Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jean-Luc Picard Is on My Side

As I’ve mentioned before, not a lot of people have my name. On the rare occasions when I find myself within earshot of another Clara, the five or six decades between our ages make it pretty easy to tell who is being called. This means I never had to tack an initial on to my name in elementary school…

…and I never had to bother with the “Which Clara do you mean?” line of questioning.

It also means that I’m extremely unaccustomed to hearing my name when people are not talking about me. This weekend I visited a museum exhibit about Clara Driscoll, who designed stained glass for Tiffany Studios in the 1890s, and I felt compelled to contradict the signage.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I changed the channel on Friday night and discovered Counselor Deanna Troi talking to a little girl named Clara.

Spoiler Alert: If you’ve been avoiding plot synopses for twenty years until you get the free time to indulge in an 8,055-minute Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon, turn away now before I destroy your dreams. Also, there are four lights.

When I say “surprise,” what I mean is “almost disturbing level of excitement.” It’s the only appropriate reaction for unexpectedly appearing on Star Trek. It’s even okay that I was being threatened by an intelligent alien disguised as a visible manifestation of my imaginary friend.

As the episode continued, it revealed further incontrovertible links between this space Clara and myself:
  • Our fathers have the same name.
  • We both talk to ourselves a whole bunch.
  • Casual observers question our sanity.
  • Our taller, more fashion-conscious friends got us in trouble in elementary school.
  • We were roughly the same age in 1992. (Okay, very roughly. Rounding, people. Also, stardates.)
I was left with no choice but to conclude that I, unbeknownst to myself, had spent some childhood time on the Enterprise.

Moving forward from this assumption, CHECK OUT THIS PICTURE OF ME WITH CAPTAIN PICARD!

That’s the two of us teaching a valuable lesson about human civilization to an energy-based life form. Take that, 19th-century glass designers! After this episode, the captain and I are going to go get some dessert!

The picture comes from, of course.

I have no reason to suspect that Clara Driscoll disliked desserts. She probably loved them—people named Clara have excellent taste in that department.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Supreme Mugwump

On Thursday night, I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.

This is how I looked:

After my friend and I claimed our seats with the tickets we bought last month, I spent a little of the three hours until showtime examining the contents of that bag. It contained two bottles of homemade potion, scraps of parchment, and my Hogwarts Report Card from the last midnight book release I attended.

To my surprise, it also contained an essay that I wrote a few years ago in response to this History of Magic test question from the fifth book (Chapter 31, for those of you following along at home):

Describe the circumstances that led to the formation of the International Confederation of Wizards and explain why the warlocks of Liechtenstein refused to join.
Harry doesn’t get to finish answering before Voldemort starts messing with his head.

...the first Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards was Pierre Bonaccord, but his appointment was contested by the wizarding community of Liechtenstein, because—
Luckily, I don’t have a direct mental link with anyone plotting my demise, so I was free to focus on this:

What’s that you say? The paper sports the elegant crumple and curl of authentic parchment? The ink was obviously applied with an actual quill pen? You can see why I’m having trouble finding another roommate?

I don’t remember the exact circumstances of writing this masterpiece, so it’s unclear whether all the details come from official sources. Regardless, I earned a number of geek points by displaying my treasure after the movie.

In addition to dozens of striped scarves, the theatre lobby contained one extremely bored local news cameraman collecting people’s opinions of the film. Armed with my roll of parchment, I could see the newsworthiness rising from me in waves.

“Oh,” said the reporter, “do you want to talk into the camera?”

I let loose with a giant smile and a slick little speech about my Liechtenstein essay.

After I finished, he quietly turned on the camera and asked me how I liked the movie.

Epilogue: At the outset, I believed that rabid fan obsession and functional adult responsibility could coexist peacefully. As it turns out, I have not mastered that balancing act.

Following my late-night Potterventure, I slept through two alarms and woke up nearly an hour into my regularly scheduled workday. After a full minute spent staring at the clock and trying to figure out what day it was, I called my office with a smooth explanation:

My boss was wonderfully understanding once I finally made it in, though my brain function didn’t improve appreciably.

Full text of the essay, available by no demand:

The first Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards was Pierre Bonaccord, but his appointment was contested by the Wizarding community of Liechtenstein as a result of his attempts to change the standing legislation concerning trolls. Bonaccord’s revisions included a ban on troll-hunting, as well as the official extension to trolls of rights then held only by wizards. These rights included settling outside of the appointed troll containment areas, in locations chosen by the trolls themselves, provided that no Muggle settlements were near enough to be disturbed. Bonaccord also intended to grant trolls status as Beings rather than Beasts, which would entitle them to participate in summits of the sort held at the time by the Wizards’ Council (predecessor to the ministry of Magic) and otherwise voice their opinions in matters concerning the governance of the magical world.

