Oct 26, 2009

Sleeping In

I used to be a night owl. Not the sort of geeky guy in The Watchmen, I look terrible in fitted costumes, but the sort of person who likes to be awake at night.

When I was in school I discovered a lot of things. One of those things was reading. One of the others was quiet. Then I discovered that the later you stayed up at night the more reading you could do, and the quieter it became. A love affair was born.

My parents, who saw nothing wrong with getting up at four am were in bed religiously by nine pm. On school nights the same went for me and my brother. But come the weekend, and most especially the holidays that nine pm marker went out the window. I had one of those bed chairs, the things that look like someone scissored off the top of a cheap stuffed chair, and I kept a stack of paperback books beside my bed. Granted this was back when fifteen dollars would buy you three paperbacks and still give you some change for a fountain Coke. Those were the glory days: I was discovering Michael Morcock, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, all the giants of science fiction, and each night found me staying up later and later to read just one more chapter, just one more handful of paragraphs.

I loved those long quiet hours at night. The cat would climb into bed with me, I'd be sitting there with my reading lamp over my shoulder, my big bed chair stuffed up behind my back and a handful of science fiction masterpiece. The house would grow quiet and the world would narrow down to that small pool of yellow light that opened a window into the sun-scorched sands of Arrakis, the sterile white environs of a sentient FTL starship, the paved streets of ancient Melnibone' or of Greentown, Illinois. I'd often read half a book or more at night, steeping myself in the story, losing myself utterly.

Oh, once in a while I'd be distracted out of the world in my hands by the sharp yipping of foxes in the fields hunting mice, or the soft lonely hoot of an owl in the pine trees outside my window but always the world of the printed word called me back, drew me in like the Siren's song calls sailors to their doom. Midnight became not the witching hour but just a marker that the house was cool and quiet. Two and three am would often find me still reading, and the next morning I'd sleep until noon, getting up to have lunch served for breakfast.

My folks were awfully understanding about it. I guess they figured I wasn't drinking, wasn't smoking, wasn't even out of the house (in body anyway) so what was a little sleeping in?

Work intruded soon afterward, but still I found time to stay up late, and evening shifts often meant that I could lie abed long after the sun had come up. Most times it was a requirement, working retail, because I'd be up until midnight or better at work, so getting to bed and staying there was quite the reward, plus it served as time to let aching legs and back recover some spring.

Somewhere in there, though, the status quo shifted. I became a parent, and work changed from evening shifts to day shifts, eight to five, Monday through Friday, and I could no longer stay up late because I had to be up early to get not only myself dressed and fed but a little wiggle worm of a child too, and later school added into the mix. Nine pm became the standard again by the simple expedient of me liking to have eight hours of sleep a night, and having to be up to get a child going meant firm nine pm bedtimes. Books became an expensive hobby, paperbacks up to seven and eight dollars each, hardbounds for twenty five and thirty, and so they were paced out, spread across days, made to last like an old drunk nursing his last beer.

The weekends still found me sleeping in a little, but something else had begun changing in me--a desire to be accomplishing things. I was astounded to find that if you woke up before dawn and got your morning routine out of the way that gave you the entire morning to cut grass or plant a garden of roses or, well, the list was endless. That five hours before noon seemed like an eternity after so many years of thinking that breakfast was always served at eleven am.

Now that I'm a regular balloonist (some would say balloonatic) I find my weekend mornings are also in grave danger of extinction. Weekdays find me getting up at five forty-five so I can start for seven, but weekends find me getting up even EARLIER so I can get showered, dressed, and slip out on the bike to make it to LSUA for a pre-dawn meet with David and the rest of the crew to set up for a flight. Don't get me wrong, I love it, and wouldn't change a thing about it. I mean, in what other sport do you find the drinking starting at nine am, and with champagne to boot?

No, now more than ever it makes sleeping in feel like a luxury beyond measure, a luxury rarely tasted. Once in a while nothing is planned, nothing needs doing, nothing is pressing hard for me to accomplish it and I can sleep in. Mrs. I wakes up early and lets the dogs out and closes the bedroom door. I fall asleep again and wake up late, seven thirty at times, sometimes as staggeringly late as eight am, and it feels so decadent. I feel like an emperor arising from his golden bed, knowing that the household is going on as it should, that the world outside has woken up and gone on working without me being in it.

