Monthly Archives: July 2007

Hot Dog Etiquette in Singapore

One of my daughter’s friends was in Singapore for a month this summer on a study abroad scholarship. This is one of the pictures she took while there. It’s a food tray at a fast food place in Singapore.

First of all, if I am ever in Singapore and feel a compelling need to order a hot dog– well, I hope someone will go ahead and put me out of my misery. That is Just Wrong. But if, for some reason, you ever find yourself in Singapore and are unavoidably faced with having to eat a hot dog, be aware that they have discovered there are Rules.

I know it’s hard to read, so I’ve typed it out:

Hotdog Etiquette

Dos and Don’ts: Everyday guidance for eating America‘s sacred food

  • Do. . . eat hotdogs on buns with your hands. Utensils should not touch hotdogs on buns.
  • Don’t. . . use a cloth napkin to wipe your mouth when eating a hotdog. Paper is always preferable.
  • Don’t. . . leave bits of bun on your plate. Eat it all. Fresh herbs on the same plate with hotdogs are a major “Don’t. . .” Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.
  • Don’t. . . take more than five bites to finish a hotdog. For foot-long wiener, seven bites are acceptable.
  • Do. . . Condiments remaining on the fingers after eating a hotdog should be licked away, not washed.
  • Don’t. . . use ketchup on your hotdog after the age of 18.
  • Don’t. . . think there is a wrong time to serve hotdogs.

Who knew? And way down at the bottom (I had to enlarge it to see this) it says: Source: National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, USA. So I did an internet search and, yes, there is such a thing and they have a website. They do indeed have these guidelines listed there, among others.

[Please note that in Spain, it is considered an appalling breach of etiquette to lick one’s fingers. No matter what food is being consumed.]

It might seem unimaginable, what with this surfeit of information, but I am left with two unanswered questions: Does the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council realize the effect they’re having on international relations? And what kind of fresh herbs, exactly, might one be tempted to serve with a hot dog?

Okay, three questions: Hot dogs are sacred?


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Friday the 13th, or why today was lucky

Some of you may remember way back last fall I wrote a blog post about a co-worker whose then 18-year-old son had been diagnosed with lymphoma. That diagnosis came almost exactly one year ago — I remember returning from RWA National to an office in mourning.

It has been a year of ups and downs, of progress and setbacks, an emotional roller coaster of bad news followed by good and back to bad. Earlier this spring, the son was given an all-clear by his doctors. As far as they could tell, the treatments had been successful and the cancer was gone. But.

Just to be extra sure, they wanted to do one last chemo treatment, followed by a bone marrow transplant. Their reasoning? Patients with this particular type of cancer who had this treatment were pretty much cancer-free for life. Those who didn’t, well, their cancer usually came back.

But it’s an awful thing, this treatment. There is a month of preparation, with many doctor visits, leading up to it. One of the things they do is harvest bone marrow stem cells and save them. They can do this because the cancer has not spread to his bone marrow. The chemo they planned to give him kills all fast-growing cells. This of course includes the cancer cells. But it also kills bone marrow and blood cells and God knows what else.

Once the treatment began, he’d have to stay in the hospital, in isolation, for 30 days. His body would be incredibly vulnerable to infection, unable to fight off germs. A head cold could kill him. Once the chemo kills off all the cells, they said, he will feel like he is dying. Literally. Because at that point, he is.

They wait until his white blood count and his red blood count are at zero. I’m not sure what is left of a person’s blood once all those cells are dead, but by all reports it is not a pleasant experience. I’ll spare you the details. Then they give him a transfusion of the bone marrow stem cells and wait for things to start to grow again. It takes a while. There is a chance it won’t happen.

Some of those specifics might be a bit off, but this is my best understanding of it after several conversations with my co-worker. Scary stuff. But the alternative was so much worse.

So a while back, they began the treatment. Everything went according to plan and for three days, his blood levels were at absolute zero. My co-worker was worried, though the doctors assured him everything was right on schedule. What if the cells didn’t grow? What was Plan B? No one had mentioned a Plan B. His son was so sick, getting worse every day, he couldn’t believe Plan A had a snowball’s chance. It has been a tough time.