The Wizarding community of Liechtenstein was unwilling to accept Bonaccord’s proposal, however, as they were suffering abuse from an abnormally vicious tribe of mountain trolls. These trolls made frequent forays into mountain villages, causing considerable damage and distress as well as carrying off the livestock of wizards and Muggles alike. The wizards in the area worked tirelessly to keep the trolls under control and out of Muggle notice, but their success was limited. By the time of Bonaccord’s nomination, Liechtenstein’s troll problems had lasted five months, and with no sign that the trolls planned to relent, the community had no intention of ceasing troll-hunts, allowing the creatures a voice in government, or seeing even more of them move into areas inhabited by humans.

In the end, Bonaccord was appointed to the post of Supreme Mugwump despite Liechtenstein’s protests, but he was unable to pass his new troll legislation.

So now you know. Look for that on Jeopardy.


UPDATE: A lady from my office actually saw my interview on TV! That is how you identify a slow news day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Twitter: A Friend?

So, I'm on Twitter now.

This is good news if you need Clarafication more often than I provide it in long form, because every couple of days I suddenly remember about Twitter, and it's way easier to write 140 characters.

It is also bad news because I am not particularly edifying in this format, but I have access to it really frequently. You run a very real risk of getting up-to-the-minute insight into my ice cream preferences.

Anyway, it's @LetMeClarafy. Consider yourselves warned.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Si, Habla Ingles

A lot of Americans do not realize that New Mexico is part of their country.

I first learned this fact in elementary school, when we lived in Oregon and occasionally travelled to visit my grandparents in the desert Southwest. I announced one of these trips to my gym teacher, who was from Alaska herself and should have been familiar with nonstandard states.

I was not the kind of child who let inaccuracy slide, and I think my teacher showed a lot of restraint for someone being vehemently corrected by a seven-year old.

Sadly, this geographical ignorance persists, even in areas much closer to the state in question.

I lived in rural south Louisiana for six months while failing at teaching the first grade. My Teach For America coworkers and I had to cross the Mississippi once a week to attend training classes in another little town, and on one of these trips we met Perry the Ferry Man.

(TANGENT: I loved taking the ferry. A westerner by birth and raising, I had never seen a river the size of the Mississippi. My first day in town I drove across the bridge to Baton Rouge three times just for the heck of it, and the ferry is way better because you’re still in your car, but now you’re on a boat. In your car. On a boat. You can even get out of the car, and you are still ON A BOAT. I could say this all day: CAR. BOAT. RIVER. ON!)

Perry could tell we weren’t locals, and he came over to talk with us. He headed for my two fellow teachers, who had arrived in a truck with Illinois plates, and asked a few questions before turning to me.

I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, but then…

Now, I realize that my license plate says “Mexico,” right in between “New” and “USA.” But I had not prepared an appropriate comeback for this type of misunderstanding. I was also several weeks into a neuron-destroying cycle of sleep deprivation, so my response lacked a little punch.

Perry seemed to decide that I didn’t understand all that much English, so he spent some more time interviewing my friends. Eventually, though, he couldn’t resist:

This is where I really, really wish that I had been firing on all cylinders.

Instead, I just left the man wondering how on earth this half-mute Mexican could teach school.

As a teacher, I probably should have put more effort into American Geographic Awareness. All I can say to that is, “What did you think was on the other side of Texas?”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Am the Internet's Leading Expert on Voldemort Syphilis

If you pay an inordinate amount of attention to my sidebar, you may have noticed that I enabled ads on this site. I’m pretty sure this does not count as “selling out,” because I think you actually have to make any money to do that.

Mostly I was interested to see what ads Google would deem appropriate for my content. So far it’s been pretty disappointing—a little coffee, a lot of exterminators, and some totally legit online psychology classes. Then again, I guess ice cream isn’t a major player in the online marketplace.

Much more satisfying is my StatCounter account, which tracks my site visits and gives me the tools I need to become a creepy cyber-stalker. My favorite feature is Keyword Analysis, which lets me see what search terms have led people to this blog.

On the one hand, it’s exciting that people actually find me via search engines. On the other hand, I’m a little concerned about some of the phrases that lead to me.

In the above case, it’s not really the phrase that worries me so much as the URGENCY expressed. The next one, meanwhile, is less disturbing and more pitiful:

This keyword feature let me discover that I am the go-to source for information on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s unsafe sex practices.

That’s right: Google “voldemort syphilis,” and my page comes up as the first result. Now I can rest assured that I’ve made a meaningful contribution to society.

While you’re at it, I’m also uniquely qualified to answer your questions on canned pasta impurities and the odds of making it through the night undigested.

Apparently I can provide expertise for other Dark Lord-related needs as well, though other sites have beaten me to the top slot.

Feel free to call on me for snot questions, too.

Then we have the topics where I’m glad that someone else has been selected champion.

These results are also the reason behind my incriminating Google search history for this evening, left over from trying to find out if I’m the top match. You all are my witnesses for when Big Brother stops by with a few questions about my surfing habits.

P.S. It appears that a good third of my search engine traffic comes from people who are promptly disappointed that I’m not providing an encyclopedic My Little Pony database, and another 40% is from the time I titled a post with an insanely popular Charlie Sheen quotation. I didn’t piggyback off of Charlie’s tailspin on purpose, but if I do sell out in the future, this is the form it will take.