The guilt usually kicks in around this point, and the Protestant Work Ethic goads it sharply enough to get it moving pretty fast, but I still get to enjoy sleeping in for a few minutes. I know I'll never get to retire, never get to enjoy sleeping through every single morning again but that little taste sure is nice. And who knows? Maybe one day they'll make books cheap again, and I'm sure they still make those bed chair things. I'm sure I can find a lamp, and there's always a cat willing to curl up on my legs, if not a Borzoi, and lord knows they love to sleep.

My fear, however, is that one day I'll start thinking that four am isn't THAT early a time to rise.

Oct 21, 2009

Taking Off Is Always An Option. Landing Is Not.

Student flights. I know, you guys just live for this stuff, right? Well, this one has a couple of twists.

The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in Natchez this last weekend was a wash. Or rather a blow, since the wind never wanted to drop below 15 knots or so. We managed one flight on Sunday morning, landed on a golf course and got the balloon soaking wet with dew. Monday afternoon my mentor emailed me around 2:30 and asked me if I wanted a student flight. The Sunday afternoon flight in Natchez got canceled and so the envelope was still pretty wet from Sunday morning. He needed to unpack and inflate it so that the heat of inflation would evaporate the dampness right off and giving me another student flight would kill two birds.

So immediately after work the 'weekday crew' joined him and myself in Lecompte, we found a really nice old man who had a lovely big side yard and we set up. David handed me the striker after we'd cold packed with the fan, gave me some basics again as to inflation, showed me the signals he'd give me to start or stop burning and let me at it. I sparked the pilot light into life, stuck the striker in my back pocket, picked the left upright up enough to set it on my left knee like he does, he killed the fan and I burned.

I actually managed to inflate it nicely up until the very last when a good big stiff wind came in and flattened her, and he took over since that's a VERY dangerous time, where the risk of burning the envelope is very high.

Once the initial struggle of setup was over I clambered in, gave her a little head and we were up and going. He let me get to about 500 feet (I tend to stay HIGH!) and said "Okay, do a touch and go in that field there, and don't bounce it. Just ONE touch." He knows me too well, knowing that I'd much rather approach a landing tentatively, in ten or eleven small landings leading up to the final one. I didn't actually stick that one, either. Didn't quite get her fully on the ground that is. I'm always leery of coming down too fast, so I over-burn and don't ever quite make it down.

Well, this went on a bit, he had me get low and do some contour flying in a flat field, then he had me fly up and contour along some trees. I was really genuinely getting the feel of it, which I didn't realise I'd lost so bad but I've not flown in three months. It was a really truly good feeling, very akin to the feeling I got when I realised I'd found the sweet spot between throttle, clutch and shifter on the bike, so that each shift was seamlessly smooth. I was really feeling how she was supposed to be flying, really FLYING her and not just riding along. That's when my glove brushed the toggle switch up on the burner handle area and turned the pilot light off.

There I was, blissfully unaware, gliding over the treetops in silent splendor until I squeezed the handle to burn a short burst and all I got was a "pfffffffffffffft" sound and some white vapour where there should have been a six foot tall gout of blue flame.

I panicked.

He stayed as cool as an alligator in deep water, however, which comes of having more hours logged piloting aircraft than I've had hot meals. My one point of pride is that I got my striker out and up to the pilot light tubes just as fast as he did. Problem being, 1) my striker came open and I couldn't get it together again and 2) there was no gas there to LIGHT. He told me in that loud/calm Instructor Voice: "Just fly the aircraft, I'll get this." I didn't see what I could do, really. Without fire I couldn't rise, and venting would put us in the branches so I sort of stared forward and waited. Oh, and quietly panicked.

He told me after I got home in an email that he'd learned twenty years ago to use Fire II (the extra boost/backup fire for emergency lift) as a pilot light in case the pilots would not light, but he'd never had to use it until just then. He twisted the Fire II valve open and suddenly we had a sputtering, blasting three foot tall flame of a pilot light. I squeezed the trigger and my heart returned with the sputtering roar of fire and heat and lift.

Just in time, too. We'd cleared the treetops but were coming down fast into a clearing. We hit pretty hard and did some bounce-drag stuff for a while. I nearly got my arse tossed overboard for my troubles too. My center of gravity at 6' 2" is higher than his and he's better at bracing for impacts than I am, but I hung on to the uprights like a baby monkey clinging to his momma and rode it out, burning every time we got clear of the ground, remembering that he'd told me NEVER to burn, to actually take my hand off the trigger when bouncing on the ground to prevent accidents. Well, we finally got back up and I settled down as the gondola swung back and forth like a pendulum, slowly settling back into vertical.