Well, he came in to work yesterday, guardedly optimistic. The blood levels were at 0.1. Hard to let yourself get hopeful over such a small number, especially when your child is still suffering so horribly. But it was better than 0.0 and it was a beginning. So, we hoped.

Today he came in to work and it looked like he’d turned back the calendar 10 years and someone had lifted 20 pounds off each shoulder. The blood levels were at 0.8. The doctors say the treatment is now considered to be a confirmed success. They say recovery is very fast once it starts and think the son may be able to go home in a matter of days. The parents are ecstatic. The son is happy, too, because he wants to play in a qualifying round for the US Amateur Golf Tournament later this month. Yeah, he’s that good. He might even make the cut. Plus, he’s missed his girlfriends. Yes, plural. Hey, the kid has priorities.

We’ve all suffered through this with our friend during the past year, trying our best to be optimistic and supportive while struggling at times not to shed tears at work. Believe me, there were days it was damn near impossible. This news had us all a bit misty-eyed today, and not one of us tried to hide it.

Just wanted to share that, today, on a day not known for good luck.


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The Good Old, Bad Old Days

Just for laughs, not to mention a big dose of humility, I’ve decided to share with you the first “book” I ever wrote. Warning: IT’S BAD. Amazingly awful. It breaks every rule of writing I have since learned and probably a few that no one has thought up yet. I don’t care. For some odd reason, I’m not ashamed of it.

I wrote it back in the late-80s, mostly while the kids took their naps. At some point I realized that in order to continue I was going to have to do some research. I was too busy for that. So I only wrote two chapters before life intervened and I set it aside. Be grateful. Be very grateful. It’s about pirates and privateers and set back around 1810 or so. I think. I will never finish this story. It is not a work in progress. There will never be any more to it than there is. Really.

Anyway, I’m very busy and pull-my-hair-out distracted with other things right now, so I’m only going to post a bit of it (I have to re-type the thing, it’s not on computer). I can’t even tell you how tempted I am to “fix” it, but I’m not going to. This is it in original form, formatting and everything. Try not to run screaming into the night after you read it, okay?

Chapter One

She struggled up as if through deep layers of sleep, fighting the unconsciousness that held her captive. She felt the rocking and swaying, the dip of the waves. I must be on Papa’s ship, she thought. Yes, that was it. Memories came to her of laying on the deck at night, looking up through the rigging at the stars, the warm breeze soothing her sun-baked skin. Papa sitting next to her, naming the constellations, teaching her how to navigate. Sharing their love of the sea.

She smiled at the happy memory, then frowned as another memory intruded. That was before the accident that took his leg, took away her childhood. Before the blood. She could smell it even now, after all the years that had passed since that awful day. The sweet, sickening smell of blood. Her papa’s blood. Sticky, wet and warm. Dear God, the smell. She stifled a groan and rolled over onto her stomach, hoping to recapture the earlier dream. But now her fingers could feel the stickiness; the smell made her gag and come more fully awake. Confused and disoriented, she lifted her head and it exploded with pain and stars; stars that mocked her dream, fast becoming nightmarish reality as memory tried to return.

It was dark as pitch, but she was suddenly very certain she was not on her papa’s ship, knew she was no longer a child. She stretched out her hands from her prone position, a morbid quest for the truth, and felt it again. The unmistakable stickiness of blood. And something else. Soft, yet hard, and cold. An arm. A matted clump of hair. A leg. Oh, dear God. No! She rose to all fours, retching from a combination of the pain in her head and the horror of her discovery. Crawling backwards across the splintered deck as the contents of her stomach left her, a blind flight away from the nightmare of her awakening. Away from the smell, real and remembered. She collapsed against an opposite rail and escaped to unconsciousness once again.

She awoke to sunshine and the cry of birds. She felt the warmth on her face, the sway of the ship beneath her, the pain in her head. Pain. Her eyes flew open as memory returned. Blinded at first by the morning sun, she struggled to sit up and leaned back against the rail. Shading her eyes, she surveyed the carnage around her and remembered.

They had heard the commotion on deck, men shouting, feet running. They were still a week away from port in Virginia, according to the captain, and the two women in the cramped cabin were puzzled by the unusual activity. Martha, whose curiosity had overcome the predictable mid-afternoon lethargy of the voyage, turned from looking out the porthole, her beloved, aged face ashen. “Pirates,” she whispered, “coming fast from the south.”

