Comicpalooza Day 2: Moppets & More

Official business completed, we spent several hours wandering through the Comicpalooza exhibit hall.

Passing by a panel in discussion mode, I heard a young woman say that when she first became involved in cosplay,  she was shocked that strangers came up and touched her. She wasn’t prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared to hear they touched her. Ick.

Nearby a poster read in part, “Cosplay is not consent.” If you want to touch a costume or pose with the player for a picture, ask first.

That cleared up something for me: You don’t have to ask to take a picture; you have to ask to pose with them for a picture. It’s smart to ask before taking any picture, because if you do, the subject will stop and strike a pose and smile, or, in the case of the mean, scary ones, snarl. But for just taking pictures of costumes in the crowd, no.

Concerning the use of photos of Comicpalooza attendees, the program states that attendees acknowledge and consent to being photographed, filmed, recorded, etc., and relinquish any reasonable expectation of privacy, and grant to Comicpalooza LLC an “irrevocable, royalty and attribution-free right to use, publish and otherwise exploit (and allow others to use and otherwise exploit) any photograph, motion picture, image, recording, or any other record of attendance during Comicpalooza, in whole or in part, in perpetuity throughout the universe, in all media and means, now known or hereafter developed or discovered, for any promotional or other commercial purpose.”

I’d say that covers about everything. An Oxford comma is absent, however, so the meaning might not be as clear as one would think.

We saw many glamorous characters in many glamorous costumes. But the stars were the little people. I wish I’d gotten more shots of them.

The Houston Public Library bookmobile was excellent.

The big people, beasts, and thingies weren’t bad either. The Siberian husky was exquisite.


The spell check button is still missing from the WordPress toolbar. I’m beginning to think it was a figment of my imagination. I hope it comes back.


Doodle 2. The Crossword, Sort Of

Doodle 2.
Doodle one of your favorite things to do.

Doodle 2. One of my favorite things to do. May 29, 2016. © MKW
Doodle 2. One of my favorite things to do. May 29, 2016. © MKW

My favorite thing is to fly to Albany, rent a car, get a hotel room in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and spend several days driving up U.S. Route 7 to Burlington, Vermont, and down U.S. Route 7 to Lenox, Massachusetts (Edith Wharton’s house), and up to Burlington, and down to Lenox, and then turning east to Amherst (Emily Dickinson’s house), and on to Lexington and Concord (Emerson’s, Hawthorne’s, the Alcotts’, Margaret Sidney’s, etc., house…) But that’s more of a video than a doodle.

So I chose to draw my Saturday morning occupation, the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle. We don’t subscribe to the Times, so I wait till it comes out in the Austin American-Statesman and do it retroactively.

Working the puzzle is a two-step process.

Step One: I start. Sometimes I finish the whole thing or leave only a few squares empty. Sometimes it goes fast. Sometimes I suffer and struggle but persevere. Sometimes I get mad and read Dear Abby instead.

I use a pen. It’s better to blot out wrong answers than to erase and make holes in the paper.

Step Two: When I’ve gone as far as I can go, I hand the paper to David. He fills in the rest. In other words, I do the easy part and he does the part that uses the other 90% of the brain.

Here’s a current photo of today’s Step One. It’s not as neat and tidy as I’d like because (a) Ernest the Cat was draped across my right forearm, pinning it to the arm of the chair, while I wrote; (b) Ernest the Cat insisted on nudging the pen while I wrote; (c) I woke up in a nasty mood and hadn’t worked my way out, and superior penmanship wasn’t a priority.


Yesterday I veered off course and skipped the Times puzzle, and because these things have to be done in the proper sequence, the Los Angeles Times puzzle, which I normally work on Sundays, will have to wait till tonight. Or tomorrow. Or whenever.

In other words, until the nasty mood has passed, I may do no puzzles at all. I may instead hop a plane to Albany and spend the rest of the year visiting every literary house in New England.

Doodle prompt from 365 Days of Doodling, by Carin Channing



Cascades, Water Balloons, and Tort Law: An Overview

Baloon's end 480 frame/s
Baloon’s end 480 frame/s (Photo credit: Wikipedia). © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
I was sitting with friends yesterday evening, studying a menu, when our waiter tipped the tray he was carrying and poured ice water on me. Seven glasses full. Most went onto my lap. My slacks were sopping.

