Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bye to 2022

As we see out the year 2022, I reflect back on leaving one office for another, of whales and submarines, of opossums and raccoons and a beagle, of Belgium and Mexico, Luxembourg, Toronto, Austin...and that great moment at the start of the year when I spent time with old friends in Austin and was able to talk about Daniel Johnston and Jack Kirby.

The years have all blurred together and I no longer have a sense of the passage of time other than now, in the pandemic, and in another world we all kind of recall.

I once was a writer. Then I got a job. Possibly as a game warden. It all depends on your definition of wildlife.

Let's see what tomorrow brings. Probably more semi-wild animals in the convent yard, but maybe something more.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Purple Prose

Last night, I got a forty dollar rush ticket to see 1776 on Broadway. Or sort of on Broadway. On 42nd Street near Broadway if you must know.

I hadn't seen 1776 since watching it on a VHS tape in Latin class in high school. I realize that memory is incorrect, as there is no reason to watch 1776 in Latin class. Maybe it was history class.

Anyway, 1776 doesn't really hold up given the inevitable comparisons to the more electrifying and modern Hamilton, and watching Congress fight felt a bit like something I could just see in the news. The cast was distinctly not white male property owners, which elevated the theme that compromise in 1776 led to incremental change over time, and you want to yell "NOOO don't do it" at Adams and Jefferson, but you can see how cornered they are.

It was rough watching the rot at the core of the apple of democracy as entertainment .

lol, did I just write apple of democracy...

Monday, December 26, 2022

More Fun With Ferals

I read an article that recommended plugging in an oil-filled radiator next to a feral cat house, and I'm thinking of trying it.

It wasn't that long ago I didn't even like cats...

Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time

I had the brilliant idea to take the plane back to Newark from Virginia because I could use points and it was then only $5 for tax.

But the plane is still in Newark and I guess it’s gonna be a long night.

I wonder how Amtrak is doing.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Beagle

Charlie says happy holiday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Share Nicely

The two backyard cats squabble constantly over who gets to go in the Kitty Tube (insulated barrel for cat lounging). Whoever goes in first tends to bar the door, tormenting the cat outside, until finally they relent and then both cats curl up together, warm, until they hear the back door open for breakfast.

But when an interloper shows up outside, they seem to be puzzled and unclear on what to do. The last photo shows both little cat faces staring out while an upstart black-and-white feral wanders across their territory.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Maybe Stay Home A Bit Longer

I'm improving in skips and hops, and I imagine most people are nodding and saying "Yes, that's how it was for me too." 

 The pandemic is still with us, but more as an irritant than the destructive killer it was in 2020. The little test strip says I'm fine, but I still fell asleep much too early last night and even now, I'm clearing my throat so often that going to the office seems a poor choice. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Day 9

The little T line on my covid test is FINALLY starting to lighten. It's maybe 50% of what it was a few days ago.

It's been pretty mild, overall, and if we didn't live in pandemic world, I'd just think I had a cold.

Mask up in group settings, y'all.

Monday, December 05, 2022


Among the TSA list of things that might require additional screening...

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Keep Out

- Hello, friend! The yard is cold tonight. May I join you? 

- No. You seem like a nice opossum but this is a house for cats only. But feel free to have some leftover kibble.

So Can I Fly?

I'm continuing to read guidance on covid and when one is considered "safe" to go out in a mask, and it seems the CDC says 5 days after the first positive test, you can go out and do whatever IN A GOOD MASK. That obviously means you can't go out to eat, but it does mean you could pick up food. The intent is clearly "run in and pick up" and not "go for a long day at the mall."

Advice gets muddy after that—when exactly are you contagious?—and I'm pretty sure they think they know, mostly, but aren't completely sure. It's one thing to run into a deli, but it's an entirely different thing to spend 5 hours crammed into an airline seat next to a stranger.

Advice does agree that if you feel sick, you should stay home. Check, that makes perfect sense. But I don't feel particularly sick and it's now been six days since my first positive test.

I have a booking for a Monday night ticket from Newark to LAX. That's day 7 and Monday and Tuesday are two of the lowest-travel days. I'll keep an eye on the seating on the plane. I feel kind of paranoid. What if they're wrong about masking up and being basically okay after 5 days? But we'll see. It's all just stuff to think about—at what point do I feel like I'm channeling Typhoid Mary versus "masks are fine, shut up"? I guess we'll see.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Tasty Treat? Maybe.

I was watching videos on how to make hot chocolate and it looks like in Puerto Rico, one would melt Edam cheese into hot chocolate. 

What? I don't really understand, but I guess I have to visit Puerto Rico now. 

During the winter.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Adventures in Feral Cat Land

I put out a plug-in water bowl so the animal water doesn’t freeze, and Gigi has been sitting next to it now for at least an hour.

On Pause

Guess I’m moving my flight again.

