit whatever conversational groups emerge. Perhaps new taller chairs simply haven’t arrived yet. The biggest losers might the canine regulars — sitting way up here, I can no longer reach down and idly scritch a dog noggin while pondering the next paragraph. As I type this the owner’s jack russell terrier is trying to figure out what to do about the situation.

A question for the philosophers among you: If a little café changes owners, then changes its name (not really sure what it was before, but it wasn’t that), gradually turns over all the employees, changes the beers on tap, and is then remodeled, is it the same little café?

Thus the world races on; the only constant is change. I sit, perched up high, rotated ninety degrees, and I know I must adapt or be left behind.

On the cover over at Piker Press

<a href=”” class=”newWin”>Piker Press</a> is running a story of mine this week, and since it’s on the front page it even has an illustration with it, which is pretty cool. I mentioned the story briefly a while back in an episode where I was working on a story at the clip of one paragraph per hour, and then I took a break and cranked out the first draft of another story in about the time it took to type it. This is the easy story, a lightweight but fun little tale of demon summoning and retribution. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Now that the next issue is up, the story (without illustration) can be found here.

New Toys!

When Soup Boy moved out, he left a legacy behind. Nothing major — some dead flowers, some rocks, a few other odds and ends. I’ve long since taken care of most of those things, but after the disruption caused by the Great Flood of ’06, I was confronted once more with an odd assortment of pebbles and small stones. They ended up on the table where I put my laptop when I’m using it at home. So there I sat this morning, reflecting on the irony that it was the rocks that I was having difficulty getting rid of. I couldn’t put them in the yard, because the landlord would run over them with the lawn mower. Just putting them in the street seemed irresponsible, and putting them in the trash wouldn’t be nice to anyone.

City Life, I tell ya’.


Rock Stack SBL-1. Nothing mind-blowing, but likely the first of many.

This morning I was mulling this oddity of modern life, asking myself where I could put the rocks when I realized one particular rock clearly belonged on top of one of the others. I stared in disbelief, stunned that I had not noticed that simple fact before. After a few fairly aggressive stacks tumbled I relocated the operation so that I was not working my near the glass coffee table, and that was pretty much it for my morning.

Stacking small rocks is noticeably different than stacking large ones. The biggest difference is that the tiny adjustments you make to adjust the balance have a much more dramatic effect on a small rock, and even the smallest disturbance can have catastrophic effect. Getting all the pieces to work together can be tricky. On the other hand, it only takes a little bit of friction to keep a small stone at an improbable angle. The biggest advantage of the small stones is obvious when the stack falls over.

Eventually I got a stack that was fairly stable if not particularly breathtaking, and before I added the One More Thing I hauled out the big camera, tiptoed around the apartment while the batteries charged up, and then snapped a few picks. Maybe I can hone my rock stack photography skills as I practice my rock stacking.

Of course, then I tried to add the One More Thing and the stack collapsed, but that was all right. The rocks are still there, waiting for me.

Announcing Muddled University

Muddled University Banner Logo

On behalf of the board of directors, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Muddled University will be ready to welcome its first class in the spring of 2007. Muddled University will offer a wide range of graduate and post-graduate courses of study, but all will include that unique “Muddled Experience”, a combination of memorable cultural experiences and mood-affecting chemicals.

Located in Prague, the picturesque capital of the Czech Repblic, nestled in the heart of central Europe, Mud-U is within walking distance of museums, ancient architecture, and hundreds upon hundreds of bars. Not only is this environment enriching for students, the faculty will find the environment ideal for continuing research projects.

In addition, Muddled University will rapidly establish itself as a leading Internet presence, embracing and extending the technology of distance learning. Students will be able to receive an education every bit as rich and rewarding as one earned here at the Muddled Campus — from anywhere in the world!

Although Mud-U has not finalized its staff for the upcoming academic year, be sure to check back often. The list could include the names of luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Tony Hawk, Voltaire, Toulouse-Latrec, Geordi LaForge, Don LaFontaine, Aristotle, Jesus, and Oscar Mayer.