That was the most invigorating experience I’ve had since the Director of the Tort Litigation Division of the largest law firm in Austin hit me smack in the chest with a water balloon. No cause of action was involved. We were engaged in a water balloon fight.

She was contrite, apologized all over the place, but, as I told her, hitting someone was her job. I just happened to move into range.

If the fault fell on anyone, it was my attorney. I was parked at a picnic table with other paralegals and secretaries who were pleading headaches–one pleading a migraine, which she was subject to–when my attorney came over and said, “C’mon, Kathy.” I don’t know how he knew I didn’t have a headache. I could have pleaded migraine, but I didn’t.

He had migraines, as well, so he knew one when he saw one.

I had migraines, too, and I never lied about having one. I preferred to embarrass myself in a three-legged race than to tempt fate.

Anyway, lying to lawyers is not a good idea. They know.

So I participated and got the balloon treatment. And I benefited from the experience. In addition to forgiving the Director, I told her the water was a relief. Pease Park isn’t air-conditioned in late spring.

Best of all, I was the only paralegal wearing a wet tee-shirt. It wasn’t the kind that turns transparent, but it was a tee-shirt, and it was wet. Normally when I tell the story, I leave out the phrase not transparent.

Yesterday’s waterfall didn’t have nearly the joie de vivre of the water balloon incident. My friends were appalled and tried to dry me off. Several suggested I head for the restroom and wring myself out (staff had supplied terry cloth hand towels), but moving would have been disastrous. I would have left a trail of water from here to yonder.

Then friends worried I would freeze in the exceptionally cool room. I assured them I wouldn’t. I haven’t frozen since the Great Snow of 1986.

Anyway, after the initial surprise, I laughed and said, “I’m all right, I’m really all right, reallyI’m all right.” And I was.

But I also wanted to spare the waiter’s feelings. There’s a reason I’ve never been a waiter, and dumping food and drink on people is it.

I’m glad I behaved graciously about the deluge, because later, the same waiter tipped another tray–while it was resting on a stand, which takes a goodly portion of dexterity–and lost an order of tacos pastor. That time our entire table laughed (except, perhaps, the woman who had ordered the tacos). I made a point of saying, “We’re not laughing at you; we’re laughing with you.”

The waiter appeared to take the business with equanimity. He probably zenned it. A lot of zenning goes on in Austin.

Telling the whole truth, as I must in a post involving attorneys, requires me to admit I took the cascade with aplomb for the reason every writer with half a grain of sense lives by:

It’s all material.


I tell the story of the water balloon because I think it’s public record, I hope. I hope also  I can’t be fired retroactively. For anyone who just has to know, I’ll explain someday why a bunch of lawyers and support staff were lobbing liquid at one another. But the story is better if you don’t know.

I’m told, however, that listening to tort lawyers plan an afternoon of vigorous recreational games is most instructive, because they spend half the time discussing injury, liability, damages, duty of care, breach, proximate cause, and such.

My own speculation–and it is mere speculation, not legal opinion, so I’m not practicing law without a license–is that in any potential suit, sovereign immunity and res ipsa loquitur, plus a modicum of intentional infliction of emotional distress would battle it out in the courts.

And, yes, I had to check Wikipedia to brush up on most of those terms. I knew them for the test, but since then they’ve re-filed themselves in short-term memory. I do remember quite a bit about res ipsa loquitur and sponges, and I have vivid memories of putting together many trial notebooks. 



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Feeling Wretched Leads to Grousing and Posting

I feel lousy!
Oh so lousy!
I feel lousy, and frowzy, and a fright!

And that’s the truth.

IMG_2305My whole body, except for my brain, is out of commission. My brain is set on Grouse. To the widest audience I can find.

I’ve already told my niece and my great-niece, through Facebook, what I think about a couple of things. Niece offered to buy me a drink. I suggested codeine or paregoric instead. Great-niece hasn’t responded.