I was proud of myself--he told me that if we'd had a real emergency, rather than a self-inflicted one like I'd just done he'd have had me land with the Fire II in the field and be done with it, but since we knew what the problem was (he saw the toggle and flipped it back on just before we began bouncing) we'd go on. I was proud because I'd been about to ask him if we needed to land and stay put. Score a tiny one for the student. We flew on for a bit, me trying to generate enough spit to dampen the desert that was my mouth and in my nervousness I was climbing pretty high again, so he told me to vent, to get us low enough to cross the corner of a certain field using the prevailing wind down on the deck.

Now this is the tricky bit. When Skybird got her new material added on the folks there sold him on a pulley system for the red line that controls the vent at top. It's akin to power steering on a race car, however: while it makes the job of pulling the top out it also robs you of a good bit of feeling. In my nervousness and so forth I'd vented already but I wasn't sure that the top had come out. It was so 'soft' feeling that I thought I'd not pulled hard enough so I pulled again, and again. Each time losing heat, and lift. WAY too much lift. We lost a whole lot of lift and went into what Jim likes to call "a screaming descent."

I began burning when he realised I was trying to self-engineer another in-flight emergency for us and he started his insistent "Burnburnburnburn" order. We had time to recover but we were still descending awfully fast when we hit. Jarringly hard. Hard enough to unhook one of the three spring-loaded hooks that holds the burner in the frame. Hard enough that I felt it in my back teeth. Suddenly we were sitting flat on the ground and everywhere around me was blue, nothing but blue nylon settling around us in huge swaths almost to the ground.

I had just enough time to hear David say "Hang on!" before she popped up again. FAST.

And we started what I like to call a "BDS landing." BDS for "Bounce, Drag and Scream." We were dragged all across a rowed field, thumping and falling across each other, juddering and swinging and hitting again, up and down, back and forth. I was ready for this one tho, had my right arm looped around an upright and my left hand clenching another until I could get it free and we were off the ground long enough to burn, to inflate, to get us up off this forsaken violent rough ground!

And finally we did get back up, and swung madly back and forth like a pendulum for way too long.

But he took it like it was nothing at all, and I guess in a way it was. I mean, we were fine, just shaken up. No blood, no broken bones, and the aircraft was intact. I think I hit my hip on the aluminum lip of one of the cylinders, gave myself a nice goose egg, and my shoulder and upper arm are still sore as is my neck, but we were intact, and finally airborne again. Well, after that I was white knuckled and dry mouthed, but David was still as calm as milk. Astounding.

He talked me through a mediocre landing right next to a parking lot, and Richard and Susie and Monica got us secured and it was all good. The campus security guy came up while we walked Skybird the twenty or so feet to pavement and we took her down, no problems. While Cap'n Miller talked to the Thick Blue Line I went ahead and took...command, I guess. I did what he would do if he were free: set to completing the process of securing the balloon. I made sure the top was pulled up to the center ring, walked back to the gondola, wrapped my arms around the Nomex part of the throat, called Monica to get behind me to help keep the weight of the material off me and started squeezing.

I actually squeezed the whole thing out before David got to us, which I think made him a little proud; even as shaken as I was (and I WAS) I was still seeing to securing the aircraft. We talked a little bit then, he got a lot of good laughs out of the very curious crew, and I mostly stood there and smile sheepishly. We told them the condensed version of what had happened, and loaded the lot up.

He told me there and again in the truck and again when I was back at the parking lot getting my log book filled out that I'd done good, really good on the contour flying, that he could tell I'd really gotten the feel for the burn/pause/maintain process that keeps us at level flight, and that it was GOOD that we'd endured both of those events together, so that now I'd be familiar with what can and does happen.

He asked me several times if I was okay, and I assured him I was, that I was ready to go again if need be. I called Jim on the way home and told him the same thing, and he said the same thing also--that it was GOOD to get in trouble when you're training because those are the moments during which you really learn what to do. I've faced two serious problems now. Not common problems but problems that can and do crop up, and now I know how to alleviate both.