I need to look up how the virus sheds, so I can get an idea of how long it’s going to be before I’m allowed on a plane. I get I can mask up and it’s probably fine, but I am unclear on when the point would be that I’m not a potential superspreader. A week? A day? It was always fine? I am being cautious, but what are the facts? (Does it even matter given I have to work from home for a while as I don’t want to worry my colleagues?)

Also, a friend of mine posted about a nasal spray, available from international pharmacies in Israel, Thailand, South Africa, Indonesia. Too late for me but I am checking it out—still in trials in the US and Canada, but the idea is it shortens the duration. Possibly prevents infection, too.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

I Joined the Club

Today’s agenda:

I think today (day 3 of symptoms) is likely to be as bad as it gets. Feels like a medium-level cold, crappy but I’ve had worse. I don’t have to sleep sitting up yet.

I have had every vax as it was rolled out, and I am grateful for it as I basically just have to get through this instead of planning for potential medical intervention. Getting covid nearly 3 years after the first cases is such a different beast from what it was previously.

Reminder to mask up in crowds. I know it’s uncommon but stay vigilant if you don’t want to join this club. I’m sure I got it the day I forgot my mask on the PATH and A train.

Monday, November 28, 2022

A Cheaper Time

I lived at the house next door to this rowhouse in Jersey City for some of my formative years in the early nineties. Marie Alice, Otis, and I paid $950 for a three bedroom duplex. Friends lived across the street at 58 Mercer, others lived down the block or nearby on Jersey Ave, and a guy from the band Codeine lived about three doors down. Friends, bands, and friends in bands were forever residing in the living room of our duplex. 

Marie Alice and I both left Mercer Street for our condo purchases in an old tenement on Avenue B in Manhattan, so don't feel bad for us that our attempt to buy this building didn't pan out. But wow, $4.4 million for the place next door! It has a carriage house and highly coveted parking under an extra apartment.

The Boss

The raccoon rules the yard. He's the big dog!

Sunday, November 27, 2022


Here’s (wet) Petunia cleaning up after the cats in the backyard. She’s a good janitor!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Poor Charlie

We aren’t sure what he ate, but Charlie suffered explosive diarrhea right before I left my mom's house for the airport. Shit happens.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Border Flashback

I'm reposting this old story from MariesWorldTour 2011, because a former colleague was asking me a few questions about travel, and I went back and read this story about hiking through the mud at the Tibet/Nepal border.

What a glorious day. Absurd day. All the best travel days are glorious because they are absurd. (Except for the submarine, that wasn't absurd.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Final Look at Curacao

Here's my last photos of Curacao, and then we'll get back to our regularly scheduled business of raccoons and Bundt cake.

Monday, November 21, 2022


Here's a look at the neighborhood I am staying in here in Curacao. I like it--it's definitely easier to stay at a resort where you have everything you need, but I prefer to be in town where I can wander around.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

600 Feet Under the Sea

Why, you might be wondering, did Marie go to Aruba and then to Curacao if she doesn't like the beach?

Valid question! Aruba was just how I could set up the flights so I was only flying during non-office hours, and then I hung out there a few days to check it out and acclimate to the time zone. Then I flew prior to work hours to Curacao on Friday morning, clocked in at 1 pm/aka 9 am Burbank time, and worked to 10 pm (6 pm in California).

All this was so I could do something I saw my friend Lynne do and it looked so cool, I decided to do it too.

Here are some photos of today's submersible journey to 600 feet under the sea! The deepest I ever got with SCUBA was 60 feet, and that was only when I got certified off Roatan in 1998. (Coincidentally, my Roatan trip was part of the Central American overland truck journey where I met Lynne in the first place. She was going from Alaska to Argentina, and I was on for the Guatemala to Panama leg.)

Saturday, November 19, 2022

To Aruba

On Tuesday, I took home my Bundt cake carrier and got a Lyft to LAX.

I flew to Aruba, where I stayed until this morning, doing work from "home" from a rental apartment. I had a little rental car and used it in the morning to take a GPS/phone tour of the island. I'm four hours ahead of Burbank here, so my job hours are 1 pm-10 pm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

2022 National Bundt Day Part 2

Much cake was consumed. Not posting people eating cake photos to protect the identities of the guilty.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

2022 National Bundt Day Part 1

We're holding the local celebration of National Bundt Day at the office today, like I did in 2018 and 2019.

2020 and 2021 were outside--I am going to miss doing it outdoors because non-DC friends could attend, but at least this way us editors can interact with other colleagues. Sometimes people not actually involved in making the books think we're snobby, when in fact we're just deeply cynical, smartass, and immersed in getting books to to the printer.

I tried making two Instant Pot Bundt cakes and they're just too dense. They don't rise and get fluffy. It's like eating condensed cake, smashed up like a bit of bait. Bait for luring in colleagues who don't understand the creative end of the biz.

The best results came from the regular old from-scratch chocolate cake with cream cheese center. This year's attempt at Tunnel of Fudge was a complete disaster. I tried the recipe on the Pillsbury site, and the results were spectacular, but not in a good way.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Steamed Jiffy Mix

An experiment is underway with a cheap cake mix and my Instant Pot.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Craftsy + Chicken

Here are the finished baby changing pads. 