At this point, even the brain is running out of steam, so, gentle readers, you will be spared the Grouse. Instead, I will post pictures of a family get-together in Houston a year–two?three?–ago.

Both of the mothers said I could post photos of their children. The children’s grandmother didn’t give permission to post a photo of her, but she doesn’t get to say. When I was sixteen and she was almost twice that, and old enough to know better, she set an ice pack on my stomach in the middle of the night, when I was sound asleep.

I have forgiven her, but I will never forget.

Anyway, here are a bunch of very bad photos of people having fun.

P. S. I’ll see how many of gentle family are aware of this blog by counting the number of comments I get from them here and on Facebook.


“River Smiles” by Sean Loyless, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

When I was in my late twenties, three of my co-workers and I met every Friday during summer vacations to tube down the San Marcos River.

We would start with burgers at Pepper’s or salads at Palmers’ or, joy of joys, real, old-fashioned Tex-Mex at Herbert’s Taco Hut. Then we’d go to Vivian’s, change into swimsuits, throw tractor tubes into the back of her husband’s old truck, and head for City Park. We’d tiptoe into the bone-chilling water (a “warm” 72 degrees all year, they say), lash the tubes together, and for the next hour, just drift along. Then, after handing the driver limp dollar bills that had traveled downstream tucked, like Lydia Bennet’s lace, into the bosoms of our swimsuits, we would take the River Taxi back to City Park. There we sometimes we tossed the tubes back into the water and floated down again.

If we wanted to take the long route, we drove two vehicles, parked the pickup under the I-35 overpass, and drove the second car to City Park. Then, instead of getting out and boarding the River Taxi, we walked around the dam, and, leaving the crowd behind, floated along a quiet stretch lined with elephant ears and shaded by cypress and pecan trees. At the interstate, took waiting pickup back to Vivian’s for chips and dips and games of Mexican dominoes.

On the river, we talked about school, complained about school, gossiped about school, rehashed last year, and pondered possibilities for fall. We discussed our private lives: would the builder ever finish Vivian’s house, would Patty really leave us for that high-powered engineering job, and was Nell really—really—pregnant? We had enough material to last all summer.

To the uninitiated, this probably sounds dead boring. But we knew–from experience–the potential for adventure every time we got together.

Drifting along in cold water and hot sun, paying attention only to ourselves, we floated into spider webs. We floated into elephant ears. We floated into pockets of debris. We floated into other people. We screamed at spiders and debris. To other people, we apologized.

In drought years, when the river was low, our bottoms dragged on the broken pilings of bridges past. We ducked under low branches and paddled furiously to escape teenagers cannonballing off the old railroad bridge. When a boy lucked out and landed almost dead center, drenching us, Nell yelled, “That’s about a D-minus in maturity!” While the rest of us hissed, “Shut up, they’ll know we’re teachers,” the dozen boys watching from the bridge launched themselves directly at us.

Sometimes adventure occurred away from the water. Whenever we left the pickup under I-35, transportation to the starting point was a challenge. We all drove compacts. Getting four women and four tractor-tire inner tubes into one little car and navigating through traffic, even in a very small city, took courage, cunning, and creativity. I don’t remember exactly how we did it. I think we tied one tube onto the roof and looped the others together; then the non-drivers hung out the windows and held onto the tubes to keep them from flopping around.

At the end of one trip, we found the truck partially blocked by other vehicles. Vivian, who was far from proficient in standard shift, had to back up. “But I’ve never done reverse,” she wailed.

Another time we took Vivian’s little yellow Toyota to Rio Vista Park to retrieve a car we’d left there. June had been wet. On the way in, Vivian drove into a mud hole and the Toyota sank to the axle. We changed cars and returned to Vivian’s. When we pulled up at the curb, her husband emerged from the house saying his truck was making a funny noise and he needed Vivian to drive him to a meeting pronto. A few days later, her husband developed Bell’s palsy. I’ve always felt partially responsible.

The most exciting event involved Vivian’s Toyota, her purse, and a kind stranger. Leaving Pepper’s after lunch, we had to turn left onto Sessom Street, a four-lane racetrack winding along the edge of the university campus. Turning left onto Sessom at any time wasn’t easy; at noon it took a good sense of timing and nerves of steel. Vivian had neither. She turned anyway.

