Epic Opening Lines

As I was wandering up the stairs at our public library the other day, my journey was arrested by the bright-colored bulletin board pictured in the header. This board is changed monthly, and frequently has things like Staff book picks, or children’s drawings with a book pick, etc.

But this was over the top! A bright orange sign up top announces “Epic Opening Lines”, and another orange sign to the left asks “Any of these sound familiar?” On brightly colored cards are printed thirty one- or two-sentence beginnings to a book; you can lift the flap to peek at the title and author of the book represented. It was a challenge to see if I could recognize any of them – a few were familiar, and one or two were obvious, but many I had never laid eyes on. I realized when I started looking them up at home that quite a few were Young Adult or children’s novels.

Since I doubt if you can read them all from the header, I’ll type several of them here, and see if any baboons can guess them – then I’ll reveal answers Sunday. Here you go:

1. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

3. They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

4. I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

6. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

10. The early morning sky was the color of cat vomit. Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your cat only salmon-flavored cat food for a while, to get the pinks right.

11. The moment one learns English, complications set in.

14. “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

15. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement… anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.

16. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

17. It was a pleasure to burn.

20. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.

23. I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.

24. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you’re going to run a hotel in a smuggler’s town. You shouldn’t make it a habit to ask too many questions, for one thing. And you probably shouldn’t be in it for the money.

27. All children, except one, grow up.

28. It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

29. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

30. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.

Do you have a favorite opening line(s) from a book you’ve read?

Gussied Up

Rhiannon got brushed and clipped this week for a visit to my office. Several years ago my company began to observe “Take Your Dog to Work Day” in June.  Well-behaved dogs are invited to the office and we have “Yappy Hour” on the front lawn.  Since then the program has expanded.  Throughout the summer, every Friday is dog-friendly and then there are random pop up days announced; today is one of those days.

Bringing both dogs is just too much for me (and my small cube) and YA’s dog isn’t as user-friendly as my old pup, so it will only be Rhiannon today.  Her cushion will come to the office as well as a water bowl and a Tupperware of treats.  It’s pretty exhausting for her, so she’ll only stay half a day and I’ll take her home at lunch time.  Even though it’s tiring, she seems to really enjoy it, especially the ride in the car!

You’re the boss. Budget isn’t an issue.  What perk would you like to offer your employees?

Cubicle Christmas

We’ve been getting things back from our desks that have been salvaged and cleaned after the big fire. Boxes of items have been delivered to us and everywhere people are unwrapping items and exclaiming over surprises.  I’ve gotten quite a bit back that I figured I would never see again.  My CD player, my mug warmer, all YA’s photos, and gymnastic magnets, my beaded warthog and my little fan.  Today I got the little plastic panic and eject buttons that I had pasted onto my monitor.  It’s like Christmas all over again!

So, to celebrate – a little cubical haiku.

the big office fire
scorched all my accessories
only buttons left

What was your last little surprise? Extra points for haiku.

Pepper Pandemonium

I had a kitchen disaster over the weekend. Following an online recipe, I added a tablespoon of cayenne to a crock pot of rice and veggies.  The recipe actually called for TWO tablespoons, but at the last minute, I said “that can’t be right” so halved the amount, even though that amount seem excessive to me.  Long story short, I should have followed my instincts as it was painful to dump the whole crock pot.  It was too hot, even for me and none of my usual tricks could save it.

There wasn’t a lot of hot food in my house growing up. My mom didn’t cook anything Mexican or Spanish that I can remember, nothing Indian or Caribbean that might have had any added heat.  I found hot and spicy when I was in college (from the special vegetarian dinner line at school).  Since then I’ve been lucky to eat some really hot foods around the world and I love it.

Once, in the early days of learning to love hot foods, I made a critical error. I was with a client in Sedona, Arizona when she spotted a little gift/food shop that she wanted to stop in.  The shop had a salsa bar filled with many kinds of salsa, peppers and crackers and chips, as well as a container of little teeny sample spoons and a sign that said “Try Me”.  One of the salsa was called “Habanero” which I had never heard of at the time.  Knowing I probably wouldn’t be buying anything, I didn’t want to eat a lot of chips so I just put a good dollop of the salsa on a little spoon and popped it straight into my mouth.  Suffice it to say, it was much hotter than I was expecting; my throat burned a bit, I got flushed and dizzy and I had to go outside and sit down on a bench for a bit.

I haven’t had a reaction that severe since, although to be honest, I’ve never been stupid enough again to put something in my mouth that I wasn’t really sure what it was!

When has it been too hot for you?

Arithmetic Assault

Decades ago I knew all of my friends’ phone numbers by heart. I knew almost everybody’s address that I sent mail to on a regular basis.  I knew my multiplication tables.

