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March 1st, 2009

07:32 am - Of Shepherd's Pie and Dreams

You know how it is when you're almost asleep, and you think to yourself "Oh, I just know I'm going to dream of happy things - of walks in the park, picnics on the beach, making love under a full moon". And then when you wake up, you realize your dreams were of awkward conversations with George W. Bush and his friends in an untidy college dorm room, and having to upload your school record to a centralized computing system so they can assess your suitability for admission but the instructions don't make sense, even though you're holding your perfect record in your hands - see, it's this sesame seed cake with a full covering of nuts on top which shows you got straight A's, but it's crumbling in your hands, and then you hear that the house you used to live in has suffered a terrible fire, so you go back to visit and the wealthy Indian gentleman who lives there now remembers you, but you don't remember him, and...

(I blame the cake bit on Les' "Top Tranny Vegan Chef" video, by the way.)

Okay, maybe you don't know how it is! But I'm sure you can relate to the feeling of distress and panic even though the dreams make no sense whatsoever.

In my waking life (that's the real one,right?) I spent yesterday afternoon baking myself a large Shepherd's Pie. Purists out there might argue and say it's a Cottage Pie because it uses beef instead of lamb. To them I say "You try finding ground lamb on sale around here!" Shepherd's Pie is possibly my most favorite food of all time, and unless I want to drive many miles and pay through the nose for a meal at an "authentic" Irish pub, I have to make it myself. This time I went large, in order to have leftover portions for my lunches over the next week.

I posted photos and twittered about this exciting event in my life as it happened. My friend Erin even opened a Facebook chat with me just to talk about it, and ended up being inspired to hold a potluck party at her new home when she moves in a couple of weeks. I guess I'll be cooking again when that happens! Another friend, Laura, asked me to share the recipe with her after seeing the photo of the finished product.

So, by request, here's the recipe I used for last night's meal. Bear in mind that I never follow the exact same recipe twice, and that this is probably underseasoned for most American palettes. You can add more salt, pepper, herbs, and even tomato paste if your taste buds need to be tingled more than mine.

Shepherd's Pie

All quantities are approximate. Don't blame me if I guessed wrong!


3 lbs ground beef (or lamb if available)
8 red skinned potatoes
8 oz frozen green beans (carrots are traditional too, but I chose not to use them)
1/4 cup low fat milk
2 Tbsps butter or margarine
1 pkt. brown gravy (makes 1 cup)
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp celery salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp dried onions (substitute fresh chopped onions if you have them)
1 Tbsp Masterpiece Seasoning (mixed herbs)


Cook the beef in a large non-stick pan until it is browned all through. Drain off the fat and then place in a large (9" x 15") ovenproof dish. Make sure the beef is arranged in a level layer. Place the green beans in a thin layer on top of the beef.

Cut the potatoes into 1/2" cubes and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain. Add the milk, butter and half the salt and pepper. Mash thoroughly.

Prepare the gravy according to the packet instructions. Add the remainder of the salt and pepper, celery salt, garlic powder, onions and seasoning. Pour over the beef. Add up to an additional 1/2 cup of water for extra juiciness.

Spoon the mashed potato on top of the beef and green beans, and smooth it out to form a layer reaching to the sides of the dish. Take a fork and drag it across the entire surface of the potato to form thin grooves (the "plowed field" effect). Make grooves perpendicular to the first set, leaving two inches of spacing between each row this time (see photo above).

Bake in the oven at 375°F for 25 minutes. Finish off by broiling for 5 minutes, to brown the top of the potato. (If you're a cheese person, you can sprinkle some grated cheese on the top before broiling.)

Current Location: Home, bed
Current Mood: fullfull
Tags: ,

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February 9th, 2009

02:43 pm - Fluff Meme
Liz Bartlett

2.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME:(mother and fathers middle names)
Hepburn John (WTF?)

3.NASCAR NAME:(first name of your mother's dad, father's dad)
Percy IHaveNoIdea (This isn't working well, is it...)