As for me, two days later? I'm sore, no question about it, but I'm ready to go again. I feel like the first time I dropped my motorcycle--I'm anguished over it, but I know I can't stop just because of it.

So. I know this--it's not dampened my enthusiasm at all. I'm ready to go again, would go right now if offered the chance. And like Jim said, I've not experienced all that can go wrong, not by any means, but I did get a good look at what can and does happen at times, and have learned a little of how to deal with it next time. David said the next morning that he was perfectly fine, that he'd learned "a long time ago" how to roll with those sorts of punches. I envy him that. But I'm glad I got my lumps, too. They'll help me remember. And one day I'll feel the same way--a BDS landing won't be anything worse than something to be endured, I'll know where to brace my feet and how to hang on so that I don't get brained by the burner.

Now all I can do is imagine how I'd be in my own balloon. What it'd be like to be up there alone, standing underneath High Hope, for instance. More and more I think like that. I guess I'm thinking toward my solo flight, and beyond. What I'm going to have to do, how I'll have to do all of it, not just most of it. How I'll be fully reliant on me, on my ability to keep it aloft and flying level and steering with the wind and all that. Looking for and choosing my landing spot, everything.

It's a terrifying feeling, but in a good way, like a mountain you want to climb, a mountain that you know can hurt you, could even kill you if you don't respect it, but if you can just get on top you'll never ever forget the view.

Oct 12, 2009

Great Zombie Jesus!

That's the costume I WANTED to wear to the 2009 Shreveport Zombie Walk. 

So.  In a nutshell: 7 hours in greasepaint and a surprisingly realistic looking prosthetic wound attached to my cheek and neck with spirit gum.  Three hours on the road round trip.  Roughly one hundred seventy five people dressed, with various degrees of success, as zombies.  Almost six hundred pounds of non-perishable foodstuffs donated to the Shreveport Food Bank.  Worth it?  Does Zombie Jesus lurch around turning water into brains?*

But no Zombie Jesus for me this year.  I settled pretty happily for a zombie priest: Monsignor Macabre, and the Missus went as Sister Mary Gruesome.  Funnily enough we encountered enough other undead clergy to make a smallish convent and had quite a blast I have to say.  But then again, how do you not?  Lurching around a mall groaning in some of the most gruesome makeup you could imagine, in the company of almost two hundred other like-minded individuals, each marching to a different funeral dirge. 

I really do have to say there's nothing quite like dressing like one of the living dead and enacting (well, sort of) scenes from a classic George A. Romero movie.  A whole graveyard full of greaspaint and faux wounds and oddly enough a lot of smiles, too.  I never knew the undead could smile.  Young undead and old undead and even a celebrity or two: Zombie Where's Waldo showed up, as did Zombie Hotdog Guy and even a couple who did a really breathtakingly good version of Bela Lugosi's White Zombie from mid 1930's Hollyweird.  They even brought their own hearse.

Surprisingly, after lots of trepidation on everyone's behalf about venturing into the world of semi-professional prosthetic wounds I have to admit that the hand-sized patch of icky-looking rubber I bought to attach to my cheek and lower jaw was a lot easier to use than I thought.  And I discovered that all those 'skin tearing' scenes you see in the movies are done as simply as anything--a little fake skin attached with spirit gum.  When I pulled mine off (slowly) it gave the exact same appearance, that sort of pulling, tearing look except in my case all it reveled was a patch of skin not sickly white with greasepaint.  Who needs Skywalker Ranch?

I have to say too that there was some truly creative people there.  Simple makeup effects that went a LONG way.  One lady who had obviously had a knee replacement surgery showed up in her wheelchair with her freshly-healed scar, and had the local talent makeup lady apply some Eau De Undead and she was suddenly on tv, growling and groaning, rolling herself toward the tv camera like it was as natural as anything.  Simple additions of mascara and rouge that produced some really ghoulish bruising and dead skin effects.  Homegrown talent can produce some excellent fruits.

The evening for me was full of little moments of utter glee.  Walking through Sears to the restroom, eating up every double take.   Standing around watching the other zombies enter, drinking in the envious stares at my grievous wound that showed only from one side.  Surprise!  My cheek and throat are torn out!  The giggling waves and exchanges of "dead skin" recipes with other undead.  The weird freedom that comes with being in a mask, being something/someone you're not.  Being a stranger in a very deeply strange land.  Having people seek you out to get their photo taken with us was pretty cool too.

