Monday, November 03, 2003


Another of my famous "remote" posts. I'm sitting in the classroom/kitchen that houses the Home Economics program (wait, isn't that called "consumer science" now?) at the Encampment School. I'm pretty glad to be here after a scary, slushy drive down 130/70 to get here, first putt, putt, putting along after a schoolbus, then dodging snowplows. All good material for my NaNoWriMo novel, which among other things concerns the experiences of people enduring three straight years of winter (Fimbulvetr). I have a strong feeling that a certain Anglo-Saxon-syllable-intensive entry from this here blog (PLOP!) is going to mutate into a scene...

So yes, I'm a substitute teacher, for the first time in charge of junior high and high school kids, Bog help me. First period was quiet, two guys I last remember as goofy seventh grade football players (now juniors in high school!) making cookie dough. Now there's a little girl (ok, probably a sophomore, but you know) sewing together little pieces of paper with a sewing machine. I'm keeping my distance. Sewing machines and I, well, we have a long and ignominious history. I'm convinced they've all developed a taste for my blood.

One nice advantage to subbing in the Home Ec room: there is a coffee maker right here, and a freshly-opened can of Folgers. I have a whole pot of coffee to myself, in other words, and don't have to meander down the hall like so many sixth graders seeking soda every time I need a refill. Hooray!

All in all, not a bad way to earn a few bucks with which to maybe actually do some Christ-X shopping. Oy, I can't believe that's coming up already. One's Halloween Hangover is barely banished (okay, not mine personally, because I was just one day off my sickbed and stuck to club soda), the glitter from one's last-minute costume (I glammed it up and went as the "Anti-Kate" in a Stevie Nicks skirt, high heeled boots, gold lame tube top fashioned from a scarf, tons of makeup, and enormous hoop earrings. People all night kept telling me I looked "hot", leading me to wonder how I look the rest of the time. Am I really that frumpy?) still stubbornly clinging to one's face and cleavage despite one's best and soapiest ministrations, and suddenly everything is red and green and jolly and there's Christ-X music all over the place and the sixth period Foods class is going to be decorating Christ-X cookies this afternoon oh Bog!

Oh well, at least it's pretty much time to start skiing again. Rex?

Friday, October 31, 2003


As I've mentioned earlier this week, I have signed up once again to participate in National Novel Writing Month, which begins, as I type this, in 22.5 hours.

I will again be trying to write a complete start-to-finish novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. I pulled it off last year, after all, and last year I was the chamber chick!

But for my regular readers, this promise: I will try my best to continue to post other, non-NaNoWriMo content here at LIANT.

And furthermore, I will confine my NaNoWhining to a special 30-day diary which will be posted at

The novel in progress itself will appear at

Wish me luck, everybody!

Thursday, October 30, 2003


This is the verdict of a website called The Gender Genie, which applies an algorithm developed by Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology and described recently in the science journal Nature to analyze submitted text and determine whether or not the author of same is male or female.

I submitted one blog entry (my little do about the bullriding contest at the Whistle Pig), one book review (of Umberto Eco's Baudolino from January), one news article (about Encampment's revived sawmill), and one grant proposal (for CDBG funds to help us find a replacement for Saratoga's defunct sawmill).

The Gender Genie thought the author of each passage was male.

After making a quick anatomical scan to make sure I didn't experience surprise sex-change surgery during my recent convalescence, I clicked down on the button that said what the author's actual gender was for each, and a little button popped up, informing me that the site so far has been 80% accurate and the author of each passage is "one butch chick."

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Then to check it all out a little further, I submitted a piece from the Prairie Porn website. I know for a fact the author of same is female.

Well, she's one butch chick, too. The Genie thought she was male, also.

What's interesting is the way all of this seems to work. The site has apparently got a list of masculine and feminine keywords, and it makes its determination, by counting the occurrences of each. The more masculine keywords in the text, the more masculine the text and thus the more likely it is that the author is male, I guess.

What are these masculine and feminine keywords, pray?

See if you can guess which is which.

Set A: around, what, more, are, as, who, below, is (!), these, the (!), a (!!), at, it, many, said, above, to.

Set B: with, if, not, where, be, when, your, her, we, should, she, and, me, myself, hers, was.

Now, for a final bit of fun, I'm going to run this very text I've just written through the Gender Genie before I post it.

Hup! I'm still butch. It thought I was a man. Again.

Interesting stuff, but in the end, probably bullshit.


My first day off what I was again thinking might well have been my death bed (am I the wimpiest sick person in the world? Surely I'm a contender for the title. But at least I'm not a hypochondriac. I hate being sick. I'm using the word HATE here) and the sky stayed grey all day and I hung in the house listening to Cat Stevens (along with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe and Ivan Neville, I categorize this as Tewksbury music; stuff I listened to for the first time my sophomore year at Beaudacious Bard College during dull sad downtimes in the giant-for-Bard cinderblock junk dorm called Tewksbury Hall) and wondered if it was going to snow.