4.STAR WARS NAME:(the first 3 letters of your last name, first 3 letters of your first name)
Bar Eli

5.DETECTIVE NAME:(favorite color, favorite animal)
Purple Bear

6.SOAP OPERA NAME:(middle name, town where you were born)
None Brighton (Told you this wouldn't work)

7.SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
The Blue Tomato Juice (ROTFLMAO)

8.FLY NAME:(first 3 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)

9.STREET NAME:(fav ice cream flavor, fav cookie)
Mint Hobnob (Uh, nope)

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet's name, street you grew up on)
Tammy Collington

11.YOUR GOTH NAME:(black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Gizmo

12. STRIPPER NAME: (name of your fav perfume/cologne, fav candy)
Eternity Truffle
Current Location: Work
Current Mood: boredbored

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January 20th, 2009

05:31 pm - Abandoned Alligator

Abandoned Gator The fine fellow in this photo is a 4-5 year old alligator. No, he's not native to the Sonoran Desert. He was found in a Rubbermaid container, in the parking lot at work, early this morning by one of our security staff. Whoever left him there had thrown a handful of hotdogs in with him, and then just driven off. Our herpetology staff hastily took care of the poor, scared little guy and found him a larger tub to sit in, in the shade of their building, complete with securely padlocked lid.

We went over to pay him a visit after lunch. Bill had just finished up a 'Live and (sort of) On the Loose' presentation and was happy to open the lid for us and talk about alligators in general. Turns out he was quite excited - it was the first time he'd got to handle an alligator since he started working at the museum seventeen years, although previously he'd worked with them at the Philadelphia Zoo. We'll be shipping the gator off to a dedicated rescue facility in Phoenix soon, although Bill did say he'd love to take him home. I guess he felt his wife wouldn't be receptive to the new family member.

Bill pointed out that the tail was quite badly injured - chewed almost down to the bone. It's probable that the alligator had been housed with turtles who had done this to him. Luckily, the wound was clean and looked like it would heal just fine. We also learned that in order to sex a gator, you have to put your hand inside the cloaca, and feel the shape of whatever's in there. At just over three foot long, this youngster is too small for any of the herpetologists to be able to do that, so my apologies if I've been using the wrong pronouns for him! Hopefully he'll forgive me.

What with the inauguration this morning, streamed live into our theater for the benefit of staff, and a long lunch with my colleague Gareth, his sister and mother, the day went by very quickly. (See a couple more photos at Flickr).
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: surprisedsurprised

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January 4th, 2009

06:29 pm - The Logical Song
This is how I feel today.

Also, Right Brain and Left Brain Inventory. I think I only have half a brain.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: confusedconfused

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November 26th, 2008

04:52 pm - Rainbow
Originally uploaded by khyri
It's raining, but there's a rainbow.

(Uploaded directly from my phone)

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November 11th, 2008

08:42 am - Seattle Post-Intelligencer needs proof-readers

Surely someone should have caught this typo?

"If you look historically, the Bible has reference to Unix, which were probably early transsexuals."

(from Transgender Doctor Talks Sex Change Hospital)

(Edit: The original TVGuide article does not contain this error. I wonder if the Seattle P-I had someone read the article to one of their staff members...)

Current Location: Desk at Work
Current Mood: surprisedsurprised

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November 5th, 2008

11:26 am - Political Images

I'll let the more eloquent write about how much this election result means to us all. I just wanted to share an image that says everything:
Drawings of the US Presidents, with skin color

And follow that up with a video from The Onion.
Sequoia Voting Systems was one of our clients when we ran a web development company in California a few years ago. We redesigned their web site to be accessible to people with disabilities. I remember the president-elect, DRE 700, well. ;-)

Current Location: Work
Current Mood: happyhappy

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October 18th, 2008

01:21 pm - Memage
Haven't done one of these for a while. From fluffthebunny.


What is your salad dressing of choice? -- Usually no dressing, though I'll take Ranch if I have to.

What is your favorite sit-down restaurant? -- Ruth's Chris though it's been a while since I've had the money (or the rich friends) to go there.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? -- Oh, lots of foods. Pot pie, Boston Market brand of frozen Turkey Medallions, Hamburger Helper, Mint ice cream... I don't crave variety at all.

What are your pizza toppings of choice? -- Mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon.

What do you like to put on your toast? -- Butter and salt.


What is your wallpaper on your computer? -- These clouds are my wallpaper on all my home and work computers, and both of my phone displays!

How many televisions are in your house? -- I think there's three, although only one is connected up right now.

What color cell phone do you have? -- Burgundy.


Are you right-handed or left-handed? -- Right.

Have you ever had anything removed from your body? -- Yes, three weeks ago my left ovary was removed. I've also had two teeth out.

What is the last heavy item you lifted? -- Flagstones.

Have you ever been knocked unconscious? -- No.


If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? -- No way.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to? -- Something beginning with R. And probably gender-neutral.

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000? -- I'd be tempted, but I don't know if I could.