Over the years, most addresses have faded since I have them written in my day planner as well as on a spreadsheet. I recognize them when I write them out on envelopes, but that’s about it.  If a pixie got into my planner and re-arranged the house numbers, I probably wouldn’t know.

My cell phone has helped to alleviate the trouble of remembering my friends’ phone numbers well.  As people have added cell phones to their lives and dropped land lines, I have added their new numbers to my phone’s contact list but I have never memorized any of them.  With the exception of my BFF and YA, I don’t think I know anybody’s number by heart any more.

But the cruelest blow happened this morning. I was working on a program and deciding on how many beach towels we needed to order.  Without much thought at all, I entered 64 into the calculator on my desk and then hit “divide” by 2.  To get 32.  As soon as I did it, I realized what I had done. I used a machine to divide 64 by 2. This is horrifying to me.  Not that I’m worried about my ability to figure this out on my own, but that I would automatically go to a machine if I needed to do arithmetic.  Ouch.

My new practice starting tomorrow is to not turn on the calculator until I actually need it.

What technology has crept up on you?

Trending Fashion

On January 5, 1797, John Hetherington, a London haberdasher,  stepped out into the public with the first top hat. It caused a riot, and Hetherington was arrested.  The arresting officer said:

He had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people.  The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark.  One child broke his arm among all the jostling“.

The London Times came out in favor of the hat, and predicted that it would become a fashion staple. It was declared “a significant advance in the transformation of dress“.

I suppose the only time I was at the forefront of fashion was when I wore bib overalls in my early 20’s. That sure didn’t last long. These days I am a corduroy and sweater sort of person, dressed for comfort, not fashion, although those overalls were pretty comfy.

What do you think it would take to get a similar reaction to fashion today?  When have you been at the forefront of fashion? Own any fun hats?  Where would you like fashion to trend now?

 

Making Things Pretty

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve

In the summer of 1974 my parents invited my erstwife and me to a dinner. They explained that my dad had made a serious amount of money recently, much more than they needed. There could be no happier use of that money, they said, than to send us to London “all expenses paid.” We wouldn’t need to spend a dime of our own money for two weeks of touring London.

Of course we were thrilled. We were grad students eking out a living with on-campus jobs at the University of Minnesota. This gift would let us live like rich people for two weeks. Even better, we realized there was enough money enough to allow us to travel around the United Kingdom. Instead of staying in a posh London hotel, as my parents had anticipated, we could sleep in B&Bs in the countryside. The money saved would cover a cheap rental auto. We could travel wherever our whims directed.

Our two-week vacation in September featured a week of exploring London and a week of bumbling about the country. We visited Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset. We nipped into Wales briefly, which was funny. The Welsh were astonished that tourists would intentionally enter their country. They had no infrastructure to accommodate us, and we didn’t stay long.

We took hundreds of photos. Photography was trickier then than now. We shot slide film, a touchy and unforgiving medium. Our Fujichrome slides weren’t as pretty as Kodachrome, and they had gobs of grain. The British weather did us no favors, raining every day. The fugitive sun made a brief appearance three times. When not raining the skies remained overcast and harshly bright. Our slides were drab, with unpleasant tonality.

You can’t view slides without a slide projector, screen and dark room. Several years ago I hired a company to scan our slides, converting them to digital files. When I got the scans I was dismayed. The scanning process was crude. All the scans were underexposed and grainy, with ugly colors and tones.

A few weeks ago I came across those scans where they’d been hiding in a remote file on my computer. I opened a scan in my photo editing software. It was easy to brighten the image. I made some areas of the image darker, lightening others. I tweaked some colors. I tamed the harsh sky. My editing software has ways of reducing grain. Soon I had a new version of the slide that was pretty, or at least prettier than it had been. Some scans were too compromised to salvage, but that left nearly 200 scans that begged for a beauty makeover. With a big grin I began editing the 1974 trip images.

That kicked off three of the happiest weeks I’ve known. Because my computer is attached to good speakers I could stream an internet folk music broadcast while I worked.

Photo editing is tricky. I kept returning to images I had edited earlier, tweaking them, and often making my edits more subtle. Of course, no amount of editing can make fuzzy images sharp. Many things can go wrong in photography. I was puzzled by an icky color cast in pictures of suits of armor. I finally figured out that the armor was in a room lit with fluorescent lights, giving the metal a green cast. Aha! That could be fixed. In the end I produced 189 pleasing images.

The project was emotionally complicated. I was having so much fun I tuned out the horror show of our national politics. It was a joy to revisit moments from that extraordinary trip 44 years ago. Each image presented unique challenges, old memories and surprising rewards. Christmas—actually, a splendid Christmas—came and went. I was almost too absorbed with editing to pay it much attention. I was too busy making ugly things prettier. What is more rewarding than that?

Do you have ways to add beauty to your life?

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