Naturally this calls for a trip to Platte Valley Ranch Supply. The Collie of Folly was out of dog food and Erin-Go-Braless has no suitable winter coat. Or hat. Or mittens.

Braless has never been to PVRS, or, I suspect, to any feed store of any kind, though she has long loved the idea of living in a town where such an emporium is, in fact, Fashion Central.

Her awe when she stepped in to admire the boots, the animal feed, the veterinary supplies (that bottle says DMSO! Is it really DMSO? It's DMSO!), the jewelry, the pet toys, the brassieres, the leather, and, most importantly, the racks and racks of genuine Carhartt, was touching and completely understandable. While I lay recovering from the Stomach Flu From Hell, she'd been earning extra cash helping winterize folks' landscaping out in the cold, grey, almost-snowing pre-winter haze of these last few days.

Her buttt was cold. And she needed something to warm itt.

Nothing like a big ol' ranch coatt for thatt. You locals know what I'm talking aboutt.

And where, I thought as I watched her trying on various avatars of Carhartt, is the steamroller of citified style who breezed onto the porch at the Whistle Pig Saloon on the Fourth of July amidst the fireworks, resplindent with artful blond streaks in her hair and a wildly colorful poncho/tunic/cloak thing woven of spidersilk and butterfly breath?

She's buried under navy blue waterproofed canvas, a blah beige knitt hatt, a ratty-looking tan scarf and a shiver.

She looks like Nanook, sho'nuff.

I guess winter really is on the way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Like Mark Ames, much-maligned (mostly deservedly, but still) editor of that bitchy alternative paper I like in Russia, the eXile, my basic economic ratio is fame:work, i.e., how much fame can I squeeze out of how little work?

I would appear to have squeezed out a little more, though honestly, I don't know who is going to notice, apart from a lot of bureaucrats who are sick of hearing my name already.

But, the story on Wyoming bloggers (all seven of us, according to the Globe of Blogs) finally hit the newsstands this week. The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle story can currently be read online at:

I am quoted toward the end of this rather fluffy little piece. I honestly don't recall saying that it was me who goes crazy if I don't post every day, because obviously I don't, but I didn't tape record my conversation with the reporter, so I dunno, maybe I did.

Meanwhile, the stomach bug from hell still hath its hold. Anyone want some food? I've got a kitchen full of it and can't even stand the thought, much less the sight of it, not even a little bit, not at all.

I mean, my system won't even do plain jasmine rice.


Tuesday, October 28, 2003


My health, since I left the chamber, has been outstanding, but I knew the day I got my license to be a substitute teacher that threats to same would soon be looming, so on the very first day it was possible (aside from the very first day it was available, on which day I was over hanging out with the 3rd/4th grade class at Elk Mountain Elementary) I went and got my flu shot.

The ordinary poke you in the shoulder kind, not the newfangled nasal spray kind because, well, my health insurance hasn't kicked in yet and also I'm just not quite sure I believe in anything good going up your nose.

That was last Monday.

Apparently, it was already too late.

This afternoon, Tuesday, at 17:35 MST, marks the first time in close to three days that I've been able to sit upright and type. I've been wracked with innumerable pains and indignities the likes of which I've never before experienced.

Stomach flu from hell.

I'm proud to still have the soup I ate an hour ago still inside me, put it that way. New league record.

So, as the title bar says, gee I'm glad I spent my $15 bucks to get that there shot.

Cause and effect?

Monday, October 20, 2003


OK, television is/was good for something after all.

Speaking from my vast experience of a whopping five days as a substitute teacher in good old Carbon County School District No. 2, I see one glaring deficit in the way this next generation of children is being raised.

OK, generation check here. Do you know the preamble of the United States Constitution by heart, but only if you're allowed to hum it first? Does your ass shake in the chair whenever you count by fives? Are the Louisiana Purchase and the phrase "elbow room" inextricably linked in your mind?

Have you been to Conjunction Junction, and do you know its function?

(Hookin' up words and phrases and clauses)

Sure, it's a deeply weird way of knowing things, but honestly, how much worse is it than when George Orwell was made to remember the phrase "A black negress was my aunt: there's her house behind the barn" as a mnemonic device for recalling, in chronological order, the names of all of the battles in the War of the Roses?

At least our way has rhythm.

And it's freakin' easy.