How many pairs of flip flops do you own? -- One.

Last time you had a run-in with the cops? -- Speeding on the 91, just south of Fullerton, CA. They said I was doing 75 m.p.h. but I'm skeptical as the car I was driving was barely capable of such a speed, and I had a husband in the passenger seat, and three heavy dogs in the back at the time. I went to Comedy Traffic School.

What do you want to be when you grow up? -- I don't want to grow up any more! I'd like to be who I am right now, at least until I retire.

Last person you talked to? -- Stephanie, as I was leaving work on Friday.

Last person you hugged? -- Probably Leah, last weekend. The timeline's a little fuzzy, though.


Season? -- Right now.

Holiday? -- Christmas.

Day of the week? -- Saturday.

Month? -- September.


Missing someone? -- Hm, yes, I am. Interesting.

Mood? -- Motivated.

Listening to? -- Bravo's "Top Design".

Watching? -- Bravo's "Top Design".

Worrying about? -- Finances, but not too much.


First place you went this morning? -- Home Depot.

What can you not wait to do? -- Eat dinner.

What's the last movie you saw? -- At the theater, 'Burn After Reading'. On TV, 'Wilde'.

Do you smile often? -- More than I used to.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: bouncybouncy

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October 16th, 2008

06:57 am - A Virtual Visitor

Carrie Lowery, of the 'My Cool Job' blog, made a virtual visit to Arizona yesterday. I documented her fun trip, as you can see above. I hope she makes it out here for real one day.

In other news... hm. That's about it. My life is astonishingly quiet right now.

Current Location: Bed
Current Mood: creativecreative

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October 13th, 2008

07:43 pm - Javelina exhibit at work - now open again

javelina behind chainlink
Originally uploaded by khyri
The desert loop trail has only just reopened since the javelina bite incident several months ago, and the wire mesh barrier is still being replaced. Meanwhile, the javelina are in a temporary chainlink fence enclosure.

They haven't changed the signage which you can see on my flicker page.

I'm starting a new work project to convert our docent tracking system's front end from Microsoft Access to being web-based, using HTML/Javascript/PHP. The data was always in a MySQL database, so no conversion required there. I'm looking forward to it. It's quite a challenge to keep the look and functionality exactly the same. We're hoping to roll it out without anyone noticing the difference. There's some interesting features, like having HUGE arrow buttons next to select boxes, because the built-in scroll arrows are too small for many of our docents to be able to use. And did I mention the HUGE fonts?

In other news ... I'm really sleepy. I can't do late nights any more.


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September 27th, 2008

07:11 am - Find Another Door

Find Another Door
Originally uploaded by khyri
I was returning from my daily walk around the grounds yesterday, when I saw this fine specimen sunning himself on the frame of the door that leads into the research area, where my office is.

There was no way I could have used that door without disturbing his afternoon. So I took out my cellphone, snapped a couple of great pictures, and then walked round the long way instead.

(If you go through to my flickr page, you'll also see the prairie dog who was kind enough to pose for me earlier in my walk)

I'm going to try to have a quiet weekend. With ice cream. We'll see how well I succeed.

Current Location: Bed
Current Mood: calmcalm

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September 17th, 2008

06:47 pm - Project Runway Quick Impressions
I couldn't believe Kenley made a professional outfit with a bare midriff. Oh, wait - that's not her stomach. It's a flesh-colored belt...

And what did Jerrell have on his head?!
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: shockedshocked

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September 11th, 2008

06:12 pm - Best News about TGGtS
The best news about the new season of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style?

New co-host! I don't know who Gretta Monahan is, but she has to be better than Veronica "I'm experimenting with yet another foundation color" Webb. I may even make time to watch this season.

Much love for the Tim.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

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September 2nd, 2008

01:52 pm - Always drama at work
Bark Scorpion

My officemate Alix needed to call our custodial department to report a clogged toilet, so she went to get her internal phonebook out of her desk drawer...

...and screamed and jumped half way across the room. (Note: Alix is a scientific researcher and not given to such behaviors)

There was a bark scorpion running around in the drawer.

I lent her my phonebook.

As it was still there a few hours later, we called herpetology and Ken came over with tongs and a plastic container and took it away, but not before I took the photo on the right.

Never a dull moment here.

Current Location: Work
Current Mood: shockedshocked

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August 13th, 2008

08:59 am - Memage

Ganked from a whole bunch of people. I don't have anything else to write about right now, so this will at least let you know I'm alive.