I didn't have a baby to model, so I used a paper maché rooster.

Sunday, November 06, 2022


I haven't taken out my sewing machine since face masks were back in stock a couple of years ago, but tonight I finally pulled out the Burbank one and worked on baby changing pads for two different editors.

I'll finish them tomorrow night and mail them out by the end of the week.

It was nice to do something with my hands and not the computer for a change.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Ancestral Yard Sale

In 2016, I visited the Humphrey Museum where my great-grandfather's sister had lived. It was quite the experience, and the museum has since closed, its contents auctioned off. Occasionally, a piece shows up on eBay.

What a strange feeling to watch family heirlooms auctioned off as trinkets. But they were owned by a non-profit and they really are just trinkets.

All I would have wanted were my great-grandfather's elephant figures from around the world.

I wonder if my global trinkets will be doled out on eBay one day. Maybe I'll do it myself at some point, get ahead of this.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Halloween in Burbank

Burbank goes all out for Halloween. Here's the scary clown house.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


Remember the falconer at the office last month, the one whose job it is to drop by and scare off pigeons?

 She works with her husband, who was at the office tonight with his owl.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Moka Pots

I do love my Bialetti Moka Express. But every few years, it stops working. The actual mechanics of a Moka are pretty straightforward, so every time it stops working, I think "oh, just clean it out, change the gasket, we're done here."

But it never works like that, and I usually just buy a new one after a new gasket doesn't stop Moka from sputtering a sad little trickle instead of flowing smoothly. (Yes, I could buy a fancy espresso machine but my kitchen is small and I'm stubborn.)

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Ancestral Quarry

Last Sunday morning, I left my mom’s house early and headed up Interstate 66 toward Dulles Airport. I still think of I-66 as the “new highway,” because it was finished after Star Wars debuted, after I was in junior high, after my parents split up, after the last time I would have gone with my dad to see Lost John Austin, the alcoholic quarryman moonshiner who had raised him.

When my dad died in January, my mom, sister, and I did a deep dive into the past, finding a geologic map that showed the location of the Austin-Barbour Quarry on Bull Run Mountain. Lost John and his BFF Lewis Barbour had owned this quarry. Lewis had lived walking distance from Lost John’s trailer, in a wood cabin with a stone chimney, farther up the rutted dirt and rock road, if you could call it that. I think there had been a Mrs. Barbour when I was small. I don’t remember when Lewis moved into the trailer with Lost John, who himself had been married to my dad’s oldest sister long before I was born, before she died of something preventable. Hillbilly life in the 1950-60s was just different, particularly if you were a mountain man with a distrust of doctors.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Back East Again

After New York Comic-Con, I headed to my mom's house to meet Charlie the Envigo Beagle before going back to Burbank. Charlie is real cute, though he is a bundle of rescue-dog-anxiety. 

He was kind enough to learn to poop outside for me. Progress!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ghent and Brussels

I neglected to post photos from Ghent and Brussels, so making up for that now. 

 I'm back in Burbank, with 16 new boxes of comics and and piles of Belgian chocolate everywhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

It's Been Months Now

Traveling with a hurt paw. A tennis ball, strap, and a night splint. Yay me.

Not Actually In Belgium for the Singing Potatoes

What am I doing in Belgium in the first place? 

I'm here for work! 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Checking Out Some Art

I was perusing listings of the various exhibits at museums in Brussels when I spotted this—a Daniel Johnston piece on display!

I rushed over to MIMA—after first taking the wrong tram—but that exhibit had come down recently. The gift shop clerk showed me the exhibit book, the best he could do.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

On to Brussels

I went in a Tintin store and note it’s mostly sanitized. That said, nothing they could sell is as startling as the Tintin carvings I bought from actual Congolese artists in Congo. 

I was completely confused by the morality of that which we consider racist but the carver just considered a carving based on a book. 

Twelve years later, I still don’t know what to think.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Stopover in Ghent


Going to the Theater

An unexpected treat in Bruges.


I spent all Monday in Bruges. I walked a lot--foot is getting better but still hurts. Nothing like it used to. Physical therapy and a night splint help. 

 I took a canal tour by boat, went to a museum of chocolate (all the chocolate you can eat but no carrying it out), a museum of fries, and traipsed all over town. 

Fortunately, Bruges isn't all that large.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

To Bruges

I took a train to a train to another train to get from Luxembourg to Bruges, where I dragged my wheelie bag over cobblestones to get to a lovely attic room in a hotel on the outskirts of the historic center.

Naturally, as soon as I arrived, I spotted a much smoother route from the train station. I checked in, unzipped my bag to grab my umbrella, and hurried out to see as much as I could of the town ahead of the impending storm. 

The rain caught me, but the umbrella did its job well enough, and I was able to enjoy Bruges by moonlight, in the rain. I even got a waffle. 

Did you know there’s a difference between types of waffles? This is a Liege waffel, I’m told.