Suddenly the Toyota stalled, straddling the center line, engine running but steering wheel locked. Vivian’s purse strap had looped around the steering column, settled into a groove, and then caught around the handle that operates the windshield wiper. How it happened we never figured out. But without scissors or a knife, we couldn’t free the strap from the column, and without freeing the strap, Vivian couldn’t turn the steering wheel, or, in fact, make the car move at all.

So we sat, blocking the inside lanes, while cars whizzed by on both sides, horns blaring. Somehow the purse strap impinged upon something in the guts of the steering column and our horn started blaring. Intermittently. Long blasts, short blasts, medium blasts. Vivian and Nell worked frantically to unwind the strap. Confined to the back seat, I couldn’t help, so I toppled over and guffawed.

Our savior came in the person of a pedestrian with an amazing configuration of dreadlocks (a style seldom seen in 1970s San Marcos) who dashed into the street, opened the passenger door, leaned across, and addressed the tangle.

I don’t know what happened next, because I was still collapsed, but after several more minutes of cars tearing by and horns blowing and the three people up front pulling and tugging and breathing heavy and muttering, the strap released its stranglehold on the steering apparatus, the wheel turned, Vivian and Nell said, “Thank you thank you thank you,” (I was laughing too hard to enunciate clearly), and the stranger ran back across the street to safety. We eased into traffic and drove the four miles to Vivian’s, right through the middle of town, horn blaring all the way. By the time it was over, I had released enough endorphins to keep me pain-free for the rest of the summer.

The stories I’ve related are a mere sample of the fun four school teachers had on their Friday afternoons on the river.

In fact, we had so much fun we decided to share. Vivian had a relative, Barb, about our age, who had expressed interest in joining us on one of our jaunts. She was nice, but she was so organized and so competent and so confident, and so willing to confess to being all three of those things, and more, that she didn’t fit well with our ragtag crew. But she wanted to go, so we invited her.

She brought her swimsuit and tube. She brought a cooler of sodas and lemonade. She brought a little float to hold the cooler and a rope to tie it to our tubes. She brought cups and a trash bag. She organized the expedition so we could drift along smoothly and efficiently.

And we did. We ate lunch, we floated, we played dominoes, we went home. Period. It was the quickest and least eventful float on record. No spiders, no debris, no dragging bottoms, no submerged axles, no stuck steering wheels, no helpful men with interesting hair. No laughing. No shrieking. No joyful hysteria.

In other words, as my students would have said, bo-ring.

Afterwards, Vivian and I analyzed the situation and pinpointed the problem: Barb had organized all the fun out of the trip. Vivian, who never said an unkind word about anyone, leaned toward me and murmured, “She’s always made me nervous.” I could see why.

Over the past thirty years, however, I’ve thought a lot about that analysis and have concluded that Vivian and I were wrong. It wasn’t the organization. Vivian and I (liberal arts) were scattered, to put it mildly, but Patty (engineering and math) and Nell (business) could have organized things as well as Barb had if they’d wanted to. And what I wouldn’t have given (still would) for the organizational skills Barb possessed.

No. I believe the problem wasn’t that Barb brought ice and chilled sodas, but that she left something at home–the ability to just let things happen, the understanding that fun requires spiders, sunk axles, stuck steering wheels, and screaming.

Looking back, I also suspect that Barb didn’t have the time of her life either. At times, when the rest of us didn’t appear to be taking the project seriously, she became visibly impatient. I think she was as happy to end the day as we were.

From this story about my life in tubing, I draw the following moral: a chacun son gout,* or, to each his own taste.

Or, on second thought, the real moral of this story is that there doesn’t have to be a moral at all.


*I didn’t learn this phrase in my one semester of French. I heard it as chacun a son gout years ago in Die Fledermaus. I’ve always wanted to use it, and this seemed like a good time. But, cautious creature that I am, I checked Wikipedia first and discovered that the correct phrase is the one I used in the text of this post. It doesn’t scan, but I suppose we can’t have everything.


Image of River Smiles by Sean Loyless, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.