Look up your birthday in Wikipedia. Pick 4 events, 3 births, 2 deaths, and 1 holiday.


  • 1776 - World's first submarine attack: the American submersible craft Turtle attempts to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Richard Howe's flagship HMS Eagle in New York Harbor.
  • 1907 - Cunard Line's RMS Lusitania sets sail on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City.
  • 1921 - In Atlantic City, New Jersey, the first Miss America Pageant, a two-day event, is held.
  • 1998 - Google is founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University


  • 1533 - Queen Elizabeth I of England (d. 1603)
  • 1936 - Buddy Holly, American singer (The Crickets) (d. 1959)
  • 1951 - Chrissie Hynde, American guitarist and singer (The Pretenders)


  • 1548 - Catherine Parr, final wife of Henry VIII of England (born c. 1512)
  • 1978 - Keith Moon, English drummer (The Who) (b. 1946)


  • Brazil - Independence day (from Portugal, 1822)

Current Location: Work, at my desk
Current Mood: boredbored

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August 4th, 2008

09:29 am - Gift from work

Gift from work
Originally uploaded by khyri
For creating, and then doing numerous enhancements to the Macrofauna Golfo Invertebrate Database, our "Senior Director, Conservation and Science / Director, ASDM Press and Editorial Office" gave me this.


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July 27th, 2008

08:24 pm - Sunset on a Clear Day

Pink-Blue Sky 1
Originally uploaded by khyri
I was about to close the blinds this evening when I looked out and saw the sky with the most amazing pink and blue hues mixed together. I had to grab my camera-phone and dash out to capture it.

I do admit to a little photoshopping to enhance the saturation, but all it did was bring it back to how my eye saw it. There's two more photos if you click through to Flickr and look.

We haven't had a storm in days. I'm kinda missing them. The calm is almost unnerving when you know that storm season is far from over.

And yes, the above is both literal and metaphorical. ;)

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July 25th, 2008

02:54 pm - Zombie Singles
My boss just sent me email with a link (no text):


I'm not sure what he's trying to hint at here...
Current Location: Work
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Tags: ,

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July 22nd, 2008

02:55 pm - Tree House

Tree House
Originally uploaded by khyri
This is a new feature at work which will serve at the 'clubhouse' for our Kids' Coati Club.

I must admit, when they said they were going to build a treehouse, I imagined something a little more substantial. After all, someone bid thousands of dollars at our Gala to be the first people to "spend the night" in the new treehouse. I'm not sure I'd want to be that exposed after dark on grounds, especially with the javelina still on the loose...

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July 19th, 2008

09:51 pm - Monsoon Thunderclouds

Monsoon Thunderclouds
Originally uploaded by khyri
The storm's been building all evening. I took a few photos from our front porch earlier - click through to Flickr to see the more dramatic ones. Once the sun went down, the thunder and lightning started in earnest, and we had a power interruption at about 9:00 p.m.

Less than an hour later, the storm is right overhead, and the rain has begun. It's a good thing I don't need to go anywhere until Monday morning, as I have a feeling the floods are on their way. Each clap of thunder can be felt as well as heard - the whole house shakes.

I'm sleeping with the blinds open tonight. I love this.

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01:35 pm - Shepherd's Pie Recipe
A friend on Facebook sent me a note to ask me for my recipe for shepherd's pie, probably prompted by my Twitter/Status message. Recipe? I just throw stuff together and hope it tastes good! But I decided to write down what I'd done this most recent time, in "'Merkin recipe style". My British readers will probably find that it's written a little oddly, but then again if you're British, you should already be a shepherd's pie making expert by now! Normally, I throw in a bunch of miscellaneous dried herbs, but I left them out this time and it actually made it taste better. So here goes:


I know I should use ground lamb, but that's so hard to come by in the US, so I use ground beef and just ignore the fact that it should be Cottage Pie instead!

1 lb Ground Beef
3-4 white-skinned potatoes
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup of milk
Beef stock cube
1/4 cup of water
Dried onion
Garlic Power
Salt and Pepper

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and cut into one inch cubes. Boil for 15-20 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a skillet until there is no pink showing.

Add the butter, milk and salt to taste to the potatoes, and mash until there are no solid lumps.

Drain the fat from the ground beef, and place in the bottom of a rectangular glass dish.

Place the stock cube in the water and heat for two minutes in the microwave until dissolved. Add the dried onion, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and microwave for a further 30 seconds. Pour over the ground beef.