The local TV crew came out, and I so wished we could get to see the footage.  A hundred or more of us pressing hungrily forward as the cameraman filmed us from his perch on the dais.  Our hands reached for him, grasping at the end of straining arms, each of us together desperate to pull him down from his perch and into our seething mass.  From our throats rose countless desperate groans and in the middle of that surge of bodies you could almost feel how it might be to be eternally hungry, forever cursed to walk the earth and devour the living.  Lucio Fulci would have soiled himself to see us.

The walk itself was worth all the build up, worth all the wait.  The costume contest winners were announced (we didn't place,) and the numerous door prizes were given away (we didn't win) and then it was time.  A brief period of instruction from the Zombie Hotdog ("loosen up, think 'dead' and don't walk fast!") and all of us were off and shambling, lead by Undead Billy Idol and Undead Waldo from, I can only presume, the popular children's book series "Where's Undead Waldo?"  We straggled out over almost half the length of the mall, each of us moving at our own pace, our own "old school" zombie stagger integrated into our costume.  I let my mind go blank, let my limbs hang slack until I almost felt myself falling, then staggered away, bumping into other zombies, desperate to find that one bright spark of life to extinguish.

Oh yes, I had fun.  Walking up behind kids who were foolish enough to have their backs turned, dropping heavy hands onto them.  Turning suddenly toward people aiming iPhones and video cameras at us, startling them into staggering back into their giggling friends.  Groaning at the windows, scrabbling fruitlessly at the retail drones all stopped to stare as the seething mass from the grave passed their plate glass walls.  Oh yes I had such fun.

(Sadly I can't yet find any video from the 2009 walk but this is a nice little clip from 2008, the first Walk.)

* Yes.

Oct 7, 2009

Getting Started

It's a good title.  Explanation can be found at meno's blog.  Go see her, do.  She's got a purdy keyboard.

Me, I'm gonna get started with a few vignettes and see where it goes.

Vignette one: The Inside Of A Home Office

So Ver' Ver' Big Home Health Company bought me a nice HP multifunction machine when I took this job, to go along with my new lappy and my two flat panel monitors and my funky freakout internet-connected hellophone.  It seems, however, that the powers that Be didn't take into account the fact that we'd all be printing almost a ream of paper A DAY in reports, and these little machines aren't nearly designed for that level of workload.  So, they break.  A lot.

Now me, mine's not broken, but you know me, I believe in maintenance.  When the little rubber feed wheels started to squeak just a little I popped a trouble ticket into the IT line to see if I could get a maintenance kit, which is basically a plastic bag of little rubber feed wheels that you stick in, and you're good as new.  Except not with this model.  See, with the HP LaserJet M2727nf (and yes, I spell it out intentionally, so others can find this and be warned) there are no end user serviceable parts inside.  Zero.  None.  Except the toner cartridge, which don't count.  So when, say, the feed wheels start wearing out after three months of heavy use or the fuser goes bad you're pretty much screwed, because you're gonna have to pay an HP tech to come out and fix it.

Except VVBHHC paid for the three year extended maintenance plan!  In a day I had a replacement machine on my doorstep.  I unpacked it, set it up, packed up the old one and was ready to go again.  I noticed that this one had slight cosmetic differences, but didn't think anything of it.  Until this afternoon, not 6 hours into its life when I realised it was faxing blank pages.  The scanner part of the fax machine had died, you see.  Because this is not a new machine, it's a refurb, which is industry shorthand for "a used piece of shite that HP foisted off on us because we had the foresight to purchase the extended warranty/replacement plan."

So now that I've sent my other machine back, the NEW one, the one that really did work pretty good (it certainly faxed okay) I have to wait for another refurb machine to show up on my doorstep tomorrow evening, so I can lather-rinse-repeat the process and pray that the second refurb machine works for longer than six hours.

I've never regretted being proactive until today.

Vignette two: Outside A Very Pregnant Dog

Because as the old joke (more or less) goes, inside a very pregnant dog there's no room for anything, much less reading.*

Belle is about two weeks short of squirting out into the world a passel of puppies, and it's really starting to show.  Much like a woman very close to her due date she's...er...big.  Very big.  Wide, in fact.  In human terms she's about three days from her due date.  In dog terms she's got about two more weeks.  As such she moves slower, she eats a whole lot more, and she's cranky.  Watching her lie down is an awful lot like watching a very pregnant woman try to sit down in a recliner, which in itself is sort of like watching a very old man try to back his 1954 Cadillac into a very small parking spot.  Oh, there's room for it, but it takes a certain level of concentration, skill and just plain bloody-mindedness to make it work.  When she decides to lie down you can tell she's really thinking hard about it:

"Do I really want to lie down?  Because it's gonna take a while, and when I get there it's gonna take even longer to get back up again."