At Muddled University, we have redefined the academic experience. Eschewing the traditional rigidly-defined requirements that lock students into narrow fields of focus, Mud-U instead encourages students to pursue an education as broad as life itself, and to bring all that life experience back to the university — for credit!

In order to expose students to a variety of topics as broad as life itself, the courses of study at Mud-U are likewise varied. From academic to athletics, from fine art to fine dining, (and everything in between!) Muddled University provides a richness of experience that no accredited university can match. Below are listed the primary fields of study, but never forget that “if it’s life, it’s educational.”

Television Sports:
While some universities have focussed on physical fitness and the performance of sports, and others have emphasized the broadcast of sports, only Muddled University has recognized the place where technology has had the greatest impact in both amateur and professional sports. Television has changed the consumption of sports forever. The Bachelor’s degree in Televion Sports meets this growing need head-on. Channels are proliferating and ever bar has a plasma TV. TiVo makes it easier to skip the commercials. This course will leave the student well-prepared to succeed in the world of watching the big game on TV.

Masters of Fine Arts in Literature: Haiku
The Japanese are forever frustrated that westerners think Haiku is just about counting syllables. Most Japanese probably won’t like this class either, but let’s face it, when you get to a certain point you just have to accept that 5-7-5 is haiku and that’s that. In this course of study the student will explore 5, 7, and perhaps some other prime numbers as well. Areas beyond merely composing and performing haiku will be explored, such as how to create a properly-formatted .png graphic to publish a haiku on the Web, the best fonts to use, and so forth. Students will also have a chance to evaluate the work of others, and turn them into .png’s as well.

MoFA in Literature: Blog Comments
Courses include: “Typos and unnuendo: Did that mean what I think it did?” and “Inside Jokes.” At the end of this course of study, students will be able to dazzle and baffle other members of online communities with non-sequitur statements harkening back to other comments made years ago that leave their peers reeling in admiration.

BoFA and MoFA in Graphic Design
Truly a recursive course of study, students will even have the opportunity to design their own diplomas! Also included is repairing annoying errors on Web sites and complaining about Internet Explorer (bachelors degree) or to use of subtle hints that whatever you’re using as an alternate is the best thing out there (master’s). (Please note that there will be no diplomas for any degree program until the Graphic design department comes through.)

MoFA in Fine Art
Can you draw this? Send in your rendition of this image to our professional evaluators and we will tell you if you qualify!


MuD in Squirrel Behavioral Studies
Mud-U is so far ahead of all other institutions (civilian and military) on the subject of squirrel behavior that a simple PhD was deemed by the board to be inadequate. For this and perhaps other subjects to be offered in the future, the degree of MuD will be awarded. Watch all those other “scientists” turn green when you whip out your (to be designed) diploma and laugh in their pathetic little scientist faces. “You think you know squirrels? Do ya? Buddy, I’ve made up more than you’ll ever know about squirrels!” At Muddled U, our team of crack scientists delves where none has dared go before into the dark, mysterious world of the squirrel. In addition, Mud-U safeguards the public trust by maintaining the Suicide Squirrel Alert System. Do you have what it takes to join this elite team as it protects the world?

Bachelor’s of Arts in Supermodeling
Looking great on the runway isn’t all there is to succeeding in this highly competitive field. In this intensive course of study you will learn how to stand out from the crowd. Lear how to make the Paparazzi work for you — hooking up with that married movie star isn’t going to do you any good if no one sees it. Also learn how to make the casting couch your best friend, and when it’s time to switch sugar daddies. (Applicants please include portfolio of lingerie shots.)

Please note that more degree courses will be added to to the above list as we bring on more faculty. As a student, you are welcome to custom-tailor your education to your own needs and interests. Tell us what you want a degree in, and we’ll make sure you get it!

At last, for a fraction of the cost of a Harvard Diploma, you can have an educational experience as broad as life itself. Work-study programs are available as well. Now you can earn a respected degree and help keep Mud-U running at the same time.

