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The Miata Diaries: Young navigators

You're not supposed to drive with the top down on Dec. 12.

But if it's 62 degrees out, how can you resist?
I took the Miata out for one final spin of the season on that abnormally warm day, just before topping off the tank and parking it in the garage for the winter. Clad in leather coat and a matching gray and black hat, I zipped here and there through the city streets, enjoying the unseasonably comfortable weather.
Before leaving, I texted a friend to see if her three daughters - all ages 10 and under - would like a ride.
"I just asked the girls if they were interested and their eyes bugged out with huge smiles," my friend texted back. 
So a little later that afternoon, this little red car could be seen - and heard! - making loops round and round a quiet little residential block, carrying a couple of blondes. 
It's fun to leave the car in second gear and rev it up just so the kids feel like they're racing. And you can take corners more quickly in this so…

The TARDIS explained to a non-Whovian

Yes, I know my blog has lain dormant for some time. The reason? My laptop died a couple of months ago and I still haven't gotten the new hard drive for it. I suppose I don't want to face actually having lost a bunch of photos and music I hadn't backed up. At least I didn't lose my documents! But as a slight interruption to this extended hiatus, I present the following exchange I had tonight with a co-worker. I copied this verbatim from our inter-office IM, where I'd just mentioned the TARDIS in a conversation about Halloween costumes. Whovians, prepare to be amused. Paginator: I looked up tardis and read an urbandictionary definition and am even more confusedMe: umm.... so it's basically a time travel spaceship in disguise as a phone boothPaginator: back to being speechlessMe: it's a big deal in the TV show Doctor Who. And it's supposed to be able to shapeshift into pretty much anything as a disguise, but the shapeshifter part broke so it's stuck be…

The Miata Diaries: Road trip to Mammoth Cave

Let's visit Mammoth Cave, she said. Let's try to pack all the camping gear into the 5.3 cubic feet of trunk, she said. 
So that's what she did.
Yes, believe it or not, all items needed for a weekend camping trip - including food - fit into the tiny trunk that can barely contain a guitar case. That's tent, ground mat, camping chair, clothes bag, grocery bag full of food and snacks, and incidentals. Oh, and a hefty camera case for a DSLR.
Those summers working in a shipping warehouse come in handy when you need to pack like you're playing Tetris. 
It had to fit, you see. Because yours truly decided to plan a detour specifically to enjoy a scenic ride through Brown County, Indiana, with the convertible top down and in high gear around the corners. (Well, not the absolute highest gear. But the pickup ahead was percipient enough to pull to the right to let this driver pass.)
It might not have happened that way, but it did. Despite unceasing rain for the first couple …

Review: God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Luther said that faith serves God, but works serve our neighbor."

That's an early sentence out of Gene Veith's short book, which resurrects Martin Luther's teachings on the workaday world for the 21st-century audience (who, like me, has probably never read a word that Luther actually wrote, besides the hymn "A Mighty Fortress" anyway). And with it, Veith launches into a clear outline of what Luther and others taught about the holy pursuit of... plumbing.

Veith covers the vocations of work, citizenship, family and church membership, often using regular-Joe examples related to plumbing or farming or a host of other occupations. The writing isn't as exciting as, say, an adventure novel, but it's sufficiently on layman's turf that you don't have to have studied Biblical languages or church history to follow what he's saying.

I&#…

The eloquence of the Greatest Generation

I received a lovely surprise today at work: A thank-you bouquet from a WWII veteran.

This veteran is originally from the town where I work and at 90 years old must be one of a very small number of men left who had served in World War II. He had seen an article I wrote recently about the Roll of Honor, a local monument to the area's WWII veterans (both the living and those who've passed on). So he called me this week, hoping someone at the paper could send him a photo of the monument.

He lives out of town and had never seen it since it was rebuilt in 2010, even though his name and those of several of his relatives are on it.

I couldn't find him any from the paper but I snapped a few with my phone on my way to an assignment and emailed them to him. He replied with his thanks and I figured that was taken care of.

Then about noon today, one of the front desk ladies brought these peach roses, saying they were delivered for me. For the life of me I couldn't guess who had sen…

Jane and the Doctor #1

As I re-watched one of my favorite episodes of the British TV show "Doctor Who," which features a story surrounding Agatha Christie, I was inspired.

Wouldn't an episode featuring Jane Austen be the best thing since sliced bread?

I shared this desire with a Whovian fan club I belong to on Facebook. Then I began imagining what interactions between the Doctor, his companion and various characters in Jane Austen's life might look like.

As easy as these have proven to write, this is undoubtedly only the first of several installments of the sort. The vignettes below are not presented chronologically, by the way. "Ten," of course, denotes the Tenth Doctor, and Donna is his companion in the fourth season of the reboot.

***

Jane's mom: "And is this your wife?"
-both Doctor and companion deny it vigorously-
Mom, as if offering consolation: "Oh, never mind, there are still many wonderful ladies you may meet."
Doctor, as aside to companion, with…

Life on my own #49: Notes on adulting

Disclaimer: I'm not qualified.

To dispense advice on being an adult, you first have to have a decent amount of experience. Four years post-college doesn't reach that level.

But one of my (ubiquitous) younger friends let her Facebook world know the other day, and I quote, "I can't believe....that in five days I'll be 20 years old. Oh my." First, let's applaud her use of Associated Press style in spelling out a single-digit number.

Applause, please. You're missing your cue!

Now that that's out of the way, let's reminisce a little. When I turned 20, I wasn't even with my family. It was the semester I studied abroad, in Costa Rica, and I managed to get through half the day without anyone making a big fuss over me and my little coming-of-age. Then the student coordinator found out.