Spoon the mashed potatoes on the top, making sure the layer is even and extends all the way to the edge of the dish. Using a fork, create a woven pattern of lines in the surface, resembling a plowed field.
Shepherd's Pie leftovers
The leftovers


Bake in the oven at 375 degrees C for 20-25 minutes.

Optionally, add grated cheese to the surface at this point.

Broil on HIGH for 5-10 minutes until the peaks of the potato furrows are nicely browned. Don't worry if the browning is uneven.

Serve with any green vegetable. The quantities above are enough for two adults with leftovers for a single lunch the next day.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: creativecreative

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July 11th, 2008

08:24 pm - Spiny-tailed Iguana

Spiny-tailed Iguana
Originally uploaded by khyri

This little fellow is a member of a family that live behind our admin building, close to "Phoebe's Backdoor" where staff and volunteers can buy lunch. They're all pretty tame. This photo was taken as I was leaving work for the day.

I know our HIIZ* department would rather they moved on to a more suitable home further from humans, but I think they're a little too happy where they are.

*Herpetology, Ichthyology & Invertebrate Zoology
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: pensivepensive
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July 8th, 2008

11:26 am - Desert Fruit

Desert Fruit
Originally uploaded by khyri
A few days ago, our Head of Botany stopped me and asked if I'd ever eaten saguaro fruit. When I said no, he rushed off to try and find me one, but no luck. Today, I come in to find this on my desk. Thanks, George!

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05:55 am - Abandoned house

Abandoned house - plumbing
Originally uploaded by khyri
I went for a hike on Sunday morning. I discovered two houses in the middle of the desert, half way through the construction process. It was obvious that the project had been abandoned.

It was quite emotional to see them there, someone's dream abandoned for unknown reasons. I stopped and sat on the foundations to take a drink of water and rest for a while.

I've always loved buildings, especially residential construction. I have spent hours wandering through model homes, examining every nook and cranny. If I had the resources, I'd love to adopt these orphan houses and raise them to be real homes.

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July 5th, 2008

12:44 pm - It's a snake!

It's a snake!
Originally uploaded by khyri
This fine creature slithered into view as I was relaxing in my hammock this morning. Needless to say, I felt much less relaxed after I spotted him.

I requested identification help from work, and got this response back from Jan in HIIZ: "The snake in the photos looks to be a coachwhip. They are so hightly variable. Some are all black, some all pink and then lots that have blotchy pink and black"

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June 30th, 2008

09:17 am - Javelina attack
Okay, the media finally got hold of the story, so I'm now free to talk about the events at work on Friday.

About noon, my boss came in to my office and told me that the museum was closing for the rest of the day and all staff were to stay indoors. A visitor had had a chunk of their leg bitten off by a wild (non-exhibit) javelina on grounds, and it was still on the loose.

Towards the end of the day, I was asked to prepare an announcement for posting on the museum's web site home page to say that we would be closed all Saturday. My boss would call me at 6 a.m. to let me know if they'd caught the javelina, and to tell me to post the announcement if they hadn't.

He called...

However, we did open on Sunday despite the fact that the javelina is still unaccounted for. They are still looking as I type this.

Official news stories from the Arizona Daily Star and KOLD.
Current Location: My desk at work
Current Mood: predatorypredatory

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June 26th, 2008

02:35 pm - 0626081430.jpg

Originally uploaded by khyri
1/4" hailstones on table outside my office

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June 25th, 2008

08:11 pm - Tame Squirrel

Tame Squirrel
Originally uploaded by khyri
I always said the wildlife at work was getting too comfortable with humans. Here's the proof. (Two more pictures of this little guy if you click through to my Flickr Photostream)

I think the visitors have been feeding him too. He's clearly far from starving.

Also check out my (not so good) photos of the start of the monsoon. Constant thunder and lightning. Wonderful. I can't wait for the first real downpour.

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June 11th, 2008

07:21 pm - Memories
If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a memory of you and me. It can be anything you want — good or bad. When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people remember about you.
(You should answer even if you only have online memories of me.)

All comments are screened. Let me know if it's okay to un-screen your comment.
Current Location: Home
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: Top Chef theme
Tags: ,

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June 9th, 2008

11:35 am - Sleepy Kitty

Sleepy Kitty
Originally uploaded by khyri

George L Mountainlion decided to take a nap pressed right up against the viewing window. (Yes, it was hard to avoid the reflection messing up the shot.) A visitor commented that he doesn't look very dangerous in that position. Mmmhmm.

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