Not wanting to believe her, Dani ran to the opening to see for herself. “It’s Black John,” she said, after a tense silence. “I recognize his flag from Papa’s description.”

At the older woman’s gasp, she turned, her own golden complexion now ashen as well. For a frozen moment, both women remembered snatches of conversation, the telling of tales over tankards of ale, and prayed what they had heard was not true. Yet both knew, all the same, that it was.

“The man’s not human, e’s not. The way ‘e leaves them poor souls to rot on deck.”

“Aye, no captives, no survivors. But afeard to feed the fishes, ‘e is.”

“Superstitious bastard.”

“A meaner man I ne’er met. Ugly as sin, wi’ a soul to match.” This last from Dani’s father, who had met the man and survived the encounter, though he’d always refused to discuss it.

Feared for his vicious brutality and erratic behavior, the notorious pirate Black John was himself fearful and superstitious. Believing that casting dead bodies into the ocean would anger the demons of the deep and bring him bad lack, and as he had no use for the ships he plundered, he left the dead in a great bloody heap on the deck. Left them to rot and molder in the sun, until eventually even the birds would not feast on the remains. Other vessels coming upon such a death ship were left no choice but to fire upon the ship until it sank. No one ever boarded a death ship, fearful of the disease if surely carried.

Jarred into action by the thought of her papa, Dani ran to one of her trunks and began pulling out clothing, throwing dresses and petticoats to land where they may. Finding what she needed, she turned impatiently to Martha.

“Help me wi’ this dratted thing. Hurry.”

Pulling at the confining material, she turned her back to the woman who, with shaking fingers, helped her unbutton the dress.

“Megan Danielle McClellan, what are ye thinking to do? Surely ye cannot mean what I’m thinking ye are,” Martha protested, as she took in the familiar sight of breeches, shirt and leather vest.

Dani rounded on her with fierce determination blazing in her emerald eyes. “Martha, I have ta help them fight. This is’na a fighting ship, tis a bloody merchantman. Ye know I’m able, and God knows they’ll need all the help they can get.”

As she hastily finished dressing, the young woman silently cursed her father and his grand plans to send her off to America on this plodding hulk of a ship. His dreams of turning her into a fine lady were about to be dashed into the ocean, along with Captain Davis and all his cargo and crew. The words “for your own good” rang in her memory with mocking clarity, as did his insistence that she would be in good hands with his old friend, Tom Davis.

Knowing first-hand the stubborn nature of the girl, Martha bit back further comment. She knew the futility of argument once her young charge had made up her mind. She searched the girl’s brilliant green eyes for a sign of uncertainty or hesitation and saw only the determination and courage she had come to expect. She murmured a prayer as she quickly crossed herself, a prayer for Dani’s safety as well as her own.

“Yer father will never forgive me if anything happens to ye, Danielle.” Close to tears now, Martha whispered, “And I’d never forgive meself.”

Pretending not to hear, Dani finished pulling on her well-worn boots and jammed a knit cap over her newly-short auburn tresses, a result of her last desperate act of defiance aimed at changing her papa’s insistence that she undertake this ill-fated voyage. She remembered well how her papa’s bright blue eyes had darkened in anger, how he had finally shrugged and said, “Twill grow, lass. It changes nothing.” Turning back to the trunk, she rummaged through to the bottom and began to arm herself as Martha watched with round, frightened eyes. The slender young woman, who had moments before been exquisitely garbed in London’s latest fashions, now resembled a disheveled street ruffian.

In truth, Martha had thought the girl’s father had long since confiscated Dani’s weapons and more disreputable clothing. Nonetheless, she knew Robbie McClellan would be proud if he could see his daughter now. Aye, she thought with an inward wince, he’d be proud. He’d also be bloody furious and absolutely terrified.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let me know what you think of my fledgling effort. Be nice. Oh, what the hell, be honest. I like to think I’ve improved a wee bit since then, but maybe I’m kidding myself. If you all think you can stand it, I might post more — yes, god help me, there is more — later in the week. Unless I get distracted by something shiny.


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