Yesterday at the midwife's (Mrs. I) behest I touched a certain spot on Belle's very round, very tight belly and could feel the lumpy outline of a puppy.  It wasn't quite as powerful, emotionally speaking, as feeling my daughter in utero but it was fairly close.  They're not quite old enough to move, for which Belle I'm certain is giving thanks, but they're very nearly there.  In another week Belle is going to start nesting very seriously, and The Book of The Bitch, which is not, as the title seems to indicate, a primer on women but is in fact a handy reference guide for dog breeders expecting a litter, is going to be in hand a lot more.  Certain chapters will be underscored and re-read, and final preparations will be made.  Including bringing in the plastic wading pool from the yard (sanitized and lined with old blankets and newspapers for shredding) and moving some furniture around in the den in order to make it the Puppy Birthin' Room

And yes, photos will follow.  As will the link to the website as soon as I buy the domain name.

Vignette three: The Zombie Walk

Yes, I'm excited.  I'm downright giddy.  For the local foodbank, and to coincide with National Zombie Day (October 11th, also Weerelephant's birthday oddly enough) a local city is hosting a zombie walk.  At their local mall.  Too good, I know!  You dress up as much or as little as you want, bring some non-perishable food as your 'entry fee' and you're in.  We get a brief lesson in zombie walking (for the n00bs) and then we're off for a moaning, groaning, shambling...er...shamble around the mall for an hour.  Makes me wish I lived in Shreveport because the local film center is doing a three-night zombie retrospective filmfest.  Damn you Shreveport for having culture!

I decided, after a brief tour through our local Hallo'een store to go as a zombie priest (Monsignor Macabre, perhaps,) as an homage to the priest in the basement of the tenement building in Romero's second landmark movie.  Mrs. I is going to continue the theme, going as a zombie nun (Sister Mary Gruesome,) and my daughter is going to finish our ghoulish trio by going as a zombie cat.  Yeah, I know it doesn't really fit the religious theme except maybe as a witch's familiar, but I'm not about to stomp on her creative side.  I even broke down and bought a semi-professional style prosthetic wound (which will cover either half my neck or all of one cheek and down across my jawbone,) and the necessary liquid blood, spirit gum and makeup to make it truly gruesome and deliquescent icky.

Still, there were two things that bothered and continue to bother me:

1) The vast preponderance of Sexy (fill in the blank) Costumes at the costume store.  95% of the teen/adult women's costumes there involved exposed breasts, mesh hosiery, corsets and micro skirts.  The photos of how you-yes-you would look in each costume was an endless procession of blonde supermodels with Barbie doll figures and faces just as plastically vacuous as you'd expect.  Since when was Hallo'een about sex?  It's the season to have the freckles scared off you, not be enticed by a woman whose costume looks like it came from the bastard child of a dominatrix police officer and a fifty dollar a night stripper.  What further bothered me was the hundreds of high school girls who were buying these costumes like they were going out of style.  And before you get to be a punk, Stucco, yes I was looking and yes it was enticing, but it's HALLOWEEN for shite's sake, not National Be A Sexual Predator's Favourite New Toy For A Day Day.  What is wrong with people?  Moreso, what is wrong with people's parents? Which is itself another post.


2) I really wanted to go as Zombie Jesus but the costume was $75 and I don't have the time to put one together out of bits and pieces.  But could you imagine?  Zombie Jesus.  Oooooh how good would THAT have been?  "Verily I say unto thee 'Go in peace, and devour the flesh of the unbeliever.'"

THAT'S what Samhain is all about.**
*  For those of you not familiar with the quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside a dog it's too dark to read."  ~Groucho Marx, world's greatest moustache wearer.

** And yes, I also fully realise that the origins of what we call Halloween are based in festivals centered around Fall harvest time and end of the year/end of the world fears and as a preparation for winter's long night, but really now, "Sexy Barmaid"?  How is that scary?  Unless maybe you wear a hook for a hand.