Muddled University intends to draw together the finest minds on the planet, to create a center of innovation and education unprecedented in history. We recognize that people like that will not be motivated by simple money, so here at Mud-U we have concentrated our benefits package on the “intangibles” — a great working environment, constant intellectual stimulation (other sorts of stimulation optional — see supermodel degree above), and the chance to be part of the team that changes humanity as we know it.

Do you know something that someone else doesn’t know? You can be a teacher! Now accepting applications.

Work-study programs in Janitorial Science are still available — start earning your degree today!

Focussed Marketing

Tonight I was watching the Finns skate against the Czechs. It was a decent contest, but Finns had my boys pretty much outclassed. My Bili Tigri goaltender gave up three, but that doesn’t reflect the chances the Finns had. None of that matters.

I have noticed in a few international matches that Garnier Fructis, the shampoo, is a major sponsor. At first this struck me as odd. In general, hockey fans are not the crowd I’d be selling fancy shampoo to.


Fructis Mullet formula.

Pay dirt, baby.

An Unlikely Injury

The plan at Saxkova Palačinkarna (Sax is a dog, by the way) tonight was simple: two cups of tea, two beers, and an evaluation of the effect on the first 150 pages of The Monster Within if I add two telling words in the fourth paragraph. The result: three teas, three beers, a rewrite of chapter three, and a bloody knuckle. The first results can be attributed to bad communication, bad counting, and good ideas. The last is a little more complicated. In fact, when I left Saxarna my knuckle was still intact. Indeed, as I emerged from the convenience store with a loaf of bread (the crumbs of which I am picking out of my keyboard as I compose this), I was still more or less in one piece. As I stepped out of the store and put the earphones in, however, I sowed the seeds of my own destruction.

In retrospect, perhaps it was not the act of putting phone to ear that did me in, it was my skipping over a tune in the shuffle because it was too mellow. Thus it was that “Electro” by Gwen Mars was crashing against my eardrums when I got home. I set aside my backpack, and there in the kitchen I proceeded to Rock Out. It was with a grand leaping air-guitar flourish that I cracked my hand into the ceiling lamp.

It wasn’t until after the number off the new(ish) Dickies album was over that I noticed the blood. Rest assured, by then the house was rocked.

A remarkably unremarkable day

It was a day remarkable for its unremarkableness. I was invited by a friend (by his mother, really) to a meal. I went, had an enjoyable time, and left before the conversational pauses got too long.

The meal itself was very tasty; an excellent beef noodle soup (“handmade noodles,” Martin’s mother explained, “with my hands!”), followed by a plateful featuring two different kinds of potato dumplings and two different kinds of cabbage (czech variations on sauerkraut), all framing a lovely roasted duck breast. It was an excellent meal. conversation was convivial, I managed a bit of czech, I understood some of the jokes and the rest were explained to me, which gave everyone a chance to laugh at them again.

Martin’s father has a very impressive collection of books. He was able to travel to the west during the communist times, and he would smuggle books back into the country, at considerable risk. We talked about the weather, about how warm things have been so far this year, the warmest in almost 50 years (or was it 80?) and that was fine with them. The entire family agreed that there’s no such thing as a winter that’s too warm. Personally, I waiting for the payback storm. After the last two winters, it seems only a matter of time before the bottom falls out of the thermometer.

Feeling bloated, I declined the offer of a lift the short distance home, and instead walked home through the light rain, and reflected that what not long ago would have seemed a sure opportunity for culture shock was instead just a pleasant meal with a family I didn’t know very well.

On a not-very-related note, this evening the downside of my new favorite place was made abundantly clear. Saxkova Palačinkarna is closed on weekends. Spending the evening there with a chocolate crepe to fill in the gaps that are starting to appear in my stomach would have been perfect. I was halfway there when I realized what day it was and that I would likely be disappointed. I wandered up and down the street for a while, and ultimately ended up at U Kormidla, which is nice enough but doesn’t have readily available electricity. Ah, well, I can always write at home.