And if one has a modicum of self-control, our way can be employed fairly surreptitiously, a whisper, a hiss, a hum-along in the head... Who needs to know that through one's head is running Let's go up to the mountains/OR down to the sea/You should always say thank you/OR at least say pleeeeeease

So imagine my empathetic agony as I'm filling in for the (also, mysteriously, Gen X) guy who is trying to teach a small passel of fourth graders how to do long division, and these poor kids are actually struggling to remember what three times seven is without the benefit of bell-bottomed cartoon groovesters shuckin' and jivin' and saying "21"!

My friends and relatives out there in DVD-infested civilization tell me that all of Schoolhouse Rock is available on that most cherished of new entertainment formats, and even in my college days it was a rare afternoon indeed when one could pass by the ivy-covered dorms at Beaudacious Bard College without hearing the faint but compelling strains of "Hey Little Twelve-Toes" or "Interplanet Janet" or "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" to say nothing of perhaps the one SR that everyone knows (thanks to the Simpsons) "I'm Just a Bill" blasting from some pothead's overpriced stereo system – the songs, minus the cartoons, have been available on good old cassette and CD since at least the late 1980s.

So there's really no excuse for the fact that my little niece-analog, who is a deeply and intuitively intelligent little girl, still has to use her fingers to figure out what the product of five times eight is.

I mean, she could at least be shaking her booty instead.

Really, you readers of mine out there with kids, or grandkids, or niece-analogues or whatever, do them a favor that will save us all a lot of agony down the road. Kiddie crap-buying season is nearly here (indeed, does it ever really leave us?). At least get the "Multiplication Rock" cassette for their walkmen or something, if you can't just invest in the whole DVD library of Schoolhouse Rock.

Oh, and good lord, how the hell are these kids ever going to read properly without Sesame Street and the Electric Company?

But that's maybe a topic for another column.

Friday, October 17, 2003


(That's a David Bowie reference for all you pop culture-impaired people)

OK, OK, I guess you folks do care that I've not been here in a few weeks. Sometimes, circumstances just force a break. And I'm not going to lie to you, dear readers (well, those of you who are left and haven't just deleted this URL from all recall in disgust): the break may not be completely over yet.

Change is good, and good for you, and keeps things from getting boring... but it also can be tough to cope with, even in small doses, and I've been getting whopping big doses of it lately.

The big one is that I'm technically no longer a hobo, having signed on full time with the Rocky Mountain Energy-Reporter. While this doesn't really change my daily M.O. - I still work mostly from home, mostly on the telephone, etc. - I'm no longer writing in my immediate area of expertise. It's kind of pathetic that I, who as an elected official/lobbyist type, spend so much time spending and arguing over spending so much money that comes straight out of the ground via minerals extraction, really at bottom know so little about the process and the politics by which that money actually comes out of the ground. Well, that's changing...

Of course, what this means right now is that for every story I work on, I have to do a LOT more background research and make a lot more cold calls to people I've never met before.

On the one hand, I dig the challenge, but on the other, there's a bit more stress involved.

Nor is the end to hobo-dom the only big change. I met someone kind of special and we're still in the early stages of seeing how we fit together. It's nice, but slow and frustrating because he lives in another county and we don't see each other all that often and, well, he's going through lots of changes, too.

Plus, I'm having to get my travel legs back. I've been on the road a lot lately and find I've completely lost all tolerance for hotel rooms and the weird, fleeting, transitory friendships that form and dissolve quickly in hotel bar/restaurants as we watch baseball on a big screen TV. A perfectly friendly conversation between a Red Sox fan (sigh) and a Yankee friend can quickly chill over when the pair discovers each other's odious allegiances. But what a lot of bullshit, really - what difference does it actually make? I'm SO not a baseball fan; it's just been nice to see the team I used to watch bumbling around of a Thursday evening at Fenway actually doing well. But then, I never was a real Bostonian.

And there's more, like my other new job, substitute teaching, made extra weird when done in my own former elementary school, packed now with the children of people with whom I attended that school, many of whom know me as "Auntie Kate" but are now expected to call me "Ms. Sherrod," a form of address until now only employed by the Sewer King when he sought to greet me or catch my attention. Strange, strange, strange. And annoying; I'm enough of a traditionalist to be more comfortable with "Miss," but I know I would be bucking an unbeatable trend and unnecessarily confusing my temporary students if I mentioned this. O'well.

So anyway, you see that I'm dealing with a whole lot of stuff and I don't yet have it all straight in my head yet, which, well, makes it hard to write (I'm not doing too hot on my articles right now, either, but I never do until just a few hours before they're due).

But I'm trying very hard to get back on the horse.


Saturday, September 13, 2003


Apologies to my male readers, but except for those of you who swing in interesting ways that drive the likes of Trent Lott NUTS, this post is basically going out to the WOMEN READERS OF LIANT.