I'm pretty sure I was presented with a cake and some flowers, but I don't exactly remember. And I apparently neglected to take any photos.

That all seems lik…

The Miata Diaries: Stubborn screws

I've been warring with a pair of rusted-on rear license plate screws since Tuesday. This is Friday. I tried everything in my arsenal -- every screwdriver that was even close to the right size, WD-40, silicone spray, a screwdriver borrowed from a friend, even a screwdriver borrowed from the local AutoZone. The one from AutoZone was finally a tight fit in the slotted head, but resulted in halfway stripping one of the screws.

It was to the point where I considered getting a friend to drill out the screws. (Or zapping them with my sonic screwdriver.) But I tried one last time.

Another squirt of silicone spray, several taps on each screw and a couple hours' wait. And then, the last straw: A pair of combination pliers with teeth that might either wear down the edges of the screws or sink into them tight enough to provide some leverage.

So into the cold garage I went, at about 8:45 p.m. No more daylight left, but I finally had the energy to give it a go.

Setting the pliers around th…

The Miata Diaries: Show and tell

I had promised a friend of mine yesterday that I would give her a ride in my new car before leaving for work. I forgot when the time came to leave, so I made it up to her today after church.

Parked next to a visiting college student's Camaro, the Miata looked to me almost like a toy car. She said it was gorgeous. Throughout the beginning of the ride, she felt along every surface she could reach - the textured plastic door handles, the smooth plastic dash and its round - almost bulbous - HVAC vents, the cloth seat, the vinyl soft top, the cold, metal framework holding the soft top up, the thin flap of fabric hiding that framework from view.

She felt the comparative roominess of the passenger legroom, which surpassed the expectations she'd formed after seeing the red-and-black mass we approached in the parking lot and feeling how short it was - shorter than even her petite frame. She could lean her elbow up on the top of the car.

My friend listened to the rumble of the engine as…

The Miata Diaries: Buying my dream car

I've liked the Mazda Miata roadster since I was about 11 years old.

I called it a "Mrs. Peel car," alluding to one of the characters in the old British TV show "The Avengers" that I and my siblings watched growing up. Pretty much any cute little roadster qualified as a Mrs. Peel car.

But I was able to see a Miata in person -- even sit in it -- when my parents visited a used car dealer to look for a minivan. I thought it was the bee's knees.

Even after I bought my first car of my very own, I realized my taste in cars hadn't changed much. I loved small and I loved stick-shift. And I still liked a Miata. So when I made a "bucket list" of things I definitely wanted to do sometime in my life, owning a Miata made it on the list.

And now it's checked off.





I bought a 2007 Mazda Miata touring car last week and can hardly wrap my mind around it. I own my dream car. How is that even possible??

But I love it. I can't wait for the weather to warm u…

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf by Unknown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



I was not one of those who "suffered" through Beowulf in high school. I enjoyed it, perhaps thanks to a modern translation by Burton Raffel that I found at the local library. And, if I hadn't gone for a different career, I could see myself having pursued an English major in college... for the fun of it. So take the following as you will. Also, if you're reading this, you're probably at least vaguely familiar with Beowulf's storyline, so I'll just skip that and get straight to what sets this volume apart.

The thickness of this volume's spine is deceiving: The Beowulf saga itself spans only pages 13 to 105 out of its 425 pages (not even counting the preface). But that's because there's a lot more gold for the willing book nerd to unearth. To wit:

J.R.R. Tolkien is most known for his trilogy "The Lord of the Rings," which I enjoyed as a teen, but in fact he was a dedicated scholar of English li…

Actual Facebook ads I have gotten

I still use Facebook, despite previous rants against its effects on our lives.

My job also entails that I Google a lot of randomness.

And, I think at some point I told Facebook I didn't want to have personalized ads.

These are the amusingly irrelevant results. Prepare to laugh.





Movies with reporters

Yes, I ended up becoming a reporter.

Funny thing is, there are a number of movies and TV shows I enjoyed in my childhood that featured a reporter (or some other figure of journalism) as a main character. And I never realized until sometime last year just how many there were. A partial list for your perusal:
Roman HolidayEarly Edition (TV show)It Happened One Night (sidenote: the plot is practically identical to Roman Holiday!)Assassination Bureau (Diana Rigg is splendid as the investigative journalist, if completely unethical)Superman (comics/movies)Crocodile Dundee Godzilla (the U.S. one with Matthew Broderick)Twister (the lead guy was a weather reporter - and on an irrelevant note, Cary Elwes is a fantastic villain here) Hoodwinked More recently, a few other movies have featured reporters/editors in a lead role.
27 DressesHitch (well, she's a gossip columnist)How to Lose a Guy in 10 DaysSky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Fascinating (at least to me). Of course, pretty much …

The mistakes I haven't made

This year, I'm grateful for the mistakes I haven't made.

Life has been pretty hunky-dory for me. I don't say that to brag or solicit commendation. I say that because there's really no reason for it to have gone so well for me as it has.

There've been times when I might have made a misstep. The way was open to me, and I really didn't know any better. There was no reason for me not to have taken an unwise turn, not even a hunch that that way would lead to no good.

And yet I didn't.

Only later do you realize how close you got to making a mistake. It's later that you learn the likely consequences of the action you didn't take (or maybe the passive state you didn't embrace).

I could say something ordinary about believing in guardian angels and in God's hand upon my life. Because I do believe that (at least the last bit). But those are cliched phrases that fail, these days, to convey just how astonishing it is ... not to have made the mistakes tha…