Tonight marked the second foray for the Whistle Pig*'s "Bikini Bullriding Contest" in which, in theory, various and comely members of my own dear personal sex, that being the female, don bikinis and ride the mechanical bull installed earlier this summer at the Whistle Pig bar, which, in case you're wondering, is also the site of the Bug Women and Punk Martha Stewart Karaoke Extravaganza (tm).

Well, so, no femmes fatale (or otherwise) (and trust me, you don't really want to see Your Humble Blogger OR the Punk Martha Stewart in bikinis, garments which emphasize supposed flaws in the female anatomy which the pair of us have in plenty but we look really smashing in other states of habile and dishabile, just trust me, but anyway...) rode said mechanical bull in bikinis, but the riders who did ride inspired, in conjunction with an idea promulgated more or less originally by an inspired son of one of Carbon County's tribe of Esteemed Bug Women, an alternate and (not) Modest Proposal.

WHEREAS everybody knows that our wacky valley is populated by more DIRTY OLD WOMEN than DIRTY OLD MEN, and

WHEREAS everybody also knows that our wackey valley is populated by more EXHIBITIONIST YOUNG MEN than EXHIBITIONIST YOUNG WOMEN, and

WHEREAS everybody knows that DIRTY OLD WOMEN tend, in a given marriage or other domestic arrangement best left to the imagination (you dirty old people, you), to exercise MUCH MORE CONTROL over the purse strings than their domestic (aka male) partners,


The Whistle Pig Saloon would probably make a lot more money if, instead of pre-arranged and duly advertised "bikini bullriding nights", it instead instituted "BOXER AND BOOT BULLRIDING NIGHTS"**.

Duly agreed and inscribed this date by the female population of the Upper North Platte Valley of Wyoming, so help us Bog.

Watch media outlets near you for dates and times.

Punk Martha Stewart is committed to sing Garth Brooks and other tunes of the rider's choosing as musical accompaniment to said rides. As such.

*The bar just outside the Saratoga City Limits whereat I have, occasionally and gleefully, blasted opera (usually Wagner or Puccini) over the sound system with my good old speech teacher/coach who has, on occasion, moonlighted summers as a bartender.

**Defined as nights when (male) contestants in the bullriding contests held at least once a month at the Whistle Pig may ride the mechanical bull clad only in boxer shorts, boots, and (optional) cowboy hats.

Friday, September 12, 2003


Some mornings it just ain't worth checking the papers. The very first bit of information to penetrate my pre-coffee brain this morning was the news that Johnny Cash had died last night.

It should surprise no one who knows me or reads this blog regularly that I am not, and never have been, a fan of country & western music. I hate most of it.

But there have always been two shining exceptions (three if you consider bluegrass to be country – I own and frequently play all four discs of the Bill Munroe Boxed Set): Hank Williams, Sr. and Johnny Cash.

For me, Cash will always be closely associated with my father, as pretty much the only music that we can sincerely enjoy together. His tastes run to more Carpenters-y kind of stuff at which I still can't help rolling my eyeballs a little.

But Johnny Cash, you couldn't ignore him, couldn't call him corny, couldn't call him sappy. He was rough, he was sometimes funny, he was sincere, he was dark, he was gutsy, he connected with even prisoners and low-lifes. Nobody sounded like him, nobody wrote like him, and nobody else recorded albums in big famous prisons (I have both of them on CD, and listen to them often).

I got to see him live once, an experience I'll never forget. Oh, of course the show was brilliant – goes without saying, goes without saying. But what was wild was, I saw him at a Landsdowne Street club in Boston with a house full of little punk rock kids. Mohawks and piercings and torn leather as far as the eye could see, and up on stage, the Man in Black, up there by himself with an accoustic guitar, and everybody was just riveted.

(And this was something on the order of eight years before he recorded his version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" - which I, alas, have yet to hear)

My dad had never gotten to see him live, so I jumped at the chance to remedy that a few years ago when Cash had set a tour date in Cheyenne, just a few days before my parents' wedding anniversary. Very excited, I jumped on the phone, hot little credit card in my hot little hand, and got tickets for them for their gift.

Alas, that was also right before Cash was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (I believe; some similar degenerative nervous disorder, anyway) and the tour date got canceled. I got my money back and just took my parents to dinner instead, but it wasn't the same.

I've been sort of grieving ever since. So, while today is a very, very sad day (and just one day after another, very, very, very sad day), it is not a surprising one.

Just a shitty one.

Sunday, September 07, 2003


That's right, the boys in purple won their second game, on the road in Shoshoni, beating out the Wildcats 28-8.

My Own Dear Personal Dad, their bus driver, said they all looked good and pretty much everyone got to play, even the tiny little 105-pound freshmen.

Looking good for this Friday, when they'll host the Wyoming Indian Wildcats at 4 p.m. to kick off the Saratoga High School Homecoming.

It will be glorious.

You heard it here first.